Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
24 Oct 2011
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.
Mike Kurtz: Tampa's line had a very impressive opening series; Josh Freeman had all sorts of time. Unfortunately for the Bucs, he missed three or four extremely easy throws, and they have to punt.
Mike Tanier: If it weren't for Matt Forte these games would already have me in a boredom coma.
Mike Kurtz: Forte is just eating the Bucs for lunch. It's kind of unfair. On that note, Earnest Graham fell down clutching his leg, and was shown being taken to the locker room without putting any weight on his right leg. On punt coverage, their backup running back injures his arm. The next play, their starting defensive tackle goes down.
How's this sequence of events? Jay Cutler throws an easy screen to Marion Barber, who bobbles it for an interception. Then Freeman fires a bullet right to a receiver at the 1-yard line, which Chris Conte yanks away from the receiver. The next play, Chicago tries one of those awful "safe" goal-line runs that is actually not safe at all. Ronde Barber blows it up in the backfield and Forte is tackled for a safety.
Mike Tanier: Tony Siragusa looks like Sir Topham Hat
Mike Kurtz: Jeremy Trueblood is back to his old form, pulling two false starts and a holding through three quarters.
Oooookay. Sequence is: Freeman drops back, facemask on Tampa, interception by Brian Urlacher, fumble by Urlacher, recovery by Tampa.
Lovie Smith accepts penalty, challenges. I think Urlacher was down. Corrente agrees with me. Chicago gets the ball, the personal foul is tacked on, time is added to the clock. Extremely good job by Corrente's crew getting the play correct.
Ronde Barber has been a monster today. He's been in Cutler's face, he scored the safety, and, with Chicago up 3 on third-and-goal, he anticipated the snap and hit Cutler on the first step of his drop. His one bad play of the night was lazy coverage against Devin Hester, resulting in a 12-yard gain. Even then, he cleaned up right after the catch.
Of course, Aqib Talib stuck his fingers into Roy Williams's facemask on that third-and-goal play, drawing a personal foul and giving the Bears a new set of downs. The defense keeps Chicago out of the end zone, but the new set of downs eats up 1:40 of clock, taking them down to the two-minute warning. The game basically ends on a Freeman interception with 28 seconds left at the Bears 40 or so. You have to think they have a better chance on that drive with an extra minute-plus.
J.J. Cooper: Looks like the Lions will keep me busy this week. The first two plays after an Eric Wright interception are two sacks allowed. The Lions are much improved, obviously, but they still have Jeff Backus at left tackle, which leads to some mismatches against elite pass rushers. Looked like on the first sack Backus was worried about John Abraham's speed which left him vulnerable to an inside move.
Doug Farrar: The second sack gave me Mike Martz flashbacks – tight ends release despite a strong-side blitz. Who adjusted that protection?
J.J. Cooper: The Broncos appear to be running the spread early with Tim Tebow. Most of his plays from the gun, many of which begin with him sticking the ball in the gut of a running back before pulling it back out.
I know it's only the first quarter, but the Broncos coaching staff doesn't seem to really believe in letting Tebow do much. They have had 10 runs in the first 13 plays. Tebow shows why on the 14th play. Against a four-man rush, he holds the ball for 4.8 seconds, then tries a dodge that adds six yards to a long field goal that the Broncos miss. The run-first approach is often used to take pressure off a quarterback, but it also means that the quarterback faces a lot of third-and-longs.
Danny Tuccitto: Been walking around the stadium taking in the crowd. First odd sighting: person in a Mark Sanchez jersey. Attending in solidarity among bad quarterbacks?
J.J. Cooper: Announcers just comped Tebow to Bobby Douglass. That isn't a good thing.
Tom Gower: Where'd you find announcers who remember Bobby Douglass?
Mike Tanier: Tebow's end-over-end shotput to Knowshon Moreno was positively gruesome.
J.J. Cooper: In Tebow's defense he did spin out of a sack for a 21 yard-gain. Of course that means he has more rushing yards then passing yards.
Danny Tuccitto: Interesting sequence just now. Tebow with a long run, and half the club level dining room roars. Next play, he gets sacked and the other half erupts. Mind you, this is an area that's pretty much all season-ticket holders.
They even brought the Florida band to this one.
J.J. Cooper Broncos and Dolphins are a combined 0-for-15 on third down now. Ugly football.
Danny Tuccitto: The inevitable Tebow fourth-quarter comeback will have to wait until next drive as this one had a negative run sandwiched in between two wild incompletions. To be fair, Tebow himself was sandwiched by a pair of rushers on the last pass. Still 12-0 Miami.
Another week, another pirouetting Tebow scramble! This time it was with six minutes left, not six seconds, and led to a sack. Broncos forced to punt down 15-0.
Mike Tanier: Anybody else have a sinking feeling that the Tebow Magic talk is going to make us sick to our stomachs this week?
Vince Verhei: We should all agree to scream this to the Heavens: IT'S MIAMI. 31st in total defensive DVOA, 30th in pass defense. If that's too much for people to handle, "0-6" should suffice.
Tom Gower: Well, that was a nicely-designed and executed throwback screen to the tight end for the touchdown before the game-tying 2-point conversion.
Aaron Schatz: How can you be Miami and not have an extra defender in the middle for the draw? How?
Rivers McCown: Well you've got to make sure that Tebow can't beat you with the laser-accurate arm that Solomon Wilcots swears that he has.
Aaron Schatz: The prototypical "story of two different games." For three quarters, this game set back offensive football 20 years ... although that might have been less than the Cleveland-Seattle game. It was hard to tell who was rooting for anyone because Miami, Florida, and Denver all have orange as a color. Tebow looked horrible. John Fox's "we're not changing the offense for him" stuff was nonsense. There were a lot of college-style read option plays and it looked like Tebow had one, maybe two receivers to look for on each play before he took off. And he was taking off a LOT and throwing almost no passes, in part because the pass blocking was abysmal. That part, at least, Tebow had no control over. Oh my, did Cameron Wake abuse rookie right tackle Orlando Franklin all day, non-stop. With a left-handed quarterback, the Broncos need to consider switching Franklin with Ryan Clady.
But when Tebow did get at least 2.5 seconds to throw the ball, his throws were so off that you literally couldn't tell -- was he throwing the ball away, or was he really overthrowing guys by that much? At one point he had Daniel Fells without guys within ten yards of him and Tebow threw it out of bounds. There's no way that he could have been throwing that away on purpose, right? Right? And his passes are so wobbly, no tight spiral there.
There was one play that totally encapsulated the Tebow experience: it was second-and-20 on the 10, he was dead to rights for a sack on the goal line, almost a safety, but he somehow got out of it, and scrambled forward and actually got a first down. Insane. He broke like four tackles along the way. On the other hand, he completely should have thrown the ball away, and never, ever should have tried to run. That kind of thing drives coaches nuts.
And then ... I have no idea what happened in the last five minutes. Tebow suddenly was more accurate -- not totally accurate, but now the receivers were making good catches to make his almost-accurate passes into completions. Suddenly, the Dolphins pressure wasn't quite enough, even though a couple of those passes ended with Wake on top of Tebow. And the second Denver touchdown was the perfect play call, taking advantage of the fact that Wake had been abusing Franklin all day. This time, they let Wake and everyone in on the right side ON PURPOSE -- because the right-side linemen were pulling out to block for a screen to Fells. Easy touchdown.
And I said it earlier, but let me say it again. When Denver needs a two-point conversion to tie the game, and they spread you out, how on earth do you not stick an extra linebacker in the middle to try to guard against the draw? How how how?
A quick Miami note: I'm not sure why Tony Sparano coaches so risk-averse when he has to know his job is gone. Let it all hang out for once, Tony. Try to advance the ball when you get it back with 30 seconds left in the first half.
Finally, this game was a great example of why I disagree with the decision ESPN made to include clutch performance in their new Total QBR. Once again, I'll say that Total QBR is a pretty good stat with a lot of good ideas made by people I trust. However, I'm sure Tebow will score well because all his good plays today came in a fourth-quarter comeback. That doesn't really make sense, because why did Denver have to come back in the first place? Maybe because Tim Tebow had a total of 24 passing yards in the first three quarters of the game? He himself dug the hole that he had to climb out of. Well, he dug it with a lot of help from Franklin. Hard to overstate how bad Franklin was.
This was like the worst possible result for those of us who want a definitive answer to the Tebow question, those of us who want Tebow to either excel or really suck so we can stop arguing about him. Instead, he did both in one game. Grrrrr.
Mike Tanier: The other thing to note on the Tebow draw for the two-point conversion is the blitzing defensive back off the edge -- I don't remember who -- takes this horrible angle into the backfield, so Tebow runs right past him. That defender has to come in flat in that situation, anticipating a possible (likely. inevitable) draw.
Rivers McCown: Will Allen. And yes, he looked lost on that play.
Danny Tuccitto: OK, had some technical difficulties in the press box earlier, so here's a synopsis of my experience at Tebowfest 2011:
I spent most of the first half walking around the stadium to get a gauge on the makeup of the crowd. There were three distinct factions. There were obviously the Dolphins fans, which I'd say made up about 60 percent. Then there were the Tebow fans, presumably University of Florida alumni, easily identifiable via their UF Tebow jersies or their general non-Tebow UF paraphernalia. That group made up about 20 percent.
Much to my surprise, there was the forgotten third faction, actual Broncos fans, who made up the remaining 20 percent. In the hype surrounding the halftime tribute to UF's 2007 national championship team, and the turmoil that is the 2011 Miami Dolphins, I had taken for granted -- much like the national media -- that there would actually be non-idol-worshipping Broncos fans at the game. What's more, I was totally surprised by how many of them there actually were.
Truth be told, it was a pleasant surprise, because Broncos fans were easily the most creative of the three factions when it came to jerseys. Sure there were plenty of John Elway and Terrell Davis jerseys to be seen, but two others were pretty out-of-the-box wardrobe selections. There was one guy wearing a Karl Mecklenburg jersey, which stood out to me because I just assumed pre-1997 Broncos history had been wiped from Denver's collective memory. But my personal favorite, which had to be an apparent ode to the White Wide Receiver Name Generator, was a guy who bore a striking resemblance to Ed McCaffrey wearing -- what else -- an Ed McCaffrey jersey.
From what I was reading, most of the first three quarters was absolute dreck to watch, so I didn't return to the press box until the start of the fourth quarter. It didn't take me long to see how bad Tebow can look at times, although I think the Denver's offensive coaching staff needs to share in some of the blame. There were plenty of times where Tebow simply held the ball too long, even when the obvious intended receiver on a play broke open the way it was drawn up. You'd watch the routes develop, see immediately who his first read was, and he wouldn't throw it. Especially perplexing was that this happened a couple of times with Eric Decker running a slant right across Tebow's face.
With that said, and putting aside Tebow's penchant for inaccurate throws, what also struck me watching Denver's offense was that their route combinations were taking forever to develop. On the majority of passing plays I saw, it would be three seconds or more before the receivers made their breaks. It was usually three receivers each running intermediate or deep routes. It wasn't surprising then, that Tebow kept resorting to sandlot football. I think that, in order for him to succeed at this stage, Denver needs to be running a lot more quick-hitting, underneath stuff, because not doing so feeds into all of Tebow's bad habits. If you don't want him to play sandlot football, and want him to get rid of the ball quickly, don't give him three seconds to wait for receivers to get open on a 20-yard dig route. It's not like the Broncos' offense is devoid of receivers who can run bubble screens, hitches, or slants. It's true that Tebow didn't throw to the open Decker slant I mentioned earlier, but at least a play call like that trains Tebow to break bad habits. I think that's what their goal should be going forward, unless of course they have no plans for him in their future. But if that's the case, he shouldn't be out there, regardless of what the fan base says.
On the final drive in regulation, I totally agree with one of the comments -- I think Aaron made it -- about how obvious Tebow's quarterback draw for the two-point conversion was. What was especially mind-numbing about it was that, on previous short-yardage situations that I saw, you could see Miami's defense accounting for the quarterback draw, even when Denver tried to spread them out with four or five receivers in the formation. From what I saw, they seemed to make it a point for the entire game not to get fooled by that play design, but totally ignored it for whatever reason on the most important play in regulation. If half the press box knows what's coming, and you've known what's coming from that formation the entire game, how do you not defend it properly at that point?
What was also interesting from a stadium environment perspective was that, by the time that play happened, the crowd had dwindled down to something like 20,000, at least half of which were Broncos fans. (The announced paid attendance of 63,800 elicited a collective chuckle among the media types.) The audience reaction to the two-point conversion took me back to Week 2, when Candlestick Park went wild with jubilation on Jesse Holley's game-clinching catch-and-run in Dallas' overtime win in San Francisco.
One last thing I'll note in closing is that, when I was leaving the stadium, I overheard more than one group of dejected Dolphins fans railing against Sparano going for two at the beginning of the fourth quarter because, if he had chosen to kick the extra point, the score would have been 16-7 going into Denver's final drive, thereby rendering it nearly impossible for them to win. Of course, that's playing the result a bit, and it really didn't seem like that controversial of a decision at the time: 12-0, 13-0, 14-0? Who cares? Denver couldn't move the ball at all through three quarters. They're going to start now? Nevertheless, I'd love to see a breakdown of the probabilities associated with that decision. I'm generally of the school that you don't go for two unless you absolutely have to at the end of a game, and you certainly don't do it with a two-score lead at home against a team that had amassed 137 total yards and zero points in the previous 45 minutes of the game.
Tom Gower: Friend of FO William Krasker's handy-dandy two-point conversion chart has the break-even point for going for two, up 12, with 15 minutes to play, at 24 percent. Then decreasing by roughly five percent every three minutes from 18 minutes to play on. According to his game model at least, that's overwhelming sense.
Danny Tuccitto: Ah yes, can't argue with a Markov model! Thanks Tom.
I'm assuming that the difference between the break-even probabilities for being up 12 (24 percent) and up 11 (69 percent) is because whereas kicking an extra point to go up 12 or converting the two-point conversion to go up 13 is functionally the same result, converting to go up 14 is an inflection point that's much more valuable than kicking to go up 13.
Of course, then there's Chris Brown's more game theoretical take on two-pointers. From that perspective, Sparano's decision seems like more of a borderline call. Either way, though, I don't buy that his choice made much of an impact on the outcome of the game.
One other thing I totally forgot to mention in my little essay, which I was just reminded of reading some of Sparano's postgame comments, is that the Dolphins still fell for the quarterback draw from the spread formation even after they had the benefit of seeing Denver line up in it before the timeout that Miami called to give the booth more time to review the touchdown. Denver literally used the same formation and pre-snap motion.
Brian McIntyre: Midway through the first quarter, the Seahawks and Browns have combined for 35 yards of total offense and 35 yards in penalties.
Vince Verhei: Brian kind of stole my thunder, but at the end of the first quarter in Cleveland, there are six total penalties for 60 yards, and six total first downs for 73 yards of total offense. One of the first downs was, of course, on a penalty.
And the Seahawks block a field goal early in the second. Years from now someone will look at this boxscore for a late-October game in Cleveland and assume it was rainy and muddy, but it's a nice sunny day.
At halftime of Football In Hell, Cleveland leads Seattle 3-0. A few factoids: In 17 pass plays, the Seahawks have given up three sacks to get four first downs. (In Quick Reads last week I noted that Charlie Whitehurst's sack rate was better than Tarvaris Jackson's. Never mind about that.) Whitehurst has six completions, none of which have gained more than 11 yards. Cleveland's offense has been marginally better, but Colt McCoy is completing half his passes for fewer than 10 yards per completion. And the Browns have given that advantage back on special teams, with a blocked field goal and a nine-yard punt.
Tarvaris Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, and Peyton Hillis are all inactive, by the way. That probably has something to do with the sorry state of things. Lynch apparently strained his back in warmups. That should have been a sign.
Browns come out in the second half on (ahem) "fire," picking up three first downs on their opening drive, although all three came on third downs. Then on the verge of field-goal range, McCoy hangs in the pocket for close to five seconds before throwing an interception right to middle linebacker David Hawthorne.
Following the interception, the teams exchange punts. Leon Washington appears to score what I'm certain would have been a game-winning touchdown on a punt return, but -- of course -- it's called back for a block in the back.
On the first play following Washington's non-touchdown, Whitehurst throws a deep ball down the left sideline to Sidney Rice, covered by Sheldon Brown one-on-one. The ball is underthrown, and Brown boxes Rice out for the interception. You've heard of video game football? This is what happens when you give the controllers to the whiny four-year-olds in the room.
Seahawks actually manage a field goal to tie the game and threaten us all with the menace of overtime. This game does not need an extra frame. Key play on the drive was a big reception downfield by Rice when the Browns forgot to cover him, then he fell out of bounds with no defender within 5 yards. That was the first time all day either team had reached the red zone.
Brian McIntyre: Despite not advancing the ball inside the Seahawks' 30-yard line, the Browns have a nearly 19-minute edge in time of possession (33:45 to 14:57) and lead 6-3 with 11 minutes to play.
Vince Verhei: It will surprise none you to learn that Jim Mora thinks Colt McCoy is a winner. I know this because he has said so 17,000 times today.
I'm not a big believer in time of possession, but the Browns did have more good runs on their latest drive than they have all day. The drive stalled at the goal line, though, and they settled for a field-goal attempt ... which, for the second time today, was blocked. Seahawks have about three minutes, no timeouts, down 6-3 at their own 20.
Seahawks turn the ball over on downs. They hold Cleveland to a three-and-out and it appears that they're going to at least have a chance for a miracle, but Red Bryant commits a dumb foul, headbutting a guy after the play, getting himself ejected, and giving Cleveland the first down they need to ice the game. And, mercifully, it's done.
Tom Gower: Midway through the second quarter, the Texans lead the Titans in a contest that can probably be fairly described as "desultory" and poorly-played by the Titans, including a demonstration of their desperate need for a non-terrible receiver other than Nate Washington, Chris Johnson's penchant for leaving yards on the field and not gaining anything (the blocking isn't great, but it's not worst in the league bad), and a stream of idiotic personal fouls on defense. On the plus side, Arian Foster is a good and exciting player.
Rivers McCown: Johnson just isn't a good NFL running back right now. He seems to bottle up and accept it when there is a tackler in his area and he's past the line of scrimmage. No fight.
Ben Muth: The Texans seem to get one big play a game on the bootleg right throwback deep left. At some point a defense is going to have to stay home and get a pick, right?
Tom Gower: The Texans really do a good job of running different stuff of the boot action and getting guys in different ways. They hit the playside tight end for a big score against the Raiders, and this game they've hit the bootside receiver, the bootside tight end, and now the back. They run a good amount of boot stuff, and do it in different ways, and Matt Schaub is willing to throw it away if it's not there, at least most of the time.
I don't have a lot more to add about this game, but the Texans are continuing to dismantle the Titans. After doing down 27-0, the Titans did drive for a score, going most of the way down the field quickly with Javon Ringer in the game. The popular comment was that this was a benching, but Ringer has played more all year in obvious passing situations and is a better pass-blocker. When they got into the red zone, CJ came back in the game. I may have mentioned this before, but I thought the Texans' offensive line had a particularly good year in 2010 and they'd regress some this year. Well, never mind, they still look great and the combination play is still particularly excellent. Johnson might even be a decent runner behind those guys.
Tom Gower: I think I'm going to claim the Titans were doomed to a loss by Mike Munchak's failure to challenge what I thought was a completion to Damian Williams on a flea-flicker. Williams lost the ball when he went to the ground after a hit, and it was ruled an incompletion on the field. I didn't think he was going to the ground when he caught the ball, thus completion and fumble out of bounds. The Titans failed to convert third down, and have done hardly anything positive since then.
Rivers McCown: If it's all the same to you Tom, I'm going to blame it on the fact that the Texans had zero punts and 26 first downs over the last 53 minutes of the game. That probably played a factor.
Mike Tanier: John Beck has made a few good throws, but the Redskins gameplan has been classic "hide the quarterback." Beck just took a bad sack on fourth down.
Beck had a much better series on a scoring drive. Some rollout plays and play action completions before scrambling for a touchdown. The Redskins lost Tim Hightower, though, and it looks serious.
Cam Newton is having another marvelous day. The air is getting sucked out of the Redskins.
Aaron Schatz: The Jets really had a problem here covering Antonio Gates. They were leaving Gates wide open in the middle of the field on zones, or they would run man coverage with linebackers who had no hope of covering him, who were already two steps behind by the time they started backpedaling from the line of scrimmage.
When the Jets came back at the end, and San Diego tried to score one more touchdown, someone is going to have to explain to me what on earth Philip Rivers was thinking checking down for three-yard gains with 23 seconds left and no timeouts.
Sean McCormick: I'm not sure what was going on, but the Chargers seemingly spent the entire day offsides. There were a minimum of five neutral zone infractions called on them, and San Diego was lucky that the Jets were usually running the ball, as they were opening themselves up to free plays down the field.
It's not surprising that both of Rivers' second half interceptions came when he was trying to force the ball to Vincent Jackson. Jackson was completely shut down by Darrelle Revis, but a few times in the game the Jets goaded Rivers by playing Revis to the other side, only to throw bracket coverage on Jackson. Jackson bobbled the first throw, popping it up in the air for a waiting Revis, and Kyle Wilson was able to undercut Jackson on the second throw.
Tom Gower: Boller starts off with two interceptions in his first three throws, one of them returned for a touchdown. Dwayne Bowe puts the Chiefs up 14-0. Boller calms down some and has some decent throws to help lead them down field, but a few Michael Bush carries on the goalline, including a direct snap on fourth and goal from the one, don't get in, and it's still 14-0.
Kyle Boller throws a third bad first-half interception as the Raiders are driving. He's doing his best to make the Palmer trade look like a really, really good idea.
Aaron Schatz Raiders bring in Carson Palmer in the third quarter. Palmer looks suspiciously like a guy who has only practiced with his receivers for about two days.
Tom Gower: Palmer's primary virtue through two offensive drives has been the conspicuous absence of any passes thrown right at defenders. Such as, say, that one Matt Cassel just chucked up on a wheel route. That said, his pass to Denarius Moore right after the Cassel's interception was not, shall I say, a particularly safe one.
Aaron Schatz: Palmer follows your comment with a pass thrown right to a defender, Brandon Flowers, for a pick-six.
Tom Gower: Another quick slant, this one a little bit behind Moore (also the target of Palmer's first interception). The rookie can't haul it in, ball tipped up in the air, and Jon McGraw gets the Chiefs' fifth interception of the game. Never mind.
Mike Kurtz: Mike Wallace just caught a 95-yard touchdown. He blew past the cornerback, who fell down before the safety could get there (a beautiful throw but a little short). Wallace had to slow down to catch up, but then almost immediately shifted up gears and ran untouched into the end zone.
That said, Pittsburgh has been really sloppy today. The previous two drives before that strike were buried under penalties, and they've already drawn two personal fouls. Ike Taylor has been nearly lights-out against Larry Fitzgerald, aside from a pass interference call that actually took a minute-long officials' conference before the flag was thrown. Fitzgerald jumped up and beat Taylor on another play, but that was hardly Taylor's fault; he had perfect position, he's just not as good as Fitzgerald.
Taylor is apparently not allowed to touch Fitzgerald. There is, however, no such thing as offensive holding, as Brett Keisel is getting mauled every single play. No flags. In all fairness, the refs are being very consistent. Nobody is allowed to look at wide receivers too hard or they get flagged.
Vince Verhei: At halftime, the Packers are losing, but Aaron Rodgers is 17-of-20. And one of the incompletes was a spike to stop the clock.
Doug Farrar: And another was a very catchable drop over the middle.
Mike Tanier: Rodgers is still 21-of-24 late in the third. He is taking a few too many hits, though.
Aaron Schatz: The Minnesota secondary can't stop Rodgers at all, but their defensive line is getting a ton of pressure. I believe Rodgers has more sacks than incomplete passes.
Brian McIntyre: Clay Matthews shows no quit, fighting through a double-team to get a hit on Christian Ponder a split-second after the rookie released the ball. His reward: A very questionable 15-yard personal foul penalty. Ponder hits Michael Jenkins for a 24-yard touchdown on the next play.
Mike Tanier: Ponder has had a solid first start, from what I have seen, considering the defense he is facing.
Aaron Schatz: I think there's been a distinct lack of boneheaded throws.
Also, it looks like they are rolling Ponder out a lot to cut the field in half for him.
Rob Weintraub: I have a distinct and completely biased fondness for Ponder, as I've noted before, thanks to getting to know him a little bit, so I'm both unsurprised and quite thrilled that he's playing this well in his debut. Having said that, he's almost been picked on back-to-back throws late in the game as the Vikes drive for the upset.
Vince Verhei: That's my impression too. It's not so much that he's making tons of great throws, as much as he's making (generally) good decisions and doing a good job running the show. He looks poised and competent.
Tom Gower: I thought punting was a defensible decision, given that if the Packers get five yards, they're in field goal range to put you down two scores, but that run defense against James Starks was. .. deeply disappointing.
Mike Tanier: Twice on the final Packers drive, the Vikings defense could not stop a simple cutback run by Starks.
Rivers McCown: Really a pretty predictable game at half time. Steven Jackson broke one 40-yard run to get the Rams to the red zone (and a touchdown!), but other than that the A.J. Feeley experience has only germinated a series of six-yard passes to tight ends that will wind up in the "Going Deep" section of FOA12. The Cowboys have continued to look sloppy and involve Martellus Bennett way too often, but Tony Romo isn't having any problems finding open receivers. DeMarco Murray has nine touches at 2.3 yards per carry asides from his long touchdown run.
Tom Gower: Murray's big play was a 91-yard gain on a delayed draw where both safeties screwed up. Either the Rams' run defense is really, really bad or the Cowboys' rushing offense is a lot better than we thought it was. My money is on the former.
Vince Verhei: Murray over 230 yards rushing for Dallas. A lot of it is big plays -- his four longest carries have gained 135 yards -- but even taking those away, he's still going over five yards a pop. He's had some big stuffs in there, but still looks like a pretty remarkable day.
Rivers McCown: So, in the second half, Murray was a lot more impressive, needless to say. With Tashard Choice going down in the third quarter, the Cowboys have been giving him all the carries he can handle. Murray was so tired that he responded by falling down from exhaustion on a 43-yard gain that helped essentially seal the game.
There is a reason the Rams were 32nd in rush DVOA defense coming into the game.
Also, FOX just cut from the game using "You Belong With Me." I am sure there have been more inappropriate football game segues, but I can't think of them off-hand.
Tom Gower: Wow, the blocking on these Indianapolis screens is really awful. They have one, maybe two blockers, and Joseph Addai is quickly trapped.
Brian McIntyre: And on the very next series, the Saints offensive line shows how to block in the open field on a screen pass, clearing out two defenders so Pierre Thomas can rumble 57 yards to set up another Drew Brees-to-Marques Colston touchdown.
Mike Tanier: I am watching baseball.
"I notice that Drew Brees is 15-of-17 just before halftime," he says, just trying to spark some conversation.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah, this game is not going to spark a lot of conversation.
Rivers McCown: How's the baseball game going?
Mike Tanier: It's a baseball game. I can look over every two or three minutes and not miss anything.
Tom Gower: I can chat about other things, like how the Titans officially today ran 10 third down plays, nine of them passes. The sole run came on third-and-one, so they've now faced third-and-two or more 69 times and called a pass play 67 of those times.
I'd love to know the real story of why Justin Tryon got run out of Washington and then out of Indianapolis. Something's going on there, and the Colts could use him. The Colts could use a few other things as well, but they actually had Tryon.
Rivers McCown: Is there anyone in the league that can cover Jimmy Graham? I think we've conclusively proven that a Colts safety one-on-one won't do the trick.
Aaron Schatz: Actually, Rivers, I think you answered a more important question: Is there anyone at Football Outsiders still watching this game?
Tom Gower: I am. I also haven't voluntarily watched any baseball on television this year.
Mike Tanier: I mean, really, having watched those day games, even though some were close, they were not very well played, I feel like I can skip this one. I mean, it's just the Saints thumping on the Colts with their usual efficiency, right?
Aaron Schatz: No, no. This is greater than usual efficiency.
Rivers McCown: Chase Daniel is in at the very end of the third quarter.
Mike Tanier: Oh thank heavens. Brees is destroying me in my fantasy league.
Vince Verhei: That means Brees is finishing the game with more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four). (I'm not watching either.)
Mike Kurtz: I am swearing at the television. I have Brees in both leagues I'm in, but I'm playing against Colston in one and Graham in the other, so Brees' ridiculous game is being basically wasted. Oh, and one of them is running the New Orleans defense, which just got a pick-six. I really can't catch a break this week.
Vince Verhei: Saints are now the 15th team to score 62 points in a regular season game, and there's more than 11 minutes to go, and the first since the Jets in 1985.
Brian McIntyre: Up by 55 points, Gregg Williams is dialing up the blitzes on Dan Orlovsky. Ease off the gas, Gregg. Tonight won't completely erase the past six weeks.
Rivers McCown: And you thought people weren't watching, Aaron. We just had to wait for this to get to full-blown trainwreck status.
144 comments, Last at 28 Oct 2011, 6:30pm by dbostedo