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16 Jan 2012

Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

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.

Saturday, January 14th

New Orleans Saints 32 at San Francisco 49ers 36

Rivers McCown: No gusts? But Brees was meant to play in the wind!

Danny Tuccitto: Sooooo, umm ... our local FOX station is in a dispute with DirecTV, and so I have no satellite feed. Piracy is awesome!

Tom Gower: That's a costly opening drive for the Saints, with Jimmy Graham and Pierre Thomas going injured to the sidelines, and a lost red zone fumble. I see Graham is out for the second drive, but would be mildly surprised to see Thomas back after getting knocked out on the fumble.

Aaron Schatz: This is reminding me a bit of the Pats' scheme in Super Bowl XXXVI early. The 49ers are just whacking the living hell out of the Saints skill players at every opportunity.

Mike Tanier: It is like last year's Seahawks game early on. The Saints toss short stuff expecting YAC and don't get it.

Rivers McCown: They're clearly targeting the short sides early.

Aaron Schatz: I will say, that short passes strategy is what Vince suggested in Quick Reads last week. The 49ers tackle well, but by DVOA their defense ranks lower against short passes than against medium passes, deep passes, or of course runs. So it is hard to begrudge the Saints for going with short stuff.

Tom Gower: How do the numbers have the 49ers defense on passes short left and short right as compared to short middle? Brees is great at working the area between the hashes short and intermediate. Those passes don't generally have the same YAC opportunities as the space in the flats, but he can get them out before the pass rush gets there. It felt like that's where most of the yardage on the touchdown drive to cut it to 17-7 came from.

Danny Tuccitto: NO throws it short right 10th-most in the league, ranked second in DVOA versus a 49ers defense that ranks 26th. To short left, NO also ranks 10th in frequency for short-left, but their No. 6 DVOA in that direction is up against SF's No. 5 DVOA. To the short middle, NO is 18th in frequency, so that matchup isn't as relevant.

Vince Verhei: Short middle: San Francisco defense gave up 6.2 yards per play, third-lowest.

Short left or right, 6.3 yards per play, 23rd.

Brian McIntyre: Just two possessions in and rookie Aldon Smith is already giving Jermon Bushrod all sorts of trouble. Smith beat Bushrod for a quarterback hit on a completion to Darren Sproles on the first possession, then beat Bushrod again for a sack to end the second drive.

Tom Gower: Very nice pass by Alex Smith to Vernon Davis as the 49ers open the scoring. There wasn't a big window there, but Smith hit it. It should come as no surprise that Roman Harper was in coverage on the play, though Malcolm Jenkins, I believe, taking him out is why it was a touchdown instead of just a nice gain.

The Saints' short passing offense works a lot better against teams that don't tackle in space well. The Titans did a great job against them early, but the Saints eventually adjusted and started finding success throwing more vertically. The 49ers are having the same tackling success, and they have the pass rush the Titans don't to disrupt the vertical passes.

Mike Tanier: One thing I notice is that the Saints get predictable at times. They are running their play-action bombs, and they are looking to their screen game. They have about 200 other facets to their offense. The Niners can take away the inside run, but what about the middle passing game, the misdirection game?

Of course, if the Saints keep tuning it over in the red zone, it won't matter.

Danny Tuccitto: Hey, whaddyaknow, I finally get the feed, and it's 14-0 Niners. #arrestmeforterroristicthreatsagainstdirectvrightnow

Brian McIntyre: As part of the standoff with Sunstream, Boston area DirecTV subscribers don't have WHDH, the local NBC affiliate. How-ah dare they deny Greatriot Nation the ability to watch the Incredible Dog Challenge National Finals!

Mike Tanier: Things got so much easier when Comcast annexed Philadelphia and made it into a giant cable box.

Ben Muth: NaVorro Bowman gets trucked on the sideline and then shoves Jed Collins in the back. How is that not a flag?

Danny Tuccitto: Yeah, I have no idea how that wasn't a penalty on Bowman, there.

Tom Gower: Collins absolutely flopped, and had just grabbed Bowman's face mask after the play was over. If there was a call there, it should've been on both guys or just Collins.

Mike Tanier: Refs are now like the teachers at some awful school district where the kids have taken over and are fighting naked in the halls while the upper-echelon administrators make new rules about "curriculum alignment." They are trying to get through their days without a catastrophe.

Vince Verhei: 49ers safeties and linebackers are just playing out of their minds right now. Brees is looking for the deep ball, but it's not there. and when he hits the short stuff, San Francisco defenders are zipping in like lightcycles with giant hits. Guys are getting open, but they don't stay open for long. (As I type that, a Brees-to-Graham post route hits for a touchdown.)

If you have the game on DVR, go back and check the close-up of Brees on the sideline as the first quarter was winding down. Fox had a sound guy behind him with an all-time great moustache. It connected to to his sideburns, like Harley Race or Lemmy from Motorhead, but it was long and flowing. I want the sideline reporters to interview that guy.

Aaron Schatz: Darren Rovell tweeted a picture of facial hair guy.

Vince Verhei: My weekend is complete.

Danny Tuccitto: I preferred it when I didn't have the feed: 17-0 without, 0-14 with.

Aaron Schatz: This game actually seems to have gotten a bit sloppy near the end of the first half. We're now at what, five turnovers for the game, four New Orleans and one San Francisco? There have been a couple of really awful throwaways, like the one with four seconds left where Brees was getting sacked and awkwardly flipped it forward underhand to try to avoid losing yardage.

Vince Verhei: Yeah. Some of those turnovers were just brilliant plays by the defense (hello, Tarrell Brown's interception and the big hit that knocked out the first fumble), but Smith's fumble was just ... blech. An entertaining game, but definitely not the most well-played.

Tom Gower: Eh. Brown's interception was a nice grab by him, but Brees had Devery Henderson over the middle on the post route and instead threw the ball up the seam. Doesn't discount Brown's nice play, but he shouldn't have had the opportunity.

This is a huge drive for the 49ers. They haven't gone anything close to 80 yards this game, and I strongly doubt 17 points will be enough to win.

Danny Tuccitto: In a neat little wrinkle to what their tendencies predict, the 49ers just lined Aldon Smith up at defensive tackle so that he could stunt to the outside of Justin Smith, rather than the inside. I figure that's something San Francisco will do more of in the second half.

Tom Gower: Well, Darren Sproles' fumble gave them points. I think Gregg Williams has called about three or four straight cover-0 blitzes, and the 49ers haven't been able to do a thing against any of them.

Danny Tuccitto: Definitely nice to see the league deciding to enforce offensive pass interference this week.

Tom Gower: The 49ers aren't consistently good enough offensively to move the ball down the field. They're trying these rubs and picks to get the guys open, but the thing is, the Saints could decline both penalties and still stop them. I'm not sure what Smith saw on the second-down pass, and on the third-down pass he airmailed the throw. Williams should be content to just blitz them all day, because the 49ers are not beating man coverage and Smith isn't the type of quarterback who, to quote Greg Cosell, can make stick throws into tight windows.

Aaron Schatz: The 49ers are really getting pressure on Brees. The Saints offensive line is not holding up well today. It's not resulting in a ton of sacks, but it is definitely responsible for some of these incomplete passes.

In fact, on the rare plays where Brees does get a reasonable pocket, it seems like everyone is covered and he has to start scrambling around anyway.

Vince Verhei: Saints seem to get an unblocked rusher every time they big blitz. How much does that have to do with San Francisco playing their backup center?

Danny Tuccitto: Jonathan Goodwin only missed one series. The reason why there's an unblocked rusher on every New Orleans big blitz is because the 49ers offensive line hasn't been able to figure out blitzes all season. It's been the football equivalent of the Goldbach conjecture.

Ben Muth: Both defensive lines are dominating. Looking forward to seeing if San Francisco is schematically beating New Orleans' line, or if it's just winning one-on-one battles.

Aaron Schatz: Sproles' 44-yard touchdown right through a relatively empty middle of the field had turned this game around. Dashon Goldson took a bad angle and couldn't tackle him, then he juked out Donte Whitner, nobody else got near him. 24-23 with 4:00 left.

Tom Gower: The 49ers overall have had an excellent game tackling, but they had two busts on the same play at the wrong time.

Rivers McCown: Whitner has had a really interesting game. He had some big hits and nice coverage in the first half, but he's given most of it right back here.

Aaron Schatz: Alex Smith responds with a beautiful 37-yard throw to Davis, who was streaking down the left side of the field in front of Jenkins. Now they're in field goal range and the 49ers have to make sure they run as much time off as possible so Brees doesn't get the ball back after any go-ahead field goal.

Or, Alex Smith could run a quarterback sweep on third-and-8 that goes for a touchdown. 2:11 and one timeout left. Should Alex Smith have gone down at the 1 so the 49ers could run out the clock and kick a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown and then giving the Saints the ball back?

Ben Muth: Great call, great crack, great cut.

Vince Verhei: I think that play was the highlight of the season so far. The Saints had one timeout plus the two-minute warning. I can't do math right now, but you may have a point.

Tom Gower: The calculation is roughly up five or seven with 2:11 to play versus a 98 percent chance of being up two with about 40 seconds left. I think they're better off with him taking the knee at the 1.

Aaron Schatz: And of course, the Saints make an insane 70-yard pass where nobody can tackle Graham and they take the lead.

Vince Verhei: Well that's all moot. Good thing SF left themselves enough time to get the ball back. Maybe Graham should have gone down at the 1 too.

If I was defending a critical two-point conversion, I'd cover the guy who set a playoff record for catches today.

Tom Gower: That Graham play ... is that like Larry Fitzgerald's catch in the Super Bowl? The Steelers came back and won that game, but they had Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes. The 49ers don't have either ... and of course while I'm typing that, Vernon Davis does his best Graham impersonation.

Rivers McCown: ATTN Gregg Williams: Your safeties cannot cover Vernon Davis one-on-one.

Aaron Schatz: And the third big Vernon Davis catch is in the end zone for a touchdown. This time it looked like it was on zone, although I don't know why Scott Shanle let Davis go past him without backing up in case the ball was going to him.

Ben Muth: Holy crap that Davis catch looked like Terrell Owens' catch against Green Bay. And then it looked like Davis was crying too! Deja vu all over again.

Danny Tuccitto: It's kind of hard to be euphoric twice in a five-minute span, but I just accomplished the feat after that Davis touchdown put the 49ers up 36-32 with nine seconds left.

Aaron Schatz: This definitely has to be one of the best fourth quarters in NFL history. Not one of the best games, but one of the best fourth quarters.

Vince Verhei: It's over. Can we postpone the New England game for an hour or so? I need time to decompress.

And I turn to CBS in time to see the first seconds tick off the clock in Foxborough...

Rivers McCown: I'm thinking that after those last two drives, the Saints may be okay with Gregg Williams peddling his wares under Jeff Fisher next year.

Denver Broncos 10 at New England Patriots 45

Aaron Schatz: How can you tell the difference between a Tim Tebow game and a regular Patriots playoff game? I looked at the press box seating chart and there are credentials for this game issued to Time, GQ, People, and The New Yorker.

Mike Tanier: On the one hand, ridiculous. On the other ... this is a You Were There moment, man.

Rivers McCown: GQ's Mark Anderson profile is going to be phenomenal.

Mike Tanier: For heaven's sake Aaron: what is Tebow wearing? How is he throwing? Who did he shake hands with? Who did he nod to? TELL US WHAT WE ABSOLUTELY NEED TO FREAKIN' KNOW!

Aaron Schatz: I will let the rest of the press be on "Tebow Every Minute" watch. I'm here to be on "Is there a single high safety?" watch.

Mike Tanier: But rumor has it that he is sleeveless? The guns! The guns!

Aaron Schatz: Yes, he is sleeveless. However, Alex Marvez from FOX is not wearing his traditional shorts. He has given in to the elements and is wearing pants.

Ben Muth: Did the Pats just run a zone stretch to Aaron Hernandez? Or am I punch drunk from the last game?

Aaron Schatz: Yes, they did, for 43 yards. On one hand, 43 yards! First-drive touchdown! No slow start! On the other hand, why did the Patriots draft two running backs, one of whom has barely played, if they were just going to use their second tight end as a running back to go with the three they already had?

Rivers McCown: I'm so glad I have Stevan Ridley on that fantasy playoff team now. Oh well, at least I can cobble together some Metroid jokes about him after Danny wins.

Aaron Schatz: The Pats started Devin McCourty at corner but seem to be using him as the single-high safety on most plays. They're not letting Demaryius Thomas run 80 yards against empty coverage, thank you very much.

Tom Gower: At 14-0 Patriots, my interest in this game was starting to fade, but Tom Brady's errant throws are keeping me and the Broncos in it. Conspiracy alert!

Aaron Schatz: Yes, that two-drive span where Brady didn't seem to know where guys were going on option routes was interesting, but it seems to be over now, because New England just marched down the field easily to make it 21-7. The Denver defense just has no idea how to stop Rob Gronkowski or Hernandez.

Vince Verhei: Professional halftime analysis: Tom Brady is good.

Aaron Schatz: So, our e-mail thread was at 63 comments at the end of the first game. This is comment 72, and the Pats-Broncos game just hit halftime. We're not going to hit 100. Boy oh boy, is there nothing to say about this one. 35-7. The Denver offense can't do anything. They moved the ball on the Pats in the first game, that's not happening tonight. The Broncos defense looks awful. There's no pass rush. Matt Light is controlling Von Miller easily.

Vince Verhei: Actually, that's about the most astute thing there is to say.

The Pats defense has two sacks in 12 pass plays. The Broncos defense has no sacks in 25 pass plays. Forget about Brady's touchdowns, just the sack numbers tell you that Denver is losing.

I think I'm going to remember Shannon Sharpe's tuxedo jacket as much as anything else today. Is that velvet? Corduroy? Suede?

Tom Gower: The Broncos are getting no pressure on Brady, they can't cover Gronkowski or Hernandez, Andre' Goodman on Deion Branch is going about how Andre' Goodman against anyone normally looks, Tebow is holding the ball too long (on passing plays) or getting rid of it too quickly (on option plays), and the Broncos aren't getting big plays on offense.

Ben Muth: The Patriots are significantly better than the Broncos.

Vince Verhei: First-half points for the New England Patriots tonight: 35.

First-half points for the Sacramento Kings tonight: 23.

Aaron Schatz: Well, only one of those teams will be playing in Anaheim next year.

Mike Tanier: The Kings stink, man.

Vince Verhei: Oh God, the Patriots fans are chanting Tebow's name in the exact same way that Seahawks fans chanted Elway's name once upon a time.

Patriots fans nearly boo their own team's third-down conversion, because it came on a Brady sneak up 42-10 in the third. Why is he even wearing pads at this point?

Tom Gower: So, um, do the Broncos look as miserable on the sidelines as the Titans did during the second half of 59-0 a couple years ago? These pathos storylines are all we have left.

Aaron Schatz: It's hard to tell because most of them are in very big, thick parkas. But they don't seem quite as miserable because it isn't unexpectedly snowing in October while they're getting crushed.

Rivers McCown: Did the GQ guys take off early?

Aaron Schatz: For those curious, there are two other third-down punts in my database, going back to 1992.

In Buffalo, during the final week in 2008, the Patriots punted twice in the fourth quarter. It was really, really windy. Matt Cassel punted once as a surprise, the other time, though, they brought in actual punter Chris Hanson.

Mike Tanier: The Eagles did it at least a half-dozen times from 1986 to 1990.

Ben Muth: Miller should be suspended for at least the first game next year. To take that cheap shot when you're down 35 with three minutes left is absurd. It's gutless. A big fine won't be enough: you have to make sure that people know you can't start stuff just because your season is over. That discipline has to carry over.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I feel Miller should be suspended four games. If he draws a Patriots player into a fight and gets him to throw a punch, that guy misses the AFC title game. The AFC title game is worth four regular season games.

Mike Tanier: What's the precedent on suspensions of that level for guys who just got swole at the end of games and started shoving? I mean, it was a cheap shot, and it earned the ejection, and I could even see a one-game suspension. But guys start pushing and shoving at the ends of blowouts all the time, and really, a quick kick? I can see how that gets a defender's temper flared.

Sunday, January 15th

Houston Texans 13 at Baltimore Ravens 20

Aaron Schatz: Jacoby Jones, WTF?

Tom Gower: Personally I would have gone for it on that fourth-and-1 instead of taking the field goal to open the scoring.

I think Jones made a reasonable decision, but just didn't execute properly.

Aaron Schatz: That's why it isn't a reasonable decision. The benefit is possibly 4-5 yards. If you fail, the penalty is colossal.

Tom Gower: I don't see that. The benefit is you start at the 13 or so instead of potentially like the 3. I don't know points expectations there, but that seems like a big deal to me. It also looked like a very routine catch. If he can't make that kind of grab, then he shouldn't be out returning punts at all.

Vince Verhei: Deion Sanders on NFL Gameday says they only show special teams highlights if it's a big play or a boo-boo.

I dub this the Big Play or Boo-Boo Bowl.

Aaron Schatz: Owen Daniels was wide open in the left corner on the third-down play at the goal line where Baltimore's Pernell McPhee chased T.J. Yates out of the pocket. He had to throw it away.

This brings up a question that was being heavily discussed on Boston sports radio when I was driving home last night. Assuming Baltimore wins this game, who on earth do they have who could cover either Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez? Ray Lewis can't stay with those guys. I can't imagine that they would want to use Ed Reed in strict man coverage instead of playing his usual free safety. Bernard Pollard is a great hitter but not a coverage guy.

Vince Verhei: I don't think that's a problem exclusive to Baltimore. Hernandez and Gronkowski are a bad matchup for pretty much everyone.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, sure. Definitely a bad matchup for everyone. But there are teams that should be at least a little better equipped to cover those guys. The 49ers, with Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis ... although obviously they had safeties generally on Jimmy Graham and didn't do a great job. The Giants, playing mostly a 4-2-5 with three safeties who are reasonable coverage guys. Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle are definitely younger than Reed, Lewis, and Pollard. Maybe even the Texans, with two ex-cornerbacks at safety plus DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing at linebacker.

The Packers couldn't cover them either, but of course, they're the only offense left that's better than the Patriots.

Vince Verhei: The team that played Gronk and Hernandez best this year (throwing out Week 4, when Hernandez didn't play) was probably Dallas in Week 6. They held the duo to 6.8 yards per target, and also forced a fumble and intercepted a pass intended for Hernandez. The Cowboys mixed things up a ton, with Sean Lee in coverage three times, Orlando Scandrick and Michael Jenkins twice each, and a bunch of guys (DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Keith Brooking, Jay Ratliff, Terence Newman, etc.) once each. If there's a lesson from this, it's that stopping the Patriots tight ends is less about individual matchups and more about keeping the offense guessing and confused. Having Ware to chase Tom Brady around probably helps too.

Tom Gower: Yates saw the underneath defender there and didn't trust his ability to put the throw in place. He's not yet a guy who's confident enough to make those stick throws, and today's game seems to be moving too fast for him. Give some credit to the Ravens, too, who've done a good job playing disciplined defense and aren't giving Yates many of the easy throws he needs to be successful.

Baltimore's offensive line is also doing a pretty good job of picking up Texans blitzes so far.

Rivers McCown: Baltimore has completely shut down the Texans bootleg game. It is going nowhere.

Hm, I guess it wouldn't be a Texans postseason game without a silly challenge by the opposing coach.

Tom Gower: Eric Winston seems to be doing his best to make us regret putting him on the FO All-Pro team, as Paul Kruger is giving him fits in the run game today. That's a big reason the Texans are having little success running outside zone right.

Huh, Kareem Jackson with a couple passes defensed in a row, and a corner blitz finally lets the Texans get pressure on Joe Flacco to keep it 17-13 at the half.

On the Arian Foster touchdown, the Texans brought in an extra offensive lineman, Derek Newton, and stuck him next to Winston. I haven't broken them down, but don't recall them running many sets with six offensive linemen, even on goalline plays like that. He got the seal Winston had had trouble getting.

Note, though, I don't think the Texans ran outside zone to the right once until they were inside the 5. That doesn't change that Arian Foster is a grown-ass man, though.

Rivers McCown: Yep, they practically never ran with a sixth linemen.

Tom Gower: Texans go empty on third-and-6. The Ravens predictably run an inside blitz and get quick pressure on Yates. I'm not a fan of that call by the Texans, as you're essentially requiring your rookie quarterback who's struggled some to make the right read and get off a quick and accurate throw against tight man coverage, or you're stuck trying a 50-yard field goal. Incomplete and doink!

Rivers McCown: Letting Neil Rackers try a 50-yard field goal on fourth-and-6 ... I am befuddled.

Aaron Schatz: 50 isn't that long. Rackers is 7-of-9 on field goals of 50 yards or longer the last two seasons. Although all those attempts have been either indoors, in Denver, or in Florida.

Rivers McCown: Right, the weather is a big deal in this one. Also keep in mind that this is the same Rackers that once made the Texans decide that they needed to punt on fourth-and-9 from the 39 against the Redskins. In overtime.

Tom Gower: Yup, and Rackers' earlier kick that was good from 40 did not have great distance. That's one of the reasons I questioned the third down playcall -- every yard there is important if you don't get the conversion.

Aaron Schatz: Well, there's a big difference between 50 and 57.

Ben Muth: I can't believe Ray Rice couldn't get in on those last two runs. They weren't walk-ins, but there was definitely enough blocking to punch it in. Rice may be more "complete" but Foster has certainly played better today.

Mike Tanier: Joe Flacco has to stop moving backward when getting sacked.

Aaron Schatz: Yates is mostly looking good today, but he's had a couple of times where he's thrown to guys who were clearly well-covered. That interception intended for Kevin Walter had no window whatsoever.

Ben Muth: Yates just threw into an ocean of purple.

Tom Gower: Third down, low-percentage situation with a rookie quarterback, and Matt Turk is far from covering himself in glory when the Texans have punted. Yes, it's a bad read and Yates shouldn't have thrown it, but it's not that awful.

Rivers McCown: The screen that Lewis broke up to Foster to put that drive into second-and-17 was devastating.

I am finding no small irony in the fact that the Ravens had horrific special teams all season, yet Jacoby Jones and Matt Turk have combined to let the Ravens completely dominate the field position battle.

Mike Tanier: Great fourth-quarter drive by the Ravens until they threw two incompletions at the end to give the Texans plenty of time for a late drive.

Vince Verhei: The second-and-5 passing play was most egregious. A dive up the middle probably sets up third-and-short and gets the clock running. Then if they want to gamble with a pass, that's a calculated risk. By throwing incomplete there, they were basically forced to pass again on third down. And it's not like Flacco was having a good day.

Aaron Schatz: Are we witnessing the Ravens going to loose coverage and allowing the Texans to march down the field easily?

Wait, no, we're apparently witnessing Yates taking a shot downfield and Reed making a pick to seal the game. Nevermind.

Mike Tanier: Ravens-flavored football product number 10090909.

Rivers McCown: Brutal game to watch as a fan. Hard to feel bad about it at all because the Texans were running on house money without Matt Schaub, but this was a completely winnable game despite an insane turnover margin. The Texans defense crushed in this game -- the two touchdown drives were both off turnovers deep in Houston territory, and both the fourth-and-goal stand drive and one of the field goal drives started at the Baltimore 40.

I don't want to say that Baltimore didn't play well -- their defense was outstanding as well and probably should have picked off Yates on a few other occasions, but it's hard to believe that the Texans defense is going to be watching the rest of this from home after that performance.

New York Giants 37 at Green Bay Packers 20

Vince Verhei: According to Troy Aikman, Tom Coughlin thinks the team that wins time of possession will win this game. The Broncos had the ball for six more minutes than New England last night. How'd that work out? (I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but this is still a pet peeve of mine.)

Aaron Schatz: The Hakeem Nicks touchdown there reminded me of one of the Vernon Davis touchdowns yesterday, where it looked like there were two defenders right there to tackle him in the middle of the field, and then they fell down and he went all the way for the score. Charlie Peprah needs to learn it is tough to tackle guys with your shoulder.

The Giants running game getting absolutely nothing so far, though. They need to use Brandon Jacobs, not Ahmad Bradshaw. Jacobs has been the much better back the last few weeks.

Mike Tanier: Packers safeties need to work on a lot of tackling fundamentals.

Tom Gower: Eli Manning is the latest quarterback to show us that overthrown passes over the middle of the field when there are deep safeties tend to get intercepted.

Giants beat writer Mike Garofalo tweeted that the Giants, in Friday's practice, did the same exact onside kick the Packers tried. Apparently the lesson of Sean Payton is that there's no longer any such thing as an unexpected onside kick.

Vince Verhei: Well, Nicks' Hail Nary touchdown kind of changes what I was about to say, but it's still impressive that the Packers are in this considering how badly they've played. Their offense has put the ball on the ground repeatedly. Their defense has missed oodles of tackles. They've been outcoached, going with three-man rush after three-man rush when it's clear that Manning has no trouble hanging back, finding the open man, and hitting him.

The Giants had failed to capitalize on most of that until the last play. Being down 10 is obviously a big difference from being down three, but it still feels like we haven't seen the best of the Packers.

Tom Gower: The Bradshaw run was a great individual effort, as he beat Peprah's contain to the corner and got out of bounds. On the Hail Nary at the end of the half, there were about as many Giants in the area as Packers. Green Bay was clearly not prepared defensively for the Giants to throw deep there, which I have to regard as a coaching misstep with a timeout remaining.

Aaron Schatz: The surprise to me here is not that the Packers have had trouble covering and tackling, although those two plays to end the half were pretty awful. The surprise is not that the Packers, with the lowest ASR in the league this year, aren't getting much pass rush. The surprise is that their offense isn't doing much. We've got passes behind guys and passes dropped, and where are the deep throws? Aaron Rodgers had less than 10 yards per completion in the first half, with only two completions over 15 yards.

Ben Muth: That Osi Umenyiora strip sack is on T.J. Lang just as much as it is on Chad Clifton. Clifton knows he has Lang coming with him, so he sets to not get beat outside, but Lang took too big of a step forward and inside to help the center, and couldn't get back out in time to help. Very frustrating as a tackle.

Aaron Schatz: The Packers should have bootlegged Rodgers out when they went for it on fourth-and-5 from the 40. I'm pretty sure Rodgers would have had a choice to either run for it himself or hit a short pass after the bootleg. Instead, they keep him in the pocket, the back misses his block, and Rodgers goes down.

Ben Muth: Yeah, it has not been a great day for Green Bay's backs in protection.

Vince Verhei: Matt Bowen noted on Twitter that the Giants are playing a lot of Man-2 on defense. That's going to (and has) left them vulnerable to quarterback scrambles. Probably would have made it tough defending a bootleg too.

Aaron Schatz: Ryan Grant gets stripped, an immediate touchdown for the Giants makes it 30-13, and this thing is over. The Packers are going to kick themselves all offseason. I don't know if I should feel vindicated or not. On one hand, all season long I've been saying that the Packers were not an all-time great team, no matter what people thought. On the other hand, I did say that they were better than the Giants, and I expected them to win this game.

Mike Tanier: I feel vindicated for telling Giants fans repeatedly during the preseason to calm the heck down -- that they had a playoff-caliber team no matter how few free agents they went after.

Aaron Schatz: I also have to say, I wish I could understand the psychology of the Giants. Their second-half collapses have been very real and very consistent. Every single year, mostly in pass defense, they collapse in the second half -- even if you take into account the fact that their schedule is always harder in the second half. So why does it reverse at the end of 2007 and the end of this season. What happened differently in these two seasons?

Mike Tanier: I would NOT have onside kicked there.

Aaron Schatz: I would like to note that:

a) FO readers have asked us not to fill Audibles with complaints about officiating anymore,
b) The officiating in this game has been awful,
c) Giants fans will now complain that FO hates the Giants because we're not complaining about the officiating.

Tom Gower: I try my best to reserve my reactional officiating whining for Twitter. The officiating today has been very sad at times, with a couple obvious calls in favor of the Packers. The officiating has not been responsible for (a) the Packers' secondary, which has been an issue for all of this season and is an issue again today, (b) the Packers' persistent difficulties with catching the football (c) Hakeem Nicks' touchdown at the close of the first half, (d) the Packers not throwing the ball downfield as much as I think they did over the course of the year, or (e) the Packers' occasional issues when it comes to tackling players, including Nicks, Bradshaw, and Jacobs at various times.

Vince Verhei: By the way, I was wrong about the Packers showing up in the second half. I mean, way wrong.

Aaron Schatz: I think I need to throw something in at the end of Audibles where I talk about how the Giants played really well today, lest the Giants fans all call us "haters" again.

Hey, the Giants played really well today! I'm not surprised about the offense, which has been very good all year. Eli Manning was one of the five best quarterbacks in the league this year. But on defense, I just wish I understood how they always turn the switch off in Week 10 and how they turn it back on in late December.

Vince Verhei: The NFL Network guys were talking about the Giants "peaking at the right time." Obviously, they are, but is that the kind of thing you can control? Is it possible that, knowing the season is six months long and you can't play your best the whole time, teams are able to dial back the intensity to 80 or 90 percent, so their emotional/psychological/physical tanks are full for the playoffs?

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 16 Jan 2012

293 comments, Last at 19 Jan 2012, 6:55pm by some guy


by Steve J (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:40am

A couple of thoughts on the Giants' collapses (from a Giants' fan):

1. Is it possible that the uniform, standardized opponent adjustments don't quite make sense as a way to evaluate performance? Opponents' adjustments are shorthands for actually breaking down matchups and such. I view them as the best we can do, statistically, but I do not doubt that we are missing stuff in them. And as much as DVOA says that this was a second-half collapse, I really thought the Giants' defense was getting bailed out early in the season by crappy opposition. (The Bills game was key; Fitzpatrick threw two picks on grossly-underthrown passes.)

2. The Giants tend to have a lot of injuries late in seasons and haven't had much depth outside of the defensive line for most of the Coughlin era.

3. This season, the Giants had a lot of games with injuries to "defensive signalcallers" this year, including Boley and Goff, while Deon Grant, the nickel safety, was actually calling the defense for a few games. Watching most of the Giants' games this season, a lot of their defensive problems were due to miscommunications. If miscommunications are the problem and you clear them up, which they seem to have done, logically, you should see a huge boost in performance.

Lastly, Mr. Schatz: you'll get flak from the less charitable Giants fans, but fair-minded ones will agree that this was unpredictable. The last 3 weeks, the Giants have played like the best team in the league. There was no evidence to indicate that they were likely to do this, or even capable of doing this. I can't explain that, you can't explain that, and that's all there is to it. These sorts of runs are part of why sports are so awesome. Even those of us who escape the rampant "narrativeization" of the media and look at actual fundamentals can't really predict the future.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:39pm

There is a linebacker named Herzlich. He is awful. He got injured, and the Giants defense got better. That is what I'm going to stick with, even though the obvious keys to this game were:

1. Eli Manning. Not to belabor the point, but Aaron saying he was top 5 this year is in no way an exaggeration. More to the point, he's been even better at the things quarterbacks have to do well to win games. He's been literally unstoppable unless you play coverage (best against six man rushes in the league). He is willing to stick throws (and yes, the fact that he is not quite his brother means that he throws more picks than Rodgers). But he actually throws a better deep ball than anyone in the league except - maybe - Rodgers.

2. Game planning. I have been telling anyone who will listen all year that 2-Man (or Quarters) was the way to play Green Bay. They don't have the willingness to stick with running the ball, and Rodgers waits for the downfield throw even when he has routes open in the flat. Pretend Green Bay is the 2005 Colts - and then recall they don't have Edgerrin James and that Chad Clifton is no Tarik Glenn in the running game.

3. The Giants secondary catching some breaks. To win this game, the Giants had to play well in the secondary. To win by 15 points, they had to catch some breaks - Rodgers missing receivers and receivers catching intermittent dropsies (I'm pretty sure they caught them from Manningham).

Also, I'd like to point out my favorite thing about Eli Manning. NFL playoffs, everyone's hyped up. Eli throws a touchdown pass, there is much celebration. Receivers jumping up and down hugging each other - even the ones who didn't catch the ball. TV cuts to Manning.

He's already on the sideline, already has his helmet off, and is scratching his head and looking out onto the field, for all the world as if he's wondering what all the fuss is about.

THAT is why I'm glad he's still in the playoffs and Tebow and Brees are going home.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:34pm

He's already on the sideline, already has his helmet off, and is scratching his head and looking out onto the field, for all the world as if he's wondering what all the fuss is about.

Then there's Boy Tom, who's out there screaming like a douche canoe in his illegal wetsuit.

by ineedawittyname (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 6:38pm


by t.d. :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 8:36pm

This year, it seems like it's the injuries that have made the difference. They are healthier than they've been most of the season

by Adam (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:06pm

I think this year's defensive revival is really as simple as getting guys back and/or healthy.Tuck was clearly playing thru injuries unti late in the season, and combine that with Osi and Boley coming back, they suddenly went from JPP vs The World to a full defense.

by Alaaaa (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:47am

Aren't the Giants injuries and returns therefrom enough to easily account for the turnaround, plus Osi playing for what he hopes will be a contract? Likewise the Pats improvement on D? Both teams had terrible backups in key positions and don't any more.

by Sophandros :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:53am

"Rivers McCown: I'm thinking that after those last two drives, the Saints may be okay with Gregg Williams peddling his wares under Jeff Fisher next year."

Just about every Saints message board has about half of the first page filled with topics where fans are politely discussing the reasons to let Williams go to St. Louis.

OK, maybe the discussions aren't so polite...

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Brent Hutto (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:54am

Vince asks:

"Is it possible that, knowing the season is six months long and you can't play your best the whole time, teams are able to dial back the intensity to 80 or 90 percent, so their emotional/psychological/physical tanks are full for the playoffs? "

Sounds like a formula for losing a couple of close late-season games and missing the postseason all together. But I doubt it's possible even if you wanted to do it, although a few teams over the years have played one or two phone-it-in games once they have home-field locked up.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:21am

Agreed. Ask the Eagles what it was like saving their best for the end of the season.

I do think it's likely that players find it easier to play at full intensity for the playoffs, but I'm not sure they consciously play at less intensity other times.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:24pm

That thinking seems to be more common in the NHL and NBA, leagues with long seasons, big playoff fields, and multi-game series (especially now that first-round series are best-of-seven in both leagues). I think it sounds about the same as resting starters late in the season: some teams can probably do it and some teams probably ought not to.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:42pm

It's also very common in top-level soccer conditioning and psychology. Teams specifically tailor individual players' training regimes and match time toward peaking at a specific point in the season - usually the last two months of the season as that's when most of the trophies are decided. This is commonly one of the reasons club managers hate their players being away on international duty (and one of the reasons players tend to be sluggish domestically the season after long international tournaments), as it messes with this delicate process.

That level of specific conditioning is probably harder to do, however, with the shorter and more intense season of the NFL.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:36pm

It's easier to psychologically coast in sports where lack of attention on your part won't get you literally clobbered by opponents going at 100%.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 5:18pm

Yeah, football approaches boxing in that way. Coasting might get you killed.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 6:09pm

Tell that to Albert Haynesworth or Randy Moss. :)

I get your point and it has merit, but players coast in football games all the time, and don't get injured from it. I fully agree the risk is significantly higher, but after 2 or 3 seconds half the players on the field are realistically out of a 6 or 7 second long play. If players didn't take plays off or didn't stop giving effort before the whistle blew it wouldn't be such a compliment to call someone a high motor / high effort player. Those players get pointed out precisely because not everyone on the field does that every play.

But yes, compared to any other major team sport, with the possible exception of Rugby and it's close variants (I don't want to get flamed for just lumping Australian rules football in with Rugby even though I'm lumping Canadian Football in with American Football), the personal risks of not paying close attention and not going all out is much higher.

by Whatev :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:16am

Albert Haynesworth and Randy Moss are much more talented than the average player, even at the professional level. They would still be making millions a year if they didn't coast. High motor is, I think, probably more a function of lack of energy than lack of motivation--when one has only a normal stamina pool to draw on, he ends up not wanting to burn energy rushing after plays he can't influence.

But sometimes it turns out that they could've influenced it.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:54am

"! On the other hand, why did the Patriots draft two running backs, one of whom has barely played"

Its tough to play when you're hurt most of the season.

"The Denver offense can't do anything. They moved the ball on the Pats in the first game, that's not happening tonight."

I don't know why people think this. They had good drives in the first quarter, and then could not move the ball at all for 45 minutes. The patriots switched defensive schemes and the broncos couldn't do anything.

Did you really think the Pats were going to come out in the scheme that didn't work? This is really shitty analysis. Its like you don't even watch the games.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:05am

It is unfortunate that you have to be so rude, in responding to a simple statement which is factually accurate. The Broncos did move the ball in the first game. Your point is correct regarding the Pats switching schemes, but it does not contradict the two sentences you quote. Perhaps the two sentences are incomplete in describing what happened in the first game, but is there some reason you find it useful to adopt such a tone?

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:09am

I find it useful to adopt such tone because its been pointed out time and time again that the Broncos stopped being able to move the ball as soon as the Patriots switched schemes, and yet the "analysis" on here is continually stating that the Broncos moved the ball at will.

Its intellectually dishonest.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:18am

If you're this upset with the analysis on this site, why do you continue to read it?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:25am

It's intellectually dishonest for you to write "at will", when the sentences you quote do not contain those words.

by paddypat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:03pm

I think it's fair to say that the Broncos moved the ball more effectively throughout the first game. They had a late touchdown drive and generally looked more competitive than this time. The Pats did not rally to the ball as well, did not get as much penetration, did not tackle the option as effectively. Yes, the scheme change was significant then, but it was more than just a shift in scheme that shut down the Broncos. The team also played better fundamentals. I was particularly impressed with leverage and squared shoulders--when facing the option, they refused to commit, closing in on Tebow and waiting.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:32pm

By Effectively, you mean they had one drive that went longer than 24 yards, right?

Thats not effective to me.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:34pm

I never said the sentence I quoted said "at will".

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:19pm

", and yet the "analysis" on here is continually stating that the Broncos moved the ball at will."

The word "continually" means something, and it certainly implies that the comment you chose to be so insulting about either made that claim, or implied it. It did not.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:40pm

It's not "intellectually dishonet", it's just bad analysis. Like you, I remembered that the Pats had shut down the Broncos offense for the last three quarters of the first game. Our opinions were clearly better than those of the FO crowd, but that doesn't mean that they were intellectually dishonest. They just didn't look at the first game closely enough. I don't see any dishonesty on their parts.

I'll let others comment on the rudeness.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:33pm

Its dishonest because its been pointed out to Vince a couple of times, and he continues to cling to his story (and DVOA) despite the fact that he knows better.

What actually happened in the game doesn't mesh with what DVOA says happened, so they're just going to ignore it.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:11am

Green Bay clearly prepped for defending the run. For most of the game the Giants got little on the ground.

As for only rushing 3, Manning killed GB when the defense blitzed so Capers must have figured better to hope someone covers versus leaving someone WIDE open. Don't think he had many options here.

Giants clearly covering downfield as the Giants rush wasn't a huge issue most of the game. Still WAY better than the Packers pass rush which was nonexistent.

The fumbles must have been payback for a season of minimal fumbles though certainly the Giants defenders were hacking at the ball at every opportunity.

Do not be surprised if GB allows Finley to test the market. GB wants to keep him but not at a big number and the chronic drops this season may make the open market less appealing.

The tradeoff of cullen Jenkins to Mike Neal came home to roost. Ted is consistent in letting a guy go a year early versus a year late but boy did this bite GB all season as NOBODY replicated Jenkins ability to cave the pocket. Not even CLOSE

And regarding ALL playoff games anybody notice that the usual assortment of defensive holding, PI, and offensive holding calls seemed to all but disappear this postseason?

Guys in every game were getting manhandled, I thought the SAints were trying to strip search Justin Smith, and no flags.

Not a complaint. Just curious if it is my imagination

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:15am

I agree about the penalties. I'm not a huge fan of the officials changing how they call the game to "let the guys play". It always seems to end up in games that get really chippy.

As to the game, I really think that the hail mary at the end of the 1st half won the Giants that game. It seemed like after that point, the Packers were pressing to catch up, and just kept making big mistakes.

I'm not sure that the Packers keep trying the onside kicks if they're not down so far at the half. (not that the onside kicks were a terrible idea in themselves, but they definitely hurt).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:33am

I though the Giants edge rushers had a decent game, especially considering how Pierre-Paul had the responsibility to jam Finley on the line of scrimmage about a dozen times. If you had told me, however, that the tackles for the Giants would be no more productive than they were, however, I would have been surprised that the Packers didn't score more than they did. The Giants secondary picked a nice time to not stumble around like drunks, and the Packers receivers picked a bad time to drop a lot.

I think Rodgers played really well, even with a few throws not seeming as sharp as normal. Put it this way, if Rodgers plays like Flacco, or Alex Smith through three quarters, and the officials don't help out, the Packers might have lost 45-6.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:15pm

I was wondering what the Packers did to get the officials on their side so much. It sucked watching my team get beat so badly even with the officials helping them out.

You hit the rest of my thoughts nicely as well. JPP actually affected several plays by hitting Finley.

The weaknesses the Packers overcame all year were still evident (bad tackling, coverage that wasn't good enough with the bad pass rush, receivers dropping passes they should have caught) and then they decided to add a new wrinkle of not being able to hold onto the ball which was not something they did all year. Some of that was the Giants, some of it was the Packers.

Oh well, I'm curious to see what happens this off season, I figure there will be a lot of new coaches (not because of firing, but because of being hired away) and I wonder if Ted will dip his toe in the free agent market again, they don't make a lot of signings but there have been a few, mostly in the early years, and several others where he made offers that weren't quite big enough. I just have a feeling that he might be a bit more aggressive this year, yeah it's just a hunch and based on the fact that since there is other change going on that it might just happen.

That Giants and Niners game will be interesting at least.

by NYMike :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:29pm

I think Rodgers was a total mixed bag: good decision making, causing trouble with his feet, and missing big throws. He seriously underthrew Jordy Nelson on the play Grant broke up ... Nelson was five yards past him and had to wait for the ball. Missed Finley wide open on third and five just before the fourth down sack, missed Jennings wide open on the first drive, didn't step up far enough to avoid the strip sack and thus missed another wide open Jennings. These plays were the kind of plays the Packers made all year, and yesterday, they missed them. Add putting the ball on the ground and the drops and you have people saying the Giants "blew out" the Packers. 20-13 with eight minutes left is not a blowout.

by Dales :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:40pm

True, 20-13 is not a blowout.

However, it should have been a bigger lead at that point, excepting for some jaw-dropping officiating.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:45pm

Subjectively, it didn't feel like a blowout until the 4th quarter. Especially in the 3rd, when the Giants kept going 3-and-out, I felt like they were missing an opportunity, and cringed knowing that a 10-point lead against Green Bay is (usually) nothing.

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 5:51pm

I agree the Giants lead was very surmountable until the Giants converted on 3rd-and-11 on their final drive. But the offense shouldn't bear the blame for the consecutive 3rd-quarter gone 3-and-outs. DJ Ware picked up the first down on 3rd-and-2, but the 2nd consecutive weekly god-awful spot made them punt (Coughlin should have challenged it). And I know holding calls are always subjective, but thought the one on Chris Snee on the first play of the next drive was notably non-existent. I'm glad the football masses, and not just Giants fans, have noted how awful the refereeing was and how those calls could easily have changed the outcome.

by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:19pm

I'm a little worried that the atrocious officiating in that NYG/GB game will be forgotten amidst the ado of GB losing, the 49ers incredible win, etc. It's not just that the calls were bad (what angle of the Jennings fumble was Leavy looking at, exactly?) but that they were also in situations that could have led to significant impact in the game.

Is the rulebook too big now? In my 8+ years of closely following football I don't recall a season so full of shoddy calls.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:43pm

The refs clearly had the game going to GB (the joke of a roughing the passer on 3rd and 10 being the worst of the lot). But fortunately, every now and then there's nothing the referees can do to stop the right result.

by Junior :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:55pm

Get ready for more of the same this weekend, especially Baltimore-New England. There will be a flag every time Brady is touched and Bernard Pollard will not be allowed to cross the line of scrimmage during play without getting flagged.

I wonder if Baltimore would be better off if the refs just spotted New England a 9-0 lead at the beginning of the game and then call it straight.

Ridiculous of course but I'd bet any amount of money we'll be back here next week discussing several marginal or ridiculous calls that just happen to go the Patriots' way.

NO-SF was great, a blast to watch especially when not having a rooting interest. The only thing missing from that final 9ers drive was Jerry Rice blatantly fumbling.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 6:49pm

On the other hand, the Brady protection issue will even out because any time a NE DB is within 5 yards of a BAL reciever and the receiver doesn't come up with the catch, the refs will throw a DPI flag. Probably the refs will realize that NE's DB's are so bad that the only way a BAL reciever could ever NOT catch a pass, even one thrown by Joe Flacco, is if the Pats DB interfered with him. Either that, or Belichick is somehow using either the Dark Side of the Force or hidden laser beams in his sideline video cameras to illegally screw up the Baltimore passing game. This would be even more probable if Derrick Mason was still on the team...

Meanwhile, Welker and Gronkowski will end up wearing Baltimore defenders fifteen yards downfield (the Ed Reed jacket is all the fashion rage right now, although TE's and RB's prefer the Ray Lewis stole) and there will be no flags.

by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 12:49am

Indeed, the actual score should have been 20-6, as the first GB touchdown came after a terrible call that negated an obvious GB fumble that they didn't even get right after reviewing it!

by MJK :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:10pm

Nice choice of framing. Yes, it was technically 20-13 with 8:00 left...and with 7:50 left, it was 23-13, a two possession game. Having possession in the fourth quarter is so pivital that it is often more important than the actual score (to the point where it has been shown that, on average, a team that is trailing by less than a TD in the 4th quarter is in many cases favored to win the game if they have possession). The last time the Packers had the ball and were within a score (i.e. actively had the opportunity to tie up the game with an offensive play) was at the 13:00 mark, when Rodgers was sacked on 4th down. I would argue that was the last point where the game was really in doubt.

The win probability chart for the game implies that at no point in the 4th quarter did the Giants have less than a 75% probability of winning the game. I agree that that's not a blowout, but it's a pretty commanding win.

by NYMike :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:10pm

I would accept "convincing win." I will admit that when it was 20-13, it did not feel to me like GB would win.

It's the term I heard this morning "Blowout" that I object to. "Blowout" is what NE did to Denver.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:16pm

agreed. i think it was a "domination," and not a blowout. dvoa will probably bear that out.


by Geronimo (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:11am

The Texans' last drive was probably destined to end in an interception, but why the hurry?

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:17am


Yates can hide behind being a kid qb but two of his interceptions were just flat out stupid. The Reed INT was beyond dumb.

He just tossed it up for no reason

by Steve J (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:36am

I put at least some of the blame on Kubiak there. That was the first play after the 2:00 warning, IIRC. There was no reason to tempt Yates with the deep option on that route, and he had the whole TV timeout to explain to Yates that the deep throw was not an option in that situation.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:09pm

Yes. Sending by far their best receiver on a deep route was not the right option in the situation. I don't think you can chastise Yates for trying to get the ball to him.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:45pm

I'm sorry, this just confuses me.

Sending by far their best receiver on a deep route was not the right option in the situation.

Sending Andre Johnson deep against a much smaller CB in single coverage is a great option!!! TJ Yates threw a terrible pass!

I can see blaming the playcalling if the criticism is that they should know that Yates couldn't make that pass. But the play itself is a great call, and I'd bet that Schaub would have made a connection with Johnson on that play.

It's got to be disappointing for Yates and for Texans' fans. He played very well for several weeks, but he really fell apart at the end of this game.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:01pm

Saying it was single coverage is slightly false, unless you aren't counting the guy who actually intercepted the pass as being in coverage on the play.....

Anyway, you will see below that my initial contention was that targeting Johnson was the correct call. I was trying to point out that you can criticise the play call or the actual throw rather than Yates' decision to throw it - but probably didn't do a very good job of it.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:40pm

I like to think that Calvin Johnson would have caught it.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:49am

Don't really agree with this. Heaving it towards Andre Johnson, a great player having a great game, was probably the right idea. However, the execution was poor. And Ed Reed has been doing that his whole career, credit where it is due.

by paddypat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:10pm

I have to agree with this comment. Watching this game after a full season of being a Pats fan, I was making a lot of strange expressions. Oh, so that's what a safety is supposed to do on a play, huh. Ed Reed could give a clinic.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:18pm

Ed Reed was asbsolutely great, even in tackling, One pick and two near picks. He might not have the rings, but 8 picks in 10 playoff games? Just furthering the legend.

by Athelas :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:26pm

“I love Ed Reed. If I could be a defensive player, I’d be Ed Reed -- or Ray Lewis -- between those two guys,” Tom Brady told WEEI.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:49pm

Ed actually looked a step slower this year, but my God, he came to play in this one. Thankfully, the reports are he's okay going forward for the Title Game.

by 0tarin :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 6:31pm

Agreed; Reed hasn't been quite himself for most of this season (understandably so, mind you), but he sure looked like he came back yesterday. Although Classic Reed would've had 3 picks instead of the one. I trust he'll be playing next week, but I'm worried that he'll be the shadow of himself that he's been for the first week after injuries in the past.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:01pm

Why the pass? There was plenty of time to let Foster do his thing.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:46pm

More generally, Foster was having a great game, and it seemed that the Texans neglected him in the fourth quarter.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:00pm

Absolutely. On NFLN they showed an angle from the opposite EZ and it showed that Reed (as the only deep safety) had already slid over on Johnson before Yates had even thrown the ball.

Beyond that making it a dumb decision, you could see the TE running up the seam wide open. If Yates had just looked away he would have seen that in front of him, a completion gets it down to at least the 15 and perhaps even a TD.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:16am

And rodgers did take some shots downfield. He didn't connect. When he had time, and there were multiple times where he was looking and looking, nobody was open and Rodgers wasn't going to force the ball. So he scrambled or threw it away.

The one shot that may have changed the game was when Osi swatted the ball out of Rodgers hand as he was getting ready to loft the ball to a wide open Jennings.

by Steve J (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:33am

My assumption is that a lot of Rodgers' scrambles were on deep plays that never materialized. My read was that the Giants were running a lot of man coverage with two deep safeties, rather than Cover-2.

by JasonK :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:08pm

This is the second straight week where everyone has wondered why the Giants opponent hasn't thrown deep more. I'd guess that off camera coverage has a lot to do with it.

by NYMike :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:33pm

Totally agree with this. But we wonder because TV never showed us what was going on, and the crack commentary of Troy "Feels Good About Himself" Aikman never mentioned it, so we're left to speculate. A real shortcoming in the coverage of this game, especially considering the effect it had on the outcome.

I don't get in this game, similar to the 2007 game, why GB didn't just chew off five yards at a crack when the Giants dropped so deep, especially on first down. That was one thing I really noticed in that Ice Bowl II ... that there were wide open spaces in the middle short, but no plays there. Same thing yesterday. I think McCarthy's tendencies were sniffed out really well by the Giants.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:40pm

I really want to see the all-22 cam this week; the Giants DBs haven't covered this well all season. It makes sense that Amukumara might improve after missing training camp and most of the season, but where the heck was this Aaron Ross for the last three years?

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:45pm

GB didn't throw deep more because the Giants had seven guys in coverage all game and all of them were more than 10 yards off the LOS. The problem is that Green Bay apparently doesn't have any eight yard patterns in the playbook anymore.

by Jay Z (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 9:18pm

"I think McCarthy's tendencies were sniffed out really well by the Giants."

This same defense has been gashed by the Packers in the regular season in 2007, 2010, and this year. I guess it would be a clever strategy to throw games during the regular season in case you meet a team in the playoffs, even though they didn't even make the playoffs last year.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:22pm

sorry--sarcasm overload. what are you actually trying to say? that the giants SHOULD have it figured out by now (by virtue of prior "gashings"), or that they don't really have it figured out because of games other than the one being discussed?

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:31pm

Jennings wasn't wide open. He had a corner in trail coverage on inside technique and a safety already moving over top. If that ball is thrown it could get broken up or picked - not that Jennings didn't have a step and not that Rodgers wasn't going to try it - but the "wide open" Jennings is after the cornerback checked out of coverage because the ball was on the ground.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:17am

I thought the 49ers defense played quite well, in general. They got pressure on Brees and never let the Saints get moving consistently. Three of the four touchdowns were on big plays; on two of them, it was just poor tackling, even though the 49ers had been tackling so well all day.

As for the Alex Smith kneel-vs.-score question: it's really close. I'd probably score the touchdown there; forcing a team, even one with Drew Brees playing QB, to get a touchdown instead of a field goal to win is a big deal. If the game were tied, it's a little different; in that case, if you kick a field goal, then the Saints do, you still have overtime. However, in this case, a Saints field goal would have given them the lead, likely with not enough time left for you to counter.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:07pm

Optimal strategy might not be kneel-kneel-kneel-kneel-kick, though. Also requiring consideration are kneel-sneak-sneak-sneak-kick, kneel-sneak-sneak-go for it-go for it, etc.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:34pm

Of course, you're right. Mine was an oversimplification, for sure.

Perhaps I'm being too risk averse, but my preference is to get the guaranteed touchdown if you can, so that a field goal won't beat you.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:50pm

I think that the thing to do there was score the TD. The 49ers were trailing, even short FGs can be missed, and, most importantly, they have the 49ers' defense. If they were stuck with a weak defense, like the Pats' or the Packers', then yeah, they need to think about the clock more. But their defense is one of the best in the NFL. They should have been up to the task of keeping the Saints from scoring a TD with only 2 minutes on the clock.

Now in hindsight, that judgment was wrong, but I still think it's reasonable.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:11pm

To be honest, I was rather glad the Saints scored as fast as they did on their last drive. I had nightmares of a grinding drive that put the Saints in field goal position with 5 seconds left.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:35pm

They have the 49ers defense, but the Saints have the Saints offense. Maybe I'm overconditioned by years of the pre-Wade Phillips Texans, but I don't think you can count on Drew Brees et al not scoring a touchdown in two minutes against anyone short of 00 Ravens/02 Bucs levels.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:48pm

I thought a lot about the kneel issue. My wife and I were discussing it as the game unfolded.

Going into that play, there was 2:20-something left on the clock, with the Saints having 1 timeout left.

If Smith kneels at the 1, the clock continues to run. The Saints probably spend their last timeout north of the 2 minute warning, since that saves them a few more seconds. The Niners can then kneel on 1st down to get to the 2 minute warning. Then, kneeling twice more takes 40 seconds of playclock plus ~1-2 seconds of actual playtime per kneel off. The Niners can then either take a delay of game or spend their last timeout as the playclock hits all zeros to maximize time off the clock. They then kick a FG to go ahead. According to a study I read a couple of years back, the median amount of time taken off the clock for short FG's is 3 seconds, but can be as long as 5-6 seconds if the clock operator is friendly.

So, best case for the Saints, the Niners get a FG to go ahead with 0:34 left on the clock. Assuming they then kneel on the kickoff, Brees gets the ball on their own 20 with 0:34 left and no timeouts, needing a FG to win. If the Niners manage to kill a couple more seconds per kneel and the FG takes a couple more, they have under 0:30. If they try to run the kickoff back, they'll burn ~5-10 seconds, and have approximately 25-30, maybe with slightly better field position.

So your choice is to be up by 5 or 7 and give Brees the ball with 2+ minutes and a timeout needing a TD to win or tie, or to be up by 2 and give Brees the ball with approximately 30 seonds and no timeouts, needing a FG to win or tie. It's close, but I think I opt for the latter scenario.

And as another poster mentioned, three kneels isn't even the optimal strategy. If I were calling the plays, I would call sneak (instructing Smith to try NOT to get the TD but to try to dive for zero yards), sneak again for zero yards, and then a regular running play. This would burn slightly more time than kneeling, and would give you a pretty good chance of getting the TD anyway on 3rd down. So you have a high probability of ending up in the same situation (up by 2 with ~30 seconds left, Saints out of timeouts), but also a decent chance of being up by 5 or 7 with just over a minute left, and the Saints out of timeouts. I think either scenario is preferable to the one they ended up in.

Of course, a penalty or a fumbled snap is killer, so conservatives might argue in favor of just taking the Points, the way Smith did. An in any case, it's all moot, and we got an even more exciting finish.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:20pm

A very good summary, I think.

One minor point: I believe a rule was instituted within the last 5-10 years that a maximum of 5 seconds can run off the clock on a made field goal.

by mrh :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:54pm

Norv Turner and Philip Rivers approve of this strategy.


by Tom Gower :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 6:03pm

It's :06 and was instituted after one of Vinatieri's season-ending kicks, I believe SB36, when the kick came with :09 left and you saw the final seconds tick off the clock as the ball bounced on the ground after going through the uprights.

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 12:14pm

IIRC, there was 0:07 on the clock in SB36 when the ball was snapped for Viniateri's gamewinner, but I also remember seeing the final 2 seconds tick off clearly after the kick went thru and the official's hands went up. Some Rams fans had a long internet discussion about a conspiracy to favor the Pats. (Patriots! Soon after 9-11!)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:21am

I'd suspend Vonn Miller for half of next season. This was not the typical chippiness at the nd of a blowout. It was a dangerous action against a player with his back turned, after a play was over. Sit his ass down for eight games, and have him reflect upon being a professional.

Halfway through the third quarter, I'm thinking the 49ers at least have to inquire about Peyton Manning, lest they spend years wasting great talent on both lines of scrimmage, and the rest of the defense as well. Then Alex Smith turns into Steve Young. Now I'm glad it isn't my responsibility to make the personnel decisions for the 49ers.

Smith's dominance of Bushrod was the most impressive non-qb thing I saw all weekend, along with Justin Smith playing like a damned rhinoceros with a mood disorder.

Boy, I woulda' liked to see the Texans have Schaub playing all year.

Anybody shocked by the Giants win wasn't paying attention, or had a cheese overdose. Yes, the game is extremely qb centered now. No, the Packers' qb is not hugely better than the Giants' qb. The Giants are better on the line of scrimmage. Lambeau is not a venue that confers a big advantage to the home defense, in terms of inhibiting the opponent's passing attack; it just isn't that loud, and the turf doesn't give a big advantage to pass rushers.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:03pm

I have often thought that there is over-coaching in the NFL, especially on offence, manifesting in overly conservative, sub-optimal play-calling. Many a time you will see barely functioning offences seem to click into gear with time running out or when they desperately need to score. Obviously they will often be playing against softer defences in these situations, but I believe it is at least in small part because players are allowed to play more instinctively, with less coaching interference. Watching Alex Smith and the 49ers passing offence explode in the last 4 minutes on Saturday reinforced this opinion.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:09pm

Supposedly at the very end of Capers' tenure in Houston, Carr was allowed to call the plays for half the game. The halves he called tended to involve a hell of a lot more offense than the halves called by Joe Pendry (who I think had replaced Chris Palmer as offensive co-ordinator by that point).

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:45pm

Didn't Minnesota's offense get much better for awhile when Favre was calling plays instead of Chilly?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:21pm

You may be on to something here, and it definitely deserves inquiry. I said last week that both the 49ers and Giants would improve their chances of winning by being extremely aggressive in the first half, especially in the first quarter. They were somewhat, but not as much as I would have preferred, if I had a strong rooting interest. Yes, being that agressive probably increases the chances of losing 45-24, instead of 30-17, but who cares about that, other than a coach who, if only subconciously, thinks the former score is more embarrassing, or career threatening, depending on the resume?

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:40pm

Watch Matt Cassel play for the Patriots.

As soon as they stopped trying to keep him to a limited playbook, the Patriots DVOA jumped about 40%.

The worst thing you can do to an offense is limit the things a QB is allowed to do. Even if the guy doesn't throw a good deep ball, throwing the occasional one keep the defense from just ignoring that part of the field. (Same with throwing over the middle/etc)

Its just too easy to defend a guy when you know exactly what hes going to do.

by Viliphied (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:37pm

Re: Peyton Manning

Good God man, are you insane? No. No No No NO. 1000 times no. He may never be able to play again. Even if he is, he might not be the same Peyton we're used to, and any one sack could turn in to a career ender. Oh, and he'd probably cost a draft pick or two.

So, to sum up: No.

by Mark L (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:03pm

Suspend Miller for 8 games? That's the biggest over reaction I've ever read on this site. Calm down, Will.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:23pm

I am calm. I calmly stating that Von Miller is a cowardly punk who took a run at player with his back turned, after a play was over. People who do that shouldn't play in the NFL.

by Andre Carter (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:50pm

On the other hand, it looks there'll always be a place for people who play like that on the CBS panel. Suh's appearance there was shameful.

by tunesmith :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 6:23pm

Oh, dear...

...took a run (false) at a player with his back turned (false), after a play was over (false).

1) He did not take a run. He was alongside, and threw his shoulder into him.
2) His back was not turned, it looked more like it was into his side.
3) The play was not over, technically. Ref had not yet blown the whistle. At best it was simultaneous.

And, I've actually been sitting here laughing at you. Will, the guy didn't even fall over.

Yeah, it was unsportsmanlike. I could understand a fine. But by the time it went out of bounds, it was clearly a two-team affair. And this is somehow worse than Albert Haynesworth almost scraping a guy's eye out with his cleat.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 7:20pm

Yuu have hallucinated that I stated or implied that what he did was worse than Haynesworth. Either that, or you are dishonest, so you wrote that "And this is somewhat worse than Albert Haynesworth" in a disingenuous effort to attribute to me views that I do not have. Or you are too damned dumb to understand that one should not ridicule what someone wrote, and then bring in a point that was not made, unless you wish to have that connection made. Which is it, hallucinating, dishonest, or just stupid?

Your account of the event is inaccurate.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 8:16pm

To maybe add something calming to this if possible....

Haynesworth's stomping suspension was for 5 games. So it's possible for someone to assume that when you call for an 8 game suspension of Miller, you're saying that the incident in question is worse than Haynesworth's.

I think that's definitely faulty logic - since perhaps you think Haynesworth's suspension should have been 10, 20, or 50 games. But I can see where someone might make that assumption/connection.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 9:02pm

Well, if someone assumed that I thought Haynesworth's suspension was sufficient, it is an assumption that has no basis in anything I've written. In any case, the reason I took the tone I did with my last post was because I thought it clear that Tunesmith indicated that he desired some hostility, because I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and assumed that he had enough sense to understand that the tone he adopted would likely be mirrored. If my assumption was in error, I regret the vitriol.

I agreed with Muth's reasoning for four games, and then I doubled it, because I really dislike such rank stupidity as Miller's, and wish to discourage it with very harsh measures.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:32pm

I don't think it's even the strongest reaction to a cheap shot that's ever been posted on the site. (I suspect a search like "site:www.footballoutsiders.com James Harrison" would probably find one.)

If the NHL can suspend a player for a quarter of a season for a cheap shot in a playoff game (and this was nearly 20 years ago), certainly the NFL can consider something similar. 8 games is more than that, of course, but those are both more than a token suspension and less than a Karras-type suspension.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:51pm

Ray Lewis killed a guy and wasn't suspended.

Although, more to the point, Butkus bit a ref in a game and wasn't suspended. Professional sports regard gambling as the lone cardinal sin; it's worse than murder.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:20pm

"Ray Lewis killed a guy and wasn't suspended."

Really? When was that?

by Junior :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:23pm

The week or day before the Denver-Atlanta Super Bowl in 1999.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:27pm

No. He was charged with killing someone. He was almost surely an accessory after the fact, but that is a different thing than being a killer.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:35pm

He wasn't suspended for that, either.

by Dean :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:57pm

Here we go again with the ignorance.

by allskdf (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 9:31pm

Look into it. What it looks like is Ray-Ray got one his buds to do him a solid and take the rap.

The facts include: he was indicted. His white suit was never seen. He plead to obstruction and testified against his friends.

They were acquitted.

I'd be shocked if there wasn't (and isn't) money transferred to his friends.

He settled with the family of the deceased.

by Dean :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:18pm

What we have is conjecture and a continuing smear campaign against a guy who didn't rat out his friends. Maybe he did more than that, maybe not. You act as if your assumption of a payoff has any factual basis whatsoever.

What we also have - which is conveniently ignored every time his name comes up - is the fact that Ray Lewis got scared straight that night. I'm not a big believer in people genuinely changing their ways. But after a DECADE of being a ROLE MODEL - yes, I said it - without so much as a hint of trouble, it's time to acknowledge that the Man Ray Lewis is much different than the Boy Ray Lewis once was.

by SFC B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 10:48am

...it's time to acknowledge that the Man Ray Lewis is much different than the Boy Ray Lewis once was.That really does say it well. Of course Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar never got a chance to become better men because they were stabbed to death by Ray Lewis and/or his friends.

by Dean :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:46pm

Yes, that's true. But let's not lionize them, either. It's not like they were out collecting for the Red Cross.

by some guy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2012 - 6:44pm

Right. Don't lionize the murder victims - only the "role model" who managed not to get involved in the killing of anyone else, and for a whole decade at that! I know I can barely go a week without becoming an accessory to murder, myself.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 8:27pm

At least his justification for it wasn't "he should be suspended because he made someone punch him." That's a bigger overreaction.

Call it cheap, but it was still a football move, unlike, say, punching someone in the head.

by Purds :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 12:37am

Will, I am not sure I'd go 8 games, but I certainly agree with 4. However, it didn't seem to me to be all that violent of a cheap shot in general, but for me the sticking point is when he did it. Heck, any one who has seen me post knows I am a Colt lover/NE hater, but I can still see injustice when it's in my face. If that hit had caused a couple of NE players to go nuts in instant retaliation (which, I think, might be a reasonable reaction in such a situation), then NE could have been out a few players for the AFC Championships, a situation that just can't happen. You can't have a guy whose season is over end someone else's season just because he's pissed. Too bad, Miller. I think he should sit for 4 games for the timing of the hit. The hit itself -- well, I'd argue that we see that all too often at the end of games between teams that don't like one another, and usually both the cheap shot artist (Miller, in this case) and the guy getting blindsided have games in the future at stake. Because Miller could have potentially upset the legitimate fairness of the AFC Championships, he needs a severe punishment.

by LaughingAtTheIgnorance (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:22am

Aaron Schatz: I think I need to throw something in at the end of Audibles where I talk about how the Giants played really well today, lest the Giants fans all call us "haters" again.
That quote is so telling, we can feel the hate dripping from every word. Reading that quote you would think the score was 23-20. The score was 37-20!! and without help from the zebras, it should have been worst. So take your attitude and shove it.
I think you are a bunch of kids who think playing real football is akin to playing Madden. Take down your controllers and understand how real football is played by real men.

And to the guy who does not understand how the Giants can turn on a "switch", here is a clue, health!
These guys are worst than Bill Leavy.
You can go back to Madden 12 now, sheesh.

by mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:41am

Look, I too get the sense that Aaron has some antipathy toward the Giants (disclaimer: I am Giants fan) but the absurd personal attacks are barely worthy of ESPN. Not sure why you can't handle a writer not giving your team the credit you think they deserve, but he showed a lot more respect for the Giants than you did for him.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:47am

I'll put on my mindreader glasses and say that I doubt, a lot, that Aaron has antipathy towards the Giants. I think it more likely that Aaron is trying to do a an extraordinarly difficult thing, developing a means to understand NFL football via statistics. I think the Giants in recent years have made that an even more damnably difficult task, and that gets relected in Aaron's commentary on the Giants.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:35pm

As a Giants fan who's been here almost since the beginning, I can say pretty definitively that I've never seen any antipathy towards the Giants at all. Don't you love how all of these comments manage to only show up after a big win, and disappear shortly after the losses? This is worse than any of the comments from the crazed Packers fans in recent weeks. And at least Paul M had the guts & honesty to return and stand up for himself.

by ChrisFromNJ :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:26pm

As a Giants fan who has been here for a loooong time (but barely ever comments)... I think that Aaron definitely had some antipathy towards the Giants during the 2007 season. Here was a team that wasn't very good statistically, going on a highly-unlikely playoff run and beating the undefeated Patriots, who weren't just the #1 team by the numbers, but were also the team Aaron roots for.

Of course he'd be pissed! I don't blame him in the least.

But after the next season, when the Giants were actually really good in the regular season and then didn't get anywhere in the playoffs, I think Aaron's antipathy abated and he's been more than fair since; I mean, he specifically said that the Giants were a good matchup against the Packers and thought they'd be the team to give them their first loss, fer crissakes.

Now I do wish that, instead of talking about how the Giants' constant second-half collapses are baffling and consistent, the FO team would point out what seems obvious to most Giants fans: the main culprit is injuries, which we as a team seem to do a very bad job of dealing with. I like the players, I like the coaching staff (mostly), but the trainers need an overhaul.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:51pm

I think Aaron became a little more understanding about the imperfection and inevitable failures of what his task is: to understand, explain and predict a sport played by fallible humans.

Hell, the year after the Giants won in 2007, the Cardinals went on an arguably more inexplicable run.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:40pm

I think that was pretty easily explicable, actually: the Cardinals were always that good, they just stopped playing after wrapping up their terrible division preposterously early.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:36pm

Yes, I totally agree. That was the true definition of "turning the switch on" for the playoffs, because the Cards just didn't care after they clinched. However, IIRC, Aaron basically flatly denied this reasoning, and thought that losing 47-7 to the Patriots in a blizzard meant something about the Cards when it was pretty obvious that they just didn't care a damn about that game.

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 6:06pm

Another Giants' fan commenting (redundantly, probably). I think it's pretty silly to interpret Aaron's expressed toward the Giants' true quality level in 2007 and this year as antipathy. I interpret it that he's saying that we should be skeptical that a team can play so inconsistently and shoddily for most of the season (which the Giants undeniably did in '07 and '11) suddenly is permanently changed for the better, as they inexplicably pulled off in '07 and are halfway toward doing this year. It's simply expressing skepticism about small-sample observations, which I can't argue with. Just because the Giants are undeniably playing much better the last few weeks doesn't give us license to ignore the factors that caused them to go 7-7 the first 15 weeks of the season. That's not hate, it's faith in the data.

by Kurt :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:45pm

"Antipathy toward the Giants" might be a bit strong, but I think it's very clear that Aaron is not a Spock-like analyst who can easily absorb new information, but rather freely roots for outcomes that confirm his previous beliefs. This isn't meant as a rip; he's human. And the Giants happen to play into these tendencies more often than most. Aaron's pre-SB 42 podcast with Simmons is still a thing of beauty.

Last week's Audibles were a perfect example. The whole theme was how "unfortunate" it was that Atlanta kept getting stuffed on fourth down, because now all the stupid commoners won't "get" how it's unquestionably the right thing to go for it on fourth and short. I don't need Counselor Troi to tell me that Aaron really, really wanted the Falcons to make those plays.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:01pm

Aaron doesn't have an antipathy toward the Giants. He is trying to understand the Giants, who have, somewhat predictably now, confounded DVOA. They are the worst team by DVOA in the playoffs, and it is not close. They are also the best looking team in the playoffs (it is not close). They just dismantled a team everyone said was the best in football (and it was not even as close as 37-20, given there were a few zebras with green and yellow on under the black and white).

That is something Aaron would like to be able to predict! But for now, he's looking for an explanation.

[I think the explanation is very simple: Eli Manning. When Eli said at the beginning of the year he was in the same class as Brady and Brees, people laughed. He has done just about enough to shut them up now, I think. Having a Serious Franchise Quarterback makes a team much more likely to win close games than they otherwise would be. Unless something is holding them back (in this case, receivers who dip their hands in butter and a dicey defensive back seven), a SFB simply doesn't lose very often except to a similar quarterback [think about the Kurt Warner game against Green Bay in 2008). That's the modern NFL. Brady and Rodgers also play with dicey defenses, but they have much, much more talented receivers than NY. Fortunately for Eli, NY's defense showed up, and his receivers haven't had a really bad game... yet. (The Manningham drop, Bradshaw drop, Ballard drop three and outs are coming, folks. Dread them.)]

If you take DVOA seriously - and you can't blame Aaron for doing so - you should think that NY is a flawed team. And it is. A lot of GB's failure is down to turnovers and Aaron Rodgers not being willing to take what the defense was giving him. But the statistics don't show that (yet) so Aaron is still looking for explanations.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:11pm

I'm an Eli fan, but still I don't think he's in the same category as Peyton/Brady/Brees/Rodgers. That's not a knock on Eli, but a measure of respect for those guys who have completely changed my expectations on what is possible for a QB to produce.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:43pm

I'm just happy the "Josh Freeman is super better than Eli" strings from pre-season have dried up.


by mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:42pm

All right, I'll defer the collected wisdom of the esteemed FO readers above. Perhaps I'm putting too much stock in the snarky, dismissive Simmons podcast from 2007 mentioned above. That was when I was first introduced to FO and maybe it colored my views a little too much. First impressions and all that.

No question that the Giants are maddeningly unpredictable, a fact that I'm sure vexes Aaron and his ilk...but it vexes Giants fans even more :)

by ChrisFromNJ :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 5:28pm

Eli turning the light on is part of it, sure, but all the defensive injuries (and the fact they're all healthy now) is WAY more important.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:45pm

most definitely.. eli has played well all season, the holes in the defense has been the issue.

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 6:11pm

I don't see how you can point to Eli explaining the inexplicable Giants resurgence (though you could in 2007). He's been consistently excellent all year, and still they were maddeningly inconsistent on their way to a 7-7 record. I'd say it appears to be much more related to the pass coverage, which has gone from at least 3 completely blown coverages per game to somehow covering Green Bay's army of receivers competetently.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 1:57pm

I did not mean to point to Eli as the reason for the difference between Week 13 and Week 18. The difference there was basically injuries on the defense, and to a lesser extent the end of the Prince Amukamara, Starting Cornerback Experiment, not unrelated.

Actually, the coverage didn't seem that great in the Green Bay game. Green Bay's receivers just dropped a few important passes and Rodgers was gun shy and didn't hit his guys when they were open. There were a lot of 15-20 yard crossing routes that looked really open in the broadcast that Rodgers just didn't throw.

by LaughingAtTheIgnorance (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:00pm

I don't pretend I know what I am writing about like he does.
Here is another gem

Aaron Schatz: The Packers should have bootlegged Rodgers out when they went for it on fourth-and-5 from the 40. I'm pretty sure Rodgers would have had a choice to either run for it himself or hit a short pass after the bootleg. Instead, they keep him in the pocket, the back misses his block, and Rodgers goes down.

Pretty amazing description of the play, one thing missing though, there was a team on the other side playing good D. They have been known to pressure the qb every now and then, but reading this site, you would think Rogers just goes down on his own. You call that respect?

by DGL :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:22pm


by some guy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2012 - 6:55pm

You're arguing that, in order to avoid crediting the Giant D, Aaron is saying Rodgers fell down on his own? I get it; this is satire. Good stuff!

by Dales :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:43pm

Grow up.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:53pm

You still need to explain how the Giants played so poorly against the Redskins.

I see "hate dripping from every word," but not from what Aaron wrote.

by some guy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2012 - 6:53pm

I'm fascinated to ponder what it must be like spending your time scouring the internet for rage-fuel like this. Oh man, (you're under the mistaken impression that) someone on the internet doesn't think your city's Grown Men Playing Childrens' Game squadron is any good. World ending. Someone On The Internet Is Wrong.

Good thing you showed Schatz. Your highly original and well-argued point will certainly cause this site to be taken down within the week.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:33am

I don't get the criticism of John Fox to defer to the second half after winning the opening toss. The general sentiment seems to be, "You distrust your QB so much that you'd give Tom Brady the ball to start the game?!"

To me, deferring always seems to be the correct move. If you manage the clock properly, you can get an extra possession, essentially, and score on two consecutive possessions (end of first half, beginning of second). And, I would interpret Fox's deferral as, "You trust your team so much that you expect them at least to keep it close in the first half, so that getting the ball first in the second is a huge advantage."

by Nathan :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:30pm

Pats also always defer whenever they win the coin toss. They haven't elected to take a kick to start the game since the KC Brady knee game. I'm pretty sure they do this because Brady's 2 minute drill is so good it almost seems like a forgone conclusion sometimes that they'll score before the half, then get the ball back and score again to start the 2nd half. So when they win, they defer, and when they lose most teams elect to receive. I can't remember the last time I saw the Pats start the game with an offensive possession... By deferring Fox was putting the Pats in an unfamiliar situation. I thought it was a pretty shrewd move at the time actually. In hindsight it seemed to help them get a fast start out of the gate in a way they haven't lately, but hindsight is 20/20.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:34pm

It seems to me that deferring is pretty standard in both college and pro - but then I haven't seen enough pro coin tosses to be sure. Certainly at the college level, coaches seem to prefer the option to decide in the third quarter.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 9:09pm

Harbaugh Niners also always defer, presumably for opposite reasons.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:46pm

Deferring is almost always the right decision. Even if you don't gain the extra possession, you have more information in the 2nd half. So you want as many possession as possible in the 2nd half.

by mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:34am

The Giants' DBs played very well last week against the Falcons, but it was easy to write that off as a one-off against a less-than-elite passing offense.

This week, the pass rush was good, but not dominant. Considering the number of times Rodgers looked down the field, found his first and sometimes second read covered, and then took off running, you'd have to assume that the secondary was terrific, which was shocking given the way they had been lit up by Brees, Rodgers, and Romo in the second half of the season.

IMO, that's the primary reason for the outcome we saw...although the fumble recoveries didn't hurt.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:54pm

you'd have to assume that the secondary was terrific, which was shocking given the way they had been lit up by Brees, Rodgers, and Romo in the second half of the season.

It was shocking given the way they were lit up by Tavaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, and Rex Grossman. Unlike the DL, it wasn't just injuries that hurt the Giants defensive backfield - they really were that awful for most of the season. I have no idea what changed, but I'm really glad it has.

by rich316 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 9:08pm

Long time listener, first time caller.

There was actually a similar situation to the DL as in the secondary. In week 3 of the preseason, Terrel Thomas went down with a season-ending injury. He was widely considered to be a player who was about to break out as the top CB on the Giants, even considering that Corey Webster is a good player in his own right. He lead the Giants in tackles and interceptions last year, and was extremely good in blitzing and in run-stopping. His coverage had been an issue, but by all accounts he was about to take his game to the next level. Aaron Ross, a bust of a first rounder, had to step in and replace him. He was abused for pretty much the whole year. Prince Amukamara, considered to be the top cover corner out of college and a steal at #19 for the Giants in the 2011 draft, broke his foot in the second day of training camp and didn't start to practice until week 8, and didn't play for a few more weeks. There were additional season-ending injuries to the secondary depth to the Giants in the first half of the season. Amukamara has played the best games of his young career against the Falcons and the Packers. Jacquian Williams, a 6th round rookie super-athletic coverage linebacker/safety, had been forced into the rotation by the season-ending injury to starting MLB Jon Goff, and has recently stopped making rookie mistakes. Michael Boley, the Will who was forced to play MLB by the Goff injury, was injured for the much-discussed losing streak that featured losses to the niners, eagles, saints, and pack. He's the on-field play-caller and takes primary responsibility for covering TEs, and also is a good blitzer (2 sacks of Rogers). This has been the story of the giant's season - terrible defensive injury luck that has been patched over by a sensational coaching job from Coughlin, and a combination of health and maturity from key rookies at just the right time.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:49pm

good breakdown.

and your 2011 AGL champ is.... !

by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 11:52am

I guess Patrick Peterson was taken with the no. 5 pick only for his punt return ability.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:04pm

That helped. I seem to recall some prospect analyses that while Peterson was the more physically talented player and had a higher ceiling (plus his return skills), Amukamara was the better cover guy in college.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:54pm

I think that the Giants DBs must have played a pretty good game, but if GB's receivers had simply caught the balls that hit them in the hands, and if Rodgers hadn't missed two wide open passes he hits about 90% of the time, then the Giants DBs would have looked pretty average overall. The only thing they really did above average was strip the ball, everything else was more GB miscues that covered up the rare miscues the Giants did make on D.

The Giants offense, on the other hand, never seemed to make a mistake for GB to capitalize on.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:59pm

True, but average would constitute a monumental improvement.

by NYMike :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:03pm

This is my sense of the game, too, that the Packers missed a bunch of opportunities and the Giants not one.

The one I never see mentioned was the play where Grant broke up the pass to Jordy Nelson. Nelson was five yards past him, and Rodgers underthrew it. So make that three big plays that Rodgers just plain missed.

by Dales :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 9:16pm

They definitely missed more than one. In particular, Manning had a receiver open in the left corner of the end zone, and saw him, but got hit while throwing. We had first and goal inside the 10 at least once without punching it in.

Great game, but not one where the Giants took every opportunity given and cashed in.

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 6:46pm

"the Packers missed a bunch of opportunities and the Giants not one." Certainly the Packers missed more, but the Giants did not cash in on every opportunity, as I thought they might have to to have a chance. In first half they recovered an onside kick, and so started a drive at the Packers' 40, and came away with zero points. They had first and goal at the 5 on the ensuing drive and got 3. As noted below, Eli had an open receiver in the end zone on the first drive but got hit, and they got 3 instead of 7 (which was better than the Packers got in the 2nd half when they had a similarly open guy but Rogers got strip sacked). Not to mention the refs extending 2 Packer drives ending in TD's and taking away a Giants' first down in the 3rd quarter (sorry, can't pass up anothe gratuituous dig at the awful refing.) On the other hand, the Giants more than took advantage of an "opportunity", if you can even call it that, at the end of the first half with the hail mary TD.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:44am

Just as the Cardinal baseball fans gave up on their team so did Giants fans.

Hence, I struggle giving their fan base much attention because as a group they wrote this team off weeks if not months ago.

by LaughingAtTheIgnorance (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:49am

Aaron Schatz: Ryan Grant gets stripped, an immediate touchdown for the Giants makes it 30-13, and this thing is over. The Packers are going to kick themselves all offseason. I don't know if I should feel vindicated or not. On one hand, all season long I've been saying that the Packers were not an all-time great team, no matter what people thought. On the other hand, I did say that they were better than the Giants, and I expected them to win this game.

Aaron, How can you keep coming up with these gems. You thought the Packers were better than the Giants and the Giants beat them, what vindication do you want? How about some crow?

by Quincy :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:13pm

Please stop. The lack of respect thing is obnoxious as well as a figment of your imagination. You're comments reflect poorly on us Giants fans who appreciate this site.

by LaughingAtTheIgnorance (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:36pm

Yup, the content of this site is the figment of somebody's imagination for sure.

by LaughingAtTheIgnorance (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:38pm

Yup, the content of this site is the figment of somebody's imagination for sure.

by NYMike :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:00pm

I'm going top join the chorus of people telling you to go away. If you don't like the analysis, go away. If you don't like the tone, go away. If you want to be insulting, moronic and rude, there's a site for that. It's called go.espn.com Run over there and blast away.

Of course, no one will notice.

And from now on, you won't hear a peep from me when you comment. I encourage everyone else to join me in imparting the treatment LATI has earned.

by rich316 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:03pm

Yeah, pretty much. Unfortunately it seems that Giants fans have (IMO) a slightly deserved reputation for whining when others don't take their team seriously. Given the results of the past 5 years, there is considerable grounds for Giants fans to believe that their team has the talent to be a dominant team every year, and yet some combination of coaching and bad luck has prevented that from happening. That's not a complaint, just a statement that sports in general and the NFL in particular are so random that little things beyond anybody's control (for example, a the discharge of a gun stuffed into a certain star WR's belt) can swing seasons. Despite this, the Giants have enjoyed relative success - a recent Superbowl win, and several playoff appearances. It's the constant tantalization that their team could be so much more that causes great frustration among the fans, and they take it out on others when people suggest that their team just isn't that good. And hey, maybe I'm a homer and they just aren't that good. The results can be persuasively argued to make that case. The Giants have just been a very, very weird team the past few years, and it's hard to have a coherent position about them.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:50am

To Ben Muth: when your hubris has you keeping your Hall of Fame QB on the field in the second half of a game that you lead by 35 and still throwing passes in the 4th quarter, and said QB actually calls a time out instead of taking a delay of game penalty just so he can channel his inner Randall Cunningham and get his punt off correctly, you have to expect something is going down at the end of it all.

In regards to Von Miller, to paraphrase Chris Rock, I'm not saying he should have done it. But I understand.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:01pm

You understand a professional football player being such a punk that he takes a running shot at a lineman who has his back completely turned, after a play is over, because the professional football player is mad about the opposing qb punting on third down? If Von Miller is so mad that he has to have a piece of somebody, well, there are a lot of players he could have faced up against, and thrown down with. Instead, he decided to be a complete and total coward, in a league mostly comprised of men with extreme physical courage. Von Miller doesn't belong in the league if he acts that way, and he should get a very long suspension to mull that over.

by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:13pm

By now Belichick haters should accept that he doesn't do this kind of stuff to run up the score or otherwise belittle teams. He does it because an actual game serves as the best practice field possible and he seeks perfection with his team.

If the opposing team or its fans simply cannot handle that, well, screw them.

Also, what Will Allen said.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:21pm

I've never understood the attitude in US sports (or is it only football?) that trying to turn a beating into a humiliation is somehow not sporting. When a Premier League team gets annihilated, there will be criticism aplenty for the losers (for allowing it to happen to them) and none for the victors - even when the winning team is a Manchester City or Chelsea and the loser a Blackpool or Swansea, with a difference of at least an order of magnitude in the scope of their salary and transfer budgets in a way that's impossible in the NFL. Indeed, a winning team be would more likely to be criticized as boring for taking its foot off the gas and shutting up shop to settle for 2-0 (as Mourinho's Chelsea often did).

These guys are adults and professionals, and the resources available to each team are roughly similar. There are no Alabama vs. South Western North Dakota Tech games in the NFL, much less the playoffs. If you don't like getting humiliated, play better.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:44pm

I think this comes from all the youth and school sports level. I've coached summer league soccer and I was required to play all the kids for at least one period, you have to go through the line with the other team and do the high fives. It's not supposed to be about winning. You get to middle and high school levels where there are clear talent differences and people teach that you shouldn't run up the score. I mean there were times we ran two tracks meets on the same day, one was our varisty team vs there varsity team the other was our JV vs the other teams varsity because we were the biggest school in the area, just had a larger talent pool to draw from. I always thought it was a bit more insulting to the other team though when our JV runners would win vs their best. You get it some in the various levels of college too, especially the lower divisions where most of the players aren't on scholarship.

It's my understanding that it doesn't work the same in other countries. Though I agree it's odd. At the pro level there is no reason to stop pouring it on from an ethical stand point. Sure from an injury management or practice evaluation level I see plenty of reasons to pull starters when things are well in hand, but I also see reasons to leave them in, as has been mentioned you only get so many minutes of actual game time and that can be valuable learning time as well.

Just some thoughts on it.

by Mike W :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:02pm

You have to be nice to the team you're beating because you don't want to damage their self-esteem, which is paramount. Even in the case of adults.

Which is just so much nonsensical revealed wisdom from the PC left.

Now get off my lawn!

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:16pm

PC Left? Where do people get these ideas?

Engraved on Memorial Stadium in Lincoln are the following words, written in 1923:

"Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; In the deed the glory."

Damn those PC Leftists and their time machines!

by BJR :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:46pm

I guess there is a raw, physical side to football whereby a weaker opponent is utterly defenceless and powerless to stop a stronger opponent. It doesn't happen in the NFL, but happens routinely at the younger levels of the game, where kids are taught, correctly, that it is cruel to humiliate a weaker opponent. And I suppose those same kids are the same ones who go on to play in the NFL, so a little of it carries upwards.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:39pm

Ok, maybe rugby's a better comparison. No-one thinks badly of New Zealand for trouncing Japan - and I'm not even sure the Japanese players are professionals. But then, from what I remember of school rugby, we weren't ever encouraged to take it easy on opponents, be it at U11, U18 or anywhere in between. You don't taunt and you do shake hands - and a coach might well bench some of his best players and give some perennial back-ups (who are still probably much better than the starters on an opponent who's getting crushed) a run-out, but you keep playing hard and if that means you score 100 points so be it. Occasionally it becomes a safety issue - my school U15b team had a front row (of which I was a part) that weighed in at a combined 54 stone - more than the senior England national team of the time. A lot of referees would call for uncontested scrums from about 15 minutes in, but because the mismatch was dangerous, not because it was an uneven contest.

Then again, a typical school rugby match has approximately 10 spectators. Even a huge one (Eton 1st XV vs. Harrow 1st XV?) could never have more than a few hundred - and that would surprise me. The idea of it being televised is surreal. And the players in almost every sport who will go on to be pros are playing for club teams - often the youth sides of professional clubs - from a very early age, so the dominating influence on future pros will be competitive clubs, not schools.

by Kimchee :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 7:56pm

What I don't like is the inconsistency in the whole running up the score thing. You've got Mike Lupica ranting against Bob Stoops for running up scores, but then saying the Patriots running up the score is ok because they're professionals. I really don't get it. I'm trying to imagine explaining to my kids "It's immoral for those 20-year old famous superstars in major college football to run up the score, but in the NFL it's not only ok, but desirable." It's either ok or it isn't. Maybe in these youth leagues they shouldn't schedule games where there is such a discrepancy in talent or maybe they can use blowouts to teach kids if you aren't ready to play, you're going to get embarrassed. What do they do in other countries in youth leagues?

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 8:28pm

I think it also is about the talent gap. I'm not sure what team Oklahoma ran the score up against in the game in question (and Oklahoma has definitely ran the score up against Big 12 teams as well), but there is a possibility that the talent gap is just huge, and that it would make it seem like the bully is not only beating the weakling, but the weakling in a wheelchair. That it just sometimes is not a fair fight. The NFL has a lot closer talent gap between good and bad teams, so it is viewed as more okay.

BTW, in the playoffs. I say run it up all you want.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 9:09pm

With youth leagues, I think it's also an issue of time available. Many leagues schedule games in hard time slots (e.g. 4-6 pm, 10-12 am), so allowing teams to continue scoring can prevent a game from ever reaching a reasonable end point.

by Kimchee :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 9:22pm

If youth leagues want to have their mercy rules that's fine. I can understand the time constraints. Personally I feel insulted if the other teams stop trying no matter what the level. When we play intramurals, no one cares about running up the score, but for some reason it's a big deal with the scholarship athletes.

Here is a link to Mike Lupica and Bob Stoops in reference to a 77-0 victory over Texas A&M in 04. I don't remember if it was this game, but Lupica spent an entire parting shot just reciting the playcalling by Stoops at the end of THE FIRST HALF of some game against an inferior opponent. How is it possible to run up the score in the first half? How would you feel if the other team stopped playing before it was half over?


by dryheat :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 12:14pm

Is "Strength of Victory" still a criterion of the BCS formula? If so, there's your answer.

by Eddo :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 12:38pm

In the human polls, yes. The computers, however, were explicitly forbidden from taking margin of victory into account.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:17pm

Margin of Victory = Score differential in wins.
Strength of Victory = How impressive wins are based on opponent record.

by Eddo :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:53pm

I do know that. dryheat was replying to a question about "running up the score", but he used the term "strength of victory" for it.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:00pm

What I don't get is the anger about a quick kick. How is a punt supposed to be humiliating? I'm sure Belichick called it because he thought it would be effective, not to humiliate the Broncos. I guess the Broncos would be happier if Brady threw downfield?
Imagine if runners felt like football players. After every marathon, local runners would be hunting down the Kenyans, "Why did you humiliate us???" It's a cheap way to transfer the negative feeling about one's own performance (or lack thereof) on the opposition.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:06pm

Yes, but if they were able to catch up to the Kenyans, they wouldn't have been humiliated in the first place.

by Kimchee :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 7:41pm

What I do hate is guys doing their "warm down" running the course in reverse. They're definitely taunting all the runners still out there.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 7:45pm

I can only hope that you are not making a joke; if they did this with a beer in their hand, I'd start attending marathons!

by Kimchee :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 9:11pm

No joke. I'm out there feeling like I'm going to die, and this asshat comes jogging by and smiling like he's at afternoon picnic. I would punch him except I usually don't have the energy.

I think some races do serve beer after races, so it's entirely possible.

by Kamala The Ugandan Giant (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 9:19pm

I agree with Kimchee. I always agree with Kimchee.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 9:23pm

Back before I ruined my legs by not listening to my surgeon, and continuing to run marathons, some friends an I used to have other friends hand us a beer with about a mile to go, so we could finish in style. Having the winner taunt the losers in this fashion would be awesome!

by paddypat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:22pm

The Patriots have suffered horribly in past years for failing to close games. You guys imagine that the 2007 Super Bowl was the worst of it, but I will never forget the horrible 2006 AFC Championship game. The Pats had the lead and needed one first down to close out the clock and win the game. 3 and out. Belichick preaches 4 quarters of play. It's not hubris--it's good coaching. If all you do is blow out opponents, well, that's the fault of the lame-ass opposition for failing to keep it competitive, but if the Pats respond by sitting their players, what happens when they suddenly find themselves in a dog fight with a good team? No one will have 4 quarters of experience! The whole tone of the 2007 season was about avoiding a repeat of 2006. I don't really think the collective shell shock has ever entirely worn off.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:53pm

Something everyone forgets about that last series before the Colts winning drive, was it started with a 'too many men in the huddle' penalty. Of course, because it is Belichick, I don't think he really got slammed for that particular penalty (he did get slammed for his defenses inability to do anything, which could be put down to Peyton turning into Superman), unlike Brad Childress, who's team did the exact same thing before Favre's pick late in the title game.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:08pm


This is professional football. You play to win the game, and if that isn't in doubt, to put on a show for the fans. New England scored one field goal after an early touchdown in the whole second half. They DID shut it down. Hell, I wanted to see Brady throw another 5 TD's just to show the media people who came to see Tebow what playing football looks like. But they did shut it down and run the ball.

You're telling me that Tom Brady throwing a couple of curl routes is less respectful than playing Brian Hoyer in the 3rd quarter? Because Brian Hoyer is also a better quarterback than Tim Tebow, and might have also enjoyed throwing five touchdown passes to prove it.

I'm not on the Von Miller suspension bandwagon. You don't give a guy a greater punishment just because it was a nationally televised game. But he needs to be a pro and recognize that the game isn't about him, it's about making money off the people watching on television.

by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:57am

Nobody is mentioning this, and I feel I should. After the punt return fumble, in the big grouping of guys, there was a 49ers player down on the ground. 53 of the Saints was attempting to get up, and managed to get tangled with the downed 49ers guy. 53 of the Saints stumbled on 49ers guy, immediately turned around, AND STOMPED ON HIM.

Why was this not mentioned in the broadcast or even in the audibles? Go back and look. It is pretty clear that after the stumble, 53 lifts his leg and then pounds in back down. It is the worst stomp I have seen since the Haynesworth stomp, and nobody mentioned it.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:00pm

I just want to point out that most negative comments come from people who haven't registered for the site. Guys, we're going to take complaints a lot more seriously from people who are registered commenters.

by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:17pm

I've tried to register thrice (with different names) but never received the confirming email. Not once. I gave up.

This captcha stuff is aggravating.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:21pm

Hmmm. E-mail us at mailbag-at-footballoutsiders.com and describe the problems you had. Let's see if we can't fix that.

by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 10:33pm

Did. No response.

At this point I am questioning if I'm a spammer. I don't think I am (because I'm not), but if FO says I am, well....

by Quincy :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:23pm

Don't concern yourself with attempts to appease haters (as opposed to constructive criticism). It's futile unless you were to radically change what's good about the site. There are plenty of Giants fans who find the team as frustrating to analyze as you do, enjoy the site tremendously and who are too happy over yesterday's game to spam message boards whining about lack of respect.

by ChrisFromNJ :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:29pm


by Eddo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:35pm

Aaron - I've suggested this in the year-end surveys/awards voting before, but would you consider a must-be-registered-to-comment system? I think it would improve the general discourse of the site. And all you'd need to collect is a valid email address. (Of course, bugs like the ones that have been affecting Mr Guest to you would have to be addressed.)

by LionFanInAZ (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:46pm

ESPN requires registration to comment, and that hasn't made the comment boards any more civilized.

Beyond that, FO already requires a valid e-mail address to comment even for unverified users (with the additional burden of Captcha, which doesn't really bother me too much), so I don't see what difference it would make.

The only real problem comes when some blowhard fanboy gets wind of FO from another site and decides to come here and lay waste to the comment boards. The only solution is to not let them get control of convos and wait for them to leave when they get bored.

by Eddo :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 3:55pm

These are good points. I guess I just imagine that most people (not you) would feel more "committed" to a board they registered for, and therefore, be more civil.

The fact that to post without registering requires the exact same information needed to register (an email address) makes RichC's "I won't give any personal information" position all the more ridiculous.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:47pm

I'll register when your DB stops spitting out Schema information every time someone makes a post.

I'm not giving you personal info when you clearly can't protect it.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:52pm

How hard is it to create a new email account, for the sole purpose of registering? You don't need to provide any personal information beyond that.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:40pm

How hard is it to fix a simple SQL query, so that you don't endanger your user's privacy rights?

If FO can't be bothered to fix something thats been an obvious security hole for YEARS, why would I want to give them ANY email address? Even a junk one.

by David :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 5:44pm

Dude, come down off the high horse, you'll hurt yourself...

by TomC :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:40pm

Eddo, you see, the *problem* is (wink, wink) that if you only let registered users post, then we wouldn't hear from RichC anymore. And that would be a *problem*, you see.

by greybeard :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:21am

I am confused. Why does he not use his registered account? Is he not Rich Conley?

by zerlesen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 9:58am

You should also take positive comments more seriously when they come from unregistered commenters.

Ah, sports. I'm pretty sure I remember some comments from 2007 accusing Bill Barnwell of harboring a sinister anti-Giants bias, too.

by mtbultitude :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 7:30pm

Just for the record, I am a registered user and would like you guys fixed the SQL issue.

I would also like that obnoxious GIant fan to go away. That responsibility does not fall on the FO staff, but on us commenters: DO NOT FEED THE TROLL.


by Ernonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:11pm

Question! Maybe you guys have looked into this elsewhere, but regarding that giants timeout at the beginning of the game, wouldn't it be better to take the 5-yard penalty sometimes instead of burning a timeout? They took the timeout, if i'm not mistaken, because they had 12 men in the huddle, but either way it seems like once a week at least somebody burns a timeout for that reason or to not take a delay of game or something. They would have gone from 3rd and 8 to 3rd and 13, but could have definitely used the timeout at the end of the half (despite the hail mary that nevertheless worked). Maybe if it's 3rd and short, but a minute into the game, doesn't it make sense to hang onto your timeouts and face 3rd and somewhat longer?

Maybe not! "Yards are hard to come by!"

by SFC B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:46pm

There are very few times when a weekend of games goes by that I don't question how some teams use their time outs.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:02pm

Conversely, I often wonder why some people overrate timeouts. Using a timeout in the first half to save 5 yards is a no-brainer.

by Ernonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:23pm

Really though? I feel pretty confident that hte point expectation would be more greatly increased (on a per-drive basis) by giving the giants another timeout on that last drive of the half, vs giving them 3rd and 8 in their own territory vs 3rd and 13 in their own territory on that first drive. This ignores the possibility that they don't have the ball without much time at the end of the half, but it seems like that's a common enough occurrence to make the decision less than a no-brainer, at least.

by Ernonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:27pm

Sorry, addendum... any given 5 yards isn't any other 5 yards. It's a no brainer if they're on the edge of field goal range, if it's 3rd and short, if they're deep into GB territory... I mean, if it's 3rd and 45, you're not gonna convert that, so taking the 5-yard penalty is a no-brainer, right? Where's the threshold? I feel like the situation from the 1st half has to be pretty close to the point where you really have to think about it.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:00pm

This is what I would contest:

I feel pretty confident that hte point expectation would be more greatly increased (on a per-drive basis) by giving the giants another timeout on that last drive of the half, vs giving them 3rd and 8 in their own territory vs 3rd and 13 in their own territory on that first drive.

It is rare that an extra timeout translates directly to an advantage in point expectation for a team, especially in the first half. There are a lot of ways to manage the clock without using timeouts.

OTOH, five yards is half of a first-down distance, and is (let's see if I can do the math) 5% of the playing field. It shouldn't be discarded lightly.

by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:46pm

Question! Maybe you guys have looked into this elsewhere, but regarding that giants timeout at the beginning of the game, wouldn't it be better to take the 5-yard penalty sometimes instead of burning a timeout? They took the timeout, if i'm not mistaken, because they had 12 men in the huddle, but either way it seems like once a week at least somebody burns a timeout for that reason or to not take a delay of game or something. They would have gone from 3rd and 8 to 3rd and 13, but could have definitely used the timeout at the end of the half (despite the hail mary that nevertheless worked). Maybe if it's 3rd and short, but a minute into the game, doesn't it make sense to hang onto your timeouts and face 3rd and somewhat longer?

Unless it's third-and-short (and third-and-8 does not qualify) or late in the half, I think teams are always better taking the penalty than calling timeout. As John Madden once said, you can get the yards back. You can't get the timeouts back.

by Ernonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:08pm

Yeah, that's what I kinda think too. I'd love to see some sort of analysis on this, y'know, maybe after the long offseason sets in! It seems to happen frequently enough and rather haphazardly, it'd be nice to have a concrete idea of how beneficial/detrimental these timeouts are.

thanks, great work guys ;)

by LaughingAtTheIgnorance (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:12pm

Nice try, if you are only taking complaints from registered users, it speaks volumes about your integrity. It should not matter where they come from if they are valid.
I ain't registering until you clean up your work, then maybe it will be worth my time.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:33pm

"I ain't registering until you clean up your work, then maybe it will be worth my time."

Rather petulant. I'm sure you'll continue to waste your valuable time reading the site and posting numerous comments and going through captcha.

by John (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:43pm

In your case, I'm fairly confident that what Aaron really meant was "We'll take cogent complaints seriously and ignore fanboy trolling," but he was able to be more polite by focusing on the registration issue.

by SFC B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:49pm

Let me guess... someone stole your sweet roll.

by Joseph :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:51pm

#1--Please don't come back--EVER.
#2--As a Saints fan, if I had to comment on next week's SF/NYG game, I don't know if I could be objective about the Niners. Any Niners' fan that tries to rub my face in it this week (in person) might find his face being rubbed with my knuckles. [Having said that, a fan who can discuss the game without being a jerk, as the guy I met at the restaurant last night, gets respect and courtesy.]
#3--Maybe, just maybe, even as Aaron tries to be an objective commenter, he has some ill will toward NYG since they ruined a perfect season a 4 years ago, and beat his team this year. Since Audibles is where our favorite writers can be fans more than analysts, it doesn't bother me at all.
#4--regarding the registering thing, imo registering proves that you take the site seriously, are a faithful reader, and probably view the site at least daily. Since you obviously don't, please don't bother. For those unregistered users who do come here regularly, I definitely recommend registering.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:04pm

Are you a real Saints fan, or a Brees-era Saints fan?

by Joseph :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:39pm

Definitely real. The first game I remember listening to was when Mike Lansford of the Rams kicked a FG with no time left (or a few seconds) to deny the Saints their first ever playoff birth. I also went to several games in the early to mid-80's.
Sadly, because of my job, I have only been in NOLA for part's of Drew Brees' first season. But I lived there from '76 till I went to college in '93, and then after college for a few years.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:52pm

I don't love everything this site does, but it's still in the top 1% of all football websites out there. Your comments read like a spoiled high school girl. Instead of registering, you could engage the people on this site like an adult and then they would perhaps take you more seriously.

by witless chum :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:39pm

That seems really harsh on spoiled high school girls.

by Cypress Phil (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:05pm

We're all going to be sitting at our computers, praying that you change your mind.

by Drkdstryer (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:14pm

You're right, dude. This site disrespects the Giants and everything you said was reasonable and you can see clearly what everyone else can't. If this site is so anti-Giants, why are you here? Just... leave. You have that option. No one is forcing you to stay here, and nothing you can say is going to change the editorial tone. So... just don't be here anymore. You have the power.

by Mr. Asterisk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 6:51pm

See you next Tuesday, then

by Athelas :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:20pm

On the other hand, why did the Patriots draft two running backs, one of whom has barely played, if they were just going to use their second tight end as a running back to go with the three they already had?

In this special situation the Patriots went:
3 WR/2 TE/ 0 RB -- 27 of 66 offensive snaps.

With the no-huddle offense working, the Broncos were in nickel or dime, in general, and a run by one of the players on the field worked well at times.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:09pm

Why do people still question NE's selection of two RBs? At the time of the draft, only Woodhead was signed and there was no guarantee of being able to tag Benny. On top of that, NE had been burned by having too much age at the RB in both 2009 and 2010. Snagging a couple young horses was a complete no-brainer.

As for Hernandez, his running was a schematic approach. It isn't like they line up heavy with Aaron running into the line.

I enjoy this site, but stuff like that is something I shake my head at on ESPN, let alone a place that is clearly superior.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:12pm

I agree the draft strategy make sense.

But it was an off-the-cuff comment by Aaron. Sometimes, people just say things to their friends.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:45pm

You might be right. If it had been said by a fan of another team I would have probably let it go, but Aaron is both an analyst and a Patriots fan, so he should be informed enough to not even feel the need to make that comment.

by sabw8217 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:11pm

I was actually surprised they didn't try this more. Seems like you potentially get a real personnel advantage here - you send 2 TE and 3 WR out, you force the defense into nickel or dime, and then run up between the tackles. It would work even better if the Patriots had some bigger wide receivers - Wes Welker and Deion Branch are great, but neither of them are great blockers. Maybe they should send Ochocinco out in that formation, and then line him up in the slot or something.

by paddypat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:26pm

Ochocinco is not a good blocker. How about Underwood and a special teamer? But then, what's the point of the personnel grouping--they're clearly not throwing to those guys.

by SFC B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 11:06am

Ochocinco might not be a good blocker, but he's totally expendable in the Patriots scheme. Have him go block linebackers, not like they would lose a weapon.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:50pm

Welker is one of the better blocking WR in the NFL.

Branch isn't a bad blocker.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:53pm

Welker and Branch are both high effort guys, making their blocking much better than you'd expect. That said, I wouldn't call them elite blockers, just good.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:11pm

More generally, this is the kind of criticism the Patriots face a lot, and it always baffles me.

The Patriots generally draft whoever they think is the best player on the board, without regard to position. They drafted two RBs because most of their previous group of RBs had gotten old and slow, and even their best RB isn't really elite.

From watching this season, it seems the Ridley's ceiling is higher than BJGE's. Vereen has been injured.

If the Pats get one hit from two picks, that's good.

The Pats draft a lot of people that aren't going to be used. That's what happens when you're drafting for a team that's 14-2 or 13-3. It's hard to make the team. And when they're running an offense, they're going to go with whatever is working at the time. When they have a lights-out passing game with a two TE set, they're not going to run plays through the RB solely to validate the draft pick.

I do think it's valid to say: I can understand why they would draft a RB, but why Laurence Maroney ahead of Maurice Jones-Drew? Well, sometimes they make mistakes.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:43pm

The "Patriots don't draft based on need" rhetoric is actually false, especially in the first round. They typically surprise with the specific players, but the positions are usually quite predictible.

Going into the 2011 draft, despite all the cries about NE's defense, OL and RB were by far the two biggest needs, so going 2RB/2OL wasn't a surprise in the least.. This isn't revisionist history, I said this at the time.

Go back through the first round and you'll see they were all need positions with a starting spot up for grabs:

2001 - Seymour. Tons of holes, could have gone anywhere.
2002 - Graham. TE was the consensus biggest need on the team.
2003 - Warren. DT was the consensus biggest need on the team.
2004 - Wilfork/Watson. Washington's departure left a big hole. Watson was less of a need, but Graham wasn't developing as a receiver and Fauria was getting older.
2005 - Mankins. Andruzzi's retirement left a hole.
2006 - Maroney. Dillon was clearly done.
2007 - Meriweather. Geno was failing and Rod was too old and injury prone
2008 - Mayo. Clearly a huge need.
2009 - No first rounder.
2010 - McCourty. Seemed like a value pick, but history has proven to be a need.
2011 - Solder. With Light unsigned, Neal retired and Mankins up in the air, OL was the biggest need on the team.

The Patriots always draft for need. Always. They ocassionally evaluate needs differently, but typically take positions even pundits agree need help.

Barring some big FA moves, they will take a WR and S (or CB if McCourty stays at safety) in their first four picks in 2012. I'd also give high probabilities to an OLB/DE prospect (the same prospects, just depending on 3-4 or 4-3) and C.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:12pm

Going backwards
2011 - O-line was certainly not the "biggest need on the team." At the very least, that wasn't the consensus opinion in the offseason. The defense was horrid last season and the consensus opinion was that there was a huge need on the D-Line. In fact, they had huge needs on the d-line, the o-line, and in the secondary. They went with the player among those groups that filled a need.

Let's put it another way: if Ryan Kerrigan had been on the board, instead of having been picked by the Redskins one pick earlier, do you think the Pats would have taken him? What if JJ Watt had been on the board?

2010 "seemed like a value pick" OK, next.

2008. Mayo was a big need.

2007 Nobody drafts a safety in the first round based on need. You only take the guy if you think he's an elite talent. And Meriweather is, to some extent. He's certainly got the physical gifts. He just refused to play the Pats' scheme.

2006 ...and you really shouldn't draft a RB based on need.

As for the earlier draft picks, I see Belichick picking defensive linemen because that's how he wanted to build the team. (I honestly don't understand his profusion of TE picks, but it's really hard for me to say that TE should ever be considered a "need" position. Not that the current set isn't working out well. But then again, they were drafted out of the first round. And just like last year with the RBs, the two TEs were drafted at the same time.)

Why do I say the Pats don't draft based on need? Because every year a zillion pundits say that the Pats absolutely need to draft a pass rusher, and every year they don't. About half the time the Pats draft somebody who fills a pressing need, but half the time they don't. That means they're not drafting "based on need."

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:38pm

Should or shouldn't have no bearing on the conversation. Everything I wrote about the composition of NE's roster is true.

OL was most certainly the biggest need on the team. The defense was bad in 2010 primarily because it was young and inexperienced, but there was (and is) a lot of developing talent on that side of the ball. By comparison, OL was missing 3 or 5 starters at draft time. Beyond that, OL was arguably the biggest reason why NE was upset by the Giants and Jets in recent playoff games.

As I asked after the draft when everyone complained about not taking a big name DE, if pass rush is so important, why isn't stopping a pass rush equally important?

BTW, NE has drafted three OLB prospects since 2008, two in the top three rounds. They haven't selected a first round prospect, but they've certainly invested in the position. Even ignoring this fact, it is obvious that need is a critical part of NE's first round selections. As you would expect, it lessens the deeper you go into the draft.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:48pm

For something to be a position of need, I would think that there would need to be some expectation that the player picked would start immediately.

All 5 of NE's OL starters were either on the team last year(Light, Mankins, Koppen, Vollmer), or were picked up in FA (Waters)

There are two players playing right now (Solder, and Cannon), but both were picked up as projects. Cannon wasn't even expected to make the roster this year (missed preseason etc, with cancer), and Solder was supposed to ride the pine for a year behind Light/Vollmer.

So, No, OL was not a position of need, unless you think its a position of need for pretty much every team in the NFL.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:23pm

Rich, you are wrong.

Light was unsigned. Mankins was unsigned and may have played his last game as a Patriot. Neal retired. Only Koppen - the worst starter on the line who needed upgrading himself and is a FA in 2012 - and Vollmer were signed for 2011 at the time of the draft.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:25pm

Please read what I wrote.

All of these players were on the team last year, which is what I said.

Mankins was tagged with the Franchise tag. He wasn't going anywhere. Light was signed pretty much immediately.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:38pm

Rich, what you wrote is completely irrelevent. The fact that Neal, Light and Mankins were on the 2010 Patriots bears no significance come draft day when not a single one of them was signed, leaving you with one - count 'em, one - starter on the OL who is signed for 2012. Mankins being tagged is also meaningless because there was no guarantee that the franchise tag would exist in the new CBA, plus the contentious relationship that had developed.

This really isn't that hard, man. Do you really want to have to rebuild the entire line in the 2011 offseason? Even if you considered Makins and Light sure returns, a young tackle was a necessity and there was no interior depth whatsoever. OL might have been behind RB under those circumstances. But with none of them signed and the need to plan for the worst, OL was the biggest need on the team.

by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 7:07pm

Sorry, but I agree with Rich 100% here. I think the most glaring examples of Belichick drafting for need were, in order 1) Mayo (Bruschi) 2) Wilfork (Washngton) 3) Mankins and Kaczur (Andruzzi, Neal). McCourty fits there somewhere too, but is drowned out by myriad other high DB picks. There's also the matter of Maroney and Jackson, neither positions Belichick had been inclined to waste a 1st and 2nd round picks on, but he had to because because Dillon was spent and 2006 was a lost season because of our jokes at WR.

There's also Meriweather (Harrison), Ghost (Viniteri), and, I always presumed, Brace (Wilfork's contract situation - which apparently didn't work (big bucks)).

Rich is right.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 7:33pm

The funny thing is, you say you agree with Rich, but what you wrote actually backs what I've written, that NE's first picks are need picks and then need takes a back seat to BPA.

Unless you meant to say something else, but as of now you actually agree with me.

by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 7:51pm

So sorry. So confused. Yes, I absolutely agree with the Anonymous1 (you) instead for the reasons stated. Rich is a dummy :)

by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 7:51pm

So sorry. So confused. Yes, I absolutely agree with the Anonymous1 (you) instead for the reasons stated. Rich is a dummy :)

by dryheat :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 12:19pm

Why are we taking adversarial positions of value vs. need? They are not mutually exclusive. "Need" is a component of "value", as well as things like "positional impact to scheme", "positional scarcity", and "degree of improvement over incumbent".

Bill Belichick attempts to fill holes through free agency, and then drafts for best value. The team might need, for example, a center, but he's not going to spend a first round pick on a center if there are cornerbacks and offensive tackles available that he grades out as first round values.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:53pm

Agreed. I don't know why they are getting as defensive as they are. I was simply saying that NE's first pick in every draft has a higher need quotient than fans seem to realize.

Guest's response confused me because he pretty much copied my ealier comment (listing all the first rounders as need picks) and then said I was wrong.

What confuses people is BB's reluctance to select an OLB high, but that is easily explainable. OLBs in NE's system take years to develop, so it isn't a great use of resources to invest a first rounder in a player who isn't a full-time player until his third year. Despite this, he has been drafting the position he just hasn't hit on anyone yet, Crable, Cunningham and Carter. Of course, the latter two are still on the team and developing, though Cunningham's 2nd season isn't confidence inducing.

Need is a big part of NE's value equation, particularly early in the draft.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:41pm

Mankins could have sat out for the first 10 (or whatever it is) weeks again.

Tagging a player doesn't force the player to sign the tender.

by daldfj (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:07pm

Remember, talent can be acquired by other means. The Pats acquired discarded 4-3 talent to address pass rush--Haynesworth and Andre Carter.

by mtbultitude :: Wed, 01/18/2012 - 7:26pm

I don't have much constructive to contribute about draft strategy, aside from that I'd wager that every team weighs both talent and need when making a pick. The black-and-white need vs. talent dichotomy doesn't exist.

However, I loved this paragraph by RichD:

The Patriots generally draft whoever they think is the best player on the board, without regard to position. They drafted two RBs because most of their previous group of RBs had gotten old and slow, and even their best RB isn't really elite.

Sentence 1: The Patriots "draft the best player" "without regard to position".
Sentence 2: The Patriots drafted two RBs "because" their RBs were weak.

That's gold, RichD, gold.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:24pm

While it's possible that FO gets a business bump from being able to demonstrate registered users the primary goal is to reduce the trash and simplify the posting process for folks wanting to comment.

So someone will not register as a form of protest and thereby hamper their ability to protest more efficiently?

Is that what I am reading?

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:03pm

Obviously I was wrong about the Giants. I still maintain that they couldn't have beaten the Saints in the dome, but there isn't a team left that looks dramatically superior.

by tedkerwin :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:05pm

Totally agree, Saints just dominate teams in New Orleans.

by tedkerwin :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:05pm

As a Giant fan I find it even more enjoyable when they win games they should probably lose. Never get angry when an educated football person picks against them, it is a waste of energy.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:10pm

I'm really looking forward to the NFC game next week. I give just a slight edge to the Niners, but that's in good part because I have no freakin' idea what Alex Smith is. If he is 4th Quarter Smith, the Niners win comfortably, I think. Eli won't be facing the Packers pass rush, and Candlestick is a much noisier place, it seems to me, which really aids the home defense.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:13pm

Agreed. I'm very excited about the NFC championship.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:11pm

delete repeat

by Mike W :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:17pm

Look at it this way, whining Giant fan posters. A very small number of those who read this website, or any given website, ever bother to post comments. Most read and enjoy in happy, quiet anonymity. Furthermore, the vast majority of posts are by a very few readers. Most of the rest are by, to use a term of art, trolls, who come and go and repeat the same tired, completely predictable tropes. This is true of other sports sites as well as political sites. Everyone knows this is part of the deal - those responsible for the content as well as the consumers of the websites. In daily life we can mostly choose whom to associate with. We are able to avoid people who think the refs are out to get their team, or those who think their team doan git no rispet. We can go weeks without meeting someone who holds forth on how Obama is a communist, or how the Koch brothers are behind all that is preventing the dream of a socialist utopia from coming to being right here in the USA.

But on the web, all we can do is ask people to register, unless the proprietors want to spend large amounts of time banning people, erasing comments, and the like. All for a small fraction of a small fraction of their readership. So please understand.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:21pm

I honestly feel bad for Packers fans after yesterday's game. As frustrating as it is to root for a team that's simply bad, or a team that shows promise and then crashes and burns after a couple of key injuries (as in, my Bears), it's got to be more frustrating to see your team go 15-1 and then lose their first playoff game. Though I have to admit that I'm relieved that I won't have to listen to some Packers fans claiming that this team is the greatest team ever anymore.

I'm also very relieved that the Giants ended up winning, because I thought the no-fumble call on Jennings early in the game that led to the Packers' first touchdown was the single worst call I've seen in recent memory. It should have been ruled a fumble in the first place, but when Coughlin challenged and the call was upheld I was absolutely shocked. The ball was clearly out before he was down. Anyway, after the Packers scored on that drive I was afraid that the Packers would end up winning by fewer than 7 and I'd be forever bitter about how the Packers should have lost. (The questionable roughing-the-passer call toward the end of the game bugged me too, but to a lesser degree since at that point it was unlikely the Packers would come back).

by STI (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:23pm

Is there really a rule that a player ejected from a playoff game automatically gets suspended the next?

I know there's no such rule during the regular season; off the top of my head, I know that Logan Mankins was ejected once in his rookie season, and played the next game, and James Ihedigbo got ejected from the Bills-Jets OT debacle (which, ironically, was the same day as 59-0) and didn't get suspended for the next game. . . .

by mrh :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:37pm

I think it was Shannon Sharpe at halftime talking about how Brady, with 3 rings and 2 MVPs, probably had his fill hearing about Tebow all week and was therefore more fired up about this game. While that may say more about Sharpe than Brady, I thought that was probably an accurate depiction of how most NFL players feel. I wonder if on some level Vernon Davis responded to all the Jimmy Graham love in the same way.

by CaffeineMan :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:55pm

I think Brady does get fired up by what other people say, but in this case I think he got fired up by the "haven't won a playoff game since 2007" talk, rather than the Tebow talk.

by Purds :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 12:32am

Yes. Glad not to hear too much of that old story line: "Don't talk about the Pats, or they'll get fired up and beat you!" Bunk. NE beat everyone for a while, whether the opponent talked or not. Luckily, those mediocre writers/analysts who keep dishing that crap had no response when NE lost a few playoff/SB games in a row, so much of that stereotyped analysis has died out.

by Athelas :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:39pm

I never played football, so I just love stuff like this (although it might be obvious to most of you):
(from ESPN Boston)
Hey Tedy (Bruschi), Can you describe the move that Ninkovich is using to get around the offensive tackle, like he did on his strip sack, where he does a pull-forward of the tackle. It's a move Vrabel used to always do. The replays never pick up what's happening on the inside with the hands that makes that move work.

One of Vrabel's favorite moves was the hand slap. This move is best set up by threatening with the bull rush. Once the offensive lineman thinks the bull rush is coming as Vrabel/Ninkovich come directly at him, the offensive lineman puts his hands forward to deliver a blow. Right at that moment, Vrabel would slap the hands down and change his rush to an edge rush. This got the offensive lineman's weight going forward as Vrabel slipped his hands and continued his edge rush. And once you get an offensive lineman's weight moving forward with his head down, you have him beat. Ninkovich is starting to become a big-time player. He's starting to incorporate similar moves.

by TomC :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:46pm

I never played either (would have absolutely loved to, but I was wayyyy too small, even for my crap high school team), so yeah, I love this shit, too. Thanks for posting.

by greybeard :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:04pm

"Williams should be content to just blitz them all day, because the 49ers are not beating man coverage and Smith isn't the type of quarterback who, to quote Greg Cosell, can make stick throws into tight windows."

This year, Alex Smith has been making all the throws Greg Cosell says he cannot. He is quite uninformed for someone who has access to all-22. He claims 49ers running game is good. And he cannot come to terms that 49ers WRs are not very good. They have a #2 in Crabtree and two #4s in Williams and Ginn. And their offensive line is not good. Running game had a good stretch for 5 games this year and has not been very effective otherwise. OLine has improved recently but still lots of blown assignments (like ADavis not blocking the blitzer and causing sack/fumble yesterday) And Vernon Davis has become better as season went on. Crabtree got better as well. He was close to being a mediocre #1 WRs in recent weeks but went back to his earlier self in NO game.

Also the Chris Brown article about route adjustments may have been true for the early season but not recently. If you do not believe me then read what Vernon Davis said last week regarding the complexity of the pre-snap route adjustments and how he has fully grasped the concepts recently.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 5:37pm

Yes, it is weird how often you hear people -- mostly national football commentators -- talk about how crucial "Frank Gore and the running game" are to the 49ers. Have they been watching the games recently, or are they still reading the notes they took in October?

by MJK :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 6:44pm

Wow. Not much to add, except that, for once, I agree with you completely.

Early in the year, I was rather disgusted with Harbaugh for expecting that a vanilla, run-oriented attack would work in the NFL, but now I realize that he was just building up Alex Smith gradually. Yes, Gore is good, but the Niners aren't really that great of a running team (in the sense that, when both sides know they're running, they don't seem to be able to impose their will on the D).

However, they've gotten very good at using the pass to set up the run...passing on first down out of running formations, and then running well when the defense backs off. I've been very impressed by Smith...not so much with their running game (it isn't BAD per se, but it's not Baltimore or Denver).

They are going to have to figure out how to handle the overload blitz, though. Both New York and (if they get past New England) Baltimore are VERY good at overloading one side of the line, and have better coverage downfield than the Saints did. That doesn't bode well for the Niners if they can't figure out how to set protection to stop it.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:12pm

So it's the roughing call that folks are referencing when they complain about TWO of the worst calls they have ever seen. I get the fumble call but couldn't recall another call that seemed egregious.

That call was ticky tack but given that the Packers have been penalized a good 3-4 times on similar hits during the season I really didn't think it was beyond the pale.

Plain and simple if the Packers defense from January 2011 is playing yesterday this game is very different.

I don't know how one gets BACK what is lost but if folks are setting up a decoder ring fund or need help raising a search party just let me know.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:54pm

It wasn't ticky-tack, it was wrong. The roughing penalty was for a "blow to the head". That simply did not happen.

by t.d. :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:26pm

might want to sign cullen jenkins and build a time machine for the secondary

by rich316 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:52pm

There's actually another one that people have been talking about. The Giants didn't get anything going on offense in the 3rd Q, but there was a drive where DJ Ware took a handoff on 3rd and 1 and got a first down. Refs didn't see it that way, so the Giants had to punt. Maybe the Giants have to punt three downs later, but maybe their offense gets going and they add to the lead.

by rich316 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:54pm

Sorry if that comes off like a whiny giants fan, I'm really not bitter since, hey, they won. If anything it's better for the Giants, because maybe if they had held GB to under 10 points (and they well could have, if the officiating had been better), the national media would be even more on their jock even more than they are now, and they would be proclaimed the SB favorite. And there's nothing worse for the Giants than being the favorite.

by ToastPatterson (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:23pm

Just throwing crud at the wall here but I think the Giants defense has turned it around this year for two big reasons.

1) Osi, Tuck and JPP have been relatively healthy at the same time for the first time all year. Osi and Tuck are banged up but they're still playing at a very high level. I think it is very difficult for teams to deal with all three of those guys playing at a high level at the same time.

2) For whatever reason Aaron Ross hasn't been getting burned as regularly as he was earlier in the year. I've read reports that say that the Giants have gone to more man coverage for their corners since the back to back New Orleans and Green Bay debacles earlier this year. I'm not sure how true that is but Ross does seem to play better in man than in zone. Also, Amukamara was getting killed during the 4 game losing streak and hasn't been seeing the field much lately. Rolle has played better in coverage as the nickeback lately too.

All of these are conclusory opinions based on my subjective observations. So, you know, take it for what it's worth.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:26pm

Aaron and the rest of the FO crew, if you see something to complain about regarding officiating, call it out. Random discussion and things being noticed in real time is what Audibles if for. I'd rather read your thoughts than your thoughts minus stuff you think we don't want to read. And that's even if I thought complaints about officials was annoying, but I actually think it's an important aspect of the game that deserves coverage.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:18pm

Agreed. If it's an important aspect of the game, discuss it.

I think there is a certain subset of people who don't like complaints about officiating, and they're vocal about it. Many of us take it for granted that quality analysis does not omit important game events.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:03pm

Trivial complaints about officiating get old quickly - ie. complaining that [favourite team's player] was flagged for holding when [other team's player] wasn't - but when it's such a major event as last night's no fumble ruling or roughing call, with such a potentially significant impact on the game, I feel that it's worth discussing. It's difficult to adequately describe last night's game without making mention of how awful those calls were, and of the officials' contribution to both Packers touchdown drives.

by Subrata Sircar :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 5:04pm

I agree in general, with the specific caveat of "why did that XXX called when YYY didn't" - those calls seem like sour grapes more than game-analysis. (In particular, it seems rarely disputed that XXX did commit a penalty.)

Complaints about holding and DPI/defensive-holding seem pointless to me, because it seems likely that:
- no matter who committed the foul or what they did, you can find someone on the other team in this game who did the same thing and didn't get called. I seem to remember an article ... ah, here it is:
- the penalties are overly severe for the frequency of offense

The combination means that seemingly randomly, someone will cough up a penalty that has a large impact on the game, for doing something that "everyone else" seemed to get away with.

I hope that roughing the passer doesn't become the same thing, but it might (it's at least less frequent).

by Jetspete :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:42pm

i'm going to defend the officials in the giants/pack game. On the questionable fumble, the mistake wasnt the non-reversal, it was the fact they overturned the ruling on the field BEFORE the replay. On the replay, it looks like a fumble but is definitely inconclusive. the one angle shows the player's butt on the ground while ball is in hands. At the bar, 20 or so people were yelling at the tv, 10 thought it was a fumble, 10 didnt. that's not exactly "conclusive."

the refs only called six total penalites for fifty combined yards. they let the giants get away with some contact, they let the packers get away with some offensive holding. i'd much rather see the game decided on the field than the refs throw 30 flags.

by greybeard :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:07pm

The only (logical) reason that 10 that did not think it was a fumble was they were in a bar and were under the influence of alcohol.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:19pm

This photo looks pretty conclusive. The ball is loose, and Jennings's butt and knees and torso and elbows are all off the ground.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:27pm

But his calf is on the ground, which means hes down.

by greybeard :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 5:40pm

I thought that was called foot. I did not know I walk on my calves.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 6:22pm

Since when?

by MJK :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:54pm

Maybe Graham should have gone down at the 1 too.

Disagree with this. While I do think Smith should have kneeled at the 1 (see my comment above), Graham was right to go in for the TD.

Two differences. First, in Smith's case, a FG gives the Niners the lead, so as long as they take sufficient time off the clock, a FG wins just as much as a TD does. In Graham's case, the Saints needed the TD to take the lead. A FG is 99% assured from the 1 yard line...a TD is considerably less so (probably around 70-90% league average). I think, if you know you NEED a TD and you have the opportunity to get one, you have to take it.

Second, look at the team's. The Saints have a fantastic, explosive passing offense, so if you give them the ball back, you have to figure they can move down the field pretty quickly, arguing more for burning time. The Niners have a fantastic goal line defense, so thinking you can just waltz in from the 1 if you feel like it may be a little optimistic.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 2:59pm

One ref comment I had, regarding the Saturday games in particular.

Did anyone else notice that the refs seemed to take forever to blow whistles? In both games? At one point in the Niners game, a player was clearly wrapped up and gang-tackled by about five defenders. The refs let them continue to struggle and play without blowing the whistle, until the ball was stripped and the defenders recovered. Then the officials ruled (correctly) that no fumble occurred because the player's forward progress had long since been stopped.

And in the Pats game, it seemed like Tebow and McGahee and Gronkowski were continuously being wrapped up by one guy but not down, and then pummeled as the refs let two or three other guys come flying in late without blowing the whistle.

It didn't affect the game outcomes at all, but I was worrying about injuries. One of each of those teams was going to the championship game, and I was worrying that someone was going to get injured because the refs had swallowed their whistles.

I figure the flak the NFL took last week over the problems caused by early whistles had the refs being whistle-shy...but to the point that it was endangering players.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:21pm

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I feel Miller should be suspended four games. If he draws a Patriots player into a fight and gets him to throw a punch, that guy misses the AFC title game. The AFC title game is worth four regular season games.

I can't imagine it would matter. The NHL has explicit rules about late game fighting suspensions, but Bettman feels free to ignore them and overturn automatic suspensions in the playoffs when it's a player he doesn't want suspended. And Kraft has way more hold over Goodell than any owner has over Bettman.

by Solomon :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 4:55pm

Why should Goodell care what Kraft thinks?

by dbostedo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 6:40pm

Because Kraft is one of the people who employs Goodell. The owners put the commissioner in place, and therefore have a say over whether or not he gets to stay commissioner.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 7:52pm

Yes, he's one of the 32. But that shouldn't mean that Kraft has more influence on Goodell than any of the other 31 owners.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 8:12pm

I was just commenting on why Goodell cares what Kraft thinks. I didn't mean to imply that the other owners don't have just as much influence.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 6:42pm

Perhaps he really enjoys Mac-n-Cheese.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 3:28pm

According to Troy Aikman, Tom Coughlin thinks the team that wins time of possession will win this game. The Broncos had the ball for six more minutes than New England last night. How'd that work out?

Coughlin said "this game", not "all games."

by Solomon :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 5:09pm

Some random thoughts on these games:

1. No one commented on the DPI called on the Saints opening possession. The defender did not turn his head around, but he broke up the pass w/o interfering w/ the receiver. I thought it should have been a no-call. The 49ers eventually forced a TO, so it did not affect the outcome.

2. Did Time, GQ, et. al. really have reporters at the Broncos-Pats game? Is Tebow that interesting? I do not dislike him, and I support his religious beliefs. However, he is a mediocre QB at best, and that game figured to be a blowout. I do not get the obsession over him. 49ers-Saints figured to be (and was) a much more exciting and interesting game. I thought the best storylines were the solid performances of the much-maligned Alex Smith and Vernon Davis.

3. Why are some (not all or most) Giants fans complaining? As a neutral observer (not a Giants fan or hater), I think FO has treated the Giants fairly over the years. They are sometimes a hard team to figure, as evidenced by home losses to the Seahawks and Redskins but road wins over the Packers and Patriots. Your team just posted a 17-point road win over the NFC's top seed. Rejoice in the solid win rather than worrying what some writers think.

by NYMike :: Tue, 01/17/2012 - 11:55pm

on 1) The referee was viewing the play through the receiver and had no idea whether there was contact. I'm sure if we saw it from his perspective we would have understood the call. You can see this plainly on the replay. What I don't understand is why they didn't huddle up and have the call overruled by someone with an actual angle to see what happened. They don't do this enough.

by Dales :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 5:19pm

I am re-watching the game as I type.

Hakeem Nicks is really, really good.

by rich316 :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 10:19pm

He's an interesting guy, he doesn't have elite speed but makes up for it with an extremely physical play style, surprising elusiveness, and oven mitt-sized hands. And he's an very good blocker. It's almost as if he were a little bigger, he'd be one of these new-age tight ends that everybody's talking about, but he's "only" 6-1, so he's a WR.

by t.d. :: Mon, 01/16/2012 - 9:15pm

I think New England- San Francisco would be the purist's ideal Super Bowl now, but i'll be rooting for the giants