Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Nov 2005

2005 Quick Reads: Week 12

The best and worst players of the week in DPAR. This week's lesson: the importance of opponent strength. Seven quarterbacks threw for 290 yards or more, but four of those games came against pass defenses in the bottom five. Plus, is Kurt Warner proving everyone wrong?

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 28 Nov 2005

32 comments, Last at 30 Nov 2005, 7:21pm by Jerry


by bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:54pm

Mannings and 4th quarter ratings: maybe these were the kids in school who did no homework until after Disney on Sunday night, then crammed a week's worth of it in in about an hour. Or, maybe this is a standard Manning first date with a gal: A bowling alley, followed by McDonalds, then a stop at Wal-mart to watch football highlights in the TV department. Just when they realize that maybe they have to step up to their A-game, then drive to the airport, buy two first-class tickets to Paris, and win her heart with their top-rated performance in the final quarter.
Actually, it's not quite fair to compare them because this season the Colts average winning by 2 TDs, so PM's 4th quarters are considerably different (less tense and less impressive) than his brother's come-backs (failed FGs aside).

Will tonight pull PM's ratings up as mush as Aaron thinks? I hope so. But all the same, I am sorry this game is not on Sunday night, so we could hear this exchange:
Theisman: "Last night I was having a colonoscopy with John Teerlink, and he said the key to the game for the Indy D is getting pressure on Big Ben."
McGuire: You are right about that, Joseph. You hear what I am saying? Look at this, right here. Pressure. They don't stop that, game over."

by bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:55pm

Whoo-hoo, first in. The incalculable benefit of living on the west coast; I'm still "at work" (ahem) while 2/3 of the population is commuting home.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 9:04pm

Ron Dayne becoming a decent back (if that is actually happening, let's give it time) isn't even the most amazing thing to happen on Denver this year, no matter how much Giants fans will whine about it. Consider this - the Broncos have played 11 games, but Courtney Brown isn't on injured reserve yet, and Gerard Warren looks like he's actually trying. Each of these things individually is more amazing than Dayne's one-game revival, and collectively they give me yet another reason to despise the Broncos and everything about them.

by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 9:05pm

Might there be any connection between Elisha's quarter-by-quarter DPAR and the Giants' playcalling?

by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 9:06pm

Shouldn't Brees get an adjustment because the Chargers receivers had about 9 dropped balls? And it wasn't like they were tough catches either. LT had a tough one that bounced off his hand, but I seem to remember that all of the others were emminently catchable. The Redskins also had a bunch of dropped passes in that game as well; they're tight end had at least 3 that were thrown right at his chest.

I'm thinking that they're must have been something afoot in Washington on Sunday. Maybe somebody switched all of the footballs with rock-hard alternates so that no one could catch anything.

by ABW (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 9:16pm

Wow, San Francisco has truly had an amazing parade of young and not very good QBs the past two years. Trading Tim Rattay away sure looks kind of dumb right now, although, to be fair, right now Ken Dorsey has a higher DVOA rating - -33.1% to -33.3%.

Also, as a Patriots fan, I'm glad we got the annual "Tom Brady Meltdown" game over with against a non-divisional opponent.

In 4 and a half years starting in the league, TB has now thrown 3 or more picks 5 times - once in 01, once in 02, twice in 03(the 31-0 opener vs. Buffalo and then against the Redskins in the last loss before they won 31 or whatever games in a row) and now this one. It's like an annual rite or something - you just have to hope it doesn't happen at a critical time.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 9:25pm

Re #5: Dropped passes aren't an official statistic, so it will probably never be incorporated into DVOA. Likewise, the NFL doesn't track hang time, hurries, or double coverages, so these will not be showing up in the DVOA formula, either. These are things that we, as fans, have to take into consideration while we're reading the numbers spit out by the computer. Like Aaron always says- the numbers aren't perfect, and they don't describe everything. Really, if Palmer is #1 in DPAR, that means that Carson Palmer playing behind the Cincy O-line with Cincy's running game and Cincy's receivers is #1 in the league in DPAR when compared to every other QB in their own native system.

To use another of Aaron's favorite sayings, no numbers are a replacement for your own judgement. For instance, some people can look at Big Ben's #3 DVOA ranking and say that he's the third best QB in the entire NFL, he just doesn't pass as much. My own judgement says that since the Steelers run so much more than they pass, defenses devote more energy to defending the run, which is why Ben has such a high per-play average. While I'm sure he's a great QB, I do not think he's the #3 QB in the entire NFL, as his play-by-play value suggests.

Also, I think that's what makes Plummer's season even more impressive. The guys immediately above him in DVOA are Big Ben facing the stacked run-defenses, Manning throwing to Harrison/Wayne/Stokley/Clark, and Palmer throwing to Johnson/Who'sYourDaddy. The numbers say that those guys are doing more to help their teams. My personal belief is that those Plummer's doing almost as much with less to work with.

by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 9:27pm

RE: #5

Robert Royal always drops a lot of passes. Nothing unusual there, let's move on.

by Sean D. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 9:42pm

Robert Royal was the culprit of the drops for the Indigenous Persons. Not exactly a solid receiver to begin with. What was surprising was that Brees' balls were off frequently, but Brunell often threw with perfect accuracy. I remember a couple of perfect third down passes by the southpaw and I remember a couple of underthrown balls by Brees whilst "picking" on Carlos Rogers.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 9:46pm

Actually, San Diego's plan was "pick on Walt Harris" or if you are Kevin Harlon "pick on former Bears first round draft pick, Walt Harris" and it was working until Gregg Williams got smart and replaced him with Carlos Rogers.

by luz (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 10:24pm

RE #7

umm... you don't think NFL teams aren't concentrating on shutting down the broncos run game? i disagree with you on roethlisberger but am comfortable with your arguement. what is really different about plummers situation vs. roethlisbergers? the broncos have a great run game which, like the steelers, they will use 9/10.

if i was defending the broncos i'd be much more worried about the broncos offensive line with anderson and bell than i would be with plummer.

by Björn (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 11:00pm

RE: #11

You can't be thinking that Pitt and Den have similar gameplans.

by MRH (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 11:33pm

Since moving to DEN, Plummer has had the biggest homefield advantage in fantasy scoring of any NFL qb. I wonder if this is true in DVOA?

by MRH (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 11:47pm

Are the Bears cursed by Kyle Orton? Suppose he "takes" them to the playoffs where they win a game and then lose.

Everyone (outside of FO) then expects them to improve next year as Orton is predicted to develop and the defense is predicted to be as good. Instead the magic fails and all the flaws measured by DVOA but hidden because Orton "is a winner" come to the fore. The Bears fall to 8-8.

But of course, because Orton is "a winner", he is still starting in his 3rd year. Having survived two seasons unhurt, the Bears skimp on the backup qb position. Orton gets hurt in the 2nd game and the Bears finish 5-11 as the Mighty Quinn nightmare repeats itself.

Back for his fourth season, Orton gets a big contract because the Bears front office is afraid to lose a proven "winner" in FA. Orton then posts a 42.4 passer rating, the Bears go 7-9 only because of their defense. They can't keep the unit together anymore because of all the money sunk into Orton and suck for three more years until finally get rid of him.

I don't know if Grossman is the answer. But I suspect Orton is not.

by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 1:06am

I was wondering if there was any adjustment for Tim Dwight for "causing" an interception? (The play where he bobbled it over his head into Wesley's hands) If he either catches that ball or just drops it there wouldn't have been an INT on that play. Is that factored in or is it just too rare to worry about?

by Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 1:07am

I think we know for a fact that Grossman is not the answer. He has been in the league for three seasons. He suffered a season-ending injury in each of those seasons. Ergo, the answer, Rex is not.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 2:21am

Kyle Orton is rapidly becoming the bane of my existence. It's nothing personal; I just can't take any more people arguing that Orton was clearly better than Chris Simms on Sunday because "Orton did what it takes" and Simms did not.

I'm really looking forward to that 7-19 for 64 yards with 2 picks and a fumble game come playoff time.

by Mike (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 3:21am

Does Kyle Orton remind anyone else of Shaun King? Sure Orton is a little taller (okay, lot) and King is a little better (...) but they're both in the exact same situation. Marginal quarterbacks who appear to be in position to keep their jobs for at least another season due to being absolutely carried by the defense and running game.

by Paytonrules (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 3:30am

The Orton fetish is really starting to bug me as well.

During the game against Carolina the announcers kept raving about his performance and how he was outplaying Delehomme. This despite the fact for most of the game their numbers were similar (and Jake's ended up being better), that Orton's running game was moving the ball well, and that Orton was not sacked once while Jake Delhomey spent most of the day with a Bear defensive lineman on his head.

Orton is a great "game manager." The same was once said about Shane Matthews. Draw your own conclusions. This team reminds me of some of the Tomczack/Neal Anderson/Defense teams of the late 80s that got beat in the playoffs.

On the good news, the defense is really really really good, the offensive line is good, the running game is good, the defense is young and contractually locked up, and most importantly I don't think the Bears coaches are fooled. I think they know Grossman is better but that putting him in the lineup this year only risks injury and alienating the team. If Orton falters look for Grossman to relieve him.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 3:42am

How can you be a great "game manager" when you have more interceptions and fumbles than any quarterback in the league not named "Favre?"

That's the thing- it's not like Orton is playing cagey, mistake-free football. He's playing mistake-riddled football and getting bailed out by the rest of his team. Shaun King is a good comparison. So is David Woodley, for that matter.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 4:09am

Re #11: Pittsburgh- 33.2 runs, 24.0 passes, 58.0% run/pass ratio.

Denver- 33.1 runs, 28.6 passes, 53.6% run/pass ratio.

Seems like a pretty significant run/pass disparity to me. Also, 3 times this season have the Steelers asked Big Ben to win the game for them, attempting more passes than rushes. Once was a loss to New England, once was a loss to Indy, and once was a 1-point victory over Baltimore. 5 times has Denver called upon Jake to beat the opponent, calling more passes than rushes (Miami, San Diego, Washington, Philly, Dallas), and Denver is 4-1 in those games (although, in all fairness, they won vs. Washington IN SPITE of Jake rather than BECAUSE OF Jake).

I don't know, I just get more of a sense from Pittsburgh that if Pitt's running game isn't functioning, neither is Big Ben. He doesn't strike me as the type of QB who can go into a hostile stadium, have the other team say "We're going to stop the run and force Ben to beat us", and then actually come through and beat them. Maybe someone who has followed the team more than I have can give me some examples of games where Ben just dragged his team to victory on a day when the run just wasn't working.

Re #16: I feel compelled to defend Grossman, since he's a former Gator, so I just have four words to say on the subject: Fred Taylor Courtney Brown.

by Joon (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 4:56am

Re: #21

I don’t know, I just get more of a sense from Pittsburgh that if Pitt’s running game isn’t functioning, neither is Big Ben. He doesn’t strike me as the type of QB who can go into a hostile stadium, have the other team say "We’re going to stop the run and force Ben to beat us", and then actually come through and beat them.

but everybody knows the steelers run run run, including opponents. they always gear up to stop the run, and big ben now has only two losses as a starter (three counting the postseason). obviously this isn't the best metric ever, but it seems weird to criticize roethlisberger for an inability to beat teams.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 5:30am

Re #22: Yes, I know that everyone knows Pitt is going to run. And yes, I know that everyone gears up to stop Pitt from running. But how many of those teams actually SUCCEED in stopping Pitt from running? How many times does Pitt ask Big Ben to go out and win the game for them, does Pitt attempt more passes than rushes? And what's Pitt's record when it DOES attempt more passes than rushes.

I think tonight's game really reinforced the idea for me. Indy's selling out against the run, really shutting Pitt's running game down, and instead of stepping his play up to compensate, Big Ben plays his worst game of the season and Pitt loses. He's a very good quarterback, and he will ensure that Pitt will NOT lose a game when its running game is clicking (See: Maddox, Tommy), but he's also not very good when Pitt's running game is doing nothing. He seems incapable of stepping up and taking its passing game to the next level to compensate (See: Palmer, Carson; Manning, Peyton; Plummer, Jake; Brady, Tom; Brees, Drew; McNabb, Donovan; Hasselback, Matt).

Not coincidentally, that's pretty much the list of starting QBs I'd rather have leading my team than Ben Roethlisberger, despite his greater DVOA than most of them. All of those guys have proven themselves capable of stepping back and not screwing it up while the running game wins the game (well, except McNabb, because Philly doesn't HAVE a running game), but all of them have also proven that if the running game isn't working, they can shoulder the load and get the victory.

by Stephen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 10:51am

Back to the San Diego-Washington game. I was there, and the reason Brees kept picking on Carlos Rogers after he replaced Walt Harris was that Rogers missed a lot of assignments and was often confused, asking other players what the defense was. He failed to cover several times, but Brees missed his man badly. Rogers also had outside coverage on a long run by LT and was caught inside instead (guessing, but guessing wrong), never catching him.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 12:44pm

Kibbles #23:

Part of Roethlisberger's problem is that the Steeler's don't design plays for him to properly use Duce Staley in receiving.

When in Philadelphia, Staley (along with TE Chad Lewis), was McNabb's security blanket, providing a sure productive out for a pass, and a ~75% completion percentage for those passes 2000-2003. The Steelers aren't giving Roethelisberger a security blanket for passing, and they barely use Willie Parker in this same role (12 receptions from 21 pass attempts all year - 2 attempts per game!), who could be a Westbrook like weapon if they could figure him out.

Instead, they have him pass to RB Verron Haynes and FB Dan Kreider, both of whome are just abysmal at this part of the game.

Haynes: -30.2% DVOA, 12 of 21 passes caught for 68 yards
Kreider: -29.6% DVOA, 9 of 16 passes caught for 34 yards

I'd suggest use of a backfield of Parker and/or Staley, positioning Staley as the fullback if both are in on the same down, and varying who gets split wide, although favoring Parker since Staley is a better pass blocker.

Those plays to Kreider and Haynes are just a total waste for Pittsburgh. Add in Haynes' 47 rush attempts (-48.1% DVOA - 2nd worst in the league), and you are looking at 85 plays just wasted by the Steelers, or around 8 per game!

by Brian (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 12:57pm

Re: Orton ---

Please remember.....ROOKIE.

The consistency gained from having ONE quarterback over 11 games is more valuable than having the kind of rotation they've had at the position over the past X years.

Also, outside of the 5 INT game against Cincy, he HAS stayed away from COSTLY mistakes. Throwing a long pick deep into TB territory is quite a bit different than putting the ball on the turf on your own 1 yard line.

Orton isn't a good QB (at least yet, who knows), but he's doing what's expected. In fact, he's doing MUCH more than expected when we all saw Rex break his ankle.

-- Brian.

PS. How would Orton's numbers compared to Jake's had Moose not dropped innumerable balls (one in the endzone)?

by Moses (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 2:40pm

Hey Aaron, I guess you're sorry to have written this in the power poll last week: "Check out Eli Manning's rookie numbers compared to Ken Dorsey's rookie numbers. Now consider that in Dorsey's two starts this year, the 49ers upset Tampa Bay and nearly upset Seattle. Maybe Ken Dorsey deserves a chance to be a starting quarterback in the NFL."

You can't just go by stats. You've got to watch the tape. You've got to see warm-ups and pratices. You haven't seen those so your speculation is, frankly, not very accurate and tarnishes your reputation with fans who have seen the real Dorsey. In fact, to be honest, it's a classical logical fallacy and I can't believe someone as smart as you actually made it.

Now, as for the real Dorsey, if you've noticed (like actually seen him play) he's really inaccurate. And I don't just mean under pressure and blame the o-line. I mean, he can't consistently hit a WR 15 yards away during warm-ups.

He was so inaccurate during Sunday's warm-ups agains the Titans I almost left the game before it began. Paired with Lloyd, he threw scattershot in a 6' diameter target area. Lloyd was making spectacular one-handed grabs, or shagging one-hopped passes on what should have been a routine pitch & catch warm-up drill. No other QB in warm ups (Titan or 49er) made his WR move. And rightly so. It was just throwing the ball 15 yards, something routine for even a decent college QB.

Anyway, Dorsey is maxed out. He doesn't have the tangibles (as it were) to elevate his game to the professional level. Which is a shame, because he does have the intangibles to play at this level and in that respect he's the anti-Ryan Leaf.

But in the real-world of the NFL, he's another Robbie Bosco/Gino Torretta type - a guy average college-level talent carried by his team and unfit for the NFL.

by dbt (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 2:46pm

Orton's been a victim of a number of things, including tons of dropped balls (Moose, Des Clark, Wade) and losing a number of receivers, including his speed guys (Berrian, Bradley). He's also been the beneficiary of a solid running game (though Thomas Jones couldn't elude the Tampa defense at all, they seemed to have his tendancies pegged pretty well) and a much better than expected offensive line. I think he'll be good in the future, though I really want Rex to get some game time and get healthy in case we need him in the playoffs.

Finally, lots of people aren't fooled by Orton. Boers and Bernstein (2-6pm on WSCR 670am, best daily sports talk show in Chicago) have been screaming that he's worthless for weeks now.

by Sara (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 2:47pm


Aw, it's the "but what if Moose had held onto the ball?" argument. That brings back such fond memories. You'll save yourself a lot of heartache if you just accept the fact now that Moose is going to blow more big plays than he makes. Trust me.

by Brian (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 4:05pm

Sarah (29),

While Moose has had several drops this year, he's also made some extremely hard and timely catches. In fact, I'd say that, so far, he's come through more than he's failed.

That said, I wish both him and Orton would just start connecting on the easy, wide-open plays.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 5:30pm

RE 28: It's not the people who consistently watch the Bears that bother me. It's the guys who don't watch the Bears but see that they have won and therefore assume that Orton is proving himself "a winner."

by Jerry (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2005 - 7:21pm


You're right that Roethlisberger hasn't had to throw more than 30 passes in a game yet, but I don't think you can conclude too much from it. Part of the reason the running game has been succesful has been Ben's ability to hit passes early, and on those occasions when he's had to lead the team to a late score, he's been up to the task.

At some point, we'll see what happens when the Steelers decide to go pass-wacky, but until then, you can't blame Roethlisberger for finding himself in a situation where he doesn't have to throw 40 times.