Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Varsity Numbers: Honing in

Bill Connelly again looks at which college football teams the F/+ ratings are sure about, and which teams remain a mystery (led by Appalachian State).

19 Sep 2011

Audibles at the Line: Week 2

compiled by Rivers McCown

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.

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That 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 Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Jacksonville Jaguars 3 at New York Jets 32

Rivers McCown: Very sad that Jason Hill won't play in this Jags-Jets game. I was looking forward to that overrated Jets secondary holding him to two catches for eight yards.

Doug Farrar: He's a disgrace to Washington State football, and that's saying something.

Rivers McCown: The Jets bust out the Antonio Cromartie end around. Got them a yard, and it would've been less if he hadn't evaded a defender in the backfield to get to the edge. Sometimes I think Brian Schottenheimer is a little too clever for his own good.

The Jets have stalled out a few times due to penalties and Mark Sanchez interceptions, but the Luke McCown-era Jaguars really haven't been able to do much about it. He hasn't gotten any help from his offensive line either, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched a Jaguars game for the last couple of years. McCown finally got the ball inside the Jets 30, then he promptly overthrew a Mike Thomas ball right into Cromartie's hands.

The Jaguars are getting admirable pass-rush from a modest unit, though Wayne Hunter and the Nick Mangold injury are helping. Sanchez has been on the move a lot so far.

Aaron Schatz: This is not a game for people who like offense. Both pass rushes are really dictating the game. Hunter is awful. Mangold looks awesome on the sideline. He's got a sweet beard to go with his long blonde hair now.

Jaguars surprisingly gashing Jets run defense today. Four runs of 10 or more yards in the first 35 minutes.

Mike Tanier: Watching this Jaguars game over my shoulder, I am beginning to wonder: is cutting your dependable starting quarterback in a salary move five days before the season opener and giving the job to a generic backup really a wise move?

Rivers McCown: I'm wondering how long it takes for Blaine Gabbert to come on. If you're not going to be able to throw, you might as well not be able to throw with someone who could eventually learn how to.

Six completions, four interceptions. Luke McCown, everyone!

Gabbert comes on and completes a screen, a quick hitch to the tight end, and a tipped ball that miraculously found it's way to a Jaguars player. If they're looking for a veteran placeholder, I hear David Garrard is available.

Chicago Bears 13 at New Orleans Saints 30

Mike Kurtz: I'm increasingly convinced that Matt Forte is the second-best Bear, behind only Julius Peppers. He basically took over the offense for their second drive of the game.

Major Wright shows that no matter what the league does to protect players, they have to protect themselves by practicing good fundamentals. Wright tried to give Devery Henderson a Bob Sanders Special, ended up too low and got a hip/leg right to the head followed by 4 minutes lying on the field.

Arizona Cardinals 21 at Washington Redskins 22

Ben Muth: Jeff King ... Fantasy Superstar.

The Redskins are moving the ball up and down the field against Arizona, but because of two turnovers, they only have three points to show for it. Washington then finds a new way to screw up a drive as the Cards block a chip shot field goal. This is the most one-sided 10-7 game I've ever seen.

First-and-10 in the red zone: Kevin Kolb takes an awful sack. Second-and-18, Kolb throws an awful pick. Sigh.

Beanie Wells looks really good in the second half so far. The blocking has been good, but he is much quicker to the hole than he has been in the past. I'm pleasantly surprised.

Kansas City Chiefs 3 at Detroit Lions 48

Doug Farrar: Jamaal Charles goes down with what looks to be a really bad knee injury halfway through the first quarter. Looks like his knee buckled on him just before he crashed into the Lions' mascot. Carted off the field, and the Chiefs look to be totally screwed.

Mike Tanier: We would like to thank the Chiefs for playing this year. See you in 2012. In a possibly related note, the Lions mascot now has a Chrysler commercial. Because he is a blue collar Lion.

Tim Gerheim: At least now Todd Haley gets to play Thomas Jones instead of Charles.

Aaron Schatz: It looks like right now he's more running Le'Ron McClain than Jones, which is an unexpected and smart move.

Mike Tanier: Are the Lions now a shotgun team on 90 percent of snaps? I think I saw one non-shotgun play before the Tony Scheffler touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: They led the league at 64 percent last year.

Mike Tanier: Matthew Stafford is threading needles.

J.J. Cooper: Stafford threading needles is impressive because at Georgia, his mid-range accuracy was probably his biggest weakness (the injury problem waited until he got to Detroit).

Aaron Schatz: New popular discussion in the Gillette press box: When will Todd Haley be fired?

Baltimore Ravens 13 at Tennessee Titans 26

Michael Tanier: The Ravens offense is a disorganized mess early on. Someone needs to paint Steelers logos on the Titans helmets.

Ben Muth: Ray Rice catches a screen and breaks three tackles for a score. It's not just that he broke the tackles, it's that he barely broke stride doing it.

Aaron Schatz: He wasn't breaking those tackles last year. Makes me wonder if there is something to the idea that the knee bothered him more than they let on in 2010.

Tom Gower: After a quiet first quarter, the offenses came to life in Nashville in the second quarter. For the Titans, this was mostly doing a better job of finding Kenny Britt. He had 80 yards receiving in the half, including a few catches on the drive that ended when he posted up Domonique Foxworth for a TD pass. Chris Johnson has had just as much a struggle to find running room as I expected.

For the Ravens, they've had one drive where they moved the ball like I expected them to, the one that ended with the screen pass to Ray Rice that Ben mentioned. Credit to the Titans defensive line for that, particularly the return of ends Jason Jones and Derrick Morgan, though I'd guess the Ravens being without Ben Grubbs also has something to do with it. Overall, thus far, it's been a much more competitive, interesting game than I expected.

Michael Tanier: Wow. Titans just went for it on fourth down and scored on a pitch to ... Javon Ringer.

Tom Gower: Pitch play, like the one CJ scored on against the Steelers in 2008. Ringer is in because CJ has a tendency to be patient and likes to bounce runs, which isn't an asset in a power situation.

Ben Muth: The fake FB belly pitch! I was talking about this with my friends during the Stanford game last night, that play has never been stopped in a third- or fourth-and-short situation.

Tom Gower: Joe Flacco played well last week. He is not this week. The Titans have gotten more pressure on the Ravens than I expected, but he's been flat out missing passes. On fourth-and-goal from the 11, with 7 minutes to play, trailing 23-10, John Harbaugh decides to kick a field goal. Considering the defense has had trouble stopping the Titans and the offense has struggled to move the ball with any consistency, I am in favor of that decision to leave it a two-score game.

I'll have to re-watch the game to really see what was going on on the lines, because that's what surprised me the most from this game. Whatever Tennessee did right, though, was more a passing game effort than in the run game, where aside from a couple runs they struggled to move the ball.

Green Bay Packers 30 at Carolina Panthers 23

Vince Verhei: Cam Newton has the Panthers up 13-0 against Green Bay. It helps that the Packers fumbled a kickoff return, but Newton's arm strength is a game-changer -- he can throw deep ins, crosses, and posts on a line, and accurate too. Only 13 points because he's still making mistakes, and a couple of times the Panthers have run these slow-developing option runs that aren't fooling anyone.

Rivers McCown: When was the last time a top-ten pick (Newton) overperformed tempered expectations so quickly? Maybe Matt Ryan?

Tim Gerheim: Does Ndamukong Suh count for outperforming high expectations?

Doug Farrar: I'm on Red Zone, so I'm bouncing around, but it seems that the Packers are playing a straight front with more three-down lineman sets with Clay Matthews as the LEO, as opposed to the 2-4-5. Newton is also playing option fakes to perfection, keeping that front on a string.

Vince Verhei: Newton has thrown a pair of interceptions to Charles Woodson, Aaron Rodgers hit Greg Jennings on a deep post for a long score, and the Packers have pulled ahead. Newton looked like a rookie on both picks. The first was a terrible decision into double coverage that would have been caught less than 10 percent of the time. The second, he was safe in the pocket, but rolled right into pressure, then threw a jump pass on a crossing route. It was actually not an awful throw, but a little behind the receiver, and Woodson made a fine play to go up and get it.

Aaron Schatz: OK, now Newton is starting to show his rookieness. He's thrown three picks and he just had two very inaccurate passes down on the goal line, both to Legedu Naanee. The first one was a play action bootleg and he had Naanee WIDE open and threw past him. Second one was Naanee in a pack, but Newton still threw wide left. Panthers will have to settle for a field goal, 23-16.

Matching the earlier comment about the Packers playing more conventional fronts this week, also looks like Woodson is back as a standard outside cornerback, on Steve Smith, rather than in the slot.

Ben Muth: Watching the Red Zone channel, and they bring up everyone who has ever had back-to-back 400 yard games for Newton. They emphasize Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Phil Simms, and then try to slide Billy Volek in there.

Seattle Seahawks 0 at Pittsburgh Steelers 24

Vince Verhei: It won't affect the outcome of the game, but Pittsburgh had some horrendous clock management on their first drive. They got stopped on third-and-goal from the 1, then milled around for a while, then finally called a timeout to talk things over. They ran for it on fourth down and were clearly short, but Mike Tomlin challenged the play. He lost the challenge, Seattle took over, and Pittsburgh was down two timeouts midway through the first quarter.

J.J. Cooper: Mike Tomlin is to crazy challenges as Andy Reid is to late-game clock management.

Ben Roethlisberger limped off for Pittsburgh after Raheem Brock (accidentally) submarined him. He limped back in after two missed plays, but as he headed to the locker room at halftime, he didn't exactly look comfortable. Amazing how bad the Seahawks are. Pittsburgh hasn't really played well and they are up 17-0. Considering the aforementioned Steelers screwups to go scoreless after first-and-goal at the 1, it could be worse.

Vince Verhei: Darryl Johnston's suit is terrible, a hideous plaid monstrosity. And his tie is this ugly yellow splotch that tears the whole thing apart. It's the opposite of The Dude's rug.

Doug Farrar: Tarvaris Jackson should be taken off the field for the safety of his receivers. He's hanging them out to dry all over the place. Doug Baldwin had to jump for one of his errant scuds and opened himself up to a rib shot.

Vince Verhei: Seattle does exactly one thing well, play run defense. The Steelers' series in the second half all look the same: Short run on first down followed by a pass on second or third down that picks up a first. The corners are playing eight yards off or deeper and giving the Steelers six-yard gains whenever they want.

Also, as a punt returner, Antonio Brown is one of those guys who will run 30 yards back and forth for what turns out to be a three-yard gain.

J.J. Cooper: Mike Wallace's days of leading the NFL in yards per catch are over, but that's actually a good thing in his development. He's gone from being a deep threat to a guy who can use the big cushions his speed earns him to move the chains underneath. And as the 53-yard catch he just pulled down showed (he also got a pass interference on a play in the end zone), he can still go deep. Wallace caught 60 passes all of last year. He's already got 16 this year with a quarter to go in Week 2. FO's metrics picked him out as one of the most valuable receivers in the league last year. He may end up being more valuable this year.

Doug Farrar: He also caught a touchdown pass against a cornerback who spent the last five years in the CFL.

Oakland Raiders 35 at Buffalo Bills 38

Aaron Schatz: I have a new name for Week 2. Week 1 is National Jump to Conclusions Week. Week 2 is National Bubble Bursting Week.

OK, well, looks like *I* am guilty of jumping to conclusions too early in the case of Buffalo-Oakland. That huge Raiders deficit was trimmed, and now they may be getting their bubbles burst instead.

Mike Tanier: Dude, its Chan Gailey versus Al Saunders. Expect the bewildering.

Raiders and Bills battling back and forth for all of those "2-0 start means undoubtedly for real" headlines, and providing much entertainment in the process!

Rivers McCown: They flip me off that moribund Jets-Jaguars game right into Jason Campbell throwing an absolute bomb to Denarius Moore in double coverage to take the lead. Wow.

Doug Farrar: That Moore catch was totally sick -- jumped up and out of double downfield coverage to make the play. You can see why everyone was so high on him in the preseason.

Aaron Schatz: Bills go ahead. Their offensive line really is playing pretty well. In that last drive Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a couple times to guys who looked very well-covered by Rolando McClain, I think David Nelson once and Scott Chandler once, but on fourth down at the end there he had Nelson wide open in the middle for the touchdown.

Mike Tanier: I told the world David Nelson was dangerous over the middle of the field. Mad! They called me!

Dallas Cowboys 27 at San Francisco 49ers 24

Danny Tuccitto: Sounds like there are more Cowboys fans than Niners fans in Candlestick. 49ers don't cover anyone for first seven minutes, but somehow come away unscathed thanks to a nearly impossible 21-yard field-goal miss.

After last week's tackle eligible presnap shift to draw the Seahawks offsides, Harbaugh's wrinkle for Week 2: Joe Staley part of five-player shift before third-and-1.

Mike Tanier: The Harbaugh brothers are more interesting before the offense is set.

Vince Verhei: Cowboys blitz about 18 guys on third-and-long, Alex Smith hits Ted Ginn for a first down. Rob Ryan: Not a reader.

Mike Tanier: That pass interference Smith drew on the fumbled snap play would take a trillion words to unpack. Especially the part where Smith could not convert the bootleg touchdown the next play.

Danny Tuccitto: On 49ers' first touchdown drive, Alex Smith actually looked like something other than an automaton. Ad libbing! Freelancing! Turning bad-snap, 10-yard losses into first-and-goal at the 1! Who is this guy?

49ers stop Cowboys on third down, but officials say Ahmad Brooks was lined up in the neutral zone. On redo, Tony Romo hits Miles Austin for a touchdown.

Vince Verhei: Amazing stat of the first half: SF is 8-of-10 on third downs. And it's mostly Smith passing. He's beating the blitz and picking the Cowboys' depleted secondary apart.

Dallas, meanwhile, followed their missed field goal with three straight three-and outs, then Miles Austin caught a long touchdown pass when the nickelback fell down and the deep safety utterly failed to even slow Austin down on the way to the end zone.

Jon Kitna opens the second half at quarterback for Dallas. Romo took a hard hit at the end of the first. He's on the sideline in pads, With a baseball cap on. Now Romo is leaving for the locker room, kicking things on his way out.

Danny Tuccitto: Kitna on the field for Dallas. First call: Detroit will win 10 or more games this year.

The officials are apparently using this game to meet their rare-penalty quotas. First, offsides of the lined-up-in-the-neutral-zone variety. Now, facemask on an offensive player executing a stiff arm.

Ben Muth: Donte Whitner gets behind Jason Witten by 10 yards on the post route and Kitna nails him in stride.

Just when I was thinking that Alex Smith looks pretty good he throws a horrendous pick. You have to wonder if that was to make Kitna feel better.

Ben Muth: I always hear QBs talk about the fraternity of playing the posistion in the NFL. So when Kitna throws an awful pick, Smith had to throw one right back to pick up his "brother." Sorry, I'm still a little loopy after the Cardinals managed to blow a game that they had no busness keeping close.

Danny Tuccitto: The 49ers' offensive line has no answers for Dallas blitzes. Everything positive in the passing game has come when the Cowboys only rush four.

Vince Verhei: First drive after his inerception, Smith is the victim of a DeMarcus Ware strip-sack. 49ers recover, but the drive stalls and they punt.

The Cowboys, by the way, are using a lot of Green Bay-style two-lineman fronts with four or five linebackers behind them.

Doug Farrar: I need to get a better look at what Rob Ryan's doing with their fronts. Seems really diverse.

Danny Tuccitto: Seriously, I think they're taping an officials clinic at this game. In addition to making the earlier rare calls, we've also seen two snaps aborted because Ron Winter hadn't yet whistled the ball ready for play.

Doug Farrar: Of course, "diverse" should not include "having Anthony Spencer dropping into deep solo coverage against Delanie Walker." Touchdown, 49ers.

Vince Verhei: We were told Romo was out for the game with a rib injury, but he took the field following the Walker touchdown.

Danny Tuccitto: And now, the proverbial "take the points off the board" discussion. Is it me or did Harbaugh just make an incredibly stupid decision to keep the field goal to go up 10 with 11 minutes left rather than take a new set of downs at the Dallas 23?

Vince Verhei: 49ers run a six-lineman set on second-and-8. The play gains four, but the 49ers are flagged for, I think, illegal procedure. Jim Harbaugh attempts to murder the referees using only the volume of his voice. It sets up a third-and-long. Alex Smith scrambles up the middle. He's a yard short, but I'm thinking this 49ers team is built to convert fourth-and-short inside the opponents' 40. Instead, Harbaugh elects to try a 55-yard field goal. I'd guess that's actually the lower percentage play there, but Harbaugh gets away with it when the kick is good. However, the Cowboys are called for offsides on the play, giving the 49ers new life -- except Harbaugh declines the penalty, settling for a ten-point lead with ten minutes to go. Seems like if that was his goal he could have run into the line three times, ran off two minutes, and tried a 45-yarder that probably still would have scored three points.

Danny Tuccitto: The call was leverage, not offside. Would have moved the ball to the 23, which makes the decision even worse than if it was moved to the 33 after an offside.

Vince Verhei: OK, that's just insanity then.

Ben Muth: The Cowboys ran the the fake belly pitch play wrong. You don't pull anyone, because that just attracts the linebackers.

Vince Verhei: Remember how we said Jim Harbaugh turned down the chance to accept a penalty and kill two minutes? Dallas just kicked a game-tying 48-yard field goal as the fourth quarter expired.

Danny Tuccitto: Hmmm ... I wonder if there will be any questions after this game about Harbaugh's keep-the-points-on-the-board decision. Nah!

Ben Muth: I'm glad I'm not a 49ers fan.

Aaron Schatz: Somebody is going to have to explain to me the San Francisco coverage on the 77-yard pass to Jesse Holley. I understand the safety got tricked by the play-action pass, but was the safety supposed to have Holley in man coverage? There was no cornerback on him, and nobody deep?

Danny Tuccitto: Second you there, Ben. Oh wait, I am a 49ers fan. By the way, Comcast Bay Area begins it's postgame show with a five-minute discussion of how it was practically a home game for Dallas with that crowd. I've honestly never seen something like that before, especially given that the opponent was their mortal enemy.

San Diego Chargers 21 at New England Patriots 35

Aaron Schatz: Patriots must have seen something on film about the Chargers defensive front, because they've now gone with six linemen three times on the first eight plays.

At the end of that drive, Aaron Hernandez catches a touchdown pass over Bob Sanders, falls to the ground on his back, and the ball pops out after about three seconds. It's hard to tell if Hernandez just loses the handle, or the actual fall jossles it free, but it's really hard to understand why this is a touchdown and the Calvin Johnson play in Week 1 last year wasn't a touchdown. They didn't even stop the game to review it upstairs. I guess the officials upstairs at first glance decided he held it long enough to count as a completed catch. I'm confused. I guess some people on Twitter are saying that Sanders knocked the ball out of Hernandez's hands, and the "completed catch" rule only matters if you lose the ball on your own, but it sure was hard to see.

Mike Tanier: Well, the Chargers are always in a five- or six-man front. They probably ran a lot of six last week, but so would I against the Vikings. (Two tight ends, Adrian Peterson, can still keep a safety deep for bombs.)

Tom Gower: Hernandez had finished going to the ground and had control on the ground, then Bob Sanders ripped the ball out with him on the ground. Calvin Johnson was still in the process of going to the ground when he lost control of the ball.

Aaron Schatz: Andre Carter picked up a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on a helmet-to-chest hit, for "hitting with the hairline of the helmet." So, that's a new one.

Mike Kurtz: Not only do the commentators not understand the rules, they don't even listen to the referee. Early in Chicago-New Orleans there was a roughing the passer call for driving Cutler into the ground, and Aikman wouldn't shut up about how he didn't lead with his head, so it was a bad call. Early in New England-San Diego, there was a roughing the passer call because a Patriots defender led with the crown of his helmet into Rivers. Simms wouldn't shut up about how it was a perfect tackle and the flag was a terrible call. The lack of knowledge of the league's rules, from the fans to the people who are actually paid to talk about the game, is absolutely jarring. You can't lead with your helmet into the quarterback.

Doug Farrar: In fairness to those who do not officiate and are expected to know the rules as they are updated for media purposes, the league doesn’t always make it easy. I was at the Seahawks' facility for the annual media thing where an officiating crew will come out and explain the rules to the media. They could only speak in generalities and would not deal in hypotheticals. Here is the rule, here is why it was implemented (Note: EVERY rule is implemented for the safety of the players, whether it actually is or not). When they explained the new rule clarifying the Calvin Johnson no-catch, we were not allowed to ask any questions regarding that play or any other similar play. It was like that the whole time. They were pleasant enough, but about as unspecific as they could possibly be. It would be just as easy for me to ask why Jay Cutler was busted for intentional grounding and Matt Stafford was not, and why the Darren Sproles TD against the Bears wasn't reviewed by the booth when it was supposed to be, and Sproles may have stepped out of bounds.

Mike Tanier: Norv SchottenTurner just went for it on fourth-and-goal and failed.

Aaron Schatz: You know what, I don't blame Norv. That was the right call on
fourth-and-goal, and it wasn't even a slow-developing run either, it was a pretty good playcall off tackle. Someone just didn't get over correctly to block Jerod Mayo.

Admit it Mike: You had never heard the phrase "hairline of the helmet" before.

Ben Muth: Yeah, it hurts when the extra offensive lineman you bring in (Tyrone Green) gets no movement on the edge.

Mike Kurtz: That is true, that is a weird term. Maybe we're seeing the making of a new NFL-Rogaine promotional campaign?

Tom Gower: San Diego goes for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard-line and is stopped. Normally we say one of the reasons it's good to go for it in that situation is because you have the opposing offense backed up. Against New England, the way they've been playing lately, is that true? We saw them beat Miami for a 99-yard score last week, and this week they just hit the inside pass to Wes Welker on a linebacker (Donald Butler, I think) for an immediate first down. Now, it seems like it's a good reason to go for it because you need seven, not three.

I had Brady at 7.8 seconds to throw on the completion before the TD that made it 17-7.

Mike Tanier: Early in a close game I kick a field goal. In fairness, I did not factor Kim Novak into my decision.

J.J. Cooper: Timing throws Tom? I love it.

Aaron Schatz: Ras-I Dowling gets injured on last Chargers drive and Chargers immediately start going after his replacement, Kyle Arrington. Arrington on Vincent Jackson is a colossal mismatch.

Vince Wilfork somehow picks off a pass and we get an awesome fat man rumbling down the field moment, but Devin McCourty has to ruin it with the most obvious block in the back EVER.

Still, the Pats proceed to hit two very quick slants to Deion Branch on the sideline, get into field-goal range, and Stephen Gostkowski hits it. 20-7.

Doug Farrar: Phil Simms: "The Patriots lead the league in plays where they just make it happen!" Aaron, be sure to lead with that on TV next week!

Tom Gower: This Chargers-Patriots game feels entirely too familiar, and is a reminder of all those NOOOORV mentions. They're just missing chances or having bad stuff happen at the wrong time. The Patriots aren't really doing anything offensively this second half (some credit to extra pass pressure from the Chargers for that), but San Diego is stuck on seven points.

Aaron Schatz: Well, well. Zoltan Mesko injured, Patriots find themselves without a punter and have to go for it on fourth-and-3 on the San Diego 49. Incomplete pass, turnover on downs. Actually, Tom Brady had a couple of surprising incompletes on that series, after being nearly perfect in the first half of the game he has certainly slowed down.

Here's a new idea. After the Chargers scored to make it 28-21, the review booth upstairs decided to delay the game five minutes reviewing the EXTRA POINT. Seriously. Nobody in the press box has any clue why. It clearly went through. Did they think maybe there were 12 Chargers on the field?

Ben Muth: Actually Aaron, they were filming a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial.

Aaron Schatz: Between Brandon Marshall last week and now Vincent Jackson with over 170 yards, I wonder if Devin McCourty has a problem with taller receivers.

Houston Texans 23 at Miami Dolphins 13

Rivers McCown: Texans moving the ball easily on the Dolphins, but had to settle for a pair of field goals early.

Mario Williams having another excellent game so far. Jake Long was shockingly embarrassed by ... Connor Barwin?

Vince Verhei: Matt Schaub throws a touchdown pass to put Texans up 13-3.

After the ensuing kickoff, they cut to a blimp shot that showed south Florida bathed in sunlight, except a dark cloud literally over whatever this stadium is called these days. The Football Gods have a sense of humor.

Rivers McCown: Dolphins have had a pair of pretty impressive drives down the field in the second quarter, built on bullying the Texans up the middle and a 41-yard Kareem Jackson pass interference penalty. They have zero points to show for it after one field goal was blocked and Dan Carpenter missed a second. Dark cloud indeed, Vince.

Texans have lost Johnathan Joseph to an ankle injury and their secondary depth is getting exposed. Also, Eric Winston has killed a few drives with a couple of holding penalties. Once Joseph comes back on, Wade Phillips can take a few more chances. Chad Henne spent a lot of the day running. As long as Houston can keep Joseph healthy, they're going to do decent in the pass game. Their run defense is going to preclude them from playing catch up against a team with a solid run offense.

Cincinnati Bengals 22 at Denver Broncos 24

Aaron Schatz: Anybody watching Denver? I want to know more about "Tim Tebow, slot receiver."

Vince Verhei: All I know is I heard shots of "Tebow's in! Tebow's in!" and everyone ran to a TV in the corner. Then the Broncos, with Kyle Orton at quarterback, had a run stuffed. Then I heard "Where's Tebow?" "He was out there!" and "You liar!"

Robert Weintraub: No one else was watching Broncos-Bengals? Missed an entertaining game, and the coming out party of Messrs. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, albeit in defeat. An excruciating one from my perspective, as the Bengals controlled the last 25 minutes save for an Orton chuck and pray that went for a touchdown when two Bengals collided, allowing Eric Decker to score. Dalton threw it long and short with accuracy and, more importantly, to the right receiver on all but two plays, according to my unofficial count. Green made an unbelievable catch toetapping in for a score, and was open all game. Without Champ Bailey out there, of course.

That's what was so maddening -- Denver played without five or six of its best players, came out strong but wore down badly as the game went along, and were ripe for the picking. Cincy was driving for the winning FG when Denver overloaded the right side of the Cincy formation and got a DB blitzer free, resulting in a sack that put the Bengals on the wrong side of the 50, facing third-and-19. Dalton couldn't undo that, unfortunately.

Cincy failed bigtime on third down: they failed to convert three third-and-1's, and a huge fouth-and-1 in the fourth quarter. Dalton probably needed to check out of at least a couple of those, especially the last one, a play fake that called for a naked waggle and a flip to the receiver coming across the formation. Robert Ayers lined up wide, almost as a linebacker, and came unblocked. It was either hope he falls for the fake, or check out of the play. Neither happened, and it blew up.

Still, though I'm disappointed as a Bengal diehard, I feel good that the season's main question has been answered a bit -- Dalton can play. He is poised, and can make most of his throws. There was a telling second-and-long from the shadow of the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Forget protecting the rookie QB, the Bengals ran two men deep and Dalton hit Jerome Simpson for a 84-yard gain -- not a TD, but then Green made his sensational play. Dalton still has to hang in against a better D like the Ravens or Steelers, but hope is bubbling.

And yes, Tebow played -- Eddie Royal went out with an injured groin early, and Tebow was in as fourth receiver. Probably played half a dozen snaps, and surprisingly, Orton never looked his way. Astounded he didn't put one over the middle for Timmy, just a bit too high, with 2 or 3 defenders bearing down on him...

Vince Verhei: The "Let's leave the playside pass rusher unblocked on our bootleg and pray that he falls for the play-fake" is, by far, my least favorite play in the NFL.

Robert Weintraub: Yeah, and the Bengals called timeout to run it, which is even more maddening. If Cedric Benson hadn't been stopped on a couple of short yardage plays earlier, they would have likely just gone that way.

Doug Farrar: I'm still unsure about Dalton, but Green is a monster. You can see defenses clench up and think "Oh, %$#@!" when the ball goes his way.

Tom Gower: I saw some of the end of the game, and note that the Bengals' final drive consisted of successful passes to Green, save for the final pass which Dalton chucked out of bounds, and unsuccessful passes to everybody else. The
sack on Dalton was rookie "deer-in-headlights" and a crucial mistake -- he needs to avoid that blitzer and throw the ball away.

Robert Weintraub: A little harsh on the sack -- Dalton should have done whatever possible to get rid of it, I suppose, but the blitzer was on him instantly, and he's not exactly Roethlisberger-big back there. He went for the duck under move and got brought down by the ear. Its always easy for us fans to say "he should have got rid of it!" but give the defense some credit too.

Philadelphia Eagles 31 at Atlanta Falcons 35

Vince Verhei: Dear Al Michaels: You are bald and everyone knows it. The combover is not doing you any favors.

Mike Tanier: I don't know if anyone noticed, but the Eagles run defense is not very good.

Eagles offensive strategy is based on the notion that the defensive line assumes it can get penetration on every snap and that blocks will be completely blown. It sets up an awesome screen-and-draw game.

Tom Gower: As someone who watched a wide-9 team play for what felt like eons, I hope that as a talking point regarding the Eagles, it goes away after a while.

Maybe that defense is influencing the gameplan, but to answer Ben Muth's question from last week, the Falcons seem like a team that thinks Matt Ryan is closer to the best average quarterback.

Mike Tanier: The Wide-9 thing should produce five-yard gashes, not 10-yard gashes. And of course, if the pass defense holds the occasional gash should be worth the trade off.

Doug Farrar: Right after Collinsworth asserts that there's no finesse to the Wide-9, Trent Cole and Mike Patterson execute a perfectly-timed stunt with Cole in that position. Reminded me of the stunts Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch used to do in Tennessee.

Aaron Schatz: Tennessee generally combined the wide-9s with good linebackers and one year of unblockable Haynesworth. The Eagles have below-average linebackers and no unblockable Haynesworth.

Tom Gower: You don't need particularly good linebackers, they just need to be disciplined in their run fits, and you need to win occasionally one-on-one with the defensive linemen. It also helps if you have corners who can stand up and keep contain. The Steven Jackson run last week would have gone for eight yards or so if the corner on that side hadn't been blown out of the play, giving Jackson the outside and preventing the safety from making the tackle.

Mike Tanier: None of this matters if the Eagles plan to turn the ball over on every series.

Aaron Schatz: I'm trying to figure out the offensive line blocking on that blitz that caused the Michael Vick interception early in the third quarter. It looked like the left tackle and left guard both moved right to double somebody, even though that left two Falcons on the left side and only one LeSean McCoy to try to block both of them if they both came.

J.J. Cooper: Hmmmm, if someone had just written in the preseason that Vick would not come close to matching last year's low interception rate.

Tom Gower: I'm going to say that one's on Vick, who should have read blitz and taken some sort of check or hot read. The Falcons snuck James Sanders, I believe, down late and had three guys to the outside of Jason Peters and only two blockers. The nigh-inevitable free rusher Sanders got the pressure, and Vick over the middle (remember last year's column?) reared its ugly head again. NBC's late replay confirms what I thought: that interception wasn't actually caught.

Ben Muth: It looked like 3 Jet Plus, which means Peters was man on the defensive end (notice how he didn't step in right away, but took a step with his outside foot before he came down inside) and the rest of the line was sliding right with the running back going left. If both linebackers come, the quarterback knows he has to throw hot (in this case it was a linebacker and a nickelback, but protection wise it's the same thing). Ideally the left guard will see that shaded nose is slanting hard away and come back to block the slanting defensive end. That would allow the left tackle to block the inside backer, and the running back to block the outside rusher. But because it was a nickel back and not a traditional linebacker, I think the left guard didn't expect or see two blitzers coming from one side.

An 18-yard punt is a rare thing in the NFL.

John Abraham just got a roughing the passer without knocking the quarterback down! I'm all for player safety but this is ridiculous. If you don't hit a guy hard enough to knock him down you shouldn't be able to get flagged.

Aaron Schatz: Was it a hit to the head? No hits to the head allowed. No touching the head allowed, at all. So Abraham was flagged for the same thing that Andre Carter was flagged for in the Pats game.

Mike Kurtz: No, hit in the back, but led with the crown of his head. Didn't knock him over. Really tacky call, but it's there.

Tom Gower: Abraham was flagged for leading with the crown of his helmet.

And the NFL modified the rules this year so that inadvertent and non-meaningful contact with the head is not a penalty. I don't have much of tactical interest to say about this game, but with about eight minutes to play, this has been a weird, sloppy, highly entertaining contest.

Tim Gerheim: I don't like the idea that a quarterback is more deserving of a roughing the passer call if he takes a dive. If you rough a passer and he stays upright, bully for him; you still roughed him. Now, maybe that means the penalty as written shouldn't be a penalty because it's too weaksauce, but its enforcement shouldn't depend on how the size and balance of the quarterback.

There was a play in this game in the first half wherein the Eagles had the ball in the red zone and a Falcon was sprinting to get off the field, presumably the 12th man, and offside in any event since he had to go off diagonally. Wouldn't Peyton Manning or Tom Brady have quick snapped for the penalty? The Eagles were lined up.

Is it lack of recognition, or something more like sportsmanship that would make Vick not call for the snap?

Mike Kurtz: Tim: Preparation. I doubt Vick and his line have set up a "kill" count and practiced it to the point where they'd be comfortable changing the count at the line.

Mike Tanier: Mike Kafka is in, yet the Falcons appear unprepared for running plays.

Robert Weintraub: Even when Falcons come back to win this, Ryan won't get credit because Vick was out. Sad but true.

Mike Kurtz: I think he won't get credit because Michael Turner made that last (and go-ahead) drive happen, not Ryan.

Aaron Schatz: Atlanta goes ahead 35-31. If the Eagles want to try to take the lead again, they need to let Mike Kafka be a quarterback and not run the "we're afraid of our backup quarterback" offense they were running before.

Mike Tanier: Ryan will not get credit because he is not the one running right up the gut for huge gains.

Tom Gower: Andy Reid? Timeout before that fourth down play? When the alternative is getting the ball back with a minute to play after a stop if you fail? I'm not in favor of that decision.

Mike Tanier: Nah, you call that timeout to settle Kafka down and make sure you have the call you want.

Ben Muth: I agree with Mike. Best chance to win the game is converting on that fourth down. When you have a backup QB in, you have to realize that there are plays in the gameplan he's never run before. Better to call a timeout and make sure that Kafka is comfortable with the call than risk running something that he wasn't familiar with.

Mike Tanier: Cripes, and it ends with a dropped pass by Jeremy Maclin, of all things.

I assume Vick will be back next week, and I assume this is how it will be all year for the Eagles: sloppy, insane, back-and-forth games against the better teams, at least until they learn how to stop the basic power running play.

Robert Weintraub: You guys clearly don't understand the Ryan-Vick dynamic down here. No one cares who makes what plays -- it's about Ryan vs. Vick, and Ryan not being Vick, and being white and goofy-looking. Not to mention the fact that Ryan threw four touchdowns and survived a beating -- he deserves all the credit in the world. Turner didn't hit that third-and-11 on the first play of the fourth quarter, the biggest play of the game, methinks. But "he would never have won if Vick were in there!" is all we'll hear. Avoiding sports radio for the next few days. Probably a sound strategy at all times, actually...

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 19 Sep 2011

146 comments, Last at 21 Sep 2011, 2:25pm by Karma Coma

Comments

1
by Temo :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:18am

As much as I blamed Romo for the loss last week (and it wasn't all his fault, blocked punt and all), he was fucking bad ass yesterday.

/I believe... for now.

9
by Temo :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:44am

Also:

Cowboys- 7.2 yards per play, 47% third/4th down conversion rate, 2 picks, 3 fumbles, 0 lost

49ers- 3.8 yards per play, 50% third/4th down conversion rate, 1 pick, 0 fumbles

And the Cowboys needed last-minute heroics to win. Weird.

14
by AnonymousD (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:57am

Dallas had a 77 yard drive and didn't score when Bailey missed the 21 yard FG. SF's offense did nothing in the second half, but scored 10 points thanks to field position (seriously, I think it was like a combined 40 yards for 10 points).

19
by Temo :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:03am

Yea I guess by "weird" I should have written "well, they're still a sloppy team, so that makes sense".

31
by Gubdude :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:41am

Yet another nail biter. Much better outcome, though.

The media is so fickle. Last week, Romo can't do anything right in the 4th quarter. This week, he's a gutty prime time performer.

75
by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:24pm

Is it just me, or does Romo look like he's taken one too many hits to the head already? He doesn't seem to be able to focus for a whole drive anymore. He hasn't deteriorated too far yet, but he's sure not going to get any better. Get ready for the sad, downhill slide.

2
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:27am

"It's hard to tell if Hernandez just loses the handle, or the actual fall jossles it free, but it's really hard to understand why this is a touchdown and the Calvin Johnson play in Week 1 last year wasn't a touchdown. "

No, its really not. Johnson didn't complete the catch. The ball hit the ground and popped out.

Hernandez, on the other hand, was lying on the ground with control of the ball, and Sanders swatted it out.

It had already been ruled a touchdown before the ball came out. They're not even close to similar.

22
by pedropolis :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:18am

I disagree. It should have been looked at. As Hernandez is going to the ground Sanders has his hand on the ball. The ball is still moving on his way to the ground. They hit the ground and then a fraction of a second later the ball comes out. On super slow-mo it looks kind of like a catch, Hernandez does possess it for a second, but at regular speed it's certainly questionable and definitely reviewable. That it wasn't stopped to review surprised me.

83
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 3:29pm

The ball wasn't moving. Sanders had his hand on it, but it definitely wasn't
moving.

And the booth did go over it. They just thought it was clearly a catch.

90
by RickD :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:02pm

Johnson completed the catch and then put the ball on the ground.

But you're right about Hernandez. The replay makes it clear that Hernandez had control and was on the ground before the defender knocked it out with his hand.

114
by BigDerf :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 6:34pm

They are fairly similar.

Hernandez was still sliding across the ground when Sanders knocked the ball out. Johnson had clearly caught the ball, but was ruled as in the act of making the catch because he hadn't come to a stop.

I thought it wasn't a catch by rule if the Johnson TD wasn't a catch.... But of course we all know the Johnson TD should have been ruled a catch and we shouldn't have had this problem to begin with.

3
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:32am

"Between Brandon Marshall last week and now Vincent Jackson with over 170 yards, I wonder if Devin McCourty has a problem with taller receivers. "

I expect better from you guys. The Patriots CBs play sides of the field, not specific matchups. McCourty wasn't covering either one the whole game.

16
by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:58am

No, but he was covering those guys on some of their biggest plays.

84
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 3:31pm

I didn't keep track, but my recollection was that Arrington was getting beat more than McCourty. I'm curious to see what the charters say eventually, but my distinct impression was the opposite of yours.

85
by Nathan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 3:38pm

I remember thinking that McCourty was getting beat a lot.

92
by RickD :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:04pm

That's what it seemed like to me.

I thought McCourty was being asked a lot to do 1-on-1 coverage. The Pats are not going to ask Arrington to cover Vincent Jackson or Malcom Floyd 1-on-1. So McCourty was left with the harder job. He did break up a couple passes but on the whole the advantage went to Jackson by quite a bit.

Dowling's injury didn't help.

94
by Nathan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:13pm

Speaking of which has anyone heard any details about the injuries to Dowling and Chung?

105
by PatsFan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 5:10pm

Chung actually played after his injury, with a splint or cast or something on his wrist.

17
by Temo :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:02am

Maybe not the whole game, but I saw him burned more than once.

23
by Treima :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:20am

Yeah, just about every time I saw V-Jax making a catch, it was Arrington that was either out of position or just getting toasted down the field. McCourty did struggle against Malcolm Floyd from what I saw.

27
by stephenbawesome :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:34am

I don't think it's an issue of height, I think it's more of an issue of leverage. McCourty more than handled his own against Calvin Johnson last year, who was a physical receiver in his own right.

The difference I noticed tended to be that Jackson and even Marshall were pushing off ever so slightly on all of their breaks. I know there's usually a certain degree of jostling on plays, but it seems like Jackson had a couple of well-timed nudges to knock McCourty off the ball. I distinctly remember a sideline route prior to his second touchdown where you saw the arm extend to push McCourty as Jackson broke back for the ball.

McCourty has done a good job staying with these receivers until the jostling begins. It happens a lot out there with receivers anyway, but it seems to be more of an issue of getting through the hands than the receivers actual height.

I believe TO used a similar physical approach against McCourty with some success last season.

4
by Sophandros :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:33am

Wright got destroyed by Jimmy Graham, not Devery Henderson.

-------------
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

5
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:34am

1: So many Dallas fans in the stadium, very annoying.

2: We had them beat, if we take the points off the board, then kneel three times on the 22, then kick a 43-ish yard field goal then the Cowboys probably run out of time. At least they would have had to take more risks.

3: Dallas might have been without a few DBs but that just made it a worse time to be without your top two wideouts.

4: Ryan started bringing the heat late in the second and the niners never found a way to block it. However, I think you reduce your chances by going so conservative.

5: What the hell was that goal line formation from midfield on first and ten? Blatant run formation, blatant run, no yards. Harbaugh is getting too conservative, you have to understand that there will always be some risk.

A crying shame that the 20 minutes when the 49ers dominated the Cowboys was wasted. I really wanted this one (especially given the attitude of some Dallas fans) and we blew it.

133
by beargoggles :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:26am

Evidently, the Singletary/Nolan style of coaching is contagious. Why fight it, Jim? Ugh.

7
by PerlStalker :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:38am

Tebow was in the slot because the Broncos only had three healthy WRs going into the game then had Royal get hurt. According to the announcers, Tebow was the emergency WR. Orton didn't even bother to look his way, as far as I could tell, but I'm sure that's because he was blinded by Tebow's holy radiance or something.

6
by Timmah! (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:37am

"I told the world David Nelson was dangerous over the middle of the field. Mad! They called me!"

David Nelson always appears to be wide open - I'm not really sure how such a big, not-that-fast guy does it, but there seems to be at least 4-5 plays a game when he is just standing there, motionless and completely uncovered in the middle of the field and Fitzpatrick hits him for a first down. Its not particularly clear if he even actually runs routes or is told to just go find a place where the defense isn't.

95
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:14pm

"Its not particularly clear if he even actually runs routes or is told to just go find a place where the defense isn't."

A concept so insane it probably works flawlessly.

8
by nuclearbdgr :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:40am

Ben Muth: The fake FB belly pitch! I was talking about this with my friends during the Stanford game last night, that play has never been stopped in a third- or fourth-and-short situation.

Packers stopped it against the Cowboys - CMIII stayed home and engulfed Felix Jones

10
by Temo :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:45am

Probably a little easier to stay home on a RB than a FB though.

25
by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:27am

The play is always to an RB. The fake is the FB belly. I think its the first time its been mentioned in Audibles and Aaron hasn't pointed out how it never works for him in Madden.

33
by Temo :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:44am

Whoops. I was thinking of the wrong play.

11
by Mike W :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:51am

Glad someone caught that Simms quote. Jeebus. What a colossal, breathtaking idiot.

60
by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:10pm

It would have been much more noteworthy if some other team had led the league in plays where the Patriots just made things happen.

69
by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:05pm

I think the Colts have a lock on that record.

12
by Lyford (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:56am

Simms wouldn't shut up about how it was a perfect tackle and the flag was a terrible call.

You weren't watching what I was watching. What Simms kept saying in the Patriots broadcast that I was watching was that it was a good call, and it was because he drove him into the ground. I was screaming at him to stop, and he said it three or four times, despite the explicit call from the official about "the hairline of the helmet," which was a first for me...

13
by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:56am

Going ahead and getting it out the way -- sorry the guys did not cover your team, and clearly the Patriots bias is in full effect, as they had one of the longer sections. Except, you know, a third of it was about penalties, the Bengals section was just as long in terms of discussing the teams, and the Eagles-Falcons was the longest. Drive through.

15
by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:58am

Rivers: Congratulations on the Garrard line. A joke I wish I'd thought of.

18
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:02am

Woodson will be back in the slot next week when Tramon Williams plays again. Fortunately Newton made some bad throws when Bush had horrible coverage a few times.

While I was watching the game, right after Woodson's stupid facemask penalty I said, "He knows better than that, he's going to make up for it" 3 plays later, interception.

I'm still not quite ready to get really down on the Packers pass defense. With Williams out and Collins getting hurt in the 3rd, Capers changed things up. The good thing is the run defense was good with the 3 man fronts, which were being played because while Jarret Bush is an OK dime back he was nickel with Williams out, and the coaching staff doesn't seem to have any confidence in Pat Lee. The Packers run defense gave me worries last season.

While I expect Williams to be back next week, we might still see some more 3-4-4. While I think this was to cover for the thinner secondary, I think Capers was counting on Mike Neal to be in the 2-4-5 at times and with him gone for another 5 weeks or so they may go with more 3 mans and try do some trickery with Raji.

It wasn't a great game for the Packers, but coming back from 13 down on the road is still encouraging.

32
by Arkaein :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:44am

I'm pretty much with you. GB's D looked bad on the first drive, but after that you have to give a lot of credit to Newton and the Carolina receivers, surprising even the non-Steve Smith variety. There were several plays where Newton put a ball in a place where only his guy could get it and the WRs made catches up high and just got their feet down in bounds.

The most disappointing thing was actually GB's WRs inability to abuse Carolina's secondary for most of the game. Jennings could not get reliable separation, and even though Rodgers had plenty of time for the most part (Carolina elected to go more with coverage than pressure) he wasn't finding guys open for the most part. Likewise, while Lafell (I think) was making huge boundary catches for Carolina, Jennings was dropping contested throws and Finley Calvin Johnson'd his would have been TD catch. If GBs receivers had done as good of a job as Carolina's at catching contested passes then GB could have blown the game open by the 3rd quarter.

82
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:56pm

I might be a little too harsh on Bush too. His problem seems to be when he has to run downfield with a receiver. He doesn't seem to be able to turn and play the ball at all. If he is crossing the field or in a zone he can actually play what is in front of him pretty well. So he isn't awful in the slot. Capers didn't want to leave Woodson in man all the time though. Normally he has Williams and Shields playing man on the outside and that lets him move Woodson around to blitz or play inside zone where it's easier to make a big play. He was still setting things up so Woodson could do that and it put Bush in man several times (as well as Burnett) and they got stung a few times.

I think the red zone defense was working better because with a shorter field they were playing more zone (which Shields is not as good at and he did get beat in it) but the rest of the secondary is fine in it. He also would unleash Matthews instead of keeping him more as a spy (which he was doing against Ben in the SB too). I'm not sure playing that way on the rest of the field would have yielded any better results for them.

As you mentioned there were several plays where Newton looked like a seasoned veteran put the ball right where it needed to be or the receivers made great catches despite solid coverage.

As I mentioned elsewhere all the GB receivers will have games where they are suffering from dropitis. Jennings tends to have a couple a year and this was one of them. While I'm not sure I would call more than 2 drops, he was targeted 8 times and only had two catches and there were at least 5 balls that I would call catchable for him that he didn't.

100
by Mike W :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:26pm

With Woodson not basically playing SS, I think they wanted to balance the run D a little more. Once Carolina came out chucking it, Capers played a lot of 2-4-5 anyway.

20
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:13am

"Donte Whitner gets behind Jason Witten by 10 yards on the post route and Kitna nails him in stride."

That, Mr. Muth, is spectacularly high-grade snark.

Also . . . I hate the "blah blah blah only one comment on my team blah blah" posts and would therefore never make one except for now, but nobody watched any of the Vikes-Bucs game? It was actually quite exciting (particularly for me, as I was there, in the third row behind the Bucs bench). Tampa getting stomped at halftime 17-0, and a combination of Vikings collapse and THE ALMIGHTY POWER OF JOSH FREEMAN leading to yet another last-minute win.

44
by Zieg (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:35pm

Agreed. That was an awesome second half. How about that onsides kick on the second kick off? Brilliant call. The bucs had just come out and scored a touchdown in practically no time at all. Rather than hand the ball back to the vikes for to let them Peterson away our momentum, we went for, and got, the onsides. If we'd gotten another touchdown out of the drive it would've been much better but as it it was still pretty impressive.

57
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:04pm

I'm just glad I and the two Bucs fans behind me didn't get lynched when Blount scored with 31 seconds left. Hooray for Minnesotans, we're too nice to set people on fire over a sporting event, so we'll stick to vaguely disapproving glances.

One thing I found incredibly amusing was watching the "special teams specialists" hanging out. Before the game, while everybody else was in the locker room, the punter, kicker, and long snapper were just hanging out on the bench, talking (I was maybe 10-12 yards away from them). Same thing after halftime. At one point Yount (the long snapper) hopped up on the exercise bike and started pedaling away. You're the long snapper; do you really need to keep your legs warm? Maybe he was trying to stay awake?

Also, props to Kellen Winslow; when everybody else went to the locker room, K2 stuck around to sign some stuff for kids hanging things over the balcony (my son is too shy, I told him to do it and he didn't want to, he just thought it was cool to watch him).

67
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:48pm

When Freeman's pass wasn't intercepted at the goal line on the last Buc's possession, I took it as a given the Vikings would lose. Vikings dbs have been throwing away victories with plays like that for the past 20 years.

21
by thunderp (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:13am

"Phil Simms: "The Patriots lead the league in plays where they just make it happen!"

As I was watching the SD-NE game & heard this come out of Simms mouth, I immediately thought about how I was going to enjoy reading about it in this column today. Wait, that now sounds kind of sad, now that I think about it...

24
by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:25am

Random thoughts:

If Todd Haley appeared to be a nice guy, would he be less likely to get fired?

In addition to the John Abraham penalty, I enjoyed the Eric Weddle call for hitting a defenceless receiver on one of New Englands TDs (I think Gronkowski might have scored it). Weddle led with the shoulder, hit him in the chest, bounced off him. I'm not entirely sure Gronkowski even noticed him. Nice call.

Broncos Bengals and Bills Raiders were ludicrously entertaining second halves.

Surprised no one watched Browns V Colts, even for a bit.

26
by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:29am

Also, the "bootleg and hope the unblocked backside rusher goes with the fake play" is not the worst play in the NFL. Its second, to the "bootleg and hope the unblocked backside rusher goes with the fake when its horribly, horribly obvious that there's a good chance that the play is going to be a playaction bootleg". Even if Ayers had gone with the fake, I'm not sure Dalton would have done much with it, because it looked like one LB was staying home, and someone was covering the receiver.

39
by witless chum :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:08pm

If you're going to try it, do so against the Lions. Kyle Vandenbosh was crashing inside so hard, the Chiefs were able to gash the Lions on fake to the back, then end arounds a couple times early. They actually did a good job running the ball in the first half, letting Suh and company penetrate and slipping delays and such past them.

They tried an end around later and Lawrence Jackson was all over.

Vandenbosh gets props for not giving up on a strip sack where he rushed from Cassells left, got pushed past him and then curled back around to get him from the right side and cause a fumble, which Stephen Tulloch very carefully picked up. (He didn't try to scoop and score. He pretty much stopped, made sure he secured the ball and then ran, which probably the smart play for late in a game you're leading.)

97
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:20pm

While somewhat frustrating, I'd much rather my defensive player first makes sure he secures the ball before trying to become a running back. I've seen way too many defensive players try to score a TD before actually gaining possession.

132
by PatsFan :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:02am

Weddle led with the shoulder, hit him in the chest, bounced off him. I'm not entirely sure Gronkowski even noticed him.

That's not true. I was rewatching the game tonight (I was at the game, so I like to watch the TV broadcast to pick up on things I couldn't see from the stands) and Weddle did not hit Gronkowski in the chest. He initially hit Gronkowski in the facemask and then slid down into the chest. Hence the penalty.

28
by Bots Meat Commission (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:35am

Did anyone else catch the moment in the Pariots-Chargers game when two players had a huge helmet-to-helmet collision along the far sideline (not Brady, it was a Pats receiver and SD defensive back as I recall) and Simms went on and on explaining how these types of collisions are more common earlier in the season because the players aren't used to each other yet?

Good to know players FROM DIFFERENT TEAMS will be more willing to cooperate on not concussing one another later in the year.

It's almost like the entire discussion around head injuries and CTE never happened.

/wants Phill Simms Ear Bleach

29
by starzero :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:35am

i didn't bother watching the colts either.

--
hail damage

30
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:40am

I was puzzled that the Packers seem to be able to hit big plays but not generate a consistent string of positive plays together either on offense or defense.

80
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:44pm

I'm not, they were like that for much of last year as well.

I still put this on McCarthy. He seems to be a really good coach at game prep. Since he has been there the team has never seemed to be completely overwhelmed or look like they had a poor game plan. But I'm still not sure about his in game play calling.

All of the receivers can have dropitis days too (which is what Jennings had yesterday and he'll have another one this year too, he always has a couple). While Jones got the worst wrap for dropped passes, I believe he had the lowest drop percent on the team, he just dropped the big plays last year while Jennings, Nelson, and Driver were dropping "standard" plays which kills a drive just as fast.

34
by stephenbawesome :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:44am

Some people play football. Shady McCoy plays Frogger in that traffic.

He makes jump cuts between the tackles on some of those inside plays that I don't know anyone else in the NFL right now can make. Sure, AP might just bowl a guy over for the same amount of yards or CJ will just go in a straight line towards the emptiest space as fast as he can, but as far as lateral quickness in a congested area, McCoy is pretty remarkable.

35
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:50am

I am interested in the Bears fans commentary.

49
by tuluse :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:53pm

The Good: The defensive line still looked good, though not as amazing as last week.

The Bad: Frank Omiyale is still terrible. If Carimi can't go the Bears are in trouble. Which means the Bears have no depth at all at OT. Which is actually an improvement over last year, where Omiyale was starting.

Our depth at safety is also lacking. I have to believe if Chris Harris is playing, Brees doesn't complete the long pass to Henderson. I don't think Major Wright is very good. He might improve with experience, but I'm not sure.

Mike Martz needs to get reined in when the line is getting destroyed by the pass rush. Yeah, screens passes are nice, but when that's the only pass play that works, the defense catches on. At some point you just need to run the ball, even if it isn't working well.

53
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:00pm

Sorry to hear about Carimi. Hope he is ok long-term

If he is back next week don't expect great shakes against Matthews. If Gabe had a weakness in college it was against speed guys. They could do that duck and under routine every so often on him.

55
by Jimmy :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:03pm

On the d-line, I thought Peppers still looked good but the rest looked mediocre. Whenever the Saints chipped Peppers, Brees had forever.

58
by tuluse :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:07pm

Idonije had a nice sack, and Akoye had a few plays where he was disruptive. Considering the quality of the line there were playing, I thought it was good showing.

61
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:13pm

Another credit to Lovie is that throughout his time in CArolina Peppers was accused of taking plays/games off and being able to turn it up when he wanted.

In Chicago he seems to play hard consistently and then REALLY jack it up at times.

Smith has his detractors but his number one asset is that Chicago ALWAYS seems to play hard. That is NOT an easy thing to make happen in pro sports. I wonder how many Bears fans think of that when they are frustrated?

65
by tuluse :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:33pm

I think most fans are idiots and think that not destroying every team means the Bears need a new coach.

While I don't think Lovie is one of the best coaches in the game, I think he is solidly above average and it's likely the Bears do a lot worse if they fire him.

72
by witless chum :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:19pm

As a Lions fan, the past decade taught me you can almost always do worse than the coach you have.

54
by Jimmy :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:00pm

What for? You don't have to be a fan of a team to understand when you are watching a team's blocking scheme fall apart. Cutler didn't help himself, the WRs didn't help their QB and the OL didn't help anybody.

The only thing I would offer by way of mitigation (and it isn't much) is that the Bears did seem to really fall apart (ie bad to catastrophic) would be that once Carimi got hurt the Bears had lost the starting right side of their line from week one. That can't help. I am now worried for Cutler's health all over again - I think there is a chance that he got concussed yesterday too, he took forever to get up after a hit to his head in the first quarter (not saying there should have been a flag, these things happen but I don't think he would normally put his helmet on so that he was looking out of the earhole).

68
by Dan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:54pm

I'm worried about the offense. Their success all seems to come on misdirection, mostly screen passes to Forte & the WRs. That's nice as a wrinkle, but you can't run an offense that way - teams catch on. I don't think it's a coincidence that they've been less effective late in games than early, and less effective in week 2 than in week 1. They haven't able to consistently complete passes past the line of scrimmage, or to consistently run the ball past the line of scrimmage.

Part of it is the line and the protection scheme, like their love of putting a tight end one-on-one against a DE which led to the sack-fumble. A big part of it is the receivers. I think it really hurt to have both Roy Williams & Earl Bennett out - Knox & Hester make some plays but they just aren't reliable enough, especially when the defense is bringing pressure and Cutler needs to make a quick throw. And part of it is Cutler.

70
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:09pm

It was avoided last year, but I still think there is a chance that we might see the entertaining spectacle of the 6 foot 8 Mike Tice, who, previous to getting hired by the Bears, had always been someone inclined to give qbs maximum protection, choking out the mild-mannered Martz on the sideline!

73
by tuluse :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:20pm

Well Mike Martz, the ultimate strategist, has already retreated to the booth.

76
by TomC :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:25pm

Damn, I've got to get quicker at posting.

78
by tuluse :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:33pm

I thought it was kind of funny we had the exact same thought back to back like that.

103
by Marko :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:56pm

I am late to this party, but I had a similar thought before reading your comments.

On a reltated note, the Chicago media rightfully is bringing up the debacle against the Gianst last year and how after the bye week last year, the Bears became much more of a balanced team (and became competent on offense). Seeing the run-pass ratio in yesterday's game (52 called passes, one of which turned into a running play when Cutler scrambled, and 11 called runs) was mind-boggling, especially when you realize that the game was still very much in doubt early in the third quarter. As Brad Biggs pointed out in the Tribune, it was 16-13 with about 10 minutes to go in the 3rd when Cutler was strip sacked; the Saints recovered, scored a TD a few plays later and took complete control of the game.

At that point, the Bears had called 29 passes and only 10 runs. Until then, it's not like they were getting blown out and had to pass to catch up. I simply don't understand why they were going so pass wacky and why Lovie Smith didn't do anything to stop it. Yes, Martz was up in the booth, but Lovie can still communicate with him. Also, it was just a few minutes after halftime. Didn't they talk about this in the locker room? If not, why not?

While it's true that besides Forte's 42 yard run, the running game hadn't done anything, you have to give it time. Maybe you'll have some more success. At a minimum, you will keep the defense honest and protect Cutler from getting killed. Today, Lovie is talking about the need to have more balance, etc. Why does he have to wait until after the game to have this epiphany?

77
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:28pm

Crafty devil. Still, if halfway through the fourth qurter of a Bears blow-out defeat, in which Cutler has been running for his life, Martz hears a knock on the door of the booth, and then a deep, Maryland-accented voice, intones, "Coach Martz, I have your diet Pepsi here", ol'Martzie oughta' leave the deadbolt in place!

74
by TomC :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:24pm

1) I bet that's why Martz has been calling games from the press box recently.

2) If Martz calls a game like that again, I will sneak into the stadium, find him, and choke him myself. When the Bears recovered Ingram's fumble deep in their territory, down 17 with a few minutes left in the 4th, and Martz came out with an empty backfield and no one covering the blitzing LB, I almost had an aneurysm. The game is over, for freak's freaking sake, but your stubborn ass is trying to ruin the season as well.

79
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:34pm

Has anyone ever looked into whether Martz has a relative who is an orthodontist, who just happens to follow him from city to city, where by coincidence, highly salaried men have a propensity for taking shots to the jaw by substantial masses encased in hard plastic, moving at a high speed?

40
by witless chum :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:10pm

Randy Cross opined that the Kansas City was getting blown because the Lions are just that strong. Which is nice to hear as a Lions fan, but the Chefs got blown out last week, were playing without their best player and were committing all sorts of dumb penalties. Let's not crown anyone's ass yet, y'know, but they're looking good.

Maybe sideline reporters do matter? There wasn't one at the Lions game and we seemed to have a hard time getting injury reports. Stafford was grimacing on the field and Brandon Pettigrew appeared to be hurt after landing on his shoulder. Both came back, though, but it'd be nice to hear what's up, especially late in a blowout.

The CBS crew also never explained that Gosder Cherilious wasn't playing right tackle, much less explaining why. Apparently, Schwartz benched him because of a combination poor play and taking an extremely dumb penalty for a personal foul while the Lions were trying to run the clock out in week one. The Ghosarian saved Tampa about 40 seconds of clock to try and tie the game.

Added:
Gunther Cunningham got a gatorade bath at the end of the game, after holding the team that uncerimonously fired him and nailed him for tampering this offseason to a singled score in a blowout win. The Lions were also not going out of their way not to run up the score late.

98
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:24pm

If you're worried about the *Lions* running up the score, you know your season is lost.

143
by witless chum :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 11:13am

At least so long as Stafford's shoulder stays functional, take those skeptical asterisks away. They've looked like a good team, with good coaches over two games, plus the preseason.

We'll see how it goes, for one teams don't have that much tape on Matt Stafford, but you've got the pieces for a good offense, except a little bit of a lack in the run blocking department.

36
by andrew :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:57am

I've you've ever sat in the Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Landshark/Sun Life stadium, you know having a dark cloud overhead is a blessing... it gets very hot in those seats when the sun is hitting them...

37
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:02pm

Some Patriots comments:

Aaron, McCourty made the block in the back because Tolver was about to strip the ball. Go watch the highlights on NFLN, the slow motion replay makes it clear as day that Grimace would have fumbled that ball if Tolver hadn't been taken out.

Mike, when they make detachable heads I'll agree with that call.

38
by RickD :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:03pm

"You know what, I don't blame Norv. That was the right call on
fourth-and-goal, and it wasn't even a slow-developing run either, it was a pretty good playcall off tackle. Someone just didn't get over correctly to block Jerod Mayo."

Rule of thumb: if you cannot get into the end zone with three rushes, you're not going to get it on 4th down. This may just be my impression, and I don't have the numbers, but it seems to me that in situations like this, the defense holds on 4th down far more often than not. Basically, if the O-line had the ability to make the proper hole, they would have done so already.

And really, when the D-line has both Haynesworth and Wilfork jamming the middle, it's a terrible call. Especially when you're only three points down. That was a terrible call by Norv. It showed that he felt a bit panicky about the ability of the Chargers to keep pace with the Pats. And it was the wrong play call. On a day when Devin McCourty was having all sorts of problems with Vincent Jackson, he went with a running play against a defense that wasn't having problems stopping the run, but was giving up yards in bunches to the passing game.

42
by PatsFan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:25pm

Someone just didn't get over correctly to block Jerod Mayo."

Watch the replay. Everyone's going on about Mayo, but what everyone seems to be forgetting for some reason is that McCourty made a nice play to chop down the lead blocker which cleared the space for Mayo to stuff Tolbert.

81
by Nathan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:45pm

Jerry Thornton at Barstool Boston gave him his props.

*And McCourty did nothing less than save the game on that goal line stand. That 4 & goal from a half-yard out? Mayo got the credit but McCourty made the play. The Chargers were in Ace with 2TEs and an I formation. The Pats had 6 down linemen with Wilfork head up on the playside guard, Shaun Ellis in a 6-shade on the tackle and Jermaine Cunningham outside the end. Randy McMichael motioned across the formation with McCourty following him in man coverage. Jacob Hester was lead blocking from the fullback spot and McCourty took him head on in the backfield and blew up the play. The runner had to change direction and Mayo came in clean. Ellis got a nice push too, but it was McCourty who plugged the hole and made the play.

116
by MJK :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 6:42pm

Interesting, because both McCourty and Mayo already had egg on their face (and Mayo technically has egg in his name :-). The first SD TD (the draw play) happened because Mayo was out of position (at least, Simms called him out on it...not sure how much stock I should put in Simms, though), and was set up because McCourty failed to break up the deep pass down the sideline when he had good position but was out-jumped.

47
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:46pm

I suspect you are correct. I remember a Sunday night game between the Vikings and Bears when the Williams Wall was at full strength and the Bears had a first and gogoal at the Vikings one, and John Madden, who, all media nonsense aside, knows more football than anyone who visits here, said something to the effect that the Vikings strength was the middle of the line, their weakness was pass coverage, that the Bears would not be able to run the ball in, and they should just keep passing until they ran out for downs. The Bears instead ran four straight times, and Madden was proven right.

There aren't many center guard trios that are going to out-surge Wilfork and an interested Haynesworth, and the Chargers don't have one of them. The beginning of wisdom in coaching is knowing what your personnel are likely to be successful at.

96
by Rick Killing (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:15pm

And then, upon getting the ball on downs, Frerotte goes topside to Berrian for a 99-yd TD.

Sadly, that was the last anyone saw of Bernard Berrian, as he kept running right out of the stadium and never really returned. Only his ghost jersey shows up now and then, but it doesn't fight for the ball either.

101
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:28pm

So why not just do the Denver chop and jump over them?

51
by tuluse :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:58pm

I disagree about it being so a bad decision to go for it. Even if you get stopped, you have your opponent at the 1 yard line. You play just average defense and you should force a punt at some point. Play good defense and you can end up with a safety or great field position.

And it was the wrong play call. On a day when Devin McCourty was having all sorts of problems with Vincent Jackson, he went with a running play against a defense that wasn't having problems stopping the run, but was giving up yards in bunches to the passing game.

Well to be fair to Norv here, it was early in the game so those things might not have been known yet. Although as Will Allen points out, a good coach should have an idea of one's strengths and weaknesses and the opponents and how to attack them.

86
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 3:41pm

"I disagree about it being so a bad decision to go for it. Even if you get stopped, you have your opponent at the 1 yard line. You play just average defense and you should force a punt at some point. Play good defense and you can end up with a safety or great field position."

Except the Chargers hadn't played "Average defense" all day. And the Patriots aren't an average offense.

As the quality of offenses increases, the value of field position decreases. In a case where you're playing the best offense in the league, you should probably take any points you can get.

89
by tuluse :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 3:50pm

One can argue just as well that if your playing the best offense in the league you need to be sure you are scoring touchdowns and not just field goals.

And again, this was really early in the game, I don't think it was obvious at that point that the Chargers were going to get so abused on defense.

102
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:52pm

Right, but you can't just "take" the touchdown. You can pretty much just take the 3 points from 20 yards.

119
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 6:59pm

Tell that to Dan Carpenter.

Also, are you familiar with the wonderful world of Chargers special teams play? And that's before you even factor in their kicker, who has been considered good enough to merit a spot on an NFL roster for all of 22 games in the past 6 years. No team has ever thought Nick Novak was good enough to go into a season with him as their kicker, and a total of 7 have brought him in for a look.

41
by Nathan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:22pm

Ben Muth: The fake FB belly pitch! I was talking about this with my friends during the Stanford game last night, that play has never been stopped in a third- or fourth-and-short situation.

Love that play, such a pretty play. But I remember Shanahan running it twice in a Broncos game several years ago and it failing the second time. I think it was 2007, maybe the week before the New England game.

45
by stephenbawesome :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:36pm

I feel like the Eagles ran it every week for years, going back to Buckhalter and Westbrook as the two backs in the formation. It was as much a staple of that team as the shovel pass inside the 10.

But I'm inclined to agree with Mr Muth that visual cues from blocking patterns is about the only way to doom that play, whether it be a pulling lineman a receiver trying to set the edge on what they're trying to sell as an inside run.

43
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:29pm

The Vikings are just good enough, or bad enough, to have 8-10 competitive losses. Toss in 2-4 noncompetitive losses, and they could get in the Luck sweepstakes yet.

The end of the game, and some stuff I saw in other games, leads me to think once again that the most underappreciated stat in the NFL is the dropped interception. Strangely enough, defensive backs who catch the qb's mistakes play on winning teams, more often than not, and the opposite is true of defensive backs who have the qb's mistakes go through their hands. I doubt the sample sizes are big enough to tell us much with regard to individual db's, but it might be interesting to see if there is any correlation between defensive dvoa and dropped ints.

Lastly, for those who watch the Pats all the time; how often has Belichik allowed a receiver to stay on the roster with poor ball skills? Since Randy Moss left the Vikings the first time, and with the short exception of Sidney Rice, I've watched one Viking receiver and tight end after another treat the ball like it was an oblong blob of petroleum jelly. Then I watch the Pats play for a quarter or two, and actually see guys catch balls in traffic. My suspicion is that Belichick begins with the proposition that a guy who can't is not worth having on the roster, no matter the other attributes.

I was spoiled by 15 years of watching Cris Carter and Moss go up and outfight lesser athletes for the ball, and started to take that basic skill for granted. I've since had my beliefs readjusted in the past 6 years.

50
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:55pm

"they could get in the Luck sweepstakes yet"

Look at the remaining schedules for the Colts and Chiefs, and couple that with an awareness of how many degrees of epic execrables separate them from the Vikings. The Vikings could conceivably finish with a worse record than the Seahawks (possibly the worst of the lot) thanks to schedule/luck, but the loser of Chiefs-Colts might go 0-16.

Intriguingly, the three worst teams in football are all reigning divisional champions.

56
by tuluse :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:03pm

I've was thinking a lot about this watching Cutler get destroyed by the Saints. I keep seeing passes fall to the turf near Bears receivers, then I would switch to red zone (or the Saints would go on offense) and I'd see passes of similar accuracy get snagged by receivers.

All the Bears had yesterday was little receivers who use speed to get open. Which is useful, but sometimes you need a guy who can go up and just catch a pass to bail out your QB.

71
by TomC :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:19pm

All the Bears had yesterday was little receivers who use speed to get open. Which is useful, but sometimes you need a guy who can go up and just catch a pass to bail out your QB.

Hell, I would have been satisfied with "sit down and catch it" yesterday. Two crucial drives were killed when Cutler danced his way out of certain death on 3rd down and hit a receiver right in the belly for 1st-down yardage, only to have the ball dropped. One was Hester, but the other was Dane freakin' Sanzenbacher who, if he isn't going to catch every single damn ball that is thrown to him, is as useful on an NFL roster as I am.

88
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 3:45pm

"they could get in the Luck sweepstakes"

I don't think they're #1 overall pick bad, but even if they were, they'd be in a position of needing to trade the pick, pass on Luck, or give up on Ponder after 1 year.

91
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:04pm

Giving up on Ponder to get Luck is a no-brainer. Yeah, it's a longshot for the Vikings to lose 14 or 15 games, but if an aging McNabb and Winfield get hurt, it is certainly possible. They are a roster built for 1977 already, and any further injuries to their passing attack/pass defense might render them helpless. 0-6 in the division is a strong possibility, and then if they manage to screw up against the Raiders and Broncos, anything's possible. Still, I don't think they can lose to the Chiefs,and getting the Chiefs to two wins elsewhere is a hard struggle, so, no, I would not bet the house on it.

106
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 5:14pm

I'm not sure McNabb staying healthy lowers the odds all that much.

108
by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 5:28pm

Yes, McNabb is finished for the most part. The other two qbs on the roster haven't started as of yet. Put Webb or Ponder on the field, and they won't score 10 points a game.

46
by stephenbawesome :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:39pm

I honestly believe Carroll could prefer Barkley to Luck. Not that he's had any loyalty to his own USC players, but was creepily affectionate with Barkley and quite effusive with praise. If they wind up with the worst record in the league, I could see them trading down.

48
by PatsFan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:50pm

Hernandez will be out for 1-2 weeks with a sprained MCL, according to the Boston Globe.

52
by nat :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:59pm

...but Devin McCourty has to ruin it with the most obvious block in the back EVER.

Not all "blocks in the back" are "illegal blocks in the back". I've seen this non-call so often that I've concluded that I'm the one who doesn't know the rule, instead of the refs being biased or stupid or blind.

The pattern seems to be that you can block someone in the back if you are all facing toward the end zone on a return. Basically, you are blocking someone who has turned around to trail the play. I'm not sure what the exact distinction is that makes these legal. It may be as simple as you can be blocked in the back if you are facing your own end zone.

You'll notice that players don't plead for a flag in these situations, and blockers don't make any effort to avoid making these kinds of blocks. I think they know this rule better than we do.

59
by tuluse :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:09pm

If a defender turns his back to an offensive player, he can be blocked in the back. I believe this is an individual thing though. Like a DE putting a spin move on a lineman. Not a case of if a player turns around he can be blocked in the back.

Mostly refs just ignore blocks in the back on interception and fumble returns.

64
by Travis :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:27pm

The block during a DE spin move is covered by a different exception - blocks in the back are allowed in close-line play (within the tackle box and 3 yards of the line of scrimmage).

63
by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:22pm

I think the rule has more to do with the positions of the players than what direction they are facing. If the would-be tackler is between the blocker and the runner, that's an illegal block in the back. If the blocker is between the runner and the would-be tackler there won't be a flag. Basically, the tackler would have his back to the runner in this situation, making him impossible to block legally without the exception. A good is example is James Harrison's interception return in Super Bowl 43. At one point, he cuts inside and Tim Hightower overruns the play resulting in his having his back to the play. LaMarr Woodley had been closing in for a block when Hightower's back turned. Woodley follows through with his block even though he is pushing Hightower in the back--no flag. I didn't see McCourty's block, so I can't comment on the play in question.

66
by Travis :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:44pm

There's no such rule about the would-be tackler being between the blocker and the runner. Theoretically, a block in the back 50 yards away from the play would be flagged.

Rule 3-3: A Block in the Back is a block that is delivered from behind an opponent above his waist. It is not a block in the back: (a) if the opponent turns away from the blocker, or (b) if both of the blocker’s hands are on the opponent’s side.

Rule 12-1-4-b: An offensive blocker cannot ... charge or fall into the back of an opponent above the waist, or use his hands or arms to push an opponent from behind in a manner that affects his movement, except in close-line play (the guideline for officials to use for illegal use of hands in the back above the waist is: if either hand is on the back, it is a foul. If both hands are on the opponent’s side, it is not a foul).

87
by Karma Coma :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 3:45pm

"If the blocker is between the runner and the would-be tackler there won't be a flag."

I'm having difficulty imagining how this scenario could happen. A would-be tackler wouldn't have his back towards the runner and still be a would-be tackler. He'd be either standing still(facing away from the runner), running away, or back-pedaling.

(WBT)---> X <---(B)....(R)--->

No flag.

(B)---> X (WBT)--->....(R)--->

Flag.

<---(WBT)X <---(B)....(R)--->

???

What am i missing? It seems like it would only happen on turnovers where an offensive player has not yet turned to pursue a defender carrying the ball.

113
by Cliff Claven (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 6:27pm

Another SB example is the Seattle INT-TD against Roethlisberger. Ben clearly gets blocked in the back by someone between him and the ball. All three players are running toward the end zone - I think Ben is trying to cut off an angle without getting his hands dirty and he gets bulldozed. I remember yelling about it during the game and another guy explaining this "rule" to me - I'd not heard of it before. And I'd not heard of it since until now.

121
by Karma Coma :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 7:08pm

If you're talking about what happens at at 1:30 here:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/09000d5d8007fa7d/Steelers-...

then it is certainly not "clearly" a block in the back. The block is initiated when Roethlisberger slows down and angles his left side towards the ball carrier in what looked like was going to be an attempt to shoulder him out of bounds, or take out his legs, or perhaps rape him. You can see in the video that the block is initiated from Roethlisberger's left side, not his back. Once the blocker has initiated the block legally he's allowed to finish it with a shove to the back, though it is difficult from that angle to see if he would reciprocate Ben's advances, if any.

That play is much different than the McCourty play at 0:47 here:

http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2011091811/2011/REG2/chargers@patriots#men...

which is basically a tackle from behind. It's easy to look at them side-by-side and realize why one was called and the other wasn't.

145
by Cliff Claven (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 1:20pm

This is the second time I've seen that play. The first was when it was live. I definitely remember it being a TD. Shows what I know.

I see what you're saying about how they're different, but I don't see any contact on Ben's front (or even on his side), and I do see Dude's right hand in the middle of Ben's back and Ben falling forward, not rolling sideways.

SOW

146
by Karma Coma :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 2:25pm

You're not watching closely enough. Watch just Ben and the blocker. The block is initiated when the blocker puts his left hand on the front of Ben's left shoulder pad. Then he puts his right hand on Ben's lower back. Ben's angle is taking him towards the sideline, but the block forces him to the ground and into a roll almost perfectly parallel to the sideline.

117
by dbostedo :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 6:45pm

I think what you're missing is that if the ball carrier starts, stops, or cuts suddenly, a potential tackler running at full speed can then run right past the play... a Top Gun scenario. For the amount of time it takes the tackler to slow down and turn around, his back will be to the ball carrier. That's the time at which you see some of these blocks. This seems to happen to a lot of gunners on kick returns, for example.

So some tacklers ARE running away, for a brief moment at least.

And while there's no rule specifically allowing that block, my guess would be that these would-be tacklers who over-run a play are considered to have turned their back to the ball and potential blockers.

122
by Karma Coma :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 7:23pm

More video examples would be helpful, but subjectively it seems like aside from plays like punt/kickoff/int/fumble returns where the ball actually changes direction, blocks in the back are a pretty rare call unless they are blindingly obvious. I can't recall a single block in the back penalty called when a defender is juked or over-pursues and is blocked immediately during that split-second when his back is to the play.

They don't always call it right, but they seem to be pretty consistent about the type of situations in which they're willing to call it.

62
by tuluse :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 1:15pm

Mike Kurtz: Not only do the commentators not understand the rules, they don't even listen to the referee. Early in Chicago-New Orleans there was a roughing the passer call for driving Cutler into the ground, and Aikman wouldn't shut up about how he didn't lead with his head, so it was a bad call.

I remember Aikman talking about how the defender didn't drive Culter either. I think he was just covering all the bases. Also, I thought it was a bad call myself.

104
by Marko :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 5:06pm

Based on how they call that play now, I thought it was a good call. I simply disagreed with Aikman's analysis. I had a long discussion about that play with a friend last night. He thought it was a BS call and thought my opinion was biased because I am a Bears fan. I told him that I try to be objective about officiating, and that I have seen similar calls for driving the QB into the ground many times. I think Urlacher had one a few years ago (against the Vikings?). That's what they call now. It seemed to me that Roman Harper definitely drove Cutler into the ground.

I did think the Bears got a break a few minutes later when 3 Bears shoved a Saint (Sproles?) out of bounds late. That should have been a personal foul for unnecessary roughness. Aikman also thought the Saints should have been penalized for a hit on Sanzenbacher later in the game. I didn't think that was a penalty.

The worst call was the apparent failure to review Sproles' "touchdown." He clearly stepped out of bounds at the 1. I doubt it impacted the result of the game, but the NFL has to tighten up the reviews of scoring plays. That play has to get reviewed.

107
by Arkaein :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 5:26pm

Regarding the Sproles TD (which I didn't see myself), in MMQB Peter King reports that in that case there was some sort of communication problem between the review official and the refs on the field. So the problem isn't so much that the refs didn't do their job, it's that an important part of officiating depends on unreliable equipment.

110
by Marko :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 5:42pm

Thanks. I haven't read MMQB yet. That is a huge problem. My understanding is that scoring plays can't be challenged by the coaches; they are treated like plays in the last two minutes of a half or plays in OT, in which only the replay official can initiate a review. So even though it was obvious to anyone watching a replay (presumably including Bears coaches in the booth) that it shouldn't have been a TD, there was nothing that could be done about it. I guess the NFL is lucky that this didn't impact the game. Imagine the uproar if this happened on a critical play that couldn't be challenged by a coach and wasn't reviewed due to a communication problem.

139
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 10:01am

"So the problem isn't so much that the refs didn't do their job, it's that an important part of officiating depends on unreliable equipment."

Referees' brains?

112
by Dan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 6:23pm

There was a lot of bad officiating that game. The Roman Harper hit on Cutler looked totally clean to me, but a few plays earlier on the play that knocked Earl Bennett out of the game Harper led with his helmet and speared Bennett on what looked like a blatant personal foul. On the next Saints possession, the play where 3 Bears shoved a Saint out of bounds (it was Meachem) had 3 officiating screwups in one play. First Tim Jennings was clearly being held (no flag), then he finally broke away to get Meachem and force him out of bounds a yard short of the first down, then two more Bears (Briggs and then Tillman) showed up as he was going out of bounds and it looked like they knocked Meachem down late (no flag). Then while the refs are talking to Payton about why there was no flag on the late hit, the ball somehow gets moved forward a yard and the Saints get a first down (instead of 3rd & 1).

And of course there's the Sproles touchdown.

93
by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:12pm

Surprised more people aren't weighing in on the 49ers "points off the board" decision, maybe because it's so f**#!##ing obvious to anyone reading this how idiotic that is. If you ask a coach on 3rd down with his team in field goal range, "would you rather have 3 points or make this first down?", every one would take the first down; ask them after they made the field goal and they take the 3 points. I'm trying to think if there's a nugget of conventional wisdom (in any sport) that is 100% wrong. I remember watching a game in a bar when a team did take the 3 points off the board, and an old-timer sitting near me started yelling "you don't take points off the board!" I said of course you do, wouldn't you rather have the first down, and then we watched the team score a TD. That didn't stop him from muttering angrily "you don't take points off the board!"

99
by witless chum :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 4:24pm

I'd guess the calculation was more like, "I don't have any confidence in my offense getting a TD here, so I'm happy to just go up by two scores and then go on defense, rather than risk missing the kick when we try it again, or turning the ball over." What's missing there is taking time off the clock.

I wonder if Harbaugh's sense of game management needs to adjust a bit to the time-management rules in the NFL? In college, with the clock stopping on first downs, the time you need for a two-minute drive without timeouts is less than in the NFL. Clock management seems more important in the NFL because of that. Maybe?

126
by Chip Paint (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 8:10pm

Witless,

In most cases, a two minute drive takes 2 minutes, whether college or pro.

111
by TomC :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 6:02pm

If you ask a coach on 3rd down with his team in field goal range, "would you rather have 3 points or make this first down?", every one would take the first down.

I'm not sure that's true. In the extreme case where both your offense and kicker are unreliable, then the expectation value of points scored from 1st-and-10 at the 23 is less than 3, and you should always take the points.

118
by Eddo :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 6:53pm

Wouldn't you then see coaches kick field goals on third down more often?

128
by Sidewards :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 9:04pm

I want to see Andy Reid out there.

129
by Nathan :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 9:50pm
109
by Bruce Lamon :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 5:32pm

Tolbert tripped over his own blocker's leg.

115
by are-tee :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 6:41pm

I'd like to point out that "Rivers McCown" threw a combined six interceptions yesterday!

120
by Jordan (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 7:04pm

I am glad there is some intelligent discourse here on the niners game. I was on CBS sports earlier and its full of homer trolls that think Romo is the second coming of Christ. Fact is as heroic as Romo's play was, and now its being reported he had a punctured lunch along with a fractured rib, he didn't really win the game for the cowboys as much as the niners lost it for themselves. Austin scored a TD when the DB fell down and the safety didn't bother even trying to get near him. The OT play was a totally blown coverage. But the decision not to take points off the board is puzzling considering how much time the niners could have killed even if they went 3 and out on the next drive ad kicked a field goal. The other important factor is that it gives there defense more rest on the sideline. The niners got soft on D and seemed to be playing that game of trying not to lose rather than trying to win. Because of the change in rules to the passing game, being down by ten in the 4th quarter is not as big a deal as it may have once been. One pass interference penalty can net you a whole lot of yards, and now that the rules are so offense friendly, even being in the position of knowing the offense has to pass to win isn't really an advantage.

123
by Marko :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 7:28pm

Any comparison between Romo and Christ is ridiculous. First of all, Romo was undrafted, while Christ was a first round draft pick (although many people questioned his ability to succeed in the NFL as a QB and viewed him as a project worth no more than a 3rd or 4th round pick at best). Romo also was completely unknown to the average fan when the Cowboys signed him as an UDFA, whereas Christ was a Heisman-winning QB who helped his team win 2 national championships. He was one of the most celebrated and popular college players ever, and many consider him the greatest college player ever.

In the NFL, Romo has had his ups and downs, but he has established himself as a successful QB (although he has had some spectacular meltdowns in big games). On the other hand, Christ hasn't done anything to convince his many nonbelievers that he can be a good QB. He still has awful mechanics (including an elongated throwing motion), his accuracy is poor, and he hasn't shown that he can read a defense.

131
by Corey S. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:23pm

Dude, Christ doesn't even play football, let alone quarterback: http://www.theonion.com/articles/christ-returns-to-nba,1996/

134
by Marko :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:45am

Oh, OK. I guess the guy I was describing was Brian, who has been mistaken for Christ before. Sorry for the confusion. Always look on the bright side of life.

136
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 8:45am

Just like his father, Jesus is always a candidate for the 'Keep Chopping Wood' award.

142
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 11:05am

As a kid, I always thought Christ played for whoever was playing my Eagles. Every time my they'd fumble the ball, my Dad would always yell "Jesus Christ, not again!".

124
by Jordan (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 7:33pm

haha @Marko. nice work my friend

125
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 7:37pm

Seems like an epic battle for Andrew Luck. Not sure between Miami, Seattle, KC, Minnesota and Indianapolis which team wants it more. Miami seem bound to win once they get away from their Home field disadvantage. Minnesota seems likely to win once a game stops at half time. Seattle's division seems too bad not to win one. Which might bring it down to KC and Indy. Circle 10/9/2011 on you calender.

130
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:46pm

Seattle is also in the NFC West, which almost guarantees at least one fluke win against the rest of the division. I'd guess the loser of KC-Minnesota may get the top pick with Indy also a good possibility.

140
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 10:17am

Basically agree.

Miami: not even remotely bad enough. They're a fairly average team that's played a couple of tough opponents. They'll end up 7-9 or something. In the NFC West they'd be a lock for the playoffs.

Seattle: probably the worst team in the league, but thanks to playing in the aforementioned NFC West they won't have the worst record. 3-13? 4-12?

Minnesota: only a bad-ish team, but a very tough schedule. Still, I think they win at least 4.

KC and Indy: Ho boy. Good job they can't both go 0-16. I think home field advantage gives Luck to the Chiefs. I will never have wanted the Colts to win so badly.

127
by Julio (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 8:44pm

It doesn't matter that Hernandez scored
or didn't against the Chargers. What matters
is that the Pats have no real defense. Again.

135
by BJR :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 8:27am

Feel a little bit sorry for Sam Bradford. His receiving corps(e) is still among the very worst in the league, and this was painfully evident in their red zone trips last night. The combination of Bradford's talent, Josh McDaniel's scheme, and the Giants injury-riddled defensive backfield allowed them to pick up chunks of yardage down the field, but near the goalline where you are relying on the skill of your receivers to get separation and/or make contested catches they were mostly useless. Obviously not having Steven Jackson isn't going to help in goalline situations, but still, it was a major surprise to me that the Rams didn't look for a major upgrade at receiver in free agency. It's a pity they remain so weak in this area because most of the other pieces seem to be in place - franchise QB, quality coaching, lots of young talent on defence.

Also, Quentin Mikell is quite a player. I don't follow the Eagles - could they have made more of an effort to retain him at the expense of one of their plethora of free agent signings?

138
by Dean :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 9:47am

They could have tried to retain him, but it's not their style. He hit the "magic age" and they let him walk.

The interesting thing is that Josh McDaniels intended to run a lot of the same 2 TE stuff that New England is running with so much success, but the injury to Mike Hoho... (yet again) pretty much skewered that idea. Their receivers really are cover-your-eyes awful. I'm not sure how, but they might even be worse this year than last year.

141
by Nathan :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 10:22am

By the end of the McDaniels era in New England I had more faith that they could score on snaps from the 20 than on snaps from the 5. Hard to spread the field when there's no field to spread. I think McD is a very good OC but he needs to figure something out for the red zone. He actually had a shot at something with the Tebow package in Denver but we'll never know. Having a mobile QB that can run through arm tackles out of the spread gives you a lot more options that close to the endzone.

137
by jgrenci@zoomint... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 9:33am

Not to be mean, but Tom Gower exhibits backward reasoning from time to time.
'Considering the defense has had trouble stopping the Titans and the offense has struggled to move the ball with any consistency, I am in favor of that decision to leave it a two-score game. '

if you have have trouble stopping the Titans, then that is more reason to go for the TD there. If you struggle to move the ball with any consistency, it is again more reason to go for the TD. Any reasonable mathematical model will show that.

144
by Tom Gower :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:09pm

There should've been a "not" in there, or I was speaking as a Titans fan. Note to self: proofread own emails better.