Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fire Brian Kelly

Since Patrick introduced me to the Brian Kelly resume I've been an interested follower in his career arc. Back when it looked like ND would hire him, I was hoping he wouldn't go, more due to my Penn State bias and therefore disdain for the Fighting Irish. But he's a brilliant coach, ND would have been stupid not to throw everything they had to get him, and Kelly realistically would have been stupid not to take the job.

My opinion changed in an instant this week, when student videographer Declan Sullivan died while filming practice for the Irish.

A few things dig into the heart of this matter for me. Perhaps I'm just a naive football fan that doesn't really know how these things work. But right now, I have trouble seeing the blame for this whole thing being placed at anyone's feet other than Kelly, with the possible exception of Jack Swarbrick - ND's AD - holding an equal share of it.

Let's start with the conditions. Swarbrick went on record with strong overtures that there was no reason to think the conditions were dangerous enough for Sullivan to be up in the lift.

In an Oct. 28 media briefing, University Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick described the weather conditions as normal at the time he crossed the field just moments before the incident. He said that “practice was normal” and “plays were being conducted with no difficulty.” Then, he added, he “experienced a pretty extraordinary burst of wind … things started flying by me that had otherwise been stationary through the practice.”


However, this appears to be in direct contrast with tweets that Sullivan made prior to practice.

"Gusts of wind up to 60 mph well today will be fun at work … I guess I've lived long enough."

As if that's not enough, he apparently tweeted while in the lift, prior to the horrific accident, that the conditions were "terrifying." It's probably logical to assume that 20 feet off the ground is no so different from ground level that Swarbrick was feeling a light breeze while Sullivan was staving off a cyclone.

So how's this have anything to do with Kelly? I put the responsibility at the feet of the guy who's driving the practices and ultimately responsible for everything going on around them. While I doubt it went so far as a cartoonish scene where Sullivan was on his knees, tearfully begging not to be sent up on the lift while a half-man-half-ogre Kelly screamed at him to get on that lift before he ate his unborn children; it's almost impossible for me to believe the head coach isn't responsible for the decision to leave the kid up there in conditions in which he never should have been.

I'm sure there's a lot more to the story. Is Kelly an expert at what conditions are safe for lifts and what aren't? I'm sure he's not. Did Kelly tell the kid he had to go up in the lift that day? I have no idea. But ultimately he's responsible for what's going on in practice. If there was a hurricane out there and he sent his kids out to practice and one of them died because of it, would he be getting a pass? No way.

So why should he get one here?

This is a tragedy that shouldn't be forgiven. There's no reason to have sent that kid up there in those conditions. And if Kelly himself didn't know any better then it's his job to make sure he's surrounded by people that can inform him so that he does. Directly or indirectly, he put that kid in mortal danger. And as such, he should bear responsibility for the consequences of those actions.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Jerry Jones: Kitna Still Has It

Let's just hope that "it" isn't catching.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Romo's guts

I've made fun of Romo (not necessarily here, but certainly to others). What a candy-@$$. What a nancy-boy. What a slacker. Dude's a pretty boy who doesn't care and can't win.

Flip to around 1:50 in this video. It's made me about 180 on him...

"Did he catch the pass?"

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Announcer succumbs to sense of inevitability

Is it cool to announce what's going to happen, before it actually happens? Journalists usually avoid that. Though perhaps football announcers stretch the term "journalists".

In the Ravens-Bills game this past weekend, the winless Bills were leading the whole first half, but by the start of the 3rd Q things were breaking the Ravens way. The Ravens had a couple of important replay calls go their way at the end of the first half – correct calls, but the kind of thing that can take the wind out of your sails, if you're the other team. Then Baltimore got a late TD to close out the half, then on the first play from scrimmage Ed Reed gets an interception. This is the next play.

Don Criqui is an old, old pro: he must have felt a strong sense of inevitability about the way things were going. Listen to exactly when he calls the touchdown, in this clip:

video
(You can see a nicer, full quality video at NFL.com, here.)

Criqui obviously sees the whole play develop very early. Here is the text of Criqui's call:

“Wide open, and Ravens take the lead. Anquan Boldin makes it look easy.”
Criqui says the word “Ravens” as Flacco delivers the ball. That's a 44 yard pass! You would think there's a lot that could happen on a 44-yd pass. The ball could be overthrown. There could be a gust of wind. The receiver could trip. The defender, even a Bills defender, could miraculously make up ground. Whatever.

But no. Criqui was feelin it. He calls the Ravens taking the lead as Flacco throws it, and he times the rest of it so he says the word “makes” just as Boldin catches it. Criqui says these words while the ball is in the air:
“...take the lead. Anquan Boldin...”
So it comes out as, “Anquan Boldin [pause] makes it look easy.”

No, Don Criqui. You make it look easy.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kind Of Gloomy

Bradie James with the understatement of the day award.

"It's kind of gloomy, I wouldn't say devastating, but it's a big blow. Don't get it twisted. You don't lose a guy like that and expect that you're going to win them all."
Yeah. Kind of. Your team just went to 1-5 and lost its starting quarterback for half a season. But buck up little camper, if it's only kind of gloomy that means that it's mostly bright and sunny, right?

And then Tony Romo backs up James' statement with the overstatement of the day.
We're lucky to have Jon, he's had a lot of success in the league. He's had some really, really great seasons. He's going to step in and he's going to do a great job for this football team. We're going to rally around Jon.
Gosh. You think Romo is in fear of losing his job? Is Romo really the Wally Pipp to Jon Kitna's Lou Gherig?

Yeah, I get the 'put a brave face on things' thing. Bald faced lying isn't brave facing though, it's just lying. This is a team with no running game, no offensive line, no quarterback, no linebackers and no defensive secondary. Oh yeah, their kicking game kind of sucks too.

But the stadium ... hey look! Unicorn!

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brett's Bust

No, I don't mean Jenn Sterger's chest. (Yes, the pic is safe for work.)

Let's assume this is Favre's last year. Probably not a safe assumption, but let's just say it is. He's a lock first-ballot Hall of Famer. He's played 16 of his 20 years with the Green Bay Packers. Two with the Vikings, and one with the Jets and one with the Falcons.

But he seems to be vilified in Green Bay right now. Both his trips back to Lambeau, he's been booed mercilessly. Even limping off the field tonight, after a loss, most of the crowed seemed to be hanging around in the lower levels just to boo him. As he headed toward the tunnel, the booing was very loud through the TV.

I don't know how he doesn't go into the Hall as a Packer. But with the way the town seems to be treating him right now, it's also very hard to envision him going in as one. 'They' say time heals all wounds, so five years from now maybe they're cheering him again. But when fans are hanging around after the game and booing a guy that's hurt and just lost in a town where football is life? That doesn't seem like it's a fan base likely to forget...

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tom Brady is Super Important

Apparently Tom Brady is the most important man in the NFL. So much so, that the AP wrote this piece all about how pissed off James Harrison is that he can't play football anymore, the way he was taugh to play 20 years ago. Harrison apparently takes objection to the NFL not wanting him to hurt people.

And so it went for 15 paragraphs, about how much Harrison loves the game, and how much of an injustice it is that he can't play the game the way he knows, so maybe he'll just quit. Ahh, if only he didn't have to pay back a portion of that $20MM bonus he was given a year ago! Rats!

*poof* Injected at the bottom, just in case you care, are an extra two paragraphs that tell you Tom Brady's opinion on Harrison's decision to retire or not. Really?

Apparently, Brady hasn't yet had time to comment on Indi's liquored up kicker sequel yet.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

IT WILL RUIN THE GAME!!! (panic panic panic)

The concern over monstrous hits took center stage after this week's trifecta of Harrison on Cribbs / Robinson on Jackson / Meriweather on Heap crime. While the NFL clarifies suspension policies, it's decided to dole out fair warning to players rather than suspending them immediately for those violent hits. And with those hits, the chatter about being forced to take action came on strong.

Patrick wrote a quick article about one potentially aggressive, but simple and workable solution. Others have advocated similar aggressive solutions. This morning Steve Czaban suggested banning hitting on his Sporting News Radio program, which prompted me to email him, and got the blog mentioned on the show (thanks Czabe! Podcast available for download).

And with that began the cries that doing so would ruin the game! The media backlash is immense! Okay, well maybe not the media backlash...But the media is saying the fans won't take it! They don't want their product hurt! Okay, I don't know where they're getting that...But the media thinks the fans will react, and they'll shout about it! Meanwhile, lost is the reality that if you outlaw hitting and force open-arm tackles, it won't diminish the game we love, it will in fact enhance it.

The reasons are very simple, and almost inarguable. However, like any good Devil's Advocate, I want to start with the reason NOT to ban hitting.

"It will take away those OH MY! hits, which we as fans love and make us love this game!"

Well, really there isn't much arguing that it will largely take those away. And those hits really are cool to watch. But how many people really love this game only to see those OH MY! hit moments? Would you stop watching football if they didn't exist?

Maybe there are a few that would. But I believe the vast majority of fans wouldn't. And more to the point, for as much as I - as a fan - get charged up seeing those hits, I come down very quickly and get depressingly calm as I see the aftermath of the hit...a man lying on the ground, immobile.

The two reasons in favor of banning such hits? They both revolve around not diminishing, but enhancing the game. Patrick touched on the first in his article.

"Forcing open arm tackles forces players to play fundamentally better football."

For every bone-jarring hit out there, there are five more where the player launches himself at a ball-carrier, only to either miss or bounce off relatively harmlessly and watch the ball-carrier gain another 10, 20 or more yards because they simply failed to wrap him up. Forcing football players to make good tackles makes them play better. Football players playing better improves the product the NFL is selling. I would rather watch well executed football than players on a mission to kill each other.

"Reducing the number of crushing hits keeps players healthier, and keeps starters on the field rather than replaced with second-tier players thanks to injuries."

This is simple. No one here wants to watch UFL players playing NFL football. The better players we have on the field, the better the quality of the games we watch. Okay, Mohamed Massaquoi isn't reminding anyone of Jerry Rice. But is anyone going to argue that it's better to see Chansi Stucky or Carleton Mitchell out there in his place? And DeSean Jackson is certainly one of the better young receivers in this league, an absolutely electric player to watch. It will be a less fun game to watch next week with him on the sidelines.

Bottom line, taking aggressive action won't ruin the game we love, it will make it better. The NFL should strongly consider it, to continue the theme of protecting players, as it's done recently by protecting their quarterbacks by making blows to the head and below the knees illegal. They shouldn't just look to protect the guys under center, they should be protecting everyone, and this is a simple, easy and most importantly positive way to do it.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

How to lose

...to the Patriots in Foxboro:

• 3:17 left in the second quarter, Ravens lead 10-7

Belichick challenges the spot of the ball after Flacco scrambles for an apparent first down on 3rd and 6 near midfield. After the challenge, the ball is moved back a bit and the Ravens have 4th and a foot from the Pats 49 yardline.

There are some positions on the field where you should almost always consider going for it on 4th down. Those positions are across midfield, just in the opponents territory, say around their 40 or 45 yardline. This is sort of a no-man's land, between a punt and a field goal. Much closer, and you'd just take the FG. Further away and you'd punt it. But just in this area, it's too far away for a FG, and a punt is very likely to result in a a touchback, thus not gaining you very many yards.

The Ravens weren't *quite* there on the field. But they were very close. More importantly, the distance-to-go for a first down was very small, definitely less than a yard. An easy pickup for the QB sneak, esp if your formation keeps the threat of the handoff alive. And most importantly, the game situation seemed to dictate it. The defense was playing very well, but you've got to figure that Tom Brady is a lock to wake up in the 4th Q and start putting together some scoring drives. You need another score here: going up 10 before half makes it a whole different game.

As it happened, Sam Koch makes a great punt (he was excellent all day) and Jalen Parmele downs it at the Pats 8, so great field position for the Ravens D. That successful spec teams play sort of negates one of the points about "automatically" going for it on 4th: the punt netted 40+ yards of field position, so it was much more viable than the argument to go for it implies. However, I think this fails to take into account the sense of urgency the Ravens SHOULD have had, dealing with a powder-keg of an offense like they were Sunday. There are some QBs who are simply too dangerous, for you to let their team hang around within one or two scores. Obviously Tom Brady is one of those.

Harbaugh is a very traditional coach, playing field position and emphasizing executation on spec teams. This results in sound play, defensible decisions. This felt like one of those traditional defensible decisions that get you beat.

• Failed sneak

9:10 left in the 4th, the Ravens try a QB sneak on 4th-and-1 near midfield (Ravens 47 yardline), and get stuffed.

It may seem strange, that I should call for a QB sneak in one situation (above) when it failed in a similar situation later in the game. Doesn't the failure here mean that Harbaugh was right not to use it before halftime?

I think no, for 2 reasons. One, the Ravens telegraphed it. They lined up unbalanced left (RT Yanda lined up outside LT Oher) with McClain the only back (2 TEs, 2 WRs). The Pats countered with two 2 D-linemen in the A gaps. McClain motioned to the right to empty the backfield. The moment they did that, the Pats D-line scrunched in, clogging up the middle. Pats DE Cunningham (#96) moved over from his spot over Yanda on the offensive left side, and crashed the middle on the snap. Everyone and his brother surged directly to the point of attack. There was no other threat: the whole stadium had read “sneak”. Usually an offense will at least show some other credible threat: spread the D out or something. Compare this failed sneak with the one the Packers ran on the goal line this weekend.

Two, it seemed like Flacco used poor technique or judgement in picking his gap. Simms telestrated it for the game broadcast, and it seemed like the defensive formation should have dictated that Flacco run left with the ball, in the direction of the LG. If he'd literally bounced it outside like a running back, he may have had 3 or 4 yards; but even keeping it inside, running toward the LG or the gap between the guard and tackle, it looked like he should have had the first down. Harbaugh seemed to acknowledge as much in his Monday press conference, when he said: “You can still run the quarterback sneak against that look, it's just a matter of where you run the ball. Obviously they can't defend every gap, and Joe's got some options in there where to take the ball.” (quote starts at about 17:25 mark on

Anyway: that was a crucial situation in which to come up short.

• Flacco runs cold

With 10 mins left in 4th, Flacco's stats were 21 of 25 (84%) for 244 yds (9.8 yds/att) with 2TDs, for a passer rating of 134. Unbelievably efficient and productive play. Flacco threw 10 more passes the rest of the game, for a total of 41 more yards. His 6 completions sounds decent, but the 4.1 ypa is terrible. Either he became Captain Checkdown, throwing timidly; or the play-calling changed; or his coaches were telling him to be careful; or something. The Ravens needed just one more score to win the game, on any of their last 4 possessions, and instead they were mostly impotent on offense. I'm sure the Patriots had something to do with it: they must have been playing better coverage. But you have to be able to execute against the prevent D.

• McClain's penalty

7:14 left in overtime, Ravens have the ball 2nd and 9 on their own 20. Ray Rice is stopped for no gain, and in the pileup McClain gets mad and shoves a Patriot defender, drawing an amazingly stupid penalty. Instead of 3rd and 9, the Ravens are looking at 3rd and 19. Of course they fail to pick it up. They punt it away, and the Pats drive down the field for the winning score.

What is there to say about such a critical loss of composure, in such an important moment?


Other notes:

The Ravens loss of a 10-pt lead in the 4th Q represents the largest collapse of the Harbaugh era.

• Flacco became the Ravens all-time leader in passing yardage, over Kyle Boller.

~

I don't have any right as a Ravens fan to be disappointed that they lost this game, because I had this one earmarked as a loss. When the schedule was announced in the offseason, this was an automatic loss. Belichick & Brady, at home, with a chance to avenge the playoff beatdown? And with the bye week added in. I figured that even if the Pats lost 15 games, they would win this one.

But it is annoying to be in position to win, to have a 10pt lead in the 4th and have a great chance to go 5-1 and take control in the conference, and then come up short, in this entirely predictable Tom Brady comeback. It's annoying to play so well for 3+ quarters, and then fold.

~

Chris was on a Ravens discussion board earlier, and wrote that Ravens fans need to keep some perspective:

that was simply a horrendous loss.
...
But then at the same time, I realize we're 4-2 through a just BRUTAL stretch of our schedule. @ NYJ, @ Cin, @ Pitt and @ NE, with two disadvantages via six days before Cin and NE coming off a bye week. Now we roll into the easy stretch where 4 of 6 are at home with the six vs. teams a combined 14-18, plus Reed coming back. We have a good chance of being no worse than 8-4 or better going into the home stretch of the year.
I should totally agree: esp as I'm the guy who wrote that “Given the way their schedule falls, I think if the Ravens get thru the first 5 or 6 games at or above .500, they will have a chance at a first round bye in the playoffs.” If you told me then that the Ravens would be 4-2 coming out of game 6, I would have shouted “WOO HOO! Look out, league, here we come!”

But this feels like one of those losses that reveals something fundamental about the team. The Ravens seem plodding and deliberate, rather than explosive. Compared to the other good teams in the AFC:

Steelers – The Ravens have a good front 7, but they don't have the same violence and power that the Steelers have, and they don't have Bathroom Ben.

Jets – The Ravens have a good defense and a good young QB, but they don't have the speed & athleticism the Jets have, nor the powerful O-line; and Sanchez hadn't thrown an INT this season until this week.

Patriots – The Ravens have a balanced team, but they don't have the clutch opportunism the Pats seemed to display, and their QB hasn't shown the comeback ability that Brady has.

Indy – The Ravens don't have Peyton Manning, and Indy does.

I dunno, I'm probably overreacting. Really, it was a great game.

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31 - 18!

You don't see this in the NFL:





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A Simple Solution

We are increasingly seeing the issue of concussions discussed with regard to the NFL and to a lesser extent other injuries resulting from big hits. Obviously we are proud here at OS that we've been a bit cutting edge in the discussion, even as we understand that no one is really reading this blog much.

Peter King is on board. I hesitate to claim that he hasn't been in the past but it isn't insignificant that he leads his MMQB with it today.

The games we watched Sunday seemed as violent a collection as I've seen. Judging from the tweets and e-mails I got as the day went on, the public was astonished too. The Dunta Robinson collision with DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia, concussing both the Atlanta corner and Eagles receiver and probably kayoing the invaluable Jackson for Sunday's game at Tennessee. Several shots in Pittsburgh, two vicious ones by James Harrison of the Steelers; his helmet-to-helmet shot against Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi will certainly draw a heavy fine, and it's incredible to me no official flagged what could be the textbook definition of hitting a defenseless receiver. In New England, Brandon Meriweather lighting up Baltimore's Todd Heap with a hit to the head so vicious that either a mouthguard or something flew high into the air at the moment of impact. And so on -- six or eight shots where you wondered, "Is that guy getting up?''
I recommend the rest of King's piece. He discusses other solutions, none of which I particularly hate. It is surprising though, that given the level of clinical and national attention that was given to NFL concussions in the off-season that concussions appear to be at a local high.

Anyhow, something has been swirling my brain for a couple of months and the more I watch games, watch damage done from big hits and also embarrassingly sloppy tackling I keep returning to an idea I think would work.

Require open shoulder tackles.

Too often we see linebackers and safeties lower their shoulders and try to knock someone out rather than simply wrapping up and taking down. Require open-shoulder hits. Shoulder pads and helmets are protective devices, not weapons. Hand out 15 yard penalties for leading with the shoulder, eject players who lead with their helmets.

There would still be big hits, there surely would still be concussions. I have a hard time believing that players like Ray Lewis would be particularly limited by rules like this anyway.

From a purists standpoint I would really like to see this rule installed in the NCAA, but mainly for a selfish reason. I get sick of watching bad tackle after bad tackle. Half the time these guys whiff on their rhinoceros charges and the ballcarrier gains another ten yards anyway. Put the rule in at the NCAA and there would be more polished tacklers graduating to the NFL. It would make the game safer and it would make the game better to watch, unless you are a fan of players knocking guys down and then standing over them in some kind of male dominance ritual.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

The best post on the Randy Moss trade

Sorry, just one more. Here's Bill Simmons on the Randy Moss trade. (Simmons leads off with a quote from Jason Whitlock, shown here, and the rest is him.)

Randy Moss trade the right move
by Bill Simmons
'Moss is the unstable, super-hot girl you never marry.'
...
On the surface, it looked like the umpteenth example of Belichick putting the team's future ahead of one player. He consistently cuts ties with veterans a little too soon rather than a little too late. He stockpiles draft picks so relentlessly that you could do a "Hoarders" episode about him.
...
And in person – my Lord. Normally at football games, you watch the quarterback. At Patriots games, you watched Moss. ... The dude was breathtaking.

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WTF Alex Smith

Straight from the NFL blooper reels, Smith drops back and panics as the pocket starts to collapse, taking off right in Stewart Bradley's direction who was doing nothing but sealing the corner. Panicking even more, Smith takes off toward his own goal-line with Bradley in pursuit. Finally, the ultimate insult, Smith turns to try to throw the ball away but drops it instead.

Quintin Mikell easy pickup and TD return. Great for my fantasy team, awful for the 49ers.

I'll see if I can post the video later.

Later:

Well, NFL.com videos resist getting embedded. Guess they need people to buy Mercedeses before you can watch. But for the 30% of you who haven't seen it:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-cant-miss-plays/09000d5d81b3bfb3/WK-5-Can-t-Miss-Play-Opportunity-knocks


~

Great article from Tim Kawakami:

Singletary is (like Nolan) another totally-defense-oriented coach who is puzzled by Smith, who had hopes of building a team around Smith, who couldn’t implement the right offense for Smith, and now is going to lose his job partly because of all of the above.

~

It may take some time to unravel–because the 49ers aren’t likely to either fire Singletary right away or dump Smith. (In the current environment, I wouldn’t say it’s imposisible that Smith at some point asks to be released. Singletary… I don’t know how that’s going to end.)

But it will happen. Both things, I’d guess. Smith never should’ve stuck around a franchise that broke him once, and is about to do it again.



The 49ers never should’ve gotten themselves into a position where they were counting on Smith (again), after he’d let them down so many times in the past.



~



They have really tried it. And they have failed.

Smith and Singletary can’t escape the truth now, not after five consecutive losses to start 2010, and especially not after their sideline mano a mano during the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s 27-24 loss to Philadelphia.

Call it what you will: frustration, anger, a showdown, a coach-quarterback catharsis after several more costly Smith turnovers or just another embarrassing franchise moment.





Alex Smith is a tease. Every fan is familiar with this type of player. Shows he is capable of anything, occasionally puts up great stat lines - last night Smith passed for 300 and 2 and had a 92 rating. But these are guys who simply cannot get it done when it counts, who panic. You could see Smith panic during this play and compound and compound and compound his mistakes.

Meanwhile, the only successful quarterback San Francisco has had since Jeff Garcia just put a thumping on San Francisco's divisional rival. Shaun Hill is exactly what Smith isn't. He isn't talented, he doesn't have that great arm or great speed or great size. But he's gutsy and makes great decisions and finds ways to make plays. He is exactly what San Francisco needed Smith to become, heck he is exactly what the Lions need Matt Stafford to become - but that's a different post and I'm rambling now anyway.

I never fail to be amazed that coaches will chain their careers to guys like Smith and not even leave themselves an out. San Francisco's only alternative is another failed tease. But as Kawakami discusses, even if the corpse is still twitching, Singletary's tenure with the 49ers is dead.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

44-6!!

My 13yo stepdaughter has never seen a score where the Lions blow out another team. I'm old enough to remember the Lions playing in the conference title game, but she sure isn't. Granted, she's only been following sports for a few years. But there is a whole generation of fans who have never been exposed to the idea that the Lions could be dominant.

“It's only the Rams,” you say. Sure. But I happen to believe the stuff FO writes about how “Great teams are generally defined by their ability to easily win games over inferior teams.” The linked essay goes on to point out, “When a team blows out its opponent, one unlucky bounce or missed kick isn't going to change the result. A lopsided win provides pretty good proof that the winner is a better team than the loser.”

44-6 is a very big number.

It is hard to be 5 touchdowns and a field goal better than another NFL team, even a bad team. And the Rams came into this game with a .500 record! Maybe a mirage of a record, but still .500. I'm not sure it's possible to be 5 TDs and a FG better than another team, and still be a bad team.

I mean, I'm not ready to put the Lions back in the conference title game just yet. But maybe football fans better get ready for the idea that the Lions are good. And sooner rather than later. Next time you hear a Lions fan say “Maybe next year,” you might want to take them seriously.

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Why don't teams...

Something I've wondered a lot... Why don't teams that take a late lead, such that there's no time on the clock except what can be used to take a kick-off, just on-sides kick it, or basically do a long on-sides kick about 15-20 yards?

Real life example is the Bucs taking the late lead and the Bengals having one second to throw the ball around 20 times, and actually making it into Tampa territory before being stopped. Why doesn't the kicker just bounce it straight up in the air in an on-sides kick that basically gives the receiving team absolutely no room to work? Even if they just fall on it, I'd be comfortable enough letting them maybe have a shot at a hail mary if they even get a chance at that. But it'd keep anything stupid from happening on a kick-off...

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Randy Moss might play 17 games

Moss just got traded to the Vikes this morning. Doug Farrar of FO writes that the trade fits in with New England's "organizational philosophy", which is the smartest thing I've read on New England's thinking behind the trade – everyone else thinks that it's a "head scratcher" why the Pats would make that move.

Rob Long pointed out on the radio this morning that Minnesota just had their bye week, so they have 13 games left on their schedule. Moss has played in 4 games this season with the Patriots.

That extra game isn't going to put him on pace to demolish any records – he was held without a catch against Miami on Monday night. But it's interesting. I wonder how many guys have played 17 games in a (regular) season?

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Boredom of the Browns

One of the fun things I started doing last year was becoming a volunteer game charter for Football Outsiders. They have exceptional access to game statistics, and they've put together a nice Excel sheet that allows us to chart every play of every game to capture quite a bit of information. How many RB/WR/TE/OL on each play? Formation? Who put pressure on the QB? Who was the defender on every pass? How many rushers and blockers did each team use? Zone blitz? What was the play design meant to be? Who blew blocks? Who broke tackles? etc...

Naturally I chart the Ravens and they typically ask me to chart half of a Ravens game each week. I just got done charting the first half of the Browns game today. One of the things that stuck out to me in my charting is how absolutely boring the Browns offense is.

Don't get me wrong. "Boring" does not mean "ineffective." The Browns actually showed their offense can be quite effective. Cleveland ran up 304 yards of offense vs. the Ravens, to date the most they've allowed to any team. This included 173 rushing yards, led by Peyton Hillis, a man whom when Dan Patrick asked Terrell Suggs if he'd ever heard of him, Suggs responded "Never heard of him before in my life." (Dan Patrick mentioned this to Josh Cribbs the next day, and Cribbs said "He's heard of him now.") The Browns are not dominating offensive categories or anything. But they are consistently putting up ~300 yards a game and have a 2.9% DVOA and rank #15 in DVOA, top half of the league.

But when I watched them, there's simply no innovation anywhere in that offense. I don't remember a single play with pre-snap motion. We don't track motion, but I didn't see any. As for the formations, the Browns ran 30 offensive plays in the first half, and the formations broke down in the following fashion:

Standard I formation - 9 times
Offset I formation - 7 times
Standard 3 WR set with slot WR - 7 times
All players in tight (2 WR, 2 TE, single back) - 4 times

That leaves three plays. Once they ran trips right. Once ran two TE left on a single-back formation. And once they ran two WRs stacked to one side. Those are hardly innovative formations. As a counter-example, the Ravens used motion more than half the time, and lined McClain out as a TE seven of their 23 offensive plays the first half. Simply by the fact I mention those formations as the more innovative and exciting plays of the Browns offense should show you how boring it is.

Their offensive line is what allows them to run such a boring offense and still be at least somewhat effective. The left 60% of their line - Mack, Steinbach and Joe Thomas - is arguably the best in the NFL. Womak and Pashos are not stars, but they're not horrendous either. The solid play from the line allows them to get away with not trying to confuse anyone with tricky formations or confusing motion to disguise their plays. They simply line up and smash you.

This bears itself out in their run/pass play close-ups. They ran 16 times, passed 14 (no busted passes turning into runs). Of their 16 rushes, only 5 were from a single-back formation and two of those were two TE sets. None of their rushes were draws. Of their 14 passes, only four were thrown more than ten yards past the line of scrimmage; the same number as were thrown at or behind the line. And the longest of those four went 20 yards in the air (two of them). They ran play action only once and had fewer than six blockers only twice, despite the fact that the Ravens blitzed a measly four times.

I don't have the stats like these for the rest of the Browns season. But I would be surprised if they weren't very similar. I've watched of course one full game vs. the Ravens, and bits and pieces of other Browns games, and their offense looks the same from what I've seen. Very vanilla. Very boring.

But effective. And I guess that's all that matters.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Tidbits

Jets 38 - Bills 14
Bills - Racing toward their version of the big game...what to do with the first pick in each round of the draft.
Jets - This game was so easy, even Shonn Greene got over 100 yards.

Browns 23 - Bengals 20
Bengals - A quote from Terrell Owens post-game presser: "I'd be pissed, but I had 220 yards and a touchdown! It don't matter if we win or lose the game, as long as I get my catches, it's all good!"
Browns - Perhaps now with a win and three close games vs. teams combined for 8-2 the media will start treating the Browns with a little respect. Nahhh.....

Ravens 17 - Steelers 14
Steelers - Roethlisberger relieved at a Steelers loss so Tomlin wouldn't be tempted to actually follow through on his threat to start someone else even when Ben came back.
Ravens - The city of Baltimore breaks their collective necks whirling 180 degrees from panic over Flacco becoming the next Kyle Boller to elation over Flacco becoming the next Peyton Manning. Stay tuned for the next neck breaking whirl!

Broncos 26 - Titans 20
Titans - Why bother winning a football game when you can clearly outplay an opponent but still score fewer points?
Broncos - NFL passing yardage leader Kyle Orton ... that's not a misprint ... has the Broncos off to their usual hot start, playing well above everyone's early season expectations at 2-2.

Packers 28 - Lions 26
Lions - Detroit fans excited about finally only almost losing instead of always just losing big.
Packers - It's getting tougher every week to find ways to lose games to bad teams. They almost pulled this one out, but then blew it at the last second by ramming Kuhn their final drive.

Falcons 16 - Niners 14
Niners - Clemens justifies his $80MM contract with an amazing game-sealing INT, then justifies his "horrendously overpaid" status with an amazing game-get-them-back-in-it fumble. But hey, that Taylor Mays is something else.
Falcons - Matty Ice was very cool throwing the late game INT before leading them down for the real come-back drive.

Saints 16 - Panthers 14
Panthers - Jimmy Clausen despondent after not throwing an INT for a full 60 minute game.
Saints - Saints have entered a contract with the NFL to ensure all games played this year are exciting and will not be decided by more than five points, preferably three or fewer.

Rams 20 - Seahawks 3
Seahawks - Hawks are buying into Pete Carroll's message at home, but not on the road.
Rams - Trailer voice-over for the next sci-fi fantasy movie: "In a world...where the Rams are tied for first in their division, and Mark Clayton touts top 15 receiving stats ..."

Jags 31 - Colts 28
Colts - Fans calling for Peyton Manning's head after leading the team to a start equivalent to the Rams and going 0-2 in the division.
Jags - Jack Del Rio mistakenly thinking that ugly victories count double and thinks he's headed to the playoffs as the only team currently with four wins.

Texans 31 - Raiders 24
Raiders - There's not really a whole lot to say here. They're still a mess.
Texans - Foster decides to protest the next time his team costs him a 200 rushing yard game by skipping more meetings this coming week.

Redskins 17 - Eagles 12
Eagles - It's a strange dynamic in which the Eagles fans cheer their division rival quarterback, and boo their own quarterback.
Redskins - McNabb has the typical game he used to have while playing for the Eagles where he plays both great and awful in the same 60 minute span and the team that isn't the Eagles wins.

Chargers 41 - Cardinals 10
Cardinals - Cards adding $100k to their offer to Warner to come back for every point they lose by. Warner to come back week 8 after becoming the first ever NFL player to receive a one year, $7.4 billion deal.
Chargers - Gates currently on pace to break all of Tony Gonzalez "all time" TE receiving records by week 12. Chargers on pace to look out of the playoff race until the week before they're mathematically eliminated, then go undefeated and sneak into the playoffs.

Giants 17 - Bears 3
Bears - Yep, they are who we thought they were. Their offensive line is really, really bad. And so is Jay Cutler.
Giants - Still elated from dominating a 3-0 team, the reality of it only being the Bears still hasn't set in.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Tactics

video
Video from the Ravens weekly show 1 Winning Drive. Original available here:
1 Winning Drive week 3 segment 1
Copyright by the Ravens.


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