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A heart condition discovered at the combine has put the Michigan lineman's career in limbo, but Hurst had the best film of any defensive tackle in this year's draft class.

14 Dec 2006

The Game Charters Speak II

As most of you know, this is the second year of our project where a group of volunteers (and FO staffers as well) charts every game of the season to track things that the play-by-play does not track, and create new statistics. Occasionally you'll see these stats during the season, but the turnaround time is slow, so our database is usually behind the actual games by a couple weeks.

But we don't need the database to learn something from the game charting project, because all that tape-watching turns us into scouts as much as statisticians. A few weeks ago, we ran a collection of observations from our game charters, and it's time to give them the floor once again. Remember that the comments below represent their opinions, not the opinions of any FO writers. They reflect the teams these charters track, so only a few teams are represented (we had less feedback this time).

Bill Benetti

I was assigned the second half of the Week 12 Baltimore-Pittsburgh game, but by the time I started charting, the game had become a one-sided affair. Baltimore scored 17 points and kept the Steelers off the board altogether. In watching the game, I saw a very good defense at work, both in terms of scheme as well as execution. I'm sure this is no surprise to anyone, but I don't know if people realize how overmatched Pittsburgh was that day.

I recorded 39 Pittsburgh pass plays in the second half. During most of those plays Roethlisberger was under enormous pressure, even though Steelers generally kept back players to assist in pass protection. Baltimore rushed only four 23 times in that second half, and 18 times Pittsburgh left additional players back in pass protection. With only four rushing, more defenders in coverage reduced Roethlisberger's options even further.

Baltimore also called blitzes at the perfect times. Here's the listing of the rushers and blockers for one drive at the end of the third quarter.

Rushers Blockers
4 6
5 6
6 5
4 7
3 7

Note that the first pass play was fairly normal; keeping one extra blocker in is common. But on the second play, Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan called a corner blitz, bringing Gerome Sapp in from the edge. On that play, Sapp hurried Roethlisberger, but Ben managed to get the ball to Heath Miller regardless. On the third play, Baltimore brought six rushers, while Pittsburgh only had five blockers. This resulted in a sack and a loss of 10 yards. On the next two plays Pittsburgh, fearful of the pass rush, left in two extra blockers, while Baltimore chose not to blitz. This limited the passing options that Roethlisberger had available to him. Ryan blitzed when Pittsburgh least expected it, and he wanted to avoid blitzing when the offense kept in extra blockers. Of the 13 blitzes (either five or six rushers), only two ran up against seven or more blockers.

Another thing that Ryan is doing right is mixing up the defenders he sends on a blitz. Sapp (who is listed as a safety, but appeared to be a corner) and Corey Ivy both blitzed from the edge. I also saw a number of delayed blitzes that Pittsburgh seemed to have no answer for. Multiple times I would see Ray Lewis or some other blitzer hit Roethlisberger untouched, with no offensive player trying to block him.

Mike Rutter

  • DeMarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman are very similar in playing ability, but Merriman plays with more fire and energy.
  • Quentin Jammer has been doing a good job of cutting down on the PI calls. I haven't cursed his name for a stupid interference penalty for several games now.
  • Michael Turner is a much better kick returner than Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie has the raw speed to break an occasional long one (evidence being his 91-yard return), but Turner has much better vision and follows his blocks. With Turner you get consistently good returns, while Cromartie is very boom or bust.
  • Left tackle Marcus McNeill is playing better than anyone thought that he would. He's been pretty solid in pass protection and is a beast in the run game. There have been no indications of the back problems that he was reported to have had in college.
  • A blind person, or even Rex Grossman, could find gaping holes in the Chargers' zone defense.

Scott Metcalf

To date myself a bit, J.P. Losman has a throwing motion like Sonny Jurgensen. It's a bit of shot put, but he seems to get it on the money. This guy is going to be good if Buffalo upgrades the offensive line.

Shawne Merriman threw around and ran around Buffalo's overmatched offensive tackles, Jason Peters and Terrance Pennington. Given the pass-rush talent in the AFC East -- Jason Taylor in Miami, Roosevelt Colvin and anybody else Belichick schemes in New England -- this has to change for Buffalo to become a force.

Phillip Rivers looked awfully average against a decent pass rush from Buffalo. San Diego may have a quick exit from the playoffs if a better overall team gets this kind of heat on him.

Vincent Verhei

By now the Seahawks' postseason future seems etched in stone. Opening weekend, they will face one of the NFC's weakest playoff teams -- a flawed team like Carolina, Atlanta, or the Giants -- in Seattle, where they've lost just once in the past 18 games (counting playoffs). Buoyed by their home-field advantage, they should win once, but then they'll have to travel to Chicago or New Orleans, playing on the road against a much better team, and their season will most likely end there.

The defensive backfield, which was inconsistent during the Super Bowl run, has slipped to shoddy. Defenders are falling down, missing tackles, and allowing big plays. A switch at safety from Michael Boulware to Jordan Babineaux has done little to help. The front seven has been better, but has also suffered from a case of missed tackles. In the first half in San Francisco, I counted six missed tackles (five outright missed and one that was made, but surrendered eight yards in the process), accounting for an extra 79 yards of offense allowed.

On offense, the departure of Steve Hutchinson has been the most noticeable weak point of an offensive line that has been constantly reshuffled. As Mike Tanier noted in a recent Too Deep Zone, the Seahawks have not used any line combination more than four times. Left tackle Walter Jones has declined from arguably the league's best player to being merely a good tackle. Worse, fullback Mack Strong has apparently gotten very old overnight, going from a good player to a distinct liability.

The Seahawks' best chance to make a big playoff run is to spread the field with four wide receivers and count on Matt Hasselbeck to make quick, accurate throws. With Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram (both of whom are of questionable health), Deion Branch, D.J. Hackett, and Nate Burleson, this team is ridiculously stacked at wide receiver and should have little problem finding a mismatch somewhere. This will also take pressure off the offensive line, and not ask them to hold their blocks for a long time. It will also keep the declining Strong and inconsistent tight end Jerramy Stevens on the bench.

On defense, it's not a problem with scheme. They simply need to tackle and cover better.

Dan Haverkamp

One of the main reasons for the Bengals' four-game winning streak has been the emergence of cornerback Johnathan Joseph. When Joseph was selected with the 24th pick of the 2006 draft, he seemed to be more a long-term solution to replace aging corner Tory James, who clearly lost a step over the course of 2005. Marvin Lewis was content to let Joseph learn behind veterans James and Deltha O'Neal as the nickel back before taking a starting spot in 2007.

When O'Neal injured his shoulder against the Chargers, Joseph was forced into the starting lineup and flourished. The Bengals have not lost since Joseph took over for O'Neal, and it now seems unlikely Joseph will lose his starting role, although it is unknown whether it is O'Neal or James that will see a diminished role. Joseph's main asset is his speed, which allows him to give receivers large cushions before the ball is thrown and still close in time to make a play.

No one is more aware of Jonathan's speed than Steve McNair. The Ravens passing attack was frustrated by Joseph all day, as he helped the Bengals force McNair to his worst game since Brian Billick took over play calling duties, as well as their only loss. McNair consistently threw outside routes to Joseph's side of the field, only to find his receiver covered by the time the ball arrived. Joseph had a career day: seven tackles and four passes defensed.

The major flaw in his game right now is an inability to catch the football. Three of the four passes Joseph batted down against the Ravens could have easily been interceptions. If he can turn those drops into interceptions, watch out: he will be great.

Shawn Krest

On offense, the story in Buffalo is the steady development of J.P. Losman. On defense the story is a player who has made a complete turnaround. Cornerback Nate Clements has gone from being a "don't let the door hit you" free-agent-to-be to an integral part of a big-play defense, likely earning himself millions of dollars in the process.

Clements has long been a gambler, leaving large cushions for receivers in the hopes of luring a quarterback into throwing his way. That means Clements is often charging at a receiver as the ball arrives, a strategy that relies on good open-field tackling. Clements suffered an early-season tackling slump, however, leading to some huge plays against him. In addition to the usual FO charting, I count missed tackles on Bills games. Clements missed 12 of 23 tackle opportunities in the first quarter of the season, a tackle accuracy rate of 48%. The misses led to an additional 83 yards gained by opposing receivers.

Clements has gradually improved his accuracy, missing just five tackles in the next seven games, and his tackle accuracy for the third quarter of the season was up to 86%.

It's possible that McGee's struggles to avoid the big play have led to Clements' rebirth. After opposing quarterbacks started targeting McGee's inability to defend a double move, the Bills shifted more safety help his way. Without a safety net, Clements is making better decisions about when to play tight and when to drop off.

Posted by: Guest on 14 Dec 2006

38 comments, Last at 18 Dec 2006, 1:45pm by zlionsfan


by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 12/14/2006 - 7:39pm

Thanks to my fellow game charters for picking up the slack and also shaming me for my laziness. Since I didn't get my email in, a couple thoughts:

About the Colts, the Titans put up some superficially very good stats, but Travis Henry ended up last in DPAR and deservedly so. Aside from two big runs, Henry simply wasn't very productive running the football. The Colts defense, particularly the LBs, were able to read and react to the play. I didn't get to watch much of the Colts' game against the Jaguars, but my suspicion is that (i) the Jaguars' offensive line is better than the Titans' offensive line, which means they were better able to get to the second level and (ii) Taylor and Jones-Drew are much quicker than Henry, meaning they get to the hole faster and give the LBs less time to react. The Colts showed fairly good improvement in limiting the Titans on designed runs in their second matchup as opposed to the first, particularly in power runs, the sort aimed at the Colts' primary perceived weakness of being small. This suggests to me that the Jaguars were a team uniquely able to exploit the Colts' rush D weaknesses. If Peyton and the offense were at full strength and operating at the same efficiency they showed earlier in the season, I'd expect them to be able to overcome the defensive weaknesses. But, given the double whammy, it looks like another playoff disappointment for my favorite offense to watch.

One thing that's been underlooked is the Titans' recent successes have come with both of the best defensive tackles, Albert Haynesworth and Robaire Smith, in the lineup. Smith, a former Titan who rejoined the team after being cut by the Texans shortly before the season began, was banged up in the earlygoing, and only really returned while Haynesworth was serving his suspension. The Titans are still prone to defensive lapses, as the Texans' two easy TD drives showed, but they've avoided the sort of rolling over they demonstrated in the blowout loss to Jacksonville or the second half of the blowout loss to the Cowboys.

I hope to break down the Titans' offensive performance against the Texans this evening and have some comments up on Vince Young's performance the past couple games tonight or tomorrow morning.

by underthebus (not verified) :: Thu, 12/14/2006 - 7:44pm

Thanks guys, great info and great job again. Last time you saved my fantasy season by pointing out Rex Grossman's failings. (I was able to trade him for good value)

by Israel (not verified) :: Thu, 12/14/2006 - 8:06pm

On the next two plays Pittsburgh, fearful of the pass rush, left in two extra blockers, while Baltimore chose not to blitz. This limited the passing options that Roethlisberger had available to him.

Those "two extra" made it seven blockers vs four rushers. Shouldn't one or even two of them seen what was happening and been available for something short? As it was described here (and I didn't see it on TV from here in Israel), it seems like there were one or gentlemen standing around not doing much of anything, as TMQ likes to point out.

by Lincoln (not verified) :: Thu, 12/14/2006 - 8:20pm

DeMarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman are very similar in playing ability, but Merriman plays with more fire and energy.

I'm a Cowboy fan. I've watched nearly everyplay of Ware's NFL career, just because he drops back in coverage and doesn't turn a pretend light switch off after he makes a tackle doesn't mean anything to me. Merriman is a pass rusher (and a great one), Ware is a linebacker (and a great one).

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Thu, 12/14/2006 - 8:32pm

I think the Seahawks stuff is right on. Except the suggestion about heavy use of the 4-wide set. They've shown to be quite vulnerable to extra rushers while using 4-wide sets, and haven't yet shown any adjustment. Giants game not withstanding.

The offensive line has had issues, but those issues' affect on the passing game has not hurt the running game; those issues' affect on the running game has, however, also hurt the passing game. They've been in far more 3rd & long situations this year than last year, due to the poor yards per carry on 1st & 2nd. Power situations they still excel in, but using more Eagle formations takes away the balance that they sorely need.

by Ben B. (not verified) :: Thu, 12/14/2006 - 9:53pm

Not only are there huge massive gaping holes in the Chargers' zone D, when they somehow get near the ball they are completely incapable of catching it.

by Kal (not verified) :: Thu, 12/14/2006 - 10:00pm

Fortunately for the Chargers, they have a stellar pass rush. Which rule is it from FO that says that having a good pass defense is not always about having the best corners?

When they do play a team that can stop their pass rush they tend to give up a lot of points (Cinci, shockingly, is a good example, as was Denver) but they can be great.

Nice job, charters. I love to see more notes like this - it's like the forgotten lore of what's going on game-to-game.

by sonofbrocklanders (not verified) :: Thu, 12/14/2006 - 10:00pm

nice work guys.

re: losman - do you feel it is just a matter of more training camps, work, etc etc to improve his short passing game and reading of defenses? He seems to throw a nice deep ball, and seems to have a decent feel for pressure, which is always coming.

re: Merriman or Ware - I don't see your chart on a Dallas game, so was this comment inserted because the two were selected back to back in the draft? I agree with Lincoln, the theatrics might be fooling you. Ware is a well rounded LB, not just an edge rusher. I give Ware the edge over Merriman because he hasn't been caught using roids yet.

by Another Jake (not verified) :: Thu, 12/14/2006 - 10:02pm

I also agree with the analysis of the Seahawks, with one exception - it's true that Walter Jones' play this year has been well below his usual standard, but you didn't mention that this has largely been the result of him playing hurt nearly all season. The loss of Hutchinson and total absence of continuity on the line haven't helped, but it is far too early to assume this is the result of age-related decline.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/14/2006 - 10:14pm

Age-related decline also happens to include increased injury frequency.

Besides, the commenter didn't say it was due to age - he just said Jones went from being the best tackle to a good tackle.

by Another Jake (not verified) :: Thu, 12/14/2006 - 10:41pm

True enough, Pat, but by not mentioning the injury the logical inference is that it is regular age-related decline. His ankle injury has received next to no national media coverage, so many if not most people outside the Northwest aren't even aware he's been playing hurt.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/14/2006 - 11:06pm

That's pretty typical when you've got an injury that doesn't cost anyone any games. Besides, at this point in the year, almost everyone in the NFL could be listed with an injury. A lot of being a great player is how you play with injuries.

by hector (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 3:19am

Fantastic notes, guys. Thanks for the work and the words.

by Scott C. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 3:40am

I’m a Cowboy fan. I’ve watched nearly everyplay of Ware’s NFL career, just because he drops back in coverage and doesn’t turn a pretend light switch off after he makes a tackle doesn’t mean anything to me. Merriman is a pass rusher (and a great one), Ware is a linebacker (and a great one).

Well Im a Charger fan, and you clearly haven't seen Merriman play the run or drop in coverage -- he's very good at both and is regularly asked to do so. The chargers don't blitz that often (bring more than 4 on the pass rush), and when Phillips or another LB is the #4 rusher, Merriman is on other duties.

Maybe watching more than ESPN highlights would help?

by Nick J., (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 4:41am

I'm not so sure about the Seattle analysis after tonight's game. There is a decent chance they will not win the division until the final week, and it is likely the would be the worst NFC team in the playoffs (which is saying something).

Remember without their kicker being perfect on last second field goals (4/4) this team would be .500 or under. Also this team has managed only an 8-6 record against what has to be one of the easiest schedules in the league. They only have beaten 2 teams with winning records (both 7-6 currently).

I would be surprised to see this team make it out of the first round in their current state. (

by Common Sense (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 4:49am

J.P. Losman has above-average physical talent. That's been obvious since day one. He throws the ball far and runs fast. But his subpar quarterback skills manifest every week, even in his supposed "breakout preformances". He can't read defenses well, has a slow release, doesn't respond well to pressure, tends to fumble, locks in on his primary receiver (though sometimes he pretends not too), overthrows open receivers (often on third downs), exhibits poor body language when things don't go well, and, for all his deep ball prowress, has underthrown Lee Evans downfield more than a few times.

The rookie quarterback projection system hates Losman. DPAR and DVOA aren't very fond, either. At 25, with close to three training camps and more than 20 starts under his belt, it's unlikely he'll get much better.

Buffalo will not get a chance to lose another Super Bowl until he's purged from the roster.

by Staubach12 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 5:04am

I'm a cowboy fan living in San Diego (San Diego is kind of my default AFC team because I live here & I think LT is the best all-around back of this generation). I have watched every Charger game, and all but one Cowboys game, so I think I'm in a good position to judge between the two.

Both Ware and Merriman are amazing atheletes, but Ware is a smarter player. Ware does have to perform a more complicated role in the defense than Merriman does. Merriman does everything well and is exceptional at pass rushing. Ware is exceptional at everything and is a faster sprinter than Merriman. Ware took longer to adjust to his role in the NFL than Merriman did, but that was because he had more adjustments to make.

The Cowboys originally had Merriman higher on their draft board, but they eventually moved him below Ware because of brains and "character issues." I think they made the right decision going with Ware. I also think SD made the right choice by taking Merriman next.

Re: Merriman playing with more "fire," Ware is the more relentless player. You don't have to do a dance after every tackle to be a good defender. See: Lilly, Bob.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 9:24am

A Merriman / Ware debate is kind of like an Orlando Pace / Walter Jones debate.

Sometimes, when two players at the same position are drafted around the same time in the same year, both of them are really awesome. The Cowboys' decision to take Ware over Merriman isn't the important thing. The important thing is that they decided to take one of those two players, instead of a stupid pick like Mike Williams.

Oh, and speaking of the 2005 1st round, what's the deal with Travis Johnson of the Texans? He plays in my favorite team's division, he was in the first half of the first round, and I haven't even heard of him. That can't be good.

by Coach Tuesdsay (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 10:36am

Re: 16

Wow, that paragraph contains more inaccuracies than a Donald Rumsfeld press conference. Do you by any chance write for the Buffalo News?

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 10:42am

Dan, good job on the Bengals and Johnathan Joseph. He is a great young talent, but sure does seem to have trouble catching the ball, something the rest of the Bengals secondary is usually quite good at.

Does anybody keep track of dropped INTs? Dropped INTs can be critical in a game, and certainly 3 drops by the Bengals secondary in the 4th quarter played a role in them losing the first game to Baltimore.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 11:49am

Re: Bengals

Just read that Pollack is going to have surgery and that his football days are probably over. Has anyone else heard/seen this?

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 1:15pm


Yes. My cousin in Cincinnati passed on the word. The docs were hoping that if it healed without surgery he might still be able to play. But with surgery no chance of getting back on the field.

by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 1:36pm

RE 19: That's a strong statement to make without providing any specifics - similar to a Donald Rumsfeld Iraq Experience press junket. The portions of Common Sense's post that are easily fact checked - DVOA, years in league, starts, projection - are certainly accurate.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 2:17pm

Re: 22

Thanks for the info. That's too bad. Fortunately, it sounds like other than having to avoid sports involving frequent collisions at high speeds with extremely large men, Pollack will have a pretty normal life.

by Jody (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 4:05pm

re 18
Travis Johnson is on IR after sustaining a calf injury. He was placed in IR Nov. 13. (source Hou Chronicle). He started 8 of nine games this year, and 3 last year. He has had 8 tackes, 4 assists and no sacks this season. He was not a sackmeister in FSU, where he had only 10 sacks in 4 years. Seems like another of Charley Casserly's mediocre, poor, or bad 1st day draft choices.

by Kellerman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 7:01pm

According to Marvin Lewis today, there has been no decision made about Pollack's future, and that if they knew this surgery meant certain retirement, then they would have admitted so already. Earlier in the season Pollack himself said that a surgery to fuse vertebrae would mean retirement. I just plain don't know if this is the same surgery. However, this does seem to indicate a longer rehab than 6-9 months, which was the theory with no surgery.

by Sean (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 9:07pm

I was late to get my stuff in as well, but here is at least one observation about the Jets:

Chad Pennington's season is among the best feel-good stories of the year, but unless he is able to recover arm strength during the offseason, he is likely to be beaten out by Kellen Clemens for the starting job in 2007. Teams have figured out that they can safely ignore deep post and corner routes because Pennington does not have the arm to consistently attack those areas of the field. They pack the middle of the field with linebackers and funnel the receivers to the inside.

What is particularly shocking is that the offense is supposed to be predicated on the Mike Martz Rams model, but the signature route of that offense is practically non-existent: the deep in. Eric Mangini said that he wanted an offensive coordinator who ran that St. Louis offense because it was the offense that he and Bill Belicheck had the most difficulty scheming for. But the Jets passing game isn't difficult to scheme against at all, and that's because Pennington's arm strength is such a liability. Brian Schottenheimer has compensated for that with a lot of pre-snap complexity. The Jets use more shifts and motion than any team in the league, they use a lot of different personnel packages and have a fair number of unorthodox plays designed to take advantage of rookie Brad Smith's skill set.

Pennington still has things going for him. He's as bright a quarterback as you'll find in the league. As Mangini has noted, Pennington gets the offense out of a lot of bad plays and into a lot of good ones thanks to his ability to audible at the line. He's posted some big-time games, but they have generally come against poor pass defenses. Against a good defense, however, or against a divisional opponent that has seen him play already, Pennington is reduced strictly to the role of game manager, and the offense struggles mightily to move the ball with consistency. But the real killer is the high number of turnovers that Pennington is responsible for. You can get away with just managing the game when you are posting a 15 TD-6 INT kind of season, but Pennington has now thrown 15 interceptions. (He has also fumbled the ball several times.)

Clemens got a few snaps worth of mop-up duty against Buffalo and did not look impressive. That said, he has firmly beaten out Patrick Ramsey for the backup spot, and you can bet that Mangini and Schottenheimer will spend an awful lot of time with Clemens during the offseason in an attempt to inject more verticality into the offense.

by Thalwitzer (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 9:40pm

RE Losman: 13 games into the season, he's been better than most of us hoped. At times, he looks downright awful. Passes too short, mental errors (not throwing the ball away and taking sacks), and perhaps too little initiative running the ball. Other times, he's been as good as any NFL QB not named Peyton (a weird name, BTW).

Also, Losman is hindered by the lack of a number-two WR. Price does not have the speed of five years ago--who of us does? I don't think the line is as awful as the CW tells us. Since the bye, it's been decent, and sometimes quite good.

Conclusion: I say hold onto him. Another two years with JP may well prove better than Eli, Rivers, Roethlisberger, or any Brady Quinn / Troy Smith type rookie.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 11:07pm

I don't yet feel like I've seen enough film to give advanced analysis (although I must have HD DirecTV/DVR by next season - I have a devil of a time making out numbers sometimes, or telling how many blockers are in that mass of humanity), but I will say this much:

I am amazed at how Fox and CBS (haven't charted one of the other networks' games, although their probably worse) practically go out of their way to avoid showing the play on the field. I can understand the desire to add stories of "interest" during the game, although I don't agree with it, and I appreciate the attempts at analysis, even though most of them are feeble, but what gets me is when they insist on using angles that tell you nothing about the play, or show the last sack five different times instead of the snap, or (my favorite) showing a tight shot of the QB's head during the snap. Yes, believe it or not, quarterbacks do actually look left and right while calling signals. I always wondered about that.

I would gladly pay extra for a broadcast that showed the game on the field - that's the reason for the entire show, right? Show me the formation, the snap, the play itself, and show the other crap in between plays. Goodness knows there's enough opportunity for that.

I'm also absolutely convinced that anyone who has ever posted in an FO forum could be a color commentator during NFL games, and in most cases, there would hardly be a dropoff in quality. I'm hoping it's always been this way and I was too young to notice, but I suspect that it really has been getting worse in recent years.

by M.G. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 11:21pm

As a Charger fan, I feel cheated. Everyone gave a good thoughtout analysis of what they saw, and the Charger fans are left with a few bullet points! I guess I missed the power point presentation! I guess the Chargers will have to win the Super Bowl to warrant a full in-depth analysis of their games.

in S.F.

by queequeg (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 11:55pm

29: but without those camera angles, how will we ever know what's 10 yards behind the qb? i would much rather see the RB and a field of open space as opposed to the coverage schemes and defensive shifts in the secondary ;)

by Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 12/16/2006 - 2:15am

I knew I missed some sort of deadline....

by Jason Mulgrew aka The Mul Dawg aka J-Rocka (not verified) :: Sat, 12/16/2006 - 3:24am

read in Borat voice

Scott Metcalf guy say he date himself. In my country, guy who do this get hairy palm.

by Vince (not verified) :: Sat, 12/16/2006 - 7:53am

1) THE WORST thing TV directors do is zoom in on the eyes of the QB or RB up to and sometimes AFTER the snap. Then you truly have NO idea what's going on. I want to throttle those people.

2) After Thursday night's game, (and 36 hours with no Internet, and still no cable, but at least I have power), I too seriously question Seattle's ability to win even one playoff game. I had faith in their homefield advantage. That faith is gone.

by Jason Mulgrew aka The Mul Dawg aka J-Rocka (not verified) :: Sat, 12/16/2006 - 9:07am

re: 34 I hope the Eags play at Seattle if they don't win the NFC East but still make the playoffs. They would beat the Seahags for sure.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Sat, 12/16/2006 - 5:59pm

re: 29 -- i'm a football fan, but i don't know much about its history (other than how pathetic the indianapolis colts were in the 80s and how they became something to talk about towards the end of the 90s) or much of the statistical analysis. hell my 11-year-old son has a better grasp of who plays where (though not yet what) than i do. that said, i think you're right about the "announcing" teams. at least i'd be watching the game.

by Jon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:02am

I see the Chargers play every week and I've only seen the Cowboys play twice this year so I may not be the right guy to judge the Ware/Merriman debate. Here's what I can tell you: Merriman is not just a pass rusher. He is extremely good against the run, and rarely misses tackles. He isn't great in pass coverage, but he doesn't need to be because he blitzes on most passing downs. He's also one of the more clutch players I have ever seen on defense. When the Broncos went for it on 4th and 2 in the fourth quarter, Merriman batted down Cutler's pass at the line. I don't really know Ware's true value to the Cowboys, but Merriman brings more than just his pass rush. The Chargers had one helluva 1st round that year, grabbing Merriman and Castillo. Many people forget about Luis who is the best 3-4 end in the NFL besides Richard Seymour.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:45pm

queequeg, what's even better is the ladybug shot. That was the specialty of the Fox crew for Detroit-New England. Not only did we get Matt Vasgersian and JC Pearson, but the producer loved to show us the field-level shot from about 40 yards downfield, almost as if you were a bug on the grass, looking up at the strange objects on the horizon. For some reason, I couldn't always make out the formations (and my contacts are currently overcorrecting) ...

I've charted two Chargers games so far. One thing I've noticed is that it's difficult to determine who is where because they have a number of players who can line up in a number of positions: pretty much everyone lines up as a WR at some point, and the TEs and FBs are mostly interchangeable. It's not just that they line up to throw you off, like the Lions do; it's that they can play those positions, so you can't ignore Manumaleuma or Neal when they're split wide.

One thing I've noticed is that no matter how bad your opponent is, they can capitalize on certain mistakes. If you leave a receiver absolutely uncovered, pretty much any NFL quarterback, even Andrew Walter, can hit him.