Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Audibles at the Line: Week 7

compiled by Bill Barnwell

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Raiders fan, not so much.)

Green Bay Packers 31 at Cleveland Browns 3

Bill Barnwell: Not sure what the most yards after catch a fullback has gotten on a non-screen pass, but Spencer Havner just caught a pass at the sidelines and went 35 yards or so for a touchdown.

It takes the Packers six tries from inside the five to get the ball into the end zone. Six tries! And on the touchdown, Ryan Grant fumbles the moment after the ball crosses the plane.

Doug Farrar: Clearly, Norv is beaming his super-secret Red Zone Failure signals to the Cleveland area.

San Francisco 49ers 21 at Houston Texans 24

Doug Farrar: So much for the folderol regarding Michael Crabtree’s first NFL snap. On first-and-10 against the Texans, Joe Staley pinches inside to help the left guard, leaving Mario Williams completely and totally free to shoot through and sack the crap out of Shaun Hill. With that kind of protection, I’m thinking Crabtree might be more helpful with some VERY quick receiver screens.

Tom Gower: Matt Schaub displayed beautiful touch on a nice seam pass to Daniels to help set up a Slaton TD.  Patrick Willis had excellent coverage, but there was room over the top and Schaub hit Daniels in stride.  Though Slaton did finish off the drive, the Texans' problems in run blocking are still apparent.  One thing they tried to do was having Schaub fake a bad snap and run backwards in an attempt to distract the defense (Slaton still only got 2).  That's not something you normally see a team go to in the first.

Vince Verhei: With 8:43 to go in the second quarter, the 49ers get their first first down, on a short corner route to Crabtree. Their first three drives were all three-and-outs, against the 26th-in-DVOA Texans. The Houston defensive line is having their way with things -- which says all you need to know about the San Francisco offensive line.

And after the first down, Niners go three-and-out. But Crabtree has now tied Heyward-Bey in catches. (DHB is still ahead by 14 yards though. Crabtree should pass him before the fourth quarter starts.)

Bill Barnwell: Sal Paolontonio noted on Matchup that the Niners have more three-and-out drives than anyone in football.

Tom Gower: Ridiculously premature statistical projection alert: after Crabtree's second catch, PBP guy Chris Myers notes that Isaac Bruce didn't have any catches his first game, so he's already ahead of Bruce's pass for career catches.

Bill Barnwell: Wow. Shaun Hill benched for Alex Smith in Houston. I guess he has a better rapport with Crabtree than Hill does, considering Smith's job was to get him ready...

Doug Farrar: If they want rapport with Crabtree, I guess the next step is signing Graham Harrell.

Vince Verhei: You know, unless Smith brings some Steve Young-level escapability, this benching makes no sense. It's not Hill's fault that he's been swarmed by blue jerseys all day.

That being said, Smith did lead the team right down the field and hit Vernon Davis on a seam route for a touchdown, so what do I know?

Mike Tanier: Alex Smith, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree playing well? I am scared.

Vince Verhei: Smith hits Davis for another touchdown. Smith is playing very well (8-of-9 with two scores), but he's getting much better protection than Hill did.

Aaron Schatz: Alex Smith has thrown three touchdowns to Vernon Davis in the second half. This leads to the question: What did Mike Singletary do with his pants at halftime?

Tom Gower: Alex Smith can't complete the comeback-he spikes the ball on first down, has to throw the ball away on second down, scrambles for a couple on 4th down, takes his 3rd delay of game, then gets picked on 4th down overthrowing the seamer under pressure.  The 49ers continue to have OL issues, and Frank Gore's 13-32 against the Texans rush D suggests it's not just in the pass game.  Vernon Davis had a very nice game, though-looked like the matchup threat you'd expect coming into the league.

Will Carroll: In virtually every fantasy league I was in, I picked up Crabtree with the late "oh what the bleep" pick. I guess it's kinda paying off now?

Vince Verhei: I noted this in Any Given Sunday after the Falcons game, but the 49ers offensive line is quite likely the worst unit in the league. It's pretty much either them or the Raiders wide receivers.

Bill Barnwell: Can I make nominations for worst unit in the league? Because I really think the Chiefs secondary and the Bears offensive line deserve mention.

Tom Gower: Unless you're a big fan of Danny Amendola as a #2, Rams wideouts are definitely down there.

Doug Farrar: The Seahawks offensive line would like to nominate itself, but everyone got hurt in the voting process.

Vince Verhei: Check out our offensive line page for a bit. The SF line has been substantially worse then either SEA or CHI. It's really not close.

San Diego Chargers 37 at Kansas City Chiefs 7

Bill Barnwell: Vincent Jackson is absolutely ripping apart the Chiefs. He somehow ended up 50 yards downfield with only Jon McGraw on him, and while I think Jon McGraw is a nice little underrated player, he's not someone you match up against a huge WR that far downfield. They also just ran a really nifty throwback screen to Antonio Gates with the offensive lines pulling to either side.

It's irritating when the announcer suggests that Antonio Gates runs like a halfback, though. He doesn't -- honest. He doesn't even run like a wide receiver. His cuts are far slower, and he doesn't accelerate the way they do. He runs like a talented tight end, with the cuts more effective because people are afraid to tackle a guy so big. What's the shame in that?

Then again, the Chiefs just had Tyson Jackson in coverage on Antonio Gates off of a zone blitz in the end zone. Oops.

The Chargers proceed to fail to score with five plays inside the two-yard line against the Chiefs. Norv Turner challenges a Chris Chambers drop out of sheer desperation. Whee! Norv Turner is suck.

Doug Farrar: Some college teams now have co-offensive coordinators. Maybe A.J. Smith needs to hire someone to take the headset away from Norv from the opponent’s 20-yard line in. On the other hand, the Chargers are currently 31st in Power and 27th in Stuffed. We all know what happened to San Diego’s ability to deal with power on defense, but what’s the deal with their inability to generate power on the other side of the ball? They’re first in ALY to left tackle, but that’s probably sample-size – they only run that way five percent of the time.

Bill Barnwell: I've always been harsh on Matt Cassel, but he just made a gorgeous throw to Lance Long, splitting three defenders and hitting him in the hands, only for Long to lay out and drop the pass. He then tried to convince Todd Haley to throw the challenge flag on a pass he didn't catch.

Dick Enberg on the undersized, we'll say underpigmented Long: "He's one of those little guys with a lot of grit, quick, not exceptionally fast, but he'll try for everything..."

Not to pick on poor Jon McGraw, but he gets matched up as the one deep safety against Darren Sproles, who's the hot read on a big blitz and gets thrown a swing pass with about 25 yards of space. McGraw just freezes until Sproles makes his move, runs right by him, and goes for a touchdown.

Minnesota Vikings 17 at Pittsburgh Steelers 27

Mike Kurtz: It's a sack-and-punt fest in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is getting great field position and doing nothing with it. The defense, however, looks very sharp, especially the linebackers. In the last drive, they went
up for third-and-long in something akin to 11 Angry Men (had two linemen set, but the same vaguely-defined, ambling formation). Very cool.

David Gardner: I just saw the Holmes' touchdown catch (before it was called back for holding), how long has Holmes been doing the Joey Galloway-style flex celebration? I've never noticed it before.

Mike Kurtz: I believe he's been doing it since the start of this year, but not entirely sure. I'm almost positive that he didn't do it last year, so it's something relatively new.

Gay is really screwing it up this quarter. This drive popped when he made a huge mistake and delayed his CB blitz, which left his guy wide open. Another play, he fails to make a tackle on Berrian on a play to extend the drive.

The next play, while an incomplete, is really telling... he should know that Berrian is to his left, the outside. He notices that Berrian has cut his route short by the sticks. Gay turns around, to his RIGHT. It was an incomplete, but that is a massive mistake. The safety should be converging to the WR's inside, so the CB needs to be in position to make sure that the WR doesn't just grab the ball and streak down the sidelines, where no other defender would have an angle on him.

So, he's screwed up in ways both big and small. They'll probably start shading Polamalu to the left side to give Gay help against Berrian, because now he's lining up with a massive cushion.

Bill Barnwell: Adrian Peterson's carries so far: -1, 3, -3, 15, 3, -2.

Are the Steelers not isolating Ike Taylor against #1 guys anymore?

Mike Kurtz: It appears they're having Taylor play the right side this
week instead of matching up. Not sure if it's new for this game or if
they've done this the past few games, just noticed myself.

Aaron Schatz: Someone needs to tell the Vikings how the Cover-2 works. When you let Mike Wallace catch the ball in a colossal hole between the first level of defenders and the second level of defenders, it is the job of the second level of defenders to TACKLE HIM.

Mike Kurtz: Roethlisberger has looked really shaky the final drive of the half, but the final pass was a thing of beauty, right over the outstretched hands of the linebackers in the mid zone, right into Wallace's hands.

Favre has probably looked better of the two thus far today. I think we're going to see a lot of adjustments for fast-paced passing in the second half, the Vikings to keep the Steelers' defense as simple as possible, and the Steelers to take advantage of Roethlisberger.

Of course, they'll probably come out with the all-Willie Parker offense, with my luck.

Vince Verhei: I just want to thank the Steelers and Vikings for playing a close, entertaining game. Steelers lead 10-7 at halftime. In every other early game somebody was ahead by 14 points or more at the half.

Bill Barnwell: Benny Sapp with an early KCW nominee, as he hits Ben Roethlisberger with a diving headbutt heading out of bounds.

Mike Kurtz: Roethlisberger with a good scramble, runs just past the sticks and OOB, Sapp apparently believes he has been transported into the XFL and just launches himself at Roethlisberger as he's stepping out.

Bill Barnwell: You take that back. No one pulled that kind of crap in the XFL.

Doug Farrar: Sapp did make a nice move a couple of plays later betting a ball away intended for Hines Ward, but that late hit was stoo-pid. The way they’re protecting quarterbacks this year, I’m surprised Sapp didn’t get deported on the spot.

Wow. It would seem that Norv is now beaming to Pittsburgh. The Vikings have first-and-goal in the third quarter and go to Peterson on first down, Favre overthrows Sidney Rice by about 10 feet on second down, and throws an incomplete pass to Jim Kleinsasser on third down. Field goal. Or was that Brett Favre receiving the NorvGram and saying, “No thanks, man – I’ve got this one!”

Mike Kurtz: Holy crap, Santonio Holmes. Slant, Holmes shrugs, hops, then stiff-arms and makes a huge play after the catch...

And then Mendenhall dives, Williams jabs his arm in and pops the ball out. Jumping over the line not such a great idea.

Bill Barnwell: Fast Willie wouldn't have done that.

Aaron Schatz: Watching Harvin take a nice end around made me think: Whatever happened to all that talk about using Harvin in the backfield? Not just Wildcat stuff, but as a running back sometime? Hasn't really happened, right?

Vince Verhei: I'm watching this with Steelers fans who can't understand why the Pittsburgh corners are giving the Minnesota receivers 10-yard cushions. Then Percy Harvin blows right by Gay and his 10-yard cushion. The pass was underthrown and incomplete, but that shows why the cushions are so big. Maybe they should be 20 yards back.

Aaron Schatz: Sidney Rice is having a hell of a game, and he'd be having even more of a hell of a game if he didn't keep having good catches called back by holding penalties.

Bill Barnwell: Well, in all fairness, the holding penalties help make those plays happen.

Aaron Schatz: The holding penalties make it possible for Favre to get the ball there. They don't create the good catches by Rice.

Bill Barnwell: The strip sack of Favre that ended up turning into a touchdown was pretty remarkable beyond the obvious reason; that it followed an overturned touchdown. Notably, Favre totally loses his idea of where the ball is. It's rare to see a veteran -- let alone a downright old guy like Favre -- lose control of where the ball is.

That play's also a great example of why scoring touchdowns on defensive returns is mostly random. Woodley nearly fell over twice, just barely eluded the grasp of a tackler, and made his cuts at exactly the right time, while the offensive players took terrible routes to the ballcarrier.

Mike Kurtz: Part of the evils of Fantasy Football: I'm slightly annoyed because the sack/fumble/TD trifecta gave my opponent 9 fantasy points. By the way, Pittsburgh appears to be going with its patented "try to run out the clock way before the game is in hand" strategy. Awesome.

Bill Barnwell: Vikings strip Roethlisberger but try to pick the ball up. FALL ON THE BALL!!!!

Mike Kurtz: Gay may have lost the Steelers this game, right there, getting bowled over by AD.

The Steelers need to let them score, but they won't. And they will lose.

Bill Barnwell: No, because they get their second miracle return in a row, this time on a Brett Favre interception that hits Chester Taylor in the hands and falls right into Keyaron Fox's hands.

Will Carroll: Favre with the late INT, but watch the play - the LB gets the pick-6, but the guy chasing him is step for step .... and it's Loadholt, who's like 6'8 and big enough that Siragusa was calling him big. I'll say it again, step for step for about fifty yards. I'd love to see what that guy did in the 40.

Aaron Schatz: Kurtz, what's with the pessimistic Steelers fandom? Geez, man, two rings in four years. Don't be such a downer. You sound more like a Philly guy than a Pittsburgh guy with that kind of talk.

Mike Tanier: Philly fan? Two guys at my lunch table were complaining about how bad the Phillies bullpen will be next year. Those are true Philly fans!

Tom Gower: Mr. Kurtz is just that sort of fan, unfortunately.

Mike Kurtz: Aaron: not sure if it's Steelers fandom in general or just FOIRC, but we at least are ridiculously pessimistic. We even espouse the theory that Steelers performance is inversely proportional to how much the media hypes them. Agreed, for such a hugely successful team, we're really, really weird fans. But we do always believe the worst-case scenario.

Also, I generally just see the bad side of lots of things. That's why my comments are largely negative regardless of what I'm watching... I just notice the bad stuff more.

Bill Barnwell: You also see holds that the normal fan cannot see.

Mike Kurtz: I am an official. I may have a skewed perspective.

After the game...

Bill Barnwell: OK, really? The headline on the MIN-PIT game on NBC Sports is "Steelers stun Vikings behind Favre's late gaffes". Really? Favre was strip-sacked from behind after a penalty by someone else cost his team a otherwise-legitimate touchdown, and then hit Chester Taylor in the hands with a pass that bounced into a Steelers' player's hands. The returns have nothing to do with him. And people say we play the games on paper...

Indianapolis Colts 42 at St. Louis Rams 6

Bill Barnwell: The Rams bust out a flea flicker to Donnie Avery for 51 yards against the Colts. Considering that they follow that with a dropped quick slant by former Giants washout Tim Carter and a miscommunication on a route pattern heading into the end zone, the flea flicker might be a good base offensive play for the Rams.

Aaron Schatz: Check out the placement of the ball by Peyton Manning on the Dallas Clark TD pass. That thing was like six inches past the outstretched fingers of the Rams defender and landed nice and soft in Clark's hands. Sweet.

Doug Farrar: It is rare that you see a veteran like Marc Bulger telegraph a throw as he did on the third-quarter interception by Jacob Lacey. He gets the Samuel Morse Award for that one.

New England Patriots 35 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7

Bill Barnwell: Wembley really is a gorgeous stadium. Josh Johnson must have been admiring it, since he threw a spacing route about three seconds too late and Brandon Meriweather, himself often distracted by things occuring on the sideline, picked it off and returned it for six.

David Gardner: Games in London are awesome because hardly anyone in the crowd has a jersey for either team. The most recent jersey I've seen so far is Matt Ryan.

... And another Meriweather interception, this time off a tip on a pass intended for $25-million man Michael Clayton.

Bill Barnwell: I swear, I never even noticed that Michael Clayton had signed an extension. $25 million?! Really? For a guy with five consecutive seasons between 22 and 38 catches???

David Gardner: I remember flipping around on some local Tampa radio stations the day the extension was reported and all I could hear was weeping.

Aaron Schatz: Cadillac Williams has already slipped on the turf twice, and Antonio Bryant once, reminding us that groundskeepers keep a football field different than a soccer pitch (where the point is for the ball to
travel fast across the grass).

Bill Barnwell: I don't know if that's necessarily true. I mean, soccer players run more and make a fair amount of cuts.

Will Carroll: The grass isn't the issue, it's how it's cut. Wembley was kept by the NFL in "Super Bowl condition."

Aaron Schatz: They showed a shot of four Tampa Bay "fans" with Buccaneers bandanas covering their faces "bandit-style." The problem? 1) Bandit Ball was a DIFFERENT Tampa football team. 2) Two of these guys were wearing Roethlisberger jerseys, and a third was wearing a Peyton Manning jersey.

Sebastian Vollmer was supposed to be a project when the Pats took him in the second round, but he looks really good. How apropos for this European game to see the German playing well -- although I think if the NFL wants a homegrown European star, they would prefer someone who was NOT an offensive lineman.

Not to steal Uni Watch's thunder, but it's very strange in the Bucs-Pats game to see Brandon McGowan wearing red arm-warmer thingies when all the other Pats are wearing blue arm-warmer thingies.

Vince Verhei: As long as we're discussing uniforms, I tried to watch some UFL highlights last night, but gave up when I realized that every team in the league has the same colors, and those colors are white, sky blue, and lime green.

Mike Tanier: Oh gosh, those UFL uniforms were ugly. And the television feed was horrible. The HD Cameras must have been set to Ultra Bright or something.

New York Jets 38 at Oakland Raiders 0

Vince Verhei: Oakland first drive: JaMarcus Russell is sacked and fumbles. Jets recover on the 4-yard line.

New York first drive: Thomas Jones runs for 3, 0, and 0 yards, then finally picks up the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

A barnburner, this is.

Leon Washington fractures his fibula.

Will Carroll: That did not look good for Washington. It looked like ankle rather than knee.

Vince Verhei: Guys, JaMarcus Russell is getting worse. He just threw a pass while jumping backward that came down 8 yards short of his intended target for an easy interception that was returned inside the 10. Mark Sanchez runs it in on the next play.

Heyward-Bey did catch a 24-yarder to back in front of Crabtree in yards, though he still trails him in catches.

They just showed Robert Gallery on the sidelines with ponytail and shaggy beard. He looks like Bruiser Brody reincarnate.

In football news, Russell goes deep to a well-covered receiver and Darrelle Revis intercepts it in the end zone. It's Russell's third turnover of the opening quarter.

Bill Barnwell: And Rex Ryan gets the Colbert Award with a THIRD fake punt this year, this one from his own 23 on fourth-and-7. AWESOME.

JaMarcus Russell's coming out in Oakland. Fortunately, he qualified for Loser League this week, and delivered a -3.

Mike Tanier: Leon Washington is hurt? With Cotchery and Brad Smith out, will Wayne Hunter catch four passes for the Jets?

Vince Verhei: I don't know who Shonn Greene is, but he's ripping up the Oakland defense. He took a pitch to the right took off like a lightning bolt,
then broke tackles on an 8-yard up-the-middle touchdown run.

Will Carroll: Does it matter who Shonn Greene is at this stage? Wouldn't Frank Caliendo gain yardage running against the Raiders?

Aaron Schatz: Not necessarily. Richard Seymour definitely helped their run defense. Their problem is offense, not defense.

Mike Tanier: Running against the Raiders? Wish Andy Reid thought of that.

Doug Farrar: Question on the Shonn Greene touchdown run that put the Jets up, 38-0: Can you call it “breaking tackles” when the defense doesn’t appear to be making any concerted effort to wrap up?

Sean McCormick: This was a game where I expected the Jets to have trouble moving the ball through the air. Having watched Oakland dominate Philadelphia along the line of scrimmage and repeatedly play press coverage with cover one or cover zero looks, I expected that the same approach would work against a Jets team that was missing its second and third receivers. But that was predicated on Oakland showing up along the defensive line, and they most assuredly did not. The Jets offensive line looked like they were working against blocking sleds all day long; when Shonn Greene came in, he was breaking the kind of explosive runs that you would expect from Leon Washington, not from a guy who was brought in to pound out three yards a carry between the tackles. Sanchez didn't play exceptionally well--his touchdown pass to David Clowney hung up in the air and would have been picked off by a more alert corner, and there were another 1-2 throws that hit Raiders in the hands and were dropped--but the dominance of the offensive line meant that he could be as conservative as he needed to be.

Aaron Schatz: Fanntasy stampede on Shonn Greene!

Chicago Bears 10 at Cincinnati Bengals 45

Mike Kurtz: This game just has me speechless. The Bears' offensive and defensive lines are just getting destroyed 75 percent of the time, and it's showing. I could say that Cutler isn't having a great day, but it's really, really not his fault. Cincinnati looks really good.

Atlanta Falcons 21 at Dallas Cowboys 37

Vince Verhei: Atlanta ran what appeared to be a triple-option on their early touchdown drive. I'm sure in reality it was a fullback give and the quarterback and halfback activity was just for show, but how cool would it be if they started doing that regularly?

Doug Farrar: Early in the second quarter, Felix Jones puts on as impressive an exhibition of pass-blocking as you'll ever see. Cornerback Chevis Jackson shoots off the right edge on a corner blitz. Jones engages him, takes him off the ground with the force of his block, and hauls him backward a good five yards, Jackson in the air the whole time. He looked like he got picked up by a tornado. That there's what you call an ass-whomping.

Dallas had early red-zone success confounding Matt Ryan with a zone blitz in which DeMarcus Ware went into coverage, which you don't see every day.

Bill Barnwell: Tony Romo with the play of the week, juking and backdropping rushers in the backfield to create time and get the ball to Patrick Crayton for a touchdown. The only other person in the league who can make that play -- maybe -- is Big Ben.

Tom Gower: Matt Ryan, who's struggling some against DAL's surprisingly decent-seeming pass D, just misses the outstretched arms of Tony Gonzalez on a pass, but the ball continues on right into the waiting arms of Roddy White on the sideline.  Not sure which of the two he was throwing to, but if it was to Gonzalez, it's a bad and dangerous pass and if it's to White, it's right where it should have been.

Bill Barnwell: Almost positive it was to White and Gonzalez just ran his route too deep. Doesn't make sense that Gonzalez would run an out two yards short of the first down marker, and that Ryan would throw it.

Miles Austin just physically abused Brent Grimes on a back-shoulder fade for his second touchdown. I understand that it's Brent Grimes, but...Austin is blowing away Roy Williams. J.I. brought this up on Twitter -- the Jets could've offered Austin a contract this offseason that the Cowboys would've struggled to match and picked him up as a restricted free agent for a second-round pick. Instead, they acquired Braylon Edwards, will have to give him a bigger deal, and gave up two players and a third and a fifth for him, getting five fewer games of him in the process. And I'm pretty sure Austin's the better player.

Mike Tanier: So Romo is no longer a scrambler? Twice he has scrambled, and twice Aikman and Buck have commented that he isn't known for his running. Since when?

Bill Barnwell: Well, Mike, he's one of those little guys with a lot of grit, quick, not exceptionally fast, but he'll try for everything...

Doug Farrar: That’s actually Thom Brenneman in the booth with Aikman. Buck is getting ready to further disgrace baseball broadcasting with his buddy McCarver.

Vince Verhei: The best thing about the baseball playoffs is that it means Joe Buck is not around to ruin football games for a few weeks.

New Orleans Saints 46 at Miami Dolphins 34

The Dolphins get out to an early lead on the strength of their running game...

Aaron Schatz: DVOA defensive rankings for New Orleans going into this week:

vs. pass: 2
vs. run: 22

Since they had never been behind in a game until today, the Saints had faced twice as many pass plays as running plays in their first five games. So of course, that split didn't stop them from having the number two defense overall. But now here we are, they're down 14-3 against a team with a great running game, and we're seeing that Gregg Williams didn't solve ALL the problems with the New Orleans defense.

Vince Verhei: That does not explain why Drew Brees is currently 4-of-9 for 22 yards and a pick.

Bill Barnwell: Make that two picks, as a tipped pass falls into a diving Reggie Torbor's hands. Dolphins are blitzing Brees -- just like the Giants should have last week -- and forcing him into mistakes.

Aaron Schatz: Dick Stockton doing PBP on Saints-Dolphins just fell into the trap of conventional NFL team stats. "This is a surprise, because both these teams were strong against the run coming into this game -- Saints were fifth, Dolphins were third." No, no, no. Saints were fifth in yards allowed per game because nobody runs against them when they're trying to come back from a three-touchdown deficit. For crying out loud, dude.

Bill Barnwell: Color guy just added the mythos of "This is a day where you find out a lot about your ballclub, you find out how you react to playing from behind." Like the Saints haven't been behind in a game in either of the previous two seasons with mostly the same roster? What, is Darren Sharper going to bowl over and cry in the locker room at halftime?

Speaking of, holy crap. Darren Sharper has ANOTHER return for a touchdown.

David Gardner: The Miami-New Orleans game is getting a little crazy. Drew Brees threw a nice pass to Colston on a third and 12 around the Dolphins' 30. Colston had possession for a moment and then was stripped by Nate Jones who ended up with an interception and a touchback.

Aaron Schatz: Good point by Scramble Emeritus Ian Dembsky: Why are the Dolphins going pass-happy to start the fourth quarter? They're getting wrapped up in playing New Orleans' type of game. They should keep running, going Wildcat, breaking down that Saints run defense.

David Gardner: It's fitting that Drew Brees scored on a sneak to put the Saints ahead. It was his decision to go for it at the end of the half that allowed the Saints to crawl back in the game.

Tom Gower: That was a beautiful QB sneak/draw by Brees. Very nice design by Payton and well-executed.

David Gardner: Greg Camarillo catches a pass just before the two-minute warning and can't get the first down or get out of bounds. As he's heading toward the sidelines, he kind of shoves the ball out of bounds, and the officials rule it an illegal forward pass. It took them like 3 minutes of real time to decide. I don't know how you can determine his motives. It was hard to tell even from the replay, in my opinion.

Aaron Schatz: Well, the Dolphins really melted down here in the fourth quarter. Stupid penalties, dropped passes, and going away from the running game that got them the lead in the first place -- even before New Orleans actually went ahead. Quite a mental collapse. Adding a significant comeback to all those blowouts really makes the Saints look like the current best team in football -- unless that title belongs to the team that employs Archie's kid. Bring on the Manning Family Reunion in Miami.

Arizona Cardinals 24 at New York Giants 17

Aaron Schatz: Big news from the Giants: Kareem McKenzie inactive, making tonight the first regular season game since 2006 where the Giants will not start the same five linemen.

Mike Kurtz: NBC pregame stuff actually on the field during warm-ups, this week; Fitzgerald came over to rub Collinsworth's head, and they actually called over a Giant (forget which one) to come over and say hi. That was actually pretty cool.

Bill Barnwell: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the proto-DeAngelo Hall. He's fast and he has great ball skills. On the other hand, he doesn't have very good instincts, doesn't win the battle at the line of scrimmage, is awful in the running game, and is easily fooled. Of course, Hall never developed. We'll see if DRC does.

When did two people naked in separate bathtubs become the universal symbol of impending lovemaking?

Aaron Schatz: Spoken like a true single person, Bill. Us marrieds know that the first important purchase after you tie the knot is always matching bathtubs.

Cris Collinsworth is emphasizing that the Cardinals are bringing their safeties up to stop the run and dare the Giants to win with the pass, but that's not some kind of new strategy because they're playing the Giants. Have you seen the run defense numbers for the Cards this year? This is how they are playing against everybody.

Bill Barnwell: That screams "I didn't watch any game tape." I'm not saying he did or he didn't, but that's what it tells me. 

Doug Farrar: One thing I’ve noticed about Arizona’s defense in the switch from Clancy Pendergast to Bill Davis is that they’re much better with gap control, which I think is the key to their massive improvement in Defensive ALY, Power and Stuffed. Pendergast was more creative, but you’d see the defense flying around too fast, missing assignments and getting burned by any misdirection. Now, they’re much better at holding spaces and making key plays.

Aaron Schatz: Wow, with all the crazy personal fouls and roughing the passer penalties being called this year, how on earth did the officials not flag Antrel Rolle for the fourth quarter helmet-on-helmet hit on Kevin Boss that had Boss clearly woozy afterwards? Holy cow.

Doug Farrar: Rolle will be getting a letter from the league office and a charitable deduction from a future paycheck, I'm sure.

Penalty note #1: Can someone explain to me why Lyle Sendlein got flagged in this game for bobbing his head pre-snap, and Olin Kreutz got away with it about ten times last week against the Falcons? The only time the Bears saw a flag for it last Sunday was when Kreutz’s head movement got another Bears lineman to move early.

Penalty note #2: How was Antrel Rolle’s hit on Kevin Boss with four minutes left in the game not a 15-yard penalty under the “defenseless receiver” rule? He led with his helmet on a guy up in the air with his full attention on making a catch. It’s not a rule I’m in favor of, as it requires the refs to make bang-bang judgment calls and the players to go stop-motion in mid-air, but call the thing if you’re going to call it.

Aaron Schatz: Another set of playcalls here that may go down in the annals of strange clock management. Cardinals have a touchdown lead, luck into a Ahmad Bradshaw fumble with 3:30 left, and go pass, pass, pass -- with two of them incomplete and stopping the clock.

And oy, this kid William Beatty, the new right tackle, on this drive. Not a good set of plays. A false start, then he gets completely whipped on the blitz where the Cardinals tackled Bradshaw behind the line.

And some lousy throws by Eli Manning on this last drive, throwing to covered guys. He did it once on the left where the ball got slapped away, and then once on the right where Antrel Rolle picks it off.

Bill Barnwell: So this doesn't count as clutch Eli, right? I just want to make sure that we can separate clutch Eli situations solely into the ones where he plays well. 

Tom Gower: Obviously, Bill, Burress would have prevented the end zone interception and the interception at the end of the game, since he clearly would've outfought the DB in each case and caught those balls.

Sean McCormick: When Kenny Phillips went down, everyone assumed it would have a big impact on the Giants pass defense. Everyone was right. The Giants simply cannot cover the middle of the field at all, as their linebackers are subpar in coverage and their safeties are abysmal. No one noticed this for the first five weeks because of a schedule that featured potent passing attacks like Washington, Kansas City, Oakland and Tampa Bay, but against upper echelon passing attacks, the Giants are helpless to defend the deep middle. If they can't generate a pass rush, they're cooked. Speaking of pass rush, I think that's another area where the Giants have been able to camoflauge a big dropoff due to the poor quality of their schedule. It's not that the front four are necessarily worse off than they were last year (though they don't seem to be playing at quite the same level), but that the blitz packages have gotten radically less effective since Steve Spagnolo left.


178 comments, Last at 29 Oct 2009, 11:18am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"Who has the worst unit in football?"
That's a rather personal question, don't you think?

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

The Pack was at Cincinnati this week? I *thought* Paul Brown Stadium looked crowded.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

It isn't relevant, but I just wanted to point out that I think the announcers got it wrong. Havner is the #3 tight end / backup linebacker / special teams maven / foam finger / can coozy, but not fullback.

He has played a few random snaps at fullback, but his offensive position is primarily TE, and he was at TE on the play in question.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

You left out the best part about the Jets fake punt - that everybody on the Raiders turned around so quickly to cover it that the punter didn't even have to fake the kick. He just took the ball and ran downfield with everybody else until someone on Oakland finally noticed and tackled him. Committment to Excellence, indeed.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"and then hit Chester Taylor in the hands with a pass that bounced into a Steelers' player's hand"

While I would blame Taylor mostly for that, the ball shouldn't have been thrown to him. It was a screen where there were 3 defenders and 1 lineman. The best case scenario there is a loss of a couple of yards.

As to the Bears vs 49'ers offensive lines, I don't take much stock in ALY/ASR, etc. The 49ers atleast have a franchise LT to build off of. The bears might in Williams, but you can't tell yet, and the rest of the line is junk.

"Brandon Meriweather, himself often distracted by things occuring on the sideline, "

I don't get it.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

The Bears line consists of ancient Orlando who should retire immediately if not two years ago. Omayle whose natural position is T. I ll give him the benefit of the doubt that the reason he is so atrocious (I remember 2005 Orton being referred to as a tire fire...a superfund site these apply to Omayle)he is playong out of his natural position next to two horribly overrated yesteryear stars. Kruetz hasnt played decent since taking a barbell to the back of the head from Mitchell and I regularly fucks up snaps. He consistantly had issues with Orton, Grossman and now Cutler so it isnt the hands in his crotch.

Garza seems to be a tolerable player if not special. Williams seems alright but not something Im super excited we spent a first rounder on.

So what should the bears do in the short term? Beekman needs to be plugged back in at LG. Omayle or Pace need to ride the pine. Id tend to say Pace because we need to discourage his self destructing habit of putting on a Bears uniform. Not sure what else can be done at the moment.

In the long run we need to get rid of Pace, Kruetz and probably Omayle(depends whether the move back to tackle goes well). Unfortunately we have few picks next year to improve quality through the draft.


On the defensive end the line looks troubling. Harris or his knee are destroying the 3 position. Adams seems to be solid inside but other NT look um streaky? Dvorcek is a perennial IR player. Ogunleye is streaky and seemingly playing better in his contract year. Alex Brown is an all around solid end but isnt getting any younger. Draft picks having brought in enough talent so we traded for Gaines. Will Gilbert be a 3? Harrison? Idonije?


I know I shouldnt freak out yet but I really am worried about both these units in the near and long term.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I used to mercilessly rip Cedric Benson here when he was with the Bears, and having seen him this week, I have to say, yeah, he's nothing special. He's still not elusive, he still isn't very quick, he's still not hard to bring down near the line of scrimmage. I will say this for him - once he gets a head of steam, he can break a poor-to-decent tackle attempt, and he can side-step a bit. Since he rarely got to the second level with Chicago, that was hard to see. But that's really about all he has. Cincinnati has just been blowing holes for him all year. Hell, he was getting to the second level all day yesterday, and he still wound up with just over 5 YPC. I'm not saying he's terrible - he's not slow, he doesn't fall down Anthony Thomas-style when a CB sticks an arm out - but the Bengals should be thinking about what a good RB could do in that offense.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

You might want to see the play against the Steelers where he's hit behind the line, breaks two tackles and gains 15 yards. Or the one against the Ravens where he shrugs off a tackler at the line and gains 28 yards and a touchdown.

Or all those teams full of poor tacklers?

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

The Steelers defensive scheme has the corners give a 10 yard cushion on basically every play in order to allow them to read the play and be better positioned for run support, and also to try to prevent big plays in the passing game. There's nothing surprising about this, and the FOX announcing crew endlessly predicting the Steelers CBs would come up to the line, only to be killed by a Favre deep pass simply demonstrated a lack of preparation in that regard.

The downside to the scheme can be seen any time the Steelers play an especially accurate QB who can take advantage of the cushions for a "death by a million 7 yard slants" offense. See, e.g., 2007 Patriots-Steelers 2nd half.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Yeah, I haven't seen it commented on, but in the 2nd half MIN was employing an interesting strategy. While Pittsburgh's "nine angry men" were milling around the Vikings hurried up to the line and threw a quick 5-yard pass outside to a receiver. Of course, one time their timing was off and they got called for an illegal shift. It'll be interesting to see if other teams copy this tactic.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Yes, Wade Phillips uses a similar technique for his corners in Dallas (though with less success because our corners aren't as good). Most announcers, whenever the Cowboys coverage struggles, will consistently remark on how the corners have "got to start playing tight"-- never mentioning that they ALWAYS play 5-7 yards off the receivers.

8 Minnesota - Pittsburgh

As a fan of the Vikings that was a very frustrating game. As a fan you tend to have a less than objective view of the game but it really did seem that the bounces of the ball and penalties went all Pittsburgh's way with the exception of the Mendenhall fumble and the offensive pass interference call negating a Pittsburgh TD.

I think the penalties were 11-3 against Minnesota and one was particularly damaging on the Rice TD call back.

Has anyone noticed that A. Peterson is a far more complete player this year? His pas blocking has improved dramatically this year and yesterday was by far his best game as a receiver. Far had him wide open for a TD on the play he overthrew Rice in the end zone as well.

The glaring weakness on the Vikings this year is there safety play. It has been horrendous. I don't think there is another area where the Vikings aren't getting above average to - very good performance. Both safeties look so terrified to let a guy get behind them (something they almost never allow) that they never get anywhere near guys 20-30 yards down the field and end up to far away to make a decent tackle. I think Frazier has them playing scared.

11 Re: Minnesota - Pittsburgh

Well, it was about time for luck to catch up with the Purple. At least it came against a good team. And as BB mentioned at least the fluky defensive TDs weren't 'Favre being Favre.' It's also good to know BB is still on MIN holding watch.

The Steelers did get called for a pick early. I'm sure that was because they made a point of telling the officials to look for picks after Harvin laid that dude out last week.

23 Re: Minnesota - Pittsburgh

I've watched the Harvin "pick play" against Baltimore a few times. I don't think it was a pick - the guy on Baltimore made a quick change of direction in his coverage route and Harvin didn't - I think that's why there was a no call on that play.

That is of course debatable - but have you noticed how hard it is to knock Harvin off his feet. He packs a wallop for such a smallish looking player.

113 Re: Minnesota - Pittsburgh

Harvin's something like MJD in that he's much stronger than you might think from his size and build. In college he was almost never taken down by the first guy, and often not by the second, even when running between the tackles, and you could generally count on him to get two or three yards after contact.

98 Re: Minnesota - Pittsburgh

In reply to by jimm (not verified)

I only saw one call that I thought was questionable; the remainder of the game was simply a factor of luck (and a bad screen pass - both the decision by MNPQ and the non-catch by Taylor).

The thing that had me yelling at the TV was the Vikes' trying to scoop up Roethlisberger's fumble, instead of simply falling on it. I was livid over that one - everyone knows that you go for secure possession first, THEN try to move the ball (if possible).

The other thing that started to tick me off was Kluwe's "return to form". His first few punts were noxious. Perhaps rumors of Loate's demise were greatly exaggerated...

All in all, though - I'm not too put out about their first loss. They played as well as the Steelers, in Pittsburgh, and without one of their top defensive players.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Anyone know what the unwritten rules are about using the umpire as a screen on short crossing routes? I'm sure it's legal to do (part of the whole "refs are part of the field" concept) but since it's not exactly health-positive for the umpire I'd have to think the crew would take action if a team started doing it too much.

(I'm thinking of Welker (who had a 100% catch rate yesterday) picking up a first down on something like 3rd-and-14 by running his man smack into the umpire.)

18 Umpire location

I don't think there are any; which is why apparently the NFL is both discussing armoring the refs, and moving the umpire's location after this year.

Which is too bad, because Welker has made into an art form using the umpire to pick his defender.

42 Re: Umpire location

Welker is really really good at it. I've seen some other WR's do it as well (Reggie Wayne, Hines Ward come to mind). It's a very effective tactic, but I can't imagine the league smiles on it, even if it is technically legal.

93 Re: Umpire location

Does "part of the field" mean that if the ball carrier touches the ump with a part of the body other than hand or foot, he's down by contact?

95 Re: Umpire location

In reply to by tunesmith (not verified)

I doubt it. After all, if a player touches the field with a part of the body other than hand or foot he's not down -- unless an opponent contacts him while he's "down".

However, I believe that if a ref has one foot OOB and a ballcarrier makes contact with the inbound part of the ref, the ballcarrier is OOB. Likewise, if a forward pass hits a ref it's incomplete right then and there even if someone catches it off the carom.

(And maybe if the NFL would post its full rulebook like all the other major US leagues do, we could easily find out if I'm actually correct.)

99 Re: Umpire location

In reply to by PatsFan

However, I believe that if a ref has one foot OOB and a ballcarrier makes contact with the inbound part of the ref, the ballcarrier is OOB. Likewise, if a forward pass hits a ref it's incomplete right then and there even if someone catches it off the carom.

I would pay good money to see that happen on Sunday Night Football, if only to hear Collinsworth's head explode.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Rough game for the Giants.

The WRs were simply not getting open. Collinsworth highlighted some of their problems on the broadcast. Eli was throwing to covered receivers because there just weren't any open receivers. Related: the refs were letting pretty much everything go in the secondaries-- both sides got away with plenty of DPI, defensive holding, etc. (The Giants defensive coaches probably should've went with more pressure and more man coverage based on this.)

Sean's assessment of the defense is pretty accurate. This is looking more like the banged-up late-2008 defense than like the late-'07 to early-'08 defense. I think the DL has been weak because Fred Robbins simply isn't the player he was in '08. (He had microfracture surgery on his knee in the offseason.) With Alford (IR) and Canty (should be back after the bye) out, and with Rocky Bernard looking very ordinary (no surprise), teams can double the DEs and not have to worry about the pocket being pushed from the middle. And until Michael Boley is healthy (who should also help some of the over-the-middle coverage issues), they really don't have a good blitzer in their LB corps-- their best blitzes tend to come from DBs.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I agree with all of those points. I would like to see the Giants play more man coverage as the corners are the strength of the secondary (faint praise, I know). Matching CC Brown up one-on-one with any nonlineman might turn out to be a disaster, but these passive zones the past two weeks have been an open invite for teams to throw at the safeties/linebackers.

On offense, the playcalling was dreadful. While it's true that wrs aren't getting open, a lot of that comes back to Gilbride, who has to develop a passing game that plays to his team's strengths. Right now he has short, quick receivers with only average straight line speed and a quarterback whose biggest weakness is inaccuracy on the deep ball. So naturally he calls a go route once every 3 plays (including multiple times on 3rd and short!) in which the wideout fails to get separation or win a jump ball, and on the rare occasion he is open, Eli misses him. The Giants receivers are best at getting separation out of their breaks and running after the catch, yet I don't think the Giants have a slant in their playbook, and they ignore the short-to-intermediate game entirely aside from wr screens and flat dump-offs to running backs or tight ends. I thought this year was going to be better after the Washington and Dallas games featured mostly 10-20 yard passes, but yesterday Gilbride was as bad as I've ever seen him.

My proposed solution is that we trade unpopular coordinators with Chicago. Gilbride's scheme would make much more sense there where Cutler throws a gorgeous deep ball and Hester and Knox have speed to burn on the outside. I know Ron Turner is despised in Chicago, but I'm willing to chance it. I can't imagine any passing scheme being a worse fit for the Giants' personnel than the one Gilbride is running.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I can't say that I agree re: the offensive playcalling. The offense went nowhere because the WRs didn't get open or make plays. That's not on Gilbride's playcalling, it's on the players' execution. They had single coverage and were running patterns that were appropriate for the defenses they faced. Regardless of whether your WR corps is big and strong or small and quick, your guys should be getting open with some consistency when they're running the CB downfield without safety help.

Most of the 'go' routes that the Giants ran were simply a reaction to where the defense is. The Cards chose to crowd the line and chance single-coverage deep. Given that opportunity, the Giants have to take a few shots at making them pay for that decision. It's not as if every receiver is running deep-- on all of those deeper passes, there have been guys running routes that would move the sticks if completed. Those shorter routes were just being covered well because they were what the defense expected. The 10-20 yard passes we saw against WAS and DAL are what you get when the defense is playing zone with safeties deep. When they're blitzing the safeties, or leaving only a single-high, you run posts, corners, etc., with appropriate double-moves to get your WRs open against their man.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Oh Hell, you're probably right. Without access to coaches' tape for every pass play they ran, it's difficult to know how accurate my criticisms are. Mondays after losses are when my analysis is at its least objective. If things aren't better next week, don't be surprised if I start mentioning sierra nevada in my posts and explaining how the Cowboys and Redskins are crap teams.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

OK, a full NFL roster made up of the worst units I've seen:
QB — Raiders
RB — Texans
WR/TE — Browns
OL — Bills
DL — Lions (though half of them have been injured)
LB — Chiefs
DB — Titans
Long snapper — Bengals

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Slaton has been fumblerific so far this season, but he's also been a very dangerous receiver, and frankly the problem with the Texans running game is primarily (though not exclusively) that both starting guards are on IR and the center's not very good.

Also, the crappy Bengals longsnapper is no longer the Bengals longsnapper. They cut him, unsurprisingly.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I would like to vote for DA (Browns) as the worst QB in the league. I know JaMarcus is funnier to make fun of, but DA has a QB rating of 40 and a completion percentage of 43%. I mean this guy is putrid.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Umm....Zach Miller is much better than Browns players, but WR's are a wash. Loius Murphy and DHB have not been exciting to watch, although JaMarcus helps them fall down a hole.

Remeber DA has a 2 time pro bowl LT and former pro bowl LG, a first round C, and two supposedly serviceable other linemen. Raiders are pretty awful upfront.

OAK and CLE talent = awful for both teams, IMHO

DA has been one of the worst QB's in a four and half game stretch that I have ever seen.

He is averaging two turnovers a game and JM is only averaging a paltry

I know QB rating is flawed, but DA has a 40.6 rating. Even JM has a higher rating. They both should be out of football or at min a 3rd stringer not playing on another NFL roster

Browns RB's are definately worse than every other team as well. I thought that was a given and didn't need to be argued about. Jamal is a fullback at best right now and Jerome Harrison is a scat (no pun there at all) back at best. Gotta remeber we killed our supposedly talents rookie by making him run the gaunlet w/o pads after practice and broke his shoulder. FYI, he was garbage time RB at best anyway.

Steve Slaton is good young player and will continue to grow, IMHO

Browns, Rams, Oak, KC, TB are in a heated race for who can draft next year's biggest draft bust. It doesn't matter who they draft, the team will kill him with constant coach and coordinator changes until they suck so bad, they get a radio show in some city they lived in 20 years earlier and rant about how lame their former team is.

Such is the struggle of rooting for a team owned by morons.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Raiders have a better TE, and lets go ahead and call the WRs a wash, since we have no idea what Louis Murphy and DHB are.

The Raiders still have a run game, especially when McFadden is healthy. The Browns don't have that.

Russel also has a lower DYAR and DVOA than Anderson. He also doesn't have any prior evidence of success like Anderson does. I think he's a safer pick for the all-suck team.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

All true,

sad that I'm arguing who is worse DA or JM.......sad sad sad state of affairs

I just want DA added to the mix in the QB suxors the most discussion. I have Direct Ticket and watch all the games and I really think DA's stretch this year has been worse than JaMarcus's stretch.

Not to say JaMarcus isn't one of the colossal busts of alll time. He is the new and imporved Ryan Leaf, but DA needs to be mentioned on here for ineptitude and downright "How in the eff are you starting in the NFL?"

Also, I wouldn't recommend watching Browns or Raiders games, as the product is quite horrendous

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Every time I watch JaMarcus, I'm reminded of something Peter King wrote in March, 2007:

"I think, first of all, there's almost no chance the Raiders will trade Randy Moss...

OK, so two straight frustrating seasons have left Moss unhappy. The Raiders aren't too thrilled with him either, and he turned 30 three weeks ago. But here sits Oakland now, with the first pick in the draft, and with a quarterback they're gradually coming to like a lot, JaMarcus Russell, in their sights. Russell can stand at the 20-yard line on a windless day, take one step, and fling a spiral into the end zone 80 yards away. Why on God's green earth would they ever consider trading the guy who could make such beautiful music with Russell over the next two or three years?

There was a reason the Raiders traded for Moss, and that reason was to pair him with a quarterback with a great arm. Unless Moss has told Raiders brass, "I will not try if you keep me here'' (and I'm told he has not), it's foolish to entertain any offers for him. If Russell is playing by mid-October, Moss should have a 1,400-yard, 12-touchdown season."

Well, he was right about moss having a big year in 2007..

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Louis Murphy can get separation but he can't catch, though JaMarcus isn't helping. He's a pretty decent blocker.

As far as I can tell, DHB can't do anything. Both of the last two Raiders games have been blacked out, so I can't tell you anything very recent.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

DL? What? Good sir, I must vehemently yet respectfully disagree. Even last year, the DL wasn't the weak link in the defense (although comparing DL, LB, and DB on the 2008 Lions would be like arguing about which part of the Titanic hit the ocean floor first), but this year the DL has actually acquitted itself rather well.

They are getting pressure even with a four-man rush, getting significant pressure with blitzing help, and stopping the run on a fairly regular basis (3rd in Stuffed and 5th in Power). If you've watched Cleveland play, I don't think you should be considering the Lions for worst DL.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

You defend your team admirably, good sir. I admit I've only sat through one Lions game, in which they did register five sacks. My judgement is probably tainted from the trauma of watching them flail around last year, looking dispirited.

By contrast I have suffered through two Browns games plus 14:57 of OT and during all that time I don't remember making a single observation about their defensive front seven. Isn't that funny?

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Love this list, but Miami must have the league's worst WR/TE crew. Ted Ginn, the team's #1, directly scored an own-goal against New Orleans by tipping an exceptionally-thrown ball into the Saints' hands. Late in the fourth quarter, he dropped an easy shoulda-first-down ball right in front of his own bench, and then dropped a perfect over-the-shoulder pass in the end zone. The Dolphins would have beaten the Colts, if he hadn't dropped the game-winner in the end zone.

Why do they keep throwing to him? Nobody else in the unit runs faster than 4.7.

And don't get a Dolfan started about Anthony Fasano's fumbles, drops, and other drive-killers this season.

173 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I think you meant the Rams minus Jackson, plus Jamal Lewis and the Bengals old long snapper. The part of this NFL season I like the best is that there's so many terrible teams that the debate on who's worst can be nearly as intense and twice as funny as who's the best.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

You think Nick Saban still stands by his Dante Culpepper over Drew Brees choice? Oh the pain, the pain.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

A Dolphins fan I know said that the Miami Herald recently asked Saban about this and, yes, he still defends it. Part of his rationale is the medical opinion he received on Brees's injury. Unfortunately I can't get the Google machine to find the article.

Also, I'm reminded of Wannstedt's quote when the Dolphins selected CB Jamar Fletcher in the draft instead of Brees. It something along the lines of, "Well, in today's NFL we put a third cornerback on the field 60% of the time." I remember thinking, "That's nice Dave. What percentage of the time do you play a QB on offense?"

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

If you are the Dolphins, the percentage of time you play a QB on offense is pretty low. Wannstedt probably was just thinking to himself "three or four head coaches from now, this Miami team will probably come up with some kind of wacky, no quarterback offense, and they'll hate to be stuck with a guy like Brees taking up roster space when that day comes."

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

To describe how I felt about the Bucs-Pats game . . . the first half is winding down, and they flash a graphic on-screen that shows that both teams still had all three of their time outs. My thought? "Hey, awesome, the Bucs didn't have to burn any time outs because Johnson couldn't get the play call right!" Seriously, I was actually happy and a bit excited when I saw that, and then I realized how utterly pathetic that is. Pretty much describes this season. If it wasn't for Barrett Ruud, Tanard Jackson, and Aqib Talib, I think I'd be OK with setting the entire defense on fire and starting over.

I'd also like to congratulate Raheem Morris and the rest of the Bucs coaching staff for deciding that the best time to give the new rookie QB NFL action was when you are down 35-7 against a really good team, and you're playing overseas. Way to ease him in slowly there, nice and gentle.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Had a brief scan through the Loser League teams while waiting for the beetroot to cook … Has anyone ever dominated the rosters like JaMarcus Russell? Of my random selection of a dozen amusingly-named teams, all but one had drafted the "nwe J.Elway".

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Yeah, I had like five minutes to throw together my LL team before the deadline (and I think I actually missed the midnight deadline, but got it in before the first game of the season kicked off, so it was legal), so it absolutely sucks (from a LL perspective, that is) -- but Jamarcus Russell was a no-brainer, Ol' Mr. Reliable.

And now he's benched. I'm heading for the 70+ points per week bracket...

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Matt Ryan, who's struggling some against DAL's surprisingly decent-seeming pass D

Part of that due to getting Gerald Sensabaugh back, part of it is due to Mike Jenkins having the game of his life, but most of it due to having the pass rush back. The pass rush is still the core of the Cowboy's defense, and without it they will struggle.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I still think the Saints' run defense is pretty good and much improved over last season. Outside of long run by Ricky in which the corner took a horrible angle, the Dolphins were 29 for 69 yards. Even with the run, the Saints held a run-first team to 137 yards and pretty much forced the Fins to give up on the wildcat in the second half by run-blitzing their corners.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Exactly, other than that one long run, we bottled up the Dolphins running game all day, especially in the second half. And the wildcat? 14 plays for 30 yards. Oooh, impressive.

I don't know why sites like this can't actually give us credit instead of back-handed compliments.

Face it, the Saints have got a good defense this year Aaron, Bill et al, but keep discounting us if you want, we're not at or near the top of all these rankings by accident you know.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Bill Barnwell: Color guy just added the mythos of "This is a day where you find out a lot about your ballclub, you find out how you react to playing from behind." Like the Saints haven't been behind in a game in either of the previous two seasons with mostly the same roster? What, is Darren Sharper going to bowl over and cry in the locker room at halftime?

Aaron Schatz: Well, the Dolphins really melted down here in the fourth quarter. Stupid penalties, dropped passes, and going away from the running game that got them the lead in the first place -- even before New Orleans actually went ahead. Quite a mental collapse. Adding a significant comeback to all those blowouts really makes the Saints look like the current best team in football -- unless that title belongs to the team that employs Archie's kid.

You're right - there's just no respect for the Saints from this FO staff.

158 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I didn't say the Saints weren't getting respect, just backhanded compliments. The quote from Aaron that you've used there is a prime example - according to him the Dolphins lost the game due to their own mistakes, never mind the fact that the Saints dug deep, made some plays and showed real character to come back from a 21 point deficit.

And further up in the game comments, Aaron mentioned the Saints run defense not being that great and the high ranking was misleading because no-one had run against them because of all the big leads they'd had in games. Well, how did the Saints get back into this game? By running the ball, even though they were 2 scores down. Teams can still try to run the ball against the Saints if they're a few scores down, no-one's forcing them to pass the ball!

Just curious, but when the '99 Rams burst on the scene, did people think they were the real thing, or did so-called experts keep expecting them to trip up cos they weren't a big name team? IMO the same thing is happening to the Saints this year and it's almost as though everyone is waiting for our first loss so that these experts can pull out the "I told you so, they're the same ol' Saints" line.

Not saying the Saints are the best team in the league, or they're gonna win the SB, but if it were the Bears/Cowboys/Packers/Eagles etc who were doing this, do you think everyone would keep waiting for them to trip up? Probably not.

160 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

First: Aaron's point was about the Saints' run defense, as you yourself state. I don't understand what relevance the Saints' rushing offense has to Aaron's comments about the Saints' run defense. Yes, teams "can" run the ball when they fall way behind, but most tend to shy away from it. Entering the game, the Saints' run defense was 22nd in DVOA, which is a pretty good indication that a top-5 "ranking" by yardage is a bit misleading. To back up Aaron's point, only three teams had faced fewer rushing attempts than the Saints did through six games.

Second, you complain about Aaron's stinginess when it comes to praising the Saints, despite his statement that they look like they're the league's best team. The thing that makes it funnier is that you explicitly say you're not saying they're the best. If you can't see the absurdity in that, then I give up.

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"Not saying the Saints are the best team in the league"

I am.

They might even be favourites for the Superbowl, although I think Indy probably edge them in that category because they may have an easier run through the playoffs.

176 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

The FOMBC only strikes when fans come by and angrily cry out that their team is disrespected/underrated by DVOA due to b.s. reasons; Saints fans believing that their team, which is #1 in DVOA after seven weeks, is the favorite to win the NFC is not curse-worthy.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

For all the knocking of the undoubtedly poor 49er offensive line, I feel I should point out that the Texans front 7 has really been pretty good over the last four weeks. SF managed 59 yards rushing, a fair chunk of it from Alex Smith, and that's the most rushing yards any team's managed to hang on Houston in that timeframe. Ok, so neither Oakland nor Arizona can run the ball too well against anybody, but Cedric Benson and the Bengals offensive line that's drawing so much praise elsewhere in this thread couldn't get much of anything going either. Even in the Titans game, Tennessee's huge rushing numbers came almost entirely on two plays; the rest of the game Johnson was continually stuffed. Since the week 3 debacle against Jacksonville, those big plays seem to have been eliminated (possibly thanks to the addition of Bernard Pollard at SS). No-one's going to mistake the Texans for the 2000 Ravens any time soon, but this is a vastly superior defense to any Houston has fielded since 2004, and Cushing-Ryans-Diles is looking like one of the stronger 4-3 linebacker groups around. If Cushing can stay healthy, he's going to be an awesome player. Now if they could just fix that secondary . . .

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Aaron Schatz - Watching Harvin take a nice end around made me think: Whatever happened to all that talk about using Harvin in the backfield? Not just Wildcat stuff, but as a running back sometime? Hasn't really happened, right?"

They certainly have gone away from that after doing a fair bit of it in week 1 and 2. Personally I would like to see more of Harvin running the ball because he is both elusive and very difficult to knock off his feet. But, you have quite a few options on this team - Peterson, Rice, Harvin, Berrian, Shiancoe - all of these players have shown they can be quite dangerous.

One very nice added benefit of a more balanced offensive team is that Peterson isn't having to take on a huge carry load. He's on a pace for 315 carries. I wouldn't want to see him much higher than that.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

But, you have quite a few options on this team - Peterson, Rice, Harvin, Berrian, Shiancoe - all of these players have shown they can be quite dangerous.

The QB keeper, on the other hand - not such a concern anymore...

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I am still mystified as to why Miami called that timeout just before the half. What, did they hope to preserve some clock to mount a late drive?

Hail Hydra!

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Agree...that was, curious, to say the least. Since the catch was reviewed and the clock would start at the "ready to play" signal, even a FG attempt by the Saints would have been a little rushed. But to call a TO and let them look at the situation, and then do the obviously tactically smart thing? It was a decision worthy of Norv.

And the result...the Saints just went marching in.

(Sorry, couldn't resist).

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Even as a Saints fan, I thought they called time-out because they didn't have the right personnel on the field, or not enough. Glad they called it though.
BTW, if anyone didn't know it already--Brees has a big pair of brass ones.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

From reading articles about the game today, apparently they only had 10 guys in, and they wanted to make sure they had the right personnel.

If the Saints wanted to, they could have still spiked the ball (it was 1st down, and their backup QB is holder), and gotten their offense onto the field, but that wasn't the plan until they called timeout.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

The Vikings have had their share of good fortune this year, so fans of the purple can't gripe too much, but I will anyways. The tripping call that erased a touchdown, and preceded the strip/sack td return, was marginal at best, and a complete phantom at worst. Also, on that same drive, the Vikings had a very long completion negated by a "holding" call on Mckinnie that only Mike Kurtz or Bill Barnwell (sorry, couldn't resist) could love.

Really, really, really (really) hated the two pass plays on the goal line, as opposed to a commitment to run the ball with Peterson three more times, including fourth down, and I was saying it before 2nd down. I had to watch the game quickly on the DVR, so I can't say for sure whether the 50 passes by the Zombie King, and 18 rushes by Peterson, was the result of bad scheming by the Vikings, or something dictated by the Steelers scheme. I just know that it is easier to feel good about Peterson not being overexposed to wear and tear when the Vikings win.

Well, the game was pretty much a tie game (actually, I think the Vikings probably won the DVOA battle) in which the Steelers had slightly better fumble, referee, and tipped ball luck, in their home stadium. The disconcerting thing for Vikings fans is that, after 7 games in which nearly everything has gone well, the Vikings are one loss away, Sunday at Lambeau, from being in a dead tie with the Packers, at least in the loss column. Then again, a win at Lambeau Sunday puts them in great, great, shape. Should be fun to watch.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"Tripping is the use of the leg or foot in obstructing any opponent (including a runner) below the knee"

I'm going on memory here, but I believe Dugan went low to block Harrison who sidestepped and then had to hurdle his legs (as Dugan had somehow managed to turn a diving shoulder block into a flying body wedge). After the game Childress mentions that it wasn't tripping because Dugan had some grapefruit-sized bruise on his thigh. But according to this, the leg as a whole cannot be used to impede a player, and a bruise on his thigh would only confirm the trip. Contact, by the way, does not matter a whit here. Simply the act of throwing your leg out to impede is enough. In fact, if there were contact, then it would be a 15-yard leg whip.

Really, the NFL rules have become so confusing that outrage and hysteria is generated anytime an ill-informed broadcasting crew is at a loss to explain a call. Usually they have a grasp of the rules; here not so much.

On another note, I'd like to announce the creation of the Moose Johnson award. Given to those players who exhibit tremendous effort in the face of absolute failure. Moose couldn't stop talking about the effort shown by the Vikings offense, even as they gave up two 70+ yard touchdown returns to guys whose 40 times are measure using the hour hand of a clock. Can you really laud the effort under those circumstances?

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Probably no one watched it because it, but here are my thoughts on the NE-TB game.

* English NFL fans are really they show up to the game wearing whatever NFL jersey they own, even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with the teams on the field. My favorite was near the beginning where they cut to about six fans in quick succession--Patriots jerseys, watching the game, Bucs jerseys, watching the game, Cowboys jerseys, watching the game, Jets jerseys, making rude gestures and arguing with each other.

* OK, the Patriots are now officially evidence of why teams carry real fullbacks on this roster. This whole idea of "OK, let's use some random backup offensive lineman as our fullback whenever we need one" just isn't working.

* On Vollmer...he's a very good run blocker, from what I can see--it's actually refreshing to see the Pats be able to run behind left tackle a little for a change. And he's tolerable in pass long as all he has to do is use his size and arms to deny the inside rush lane and push the DE up the field, forcing him to go wide. However, I think he struggles when he has to hold protection unaided for any period of time against fast DE's. Some of Brady's troubles were due to pressure, and a lot of that pressure was rushing wide around LT.

* Brady still has some cobwebs. His two INTs, while not terrible decisions or throws (both were extremely athletic catches by the DB), were intercepted because they were slightly underthrown, allowing the safety to fly in and have an opportunity. Later on, he overthrows a (reasonably) open Randy Moss down the sideline.

* Props to the Bucs for playing hard, and not giving up even when down, the way the Titans did.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

English NFL fans are really they show up to the game wearing whatever NFL jersey they own, even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with the teams on the field. My favorite was near the beginning where they cut to about six fans in quick succession--Patriots jerseys, watching the game, Bucs jerseys, watching the game, Cowboys jerseys, watching the game, Jets jerseys, making rude gestures and arguing with each other.

I noticed that too, and thought it was endearing. After all, this might be their best opportunity to see any NFL game, so it makes sense for a British fan to go for the opportunity to experience a game live, regardless of their rooting preferences.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Right. It's not like we don't know who's playing - we love the NFL, we're delighted to get the chance to watch a game, even if the team we support is not playing, but we're not about to go and buy memorabilia for some team that isn't ours. Wearing kit from any team is a talking point, and a means to identify fellow fans of that team. Not that I do it - but then 1. I'm a stingy so-and-so, and therefore don't own a Texans jersey, and 2. I'm not convinced there are any fellow UK Texans fans out there to identify.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

2. I'm not convinced there are any fellow UK Texans fans out there to identify.

There aren't any...

I went again this year, and kept a tally of all the different team jersey's seen (part of the game of jersey bingo I was playing with friends), and the Texans were the only team not seen

For the second year running, as well...

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I guess the Schaub jersey I saw may have been the only one in the entire stadium then. My friend and I were watching for the most obscure NFL jersey we could find; the Schaub one wasn't on the list. I'm beginning to rethink its position now.

Now that I reflect, we definitely saw more JaMarcus Russell jerseys than Matt Schaub ones. That in itself is quite disconcerting.

For the record, we were torn between the Oakland #32 Harrison and a Miami #99 whose name was covered by a hood.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

And he's tolerable in pass long as all he has to do is use his size and arms to deny the inside rush lane and push the DE up the field, forcing him to go wide. However, I think he struggles when he has to hold protection unaided for any period of time against fast DE's

Though the CBS crew thought they saw Vollmer limping a bit for a bunch of the game and said they thought his performance got noticeably worse once that started happening. Of course, this was Simms and Nantz, so apply what grains of salt you deem necessary.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Yeah, I was really surprised that Levoir wasn't in at that point. They activated him for the game, and Vollmer was clearly hurt.

That being said, I REALLY like what I see of this kid. Considering that Kazcur just got reupped, I wouldn't be surprised to see Light traded at the beginning of next season. They've got two backups that they seem to like (in Vollmer and Levoir), and Light is due $5M next year.

As to the Picks, Tate was open on the long one, and the ball was underthrown by quite a bit. He had to slow down, and I don't think he ever saw Talib coming.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Mmmh, I like Vollmer (remember, he is still a rookie), but Light is still way better. Injured or not, Vollmer produced two holds and pressure on Brady on a couple of other plays. I felt he wasn't able to deal with speedy DEs. And didn't the Pats put extra protection with TE or RB in on Vollmer's side on many plays the past weeks since Light went out?

5 Mio for an above average LT is cheap in my eyes, esp. without a cap. And Light is still very good. Even if he may have trouble again with Freeney in three weeks.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

And didn't the Pats put extra protection with TE or RB in on Vollmer's side on many plays the past weeks since Light went out?

This is only the second game Light missed this year (knee injury was against DEN on 11 Oct).

And over the years the Pats often have kept in a TE on Light's side to help him out against above-average DEs.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

... especially because the DEs from the Buccaneers are such a fearsome group of sack monsters ...

Sorry, but the OL did not play well on Sunday, especially the left side (My favorite Pats players are Mankins and Koppen).

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

There was pretty much jerseys from all 32 teams at the Buc/Pats game. I jumped on the tube to Wembley in a Vikes #4 Favre jersey and the only remaining seat was next to a Packers fan wearing the Favre green and gold.

After exchanging pleasantries, we waited for someone in the Jets version to get a Favre special retirement/unretirement souvenir pic, but nobody came.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"We all know what happened to San Diego’s ability to deal with power on defense, but what’s the deal with their inability to generate power on the other side of the ball?"

The Chargers lost their anchor on both sides of the ball. Nick Hardwick is a pretty good center, and the Chargers are really missing him in power situations.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

And the starting RG (though a rookie) was injured in game 1 and out for a few weeks too. Run blitzes up the middle have worked very well, and there has been almost no push either.

Hardwick should be back in a few weeks, it should help a lot once he is back up to speed. Scoring a top RT should be a priority for the chargers in the next draft. Really, they just need line help and some defensive back depth.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Also, if Andy Reid was furious last Sunday night, how did he feel about his team's effort against the Raiders, after yesterday's performance by Tom Cable and the Jawbreakers?

44 Steelers, Vikings, Cardinals ...

It may just be me, but it looked like one of the keys to the go-ahead TD for the Steelers was Favre waving an arm in a feeble tackle-like gesture. For as willing as he seems to be to cut a defensive player on a reverse, he didn't seem to want any part of a tackle that would have made a significant difference in the game.

I did notice the scoop failure later in the same game, too. Fall on the ball, guys. Fall on it. Ray Edwards, I'm talking to you. I have your Purdue jersey, man.

Sorry to hear about Antrel Rolle's hit on Boss. What frustrates me more than the officiating when QBs are concerned (let's face it, Sapp's "hit" on Roethlisberger was the exception rather than the rule, not only because it was about the most obvious penalty you'll ever see but also because it was about as weak in terms of contact as those hits are ever likely to get) is the officiating when other offensive players have the ball. I think defenders would actually start looking at what they're trying to hit if they'd consistently get penalized for spearing, yet they get away with it a lot of the time as long as they're not hitting a QB, and in the meantime one player ends up leaving the field with a concussion. Or sometimes both players.

It's too bad the cause and effects are separated by so much time. Maybe the NFLPA will eventually connect the helmet-first tackling style with the dramatically shorter lifespans of its members and the significant complications they face while they play and after they retire ...

50 Re: Steelers, Vikings, Cardinals ...

Its really bad that they chose to crack down sharply on horsecollar tackles before they dealt sufficiently with helmet contact. So many of the worst football injuries (in terms of quality of life for the participants moreso than comparably less debilitating ligament/bone injuries) are caused by using the helmet as a point of contact or making contact with the helmet of the opposing player.

56 Re: Steelers, Vikings, Cardinals ...

It may just be me, but it looked like one of the keys to the go-ahead TD for the Steelers was Favre waving an arm in a feeble tackle-like gesture. For as willing as he seems to be to cut a defensive player on a reverse, he didn't seem to want any part of a tackle that would have made a significant difference in the game.

I noticed that, too. And in the interception return, he threw himself to his knees a yard short of the blocker, who he nonetheless almost managed to trip. It would have been a pathetic attempt at a tackle if that had even been the returner, not the blocker. I wonder what his teammates will say when they see that on film.

110 Re: Steelers, Vikings, Cardinals ...

I wonder what his teammates will say when they see that on film.

At a guess - they'll probably say 'Look, there's a 200-lb., 40-year-old geezer trying to tackle a 250-lb., 25-year-old linebacker through a wall of 240-lb., 25-year-old opponents. Favruh, you put us at risk of protecting Deer-Stare Jackson by doing things like that. Knock it off.'

122 Re: Steelers, Vikings, Cardinals ...

Yes, and while the anti-Favre sentiment can at times be as annoying as the media's fellating of him, this should really be noted. Favre is always given credit for throwing blocks and hustling after defenders, so this is noteworthy.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I thought the playcalling by Minnesota was poor at the very end of the game, when they were down by 10. Granted, a comeback there is an extremely slim possibility, but stranger things have happened (I think St. Louis came back to win from being 14 points down in the final 40 seconds once in the last couple of years), and Childress's (or Favre's) playcalling pretty much negated even that chance.

I'm thinking specifically of the final drive. You're down by 10, with a minute to go and two timeouts (I think...unless the NFL play-by-play is wrong). You need a TD and a FG. You need to get into FG range as quickly as possible, conserving as much time as possible, take a shot or two at the endzone, and if you fail to score, or if the clock get's under 20 seconds, kick a FG. Then, whether you got a TD or FG, you need to try an onside, and if you recover, hopefully you have enough time left to either kick a tying FG or throw a tying or go-ahead Hail Mary.

Instead, the Packers plodded down the field, starting off with a short pass in bounds that burned nearly half their remaining time, and didn't bother to call a timeout. Finally, they get to the PIT 36 with 13 seconds left. At this point, you've blown any chance of getting a TD on this possession and still having time to recover an onside. But given that a FG takes about 4-5 seconds and recovering an onside kick takes about another 3-4 seconds, there is enough time, barely, to try a long FG to get within 7, try an onside, and have enough tics left for a tying Hail Mary attempt. Instead, they call a short pass to Peterson that pretty much guarantees that they will not be able to score twice, even with the luck of the Irish, even if Peterson broke free and got in the endzone.

I know that winning would have been an extreme longshot, but it was possible. I hate it when teams throw away any chance to win for no reason whatsoever. Especially when they never used either of their timeouts!

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"Instead, the Packers plodded down the field"

In fairness, the Packers weren't playing for the win. They wanted MIN to lose.

I didn't like the call at the end of the half. Down by 3, 24 seconds, ball at like the 35. Don't worry Chilly the Adventurous will save us with a kneel down.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

D'oh. Freudian slip.

I have a chronic problem where Minnesota and Wisconsin are the same state in my head. (So to be safe, I just say "Minisconsin"). Invariably, I will always say one when I mean the other. My wife gets no end of amusement about that. Till now I had done a pretty good job with at least keeping the Vikings and Packers straight...but Favre playing for the other team has caused my head to explode. Ignore me.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I believe you may be thinking of this game in 2005, in which the Rams scored on 4-6 from the Texans 43 with a Fitzpatrick pass to Isaac Bruce, recovered the onside kick following some spectacularly inept hands team play, hit a 19 yard pass, kicked a field goal to tie the game with 9 seconds to play and went on to win in overtime. Of course, you could always look at this game in 2008, in which the Texans allowed 21 points in two minutes and sixteen seconds against the Colts, and Sage Rosenfels made himself a household name (of sorts). Of course, I suspect these things happen slightly more often when you're playing the Texans than the Steelers . . .

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Then there's this game in 2007, Cowboys vs. Bills:

Cowboys down 8 with 3:30 left, they take 3:10 to score a TD, then fail the two-point conversion for the tie. No matter, they kick onsides with 0:20 left, and thanks to a nifty/flukey special teams play where one player bats the ball foward, the On-side is recovered 22 yards down field with only 2 seconds elapsing (0:18 left). A couple short passes, and then Nick Folk makes not one but TWO 53 yard FGs (after Jauron pulled a Shannahan) to win the game.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Absolutely agree. The pick-six put the Vikings' minds on the flight back to Minnesota. At least they didn't suffer an injury to a star while failing (but trying ahrd) to win. That's a slim silver lining and I'd rather have the effort, but whatever.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"Alex Smith has thrown three touchdowns to Vernon Davis in the second half. This leads to the question: What did Mike Singletary do with his pants at halftime?"

Funniest line of the day

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I haven't compared the current standings to the 2nd half schedule, but does anyone else suspect that the high number of teams, that suck like fusion-powered Hoovers, might also result in a strange year in which there are multiple teams with double digit wins that miss the playoffs? It could be the Year of the Obscure Tiebreaker Rules, in which there is a definite reward for running up the score, if that is the correct term to use in the NFL.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Don't know - it seems like there are fair number of middle of the pack teams that have schedules where you could easily see them end up at 9-7 or 8-8 but not double digit wins (like the Jets, Bengals, Bills, Texans, Jaguars, Bears, Ravens or all of NFC East), so it's not like there are going to be all of these 11-5 teams getting blocked from the playoffs.

On the other hand this year, though, it really seems like there is a big chance of several teams finishing 14-2 or 15-1 (if you look at the schedules for Indy and the Saints, those kind of finishes seem very possible - Denver is more of an outside shot). Even NE could easily end up in that range (and be part of the "1" or "2" in Indy and the Saints records) if they keep it up - their schedule isn't exactly daunting. I just think the abundance of cream-puffs means the good teams stand far less of a chance at tripping up than mediocre teams getting puffed up.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Yeah, but they're only 2 games out of first place - their schedule is weak enough that they really could go 7-9. They're bad, but they're not as bad as Oakland or the Titans or the really terrible teams. DVOA thinks they're on the level with SF and not far behind Seattle or the Bengals... (they're no Detroit, is what I'm saying)

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Well...right now the 'Skins are 2-4; it is numerically true that they are only '2 games out of first place' (actually, 2.5 games). But that's like saying that Joe Frazier came in 2nd behind George Foreman.

As for the Redskins going 7-9; that would require 5 more wins. Their opponents are:

Philly, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Philly, New Orleans, Oakland, New York, Dallas, and Sandiago.

I don't see how, barring injuries or Sherm Lewis having some serious mojo, they get more than 3 wins from that group.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Before Week 7 started, the Redskins had the easiest past schedule and the hardest future schedule as measured by DVOA. While there may be a handful of teams that are worse than them, the only candidate for such a "distinction" that remains on their schedule is Oakland. (And saying "they're no Detroit" takes on a very different meaning when you consider the outcome of the game between the two teams just a few weeks ago...)

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Yup, couldn't agree more. I'm reasonably hopeful that my Texans could make it to ten wins. Unfortunately, I think it is quite likely that would not be enough for a playoff spot.

Seriously, though, what the hell is with all the sucking that's going on around the league this season? BUF, CAR, CLE, DET, KC, OAK, STL, TB, TEN, WAS vs. actual NFL teams so far this season? 2-44 (pending the Redskins result against Philly tonight). Those two wins are Sanchez's meltdown against Buffalo and the Eagles having one of their regularly scheduled Show Support for the Special Olympics days against Oakland. The suckitude of the group in general is breaking Vegas's line setters, who can't believe how big the spreads need to be when they're playing anyone with an offense, and it's breaking DVOA because the opponent adjustments aren't at full strength yet and because they keep playing each other (the Redskins have played 5 of their 6 games to date against fellow suckmasters, for example). Every season has a few teams this bad. But 10? And the Seahawks don't seem to be much better than that lot half the time, either. It seems like every week half the games or more are guaranteed to be either total blowouts or horrifying suckfests of the type epitomised by Browns-Bills.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Can anybody explain what Tony Sparano was thinking calling the timeout with 5 seconds left in the half, and Payton perfectly happy to settle for three points? To me that was the play that broke the dolphins.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Well the fumble that set up that drive and the two pick 6s seemed more to do with it. Frankly I think the football outsiders pegged the lose right. It appears the Dolphin coaching staff panicked rather quickly when a few things went wrong and suddenly went to a game plan that had almost no chance to win the football game for them. Are you that surprised the Dolphins lost to the Saints? Granted the way they lost was horrible to watch, but it's not that shocking a result.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

The short answer is no, I have no idea what Sparano was thinking.

Payton had no choice but to settle for 3 initially. The Saints had no timeouts,
and the clock would have started as soon as the ref put the ball on the ground,
and there's no way the offense can get on the field (the field goal unit was on
the field for the extra point), get set, and get off a snap by then. So even
though Sparano said he called the timeout to make sure he had the right personnel
in, the problem was it a) gave Brees a chance to talk Payton into going for it,
and b) gave the Saints offense the time to get out on the field to do it.

68 Re: Phil Simms TWIQ nominee


"Wes Welker gets into tight places, but he likes to be safe."

Phil Simms perhaps foreshadowing an endorsement deal for the Pats' gritty, hustling, quick but not fast WR.

I wish I had the actually quote, but if I remember it as such and then say it was such on the internet, it pretty much is such, right?

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

At the end of week 7 it is safe to say that Jay Cutler is no Kyle Orton (to quote Don Banks). Just curious to know if Bears fans still love that trade.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Not a Bears fan but I'm fairly sure the goal of the trade was to secure a franchise QB for the next decade or so. Now the jury remains out on that, but after six games behind a line that cannot block an autumn breeze it's perhaps a bit premature to start screaming "bust" at him.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I'm not even close to being ready to write off Cutler, because his physical talents are formidable, to say the least. Having said that, before trading a serviceable NFL starting qb, and a draft ransom, for such a physically talented qb, you may want to find some humanoids who can block for the poor 'sumbitch.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

They found some guys, it just turned out that they are terrible at football.

No hyperbole here, but if something doesn't change, Cutler won't make it through the season. He's hanging in there the best he can to deliver the football, but he has taken some shots. There are guys always rolling around his legs (usually Bears lineman as they are falling onto their backs).

It's bad and I'm not really sure how it's going to get any better.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Right. The bears are in a tough place because they've got a terrible line. The LG and LT(Pace) clearly need to be replaced. Kreutz (C) looks terrible, but it may be because he's trying to do the LGs job too, and they've got no high draft picks coming up, so they're gonna have a tough time finding guys who are ready to play.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I hadn't seen the Bears play too much this year, but I watched a bit on the NFL network about their o-line problems and they showed 3 different clips (from 3 different games) where the defense rushed 4 and all 4 linemen sacked Cutler at the same time. There was no trick, no stunting, no blitz: the D rushed the standard 4 and they all got to Cutler at the exact same time (moments after the snap) - I almost couldn't believe what i was seeing...

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Well, didn't Cutler survive 4 years at Vandy with pass blocking that would make the Bears o-line blush?

Not saying its a good thing that the Bears offensive line is more like a turnstile, just saying that its not something Cutler hasn't had to deal with before.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

They tried. They added Pace, Omiyale, Shaffer, and Buenning in the offseason, and had Williams coming back from injury. Unfortunately, those five guys are finished, terrible, not playing, cut, and not very good, respectively. I thought it was a smart strategy at the time: build the line through free agency and then focus on WR & defense in the draft. I'm hoping that they're taking a good look at Beekman and Shaffer and thinking about making a switch, because I doubt that continuity will do this group much good.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

For a Bears fan the maddening thing about it is that there are guys on the bench who have played whole NFL seasons who have shown they can play and aren't being allowed to show it. Beekman wasn't the second coming of Randall McDaniel last year but he started 16 games and played way better than Omiyale. It isn't even as if they know whether or not he fits the system because he played in in last year. Just taking Omiyale out would result in a huge lift for the whole line as they would actually have five blockers as opposed to four and a giant weeble with arms on (although it is probably more difficult to knock a weeble over).

Pace is (IMO) playing better than most folks around here think. He isn't anything like the old Orlando Pace but he does his job on most downs. Williams makes the odd dumb mistake (mainly false start penalties). Kreutz isn't all washed up either, he is playing pretty well and Garza is exactly what he has been for several years, steady but very unspectacular. Sometimes you see a team run a stunt on the offensive right side, Kretz and arza work brilliantly to pick the stunt up and Omiyale just whiffs completely on the straight up rush against him and Cutler is getting buried again.

Free Josh Beekman.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

My question would the be why Cutler had such a bad year last year with a better O line and a better run game. True the Denver D was terrible but the O was all flash and no substance. Jay led the league in picks in the red zone and was tied for it inside his own 20. Just a thought but he looks more like Jeff George than John Elway.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

On what planet did Cutler have a bad year in 2008? FO says he was 7th in DVOA and 5th in DAYR - conventional stats, conventional wisdom, tape analysis all agree that Cutler was pretty good last year.

This year Orton is worse in Denver in DVOA and DYAR ranking than Cutler was last year (and Denver's overall offensive DVOA has gone from #2 to #10), so it's even hard to make the argument that Cutler was totally propped up by the talent around him...

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Hence my problem with DVOA and DYAR. Cutler makes the critical mistakes that lose games. Most would agree that an average QB with outstanding receivers and O line and an average run game look much better than they are. Factor in Denver's super easy schedule last season and Jay just didn't get it done. Orton has played a much tougher schedule and hasn't, to date, made the kind of mistakes that lose games. Cutler has even though the Bears have a much easier schedule than the Broncos this season. 6-0. Hail Orton.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Cutler was terrible last year when he was playing from two scores behind (or worse). I think part of the idea behind the trade was that he wouldn't spend so long trying to claw back the score with big plays. Unfortunately this doesn't seem to be happening as the Bears have been behind way more than they have been ahead.

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Hence my problem with DVOA and DYAR. Cutler makes the critical mistakes that lose games.

Cutler was the reason they lost games last year? When did he start playing defense?

6-0. Hail Orton.

Riiight... because Denver's winning games with their offense. O-kay. Seriously, Denver's defense goes from worst in the league to one of the best and you think the turnaround has anything to do with offense? WTF?

81 Death of the Overachievers

After last week's discussion about teams that overachieve or underachieve their estimated wins, it was interesting to check the fate of teams that are more extreme in this than the Eagles. (Why Eagles? Because it annoys Giants fans, mostly.)

Teams that were overachievers and DVOA favorites:
ATL lost to DAL
NYG lost to ARI
IND beat STL
MIN lost to PIT

Teams that were overachievers, but DVOA tossups (with, say 5%):
CIN beat CHI - both had been overachievers

Teams that were overachievers but DVOA underdogs:
SF lost to HOU
CAR lost to BUF
OAK lost to NYJ

Teams that were underachievers, but DVOA favorites:
BUF beat CAR

Teams that were underachievers and DVOA underdogs:
STL lost to IND
TB lost to NE
CLE lost to GB

The only surprise (to DVOA) is that being an overachiever indicates that you are weaker than your DVOA suggests, and primed to lose an upset. Before you cry out "small sample", this was just a quick check. But it makes sense: maybe these teams weren't so much overachieving as benefiting from weak schedules. Having a weak schedule may inflate your early DVOA, but it inflates your wins even more, which makes you look like an overachiever.

The lesson: wait for the full opponents adjustment to come into play before you try to read much into a team outperforming their DVOA.

155 Re: Death of the Overachievers

Add one more to the underachieving DVOA favorites:
PHI beat WAS (Redskins were also an underachiever - slightly more so than the Eagles)

So, of 11 games which featured an under or over-achiever, 3 were DVOA upsets. All three featured overachieving favorites.