Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

22 Oct 2007

Strategies That Worked In Week 7

Sports Illustrated's Bucky Brooks looks at a number of strategic decisions that panned out, including the Patriots use of the spread offense, Buffalo's use of the no-huddle to counter the Ravens pre-snap defensive movement and Mike Martz going against his tendencies by using the run to set up the pass.

Posted by: Sean McCormick on 22 Oct 2007

26 comments, Last at 24 Oct 2007, 11:01am by Rock Rebel


by muddy waters (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 1:30pm

Everyone is criticizing the Cowboys for not going to the run earlier in the game, but it's a bogus point. The Boys moved the ball up and down the field w/ short passes in the first half. What killed them were the fumbles by Romo and Crayton which Dallas happened not to recover.

The Cowboys rightfully planned to run more in the second half after the Vikings D was a little gassed. If the Boys tried to run more earlier, their yards per carry would NOT have looked the way it ended up looking.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 1:38pm

Add in letting Brian Griese call his own plays.

by Sean McCormick :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 1:44pm

I don't know how an article like this can fail to mention Tampa's strategy on their two onside kicks. I've never seen anything like it, but it was brilliant and could very easily have resulted in consecutive recoveries.

by Jimmy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 1:48pm

I would have thought that the Eagles kicking stratergy would have gotten an airing.

by senser81 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 1:52pm

re: #2

I don't know if it was more important that Griese called the plays, as opposed to just Ron Turner NOT calling the plays.

by TomC (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 2:17pm

It's not that the Bears coaches decided to let Griese call his own plays (a la Tom Moore & Peyton Manning); the helmet Tx/Rx went out, and the Bears didn't have any timeouts. But it's provided great fodder for the anti-Turner faction on Chicago sports radio.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 2:22pm

Re 6:
I don't really like Turner either, but Carr called some plays last year and played much better than he usually does. It might have given the Bears a spark but I don't think it's indicative of anything.

by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 3:14pm

Brooks has really matured as a writer... this is a fascinating article. When he started with SI he was writing the kind of no-duh fluff pieces that are the industry standard. But now I'd rank him in the top 10% of football writers.

by Bionicman (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 3:38pm

Very interesting article. While I can't speak for the veracity of each point, what he presented was (if true) extremely informative. How does one person find out that much about so many games?

by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 4:08pm


Why is it I get the feeling that the majority of NFL QB's and teams would look better calling their own plays, with the coach just calling in and out personnel from the sideline?

I don't have the impression that there are very many really good playcallers out there.

This should not exclude the idea of gameplanning and scripting plays to begin a game. It should include that, along with QB ability to flex out of plays based on what is seen on the field, and to then call his own plays within the formations sent out later in the game.

We could in fact mandate this by getting rid of QB-Coach headsets.

by Mike B in VA (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 4:12pm

#9 - Brooks is a former player on both sides of the ball - he was a WR and a DB - and he *has* come a long way as a writer. Presumably, he had access to all the games (or at least the significant highlight packages of them all), so he could do some analysis that way.

There was a lot of "why" in that article, which was nice to see in mainstream football...

by Leo (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 4:15pm


I don't understand why everyone thinks the Eagles not kicking to Hester was so brilliant. Ok, he didn't run anything back. Still, the Bears had great field position all day. That's not really a win for the Eagles. That said, the Bears offense was mostly inept enough to allow the kicking strategy to work. Ironic that the one time the Eagles actually pinned the Bears down on their end was the game-winning TD drive. Still, the Bears got a lot of their FGs because they didn't have to go that far to get into range.

by Mike B in VA (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 4:15pm

#10 - you mean like Kelly, Marino, Elway, et al, used to do? (For that matter, like Brady and Peyton do now.)

I agree, I think it's become TOO much under the coaches' control, and the might be over-reigning the players. However, then I think about some of the decision-making I see from QBs, and I think the coaches may be on to something...

by DavidH (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 4:19pm


What was their brilliant strategy? I didn't get to watch the game

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 4:28pm

Re: 14

I didn't see the game either, but Sean already gave a pretty good description in Audibles. I'd repost it, but that just seems redundant.

by DavidH (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 4:36pm

Thanks, I had skipped over that game when I originally read Audibles. Pretty cool.

by Andy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 4:54pm

As a Chicago Bears fan who watched the game, I continue to be disappointed by the Bears defense. A few gripes.
1. Our defensive lineman do not generate a consistent pass rush. teams our keying on mark anderson, so it is up to the rest of the defense to make plays. they are not.
2. Our coverages are too vanilla and familiar. teams have been running these routes successfully against our cover 2 defense. 1. quick slant 2. deep sideline route. 3. tight end post

by BDC (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 5:16pm

Okay, was there ANY offense that NE could have run that wouldn't have worked?

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 5:18pm

Re: 18


by Jimmy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:22pm


I didn't say that the Eagles strategy was a roaring success, what I am wondering is how big a success it was, or wasn't. Personally I can't make my mind up, as a Bears fan I thought not getting to see Hester return punts and kicks sucked, but the Bears on the whole got some pretty good field position. I was hoping to see some kind of analysis about whether or not the Eagles gained any benefit. Ho hum.

by jbg (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 10:26pm

My problem with Brooks' analysis of the Bears' offense and how it performed against the Eagles, is that it is incorrect. He states that they "struggled moving the ball" but they had only two three and outs, only two punts, and 5 scoring drives (and a 6th drive that resulted in a FG attempt). The problem was not moving the ball, it was finishing drives with TDs. If you want to attribute that to Ced Benson and the O Line being substandard, I'm fine with that, but... that is a lot different than struggling to move the ball and detracts from the fact that Griese had a very very solid game overall, even before the final drive, and the offense recovered from a huge time of possession deficit in the first quarter to be about even by the end.

Commentary like this makes me think national columnists don't actually watch the games in full or even at all.

Additionally, regarding the special teams strategy, the Eagles punter averaged just 28 yards net and the only punt he got inside the 20 was the last one (at the 3). That net average is awful. And the short kickoffs resulted in the Bears generally starting at the 30 or better. In a game of field goals, those extra 5 to 10 yards per possession make a huge difference in turning punts into makeable FG attempts.
In the NFL today, that's huge.

by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 12:17pm

#10: Getting rid of the helmet radios wouldn't "mandate" that QBs call their own plays, it would just change the way that plays get sent in. Hand signals, a player running to the sideline to get the call, or a WR/RB rotating in and bringing the play from the sidelines are all possibilities. Just like back in the ol' days before helmet radios...

by pbmax (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:08pm

Re: 10, 13

If you are going to play 'the back in my day' card, you have got to go farther back than 1983. Elway did not call his own plays; Reeves and Shanahan/Kubiak did that. And I don't believe Marino did either. This is not to say they couldn't audible or run a two minute offense.

Kelly might be a different story in the K-Gun/no huddle.

Same with Manning now, he gets personnel and a play choice from the coaches. He reads the D and chooses which side to run the play to OR to switch from run to pass or vice versa.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:20pm

Leo #12:

Actually the Bears only capitalized on good field position once - when they started at the 50 yard line. Their three drives from their own 40 or 41 did not result in point.

by panthersnbraves (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 9:09pm

19 - That has to be the funniest thing I have heard/read this season.

by Rock Rebel (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2007 - 11:01am

#21. you make an excellent point, not only with the bears offense, but with brooks' assessment in general. I think they probably watch less of the game than it appears (they watch bits and pieces, I suspect), and then read the summary, and comment on it.
that being said, I did enjoy the article, and I think it still provides great insight in general.

and to #19. indeed... the line of the year......:)