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.
Buffalo Bills 3 at Pittsburgh Steelers 26
Stuart Fraser: First thought: These Steelers throwbacks are hideous, or possibly worse than that. 75th anniversary or not, can we please stick to the 1970s unis if you want to go throwback?
I wonder if TMQ will mention that the Bills just went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Steelers' 45-yard line or so. Losman threw incomplete. Roethlisberger then threw a 2006 special to Holmes and was intercepted, so the net result is that the Bills continue their drive, but lose 30 yards of field position. Note to teams playing the Steelers: Twice after a turnover now, the Steelers have gone deep to Santonio Holmes.
Buffalo's pass rush seems to have gone to sleep. Roethlisberger had to throw away several passes on the Steelers' first drive; this drive, he has forever. What the Bills are doing is preventing the Steelers from striking deep (Roethlisberger has about six yards per attempt, which is kinda low for him), but I don't know if this is that great a plan; it's looking rather a lot like Super Bowl XLI with Pittsburgh in Indy's role at the moment.
Bill Barnwell: Just switched to this game for the first time. Why are giant bumblebees playing the Bills?
Stuart Fraser: The Bills need to figure out an answer to Pittsburgh's outside running plays. Hines Ward is better at run blocking than the Buffalo cornerbacks are at run support, and the result is that if the Steelers can seal the line, Parker goes for 10 or more.
Pittsburgh's defense may well be for real. Of course, Buffalo's offense was nothing special last week, either. Speaking of which, Buffalo does not care for your DVOA. They've had an eight-yard gain on third-and-15 and a 15-yard gain on third-and-17 ...
Bill Moore: If you have Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed on your fantasy team, you are stylin'. Four field goals in the first half.
Stuart Fraser: At some point I am sure Roethlisberger will not underthrow his receiver, or telegraph the pass to Hines Ward, but Jabari Greer can cover a pass. Two passes defensed against Hines Ward in a row there -- diving tip and a jumped route. Maybe the Steelers will actually come up with a running play in the red zone at some point. It does look somewhat Martz-ian in the red zone at the moment (I can forgive that for a two-minute offense).
First half time of possession: Pittsburgh 21:35, Buffalo 8:25. If the Steelers had a red zone offense, this would be looking like the Cleveland game.
Lynch goes for eight yards on a first-and-10 play with 10 seconds left in the half. Buffalo's definitely racking up the yardage in chunks of total irrelevance.
Addendum: CBS has just reported James Harrison went down on the last play of the half, and they showed him stretchered off. This is big, because Harrison has been great in one-and-a-half games so far and his backup is probably LaMarr Woodley, who the Steelers like but is still a second-round defensive end conversion project. CBS haven't said what's wrong with him, but how often does a player get stretchered off and come back?
Vince Verhei: Something called "Spaeth" just scored for Pittsburgh.
Ben Riley: That'd be Matt Spaeth, who I was hoping to fall to the Seahawks in the second round of the draft. Though the Marcus Pollard Experience has been more exciting than I would have thought.
Stuart Fraser: Spaeth now has three career catches -- two touchdowns and a first down. His VOA must be pretty good right now.
He was a third round pick for the Steelers, so he did fall to the Seahawks in round two ... and beyond them. It was considered kind of a weird pick at the time as people thought the Steelers would grab an O-lineman. Seems to be working so far.
Mike Tanier: That's Spaeth's second touchdown this year. He is the rookie from Minnesota. The Steelers run a ton of two-tight end sets. Spaeth is good.
Stuart Fraser: In other news, the Steelers haven't punted yet. Despite this, they've scored just 19 points. This may be something of a record. Buffalo's offense is doing a little better on this drive, faster release from Losman is helping ... and as I say that he hangs on too long, is sacked, fumbles (OK, that might theoretically count as a pass ...). Bills recover but it was fourth down, so nothing doing.
Ben Riley: When I said, "I wanted Matt Spaeth to fall to the Seahawks," I meant, "I blacked out the Seahawks' draft after they picked another small cornerback with our second-round pick."
Doug Farrar: As I told Aaron when he was recently in Seattle, I'm convinced that it's Tim Ruskell's goal to create, and win with, a miniature team. At first, I thought it was more about value over size, but now I'm not sure WHAT to think.
Stuart Fraser: Aaand ... here comes Charlie Batch. Right, when do the Steelers actually play a competent offense, so we can see what this defense does against one? No, Cleveland does not count, despite the shootout going on in Ohio at the moment. *reads schedule* Ah. We could be waiting a while. Cincinnati in Week 8, probably ...
Mike Tanier: As far as I can tell, after watching several offensive series for the Bills, opponents are just doubling Lee Evans with a safety deep, rushing Losman from the edge, and asking the Bills what else they have. The Bills will win some games if Marshawn. Peerless, Roscoe or someone else steps up as the legit No. 2 target. Until then, Losman will drop back, look deep, shrug his shoulders and wish he was in some warmer city.
Lynch, by the way, didn't impress me in preseason but looked pretty good in this game. One problem I did see what lots of drives where Lynch gained 6 or 7 yards on first down and the Bills couldn't keep the chains moving,
Doug Farrar: Paul Posluszny with 12 tackles in this game, tying Antonio Pierce for the lead in the early games. Judging from the numbers, the DROY watch continues.
Stuart Fraser: Poz was doing a lot of cleaning up after other players, though -- there were a lot of missed tackles on Parker, and I don't know how much credit you can give any player on a Buffalo defense that didn't force a punt until well into the fourth quarter. Which isn't to say he didn't play well, just that he's got a lot to learn, especially about shedding blockers -- on one of the Steeler touchdowns he got knocked backwards easily by (I think) Faneca, and Parker rolled into the end zone untouched through where Poz was supposed to have been.
That said, both of these teams picked linebackers in the first round and only one was making significant contributions on the field. Timmons may have been about potential, but Posluszny is contributing now.
Willie Parker, by the way, has 50 carries on the first two weeks, which puts him on pace for 400. Something to keep an eye on.
Houston Texans 34 at Carolina Panthers 21
Ben Riley: Jake Delhomme just forced a throw to a blanketed Steve Smith, which bounced straight up off the cornerback's back and into Smith's loving arms. I'm waiting for Smith to change the diaper on the ball.
Vince Verhei: Andre Johnson just ran a pretty slant-stop-and-go for a game-tying touchdown. That's two scores apiece for Johnson and Steve Smith, and there are still seven minutes to go until halftime.
That Houston defense we expected to be great in 2009 may have arrived early. Their front four is slicing through the Panthers' blockers, and it's not just Amobi Okoye and Mario Williams; I saw Anthony Weaver putting pressure on Delhomme too.
Bill Moore: The Texans have now scored the most points in their history.
Steve Smith has had some crazy touchdowns today. He just somehow skirted out of a gang tackle to break a 74-yard score.
New Orleans Saints 14 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31
Russell Levine: Joey Galloway is the bionic man. Dude is almost 36 years old, with two rebuilt knees, and he still might be the fastest straight-line runner in the NFL. He just caught a little 10-yard slant a half-step clear of the defender and ended up jogging to the end zone on a 69-yard touchdown. OK, so the victim was Jason David.
Michael Clayton may have barely made the team this year, but he threw a huge block on the Galloway TD. At least he does that well.
Barrett Ruud has caused three fumbles in the first half. He looks like a player. I think the decision to let Shelton Quarles go was a wise one. Ruud just ran down Reggie Bush trying to get outside. Speaking of, Bush seems to have reverted to bad habits, bouncing everything to the outside. He really needs to re-learn that a three-yard gain is not a bad thing, something he seemed to have figured out over the second half of last season.
Bill Barnwell: Galloway OWNS the Saints.
Ryan Wilson: I'm just watching the halftime highlights, but man, the Saints' 2007 defense looks like the Saints 2006 defense ... without the offense. Was last season just a blip, or is the slow start due to something else?
Bill Moore: New Orleans' loss to Indy is starting to look a little less fluky. They are getting killed by Tampa Bay -- and Joey Galloway. Galloway has 94 yards on three receptions. Cadillac Williams scored his first rushing touchdown in 1,745 carries (or seemingly that many), which, prior to today, was second worst in the league. Brees is seven of 14 for 56 yards and two sacks. The Saints have fumbled twice.
Vince Verhei: Last week, Seattle beat up Jeff Garcia like a side of beef. This week the Saints can't get within eyesight of him. They can't cover his receivers, either. Besides that, everything's great.
Brees has also been horrible, underthrowing wide-open guys in the flat with no pressure.
Will Carroll: Does it look like he's lost some arm strength? This seems counterintuitive, but let's assume he didn't work out this off-season like he had when he was rehabbing ...
Vince Verhei: I don't know if it was arm strength, it just looked either a complete lack of accuracy, or a complete lack of communication with his receivers, but a lot of his passes missed receivers by five yards.
The last three teams to beat New Orleans -- Tampa Bay and Indianapolis this year, and Chicago in last year's NFC Championship game -- all run variations of the Tampa-2. There may be something about that defense that confuses the team. Or it may just be coincidence.
(This game will be covered further in Any Given Sunday.)
Atlanta Falcons 7 at Jacksonville Jaguars 13
Vince Verhei: The Jaguars started a drive deep in their own territory. They converted a second-and-15 and a second-and-14 on the drive, because Atlanta was rushing four and couldn't get pressure. The Jags eventually kicked a field goal on the drive.
Ben Riley: Rashean Mathis will take risks, and sometimes they pay off. He blanketed Joe Horn on a 15-yard out, but decided to play the interception instead of knocking the ball away. He missed, Horn caught the ball, first down. So ... sometimes it doesn't pay off.
Vince Verhei: DeAngelo Hall is giving up nine inches to Matt Jones, but is doing a good job against him. Jags go for it on fourth-and-6 and throw it to Maurice Jones-Drew, but John Abraham is with him step-for-step and breaks it up.
Ben Riley: Who is the Atlanta kicker? Seriously, I have no idea who "Prater" is -- and I play a lot of fantasy football. Two things I do know: He just shanked a short field goal in a close game, and a kicker with small arms and arm tattoos looks silly.
John Henderson and Marcus Stroud still look dominant up front. But the loss of Grant and Darius in the secondary, plus Rashean Mathis and his gamblin' lovin' heart, is resulting in some big gains in the passing game. On the other side of the ball, Maurice Jones-Drew isn't getting the ball. At all. Fred Taylor doesn't look bad, but he's really a clock-controlling running back, which only works when you have the lead.
Bill Moore: Jacksonville is throwing away from DeAngelo Hall, and often against former Texans/Browns defensive back Lewis Sanders. However, Garrard is not throwing only at the corner. Nine different receivers have catches.
Benjy Rose: The Falcons let this one get away. Despite the seven sacks, their O-line held up really well. I'm surprised the Falcons didn't run more -- or at least run more draws. They should have won this game. Matt Prater (undrafted rookie signed the last day of camp, and given the starting job the day before the season started) honked two attempts, but that shouldn't have mattered -- they had too many good drives that stalled out. Harrington looked great when he wasn't under pressure, which wasn't as often as I would have expected.
Vince Verhei: Joey Harrington on Atlanta's side of the field: Nine-for-14 for 172 yards, three sacks.
Joey Harrington on Jacksonville's side of the field: Three-for-six for 28 yards, four sacks.
Cincinnati Bengals 45 at Cleveland Browns 51
Ben Riley: Derek Anderson rolled to his right, saw a wide-open Joe Jurevicius in the end zone, and decided to sail the ball 10 yards over his head, toward an attractive woman sitting in the front row of the end zone. The over/under on Brady Quinn's first appearance in the NFL just moved to "the third quarter."
Bill Moore:And that was after fumbling the ball on the same play! Anderson is now (end of one quarter) three-for-11, I think. Two of those were sure interceptions.
Bill Barnwell: Ben -- you sure that wasn't Brady Quinn that Anderson was throwing at?
Bill Moore: Since my last message, when Anderson was three-for-11, he has been on fire - something like seven-for-nine with three touchdown passes. Not all the passes have been brilliant -- Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards have made some nice plays.
Vince Verhei: Derek Anderson just threw his third touchdown in the first half. Prepare to meet thy doom. The end of the world is nigh.
Chad Johnson just scored and jumped into the Dawg Pound. I think he's my favorite NFL player.
Michael David Smith: OK, seriously, the Browns' offense is insane. Jamal Lewis has about as many yards today as I thought he'd have all season.
Vince Verhei: At the start of the fourth quarter, Carson Palmer has more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four).
Benjy Rose: Holy crap, what a catch by Chad Johnson. Over the middle, 30 yards downfield, in between two Browns defenders ...
... followed by an even more amazing diving catch by Leigh Bodden. Good night.
Stuart Fraser: It seemed to me (in the whole nine minutes I watched) that Palmer was once again forcing throws and overthrowing receivers a significant amount of the time, including on the Bodden pick. Obviously it's a bit unfair to pick on him when the Bengals scored 44, but he was doing the same against the Ravens.
Sean McCormick: Stuart, I thought the same thing. The ball is continuing to sail on Palmer a bit. Obviously, it's not showing up in his stats, but he doesn't look physically comfortable when he sets and releases.
David Lewin: Carson Palmer's in a really tough spot here, having to drive about 90 yards with a minute to go. Browns are covering the sidelines pretty tightly. This might be a good time for my favorite crazy idea: Throw a 20-yard crossing route to a wide-open guy in the middle of the field and then have him throw it straight out of bounds to stop the clock. Kind of risky, and of course it has to be a lateral, but I think it could be useful in the right situation ... and the drive ends a pick. Valiant effort by Palmer today, but the Bengals just couldn't get a stop.
Pretty strange call by the Bengals not to challenge on the Edwards catch and first down here late in the fourth trailing by six. They can't challenge the fumble because forward progress was called, but he was definitely short of the first down if the ball was spotted correctly, and you can challenge that.
I've always thought Derek Anderson could be a Kerry Collins-type player; he's got a great size, a big arm and had a pretty nice career at Oregon State.
Doug Farrar: There's obviously some kind of offensive curse connected with Charlie Frye. He gets traded from the Browns to the Seahawks last week, and the Browns practically equal their 2006 point total, while the Seahawks barf all over themselves offensively in the first half of their loss to the Cardinals. Scary!
San Francisco 49ers 17 at St. Louis Rams 16
Ben Riley: The Rams ran an end-around from second-and-goal at the 8-yard line, which was stuffed for a loss. Old habits die hard for Scott Linehan. Torry Holt scored on the next play, saving Linehan from himself.
Little indicators of good coaching: Niners gain 17 yards on third-and-18 at midfield. The team goes into hurry-up and lines up to snap it on fourth-and-1, Rams are forced to call the timeout. If the suit makes Mike Nolan smarter, why doesn't it work for Jack Del Rio?
Bill Moore: Jeff Wilkins just missed what would have been a game-winning 56-yarder. Came up just short.
Mike Tanier: Patrick Willis is everywhere. He just flies around the field. He makes a lot of plays, but he also had a lot of near-sacks, near-tackles, near-interceptions that will be big plays in a month or so when he gets his legs under him. Brian Leonard caught a screen, the blocks formed, and this body flew in, blew up a blocker, and reached out to almost tackle Leonard. Sure enough, it was Willis, who already dropped an interception in the end zone and wrapped up Bulger a split-second after a pass. He's a Pro Bowler in 2008.
The Niners are creative on defense with all manner of corner blitzes and 3-4, twisty-stunty defenses. On offense, they are Frank Gore handoffs, a few rollouts and a lot of blah. Granted, when Gore is in full swing, he doesn't need much creativity around him, but there seems to be an "excitement gap" between the two units.
My new favorite special teamer is Marcus Hudson of the Niners, who recovered a fumble late, but more importantly, hemmed in a return man early in the game. Dante Hall pushed every button on the game controller, cutting and juking, and Hudson just stayed in position in front of him and waited. Great stuff.
Ned Macey: Is there a worse 2-0 team than San Francisco? Oh wait, the Lions-Vikings game isn't over yet. What an ugly game. One score by each team after the other team muffs a punt. Dante Hall was generally awful for St. Louis.
Isaac Bruce ABUSED Walt Harris throughout the game. Harris, of course, is only two years younger than Bruce and certainly made the Reverend look quick again.
The over/under on Bulger's major injury is Week 6. He is getting pummeled, and with teams gearing up for Jackson, he's forced to throw a bunch of passes. He got up looking hurt a half-dozen times.
Mike Tanier: Let me just concur on the Ike Bruce point. A couple of times, though, Walt Harris had pretty good position. But Bulger-to-Bruce is a great combination, and Bulger just put the ball right where Bruce could go over Harris to make a play. Fun to watch.
Ned Macey: Frank Gore had a crappy game. He had one great run but the rest was garbage. Not really his fault, but the holes were not there, and he didn't make any other amazing individual plays. If you struggle running on the Rams ...
Finally, maybe not Keep Choppin' Wood material, but the Rams butchered the end of game. With more than a minute left, they waste a down with a spike across midfield. Take the extra five seconds to call a play. Then after another sack, they complete to a fourth-and-2 at the 38. We have, I believe 50 seconds remaining. Timeout taken by San Francisco. Rather than go for it at that point, they try and make Wilkins hit a 56-yarder. Those odds couldn't have been higher than the odds of converting and moving it down for a closer field goal.
Green Bay Packers 35 at New York Giants 13
Bill Barnwell: I cannot express my disappointment that Eli Manning's starting over Jared Lorenzen today without using many vulgarities, some of which have not even been invented yet.
Plaxico Burress nails A.J. Hawk at the end of a play with a Sapp Special. Brady Poppinga takes umbrage and pushes Burress down. Well, sorta. Burress gets a 6.5 from the Russian judge and I christen him ... Burressinho.
Both teams trade missed field goals to start after driving deep into opposition territory. The Giants use Derrick Ward and some good run-blocking against the Packers defensive line, taking advantage of the Packers' ends propensity to pass-rush and running through the holes they've created. The Packers, meanwhile, are using Donald Lee (poor, poor Kiwanuka. Kavika Mitchell has less of an excuse) and rushing inside the tackles to move the ball.
On the other hand, the Giants offensive line doesn't look good in pass protection -- the only real pass plays that have allowed Manning the time to throw are screens and smoke plays; anytime he drops back, there's pressure. On one play, David Diehl got pushed straight back into Manning (on a seven-step drop!) and Manning was still able to complete the pass.
Gibril Wilson gets called for roughing the punter, giving the Packers a first down inside the Giants 30, and then Favre throws a duck to Driver that gets tipped by Aaron Ross, hits off Driver's shoulder pads and gets picked by ... Gibril Wilson.
The Packers comically screw up a protection when they run DeShawn Wynn behind left tackle and the whole left side of the line thinks it's a screen and lets the right side of the Giants line through. Oops.
Next play? James Jones runs a go RIGHT past Corey Webster and Favre throws a perfect lob off his back foot for 46 yards. Webster later bails on a leg tackle and the Packers pick up 15 yards on a screen, and Wynn scores two plays later on a draw.
Giants score on two plays. Toomer running an out where Charles Woodson slips, then Toomer runs him over en route to about 45 yards, and then Burress runs a slant (right over Shockey's slant, which makes me think someone ran the wrong route) and outruns Al Harris for the touchdown. Eli Manning looks good.
Ben Riley: Bizarre officiating (though not necessarily wrong). Green Bay jumps offside, Manning throws for a 15-yard gain to Shockey -- who, like the overexuberant child he is, punches the ball into the ground, resulting in another penalty. The offside and spiking penalties "offset," resulting in a replayed down. Weird.
Bill Barnwell: OK, so the Packers jump offside as Manning snaps the ball, so it's a free play. He hits Shockey for 15 over the middle. Shockey spikes the ball after he gets tackled. That's a penalty. Somehow, the penalties offset and they replay the down? That seems odd.
Giants' offense looks good, too, against a real secondary this week. Manning looks much improved over the previous model, all the way down to not making his patented back foot lob.
Well, until I typed that. He throws a back-foot lob while on the run to Shockey, who's wide-open when Manning throws it, but not so much by the time it gets there. Shockey bobbles it and no one picks it off. Lawrence Tynes hits a field goal on the next play, and the difference between the two teams has been that Gibril Wilson was there to catch Driver's bobble (which was inside the 10), while no one was there to catch Shockey's.
What do the Giants linebackers do well? They can't cover guys man to man. They have no awareness within their zones. They overpursue regularly. In this game, they've been abysmal tacklers, with fullbacks and third-string running backs and tight ends sneaking out of tackles with simple ducks.
Kiwanuka is so out of sorts. Packers have second-and-goal from the seven, and the Giants blitz seven. Kiwanuka comes off the left side untouched, has a direct path to Favre and then ... just stops two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Favre throws towards Ruvell Martin, who gets his feet tangled up with Madison and gets called for pass interference. The Packers score two plays later. Kiwanuka is infuriating.
Fourth quarter: Antonio Pierce gets a pass defensed. I cheer from my living room.
Eli Manning ran outside the pocket and tried to throw the ball away by shoveling it to the ground. Unfortunately, a Packers defensive lineman caught it. A few plays later, DeShawn Wynn juked out about two-thirds of the Giants team on the way to a touchdown. Let's go, Jake Long!
Poor Jared Lorenzen got in and then sprained his ankle after two plays and had to come out.
Indianapolis Colts 22 at Tennessee Titans 20
Ben Riley: Dan Dierdorf says, "Bob Sanders is controlled ... recklessness." And Dierdorf is incoherent ... nonsense.
Michael David Smith: The Colts just aren't getting enough pressure on Vince Young. He had a big run to pick up a first down and has had all day to pass.
Ben Riley: I know it's only the second week -- National Still Too Early to Jump to Conclusions Week, But Certain Trends May Be Emerging Week -- but the Titans line looks awesome. They manhandled Jacksonville, and they are manhandling the Colts.
Michael David Smith: I'm a big Vince Young fan, but he has just got to grow up. He just got a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that turned a third-and-3 into a third-and-18.
Will Carroll: This just in: Peyton Manning is really accurate.
What's that offense where the QB is really more running back ... Wing T? Notre Dame Box? Would Jeff Fisher consider that?
Michael David Smith: Single Wing is what you're thinking of.
David Lewin: I hope this game dispels Vince Young's "He just wins games" reputation. He's a great runner and an OK passer, but last year he was more lucky than good. Peyton Manning on the other hand ... that guy's just plain good.
Mike Tanier: I watched the whole game but have so little to comment on because everything just seemed to be chalk. I mean, I expected the Titans to lose but cover. I expected the Colts to look a little flat but win. The Titans could use a better receiver, though Roydell played well. No surprise there. And as usual, Adam Vinatieri needed to be hypnotized and told it was the fourth quarter of a tied Super Bowl game so he would play well.
Ned Macey: I agree with Tanier that this game was mostly chalk. The Colts were better but not great, but the Titans tighten in the red zone to keep it close. Of note, Nick Harper held up a lot better than Jason David, but in David's defense, Harper almost always had a safety deep. Opposing defenses that don't have great corners should mimic the Tennessee game plan against the Colts every time.
This week in particular, the Titans seemed to be a little feisty. They were pummeling receivers who went to the ground. Not sure what the rule on that is. Courtland Finnegan in particular was taking some shots. Kyle Vanden Bosch was yelling a lot, but he wasn't making many plays.
By the end of the game, the Colts, who never blitz, were blitzing Young on every play. Add a B+ receiver to the Titans, and I'd be worried about them in the AFC South. For now, the team just lacks firepower.
Minnesota Vikings 17 at Detroit Lions 20 (OT)
Vince Verhei: On third-and-1, Tarvaris Jackson rolls right, then throws back across his body, into traffic, one yard past the line of scrimmage. The pass is tipped and intercepted. That play sucked in design, timing and execution.
David Lewin: Detroit is throwing every down in the early going here and Kitna is looking great ... until they get into the red zone. Without the ability to threaten the field vertically, as is the case in the red zone, there's not much room to work. This is especially true when the linebackers are dropping deep because they don't have to respect the run.
Vince Verhei: To his credit, Jackson just made an accurate throw to a wide-open receiver on second down, only to see the receiver drop the pass. Then on third down, Jackson made a great throw under pressure to pick up the first. Jackson would end the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
Will Carroll: Kitna concussion. Looks like he's out. At least the Lions aren't giving him the ammonia-sniffer and a pat on the butt.
Vince Verhei: Another interception for Tarvaris, this time a deep lob into double coverage that's an easy pop fly for the outfielder -- er, safety. I think that's his third pick today.
Vikings force a fumble and return it for a score. Kevin Williams knifed through the line and busted up a handoff. For all of Jackson's mistakes, they're still tied here in the third quarter. Lions drive down and threaten to score, but J.T. O'Sullivan throws a red zone pick to Dwight Smith.
Another pop fly pick for Tarvaris. You have to see these to understand how bad they are. Defensive backs are catching these with no receiver within five yards.
Jon Kitna is back in for Detroit. Seriously. He's got the team driving, but Roy Williams just fumbled the ball back to the Vikings.
Michael David Smith: And Kitna, playing with a concussion, runs and doesn't slide, ending up with Kevin Williams drilling him.
Russell Levine: I'm sure he's completely recovered from his concussion. The concussion policy is a joke.
Will Carroll: It's official. No one is listening about concussions.
Vince Verhei: I came home trying to figure out how Minnesota stayed in this game despite five turnovers from their quarterbacks (including a Brooks Bollinger fumble). Turns out, the Lions quarterbacks had four turnovers of their own, most of which escaped my attention. This is what happens when you're trying to watch six games at once in a crowded sports bar.
Regardless, this game was the exact opposite of Cleveland-Cincinnati.
Seattle Seahawks 20 at Arizona Cardinals 23
Doug Farrar: Anatomy of a Bad Drive: Seattle starts strong with three straight short passes. Then, Chris Gray and Mack Strong get nailed for false starts on consecutive plays. Then, Mike Holmgren calls running plays to Shaun Alexander on first-and-20 and second-and-18. Matt Hasselbeck can't find anyone open in a deep zone on third-and-15 (gosh, what a surprise) and runs for six yards.
The Seahawks' defense looked good at the line on Arizona's first drive. They'd bring several players up, but half of those players would peel back into coverage at the snap, leaving Leinart with different looks. Either Jim Mora's creativity is rubbing off, or Seattle's coaching staff has been watching some old Clancy Pendergast game tape.
Adrian Wilson is absolutely controlling the tempo on Seattle's second drive -- it's as if he's got Video Matt Hasselbeck on a joystick. Made Hasselbeck change the play on second down -- incomplete to Deion Branch. A little floober to Leonard Weaver on third-and-12 as Arizona goes vanilla.
Punt again. Blech again.
Seattle's offensive line is getting dominated. Blocked punt and an easy field goal for the Cardinals. Once again, Seattle's defense is far outplaying his offense. Holmgren must be wondering what wormhole he's crawled through.
Hey, here's an idea: When Adrian Wilson is covering your 35-year-old tight end, go somewhere else with the ball.
You can see why Pendergast was pretty much the only coach under Dennis Green that Whisenhunt kept on staff (I think they kept an assistant secondary coach as well). This is a clinic in how to confuse a quarterback.
Great play by Lofa Tatupu at the start of the second quarter, sniffing out a draw to James. Then, old USC teammates Tatupu and Deuce Lutui share some good-natured smack. Good times. Of course, on the next play, Leinart play-fakes the entire Seahawks defense out of their collective shorts, leaving Leonard Pope as wide-open for a touchdown as it is possible to be.
What was that Ben and I were saying about short corners? With 11 minutes left in the second quarter, Leinart throws up a jump ball deep, Kelly Jennings covers Larry Fitzgerald as well as he can, but when your cornerback is literally a head shorter, that doesn't work.
Stuart Fraser: For what it's worth, I don't think Matt Spaeth would be able to cover Larry Fitzgerald.
Doug Farrar: Equally distressing is the fact that Seattle's defense is starting to lose the ability to pressure as the focus has to turned to Arizona's passing game.
On Arizona's subsequent punt, safety Oliver Celestin downs the ball at Seattle's one-yard line. Celestin, of course, used to be a Seahawk.
Wonderful move by Nate Burleson near the end of the first half, picking up a high pass from Hasselbeck and fighting off Eric Green for the touchdown.
Hey, a Brian Russell sighting! One of Seattle's two free-agent starting safeties, he had been most notable for missed tackles so far in his Seattle tenure, until a nice safety blitz unnerved Leinart early in the third quarter. Leinart completes a pass for another first down on the next play, though. For a second-year quarterback, he's showing impressive ability to throw off not only last week's pathetic performance, but early pressure.
Lofa Tatupu's third-quarter pick of Leinart underscores the most underrated aspect of his game: Tatupu can cover very well for a middle linebacker built like a brick outhouse. He's as fast as he needs to be and very adept at reading where a quarterback will go. This allows Seattle to put Tampa-2 looks out there when they need to.
Ben Riley: Seattle's special teams seem to have taken a step back from last year's improvement. To wit: a blocked punt (they didn't give up any last year), and returns regularly brought out to the 30 or worse.
Matt Leinart played poorly last week, but they seemed like first-week jitters. This week, Seattle's getting decent pressure -- though Kevin Bentley is no Leroy Hill -- but Leinart's finding the open receiver in the flat to convert on third downs. Edge James continues his pesky habit of falling forward for important four- to five-yard gains.
Ned Macey: Color me unimpressed with Matt Leinart. He was getting numbers early, but he looks a little shaky in the pocket, and he lacks arm strength. I feel that his passes often look a half-second late, whether that is late recognition or the lack of a fastball or both is still unclear to me.
Mike Tanier: Leinart lacks arm strength? I didn't see this game but he always seemed to have plenty of arm to me.
Doug Farrar: He had good arm strength when he didn't have a defender in his face. The Seahawks got decent pressure, but sacks were hard to come by. That says something about Leinart.
Hasselbeck and Holmgren may have been hot about that third-quarter intentional grounding call -- and maybe Burleson was coming back for the ball in the general vicinity -- but when your offensive line displays little to no pass protection, you're not going to get those calls. It's a bit like a batter with no concept of the strike zone. The close ones won't be in your neighborhood.
And now, Terry Donahue is giving Mike Holmgren coaching advice from the broadcast booth, which is the only place that Terry Donahue should be doing anything having to do with professional football. And we're not so sure about the broadcast booth, either.
Left guard Rob Sims had a great pull on the Alexander touchdown run. The second-year man from Ohio State sealed off the edge and made it happen as Walter Jones occupied his man. Brought Steve Hutchinson to mind.
Ben Riley: Well, it took 45 minutes and some promises from my girlfriend that aren't suitable for a PG-13 rated website, but I decided not to jump after the Seahawks managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Mike Tanier: I for one will be really disappointed if we hear from Ben for the rest of the night.
Ben Riley: Where to start? Holmgren managed to mismanage the clock again, but ... the Seahawks losing on a botched handoff between Hasselbeck and Alexander? How many times has #8 handed to #37? Two-thousand? Early explanation is that it was a run to Shaun, but he thought he heard Hasselbeck call an audible, then decide to pass block when he saw Gerald Hayes charging. Put another way, Alexander blew it. Tough loss for the Hawks.
The real hero for the game may have been Lyle Sendlein, a rookie who was called into action to play center and did so admirably. The Cardinals line opened up holes in the running game and, though Seattle did get some pressure, Leinart didn't get hit that often. This Russ Grimm, offensive line coach thing might work out for the Cardinals.
The NFC West is what everyone thought it was: A bunch of mediocre teams that will all end up +/- 1 game from 8-8. Well, except for the Rams.
Doug Farrar: I'm calling it: The "Keep Choppin' Wood" winner for Week Two is Mike Holmgren, whose refusal to call one of his two remaining timeouts as the Cardinals moved down the field with the score tied at 20 left his team with one second left to answer Neil Rackers' late field goal. Even if you have no faith in your offense's ability to get back downfield for your kicker, who won four games for you in 2006, the least you could do is try and ice THEIR kicker.
Timeouts aren't like cell phone minutes, Mike. They don't roll over to Week 3.
Russell Levine: I believe that's one from the Lloyd Carr School, circa 2005 Rose Bowl vs. Texas.
New York Jets 13 at Baltimore Ravens 20
Sean McCormick: Not a good start for Kellen Clemens. On second down he finds Jerricho Cotchery matched up on a linebacker but badly overthrows him, and on third down he tries to go to the corner with Laveranues Coles, but Coles gets knocked down and Ed Reed glides over to make the pick.
Bill Barnwell: Coles' play looked like pass interference. McNair, Pennington and Ogden are all out.
Sean McCormick: I've discovered that Darrelle Revis facing the wrong way is still better than David Barrett facing the right way.
The Jets have become very adept at catching the defense making substitutions. They consistently go to the quick snap to draw the penalty. They did it twice last week, and they caught Baltimore substituting just now.
Corey Ivy just pulled a "Kiwanuka." He had Kellen Clemens in his grasp and inexplicably pulled up, allowing Clemens to scramble away ... and make a terrible throw that was nearly intercepted.
Bill Moore: Wait. Randy Cross just said, "No huddle, nothing against it, teams like to do it, but you have to give the defense opportunity to substitute." Huh?
Sean McCormick: It didn't make any difference on that series, but Clemens looks like he's settling in a little. During the first few offensive series, he was bouncing on the balls of his feet and looking to pull the ball down almost as soon as he completed his drop. Now he's setting his feet and not looking at the rush. That's either going to result in his becoming more effective or in his getting killed.
I'm not sure why the Ravens aren't just lining up and firing off the ball on every snap. The Jets are weak at the point of attack, and by running straight ahead it would keep Baltimore's young line from getting confused by the defensive motion. True, McGahee hasn't broken anything on the inside yet, but this game plan is keeping the Jets defense competitive.
Ravens have third-and-1 from the Jets 6 with 24 seconds left, and McGahee gets the first down. Does he run back to the line so they can snap the ball? Nope. He stops and makes the "first down" signal before he runs back. Could've cost them a couple seconds.
Stuart Fraser: A four-play series for you here. First down: Jones stuffed, Ngata bull-rushes Ferguson several yards backwards and blows the play up. Second down: Landry blitzes, isn't picked up, and sacks Clemens. Third down: The Ravens blitz a safety from the other side, who isn't picked up (not enough blockers) and sacks Clemens. Fourth down: Ed Reed returns the resulting punt for about 40. The return is called back for a block in the back, admittedly, but the futility of the Jets' efforts is still fairly apparent.
Clock Management 101: Jets TD to make it 13-20. Mangini correctly kicks onside. Jets almost recover but Brad Smith misses the ball. Billick then predictably throws on first down. The pass goes incomplete and Demetrius Williams hurts his shoulder on the play. Run the ball to kill the clock! Billick does run on second down and picks up about 4, then throws incomplete *again* (Boller is chased across the field and throws it away), and the Ravens punt into the end zone. Brian Billick, offensive genius.
The next thing I'm going to nag Billick -- and, in this case, Rex Ryan -- on is that Baltimore got a lot of hurt from Cincinnati on quick six- or seven-yard outs, sideline fades, and the occasional interior deep route when wide receivers are matched up against Baltimore's safeties. This is exactly the same set of plays the Jets have been using on this comeback. Nice film study by Brian Schottenheimer, but Ravens, you might want to fix that.
OK, so Ray Lewis gets the end zone pick to kill the game. But it should never have been that close.
Bill Barnwell: Not only should it not have been so close, but the Jets were a Justin McCareins drop or a Laveranues Coles pass being six inches higher away from tying the game.
Sean McCormick: It's easy to see why the Jets coaching staff would like to play Kellen Clemens. In the course of that fourth quarter rally, he made at least six throws that Chad Pennington is completely incapable of making.
Baltimore was bringing heavy pressure and playing tight man coverage, usually with just one safety playing in coverage. The way to beat that defense is to go vertical against it. Clemens can do it, Pennington can't. Miami has a lot more to prepare for next week simply by virtue of Clemens being the possible starter.
Oakland Raiders 20 at Denver Broncos 23 (OT)
Bill Moore: Memo to Josh McCown: Three receivers in pattern, third down on your own one-yard line ... throw to the guys NOT covered by Champ Bailey!
Mike Tanier: I haven't seen any of the game, but halfway through the third quarter, McCown is five-of-eight for 12 yards and two picks. I can't wait to find out how you complete five passes for 12 yards.
Ryan Wilson: I will say this about Oakland: Lane Kiffin was upbeat after Shanahan called the timeout, and he was seemingly trying to change the culture of losing right at that moment. He then implored his team to play hard after Janikowski missed after the timeout. Last year, somebody would've had to poke Art Shell awake to let him know what was going on. It doesn't make up for losing, but it's a start.
Mike Tanier: You know, Sebastian Janikowski hit an 83-yard field goal into a stiff wind during practice, or something like that. He also probably drank nine shots of Jagermeister and set a new high score in Pole Position, but the guy isn't driving me home. I hate the Raiders play calls leading up to the kick. Incomplete on a rollout pass, so they run twice and figure they'll kick a 52-yarder on the road. Sure, the pass offense is weak and Janikowski has a big (but scattershot) leg, but attack a little more.
Dallas Cowboys 37 at Miami Dolphins 20
Vince Verhei: The Dolphins only had one sack, but they were harrassing Tony Romo all day. Every time I looked up, Romo was scrambling around and running for his life. You can see the effect in his passing numbers -- just 14-for-29 -- but Romo did manage 36 yards rushing and a pair of passing scores, with no turnovers.
Trent Green's touchdown pass in the second quarter to Marty Booker was a thing of beauty, a rainbow of a pass that hit Booker perfectly on a fade pattern. Unfortunately for Miami, it was the exception on the day. A lot of Green's passes were way overthrown, leading to his four interceptions.
San Diego Chargers 14 at New England Patriots 38
Stuart Fraser: Um, hello? San Diego? The game has started now, your secondary is supposed to be covering receivers. Jeez. Seven plays. Six complete passes and a very strange play I'm going to call unintentional grounding. I can buy having trouble covering Randy Moss, but completely losing track of the tight end in a goal-to-go?
Rivers picked him out so directly that I actually thought Roosevelt Colvin was on the Chargers, before I realized San Diego was wearing white.
Bill Barnwell: Great blitz pickup by Kevin Faulk on a stunt right up the middle. The Patriots are using Watson to slot in behind the linebackers when they blitz, and using Welker in matchups against them when they don't. Welker's going to be moving around all game to try and ascertain who's staying and who's coming. The Chargers are going to have to do a better job of hiding their blitzes.
Rivers looks very unsteady in the pocket to begin the game. Did I just see Larry Izzo on the field on second-and-12? Did he get lost or something?
Michael David Smith: This whole "spiking the ball is a penalty" thing needs to get sorted out. What Wes Welker just did was more of a spike than what Jeremy Shockey did earlier today, but Welker didn't get a penalty and Shockey did. That no-call really hurts the Chargers, if the enforcement on Shockey was correct, because that means Welker's gain should have been wiped out, in addition to losing five yards on the penalty.
Doug Farrar: No, really, the more judgment calls you give to the officials, the better the game will be. See how well it works with pass interference?
Stuart Fraser: I think whenever you have Merriman trying to cover Welker, the result should probably not be an incomplete pass. Still, this is better a better matchup for the defense than Antonio Gates on "hole in zone."
(after NBC shows an image of a wristband on Ted Cottrell) NBC is focusing a camera on San Diego's defensive signals! John Madden should be suspended!
Nice offensive pass interference by Moss on a curl route for the first down there. Announcers comment "you'd expect Moss to go deep there" which is true, but less to do with his separation than the uncalled push-off.
I think Wes Welker is pretty clearly New England's No. 2 receiver now. Also, that's the second uncalled penalty (spike) on a Patriots receiver this drive. MDS, as I understand it, spiking is a dead-ball foul, which means it gets added on after the play rather than wiping the gain out. Nonetheless ...
Bill Barnwell: Merriman's getting caught in the trash so far. He's not coming clean to the line.
Cilnton Hart was way too slow to pick up Moss on the second Patriots touchdown. He has to be able to read the offense better than that, or the Chargers have no hope.
Rivers still looks weird. I'm by no means an expert on quarterback mechanics, but his release point is really low. I noticed it on the completion to Jackson and then, on the next play, he had the ball knocked out of his hands and fumbled.
Stuart Fraser: On any play, no matter what it is, how can you not block Shawne Merriman? In general, the Patriots are really struggling in the run game, mostly because they keep trying to run straight at Jamal Williams (aforementioned non-blocking doesn't help).
Michael David Smith: Has anyone ever charted how often Merriman gets down into a three-point stance? Seems like he's done it more tonight than I had seen before.
Mike Tanier: Merriman lines up in the two-point quite a bit. Basically, the Chargers run a 5-2 defense, or at least they did last year.
Sean McCormick: Now we know who's the loser in New England's wide receiver derby: Donte' Stallworth. When Jabar Gaffney is getting targeted ahead of you, it's safe to say that your future on the team is not assured. I guess he's the deep threat insurance for Moss' inevitable hamstring pull.
Bill Barnwell: Patriots ran a really strange kickoff after the Thomas touchdown and I have no idea why.
Laugh-out-loud moment of the game was when the Chargers split Lorenzo Neal out wide. Of course! He motioned back inside, natch.
New England is getting away with all kinds of offensive pass interference. In between the Cromartie defensive pass interference (weak, by the way) and the Brady interception, they threw a go to Stallworth where he absolutely shoved Cromartie away, and it wasn't called.
Ned Macey: Very few people think that Norv Turner is a good head coach. Some people think Turner is still a viable offensive mind. Most people think Turner is a great teacher of young quarterbacks. If so, he is definitely taking the "three steps back to take four steps forward" approach with Rivers. Yikes.
Mike Tanier: Drayton Florence on Randy Moss one-on-one. Duh. Patriots in a three-tight end set, Moss is the only receiver. There's a safety in two-deep. Florence lets Moss get behind him on an outside release. None of this makes any sense to me defensively. There's about a dozen things that seem wrong, but the basics are this: 1) If you are over Randy Moss as the corner in a Cover-2, jam him and ride him good; 2) If you are the safety in the two-deep to his side, maybe you should roll to his side, especially in a three-tight end look when there aren't many other deep threats on your side of the field.
Neal splits wide a lot, then motions in. I mentioned it in a Play of the Day a while back. That is very old school Norv. Moose Johnston split wide and sometimes motioned in. There's a legitimate reason for that "fullback from the slot to the backfield" motion. It's a simple way to change weak side to strong and change a passing formation to a rushing one. Leave the fullback in the slot, and he's a great blocker on a sweep. But ideally, the fullback is someone who can run something besides a flat route in the passing game. Neal isn't going to threaten a safety on a seam route or worry a linebacker on a cross.
Bill Barnwell: That can be shifted just as easily by lining up Neal in the backfield on the weak side and shifting him to the strong side, saving time. It's not as if the defense is going to reveal themselves based upon what Neal is doing if he's split out wide, right?
Doug Farrar: San Diego led the NFL in first-half scoring in 2006. They haven't scored a single first-half point in 2007. As the last vestiges of Norv's reputation begin to melt away, a man named Schottenheimer allows himself the luxury of a quiet chuckle.