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?
10 Dec 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).
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Mike Kurtz: Robbie Gould strained a muscle in his plant leg, and is not kicking off, but will kick field goals and extra points. On the first play from scrimmage, Adrian Peterson breaks three tackles, outruns every single Bears player and generally makes Chicago look stupid for a 52-yard gain. They get their act together on the next set of downs, with two runs gaining only two yards.
Chicago is really missing Brian Urlacher. Minnesota came out with an unbalanced line, Chicago didn't adjust, and with some good blocking and a kick outside, Peterson takes it to the 2. Next play, he runs it up the gut for a touchdown. You have to think that Urlacher would have adjusted the defense to counter the unbalanced line.
Jay Cutler throws a skinny post where the receiver fell over on contact with Josh Robinson, it's an easy interception with a great return which was ruled a touchdown, but Smith was down at the five-yard line after hurdling a defender. Overturned. Still, Minnesota is now around Chicago's 5 and goes up 14-0 within the first six minutes of the game. This is not great for the Bears, who get sloppy on offense when they play aggressive.
Andy Benoit: You have to worry about the Bears on the road against a four-man Vikings rush playing in pass-only situations. The Bears offensive line and passing game, in case you live under a rock, are not equipped to thrive under those circumstances.
Mike Kurtz: One of the fun things about this game has been punt coverage, where each team had an acrobatic tip and down of a punt within their opponent's five-yard line.
Vince Verhei: Hope Tom's cell service (he's at the game) is good enough to catch Robert Mathis' dreadful attempt to tackle Jake Locker on a scramble to the sideline. Mathis overran the play by several yards. Locker didn't even have to make a juke, he just turned left and ran into the gaping hole where Mathis should have been.
Tom Gower: Bruce Arians just challenged an eight-yard gain on first-and-20 on the first drive of the game. No words, no words.
Locker finishes off the first drive with a nice seam pass to Jared Cook for an 18-yard score. The middle of the field was open, and Locker took advantage.
Mike Munchak goes for the field goal on fourth-and-4 at the 39. The 57-yarder, unsurprisingly, is missed.
Ben Muth: Just saw the Colts first touchdown. Samson Satele was in the end zone by the time Reggie Wayne caught the ball. Ineligible receiver downfield is such a vague rule: how far downfield are linemen allowed to go? Five yards seems a bit much, especially with all the package/read plays in college now. I'd love to see refs start cracking down on it though, linemen being able be to actually block non-blitzing linebackers on pass plays makes it too tough on the defense.
Vince Verhei: Is that an offensive lineman calling for extra rules for offensive linemen?
Ben Muth: I know, I felt dirty. But it had to be said.
Tom Gower: I thought Luck was probably down before the throw, but there wasn't enough evidence to overturn it. That's probably one of the five worst interceptions all year.
The Titans probably threw the ball at Colts cornerback Cassius Vaughn at least 10 times in the first half, and the only non-completions came on inaccurate passes. Add in a smattering of other completions, the free points courtesy of Mr. Luck, and Mr. Luck throwing high down the field early, and the Titans have a surprising 20-7 halftime lead.
Boy, Locker matches Luck's dreadful pick with one of his own, throwing it right to Vaughn. The first half's pigeon has about a 3-yard return for the score. If Locker pumps that instead, it's 99 yards for the Titans.
Andy Benoit: Pierre Garcon had a tremendous catch-and-run during the first series on a wideout screen. He has great strength running after catch, and a good feel for lateral angles. The Redskins are gouging the Ravens on their first drive with off-tackle zone runs.
Madieu Williams got frozen on the hash of the field when he was supposed to help DeAngelo Hall over the top. There was no reason for it, because the Ravens had no receiver threat in that lane. Hall was on crutches all week, and looks very limited, hesitant to put weight on ankle. Change of direction is an issue, we saw that on the Anquan Boldin touchdown.
The Ravens are having issues with play-action and immediate crossing patterns by the Redskins. Four plays of 20 yards or more on their first two drives.
Joe Flacco showed good rhythm and clarity in the first half. The reason: Baltimore has avoided third-and-long, so Flacco us getting opportunities to throw on earlier downs. The confusion looks of the Redskins defense have not been as much of an issue.
Robert Griffin’s throw at the 1:45 mark was an incompletion, but it may have been the best downfield throw I’ve seen all season. Incredible arm strength being displayed on the run. What really stands out is how quickly the ball gets off his hand, how high the trajectory is, yet how quickly the ball also gets back down to earth. Griffin’s deep ball gets as much zip as anyone in the game and, more importantly, maintains that zip.
Paul Kruger is very strong, and has quick hands.
The Ravens' interior line -- Marshal Yanda, Jah Reid, and Matt Birk -- are doing a solid job. Consistent inside running is available for the Redskins. Ray Rice hit the 100-yard mark with 6:30 in the third quarter, it took 13 carries for him to get there.
London Fletcher's pick was a bad play by Flacco. He had an empty set, and held the ball drifting back. It was man-to-man coverage, there were five blockers to handle six Redskins. Flacco needs to know he doesn’t have that kind of time to make a throw. Ryan Kerrigan came off the edge unblocked, and hit him as he threw.
Matt Waldman: Alfred Morris (who is having a very good game) is a student of running backs. Studying him at FAU, he was always a hard runner. One thing noted about him on broadcasts was his love of old school running backs from the 50s and 60s.
Vince Verhei: More fourth-down weirdness. Baltimore has a fourth-and-3 at the Washington 40, up 21-20 in the fourth quarter. This is ideal too-close-to-punt, too-far-for-a-field-goal territory: the perfect place to go for it. Instead, they line up in a wildcat set, try to get Washington to jump, and when it fails, they call timeout. Then they punt anyway. Why in the world would you call that timeout? How is that better than taking a five-yard penalty and then punting anyway? There are still ten minutes left, it's highly likely you'll want that back. On the plus side, it's a good punt that is fair caught inside the ten, but that's still turning down a fourth-and-3 play to pick up a little more than 30 yards of field position.
And after a dropped snap, he throws it out the back of the end zone (grounding) and then is on the field clearly in pain. He comes off, Cousins will have to come back from the 28-20 deficit and be the hero.
Rivers McCown: Jim Miller was on to something in the preseason! Cousins quarterback controversy!
Andy Benoit: Cousins' two-point conversion was a quarterback draw out of a spread 3x2 set. The Ravens needed to be more aware of that possibility, even if it wasn’t Griffin in backfield. The Redskins predominantly pass out of condensed formations. If they spread, it’s an indicator that something a little different is on the horizon.
Matt Waldman: Beautiful throw-and-catch up the seam from Cam Newton to Greg Olson for a touchdown at the end line. Olsen works from the slot, gets behind Thomas DeCoud, and makes a spinning catch on a ball placed over the top of the safety. Gorgeous ending to a drive where the Panthers run the ball successfully with DeAngelo Williams, mixing passes, reverses, and screens into the drive.
Carolina has 104 yards rushing with a minute left in the first quarter, but calling a pitch play for Mike Tolbert is a questionable choice. On the other hand, a screen to Tolbert for seven on the next play isn't bad.
Newton converts on a Steve McNair-like scramble where he spins away from the grasp of a defender and weaves from the flat to the middle of the field for a first down to get into the red zone. But they go three-and-out with a draw that Williams was close to breaking and two passes to the left corner that are throw-aways due to coverage and pressure. They settle for a field goal. Let's see if the Falcons offensive line can keep Matt Ryan clean for a drive.
The talk of improved arm strength for Ryan continues to prove mostly false. The Falcons finally discover late in third quarter that he can dink and dunk with Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez in the slot. However, once Ryan has to make a short (but more powerful) off-balance throw to the flat, he short-hops two balls to force a fourth-and-4 middle screen to barely get the first down in the red zone. Falcons still down 23-0.
Aaron Schatz: At least Mike Smith goes for it here instead of kicking a field goal to be down ... 23-3. It's not as bad as kicking a field goal down 30, but still, it's time to start going for it. And they did.
Falcons finally score a touchdown with a red-zone pass to White. 23-7 with 20 minutes left. If Carolina can't run this out and go home with a win, especially given how they have spent their financial resources, just fire everyone. Including the owner.
Rob Weintraub: Being down here in Atlanta, I would note that the talk (here at least) was mostly of Ryan's increased physical strength and stamina, not necessarily his arm strength. The two are connected, of course -- it was felt that Ryan wore down from the pounding and lost velocity as a result.
Matt Waldman: 50 miles isn't much of a difference -- I'm in Athens. The talk I hear every week from the broadcast crews nationally is increased arm strength. I don't doubt the more nuanced discussion locally. I've heard that, too. However, nationally, they simplify it and mention it with almost every deep pass he attempts. Most of them he hits are still in the range of 35-40 yards. What Ryan has done better as a deep thrower is anticipate. He used to wait too long and then try to loft a ball downfield in the range of 45-50 yards. He lacks the strength to muscle the ball with velocity in these situations. In previous years, Ryan would also frequently throw the ball too early and overshoot the target.
Speaking of which, Ryan almost hits White 35 yards down field but White trips. Good anticipation. Improved from previous years.
Nice backside smash screen to Julio Jones for a score after he drops an out in the red zone to lead off the fourth quarter. Falcons going for two.
Fourth-and-4 for the Falcons after Ryan is sacked two plays earlier by Greg Hardy. Panthers pressure forces Ryan outside and he tries to make one of those off-balanced, power throws on the move to the short flat while fading way. Carolina cuts off the pass over the top and makes the interception.
Panthers hit Williams on a screen to the right flat and Williams does a nice job pressing outside and then cutting back inside as his blocks work to the flat. He scores 53 yards later. Excellent use of his blocks, and he leaps over a wrap attempt at his ankle and sprints up the hash for the score.
Aaron Schatz: Cowboys march down the field fairly easily on their first drive, almost all runs. They get to third-and-1 on the 19. Seems pretty easy, right? Either run the ball, or -- if you are feeling "sabermetrical" -- go play-action pass on third down and if you don't get it, run on fourth. Well, the Cowboys do go play-action, loading up with 22-personnel and running a play-action boot. But Tony Romo waits too long to throw the ball and instead ends up throwing back across his body, a terrible pass that almost gets intercepted. Oh, and then they kick the stupid field goal instead of going for it on fourth down.
One other note: The announcers pointed out during that drive that only two teams have yet to allow a touchdown on their opening drive this season: Chicago and Cincinnati. That's one of those stats that sounds a lot more important than it really is. It's just another data point showing that Chicago is an excellent defensive team, but Cincinnati isn't great. It just so happens they give up points on later drives and haven't given up any touchdowns on the first one. No big deal.
Rob Weintraub: The Bengals gash the Cowboys, who were ultra-aggressive with run blitzes on their first drive. End around to Marvin Jones gets about 35 yards, and an inside shovel pass to Andrew Hawkins puts it in the end zone. Andrew Whitworth lined up at tight end on the right side for the touchdown.
Andy Benoit: Andy Dalton's interception to Brandon Carr was a case of Carr doing a better job at the end of the route than A.J. Green. Green rounded out his break (a Cover-3 beater concept) and did not work back to the ball. Dalton was also too late with the throw, but Green has to make a stronger effort to cross Carr’s face late in the route there.
Rob Weintraub: I think Green thought he had Carr in a bit more of a backpedal or across his hips than he actually did.
Terence Newman drops a sure pick that would have blown the collective mind of the Dallas Metroplex.
Aaron Schatz: Hawkins definitely gives the Bengals a very good "Wes Welker type." He's expert at making guys miss him with quickness in a tight space.
Rob Weintraub: Dropping like flies in Cincy. Leon Hall, Rey Maualuga, and Michael Johnson for Cincy have been in and out, while DeMarcus Ware and Morris Claiborne have gone out on the opening drive of the third quarter. Rob Ryan was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for coming onto the field and cursing Andre Smith up and down.
Brian Moorman is having a terrible game punting for Dallas.
Aaron Schatz: Dalton is pretty spry in in the pocket. Not fast, but mobile,
like Trent Green.
Matt Waldman: Jones makes a beautiful catch at end of third quarter, extending for the ball and parallel to the ground just under the safety on a pass over the middle. Jones rarely has a problem if he can see the contact is imminent. When he can't see it, but has to know it is looming, he still tends to drop the ball too often.
Rob Weintraub: First play of the fourth quarter, and Cincy is now out of timeouts. Substitution screwups, and it's just more of the same ineptitude on this day from the Bengals.
ANOTHER dropped pick by Newman. I mean...
That is why the Bengals will forever be the Bengals. Saw it coming for about 90 minutes of torture.
J.J. Cooper: Figuring out what replacement level is in baseball is a bigger deal than football, but today in the Chargers-Steelers game we are getting to see what replacement level at offensive tackle actually looks like. Both Chargers tackles are recently signed street free agents who haven't started games ever (Kevin Haslam) or in years (Reggie Wells). On the first series, replacement level looks pretty awful. The Chargers called a pair of screen passes which the Steelers sniffed out, so Philip Rivers spiked a pair of passes at his receivers feet.
Aaron Schatz: Oh, it's a pretty big deal in football too. It's just harder to figure out a way to measure the exact level of replacement level, especially for non-"skill" positions.
Ben Muth: Chargers get a 51-yard field goal to open up the scoring. Pittsburgh's defense helped the Chargers out by jumping offsides twice in a row on third-and-10. Also, worth noting that Rivers looks petrified behind this version of the Chargers offensive line. Rolling out at the first sign of pressure and throwing it away a lot early.
Andy Benoit: Plaxico Burress' first catch as a second-time Steelers wideout was an over-the-middle snag where he elevated a bit in traffic. Classic possession target. He got a warm reception from the Pittsburgh crowd, too. (Apparently they’ve forgotten why the Steelers got rid of him the first time round.)
Danario Alexander had a windmill dunk on his touchdown celebration. Don't see that often. Fourth corner Curtis Brown bit hard on some sort of fake and Alexander ran right by him. It was single-high safety, so single coverage. Can’t make that mistake.
Rob Weintraub: The dunk was Dominique-esque.
Ben Muth: Hitch-and-go by Alexander. Good call by Norv to take a shot there. I hope/assume/pray he was gonna go for it on fourth down if he didn't get it, so it was a perfect time to try and score in an otherwise horrible offensive game.
Vince Verhei: I was more impressed with the stutter-step he used to get open. Pittsburgh's cornerback completely bit, lunging forward to cover a hook route, and Alexander zipped right by him.
Andy Benoit: The Chargers are getting consistent pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger is breaking down his pocket mechanics a bit early, too. (Which is fine given his strengths and style of play, but not ideal.)
Rivers continues to struggle with his accuracy on tough throws outside the numbers.
Ben Muth: Roethlisberger's wideout screen off the tight end's butt is ruled a fumble and touchdown for the Chargers. 27-3 San Diego. If I was Charlie Batch, this is the game that would make me cry.
Vince Verhei: The Jets have the butt-fumble, the Steelers have the butt-pass.
Andy Benoit: Norv Turner made a really ballsy fake punt call backed up in his own territory.
Vince Verhei: Rivers hits Alexander for a touchdown to put San Diego up 34-10. Think it's a conicidence they're playing their best game of the year just after it's announced that Norv will be leaving?
Aaron Schatz: Well, not announced. It's been reported that sources *say* he'll be leaving.
Vince Verhei: It's enough to give them hope, that's all I'm saying.
Aaron Schatz: Reader just tweeted me that Mike Tomlin made a dumb move punting, down 17 with 4:00 left. I responded that this is not called "dumb," this is called "obviously giving up." Although I don't know if you really want your head coach giving up that blatantly. Seventeen points in 4:00 sounds crazy, but it wouldn't be impossible.
Oh wait, on the next drive, San Diego tries to run out the clock and Pittsburgh takes timeouts. Why are you taking your timeouts when you just blatantly gave up?
As long as I'm confused about when Mike Tomlin either did or did not give up on winning today's game ... the Steelers were down 17, in fact, because they scored a touchdown down 24 with 6:17 left. Finally, a chance to try the "three touchdowns and three two-point conversions to make up a 24-point deficit" plan! No, sorry, Tomlin kicked the extra point to make it 34-17 instead of maybe 34-18.
J.J. Cooper: I've climbed out from under the weight of dismay that comes from watching the Steelers get blown out at home to the Chargers. There are many things that puzzled me from that game -- Mike Tomin's decision to not go for two when down by 18 after scoring a touchdown is high up on the list. Tomlin explained it as they didn't want to show their two-point plays in a game that was likely out of hand, but that doesn't prevent you from running a normal play on the two-point conversion -- the Steelers added Burress to the roster, they could call a fade pattern for him at least.
But the lesson I'll probably take from this game more than anything else is how the Steelers' front seven just can't rush the passer anymore. Facing a pair of street free agents playing offensive tackle for the Chargers, Pittsburgh's pass rush generated four quarterback hurries and one sack in 42 pass plays.
Vince Verhei: Kansas City, down 20-7 about ten minutes into the second half, has a fourth-and-1 from their own 40. So they punt. Of course they do.
Coming into today, the Chiefs' offense was 17th in POWER situations at 63 percent. Browns' defense was 28th at 76 percent. How many chances, exactly, does Romeo Crennel expect his offense to get?
Follow-up on that: four snaps later, the Browns have a first down at the Kansas City 41. Almost exactly where they would have been had the Chiefs gone for it and failed, so they got zero benefit out of punting.
Rivers McCown: Nick Foles' final drive to attempt to win the game had been decidedly less than impressive. Dropped pick, at least three throws nowhere near an Eagles receiver. Then he finds Jeremy Maclin in a hole in the zone, and with two seconds left from the three, finds him in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Football turns quickly.
Aaron Schatz: David Wilson returns a kickoff for a touchdown to even things up 7-7. I thought this was really funny, but at the end of the run, Justin Tryon of the Giants had a totally unnecessary block in the back on the Saints' Johnny Patrick at the 1-yard line. I'm trying to imagine the uproar in New York if the refs had actually thrown a flag on that one.
Andy Benoit: The Giants are using the big nickel package with Will Hill as the third safety. Beat by Jimmy Graham on a third down early. Antrel Rolle playing the slot. Jacquian Williams is back in the lineup after missing six weeks with a knee injury. That brings more speed to the front seven, which is critical for this game due to matchups with Graham and Darren Sproles.
Aaron Schatz: Giants-Saints is turning into quite the penalty-fest. Not questionable penalties either, pretty obvious ones.
Andy Benoit: Ramses Barden's offensive pass interference was a great example of inexperienced or unaware players in action and how they do little things wrong that can be costly. Barden started blocking downfield way too early on a wheel route to Wilson. He likely assumed that a pass to the running back would be thrown quickly. He has to know that on that type of route, his job is to be primarily a clear-out guy, the ball can come at any time.
Vince Verhei: What I thought was funny was FOX's graphic letting us know there had been 14 points in 13 seconds. Couldn't you put that up any time a touchdown is followed by a score on a kickoff return?
Andy Benoit: Kregg Lumpkin continued to get the backup third down snaps. Wilson’s offensive snaps came limited on first and second down. Patrick Robinson had some good coverage on Hakeem Nicks in the red zone. Eli Manning had another slight underthrow, but Nicks couldn’t win cleanly enough off the line of scrimmage.
Aikman says Mark Ingram is a guy who needs a lot of touches. In that case, he needs to be on a different team, because the Saints simply don’t have a lot of touches available for him. At this point, it’s fair to say that the Saints made a mistake drafting him in the first round. Sproles' very quick steps make him look even faster than he is. The quick feet help his change of direction and shiftiness.
What do you guys think: would it be worthwhile for Giants to groom Wilson as a punt returner too? Try to make him their Devin Hester?
Drew Brees' early fourth-quarter interception to Stevie Brown was a throw down the middle against two-deep zone coverage. Graham didn’t expect Brown getting to the ball over the top, Brees wasn’t able to freeze him or make him guess something wrong.
Aaron Schatz: I'm a little bit amazed how much Brees and Manning have thrown to covered receivers today. Manning just had one on the next drive where both Johnny Patrick and Abdul-Quddus were right on the receiver, but they dropped the pick.
Danny Tuccitto: On the Dolphins first drive, the 49ers stayed in their base 3-4 even when Miami went three wide. Aldon Smith dropped into coverage a couple of times, and on one play he was lined up over Davone Bess in the slot. You have to wonder why Vic Fangio would even bother toying around with zone blitzes and the like when Miami's playing without Jake Long.
Took 14 weeks, but we finally have a LaMichael James sighting in San Francisco! Two outside runs for 14 yards. One thing I'm noticing a lot more of with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback is San Francisco having to burn timeouts (or worse, eat delay of game penalties) because the offense isn't as quick getting into and out of the huddle. It's understandable, and to be expected, but still really annoying to watch as a fan.
Rivers McCown: I think some column on our site brought that up this week!
Vince Verhei: I've always wanted to look at that. Do certain quarterbacks or coaches have a significantly higher or lower rate of early timeouts or delays of game penalties? Is it consistent from year to year? Is there a growth pattern? Maybe throw other procedural stuff like illegal formation in there too.
Aaron Schatz: Well, for quarterbacks at least, I don't think you can toss illegal formation or 12 men in the same category. It's not the quarterback's fault if the wide receiver has a brain fart and covers up the tight end or something. It is a curious question about delay of game or timeouts, though,
Kaepernick is 12-of-15 with no turnovers. How are the 49ers only beating Miami 6-3? Is it just about his inability to convert third downs?
Danny Tuccitto: One reason this game is close on the scoreboard is because Miami has had a few epic drives. They've been moving the ball pretty well against the 49ers defense, but their methodical drives keep stalling somewhere on San Francisco's side of the field.
Matt Waldman: He's been sacked a few times on third down. He's been hesitant with his first read and either pulled the ball down or tried to escape the pocket.
Vince Verhei: The 49ers just got a touchdown to make it 13-3, but yes, they are 0-for-5 on third downs.
Danny Tuccitto: Since we're talking celebration dances today, Jared Odrick just did the Pee Wee Herman after a sack.
Aaron Schatz: San Francisco just had a flea flicker with a) the longest pitchback I've ever seen ... Frank Gore must have been eight or nine yards away from Kaepernick when he pitched it, and b) a horrible missed defensive pass interference on Reshad Jones from Miami.
I wonder if Reshad Jones ever gets mistaken for Rashida Jones.
Rivers McCown: Gore just caught a screen and made roughly half the Dolphins defense miss tackles on it.
Matt Waldman: And that's about 85 percent of the college Gore in terms of physical skill...
Danny Tuccitto: I have no idea what Kevin Burnett was doing on Anthony Dixon's one-yard touchdown. He's an outside linebacker on a goal-line play. The run is going right at his gap responsibility (off-tackle). What does he do? He leaps as if he's a middle linebacker going for a goal-line mid-air collision, and Dixon runs underneath him.
Harbaugh loses a challenge (that was obviously not worth it), so now San Francisco's out of timeouts with almost the entire fourth quarter to play. Oh by the way, Miami just scored to make it 20-13.
Aaron Schatz: Greg Gumbel: What do you think makes Kaepernick so special?
Dan Dierdorf: Well, number one, he takes care of the football.
So wait ... he's Alex Smith?
Then Kaepernick runs down the field with a huge scramble on third-and-5 for a touchdown from midfield. Dan, THAT is what makes Kaepernick different from Smith. Not avoiding interceptions.
Danny Tuccitto: Actually, that was a read option, not a scramble. They've run that play (from that diamond formation) a bunch of times today, but Kaepernick's been either making the wrong read or it's been going for a minimal gain by the back.
So my friend that I watch all the 49ers game with was going on and on about how the team basically lit money on fire when they extended Ahmad Brooks through 2017 for $37 million. Basically, he was just annoyed at the fact that, despite Miami starting waiver wire fodder Nate Garner at right tackle, Brooks was non-existent in pass rush. I didn't really have a cogent argument in response except to say that it's probably the case that his assignment on most passing plays isn't to sell out rushing the quarterback.
Since the game ended, I've been trying to think of base 3-4 defenses that had two sack mavens at outside linebacker, and could only come up with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in Pittsburgh. Next thought, and here's my question since I don't have a good handle on defensive strategies and tactics: Is it the case that 3-4 defenses, or more specifically 2-4-5 nickel defenses like what the 49ers play on passing downs, design it so that one of the outside linebackers is more of a contain guy than a rusher? Seems like Brooks' primary responsibility might be simply preventing the quarterback from escaping the pocket, thereby allowing the Smiths to corral him from the other side.
Danny Tuccitto: Right, right. Forgot about the Redskins duo. Orakpo's out-of-sight, out-of-mind these days.
Ben Muth: Seahawks fail to get a first down with great field position off a Cardinals pick, they have to settle for three. Seattle had a third-and-2 and threw it from an empty set. Cardinals brought five rushers and Seattle didn't pick up Quentin Groves coming off the edge. Can't tell if it was the right guard or right tackle that was responsible for Groves, but both blocked the defensive end. It definitely wasn't full slide (unless the guard really messed up), so the sack was not on Russell Wilson.
The Cardinals blow a coverage and Anthony McCoy is wide open for 66-yard gain. Marshawn Lynch scores on the very next play to make it 17-0 Seattle at the beginning of the second. I don't think Arizona can score 17 points without a defensive or special teams touchdown. This game may be over already.
In the second quarter, the Cardinals convert a third down, their first in 19 tries going back to the Rams game.
John Skelton tries to throw a back-shoulder stop route to Larry Fitzgerald, but Richard Sherman is all over it. Pick-six Seattle. 24-0. Skelton was beat out by Max Hall when they were both rookies. Hall is currently a grad assistant at BYU.
Vince Verhei: Sherman gets a pick-six (followed by a hyperactive celebration that can only be described as "the Adderall") to make it 24-0. On the ensuing drive, Arizona's center gets rolled up on and leaves the game. The next snap is fumbled, though Arizona recovers. Seattle may get 80 points before this is done.
Rivers McCown: The Cardinals should just sign a CFL quarterback. They have nothing to lose.
Vince Verhei: Skelton just threw his second interception to go with two fumbles (one on the bad snap, one on a Bruce Irvin sack-fumble-recovery). It's the middle of the second quarter.
Ben Muth: Patrick Peterson muffs a punt, Seahawks recover in the end zone for a touchdown. 31-0. The 31 points is the most Seattle has scored all year. If the Seahawks want to score 100, they should just spike it three times in a row and give it back to Arizona every time.
Aaron Schatz: That's a really, really rare play. There's only about 15-to-20 muffed punts every year recovered by the punting team (as opposed to fumbled punts) and it is very rare for one to be returned for any actual yardage by the punting team. I went and checked. The last time I have a punt marked "ML" (muffed lost) and turned into a touchdown in our database is Week 4 of 2009. The punt returner was Quincy Butler of St. Louis. The punt from San Francisco hit him on the leg, then he kicked it accidentally into the end zone and Scott McKillop recovered for a touchdown.
Vince Verhei: Wilson just threw his first interception in more than a month. He rolled to his right, had forever and a day to find a guy, and forced it to Golden Tate. Peterson came over the top to make the pick. There was contact, but nothing you don't see on every play.
Ben Muth: Watching the Cardinals this year has been like watching a sports movie in rewind.
Vince Verhei: Third pick for Skelton, second for Sherman. This time Sherman and Kam Chancellor break into a Temptations-style sashay together. That's a team dance, which is an automatic 15-yard penalty. Sherman just gives the refs a thumb's up and goes to celebrate on the sideline, never stops smiling. That's awesome. He doesn't even care about the 15 yards at this point. I think that's their third conduct penalty on the day, counting a pair of late hits. They're still up 31-0.
Oh, and the Seahawks punt after that, and Peterson fumbles again, and the Seahawks have it again with 19 seconds left in the half. It leads to a Wilson-to-Zach Miller touchdown to make it 38-0. Wilson is the ninth rookie ever to throw 20 touchdowns in a season.
Ben Muth: The 2011 Bucs think this meltdown is shameful.
Vince Verhei: The Seahawks take the second-half kickoff and score on a 33-yard Lynch run, his third score of the day. It's now 45-0. So, uh, I can't believe I'm asking this, but at what point do they pull Wilson to protect him and let Matt Flynn finish running out the clock?
Aaron Schatz: Man, what a way to display him for trade. "Hey Arizona, let us show you for 30 minutes this quarterback who can be yours for a couple of draft picks..."
Andy Benoit: When is the last time we saw a quarterbacking situation as deplorable as Arizona's?
Sean McCormick: About three hours ago in New York?
Vince Verhei: There were some Oakland and New Orleans teams that come to mind.
Ben Muth: Does the Derek Anderson/John Skelton/Max Hall era count?
Skelton throws his fourth pick. It's really not even worth describing at this point.
Vince Verhei: Flynn is in the game with about ten minutes left in the third. The next 25 minutes could be very important for April's draft.
Well, I don't know if Flynn showed anything in limited action today to change anyone's mind about him either way. Most of his stuff came in long-yardage (fourth-and-23!) or was basic swing pass/screen plays. He did have one nice play where he avoided a sack and hit his receiver on the run. On another play it looked like a good throw might have resulted in a big play downfield to Evan Moore, but the ball hung in the air and it turned into an offensive pass interference. He looked capable of running an offense and making accurate throws to open receivers, which makes him better than anyone in Arizona, Jacksonville, and a few other teams.
Aaron Schatz: Finally, Jim. Jim Schwartz has the Lions go for it on fourth-and-inches from the 4, and the Lions run a beautiful bootleg. Matthew Stafford's handoff to Mikel LeShoure fakes everyone, and Stafford walks in with the ball on his hip.
Mike Kurtz: Stafford is blocking on half of these running plays, even if the play is away from him. This is really stupid, but kind of awesome.
Aaron Schatz: Kind of a surprise how Joique Bell has made a place for himself in Detroit this year. He's got roughly 20% rushing DVOA and 35% receiving DVOA this year after bouncing around the league for two seasons. I went to Wikipedia to find out how to pronounce his first name (Joik? Joi-kay? Jacques?) and it doesn't say, but it does mention he won the Harlon Hill Trophy. Makes him one of three current NFL running backs who have won the Harlon Hill Trophy, along with Bernard Scott and Danny Woodhead.
Matt Waldman: I've studied a lot of Bell. He's a regular recommendation on our waiver wire reports that publish at FBGs and my deep dynasty league teams. His name rhymes with Shaggy's exclamation "Zoique." I compare him to Marion Barber in terms of style.
Tom Gower: Just FYI, it's "Joik."
Matt Waldman: Or more accurately, "Zoik" or rhymes with "Boink," which he tends to do when he makes contact with the first hitter.
Danny Tuccitto: File this under, "Did I miss something?"
Anyone else notice that, after playing 100 percent of the teams 89 offensive snaps last week, Brandon Pettigrew has been almost entirely absent in the first half?
(That observation has nothing to do with my fantasy football prospects this week. Nothing at all.)
Aaron Schatz: Wow. I had noticed. He's active ... are we sure he hasn't played, even if he hasn't been targeted?
Danny Tuccitto: I've been monitoring it. (Again, not at all because he's on my fantasy team.) He played a few snaps in the first quarter, but it's been Tony Scheffler in all one-tight-end sets since then. No news of an injury.
Aaron Schatz: Aha, from Tim Twentyman from the Lions website on Twitter: Pettigrew has an ankle injury and is questionable.
Danny Tuccitto: Yep, just saw it on the Twitter. #FML #firstworldproblems
For having such a strong arm, Stafford sure does seem to underthrow a lot of balls right at people's feet.
So, with the Lions down 10 and trying to desperately come back with less than 3:00, the announcers said that on a second-and-10, Calvin Johnson was not on the field. WTF?
Danny Tuccitto: Of note: Johnson played 96 percent of snaps through Week 13 (865 of 897). Odd time for a rare breather.
129 comments, Last at 11 Jan 2013, 11:54pm by Pandora Sterling Silver S Clips & Locks