A Super Bowl berth could be decided by the Patriots' ability to contain Le'Veon Bell -- and by Pittsburgh's ability to avoid their usual defensive breakdowns against New England.
07 Oct 2013
compiled by Rivers McCown and Ben Jones
This year, we have a new format for our Monday morning feature Audibles at the Line, combining our Twitter feeds with our e-mail discussion. First, we're replacing our usual back-and-forth with some longer-form dissection of each game that at least one of us watches in depth. Second, every game that we find time for will also have a selection of tweets from us and a few reader tweets we found particularly insightful. To follow these tweets live on Sunday, or to contribute your own thoughts or a question for the FO staff, you can use hashtag #foaud. We discussed the new format in this post.
On Monday, we will compile a digest of tweets and e-mails to produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed, not entirely grammatically correct, and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
Audibles is still being written from our point of view, meaning 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. Audibles is often written from a fan perspective as much as an analyst perspective; in order to properly accuse FO writers of bias, please check our FAQ.
@GFarri1: Pierre Thomas seems to always contort his body to get that 15% more than Ingram on the same run.
@GFarri1: Thru 3 drives, Bears O hasn't had a play that worked as they designed. All successful plays just Cutler making something happen.
@GFarri1: 3rd time Bears have run a screen on 3rd&14+ against a 3 man rush. All ended in 4th and 5. Far too conservative playcalls.
Mike Ridley: Tillman with yet another forced fumble. He's a sniper with that right hand.
@AMSportsLive1: Bears have looked anemic the last two weeks. CIN/MIN/PIT made them look better than they are. DET/NO made them look worse.
Robert Weintraub: Jay Gruden doesn't cover his mouth when he calls plays. Explains a lot, actually.
Aaron Schatz: Kenbrell Thompkins' Madden ratings should read "regular catch: 40, spectacular catch: 99"
Aaron Schatz: This 3-0 CIN score is a great demonstration of how the Pats defense is much improved and their offense is a freakin' mess.
Robert Weintraub: One positive note from NE-CIN -- those who say tackling is a lost art in the NFL need to watch this game tape.
JJ Cooper: Smart decision by Marvin Lewis to go for it on 4th and goal in 4Q against Pats. Works out with a TD.
Ben Muth: If Gronk's absence leads to more Nate Solder targets I'm all for it.
Robert Weintraub: PS--Bill Belichick just kicked the FG on 4th and goal from the 1.
@WhispersMoCo: Really interested on the numbers about whether the Pats should have gone for TD there. They need a TD. If not now, then when?
Aaron Schatz: I disagree with Belichick decision to punt. No matter where field position was, a Bengals first down ends game.
Robert Weintraub: Give Kevin Huber a plus for that big time punt in the pouring rain when Cincy needed it.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots, enough with the one-yard passes. There's less than a minute left. KNOCK IT OFF.
Ben Muth: The rain in this Cin-NE game reminds me of The Last Boy Scout except Julian Edelman probably isn't packing.
Robert Weintraub: OK that game took 15 years off my life. I need Gio, Crocker et al to explain to my kids why Im not around for their adulthood.
Aaron Schatz: Now, let's be clear: Tom Brady's accuracy is off this year. He seems to overthrow guys more often than in the pass, and there are some bad underthrows too. The Patriots did have a couple of outright drops by their receivers, not just the young guys but also Danny Amendola. For the Bengals, Andy Dalton made a couple of really bad decisions, including the pass where he threw it directly to Brandon Spikes in the red zone.
That aside: Wow, what a great game by both of these defenses, especially considering that the Patriots were doing it without Vince Wilfork (and later on, without Tommy Kelly) while the Bengals were missing Leon Hall. The Bengals defensive line was just vicious today. There were plays where guys just knifed in before the Patriots blocker could even get to them. They were stuffing runs up the middle easily. The Bengals cornerbacks were incredible; a lot of the plays that were called drops by the announcers were really passes defensed. There were passes that the receivers probably should have caught, but still, what made those passes incomplete was usually contact by the Bengals defenders, not an outright drop by an open receiver. For the Patriots, it's remarkable that they nearly stoned the Bengals at the goal line late in the game despite playing without Wilfork and with Kelly hurting. Their cornerbacks played well too; Aqib Talib held A.J. Green to five catches for 61 yards, not a complete shutdown but still pretty damn good against the guy I think is the second-best wide receiver in the whole NFL right now. And Spikes was insane stuffing runs up the middle, not to mention that pick I noted before.
I could probably do this week's FO Madden cards as Spikes, Andre Smith, and three Bengals defensive players, and it would make total sense. What I can't figure out is how the Bengals were only 16th in defensive DVOA *before* this game.
J.J. Cooper: This was such a bizarre game for my normal expectations of what the Patriots will do. New England's defense kept giving the Patriots one more chance to tie the game while the Patriots offense failed to take advantage of those multiple opportunities. Like Aaron said, Brady looked bad at times. Actually, at times he looked awful. Brady had a miscommunication or two with receivers where balls landed 10 yards away from anyone -- but he also had some throws where he just missed receivers badly.
For the Bengals, it was just enough offense, but the defense deserves plenty of praise. When Cincinnati's offense couldn't close out the game repeatedly in the fourth quarter, the defense kept coming up with stop after stop. Giovani Bernard fumbled to give the Patriots the ball with 3:34 left, so the defense forced a three-and-out. The Bengals couldn't get the one first down they needed to ice the game, so the Bengals defense responded by holding Brady to 1-for-6 for 6 yards with a game-ending interception on the Pats final drive. The series would have been over earlier, but the Bengals were flagged for offsides on fourth-and-5 and then gave up another 15 yards on a roughing the passer penalty.
Rob Weintraub: Considering the Bengals were playing without their two best defensive players (Hall and Michael Johnson), and New England without its (Vince), this was a damn good defensive performance by both teams. The tackling superb, the gap discipline mostly excellent, consistent pass rush on both sides (edge Cincy, but NE got some good middle rushes going all game, through blitzing as well as some twist action), and outstanding coverage. The monsoon helped the Bengals at the end, of course, but they earned the win with strong play long before that. Mike Zimmer got the game ball, and deservedly so. Let's remember the Bengals corners for this one were Terence Newman, age 75, the artist formerly known as Pacman, and at third corner, a good deal of the time it was Chris Crocker -- a safety brought back once more before last week's game. That's the group that shut down Tom Terrific, who may not be 2007 Brady but looked just fine against Atlanta a week ago. Zim had them in the right spots all day, and the front seven was relentless, which helped.
I don't know much about Patrick Graham, the Pats' d-line coach, but either he or Belichick, or more likely both, deserve credit -- they coached up the replacement DTs, including vet Tommy Kelly and some no-name young'uns, and they quite adequately replaced Wilfork. They were helped by Spikes (as Aaron mentioned) and Jerod Mayo, who were all over the field. Obvious run situations were thrown back repeatedly, and of course Cincy helped them out by being very conservative in important spots. The disaster at the end of the first half in Chicago opening day still haunts Jay Gruden -- he is coaching the end of the half so as not to give up points after an inevitable punt, not to score himself.
Where the Bengals had success it was where the Pats are vulnerable -- the tight ends had nine catches between them, and both backs found room on stretch plays. On a first watch I'd call out Steve Gregory and Dont'a Hightower as weak links in pass defense. This is all relative, of course -- this may have been the best defensive game played this season. In that context, Dalton had a decent game, though all anyone will recall is the red zone pick (the first of his career), which was an awful decision. Otherwise, he spread the ball around, offset some sacks with a few good runs (including a read-option keeper early that loosened up the run D just a smdge), and threw a tremendous pass to Marvin Jones on third-and-15 out of his own end zone to key the drive that resulted in the game's long touchdown. After last week, I'll take it (and by transitive property, obviously the Patriots were idiots to be starting Brady over Hoyer all these years).
And give a shout out to both punters -- Kevin Huber uncorked a 57-yard monster out of the Bengals end zone just before the Pats last drive, and Ryan Allen pinned the Bengals deep all game (five times inside the ten).
Aaron Schatz: Well, let's be clear: Geno Atkins is Cincinnati's best defensive player, and he was playing, and he was good.
Cian Fahey: He's second-best to Hall! But I'm a cornerback advocate, so...
Scott Kacsmar: Didn't see the early sacks, but were they of the interior pressure variety that Brady so famously struggles with compared to outside rush? What surprised me on the last drive was how many passes Brady was throwing that were bad decisions that would have burned a lot of clock. It's as if he was managing a three-point deficit instead of seven. It was actually good that some of those passes were dropped.
Aaron Schatz: No, the two early sacks were:
1) Atkins knifed in on run action. Ben Muth can tell me if I'm describing this right, but it looked like everyone on the Patriots line was run-blocking right, and Atkins got in so fast that Nate Solder couldn't get over to the right fast enough to actually stop him. Brady went down right after the play-fake. Not really an issue of Brady not being able to take up the middle pressure, he never even saw it because he was trying to just play fake.
2) Wallace Gilberry coming from the right end position. I'm not sure what happened here, because Solder started by helping Logan Mankins on the defensive tackle and then tried to move over to get Gilberry, but by that point Gilberry wasn't going to be stopped. Weird line call, I think.
Rob Weintraub: Not counting prior performance -- through the first four games, MJ has been the best Bengals defensive lineman by far. Geno has been on the milk carton for a couple of games.
Matt Waldman: I think a lot of people are just coming to the realization that much of the offense's poor points this year have been due to inaccurate passes from Brady. The drops were so glaring that its easy for folks to look at some of the inaccurate throws and claim poor or incorrect routes by the receivers. This has often been the case, but since Week 1 Brady has demonstrated lackluster ball placement on routes that were clearly no one's fault but the Patriots' quarterback.
Although Brady will begin to earn more of the scrutiny now that some of the more egregious drops have decreased, I'm still of the mindset that this offense will continue to improve as the season progresses. The fact that Brady doesn't have a familiar and trusted receiver from seasons past in the lineup has to contribute to some level of hesitation on his part. Even the faintest delay of execution will contribute to the kinds of inaccuracies I've seen for five weeks now.
I also thought the Patriots overreacted with the LeGarrette Blount fumble when they pulled him from the game until the fourth quarter. Blount was running well in the first quarter and I think they hurt themselves while making a point to the running back. As I've mentioned often, Adrian Peterson fumbled the ball 20 times during his first three seasons in the NFL. Darren Sproles had 13 fumbles during his first five season. Eric Dickerson fumbled 39 times during his first 3 seasons! The following three seasons he decreased that total to a mere 22 -- he was fumbling nearly once a week during his first 5 seasons.
Blount is no Peterson or Dickerson, but he was placing the Patriots in good down-and-distance situations before Carlos Dunlap's excellent chop on a longer run. Difference makers tread the line between risk and recklessness and the factor behind both qualities is high effort. Does Tom Brady get benched for throwing an interception? Blount was doing more to pace this offense than Brady early, but whomever made the decision to bench Blount for much of the contest didn't recognize it - or care to acknowledge it.
Vincent Verhei: Just saw a taunting penalty on a touchback in Indy. That's a new one.
Vincent Verhei: On Colts TD on blocked field goal, punter Jon Ryan actually ran the dude down from behind, but then missed the tackle.
Ben Muth: Seattle leads the league in guys that I've never heard that look really good. Nice TD catch on a jump ball by somebody named Kearse
Peter Koski: Luck with a beautiful spin away from pressure and then immediately sets his feet to make a great first down pass. QB treat w/ SEA-IND
Vincent Verhei: Seahawks go for it on fourth-and-9 instead of long FG at end of half. It results in a fumble and near-TD. But still.
Vincent Verhei: Seahawks keep getting field goals. That is a bad way to protect a lead
@TerrapinPrime: Did you see lynch palm that ball? Marshawn Jordan in the building
Vincent Verhei: Seahawks bit so hard on the fake screen that two "blockers" were wide-open.
Aaron Schatz: Colts are for real, man. Thought regression of fortune would cancel out offensive improvement. Did not foresee defensive improvement.
Rivers McCown: Well, that was a fun two years of not having to worry about the Colts in the AFC South. That's over.
@CyrisJonfs: Is Andrew Luck Fezzik?
Vince Verhei: At halftime, I noted on Twitter that the Seahawks were killing the Colts except for two big plays (a 75-yard T.Y. Hilton touchdown and a blocked field goal that was returned for a score). I heard from some angry Colts fans who interpreted this as a slam on their team, which was not my intent. I meant two things: 1) If the second half played out like the first, then Seattle was likely to win, and 2) The Seahawks had played their best half of football maybe all year and were only ahead by two points.
As it turned out, the second half played out nothing like the first. The Seahawks moved the ball but couldn't get any touchdowns. Russell Wilson overthrew a wide-open Golden Tate for what should have been a touchdown, and was tackled in the open field short of a first down by Jerrell Freeman on an option keeper on a key third-and-2. Things on defense were worse, as the Seahawks were repeatedly caught with too many or too few men on the field (yes, they made both mistakes), doubling one receiver and leaving others open, and burning timeouts -- their last one was called with nearly nine minutes left in the game. And when they did play well, Andrew Luck would just make a great throw anyway. He's just really really good, and he can throw well on the run and hit well-covered receivers and all those things that really really good quarterbacks do. But mostly it's frustrating because Seattle should have been ahead by two touchdowns at halftime, not two points.
@laufy84: Tannehill stares down the receiver, easy interception
@WhispersMoCo: Flacco missed last week's memos about throwing pick sixes while protecting lead late in game.
JJ Cooper: Outstanding athletic play by Ryan Tannehill who rolls out to his left to avoid pressure turns and throws a 45-yard strike
@Phildo449er: can someone tell brian billick that you are not required to punt on 4th down.
Andrew Potter: This Giants O is utterly horrific. Run game is worse than the Jaguars. If you can't even succeed against Eagles, time to give up.
Vincent Verhei: Oh, Eli.
Scott Kacsmar: Blaine Gabbert INT. I haven't laughed that hard at an INT since Schaub against the Raiders a few years ago.
Andrew Potter: Luke Joeckel goes down for the Jaguars. Next play, pick-six. I don't even know who Gabbert was aiming for. Horrendous.
Andrew Potter: Jaguars are now tied with Matt Schaub for most pick-sixes this season.
Andrew Potter: Jaguars have the lead for the second time today!
@MilkmanDanimal: Haven't had a bad enough week as a Bucs fan, so watching Jaguars-Rams just to punish myself further.
Andrew Potter: @MilkmanDanimal Must be some small comfort to know that you don't even need to leave Florida for things to be worse.
Andrew Potter: Gabbert to Jeremy Ebert is not a winning red zone combination. Okay, Gabbert to anybody in any location is not a winning combination.
Andrew Potter: Blaine Gabbert now done with a left hamstring injury. Bad news for STL. Henne comes in and throws a 39-yard strike to Blackmon.
Andrew Potter: Update on Luke Joeckel: high ankle fracture means he's done for the year. How's that Monroe trade looking now?
Aaron Schatz: Luke Joeckel done for the season. Teddy Bridgewater, teal courtesy phone. Teddy Bridgewater, please answer the teal courtesy phone
@snakerjaker: @FO_ASchatz don't you mean the gray and yellow Gradient courtesy phone?
Tom Gower: Titans can't run the ball and their receivers can't get open. Makes it hard to run an offense. Fans around me blaming Fitz. Whatever.
Aaron Schatz: It's five games and I can't believe Donnie Avery isn't broken yet ... or did he just break?
Aaron Schatz: Oh, man. Can we please not take KC's about-to-be 99-yard drive as proof teams should always kick a FG on the 1 yard line?
Andrew Potter: @FO_ASchatz Is a more reasonable argument that if you can't get TD in three plays on 1-goal from the 1, probably won't get it on 4th?
@AMSportsLive1: Titans last week vs Titans this week just goes to show how much of a difference Jake Locker made. And how much the Jets suck.
Tom Gower: I don't know what to say about this game. The Titans no-turnover streak came to an end early on the sort of unlucky bounce they hadn't had the first four games. The last 27 or so minutes of the first half saw less scoring. KC moved the ball kind of okay at times, but lacked general explosiveness. Tennessee couldn't run the ball: a mix of Dontari Poe wrecking the middle of the offensive line and a continuing general mediocrity in the run game, They couldn't throw the ball, as Ryan Fitzpatrick's timing was off and the receivers couldn't win or make contested catches. The one brief sign of life predictably shuttered out when they ran up the middle on fourth-and-goal.
Things changed some in the second half. The Titans first drive was keyed by a couple of seemingly random plays. The first, a harbinger of more to come, was a good Fitz scramble, the other an opportunistic CJ dumpoff that turned into a long touchdown. A second touchdown, on a Fitz scramble after a penalty-aided drive that started in KC territory, gave them an improbable 14-13 lead I certainly did not expect to see.
Eventually, though, the defense was asked to make too many stands. The penalty gods continued a KC drive that ended with a score that gave them the late lead. A couple Fitz interceptions, one on a contested play and the other a missed seam route, helped create the final margin of victory.
@Daniels_Ryan: Fourth and three to go from the five yard line, early in the game. Ron Rivera sends out the kicker, to no one's surprise...
@Daniels_Ryan: Cardinals getting great pressure on Cam Newton with inside blitzes. Two sacks on the same drive push Carolina out of FG range.
@Daniels_Ryan: Panthers bring their own inside blitz on the very next series, and bring down Carson Palmer.
Aaron Schatz: Ron Rivera finally takes a risk, goes for it on fourth and 1, Cam Newton makes perfect pass, and Lafell drops it. Aaarrgghhh
Aaron Schatz: Is the Arizona OL really controlling the CAR DL right now? Really? My god, they are.
Ben Muth: Panthers LG sliding out way too quickly on Campbell's safety. No threat out there, have to hang in and help your center.
Andrew Potter: That Newton interception to Daryl Washington was a terrible throw, but a great catch by Washington.
@PigskinLover: Can we start tracking "carry by Mendenhall" as a QB kneel? I'd hate to penalize the Cardinals.
Tom Gower: Ron Rivera and Mike Shula have to be walking dead at this point unless they get Wayne Fontes'd, right?
Aaron Schatz: Carolina's performance in the second half of this game made me want to take the preseason projection system behind the barn and shoot it in the face. The game was pretty close in the first half. The Panthers offense was struggling but the defense looked good. But the defensive line really slowed down in the second half. It was amazing to watch the Cardinals -- THE CARDINALS (!?!?!) -- push them back on run play after run play. It helps that Andre Ellington is very shifty. He should really be Arizona's starter right now.
If you look at the numbers, the game should have been closer. The Panthers actually averaged more yards per play and had only one more turnover than the Cardinals did. But the Panthers couldn't score a touchdown in the red zone -- in fact, they never had a goal-to-go opportunity all game -- and they committed too many penalties. Another hidden stat: The Panthers intercepted Carson Palmer three times for 30 yards of returns. The Cardinals intercepted Cam Newton three times for 87 yards of returns.
The Panthers offensive line really had trouble protecting Newton, who was sacked seven times. The pressure definitely contributed to the three picks as well. Early in the game, it looked like Mike Shula finally opened the offense a bit to give Newton a chance to use his legs -- a couple read options, and bootlegs with a run/pass option -- but those plays seemed to be gone in the second half. Sigh.
Scott Kacsmar: Surprised Peyton didn't get a quick play off to avoid the challenge. Maybe no one on the field realized his knee was down.
Scott Kacsmar: Cowboys on pace for 48 first downs...in regulation.
@pchicola: Love the Cowboys gameplan. Attack the seams vs the OLB's and the deep middle vs the safeties.
Scott Kacsmar: Manning's neck is fine of course. That's adamantium he had put in during surgery.
Scott Kacsmar: Peyton w/19 TDs in not even 4.5 games. John Elway had 19 (1986), 19 (1987) and 18 (1989) in his first 3 SB seasons.
@hscer: With that TD and still no picks, Manning does what Brady couldn't: go 19-0.
Tom Gower: Nice play by Clark on that Moreno run, getting a hand out to slow Lee just enough while maintaining his block
@Foosball_Wizard: Peyton Manning delivered the ball to the endzone on that bootleg a little slower than Papa John's delivers pizza.
Andrew Potter: What has happened to Knowshon Moreno the past year? Massively improved player. Can't be purely Manning Effect, can it?
Andrew Potter: Romo's been superb in this game, but Manning's been so good that it hardly even matters.
@bwe2684: Any reason why Dallas doesn't onside kick after every score?
Andrew Potter: Why do announcers need a book to tell them that down 5 to the Broncos at the end of Q3, you go for 2? Surely that's just arithmetic?
@TerrapinPrime: The game defense forgot
Aaron Schatz: Denver defense was overrated before this week, 19th in DVOA. Will be worse after this game. Offense: Still awesome.
Tom Gower: NFL record for points in a game is 113. We're at 89, which means holy smokes, how did that game happen?
Andrew Potter: @ThomasGower NYG@WAS, 1966. Washington had 4 rushing TDs, 3 passing, a fumble return, and an interception return TD.
@MilkmanDanimal: Romo has 500+ yards and 5 TDs, and if Dallas loses it'll be because "he plays badly in close games" or some other idiocy.
@MilkmanDanimal: Please, somebody lock Skip Bayless in a box before he gets a chance to start talking about Romo.
Rivers McCown: Tony Romo is bad at foogball now. Where is my check for analysis
Aaron Schatz: Moreno getting the first down and not the touchdown was probably the best possible outcome for the Broncos there with 1:35 left.
Mike Ridley: I can't recall an NFL game that showed such an utter disregard for defense. It was more reminiscent of an NBA All-Star game than an NFL contest.
Dallas did a great job in exploiting the flaws everybody predicted would plague the Denver defense without Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, or Champ Bailey. Terrance Williams was fantastic, Dez Bryant was Dez Bryant and even Cole Beasley had meaningful contributions. As a Cowboys fan, I can't remember that many yards after the catch for a Dallas receiving corps.
Of course, the story of the game is Romo's late interception. While the interception did seal the game, it shouldn't take away from how sharp Romo was up to that point. This was by far his best performance of the season, interception included. He was accurate on his deep balls, hit his receivers in stride on timing routes, and did a nice job identifying mismatches in the secondary. The fact that he led them back from 15 down to eventually take a seven-point lead is something that the Cowboys should hang their hat on going forward, as previous Cowboys teams would've likely folded.
On the Denver side of things, there isn't much to say that hasn't been/won't be said later. This team is the definition of an offensive juggernaut. Even with Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker being "limited" to a combined 106 yards, Manning got large contributions from Julius Thomas, Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno. There are just too many weapons for Manning to use for a defense to stop. Holding this team to a field goal should be seen as a quality stop.
Tom Gower: I'll have to rewatch this game and break it down to see just how much of what Dallas did was the result of major flaws in Denver's defense and how much the predictable result of a defense missing a number of key players and some occasional lapses that can be fixed with better technique and concentration (I noted Webster's on Twitter, and DR-C had one on a big Dez play).
I'd say the same about the Dallas D, except I'm already disposed to believe the Broncos really are that good on offense.
Aaron Schatz: OK, now, that's ridiculous. Matt Schaub, four pick-sixes in four straight games. Trumaine Brock sat right on that pass.
@WhispersMoCo: Schaub's one chance for immortality: if we start calling the Pick Six the Schaub.
Rivers McCown: Texans should of just run the Single Wing with J.J. Watt.
Rivers McCown: DID YOU KNOW: All Houston receivers have changed their last name to "short of the first" in a show of solidarity.
Andrew Potter: This is genuinely painful to watch. If the DB had caught that INT cleanly, that would have been pick-six no. 5 of Schaub's season.
Aaron Schatz: I'm thinking the Texans may be using their mid-first round pick on a quarterback next year.
Vincent Verhei: Remember when people said the Falcons should have kept Schaub and traded Vick? Criminal activity aside, it seems silly now.
@itnw0628: After this week, I expect Colts to have highest odds of winning the division in AFC.
Aaron Schatz: This is painful. I'm feeling serious empathy for Houston fans. It's like the entire offense disintegrated since halftime of last week
Rivers McCown: Why yes NBC, I do need something else ... to get me through this ... semi-Schaubbed kinda life.
Aaron Schatz: Three different readers have tweeted me to tell me Schaub has turned into late-career Jake Delhomme.
Rivers McCown: Seriously though guys ... J.J. Watt single wing. Think about it? I'll draw the plays up and everything.
Mike Ridley: I never thought I'd see the day Tony Romo wasn't the least liked QB in Texas.
Rivers McCown: I don't like football anymore.
Tom Gower: More seriously, though, an early pick-six is about the worst possible start for a team that benefits so much from being on schedule and getting the most they can out of a (generally very, very good) plan. Alas, we may have gotten to the point where everyone knows the plan, and the individual parts aren't working well enough to permit it to work anyway.
Tim Gerheim: At what point does the injury risk in a game exceed the value of the "practice"? Arian Foster doesn't need to keep getting clobbered, and J.J. Watt doesn't need to risk injury on defense. Why not just take a knee and punt, then put 11 guys by the sidelines to show the 49ers your intentions? Frank Gore can just walk around the field for seven minutes and everyone can go home healthy. Once you're not winning the game, does it matter anymore if you keep trying? As I write this it's all backups anyway.
Matt Waldman: Frank Gore is a perfect example why speed is overrated. Defenders hate facing him because of his patience, balance, and strength. I've mentioned this often, but Larry Coker, the former UM head coach who recruited Gore -- and also was the running back coach who recruited the likes of Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas -- said Gore was the best high school back he ever saw. Before Gore suffered two knee injuries at UM he was one of the most impressive running backs I've seen in terms of vision, quickness, agility, and speed. Considering that Gore is arguably one of the three best 49ers runners of all-time and is this good with pedestrian NFL speed, think of what he could have been if he never got hurt.
Imagine if Robert Griffin never recovers his blinding long speed but develops into a quality pocket passer within shouting distance of the likes of Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers. We'll invariably lament what Griffin could have been. This is how I'd characterize Gore's lost speed between his early days at UM and his entry to the NFL.
Danny Tuccitto: I have approximately zero scouting acumen, but I whole-heartedly second Matt's motion about Frank Gore -- especially with respect to his vision. It's been countless times through his career where I've seen Gore become Houdini, and make an anticipatory cut in the open field, not to make an immediate tackler miss, but to make a secondary tackler's pursuit angle laughable. For instance, here's a disappearing act he dropped on Rams safety Rodney McLeod in a run last Thursday night (at age 30, no less):
But what's always fascinated me about his NFL career has been that it lays bare how much of a sham the Wonderlic is. If that test was worth anything, you would never see a guy who scores 6 out of 50 have such a grasp of what "running smartly" means, and you also wouldn't see a guy who learned so quickly to transition from a speedy wunderkind at Gables High/early-UM to the "savvy" runner he's been in the NFL.
Matt Waldman: Plus Danny, there are a lot of "book smart" guys out there who wouldn't have the stones or the heart like Gore did as a rookie to yell at his veteran teammates in the locker room after a loss when they were cutting up and celebrating what they were going to do after work. I'll take passion, commitment, and football skill over a standardized test score, thank you very much.
Danny Tuccitto: At a time like this, my thoughts are with Rivers. It must have been a dark, dark place he went to tonight.
Rivers McCown: Can't sleep, Schaub'll pick-six me. Can't sleep, Schaub'll pick-six me.
Scott Kacsmar: This game is already better than the last one. Like, these 117 seconds > whole 60 minutes of HOU/SF
Andrew Potter: First series for SD, Rivers throws a deep ball to a wide open defensive back. Overthrew Eddie Royal by about ten yards on third down
@PTMovieGuy: Raiders having success this drive, mixing up read-options, pistols, TE wing-flex/full house. Pryor pretty accurate
Aaron Schatz: Richard Marshall just had what you might call an "inadvertant flop." He slipped on the grass, rather than falling on purpose but insisted he was pushed. Looked like pretty light contact from Denarius Moore, who gets the TD
@pchicola: In era of zone blocking, love watching power running teams (SF, OAK). A decade ago, in era of power blocking, watching DEN was sweet
Rivers McCown: Pryor may not have NFL-level pocket passing skills, but he has Russell Wilson-level escapability.
@PTMovieGuy: How's this for ST/fumble luck? OAK blocks FG, but ball bounces to SD TE, who runs for 1st down
Andrew Potter: Well this game sure puts a dent in Rivers' potential MVNP (most valuable non-Peyton) season.
Matt Waldman: This has probably been discussed earlier this year, but I have been so impressed with Terrelle Pryor's development. The fact that he has corrected a lot of the flaws with his footwork and release while bluntly telling the media that he didn't know how to throw the football when he arrived in the NFL is a stark contrast to the likes of Tim Tebow, who in hindsight could have borrowed a page from Pryor's book of "keep your head down, your mouth shut, and the cameras away" while grinding away at his craft. I thought the Raiders had beer goggles for Pryor when they drafted him (mistaking him for a future Steve McNair). But if we consider 2013 his rookie year, I would have pegged him as a top-20 overall pick.
His placement, movement in the pocket, and basic skill reading defenses is night and day better than what I saw from him at Ohio State. While I often said Pryor had game-changing talent, there are so many players who fail to work as hard or as smart as Pryor has. It's this work that has made me a fan -- especially as a part of an organization that has been in flux for so long.
Tonight's performances from Keenan Allen and Vincent Brown were indicative of the players I've studied at Cal and San Diego State, respectively. Allen in particular finally looks healthy and demonstrated why he's one of the best all-around receivers of this rookie class.
311 comments, Last at 09 Oct 2013, 1:26pm by bubqr