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.
While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That 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 Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.
Thursday, November 11
Baltimore Ravens 21 at Atlanta Falcons 26
Bill Barnwell: Falcons throw a lot to Roddy White on their first drive. Is it because he's lined up against Lardarius Webb, or because he's Roddy White and Matt Ryan is programmed to throw every other pass to him?
Tom Gower: I am proscribing myself from saying anything in Audibles about our analysts tonight. So, some long-winded thoughts on the Ravens.
One of the things Greg Cosell and the guys on NFL Playbook noted about Kevin Kolb's success against the Falcons is that their safeties tend not to be placed in schemes that are complicated, probably because they're both young and neither is great. Kolb thus had an easier read than he would against most teams, and that's why he was able to make plays.
This, of course, leads to my question: are the Ravens able to attack teams downfield effectively enough? I saw reports they passed on Moss in part because they were getting Donte Stallworth back, but even if he's healthy, is he going to play over Mason and Boldin? Neither of those guys is a big downfield threat, and while Flacco has a good arm, I'm not sure his head for the game is where it needs to be for him to go there without help from his wideouts.
The broader question is, just how good are the Ravens? One of the ESPN people today apparently talked about this game as a Super Bowl preview; while I can see that (and you'll see many more "this could be a Super Bowl" preview comments than actual Super Bowl previews), DVOA has them 11th and I don't trust the downfield passing game or the pass defense to say they're one of the best teams in the league.
Bill Barnwell: Sure, but I think you can make the anecdotal, at least, case that adding Ed Reed and having Lardarius Webb's knee ligaments get stronger over the second half of the season are reasons to believe that the pass defense will improve.
Vince Verhei: Missed the first half, but as the second half started, announcers are falling all over themselves in praise of Ryan... meanwhile, the Falcons have one touchdown, one field goal, and three punts. They're averaging 5.4 yards per pass, including sacks. I know completion percentage is good, but jeez.
Aaron Schatz: Two things I've noticed so far tonight:
Bill Barnwell: Terrell Suggs just beat Sam Baker for a sack of Matt Ryan on third-and-short. Not that one sack is indicative of a player's absolute level of performance, but I'm yet to be impressed by Baker. He takes a fair amount of penalties, he gets beat a fair amount of the time in pass protection ... the total package adds up to somebody more conspicuous than a good left tackle for me.
Tom Gower: The Suggs sack was kind of a coverage sack -- Ryan was looking to hit a receiver on a shallow crosser over the middle, but Lewis, I believe, bumped him as he was about to come free on the left side. Within five yards, so perfectly legal, and Ryan just ran out of time quicker than he thought he would.
David Gardner: Okay, I'll admit that I laughed when Matt Millen said, "I think it will be a facemask" right after the ref called the penalty. Nice tongue-in-cheek.
Doug Farrar: Well, I’ll say something about the announcing. This has been an absolute abomination – a complete and total embarrassment, and one of the worst-called sporting events I’ve ever seen. Whoever made the call to put these guys in that booth together and leave Mike Mayock out should be fired for incompetence. You know you’re in Bizarro World when Joey Sunshine is the best guy in the booth. Bob Papa has had a rare off right, and I can’t really blame him – I’d imagine that being in the booth with Matt Millen is kind of like being an air traffic controller in the second half of the “Airplane” movie. Matt’s usually good for a few howlers per game, but he’s been in rare form tonight; he’s managed to misidentify so many things in so many creative ways.
As far as the game itself, Inspector Gadget has officially been promoted to Captain Checkdown. Going into the Falcons’ final regulation drive, Matty Ice is 29 of 44 for 244 yards. After reading Walkthrough this week, I’m wondering, Mike – if Ryan was throwing to Wes Welker, would the offense implode?
Bill Barnwell: Millen really does make Theismann look good. On that touchdown pass, Millen credited Matt Ryan for seeing the blitz and rolling to his left, whereas Theismann immediately followed him by crediting Mularkey for calling the play: A designed rollout where Ryan moved to his left at the snap, before the blitz even came.
Doug Farrar: Yeah, clearly a designed play.
Bill Barnwell: Don't see how it could be OPI.
Mike Tanier: Might best be described - poetically not analytically - as an arrival. Sorry. Too much book writing and not enough analysis lately.
Tom Gower: The White play will never be called OPI. Its equivalent by a defensive player might be called contact.
I had another mini-rant ready to fire about how Baltimore's win tonight was just more of the same, and it's nonsense that this team is 7-2 and will be proclaimed as awesome even though they quite clearly are not, then the Falcons drive the field for the game-winning score with Ryan actually throwing the ball down the field.
Sunday, November 14
Cincinnati Bengals 17 at Indianapolis Colts 23
Jones does break up a third down pass to Tamme to force the Colts into an Adam Vinatieri field goal. It's weird -- Will noticed this too, but the Colts keep going to Tamme despite the fact that Tamme looks to be far from 100 percent and is staying down in pain seemingly after every pass thrown to him. Tamme has something like six targets on the first two drives.
Doug Farrar: All Kelvin Hayden does is catch touchdowns. Carson Palmer now knows this, because he threw a seriously ill-advised ball in Hayden’s area with 2:30 left in the first quarter, and he paid the price with a pick-six.
Vince Verhei: On another note, the Chad Ochocinco "Best Around" spot for the NFL Training Camp video game is my new pick for best commercial of the year.
Will Carroll: Brown's out, having screwed up every blitz pickup so far. He just can't do it and Peyton Manning looks like he's going to have him killed.
Doug Farrar: That was the ding on him coming out of college -- he could do everything but pass pro -- primarily because UConn didn't pass often in 2008, and when they did, they didn't do it too well.
Will Carroll: Kelvin Hayden "tackled" Cedric Benson on a swing pass. I couldnt tell if it was helmet-to-helmet, but it was Benson that dropped his head and really applied the contact. Benson went down, but Hayden popped back about five yards, staying on his feet. On the next play, Hayden did not react to the snap *at all*. His feet didn't move. He didn't turn as the receiver went by him. The play went to the opposite side, so either he knew it was going that way and took a play off or he was out on his feet.
Bill Barnwell: As our friend Gregg Rosenthal notes on Twitter, the Bengals punt on fourth-and-1 from the Colts 42-yard line. He says "Barf". You can insert the River City Ransom exclamation of your choice.
Will Carroll: I think they waited too long to give Palmer his cortisone injection. Didn't seem to kick in until the second quarter.
Dierdorf just said Tamme is getting throws because Manning trusts him. Umm, Reggie Wayne is still on the field. Tamme's getting looks because he's open and Manning's finding him. I realize that Manning's trust (or rather like) is a big deal in this offense, but the idea that because Brandon James is on the field means that Wayne and Garcon are not is just weird. The difference is that Manning is one of very few QBs that can find his fifth option.
Vince Verhei: Tyjuan Hagler jumps a short out pattern and intercepts Palmer, almost taking it to the house on the return. At what point does it become self-evident that Carson Palmer, for whatever reason, is the biggest problem in Cincinnati?
Will Carroll: Palmer was terrible at the start, great for about two quarters, now terrible again. I don't think it's crazy to say that his good period was when the painkiller kicked in and it ended when it wore off.
Will Carroll: Mike Nugent was just carried off by two guys. I have no idea what happened, but I've never seen something that looked like that.
Ben Muth: If Nugent is hurt, and the Bengals come down and score, then we might have a non-kicker attept the game winning PAT. That is something I would like to see.
Aaron Schatz: I would really like to see some footage of Carson Palmer in 2005, 2008, and now, shown side by side, to see just how his mechanics changed and when it happened. It's amazing how much he has declined -- and quietly, too. At no point did he have some sort of public implosion moment. Between injuries and mechanical issues probably caused by cascade from those injuries, he just sort of went from being the top quarterback after Brady/Manning to just another guy.
New York Jets 26 at Cleveland Browns 20
Aaron Schatz: Once again, I am going to hypothesize that the Saints' Super Bowl victory may have really hurt the "surprise onside kick" strategy for a while. The Browns just tried one on the Jets and failed. Worse was why they failed -- the Browns coverage team looked more surprised by the onside kick than the Jets did. The ball ended up bouncing out of bounds when a Browns player desperately dived but couldn't knock it back in.
Doug Farrar: For all you Braylon-haters out there, he wasn't ducking out of bounds way before contact early on that catch -- he was thinking ahead, making sure the Jets could save their time outs with 13 minutes left in the first half.
Aaron Schatz: Wow. Blown coverage city in Cleveland. The Browns rush only three (it became four when David Bowens realized the back was blocking) but somehow in all the coverage they completely forget to cover Jerricho Cotchery, who is sitting all alone right in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown.
The Browns look good on offense, though. They're completely avoiding the Jets' cornerbacks, almost entirely depending on gadget plays, Peyton Hillis runs, and throws to Ben Watson.
Doug Farrar: Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas. Chuck Norris wears Peyton Hillis pajamas.
On the other side, I've seen Sanchez throw two floating goatballs that would have been picks if the Browns possessed anything resembling a secondary. They seemed to be that secondary away from being an interesting threat, but maybe they're that interesting threat anyway.
Aaron Schatz: Surprising stat after 35 minutes of Jets-Browns: Two Ryan-brother defenses, no quarterback sacks.
Bill Barnwell: Jets pass rush is mostly a mythical creature.
Aaron Schatz: 13th in ASR, so not that mythical.
Vince Verhei: Nick Folk honks a chip-shot field goal and the Jets are still ahead just 17-13. My favorite stat from this game: The Jets are 8-for-12 on third downs (and 1-for-1 on fourth downs). The Browns are just 1- for-3.
Aaron Schatz: Jim Nantz just did the horrible "real time" stat thing again, pointing out that Colt McCoy has not completed a pass "in 57 minutes of real time." You know, because the Jets had the last drive of the first half, then went 19 plays with the first drive of the second half. Who gives a flying crap how many passes a quarterback has completed in "real time"?
Doug Farrar: This is the New York Jets offense – they just completed a third-quarter drive that took 21 plays and took 10:04 off the clock. In that time, they went from their own 34 to the Browns’ six-yard line, and Nick Folk ended the drive by bouncing a chip shot off the right upright.
Aaron Schatz: Anatomy of a blown blocking assignment: First-and-10 Cleveland, Browns in a three-wide set with the tight end on the left. When the right end is lined up in between the left guard and left tackle, it is not a good idea for the left guard and left tackle to both pull to the left when the ball is snapped. Trust me when I tell you that tight end is not crossing over to get to the defensive right end in time, and no matter how strong Peyton Hillis is, he is going to be completely pancaked in the backfield. Egads. I would say "great play, Mike Devito," but Devito didn't have to do anything except run through open space.
Sacks show up in the Jets-Browns game after halftime as both teams start to blitz more. The Jets in particular seem to have decided that if McCoy is not going to try to test their cornerbacks, they just need to bring pressure that either a) forces short options to stay back to block or b) collapses the whole pocket before McCoy can even find those short receivers (or scramble himself).
Vince Verhei: Jets finally get another field goal to go up 20-13. On third-and-goal Sanchez threw it right into Abram Elam's stomach. Elam somehow managed to not reel in the ball. It was like he'd been impaled by the football and had to reach into his body and pull the ball out. It's Sanchez' second dropped INT of the game, both in the red zone.
Bill Barnwell: Browns drive in overtime gets shut down when Chansi Stuckey goes for extra yardage and gets stripped. Ball's right on the sideline, but the magic grass keeps the ball inbounds and Cromartie recovers.
Doug Farrar: Through the fourth quarter and into overtime, Mark Sanchez has shown an amazing ability to get out of tackles and extend plays. You can see his confidence building because of that.
Bill Barnwell: Sure. It's so frustrating that the same guy who is backdropping would-be rushers to make great touch throws is the same guy who guns a screen off of Tomlinson's hands a play later. What a weird player.
Vince Verhei: Third-and-14, needing one first down to get into field-goal range, Sanchez drops back and throws deep to a well-covered Braylon Edwards. Joe Haden has position, jumps for the ball, and actually manages to catch it this time. Browns' ball inside their own ten with less than two minutes to go, and it looks like they're playing for the tie.
Bill Barnwell: Good idea -- one-on-one with Edwards vs. Haden -- and the interception on third-and-long from midfield is probably better than an incompletion. Not so sure that they shouldn't be kneeling and happily taking a tie.
Doug Farrar: And it's weird to say, but I think Haden made a rookie mistake by not batting it down instead of picking it off. Major difference in field position.
Vince Verhei: Sanchez throws a quick slant to Santonio Holmes, and it seems like there's no way they're going to get the field-goal off ... except three different Browns defenders miss tackles, and Holmes takes it in for the score.
Bill Barnwell: I don't know why they saved the quick slant to Holmes for the end of the overtime.
Mike Tanier: Colt McCoy looks poised, but I see him completing the drag route to the tight end or to a receiver, some flat passes to backs, and not a lot else. It looks to me like the classic "one or two reads" offense to prop up a young QB with enough mobility to move around the pocket.
There were a couple of times where I saw him waiting, waiting, waiting on that drag for 5-7 yards instead of looking elsewhere. Now, I know the other receivers are weak and so on, but it just appears that the Browns are in "comfortable throw" mode for him, and they happened to smoke one good team and take another one to the wall, so here we are.
Not saying he's not the future. Not saying that he hasn't come a long way from camp. I just need to see more than the outlet to Hillis, drags to Stuckey and Watson, and one sweet TD throw to Massaquoi.
Aaron Schatz: Somebody will have to explain to me how we ended up with Darrelle Revis covering second tight end Evan Moore on the outside. Even stranger, Moore actually caught a nice slant pass against Revis on the game-tying drive in the fourth quarter.
The Cleveland turf was just horrible today. What, do they share that stadium with an elephant polo team or something? The coin toss for overtime actually had three choices: heads, tails, and coin sinks into the mud at midfield and nobody can find it.
I'm not sure what to say about the end of this one. A tie between the Ryan brothers would have been awesomely appropriate. The Jets have a horseshoe the size of the new Meadowlands Stadium up their collective asses. Three of their wins are now this win, the fourth-and-10 Denver DPI against Santonio Holmes, and the Ndamukong Suh missed extra point. Not that Holmes and Sanchez didn't show talent in making that last play happen, but all it takes is 20 extra seconds coming off the clock at various other times in the overtime and that play never takes place.
Minnesota Vikings 13 at Chicago Bears 27
Ben Muth: Brett Favre steps up in the pocket and finds a wide open Percy Harvin deep down the sideline for a touchdown. Don't worry, Siragusa makes sure to point out that he's just having fun out there.
Bill Barnwell: Jay Cutler just threw a pass about two yards ahead of the line of scrimmage. It was incomplete anyway, but it sure wasn't pretty.
After Drew Coleman's combination of chasing after a ballcarrier while complaining for a foul last week, Olin Kreutz tops him by blocking Antoine Winfield in the back. As Kreutz was falling to the ground, he put his hands up in the universal sign for "I just committed a penalty but it's cool, you don't need to call a foul on me". It did not work.
An amazingly bad throw from Jay Cutler on third-and-goal. He scrambles out of traffic and then throws into a spot in the end zone where his receiver is open, but the fact that he is SCRAMBLING and it's IN THE END ZONE means that about three different players pass through that passing lane between the time the ball is released and the theoretical point at which his receiver would catch the pass. It gets picked.
Mike Kurtz: FOX had a fantastic reaction shot of Martz holding his clipboard over his head in horror, yelling "Don't do that!"
Tennessee Titans 17 at Miami Dolphins 29
Bill Barnwell: Chad Pennington's already gone to the locker room with an injury in Miami. Already. Seriously.
Tom Gower: OUT-standing start for the Titans in the Randy Moss era: deep incomplete for Nate Washington (Collins looked in Moss's direction, then threw to the other side of the field), no yards for Chris Johnson, timeout on 3-and-10, then Bo Scaife gets stripped stretching for the first down marker. Fisher challenges and loses, and the Titans are down two timeouts less than a minute into the game.
Once the Dolphins have the ball, it takes a grand total of one play for Pennington to get injured, when he's taken down by Jason Babin. They use a timeout getting Pennington out of the game, then burn a second timeout of their own when they have trouble getting a play off. Yes, both teams are down to one timeout for the rest of the first half with 27 minutes to play in the half.
Mike Tanier: Pennington won comeback player of the nanosecond.
Tom Gower: After the Dolphins convert the Scaife fumble into a Ronnie Brown score, Chris Johnson repays the favor. The big play on the drive was a pass interference penalty against Vontae Davis -- if he got his head around, it was probably a pick, but he didn't. The touchdown run came on third-and-2 when the Dolphins played two high safeties against a three-wideout personnel package.
Well then... the Dolphins fake a punt inside their own 30, and it fails. The Titans convert that into a field goal. On their next possession, Henne has to get rid of the ball quickly after a delayed corner blitz and throws it ahead for Anthony Fasano. Not catching the ball was in part a personal protection move for Fasano, as the throw short of the first down marker was also leading him into defensive end Dave Ball, who'd dropped into coverage. After the play, Fasano was kind enough to immediately verbally point out that risk to his person to Henne.
The Titans catch a break, as a throw to Randy Moss on a 12-yard in is ruled incomplete on the field and not a catch and fumble after a big hit by the Dolphins, and because the play was ruled incomplete the Dolphins can't get the ball on the recovery.
Neither Collins nor Henne handles pressure the least bit well, which makes this a very frustrating game to watch and means that downfield passes are hard to come by. The Dolphins did get a 54-yard gain to set up the field goal that tied the game at 10, but it came on a flea flicker.
Ben Muth: Great play by Alterraun Verner on the Titans. He was a covering a punt and it took a high bounce at the two. Verner jumped up and batted it back over his head so Tennessee could down it at the two.
Tom Gower: The Dolphins have approximately zero running game today (17 yards), but they've been having success throwing the ball, mostly on the short stuff when Henne doesn't have to think about what to do with the ball.
Chad Henne gets smacked and taken down by Tony Brown with an apparent left leg injury. With Pennington out, the Dolphins have to either burn the last 0:57 of the third quarter with Pennington or Wildcat so they don't lose Henne in case he can come back. They go Wildcat, only it's a pass by Marshall off the fly sweep, who throws into triple coverage to Cobbs downfield.
Bill Barnwell: Tyler Thigpen is in for the Dolphins. Does Doug love Thigpen more than I love Pennington? And which FO staff member wants to fall for the fourth-string guy?
Tom Gower: The Dolphins have continued to adapt to the Titans pass rush, focusing more on quarterback movement and getting him off his spot. That's one of the things they were doing to help Henne, and they've done it some with Thigpen in the fourth as well. They also started running effectively once they switched to the Wildcat. Marshall's done squat, but Anthony Fasano has five catches for 107 yards and the TD that made it 29-17 with just more than five to play. Most of his damage has been in the middle void against Cover-2 because MLB Stephen Tulloch gets no depth on his drops and bites on stuff in front of him.
Moss finally gets his first grab, a deep out for 26 yards against the corner void in Cover-2.
Tom Gower: The Titans comeback gets snuffed out -- Vince Young takes a bad sack on third-and-10 off a corner blitz where he just didn't seem to ever recognize the blitzer, and then chucked a prayer into double coverage in the end zone from 39 yards out on fourth down. At least Jones was kind enough to intercept the ball in the end zone and cost his team field position.
Houston Texans 24 at Jacksonville Jaguars 31
Bill Barnwell: Jaguars are dominating the Texans, who are struggling to move the ball despite playing ... the Jaguars. Mike Sims-Walker went down with an injury, so the passing game hasn't been exactly dominant, but they've moved the ball with Maurice Jones-Drew, who had two easy touchdown runs. It appears that the meme going around in Houston is that the Texans aren't running the ball frequently enough and need to improve their offensive playcalling, which is absurd -- they're second in offensive DVOA and 31st in defensive DVOA. Even if their offensive playcalling isn't optimal, are they really going to be a better team if they improve to first?
Tom Gower: The Texans offense leads the league in variance, and the passing game in particular has been up and down. I think that's primarily because Matt Schaub, while very good, tends to respond poorly to pressure, especially up the middle. As to whether that's the cause of today's struggles, I'm not sure.
Bill Barnwell: Quite the series for the Texans. First down from the Jaguars 19-yard line. Schaub hits Andre Johnson in the end zone on a play that gets called back for a combination of illegal contact and chop block. Next play, Schaub hits Kevin Walter for a touchdown, but after Walter has caught the pass and fallen down, it gets Calvin Johnson Rule'd when he rolls over. The Texans challenge and get it reversed into a touchdown based upon a "second act" rule.
Despite David Garrard having completed BIGINT consecutive passes in a row, the Jaguars run a draw on third-and-15 to set up a 43-yard field goal for Josh Scobee. Scobee promptly shanks the kick about as badly as you'll ever see an NFL kicker shank a kick. Texans now driving.
OK. Third-and-15, 14 seconds left, Texans have the ball on the 40 with no timeouts. Matt Schaub throws...a six-yard crossing pattern to Joel Dreessen. What on earth? Dreessen fumbled anyway, but no way can they get their kicking unit onto the field there. Just a really dumb move.
HOLY GEEZ. The Jaguars run a Hail Mary with three seconds left and the Texans knock it ... right into Mike Thomas's hands. Gus Johnson doesn't even recognize it at first, but when he does, oh, does he Gus Johnson the heck out of it. Incredible finish.
Will Carroll: OH MY GOD. That's the most amazing finish ever - AND GUS JOHNSON CALLED IT!
Rob Weintraub: Gus may have been late, but he got the "HA-HA" in there. On Comcast's red zone, the host sort of tipped it off that something spectacular was coming -- just by soft-soaping too much in the other direction. "Jags David Gerrard looking at overtime, but they do have three seconds left -- let's show it to you."
Mike Tanier: I can't stop giggling about the end of this game. Bat it... sideways!
I think Billy "White Shoes" Johnson caught a Hail Mary like that for the Falcons once.
Vince Verhei: Just saw the play. Amazing, sure (especially considering the wonky Schaub decision making that preceded it), but not close to the best Gus Johnson finish ever.
Detroit Lions 12 at Buffalo Bills 14
Aaron Schatz: Wow. Ryan Fitzpatrick IS Zach Galifianakis.
Bill Barnwell: Why do announcers say that a quarterback threw "...a little shovel pass"? Is there a big shovel pass that they need to differentiate those particular shovel passes from?
Tom Gower: Down 14-6, the Lions tied the game after getting about 21 yards on fourth-and-2; Calvin Johnson was wide open down the middle of the field. Then, of course, Shaun Hill scrambles, scrambles, and throws the 2-point conversion attempt out of the back of the end zone. Give your guy a chance to make a play!
Aaron Schatz: Inexplicable. Somebody might want to let Shaun Hill know that an interception on a two-point conversion is meaningless, and you don't get another shot at it. Either shoot that thing in there and take the chance at a pick, or desperately try to run it in yourself and hope to make magic. "Throw it away" is not an option.
Carolina Panthers 16 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31
Mike Tanier: The Panthers offense is a symphony of pain. This is what I get for arriving ten minutes after kickoff.
LeGarrette Blount just drove 80 yards almost by himself. He and his line look really good. The only other Bucs play of note was a Josh Johnson Wildcat sighting.
Mike Tanier: Yet it is 14-10 Bucs, with the Panthers in the game thanks to a punt hitting a Bucs defender, then David Gettis jumping for a Clausen wobbler, followed by a touchdown by Jimmy Vaughn, or Jon Vaughn, or Stevie Ray Vaughan, or...
Kansas City Chiefs 29 at Denver Broncos 49
Mike Kurtz: Thanks to injuries, I'm in the weird position of starting Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal. This would normally not be a problem. Of course, Denver picks this week to rediscover the running game.
Bill Barnwell: Yeah. The Chiefs are now down 14-0 after two drives and are going to have to throw to catch up. That's not exactly a strength.
Mike Kurtz: I rescind my earlier whining. Gaffney with an amazing catch for apparent TD. Haley challenges, the ref comes back after a minute with "the replay system was inoperable." Hilarious.
Bill Barnwell: Chiefs can't stop the Broncos to save their lives. Not sure if's the absence of Jon McGraw, but they look terrible.
Tom Gower: Nice sequence at the end of the first half in Denver-up 35-7, the Broncos decide to attempt a 58-yard field goal. It falls short, and Eric Berry returns it 82 yards to the 22 and is conveniently tackled with :01 left in the half so the Chiefs can cut the halftime deficit to 35-10.
Fourth and goal from about two inches out. The Chiefs go for it and hand it off of course. But they don't give it to Charles or Jones. They give it to Battle. Interesting.
Bill Barnwell: Their plays before that weren't pretty. Jones got stuffed for a yard on first down. Cassel advanced the ball about an inch on a second down sneak. Third down was a quick slant to Dwayne Bowe against Champ Bailey. Champ Bailey won.
Aaron Schatz: It's too bad that CBS didn't play this one up properly. You had two brothers facing each other, both following in their father's NFL footsteps. Screw Manning Bowl. This was COLQUITT BOWL.
What did I say a couple weeks ago, that Kansas City might be the most balanced team in the league? Yeah, they certainly looked balanced in the first half of this game. Every single aspect of the team sucked. I mean, Cassel was something like 9-of-13 in the first half but it was all underneath stuff, mostly on one drive near the end of the second quarter. The offensive line was just horrid today, with no holes for Jamaal Charles on running plays and the Broncos mediocre pass rush dominating them on passing plays. When Denver had the ball, their receivers were really whipping the Chiefs defenders downfield with speed, and when the placement of receivers led to Brandon Carr covering Brandon Lloyd, egads. The Broncos also showed really solid tackling today. Just to make sure that special teams was included in the sucking, Ryan Succop honked a field goal.
Tom mentioned it briefly, but I want to get into the absurd final Denver drive of the first half. Honestly, Josh McDaniels has so much hubris it must be pouring out of his eye sockets. The Broncos got the ball with 1:22 left in the half. Not content to be leading the game 35-7 going into halftime, McDaniels was actually calling timeouts in order to prolong the drive and get the Broncos into scoring position. Not only did he call all three timeouts, but Orton actually spiked the ball on second-and-3 from the Kansas City 40 with 39 seconds left. What on earth was McDaniels thinking here? Was he that worried about the Chiefs coming back from a 28-point deficit? Did he want to make it to 38 just to match what Oakland put up on Denver in the first half two weeks ago? I know that the ball travels farther in Denver air but a 58-yard field goal is something you only kick out of desperation, not because you want to make the score 38-7. Absolutely ridiculous. For the Chiefs to return the missed field goal far enough to get their own three points is only fitting.
On the other hand, to say something positive about the Broncos coaches, they finally had Tim Tebow actually throw the ball today. At a certain point, you have to figure the Tebow package isn't going to work if defenses know the Broncos won't throw out of it. It's interesting -- there are no running backs in the Tebow package. He's back there by himself, with what looks like six offensive linemen and four tight ends. I'm not sure if that count is right, but the point remains -- it's good to know he can pass out of that thing, because he certainly can't hand off or play-fake in any way.
St. Louis Rams 20 at San Francisco 49ers 23
Tom Gower: On third-and-8, Bradford is picked by Clements, but it's negated by an Ahmad Brooks offside call. On third-and-3, Ray McDonald jumps to give the Rams a first down. On first-and-10, Adam Goldberg moves early to make it first-and-15. Gentlemen, I present you Professional Football in the 2010 NFC West!
This looks more like the 49ers team I expected to win the NFC West, or maybe the Rams look more like the 2007-09 Rams. Gore is running with success, Troy Smith is doing enough, and Steven Jackson isn't finding rushing room.
Fox was kind enough to tell me Danny Amendola has the "heart of a champion." I guess that's how he got open on Nate Clements on that in route or Bradford hit him for a TD pass (70-yard drive, including two 49ers personal fouls and an offside call).
The Rams just ran a nice variant of a common play -- as opposed to the fake throw to back on one side, throw to back on other side, they did the fake to back, fake to other side, throw to tight end over middle. Bradford's was a little off and Mike Hoomanawanui couldn't catch it, but it's a fun little wrinkle.
The 49ers have their second TD of the game negated by penalty. The first came earlier, after a pass to Davis on a sweet play on third-and-goal is wiped out by a delay of game. The second came down 7 in the 4th quarter, when rookie first rounder right tackle Anthony Davis got destroyed by Chris Long on a bullrush and tackled him after falling over, and wiped out a very good grab by Crabtree.
Joe Staley went out that drive and is now being carted to the locker room, so now both teams are down their starting left tackle, as the Rams lost Rodger Saffold in the first half, I believe. The OL issues have made for a lot of fun WR screens this game-pretty much any time I've noticed three guys split to one side pre-snap it's been a WR screen.
Bill Barnwell: That DPI in overtime was absurd. That ball isn't catchable. Troy Smith is now two-for-two, by the way, with good things happening when he throws the ball as he falls down. That strikes me as a bad precedent.
Tom Gower: I disagree. It looked farther away than it was, and Delanie Walker at least comes close to catching it if not for Atogwe's contact. I'd prefer our hypothetical Minor DPI on that flag, though that's only a seven-yard difference. Agree that success while falling down being a bad precedent for Troy Smith, but it'll get him at least one more start than he deserves because he Just Wins.
Bill Barnwell: I don't think Walker is able to turn around and move fast enough to be within three or four feet of it. I'll agree to disagree. Do you think it could/should have gone down as an illegal contact?
Tom Gower: I think the refs were in a hard position there -- it's close to uncatchable, but it's also the sort of obstruction that's very hard to ignore. The contact all occurred very clearly post-pass, so it couldn't have been illegal contact or defensive holding. The refs had to make a tough judgment call there, and I don't think they were clearly wrong.
Aaron Schatz: When I looked over at this game, I noticed a number of plays where Troy Smith looked very good bootlegging and then throwing to the open receiver right when pass rush was about to get him.
Dallas Cowboys 33 at New York Giants 20
Mike Tanier: All those worried about a flat performance by the Giants ... your worries are confirmed.
Ben Muth: Just saw the Eli pick-six. Gross.
Vince Verhei: So, I haven't seen much of the Giants game, but I see that Jon Kitna is 9-of-13 for 232 yards. Did they adapt the power play for this game? Are the Giants constantly playing a man down?
Mike Tanier: My take, only watching bits and pieces, was that the Giants were about to go up 10-9, then there's an interception that amounts to pretty much a 14-point reversal. The Cowboys play a pretty good game overall, but there's just a big difference between 10-9 and 16-3. They ride that advantage out and win by 13, and I don't want to take away a win from them or say that they weren't better this week than the last three, but...
I flipped between three highlight shows, and heard lots of gushing about the Cowboys turning things around. Terry Bradshaw started ranting about them going on a roll and finishing 9-7.
Did I miss the part where they dominated this game? I see 15 first downs, 3-of-11 on third down. It was a solid enough win, I guess, but I don't see the "wow, what an amazing turnaround" storyline.
Aaron Schatz: The "wow, what an amazing turnaround" angle is that the Giants were arguably the best team in the NFL going into today. Maybe it wasn't the blowout it seemed to be, but it was a solid win made much more impressive by the level of competition.
Seattle Seahawks 36 at Arizona Cardinals 18
Vince Verhei: Mike Williams is having a whale of a day -- five catches for 70-some yards at the end of the first quarter. The funny thing is he's getting virtually no separation -- he's just outmuscling defenders and winning every single battle for the ball.
Deon Butler scores a long touchdown and a catch-and-run to put Seattle ahead of Arizona 17-10. Butler was in the slot, and it looked like the linebacker had him in man coverage. That obviously failed, but the Cardinals had two safeties deep. The safety to Butler's side of the field was in position to make a tackle, so Butler cut left, where it looked like Adrian Wilson had been caught cheating up close to the line of scrimmage. Butler outran them all to about the 10, where it looked like they had him corralled. He then cut back inside, slipping by them all, getting a key block from John Carlson to get into the end zone.
On the replay, the wide shot makes it look more like the Cardinals were playing a simple Cover-2, but the key point is still the same: Adrian Wilson was caught playing too shallow.
Doug Farrar: They've been getting burned on crossing stuff all year when they run Cover-2 -- it popped up last week in the loss to the Brett Favres, and it popped up here in a different way. Usually, it's on shorter plays where a shallow cross or skinny slant takes a linebacker or two up, and the Hole in Zone (he hasn't retired; he just lives in Glendale now) is exploited.
Vince Verhei: Now Ben Obamanu is splitting Arizona DBs for big gains. That's Ben Obamanu, special teams ace and blocking specialist. He was so wide- open that as he was standing there waiting for the ball to come down, Cardinals defenders were turning their heads to look at each other and figure out who screwed up even as they closed in on him.
Doug Farrar: It seems that on every play where Adrian Wilson should be deep, he's close in, and vice versa. Weird.
Ben Muth: The Seahawks go for it on fourth and inches from the twenty rather than kick the field goal. Matt Hasselbeck gets stuffed on the sneak. And by stuffed I mean he just sort of falls down for no apparent reason.
Bill Barnwell: Sneak is the wrong word. Sneak implies that Hasselbeck moved forward and tried to sneak between a gap for a yard. That was more like a QB cuddle. Or a QB curl into the fetal position.
Doug Farrar: After that play, and last week’s third-and-1 lateral pass to Chris Baker, and several goal line situations I can think of, I’m starting to think that Jeremy Bates’ headset should be cut in any situation that ands in “and-1” or “and-goal”. Oh, and Hasselbeck appeared to injure his left hand on the play. So there’s that.
New England Patriots 39 at Pittsburgh Steelers 26
Mike Tanier: Aragorn was deadly accurate on the opening Patriots series. The throw to Gronkowski for the touchdown could not have been more accurate.
Aaron Schatz: How many games this year have the Steelers worn the mustard helmets? It seems like they show up a lot now.
By the way, Darius Butler was a healthy scratch tonight for the Pats, even though that left them with only three active cornerbacks. What the hell happened to "the best cover corner in the 2009 draft?"
Tom Gower: The same thing that happened to Terrence Wheatley, "the steal of the 2008 draft."
Aaron Schatz: Now, I don't remember anyone calling Wheatley the steal of the 2008 draft, but scouts nationwide were definitely high on Butler -- I'm talking about before the Pats drafted him, when we didn't know what team he would be on.
Until Rashard Mendenhall just took a really long run to the Pats' 30-yard line, the Patriots had the Pittsburgh running game all bottled up. I'm trying to figure out why. It looks like the offensive linemen are generally holding blocks, although Heath Miller has had some problems. It just seems like there's some linebacker flying up to tackle the runner nearly every time, someone the line can't account for.
Bill Barnwell: They were making great tackles at the line of scrimmage.
Aaron Schatz: Brady really getting excellent protection tonight.
Mike Tanier: He is, but they are trapped in dink and dunk purgatory.
This night game has been boring for 58 minutes of Real Time.
Bill Barnwell: I don't know, I think diagnosing how the Patriots -- the pass defense that let Colt McCoy complete a bunch in a row last week -- has held Ben Roethlisberger to 8-of-22 so far is pretty interesting.
Aaron Schatz: I think Mike's feeling of ennui may be a product of the fact that if you are a hardcore NFL fan -- and we all are -- the Sunday night game is the third game you've watched in one day. You get a little tired out by that last game after watching for six hours in the afternoon, and I wonder if that makes a steady diet of three-yard runs and short passes seem a little dull. Maybe after six hours of football, you need long bombs or turnovers to get a little excited. It seems strange for us hardcore folks, but I admit that I too have found the Sunday night games to be oddly boring at times this year.
By the way, I can give you the biggest reason why the Patriots have held Roethlisberger to 8-of-22 after letting Colt McCoy go nuts last week: Pittsburgh offensive line vs. Cleveland offensive line, and especially Jonathan Scott vs. Joe Thomas.
Mike Tanier: I think that is it. There are things to analyze and some interesting strategies, but by 10:40 I need some sizzle!
Bill Barnwell: Um, I've been waiting all day for Sunday night. So not a problem.
Aaron Hernandez has spent most of the game on the bench. Are they pissed at him for something? Or is it a schematic choice, with the Patriots going with their blocking tight ends (Gronkowski and Crumpler) in 2TE sets?
Aaron Schatz: I am going to have to ding the Pats a bit though for their playcalling on third-and-23 with 7:00 left in the third quarter. On third-and-23, what good is an eight-yard crossing pattern to Wes Welker? (It was incomplete, but that doesn't really matter.) I understand you don't have Randy Moss anymore, but you are allowed to send Brandon Tate deep, maybe Aaron Hernandez, throw the ball up there.
Mike Kurtz: Roethlisberger makes a really stupid throw to Heath Miller on second-and-goal. He's making conscious decisions to not run, and it's cost his team a lot of points.
Bill Barnwell: Even before the missed field goal, I think you go for it there. The difference between a 14-point lead with 17 minutes ago and an 11-point lead just isn't significant.
Aaron Schatz: I'm a bit stunned at this game. The Steelers pass rush can't even breathe on Brady tonight. We definitely need to go back and chart this to figure out how many guys they're sending. Have they sent six at all?
Bill Barnwell: Sometimes, I wonder if Collinsworth is even watching the game. He's giving a speech about how the Steelers defense love playing in a phone booth and stopping the run and must hate being spread out across the field. Literally as he's saying this, the camera is on the Patriots, who have in two tight ends, a fullback, and one wide receiver tight.
Aaron Schatz: In defense of Collinsworth, I think he was talking about the Patriots' strategy for the entire game, not at that moment.