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?
17 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).
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Peter Koski: I think Randall Cobb needs to watch more Percy Harvin. Carrying the football as a wideout playing running back can be exciting, but getting tackled by linebackers all the time? Not so much.
Aaron Schatz: Except that unlike Harvin, Cobb probably is his team's best option at running back.
Peter Koski: The Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers one-upmanship tug-o-war going on is just as entertaining as the quarterback one that seemed more likely. Well, given the state of the offensive lines, not more likely, but you know where I'm going.
Tom Gower: That fake field goal was pretty cool. I've wondered before why teams don't try that more often with how often teams try to overload one side of the field trying to get a block.
Aaron Schatz: The big question about this game is this: Are we seeing that the Packers may be getting a pass rush back, or that the Bears' offensive line is as awful as always and the Colts just weren't good enough for anyone to notice?
Tom Gower: I'm seeing a lot of bad blocking by the Bears' offensive line. The Colts need both Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Freeney went out early, and everybody forgot Jay Cutler started like 0-of-8 with a pick when the Bears put up 41 points.
Rivers McCown: I didn't see a lot of this game at all, but how much of the Bears problems are the offensive line and how much of them are Cutler's reactions to the offensive line?
Aaron Schatz: Hi ho! I come to you live from the press box at Gillette, where there are many, many fewer people than the last time I was here. I didn't come to the AFC Championship, so the last time I was here was the playoff game against Denver. That game was packed with national media including people from places like GQ and People. This game I don't think has any national media, unless you count me. It's Arizona media, Boston media, and Larry Fitzgerald's dad; I guess the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder doesn't make him cover Vikings games anymore.
My plan for today, if I can have the self-control to stick to it, is to be on Patrick Peterson watch. Our stats said he had a typically mediocre rookie year, but many people felt that by the end of last season he had already become one of the league's top corners, and Arizona was always using him to shadow the opposition's top receiver. So I'm going to see if I can track where he is and how he does today.
Andy Benoit: When you track Peterson, notice how the safeties to his side of the field (if they are to his side of the field) don't even look at him. It's true Cover-0, shutdown cornerback stuff.
What's the press box saying about THAT Patrick Peterson interception, Aaron?
Aaron Schatz: Heh. It's not a very full press box, so not much. But the thing is, Peterson completely messed up that play originally. He was looking into the backfield, I have no idea at what, but he stuttered and let his guy (Brandon Lloyd, I think) completely go past him. Tom Brady had him totally wide open, but Darnell Dockett made a great play to tip it and then Peterson was really athletic to dive and pick the ball up off the turf. It looks like a great play from Peterson, which it was from an athletic standpoint, but from a coverage standpoint it looked awful.
Kevin Kolb keeps missing by throwing ahead of guys in their routes, and he's not even getting pressured that much.
Andy Benoit: Bad, BAD looking ankle injury for Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Patriots offensive system just changed in a heartbeat.
Ben Muth: Kolb overthrows an open Todd Heap down the seam in the red zone. Cardinals fail to get six off of Peterson's pick.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots did almost nothing but run two drives ago, now on this drive, they've run twice from their own 10 on first and second down. This is weird.
Ben Muth: Cardinals defense shutting down New England in the first half. The Patriots had 59 passing yards. To paraphrase Dennis Green, Kevin Kolb is who we thought he was.
J.J. Cooper: We have a Quentin Groves sighting. The former Jags draft bust just blocked a Patriots punt. Arizona now has the ball at the Pats 2 with a chance to take the lead.
Aaron Schatz: Actually, he had a sack in the second quarter also.
Three quarters down in Foxboro, and the Cardinals lead 13-9, and they are driving in field-goal range. This game is wacko. The Patriots' offense looks very strange. The playcalling has been weird, almost entirely ignoring Gronkowski and running much more than usual and in down-distance situations where the Patriots don't run much. There has been a lot of pressure on Brady, a combination of a good Arizona line and bad Patriots blocking, especially by Donald Thomas at right guard. Then there are the mental mistakes and fluke plays. The Peterson interception on the first Patriots play, a Cardinals blocked punt, and on this drive, two stupid personal fouls, both on the same play.
Meanwhile, Kolb has looked surprisingly spry moving out of the pocket. This has not prevented him from completely overthrowing open receivers.
I still feel like the Patriots are going to pull this out somehow, but man, this does not look good. Even if they win it, there are a lot of things to worry about here, especially the offensive line.
The weirdness continues. The Cardinals score a touchdown when Kolb sneaks up the middle from the 5. Replay seems to show his knee is down at the 2. There is no announcement about the play being reviewed in the booth, and of course the Patriots are not allowed to challenge.
J.J. Cooper: Third-and-1 for the Patriots in Cardinals' territory. Peterson drives a tight end into the backfield, sheds, and tackles Stevan Ridley for a loss. Pretty impressive, physical play for a cornerback.
Aaron Schatz: Questionable incomplete call on a third-and-8 to Fitzgerald. Looked like a catch to me, Arizona challenges, my guess is "insufficient evidence." Pats take the ball back with 5:42 left, on their own 18. Even if they come back and win this, this will be the most depressed home crowd to ever walk out of a fourth-quarter comeback win.
Andy Benoit: Aaron, how much time has Brady spent in the shotgun this game? Obviously they're going shotgun late in fourth in hurry-up. Have they been under center a lot before this?
Aaron Schatz: No, no shotgun most of the game I think. Yeah, though, this last drive looks a lot better than the rest of the game. Patriots offense suddenly clicking like usual.
Related: Patriots seem to have re-discovered Rob Gronkowski.
Andy Benoit: One more question for you Aaron ... how is Peterson being used? I have this game on one of my screens, I've seen rookie Jamell Fleming on Lloyd a lot. Is Peterson shadowing someone else half the time, or is he just playing the right side of the field?
Aaron Schatz: I'm waiting until the end of the game to get into my whole Peterson report, but yeah, they keep their cornerbacks strictly to sides. Even when the Pats have lined up in twins left, Peterson stays on the offensive right.
Andy Benoit: Kerry Rhodes has a good pass breakup to keep the lead. He's a much better cover guy in confined areas rather than open space.
Aaron Schatz: Pats can't stop the Cards run game when it has to. Cardinals make a first down with 1:53 left. I've gotta think that's game, although the Pats may get ball back with a tiny bit of time. Great lead block by Lyle Sendlein on the play that ends it.
Rivers McCown: Simmons is gonna sue you for copyright infringement.
Aaron Schatz: OK, that game was insane. Ryan Williams fumbling? Nuts. Pats lose the touchdown on a holding call? Crazy. Stephen Gostkowski misses the winning field goal? Wacko. The Pats just lost in part because Bill Belichick turned into Norv Turner: he was satisfied with a 40-something-yard field goal and stopped trying to advance ball. Bad, bad decision.
OK, let's see if I can summarize my thoughts on this Patriots loss before I move on to watching the late games. (This won't be the end of the thoughts, of course, I have a feeling this game will show up in Any Given Sunday as well as Word of Muth this week.)
1) This was probably the biggest upset we'll see all year -- the Premium picks formula thought that the line of Pats -13.5 was off by more than 10 points -- but in reality, the loss isn't that big a deal for the Patriots. Nobody ever saw their season killed by a non-conference loss in September. The questions this game brings up about the offensive line, the playcalling, and the Hernandez injury are much bigger issues than the actual "1" in the loss column of the standings.
2) This business of not starting Wes Welker is idiocy. Nobody thinks Julian Edelman is better than Welker, I doubt the Patriots think so. Talking to other reporters, one idea was that the Pats are trying to phase Welker out of the offense. That's stupid. The time to phase Wes Welker out of the offense is July of 2013. If a guy is under contract, you freakin' use the guy. Another idea is that the Pats are trying to figure out what they have in Edelman before deciding if they re-sign him, since he's a free agent also. OK, I guess I buy that, but I still think it is silly. The third idea is that the Pats are just doing this out of spite. I don't like to see Belichick acting that way. I don't mind when Belichick acts like a dick in service of trying to win games. Acting like a dick to be a dick isn't what the fans are looking for.
3) OK, let's talk about Peterson. I am not the kind of person who goes on one game alone, but if I had to decide on one game alone, I am definitely a believer. I am guessing his charting numbers will be much better this season, and his targets will be down. Peterson was in man coverage almost the whole game. Occasionally it was press, occasionally he was giving cushion, usually he was 3-4 yards off. The Cards mostly had single high safety. Sometimes they had no safety. On the last Pats scoring drive to make it 20-18, it looked like they had two safeties. But they are clearly giving him a lot of responsibility. They keep Peterson always on the offensive right, which can be a problem because you can keep away from him by moving your better receivers to the other side. It doesn't seem like putting Peterson on Edelman is the best use of resources, but that's the matchup that we had more than half the time. Otherwise, it was usually Lloyd. Occasionally, the Pats would have no wideouts on the right side and Peterson was sitting over there anyway. A couple times he ended up on Ridley split out. At least later in the game the Cards would move a linebacker out there so Peterson was still on a wideout inside of Ridley.
Not counting plays where Edelman ran a short cross and Peterson came off him and switched with another defender, it looks like the Pats threw only seven passes targeted at Peterson. The first one I mentioned very early on, Peterson seemed to fall for something going on in the backfield, was burned, but when Dockett tipped the pass he got an interception out of it instead of getting burned. From then on, he was mostly stapled to whoever he was covering. Tight coverage all day. The second time they targeted him, it did look like Lloyd had a couple steps, but Brady hung the throw up and Peterson caught up before the pass got there. He was super tight the next two. Lloyd and Edelman each caught a short pass in front of him when he was giving a bit of a cushion, and there was a weird miscommunication between Brady and Lloyd where the pass wasn't really anywhere near Peterson or Lloyd. Overall, I counted him giving up two receptions in seven targets for no first downs. Again, this is just one game, but he looked like a big reason why the Pats' offense was having problems today.
Rob Weintraub: Announcer in Bengals game -- "Adam Jones has come a long way in his career..." Ah, NFL contract-enforced euphemisms.
Taylor Mays gets beat off the line, takes a poor angle to the throw, and falls down chasing the receiver. His game in a nutshell.
The Browns are feeling Joe Haden's absence. First, Armon Binns makes our man Buster Skrine whiff his jam completely, and beats him for 20 or so. Then, in the red zone, A.J. Green catches a simple out and dekes Dimitri Patterson out of his socks for the touchdown. 14-3 Bengals.
Rivers McCown: Rob, how is washed-up super-bust Brandon Weeden looking?
Rob Weintraub: Weeden looks better than last week, unsurprisingly. Cincinnati does, after all, have a long, proud history of making mediocre quarterbacks look good for a week. Not much pressure on him, which has helped immensely. He's working mostly underneath stuff. One excellent throw with a man in his face. He hasn't hit much on the perimeter, though he hasn't had any howler throws, either. Where they're having success is isolating backs and tight ends (Alex Smith) on linebackers in the middle of the field. Which is what you do when Cincy's only legit cover linebacker is out for the season. 17-10 Bengals at halftime.
Rob Weintraub: OK, Brandon Tate was close to being out at the two, but it held up. 24-10 Cincy. Given the cushion Green is getting on one side and the ease that Binns/Tate is beating his man off the line on the other, there's no excuse for the Bengals passing game not to rack up the yards.
Almost as promising as Andrew Hawkins' long run after the catch was his instinctive separation while Andy Dalton rolled out, giving Andy a space by inching back toward the middle of the field. Not a move he makes last season, when he was athletic but raw as freshly slaughtered beef.
Peter Koski: The Saints first drive looks a lot like the Raiders offense from Monday Night, with completely dissimilar results. Darren Sproles is hard to duplicate. Mark Ingram looks strong carrying the ball up the middle
Vince Verhei: Jimmy Graham has had many touchdowns in his career, but none easier than his latest, which put New Orleans up 7-0. How do you give Jimmy Graham a five-yard cushion on third-and-goal from the 1?
Peter Koski: Drew Brees with a terrible pick-six. Bootleg play-action, covered well by Carolina, but Brees still tried to force it to the tight end two yards downfield. Free Sean Payton!
Andy Benoit: Panthers show why they’re dangerous: empty set, yet it’s a Cam Newton draw. Not in the red zone either ... out closer to the 35-yard-line. Defenses always have to think about Newton running, no matter what formation and situation. That’s a burden.
Vince Verhei: That wasn't even his best run of the drive. Earlier they ran a triple option out of a pistol set, and Newton kept it around the edge for a long gain. They've tried stuff like this before, but after their rushing disaster last week, good to see them taking their best and most unique weapon and getting creative with him.
More Panthers ground-based creativity, as Brandon LaFell takes a Statue of Liberty, of all things, and breaks some tackles for a 20-some-yard gain. They're really stretching the Saints' defense horizontally and forcing them to play the run sideline-to-sideline.
Andy Benoit: What we're seeing with Saints is what everyone forgot about while focusing on the team overcoming Bounty-gate suspensions: this defense does not have enough talent to run Steve Spagnuolo's scheme.
Rivers McCown: I thought Jabari Greer's return would do something to help this defense out. Turns out, nope.
Vince Verhei: That's part of it, absolutely, but the Saints offense looks nothing like the Saints offense either. It's almost all dumpoffs to Sproles or Graham. Brees can hardly find a wide receiver at all.
Andy Benoit: Great opening drive, and then Michael Vick throws an interception in end zone. Rolling to his right, he threw across his body. Ravens love to play eight-man coverage in the red zone. Eagles will have to adjust ... can't let Vick be a decision-maker there.
Vince Verhei: After the Eagles and Ravens exchange turnovers, LeSean McCoy runs for a short touchdown to put Philadelphia up 7-0. That was set up by a nice fourth-and-1 conversion inside the 20. Eagles came out in an unbalanced formation with two tight ends to the right. (I think they had an extra lineman to that side too, though I'm not sure.) They just gave it to McCoy on a zone play to that side and let him find a hole for the conversion. The formation almost guaranteed Philadelphia an extra blocker to that direction, because if the Ravens did overcommit to the strong side, Vick could have easily kept the ball on a keeper to the weak side. Ravens were damned if they did, damned if they didn't.
Andy Benoit: Bernard Pollard gets a sack, it was a four-man rush but the Ravens got a two-on-one based on alignment. Vick and the Eagles offensive line didn’t recognize it, and didn't put a slide protection on. Pollard is having a very active game thus far: an interception in the end zone, a few big hits. He's been lining up all over.
Former Eagles special teams coach Harbaugh takes a special teams gamble against his old team, faking a punt and letting former Eagles safety Sean Considine run the ball. Came up short. The running lane was there, Considine just tripped.
Ravens giving Vick a lot of trouble with three-man rushes. Vick still taking hits and throwing into coverage.
Joe Flacco threw an outstanding ball on the touchdown to Jacoby Jones. Read the coverage, patient against the blitz, slid in the pocket just a bit to avoid a blitzing linebacker. It was a touch throw downfield, off balance. Jones beat Nnamdi Asomugha but only because of the amount of time Flacco afforded him -- Asomugha’s physical press coverage won early in the down. The timing of the play was only for early in the down, because the blitz was supposed to get there.
Aaron Schatz: Apparently, it's already time on Twitter to talk about whether Flacco has boosted himself into the ranks of the top five quarterbacks. Man, people are really obsessed with the difference between the fifth- and sixth-best quarterbacks in the league, aren't they?
Vince Verhei: The best thing about that is, if you asked a lot of people (fans and media alike) to name their top five guys, they would probably give you eight or nine names.
Philly's been moving the ball up and down the field all day, and the game is only close because they've turned it over. Meanwhile, the Ravens offense has been rendered inert. I don't know if Flacco is a top-five guy, but based on this game, there's no way you can say he's better than Vick.
Rob Weintraub: Torrey Smith's bomb catch-after-turnover percentage has to be the highest in the NFL.
Andy Benoit: DeMeco Ryans is having another solid game. Very active, got pass-rush pressure, had an interception, a nice play in coverage and, despite a few good Ray Rice interior runs, Ryans has shown up in run defense once or twice.
Is it me, or does it seem like Eagles games always take longer than most games? Do we have any super duper FO stats on that? Could it be because Andy Reid likes to throw the ball (and his challenge flag) so much?
Vince Verhei: Special teams player of the week: Ravens kicker Justin Tucker. Field goals of 56, 51, and now 48 yards to put Ravens ahead 23-17 in the fourth.
Aaron Schatz: I'm seeing a lot of tweets about terrible officiating at the end of the Ravens-Eagles game. Can anyone enlighten me?
Matt Waldman: Vick is in the arms of Haloti Ngata on the waggle play, and he throws it, but officials call it a fumble. It's in replay right now.
Overturned. Vick scores on a keeper. There were some missed calls on pass interference in this game. One illegal contact was assessed against a receiver on a deep pass to the end zone when it was interference, and it should have been spot foul. Instead, the Ravens had to choose between roughing the passer or illegal contact.
Mike Kurtz: The Eagles got two two-minute warnings. As Matt mentioned, pass interference in the end zone was called holding, incorrectly. Vick then threw a ball about five yards downfield that they let run and eventually awarded as a fumble to the Ravens, which was fortunately reversed on replay, except it was very possibly grounding.
Andy Benoit: Giants tackle William Beatty runs a crossing route and leaps for the ball ... to no avail. Fun to watch though.
Vince Verhei: The Giants lost their opener largely because Michael Coe kept giving up big pass plays. Well, it's happening again. Eli Manning throws an interception, not seeing Mason Foster in the short zone, and Vincent Jackson beats Coe in one-on-one coverage for a long touchdown to put Tampa Bay ahead 10-6.
Andy Benoit: Incredible pick-six by Eric Wright. Slot blitz, he knew he couldn’t get there so he pulled up and picked off a quick slant at point blank. Then he went into joystick mode.
Vince Verhei: Yes, the first part of that return may have set a record for most yards running back and forth without really going anywhere. And then he found a crease. Eli's third pick of the day, the biggest reason Bucs are winning.
Andy Benoit: Bucs are getting great use out of Jackson on straight vertical routes near the sidelines. They’re just betting that their big money pickup is more talented than the Giants defenders. So far, they’re right. Four catches, 110 yards, and four touchdowns through 35 minutes.
Vince Verhei: The Giants were trailing big at halftime and looking at 0-2 at home square in the face. And then Eli started hitting big pass after big pass after big pass, and now they're ahead in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay defensive backs tipped away a bunch of balls in the first half, but in the second half the Giants wideouts have gotten separation, and Eli has usually found them.
So this game turned out completely batshit insane. Eli finishes with 510 yards and the Giants scored 25 points in the fourth, and the Bucs still had the ball near miedfield and a chance for a Hail Mary until Josh Freeman was intercepted on the last meaningful play of the game.
Tom Gower: The Texans have started the game very, very screen-heavy on their first two drives. I'm not sure whether that says more about their offensive line, the Jaguars' pass rush, or it's their version of how the Vikings tried to use lead draw to get the Jaguars out of their preferred base formation.
Rivers McCown It took 3/4 of a quarter before Ben Jones took over at right guard for perennial underachiever Antoine Caldwell. Haven't seen much of Blaine Gabbert throwing yet, but he did just pick up an illegal contact flag on a pass at Brian Cushing. J.J. Watt has two pass tips and is working the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag.
Tom Gower: It's 17-0 at halftime in Jacksonville, and that's about how the game has looked. The Texans have played both Caldwell and Jones at right guard. Offensively, the Jaguars are a bit of a mess. It looks a lot like a vintage 2011 performance, with the wide receivers not getting open and the (injury-riddled) offensive line unable to pass protect. J.J. Watt against Guy Whimper is just as bad a mismatch as you'd guess. Gabbert is understandably struggling and not looking very good while doing it.
Rivers McCown: It really said it all that Whimper was replaced in the preseason by UDFA Cameron Bradfield. He's just too slow to be a starter outside. Unfortunately, with three injured starters (Bradfield, Eben Britton, Will Rackley), he's the devil they know.
J.J. Cooper: Whimper versus anybody is bad news for the Jags.
It reminds me of when the 49ers kept ending up with Adam Snyder at right tackle. They knew that wasn't ideal, but everyone they tried to replace him with seemed to get hurt.
And not long after I typed that, Adam Snyder, now with the Cardinals, is flagged for holding.
Peter Koski: I think, if you have to use Guy Whimper, he's best put to work as a decoy tackle-eligible extra lineman on the goal line, a la last week.
Tom Gower: The Jaguars show signs of life, as a bad Texans drive and good punt return set them up inside the 40 and big pass play to Laurent Robinson set up a score. The Texans respond well, though, with a 17-play, 80-yard drive to restore a 17-point lead and take the air out of the stadium. Continuing Right Guard Watch, Jones did a good job of getting out on Russell Allen to let Ben Tate walk into the end zone.
Rivers McCown: Pretty much the only complaint coming out of this game from a Texans perspective is special teams. Three special teams penalties were brutal, but the big issue here is that Trindon Holliday is not providing enough boom to make up for his busts. He had a nice punt return in the first half, but followed that up with a pair of muffs. And he always seems to take it out of the end zone on kicks, even when he's all the way at the back of it.
Oh, and Bradie James is done.
Rivers McCown: Indianapolis has zero idea how to stop Percy Harvin. On the other hand, Minny came close to sacking Andrew Luck three or four different times on the first drive, but has nothing to show for it. He really has outstanding pocket instincts, and picked up a pair of scramble first downs. This game is smelling of a shoot out in the first quarter.
Andy Benoit: Anyone watching Luck write the first chapter of his legacy? Great poised downfield completion to Reggie Wayne ... they're near field-goal territory.
Rivers McCown: It feels really weird to say this about a team with as little overall talent as Indy has, but I think I'd take them to finish second in the AFC South today.
Minnesota just couldn't get the run going in this one. They run some really fun Full House formations with Harvin, Kyle Rudolph, and a fullback, and it's interesting to see how teams try to cover that. I'd be even more interested to see it without the fullback.
Vince Verhei: Every time I look at this game, Ryan Tannehill is running for his life and I am screaming at him to throw the ball away.
Danny Tuccitto: Oakland's defense is just spectacularly awful. Miami's offense seems really vanilla. They don't use much pre-snap motion, they don't mess around much with personnel, their run-blocking schemes seem really straightforward, they have a rookie quarterback who spends most of the game throwing short routes, and yet ... the Raiders defense has looked totally lost the entire game; like they didn't even watch film this week. It's not so much that they're getting beat physically or talent-wise. They're just perpetually out of position. At least, that's my impression watching in real time.
Vince Verhei: My previous comment is going to look really weird next to the final score, so let me give you three reasons the Dolphins eventually won convincingly: 1) Tannehill didn't have a lot of good plays, but he managed to avoid disaster; 2) The Dolphins ripped off a ton of long runs in the second half (mostly Reggie Bush, but also Lamar Miller); 3) The Raiders offense is just plum awful.
Vince Verhei: Chiefs neared the goal-line at the end of the half, but Peyton Hillis fumbled the ball away and the Bills are still up 21-0. Meanwhile, Buffalo may have gone to the wishbone. Ryan Fitzpatrick has only 79 passing yards, but he's got 34 yards on four carries, and C.J. Spiller has 92 on 11. Spiller is also the only guy on the team with more than one catch.
Rob Weintraub: The Bills can be the team that trades for Tim Tebow.
Vince Verhei: Midway through the third, Chiefs kick a field goal to make it 21-3. Why? Do you really think you'll get three more chances to score in the next 22 minutes?
Vince Verhei: In the first five minutes of the game, Seahawks special teams have forced a fumble on a kickoff to set up a field goal, and now blocked a punt for a touchdown to take a 10-0 lead.
A defensive struggle at halftime, pretty much as I expected. Dallas got one good drive, capped off by a touchdown to Miles Austin. Russell Wilson is 9-of-12, but it's almost all short stuff. Still no Bruce Irvin appearances in the stat sheet.
Andy Benoit: Golden Tate delivered what may have been the most violent block I've ever seen. Victim was Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee.
Vince Verhei: Tate just completely crushed him, like a wrecking ball taking out a building. Lee is on the sideline getting looked at. And then Dallas got flagged for a love-tap late hit on the end of the play.
Seahawks have nickel-and-dimed their way to a couple of late scores to pretty much ice this game. Last two drives totaled 20 plays, 178 yards, and two touchdowns. Mostly just pounding away at the Cowboys one run at a time, though Wilson did throw a seam-route touchdown to Anthony McCoy. Seattle up 27-7 with about seven minutes to go.
Rivers McCown: Seattle fourth quarter time of possession: 13:37. Dallas fourth quarter time of possession: 1:23.
Vince Verhei: By the way, Irvin finally showed up on the stat sheet. Jason Jones beat the guard into the backfield for pressure. Irvin looped across the guard's face, right through the same hole, and he split the sack with Jones. Not sure if that was a designed stunt or a reaction play by Irvin, but it was some impressive footspeed.
Andy Benoit: After his neck injury last week, Rodger Saffold is helped off the field for the Rams again in the first.
Robert Griffin throws a beautiful play-action touchdown to Leonard Hankerson, who got WAY behind the defense. Janoris Jenkins was frozen by the backfield fakes. Hankerson's fast, but he doesn’t have dazzling straight-line speed.
Aaron Schatz: Griffin looks like the 100 percent USA Prime Real Deal, but I still think the jury is out on the rest of the team. Wow, the receivers can burn the Rams secondary? The defense can disrupt the Rams offensive line? Book your flights to New Orleans now.
Mike Kurtz: Griffin has thus far played against two really bad defenses. Let's hold off a bit before we wax lyrical.
Rivers McCown: I dunno, St. Louis played it pretty solid against Detroit. They're not gonna be world-beaters or anything but I think they're probably better than they have been.
Tom Gower: Nine of eleven drives went to Rams territory. Aside from the three interceptions (admittedly a really big aside), I thought they struggled defensively. If Brandon Pettigrew was better at catching, the Lions would have done even better offensively.
Vince Verhei: Danny Amendola's first-half numbers: 13 targets, 12 receptions, 133 yards, one touchdown.
Andy Benoit: Rams rookie back Daryl Richardson showed great burst, speed, and acceleration on his 53-yard run. Ran through would-be tacklers with sheer speed.
Then Sam Bradford just never saw London Fletcher on an end zone interception. Not sure how he didn't see him ... most likely he just forgot about him. Probably reading his receivers, not the defenders.
Vince Verhei: Griffin with play-action and the long bomb. The Rams corner completely misreads the ball, and it hits Aldrick Robinson in the chest, but he drops it. Rams corner then celebrates like he has made a great play.
Aaron Schatz: Man, if it wasn't for the Cardinals ... it's quite a week for upsets if Rams hold on to beat Redskins.
Andy Benoit: Josh Morgan may have just lost the game for his team with a personal foul. Have we ever seen such an impactful (and stupid) personal foul?
Vince Verhei: For detail there, Morgan, upset with whatever, jumped up after a catch and threw the ball at Cortland Finnegan. Following the 15-yard penalty, Billy Cundiff attempted a 62-yard field goal, and pushed it right.
Rivers McCown: Finnegan got under someone's skin? You don't say?
Tom Gower: Even before the penalty, Morgan, who made a third-down catch one yard short of the sticks, tried to turn outside and get out of bounds instead of turning inside and getting the first down. The Redskins had plenty of time, and there were no absolute requirement to get out of bounds, so he'd already screwed up big once. Then he turned a 47-yard field goal into a 62-yarder with the penalty.
Andy Benoit: All-white uniforms for the Chargers. I haven't seen that from them in a long, long time.
Tom Gower: The big matchup to watch is end Kamerion Wimbley against rookie UDFA left tackle Mike Harris, who didn't really face any speed rushers last week. On the first drive, the Titans are getting players close to Philip Rivers, but he's standing up firm in the pocket. Also, Norv, you have a good quarterback in Rivers. There's no need for any more of that Wildcat nonsense you just ran.
Rivers is annihilating the Titans secondary early. Malclom Floyd has a couple completions against Jason McCourty, Eddie Royal beat nickelback Ryan Mouton on third down during a drive following a bad Jake Locker interception, and I believe Michael Griffin yielded his second touchdown to Dante Rosario three plays later. Chargers up 14-0 less than 11 minutes in.
Locker's pick early was an airmailed throw, not the first he's had this year. After the Titans drove down field, starting at their own 5, he throws two straight passes intended for players five yards downfield into the dirt. If you could even out those throws, you'd have a good quarterback.
Like the Jaguars' sign of life earlier today, the Titans' sign of life proved short-lived. The Chargers took the ensuing possession for a score, the Titans didn't do anything with their next possession, and now the Chargers are about to score again (third-and-goal at the two-minute warning). The San Diego run game, which was moribund for six quarters, has been powering much of these second half drives. This game hasn't been as bad as the 40-7 laugher in Week 2 of 2006, but given what expectations for the Titans were this year compared to what they were then it feels about as bad.
Rivers McCown: Chris Johnson has 19 carries for 21 yards on the season. This is primarily because I keep drafting him in the first round in fantasy football, I've decided.
Vince Verhei: Through the first 70 minutes of the Jets' season, Mark Sanchez is the league's most improved player. Just led the Jets on a long touchdown drive, almost all through the air, capping it off with a touchdown to Santonio Holmes. Sanchez opens up 4-of-5 for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Andy Benoit: Jeff Cumblerland had a bad failure to recognize the Steelers’ heavy pressure pre-snap look. He blew a third-and-5 because he didn’t recognize that he had to treat his route as a hot.
Aaron Schatz: On one hand, I know I wrote a couple years ago about how the Ravens' defense doesn't really have any pattern of playing worse when Ed Reed is injured, but the Steelers definitely have a pattern of playing worse when Troy Polamalu is injured.
On the other hand, doesn't it seem like Sanchez has thrown three or four passes where his receiver still had his back turned to the quarterback? There are some serious miscommunication problems going on, or everybody is reading the defense differently, or something.
Vince Verhei: Sanchez went into halftime 4-of-10, but yes, he's been better than that. There have been a couple of miscommunications, a couple of times he's gone after one-on-one coverage on deep balls in the end zone where his receivers have lost the battle. I think he had one throw that just missed a wide-open receiver.
Mike Wallace just hit his first home run of the season. On third-and-long, he gets one-on-one coverage with Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie goes to the back of the end zone, but Wallace stops and goes straight up, taking the ball at its highest point for the score. Steelers up 20-10.
Aaron Schatz: That throw was a bit of a duck, too. Really good play by Wallace.
Andy Benoit: What's interesting about Roethlisberger avoiding the Jets' clean rushers is he's eluding them by stepping up in the pocket, not laterally. That's smart, fearless quarterbacking.
Danny Tuccitto: Wallace: Aggressive. Cromartie: Passive. I think that sums up the Steelers' latest touchdown. Looked like Cromartie thought emphatic incomplete pass signaling would suffice in lieu of actual defense.
Vince Verhei: Jets open their first drive of the second half in the Tebowcat. First two plays produce two first downs, but the third is stopped for a loss. Sanchez comes in with 16 yards to go for a first down, throws a pair of incompletions, and the Jets punt.
Aaron Schatz: This seems like the kind of game that must drive Jets fans absolutely bonkers. The defense has played well except for a couple of big lapses, primarily the Wallace touchdown. They've shut down the run completely. Offense and special teams have just done some stupid little things, like muffed punts and passes with miscommunication and a running back getting stuffed for a big loss when Tebow made the wrong zone read on a Tebowcat play.
Andy Benoit: I'd even argue that the Jets defensive lapses weren't lapses so much as great Steelers plays. They've had blitzers get in clean, the designs have
worked. Ben Roethlisberger has just been Ben Roethlisberger a few times.
Aaron Schatz: Right, and Wallace has been Wallace, or at least was impressive on that touchdown catch.
Vince Verhei: The Steelers force a punt when Sanchez hangs in the pocket on third down, staring down a receiver, and finally throws to a well-covered guy well short of the sticks. Definitely seeing more of the old Sanchez here in the second half, and he's going to finish with some butt-ugly numbers, but I'd still say the biggest problem today has been an inability for receivers to get open. Holmes may as well be wearing a black jersey, he's covered so tightly.
Aaron Schatz: With 6:30 left in the game, Steelers running backs are at 20 carries for 35 yards.
Mike Kurtz: The Steelers backs are having all sorts of issues running because they keep looking for a second cut. None of them are fast enough for this. In fact, almost every defender is faster than Isaac Redman. It's been disastrous. Of course, considering the blocking they're getting and the skill of the Jets' defensive line, I'm not sure what else they could do.
The big difference I saw between the Steelers' defense in the first half to the second half has been the quality of man coverage by the Pittsburgh defensive backs. Almost every throw by Sanchez in the second half had a defensive back arrive right when the ball gets there, usually with their arms in position to bat the ball away. Just good textbook coverage, both in positioning and tackling.
Rivers McCown: Turns out they're going to play a football game after that handshake. Well, I guess I can watch that too.
Danny Tuccitto: Well, that was fast. Not sure what John Wendling was doing on the Vernon Davis touchdown. Obviously I need to see the tape, but it looked like he just let Davis run right by him for whatever reason.
Aaron Schatz: In case we didn't learn from the Giants-Patriots game in Week 9 of last year: A great special teams player is not necessarily a good defensive player.
Danny Tuccitto: Return of the wham play! And it works again? Odd that the formation basically telegraphed it, Detroit's film study this week had to have focused on stopping it, and yet they still get burned.
Rivers McCown: Maybe this is a bit of a generalization, but my mental impression is that it seems like San Francisco is a lot more successful against these spread teams than other "good" defenses. Is this all about the skill of the middle linebackers, or is there something else to it? They obviously have four very solid starting defensive backs, and Chris Culliver, but they don't have anyone I'd think of as a star back there.
Tom Gower: Remember the old Bill Walsh quote about offense being about scheme and defense talent? So much of offense is built around finding and destroying the defensive weak point (see John Wendling, throw ball). The Falcons-Chiefs game really drove this home to me last week, as Matt Ryan destroyed Jacques Reeves almost as badly as the Peyton Manning destroyed Roc Alexander in that playoff game a few years ago. Meanwhile, Tony Gonzalez had a pretty quiet game because Eric Berry was healthy. What happened to the Chiefs this week, I'm not sure. The 49ers don't really have that weak point in the same way, and they're able to concentrate on taking away what the Lions like to do because they don't have to worry about covering up a weakness somewhere else in the same way as other teams.
Danny Tuccitto: San Francisco's opening drive of the second half results in a field goal to go up 17-6 despite Leonard Davis getting repeatedly abused by Ndamukong Suh. Not sure why he was in the game in a situation without six offensive linemen (at least I don't remember them using six), but the drop-off from Alex Boone was glaring.
Aaron Schatz: I've always argued that Matthew Stafford has accuracy issues that hold him back from true greatness, but man, they aren't usually as bad as they are tonight.
Peter Koski: Aldon Smith has held his own on the runs that Detroit has targeted him with thus far. I don't know how much the Lions offensive line reveals Smith's actual development, but at least he's been in the proper spots.
334 comments, Last at 19 Sep 2012, 1:24pm by tuluse