Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
09 Nov 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.)
Bill Barnwell: Early winner for KCW: Reed Doughty lines up a half-yard offsides on a punt at midfield, giving the Falcons the necessary yardage for the first down.
We're seeing some Matt Ryan regression in Atlanta. I don't know whether it's the decline of the running game causing it or just that it's hard to be as good as Ryan was as a rookie, but he has been making some strange decisions over the past few weeks that have been leading to turnovers. He just threw a deep crossing pattern into triple coverage and Rocky McIntosh picked it off.
The latest chapter in the chronicles of Jason Campbell: He hits Fred Davis in the hands with a pass, Davis drops it, Tye Hill snatches it up and returns it for a touchdown. All his fault.
I was looking at Campbell's line before the game, and it's astounding -- he's played some weak defenses, but his completion percentages and YPA are way up. His interception rate is up to 3.4 percent, but it's not surprising that his INT rate is higher than last year's, a historically-unsustainable 1.2 percent. His sack rate's risen from 3.8 percent as a rookie to 8.8 percent this year, though, and that's the most notable difference.
Aaron Schatz: I wrote a piece that will be in the next ESPN Magazine about when teams should give up on struggling young quarterbacks, and one thing I point out is that you shouldn't give up on young quarterbacks who actually AREN'T STRUGGLING. You would never know from talking to anyone in Washington, but Campbell has never had a season below replacement level, and that includes THIS YEAR.
Doug Farrar: Yup -- pretty much the same point I made in the book. Someone's going to get a solid free-agent quarterback for a nice price next year. Someone just has to drill it into his head that it's OK to throw the ball downfield.
Bill Barnwell: Campbell's doomed either way. If he tries to scramble, he's not mobile enough to get away, and it turns out that pass rushers follow you out of the pocket. If he stays in the pocket, the Redskins can't sustain any sort of pass protection long enough to keep him upright. Tony Siragusa is saying that he's looking at the pressure, but I don't know about that.
Doug Farrar: C'mon, Bill. Vinny Cerrato gave Campbell a playoff-caliber offensive line this year. Just ask him!
Campbell gets hurt, Todd Collins comes in, and it's a four-yard loss to Santana Moss. I'm sold. Clearly, Campbell is the problem.
Bill Barnwell: Downright brutal tackling by the Redskins -- specifically LaRon Landry and DeAngelo Hall -- springs Michael Turner for his second long touchdown of the day, and probably shuts the door on a burgeoning Redskins comeback. Just awful.
Jason Campbell's down again with an ankle injury.
Oh, and Mike Williams decides he also wants to be hurt, so the Redskins' eighteenth-string tackle comes on.
Aaron Schatz: Text message from Tanier: "Redskins pass to Sellars on fourth-and-1. Fire all Shermans."
Benjy Rose: So, the Landry late hit on Ryan was mentioned earlier, but something didn't make sense to me. In the fracas, Albert Haynesworth comes in to the crowd and slams into somebody just to make his poor, poor ego feel a bit better, and gets a deserved flag thrown for unsportsmanlike conduct. So that's two unsportsmanlike conducts on the play. Atlanta accepts only the first, and refuses the second. Is there a rule that only one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty can be called per play? That seems silly.
Eli Holman: I was going to make a joke about how [the Wildcat] would actually be an improvement for the Arizona running game, but then I noticed that they are currently averaging 64.9 yds/game. Mostly that's due to having only 138 attempts, but seriously, what is the lowest single-season average rushing yards per game? I poked around PFR a bit and didn't see anything even close.
Bill Barnwell: Would be the worst since the merger, yup. 2000 Chargers averaged 66.4 yards per game. Good catch!
Tom Gower: Tommie Harris, ugh. You'll be seeing this replay. It's not Haynesworth, but just galactically stupid.
Aaron Schatz: More information, por favor?
Tom Gower: Harris was tossed for taking a roundhouse at the side of an Arizona player's head while he was down on the ground after the play.
Doug Farrar: I didn't see it, but according to NFL.com, Harris was ejected for punching guard Deuce Lutui, who was down on the ground.
Mike Kurtz: Dear lord, I spend the morning moving stuff into the new office, get home an hour into the Bears game and Arizona is destroying them and Tommie Harris has been ejected. Not a good sign. Looking at the tape, the ref was RIGHT THERE. What in god's name was he thinking?
The Bears offense has actually looked decent. Jay Cutler has been hurried a few times and made some bad throws, but nothing horrific. The drive that I saw live broke down like most drives do; a blown pass play and a bad penalty. Nothing that doesn't happen to any team, but the Bears needed to keep up with the Cardinals, and they just can't.
Incidentally, the FOX studio B-team of Lynch and Green >>>>> the studio A-Team.
Bill Barnwell: Chicago-Arizona's first half is an interesting case study in how bad the Chicago D can be without Tommie Harris and Brian Urlacher. The answer is, well, so bad that they can make the Cardinals rushing offense look good.
Vince Verhei: Arizona at halftime: 14 carries, 131 yards, five carries of 10 yards or more.
Mike Kurtz: The Bears finally stop the Cardinals, after Tim Hightower drops a middle screen on third-and-6. Arizona still gets a field goal. What a day.
Doug Farrar: I really want Roy Williams to watch the play Larry Fitzgerald made with 9:34 left in the third quarter. Kurt Warner had a defender in his face and threw a floater up top to Fitzgerald, who had run a skinny slant. With a cornerback all over him and a safety bearing down, Fitz dove for the ball and the successful catch, somehow managing to get to the ground and avoid the hit, Fred Biletnikoff-style. Then, I want Roy to go back and watch the play where he developed T-Rex arms in a trio of Falcons a couple weeks ago. Then, I want Roy to shut the hell up forever. No. 1 receiver, my ass.
Mike Kurtz: Cardinals finally punt! And it gets downed at the 3. C'est la vie.
Matt Leinart looks like he'll be coming in for the fourth quarter in Chicago.
The highlight of this game is the BRILLIANT blitz pick-up by Beanie Wells on Mark Anderson. Anderson got past the line untouched, and Wells just blew him up, giving Leinart time to throw a (really ugly) deep ball. It's OK, though, defensive pass interference bails him out.
Leinart then throws another atrocious deep ball which is easily intercepted, easily 10 yards away from Fitzthulu.
Aaron Schatz: Wait, didn't PFT have a big thing this morning saying that Beanie Wells isn't getting playing time because he is awful at blitz pickup?
Mike Kurtz: Bulletin board material, I guess.
The Cardinals can't cover Greg Olsen in the red zone, and can't cover the screen ANYWHERE. The Bears have finally figured this out, and are making competition-like noises. Looks like Warner is going back in after Leinart's one-drive mini-disaster. This is why teams don't take the foot off the pedal.
I know Arizona has been ahead the entire game, but Chicago has only eight rushes -- including one by Jay Cutler and two by Devin Hester. Perhaps Lovie Smith reads our site and knows about the Cardinals' DVOA against runs and passes.
Mike Kurtz: Bryant McFadden with a beautiful tackle after the first down on a meaningless play right before the end of the game. In the long run this means nothing, but it was pretty to watch, head down, shoulder to the chest, drove up and through the receiver and landed him flat on his back. Just lovely (and since we're all worried about violence in football, incredibly safe for both players!).
Doug Farrar: Heh -- great post-game presser by Ken Whisenhunt. He ends it by saying, "We didn't let them off the hook", and bats the microphone away.
Doug Farrar: Fabian Washington gets nabbed for a huge interference penalty with 4:27 left in the first quarter, but I think the Bengals offensive line made that play. Washington was alone deep on Chad Ochocinco because the Ravens sent Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe on the Rex Ryan old-school A-gap blitz, but the line picked it up beautifully, allowing Carson Palmer to make the deep throw.
Aaron Schatz: Anyone watching Bengals-Ravens and want to report on what's going on there?
Bill Barnwell: The Ravens really miss Haloti Ngata. Bengals have pulled off an interesting mix of stuff, going with six offensive linemen at times. Chad Ochocinco has made some great catches, and Joe Flacco has been in bad situations and looked poor. I saw him nearly throw a pick to Leon Hall on a quick slant that Hall couldn't have jumped harder if he tried. He just threw a duck to Hall for a pick as I typed that.
David Gardner: Not watching, but from the stat line it looks like Cedric Benson is slashing -- 18 carries, 80 yards and a score. And the Ravens offense has gained just 39 total yards.
Doug Farrar: The Ravens are just getting clocked. Cincinnati has a huge edge in time of possession and both lines are playing very, very well. I'm on Red Zone but I'll put something together later.
Bill Barnwell: I turned to CIN-BAL and the first thing I heard, with no context, was "That might work for broadcasters, but the officials are much classier than that." What could they be talking about?
Tom Gower: During a replay review, Ochocinco had a dollar in his hand, supposedly intimating that he would pay off Alberto Riveron for a favorable call.
Bill Barnwell: Big play in the Ravens-Bengals game. Ravens big blitz gets picked up by the Bengals, and Palmer completes to Chad Ochocinco for 15 yards. Ochocinco breaks a tackle and then comes against Ed Reed, who he stiff-arms, but Reed strips him as he's falling down and returns it for 20 yards (before making a stupid lateral).
Rob Weintraub: That's twice my Bengals have overpowered the supposedly rough and tough Ravens on both lines. Kyle Cook is such an upgrade at center it's ridiculous, although it has been nice the last two games to go against the Bears without Tommy Harris and the Ravens without Haloti Ngata. The heroes today were Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, who dominated the game at corner -- total shutdown. Flacco had nowhere to go all day, both had spectacular picks, and we had several coverage sacks (including three straight to end the game!). Cincy now has more sacks in eight games than in all of last season. To Baltimore's credit, we ran them almost out of the building in the first 20 minutes, but they stuffed the Bengals in the second half (aided in part by a very conservative, hurry-up clock! offense). It would have been a real sweat but Steve Hauschka missed a makeable field goal with about six minutes to play. Only bummer: Chris Henry broke his arm making a catch in the secondnd quarter, and may be done for the season.
Future Curse Alert: Ced Benson now has 198 carries halfway through the season. I shall now commence begging Marvin Lewis and staff to use Bernard Scott more, especially during the Oakland/Cleveland/Detroit stretch that starts after next week's showdown with the Steelers.
Bill Barnwell: The Colts' offensive scheme so far has been real simple: Throw to Dallas Clark. The Texans are shadowing Reggie Wayne with Dunta Robinson and giving safety help over the top, which leaves Clark in the slot against a linebacker or a safety. This is an easy way to accrue yards.
In the you're-getting-too-cute department, though, the Colts lined up a defensive tackle at fullback on fourth-and-1 and then went play-action and had no one open. Just run the ball.
Texans almost have as many penalties as Peyton Manning has passes.
Tom Gower: Jeff Triplette made an interesting call: that the Indianapolis defensive back who recovered the ball, had only one foot inbounds when he touched the ball on the goal-line, making it a touchback. It looked to me like he had both feet inbounds before touching the ball, which would have made it Colts' ball at the 1. Of course, there's also Solomon Wilcots, who saw the same thing I saw but declared that because the ball touched the goal-line before it was recovered, it was a touchback, notwithstanding that the defensive back went out of bounds with the ball at the 1.
Bill Barnwell: Awesome ending to the first half of Indy-Houston. Kris Brown lines up for a 56-yarder that's blocked; but (wait for it) Indy iced the kicker! He makes the second-chance kick.
David Gardner: Peyton Manning ridiculous-number-of-passes update: He's thrown 40 at the half. The record, for the record, belongs to Drew Bledsoe, who threw 70 passes in a game against the Vikings in 1994 that went to overtime. Vinny Testaverde threw 69 in a non-overtime game against the Ravens in 2000.
Bill Barnwell: Solomon Wilcots now notes that the Texans are matriculating the ball down the field.
Matriculate: To enroll in a college or university as a candidate for a degree.
Tom Gower: Matriculating down the field is an old Madden-ism.
Doug Farrar: He's quoting Hank Stram from the immortal Super Bowl IV highlights. (2:00 in)
Bill Barnwell: OK, OK, fair enough. I am youth.
David Gardner: Someone watching Indy-Houston, did the Texans have the ball for close to the entire third quarter?
Bill Barnwell: Indy got one three-and-out. That was it.
The Colts' drive after a Texans touchdown ends when Reggie Wayne takes an end-around and throws a pick to a totally-covered receiver.
Vince Verhei: I know it worked last week, but this trend of trick plays in the red zone by the Colts is so stupid. YOU HAVE Peyton Manning. HE'S VERY, VERY GOOD AT PASSING. LET HIM DO IT.
Indianapolis hangs on to win 20-17 when Houston misses a field goal on the last play of the game. Colts had two timeouts left, did not try to ice the kicker.
Ned Macey: According to the game story, Caldwell called a timeout not to ice the kicker but to try and get a return man onto the field. Given the length of the kick, 56-yarder, that makes a lot more sense.
The Colts ability to win close games is uncanny, except that it seems to disappear in the playoffs. They've won 15 of their last 16 meaningful regular season games decided by one touchdown or less but are 0-2 in the playoffs in games by one touchdown or less in that same streak. Actually, counting the playoffs, three of their last four losses by less than one touchdown are to San Diego.
Bill Barnwell: Wildcat the past few weeks, according to Matchup: 23 attempts, 41 yards.
Doug Farrar: Yeah, opponents are setting corners on the edge and flooding the sweep side with various spies. Last year, the Dolphins would run counters and pass plays to deal with that, but the Pat White experiment hasn't been anything to write home about and I think they've been a little predictable about when they let Ronnie Brown throw the ball. Bringing White in for certain plays is just saying, "HEY, LOOK! WE ARE RUNNING THE WILDCAT NOW! STACK THE WEAK SIDE, PLEASE!" Same reason the Vick thing hasn't worked.
Aaron Schatz: Hello from high above Gillette. One of the things I'm looking forward being here in person is seeing the Wildcat from above. Tanier last week in Philly, my second time at Gillette this year -- we're becoming press box regulars. My press pass says "ESPN Insider" for those who can't get enough FO name-related irony.
Doug Farrar: Wow. Freakin' sweet play by Vontae Davis on the opening play interception. Tom Brady underthrows Randy Moss just a hair, which gives Davis the edge to elevate. You've seen guys with great trail speed get burned by those long bombs before, but it's with the ball in front of Moss. Credit to Davis for going up and getting that ball.
Aaron Schatz: I think that Wes Welker was open earlier in that play, too. He was streaking across the middle of the field uncovered. It's possible he would have hit the safety by the time the pass got to him, but I think Brady decided early he was going to Moss deep on that play.
Great Randy Moss one-handed catch gets the Patriots to the one-yard line, and Maroney goes in for the score. Of course, it was a great one-handed catch because Moss was using his other arm to completely push off of Vontae Davis. Not sure how the refs missed that one.
Remember that game two years ago against Miami where it seemed like Tom Brady could just chuck the ball deep to Randy Moss, and no matter how many Dolphins were in the area, he would catch it? Somebody needs to tell Tom that was a one-time thing. He has thrown a few times to Moss with two Dolphins right there next to him. (I won't say "double coverage" -- I'll say that Brady makes his intentions clear enough that the safety is halfway to Moss before Brady even throws it.)
The Dolphins bring in Pat White and he has his best play of the year, sweet 30-plus-yard run on an option keeper. They used White on four plays on a touchdown drive near the end of the second quarter, but don't be confused by what it might say in the PBP or what you hear on the highlight shows -- this was not the Wildcat. These were straight college option plays with White as the quarterback -- no Williams sweeping left to right or any of the Wildcat-specific blocking tendencies.
Doug Farrar: He looked so much more comfortable on that option pitch than he has with the timing of the Wildcat.
Aaron Schatz: Coverage in the first half of the Pats-Dolphins was really tight. Five pass interferences so far, two offense and three defense. I checked the penalty numbers and Mike Carey's crew doesn't call a strange number of interference penalties. I think there's just a ton of pushing and josseling going on.
Dolphins run three straight Wildcats on the goal line. Pats stuff the first two, but on the third Brown tosses it to a wide-open Joey Haynos. Touchdown, Miami. This game may be setting a record for the amount of Joey Haynos. The Dolphins have used Haynos a lot today.
Chad Henne tries to take a timeout on third-and-10 with 3:00 left ... and Miami has no timeouts. Delay of game. Then on third-and-15, Henne throws the ball 100 yards out of bounds. Fourth-and-15 pass isn't even close, and that's game.
Doug Farrar: I'll have to check, but I think I saw the Dolphins in the pistol formation once when Pat White was in the game.
Mike Tanier: The Dolphins used the pistol a bunch of times. The kid on NFL Red Zone called it the "Wildcat" several times during a highlight reel. I can talk to high school football players, all of whom play Madden and NCAA Football, and they can recognize the pistol, but guys who cover football for a living cannot recognize it. One of these weeks the Dolphins are going to run the wingbone/flexbone, and professional analysts will call it "Some crazy offense with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams as tight ends who run the ball!" until someone straightens them out.
Doug Farrar: I like that they're using different looks to get White more effectively involved in the option game, Certainly expands their playbook, too.
Ned Macey: Maybe I've said it before, but having watched Henne for four years at the University of Michigan, he's great on hitting his first read if he's throwing for decent depth, but he struggles to find second and third options,and he has inconsistent accuracy at short-medium depth (not quite McNabb level inconsistent, but you get the idea). Maybe the numbers don't back that up, but it is my impression, and watching him today, he looked good when throwing in rhythm but struggled when things broke down.
Aaron Schatz: Henne definitely has accuracy problems in the short-medium range. He flat-out bounced a couple of passes to guys in the second half of the game.
David Gardner: The Bucs have given up six passes of more than 50 yards this season. Aaron Rodgers just threw a 74-yard pass to James Jones. Why was he so open? Oh yeah, he's being covered by Elbert Mack.
Doug Farrar: Were they running that stupid single-high safety thing again with tight man? Seems like every one of their big plays have come in that coverage.
David Gardner: Well, the real problem wasn't that they were running single-high, it was that Mack thought they were running a Cover-2 and expected help over the top. Eh, whoops.
Vince Verhei: I charted the second half of the TB-NE game from London last night. The Tampa Bay game plan does a remarkable job of exposing their own weaknesses. We have horrible cornerbacks -- let's leave them in man coverage with a single safety! We have a horrible offensive line -- let's send out all our backs and tight ends and leave them no help!
On that second note, it was seriously the worst performance I've ever seen by an offensive line -- something like ten hurries and two sacks in 16 dropbacks. Their adjusted sack rate numbers are not that bad. For those of you who watch them more often than I do, was that game an anomaly, or have they been giving up tons of hurries that their quarterbacks have managed to escape from?
Vince Verhei: I will never get tired of hearing "Stylez White in on the tackle."
Doug Farrar: I think "Stylez G. White" is even better. Sometimes the middle initial just makes the name, as with Toone P. Wiggins and Yngwie J. Malmsteen.
Vince Verhei: Green Bay blitzes and gets two linebackers unblocked right up the middle, but Josh Freeman is able to slip off to his right and find Derrick Ward alone in the middle of the field for a 30-ish yard gain. Great play by the rookie, but if that's the kind of protection he's going to get, he won't survive the year.
Connor Barth misses a field goal for Tampa Bay. Bucs are now two-for-eight on field-goal attempts this year.
THEY HAVE KICKED TWO FIELD GOALS ALL YEAR. It is Week 9.
In the 1982 strike season, the Oilers went four-for-six on field-goal attempts in nine games. I assume that is the record, and they doubled what Tampa Bay has done in one less game.
On the flip side of the special teams coin, Bucs block a punt and return it for a touchdown to tie the game at 14-all.
David Gardner: Ronde Barber just scored his 14th career touchdown after Geno Hayes blocked a punt. The score in this game is amazingly 14-14, despite the Packers outplaying the Bucs. The other Tampa Bay score came off an 8-yard drive after a long interception return.
Bill Barnwell: I am amazed that 34-year-old Ronde Barber is on special teams!
David Gardner: The Bucs were just facing third-and-27, and Josh Freeman trotted off to the sideline, thinking it was fourth down. Not a bad idea.
Vince Verhei: Green Bay's special teams nightmare continues as Ahman Green fumbles the second-half kickoff. Packers recover, but start at their own 4-yard line. At 21-17, this game is officially on AGS notice.
Aaron Schatz: OK, seriously ... that's who you pick to return kickoffs? The 32-year-old running back who nobody wanted for most of the year because his speed is gone?
Doug Farrar: Mike Holmgren, who used to run Heath Evans out there for kickoff returns, nods his head approvingly from his Arizona TV room.
Aaron Schatz: The Packers did use Green on kickoffs a couple weeks ago, I know that.
Vince Verhei: Although Green does have one kick return for 18 yards on the day.
Bill Barnwell: Some coaches just like having old guys with good hands back there. Like when the Buccaneers were using a 87-year-old Tim Brown to return a couple of years ago.
David Gardner: Oh my goodness. Aqib Talib intercepted a pass near the Tampa Bay goal-line off a tip, and as he was running back, Donald Driver laid him out with a shoulder-shove tackle. I hope you all see this replay.
Vince Verhei: That Talib pick was notable for a few reasons. Rodgers went play-action and had plenty of time. Then he made a horrible decision to throw deep into quadruple-coverage. He redeemed himself for the horrible decision with a perfect throw, hitting Greg Jennings in the hands. Jennings then un-redeemed Rodgers by knocking the pass into the air, where Talib grabbed it.
Rodgers scores to put Green Bay ahead 28-17, and then Green Bay follows with their 47th bad special teams play of the day, allowing a Clifton Smith kickoff return down to the red zone before they finally wrangled him down.
David Gardner: Michael Clayton just made his best catch since his rookie year, adjusting to a short Josh Freeman throw and diving for a catch. The Bucs are making a game out of this thing -- they're down five with the ball inside the Packers' 10.
The commentators berated Raheem Morris for going for it on fourth-and-4 from the 7-yard line down by five with four minutes left. With the way the defense is playing, why would you count on them to stop the Packers? They go for it, and they score the go-ahead touchdown then get the two-point conversion to make it a field-goal advantage, 31-28.
Vince Verhei: Freeman throws a fourth-down touchdown to Sammie Stroughter to put Tampa Bay ahead. Freeman's strength was supposed to be his arm strength, right? Because I've been most impressed by his touch on short throws today. And his mobility. And his poise. He's made some stupid decisions, as you'd expect in his first start, but there's a LOT to like about this kid.
Bill Barnwell: Bucs have fourth-and-1, up three, from the GB 30 or so with 1:48 left. The Packers call a timeout and the Buccaneers debate, debate, debate, and decide to go for it. They get up to the line, and then promptly call timeout. They go back out on the field, Josh Freeman gets to the line, he audibles ... and Jeremy Zuttah false starts. Punt.
David Gardner: The Bucs get their first win with a bang. On a Packers' fourth down, Rodgers is intercepted by Tanard Jackson, and he returns it for a touchdown.
Bill Barnwell: If Green Bay had Troy Brown, they might have had a shot.
Vince Verhei: Tanard Jackson intercepts Rodgers' fourth-down pass. With teammates frantically pointing for him to go down, he chooses instead to take it to the house for the touchdown.
Rodgers' last eight dropbacks: three sacks, one interception, one holding penalty. That's not counting whatever they do with 28 seconds left, down 10.
Bucs did kick a field goal right before halftime. They now have three on the year, but their kicking woes probably contributed to the decision to go for it on the fourth-down touchdown.
David Gardner: Morris got a Gatorade shower after the game.
Doug Farrar: Dom Capers has obviously forgotten more about football than I'll know in three lifetimes, but I really question the use of Aaron Kampman in coverage on zone blitzes. Seems to me that Kampman is the guy you want going forward, right at Mr. Quarterback, as quickly as possible.
Aaron Schatz: Our old buddy MDS reports on Twitter that between the players, coaches, officials, and cheerleaders, there may be more people on the field than in the stands in Jacksonville.
Tom Gower: I disagree. Jacksonville is actually significantly more crowded than I thought it would be -- at least 30,000 there.
Bill Barnwell: Right after Antrel Rolle nearly returns a short field-goal attempt for a touchdown against the Bears, Rashean Mathis gets a chance to do the same thing in the cavern of Jacksonville. The announcers are saying it's not a good idea to do so just as he breaks free, and he makes it all the way to the 20 before being dragged down by his dreads.
Tom Gower: Yes, that was a curious call by the announcer, advocating that Mathis simply kneel the ball and end the half rather than try to do something useful.
Bill Barnwell: Guess who's making a difference for Kansas City? How about Chris Chambers? Down 24-7, he caught a 54-yard bomb from Matt Cassel to make it 24-14, and then after getting the ball back, he caught a 5-yard touchdown to make it 24-21. the Jaguars picked up the ensuing onsides kick, so the Chiefs still suck, but what price can we put on happiness? Is it less than $2.5 million?
Vince Verhei: Seattle's first six plays on offense:
2: Fumble, recovered by Detroit.
3: Run for a loss.
4: Run for a loss.
5: Third-down catch-and-run by Justin Forsett to set up fourth-and-short.
6: Run for a loss on fourth-and-inches.
Doug Farrar: Anyone calling Detroit over Seattle an upset hasn't seen the Seahawks all year. All week on the radio, all we've been hearing up here is, "Well, at least the Seahawks have a gimme against Detroit. Win that, then maybe take on the Cardinals, and we'll see what happens with the playoff picture." It's an embarrassing example of denial re: how horrible this team really is, how incompetently the team is currently run and coached, and how the Lions are very slowly turning their fortunes around. If the Seahawks somehow come back from 17-0 down, they're nothing but a bad team beating another bad team. They resemble a playoff team about as much as I resemble Grady Jackson.
Ned Macey: Was ready to write about how much a difference Calvin Johnson makes. Then, Matt Stafford follows up his two touchdowns with five interceptions. Guy is not ready for prime time. He always flashes brilliance, but he isn't accurate and gets baited into picks. No idea if he's "learning" from this experience or not.
Aaron Schatz: Saints have five carries in the first half. What happened to the whole "balanced Saints offense" concept?
Doug Farrar: An early 14-0 deficit happened, methinks.
Aaron Schatz: Two touchdowns in the first quarter is not a reason to give up on offensive balance. Fourth quarter, sure. First quarter? No.
By the way, how bad is the Saints run defense? Carolina ran the give-up draw on third-and-12 and DeAngelo Williams actually got a first down.
Doug Farrar: I hear ya, but I think that's what happened. On a separate note, it seems to me that losing Sedrick Ellis has really messed up the Saints' run defense.
Aaron Schatz: The announcers in this game kept talking about how many fourth-quarter rushing yards Pierre Thomas has, and how that demonstrates that the Saints have a balanced offense this year. Aaarrrgghhh. No. His first-half yards demonstrate how the Saints have a balanced offense this year. His fourth-quarter yards demonstrate how the Saints are undefeated this year.
Again, like against Miami, the Saints run defense tried to give a game away but it is very difficult to do when the Saints offense is so damn awesome. Sure, take a two-touchdown lead against them. They could be back in, oh, three minutes or so.
Bill Barnwell: In more fourth down shenanigans, the Giants run Ahmad Bradshaw into the line for no gain on third down, and then kick it from the 20. Unfortunately, Lawrence Tynes apparently thinks it's a fake and doesn't actually kick the ball, and then hurts himself trying to help the aged Jeff Feagles. Vince, can you give them that message you gave Jim Caldwell about Peyton Manning earlier?
Tom Coughlin has his challenge flag buried DEEP within his socks. Don't you have pockets? Or someone to hold that?
Mike Tanier: That Giants safety Michael Johnson just intercepted a pass. A million leaves fall on my front lawn, and eventually one lands in my 3-year old's hands and he thinks he accomplished something.
Aaron Schatz: We've secretly replaced Antonio Gates' hands with these blocks of concrete. Let's see if anyone notices.
Bill Barnwell: According to Phil Simms, Norv Turner said that there was one year in Washington where they picked up 19 pass interference penalties of 30 yards or more. That sounds like absolute bullshit.
Mike Tanier: The Chargers look ready to come up small again.
Bill Barnwell: Well, in all fairness, that was a hell of a drive. I don't understand how Vincent Jackson and Darren Sproles catch passes with six feet of space around them, but I am not Bill Sheridan.
Mike Tanier: Corey Webster couldn't cover an infant with a receiving blanket.
Bill Barnwell: He could four weeks ago...
Aaron Schatz: Norv Turner nearly had another fourth-quarter blown lead to add to his fine collection, but the Chargers came back. Is it wrong that I want to blame Turner for losses and credit Rivers (and Vincent Jackson) for wins? One thing Turner could do differently: Stop giving the ball to LaDainian Tomlinson so much. I also believed that he still had something left going into this season, but it's been nine weeks. He doesn't. He looks awful. We didn't want to believe he was toast, but he sure looks like toast.
Mike Kurtz: Blaming Norv is absolutely appropriate, and can be used for any occasion:
Boss: "Bob, your TPS report is five days overdue."
Bob: "Damn you, Norv Turner!"
Boss: "We've been Norv'd? CRAP."
*Boss wanders off in a huff*
Ned Macey: Say this in Norv's defense (which I always find myself leading); the guy is supposed to be a downfield passing guru, and Rivers-Jackson (not exactly a highly touted wide receiver) is currently the best in football.
Tom Gower: Holy smokes. Vince Young hits Justin Gage on a nicely thrown deep corner route for a 49-yard gain with almost no YAC. Really one of his better throws. Tennessee is also attacking the edges of the San Francisco defense and ran some interesting counter-style option.
San Francisco's opening score, a field goal, was set up by a long run on a screen pass nicely timed against a Tennessee blitz. Delanie Walker caught a couple balls, Vernon Davis had one catch for zero yards with a quick tackle by Michael Griffin and was targeted in the end zone on a play where the Titans had coverage over the top helping out.
Alex Smith gets picked on a deep out intended for Michael Crabtree. Coverage looked like Cover-2, and Griffin made a great break on the ball to deflect it, while Rod Hood was able to come in and grab the deflection and get off a nice return inside the San Francisco 30. Nice read by Griffin, but I'm sure that Smith's lack of a laser rocket arm played a role in that play.
This looks like a college game, where neither team is really able to drive down the field on consistent success but depends on the random big play to supply a scoring drive. The Titans' two scoring drives were set up by Hood's interception return and the deep pass to Gage, while San Francisco's were the big screen to Gore and a 40-yard pass to Davis.
The 49ers put together the first scoring drive of the game that didn't revolve around a single big play. Naturally, it was the two-minute drill at the end of the first half and featured lots of the shotgun and spread formations in which Smith is more comfortable and not any of the 49ers' normal offense. One day, I may figure that kind of thing out.
Aaron Schatz: One day, the 49ers may figure that kind of thing out and just let Alex Smith play from the shotgun more than half the time, like Tom Brady does.
Tom Gower: Alex Smith appeared to be hit in motion and the ball came flying forward. One official waved incomplete, but the Titans, as defenses are wont to do, picked up the ball. The whistle finally blew after Keith Bulluck recovered the ball. Jeff Fisher challenged the play, and it was clear from replay Smith lost control of the ball before his arm was moving forward. Titans win challenge. If I'm a 49er fan, I'm not happy about that call.
49ers end up fourth-and-a foot from the 14, tied 17-17. With that offensive line and playing Tennessee, I'd kick the field goal, but Singletary elects to go for it on a toss pitch to Gore. Tennessee has two guys in the backfield, but Keith Bulluck over-committed to the outside and there was a lane inside. One thing I would have written about more if not for Tennessee's overall implosion is how age is really starting to show up in Bulluck's game. He's a free agent this offseason, and there's almost no chance he'll be back for another year, nor should he be.
Bill Barnwell: And Alex Smith has thrown two picks in the final seven minutes, one of which was returned by Cortland Finnegan for a "Game Over" pick-six. That honeymoon lasted, what, eight quarters?
Tom Gower: Tennessee pretty much clinches the game with a pick-six by Cortland Finnegan. Pass intended for Josh Morgan, but Vinny Fuller comes through him to break up the pass and Finnegan grabs the deflection. Second deflected pick, while the third was Chris Hope just reading Smith's eyes and jumping a route.
Also, there was no honeymoon, as the announcer pointed out that Smith had lost his last six games as a starter. Alex Smith just loses.
Bill Barnwell: Well, the announcers were also talking in the first quarter about how Smith had shown a lot in the last six quarters and how if he could just keep playing that way, he'd be a part of the resurgence in San Francisco with Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore. It's good that resurgences consist solely of skill position players.
Aaron Schatz: I watched most of the 4 p.m. games with Michael "Not David" Smith of ESPN. (We sort of had our own club, the "guys who don't have to write game stories" club.) Since he actually does that insider-y stuff that I don't do, like talk to players, I asked him about Vince Young. He's talked to Young and agrees that he came in to Nashville as a bit of a rock star, didn't understand how much work goes into playing quarterback in the NFL and had personality conflicts with Jeff Fisher. But he says Young was really humbled by the last year and talking to Young, he feels Young will be much more dedicated to preparation now that he's got the starting job back. Take that for what you will, but it would be nice to see Young succeed as a passer.
Rob Weintraub: There was a play late in this game when Young appeared to have a large gap for a first down on a keeper, but was run down by Patrick Willis. I think Young continues to struggle with the fact that at the pro level, he isn't the best athlete on the field and can't do what he's always been able to -- zip past dudes like they're standing still.
Doug Farrar: The Cowboys ran an actual Wildcat power play (pulling guard and all) on their first touchdown.
Mike Tanier: Ooh, Jason Peters is hurt. Time for King Burlap. Or King Cotton. Or King Holding.
It's not King Vulture at left tackle in place of Peters. They slid Todd Herremans over.
Bill Barnwell: Question: Who, exactly, is Kevin Ogletree?
Also, I think Cris Collinsworth just got in a "Quintin Mikells."
David Gardner: At the end of the first half, Andy Reid just tried to ice Nick Folk on a 22-yard field goal. It almost worked, too.
Bill Barnwell: How great would this offense be if there was an above-average offensive line up front?
Aaron Schatz: Yeah, wasn't that supposed to be a strength? Jay Ratliff is really beating up Andrews tonight.
Mike Kurtz: Looks like I made a big mistake relying on Cowboys in fantasy football this week, and benching the one (Choice) that has had some value. What a headache...
Aaron Schatz: It is awfully nice to hear all this talk about how the Eagles pressured Brian Westbrook to NOT play in this important division game.
Vince Verhei: As of the Nick Folk field goal to tie the game at 13-13, the Cowboys have 15 runs and 35 pass plays. Hey Wade! Your team is really good at rushing -- first in DVOA! Philly's defense is second against the pass, 12th against the run! Your playbook is backwards!
Or maybe the refuse-to-run playbook is communicative, like crabs, and the Eagles have passed it on to Dallas.(Eagles have 18 runs and 27 pass plays, which is akin to the 1972 Dolphins compared to their usual plan.)
Aaron Schatz: Wow. One of the worst spots I've ever seen on Donovan McNabb's fourth-and-1 sneak. McNabb absolutely had that.
David Gardner: And then the Eagles get jobbed on the challenge.
Doug Farrar: Not according to Walt Coleman's replay review, he didn't. There are times I wonder what the point of having replay is, if you're going to uphold every call that isn't absolutely conclusively wrong to whatever standard the officiating crew decides to use on that particular evening. This would be one of those times.
Mike Kurtz: Collinsworth made a good point, that the ref can't just assume that the player's elbow isn't down when it's out of view. Really awful spot, not really a bad review.
Aaron Schatz: Honestly, the man is six feet tall. Unless the defense absolutely stuffs him upright, you have to assume he's got the first down on a fourth-and-inches quarterback sneak. That was just ridiculous.
Doug Farrar: At the very least, I think the booth upstairs should review plays that are challenged, to take any hint of a problem a crew may have with overturning their own calls on the field. And that booth should be manned by an objective party not tied to the crew calling the game. I know they're not supposed to, but it's human nature to not want to look like a complete tool on national television. And I sometimes wonder if that "conclusive" stuff is just a sliding scale for officials to use when they don't want too many overturns. Because those numbers are kept in fairly common stat sites, and written about on blogs, and a high overturn rate made public isn't really a good thing for the NFL.
Bill Barnwell: The hitch-and-go Jeremy Maclin ran on his double move was awful; he ran a little short spacing route, and then stopped without facing McNabb before running the go. It was an awful route.
Mike Kurtz: "The crowd gives a Philadelphia cheer!"
What is a "Philadelphia cheer?" Less-intense booing?
Aaron Schatz: What is the point of the David Akers 52-yard field goal there? If you miss it, you give Dallas the ball in sweet field position. If you make it, you still need a touchdown. I thought maybe they would fake-pooch punt, but no, it's a field goal. What the hell?
Bill Barnwell: Also, apparently, people only give the middle finger in Philadelphia.
Aaron Schatz: Not to take away from Miles Austin's awesomeness, but this game turned on that horrible fourth-and-1 spot. What a disappointment. Games should not turn on crap like that.
Mike Tanier: Yes, other fans are thrilled about tough losses to archrivals where the main reason you lost was the inability to convert short yardage.
Eagles had second- and third-and-short before that. And they missed some short-yardage opportunities earlier. I thought it was a bad spot, but they put themselves in position to get hosed.
Aaron Schatz: Can we do this GoDaddy "Danica Patrick stopped by cop" ad for Scramble one week? Man, that has to be the dumbest, most farfetched, weirdest attempt at soft porn in history.
Mike Kurtz: Thought the Patrick ad had stopped its run. Definitely awful, Scramble-worthy if it's still airing.
Mike Tanier: Aaron, you beat me to the Go Daddy thing. The Scramble Guys must go online and discover what is waiting for all the sad preteens who rush to their computers to see if the lady race car driver is really going to have a Sapphic makeout scene in the name of advertising.
Mike Kurtz: I call not-that-person.
Mike Tanier: I will do it and report back if there are no takers.
Tom Gower: I call I have already done that, and the sense of disappointment is akin to that achieved by entering your age to find some marvelous thing on a beer Web site, only to find a Web site about beer rather than one that dispenses beer over your Internet connection.
Aaron Schatz: OK, a Scottish guy runs around whacking people with a dipstick -- and that's supposed to make us buy your oil, why?
Vince Verhei: When shopping, I will consciously choose to support products whose commercials entertain me. I love Burger King commercials, for example, so I will choose Burger King over McDonald's. My hope is that if I do this, they will keep making funny commercials.
In that same vein, I love the crazy dipstick-wielding Scot, and so I will buy his oil. Or I would, if I knew what brand he was endorsing. And if I didn't just take what the Jiffy Lube guys recommend.
Doug Farrar: In that spirit, I will never buy Bud Light, unless the beer receptacles are used to kill Jimmy Football.
Mike Kurtz: Ram poetry commercial may trump all other nominees.
172 comments, Last at 10 Nov 2009, 11:42pm by Marver