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.
Pittsburgh Steelers 38 at Atlanta Falcons 41
Michael David Smith: I think the FO view of Michael Vick has become the consensus. I watched all the pregame shows today and I hardly heard any analyst say anything good about Vick. Shannon Sharpe, Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, Terry Bradshaw, all guys who usually are fairly athlete-friendly, were bashing him. However, I do have to say that I think the coaching staff in Atlanta bears some of the responsibility for the fact that he hasn't improved as a passer. I wonder how different his career would be if Dan Reeves were still in Atlanta.
Bill Barnwell: Well wasn't Bill Musgrave supposed to save him?
Michael David Smith: It's not even the two-minute warning of the first half yet, and Vick already has set a new career high for touchdown passes (three). And yet he still isn't looking all that good today. He's mixing some good passes in with some horribly inaccurate ones.
Doug Farrar: Indeed. Three TD passes don't look as impressive when you're completing half your passes and you've thrown two picks.
Michael David Smith: I've criticized Atlanta's coaching staff, but let me say that I loved the call for the surprise onside kick in the second quarter.
Vin Gauri: Troy Palamalu is made of stainless steel. What a stop on Dunn at the goal line on second down. They're reviewing Dunn's TD plunge on third down.
Ned Macey: Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I'm rooting for Vick to become a consistent passer. The talent is definitely there, as he always makes a few extremely precise passes surrounded by a bevy of poor ones. The big pass in overtime -- escape Polamalu and then flip out the soft touch to Crumpler -- was something only a couple quarterbacks could do.
I like Charlie Batch, and the Steelers will be ok with him for the short term. I know Maddox had that good season, but if the coaches were watching those two guys in practice, how was Maddox ever the #2?
Vin Gauri: Holy crap. Hines Ward just outran the Atlanta defense for a TD while wearing one shoe for the last 30 yards. Great look off of the safeties and throw by Batch on the post pattern.
This game is a track meet. Atlanta is rolling Vick out and letting him set up shop in the flat, survey the field, and throw bullets. Having Crumpler helps. It's reminiscent of watching Favre back in his (and GB's) prime.
Aaron Schatz: At one point, Phil Simms said "You take [Norwood], Vick, DeAngelo Hall, that's some of the fastest guys in the NFL, all in one backfield." Um, Phil? In what backfield is that?
Vin Gauri: Crazy sequence at end of the fourth quarter (tied at 38). Atlanta lines up for a 57-yard field goal to win the game. Koenen splits the uprights with the field goal, but the officials give Cowher a timeout (very close call) just before the snap. Koenen then misses, but Polamalu runs into him for a 5-yard penalty. Another Pittsburgh timeout, I think. Then Mora sends out Morten Andersen to try the 52-yarder, which is short. Steelers take over with 25 seconds remaining. Batch completes it downfield to Ward to the Atlanta 35. Pittsburgh is out of timeouts, so they have to spike the ball. But Nate Washington isn't set in the ensuing scramble to line up, penalty with 10 second run-off, so it's on to overtime.
Michael David Smith: I think the two Steelers-Falcons games of the last five years might be the two strangest games of the last five years. Just so many different bizarre scenarios. I could read Bill Cowher's lips and he very clearly said after the false start, "that's a bullshit call." He's wrong. It was the right call.
Ryan Wilson: The Steelers have real issues with turnovers. They put the ball on the ground four times last week and lost two. This week, Santonio Holmes fumbled another kickoff, Willie Parker fumbled, and Roethlisberger lost a snap. These three turnovers resulted in 21 Falcons points. Throw in Atlanta recovering an onside kick and a wily European kicker and there you have it.
MDS mentioned Cowher yelling about the false start to end regulation. Cowher should've been yelling at himself. When Warrick Dunn scored early in the second half, Cowher challenged the play even though it was obvious to everybody with at least one good eye it was a TD. If he weren't throwing around timeouts like the Redskins throw around draft picks, the Steelers could've potentially had it available at the end of the game. Well, assuming Cowher didn't try to triple-ice Morten Andersen a few plays earlier.
On the upside, Nate Washington continues to improve and Holmes looks like he's going to be really, really good. Roethlisberger also played well and it's good to know Chaz Batch can come in
if when Ben goes down.
Bad stuff: the run blocking looked dreadful and I'm not sure why against this Falcons team; Willie Parker was more concerned about not fumbling that actually running the football late in the game.
I'm still not impressed with Vick the passer, but he made two big third-down conversions late in the game to keep drives alive.
Tim Gerheim: Remember after the Bucs won the Super Bowl following the '03 season and then imploded, how there was a lot of talk about the team's having sold its soul to the devil for that Super Bowl win? I'm starting to think Ben Roethlisberger talked to them in early 2004 to get the devil's number. Has anything gone well for him since the Steelers won the Super Bowl? He finally gets back on track last week, and then the next game gets totally clobbered this week and misses the second half or so. It really feels like a morality play.
Bill Moore: I'm sorry but Bill Cowher can be a real crybaby. His post game press conference was led with, "I'm not going to be judgmental. I'm just going to tell you what went on at the end of the game. He called a flinch on number 85, Nate Washington. That's what he called. You take it from there."
It was HARDLY a flinch. Washington took a step forward. Plus, this is coming from a guy who greatly benefited from a questionable timeout call. (And by the way, I was marginally routing for the Steelers in this game.)
Doug Farrar: There's nothing I love more than Bill Cowher complaining about calls. Unless it's Joey Porter complaining about calls six months after they happened. There, I said it.
Mike Tanier: Oh no, Bill suggested that the Steelers benefited from a call. Big no-no. We will get at least five e-mails reminding us of the heads-tails call on Thanksgiving and the Polamalu fumble.
I'll say this about Vick: in overtime, when the Falcons only have to drive about 50 yards for a field goal, when Knappster can call his five favorite option/rollout plays to gain yardage, Vick is scary. He's a lot easier to keep out of the end zone (thanks to his inaccuracy) than he is to keep from picking up a few first downs. All I saw of that game was overtime, but the Steelers were having a hard time covering all of the ground they had to to account for possible counters, scrambles, bombs, and whatnots.
New England Patriots 28 at Buffalo Bills 6
Bill Barnwell: The Patriots' first drive against the Bills was their best drive of the season so far, and it happened against a team that totally stymied them in the first half of their first game. The Bills clearly are trying to hide their rookie safeties and are giving big cushions on the outside to Reche Caldwell of all people -- including a series where Terrence McGee stood six yards off the LOS on a third-and-4 and Tom Brady, as you might imagine, took the first down easily. Next play, Caldwell beat McGee deep but Brady overthrew him, and they gave Caldwell a cushion for the rest of the drive.
The Patriots' next third down was third-and-8 from the 21; London Fletcher dropped back 11 yards away from the LOS in a zone and Troy Brown hopped in front of him, ran a perfect-length curl route, and had a pretty much unchallenged first down.
Doug Farrar: Brady must see something on Caldwell's side - according to the play-by-play data, he went to Caldwell five times (two incompletions) on that drive.
Bill Barnwell: Bills gift the Patriots another touchdown when Brady takes a knee to avoid a coverage sack on third down and Mark Kelsay dives at him about two seconds after the play ends. The announcers repeatedly exclaim how furious Dick Jauron must be and they repeatedly show him calm and placid, not even opening his mouth, no Cowher frown, nothing.
Aaron Schatz: That first Patriots drive truly was a marvel of smart play-calling. First, Terrence McGee was giving Caldwell a big cushion, so they went to him on quick passes twice. So McGee moves up, and Brady goes deep on a bomb to Caldwell, though he overthrew it. Later on, they had a sweet tight end screen where Brady faked a left screen, spun around, and hit Watson on the right side. I don't think anybody in the league times the throw on a screen pass -- or fakes a fake screen pass -- better than Tom Brady. It's not just a short throw where the receiver and blockers do all the work; there is an art to it.
Later on, the Bills had a set of plays that had to frustrate every Buffalo fan to no end. You've got two kinds of penalties, the ones that demonstrate close play (interference, illegal contact, holding) and the ones that demonstrate lack of discipline (false start, delay of game, illegal procedure). The first type of penalty tends to have no correlation with losing, while the second type tends to indicate a losing team (see the St. Louis chapter of PFP 2006).
So the Bills go: 13-yard reception to Lee Evans cancelled by illegal shift, then delay of game, so it goes from first down with the Evans reception to third-and-14. Now, they made a sweet play on that third-and-14, when the Pats blitzed six (aaargh) including two guys around the sides, and McGahee took a nice shovel pass and went for the first down. But then they messed that up with a direct snap to Josh Reed in the backfield that fooled nobody and gained a single yard, and two plays later, Losman dropped yet another snap.
Aaron Schatz: When Ben Watson had to stay in to block Aaron Schobel, Schobel destroyed him. But when Watson went out for passes and Schobel had to drop into coverage in a zone blitz, Schobel couldn't cover him in the least. That was a fun demonstration of each player's strengths and weaknesses.
Bill Barnwell: In the "Plays you wouldn't expect to see" category, Robert Royal holds on for a great catch over the middle when Rodney Harrison lines up and then misses him badly.
Bills got booed off the field at halftime after a competitive half where they happen to be down 14-3. That's a little harsh. Not everyone can be the Sabres.
There was a awfully-timed shot of a Patriots lineman (maybe Wilfork?) on the sideline picking his nose before the last play of the game. Just digging for gold.
Doug Farrar: They have so far to go to match baseball for ill-timed sideline/dugout shots...
San Diego Chargers 27 at Kansas City Chiefs 30
Bill Barnwell: I knew I should've taken the Chiefs as a Best Bet this week. I just didn't trust my intuition. Oh well.
Aaron Schatz: Inconsistent teams drive me insane. This game would have made DVOA look really smart -- if it happened a week ago. It's amazing that the Chiefs can play so badly one week and so well just seven days later with all the same players.
Tim Gerheim: The Chiefs have turned into a poor man's 2000 Ravens. Their offense isn't quite as bad, but all it has to hang its hat on is the running back and the tight end. Today, both were a lot better than they have been all season. Their defense isn't as good as the 2000 Ravens, certainly, but it's the only thing keeping them in games, at least against the Chargers. They put a lot of pressure on Philip Rivers, and he struggled with it until the fourth-quarter comeback.
LaDainian Tomlinson has turned into Reggie Bush plus goal-line carries. I think this is the year his massive workload finally catches up to him. I'm not saying he's washed up, by any means, just that this is a down year for him. Maybe it's the line, but he doesn't run inside very well, and the Chargers are using him a lot more in the passing game. Their best formation has Michael Turner at running back, with Tomlinson out wide. He still has his speed, and it was on display on his touchdown run, but he seems to play better in space.
One fun, pointless play by the Chiefs: They ran an end-around, but the Chargers stayed home on the back side, and the receiver (I don't recall who it was) turned it back toward the middle. He ended up getting tackled basically at the line of scrimmage by Jamal Williams. You know you've done something wrong when you run an end-around and get tackled by JAMAL WILLIAMS.
Detroit Lions 24 at New York Jets 31
Bill Barnwell: Chad Pennington shows off his good and bad sides on the Jets second touchdown. On third-and-6, he uses a hard count to draw the Lions offside. Then, on third-and-1, he executes a gorgeous play fake -- fooling me, the hard camera, the Lions DL, and apparently a lace or two on the football, as he throws a duck of a deep ball to Justin McCareins, who makes a great adjustment while being surrounded by two Lions to haul it in and score.
Michael David Smith: If you want to know how good a player Shaun Rogers is, just look at how good the previously incompetent Jets running attack is looking against a Rogers-less Detroit defensive line. It just makes a huge difference not having him taking up two blockers on every play.
Aaron Schatz: I did get a chance to watch just a few minutes of this game, and at one point Jerricho Cotchery caught a pass and ran right over Boss Bailey. He's not supposed to be able to do that, right?
Carolina Panthers 14 at Cincinnati Bengals 17
Doug Farrar: Early on, the Bengals are having more success containing Steve Smith by blitzing the A-gap and playing man than they are setting up a zone and letting him run through it. Which makes sense -- we've all seen enough to know that until Delhomme is on his butt, Smith is pretty much open no matter what, unless you run that four-man gauntlet (box-and-one, as Aaron called it) the Seahawks used on him in the NFC Championship game. Might as well try to blow up the guy throwing the ball if the guy catching it is uncoverable.
Discussion question: Is the Smith/Keyshawn duo the NFL's best right now? Better than Boldin/Fitzgerald, better than Harrison/Wayne, and far better than Owens/Glenn (with Owens the straggler)? Oh, wait a minute -- it's Eric Moulds/Andre Johnson of the Texans, according to their individual DPAR rankings. What a weird season.
If anyone doubts the value of cohesiveness along an offensive line, this is Cincinnati's fifth different line group of the season, Palmer had almost equaled his sack total for all last year before this game even started (as has Matt Hasselbeck, by the way), and the Bengals went three-and-out on their first four possessions. Carolina doesn't have to do much more than bring four to create problems, and the Bengals didn't get into Carolina territory until there were six minutes left in the first half. However, two big runs by Rudi Johnson set up Palmer's touchdown to Reggie Kelly. The Bengals went trips right on that one.
Nice lack of urgency from the Bengals toward the end of the second half: Down 14-7, they futz around until they get his with a false start with 14 seconds left, which requires a 10-second runoff, pursuant to the "Linehan Rule." Cincinnati's one successful first-half drive was surrounded by a great deal of ugly play. Come to think of it, Ken Lucas was flagged for illegal contact on one interception and dropped another one, and those were both on the aforementioned drive, so there you go. Palmer wasn't sacked in the first half, but he had people in his face all the time. And the coverage on the Nick Goings TD was a joke. The Bengals have many more problems than Chad Johnson's current inability to act boldly.
Michael David Smith: Yes, I think Keyshawn-Smith is the best WR duo in the league. I'd probably take Boldin-Fitzgerald second and Johnson-Houshmandzadeh third.
Doug Farrar: My bad for not mentioning Johnson-Houshmandzadeh in that discussion.
Ken Lucas and Mike Minter gave a seminar on coverage when they teamed up on Chad Johnson on a first-and-10 from the Carolina 44 with 10:37 left in the third quarter. Lucas guided him outside left perfectly, and Minter kept him out there on the line as he went past. Palmer didn't give Johnson much to work with on the throw, not that he would have had much.
Robert Geathers made a great pursuit play on a fake toss right from Delhomme to FO bete noire DeShaun Foster with about 6:00 left in the third. Followed him all the way to the side, and Foster had no chance, bringing up third-and-16. Cincinnati's defense is playing far more aggressively in the second half. The Panthers went three-and out on three of their first four second-half drives.
Smith's 36-yard reception with 1:26 left in the third was facilitated by a weird coverage. Smith was inside left, and Madieu Williams covered him at the line but moved inside to blitz at the snap. Smith was left to run a slant/cross thingy with a free release, into a zone, covered by linebacker Landon Johnson. Either someone screwed up, or the Bengals might want to tear that play out of the book.
I really hadn't seen Palmer have any touch with the deep ball. Everything in the air longer than ten yards seemed to be either out of bounds or impossibly overthrown, until his beautiful 32-yarder to Chad Johnson with 9:13 left in the game. On fourth-and-11 Palmer just heaved it up, great touch, and put it where Johnson would be, over Chris Gamble. That was purty. Palmer was 8-of-9 for 93 yards on a drive that began with a sack. In the end, that drive (and the subsequent drive Delhomme couldn't pull off) was the difference.
And there was Smith from the Carolina 19, taking the ball from Delhomme two yards behind the LOS, gaining 18 with about five guys on him, and getting another 15 from a face mask penalty on Madieu Williams. He gained 23 on the next play and the Panthers were in position to score â€¦ until Delhomme threw up a "what the HELL was he thinking" interception to Kevin Kaesviharnfluengersjtutarn in the end zone with 3:57 left in the game. Bengals run out the clock, and there's your ballgame.
Michael David Smith: Anyone else who watched this game feel free to chime in on this, but I really think Willie Anderson should be named offensive player of the week for the job he did on Julius Peppers.
Doug Farrar: Agreed. Cincy's middle was very weak at times, but Peppers was a non-factor. Two tackles, two assists.
Michael David Smith: Steve Smith dropped a pass on the first play of the game, but he's a stud. Just incredible what he can do.
Keyshawn Johnson picked up a 17-yard gain on third-and-6 to keep the first drive alive. He later dropped a pass on second-and-goal. Keyshawn plays some H-back in the Dan Henning offense. This is the perfect offense for him because it asks receivers to block and Keyshawn is a willing blocker.
Chad Johnson made a diving 32-yard catch on a gutsy call on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter, giving the Bengals first-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Marvin Lewis chose to punt on fourth-and-1 later in the fourth quarter, with just over 5 minutes remaining. Dumb. Go for it there.
Mike Tanier: Didn't watch. Spent the early game learning that my heart can travel 186 feet in the air off the boot of a mediocre kicker.
Philadelphia Eagles 21 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23
Doug Farrar: I was wondering why we haven't heard from Mike Tanier yet today, until it occurred to me that Ronde Barber's interception for a touchdown off McNabb might have given him a nasty 2002 NFC Championship Game flashback.
Mike? You out there? You okay?
Ned Macey: Incredible ending with the 62-yard field goal. If my laptop had been with me at the time I would have written that I thought they should just go for the Hail Mary since the 62-yarder was impossible. Guess I was wrong about that.
Given the ending, it is worth noting that the Eagles left three points on the field at the end of the first half when McNabb threw to the 2-yard line with two seconds and no timeouts left. Smith was tackled short of the end zone, and the half ended.
McNabb was dying out there today with dehydration issues. The puke on the field was the obvious sign, but he looked tired for much of the second half. That being said, his touchdown to Tapeh was an amazing individual play. Speaking of amazing individual plays, the final Westbrook touchdown was absurd. He made at least five TB defenders miss. When healthy, I think Westbrook is one of the ten most dangerous weapons in the league.
Nice to see Ronde Barber clinch his Pro Bowl bid today. What I liked about the two touchdowns was that one was done with guile and one was done with physical skill.
Tampa Bay, by the way, got outgained 506-196. If it weren't for last week's Arizona debacle, this result would have seemed more absurd. Credit Gradkowski for not turning the ball over, and that's about it.
Aaron Schatz: What a weird day. You can do all the numbers and stats and projections you want, and some days, a bunch of weird stuff just happens.
I'm trying to figure out what's the strangest aspect of that Matt Bryant 62-yard field goal.
1) It was the first field goal of 59 or more yards since 1998.
2) I specifically wrote in last week's DVOA ratings that there had been no field goal of 59 or more yards since 1998.
3) It beat Bryant's previous career high by 12 yards.
4) Based on our numbers, Bryant was the third-worst field-goal kicker in the league until Sunday, ahead of only Michael Koenen and Olindo Mare.
The Eagles have now lost a game that went to overtime on a ball fumbled forward into the end zone, and a game with TWO turnovers returned for touchdown and an absurd field goal.
Unlike Chicago last week, San Diego and Philadelphia fell behind early, crawled back into the game -- and then had the other team come back to win by NOT missing the final field goal.
Michael David Smith: Just days after his identical twin brother, Tiki, said he planned to retire, Ronde Barber showed he has lots of good football left in him. I really like both of the Barber brothers. Class acts, great players.
Donovan McNabb was nearly sacked but danced around in the pocket and fired the ball to running back Thomas Tapeh for his first touchdown. He looked more mobile than usual, but he also looked exhausted after a long run in the third quarter. McNabb, who was famously criticized by his then-teammate Terrell Owens for getting tired in the Jacksonville heat during Super Bowl, was visibly winded after a long run in the third quarter and vomited on the field in the fourth quarter.
Just when Philadelphia seemed to be taking control of the game, Jerome McDougle got a 15-yard facemask penalty then picked up a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for kicking the referee's penalty flag. Not smart.
Bruce Gradkowski needs to get more accurate. Almost all of his completions have been short passes.
Mike Tanier: OK, I'm better now. After that Eagles game, I had 1.75 DPAR (draft pours above replacement) and I am in at least a reasonable mood.
Yeah, McNabb looked drained in the fourth quarter. I would rather take drained, puking, and throwing touchdowns than fresh and throwing easy interceptions. That game was an indication of what happens when you come out week after week and let teams get an edge on you in the first quarter or the first half, which the Eagles did against the Texans, Packers, Saints, and Bucs (and really the Cowboys if you throw away the blocked punt. It's great to be the best second half team in the NFL, but I would rather be the best first half team. The Eagles need to stop letting (mostly) weaker foes play with them in the first half.
As for the three interceptions, well, this may be news to some people, but the Bucs play a Cover-2 defense. This is new: they haven't been doing this for the past decade or so, and a version of the defense isn't named after them, or anything. Ronde Barber, in particular, is still figuring out this defense, because he just met coordinator Monte Kiffen last Thursday and doesn't know how deep he should set or how to defend a hitch. So it makes sense that the Eagles, who haven't run a hitch in about three weeks (see Ned's comments about how the Eagles offense consists of screens and bombs) would decide that they would execute lots of hitches and curls and outs in front of Barber, who lacks the experience to handle the kinds of routes Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis can run. ARRGH! ARGHH! The Bucs couldn't stop the run, and they traded one of their best run defenders before the game! ARGGH! So we decide attack the one guy on the Bucs side of the ball who absolutely knows what he's doing (okay, Brooks too).
Completely, utterly frustrating. I mean, most of the game, look at the field goal snaps, Bidwell can barely get them down. Then the field goal. ARRGH!
Doug Farrar: 1.75 DPAR? I maxed out at 3.50 after the Hasselbeck injury, but my numbers were deceptive, as I was drinking American light beer. This, of course, cuts my replacement value in half.
Mike Tanier: I was drinking American light too. DPAR accounts for having two children and a day job.
Bill Barnwell: In the opposite vein, I got home at 7 AM this morning and may have very well still been drunk for the Jets game. Does that give me negative DPAR?
Green Bay Packers 34 at Miami Dolphins 24
Aaron Schatz: I guess none of us watched this game, but Joey Harrington threw 62 passes today. WTF?
The record is 70 by Drew Bledsoe back during that absurd 1994 Patriots season where they never, ever ran the ball and still made the playoffs. Can anyone else remember another game of 60+? And how bad does your offensive line have to be at run blocking to throw the ball 62 times with Ronnie Brown in your backfield?
Michael David Smith: Vinny Testaverde threw 69 a few years ago. George Blanda had the record at 68 until Bledsoe broke it. Jon Kitna of all people threw 68 once, too.
Bill Barnwell: I think what's even more amazing is that Harrington threw 62 passes and Chris Chambers had TWO catches.
Jacksonville Jaguars 7 at Houston Texans 27
Aaron Schatz: My nominee for Any Given Sunday. How do you only score seven points against the Houston Texans???
Tim Gerheim: The way you only score seven against the Texans is by having a quarterback playing like Drew Bledsoe on a bender. I don't know if it's always been this way, but Leftwich's throwing motion looks less like he's trying to throw a football and more like he's trying to split pavement with a sledgehammer. His arm comes from below parallel to the ground all the way over his head, pretty much extended all the way around. It's the ugliest thing I've ever seen, and it resulted in a lot of passes that, without Leftwich being under any pressure, dove straight for the turf about six yards in front of the intended receiver. These weren't underthrown deep balls, they were dump-offs that plunged into the line of scrimmage.
Fred Taylor was running roughshod over the Texans, especially in the second half, but for some reason the Jags decided they should pass now and then, and Leftwich killed drives. He also had the benefit of some timely drops by Reggie Williams and a fumble by Ernest Wilford. (When that happens, it sort of turns TMQ's "ERRR-nest WILLL-ford" on its head. Interestingly, I just Googled "TMQ Ernest Wilford" to find how TMQ spells his chant, and the top hit was a TMQ from last year in which he recounts a Wilford drop that caused a DeMarcus Faggins interception return for a touchdown to ice the game. It's fun when things come full circle like that.
I don't understand rivalries. Houston always plays Jacksonville tough, no matter the disparity between the two teams. Indy, on the other hand...
Mike Tanier: Leftwich has always had that motion. When he was just a little boy who stood up to his daddy's knee, he picked up a hammer and a little piece of steel and said "the hammer's gonna be the death of me." Seriously, though: big ol' windup.
Arizona Cardinals 9 at Oakland Raiders 22
Doug Farrar: Oakland is beating Arizona, 17-0, in the second quarter. I'm off to buy stock in YouTube before the Dennis Green postgame press conference.
Aaron Schatz: Edgerrin James: 13 carries for 34 yards. Oakland was allowing 4.0 yards per carry and 149 yards per game before this. At what point does James become the biggest waste of money in NFL free agent history?
Washington Redskins 22 at Indianapolis Colts 36
Ned Macey: The angle going in is Washington can run the ball and the Colts can't stop the run. Match-ups aren't that easy. Washington likes to run on the edges, and the Colts' speedy linebackers are flying to the ball. Freeney and Mathis' upfield pass rush actually slows down the run if the run is outside. Freeney, by the way, finally gets a sack but it comes with a 15-yard facemask penalty.
Manning took a nasty hit. We'll see how he recovers from that. Replay just showed him holding his shoulder.
Aaron Schatz: OK, just when we thought it couldn't get any weirder today, the Redskins were just forced to kick off from their own FIVE due to penalties. I don't have a single kickoff from the five-yard line in my entire database going back to 1997.
It was strange to see the Redskins and Colts unable to run on each other in the first quarter, but they were running a bit better in the second quarter.
Ned Macey: Reasonable minds can disagree about whether or not Harrison/Wayne are the top wide receiver combo, but I think everyone can agree that Kenny Wright cannot cover either one of them. Shawn Springs went down leaving Rumph on Harrison from the 1-yard line, and Harrison managed to get about five yards of separation.
I really think that the Washington offense with Brunell would be good enough if they had a defense even approaching last year's team. Instead, it looks like the Jason Campbell era may be starting soon.
Mike Tanier: The Colts got three ticky-tack points before half. First, ARE makes that great punt return, but he gets flagged for excessive celebration for what looked like spontaneous glee to me (and I really dislike the Redskins). Then, the kickoff dude takes his helmet off while begging for a facemask call. Yes, the letter of the law says no, but he's about 50 yards away from the action and about to walk off the field anyway. Then, there's a roughness call against the Redskins on Manning. It appeared to be a makeup call for the play when they decapitated Manning but there was no call. The Redskins kicked off from the 5-yard line, then gave up 15 yards on the roughing call. It didn't make a difference, I guess, except for momentum in a game where the Colts steamrolled late.
I saw one play where the Redskins flipped the quick screen to Santana Moss and the Colts CB (Jackson?) read it from five seconds before the Redskins huddled. They really need to come up with something else.
Ryan Wilson: I don't know if it was just situational, an injury issue, or an ability issue, but newly signed Troy Vincent was on the field early with Sean Taylor while Adam Archuleta was earning that $8 million signing bonus over on the sidelines.
Mark Brunell's DPAR numbers were more than respectable heading into this game, and I know a lot of people want to see Campbell ... but Brunell's not the reason Washington stinks. The secondary is embarrassing (but not as embarrassing as Derrick Frost), and the offensive line play has been spotty.
Now if Washington is just giving up on this season, I think they should go with Campbell. Of course, they've proven that signing free agents to crazy contracts isn't the way to build a team, but since they don't have any draft picks it'll be interesting to see exactly who they'll put around Campbell going forward.
Bill Moore: Deion Sanders drives me crazy, but this has to be one of the best lines: On the NFL Network, he referred to Indy as his "All Mascara" team. He alluded to his days on the prowl, when he would find a really hot woman and take her home, only to find out when you wake up the next morning that without her "mascara" on, she wasn't nearly as hot as you thought.
The Colts were like the lady that looked really hot at the club, but when you take her home (the playoffs), they aren't nearly as hot as you thought.
Deion's comparison, not mine.
Aaron Schatz: That Marvin Harrison TD on Rumph was a thing of beauty. Rumph was specifically playing Harrison on his inside shoulder, but Harrison just fakes the fade for about one step, Rumph bites on it so hard that he leaves tooth imprints in the RCA Dome turf, and Harrison moves inside to make the catch all by himself.
Can somebody explain to me what was going on between Santana Moss and Jason David? Also, how does Dwight Freeney have no official sacks this year? Is he not playing as well, or is this related to a strategy offenses are using against him, or just random chance?
As far as the Redskins, the only way this is Brunell's fault is if Brunell can't throw a medium-range pass anymore, let alone a long one, and that's why they throw nothing but underneath passes. I mean, they threw a three-yard swing pass to Mike Sellers on third-and-8, which the Colts were not fooled by in the slightest. Otherwise, 2-5 is almost entirely due to the defensive injuries and lack of depth.
Mike Tanier: Freeney had a very good game for a guy with no sacks. I've been skeptical about those guys who lead the league in hurries since the days of Mike Mamula, but I think he is doing a great job at flushing QBs and isn't as bad against the run as he has looked in the past.
Minnesota Vikings 31 at Seattle Seahawks 13
Doug Farrar: Seattle's first TD, a 72-yarder, was Matt Hasselbeck all the way. He saw seven in the box, and directed Darrell Jackson from the backfield in an offset I to the slot. Jackson ran a quick slant to beat Dwight Smith and Ronyell Whitaker (Smith came up pre-snap) for about 60 yards after the catch.
The Trufant-Hamlin coverage on Troy Williamson on that early deep ball was great -- just glad to see Williamson walk off the field after Hamlin's hit.
Seattle cornerback/alleged punt returner Jimmy Williams must be the NFL's all-time leader in the little-known category, "fair catches called even though nobody's within five yards of him."
The PI call on Marcus Trufant with 11:30 left in the second quarter (even though it was offset by a holding call) was absolutely moronic. Vikings WR Billy McMullen was shoving Trufant down to the ground as Trufant was playing the ball. After watching two of three Terrell Owens TDs enhanced by pushoffs last week, I wonder if allowance of illegal contact on the offensive side is based on a mandate to increase offensive output.
Marcus Robinson just abused Kelly Jennings and Michael Boulware on that first Minnesota touchdown. Both defenders bit hard on the fake post. As a side note, I don't see why opposing quarterbacks don't just jump-ball Seattle's DBs all day long until they actually prove it doesn't work. Robinson was the receiver who caught four TD passes in one game against the Seahawks in 2003 when he was with Baltimore, and I think three of them were high heaves from Anthony Wright. Jennings did redeem himself later with good coverage on Robinson when Julian Peterson sacked Brad Johnson right before the half.
The Vikings' inability to convert on fourth-and-7 with three minutes remaining in the first half after Seattle's special teams gave them a gift possession on the Seahawks 41 was the end of a great series by Seattle's defense. Peterson is starting to look very scary out there.
Mike Tanier: So, Seneca Wallace. You an Iowa State fan, Doug? He looked good there. Of course, Antwaan Randle El looked like a QB at Indiana too.
Hey, Tobias Childress really is in charge of the Vikings. The Vikings offense looked like the Eagles in the first half: they never ran the ball, but they executed play-action on every pass. If that strategy yields a 95-yard run once in a while, Childress will be happy. And that defense will win the Vikings some games.
Doug Farrar: Okay, watching E.J. Henderson roll into Matt Hasselbeck's right knee just sucked. I'm writing this Sunday afternoon, a day before any official diagnosis will likely be released, but there are three players the Seahawks can't afford to lose for any extended period of time, and none of them are Shaun Alexander. They are Hasselbeck, Walter Jones, and Lofa Tatupu. Seahawks fans just got a brief taste of how Bengals fans felt when Carson Palmer went down against the Steelers.
The halfback option TD pass from Mewelde Moore to Jermaine Wiggins was a great call -- it's obvious that the Vikings are on to Seattle's susceptibility to any sort of misdirection, and their inability to cover big guys in the red zone.
The Seahawks defense has been playing what I call a â€œtrot zoneâ€? through the second half -- a basic cover-2 shell with everyone trotting through their coverages. Not exactly the intensity one would prefer.
Ron Pitts after Chester Taylor's 95-yard TD run: "That's probably the longest run Taylor's had this season." You think so, Detective? It's actually the longest run in Vikings history, and Steve Hutchinson was a factor as he walled off Peterson on the cutback. Meanwhile, Matt Hasselbeck's in the locker room with what we're being told is a sprained MCL after suffering from porous offensive line play all season.
Ladies and gentlemen, the value of elite guards has officially been established.
Seneca Wallace did all right after his 0-4 start (for a guy who's never really been asked to perform in an NFL contest), but this isn't about today's game. It's about a city holding its collective breath until an MRI is done. Just a bummer day in Seattle.
(Note: This is normally where we list what games we're doing for Any Given Sunday and Every Play Counts, but we're still not quite sure.)