The Seahawks' ability to cover New England's once-in-a-generation tight end will go a long way in determining who wins Super Bowl XLIX.
19 Oct 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. Well, except this week.)
Vince Verhei: Matt Schaub is going to end up with a pretty great day, DYAR-wise, but the receivers are doing more than their fair share -- a lot of the yards, especially the big plays (the Steve Slaton touchdown, a screen to Andre Johnson) have come after the catch.
Mike Tanier: You will see a lot of that from Schaub. He will also mix in a bunch of "what was he thinking" throws and just some wobbly passes.
Aaron Schatz: I like Carson Palmer a lot, but at some point we have to admit he has a weird problem throwing dumpoffs. The Bengals' running backs have been at the bottom of the league in DYAR year after year and I'm starting to wonder if it has to do with the quarterback. The Bengals had split backs in the third quarter with Daniel Coats in the backfield as fullback, and Palmer is under pressure, he throws to Coats over on the left side. Not only is Coats not really particularly open -- there's a defender like three feet in front of him -- but Palmer throws the ball two feet behind Coats, so Coats has to reach back to make the catch and then the defender has the opportunity to smack him, ball comes loose, fumble, recovery Houston. This is just one subjective view of one play, obviously, but it jives with the numbers from the past few years. Bengals running backs seem to specialize in low catch rate and third-down receptions that end nowhere near the sticks.
Robert Weintraub: As for Cincy today, the less said the better. Just one -- is adjusting to non-stop screen passes really that difficult?
Tom Gower: The Rams and Jaguars entered today's game having scored, combined, a grand total of 16 points in the first quarter this season, all of which were scored by the Jaguars and 10 of which came against the Titans. After one possession by each team, they've scored 13 (Jags flubbed the XP).
Doug Farrar: Discussion question: If the Rams lose to the Jaguars today, they will have lost their last 16 games, and it could be argued quite convincingly that they’ve been as bad as the 2008 Lions all the way. Should that carry the same stigma as a winless season does, or is it kind of a reverse Tiger Slam? To me, it’s even worse, because you have an offseason to deal with what ails your team.
Bill Barnwell: Well, what's the worst streak of consecutive losses across multiple seasons?
Tom Gower: 26. '76 Bucs 0-14, 77 started 0-12 before winning their last 2.
With Donnie Avery's hip injury today leaving him doubtful to return, the Rams' healthy, active wideouts were Danny Amendola, Keenan Burton, and Tim Carter, who wasn't on the roster three weeks ago and got hurt two plays after the announcers mentioned Avery's injury. TE Daniel Fells is now injured as well. Steven Jackson, you have my sympathies.
Tom Gower: Wow. Jags up 13-10, trying to run out the clock. Garrard's throwing the ball to Greg Jones on a swing out of the backfield, but Leonard Little reads the play, peels off the right tackle, makes a nice grab to steal the ball away from Jones and outraces Garrard 38 yards for the end zone. Fantastic play by Little.
Mike Kurtz: I'm sorry, but Brad Childress looks like a child-molesting high school teacher. I'm not sure I can take the vikings seriously with him as
Michael Oher being praised by Dan Dierdorf for essentially holding Jared Allen. This is going to be an interesting game.
Aaron Schatz: Actually, Mike, I think of it as "Brad Childress: The Rabbinic Years." I guess we have different cultural touchstones.
Mike Tanier: When did the NFL stop calling offensive picks? Percy Harvin just blocked Bernard Berrian's defender on a slant route for a Vikings touchdown. He really just lowered his shoulder and blocked, it wasn't a rub or a wipe, it was a block. Brett Favre is kicking butt early, but it helps when plays like that go uncalled.
Doug Farrar: Same time the NFL decided that any hit without a text beforehand (I M GONNA TCKL U NOW WATCH OUT!) was unnecessary roughness.
Mike Kurtz: Dierdorf, on the Vikings TO after only 9 men on the field: "I believe it's always best to start with your full complement of players."
The Vikings are just cutting up the Ravens' secondary, and there's been little pressure on Favre thus far. I think the loss of Rex Ryan is much bigger than the loss of Bart Scott... the Vikings are easily finding the seams and, on the most recent touchdown throw, defenders are missing assignments and running into each other. It's really sloppy thus far, although the run defense has been decent.
Bill Barnwell: Michael Oher is having a day that not even Sandra Bullock could fix. A false start earlier, a hurry or two, and Jared Allen just strip-sacked Joe Flacco for another Vikings defensive touchdown.
Well, until the refs say it was an incomplete pass.
Vince Verhei: I think the deal with the Flacco non-fumble is that referees are now allowing close fumbles to play out without blowing the whistle, then discussing to determine whether the runner was down or not. That way we avoid the "the ball was fumbled, but the whistle blew the play dead so the recovery doesn't count" debacles we've seen in the past. They did the same thing last week in Cincinnati-Baltimore.
Sean McCormick: Yeah, I thought the refs handled that well. You need to let the play run to conclusion, then go back and check. Flacco clearly maintained control as his arm went forward, even though Allen did strike his hand.
Mike Kurtz: After spending the first half picking apart the Ravens' secondary, the Vikes have switched to power running with Peterson. The adjustment has paid off thus far on this drive, Baltimore is respecting the pass and getting blown off the line.
The Ravens' offense has finally come alive. Flacco worked the sidelines on a long touchdown drive pretty much all the way down the field, including 3 third down conversions. At the end, Rice broke loose and scored.
Favre is getting a lot of press, but his receivers are really bailing him out. In the first two drives (two touchdowns), Favre was consistently throwing behind his receivers, and they (primarily Rice) were making excellent catches. Just now Favre threw a fade about 10 feet over the receiver's head. He has not looked great.
Dierdorf, in response to this awful throw, has spent the past 5 minutes babbling about Favre, with random quotes included. Shoot me now.
Aaron Schatz: We all know the Minnesota run defense is really good, and I think there's a reason people don't talk about. Those linemen have great instincts and reaction time. It seems like even if a back can break through that first line of blocking, some Minnesota defender is reaching back and grabbing a hold of a the back's ankle or leg, something to slow him down or take him down after a short gain.
Bill Barnwell: Ray Rice just sprinted through the Vikings defense for his second touchdown of the day, giving the Ravens a 31-30 lead. What were the odds of both backs in Baltimore vs. Minnesota having a huge game?
...and Favre responds by finding Frank Walker matched up in single coverage 50 yards downfield against Sidney Rice for a huge gain. Of course, a huge hold right in front of a rolled-out Favre goes uncalled.
Dan Dierdorf says over a shot of a desolate Joe Flacco, "Flacco must be asking himself who that #4 guy is." You know, because Brett Favre's gone unreported during Flacco's childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.
Mike Kurtz: Not quite playing for the tie, but the Vikes just shut down their offense in the red zone and appear to be settling for a FG that would put them up by 2. With 2 minutes left. Against a Baltimore offense that just torched them on two consecutive quick TD drives. What?
Luckily for the Vikings, Brett Favre uses his magic mind-control powers to make Hauschka the winning FG wide. Good acquisition.
Doug Farrar: I'll say this about Flacco -- he showed excellent pocket awareness, especially late in the game. Good movement to get out of trouble while maintaining his reads and getting the ball off under pressure.
Bill Barnwell: The Saints offense is pretty simple so far. On first and second down, isolate weak links in the passing game and run when there's space available. They still have to convert on third down, though, and that was tricky; Drew Brees threw a quick slant to Lance Moore when Corey Webster stumbled and Webster still had his hands on it and nearly picked it off. I'm not an NFL quarterback, but Webster isn't the guy I'd target in that defense. C.C. Brown, on the other hand....
The Saints' second touchdown comes when Marques Colston lines up essentially at his old position of tight end (fantasy leaguers can dream) and gets matched up in zone against Antonio Pierce; predictably, Colston runs a seam, Pierce can't keep up, and Brown gets looked off long enough to drop a great throw in.
Well, until the refs say he was down at the one.
Mike Tanier: During Gamebreaks, James Brown is talking about what the Saints are doing to the "NFL's #1 Defense" I think the Giants defense is very good, but do we all have to shut our brains off when reciting these official stats? They have played the Redskins, Chiefs, Bucs and Raiders. How shocking to think they may have a few flaws that those teams couldn't exploit!
Bill Barnwell: Everything the Giants are doing offensively is vertical, usually going towards the goalposts on seams and deep posts. Unfortunately, the Saints are either tipping passes away, or Eli Manning's overthrowing them.
Very questionable pass interference call against Corey Webster where the receiver got caught up in Webster's feet, but the call was that Webster was "not playing the ball". Of course, it didn't look like he was playing the ball because the receiver was turning and got caught up in Webster's feet.
Sean McCormick: The Jets' defensive performance against New Orleans is looking better and better with each Saints drive. New Orleans is having tremendous success forcing the Giants linebackers into coverage and taking advantage, whether it's making them cover Reggie Bush out in the flats or taking advantage of linebackers who are providing bracket coverage on deep post patterns.
Right now, it's all working for the Saints.
Mike Tanier: At half, this looks like the kind of game the Saints found a way to lose last year. They are up by 10, but they just missed a goal line opportunity to score a touchdown, and the way they are playing, the Giants shouldn't even be in the game.
Bill Barnwell: It was the right move to go for it, though, and I think they actually made it and got screwed by a bad call that it was impossible to overturn.
Eli fumblesacked, almost fumble-6. First-and-goal again for the Saints, it appears.
Doug Farrar: A Reggie Bush sighting!
The Saints have had success today running outside in the red zone (sometimes by holding, as Heath Evans found out), and they blew open a serious lane for Bush to roll in for the touchdown at the end of the first half.
Bill Barnwell: Giants scheme for this Saints game is totally wrong. They're rushing three and four and dropping seven or eight into coverage, and Brees is picking the mismatches apart in man and finding huge cracks in their zones. You've got the best pass rush in football. Blitz Brees and confuse him.
C.C. Brown is just having a terrifyingly bad game.
Doug Farrar: Darren Sharper batted away a pass to Mario Manningham in the end zone with 12 minutes left in the game. If he didn't have it already (or if Aqib Talib had two or more today), that play should break the tie Sharper had with Michael Huff of the Raiders for the NFL lead in passes defensed with 10. So it's the lead in picks AND deflections for a guy who was thought to be hanging on with a one-year contract in New Orleans. Not bad!
Doug Farrar: The Browns have wisely decided to do away with the traditional quarterback concept altogether, instead putting Josh Cribbs in shotgun a lot early on with a lot of their Flash package stuff. Cribbs threw an early pick to Troy Polamalu, who came up limping, Ouch.
Bill Barnwell: The problem with the Wildcat as a red zone offense for me is that you can't manipulate the safeties, since there's no space behind them. The Steelers split out Polamalu in coverage and the Browns are targeting him, but they can't do anything with Cribbs as the quarterback there.
Doug Farrar: Back to Josh Cribbs, who returned a kickoff 98 yards for that rarest of all things: a Cleveland touchdown. If he throws a touchdown pass today as well, I think Cribbs should be allowed to tear up his current contract in a public ceremony.
Mike Kurtz: Willie Parker? What? Did the steelers brass not watch the past two weeks?
This is a nightmare.
Two quarters later…
Mike Kurtz: Why is Willie Parker playing. Why. Why. Why.
Play-action, Parker runs out, the Browns… do whatever it is the browns do, there is nobody within 20 yards of him. Catches the ball. Then falls down. A few seconds later, he gets up and runs for another 4 yards before he's tackled.
Next play, simple off-tackle, home clear, gets hit high by one guy and coughs up the ball, Browns recover.
Why are you doing this to us, Tomlin? Why?
Doug Farrar: The return of Cadillac Williams is an underreported story because his team stinks on ice, but it's pretty miraculous to watch the cuts he's making after all the knee problems. Specifically, the SICK cut to the left on the
run that put the Bucs up a touchdown on the Panthers early in the first quarter.
David Gardner: The Bucs offense has moved the ball down quickly on their first two possessions, thanks to Josh Johnson's accuracy and much-improved play from the wide receivers.
Bill Barnwell: Dante Wesley just hit Clifton Smith, waiting for a punt, with one of the dirtiest hits you'll ever see. Smith called for a fair catch and, with the ball about to land in maybe a second, Wesley lept in the air and leveled Smith with something straight out of NFL Blitz or the XFL's marketing plan, knocking Smith unconscious and starting a huge brawl.
Doug Farrar: Oh, jeez – I just saw the Wesley hit. With all the legitimate talk about the league getting too ticky-tack on roughness calls, that was waaaaaay out of order. He’s about to get a lot lighter in the wallet.
Tom Gower: The Panthers got a first and goal at the 12 with 1:54 left. The Bucs burned up their time outs and CAR converted for first and goal from with 1. With the Bucs unable to stop the clock and having the ability to win the game by taking a couple knees and kicking a 19 yard field goal, DeAngelo Williams gets the ball on first-and-goal and scores. I'm really not sure I like that move by Fox.
Doug Farrar: Washington’s defense is playing like absolute garbage. They’re getting gashed by Larry Johnson (!), and DeAngelo Hall is playing so far off Dwayne Bowe, he may need a passport if he decides to bump-and-run later in the game.
Bill Barnwell: That last fade before the Chiefs field goal was a comedy of errors. Cassel overthrew the fade by three yards, so it didn't matter that Hall fell down in his backpedal.
Doug Farrar: Great way for the Redskins to end the first half. They go shotgun on fourth-and-2 at the KC 35 with six seconds left on the clock. Campbell rolls around in the pocket, just long enough to insure that there’s no time left, and throws a pick to Brandon Flowers. As far as I could see, all three Washington receivers ran what amounted to straight downfield routes – not a single sideline pattern for an anemic offense that could use a 3-3 tie at the end of the half, even if it is against the Chiefs. You don’t go Hail Mary there, Zornie – you get a quick out for 10 and kick the damned field goal.
On replay, fourth receiver Antwaan Randle El ran a skinny post from the right slot. THAT makes sense.
Washington brings in Todd Collins and benches Jason Campbell…
Mike Tanier: Oh my, ladies and gentlemen: a Todd Collins sighting..
Doug Tanier: After that, the Redskins enjoy the following third-quarter red zone sashay:
First Down: Empty backfield, Todd Collins overthrow in the end zone.
Second Down: Empty backfield, Todd Collins overthrow in the end zone.
Third Down: Single-back, four-wide, Collins pass deflected at the line.
As a longtime Seattle resident, I love me some Jim Zorn, but it’s pretty clear that this Redskins thing needs to end.
Tom Gower: But ... but ... but ... Clinton Portis never would've run for 78 yards with Campbell still in there. Collins so inspires the team they've scored points the first two drives he's been in there.
Doug Farrar: Yes, and the receivers all would have run the right routes on the last stupid playcall if only “Toddball” (©The Washington Post) had been in there at the end of the first half.
Bill Barnwell: And now the Redskins-Chiefs feed is out nationwide. I wonder if Collins can fix that, too.
CBS color commentator notes after a two-yard run on first-and-10 that the Chiefs are doing a good job of getting Larry Johnson the rock and that once he gets up around 25 carries, the Chiefs usually win. Good job with that.
Matt Cassel just pulled an Orlovsky, scrambling two yards ahead of the line of scrimmage before (temporarily) throwing a pass for a first down.
Vince Verhei: Cut to Todd Haley, who just has his arms crossed, staring at the ground and shaking his head.
Aaron Schatz: Wait, I thought Orlovsky was known for forgetting where the back of the end zone was? That's not an Orlovsky, that's a Favre. I bet if you go into the big FO pbp database, half the penalties for illegal forward pass over the last 15 years were by Brett Favre (well, not counting penalties on end-game lateral-fests).
Bill Barnwell: I just consider Orlovsky as the patron saint for quarterbacks with absolutely no sense of awareness.
Vince Verhei: Would Reverse-Orlovsky be appropriate?
Doug Farrar: Oh, dear. Matt Cassel throws high to Dwayne Bowe, driving late, and Bowe gets alligator arms on the high stuff as LaRon Landry is diving to lay him out. Bowe does a half-jump and pulls up. Still, the Chiefs pull ahead, 9-6, on Ryan Succop's third field goal of the day. If that's the way the score stays, I'll bet money on Jerry Gray being Washington's interim head coach next week.
Vince Verhei: Washington has the ball down 6 with 30 seconds to go. In an attempt to pull off a miracle, Todd Collins is sacked in the end zone. Pretty much sums up the Zorn era, doesn't it?
Bill Barnwell: The Chiefs haven't been great this year, but Tamba Hali is showing real skill as a outside linebacker.
Doug Farrar: Don’t forget the kickoff penalty on the usually invisible Fred Davis to put the Skins in that hole in the first place. They can (and should) fire Zorn -- the guy is clearly in about five stories above his own head -- but without a major, major change in thinking in that front office, it doesn’t matter one bit who replaces him. Dan Snyder needs to do two things: Hire a great GM and stay the hell out of his way. As he will do neither, this team is in major trouble.
Aaron Schatz: Anyone want to check the manifests for all flights from Denver to Washington tonight?
Vince Verhei: Shanahan? Why would he want that job? He can wait three months and something better will open up. And "something better" would be pretty much anywhere else except Oakland.
Bill Barnwell: JaMarcus Russell's first pass is too high, off the receiver's fingertips, and picked off in Oakland. Looks like a gorgeous fall day there, while the snow comes down in New England. Why did I move again?
Vince Verhei: On the first play of the Raiders' second drive, Russell is sacked for a 10-yard loss. Every team gives up sacks once in a while, but when the Raiders do it, it just looks funnier. Russell play-fakes to a pair of running backs, both of whom move to the left to pass block. Then Russell kind of pirouettes back into something resembling a passing stance. Then one of the runners blows his block and his man takes Russell down.
Mike Tanier: Nnamdi Asomugha is out for the Raiders. That said, I wish the Eagles would run once. in. a. while.
(How many times have I typed that in the past five years? 25?)
Bill Barnwell: Zach Miller with an absurd 86-yard touchdown pass where he finds a hole behind Jeremiah Trotter, the Eagles blow about three tackles, and he gets a couple blocks downfield. I thought that the Eagles were going to struggle with Trotter in coverage, but ... not like that.
Tom Gower: To be fair, that was some fantastic downfield blocking by Louis Murphy, who destroyed the CB, and blocked the safety. It's still a good gain with normal (bad) blocking, but Murphy made that TD. Also Miller's first TD in over a year, I believe.
Bill Barnwell: And then McNabb follows it with a pick-six to Stanford Routt that ends up being called back for a VERY questionable amount of pass interference.
Vince Verhei: To back up Tanier's point: At the end of the first quarter: LeSean McCoy has two carries, and Brian Westbrook and Michael Vick have one each. Meanwhile, the Eagles have run 14 pass plays. On the other hand, those four carries have netted one total yard, so maybe they should pass every play.
Bill Barnwell: Andy Reid -- Mr. I Never Go For It -- goes for it on fourth-and-inches from his OWN 29 and makes it on a McNabb sneak. About time.
All year, the Raiders have been rushing four and getting no pressure. This week, they're lining up linebackers in the A-gaps for blitzes, creating confusion, and Jason Peters' injury has resulted in the left side of their line getting destroyed. Richard Seymour's killing them, but there's other problems there with communication; on one play, the two linemen (King Dunlap at left tackle and, maybe, Todd Herremans at left guard?) didn't even come out of their stances until 1.5 seconds after the snap.
Mike Tanier: Eagles are having one of THOSE games. Jason Peters is hurt but Reid isn't giving the replacement much help. McNabb got sacked out of field goal range near the end of the first half. The special teams just failed to down an easy-to-down punt at the 2-yard line. And JaMarcus Russell is 9-of-11.
Everyone is just playing dumb. One of those infuriating games, like the Bengals game last year.
Okay, now he is 10-of-13 but with a pick.
Ooh. Eagles call 4th timeout! Then McNabb is sacked on a ragged start by the offensive line! Maybe there is lead in the paint in Oakland.
Missed field goal by David Akers. The hits just keep on coming. And now the Raiders offensive line is suddenly good.
Tim Gerheim: Imagine: you're the Raiders facing fourth and one. You have a 260 lb. QB who's completing about 40% of his passes. Do you try sneaking it maybe, or throw a deep out? Sneak it you say? Sorry, you've just made yourself ineligible to coach the Raiders.
Mike Tanier: How about if you coach your fat QB that when he rolls out, if there is no defensive containment whatsoever, he must just take the easy first down? That would also be too much for the Raiders, Who are winning,
DeSean Jackson just got hurt while being tackled 5 yards out of bounds. No flag.
There's a pigeon on the field that is currently outplaying the Eagles offense.
Vince Verhei: The Oakland Pigeon is now on the highlights, accompanying the Raiders on their kickoff coverage.
Bill Barnwell: This Eagles game really is a 2006-08 special. Raiders recovering multiple fumbles (or fumbles don't get called), tipped Russell passes that hit the ground, intentional grounding calls that go unwhistled...
Mike Tanier: Anyone watching a good game? Just curious who I should be jealous of.
Meanwhile, in Monday Night Jihad, there's a Italian tight end (from Italy, a guy from the Elamverse's version of NFLEurope) who speaks German, married an American woman just weeks after entering the US, and receives suspicious phone calls just minutes (in book time) after the terrorists call their boss for instructions.
Am I going to read about an Afgani terrorist who can pass for an Italian tight end? Don't know whether to laugh or cry. Or call John Spagnola and tell him to sue.
Vince Verhei: Raiders finish off the Eagles. Last bit of drama: Will Tom Cable and Andy Reid be able to shake hands, or will their respective enormous
bellies get in the way, leaving them waving their arms at each other like obese tyrannosaurs?
They're reaching out, and ... success! We have a handshake!
Mike Tanier: Then Cable and Reid ate the friggin pigeon.
Mike Kurtz: Wait, what? Did the Eagles really only have single-digit runs this week? Reid panicked or something?
Sean McCormick: The Raiders were demolishing the Eagles offensive line all day. It almost looked like they knew the snap count better than the Eagles, as they were repeatedly moving before the linemen could get out of their stances.
Vince Verhei: Boy, this first drive has been exactly what you would expect: Seahawks getting pressure off the edge, but Warner hanging in there and completing passes to giant wide receivers who are playing against outmatched Smurfs. Warner passes convert on third-and-2 or less three times on the drive, which ends in a Larry Fitzgerald touchdown. Warner went 9-for-9 on the drive.
Doug Farrar: Don't you dare say anything against Tim Ruskell's Smurfs! You're always better off with short, quick cornerbacks because other people don't see their value and you can get them for a steal and look like the genius you are! And that's why you overdraft them in the first and second rounds! Or something like that!
Vince Verhei: I'm not a fan of Jim Mora and his staff at all, but whoever designed and called that fake punt deserves high praise. John Carlson just stepped out into the flat and no Cardinals made even an attempt to cover him, and Carlson rambled for a big gain.
Of course, the Seahawks were caught off guard by their own success, and following the successful fake punt they had to call timeout to get a play called. Drive eventually ends with a sack on third-and-goal, and Seahawks kick a field goal to go down 17-3.
Matt Hasselbeck is sacked for the fourth time. Play ends with both tackles sitting on the ground, looking back at the defenders who ran over them and took Hasselbeck down.
Bill Barnwell: Lofa Tatupu is out for the year. Thoughts, Seattle crew?
Vince Verhei: S--t. For whatever this is worth, Mora and the staff were getting excoriated, just ravaged on sports radio afterwards. Fans and radio guys alike are already sick of him. I don't think I've seen this city turn on a coach so quickly.
Doug Farrar: Mora isn't the problem. He isn't the solution, but he isn't the problem. He isn't the one who thought that David Greene was the Seahawks' quarterback of the future. He isn't the one who let Steve Hutchinson dangle on the open market over a $600,000 tag difference, despite the fact that the Eagles had shown interest in poison-pilling for Hutch a few months before. He isn’t the one who plucked Julius Jones from the Cowboys as if it was some sort of epic win, when Jones would be Dallas' fourth-best running back right now. He wasn't the one who gave up a first-round pick and a $39 million contract to a ball-dropping, constantly hurt Santana Moss Lite. And he wasn't the one who did nothing to replace Walter Jones despite the age and microfracture concerns. No, moving Sean Locklear to left tackle doesn't count in the least.
If people want to rip the architect of this disaster, they need look no further than Tim Ruskell. Mora shouldn't be taking the bullets for this -- he's just the caretaker of a comatose patient. Mike Holmgren found it more and more difficult to win with Ruskell's personnel moves after the first Super Bowl year. Any coach would.
Aaron Schatz: Hello from Gillette Stadium, where FO makes its first-ever press box appearance. It is 45 minutes to kickoff and, I kid you not, SNOWING.
The Pats CB were giving guys a ton of space in previous games. Don't know if it is the Tennessee receivers or the weather, but this week they are playing very close to the line before the snap.
Titans are down to four corners because of injuries: rookies Jason McCourty and Ryan Mouton, a second-year guy named Cary Williams with only three NFL games before today (who went to a college called Washburn that I've never heard of), and recently signed FO binky Roderick Hood. Man, are the Titans happy about the weather, although the wind didn't stop Brady from hitting a wide open Welker downfield for nearly 40 yards.
Bill Barnwell: I would like to disassociate myself from being binky for Roderick Hood if at all possible.
Doug Farrar: Duly noted. Barnwell says, Life of Brian-style: “Wewease Wodewick!”
Aaron Schatz: Pats hit Randy Moss deep for 40-yard touchdown on Flea Flicker. Can anyone remember which Audibles last year I ran through some numbers for Flea Flickers? I seem to remember doing it at one point. Great percentage play.
Tom Gower: I'm glad next week is the bye week. I'll need the full 13 days to come up with a list of "things to look forward to after an 0-6 start with 20 starters back off a team that was 13-3." Or at least one thing.
Vince Verhei: Two notes on Brady's second touchdown to Moss: First, the roughing penalty was a blatant head-to-head hit. How can you not be cognizant of that kind of thing after the Brady-Ravens hullabaloo?
Secondly, are the Titans defensive backs even trying anymore? It seems like they'd rather just stand around and point at each other than even try to cover anyone. The corner just jogged by at half-speed as Moss blew by him, and the safety reacted late, then sort of sauntered over to at least be in the picture as Moss went into the end zone.
Aaron Schatz: Tom, what the hell? You watch this team every week. We can talk about Albert Haynesworth and all that, but the Titans brought back the entire offense from last year. What on earth happened to this offense? They look AWFUL. We're halfway through the second quarter and I am not sure if Collins even has a completed pass.
Tom Gower: I think a lot of it is a coaching issue. The corners are all young, except Hood who's been on the team for 3 days, but the safeties are veterans. I'm now starting to believe DC Chuck Cecil isn't communicating effectively, or may just be terrible at gameplanning.
Aaron Schatz: The defense, yes, has tons of injuries in the secondary and has to adapt to the lack of Haynesworth. What the hell is going on with the offense? Same coordinator, same players, no injuries except they were missing Nate Washington for a couple weeks. But what about the offense?
Vince Verhei: Collins has completed two passes -- one to each team.
Tom Gower: Well, this year I didn't write a preview post for my personal blog about how the Titans wouldn't be as good as everybody thought they were going to be, so everything that's happened this year has been my fault.
One problem is that the offense was never actually any good. It was 16th in DVOA last year, and that was probably overrating how good it actually was. They have precisely two skill position players who are at least average, and I'd say Hall is maybe only marginally above average. And, CJ28 is a boom-and-bust runner. One thing I suspect about those guys is they're more inconsistent from year-to-year. This year, he's been going boom a good amount, but he's also been going bust a lot more-something like half his carries are for 0 or negative yardage.
That actually points to the root problem of the offensive problems, and that's that every single member of the offensive line is playing worse than they did last year. Michael Roos has gone from great to pretty good (and he was never a mauler in the run game), they haven't been able to cover for Amano like they did last year, Mawae has struggle, Jake Scott has been bad, and David Stewart looks like he did when he had an ankle injury that caused him problems mid-season in 2007. It's the same five damn guys, they've been together for 2+ years, and Munchak is still the O-line coach. Yet, nothing is working as well as it did last year. I'm completely lost as to what's going on.
What also hasn't helped is the Pats are the fourth 3-4 team they've faced (including the Jags as such), and they've struggled offensively against 3-4 teams for years, both running and passing.
The struggles in the run game, when combined with the defensive struggles, mean they're behind more and having to pass more than they did last year or in '07, and they simply don't have the ingredients to be a good passing team when teams can play to defend the pass.
The frustrating thing about this is there's no easy way to fix what's going on. Sure, you can play Ringer instead of White and see what he can give you (not sure if White will be back today), and Kenny Britt looks promising. Rookie TE Jared Cook may be worth something, but isn't yet (Crumpler's cooked and Scaife isn't any good). Collins hasn't played well, but putting VY in isn't going to fix all your problems in one go, and he's probably gone after this year anyway without a massive pay cut. It really hurts when you blow consecutive top-six picks (Pacman and VY).
I actually thought the Titans would stand a chance in this game when I saw the kickoff weather conditions-something like 13-10 game. The holes in the run game today have really surprised me, plus Brady's success throwing down the field. The drops have also really hurt in the passing game.
Aaron Schatz: It is easier to throw in snow than it is in rain, and the wind has calmed down from what it was when I was driving down here a couple hours ago. The conditions at 2pm were a lot more favorable to the Titans than the conditions at kickoff.
Pats are going four-wide against the Titans, which is just unfair. I mean, the Titans only have four cornerbacks right now, and that's just because they signed one a couple days ago. And how many times have you seen Michael Griffin come up on the screen after a touchdown? Holy crap, it's Brian Hoyer time already.
Two differences noticed between Lincoln Financial press box and Gillette press box:
1) Gillette press box is two floors with food on first floor, seats to watch game and work on second. Lincoln Financial is one floor with the food and stuff behind the work area. It means if you go to get a snack here, you can still see the game, plus they can sit another row of people in front of a window down there.
2) Gillette press box seems a lot quieter during the game. Less talk between reporters. I'm a bit surprised.
Vince Verhei: The more I watch TEN-NE, I see that it's not the the Titans secondary isn't trying it's that they have no cohesion together. They have no idea who's supposed to be covering who, and given the ragtag nature of the lineup, that's understandable, if not acceptable. It's like the corners are playing Cover-2, but the safeties aren't, over and over again. Moss is all alone 15 yards downfield on the right sideline, and catches the ball, and No. 23 gets away with a helmet-to-helmet hit. Moss was down for a while, then recovered. Then Walker gets open 15 yards downfield on the right sideline and scores a touchdown. At this point it's time for Tennessee to do just nutty stuff -- 11-man blitzes, Cover-5 zones, a 2-7-2 formation, whatever, it can't be worse than what they're doing.
Bill Barnwell: Phil Simms says Jeff Fisher should shock the troops at halftime by screaming and turning over garbage cans. My suggestion: Walk into the room, tell everyone to shut up, take out a razor, and shave the mustache.
Doug Farrar: I think Jeff Fisher should give us all a break by screaming and turning over Phil Simms. That said, you may be on to something with the facial hair idea. Joe Flacco is MUCH better since he lost the Unibrow.
Vince Verhei: Trust me on this one: Losing a unibrow makes everyone better.
My buddy and I are discussing different things the Pats can do to handicap themselves. Our favorite so far is for Welker and Moss to tie their ankles together, three-legged race style. I think they'd still get open.
Aaron Schatz: Man, LenDale White is going back to drinking Patron after this game. This is ridiculous.
Tom Gower: For the record, the record for NFL points in a half is 49, set by the Packers against the Buccaneers in 1983 (1st half) and the Bears against the Eagles in 1941 (2nd half). The last team to score 45 in a half was the Seahawks against the Vikings in 2002 (when, IIRC, Shaun Alexander just went nuts).
Aaron, can you see a guy in a red hat on the Titans sideline? I'm wonder if DC Chuck Cecil got killed or committed seppuku at halftime. He probably can't just sit there laughing in despair at this game like I've been.
Aaron Schatz: Believe it or not, I can't see the red hat. Are we sure Cecil was wearing the usual red in the first half? Maybe he's wearing normal blue today because of either the weather or the league rules regarding AFL throwbacks. Thus, without the red to stand out on the sidelines, he can't get the proper signals into his defense. That explains 52-0, right?
Tom Gower: Hmm, maybe he just has it on under a hood or something. I don't recall actually seeing him in the first half, but about all of the sideline shots have been closeups of somebody (normally Fish, sometimes VY).
Bill Barnwell: Kerry Collins slipping on fourth-and-10 down 52 points and having to pitch it to Nate Washington, who then fumbled for a total loss of about 25 yards, is a summation of the Titans' season.
Aaron Schatz: Let the record state that with 7:53 to play in the third quarter, Michigan officially gave way to Michigan State. It is Brian Hoyer time in Foxboro.
The entire Titans team seems to be huddled around the heater on the sidelines. It's at least a dozen guys, and a coach. The Titans are desperate to get out of here.
Tom Gower: Follow-up stat of the day: the Titans and the Patriots each had 193 yards rushing. The only difference in the game, then, was the Patriots had 426 yards passing and the Titans had -7.
Sean McCormick: I turned down three different tickets to the Jets game. I don't mind sitting through horrid weather in November and December, but in the middle of October? Grr...
Bill Barnwell: Always good to see the color commentator in Jets-Bills calling for the Jets to challenge on a play where he thought Thomas Jones was down on the one-inch line. Hint: Not good to waste a timeout when you get four chances from the one inch line, even if it's the Jets.
David Gardner: I was listening to the radio play-by-play of the Jets decision to call a time out on fourth and 2, line up to go for it, then take a delay of game and then kick a 44-yard field goal. I agree that it wasn't the smartest move.
What's less smart? The color commentator suggesting that Rex Ryan should have taken a second consecutive timeout, rather than taking the delay of game. Um ... that would have cost them 15 yards, because you can't do that. It's considered unsportsmanlike conduct.
Sean McCormick: When Rex Ryan sends his overload blitzes, he generally has a soft zone coverage on the side opposite the blitz. It means that the corner away from the blitz has to be able to immediately take down the receiver should the quarterback throw to his hot read. Instead, Lito Sheppard was caught flat-footed while Lee Evans broke to the inside on a slant, and Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Evans for a simple touchdown.
As for whether or not this is a good game, I would say no. Sanchez is having a horrendous time dealing with the wind, Dustin Keller is having a horrendous job trying to protect his hands from the balls that keep hitting him square in the palms, and the Bills are basically moving the ball on the strength of drawing defensive contact penalties.
A good game it isn't.
Mike Kurtz: Agreed on BUF-NYJ. It's close and it's interesting, but it's really sloppy. Lots of penalties and turnovers and reportedly some nasty wind. Sanchez almost pick-6'd as an LB fails to catch the ball on a jumped slant.
Sean McCormick: Sanchez has thrown three interceptions and nearly chucked a fourth just now. His ball was fluttering when coming off his hand in the first quarter, and he's having trouble getting zip on anything but checkdowns. Mike Lombardi over at National Football Post often talks about how you need to design your team to match the elements you'll play in, and that you absolutely need to make sure your quarterback has the arm strength to cut through the wind if he plays in New York (or in Buffalo, for that matter). Well, Sanchez is probably playing in the worst conditions he's ever experienced at any level, while the Bills have been trotting out Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
As you can imagine, the passing game has been ugly. And there's pick number four for Sanchez.
Oh, and three of the four interceptions were on passes intended for Braylon Edwards.
The Jets try to kick a 50-yard field goal in overtime, but Dennis Weatherford bobbles the snap, so he picks up the ball and tries to chuck it downfield. Interception. That makes five Buffalo interceptions, for those keeping track at home.
The most entertaining part of the game so far has been the titanic war of pronunciation going on between Dan Fouts and Dick Enberg. Dan Fouts will say, "Bad job there by SAN-chez," and Enberg will immediately fire back with, "San-CHEZ looks uncomfortable out there, Dan."
Mike Tanier: The Jets were playing without Cotchery and Brad Smith. That, plus bad conditions and an inexperienced quarterback, equals a hard-to-watch game.
Tom Gower: That was a beautiful throw by Jay Cutler for the "TD" to Knox-against the blitz, downfield, where his receiver and nobody else could get to it. I think (Mike) Smith probably should have challenged the call, given his team's offensive struggles early, but I'm not sure it gets overturned.
Mike Kurtz: The Bears are executing exceptionally well .... nobody is doing a particularly impressive job, aside from Cutler (okay, as I say that, he throws the most ugly interception I've seen in non-Mark Sanchez games this week) on that TD throw. What they have done very well this game is execute. They have a game plan, everyone is in the right spot, and they're all doing their jobs well. That's an impressive display of coaching.
Doug Farrar: Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offensive line made some nice adjustments to the Bears' blitz packages in the second quarter, using no-huddle and more quick passes up the middle and to the flats. Just picking apart the short stuff until the Bears had to back off. And yes, as Collinsworth pointed out, Ryan's phantom snap call on the (Danieal) Manning edge blitz was very (Peyton) Manning-esque.
Falcons line coach Paul Boudreau, who did such a great job with the Rams in 2006 and 2007, is an unheralded but crucial part of the team's rebirth.
Mike Kurtz: Hester, JUST RUN FORWARD. The screen, you had three blocks in front of you. Run forward! You are inexplicably wide open and catch the ball in space? Sure, make a cut. But then RUN FORWARD! Hester very probably left a TD on the field around the two-minute warning because of his penchant for unncessary juking and horizontal running.
David Gardner: Does it bother anyone else how wealky Hester finishes his runs? He looks to go out of bounds and avoids contact like the swine flu.
Bill Barnwell: I tend to trust Devin Hester's running instincts and decisions over my own.
Mike Kurtz: And you write about football? On the Internet? You do understand how this Internet thing works, right?
Cutler has been consistently behind his receivers tonight. The receivers have done a good job of compensating, but that's contributed in no small way to their red zone woes.
Aaron Schatz: Somebody on the Atlanta defensive staff needs to spend next week working with the players on turning around and looking for the ball in coverage. That's twice they've gotten defensive pass interference for the same reason, playing the man and not even looking for the ball.
David Gardner: Corners aren't required to turn around and look for the ball anymore, but refs seem still more likely to call PI when they don't.
Will Carroll: It worked for Marvin Harrison. I dont think that guy ever took a big hit. I'm not sure if it was him (I think so) or Dungy (they didn't in TB), but all the Colts guys do it now, even without him here.
And I'll agree. I don't have the vision or skills to know how to run in the NFL. There's lots of things I'll second guess, but if I were a coach, running and vision wouldnt be something I'd coach (though I have some ideas on drills) and I'd encourage avoiding contact on offense.
Aaron Schatz: Right. Because it is easy for a receiver to slow down a bit and now all of a sudden the defender is interfering.
Mike Kurtz: Agreed, the rules favor passing to what I'd argue a disgusting degree ... it's really, really hard to defend effectively, especially with the extra rules protecting the QB arguably taking the edge off your pass rush.
Vince Verhei: Big guys like Brandon Jacobs should run over men. Skinny guys like Devin Hester should hit the deck or get out of bounds and preserve their careers.
Franco Harris was mocked and called soft for ducking out of bounds, but it probably added several years to his career.
Bill Barnwell: As a Giants fan, I would prefer if Brandon Jacobs ran out of bounds, too.
Will Carroll: Interesting about Harris. I have no recollection of those teams aside from NFL Films, but if he's the only one who's kept his head and wits about him, shouldn't we be noting that? There's how many Steelers dead or disabled now from that era (yes, I include Terry Bradshaw in that mix) and with all the articles of the past few months, maybe Harris is an object lesson. Where is he now? I smell an article.
Doug Farrar: I didn’t know about the OB thing, but Shaun Alexander always reminded me most of two guys (and we know all about Shaun’s rep): Harris and Duane Thomas. Thomas for the gliding, deceptively fast style, and Harris for the ability to avoid really hard contact while still getting forward momentum. I could see, especially in the 1970’s, how any back who didn’t drive his head into the line on every play would be viewed as some sort of pansy. That’s very much how things were. On the other hand, some of that talk is born out of frustration. You hate the guy who ghosts you out of the NFL Films tackle, so you call him a wimp because he didn’t go out of his way to bowl you over. Well, his job isn’t to fight you – his job is to get into the freaking end zone.
Bill Barnwell: The pinnacle of this was when Bart Scott started complaining about how the gimmicky Wildcat offense wasn't manly enough. You know, that high-falootin' single wing.
288 comments, Last at 23 Oct 2009, 12:41pm by Vague