Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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The Georgia Bullddogs' dynamic duo should be on NFL rosters at some point in the next 72 hours. Which will be the better pro? That depends on what kind of running back you're looking for.

07 Nov 2011

Audibles at the Line: Week 9

compiled by Rivers McCown

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

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

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

San Francisco 49ers 19 at Washington Redskins 11

Doug Farrar: San Francisco right tackle Anthony Davis is still learning to block all the way through the play. Ryan Kerrigan taught him an important lesson about that very practice early in the first quarter. Davis took Kerrigan back to the pocket and then decided to start looking for UFOs while Kerrigan ran Alex Smith to the other side of the field and sandwiched him with Rocky McIntosh.

Mike Tanier: Graham Gano just hit a 59-yard field goal before half. The Shanahans are geniuses again.

Doug Farrar: As Yahoo! compadre and long-suffering Redskins fan Chris Chase just pointed out, "This will be even more impressive when he misses from 32 later on."

Mike Tanier: The Niners just attempted a Delanie Walker end around on third-and-7. Jim Harbaugh must be crushing and snorting those Coach of the Year notices.

Danny Tuccitto: If my memory serves me correctly, that was either the second or third end around to Walker that Harbaugh has run this season. It never works.

Mike Tanier: If I find three Walker runs in the box score, I have three diagrams for Walkthrough.

Vince Verhei: Actually, Walker came into this game with zero runs on the season ... but Vernon Davis has two carries for -5 yards.

Danny Tuccitto: Ah, right. Knew they had a tight end run an end around earlier in the season, and it didn't work. That previous one took forever to develop, just like today's did.

Watching the Redskins offense right now reminds me a lot of watching the 49ers offense of the past several years. They're playing the entire game within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. No downfield passing whatsoever. And, just as this kind of thing played right into the hands of Niners opponents past, Shanahan, John Beck, and company are helping out a defense that doesn't need any help.

Mike Tanier: Redskins just tried to pass on fouth-and-2, in field goal range (sorta), down 16-3. Because their passing attack has been humming for weeks.

Danny Tuccitto: This game is quickly becoming a Football Outsiders clinic. First, we have a perfect example of fumble luck when Brandon Banks muffs a punt with 4:19 left, and basically direct deposits the ball into Anthony Dixon's hands, yet Dixon somehow can't make the recovery. Then, we have the proverbial garbage time stat-padding by Washington's offense, after not being able to move the ball at all for the first 56 minutes. What's the name for that anyway, Tebowing? Oh wait, that's taken.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, the Washington touchdown isn't discounted at all by our stats. It did put them in position to possibly tie the game, after all.

Mike Tanier: First Redskins touchdown of the rest of our lives!

Aaron Schatz: I also enjoyed Vernon Davis not knowing that you aren't allowed to call fair catch on an onside kick.

Tom Gower: You can, but teams normally intentionally kick it straight into the ground to get a bounce and eliminate the fair catch possibility.

Danny Tuccitto:: Davis actually had an all-around forgettable game in addition to the illegal fair catch signal. He dropped a nicely-thrown deep ball early in the game, then fumbled late in the game, then almost dropped his not-fairly-caught onside kick at the end. If he wants Harbaugh and Roman to get him the ball more, he has to stop screwing up when they oblige.

I tried my best not to bring this up earlier because I really don't like bringing up officiating every week (used to do some officiating on the side back in the day, so really respect how hard that job is), but now that SNF has grown boring enough to degenerate our conversation into an officiating discussion, I can't help but bring up the false start that Gene Steratore's crew called on the 49ers today.

Basically, what happened was that the 49ers were faced with a fourth-and-1 at the Redskins 11-yard line, just inside the two-minute warning of the first half. Harbaugh decided to go for it, and, as they've done previously this season, San Francisco simply tried to use a surprise, multi-player presnap shift to get the defense to jump offsides. In essence, it's a 21st-century version of what Tom Landry used to do with the Cowboys. It worked earlier in the season and worked again this time, yet, today the refs called a false start, and the 49ers had to settle for a field goal.

It's common knowledge that the officiating crew meets with the head coaches prior to the game for the purposes of rule clarifications, and allowing the teams to alert the officials to any extra-legal trickery they might use. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, this is small potatoes, but it just boggles my mind that a well-you-told-us-you'd-do-it-but-we're-calling-the-penalty-anyway situation would happen at the NFL level.

Mike Kurtz: Coaches can tell the refs whatever they feel like doing. Just telling the crew that you plan on breaking the rules doesn't give you the ability to break the rules.

What those conferences are for are to make the crew aware of legal trick plays, so the crew doesn't get screwed up and lose track of the action.

Danny Tuccitto: Yeah, that's what I meant. Harbaugh has that in his hip pocket as a "legal trick play." They used it earlier in the season, and it drew the defense offsides with no false start call. I just have to imagine Harbaugh tells them that in the pregame conference precisely because it's a legal trick play.

Maybe the 49ers just didn't execute as crisply this time, and that's why it was called. As a weekly viewer of their games, it was just upsetting to know that that was coming, see it work, and then have the officials swoop in for the buzzkill. Fan bias for sure is in play here to some extent.

Cleveland Browns 12 at Houston Texans 30

Vince Verhei: Signs your team is off to a rough start: By the time CBS gets around to introducing your starting offense, you're already down 14-0.

Ben Muth: Josh Cribbs just got called for a facemask on a stiff arm. He definitely grabbed it and took the defender down by the facemask, still I can't remember the last time I saw a ball carrier getting called for one.

Aaron Schatz: It's actually happened a few times this year, believe it or not. I went and looked. Arrelious Benn, Kellen Winslow, Willis McGahee, Rob Gronkowski -- I think we talked about that one in Audibles a couple weeks back. I agree that it is usually a pretty rare play.

Mike Tanier: So do the Browns have an offensive philosophy right now other than waiting for punt returns and hoping Peyton Hillis doesn't decide to hijack a school bus like Scorpio from Dirty Harry?

Vince Verhei: Does "surrender" count as an offensive philosophy? As in, "our defense is going to give up a never-ending series of 10-yard runs, so it doesn't matter what happens when we have the ball?"

Rivers McCown: I just walked to get lunch during halftime and saw a very confused pigeon carrying a Hot Cheeto in it's mouth as if it were food. That works for me as a description of Cleveland's offensive philosophy.

Vince Verhei:On the “best left tackle” discussion (see below), I have seen enough of this game to confirm that Joe Thomas is having no trouble with Connor Barwin. That counts for something, I guess.

On the other hand, as I type that Thomas pulls outside, and Kareem Jackson ducks right under his block to hit the runner in the backfield for a loss.

Doug Farrar: Connor Barwin made Eugene Monroe look like 2005-era Walter Jones last week. I'm thinking that's less about Thomas and more about Barwin.

Aaron Schatz: Dear Cleveland: you are losing by 24 and there are 17 minutes left. Why are you kicking a field goal?

Mike Kurtz: Moral victory of actually having a scoring play. This is actually a pattern -- there have been shutouts where the Browns kicked a field goal late in the game just to get points on the board. It's kind of sad.

Aaron Schatz: I'll remember that for figuring out the "moral victories" tiebreaker in draft order.

Vince Verhei: Cleveland has a third-and-1 on the brink of field-goal range. They line up in shotgun, then go with an inside handoff, with zone blocking up front. That's about as bad a short-yardage play as you could design, and indeed it's stuffed for a loss.

As if to prove my point, the Browns then go for it on fourth-and-3, with an I-formation and two tight ends, and run a dive play to pick up the first.

New York Jets 27 at Buffalo Bills 11

Aaron Schatz: The Jets marched down the field easily on their second drive, all the way into the red zone. Then Mark Sanchez proceeded to throw the ball five feet over the head of a completely covered Dustin Keller and into the arms of a Buffalo safety. Terrible throw. You can try to throw it ahead of Keller where only Keller can reach it. You can try to throw it high and hope he can use his strength to beat his man for the ball. What you can't do is throw it five feet above him and hope he suddenly imbibes the vial that says "drink me."

Got to give a hand to the Buffalo defense. Looks like good tight man coverage today, this isn't just Sanchez struggling.

Well, the Jets-Bills game got completely out of hand in the second half. Bills just couldn't get anything going on offense, and while they seemed to generally play good pass coverage on the Jets receivers, they got nicked by a couple of huge defensive pass interference penalties and a few passes that yielded massive yards after the catch.

Mike Kurtz: Really, the story of Bills-Jets is the complete domination of the Jets offensive and defensive lines. Buffalo's complete inability to adjust for this, like the fourth-and-inches play where they line up looking like they're going to run up the middle, and then proceed to do so, only further compounded the issue. Three Jets hit Fred Jackson in the backfield after rushing in unblocked. The Bills just weren't playing to their strengths, and they got manhandled in general.

Seattle Seahawks 13 at Dallas Cowboys 23

Mike Tanier: I was about to comment about the Cowboys finally allowing Tony Romo to throw downfield and how it resulted in a touchdown. But then Dez Bryant fumbled at the goalline.

Vince Verhei: Tell me if this sounds familiar: The Cowboys are dominating an inferior opponent, but it’s a close game (tied at six at halftime) because they’re making mistakes at critical times. They’ve more than doubled Seattle in total yards (304 to 134). They haven’t just reached the red zone three times, they’ve been inside the five three times, but have come away with two field goals and a lost fumble.

Brian McIntyre: Not a good second half for Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. He's been intercepted twice while trying to throw the ball away. The first one was on a two-man route with Golden Tate and Anthony McCoy -- and not Zach Miller and Sidney Rice, who they spent $75 million in contracts on in the offseason -- that the Cowboys had covered well. Jackson tried to throw the ball at a receivers' feet, but it was tipped up in the air and intercepted by Jason Hatcher. On the second one, it looked like he was trying to throw it out of bounds, but it went right to Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman, who was on Sidney Rice down the right sideline. The Cowboys scored 10 points off those two turnovers.

Atlanta Falcons 31 at Indianapolis Colts 7

Vince Verhei: At halftime, Julio Jones has 130 yards and two touchdowns. He only had two 130-yard games in college, and caught two touchdowns in a game just once. Transitive property suggests that the Colts’ defense is currently worse than the worst defense in the SEC, and you’d believe it based on Jones’ second score. Against a basic Cover-2, Jones caught a skinny post that should have been a routine 15-yard gain, but both the corner and safety made some rather half-hearted attempts at tackling, and Jones had one of the easier 80-yarders you’ll ever see.

The bad news for Atlanta is that Matt Ryan’s interception to Jerraud Powers, returned a whopping six yards for a score, may have trumped Mark Sanchez’s end zone interception for worst turnover of the day. Throwing a quick slant from his end zone, Ryan underthrew his man by three yards, which is remarkable since he only needed to throw it about nine. Powers fell down catching the ball, but was so wide-open he had time to get to his feet and run in to the end zone.

Miami Dolphins 31 at Kansas City Chiefs 3

Doug Farrar: Dear Kansas City, you're getting waxed by the Dolphins. Why is your punter running right into the teeth of the defense on the worst fake field goal in NFL history?

New York Giants 24 at New England Patriots 20

Aaron Schatz: Ran into Jason Cole from Yahoo! here. We were talking about his difficulty in picking a left tackle for his midseason all-Pro team. I thought about it, and he's right, this is not a good time for left tackles. He's leaning towards "Joe Thomas by default." Jake Long is hurting and not playing up to his usual level. Hard to take Marcus McNeill after the game he had against Kansas City. D'Brickashaw Ferguson isn't really the best left tackle in the league, although he's good. Many of the top offenses have iffy young left tackles (Demetrius Bell, William Beatty) or over-the-hill old left tackles (Matt Light). Green Bay and New Orleans are both better on their interior line than their exterior line. Not a great time for left tackles.

Tom Gower: Best left tackles in the league to consider: Jason Peters and Andrew Whitworth. I've also seen some love for Jared Veldheer, but I'm not sure he consistently plays that well.

Doug Farrar: Based on his ability to hold the point and block on screens, I'd put Jason Peters on top right now. Greg Cosell has mentioned Peters as the best to me a couple times this season as well.

Mike Tanier: Agree with Doug. Other than the usual penalties, Peters has been great in this wide open offense.

The Giants and Patriots play a scoreless first quarter.

Anybody know when this game starts?

Aaron Schatz: Well, Kevin Boothe commemorated the arrival of the five o'clock hour by snapping the ball off the inside of his thigh, so I guess we're still waiting.

Hmmm, what to say about the first half of Patriots-Giants. A defense-oriented shocker. The Giants can't get any offense going at all. Eli Manning is missing some guys, and there is also some good coverage by the no-name Pats defensive backs. The Patriots have been mostly contained, but did have two extended drives. One ended with a tipped Tom Brady pick and the other with a missed 27-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, so it is still 0-0 at the half. New England have started at their own 10 or worse something like four times so far. Lots of punting. Giants seem to be playing a defensive strategy closer to the man-to-man physical style the Steelers beat the Patriots with last week, rather than the "dump everybody into coverage" from last year's Jets playoff game.

By the third quarter, the Giants defense is just eating Pats offensive line alive. Three successive drives go interception, sack-fumble, and three-and-out to make it 10-0 Giants. Patriots finally get something going their way when the Giants fumble the subsequent punt and the Patriots recover. Still, New York really look like they woke up at halftime, and the Patriots are still asleep.

Mike Tanier: The Patriots have caught a case of "September Eagles."

Aaron Schatz: I think the Giants have started every single drive with a Brandon Jacobs run off-tackle to the left. Like clockwork. They just got 10 yards off it. You would think the Pats would be used to it by now, they've been mostly stopping it this game.

I never realized this before, but Pete Morelli wants you to know why there is no intentional grounding. He's had three or four different passes today where he got on the mic afterwards to announce specifically that there was no intentional grounding because there was a receiver in the area, or because the quarterback was out of the pocket. Just in case we were curious, I guess.

Mike Tanier: Yuck. Did the Patriots just roll Brady out on third-and-7? Isn't that about the first intentional rollout he has executed since 2003?

Aaron Schatz: In the fourth quarter, the Patriots finally realized, "Hey, they're covering Wes Welker man-to-man with safeties and nickel corners. If we take him across the field, he'll be open." This works well when Brady actually has time to throw, which is about half the time. They also ran a nice reverse based off the usual direct snap to the running back (also known as the "Brady pretends it went over his head" play). They ran that play once. Then later in the game they ran it again, but this time Danny Woodhead flipped it to Welker going the other way and he had a lot of empty space ahead of him on his way to 13-yard gain.

You can also tell that the Giants' best receiver is not on the field in this game. They miss Hakeem Nicks. 13-10 Pats, 7:00 to go.

Giants march down the field, down by three, and toss a touchdown into the corner of the end zone over the shoulder of a clearly overmatched Patriots cornerback to take a late four-point lead. I swear, I've seen this movie before.

Rivers McCown: I saw this team last year, when they were called "The Houston Texans."

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots make it back and score a touchdown on fourth down to go ahead by three. Unfortunately they leave too much time on the clock and the Giants come all the way back. Somehow the Patriots end up with Tracy White, noted for his special teams play, on the field covering tight end Jake Ballard for both a big 28-yard catch over the middle and a touchdown catch in the corner that was set up by defensive pass interference in the end zone. Giants win 24-20. This second half was much more what we expected in this game. The Patriots defense is awful. There's no pass rush, and they can cover guys maybe half the time.

Green Bay Packers 45 at San Diego Chargers 38

Vince Verhei: Philip Rivers has thrown for three touchdowns in the first quarter. Unfortunately, two of them were thrown to Green Bay. The first came when Rivers tried to force a pass to a well-covered Antonio Gates. The ball was tipped straight up and reeled in by Charlie Peprah, who ran it in for the score. Most distressing was that it immediately followed another forced pass to a well-covered Gates, which was also tipped up and was nearly picked off.

The second pick-six looked like bad play design along with a great play by Tramon Williams. Rivers was throwing a short out to Patrick Crayton, who was uncovered. Williams was covering another receiver running a deeper route behind Crayton, and managed to come off his man and catch the ball. That is why you don't want two receivers in the same area, but it was more of a "Yay Williams!" play than a "Boo Rivers!" play.

Mike Kurtz: Rivers is sick of everyone talking about Aaron Rodgers, so he has decided to silence his critics by playing quarterback for two teams at once.

Danny Tuccitto What a play just now by Mike Tolbert. First, he picks up a blitzing Charles Woodson. Rivers fumbles the ball for some reason, but recovers it, and then laterals to Tolbert, who's peeled off of Woodson after the fumble. Tolbert then breaks an ankle tackle by Frank Zombo, and jukes A.J. Hawk out of his shoes. The result: Nine yards and a first down for San Diego.

Is it me or does Jordy Nelson look like Goldmember? Had never seen him without his helmet on until Green Bay's "touchdown" just prior to halftime.

Mike Kurtz: Why is Green Bay covering Gates with a linebacker? Are they playing with a handicap or something?

Danny Tuccitto: By the end of this Packers-Chargers game, I expect Thom Brennaman to have another Tim Tebow moment. Except in this case, it would be due to great quarterbacking. After the first San Diego punt of the day, the Packers took over at their own 32. On first down, Rodgers play-fakes, bootlegs right, and then, in mid-stride, throws an off-balance 55-yard dart to Nelson. Two plays later, Rodgers makes a perfect back-shoulder throw to Greg Jennings. At 45-24 in the fourth quarter, this game is pretty much over, but if I'm fortunate enough to spend even five more minutes watching Rodgers, my life is better for it.

Ben Muth: Nelson is banned from the hands team.

Mike Tanier: I cannot imagine Rivers leading a comeback like this in the rain.

Mike Kurtz: Rivers is such a double-edged sword. He and Norv are a match made in heaven.

Doug Farrar: Rodgers has five straight games with one completion of at least 61 yards. Has that ever happened before?

Cincinnati Bengals 24 at Tennessee Titans 17

Tom Gower: Through the better part of two quarters, Titans-Bengals looks like the game I anticipated between two very mediocre teams. The Titans receivers do maybe an even worse job of getting open than I anticipated, and Chris Johnson getting the ball on a run inside the ten or on third-and-short is a mistake.

I'll have more to say after I get home, but the Titans did not have very much success on offense in the second half, while the Bengals seemed to make a more concerted effort to throw the ball downfield, particularly to A.J. Green, and had a good bit of success doing so.

Robert Weintraub: Five in a row for Cincy! For the first time since 1988 -- where are Eddie Brown and David Fulcher? And three of the five on the road. Sure, it wasn't against the '08 Pats or the '62 Packers, but how many rookie quarterbacks have won five straight games under any circumstances?

Once again, the Bengals won the fourth quarter, although in this case it was really the whole second half. After Matt Hasselbeck picked the blitz happy Bengals apart in the first thirty, Mike Zimmer got in their grills in the locker room, or so I imagine. Cincy went back to basics, sticking to four-man rushes, and dominated the Titans offense in the second half. Until the "let them have underneath passes to kill the clock" final drive, Tennessee managed only three first downs in the second half, and one came on an unbelievably soft roughing the passer call against Geno Atkins. Chris Johnson was held to nine yards on five carries in the second half. Carlos Dunlap continues to bring major heat when it matters most. He was helped off the field after a sack on the game's penultimate play with an apparent hamstring injury, but fortunately, he said after the game that it was just a cramp. Watching the Bengals make big defensive plays consistently when the game is on the line is an out of body experience.

Meanwhile, after sticking to the seam stuff in the first half to little effect (Donald Lee is solid but not the threat the injured Jermaine Gresham is), Andy Dalton wised up and forced it to Green regardless of coverage. He earned a 45-yard pass interference penalty early in the third that was a key momentum-shifter, and had an unreal snatch on a third-and-18 that led to the game winning touchdown. Several times, Dalton called a run and decided to toss a quick hitch to Green instead. It was a more reliable means of getting six yards on first and second down than Cedric Benson or Bernard Scott.

Call them mediocre if you must, Tom -- I'll take 6-2 mediocrity all day long.

Danny Tuccitto: The Bengals are 6-2. Two more wins, and I lose my tiger suit guarantee. Oh joy!

Robert Weintraub: Well, still four with the Ravens and Steelers, plus the Texans who always kill us. But ... Browns and Cards at home, and at St. Louis. Start shopping!

Tom Gower: Dalton does a really nice job of playing within himself, though he's really playing within himself a lot. His standard operating procedure is what I expected to see much more from a guy like Cam Newton this year -- he takes his drop and makes his initial read, then frequently vacates the pocket regardless of the amount of pressure, though he scrambles to one side or the other rather than taking off downfield. The arm is less of a liability than I expected, but it's still below average.

Johnson's first half success came the same way all of Johnson's success this year has been coming: when he's seen a lot of open grass in front of him and a defender who he thinks won't inevitably hit him. That first half success seemed to seduce them into thinking Johnson was "back" or whatever, and they played him regularly in the second half, with (what I thought were) adverse consequences for the overall offensive flow.

I feel bad for Hasselbeck, who deserves better than most of what he has around him, especially at wideout. I know this week I'm going to read about how Jared Cook had a breakout game because he had a couple catches, but he just got thrown the ball more. He didn't really do a better job of being in the right place at the right time. It's not just Cook either, this is the sort of offensive consistency that you'd expect to see in the preseason, not halfway through the regular season.

Denver Broncos 38 at Oakland Raiders 24

Ben Muth: Taiwan Jones just committed back-to-back penalties on a Denver field goal attempt. First he jumped offsides, then he roughed the kicker. That's a free 20 yards with less than 30 seconds to go in the half. The Broncos take the points off the board, lose 10 yards because of an Orlando Franklin hold, and then miss the field goal. I'm not sure what the lesson here is.

Mike Tanier: Never employ a man whose name sounds like a bad hip hip artist from a wannabe "edgy" crime movie.

Don't look now, but Tim Tebow just put together a swell drive, capped off by a strike of a touchdown pass.

Danny Tuccitto: Anyone have a guess at what Tebow's Total QBR was this week? I'm setting the over-under at 85.

Rivers McCown: Interesting debut (with playbook knowledge!) for Carson Palmer. Great Y/A, too many interceptions. Still, that's more vertical than I thought he'd be getting based on his play in Cincinnati.

I know you have to play the threat of Tebow running, but if that's all it takes to get Willis McGahee to run for 163 yards on you, your team has problems.

St. Louis Rams 13 at Arizona Cardinals 19

Vince Verhei: Midway through the third quarter, I see that the Rams lead Arizona 11-6, with the scoring consisting of five field goals and a safety. I turn to look at that game on TV. The camera shows two men in army fatigues in the stands. One in is stuffing his face with chili. The other is making no effort to stifle his enormous yawn. The camera then cuts to another pair of troops, and again, one of them is openly yawning. I turn away from the screen.

Ben Muth: The Cardinals have had safeties on back-to-back possessions. That accurately sums up both this game and their 2011 season.

Mike Tanier: Has any team ever given up two safeties and won?

Ben Muth: Arizona stopped Steven Jackson on back-to-back runs on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1. John Skelton gets his big chance!

After a horrendous possesion that will not be discussed, the Cardinals had to punt. The Rams get the ball into field goal range, thanks to a questionable pass interference call with four seconds left. The Cards block the kick though, so we are heading to overtime.

Patrick Peterson with a 98-yard punt return in overtime to win it for the Cards. Yes, he caught a punt on the 2 despite the fact that his offense had already allowed two safeties. He broke four tackles on the the runback.

Baltimore Ravens 23 at Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Mike Kurtz: It should be noted that when the whistle blew on Baltimore's third-and-goal run in the first quarter, Ray Rice was short of the goal line, and crossed the goal-line after only because his teammates illegally pushed him forward. Just so we don't have any flamewars.

Nothing says classy like challenging a reception in the second quarter for less than a first down in a play where your defensive back tried and only barely failed to kill the receiver.

Harbaugh wins and the Steelers have a ... slightly longer field goal.

Doug Farrar: No flamewars, eh Mike?

Aaron Schatz: I have never seen anyone wear eye black as low below his eyes as Hines Ward. Does that have any point?

Rivers McCown: Seems like getting Ben Grubbs back has definitely improved the Ravens pass protection. Joe Flacco has had a lot more time to throw than I've seen him have over the past month or so.

Danny Tuccitto: Agreed, Rivers. What I've seen on tape of Andre Gurode in pass protection hasn't been all that pretty. Bryant McKinnie not all that great either at times, but perhaps he was compensating for having Gurode on his right.

Rivers McCown: I liked this game the first time I saw it, when LSU played Alabama last night.

Doug Farrar: I’ve seen two calls in the last week -– the personal foul on Ryan Clark tonight and the one on Steve Gregory for hitting Le’Ron McClain in the Chiefs-Chargers game -– where the quarterback clearly throws the receiver into the path of the oncoming defender, and I have absolutely no idea what the defender is supposed to do in a situation where he’s moving to a play full-speed, and the quarterback forces the receiver right into the path. If the NFL wants to penalize the person responsible for contact to a defenseless receiver, shouldn’t the quarterback be flagged for that?

Danny Tuccitto: I think, at some point, the defenseless receiver call will be morphed into basketball's block-charge call. "Well, the defender set his feet, and the wide receiver ran into him. Penalty on the offense." OK, so that has a zero-percent chance of happening, but it might as well be the operative ruling going forward with the way things are currently being called.

Tim Gerheim: Just like in basketball, you can write that rule. but the defense will still be the one penalized every time it happens.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, and we could call it the Antonio Gates Rule. And it will never happen.

Danny Tuccitto: ...or the Tony Gonzalez rule, if I'm following the analogy correctly.

Doug Farrar: I think Gates does more blocking out, or maybe I’m just remembering the penalty on Charles Woodson today.

Danny Tuccitto: OK, so then it's settled. Over-the-back DPI in the NFL is the Antonio Gates Rule. Block-charge in the defenseless receiver situation is the Tony Gonzalez Rule.

Rivers McCown: When was the last time a relatively new rule was changed or eliminated? I think the asinine is here to stay.

How on Earth does a kicker miss so many consecutive field goals from 50 or more yards away (Billy Cundiff, prior to that hit) despite being renowned as the best touchback guy in the league? That's sort of counter-intuitive.

Mike Kurtz: Cundiff only became the big-kicking touchback machine last year. Before that he was a pretty garden-variety kicker.

Antonio Brown really loves to run around in circles. Pittsburgh needs to schedule a Randle Electomy.

I don't think there will ever be a team as inept at the screen pass as the 2011 Steelers. That's the third interception on a screen. They telegraph them way too much, and call them at the absolute worst times.

Doug Farrar: I’d like to apologize for any recent statements intimating that Flacco is logey in the pocket. At this point, “logey” would be a significant improvement.

Aaron Schatz: Hard to criticize him after the drive to win the game. If Eli Manning's game-winning drive today allegedly proved that he is "elite," did Flacco's drive just prove that he is also elite?

(Answer: of course not, in both cases.)

Doug Farrar: It don't have to look purty. All you has to do is win ballgames and you is elite.

/2011 QB narrative, Tebow Edition

Mike Tanier: Sorry, but what does "elite" mean again? Top five? Top 10? And based on how many seasons or games of data?

If "elite" means "one of the top seven or eight quarterbacks over the last decade," I think Manning has a pretty strong argument.

Aaron Schatz: Well, that's part of the problem with the question. "Elite" has no specific definition. But the idea that one drive proves anything about a quarterback is just silly.

Mike Kurtz: This is why you don't do a clever delay of game and then punt when only up four. This is why you go for the jugular in the red zone. The Steelers simply do not understand this. Every single game.

Robert Weintraub: Did the ref just say the "ball will be placed at the 2-yard line?" After a touchdown pass? OK, he corrected himself.

Ryan Clark does plenty of things well, but he took a terrible angle on that play.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 07 Nov 2011

254 comments, Last at 14 Nov 2011, 12:06am by nath


by PerlStalker :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:02pm

What happened to Ryan Clady? That guy got hold happy this year.

Also, did the Oakland D give up on game in the fourth quarter? The Broncos were running rough shod over them.

by tedkerwin :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:06pm

I don't know what definition of Elite quarterback you want to use, I know that while you can find better QB's than Eli, every team would be happy to have him as their QB.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:52pm

Geez, even Giants fans aren't happy with Eli. What are you talking about???

by armchair journe... :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 3:25am

which giants fans are you talking to? most in the city think he doesn't get a fair shake.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:13pm

I think elite is whether that person is in the argument for best player at that position right now. I don't think it means something like making the Pro Bowl, which is simply being one of the top 3 in your conference. It is not top 5 or 8 or anything like that. Elite may only have one in that position because one guy is the best (e.g., Tony Gonzalez in his prime). I don't think Eli has ever been arguably the best QB in the NFL at any point in his career.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:20pm

If we are limiting it to that qualifier, then how many elite QBs are there? Two? Three? I would say that the only QBs who were at any point the best QB in the NFL are Brady, Brees and Rodgers (not counting Peyton since he is hurt).

I think elite is top-5. With Peyton out and Philip having an off year, I would put Eli at #5 behind Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Ben. I will say that both Brady and Brees have thrown quite a few picks this season. DVOA and DYAR might not say so, but there is a case that as for 2011, Eli is ahead of those two.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:29pm

"Best in the game" - but for how long? if a few games is all it takes, then Trent Green probably qualifies. If we're talking "decisively the best in the game for a season or more" than Rodgers hasn't qualified yet and Brees probably doesn't either. You really end up with a list of about 30 QB's from the entire history of the sport, one that skews towards dudes playing against weaker competition. Does it make Brees a worse QB than Rich Gannon that Brees is up against Manning, Brady and Rodgers while 2002 Gannon had basically no competition? Any list that leaves Brees out of "elite" is probably worthless.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:51pm

I still laugh at the notion of Eli being an elite QB, as should anyone who was paying attention when he threw that awful ball up for grabs that led to a pick in the end zone when they were virtually guaranteed a 2-possession lead earlier.

Seems like Eli only plays like bad Eli when I watch, though. I've caught very little live Giants action this year and everyone (and the numbers) tell me his play has been great. I tune in for a bit before running back out, though, and he throws prayers off his back foot just like before. I guess I'll just stop watching.

by mrh :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:17pm

Surely someone else has said this, but you can't spell elite without Eli.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:23pm

And that person was Justin Tuck following the game.

by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:17pm

I think Eli has a decent argument for being elite this season. I think it is possible to argue this season that it is Rodgers and everybody else. But,if you consider elite top 5 with Rivers puking on himself each game Eli has a argument after Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Roethlisberger.

by horn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 6:16pm

Eli isn't remotely elite, as a longtime NFC_E fan. Unless someone like, say...Vick is. Look at last year's stats - Vick crushed Eli in all aspects.

Look at this year, Vick has higher completion %, more yds/game when rushing is included, and has thrown significantly fewer bad picks. Eli's thrown 31 INTs last 2 years vs 14 for Vick, and 75% of Vick's have come off tipped passes this year. [Vick also had more pass ypg last year excluding rushing].

I would say neither is Elite, but Vick is closer. My list is Rodgers, Brees, Brady currently, with Big Ben right underneath.

Eli is in the Schaub/Romo category.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:33pm

That is pretty much my thinking when it comes to QB elite. I'd still include P Manning, at least until we see what he looks like on the field again. Some will be elite and never make it to the HoF because they couldn't sustain it. Warner was elite from 99-01. Gannon his couple years in Oakland. Even Daunte Culpepper qualified that one monster year he had. I think Big Ben is arguably elite because he's so good in such an unconventional way, like Tarkenton.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:39pm

I'm personally not so quick to write Eli off - he does so many pre-snap things that are definitely elite. He reads defenses and calls adjustments on level with only his brother and Tom Brady - there's basically no QB in the league better at figuring out what a defense wants to do and calling the proper play in response. His games versus Jim Johnson were also so fascinating because he could respond tit-for-tat to the crazy defensive schemes (whereas QBs that rely on athleticism like Culpepper, Favre or Vick would always get eaten alive by Johnson.) Eli throws some wobbly ducks off his back foot, but I'm not sure a handful of ugly passes a season disqualifies him from "elite" status. He's like Peyton in that he's good at all of the cerebral aspects of the game and that value can't be understated...

by armchair journe... :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 3:31am

agree agree agree.. this is key. his raw talent may not be equivalent with his brother, but the game knowledge clearly is. i dont see that from roethlisberger, vick, or the others. and to think three months back, people on these boards were complaining that josh freeman should be ranked ahead of eli. the man gets no respect.

by GlennW :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:40am

Roethlisberger's game knowledge and awareness are highly underrated, perhaps in part because the athletic plays he makes under pressure obscure his general accuracy and proficiency. Give him some time and he'll slice and dice you just the same, as we saw in this last Patriots game. He's not as dumb as he looks or as his off-field antics might suggest, folks.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:04am

I agree for the most part, but I'd argue that it's more like "a handful of ugly passes" per game, not season, and I'd also argue that knowing better than to throw those is something that should be included as a cerebral aspect of the game.

Heck, even when he does set to throw he has always had a habit of sailing passes that elude even his tallest receivers. Though it would seem he's not doing quite as much of that lately.

by troycapitated p... :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 9:57pm

Roethlisberger is good in conventional ways, as well. Only Warner reached 25,000 passing yards in fewer attempts than Roethlisberger.

by Jonadan :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:07pm

...a "hip hip" artist? Is that like a cheerleader?

"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

by jklps :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:08pm

@Danny Tuccitto - regarding 49ers attempted legal trick play.

Alex Smith is yelling at the center moving his hands like he is expecting the ball - while this may be legal today, is it really in the spirit of the game? I think it's slightly absurd, especially as a man on the line is moving back as if to pass block, and while legal now, should be addressed by the competition committee.

by MCS :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:39pm

Simulating the snap is illegal. Or so I thought.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:49pm

Tight ends are allowed to shift formation.

If it's a penalty, it should be called consistently. The 49ers have used that formation shift before without being called.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:58pm

The issue, I don't think, is the formation, it's Smith moving his hands. Per rule, it should be called a false start same as if any other offensive player flinches.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:32pm

A shotgun QB may suddenly thrust his hands forward as though to receive the snap, and that isn't (always) a false start.

by BSK :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:59pm

I thought they changed this rule a year or two back for precisely the reason that QBs were unfairly drawing defenses offsides. I think Manning and Brady (guys often in the shotgun) were the big culprits. I agree with the rule, if that is indeed the rule. Sometimes a QB practically starts the play all by himself.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:50pm

Maybe, but Eli did it against the Bills a few weeks back. Could be one of of those selective enforcemtent things, like roughing the passer against Vick.

by JoRo :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:09pm

I love the in depth analysis of Denver. Never fails to amaze.

by tunesmith :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:56pm

You have to read the other game entries to find some incisive analysis on Tebow.

by JoRo :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:36pm

I'm far more interested in how much of Denver's D was mistakes by Palmer and pressure from their dime package. One of those little nuggets FO used to notice in Audibles they never really mention anymore. Stuff like that. Denver was rotating Von Miller on the line, often putting him against the interior and it ended up allowing Dumervil to get some decent pressure.

That kind of stuff. But like the rest of the known media outlets any and all Denver news with FO is Tebow.

by Independent George :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:10pm

Interesting thing about the Giants-Pats game - Mario Manningham got called for unsportsmanlike conduct on his go-ahead TD, allowing the Pats to start on the 36 in the penultimate drive. The end result is that they scored quickly enough for the Giants to answer after the fact.

by jfsh :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:13pm

Exactly as he planned, no doubt.

by GlennW :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:55pm

Seemed like a hometown call. Couple guys jawing at each other, so the guy who just scored the TD is the one who is flagged for "taunting". Still, Manningham needs to be smarter than that. You'll never be called for taunting after a TD by just running off the field and to your sideline.

by jklps :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:12pm

Jim Harbaugh is so demonstrative on the sideline, even when up 19-3 on the hapless Redskins who couldn't win a game with Beck at QB.

by nat :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:14pm

Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of Tom Brady as his team fell to the Giants was Oh no, not again. Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why Brady had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now.

by Led :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:24pm

This sounds suspiciously like Douglas Adams but I'm not remembering the specific reference. And yet I enjoyed it anyway.

by Independent George :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:28pm

The whale that materialized over Magrathea when they activated the infinite improbability drive.

by nuclearbdgr :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:53pm

That is the pot of flowers making the 'oh no, not again' statement. Who gets to play the part of the whale in this analogy?

by nat :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:17pm

Eli Manning?

Who's that man over there with the yellow flag, making weird calls like he's on some kind of drugs? What should I call him? Hmmmm. He needs a druggy name. Like maryjaney, or weedy or reefery. That's it. Ha! Reeferee!
I wonder if he'll be friends with me.

Except in the book, the whale doesn't really find a new friend, does he?

by Independent George :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:30pm

Who's that wearing the '85' jersey? Boy, I can really flail my arms around him pretty good, eh? What's that oblong brown thing flying at me? All... mall... ball. I think I'll call it a ball. Boy, it really seems to be coming here really fast.

by armchair journe... :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 3:36am


by Shattenjager :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:55pm

Except it's the plant, not the whale. They both materialize, but the whale has a much longer series of thoughts while the plant only thinks, "Oh no, not again."

by Quincy :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:49pm

That's terrific.

It's from the first Hitchhiker's book. I believe those thoughts in the book belong to a sperm whale (which used to be a nuclear missile, before the infinite improbability drive did its thing) that is about to crash into a planet.

I see I was slow to post.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:37pm

Brady really goes to crap in the face any pressure, doesn't he? There's a reason I consider both Manning and Rodgers to be superior QBs. Even Alex Smith can be a good QB if you provide a clean pocket and ample time.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:40pm

Brady has been playing crappy even when he's not being pressured.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:52pm

Wow....you must have high standards of QB play. Yeah, he's had more INTs this year, but that's really just the result of last year's insanely good fortune when those tipped balls weren't caught by the defense. He's had some throws that were behind receivers, but certainly not an abnormal number.

The problem with the Patriots is that the WRs not named Wes Welker cannot get open in a reasonable amount of time, resulting in a lot of forced throws to Welker, the tight ends, and Woodhead. There are no outside recevers on the roster that demand a rolled safety, let alone a true double team. We're going to see the same problems going forward that we saw two years ago...defenses are going to mug Welker on every play, and force the Patriots to go vertical. Maybe Taylor Price can help, since other than Slater he's the only WR on the team who can't be timed via sundial.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:50pm


I guess you need to watch some old footage of Peyton Manning in the playoffs.

No QB is very good when constantly faced with pressure. Some are worse than others (Cutler) and some are better at shrugging off rushers (Roethlisberger) or at getting rid of the ball quickly (Marino) but really, if you think Manning is better because he has never gotten rattled by pass rushes, you're delusional.

And the comparison to Alex Smith is a cheap shot. Next you'll be telling us that Smith is a great QB because the 49ers are 7-1, eh?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:51pm

Actually, my comparison is Peyton Manning. Manning has a much better pocket presence than Brady, and has put up similar performance using a far lesser offensive line. He also doesn't completely come apart once his jersey gets dirtied.

I'm not saying Smith is a great QB because the Niners are 7-1. I'm saying that under the similar conditions, he and Terrific have similar performances.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:29pm

Really, you cannot tell the different between the unanimous NFL MVP from 2010 and Alex freakin' Smith?

Suggest you do more research before you embarrass yourself further.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 9:41am

I can tell the different.

I can tell that Brady has had a shockingly easy career, and that now that his circumstances are regressing to the mean, his stats are as well.

by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:32am

Remember when 'Terrific' actually had three wideouts to throw to? I think it was in 2007. Yeah, 2007, that year.

I remember that year. You?

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:11pm

Heh, I've been reading my son The Hitchhiker's Guide series off and on for a few months. We just got through the chapter in Life, the Universe and Everything where Agrajag tries to kill Arthur for murdering him all the time. Great stuff.

by John (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 8:37am

That chapter is perhaps my all-time favorite, of any book, anywhere. I have it marked so that when I need a good laugh, I pull down that book.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 8:41pm

My personal favorite is the chapter in Restaurant at the End of the Universe where Marvin convinces the Frogstar Battleship to blow up the bridge it was standing on and destroy itself. I was lucky enough to attend a Douglas Adams reading/signing, when he was promoting Mostly Harmless. He read that chapter I was talking about and a chapter from Mostly Harmless. It was amazing, and led to me getting my leatherbound More than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide signed. One of my very favorite possessions in the world.

by leeroyjunk@gmail.com (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:16pm

Regarding the 49ers/Redskins play.... the Redskins didn't jump offside until the ref threw the flag. They were pointing and screaming at the ref to call a penalty... but no one jumped offisde.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:46pm

Yeah, I think that was the problem. Having thrown the flag, they had to call a penalty on somebody, and the Redskins hadn't actually jumped offsides. (They, unlike the officials, apparently paid attention to this gimmick that the 9ers had used successfully in recent games.)

That flag just shouldn't have been thrown.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:11pm

Yeah, watching it live, it felt like they had a real "whoops" moment where they realized they shouldn't have thrown the flag about 1 second after it was thrown. I sorta felt like they were going to just pick it up and say "nevermind." On the other hand, because it was designed as a trick, the TE stood up in a way deliberately intended to recall dropping back into a blocking stance as opposed to standing up to motion into a new position - sometimes, you can shoot yourself in the foot by intentionally trying to be clever and game the system...

by Reinhard (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 8:20pm

They designed their shift to look like they were snapping the ball. So you risk getting flagged for it, duh!
If you shift without making it look like you're snapping the ball, you won't get flagged. And everyone, not just tightends, is allowed to shift as much as they want.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:21pm

If an alien came to earth and asked me what football is all about, I'd show him a tape of last night's Ravens/Steelers game. The hitting was so good, and there was still a lot of yards gained throughout. Ray Lewis's hit on Ward could have been called helmet to helmet, but he didn't lead with the helmet so I can see why it wasn't called, other than that only Ryan Clarks blatant head hunting hit on Dickson was the only blemish. I guess it is possible to play hard hitting defense in 2011.

Edit: I'm not sure I understand Doug Farrar's point on Clark. Maybe if he didn't launch his helmet into Dickson's helmet he wouldn't be flagged? Clark leads with his helmet every time and is constantly shocked when its called, he's like Brandon Merriweather except he's good. But he just won't ever change his game, not the brightest guy in the world I guess.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:39pm

"Ray Lewis's hit on Ward could have been called helmet to helmet, but he didn't lead with the helmet so I can see why it wasn't called"

When you actively headbutt a receiver it's difficult to defend the position that the defensive player didn't lead with the head or intend the result. It wouldn't be the first time Ray Lewis got away with trying to kill a guy.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:13pm

Watch the hit again, Ray's helmet hits the Ward's shoulder and helmet, but the main point of impact is Ray's chest and Ward's shoulder. It's borderline illegal to be sure, but still a much different class of hit compared to Ryan Clark's launching the crown of his helmet directly into Dickson's head. Also, I'm not sure if Ray's helmet-to-helmet contact caused Ward's "stinger" or whether Ward got hurt when his head smacked into the ground, there seemed to be much more blowback on that impact than on the tackle.

And stay classy, there.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:21pm

It's not borderline at all...it's textbook spearing and it resulted in a H2H hit.

Are his eyes down when he makes contact? Yes.

What part of the defensive player makes contact with the ball carrier first? His helmet.

Does he have his arms extended to wrap up the ball carrier? No.

You can't ask for a better example of spearing.

If Lewis "sees what he hits" and extends his arms to actually make the tackle then the H2H hit doesn't occur.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:08pm

Watch the hit again. It's not borderline. It's objectively leading with the helmet and objectively a foul.

by allmystuffisthere (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 6:59pm

nah, it's not a foul. lewis puts himself in position, gets his arms up, doesn't leave his feet. clark otoh launches himself head-first, arms-down. it doesn't really matter if the qb leads the wr into the play, and i imagine if more players put their arms into standard action figure position those penalties would go away.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:37pm

I'm not saying there wasn't helmet to helmet contact, and maybe it should have been called. But the hit was mostly chest to shoulder, the helmet to helmet was more of a glancing blow. Clark drove his helmet full directly into Dickson, it was very obvious and I think that the "spirit of the law" is to eliminate hits like Clark's and not hits like Ray's.

Besides, do Steeler fans really want more enforcement of these penalties? I'd much rather they call it when it is very obvious and just leave the rest to the league office in the form of fines.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 8:54pm

It's real simple, "see what you hit" and neither one of those H2H hits are that bad.

Both Clark and Lewis had their eyes down at the point of contact, yes you could see Clark try to turn to let his shoulder lead the collision, but since you can't predict what the ball carrier is going to do, you have no idea if that half-hearted attempt is going to work or not.

"see what you hit"...it's really that simple.

And if you want to stop it, these fines aren't going to do a damn thing. Until you start suspending players and then the Coaches are going feel this pain...not much is going to change.

It was poor coaching that got football into this mess, it's improved coaching around the proper way to hit that's going to get them out of it.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 11:29pm

I agree it should be legislated, but I think that punishments for infractions should be handled more after the game than during it. Ray Lewis and Ryan Clark both violated the rules, and they should be fined accordingly. But you can't have officials throwing a flag when helmets glance off each other, or a DE's hand grazes a QB's helmet in the pocket. Then you'll have great games decided on cheap penalties, which would suck.

Calling Ray Lewis poorly coached is kind off a strange comment, is there any other LB who is better coached in the league?

by GlennW :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:04pm

I didn't really understand that point either. Yes, Flacco laid Dickson out to dry by leading him into contact. No, Ryan Clark doesn't have to lower his head and make first contact with his helmet to Dickson's facemask. Clark's never going to change though.

Ray Lewis should also have been flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit, but I think the officials just missed that one because the hit was made in a more confined space, not in a high-speed collision down the field. I didn't see anything amiss either, until we got the replay.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:48pm

The original's point was that it has become legitimate offensive strategy to overly lead a receiver such that the approaching DB must either strike the diving receiver's head or risk letting him by entirely as he makes the catch, primarily because referees are allergic to calling spearing or leading with the helmet on wide receivers or running backs.

It's worth pointing out that FBs spear *all the time*. Almost literally on every carry.

by Sifter :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 6:35pm

I can't believe that trying to lead a WR into a helmet-to-helmet would be a legitimate offensive strategy. For starters, surely it must be harder to set up that kind of collision than a simple completion and those are only successful around 50% of the time (talking downfield passing here). I can't fathom that a QB would see his TE open over the middle and go 'gosh golly that looks ripe for a helmet to helmet'. If a QB has that much control over a pass that he can lead his WR into a defender's helmet, why the hell doesn't he use that control to the lead his WR AWAY from the defender and make, you know, some real yards??

And for second, you'd want to have a lot of fungible receivers lying around to lead into danger. I'm not sure what Doug was smoking on this one. Sorry Doug :)

by GlennW :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 9:37pm

Yeah, I was going to make this same point. A receiver who would willingly participate in such a "strategy" would be roughly equivalent to a baseball batter who can cleverly/subtly maneuver his head into the path of high inside fastballs. No receivers are volunteering for such an assignment. Nor are there QBs prescient or accurate enough to orchestrate such collisions. Better just to say that occasionally a receiver will duck his head and create incidental/accidental helmet-to-helmet contact with the defender.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 9:48am

You mean besides Craig Biggio (285 career HBPs)?

What about the Bears RT, who chucked Babin into Cutler on 3rd down to cause a RtP penalty?

by Eddo :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 10:59am

If you think that play was some kind of strategy, I just don't know what to say.

by GlennW :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:18am

I'm talking about intentionally taking violent contact to the HEAD. Nobody in his right mind does such a thing. That's ludicrous. And as the previous poster wrote, it's simply not practical to pull off such maneuver with any degree of efficiency even if you wanted to.

I reviewed the Dickson/Clark play again. Dickson barely lowered his head, and I guess it could be argued that this contributed to the helmet-to-facemask contact. But Clark was in his usual "missile position" (arms down, head lowered) even if he did turn his shoulders a bit so that the hit wasn't direct from straight on. Still (as Collinsworth said in the broadcast) that penalty is going to be called every time. Every time. We all know this, and Clark knows it. "Fair" or not, if he doesn't adjust by coming in either lower and/or with his head up, he's going to be flagged.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:10pm

The point is that there's nothing Clark can do about that hit. He went shoulder to chest and Dickson ducked down and headbutted him. It's not a foul for a defenseless receiver to go helmet to helmet on a defender, so there's no foul.

by GlennW :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:32pm

I guess I'd have to look at the replay again to see to what extent Dickson ducked down, but if Dickson is "headbutting" then why was the resulting contact from the crown of Clark's helmet (seemingly head down) to Dickson's facemask (seemingly head up)? Nonetheless if Dickson did duck (even while keeping his head up) thereby creating the contact, I agree that there shouldn't have been a penalty.

I do agree with the poster's comment though that Ryan Clark consistently leads with his helmet. It's simply not a coincidence when the same players rack up the same personal foul penalties week after week. Hell, *Clark himself* admitted this last week when he was fined for his hit on Gronkowski, saying that the league was correct in fining him because it was an illegal hit and that he'd just have to make the adjustment. Easier said than done when that's your style of play for your entire career.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:43pm

Sorry, "headbutting" is not an accurate statement on my part. I merely meant to indicate that Dickson was the responsible party for the contact. Clark had his shoulder turned and would have hit Dickson in his chest until Dickson lowered his helmet into Clark's. "headbutting" is not an accurate description, more like "incidental and not really avoidable contact primarily the fault of the receiver," but that's kinda wordy.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:28pm

The Packers had a bye week to tinker and if anything the safeties looked more confused. It's a puzzle how the Chargers best receiver would get wide open behind the defense multiple times.

Is Raji taking the 2011 season off? He seems to be spinning his wheels half the time.

One has to wonder about the ripple effect of not re-signing Jenkins. Pass rush is gone because teams are triple teaming Mathews since nobody else can get a push. Raji is not getting the benefit of the attention demanded by Jenkins. The whole defensive line is out of whack.

The loss of Jenkins to free agency, Collins injury and Woodson's inability to cover only the most pedestrian of receivers has turned the GB defense into a train wreck.

Mathews is the only guy making plays and he can't play everywhere.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:37pm

WRs getting behind the defense was baffling. It's like GB thought the endzone was only 5 yards deep on a few of those plays. Bad enough at any time, but unforgiveable when protecting a 21 point 4th quarter lead.

And how often is Tramon Williams going to to play straight up outside technique only to get hit on a post route when there's no safety within 15 yards? It happened yesterday, it happened in the opener, and I feel like it's happened a few other times.

Finally, what was with all the press coverage late in the game? You have a huge lead, just take away the deep ball! Don't blitz, don't worry about completions underneath, just use the clock to your advantage.

by MCS :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:45pm

Green Bay is trying to play with two NT on the line. The injury to Neal is really hurting.

As for the secondary, you could tell by the reaction of Williams that the safeties are repeatedly out of position. They are both basically fist time starters and I expect them to improve as the year goes on.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:47pm


C'mon, nobody knows if Neal can even play in the NFL at a quality level. The guy has been MIA for over a year.

To suggest his loss matters given the lack of any sustained success in the league is questionable

by Arkaein :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:54pm

I usually give GB's coaching staff, scouts, and GM the benefit of the doubt in judging talent, especially talent that they've had a chance to evaluate in training camp. If they think Neal is starting material then I'm pretty sure he's starting material.

He won't fix the defense on his own, but getting him back is almost sure to help. Even if he isn't better than Wynn, another capable body to work into the D-line rotation always helps.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:57pm


Point taken.

I am just sick of hearing about Mike Neal.

When he actually tackles someone in a live game I will start to pay attention.

by MCS :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:05pm

Thompson let Jenkins go and expected Neal to fill his spot. I think Ted has earned the benefit of the doubt in judging whether Neal is NFL talent.

by Mike W :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:31pm

Even though I'm a Packer fan, I find the "Rodgers is the bestest QB ever in the history of everything" stuff kind of nauseating. But damn, that was straight-up awesome yesterday. Pass rush in his face all day, guys mostly not open, and he goes 21-26, 4/0, and big yardage.

If the GB pass rush doesn't materialize at some point, Rodgers is going to have to be this good in the playoffs, and that's not likely. If it doesn't, and he is, and they win, THEN he's the bestest QB ever in the history of everything.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:35pm

It's pretty clear that teams are going to look to not just sack Rodgers but put a hurt on him. If the tradeoff is a 15 yard penalty vs. Rodgers out of the game it's a no brainer for someone to go helmet to helmet a la Peppers in the championship game.

If Rodgers goes out the team won't collapse but with no defense the ability to win games will be reduced dramatically.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:40pm

Rodgers is pretty good about protecting himself this year. There have been very few quick sacks, and almost all of the sacks yesterday were of the "no ones open, buy some time in the pocket, oh well I'll tuck and run", and Rodgers gets tackled for a minimal loss.

The only big , blindside hit he took was on that late rollout incompletion. As long as avoids those he'll be okay.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:45pm


I am fairly certain that the Lions will go into their games with the goal of hitting Rodgers at every opportunity and daring the refs to throw multiple flags.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:00pm

They'll surely try, but if Rodgers gets the ball out quicker I don't think they get there. Even defenders who are willing to take a penalty have to get some legitimate pressure and make the hit close to when the QB has the ball if they don't want to get ejected. Rodgers didn't hut hurt in the pocket last year, but rather scrambling, so it's really on him to not give Detroit the chance to take shots.

I will agree with you that Detroit's bad boys have me worried about Rodgers' long term health. I see them injuring Rodgers at some point over the next several seasons as the #1 threat to GB's long term success. Hopefully Thompson keeps investing in the O-line.

by Yinka Double Dare :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:53pm

Maybe they can get the coaches down from East Lansing to talk to them about "60 minutes of unnecessary roughness" or whatever that quote was.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:06pm

Aren't you getting flashbacks to the Arizona playoff loss from a couple years ago? If their defense doesn't get it together, they're in for another one like that...

by Arkaein :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:15pm

Sort of, but that year the offense made enough mistakes for Arizona to capitalize on that GB eventually lost (he threw an interception on GB's first play in that game).

This year Rodgers simply isn't making mistakes. If 2011 Rodgers played that game then GB very likely wins, despite the horrible defense. Now, if he has an off game against a good opponent then GB could be in trouble, but he's been so consistently good this year that it seems unlikely.

A more plausible scenario for GB losing is the offense stalling due to dropped balls, penalties, or fumbles, but so far GB has been pretty good about avoiding those things.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:51pm

The Packers also got their first score off Fitzgerald fumbling around GB's 20 yard line. 2011 Rodgers might win that game, but 2009 Warner, the guy that played that night, was even better. I believe that was the highest DYAR game of all time. And remember, if Rackers just hits a 40-yard kick, that game doesn't even go to overtime.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:18pm

Driver also fumbled. That was why GB was in such a big hole in that game, two early turnovers that Arizona converted before GB got anything going. GB also ended up settling for a chip shot FG before halftime because they played conservatively and ran out of time to go for a TD. Cancel out both fumbles and remove Rodgers INT, and add some more aggressive play calling and that game would have been a tru shootout, with both teams scoring at will.

Of course, the rest of the game would have played differently, but really, Rodgers was just as good as Warner that game, minus the turnovers. Kind of like yesterday, in that Rivers was quite good (though with many more incompletions than Rodgers) outside of his pick-sixes.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:35pm

Rodgers also had a lot of incompletions, relative to Warner. I think Warner was 29-33, Rodgers was 28-42. Rodgers was excellent. He was going against a worse pass defense though. Overall, that was a crazy game. Turnovers game both team points early. There was also a recovered surprise onside by the Packers, which got a little overshadowed by this other onside kick that postseason.

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:28pm

Is that the one Mrs. Kendra dropped?

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:31pm

Any particular reason there is not an Extra Point about the Penn State matter?

by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:08pm

Didn't take place on the filed. That's the usual bar for this kind of thing (and thank God).

by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:46pm

Or not...

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:33pm

Rivers is such a double-edged sword. He and Norv are a match made in heaven.

Because Norv is a sword with no edges?

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 7:44am


by dryheat :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:46am

Blunt, actually.

by tunesmith :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:36pm

Tebow has a not-terrible game and a handful of other games are still peppered with disparaging Tebow remarks... when does that stop getting "witty"?

by eggwasp (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:19pm

Raider defense adjustment....

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:04pm

Probably right after it's no longer witty to imply that Cutler wasn't injured in the NFCC.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:16pm

It will take at least as long as it takes them to stop making "witty" comments about the officiating in the Seahawks/Steelers Superbowl...

by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:28pm

He was still pretty poor at passing the ball(still under 50% completion percentage) he just was fantastic when it came to running the football.

by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:37pm

I have mentioned this before, but that Packer defense is not going to scare anybody. You get two non-garbage time interceptions for touchdowns, and then still manage to give up 38? Never have I seen a defense with so many "good names" amount to something so below average.

I know they "play with a lot of intensity," or whatever other phrase you want to use, but at some point, Capers needs to teach the guys how to cover, not how to be a cover. Riding a guy is not a defense. They need to replace their safeties; or, move Woodson to safety, and find two new corners. Even Admiral Armbar is not his normal self. Sure, he may be injured, but that excuse only goes so far when you play so athletically on one play (the interception return) and then just get beat repeatedly.

At this point, Aaron Rodgers is the best player that defense has.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:41pm

"I have mentioned this before, but that Packer defense is not going to scare anybody. You get two non-garbage time interceptions for touchdowns, and then still manage to give up 38? Never have I seen a defense with so many "good names" amount to something so below average."

I'm trying to figure out when Greggggg Williams and Dom Capers switched brains.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:43pm

Peprah started last year for the team that won the SB only at Burnett's position versus filling in for Nick Collins.

The real issue is the lack of a pass rush. It's non-existent

by MCS :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:48pm

Peprah was out of position a couple of times on deep passses to Jackson. He looks a bit confused out there.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:52pm


I agree that Peprah is also an issue.

But the core issue is the pass rush

by MCS :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:08pm


I think the Raji as defensive end experiment has failed. Unfortuantely, without Neal (heh heh) the cupboard is bare.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:39pm

Somehow the Patriots end up with Tracy White, noted for his special teams play, on the field covering tight end Jake Ballard for both a big 28-yard catch over the middle and a touchdown catch in the corner that was set up by defensive pass interference in the end zone.

The "starters" (scare quotes because unclear if they could really start on other teams) ahead of Tracy White were injured. That's also why Sergio Brown was in their committing the DPI to set up the winning score instead of Pat Chung.

by Independent George :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:53pm

Plus, Ballard is more of a blocking TE than a downfield threat. That catch was a spectacular surprise.

by alsep73 :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:16pm

Ballard has actually turned out to be a much better receiving TE than a blocking one. Yesterday wasn't the first time he showed hands like that, and he's starting to replace Steve Smith as Eli's security blanket. As a blocker? Well, you've seen the Giants' run numbers this year.

by JasonK :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:17pm

Also, on that first long seam-pattern catch, the coverage was actually quite good. The LB was in tight trail technique, which gave the QB a very small window into which to make the pass. Eli just put the ball out of the defender's reach, and Ballard made an insanely difficult catch.

On the TD, White did get sucked into taking a false step by the play-action fake. Which, given the game situation, was very very unlikely to have been an actual handoff. (Giants were out of timeouts and probably wouldn't have had an opportunity for the tying FG if a run was stopped short.)

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:27pm

I thought the Giants, from the one foot line, should have run it up the gut twice, either with Jacobs or a QB sneak. So I can't fault White too much for biting.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:31pm

Huh? They were out of timeouts. If they get stuffed once, there's no way they get the pile sorted out and the ball reset and still have time for another play. Biting on the run was indefensibly stupid.

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:53pm

I disagree. I think 19 seconds is enough time to get the pile sorted out and run another play. Almost by definition, the play itself wouldn't take more than a second or two, and the players would hardly have moved. Even the Patriots would have a hard time laying on the ballcarrier for 15-20 seconds without drawing a flag.

To be honest, I'm not even convinced that the pass they threw, and kicking a tying FG if it fell incomplete, gave them a better chance of winning than running even once, from where they were.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:54pm

Why? The Giants are one of the few true power-rushing teams in the NFL, have Brandon Jacobs, and a QB who has already thrown a goal-line INT.

I realize it's all-or-nothing, but asking Jacobs to fall forward for 18 inches isn't a poor-percentage play.

by JasonK :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:58pm

"The Giants are one of the few true power-rushing teams in the NFL, have Brandon Jacobs"


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:10pm

When you have a 6'4", 256lb TB, and you play sets out of the I-formation with 2 TEs, you count as a power rushing team in 2011.

More to the point, on the day, the Giants had 2 rushes for loss (one for Jacobs, one for Ware) and one rush for no gain (that actually gained half a yard). Most of their runs were of the dive or power off-tackle variety, and all but three gained yardage. The odds were good that the Giants could pick up 18 inches, even with the Pats expecting it, which supposedly they wouldn't have, because they should have been expecting pass.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:19pm

That's fine - but in the event they're stuffed (and they simply wouldn't have gotten a play off: a 3 second play, digging out the pile, getting reset, come on), they lose the game. Any run is counter-intuitive and the LB's should have erred solidly on the side of pass protection. I suppose we agree, in a funny way.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:22pm

Indeed, our argument seems to be that whatever was actually called, the Patriots should not have expected the opposite play.

by Independent George :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:47pm

Belichick: It's so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would power run with no timeouts left, or throw a quick pass and accept a tie if it's incomplete? Now, a clever man would pass, knowing that a coach on the hotseat would sooner accept a tie than a loss because the time ran out.

Coughlin: You've made your decision then?

Belichick: Not remotely. Because you are from NY, which, as everyone knows, is populated with criminals and Rex Ryan. As such, any show of timidity will be held as weakness. Since, by being here, you are obviously not weak, one must expect audacity and run.

Coughlin: Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

Belichick: Wait 'till I get going! Where was I?

Coughlin: New York.

Belichick: Yes, New York. And you must have expected that I would have known your media environment, I can clearly not expect you to run.

Coughlin: You're just stalling now.

Belichick: You'd like to think that, wouldn't you? You've beaten Philadelphia, so you must be able to run, and trust your strength to save you. But you've also beaten Buffalo, and learned that to win, you must be able to throw. Therefore, clearly, I cannot sell out against the run.

Coughlin: You're trying to trick me into revealing something. It won't work.

Belichcik: It has worked! You've given everything away! I know which play you've chosen!

Coughlin: Then make your choice.

Belichick: I will, and I - hold on, timeout.

Coughlin: What?

Belichick: Never mind. Just snap the ball.

Coughlin: You guessed wrong.

Belichick: You only think I guessed wrong! In the timeout, I reviewed my videotape of your sideline, and red your lips! You told Jacobs to charge with all his strength! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - the most famous is never get in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never face the Patriots at Foxboro when they're coming off a loss! Ha ha ha ha-

Coughlin: It was play action. That's why I told Jacobs to run hard.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:51pm


by tuluse :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:38pm

Bravo sir, bravo.

This and the Guide thread really made my day.

by PHn (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:19pm

*standing ovation*

by jonsilver :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 9:51pm

+3 and a wonderful mimicry of Wallace Shawn...

by Independent George :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 11:28pm

Thank you, everyone, that was an absolute blast to write. It's more than a little weird writing Bill Belichick as Vizzini, though.

by armchair journe... :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 3:50am

beautiful. the only thing that could make todays comments better would be a few riffs on douglas adams.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 10:10am

Truly spectacular.

Does this force Rex Ryan into the Andre the Giant role? Who's the Spaniard?

by Independent George :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:35am

Rex Ryan is one of the many criminals that populate Australia, from which iocaine powder originates. Philadelphia is Andre the Giant, because Ahmad Bradshaw ran them over, and Buffalo is the Spaniard because the Giants had to 'out-skill' them in the passing game.

Now that I look back, I think it should have been Miami instead of Philly, because (a) they're in the AFC East, and therefore better qualify as one of New England's "minions", and (b) Miami has a good rush defense, so the Giants had "out-strengthed" the Dolphins to advance.

I'm at the office, though, and it was the best I could do on short notice when I wrote it; Philly was just the first team to come to mind because of Bradshaw's performance. It was hard enough to not crack up while drafting it in wordpad.

If I could do it over again, it would be Miami & Buffalo, and Belichick's last speech would say "read" instead of "red". Still, I'm damned proud of this one, and would nominate this for 'Best of FOMB' if I could. The sentient Cowboys-hating computer from the DVOA threads still ranks as my favorite from this year, though.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 2:01pm


Aikman: And to think all that time a play action had been called.

Coughlin: It was a run-pass option. I spent the last few years training Eli to read a defense.

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:45pm

I can't view NFL.com videos at work, but my recollection is that the Lynch run at the end of the first half last week solidly supports my contention that the Giants could have gotten another play off within 19 seconds. The pile is just not going to be *that* big, they had five extra seconds, they presumbly wouldn't have been as confused as the Seahawks were, etc.

There's just no way that even considering a run from a foot away is ever "indefensibly stupid".

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:28pm

I would go further and say that you need to call two plays, perhaps even two runs. Or at least run, than hurry back to the line and let Eli call an audible. If the first run fails, the offense is much more likely to get lined up and run another play than everybody run off, have the FG team run on, get lined up, and snap the ball in the remaining time. And if two runs up the gut to Jacobs both fail, well then the Giants deserved the loss.

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:45pm

Yes, I agree completely. Once they get to the one I have no interest at all in a game tying field goal, even apart from the timing issues in getting the FG team on the field with the clock running.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:31pm

Brandon Jacobs is big.

Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth are bigger.

Going after the replacement MLB in pass coverage was obviously the correct move, even discounting the fact that the Giants would have lost the game on a failed running play, but could still have kicked a FG after an incomplete pass.

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 6:49pm

Okay, now I'm convinced.

by ebongreen :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:39pm

On first down, Rodgers play-fakes, bootlegs right, and then, in mid-stride, throws an off-balance 55-yard dart to Nelson.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I don't recall ever seeing a QB throw as well on the move as Rodgers does. There are passers who would give their proverbial eye-teeth to throw that pretty a ball standing still under ideal conditions - to toss a 50-yard strike showing no obvious drift or flutter with a probably-wet ball while running parallel to the LOS at a 80-90% clip is stunning. I believe my words while watching it live were several rounds of "Holy f#$%."

Gods he's fun to watch.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:43pm

I've watched the Brothers Vick make some obscene passes under similar conditions. I recall in a VT-Miami game in 2003, Marcus throwing a wrist-only, 35-yd bullet into the wind, while being tackled. Of course the receiver dropped it, but it was still a ridiculous throw.

And Michael has the better arm.

by ebongreen :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:09pm

Being mentioned with the Vicks on mobility arm strength... that's an acceptable comparison/compliment in my book. AR's accuracy is higher, both historically and this season, and from what little I've seen he's also more consistently accurate while moving.

Both very talented men.

by c0rrections (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:21pm

I've watched Cutler make that throw before and he can make it (he's just not quite as consistent in his accuracy).

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:39pm

I agree. I know other QBs have been good on the run, but I can't remember any in my lifetime that could throw absolute darts with perfect accuracy so consistently on the move and with such a quick release. Others seem to have two of the three (quick release, accuracy, velocity) but not all three the way he does. He makes me say "wow" several times a game.

Yesterday I thought a few of the sacks he took reminded me of 2009 a bit, but I recognize that the conditions and the SD defense he faced were probably a factor in that, and if he felt closed in he wasn't about to bring his arm up and risk a fumble.

Overall I think all the media cooing is well deserved, though. He's starting to play at Manning's mental level but with loads more physical talent. I've supported him out of Favre Schadenfreude all along, but he's the reason I've happily called myself a Packer bandwagon jumper these past two seasons. I don't care that I only started rooting for them when they got good. I love watching them and hope they win it all again this year.

by John Courage (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:41pm

"Dear Kansas City, you're getting waxed by the Dolphins. Why is your punter running right into the teeth of the defense on the worst fake field goal in NFL history?"

I didn't see the KC fake field goal, but surely it can't be worse than this:


The best part is they lined up in this formation, the Giants called timeout and then the Redskins come right back in the exact same formation.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:55pm

It wasn't a designed fake. The holder muffed the snap and just ran straight ahead to salvage as many yards as possible.

by mrh :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:22pm

The holder (Colquitt) is quoted in the KC Star saying that it was supposed to be a direct snap to the kicker for a pooch punt. Once the snap came to him, he just ran forward with it.

Not sure about the reliability of his version but it sure was a messed up play.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:51pm

As a rookie, Ben Roethlisberger won 14 straight games including a divisional playoff game. Your move, Dalton.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:02pm

Hell, Kyle Orton won 8 in a row.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:14pm

Come one, Roethlisberger did his absolute best to lose that divisional playoff game. If you're going to give him credit for "winning" that game, you might as well give it to Jeff Reed!

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:53pm

watching the ravens this season has been an exercise in frustration. The run game is totally ineffective, and it eliminates much of the effectiveness of the play-action passing game. Result is that the offense looks pathetic whenever joe is under center. Then they get desperate and switch to the shotgun, and the offense picks up and gets very dangerous.

This leads me to wonder whether what we're seeing this year in terms of offensive explosion can be tied to a shift toward different strategy and the difficulties defenses have had keeping up. I've been wondering how to explain the ravens being so far ahead of everyone else on the defensive DVOA ratings. The ravens strike me as a team that is better prepared than most to deal with an opponent trying to spread them out due to their strong depth at cornerback and safety and their strong defensive line. With jimmy smith back in the rotation, they could get even more difficult to match up against because they'll have 3 solid cornerbacks and such good safeties who can be moved around to match up against almost any type of receivers.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:56pm

I want to thank Favre for alienating Rodgers sufficiently so that number 12 is now clearly focussed on making it clear in everyone's mind as to will be regarded as the better quarterback years down the road.

Number 4, the gift that keeps on giving!

by Mike W :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:36pm

Who is this Favre person?

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:38pm


by Independent George :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:46pm

Regardless of the drama of the last few years, it shouldn't take away from what thatguy did actually accomplish in Green Bay, and how badly they needed that success after two decades of futility. Now that he's finally dead and buried, let's try to evaluate both his career, and Rodgers', fairly. Thatguy was an all-time great with some significant flaws, and who held on just a little too long.

Rodgers is without question the best QB in the game right now, but I'm not ready to put him in the all-time list until he does it for another 4-5 seasons. He reminds me of the '99 Kurt Warner - everything he does just seems to work. Eventually, he'll get dinged up, make a bad read, hit a stretch of bad luck, and defenses will find something to key in on - but until that time comes, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the show.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:58pm

I don't think any thinks Flacco is elite, but the point is he's still improving so he could become elite. His key stats steadily improved from years 1-2 and 2-3, but this year his completion % and yards per attempt are worse than his rookie year. I think a lot of that has to do with the WRs, Lee Evans has barely played, and Torrey Smith and Laquan Williams are very raw rookies. It looks like Pitta has emerged as a more reliable target at TE than Dickson, but I think their most effective offensive personnel is Boldin/Smith/Pitta/Dickson/Rice, Vontae Leach is a good blocker but makes the offense 1 dimensional.

The two stats that Flacco has improved upon this year are INT% and sack %, which is a good sign. If he can improve his pocket presence and return to his career average completion %, he could be really good. His biggest fault right now is ball security, he fumbles way too much.

Also Flacco struggles vs. defenses like the Jags, Bengals, and Titans (although they've fallen off), teams that use a 4 man pass rush that gradually shrinks the pocket. I think the Ravens are a better team than the Bengals, but given Flacco's previous struggles vs. them I'm interested to see how he fares in the two upcoming games.

by andrew :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:11pm

by comparison everyone else is mediocre or worse now.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:34pm

where by "now" you mean "over the past three weeks"

by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:16pm

1) Max Starks - MVP for the Steelers this year? This was not the same line that was playing early in the year.

2) Bad reffing is bad, inconsistent reffing is worse. Especially in a close game, and there were two games like that in a row Sunday evening. Yay.

3) The Hillis / Tolbert facemask that looks like a warthog's tusks should be mandatory for all power backs. It doesn't even look like a safety device.

4) There is no ARE. There is no Santonio Holmes. There is not Antonio Brown. There is only Steelers Circle Running WR.

5) There is no Willis McGahee. There is no Rickey Williams. There is only Washed Up Ravens RB with a Visor.

6) Two teams between the Bills, Jets, Patriots, Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals will not make the playoffs this year. That's pretty crazy.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:23pm

" Two teams between the Bills, Jets, Patriots, Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals will not make the playoffs this year. That's pretty crazy."

I was talking to a friend before the season and I predicted that there would be at least one team that didn't make the playoffs in the AFC with at least two more victories than the AFC West winner. He seemed skeptical... Who's laughing and the lamentable state of the division their favorite team plays in now, Lucas?! Mwahaha, have fun watching the excellent play in the NFC North, sir!

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:00pm

I'm a fan of Canty's facemask.

It cries out: "Just try to facemask me."

by dcaslin :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:26pm

As a Ravens fan, I have to say I found that Audible particularly frustrating. If we're going to have a Kurtz as a blatant Steelers homer on this one, can we at least get someone to offset? Here, I'll try:

1st Quarter
- Ray Rice non-touchdown #1, was that a hold really?
- Ray Rice non-touchdown #2, if you watch the replay, he never stopped moving forward, sure he got pushed in after the whistle and it didn't count, but perhaps they shouldn't have blown the whistle until he wasn't moving?
- "Jugular in the red zone". The Ravens didn't go for it on 4 and 1 in the end zone on that first drive, so neither team seemed very jugular ready.

Flacco as "elite" QB discussion: I think we can all agree that this designation is ridiculous fodder for sports radio, however, you have to respect the fact that in probably the most unfriendly away stadium he could be at, with 1 timeout and under a minute left, he sucked it up after two huge drops by his #1 (Boldin) and #2 (Smith) receivers and managed to win the game by trusting that same #2 again. If you read interviews with him later, he didn't even think he won it then, but was hustling up to try to get the play off from the 1 due to the penalty.

Finally, did anyone see how much Torrey Smith looked like he was going to puke after the game winning touchdown? He didn't even smile until the game was finally over. Entire rest of the team celebrating on the sidelines, and he's over by himself on the bench looking incredibly worried.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:17pm

I'll rebut.

Yes that was really a hold, and it prevented a tackle for a ten yard game.
He stopped and the whistle blew. Once the whistle blew everyone stops pushing so of course the one guy who doesn't gets his way.

The discussion in the audible was a direct result of the officiating on the field. It was biased by an incredible amount in favor of the Ravens. Were the officiating perfect that game would have been a blowout in favor of the Steelers. It was a disgrace.

by dcaslin :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:20pm

I may not be a expert on everything but I am an expert on holding as I held on every play for 12 years, and that was no hold!

A blowout, really? I think everyone can agree there were bad calls (I'll say that Ray Lewis will probably get fined for his hit that wasn't called). But a blowout?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:32pm

Well obviously nobody can know what changes without the help. But yes, the volume and immediate results of the various blown calls had a huge effect without which the score would probably have been quite one-sided.

by daz :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 6:52pm

I dont know what game you were watching, but the bad calls where just about even - its just that the bad calls against the Ravens were all in a short space of time, and the ones against the Steelers were more spread out.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:23pm

Intropy you need to get a grip, your opinions seem a bit tilted towards one team, no?

I can see Steelers DBs commit illegal contact and holding every time they replay a passing play, it's a strategy they do every home game. Force the officials to make the calls, sometimes they do, sometimes not. Not to mention Hines Ward's blocking techniques look exactly like Torrey Smith's hold on Rice, he's been doing that for years but rarely gets called for it.

And I can't imagine the refs are biased, I mean they call Rice down at the goal line without seeing him down, and they give Big Ben TD's when he's short of the goal line (not the first time). Not saying it was a perfectly called game, but the Ravens beat the Steelers fair and square.

by andrew :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:21pm

On Sunday they are just fans watching like anyone else.

by dcaslin :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:32pm

That's fair. I'm starting to wonder if being a fan of a consistently good (but not currently great) NFL team is actually the worst experience of all. Eagles fan's were most notorious for this, but in the last few years of noticed it with Ravens fans, and some Steelers fans as well (though chanting "6 rings" like a litany seems to help them).

Most of these "good" team fans spend far more time lamenting the fact that their team isn't undefeated, their QB isn't elite, their blah is aging, etc. A loss is devastating but a win is just confirmation of what you already expected. its all quite sad in a way.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:52pm

I can't speak for others, but I enjoy the Bears a lot more when they're good, and while I know Cutler isn't elite, I enjoy watching him play and will defend him against all the haters.

Also, I think we've reached the point where outside of Chicago Urlacher's career is underrated, and he should have been an all pro last year. /mini rant

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 10:27am

I admire Urlacher's longevity and his system fit, but I don't see him as being any better than Chris Spielman was, and no one considered him an elite player.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 3:08pm

1) Urlacher has played in 2 very different systems and been great in both of them.

2) Chris Spielman career sacks: 10.5 ints: 6 Brian Urlacher career sacks: 41.5 and ints: 21 (37.5 and 17 for his first 10 years if you want to make it an even comparison)

3) Seasons with PFR's approximate value above 15: Urlacher, 4 Spielman, 0

I feel like this comparison would be like someone saying they don't think Peyton Manning was any better than Jim Kelly.

by dryheat :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 3:36pm

Or that Tom Brady is Alex Smith-ish, in this case.

by andrew :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:59pm

and fans of teams that are consistantly great spend time lamenting when they don't blow people out by 30 pts, and when someone says something that somehow implies they aren't the greatest of the great.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:28pm

Look, Eagles' fans are testy because they had one of the 3 best teams of the decade and, if you say that, it's disputed and dismissed with alarming frequency. Our hall of fame candidates from the decade are treated like also-ran's who don't have any business being mentioned in HOF conversations, our great teams are dismissed as over-rated chokers and we don't certainly don't have any championship trophies to show for all they accomplished. We have a coach with the 2nd most wins of the decade (behind only the man commonly considered one of the greatest coaches who ever lived) and he's often portrayed as a nincompoop who can't manage the clock or figure out to run the ball and who is ludicrously being called on the carpet (with many folks suggesting he should be fired) for a slow start. It's frustrating, is all.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:37pm

It's a shame you couldn't find an elite coach like Jon Gruden to win a Super Bowl for you.


by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:10pm

Gruden did (OC) coach us to some nice playoff losses. The 0-14 loss to the 49er's was pretty sweet, but yet another blowout playoff loss the Cowboys was really special.

by dcaslin :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:37pm

@chemical burn. That's kinda funny, I would have characterized it a bit differently (though I'm not exactly an expert). Ignoring this year's free-agency lets-hate-the-eagles storyline, I always thought that the rest of the US thought the Eagles were pretty good and would love to have them as a team, while at the same time Philly fans were cursing McNabb and generally hating the team. You sound kinda like the opposite where you're a Philly fan and just wish everyone else would appreciate that they're a very good team.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:07pm

Yeah, but they've been better than "pretty good." Only 4 franchises have the right to argue they've been better since 2000 and I'd personally put the Eagles above the Colts or Packers (Pats and Steelers have at least been just as good.) Reid gets an very little respect in regards to what he's accomplished and just bring up Dawkins, McNabb and Tra Thomas as HOF candidates and watch how quickly you get shut down. One Superbowl win all of them become locks (especially if that Pats SB had gone slightly differently - Dawkins was out of his mind in those playoff games and almost single-handedly provided defense in the SB) and Reid becomes "one of the greats."

Philly fans cursed McNabb because they should have won a SB and he always came up short at the worst times (even if it really wasn't always his fault.) Even the famous SB puking incident becomes a major point in the narrative because so many of us started getting worried from hearing all the stories about him and Kearse and Freddy Mitchell staying out until 4:00 a.m. every night partying in the week leading up to the SB. Meanwhile, you know Teddy Bruschi is in bed by 9:30p.m. and up at dawn boxing slabs of meat and racing Apollo Creed on the beach. It's tough - one win and all that bitterness disappears. 4 consecutive heart-breaking failures and you can't help but curse what might have been and look at how much those Buffalo Bills teams from the early 90's are disrespected and treated as a punchline. Something's gotta break. It's ultimately hard to enjoy a decade of disappointment - disappointment that only exists because of greatness. And make no mistake: those early defenses, McNabb, Westbrook's 2 prime years, the TO passing game, Dawkins, Trotter in beast mode, there was real greatness on those teams.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:21pm

What exactly is your thought process for putting the Eagles possibly above the Colts as the third best franchise of the 2000s.

There is an argument that the Colts are #2 behind the Pats, because their incredible consistency can make up for having one less Super Bowl title.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:33pm

My thought is that, as we are seeing, the Colts are just one guy and not a great team. Also, I think they're benefited from an incredibly weak division - their divisional opponents have posted losing records more times than the NFC East (along with more "truly putrid" records starting 4-12 or lower) and it's not even close. Like I'm saying, it's an argument, but the Eagles have lost their starting QB for long stretches 5 different years, made the playoff in 3 of those years and posted only one losing season (because no one, not even Andy Reid, can make Mike McMahon into an actual QB.)

It's genuinely not intended as an insult to the Colts (or the Packers who could easily argue having been every bit the Eagles equal), just a compliment to how Andy Reid builds and coaches his teams. Without Manning, the Colts will be lucky to reach 6-10, which is where the Eagles were in their TO meltdown/Mike McMahon year. No disrespect to the Colts and certainly not Peyton Manning (or again, the Packers, Favre, Ted Thompson and Rodgers.) The Colts have been truly excellent and built a team around one player and cannot function without him - that's only bad if that one player goes down. (Also, Colts have 2 less SB titles than the Pats, if I am not mistaken.)

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:52pm

There is an argument to be made that the AFC South has been the strongest of the 4 AFC divisions since realignment. The AFC South has taken a wild card 6 times (out of the 18 from 2002-2010). An AFC South team has gotten the #5 seed 5 times (out of 9). The AFC South is one out of two AFC Divisions to once have all teams at .500 or above (2007, with the 2002 AFC West). The AFC South is the only AFC division to have both wild card teams in a year (2007), and has had a 12-4 wild card team three times ('03 Titans, '05 Jags, '08 Colts). Actually, the AFC South has the best winning percentage in the NFL over that span. By the way, the NFC East has had 11 losing seasons (out of 36 possible) since realignment, and the AFC South has had 13. That isn't exactly a huge difference over 9 years. (I took everything from realignment because that's when the AFC South was created). This idea that the AFC South is a weak division probably stems from the fact that three teams have little history (one expansion, one Jacksonville, and the other has most of their history in a different city), and being in the south. I would reckon most people would think of the NFC South as a historically weak division, when it's record of playoff success is better than all but one division (AFC East - built almost exclusively on the Pats).

You can say that it is all because of Manning (I think the 2005-2007 teams were talented enough to go 8-8 with an average replacement - remember, Painter sucks, so that doesn't help). Still, as a team, they've had either the 2nd and 3rd most success of any team from 2000-2010. Even if it is because of Manning, it is hard to criticize the Colts in total because their success hinged on one all-time player. You can criticize Polian, but it is hard to criticize the organization in total.

by andrew :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 9:39pm

I must admit until this post I was scratching my head trying to figure out who the HOF candidates were in your earlier post.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 1:09am

McNabb was not a HOF QB, sorry.

I would give you Dawkins though, he was amazing for a really long time.

by David :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 5:34am

I wouldn't be so sure - some people think Kurt Warner is a HOF QB...

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 8:33am

I'm sorry, but I cannot buy the suggestion that a Superbowl win would make Tra Thomas a Hall of Famer. Three career pro bowls, one AP second team all pro, one Sporting News first team all pro, two Pro Football Weekly first team all conference, at the very most the fifth best tackle of his generation (Ogden, Pace, Jones, Roaf) and probably not as good as that (Boselli, Anderson and some others), 87 career AV. It's a nice career, but it shouldn't merit Hall of Fame consideration.

McNabb's closer, but I still say no, with or without a Superbowl - his peak doesn't impress me enough.

Dawkins should be a lock regardless - being fractionally less good than Reed and Polamalu still makes you a Hall of Famer in my book.

Owens is a Hall of Famer, of course . . .

Samuel will merit real consideration, and Asomugha should get in.

by Jerry :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 8:46am

Owens' off-field problems may affect his candidacy. A lot will depend on how far the committee has gotten in sorting out the guys who are currently on the ballot by the time they consider TO.

by laberge :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:40pm

I think all fans do this. All the Packer fans I know can't stop whining about their defense.

by Independent George :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:55pm

Is it whining, or is it an attempt to remain grounded and not let your expectations get too high?

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 10:30pm

To the rest of us, it's whining.

(Okay, I don't any specifics in mind. But to say being a Ravens fan is an exercise in frustration just opens the door wide open...fans of about 28 other teams would love similar "frustrations")

by dcaslin :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 12:29am

That's the interesting point of it. I read a random survey once upon a time that said that people with incomes at $1 million/year self-report as the most economically insecure class. On its face it makes no sense, but the once you dig deeper you realize that those people hang out with people who make $10 million/year and/or have tens of millions of dollars. They spend their time worrying what will happen if they become "poor" again, and wishing they were rich like their psuedo-peers.

I think being a fan of a "contender" can be the same way. When you have a bad team getting better, like the Lions or 49ers, its just pure happiness. When you have a "contender" you're constantly worried that they'll fail. I remember in the good old days, a Ravens fan would basically assume we'd lose at Heinz field, and a win was this truly amazing thing. Look at Ravens message boards now, sift through the "You suck for saying Joe Flacco sucks" and "Steelers fans are jerks/No they're normal people like us" and you end up with the rational folks already looking forward to the Bengals game. Steelers/Eagles/Patriots/Ravens fans (and maybe the Chargers but they literally *always* underperform) are all sitting thinking that they ought to be like the Packers and pissed that they're not. Heck, even the Chiefs seemed pretty pumped until they lost to the Dolphins...

by Jerry :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 8:42am

You raise an interesting point. A couple thoughts:

- At one level, it's guarding against frustration. If you expect "your" team to roll to a championship, wins are just expected, any loss is painful, and a playoff loss is disastrous.

- In a media/internet culture where everything's about the last five minutes, it can be hard to maintain perspective. As disappointed as I was after Sunday night's game, I could still appreciate that it was another terrific Steelers-Ravens game. I'm not sure that many fans of either team bothered to look at it that way, though.

by dcaslin :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 10:21am

I suspect some people are maintaining perspective, but they're not the ones you hear from.

Slightly unrelated, is everyone roasting Gay over there? I suspect if the Ravens/Steelers roles were reversed we would want his head. Although, perhaps not, on the Ravens in the past Frank Walker was largely ignored by all but the stat-nerds; every post game I'd read a review and be yelling at the paper for not at least bringing up the fact that his idea of coverage was tackling a guy 15 yards downfield and praying that enough celebration would convince the refs it was legal (this technique rarely worked).

by GlennW :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:29am

Most of us Steelers fans are not roasting Gay but rather Ryan Clark for not being in deep cover and even Dick LeBeau for not being in a full prevent defense. If ever there's a time to be in prevent and protecting the goal line, it's with 14 seconds left and the opponent a full 25 yards from the endzone. Especially since you've just seen Smith burn your secondary deep on the other side of the field (only to drop the football).

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:56am

I can testify -- I've been living in San Francisco since '94, the year the '49ers won the Super Bowl. We'd won 5 in the last decade, and been to the NFC championship some more times, and would go the the NFC championship again...remain an elite team until Young got knocked out in '99. They'd have 12 wins under their belts and I'd be worried.

Boy, have the last 10 years knocked that shit out of me. I'm simply not used to winning...it seems exhausting. We have to win AGAIN? NEXT WEEK? 7 wins -- that's our quota. My physiology is ready to get off the rollercoaster.

Four years from now, maybe, I'll be right back there saying "Sure we got 11 wins, but our secondary! There's no way we're beating the Packers in Lambeau in January, life sucks."

by Yinka Double Dare :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:35pm

"Watching the Redskins offense right now reminds me a lot of watching the 49ers offense of the past several years. They're playing the entire game within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. No downfield passing whatsoever."

If only the Redskins had a quarterback who is known for throwing it deep. Unleashing the Dragon, as people once said of him.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:43pm

"The Patriots defense is awful. There's no pass rush, and they can cover guys maybe half the time."

Probably worth mentioning that the Pats had three injuries to their middle coverage guys by the time the last drive broke down. The reason Tracy White was floundering in coverage was that both Spikes and Guyton had gone down with injuries. The reason Sergio Brown was on the field to make his execrable PI at the goal line was that Patrick Chung had just gotten injured.

Some credit is due to the guys who kept the Giants to 10 points over most of the course of the game. Unfortunately, the reserves were useless.

I miss James Sanders.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 1:56pm

Looks like the NFC is the stronger overall conference so far.

NFC leads the in inter-conference games 15-12, and have outscored the AFC 654-547.

Of course most of that is Indy - they are 0-3 and negative 86 points.

by ammek :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:02pm

As Mike Tanier wrote about punting last week, I wanted to bring up the terrific punting on display in some of the weekend's games. Donnie Jones is the obvious candidate, but the Giants' punter was consistently kicking high, deep and accurately, and Mike Scifres of San Diego booted a beauty in the fourth quarter which pinned the Packers at the 2.

Punting stats really need to be improved. 'In 10' represents a much more valuable punt than 'in 20'. And I'd like to see separate averages for distance on 'caught punts' and 'un-caught punts'.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:23pm

"'In 10' represents a much more valuable punt than 'in 20'" I'm curious if that's actually true or if it just feels that way. Yes, it is a difference of 10 yards of course and that is valuable no matter the place on the field, but are drives "pinned in" inside the 10 actually more likely to be short and conservative and get snuffed out quickly? Is there some other value that I'm not seeing? Is there a difference between inside the 10 and inside the 5?

I'm sure I buy that putting the ball at the 8 is so much more valuable than putting it at the 13 (outside of whatever normal value the 5 yard difference has.) 18 yard line versus the 2 yard line I might buy though...

by JasonK :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:54pm

I don't have numbers, but I'd guess that being inside the 5 has significance. First, a loss of yardage can lead to actual points, as opposed to just punting from a little further back. Further, fear of a giving up safety or not having room for a normal punt snap probably limits what plays the offense is willing to call. In some stadiums it also seems to magnify homefield advantage-- crowds get particularly loud when an opponent is pinned against its own end zone. So I wouldn't be surprised if this made the expected points associated with those particular stretches of field position larger that one would otherwise expect.

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:07pm

Yeah there's go to be some arbitrary point where it is immensely valuable. My gut reaction is maybe the 5. It sure seems like anytime a team is backed up there they usually go more conservative than normal.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:16pm

It's actually probably exactly the point where a 7 step drop puts the QB solidly in the endzone which is also probably just about the same place where the punter has to line up closer to the line of scrimmage than usual. About the 5 or 4 seems right. at the 8, 9 or 10 yard line, things are probably very close to normal.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:24pm


"We can see that the neutral point on the field is at a team’s own 15 yard line. There, it’s equally likely that either team will be the next to score."

Click the link and look at the graph. There's a sharp elbow right around the 5 yard line where things get real bad.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:42pm

The problem with an empirically derived single-parameter statistic like that is it makes assumptions about homogeneity that aren't necessarily justified. By which I mean, is a team less likely to score because it starts with the ball inside its own 5 yard line or is a team that starts with the ball inside its own 5 yard line more likely to be a below-average team, and therefore more likely to score.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 10:35pm

Agreed, and the author addresses that when he mentions that different teams have different curves. But for all it's faults, the empirically derives single-parameter statistics still are better than the delphi method used in the posts above.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:26pm

By the way, Mason Crosby is on quite the streak with made field goals. 22 in a row that includes distances of 56 and 58 yards.

Toss in Cobb as the return guy and that likely explains the Packers special teams improvement.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:13pm

Does special teams DVOA penalize kick returners and punt returners for taking a kick out of the end zone when they fail to reach the 20? Because Cobb does this a lot and it drives me nuts. If you take a knee, you will get to the 20, you have zero chance of being hurt, and no time comes off the clock; you don't run a kick out of the end zone unless it's the last play of the half, it's late in a game you're losing by enough that you need some crazy big plays to come back, or you are Devin Hester.

by Led :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:41pm

This is unreasonably extreme. It's crazy the amount of points and field position yards the Jets would've left on the table this year if they never ran a KO out of the endzone. I'd argue that you should ALWAYS run it our from 5 yards deep or less because the potential benefit (up to 80 yards and possible TD) far outweighs the cost (tackled inside the 20, very low probability of a fumble). Whether you run it out and from where in the endzone will vary based on game scenario and quality of blockers, etc., but, as with most issues in football, teams tend err way too far on the side of conservatism.

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:56pm

You obviously aren't a Colts fan. I cheer loudly anytime the ball is kneeled in the end zone. 20 yard line is the best case scenario.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:42pm

I would assume returners get punished for not reaching the 20. However, I disagree that it's so awful. I don't think it really hurts the offense to start on the 16 as opposed to the 20, and there is good chance at a big play.

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:49pm

Or you can double-dip, make it out to the 16, only to have a penalty thrown, and then your team starts at the 8....

by Flounder :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:57pm

He does? I don't really recall him failing to reach the 20 "a lot." He's second in the league I believe in kick return average, so I can't imagine the GB coaches are too concerned.

The person who f'd up yesterday was Woodson. They were anticipating another onsides and had the hands team on, with only Woodson deep. Boom goes the kickoff to the endzone, and, for some inexplicable reason, he takes it out with ZERO blocking in front of him. Not surprisingly, he was swallowed under at the 9.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:48pm

According to the play-by-play, Woodson returned the ball 9 yards to GB's 8 yard line, meaning he only caught it one yard deep. I'm thinking that you can't really down it safely at that point since if you possess the ball at all over the goal line you could end up starting on the 1 or giving up a safety.

I don't remember the specifics of the kick itself all that well, so what he probably should have done was let the ball get farther into the end zone. However, seeing as he's not a normal KO returner, I place most of the blame on the ST coordinator for putting a bunch of players in a position they were ill suited to handle: DB returning a kick with his hands team out of position to do any blocking, even though San Diego was lined up in a standard coverage formation. I don't know what personnel San Diego had out there, but if it was their standard KO coverage unit and not a hands team then it was a mistake for GB to put the full hands team out there.

by Flounder :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 10:53pm

Well, according to someone who watched it with his own eyes, he was clearly in the end zone and had no need to come out.

The idea that he had some decision to make about possessing it over the goal line is ridiculous. He's a smart guy, and he did something dumb. I'm sure they've practiced that before, and I'm sure the ST coach reminded him exactly what his duties were.

I'm not a Slocum fan, but putting the blame on him for that is ridiculous.

by BJR :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:26pm

The Jets defensive front may have dominated in the run game, but the Bills' pass protection was pretty much exemplary. Fitzpatrick wasn't sacked once. It's quite amazing watching an elite defence operate in a way that relies so little on pressuring the quarterback in the traditional manner.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:44pm

Tebow's passing numbers by quarter seem strange to me, but maybe I'm wrong and these back and forth quarters are pretty standard with young, project-type QBs.
1st - 4/5 for 45 yards and a TD
2nd - 3/12 for 10 yards (only one completion for positive yards, and one pass intended for himself, apparently? "1st and 10 at DEN 34 T.Tebow pass incomplete short left to T.Tebow (S.Routt)." Two other incompletions nullified by penalty)
3rd - 4/5 for 76 yards and a TD.
Then, after 6:41 of the third, he doesn't attempt another pass for the whole game (I remember that there were some pass plays called, but this was a quick rundown of the play-by-play log on ESPN, so if it didn't contain "Tebow p" I didn't read it). Granted, when the Raiders decided to stop tackling runners, it made the run much more appealing.

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:25pm

This Colts team is making me not so fondly remember the teams of my childhood. I think my favorite play in any game I watched yesterday was when Curtis Painter had a pass batted back to him, caught it then attempted to throw another forward pass.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 5:44pm

That was great.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again...oh wait, that's a penalty. Never mind!

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:27pm

I think you meant the 2007 Patriots, Rob. Matt Cassel's Patriots weren't bad, but they were forgettable.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:40pm

Not related to Audibles but watching Rodgers got me thinking of the "Favre Backup Tree". Meaning that if considered all the guys who legitimately acted as backups to Favre during his career you would have quite the collective of stats.


Not counting guys like Kurt Warner who had a cup of coffee in Packer training camp.

Any I am missing?

I seriously doubt any qb has had this type of "ancestry"

Sure Montana had Steve Young. But multiple guys who have been to Pro Bowls and Super Bowls?

by MCS :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:57pm


Although he doesn't tie into your line of thought of QBs who moved on to start elsewhere, Jimmy Mac got a ring as a Packer.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:56pm

Doug Pederson was also a starter in Cleveland (or possibly Philly, I forgot which), though he was never really considered to be more than a stopgap. He came from Miami, backed up Favre in GB, went somewhere else, then came back to be Favre's Kubiak.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:56pm

I actually looked at this to point it out as part of the "Andy Reid" QB coaching tree, that had him working with Favre in his best years, Hasselback developed enough to step in as a great starter, a borderline HOF candidate in McNabb, Garcia in his resurgence, Vick as a real passer, above average work from sub-mediocre players like Feely and Kolb etc. I think that's more coherent than the link to Favre...

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 6:04pm


I was thinking in terms of how many talented guys had a chance to knock the king off his throne and had to find to go elsewhere to be royalty.

That is all.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 6:54pm

Ah true true in that case - and only proves how special Rodgers is in that his emergence more or less finally dethroned the king (and Favre was still playing a quite a high level when he left and had the best season of his career 2 years later!)

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 10:36am

It doesn't hurt that Favre was approximately 87 years old and talking fondly of his fighting in the Civil War by the time Rodgers appeared.

by Theo :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 4:42pm

Got pissed drunk last night.
Was doing a drinking game. Drink one beer for every slant to Boldin. Drink one shot for every swing pass to Rice.

by Yuri (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 6:01pm

I was at the game, wearing my Eagles jersey (don't ask). I am pleased by so many Audibles, though it was truly a terrible game--for both on-field performance and in-stadium atmosphere. The stadium had quite a few empty seats, and unfortunately it was hard to tell the 49ers and Redskins fans due to teams employing a similar color scheme, but I am sure at least 25% were rooting for SFO. Nevertheless, the noise level on D was really high at first--but by 4th quarter it was just hilariously quiet as the scoreboard operator was imploring (12th man... make some noise... we can't hear you) with no results.

Washington offense is probably more pathetic live than on TV. They kept trying the same wide runs with the whole line flowing playside and yet failing to block the SF defenders. I am not sure if in the first quarter any WR lined up further out than halfway between the hashes and the #s--truly the opposite of spread. They totally overused play-action on almost every pass. Nor do they even try to go deep. Their first deep pass was picked. John Beck showed some running ability but sometimes would stop at LoS and toss the ball 5 yards to the wide-open RB, who would fall down after making the catch. Yes, the crowd was booing the completions (the 5-yard catch on 3d and 8 variety). The highlight offensive play was undoubtedly this:

3-3-WAS 42(2:14) J.Beck pass short left to R.Helu pushed ob at SF 41 for 17 yards. Pass was intended for 85 but was batted by 95 of the defense and subsequently caught by Was 29-Helu

SFO offense was not much better. The first deep pass was actually a touchdown with a minute left in the half. V. Davis sucked. The highlight play was Smith being crunched by Kerrigan. Their running was based mostly on cutbacks, and Gore showed some ability to squeeze into tight holes, and he was really the reason SFO won the game.

by nath :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:05pm

That's twice in 9 weeks that Audibles has nothing on the Saints. :(

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 7:40pm

If you want, I can give you my dad's e-mail address. He'll talk about the Saints until you're sick of it.

by Marko :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 8:10pm

The Bucs-Saints game was easily the most important early game yesterday in the NFC playoff race, so I watched most of it. Why is it that every Tampa Bay game seems to play out the same way? Buccaneers get dominated through 3 quarters and trail by 15-18 points. Bucs start to move the ball and score in fourth quarter, opponent suddenly can't move the ball anymore or has key turnovers, and with about 5 minutes left the Bucs are within 8 (or fewer) points. Bucs occasionally pull out a victory but usually fall short. That game yesterday was very similar to the game against the Bears in London.

by Xian :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 10:20am

Perhaps because the viewing market for that game was basically just Arizona, Missouri, and western Illinois?


by nath :: Mon, 11/14/2011 - 12:06am

Huh? That map looks like Saints-Bucs has the most coverage of any early game on FOX. Maybe you're looking at the St. Louis-Arizona matchup?

by MJK :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 3:17am

Just want to weigh in and say that I still (and have always) hated that PI is a spot foul. The Pats-Giants game was essentially decided by two PI calls. True--both were good calls and actually were PI, but in both cases I don't know what the defender could have legitimately done differently... they were both examples of PI that happened because the ball was badly thrown.

Please, NFL, make it a 15 yard penalty (or even a 10 yard penalty), like in college. I get that it should be significant...it just shouldn't be game changing. Referee judgement calls that happen at high speed and that are non-reviewable should never be game changing. (While I'm at it, I'd love to get the "automatic first down" qualification removed from every penalty except for personal fouls...so a team facing 3rd and 23 can't get a cheap first down on a 5-yard holding or illegal contact penalty...but I don't suppose that's happening anytime soon).

by David :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 5:33am

No, no, a thousand times no!

Pass interference is cheating. Cheating is wrong. If pass interference were not a spot foul, then there would be an incentive to commit PI on every single play where you found yourself more than x yards downfield (where x is the distance of the foul)

Automatic first downs, on the other hand, we can probably come to an understanding on, as I don't understand why these happen, either

by Tim R :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 6:10am

Well if it wasn't an automatic first down then on 3rd downs the defense could just interfere with all the recievers before they got to the first down.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 10:41am

I'd be fine with automatic first downs if things like clipping or offensive PI were automatic 4th downs.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 3:10pm

Ok, then they would get called and there would be another 3rd down from closer. Not seeing this as a huge problem.

by Jerry :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 8:25am

There should probably be two flavors of interference. Inadvertent interference, where there's an effect on the play but (likely) no intent can be a 5 yard penalty, while blatant interference should still be a spot foul. We don't to want to give defenders the incentive to commit interference on long passes.

by GlennW :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:34am

I might agree in theory, but that distinction would be even more subjective and confusing than the current definition of pass interference. Better just to refine the rule or issue a directive to let the really "cheap" stuff go. Don't see that happening though.

by MJK :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 1:59pm

See, everyone always says that "if PI were a fixed penalty rather than a spot foul, then a beat defender would just tackle the WR. This would spoil the game".

This is decidedly NOT true, for three reasons.

First, in most cases, a 10 or 15 yard penalty results in a first down (even if it's not an "automatic first down"). So if you commit interference every time you get beat, you're handing the other team a free march down the field. On the other hand, if you don't interfere, the other team's QB still has to (A) see the open guy (which often doesn't happen), (B) make a good throw to the right place (which happens even less), and (C) the receiver has to catch it (which sometimes doesn't happen). In a deep passing scenario, even if the defender is beat, the offense completes the pass less than half the time, I would estimate. So by intentionally and blatantly interfering, you'd be changing a less than 50% chance of a completed long pass for an almost 100% chance of giving the offense an extra 15 yards and a free first down.

I agree that it's possible that occasionally, a DB who gets badly beat, might intentionally interfere figuring 10 or 15 yards is better than a completion, especially if its in the end zone, but that's smart football.

Second, we KNOW that it doesn't happen all the time, because the rule has already been tested out in college ball. In college, you don't see DB's regularly tackling receivers that get a step on them. Why do you expect that it would happen in the Pros.

Third, it wouldn't spoil the game. It would, essentially, be no different from offensive holding. Occasionally an O-lineman that gets beat decides to hold a rusher because getting a 10 yard holding penalty is better than giving up a sack, losing the down, and maybe allowing a sack-fumble or an INT. In other words, committing holding in that case is a "smart" penalty, but it happens fairly rarely. You don't see O-linemen blatantly tackling rushers on every down if they get beat, because the penalty is "only" 10 yards. Similarly, you don't see DB's tackling WR's on every down that they get beat in college because the penalty is "only" 15 yards. Yes it occasionally happens, but when it happens, it's "smart" football that actually adds interest to the game.

Note that the PI, as it's currently written, ASSUMES that if the defender doesn't interfere the ball will certainly be caught, which is a huge assumption in favor of the offense. By analogy, if the rules weren't tilted towards the offense and holding was treated in a similar manner to pass interference, then whenever an O-lineman held on a passing play, the rules would ASSUME that the defender would have otherwise gotten a sack, and the penalty for offensive holding would be a spot foul or 10 yards, whichever was more, and a loss of down. I'm sure if that was the rule and people were proposing changing the rule to 10 yards, no loss of down, people would be claiming just as vehemently that O-linemen would hold whenever they got beat.

by nat :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 2:11pm

The comparison to holding is an apt one.

The other concern I've heard is that with the clock ticking down, committing PI for a 15 yard penalty would burn up the clock. But this concern would be easily met by making the penalty "15 yards, automatic first down, and reset the clock to the start of the last play". You can bet that DBs wouldn't just tackle receivers with the added clock disadvantage.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 3:09pm

Why would the clock be running anyway? Wouldn't an incompletion stop the clock foul or not?

by GlennW :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 4:02pm

The time consumed by the play itself, which might be a good 10 seconds for the (needed) long pass. Come to think of it, tackling receivers at the line of scrimmage and taking the short defensive holding penalties at 10 seconds/pop might have been a strategy that the Steelers should have considered Sunday night. (Just kidding, I think.)

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 5:44pm

Ah I see. I misunderstood the point.

by nat :: Wed, 11/09/2011 - 12:28am

I was less than half serious, anyway.

by Jerry :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 7:37pm

Interference requires the ball to be in the air, and the defender being close enough to the receiver to have an effect. Right now, you'd coach your DBs to try to play the ball, and only play the receiver if a touchdown seems likely. If interference is only a ten-yard penalty, you'd have the DB play the receiver on any long pass where he thinks there's a reasonable chance of a completion.

by armchair journe... :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 4:10am

I just want to point out that Joe Buck, for all his faults, correctly identified an end-around on Sunday night. He should teach a clinic.

by Eddo :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 10:59am

Joe Buck doesn't call the Sunday night games. Do you mean Al Michaels?

by armchair journe... :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:27pm

Sorry.. Confused the time of day, not the voice. Michaels wouldn't have been notable. Afternoon game. It was dark in NYC by the 2nd half of the Giants game. I keep thinking of it as the night game.

Was on the direct snap to Woodhead that he nearly fumbled, but managed to pitch for the end-around.

by dryheat :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:43am

Joe Buck did the Patriots/Giants game. My favorite Buck/Aikman exchange of that game was on a holding penalty on the Giants. The flag came out at an appropriate time but Belichick didn't see it, so he started hollering and gesturing to the officials that there was a blatant hold on the edge, at which point the closest official pointed to the flag on the ground.

Aikman and Buck spent much of the next two minutes claiming that there was no penalty called until Belichick complained to the officials, who then threw the flag.

by witless chum :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 3:03pm

Well played, Joe Buck.

/words I never thought I'd type.

by Dave in Tucson (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2011 - 6:05pm

Rodgers has five straight games with one completion of at least 61 yards. Has that ever happened before?

A bunch of guys have had 5 or 6 games over a (regular) season with a long of 61+ yards. But in consecutive games... Jake Delhomme (2005, W5-6,9-10) and Drew Brees (2006, W11-W14) had 4 in a row. I didn't see any longer (and neither streak has a "just missed it" long on either end).

There's a lot more guys who had 3 or 4 such games in a season, and maybe put together a consecutive streak starting in one season and continuing in the next. I'll leave that as an exercise for the interested reader.