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

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Eli had a bad game yes but some of the blame needs to be directed at Kevin Gilbride (Giants' offensive coordinator) and the game plan.

First off... Gilbride needs to start sticking with a running back. Against Arizona Bradshaw was ineffective while Jacobs was playing fairly well, but he kept putting Bradshaw back in the game. Against New Orleans the week before it was the opposite, Bradshaw was dicing through the defense while Jacobs wasn't at his best, but they kept sticking Jacobs back in.

Also, I'm starting to think teams are starting to bait the Giants into audibles. They bring an 8th guy into the box, knowing the Giants will go pass, but then play pass coverage from there. Until Giant receivers stop dropping would be touchdowns opposing teams will be willing to bring the 8th man in, get the Giants to pass, and don't worry about being beat deep because the Giants never complete those passes.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I have never seen the Bears defense play as badly as they did last night. They couldn't stop the run, pressure the passer or cover the WRs. Good heavens do they need Harris and Urlacher - and only one of them may return and there is no way of knowing what kind of shape he will return in. They were flat out terrible.

On offense the line was pretty bad on the whole but Omiyale sucks more than a super massive black hole, nothing can escape the suck he eminates. The dumbest thing is that now everyone has tape of exactly how to annihilate him over and over. Then again it isn't that hard as all you have to do is line up a tackle over him and watch as he breezes clean past him. I didn't think it was possible for one lineman to screw a team up worse than John St Clair did last year but now I have seen the true depths to which a lineman can utterly fail to make a block over and over again. When the game was effectively over in the second half why didn't they at least try Beekman there (I didn't see it)? It is impossible to tell how the rest of them might play as he buggers his block up so often that at least 50% of snaps are ruined by him alone. The Bears have depth on the line so why keep it on the bench as Omiyale ruins the offense?

I also think the officials had a bad (and hometown) day. Not that it would have affected the game much but there were a couple of phantom calls that had no business drawing a flag at times which prevented the Bears having any chance of bringing the game back into contention. Which was annoying, although as I say the Bears were still going to lose this one big.

Palmer was awesome, he played about as well as I have ever seen a QB play. Incredibly accurate and making the right read in a split second time after time. It helps of course when the Bears are getting no where near him and all of his recievers seem to always be open but he was fantastic. If teams aren't able to pressure him (which they may not be with all those receivers keeping safeties deep) then they could go a long way with the defensive improvement they finally seem to have added. Then again you would put more pressure on him than the Bears defense by sidling up to him pre-game and saying, "Oooh, big game this week. You don't want to let the pressure get to you." Not that this would affect Palmer very much but neither did the Bears defense.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Well said re:Omiyale. The futility he shows out there is unbelievable. It's almost like they found some huge guy who never played football before and threw him out there. He doesn't even look like he knows what he is supposed to do.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

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

At the half of Miami/NO, I really thought that Miami is going to win, by Miami controlling the clock with run game.

I really hope that this shuts up all the TV commentators ever saying "establishing the run".

NFL teams are as good as the pass defense of the second half.
Miami losing to Indy and NO confirms it, no doubt.

Steelers is another proof - good pass rush/defense decides the outcome.
Not "establishing the run".

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I know that Bob Griese is getting all of the play for "worst comment of the weekend," but I think Solomon Wilcotts deserves at the very least a Dishonorable mention for something he said in the Indy/St Louis game yesterday. Shortly after discussing Donald Brown, UCONN, and Jasper Howard's death this past weekend, Wilcotts uttered somethign close to the following phrase on a running play by Joseph Addai: "And Addai was knifed in the chest on that tackle."

Seriously? How is that not getting more coverage? Is it because WIlcotts is an idiot and terrible announcer?

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

It's not getting more coverage because no one in their right mind would be watching a game between 5-0 Indy and 0-6 St. Louis.

But you're right - that's a really pathetic comment. That's live commentary turning out to be as bad as the high-school football commentators on South Park (when South Park Cows played the Middle Park Cowboys, per recollection).

Seriously, though - 5-0 versus 0-6. No one in their right mind.

96 yeah, you *should* know shonn greene

Vince Verhei: I don't know who Shonn Greene is, but he's ripping up the Oakland defense.

Just reason No. 10,349 why you should get your fantasy advice somewhere else.

Hope Julius Jones' bye isn't ruining your Week 7.

104 Cedric Benson is still a w****r

Benson's comments about how he is now really mature and proffessional were immediately demonstrated to be garbage as he goes on to say he wouldn't change anything about his time there as he is now much more mature, proffessional and has grown as a person. If he actually were a much more well rounded person he would realise that somone paid him a $17m signing bonus to turn up and act like a professional and his conduct for that money was deplorable. It would be fine to say I am happy now and wouldn't want to be anywhere else but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't want to change the way you behaved as a younger man when you clearly behaved like a complete moron. If he had actually matured he would realise that having regrets is OK but he hasn't it is all about Cedric. For the moment at least his interests coincide with those of the team but should that change there could be trouble.

115 Camarillo

I don't know why Camarillo was even thinking he needed to get out of bounds.
There was plenty of time- almost too much time.
At midfield, with timeouts and the 2 minute warning.

119 Minnesota Clock Management and Play Calling

I think Minnesota's management of the clock through play calling at the end of the 1st half and end of the game show a lack of clock management skills and lack of understanding how to tilt the odds in your favour through simple play calling decisions.

1) Vikings have the ball at their own 40 with 2:00 to go in the half score 7-3 Vikings. Pittsburgh has three timeouts. The call a screen pass - result incomplete pass. The smart call here is a running play because while you have a decent chance for a FG at this point (50% roughly) you also have to guard against giving the ball back. Pittsburgh does have three timeouts but they are unlikely to call a timeout 2nd and whatever with Minnesota near mid field. One running play essentially takes the clock down to 1:20 before the next play - reducing the chance of Pitt scoring dramatically while only slightly reducing your opportunity to score.

2) They actually made the same mistake twice on the crucial drive that ended in an pick 6. 1st and 10 at the Pitt 26 down 3 with 1:49 to go - Pittsburgh has 3 timeouts left. At this point you have a decent pct chance of a FG even if you gain no more yards. The danger is if you do score you need to leave minimal time on the clock. The prudent play is a run - Pitt may well call a timeout, but at least they have burned a crucial timeout. A Viking pass gained 7 yards leaving them with 2nd and 3 at the 19 with 1:15 to go. You've been given a gift by Tomlin when he fails to call the timeout. If you run the ball your chances of gaining the first down are close to the same as passing but you now force the other team to call timeouts and reduce their chance of comeback if you do score. Also at this point Pittsburgh has been setup for the run. Minnesota's last 5 runs during the two drives that ended in turnover tds for Pittsburgh prior to the decision to throw two passes at this point:

5 yards (first and 10 at Minn 3)
7 yards (first and 10 at Minn 39)
19 yards (2nd and 4 at the Pitt 40)
5 yards (first and 10 Minn 26)
6 yards (2nd and 10 Minn 39)

I think those kind of decisions are easy. Childress actually used to do a much better job of this when he had a QB he didn't trust. Now with Favre he's throwing in situations like this when he should be running.

I think in both cases the smart call was to run the ball even if you hadn't had any success running. Given the success of the previous 5 running plays - calls for pass plays - very stupid.

Childress is not a real bright bulb. He's brought in great talent but his game day decison making will definitely cost this team some wins.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

w00t!!! A compliment for cincy on Football Outsiders! I think I've died and gone to heaven...


137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Perhaps pointless, but satisfying in a perverse way.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

No Bills or Panthers fan comments even? What's the line on Delhomme playing again this year?

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

But seriously, Mr. Shush at comment 143 summed it up. I can't remember being more demoralized by two wins than I was by the last two. The defensive backs are the only bright spot this year.

142 Do we know anything about the Colts?

No secret that I am a Colts fan, and I have no problem with the very short audibles on their game this week. What amazes me, however, is that we really have no idea how good or average or bad the Colts are at this point, even though we're 7 weeks into the season. They haven't played anyone good. Yeah, they stomped some teams, but the only even remotely close games were against a team with no real QB (Miami) yet, and a team that has since shown itself very vulnerable (Jax). Other games were against teams that on the schedule looked like they'd be tests (Tenn., Ariz.) before the season began, or would have been a test (Seattle) if their starting QB had played.

I'd like to get excited about the Colts' start, but really, what do we know about them?

156 Re: Do we know anything about the Colts?

Hold on there a minute. The Colts may not have played the toughest schedule in the world, but they've blown out the rotten teams, beaten the ok teams (Miami and Jacksonville), and knocked seven shades of natural fertiliser out of the Cardinals, who I think we have to concede are actually quite good. The Cards are 4-1 in their other five games, including a convincing road win against the Giants, who are good, and wins over decent Houston and JAX teams, together with a narrow divisional loss to the 49ers, who aren't a bad side. I don't think it's fair to equate IND now to NYG before the Saints game.

157 Re: Do we know anything about the Colts?

Sure, their DVOA and record may be a bit inflated due to their weakish schedule so far (since opponent adjustments aren't at full strength yet), but it's a stretch to say we know nothing. If it helps, try thinking of them as 5-10 points lower in DVOA - on par with NE and ahead of DEN (who have a weakish schedule, too). But the Colts are two games up on the Patriots, and have an easier remaining schedule than the Broncos.

The Colts are a deserving team that should take advantage of a somewhat light schedule to snag the first seed in the AFC.

166 Re: Do we know anything about the Colts?

I think you're channeling anti-homerism. The Colts have been playing so well that you're underrating their opposition.

Jacksonville and Miami are both pretty good teams, and Arizona is at least decent. I actually think Miami at least is extremely underrated and if they played in, say, the NFC West, they'd be a playoff lock. So while the Colts have yet to beat, say, the Bengals (I can't believe that I just wrote that), I don't think they've played scrubs. Yes, the Colts have three wins over pathetic teams, but they haven't struggled against such teams (STOMPS are a good sign).

If we don't know that the Colts are really good, what teams are "really good" this year? The Patriots? We'll see in a couple of weeks, but right now the Colts are playing better, and will be until Brady shakes all the rust off his knee. The Jets? Can't take them seriously after that 3-game skid, and missing some key players now. Maybe the Bengals or the Steelers. Maybe the Broncos, but they've had just as easy a schedule as the Colts. Probably not the Giants or the Eagles, who've each had two pretty embarrassing losses. Maybe the Vikes or the Saints. And no one in the NFC west.

So the Colts are definitely at least a top five team, and likely in the top three.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Miami did not "get away from the run game"
look at play by play at
They ran the ball alot but the saints dvoa rank 22 run def stuffed it.
you cant just look at total plays of run vs pass to analyze this.
There were many drives of run run run punt. But there was also a run for minus 1 yard and then 2 passes in a row for at 2nd and 11 and 3rd and 11. I dont consider that "going away from the run" Also look at average gain per run in second half.
Less than 2 yards per carry.

159 Camarillo's play

I could see the Camarillo play setting a dreadful precedent.

Say there's 15 seconds left, and a team is out of timeouts and needs a FG to win. Defense is guarding the sidelines, so the QB hits an open receiver over the middle well within FG range. Knowing that there'll be no way to get the FG team out on the field in time, the receiver just chucks the ball downfield. Clock stops. Illegal forward pass. 5 yard penalty from the spot of the foul, but still within FG range. Kicking unit can now get set up, kick winning field goal.

If the officials thought Camarillo threw the ball OOB on purpose,they should have called unsportsmanlike conduct and charged the Dolphins 15 yards.

161 Re: Camarillo's play

The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty only applies in the last minute of each half. Since what Camarillo did came with over two minutes left, the refs couldn't call it. If he'd thrown it behind him, the play would've been perfectly legal. I think the Competition Committee may want to look at it in the offseason, but under the current rules the refs got the call right.

165 Re: Camarillo's play

pcs's strategy would still work if the player was on, say, the 15 yard line with 15 seconds left and about to be tackled in bounds. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty would be a 15 yard penalty in that situation, and, I think, a 10 second runoff, but that leaves said team with a stopped clock, 0:05 seconds, and a 48 yard FG attempt.

170 Re: Camarillo's play

If you had over 15 seconds left, couldn't you get up to the line, spike the ball, and then attempt a much shorter field goal?

177 Joe Buck

I think Joe Buck is a great announcer. I don't know about everyone else but I find it the constant ripping of announcers tiresome. I mean there are guys who deserve it (Siragusa) but sports fans and bloggers are WAY to picky with announcers these days.