Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2006.
By the way, the discussion thread for this roundtable is an excellent place to suggest injuries you would like to see Will Carroll cover in this week's Black and Blue Report. And at the end we'll give you a little preview of what games we're analyzing later in the week.
St. Louis Rams 33 at Houston Texans 27 (OT)
(early in game)
Mike Tanier: The Texans are up 17-0. Tim, where are you?
Tim Gerheim: I'm enjoying it, thank you very much. But I'll just get the second half on the radio, since I'm gonna be driving back to Austin.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is in because a big hit on a blitz knocked Martin out with a concussion. Martin has really big eyes, so they've been showing some hilarious shots of him looking vacuous on the sidelines while the trainers tended to him and his wounded brain. (The eyes being hilarious, not the brain injury.)
This is the beginning of the easy schedule for the Texans. The Rams are getting almost no pressure, and when they do get pressure Carr has a good lane to run in, and he's picked up at least two first downs running. But he's had time to throw it well, and Andre Johnson has finally been a factor again.
The best was after the Texans' third touchdown of the first half -- let that sink in for a moment. Carr had a huge grin on his face, and eventually ran up and literally tackled Corey Bradford. The announcers got it right: they looked like 10-year-olds out there. This, I think, is why people love David Carr.
(late in game)
Bill Moore: Are we sure Tim hasn't swerved into on-coming traffic?
Michael David Smith: Wow. Rams-Texans is one of those times you're really thankful to have DirecTV. Great execution by the Rams to get the onside kick -- have a heavy-hitter nail the receiver trying to grab it, then have your good hands man, Torry Holt, scoop it up.
Mike Tanier: I predict a long, depressing post from Tim when he returns to Austin. Didn't see that game at all -- couldn't exactly convince the bartender to switch over.
Michael David Smith: Didn't Neil O'Donnell just cause some controversy by saying last week that Kevin Curtis wasn't very fast? He sure ran through the Texans' secondary with ease. And it's ridiculous how long the officials huddled after the winning score in order to determine whether it was an illegal formation. That should be a reviewable penalty, but if they're not going to review it, they shouldn't just stand around talking about it.
Tim Gerheim: Losing to the Rams, even like that, is nothing compared to where I would have been if A&M had won. That was much scarier.
I don't think you can take blowing a 24-3 lead as anything but an indictment of the coaching staff. Clearly the Rams out-adjusted them. Of course, it's also an indictment of the defense, which is frankly worse than the offense. It's clear that letting Jamie Sharper, Jay Foreman, and Aaron Glenn go was a mistake. But the latter is no surprise -- He Who Shall Not Be Named was his replacement before going on IR. But our run defense completely fell apart between last season and this season, and that's all about the inside linebackers.
Even so, this wasn't a game about our run defense getting exposed. Which is surprising, because Steven Jackson is really good. But because the QBs were Jamie Martin and then Ryan Fitzpatrick, we sold out against the run, at least early. Somehow, we got seven sacks and an interception and still lost the game because of the pass defense. There just isn't an NFL-caliber #2 corner on the Texans roster, and a team with Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce exposes that.
San Diego Chargers 23 at Washington Redskins 17 (OT)
Al Bogdan: What's going on in Washington? Are the weather conditions bad? Nate Kaeding has been great all year, but I see he's missed two field goals. He's killing one of my fantasy teams with those misses.
Ryan Wilson: It's not raining in DC and it's about 48 degrees. Kaeding pulled both kicks, and looked bad doing it. The 'Skins defense is puzzling. They give up 36 to Chris Simms, and then pummel Brees and the Chargers.
Vivek Ramgopal: Just another example of why not to use an early draft pick on a kicker.
Mike Tanier: Classic flat performance on the road by the Chargers. Dropped passes, missed field goals. Drew Brees wasn't sharp. The game plan appeared to be to pick on that rookie Rogers at cornerback. Burn that game plan, because you can't burn Rogers. The Chargers seemed shy about just feeding LT the ball. Late in the game, they remembered him.
Aaron Schatz: The more interesting strategy decisions came at the end of this game. Washington intercepts Brees in John Hall's field goal range, but a holding penalty knocks them back to third-and-14 at the 35-yard line. So that's a 52-yard field goal, 45 seconds left. If they run, maybe they get a couple extra yards to make it easier on Hall, and they run the clock down to zero seconds before trying the kick. If they pass, a complete pass has a better chance of making it an easier field goal, but there's more chance of a turnover, and an incomplete means they leave San Diego time on the clock -- and if the field goal misses, they leave San Diego time on the clock and the ball on the Washington 43-yard line.
Of course they pass, incomplete, San Diego gets the ball back and almost gets into field goal range themselves. Except that they throw a four-yard out to LaDainian Tomlinson on second-and-5, with no timeouts left, and instead of turning and running diagonally out of bounds to pick up an easy first down, he runs horizontally out of bounds and sticks the Chargers in third down. You can't really fault the guy who basically won the game single-handedly, but dude, you gotta get the first down there.
Vivek Ramgopal: This game epitomized untimely penalties. Not just the holding penalty on Casey Rabach that killed the momentum on that final drive for the Skins, but also the Antonio Gates false start with six seconds left that pushed the Chargers out of field goal range.
Baltimore Ravens 29 at Cincinnati Bengals 42
Ryan Wilson: The first half of this game was the Perfect Storm. The worst of Kyle Boller (2 picks, 3 fumbles) coupled with a Baltimore defense that basically quit with about four minutes to go in the first half. Apparently, the Ravens thought last week was the Super Bowl and this week was the Pro Bowl. Hey Pittsburgh, you lost to this team.
Mike Tanier: I think the weather was fine, but Kyle Boller slipped and fell about four times. I wrote this song in his honor. I stole the melody from some South African artists:
Slip Slidin' Away
Slip Slidin' Away --hey hey hey
You know you really should throw to Mason but no -- you're slip slidin' away.
And I knew a man -- His name was Kyle
He could overthrow receivers by a quarter mile
Bad throws to Wilcooooox, bad throws to Heap
And if I'm forced to watch the Ravens I'm afraid that I might fall asleep.
I have serious comments too, but screw them.
Ned Macey: I was in the car from 12 to 5, but I randomly got most of the Cincinnati game on the radio from the local Cincy broadcast. Nothing beats local radio guys. "Carson takes the snap, handoff to Rudi, Rudi runs left behind Levi, makes four great moves, and gains four yards up to the 46." Tanier: the Bengals color man kept saying "slip sliding away" over and over when players kept slipping. He had a theory that a drizzle was more difficult to gain footing on than a soaked field. No idea why that would be the case or if it is the case. Also, great line from the lead announcer calling Boller's first-half performance Akili Smith-esque.
I know the Ravens have defensive injuries, but wasn't this supposed to be the best secondary in football? Coming into the game they were 22nd against second receivers and 26th against 3rd and 4th receivers. Then Housh just abused them today. By the way, how much better are the AFC Pro Bowl quarterbacks going to be --Manning, Brady, Palmer -- than the NFC ones.
Aaron Schatz: Don't forget Jake Plummer. I have no idea who gets left home from that quartet but I have a feeling this next game will have a lot of impact on that decision...
New England Patriots 16 at Kansas City Chiefs 26
Bill Moore: Does the return of Roaf help the situation of Tony Gonzalez, freeing him up in the passing game? That was the question of the morning. Aaron discussed Roaf in the latest mailbag. Does Roaf's addition to the line give Green more time, or does it free up Gonzo from blocking responsibilities, or both? I don't think this game answered the question. Gonzo had a decent game, but only four catches, albeit for 63 yards.
The Boston Globe featured an article about Heath Evans, and how he has admirably filled in at the halfback position. In the NFL, Evans has primarily played the fullback position; however, in an honest read of his abilities, Belichick noted that he was a weak blocker. That wasn't more obvious than today when KC ran a strong-side safety blitz, and Evans seemed completely oblivious to his blitz pick-up responsibilities. Needless to say, Brady was sacked.
The Brady-haters will have a field day with this game. KC, whose pass defense has been one of the worst in the league, will get a nice boost in DVOA from this game (NE came into this game ranked fourth in passing) but I have to say that most of the great defense came from poor Brady play. Other than a modest comeback attempt late in the game, he was really off. Four picks â€“ of which 3Â½ were his fault. He was continually overthrowing the ball, including sailing passes into the hands of Greg Wesley three times (doubling Wesley's INT count for the year). The fourth was an OK pass thrown somewhat behind Tim Dwight, who bobbled it and flicked it into the air and into the hands of KC's defense to end the game. It was raining late in the game, which could affect the feel of the ball, but Brady had two interceptions before the rain started.
KC did a good job on rush defense which, given NE's struggles and KC's #2 rush defense, shouldn't be very surprising.
Mike Tanier: Heath Evans and Patrick Pass are OK players, but it's not like opponents game-plan for them. The Chiefs line sold out to get to Brady often, and they blitzed a lot.
Bill Moore: NE's defense was Jekyll and Hyde â€“ a little Jekyll, mostly Hyde. (Hyde was the bad one.) I was surprised to see the defense hold KC twice from inside the five-yard line and once from the 15. Later in the game, with KC trying to run down the clock, NE's defense was effective in keeping the offense in the game. However, for the rest of the game, NE's defense looked unable to stop anyone. KC only punted three times (none in the first half) and two of those times were when the team was trying to kill the clock (and the Pats defense made that surprise appearance).
Mike Tanier: I saw a lot of shots of Trent Green wiping his hands on his butt. Don't quarterbacks carry towels anymore?
Dante Hall's touchdown in the third quarter was a blown play by safety Michael Stone. He was supposed to help cornerback Ellis Hobbs but stepped up, either biting on play action or to jump a route.
Michael David Smith: How many times did Brady have to call a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty? I thought I saw three, but I was flipping between a few games.
Aaron Schatz: Three is the right answer. I've noticed Tom Brady throwing high all season, but it was never a problem to the degree it was today. To be honest, this game meant nothing to the Pats. With Buffalo losing, they'll still be two games up on the division with two Jets games and two Florida teams (Miami, Tampa) coming to Foxboro.
Chicago Bears 13 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10
Mike Tanier: The Bucs offensive tackles are awful. Anthony Davis was terrible. Alex Brown is good, but not that good; he basically speed rushed off the edge on every play. Late in the game, Gruden was leaving two tight ends (Alex Smith and Becht a' Becht) in to help with Brown and Ogunleye. It didn't work.
Russell Levine: You're dead on about the Tampa bay tackles. Ogunleye and Brown were beating them off the ball the entire game. I think part of the problem was that Simms wasn't varying the snap count. Those guys were timing the snap and were a full step into the rush as the tackles were getting out of their stances.
Gruden was trying to play field position the entire game but could never get on top of it. In the first half, Tampa punted from the Chicago 31 and missed downing it at the one-yard line on a close call.
Galloway is ridiculous. Clayton has done nothing the entire year, yet Galloway is still able to turn upfield on nearly every catch, even as the team's only receiver threat. The color guy had a good observation that Galloway turns into a punt returner on every reception and can start and stop better than anyone.
Orton didn't do much, but I was still impressed that he avoided the killer mistake and that the coaching staff has faith in him to pass late instead of just trying to kill the clock running the ball. I really doubt Grossman's ever going to get his hands on that job if Orton stays healthy.
Cleveland Browns 12 at Minnesota Vikings 24
Mike Tanier: Do opponents think Darren Sharper is a wide receiver now? Is this a mind control thing? It's not like he's doing something spectacular. Opponents are throwing the ball right between his numbers.
Michael David Smith: I know we're not supposed to say this, but I'm going to: The Vikings are better with Brad Johnson than they were with Daunte Culpepper. I don't know what was going on with Culpepper this season, but he just wasn't making big plays, and he was throwing some terrible interceptions. Johnson is avoiding the big mistakes and finding his second and third options. I don't see them catching the Bears, but I think it's possible that they could be playing for a wild card when they meet the Bears in the last game of the season.
Green Bay Packers 14 at Philadelphia Eagles 19
Michael David Smith: I think Brett Favre is playing really well when you consider how little talent he has around him, but I just don't get why he so often gives up on plays. He just felt some pressure and threw this bizarre backhanded toss to no one in particular.
Al Bogdan: Maybe he's giving up on plays because of that lack of talent around him. Madden was making the case when they were on Monday Night Football that the only person Favre has any confidence in is Driver. From what I've seen of Green Bay, Favre does seem to force the ball to him more than anyone else on the team.
Mike Tanier: That win will help the whole Philadelphia organization. It wasn't pretty, but the youngsters on the offensive line played well, Trent Cole had another good game, Rod Hood played well, Ryan Moats got into the act.... Obviously, the offense is still strictly station-to-station, but you can see hope that this team can bounce back.
Carolina Panthers 13 at Buffalo Bills 9
Aaron Schatz: I watched a bit of Carolina-Buffalo when the Pats game got away from them. Mike Wahle was really abusing the Buffalo defenders with his pulls, especially Jeff Posey. If you watch Buffalo play for at least a half an hour, you may catch a play where Losman waits more than three seconds before pulling down the ball and scrambling.
New York Giants 21 at Seattle Seahawks 24 (OT)
Al Bogdan: How does the same player have consecutive false start penalties on a punt? If Frank Walker is still on the team come Monday, I'd be shocked. Penalties have killed the Giants this year, especially on the offensive line, and especially Luke Petitgout. They struggled with penalties on the line last year as well. I'm surprised that with a "disciplinarian" like Coughlin that 1) this is and has been such a big problem, and 2) more hasn't been made of this by Coughlin critics to show that all his dumb rules don't really lead to a more disciplined team.
Bill Moore: Who's watching halftime of the Giants game? I don't think I've ever seen a Dept. of Sanitation commercial before. Only in New York.
Michael David Smith: I like Tiki Barber, but on that third-and-2 in the fourth quarter, he just looked really lazy. He dove to the ground on a blitz pickup, then just lay there while Manning scrambled around looking for a receiver. If he had gotten up and run downfield, he probably could have gotten open and caught a pass for a first down. Instead the Giants punted.
Aaron Schatz: The whole idea was that if Seattle won the top seed, it would be very difficult to beat them at home. But everyone else in the NFC has to be feeling a lot better tonight about their chances of winning in Seattle in January, because the Giants came as close to a win as humanly possible.
As much as Jay Feely is the goat of this game for missing THREE possible winning field goals, the Giants didn't really help him by getting stopped in long field goal range for the two overtime chances (45 and 54 yards).
Last week Al said that Luke Petitgout was a "walking holding penalty." It turns out he meant "walking false start penalty." Eli Manning loves to pass in the flat to Jim Finn. The fact that the Giants may go to the Super Bowl has more to do with the run defense than it does with Eli Manning's play, but he sure is unflappable during the two-minute drill; it's pretty impressive. The Seahawks kept playing zone defenses instead of covering Burress man-to-man, and Burress kept running curls and other patterns to the middle of the field to find the seams.
I was impressed with Rodney Bailey, a defensive lineman who was in Pittsburgh for three years, then signed with the Patriots last year as a restricted free agent but lost the year to injury. The Pats couldn't fit him on the roster this year -- defensive line and quarterback are the only positions WITHOUT injury -- and Seattle just signed him a couple weeks ago.
The announcers said something early in this game about Willie Ponder losing the kick return job. Anyone know what's up with that?
Al Bogdan: Ponder lost the job a week ago. He was a healthy scratch from the Eagles game. Morton returned kicks last week. The only thing mentioned as an explanation that I saw was his fumble on the opening kickoff against the Vikings two weeks ago.
Ned Macey: Count me among those happy to see how "disciplined" this Tom Coughlin-coached team was. But while everyone says these penalties are infuriating Coughlin, do we think that any coach not named Martz or coaching for the Raiders wouldn't be infuriated by 11 false starts? Would Mike Nolan just shrug them off, but because Coughlin is so gruff it somehow irks him more?
I agree with Aaron that the key was that the Giants didn't capitalize more when they were in long field goal range. This is especially true after Feely missed the first one. The worst sequence was after Shockey dropped the pass (which would have nearly guaranteed the win). Next, did they call a quarterback draw or was that me? Finally, they threw for the first down where nobody was open without checking down for a sub-50 yarder.
Speaking of the Shockey drop, how did the replay official need the Seahawks to call timeout before calling for a review? The FOX crew showed a replay that made it pretty clear Shockey never caught the ball, and one would hope that the replay officials have access to more angles. Coaches should not have to waste timeouts in that situation if the opposition is not going into a hurry-up to force the defense's hand.
Al Bogdan: Now that's how you lose a football game.
Feely hooked that first miss slightly, and the second one was out of his range, but if you're an NFL kicker, you can't come up short from 40 yards out. The Giants shouldn't have been in a position to win to begin with after all their sloppy penalties. The biggest one was in overtime, a false start erroneously given to Petitgout, when it was really Diehl that jumped. That pushed the Giants out of realistic field goal range.
It's unfortunate that the Giants didn't win today so that we could end this whole "Eli can't win against a good team on the road" thing. Eli did everything in his power to win this game for the Giants. In OT, he threw some great balls that were dropped by Shockey and Burress that would have given Feely a better shot at his two field goals. Eli wasn't called for any false starts or holding penalties.
Vivek Ramgopal: After watching the Seattle-Giants game, was anyone else left wondering if Tony Siragusa adds any value to the broadcasts? Seriously, everyone throws out an ADD-induced, off on a tangent one-liner now and then, but Siragusa was spitting them out every five minutes.
Miami Dolphins 33 at Oakland Raiders 21
Bill Moore: I only caught the end of this, but Ricky Williams scored a touchdown to put Miami up by nine. Flash to the Oakland bench, and #93, DE Thomas Kelly, was brooding on the sidelines. He looked to be getting into it with LaMont Jordan â€“ possibly others. #67 Ron Stone appeared to ask Kelly to cool it. Flash a few play later and the defensive coordinator appeared to be trying to calm down an annoyed Ted Washington (who was not animated, but looked agitated). A play or two later, Washington was speaking angrily toward CB Nmamdi Asomugha (whether seeking a sympathetic ear or preaching at him, I could not tell).
Bits 'n' Pieces
Bill Moore: Is anyone else frustrated with wide receivers' seeming ability to lobby for pass interference calls?
Mike Tanier: Someday, instead of hearing "The Team X is 8-1 when Joe Bagadonuts rushes for 100 yards" I will hear "When Team X wins, Bagadonuts averages 100-some yards," getting cause and effect correct. Someday.
Bill Moore: Madden '06 ad â€“ â€œas real as it gets.â€? Yet they show McNabb running an effective 2-munute drill against the Patriots. Shouldn't there be a lot of standing around and an occasional dry-heave?
Today's NFL.com poll is the following: â€œAfter the undefeated Indianapolis Colts, who is the second best team in the NFL?â€? I think it's interesting that the NFL.com staff doesn't give the public the option of choosing the Colts as the #1, but rather forces the opinion on them.
Aaron Schatz: One of the great mysteries of the NFL is this: Why does CBS broadcast its games roughly 50% louder than FOX broadcasts?
Bill Moore: In HD? I think the reason has to do with HD tech formats. FOX runs 780p (?) vs. CBS 1080i. The sound comes through at marginally higher quality on CBS. I think. I'm not expert.
The real frustration is the sound level of commercials vs. the broadcasts. I think they want you to hear the commercials in the bathroom.
Coming Later This Week
Any Given Sunday: Dolphins-Raiders or '72 Dolphins-Colts
Every Play Counts: Chicago Bears defense