Critical games this weekend in the Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC could go a long way in determining conference championships -- and maybe even playoff berths.
14 Dec 2009
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.)
Aaron Schatz: I just want to say Dr. Foreman looks really cold out there. My diagnosis is hypothermia.
Mike Tanier: I think everyone has passed out from boredom.
Josh Cribbs is really good. The Steelers are have problems with elementary blitz pickup, and I wouldn't make any long term plans if I were Bruce Arians
Tom Gower: Ben Roethlisberger has been fantastic at holding the ball and going down with it instead of escaping and finding an open receiver. I think the only time he's gotten away and made a play is on the FG drive at the end of the first half.
Aaron Schatz: I wish I knew what they fed the Cleveland defensive backs this morning because I've never, ever seen these guys cover this closely.
Doug Farrar: Well, I’ve seen a couple of uncalled armbar-ish plays on Pittsburgh receivers, and I wonder if the crews got a “lay off” note after the Green Bay-Baltimore game.
Aaron Schatz: OK, Pittsburgh, time to work on the offensive line.
Doug Farrar: To me, the defense is the story here. They’re not getting edge rush the way they used to, Farrior looks slow, the coverage in the fourth quarter of the Oakland game was an embarrassment – I’m not used to using the words “Dick LeBeau” and “average defense” this closely together.
Vince Verhei: Didn't catch much of this. From what I saw, Cleveland used a lot of 11 Angry Men defense to keep Pittsburgh confused (including Mike Furrey at safety again; has that been common?). But really, when you give up eight sacks in 40 dropbacks, you should lose.
I did love the announcers going crazy to praise Brady Quinn as the reason the Browns won. He had 61 yards on two completions; 29 yards on his other 17 throws. Just because he had no turnovers and his team won does NOT mean he played well, fellas.
They said on NFL Network that Cribbs' 87 rushing yards were all out of Wildcat formations. So he produced almost as many yards as Quinn, in about a quarter of their plays. He is their best quarterback!
Mike Tanier: Part of the "nobody getting open" was the play calls. The Steelers seemed to be running a bunch of little hook and stick routes, usually with Ward, Miller, and Wallace or somebody, with Holmes running deep. Against man coverage, the slower receivers got no separation on these routes, then had to turn and stop. Meanwhile, Big Ben was getting sacked while Holmes worked deep.
This happened a few times in the first and second quarter, and I kept wondering why they were calling these "zone-breaker" plays against a team running a lot of man. And why they were emptying the backfield against a team that likes to blitz from the outside. And why they always run from a single-back formation even though Mendenhall looks like an I-back based on his running style. And so on.
David Gardner: Just as I was about to type about how the Falcons are having a good defensive effort against the Saints in the first half, Meachem runs right by Christopher Owens for 42 yards. Basically, the Falcons were playing back and forcing Brees to check it down to Pierre Thomas. But the lack of pass rush that came with that defense led to the long completion.
Will Carroll: I just noticed that Drew Brees keeps looking up, as if he's reading the defense off the jumbotron rather than looking at it. I thought to myself "Smart. I wonder if there's a home field advantage to this, giving the guy the angles he wants." Then I realized the Saints are on the road. Still, it's an interesting concept.
Joe Buck just called a head shot of Sean Payton in the late-80s "dreamy."
This lack of pass rush is killing the Falcons. You can actually watch Drew Brees go through all of his reads when he is sitting back in the pocket. He's 19-of-21 for 212 yards and two touchdowns.
The Saints had a really sloppy drive, but everything seems to go right for them this season. Drew Brees threw an interception, but the officials called a very questionable pass interference. Then Reggie Bush fumbled on a stretch play, but fell on it himself for a loss on nine. Then, on third-and-19, Brees throws a simple screen to the Falcons -- who are playing man in an off-man coverage -- and they score.
Bill Barnwell: The Falcons just ran the "9 Velcro" play from Madden, rushing two and dropping nine, and Reggie Bush still got open on the edge for a first down.
The Saints go for a fake field goal and miss...
Bill Barnwell: I like the playcall -- I think it's reasonable considering you don't have a touchdown and can kill the game, and there's nobody expecting a fake there. But put Drew Brees, et al on the field and just go for it. Don't run a fake with Mark Brunell, who hasn't thrown a pass in anger in three years.
Falcons lose on a Brady-to-Faulk-esque one-yard throw on fourth-and-2. There wasn't really even a pass rush on Redman (although Charles Grant smacked him in the helmet after the throw); throw came out too early.
Aaron Schatz: I thought it was stupid when the Pats ran a two-yard pass on fourth-and-2, because they left themselves no room for error. But how on earth do you run a ONE-yard pass on fourth-and-1? It isn't like the Saints blitzed and left the middle open. There were two defenders sitting there. What the hell?
Mike Tanier: Once I looked at that Jason Snelling pass on fourth-and-1 a second time, I figured it wasn't that bad a call. He's coming out of the backfield behind a cluster of receivers. In most circumstances, no defender is going to get to him and make a clean hit. They may tackle him, but they aren't going to step up and knock him back the way Vilma did.
I didn't watch it a thousand times, but I am betting something tipped Vilma off that Snelling was the only intended receiver on the play. Remember that's not obvious from the formation or the pre-snap read: there are a thousand stick routes and crossing routes you can run in short yardage situations from a bunch formation.
Bill Barnwell: They also ran the same route to start the drive for 20 yards or so. Not sure if the look was any different.
Mike Tanier: Heh. Maybe that was the tip off.
Bill Barnwell: There is a big blue inflatable horse mascot in the tunnel in Indy. Is that new?
Tom Gower: The Colts have just marched down the field for two touchdowns in as many possessions. They're not ripping off huge chunks of yardage like they were in the playoff games when they picked on Roc Alexander or whatever else the Broncos were calling their DBs back then, but they're still looking close to unstoppable.
Bill Barnwell: The Broncos get stuffed on a fourth-and-1 at midfield when they run a slow-developing stretch. Gary Brackett has time to get around the entire pile and pick up Moreno in the backfield.
Joseph Addai also just managed to juke out a defensive end despite standing totally still. Not sure how that happened.
Tom Gower: Ah, the continuing adventures of Dan Fouts. He was very annoyed that Josh McDaniels would defer after winning the coin toss, because "it gives Peyton Manning an extra possession." He also declared that, after Ayers pressured Peyton, that lots of former college teammates were playing, like those two and Dumervil and Addai at Louisville. Uh, Joseph went to LSU.
Oh, and he didn't mention anything about how just maybe Ayers' pressure on Peyton had to do with him being blocked by Dallas Clark and not an actual offensive lineman.
Doug Farrar: Peyton Manning would like Ricky Williams' turnover luck. He's thrown two interceptions, and both have been picked off tip drills by Brian Dawkins. The second one hit Champ Bailey right in the facemask before it flew up in the air.
With 11:40 left in the game, Brandon Marshall has 18 catches. T.O.’s Jerry Rice Day record of 20 is in serious danger.
Aaron Schatz: How is he getting them all? I saw a bunch of quick hitches when I was watching the game; are they all against one corner? One particular side of the field? One particular route?
Tom Gower: And the TD to make it 21-16 was #20 to tie the record. Only 192 yards, but he's really wrecking some days in PPR leagues. I haven't been paying much attention to that game since it went to 21-0, but he's a matchup problem for the Colts' corners and a good fit for Orton's short pass game.
Doug Farrar: The 20th was just a jump ball over the 5-8 Tim Jennings. I think that’s right next to Springs covering Smith deep in the new book, “Defective Defensive Concepts”.
Will: Colts were beat up - at one point both Lacey and Powers were out and Bethea shifted to corner. He was getting killed, but wasnt much else they could do. Talk after that was that Pierre Garcon was the next available CB.
Mike Tanier: The Broncos threw lots and lots of little slants to Marshall, trying to isolate him against one corner, or another, or the backups. In the second half, Lacey, Powers, and the backups did a good job of holding him to a lot of very short receptions. On one play, near the goalline, they threw to him across the middle, and I wondered why. Why not isolate him on the edge against a rookie/backup, instead of having him cut across the middle, where he had to deal with the linebackers in Cover-2? Sure enough, he was tackled for a short gain.
Will: I don't watch the Broncos enough, but it seems like D.J. Williams is a dirty player. He made a couple really late hits, slugged both Addai and Manning in the head (one of which Fouts noted), and seemed to be jawing with lots of guys including his own team. That head punch has to be something the NFL is watching for with the head trauma discussions.
Doug Farrar: The Texans open up the game with Matt Schaub going deep to Andre Johnson, who beats Marcus Trufant for a 60-yard touchdown. You hear a lot about Trufant’s pass interference penalties. My concern is not that Trufant is racking up penalties at a dizzying rate. My concern is that he has no trail speed anymore, and the Seahawks consider him a #1 corner.
Vince Verhei: You can now add a blocked punt to Seattle's woes. Houston has the ball up 17-0 in the first quarter, and Seattle has three possessions, no first downs.
Doug Farrar: Have they run the Senecat yet? Let's add a 10-yard loss to the List of Debacles!
Vince Verhei: Wallace has his weekly 5-yard loss on a run, although it looked more like a failed spread option run than his usual rollout-of-bounds. In other words, it's on the scheme, not him.
Houston goes up 24-0. The announcers comment that the Texans "are playing like a team that wants to keep their coach around." What does that say about the way Seattle is playing?
Seahawks finally get a first down -- on a third-and-3 incompletion, when Houston is called for roughing the passer. Seattle takes advantage of this fortune by fumbling on second and third downs, recovering both times, then punting. Is this team drunk? Was their water poisoned?
Doug Farrar: Andre Johnson gets another touchdown by running through a huge lane with about six Seattle defenders half-assing it. Deon Grant pulls up a few yards short of the end zone. This is inexcusable, and so will it be if Mora and his staff are retained next year.
By the way, one of the reasons the Seahawks are having trouble with snaps is that starting center Chris Spencer is snapping with the wrong hand due to injury. Never mind that they drafted a center in Max Unger who’s smart as hell and more conversant with zone blocking than Spencer is -- gotta go with the veteran, because a rook could never comprehend the complexities of a Greg Knapp offense after four years at Oregon (a thought which would probably send Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly into hysterical fits of laughter).
Vince Verhei: And now Hasselbeck hurts his throwing shoulder and Wallace is in! When they play highlights of this game, they need to play circus music to go with it.
Doug Farrar: It's important to note that Hasselbeck got hurt on a DeMeco Ryans sack ... on a two-step drop! If the Seahawks don’t draft at least one offensive lineman with their two first-round picks, they might as well forfeit the 2010 season.
Doug Farrar: Oh, dear. And there’s the Patriots, capping off a perfect week by failing on another fourth-and-short early in the game.
Shawn Springs on Steve Smith deep on that long touchdown. I’m thinking “mismatch” there. Just a little bit. The play just blew by me, but I’m hoping that was busted safety coverage as opposed to the actual plan.
Tim Gerheim: Just saw the highlight of the Steve Smith TD against the Patriots. Smith was so open that he caught the touchdown even though he had to slow down because of an inaccurate throw and allow the trailing coverage to catch up and contest the ball a little bit. Moore could have thrown the ball another five yards to the left and hit Smith in stride, and there wasn't a safety or anything that he would have been leading Smith into. That's some seriously bad coverage.
Aaron Schatz: Driving home from Bill's house, I flipped back and forth between EEI and 98.5, the two sports stations in town. Honestly, you would have thought the Pats got crushed by three touchdowns. Pats fans have gone into full-on pessimistic pre-2004 Red Sox mode. Sometimes, you don't stomp on your opponent, you just have an imperfect win. The Saints fans don't mind, I'm sure. Were they calling into the radio stations in New Orleans complaining something was wrong because they only beat Atlanta by three? It's like 2007 spoiled people around here so much that they never expect their team to lose another game for years to come.
Tom Gower: Derrick Mason just got crunched by two Lions defenders on a slant. Unfortunately for Jim Schwartz, Mason not only held onto the ball, both Lions defenders fell down and Mason raced the rest of the way untouched for a 62 yard touchdown.
Doug Farrar: Derrick Mason just gets popped by Detroit's Marvin White at midfield, then runs for the touchdown early in the second quarter. From his reaction after the score, he might have separated his shoulder on the hit. I know we already know this, but that is one tough dude.
Halfway through the second quarter, Kevin Smith busted off a run that I’d estimate went about 40 yards horizontally back and forth. Unfortunately, it went for -3 yards vertically.
Bill Barnwell: Horizontal yards!!!
Tim Gerheim: This Cincinnati-Minnesota game is borderline unwatchable. The teams have combined for 7 penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game. They're on pace for 42. The Bengals have about 20 yards of offense on two series, and Brett Favre just threw a bad interception. It's like I'm watching St. Louis-Tampa.
Brett Favre also just made his yearly "touchdown pass thrown three yards ahead of the line of scrimmage". What ugly football.
Quan Cosby just faked throwing a pass on a kick return. That would be fine, except for the fact that it was a forward pass. Not even a sideways one that would've been a bad lateral. Literally, like he was throwing a crossing pattern. On a kick return.
Tim Gerheim: I don't understand Quan Cosby as Cincinnati's (new?) kickoff return man. He was a really good receiver on Texas' national championship team, but I remember him as more of a savvy counterpoint to Vince Young than a superior athlete. That doesn't seem like a particularly good description for a kick returner.
Rob Weintraub: #3 this season--Bernard Scott (who took one back to the house vs. Pitt) is out with turf toe, and Andre Caldwell coughed one up to blow the Raider game.
Bill Barnwell: Carson Palmer looks really bad so far. He's forcing a lot of throws -- getting rushed some, sure, but he's throwing slants into double coverage and has two dropped interceptions already.
Tim Gerheim: Nice pickup by Dierdorf (which is very atypical during this game). The Bengals were in a heavy extra-linemen package, and they motioned Dennis Roland, who's a standard-issue massive tackle, across the formation. Cedric Benson ran off tackle to that side for about 10 yards.
Vince Verhei: I think, when we process all the game charting data after the season, we'll find that the Bengals used a sixth lineman on at least half their plays this year. It's like their base set at this point.
Bill Barnwell: Great play design by the Bengals, who start Chad Ochocinco in the slot. He fakes an end-around at the snap, running into the backfield, but then turns around and heads out back where he came from on a swing route. He's wide open for an easy 20-yard touchdown or so. Great play design.
Bengals decide to run a draw play and a screen deep inside their territory with 30 seconds left, which I always hate. Normally, nothing happens, but this time, Antoine Winfield knocks the ball out of Brian Leonard's hands with a perfect tackle, the Vikings recover, and they're about to pick up an extra three points.
Tim Gerheim: I was about to say that. If you're going to just bleed the clock, why not just use the victory formation? If you want to go downfield, that's one thing. A turnover's unlikely to give good enough field position for the other team to score, but why do conservative stuff that has almost no upside? It makes no sense to me.
Rob Weintraub: The Bengals in this situation fell into the trap so many teams do--they took a timeout to preserve time while Minnesota had the ball, forced a FG, then ran the "if it gets anything we'll hurry up draw". It got just enough to tempt Cincy into hurrying up (instead of using a TO), and then disaster on the check down dump off. Just kneel it out or go downfield -- the half measures kill you.
Vince Verhei: Minnesota is learning what the AFC North already knows: Cincinnati's corners are really, really good. On second-and-10 from the 12, Favre throws to Sidney Rice in the end zone, but Johnathan Joseph breaks it up and almost intercepts it. Then on third-and-10, Favre tries the left side, throwing a 7-yard comeback to Bernard Berrian, but Leon Hall closes in and makes the tackle there. Both of these were one-on-one plays without a safety in sight, and if the corners don't do their jobs, it's a touchdown. Minnesota settles for a field goal.
Tim Gerheim: They also had a similar corner pass into the end zone to Rice on their previous drive. Joseph's coverage was beautiful. He turned and located the ball, then turned back around and played the receiver, timing his jump along by reading Rice's eyes and jump, and breaking up the catch as the ball's coming into Rice's hands.
Doug Farrar: And as Vince said, even if you catch the ball, you may not go far –- they’re really good tacklers.
Tim Gerheim: Awesome. The Bengals start the second half with a penalty: kickoff out of bounds. I believe that's 14 accepted penalties (plus one set of offsetting personal fouls) through a half and a kickoff. I expect that we'll be hearing what the record for penalties in a game is before this one's over.
Johnathan Joseph gets hurt on a tackle on Chester Taylor in the red zone, but looks fine on the sideline. Why do you suppose Minnesota doesn't try to take advantage of the play he has to sit out to throw some kind of corner route against his backup? Peterson gets a touchdown two plays later, but it still doesn't seem like heads-up playcalling. (Then again, maybe I'm just a little bitter because I have Sidney Rice in my fantasy playoffs.)
Aaron Schatz: I went to Bill's house because I wanted to watch CIN-MIN on the Ticket and see if I could figure out whether DVOA was underestimating the Bengals. My answer: Not really. They are a good team, definitely better than last year, but they are not as good as Minnesota. They weren't even close to being as good as a Vikings team playing without two major players, E.J. Henderson and Percy Harvin. This game showed the difference between a leading Super Bowl contender and a good team that's probably one or two wins better than it should be. The offensive line definitely did not look good in pass protection, but as Bill said, what did you expect, they were playing the Vikings. They did look good in run blocking, Benson had six yards per carry which is pretty darn impressive against the Williams Wall. On defense, they weren't pressuring Favre much, so Minnesota could get some yardage even though it is clear that Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph have matured as cornerbacks. The young linebackers are good, but it is strange to think of a 31-year-old Dhani Jones as the starting middle linebacker of a 9-4 team. He may have the veteran wiles, but there was a swing pass where Adrian Peterson turned the corner and accelerated past Jones and Jones just got left behind.
Mike Tanier: The Bengals are a precise team that controls the ball pretty well, doesn't make many mistakes on defense, gets some plays from their punting game. There's no magic there, but in a season where the Steelers are imploding and the Browns are awful, they are doing a good job limiting mistakes, getting good play from the overall defense, and winning the games they are supposed to.
Doug Farrar: My sense of the Bengals line when I wrote about then was that they were really good with power and zone slides, but not necessarily really fluid backing up in pass protection. Some lines are just like that – if you want five dump trucks to run behind, you aren’t always going to get agility. Dallas comes to mind.
I also think Rey Maualuga has a bright future. He’s a violent tackler and looked especially good in rising up to slam Adrian Peterson back on a goal-line stop.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah. Palmer's not really the right style of quarterback to have success behind a line of that type, though. Romo is.
Rob Weintraub: Good to see a larger number of people "got" to watch Cincy play this week, so you could verify what I've been saying for weeks--the Bengals do some things well but aren't elite. The corners are the best tandem in the league, the o-line run blocks well but struggles in pass protection (so much of which is communication, and only Bobbie Williams is starting in the same spot as last season), they run six-man lines often because it maximizes their strength, which is power football, and the front seven is very stout (usually better when Peko plays--he missed today and probably next week too). They are penalized far too often (today only slightly more than recent weeks, unfortunately), turn it over more than they can afford to given the lack of firepower, and are feeling injury attrition. The team has little margin for error, and needs to play from in front or they are meat.
My friends insist Palmer is injured and not telling or simply not recovered from the elbow injury, but I don't know. I think the lack of downfield passing is more about the lack of confidence in the line to protect for five seconds, and the inability of anyone besides Ocho to get open downfield -- and he's doubled constantly. The lack of Chris Henry's speed (and, to a lesser extent, Bernard Scott's) is killing them. There is simply nothing outside to spread the defense.
Basically, the 2009 Bengals are very similar to the 2008 Dolphins, sans Wildcat -- they both turned things around with simple, power football, good tackling, excellent coverage, and took advantage of divisions that turned out to be not quite as strong as first thought. They will win the division with a home win over KC regardless of their current troubles. I fear they will wind up getting rolled at home in the first round, much as the Fish got whacked by the superior Ravens last season.
David Gardner: The announcers of the Tampa game open up with some nice irony. Just as an announcer is talking about how he had talked to Josh Freeman and how Freeman was looking to clean up his game after his interception-fest against Carolina last weekend. Then, on the first play from scrimmage, he throws an interception to David Harris.
The Bucs are looking completely lost on offense. They've had a couple of delay of games, fumbled (but recovered), threw an interception, and they came out of a TV timeout with 12 men in the huddle.
The Jets, after settling for field goals earlier in the game, just got a 33-yard touchdown. It was a beautiful job by the Jets at the line of scrimmage. They pulled a guard and the fullback led a, blocking to the right, sealing off Barber, McCoy and Barrett Ruud. Jones went untouched.
Sean McCormick: This had the looks of a 27-3 game going in, one where the Bucs wouldn't have any chance to score unless the Jets turned the ball over and gave the offense a short field, and that's exactly what it was. The Jets were able to run on Tampa, which was no surprise. The Jets defense was able to completely shut down the Tampa offense and to cause Josh Freeman all kinds of problems with overload blitzes on third down, which was once again no surprise. Kellen Clemens was perhaps marginally worse than Mark Sanchez would have been in the same spot, but the quarterback position was essentially an irrelevance with the dominance the Jets maintained on both sides of the line of scrimmage--again, no real surprise.
If anything was surprising, it was that the Tampa staff didn't instruct Freeman to simply ignore whatever receiver Darrelle Revis happened to be covering, and that they didn't step in and make the point after each successive look in Revis' direction. It was just a matter of time until Revis picked one, and he could easily have hauled in 2-3 more. As bad as Freeman's numbers were, they really could have been worse, as he was playing with fire much of the afternoon.
Doug Farrar: I just wonder when teams are going to stop targeting their receivers on outside deep routes against Revis when he has inside position. If there’s such a thing as an "incompletable" pass, it’s that one. Maybe their best bet is a quick timing comeback and just hope he doesn’t jump it.
Tom Gower: Apparently it's "go for it" week early; in addition to New England and the Jets, Miami just went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars 18. Meanwhile, Ricky Williams fumbles for the second time in 3 plays, though both go harmlessly out of bounds.
I have to say, I'm really impressed with the way the Dolphins have adapted to the loss of Ronnie Brown. They have an improving young quarterback and a great power backfield, so they go with their strengths as opposed to trying to retrofit the option stuff on Williams, who clearly doesn't do that stuff nearly as well as Brown. May seem obvious, but we all know how bad teams try and force scheme fits on the wrong players. The Fins are 4-2 in their division, and the way the Pats are going ... well, I don't know.
Tom Gower: Chad Henne has completed 15 consecutive passes. It helps when you're running the ball successfully and the other team can't really rush the passer, but he'd spray passes sometimes when he was at Michigan and he hasn't been doing that. Full credit to Dan Henning for improving his mechanics.
Doug Farrar: I respectfully disagree, sir. Half credit to quarterbacks coach David Lee, the guy who also came up the Wildcat plan that Henning is frequently credited for.
Tom Gower: Dan Carpenter doinks a figgie, and the Jags are still only down 14-7 despite being outgained by over 200 yards and going 3&out on 4 of their 5 possessions. I can't wait until they come back and win this game and go down in DVOA.
Tim Gerheim: Does Henning really often get credit for the Wildcat? I thought it was relatively common knowledge among people who follow football enough to know Henning's name to give him credit that it was brought by the coach who came from Arkansas when they ran it, even if they don't know Lee's name.
Doug Farrar: I’ve heard it several times from announcing crews in the last year-and-a-half, with no mention of any other individual. I’ve also heard it the way you describe.
Tom Gower: Henne gets picked by Derek Cox-nice job of scheming, as Henne wasn't expecting the coverage he got. Of course, it's a three-and-out, and now they're lining up to punt.
For the record, I've always heard Lee given credit for the Wildcat installation, and never Henning. I also liked Tony Sparano's description that the Dolphins played the Wildcat to get Brown and Ricky on the field at the same time, and now that Brown's hurt and you sort of trust Henne there's no need to run the Wildcat, so they've stopped running it. Leaving alone the "Is it really the Wildcat with just Ricky taking a direct snap?" question, that whole "adapting your offense to the players you have" concept is a pretty interesting one.
The Jags run a QB draw on fourth-and-2, but Uchi Nwaneri completely whiffed on Randy Starks and Garrard got destroyed. They also ran a cutesy toss sweep to MJD on third down, so I'm really questioning the playcalling there.
Elias: After an ugly interception by Jay Cutler, Packers line up for a field goal on fourth-and-3, then switch to an offensive formation forcing Chicago to take a timeout. I wonder why teams don't strategize more to simply try to make opponents to use timeouts, even when they have no intention of running the play the appear to be showing.
Doug Farrar: I don’t know what was more fun today: hearing Terry Bradshaw try to pronounce “Devin Aromashodu” or hearing Phil Simms try to pronounce “Plantar Fasciitis”.
Tom Gower: While Kyle Boller is active, Keith Null started for the Rams. They've actually had some very minor offensive success, in that at least they're not going three-and-out. The latest drive was hurt by a personal foul penalty on a Rams offensive lineman for head-butting -- I probably don't need to mention that it was on Richie Incognito.
Tom Gower: CJ28 didn't go boom the first drive. I guess that was respite enough at the start for the Rams D; 39-yard rush to finish the second drive and 66 yards on a dumpoff to finish off the third drive. The nice part is that these haven't been like, say, the early TDs against the Texans where after he's 10 yards downfield it's just a matter of nobody catching him. Both these touchdowns have involved finding lanes and following his downfield blockers. Yes, granted, it's the Rams D.
VY picks up a huge gain on a scramble, but pulls up as he goes out of bounds and goes down on the sideline. Looks like a flare-up of the hip injury he picked up last week that had him questionable for today. Since he went down out of bounds, Titans took a TO to get Kerry Collins some warm-up time.
Young is back from the locker room, on the sidelines wearing a coat, and not looking like he'll be coming back in the game any time soon. Of course, now up 26-0, it's not like there's any reason for him to. Collins is looking, well, like a QB who's been sitting on the sideline and not getting any practice time. Naturally, this will be interpreted to mean he never should've been starting in the first place, never you mind last year.
If any team needs a hot-headed offensive lineman, Richie Incognito may be available in the offseason, as he's been sitting on the bench the entire second half after picking up two idiotic personal fouls in the first half.
The Rams end the third quarter with their two longest plays of the day, and the second was four times as long as the first. First, Samkon Gado picked up 13 on third-and-19, then Kenneth Darby got 52 on a fake punt. After the Gado run, our heroes identified a backup to Steven Jackson as a "desperate" need for the Rams. While I recognize that's a need, I'd put "about six new defensive starters" as somewhat of a higher priority.
Bill Barnwell: Another really fun play off the Wildcat by the Chargers that I haven't seen before. They line up Philip Rivers far wide and have Tomlinson under center. They hand off to Vincent Jackson on the end-around, who then tosses to Rivers after running right, with some slight reverse motion. That gives them the chance to have Rivers throw long against Terence Newman, who commits a long pass interference penalty.
Tim Gerheim: Evidently, the refs are simply not going to call pass interference during this DAL-SD game. Both sides have committed an extremely blatant one in the first half, no call on either. That'll change both the offensive and defensive play calling. I would keep interfering, particularly on short stuff, until you make the refs throw the flag.
Doug Farrar: I really do think the NFL flipped out after the Baltimore-Green Bay game and the refs are overreacting the other way out of policy fear. I have seen quite a bit of uncalled interference today.
Mike Tanier: Another example of how NFL refs are like high school teachers. We stop enforcing dress code for about 6 months. Then the principal yells at a meeting: no more chains in the hallways! No more flip flops! No more spaghetti straps! There's a 2-day reign of terror where anyone within a quarter mile of a dress code violation gets suspended. Then, there's a memo: "Please use discretion when writing up borderline violations." So then Lady Gaga walks down the hallways uncorrected for six weeks. You would think refs would be held to a higher standard.
Aaron Schatz: Remember how Bill wrote in Quick Reads last week that Marion Barber's numbers since he signed his contract extension are far worse than his numbers from earlier in his career? Today he managed 3.4 yards per carry against a San Diego defense that was dead last in Adjusted Line Yards. That's really not a good sign.
The Cowboys have a couple serious injuries -- I really hope DeMarcus Ware is going to be okay, and I think the guy who replaced Marc Colombo at right tackle did not look good -- but in general this didn't look like "the Cowboys are flopping in December again." It just looked like one pretty good team losing to another pretty good team by a field goal. Nothing stood out as "wow, those guys suck and/or don't give a crap anymore." So they couldn't cover Vincent Jackson -- it isn't like they're the only ones.
Tim Gerheim: I noticed that. I wasn't paying close attention, so I was confused when Aaron Rouse said he was from wherever it was that wasn't Texas, since I knew Ross from UT and knew in the back of my head he was on the Giants.
The Giants have two starters from UNC (Hedgecock and Nicks). Even though until Butch Davis (who produced Nicks) they've been godawful. I like how terrible college programs regularly produce NFL players. Like how UVA seems to have a top-10 pick every couple years (D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Chris Long lately).
It's starting to look like the Michael Vick Experiment is progessively less about Wildcat and more about regular quarterbacking with a little zone read wrinkle based primarily on the false threat of Vick running.
Aaron Schatz: Heh. We should call this "the Longhorn." After all, it's what Vince Young is doing in Tennessee.
Tim Gerheim: Makes sense. It is kind of Texas' offense. (Less so as McCoy has developed as a passer, but it was Young's bread and butter.)
Mike Tanier: Oh, I liked that first Eagles drive. I liked the runs. I liked the counter screen to Brent Celek for the touchdown. I even liked the Michael Vick play-action rollout pass. It's gotta be downhill from here.
A Brandon Jacobs fumble is returned for a touchdown.
Bill Barnwell: Goddamn reverse jinx.
Mike Tanier: Reverse jinx? Oh yeah, after that Sheldon fumble recovery the Eagles are REALLY going to fall apart.
Maybe it works.
Bill Barnwell: So we'll chart that as Manning INTERCEPTED by 54-J.Trotter, laterals to 89-K.Boss. Right?
Mike Tanier: What just happened with Trotter and Boss is just ridiculous.
Tim Gerheim: This is the second game I've heard Collinsworth giving Manningham the business for not pressing his route technique to the inside. Last time (forget which game) it was a deep sideline route where he drifted toward the edge and ran out of real estate. This time it was an out route at the goal line. Collinsworth wanted him to press the slant action since the corner didn't have inside help, but he just ran straight upfield, cut outside, and ran out of real estate. Perhaps this might be a coaching point.
I don't know what's up with Hakeem Nicks. Back to back drops on deep balls (although the second one was contested). I remember noticing at UNC, particularly in his bowl game last year, that his hands were really outstanding, and definitely his best asset.
And then he goes and gets the long touchdown a few plays later.
Aaron Schatz: Wow, was that some bad tackling on Hakeem Nicks' second quarter touchdown. Wow, wow, wow. I'm not even sure where Quintin Mikell was aiming there. Not to let Asante Samuel off easy, of course.
Man, Brent Celek has an amazing ability to catch a ball with the defender's arm right on his chest. Defenders just seem unable to slap the ball away from him. A guy will have his hand in there and Celek just ends up with it anyway.
Mike Tanier: Samuel makes some bad tackles. That one on the touchdown was pretty darn ugly.
They just showed Brent Celek dropping a pass in pregame warmups, the ball bouncing off his face. Funny stuff.
Tim Gerheim: Mike, you must be excited that the Eagles got first and goal at the 2. Since their short yardage work is so reliable.
David Gardner: That wrinkle in the Mike Vick playbook was nice, but it was a little slow to develop.
Mike Tanier: Great no-call by the refs. That was real subtle what Aaron Rouse was doing to Celek. Way to call it both ways.
David Gardner: Did anyone else see after the play when Thomas was imitating Celek? Pretty funny.
Rob Weintraub: Phenomenal punt return by DeSean, best I've seen this season.
Mike Tanier: Oh wow. DeSean Jackson's back.
Tim Gerheim: I'm pretty sure the ability to read the opportunity on that return to run in a little circle and open up the sideline is a pretty good example of football genius. I swear some guys have it, and it's something you just can't teach.
Sean McCormick: That play Philly ran down by the goal line with Vick might have been my favorite of the season. They lined up Vick out wide, used him as the jet sweeper, pitched him the ball and then had him suddenly reverse field and roll out left with a blocker covering him. The pass ended up as an incompletion, but it was absolutely deadly play design.
Eli Manning fumbles on a slide that was clearly not taught to him by Joe Girardi. Chaos ensues.
Mike Tanier: I love when a random weirdo call goes the Eagles way, but is this the strangest game ever?
Doug Farrar: Hard to say. I’m still recovering from that three-hour two-minute warning.
David Gardner: Nice redemption there for Hixon, who has had a couple of fumbles tonight. The Eagles' secondary is killing itself with poor tackling. Sean Jones didn't even try to tackle Hixon until it was too late.
Mike Tanier: Yeah, that was quite the tackling clinic
Oh, and the Eagles get it back, INSANE.
Doug Farrar: Apparently, deep coverage has been outlawed in the NFC East. The Redskins just got there a month ahead of everyone else.
Aaron Schatz: I'm gonna just take a little bit of a guess here and say this game will be one of the four chosen for "NFL Replay" this week.
David Gardner: Anyone wanna play defense? Bueller?
Mike Tanier: OK, a dude just slammed Jackson in the helmet after the play. No flag. These refs need to be fired.
Aaron Schatz: DeSean Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren Sproles, Steve Smith (Carolina version)... at what point can we completely get rid of the idea that skill players can be "too small for the NFL"?
You know what, the Vick plays tonight actually seem to have a purpose. They seem better planned and better timed.
Doug Farrar: I don’t know why, but the timing still looks off whenever the Eagles try to implement any complexity into their option offense. Vick looks better now on direct snap both run and pass, but everything else looks rickety – you can see all the moving parts. I didn’t realize how great Miami’s timing was with this stuff right off the bat until I saw the Eagles do it.
Bill Barnwell: There's a difference between exciting football and good football. This is exciting football. Just not good football.
OK -- Mario Manningham might have a better case for getting his two feet in if he wasn't wearing ruby red slippers.
David Gardner: I have a little trouble seeing how Manningham is completely to blame there. Manning had him open and led him toward the sideline. Yes, he should have kept his feet in, but Manning could have helped him out there.
Mike Tanier: Bat nutty ending to a bat nutty game.
258 comments, Last at 16 Mar 2012, 1:42pm by parissportif