Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
18 Sep 2006
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. 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 2007. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.
Doug Farrar: Announcer Steve Tasker: "This is how bad it it for the Raiders now - it's an improvement that they get to punt."
Aaron Schatz: I'm not watching this game, but based on the numbers, the prediction about the Oakland defense being good this year isn't looking so silly. The Oakland offense, on the other hand, egads.
Bill Moore: Watching Oakland makes me thankful I picked them to have the #1 pick in the 2007 Draft.
Bill Moore: I never get this, maybe someone can explain.
On first-and-10, Brad Johnson gets nabbed for intentional grounding while getting sacked on the 22. And Bill Maas says, "That's a costly penalty. That's a penalty that very well could be the difference in a field goal or not. Because it's a loss of down and also where the penalty occurred." I hear this kind of thing a lot. Why, why is it a costly penalty? It's a costly SACK! The intentional grounding call really has no effect. He would have been sacked at the 22, and it's second-and-22 either way. The only stupid part of it is Johnson creating the possibility of a fumble or an interception.
Michael David Smith: Fourth-and-4, Vikings down 13-6, I'm saying Brad Childress is gutless because he lines up for a field goal rather than going for it. It's a fake, beautifully designed play for a tying touchdown. Brad Childress is not gutless.
Michael David Smith: Nice to see Roy Williams doesn't feel any embarrassment about being down 24-0 in a game where he guaranteed victory. He just caught a pass and got up and did the "first down" sign toward the crowd. Then a play later Williams catches a pass and has the ball knocked out of his hands, but for some reason the officials claim he was down. No celebration for the fact that an official's mistake saved him from a fumble.
The announcers were both in agreement that Roy Williams fumbled and the officials screwed up on the aforementioned play. So why, when the Lions go on to score on that drive, do the announcers go on and on about what a great job the Lions' offense did, without mentioning that the drive would have ended at midfield if it hadn't been for a botched call?
Where do the 2001-06 Lions rank in the all-time worst teams debate? When was the last time a team was this bad over a six-year stretch? And yes, it's the third quarter of the second game and I'm already declaring the 2006 season a failure.
Doug Farrar: Without going "Inside The Numbers", I'd put the 1991-1996 Seahawks up against any other squad for pure suckitude.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure, is this the earliest we've had to start the MDS Lions Suck suicide watch?
Will Carroll: Turf monster just ate Charles Spencer, the LT of Houston. Dayne tripped over his left leg and crushed him. The leg was planted and with turf, the knee gave.
He's done a pretty good job on Freeney. Which reminds me, I think Kubiak has run at Freeney about once all day. He loses his genius tag if he can't pick up on that.
Bill Moore: I just saw my first Adam Vinatieri field goal as a Colt. Excuse me as I go throw up.
Bill Moore: What is wrong with Chris Simms? He was supposed to be a fantasy sleeper. He really seemed to be maturing and grasping the Tampa Bay offense at the end of last season, and yet he has really regressed. He completely missed a wide open Ike Hilliard in the Red Zone, and Hilliard gave him a look like, â€œare you kidding me?â€?
Russell Levine: Simms looks like the Simms from Texas, the one who looked lost against good opposition. He actually played well in the hurry-up a couple of times, but he's going to have to figure out the batted balls thing, because it's wrecking his confidence and starting to affect his mechanics. On a couple of his throws, including the missed one to Hilliard in the end zone, it looked like he was trying extra hard to put a little arc on the ball and it came out of his hand funny. Gruden really has no choice but to let Simms play his way out of it, and did play a little better after the first quarter.
Tampa has also been victimized by some bad luck (an INT at the goal line on a wacky deflection) and a horrendous block-in-the-back call that negated a Derrick Brooks INT return for a TD.
Michael Vick was fantastic. I think I recall hearing that Mora said he would look at the Texas offense after the Rose Bowl. He wasn't kidding. They run a number of shotgun QB options where Vick reads the defense and either hands off to Dunn or pulls it out and runs around end, opposite the throw.
He picked his spots running and throwing the ball. It isn't always pretty -- the ugly inaccurate balls still crop up -- but this is probably how he's best suited to play the game. The Falcons just need to pay what it takes to keep a quality backup on the team, because they can probably book Vick for an average of 2-4 missed games per year. I was loosely tracking how many hits he took and I came up with 14. Probably half of them were solid shots. A guy his size is just not going to stay healthy all year taking that kind of punishment.
Oh, one other thing. Atlanta's rushing game looked like Texas against Baylor. 300 yards? Against a quality defense (if they even still are one)? That's insane.
My preseason prediction that Vick would have his worst year and the Falcons would miss the playoffs is looking dumber every day.
Benjy Rose: Second game in a row where the Falcons' O-Line completely dominated the game. Again, not sure if the Tampa defense just blew chunks or the Falcons' line really is this good. I can almost guarantee that TMQ will have an item about some of Dunn's runs where he says â€œIt's easy to run for x yards untouched by the defense,â€? or whatever the auto-text line is. It was unbelievable just how many times Dunn or Norwood ran into the secondary untouched. That's one way to rack up yards.
Tampa's offense is about as bad as the Jets'. Simms looked like a lost puppy just trying to find his way home. The running game was non-existent. This Falcons team could be for real.
It looks like they finally figured out the kind of offense to run with Vick. The "college option" with Vick in a shotgun formation, watching the play-side end (in this case, Simeon Rice) to determine whether to hand off or run himself, is a great play to run once or twice a series. His passes looked great, too. Of course, it's pretty easy to pass well when the defense is worried about giving up 300 rushing yards. If they can incorporate more long passes, look out.
Russell Levine: Michael Koenen will probably be looking for a job on Monday ... four missed field goals on the day, two of which were blocked.
Aaron Schatz: Koenen won't be looking for a new job because he has two jobs. The Falcons may sign another field goal kicker, but I can't imagine they'll remove Koenen from punting and kicking off.
Mike Tanier: Koenen knew I was halfway through a Too Deep Zone about kicker-punters so he figured he would shank four chip shots. Come on, buddy, hold out until Friday ...
Benjy Rose: That was absolutely the worst display of kicking I've ever seen ... well, maybe Doug Brien missing his two against Pittsburgh two years ago was worse. But, um, wow. I was tempted to drive down to the Dome and volunteer my services.
Bill Moore: Dante Culpepper's interception in the red zone in the closing minute of the first half was just terrible. He pumped twice in the pocket and clearly there was nothing there. He proceeded to roll right and threw on the run. There were two Miami receivers in the vicinity, but FOUR Bills defenders. In fact, if Angelo Crowell doesn't pick it off, #92 (DE Ryan Denney) would have, because he was the next closest guy.
I'll be interested in seeing the charting results for the Bills offense. I think Losman has been hit on almost every passing play in the first half.
Aaron Schatz: This is an embarrassment. I mean, I thought the Dolphins were overrated but would still ride an easy schedule to the Wild Card. But the offense is completely out of sync today, the offensive line looks horrid (Hudson Houck, what happened?), and even the defense is confused, unable to cover members of the BUFFALO FRIGGIN BILLS. You know, on the rare times they actually have Losman throwing. The Bills are seriously running the 2005 Chicago Bears offense, aka "please please please let us ride our defense and don't make us actually have to throw the ball more than two yards at any time."
My thought was that Buffalo's defense, which completely collapsed last year after being #1 in 2004, has bounced back this year. Except that this is not the same defense as that one. There's a new system, new head coach and defensive coordinator, and four rookies starting in this defense. But the pass defense has been very good now for two weeks. The run defense against New England wasn't so good, against Miami it looks much better but that's not Buffalo's fault, or Ronnie Brown's -- that's the O-line of Miami being awful.
Aaron Schatz: Our boy Roderick Hood gave up a big TD on the first Giants drive but it wasn't his fault. It looked like the Eagles were in Cover 2. The Giants play-faked, and Hood had Amani Toomer but he let him go when he reached the end of his zone. But there was no Michael Lewis there because Lewis had bitten hard on the fake, and Toomer sauntered into the end zone all by his lonesome.
After that, this game has been 100% all Philadelphia. Who stole Osi Umenyiora, and where did they hide him? He can't even get close to McNabb today. Early on, the Eagles were just abusing the Giants by going inside and outside and back -- they would pass to Westbrook outside, then the Giants would cover him and they'd hit Smith inside, then the Giants would try to cover him and they would go back to Westbrook.
Here's another question: Which of the following is true?
1) Donte' Stallworth was really breaking out last year, and this year is just an extension of his maturation.
2) Donte' Stallworth is much better this year not because he's breaking out, but because he's now on a much better offense with a better quarterback.
3) Sam Madison is officially toast.
I don't know what combination of 1 and 2 is true, but damn, 3 looks to be pretty much definite.
Still, the Eagles are trying to run more this year, but they have to stop doing things like rolling McNabb out for a throw on fourth-and-1. JUST RUN THE BALL, ANDY.
Bill Moore: I'm watching the Red Zone channel on DirecTV. Last year it only had FOX games, which made it marginally interesting. This year CBS is in the mix too which makes it pretty awesome. No commercials, no punts, no kickoffs.
Madison looks terrible. It seemed like every time Red Zone switched to the Giants/Eagles, Madison was getting burned.
Aaron Schatz: Wait, did I say something about this game being 100% Philadelphia?
Mike Tanier: I have a searing pain starting in my forehead and extending down to my chest. I am choking back bile. I think I feel as bad as after that playoff game against Tampa. I'm not writing about that damn Eagles game.
Bill Moore: Wow. Eli Manning needs to thank his lucky stars Plax is tall. What a non-Coughlin kind of play â€“ a complete heave to the End Zone when you are inside field goal range in OT.
Aaron Schatz: I want to say something about the fourth quarter of the Philly-Giants game but I'm still trying to figure out what the hell happened. Not to rub it in for Mike, but I have no idea how the Eagles blow a game they dominated for three quarters.
Mike Tanier: Still won't talk about the Eagles game.
Doug Farrar: Hasselbeck was sacked on the first play from scrimmage, but it was because of a late block by FB Mack Strong on Dockett as opposed to any OL shenanigans. Two plays later, he hit Jackson on a pretty 47-yard out, which may have been the first time Hasselbeck has had more than two millisconds in the pocket all year. Holmgren's midweek threats seem to have paid dividends.
Nice blatant uncalled horse collar from Antrel Rolle on Alexander one play before Seattle's first TD of the year. Alexander is still running right without the cutback.
Note to Neil Rackers: This is what you get for actually practicing those "doinks" (NFL Network crossbar commercial reference).
Strong with another whiff on the Adrian Wilson blitz. This might be the year that the "Edgar Martinez of the Seahawks" finally hits .250.
Aaron Schatz: I didn't watch the game and I don't know if any of us did, but watching just the highlights of Denver-Kansas City, I wonder if something is wrong with Plummer other than his head. He was just overthrowing everyone. I wonder if there is a mechanical issue, perhaps an injury nobody knows about.
Ned Macey: Both teams had the same gameplan early: run the ball and hope our quarterback doesn't blow it. Of course, Plummer is supposed to be an established pro. The first three drives, they didn't let him throw until third down, and then they were dump-offs.
Bill Moore: I found this interesting. Brady throws a touchdown pass at the end of the first half to rookie Chad Jackson. The first thing he does it point to his offensive line in a sort of tip-of-the-hat thanks and then he goes over and gives a â€œgreat playâ€? head butt to ... Reche Caldwell. It's an interesting recognition to the other nine guys on the field not credited on the stat sheet.
Aaron Schatz: The Jets can't run at all against the Pats, while the Pats are slicing through the Jets. The Pats are playing a 4-3 today -- probably to mess up Mangini, since he was an expert on the New England 3-4. That also puts Richard Seymour up as a DT against Nick Mangold, and that is a pretty one-sided battle.
Best officials call today, in the Jets-Pats game: "There's no penalty on the play, as there was a whistle blown in the stands."
Bill Moore: I know protecting the quarterback is a mantra for NFL officials this year, but ... Vince Wilfork jumps offsides, and the Jets snap the ball, so Wilfork already inside the offensive line pushes down Pennington with one hand. It's called roughing the quarterback. I think that is outrageous. From Wilfork's perspective, the play is still on, and Pennington is taking the snap.
Secondly, why are offensive guys allowed to put hands to the face on a straight arm? I know it's legal, but why?
Stephen Gostowski had a "clutch" (and very short) FG blocked. Start the Vinatieri-less media presses.
Brady had a hot and cold day. He threw some very good passes, but many of his passes were underthrown. He had Watson wide open in the end zone and underthrew that. He also had Gabriel in a go route that was underthrown. There were others too. He may be having a tough time adjusting to his new receivers.
Pennington's stats are much better than his actual performance. There's at least 100 yards of extra fluke YAC. Coles made some great runs that were all him, and Cotchery made a catch and run we'll all see on Sportscenter about 100 times. The fact that he never touched the ground after the hit he took, is truly unbelievable. Once again, they Jets running game was abysmal. They really need to do something about that. Pennington is not capable of completely carrying the offense.
Is Dick Enberg really alive, or just one of those dolls that speaks when you press a body part? Maybe he sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber on all non-broadcast days. I wonder whether he's actually paying attention. A pass interference is called again. Enberg calls out three different Jet defenders, only to throw in. "Victor Hobson was also in the vicinity." And who's PI on for tackling the receiver? Victor Hobson. He seemed unbelievably surprised at the nickname "Clock Killing Corey Dillon," as if he thought Randy Cross made the nickname up. Then he proceeded to call him "time killing Corey Dillon."
Then near the end of the game he says, "can you believe in the vaunted Patriots history, they have only started 2-0 seven times?" Um, Dick, for many, many, many years, the Patriots sucked.
Aaron Schatz: You missed the point early in the game where Enberg says "what a tackle on Corey Dillon by the young Jets safety, Kerry Rhodes." And literally filling up the entire television screen, the Jets defender who made the tackle is standing up and his jersey says "Miller 22."
It's interesting how similar the Eagles loss and the Patriots win were. In both games, one team dominated for the first 40 minutes or so, then let the lead get away, thanks in part to some big plays by Jets/Giants wide receivers and a fumble apiece. (Westbrook with 4:11 left in Q3, Brady with 14:38 left in Q4.) Each team saw an easy field goal shanked at some point in the game. Each team seemingly forgot how to tackle people as it watched its lead disappear. The difference is that when the Pats needed to run down the clock, they had Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney. When the Eagles needed to run down the clock, they had "Brian Westbrook rush up the middle for no gain to the Phi22" and "Brian Westbrook rush to the left for no gain to the Phi38" and "Brian Westbrook rush up the middle for a loss of 2 yards to the Phi36."
It also seemed like the Eagles stopped playing man defense in the fourth quarter and overtime, letting the Giants complete pass after pass in front of zone coverage. Despite all the negative things we've said about his accuracy, kudos to Eli Manning for doing such a good job of taking what the Eagles were giving him, and having a huge game. Then, at the end, suddenly the Eagles switched from the zones to a blitz -- you KNOW Easterbrook is going to mention the six guys the Eagles sent on third-and-11 on the final play -- and Sheldon Brown just couldn't quite keep up with Burress and the six pass rushers just couldn't quite get to Eli Manning in time.
(Ed. note Tuesday, 9:30pm: Gregg Easterbrook did mention this play, and he said that the Eagles sent seven guys, not six. I just watched the replay on NFL Network and he's right, it was seven guys, and seven guys on third-and-long is a recipe for disaster. That makes the score PFP 2006 1, Eagles 0.)
Benjy Rose: Damn. So close, and yet soooooooo far. For three quarters, the Jets played like last year's model: can't run, can't stop the run. Even The Chad couldn't find open receivers. But they kept on chugging, and made it a lot closer than it should have been.
That said, raise your hand if you would want Chad Pennington as your QB to throw a Hail Mary with 5 seconds left with the ball at midfield. Anyone? Anyone? I don't care if he's the starter. Mangini blew any chance the Jets had by keeping Chad in there. They have 3 other QBs with notoriously strong arms -- I think Ramsey is known to have one of the stronger arms in the league, right? -- and yet they keep they guy off of 2 shoulder surgeries who can't throw the ball 30 yards. I don't get it. I would put Chad probably dead last among all NFL QBs in that situation ... unless the plan was to throw something 20 yards over the middle and hope for a third ridiculous YAC play ... but it wasn't. Argh.
Boy, do they miss Fabini & Mawae.
What no one will probably talk about, though, is the Pats' final 8-minute 16-play time-sucking drive that essentially ended any chance the Jets had. That was sheer beauty if you're a Pats fan. Granted, not the prettiest of drives, but that drive was the Bobby Abreu of the game ... three third-down conversions in one drive. Ugh.
Ned Macey: I don't have an autotext formula like TMQ on punting, but Mangini definitely chickened out early in that game. fourth-and-2 from the NE 47, fourth-and-4 from the NE 46, fourth-and-2 from the NE 46 on three straight possessions, and he punted all three times. Then, of course, he goes for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 46-yard line in the second half, gets stuffed, and the Patriots score. In his defense, all three punts were well-executed, and the Pats only scored three points on those three drives.
Tough weekend in general for Belichick disciples: Weis gets destroyed by Michigan (I know this is an NFL thread, but after one great performance, should Ron English get a 10-year contract as the highest paid coordinator in the NCAA?), Saban dumps an ugly game. Crennel's Browns are still a joke. Mangini's Jets were getting killed for most of the game. Belichick, meanwhile, keeps on chugging on. Will they clinch the division by mid-November?
Aaron Schatz: Watching all those Belichick disciples, I have to ask: What are they serving the coaches in the Patriots cafeteria, and why doesn't Belichick eat any of it?
Will Carroll: Monster Park? The Niners play at Monster Park?
There needs to be some kind of ban on stupid names. Let's start with Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy.
Bill Moore: And even better, its not Monster.com or something like that. It's Monster Cable â€“ an Audio/Visual company.
Michael David Smith: 49ers are up seven with three minutes left. Frank Gore gets seven yards and casually jogs out of bounds. The announcer says, "Frank Gore is a young running back. He'll learn that you can't go out of bounds in this situation."
How "young" is Frank Gore that it's somehow supposed to be understandable that he doesn't have enough sense to understand that it's unwise to stop the clock late in a game with his team winning?
Bill Moore: My six-year old knows to stay in-bounds.
Aaron Schatz: Remember last week, when the big story was "the Rams are back?" What are those people all saying tonight?
Aaron Schatz: OK, didn't we all feel that Washington had a strong offensive line, and Dallas had a weak line? After one quarter, this game absolutely looks like its the other way around. If your cornerbacks are Kenny Wright and Mike Rumph, and you give the quarterback time to throw, you are cooked.
Ryan Wilson: You forgot Poland! Er, I mean, Carlos Rogers.
Aaron Schatz: Mike Rumph can smack you, and he can swat the ball out of your hand, but he can't actually keep up with a fast receiver. Why on earth is he a cornerback and not a safety?
Mike Tanier: Rumph really is a safety. Carlos Rogers and Wright are the CBs. Rumph plays the nickel and is often covering WRs 1-on-1. He's really neither: just a good athlete with lousy instincts who couldn't cut it in San Francisco. You know how the Redskins are with backups.
The thing is that the Redskins have great tackles but a so-so interior, while the Cowboys have a very good front seven. The Cowboys have an overall average line, plus a QB who makes them look bad, but the Redskins have a pretty mediocre front seven.
Doug Farrar: It's official â€“ Rock Cartwright has been freed.
Aaron Schatz: I know we're supposed to love all football, but can I just say that this game is really boring? Didn't we vote the Redskins with the best coaches in the league? Were those guys kidnapped by aliens and replaced by robots with butter sticks for brains?
One more note. I can't say this anywhere on FOX so I'll say it for Audibles.
Seriously, how stupid is ESPN's ad campaign for Monday Night Football, based around the idea that we all wait all week through our boring lives so that we can finally watch football on Monday night. Am I the only one who notices the problem with this theory?
Um, guys, there's football on ALL DAY SATURDAY AND SUNDAY. Who the hell is desperately waiting for Monday so they can listen to Joe Theismann babble?
Any Given Sunday: Bills over Dolphins
Every Play Counts: LaVar Arrington
167 comments, Last at 21 Sep 2006, 1:57pm by Rick Monihan