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Sunday NFL Thoughts: Records, Time Outs, and Arm Punts

1. There's always talk about how Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning cares about the stats, while Patriots quarterback Tom Brady cares about winning. Gary Myers, author of Brady vs Manningrelays a story about the Patriots 2007 season finale against the Giants, where Peyton called his brother Eli Manning for a special request.

Eli walked over to [Antonio Pierce] in the locker room to relay the message from Peyton: "Hey, you know, if you guys can do whatever you can to not let him break the record, that would be great," Eli said. "It would be nice if the defense can go out there and not give up any touchdown passes. Maybe let them run the ball in."

Brady had thrown forty-eight touchdown passes, but that was against the rest of the league. Pierce did not want him breaking the record against the Giants. Eli Manning is hard to read sometimes, even for his teammates. "You think the guy is joking, but then you look at his face," Pierce said. "He was serious about that."

While I think Manning does care about winning, it's clear that personal records mean a lot to him. It's why he choreographs celebrations (touchdown record), it's why they've wheeled him out on the field this season when he's had no business playing (yardage record), and it's why he's going to keep playing until he breaks Brett Favre's total wins record (one more!).

2. Speaking of winning, apparently teams handle delay of game penalties incorrectly. According to some pretty nifty research, teams should be willing to take the five yard delay of game penalty in the second half, in order to save them for a potentially important game winning final drive.

Essentially, the study shows that the difference in conversion rate for 1st and 10 and 1st and 15 on any given drive is less valuable than the 40 seconds of saved time thanks to the extra time out. The caveat is that time outs are always a good idea if the down is 2nd or 3rd and short.

While the data is for college football, it can certainly apply to the NFL. Imagine if Rex Ryan and the Bills hadn't used two timeouts with 14 minutes left in the game? One came on 3rd and short in the 3rd quarter (the study says to wait until the 4th quarter to use the timeouts) and one came on defense on the Patriots first play of a drive, for full disclosure.

If Buffalo had saved those two time outs, they would have gotten the ball back for a final drive with over 3 minutes left on the clock and with the two-minute warning for a breather. There's some value to this idea.

3. Bill Belichick is a proponent of the Arm Punt. Abandon hope.

...We had the one turnover offensively but that didn't really hurt us as much as it could have because the field position they ended up with was not very good. It was kind of similar to a punt if you will, so it wasn't one of those devastating turnovers...

4. I still don't get Tom Brady's thought process behind that interception heave to Chris Harper. The Patriots were up 10 in the 4th quarter with the ball on the Bills side of the field. Brady had time in the pocket. He threw off his back foot into triple coverage to an undrafted rookie elevated from the practice squad.

Maybe Brady wanted to go for the backshoulder throw? It just felt like the first game against the Bills where Brady started throwing deep throws that let Buffalo back into the game for no reason. It was also a really questionably drawn/executed play that didn't make use of the open field.

If Brady placed the ball far enough to the right, Harper could've generated separation from the coverage and the linebacker wouldn't have had enough depth. There was no one on that side of the field, thanks to Brandon LaFell's short route.

I'm kind of guessing that Harper read the defender's hips and tried to spin him by running to his backside, but the defender made the savvy play by forcing the Patriots to have to throw into a deep corner.

5. The Patriots will not be fielding a wide receiver that has been a part of the team's active roster for the whole season.

Chris Harper made the opening roster against the Steelers, but has spent the majority of the season on the practice squad. Harper actually lost his roster spot to Keshawn Martin, who was acquired from the Texans on September 16th, prior to the week 2 game against the Bills. Brandon LaFell was activated from the PUP list for the October 25th game against the Jets.

Julian Edelman is hurt. Danny Amendola is hurt. Aaron Dobson is done for the year (ever?). Even the coaches acknowledge that special teamer Matthew Slater is a wide receiver in official title only.

Good luck.