Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
24 Oct 2005
Hey, folks, we're going to try something new this week. Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. In an effort to get some Monday morning content going, we're going to experiment with putting some of these comments online in a bit of a notebook format. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2006.
By the way, the discussion thread for this roundtable is an excellent place to suggest injuries you would like to see Will Carroll cover in this week's Black and Blue Report. And at the end we'll give you a little preview of what games we're analyzing later in the week.
Mike Tanier:The Eagles defense played very well overall. On several big Chargers plays, their receivers were covered but made great plays on the ball. The Chargers got the ball in Eagles territory several times and only really had one long drive.
The Eagles had several productive drives, but for most of the second half they couldn't move the ball at all. There were a lot of dropped passes and poor throws by McNabb in the second half.
Merriman is really good.
L.J. is a fumble machine. I am not sure how he holds the ball but I've never seen a football just pop out of an NFL player's hands so often. And on that final clock-error play of the first half, I think it is his mental error, not Reid's or McNabb's. McNabb throws a pass to a receiver next to the sidelines. The receiver turns upfield. Duh.
I am guessing that the first read was end zone. McNabb was out of pocket and should have thrown it away, but he probably figured he could make a play. I am guessing that with Todd France kicking, no one assumes an easy field goal.
And McNabb's red and maroon zone decisions are getting a little punchy. The guy really knows how to get sacked out of field goal range.
The Philly media is in the process of declaring Armageddon despite the win. My feeling is that if you re-order the plays in this game, it doesn't look like a "lucky" win. Stick the blocked field goal in the first quarter and the TD to Owens in the fourth, and suddenly this is a gritty, come-from-behind win where the offense "got it together at crunch time" and McNabb "did enough to win" blah blah blah.
And by the way ... on the second play from scrimmage, Reid called a run to Westbrook, who gained six yards. The crowd at the Holiday Inn next to the Linc cheered. A running play! But it was called back.
Michael David Smith: Did everyone see how San Diego just gave away its trick play? Drew Brees was in the shotgun and they did a direct snap to Tomlinson, but they didn't get the play off in time and the clock expired, so the play didn't run. Way to show off your trick plays without getting anything out of them. (The Colts ran the same play and Manning got called for illegal motion.)
Bill Moore: You notice how they stupidly called it again on 3rd-goal from the 15? They'll get nothing and like it.
Ned Macey: I only got back home for maybe the last 5 minutes of this game, but two plays stood out. First, McNabb was pressured and was unable to escape Castillo, gaining only two yards. Healthy McNabb would have busted out of the pocket and gains serious yardage. Second was the play where they threw on 4th-and-1 and McNabb made an awful throw to a covered Lamar Gordon. I dismissed this lack of running game thing all year, but it is starting to be a problem.
Bill:At the end, SD started marching again with success deep. Here are my exact notes from the last drive:
Note 1 -- abt 1:45 left in game "How long before Reche Caldwell becomes a household name?"
[He had made a number of good catches .... One play passes .... Caldwell catches another long pass that clearly puts them in AT LEAST FG range ... fumbles]
Note 2 -- abt 1:34 left, "That's not what I meant."
Aaron Schatz: I think next week I'll count Donovan McNabb's play fakes. I swear, the Eagles must play fake on at least half their offensive plays, and I don't know why any team would take these fakes seriously.
Ryan Wilson: The penalties against the Steelers in the Bengals game were ridiculous (even as a homer, I still think this to be the case). After a first down catch, Hines Ward got an unsportsmanlike pentalty for gesturing for a first down after spiking the ball. Ike Taylor got an unsporstmanlike penalty after hip tossing Chad Johnson in bounds in what looked to be a completely legal tackle. Chris Hope was called for a late hit out of bounds on a play that was obviously anything but a late hit out of bounds. And as long as I'm complaining as a Steelers fan, Hines was called for a bogus hold, and the officials blew a Cincy fumble dead even though it was a legit fumble. Honestly, this game could've been 42-6 if not for all the official intervention. After watching this game, I'm convinced that every conceivable infraction is a point of emphasis this season.
Russell Levine: Ryan, I don't think you're being a homer, except the call on Chris Hope probably gets made more often than not. He got a little extra shove in there, several yards out of bounds.
The Bengals really did not answer the bell today. They looked great on their first drive, had an incredible TD catch by CJ overturned on replay, had another TD pass dropped, then missed a field goal, and largely folded up the tent after that. Not that surprised, given that it's the team's first really big division game in god knows how long and Pittsburgh has played dozens of them in that time.
Ryan: The Steelers rushed the ball 33 times for 220+ yards, and threw the ball 9 times for 93. And of the 9 passes, Heath Miller caught 6 while Hines caught the other three. And yes, his River Dance impression was actually worse than his T.O. impression last season.
The Steelers pass rush did a good job of making Palmer rush his throws, and they ended up with 2 picks and a couple of sacks. And they also didn't let CJ get involved in the game. Both Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden (who didn't start, but came in as the #2 CB later in the game) both played pretty well, and if those two guys can consistently perform, it will give Dick LeBeau even more freedom to send LBs on blitzes.
The Bengals run defense is worse than advertised. To take this team out of the game, all you do is run it straight up the middle, right at Odell Thurman. Thurman's great in pursuit, but he's not very strong at the point of attack (learned that phrase from Mike Mayock). The Steelers basically ran The Bus right at him all day (and ran Willie Parker outside).
Aaron: Denver looks like the dominant team that their fans thought they were before -- they are much better this week in the red zone and on third downs to go with everything they were doing well already. In the third quarter, at least, they didn't have the second half problems they've had in weeks past. [Note: This e-mail was sent at the start of the fourth quarter.] They're running all over the Giants, and the defense is confusing Manning with a lot of late blitzes, where someone runs in late after the blockers have all decided who to take, and so Al Wilson or John Lynch comes in unblocked...
Ned: The forgotten big play of the DEN-NYG game is that after Denver intercepted Manning late (funny how people will forget to mention that one in talking about Manning's amazing courage ... although in his defense it looked like Burress should have laid out for the ball and at least knocked it down) was the Broncos facing a 3rd-and-5 and intending the pass for Tatum Bell covered by Will Allen. On a play that can win you the game, is this possibly the matchup you want? Further, there was a definite possibility they would run the ball into the line and make the Giants use a timeout, but instead they motion Bell out before the snap and go empty backfield. Awful play call that allowed Eli to be the hero.
MDS: I didn't watch a lot of Oakland-Buffalo, but I think Derrick Burgess is really starting to look like one of the best pass rushers in the league. I think he's a great fit for the Rob Ryan defense, which is all attack and no read-and-react for the defensive ends. MikeT, any idea why he wasn't that kind of pass rusher in Philly?
Mike T.: The dude was never ever healthy. Then we had Kearse on his side of the field. Finally, Kearse switched sides and he had a great playoff series.
It helps that Ryan shuttles guys off the field a lot and splits his DE's reeeaaaaly far wide.
Ned: Obviously, the big story in BUF-OAK is that Buffalo's run defense sucks. The most impressive player, however, was Doug Gabriel. He was a beast. It made me wonder if any position gets as little out of early 1st round picks as wide receivers. So many of even the great receivers are 2nd and 3rd round picks, and people like Gabriel just show up out of nowhere. I'm probably forgetting someone (and I know Mike Williams played well today), but I think Brandon Jones has been the best rookie wide receiver this year, and he went in the 3rd round. Of course, under the theory that whatever Matt Millen does must be wrong, this may be an obvious observation.
MDS: It'll come as no surprise to hear that I think early first round is just to high to take a receiver. Actually, Mike Williams didn't play as well as his stats look. He made some plays, but he also lost a fumble, and there were a couple of plays when he was obviously the first option but Garcia had to look elsewhere because Williams didn't get any separation. I was a big Doug Gabriel fan when he was at Central Florida. Glad to see he's doing well.
MDS: So what's with the epidemic of players punching opponents in the nuts? Logan Mankins last week, Damione Lewis this week. I was stunned the NFL only fined Mankins $7500. They threatened Jake Plummer with a bigger fine than that for refusing to take his Pat Tillman sticker off his helmet.
Al Bogdan: I never understood why NFL players don't wear cups. Maybe this rash of nut punching will get players to start wearing them.
Ned: I only watched the first half of DAL-SEA, and in what I saw, Hasselbeck had nobody open to throw to. In particular, Hackett seemed to always have somebody on him (except for one play where he beat Newman and Hasselbeck underthrew him). Bledsoe completely reverted to his old form, holding the ball, taking hits, and apparently throwing the game away.
MDS: [Sent during second quarter] So Garcia has already used two timeouts and taken a delay of game. And do you know what the announcer (Ron Pitts) said? "Garcia not afraid to burn the timeouts today." He said it like it's a good thing!
[A few minutes later] And the first half ends with the Lions in field goal range but unable to get the field goal team on the field because they're out of timeouts. Good thing Garcia isn't afraid to burn timeouts.
Russell: Man, if the Saints didn't think everyone had it in for them after last week, I'm sure they all do now. Got killed on a tough non-replay call on a play that started outside the last two minutes and finished inside, but they were out of timeouts and couldn't challenge.
MDS: We might be talking about San Francisco as one of the worst teams of all time.
Tim Gerheim: Washington Redskins:San Francisco 49ers::Texas Longhorns:Texas Tech Red Raiders. That is, 52-17. Now quit hyperventilating; this isn't the SAT's. That says more about how terrible the 49ers are than how good the Skins are though. I still don't trust Washington, but I can no longer come up with a logical reason for it.
After Peyton's really terrible interception to Dunta Robinson (who, by the way, absolutely ought to go to the Pro Bowl), they caught this little smirk on Manning's face on replay. It said, roughly, "oh well, let the kids have their fun." Mind you, the score is 14-7 at this point, and the ensuing Texans drive ties the game. I don't know if that's confidence or arrogance, but it's embarassing that he was right.
Tuesday's Any Given Sunday: Raiders over Bills
Thursday's Every Play Counts: Cincinnati defensive line
89 comments, Last at 31 Oct 2005, 2:47pm by Sid