Audibles at the Line
Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Audibles at the Line: Week 3
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei

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 2009. 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.

Kansas City Chiefs 14 at Atlanta Falcons 38

Bill Connelly: I am a living DirectTV commercial. I can hear Jimmy Kimmel now: "You live in mid-Missouri. You don't care about either the Chiefs or the Rams, but you're stuck watching them every week. The only game on in your area right now is Kansas City-Atlanta. Neither team gets a first down for the first nine minutes of the game. Real football is being played ... and you're missing it!" (That said, Michael Turner ripped off a gorgeous/powerful 38-yard run, and Atlanta's about to score.)

I'll say this for Atlanta: They've got some explosive players. Granted, it's against Kansas City, so take that into consideration, but you've got to respect an all-or-nothing offense that has already ripped off a 38-yard run (Turner) and passes of 30 (Jerious Norwood) and 70 (Roddy White) yards. Also, it was very smart to put Gus Johnson on this game. He's making me feel like I'm watching the beginning of an NFL dynasty in Atlanta. And I'm not.

Ben Riley: Tyler Thigpen's early stat line: 1-for-10 for -1 yards and an interception. To revisit last year's best Audibles line, in reference to the Bears: There is no Damon Huard. There is no Brodie Croyle. There is only "Kansas City Quarterback."

Bill Barnwell: Aaron is at my apartment and literally just asked me to note the same thing.

Ben Riley: Update on Tyler Thigpen: He's now 2-for-13 with 12 yards, and two interceptions. Seriously, the Chiefs need to end this experiment right now.

Doug Farrar: The Dolphins got some good action with direct snaps to Ronnie Brown. I think that's the way for Herm to go. Right to Larry Johnson.

Will Carroll: Could the Chiefs trade for Vince Young? Is that feasible with the cap?

Ben Riley: Why would the Chiefs, or anyone, want to trade for Vince Young?

Will Carroll: Vince Young > Tyler Thigpen. What's the worst that can happen? He whacks out and you cut him? I'll admit to not looking at cap implications here, but there's at least some upside to Young. Thigpen is just going to get you ... umm, whoever the first pick is.

Ben Riley: I don't follow the logic, Will. Tarvaris Jackson is better than Vince Young, but he also sucks -- should the Chiefs make the Vikings an offer for him too? I mean, I have more upside than Tyler Thigpen, but I don't think Carl Peterson should try to trade for me. (Although I do come cheap.)

Will Carroll: Wait -- are we saying that Young has zero value now? Or so low that he's not worth a Favre-level offer? (Again, I'm ignoring the cap ... someone know?) If Favre is worth a fourth, isn't Young worth Mr. Irrelevant? I wouldn't say that a winning team should trade for Young. I wouldn't even say that the Vikings should, but the Chiefs? There's just nothing to lose here.

Ben Riley: I'm saying it makes little sense to trade for a quarterback who has lost the support of his team, and was never that good to begin with. Teams that waste fourth-round picks on players that aren't going anywhere quickly turn into the Lions.

Vince Verhei: The seats in the Georgia Dome used to be teal. Now they are red, to match the Falcons' colors. And it was abundantly clear on television, because they were all empty -- there was NOBODY there to watch the Falcons go to 2-1 (including wins over two horrible teams).

Agreed on Gus Johnson being so, so awesome. For reasons I can't explain, the sports bar I was in had the audio from this game cranked up. I kept hearing Johnson shouting and turning to see what was so exciting -- only to find he was calling a 17-point game between two bad teams.

Oakland Raiders 23 at Buffalo Bills 24

Bill Barnwell: JaMarcus Russell still may have a lot to master, but he has a really nice play fake already. Jason Peters absolutely gives up on a play when the end goes by him.

The Bills finally hit Lee Evans for a gain of two ... and Nnamdi Asomugha comes up and forces a fumble. Seriously, the Raiders don't deserve him.

Mike Tanier: Darren McFadden's turf toe was bugging him. Every time he cut to the left he slipped. Was it his left toe that he hurt?

Will Carroll: It's McFadden's right foot. Interesting thing here -- and I'll have more on this on Tuesday -- is that he had a similar but probably worse problem in 2006. He injured it in a club fight. He needed surgery. How do you get turf toe in a club fight?

Bill Barnwell: If the club has a mini-golf course...

Will Carroll: What kind of clubs do YOU go to?

Bill Barnwell: Not all of us roll with Jenn Sterger, Will.

Will Carroll: That aside, I've really never been to a club with a putt-putt. I guess anything's possible in Arkansas.

Mike Tanier: The Bills' strategy was to pick, pick, pick on D'Angelo Hall. Hall had a big interception to set up a touchdown, but he was beat several times. The Bills offense actually got better when they started spreading the ball more, and they really did a fine job of clock management late, I think. Lane Kiffin may be fired by the time anyone reads this.

Russell Levine: If Oakland and Cincinnati had held on, this would have been the greatest day in knockout pool history, or at least a close second to that time Houston won at Miami on opening day.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 at Chicago Bears 24

Ben Riley: Anyone watching Tampa Bay-Chicago? How does Earnest Graham only have 1 yard rushing, and Warrick Dunn 16? Are the Bears stuffing them or has Gruden abandoned the run?

Doug Farrar: Haven't seen the highlights yet, but I'd say it's a good bet that the Bears were stacking the box. Brian Griese threw 67 passes, Antonio Bryant (!) had a 100-yard day, and Graham wound up with 3 yards on 9 carries.

Russell Levine: The Bears stacked the box against the run and Graham couldn't get out of the backfield all day. I think they were banking that forcing Griese to throw under pressure, he wouldn't be able to hit the open man often enough. It was almost true. He missed a lot of open guys and threw three interceptions (though one was on a tipped ball).

Then the Bears get up by 10 and they go to prevent and Griese just chewed them up in the no-huddle with the quick slants. The tying touchdown came on a beautifully designed play. The Bucs broke the huddle in a power-I, strange since there were 10 seconds left and they were out of timeouts on the Chicago 1. As Gruden often does, players shifted presnap and Jerramy Stevens split out wide left. Off the line, it looked like a fade, as there wasn't a single other player on that side of the formation and you figure Gruden's going to have Griese lob it up to the 6-foot-7 guy. Instead, Stevens makes a hard cut to the inside and Griese hits him, wide-open, for the tying touchdown.

Get ready for some controversy on this one. Tampa should have been punting from its own 10 or so in overtime, but the Bears got flagged for a dead-ball personal foul to keep what would turn out to be the winning drive alive. Jeremy Trueblood started the tussle with a dirty hit under the pile and Charles Tillman was about the fifth man in, but somehow the only one who got flagged. Awful, horrendous, embarrassingly bad call. And I'm a rabid Bucs fan.

Bright spots for Tampa Bay -- a Michael Clayton sighting. He only dropped one ball! He made several nice catches! He even had some YAC! Warrick Dunn had a tough day in pass pro, but he still made a few nice runs on draws and caught a few passes. He has an amazing knack for twisting his body to get to the sticks when defenders appear to have him pinned. Rookie Jeremy Zuttah had a really nice day against Tommie Harris.

Bright spots for Chicago -- Brandon Lloyd abused Ronde Barber for the entire second half. The announcers were raving about how the Bears have finally found their No. 1 receiver. I don't know if that's a comforting thought for Bears fans or not, but Lloyd was really good in this game.

Vince Verhei: Lloyd's always been known as the guy who would make the circus catch and drop the easy ones. He had a tremendous snag today, deeply arching his back to reach behind him and grab the ball. An amazing play.

Carolina Panthers 10 at Minnesota Vikings 20

Ben Riley: What does Visanthe Shiancoe need to do to get benched? Gus Frerotte hit him square in the chest for a first down early in the game, and Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble managed to dislodge the ball by hitting him. I think he may be the worst tight end in the league.

Doug Farrar: Gamble got a first-half pick when a Frerotte pass went off Bernard Berrian's hands, not to mention the two fumble returns -- one for a touchdown -- Gamble's picked up that Chris Harris has caused this season. He's the Forrest Gump of the NFL.

Mike Tanier: Watching Minnesota, I don't know what they gained by naming Frerotte the starter for the rest of the season. He made a couple of good reads and a few awful ones against the Panthers, and he delivers a lot of late and off-target passes. He is a sitting duck in the pocket. I don't see this massive upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson. The Vikings are going to win with heavy running, some screens and flats to Chester Taylor (who looked very good today), bootleg waggle stuff, and the odd bomb. Tarvaris is better on the boot-waggle stuff. Back in the day, Frerotte was better at the bombs, but I am not sure now. I think three games from now Frerotte will get exposed and Childress will look pretty silly going back to Jackson.

If we are looking for Keep Chopping Wood material, John Fox ordered a timeout on a field goal, one of those "make him kick it twice" timeouts. The first attempt was blocked. The second attempt was good.

Miami Dolphins 38 at New England Patriots 13

Ben Riley: Hey, the Dolphins seemed to have figured out that Ronnie Brown may bring a little more to the table than Ricky Williams. He's got two touchdowns and we still have eight minutes to play in the second quarter.

Will Carroll: Looks like the Ricky Williams experiment is over. Can we go ahead and call that one a bad bluff? Ronnie Brown still hasn't had his "oh he's back" moment yet, but I think the basic nature of the Dolphins offense plays to what he can do.

Bill Connelly: Ronnie Brown's on my fantasy team's bench this week, by the way. I rule!

Halfway through the third quarter, the Dolphins have sent five direct snaps to Ronnie Brown, resulting in two rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown to Anthony Fasano.)

Bill Barnwell: Huh? The Dolphins are running the Wildcat offense in the red zone. This is crazy.

Ben Riley: Chad Pennington's stat line, midway through the third quarter: 14 for 17, 196 yards. I said it before, I'll say it again: the real problem with Patriots is the secondary, not the quarterback.

Bill Barnwell: The new book on the Patriots is to use the Wildcat offense. I can only assume that Dan Henning saw some Wildcat footage on YouTube and suddenly decided he had a new offensive scheme.

Doug Farrar: This makes the Pats vulnerable to the Raiders, as well. Who knew? Oh, wait a minute. This is ridiculous. Brown scored ANOTHER RUSHING TOUCHDOWN on a direct snap to begin the fourth quarter. 62 yards this time. Four total scores on direct snaps. What the hell?

Aaron Schatz: The remarkable thing about this Dolphins-Patriots upset is that Miami would be winning even if Tom Brady were healthy. Matt Cassel certainly is not playing particularly well, but this loss is almost entirely about the defense confused by the Wildcat and unable to tackle against the Wildcat or anything else.

So, from here, we ask: Does Miami continue to run this offense on a few plays against future opponents? And do Patriots opponents try running something similar, knowing how well it worked for Miami?

Doug Farrar: Sure -- it's like anything else. Keep it in the playbook, run it until they make you stop.

Aaron Schatz: Let me point out something else about the Dolphins running the Wildcat against the Patriots today. When people ask about why a college offense like the spread option would not work in the NFL, the typical answer is that NFL linebackers are simply too fast; most of the time, you would never be able to turn the corner on them. Even if you make them hesitate for a moment with the fake, they'll catch up to you. But the Patriots may have the slowest linebackers in the league. They value intelligence and experience much more than speed and youth. So this makes sense as an answer: to run an offensive scheme where the Pats can't use experience to make up for their lack of speed, because nobody would be expecting it in the NFL.

Bill Barnwell: The Dolphins look like a totally different team from last week. The biggest thing is discipline; they were picking up penalties like they were going out of style last week, but this week, they're relatively disciplined.

There's some weird schematic stuff happening with the Patriots defense. They're dropping their linebackers back into coverage eight or nine yards, I guess thinking that Pennington is going to throw mostly curls and slants, and the Dolphins are picking up huge chunks of yardage at a time. They're really struggling with their tackling, which seems strange.

Mike Tanier: When did the Wild Hog become the Wildcat? Most of the highlights I saw, the Dolphins were just using the direct snap as a glorified draw play, with or without a fake option to Ricky Williams. Basically, they were running junk, and it worked. The Dolphins do have a pretty good O-line, and their linemen were getting hats on the Patriots linebackers. Good coaching, smart way to get a win. I think you'll see it as a wrinkle now and then the rest of the year, third-and-3 type stuff.

Russell Levine: On the Wildcat/Wild Hog, I think they're interchangeable. Houston Nutt was the first guy to bring it to recent prominence, using Darren McFadden as a quarterback and Felix Jones at running back at Arkansas. Now that Nutt is at Ole Miss, he calls it the "wild rebel."

Bill Moore: I just got back from the NE-MIA game, and here are some thoughts:

  • Matt Cassel did not play well, but was clearly not the reason they lost the game. However, it could have been more competitive. I don't think he threw the ball more than 6 yards the whole game. It was highly predictable, and it killed the running game.
  • Randy Moss gave up on AT LEAST two plays.
  • Ellis Hobbs is still a very weak link in the New England secondary. You know it's sad if Deltha O'Neal doesn't get a look because there are bigger holes on the opposite side. There was one formation with two wide receivers on the left and man coverage of Rodney Harrison and Hobbs. I groaned.
  • The Patriots were playing some type over Cover-2 that moved out the middle linebackers and left gaping holes over the middle. Miami exploited it thoroughly.
  • The direct snap: It's not often you see the Patriots get completely out-schemed, but it happened this time. The Dolphins would come in with what looked like a standard two-tight end set. The Patriots were not prepared for the four- or five- wide formations that they lined up with. By breaking out Pennington to the right, he would occupy a defender even if not a real offensive threat. The Patriots' linebackers were just befuddled. Again. And again. And again. And again.
  • I expect the Patriots will bring in a more experienced quarterback
    during the bye week.

Vince Verhei: Agreed that it was the defense, not Cassell, that cost the Patriots the game, but the interception Cassell threw on a screen pass struck me as a serious omen of bad things to come. If Randy Starks hadn't been in the picture, that pass would have hit Dan Koppen right in the chest. Pre-2007, the Brady Patriots ran some of the best screen plays I ever saw, with precision timing between passer, blockers, and receiver. Now that timing seems all thrown off, and we may not see it again anytime soon.

Cincinnati Bengals 23 at New York Giants 26 (OT)

Bill Barnwell: Dan Dierdorf repeatedly counted the umpire as one of the ten men in the box for the Bengals on the Giants' first drive. Mathias Kiwanuka abused Levi Jones with handwork on the first Bengals snap. The first series as a whole: Sack, one-yard completion, Bengals timeout, false start (also on Jones), fumble. Through the first few drives, the Bengals simply can't keep the Giants linemen out of their backfield, regardless of the protection scheme or even the type of play. Bengals are jamming the box full of guys and challenging Eli to beat them. Dhani Jones shot the gap on a third-and-one to stop Brandon Jacobs and end a Giants drive. That was surprising.

Doug Farrar: Dhani Jones showed some quickness in short coverage early on. Kiwanuka killed Levi Jones again near the end of the first half. I wrote about Kiwi when he faced Chris Samuels in Week 1, and one of three things is true: Kiwi got five times better in two weeks, Chris Samuels is pretty damned good, or Levi Jones is having a very, very bad day.

Bill Barnwell: Jones is up to two sacks and a false start so far. The Bengals would really benefit from some draw plays -- the Giants are absolutely pinning their ears back and taking wide lanes and counting on Palmer's lack of mobility.

Why would Cincinnati run the stretch play and screens on a team with an incredibly fast front four? I don't understand their scheme, but the slants are working on the secondary.

The Bengals drive down the field for a game-tying field goal, but leave seconds on the clock when they complete a nine-yard pass on second down leading to a third-and-1 with 24 seconds left; Palmer was going to run a spike before, seemingly, realizing that running a spike would mean that they had to kick a field goal. Instead of calling a timeout, he ran a play which got the ball to the Giants 4, but left only four seconds on the clock and forced them to kick a game-tying field goal instead of going for a touchdown.

Ned Macey: Does anyone know what the hell is wrong with Chad Johnson? His overall numbers (or at least receptions) were down last year, but his DYAR was still very good. He had no separation at all today.

Can't wait to watch Cincy's offense rise in our rankings as opponent adjustments kick in. I would take them by 10 points over San Francisco right now, but in playing Baltimore, Tennessee(in terrible conditions), and the Giants, they've played three undefeated teams who all probably will have top 10 defenses.

Ben Riley: I think what's wrong with Chad Johnson is Chad Johnson's brain. The dude ain't right in the head.

Mike Tanier: I agree with Ben, though Ocho could still be injured. When I see him involved in the play, he doesn't have much separation, isn't fighting for the ball. Carson Palmer isn't looking to him too much, which means he just isn't open.

Houston Texans 12 at Tennessee Titans 31

Ben Riley: With six minutes to go in the first quarter, I think each team has turned the ball over twice. Matt Schaub looks absolutely horrible, missing receivers with Tarvaris Jackson-like savvy, but the Titans have responded with a fumble and a pick. Note to Tennessee fans: Kerry Collins is not the answer.

The play-by-play announcer just referred to Andre Johnson as "Andre Davis," twice. Then, when Schaub actually threw to Andre Davis, he referred to him as "Andre Johnson." Better check that game card there. I think Andre Johnson has dropped four passes in the end zone. That's weird to see, and doesn't bode well for the Texans today.

Two huge coaching blunders by Gary "Don't Capitalize My Last Name" Kubiak. Kerry Collins hooked up with Justin Gage on a 40-yard pass play, but Gage was sliding out of bounds as he made the grab. Collins rushed down the field and the officials huddled, so it was an obvious situation to throw the red flag -- but Kubiak did nothing. Then, on third-and-goal, the Texans stop LenDale White at the goal line, but the officials (mistakenly, in my view) call it a touchdown. Apparently Kubiak's red flag is Super Glued to his pants or something.

Tim Gerheim: The Texans' first-round tackle Duane Brown seems to be doing well in pass protection and straight-ahead run blocking, based on not hearing his name called a lot, but he has no idea how to block on the move. I've seen him pull to the left twice and be a lead blocker on a screen pass, and he failed to make any blocks. Once he gets out in space he looks like he doesn't really know what to do. I'm hoping that's just rookie lineman's disease.

Russell Levine: I'm surprised he'd be so bad on the move given he's a former tight end, and prized for his mobility.

I wish I knew who this play-by-play guy was (not that I don't recognize him), because he's terrible. In addition to mixing up Andres Johnson and Davis, he's also repeatedly mixed up Chrises Davis and Johnson. And they don't even play the same position. I'm also pretty sure he once referred to Andre Johnson as "Jackson."

Ben Riley: With Steve Slaton going for 100 yards already against the Titans defense, is this shaping up to be the best rookie running back class ever? We have:

  • Chris Johnson
  • Matt Forte
  • Darren McFadden
  • Jonathan Stewart
  • Tim Hightower
  • Steve Slaton
  • Felix Jones
  • Kevin Smith (borderline, I admit)

Am I forgetting anyone?

Doug Farrar: It certainly appeared to be the deepest class in recent memory. You never know how specific situations will play out, but it looks pretty good so far.

Will Carroll: With all the talk of replaceable running backs, how much is opportunity and how much is talent?

Bill Barnwell: Opportunity. Running back is the least valuable position in football. Tim Hightower has 18 carries for 37 yards. I don't know if we should be writing him -- or anyone on that list -- into the Hall of Fame yet.

Ben Riley: Well, I wouldn't send anyone to the Hall of Fame in their rookie season. I'm talking about rookie performance. (Hightower also has 38 yards receiving -- he's like a fat Reggie Bush!)

Bill Barnwell: Well yeah -- but 38 yards of performance isn't much yet. I agree that he looks good, but ... let's hold off a bit before we start anointing classes.

Ronnie Brown is on the bench in 79 percent of all Yahoo! leagues. That adds up to a lot of angry fantasy owners.

Tim Gerheim: Whichever of the officials is supposed to be watching for offsides and false starts was disturbingly asleep at the wheel. Texans fullback Vonta Leach started forward on one play that wasn't called, and Kyle Vanden Bosch left early and was offsides on two plays that weren't called. The calls really didn't make a big impact in the game, but the last one was particularly frustrating. It came with the Texans down 24-12 with about 1:30 left, third-and-goal from the 4 or so. Instead of stopping the clock and getting a first down on account of an offsides penalty, the play ended short of the goal line and in bounds, forcing a hurry-up snap on fourth down that ended up a desperation pass intercepted and returned 99 yards for a touchdown. So the final score probably should have been 24-19 rather than 31-12.

Doug Farrar: That's not uncommon. I've seen enough uncalled offsides over the last few years that it doesn't surprise me anymore.

Ben Riley: When will we see Sage Rosenfels?

Vince Verhei: I wanted to watch this game to see the Tennessee defense, but I didn't get to see much of them because they were rarely on the field. The Texans' first three possessions netted just seven plays, no first downs and one turnover.

At the end of the day, I don't think I learned anything earth-shaking. Albert Haynesworth and Cortland Finnegan are really good. To a lesser degree, so are Kyle Vanden Bosch and the linebackers. They do play very aggressively, both schematically (I saw one play, not short yardage, with five defenders on the line of scrimmage with a hand on the ground) and stylistically, flying furiously to the ball. That aggressive style, though, can be used against them -- they sometimes ran right on past the ball. The Texans also got receivers open several times on play-action (the receivers usually dropped the ball, which is a separate issue).

As noted, though, the game was closer than the score would indicate. It came down to Tennessee's red zone touchdowns against Houston's field goals, plus a basically meaningless defensive score at the end. Houston's defensive backs are still pretty bad, but Tennessee's passing game didn't really dominate them.

Arizona Cardinals 17 at Washington Redskins 24

Ben Riley: Beautiful play call by Ken Whisenhunt early in the first quarter. Facing fourth-and-1 from the Redskins 40, he has Kurt Warner roll out on a naked bootleg and hit second-year tight end Ben Patrick for a touchdown. Unfortunately, a delay of game penalty wiped it out, but it was still a nice, aggressive play.

New Orleans Saints 32 at Denver Broncos 34

Bill Barnwell: Reggie Bush has a touchdown run today. You should be happy, Mike.

Mike Tanier: I am always happy, Bill. But Reg-man fumbled earlier. Don't know if it was a run or a pass. Doesn't matter in the cosmic scheme of things, but it matters for our bet, of course.

Bill Barnwell: It was a run. He was stuffed behind the line, which is just Reggie being Reggie.

Mike Tanier: And leading his team in receiving, providing what little rush offense they have, scoring two touchdowns. Reggie being Reggie.

Russell Levine: Great play by D.J. Williams on the back side to stuff the Saints on third-and-1 and force a long field goal try, which Martin Gramatica missed from 43.

Mike Tanier: Last week, on the game tape, D.J. Williams looked terrible. All kinds of mistakes in space. Not like him. I wonder how he was overall today? Guess I will get Shortcuts later in the week.

Ben Riley: Is it possible that Bill and Mike are both right about Reggie Bush? He's basically a wide receiver who plays out of the backfield -- a very, very good wide receiver. He cannot move the pile, but he can occasionally make a game-changing play when he finds space in the backfield. He can also bury the Saints in a lot of second-and-13 situations because he can't move the pile.

Will Carroll: OK, if that's true, is it such an odd skill-set, or is Sean Payton just using an asset properly? Could guys like Maurice Jones-Drew, Marshall Faulk, Felix Jones, etc., etc., not be used the same way? Is there a wide receiver that could move in and run between tackles a couple times a game?

St. Louis Rams 13 at Seattle Seahawks 37

Doug Farrar: And PFP '08 gets a namecheck, as T.J. Duckett rumbles for an early fourth-down conversion. Matt Vasgersian: "The guy that Pro Football Prospectus refers to as 'The Bowling Ball.' Nice 6-10 split there." Yay, us!

Bill Barnwell: He was always my favorite XFL commentator.

Doug Farrar: Nice no-call on the Alex Barron eye-poke of Patrick Kerney in the first quarter. Reached in through the face mask during the play, and "poke!" Now, if he had celebrated the eye-poke, that would have been 15 yards. And with all the false starts, why doesn't Barron have his own personal referee by now?

How bad is the Rams offense? They came into this game not having run a single play in their opponents' red zone. At the start of the second quarter, receiver Michael (Humpus) Bumpus muffed a punt, and St. Louis recovered at the Seattle 23. Three plays, -2 yards, Josh Brown field goal. When you can't run a play in the red zone despite being gifted the ball three yards out, your offense is bad on an epic, historic scale.

The Rams finally got in the red zone late in the first half, as the Seahawks started to leave cushions for guys like Dante Hall. Interesting defensive strategy there. By "interesting," I mean "stupid," of course. Still, only a field goal.

Aaron Schatz: NFL Network has now expanded America's Game with a new five-part series, Missing Rings, on the best teams that didn't win the title.

The next step, of course, would be to do a series on the worst teams of all time. The problem is that they could do the top ten and they might have to leave three spots for current teams -- the 2008 Lions, the 2008 Rams, or the 2008 Chiefs. These teams are so pathetic that San Francisco and Atlanta -- conventionally bad teams -- are actually going to be 2-1 after today.

I will note, however, that the Rams finally made it into the red zone today. Twice, even!

Doug Farrar: Just a little note to the Seahawks: Your record now reads 1-2, but that doesn't mean you beat a legitimate team to bag your first win. You basically went back in time, beat the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and saved your season, You now have a bye, and a tendency to rest on your laurels. If you think this represents some sort of magical turning point in your performance, and you don't continue to work on the little things, you will go to meet the Giants in two weeks, and the Giants will obliterate you.

Ben Riley: Well, that was fun. The biggest surprise of today was watching Julius Jones run like a man possessed. There were two plays where he spun out of gang-tackles and broke off huge runs. I'm starting to wonder if he truly does play better when he's a full-time starter and doesn't have to split carries. It was also interesting for me to see Mike Wahle chugging down the field to be the first guy to do Seattle's patented arm-lock thingy with Jones (or Duckett) after they scored.

On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks didn't generate a lot of pressure today against a very suspect Rams O-line. Patrick Kerney got jammed in the eye but, I didn't see much from anyone other than Julian Peterson. That's fine when you play a Triple-A franchise like St. Louis, but this team is going to get creamed against the Giants.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, it's worth mentioning again that Wahle has made a big difference in the offense. I've noticed that Walter Jones has been playing faster and tougher this season -- not up to the 2005 peak, but better than 2006-07. Amazing what happens when he doesn't have to worry about the guy on his right.

On the other hand, it's also worth mentioning again that not only can Brian Russell not tackle, I'd bet NFL Films would have to invest in special wide-angle technology to catch his concept of "safety help." What in the world is he doing out there?

The Seahawks generate boom-and-bust pressure. Their pass rush is the Willie
Parker of pass rushes. 14 sacks in a row, then everyone plays off for two
quarters and allows career days to scrub quarterbacks.

Cleveland Browns 10 at Baltimore Ravens 28

Bill Barnwell: Dawan Landry is down in Baltimore with what looks to be a spinal injury. He hit Jamal Lewis' knee on a tackle and just went down.

Vince Verhei: It looks like Landry is going to be OK. That's good news, because Landry made the hit with his face down, in perfect spine-compressing fashion. As Deion Sanders noted on NFL Gameday: "See what you hit, hit what you see. Keep your head up."

My God, did the Browns look bad today. I know that Baltimore's defense is great and all, but Derek Anderson missed several open receivers (including the pick-six he threw to Ed Reed), and Braylon Edwards had a case of the dropsies, finishing with just three catches. If that's the best those two guys can do, the Browns are so, so screwed.

Jacksonville Jaguars 23 at Indianapolis Colts 21

Will Carroll: Through the first quarter, Saturday looks like the difference maker. I'm curious -- if the game charter for Indy could check, did the center get to the linebacker on run plays during the first two games? It seems like that's what Saturday is doing on nearly every play.

Someone explain that Jacksonville decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 halfway through the second quarter? Sure they're running well, but the line has been crap and it's a chip shot field goal to go to 7-6.

Bill Barnwell: Marvin Harrison's double-fisted jumping whine was impressive. Granted, Rashean Mathis has been feeling him up on pretty much every play (particularly on the interception return for a touchdown), but that was a hell of a complaint.

Benjy Rose: In general, I'm in favor of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for overt whining on the part of receivers, but I didn't have a problem with Harrison. Mathis should have bought him dinner first, and Harrison had had enough.

Will Carroll: 17-14, fourth-and-goal with 2:30 left. I'm not sure if Jack Del Rio shouldn't go for it here. They've got to have the defense gassed and a field goal isn't that big a deal. Maurice Jones-Drew looks like he's about to puke. This is the max workload he can take.

Someone's going to argue that the Colts lost because Bob Sanders wasn't there in run support. Umm, no.

Bill Barnwell: Great pick play by the Colts for the first down and they've gone from fourth-and-2 from inside their own 20 to first-and-goal inside the 5 in like five plays.

How is that pass interference? Reggie Williams ran straight into Freddie Keiaho.

Randy Cross just called Montel Owens Montel Williams, by the way.

Ben Riley: The crack Scramble Keep Choppin' Wood team will review all entries diligently, but I have to say, Tony Dungy's decision to pass twice at the end of the game doesn't make a ton of sense to me. Why not run the ball so Jacksonville has to burn time-outs if the Colts don't score? There was way too much time left on the clock for the Jaguars. And by the way, this Colts team really should be 0-3. Crazy.

Ned Macey: Other than I wish that the Jaguars had Martin Gramatica as their kicker, not really a lot to say about this game. We've seen it before. Sort of embarrassing really for Jacksonville that they dominated to that extent, had a pick return for a touchdown, and still needed that 53-yarder (after a fourth-down interference call and a 10-plus-yard reception on a tipped ball). For all the 7-foot receivers they have, they are a terrible red zone team right now.

Was anyone watching enough to see the hit Drayton Florence put on Dallas Clark? Was it helmet-to-helmet or no? My sense of this rivalry is that the Jags always push the envelope, and if the refs let them play, they sort of take it to the Colts.

Will Carroll: Yes, it was clearly a fine-inducing hit. Clark locked up and i think had a leg stinger.

Ned Macey: For all those scoring at home, the Jaguars were so scared of Harrison that they had their third cornerback playing him man-to-man with no help on the last drive. How the mighty have fallen. Really, between that, Brian Dawkins' struggles last week, and reports of Ronde Barber's demise, I'm a little depressed. My football interest (which I define as watching games besides my own team) sort of came of age around 2000, and those guys were all my favorite players at their respective positions.

Aaron Schatz: I didn't think the Florence hit on Clark was clearly fineable. It looked like he was leading with the shoulder to me, not helmet-to-helmet.

Vince Verhei: On the second-quarter fourth-down play, I like the Jaguars' decision to go for it. They only needed two yards, and there's a hidden benefit to coming up short: You pin the Colts deep in their own territory. Obviously, if you knew you would fail on fourth, you would kick the field goal instead. But without the benefit of hindsight, it seems like a good gamble to me.

Overall, while exciting, I thought this game was shockingly sloppy. It was particularly odd to see the Colts dropping so many passes, and Manning's throw on the pick-six was a terrible decision. And then the Jaguars pull it out with, as Ned noted, one of the ugliest game-winning drives you'll ever see. David Garrard has now thrown more interceptions in three games than he did in all of 2007. These looked like teams that deserved to be 1-2, not good teams undone by bad luck or hard schedules.

Pittsburgh Steelers 6 at Philadelphia Eagles 15

Mike Tanier: Oooh -- Donovan McNabb shaken up, then Brian Westbrook limping and being taken to the locker room. Can the Steelers find a way to injure Chase Utley too? That would be swell.

The Eagles defense came to play today. The Steelers are in their usual sack-and-be-sacked mode. The Eagles offense is predictably Westbrook-less, though Correll Buckhalter made a great play on the touchdown. And of course, all 50-plus-yard field goals always go in against the Eagles.

Bill Barnwell: Phil Simms just told us that Willie Parker running into the line on second-and-6 for no gain was a "good no gain" because it gave the Steelers a lot of options on third down.

Mike Tanier: Simms knows the Steelers are great on third-and-long. For example, at the end of the third, Parker lost a yard. Let's see what happens after the break on third-and-7.

Bill Barnwell: Neither I nor Aaron can tell if you're being sarcastic or not.

Mike Tanier: OK, sack by the Eagles. So much for that theory. Really, I am trying to figure out what stupid mistake the Eagles will make to lose this game. Blown coverage? Quintuple fake handoff fumble by McNabb? Muffed punt? 16 men on the field? I bet it will involve L.J. Smith in some way.

Bill Barnwell: My money's on Sean Considine.

Mike Tanier: I was being sarcastic. McNabb looks terrible since he took that hit earlier, though I think the Westbrook-less offense is part of the problem. There will be no critical mistake, they will just lose the field position battle over and over until something snaps.

Will Carroll: At the start of the fourth quarter, the guy trying to block the gunner just got bit by the turf monster. I haven't seen one that blatant since the bad ol' days of the Vet. You could see the turf kind of fold, followed by his knee folding.

Bill Barnwell: Poor Scott Starks. At least he can go back to producing Brooke Hogan albums now.

Mike Tanier: Take two very good teams. Injure the best player on the field. Bang up both quarterbacks. Make the field a little divot-y (no rain in days, what is up?). Then, in the second half, make every series a three-and-out with one sack and one incompletion. You get Eagles-Steelers, the game which will never end.

Bill Barnwell: Aaron notes that we're putting Rashard Mendenhall on the milk carton. What the hell happened to him?

Mike Tanier: The Steelers hate him. That safety call is really close. Both Mewelde Moore and Heath Miller were in the general direction Big Ben was throwing. For the record, though, I hate the play call.

Bill Barnwell: There's no way Roethlisberger could've reached them, though.

Mike Tanier: Oooh, Ben's knee was down.

Doug Farrar: Details, please?

Bill Barnwell: Roethlisberger was in the end zone when he threw a last-gasp throw a couple yards in the air and back down while he was being dragged down by myriad Eagles. He was called for intentional grounding and the Eagles got a safety.

Mike Tanier: Eagles are missing sacks, missing fumbles, an interception through Sheldon Brown's hands at 3:39 in the fourth. Don't like this ... Ooooh frll on that one. Kneel three times and a field goal, maybe?

Bill Barnwell: Why is Leftwich coming in for Pittsburgh?

Phil Simms: "Some times, you have to try and go out and win."

What do you do the other part of the time?

Mike Tanier: Ben got hurt one of the five or six times he was hit on the last drive. Somewhere in there the ball started slipping out of his hand on every play. The third or fourth time it happened (OK, the second), the Eagles recovered.

Mendenhall is returning kicks, had a 10-yard catch plus a dropped short pass on the last drive.

Russell Levine: They're looking at Roethlisberger's right wrist on the sidelines. God, I've missed Leftwich and his Satchell Paige windup.

Mike Tanier: Injury Reports posts that Kevin Kolb threw an interception in his first NFL attempt today in relief of McNabb. Either A) guys are mortals and make mistakes just like we do, or B) passes thrown against the Rams don't count as NFL attempts. He played some against the Lions last year, too. Same difference.

Vince Verhei: Count me among those who loves this kind of game. Watching Roethlisberger and the the Steelers get overwhelmed by pass rushers over and over again looked like something out of a horror movie. But since the Eagles' offense couldn't put points on the board, the game was still up for grabs on every play, (until the Eagles kicked a late field goal to ice it away). I was riveted.

Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers

Mike Tanier: Before the first snap in this Pack-Cowboys game, this has been one great week of football. Sooo much better than last week. Two cool overtime games in the 1 p.m., plus a Bills comeback. Jags-Colts and Saints-Broncos were good, I am told. Eagles-Steelers was close and fun for fans of sacks. A crazy upset with lots of Wild Hog. Fun week.

Now if I hear Westbrook is lost for the season I will cry myself to sleep.

Aaron Schatz: I'll add that the Patriots-Dolphins game was the kind of thing that's great fun if you aren't a Patriots fan. I'm not talking about the big upset; I'm talking about an NFL team suddenly using a wacky college formation and running all over their completely flummoxed opponent. That's the kind of thing that would really have me giggling if it wasn't for the fact that the team I root for was getting run over.

I meant to mention this the first two weeks, but I don't think I did: I love NBC's new graphic showing how many defensive backs and wide receivers are in the game on third downs. Really useful, and small enough to be ignored by those who don't care about the information.

Nice run-blocking by Miles Austin in this game.

Ben Riley: Atari Bigby has taken a lot flak around these parts, but his backup, Charles Peprah, was positively Brian Russell-like as he let Felix Jones blow by him for a 60-yard touchdown run. Hey Charles, when you see the running back coming at you, pick an angle and attack.

Aaron Schatz: Peprah is the backup to the backup. The actual backup (and starter tonight) is Aaron Rouse (PFP 08 Top 25 Prospects, number five).

Bill Barnwell: Have the Packers even used the full house at all this year? I've seen most of their snaps and I don't recall seeing it.

Aaron Schatz: I think I saw some of it last week.

The Cowboys defensive line is really doing a good job of handling the Packers offensive line tonight. They're getting excellent pass pressure. Actually, both teams are getting excellent pass pressure. The difference is mainly that the Cowboys could get it into the end zone in the red zone, and the Packers keep stalling out. For some reason, subjectively, it seems like a lot of good offensive teams this year are having trouble punching it in and have to kick tons of field goals. No idea if that is true or just weird memory playing tricks on me.

Mike Tanier: The Giants are having red zone troubles, though they are getting there a lot.

Aaron Schatz: Well, whatever it is that the team projection system doesn't like about Dallas (other than the injury issue), I hope it stops seeing it after this year. It is getting annoying. This is a really good team. As we predicted, the Cowboys have had to deal with more injuries this season, but none of their best players have missed a game (except Terence Newman) and so far it has not mattered. That touchdown pass to Austin streaking up the right side, which iced this game, was beautiful. The coverage was good and all the Packers defenders could do afterwards was just shake their heads because they had Austin and the Cowboys just made it happen. It looks like the Cowboys had another good draft (so far, Felix Jones looks like a Westbrook-like Speed Score exception), they basically got Pac-Man Jones for free, they look good at pretty much every position except perhaps for safety. Although we do have to ask: What is it about this team that made it decline so heavily at the end of the last two seasons, and are those same issues going to show up again come mid-December of 2008?

Bill Barnwell: Agreed. Jones looks like an absolute monster.

Ben Riley: Did the Cowboys really decline at the end of last year? They lost two meaningless games at the end of the season, after they locked up a first-round bye but could not win homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Of course, maybe they suffered "Colts 2005 Syndrome," when you take too much time off between playing meaningful games.

Aaron Schatz: Here are the Cowboys' DVOA ratings for the final four games of the past two seasons.

2006: -56% (Sunday night vs. Saints), 1% (narrow win over Atlanta), -33% (Xmas loss to Philly), -23% (loss to Detroit to blow division)

2007: -11% (narrow comeback win vs. Lions), -64% (Eagles upset), 7% (win over Carolina), -78% (blown out by Redskins)

Remember, the Cowboys were not resting their starters at the end of either season, and in 2006 they blew the division lead. In both 2006 and 2007, the Cowboys then lost in the playoffs to a team with a far inferior regular-season DVOA. I have no explanation for why it happened in the past, and it could be random chance -- but if there is an actual issue here, this year's team hasn't made any changes to the formula. As they stomp through the early part of the schedule, I have this nagging feeling we're going to see the late-season collapse again.


121 comments, Last at 24 Sep 2008, 2:16am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

"For all those scoring at home, the Jaguars were so scared of Harrison that they had their third cornerback playing him man-to-man with no help on the last drive. How the mighty have fallen."

Marvin burned the CB for a huge conversion on 4 and 2. The game was on the line for the Colts and Marvin beat the guy. Marvin was also beating Mathis pretty consistently, you talked about how ridiculously handsy Mathis was at the start of the game and Marvin got past Mathis deep twice more, but Peyton underthrew him both times for an incomplete and a pick.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Wow, Audibles actually talked about Dallas in the context of a Dallas game. Usually, it's all about the other team (basically, why they lost instead of why Dallas won).

I found the "out of nowhere" commentary surrounding Miles Austin annoying and not well researched. "Hard Knocks" made it quite clear for the general public that before his pre-season injury Austin was making a serious bid for the #3 WR spot. For much of the pre-season, the hope was that Austin would be become the speedy deep threat to replace Terry Glenn.

It was also annoying that no one pointed out that Austin had an eerily similar impact during last year's Packers-Boys game, drawing two big pass interference penalties. That game showed his potential to beat defenses deep especially with the attention on Owens and Witten. So it shouldn't have been a total surprise when it was Austin who did it again.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I can't speak to the original poster, but I was speaking (below) more to the inability of Al Michals and John Madden as well as the bevy of Studio Analysts more than Audibles.

And besides, a least a couple of the Audibles guys have seen Hard Knocks, as well as many members of the media (they make references to Martellus "High and Tight" Bennett more than a few times).

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Good point. I might have been knee-jerking a little bit to the tone of the first couple of sentences.

And yeah, Madden & Michaels were pretty frustrating last night. As I mentioned in a comment below, it would have been nice if they had talked more about the Packers DB injuries. Losing 2 of the remaining 3 starters by the 2nd half certainly didn't help the defense, and although they mentioned Harris, they never talked about losing the only remaining starting safety.

It's quite likely that the Cowboys would have won, even if Harris and Collins had stayed in, but perhaps the score wouldn't have gotten quite as out of hand.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Speaking of which, how does Al Harris, supposedly one of the best corners in the league who should be a very fit individual, lose half the game to dehydration/cramping? It's not like he was running a marathon out there... the Cowboys seemed fine.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Honestly, Al wasn't himself last year (or this, really)...he's really slowing down, and I don't think he's going to have too many more years left.

According to , he had blood in his urine, which sounds like a bad sign. Maybe we'll get lucky and Will can say something about it, but as speaking as a totally unqualified layman, I might guess that dehydration was a side-effect of some other kidney problem, rather than the cause.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

latest word from his agent is "ruptured spleen." ouch. i think that would slow me down a fair bit...

armchair journeyman quarterback

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It was also annoying that no one pointed out that Austin had an eerily similar impact during last year's Packers-Boys game, drawing two big pass interference penalties.

Totally agree on this point. Austin burned the same team deep twice last season, drawing huge DPI calls when he was way ahead of the DB covering him. And not a single person picked up on that, on any of the shows. If you're a real Cowboys fan, Austin's performance was anything BUT a surprise. We didn't expect him to dominate the game, but knowing how TO was drawing so much attention, it seemed obvious that someone would have to step up.

In fact, early in the game when it was clear that the Packers were not going to let TO beat them, I was waiting for Austin to step up (and, tellingly, I was not counting on Crayton...)

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I think perhaps that there is no Terry Glenn, Patrick Crayton, Sam Hurd or Miles Austin. There is only Dallas receiver lucky enough to play opposite Terrell Owens. He's not hard to spot, he's usually being covered by the third or fourth corner on his own no matter how deep the route he's running.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The tying touchdown came on a beautifully designed play. The Bucs broke the huddle in a power-I, strange since there were 10 seconds left and they were out of timeouts on the Chicago 1. As Gruden often does, players shifted presnap and Jerramy Stevens split out wide left. Off the line, it looked like a fade, as there wasn't a single other player on that side of the formation and you figure Gruden's going to have Griese lob it up to the 6-foot-7 guy. Instead, Stevens makes a hard cut to the inside and Griese hits him, wide-open, for the tying touchdown.

That's been the Bucs' money play at the goal line ever since they acquired Stevens last year. It typically is a fade, not a slant, but other than that you can expect to see it quite often this year. New Orleans fans might remember it, only mirrored, because we ran it to beat them in the infamous botched reverse inside two minutes with a lead game.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

That interception by Polamalu was amazing. That guy is crazy good at stopping/starting/contorting and otherwise making plays from anywhere.

If the Cowboys don't at LEAST get to the Super Bowl Phillips should be fired. Seriously. That team is loaded. The Packers are a solid team and got shoved around at will.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Eagles played the Cowboys basically to a draw, at Dallas, without their two top wide receivers from last year. The Eagles also have a few schedule advantages over the Cowboys - well, one of them is moot (Bears instead of Cowboys), but they've also got Tampa instead of Cowboys and Pittsburgh (probably their closest non-NFC East competition) in Pittsburgh rather than at home (as the Eagles did). If you were laying sane odds on the Eagles-Cowboys game in Week 17 right now, you'd probably favor the Eagles very very slightly. My point in mentioning this is that the Cowboys have real competition to win the division, not to mention winning the Super Bowl.

Which means, realistically, the idea that Phillips should be fired if they don't reach the Super Bowl is crazy. Right now, just looking at the schedule, the division is still probably a tossup between Philly, Dallas, and New York. Dallas plays in the hardest division in football, and right now, probably 3 of the top 5 teams in football are in that division. The Cowboys are not heads and shoulders above the rest of the NFL. Not even close.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It sure was--though I think the ball may have hit the ground. Be sure to check out Carlos Rogers making a similar play on a ball tipped by Leigh Torrence. Seeing Redskins bench players making plays like Torrence did reminds me of our sweet playoff run of twenty-odd-five.

[/Redskins homerism]

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

And it was abundantly clear on television, because they were all empty -- there was NOBODY there to watch the Falcons go to 2-1 (including wins over two horrible teams).

Michael Vick might not have been a good QB, but he was one of the few players who could boost attendance in Atlanta.

[The Cowboys] lost two meaningless games at the end of the season, after they locked up a first-round bye but could not win homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Cowboys had homefield advantage last year and didn't clinch it until Green Bay lost in Week 16 (Dallas had already played Carolina the night before).

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Also, can anyone explain the Bengals' play selection in overtime? Starting off with consecutive runs (including one on 2nd and 8), when the run hadn't worked all second half?

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Dan Dierdorf repeatedly counted the umpire as one of the ten men in the box for the Bengals

Well they both have stripes...

I think Gus played better than Tarvaris has been. The first half he was being betrayed by his receivers, but in the second half they caught stuff and I think (will have to see after charting) he forced the Panthers to actually defend the pass, and the Vikings then ground out a 19-play drive in which they were able to run the ball steadily. They should have had a touchdown but sabotaged that with penalties, but it still was a big part of cementing the win. After that the game was winding down and they were just protecting the lead while killing time.

6 Re: Bears-Bucs

Tampa should have been punting from its own 10 or so in overtime, but the Bears got flagged for a dead-ball personal foul to keep what would turn out to be the winning drive alive. Jeremy Trueblood started the tussle with a dirty hit under the pile and Charles Tillman was about the fifth man in, but somehow the only one who got flagged. Awful, horrendous, embarrassingly bad call. And I'm a rabid Bucs fan.

I am glad a Bucs fan thinks this because I nearly threw my computer out of the window when the refs screwed that one up. Chances are the Bears get the ball back from the punt at about midfield or better and just need one first down for the winning field goal (assuming Gould could hit the bugger), the refs completely hosed the Bears. All the headlines this week about Goodell's letter to every player whining on about protecting the players and then when one guy is holding another down and raining blows down on him (lets face it Trueblood appeared to have lost it there), the refs do nothing and penalise the guy who gives a comparitively weak shove.

35 Re: Bears-Bucs

In reply to by Jimmy

Actually, Tillman didn't get flagged for running into the pile late, but for taking a swing at a player and then tossing him to the ground behind the pile, in front of the ref.

Also, take it for what it's worth coming from the mouth of a player, but Trueblood later said that both sides had been chippy in the piles all day, and that both teams were just kind of going along with it and not having any real heated feelings about it (that's just what happens in the trenches all the time), but then a Bears player grabbed his genitals in the pile.

Trueblood has had a lot of flags thrown on him for being the 2nd guy to react, or coming to the defense of his teammates, so even as a Bucs fan, I'm not all that torn up about one of those calls going his way instead of against him.

71 Re: Bears-Bucs

In reply to by Stereochemistry (not verified)

This isn't the NBA, there shouldn't be makeup calls, especially in overtime.

7 Thank You, Tanier...

And of course, all 50-plus-yard field goals always go in against the Eagles.

I'm glad someone else recognizes this indisputable fact.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

"Did the Cowboys really decline at the end of last year? They lost two meaningless games at the end of the season, after they locked up a first-round bye but could not win homefield advantage throughout the playoffs."

Actually, the 'boys did lock up homefield last year, and became the first #1 seed to lose their first playoff game. I hope they figure it out this year. Crazy thought - maybe they've been TOO healthy, and everyone is that little bit worn down at the end of the season. Who knows.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I don't know why everyone thinks the Cowboys shutdown in the playoff game against the Giants. Granted they made some stupid mistakes, but they were on the brink of winning it up until the end. If close games mean little in regard to how good a team is, than that game means nothing considering they lost to a Giants team that was rolling to destiny.

-Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Exactly. The Cowboys came closer to beating the Giants last season in the playoffs than any of the other teams. If Crayton doesn't drop that pass, they win. If they don't get a BS intentional grounding call, they have a good shot at winning. If Davis doesn't get a BS unnecessary roughness call, they have a good shot at winning.

Yea, I know... the Packers took the Giants to overtime. But did anyone watching that game think that the Packers had a shot on offense against that Giants Defense, especially starting in the 4th quarter? I didn't. If Tynes doesn't miss those FGs, they don't go to OT.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I agree that the Pats came close as well, but personally I think Patrick Crayton (supposedly the best hands on the team) dropping a soft floater that hits him in the abdomen is a somewhat larger improbability than Asante Samuel letting a leaping interception go through his hands.

It's quite debatable though; and ultimately irrelevant.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

"Actually, the 'boys did lock up homefield last year, and became the first #1 seed to lose their first playoff game."

This is not remotely true. In fact, that was the third year in a row that happened. It happened to the Chargers in 2006, and the Colts in 2005. And there are others, like the 1992 Steelers.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Woo, Audibles!

Aaron Schatz: Peprah is the backup to the backup. The actual backup (and starter tonight) is Aaron Rouse (PFP 08 Top 25 Prospects, number five).

Thanks for pointing that out Aaron. Seemed like Madden & Michaels were doing a poor job of reporting the injuries on the field (quite a shock, I know). If you count Bigby, before the end of the first half, the only remaining actual starting DB was Woodson. Which makes the 2nd half collapse by the defense a little more predictable.

And I'll be holding a "Ronnie Brown was on my fantasy bench" memorial later today. All are welcome to attend.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm wondering what the thinking was on how Orton looked against Tampa yesterday. I was at the game, and he looked like a legitimate NFL QB against a pretty solid pass defense, particularly in the second half.
In the first half, he was holding onto the ball too long. It didn't help that Clark dropped a TD on the first series. On the fly pattern to Forte that was intercepted, Orton threw the pass too late, but it was accurate, and Forte really should have caught it (it looked as if he handed the ball to the defender). The second interception was a boneheaded throw, but it was a middle screen, and my dad kept claiming that the play is designed for Orton to waggle a little bit, turn, and throw, just assuming the RB was open.
In the second half, Orton played well. The TD pass to Forte from the one yard line was a great read; Forte motioned to the offensive left, the defender took away the inside slant, so Forte ran a nice little two-yard curl and was wide open for Orton.
Lloyd was actually getting separation (shock!) and Orton was hitting him when he was open. Orton also threw a beautiful pass to Rashied Davis in overtime that would have given the Bears the ball in FG range, but Davis let it go right through his hands.
Ron Turner's play-calling was once again head-scratching. He'd mix in brilliant calls (a couple rollouts, fades to Lloyd, misdirection runs), yet when they absolutely needed a few yards, he'd revert back to the bread-and-butter run-into-the-pile-for-no-gain play. Poor Matt Forte.
Additionally, after Tampa tied the game, the Bucs were flagged for a personal foul on the kickoff, giving the Bears an untimed down from about their own 35. Perfect time for a hail mary. Nope, the Bears take a knee!. On an untimed down! They could even have brought in Grossman to just wing the ball deep, which is about all he's good at these days. Turner's call was basically saying to his offense, "When we have the ball for one play, it's more likely the other team will score that we will." Watching the offense actually function yesterday, that was simply not the case.
End rant.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Orton can't throw 65 yards, and bringing in Grossman just for that . . . I think it would have been kind of insulting and not worth it for the tiny chance. Taking the knee was the best option, as the possible positives from it aren't that great, and you could risk injury.

As for the penalty, in the first quarter, the Bucs got flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when a Bear did something and IIRC Donald Penn got penalized. In OT, Truebood started something, Tillman retaliated and got the flag. There's a reason "the second guy to do something always gets the flag"; it's because the second guy to do something always gets the flag. Cliches become cliches because there's an element of truth to them. Now, yes, it was an inconveniently timed penalty, but it's not like the refs pulled a Hochuli and gave the game to the Bucs. If there was a fault with the referees in the game it was allowing the players to get out of control--that was an ugly, chippy game, where you had people pushing each other after the whistle all day long. Somebody needed to step in and exert some control earlier in that one with warnings to the bench that ejections would be coming if things didn't calm down. I was waiting for a brawl to start with the way things were going.

That being said, if you'd told me Brian Griese was going to throw the ball 67 times, my response would have been "Yes, in three games combined". How the heck does that happen? I mean, 67? That was . . . insane. Particularly when Antonio Bryant was nabbing all sorts of balls. On the last long throw that set up the game-winning FG in OT, it did look like he just kind of jogged along and, had he run full-bore, he'd have scored a TD.

Also, I'd just like to point out that, as bad as Phil Simms is, Dan Dierdorf is worse. Dierdorf being assigned to a Bucs game makes me want to stab a knife in my eye.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

in the first quarter, the Bucs got flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when a Bear did something and IIRC Donald Penn got penalized. In OT, Truebood started something, Tillman retaliated and got the flag

The Penn flag was caused by both Penn and Alex Brown getting a bit pushy with one arm each and not too hard, followed by Penn squaring right up to Brown and smacking him in the neck with both hands. For a change the refs saw the whole thing and called it right.

The OT debacle wasn't particularly similar, Trueblood was lying on top of Ogunleye giving him the full Ultimate Fighter treatment as he rained blows on his head. He even kept trying to hit him after he slipped off Wale, trying to hit him with the back of his hands and his elbow whilst trying to kick him with his legs. It was pretty blatant. What is most disgraceful about the whole incident is that it went on for at least three or four seconds with six officials on the field and not one of them did a thing about it.

I would agree with you that the officiating was terrible (and has been in almost every game I have seen this year), if the officials aren't going to protect the players then this kind of chippy call is going to recur and ruin some other game. I suspect that every official in the league has the Hochuli call somewhere in the back of their minds and are trying to avoid screwing up, and I am not sure it is helping matters. If they had gone flag heavy early to calm the game down, they would have drawn critiscism, and in failing to do so have ended up mired in controversy anyway. Time for proffessional refs? Would it help?

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Just to add to this, Tommie Harris had some harsh words to say. From the Bear's website.

Harris had another explanation for the countless shoving matches.

“Their line is dirty and we knew that coming in this game,” he said. “I guess they thought they were going to come in here and just think we were going to accept that.

“[Trueblood] is dirty. He wants you to know that. Since he’s not that talented and not that good, he wants you to know that ‘I’m the dirtiest player.’”

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

"Orton can't throw 65 yards"

Are you sure about that? Orton's arm is pretty underrated. He can't throw that far accurately, but he might be able to get it into the endzone. If he can't throw it that far, then Ron Turner should have a hook and ladder play ready for those situations.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Just checking: You do realize that Dierdorf is on CBS, right? So the last time he could have called a Bucs game is sometime in 2007. Sunday's announcers were Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan.

My apologies if you knew this and the Dierdorf comment was unrelated to the rest of the Bucs/Bears post.

11 Neon on Tackling?

Did Deion Sanders really give someone advice on tackling?

That's like Belicheck giving people advice on professional wear.

15 Re: Neon on Tackling?

In reply to by Possuum (not verified)

Well, to be fair, it was advice on how to not get hurt tackling.

I don't think Deion ever got hurt tackling.

30 Re: Neon on Tackling?

Was Deion actually bad at tackling? I am a little to young to remember, I know he didn't like to hit but did he actually miss a lot of tackles?

39 Re: Neon on Tackling?

Just going off of memory and reputation, it wasn't so much that he missed tackles as much as didn't try to make tackles.

47 Re: Neon on Tackling?

Pretty much how I remember, but there were times when he lookd like he trying to make a tackle but would kind of flop toward a running back's legs.

51 Re: Neon on Tackling?

In reply to by Possuum (not verified)

Yes, he was known to flop instead of attempting a tackle on more than one occasion. Deion's term for it was "making a business decision."

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

What a difference a year makes.

The Giants looked completely meh against the Bengals. Last year, that would have likely generated quite a few audibles about how the team just isn't very good. This year, it leads to the Seahawks experts talking about how Seattle is going to get skunked by the Giants in a few weeks.

Eli avoided the interceptions, but his accuracy wasn't there. While he did throw at a 60% completion rate, and did hit some nice plays towards the end of the game, and did suffer from teammates dropping catchable balls, he also had some throws that just were not what you see from the more accurate quarterbacks. However, if he continues to avoid picks, that won't matter much.

As fun as Jacobs is to watch, I believe he is the third most effective of the Giants' runners at this point. I suppose it is possible that he wears down the defense, but I suspect it is more a case that the defense will usually appear to be worn down if you are able to throw out there a completely fresh and talented runner later in the game.

The Giants now have four wide receivers capable of making big-time plays: Plax, Toomer, Smith and Hixon. I cannot remember that being the case for the Giants basically ever.

The Bengals showed that slants can be very effective against this defense. Dallas and Green Bay especially might be capable of exploiting this.

After Washington beat another decent team yesterday, the opening-night win by the Giants is looking more like a case of them causing the Skins to look bad rather than the Skins actually being bad.

So when will the NFC East have a team lose out of division this year?

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

"So when will the NFC East have a team lose out of division this year?"

They're 8-0 now, and here are the upcoming games:

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

I'm sticking with my prediction (from my "Prediction Challenge" post in last week's DVOA thread) that CLE gets it together and beats the 'Skins in week 7. Before that, the only ones I think are possibilities are: maybe Philly's banged up enough (Westbrook?) after playing two physical teams that they slip against CHI, and maybe (less likely since it's practially a home game for Dallas) ARI manages to hit on enough long passes to knock off Dallas in the desert.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I have to believe that there will be a slip up before week 8, but just eyeballing the coming matchups, I think it is very likely that the NFC East team will be favored in every one of those games. Brutal division.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

To be fair, the concerns expressed by the Seahawks partisans may be more indicative of how they feel about their team than how they feel about ours.

I agree with most of your points though. On the surface, this like one of the Giants' unimpressive wins over a subpar opponent from last season. Not getting blown out in the first two games has a way of putting a positive spin on things. I'm also more optimistic about yesterday's game than I otherwise would be because I didn't think the team was outplayed so much as outcoached on both sides of the ball. I agree that running Jacobs off-tackle was not effective yesterday, and that there are games where Ward or Bradshaw should get most of the touches. The coaching staff took way too long to switch to quick-hitting, up-the-middle running plays with Ward. Coughlin even admitted in the post game conference that Cincy put 8 in the box and had a very good scheme for stopping Jacobs. Yet we stuck with him until the 2nd half and didn't try to stretch the field until overtime.

On defense, I think Spags might've had his worst game in a while. The pass rush was there, but Palmer saw every blitz coming a mile away and, like you said, would consistently hit the slant or quick pass to convert on 3rd down. Maybe the players need to do a better job of disguising the blitzes. Regardless, I'm not as worried about the closeness of yesterday's game because I think those are gameplan issues that can be fixed. We were just lucky to pull one out in which we were so thoroughly outschemed.

I also agree that Green Bay or Dallas could thoroughly exploit the middle of our pass defense. That's no surprise though. The Giants haven't had a linebacker who could cover since Jesse Armstead, and there's two reasons we drafted Kenny Phillips: Michael Johnson and James Butler.

I still don't know what to think of the Redskins' game. Did we completely outplay a pretty good team, or were they just not ready to go week 1?

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I still don't know what to think of the Redskins' game. Did we completely outplay a pretty good team, or were they just not ready to go week 1?

I don't know if we will ever be able to truly know the answer to this. However, at this point I think we can rule out another option, which was that the Redskins are horrible. They clearly are not horrible.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

As a Redskins fan, I hope I'm not being a homer by saying they just weren't ready in Week 1. They have certainly played a lot better in the last 2 weeks, especially the last 5 or 6 quarters.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Redskins weren't ready to go. The scary thing is, if that offense keeps improving as Jason Campbell gets more and more reps with the new system, they might end up being the best team in the NFC East and the league by year's end. Of course, Westbrook being out for the season, and Dallas collapsing might make that more likely. And I am definitely not a Redskins fan.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Giants looked completely meh against the Bengals. Last year, that would have likely generated quite a few audibles about how the team just isn't very good.

That's because they're mostly afraid to say the Giants aren't that good; if the Giants then start beating some good teams, they look bad.

However, I have no such name and reputation at stake, so I'll just say what seems obvious to me: The Giants are the third best team in the division, and it isn't even close.

EDIT: Just because that seemed kinda harsh. I don't think they're a bad team; just not as good as the Eagles or Cowboys. Of course, that's what I thought last year mid way through the season (I thought the Eagles/Cowboys/Skins would advance to playoffs) and I was wrong then-- so maybe I'm wrong now. But I still think that the main reason they won last year (a brilliant pass rush and an inexplicably steady stretch of games from Eli Manning at the end of the season) are unlikely to occur again.

16 Eagles/Pitt beat the heck out of each other

Without injuries, the Eagles would be heavily favored next week, but now maybe not so much. I don't think I've seen so physical a game in a long long time. And pity poor Rothlesburger, those sacs weren't just easy set downs, he got thrown around all game, slammed into the ground again and again. Wow.

17 Buffalo-Oakland

I don't know if it translated well on TV, but there are just times when a player channels the crowd's depression/bloodlust. The stadium was ridiculously loud during the huddle and snap for Russell-Higgins TD slant. Donte Whitner's late tackle in the endzone was him channelling the crowd.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Ravens/Browns notes:

The Browns rushing offense was surprisingly effective vs. the Ravens, but Derek Anderson ended up throwing 37 passes. Not a great idea. Their quick passes worked well in the first half, but once the Ravens LBs and secondary adjusted their passing game went down the tubes. The Ravens pass rush took away any deep drops, and the secondary jumped on the short/intermediate passes. When Ray Lewis destroyed Winslow and C-Mac picked it off, Winslow was effectively removed from the game.

If the Ravens can rush the Browns and their competent O-line like that, I can't wait to see what they do to the Steelers next Monday.

The Ravens rushing attack again looks pretty good (albeit against CLE), but McGahee is still working his way back. LeRon McClain (professional TD poacher) might just be the next Bettis (heavy RB that consistently gains 4-5 yards every carry). I love how Willie Anderson can come off the bench and maul people, not only does he provide great OT depth but is great on the goal line as well.

Flacco was a bit shakey, making a horrible read over the middle that resulted in an INT. The other INT was a 70 YD heave into the endzone on a strange fleaflicker that didn't really work. Overall though, Flacco's timing on outs and curls is pretty good. Pocket presence is solid as well. Cam Cameron failed miserably as a head coach, but is a pretty inventive OC. His trick/unusual plays work much better than Billick's. And finally Todd Heap looks like a shell of his former self. Hopefully he'll get back in shape, unless he's sustained too many injuries over the years and is just a mediocre TE now.

Baltimore Ravens: Best team in the AFC North, baby!

20 KCW award

Okay my nomination is Sean Payton/Pierre Thomas. Twice yesterday, and once in each of the first 2 games, Pierre Thomas has run a short-yardage play (3 3rd and ones, the first one yesterday was 4th and inches at the goal line at the end of the first half)--AND BEEN STUFFED EVERY TIME!!! Now here is the reason for the KCW award: Payton mentioned to the Saints' radio announcers about how GREAT Bush has been in the same situation for a while now. And in this game he converted 2 of them (IIRC). Would Bush have converted either? Who can say. However, this particular play call cost the Saints a TD at the end of the first half (although they got a safety out of it) and caused them to go for a FG late in the 4th, which Grammatica missed (AGAIN!! he missed one at the end of the first half too--he might deserve the KCW award). The loss of these points caused the Saints to lose a very winnable game.
(In week 1, it caused the Saints to punt the ball back to the Bucs near the end of the game. Last week, the Skins got the ball after the punt in the 4th and promptly threw the bomb to Santana Moss that won the game)
If you think that the Saints D (or lack thereof) caused them to lose, that's not the case. 2 missed FG's, 1 failed 4th and inches at the goal line (they didn't make it on 3rd down either), minus the safety after this failure=11 points easily attainable.
Also regarding the Saints D--after the Broncos went ahead 21-3 in the opening minute of the 2nd on a defensive TD, the Broncos scored 13 points the rest of the way--this is the team that averaged 40 in the first 2 weeks. The Saints D allowed the offense to get back in the game. After the 21-3, the Saints got a TD, INT on the next Denver play, and another TD. Presto, 21-17 and the game was close thereafter.

62 Re: KCW award

In reply to by Joseph

Well, good luck on the KCW nomination, Joseph. I tried last week when the Saints had not a single first down play go for 10 yard or more.

So the Saints rack up more than 500 yards total offense and fall short of 35 points. The Saints have a lot of talented skill players and a very good passing quarterback, yet the offense just can't seem to do the things that "normal" offenses do. They are the masters of the 2 yards or less completion. They are masters at allowing running backs to be hit behind the line of scrimmage. They do not have a big running back at all (Deuce 2008: 2 carries, 10 yards), and they won't let the FB carry it. Mostly, I just see an offense that is slow, very slow. It's not that the players don't have any speed, its that the execution, or setup takes so damn long. The receivers are still on the line when the DL is in the backfield. Handoffs are delayed to allow "the blocking" to set up.

On defense, Scott Shanle may have been a good stopgap in 2006 at WLB, but he should not have been playing in 2007 much less in 2008. Jo-Lonn Dunbar, a rookie free agent from BC is playing Sam in place of the injured Scott Fujita, and while he is probably not ready for prime time, he looks a lot better than Shanle. The safeties are a mess and the cornerbacks seem to get injured every other play or so. Enough that Jason David was on the field to pick up a fumble.

The players have to make the plays, but at this point, the coaches really need to consider what they are doing and put the players in a position to win. Otherwise, I'll be asking for paper instead of plastic at the grocery store soon.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Eddo> I disagree that the intercepted pass in the endzone to Forte was accurately thrown. It was thrown late and short. The linebacker was beaten badly. Had he lead Forte, it would have been an easy 6. Forte had to turn around and wait for it, giving the linebacker too much time to recover. It was catchable, but it would have been a tough grab as by the time it got there, the linebacker was all over him.

The throw turned a likely touchdown into essentially a jump ball.

That being said, a positive day for Orton, IMO.

32 Re: Orton's first pick

Thanks anonymous. I can't really argue that he threw it late; a well-timed throw is an easy touchdown there.

That being said, Forte had the ball in his arms. He had a great chance to save Orton.

46 Re: Orton's first pick

OK I'll disagree. My read of the play was that a slightly more experienced Matt Forte would have broken back to the ball sooner, thereby forcing Ruud to faceguard if he wanted to defend the pass at all. Whenever you have a defender that badly beaten at the goal line you have to force him to interfere, Ruud had a terrible angle and Forte shouldn't have given him the chance to make a play on the ball. It should also be pointed out that it is easier to catch a ball in two hands than one. Mr Forte should try it lest he gives the ball to any other defenders this year. The play should have been a TD, not a pick. I am not sure that the ball was thrown late either, as the Bears have been throwing to the back shoulder of the receiver quite a bit on deep outside routes (two or three times to Lloyd in the last couple of games). Ruud made a great play on the ball, but Forte shouldn't have let him. Having said that I am seriously happy that Forte is a Bear, as I never got to see Neal Anderson or Walter Payton play for the Bears I would say Forte is the best Bear RB I personally have watched. Although the competition for the award basically comes down to Thomas Jones and not a lot else (I always thought Raymont Harris was a good player, but he got hurt and was more of a RB/FB tweener).

On Orton's second pick, I don't think he could see Adams because of the defender (Carter?) in his face. Horrible throw, but a fairly horrible call. Was the TE screen really going to turn the tide of the game? If you want to throw to your TEs why not try a post or a seam route, it might be easier to execute than the fake RB screen, TE middle screen playcall of doom.

I thought Gruden did a good job of choosing his spots on where and how to attack the Bears defense. When they went to cover-2 Greise hit the WRs in the seam inside the corner or safety, as soon as the Bears went to man coverage and blitzed they would always be going after either Payne or Hillenmeyer with a TE. I think both HH and Payne are good players (although I have never seen HH look as confused as he did yesterday, he is normally very assignment sure and yesterday he looked awful - I smell concussion) but if you look at the other options in coverage those two are clearly the weak links. Gruden found ways to go after them time and time again.

The Bears are going to continue to lose games like this until the offense starts producing consistently and capitalising on turnovers, and I doubt they are going to get any less frustrating.

Also I have to say that listening to the announcers cooing about what 'a great matchup problem Jerramy Stevens is' was (although somewhat true) pretty sickening, while NFL execs and coaches continue to value production on the field over wanting guys on your team who aren't sexual predators it is something we may have to get used to. The kind of mismatch Stevens looks for is himself against a defenseless woman.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

And I'll be holding a "Ronnie Brown was on my fantasy bench" memorial later today. All are welcome to attend.

And I'll be holding another one later in the evening for those of us who went up against him. My opponent had both him and Michael Turner. I never had a chance.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

One thing I enjoy about the Socal area is the start of the NFL season. Every year the NFL seems to think fans are looking forward to watching a horrible Rams and Raider team bumble their way to 4-12. Because no one doesn't like watching the team that said screw you guys I'm out of here. After about 3-4 weeks when it's clear that no one is watching these games they suddenly switch to "games" of the week. It's the same thing every year.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I want to know what ever happened to offsetting personal foul penalties? In the Bears/Bucs game there were scuffles all day, and they'd flag one of the twelve people in the scuffle and assume they made the right call. The refs had little to no control over that game, and I don't say that as just a Bears fan feeling he got jobbed. I think they could have gotten control of the game early and kept the cheap shots to a minimum if they called offsetting penalties and talked to the head coaches.

Bah, I'm just tired of seeing the Bears defense fade at the end of every game.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Ellis Hobbs is still a very weak link in the New England secondary. You know it's sad if Deltha O'Neal doesn't get a look because there are bigger holes on the opposite side. There was one formation with two wide receivers on the left and man coverage of Rodney Harrison and Hobbs. I groaned.

You know, the saddest part about that is that Solomon Wilcots kept talking about how Hobbs was "growing into a shutdown corner" or some nonsense of the sort. And I kept thinking - seriously? Hobbs? *This* Ellis Hobbs??

Oh man. What a game...

-- Go Phins!

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Watched Dallas and GB and as a Viking fan I thought - I can see the Vikings beating GB but they wouldn't have a chance against Dall. It's early but the NFC east looks on a different level than the rest of the league.

Regarding the Vikings - I thought Frerotte was decent in the 2nd half after being positively terrible in the first half. The Vikings came out throwing and their receivers were wide open all over the field and Frerotte was missing them despite having absolutely no pressure.

I thought the offensive line played very well, particularly pass blocking. The defence was very strong in the second half. It was great to see tons of pressure at the end of the game from the front 4.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

So was I the only one screaming at the Bengals to pull a Shanahan and go for it on the last play of regulation? I was amazed that nobody even mentioned it as a possibility. Last play of the game, inside the 5 yard line, kick to tie or go for the win, a team that should have no reason to believe they can stop the other offense in OT - exactly the same scenario as last week, but all the announcers ever said was, "Now they're forced to kick the field goal." To be fair, I understand that the 3 yard line isn't the 2 yard line, and that does change the odds, but I was convinced they should go for it.

119 Bengals going for the TD and not the tying FG

I'm with you on this one. Housh was killing the Giants all day, and with two big WRs, this looked like the call to make. Slant, slip screen, smoke, drag, corner, there were a number of calls that would have given them a chance. If the Offense was/is Cincy's best unit, why not let them try and win the game?

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

What, no 49ers v Lions comments?

I can't really blame you but I'll try to help out with some observations.

Wait for it.

The Lions are shit.

That is all.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

So, how did the "fire Mike Martz" thing work out for you, Lions? Do you like seeing J.T. O'Sullivan torch your defense?

And for that matter, how did the "fire Mike Martz" thing work out for the Rams?

41 Texan - Titan game

Two huge coaching blunders by Gary "Don't Capitalize My Last Name" Kubiak. Kerry Collins hooked up with Justin Gage on a 40-yard pass play, but Gage was sliding out of bounds as he made the grab. Collins rushed down the field and the officials huddled, so it was an obvious situation to throw the red flag -- but Kubiak did nothing. Then, on third-and-goal, the Texans stop LenDale White at the goal line, but the officials (mistakenly, in my view) call it a touchdown. Apparently Kubiak's red flag is Super Glued to his pants or something.

There is a reason for this: The Texans challenged an interception earlier and lost, they did not have a challenge left in the first half. The game announcers completely missed this fact.

45 Re: Texan - Titan game

In reply to by Don (not verified)

I was at the game, and it seemed abundantly clear to me that the reason Kubiak didn't challenge the pass to McCareins (not Gage, shockingly enough, and to the disappointment of my LL team) was he didn't want to lose his last challenge on a non-scoring play. IMO, a big mistake. On the White run, I've only seen it on TV once, but from my vantage point around the 5 at least the nose of the ball, if not much more, broke the plane.

On getting the little things right... the Texans' bad snap on the XP to make it -13 really cost them. Down 24-12, Kubiak went for it a couple times in what would otherwise be FG scenarios. I think he was right to do so, but it's easy to go back and say "if he kicks the FGs, then it's 24-18 and they have a chance to win at the end of the game."

Titan S Michael Griffin intercepted a ball on a 4&10 play. About 25 yards downfield. Way to cost your team field position. Finnegan also could have fallen down on his INT return, and the Titans could have knelt the clock out (yeah, I know, 3 scores in 1:01 with 0 TOs is hard), though it's hard for me to begrudge a defensive player scoring a touchdown. KVB on his INT on the flubbed XP also ran the ball about 50 yards downfield even though the coaches were yelling at him from the sidelines that the play was over.

If Andre Johnson ever wants to be considered an elite wideout, he needs to do a better job of making the non-easy catches. There were at least 4 balls he could have caught but didn't.

I thought LT Michael Roos did a pretty good job against Mario Williams-no sacks, and not really any big pressures that I remember. Thanks for justifying that offseason contract. Now, if only you could get the pro shop to start carrying your jersey...

43 Re: Redskins over Cardinals

Is Arizona's o-line getting better or is Washington's pass rush getting worse? The Skins didn't blitz too often, and the times they did were mostly inneffective, but I didn't see Warner under pressure very often at all. I would have wanted to come right at him rushing 5 on most downs and 6 on occasion.

Also, as a Redskins fan, can we please keep Reed Daugherty off the field? Every big play against us looks to be his fault. That Horton kid looks much, much better.

[/Redskins homerism]

48 Re: Redskins over Cardinals

In Doughty's defense, Horton has been on the field far less frequently than him and would probably also give up some big plays if he was given a bigger role.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

50 Buffalo Struggles

Something that stuck out to me in the Buffalo game is that each Buffalo unit that game had a major seemingly game-blowing play and Buffalo still managed to win the game.

The special teams gave up a long run the first play of the game. Roscoe fielded a punt on the 1 (though at least recovered to get to the 15). McKelvin muffed a kickoff.

The defense gave up the TD near the end of the game.

The offense gave Oakland a short field on an INT which led to a TD,

General commentary on the game:

The Buffalo special teams in general shifted their strategy on punt returns throughout the game to try to stop the gunners. The first punt they put 2 blockers on each gunner, which lead to Oakland easily covering the punt up the middle. Buffalo then put one blocker on each gunner and this led to the gunners covering the punt. Buffalo settled on Youboty blocking the left gunner and double teaming the right gunner. It didn't seem to me that Buffalo was particularly successful on punt returns. McKelvin is exciting to watch. He gets up to speed very quick and seems to be getting more decisive in his returns.

The Buffalo defense was good aside from the long TD. They were defending a short field alot. I still think that bigger receivers will make the CBs look bad. Youboty is interesting. He was not too involved in the defense last year. Now, he is playing very well. I think Youboty is very good. So far, his coverage of slot receivers has been good but he also tackles very well.

The offense was pretty inept for the most part until the 4th quarter. I think that was basically the O-Line getting its act together. Early in the game Peters looked bad (as was mentioned), but Butler and Walker on the right side seemed to be getting overpowered when they were one on one. Edwards was getting pressure from a lot of places. When he got more time in the 4th quarter, he was able to complete more mid range passes rather than 5 yard passes or less. Buffalo's backfield is impressive. While there is a drop off in power going to Jackson, he seems to be a better receiver out of the backfield, and he certainly doesn't suck. If Hardy develops and Fine (injured) or Schouman usurp Royal at some point, the Bills offense should be pretty good.

53 Runningbacks

"Running back is the least valuable position in football."

That is not remotely true. Having a good running back is extremely beneficial to a team. Now, it's the easiest position to fill, but it's still important.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

As to the Safety in the Eagles/Steelers game. I thought the rule was that, if a ball is tipped, you cannot call intentional grounding (which is what was call since intentional grounding in the end zone is a safety). I think pretty clearly that his knee was down and it should have been called a conventional safety, but how can you say where the ball was going to land (in front or behind the line of scrimmage, near a receiver or not) if the ball was tipped? I think the ref's blew this call in two different ways ... and managed, by chance, to get the right result.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The referee determines whether the pass would have ended up had the ball not been tipped. Yes, it's a judgment call, but so are many other referee decisions (pass interference, impetus, possession, etc.).

Rule 8-3-1: "Intentional grounding will be called when a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion.... Note 6: A realistic chance of completion is defined as a pass that is thrown in the direction and the vicinity of an eligible receiver."

There are exceptions if the passer is out of the pocket OR if the passer is hit when throwing, but no exception for if the ball is tipped.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

If that is true, they should change the rule unless they are afraid of QB's throwing the ball at a defender's foot and claiming that it was tipped.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Observations from the PHI - PITT game:

Just a ferocious effort by the Eagles' defense. It was obvious they had no respect for the ability of Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes to beat their corners. Heath Miller (and possibly Willie Parker) could have been factors in the passing game but the Eagles' blitzes relegated them to pass blocking for essentially the entire game. Only the athleticism of Roethlisberger kept the Eagles below 10 sacks ... in the first half.

In the first three games of the season the Eagles have faced Steven Jackson, Marion Barber, and Willie Parker (one of the better sets of opponent RBs in the league). Against the Eagles those three have combined for 45 carries and 123 yards (2.73 ypc). In their other six games, 133 carries and 584 yards (4.39 ypc). This may be the Eagles' best defense since 1991.

The Eagles' offense bogged down after both Brian Westbrook and Tony Hunt were injured. The Eagles only kept 4 RBs on the active roster and likely had to junk significant portions of their playbook after the injuries. At the end of the first half Lorenzo Booker showed why the Dolphins were so willing to trade him after one season: on back-to-back plays he blew a blitz pickup. The first resulted in a rushed, incomplete swing pass, the second in an interception and a 53-yd FG by Jeff Reed. Hence, in the second half the Eagles could only use Booker when they intended him to carry the ball or as part of a 2-back set with Correll Buckhalter so Booker could always release into a pass pattern.

I expect Westbrook to sit out against the Bears. If Tony Hunt also has to sit out, maybe this means more 2-TE sets on running downs. Not much of a help to FF owners.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Aaron Rouse looked like he really struggled today - took bad angles on a couple of passes that he should have broken up, including the touchdown to austin. Luckily for him, some of his bad angles on barber III were masked by shoe-string tackles. I am a big fan of his, but tonight he really failed to step up.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I agree completely about NBC's formation graphic. I've commented on it to my fiancee. Definitely a nice little touch.

Regarding the Indy-Jax game, I did like the announcers comment on the one Mathis PI - "My wife won't even dance that close to me." I do hate how people (esp. Simmons) claims that the whole "Refs calling PI" was "changing the rules in Indy's favor" when PI has been a rule all along (and people seem to get away with it on Harrison a surprising amount of the time).

On the Keiaho PI, I wasn't sure that the ball was thrown before the contact, though an illegal contact call instead doesn't change things, so I didn't bother looking at the timing. I also didn't get to see if it was within five yards from the angle, I was too busy being angry.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

OK, so I definitely have been trying to figure out the bet between Mike and Bill, but can't seem to find the article that it happened in. Does anybody know what the details of the bet is? I know its about Reggie Bush, I just don't know what about him it concerns. Thanks.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm pretty sure it's whether Bush will accumulate 45 rushing DYAR over the course of the season. (Hence Bush's receiving value does not impact the bet.)

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

OK, so I definitely have been trying to figure out the bet between Mike and Bill, but can't seem to find the article that it happened in. Does anybody know what the details of the bet is? I know its about Reggie Bush, I just don't know what about him it concerns. Thanks.

The original article:

63 Ned Macey

"I would take them by 10 points over San Francisco right now"

it's too bad they don't play each other this year, because i would bet a virtually unlimited amount of money on the niners taking 10 points.

72 Vince Young Trade

I don't have my cap info with me, but VY is in the 3rd year of a 6 year deal. That's three more years after this one of both signing bonus and option bonus left to amortize, so an in-season trade this year would result in a combined cap hit of $10 million plus, I'm pretty sure. I'd say that's a pretty sizable disincentive to the Titans in terms of actual trade consideration.

Not that I can see them actually making such a trade this year, either-they don't know what they still have with VY, and they have no other quarterbacks under contract for next year (Collins' deal is out, Simms signed a 1-year deal), so their asking price is too high for any team that's not desperate and still in love with VY, and it makes no sense for any team to be desperate and in love with VY to give up enough to satisfy the Titans.

I like FO, I like Audibles, but the talking of trading VY to the Chiefs was worthy of Around the Horn.

112 Re: Vince Young Trade

Just for the record, I have the amortization of VY's signing bonus + option bonus at $3 million per year combined. So, by trading him this year, they'd have to clear $3 million on this year's cap for the dead money and $9 million on next year's cap.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm not surprised that Matt Vasgersian thinks the 6-10 is a split.

I am glad to see that you did not comment on the Lions game. If possible, please continue this for the rest of the season ... perhaps even the rest of Mr. Ford's tenure, if you could. I would rather you wait to watch those games until they are an NFL team again.

I wonder if Lions fans have considered asking local businesses to return tickets to home games to prevent sellouts and keep the team's games blacked out. I might do it if I lived up there.

hockey season in less than three weeks.

78 Who are those guys?

Ben Riley comes down on the announcing mistakes in the Tennessee-Houston game, then seconds later misidentifies Justin McCareins as Justin Gage (who didn't even play Sunday). Nice rock garden behind that glass house.

84 Re: Who are those guys?

The funny thing is Hector, one of the FO staff pointed out my mistake yesterday, and thus I actually issued a self-mocking correction -- I wrote something along the lines of, "I'd like to hereby retract my bashing of the Houston announcers, as I apparently cannot distinguish Justins anymore than they can distinguish Andres." No idea why this didn't end up in the published Audibles today, but believe me, I was aware of my own hypocrisy.

p.s. Nice work with the Butch Cassidy reference too.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Well I was being snarky three weeks ago about the FO pick that Baltimore would be a big mover in the AFC North - looks very real at this point. Hope my Steelers can get their act together after that embarrassment yesterday.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm a Giants fan and I thought Marvin Lewis was crazy not to go for the TD and victory. It's not like this was the Cowboys... nearly 12 quarters into the season and the Bengals' year was almost over. I think he needed to show some guts and faith in his team, which was moving the ball very well.

I disagree that Jacobs is the Giants worst RB of the three. He probably gets more respect/focus from opponents than the other guys, which is why the Bengals were run blitzing whenever he was in the game. Judging him harshly on a day in which the Giants' o-line was TERRIBLE isn't fair. Even on Jacobs' longest run of the game, a Bengals' DE went into the backfield completely unblocked. (But he's a Bengals' DE, so he never touched Jacobs).

Watching the game, it seemed that Chris Perry had the best 20 carry, 74 yard performance I've ever seen.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

C'mon, are the Lions SO bad that the DET-SF gets no discussion at all? :)

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I wonder what the record is for best cumulative record of one division's teams against all out-of-division teams. I have to think whatever it is in serious jeopardy. Given that the NFC East plays against the putrid NFC west, and the average at best AFC North. And they've already won a few of the close-on-paper contests.

I would put the O/U at 32-8, or 24-8 the rest of the way. That would mean the average NFC East record would be 11-5, which seems ridiculous, so maybe that's too high. I would be fun though... to see a team go 10-6 and not only miss the wildcard, but finish last in the division.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Barring ties (unlikely) you're really just looking at the best cumulitive division record, since all divisions will have the same amount of wins and losses against itself.

Of course, I suppose that would raise the ceiling for the NFC east as compared to when we had 5 team divisions rather than 4 teams.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Teams in a 4-team division are, barring ties, guaranteed to have 12 losses within the division, so any losses beyond those 12 are from the 40 non-division games. EX: last year's AFC South totaled 22 losses, so we know they went 30-10 in non-division games. That's pretty close to the best, I think but the 1984 AFC West (5 team division, so 20 losses) finished with 29 losses, for a non-division record of 31-9. The 1975 AFC Central finished with only 8 non-division losses, but that was in the 14-game era, so "only" a 24-8, .750 non-division record. I haven't checked all of the best divisions (see also here), but I've done enough I'm fairly confident the 1984 AFC West is tops at 31-9.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Can anyone tell me why Gibril Wilson was ejected from the game? I've seen it referenced on several different sites, but I have yet to see an explanation anywhere. The NFL play-by-play log says "23-M.Lynch up the middle for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Penalty on OAK-28-Gi.Wilson, Unnecessary Roughness, declined. PENALTY on OAK-28-Gi.Wilson, Disqualification, 15 yards, enforced between downs," which isn't a ton of help.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

As far as the Wildcat offense, Miami OC Dan Henning ran the same thing a couple years ago when he was the OC in Carolina and was stuck with Chris Weinke at QB due to a Delhomme injury. The Panthers had just been blown out two weeks in a row with Weinke at the helm and were almost eliminated from playoff contention. They direct snapped to DeAngelo Williams several times on 3rd down, Weinke attempted only a couple passes and the Panthers beat the Falcons in a low scoring game. After the season, they fired Henning.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

When there is something to say about the Vikings, bedsides, "Otherwise talented roster held back by lousy quarterback and receiver play", then the Vikings will become more interesting. Until then, I'll just note that that if they manage to beat the Titans in Nashville, they'll be ahead of the projection I had for them, which included a 1-3 start. Of course, they'll likely only be able to beat the Titans in Nashville by a 6-3 score.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm surprised there was no ripping of Tomlin's mangling of the endgame for Pittsburgh. Even though I despise the Steelers and want them to lose every game by about ten thousand, even I was getting frustrated that they wouldn't just kick the field goal (or at least, you know, throw it to the end zone) while they were in easy range with time and timeouts left. It was staggering when they didn't kick after blowing the last timeout. It was John L Smith-esque when they bypassed the field goal on 4th and 10 while down 9 points with under a minute left. That was some of the worst end-game decision making I've ever seen - and keep in mind, I've been a Cleveland fan for a long time, so that's saying something!

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

"...even I was getting frustrated that they wouldn't just kick the field goal (or at least, you know, throw it to the end zone) while they were in easy range with time and timeouts left."

They weren't in "easy range" until Leftwich hit Miller to get to the PHI 22, after which they called their second timeout with 1:26 left. So they had some time, but only one timeout, and I don't think you kick the FG on first and 10 from the opponent's 22. At the very least, I don't think it's an obviously egregious coaching decision to keep going for the TD at that point, especially when you've just hit three of four passes and moved 61 yards.

On first and 10, they did throw it to the end zone, incomplete to Washington. Again, I don't think you kick the FG on second and 10 from the opponent's 22

On second and 10, Leftwich went left to Washington, who caught the ball at about the 14. Here is where the error took place, and it wasn't Tomlin's, it was Washington's -- he could have ducked out of bounds to set up third and two, but instead he decided to try for the first down; instead, he got tackled inbounds at the 13. So instead of having 3-2 at the PHI 14 with about 1:15 left and the clock stopped, PIT had to burn their third timeout to stop the clock at 1:08 with 3-1 at the PHI 13.

Again, though - I don't think you kick the FG on 3-1 at the opponent's 13. You take a shot at the end zone; if it's incomplete, the clock is stopped at about 1:00 and you kick the FG. Unfortunately, that assumes you have an offensive line that is able to block its way out of a paper bag, which wasn't the case. Sack, clock running, no timeouts left, and you should have had the FG unit ready to run in from the sideline with the clock running - which, if it wasn't, was also a coaching error, and while it's primarily the ST coach's fault, Tomlin has to take the responsibility for that.

The only coaching decision that I disagree with was going for it on 4-10 from the 22 instead of sending the FG unit in. At that point - less than a minute, no timeouts, and the clock running - you need a score and a miracle, so you take the best shot at the score.

But I wouldn't say it's worse game-end decision making then, say, kicking a FG to cut the lead from 7 points to 4 points with 3:24 left. Y'know, just saying...

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

NewsToTom: Cool. It looks like you've already done some research on this in the past.

Right now of the 32 remaining OOD games for the NFCE they would be underdogs in 9 of them using Week 2 DAVE with home field adjustment of 17%, which is more than I thought. But I think that number is going to drop by 2 or more with week 3 DAVE.

NYG @ AZ *


DAL @ AZ *

* = might change with week 3 DAVE. In particular I think Dallas would be -7 @ AZ if the game were next weekend.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Ben Riley, I COMPLETELY AGREE with you that the Colts should have run the ball when they got to first and goal at the 2. Run the time off the clock and/or make the Jags use their timeouts. Terrible play calling. It was that sequence, not Manning's pick six or the atrocious run defense, that lost them the game. (And you could add in the pass interference by the Jags on almost every Colts' pass play.)

Remember the Thanksgiving Sunday game about four years ago where the Colts mounted a furious comeback against the Patriots only to lose when the Pats stoned Edgerrin James four times from the one yard line? I honestly think the Colts are still traumatized by that. When facing short yardage on third down anywhere on the field, the Colts mix up their runs and passes, but at the goal line they go to fades and TE outs almost every time. Sends my blood pressure through the roof.

Discuss: The Colts are two games behind Tennessee and won't be at full strength until mid-season. Can the Colts win the division?

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Will - I pretty much agree with you on the QB/Rec thing - hard to imagine them doing much if they don't improve greatly in that area.

Having said that I really enjoyed watching the defence. They put serious pressure on the QB with very little blitzing. The blitzing they did do was very effective. EJ Henderson was fantastic.

After watching 3 games I don't honestly expect much but I really enjoyed watching the defence for the first time since about 1987-90 or so.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Vince Verhei: That pick-6 that manning threw WAS horrible, eh! It was almost as if the CB had grabbed Marvin Harrison by the jersey and threw him down on the ground. I know that didn't happen, because you didn't mention it. And someone as esteemed as yourself would definitely mention it.


121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Polamalu and Dawkins each made an amazing play in that game. Dawkins made a play where he was leaping through the air, knocked the ball out of Roethlisberger's hand, and then pounced on the ball.

On SNF, there was an unusual play in the first half which involved the ball coming out of Barber's hands and going right to another Cowboy.