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?
26 Sep 2011
compiled by Rivers McCown
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.
Aaron Schatz: On New England's first drive, the Bills present a clinic on "how not to cover Wes Welker." Four catches on the first drive. The touchdown pass really stood out to me. The Patriots have Welker tight left, with Rob Gronkowski in a tight end position, and then two receivers right. The Bills have Drayton Florence covering Welker, but he starts six yards off the line of scrimmage. That's going to make it difficult to cover Welker on those drag routes of his. So Welker releases and takes two steps in to the right. Florence probably thinks Welker is going across the field, so he breaks into the middle to try to get to Welker so he can cover that. Welker, after two steps, switches, goes left and deep. Florence tries to reverse, falls down, and Welker saunters into the end zone untouched.
By the way, the Bills were mostly playing a 4-3 on that first drive, not a 3-4. Yet another variable defense, although I'm not sure what I think about a formation that has you using Shawne Merriman as a normal linebacker rather than a pass rusher.
Ben, if you want to see two offensive lines who are totally kicking a defense's ass, make sure to turn your head towards the TV showing Buffalo-New England every so often.
Chan Gailey just won this week's Colbert Award for going for it on fourth-and-14 from the New England 35. They must feel that since they can't really stop Tom Brady, field goals are pretty much useless. They had a third-and-4 on the 25 but Eric Wood got flagged 15 yards for a chop block.
Ben Muth: The Bills need to do something to get to Tom Brady. They aren't getting any pressure with their down linemen and Brady is shredding them. At least with blitzes, you have a chance of making a big play.
Aaron Schatz: Bills making another dramatic comeback. Leodis McKelvin picks off Brady by undercutting Chad Ochocinco on a route. A lazy cut by Ochocinco. Bills come down field, Fred Jackson slashes them, and then nobody covers Scott Chandler in the end zone.
The Patriots spent a second-round pick and a third-round pick on running backs to go with the two they already had, and who do they have lining up at running back today? Julian freakin' Edelman.
Let the record state that at 14:18 of the fourth quarter, 3:32 p.m. EDT, the New England Patriots finally got pass pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Egads. Fitzpatrick throws ridiculous interception, chucking ball up for grabs when he has nobody open -- and gets lucky when Sergio Brown of the Pats interferes with David Nelson. That gives Bills the ball at the 1, and they punch it in. Game now tied 24-24.
Vince Verhei: Hell of an effort by Brady to bring down Florence on the go-ahead pick-six.
Brady has thrown as many interceptions today as he did in all of 2010.
Aaron Schatz: Chad Ochocinco was wide open and dropped what would have been the tying touchdown on the next drive. Horrible.
Absolutely stunning result for the Bills-Pats game. Pats defense needs serious work. They need to figure out what was improving at the end of last year, and how on earth they can get that back. Bills defense isn't very good either. Three of their four interceptions came off the tip drill, otherwise they couldn't stop Patriots. Both offenses very powerful, but of course one of those is a surprise.
Actually, the real problem is that Matthews was sucked in utterly by play action. It is almost as if he had not quite learned one position before being moved to a totally different one!
Giants throwing so many different defensive fronts at the Eagles in the first quarter that they have Michael Vick and the offensive line all screwed up. Some times, they bunch three defenders over the center and guards, and the other end is at Wide 9. Other times, Dave Tollefson and Justin Tuck are wide over right tackle. Jason Pierre-Paul is over left tackle, and there is no one up the middle, making the Eagles' inexperienced center and guard stand around while Todd Herremans tries to do all the work.
Vince Verhei: The Eagles give up their second long touchdown, and once again it's clearly a bad play by one individual defender. In this case, Kurt Coleman (a free safety, but I'm sure you knew that) is in position to tackle Victor Cruz for a short gain but, well, doesn't. He chases him downfield and has a chance to tackle him again, but instead knocks down his own teammate, giving Cruz a free path to the end zone. 14-0, Giants.
Mike Tanier: I picked the wrong day to quit popping pills.
Aaron Schatz: I think they definitely miss Quintin Mikell. I'm curious about Stewart Bradley. Curious, Mike, do you think Bradley would be better than what they have now at linebacker? I'm surprised to see he's not even starting in Arizona.
Mike Tanier: The old Bradley would be great. He could be a 2-down guy at middle linebacker in this system. He was very good at interior run defense. I am not really sure what he has lost to injuries though.
Vince Verhei: The Giants' first half in a nutshell: Their two touchdowns totaled 114 yards. Their other 20 offensive plays produced 91 yards and only three first downs.
Mike Tanier:The Eagles somehow got the field goal unit on the field and got a successful field goal off with the clock ticking down from about 10 seconds to zero. The highlight was Brent Celek all but grabbing Vick and throwing him off the field, because Vick appeared to have forgotten it was fourth down and wanted to run a spike-the-ball play.
Eagles football. Always perplexing.
I will not try to explain how Jason Peters wound up recovering a Vick fumble and gaining positive yardage. I have officially given up trying to make any sense of the Eagles. Oh, Owen Schmitt just hurdled a defender. I double-triple give up.
Vince Verhei: For the second time today, the Eagles are stopped at the goal line and kick a field goal. In six goal-to-go plays, they have yet to run what you think would be their best option, the Vick play-action bootleg with a tight end in front of him. Instead, it's things like fullback belly plays for two-yard losses on third-and-goal from the 1. Because when you think about the 2011 Eagles, you think "physical dominance."
Mike Tanier: Vick heading for tunnel. He looked rather shaky on the drive that ended with him failing to score on two quarterback sneaks. Draw your own conclusions about that.
By the way ... it is Vick's right hand that is getting looked at, officially, as Mike Kafka gets ready to take the field.
Vick is back. He got x-rayed during a commercial break. I demand his HMO plan.
Vince Verhei: Eagles go for it on fourth-and-1 just across midfield. Is this the bootleg? No, a straight handoff to McCoy, for a predictable loss.
Mike Tanier: I did not mind the handoff, because it was to Shady, and the Eagles had their receivers on the field to stretch things out a little bit.
Aaron Schatz: Instantly, some Giants writer on Twitter criticizes Reid for going for it on fourth-and-1. How long is it going to take us to teach people about fourth downs? Seriously, you should never, ever punt on fourth-and-1 in opposing territory in the first three quarters of a game. NEVER. The play call may have been bad, but the basic decision is good there.
I mean, the fourth down thing is so damn obvious that people can't stop writing academic papers about it. We decided last night after the NESSIS conference that there are now four research papers nobody in sports statistics is ever allowed to write ever again:
1) I have a better version of the BCS rankings.
2) I have a new adjusted plus-minus for the NBA.
3) I have a linear weights system to create a new NBA player rating.
4) I have proof that NFL coaches need to go for it more often on fourth down.
Vince Verhei: What about "I have a new way to rank quarterbacks?"
Aaron Schatz:. Ooo, that's going on the list too.
Vince Verhei: Kafka on the field for Philadelphia. First pass: interception on a deep pass to Jeremy Maclin on which it appears Aaron Ross was the intended receiver. I was going to ask how Reid could have played Vick for so long if he was still punch-drunk, but, well, there you go.
Mike Tanier: It is long overdue for beer time.
Ben Muth: Jason Jones leads with his head and creams Kyle Orton for a roughing the passer. Orton was slow to get up and a Broncos fan at the bar starts clapping and yelling "Tebow time baby!" Orton stays in, Broncos fan takes big gulp of beer.
Vince Verhei: Do Broncos fans like that even watch the games? Orton has been completely competent with that team, completing 60 percent of his passes with a 2-to-1 TD/INT ratio. This is not a player who desperately needs to benched.
Tom Gower: Orton re-learns the lesson that you shouldn't miss routes over the middle high when there's an over-the-top defender as he just overthrew Eric Decker and Jason McCourty has an easy interception.
The game is tied at seven thus far. Chris Johnson has yet to find much running room but they lined him up outside on a simple "just run downfield" play and he made a nice sideline grab off a good, accurate throw by Matt Hasselbeck on the big play on the Titans' TD drive. Hasselbeck is having another very good game so far, completing 13 of his 14 attempts. He's been a little lucky, completing one duck Brett Favre would've rejected as too risky, but for the most part has been very good. The Titans' latest drive is at an end, as Kenny Britt fumbles and goes down with an injury.
Vince Verhei: Just to throw some water on the Hasselbeck fire: At halftime, yes, he's 16-of-19. But only seven of those completions went for first downs, and the Titans only have 10 points.
Tom Gower: In defense of Hasselbeck, the Titans have no running game. CJ has seven carries for eight yards. Punter Brett Kern has their longest carry of the game and the year, a 21-yarder. His best receiver on the field is Nate Washington. They would likely have more points if Kenny Britt hadn't blown out his knee (speculation) and dropped the ball from the pain while they were in field goal range.
Kyle Orton nickel-and-dimes his way down the field, and the Broncos take a 14-10 lead. That's what I was expecting coming into the game, though with a little more intermediate stuff mixed in. The Titans have done a good job on limiting Brandon Lloyd today. After Von Miller strip-sacks Hasselbeck after the kickoff, the Broncos take the ball down to the 1. John Fox eschews the field goal for a seven-point lead and tries to take the two score lead, but gets stuffed. A run, a completion, and a penalty, and the Titans are out near the 30.
I assume John Fox will take a lot of heat for his decision not to kick the field goal from the 1 in a game the Broncos would lose by three points, or at least he would if Broncos-Titans was a higher-profile game. I thought he made the right call.
The Titans ended up getting the eventual game-winning score next on that drive that started at the 1, but the next drive. The big play on the drive was a 58-yard catch and run by blocking TE Craig Stevens. The TD came on a pass to former Bronco Daniel Graham when he was left open on blown coverage. In between, the Titans picked some on their favorite pigeon, Champ Bailey replacement Cassius Vaughn, who is not particularly excellent. Good news for the game, as Johnson ended up matching Kern's 21 yards rushing.
Aaron Schatz: Tom, is Hasselbeck really playing that well? His numbers are excellent, so much better than a year ago.
Tom Gower: Hasselbeck's doing an excellent job of reading the defense, finding open receivers, and getting the ball out quickly. It's not world-beater stuff, but smart veteran play -- I think an upgraded version of Kerry Collins c. 2008. If Britt is going to be out for any length of time, which it seems like he will be, that'll hurt the offense a ton. The passing offense thus far has been mostly Britt, Washington, dumpoffs to Johnson, and the odd pass to somebody else. If Britt's out, well, that's probably not good news.
Doug Farrar: From what I’ve seen, it’s a lot of single-read stuff pretty quick off the snap, and they generally give him a bailout option underneath or to the side. Protection is also excellent for the most part, and it’s been about half a decade since he’s had that. Britt has also bailed him out a few times.
Rivers McCown: Superior play calling gets the Texans a lead early. They dug their way out of third-and-14 from inside their own 10 on the first drive, and on the second, fullback/tight end hybrid James Casey was left uncovered out of the backfield on a blitz and rumbled down the field 62 yards to set up a field goal.
Mike Tanier: Leave Reggie Bush alone! He has four carries for three yards early in the Dolphins game!
Rivers McCown: After the Sproles touchdown, the Texans march down the field with a pair of huge pass plays and nab a rebuttal field goal. The Saints zone is getting shredded when Houston has field to work with.
At least Reggie Bush has Pizza Hut. And being the object of generic pizza-eating guy's fantasy.
Ben Muth: I have Reggie Bush on a fantasy team. I would take a pizza for him right about now.
Mike Kurtz: Lots of people have Bush on their fantasy team. Nobody listens!
Mike Tanier: Bush is up to five carries for a loss of one, by the way. At this rate, by the fourth quarter he will be traveling backward in time.
Rivers McCown: Or, with Reggie's predilection towards appearing in commercials, perhaps they listen too much!
Vince Verhei: It's a good thing none of us picked Reggie Bush as the player most likely to beat his KUBIAK projection. (Looks down at ground, nervously kicks a rock.)
Rivers McCown: Wouldn't be the first prediction that went totally wrong. I've got the under on Buffalo!
Danny Tuccitto: I just noticed Rackers has four field goals, with his longest being from 36. Care to elaborate on the Texans' red zone difficulties, Rivers?
Rivers McCown:They're really missing Arian Foster. Ben Tate is a good thumping back, but his vision is questionable and he's getting them into a lot of passing situations down there so far. When the Texans actually tried to pass on normal down and distance, it was a gimmick Jacoby Jones play that went for no gain. The exact words Gary Kubiak will use at the end of the game is "we didn't stay on schedule."
By the way: Steve Slaton, NFL running back, is a ship that has sailed at this point.
And now Mario Williams is having his knee looked at.
Wild play in Houston for the go-ahead touchdown. Schaub under pressure, dumps it to Joel Dreessen. Jonathan Casillas in coverage almost intercepts it, it tips off of Dreessen's leg, and lands in Kevin Walter's hands. Wow. Four minutes left.
Rivers McCown: I should add: most of this Saints comeback has come on the backs of Kareem Jackson and Troy Nolan, who have been brutal in underneath coverage. Sean Payton forced the Texans into the nickel and Wade Phillips didn't really have an answer for it.
The Saints just converted their second two-pointer. They used the same play both times.
Danny Tuccitto: First quarter over in Cincinnati, with the Bengals up 3-0. My first impression is, wow, this game is boring. My second impression is that watching Andy Dalton being decisive with his reads, and getting rid of the ball quickly is really highlighting just how slow Alex Smith is.
J.J. Cooper: Just going to guess we won't have a lot of comments on the 49ers-Bengals game.
Danny Tuccitto: As this game goes on, I'm realizing more and more that these are three wasted hours of my life I'm never going to get back. Still 3-0 midway through the third quarter. First team to four wins.
Robert Weintraub: Actually wrote my college column during the "action" which is rare for me. But since this scarcely resembles football, not concerned I'm missing much.
Danny Tuccitto: Michael Crabtree makes a great catch for a touchdown, but true to form for this game, he gets called for illegal touching. Points come off the board.
Robert Weintraub: Yes, and whether Crabtree was actually out of bounds is extremely questionable.
Doug Farrar: For anyone watching 49ers-Bengals: With six minutes left in the third quarter, did Jerome Boger really call a false start on “the entire offensive line?”
Danny Tuccitto: Doug, yes. False start on the entire line. It was a domino effect beginning with -- shockingly! -- Chilo Rachal.
Notwithstanding the lack of offense in this game, it really is stunning how much more pocket awareness Dalton has than Smith. Dalton slides around and evades pressure, whereas Smith just stands there and takes his decleating.
Rivers McCown: J.J., I hope you've learned never to doubt the power of how many comments a game gets when two writers have a favorite team involved. Even if it is the 49ers and the Bengals. Besides, Danny isn't really awake until 2:30 ET anyway.
Danny Tuccitto: I may be in Miami, but somehow I'm as sluggish as the 49ers during these 1 p.m. starts.
Robert Weintraub: Give the defenses some credit here - -the Niners coverage is airtight. A.J. Green hasn't had much of a sniff all day. And the Bengals pass rush is controlling the game on the other side. That said, sheesh.
First-and-goal at the 5. Up the middle stuffed. Waggle boot nowhere. Fade with no chance at success. Field goal, the second of the day from the shadow of the goal line. If this is Jay Gruden's best stuff, it ain't good enough.
No team falls for more throwback screens than the Cincinnati Bengals.
Danny Tuccitto: Frank Gore fumbles inside the Niners' 20, and uses the Carlos Rogers' facemask method of catching passes. In comes Kendall Hunter, and the 49ers' running game comes to life. Go-ahead drive capped by a seven-yard touchdown run by Hunter.
And just as I say that, Rogers abandons the facemask method, actually using his hands to make a potential win-sealing interception. These are the 49ers, though, so I probably shouldn't have just written that.
Vince Verhei: Well, I was wrong about Reggie Bush, but I was right about Gore. I think my player comment in FOA was the only media write-up that predicted anything other than success for him.
Danny Tuccitto: Third-and-11 at the Bengals' 33 after Rogers' interception. That's a 50-yard field goal if San Francisco doesn't gain a yard. Not impossible, obviously, but not automatic. What does Harbaugh call? End around to Vernon Davis. Akers nails a 53-yarder anyway, but that play call makes no strategic or tactical sense to me whatsoever.
I may have lauded Dalton's superior pocket awareness earlier in the game, but his last two interceptions, including the actual sealer by Reggie Smith just now, have been pretty ugly.
Vince Verhei: 49ers about to punt inside their own 20, up six, with eight seconds to go. Time for the punter to run around, then throw the ball through the back of his own end zone for the intentional safety? And they do, but don't kill all the clock. 49ers will free kick up four with two seconds to go.
Danny Tuccitto: Though I'm of course happy the 49ers won, I'm even happier that their win makes it less likely I'll have to follow through on that tiger suit guarantee.
Robert Weintraub: I thought Jim Mora on the telecast had an interesting point on that final pick of Dalton. He said that on seam passes to the tight end, like the one the Bengals tried at the end, if the linebacker has a certain depth it requires a back shoulder throw. If not, he leads the tight end. Clearly, Dalton was going back shoulder on the pass, and Jermaine Gresham kept running, and it flew right past him. Smith made a helluva catch too.
None of that excuses the fact that the teething problems for Dalton began in earnest today. And maybe the Niners defense is better than advertised. Also -- 42 thousand for the home opener. That is a loud statement, not that Mike Brown will unplug his ears.
Aaron Schatz: Turned to red zone channel to see Carolina with a third-and-3 around the Jacksonville 20. Cam Newton ran an option play, but this seems messed up to me ... he faked the handoff to a running back going right, but then ran right himself and was totally hemmed in. Isn't the point of the play fake to send the defense one way and the ball the OTHER way?
Vince Verhei: So, Jacksonville and Carolina are playing in a goddamn monsoon. The hard camera is so rain-spattered it may as well be opaque. Guys are kicking up enormous puddles with every step.
Mike Tanier: Oh my gosh, you are right. I just saw the Panthers highlights. That looks awesome! (On television. Would be very sad if I were there.)
J.J. Cooper: The monsoon in Charlotte has made this game surprisingly compelling TV. Blaine Gabbert showed off an interesting tweak on the Hail Mary. Instead of throwing it into the end zone he threw it to an open Mike Thomas at the Panthers 8, then Thomas splashed and slithered into the end zone.
Vince Verhei: The Jaguars' end-of-half touchdown was, well, odd. It was a Hail Nary situation and a Hail Mary formation, but instead of running downfield in a cluster, the receivers all ran separate vertical routes. Mike Thomas was lagging several yards behind his teammates, and all the defenders. When he caught the ball, the other receivers effectively became blockers. It was kind of like a bubble screen through a wormhole.
Mike Tanier: So is Mike Thomas the best Hail Mary receiver ever?
Vince Verhei: It's stopped raining in Carolina, but everyone's still completely soaked, including the Panthers cheerleaders. We need more cheerleaders with wet hair.
Aaron Schatz: Boy, Carolina's stadium sure does have an NFL-quality drainage system. By which I mean, they do not.
Mike Kurtz: So, my (one-year-old) daughter is watching with us. At one point the Lions dial up a safety blitz, which causes a throwaway and a hit on Donovan McNabb. While this is happening she's doing a little happy dance. Then they show replay, she lets go of the table she was using for support and starts clapping. Love of defense, apparently, is genetic.
Ben Muth: The Vikings are in the midst of blowing another lead. It's like they're playing the Dillon High Panthers every week.
Vikings march down the field to get in field goal range. McNabb overthrows Bernard Berrian on third down for what should've been a sure TD. We're going to OT.
Mike Tanier: Calvin Johnson is good. Going out on a limb here.
Ben Muth: Tarvaris Jackson drops back to pass from about the 10-yard-line, and after an eternity runs for the touchdown. Announcer claims that "that touchdown was all Tarvaris Jackson". What about the five guys up front who have struggled all year? Would it kill him to throw them a shout out?
Vince Verhei: Seahawks have completely shut down the Arizona run game. No Beanie Wells, which helps, but they were good in Weeks 1 and 2 too. The departure of Lofa Tatupu and benching of Aaron Curry are irrelevant.
The Seahawks line, by the way, has given up four sacks, so I'm not ina hurry to heap praise upon them.
Ben Muth: Fair enough Vince, but allow me to treat the Seahawks offensive line like a color guy treats a first or second year QB.
"This Seahwaks offensive line has struggled all game long. They've taken some lumps and made some mistakes, but that's part of playing in this league. But here in the second half, with the game on the line, they get into the red zone and make a play when they have to. If I'm Pete Carroll, that's what I want to see from my young unit."
Vince Verhei: Well played, sir.
Cardinals try a game-tying 49-yard field goal. The aim is true, but it comes up way short. It's very windy in Seattle, that may have had something to do with it.
Ben Muth: Is that what it was, the wind? I can't remember the last time I saw an NFL kicker come up five yards short on 49-yarder.
Kolb throws a brutal pick to end the game. The "at least he's not Derek Anderson" good will is wearing off.
Ben Muth: Left the bar and am now stuck with Packers and Bears. I did not plan my Sunday well.
Mike Tanier: Could be watching Seahawks on one screen, Chiefs on another, and Ravens beating tar out of Rams on the rest...
Rivers McCown: Troy Aikman thinks Bears fans are mad that they didn't run it once from first-and-goal. Apparently he hasn't seen their red zone rushing numbers the past few years.
Aaron Schatz: Bears have the ball, trying to come back from a ten-point deficit. Second down, Jay Cutler has Devin Hester open on a square in, but for some reason he doesn't throw it and he takes a sack even though the Bears had picked up a seven-man Packers blitz. Two downs later, fourth-and-6, Cutler has Johnny Knox absolutely not open on a square in, and throws it there anyway, and Sam Shields slaps it away. Game.
Robert Weintraub: Awesome Bears deke on a punt return, with Hester pretending like he's about to fair catch it -- but the ball is actually on the other side of the field. Knox takes it the distance --but a totally unnecessary hold wipes it out. The best laid plans...
Funny that the gunners really have that little idea of where the ball actually is, and key on the returner that much. I mean, the whole Pack team was sucked in.
Tom Gower: If the Chargers can get out of their own way, they'd be awesome. They've given up 60 yards of offense in their last four quarters at home (second against MIN, first today), and haven't allowed the Chiefs to score in the last eight quarters of play. Yet, it's only 10-0 at the half thanks to turnovers and the usual nonsense.
San Diego's shutout streak is over, as Javier Arenas returns a punt into Charger territory. Two completions to Dwayne Bowe, one that really should have been a pick if Steve Gregory hadn't been so slow, and another on a great sideline grab that I didn't think was in, cut the lead to 10-7. Ryan Mathews is getting a lot of work today, and I mostly like what he's doing.
Leading 20-17, the Chargers face a fourth and one at the Kansas City 33. If they convert, they can kneel the clock out. Norv smartly decides to go for it. Unfortunately, the call is a QB sneak into the teeth of the defense AND the Chargers snap the ball with :21 on the playclock with 1:37 to go in the game. That leaves the Chiefs plenty of time, except Matt Cassel on the second play of the drive is intercepted on a screen pass by Eric Weddle.
Tom Gower: One day I'm just going to snap, and I'm either going to write 4,000 words about how frustrated I am with the Falcons' offense or I'll forswear ever watching them play again. Right now I'm currently thinking neither Matt Ryan nor the offensive line is actually that good, or anywhere near as good as I think they should be.
Mike Tanier: The Bucs are up by ten and trying to run out the last 25 minutes. Did they hire Bruce Coslett?
Robert Weintraub: Bucs are getting that ole familiar sinking feeling when the Falcons are in town...
Falcons and Bucs in a scrum --"remember, these teams don't like each other."
Aaron Schatz: OH MY GOD. Tampa Bay just did the "try to draw the other team offside" thing on fourth-and-1 and it WORKED to seal the game.
Robert Weintraub: I feel much better for the Bengals and Pat Sims (recall the Saints did it to us last season) now. Ballgame!
Aaron Schatz: I forgot about that. So now it has worked twice in two years. Wacky.
Danny Tuccitto: Tampa Bay's best offensive weapon today: voice inflection.
Mike Tanier: Eagles also got drawn offside by the Giants today.
Aaron Schatz: It was hard to watch the Jets-Raiders game without the voice of Merril Hoge haunting me. A seal here, a seal there ... and then we've got the ALL-LEH! How sad is it that I've watched so much NFL Matchup that I hear Hoge's voice and not Vince Lombardi's? Anyway, the Raiders run defense is awful, although the Jets had not given up a 100-yard rusher in 25 games before today.
Ben Muth: Mark Sanchez just took an awful sack on a naked bootleg. I hate that, you're already outside the pocket and you know the defensive end is unblocked. Throw the ball away!
Tom Gower: Sanchez is good at taking that kind of sack.
Aaron Schatz: I liked the HB Option pass attempt where Darren McFadden ended up scrambling and was still pump-faking 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.
Mike Tanier:This Raiders beating of the Jets is starting to be fun.
Mike Tanier: They just flashed a Most Vowels in the NFL graphic in the Ravens game, and the Rams had the players ranked first and second. The Rams lead the league in something!
Rivers McCown: The Rams lead the league in a few things. One of them is "allowing touchdowns to Torrey Smith."
Aaron Schatz: I am surprised by how well the Colts are containing the Steelers' running game. Ben Roethlisberger is finding all the holes in Cover-2, but when the Steelers run, they're not getting anywhere.
Tom Gower: This looks like the familiar Kerry Collins -- some bizarre misses, some good execution when he has the ability to throw the ball quickly, and intermittent success. I think he's starting to adjust the Colts' pass protection and showing why he was among the least-sacked QB's in the NFL, even when the Titans' line declined from its 2008 peak. I also like the game Joseph Addai's having. Sure, he doesn't have a third or even much of a second gear, but he'll get what's there and more.
Jonathan Scott is a liability at left tackle against a good edge rusher. Who knew?
Rivers McCown: On the bright side, Jonathan Scott seems like a good tackler.
Aaron Schatz: Antonio Brown, not so much. Nice 15-yard penalty there, buddy.
I wish I had more to day about this potential upset, but it seems like the Colts have had one good drive, plus a scoop-and-score fumble. Doesn't it seem like the Steelers are outplaying them? It seems like they're generally able to find Mike Wallace and Heath Miller, so how come every time I look up the Steelers seem to have a drive ending?
Rivers McCown: Because they've turned the ball over on half of their non-clock killing possessions?
Danny Tuccitto: This definitely looks to be shaping up as one of those games where the better VOA team ends up on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Plenty of time left, though.
Aaron Schatz: Chris Kemoeatu just got completely turned around trying to run-block ... OK actually, Collinsworth is noticing it too, apparently the defensive player there is named Drake Nevis. I'm just mystified by this suddenly solid Colts run defense.
Danny Tuccitto: Going along with the theme of today, readers of my ESPN fantasy matchup article are, I'm sure, equally mystified. Almost every awesome defensive matchup has been inexplicably turned on its head today. A.J. Green does squat against San Francisco's pass defense? Chris Johnson does squat against Denver's run defense? Rashard Mendenhall doing squat against Indianapolis' run defense? Week 3 sponsored by Erno Rubik, I guess.
Rivers McCown: I originally read that as Emo Rubik, and wondered how that would work, since I assume that cube would be all-black.
Danny Tuccitto: With skinny jeans, a western shirt, and wavy bangs, of course.
Vince Verhei: Just sat down to catch the last 12 minutes of the game. As for why it feels like the Steelers are winning... well, they have nearly double the first downs (15 to eight), and more than double the total yards (353 to 141).
Some of these numbers are amazing. Reggie Wayne has three catches for 24 yards on 12 targets. The Colts are averaging seven yards per catch, and Collins is still completing less than half his passes. Statistically, this has been a complete ass-whipping.
Aaron Schatz: Doug Legursky just went out with an injury, and as we all know, if there's any unit where Pittsburgh has depth, it is of course offensive line. They are now down to five. You never want to root for injury, but I must admit to being curious about what the Steelers would do if another one got injured and they were left with only four.
Mike Tanier: Thor's little brother is in at quarterback.
Brian McIntyre: Colts are evaluating Kerry Collins for a concussion, which may be the only acceptable explanation for having 93 yards passing on 29 attempts when having Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon to throw to.
Mike Tanier: A lot of Steelers drives are stalling thanks to patented Roethlisberger "wait forever" sacks.
Aaron Schatz: Oh, you mean like the one that knocks them out of freakin' field-goal range and costs them a chance to take the lead?
Mike Tanier: Luckily, the Steelers can start over with a long punt return. Again.
Rivers McCown: Have the Steelers ever heard of "play action"?
Aaron Schatz: Kemoeatu looks awful tonight. He just got stuffed by a defender trying to pull right, which led to Mendenhall getting stuffed.
Mike Tanier: Oh cripes, and it is gonna end that easily ... with a strip sack.
Mike Kurtz: Play-action isn't very useful when your running game is averaging two yards per carry.
Hopefully they can stop them here and this nightmare can end...
Aaron Schatz: Well, the running game is averaging two yards per carry in large part because the Colts defense is clearly playing to stop the run first and foremost, with eight in the box. So theoretically, a play-fake should leave Mike Wallace in one-on-one.
Danny Tuccitto: Am I the only one hoping there's a mullet inside Curtis Painter's helmet?
Vince Verhei: "That thing does not like Dwayne." Commercial of the year has been won.
Mike Tanier: Ew. Yuck. Can we at least complete that last short pass of the game and get the pitch play going?
241 comments, Last at 28 Sep 2011, 9:01am by Aaron Brooks Good Twin