Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
28 Sep 2009
compiled by Vince Verhei
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.)
Doug Farrar: Jim Zorn goes for it on fourth-and-goal from the Detroit 1-yard line, and Clinton Portis doesn't make it on the run. Zorn may want to stay in Detroit when this one is over.
Vince Verhei: Bryant Johnson gets isolated against Carlos Rogers and out-jumps him for a 21-yard touchdown. Detroit goes 99 yards in 12 plays on the drive, helped by a few offsides penalties on Washington. Eighty-five of those yards were either passes or Stafford scrambling, and Calvin Johnson hasn't caught a pass yet.
Albert Haynesworth carted off the field in Detroit. Right after that, Detroit kicks a field goal to go up 10-0. It's been mostly the Redskins rushing four and getting no pressure on Matt Stafford, and now they won't have Haynesworth to suck up double-teams. Note to Jim Zorn: Blitz or die.
Doug Farrar: Well, Greg Blache usually blitzes a lot, but this team is reeling. When you catch yourself saying, "Well the Lions only got a field goal on that possession -- their opponents could crawl back into the game," said opponents have a problem. Early word on Haynesworth is a hip injury, and he is questionable to return.
Bill Barnwell: Dennis Northcutt with an early Keep Choppin' Wood nomination, deciding to dance around inbounds with 10 seconds left and no timeout around the five and nearly costing the Lions a field goal on a quick hitch.
Vince Verhei: Detroit goes into the half up 13-0. They were kind of undone by some wonky clock management at the end of the half and gave themselves only one play after a first-and-goal. And the funny thing is, as good as Stafford has been -- 14 of 24 for 164 -- it feels like he should be better. He has missed some open receivers. Washington is just sticking with what looks like a man-2 defense, and Stafford is sitting back, waiting for somebody to get open underneath or occasionally tucking the ball and running for good yardage.
Doug Farrar: Some really scary numbers from the Redskins' first half -- Detroit had the ball exactly 22:00 minutes to Washington's 8:00. The Redskins ran the ball five times for 0 yards. Washington led the league on defensive three-and-outs last year, but the Lions put up 16 first downs. Jason Campbell was 8-of-13 for 101 yards, no touchdowns, no picks, and everybody's gonna blame it all on him.
Aaron Schatz: Not if the FOX halftime crew is any indication. They are CLEARLY blaming this on Zorn. "Has Washington quit on their coach?" Florio also posted something at PFT saying that Zorn should put his house on the market.
Doug Farrar: Well, there is that. But it's like blaming Mike Holmgren when Seattle's defenses used to collapse in 2003 and 2004. The Lions had a 99-yard drive. How is that Zorn's fault?
Vince Verhei: Campbell throws a 57-yard touchdown to Santana Moss to deflect criticism. Lions kept both running backs in on the play to block, and Moss had time to run all the way across the field on a deep cross until Detroit's safeties lost track of him.
Calvin Johnson finally makes a play, fighting through interference from LaRon Landry to place the ball inside the five. Wait, check that -- Johnson, not Landry, was called for interference on the play.
Also Haynesworth is back on the field. Lions go three-and-out after the Redskins' touchdown.
Campbell makes his first bad play of the day. With an unblocked rusher in his face, he panics and throws an underneath pass over the middle that is easily intercepted. His defense bails him out though -- Stafford is sacked by Brian Orakpo on third down. Washington was rushing five on the play.
Doug Farrar: Five? Oooh ... how exotic! Orakpo could be something special.
One play after Carlos Rogers gets away with an armbar on a stutter-go to Bryant Johnson, Johnson heads deep inside hash through the zone, and Chris Horton bumps into him in the end zone. That time they call it, and the Lions have the ball at the Washington one-yard line with eight minutes left. The second-longest losing streak in NFL history is in great danger.
Vince Verhei: Maurice Morris scores from two yards out to put the Lions up 19-7. (They went for two and didn't get it.) Play was set up by a 47-yard pass interference penalty on Chris Horton, covering Bryant Johnson. Redskins were mortified by the call, but it was pretty obvious. Horton had his back to the ball and was charging full speed at Johnson, only turning his head after a collision was inevitable. Redskins have 5:20 left to try and score twice.
Rob Weintraub: Quick Washington touchdown and nerves are raw in the Motor City.
Vince Verhei: Well, that didn't take long. Campbell leads Washington right down the field, throwing a touchdown with 2:36 left. Washington trails 14-19 with 2:36 to go.
Ned Macey: Nobody's mentioned this, but as for what I thought was a big Zorn mistake: They forced a fourth down on what would have been a 50-yard field goal, but accepted a 10-yard offensive pass interference call instead. Two plays later, Stafford threw a touchdown. Maybe I'm wrong about the percentages, but you have to decline the penalty there.
Aaron Schatz: I know how this story ends: Zorn rips off his mask and reveals that he's actually Jerry Jones, destroying Snyder's School for (Monetarily) Gifted Youngsters from the inside this whole time.
Mike Tanier: The Rams are killing me. Killing Killing me.
Vince Verhei: Percy Harvin Is Who We Thought He Was, Part One: He takes a kickoff back 101 yards for a touchdown. He has ridiculous speed. Once he got in the clear, he appeared to be the only player on the field who was running.
Percy Harvin Is Who We Thought He Was, Part Two: He drops a pass that would have converted a first down, and San Francisco gets the ball back, down by only 3.
Bill Barnwell: Vikings coverage sure is making Shaun Hill looking good. They're leaving gaping holes out there in their zones.
Vince Verhei: Vernon Davis is also having a career day. He just made a pair of fine jumping catches for big gains, the second for a 20-yard go-ahead touchdown.
Bill Barnwell: And Vernon Davis beats the Vikings on the same seam pattern, two times in three plays. The Vikings can't point fingers at each other fast enough.
(San Francisco goes ahead 24-20 with 8:12 to go in the fourth quarter.)
Bill Barnwell: So, the Niners are this year's Cardinals?
(Brett Favre throws a touchdown to Greg Lewis to put Minnesota ahead 27-24 with two seconds to go.)
Rob Weintraub: Thing I hate about NFL analysts No. 49385: Yelling "gotta clock it, gotta kill it!!!" as the spike is coming. Thanks.
Thing I hate about NFL play-by-play guys No. 498396590: Yelling "Favre did it!!!" as Lewis makes a sensational play to drag his feet and score the winning touchdown.
Bill Barnwell: Well, in all fairness, that was a hell of a throw. Exactly where it needed to be.
Rob Weintraub: It was -- but with any other quarterback in there, Lewis gets the love on the play.
Doug Farrar: Yep. There were announcers crediting Favre's handoffs in the season opener.
Vince Verhei: I'm going to need some time to recover from that Minnesota finish.
Mike Tanier: The problem with Favre: You don't want to credit him when he's successful because you just don't want to add to the Hosannas.
Bill Barnwell: Well, we're supposed to be better than that.
Ned Macey: That's three games I've watched of Minnesota, and I keep thinking their defense, including against the run, just doesn't look that good. But its DVOA is still really good, and they held Glen Coffee (who is, admittedly, Glen Coffee) to 54 yards on 25 carries. Still, they'll lose a game somewhere when a team can run against them, particularly off tackle.
Aaron Schatz: Early thoughts on the Patriots offense after one quarter:
Tom Brady is still overthrowing guys. Again, we're asking ourselves, is it the slippery football in the rain? Is it mechanics because of the injury? One overthrow could have been a deep touchdown to a wide-open Randy Moss.
Joey Galloway blew a chance at a touchdown because when he made his cut, he stepped out the back of the end zone. He's made a ton of mental mistakes in these first three weeks. Dude, get your head in the damn game.
On the other hand, running game looks good. Laurence Maroney looks better today than I remember him looking for a couple years. He's hitting the hole hard and doing a very good job of following his blockers to gain a couple extra yards on each run. Also, the Patriots converted twice on third-and-1 by running the ball, which warms my heart. They can't expect to have the same success they had throwing in short-yardage situations two years ago.
Falcons are not blitzing the Patriots as much as I would have expected given the Jets' success last week and the fact that "the NFL is a copycat league." (Everyone, drink.)
As for the Falcons after one quarter: Matt Ryan looks great and Tony Gonzalez would have had a touchdown in the corner but Patriots safety Brandon McGowan got away with some clear holding on the play, so Ryan had to go under to Brian Finneran and Finneran couldn't catch it.
Doug Farrar: The Falcons would have an easier time blitzing if they still had tackle Peria Jerry, the rookie who's out for the season with a knee injury he suffered last week. He was playing very well and soaking up a lot of double-teams.
Bill Moore: Patriots are using lots of misdirection plays to work over the Atlanta zones. It's been very effective, especially if you consider Brady has missed a few guys he should have hit.
I'm searching if cutJoeyGalloway.com is available. Decent chance that it's not.
Ironically, Brady-Moss missed a touchdown because Brady didn't throw it far enough -- clearly not his problem the last three weeks.
Aaron Schatz: The Falcons miss Jerry on the run defense more than the pass defense, because Fred Taylor just walked up the middle untouched for a 10-yard touchdown.
I think the non-touchdown throw to Moss was pretty darn accurate -- unfortunately for New England, Brian Williams was step-for-step with Moss (did you ever think you would read that statement?) and slapped the ball away with a great play. Think Jacksonville wants some of that back?
Bill Moore: It was hardly a bad throw, but if he led Moss a little more, touchdown. My point being, a majority of his misses have been overthows (charting can confirm if that is correct).
Bill Barnwell: I've seen a lot of throws landing at people's feet or on the side, from what I remember.
Bill Moore: Looking at Week 1, he had five overthrows and four underthrows. However, if I recall right, between Weeks 1, 2 and the beginning of 3, his long balls were overthrown, and his underneath routes were underthrown.
Doug Farrar: Wow. Galloway drops a great throw by Brady in the end zone hear the end of the first half. Fortunately for Galloway, Brady hasn't figured out a way to shoot lasers from his eyes, though he looked pretty close to doing so after that one.
Aaron Schatz: Leigh Bodden and Michael Jenkins are having some serious battles down the left sideline. First, Matt Ryan made a perfect pass that came in right over Jenkins' shoulder, and he was able to catch it even though Bodden had his hand right in there. Then Ryan his Jenkins with another great pass for a touchdown in the left corner of the end zone, but Jenkins was flagged for offensive pass interference.
Department of small plays that make a difference: Brian Finneran blew a block on a wide receiver screen. Brutal. Hardly got his hands on Adalius Thomas at all, and Thomas took down Roddy White the minute he caught the ball for a five-yard loss. Wow, Finneran looked bad.
Tom Gower: Titans: Nice gap control on rushing plays, but anything that looks like a pass is succeeding. They finally blitzed on third-and-10 from the 14, and Mark Sanchez had a lane and scrambled for the touchdown, lowering his hand and making a spin to get in the end zone.
It's probably too early to say this, but this looks like the Titans D c. 2003 -- excellent gap control by the defensive line allowing the other guys to fill rushing lanes, but not enough push allows quarterbacks to find guys downfield.
And now they fumble the kickoff. Javon Ringer has been mediocre, so maybe they'll try somebody else there now.
Correction: that was Ryan Mouton, not Ringer, that fumbled the kickoff return. Ringer had the job and looked mediocre, muffing a kickoff return last week, but maybe the job will be his again, not that he's actually any good at it.
Doug Farrar: Mark Sanchez is going to get an "Attaboy" and then a good slap upside the head for his first NFL rushing touchdown. He takes it in on third-and-10 as the Titans bring an all-out blitz. As he gets to the end zone, Sanchez puts his head down to take on Nick Harper (here is where I'm having "Matt Hasselbeck fractured rib" flashbacks), gets the ball over the plane, and then fumbles it. Touchdown, of course, negates the fumble. He looked awesome on the first drive of the day, though he will likely be advised to be a bit more careful in future.
And the Jets force a fumble on the subsequent kickoff. This team is in "Shark Week" mode right now.
David Gardner: Stupid/studly run by Mark Sanchez, who lowered his shoulder near the goal-line and reached across the line to cap a 14-yard run for the Jets' first score.
Tom Gower: Credit where credit is due: LenDale White had a nice touchdown run where he did an excellent job to maintain his balance two plays after he powered up the middle to convert a third-and-1. He seems to be getting the carries inside the 10, with Chris Johnson getting the rest of the field less breaks. The drive started after Tony Brown forced a fumble by Sanchez. Very poor ball security by Sanchez on that play; he had the ball down low and didn't do a good job of adjusting or otherwise getting out of the way of Brown, whom he could see coming.
If you want, you can start uncrowning Sanchez's ass on third down. On the drives after the fumble, he has had the ball slip out of his hand and nearly been picked to end a drive, then showed off his (lack of) arm strength with an awful looking pass to Jerricho Cotchery on a deep out on the other side of the field that couldn't have been caught in bounds.
Very nice interception by Eric Smith. Kerry Collins was rolling to his right and tried to find Johnson streaking up the sideline, but Smith had perfect position and made a nice grab along the sideline.
Mike Tanier: Sanchez is stating to impress me in the Ryan/Flacco way. The pump fakes are nice. The play fakes are nice. When he hands off on a draw, he does a good job finishing his drop like it is a pass play.
Tom Gower: Maybe I was a little hasty with the doom-and-gloom earlier today. Ever since 14-0, the Jets have done squat and the Titans have been able to move the ball. Collins has put some throws into tight spaces -- he hit Kenny Britt over the middle on the most recent drive with Darrelle Revis in man coverage and David Harris playing underneath, and then Nate Washington for the touchdown on a play where Dwight Lowery looked completely lost. Titans now up 17-14.
Bill Barnwell: I love that the commentators are shocked that the Titans were able to get pressure on the Jets with four guys. It's not like they do that 95 percent of the time or anything.
Tom Gower: We have a Vernon Gholston sighting, with a nice pursuit tackle on Chris Johnson. Only 30 yards downfield.
One thing the Titans have been doing today to cope with the expected pressure from the Jets is putting Alge Crumpler in other spots than on the line -- he's played a lot of H-back and offset fullback today, more than they've ever done with him. I presume this is because he's better able to recognize and adapt to blitzers than fullback Ahmard Hall, but he just flubbed a pickup on a key third down play and Collins was nearly picked on a forced pass to Justin Gage.
Kerry Collins ended the game with 13 straight incompletions. I'm not really sure what to say about that, other than at least three of those hit Nate Washington in the hands, and one of them, on third-and-23, went through Kenny Britt's arms 20 yards downfield.
Since I haven't mentioned it yet, Kris Jenkins caused massive problems in this game for Kevin Mawae and Jake Scott. Leroy Harris, starting at left guard for an ill Eugene Amano, didn't seem to be matched up with him often, but seemed to do a better job when he did, though Harris was himself pushed back into Collins by Sione Pouha to force an interception.
Sean McCormick: Sanchez had his worst game as a pro, but it was more a question of his struggling with the wet weather than it was his making bad decisions. The ball slipped out of his hands repeatedly, resulting in several fumbles and a few throws that were lame ducks. He corrected the problem to some extent in the second half, but his inability to handle the football had a lot to do with the Jets offense going into a deep freeze in the second and third quarters. (Of course, running for one yard a pop doesn't help matters, either.)
Despite the final numbers, I thought Kerry Collins played very well. He made a number of throws into tight coverage that were right on the money, but his receivers consistently let him down. The Titans blocking schemes did a good job of neutralizing Ryan's blitzes throughout the first half, but unfortunately for Collins, the protection broke down late and prevented him from having any realistic chance to drive for a tying score at the end.
The Jets were able to get away with being down two of their top four cornerbacks due to a combination of the weather and Tennessee not having effective receivers, but they better get healthy before heading down to New Orleans. Otherwise, there could be some serious trouble.
Mike Kurtz: The Kansas City line looks horribly, horribly bad. They got a good play off on a screen (played well by the strong safety), but every other play the line has been just blown up. They got lucky on the offsides, because it wasn't that egregious and the line still disintegrated.
And then pretty much three defenders converge on Cassel on third-and-25. Absolutely awful.
I'm struggling mightily to say anything at all insightful about PHI-KC, but I really can't. Kansas City is just so bad at pretty much every aspect of offense and defense that it's impossible to tell where the Eagles' execution ends and KC's ineptness begins.
Aaron Schatz: Kevin Kolb, 6-for-8 so far, sneaks up middle for a 1-yard rushing touchdown. I await my Tanier text message.
Bill Barnwell: I've had to chart the first two Chiefs games this year (whatever I did to you, Aaron, I'm sorry) and there's just everything you might imagine. Lots of missed assignments, lots of easy places to pick on. Brandon Carr looks good, but teams don't need to throw at him because there's flotsam across the field. They don't have much of an offense, especially without Dwayne Bowe, so Todd Haley's implementing a lot of trickery that isn't tricking anything.
Andy Reid's going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 46. Maybe he read the Wall Street Journal today.
Aaron Schatz: Halftime text message from Tanier in Delaware: "Cant w8 2 read da elam code"
Mike Kurtz: One of my pet peeves of announcing came up again, complaining that Mike Vrabel's brilliant sack was taken away by a personal foul/facemask downfield on a wide receiver. Taking a wide receiver out of any play (not just having the corner shut down the receiver) is huge, especially if he's one of the first reads. Much like a big return that gets called back, this sack may very well have been created by the penalty. Yet they're treated as two separate events.
Mike Tanier: Looks like I have to read the damn crazy kicker novel. No text message neccessary as the Internet does in fact extend to Delaware. The Kolb throw to DeSean Jackson was a nice little slant; he has a couple of other good throws. My only hope, bet-wise, is that the strength of opponent adjustment expects 9 touchdowns from any quarterback facing the Chiefs.
Bill Barnwell: Opponent adjustments don't get factored in yet. Everyday, I'm hustling.
Mike Kurtz: "Philadelphia taking advantage of every opportunity." Which is really true if you consider "Kansas City has players on the field" as an opportunity.
Bill Barnwell: By the way, just for reference, Kolb ended up with a 10.1% DVOA.
Whoops, total misread. That's his DVOA on the season. His DVOA in Week 3 was 67.9%.
David Gardner: To no surprise, Brandon Jacobs is running straight at the Buccaneers defense and taking two or three hits before being tackled. In other news, wideout Antonio Bryant started today, so the Tampa Bay offense may be a little better than in the first two weeks.
Doug Farrar: From what I've seen of them, the Bucs are playing a lot of "under" coverage, stacking the line, and they're still getting gashed. Bad news for Jim Bates.
To continue the "What the hell happened to Tampa Bay's defense???" discussion, Ahmad Bradshaw broke off a long run at the end of the first quarter, breaking about 15 tackles on the way.
And Tony Siragusa just called the Giants' fullback "Madison Hedgehog." So that was fun.
Aaron Schatz: What happened to Tampa Bay's defense? Um, the defensive coordinator left and most of the best players have retired?
Doug Farrar: Yeah, but I still go back to when Monte Kiffin announced his retirement and the Bucs gave up eleventy billion rushing yards to the Panthers the next week, and just kept falling down the elevator shaft.
The Bucs' offense has 30 total yards at the start of the fourth quarter. In other news, a deep sideline route against the Tampa Bay defense is an almost sure touchdown.
And then Johnson misses three passes in a row from the 5-yard line, and the Bucs continue to hold on to that 0 on the scoreboard.
Mike Tanier: God the Browns are a horror show. That being said, Joe Flacco is just winging it all over creation.
Doug Farrar: I don't know if anyone else has been watching this game, and the performances by both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, but Eric Mangini might want to seriously consider putting Josh Cribbs in at quarterback since there's nobody remotely competent to throw to him anyway.
Bill Barnwell: The Ravens make everyone look bad.
Doug Farrar: Well, Anderson fell down untouched in the red zone on one play (basically asking Haloti Ngata to sack him), and threw up a pop fly of an interception on another. And frankly, the Ravens' pass defense hasn't been completely amazing so far this season.
Bill Barnwell: They also had to play the Chargers. (And they looked a lot better against the Chiefs than Croyle's numbers say.) But yes, it's true that Anderson makes the Ravens defense look better.
Mike Tanier: Both Browns quarterbacks look silly. I lost track of that Ratliff kid. Do the Browns still have him?
Doug Farrar: Nice call by the Texans on fourth-and-1 with 1:04 left in the first half. Houston goes with an empty backfield, but Kevin Walter motions into the backfield from trips right and Matt Schaub gives him a pitch left for the first down and then some.
Rob Weintraub: Maurice Jones-Drew is phenomenal today. On fourth-and-1 he makes a sick cut in the backfield to move the chains, then scores his third touchdown of the game on the next play, barging over a tackler to do so.
Doug Farrar: What's that we said about Fantasy Threat No. 1? Pocket Hercules just scored his third touchdown of the game against the Texans, though the most impressive run of the day probably came on a short play off a little hitch pass in the third quarter, where he pinballed off five different guys.
Bill Barnwell: The Texans have a way of making backs look phenomenal, don't they?
Rob Weintraub: Tough pick call on Kevin Walter to nullify tying touchdown in Houston. Still driving, but game was tied but for pick-y call.
Bill Barnwell: Oh lord. The Texans get the tying score on an Owen Daniels touchdown catch, but a holding call pushes them back; Chris Brown gets the ball and then fumbles right at the goal-line, and the Jaguars recover.
Rob Weintraub: And the Texans fumble on the goal line, and Jacksonville recovers. Reviewing but looks correct.
Bill Barnwell: I'm really impressed with the Bills' defense this first half. Recovering a Drew Brees fumble helped, but they're getting good pressure around the edges on Brees, attacking left tackle Jermon Bushrod to the point where he appears to have hurt himself and is out of the game. They've got a good enough secondary to keep up with the Saints if they can keep up that level of pressure up front.
Vince Verhei: Buffalo scoring a touchdown on a fake field goal is becoming an annual event. This one came on a sweet rollout pass from punter Brian Moorman to defensive end Ryan Denney. Buffalo's special teams are always awesome, and that's without counting these kind of plays, which count as offense in conventional stats and DVOA.
Vince Verhei: Breaking news from the Seattle Times Web site: The Seahawks are going to debut rave green jerseys today against Chicago. Photographs included. You have been warned.
Doug Farrar: I think they're trying to do to the Bears what Oregon frequently does to their opponents -- confuse them with unthinkable uniform horribleness. It worked on the early screen for a touchdown to Julius Jones. I believe Hunter Hillenmeyer and Charles Tillman were busy averting their eyes.
Bill Barnwell: Assorted comments around my apartment regarding the Seahawks jerseys:
Mike Tanier: Three people fit in your apartment?
Bill Barnwell: Aaron can attest to the size of my place.
Vince Verhei: Since you brought up Oregon, Doug, I have to mention how hysterical it is that the team of 1,000 uniforms apparently ran out of new uniforms and had to break out throwbacks yesterday against Cal.
Looking closer at the Seahawks, I think they're wearing new pants too. They're dark blue, not the normal greyish-blue.
Jay Cutler's throws a dumb interception in the red zone, lobbing a 10-yard pass to Johnny Knox, who was only five yards downfield. The ball comes down in the arms of David Hawthorne, filling in for Leroy Hill.
Bill Barnwell: Bears can't keep anybody off of Cutler. Seahawks are just rushing four or five guys straight ahead and the Bears are letting everyone through.
Vince Verhei: Olindo Mare has missed field-goal attempts of 43 and 34 yards. Then Seneca Wallace, rather than throw the ball away, forces an interception deep in his own territory, and Chicago goes three-and-out then kicks a field goal. That's a nine-point swing based solely on the kicker and quarterback not doing their jobs.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh was horrible for the first 44 minutes of this game, fumbling his only catch. Then he picks up a third down towards the end of the third quarter, and then on the quarter's last play, Wallace throws up a duck of a pass. Houshmandzadeh manages to come back to the ball and fight off two Bears defenders to pull down the catch for a first down.
Doug Farrar: Meanwhile, T.J. Houshmandzadeh goes up for a Wallace prayer of a pass as Wallace is once again overwhelmed by rushers. Great play. Yes, Deion Branch, it is possible for a receiver to jump for a ball that's a foot over your head.
Vince Verhei: Down one in the fourth, the Seahawks need a stop to get the ball back, and Aaron Curry has a coming out party. On first down, he comes across the play to nail Matt Forte for a loss of two. Then on third down, Curry gets a sack and forced fumble, and Cory Redding recovers.
And then Seneca Wallace makes a concerted effort to lose the game. On first down, he's pressured outside the pocket, but has ample opportunity to throw the ball away. Instead, he just runs out of bounds for a three-yard loss. On third down, he's pressured outside again, and has the opportunity to throw the ball away or, better yet, tuck the ball and run and maybe even pick up the first down. Instead, he lobs up another duck that is nearly picked. Olindo Mare kicks the 46-yard field goal to put Seattle ahead, but they need to start offering Wallace incentives for every time he successfully throws it away.
Bill Barnwell: Seattle's last play on offense was a joke. Throwing a designed swing pass as your primary option? Seriously? Not to mention that Wallace couldn't throw it in stride.
Vince Verhei: The Seahawks game ended with a Devin Hester touchdown and one of the worst two-minute drills you'll ever see. It was almost all worth it, though, to hear Jim Mora's postgame press conference. First he said that the Seahawks' emergency quarterback -- the guy who goes in when everybody else is hurt, when you just want to avoid further injuries -- would have been Deion Branch. He said they practiced with Branch at quarterback and were prepared for him to throw a pass. Then he pointed out that NFL seasons go for 16 games, while baseball seasons go for 162. He then tried to calculate the baseball equivalent of a two-game losing streak in football, finally settling on either 32 or 36 games. Jim Mora doing math equals unintentional comedy gold.
Doug Farrar: Mora is fast approaching Jackass Status after blaming kicker Olindo Mare for the loss. Mare missed two field goals, but he made four, and to put it all on Mare was ridiculous and completely unprofessional. What about the shoddy playcalling that had the Seahawks trying that many field goals in the first place? A reverse to Deion Branch on third-and-one late in the game? Are you kidding me? Nah, not a problem. Mora said that it was a great playcall, but the Bears had the right defense. What about the horsecrap pass protection or the abysmal mid-zone coverage? Nope. Didn’t exist. All the kicker’s fault. After Ryan Mouton had problems in the return game for the Titans in their loss to the Jets, Jeff Fisher (who certainly didn’t expect to be 0-3 at this point) deflected blame off the kid and said that it was the coach’s responsibility to put the right people in the right places to succeed. That’s how you handle these things publically, and that’s one of the reasons Fisher’s been successful for a long time.
Mora may be a good defensive coordinator in a vacuum, but I really don’t believe he has the makeup to be a top-tier head coach. He’s a high-energy guy no matter what – rah-rah if everything’s going right, and completely scattershot if things aren’t going his way. Remember that he was available for the Seahawks after telling Seattle radio station KJR that he’d quit the Falcons and go coach the Washington Huskies at the drop of a hat. Bobby Petrino was rightfully excoriated for the way he left the Falcons, but Mora got a free pass from a lot of people. When all is said and done, I don’t think Seattle will regard him so highly.
Mike Tanier: Mora just struck you now as a jackass?
Doug Farrar: I was trying to be optimistic.
Mike Kurtz: The Steelers really need to abandon the Willie Parker project. I know the offense is awful at run-blocking, but he's probably the weakest of the three running backs the Steelers have on their roster. Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore might not be anything special, but they at least have the strength to run forward and get a yard, yet they keep throwing Parker in short-yardage situations, and IT NEVER WORKS. EVER. Such a well-coached team, but for some reason overwhelming loyalty to a mediocre player.
Cincinnati is really cheating, firing on the outside in an attempt to hem in and sack Ben Roethlisberger. The problem, then, is that the Steelers have been running Parker right past the ends and getting decent yardage. Cincy needs to figure out a better way of getting to the quarterback, or at least work some more inside stuff.
Rey Maualuga down after a Steelers quarterback sneak touchdown, moving but not walking off.
Steelers were looking a bit dicey for a while, where the Bengals stopped gunning with their defensive ends. Then again, that opened up the passing game, and Roethlisberger just picked them apart on mid-range throws.
Maualuga had his knee sat on, apparently. He's out.
Vince Verhei: Except for the pick-six, where he threw shallow and his receivers ran deep, Roethlisberger has been really, really good today. Holding the ball a long time, of course, but never too long. He always manages to find a receiver and hit him with a good pass.
(Limas Sweed drops a touchdown pass.)
Mike Kurtz: Which, of course, is then dropped. In the end zone.
Steelers games are usually well-called, if sometimes wonky. Pittsburgh has run pretty much every first down in the second half, which isn't a great idea even if you have a good running game, much less a mediocre one.
I can't figure out what's wrong with the Steelers. It's not like it's an overwhelmingly green team that builds up leads and then get too excited and just deflates, it's a very experienced team that went out there and just beat the royal hell out of the Bengals for one half, then did pretty much nothing in the second.
Maybe it is complacency -- I didn't see one blitz in the entire fourth quarter, which was baffling, and it looked like they were trying to run out the clock with a bad running game and 5 minutes left in the game. I'm sure Cincinnati made some adjustments, but I can't imagine anything that would lead to such a severe turnaround. Just no idea.
Bill Barnwell: Well, here's what they did on first down in the second half:
What's the pattern you see there?
Mike Kurtz: Yeah, I mentioned that before. That can't explain all of it, but that's definitely part of it.
Mike Tanier: The first-down runs have a lot to do with it. The dropped touchdown pass has a lot to do with it: if I recall, they also had another big pass play where the receiver stepped out of bounds. Some of it has to do with facing two decent opponents; the Bears are pretty good, the Bengals better than expected. A couple of tough losses to some good early opponents is nothing to get alarmed about.
Vince Verhei: On Cincinnati's eventual game-winning drive, they twice spiked the ball to stop the clock. The first time they had two timeouts; they still had one left for the second spike. They still had a timeout in their pocket when the game ended, but they had wasted two vital downs. They overcame this to win, but it was some lousy, lousy clock management. What was Marvin Lewis saving those timeouts for? Is he going to call one during film review tomorrow?
Rob Weintraub: Still recovering from finally -- finally! -- beating those blasted Steelers at home. Game started totally Bengal-like, which meant getting smeared in every facet. But in most un-Bengal-like fashion, they hung in, made some plays, got some breaks (a lot of them), and actually took advantage to win. Give Marvin Lewis credit -- that first spike was dumb, yes (less of problem with the second one -- they had a mass personnel switch after the fourth-down play to Brian Leonard), but he has somehow transformed the team to one that's extremely tough, mentally. Remember, before the BS deflection play in Week 1, Cincy was awful for 56 minutes, then drove 90-plus yards for what should have been the winning score, and an unbeaten record. After the horrifying loss, they shrugged it off and whipped Green Bay in Lambeau. I can't remember a Bengals team that didn't cave at the first sign of adversity. Not this bunch.
On the subject of tough, Maualuga came back in, and made a couple more tackles -- thank God.
Vince Verhei: If they were making a mass personnel switch, that's all the more reason to call timeout.
Tom Gower: Just because people are complaining about lack of AFC West coverage...
The Broncos went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first period. LaMont Jordan got stuffed by Thomas Howard and friends, and the camera switched to Josh McDaniels, who attractively spat in disgust.
The decision pays off for the Broncos, as JaMarcus Russell is looking for Darrius Heyward-Bey on a 99 yard score, but Heyward-Bey falls down when he runs into Renaldo Hill (the good one, not the ex-Titan) and Hill then makes the pick. Broncos
start at the 23.
Bill Barnwell: Don't listen to the people, Tom. They don't know what's best for them.
DHB falls down all the time. It's really weird. He's the Alex Mack of wide receivers.
Tom Gower: Broncos made it to the end zone on third down on try number two, as Kirk Morrison can't cover Brandon Marshall. Rich Gannon harps over a linebacker covering a wide receiver, which (a) has a point to it and (b) is sure to earn him more love from the Raiders brass. Good job by the Raider D on the playfake on second-and-goal, though, as nobody was the least bit open.
JMR pick number two, this one again intended for DHB. He was lousy coming out of his break, but it wouldn't have helped him on this throw, which was too high and thus right to the deeper defender.
Gannon continues to make friends in O-town, talking about JMR's consistent problems with overthrows being the result of poor mechanics and fundamentals.
Vince Verhei: JaMarcus Russell after one quarter: 2-for-5 for four yards with two picks. It's ironic that the color commentator is Rich Gannon, quarterback for the last good Raiders team. I don't mean the most recent good Raiders team. I mean the last.
Bill Barnwell: Said [Raiders bigwig John] Herrera, "[Gannon] seems to be a guy who can't get over the fact that he played the worst Super Bowl game in the history of the game and he wants to blame everybody but himself."
Broncos are just running all their receivers over the middle and isolating them against linebackers in option routes.
Vince Verhei: Broncos lead 13-3. It could be much worse -- Denver has run ten goal-to-go plays and have one touchdown, one field goal, and one turnover on downs to show for it.
We need to do an offseason research piece on the worst quarterback staffs of all time. This should be right up there, along with those Mike Ditka Saints teams.
Did I mention that the Raiders -- with the rocket-armed passer and track team wide receiver corps -- have completed a total of 10 passes for just 6.5 yards per catch and four first downs?
Tom Gower: The 1994 Houston Oilers -- "featuring" Cody Carlson, Bucky Richardson, and Billy Joe Tolliver as their three quarterbacks -- will probably be the only team in history with three of the bottom five quarterbacks in DVOA. No wonder Jeff Fisher wanted to draft Kevin Carter instead of Steve McNair with the No. 3 pick in the draft.
Bill Barnwell: Really heads-up play by someone on the Chargers when Ronnie Brown fumbles at the goal line. The ball bounces into the end zone, and as a Dolphins offensive lineman goes to fall on it, the Chargers defender pushes him so that half his body is out of the end zone, turning a touchdown recovery into a touchback. Heads-up play.
The Dolphins are using the Wildcat a lot, but Henne is leading them straight down field.
Bill Barnwell: Would believe that means that Pennington and Pat White are both out of the game.
Mike Kurtz: Tony Dungy refers to the secondary as "safetymen." This guy is so weird.
David Gardner: Since when does the Colts offense show any variety? They are running end-arounds and reverses more often than I do in Madden.
Mike Kurtz: They're running these because their running game, especially their power running game, is pretty useless. If they stuck to conventional running, then they probably wouldn't get much out of it, and it confuses the heck out of the linebackers. Cris Collinsworth thinks they're scared of the play-action because they're scared of the running game, but I think it's more that they're scared of being out of position on a double-reverse or something.
Bill Barnwell: No team gets booed more at home than the Cardinals.
David Gardner: Well, the power running game isn't what the Colts are known for, but the stretch play has been pretty effective tonight.
Vince Verhei: Oh my God, the poorly synced halftime interview with Rex Ryan and Bob Costas. This is funnier than Mora.
Bill Barnwell: It's pretty sad when Joseph Addai is struggling to pick the right hole because there are too many open at one time.
The Colts are also going right after Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and making him look, well, overrated. The closest comp I think I can come up with for him so far is DeAngelo Hall. Good ball skills and fast, but can't tackle, awful in run support, and gets thrown at too frequently to be a great corner.
Vince Verhei: Kurt Warner taking a sack for a 28-yard loss on fourth down pretty much sums up their entire evening, doesn't it? I knew this after writing the Cardinals chapter, but it's even more evident after three weeks: The Cardinals' tackles are awful. Just awful. I feel like going back and watching last year's playoff games to figure out how Levi Brown and Wayne Gandy didn't knock Arizona out of the postseason on their own.
On defense, yes, they look bad, but it's the Colts. See prior comments on opponent adjustments concerning the Ravens and Texans.
Ned Macey: Tim Hightower gained 22 yards on nine carries against the Colts. Maybe he's a good receiving back, but he just is not a feature back.
Also, Arizona seemed to be trying to go downfield too much against the Colts. It is as if they didn't watch the last six years of tape. You can get 7-yard completions at will, but if you're throwing 15 to 20 yards down the field, you will get sacked/hit, and you will turn the ball over.
213 comments, Last at 01 Oct 2009, 4:36pm by Tim Wilson