I did not appreciate the sentiment that the New York Yankees had to win the World Series because Osama Bin Laden blew up the World Trade Center. I do not appreciate the sentiment that the New Orleans Saints have to win the Super Bowl because George Bush let poor New Orleans residents die in the Super Dome. I do appreciate the equivalence … between an uncaring homicidal mass murdering maniac and some guy from the Arabian Peninsula who seems to have been the mastermind of dozens of failed terrorist attacks and a couple of ugly ones. But that is another story.

I do not appreciate the idea that gay-dating ads will be banned from the Super Bowl but anti-abortion ads, I hear, will be shown.

I do not appreciate the fact that the New Orleans Saints defense, when playing the superior Minnesota Vikings, clearly designed, practiced, and successfully implemented a strategy that if adopted by other teams and not stopped by new rules, will change the way the sport is played forever. During the playoff game with the Vikings, the Saints’ defense got through the Vikings’ defensive line and knocked down the quarterback something like 19 times. Not sacked. They knocked him down after he had thrown or passed off the ball. One time there was a penalty, and the commentators covering the game claimed that penalty was not appropriate.

In other words, the Saints figured out a way of physically hitting the QB after he let go of the ball without it being a penalty. They did it enough times to injure and disorient Brett Favre. In my view, two or three of the plays late in the game would likely not have gone the way they went had Favre not been injured in this way. The Saints probably won the game by using this new technique.

So, I do appreciate the fact that when the Super Bowl happens, the New Orleans Saints are going to get very badly creamed by the Indianapolis Colts. The odds as I write this are 8-1 in Vegas.

But listen to this: If the New Orleans Saints use the same strategy on the Colts that they used on the Vikings, with similar success, the outcome of the game will be different. Quarterback Peyton Manning is a great player and all, but he is not Brett Favre. He will not be able to handle getting whacked more than six or seven times before he is out of the game. Then, with their Quarterback gone, the Colts may not do as well as originally predicted.

It is possible that the Saints will win this game with their new strategy. Then, by next season, one or two of the following two things will happen: 1) All the other teams will develop a similar strategy, and the whole dynamic of what a quarterback is worth and how to get one and keep one and what will make a good one will change; and/or 2) There will be a new rule: If you touch the Quarterback at all … even a kiss on the cheek because he is your long lost cousin … after the ball is gone, then you’ve given the other team yardage and/or a first down.

Mark my words.

Now, some background material. First, the quarterback of the future:

Now, Hitler’s reaction:

I really am getting tired of these Hitler spoofs … just remember, these may be funny, but the guy was one of the most evil people that every walked the face of this earth. If he was alive today, he’d probably … oh, never mind.

Comments

  1. #1 J-Dog
    January 29, 2010

    Adolf you Dumkopf! Did you really think the Vikings were a good team? After they got beat by the friggin’ BEARS?

    All in all, seeing Adolf root for the purple? Just one more reason to hate Viqueen fans.

  2. #2 Don
    January 29, 2010

    It’s ALL rigged.

  3. #3 Ethan Siegel
    January 29, 2010

    The Colts have a much better O-line than the Vikes. You might not like your QB getting hit after the ball is thrown, but it’s your linemen’s jobs to protect him, not the officials’.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    January 29, 2010

    Ethan, that is not what happened. People who are very experienced and familiar with the sport have been quietly and not so quietly saying that they’d never ever seen anything like this ever, over decades of experience. You can challenge that by producing a pro foot ball game or two (or three or four) in which the QB was not-sacked to the ground nearly 20 times in one game with everything else being more or less normal.

    This was not a matter of an imbalance in playing ability on different sides. This was either an incredibly unlikely random event or a strategic breakthrough of some sort.

  5. #5 José
    January 29, 2010

    It’s not some new strategy developed by the Saints. It’s the strategy that’s used by every single team in every single game. The Vikings were trying to do the exact same thing to Drew Brees. They just weren’t as successful. There’s even a stat called “knockdowns” which records legal hits on a quarterback made after he’s released the ball.

  6. #6 Jared
    January 29, 2010

    How closely, exactly, did you watch the game?
    Favre got rid of the ball early many times because he was about to be tackled. The Saints didn’t get sacks because he’s a good quarterback and was throwing the ball before someone got to him (often away). It’s not a “new strategy.”

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    January 29, 2010

    Show me the stats, gentlemen. Let’s see the number of “knockdowns” per game for the NFL this season. I’d be happy with the average and the values for the highest ten.

    If there were several games like this one, then I’m wrong. If this game was the outlier, then we’ll need to see the NFL stats for, say, the last ten years.

    Then we can discuss if something new happened here.

    Perhaps it was not a strategy. If it was, we may see it replicated next week. But there is simply no way that it was not a unique virtually unprecedented event.

    This is what I thought after having watched the game, then I heard two people who should know what they are talking about say the same thing. One was a 40-year veteran player and commenter, the other was a long term veteran player, who made explicit reference to this. A handful of others have also indicated the very unusual nature of this event.

    I could be wrong. I’m going with what I’ve got and I eagerly await your producing the stats to disprove it.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    January 29, 2010

    Oh, and the strategy you say does not exist? The Saints are overtly telling the Colts they will be giving Manning his share of “remember me” shots just like they did to Favre.

    http://www.fanhouse.com/news/nfl/comments-from-saints-arent-riling-up/881522

    So, yeah, it’s for real. And it’s shameful.

  9. #9 Slaker
    January 29, 2010

    There is no football statistic called a “knockdown”

  10. #10 José
    January 29, 2010

    Greg, I think that the people you’re referring to are experiencing judgment clouded by a painful loss. That’s all can guess. It was a bad beating and painful to watch, but I doubt there are many neutral football people who think there was anything unprecedented about it.

    Oh, and the strategy you say does not exist?

    No one is saying the strategy doesn’t exist. We’re saying that it is the strategy that is always used. It’s just a normal part of a brutal sport. Try and find an article that suggests that the Saints tactics could change the way the game will be played.

  11. #11 José
    January 29, 2010

    There is no football statistic called a “knockdown”

    There isn’t? I guess I’m hallucinating every time I hear commentators reel off how many sacks, hurries and knockdowns a team has during just about every single game. It may not be an individual stat, but it’s a stat.

  12. #12 MPL
    January 29, 2010

    You know, some day, some day I might actually find out what the original dialog was in that Hitler clip. I suspect it will be a disappointment.

  13. #13 Brian
    January 30, 2010

    Greg, apparently in your rush to expose the “virtually unprecedented” strategy of the Saints by linking to a news story wherein they promise to give Peyton some “remember-me” shots, you failed to read just one paragraph further.

    [i]“We hear it all the time,” left guard Ryan Lilja said Friday. “The teams in our division go out and draft guys for that reason. You hear rumors about bounties and that kind of stuff, so it’s nothing new.”[/i]

    Whether wrong or right, it’s not something unprecedented.

    And knockdowns are an unofficial stat, but they are considered by many when ranking defensive players (considered with sacks, hurries, etc.).

  14. #14 Zack
    January 30, 2010

    The knockdown “strategy” is second best only to the sack “strategy” which is in fact, what the Saints were attempting to do and unsuccessful at. They weren’t running in the backfield thinking “I can’t wait to hit him AFTER HE GETS RID OF THE BALL”. That’s pure nonsense. Knockdowns are what happens when you don’t get exactly what you want (a sack) but are legally able to take out the frustration of your failure on the quarterback. It sure isn’t a revolutionary strategy. Ring the ears of some coaches and ask them if they’d trade 2 or 3 knockdowns for 1 sack.

  15. #16 Mark
    January 30, 2010

    Here are some stats from 2008 for quarterback hits and hurries. Note they are incomplete as hits were not always properly recorded.

    http://www.footballoutsiders.com/extra-points/2008/hits-and-hurries-2008

  16. #17 Jason
    January 30, 2010

    @ Jose

    Lol, when the announcers mention ‘knockdowns’ they are referring to defensive backfield players getting a hand on the pass, but not intercepting. Knocking the ball down, not the qb.

  17. #18 Jason
    January 30, 2010

    As for Greg’s point, it is difficult to find evidence for a stat that is not recorded or considered in any way remarkable, but to suggest that this is some new strategy is pretty silly. A defensive player who can get to the qb within a step of him releasing the ball will always go ahead and hit him, on any team, at any level, in any era. If Favre was able to get rid of the ball at the last second instead of taking the sack because he is a great qb, good for him.

  18. #19 mk
    January 30, 2010

    It did seem unusual to me while watching the game. Don’t know if it is unprecedented… maybe somebody will produce clear evidence that it is not. But, in general, NFL players–defensive players–pretty regularly try to hurt players on the opposing team. Yes, they consciously are trying to knock a player out of the game. Sometimes it just happens. Accidentally. Sure. But very often an injury occurs because it was intended. Look at the way tackles are executed these days. You grab the player with the ball up high, hang on, and let the weight of your body fall forcefully against the legs or ankles of the player. Jason Campbell of the Redskins received a dislocated patella because of a move like this. And yes, I think it is “a move.”

    Not that all this is so horrible. It’s understood league wide that this is how the game is played. Everyone is fair game. It seems like cheating sometimes until you realize it happens to everyone, every team. Cheap shots are a part of the nastiness that is the NFL. But rest assured, they will pay for it someday. Ray Lewis will likely, one day, end up a drooling, mumbling half-wit due to all the shots he delivered (and consequently received!) throughout his violent, lowlife career. (He’s one of the worst for trying to injure.)

    Brett Favre took a major beating. There were cheap shots, no question. It may have been excessive… but really, compared to what? And so what? That’s the NFL. It’s the mindset they cultivate. It is desired. ESPN highlights and all that.

    I say, fuck ‘em. Let them destroy each other. It’s not in their DNA to be fair or play nice. Not the nature of the game. Stupid, violent men smashing into one another each week on national television… is there a better way to spend an afternoon? Hey, keeps them off the streets.

  19. #20 Mikey
    January 30, 2010

    The odds of the Saints beating the Colts in the Super Bowl were never 8-1. They are around 2-1 right now at Pinnacle, one of the most respected offshore sportsbooks There wouldn’t be and isn’t that much of a difference between Vegas and offshore especially since the spreads are the same. Additionally, the Saints were 4-1 to win the Super Bowl before they beat the Vikings. I doubt beating the Vikings deceased their chances of winning the Super Bowl.

    The only time they would have been 8-1 was before the playoffs even started.

    FWIW: The +190 that Pinny is offering gives the Saints about a 35% chance of winning.

  20. #21 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Brian [13] I read that. And if you listen to the banter back and forth between teams prior to important games this is exactly what you hear every time.

    So, Knockdowns have gone from the stat everyone knows about to the stat that is unofficial to the stat that is actually about something else…

    Zack [14]: “They weren’t running in the backfield thinking “I can’t wait to hit him AFTER HE GETS RID OF THE BALL”. That’s pure nonsense.” No, I was thinking something different, which would be “I can’t wait to hit him EVEN AFTER HE GETS RID OF THE BALL but preferably first”

    Zack [15] Thanks for that link, which pretty much proves my point. THere is a “hit even if not sacked” strategy, and it is rare (last major outbreak being five years ago).

    Mark: How do you interpret those stats? They are not well decribed. Are those per game? (60 hits? Not likely) Per season? (Thus an average of 6, i.e. 1/3 of what happened last weekend)?

    Also, one must factor in that most of the time Favre was hit he was hit by two guys sometimes using the method designed to increase injury.

    Jason [18] It might be silly. But what I saw was unprecedented and rather impressive. I believe, BTW, the commenter on NPR who talke about this wase Heisman.

    mk [19] I agree that this is often intentional, although many of the serious injuries I happen to see this year were clearly unplanned, but I was under the perhaps naive impression that the QB was NOT fair game.

  21. #22 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Mikey: You may be right. I was just going by some site on the internet that was subsequent to the playoff game which said 8-1 colts over saints.

    A quick check now has Sean Van Patten giving 4-1 colts over saints.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/24/super-bowl-xliv-odds-colt_n_434910.html

    Anyway, you have what I said backwards and you apparently have different sources. Isn’t Pinnacle a horse track? Maybe there’s a horse named “saint” who is going to beat a horse that is a cult or something.

    Another source from Vegas notes that the Saints will probably try the same strategy against Manning that they did against Favre (the original point of this post):

    Regardless of that talking point, the advantage in this matchup goes to the Saints. It won’t be apparent at first, but New Orleans will begin its methodical knocks against Manning. Those early hits will take their toll as the game wears on and force Indy’s signal caller into some bad throws.

    So that source agrees with me on this (http://www.vegasinsider.com/nfl/story.cfm/story/959325)

  22. #23 Mikey
    January 30, 2010

    No. You read it incorrectly. The spread opened at 4. Meaning that the Colts would beat the Saints by 4 points, not that the odds were 4-1.

    The spread has now moved to 5.5 or 6 in favor of the Colts. However the odds on a spread bet are typically -110 for both teams meaning You’d have to bet $110 to win $100. This way Vegas gets 50/50 action on both teams and takes money off the overlay.

    I’m not sure if “illegal” gambling links are allowed but I linked to the Pinnacle site on my name. There’s no referral link or anything but feel free to remove it if you think it’s inappropriate.

    You’ll see the spread is 5.5 points. The odds are Indy -102, and NO -106 Indy:(Bet:$102 Win: $100) Saints:(Bet:$106 Win: $100)

    The money line is what you’d bet on if you didn’t want to take/give the points. The odds are reflected appropriately.

  23. #24 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    I admit I know nothing about this gambling thing, but the original site I noted said 8-1 odds colts over saints. I stopped reading at that point because I just wanted a vague idea. It is quite possible that that site was wrong.

    The thing I just read and referred to, I did read wrong. It is Colts favored by Four over Saints. Which I take it to mean that the Colts will win by four (or more) points. That would still be at odds with “The odds of the Saints beating the Colts in the Super Bowl were never 8-1. They are around 2-1 right now at Pinnacle” because the other team wins, right?

    What I find most fascinating is that most expert commenters are now lining up with me on this: The colts will beat the saints unless the saints pull off the unique hurt the QB strategy that they used on the Vikings.

    What is really odd about this is that i know fuck all about sports.

  24. #25 Enoch
    January 30, 2010

    Nobody at the time was denying that all those knockdowns were anything but extreme. I don’t know about the explanation, but it is fun to observe all the denial coming out now.

  25. #26 Christopher
    January 30, 2010

    The important thing will be the half time. I hear Michael Jackson will not be in the half time show this year.

  26. #27 Mikey
    January 30, 2010

    Odds = Payout based on probability of winning the bet.
    Spread = Point differential. (8 points, 5.5 points, etc)

    When a team is favored by 8 instead of 4, the probability of winning isn’t two times greater. Being favored by 8 means you’re going to win about 75% of the time. That would be 3-1 odds for the underdog(Saints). A spread of 4 points means a probability of winning about 60% of the time. That gives odds of about 1.5-1.

    I assume you’re way past the point of caring what I’m talking about. So I apologize for belaboring the point. :)

    And I agree, it’s not just most expert commentators, Vegas agrees too! Indy appears to be the superior team. As a resident of Indiana, I’m rooting for the Colts.

  27. #28 Mark
    January 30, 2010

    Mark: How do you interpret those stats? They are not well decribed. Are those per game? (60 hits? Not likely) Per season? (Thus an average of 6, i.e. 1/3 of what happened last weekend)?

    I think they are season stats, but they may be under reported. Agreed 20 in one game is an anomaly, but these things happen occasionally, for example 12 sacks in a game has been achieved 5 times before and the Vikings led the league with 48 sacks this season so such ratios are not impossible.

  28. #29 José
    January 30, 2010

    Lol, when the announcers mention ‘knockdowns’ they are referring to defensive backfield players getting a hand on the pass, but not intercepting.

    Give me a break. When they say something like “They haven’t been able to sack the quarterback, but they’ve been able to knock him down 8 times”, they’re not talking about tipping passes.

  29. #30 José
    January 30, 2010

    So, Knockdowns have gone from the stat everyone knows about to the stat that is unofficial to the stat that is actually about something else…

    Mark linked to a page that shows the leaders in legal hits on a quarterback. I apologize for referring to them in the same way they often do in game.

    Thanks for that link, which pretty much proves my point. THere is a “hit even if not sacked” strategy, and it is rare (last major outbreak being five years ago).

    Using different blitz packages to try and confuse the offense and get more hits and sacks on the QB is not a new or rare strategy. It’s just not.

  30. #31 davem
    January 30, 2010

    Football? Oh, that version of football. The American version, where common assault is not only tolerated, it’s encouraged. Move on, nothing to see here…

    This side of the pond, the miscreant is sent off the pitch (and not just a ‘sin bin’ for a few minutes).

    Real common assault on the football ground is regarded as such, and the miscreant can end up in court, and sentenced.

    I’ve never seen why violence on the field is OK, because it takes place during a game. What’s the difference between that and mugging?

  31. #32 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Mikey: As a resident of Indiana, I’m rooting for the Colts.

    Which is why, I hear, Las Vegas loves sports betting! Irrational behavior!

    Although in this case, the only MORAL bet is on the colts because of the nefarious strategies of the so called “saints” … As if.

  32. #33 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    [30]Jose: Show me the money. Show me the games that happen now and then that looked like this game.

    There are not any.

  33. #34 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    davem, I tend to agree, and this new policy should start with boxing.

  34. #35 Jason
    January 30, 2010

    @ Jose

    Yes, you are right, announcers might mention a player knocking down the quarterback. But in general, when describing a defensive player’s stats, if they say he has two sacks, three interceptions and 8 knockdowns, they sure as hell are not referring to him knocking down the qb, they are saying he knocked down the pass. If you watch football you have to know this. Your point was they have a stat called knockdowns which refers to knocking down the qb which was wrong; there is no such stat, official or otherwise.

  35. #36 Laen
    January 30, 2010

    http://www.footballoutsiders.com/extra-points/2010/stat-day-quarterbacks-getting-hit

    So on average Favre took 9ish hits per game not counting sacks. Now I have yet to see where the actual 19 number came from but we’ll assume it’s accurate for now.

    According to this.

    http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?offensiveStatisticCategory=TEAM_PASSING&season=2009&seasonType=REG&d-447263-o=2&conference=ALL&tabSeq=2&role=TM&d-447263-p=1&d-447263-s=PASSING_SACKED&d-447263-n=1

    Horrible paste I know, but the Vikings gave up 34 sacks during the regular season. That’s just over 2 per game.

    So you take the 9 average hits per game that Favre gives up plus 2 sacks per game and you are looking at 11 total hits per game. The Saints didn’t actually get any recorded sacks versus the Vikings.

    Take two of those hits and change them to sacks. Now you are talking about a 17 hit and 2 sack game.

    This does seem high, so I would like to see a source for the 19 hits that is of comparable…trust as football outsiders.

    Still considering the Saints game plan of going after Favre instead of stacking the line against the run. (More hits) The overall quality of the defenses the Vikings played, and the much larger impact Adrian Peterson had in the first half of the season. (Less hits during the season) I wouldn’t be terribly shocked if the number was accurate. I don’t think it’s the end of the NFL as we know it.

  36. #37 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Laen, you didn’t see the game,did you.

    There were no sacks during the game, so no, you really can’t add mystry numbers to make the number 9 look like the number 19.

    And these 19 hits were nasty hits (most of them).

    But those are very interesting links, thanks!!! And, as more info comes in, I realize that I, who know nothing about sports, have truly hit on something.

    At least this will make what would otherwise be a fairly uninteresting super bowl game worth watching. For the crashes, of course!

    What I really want to know is this; Are the Colts practicing a “Injure the QB to get him out of the game” approach?

  37. #38 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    For those who are still in denial or not getting it yet, let me put it another way. If what happened last weekend was “normal” then the following would also be normal: It would be normal for a team to get only part way through the season before having to pull out their QB for the rest of the year. And that does not happen.

    But it is what will happen if the Saints self-identified “remember me” strategy is implemented more broadly across the league. Thus, the conclusion of my post: The nature of the Quarterback will be different. They will have to get cheaper (because a team will need five, not one) and bigger, for instance.

  38. #39 José
    January 30, 2010

    For those who are still in denial or not getting it yet, let me put it another way. If what happened last weekend was “normal” ….

    No. You’re still not getting it. Favre did get hit a lot more than normal, but the defensive strategy employed by the Saints was perfectly normal.

    On every passing down there are people trying to sack the quarterback. If they don’t hit him before he releases the ball and they’re fairly close, it’s their job to hit him as hard as they can in a legal manner. If they’re judged to have hit quarterback too late or in an illegal manner, they’re heavily penalized. Sometimes a team will get zero sacks one week, and then get eight the next week using the same exact strategy. The same goes for knocking a quarterback down. That’s the game of football.

  39. #40 José
    January 30, 2010

    Your point was they have a stat called knockdowns which refers to knocking down the qb which was wrong; there is no such stat, official or otherwise.

    They cite it. Someone must be recording it for them to do this. It’s sometimes referred to as knockdowns. It’s a stat.

  40. #41 Laen
    January 30, 2010

    Actually I did see the game.

    The mystery number isn’t reducing the total number of hits. It’s changing two “hits” to sacks for comparison to the chart which excluded sacks.

    For those that know nothing about the sport, most teams carry three QB’s on the roster, as they do get injured. Most teams don’t have a 40 year old QB. Buddy Ryan long ago implemented the idea of hitting the QB as much as possible to throw off his timing. By the way Buddy Ryan is the father of Rex Ryan the Jet’s head coach, Buddy came in for a pep talk for the Jets before they lost to the Colts.

    Also, could you show me where you got the 19 hits number?

  41. #42 Ollie
    January 30, 2010

    I want a rematch.

  42. #43 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    José: Yes, yes, yes, you might be right. It might in fact be the case that the football equivilant of all of the oxygen molecules moving to one side of the room so everyone suffocates happened. So far no on has been able to demonstrate that this has happened, ever, any time, in any other game. And, so far, none of the commentators who have said things like “In forty years of watching this game I never saw this” have retracted their statements and said something like. Oh, wait, no, this happens all the time … never mind…

  43. #44 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Laen, the place I got the 19 number was this: I watched the game. At one point the guy on the TV said “Well, that’s number 17. 17 times knocked down, no sacks. Never quite seen that before”

    Then, he got knocked two two or three more times. So I conservatively added 2 to 17. I ended up with the number 19.

  44. #45 Klatu
    January 30, 2010

    They certainly were roughing up Favre. How can anyone have seen that game and not seen that!

  45. #46 Laen
    January 30, 2010

    Of course you are right Greg, all us people that follow the sport are obviously just buying into “big NFL”. It took an outsider who knows nothing about sports to show the truth. I’m sure you’ll be persecuted for your beliefs…

    Bleh I’m bored of this game, silly me for thinking you might actually just be talking football.

  46. #47 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Laen, I’m glad you have finally seen the light. Sometimes it does take an outsider to point out the obvious.

  47. #48 José
    January 30, 2010

    So far no on has been able to demonstrate that this has happened, ever, any time, in any other game.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s happened before (although, I bet it has). There was no funny business going on.

    And, so far, none of the commentators who have said things like “In forty years of watching this game I never saw this” have retracted their statements and said something like.

    Of the hundreds of columns written about this game, show me the ones that say the Saints employed some revolutionary new strategy that will forever change the game.

  48. #49 WLHutch
    January 30, 2010

    Dr. Laden, I agree with you. One team won, primarily, by “legally” beating the crap out of the other team’s QB. To the jokers above who say it’s just football, I say not only is it unsportsmanlike-bordering on criminal, but it should be criminal. Know much about the cumulative effects of head trauma?

  49. #50 Brad
    January 30, 2010

    To me, the true meaning of the Super Bowl, is to go do something that is usually very crowded, and appreciate the near emptiness. Something like skiing/snowboarding… almost no lift lines. Damn! What am I doing? You didn’t see any of this.

  50. #51 horace
    January 30, 2010

    Jose, I think you will find those links above. You must work for the saints or something.

    I agree that this is a different and new implementation of how to play the game, and it might be a very successful version of what everyone always tries to do. Having the team members state openly that this is new, and that this will happen at the superbowl, underscores both the correctness of this analysis and the scariness of if it is true.

  51. #52 José
    January 30, 2010

    To the jokers above who say it’s just football, I say not only is it unsportsmanlike-bordering on criminal, but it should be criminal.

    If the Vikings had the opportunity to hit Brees the way the Saints hit Favre, they would have.

    Know much about the cumulative effects of head trauma?

    Yes. And they’re well known to everyone who puts on a football helmet. There are also rules against hitting a quarterback in the head. The commentator who disagreed with the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that was called is a former quarterback who’s career was ended due to multiple concussions.

    Jose, I think you will find those links above. You must work for the saints or something.

    Tell me which link specifically? I’m a Giants fan, if it matters.

    I agree that this is a different and new implementation of how to play the game, and it might be a very successful version of what everyone always tries to do.

    It was the same thing they tried to do every game all season. They were just very successful against the Vikings.

    Having the team members state openly that this is new

    No it’s not. It’s normal trash talk.

  52. #53 fanboy
    January 30, 2010

    Jose … Giants fan … that explains it.

  53. #54 amphiox
    January 30, 2010

    Well it is true that pressuring the QB and hitting him as much as possible is an old and recurrent defensive strategy in football. And it is the job of the offensive line to stop them from doing so.

    But the statistical aberration of the number of hits is there and requires explanation.

    Is it as simple as the Vikings’ O-line being not up to the job, relative to the Saints’ D, on that particular day?

    Or did the Saints employ a particular strategy, above and beyond the normal emphasis on getting to the QB, to get to the QB even more than usual?

    And if so, was it simply a question of allocation of defensive “resources”? That is to say the defense has other jobs to do – they have to cover the pass, block the running lanes, etc, etc. They could conceivably shift their focus away from one of these other areas to concentrate more effort on pressuring the QB. If this is all they did, then the strategy they employed will not necessarily work on the Colts, or any other team, since each teams’ offense has a difference mix of threats that need to be properly countered.

    On the other hand, could the Saints have employed something new or different from a tactical standpoint that allowed them to get around the Vikings’ O-line’s QB protection? If so, was it successful simply because it surprised the Vikings, or was there something new about it that made it intrinsically harder to counter?

    Either way, another team, given time to study the game film, could conceivably find a way to counter these tactics, and again the strategy will not necessarily work a second time against a different team.

    And even if this was a deliberate, new, kind of strategy, and even if it does work again, and even if it does, as a result, become widely adopted/mimicked, it does not automatically follow that the position/relative value of the QB will automatically have to be changed, or the rules will have to be modified, because at the same time, each team will also be busy changing their offensive lines, QB protection strategies, and the overall pattern and tempo of all their offensive plays to counter the new defensive trend.

    And as with any arms race, the most likely outcome is a restoration of the old equilibrium, with defense and offense balancing out again, with the net difference being not much different than before.

  54. #55 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    amphiox: Well stated.

    I wonder if all shifts or developments in sports strategy were like this, suddenly appearing on the scene, a few prescient blessed individuals noticing the change, others naysaying, while the practitioners toil at the drawing board and in the practice field to see how to advance, or counter, the change.

    I agree that no particular outcome is guaranteed. If it has been a kind of “gentleman’s agreement” then this may spell a big change that has no comeback, and a rule change could be required to force the “gentlemen” back to civility. Or it could be, like you say, a shift in how resources are used.

    Considering that the Vikings are said to have the best defensive lines in the league this year (or one of the best) tells me that this is not just some other team playing around, but rather, a very effective shift in how they were doing things.

    It would be interesting to watch the game again. But maybe to painful.

  55. #56 WLHutch
    January 30, 2010

    Jose@
    1. Sounds like your logic may have been altered by some type of head injury.
    2. OOps, I should have said “brain injury”
    You do recall all that mess about accelerating/decelerating CNS shearing and such?

  56. #57 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    I once heard the guy who is/was president of the National Sports Injury Association (or whatever) as well as the international version … a physician specializing in head trauma and preventing it … on the radio.

    He said that if US football players did not wear helmets, there would be about one death per game.

  57. #58 José
    January 31, 2010

    @WLHutch

    Why are you even talking about this? Am I arguing for head trauma? No one is denying that football is a brutal sport that can cause head injuries. Can you do anything other than state the obvious an throw out lame insults? The argument is about whether about some nefarious new defensive strategy was used against the Vikings that will change the way the game is played. The answer is no.

  58. #59 José
    January 31, 2010

    Considering that the Vikings are said to have the best defensive lines in the league this year (or one of the best) tells me that this is not just some other team playing around, but rather, a very effective shift in how they were doing things.

    On any passing play, the quarterback will get sacked if he holds on to the football too long. If he get’s rid of it just before he gets sacked, he’s going to get hit. Quarterbacks with a good sense of when they’re about to get hit (like Favre) get rid of the ball just before they get hit, rather than take a sack. that, coupled with Minnesota doing a poor job of stopping the Saints pass rush, is a better explanation than some new shift in how the game is played.

    And don’t forget that the Vikings did put up 28 points despite having one of the worst case of butter fingers I can recall (They averaged 25.2 points per game this season). The Saints defense wasn’t really all that effective.

  59. #60 Abtruse
    January 31, 2010

    Team sport, right? Look at their career numbers, it isn’t even close.

  60. #61 Greg Laden
    January 31, 2010

    The stats I’ve seen have Favre as far more highly ranked than Manning.

    Yes, it is a team thing. All stats for Favre have to be adjusted upwards by 20% because he was playing with a totally lame team until he got to Minnesota. It’s called the Green Bay effect.

  61. #62 Bill James
    January 31, 2010

    I believe Favre also hold the interception record. I hear those things can be real season killers. Especially in the playoffs.

  62. #63 jolly
    January 31, 2010

    Of course this is not a new strategy, it wouldn’t take a genius to come up with this. Unfortunately, the NFL doesn’t make old games available (AFAIK) but the old Purple People Eaters had a great reputation of getting to the quarterback. In fact, the NFL has changed the rules many times over the years to attempt to make the game safer. It used to be common to whack the quarterback long after he had thrown the ball and to hit him with your helmet and to pound him into the ground. Now the players are so huge and strong that it is more dangerous so they add rules. Also I get the impression that players are sometimes fined pretty heavily for hits that are considered to be attempting to injure on purpose.

  63. #64 Greg Laden
    January 31, 2010

    Jolly, did you see the game?

  64. #65 José
    January 31, 2010

    It could have been worse 10 years ago. Today, quarterbacks can’t be hit low. They can’t be hit in the helmet. They can’t be hit with the helmet. You can’t drive a quarterback into the ground, and you can’t land on quarterback.

    Here’s a link that discusses some of the player safety measures that went into effect for the 2009-2010 season that contains this nice little tidbit for those who think going after the quarterback is some new plague.

    Thirty years ago, NFL coaches directed their defense to take the quarterback out. Rules now protect the quarterback and restrict any such sentiment.

    http://national-football-league-nfl.suite101.com/article.cfm/new-rules-in-professional-football

  65. #66 Greg Laden
    January 31, 2010

    Today, quarterbacks can’t be hit low. They can’t be hit in the helmet. They can’t be hit with the helmet. You can’t drive a quarterback into the ground, and you can’t land on quarterback.

    Did you see the game? I’m pretty sure you didn’t see the game. Or maybe the real problem is that the refs didn’t see the game.

  66. #67 José
    January 31, 2010

    Yes, I saw the game. Favre wasn’t hit in the head. Nobody tried to take his legs out. The one time the refs thought he was driven into the ground, they called a penalty. He was hit a lot, and some of the hits might have been borderline late, but there were no egregious non-calls. Quarterbacks used to take hits that were much worse than that. Ask the guy (Troy Aikman) who disagreed with the one penalty that was called. His career was ended due to worse hits.

    It’s normal for fans of a team to see every call and every shot taken against there team as something bad or dirty. That’s all that’s happening here. If I’m wrong, where is the outrage from people who have no rooting interest in either team? It’s not there.

  67. #68 anon
    January 31, 2010

    Reading greg’s commentary here is like watching a fundy explain evolution. Greg’s obviously not a football fan, as he indicated in this post (http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2008/12/you_know_you_are_a_minnesotan.php) when he was unaware of the reasons for the vikings/cowboys rivalry.

  68. #69 Greg Laden
    January 31, 2010

    I probably know less about football than the average “fundy” knows about evolution.

    But I’m right about this. At first, when I wrote this post, I figured I was totally wrong and I expected people to set me straight. But so far I’ve not seen the rational argument.

    So I’m like a fundy who accidentally thought up, say, endosymbiosis or something.

    Pretty cool, huh?

    You’ll all be eating straw when Manning is out of the game with injuries at the half (plus/minus) with a tied or nearly tied score!!!!

  69. #70 José
    January 31, 2010

    So I’m like a fundy who accidentally thought up, say, endosymbiosis or something.

    You’re at the “Why are there still monkeys?” level. I’m starting to think you’re just a sports poe.

  70. #71 Paul
    January 31, 2010

    No Greg, you’re not adding some amazing insight into football. What you’re saying is it upset you that Minnesota has a very porous offensive line as well as an offensive coordinator that couldn’t seem to wrap his head around using his tight ends to pick up the extra pass rushers.
    But, I think I see what you are saying. You seem to think that a 250 lb. man that’s a millisecond away from hitting his objective (the quarterback) can “just take physics and bin it” and stop or redirect instantly. It can’t be done. In fact, on at least one occasion one of the Saints linebackers was airborne when Favre threw the ball away, what are you suggesting he do pull an Arthur Dent and be so distracted by the ball being thrown that he soars into the air, thus missing the quarterback.
    I’m sorry, I don’t mean to get snarky, it’s just that you don’t seem to understand what people have been telling you. When you face a very skilled QB, you rush the pass. You apply pressure either to force an error or get a sack. The offensive line is there to protect the qb, and as I stated above you can pull other players off of running routes to play blocker. I’ll shut up now, I’m just so flustered that somebody so smart is missing what should be obvious.

  71. #72 JRO
    February 1, 2010

    In addition to what Paul said, you have to look at the Viking’s pre-game strategy. They knew that the only chance they had to win was to get to Brees to disrupt the passing game. (turns out they should have practice holding on to the ball.) In addition, the Vikings knew that the Saint’s were going to try to hit Favre.

    It’s the same strategy that the Vik’s successfully carried out against Dallas. The main difference there is that Romo’s a little faster and not as tough, so instead of sticking in there to take the hits, he ran out of the pocket and threw it away, or slid to take the sack.

    There were plenty of times during the regular season that Favre went down to avoid the hits. In the playoffs, Favre took all the hits becuase he stuck in there and tried to make the throw, a decision that would have won them the game if not for the fumbles.

    The bottom line, however is that you always try to neutralize the opposing team’s biggest threat. For the Saint’s, this meant getting at Favre. Next week, they will also go for the Colt’s best player. If they were playing the Chargers they would focused their hits on LT. They are just trying to win the game and employing the strategy that will help them do that.

    Greg, you are getting into a problem here because it just so happens that the best player on both the Vik’s and the Colts is the QB, so the Saint’s strategy is the same for both games. If the Saints were playing another team in the superbowl, they would go after that team’s best player, instead.

  72. #73 Greg Laden
    February 1, 2010

    JRO: That is a VERY good argument. But wrong. Sorry.

    The QB is very often the key person that one would want to go after. Was there another player, other than the QB, for the vikings during any game this year? For the colts? No. And for many other teams as well. Yet what happened last week has never happened before, ever, in the history of the game.

    And, it may be a fluke. But if it happens next weekend as well, the chances that it is a fluke go way way down.

  73. #74 Sam N
    February 1, 2010

    If you are going to show one of those Hitler clips, I would have recommended the one on peer review.

  74. #75 José
    February 1, 2010

    Yet what happened last week has never happened before, ever, in the history of the game.

    And what evidence do you have that this is the case? Hyperbole from longtime Viking fans you watched the game with? Why is the only person in the world writing about this someone who admittedly doesn’t know the game very well?

    Everyone agrees that Favre was hit quite a bit, but what exactly did the Saints do that was different from every other game this season that resulted in him getting hit? I didn’t see anything, and no one I’m aware of has been able to spot anything. How do you know Favre wasn’t hit more because he was holding on to the ball longer than he normally would? Had he gotten rid of the ball a just half second earlier on any of those plays he wouldn’t have been hit at all and we wouldn’t be having this conversation (or there would have been massive penalties and we still wouldn’t be having this conversation).

  75. #76 Greg Laden
    February 1, 2010

    Jose, I’ve already mentioned above where I’ve heard and read strong supporting evidence. And, I’ve ased repeatedly for counter evidence, which merely needs to come in the form of this sort of game having happened before. Once or twice before would not be convincing that last week was unusual. But never would be VERY convincing that it WAS unusual. And so far all we’ve got is never.

    No one has ever seen that happen before. Your post-hoc explanations for why that game was perfectly common and normal are very unconvincing in light of the fact that it. never. happened. before.

    This is not hard.

  76. #77 José
    February 2, 2010

    Jose, I’ve already mentioned above where I’ve heard and read strong supporting evidence. And, I’ve ased repeatedly for counter evidence, which merely needs to come in the form of this sort of game having happened before.

    And I’ve repeatedly asked you to point me to one source that says what happened was unprecedented, and you won’t. I don’t want hearsay. If it was true people would be writing about it. They aren’t. If it’s not noteworthy enough to be written about for this game, it wasn’t noteworthy enough to be written about prior comparable games. You’re asking us to disprove something that’s not even being debated.

    In the absence of that, we’ve shown that hitting the quarterback after the ball is released is normal and legal, that the practice of trying smash the hell out of the quarterback is not new, and how quarterbacks used to be hit much harder. We’ve even explained how Favre simply holding the ball longer could be a legitimate explanation for why he was hit. What else can we do?

  77. #78 richard
    February 2, 2010

    Here I read strong supporting evidence, its very interesting argument, but now days it comes as cyclic process. so we have to tolerate these things.

  78. #79 Paul
    February 2, 2010

    The entire basis of Greg’s argument is he heard a play by play announcer say that he has never seen anything like this before. Immediately he (Dr. Laden) leaps to the conclusion that that means hitting the quarterback so many times. In a way, he’s right. Not for the reasons he thinks he is, but you can’t tell him that. The reason he is right is that there WERE a hell of a lot of hits on Favre. Where he’s wrong is the why. The reason Favre was hit so much WAS NOT due to some overwhelmingly new strategy that nobody had thought of before to hit the quarterback just after he throws the ball. That is conspiracy theory level thinking. What really happened is the Saints had an extremely good pass rush in that game and the Vikings O-line let Favre down. It’s that simple. Why, Dr. Laden, do you continue to deny reality? As a poster above said, you’re being very creationist.

  79. #80 Paul
    February 2, 2010

    Seriously Dr. Laden, provide a source that this game was “unprecedented.” Just one. Please make sure that it precisely explains how Favre getting creamed due to an ineffectual O-line is something new. You’re wrong. Man up and admit it.

  80. #81 Paul
    February 2, 2010

    Just for fun (as in rub it in a little more) here’s a link for you from somebody that knows football.
    http://whodatdish.com/2010/01/29/new-orleans-saints-a-look-back-at-how-they-beat-the-minnesota-vikings-in-the-nfc-championship-game/

  81. #83 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    Thanks for the link. To be rubbing it in you would have had to “win” the argument then provided some salt! But no one has presented evidence to contradict me. Your second link porovides evidence supporting my assertion. The first link does not open right now, something wrong with the site. Perhaps you can summarize it.

  82. #84 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    OK, that first link finally became visible.

    Illiterate denialist drivil.

    Sunday. On Sunday someone will be eating their words.

  83. #85 José
    February 3, 2010

    I assert that the Saints/Vikings was the silliest game in history. I’d like to see someone prove me wrong. Nevermind the fact that it’s an unprovable opinion I’ve provided no evidence for.

    Seriously, there is nothing that could happen in the Superbowl that could prove you right. That you think there is just provides further evidence that you don’t know what your talking about. If you want to make the case that the Saints were doing something new and different that led to Favre getting hit, tell us what it was? Why haven’t football people picked up on it?

    Saying the Saints had some new strategy that entailed hitting the quarterback without sacking him is like saying they had a strategy of trying to gain a lot of yards when they ran the ball without getting first downs. It’s laughable. It makes no sense.

  84. #87 Paul
    February 7, 2010

    Of course it’s just drivel (that’s ow you spell it by the way), it doesn’t agree with your foregone conclusion. By the way, you were pretty much owned in this thread by several people, why you went on to start a new one is…well, I was going to say beyond me, but it’s not. You’re a fanboy homer. Nothing more.

  85. #88 Greg Laden
    February 7, 2010

    Paul, are you trying to be a concern troll or a “how to blog” troll?

  86. #89 I WAS RIGHT ABOUT THE SAINTS
    September 10, 2010

    I am vindicated.

    Listening to the commentators during tonights game in which the Saints fairly and squarely beat the Vikings, heard that the Vikings coach had suspected that the saints had the nefarious strategy I refer to during the playoffs, and that a Saints player admited this to him. It appears that it is now generally accepted that the Saints went over the top and, essentially, cheated or at least played very unfairly in last year’s playoff game.

    Question: Who paid off the officials to facilitate this and how does that work, anyway?

  87. #90 chriscarter
    January 24, 2011

    I want appreciate to your ideas that you expressed in this blog. But i am not agree with the conclusion because saint played very unfairly in last year’s playoff game.

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