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?
28 Sep 2008
compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei
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 2009. 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.
Bill Barnwell: The Saints' ends are just pinning their ears back and going. Charles Grant got past Barry Sims -- unfrozen caveman right tackle -- for one, but there should be opportunities for Frank Gore on the draw as this game goes along.
Game goes on, and Sims is still getting toasted by Grant. It turns out sticking a 108-year-old utility lineman out at right tackle isn't a good idea.
Doug Farrar: I'll always remember Sims as Jyles Tucker's ticket to the AFC Defensive Player of the Week award last year when the Chargers played the Raiders in the regular-season finale. Abysmal blocking. Just horrible.
Ben Riley: J.T. O'Sullivan was sacked six times today. That makes 21 times he's been sent down in the first four games (not counting hits, just actual sacks). He's executing Martz's scheme pretty well, but there's no way he makes it through the season -- or even the next few weeks -- if the 49ers don't figure out their protection issues.
Aaron Schatz: What protection issues? This is the Martz offense: Let the quarterback take sacks and get weapons out there for him to throw to.
Doug Farrar: Greg Jennings may have the best dance moves in football. He was wide-open for the Aaron Rodgers pass in the Packers' first touchdown after a little inside-out stutter step at the line made Ronde Barber fall down. Reminded me of when he faked Nathan Jones out of his socks twice on the same play in last year's Dallas game. Barber's in for a rough day with bad footing and Jennings to deal with.
Russell Levine: Brian Griese giveth: 3-0 as the starter. Brian Griese taketh away: Three picks this Sunday (and six the last two weeks), including a brutal pick-six that briefly gave the Packers the lead in a game that was being utterly dominated by the Tampa Bay defense. That's Brian Griese in a nutshell -- he keeps both teams in the game.
Tampa Bay's defense was amazing. They got heat on Rodgers with the front four, confused the offensive line with the occasional stunt or blitz, and harassed Rodgers into two of his three interceptions. The completely shut down the run, and score a touchdown on a fumble return after Derrick Brooks made a perfect hit on Ryan Grant. Brooks turned back the clock to about five years ago. He had an interception in addition to the forced fumble, and should have had two more picks. He made a beautiful tackle in the backfield on a run play.
I feel like Tampa Bay could be really good, but they're going to play too many close games because Griese is simply too inaccurate and throws too many interceptions. This game should have been a rout; instead it was only decided in the final minute. They were dominating the Bears a week ago before Griese started passing out freebies. And they let Atlanta hang around WAY too long a couple weeks ago.
Mike Tanier: I want a dozen of whatever Young Guy pills Derrick Brooks had today.
Ben Riley: Who is Dick Enberg's color commentator? With 1:18 left to play, Texans in their two-minute offense: "They need to move quickly, but don't hurry." Is that like talking without speaking? Hearing without listening?
Bill Barnwell: Randy Cross.
Vince Verhei: Has anyone been paying attention to Houston, or more specifically, to Andre Johnson? Is he playing hurt, or has he regressed? He's outright dropping some passes, and others that look catchable, he doesn't even get his hands on. Matt Schaub doesn't seem to be having a problem hitting other receivers. Are he and Johnson on different pages? Or is this just a three-game stretch that Johnson will pull out of?
Ben Riley: I've been paying a lot of attention to Andre Johnson, as he was the first wide receiver to break my time-tested strategy of always going RB-RB in the first two rounds of my fantasy draft. He's just not making catches he should -- he's getting open, and Schaub is still targeting him, but then the ball clangs off his hands. With Steve Slaton providing a spark in the running game, I expect he'll bounce back, but then again, I'm known to be a bit biased when it comes to guys on my fantasy team.
Mike Tanier: I took a note about Andre Johnson today. He's not getting open, and Schaub isn't getting the ball to him when he is. He looked nothing like a Pro Bowl player today.
Ben Riley: The Andre Johnson I watched today missed at least three catches in the time I spent on this game. Two were drops, one fell incomplete because he failed to accelerate to the ball (admittedly, that's not a hands-related issue). Last week, Schaub practically force-fed him the ball in the end zone and he had four potential touchdowns go unrealized, although some would have been tough catches. If he hadn't played so well in Week 1, I might be worried about a mysterious lingering injury problem, but I suspect this is more statistical aberration than genuine decline. In a related story, I'm currently trying to trade him in my fantasy league, so please delete this last sentence from Audibles. (Just kidding.)
Bill Barnwell: Curt Menefee just called Montell Evans "Montell Williams" for the second week in a row.
Doug Farrar: Direct snap to Evans/Williams/Owens for the long rushing touchdown halfway through the first quarter. Great leaping wildcats!
Aaron Schatz: Let it be known that the Jacksonville touchdown was not a "Wildcat"-type surprise on a standard down-and-distance. It was a fake punt. Using single-wing on a fake punt is not a new wrinkle.
Will Carroll: "Jacksonville Municipal Stadium?" What happened to Alltel? And who the bleep is Montell Owens?
Aaron Schatz: Det. John Munch: "You're saving your really good lies for some smarter cop, is that it? I'm just a donut in the on-deck circle. Wait until the real guy gets here. Wait until that big guy comes back. I'm probably just his secretary. I'm just Montell Williams. You want to talk to Larry King."
Bernard: "I'm telling you the truth."
Det. John Munch: "I've been in murder police for ten years. If you're going to lie to me, you lie to me with respect. What is it? Is it my shoes? Is it my haircut? Got a problem with my haircut? Don't you ever lie to me like I'm Montell Williams. I am not Montell Williams. I am not Montell Williams."
Bernard: "Who's Montell Williams?"
Det. John Munch: "I'm not Montell Williams."
Aaron Schatz: Bill Barnwell and I switched over to Bengals-Browns because I wanted to know how on earth two teams with no defense could be playing a 6-3 game in the third quarter after they scored, oh, a zillion points against each other last year.
With the Bengals, it is pretty obvious, the offensive line used to be the strength of this team and now it is a total weakness. Levi Jones is playing hurt and it shows. They miss Willie Anderson. They couldn't run at all against the Browns and Ryan Fitzpatrick was running for his life on pretty much every pass. There was one screen pass Eric Ghiaciuc moved right to block D'Qwell Jackson and Jackson just went right past him and clobbered the receiver.
Then the Browns came out and actually looked good, moving the ball down the field. Anderson can't get anything deep right now, everything was short, but they were knocking the Bengals back on runs and getting Jamal Lewis yardage. (Who DOESN'T knock the Bengals back on runs?) There's clearly an issue because they have just one wide receiver right now, Braylon Edwards, and without Joe Jurevicius and Donte' Stallworth around, defenses can concentrate on Edwards and Winslow -- although that didn't stop the Bengals from using a zone on third-and-6 that left Winslow wide-open in a big hole. You know, because Kellen Winslow is never the target on third down.
Mike Tanier: This was just unwatchable, and I was sitting right under it for a half, so I switched bars. Ryan Fitzpatrick can throw 7-yard hitches, that's about it. It was really two bad, banged-up teams playing poorly. No reason to over-analyze.
Bill Barnwell: Cleveland-Cincinnati was car crash football. For better or worse, it was bizarrely entertaining as I tried to figure out what the YAR would be on a 5-yard loss on second-and-20. Then the hot wings delivery guy showed up, and I was happy.
Aaron Schatz: It's very unnerving to see a safety for the Bengals with "Lynch 47" on his uniform. That's actually rookie Corey Lynch from Appalachian State, but still...
Vince Verhei: Steve Smith was used to burning DeAngelo Hall in Atlanta. With D-Hall gone, Smith has apparently chosen to take on all the remaining Falcons defensive backs at once. On his touchdown, between poor coverage and sloppy tackling, both corners and both safeties had a chance to bring Smith down and failed. This is what happens when the Falcons play real football teams.
Ben Riley: The Cardinals have second-and-goal midway through the first quarter. With the pocket collapsing, Warner holds the ball four seconds longer than he should, fumbles the ball backwards and loses about 20 yards of field position. The Cardinals recover, but it's nice to see 2006-2007 Warner back on the field.
Doug Farrar: Are they rocking the old New York Titans jerseys again?
Aaron Schatz: Let me state once again for the record that with the exception of the Chargers' electric blues, throwback jerseys only look good when both teams are wearing jerseys from the same era. Save the Titans jerseys for games against the Bills wearing their throwbacks, or games against teams like the Raiders and Dolphins whose uniforms are basically still the same as they were in the AFL days. Or better yet, pull them out against Denver and force the Broncos to wear throwbacks to 1960, possibly the worst uniform in professional football history.
Ben Riley: Wow. Brett Favre just made the single worst pass I've seen this season. Still midway through the first quarter, Favre rolls out to his right, sees no one open downfield, and then decides to throw a near lateral all the way across his body to the left. Chike Okeafor makes the easy pick and almost runs it back for a score. Announcer just made a good point, however: It looked the Cardinals jumped offside, so Favre might have thought he had a free play. Still, better be sure before you make that pass.
Aaron Schatz: I don't know, that one that Kurt Warner slowly floated directly into the hands of Darrelle Revis was pretty damn bad.
Bill Moore: Well the Kurt Warner of old is back ... or, the old, new Kurt Warner ... or the new, old Kurt Warner. Damn, his career is confusing. I'll just say, Kurt Warner circa New York Giants.
Bill Moore: A Favre touchdown pass to Bubba Franks was negated by holding on the first play of the second quarter. We'd have seen it, but for the fact that FOX was still on commercial. Don't the officials wait until they are cleared from the TV guys to start the game?
Bill Barnwell: I benched Laveranues Coles at 12:50 for Devery Henderson, after deciding Henderson was a better start than Lance Moore. Thank God I am a fantasy expert.
Doug Farrar: Favre apparently uses the old-school AFL jersey to channel the spirit of George Blanda and throws for six touchdowns. Meanwhile. Aaron Rodgers throws three picks in a loss to Tampa Bay and suffers a shoulder injury. I can tell I'm going to be spending a lot of time with the TV on "mute" this week.
Mike Tanier: Yeah Doug, the talking heads are definitely going to spin a "Favre vs. Rodgers" storyline. On Favre's end, he has a good game, but the Cardinals hand the Jets the ball in great field position a few times, spot them seven points, and Favre throws a touchdown when the cornerback slips and gets hurt. Rodgers looks great on his first drive, has a tip-drill interception, sees his running back fumble at least once, has to play from behind and throws some bad passes. The two situations couldn't have been more different.
Doug Farrar: I just saw the halftime highlights, and I'm very confused. Why are the Cards losing 34-0 to Bellevue High School?
Bill Barnwell: Watching this game, me and Aaron came up with the greatest idea for a fantasy league ever: The Bullshit Fantasy Football League. You only get points if your player's team is down two or more touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
I also propose the Vulture Fantasy League, where guys with more than ten carries or three catches get 15-point penalties and you only get points for touchdowns of 10 yards or less.
Elias Holman: Coincidentally, a friend and I angrily came with a similar Vulture League concept a few years ago after both losing games due to running backs having touchdowns vultured. Our rules were slightly more elaborate:
I feel like there should be a site devoted to nothing but fantasy football leagues with bizarre rules (if it doesn't exist already).
Aaron Schatz: I sense a Football Outsiders expansion opportunity!
Vince Verhei: Favre's first touchdown (I think it was the first -- I lost track after a while) to Coles was a laser beam of a pass, the kind of throw that first-round quarterbacks dream of. Guys in their 40s should not be able to throw the ball like that. The rest of the touchdowns resulted from wide receivers running all alone in the end zone with nary a defender in sight. I think actual cardinals (the birds or the religious figures, take your pick) could have provided better pass coverage.
In the first half, the Jets "attacked" Warner by sending minimal rushers at him and dropping everyone back. The pick-six to Revis came on a two-man rush. Warner hung out for a while, scanned the field, and with nobody near him, lofted the ball right to Revis. Later, the Jets rushed three. Warner took a three-step drop. Either his center or right guard was pushed back into him. Rather than simply drop further back in the pocket, Warner threw a pass off one foot, falling down. It too was picked off. Then, in the second half, the Jets started blitzing, and that's when the Cards started scoring in bunches. Warner had little trouble reading the blitz and hitting open guys. But the hole they dug was too big, and the defense kept making it bigger.
Very late in the game, in a meaningless play, Anquan Boldin took a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit in the end zone from Eric Smith. Boldin was knocked out cold, laying rigid in the end zone. He was immobilized and carted off the field. Apparently he was (relatively) fine after coming to, and wanted to walk off the field, but the doctors wouldn't let him. I understand that football is a dangerous game and there is an inherent risk of paralysis and/or death, but I found this one particularly troubling because there was nearly a tragedy on a completely irrelevant play. I don't know who to punish though, outside of fining Smith for helmet-to-helmet. But do you punish coaches for not calling kneeldowns? Players for playing hard? Quarterbacks for nearly getting their receivers killed?
Sean McCormick: It was disturbing. You could hear the crack audibly in the upper decks. I don't think Smith was head-hunting or doing anything malicious, though he's probably going to be fined. In the wake of the hit, the whole stadium booed the Cardinals for trying to run a play rather than kneeling down, and I don't blame them. Darrelle Revis made his second interception of the game and the officials quickly ran off the clock to end the game rather than bringing the Jets offense back out for a kneeldown.
Aside from that, I'd note that the Jets offense is a bizzaro version of what they've been running the last two years -- they either throw deep or they don't throw at all. They run very little in the way of slants, quick outs or crossing patterns. Instead, they try to set up play-action and attack vertically over and over. They don't really have an offensive identity yet, as they mix and match personnel, sometimes trying to be a power running team, sometimes trying to run the kind of shotgun spread Favre used last year, but the one thing they've established is that when they get into a good play-action down, Favre is going to go deep.
Calvin Pace was tremendous again. Vernon Gholston was not. Gholston did draw a few double-teams, but he just doesn't seem to be able to redirect himself once he's engaged with a blocker. He just pushes upfield without any regard for where the quarterback is.
Bill Barnwell: Tennessee's first drive sees them running stretch plays with Chris Johnson, which makes sense if they want to run on the Vikings defense. The color guy just called him Kevin Johnson. Minnesota decides that their offensive scheme is going to be built around rookie fullback Naufahu Tahi. The first play, Tahi splits out and picks up a first down on a short out. Second play, Tahi comes out of the backfield and runs a short out the other way and fumbles. I predict this will be the end of the Vikings offense being built around Naufahu Tahi.
Good news: Chris Johnson is not only really fast, but he's running intelligently and being patient enough to let his blocks open.
Bad news: Chris Johnson can't pass block yet. He was supposed to help in the A-Gap and just watched two blitzers go right by. Oh well.
Doug Farrar: It's great to watch that Denver offense, but there's no way in hell they're doing anything in the playoffs with a run defense like that. (Yes, I KNOW that's precisely what everybody said about the Colts in 2006, but do we really want to bet on another miracle postseason turnaround?) Larry Johnson has just been gashing the bejeezus out of them -- if the Chiefs had a discernible total offense that could do anything in the red zone, this game could be a lot uglier than the 13-10 score Denver trailed by at the end of the first half.
Potentially bad news for rookie tackle Branden Albert, though -- got caught up in a scrum at the end of the first half and went out on a cart, head down, trainer holding his hand. Those are a whole bunch of bad signs playing together. Further word on Albert is a dislocated right elbow.
Ben Riley: Did anyone just catch the Jay Cutler-to-Brandon Marshall touchdown at the end of the first quarter? If not, you'll be seeing it during a "gamebreak" momentarily. Cutler shot the ball at roughly 167 miles per hour, and Marshall pulled it while leaping three feet into the air. They may not have a defense, but man is the Broncos passing game a thing of beauty right now.
Doug Farrar: Evidently, Denver kickers are like Denver running backs: Plug one in and go. At the start of the third quarter, Matt Prater hit his second 50-plus-yard field goal of the game to tie it at 13-all. That's without the altitude advantage of Mile High (I-refuse-to-call-it-Invesco) Stadium.
Ben Riley: Prater did miss a gimme 30-yarder earlier in the second quarter. Maybe he only practices long-distance kicks.
Doug Farrar: Great play by Champ Bailey halfway through the third quarter. He gets under Larry Johnson and upends him in a judo throw/fireman's carry, causing a fumble. Herm Edwards responds by throwing the flag on a pretty obvious call, leaving the Chiefs with one timeout. Yikes.
Ben Riley: Cutler responds by throwing a pick on the very next pass (after throwing one just prior to Johnson's fumble). I guess I can put away my Hall of Fame anointing oil.
Mike Tanier: The Broncos just made a million mistakes today on offense. Fumbles, interceptions, dropped passes. Their defense didn't play that bad ... although, to be frank, they are playing one of the worst offenses in the world, so they should have pitched a near-shutout, even allowing that they gave the Chiefs great field position several times.
Vince Verhei: That Cutler touchdown was an All-Pro throw. The ball actually traveled more than 25 yards, but looked like it was only about 12 feet off the ground at its peak. It came down just low enough for Marshall to leap and grab it. An awesome display of strength, accuracy and timing.
Earlier, the Broncos threw a great screen to Michael Pittman. Just beautiful timing between passer, receiver and blockers, followed by great blocking and running. It gained 40 yards, Denver's longest play of the game.
All is not perfect, though. One of Cutler's interceptions was aimed at Marshall, who was well covered along the right sideline. Meanwhile, there was another receiver running wide-open down the middle of the field. Cutler was forcing the ball to Marshall, not going through his reads.
Ben Riley: Don't know if anyone is watching this game, but the Raiders defensive line is absolutely dominating the Chargers in the trenches. Every time I flip over I see Philip Rivers getting sacked or running for his life. Terrell Sands in particular seems to be blowing up. Plus, LaDainian Tomlinson has 10 carries for 21 yards as I type this. Looking forward to that Al Davis press conference where he explains why he is firing the head coach of what Bill Simmons would describe as a "frisky" football team.
Doug Farrar: As long as the Raiders call the press conference before 4:30 p.m., Al won't even be there!
Bill Moore: I've watched two minutes of this game. On each play, DeAngelo Hall, the self-proclaimed "shutdown corner" has been ten yards off his receiver. He's seen three first downs thrown against him.
Doug Farrar: I thought this game had the look of an upset before it started. But the Raiders are the Raiders -- ever will it be true. Is Nnamdi Asomugha playing?
Bill Barnwell: Asomugha was active but didn't look like he was playing when I tuned in.
Vince Verhei: Oakland has third-and-2 at their own 41 in the first quarter. JaMarcus Russell drops back. Darren McFadden steps up to block Jyles Tucker one-on-one. Tucker blows right through McFadden without even slowing down and sacks Russell. Lane Kiffin reconsiders using McFadden on third down.
Russell has improved by leaps and bounds over last year. His arm strength is amazing, and while he's still lacking in accuracy and touch, he avoids big mistakes that turn into turnovers. He threw his first interception of the season today, but it came on a ball that bounced off McFadden's hands. (Not a great day for D-Mac.)
With one second left in the first half, Oakland had the ball on their own 42. Bring in Russell to try and get a Hail Mary out of his cannon arm? No, bring in Sebastian Janikowski to attempt a SEVENTY-SIX-YARD FIELD GOAL. The kick was -- brace yourself -- short, landing at the 2-yard line. Antonio Cromartie tried to pull a Devin Hester, but got tackled short of the 30. Regardless, this is the longest official field goal attempt in league history, right?
Mike Tanier: Hi. My name is Lane Kiffin and I want to be fired.
Bill Barnwell: Announcers talking about "Beast Mode" when it comes to Marshawn Lynch is never not funny. I also think Steven Jackson should've handed the ball to Marc Bulger after he scored.
Mike Tanier: At 5:10 Eastern time, it looks like Any Given Sunday could be 7 million words this week. Raiders are up. Rams. Chiefs won. Lions firing Millen is an upset in its own way.
Ben Riley: Phil Simms: "I tell you, JaMarcus Russell can do a lot with that arm. The TV doesn't do it justice."
Jim Nantz: "Is it right up there, more lively than anything you've ever seen?"
Simms: "It's borderline legendary already."
Bill Barnwell: That sounds like a Nights in Rodanthe sorta situation. Maybe JaMarcus Russell can put his arm in the box that Phil Simms has to keep things safe.
Regarding Trent Green's interception, it's not good when the defensive back is standing still underneath it like it's a punt.
Vince Verhei: For those of you wondering how the Rams jumped out to leads of 7-3 and then 14-6, there are three basic explanations:
Doug Farrar: DeMarcus Ware is so good, it isn't even fair. In the first quarter alone, he A) did an inside stunt with Chris Canty that blew up the entire left side of Washington's line and allowed Canty to sack Jason Campbell; and B) spun out of a double-team of Chris Samuels and Ladell Betts (chipping) for a sack of his own. He's just going to kick your left tackle's ass all day, and there isn't much you can do about it.
Bill Barnwell: One of the things we're seeing with Dallas this year, I think, is that their already excellent pass rush is seeing the benefits of having very good coverage behind them. Jason Campbell's sacks so far, with the first quarter about to end, have essentially been coverage sacks where the pass rush has had the ability to pull off twists.
On the first Cowboys touchdown (I'm going to go ahead and assume that they will score another one before the day is over), they split Felix Jones out to the left, which meant that a linebacker (London Fletcher, I believe) was in man coverage against Jones on the outside. Chris Horton went and helped out on Jones, which left Marcus Washington alone in man coverage against Jason Witten.
Doug Farrar: Nice job by Jason Campbell of overcoming that shaky early protection and driving the Redskins for the tying touchdown early in the second quarter. The progress first seen against the Saints continues -- the release quickness issue really isn't a problem anymore. You can tell that the (probably simplified version of the) offense is starting to open up for him.
Ben Riley: Holy smokes, James Thrash is still in the NFL -- and he just scored in the second quarter!
Mike Tanier: James Thrash plays hard on special teams, can return kicks and punts in a pinch, blocks hard, can work the slot a little, and works cheap. He's the anti-Brandon Lloyd or the anti-Ashley Lelie.
Doug Farrar: Oh, sweet play on the drive after the touchdown. Ware gets past Samuels and almost takes Campbell down, but Campbell moves up in the pocket casual as you please, and hits a wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide-open Santana Moss on a crossing route. Another touchdown for the Redskins a few plays later, another step forward for Campbell.
Mike Tanier: Great defensive game plan before the half, there, Redskins (Sarcasm). Call quarters coverage on every single play and let Patrick Crayton have all the 12-yard receptions along the sidelines he wants. Crayton caught three straight passes along the sidelines (though he was just out of bounds on one), against the softest 4-deep zone on earth. The Cowboys did this against the Eagles: Took the ball and kicked a field goal on an effortless 1-minute drive before half. That, plus the goal-line stop by the Cowboys. changes the complexion of the game.
Doug Farrar: I didn't understand that, either. As well as the Redskins had been covering, they didn't need to bet against themselves.
Ben Riley: Maybe Jim Zorn was remembering all the times Seattle's defensive coordinators called for the same prevent defense inside of two minutes. It's not like the Redskins are playing the Bengals here -- it's possible, just possible, a one-touchdown lead isn't going to hold up in the second half.
During training camp, a lot of observers thought Jason Campbell was on the verge of taking the next step -- and then they had that awful preseason blowout in game three, and a wobbly start to the season. But Doug is right, Campbell's definitely starting to feel comfortable with Zorn's West Coast playbook, and he's definitely a quarterback you can go places with. Man, how tough is the NFC East? Their worst team is twice as good as the NFC West's best team.
Doug Farrar: Oops -- another strategic blunder. Washington opens the second half with a squib kick, giving the Cowboys possession at their own 43. Dallas drives down the field with brutal efficiency as Shawn Springs gets the same kind of safety help he'd have if he was still in Seattle.
Mike Tanier: Coverage was soft as hell to start the third quarter. All zone. The Cowboys will pick your zone to shreds, unless you are the Bucs in their Super Bowl year when you had a young Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, Dexter Jackson and the best zone defenders in the world.
Aaron Schatz: I am also not a fan of the "Rush four and play a zone that leaves everyone ten yards away from Terrell Owens" coverage that the Cowboys played on their first drive of the third quarter.
Doug Farrar: The "Give Santana Moss 10 yards of clearance at all times" coverage employed by Terence Newman through the first three quarters doesn't seem particularly effective, either.
Bill Barnwell: Fascinating coverage on Chris Horton's third-quarter interception. The Redskins give Miles Austin a ten-yard cushion on the outside while Horton sits maybe seven yards off the line of scrimmage inside the hashmarks. At the snap, Horton sprints to the sideline while the corner still gives Austin the cushion; by the time Romo realizes it and throws to the sideline, Horton has made it there and picks the pass off. They essentially baited Romo into throwing the out pattern and counted on Horton getting there before Romo threw it. It worked, but ... just fascinating, that's all.
Mike Tanier: I didn't see the Horton pick clearly. I'm guessing that is just a buzz route. Usually a linebacker, but sometimes a safety, just runs underneath the receiver when they are thinking slant or in route.
Ben Riley: Horrible officiating in this game. First, Adam Jones is victimized by a facemask that nearly turns his helmet around 180 degrees, then the officials completely miss a false start by Jon Jansen. Quoth Troy Aikman: "It's been a rough couple of weeks for the officials."
Doug Farrar: Well, the Cowboys are owed about four uncalled facemasks from the Eagles game. Three to go!
Ben Riley: Fantastic exchange between Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Aikman starts describing a conversation he had with Jim Zorn, with Zorn revealing that he had no idea about the intensity of the rivalry between the Cowboys and the Redskins, and then Zorn apparently said something about being like the old Seahawks-Raiders rivalry. Cue Buck: "That doesn't match up."
Doug Farrar. Right. Raiders-Broncos or Raiders-Chiefs would match up. The Seahawks don't have that level of rivalry. The Rams of recent years might have been, but they fell apart too quickly.
Ben Riley: Horrible officiating in this game. First PacMan Jones is victimized by a facemask that nearly turns his helmet around 180 degrees, then the officials completely miss a false start by Jon Jansen. Quoth Troy Aikman: "It's been a rough couple of weeks for the officials."
Aaron Schatz: One more comment on this game: When did the Cowboys decide that the Redskins had an impenetrable run defense? Marion Barber had eight carries, and from what I can tell Felix Jones did not come in for a single offensive snap. In the super-early stats, after three weeks, Washington was 28th in ALY. Why not try to run a little bit more? Sure, Barber had only 26 yards on those eight carries, but was that a clear sign to give up? Meanwhile, Portis was getting all kinds of yardage against the Dallas run defense. That was the biggest imbalance in the game.
Vince Verhei: Portis' longest run of the day, a 31-yarder on a third-quarter drive that led to a field goal, was keyed by a great block by Pete Kendall, sealing his man inside. Portis zipped right behind him for his big gain.
Mike Tanier: Deion Sanders said the same thing about the Cowboys running game, Aaron. You and Deion are always on the same wavelength! And I agree with both of you. The Redskins were in a Cover-2 look a lot, never daring to stack the box. Things might have gotten away from the coordinator a bit. The Cowboys had a lot of success throwing the ball at the half and in the third quarter, and next thing you know Garrett keeps dialing it up. I saw one drive where it was (checking) seven passes and one reverse to T.O.Then you had the fourth-quarter three-and-out which was three passes to T.O. That may have been Garrett getting locked in -- or the start of an appeasement policy.
Aaron Schatz: If it was the start of an appeasement policy, it didn't work, because in the postgame press conference T.O. complained that the team wins when he gets the ball.
Vince Verhei: Terrell Owens after the game: "I think it's no secret. When I get the ball, things move. We move the chains. If not, you see the stagnant (sic) in our offense." Cris Collinsworth than points out that Owens had 20 combined handoffs and targets, in the team's 61 plays. And they lost.
Ben Riley: I love it. The Cowboys look to be the class of the NFL, they lose a close game to a suprisingly solid Redskins team, and T.O. is already creating a media controversy. I'm looking forward to hearing about PacMan's nocturnal activities tonight.
Ben Riley: Midway through the first quarter, the Eagles run a beautiful reverse. Donovan McNabb fakes the hand off to Correll Buckhalter, then changes his pace to make it appear he's handed it off. The entire Bears defense bites, and then DeSean Jackson takes the ball from McNabb and rips off a 20-yard run. Jackson is responsible for four first downs and a touchdown through 10 minutes of play -- is he about to have an Excel-crashing DVOA performance? It's the NFL on NBC!
Mike Tanier: When did they change the rule that said that you can't "offset" a personal foul penalty? The Bears just had roughing the punter offset by the Eagles' 17th false start of the first quarter.
Bill Barnwell: So then, on free plays for the offense, one of the offensive linemen should just smack the crap out of a defensive player?
Ben Riley: Oops, DeSean Jackson just muffed a punt. Excel will not be melting down tonight.
(Awful lot of players slipping on Soldier Field today, by the way.)
Bill Barnwell: Both of Jackson's punt returns today have been miserable decisions.
Orton's not picking up on these blitzes. Guys are coming in totally unblocked. If the coverage was better...
Mike Tanier: I hated the calls the Eagles made after the tip drill interception by Darren Howard in the second quarter. On third-and-1, the Eagles try to spread the field and put C-Buck in an offset position. It looks like a passing formation, but the Bears don't buy it, they just stick Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs in the A-gaps. Eagles run it right into them, Buck is stuffed. Fourth-and-1, we try a 50-yard field goal. Why not pin the Bears and make them execute down the field? Or trust your offense for one yard. The Bears get good field position, a couple of big plays, touchdown.
Vince Verhei: Kyle Orton's throw on the touchdown to Devin Hester was perfect, a rainbow that fell into Hester's hands right between Asante Samuel and the sideline. John Madden takes the words out of my mouth: "Perfect pass." I am not used to hearing the words "Kyle Orton" and "perfect pass" together. It leaves a queasy feeling in my gut.
Aaron Schatz: OK, can anyone think of a reasonable reason why the Bears should not use a healthy Devin Hester on every single kickoff return?
Vince Verhei: Well, apparently Brandon Lloyd is out, which means Hester is more important at wide receiver, which means he can't be risked on special teams. Is that reasonable enough? Honestly, I don't think so.
Mike Tanier: Ooh, McNabb throws a bad pick, Buckhalter gets hurt. My night is really ending on a sour note.
Bill Barnwell: Jackson's day just gets worse and worse. He's managed to make Reno Mahe look like a lost art on punt returns, and then he blows the sight adjustment on his pattern for the McNabb pick.
And my friend's prediction that Buckhalter wouldn't make it through the game comes true.
Ben Riley: There was a shot of Gale Sayers in the crowd in the first quarter. Apparently the producer is bored, so he decides to show a wide-angle shot a moment ago with Sayers sitting next to ... Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.
Madden: "I know who Sayers is, not sure of the two on the right."
Michaels: "I hear ya."
Let's just move on.
Mike Tanier: Hester just added one of his patented brain cramp punt returns, where he lets the ball bounce to the five, then tries to run around in circles.
The no-Westbrook, no-Buckhalter, no-L.J. Smith, no-Shawn Andrews Eagles offense is going to be a lot of quick outs to the wide receivers. Which is bad, because McNabb isn't real sharp on those and DeSean Jackson's head is spinning. With 9:58 to go in the third quarter, I don't know how the Eagles will get two scores.
Bill Barnwell: God, these two teams are trying to give away this game.
Vince Verhei: Al Michaels just told us that "word from the sideline" was that Charles Tillman was out for the rest of the game. The key here is that MICHAELS told us this, they did not need to waste time and camera space going to a useless sideline reporter. They just told Al, and he told us. This is how it should be.
Ben Riley: OK, it's fourth-and-goal from the half-yard line with 3:40 to play. Don't channel your inner Romeo Crennel, Andy! Go for it!
(The Eagles go for it -- and come up short.)
Mike Tanier: (Expletive deleted.)
Bill Barnwell: They had to go for it. I'm OK with that play call.
Ben Riley: Also, Andy, maybe give it to your all-world quarterback, instead of your oft-injured backup running back? I forgot to mention that part.
Doug Farrar: Absolutely the right call. You've got a defense will a killer instinct with the Bears way, way, deep if you don't get the score (maybe the NFL's best defense to bet on for a safety/free kick in that situation), and it's not as if you're facing the 2007 Pats here.
Vince Verhei: From the blimp cam, you could clearly see the ball crossing the plane on fourth down.
Mike Tanier: Didn't see that angle. My Wishful Thinking Cam showed it going in all four times.
Doug Farrar: Wow. Evidently, none of Andy's guys in the booth have that angle up? Amazing that the NFL can put out any number of camera angles for the public, but replay technology always seems to lag behind.
(Fines self $15,000 for criticizing officiating in general.)
Vince Verhei: And then they show blimp cam shot over and over, never noticing that hey, almost the entire ball is across the plane.
This would not stand up in a court of law, but it's the best I can do: This is a touchdown.
Bill Barnwell: Hole in the Wall: Rock of Love versus Flavor of Love should be this week's sign of the impending apocalypse or whatever feature runs in Sports Illustrated.
Bud Light Lime's slogan is "Seasons change. Tastes don't." If tastes don't change, why would I drink a new beer?
Ben Riley: I think Bud Light Lime also has the commercial with the Jets fans from the '70s tailgating at the Meadowlands, which makes no sense to me. If I am not a Jets fan, why would I drink this beer?
(Also, why couldn't I just squeeze an actual lime into a Bud Light? Have we all been secretly yearning for a lime-infused Corona?)
Mike Tanier: I am stunned by the number of people who really like those lime beers. It tastes like someone used detergent on the bottle, didn't rinse right, and poured beer in.
Bill Moore: The irony is that lime is used to hide the taste of bad beer. I believe it started traditionally with Mexican beer which tasted awful and the lime was used to mask the bad taste. Corona took a tasting hiding strategy and morphed it into yuppie-cool.
Vince Verhei: So Bruce Springsteen is the Super Bowl halftime act. Yippee, another adult contemporary rocker whose career peaked 20 years ago. I will never forgive Janet Jackson for Nipplegate. Not only did she end a great halftime show by completely erasing it from history, she ruined Super Bowl halftimes for people under 50 forever. (Except for Prince. That was awesome.)
Mike Tanier: Take back everything you said about Springsteen now or I come to Seattle and kick your butt!!!
Will Carroll: Take it back.
Ben Riley: Woah, Vince. That's the Boss we're talking about. We write Scramble together, and you root for the Seahawks, so I'm just going to pretend that Audible never happened.
Continuing with the music-related observations, I think Lincoln's licensing of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" to sell some car they believe looks like a rocket ship is already in my top ten list of "Ill-Advised Commercial Musical Sell-Outs That Piss Off The Very People You Are Marketing To." Number one, of course, was when Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" was used to sell Miller Lite. Safe to say we haven't imbibed that particular brand of beverage in the Riley household since 1997.
Vince Verhei: You know what, you guys are right. Springsteen's highest-selling album was "Born in the U.S.A.," which was released in 1984. So his career actually peaked 24 years ago.
And yes, I realize every person in the Tri-State area is going to try to kill me now. This Audibles may cost me friendships.
Will Carroll: If you wanted to argue for "Born To Run," fine. I guess Brett Favre peaked when he won the Super Bowls too, but I'd call that a very slow decline into the Hall of Fame.
Mike Tanier: Remember what halftime shows were like before the high-profile geezer parade started? Remember the medlies of five or six different awful acts? Remember Up With People? I will take over-the-hill Boss, Prince, Stones, any day.
Ben Riley: Oh Vince. Save thyself from thyself. Did you see the preview they ran for Springsteen? Did it look like his live show is slowing down? (Although admittedly it was weird to see Silvio Dante playing guitar.)
By the way, U2's best selling album was in 1987. We don't want to go there.
Vince Verhei: I have the Aerosmith-*NSYNC-Britney-Mary J.-Nelly version of "Walk This Way" from the Super Bowl in my collection, and thought the Nelly-Diddy-Kid Rock stuff was great until, again, Janet made everyone forget it.
Mike Tanier: Well, I know who I will never ask for a musical opinion from.
Ben Riley: Less Boss, more ... *NSYNC?
Vince Verhei: When you put it that way, I do begin to see the error of my ways.
Bill Barnwell: I think it's a little silly to have your political singer/songwriter playing songs above his audience's head performing at the Super Bowl. I mean, it's not as if Billy Bragg is performing at the FA Cup final. It makes a lot more sense to me have your totally generic, saccharine pop band (hi, Take That) playing your big sporting event.
Mike Tanier: He'll play "Promised Land," "Born to Run," "Glory Days." No politics.
Ben Riley: I must have a serious drinking problem, because I could swear that Bill Barnwell just suggested that we should be subjected to Take That during the Super Bowl halftime show instead of The Boss. Pretty soon someone will be telling me that the Kyle Orton-led Bears are beating the Philadelphia Eagles ... WOAH, now I better settle down.
Bill Barnwell: I was suggesting Take That be the FA Cup entertainment. I'm fine with *NSYNC being the halftime show because, again, I think it's kinda silly when people cheer and get all misty-eyed and patriotic for "Born in the USA."
Ben Riley: You gotta remember, Ronald Reagan tried to use "Born in the U.S.A" during the '84 campaign before Bruce told him to knock it off. Obviously, Reagan sort of misunderstood the point of the song.
Tanier's list of likely song selections is a good one. I could see "Brilliant Disguise" working itself in there. I suspect it may be one of those weird halftime medlies where the artist plays hurried two-minute versions of each song.
Guys, I apologize for being totally wasted on gin-and-tonics while writing Audibles (again). I swear I just read Bill Barnwell saying that he's "fine with *NSYNC being the halftime show..."
Bill Barnwell: *NSYNC playing the halftime show means I can play Rock Band at your house for 45 minutes. Or I can play beer pong at my new house for the halftime show.
Ben Riley: Finally, a semi-legitimate argument. Bring your Port-O-Pong and a friend!
Bill Barnwell: How come all erectile dysfunction commercials involve old people sitting naked in separate bathtubs at the beach? Who drives bathtubs to the beach? Why would that be fun?
Ben Riley: Does Derrick Brooks own a bathtub?
Mike Tanier: That's Cialis. The Viagra ads at least make sense. I like the "older women" they choose for these ads: supermodels with one tiny streak of gray hair. Just so you know: It's not her fault you can't get it up, buddy. You need a pill.
109 comments, Last at 03 Oct 2008, 5:51pm by Boston Dan