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» Defense and Rest Time

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

09 Sep 2011

Audibles Opening Night Special

compiled by Vince Verhei

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.

This week: A special Audibles on the opening night game between Green Bay and New Orleans. This Audibles also introduces a brand new member of the FO staff: J.J. Cooper. You may remember J.J.'s sack project from AOL Fanhouse, where he timed the time in the pocket for quarterbacks on every sack during the season. He'll be bringing that over to Football Outsiders this season, with columns every Friday, and we'll be merging his first two years of data in with our game charting data to get even more info to analyze. The new column Under Pressure premieres next week.

Rivers McCown: If Roger Goodell and Bob Costas had talked HGH for any longer, the smug would obscure the field by game time.

Danny Tuccitto: Tomorrow's headline: "Goodell: Preseason Is Sham, Full-Price Tickets Not Scam."

Vince Verhei: I can't believe I just watched a sports team take the field to 2 Unlimited. In 2011.

Ben Muth: Jermichael Finley looks lost in pass protection. He's sliding to nothing and has missed two blitzers already.

Doug Farrar: On the other hand, it appears that Ryan Grant has adapted to the idea of pass pro for the first time in his life. Nice pickup on that first-drive long pass.

Aaron Schatz: Packers clearly picking on 2010 first-rounder Patrick Robinson on that first drive. We'll have to see if that continues.

Tom Gower: Replacing Jason David as the Saints corner who gets burned early in the season: Patrick Robinson. Playing man coverage with no help can be rough at times, and it was that first drive for Mr. Robinson.

Danny Tuccitto: Collinsworth hyperbolic superlative rate: one per three game minutes.

Will Carroll: Colston's fumble was caused by his knees. I don't think it was intentional, but as (Collins?) was heading low, he flinched and I think lost a bit of focus. I can't blame him, coming off a second microfx, but it might be something DCs around the league are going to take note of.

Michael Tanier: The Saints are experimenting with a stationary zone coverage, where everyone finds a zone and just stands there. Or, for variety, falls down.

Ben Muth: How did the Gramaticas get an endorsement deal? Do they wear their own jerseys everywhere they go?

Danny Tuccitto: You know you're playing bad when opposing D not introduced until 9 minutes into the game.

Ben Muth: Love the call to go play action and throw it deep on third-and-1. Four down territory anyway, take the shot.

Rivers McCown: Some exciting kickoffs so far. Well done, NFL competition committee.

Mike Kurtz: Oh, Saints secondary. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Aaron Schatz: Well, I don't quite understand some of the coverage calls. It seems like the cornerbacks are starting almost every play 10 yards back, and there's no underneath coverage, just deep zones. Then on the Randall Cobb touchdown, they were rotating guys and it looked like Aaron Rodgers caught them mid-rotation, and Roman Harper was supposed to have Cobb and Cobb was past him before Harper had any idea what was going on.

Michael Tanier: Hey Gregg Williams: no more rolling zones all over the place, no more wacky zone blitz looks. How about some nice man coverage until you prove you can cover somebody.

Mike Kurtz: Every time I see a three-man rush, I see a conversion. These quarterbacks are just too good and have too much command of the field to give them that sort of time, no matter how much they have to gain.

Vince Verhei: One of those three-man rushes had B.J. Raji in a two-point stance over the center, then looping around the outside on a speed rush. B.J. Raji. Speed.

Danny Tuccitto: Raw success rates in first quarter: NO O 4-for-10 (40%), GB O 14-for-21 (67%).

J.J. Cooper: We've now had 29 passes, and I believe I'm right in saying that the incompletion Brees just threw five minutes into the second quarter is the first really poor pass we've seen tonight. Rodgers is 14-for-15 with his only incompletion being an intentional throw away, while Brees is 10-for-14. He has had a drop, an intentional throwaway and a pass slightly behind Colston that was broken up before that one he just tried to force to Colston. Of course with the way Rodgers and the Packers' offense is playing, one bad pass seems like a killer.

Seeing John Kasay makes me feel a little less old. He's the last remaining player who was at UGA at the same time I was. When he retires (which has to be any day now), I guess I'll have to accept that middle age has arrived.

Michael Tanier: Heehee. Sproles touchdown. This is getting fun. Over under is 47.5 I think.

Danny Tuccitto: Hoping Barnwell took the over.

J.J. Cooper: So would Steve Tasker even earn a roster spot in the 2011 NFL? I guess he would for his punt coverage skills, but it sure seems like the Reyna Thompsons, Steve Taskers and Tim Tyrells of the world are going to have a whole lot tougher time justifying roster spots now that nearly every kickoff is a touchback.

I guess Sproles just made the argument for the Taskers of the world having roster spots.

Aaron Schatz: They aren't going to all be touchbacks all year. In the preseason it was about 35 percent touchbacks. The ball is just carrying really well tonight. As we get into November and December especially, there will be fewer touchbacks in cold-weather cities.

(Aaron Rodgers hits Donald Driver for and eight-yard catch-and-run.)

Danny Tuccitto: Going back to my refereeing days, that was a pick on the outside that allowed Driver's YAC.

(James Starks scores on a 17-yard touchdown run.)

Vince Verhei: Saints still showing a lot of the great tackling technique that was so effective against Marshawn Lynch.

Tom Gower: No, Jenkins did not have a good tackle on that Starks touchdown run, but let's give credit to the Packers for excellent blocking. Lang and Sitton picked the linebackers, Driver blocked out out the DB, and Starks would've had a first down even with perfect tackling.

Vince Verhei: Sure, but they missed a tackle on Cobb's touchdown too.

Danny Tuccitto: Raw success rates for 2nd quarter (ignoring Rodgers kneel down): GB O 8-for-17 (47%), NO O 8-for-19 (42%).

Aaron Schatz: You know, I'm not sure I've seen a play so far tonight where the Packers have used three linemen. It's basically 2-4-5 Psycho all night long.

Michael Tanier: So now we have a 108 yard kick return. This game is like, three games in one. And I somehow multitasked Futurama at halftime without missing much.

Aaron Schatz: A 108-yard kick return followed by a 50 (or so)-yard kick return. Then again, is Sproles returning it halfway up the field against Green Bay really that special? He still fell short of Dan Connolly by about 35 yards.

Vince Verhei: Devery Henderson gets behind Shields for a 32-yard touchdown. 35-27 Green Bay with more than 20 minutes left. I'm a big fan of defensive football, but I can't deny that this is tremendous fun.

Mike Kurtz: Return after that 108-yard wonder, the returner downs it in the end zone. Guess who got completely chewed out for a boneheaded decision that happened to work out?

Michael Tanier: I think he just knew that if he tried it again, he would wind up on the six-yard line, and everyone would think he got too pumped up from the previous return.

Aaron Schatz: After one play, Charles Woodson demonstrates Green Bay's new "punch in the nads" defense.

I think the Saints made the right move to go for it on fourth down with 3:00 left in the third quarter. Unfortunately, they called pass and the Packers called a defense with guys in coverage instead of selling out to stop the run.

Mike Kurtz: Woodson totally thought nobody would see that, tried to sneak it in. Also, 4th-and-inches. Quarterback sneak will almost always get you inches. What do you do? Play-action, of course, against a goal line defense. What a debacle. Mastermindering!

Michael Tanier: As for the Saints' fourth-and-inches call, I would not call any slow-developing play action until I see some evidence that someone on my team can block Clay Matthews. At all.

Aaron Schatz: I think the play-action would have worked if the Packers had sold out to stop the run. But once they had the guys covered in the first two seconds or so, that was it, there was no way for Brees to get away from the rush.

Tom Gower: I liked Payton's decision to go for it in the third on fourth-and-inches, but Brees needed to force the flat pass to the fullback or just throw the ball away. That's the second he's done that Aaron Brooks-esque turn around and run backwards nonsense. It cost the Saints about 13 yards of field position the first time and nearly cost at least that much again.

Danny Tuccitto: Re going for it on fourth, down 8 vs. down 5 at this stage is a difference without a distinction. Play call could have been a tad better, though. That's classic "run is actually more efficient" situation, no?

Aaron Schatz: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you do need to pass sometimes to switch it up, but yes, usually you run there. FB give or sneak work best.

Michael Tanier: Jordy Nelson caught a little pass in the flat at the start of the 4th quarter and gained about 15 yards. The Saints were showing blitz, with all three linebackers crowding the line, and the whole secondary was in off coverage. NBC ran the graphic and showed the cornerback was 10.2 yards off Nelson. The Packers have been exploiting this all night. The linebackers dropped into zones in this case, but none of them were in any position to buzz a receiver on the outside. It was just a horrible defensive call for the fourth quarter, when the opponent has shown over and over that it is just going to drop the ball in front of that off coverage and the receiver is going to gain YAC.

Danny Tuccitto: Raw success rates for 3rd quarter: NO O 14-for-22 (64%) GB O 4-for-11 (36%).

Aaron Schatz: I have never seen Brees run backwards in the face of pass pressure like this before. He's usually very good at getting rid of the ball, but tonight he keeps turning around and trying to scramble backwards as if he's Michael Vick or something.

Danny Tuccitto: Going back to NO's fourth-down call. Collinsworth opined that it was a situation where Payton just didn't have confidence in his guys to gain a yard after getting stuffed on that third down play. Am I wrong to call BS on that? Just seemed like typical play-calling chess game to me: "Capers knows we should run here, so he'll play run, so let's pass instead."

Tom Gower: I think it was partially a recognition they'd had trouble blocking B.J. Raji, and if you look at the replay Raji stood up both Kreutz and Nicks, so a sneak wouldn't have worked.

Mike Kurtz: Disagree strongly, Raji isn't going to have as much time to hit the line on a sneak, so him standing them up really isn't dispositive, plus, the real action is the dive itself and the extremely generous spots the wings give because they can't really see exactly where the knee hits.

Danny Tuccitto: Expected onside kick fails. Shocking.

Vince Verhei: Brees hits Graham for a TD to pull the Saints within 34-42. Is it me, or did the Green Bay pass rushers look, well, lazy on that drive? The blitzers just seem noticeably slower. Maybe it's a conditioning thing, and they're out of shape in the first game after the lockout?

(Green Bay nearly downs a punt inside the 1-yard line, but it is ruled a touchback.)

Mike Kurtz: Getting in before the crazy: the momentum of his catch didn't end until after his foot was in the end zone. Easy call.

Danny Tuccitto: OK, how the booth doesn't review downing the punt at the 1 is beyond me. He clearly had his knee down before his foot was in the end zone. It never ceases to amaze me how bad NFL refereeing can be on a non-refs-suck-because-they-call-crap-against-my-team basis.

Rivers McCown: They could not have planned this game any better. Wow. What an opener.

Danny Tuccitto: Disagree vehemently. His momentum was going forward at the catch. The momentum rule assumes his momentum is taking him into the end zone.

Vince Verhei: Well, what's the rule on that? When is he "down?" If that was a reception in the field of play, the play wouldn't have been dead with a knee on the ground. When does the play end?

Ben Muth: Evans got stood up on the goal line, killed the play. What a game.

Danny Tuccitto: If he plants himself at the 1, catches the ball moving forward, and has a stray foot land in the end zone after his knee hits, momentum rule doesn't (or at least shouldn't) apply.

Tom Gower: Bush's initial momentum carried him into the end zone, so that's absolutely, positively 100% a touchback. That Al/Cris didn't do a better job of explaining it is tremendously disappointing from a crew that normally gets even non-obvious rules calls right.

B.J. Raji is one heck of a player, and Sean Payton not spreading the formation at all on the goalline is, in my eyes, a very curious move.

Aaron Schatz: The Packers just had the perfect call against the Saints on the goal line both times. They had guys in coverage when the Saints went play-action, then they stacked to stuff the run and the Saints called an up the middle run.

Rivers McCown: We already critiqued New Orleans not running it on fourth-and-inches, now we're critiquing them for not passing it?

Danny Tuccitto: The momentum rule is for when a player catches a ball moving towards the end zone, and his momentum takes him into the end zone. It's for someone intercepting a ball at the 2, and getting a touchback because he was running full speed towards the end zone when he caught it. It's not for when a guy is literally standing at the 1-yd line to catch a punt, moves forward six inches to catch it, and his foot hits the ground inside the end zone after his knee hits at the 1/2-yd line.

Vince Verhei: Drew Brees on the Saints' last two drives: 11-of-15 for 147 yards, no sacks, plus one spike and the pass interference in the end zone.

Danny Tuccitto: His feet never touched the goal until a random foot slammed into the turf after his contra-endzone-moving-or-at-least-stationary catch at the 1 occured. The question is, if it was the punt returner doing the same thing at the 1, would it be a touchback? Of course not.

At least not according to the momentum rule.

Tom Gower: There's not a perfect A.R. in the current rulebook on this issue, but I think this is closest.


Fourth-and-5 on A45. The punt hits at the B9 and rolls toward the end zone. A2 possesses the ball at the B7 and carries it into the end zone. Ruling: B’s ball, first-and-10 on B20. Touchback.

Alternatively, A.R. 9.37 TEAM A RECOVERS BALL AND TOUCHES IN END ZONE Fourth-and-5 on A45. The punted ball is untouched and rolling inside the B5. A2 dives on the ball at the B4 to prevent it from going into the end zone. A2 gains possession at the B2-yard line. A2’s right foot is touching the goal line as he possesses the ball. Ruling: B’s ball, first-and-10 on B20. Touchback.

Mike Kurtz: 9-2-2 Item 2: If a player touches the goal line with any part of his body while touching the ball, the ball is dead and the result of the play is a touchback.

The ball was never at rest until his foot touched the End Zone. If you're going to argue that his momentum was carrying forward, then it's a touchback.

Danny Tuccitto: Yeah, that rule regards "touching" not "catching." If a player on the kicking team "touches" the ball with part of his body touching the end zone, it's a touchback (picture the frantic dash to bat a ball back into the field of play to down it inside the 5). That has nothing to do with the kicking team catching a scrimmage kick. Per Rule 3-2-7 in the definitions: The terms catch, intercept, recover, advance, and fumble denote player possession (as distinguished from touching or muffing).

So, given that the guy "caught" the ball, you go to rule 9-3-2: When the kickers catch or recover a kick beyond the line of scrimmage, the ball is dead at the spot of recovery, even if a member of the receiving team has first touched the ball.

On the play in question, a member of the kicking team caught the ball (per the possession rule), and the ball was dead (per the scrimmage kick recovery rule) when his knee hit the ground. The fact that some random body part tapped the ground inside the end zone is irrelevant. The argument for touchback in this case is like saying, "Member of kicking team is planted on the 1, gets on his knees, and catches the ball moving to his left. To brace his leftward fall to the ground, his elbow hits inside the endzone after the catch. Touchback." The ball was dead upon the catch per Rule 9-3-2, and it was a catch per Rule 3-2-7.

Or maybe I'm batsh*t crazy, and a player possessing a loose ball during a catch is the same as a player touching a loose ball during a non-catch. It's been a long day, so I wouldn't doubt it.

Mike Kurtz: The two aren't exclusive, and are in fact complementary ... witness the free kick out of bounds when R catches it while in contact with the sideline. We could get way into the weeds with impetus, momentum and first touching, but Tom's located the ARs that are on point. The take-home is that what matters on a kick is where the ball rests. That's why K never touches the ball (as opposed to batting it backward) until it has stopped, and why a ball that is still moving (AR 9.35) could actually be physically picked up and moved into the EZ for a touchback (although after a bit of thought it seems to me that R could opt to take it at R7 since it's the location of first touching. I get the feeling that is resolved by an unpublished ruling to resolve that ambiguity, since it says in absolute terms it is a touchback).

Danny Tuccitto: OK, here's raw success rate recap:
Q1: NO O 4-for-10 (40%), GB O 14-for-21 (67%)
Q2: NO O 8-for-19 (42%), GB O 8-for-17 (47%) -- Ignoring GB kneel
Q3: NO O 14-for-22 (64%), GB O 4-for-8 (50%)
Q4: NO O 10-for-20 (50%), GB O 8-for-16 (50%) -- Ignoring NO spike
TOTAL: NO O = 36-for-71 (51%), GB O 34-for-62 (55%)

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 09 Sep 2011

56 comments, Last at 12 Sep 2011, 12:05pm by Joseph


by johnnie walker (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 11:27am

What's with FO and the Psycho package? Psycho is 1-5-5. The 2-4-5 is their base Nickel package. I remember this happening happening last year as well, in a playoff article if I remember right.

by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 11:28am

Sorry, that's my fault. I always confuse the two.

by Grant (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 12:57pm

Going slightly off topic, but it seems impossible to quantify a teams formations. The Packers are supposedly a 3-4 team, but ran a 1-5-5 (Psycho) occasionally last year. A true Nickel would be a 3-3-5, but technically they like the 2-4-5 with Matthews usually rushing like a lineman, though he can line up anywhere.

Sports Illustrated had a pretty good article talking about this, and they said that the Packers only actually run a real 3-4 on 20% of their snaps. We may need a new way to quantify the types of defense.

by Matty D (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 3:16pm

In fact it was the 2-4-5 that was introduced as the starting D in this game.

by Scott C :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 8:50pm

Isn't a nickel _any_ formation with 5 defensive backs?

4-2-5, 3-3-5, 2-4-5, 1-5-5 -- all types of nickel with a different 'front 6'.

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 10:00pm

Sure, but 2-4-5 is not really a 3-4 formation adjusted for a 5th defensive back.

by Joseph :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 11:28am

Wish my Saints would have come out on top, but there's no shame in losing to the SB champs on the road on opening night. I think that we actually were lucky to have a chance to tie the game. A couple of notes:
1. How much $$ do you want to bet that there are some live tackling drills in NOLA before Sunday 18?
2. So much for boring kick returns.
3. Might be some live tackling in Lombardi-land this week too.
4. Sproles > Bush
5. An article on NOLA.com said that winning tonight (last night) would prevent a return trip in January. Gene Woj... of ESPN basically hinted at a rematch in Jan. also. My only hope is that it is the NFCCG, not the round before.
6. Something tells me that the defensive VOA will be horrible, but will improve once the "D" is added to the ratings.

by akn :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 12:37pm

"2. So much for boring kick returns."

So lets have more returns!

by Arkaein :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 12:56pm

Regarding point #6, I would not be surprised if neither team gave up this many points again this season.

Rodgers and Brees are two of the top QBs in the NFL, and both teams have two of the deepest receiver corps, especially when you count GB's TEs (Finley) and NO's RBs (Sproles). GB demonstrated in the Superbowl that a great passing attack with enough weapons can beat even the best defenses, but I can't think of many other teams than can match GB and NO in this regard. The Pats are one.

by Joseph :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 2:48pm


I agree with the points against thing. Re: the receivers,Graham isn't much different than Finley, although he is already 1 year behind in experience, and prob. 2 really--since he didn't play much football at Miami. GB's WR's are better than NO's, although with Lance Moore, I would say we're practically even. Jennings is better than any one of our guys.
Big difference in last night's game--your top 3 corners are better than ours.

by drobviousso :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 11:32am

With Barnwell out and JJ in, what's the break down of Pats fans vs Steeelrs fan on the FO staff. Must be approaching parity.

by long-time lurker (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 5:52pm

Isn't Barnwell a Giants fan?

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 09/10/2011 - 4:02pm

Yup. I'm not sure I could name another current FO staff member apart from Aaron who's a Patriots fan at all, to be honest. There are definitely more Seahawks fans than Patriots fans, and if you count "writer emeritus" Tim Gerheim I think there are even more Texans fans than Patriots fans. Unless either Holman or Carroll is a Pats fan - I really have no idea who either of them follow.

by Joseph :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 11:36am

Danny--you are wrong on your interpretation of the rule.
A couple of points not mentioned in Audibles: Don't believe the ref had blown the whistle when he touched his foot in the endzone. Also, I believe the (unwritten?) rule is that the punt-team player must be completely stopped, and the whistle have blown, to actually consider the ball "downed." That's why you'll see a player actually have the ball in his hands, practically inside the one, and then "lateral" it back to one of his teammates who has slowed down. The second player can stop before going into the endzone. If the first player keeps going into the endzone before releasing the ball, they rule it a touchback.
Don't know if the play is reviewable or not, but there wasn't complaining (at least that I saw) from Coach McCarthy--just J. Bush, for not having downed it. It nearly became the (unmade) play of the game, had the Saints scored in the last seconds & made the 2-point conversion.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 1:39pm

Basically, everyone's told me I'm wrong about this, so I guess I must be. In lieu of being right, I'll move on to my next argument, the proverbial "That's just a stupid rule."

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 2:21pm

You'd have better luck with "I'm just stupid."

by Kurt :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 11:56am

Wait, is Tom Gower advocating throwing the ball away on fourth down?

by Vincent Verhei :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 1:20pm

It's much better than taking a 15-yard megasack, even on fourth down.

by Kurt :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 6:25pm

Maybe, but is it much better than circling backwards and looking downfield, which has a not-100% chance of a 15 yard megasack and a not-0% chance of converting the fourth down?

This sounds like Jason Campbell logic. "Sure, let's throw that two yard hitch on third and 11. It's much better than an interception!"

by Travis :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 12:15pm

The referees got the touchback call correct. I have no idea what Michaels and Collinsworth were talking about.

The relevant rules [which are not new]:

Rule 7-2-1-j: An official shall declare the ball dead and the down ended ... when any legal or illegal kick is caught or recovered by the kickers.... See 9-3-2-Item 3 for exception.

Rule 9-3-2-Item 3: If a player of the kicking team illegally catches or recovers a scrimmage kick ... and carries the ball across the goal line, or touches the goal line with any part of his body while in possession of the ball, the ball is dead, and the result of the play is a touchback.

["Illegal" in this case just means that the kicking team touched the ball before the receiving team. It is not a penalty.]

by Tom Gower :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 5:39pm

As noted by Mike Pereira on twitter today, this is a better explanation than the one Mr. Kurtz and I proffered, though I think A.R. 9.35 gets you the same place.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 12:26pm

This might have been a much closer game if the Saints had had Will Smith, their only decent pass rusher, Gallette did nothing and he was going against Clifton. They'll miss him againt the Bears too, he'd have probably have had some success against either Webb or Carimi, nobody else was regularly winning up front in the pass rush for the Saints. I might put some money on the Saints if they lose to the Bears too, the odds should be nicer.

I thought Ingram looked good but it can be tought to run inside on the Pack, especially when Strief and Kreutz were poor. Evans got beat a few times, perhaps the Saints overpaid him. Cameron Jordan was running about looking lost a couple of times pre-snap.

by PatsFan :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 12:23pm

I have no idea what Michaels and Collinsworth were talking about.

Your words to God's ears...

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 12:27pm

This post being given higher numerical priority over mine is a clear example of the Patriots bias on this site!

by jebmak :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 1:20pm

And they NEVER talk about an Cuban teams!

by Flounder :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 12:36pm

Quick thoughts from this packer fan:

1) I wish GB had resigned Cullen Jenkins instead of James Jones
2) Cobb is electric with the ball in his hands
3) Rodgers looks amazing
4) The player on GB it looks was most hurt by the lockout was Sam Shields. He looks like a guy who still is very inexperienced at the position, and needed the off-season OTA's to keep himself sharp. Frankly, he looked like the Sam Shields of the beginning of last season. Hopefully things will improve as the season goes on.

by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 12:42pm

A few things (and probably some repeat from what I said before):

1) The New Orleans defense looked considerably worse than Green Bay's defense as a whole, but Green Bay's defense could not stop the pass to save their life. Whether it is because the Saints can spread the ball to so many guys, and getting into Nickel and Dime situations with the Saints skill players is going to create a bad matchup somewhere, or because the Packers secondary played like crap, they are going to be scary four- and five-wide all year.

2)If the Saints looked this bad on defense (and granted, it was against Green Bay's offense), I wonder if more of their games this year are just going to be shootouts. Every level seemed to make mistakes, and they made the Green Bay running game look (slightly) above average. Neither Green Bay running back looks exceptionally able, and I doubt either will be a 1,000-yard back this year, but that 17-yard run was executed so well at each level, that it is hard to attribute all (or most) of that run to Starks.

3) As was mentioned, if teams cannot find a way to keep Matthews in check, he is going to be blow up even more this year. The only time he was every really "stopped" is when Brees released the ball quicker than Matthews could penetrate, or they put three guys on him. Matthews was running over, around, under, and through guys all night. Playing their base Nickel with Wynn and Raji seems good, as both were occupying and devouring multiple blockers, but having Matthews (and now Hawk and Walden) behind them is just crazy.

4) Regarding the kickoff issue, I thought it was a great thing to see. I am completely okay with a majority amount of touchbacks. It protects players, and it makes those long returns and touchdowns that much more special. I do not think every game will have 75% touchback rate with two long returns and a touchdown, but something nearing 55-60% touchback and some average-to-above-average returns would be good. The surprise return from eight yards deep was nice.

by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 4:27pm

On the final drive, Capers went to a three man rush, a suicidal move against top QBs like Brees. Brees was able to step up into open throwing lanes and had all the time he needed to throw. No defensive backfield can cover that situation. Capers should have rushed four and five on every play. Recall the Steelers' last drive in the Super Bowl down by six. Rothliesberger for 15 yards on first play against 3 man rush. Capers went to pressure after that and Steelers got 5 yards in four plays. Game over. Don't understand why he stuck with 3 during that final drive.

by theslothook :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 12:52pm

Not sure who was repeatedly being burned in GB, but i saw Williams get beat a few times, sam shields had a roller coaster game-nice breakups but also got burned a few times. The pass rush was also a mixed bag. Saints defense was horrible throughout but I think that could be tweaked with some better adjustments.

With that said, these were two loaded offenses, deep with good wideouts, strong interior linemen and two horrible qbs(kidding). Shouldn't read too much into the quality of their defenses just yet.

by Arkaein :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 1:04pm

The individual DBs all had mixed nights. Williams gave up the TD on the post route, but it really looked like he was expecting help from Collins inside, as Williams was playing outside technique all the way. However he also had the fumble recovery, a pass deflection, and a couple of very good tackles. I don't really remember him giving up a signifiacnt play other than the TD.

Shields probably had the worst night among the CBs, giving up one long TD and a few slant routes, but also had a nice breakup on a sideline go route.

Woodson didn't do a whole lot. Got beat for one or two intermediate gains, but made the tackles.

Both safeties seemed to be a step late. Brees didn't seem to go after the deep middle much, but managed to hit digs and comebacks in front of the safeties. It looked like he went after Burnett more than Collins, as it seemed like Burnett was cleaning up after a lot of intermediate completions.

As I said in another comment, I don't think there are many NFL passing attacks that can push these defenses the way these teams did to each other last night. Even when defenders had good position the QBs were often able to beat the coverage with perfect ball placement, and few teams have so many solid receiving options.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 1:28pm

Woodson had a good uppercut.

I wonder if his non-ejection materially affected the outcome of a game that came down to the last play.

by Grant (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 1:08pm

I wonder if they are giving Shields less help over the top this year. He is still a young guy playing a fairly new position, and he'll occasionally get burned. The touchdown pass down the left sideline on the (stop and?) go route looked exactly like the touchdown he gave up in the SB. There just isn't time for help from a one deep safety and he needs to adjust to that.

He was still in position for a couple of interceptions, and he saved a kickoff return touchdown, so I'm not down on him. Mostly you just have to credit NO. They are really good.

by Mike B. In Va :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 1:24pm

Anyone else think that the old Pro Bowl canard of "defense is easier to learn than offense" doesn't hold water anymore? (If it ever did?) Both offenses looked like they were in mid-season form, and both Ds had some real coverage issues, especially NO where there were several times that they were obviously not on the same page. Maybe it's just the level of offensive talent - which was impressive by both teams - but it sure looked like GB benefited from having more guys that played in the system last year than NO did.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 1:31pm

Maybe the Saints D is just in decline. This is the same defense that Matt Hasselbeck took apart like it was made from Legos just one game ago.

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 10:11pm

Both these teams run really complex defenses, so that might be a part of it.

Let's see how teams like the Bears do.

by andrew :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 1:33pm

That was a pretty sweet Futurama finale...

by Grant (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 1:47pm

Aaron said that touchbacks were only 35% in the preseason, but I think a lot of teams were kicking short to practice special teams. I'm guessing its at least 50% in the regular season.

Can one of you smart guys explain to me why every time a team scores a touchdown with a 15 point deficit they always kick the extra point. Wouldn't it make more sense to go for two, so that if you don't make it you know you need two scores?

by Flounder :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 2:16pm

No, I don't think it does. By kicking the gimee extra point, both you, and more importantly, your opponent, have the knowledge that you are only "one score away" from tying it up. That puts additional pressure on the opposing offense. If you go for two: 1) even if you make it, you still are a TD away from tying the game, so the pressure on the opposing offense is really no different, and 2) if you DON'T make it, now you've given the opposing team a moral victory, potentially stunted your momentum, and squarely taken pressure off your opposition and put it onto yourself.

by zlionsfan :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 3:21pm

The moral victory of stopping a two-point conversion is greater when it happens later in the game; better to have it happen earlier, when there's still time to recover.

The pressure to consider isn't on the opposing offense, but rather on your offense. If you miss the two-point conversion, you need an extra possession. The later you find this out, the more difficult it becomes to get time for that possession ... and if you try to leave extra time on the clock just in case, that becomes time on the clock for your opponent if you do get the tying conversion.

Honestly, though, I don't think any of this actually goes through their heads. I think what they do is pull out the card and see this:

-9 ... kick

and so they kick. The card says "kick" because it's supposedly less risky, and coaching is still a highly risk-averse profession, at least as long as results rather than philosophies are tied to job security.

by JSA (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 4:04pm

Completely agree with going for two on the first score late after training by 15. It's better to know sooner rather than later if you need one more score or two more scores. Waiting until the second TD may make the game more exciting, but doesn't help the trailing team win.

by Perfundle (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 6:14pm

"The moral victory of stopping a two-point conversion is greater when it happens later in the game; better to have it happen earlier, when there's still time to recover. "

Maybe in the third quarter or the beginning of the fourth; in NO's case there was simply no way they were going to score three times at the end.

"If you miss the two-point conversion, you need an extra possession. The later you find this out, the more difficult it becomes to get time for that possession[.]"

NO was not intending to "find out" that they needed to score two more times; they intended that they would go into overtime.

by Kurt :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 6:37pm

I agree with you. I am sure the others would be right in a Madden or sim game, but in that specific situation (2:15 left, 1 timeout) the chances of scoring twice were so miniscule that you might as well kick the point and keep the pressure on Green Bay.

by Phoenix138 :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 6:21pm

My friends and I debated this at length last night. I'm in favor of going for 2 early. My reasoning:

In either case if you miss the 2-point conversion you probably lose the game. But if you wait for the second possession to go for 2 and end up failing with 5 seconds left on the clock, you lose that game 99.999+% of the time.

If you go for 2 on the first possession and miss, you still probably lose that game. But your odds improve to only losing 99% or maybe even 98% of the time assuming you get the onside, kick a field goal, and then get another onside kick and score a touchdown.

(Disclaimer: I have no idea what the actual percentages are. The point is that you have more outs if you go for it early.)

by Karl Cuba :: Sat, 09/10/2011 - 12:07am

You and your friends should roll up some circles of paper and place them upon your heads as crowns. With some wonderfully logical thinking you have detonated a truism that's been bugging me for a while.

There's only one reason that might influence taking the conventional approach and it's because the TV people would be really pissed at you taking an approach that might end the game as a spectacle earlier.

by BigDerf :: Sat, 09/10/2011 - 7:28am

Agreed. Yeah the odds are if you miss the two it's over, but that happens if you go for two with 2 minutes or with 0 seconds. At least with 2 minutes there is the crazy insane backdoor 2 scores.

by Joseph :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 12:05pm

I think all of you are wrong--here's my reasoning why:

1. If you're talking about going for 2 in the late 3rd Q/early 4th, I see your point--you know how the "end game" is going to play out. (For example, the Saints would have probably opted for the FG on 4th & 1 from the 7 yd line instead of going for it).
2. But if you're talking after the mid-point of the 4th Q, I say no way. If the Saints miss the 2-point conversion with 2:15, they're down 9--they need to convert TWO onside kicks. They also had only 1 timeout left. They know that the game is over, and then the Pack run it three times, punt with 1:20 left, and just make a couple of tackles inbounds as the Saints O shows that they won't give up when the game is already over.
HOWEVER, if they kick the XP (which they did), they're only down 8. The Pack knows that there is still a reasonable opportunity that they can go the length of the field with no TO's, score a TD, get the 2-point conversion, and tie the game. [And with the Saints, it's definitely within the realm of possibility--they did it against the Skins in the SB year, and nearly did it Thurs. night.] IMO, that's why McCarthy called the pass on 3rd down--he knew he had to "ice" the game. If that pass goes incomplete, there is a much greater chance that the Saints score (after having the ball at the ~11 yd line, Brees has THREE shots to get it into the endzone, and has 40 secs more--they might can even call a run play). As it was, the Saints needed a 1 yd play and a 3 yd play to tie the game--if they go for two after the J. Graham TD (and make it), they STILL NEED that yard, then must convert the XP.

I don't see any scenario after the mid-4th to go for the 2-point conversion before it's absolutely necessary. For me, the risk is too high that you cannot tie the game in the last seconds. Even professionals tend to play below their abilities when the game is out of reach.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 2:18pm

If the the Packers DON'T score 40 in any game where Rodgers is allowed to be that comfortable in the pocket, it'll be an upset.

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 10:12pm

I think Rodgers wins MVP this year.

by Will Allen :: Sat, 09/10/2011 - 2:33am

If he keeps getting the protection he received last night, I'd say he is pretty close to a lock.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 2:19pm

You get the sense that Costas has some pent-up HGH envy...

by zlionsfan :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 3:25pm

To Mike Kurtz' point, that's why the Lions made such a mistake last year against Dallas. Touching the ball just draws an illegal touching penalty at the spot of the foul, but the play isn't over ... McCann realized that he had a free opportunity to return the punt (because at worst, the Cowboys would take possession where the ball was touched) and capitalized on it.

by Dean :: Fri, 09/09/2011 - 4:16pm

The thing that was most impressive to me was the kickoff return. Watch it again. When the ball crosses the goal line, there are SEVEN Packers inside the ten yard line. Not only that, three of them are still actively engaged in downfield blocking and the other three seem more focused on looking for someone to hit than on getting ready to prace around like a jackass. They're not world champs for nothin'.

by BigDerf :: Sat, 09/10/2011 - 7:34am

I think it is fair to criticize New Orleans for passing the first time and running the second.

The 4th down and inches was from 15 yards out, the defense has to respect the pass far more and the run is a real possibility.

When you are running it from a yard out at the endzone in a 3 TE set, the defense just has to cover then endzone, and can bring in all their defensive linemen with less worry of a pass and no worry about getting hit with hurry up on the next play like they would in the 4th down situation.

Brees was acting like he was an athletic quarterback all night. Might as well have done the Madden style shotgun from the goal line and just look for a spot to pop a pass in or run it in himself.

Also don't like the call of running it into the middle of the line, where Raji has been blowing you up all night long.

by Marko :: Sat, 09/10/2011 - 1:30pm

The 4th down was from the 7, not the 15. I do agree that they should have run there.

As for running into the middle of the line on the last play, I agree that was a bad idea. I think a rollout with a run/pass option would have been better. And if you were going to run, at least spread the defense out by putting in some receivers. That also would give you a chance to audible to a pass based on the coverage.

by tuluse :: Sat, 09/10/2011 - 9:44pm

And if you were going to run, at least spread the defense out by putting in some receivers.

And have a bigger/stronger center than Olin Kreutz /cheap shot

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 8:57am

"Collinsworth hyperbolic superlative rate: one per three game minutes."

Good to see he's cutting back.