Audibles at the Line: Week 1
compiled by Doug Farrar
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 2008. 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.
New Orleans Saints 10 at Indianapolis Colts 41
Aaron Schatz: Faith Hill is hotter than Pink, and a better singer, but the NBC theme song still blows goats.
Bill Barnwell: "NFL Football on NBC/Al and John are the best on TV" are right up there with "Her stories are boring and stuff/She's always calling my bluff" and "Fell deep in love, but now we ain't speakin'/Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton/When I met you I said my name was Rich/You look like a girl from Abercrombie & Fitch" in the pantheon of "Worst lyrical couplets of the late 20th/early 21st century."
I was naive to dream that John Mellencamp was going to be left behind in the 2006 season, wasn't I? Our long national nightmare has begun again.
Mike Tanier: You know, Faith did seem a little ... girded. Like her hip-hugger pants were really made of titanium to lock any stray 30-something cellulite into place. Somewhere between a transvestite and a 50-year-old Grand Ole Opry alum now in Branson, trying to still look hot to the guys in the 95th row.
Ben Riley: When did Paulie Walnuts buy the Colts? Amazing suit. And John Mellencamp sounds awesome on 30-second skip.
(Mercifully, the season begins ...)
Aaron Schatz: There's the first of Tony Ugoh's 25 false starts this year, trying to learn Peyton Manning's intricate signals as a rookie. Good luck with that, Tony.
I remember reading a book that said something about the Colts being screwed if Joseph Addai gets hurt .. what was that again?
Bill Barnwell: Was that the earliest en masse trip by fantasy players to the waiver wire in NFL history? First play, first game?
Colts dropped Raheem Brock into coverage on a third down. Brock's zone skills apparently involve waving his hands around frantically and yelling "Boogie Oogie Oogie!" at the quarterback. This was not enough to stop Brees from finding Colston right next to Brock.
Aaron Schatz: I decided to sit and track where Dallas Clark is playing in this game. We really shouldn't be considering him a tight end at this point, this is just silly. Here's how the Colts' formations have gone:
Drive 1: Clark slot, Clark wide with Wayne in slot, trips right with Clark as WR, Clark slot.
Drive 2: After first play I didn't catch: Clark wide with Wayne in slot, Clark slot, Clark slot, Clark as TE stance in short yardage situation, Clark wide with Wayne in slot, Clark wide with Wayne in slot.
So it isn't even just that Dallas Clark is playing slot receiver. The guy is lining up WIDE almost half the time, with Wayne as the slot receiver. Where's Anthony Gonzalez?
Bill Barnwell: Anatomy of a Touchdown: Saints line up Fujita against Wayne in the slot when Harrison is out wide on the left against David. Manning signals to Wayne presnap to run a slant, Wayne does do dutifully and draws the safety, and Harrison toys with David before catching a perfectly thrown ball and sticking the landing. Football is art.
Stuart Fraser: Is there any moment of that touchdown during which Jason David looks like he has Marvin Harrison covered? That's not just toast, that's burnt toast.
Bill Barnwell: Hey, first screwy play-by-play line of the season. Brees completes a pass to himself. Somewhere, the yellow highlighter starts stretching in the bullpen.
Aaron Schatz: Bill, I hope you realize that nobody out there except for a handful of FO interns knows that I color the Excel line yellow when it is a weird play.
Mike Tanier: I thought the "highlighter" reference was some sort of University of Oregon joke.
Stuart Fraser: I just wish to record for posterity that Madden criticized Freeney for rushing to the inside on that play. Also, that was the third end-around the Saints have called in one-and-a-bit quarters. Is this normal, or does Payton think it's a good call against Indianapolis' run blitzing tendencies?
Bill Barnwell: It's Payton working against Freeney. They run a lot of end-arounds, but it makes sense against the Colts' scheme.
Hey, good old terrible Colts punt coverage! Remember when I said football was art? The Colts' punt coverage is a Jackson Pollock piece.
Did the Saints use Devery Henderson on the line frequently last year as opposed to in the slot? I wonder whether he'll be able to break the jam there.
Aaron Schatz: Yes. The Saints used Henderson pretty much as the standard outside starter opposite Colston when Joe Horn was injured last year.
Ben Riley: Did the Colts' return guy just signal for a fair catch even though no one was within 20 yards of him? Between that and the shanked punt earlier, I'm starting to see why our commentary disparages the Colts' special teams.
Bill Barnwell: Tony Dungy's "... not afraid to play young guys?" Well, I would hope not, because if he was, he'd have a 16-man roster. Madden also said the youth would catch up with them on special teams and maybe we should check that as an indicator for poor special teams coverage -- I may cross-check poor coverage units against the study I just did of games played by second-day picks.
Michaels was wrong -- Scott Shanle was covering Clark on the 39-yard-gain, not Fujita. Fujita just cleaned up the mess. Fujita's looked fine on Clark when they've been matched up together -- the Clark play was set up the play before when Clark ran a simple five-yard curl and then ran a little hook-and-go on second down.
Michael David Smith: Either the referee called that illegal touching on the Brees near-sack wrong, or that's a stupid rule. Why wouldn't it be a loss of down? Brees commits a penalty, and his team is better off as a result.
Doug Farrar: Per NBC graphic. Coaches who have made the playoffs in eight straight seasons: Tom Landry (twice), Chuck Noll, Tony Dungy. That's it. Wow. I'm guessing Bill Walsh would have made it, though. Six straight playoff seasons, and then George Seifert's first two teams go 14-2.
Ned Macey: I'm just signing on and was wrong about one thing. I predicted that Audibles would be filled with how bad Payton's game plan is. How else could the Colts hold them to three offensive points in the first half? I'll go on record that the Colts defensive DVOA is somewhere within 5% of zero.
Tony Ugoh as pass blocker is still a major work in progress, but even worse, Manning knows it is a work in progress. He looks jittery. In his defense, he is getting hit.
Did Jason David ever force a fumble or return one for a touchdown when he was with the Colts? The Colts definitely were the better team in that half, but thanks to the one play it is tied. I doubt the Saints are held to three offensive points in the second half. I wouldn't be surprised to see a scoring drive right out of the gate by New Orleans. They need to help Brown on the outside and let Brees throw the ball down the field. 4.4 yards per completion is a joke.
Aaron Schatz: I definitely think Ugoh looks better on runs than he does on passes. He's looking pretty good on runs.
Doug Farrar: Isn't that pretty typical of younger linemen, though? I know that Seattle's very happy with guard/tackle Ray Willis, who hasn't had a lot of actual game time with the Seahawks since being drafted in 2005. Willis' ability to maul people on running plays morphs into some obvious confusion on pass plays. And that's playing with Matt Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace in the preseason, not Peyton's Chicken Dance in the 2007 opener.
Sean McCormick: The Colts continued protecting Ugoh in much the same way they did all preseason. He usually had a tight end lined up to his side. When he didn't, the team either ran a pass play that called for a one-step drop, or they called a running play predicated on the notion that Ugoh's man would be in the backfield. On at least one of the few times Ugoh was left alone, Will Smith came in and slammed Manning. So while the results were good, no one should get carried away and think Ugoh is Marcus McNeill the second. The Colts' entire gameplan was built around protecting him (or more specifically, protecting Manning from him).
Mike Tanier: The Colts run defense looks halfway decent. Rob Morris is a big part of that. His range isn't that bad, and he makes the tackles he has to make. Sanders, of course, thumped a few guys. That Freddy Keiaho just blew up Stinchcomb and drove him back into Reggie Bush on a play to the outside. He's definitely a guy to keep an eye on. Bill Barnwell dissed Raheem Brock, but he played a really good first half too.
The Colts are generally keeping a TE on Tony Ugoh's side, but the extra tight end is rarely blocking. Ugoh has been on an island against Will Smith and has been losing some battles, but Manning bails him out by adjusting in the pocket or getting rid of the ball quickly.
Fumble luck in the first half. Gotta love it. But in general, I think we've talked about it to death (I say that now, but when I need a Rundown hook, I'll find my motivation).
Aaron Schatz: Good instincts by Devery Henderson to turn into a defensive back and knock away that interception a few minutes into the third quarter.
It really looks like the Colts defense spent a lot of time with film of the Saints offense. All these screens and draws stopped fooling the Colts about four minutes into the game.
Stuart Fraser: What's also apparent is that the Saints don't have a plan B now the screens and draws aren't working. Indy's safeties are pretty deep, so Reggie Bush on slants and intermediate routes would have been my plan.
Indy, meanwhile, seems to be executing whatever play they feel like calling ...
Vince Verhei: On the radio broadcast, Boomer Esiason just noted that Dwight Freeney didn't have any sacks tonight, but was getting lots of pressure. He then noted that Freeney lead the league in pressures last year. Looks like he's a reader.
Aaron Schatz: Next week will be National Jump to Conclusions Week, and I hate to participate. Everybody always completely overreacts to the first week of the season. That being said, from this game it certainly looks like the Indianapolis defense will be better this year, and Freddy Keiaho looks like the reason. It's the kind of thing our projection systems just can't pick up.
The other thing I'm feeling from this game is that the Saints offensive line does not look as good as they were last year. I thought the defense was the unit that would all back to earth, but what if it is the offensive line?
Doug Farrar: Sean Payton appeared to be very concerned about pass protection in the preseason. I remember watching him eviscerate fourth-round rookie running back Antonio Pittman on the sideline after some less-than-stellar blitz pickup in the game against the Bengals. Pittman now plays for the Rams.
Aaron Schatz: The answer to the question, "Can Jason David play man after playing his whole career in the Tampa-2?" seems to be, "No."
Ryan Wilson: I think it's safe to say that Jason David will be going as Fred Thomas for Halloween. Or is it the other way around?
Ned Macey: I want to amend my answer to the dumbest off-season story for the 2007 Season Predictions. My new pick would be that the Colts "lost" things on defense. An idiot on local sports talk was listing the players the Colts lost today (including Corey Simon, who didn't play). Not that sports talk should be taken seriously, but all the departed players signed for midrange to poor contracts. They did not "lose" anybody.
I do feel bad for Jason David today, but after leaving a terrible LCB on an island too much last year, is it excusable that New Orleans let David get stuck in single coverage three separate times? They presumably had someone deep most of the first half, since Wayne did nothing. The TD to Harrison had the safety biting to help on the underneath route.
Ben Riley: One benefit of contributing to Audibles via DVR delay is that you can delete your more egregious mistakes. Such as my handwritten note, "Fujita all over field -- nice pass break-up -- looks like Tatupu," which looked far more insightful before Fujita started giving up huge gains to Dallas Clark with regularity.
I have more to say, but I need to go work the fantasy-trade phone to see if I can get someone to panic and dump Brees. He had a bad night. There won't be many more.
Pittsburgh Steelers 34 at Cleveland Browns 7
Ryan Wilson: The Browns go three-and-out on their first series, new punter Paul Ernster muffs the snap on fourth down, he finally gets it off, but the officials flagged the Browns for four penalties on one play. FOUR. You don't see that every day. Steelers with a first down on Cleveland's 22. That makes it a zero-yard punt. Awesome.
Russell Levine: Ryan beat me to it on this one. Despite Michigan's start, I have not lost my empathy for football fans of sad-sack teams. Not even those from Ohio. A three-and-out to start the year, followed by the announcement, "We have four fouls on the offense." Oh, my.
Stuart Fraser: The Steelers are going after Eric Wright, as promised. Holmes and Ward have now both got behind him on pass plays, for a total of 20 yards and a touchdown. Wright ... well, see what we wrote about various Saints on Thursday. He doesn't look ready.
Charlie Frye throws an interception into double coverage (under no significant pressure) and Pittsburgh gets the ball on Cleveland's 17. Ouch. I'm beginning to feel sorry for Browns fans already.
Pittsburgh's pass protection looks absolutely horrible -- Cleveland got to Roethlisberger twice on two pass plays in that sequence (one was called back for offside, but only one guy was offside and about three rushers were through untouched).
Jeff Reed has now kicked off three times in seven minutes, plus kicking a PAT and a field goal. The first kickoff was a touchback, the second was run out of the end zone, the third went to about the five. Clearly, Romeo Crennel's secret strategy to tire out the opposing kicker is working.
Ryan Wilson: After the Frye pick, Jamal Lewis fumbled. From the CLE 40, Roethlisberger play-actions and throws a bomb to Santonio Holmes, who split the safeties in the Cover-2. As Rich Gannon points out (Gannon's pretty good, by the way), that can't happen in that coverage. Luckily, safety Sean Jones throws a fit in safety Brodney Pool's general direction after the play. Nothing like team in-fighting during the first quarter of Week 1.
Stuart Fraser: Santonio Holmes would like the world to know that just because he's not returning punts any more doesn't mean he can't fumble. The advantage, I suppose, of having him fumble on a reverse is that it's more likely to go out of bounds, which indeed happens.
The Browns have clearly been watching film, though -- they're not falling for any of Pittsburgh's screens on third-and-long. When not being burned by Santonio Holmes the Cleveland D doesn't look that bad, actually. Willie Parker has been going nowhere all game. If Cleveland had an offense things would help. Charlie Frye is horribly inaccurate, throwing behind his receivers much of the time.
OK, so the Steelers ran a draw instead of a screen and Parker goes about 20 yards. He then fumbles on the next play, and Cleveland recovers. The Willie Parker experience, gentlemen.
Ryan Wilson: The Browns' first-half offensive highlight (singular) was Joe Thomas. He's looked solid all half. Oh, by the way, Frye has been sacked five times and Derek Anderson is warming up.
Stuart Fraser: The Browns have brought in Derek Anderson. Has Charlie Frye broken the record for the fastest benching in the NFL? 7:08 remaining in the second quarter, I think.
Doug Farrar: Well, that's what they get for cutting Ken Dorsey, gosh darn it. Who's sorry now, Cleveland? Oh, wait. Don't they have that Quinn guy?
Stuart Fraser: About the only thing I can say about the second quarter of PIT-CLE is that Daniel Sepulveda looks great. Plenty of altitude on those punts, and they're all landing inside the 20. Oh, and Rich Gannon is also really good -- breaking down why various quarterbacks suck, noting Pittsburgh's rash of drops might not be all the fault of the pass catchers, commenting on the various Pittsburgh blitz packages. The less said about the rest of the game the better, I think.
The Cleveland offense wakes up for a drive and proves that you can still throw on this Pittsburgh secondary, provided the pass protection holds up. Kellen Winslow seems to be matched up on cornerbacks most of the time and is still getting open. This might just be Ike Taylor struggles against receivers who are much bigger than him, part many in a series of even more.
Anderson has now gone back to missing his targets, the rain isn't helping, and the Steelers are killing the clock quite well at the moment, so there probably won't be much corroborative evidence either way.
Ryan Wilson: One last thought: As Stuart mentioned earlier, the Browns defense actually looked pretty good. As good as you can look giving up 34 points. A lot of that had to do with field position, and the offense going three-and-out, but Kamerion Wimbley was in the backfield all day, and second-year linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was always around the ball. The Browns' two young safeties, Brodney Pool and Sean Jones, were inconsistent, but playing them is the right move. Rookie cornerback Eric Wright (the Browns traded up to get him in April) started in place of Gary Baxter, and the Steelers targeted him early in the game. He was in coverage on the Hines Ward touchdown, and on several other big plays. New defensive end Antwan Peek also played well, collapsing the pocket and batting down passes at the line of scrimmage. This unit will keep Cleveland in close games, but the problem is finding a quarterback to do that. Oh, wait...
Mike Tanier: I disagree with the assertion that the Browns defense looked good. Steelers receivers dropped about a half dozen passes. The run defense looked OK, I guess, but the Steelers were still able to run the ball for much of the game.
Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson were just awful. Frye could see the Steelers blitzing in his face but just stood there and waited to get hit. Anderson can miss a stationary receiver 10 yards away by three yards.
Ryan Wilson: Yeah, that's why I qualified the "Browns D looks good" with "As good as you can look giving up 34 points." If the offense hadn't given them such awful field position, and they weren't on the field for 400 plays, the game would've a little closer, I'm guessing.
Miami Dolphins 13 at Washington Redskins 16
Bill Barnwell: First play I see in this game, Chris Chambers gives up on a pass. I think it's destiny sometimes.
Huh? The Dolphins are giving the ball to Jesse Chatman while Ronnie Brown sits. Gumbel's saying that the reason why is because of Chatman's experience with Cam Cameron in San Diego. He's still Jesse Chatman.
Aaron Schatz: I don't get the Chatman thing at all.
Bill Barnwell: The Redskins go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Miami 21-yard line (in a 10-10 game) and Todd Yoder gets a penalty for "abrupt movement simulating the snap." The field goal becomes a 43-yard field goal and Shaun Suisham, fortunately, puts the field goal through.
Carlos Rogers is having serious trouble covering Chris Chambers, but he just got jobbed on a call where the ball wasn't within five yards of Chambers and Rogers pulled down his arm. Illegal contact? Sure. Pass interference? Not a chance. Washington gets a makeup call for intentional grounding immediately after.
Doug Farrar: Proof positive that refs don't consistently know the difference is that when you look at the penalty data, about half the crews go 2-to-1 in favor of illegal contact, and the other half go 2-to-1 in favor of pass interference. I guess the NFL figures it will all even out in the end.
Bill Barnwell: Crazy ending to regulation: Campbell throws a bomb that bounces off Jason Taylor (in the end zone) into the hands of Antwaan Randle El on the four-yard line. Randle El gets within a yard of the goal line before Taylor stops him. Overtime.
Will Carroll: Yeah, someone get me the DVOA on that play. "Stat Padder" that very nearly became a highlight show all-timer.
Mike Tanier: Good news and bad news in Washington. Good news: Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts carried the ball 17 times each, so our fantasy projections look pretty sensible. Bad news: Jon Jansen is probably out for the year. I think Mike Pucillo is the backup. We'll be testing that Washington depth early this year.
Philadelphia Eagles 13 at Green Bay Packers 16
Bill Barnwell: J.R. Reid just blew the game for the Eagles. The Packers were punting with a minute or so left and Reid called for a fair catch, couldn't locate the ball in traffic, and then sprinted and dove for it and missed. It hit him in the stomach and the Packers recovered on the Philadelphia 30-yard line. An absolutely brain-dead play.
Ned Macey: Along the same lines, I can't believe Green Bay settled for the 40-plus-yarder by the rookie, but the kid nailed it.
This game -- at the risk of jumping to conclusions too early -- proved both us and Brett Favre right. They have a very good defense, and the D-line just dominated the game. Jolly, who beat out Harrell, in the preseason, tipped three passes and generally dominated the interior. My man (and Peter King's new favorite player) Cullen Jenkins impressed, and their nickel pass rush should be dangerous all year with KGB on the outside and Jenkins at tackle.
At the same time, I never saw an open receiver for the Packers. The offensive line, which is supposed to be gelling, was getting pushed around by the Eagles D-line. The Pack better hope that Driver is still well less than 100 percent, because he looked slow and unable to get any separation. Watching Moss run wild (and wow, could I have been wrong on that one, but it was just one week), could the Packers have gotten him for the mid-round pick?
For the Eagles, they pick up right where they left off last year, losing a game where the only touchdown they allowed was on a fumbled punt (maybe interference) that bounces 30-plus yards into the end zone for the Packers. Donovan McNabb clearly sold his soul to the devil at one point, and the devil is collecting.
Vince Verhei: I know everyone's ready to jump all over Green Bay and bury Philadelphia, and the Green Bay defensive line did cause plenty of problems for Donovan McNabb, but let's really look at this: The Packers scored three points on a 53-yard field goal and ten more off of two muffed punts by the Eagles. The Eagles only lost this game because of three random, fluky, non-repeatable special teams plays. I'm sure DVOA will say Philly outplayed Green Bay today.
Ned Macey: I agree with this sentiment and still think Philly is the better team. That being said, the projection system predicted Philly to be the third-best offense in football, and they did very little. The eighth overall projection for Green Bay's defense, which looks wild compared to what others think, certainly looks more likely in light of this game. They shouldn't have to score too many points to beat Chicago or Minnesota.
Mike Tanier: This is basically the same game the Eagles lost about four times last year. They committed sloppy penalties and dropped a bunch of passes.The best offensive plays the Packers had were Brett Favre "creative" plays where he pitched the ball to someone who ran for 15 yards. But they were still in a position to win if they didn't do something stupid. But someone did something stupid. I don't ever want to see Greg Lewis return a punt again. I don't want to see J.R. Reid return a punt again. If Mahe is on the beach somewhere, I want the Eagles to trade for James Thrash or somebody. Coulda had Allen Rossum for a bag of beans. GRRRRR.
Denver Broncos 15 at Buffalo Bills 14
Doug Farrar: Bills rookie RB Marshawn Lynch looked good on an early chip on Ian Gold. Then, he was completely puzzled in blitz pickup on D. J. Williams for Denver's first sack. End of drive No. 1. Too bad, because Roscoe Parrish flew by about six defenders on a little bubble screen on that drive. Nice play. There's quick and there's fast, and Parrish is definitely both.
Shanahan called a Michael Vick Memorial spread option from Cutler to Travis Henry with the Broncos at their own goal line. Good call and a 33-yard gain. I wanna see Shanny call the Statue of Liberty, though. Then I'll be impressed.
More Parrish. He was freaky-deaky on a 74-yard punt return touchdown following Denver's first drive. I didn't get to see the Bills a lot last year, but he looks like a very interesting situational option. Since he's five feet tall, maybe they should just throw him 50 screens and he can lead the NFL in yards after catch by 1,000 yards. He just blows by traffic.
Bill Barnwell: Then Peerless Price would have nothing to do.
Doug Farrar: The Broncos had better stop thinking of Paul Posluszny as rookie meat. He's pinned to Henry, filling holes, not over-pursuing (except, quite notably, on the spread option play). Right where he should be most of the time. If there's one thing I take away from the preseason as an indicator, it's rookie performance. Last year, it was Seattle guard Rob Sims who made an impression, and this year, "Poz" has really stood out. He looks to continue that in the regular season.
New Denverite Simeon Rice broke up a Losman pass to end a second-quarter drive as left tackle Jason Peters did the "Who, me?" dance.
Halfway through the second quarter, Gus Johnson and Randy Cross start talking about Jay Cutler's "swagger." While I take a minute to look up his Swagger Index, I eagerly await similar references to gunslingers and riverboat gamblers, and I want Gus and Randy to tell me that Jay's just havin' fun out there.
Bill Barnwell: You should have seen Phil Simms talk about Wes Welker's similarity to Wayne Chrebet and how he's not afraid to go over the middle.
Doug Farrar: Well, here's some textbook smash-mouth football. 4:03 left in the first half, and the Bills have a fourth-and-1 from the Denver 29. Guard Jason Whittle comes in as a fullback, heads over left tackle, and Lynch follows him. D.J. Williams hits Lynch so hard that you can see Lynch's helmet fly backward ten yards. Lynch just kept moving and got the first down. Yikes -- that's just how George Halas drew it up 50 years ago.
It might be a bit early to bury Denver's defensive line with the same old jokes. Elvis Dumervil tipped and intercepted a Losman pass at the end of the first half, ending the second of two horrible drives for Buffalo in which they appear to have rented Scott Linehan's End Zone Force Field.
Also, Jay Cutler might be the best pure thrower off the back foot I've ever seen. I'm serious. If we ever chart DVOA off the back foot, Cutler's would be off the hook. I've seen at least three long completions in that fashion -- perfect rainbows right in the receivers' arms.
Denver's Domenik Hixon and Buffalo's Kevin Everett collided in the opening kickoff of the second half, and Everett, a second-year tight end from Miami, went down like he'd been shot. The ambulance came on the field quickly, and the last I heard (per FOX's Jay Glazer) was that Everett sustained a spinal injury and was being rushed into emergency surgery. All we can do is to hope and pray for the best possible news. It wasn't very pretty on the field.
Simeon Rice is looking really good. The Bills tried an end-around to Parrish in the third quarter. Parrish went from right to left, faced Rice, tried to put on the moves, and nothing doing. Takedown two yards into the backfield.
Lynch also looking fine in the Buffalo backfield as Peters and center Melvin Fowler pull left on a Power Sweep that Lombardi would be proud of. He pretty much defined Buffalo's second touchdown drive.
J.P. Losman threw a 60-yard incomplete bomb to Lee Evans on a third-and-5 with the Bills up by two and less than three minutes left in the game after Jason Elam missed a late fourth-quarter field goal. Buffalo punted, was sent back 10 yards with a holding penalty, punted again, Denver got the ball at their own 34 with two timeouts and the two-minute warning left. This ought to be good.
OK, never mind. Cutler sees Losman's dumb play and raises him dumber with a reverse pass/live ball brainfart under pressure that had Selvin Young desperately batting the ball out of bounds. Cutler converted the fourth-and-2 with a nice run, completion to Walker, and I'm wondering if he might not just pull this off. Walker again. Spike. Blown spread option play goes nowhere. Walker again. Tick, tick, tick ... field goal unit on ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... BOOM! Elam makes the 42-yarder with no time left.
Damn, what an entertaining game. I have no idea how the field goal unit got in there so fast.
Russell Levine: I can't believe Denver managed to kick the game-winner by rushing the field-goal team on the field with a running clock and about 12 seconds left when the previous play ended. Impressive execution, and a crushing loss for Buffalo.
Ned Macey: Impressive execution by Denver, but how did they get in that position? The Broncos run some sort of option play or pitch play or something that backfires and wastes enormous time. I didn't realize they were out of timeouts, but playing for the 50-yarder, which they were doing there, is absurd. Kudos to the special teams coach, but that could be Keep Chopping Wood on Shanahan if they hadn't gotten it off.
Vince Verhei: It got somewhat lost in the chaos at the end of the game, but Denver's pass defense had a phenomenal day, holding the Bills to just 97 yards on 14 completions. Yes, that is 6.9 yards per completion. The Bly-Bailey combo gets an A+ after one game.
Doug Farrar: Indeed -- you'd have to think there was something about Denver's secondary behind Losman's decision to throw a bunch of four-yard outs.
Kansas City Chiefs 3 at Houston Texans 20
Bill Barnwell: Eddie Kennison pulled a hammy in the Chiefs game on the first series. Oh, is that offense doomed.
Vince Verhei: I didn't see a ton of this game, but I did see Matt Schaub throw a brutal, inexcusable interception, a lame duck of a pass to a well covered receiver in the end zone. Also, so far this season, Mario Williams has more touchdowns than Reggie Bush.
Tennessee Titans 13 at Jacksonville Jaguars 10
Michael David Smith: Jags-Titans appears to be the only game not in HD. Anyone know why?
Bill Barnwell: The Jaguars' emergency quarterback this week is actually the guy who runs the HD truck.
Michael David Smith: It's certainly not Garrard's fault that Chris Brown has run wild on the Jags' D, but I didn't see anything from him that made me think it was smart to cut Leftwich.
Aaron Schatz: Mike, are you watching that game? What the hell happened to the Jags' run defense? That was the one aspect of that team that stayed consistent for most of last season, and it completely imploded today. Only one game, but the Jags certainly get to be the early leader for the "every year the FO projection system loves some team that totally self-destructs" award, following the 2005 Eagles and 2006 Seahawks...
Vince Verhei: I only saw the highlights of this one, but a lot of those highlights were Chris Brown runs. I saw a few plays where it looked like the Jags had linebackers or safeties in position to make tackles, but they just stood there and didn't react as Brown ran by them. Gee, I wonder if there was an unusual coaching decision made this week that may have distracted the team and hurt their morale?
New England Patriots 38 at New York Jets 14
Patrick Laverty: New England's first drive looks like 7-on-7 drills. Brady and Maroney are picking the Jets' defense apart at will. And have you seen those YouTube videos of basketball players crossing over and just breaking the defenders' ankles? That was Randy Moss off the line on his first reception. I fell off my couch laughing.
Will Carroll: I'm not sure that Brady has enough time back there. Good lord, he had about six minutes in the pocket and I didn't think the fake was that good. The Jets just have no rush today and can't figure out if it's the Pats' line or the Jets' rush.
Bill Barnwell: It's both, but I (and Phil Simms) thought the fake was pretty good. The Jets don't get a lot of pass pressure with their DL and are hesitating on blitzing because Welker's destroying them underneath, which means more time for Brady to find the speed merchants downfield.
Welker returned the second punt, so that bit about him not returning punts can get edited out. Jets have pulled out two consecutive fraidy-cat punts.
Justin Miller absolutely cannot cover Randy Moss. Moss broke his ankles off the line in the first quarter, and in the second quarter, Miller was afraid to commit to jamming him and Moss just pushed him aside and ran right by him for 30 yards.
Will Carroll: Just wondering, after watching Randy Moss run by Justin Miller ... if you've got a big wideout and are going to have safety help over the top, why not jam with a linebacker?
Laurence Maroney has yet to lower his shoulder and hit someone. He's scared, and my late pick of Sammy Morris is looking good.
Bill Barnwell: Jarvis Green had a really nice play on a first-down sack of Pennington inside two minutes -- the pocket collapsed and Green anticipated where Pennington's scramble was going to be and ran to the spot where Pennington was going to as opposed to where he was coming from.
Ellis Hobbs just ran the second half kickoff back for a 108-yard touchdown, the longest kick return in NFL history. I know this will sound strange, but that's not a record you should be trying to set.
Aaron Schatz: The Ellis Hobbs touchdown was fun but he never, ever should have run that thing out of the end zone. He outran Justin McCareins at the 10, then David Bowens -- our Mr. Perfect, alas -- missed a tackle at the 20, and then he was gone.
They ran a graphic after the Hobbs touchdown that was truly one of those stupid, pointless graphics that the TV guys specialize in. It said:
PATRIOTS RETURN TOUCHDOWNS
2001-2004: 25 (tied most in NFL)
2005-2006: 3 (fewest in NFL)
"Return touchdowns?" In other words, we're adding together punt returns, kick returns, interception returns, fumble returns, and the occasional missed field goal returns where the New York Giants fall asleep and forget that Devin Hester plays for the other team. We're judging a team here on five different stats which are basically unrelated and heavily dependent on random chance. OK, then.
Bill Barnwell: Pennington's hurt. Green sacked him and his leg buckled. Pennington got up and tried to walk it off twice but was unable to. He limped off with help.
Ben Riley: And at 2:45 pm EST on Sept. 9, 2007, the Kellen Clemens era begins.
Will Carroll: Anyone draft Kellen Clemens? Something looked like it tore in Pennington's ankle on that play. Just a nasty injury and hopping off the field? I have no idea what Pennington was thinking. It's OK to just lay there after getting hit like that.
Russell Levine: Pennington's coming back in. Unbelievable. Nice to see the Jets fans are in midseason form, cheering lustily as Pennington crumpled to the turf.
Bill Moore: There was a collective gasp when Pennington was obviously hurt. The cheer came only when Clemens came trotting on the field. Simms and Nance chastised the reaction of the crowds' reaction, which I didn't think was fair. I don't believe there was any cheering of a downed injured player, something I have seen in other stadiums before. A lot of Jets fans want to see Clemens in there, and it goes with my preseason prediction that he will become New York's favorite Clemens by midseason. However, as a side note, I would have liked to have seen the crowd reaction when Pennington came back in, by CBS was on commercial and didn't replay.
Bill Barnwell: The Jets' offensive line is not really having a good game. The run has been nonexistent and Brandon Moore in particular has looked iffy in pass protection. Green's sack was up against D'Brickashaw Ferguson, but it was a long play (Pennington was back for about five seconds) and Pennington took a really deep drop.
Cotchery, on the other hand, is really impressing me. He isn't the deep threat he was last year against New England (well, not yet), but he's looked really good going over the middle beating the Patriots safeties and linebackers in both zone and man.
Will Carroll: Does the game charting time the amount of time the QB is in the pocket? Tom Brady is able to microwave a burrito back there before making a throw.
Aaron Schatz: The correct line is, "Tom Brady looks like he is able to crochet his son a new baby blanket before making a throw."
No, we don't chart time in pocket, because trying to get an armada of volunteers to start and stop their stopwatches in a consistent fashion would be ludicrous. I would love to track time in pocket, but it ain't gonna happen.
The pass protection for Brady is incredible, but don't forget that part of the pass protection is the fact that the Jets, yet again, are rushing only three guys on a good percentage of downs, just like they did last year. However, the Jets' defense is doing a better job of stopping the run compared to 2006. Also, when the Pats went on a long time-eating drive in the fourth quarter, Maroney was having no problems lowering his shoulder and taking guys on.
The weak guy I've noticed today on the Jets offensive line is Anthony Clement, the right tackle, who has been dominated on almost every run play, with the notable exception of Thomas Jones' first (only?) double-digit run of the day.
Aaron Schatz: Does anyone know if Randy Moss is Omega Psi Phi? I think the thing he did with his hands after his first touchdown was the Omega Psi Phi "Q-Dog" move.
Ben Riley: Unanswerable girlfriend question No. 1: "Why is Randy Moss doing that bird thing? Does he think he's an eagle?"
Will Carroll: My usual answer to this is something just slightly off: "No, he's called The Osprey."
Sean McCormick: Remember when John Abraham used to fly by Matt Light and blindside Tom Brady at least once a game? Good times. Now the Jets either rush three or rush seven and neither gets any pressure at all. While the Patriots were dominant in all facets of the game, the biggest issue was the total inability of New York to generate pressure. Brady had an unconscionable amount of time to throw. Not to take anything away from his performance, but any competent NFL quarterback would have had a huge day.
Looking for a bright spot as a Jets' fan? Look no further than the play of Darrelle Revis. Revis started off on Randy Moss, and he did a good enough job that most of the throws went to Wes Welker. Revis than switched over to Welker and shut him down for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, you can't play a shell game when you have one viable corner and the other team has three viable receivers, so as soon as Revis went off Moss, Moss promptly exploded.
Bill Moore: Gone unnoticed in the Patriots romp was one player who potentially lost his 'starting' job. Matt Cassel, whose job is basically to ask Brady how he likes his coffee (reprising his role from USC), does have one First Team responsibility: holder. He Tony-Romo'd a field-goal snap, and did not fill that role later in the game. New punter Hanson filled in. In fact, when it came time to kneel, rookie quarterback Matt Gutierrez did the actual kneel with Cassel nowhere to be seen. Even in a 38-14 game, one can end up in Belichick's doghouse.
Carolina Panthers 27 at St. Louis Rams 13
Ryan Wilson: Chris Mortensen reports that the Panthers are making Dwayne Jarrett inactive because of performance. I mentioned this to MDS in an earlier e-mail, but Jarrett could be the latest example of why tall wideouts, in general, are overrated.
Bill Barnwell: Pac-10 wideouts in general tend to be busts more often than any other conference's wideouts. The thing is that they play in a conference where teams score more points than any other in football, from what I can tell. The result is inflated scoring.
Doug Farrar: Ah yes, the "Reggie Williams Rule."
Ben Riley: If your favorite team plays in the NFC West, it's a little disconcerting to see converted DT Adam Carriker driving the Panthers' right guard two yards backwards, then shed the same blocker to tackle DeShaun Foster in the backfield. Carriker is going to be a force.
Doug Farrar: On Adrian Peterson's first preseason run, Carriker just nuked him. And I'm trying not to project Chris Gray and Shaun Alexander into the sequence you just described.
Ben Riley: Those who bucked the conventional wisdom and took Frank Gore over Steven Jackson are feeling fantasy schadenfreude at Jackson's 50-yard, two-fumble performance thus far.
Ned Macey: The real problem for Jackson is going to be the injury to Orlando Pace. His left shoulder, and he's out at least for today. Rams offense has stagnated since then. Bulger just got killed by Jenkins (pass got away but legal hit). Bulger proceeded to miss Bruce by four yards on his next attempt, clearly concerned about his backside.
The Rams miss Kevin Curtis and/or Shaun McDonald with Drew Bennett injured. Dante Hall is the third receiver, and the Panthers played a great deal of coverage. That bracketed Holt and Bruce and left Hall on the receiving end of a lot of attempts. Not what he was brought in for. What he was brought in for was a long kick return that set up the Rams' sole second-half score so far (midway through the fourth).
Doug Farrar: And when we wrote about injury luck and regression in the St. Louis chapter of the book, this is what we meant. It gets worse for the Rams. Per Jay Glazer of FOX, Orlando Pace may be out for the year.
Ned Macey: It really is too bad for the Rams. It was night and day for them after Pace went out. Remember Bulger got dumped like seven times by the Panthers last year with Pace out. This year, the offensive line was controlling the line of scrimmage early, and all the problems were coming over center or right guard. Without Pace, they just had nothing.
Atlanta Falcons 3 at Minnesota Vikings 24
Vince Verhei: Joey Harrington and Tarvaris Jackson are putting on an amateur hour quarterback competition in Minnesota. Harrington has thrown, I think, one pass ten yards or more downfield here late in the fourth quarter. Minnesota has returned two picks for touchdowns. One was thrown right into the hands of Kevin Williams. The other was thrown right into the hands of Michael Jenkins, who dropped the ball and watched it bounce into the hands of Antoine Winfield.
Jackson, meanwhile, has just barely avoided disaster. My favorite moment was when he was fighting off a sack and just lobbed the ball backward over his shoulder. The ball landed about eight yards downfield, ten yards from the sideline but fortunately for him there was no defender in the area. I'd have benched him immediately. His numbers will look better than he played because he did manage to get a swing pass to Adrian Peterson, who scrambled 60 yards for a touchdown.
Chicago Bears 3 at San Diego Chargers 14
Aaron Schatz: The early leader for "most blatantly obvious offensive pass interference of the year" is Vincent Jackson, who basically pulled Charles Tillman down by the back of his jersey to prevent an end-zone interception. Plaxico Burress still has 16 games to take the title away, though, and you just know he will eventually.
Antonio Gates does not want to hear about your "Chicago has the No. 1 DVOA against tight ends" comments.
For anyone who doesn't remember the San Diego-Pittsburgh game last year, that's what the San Diego-Chicago game is looking like right now. LaDainian Tomlinson may be the best back in the league, but he's not immune to the power of the opposing defense. The guy has no holes to run through whatsoever. Eight carries, THREE yards.
Bill Barnwell: San Diego's offense has not looked good so far. Even beyond the Rivers interception on an ugly, forced throw, the offensive line is struggling to keep him upright. Grossman doesn't look much better, but the Bears offensive line has opened up holes to run through for Benson.
The Chargers new inside linebackers look better than last year's models. They're pursuing well inside and wrapping up on Benson, who's fumbled once and been close a couple other times.
Big talking point for the game has been Tommie Harris, who's not only been jumping the snap count, but on goal-to-go from the two, jumped the snap and forced a fumble before Rivers even touched the ball. If Norv Turner's such a great quarterback coach, he can't give Philip Rivers some instructions on how to modify his cadence to throw Harris off?
Aaron Schatz: Yes, the biggest part of this play is that the instant replay sure made it look like Harris was not just jumping the count, but plain offside on this play, and the refs missed it, and that's not a reviewable play. Rivers was really angry at the refs.
Bill Barnwell: Another weird punt today. Scifres hit one of the Bears in the back with one and the Chargers recovered. They draw Ogunleye offsides on first down, give the yardage back with 12 men in the huddle, and after they stall out, Tomlinson rolls out and hits Gates for a touchdown. LaDainian Tomlinson might have better footwork than Philip Rivers.
Aaron Schatz: One game, and Tomlinson has already matched his KUBIAK passing projection. Of course, he's the only running back who even HAD a KUBIAK passing projection.
Bill Barnwell: (The other) Adrian Peterson runs for 11 on third-and-10, then runs over a Chargers linebacker on first down ... and then fumbles the ball away on second down. Oh well.
Aaron Schatz: Notice that with the Chargers running out the clock at the end of the game, they switched from Tomlinson to Turner. That's how they keep Tomlinson healthy and under 370 carries each year.
Vince Verhei: Actually, what I noticed was that with six minutes to go and ahead by two scores, with a defense that had surrendered three points all day, Norv Turner ran on first down, then passed on second AND third down. Both passes were complete, and they picked up a first down and never gave the ball back, so he did get lucky. But that was still some horrendous play-calling.
Mike Tanier: I am the first guy to trash Norvilicious, but I don't have a problem with the Chargers throwing the ball a few times with the score 14-3 and six minutes left. That's too early in the close game to go into turtle mode, and while I didn't scrutinize the plays, I am sure they were facing a stacked box.
Sean McCormick: Is Phillip Rivers tipping the snap count? The Bears must have seen something on tape, because they are coming off the snap quicker than I've ever seen a defensive line play. They are through the offensive line and in the backfield on nearly every play. At one point, Tommie Harris pulled a Madden "No F-in' way" move and sacked Rivers ... on a running play. Chicago lost because their offense kept on turning the ball over (the only surprise is that Grossman wasn't the primary culprit), but their defense played as impressive a game as you will see all year.
Bill Moore: Rex Grossman may have numerous turnovers this season, but Bernard Berrian owes him one back. After dropping a few balls, Berrian just failed to run his route -- going through the motions, if you may -- and Grossman threw the ball his way. Berrian had no idea, and the ball was easily picked off.
New addition Adam Archuleta had the unenviable task of covering Antonio Gates. I'll be interested in seeing the charting data, as some of Gates' bigger gains came within holes in the zone. After a very disappointing season in Washington, the once hard-hitting Ram has something to prove in Chicago this year. I thought he did an admirable job.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 at Seattle Seahawks 20
Doug Farrar: Lofa Tatupu ended Tampa Bay's first drive with a hit on Cadillac Williams on a quick pass over the middle from Garcia. Williams fumbled the ball and Julian Peterson recovered at midfield. First Seattle play was Shaun Alexander up the middle for a pfffffft-yard gain, second down featured the first Mack Strong dropped pass of the season (there was a small, dignified ceremony), and third down was delayed by a timeout as the play clock ran down. Third down: Hasselbeck pass over the middle to D.J. Hackett broken up by Ronde Barber. Three plays, one yard. Gosh, it's 2006 all over again!
Stuart Fraser: So, Cadillac Williams fumbles on the fourth play from scrimmage, the Seahawks recover and waste a timeout in the process of going three and out. On the punt, the returner runs into his own blocking team. I'm wondering if I clicked on Lions/Raiders instead.
Doug Farrar: Memo to all quarterbacks playing Seattle's secondary: Go up top. Jeff "Alleged Noodle Arm" Garcia just heaved one in the air, and Joey Galloway toasted Kelly Jennings, who was on Gilligan's Island with no safety help.
Stuart Fraser: On Tampa Bay's next possession, they line up trips right, Ike Hilliard gets completely lost in the shuffle, runs right by (I think) Lofa Tatupu who ignores him, pass complete, first down and lots. Seattle looks ... horrible, frankly.
Doug Farrar: Marcus Trufant deflected a long third down pass to Galloway downfield with about two minutes left in the first quarter, but Leroy Hill was flagged for roughing the passer. I also saw Deon Grant sniff out an end-around to Michael Clayton, which is the first time in a long time I haven't seen the Seahawks fall blindly for a misdirection. The Seahawks are very lucky to be down only six points after the first quarter. The Buccaneers have outgained them 126-15, and are owning them in time of possession.
The offense looks very flinchy through the first quarter. It seems that there's not any confidence in the offensive line, because everything is either a quick toss from Hasselbeck, or Alexander for one inch and a cloud of nothing. This offense has a lot of plays that take time to develop. Allie Sherman used to say about the screen: "It's like Novocain: You have to wait for it to take effect." This isn't a quick offense from a play development standpoint, though the tempo is quick from play to play.
Walter Jones just stoned Gaines Adams with one hand. Welcome to the NFL, kid.
Seattle's third drive sees some momentum based on a Hasselbeck run for a first down. But on the aborted flea-flicker that lost them ten yards, both Alexander and Jones were caught unaware, and safety Jermaine Phillips just blazed through for the sack. Maybe there's something to that "Oh my God, our plays will die if we don't run them in milliseconds" frame of mind.
Another Lofa Play, when he ended Tampa Bay's drive halfway through the second quarter by moving in on Ike Hilliard and stopping him a yard short of the first down. He seems like he's playing more freely this season -- not bunched up waiting to shed blockers so much.
Two completed passes to Mack Strong on the following drive negated by an Alexander bobble on second-and-7, a false start penalty on Marcus Pollard, and ... a big ol' bomb to Bobby Engram, a 49-yarder which takes Seattle to the Tampa Bay 7. From there, it's: bad pass to Unoccupied Area, bad pass to Deion Branch in the end zone, Alexander goes nowhere on third-and-goal. The drive ends with a Josh Brown gimme field goal -- their first points of the 2007 season, 27 minutes into the game.
If DeShaun Foster was an entire offense, he'd be this one.
Nate Burleson's long punt return puts the Seahawks back in the red zone, and Alexander takes advantage with a minute remaining. Nice cutback run for a touchdown from six yards out ... at least until the booth review disclosed that Alexander's shin was down before the ball crossed the plane. Fortunately, all of Shaun made it across the goal line on the next play.
Russell Levine: Derrick Brooks can still play, and Tampa Bay does have a lot more energy than they nearly all year, when they were just morose most of the time. I also like Tanard Jackson at safety. He can tackle, which is something they've lacked back there for a few years.
Great advertisement for the NFL's new effort to protect players: We see a closeup of Jeff Garcia on the sidelines sniffing smelling salts just before he puts his helmet on and jogs back onto the field.
Stuart Fraser: Jon Gruden's clock management approached Andy Reid levels at the halftime there. The Bucs got the ball with about a minute left on the clock and two timeouts remaining. Naturally, Gruden called repeated runs up the middle, and the clock ran out. I have no idea what he was thinking.
Ben Riley: Greg Spires just ran right around Walter Jones and sent Hasselbeck to the turf. I am officially concerned.
Good third-quarter defensive series for the Seahawks. On first-and-10 from their own seven-yard line, Lofa Tatupu demolishes Cadillac Williams, sending him to the locker room. On second down, Patrick Kerney absolutely leveled Jeff Garcia for a loss. On third, Garcia was pressured and forced to throw pointlessly over a triple-covered Ike Hilliard.
Nate Burleson just fumbled after making a nice reception. He also dropped a first-down pass earlier today. The Seahawks better hope D.J. Hackett's injury isn't serious.
Doug Farrar: Gotta love the fourth-down play with 3:46 left in the third quarter. Bucs are all set to punt, Larry Nemmers rules the play dead, and decides that because of a "large whistle" in the stands which apparently confused the punter, the down will be replayed. I expect a strongly-worded memo from the league office about this -- perhaps the establishment of a new anti-whistle rule.
Bill Barnwell: I just have this image in my head of ten people pulling out a papier-mache whistle and all blowing at once.
Doug Farrar: My only concern is that somehow, someway, the Giants are going to get an extra home game out of this.
After some very iffy early results, it appears that the idea of throwing to your running backs is one that might have a future in Seattle. Maurice Morris' fourth-quarter TD was a nice matchup: one-on-one with Derrick Brooks and a great catch by Seattle's backup running back.
Tampa Bay had a shot to get back in this game with a late fourth-quarter drive, but ex-Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens fumbled the ball on what was his only action of the game. The fumble was overruled by a roughing the passer penalty on Rocky Bernard, but the Bucs coughed it up again two plays later when RB Earnest Graham was nailed by Lofa Tatupu. If I have a Horse Trailer award thingy to give for this game, Lofa's getting it.
Detroit Lions 36 at Oakland Raiders 21
Ryan Wilson: I was just about to write how good Jon Kitna looked on an early first-quarter drive, with the offensive line giving him time, and finding the open receiver. And then he threw a pass right to Kirk Morrison in the end zone. Couldn't have been a worse pick.
Ned Macey: Just when I start to think maybe the Lions might surprise ... They drive down the field, moving at will, with wide open receivers, only to have Kitna throw a pick in the end zone.
By the way, Calvin Johnson is just an amazing physical specimen, but Fabian Washington played him well on a jump ball in the end zone.
Michael David Smith: It's 10-0 Lions. I'm not prepared to say the Lions are good, but I am prepared to say the Raiders are bad.
Stuart Fraser: Switched to DET-OAK in time to see Jon Kitna have approximately ten seconds to pick out a receiver in the end zone. Which, unsurprisingly, he manages.
The Lions, up 26-21, then go for two, get a false start, and for some reason still go for two thereafter. Surely a near-certainty of 27-21 is better than a small chance of 28-21 at that point, even if it's somewhat unlikely the Raiders are going to kick two field goals ...
Ben Riley: There will be some good quotes in TWIQ this week from Tatum Bell, who was pretty angry when he heard that Oakland named its fumble recovery drill "the Tatum Bell drill." Bell just scored in garbage time and then taunted the drunken hooligans in the Black Hole. I'm looking forward to the post-game press conference.
Mike Tanier: Tatum Bell shouldn't be so mad. We've been calling spell-checking "Tanier-proofing" for years around here, and I never get upset.
New York Giants 35 at Dallas Cowboys 45
Bill Barnwell: The Cowboys have been using Marion Barber on passing downs and Julius Jones on rushing downs.
Chris Snee has looked bad so far. He got to the second level on a Ward sweep, but totally failed to seal a linebacker from heading outside which cost the Giants a first down; then, on a third-and-7, he was left standing around looking as the Cowboys sent four.
Romo's still making mistakes. He forced a throw on a smoke play to Owens where McQuarters was a yard off the line and there was traffic all around.
Burress' touchdown was set up by Shockey, who ran a great out just beyond the linebackers (who were in zone), attracting the safety just as Burress cut in for his slant. Roy Williams was too close to the line of scrimmage and couldn't catch up to Burress. Great job by them both, actually.
Antonio Pierce, who's usually a pretty sure tackler, totally whiffed on Barber on his touchdown run. Totally out of character for him.
Before his injury, Mathias Kiwanuka just did not yet have the awareness to drop back in coverage. I understand that he's a DL playing LB, but the Cowboys are just abusing him, Witten in particular.
Really, I can't emphasize how bad Snee has been tonight. A disaster game. Everyone else on the line, Diehl included, has been good, though. Manning's also looked pretty impressive -- probably because the line is keeping guys off him, but his footwork looks good and he hasn't aired out any of his throws.
Prediction: The Giants shift Mathias Kiwanuka back to DE, if not by the end of the season, at the start of the next. He's absolutely lost in pass coverage and while he's a good athlete, he doesn't appear to be a great football player (including the myriad mistakes I saw him make in 2006). He totally blew contain on the Romo touchdown, overpursuing and leaving Romo a giant gap to cut through.
Eli's out with a right (throwing) shoulder injury of some nature. Didn't see an obvious traumatic incident. Lorenzen is in. Lawrence Tynes' kickoffs have been atrocious tonight. Absolutely atrocious. Each one has skipped. The Giants' kick coverage has been abysmal too.
Romo's still making the mistakes Jaws said he was. He forced a slant right into Gibril Wilson for a pick.
Aaron Schatz: My feeling coming out of the Cowboys-Giants game was not that I just saw two great all-around offenses led by two star quarterbacks. My feeling was that I saw some very talented wide receivers and tight ends taking advantage of some very flawed defenses, enough to overcome some bad throws, combined with a whole lot of sloppy special teams play. Oh, and Marion Barber still rules.
Aaron Schatz: The Nike commercial with Shawne Merriman and Steven Jackson is the early leader for "best commercial of the year." The Heineken techno keg-chick is the early leader for "most annoying commercial of the year," followed closely by "Viva Viagra."
Michael David Smith: Michael Mann directed that commercial.
Bill Barnwell: Who is No. 4 in the Nike commercial from the Steelers who's supposed to be tackling Steven Jackson? Is there a goal line package where Jeff Reed comes onto the field? Is he wearing pants?
Mike Tanier: I was wondering about No. 4 too. He doesn't make a real good effort to get involved in the tackle, so maybe Jackson is returning kicks and he is the kicker.
Now, explain the M.C. Escher thing in Manning's brain.
Bill Moore: I was thinking the same thing on the Nike one, but I personally hate the ad that implies the truck is stopping the plane. No friggin' way! That plane slows down because the PLANE is using brakes, not the truck.