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 2007. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.
Doug Farrar: I'm watching "The Sports Reporters" and just heard this doozy from Mike Lupica about Romo: "This kid gets out of the pocket and makes plays like Michael Vick does in Atlanta, except he's a little more accurate with his throwing arm." When great feats of supernatural ability are humorously attributed to the likes of Chuck Norris, Mr. T and Vin Diesel, it's very enjoyable. But when people who are supposed to have credibility as observers of a game say things like that and they're serious ... I'm at a loss. This myth-making has to stop. It wouldn't surprise me to hear John Madden say tonight that "Tony Romo invented black. In fact, he invented the entire spectrum of visible light. Except pink. Drew Bledsoe invented pink."
Bill Barnwell: http://www.tonyhomo.com.
Mike Tanier: Checking NFL.com at 1:15 pm on Sunday can be so informative.
In Oakland, Brooks has one completion for three yards, Justin Fargas has one carry for three yards, and Alvis Whitted has one lost fumble. The Raiders offense in all its glory!
In Jacksonville, Fred Taylor has one carry for 76 yards. Maurice Drew has one carry for 18 yards and a touchdown. Dave Garrard hasn't even thrown yet. The Colts run defense in all its glory!
Now, off to watch football.
Oakland Raiders 10 at Cincinnati Bengals 27
Bill Barnwell: This was the perfect summation of the Raiders season. Nnamdi Asomugha picks off Carson Palmer on the first series of the game. The Raiders get the ball and Alvis Whitted fumbles (whittles?) the ball away on first down trying to turn a 2-yard gain into a 3-yard one.
Indianapolis Colts 17 at Jacksonville Jaguars 44
Doug Farrar: Jacksonville's first play from scrimmage against the Colts was a 76-yard Fred Taylor run. Their second play was an 18-yard run by Maurice Jones-Drew. Two rushing plays, 94 yards, one minute off the clock, touchdown. That kind of run defense is how you lose in the first round of the playoffs despite your offense going 13-3 or 12-4 basically all by itself.
Michael David Smith: The amazing thing about the Colts is how they can be simultaneously great and terrible. On the one hand, every play I've seen so far, the Jags have been physically manhandling them. On the other hand, they've still got a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter on the road against a good team.
Doug Farrar: First half rushing yards: Jacksonville 248, Indy 28. Both Taylor and Drew have rushed for over 100 (131 and 115, respectively), and all three Jaguars TDs are on the ground.
Ned Macey: I think I've figured it out. The Colts are trying to get the offense more posessions. They just let Jones-Drew run the kickoff back for a TD absolutely untouched. Down 31-10 in the third quarter. I don't even know what to say about this. The Colts look like a bad MAC team playing U of M or something.
Bill Barnwell: Can we start officially billing Maurice Jones-Drew solely as MJD?
Doug Farrar: I'm going off a play-by-play sheet here, so maybe someone who's watching this game can explain the drive that started with 7:22 left in the third quarter. Peyton Manning threw nine passes on the drive and completed two. The last four plays were incompletions, and the Colts gave up the ball on downs with fourth-and-10. What on earth is going on with this team?
Aaron Schatz: Apparently Tony Dungy had his guys practicing tackling all week. It didn't work.
Lord knows I'm not perfect, and I get things wrong all the time. I also know that some readers don't like to read it when we pat ourselves on the back for getting things right. But I hope that all those people who four weeks ago were talking about the Colts' chances of going undefeated this year properly feel like complete morons. I'm sure a lot of those writers will now say "see, we knew it all along, the Colts can't stop the run," but go back and read the stuff that was being written about the Colts four and five weeks ago. Seriously.
Mike Tanier: If you didn't say something about the Colts and the power rankings, boss, I would have. If you base decisions and power rankings on pure wins and losses, you never see stuff like this coming. If you dig deeper, whether by looking at film or using DVOA or whatever, you are going to see when a team is inflated or deflated. A wise man told us last week, boss, that we shouldn't make the mistake of judging "by results": mistaking wins and losses for absolute quality of play, thinking that teams "find a way" or whatever. He was preaching to the choir.
Ned Macey: I really think it is time somebody started pimping Mike Smith. That defense is down Peterson, Darius, and Hayward, and they are still killing people. Paul Spicer and Bobby McCray were making nice plays early to stuff the Colts backs on the stretch play. Colts were actually having more success up the middle.
I know we've been predicting the Colts to struggle against the run, but this is beyond embarrassing what is happening. 375 YARDS. I really think at this point they have to consider big-time personnel changes. Boiman was put in for Gardner. I think they have to look Morris for Brackett. The thing is they were sitting Freeney and Mathis a fair amount and still getting gashed. I feel like Dungy's reputation is at stake here, and he needs to work his ass off to get the run defense back to bad.
Of course, Jacksonville's improved offensive line is a continuing factor. They run the ball well on almost everyone. (Len Pasquarelli in his article notes that at least this was a good running offense. Don Banks hints that if the Jaguars can do this to the Colts imagine what the Chargers, Patriots, and Jets can do. The Chargers, sure, but is there any world where the Jets or Patriots run the ball as well or as frequently as the Jaguars?) I like MJD, by the way. Finally, third time's the charm for finding the long-term replacement for Taylor (after missing on Greg Jones and Alvin Pearman).
The Colts are also going to have some offensive problems. Clark is out for who knows how long, and Stokley went down again. It is just too much to ask of three guys, even three guys as good as Manning, Harrison, and Wayne, to play perfect football. Harrison's 1,000th catch didn't exactly get a celebration since they were down about 30.
Minnesota Vikings 30 at Detroit Lions 20
Michael David Smith: The announcers are talking about what a fine job Brad Johnson is doing managing the game. There are approximately 100 quarterbacks on NFL rosters, and I think it's safe to say every one of them would do a fine job managing the game against the Lions' defense.
Doug Farrar: Perhaps someone threw in a 2002 Tampa Bay highlights DVD and they haven't picked up on it yet? And who is Artose Pinner with his two first-quarter touchdowns? Oh, wait... he was a Lion until this year. Ouch.
Well, Johnson just "managed" to throw a pick to Jamar Fletcher, which Fletcher returned 88 yards for a touchdown. Halfway through the second quarter, Detroit's defense has outgained its offense, 88 yards to 33.
New England Patriots 0 at Miami Dolphins 21
Bill Moore: Miami field goal. TV Commercials. Kickoff. TV Commercials. First play from scrimmage. End of quarter. TV Commercials. UGH!
Aaron Schatz: You really do learn a lot about coverage schemes from the DVOA vs. receivers. 4:30 left in the second quarter, Marty Booker has three catches and he's probably had an equal number of incompletes. I think that Joey Harrington has thrown to Chris Chambers once.
I hate the quick hitch. Hate it, hate it, hate it. It only works with certain receivers, Steve Smith, Santana Moss, etc., and you can only throw it when the cornerback is playing off. Can somebody PLEASE tell Pats offensive coordinator that you can't run the quick hitch when the cornerbacks are in press coverage?
The Pats pinned Miami at the 3-yard line on a punt, only to have it called back because of illegal formation, with Patrick Pass not standing right on the line of scrimmage. The resulting re-punt was fair caught at the 18. That's really one of those stupid penalties. Illegal contact and holding are just teams playing close, but illegal formation is just you being stupid.
Mike Tanier: By "Quick hitch" do you mean that throw where the QB just stands up and throws it to the receiver because the defense is 10 yards off? A Quick Hitch is technically a five- or seven-yard route where the receiver comes back to the inside. I think they call the throw you are talking about Smoke. You and I were talking about that last week: I used to get sick to my stomach watching Todd Pinkston get wrapped up for no gain on the play. But I see so many cornerbacks making awful fundamental tackles on those plays (let me leave my feet and dive when I could just gather myself, come under control, and stop the receiver for a three yard gain.) that I don't blame quarterbacks and coordinators for calling it.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah, I mean Smoke. I thought smoke was just the code on the field for the quick hitch, and the play you were describing was the "quick slant." What do you call smoke when the cornerback is standing right next to the receiver and he catches the ball for no yards and you swear at the television?
I found the L.A. Times using it same way I do...
Mike Tanier: I still think "Quick Out" may be the better term.
Bill Moore: HOLY CRAP! Wilfork just got called for a Personal Foul because Harrington TRIPPED OVER HIM while he was lying on the ground.
Aaron Schatz: We may have reached the nadir of bullshit roughing the passer calls with that last one on Vince Wilfork. Harrington drops back, Wilfork goes for the strip sack, and Harrington somehow avoids it. As Wilfork moves behind him, Damion McIntosh pushes Wilfork down. Harrington gets the ball off on a shovel pass (don't remember who to) and takes a step or two backwards and trips over the motionless body of Vince Wilfork. The resulting roughing the passer penalty puts Miami in field goal range. I think the refs don't understand the difference between active and passive verbs. Just because the passer was roughed does not mean that someone roughed the passer. How in the hell do you get roughing the passer when the offensive lineman pushes you down and the quarterback trips over you while you are just lying there?
Bill Moore: OK, who watching the two point conversion DIDN'T know that Harrington was going to throw to Booker covered by Chad Scott one-on-one.
This is the Miami team that I expected to compete for the AFC East title. The defensive line has provided tremendous pressure on Brady. Between linebacker blitzes and great play by Jason Taylor, the Patriots have had little time to develop passing rhythm. Consequently, the Patriots have been forced into short passing plays and basically abandoned the long ball. By the third quarter, Brady had only thrown four passes to wide receivers. Too bad for New England, since the cornerbacks are the weakest link of the Miami defense, and deep passes have higher probabilities of drawing defensive holding and pass interference.
Chad Scott aside, the NE defense played well in its own right until Vince Wilfork went out of the game in the third quarter with injury. From that point, Miami was able to do something they hadn't done all day -- run the ball. In fact, on the last play of the game, Minor broke off the longest run from scrimmage NE has allowed all year.
Aaron Schatz: Now that the Patriots game is over, I feel like we can just re-run all the comments I had in last week's Audibles about the Lions game.
1) The Patriots can't hold on to the football.
2) The offensive line is playing terribly, and the decline of Matt Light is the untold story of the season. At one point Kevin Carter beat a double team of Light and Logan Mankins. Pathetic.
3) The Patriots have a horrible time against #2 receivers. This is part scheme, part Chad Scott being way past his prime. Marty Booker owned Scott today. At the end of the game, I saw Ellis Hobbs on the field. If Ellis Hobbs is healthy enough to play, why is Chad Scott starting?
4) At a certain point, the injuries get to be too much. The Pats are missing both starting safeties, and Vince Wilfork went out with an injury halfway through the game.
To say nice things about Miami: they did a good job of keeping the pass rush away from Joey Harrington, and Jason Taylor may be defensive player of the year.
At one point, due to a false start near the goal line, the Pats had first-and-12. All I could hear in the back of my mind was the voice of Paul Maguire, saying "the playbook just doesn't have any plays for first-and-12."
With hot Tennessee and schizophrenic Jacksonville on the schedule still, the Pats are actually in danger of blowing the division to the Jets. I'm in shock at the very thought.
Mike Tanier: Jason Taylor = No Question Defensive Player of the Year.
Bill Barnwell: I know Aaron said the unwritten story of the year is Matt Light's failure to recover from his broken leg, but I disagree -- I still think Mike Vrabel having pretty much nothing left is. The Patriots have serious issues covering underneath and teams with a good slot receiver are going to take advantage of it.
The Patriots offense was a mess this game. They didn't adjust to the Dolphins blitzing them in the second half whatsoever, and when Brady would adjust by throwing to his hot read, the guy would either drop the ball, the throw would be off target, or the receiver was nowhere to be found. There was a farcical play right before the game-clinching fumble where three Patriots all ran 5-yard crossing patterns into each other. I would've expected that to happen in Week 2 or 3, but everyone should know the playbook by now.
Aaron Schatz: Regarding the Pats offense being a mess, I forgot to mention the totally awesome trick play where they had a direct snap to Kevin Faulk, a lateral pass back to Tom Brady all the way over on the left, and then instead of running with the reception, Brady throws another pass to a wide open Daniel Graham for the touchdown. Unfortunately, Faulk's lateral pass was so off-the-mark that Brady had to reach out for it and caught it four yards ahead of where Faulk was. If Faulk throws that right, it's 13-7 with 9:30 left and you have a totally different game.
Philadelphia Eagles 21 at Washington Redskins 19
Ryan Wilson: Jason Campbell's got two picks through the first 19 minutes, and the Eagles have 14 points as a result. Meanwhile, Ladell Betts had 71 yards rushing in the first quarter.
After watching Jeff Garcia the last two weeks I'm convinced he was just half-assing it in Cleveland and Detroit. He just threw a bomb to Reggie Brown and hit him right in stride (Carlos Rogers was in coverage, but you already knew that), followed that up a few plays later with a great 4-yard TD pass to Stallworth, and has made good decisions all half. Jeff Freakin' Garcia.
Doug Farrar: This is why I wanted the Seahawks to pick him up after Trent Dilfer was traded to Cleveland. He's playing in pretty much the same offense that he did in San Francisco. You can do nothing more than avoid mistakes and be very productive in that Reid-by-Holmgren-by-Walsh system if you have good players around you and you know what to do.
Mike Tanier: Hey, Eagles, want a win? Here, here ya go. What? Don't want it? Are you sure? We're offering a quarterback who knows about 1/5th of the playbook and can't read the defense, a lousy pass defense. We'll put a bow on it. Don't want it? Are you positive? Look, we'll get sacked in the red zone late in the fourth quarter for you. Think of it as a re-gifted win paid forward from the ones you spotted the Giants and Bucs earlier in the year. Try it on. It fits! There you go.
Seriously, next time I see an Eagles defensive lineman grab a quarterback's facemask on third-and-long when the dude is backpedaling and throwing the ball away (or do something similarly stupid) I'm renouncing the team forever and becoming a Chargers fan. Because, you know, the Chargers are a team that will never let me down.
Baltimore Ravens 20 at Kansas City Chiefs 10
Doug Farrar: Kansas City's last three possessions: interception, Trent Green fumble, interception. Both interceptions by Ed Reed, just hanging out in center field.
Green just made the same throw Jay Cutler made against the Seahawks last Sunday night, except he was lucky enough to avoid an interception and a touchdown the other way, unlike Cutler. Trevor Pryce was dragging Green down, and he just threw up a prayer. Chiefs now walking off the field at halftime -- at Arrowhead -- to a resounding host of boos.
Mike Tanier: The Ravens have deep passes in their playbook! Or maybe not. I can't tell from the highlight whether Clayton was running a post-and-go or if he ran a post, saw Captain Checkdown escape the pocket, then took off on the go route. Either way, it was nice to see that the Chiefs safeties still crazy glue their cleats to the ground when they are supposed to be in deep zone coverage.
My man Trent Green is holding the ball too long and seems to be throwing a second too late, or getting sacked just before he throws. You can't hold the ball a second too long against the Ravens and expect to actually see the end of the play.
Tennessee Titans 26 at Houston Texans 20
Tim Gerheim: It's really hard watching the Texans against the Vince Young Titans. Young has generally looked spectacular or overwhelmed, kind of alternating, but his poise and positivity are exactly what a floundering franchise like the Texans needs. I don't know if they'll wish they had Young, but I'm terrified that he'll be a superstar and beat us twice a year, every year, for the next decade.
Doug Farrar: Yes, but the Texans do have (dramatic pause) Ron Dayne! His two rushing touchdowns -- one each in the second and third quarters -- match his total through 2004-2005.
The Titans set up an interesting protection on a few of their obvious passing downs: they pull a lineman, I think the left guard, out right to protect in front of Young as he rolls right.
Mike Tanier: It's a pretty common protection scheme at the prep and college level to pull an uncovered center out and use him to block an outside defender is the team plans to roll the pocket. He's usually used as a backside blocker if the play is a slow rollout (as opposed to some kind of bootleg pass, in which case a guard might pull as he does on a running play). I don't see it much in the pros, because asking slow interior linemen to flair out and block edge rushers at the NFL level is a recipe for disaster.
Tim Gerheim: Just ask Peyton Manning and the Pittsburgh Steelers. They know.
Watching the Texans and Ron Dayne run all over the Titans as though they were the Colts proves to me that the Texans don't have a good running back. Stay with me. Dayne does a really good job running when the line gives him a huge hole, because he hits the hole hard and gets a monster head of steam that makes him hard to tackle square. But he has no moves and he doesn't have great balance, so he's pretty easy to trip up if the play doesn't work perfectly and he can't get his shoulders square downfield. Wali Lundy can bust it outside but he doesn't seem to read plays that well. If the Texans had a back who could actually break tackles when he gets through the line, instead of just push the tackler for a few yards more before inevitably going down like Dayne does, but also could hit the hole as well as Dayne does, they'd have a crackerjack running game.
Running with Dayne seems to me to epitomize the personality of the Texans. When things go well, they go great. When things go poorly, the go terribly. If there's a big hole, Dayne will run for 11 yards. If there's no hole, he'll get nothing. It's the same with David Carr. He's very efficient (even if he doesn't make spectacular plays ... or any downfield plays) when there's adequate protection or he can get outside the pocket, but when he gets bottled up he always gets sacked or throws an ugly pass. Basically, the Texans go with the tide, whether it's with them or against them, and they can't really reverse it.
Doug Farrar: The Adjusted Line Yards vs. 10+ Yards rank would seem to imply that the line is the primary issue when it comes to Houston's running game. Do you think that's the case, Tim?
Tim Gerheim: I'm not sure about the whole season, because with Lundy and Samkon Gado the Texans have been boom-or-bustier. Today, at least, there have been almost no rushes over 10 yards. I think that the primary determinant of the Texans running game is the offensive line. But I don't know if there's a team that that's not true about.
Mike Tanier: Go Dayne go! Gotta give the big man some love.
Michael David Smith: Vince Young is just plain awesome. When he gets a little more seasoning, he's going to be scary good. Now, please, Titans. Don't be stupid and try to fit him into some offense that doesn't match his skills. Don't be the Falcons.
Tim Gerheim: I know what I want for Christmas now: A Texans #10 jersey with 'Young' on the back.
Mike Tanier: Mike Smith, I agree with you about Vince Young, but I strenuously disagree with your statement about the Falcons system somehow handcuffing Vick. If the Falcons added any more option/rollout/waggle plays, they'd be the Air Force Falcons.
New York Giants 27 at Carolina Panthers 13
Tim Gerheim: I think there are more Giants fans in Carolina than Panthers fans. The cheers for the Giants are louder. Are the Carolinas that big a winter home for New Yorkers? Are there that few Panthers season ticketholders? I never had the impression the Panthers were like the Jags or Bills when it comes to ticket sales.
Bill Barnwell: Wouldn't Jared Lorenzen be a better fourth down quarterback than Eli Manning? He'd be better for the sneak, I bet. They showed him warming up on the sideline as if he was about to come in during the fourth quarter and I was absolutely giddy.
It's 27-13 with 4:53 left and I have no idea why the Giants are laughing it up on the sideline. No game is ever out of reach when you're playing the Giants.
Keyshawn Johnson pulled R.W. McQuarters down by his dreads going for a pass in the end zone at the end of the game. McQuarters was bitter about it but, I mean, burnt hair smells bad, man.
Atlanta Falcons 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6
Bill Barnwell: Want to know why the Buccaneers suck? Warrick Dunn runs 13 yards untouched, past the first down marker, and takes a pretty solid hit from a Buccaneers safety. Immediately, all the Buccaneers defensive backs start high-fiving and celebrating -- you know, never mind the fact that the Falcons just picked up thirteen easy yards on you.
Another reason: Will Allen got totally juked out by JUSTIN GRIFFITH.
Seattle Seahawks 21 at Arizona Cardinals 27
Doug Farrar: Loving the Fox "Z" Crew. I should probably just stop right there.
And ... Sean Locklear's first time back on the field in six games begins with a hold on first down. Third down on the first drive ended with a collapsed pocket all the way across. People don't want to believe that Seattle's line is as bad as it is right now after last year's excellence, but that line has the fourth-highest number of holds in the league, and the fourth-most false starts. That 31st ranking in Adjusted Line Yards isn't a fluke. Neither is the 26th ranking in Adjusted Sack Rate. Neither is the fact that the entire right side just imploded on the Hasselbeck sack/fumble.
Oh, and then Marcus "I should probably be a safety" Trufant fell down on the Leinart TD bomb to Bryant Johnson. Yuck. I know Kelly Jennings is a rookie, but he can't cover any worse on a regular basis, can he?
Nate Burleson hasn't been worth the $49 million contract that really isn't (minus the voidable aspects, the deal is 4 years, about $14.5 million) as a receiver, but his ability to make plays as a punt and kick returner has made a big difference for the Seahawks, especially with all the personnel churn this year. Given the ineffectiveness of Seattle's special teams over the last few years, you would have won a lot of bets if you were laying money on that aspect of the team, between Burleson and Josh Brown, being the thing that has them still in the race for a home playoff game.
Rookie official = bring a lunch to the replay challenges. The Julian Peterson "interception" should have been overturned. It was a strip of the ball after Larry Fitzgerald's knees were already down.
This is the second straight game in which the Seahawks have faced a team that can't cover screens to running backs -- Denver was 31st in defensive DVOA against running backs, and Arizona is 28th. Surprisingly though, the Seahawks don't really throw to their halfbacks. Hasselbeck will throw to Mack Strong once in a while, but they really could benefit from more passes in the flats.
FO loves Arizona safety Adrian Wilson, and he just recovered a Shaun Alexander fumble caused by a perfect Robert Griffith hit. The subsequent Edgerrin James rushing touchdown gets an assist from Seattle's continued enrollment in the Indianapolis School of Tackling.
Two pretty catches in a row by the unheralded D.J. Hackett, the second for a touchdown. Hackett leads the league in DPAR for all receivers with fewer than 38 passes thrown through 13 games.
Aaron Schatz: I saw that Hackett touchdown while flipping during a commercial in SD-DEN. I would love to see what Hackett could do if he ever got a starting job anywhere. Meanwhile, that Nate Burleson good half-season in Minnesota two years ago sure looks like a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.
According to the announcer on ARI-SEA, Edgerrin James' teams are 44-6 when he runs for 100 yards. Really? Wow, I'll bet that's EXACTLY how that cause and effect works.
Seriously, though, how on earth is Seattle letting Edge get 100 yards?
Doug Farrar: Yeah, and I bet Matt Leinart throws more touchdowns when he throws fewer interceptions, too. Golly!
If there's one non-throwing play that sums up why I'm glad Matt Hasselbeck is Seattle's quarterback, it was when he had the presence of mind to watch the play and run upfield to recover Darrell Jackson's fourth-quarter fumble that shot back about fifteen yards after the
I can't believe this Arizona team is gashing Seattle's run defense late. Seahawks defenders are out of position, missing assignments and losing leverage battles that they're talented enough to win -- certainly they were talented enough to win last season. In the end, this loss is about Seattle's inability to win important battles on either line, just as their Super Bowl run was so much about winning those battles. Dominant offensive line -- gone. Dominant interior defensive line -- gone.
Re: Edge vs. Seattle -- losing DT Marcus Tubbs for the season didn't help. They don't have another big guy who can stuff the middle and allow the faster guys to flow in around the initial stop.
Aaron Schatz: Fourth-and-20 for the ball game in Arizona, Matt Hasselbeck with a 19-yard pass to Deion Branch. Branch caught it with about three yards to go and if he had pushed straight forward, I think he had it. But he tried to go sideways to get around the guy in front of him, and it cost him. Can we all guess which Arizona defensive back made the game-ending tackle?
Ned Macey: When our readers go against me, I always worry that I'm missing something. A lot of people thought I was piling on the Seahawks and 49ers, but I feel somewhat vindicated today. The Seahawks are obviously lower in DVOA thanks to the Seneca Wallace era, but they are not one of the best 16 teams in football. Their defense, to me, is one of the most disappointing units in football this year.
As for giving up 100+ to Edge, I know I'm like Peter King with Romo when it comes to Edge, but the last four games he's carried the ball more than four times, he's averaged over four yards per carry and nearly 100 yards per game. Too little too late for the Cardinals, but the moves they've made on the offensive line are definitely working.
Just to keep myself humble, this match-up was between my pre-season predicted Super Bowl Champ and a Wild Card team. Yikes.
Aaron Schatz: Sorry, Ned, let me restate that. "Seriously, though, how on earth is Seattle letting the Arizona offensive line give Edge the holes he needs to get 100 yards?"
Denver Broncos 20 at San Diego Chargers 48
Aaron Schatz: The Denver defense looks good, but the offense is a disaster except for one sweet Tatum Bell run. It seems pretty clear that the defense is all about stopping LT first, second, and third. Early in the game Vincent Jackson put a move on Darrent Williams when Williams was caught looking into the backfield to make sure that LT wasn't coming out with the ball.
OK, the Broncos are now allowing 15-yard runs to some guy named Pinnock. Wasn't he the leader of the British Labour Party during the John Major years?
Ned Macey: Shanahan deserves Goat of the Century for the way he handled his QBs this year. Only in the world where Super Bowls are all that matter is this decision not the worst we've seen since the Rob Johnson/Doug Flutie debacle. Ok, you wouldn't have won a Super Bowl with Plummer, but now you're going to miss the playoffs and ruin your team and your fan base's confidence in Cutler.
Also, I can't tell if Rivers' first half adds to or detracts from Tomlinson's MVP candidacy.
Benjy Rose: LT didn't score that first touchdown. I have no idea why Shanahanabanana didn't challenge. Regardless, SD's offense is a well-oiled machine.
Aaron Schatz: Honest to God, my stepfather and I are actually switching over to watch the Cardinals and Seahawks at halftime. That Broncos-Chargers game is OVER and so is the Broncos season. I wouldn't mind WBZ here in Boston turning that one over to Jets-Bills.
Tim Gerheim: At halftime I left the bar I was watching Broncos-Chargers at to come study for finals. That's when you know the situation is dire.
I don't know if he's won it before, but is there any way A.J. Smith doesn't deserve Executive of the Year? Rookie Marcus McNeill is doing a fantastic job at left tackle, which has shored up the whole line (which was only a problem last year after LT Roman Oben went out injured), Antonio Cromartie looks all the way back from his knee injury judging by his outstanding kickoff return, and it's only a matter of time (albeit possibly not this season) before he's starting at cornerback, and the Philip Rivers thing seems to have worked out pretty well. Phil Simms was going on about how this team is winning because they're bigger and stronger than the Broncos, which is another way of saying they have good players, and that to me is a testament to the people who brought together the players in the first place.
Benjy Rose: Bobble-dee-bobble! This game ain't over! And what is it about rookie QBs preferring to throw to rookie WR/TEs? Of course, I can't think of any other specific examples, but, um, I'm sure it's true ... right??
Oh, and Cutler looks like he's about 15. The kid who mows my lawn looks older than he does.
Mike Tanier: There's precedent for a backup QBs entering the game and preferring to throw to the slot guys and second TEs who he practiced with on the second team. In general, it isn't unusual to see the pass distribution for a team change right after they change quarterbacks.
Aaron Schatz: I'd like to call Vincent Jackson as the fantasy wide receiver breakout star of 2007. By the way, normally that personality stuff is lame, but Jim Nantz just mentioned that Vincent Jackson may be the only player in NFL history whose GPA equaled his 40 time, since he was a 4.2 student. That was a fun little tidbit, at least it tells you the guy is smart as well as big.
The flip side of Vincent Jackson is that I've seen Darrent Williams make a number of mistakes today, and when you combine that with the Indianapolis game, he certainly doesn't look like quite the cornerback that Denver fans thought they had early in the season.
Mike Tanier: 4.2? That's grade inflation. The high mountain air at Norther Colorado probably inflates GPAs. The valedictorian probably had a 6.3 GPA. and 40-time. Not that I am saying Jackson is dumb, but I remember when 4.0 was Absolute Maximum.
Jason Beattie: I believe Jackson was roommates with that punter who got stabbed by the backup punter. Northern Colorado has a rule that if your roommate is stabbed by another player you automatically get a 4.2.
Aaron Schatz: Jim Brown set the record for combined rushing/receiving touchdowns with 21 TD in 1965.
Jim Riggins broke that record with 24 in 1983.
Emmitt Smith broke that record with 25 in 1995.
Now that record has been broken FOUR TIMES in the last seven years: Faulk in 2000, Holmes in 2003, Alexander in 2005, and LT in 2006. Is there any better testament to the rise of the single workhorse back?
Both on our discussion boards, and on TV, the talk has started: is this the greatest running back season of all time?
Do any of you think it is? I think it is not, because yards are more important than touchdowns. Not even thinking about O.J. Simpson or Priest Holmes a couple years ago, the best running back season of all time is either Jim Brown in 1958 or Jim Brown in 1965. Any thoughts?
Mike Tanier: I would go with the Brown seasons, too. The next question is: "Is this the best RB season that anyone really remembers?"
It is probably one of the Top Five or Ten. Eric Dickerson in 1984. Earl Campbell in 1980, amazing. There are two or three Walter Payton years when he was the only thing the Bears had going for him that were tremendous. Terrell Davis in 1998. The best Barry Sanders seasons. In general, people are overstating this season because of a) the need to generate storylines and b) the impact of fantasy football on our perceptions. Oh, but I think LT is the clear MVP.
Ryan Wilson: This sounds like a job for Captain Z-Score.
Doug Farrar: As I wrote in FO's most recent Jason Whitlock Sucks thread, I have difficulty assigning a "best" to any player during the 1960s, when so much talent was divided between two leagues. Brown's 1958 certainly merits consideration -- Chuck Noll was his starting right guard that year, by the way -- and Dickerson's 1984 as well. Personally, I might go with Campbell's 1980 season. The 1980 Oilers only passed the ball 44.7 percent of the time, ranked fourth in the NFL in yards gained, and 20th in scoring. I mean, everyone knew that it was going to Campbell. All the time. I know that was true of Brown as well, but Campbell gets my nod in part because he was facing more advanced defenses. Based on performance vs. quality of offensive line, you'd also have to consider Payton's 1977 or Barry Sanders' 1997.
Michael David Smith: When you consider the quality of the team around him, I don't see how anyone could even say LT this year is close to Barry Sanders in 1997. Give Barry the Chargers' offensive line, Lorenzo Neal and Brandon Manumaleuna, and he goes for 2500.
Mike Tanier: Okay, I was at the computer. Turned the TV off. He broke the record? Now, this is the second or third time this season he scored two touchdowns in the final minutes of a game. I don't know what to make of that. You could spin those as "piling on" or "garbage time" touchdowns, or you could spin that as "he wore the defense out." Either way, an amazing player having a great year, but you can't just look at the TD total and say Best Ever.
Buffalo Bills 31 at New York Jets 13
Aaron Schatz: They just showed a game break on Bills-Jets. J.P. Losman has a lot of flaws, and I still think that he's going to end up spending most of his career as a second-stringer, but the man can certainly throw the deep ball. He drew the Jets defensive backs on a pump fake, then hit Lee Evans for something like 77 yards.
Bill Barnwell: The CBS graphic with the Jets defense on it listed them as a 4-3. Still. They've been in a 3-4 for 13 weeks now. Didn't anyone go to dinner with Eric Mangini Saturday night? Doesn't he explain this stuff to them?
Willis McGahee runs off-tackle untouched for about, oh, 60 yards or so. A Jets player trips him up as he falls into the end zone. Even if the Jets get into the playoffs, there's no way they're going anywhere. LaDainian Tomlinson might score 28 touchdowns in one game against them.
J.P. Losman appropriated the 11-step drop at least once or twice during this game. This is ill-advised when your tackles aren't very good.
Chad Pennington overthrew a Jets receiver and had the pass returned for a touchdown. I was amazed that Chad Pennington could overthrow anything, to be honest. One of the Jets fans in the bar kept yelling "STOP CHECKING DOWN!" at Pennington. I didn't know what to say to that.
Jets interior linemen looked good at the beginning of the game getting to the second level and blocking the Bills linebackers. On pass protection, well ... they could use some work. The Bills clearly thought they could tip Pennington's passes over the middle down with their DL; they were conspicuously sticking around the line of scrimmage and leaping on almost every pass play. The Jets exploited this with a draw later that got them to stop.
Ned Macey: Just when Aaron finally says something nice about the Jets... As if Harrington, Garcia, and even Pinner aren't enough, Dick Jauron is doing a very nice job in Buffalo. For all the love Mangini is getting, his team is now one game better, and he's had Pennington healthy all year. Most of us thought Buffalo was worse than New York when Pennington's status was uncertain. J.P. Losman is giving them a difficult decision. I think a great staff would cut bait and go with someone else (like Houston should have with Carr), but I expect Buffalo, like most staffs, will keep him.
New Orleans Saints 42 at Dallas Cowboys 17
Doug Farrar: Gerry Austin just called an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Bill Parcells for throwing a challenge flag inside two minutes. New Orleans scored a touchdown on the very next play. I'm not sure whether that's an enormous coaching blunder, one of the more ridiculous rules I've ever heard, or both. But in a season that started with legitimate challenge flags going unseen by officials, the league might want to give a bit more latitude here.
Tim Gerheim: As for ridiculous rules, here's one: On the opening kickoff of overtime in Titans-Texans, Kris Brown pooched it so Pacman Jones couldn't get a great return. It looked like it was going out of bounds, so the Titans avoided touching it. It kept bouncing inbounds around the 20-yard line, and one of the Texans flew in trying to recover what amounted to a very long onside kick. As you might imagine, falling on and acquiring possession of a football while running at full speed is very difficult, and he managed to shoot the ball out of bounds. Because a kicking team player was the last (and also only, though I don't know if that was significant) player to touch it before it went out of bounds, it was treated as a kickoff out of bounds, and the Titans got the ball at the 40.
Mike Tanier: The Saints are making my weekend better and better. Who the heck is Jamal Jones? Mike Karney ... you are going to Honolulu buddy!
Aaron Schatz: Jaws 1, Cowboys 0. But I don't think any of us expected this to be the defense that Romo played badly against. Omar Stoutmire has been a weakness ever since he took over for Roman Harper, and he's the one with the big interception. That's the big surprise to me -- not that Romo has problems, but that the Saints defense is draping the best receiving corps in the NFL so that nobody is ever open. This is what they looked like in the Falcons game, but that was months ago and this is a much better offense. I wrote in my game preview that the Cowboys would pick on Fred Thomas, and instead I think every single pass has gone toward whoever is covered by Mike McKenzie. Have you even seen Thomas on the field? I know he's there but Romo is even passing to Patrick Crayton covered by McKenzie instead of throwing wherever Thomas is. What is going on? Thought: Could it be that Thomas is excellent in man coverage, but not super fast? Therefore he gets destroyed by fast receivers -- Chad Johnson, Antonio Bryant -- but drapes himself over receivers who depend more on technique? At this point, I think we could say T.O. is more of a technique guy than a speed guy. Just a theory.
Also: Just because it worked doesn't make it a good play call. What the heck was with the Devery Henderson reverse on fourth-and-1?
Mike Tanier: Parcells on fourth-and-8 in the third. Touchdown TO. The Tuna has brass ones.
Aaron Schatz: Parcells loves to go for it on fourth downs. I read something in ESPN the Magazine about that.
Apparently, Fred Thomas is, in fact, covering Terrell Owens. He's covering Owens so close that a ball that goes through his hands will go right into T.O.'s.
(Following the onside kick by New Orleans.)
Aaron Schatz: Sean Payton to Bill Parcells: I see your brass ones and raise you these solid titanium ones.
Tim Gerheim: So I'm not watching this game but ... can we just go ahead and call Reggie Bush a wide receiver yet?
Benjy Rose: Is anyone else as frightened as I am about the Combos ad campaign? "What your Mom would feed you if your Mom was a man." Eek. Visions of John Goodman in drag.
Bill Barnwell: FOX introed a feature during their pre-game show with Joe Buck and Pam Oliver standing on a mock football field. Meanwhile, Jimmy Johnson, Howie Long, and Terry Bradshaw, all of whom have actually played football or been involved with the game professionally, were sitting at a desk.
The announcement of the Prince halftime show got a HUGE reaction at the bar. Mixed, but huge. I don't get it -- they're worried about the halftime show being too overtly sexual so they bring in Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones ... and then Prince?
New rule: Any commercial with a chestbump between two people is not funny. It doesn't matter how many ex-Daily Show correspondents you put in it. Not funny.
"Sneak King" is the greatest name for any video game, or really anything, ever.
There's something beautiful about the Dr. Pepper Cream & Berries ad. Think about what it's telling us beyond the fact that this guy really likes the soda. The guy who he helps move? He has no one else to help him move besides the guy who has a can of soda constantly using up one of his hands, and when Dr. Pepper guy gets there to help him move, he still thinks it's a good idea to have this guy carry a couch with him. That is beautiful, really.