Audibles at the Line: Week 8
compiled by Vince Verhei
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.)
Houston Texans 31 at Buffalo Bills 10
Vince Verhei: The 2008 Houston offense is back, racking up tons of yards and not getting any touchdowns out of it. They've got three turnovers -- a brutal Matt Schaub overthrow for an interception, a tipped pass for another interception, and a Steve Slaton lost fumble. Every time I watch Houston, I get the feeling that their offense should be better than it is.
As for their defense, they gave up a touchdown on an end-around to 58- year-old Terrell Owens, which pretty much says it all.
Tom Gower: Word I have is that Slaton was benched because of the fumble.
Vince Verhei: They did say that Slaton leads the league in lost fumbles, so this is not the first time he's hurt them that way.
Bill Barnwell: Gary Kubiak gets butthurt over that sort of stuff too quickly. He benched Slaton in Week 17 against the Bears last year, too, for an innocuous fumble.
Mike Kurtz: Slaton benching could very well ruin my entire fantasy week. I have him in both leagues, both of which are really close.
Bill Barnwell: Ryan Fitzpatrick just threw one of the worst interceptions I've ever seen. I'm sure it had to be a route miscommunication, but there were five Texans defenders closer to the ball than any Bills receiver. I'm not even sure there was a Bills receiver on that side of the field -- that's how far off the throw was.
Hearing Dick Enberg do a promo for Fedor Emelianenko, by the way, just blew my friggin' mind. "Should be fun to watch."
Cleveland Browns 6 at Chicago Bears 30
Mike Kurtz: Derek Anderson is so very, very bad. He's throwing the ball essentially straight down, even to wide-open outlet receivers. His mechanics weren't great to begin with, but something has happened and they're now about shot.
Ned Macey: What are the blackout rules? Due to the excessive promos, I spent the whole World Series game last night excited that the Lions didn't sell out so I could see NYG-PHI. Instead, I've got TMZ tv, and CBS is subjecting me to the Browns-Bears. Now I wish the Lions-Rams were on, as at least their combined putridity would give me something oddly compelling to watch.
Aaron Schatz: I really don't understand the Browns' decision-making at all. Have they just totally decided that Brady Quinn is a bust? That's the only reason to play Anderson. Anderson has done much more to prove that he's not a starting-quality NFL quarterback, and he's older. Why not figure out if Quinn can get a hang of the NFL game with some playing time and experience?
Mike Kurtz: I've been continually asking myself that same question, Aaron. My only thought is that there's something about Quinn that Eric Mangini doesn't like and for political reasons he doesn't want to make it look like Quinn is "his guy." I wouldn't be surprised if they drafted a quarterback high this coming year, in that vein.
Punt. Punt. Punt. Ugh.
Will Carroll: Simple answer: yes.
Quinn was told he was going to be released. Twice. Yet they didn't do it. They had a trade to Minnesota worked out, but Minnesota pulled out at the last second because the pick they were going to get with Quinn would have done something to their cap number.
Doug Farrar: Per PFT, If Quinn takes 70 percent of the snaps this season, he unloads some serious escalator clauses in his contract for 2010 and 2011, so you won't see him until 70 percent is an impossibility. Either the Browns are playing cheapskate, or they're concerned that any additional contract weight would make him impossible to trade.
Mike Kurtz: Awful overturn in Chicago. Jay Cutler was hit, kind of shoved the ball sideways, ruled an incomplete forward pass. Even if his arm WAS going forward, it was probably a lateral. The announcers quite astutely note that all you need to do to avoid sacks now is make half-hearted forward motions, even if your arm isn't even aimed forward.
Bill Barnwell: I disagree. It was a rush from the blind side, I don't think Cutler had the awareness to think "Oh wow, I should really start moving my arm forward."
Mike Kurtz: That might be true, but that's essentially the effect. Sideways = forward. One can easily imagine a situation where a quarterback is being dragged down and do exactly what happened there, and essentially get out of both a sack and a fumble.
Bill Barnwell: Sure. Just don't think it happened there.
Mike Kurtz: Nice play by Danieal Manning, diving for the interception and getting a nice return. On the other hand, it was a two-route play against Derek Anderson, but it was still incredibly athletic.
Announcers discussing the "don't pay Quinn" strategy. Pretty good announcing, actually, whomever these guys are.
Browns at halftime have two passing yards. Wow.
Doug Farrar: Definition of a personnel problem: When Mike Furrey may be your best option at receiver AND safety. Also, when you have two starting-caliber (in a technical sense) quarterbacks on the roster, and your most productive quarterback is your kick returner.
Mike Kurtz: Bears with a really awful, 10-ish-yard punt, which gives Cleveland its first snap in the Bears' territory. This is literally the most interesting thing that has happened thus far in the game.
Bill Barnwell: Browns offense in a nutshell: Derek Anderson completes a pass to Steve Heiden for no gain. Heiden fumbles and Manning recovers. Anderson is 3-of-12 for 13 yards with a pick and a sack. Maybe the Browns realized Brady Quinn is the source of all their staph.
Mike Kurtz: So, Cleveland blows up a play-action, Cutler throws a throw without much hope, defender emphatically bats it away.
There's a big problem here, though: It was fourth-and-goal from the 1. Catching the ball would be a touchback, give your team some room to work with. The first two runs after the pick were almost safeties. The third, Anderson had no room and threw up an ugly pick-six. You have to try to catch the interception if the line of scrimmage is the 1. Especially if you play for the Browns.
Ned Macey: I had not seen Cleveland all year, and boy were they bad. I can't believe how awful Anderson looked; Chicago just got destroyed by the Bengals last week. This is not your 2006 Bears. I can't imagine what Cleveland is doing playing Anderson, and the playing time makes the most sense. The team is intentionally stripping its talent to acquire draft picks, but what faith do we have that the 11 picks or whatever next year will be wisely spent? Who in that organization has a history of great drafting?
Mike Tanier: The new general manager in Cleveland is an Ozzie Newsome protege, so he probably has some drafting acumen. But there's a common-sense limit to how much talent you want to strip away. You need to have some decent professional veterans somewhere.
Mike Kurtz: All the backups Mangini brought in from New York, obviously.
Aaron Schatz: Well, also, if you are going to stockpile draft picks, it might be a good idea to let the players you draft -- especially in the first round -- actually get some playing time and experience.
Seattle Seahawks 17 at Dallas Cowboys 38
Doug Farrar: Marcus Trufant is getting abused by Miles Austin. It's Trufant's first game this year, and this is embarrassing. He already has two pass interference penalties in the first half, and after those penalties, he started playing about five yards off all the way through Austin's routes. Why are the Seahawks matching their just-back-from-injury cornerback against Dallas' main threat? Oh, yeah -- because Tim Ruskell can't draft cornerbacks for crap, which means there's nobody else good enough to take the challenge.
Vince Verhei: Any announcer who calls Keith Brooking "Keith Brookings" should be fired on the spot. Dude's been in the league more than 10 years. Learn his name. You would never say "Peyton Mannings," would you?
Doug Farrar: I blame Phil Simms for the whole thing. Nobody will correct him on "Asante Samuels," and that just breeds carelessness.
The Seahawks' local radio crew did "Brookings" over and over, and Warren Moon called Marion Barber III "Marion Barber, Jr." at least once. I'll give Moon a pass since he played in the same era as Marion Barber, Jr.
Bill Barnwell: Goose just called the Eagles' corner "Asante Samuels," too.
Twitter post from the Mighty MJD: Miles "WNBA" Austin caught a touchdown pass and then failed in an attempt to dunk the ball over the crossbar.
St. Louis Rams 17 at Detroit Lions 10
Doug Farrar: Why the Rams are the Rams: Early in the second quarter, Matt Stafford throws a ball from the St. Louis 12 that bounces off his target, and is intercepted by safety James Butler in the end zone. Butler takes the ball out to the 1 and gets pushed back into the end zone for a safety. Rams 3, Lions 2. Whoopee!
Doug Farrar: Of course, why the Lions are the Lions: On a fake field-goal attempt toward the end of the first half, Josh Brown passes to fullback Daniel Fells, who rumbles for a 36-yard touchdown past a horrible missed tackle.
Mike Tanier: Daniel Fells leads the Rams in scoring, doesn't he?
Doug Farrar: Counting the touchdown today, Fells has three touchdowns. At the half of the DET-STL game, that matches the total of offensive touchdowns scored by every other member of the team COMBINED. The Rams still don’t have a rushing touchdown. That’s right -- Leonard Little has one more touchdown than Steven Jackson.
Bill Barnwell: I don't know if I've ever seen the lower bowl of an NFL stadium in a close game as empty as Detroit this week. There are just huge swaths of missing people.
Also, Matthew Stafford looks terrible.
Aaron Schatz: If we're looking for reasons why the projected Rams possible miracle season didn't happen, here's one: Chris Long just had his first sack of the season. So much for highly-drafted defensive ends developing in their second seasons. I'd be curious to get a scouting take on what his problem is -- maybe I'll call Greg Cosell and ask him this week.
Tom Gower: On behalf of Danny Amendola, OUCH! He just got destroyed on the kickoff return after the Lions scored to make it 10-all.
Bill Barnwell: I just saw Will James defend a pass in Detroit. Two thoughts:
1) Wow, C.C. Brown actually makes Will James look bad.
2) Jim Schwartz can't be that close of a reader of our stuff if he has Will James on the roster.
Matthew Stafford is being pressured, but he looks really erratic behind center. His mechanics are breaking down, he's scrambling when the rush is only beginning to get there, he's not stepping into his throws, etc.
Ned Macey: We had it two weeks ago, as referenced in the Michael Rosenberg article in the Detroit Free Press: The Lions are actually worse this year than last year. If Calvin Johnson comes back, I suspect that will change, as he is good enough to occupy two defenders, which allows the Bryant Johnsons of the world to occasionally make plays.
Should the Rams consider trading Steven Jackson? I doubt they could get "fair value," since he's one of the three or four best running backs, but by the time STL is good again, Jackson will be on the downside of his career.
San Francisco 49ers 14 at Indianapolis Colts 18
Tom Gower: Well, it wasn't an entirely terrible first series for the 49ers. Gore did get seven on a good inside run to start. Alas, Joe Staley was hurt on the play (though he did walk off the field on his own after the commercial), Frank Gore got stuffed on a direct snap on the second play, and Alex Smith seemed to bail out a little on the third-down pass to Vernon Davis, who looked content to merely get one foot inbound and not try to get, y'know, the required second one in.
On the Colts' first offensive series, Peyton Manning missed Pierre Garcon deep the first play (route, throw?), and Dallas Clark was ruled to have fumbled on third down, giving the 49ers good field position, but Jim Caldwell's rightly challenging the call.
Hello, 2006 regular season Colts run defense! The unit last week I castigated as maybe being the worst in the league, SF's O-line, has been able to create holes up the middle for Frank Gore. The latest play Frank Gore took all the way -- he had a lane for the first 10 yards, then bounced off two would-be tacklers before out-running the rest of the defense. Calling Bob Sanders!
The Colts are now overplaying the middle. They kept two guys there on the 49ers' last third-down play. Adam Snyder also got destroyed by Robert Mathis, so all's right with the world now that the Colts finally get a first down on their third drive of the game thanks to a missed tackle by Nate Clements (in on an extra-DB package). Nate's also returning punts this game.
OK, Sanders is playing. Michael Crabtree can't haul in a Smith pass, but deflects it to Sanders. No problem with the throw by Smith, Crabtree just didn't make the catch.
The analyst, Tim Ryan, is talking about the 49ers spreading it out and how Alex Smith has the arm strength to make the deep out. The problem is, outside of third-and-long, the 49ers are playing pretty tight formations, tighter than a normal base split, and not showing the spread formations they did in last week's second half. Plus, outside of the early pass to Davis, Smith hasn't thrown the ball outside and down the field out at all, and (guessing on formations) the Colts don't seem particularly worried about his ability to do so.
Staley update: doubtful to return. Barry Sims is playing left tackle in his place.
Peyton Manning was just sacked for the first time in five games. After that, the Colts fail on another third down, this one on a drop by Hank Baskett. The 49ers are really working hard to disguise what they're doing on third down, with guys all standing up and moving around, and have confused Peyton a couple times. 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has been doing a pretty good job thus far.
Vince Verhei: Vernon Davis scored right before half to put 49ers ahead 14-6. He had seven touchdowns in 40 games the first three years of his career; now has seven touchdowns in seven games this year.
Colts add a field goal at the end of the half to trail 14-9. I may do Any Given Sunday on the first half of this game, regardless of what happens in the second half.
Tom Gower: Peyton sacked twice more, for a total of three in the game. That play, Ray McDonald just DESTROYED Mike Pollak -- knocked him straight on his rear and had Peyton easy. Play on third down, too, forcing the Colts to settle for Matt Stover's fourth field goal, 14-12.
The decision I really question is Caldwell choosing to kick a field goal from the 13 with six seconds to play in the first half. The Colts lost a second or three taking the timeout after the completion, but still had a timeout left and probably could have at least tried a quick pass to the end zone. That's a place where not having a big wide receiver (Hank Baskett doesn't count) probably hurts them.
Aaron Schatz: Can somebody please buy the Indianapolis Colts a running game?
Tom Gower: Who needs a running game when you have a running back passing game? Joseph Addai (!) with a touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne.
Bill Barnwell: 49ers have had a secretly good rush defense this season. No. 1 at one point.
Aaron Schatz: Seventh going into this week. Colts run offense ranks 13th, and this has been a problem for the Colts for a couple years now. Addai wasn't that great last year either.
Bill Barnwell: Thirteenth isn't that bad. Granted, Manning makes them look better.
Ned Macey: Colts' run offense really has never been consistently good. It was top ten in DVOA from 2005 to 2007 but only one other year since Manning arrived.
Miami Dolphins 30 at New York Jets 25
Aaron Schatz: The Jets just sent eight guys after Chad Henne in one of the most hardcore blitzes I've ever seen. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were split backs and both saw it coming and blocked and it didn't matter. Henne is going to be seeing that in his nightmares for the next 70 years.
By the way, there's a guy in the stands at the Jets game dressed as the green Teletubbie, which I may see in *my* nightmares for the next 70 years.
Bill Barnwell: Why does Joey Porter always do pre-game activities with his midriff showing?
Vince Verhei: I'm guessing just to show off his abs. The early 90s Washington Huskies that won the National Championship had a safety named Shane Pahukoa who would tuck his jersey up tight under his pads and play the entire game with his midsection exposed. Why? Just because he was ripped to shreds.
Aaron Schatz: CBS just showed a home movie of Rex Ryan's son Sean scoring a 60-yard touchdown in a Pee Wee game this week. If you're watching the Jets-Dolphins game, that may be the only moment of actual offense you will see all day.
David Gardner: Davone Bess fumbles a fair catch around the 30 for the Jets, and the announcers say, "Well, I bet he took his eyes off the ball."
The cameras show a great zoomed-in view of Bess, and as the ball comes into his hands, the announcers say, "See, he took his eyes off the ball." The only problem? He clearly was looking at the ball the whole time, and they didn't back off the statement despite what I would like to call indisputable video evidence.
Anyway, it leads to a Mark Sanchez touchdown run and the Jets are back in business.
... and Ted Ginn, Jr., just ran back his second kickoff return for a touchdown. The first: 100 yards. The second: 101 yards.
Aaron Schatz: Ted Ginn would like to announce that Jets, Inc. is CLOSED for the day.
Bill Barnwell: If only they'd benched him earlier! Can't wait to read the articles about how he had extra focus this week or was motivated extra hard to recognize that there were huge holes for him to cut through.
Sean McCormick: I'll be shocked if DVOA doesn't show that the Jets grossly outplayed the Dolphins in this game. In the first half, the Jets could run but couldn't pass, while the Dolphins couldn't do anything. In the second half, the Jets were able to open it up on offense, but were undone by two separate 100-yard kickoff returns by Ted Ginn, Jr. There was also a strange situation where the Jets were called for illegal motion on a two-point conversion, but replays showed that the call was incorrect. It ended up being a huge call, as the Jets were down inside the red zone late in the game but needed a touchdown because of the missed conversion.
It was interesting to see Rex Ryan's adjustments from the first game. He basically played with four big down linemen all game and used linebackers to crash upfield and string out any wide plays. The Jets also demolished the moving pocket look that Dan Hennings used to effectively win the first meeting. Miami tried to roll out Henne twice and the Jets destroyed the protection and sacked Henne both times.
Vince Verhei: Oh man, you did not just call Dan Henning "Hennings," did you?
Sean McCormick: I did, I did.
I'm so ashamed.
Doug Farrar: Aw, crap. Now we have to fire Sean.
Bill Barnwell: I'm not going to accuse anyone of anything, but if we start firing people who add 's' to the end of people's names, anyone who submitted anything over the past year with "Matt Cassell" in it gets sent out with them.
Will Carroll: As long as there are editors, I'm going to spell sh*t wrong. Well, not sh*t. I can spell most of the four-letter words and use them in a sentence. Creatively.
New York Giants 17 at Philadelphia Eagles 40
Mike Tanier: Greetings from the Linc!
Sean McCormick: You can feel the vibe -- is Philadelphia in full panic mode over the World Series? Having lived there, I'm guessing yes.
Mike Tanier: The parking lots were very quiet. I think Saturday night's game stunned everyone.
Bill Barnwell: Are you worried about being recognized as a New York reporter and promptly stomped out by fans over-running the press box?
Mike Tanier: I am ... conflicted. At least I don't work for the Dallas Morning News.
(The Eagles jump out to an early lead.)
David Gardner: Looks like you're safe for now, Mike.
Vince Verhei: Leonard Weaver breaks loose for a 41-yard touchdown run. He had 16 yards on the season coming into today. In related news, I just cut Weaver from my fantasy team.
Bill Barnwell: Vince, are you in a fantasy league with a fullback slot?
Vince Verhei: No, I saw Weaver flash big-play ability in Seattle last season, and figured it would be a perfect fit for Philadelphia. So I drafted him. And waited. And waited. And waited. Then I gave up and released him. Then he scored.
This is why I only play fantasy football once a decade.
Aaron Schatz: Does anyone jump a route better than Asante Samuel? He'll pay for it sometimes, if he doesn't guess right, but he must have more interceptions than anyone else the last few years from just plain jumping on the route.
Mike Tanier: The Giants safeties are really bad.
Bill Barnwell: I feel like the Eagles drop more interceptions against the Giants than any other combination of teams in the league.
And now, after Quintin Mikell drops an Eli gift, I feel like Tanier. Just run the ball!!
David Gardner: Eli Manning is playing with some reckless abandon right now -- and I don't mean that in a good way. He's just heaving the ball out there.
Aaron Schatz: The phrase is "having fun," David. "Having fun." Not "heaving the ball."
Moose Johnston says "division games are all about opportunity." Um, aren't all football games about opportunity? How are division games any different in this respect?
This must be a Kevin Gilbride thing, but I noticed the Giants motion Madison Hedgecock out to wide receiver from the I-formation. I wrote a couple years ago in PFP about them doing this with Jim Finn. Who is supposed to be scared of the fullback motioned out wide? They've only thrown to Hedgecock five times this season. If the point is to get the defense to show man or zone, there has to be a better way to do it. Motioning a block-first fullback out wide is just like announcing "we feel like playing with 10 guys right now."
Mike Tanier: Motioning the fullback is an old Norv Turner Cowboys trick.
Aaron Schatz: DeSean Jackson just caught what looked like a 1,000-yard touchdown. Man, the Giants safeties REALLY suck.
Mike Tanier: Eagles fans are starting to forget what happened Saturday night across the street.
Aaron Schatz: And then Eli Manning throws a floater, and Donovan McNabb hits Jeremy Maclin deep for another touchdown right before halftime. 30-7, and we are in full ass-whipping mode. What's the press box like in Philly, Mike? I mean, we all got pretty goofy in New England when they keelhauled the Titans but the Titans were a bad team. This is total destruction of a really good division rival.
Mike Tanier: I am surrounded by the New York media. Shhhhh.
Bill Barnwell: C.C. Brown should not be allowed on the field. I mean ... he's just so far below replacement level. It burns.
1) It's irritating to hear Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa compliment Robbins on his heads-up play, which is all outcome and no process. Had Robbins failed on his lateral and the Eagles recovered, they would have been lining up to criticize his bad play.
2) Osi Umenyiora should be an actor if this football thing turns out. He was happy when the official announced that the replay revealed that it was a fumble, and then proceeded to respond to the announcement that it was an illegal forward pass with the facial equivalent of "wat."
Mike Tanier: I got home at 5:45 Eastern, despite doing the pressers and Giants locker room (a de-presser) and having to fight through throngs of totally insane Phillies fans. The secrets: 1) Live 3 miles from stadium, 2) Park 1.5 miles from stadium.
Denver Broncos 7 at Baltimore Ravens 30
Doug Farrar: Alphonso Smith grabs Derrick Mason’s jersey and doesn’t get flagged for it early in the Broncos-Ravens game. Obvious interference, and Mason throws his helmet on the sideline in frustration. Mason gets the 15-yard flag and an earful from John Harbaugh.
Tom Gower: While he wasn't flagged for it, Mason harangued the officials for a couple minutes, all through an injury timeout, in the BAL-TEN playoff game last year. Maybe I just don't remember him for it, but he seems to have really taken on the wide receiver diva persona. I wonder if it's just a reaction to declining physical skills.
Also, Dan Dierdorf needs to be told there's no such thing as a football move anymore in determining whether a pass is a completed catch.
For the Broncos, right tackle Ryan Harris was carted to the locker room early in the second quarter and is doubtful.
Jacksonville Jaguars 13 at Tennessee Titans 30
Tom Gower: Well, the Titans get points on the opening drive with a 48 yard field goal from Rob Bironas and thanks to Derek Cox beating Justin Gage down the field only to drop a wide-open interception in the end zone. Most of the yards came from Chris Johnson being Chris Johnson. They also showed a little bit of college-style read option, including on the third-and-5 from the 31 prior to the field goal.
Reggie Nelson: not a cornerback. He's starting in place of Rashean Mathis, with Brian Russell playing at free safety, and just got destroyed by Nate Washington off the line on second-and-goal from the 6. Vince Young was throwing it quick, so that's the Titans' first touchdown in about 9.5 quarters.
Jack Del Rio is again using the "Don't run the ball" tactic against the Titans, but it's not working as well thus far. The Titans seem to be bringing more pressure, and Rod Hood just got a pick off "The Umpire Strikes Back: DB Revenge," as Torry Holt ran into the umpire, knocking him off his route, and Hood was able to take advantage of it to grab the pick.
Maurice Jones-Drew has five carries for 172 yards, including touchdowns of 80 and 79 yards. The 79 yarder featured David Garrard shielding off Michael Griffin as MJD went into the end zone. It's not very often you see a quarterback hustle 60 yards downfield and prevent the safety from tackling his running back. The Titans held the ball for 22:08 in the first half, and are tied when they get the ball back in the second half (thanks, Michael Griffin, for blocking the extra point).
Our Seattle contingent will probably appreciate that on Chris Johnson's 89-yard touchdown run on third-and-4 from his own 11-yard line, Brian Russell was in perfect position to make the tackle seven yards downfield. That's the fourth touchdown run of 50-plus this game and the third of 79-plus.
One thing that hasn't been talked about that much is that the Titans have given the ball to Chris Johnson a lot this game. He had about 13 first-half carries, which is more than he normally gets. They give him 15 to 25 touches so consistently I'm sure it's intentional, which just goes to suggest they really want to win this game. I hope this isn't part of a trend, because Jeff Fisher will run a player into the ground and that would be a waste of C.J.'s limited shelf life the way this year is going.
Aaron Schatz: Confused. It hasn't been talked about how the Titans are giving the ball to Johnson a lot today? Talked about by who, the announcers in that game? Or do you mean they give him the ball a lot in the first half overall in every game? 20 carries per game is 320, which isn't really a problem.
Tom Gower: He had 22 carries late in the third quarter, on pace for 30 in the game. Twenty-two tied his season-high and it's only the third time in his career he's had 20-plus carries. By not talking about it, I mean they're ignoring the well-established tendency of limiting Johnson's carries and keeping him fresh.
The Jags are having intermittent but not consistent success passing. Garrard has only made one really bad throw, when he airmailed Mike Sims-Walker right and put it right to Cortland Finnegan as the Jags were driving, but the Titans have been getting much more pressure than they did in the previous game. I think they're bringing extra guys a little more, plus the players are just playing better. I think part of that is Jason Jones inside. Garrard also hasn't gotten much help from his wideouts.
Carolina Panthers 34 at Arizona Cardinals 21
Minnesota Vikings 38 at Green Bay Packers 26
Vince Verhei: On Percy Harvin's not-quite-touchdown kickoff return, the most impressive player to me was Nick Collins, for Green Bay. I don't know if he actually made an impact on the tackle, but he was actually catching up to Harvin even before Harvin was caught up in traffic.
Mike Kurtz: FOX has some kind of weird audio filter on right now, or maybe it's just our local broadcast, but it makes everyone sound like Darth Vader. Oddly appropriate for MIN-GB.
David Gardner: It's sad for Aaron Rodgers how badly his offensive line is playing right now.
Mike Kurtz: Part of me hoped that that first Peterson touchdown, where he reached the ball out and it popped out, wasn't actually a score, just so we could see the lineman who was heads-up enough to grab the ball in the air and charge toward the goal-line get a touchdown. That would have been a cool play.
David Gardner: Jimmy Johnson: "It wasn't any secret what Green Bay had to do to stay in this ball game: They had to protect Aaron Rodgers. Had they watched our pregame show, they would have known: protect Aaron Rodgers."
I wonder if the Packers even thought of that ... Johnson should call Mike McCarthy.
Aaron Schatz: The Vikings are awfully impressive. They've turned into an all-around team this year. Adding Brett Favre is part of that, of course, but the receivers have really improved. Sidney Rice has blossomed, and Percy Harvin is excellent for a rookie. On defense, they're getting on without Antoine Winfield. Their weakest unit now is probably the linebackers, but even they are league average.
And you know who I think is playing pretty well today? Phil Loadholt, the rookie right tackle. He's keeping Favre clean, even when he's up against Aaron Kampman, and he does an excellent job of pushing his man way back when the Vikings run a draw.
(Now, into the third quarter...)
This is interesting. Not only have the Packers suddenly come alive in the third quarter, but they are doing this while only leaving five to block on each pass. I don't know how long they can keep the passing game hot without Rodgers going down again unless they leave some blockers behind.
I think it would take someone with much more scouting experience than me, and some coaches' film with slow-motion replay, to figure out what the Packers changed in their offensive line protection scheme in the second half. But whatever it was, it really worked.
One last note about this game. Has anybody ever noticed Mason Crosby's eyebrows? Egads! I think they are permanently in "angry" slanted position.