Audibles at the Line: Week 4
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.
Houston Texans 16 at Atlanta Falcons 26
Vince Verhei: The development of Roddy White continues. A Houston defender held him AND interfered and White still made a great fingertip grab for a big gain. On third down, Joey Harrington hits Jenkins for a touchdown to make it 10-7, Atlanta. Then Jenkins scores again after Houston fumbles the ball away. When he's not getting sacked, JoeyHarrington looks really sharp, and it's odd to think of Atlanta receivers as a mismatch against an opponent's secondary.
Laurent Robinson draws pass interference on Demarcus Faggins in the end zone. Atlanta's wide receivers are dominating this game. Of course, Atlanta turns first-and-goal at the one-yard line into a field goal.
Houston goes for it on fourth-and-2 at the Atlanta 40, but a pass to the fullback loses a yard. This offense is neutered without Andre Johnson.
Atlanta opens the second half with a soft zone, and Matt Schaub rips its vulnerable underbelly apart. In the red zone, a third down blitz forces a short completion and a field goal. 20-13, Falcons. Lawyer Milloy and Lewis Sanders trade shoves after letting a receiver get open in the end zone. Do any of Atlanta's defensive backs get along with anyone?
Roddy White leads Atlanta down the field again, but Warrick Dunn gets called for clipping, then loses yards on a second-and-25 swing pass. Morten Andersen kicks a field goal to make it 23-13 Atlanta.
After years with the Falcons, Schaub knows that good things happen when you throw away from DeAngelo Hall. Andre Davis just burned Lewis Sanders for a big gain on a post pattern.
Aaron Schatz: Sanders, of course, was in Houston the last couple years.
Vince Verhei: Schaub has 235 yards and almost exactly half, 117, are to Davis. They lose their No. 1 receiver and still run a No. 1 receiver offense.
Aaron Schatz: This is because Atlanta has all No. 5 cornerbacks. I picked up Davis in fantasy this week. Great example of why opponent adjustments matter.
Vince Verhei: A Schaub touchdown run is called down at the one-yard line after review. Texans run up the gut for no gain, lose yards on a fumbled pitch, then get their field goal blocked, likely ending the game.
Bill Moore: Yeah, a pitch to Ron Dayne! A running back known for his hands. Good call.
Baltimore Ravens 13 at Cleveland Browns 27
Stuart Fraser: The Browns just ran a nine-play, 45-yard touchdown drive. Against the Ravens, who apparently haven't allowed a touchdown on the opening drive of the game for 15 games until now. They had one play where Lewis was stuffed and one where Anderson overthrew an open receiver in the end zone, but ... I'm in shock at the Browns looking like a legit NFL team.
Ryan Wilson: Leigh Bodden just picked Steve McNair on the Ravens' first drive. And this is after Derek Anderson led a touchdown drive to start the game. Bodden -- that guy just ... gets ... interceptions!
Bill Barnwell: I think you meant, "Just ... gets ... hurt."
Stuart Fraser: On the play after the Bodden interception, the Browns go deep, Braylon Edwards blows past Chris McAllister (who is busy biting on a fake) and Derek Anderson finds him for the score. Browns 14, Ravens 0. Did these teams switch uniforms before coming out of the tunnel?
Matt Stover just honked a 40-something yard field goal attempt wide right from the left hashmark. If anybody else was watching, could they share a theory on how the hell he did it?
I suppose this game is going exactly how I expected, only, you know, the other way. Yamon Figurs fumbles a kickoff return, the Browns recover. The Ravens defense forces a three-and-FG (three-and-three?), which is missed (WTF? Weather conditions in Cleveland don't look that bad), but the Ravens have jumped offside. Five plays later, Lewis is awarded a touchdown on a play where he doesn't break the plane despite extending the ball forwards. Billick is too late with the challenge flag in Nick Saban fashion and it's 24-3. That's, what, three Keep Choppin' Wood awards in the space of nine plays?
So, the Ravens had eight (maybe nine) drives into Cleveland's half and came away with thirteen points. The Ravens never punted. The Ravens also never sacked Derek Anderson. I have seen the Ravens play like this before this year, but previously only in the fourth quarter. Rich Gannon probably has the best line on it, when asked if he was surprised the Browns weren't running more no-huddle. "Maybe they would if the game had been closer, but right now they don't need to."
New York Jets 14 at Buffalo Bills 17
Doug Farrar: Trent Edwards starts with a six-yard out to Lee Evans, which is more than Evans has gained all year. I benched Evans this week just to get him off the schnied. You're welcome, Bills fans. Victor Hobson ends Buffalo's first drive with a sack on a nice little delayed stunt around center ... for the Jets' second sack of the season. Yikes. Only the Saints were worse with zero.
Bill Barnwell: Leon Washington gets flagged for an illegal fair catch signal. I knew he shouldn't have done his football card pose.
Doug Farrar: The Jets are trying all manner of sleight-of-hand early on -- an end-around to Cotchery that was snuffed by defensive tackle Kyle Williams, and an empty backfield shift to single-back draw to Leon Washington that was dumped by John McCargo. Why the trickery? This defense is terrible. On third-and-12, a simple little wide receiver screen to Brad Smith gets 10 yards. With so many defensive starters out for Buffalo, I don't get why the Jets didn't just go after them.
Bill Barnwell: I hate the Jets using a reverse against the Bills front seven. They're undersized and quick. Just run at them! And Evans just had two 15-plus-yard plays. The Jets are giving him a cushion and so he's running underneath it. Vindicated!
Edwards looks uncomfortable so far. He's got happy feet. The Bills really need to just pound Lynch on the interior and isolate Evans against David Barrett. Their offensive game plan doesn't need to be any more complicated than that.
Sean McCormick: Never underestimate David Barrett -- he can get burned by anyone. So far, Trent Edwards has looked good. He hasn't so much as turned his neck once, but when his primary receiver is open, he throws the ball on time. That's more than you can say about J.P. Losman.
Aaron Schatz: I think the Bills have decided that it is better to lose throwing to Lee Evans than lose not throwing to Lee Evans. At least throwing to Lee Evans there is a chance you might actually win the game. I have yet to see Barrett on him, by the way, it's been Darrelle Revis and Andre Dyson.
Bill Barnwell: He's their nickel back. If they get in passing situations, they should be able to get Evans matched up against him in the slot. Just as I wrote that, Barrett was toasted in the slot by Josh Reed for 22 yards. Josh Reed!
Jerricho Cotchery just ran a great 15-yard out and Pennington air-mailed it to him, so Jabari Greer closed from four yards away and swatted it away. That's a pattern he just can't throw reliably. He just laid Cotchery out to dry over the middle, too. He does not look good at all at the moment.
First half is going to be done by 2:15. This has gotta be one of the quickest first halves in recent history.
The Jets just ran the fake spike! Finally they get their revenge! Oh ... maybe not. It actually worked, although it was nearly an interception, and Coles picks up 20 and they get a shot at a figgie with one second left. Unfortunately, Nugent hits the upright and it's nil-nil.
Aaron Schatz: One of the reasons why the Bills shut out the Jets through one half, despite all their injuries on defense, is excellent gap responsibility. There was a Cotchery end-around where Aaron Schobel didn't overpursue and kept Cotchery from turning the corner around him, and they've done well stopping draws up the middle. Every time a new head coach takes over a team, he always talks about how the defense "will be more aggressive," but sometimes it is better for a defense to be LESS aggressive.
The other reason they shut out the Jets is that Nugent honked a 37-yard field goal even though Pennington put them in field goal range by pulling the fake spike play and tossing to Cotchery. And I'm with Sean, not Bill. I think Edwards looks pretty good for a rookie making his first start, despite that launch to a completely covered Lee Evans that was intercepted in the end zone.
Bill Barnwell: He's making good throws, but they're not really repeatable -- his footwork is erratic at best, and he's made a couple of passes (notably the Reed throw) off his back foot, which are nice when they come through, but not so nice when they don't. I haven't seen the sort of steady rhythmic dropback and release that I like to see, but it might just be me.
Doug Farrar: If you're the Bills' offense at this point, you don't care about repeatable. One time is fine.
Bill Barnwell: On the other hand, he appears to have this jumping-throw-off-my-back-foot motion down, so maybe it IS repeatable.
Sean McCormick: Another reason for the shutout is the Jets play-calling, which seems content to attack from sideline to sideline without ever going downfield. Everything is horizontal. They've only made two significant throws down the field -- one was a 15-yard out that Pennington threw so softly that the defender had plenty of time to recover and bat the pass down, and the other was the fake spike. Buffalo has a banged up secondary and aren't putting any pressure on Pennington, so I would look for at least one deep throw to McCareins early in the third quarter.
D'Brickashaw Ferguson is having his second very good showing in a row. He was called for one holding penalty, but he's basically negated Schobel. In contrast, last year Schobel put up three sacks and a ton of hurries against Ferguson.
Trent Edwards is just going to the first read over and over. It's working more often than not, but he's going to get in trouble if he keeps it up.
Bill Barnwell: The Bills secondary has been terrible. Pennington's not putting anything on his throws but the Jets receivers are still getting open downfield by creating separation on almost every play.
Aaron Schatz: I would like to congratulate Dick Jauron for having balls and going for it on fourth-and-goal from the one with a 10-7 lead late. I'd also like to congratulate him or the Bills offensive coordinator for running play-action instead of an obvious run up the middle. Lots of passing on fourth-and-short is bad. One pass on fourth-and-short with a play fake is good.
Mike Tanier: That game was succinct. I was highly, highly impressed by Edwards. Great timing on lots of little hitches and curls, good presence in the pocket. He really sliced some passes into tight spots. I don't want to get carried away or anything, but it was as good a first start as any rookie could hope for.
Oakland Raiders 35 at Miami Dolphins 17
Doug Farrar: Channing Crowder moves to the middle to sub for Zach Thomas, who's currently working on a licensing deal for his 500-Concussion Commemorative Plate Series. Raiders go three-and-out anyway. I'm watching Miami rookie center Samson Satele today. I heard a lot of good things about him at the Combine from people I respect. Good matchup against the Raiders' front four.
Of course, on the second play of Miami's first drive, Trent Green throws into a sea of black jerseys and Thomas Howard returns a pick to the Miami 11. Mike Williams gets a really ticky-tack offensive interference call which pushes the Raiders back, Keith Traylor sacks Culpepper, Jason Taylor gets a neutral zone infraction call, the ball moves forward, Lamont Jordan for not much, and a touchdown to Jerry Porter, who Gus Johnson just called "Joey" three times in five seconds. No, Gus, Jerry's the OTHER loudmouth.
Bill Barnwell: Watch out for Crowder in the middle. He gets comically lost on pass plays at times.
Doug Farrar: Trent Green had better quit holding on to the ball like this, or the Raiders will have 10 sacks. Future quarterbacks of America, avert your eyes from this game. Culpepper just threw a ball that hit Dolphins linebacker Derrick Pope in the back of the head.
In the Jets-Bills chapter of Audibles, we were talking about avoiding trickery and just teeing off on a vulnerable defense. Well, the Raiders (of all people!) gained 46 yards rushing on their second touchdown drive, capped off with a Culpepper sneak for a score on fourth down. They have some smashmouth capability against bad defenses with LaMont Jordan, and that's how you take the first tentative steps forward from your prior status as one of the worst offenses of the modern era.
Miami's first touchdown came about when Cam Cameron decided to go for it on fourth-and-4 from the Oakland 44 and Green threw a 35-yard pass to Justin Peelle. Actually, Green threw a four-yard pass and Peelle did the rest. Then Ronnie Brown just decimated Oakland cornerback B.J. Ward on the way to the end zone.
Brown breaks out of a Tyler Brayton ankle-tackle at the line of scrimmage and breaks free for a 60-yard run. This Raiders defense doesn't look like last year's. They seemed to be in a right-place/right-time groove moreso than now.
First example of the "no spike/delay of game" rule I've seen -- halfway through the second quarter, the Dolphins have a free play after Brayton jumps offside. But Chris Chambers catches a ball over the middle from Green and flips the ball for an offsetting penalty and a replay of the down. Cameron then goes for it on fourth-and-7 and Green draws an offside. Brown rips the Oakland defense on fourth-and-2 for the first down, and I have a feeling that Cameron wants to top the charts in the Fourth Down Aggressiveness section of PFP 2008.
Green has two sacks and two picks in the first half -- he has a major problem releasing the ball before bad things happen. On the second sack, Sapp broke a double team but fell short. Green moved out, pulled the ball down, moved around for a while, ate a sandwich, made a couple of phone calls ... this is not good.
Ronnie Brown is getting up close and personal with Oakland's secondary, which is what happens when your front seven has a "tackling optional" policy. Oakland's offensive line is more impressive than their defensive line, and I can't believe I just wrote that. Has Trent Green always superglued his hand to the ball in the pocket? I don't remember this. Brayton tipped a ball that just went out of Morrison's hands for what would have been a third pick of the day. Green looks atrocious.
Mike Williams, he of the earlier iffy interference penalty, had every reason to be hacked off at the officials after Michael Lehan was draped all over him on a third down incomplete in the third quarter. That was really blatant. Jason Taylor with a graphic horse collar on Justin "Son of Huggy Bear" Fargas after Fargas runs through a hole set up ... by ... good ... Oakland ... blocking (plus a Williams block on Lehan). Huh? Culpepper now has two rushing touchdowns in this game, and I thank my lucky stars I'm not a Dolphins fan right now.
Vince Verhei: Culpepper scoring against Miami, then pointing to his knee, giving the "OK" sign and gleefully bouncing across the field was beautiful.
Doug Farrar: Touchdown from Green to Peelle after Johnnie Lee Higgins fumbles a punt return, giving the Dolphins great field position, and I'm about ready to find a baseball game until the Seahawks come on. Yak, what a dismal game. And then ... Culpepper to Porter for the touchdown that puts it out of reach. That's two rushing and two passing touchdowns for No. 8. I think Miami needs a hug.
It's difficult to overstate how bad Green was in this game. He had ball after ball tipped at the line, but his offensive line gave him time on most plays. I don't know what he was reading half the time, and the Dolphins wouldn't have been anywhere near this game in the fourth quarter without Ronnie Brown and their special teams. There's no way in hell this team is going to win anything with a defense that makes Justin Fargas look like Barry Sanders. Maybe it's time to find out if John Beck is anything more than the new Chris Weinke?
Chicago Bears 27 at Detroit Lions 37
Will Carroll: On the same play where Tatum Bell took a head-to-head hit, someone went by him just before he was tackled and tore his pants. It looked as if there was something sharp enough on his helmet to tear through the fabric like a knife. The refs didn't seem to notice either issue. Bell came back into the game a few plays later with his butt clearly visible, so maybe the Lions didn't notice either.
The Bears seem to be using a 4-2-5 with Lance Briggs out, using the nickel back as a Gary Fencik-style safety. They seem to be lining up in almost a ... you know, this actually looks like a modified 46. There's the cover-two in play, but two safeties seem to have run assignments and they're definitely playing gaps.
Ernie Sims just dropped his head WAY down, aiming for the ball. While he did knock it out of Cedric Benson's hands, Brian Baldinger made this sound like great technique.
Brian Griese looks like absolute crap.
Michael David Smith: Sims has a long history of doing that. And he and his brother (Marcus, currently at Florida State) both have a history of concussions. It's scary the way he lowers his head and flies into people.
Doug Farrar: Not a good way to go for a guy who was basically the collegiate version of Dan Morgan.
Sean McCormick: The ghosts of Rex -- Brian Griese made a terrible decision down in the red zone, trying to wing in a quick out on the goal line while throwing off his back foot, resulting in a pick. Remind me again why Chicago had no interest in Byron Leftwich?
Bill Moore: Gross - man! Gross - man!
Sean McCormick: There is no Rex Grossman. There is no Brian Griese. There is only "Chicago quarterback."
Green Bay Packers 23 at Minnesota Vikings 16
Doug Farrar: The big story will be Brett Favre's touchdown pass, but Adrian Peterson is officially ridiculous. 108 yards on 10 carries in the first half against the seventh-best run defense, according to early DVOA.
Vince Verhei: Forget about Favre; the highlight of this game was Green Bay's punter pulling the ball down and spinning out of tackles to pick up a first down. And yes, Peterson's the runaway rookie of the year right now.
Mike Tanier: That man-crush that all sportswriters seem to have on Brett Favre? I ... I think I contracted it. That being said, Brad Childress has to find himself on the hot seat pretty soon. Yes, Jackson is hurt. But this is the plan in Year 2? Grab a guy off waivers, make him the starting quarterback, watch him throw four-yard passes? The Vikings are not scoring, and their sack-and-turnover offense spots opponents about a touchdown. Very bad. Very hard to watch.
Sean McCormick: Childress is just waiting for Koy Detmer to get cut loose. Then this offense is really going to take off.
St. Louis Rams 7 at Dallas Cowboys 35
Vince Verhei: As the Cowboys approach the end zone before halftime, a group of fat old white men at a bar in Seattle begin to bang on their tables and chant "T.O.! T.O.!" This is why I love fantasy football even though I don't play it.
Bad news for my bar mates as the Rams defense parts like the Red Sea and Tony Romo scrambles in for the touchdown to put his team ahead, 14-7. The game is only close because Dante Hall returned a punt for a touchdown.
Doug Farrar: I just heard Shannon Sharpe try to pronounce Oshiomogho Atogwe's name. To quote Bill Cowher, "That was a special moment."
Aaron Schatz: Well, this thing never should have been close, and early in the third quarter the Cowboys are pulling away. Patrick Crayton just broke a Lenny Walls "tackle" and ran something like 40 more yards for an easy score. The proper reaction to this is one of two things: 1) "Wow, the St. Louis secondary is as bad as we thought." 2) "Wow, Lenny Walls is still in the NFL?"
When it comes to predicting bad seasons, could we have been more wrong than we were about Dallas? Could we have been more right than we were about St. Louis?
Seattle Seahawks 23 at San Francisco 49ers 3
Doug Farrar: After a sack and an incompletion on the first drive, Alex Smith started San Francisco's second drive on the bench with a shoulder injury. Ex-Seahawks quarterback Trent Dilfer hit his first pass to ex-Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson (that must have been fun for Mike Holmgren), and Frank Gore fumbled on the next play. Second-year defensive end Darryl Tapp made a good play by disengaging from his blocker and punching the ball out.
This is how Seattle's offense has changed since 2005 -- the third-down bailout used to be Shaun Alexander to the left, but now it's the quick out or slant to anyone. Hasselbeck is as good as anyone at getting the underneath stuff done in a way that's more than just taking what the defense gives him. On the other hand, I really don't like his deep ball, especially on third down.
Gore fumbles for the second time in the first quarter (San Francisco recovers this time) as Lofa Tatupu just blows him up. Gore, of course, rushed for 9,000 yards against the Seahawks last season, so I think someone's trying to make a point this time.
Vince Verhei: Hasselbeck throws an ugly deep ball? Did you see last week's game? Now, David Carr -- THERE is an ugly deep ball.
Doug Farrar: Yeah, the touchdown pass to Branch against the Bengals was as pretty as you'll ever see. Generally, though, I'm not in favor of it.
The Seahawks send every damn body on a third down, first-quarter blitz, and ex-49ers linebacker Julian Peterson sacks Dilfer. The 49ers "threw" for -12 yards in the first quarter.
Hasselbeck to backup quarterback Seneca Wallace, who toasts Walt Harris for a 18-yard gain at the end of the first. I swear, if Wallace ever decides to switch positions ... he's had five undistinguished years at quarterback but he could be a major impact receiver. Everyone in the Seahawks organization knows this. He's probably the best athlete on the team. If there were a few more decent backup quarterbacks in the league, the switch might have already happened.
Alexander is effective on two plays now: the draw, and the inside one-cut run, preferably from an I-formation. Everything else is really questionable. And if he dances at all, he's dead in the water.
Speaking of offensive lines, what the heck happened to San Francisco's? They were one of the real surprise units in 2006, and they look awful here. They looked awful against the Steelers last week, but I assumed that was just them facing the Steelers. Justin Smiley is getting beaten by everyone he doesn't hold. Rocky Bernard is just killing him.
Keith Lewis blocks Ryan Plackemeier's punt halfway through the second quarter, but we're all more impressed by Mr. Lewis' reeeeeeeeally vivid red hair. Always good when your coiffure matches your jersey. Less impressive is the San Francisco offense, who can't capitalize on the block, as Peterson gets Dilfer again -- fourth sack of the game so far for Seattle. The 49ers still don't have a first down.
OK -- I'll shut up about Hasselbeck's deep ball now. He threw a beautiful pass to Branch for a 65-yard gain over Nate Clements. Right in the hands, going away. One play later, the 17-yard touchdown to Bobby Engram. Hasselbeck must have been working on the longer throws in the off-season, because they weren't there last year. Not like this.
And the 49ers finally get a first down with 5:31 left in the first half, as Bernard beats Smiley again and has Dilfer halfway to the ground. Dilfer manages to get one off to Gore, and Gore makes a great effort to get to the flag. On the next play, the Seahawks rush three defenders and pick up their fifth sack. Then, another hold on Smiley AFTER Bernard goes out with a leg injury. If anyone has chopped more wood than Smiley this week, I'll be very surprised.
Deion Branch beats Mark Roman and catches a tipped pass. Major yards after catch. I was speechless when the Seahawks gave up their 2007 first-round pick for Branch last year -- and I still don't like the move -- but if this is the Branch we get all year, I'll like it a lot better.
At the end of the first half, Holmgren is trying to get too cute. He brings Wallace back in, runs an end-around option thing, and Walt Harris damn near picks off the Wallace pass to Branch after jumping 12 feet in the air. The Seahawks are forced to settle for a field goal, and go up 13-0. Again, we ask: Why do you get tricky with a team when you have them on the ropes?
Quote of the day from Jimmy Johnson: "As soon as the Seahawks kicked that (first) field goal, I knew the Niners would have trouble catching up." San Francisco starts the second half with a recovered onside kick. Moose Johnston responds by saying something to the effect that "this is a pivotal moment in San Francisco's season." Marcus Trufant responds with an interception on the next play as Dilfer throws into quintuple coverage.
Vince Verhei: Kelly Jennings makes a great play to break up a pass on third down. He's turning into a fine player. I charted five passes thrown his way in the second half against Cincy, all incomplete.
Doug Farrar: Yeah, Jennings is good. Great recovery speed. Reminds me of Andre Dyson back in the day. If he were two inches taller and about 10 pounds heavier -- hoo, boy.
This is how old Seattle tight end Marcus Pollard (who scored a touchdown in this game) is: He played with Tony Siragusa ... in Indianapolis.
The Seahawks are doing some nice things with overload blitzes -- or overload looks, where they'll being a safety up with Peterson putting his hand down, and the 49ers will block inside, which is how Peterson got three sacks in the first half. The safety may go or not. I'd say that I've never seen an offensive line drop this badly in performance from one year to the next, but there's that whole Seattle 2005-2006 thing. However, the 49ers didn't lose their All-Pro left guard to the poison pill. What on earth is gong on here?
Seneca in the slot again, and Hasselbeck goes the other way ... throwing right to Nate Clements over Deion Branch. He had two picks against the Bengals that were defections, but that was the first pick of the year that was his fault. Then, Frank Gore begins to gash the Seattle defense with five minutes left in the third quarter even without the holes -- just bad tackling. The Seahawks are up 20-0, but they need to quit thinking that it's over.
Another pick by Trufant as he jumps a route that Darrell Jackson was running. Oh, the irony. That's two for Trufant in 2007, after totaling two in the 2005-2006 seasons combined, and that'll be your ballgame.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 at Carolina Panthers 7
Michael David Smith: Am I the only one who finds it shocking that Carolina is favored to beat Tampa Bay? Even if you don't know what the DVOA projections say, Tampa Bay has looked like a better team, and Delhomme is out.
Aaron Schatz: Yes, I'm a little surprised. At a certain point, the public will come around to the point of view that I have, and that I think Mike you have too, which is "I'm sick and tired of waiting for Carolina to fulfill their potential, maybe other than Peppers and Smith they really aren't that good, oh look it is another three-yard pass to Jeff King on third-and-10."
Speaking of Tampa Bay, I was watching WVU vs. USF on Friday night and they showed a little locker room thing with Joey Galloway (Ohio State alum) making fun of ESPN announcer Chris Spielman (also Ohio State alum). Wow. Joey Galloway has Redd Foxx's beard. I know he's 36 but he really has a ton of gray in there. How can a guy with that much gray in his beard be so damn fast?
After Cadillac Williams suffers a knee injury...
Bill Barnwell: Pro Football Talk first said that Cadillac's torn his ACL.
Doug Farrar: Not surprised -- that looked awful.
Vince Verhei: Carolina's first half passing offense: Seven completions, 27 yards gained, zero first downs. What a giant bust David Carr turned out to be.
Russell Levine: Something is up with Julius Peppers. I don't know if the affects from his illness are lingering or what, but he doesn't look like the same player. Kenyatta Walker was a first-round pick at tackle whose basically out of the league right now (unless St. Louis signed him, anyone?) because of what Peppers did to him. Today, Jeremy Trueblood handled him with ease.
The difference in the Tampa Bay offense with Jeff Garcia is remarkable. These guys could not get out of their own way last year. Suddenly, they're humming like a well-oiled machine. The word "competent" keeps coming to mind. Ike Hilliard even looks fast, and I have to assume that's because Garcia is getting him the ball in the right spots. The other big difference with the Tampa Bay offense is that the line is starting to come together, although it sounds like they lost Luke Petitgout maybe for the year today.
The team was just moribund last year, and I think it carried over to the defense. Jermaine Phillips is a different player at safety. He's always been a big hitter, but this year he's making the open-field tackles. They still need a better pass rush though. Gaines Adams is only on the field on passing downs and looks pretty lost out there. You can tell he's quick and agile, but I don't think he's very strong. He gets manhandled when he gets too close to the tackles.
Is it possible that Phillip Buchanon is actually becoming a decent corner? He started for Brian Kelly and was on Steve Smith much of the day and kept him very quiet. Now, David Carr is horrendous, so who knows how much of Smith's day is attributable to Buchanon, but he too is starting to make the open-field tackles.
Cadillac was just destroyed by Chris Phillips on the sidelines and looks like he blew out a knee. That's a shame, he just was starting to look like he was getting untracked.
Sam Rosen has done three straight Bucs games, which makes for a better broadcast. He always tells you who's in and out on different plays.
Michael David Smith: Seriously, has there ever been a bigger gift of a betting line than Tampa Bay +3 at Carolina? I picked it in the "experts" contest at ballhype.com (which I'm winning, by the way), but I'm kicking myself for not also putting money on it, because I don't think I've ever been that confident in a point spread in my life. I just can't even comprehend how the Bucs weren't favored, especially after it was announced that Delhomme was out. Even if I didn't know how much DVOA loved the Bucs to turn it around this year, just watching the two teams, it's obvious that the Bucs are much better than the Panthers right now.
Sean McCormick: I know Will said earlier that we should be proudest of our Green Bay projection, but I think the Tampa Bay projection looks even better. Green Bay went on a late run last season and wasn't that under the wire. Tampa Bay was written off by absolutely everyone. (People forget how bad playing a third string quarterback for long periods makes the rest of the personnel look.) Even with the injury to Cadillac, as of now they look like the clear front-runners to win the NFC South.
Aaron Schatz: Except for one problem: They were written off by us too. Subjectively, that is. With Green Bay, we believed the numbers.
Vince Verhei: Green Bay's run came against three bad teams, plus Chicago's backups. A lot of people, myself included, discounted it. Obviously, we were wrong.
Kansas City Chiefs 30 at San Diego Chargers 16
Vince Verhei: Um, guys? While none of us were watching, Kansas City's been hanging with San Diego, and Damon Huard just hit Tony Gonzalez to tie the game. Rivers has thrown a pair of picks.
Bowe just scored on a 50-yard catch-and-run to put the Chiefs ahead. He's over 130 yards now, with most of the fourth quarter to go. He may be the best part of the Chiefs season.
Chiefs force a punt. What will Herm do on first down? If you said L.J. up the gut for no gain, you win! Dwayne Bowe picks up a first down. He's got 164 yards now. Then L.J. up the gut for no gain, then a forced pass to Bowe is tipped and picked off.
Kansas City blitzes, Rivers is hit and fumbles. The Chiefs pick it up nd run it in. The Chargers are now counting on Rivers, who has had a horrible game, to overcome a two-touchdown deficit. He hits Jackson for a sure touchdown, but Jackson drops it.
Doug Farrar: Herm may just win this Battle of the Midgets.
Ned Macey: Yeah, Herm is a huge midget; four playoff appearances in six seasons. Too bad the Chiefs didn't hire Mangini. Great performance today against a stout Buffalo team.
Aaron Schatz: And I'll add that while Herm's quotes are funny, his time management is goofy, and his overuse of running backs is a bit criminal, overall I'm with Ned. I've never understood the criticism of Herm Edwards. He's not a great coach, but he's certainly not a below-average one.
Sean McCormick: Yeah, Herm is sneaky. His teams consistently look clueless on defense, impossibly conservative on offense, poorly coached, outclassed ... and yet they quietly hang around and end up winning a fair amount of games (and often with a backup quarterback at the helm). It's hard to watch any of his games and think he's a good coach, but it's getting tougher and tougher to argue the record.
Mike Tanier: I like Herm Edwards too, despite teasing him in Rundown all the time. He's just not a great "Xs and Os" guy. He's a lot like Marty Schottenheimer, but with Larry David writing his press conferences. And of course I hate Norvilicious, and I haven't seen this game because I am getting the Cardinals and Steelers, but my God, I cannot believe it is this bad. He is the worst coach ever to get a third chance to show his ineptitude.
Michael David Smith: In the past I haven't been as down on Norv Turner as most people, but his play calling is absurd. As I'm writing this, Tomlinson has only gotten the ball on four of the Chargers' last 22 plays, and on most of those 22 the Chargers were leading. What the hell does Turner think he's doing? Call a handoff, for crying out loud.
Aaron Schatz: Egads. Oakland, Kansas City and Denver will be tied for the lead in the AFC West at 2-2, with San Diego at 1-3. You must be joking. By the way, I saw the replay on that 50-yard Bowe touchdown. Whenever I read anything that refers to Quentin Jammer as San Diego's best cornerback, I just have to giggle.
Fill in the blank: If the Chargers lose ___ or more games this year, Norv Turner will go down as the worst coach in NFL history.
Denver Broncos 20 at Indianapolis Colts 38
Bill Barnwell: Dallas Clark is going to be the key to this game, because he's the best matchup for Manning now, not whoever's being guarded by Roc Alexander. He's got two targets on the first play. Broncos are absolutely gashing the Colts to start by keeping two tight ends in and running. Hey, I knew Daniel Graham was good for something...
Aaron Schatz: Daniel Graham is good for a lot of things. The offensive line is dominating the Colts, and the Broncos wide receivers are blocking well. Domenik Hixon and Glenn Martinez. Really.
Will Carroll: Marvin Harrison didn't hurt his back -- as they continued to say -- but his knee. He got rolled up and was saved by his knee brace that he has on both legs. Still hurts. I hereby offer my services to any network as an "injury spotter" to keep Phil Simms or others from sounding ... uninformed.
Aaron Schatz: The Denver-Indianapolis game summarized at halftime: The good news for Denver is that the Colts run defense looks as bad as last year. The bad news for Denver is that the Broncos run defense looks as bad as last week.
Ned Macey: We have picked up the biggest waste of talent in the history of the NFL. With Harrison out, Champ Bailey is now on Aaron Moorehead. They had Moorehead in the left slot, and Bailey came over there even though Clark was split out wide to the right. I understood why this was happening in the first half when Harrison went down, but shifting Bailey to someone else at halftime would have made sense.
Bill Barnwell: Terrible throw by Jay Cutler on a slant where he basically tried to stop halfway into the throw and the Colts picked it off. Bob Sanders didn't return from the locker room at halftime. Who had Week 4 in the office pool?
Ned Macey: The Broncos clearly haven't seen our decision to just count Clark as a receiver. They leave Ian Gold on him one-on-one inside the five-yard line. Manning throws a fade, and Gold has no chance. The touchdown came after an interception by Cutler. He threw a slant to Marshall without even looking to see where Marlin Jackson was playing. He just dropped back and threw. One nice thing for the Colts the past two weeks is that they've missed Andre Johnson and now Javon Walker.
Will Carroll: I saw a number of plays where Bailey was man-up on Clark. Can't say I've ever seen a shutdown cornerback put on a tight end before, though Clark is a tight end in name only.
Aaron Schatz: In my New York Sun preview, I referred to today's Indianapolis strategy as "Death by Dallas Clark." Bingo. Seriously, what is going on with the Denver defense? I understand having Bailey on Dallas Clark -- hell, Clark even beat Bailey deep when Bailey bit on a play-fake -- but why do you have Dre' Bly on Aaron Moorehead and Champ Bailey on Dallas Clark -- and Domonique Foxworth on Reggie Wayne???
Bill Barnwell: Foxworth wasn't on him, technically. They blitzed whatever corner was in the slot and Foxworth was actually playing safety on the play. Unfortunately, the slot corner revealed his blitz way too early, and Manning audibled with plenty of time to spare.
Aaron Schatz: Well, that's even more stupid. Yes, let's blitz and leave Reggie Wayne open. That's a good call.
Bill Barnwell: Safety Matt Giordano doesn't look good in run coverage at all. He doesn't wrap up well, and since he takes poor angles to the ballcarrier, he's often left trying to wrap a running back up with an arm tackle that he can't finish.
Indy plugs in Kenton Keith after Joseph Addai goes off for a few plays and Keith misses approximately no beats. He runs a delayed draw for 22 yards on first-and-20 when Tony Ugoh pushes 15 yards downfield alongside him.
Pittsburgh Steelers 14 at Arizona Cardinals 21
Stuart Fraser: "Along with Dan Dierdorf, Greg Gumbel and the rest of our CBS Sports crew, the Arizona Cardinals will try to hand the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers their first loss today."
Leinart starts, so Whisenhunt was telling the truth that far at least.
Brett Keisel just defensed a pass. Yes, he's a defensive end. Admittedly he did get about half the reciever on the lunge to bat the ball away, but the zebras didn't mind. This is looking like a field position game so far. This could be interesting, since both of these punters were in Steelers training camp. They kept Daniel Sepulveda and cut Mike Barr.
Oh, and there was a weird incompletion call which I'm sure will get some press from the people who think that the definition of a catch is different in games the Steelers are in.
Pittsburgh's offense has two modes: good and terrible.
First-and-10: Three Cardinals penetrate the backfield and wipe out Willie Parker for a loss of five yards.
Second-and-15: Ben Roethlisberger holds on to the ball too long and gets sacked.
Third-and-24: Santonio Holmes beats Rod Hood deep, and Roethlisberger delivers a perfect in-stride bomb for a 43-yard touchdown.
Willie Parker is going nowhere, at all. Eight carries, seven yards. The difference between this game and the games Parker had like this last year is that Roethlisberger is incredible right now: Eight-of-11 for 125 yards and a touchdown.
This is what I expected from Pittsburgh all season. The offensive line is awful, Roethlisberger is getting killed, and the defense and special teams are just about enough to sustain a lead. I think this has less to do with Whisenhunt's presence in Arizona than Grimm's.
Aaron Schatz: In Arizona, Whisenhunt has pulled Leinart again. It's clear that Whisenhunt wants to run a downfield, deep passing offense, and that's not Leinart's skill-set. Somebody needs to get Leinart onto a team that runs a "West Coast Offense" with shorter timing routes. After the way he took apart the Chicago zone last year on Monday Night Football, I refuse to believe that Matt Leinart has proven -- with fewer than 16 starts -- that he's not good enough to be an NFL quarterback.
Sean McCormick: I would disagree, actually. Leinart ran an offense that was fairly vertical in college, and his slightly deliberate setup and delivery make him less than ideally suited for a West Coast Offense. I think this offense is actually a pretty good one for him, but he's not executing it right now. It also happens to be a perfect fit for Warner, and it's no shame getting pulled for a former MVP who can still play some. I think this can work, but it's important that Whisenhunt handles things correctly. Warner deserves some snaps, and giving him those snaps doesn't have to ruin Leinart. And if he needs to step up his preparation, sitting him when he's playing poorly sends a good message.
Doug Farrar: I'm starting to wonder if Whisenhunt's going to do what Tom Landry did with Roger Staubach and Craig Morton in 1971, when he rotated them on every play until the whole team went nuts and Staubach almost revolted. Didn't he get the memo on Leinart before he took that job?
Ryan Wilson: The question isn't Leinart's ability. Apparently, Whisenhunt isn't super jazzed with his work ethic.
Bill Barnwell: It may not be a shame in reality, but it sure is in perception. Warner was totally out of the picture coming into the season, and after two weeks, he was suddenly becoming part of the rotation at quarterback.
Mike Tanier: My first take on this rotating quarterback thing was "uh-oh, Leinart is in trouble. He isn't putting the time in, and Whisenhunt doesn't trust him, so he is finding ways to work Warner in." After watching this game, it seems like Leinart does kinda know what he is doing out there, and that the switch really does cross up defenses. I still hate this as a long-term strategy, but I am going to take it at face value for now, and not as a sign that Leinart is out clubbing when Whisenhunt wants him in the film room.
Stuart Fraser: First muffed snap by Warner hands Pittsburgh a first-and-goal on the four-yard line. Aaron predicted this last week.
Antrel Rolle just hit his own punt returner whilst both were tracking a Sepulveda punt. I have no idea what they thought they were doing, but it was a nice comic relief moment in an otherwise way too tense game.
Gah. Steelers, third-and-goal, run the tight end pattern they got a touchdown with in each game so far. Of course Whisenhunt ran this all the time last year, and the Cardinals are waiting. Adrian Wilson intercepts. Gosh, I didn't see that coming.
Ryan Wilson: Yeah, I'm with Stuart. On third-and-goal, Willie Parker could use a fullback, and the Steelers should've run the ball twice. You know, because no one would've expected it.
Ned Macey: Third-and-8 from roughly the ten-yard line, the Cardinals run James around left tackle and he moves forward for a first down. Edgerrin James in from the two on the next play.
Is this finally the year for the Cardinals? They should have won the San Francisco game and just have the close loss at Baltimore. They should be heavy favorites the next two weeks, at St. Louis and home against Carolina, which could leave them 4-2 if they hold on here.
Stuart Fraser: We'll have to check with the game charters on this one when it comes out, but my overall impression was that, despite all the passing from Roethlisberger, there weren't all that many four-wide receiver sets until the final minutes of the game (you know, where they effortlessly drove the field one-and-a-half times before running out of time). This despite the fact that those were the supposedly "new" bits of the offense Whisenhunt should have been less familiar with.
Overall, gah. Roethlisberger was sacked four times. He must have broken, dodged or otherwise prevented at least twice that many sacks. Parker had about that many holes to run through all day. I blame Greg Gumbel, who called Pittsburgh's line "excellent" when he introduced it.
Further to that, gah. The Steelers are who I thought they were, though they almost had me fooled.
Philadelphia Eagles 3 at New York Giants 16
Aaron Schatz: Where is this New York pass rush coming from? Man, this is crazy. Someone tell the Eagles to try leaving a back or a tight end in to block. And what are the Eagles doing before halftime? How much time can you fritter off the clock lining up with less than two minutes left? Why can't this team figure out clock management?
Mike Tanier: Oh yeah, clock management before halftime, encouraging drives that fall apart around the 40-yard line. This is Eagles football, only without the joy of watching Brian Westbrook.
Bill Barnwell: Man, is Winston Justice getting abused.
Doug Farrar: That was an ugly first half for the Eagles. Start with the five sacks allowed -- Osi Umenyiora practically had a free pass to McNabb -- and end with the horrid offensive output. Philly had three drives in which they went three-and-out, and they lost 22 total yards on those drives.
I guess the two questions we can ask are: Is Westbrook that important to this offense (probably); and was their ridiculous output last week more about Detroit's defense than anything else (a credible notion). Then again, it isn't as if the Giants' defense has been mistaken for a juggernaut this season by any means, right? Oh, I almost forgot about the 10 first-half penalties.
Ned Macey: Don't forget the artist formerly known as Tra (Thomas). This year so far has definitely been the year of the injured left tackle with Pace, Ogden and now Thomas. Tampa fans better hope that the same isn't true down there.
That being said, McNabb is doing his best Culpepper impersonation. On a number of these sacks, he clearly thinks he is going to evade the rush, but he just doesn't have a quick first step on account of his knee. Also, the Giants couldn't risk running straight up field if they actually feared a scramble. Despite the pressure, McNabb has broken nothing out.
Also, how weird were Akers' numbers in the Meadowlands.? No idea what the sample size or distribution was there, but it definitely was a good stat to run before he missed a 42-yarder.
Aaron Schatz: OK, now the Eagles are leaving guys in and it isn't helping anyway. Matt Schobel couldn't control Matthias Kiwanuka and McNabb basically rolled right into the sack.
Yes, Jason Taylor does his yardwork in his jersey. Maybe that's why he isn't playing well this year. He has confused rushing the passer and trimming the hedges.
Wow, the Eagles look horrible tonight. This isn't a bad luck loss like so many early last year. This is an ass-kicking. Seriously. "Tight end was not covered in the formation" is a junior high mistake.
Bill Barnwell: Once Lawrence Tynes missed that extra point and I realized this is technically a two-score game ... Let's just say I'm still worried.
Doug Farrar: Take. Justice. Out. Of. The. Game. Eleven sacks!
Sean McCormick: I remember when Justice was considered a draft steal. What the hell happened? And isn't the whole idea behind the West Coast offense to get the ball out of the quarterback's hands quickly and negate the rush? This may be the worst offensive performance I've seen from any team this year.
Ned Macey: Remember the great USC team that lost to Texas with Leinart, Bush, White and Justice leading that dominant offense? Those guys are all underperforming their draft status in the NFL so far. Of course, in this case maybe the scouts were right, since all of them dropped more than expected.
Mike Tanier: Justice looked OK in limited action last week. This was shades of Kevin Allen and ... crap, was it Lester Holmes? Eagles fans will remember the left tackle I am talking about. Barrett Brooks? Did I mention, "Go Phillies?"
Aaron Schatz: And not, "Go Mets." So I guess Philly wins one, and New York the other. The difference is the Eagles get 12 more games, and the Mets get zero. Of course, if they play like this, that is not a good thing for Philadelphians.