Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» OFI: SEC Surprises

In an opening week where even the elite teams in college football looked mortal, the SEC had two big surprises in Texas A&M and Georgia defeating their South Carolinian opponents by big scores.

14 Sep 2009

Audibles at the Line: Week 1

compiled by Bill Barnwell

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Raiders fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

You can tell by the size of this week's Audibles that everyone was pretty anxious to get back to real football. We're also adding a new feature this year -- we'll occasionally be doing Saturday night Audibles when there's a major national college football game. We kick it off this week with USC's win over Ohio State.

Tennessee Titans 10 at Pittsburgh Steelers 13 (OT, Thursday)

Bill Barnwell: Watching the kickoff special makes me wonder what John Madden would sound like on Auto-Tune.

Aaron Schatz: Auto-Tune the News did do an edition that incorporates Scott Van Pelt and Michael Vick.

Bill Barnwell: Attention Al Michaels: The wig isn't supposed to cast a shadow.

David Gardner: So Alge Crumpler is listed at 262 pounds ... Really? He looks like he is pushing 290.

Mike Kurtz: I wish I were in the room when the PIT front office guy said 'Oh yeah, we just won a Super Bowl! Our o-line will be fiiine!' and everyone started nodding.

The 15-to-life would definitely be worth it.

Troy Polamalu picks off Kerry Collins with an amazing one-handed grab.

Bill Barnwell: Yes, so amazing play by Polamalu. But had Collins actually thrown that where he was supposed to, it would've been six.

Tim Gerheim: It also would have gone better if he hadn't been throwing to a rookie who didn't go up and fight for the ball because nobody in the Big East can jump like that.

Bill Barnwell: Chris Johnson's looked awful in pass protection so far tonight. James Farrior just sacked Kerry Collins, though, on a stunt where Eugene Amano just plain didn't notice Farrior running right by him.

Mike Kurtz: Amano's been getting fairly blown-up on a few other plays. Got thrown to the ground so hard two series ago his helmet popped off, if I recall. Only really hurt them in the past drive.

Bill Barnwell: OK. So illegal formation and pass interference penalties offset, but (last year in Titans-Ravens) false start and roughing the passer penalties don't? How does that make sense?

Tom Gower: Personal fouls are major infractions because they deal with player safety and are different than normal, run of the mill penalties. That's what Ray Anderson would probably tell you.

Bill Barnwell: Fair enough. Interesting that the Titans are flat-out targeting Polamalu on throws.

Doug Farrar: Have the Steelers run a single trips or bunch in the first half? I don't think so. That's odd for them.

Aaron Schatz: The Steelers did run a few trips bunch in the first half. I noticed it because they had two tight ends and only one wide receiver in there.

Tom Gower: The TD pass to Gage looked like exactly the same play the Titans ran from about the same place in the two minute drill in the preseason game against the Cowboys a couple weeks ago.

Aaron Schatz: Well, that was some of the most interesting 28 minutes of scoreless football I've ever seen. And then, this game suddenly turned into Super Bowl XXXVIII, when the defenses suddenly disappeared right before the end of the second quarter.

We're seeing a good example tonight of why Ben Roethlisberger, for all his talents, is NOT better than a guy like Philip Rivers. His need to hold onto the ball so long so he can try to make a play gets him sacked over and over. I couldn't believe the play near the start of the first quarter where he escaped the sack, and then just kept running backwards, and ended up being sacked for a 19-yard loss. Pittsburgh completely gave back their early field position advantage on that one play. But hey, the field position advantage existed because the Steelers special teams look better than they have in... um, forever, actually.

Anyone else feel that tonight, when he gets the handoff and goes looking for the hole, Willie Parker looks even more tentative than usual? And, on the other side, LenDale White's weight loss doesn't seem to have changed his style at all.

Bill Barnwell: Anyone note that Ben got way better when he went into the shotgun?

Tim Gerheim: It's not just linemen on screen passes who have trouble with downfield blocking. I was yelling at the TV as Cortland Finnegan was running back the interception with all those Titans running with him and blocking exactly nobody. Somebody was running ahead of him after he'd crossed midfield and sprinted right past the offensive lineman who slowed Finnegan up enough to get him tackled. He probably wouldn't have scored anyway, and I get a defensive back not wanting to get in the way of a charging rhino wearing a number in the 70s, but it still looks bad.

Vince Verhei: Jeff Fisher and Mike Tomlin have my permission to coach forever. Both teams have been tenacious on every play. The sequence before
Pittsburgh's field goal, when they lined up for a play on fourth down, had me way too excited. Tennessee showed great discipline and preparation, not coming close to jumping offside. And then Pittsburgh takes delay of game rather waste a timeout when they were going to kick a field goal anyway. I think 80 percent of coaches would have taken a timeout there.

Bill Barnwell: The "Hines Ward is such a competitor that he wouldn't allow himself to down the ball" narrative Collinsworth was spewing after the Ward fumble is absolute nonsense and garbage. If you're a "competitor", you're playing to win, right? Your best chance of winning there is to fall on the ball inside the 10. Can you imagine if Brandon Marshall had done that? If TO had done it? How would Collinsworth -- or the national media beyond him -- have reacted?

Aaron Schatz: Actually, I don't know if Ward should have fallen down with the ball. This wasn't a case where the Steelers were ahead and falling down ices the game. They still have to hit the field goal. Missed field goals from that range are rare, but fumbled pass receptions are just as rare. What would the reaction have been if Ward had fallen down, giving up an "easy assured touchdown," and Jeff Reed had honked it?

Robert Weintraub: I admit I'm biased, as I utterly loathe Ward, but he's moved into Favre-level worship from every announcer. And like Favre, he's given to illegal crackback blocks.

Vince Verhei: Is it my imagination, or was Tennessee getting pressure rushing four in the first half? In the fourth quarter and OT, they've been rushing four about every play, and not getting close to the quarterback.

Bill Barnwell: It seemed like they were blitzing more frequently. That could be my imagination, but hard to say. I think we can all agree that Ben Roethlisberger is plenty good enough to beat you if you give him seven seconds to throw the ball.

USC Trojans 18 at Ohio State University Buckeyes 15 (Saturday)

Bill Barnwell: The highlight of this game for me was during the pre-game. They had a feature on the sousaphone player who was getting to dot the 'I' during warmups, and then cut to him about to do so. He started getting jacked up, yelling at the crowd, and then ... smacks his sousaphone against the camera that was filming him from below, as hard as he possibly could. It was priceless. We rewound it maybe 15 times.

Aaron Schatz: Terrelle Pryor's first interception was just astounding. I've thrown some phenomenally dumb interceptions into coverage when playing Madden -- just ask Ian Dembsky -- but never one that bad. Kirk Herbstreit was talking about how Pryor's problem was that he seemed to decide on his receiver before the play even started, but honestly, Pryor didn't even throw it to that receiver. He threw it five yards past him downfield, straight to the linebacker.

Robert Weintraub: USC play-calling is a little overconfident with Barkley. All of his throws are outside the numbers. He could use a few easy calls to get his feet under him a little. OSU is jacked up, though.

Tom Gower: One of the questions tonight is whether or not Pete Carroll is willing to adopt a Tressel-style gameplan. Pryor simply can't pass the ball consistently-he tends to lock out and not realize what else is out there. So, starting a true freshman QB on the road, you run the ball, play conservative defense so they can't break a big play, and run the ball, passing only occasionally.

And, what have we seen? Mays (who I don't like as much as most people) is overaggressive on Small, leading Sanzenbacher open up the seam to set up a TD, and now we have another play down the field to set up another first and goal. Plus, the calls with Barkley. I didn't pay much attention to Carroll in the NFL -- was that his problem in NE?

Aaron Schatz: I don't think Carroll's problem in New England was ever considered to be playcalling. He lost the locker room. He's meant to be a college coach; within a year, all the veterans couldn't take that "jacked and pumped" stuff seriously, and then Curtis Martin bolted for New York and the team just had this cloud of slow collapse floating around it. And I mean slow... Carroll never had a losing record with the Patriots, just one less win each season.

I'm looking forward to when Sanzenbacher hits the NFL draft. I challenge the NFL media to write about him without using the words "Welker," "Stokley," or "Proehl."

David Gardner: Herron was way to hesitant on those goal-line runs. He cost Ohio state a touchdown. Let's see if he redeems himself on fourth down ... That is, if the ole sweater vest allows it.

Aaron Schatz: Given how popular the spread stuff is in college these days, I'm a little shocked by how much double-tight end stuff USC runs.

David Gardner: I don't watch too much of Southern Cal, but I don't believe they are in the double tight too often. I think they're just using the extra blockers for the conservative game plan.

Robert Weintraub: Actually, USC seldom spreads it, and run mostly power sets, especially in years like this when the running game is the team's strength, and the QB and WRs are untested. Even against San Jose State they were in power formations much of the game.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, Pryor had DeVier Posey open on a sideline route with perfect protection in front of him (the line picked up the blitz to perfection) on Ohio State’s last drive of the first half, and just airmailed it out of bounds. It would have been a tight one, but he had time to finesse it, and I’m thinking your average future pro quarterback makes that throw.

And ... the Trojans run a draw on third-and-21 with 12:56 left in the third quarter. SC alum Mike Holmgren would be so proud!

The Buckeyes are doing a good job with running wide four-man fronts against SC’s offensive line – I’m seeing blockers looking for someone to block and defenders getting through pretty frequently when the Trojans are doing tight zone. Countering those assignments by splitting the gaps.

Question about the college rules for offensive holding –- in 2006, the NFL modified the “ingredients of a hold” rule to say that if an offensive lineman brought a defender down, but the official didn’t actually see a hold, they couldn’t call it. Didn’t help Max Starks in the NFL season opener, but I’m curious if the NCAA is tighter with holding. I’ve seen a few mystery holds today in different games.

Robert Weintraub: Calling holding more often is a "point of emphasis" for NCAA refs this season. Just what everyone wants to see, more flags.

Tom Gower: I did a scan of the NCAA rulebook and didn't see anything in the text of the rules or the approved rulings about it.

One thing I think OSU may be doing is running 3 DEs as part of their 4 DL when they do rotation. I know I've seen DE #9 Robert Rose, who was once supposed to be the next Will Smith/Vernon Gholston, lined up inside.

Aaron Schatz: For me, the most impressive thing in this game has been the Ohio State front seven against the run. USC has all returning offensive line starters, if I remember correctly, and of course they've amassed an absurd number of top running back recruits over the past couple years, and yet they can't even manage three yards per carry. It isn't like I see a ton of college football, but in a handful of carries, Joe McKnight looks like another one of these athletic scatbacks whose talent doesn't mean much if you don't give them a big obvious hole to cut through.

Robert Weintraub: USC's quarterback play has been fantastic in this game. I refer to Stephen Garcia, of course.

Aaron Schatz: Somebody needs to tell the Trojans that if you want to run a screen on third-and-long, your guards need to start upfield to block BEFORE the defensive linemen are sitting on top of the quarterback. The whole concept where the linemen let the pass rushers go by so they can set up to block doesn't work if the quarterback is going to just stand there like a deer in headlights.

Doug Farrar: Is all the two-TE stuff usual for USC, or more a reaction to this?

Tom Gower: Not at all. They've run a lot of 2-TE stuff lately. See, for example, this great analytic blog on the Trojans showing their formation breakdown from the Rose Bowl last year-more Ace than anything else.

Robert Weintraub: I take less from OSU tonight (jacked up D, good special teams, iffy QB--nothing new here) than confirmation that USC is still a work in progress, and not able to beat all comers on pure talent at the moment. The bad thing would be a buckeye win tonight erasing everyone's notoriously short term memory, and an unbeaten OSU or PSU taking on Florida in the title game. No one wants any piece of that.

Aaron Schatz: I will say this, McKnight has looked a lot better on the fourth-quarter drive where USC is trying to win the game. Showing much better vision.

Robert Weintraub: Funnily, given his slight frame, McKnight has been the closer back for SC. Center O'Dowd has been super terrific on this drive.

Doug Farrar: He’s not exactly afraid to push a defender back to get an extra yard, either, which certainly separates him from Reggie Bush.

David Gardner: Wow. Two huge mental errors from Pryor back to back. The decision to run and not get out of bounds just killed them.

Doug Farrar: I’ll use the “I don’t watch much college football” disclaimer here, but it seems that for Pryor, everything beyond the first read is just a blank.

Tom Gower: The grounding call annoys the heck out of me. Pryor had seen the WR running out, and threw the ball like he was going to continue running the out, but instead he cut his route back inside. It really looks like nobody was there, but there really was somebody there. Barkley had a throw like that earlier in the game, albeit under less straightened circumstances, where grounding wasn't called.

Robert Weintraub: I'd like to see the IG rule changed--if you can muster the strength or aren't hurried enough to be able to get the ball out of bounds, it shouldn't be called. It's "grounding", after all--that play went against the spirit of the rule, to me at least.

Aaron Schatz: Now, if the college polls were anything like DVOA, Ohio State wouldn't drop at all after this loss. Yes, they lost at home... but they lost by three points to a team ranked five spots ahead. That's how it supposed to work. You shouldn't be docked for losing close to a better team.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Miami Dolphins 7 at Atlanta Falcons 19

Doug Farrar: And we see the first new Miami Wildcat with three minutes left in the first half. Pat White in the shotgun, a back on either side. He fakes the handoff to Ricky Williams, which freezes the safeties, and has Ted Ginn open downfield after splitting the deep guys. Unfortunately, White overthrew Ginn by about five yards. Somehow, I doubt Chad Pennnington has ever overthrown Ted Ginn. Still, this is how they plan to manipulate the safety -- to put that eighth guy on a string.

Miami follows that play up with one of the "HOLY S**T" catches you'll ever see. Greg Camarillo heads upfield on a stutter-go with Chris Houston all over him, Houston grabs Camarillo's left arm as the ball comes in, but the ball lands between Camarillo's knees as he falls to the turf. He then picks up the ball and starts running -- the ball never hit the ground. Tony Sparano challenges the no-catch ruling, which is reversed. Since he was
called down, Camarillo gets the ball at the point of the catch. You'll be seeing this one all day, folks.

If anyone wonders how much Tony Gonzalez has left in the tank, they should ask the two Dolphins defenders Gonzo juked out of their shorts on the way to a touchdown. Worth a second-round pick in 2010? Gosh, I'd have to say so.

Kansas City Chiefs 24 at Baltimore Ravens 38

Doug Farrar: Ladies and Gentlemen, Joe Flacco. The Ravens bring in Haloti Ngata to go jumbo from the Kansas City 4. But it's not a run, it's a pass as Flacco goes play action, runs away from several tackles, and throws a perfect little zip pass outside left to Willis McGahee for the score. Muy impressivo.

Vince Verhei: Brodie Croyle hits Sean Ryan for a 10-yard touchdown, and the Ravens and Chiefs are tied at 24. Chiefs' last two drives have produced 135 yards and 10 points, so the offense is getting it done late.

Mike Tanier: It took a while for the Ravens to adjust to Clancey Pendergast's defense. He threw a lot of blitzes at the Ravens, and he forced Flacco to scramble and hurry some bad throws. Later in the game, Flacco started checking down to backs, who often had 8-10 yards of after-catch running room. On the game-winning touchdown, Pendergast blitzed both safeties, which is never a good idea against the Ravens. Mark Clayton got open on a deep route.

Philadelphia Eagles 38 at Carolina Panthers 10

Bill Barnwell: Panthers and Eagles are competing to see who can make more stupid plays on the opening drive. Juqua Parker started with one of the more blantant facemasks you'll ever see on a third-and-10 to start. Panthers followed with two consecutive false starts on first-and-goal from the two.

Jason Peters with a second false start. Offensive line continuity, anyone?

Doug Farrar: Peters looked horrible in the preseason. Just ghastly. I thought they put Winston Justice in his uniform. Continuity is important, but as the famed philosopher Whitey Herzog once noted, “Seven times horses**t is still horses**t.”

Mike Tanier (sent to Aaron as text message): I HEART DELHOMME.

Bill Barnwell: The Jim Johnson spirit lives on. Trent Cole gets left unblocked and strips Jake Delhomme, knocking the ball 15 yards backwards in the process. Omar Gaither falls on it for a TD.

Eagles with a fumble recovery for a touchdown AND a DeSean Jackson kick return. Where was this last year?

3:01 left in the third quarter in Carolina and the stadium is MAYBE 30 percent full.

Doug Farrar: Delhomme has four picks and a fumble? Am I reading that right?

Bill Barnwell: Oh yeah. I think we can officially rename the five-turnover game as "Going Full Delhomme" now.

Mike Tanier (sent to Aaron as text message): LOVE HIM.

Denver Broncos 12 at Cincinnati Bengals 7

Doug Farrar: Late in the first half, the Bengals get cheated out of a touchdown. Orton throws over the middle to Tony Scheffler, who bobbles it for a step, then controls it and takes a step before Leon Hall strips it. The refs rule an incompletion, and Chinedum Ndukwe (who picks the ball up) has a clear path to the end zone. What's that you keep saying about "making a football move", Mr. Pereira?

Tom Gower: Something very odd just happened in the Bengals-Broncos game. The Bengals had a pass complete down to the 1 that may have gotten into the end zone. The officials called for a replay review with :41 left. After the call was upheld, the clock re-started and was at :20 when Benson scored (Bengals had all 3 TOL, so they didn't need to stop it).

After the XP following the TD, Jerome Boger went over to the sidelines and added :18 to the clock AND charged the Bengals a TO for reasons related to the replay review I can't understand.

AND, the Bengals being the Bengals, Joseph fails to make a pick, and Leon Hall's deflection and near-INT the next play is tipped to Brandon Stokley, who has about an 85 yard TD. Wowowowowowow.

Vince Verhei: The best part of that finish? Stokley running almost the length of the field horizontally before going into the end zone, milking an extra five or six seconds off the clock. He actually could have run longer, but better safe than sorry, I guess.

Bill Barnwell: I do that in Madden all the time.

Mike Tanier: Was that Dhancin Dhani Jones giving up on Stokley at the end so he could milk 3 more seconds off the clock? Did Dhani have a Travel Channel special to film? Is Anthony Bourdain going to play for the Bengals next week?

Doug Farrar: Okay, Stokley’s “HOLY S**T” catch beats Greg Camarillo’s “HOLY S**T” catch. That’s your play of the year, right there.

Bill Barnwell: Well, Camarillo's catch was slightly harder. Stokley was right place, right time.

And Gus Johnson was there to call it, too. What a knack that guy has.

Aaron Schatz: I feel so bad for Leon Hall. I mean, they teach you to knock it down at the end of the game, not try for the interception. Unfortunately, his attempt to knock it down instead knocked it up -- but the Bengals were playing defense like they were supposed to, and it isn't like Kyle Orton "orchestrated" a comeback or anything. Just astonishingly lucky.

Vince Verhei: That's true, it was totally a Madden play. Bill James has said that baseball managers can learn more about the game by playing Strat-O-Matic and the like. Have we reached the point where Madden is teaching players how to control the clock? I'm thinking also of Westbrook stopping at the 1 against Dallas last year. I don't think those plays are made in the 1970s or 80s.

Bill Barnwell: Remember, on the previous play in the Broncos game, Johnathan Joseph picked Kyle Orton off on the sideline, but couldn't get his feet down on the pick. They were inches away from ending the game.

Doug Farrar: Hall also ripped the ball out of Scheffler’s hands on the play that should have been a fumble, but wasn’t.

Minnesota Vikings 34 at Cleveland Browns 20

Aaron Schatz: Kudos to Brad Childress for trying to fool the Browns by opening with an onside kick. It didn't work, but that's a play that often works, and as we've shown, it's a good gamble. The biggest problem was that a good onside kick only goes a little bit past the 40, but Ryan Longwell kicked it more than 20 yards.

Doug Farrar: Mercifully for the Vikings, they still have an awesome defense and Cleveland’s offense is still Cleveland’s offense. They have to settle for a field goal.

Note to the Cleveland-Minnesota announcers:

1. That thing the Browns run with Josh Cribbs in the shotgun isn’t a Wildcat. It's called "Flash." We’ll send you that chapter in the FO Almanac.

2. Since Cribbs was a quarterback at Kent State, odds are he can throw the ball a little bit.

Mike Kurtz: Adrian Peterson is looking good, but some of this play-calling is bizarre. Peterson took it to the half-yard line, the next play was a stretch to the left that gets completely blown up and loses 4 yards. Favre then gets in a completely mix-up with his WR and they kick. Although even if it was a miscommunication, the actual throw was pretty awful.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, even if Rice was tippy-toeing the back of the end zone and jumped to his full height, that was still an overthrow. Looks like they've got the Excuse-O-Matic running at full speed already.

Mike Kurtz: Cribbs muffs the KO in the endzone, then pick it up and runs it out to the 10, because that extra time scooping up the ball just makes it easier to get a good return? I'm having flashback of Hester ... is there just something about returners?

Minnesota challenges a play that ended in a maybe-fumble, but it almost certainly recovered the fumble. The ref agrees that it was a fumble, but says that there's no clear possession before the end of the play. The NFL's epic quest to take all discretion away from the refs results in another play that just makes everyone look silly.

Announcers talking about how they have to unleash Favre, next play is almost an INT, the one after that a dumpoff. Good times.

Another thing lost in the whole Favre drama is the QB's role in assigning blockers after the line sets. There have been about five times in this half itself where there was simply nobody assigned to a blitzing Brown, who just got a clear shot at Favre. The last one was especially egregious, because there was a RB in the backfield (Taylor, I think), who run right past the rusher into his route. Favre gets plastered, MIN punts.

Aaron Schatz: On the subject of blocking, I'm trying to decide if the right side of the Cleveland line is playing well or not. They looked awful for the first few minutes, then they looked pretty good for a while, then they looked poor again at the end of the second quarter. The Browns have wrecked their line continuity -- they're starting a rookie center, Alex Mack, and then two guys who have bounced in and out of the lineup for other teams and are new in Cleveland, Pork Chop Womack and John St. Clair. Womack probably had the worst play of the half, a run where he was supposed to pull left, but nobody picked up the defensive lineman who was originally in front of him, so instead of finishing the pull he sort of reached backwards to try to stop the other lineman -- which meant that the defender who Womack was supposed to be blocking on the pull was easily able to take Jamal Lewis down.

Doug Farrar: Trust me, the only thing Womack can pull is a groin muscle. Usually by Week 2. He’s not the most mobile fellow.

Mike Kurtz: They're doing a good job blocking when the MIN DL just runs at them. The Minnesota line has run a lot of stunts, mostly in the second quarter, and the Cleveland line has mostly dissolved when they have. I'd chalk that up to lack of continuity, since these guys probably have to actually stop and think about who picks up whom, and by the time they're done with that, Quinn is running for his life.

Aaron Schatz: Cleveland fans holding six big letters in the first row next to the end zone: RETIRE.

I say lots of mean things about Jamal Lewis and our projections thought he was going to collapse this year so I have to be honest and say -- he looks really good today. Against Minnesota! He's looking particularly nimble when he takes those little steps he likes to take while he's deciding on a hole. I'm quite surprised.

Is there any other quarterback who gets his hometown mentioned all the time the way Brett Favre does? When Joe Flacco converts a first down, do any announcers say "and a big 20-yard pass whipped in there by the pride of Audubon, New Jersey"?

Mike Kurtz: Another play, two more rushers come off the edge untouched. This is all on Favre. Of course, he gets mega-sacked.

New York Jets 24 at Houston Texans 7

Vince Verhei: Jets win the creative play of the day award, lining up 6-foot-5, 303-pound Wayne Hunter in the slot, then bringing him across the backfield to block on a play-action pass. The result: Mark Sanchez running for his life and throwing the ball away. Texans are blitzing like crazy, and it's completely shut down the Jets' running game -- seven carries for 11 yards right now, including an 8-yarder by Leon Washington out of a direct snap. But it's leaving Jerricho Cotchery one-on-one with Dunta Robinson, and Cotchery is winning that battle handily. A long drive stalls in the red zone, and the Jets kick a field goal.

Texans have only had the ball for five or six plays, but Matt Schaub has already been hit at least three times.

We saw the Flacco/Ryan rookie QB protection plan last year -- run a hell of a lot, with plenty of blockers in the backfield. The Jets hate this plan. They're putting Sanchez in shotgun, sometimes in five-wide sets, and leaning on him to win. He's holding up pretty well, all things considered, but the Jets have just a field goal on three drives.

Ups and downs for Sanchez. On second down, he has a receiver open for a crossing route, but tries to throw through linebackers rather than over them and is nearly picked. On the ensuing third-and-long, Jets go shotgun, and Sanchez hangs in under a heavy rush and finds Chansi Stuckey for the first.

Texans' final drive is another three-and-out, helped by one hold and one false start. They're trying to attack the Jets almost exclusively with short passes, but the Jets are on to them, and they're not adjusting. But they're also making tons of mistakes -- the penalties on offense, and on defense, the blown coverage, and a couple of times defenders have come scrambling on to the field late. They just look unprepared to play.

Aaron Schatz: OK, I've flipped a bit to Jets-Texans. Before we decide to crown Mark Sanchez's ass, I would like to see him play a defense that is not Houston. For example, the touchdown pass to Chansi Stuckey was not some kind of incredible pass decision. The Texans completely blew the coverage and left Stuckey wide open.

Doug Farrar: He’s got New England’s rebuilding secondary next week – the first real test comes in Week 3 against the Titans. Then, the Saints and Dolphins. Could be a pretty easy ride to start. Matthew Stafford, on the other hand, has a real 24-carat bitch of a schedule after New Orleans: Vikings, Redskins, Bears, Steelers, Packers, bye. He’s gonna need it.

Vince Verhei: Texans' most recent drive ends with a failed fourth-and-2 on their own side of the field. They're still relying almost entirely on slants and receiver screens. It's not working.

Texans' blitzing comes back to bite them. Dustin Keller lines up wide right, isolated against Ferguson, and Sanchez hits him for 40. After a penalty, Jets line up I formation, two tight ends right. Texans blitz to the outside. Thomas Jones runs off tackle, gets big blocks from Alan Faneca and Tony Richardson, and then there's nobody between him
and the end zone. 38 yards, touchdown, 24-7 Jets, Fat Lady unleashes her melody.

Mike Tanier: I was stunned by how bad Matt Schaub looked today. He was under a lot of pressure, and the game plan called for a few too many cute screens, but even simple passes just fluttered out of his hand.

I counted two or three near interceptions for Sanchez, in addition to the one he threw, but he looked pretty good overall. It was a good gameplan to protect him: the Jets called several rollouts and sprintouts, as well as a few receiver screens and a reverse or two. It was a little bit of a junk offense, but it worked, especially with the defense pitching a near shutout.

Jacksonville Jaguars 12 at Indianapolis Colts 14

Tom Gower: Colts take the opening kickoff down inside the 5, but Manning is intercepted on a fade route intended for Wayne by rookie CB Derek Cox. Excellent jam by Cox, not letting Wayne get any kind of release, and he was in great position to jump up and make the play.

The Colts showed a 4-WR-type look a couple times that drive, albeit with tight ends Clark and Tamme in the slot. They also lined up in 2-TE, I-formation on third-and-1, which I don't remember a lot of in past years.

David Gardner: Reggie Wayne's route on the most recent Indy TD pass was outstanding. He put a nice double move on the corner, which momentarily froze the safety and then split the two for a throw. Kudos to Manning as well for doing what he does best and hanging in the pocket to throw that pass.

Tom Gower: According to Solomon Wilcots, Jeff Saturday is "one of the most underrated centers in the NFL." Apparently, being the only offensive lineman Solomon has praised (other than one block by Lilja) is enough to qualify him for that distinction.

Mike Tanier: All the underrated guys are on the cover of ESPN the Magazine.

Bill Barnwell: Jaguars might benefit in the long run from drafting Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, but they just got abused on the Jaguars' final offensive play as they were attempting to drive for the winning score.

Detroit Lions 27 at New Orleans Saints 45

Doug Farrar: First sign that these aren’t the Matt Millen Lions anymore: Fourth-and 1 from the New Orleans 4 at the start of the second quarter, and with the Saints bunching everything inside, Stafford gives Kevin Smith the pitch outside after faking to the fullback. Touchdown, Lions.

Tom Gower: Stafford really looks like a rookie QB, trying to thread a couple needles and not managing it. One was to Johnson in the middle of 4 defenders, broken up by one of the underneath guys, and another was intercepted by Sharper on the goal line.

After Sharper returned it inside the Lions 45, Detroit was flagged for a personal foul for interfering with the officials on the sidelines and then roughing the passer, but managed to block Carney's FG to keep it at 28-10. TD to make it 28 came on a grab by Shockey where he juggled the ball and finally hauled it in with his butt sitting on the endline. It went to booth review, but stood-wrongly, in my view.

Doug Farrar: It would take me an hour to write it all up, but let's just say that there's a five-play sequence ending in Detroit's second touchdown that Mike Carey and his crew are going to want to forget as soon as possible.

Dallas Cowboys 34 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21

David Gardner: Mike Nugent, whom the Bucs chose over Matt Bryant this offseason, has his first field goal as a Buccaneer blocked. It was a 38-yard attempt.

Doug Farrar: Cadillac gets the TD with 10:00-ist left in the first half, I don’t care who you root for (well, unless you like the Cowboys), that’s just good to see.

David Gardner: A lot is being made of Cadillac's touchdown run and the highlight-reel run that preceded it, but he is just generally carrying Tampa's offense. Leftwich has really benefited from his play so far.

The highest-paid tight end in NFL history just dropped a would-be first-down catch on fourth-and-6 for the Bucs deep in Dallas territory, essentially ending the game.

Washington Redskins 17 at New York Giants 23

Bill Barnwell: Lawrence Tynes' first kickoff hit a Redskin in the helmet at the 20.

Bill Moore: Troy Aikman: Clinton Portis loves running down hill. As opposed to what? Those running backs that love running up hill?

Will Carroll: Jerry Rice ran up hill! Why aren't players as good as they used to be?

Bill Barnwell: Giants have been stuffed on two third/fourth-and-ones in the first half so far. Albert Haynesworth is helping, but...I miss our elite offensive line.

Vince Verhei: But after they force a quick three-and-out, you must love your new
elite defensive line.

Bill Barnwell: Jim Zorn deserves the Colbert award for that fake field goal, down 17-0.

Bill Moore: Two receivers playing well – Steve Smith for the Giants is stepping up in the absence of Plax, and Randle-El has parlayed his slot 3rd receiver role into some nice play-making catches while the Giants D have focused in on Moss.

Aaron Schatz: I wish I had lots of interesting things to say about this Giants-Redskins game I just watched, but I don't. The Giants played like you would expect the Giants to play, and the Redskins played like you would expect the Redskins would play. The Giants ran the ball very well, double-teaming Albert Haynesworth to take him out of the play. Eli Manning did a good job of avoiding the pass rush -- nobody ever talks about it, but he has pretty good pocket presence -- and found a lot of guys on nice short routes. He also completely overthrew a couple deep passes, and threw one head-scratching interception, because he is Eli Manning. The Redskins' offense looked somewhat disjointed, but Clinton Portis still ran well. The Giants pass rush looked great. Once again, last year's three second-round picks did basically nothing. Apparently Malcolm Kelly started the game but you could have fooled me -- Antwaan Randle El is still a much bigger part of the offense.

Bill Barnwell: Game really seemed to depend upon pressure, as simple as that is. When the Redskins got pressure on Eli Manning, he made mistakes and forced throws, one of which led to an INT. When the Giants got pressure on Campbell, he alternately dumped the ball off, fumbled, or looked awful. When the Redskins sat back in two deep and rushed four, Eli picked them apart.

St. Louis Rams 0 at Seattle Seahawks 28

Vince Verhei: Rams fumble the opening kickoff. Three plays later, a pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the end zone is tipped and intercepted. The NFC West is in midseason form!

Seahawks use some cute Wildcatish stuff, with Seneca Wallace in the shotgun, throwing backwards to Hasselbeck out wide. Hasselbeck then throws back to Wallace, who scurries for a nice gain. And then on the next play, Hasselbeck is intercepted again. Sigh.

Bill Barnwell: Rams first trip to the red zone: Run for no gain. 9-yard pass on second-and-ten. False start. Delay of game. Incomplete lob to end zone. Missed field goal.

Vince Verhei: Early in the second quarter, Rams have three false starts, one delay of game, and two timeouts called to avoid delay of game. Go twelfth man!

Aaron Schatz: That's not the 12th man. That's the Rams being the Rams.

Vince Verhei: No, THIS is the Rams being the Rams: They block a field goal and
return it for a game-tying touchdown ... but the play is called back because there were 12 defenders on the field.

Tom Gower: Is it just me, or is Richie Incognito a great example of the hubris of NFL coaches? He's been around for a while, has good strength, but always, always, always does stupid things and seems to regularly miss at least 1 key assignment. He just picked up his second personal foul of the game, and Spags yanked him, but I'm sure he'll be back in sooner or later because this time, just maybe, he's learned his lesson.

Bill Barnwell: Rams have never really had any better choices at guard. He's a good athlete and has raw talent. So, yes.

Vince Verhei: Julius Jones slips through the Rams defense, and the safeties are too slow to catch him. Jones scores a 62-yard touchdown, and then breaks out the Fargo Strut. No, really.

San Francisco 49ers 20 at Arizona Cardinals 16

Vince Verhei: Penalties set the Cardinals up for a third-and-13 deep in their own territory. Kurt Warner, with plenty of time, opts to lob a pass to Jerheme Urban. By the time the ball finally comes down, Patrick Willis is there to pull it in. 49ers kick a field goal after Bryant McFadden breaks up a pass in the end zone. McFadden had his back to the ball and was blindly waving his arms in the air; if the ball had arrived later, McFadden would have committed pass interference to set up first- and-goal at the one.

The Arizona offense now consists of holding the ball forever, then turning it over, dumping it off, or getting sacked.

Tim Hightower is the king of taking 0-yard runs and dancing sideways to turn them into 2-yard losses.

Bill Barnwell: Isaac Bruce just made a great play to knock a Shaun Hill duck away from double coverage and save an INT.

Aaron Schatz: Yay, bonus coverage! San Francisco has third down near the goal line, Arizona sends a big blitz of seven guys, and Shaun Hill easily finds a wide-open Frank Gore for the touchdown. That play could have been scripted by Gregg Easterbrook.

OK, the Cardinals back the 49ers up to their own one-yard line. The Andy Lee punt goes all the way past the Arizona 40, but Antrel Rolle has a great return, making two guys miss and then actually dragging multiple tacklers for the last 10 yards or so, all the way to the San Francisco 38. The announcers then complain that Lee "outkicked his coverage." Really? If Lee had kicked the ball with more hang time, the 49ers would have figured out how to tackle instead of being dragged along the ground by Antrel Rolle? Unfortunately, we don't have the hang time measurements to study it properly, but I sometimes wonder if there really is such a thing as "outkicking your coverage."

Bill Barnwell: We could analyze average gross return distance from each combination of location and punt distance, wouldn't be that hard.

Aaron Schatz: We already do that. That's how the punt return measures for the special teams values work. At no point do average values get worse if you kick it longer, as long as you don't put it over the goal line for a touchback. The argument from traditionalists would be that it isn't measuring "outkicking the coverage" unless you measured hang time and how long it takes for the coverage to get down the field...

Two important lessons for National Jump to Conclusions Week:

1. Our St. Louis projection still may be correct.
2. Our Arizona projection still may not.

Bill Barnwell: Arizona should've run the Brandon Stokley tip play.

Chicago Bears 15 at Green Bay Packers 21

Mike Kurtz (in pregame): Tony Dungy has a CLICKER! Next week, he'll be diagramming how things cost more than they used to, maybe have a feature on the intertubes.

Aaron Schatz: It's been less than a quarter and I think that Jay Cutler has already thrown three passes that bounced off the hands of Green Bay defensive back Tramon Williams.

...and then he finally throws one that Green Bay catches, to Nick Collins. Man, Cutler is looking just awful so far, horribly inaccurate. Green Bay is really bringing the pressure, too.

Mike Tanier: And yet, 0-0 in the second.

Doug Farrar: Oh, dear. The pick to Johnny Jolly is insult added to injury.

Mike Tanier: Was that Rodgers' third or fourth career safety? Think the Packers want to work on that?

Aaron Schatz: Jay Cutler is an emotional guy, and I think at halftime they need to take him into a corner and tell him to take a long, deep breath. He's making some ridiculously bad throws, trying to force things that aren't there.

Jay, you must chill. I have hidden your keys.

Bill Barnwell: And Tramon Williams proves why defensive touchdowns are random from year-to-year.

Mike Tanier: What the hell am I watching? Can someone please tell me what the hell I'm watching?

Go back to Aaron's first point. Cutler's out of his mind right now, mixing it up with Clay Matthews and throwing the ball to nowhere. He needs to settle down. And Ron Turner better come up with some adjustments, too, because there isn't a lot of time to throw or running room. The Bears offense should be effective against this defense because they can go so easily into6 or 7 man protection. Its not happening right now.

Aaron Schatz: OK, now I have a better idea. At halftime, they need to force Cutler to listen to some DJ Screw records and make him drink a few of these.

Doug Farrar: And who kidnapped Matt Forte? The score is 3-2, ferchrissakes. Your running back was responsible for 125 percent of your total offense last year. Give him the damned ball!

Bill Barnwell: Aaron Rodgers isn't playing very well, either. Cutler seems to be perpetually one step behind his receiver, but Rodgers is overthrowing everyone.

Aaron Schatz: Hey, apparently Lovie Smith was wandering through the locker room at halftime and discovered that Matt Forte is still on the team. That's good news for the Bears.

Chicago inexplicably tries a fake punt on fourth-and-11, up by two points.

Aaron Schatz: OK, Chicago just ran the most insanely-mistimed fake punt in history. How on earth can you take chance of handing the ball back to your opponent ALREADY IN FIELD GOAL RANGE when you are up by only two points in the fourth quarter?

Bill Barnwell: I'm guessing the center quick-snapped it because they saw too many men.

Aaron Schatz: Except that Green Bay had 11 men, and Chicago loses the challenge, which brings up a number of questions. Are the announcers right, that it wasn't a fake but rather an audible to catch the Packers with 12 men on the field? Why would you quick-snap to catch the other team with 12 men on the field if you have fourth-and-11? Even IF you get the penalty, you are going to put on fourth-and-6! And now Chicago has no timeouts left in a two-point game. Holy Keep Choppin' Wood, Patrick Mannelly.

Mike Kurtz: Even if there were 12, the refs should have the ability to not enforce the penalty, as punishment to the Bears for making such an incredibly stupid call.

Aaron Schatz: Holy crap. Did Cutler just throw to a guy who was QUADRUPLE covered?

Mike Tanier: Now now, there's no such thing as quadruple coverage, only a QB staring at a receiver so long and timing his pass so poorly that defenders from four zones converge on it.

Aaron Schatz: Converge? In the replay, I think the four defensive backs were all pretty much there *when he threw it*. Bennett was the only guy IN any of those four zones.

Aaron Rodgers hits Greg Jennings on a deep touchdown to go ahead with a minute left.

Bill Barnwell: Yeesh. Even if it's third-and-one, you've gotta put some safety help back there. You can't push your safety into the box.

Aaron Schatz: Wow. So, can we stop hearing about how Aaron Rodgers can't win close games like Brett Favre now? Please?

Doug Farrar: No.

Flotsam And Jetsam

Vince Verhei: AutoTrader is sponsoring something called the "Ultimate Quarterback Comparison." It compares starting quarterbacks' completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns. Ultimate? Really?

Aaron Schatz: The difference between Ultimate Quarterback Comparison and regular quarterback comparison is that in Ultimate Quarterback Comparison, Brett Favre is a teenager again.

Bill Barnwell: Red Zone channel just had their first time in five years with every game in commercial. Nine different games. Good timing.

Doug Farrar: Phil Simms: "Anytime you cover the center and both guards, it’s gonna be tough to run up the middle."

Vince Verhei: I do like the Visa ad with Morgan Freeman doing solemn, reverent narration as people dance badly to "SuperFreak." An early nominee for ad of the year.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 14 Sep 2009

136 comments, Last at 17 Sep 2009, 1:53pm by TGT2

Comments

1
by tripvm :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 10:37am

On the clock issue in the Bengals-Broncos game, the Bengals called timeout. Then the officials decided to review the play. The officials mistakenly forgot that the Bengals called timeout then reset the clock to 20 seconds after the TD play. They eventually figured it out.

3
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 10:58am

Is that really what happened? I didn't see the Bengals actually call it, and it would've been stupid to do so-they had all 3 TOL and could have snapped the ball at :20 and still run 4 plays if at least one of the first 3 was an incompletion. Plus, if you go to the play-by-play, it doesn't show the Bengals calling time out.

12
by Dennis :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:21am

Yes, that is actually what happened. But dumb moves like that are why the Bengals are the Bengals.

9
by Tracy :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:19am

That's not the explanation the referees gave. They said that since the review did not change the ruling on the field, that Cincinnati would be charged a timeout, and that 18 seconds should be put back on the clock. It's like they treated it as a Cincinnati challenge instead of a booth-initiated review. In the final analysis, that 18 extra seconds left some time after Denver's improbable touchdown for a Carson Palmer Hail-Mary attempt.

2
by Dennis :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 10:53am

The Jets D did pitch a shutout. The Texans' TD was an interception return (actually a fumble return on an interception return).

4
by Biebs (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:00am

Mike Nugent continues to have the strangest issues with kicking opening day

Career stats
Opening day Field Goals: 3-10 30%
All other games: 72-84 85.7%

It's a totally random throw away stat, but it's also one of the quirkiest things I've come across

5
by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:02am

I probably speak for many when I say that when it comes to Audibles, the longer the better. Can't get enough of this stuff.

40
by js200 :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:44pm

I'll second that!

A few of the observations or comments might be a little of (as a great portion of readers quickly points out), but Audibles is one of the reasons FO's football coverage are miles ahead of everyone else. It's always a great read - entertaining and clever.

6
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:03am

"Aaron Schatz: .... Missed field goals from that range are rare, but fumbled pass receptions are just as rare. ..."

Hines ward has fumbled 11 times in 808 receptions. Good for holding onto the ball at a 98.6% rate. Whats the rate that teams hit extra points/kicks within the 5?

Its been hovering around 99% the last couple years, and last year? They missed 4 out of 957. Good for 99.6%

So, you're right, they're about the same rarity. The thing is, him going down gives you the chance to run the clock out rather than giving Tenn the ball back with a minute to go.

Now, the argument could be made that the fumble chance is lower simply because you're going to recover some of them, but IIRC, the rate for the offense recovering fumbles by receivers downfield is pretty low.

55
by erniecohen :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:51pm

First, he caught the ball at the 20, and was stripped at the 6. Strategically, exactly where was he supposed to fall on the ball? FG at the 20 (or even the 10) are not 98%. Had he known that he was about to be stripped, I'm sure he would have happily fallen on the ball.

Second, I don't think the consideration of what to do when he got to the 5 was (or should have been) on his mind when the play started.

Third, they're being coached by coaches who make much worse boneheaded time-related decisions on a weekly basis.

96
by Eddo :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 7:26pm

"First, he caught the ball at the 20, and was stripped at the 6. Strategically, exactly where was he supposed to fall on the ball? FG at the 20 (or even the 10) are not 98%. Had he known that he was about to be stripped, I'm sure he would have happily fallen on the ball."

Agree with you here. This isn't a play like Westbrook's two years ago or Stokeley's on Sunday. Ward caught the ball, but was in traffic, so he didn't really have a choice of where to go down. The only criticism I can give is a physical one: at that stage in the game, he should have been much more secure with the ball.

"Second, I don't think the consideration of what to do when he got to the 5 was (or should have been) on his mind when the play started."

But it most definitely should be. A player should always be thinking, "If I get the ball, what's my plan? Do I run out of bounds? Quickly take a knee in the middle of the field?"

7
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:08am

"Missed field goals from that range are rare, but fumbled pass receptions are just as rare."

I can't wait for Al Fasano to use this line during film sessions.

127
by Sergio :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 3:12pm

Surely you mean Anthony?

-- Go Phins!

8
by Geo B :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:14am

Aaron - totally agree on the Ward fall down discussion. FG is not a guarantee.
Totally disagree on the Rivers/Roethlisberger comparison - yes that was a terrible mistake getting sacked out of FG range - but still feel I'd rather have him than Rivers needing that 4th quarter final drive.

Bonus thought - Tennessee was getting pressure with four in the first half - but the line seemed to tire or something, they were completely not getting through when the Steelers went no-huddle to come back and win the game. Would love to have a writeup done on what changed.

Keep up the great work guys - Audibles is great reading.

Steeler fan trapped in Houston!
Six Time SB Champs! ;-)

9
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:19am

"aron Schatz: I don't think Carroll's problem in New England was ever considered to be playcalling. He lost the locker room. He's meant to be a college coach; within a year, all the veterans couldn't take that "jacked and pumped" stuff seriously, and then Curtis Martin bolted for New York and the team just had this cloud of slow collapse floating around it. And I mean slow... Carroll never had a losing record with the Patriots, just one less win each season."

I don't think Carroll's attitude was the problem. The front office completely undermined him the entire time he was there. I think what happened with Carroll is what made giving Belichick full authority possible.

14
by Dennis :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:26am

You could see when he was with the Jets that he was better suited to be a college coach than an NFL one.

11
by Temo :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:21am

Troy Aikman: Clinton Portis loves running down hill. As opposed to what? Those running backs that love running up hill?

As a former distance runner, let me assure you that running down hill usually sucks. A lot.

85
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 6:29pm

Temo - I couldn't disagree with you more. The downhills are where I make up a huge amount of time in my distance runs (granted, I also have a much higher injury rate, seeing as how my legs flail like a newborn moose).

Downhill is the great part. Unless you're one of those...you know, healthy runners. Who can run uphill.

13
by Kevin :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:21am

"Is there any other quarterback who gets his hometown mentioned all the time the way Brett Favre does? When Joe Flacco converts a first down, do any announcers say "and a big 20-yard pass whipped in there by the pride of Audubon, New Jersey"?"

I hear, a lot, that Jay Cutler is from Santa Claus, Indiana. I also hear gunslinger a lot associated with him.

15
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:28am

I didn't see the Lions play. Is it possible that Stafford had the best game of the NFC North qbs?

Adrian Peterson is good. Orlando Pace looks like he's cooked. I couldn't tell if Capers' scheme is going to be effective, or if the Bears offensive line was that bad.

50
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:37pm

I didn't see much of it (although I'll be charting the first half later this week) but I think Stafford would at least be near the top. Obviously it wasn't Cutler. Rodgers was effective at times, and of course the Chicago defense is pretty good (we'll see how they replace Urlacher) ... I wouldn't be surprised if DVOA likes Favre better, but yeah, Stafford did a pretty good job from what I saw, considering his environment.

I mean, there were actually times during the game when I would see the situation and think that maybe, maybe, a win might be kind of possible. And he can actually get the ball to Megatron from time to time.

Or maybe it's just that my expectations are so low.

77
by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 3:01pm

Stafford didn't have a good game. It wasn't awful, considering it's his first NFL game, but it was certainly not good.

Don't be decieved by the Lion's 27 points; the Saints' defense dominated them. The Lions got 1 TD on a fumble returned for a touchdown. The Lions repeatedly had short fields due to good returns in the kicking game (or bad coverage by the Saints). In addition, as hinted at in the audibles, awful officiating gave them multiple chances to get a TD when the Saints would otherwise have stopped them for a field goal in one such case.

As a Saints fan, I'm really dissapointed in the special teams' performance. The rookie punter/kickoff specialist did well, and Meachem had some nice Kick returns, but the rest was horrid. Reggie Bush muffed 2 punts (recovering one), they had a field goal blocked, and they gave up a huge number of yards on returns.

16
by nojo :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:28am

Anybody notice that after Greg Jennings caught that TD pass against the Bears that one of the talking heads said something to the effect of "you can't have single coverage against one of the game's great receivers"? Makes me want to mute the game - Jennings is a fine receiver, but in no way is he one of the game's great receivers.

19
by tornadot :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:35am

They actually seemed to say it quite a bit. I know he's good but I didn't think he was an all time great. I thought perhaps I had missed something the way they went about it.

31
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:07pm

Theres a big difference between being "one of the games great receivers" which, he is, and being an "all time great".

Jennings is probably one of the top 10 to 15 WRs in the game right now. That makes him one of the game's great receivers.

17
by DavidL :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:33am

I can't believe you guys let Rodgers' Dragon Punch go undocumented.

18
by Matt Bowyer :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:34am

Forced to watch the entirety of the KC/BAL game, the announcers were -infuriating-. Near the end, Brodie Croyle gets sacked, appears to fumble, and Baltimore runs it back for a score. KC immediately challenges, and Rich Gannon immediately says, "And this'll stand, there's no way that'll get overturned." They cut to a replay.

Croyle's elbow is down. Plainly and clearly. His elbow is down, he has possession, and then he loses the ball. The replay guys stop on his elbow repeatedly, and zoom in on it, and Gannon and Kevin Harlan (I think) harp on and on and on about Croyle's knee being off the ground. Gannon even says at one point, "Now, you can see that Brodie Croyle's wrist and forearm are down and he still appears to have possession of the ball, but the ball comes out before his knee touches, and I think this one's gonna stand as called."

Meanwhile my wife and I are nearly screaming at the television. "You ignorant morons! LOOK AT HIS ELBOW! PAY ATTENTION!"

The official comes out, declares that Croyle's elbow and forearm were down, therefore no fumble, and Harlan says, "Well, Rich, looks like your initial impression was correct, he was down!"

I almost watched the rest of the game on mute. How do you not know those rules?

25
by Jim C. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:48am

It was the immortal Ian Eagle, not Kevin Harlan. Not that there's much to choose from between them.

67
by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:35pm

DirecTV had a promtion of Sunday Ticket on, where all the games in week 1 were available for free. After the Eagles game became a blowout, I checked out some of the other games. I'd have to say that at least six or seven of the booth guys were just as awful as what you had to endure. But don't worry, we get to listen to Gru-dog do his Henry Rollins style announcing on MNF tonight. Yeesh!

69
by TGT2 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:37pm

I agree the announcers were horrible, but if you're going to rip the announcers, you should (1) get the call right, and (2) rip them for the correct stupidity.

When Croyle's elbow hit the ground, his arm was shielding us from knowing if the ball was in his hand or not. It could not be determined from the replay if the ball came out just before or just after his elbow hit the ground. The official ruled (correctly) that a couple frames before that, you could see his forearm on the ground, and the ball still clearly in his hand. The official made no mention of the elbow. I didn't notice that until after the ref announced it and I rewound it. The announcers missing the forearm wasn't egregious (though, the comment afterwards was stupid). Your complaint (that the elbow was obviously down before the ball came out) is egregious. Based solely on the elbow hitting the ground, the call could not have been overturned either way. It was the hard to see forearm that made the difference.

The better call to rip the announcers on was the endzone line fumble. The Chief fumbled at the 2 inch line, but then recovered his fumble in the endzone. The announcers were completely flabbergasted that there was no challenge, when all a challenge would do would change the exact play-by-play. The offense recovered in the endzone. It doesn't matter if he fumbled or not.

There was a college game Saturday (I forget which) where I saw the announcers complaining about a similar issue, but the other direction. There was a review on a fumble. After review, it was determined he fumbled, but the offense recovered in essentially the same spot. The announcer thought it was a waste of time checking if he fumbled. There was no change either way, so why bother? In this case, it wasn't clear who made the recovery. That's why it made sense to review. In the Raven's game, it was clear the offense recovered, so it made no sense to review.

There was a later actual stupidity by Harbaugh that the announcers missed. After the goalline review in the 4th quarter (I think he probably crossed, but I agree there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the call), the officals put 10 seconds on the play clock. Harbaugh called a timeout nearly immediately when the clock started. He could have burned 7 more seconds of clock. If they hadn't scored, that 7 seconds may have made a difference.

99
by BigCheese :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 8:56pm

I din't see the game in question, but let me see if I got this straight:

A Chief fumbled at the 2-inch line, and recoverd in the end-zone for the TD, but there was question on wether he was down before he fumbled or not?

And in your opinion it a challenge would be useless because there's no difference wehter he was down at the the 2-inch line or the play was a touchdown?

I'd say 6 points is a pretty big difference.

Or were they acttually trying to argue for a challenge on wether he lost control of the ball, without being down, before or after crossing the plane? Because that would probably be the most idiotic thing any announcer has ever said. And I once filled three pages of a notebook with idiocies said by the local announcers during a Bears Lions game.

- Alvaro

111
by Lou W (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 9:18am

Yup, that's exactly it. Player hit diving into the end zone, fumbles on ~6 inch line, recovers in the end zone. Announcers repeated state that the Ravens have to review this, why didn't they review this, big mistake not reviewing this. Idiots.

Also, I don't remember which game, but during a punt return for a TD the announcer praised the return team for being so careful about not clipping during the return. He circled the first three blocks down the field to highlight how careful they were not to clip. Except, of course, one of them was a blatant block in the back, and he just circled it and went on with his story. Later that night on FNiA, Keith O. called out the blatant clip and said that the TD should obviously have been called back.

114
by A.VanMeter (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 10:15am

That was the Panthers/Eagles game, on DeSean Jackson's 85 yard punt return. You could tell there had been a block in the back during the live return - defenders don't go sliding on their face 10 yards from the returner unless they've been hit in the back - but the officials and the announcers missed it. I can forgive the officials, but for the announcers to go to slow motion replay and CIRCLE the man making the illegal block and call it a great block was just infuriating.

Of course, that whole game was infuriating thanks to Delhomme.

136
by TGT2 (not verified) :: Thu, 09/17/2009 - 1:53pm

A little late getting back to it, but I wanted to clarify something. The Chief was NOT down. The call on the field was that he did NOT fumble. The announcers wanted the Ravens to challenge because upon review, it was likely they would rule that he did fumble, and scored the touchdown anyway.

To make it 100% clear:
Call on field: pass completion for touchdown.
Reality: fumble at 2 inch line, recovered in endzone for touchdown.

Why would a coach want to switch from 1 to the other? Granted, it mucks around with the advanced statistics, but it doesn't help the team win 1 iota.

117
by Jack (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 11:45am

In fairness, if you weren't yelling so loud (I was yelling inside my head) you would have heard Gannon eventually note that the elbow was down and say it would be overturned. It took a long time but he did get it right before the call was overturned on the field. Same thing with the Cowboys-Bucs game when the player fumbled as he was trying to stretch the ball over the goal line. Both announcers yammered on and on about how the Bucs should have challenged the TD. Eventually, they noticed that the player recovered his fumble in the end zone.

20
by Geo B :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:36am

Great catch on that "hold" called on Starks - how was that holding? The guy tried to go under Starks, who fell on him. Is that really holding?

Steeler fan trapped in Houston!
Six Time SB Champs! ;-)

21
by thewedge :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:37am

The final score of OSU-USC was 18-15

22
by BaconAndWaffles :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:45am

Doug Farrar: Late in the first half, the Bengals get cheated out of a touchdown. Orton throws over the middle to Tony Scheffler, who bobbles it for a step, then controls it and takes a step before Leon Hall strips it. The refs rule an incompletion, and Chinedum Ndukwe (who picks the ball up) has a clear path to the end zone. What's that you keep saying about "making a football move", Mr. Pereira?

First, Scheffler did bobble the catch slightly, which I think is why it was ruled incomplete. Second, I hate when people say a team or player were robbed/cheated/screwed over by calls that were very close. I am all for getting the call right, but this is part of the game - show ten people a given close replay and you will rarely get 100% agreement. I reserved the cheated/screwed over comments for things like Hochuli's early whistle against SD last year.

33
by MJK :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:10pm

Agree that the phrase "robbed/cheated/screwed" gets overused. I especially think that "robbed of a TD" get's overused (although as a sometime overzealous fan of my own home town team, I am as guilty as anyone of overusing it). The fact is, you can never be sure a TD would have occurred, even if there is a "clear path to the end zone". Just ask Hines Ward. Just ask Champ Bailey and Ben Watson. Just ask that Cowboy (name escapes me) who stretched out the ball in celebration five yard shy of the end zone in the Superbowl. Also, if I recall the play in question clearly, I think I heard the whistle blow almost immediately after the ball came out, before (or at very least at the same time as) Ndukwe picks it up. By the time he had it and was running towards the end zone, every Bronco in the screen seemed to know the play was over and had slowed down, so obviously he had a clear path. Had the refs not immediately ruled it incomplete and not blown the whistle/signaled incomplete, the Broncos may have contested the ball more...maybe Ndukwe doesn't even recover it, or if he does, maybe he bobbles it and it gets stripped out again. Even if he does recover it, I'm sure some Broncos chase him and maybe tackle him before he gets to the end zone. So you can never really say that a team was robbed of a TD, unless the contested change of posession took place in the end zone.

71
by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:42pm

What about the phantom Illegal Contact call on Al Harris in the Chicago/GB game? Sure looked like it would have been a screw job if GB hadn't come back.

23
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:48am

"Mike Kurtz - another thing lost in the whole Favre drama is the QB's role in assigning blockers after the line sets. There have been about 5 times in this half itself where there was simply nobody assigned to a blitzing Brown, who just got a clear shot at Favre. The last one was especially egregious, because there was a RB in the backfield (Taylor, I think), who run right past the rusher into his route. Favre gets plastered, MIN punts."

I'll preface this question by saying I'm totally ignorant when it comes to what Mike is saying here having never played football. Is it true that the QB sets the blocking assignments? If it is - is it possible the QB made the right call and the lineman/rb screwed up the assignment anyway?

Not sure but - free blitzing linemen in the Viking backfield has been a problem for many years now. I would expect if it is the QB's responsibility that will improve under Favre.

24
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:48am

"Mike Kurtz - another thing lost in the whole Favre drama is the QB's role in assigning blockers after the line sets. There have been about 5 times in this half itself where there was simply nobody assigned to a blitzing Brown, who just got a clear shot at Favre. The last one was especially egregious, because there was a RB in the backfield (Taylor, I think), who run right past the rusher into his route. Favre gets plastered, MIN punts."

I'll preface this question by saying I'm totally ignorant when it comes to what Mike is saying here having never played football. Is it true that the QB sets the blocking assignments? If it is - is it possible the QB made the right call and the lineman/rb screwed up the assignment anyway?

Not sure but - free blitzing linemen in the Viking backfield has been a problem for many years now. I would expect if it is the QB's responsibility that will improve under Favre.

74
by TGT2 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:55pm

The pre-snap line calls are normally up to the QB or one of the offensive linemen. I remember announcers making a big deal out of it when "Ben" started making his line calls ALL BY HIMSELF!

After the initial line calls, the linemen have their heads down, and it's on the QB to notice any changes the defense makes and make the appropriate adjustments.

This is one reason I think certain defenses (Ravens, Stealers, Eagles) eat rookie QBs for breakfast. Most rookies aren't fully aware of all the line protection schemes, so they don't adjust to the late appearing pre-snap pressure optimally.

26
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:54am

I've read a bunch of stuff from the smart folks here suggesting Harvin won't have much impact - but he looks like a game changer to me.

29
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:05pm

Well, I think Harvin's major weaknesses, like his route running, and reading coverages, are greatly mitigated on a team with Adrian Peterson in the backfield. They can design a bunch of plays, with Harvin getting the ball near the line of scrimmage, where he gets a chance to make a big play while most of defense is preoccupied with number 28.

Once again, it'll likely be proven that context is everything in the NFL, when it comes to personnel.

34
by Dean :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:17pm

I think that for a lot of posters - certainly for myself - the question on Harvin was that of maturity. Would he stay out of jail and/or the league's substance abuse program? And even if he did that, would he be the next Freddie Mitchell? And even if he produced, would he be a Owens/Marshall/Burress type where he'd be more hassle then he's worth.

And that doesn't even get into the "Florida receiver" stigma, which shouldn't matter but is so overwhelming.

So for me, I would say that it's way too early to judge the Harvin pick. 5 years from now, if he's still on Minnesota, and is a gamebreaking player and has basically kept his nose clean and his mouth shut, then I'll certainly back off. But doing it for one training camp doesn't cut it.

37
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:31pm

If Percy Harvin becomes half the the threat O/M/B are and all the headache he still will have been a successful pick.

Percy Harvin can be judged a success well before 5 years. If he produces a good amount even in two years the pick should be considered successful. Expecting him to become Reggie Wayne before he can be considered a success is ridiculous.

52
by Dean :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:41pm

He doesn't have to be Reggie Wayne, but he needs to be more productive then, say, Roscoe Parrish.

107
by AB (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 6:46am

Harvin is quite interesting because the pundits seemed to be very divided on the "character" question.

Everyone agreed that he was hugely arrogant and some identified this as a "red flag", citing a lack of respect for coaches, the opposition etc. Others seemed to be of the view that rather than simply being the "Big Man on Campus" who would export his arrogance to the NFL and underachieve as a result, he was simply someone who knew his own talent and was not modest about it. There were certainly reports that he was very hard-working and fiercely ambitious.

In support of the latter view, I am not aware that he was ever in trouble with the law (as opposed to be a thoroughly dislikeable person).

110
by Dean :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 8:49am

I think that's a very fair assessment. But it's also fair to say that some teams had removed him from their draft boards entirely. And when you do that with a first round talent, the red flag isn't exactly small or medium. So I stand by my original assessment. He may or may not turn out to be a model citizen, but it takes more then a couple weeks of good behavior to say that he has panned out.

Fair or not, in life, it's very easy to make a reputation, and extremely difficult to change it.

112
by AB (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 9:47am

Agree absolutely. I just think it's interesting because people describe "character" as a binary issues - either a player is "high character" or he is "low character", when in fact there are different kinds of character flaws. Of course there are complete headcases who have "bad character" in every respect, but it is more common for the issues to be more limited:

Eg:

(1) Player is great on the field and in the locker room but when in civvies gets in trouble with the law (e.g. Ray Lewis, Leonard Little, Plaxico Burress)

(2) Player is a "locker room cancer" but never really transgresses on the field and is a model citizen in his private life (e.g. Terrell Owens - I think this is the category were people are concerned about Harvin)

(3) Player is widely thought of as a nice guy and is great in the locker room but loses control and draws penalties on the field of play (e.g. Richie Incognito, Rodney Harrison).

(4) Player is widely liked but has mental health problems /is just not "in love with the game" (Shawn Andrews, Quinn Pitcock).

I think it's interesting to see the weight that coaches place on these different issues .

27
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:56am

The other encouraging aspect to the Vikings offense was that it appears as if Harvin will make some plays as defenses panic facing Peterson. He ought to get about 5 to 10 touches near the line of scrimmage per game, and a shot downfield every once and a while. Berrian should also then get some more chances downfield as Harvin makes some plays and Peterson is Peterson. It would be nice if Peterson has a couple games when he gets less than 20 carries while the Vikings win.

The Vikings defense didn't look great, but really only gave up 3 meaningful points, once the blown fumble replay is factored. I cannot believe that this team continues to cover, or, more accurately, not cover, punts in the manner they do. It is going to cost them a couple of games if it doesn't change.

91
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 6:45pm

I'm more than a bit surprised that none of the FO guys mentioned the 'Return of MIN Special Teams', following the Cribbs TD return. (Very) preliminary results indicate that it's still the weak link on this squad.

And my wife wondered why I started laughing when the team that I don't root for scored. At this point, we could start an o/u line for total # return TDs versus Vikings' special teams this season.

28
by MJK :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:00pm

My $0.02:

Titans-Steelers: Great game, two great coaches. I disagree with the announcers that Ward should have gone down. IF the Titans been out of timeouts, maybe, because you can bleed the clock down to almost nothing and have a 99% chance of winning the game outright. Whereas even if you don't fumble and score the TD, you're giving the other team a little bit of time to have a miracle help them (just ask the Bengals). However, what no one seems to be talking about is that the Titans STILL HAD THREE TIMEOUTS. If Ward immediately goes down there, then Pittsburgh can kneed or run the ball into the line 3 times, the clock stops after each, the Steelers kick the go-ahead FG, and the Titans still have a bit of time to try to get just a FG themselves. Whereas if Ward runs in for the TD, they have about the same amount of time but need a lot more points.

Also, much as I hate to say it, Roethlisberger won this game for them. Despite playing poorly for pretty much three and a half quarters (minus one drive just before halftime), he did a masterful job of audibling and picking up the Titans' blitzes and adapting to what they threw at him the last three drives the Steelers had the ball. Whereas Collins had the ball with a chance to win (game tied, final 3 minutes), and couldn't adapt to Pittsburg's pass rush.

Bengals-Broncos: I didn't understand the clock thing at the end. The Bengals get stopped at the 1, but apparently take a timeout to give the replay officials time to decide if they will review the play to see if the Bengals got a TD. Because it's the final two minutes, they can't actually challenge, but it's relatively common when a challengable issue arises in the final two minutes for the coach who stands to benefit to take a timeout to give the replay officials time to look at it. However, this is generally done when the coach is on the defense and a clock stoppage is beneficial. When the benefitting coach is on offense, and therefore can just take a while with his snap count instead, AND stands to benefit from running some time off the clock, taking a timeout is...odd, to say the least, then again, they are the Bengals.

However, all that being said, the referees apparently did count the Bengals' timeout because the clock stopped at 0:41. Then, with the clock not running, the Bengals line up, and run a quick TD run play that takes maybe 0:01, although the clock operator lets the clock run down to 0:38. It clearly reads 0:38 after the TD, and is stopped. Then, mysteriously, with no public announcement from the officials as to why, while the Bengals are lining up for the XP, the clock resets to 0:20. The announcers wonder what the subsequent heated argument between McDaniels and the officials could possibly be about, immediately after commenting that the Broncos have only 20 seconds for a comeback, apparently not noticing the missing 0:18. Finally, just before the kickoff, an apparently equally confused referee announces that, because the play was not overturned, the Bengals are charged a timeout (which should not depend on the outcome of the ruling, since it was in the final two minutes...either they took one or they didn't and the clock was stopped just for the replay official), and the missing 0:18 be put back on. To my knowledge, there's no new rule that says if a team takes a timeout in the final two minutes in hopes that the replay official will take a look at something, and he does and overturns it, they get their timeout back.

Assuming the Bengals did indeed stupidly take a timeout, then everything else eventually ended up as it should have been. If they did not, then the only thing that should have changed was that the clock should have been running after the replay challenge was overturned, before the Bengals lined up and scored their TD.

All that being said, seeing Stokely turn and run parallel to the goal line was awesome. Way smarter than Hines Ward kneeling down would have been.

36
by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:23pm

"However, what no one seems to be talking about is that the Titans STILL HAD THREE TIMEOUTS. If Ward immediately goes down there, then Pittsburgh can kneed or run the ball into the line 3 times, the clock stops after each"

This is wrong because the clock would keep running after Ward kneeled, before the Steelers had to run the next play. The Titans would have to take a timeout immediately after Ward kneeled, after the first down play, and then after the second down play. On the third down play the Titans wouldn't have any timeouts left and the Steelers could run the clock down until there were only a couple seconds left.

44
by MJK :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:55pm

You're right...my bad.

38
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:35pm

TEN-PIT, written now because I didn't send an email about it for Audibles:
While the Titans had all 3 timeouts remaining, they would have had to stop the clock four times, as Ward's reception gave the Steelers a first down. Assuming Ward goes down and the Titans call TO with 1:05 left and each play takes :05, second down begins with 1:00 left (1 TOL), 3rd down with :55 left (TEN out of TO), and the Steelers kick the FG after taking a TO with :11 left. Assuming, say, the chance Jeff Reed hits a 30 yard FG is 85%, the Steelers' P(win) is probably about 92%. For Ward to have not gone down, even if he scores a TD that play, the Titans' chance of scoring a TD can't be any higher than 15%. With 1:00 and 3 TOL, and needing a TD, I'd bet it's higher than that.

94
by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 7:12pm

The Brian Westbrook kneeldown was a once-in-a-great-while play, which seems to have spawned some unfortunate theorizing that as part of the football chess match, players in certain situations should lay down on the field if the clock situation dictates -- like it is as clearcut as "don't intercept the ball on 4th down 40 yards downfield" or "don't run out of bounds in the last two minutes". Doubt they coach guys to think about clock-related kneeldowns, regardless of whether it makes sense in some situations. Context is everything here, and I don't think Ward laying down was something he could realistically be expected to do in the context of that play where he catches it at the 19, turns around and sees a better than 50 percent chance at paydirt. I also don't think he'd have definitely scored, as if the karate chop hadn't dislodged the ball, it spun him around/stopped his momentum.

Anyway, none of that matters. What he should not have done was drop the ball or carry it like a loaf of bread. He should have moved it to a two hand grip earlier (he is trying to do that as it is chopped). If he covers the ball, he either gets in (which I think gives Tenn very little chance to tie with a minute left) or he doesn't, which likely gets Pitt the FG or running TD win. If you want to criticize Ward, that's the reason imo.

Do agree that Ward is probably as close to a Favre in media love as a WR is likely to get.

30
by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:05pm

"Note to the Cleveland-Minnesota announcers:

1. That thing the Browns run with Josh Cribbs in the shotgun isn’t a Wildcat. It's called "Flash." We’ll send you that chapter in the FO Almanac."

Was this just meant as a joking plug for the book? Each offense has their own terminology, but that dosn't mean the "Flash" package isn't a Wilcat formation. The Niners run a similiar formation but call it the "Taser", it's still the Wildcat.

32
by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:09pm

The image of Leon Hall knocking up a football is simply disturbing.

35
by dianagram :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:19pm

Did anyone happen to notice that in a new commercial, Sprint CEO touts being able to talk to folks on other networks, but he's standing in Guggenheim, where use of phone is probably frowned upon. OY!

87
by greybeard :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 6:37pm

What I noticed is Sprint must be doing significantly better financially. They can afford to shoot their commercials in color now.

39
by JasonK :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:43pm

On KC-BAL:

- The only reason I watched this game was because DAL-TB was my other option, and I hate watching the Cowboys win. The Flacco-to-McGahee TD Doug mentioned was indeed impressive. Ray Rice ran well, too. KC was only ever in this game because of a blocked punt TD and an INT return that gave them the ball at the 6.

On WAS-NYG:

- I like Jason Campbell, and I think he still isn't much help from his teammates, but that INT he threw, while 3 yards over the LOS, was just a terrible play. It had a chance if Moss hadn't given up on his route, and Corey Webster did make a fantastic toe-tap catch, but how confused does a QB have to be to make that pass?

- The big difference between this year's and last year's Giants-Skins season openers: Haynesworth helped the Skins hold Jacobs to 2.9 ypc.

- Due to injury to Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery, undrafted rookie 5th CB Bruce Johnson was on the field for probably half the snaps as the nickel corner. He did very well, mostly matching up with Malcolm Kelly on the outside while Terrell Thomas moved to the slot over Randle El. Not the toughest of assignments, but he kept his man very quiet.

- Thomas, though, didn't have a fabulous game. Covering quicker slot WRs isn't his forte (Dockery and Ross are the team's best slot CBs), and ARE was the 'Skins most successful WR.

- Corey Webster: Still very good.

- London Fletcher: Still very good. One of the most underrated defenders in the league.

- The Giants LBs: Still very slow. All of them are vulnerable in coverage and an easy pickup when they blitz. Chase Blackburn did well filling in at the WLB spot yesterday, but he's the prototypical low-ceiling, high-floor, slow, white backup LB. Hopefully Michael Boley can get up to speed on the system quickly after missing all of camp. And hopefully Clint Sintim can get healthy and start displacing starting SLB Danny Clark from time to time. He may make some rookie mistakes, but he'll also make some TEs and RBs worry about being able to block him when he rushes the passer.

84
by Quincy :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 6:26pm

I'll second that assessment of the Was-Giants game. Aaron was right in saying that both teams looked like they did last year. That's bad news for Washington, whose hopes of winning the NFC East depend on one of two things happening: Haynesworth turning an already good defense into a dominant one, or the passing game improving to the point where they can consistently score in the mid-20s and not the teens. It's only one game, but so far the defense still isn't dominant. Definitely tough to run on, but couldn't stop the short-to-intermediate passing game, and thus couldn't get off the field. As far as the passing game goes, I can't tell if it's Campbell, the young wrs or the play calling that deserves the blame. So far, they don't look improved.

Giants looked a lot like they did at the beginning of last year. Eli was a bit more accurate than usual, but as Bill said, a lot of that had to do with him having all day on some of those throws. Defense will be hard to run on, will bring the heat against the pass, and get burnt a fair amount when they don't get there. Offense will depend on the run and the intermediate passing game. Hopefully they can continue to get big plays from Manningham after the catch, because Eli still isn't hitting the deep ball. My biggest concern would be that if they're not going to produce big plays, it is imperative they improve in the red zone.

41
by Led :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:50pm

"Before we decide to crown Mark Sanchez's ass, I would like to see him play a defense that is not Houston. For example, the touchdown pass to Chansi Stuckey was not some kind of incredible pass decision. The Texans completely blew the coverage and left Stuckey wide open."

Hee, hee. Aaron gets grumpy when reality fails to conform to his model! Given the sick numbers Sanchez had on 3rd down, his DVOA is going to be pretty high despite the weak opponent. Clearly this is just one game and Sanchez has plenty of time to suck down the road. But DVOA is going to crown his ass, at least for this one game.

42
by DavidL :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:53pm

DVOA doesn't exist yet, because there are no defensive trends to factor in for the "Defense-Adjusted" part. VOA will crown his ass, but nobody should take VOA against the Texans defense seriously anyway.

51
by Led :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:37pm

Doesn't Aaron use projected defensive DVOA at this point in the season to make opponent adjustments?

58
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:58pm

No. He uses projected DVOA to ajust early-season team VOA (and calls it DAVE), but he does not adjust individual VOA based on that yet.

43
by MJK :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 12:54pm

VOA may crown him, but DVOA this early in the season doesn't really say much of anything, positive or negative, since there's no real data to correct for the quality of the Houston defense.

45
by idembsky :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:04pm

Okay, so this is the wayback machine a bit, but can someone tell me why Tennessee didn't Coaches' Challenge on either of the following two major plays:

1. The awesome Polumalu interception. The receiver clearly touched Polumalu as they were on the way to the ground, but the refs let Troy get up and run for 20+ yards on the return. With the score still low, that 20 yards was a big deal- He was down by contact.

2. (And this is probably more important than #1): Bo Scaife takes a shot to the knees, and fumbles the ball away. But the replay clearly showed that the ground caused the fumble out of his hands, and his hand only hit the ground because of the hit from the defender. Why didn't Tennessee challenge?!? They also had a full commercial break to think about it because of the injury to Scaife, so I must've missed something...

53
by Travis :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:42pm

There's no such thing as "the ground can't cause a fumble." It's more like "the runner can't fumble after he's down."

A runner is only considered down by contact if, under rule 7-4-1-e, "the runner is contacted by a defensive player and he touches the ground with any part of his body except his hands or feet."

Because only Scaife's hands had hit the ground at the time of the fumble, he was not yet down.

54
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:45pm

1. I didn't notice this when the play happened, but any contact Britt had before the Polamalu had control doesn't count, and I'm not sure from the internet replay that Britt actually does make control after Polamalu had control, especially if the ruling is that Polamalu didn't have control until after he came to the ground. Is moving PIT from the 20 back to the 5 or so a worthwhile use of a challenge, when it's close like that? I'm not sure.

2. Scaife wasn't down when he went to the ground and fumbled, so any challenge was a sure loser. "The ground can't cause a fumble" is a misnomer here.

64
by glengarry :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:12pm

as a hopeless Titans fan, and zealous foe of Steelers reffing bias, I can tell you I watched the Britt / Polumalu play about twenty times... and I just can't say I'm certain Britt was still touching him after the ball arrived, or that he got him on the way down. So I expect that's exactly what Britt told Fisher et al.

65
by MJK :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:12pm

I thought about both your points, but I think a challenge in both cases would have lost. And I think I'm pretty unbiased in this case (I strongly dislike the Titans, but root against Pittsburgh whenever possible because they usually end up as a rival of the Patriots).

1. From the replay I saw, it looked like Polumalu was touched BEFORE he had clear possession of the ball. I didn't see a touch occur when he was on the ground after he had possession...it looked to me like the two players had rolled clear of each other by then. In any case, it was very close, and if the challenge is close, I can't see the utility in risking a timeout, and, more importantly, 1-2 challenges (because of the stupid rule about getting a third challenge iff you get the first two right) in a close defensive football game over a matter of 20 yards. Maybe if Polumalu had run it back for a TD, but not for just a slight change in field position. Remember, the value of a challenge is highest early in the game.

2. The Scaife one would have been a better challenge...it did look very close to "down" before the fumble, and obviously a change of possession is a bigger deal than 20 yards of field position. However, as another poster pointed out, the "ground can't cause a fumble" maxim is not actually true...it's "you can't cause a fumble after you're down", and the ball touching the ground renders you down. However, you're hand touching the ground does not. It was not clear at all to me when I watched the replay if the ball touched the ground and was knocked out, or if Scaife's hand holding the ball touched the ground and that jolted the ball out--in fact, if I had to pick one, I think the latter case looked slightly more likely in which case it is indeed a fumble. Given that you need overwhelming evidence to overturn a ruling on the field, the Titans likely would have lost the challenge because it was impossible to tell that the ball clearly touched the ground before coming out.

80
by Geo B :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 3:41pm

Disclaimer - Steeler fan who watched closely on the new 52" LCD in hi-def ;-)

1 - The Tennessee receiver pushed off before Polamalu had the ball. Pretty clearly was not touched a) once he had the ball and b) while he was down. Incredible pick.
2 - He dropped the ball from the pain, was not down - no elbows or knees touching. Sorry to hear that Scaife thought it was a cheap shot, nice that Jeff Fisher (former defensive back) thought it was clean.

Steeler fan trapped in Houston!
Six Time SB Champs! ;-)

46
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:10pm

Wierd moment in the niners game when Singletary called a timeout and gave a speech to his defense in the middle of the field. It seemed to really light a fire under the whole team though it is possible that the biggest effect was that it gave the defense another minute and a half to recover after looking very tired. It did seems to be a turning point in the game.

47
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:16pm

I am about to become a 49er fan for the first time since Montana played for them. Singletary has no phoniness, or at least that is how it appears from a distance, and guys seem to respond by playing very, very, hard. What's not to root for?

62
by jebmak :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:05pm

Agreed. I really like Singletary.

I would totally secondarily root for them if I didn't have money on the Seahawks or Rams winning the division.

Hopefully next year.

76
by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:58pm

Wow, do you have money on the Lions winning the Central too?

121
by jebmak :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 12:31pm

Don't think that I didn't consider it.

...

Actually, I hate the Lions and it would take what I would consider overwhelmingly good odds to do that.

It always makes me a little sick when I have to bet against my heart.

79
by Independent George :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 3:18pm

Plus, you have to root for a coach who might take off his pants in any given moment. If he just hired that guy from the Lions who drove to Wendy's naked, this would clearly be the greatest team of all time.

66
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:30pm

Yeah, it makes me wonder why more coaches don't use timeouts that way -- when your defense is gassed and demoralized, give them a break and a pep talk.

By far the most disappointing thing about this game was the way the coaching staff failed to adjust in their offensive play calling. The Cardinals must have read some articles that has Raye wanting to run 60% of the time, and they played the run hard. We had less than one yard per run. But except for one drive passing, we didn't respond very well...we kept trying to run even though it was doing nothing except putting us in bad positions.

This was the way Nolan would play, too...playing not to lose. It's ugly and stupid.

70
by Jimmy :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:41pm

What I found strange was that the Niners ran a few power sweeps early in the game with their guards pulling and the Cards front three just kept shooting the gaps that opened up in front of them and burying the ball carrier. They were also lining Gabe Watson up at the strongside DE which stopped Vernon Davis from sealing the edge, he may be very strong for a TE but he isn't going to stop a 330+lbs DT. The Niners ran quite well when they just ran straight up the gut but would then go back to pulling their guards and the Cards just kept lining up in slanted fronts and just running through the gaps. Gameplans and variety are good things but you have to go with the stuff that will actually work.

48
by nat :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:21pm

Aaron said:
Why would you quick-snap to catch the other team with 12 men on the field if you have fourth-and-11? Even IF you get the penalty, you are going to put on fourth-and-6!

I think this has been said elsewhere, but the idea is that you are getting a free attempt to get a first down. A quick-snap to the punter isn't worth very much in this case, although it does give the punt returner two tries to muff a punt.

All bets are off if you delay the "quick" snap to allow the extra man to get off the field.

So the fault wasn't the concept of the quick snap, but the slow execution. You simply cannot afford to get this wrong on fourth down.

83
by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 6:22pm

I'm not sure if you are suggesting they were trying to get a free punt play; the snap went to the blocking back who tried to run for the first down. They were trying to get a free running play. Had the 12th player still been on the field, it would have been legitimate. But you are correct: the snapper had better be really sure he gets his free play in that situation.

Not sure how Aaron missed the benefit if the Bears get a first down on the play. Good long-snappers and good football writers are each prone to the occasional brain cramp.

135
by nat :: Thu, 09/17/2009 - 12:44pm

Sorry, I wasn't clear, and haven't been back for a while.

I was suggesting that to be useful, the quick snap had to be to the blocking back. The benefit of a quick snap to a punter is too small to be worth the effort.

49
by shake n bake :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:32pm

Mike Kurtz: "...is there just something about returners?"

Foot speed and IQ have a negative correlation.

56
by Flounder :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:53pm

Barbre's problem is that he's dumb as a post, and I think in the excitement of his first NFL start, on national TV no less, he just completely lost his head. Obviously his performance in training camp / preseason was much better than we saw last night. I think the coaches will give him one more game to work it out. If he flops again, I'm not sure what they'll do. They could go with Giacomini, who lost to Barbre in the preseason. They could go with rookie TJ Lang, a smart guy who already knows three positions (LG, RG, RT), or they could give Tauscher a call.

57
by PDR Vet (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:53pm

Ah, yes. Good to see FO continue the tradition of commenting on Dallas' games without ever mentioning any play by the Cowboys. I know they didn't play like worldbeaters but really, nothing to comment on?

60
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:04pm

None of the FO staff is a Cowboys fan, so they don't tend to watch the Cowboys closely. I'm a Redskins fan, I get the same thing most of the time.

72
by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:43pm

Just cutting and pasting the intro every time someone whines about something like this this year.

Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Raiders fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

82
by !!! (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 6:11pm

This site has always been super annoying with its defensiveness (see also: the DVOA disclaimers). You can just ignore comments, you know, you don't have to take things stupid trolls say personally.

On a side note, you forgot to bold part of your stupid disclaimer this time. How will I know what to focus on in this bit?!

92
by Insancipitory :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 6:47pm

Read it?

86
by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 6:35pm

Speaking of which, I read that for the very first time, over the past 3 or 4 years or whatever, that I've read audibles nearly every week. I had already gotten the idea, and I had known that, but for some reason I actually read it this time, at the top, and not this reference here.

So you guys really use e-mail for all this? Wouldn't instant messenger be easier? I dunno, just a thought.

73
by Temo :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:49pm

My experience has always been that the FO staff does a fair amount of Cowboys coverage in audibles for not having any fans on staff.

Also, it's a general rule that you can't complain "X was not covered adequately in audibles", since audibles is just a group-stream-of-consciousness thing and not subject to ensuring complete coverage.

102
by FullMoonOverTulsa (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 12:17am

The games get covered, but if Dallas plays well and wins, there is no comment on their play.

We have all read the disclaimer - the coverage of the Cowboys remains highly selective.

Note in this case that the Cowboys didn't block the FG - the passive voice is used.

59
by dave ringman (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 1:59pm

Aaron Said "We're seeing a good example tonight of why Ben Roethlisberger, for all his talents, is NOT better than a guy like Philip Rivers"

Keep telling yourself that Aaron. Keep Telling yourself that. lmao

61
by southpaw (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:05pm

Julius Jones, early frontrunner for TD celebration of the year.

Loving the "Audibles on Campus" look. Keep it up guys.

63
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:11pm

I saw the same thing Tim saw on Finnegan's return Thursday night: the Titan who chugged merrily down the field past the oncoming offensive player. I think it's that the teammates of the returner like to run downfield with him ... do defenses practice blocking on returns? Doesn't seem like they would much, if at all, so unless you're part of a kick coverage team, or played offense in college/high school/whatever, it might not even occur to you to block the next guy you see.

There was also some lack of rules awareness on the part of announcers with respect to the pass interference/out of bounds play in a game I don't recall. Receiver is pushed out of bounds, makes the catch before getting both feet back in bounds, scores TD. Play is reviewed, official makes correct call (receiver did not re-establish himself with both feet prior to making catch, incomplete pass, PI will be enforced at spot of foul), and at that point I think the announcers realized it could have been a legal catch. Even Andrew Siciliano forgot that you can come back in and catch a ball (if you were forced out).

I think Shockey's second catch was a touchdown: on the replay, you can see him crossing his left leg over his right to touch his left foot down, and I believe that happened prior to butt-ground contact. Might as well give it to him, jack up his fantasy value for some poor sod who's going to pick him up because he's on "pace" for 32 TD receptions this season.

Re double fouls: according to the 2006 rule book (the most recent I can find online for free), double fouls offset unless a) one of them is a 15-yard penalty and the other is a 5-yard penalty, in which case it's the only one enforced (this is the 5-15 rule they put in years ago) or b) one or both involve disqualification. People are always disqualified when an appropriate penalty is called, except that as we saw in the Giants-Redskins game, appropriate penalties are not always called. (Note that for part a, it's the class of penalty, not the actual yardage, so if the 15-yard penalty would actually be half the distance, it's still the only one enforced.) Look for rule 14, section 3, article 1 for details.

I would guess that pass interference offsets because it is a spot foul.

Also, I'm glad that Audibles are back. Yay football season!

100
by Jerry :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 10:37pm

Braylon Edwards was the receiver who didn't reestablish himself inbounds.

109
by bengt (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 7:16am

... do defenses practice blocking on returns?
Jugding from the Steelers' D at the end of the first half of SB XLIII, yes.

120
by DMC :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 12:28pm

There was a comment on this in the America's Game for the 2008 Steelers. Tomlin saw them being lazy about returning interceptions in practice. To push the point home he also said, "the Tampa defense returned 3 for touchdowns in their Superbowl.. that was a great defense".

68
by Duke :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:37pm

I feel bad for Patrick Mannelly...he's actually a good LS, and has been for several years. He clearly shouldn't have been making that call, but that's the first mistake of his I can recall. But you know, these guys will only get noticed for mistakes...

75
by Independent George :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 2:58pm

The best part of having Dungy as a head is we finally get part of the Manning chicken dance decoded. I think he said the slant-and-go route was the original play call, but Manning audibled the play fake, then called out Wayne and pointed to the linebacker to sell the fake. Since the slant portion of the sluggo looks like he's coming in to block, the route actually helped sell the play fake.

The lesson for opposing DBs? Peyton Manning is a lying liar. Don't believe anything he says, especially if he's pointing right at you while he's saying it.

81
by Bobman :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 3:50pm

Wait wait wait... Are you saying Dungy gave away PROPRIETARY SECRETS on TV?

I am stunned. And if I were named Polian, Manning, or Caldwell, I'd be making an irate phone call pretty damn soon.

(That's the Colt fan in me griping. As a football fan in general, that's pretty cool insight to have. I wonder how Manning bluffs at poker.... the arms start flapping, a couple head nods, and everybody folds. "Damn! I Did it again!")

108
by AB (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 6:51am

But presumably that is Dungy's diagnosis based on the formations, the signals and having seen the play actually run? Surely the chicken dance must change from week-to-week? It can't still be the same as it was last year?

78
by Jimmy :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 3:14pm

I nearly avoided this thread because I suspected I would find post after post of Vikings and Packers fans howling with derision about Cutler and his extra special Rexilicious performance last night. I guess sometimes shooting fish in a barrel is too easy.

One thing I would say is Des Clark played like complete crap. He is supposed to be the veteran guy who does everything right but did pretty much everything wrong last night. Collingsworth pinned the blame for the second pick on him but the TV cameras never showed a replay that showed why, it only showed Cutler throwing the ball to three Packers. Then when he stopped in the endzone he allowed Bibgy to prevent what whould have been an easy touchdown. On the next play John Jolly pulls off his fat man playing the ball routine and the Bears are tackling defenders when they should have been kicking the extra point.

Terrible understanding all day between Cutler and just about every Bears target with the exception of Hester. Is this going to improve or is it a symptom of Ron Turner? Any guesses. The strange thing is that when the Bears traded for Cutler the talk was all about how the Bears didn't have any WRs but the TEs and RB would help in the passing game. First game and the first three WRs combine for 13 catches for 238 yards and the TEs and RBs combine for 4 catches for 39 yards. Huh? Were the Packers emphasising coverage on backs and TEs?

As for Cutler, Aaron has it right, the sight of him fuming and griping as he turned redder and redder with steam coming out of his ears was somewhat unispiring. My brother said that we had a chance to win when the Bears got the ball back at the end of the game but I took one look at Cutler as saw he was so wound up that he was just going to throw another pick. Lo and behold pick number four. The guy really needs to calm down, I am left wondering if this could be a blood sugar problem? Or is that bad of me?

88
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 6:38pm

Jimmy, I was going to make a crack about The Sexy One being available for two first round picks, but then I envisioned a crack about Gus Frerotte being available for 12 million, after a future similar performance by The Jeans Model, and thought I'd just shut up.

When Cutler was traded, I was really critical of the Broncos, if they indeed lied to him, but then I made some people angry when I noted that there were some stories circulating that indicated that Cutler may not be the most mature guy to be making huge financial commitments to, given the position he plays. Now, I truly do expect him to be a good qb for the Bears, but I also think his temprement is one of his weaknesses. I saw the guy in the post game press conference, and he wasn't exactly a study in leadership, albeit from what could only be gleaned in a superficial way.

Now, maybe he has the complete respect of his teammates, and winning really does solve anything, but just as Favreophobia will spread like a fungus if the Vikings get off to a bad start while Favre plays mediocre, behavior like which Cutler displayed is going to make things really toxic if the Bears get off to a rough start and Cutler's play doesn't improve mightily from last night. Neither guy has any good will built up to draw on if things don't start o.k., and I don't think either guy is temprementally suited for a hostile locker room or media environment.

90
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 6:42pm

So you are saying Favre is an old coot AND he doesn't tuck in his shirt?

Man oh man.

89
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 6:40pm

Cutler will be fine.

Every QB coughs up a hairball once in a while. Because this is his debut with the Bears, on national television, everything about Cutler's performance has been grossly overanalyzed. "4 INT's" is a catchy headline but should ultimately be of not much significance in the forecast of his performance this season and beyond. If you are really worried about Cutler's mannerisms, watch Peyton's abject failures earlier this decade in the playoffs in the Meadowlands and Foxboro.

There have been many performances equally embarrassing or worse this week. They are what they are, a week's performance. On one hand, the Texans offense is probably going to be similar to last years depite yesterday. On the other the Chiefs are still a talent poor roster. Delhomme is raising serious concerns. Again, nothing has changed much.

95
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 7:18pm

loneweasel, when your team has double digit wins for multiple consecutive years, nobody really cares much about anything else. Maybe the Bears will win a lot of games, and if they do, nothing else matters. Lots of stuff, including how you behave towards other people, matters when you lose a lot of games, and that stuff makes a difference with regard to how much slack the highest paid player is given. Go ahead and ridicule the notion by writing as if I was commenting merely on Cutler's dress, but that really isn't the case.

The highest paid guy on a team has leadership responsibilities, especially a qb, and believe it or not, how a person interacts with other human beings quite often gives insight as to a person's ability or willingness to fufill those responsibilities. Yes, yes, I know it's a ridiculous notion.

98
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 7:40pm

If you think you know a quaterback's leadership qualities by watching network television or if you spread rumors your imaginative friend told you, people make fun of your intellectual sounding philosophical lectures.

And that is not a ridiculous notion.

103
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 12:23am

"My imaginative friend" made the statement publicly, where it was heard by a lot of people, and has not been asked to retract it. I said at the time that I didn't know if it was true, which is why I prefaced my remarks with the word "if". I also have heard such crazy people, well-known for running their mouths without basis, like Tony Dungy, say they have reason to question his leadership skills.

Yes, yes, I know, it is absolutely crazy to think that Cutler may have flaws. Jay Cutler is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being you've ever known in your life.

104
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 12:47am

Of course a public statement to a lot of imaginary people would not need a retraction.

And kudos to you for keeping a straight face citing Tony Dungy questioning a quarterback's character.

116
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 11:28am

Yeah, that Dungy; he's really well known for hyperbole and making negative remarks that have no basis.

Instead of implying that I am lying, please have enough integrity to say so forthrightly. Also, name the charity that you wish to donate $100 to, after I establish that it is you who have run your keyboard without basis. I'll even extend to you the benefit of the doubt, and assume you aren't the type to duck a commitment.

Alternatively, I'd be happy to pretend in the future that you aren't present in this forum, if you would extend the same courtesy to me.

123
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 1:54pm

You know, Will, we humans all have committed idiocies. No matter how hard you try, if those mistakes are funny enough, you just can't wish away people picking on them. The only thing to do is to have a sense of humor and take the reaming.

It's not quite as funny as
"Tommorrow we'll drink coffee in Huesca."
"We are taking the wind in overtime."
"We are only going to score 17 points?",
but "He didn't tuck in his shirt on the golf course!" is pretty close, especially since it's made up.

124
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 2:08pm

Ya' know, weasel, your dishonesty, as stupid as it is, isn't all that humorous.

125
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 2:18pm

Come on, what happened to the psuedo-intellectual tone and strawman arguments?

Name-calling is so passe.

126
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 2:35pm

O.K., O.K., you win the World Irony Championship, even if only unintentionally. Now, if it makes you feel better, you can have the last reply, and I'll be happy to not interact with you again, if you can resist doing so.

106
by ammek :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 4:17am

Packer fan here, howling with nothing at all. The Pack had a 3-0 lead in turnovers and was still trailing in the fourth quarter. The unveiling of its new, supposedly improved offensive line was a damp squib. Rodgers did outplay Cutler in the end, but more or less by default. Not much to howl about.

I didn't see a player on the Bears' offense who had a better game than Cutler, except for maybe Devin Hester. Cutler made some throws that Kyle Orton never would have: the TD to Hester, or the long pass to Johnny Knox, where Cutler faked out Charles Woodson, who was over-eager to get his name on the interceptions chart. Cutler showed better touch and accuracy than Rodgers (or Grossman in years past), but had difficulty reading the defense and made some impetuous decisions.

Yes, I think the Packers were covering backs and TEs: Bigby stayed in the box for most of the game, and Woodson could be found shadowing Greg Olsen at times. However, the Bears also seemed to keep their tight ends in to block more than usual — the Chicago offensive line stank at least as badly as Green Bay's, and Cutler did not deal with it at all well. The only sensible knock on Cutler is that his numbers (especially sacks) were inflated by the outstanding line he had in Denver. He may have to re-learn how to handle constant pressure.

There was a lot of trash being talked — as always in this rivalry — and perhaps that explains the thundering temper tantrum. But on this evidence Bears fans should be more worried about the line than Tony Dungy's Cutlerphobia.

113
by Jimmy :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 10:00am

I forced myself to go back and have another look at the game (or at least the bit that recorded properly). What seems odd to me was how disjointed the Bears offense seems to be. The running game operated as though the linemen had only just met before the game and the play calling seemed pretty erratic (although a great deal of that may have been Cutler not being able to see properly because of the steam coming out of his ears). When the hell is Ron Turner going to take his middle screen of doom out of the playbook? It has to have been responsible for three or four picks over the last couple of years and no good plays. In between all this Cutler did make some amazing throws (and not just the deep balls to Hester and Knox) to go with all his drek.

The defense got pressure from the front four although the only Packers lineman to play particularly well was Clifton. I thought the Packers could have done more to try to help Barbre by chipping Ogunleye, Barbre hand placement seemed to be his biggest problem most times he got abused he had given up all his leverage with his first attempt to punch.

I thought the Pack's front seven did a good job on the whole but I was probabaly most suprised by Jolly who consistently shot gaps and then pulled off a great pick. It is difficult to say who played well in the secondary for the Packers as when Cutler threw the ball to the Bears the DBs didn't look all that clever but did look good when he threw the ball to the Packers. I know that is a pretty dumb comment but I guess it comes down to the Packers defense having better communication as a group than the Bears offense. I would say that Al Harris looks quite a bit worse when he can't manhandle receivers off the line. The group as a whole did a decent job without either of the first round picks contributing much which has to bode well for depth purposes later in the year although it might beg the question as to whether or not Thompson needed to trade back up to take Matthews.

119
by ammek :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 11:59am

Ah ha! McCarthy's own middle screen of doom is not then the worst play in the NFL. For it has led to many a 4-yard gain on third-and-ten but never, as far as I can remember, to a pick. I thought we might be spared seeing it Sunday as a) it didn't work once in dozens of attempts last year, and b) its main target, Brandon Jackson, was injured. Yet DeShawn Wynn cameoed with a one-yard reception on third-and-long. Bravo!

I thought Harris played well. He's not the speediest any more so McCarthy kept him well away from Hester, and that meant playing a couple of yards off Earl Bennett and giving up a bunch of eight-yard receptions. The pick was vintage Harris, and Cutler should have seen him coming.

There were plenty of communication problems in the Packers' secondary, which wasn't too surprising given the new defense. Nick Collins blamed cramps for Hester's td but it looked as if he'd misread the play even before he slowed up. He and Atari Bigby were in and out of the lineup, so the Packers remained in the nickel for most of the game. Hence Matthews played more than half of the snaps. It's too early to second-guess Thompson's trade-up but it was widely viewed as insurance in case Aaron Kampman decides that covering tight ends is not for him and chooses to test the market in the offseason.

132
by Jimmy :: Wed, 09/16/2009 - 7:55am

Collins can claim what he likes, the Pack got caught in a cover 2 defense against a flanker runnning a streak. Hester ran a good route by not allowing himself to slide towards the sideline giving Cutler the room to fit the ball into the gap between the WR and the sideline. Bad luck on the playcall really there aren't many SS who would have been able to get there in time, when you have WRs as fast as Hester that kind of thing can happen (unless Rex Grossman is your QB). I think Hester is going to keep scoring long TDs until the ridiculous meme that he can't play WR goes away.

I wasn't trying to slag off Thompson about Matthews, it just seemed so unlike TT to trade up in the draft. When I heard the Pack were moving to a 3-4 I was pretty chuffed as I didn't think they had the linemen to play two gap. When I heard Capers defense is a one gap (thanks FOA) I started to get worried and it turns out I was right. I forgot to watch for how the Pack lined up on passing downs (ie where Kampman lined up and how many linemen stayed on the field) did you notice much?

As for who has the worst middle screen of doom, I say it has to be the Bears because we try to run it to Des Clark which has to be up there with the dumbest plays in football.

133
by Arkaein :: Wed, 09/16/2009 - 12:39pm

On passing downs GB mostly plays a 4-2-5 Nickel. This allows Kampman to line up in his more familiar LDE spot. They also move Jenkins inside to provide a better interior pass rush.

134
by Jimmy :: Wed, 09/16/2009 - 2:21pm

Cheers. I was too busy desperately hoping that someone would slip some mogadon into Cutler's Gatorade to calm him down to notice what the Packers were doing on defense.

131
by Dan :: Wed, 09/16/2009 - 12:01am

What I liked about Cutler was that he managed to turn things around in the 2nd half and play pretty well. Up until the game-ending interception, he was 9/13 for 150 yards, 1 td, 0 int, and with 1 sack. He'd led the team to scores on 3 of their 4 possessions. When Evil Rex started a game, he stayed evil until the end; Cutler wasn't like that on Sunday. I'm worried about his emotions, though - at the start of the game here and in Denver, and at the end here, he did not seem under control.

93
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 6:51pm

Sanchez is due for some serious (and painful) regression no matter what defenses he faces the rest of the season. Every media outlet has been excited by his ridiculous third down performance. I'm surprised FO didn't touch on this.

I think the Lewin projection is garbage so I have no preconceived notions on how good Sanchez will be. But even if he is a clutch god he's not going to convert that many lucky third-and-long's. Though he did show some very nice pocket mobility which we saw glimpses of at USC but not that often.

105
by ammek :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 4:00am

I don't watch college football so I'd never seen Sanchez before on anything but a highlight reel. He may not keep converting on third down, but I guarantee he will lead the league in rookie quarterback swagger and endless pump-faking. It's like a popmobility class out there: he never stops! It was particularly ridiculous to watch him set his feet then pump, swagger his shoulders, shuffle, pump again, and then throw the horrible interception that led to the Texans' touchdown. It was like watching an adolescent grooving soulfully to whatever is on his iPod, which turns out to be Jessica Simpson.

97
by Jon :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 7:31pm

I've had it up to here with Kevin Gilbride and his cute playcalling. Every Giants game is exactly the same: they look great on the scripted opening drive, then flounder around for two quarters before pulling away late.

BTW, brilliant performance by Corey Webster. Good to see Chief Osi back in action too.

101
by Quincy :: Mon, 09/14/2009 - 11:44pm

Couldn't agree more. I complain about Gilbride every Sunday. I'm probably unfair to him most of the time, as play calling is the easiest scapegoat when the offense stalls. Still, Eli was picking the Skins apart on the first few drives, but then they went away from those intermediate passes until the 4th quarter. And I'm pretty sure on separate 3rd-and-1s the Giants ran a toss to Jacobs and a misdirection pitch to Bradshaw. Both were stupid.

115
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 10:32am

I don't understand how Gilbride or either Turner is still coaching in the NFL. At least on the head coach/offensive coordinator level. Is the bar that low? Just because someone has done a job in the past does not make them an expert. Yet these guys get hired time and again.

118
by Anonguy :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 11:54am

On the Pryor grounding, he airmailed it into fourth row, so unless Carter (forget his first name, don't want to be rude and call him Chris Carter's kid) grew wings and flew up to get it, he wasn't in position to get it. Herbstreit nailed it when he noted there wasn't an SC defender with in a mile of the reciever, so that's a double dunce. Triple for pitching it away within the hashes, something Barkley did not do on either of the times he threw it away. You know, that mythical tackle box? Yeah, Barkley wasn't in that. Pryor took the snap, saw the rush and chucked it into the stratosphere. Though I will admit I was surprised they called the grounding, I don't really get the argument that since Barkley chucked a few away that weren't called, that suddenly a closer case in Pryor's has to be ignored.

tl;dr Ramblings from an SC fan

122
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 1:29pm

Hi everyone -- simple request. Don't call other commenters horribly inappropriate names. I'll delete your posts, and you'll have wasted 30 seconds of your life for nothing.

129
by Insancipitory :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 5:13pm

Not for nothing; someone was wrong on the internet!

/Serious business!

130
by Anonguy :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 7:28pm

inb4 link to xkcd

128
by Grant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/15/2009 - 3:52pm

"Bill Barnwell: And Tramon Williams proves why defensive touchdowns are random from year-to-year."

I know the % of INTs returned for touchdowns is random and mostly influenced by luck, but does any more analysis go into what happend after an INT?

For example the Packers had maybe 7 TDs off of INTs last year for 49 points. FO has pointed out that the league average is much lower and maybe only 2 of those should have been touchdowns (I probably have the exact numbers wrong)

In this game 2 INTs were taken to within 15 yards of a TD, and while on paper they are regressing to the mean, by not scoring touchdowns, the effect is similar in that one led to a 1 yd touchdown, while the other could have if not for the kneeldowns that ended the game.

I know its probably been covered but can someone recap?