A look at fourth-down decision making in 2014 highlights Sean Payton, Marc Trestman, and... wait, this can't be right... Jim Caldwell? Plus: Chip Kelly may be less aggressive than you think he is.
10 Sep 2012
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 49ers 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.
Vince Verhei: Bears' first drive of the season: sack, penalty, short run, dropped pass, punt. They're in midseason form!
Bears follow that stellar first drive with a one-play affair, a pick-six on a swing pass (a swing pass!). They've since gone on to add a touchdown thanks mainly to some big Matt Forte runs, but Jay Cutler is currently 1-of-10 for 13 yards and a pick, and a sack. Against the Colts!
Andy Benoit: Shocking how utterly ill-prepared the Bears look early on. Cutler gets sacked on the first play because the Bears slid protection off their play-action in a way that left tight end Kellen Davis one-on-one against Robert Mathis?! That’s just bad scheming. Second play is a false start from Chicago. Third play (third-and-21) is ruined by a bad snap. The Bears offensive line is in its midseason form.
Every year in Week 1 some team comes out looking like they haven’t practiced all summer long. After Cutler’s horrendous pick-six, I’m ready to declare the Bears this year’s Haven’t Practiced All Summer Long team.
Mike Kurtz: It's hard to overstate how important Dwight Freeney is for the Colts' defense. Pre-injury, Cutler was 1-of-9 with an interception and two dropped interceptions. Since, he is something like 9-of-10 with a touchdown. The extra second he has without Freeney breathing down his neck is a massive difference.
Colts injury update: Winston Justice is injured. Nobody notices.
Andy Benoit: The Bears offense got clicking once Forte was featured. Forte ran with great swivel and burst, particularly on the edges.
Colts cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Jerraud Powers did an excellent job in man coverage in the first half. Davis played the defensive left side, Powers played the right. Ultimately, neither guy could match up with Brandon Marshall near the numbers, but Indy should be encouraged by what they have at cornerback. Chuck Pagano will be able to run his entire system. Lots of heavy blitz pressures from the Colts. They often brought six rushers. It's an undersized front seven, so they have to play with speed and deception to compensate. Once Bears started running, the Colts lack of size started to show.
Andrew Luck struggled to hit Reggie Wayne in the flats on at least three different occasions. Just a timing and comfort issue, Luck was under pressure and played a little hurried in these instances. Not a ton of zip on Luck’s ball. His arm strength is not deficient, but it’s definitely not overly impressive. Henry Melton was noisy all game. Finished with two sacks. Colts have issues in pass protection with their guards. Brian Urlacher sat out most of the second half when the Bears had a relatively comfortable lead.
Chris Conte had a good game in coverage. Made stops out of the slot and in lending help from his natural free safety spot. Also, Tim Jennings was fantastic all afternoon. He's fluid in man concepts, and levated well to defend jump balls downfield, including an interception on a Luck underthrow).
So far the Dolphins are having their way in the running game, pushing around the Texans front seven. They've gotten a little lucky with a missed Houston field goal and recovering two of their own fumbles, but they have definitely proven they can run on Houston.
Danny Tuccitto: Have to say, Don King and crew are doing a great job so far in this game.
Aside from Houston's two interceptions, Miami's is (somewhat surprisingly) the better defense on the field through the first half. Of course, Miami's offense has had two unintentional completions, and they've recovered their own fumble.
Also, Brian Cushing has given up something like 70 yards via missed tackles on dumpoffs and screens. Miami's running backs are abusing him in open space.
Andy Benoit: At least his wife is still hot.
Danny Tuccitto: Figures that since I said that bit about the Miami defense, their offense has gone all "Yakety Sax" on us. Four straight possessions ending in a turnover.
Rivers McCown: The Texans pulled away after that deluge of turnovers, but they were nowhere near as impressive as the score looked. Andre Johnson proved he was healthy, and that can cover a lot, but they had problems running the ball at times. The middle of their run defense is still very soft (and I suspect Cushing may be not-so-secretly hiding an injury), and they posted a lot of dropped passes today.
It was really interesting to see them go all-out with the pitch play. I don't think I've ever seen them run it so often. Wonder if that was a Miami-only thing, or a philosophy change driven by the lack of solid skill position blockers.
Aaron Schatz: Great play call by Mike Munchak on the Titans' first drive. They get down to fourth-and-a-foot. Titans go three-wide, and instead of running to get the easy first, Jake Locker lobs it over the head of Kyle Arrington isolated on the left side and Nate Washington picks up a 24-yard gain. Nice aggressive call there.
I said on Twitter Wednesday night that my problem with the replacement refs is not missing calls, because all refs miss calls. My problem is them not knowing the rules. However, Titans fans may disagree after they missed a pretty clear defensive pass interference on Devin McCourty in the end zone. McCourty just threw his body in front of the receiver without looking at the ball. No call, field goal for the Titans.
Chris Johnson seems to want to stutter-step on every run.
Tom Gower: Locker has looked mostly okay in the early going. He had a nice touch pass to Kendall Wright for a third-down conversion on the first drive that ended in a field goal. He tried an ill-advised deep pass that ended in an interception in the end zone, and just got sacked and coughed up the ball near his goalline and the Pats returned it for six. Beyond the blown block by Michael Roos on Chandler Jones, NFL Matchup today highlighted Locker's tendency to unnecessarily climb the pocket for no apparent reason, and it was evident on that play as he moved up three yards or so from where he initially set up.
Defensively, this week Bill Belichick referred to Michael Griffin as one of the league's best at safety. He's bitten badly on play-action a couple times, including one play that would have been a touchdown had Brandon Lloyd not slowed down, and gotten beat in coverage a couple times, including by Aaron Hernandez for an actual touchdown.
Rivers McCown: Is climbing the pocket unconsciously an easily correctable thing? I wouldn't think it would be.
Aaron Schatz: I don't know if the deep pass was ill-advised as much as it was hung up there in the air for a very long time.
Remember all the mean comments we ran about Leroy Harris in the book, from various game charters? Wow, the previously underperforming Jermaine Cunningham just made Harris his bitch to take down Locker. Harris just sort of waved at him.
Tom Gower: I prefer to just think of plays like that as part of his essential Leroy Harris-ness.
I'm fine with the Titans not pretending like they can run the rest of the year, in part because Johnson has a lot of plays where he remains a very difficult player to watch. I keep wishing he'd learn one of these years that sometimes it's a better idea to stick your nose into the line and see if you can get two yards instead of just standing there and getting tackled, but by now I'm pretty sure he won't ever learn that.
Ben Muth: Leroy Harris is baffling. He looks the part, and has a couple of really good plays a game, but he he leads earth in dumb penalties.
He might be the Jacoby Jones of offensive linemen, with penalties replacing drops.
Aaron Schatz: Pats using a lot of "toss crack" today, which is a play that sounds much dirtier than it truly is. Stevan Ridley showing nice balance running the ball, getting extra yards after being hit.
Vince Verhei: I've predicted doom for Locker for years now, but credit where it's due: That touchdown to Nate Washington, a laser-beam pass off one leg with a defender draped over him, was just a sick play.
Andy Benoit: I'm surprised how vertical the Titans passing game is. Chris Palmer isn’t kidding when he says he wants to execute run-and-shoot. Locker showed decent pocket poise (decent as in "better than I would have guessed at this point"). He has more natural arm strength than I would have guessed, too. One concern, however, is that his ball tends to sail, particularly on deep-intermediate throws down the seams.
Vince Verhei: Do we have the record for screen passes thrown in a single game? Because Washington ran at least a half-dozen on their first drive, mostly to wide receivers. It led to a field goal. Then on the next drive, Robert Griffin finally went deep, throwing a great pass with a man in his face, finding Pierre Garcon open in one-on-one coverage for an 88-yard touchdown.
J.J. Cooper: It would be hard to be more impressed with how RG3 has looked in the first half. His stats are inflated by the touchdown Vince mentioned, that was really a 15-yard pass, but he has looked precise, in control, and his speed makes play fakes much more effective.
Vince Verhei: Agree 100 percent with J.J. on Griffin. It's not even the numbers, which are stellar, and inflated by the one big play and the million short ones. But man, he looks like a guy who's been doing this all his life, showing poise in the pocket, going through progressions, and even when he scrambles he's looking downfield for guys getting open on ad-lib routes.
Washington punts in the fourth quarter. It's a bad snap, but former Aussie rules player Sav Rocca recovers the ball, evades a defender, and gets off a low kick on the run. It gets a good roll to put New Orleans inside the 20. The whole thing was just wiped out on a penalty, but it was still really fun.
Andy Benoit: Jimmy Graham was double covered on his touchdown, but all he had to do was outjump London Fletcher in order to win on the play. We’ve seen before that teams like to target Fletcher with their athletic tight ends. To be fair, Fletcher also made some outstanding individual plays Sunday. You can’t expect him to cover Graham.
Rivers McCown: You can't expect anyone to cover Graham at this point.
Aaron Schatz: Wow. Whatever Washington fans made a trip to New Orleans are chanting "RG3, RG3, RG3!" in the stands, and they're a lot louder than the home fans right now.
Andy Benoit: The Redskins consistently took away Drew Brees’ early reads.
Washington was protecting a lead late and faced third-and-16. They chose to go for the sticks. No one wound up getting open and Griffin just had to tuck the ball, but the point is they were comfortable putting the game in their rookie’s hands like that. How many teams, even teams with veteran quarterbacks, would have just ran a draw or set up some sort of catch-and-run in that situation?
Vince Verhei: Looks like the Jets offense is about three parts Mark Sanchez, one part Tim Tebow at this point. Sanchez has made all the big plays, both the bad (a silly attempt at a shovel pass on the run that led to an interception) and the good (a pair of touchdowns, one of them a go route to Playmaker hero Stephen Hill).
J.J. Cooper: Can we please just skip the preseason games in the future? After being subjected to wall-to-wall coverage of the Jets' offensive struggles throughout the preseason, now we have them scoring 48 points in their opener. Well at least this hopefully means that we can skip one week of Tebow-Sanchez debates.
Andy Benoit: The Jets are showing some base 4-3 looks early on, which they said they’d be doing more this season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s first two interceptions came about because of cornerbacks jumping routes. That’s a sign of predictable quarterbacking. Without seeing the film, my guess is Fitzpatrick was either staring down the targets or, more likely, late in putting the ball on the receivers.
Vince Verhei: Chiefs' first drive gets them into field-goal range, where they have a third-and-8. Matt Cassel drops back to pass, and without a hint of pressure, immediately dumps it off to a receiver who is standing six yards behind the line of scrimmage. The drive, uh, stalls there.
Cassel has made some good plays today and the game was close in the third quarter, but the Falcons have gone ahead and now he is pressing and doing Matt Cassel things. He tried a bootleg and the Falcons were not fooled, with a rusher right in his face. His response was to throw an off-balance pass across his body right to a Falcons defender. Falcons have scored on every possession and now lead 40-17.
Peter Koski: Jacksonville has first-and-goal at the one, runs play-action and Blaine Gabbert has Guy Whimper wiiiiiide open. Chooses Marcedes Lewis instead for the touchdown. Probably the right decision.
Ben Muth: I'm officially out on Gabbert. I cannot abide anyone depriving the public of a big man dance.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah, and wow, what an ending. With 25 seconds left, Gabbert just launched the ball to Cecil Shorts in the front right corner of the end zone, something like 40 yards downfield. Chris Cook from the Vikings got completely lost trying to figure out where the ball was, and Shorts picked it off his feet. Touchdown, Jaguars victory.
Did I say Jaguars victory? I meant Blair Walsh 55-yard field goal and overtime.
Vince Verhei: Vikings get a field goal in overtime, then kick off. Anybody else forget about these wacky new overtime rules, or was it just me?
Rivers McCown: Wow, that was an ugly fourth-down throw by Gabbert to end it. There goes that good will from their final drive of regulation.
Tom Gower: I don't like the playcall, but Laurent Robinson surely should have broken to the outside and away from the safety. Then again, he and Gabbert have consistently been off, so why should then have been any different?
J.J. Cooper: That is the first time in NFL history that an overtime game was decided (did not end in a tie) by an incomplete pass. Going to take some getting used to.
Vince Verhei: You know how RG3 put "GRIFFIN III" on the back of his jersey, and people pointed out that Ken Griffey Jr., for example, never put "GRIFFEY JR." on his? Well, Titus Young of the Lions is out there with "YOUNG SR." on the back of his jersey. Young Senior! He reproduced just so he could have more marketable merchandise!
Surprise of the day so far: Rams lead the Lions 13-10 at the half. Matthew Stafford is 17-of-24, but three of his incomplete passes were interecepted and returned for 34, 42, and 31 yards, the last for a touchdown. All three passes have looked the same: forced balls to well-covered receivers running out routes. Sam Bradford is getting a surprising amount of time to throw and is doing a good job attacking the midrange holes in Detroit's zones, but the Rams have 91 yards of offense, and 107 yards on interception returns.
Bradford to Brandon Gibson for a 23-yard touchdown that puts the Rams up six, pending an extra point. More importantly, Rodger Saffold is injured on the play, going down with an apparent head/neck injury and being carted off the field. Hard to tell what happened -- looked like a pretty routine pass play, and as he was blocking he kind of fell sideways into his own man. Praying for him.
Detroit comes back and beats St. Louis on a last-minute Stafford touchdown pass to Kevin Smith. Honestly, I have no idea what to make of this game. Should Detroit be worried that that they needed all 60 minutes to beat a bad team, or happy that they screwed up as much as possible and still won? Should the Rams be happy they made so many plays against a playoff team, or worried that Detroit damn near tried to lose this game outright and just couldn't get it done? It all makes no sense, so I'm just going to forget about it for seven days.
Andy Benoit: The Lions ran a play-action on the game-winning dumpoff touchdown to Smith. Surprising play call considering that the defense had no reason to bite on the run fake in that situation. Nevertheless, it worked.
Vince Verhei: It's almost halftime, and though they are averaging better than seven yards a rush, the Eagles have as many turnovers (three) as points scored. Think I'll go check Tanier's Twitter!
Rob Weintraub: Are the Vikes-Jags really a full quarter ahead of the Eagles-Browns?
Vince Verhei: Michael Vick just threw his fourth interception of the game, a pick-six thrown right to a linebacker covering the middle zone. Vick was throwing a short post and never saw the defender. No pressure or anything, that's all on him. Browns now lead 16-10, even though Brandon Weeden has thrown three picks of his own and has a passer rating of (not a typo) 6.0.
Andy Benoit: Vick finished with 56 pass attempts. Why not feature LeSean McCoy and the run game more? The Eagles are a zone-blocking team, the Browns defense struggled MIGHTILY against zone running teams last season. It was apparent midway through that the Eagles were getting "Reckless Vick" in this game. Why stick with featuring him?
Weeden’s head seems too fat for his helmet. This, coupled with his naturally florid face, makes it perpetually look like he just got done bawling a few minutes ago.
Tom Gower: So, down 10-6 early in the fourth quarter, Pat Shurmur elects to kick the field goal on fourth-and-goal from the four to cut the deficit to 10-9. On the ensuing Eagles possession, Michael Vick throws a pick-six. Up 15-10, Shurmur opts to kick the extra point. Yes, both decisions came very early in the fourth quarter, but...
Aaron Schatz: By the way, that Cleveland decision to go for one up 15-10 just cost them a chance to go to overtime. They will lose 17-16.
Andy Benoit: The Eagles rolled the pocket left for Vick all game. Was that because they didn’t trust their protection? If they can’t handle Cleveland’s pass-rush, whose pass-rush will they be able to handle?
J.J. Cooper: The decision to draft Weeden didn't help either.
Rivers McCown: Way too soon to bury that decision completely.
But yes, Weeden is firmly in the Gabbert Zone through Game 1 of his career, and the fact that he's already 28 is ... something.
Aaron Schatz: He certainly is set up for a season full of Loser League all-stardom.
Peter Koski: How do you get a block in the back on the punting team? Scab refs, that's how.
Aaron Schatz: Oh well. From all accounts, and certainly in the games I watched, the scab refs did a reasonable job in the early games. I didn't see a lot of complaints on Twitter either.
Andy Benoit: Interesting that they're running out of shotgun considering Cedric Benson isn’t a darting scatback type.
Rivers McCown: Nick Perry: not much of a defender on slants.
I think the difference between the scab refs and the regular refs is noticeable, but there haven't been any truly glaring examples of terribleness so far.
Aaron Schatz: Randy Moss seems to be playing a reasonably large role so far, and he looks at least as good as he did in the first few games of 2010, before he was traded to Minnesota. Back then, my feeling was that Moss could draw a double team but no longer could beat a double team. The Packers are not generally doubling him, they basically just have Jarrett Bush on him.
Andy Benoit: Moss took advantage of his opportunities, but most of his catches were a function of shrewd play design. In other words, anyone could have made those plays. In the limited iso shots that I saw of Moss, it didn’t look like he had terrific downhill burst.
Rivers McCown: Colin Kaepernick coming in on a designed run near the end of the second quarter. I'm going to just start calling those plays the TEBOWCAT, because it sounds fun.
Vince Verhei: David Akers with the record-tying 63-yard field goal try at the end of the half. The kick hits the upright ... and bounces through! It's so awesome that the sports bar crowd in Seattle erupts in cheers.
Aaron Schatz: Packers are leaving some huge, huge holes in their defensive coverage right now. Alex Smith finding them easily.
Rivers McCown: No way, Jermichael Finley had a key drop!
Wait, what year is this?
Aaron Schatz: I'm having a problem putting my finger on why, but wow, the Packers offense looks really discombobulated.
Andy Benoit: The Niners’ four-man rush consistently gave Green Bay fits. Even when Rodgers wasn’t getting sacked, he was getting moved off his spot. NaVorro Bowman played in the dime sub-package but Patrick Willis came off the field for it. Is Bowman now San Francisco’s unquestioned No. 1 linebacker?
Ahmad Brooks showed up all day as a pass-rusher. He moved all over the formation and got penetration both outside and inside. He also exhibited an ability to drop back and man the second level.
Randall Cobb is extremely dynamic from the backfield and slot. It's a brilliant use of him because it gets him running the first three or four steps of his route completely clean. That allows him to buildup speed and maximize his explosiveness, almost like he’s returning punts. I expect defenses to fear and prepare for him the way defenses fear and prepare for Darren Sproles.
Rivers McCown: Well, they have nine carries for 18 yards from non-Rodgers scrambles. That wasn't a problem for them last year, but I can see where it would be against a defense that has enough solid cover defenders and pass rush to keep the passing game (relatively) in check.
Or, yano, small sample size.
Well, that picked up block in the back flag that brought Green Bay within eight may be your first glaring example of a scab ref screwup. Yikes.
Aaron Schatz: 49ers got screwed on the spot on a Frank Gore run on third-and-long. I thought Gore very clearly had the first down, but the refs didn't give it to him. Jim Harbaugh made a spot challenge, but honestly, those never seem to work, even when they are probably correct, which I think it was in this case.
Mike Kurtz: The spot in question was good, Aaron, his knee hit before the ball was extended.
The Packers march down the field and put another touchdown on the board. The 49ers have only been sending three this entire drive, and Rodgers just ate them up. 15 points isn't enough of a cushion to take the foot off the gas, Harbaugh. Bad angry coach man! Bad!
Aaron Schatz: Also some pretty dismal tackling there on the 49-yard pass to James Jones.
Aaron Schatz: For the edification of our audience, I present this list of teams similar to San Francisco, teams one year after an improvement either from 6-10 or worse to 12-4 or better, or from 7-9 to 13-3 or better.
|Back to Earth, Or In the Clouds?|
|1981||Atlanta Falcons||7-9||Win 27-0 over New Orleans||1982||Cincinnati Bengals||7-2||Win 27-6 over Houston||1982||San Francisco 49ers||3-6||Loss 23-17 to Los Angeles Raiders||1989||Cincinnati Bengals||8-8||Loss 17-14 to Chicago||1992||Denver Broncos||8-8||Win 17-13 over Los Angeles Raiders||1992||Detroit Lions||5-11||Loss 27-24 to Chicago||1999||Atlanta Falcons||5-11||Loss 17-14 to Minnesota||2000||Indianapolis Colts||10-6||Win 27-14 over Kansas City||2000||St. Louis Rams||10-6||Win 41-36 over Denver||2002||San Francisco 49ers||10-6||Win 16-13 over New York Giants||2002||Chicago Bears||4-12||Win 27-23 over Minnesota||2005||Pittsburgh Steelers||11-5||Win 34-7 over Tennessee||2005||San Diego Chargers||9-7||Loss 28-24 to Dallas||2007||Baltimore Ravens||5-11||Loss 27-20 to Cincinnati||2012||San Francisco 49ers||?||Win 30-22 over Green Bay|
Pro-rating the two 1982 teams to 16 games, the teams on this list that won their first game averaged 9.1 wins that season. The teams that lost their first game averaged 6.2 wins. Perhaps the 49ers can be one of those teams that go against historical trends.
Aaron Schatz: In what way?
Ben Muth: He's a mobile guy, who played on a real good college team. I've only seen him a little bit, but when he's moving, he's looking to just get away, not to make plays down the field. Plus, they both got drafted by the Seahawks.
Mirer comparison may not be the best, and admittedly it is 80 percent because of the team, but Wilson is a guy whose college coach thought Mike Glennon was close enough in skill level that he could make a point about dedication to his team. Maybe (probably) O'Brien is an egomaniac, but most coaches would sell their children for three extra wins. O'Brien didnt think Wilson was worth that, and an NFL starter is worth three wins in college.
Then, every team in the league passed on him twice. People want to point to height, but Drew Brees was picked 43 spots ahead of him 10 years ago, when size seemed to be more coveted. Maybe both his college coach and every NFL front office (but one) is wrong, but I think people need to calm down on the guy.
Tom Gower: For the record, I'm with Ben in wanting to distance myself somewhat from the Wilson hype train. I think he can be successful for the first few weeks of the year, then will really have to be managed and manipulated. If he's good in Week 13, talk to me again. (Disclosure: not watching that or any other game right now.)
Aaron Schatz: I would like to both agree and disagree with both of you. I'm all aboard the Wilson hype trade if we're talking about Week 13 of 2013. I know rookie quarterbacks have played better in the last few years than in the history of the NFL before that, but they still are going to generally struggle and there is still a learning curve. As I said on a couple radio interviews this week, what's the hardest part of being a rookie in the NFL? Facing complex NFL defenses that are designed to beat your weaknesses. What's the thing that rookies don't have to face in the preseason? Complex NFL defenses designed to beat their weaknesses.
Rivers McCown: I will stay on the Wilson hype train as long as the Wilson hype train is not "the Seahawks are winning the Super Bowl this year." Sorry, Bill Simmons.
I think he can be a productive quarterback this year as long as he is used correctly. I don't think he's going to be RGIII or Andrew Luck right away, and I don't think he's going to be Drew Brees in the long run. But, I could see him maxing out as a upper-class QB ala Ben Roethlisberger or Jay Cutler. Someone of that relative production.
(Also, this Arizona defense has a chance to be really friggin good.)
Vince Verhei: I love watching the Seahawks play run defense, and tackle receivers who have caught the ball. I am not enamored with their pass rush, or lack thereof. Cardinals get a touchdown on a 12-play drive that only covered about 60 yards. Dink-and-dunk-a-go-go.
Ben Muth: I'm pleasantly surprised by how well the Cardinals offensive line has played. They aren't the Washington Redskins Hogs or anything, but they're not the the disaster I expected.
Ben Muth: No. Haven't noticed Irvin at all, and I've been looking for him. Chris Clemons is the only guy for Seattle who's had any pressure.
Vince Verhei: At halftime, Arizona's defense is dominating. I think Seattle has one play over 10 yards, and they're 1-of-6 on third downs. Wilson, unlike Griffin, looks like what he is: a talented rookie. There have been unblocked defenders, penalties, and dropped passes (Braylon Edwards, of course). They've mixed in some good runs, and got a field goal after a Cardinals fumble, but it was not a fun 30 minutes.
Irvin has been a step away from John Skelton once or twice, but could never finish the deal and Skelton completed passes anyway.
Wilson with a rookie mistake, throwing a screen pass to Marshawn Lynch, who has a defender all over him. The defender takes Lynch down at the same time the ball gets there. Worse, Lynch was behind Wilson at the time. It's ruled incomplete, but challenged and (correctly) ruled a fumble and recovery by Arizona.
Ben Muth: After the fumble recovery, the Cards go to Williams for a short loss, throw an incomplete pass to a double-covered Larry Fitzgerald, then Skelton throws an interception that comes back because of an offsides penalty. After that, a pass gets batted down by Red Bryant because he destroyed Bobby Massie on a three-step drop. Field goal. Bad possesion and a wasted oppurtunity.
Vince Verhei: Calais Campbell, who the announcers say has the longest arms in the league, bats down a pass by Wilson, the shortest quarterback in the league. Next play, though, Wilson hits Sidney Rice for a touchdown to make it 13-10. Score was set up by an 80-some-yard kickoff return by Leon Washington.
Aaron Schatz: Campbell led the league with 8 passes batted down at the line last year, to go with his 3 blocked field goals.
Ben Muth: Richard Sherman, former wideout at a small private school in northern California, makes a great pick by dragging his feet on the sidelines. Skelton tried to throw it out of bounds, because of pressure by Clemons, but didn't quite get it there. The Cardinals offense has gained eight yards in the first three possessions of the second half.
Vince Verhei: So, I've been quiet about this Seattle game for a while now, but it's time to say that their second-half defense has been just lights-out. Six drives, one turnover, four three-and-outs, and one 4-yard field goal drive. Fitzgerald has two catches in eight targets, and it's not because Skelton is missing him, it's because Fitzgerald can't get separation from Sherman and company. Still no Irvin impact, aside from drawing a double-team here and there, but the coverage is so great it hardly matters.
Ben Muth: Skelton completes a 12 yard pass to Roberts with 8:30 left in the fourth quarter for the first Cardinals first down of the second half. Skelton is hurt. Here comes Kevin Kolb. Also, the Cardinals offensive line is showing its true colors in the second half. Seattle only has one sack, but they are around the quarterback every play. Clemons is abusing anyone he's lined up against.
Rob Weintraub: Here is where Kolb leads the comeback win, and the quarterback controversy begins ... in Philadelphia.
Ken Whisenhunt runs on the field, begging for a timeout. No one sees him, though, and Kolb throws the go-ahead touchdown pass. Lesson -- coaches can only screw things up.
Vince Verhei: And Kolb, who supposedly gets flustered under a heavy pass rush, promptly leads a touchdown drive. Of course he does.
Andy Benoit: Kolb was able to attack the seams and release the ball at the top of his drop. Kolb is at his best throwing between the numbers.
Aaron Schatz: Breno Giacomini is just brutal on a sack of Wilson. He let Darnell Dockett go right past him. By the way, who the hell is Breno Giacomini? I've never heard of this person but he seems to be playing right tackle for Seattle.
Rob Weintraub: Hope he can play left tackle, whoever he is, because Russell Okung just limped off.
Vince Verhei: He's one of the anonymous guys who came in at the end of last season when everyone else got hurt. He's the starting right tackle at least until James Carpenter comes back.
Aaron Schatz: Apologies to Brian, because he did apparently write about him in the book and I just didn't remember.
Vince Verhei: And the finish of the most exciting game of the day comes down to everyone standing around trying to figure out how may timeouts the Seahawks have. Replacement refs!
Mike Kurtz: The stupid thing about the timeout imbroglio is that after 30 or so seconds, it didn't MATTER if they had the time out. First, the wing almost certainly told Seattle they had one left (and even if they didn't, the officials' reactions showed they had no idea what happened), so they couldn't really hit them with an unsportsmanlike or delay of game. At that point, they've given them the time out, right or wrong, just call it an officials' error, set the ball and whistle it in.
Don't spend four minutes wandering around aimlessly trying to count to three.
Aaron Schatz: There's the mistake by the replacement officials I was waiting for -- a mistake that has to do with knowing the rules, not with making a "bad call" on something difficult to see at the speed of football when you have just a human eye, something like pass interference.
Rivers McCown: I'm gonna say Braylon Edwards on a slant is not the optimal fourth-and-goal playcall.
Vince Verhei: Agh. That second half was phenomenal, chock full of big plays, momentum swings, and tons of drama. And then we got that finish, with timeout-gate, a lot of defensive flags, and the Seahawks getting about 19 tries to score and coming up short. I mean, credit to Arizona's defense for bending but not breaking, but that was not the climax I was looking for.
Vince Verhei: The Panthers were third in the league last year with 150.5 rushing yards per game. At halftime against Tampa Bay, they have six carries for -1 yards (that's minus-one yards). They are wearing blue jerseys with silver pants and helmets. Perhaps God is playing Madden and wanted to give them Detroit's playbook.
They just showed a "highlight" reel of Carolina runs. It looked like everything was an option or other gimmick play out of a shotgun. Am I imagining things ,or didn't they use a lot of I-Fomation and multiple-tight end stuff last year?
Rivers McCown: I guess losing Jeremy Shockey was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Or small sample size. Whichever.
Vince Verhei: Panthers have a third-and-goal down nine in the fourth. They go with the quarterback draw, on a day when it's been established they can't run at all. Bucs stuff the run, Panthers add a field goal, and it's a one-score game. Panthers now at 13 carries for 10 yards on the day.
Rivers McCown: The Buccaneers, of all teams, are the one that finally figured out how to shut down the Panthers run attack. I don't want to live on this planet anymore.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah, run defense is particularly inconsistent from year to year but that just seems ridiculous.
Mike Kurtz: OH MY GOD STOP RUNNING EVERY SINGLE FIRST AND SECOND DOWN. YOU ARE BAD AT RUNNING.
Vince Verhei: I don't disagree that Pittsburgh's play-calling is too conservative and predictable, but the worst thing that can happen to them this game is an injury to Ben Roethlisberger. And every time he tries to pass, with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil matched up against those Pittsburgh tackles, with the way Ben likes to hold the ball ... it's a high-risk scenario. So they need to pass more, but they still need to be selective about it.
Rivers McCown: Derek Wolfe's motor is as advertised.
Aaron Schatz: We're about a quarter and a half into this thing, and I think Peyton Manning looks pretty much like Peyton Manning. The Broncos haven't scored because the Steelers defense looks pretty much like the Steelers defense.
Danny Tuccitto: Knowshon Moreno sighting!
Aaron Schatz: I took Moreno in the 10th round of the insane 32-team expert league and I had to start him this week with James Starks and Shane Vereen hurt. Seriously. I started Knowshon Moreno. I may be the only person in the entire world who did.
Danny Tuccitto: On that alone, you've justified your spot in an "expert" league no matter what happened before or what happens from here to eternity; a story to tell your grandkids from the rocking chair.
Ben Muth: Marcus Gilbert is down. An NFL season never officially starts untill the Steelers lose a tackle to injury.
Danny Tuccitto: Man, that four-minute drill by PIT at the end of the first half looked a whole lot like their potent offense circa 1-5 BH (before Haley).
Vince Verhei: I'm starting to think the false start is part of the Steelers' playbook. It's something they practice and work on. Gotta have a good false start unit to win in this league.
Aaron Schatz: Ben Roethlisberger needs to take quarterback sneak lessons from Tom Brady. That sneak about five minutes into the third quarter was awful. It looked like he was weakly trying to lean on the pile backwards or something. I honestly don't think he got it, but they gave it to him.
Tom Gower: Pretty much every quarterback needs to take sneak lessons from Tom Brady. Brady does a great job of using timing and picking his spot, whereas most teams just try to MANBALL it and drive forward.
Ben Muth: So, Demaryius Thomas is still faster than the Steelers secondary.
Aaron Schatz: Not to mention, Manning caught them with nobody on that side of the field. Two guys in man coverage were easily blocked off by two other wide receivers, and by the time Ryan Mundy got over, Zane Beadles had hustled downfield to block him. Then it was race time.
Mike Kurtz: I think that was the play where Ryan Clark's absence was most apparent. Troy Polamalu thought he could cut it in and failed, which took him out of the play. Mundy just had a bad angle and wasn't fast enough.
I'll be a lot happier with this team when everyone is healthy and playing in stadia that aren't potentially lethal to them.
Tom Gower: Jacob Tamme was not going to the ground when he caught the football. He caught the football, completed the catch, then got tackled and lost control of the ball.
Rob Weintraub: Didn't really think I'd feel dumb for starting Tony Gonzalez over Tamme in fantasy, but here we are.
Denver by six after a big goal-line stand. As a longtime victim of Mr. Roethlisberger, all I can say for the Broncos is ... uh-oh.
Looks like Tracy Porter was a pretty good buy-low for Denver.
Rob Weintraub: I'll say this for Porter, the man picks his spots.
Ben Muth: It was a rough night for Doug Legursky.
Vince Verhei: Just to emphasize the key mismatch the Pittsburgh offense suffered all night, they close with three sacks in their last four plays.
196 comments, Last at 14 Sep 2012, 5:29pm by t.d.