Sunday, February 25, 2007

Programming Update, and Recent Titans Events

Where life and blogging conflict, blogging suffers. So, you won't be getting nearly as much Combine coverage here as I expected. I saw a little bit of it today, and was favorably impressed by Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson. Yeah, familiar names, but they're familiar for a reason: they're both really damned impressive out of pads and in them.

Two Titans-related events in the news lately.

First, 2005 5th round draft pick Damien Nash collapsed while playing in a charity basketball game Saturday night and died. My condolences to his family. Nash became the 2nd Bronco to pass away this offseason, with Darrent Williams' tragic shooting being the first. Nash had a short, and none too successful, career with the Titans. Indeed, had he not been a draft pick, he probably wouldn't have made the team as a rookie. When he reported to camp late and overweight in 2006, his presence was no longer deemed necessary. Denver quickly picked him up, trying to prove running back fungibility, but he wasn't too successful there either.

Second, Titans CB Adam "Pacman" Jones has been in the headlines lately for being in the wrong place at the wrong time again: a strip club in Vegas last weekend 'round the time there was a shooting. The story is probably a sordid one, but thankfully there have been no criminal charges forthcoming against Pacman. My thoughts can be found in this Football Outsiders XP thread, where I post under the highly creative name "NewsToTom." Short version: at this point in time, cutting or trading Pacman would be a foolish reaction to bad publicity. In a league where Leonard Little killed someone while driving drunk and is still playing without suffering any apparent ill consequences, Pacman's alleged involvement seems quite minor. Not that I'd want to hang out with Pacman, or he with me for that matter. Oh, and Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt's comments about cutting Pacman: no freakin' duh there's a way Pacman could not be a member of the Titans come opening day 2007. To read anything remotely definitive about Reinfeldt's comments is nothing short of asinine.

I'll have the second half of Week 17 NE-TEN up in the next couple days, I hope.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Book Review: The Draft

Confusingly enough, there were two books released last year about the NFL draft entitled The Draft, the first a work of nonfiction by Pete Williams, and the second a novel by Wil Mara. I plan to read Williams' book this offseason and review it here, but this particular review is about the Mara novel.

A methodological point on book reviews: my general view is that basic synposes of one sort or another of books are available in many places, most notably in the Amazon listing to which I inevitably link. Thus, as in my review of Tailgating, Sacks, and Salary Caps, I'll launch into my observations on the book in my own disquisited way. Unless necessary to the plot, or I want to pad my review, I won't say much about what happens.

In The Draft, the back-to-back Super Bowl champion Ravens lose their star starting QB to a car accident in early April. Naturally, their backup stinks, so they need another QB. Nearing the cap, they have to look to the draft. And, lo!, at the top of the draft, there's the best QB to come along in a generation available #1 overall. But! you can't have both the QB of the future and your current QB on your roster. Which will the Ravens GM choose? Will he go with the meh backup and run for the future, when he'll have cap problems, or will he try to win with a rookie?

As a football fan and somebody who knows more than the casual fan about the salary cap, there are several things that bugged me about the book. First, the Chargers, who hold the #1 pick in the draft, are looking for players in a trade. Now, the cap implications of trading players can be gargantuan, with bonus acceleration. For a team like the Ravens to acquire players from other teams, then trade them to the Chargers could be prohibitive, both for the Ravens in terms of trading away much of their current roster and for their trade targets. There are very good reasons you see almost no marquee players traded in the NFL--it's just too expensive to do so. Second, the struggle Mara poses between keeping the injured QB and drafting the new one is a false one--the rookie QB has to fit into the designated rookie portion of the salary cap, while the current QB counts against the overall cap. Thus, there'll be absolutely no problem keeping both QBs for the current season. The real problems would come in the second year of the rookie QB's deal, when some sort of guaranteed bonus not able to be paid in the first year because of the rookie pool amount would be due. Given the Ravens are self-described as being in cap hell the next year, adding a #1 pick-type bonus would exacerbate the problem. Further, the injured QB was signed by the Ravens a couple years earlier in free agency because it was a bigger deal and longer than the offer given by the Broncos (the other team seriously interested in the #1 overall pick, and the Ravens' playoff rival). Cutting him this year would result in a major cap acceleration because of the bonus, a situation Mara barely mentions once, but doesn't deal with in detail. There are some other niggling things, like the Ravens' GM offering to do the trade in June so the cap hit can be spread out (draftees can't be traded for a year), the Broncos' GM making underhand payments to an out of favor Ravens front office employee to spy, a player hiding an injury and taking drugs illegal to treat it, calling the ESPN personality Mike "Terico," and the silly saga of the 733t UDFA rookie who's the secret son of an NFL legend, but I'm too tired to think about those.

The blurbs are nice, and from real NFL people (even if they are Mara's primary sources), but the novel just ain't that. Maybe worth a library rental if you're a devotee, but I can't even recommend that. Life is too short to read bad books.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Titans Notes

A couple happenings in Titans-land:

First, Zach Piller was released today. Having much of two of the past three seasons, this move shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody, least of all Zach. Overall, he played in 87 games, starting 58 of them. But, I stand by what I wrote in October (N.B. they call Pacman "Pac-Man," because that's how the game is spelled).

Second, and it's another Too Deep Zone link. This one, though, my name is nowhere out there, so you can click in comfort. Instead, Mike Tanier gives a rundown of the first franchise player, Wilber Marshall. He concentrates more on the wrangling associated with the CBA than Marshall the Buddy Ryan favorite and overpaid locker room cancer, but the memories are still painful for those who remember the terrible start (1-4) and finish (7 fumbles, 28-20 loss, with 21 points in the 4th quarter). Still, the CBA info is good stuff, and MUCH better than Yost's book (or MacCambridge's, for that matter).

UPDATE (2/21, 0058 CT): Yep, no hard feelings from Piller, as a Tennesseean article entitled "Piller is upbeat despite release" would imply.

Upon Further Review: NE@TEN

UPDATE (04/18, 2355 CT): Whole game's finally up here.

T41110Weak IRun4HenryRight Tackle
Jones in the familiar H-back formation, and the Titans run that way. The Pats are able to overload that side with the pursuit after a big hole at first, and Henry's not the sort of runner with the ability to cut this run back left. Still a decent gain on first down.
T45263-WR, Slot StrongPass27BennettStop
Pats bring pressure, so VY throws a quick 3 yard pass to Bennett. Samuel misses the tackle and Drew is able to race down the sidelines for a big chunk of yardage. (CA)
I know, let's just plow Travis Henry into the line for a yard. He almost danced a little, waiting for a hole to open up, but it didn't happen. Pats did a good job to bring an 8th guy down into the box late.
N27293-WR, Slot StrongRun2HenryLeft Tackle
Run strong left. Seymour is the DE at the point of attack, and Roos gets a good initial block but Bell doesn't get a good seal and Seymour is able to slow up Henry enough for the pursuit to catch up at the hole.
N2537Shotgun BasePass16WadeDrag(?)
Pats bring pressure with a delayed blitz, and the Titans didn't do a great job of protection. Enter VY Superstar. He scrambles to his left and, while being pressured, sets his feet and throws a dart to a wide open Bobby Wade 15 yards downfield. (DO) for degree of difficulty of play in general.
N91GPacman StrongPassIncHenryCheckdown
The Titans appeared to set out to confuse the Patriots this play, lining up Pacman first on the weak side, then motioning him to the strongside. Play starts as a fake read option, and VY kind of rolls to his right. Maybe Henry was supposed to split out and didn't get there, but this was a very dangerous pass. VY was fixated on his left side, else a throw to Brandon Jones standing along the sidelines at the 7 would have been advisable. (BR) by a confused QB.
N92GWeak IPenalty-5HallFalse Start
N142G3-WR, Slot StrongRun7HenryIso
This play shouldn't work nearly as well as it does. It's a straight handoff to Henry, run right at left guard. Yet Bruschi fills the outside gap and Alexander fills the cutback lane and Henry can just keep running forward. If a pulling Olson gets to the hole a little bit faster, this is probably a TD.
Titans seemingly unaccustomed to seeing more than 4 rushers playing against own team, don't do great job blocking 5 with 6. Vrabel has his hands on VY's ankle, but VY gets a lob-type pass of the sort that makes you wonder "What the hell was he thinking" when it comes out of his hand and gets it to Hartsock in the end zone. And Hartsock can't hang it. !#$!@#%!#%. (PR) is the grade because a good throw hits Hartsock in the chest, but again, for a degree of difficulty DO wouldn't be out of whack here. Fisher opts to challenge, and a reversal would have undoubtedly been huge. But I thought at the time from the initial showing it was a bad call, and it looks worse on replay.
Drive Notes: TEN leads 3-0 after Bironas hits a 25 yard FG. Not getting the TD was annoying, but something you can live with. The most notable thing about this drive was how often the Titans came out in singleback sets. Out of 9 times lined up, 7 of them had a sole setback. That's much more what a normal Titans 2-minute drive looked like, particularly with 5 of those being 3-WR sets.
T19110I-FormationRun1HenryOff Tackle
Mediocre run right strong. Meh.
T20292-TE StrongRun4HenryIso
T2029Penalty-12BellUnnec. Rough.
Run up the middle for a couple. This may be the play where Hulkuli and the refs started to lose control of this game. The penalty should have been called on Mawae, for a late shove, and it would have been deserved. After Mawae gets a hit in, three Pats start to go after him, which is when Bell comes in with a shove from behind. Which is when Hochuli finally pulls a flag. Uhuh, Ed, gotta get this stuff nipped in the bud. This wasn't a smart play by Bell, by any means, but Mawae and the refs are higher on the culpability scale in my book.
T12317Shotgun BaseRun17HenryDraw
I hate the draw play on 3&long, but from your own 12, it's probably not too bad of an idea. The hold is a little iffy and looks worse from behind. As the cliche goes, if you want to call holding on every play, you could. Maybe after not having control the previous play, Hochuli wanted to re-assert his superiority. Well, this is one way to do it. Yes, this game still rankles me 8 weeks later; however could you tell?
Harrison comes on a delayed blitz, and isn't picked up at all. VY does very well to avoid going down and throw the ball to White underneath to avoid a safety. Naturally, Harrison hangs onto VY for a while after he throws the ball away. If VY goes down like most people would, that's roughing the passer. If Hope did the same thing to Brady, it's roughing the passer. I doubt the double standard is explicit, but roughing the passer was a real problem for the NFL this year, and this is just another example.
Drive Notes: Game tied 3-3. Must ... remain ... calm ...
T33110Weak IPassIncBennettIn(?)
MGoBlog, from whence UFR, had this receiver called "Tacopants," who was officially defined as Jason Avant's 10 foot tall duplicate. Now, I'd like to expand that concept to "the WR who's the intended target when the ball isn't anywhere near the intended target." This pass appears to have been intended for Tacopants. Nowhere near Bennett, no clue what VY was seeing on this play. BR and IN both equally plausible here, but I'm going for (IN) because there's already been a BR.
T33210Strong IPenalty-5BennettFalse Start
T282153-WR, Slot StrongPass-7YoungSack
The pocket absolutely collapses around VY. Green gets there first, and appears to simply overpower Bell with a bull rush, and Mawae can't shake off Wright in time to help. Naturally, Randy Cross on the replay talks about how the Pats are trying to pressure VY from the outside, when if the inside had held, the ends would have been out of the play. Oh, yeah, and VY needs to do a better job of holding onto the fotball. Rusher coming up the middle, get a hold onto the pigskin.
Drive Notes: Titans trailing 9-3. Must ... remain ... calm ... well, I don't have to, but I will for now.
T27110Shotgun BasePass24BennettStop(?)
Bennett is standing all by his lonesome 20 yards down the field by the left sideline and VY hits him. If receivers were this open all day, you'd have to be Kerry Collins not to complete all your passes (see TEN@MIA, Week 3). (CA)
Blah, generic run left side.
N4728Shotgun StrongPass7WadeOut
A little bit of a roll for VY, and the short pass to Wade. Pass is pretty lousy, though, and Wade has to go up and make a good catch. For such an easy throw, a (IN) is appropriate. An easy catch for MGoBlog's Tacopants, though.
N40313-WR, Slot WeakRun9HenryRight Tackle
Titans a little bit of a hurry-up here, and catch the Pats a little off guard. Henry does well to avoid the tackle of Warren at the point of attack and rumbles for a good gain and a 3rd down conversion. This is also the "infamous" "Rodney Harrison gets hurt" play, where Wade takes him out on a perfectly legal block. Naturally, the Pats players are whining about it. Mind you, I'm not happy to see any player get hurt, but it does happen.
N311102-TE StrongPenalty-5HenryFalse Start
N361153-WR, Slot StrongPassIncJonesGo
White starts out in the backfield, then flexes out way wide. Jones is the slot WR to White's side and just runs straight up the field. VY's pass is too far, though, and he can't bring it in. Just a bad throw. (IN)
Blah, short run left side.
N34315Shotgun BasePassIncBennettIn
VY rolls out, pretty good protection, and Bennett's open a dozen yards downfield. Short of the first down, but definitely in field goal range and maybe there's enough space to pick up YAC for the first down. Gotta catch the ball first, though, and Drew doesn't. (CA)
Drive Notes: Trailing 12-3, Fisher elects to punt from the 34 on 4&15. I'd bet the rain that fell during the game played a big role in his decision, but I'm not sure it was the right one. 15 yards is far, and a miss on a FG from 52 yards leaves you in a bad spot. But, the Pats do take the ball 91 yards, it's the second quarter, and you have to win the game to make the playoffs. I don't think going for it is that crazy. I'd be interested to hear William Krasker's take on the situation, or what Zeus would say, but neither has anything up on this decision in particular.
T32110Strong IRun25HenryIso
Even numbers at the point of attack! Good blocks! Runs you and I could get a first down on! Alexander and Bruschi are the guys who have a chance to make the play, but Scaife is able to slide off the double team and get to Bruschi, and Alexander has to maintain backside contain. The safeties are playing off, and Henry's open in space.
N43110Strong IRun7HenryIso
Almost the same formation, though Hall here is lined up almost as an H-back, in the position Brandon Jones is familiar with. This is also a bit quicker of a handoff, more of a draw play, and more up the middle. Still, it works for the same reasons, though the safety Sanders isn't playing as far off.
N36232-TE StrongRun34HenryIso
This time, a safety's playing up, but Hawkins makes a bad read and Hall gets 2 blocks for the price of one. Maybe if Bennett gets a better block downfield, Samuel can't make the tackle before Henry's in the end zone. Still, it's tough to be displeased about a big gainer like this one.
N21GWeak I, 3-TEPass-5YoungSack
It's a waggle play, of a sort, but the Pats have it well strung out. VY HAS to be smarter with the ball here and just throw it into the stands. He's outside the pocket, no grounding, but he's trying to make a play. The Pats had this one too well defensed. (BR) may be an odd grade, given that he didn't throw the ball, but it really gets to the stupidity of the decision. Plus, if VY had just taken a step backwards and thrown the ball away, they would have called Sanders for roughing the passer just like they called Vanden Bosch for roughing Brady on the Pats' drive. Yeah, right.
Cutback lane, cutback lane. VY gets trip on the handoff, but it still goes successfully. There's a great cutback lane to the left here, but White plows straight ahead into the Pats defenders. Please, Titans, bring in a back who can cutback with some speed.
N53GWeak I, 2-WR WeakPassIncHallFlat
VY misses Hall in the flat. Bruschi is coming up to hit Hall, and does in fact, making helmet to helmet contact after Hall can't make the catch. Naturally, this is a personal foul. Haha, just kidding. I'm not really sure whether VY or Hall is at fault here. Call it (.5 CA, .5 IN). A better option would have been Bennett on the slant to the left side.
Drive Notes: Trailing 19-3, Fisher kicks the FG. And Bironas misses from 23.
T46110Weak I, 2-WR WeakPass-2YoungSack
Waggle action. Colvin is the weakside LB, and rushes. Hall gets a chip, but isn't able to force Colvin away from where VY is moving. Sorry, Ahmard, this one's on you.
Run up the middle. The Titans' blocking screws up this play. Olson blocks down, Stewart looks to be waiting for an outside rush. Warren, lined up in the 3-4 end position, has a gap and is able to penetrate inside. Seymour is also able to push Bell back. Somebody actually throws a flag for extracurriculars, but Hochuli picks it up. I can't believe I missed how much he screwed up this game the first time through.
T41315Shotgun StrongPassIncJonesOut(?)
Jones lines up outside, looks like he just runs about 14 yards down the field (yes, just short of the marker) and stops. Samuel, in pass coverage, makes a nice play to cut under and knock the ball away. VY really seemed to rifle the ball; he appeared to have been looking at the other side of the field and was throwing from the opposite hash. A little bit of a dangerous throw, unless he was paying more attention than I thought; he could have been baited into an INT here like Anthony Henry did back in Week 4 in VY's first start. Still, not a bad throw, but a better play by Samuel. (CA) A look at the coveted all-22 camera angle shows Jones to be the Titan most open, but an alternative would have been Bennett down the line on the opposite side from Jones.
Drive Notes: Trailing 19-10 after Pacman returns a punt in the last minute of the first half, the Titans get the ball in pretty good field position to start the second half, and do absolutely nothing with it.
T23110I-Form, 2-WR WeakRun2HenryIso
Well, Hall showed a nice burst through the hole on the left side. Too bad Henry had the ball.
T2528Strong I, 2-WR WeakPassIncBennettOut(?)
T2528Penalty15NE-WrightRoughing the Passer
I'm not really sure what the hell the Titans were trying to accomplish with this play. Throw is to Bennett about 6 yards downfield, and it's not a good one. (IN) Wright gives VY a bit of a headslap; amazingly enough, this is called.
T40110Standard 2-TEPassIncBennettBootleg Deep
Bennett and Jones run a sort of deep cross 40 yards downfield, with Bennett running a flag from the opposite side of the field and Jones on the post. Jones deflects the ball, breaking Bennett's concentration as the ball deflects and hits him right in the !#@$!# chest. (DO) may be inflated, but considering the degree of difficulty here, I think it's deserved. Dick Enberg gives Artrell Hawkins for "good defense" for falling down. That would've been a bad PI call, but I've seen worse this year.
T402103-WR, Slot WeakPassIncWilliamsIn
T40210Penalty15NE-HobbsUnnec. Rough.
Short pass underneath. VY hits Roydell in the chest, and he flat out drops it. (CA) because it's a short throw and not a great one. The PF call isn't the worst call/non-call this game. Still it looks like "give the Titans a break" more than actually deserved.
N451102-TE StrongRun2HenryIso
Blah, run up the middle.
N4328Strong IRun3HenryIso
N4328Penalty+15NE-SeymourPersonal Foul
Blah, run up the middle. No clue what the personal foul was for, except it appeared to be a post-play infraction.
Blah, run up the middle. White sees a guy (Wright?) right in front of him, tries to move to the side. Probably would have done better to just blow ahead at him. I think he was actually trying to bounce it outside outside, something he might have been able to get away with in college. Welcome to the NFL, kid.
N2328Weak IPass10BennettHook
Nice playcall here. Bennett runs a short sitdown route and gets a little lost in the shuffle. He's able to get 7 YAC for the first down. (CA)
N13110Shotgun 4-WRPassIncWilliasOut
Short out route, not a great throw by VY. Roydell reaches back for it, and should have had it, though. (.5 CA, .5 IN) Seems like an odd formation for 1&10 from the opposing 13 for the Titans
N132102-TE StrongRun1HenryLeft Tackle
Generic strong-side run.
N1239Trips Right WeakPass3WadeDrag(?)
Unusual formation for the Titans, not one I remember seeing much, if at all. I kinda suspect this isn't quite the way they had it drawn up--on 3&this close you want more YAC space for Wade or a pass beyond the first down marker. All-22 would probably be helpful. So would X-ray vision and unlimited money.
Drive Notes: Bironas hits from 27 to make cut the NE lead to 19-13.
Not a bad pocket, VY just chucks it downfield for Jones. Pass is underthrown, but that may have been deliberate. Probably not, but still not a bad throw. (CA), and a nicer grab by Jones. If only he could have run into the end zone...
N12110Trips Left WeakPass1YoungScramble
Good pressure by NE, but this is VY showing his inexperience. If he keeps his head up, he has Wade running across the formation and it's at least a 5 yard gain. (BR)
Familiar formation and play. Jones over the TE in his H-back role, and a run up the middle.
N937Strong IPassIncScaifeOut
Some contact from Sanders on Scaife, but not enough to draw a personal foul. Of course. Nobody was really open. Maybe if Sanders doesn't touch Scaife, Bo can make the play. (CA), I guess.
Drive Notes: Bironas hits from 27 to cut the NE lead to 26-16. Trading FGs for TDs isn't a winning strategy, though.
T30110Shotgun BasePassIncWadeGo(?)
A little bit of a chuck and hope play. (IN) for overthrown and a helping of overall balance. Wade may have been bumped, I'm not sure.
T30210Strong IRun1HenryIso
Blah, short run.
T3139Shotgun StrongPassIncJonesGo
T3139Penalty34NE-HobbsPass Interference
Hobbs cuts off Brandon's route. You'd think this is an easy call, so naturally Cross questions it.
N35110Weak IPass-8YoungSack
Play looks a little like a Chinese fire drill, in terms of how organized the Titans are. Hartsock his block on Vrabel, who's able to strafe the ball and knock it out of VY's hands. VY has to take better care of the football next year.
N43218Shotgun 4-WRPass15WilliamsHitch
Short pass to Roydell, who's all alone and able to get about 10 YAC. (CA), but a high throw and not a very good one.
N281103-WR, Slot WeakPass28-TDYoungScramble
Starts off as a familiar Weak I, 2-WR Weak, then Henry motions out wide strong side. VY rolls right, doesn't have a good pocket, moves back the other side, dodges a tackler and pulls off some serious VY mojo. I (heart) VY. (SCR)
Drive Notes: NE lead down to 26-23. For the first time this game, it felt like the Titans were playing well and were going to win. I started to think about logging onto EBay and looking for Colts playoff tickets.
T24110Weak IPass3HallThrowback
Throwback to Hall after VY rolls left. Hall initially shows block on Banta-Cain and is able to get a little bit of separation, and gets about 5 YAC. This is a play that gets more yardage with a speedier player, which is why the Titans seem to run it more often with their (not fast enough) RBs. (CA)
T27272-TE StrongRun-2HenryRight Tackle
Generic strong side run. Mike Wright is able to crash down the line and beat Mawae at the snap to create the loss.
T2539Shotgun BasePass14BennettIn
A little criss-cross action here between Bennett and Wade the slot WR, going in and out/flag. Bennett ends up with Bruschi the closest guy and VY is able to exploit a mismatch. Ball is actually thrown about 8 yards, but Bennett is able to turn and dive for the extra yardage. (CA)
T391102-TE Strong, 2-WR WeakRun-2HenryIso
Going to be a run right up the middle, and should have gone for decent first down yardage. Except Bell doesn't get a very good block on Bruschi, so Henry tries to cut right and doesn't have anywhere to go.
T37212Strong IPassIncJonesDrag
Titans go max-protect, send out only two WRs. VY steps up into the pocket where he's most dangerous, and finds Jones crossing over the middle. He appears to be open, but Samuel is able to recover enough to bat the ball away from underneath. Good defensive play here. (CA)
T37312Shotgun BasePassINTRobyGo(?)
Pats come with a blitz, and it's picked up, or at least well enough. Roby seems to have two guys on him, with Samuel playing over the top. Not a great place to throw the ball for VY, and he compounds that error by putting it too far for Roby, but where Samuel can take the ball. (IN)
Drive Notes: Down 26-23, points would have been nice. On 3&12, a 49 yard punt with a 17 yard return isn't too bad, though. VY with a nice clothesline tackle on Samuel, though.
T30110Shotgun BasePassIncScaifeSeam
Scaife runs a decent route 20 yards downfield. VY hits him with a good pass, and Scaife can't bring it in. Not a great throw, so (CA), but still plenty good and should have been caught.
T30210Strong I, 2-WR WeakPassIncScaifeOut
Scaife runs a little 5 yard route, turns out, and can't bring in the ball. Bruschi may have hit him a hair too early, but that's a tough call to make. (CA)
T30310Shotgun BasePass-2YoungSack
VY looks downfield, but the Titans only sent out 3 pass catchers and the Pats dropped 8 into coverage, 6 of them deep. Nowhere to throw the ball, so VY steps up, looking to take off and is brought down. This is really a run, thus (SCR).
Drive Notes: Down 26-23 with 9 to play, you need points.
T381103-WR, Slot WeakPass7WadeSmoke
Quick pass to Wade 3 yards behind the line. The kind of play where what Bobby Wade does well can show off. (CA)
T4523Shotgun BasePass5HartsockOut
Short pass to Hartsock, who avoids the tackle by Sanders and picks up the first down. Another nice little playcall. (CA)
501103-WR, Slot WeakPassIncHartsockThrowback
VY fakes left, throws back to Hartsock right. Colvin was rushing from that side and makes a nice play to jump up and bat the ball down, else this is probably a decent little gain for Hartsock. (CA)
50210Shotgun BasePass3HenryDumpoff
Colvin rushes from the LOLB spot, and Roos doesn't kick out to meet him. Rushing 3, the Pats get a free shot on VY, who does a very good job to dump the ball off to Henry and avoid a sack. (DO) is the grade for good presence of mind and to preserve an overall sense of justice to the rankings.
N4737Shotgun BasePassIncNobodyThrown Away
See what happens when you don't rush 4 all the time? You rush a lot of 5 or 6, then when you rush 3 the QB doesn't see the space he's come to expect and will throw the ball away. If I don't have a (TA) category for balls smartly thrown away, I do now. Unless I should just grade it (CA).
N3747Shotgun BasePassIncJonesGo(?)
Roos false starts, not called. VY chucks the ball downfield, where Hawkins is playing deep safety and is able to bat the ball away. (.5 CA, .5 BR)... Jones gets to the ball, but Hawkins was already there.
Drive Notes: Titans start drive trailing 33-23, end drive trailing 33-23.
T24110Shotgun BasePass17WilliamsIn
Pats playing soft, easy throw underneath, no YAC. (CA)
T41110Shotgun StrongPass23HartsockIn
Little throw underneath, and the Pats player who should have coverage falls down, allowing Hartsock to pick up about 20 YAC. (CA)
N36110Shotgun BasePassINTRobyIn
Looking for Hartsock on a short route, VY makes an absolutely dreadful throw right to Samuel. This pass appears to have been intended for Tacopants. (IN)x3.
Drive Notes: It's been three and a half months since this drive happened, and I'm still pissed off. This is a drive that shouldn't have happened. The Pats had a first and goal inside of the 2 minute warning and could have taken three kneeldowns and ended the game. But Bill Belichick demonstrate his true "classy" nature and lets his buddy VinnyT get a touchdown pass to run up the score. Fuck that shit, asshole. This makes it personal. This is Sam Wyche onside-kicking up 45-0.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Words to Live By

Ken Pomeroy runs the most valuable resource on college basketball out there not the project of a major media outlet. Though his is site is focused exclusively on the men's college hardwood, he recently posted a list of core beliefs and philosophies, some of which are non-basketball-specific and important enough I'll list them here, and provide some of my own commentary.

1. Don't confuse achievement with performance.
The best team doesn't always win the game. This should be obvious, and people normally recognize it, but it's always so. Sometimes a better team plays a bad game. Sometimes a worse team plays a really good game. Sometimes fluky things happen.

2. One game matters little in evaluating performance.
See above. This is a big problem with Football Outsiders' rankings, particularly early in the season, as FO founder Aaron Schatz freely acknowledges. It's a little different in basketball, where you'll end up with 35 or so games from the best teams to analyze, than the NFL's 16 games. But, don't place too much reliance on any single game, or it could come back and bite you.

3. Stats don't lie.
Corollary: stats must be looked at in context. One of the keys to KenPom's stats is that he adjusts for possessions in a team's games, which can vary widely. NFL corollary: good teams face lots of pass attempts, so give up more passing yards and fewer rush yards. Looking at the NFL's yardage totals, good teams have a better pass defense and worse rush defense than you'd think, while bad teams have a worse pass offense and worse run defense, generally speaking.

4. Absolute statements are stupid.
Predictions are hard, especially about the future. Sometimes you get that one bad game. Sometimes things that aren't apparent will become obvious and important. Sometimes somebody comes up with something you haven't seen before, and the challenge is to adjust.

5. The single most important factor in determining the outcome of close games is chaos.
The FO-jargon for this is non-repeatable events. They happen. They can determine the outcome of games. This is why teams that win games by blowing out teams out are better than teams that win close games. See Guts and Stomps.

6. Statistical and visual analysis go together.
I'm a stathead. I believe in the power of statistics. Better stats are the key to better understanding. UFR, particularly as performed by me, is almost the exact opposite of statistics-it's totally my subjective evaluation of what happened. But I think I have a better understanding of the Titans because of it. Sometimes stats reinforce my subjective observations, sometimes vice versa, sometimes they lead you to opposite conclusions. But I'm better off, and believe (with some reason) I'm more knowledgeable because I have both.

7. The ultimate goal should be to find the truth.
This gets to what I was just saying. On a continuum, it looks like this.
Statistical analysis ------------------------------------------------- Truth
Visual analysis ------------------------------------------------------ Truth
----------------------Statistical and visual analysis----------------- Truth
But Ken's words on this are wise: "And if somebody says they know it, that’s when you should get suspicious." Know more today than you did yesterday, and know more tomorrow than you did today. The destination is just as likely to arrive as Godot, which is why the journey is the key.

Book Review: Tailgating, Sacks, and Salary Caps

Brian of MGoBlog recently updated his FAQ on writing a successful blog. Key quote: "This blog's calling card, IMO, is UFR. What's inescapable is that unless you have some wild talent like Johnny, you will have to put in a lot of work." Doing UFR is time-consuming and annoying. That's what it's February 18th and I still haven't finished Week 17 yet, let alone any of the earlier games. UFR may be hard, though, but reading is easy. So, to provide you, loyal reader, with content in the offseason when I'm not doing UFR, I'll be reading football books. Not that I'm doing it for you, mind you, this is all for myself. In fact, I've read many, many more books about baseball than I have about football, even though it's been about 10 years since I enjoyed watching a baseball game I was not attending. I'll be working on correcting that disparity, in my own haphazard and occasionally phlegmatic way, and reporting my results to you.

Mark Yost is best known to me as an occasional columnist on issues related to the business of sports for the Wall Street Journal's back section (Personal Journal, normally). Now, the WSJ has a tendency to make me sound like a slobbering fool in terms of singing its phrases, but its sports coverage is mostly meh (notable recent exception: "So Long to the Suite Life", on the recent decline of corporate suites). Still, given the paltry coverage of the business of sports elsewhere, there was reason to be optimistic when Yost published Taligating, Sacks, and Salary Caps: How the NFL Became the Most Successful Sports League in History. I was already somewhat familiar with the book from this review at The Sports Economist, and was curious to check the book out for myself.

One issue that seems to occur frequently when a journalist like Yost writes a book is that there's a big difference between the feel of a 200+ page book and an 800 word newspaper piece. Sometimes journalists successfully navigate this jump and give the book the necessary amount of extra heft, but more frequently, it seems, they don't give the extra oomph necessary. The key element, I think, is linkage and the developing of an overarching theme. And Yost, I'm sad to say, doesn't successfully make this jump. Most of the chapters are integrated wholes, but some of them feel like they had their origin in a couple different journalistic pieces that were then joined together to form a book chapter. For example, the same anecdote about Bert Bell and the creation of the NFL Draft in 1935 appear for the third time on page 17. The Packers' (successful) effort to expand Lambeau Field beyond football operations is painted twice, the second time in greater (but still not great) detail, and the same quote used twice, without apparent reference to the duplication.

Worse, for the sake of theme, the first through seventh and last two chapters paint a rosy picture of how the NFL became the U.S.'s pre-eminent sports league and how it should stay that way. Yet, the eighth and ninth chapters are about the overstated economic impact of the Super Bowl and the overstated economic impact of building a new stadium, respectively. These are both important issues, and unless you've delved into the sports economist literature (which I have), you may not be familiar with them. But they're just kind of there, rather than tied into the book.

The book as a whole feels a little breezy. It seems like it's trying wonderfully to be accessible to non-football fans by hiding the complexity and avoiding the jargon. Take, for instance, his discussion of last year's negotiations about the salary cap. Two of the key terms were the related TGR, Total Gross Revenues, and DGR, Designated Gross Revenues. Yet, these don't appear in the first discussion of the negotiations. DGR appears in the second discussion of the negotiations, but Yost calls it Gross Designated Revenues, GDR, which doesn't make the slightest bit of sense if you think about it for a second. If you're a football fan interested in learning more about the cap, then Yost's book won't help you very much. Frankly, I think I could do better.

When I read a book like this one where I know something about the subject, I generally go in with a couple questions I'd like to see answered. Yost covers merchandising, touches on the rise of fantasy football, and goes through the history of television. But the first bores me, the second is so commonplace among fans of the game it's almost a cliche, and the third, well, I'll return to it. He barely even mentions NFL Network, which is a radical development of the sort Pete Rozelle declared he wouldn't touch. "Cable and satellite" making it easier for fans to keep up with the league is mentioned, as is DirecTV, but there's no serious examination of Sunday Ticket, which brings in more than either the AFC or NFC contracts individually (!). Internet strategy occurs mostly in the context of looking at what individual teams are doing, viz. Dan Snyder and the Redskins. In the discussion of the 2006 cap negotiations, he doesn't really address the extent to which Gene Upshaw was carrying Tagliabue's water in addressing the divide between the higher revenue owners and the local revenue owners-there's a quote about Upshaw looking for more money, but that more money didn't have to come from where it did. There's more i wanted to learn, but those are the highlights.

Frankly, I'm at a loss at to whom to recommend Yost's book to. I doubt the non-football fan cares enough about the business aspects of football to read a whole book on the subject. Yet, there's not enough good and insightful material, presented well and insightful enough, for me to recommend it to a football fan. As an NFL fan, the book you really should read is Michael MacCambridge's America's Game (my review here). Yost refers to it once, as a "social and cultural history," but it's really a history of the whole game. Yost is stronger on the modern business aspects, and his book is designed to be more timely. But he's not good enough on the recent issues, so more timely = shorter shelf life. MacCambridge's book is the real deal, and I heartily recommend it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Recent Titans Happenings

I've had stuff going on lately, so UFR-Offense of Week 17 v. NE and the second half of Senior Bowl practice, Day 3 are both on hold for a few days. Maybe tomorrow, else Friday or Saturday. A couple things in Titans land have happened lately, though.

First, Vince Young played in the Pro Bowl. Since I've been so diligent about breaking down plays of his, I'm just chomping at the bit to break down his play in the Pro Bowl. Except I was playing Madden and didn't bother to watch the game at all.

Second, Mike Reinfeldt was hired from the Seahawks' front office to be the new GM of the Titans. This is probably a very good move. Here is Andrew Strickert's post on the press conference. FO writer and Seahawks maven Doug Farrar penned a very complimentary column on Reinfeldt, calling him the "team's 2005 MVP," high praise considering Shaun Alexander was the MVP of the NFL that year.

Offseason mode is still in pre-draft mode. The Combine starts in just over a week, and the NFL Network coverage begins with the opening press conference. Until then, you'll have to content yourself with NFL Network's Path to the Draft TV show. I'll be watching it when I can, and posting anything I think is notable.

I thought about doing a UFR on the Super Bowl, and if I were fully up to date on my Titans charting, I might have, but that won't happen. Instead, I'll just commend to you the NFL Network's wonderful commercial, which aired before the game but not during it. It's available on NFLN's home page.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Funky Fact of the Day

From the great Rick Gosselin:

Only five times has a Hall of Fame quarterback lost to a non-Hall of Fame quarterback. Jim Kelly fell to Mark Rypien (Washington) and Jeff Hostetler (NY Giants), John Elway lost to Doug Williams (Washington) and Phil Simms (NY Giants), and Fran Tarkenton to Ken Stabler (Oakland).
Bears or Colts? Quarterback or defense? Don't bet against the quarterback.

N.B. Gosselin counts Favre and Brady as Hall of Famers, which I don't find objectionable. This column was written before Peyton (Hall of Fame) and the Colts defeated Rex (not Hall of Fame) and the Bears in SB XLI.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

College Football

The winners of the College Football Blogger Awards were recently announced, and I wanted to draw your attention to a couple winners. First off, EDSBS took home six awards, including one for this post on Appalachian State's promotional video that should be required reading. Also honored for blogroll members Sunday Morning Quarterback and MGoBlog. I particularly commend to you the post by BON on the Dr. Z Award for analysis: MGoBlog's work has been something that inspired me, as can be seen by shamelessly ripping off UFR. And the piece on third down efficiency puts my blatherings to shame. In analysis terms, I also commend the presentation of the Tyrone Prothro Award; I previously mentioned EDSBS's winning post, but the runner-up, Blue-Gray Sky's four posts breaking down Ohio State's four long touchdown plays in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dammit are, in a word, awesome and a hallmark of what football analysis should be. The fourth college football blog on the blogroll, Buckeye Commentary, was a runner-up for the Best Big 10 Blog award to MGoBlog, but I read it because I'm interested in Ohio State, not for his thoughts on college football in general.

Seriously, if you're a fan of college football, go check out those three blogs, bookmark them, and use them to keep up with that world. If you want to read additional team-specific blogs like I do with Buckeye Commentary, that's fine, but if you're not reading those three, you're missing out.

Pro Football Hall of Fame

The latest election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame was held today in Miami. The maximum six candidates were elected:

OG Gene Hickerson
WR Michael Irvin
OL Bruce Matthews
TE Charlie Sanders
RB Thurman Thomas
DB Roger Wehrli

Hickerson, Sanders, and Wehrli were all before my time, so I don't feel qualified to comment on them. But I remember Irvin, Matthews, and Thomas, so I'll give you my thoughts on them.

As a longtime Oilers/Titans fan, I'm pleased to see Bruce Matthews make it in in his first year on the ballot. With 14 Pro Bowl appearance to his credit, I didn't think there was much of a doubt. Sometimes when a player moves around between different positions, it's because he can't hold down a job. With Matthews, who played center, guard, and tackle throughout his 19-year career, it was a sign of his quality. He wasn't an elite-caliber left tackle, but he wasn't too shabby at it either. When the Oilers needed a center, he played center. But he deserves to be remembered most as a guard, and he was a damned good one for a damned long time. I'm happy to see him make it.

It's a damned crying shame Thurman Thomas didn't make it last year in his first year of eligibility. He was one of the most feared offensive players in the league for a number of years, was the best player on the field in Super Bowl XXV, and was one of the key players who lead that great Bills offense of the early 90's to 4 consecutive Super Bowls.

Michael Irvin, well, Michael Irvin. Wide receiver has apparently been the Hall of Fame's most contentious position lately, with first Lynn Swann and John Stallworth and more recently Art Monk creating deadlocks. Swann and Stallworth are both in now, and Monk's still out there. And now Irvin's in and Monk is out. Dr. Z's argument in favor of Swann and Stallworth, particularly Swann, was "quality over quantity." And that held true in spades for the election of Michael Irvin over Art Monk. Monk was a very good receiver for a very long time; if the Pro Football Hall of Fame shared the baseball Hall's respect for compilers, he'd have been in a long time ago. He far outstrips Irvin in "good" seasons and overall career statistics. But Monk was the guy who caught the 10 yard catch on 3&7; these guys are valuable, but is that enough? Irvin, on the other hand, was a wide receiver you feared. The real emergence of the Dallas Cowboys in my mind came when Irvin blew by the Redskins' great CB Darrell Green on a quick pass pattern and took it for a TD. Irvin's been justly criticized for being a loud and overbearing analyst, taken a lot of grief for doing galactically stupid things off the field, is still a running joke for getting away with pushing off against defenders, and had his career cut short by a terrible injury at Philadelphia in Veterans Stadium, when the classless Eagles fans initially booed him, but he was one hell of a football player.

The most notable exclusions include the aforementioned Art Monk, the great Bills WR Andre Reed, and the recently-retired ex-commish Paul Tagliabue. Reed will be an interesting person to argue about in the years to come; I think he'll end up a little bit short, just like Monk. If I were to pick a third member of that Bills offense after Thomas and Jim Kelly, it'd be Kent Hull, the great center. Tagliabue will get it for what he did from the league, so it may take a few years for it to happen. Derrick Thomas was too one-dimensional of a player from my point of view. Maybe it's time for some more offensive linemen. Michael David Smith supported Russ Grimm, and Bob Kuechenberg and Gary Zimmerman were also on the list of 17 finalists.

The NFL also announced the Hall of Fame game to be played in August induction weekend will be between the Steelers and Saints. With Matthews making it, I was hoping the Titans could make it again, as it's fifth preseason game and allows teams additional practice. But instead the Hall chose two teams without a player being inducted. Ah, well. PFT is annoyed the game will be broadcast on the NFL Network, but I actually like that because it means we might actually be treated to a broadcast of a football game instead of some announcers and network promos with a football game in the background.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Titans Analysis

Blogfriend Andrew Strickert has begun his offseason analysis of the Titans. Check out his defensive tackles, defensive ends, offensive line, tight ends, wide receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks analyses. I've been busy neglecting my internet Titans commentary lately, as the absence of UFR shows you, and have yet to comment on any of these. But I will. I also have a piece on WRs that I've half-drafted in my head that I need to do some more legwork on. If I'm right, it'll raise questions you can't answer without all-22 footage, alas and alack.

Upon Further Review: TEN@BUF

A solid month later than I planned, here is some UFR of the Titan's Week 16 30-27 win over Buffalo. UPDATE: whole game up.

A familiar formation, with Bennett split out and Brandon Jones lined up almost as an H-back over the TE. Run is left guard. Henry takes it middle, but it looked like more yards may have been available if he'd bounced to the left of Fleming instead of to his right. Still, a nice gain on first down.
T38243-WR, Slot StrongRun-1HenryOff Tackle
Wade is the slot guy and he's lined up about where Jones was the previous play. Off Tackle here is more of a power outside run. But Buffalo's defense gets to the corner faster than Henry does and there's no running room here. I don't like this playcall.
T3735Shotgun BasePass22JonesPost
Great protection here. VY has lots of time in the pocket, Jones gets past McGee in the zone, and snags a good sidearm line drive from VY right in front of Whittner. 0 YAC, but a good conversion on 3rd and medium. (DO)
B41110Weak IPass16HallWaggle Swing
This play looks for all the world like another off tackle run right with Bell pulling at the snap. But VY fakes the handoff to Henry and slips left a little. Aaron Schobel kept contain (cf LaBoy, Travis), so VY dumps it off to Hall, who'd slipped out of the backfield. Hall races past weakside LB Keith Ellison and picks up a nice gain. (CA)
B25110I-FormationRun3RobyEnd Around
Fake to Henry up the middle, and Roby comes off the HBack WR spot right to take the ball on the end around. Ellison recovers quickly off just an OK block by Hall, and forces Roby to move outside. Clements makes the stick for the tackle after Drew Bennett demonstrates he can't block a CB for very long. If Hall has a better block, this is good enough, but Bennett looks really bad on the initial showing of this play. In fairness to Drew, he didn't look nearly as bad as Ocho Cinco did on Rudi Johnson's run against the Steelers in last year's AFC WC game (seriously, if you want to see a WR badly pretened to try to block, find a tape of that play). (DO)
B2227Shotgun StrongPass22-TDWadeDrag(?)
7 stayed in to block here and the Titans needed it against only 4 rushes, because David Stewart didn't even try to get out to block end Chris Kelsay. Hartsock and a pulling Bell try, but VY is flushed from the pocket. Whence Buffalo's defense properly reacts to, and improperly overreacts to. VY pulls up right before crossing the LOS and hits a pretty open Bobby Wade at the 5, and the ex-Bear easily moves into the end zone. (CA)
Drive Notes: TEN up 7-3. 3 rushes, 8 yards. 3 passes, 60 yards. Again, the secret to offensive success in the NFL is success throwing the football. You'd think this would be obvious, with the way people are concentrating on Rex Grossman's "varied" level of play, but you still see too many people, people who should and shouldn't no better, talking about the running game being the key to win. A good running game is a good thing to have, but, ceteris paribus, you'll do better with a very good passing game and a fair running game than a fair passing game and a very good running game. See FO's FAQ. I feel like I say this a lot in these drive recaps, almost as much as "VY is awesome." And on the 2 22-yard passes, he was, he was. My grades may be a little more generous than normal, simply because it's been so long since I've done this or maybe because Ralph Wilson Stadium is known for awesome wind conditions.
T34110I-Formation, 2-WR WeakRun5HenryLeft Tackle
Nice blocking at the point of attack.
T39253-WR, Slot WeakRun-1HenryRight Tackle
Jones in his familiar HB position. Another play that looks just too slow to run with Henry, as starting him 7 yards back and taking a deep handoff allows the LBs to converge to the point of attack.
T3836Shotgun Split BacksPass7HartsockOut
A great little out pattern. VY's throw goes to the proper shoulder, allowing Hartsock to run past Thomas and pick up 2 YAC for a first down. DO is a little bit of an elevated grade, but an improperly placed throw or a weak one doesn't allow Ben to get the 1D.
T45110I-Form, 2-WR WeakRun30HenryOff Tackle
This play looks pretty innocuous at the start, like another basic right side off tackle run. Hartsock does a good job of sealing DE Chris Kelsay, Olson pulls to pick off the LB, Fleming stops a DB in the hole, and Henry's through the hole. Henry shakes off an ankle tackle by Larry Triplett (this is way Chris Brown didn't have 30 yard runs), and he's off rampaging through the secondary. THIS is how you run Henry-beat teams physically at the point of attack.
B25110Shotgun BaseRun1VY/PacmanRead Option
I think I'll start calling this the Pacman formation. It starts out as a basic read option. Kelsay's crashing down, so VY fakes the handoff and takes off. He's running left side, drawing the D to him and tosses the ball on the second option for Pacman on the outside. Pac fails to handle the pitch, and the ball's rolling around before he picks it up and steps out of bounds for a 1 yard gain.
B2429Shotgun Split BacksRun6WhiteCounter
Something I've seen a lot less of from the Titans than I wanted, White and Henry in the same backfield. It's a delay, and White picks up a decent gain up the middle. Of course, part of the reason for the gain was because Henry tackled Ellison by the helmet in the hole. Uh, Travis, can't do that.
B34219Strong IRun2HenryIso
Travis Henry's flaws as a runner show up on this play. A quicker back with better vision can cut this run outside after going through the hole and pick up what looks like a nice gain. The Titans have a quicker back, but shift your eyes upward a little to Henry's 30 yard run to refresh your memory as to why he's been inactive lately.
B323174-WR ClosePass8HartsockFlats and Gos
A familiar formation and play for the Titans. You'd like to see a quicker throw than VY made here, but an 8 yard gain isn't too bad. I doubt Fisher kicks the FG from the 32. (CA)
Drive Notes: Game tied at 10 after Bironas hits this FG. Yes, this drive is a little bit of an exception to passing success = victory. But this is only as repeatable as 30-yard runs are, i.e. not very. And don't forget the previous play was a 3rd down conversion pass. And past 3rd and 3 or so, passing gives you a better shot of picking up the first down.
B37110Standard 2-TE, 2-WR RightPass32JonesDeep In
Excellent pocket for VY and a nice throw 25 yards downfield for Jones. CB McGee goes for the INT, but it's over his head. Roydell Williams ran the same route, just 5-7 yards deeper. If the ball gets to him, it's probably a TD, as McGee was more on Jones and S Ko Simpson probably wouldn't have made it over in time. (CA)
B51G3-WR, Slot WeakRun0HenryStretch
Brandon Jones is the strong-side WR, lined up in his familiar H-back position. The key block is to be by Jones or the TE on S Donte Whittner, who'd lined up off the LDE. But Jones doesn't get a good seal. This means a pulling Benji Olson can't move past him and seal the edge, and that's why this play went for no gain.
B52GI-Form, 2-TE StrongRun3HenryIso
Generic run up the middle. Looks to be stuffed well but Henry does well to fall forward and pick up 2+ yards.
B23G4-WR, Trips WeakPassIncHartsockIn?
The Bills rush 5 against 5 defenders. The problem is, LDE Chris Kelsay lines up outside of Hartsock and Stewart can't get out to him after Hartsock goes into a pass pattern. Good scheme by Buffalo, or at least a failure to adjust by the Titans. VY tries to do his VY thing, but Aaron Schobel has him by the legs and a potentially dangerous pass falls harmlessly to the ground. VY should have just taken a sack instead. There was a window to Hartsock, but that's a window that could also have closed easily. (IN) for being short and awarded for overall status, though BR for danger and PR for being dragged down were also considered.
Drive Notes: Titans up 13-10 after Bironas hits from 20 yards out. Good job to turn an INT into points, but disappointing to have 1&G at the 5 and not get into the end zone. Maybe if VY's pass to Jones goes a little farther, maybe, maybe, maybe. As I say too often, maybe "if my aunt had balls, then she'd be my uncle."
The Titans start up at their own 7 after a holding call on the kickoff. Henry is able to scoot his way forward for a couple yards.
T1225I-Form 2-WR WeakRun4HenryStretch
A play I generally hate watching Henry run, but it works out tolerably well.
T1631Weak IPass-10YoungSack
T14Penalty15BUF-SchobelFace Mask
This was called as a waggle play. Aaron Schobel stays at home, but Ahmad Hall is there. Schobel shrugs off Hall's blocking by pulling him down by the face mask. Uh, no, you can't do that. Dumb play, because it looked like the Bills had this one well-defensed and VY was running far enough backwards it didn't look like he could have run for the first down. (PR)
T291102-TE, 2-WR RightPass14JonesWaggle
Some nice waggle action here. London Fletcher-Baker has Cooper Wallace covered short, but VY finds Brandon Jones open downfield in the middle of about 3 Bills defenders. (CA)
T43110I-FormationPenalty-5JonesFalse Start
Blah, an I-back run up the middle. I was describing this little project to a co-worker, who wondered what one could write about a 1-yard dive play. The answer I gave him: "not much."
T392143-WR, Slot WeakPass-2WhiteScreen
Techincally, the pass went backwards, so this should be a run play and not a pass play. In either event, it's a screen. Aaron Schobel's running a stunt, so he's able to shrug off Bell's block and scoot over and Williams does the same. And McGee and Fletcher-Baker were both there, too. White does well to pick up 6 yards to lose only 2. VY's pass here was mediocre, really. (IN)
T37316Shotgun StrongPass6WhiteCheckdown
VY steps back to pass, feels the DE coming and steps up in the pocket into some space. Rather than run it himself and possibly take a hit, he dumps it off to White. Much as in the play late in the first Colts game, running would probably have earned him more yardage. Here, as opposed to there, I think dumping it off was the smarter play. I kind of wonder why the Bills' best corner, Clements, is playing so short on 3&long, but I guess that's the Cover-2 for you. (CA)
Drive Notes: Decent drive to get some yardage, but overall not very fulfilling. The most valuable thing this drive did, I think was use up clock time while going into the wind.
T43110Shotgun 4-WRPass13WhiteCheckdown
Having seen a lot of 4-wide sets by the Bills, the Titans come out in the same thing. The Bills cheat and rush 5 guys instead of the mandatory 4. VY takes a little checkdown to White, who spins to avoid London Fletcher-Baker and picks up some good yardage. (CA)
B44110Shotgun BasePassIncHartsockOut
VY hits Hartsock in the hands 15 yards downfield, and Hartsock drops it. Steve Tasker starts talking about the wind, but I didn't know the wind could make players not catch balls that hit their hands. Yeah, maybe it's a hard catch to make, but Hartsock's being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do things like make that catch. (CA)
B44210Shotgun BasePass8YoungScramble
VY drops back to pass, takes a look, but quickly takes off. Ellison is the defender who really makes the play, but that's because LenDale does a lousy job of blocking him. This is a 1D if White actually blocks Ellison. The result of this drive kind of obviates that result, but that doesn't make it a good play. (SCR)
B3632Shotgun BasePassIncBennettIn
VY throwing into the wind puts the ball a little behind Bennett. Probably should have just taken the checkdown to White on the right side; he could have picked up the 1D without a problem, I think, and that's what's important on 3&2. Plus, he had a better shot than Bennett of getting OOB and preserving the Titans' last timeout. (IN)
B3642Shotgun StrongPass36-TDYoungScramble
I (heart) VY. This play is a good visual depiction of why speed is overrated in the NFL. What makes this run possible is VY's field vision and agility; he's fast, but he doesn't really out-run the Bills defenders so much as merely avoid them. And his teammates help him out, with the OL going downfield, White blocking Kelsay, and Wade on McGee near the end zone. If only he could have run for another second... (SCR)
Drive Notes: Have I mentioned lately VY is awesome? Well, he is. When you have the #3 overall pick in the NFL draft, you want to get a special player, the kind who changes games. Yeah, that's VY. Titans lead 20-16.
T10110I-Form, 2-WR WeakRun3HenryRight Tackle
Blah, short run.
T13272-TE, 2-WR WeakRun5HenryIso
A better run up the middle. S Ko Simpson, up in run support, with a decent leg tackle.
T1832Strong IPassIncHallFlat
VY burns a TO here, which is annoying to see so early in the second half. VY throws this ball quickly to Hall in the flat, but it's a poor pass. With a good one, maybe Hall can run for some yards and pick up a first down, but I think VY would have been well served to hold on to this ball a little and wait for somebody to get open. (IN)
Drive Notes: 3&out to start the second half. After a short KO return by Pacman, this is disappointing. Titans lead 20-19.
T26110Standard 2-TEPassIncHartsockWaggle
Some more nice waggle action. Hartsock has another pass hit him in the hands, London Fletcher-Baker kind of runs into him, Hartsock doesn't catch another one, Steve Tasker making more excuses. Dude, the pass hit him in the chest. (CA)
T26210Standard 2-TERun4HenryIso
Henry is able to pick his hole and cut outside to pick up a few more yards. I guess that's the plus-side of running him from 7 yards off without a FB. But I still don't think it's Henry's strength.
T3036Shotgun StrongPassIncHenryCheckdown
Throwing into the wind, it seems like VY is playing conservatively. He takes a quick checkdown to Henry at the first sign of pressure and doesn't make a good throw. From the replay, it looks like Brandon Jones is open near the sticks. I don't like this decision by VY. (IN)
Drive Notes: Playing into the wind, they seem to cripple the offense. Considering passing is the key to offensive performance, that doesn't seem like a particularly wise decision. Titans trailing 26-20.
T2110I-Form, 2-TE StrongRun1HenryIso
T2110PenaltyDecl.RoosIllegal Formation
Normally, when you have 2 running backs in an I-formation and 2 TE on the strong side of the play, you have a WR on the weak side. I don't know who screwed up here, but Brandon Jones was lined up on the same side as the 2 TEs. This penalty is totally unacceptable. Roos gets his name on the penalty, but this is totally not his fault. The play is a generic "run up the middle near your own goalline." But the formation, ugh. I'm a little surprised Buffalo declined the penalty--the difference between the 2 and the 1 can be pretty big.
T329I-Form, 2-TE Strong, WR WeakRun60HenryRight Tackle
Nice blocking at the point of attack here. This could have been a generic run, but Henry manages to burst through the hole. Stewart's hold was a help, but not technically required, which is why it's such a shame that this run is called back for it. Not nearly as bad as Pacman's PR TD v. Miami or the one last year for the sideline penalty, but still disappointing. This was almost certainly a big momentum shift at the time that was cruelly wiped out.
T2210I-Form, 2-TE Strong, WR WeakRun3WhiteOff Tackle
Henry taking a breather after the 60 yard run, White getting a short run.
T537Shotgun StrongRun-3YoungScramble
The Titans do a poor job here of blocking Schobel-Roos blocks down and ends up in a kind of no-man's land between Schobel and the DT. Henry does his best to hold off Schobel, but VY is forced to move up in the pocket. Denny is able to free himself from Hartsock and tackle VY in the backfield. Yes, the Titans had 7 in to block 4 and did a lousy job at it. (PR)
Drive Notes: The third quarter couldn't come to an end quickly enough for the Titans. The plays that allowed them to score 20 in the first half look gone, gone, gone. They held the Bills the last possession (by tipping a pass on 3rd down when they brought pressure(!)), but trailing 26-20, backed up like this, punting into the wind, they needed some yards and didn't net anything.
T38110I-Form, 2-TE WeakRun3HenryStretch
Nice stiff-arm by Henry on Spikes, who was right there to stop the play for a short loss. With it, Henry was able to move outside and pick up a couple yards. Otherwise, no chance.
T4127Weak IPassIncHartsockSlant?
I think this pass goes behind Hartsock. The ball probably should have been thrown to Henry, who'd slipped out of the backfield and didn't appear to have a Bill within 10 yards of him, while 2 Bills were near Hartsock. (IN)
T4137Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPass9YoungScramble
Sometimes VY just does what VY does. Not seeing anybody open downfield, he just takes off and beats the Bills to the corner. White has a nice block no McGee to prevent him from coming up and sticking VY before the first down. (SCR)
50110I-FormPenalty-5OlsonFalse Start
T45115I-Form, 2-WR WeakRun6HenryLeft Tacakle
Here's how to run Henry: overwhelm the team at the point of attack and let him run forward. Did this, and they picked up 6 yards.
B4929Strong IRun19HenryLeft Tackle
Ah, Travis Henry. Spikes should have him after a gain of about 3, but he can't bring Henry down and Travis rolls on for 15 more yards.
B30110Standard 2-TE, 2-WR LeftRun5WhiteIso
Hit them at the point of attack, that's what the Titans' backs can do. This team could use a back with better mobility, but they've shown they can have some success doing what their backs do best. I'm sure the threat of the pass helps this play out.
B2525Weak IRun7HenryOff Tackle
Henry stuffed at the edge? That's ok, Hall can just grab onto Keith Ellison and then Henry can bounce it for a couple yards. Except that sort of thing's illegal in this NFL.
B33213Strong IPass4JonesFlat
Jones lines up flush to the TE in his familiar H-back-type spot and runs a simple flat. VY's pass is high, but Jones does well to bring it in. (IN) to reflect degree of difficulty of catch on such a short throw and to achieve overall balance.
B2939Strong IPass29-TDJonesCross
Jones is wide open in the middle of the field at about the 15. VY's pass is a little behind him, but Jones snags it easily and uses the momentum of the ball to change direction and run past McGee and Simpson into the end zone. A very good individual effor by Jones. (CA)
Drive Notes: Bills lead down to 29-27. A pretty efficient drive for the Titans, and particularly impressive given the two penalties. See also: 2 3rd down conversions, 2 pass plays on third downs.
T121102-TE StrongRun11HenryIso
Quick run up the middle. They brought Jones in to the 2-TE side and the Bills loaded that side, so a run to the opposite side is very effective. Henry is able to drag tackles for 4 yards.
T23110I-Form, 2-WR WeakRun4HenryIso
The rare defensive holding call, this time against a Titans opponent. Olson was trying to get to the second level, and Triplett prevented him from getting there. Worse for the Bills, it didn't really matter because Henry was being tackled from beind.
T32110I-Form, 2-WR WeakRun3HenryIso
You know, you'd think the Titans like running up the middle or something.
T3527I-Form, 2-WR WeakRun5HenryRight Tackle
Same side of the formation, similar play, just a little further outside. I'm still not sure just how Henry can get outside as well as he seems to sometimes.
T4032Strong IPass12HallSlant
A short post, or the triangle pass, as I think of it when playing Madden. Hall runs out a little, then runs a slant. The ball is well-placed, allowing Hall to catch it a little short of the first down and run for good yardage. A simple play, but an effective one. (CA)
B48110I-Form, 2-WR WeakRun6HenryIso
If you can run the ball up the middle between the tackles with success, I guess you might as well. I don't really have much to say about it, though.
B4224Strong IRun6HenryIso
Henry up the middle, stutter-steps a little, then runs right tackle and gets some good yardage.
B36110Standard 2-TERun3WhiteIso
Henry getting a breather, but White runs the same sort of play. Still reasonably effective.
B33272-TE StrongRun2WhiteIso
When you run between the tackles, try running the play to the side where you outnumber the defenders, not the one where they outnumber you. White cuts it back for a couple, else he loses a yard on this play.
B3135Strong I, 2-WR WeakPass9YoungScramble
A little bit of a change-up to the formation, as Hartsock flexes out wide. Schobel beats Roos with a nice spin move, forcing VY to run around. It looks like Denny will stop him in the backfield, but VY runs past him and picks up the first down. Have I mentioned lately I(heart) VY? (SCR)
B22110I-Form, 2-WR WeakRun0HenryOff Tackle
For the record, the difference in my book between "off tackle" and "stretch" is relatively slight. It's partially a matter of watching the QB make the handoff-does he drop straight back or is he moving in one direction? It's also looking at the back-does he seem to be looking to run right off the tackle or is he looking to run more outside? The distinction is sometimes slight, and I don't know I'm good at making it. This is why, for example, I call almost all inside runs an "iso."
B22210I-Form, 2-TE StrongRun6HenryLeft Tackle
Good run to the left side for Henry.
B1634Shotgun StrongRun3YoungRead Option
Are you going to trust VY or not? I don't understand why you run a gimmicky running play like a read-option here when (i) you've been having success going right at them in a power mode and (ii) you've been successful calling normal pass plays on 3D. If you're that scared of a mistake, call a draw play. Even if it's a QB draw. VY makes this a 3 yard gain that nearly makes the first down instead of a run for no gain. Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker make some idiotic noises about Fisher going for this instead of kicking the FG to go ahead.
Drive Notes: Titans up 30-29 after Bironas hits the 30 yard FG. A good amount of running plays, and some key conversions on third downs calling pass plays. I would have liked to see more pass plays, but maybe the wind was even worse than I was giving it redit for.

The Titans ran a QB kneel after Losman's desperation pass on 4th down was intercepted, but those are even less interesting to chart than 2 yard runs up the middle.

I'd like to finish NE before the Super Bowl, but that'll depend on just how much running around and other stuff I have to do tomorrow before the Super Bowl. After that, I plan to go back and add the second quarter to the Colts game, and do the rest of the Giants game. I also have the tape of the Eagles game from the previous week. It should be a nice contrast to see if VY played as well the entire Giants game as I thought he did and as poorly the Eagles game as Merrill Hoge thought he did (yeah, I disagree with Hoge on VY's future, but he does watch tape and I can't just cavalierly say he's wrong).

UPDATE (Feb. 4, 0032 CT): Finished the entire game. Post revised accordingly.