Commentary

Delhomme struggled at comical level

Originally Published: January 12, 2009
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders

Kerry Collins, Jake Delhomme, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers have varying levels of culpability in their teams' playoff losses.

Let's start with Rivers, who, according to our numbers, had the best day of all the quarterbacks in divisional-round games. Throwing for 308 yards and three touchdowns against one tipped interception with the fearsome Pittsburgh pass defense on the other side of the field is nothing to be ashamed of. Rivers was sacked four times, with little thanks going to an offensive line that was simply outmuscled by the Steelers' front seven. Speculation that the Chargers would go as far as Rivers and that their fantastic passing attack would take them there was false. Rivers had a great game, but what happened when he was sipping Gatorade sunk the Chargers.

Against the great Baltimore defense, it seemed obvious that Collins, the game manager who'd taken over for the excitable, inconsistent Vince Young, would subject the Ravens to infinite checkdowns while avoiding the mistakes that his opposite number would make. Instead, Collins attacked the Ravens up and down the field, repeatedly going after cornerback Fabian Washington with deeper throws than anyone expected. Although Collins threw for 281 yards, turnovers killed the Titans' chances, only one of which was Collins' fault. An interception on the Ravens' 32-yard line prevented the Titans from chancing a Rob Bironas field goal.

For Giants fans, the miraculous 2007 playoff run had seen Manning graduate from his previous status as an inconsistent quarterback prone to ill-advised throws and big mistakes. A Super Bowl MVP trophy only added to his reputation as a fearless leader, and when Manning followed the playoffs with an excellent 2008 campaign, the "old Eli" was dead and buried. Then Sunday came. Manning looked uncomfortable in the pocket, sailed several desperate throws and was lucky to end up with two interceptions as opposed to four.

Of course, none of these quarterbacks can compare to Carolina's Delhomme and the whopping six turnovers he had Saturday night. Kurt Warner may have entered the game as the quarterback famed for his ability to give the ball away even as he succeeded, but Delhomme was responsible for a night of almost comically bad quarterbacking.

Believe it or not, Delhomme did not have the worst day a quarterback has ever had in the playoffs. In the 14 years we have used our advanced statistics, Delhomme's performance measures out as the second-worst by a quarterback. Since 1995, the worst single game by a quarterback in the playoffs came from Collins. Playing against the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, Collins was an appalling 15-of-39 for 112 yards, with four interceptions against zero touchdowns. Although Delhomme made two additional turnovers, he also threw a late touchdown pass, completed 50 percent of his passes and occasionally got the ball downfield. Collins "earned" -294 DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) in that Super Bowl contest, a significantly worse performance than Delhomme's mere -209.

Here are the rest of the best and worst players of the divisional round, according to the Football Outsiders DYAR statistics.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
EYds
1.
Philip Rivers SD
21/35
308
3
1
148
148
0
372
Rivers converted five of the 10 third downs he faced, a tall order considering exactly two of them required fewer than 10 yards for a first down.
2.
Kerry Collins TEN
26/42
281
0
1
116
116
0
377
Collins did great work on first down, picking up seven of his 16 first downs there. Although he threw deep frequently, he might have been better off just keeping it underneath. Collins was 2-of-12 for 44 yards and an interception on passes of 20 yards or more. That left him 24-of-30 for 237 yards on the shorter stuff.
3.
Joe Flacco BAL
11/22
161
1
0
106
106
-1
248
Flacco moved the chains only six times Saturday, but against the Titans, avoiding turnovers and sacks is accomplishment enough. On the other hand, Flacco was sacked seven times and turned the ball over three times in his two games against the Steelers this season.
4.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
17/26
181
1
0
75
75
0
242
Funny what a win can do to silence the hecklers calling you a drama queen, huh? Roethlisberger threw an incomplete pass and took a sack on his first two third downs, but he completed a pass on the final seven third downs he faced, picking up four first downs in the process.
5.
Kurt Warner ARI
21/31
220
2
1
72
74
-2
264
When not throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, Warner was 13-of-18 for 54 yards. If Anquan Boldin can't play in the NFC Championship Game, the Eagles might place Asante Samuel, Brian Dawkins and Quintin Mikell on Fitzgerald.
6.
Eli Manning NYG
15/29
171
0
2
3
9
-6
158
The Giants were able to move the ball pretty well up and down the field, but Manning converted only three of the 11 third downs he faced. Four of his passes went for a total of 100 yards; the 25 other attempts mustered only 74 more.
7.
Donovan McNabb PHI
23/39
217
1
2
-6
-17
12
217
McNabb's best receiver on the day wasn't Kevin Curtis or Reggie Brown, but instead Jason Avant. The slot wideout caught four of the six passes thrown to him, and among his pair of first downs was a miraculous job on third-and-20.
8.
Jake Delhomme CAR
17/34
205
1
5
-209
-209
0
-86
Must try to find a nice thing to say. … Jonathan Stewart caught three of the passes thrown to him, gaining 39 yards and picking up two first downs in the process. Delhomme had two different strings of nine attempts without an interception. OK, so we had one nice thing to say.
Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
EYds
1.
Willie Parker PIT
146
2
0
0
61
65
-4
192
We've never been the biggest Parker fans because of his bust-and-bust-and-bust-and-then-boom style, but he was fantastic Sunday. Six of Parker's 10 carries on second down went for a first down or a touchdown.
2.
Chris Johnson TEN
72
1
28
0
54
38
16
134
Disappointingly sidelined with an ankle injury at halftime, Johnson's brilliant first half against one of the league's best run defenses exemplified how important he is to the Titans' offense and how much of a nightmare he is for even the best defenses. Johnson was the cream of the rookie running back crop in 2008. Everyone else is playing catch-up.
3.
Brandon Jacobs NYG
92
0
0
0
34
34
0
117
The echo of "Why didn't they give it to Jacobs?" in New York after Manning's failed sneak attempt was matched only by the silence after the Giants did exactly that on their next fourth-down chance and Jacobs was stuffed. It was a very quiet end to what may well have been Jacobs' final game as a Giant.
4.
Darren Sproles SD
15
0
91
1
32
-13
45
128
Jacobs will compete in the free-agent market with Sproles, who was simply awful out of the backfield Sunday. Only two of his 11 carries pushed the Chargers toward a first down, although he picked up two first downs and a long touchdown in the passing game. Who knows? Maybe the Texans will sign him to play the role of Reggie Bush after passing on the real thing in the 2006 draft.

5.
Tim Hightower ARI
76
0
3
1
11
0
11
98
Hightower had carries of 14 and 17 yards Saturday night; he previously made only six carries that gained 14 yards or more all season. Don't expect to see much of him next week, even with these improvements. He's too much of a liability as a pass-blocker to get many snaps against the Eagles.
Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
EYds
1.
Brian Westbrook PHI
36
0
10
0
-42
-28
-14
24
Go back to Thursday and tell your friend that Westbrook had 46 total yards against the Giants but the Eagles still won. See how long it takes him to stop laughing.
Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
EYds
1.
Larry Fitzgerald ARI
8
13
166
20.8
1
59
174
Fitzgerald was 3-of-5 on third down for 89 yards. Who else did the Panthers think the ball was going to, Tim Castille? Fitzgerald had two touchdowns in the regular-season encounter against Philly, but they came after the Cardinals already were down 21 points.
2.
Justin Gage TEN
10
17
135
13.5
0
48
171
Seven of Collins' 14 throws on third down went to Gage, resulting in three first downs and a 9-yard completion on third-and-10. Gage was targeted 17 times. No other Titans receiver was targeted more than 13 times in a single game this season, and there were only two instances when a receiver got more than 10 targets.
3.
Chris Chambers SD
4
4
72
18.0
0
40
80
Three of his four receptions came with Ike Taylor in coverage. Taylor spent virtually all of the regular-season game against the Chargers in coverage on Vincent Jackson, and he was on Jackson when Jackson caught the game's opening score. Something to watch for next week.
4.
Antonio Gates SD
5
6
59
11.8
0
27
82
You will never see a future Hall of Fame tight end more open than Gates was on the game's opening play from scrimmage.
5.
Derrick Mason BAL
5
9
78
15.6
1
25
93
Mason caught four of the first five passes thrown to him but had four incompletions and a catch for zero yards after that.
Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
EYds
5.
Muhsin Muhammad
5
11
55
11.0
0
-28
34
You can't have a young guy like D.J. Hackett or Dwayne Jarrett out there as the target of incompletion after incompletion (not to mention two interceptions). Gotta have someone with some veteran presence.

Bill Barnwell is an analyst for FootballOutsiders.com.

Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.