Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Audibles at the Line: Week 2

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 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.

Pittsburgh Steelers 19 at Tennessee Titans 11

Aaron Schatz: A thought on Tennessee, from this morning's NFL Matchup: We've written in the past about why the college option play doesn't generally work in the NFL, because the defensive ends are too fast and would just kill quarterbacks. They showed this morning a good wrinkle Tennessee uses to make its option work: counter action. Vince Young generally takes a step or two in one direction, then bootlegs out in the other direction with Chris Johnson behind him for the option pitch. That generally takes the defensive end and the play-side linebacker out of the play, because they are flowing in the other direction with their first step, and it leaves Young and Johnson with one defensive back stuck trying to cover two guys. It will be interesting to see what happens with Pittsburgh -- maybe the Steelers can give the outside linebacker instructions to not follow Young's first step on a handoff and always look to protect the backside, so that poor Ike Taylor or somebody doesn't get stuck having to guess which of those two guys is going to end up with the ball.

Tom Gower: The weird thing about that play in particular was defenses normally learn to key in on CJ's running as he goes playside before reversing field. That play, though, he just stood there. When it first happened, I thought it was a busted play and VY simply ran the wrong way at the snap, but that immobility was actually the latest wrinkle. I suspect one thing they were counting on was McClain as a rookie being overly aggressive, even without CJ moving.

Personally, I'm very interested to see what the Titans do today, because my explanation for Week 1 is that there's a very good chance Oakland still just really sucks.

Doug Farrar: Pistol, pistol, pistol. I’ve seen the Steelers show some vulnerability against the short shotgun and certain delay/draw looks. I would love to see how Tennessee’s offense could be even more dynamic if they were to stack their playmakers in the backfield, and let the option get vertical as well as horizontal.

Bill Barnwell: And another thought on Tennessee -- might want to cover the opening kickoff. And then hold onto the ensuing kickoff.

Sean: Otherwise known as making the "non-Oakland" adjustment.

Doug Farrar: Ah, the little things.

Bill Barnwell: Well, Dennis Dixon fumbled. Great equalizer.

Tom Gower: Apparently Dennis Dixon didn't watch what Tennessee did last week. Otherwise, he might have recognized that semi-delayed blitz by an untouched Will Witherspoon causing the quarterback to fumble from the first quarter of last week's game, when he did the same thing to Jason Campbell.

Charlie Batch entered the game for Dennis Dixon. The trainers were looking at Dixon's ankle/foot on the sidelines, and he's now being carted to the locker room. It's apparently being reported as a left knee injury.

Aside from a bad read that resulted in a pick in the end zone by Polamalu, Vince Young has been pretty accurate so far.

A very frustrating for half for the Titans. Young has been accurate, except for the two times he's thrown the ball right to a Steeler. Both teams have had a touchdown called back for holding, though the Steelers at least got a field goal out of their drive. The Titans have taken the ball away once, on the aforementioned Witherspoon blitz, but should've had a second one -- only Tony Brown, I believe, knocked the ball out of Jamie Winborn's hand as he tried to scoop and score. Oh, and Jeff Fisher elected not to use 1 of his 2 time outs and let the Steelers burn the last :35 of the half before kicking a field goal to go up 13-3.

Young gets destroyed on a sack by multiple players. Harrison and two other guys picked him up and took him vertical, slamming him into the ground head-first. Fortunately, he's Vince Young and there's almost nothing you can do to him that can result in a roughing call.

Bill Barnwell: May I remind you of the Mathias Kiwanuka play from a couple of years ago? And that looked like a judo throw.

Tom Gower: James Harrison destroyed Chris Johnson on pass protection, which results in a strip sack. Kerry Collins is now warming up on the sidelines. Young supposedly hurt his hand on the play where he had his head slammed into the ground (which "judo move" started right after the whistle blew, for what it's worth), but isn't currently being attended to on the sidelines.

Doug Farrar: The Titans sit Vince Young in favor of Kerry Collins, who promptly throws a pick. It must be the footballs.

Tom Gower: Kerry Collins hits two passes, then misses Nate Washington badly on a deep out, lets a bad shotgun snap go through his legs, and then misses Nate Washington badly on another deep out, though he didn't miss Bryant McFadden.

Kerry Collins had taken the ball from center nine times. On those nine plays, he's thrown an interception, fumbled twice (once on a bad snap), losing one, and taken a 15-yard intentional grounding penalty. That's Ryan Leaf-caliber play. And the Titans get screwed once again on replay after there's not enough evidence to overturn a marginal call on the field.

TMQ's coaching corollary may have to be renamed "Uncomfortable Coach = Victory." At the hottest regular season game ever at LP Field, Mike Tomlin is wearing a black long-sleeved shirt while Jeff Fisher is in short sleeves. No wonder the Steelers are winning.

Aaron Schatz: Terrible move by Will Allen of the Steelers on an onside kick by Tennessee. He jumps forward to get a squibbed little bouncing kick, and it bounces off his chest. So the kick doesn't go 10 yards, but because it hits Allen first, Tennessee can recover it. (It probably would have gone 10 yards if he didn't touch it first, but still...)

Tom Gower: Query: is the 32 the shortest an onside recovery on a kick from the 30 has ever taken place?

Aaron Schatz: Nope. Let's go to the big database...

Just last year, we had this onside kick by Kansas City against Jacksonville in Week 9:

(Onside Kick formation) 6-R.Succop kicks 2 yards from KC 30 to KC 32, impetus ends at KC 37. RECOVERED by KC-6-R.Succop.

Ball bounced off Atiyyah Ellison at the 37, bounced back into Succop's hands.

Going back to 1996, and including today, there have been eight onside kicks recovered by the kicking team within 10 yards because of bouncing off a member of the return team.

Baltimore Ravens 10 at Cincinnati Bengals 15

Aaron Schatz: Watching the Red Zone channel, and I have to say when they've gone to the Bengals-Ravens game, Carson Palmer really looks like his passes are sailing on him.

Ben Muth: Yeah, that pass to Chad Ochocinco was awful.

Bill Barnwell: Joe Flacco just looks awful in Cincinnati. Not only is he checking down prematurely, but then he's air-mailing the checkdowns.

Doug Farrar: He was air-mailing everything against the Jets, too. Does anyone else notice something funky about his mechanics this year? It seems like he’s trying to flick the ball out of his hands, as opposed to just throwing the damned thing. I don’t know if it’s a coaching point, or some sort of injury adjustment, but there’s something in the way he’s throwing that has him way off on distances.

Bill Barnwell: And Flacco FINALLY hits a receiver downfield as Derrick Mason gets past Johnathan Joseph for a 31-yard touchdown. Good throw.

Very questionable tripping call on Ray Lewis extends a Bengals drive. Ravens show a really weird look with one tackle above the center and then two guys outside each tackle. Lewis comes off the edge and Bernard Scott knocks him down with a block, Lewis rolls with it and his trailing leg trips Palmer. Looked accidental.

Ravens offense just looks bumbling. I've seen at least three plays now where the running back falls down immediately upon receiving the handoff. Every Flacco pass seems to end with him running backwards and throwing the ball away.

Bill Barnwell: And the Bengals are going to win -- a Terrell Suggs roughing the passer penalty extended a drive that led to a field goal that took the lead, 12-10, and the Bengals tipped a Flacco pass again for an interception. That joke isn't funny anymore.

Aaron Schatz: Grrr. Joe Flacco just went down on a sack on third down with the Bengals only rushing four. He was looking downfield, trying to find an open man, but I think when he stepped up in the pocket he felt the pressure... he sort of winced and crouched a little bit, and that took his eyes off the field, and at that point he wasn't going to be able to find an open man. It looked really awful.

Bengals jump offsides on the fourth down, which gives Ravens fourth-and-7, but Flacco throws a pick, game over.

Ben Muth: The Wacko 4 Flacco t-shirt business will certainly take a dip after this performance.

Mike Tanier: I haven't seen anything odd with Flacco's mechanics, but today he looked like he was reacting to a pass rush that wasn't there on some plays, then didn't have a plan for the pass rush when it was there. He just gave up and threw the ball out of bounds a lot, and as Bill mentioned, he checked down to Heap or a back very early on some plays. He also didn't see a wide open receiver running up the sideline on one play.

Rob Weintraub: After being awful in all three phases last week, the Bengals shored up two of the three. Defensively, they got some pass rush at last, knocked Flacco around and made him awfully jittery (surprisingly so--he didn't get hit that badly). Pacman played very well before going out of the game in classic fashion--he made a blindside block on an interception return by Leon Hall, stood over the Raven to woof, then realized he was hurt and fell to the ground. Still, the Joseph/Hall/Jones trio woefully outplayed the Ravens receivers. There's a reason T.J. Houshmandzadeh got cut by Seattle--he has zero separation left, and isn't willing to fight over the middle anymore. Overall, the Ravens seemed hungover from Monday last, but credit Cincy's defense for taking it to them. Mike Zimmer took the blame for last week's strangely passive effort, but said "that's the last time I do." The unit played smart and tough Sunday.

That's 9 of 12 for the Bengals against the Ravens (and the pundits have probably picked Cincy to win once in that time), but it sure wasn't because of the offense. Cincy took over in Baltimore territory after three different picks and a long kick return, and settled for three every time. Palmer was terrible, missing a wide-open Chad Ochocinco in the end zone in the second quarter, and forcing several other balls into coverage or just plain missing throws. Of course, the rush was in his face. Kyle Cook was manhandled at center, Dennis Roland is giving so little at right tackle that Andre Smith was actually on the field at game's end, and Jermaine Gresham, while a wondrous receiving target, is killing the team with his blocking. He whiffed completely on Suggs (if I recall correctly) at one point, but to his credit turned to Palmer and provided a last-ditch target for a 3-yard gain. But Gresham continually missed or failed to sustain blocks. Bob Bratkowski can't be happy with the fact that Ray Lewis and the other Ravens appeared to be calling out Bengals plays at the line. He HAS to get more creative--the Bengals can't win every week this way.

As I was busy mocking T.O. for the fact that, while still fast, he has no thirst for breaking tackles, he had two or three nice moves and/or plays he ran out of tackles. But it is apparent that of the Bengals' top four passing targets, three are new to the offense (TO, Gresham, Shipley). The timing is well off. Shipley has great hands, and a keen sense of his position on the field, making him Welker-esque to every broadcaster (2-for-2 so far, and I expect the comparison each week, though the same announcers--Macatee/Gannon--are doing the next 2 Bengals games as well).

Bernard Scott had a big 60-yard kickoff return to set up a key field goal, Mike Nugent is light years better than Shayne Graham (not just 5-5 on field goals but several booming kickoffs), and Huber had a 61-yd punt that tilted field position, immense in this game. Looks like special teams coach Darrin Simmons' tongue lashing worked.

The sked for Cincy is light the next few weeks (Carolina/Cleveland/Tampa Bay/bye) so they could be a mirage of a 4-1 team, but unless the blocking vastly improves, and Palmer regains some semblance of his old self, my Stripes ain't going no place.

Philadelphia Eagles 35 at Detroit Lions 32

Doug Farrar: Jahvid Best just Roto-Rootered Philly's defense on Detroit's second drive. If we had any doubts, eliminate them. This kid is for real.

I think we might have just seen another example of the Fred Swearingen Immaculate Reception ruling, where the officials knew they wouldn't make it out of the stadium alive if they didn't make the right call. Just one week after the Megatron catch ruling, ON third-and-3 from the Philly 48with 3:12 left in the first quarter, DeSean Jackson takes in a 35-yard catch and loses the ball after he hits the ground under somewhat similar circumstances. The initial ruling is a catch, at which point out good friend Jim Schwartz earholes the first official he sees and throws the challenge flag. After review, the same ruling is made. No catch. Still seems to me that in trying to eliminate the grey area around this rule, the NFL has simply made it more problematic. They're just lucky that was reviewable -- they may have had to call the National Guard had that catch stood.

Three hours later...

Tom Gower: Riley Cooper can't handle an onside kick, and the Lions get the ball back down 3 with 1:45 left as they try to recover from 35-17. Alas, it's Shaun Hill, which means (a) deep fade for Calvin Johnson incomplete, (b) Best bumpoff overthrown, (c) deep out for Bryant Johnson broken up, and (d) throw over middle for Tony Scheffler broken up. Best was apparently wide open on the third down play, but Hill elected to throw deep instead.

Mike Tanier: I wasn't sure the Eagles game would end in time to be included in Audibles.

Michael Vick played pretty well. There was only one really dumb mistake -- he held the ball for about eight seconds in the pocket and got strip-sacked -- and he actually made some sound in-the-pocket decisions and throws. Kevin Kolb will start next week. I just hope he enjoyed that media honeymoon.

Arizona Cardinals 7 at Atlanta Falcons 41

Ben Muth: The Cardinals brought the house on third-and-short and Matt Ryan hit Jason Snelling on a little flat route for 25 yards and a TD. Nice job of knowing where the pressure is coming from and how to beat it.

Bill Barnwell: Derek Anderson really struggles with getting the ball out on time. In charting last week's Rams game and watching the Falcons game today, he just misses open guys with a mix of poor accuracy and late throws.

Aaron Schatz: Cardinals have decided to lead the league in penalties this year, I guess. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie just got flagged for pass interference in the end zone on a pass that must have landed five yards out of bounds. Uncatchable, anyone?

Bill Barnwell: No way was that five yards out of bounds.

Ben Muth: I'm not sure if it was actually catchable, but it was close enough to get the call.

Aaron Schatz: I am outvoted. And this is why I am not wearing black and white stripes.

Ben Muth: LaRod Stephens-Howling just took the kickoff right to the edge of his own goal line, stopped, look at the ref to see if he crossed, then decided he should take it out of the endzone. He got it out to the five. Things are not going well for Arizona.

Miami Dolphins 14 at Minnesota Vikings 10

Doug Farrar: Vikings end their first drive with an unsuccessful fourth-down conversion from the Miami 26. Childress is immediately blamed. Why do I think that if they had made it, Favre would have been credited?

David Gardner: Adrian Peterson is single-handedly taking the Vikings down the field. He just made an outrageous leap over Yeremiah Bell.

Tim Gerheim: This Dolphins-Vikings game really calls into question the idea that you pass to win. Throwing, instead of running, is how these two teams seem to be trying to avoid scoring. Miami's first drive of the second half was gashing run after gashing run, and it stalled when Henne threw incomplete on 1st down, winding up in a 3rd-and-long requiring another incomplete pass. The Vikings' ensuing drive featured consistent devastation by Adrian Peterson, only to end on a bad Favre interception in the end zone. And that was after an even worse Favre interception was nullified by offsetting penalties. The Vikings still got an AD touchdown following the Ricky Williams fumble David mentioned, but only after calling a pass on first down that Karlos Dansby brilliantly defensed. Oh, and I forgot the strip-sack in the end zone that Koa Misi recovered for a Miami touchdown.

Jake Long is dominating his matchup with Jared Allen. He's pushing him around in the running game and neutralizing him in pass blocking. Long's getting the occasional chip from a back, but he's largely handling Allen one-on-one. It's too bad we won't see this matchup in the contiguous again until 2014.

Doug Farrar: With 6:00 left in the game, Brett Favre does what Brett Favre does. Throws a horrid punt into double coverage, and Jason Allen picks it off. Vikings get the ball back on the next play as Ronnie Brown fumbles, but that throw/decision was absolutely atrocious.

Ben Muth: Adrian Peterson can't even tackle himself.

Tim Gerheim: Favre has some kind of karma. For the second consecutive time, an interception by Jason Allen is followed one play later by a Dolphins back fumbling it away. Plus he's the one who made the interception called back by penalty. Maybe he should just start knocking them down.

Doug Farrar: On every single play after the Vikings get the ball back, they hand off to Peterson. Fourth-and-1 at the Miami one-yard line, and Minnesota bottles AD up in time with a nice stand. Everyone in the box, and Peterson can’t get there. Sheesh – they could have saved all the drama and just stuck with Tarvaris Jackson for THAT result. Vincent Jackson, please pick up the purple courtesy phone.

Kansas City Chiefs 16 at Cleveland Browns 14

Bill Barnwell: Jerome Harrison just fumbled in Cleveland. Well, the ground forced the fumble, but the refs called it a fumble and the replay couldn't overturn it. Now he'll never get another carry.

Can you guys think of a worse set of starting quarterbacks in a single game than Matt Cassel and Seneca Wallace? Maybe Keith Null and Alex Smith last year in Week 17?

Aaron Schatz: I want to know what the heck happened with Matt Cassel. Was his success in the second half of 2008 solely due to the scheme and talent around him? And if so, why didn't Scott Pioli -- who played a major role in collecting that talent and setting up that scheme -- know this?

Bill Barnwell: I think it's really easy to underestimate the impact of that scheme and talent. And Cassel also had that really easy schedule, too, and I don't think he was considering schedule effects.

The Browns got a second pick on Cassel at the end of the half on a tipped pass, only to be knocked out of comfortable field goal range by a stupid, stupid Alex Mack unnecessary roughness penalty at the end of a checkdown to Jerome Harrison. Clearly, Jerome Harrison didn't do a good enough job of getting down and letting his center know the play was over.

Chiefs have already punted twice in Browns territory. Up two with two minutes left, they're facing a fourth-and-1 from the Browns 36. I guess I can see the case for punting, but ... you have to go for it, right?

Chiefs do go for it and get it when Thomas Jones leaps from fullback depth. He gets it by the nose of the football and, although it's under review, looks like the Chiefs are 2-0.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 at Carolina Panthers 7

David Gardner: Commentator in the Bucs-Panthers game just called Tampa's pass rush, "tremendous." ... By what measurement?

Josh Freeman's pocket awareness is way better than last season. He just saw the pass rush coming, checked down to Earnest Graham and got a 14-yard touchdown.

Panthers go for it on fourth-and-4 from the Bucs' 37-yard line. The Bucs gamble and blitz, leaving no safeties in the backfield. Steve Smith takes a slant, breaks an Aqib Talib tackle and scores.

Wow. Freeman just shed two tackles in the backfield on a third-and-17, then threw it for 40 yards to Kellen Winslow. The next play was a touchdown to Mike Williams. Bucs passing game is looking pretty good against this secondary.

Bill Barnwell: Think the jury is out on that Panthers pass defense being so good without Julius Peppers.

David Gardner: Their best pass rusher has been the rookie Greg Hardy, by a mile.

Yikes. Matt Moore just threw into triple coverage. He's got two weeks left as a starter, max, playing like this.

Jon Beason is incredibly intelligent. He's the quarterback of their defense and has the freedom to audible plays. As Freeman makes adjustments, Beason is making adjustments, and he's just forced the Bucs to call a timeout. By the way, this blimp cam that FOX is using is awesome. Let's you see all 22.

Bill Barnwell: I was really surprised they moved Beason to the weak side. I guess it makes sense -- Beason has the athleticism to be a Lance Briggs-style guy, and their best backup linebacker is Dan Connor ... but it seems strange to move a Pro Bowl-caliber guy to a different spot.

David Gardner: Aqib Talib is cramping and comes out of the game, leaving E.J. Biggers on Steve Smith. Needless to say, Biggers got burned.

Doug Farrar: The Panthers-Bucs game is the first chance I've had to hear Jim Mora as an analyst in the booth. Predictably, his combination of Col. Klink-level strategic intelligence and annoying reliance on tough-guy clichés makes him a Millen-level liability. Maybe he should go back to being a defensive coordinator -- I seem to remember that he actually didn't screw that up.

David Gardner: He also was surprisingly not knowledgeable about the two teams, considering he coached against them for years. I realize that a lot of things have changed, but he coached against John Fox and Raheem Morris is running essentially the same system as when Mora was coaching against the Bucs.

Buffalo Bills 7 at Green Bay Packers 34

Elias: I think the overall feeling of the GB-BUF game can be summarized in a single play:

1-10-BUF 30 (12:22) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass deep right to 89-J.Jones for 30 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Penalty on BUF, Defensive Offside, declined. Penalty on BUF, Defensive 12 On-field, declined.

Doug Farrar: Here's a receiver with an actual beef. The Bills were down by as many as 24 points with serious time left in the fourth quarter, and Lee Evans was not targeted once the entire game. Unbelievable. Unless he got hurt and had to leave the game, someone needs to figure something out.

Bill Barnwell: Charles Woodson.

Aaron Schatz: Was targeted once, actually. Ended up as DPI on Woodson, but that was it.

Doug Farrar: Sure, but no other targets? Not one? Why do they even show up to play the games?

Mike Tanier: The Bills were still running the ball when they were down by 20 points in the second half. Their offensive line looked as bad as I have ever seen a line look on the first two drives: guys were bumping into one another when pulling.

Chicago Bears 27 at Dallas Cowboys 20

Ben Muth: In Dallas, we play Adventures in Misleading Statistics, as Charles Tillman pops Miles Austin with a great hit and pops the ball loose. D.J. Moore plays tip drill and gets it before it hits the ground. Technically, interception for Chicago on Tony Romo, but not Romo's fault at all... really more of a fumble by Austin, but he had not quite "finished" the catch.

Aaron Schatz: Matt Forte looking surprisingly good early for the Bears, getting big swaths of yardage, but Chris Williams has left the field with an injury, which can't be good. Like Ben Muth said last week about Bryant McKinnie getting injured: When your left tackle is mediocre, that usually means your swing backup tackle is even worse than mediocre.

Mike Kurtz: Cutler is terrified, part of it surely due to the absence of Williams. At the end of the drive after the Austin tip drill, he looked downfield about half a second each time he dropped back, then pulled the ball in and started running to get some space. You know there are hot reads built into these play calls. He's major-league spooked.

It's astounding how complete a package Ware is. He's a terror rushing the quarterback, but there have been two short passes (a screen and a hitch) that he diagnosed quickly and absolutely nailed the receiver.

Cutler finally starts stepping up, got some time, hooked up with Knox for a long reception. Hester actually makes a great catch for a TD off a shaky throw. Checking the sky for pigs.


Aaron Schatz: Bears put Matt Forte in a trips bunch then motion Earl Bennett into the backfield and throw him a swing pass. Earl Bennett? Not Knox or Hester? Why not just have Forte or Taylor for that pass? I'm not sure what the point of that is.

Ben Muth: Mere mortals can't be expected to understand the genius of Mike Martz.

Bill Barnwell: I still see the Bears having issues with Mike Martz's offense. They just ran a third-down play where Matt Forte and Devin Hester ran the same crossing route with about one yard of depth between them.

Mike Kurtz: Back on a punt return, Hester EXPLODES for -5 yards. I love the Bears.

Bill Barnwell: We need to give credit to the Bears offensive line -- admittedly, they haven't played very well, but they've played well enough that Cutler hasn't taken a sack since the opening drive.

Mike Kurtz: Praise to Dallas. Witten is sitting on the sidelines with a concussion, screaming at the medical staff and thus far they haven't budged, even when the game was a three-point affair.

The most impressive player this game has been Miles Austin. He's been slicing and dicing the Cover-2 and making some excellent catches. I don't think I've seen him drop anything that didn't require super-human effort to pull in.

Seattle Seahawks 14 at Denver Broncos 31

Bill Barnwell: Matt Hasselbeck starts the game with an ugly interception to Champ Bailey inside the Broncos' five-yard line, two plays after a Justin Forsett rushing touchdown was called back by a holding penalty. And no, it wasn't on Tyler Polumbus.

Doug Farrar: I guess they left the footballs labeled “DO NOT THROW THIS TO Champ Bailey” in Seattle. Man, what a poor throw. Deon Butler was looking great on that first drive, too.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks' run defense looked great last week and good early against the Broncos, but then on third-and-1 they come out in a 3-4 look, with both ends outside the tackles and giant gaps between the linemen. Correll Buckhalter gets the easiest 1-yard touchdown of his life. Every tenth play the Seahawks run this year, on either side of the ball, seems to be a wacky look nobody has ever run before just because nobody has ever run it before.

Bill Barnwell: (Can't say this very frequently, so....) Great coaching by Pete Carroll on third-and-1 from midfield. They go play action and go deep, and although Hasselbeck misses an open Deon Butler, they know they're going for it on fourth-and-1 and succeed with an easy Hasselbeck sneak.

Of course, then Hasselbeck throws a pick two passes later.

Doug Farrar: I wonder if they’re having timing issues on their routes. Seems like Hasselbeck is waiting too long for routes to develop, or guys are cutting into routes too soon.

Bill Barnwell: I think the Seahawks have some comeback in them. They steadily moved the ball on the Broncos throughout the first half, and while the defense was terrible, it's Kyle Orton out there.

They just scored on a Ben Obomanu touchdown after an easy conversion on third-and-8 and a long Golden Tate punt return.

Vince Verhei: Obamanu's very physical. Seattle brings him in to block on a lot of running plays, and on that touchdown he basically posted up his defender like a power forward to get himself open.

Bill Barnwell: Seahawks are down 31-14 with 3:30 left. They just punted inside their own ten-yard line. Why?

Vince Verhei: Remember what I said about Obamanu being physical? Well, Demaryius Thomas had at least four inches and 30 pounds on each of Seattle's starting corners -- and he caught eight of nine passes for 97 yards and a touchdown.

St. Louis Rams 14 at Oakland Raiders 16

Tom Gower: The Jason Campbell Era looks like it may have ended after 6 quarters, as Bruce Gradkowski enters the game for the Raiders after halftime. No word of an injury that I've heard/seen.

Ben Muth: I guess the Jim Plunkett comparisons were a bit premature.

Darren McFadden looks good. He's running straight ahead and with purpose. I'm shocked. Also, I'm enjoying John Lynch's commentary.

New England Patriots 14 at New York Jets 28

Bill Barnwell: Randy Moss just barely missed on a long touchdown, bobbled the pass in the end zone or it would have been six. Revis/Leonhard in coverage.

Aaron Schatz: Interesting to see the Pats motion Fred Taylor out wide, which leaves Antonio Cromartie one-on-one with him in man coverage. That can't really be the best use of Cromartie.

Bill Barnwell: I'm pretty sure the best use of Cromartie involves housing him in a clinic.

Wow. Mike Westhoff's special teams intimidate the Patriots into a delay of game, and then Gostkowski misses the second field goal.

I don't think that Eric Smith hit merited ejection. He'll get fined. They got the penalty.

Believe Phil Simms just pronounced Sione Pouha "Sell-me Poo-ha."

Patriots beat Antonio Cromartie -- Aaron freaking Hernandez beats Cromartie -- for a crucial third down, and a couple of plays later, Wes Welker beats him to the pylon for a touchdown.

Doug Farrar: You’d think that Rex Ryan would have learned from his brother Rob that when you have a cornerback on one side that nobody wants to throw to, it’s more important for the guy on the other side to be reasonably consistent than it is for the guy to be freakishly talented but all over the place. We’ll call it the DeAngelo Hall Theory for short. When the Raiders got rid of Hall and put (the other) Chris Johnson in there in the second half of the 2008 season, there was a major upgrade in coverage – Oakland shot up from 17th to 8th in Defensive DVOA against the pass, just because Johnson had a head on his shoulders. I wonder if they’ll discover that they’re better off with Kyle Wilson on the other side sooner than later.

Vince Verhei: Credit where it's due: Sanchez converts four third downs on the second drive, the fourth a touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards to tie the score. Patriots are sending all kinds of blitzes at him, some 11-angry- men stuff, but he's hanging in there and finding open men.

Mike Tanier: Actually, I like the theory of having a Cromartie type across from Revis, because he is going to make enough interceptions with 15 passes per game coming his way to make up for a few lapses. Ideally, you want to have two of Revis, but that isn't going to happen.

Doug Farrar: I don’t know. Those highlight picks are nice, but I’d rather have stops and deflections more consistently and leave the missteps and senseless penalties for some other tea to deal with. If I have Revis 2.0 on one side, I’ll take the player with more of a flatline on the other side, all things being equal.

I think that being targeted 10-15 times per game and keeping an even keel with an absolute shutdown corner on the other side of the field is an entirely different skill than just dealing with what’s thrown at you on a “regular” defense. Mercurial personalities, maybe guys more prone to boom-and-bust results, might not be as well-suited to that role.

Mike Tanier: I think the personality thing is valid with the Jets, Doug. In general, I think the best place for those "boom or bust" cornerbacks is in the slot, where they can jump routes more safely. But who has the talent to put a guy like Cromartie in the slot? The Jets might, if Kyle Wilson develops quickly.

Doug Farrar: Damn. That touchdown pass to Moss at the end of the first half was notable for the time Brady had in the pocket. He looked like Ken Stabler in about 1976 – just standing there for seconds.

Bill Barnwell: Jets defense was all out of whack after the long completion to Hernandez. Looked like Revis thought he was going to have safety help over the top and Jim Leonhard was out of position and, well, didn't offer safety help. Certainly don't think the Jets were supposed to be in Cover-0.

Aaron Schatz: I don't think it looked like Revis thought he would have safety help. I mean, how often do the Jets give him safety help? He didn't hang towards the line of scrimmage at all like a guy who looks like he's in zone or in double coverage with a safety up top. He just got beat, and he probably got beat because of his hamstring, which he clutched afterwards.

Braylon Edwards is looking very good today. Talk about your mercurial players. I actually wasn't that impressed with Sanchez's accuracy on the 7-for-7 drive. I was impressed with his athleticism and instincts to get away from pass pressure before dumping off, but the throws themselves were mostly not that hard. And I was really impressed with Edwards' catch on the touchdown. He was covered, *and* he had to make a big leap for it, and he still got it.

Bill Barnwell: The Jets usually play a Cover-1. And I thought he did hang around a little bit like he had the underneath bracket. I could be wrong, though.

Aaron Schatz: Right, but as we have written a lot over the past few months -- especially in response to arguments by our good friend Mr. Joyner about the replaceability of Revis -- that safety is almost always shaded towards the other side of the field, away from Revis, to help the other starting corner.

Bill Barnwell: I think Revis expected Leonhard to be in centerfield, and it's not like he isn't going to help out if Moss gets a free release, which he did because of the previous pass. Leonhard was also pretty close to the LOS and was looking around confused at the snap, which is why the idea came to mind for me.

And Revis is apparently out to begin the second half, with Drew Coleman taking his place. Oh boy.

Aaron Schatz: Brady just threw a pick to Cromartie by letting a deep ball hang on third-and-long, but wow, he had forever to throw. The Jets are really going against their usual tendency of bringing the house on third down. Sent only four on the last two third downs.

Bill Barnwell: I have to think that's because Revis isn't available. You have to pretty much change your scheme on the fly.

Mike Tanier: See? Cromartie heard me say something nice about him!

Bill Barnwell: That Sanchez play-action bootleg to Keller was straight out of the Bengals playoff game. And it sure seems like the opposition is picking on Darius Butler through the first two games of the year -- most of the Ochocinco stuff was at Butler, the Edwards touchdown was at Butler, that Keller play-action was at Butler's side...

Aaron Schatz: Patriots having real trouble with Dustin Keller up the seam today. Those seam passes to Keller impress me probably more than the throws Sanchez had on the 7-for-7 drive. He's whipping those right in, and right on the money.

Darius Butler just self-destructed for two pass interference flags within three plays, putting the Jets on the verge of a touchdown. Then on play-action at the goal line, Mark Sanchez had the composure to look for a second guy after the Pats knocked down his first read (Tony Richardson -- legal, as it was within five yards) and he found Dustin Keller on the other side of the field. Sanchez looks better and better the more this game goes along. At this point, doesn't look remotely like the guy from last week.

Jason Taylor takes down Brady, who fumbles, and that's pretty much game. When they put Jason Taylor in Hall of Fame, they should knock Tom Brady's bust off its perch and just put the Taylor bust sitting on top of it, because that's how Taylor has spent a lot of his career.

The most impressive thing about Mark Sanchez this week is probably the thing that he didn't do: turn the ball over. No picks, and nothing in the second half even close to a pick.

Vince Verhei: Aaron is right about Mark Sanchez -- his worst plays were sacks, and even there he usually had blockers in his face right away, and he managed to hang on to the ball. I have no idea what happened this week, but he followed that stinker on Monday night with the best game of his career today.

So, Jets beat the Patriots. Patriots beat the Bengals. Bengals beat the Ravens. Ravens beat the Jets. That's a hell of a loop for Week 2.

Aaron Schatz: Now the question: Will the overreaction in the Boston media this week surpass the overreaction in the New York media to the Jets loss last week?

Jacksonville Jaguars 13 at San Diego Chargers 38

Ben Muth: Ryan Mathews left with an injury. Has his shoe off on the sideline. It'll be interesting to see the Sproles/Tolbert breakdown. As I'm typing this Matthews is getting carted off to the locker room.

Legedu Naanee mistimed his jump and the ball went off his fingertips for another pick. That's six turnovers already in this game.

David Garrard just threw it right to Brandon Siler for another pick. This is ridiculous.

And there's a blocked punt by Jacksonville. That's basically eight turnovers in this half.

Houston Texans 31 at Washington Redskins 28

Tom Gower: Steve Slaton's momentum on a kickoff takes him out of bounds at the 1. I wonder if he'll be returning the Redskins' second kickoff. The kickoff came after the Redskins took the opening kickoff down and scored a field goal. They spent a lot of time attacking the edges of the Texans' defense with short passes with rub outs.

Bill Barnwell: The Texans go three tight ends on second-and-9 and they run a two-man route with Owen Daniels and Andre Johnson off of play action. Daniels runs a curl and Schaub throws it too late, so Carlos Rogers undercuts it for a pick. That's two ugly interceptions in two weeks -- and 20 attempts or so -- for Schaub.

Vince Verhei: Jets' offense picks up right where it left off Monday night. Three-and- out, and on third-and-5, Sanchez throws to a crossing receiver three yards short of the first-down line, and the pass is dropped.

Tom Gower: Portis goes in to put the Redskins up 13-7. The touchdown was set up by a long bomb to Joey Galloway against rookie Kareem Jackson in coverage, where it looked like Bernard Pollard failed to provide safety help, then more yardage against Jackson to down inside the five, that time to Moss.

Bill Barnwell: Redskins are destroying the Texans with downfield stuff. They just ran a PA/EA and McNabb threw a pass to Mike Sellers 30 yards downfield -- ancient freaking Mike Sellers -- and it was off his fingertips. The next play, they run play action and Fred Davis AND Clinton Portis are wide-open about 25 yards downfield. Davis rumbles 38 yards more down to the 1-yard line.

Tom Gower: Anthony Armstrong in the middle of a zone, Roydell Williams wide open, Chris Cooley wide open... McNabb's over 300 yards and the Redskins are up 17 on the Texans. Mario Williams had a sack (playing LE, flipped with Antonio Smith, got the corner on Brown), but generally the Texans still have no pass rush and are getting smoked because of it.

Ben Muth: Yeah, if I was a Colts fan I'd be really worried about how little pressure the Texans are generating. Last week their defensive line looked like the fearsome foursome, this week not so much. Hopefully it speaks more to the Skins o-line than the Colts offensive line.

Awful sequence for Houston after they block a Graham Gano field goal. Three and out followed by a 39 yard punt.

Bill Barnwell: Redskins get Joey Galloway ten yards past the safeties AGAIN for what would have been a game-winning touchdown, but McNabb misses him by about a foot.

Andre Johnson doing grown man things. On fourth-and-10, Schaub lobs up a 40-yard prayer and Johnson comes down with it in the end zone.

Tim Gerheim: It was a bit of a prayer, but it was a prayer to Andre Johnson single-covered by safety Reed Doughty - who had been shaken up a couple times previously in the game on errant hits during gang tackles - so it was an educated prayer.

Tom Gower: Redskins brought a blitz and got pressure up the middle, but Schaub side-stepped the initial pressure and LG Wade Smith came back and picked up Andre Carter. Without that, Schaub probably doesn't get the chance to get the throw off.

Bill Barnwell: Redskins two-minute drive appears to be over after two plays, as McNabb takes a huge sack and Trent Williams gets injured on the play.

Ben Muth: Redskins convert on third-and-20, but Williams' backup Stephon Heyer gets called for holding. Ouch.

Bill Barnwell: Houston is punting on fourth-and-4 from the Redskins 36 in overtime. What the what?

Ben Muth: And Turk put it in the endzone for the touchback.

Mike Tanier: Hate the punt. Hate it. Hate it. hate it.

Graham Gano gets iced.

Ben Muth: I'll say this, those shots of Graham Gano aren't inspiring a ton of confidence. He looks like he's 14.

David Gardner: Tough break for Gano, but I don't think there should be a rule against those last-second timeouts. We have seen them go both ways multiple times.

Mike Kurtz: It doesn't matter which way they go, they're incredibly annoying and aggravating for the audience. We see a great kick or a shank, we're excited, we're engaged, and then the zebra trots out and tells us that was an un-play. Not because the coach needed a timeout to save clock or call a play or anything. Just because they feel like making the play go twice. It's stupid and it makes for terrible viewing.

David Gardner: You're engaged a second time when he kicks it as well. It's not like redskins just walked away from the TV after that timeout.

Aaron Schatz: I agree with Mike. The "last-second timeout to ice the kicker" thing is not about what's fair on the field, it's about providing the most appealing product to the audience. And we know that's important to the NFL front office.

I really hope Gano doesn't get blamed for this loss. This loss is on the Washington defense for blowing a 17-point lead, and on the Washington running game for being unable to ice the game by running out the clock. That 52-yard field goal will hit roughly 55 percent of the time. If you miss, the other team gets it on their own 42. The average score on a drive that starts from the 42 is 1.9 points -- obviously that's all drives, not just those that are only trying to get into field goal range -- but I can also tell you that first-and-10 between the 40s only leads to a first down about two-thirds of the time. The other team needs to do that at least twice to get into field goal range, which would be a 45 percent chance (.67 x .67), and even then, they also have to hit their field goal try. Shanahan made the right choice, and Kubiak did not, even though Houston eventually won.

Mike Tanier: By the way, the most shocked looking person when Joel Dreessen came down with that big catch was Joel Dreessen.

I see that Larry Johnson had a run for a loss of 10 yards in the play by play. Was that some kind of trick play?

Bill Barnwell: It was a sweep gone bad. Think a sweep shaped like a horseshoe.

Mike Tanier: Like a parabolic sweep? Because when I think Larry Johnson I think "speed to the edge."

Bill Barnwell: Yeah. It was a pitch to Larry Johnson. Because...

New York Giants 14 at Indianapolis Colts 38

Bill Barnwell: Apparently, Donald Brown isn't bad enough for the Colts to not give him the ball near the goal line.

Aaron Schatz: Wow, Colts playing a lot of man coverage. And not only playing man, but playing it very close and well.

Mike Tanier: You are right. They just played man on back-to-back passes. But on the second pass they were called for pass interference on Hakeem Nicks.

Doug Farrar: If anyone ever asks you to define a “touch pass”, the touchdown to Dallas Clark in the second quarter would do nicely. Peyton hit a 3/4 nine-iron, put the ball perfectly over Clark’s shoulder on the run, and that was that. Man, that was pretty.

Aaron Schatz: Did Cris Collinsworth just say that the Colts made major changes on the offensive line after Bill Polian criticized the line post-Super Bowl? What were they? The center and tackles are the same. The guards changed, but the new guards were already on the team last year. Mike Pollak was the original starter in 2009 until he was benched halfway through the year. Switching your guards to the second-stringers isn't really "major changes."

Vince Verhei: Well, they also brought in a couple of really big guys off the street. And now they're on the bench.

Bill Barnwell: I broke one of my own fantasy football rules today and inserted Eli Manning for Tony Romo at around 12:50 or so. That's why I'm an expert.

It looks like the Giants are keeping their corners on the same sides of the field, so Reggie Wayne is lining up against Terrell Thomas and Pierre Garcon is against Corey Webster. They'd be better off on opposite sides.

Ben Muth: The Giants defense looked a lot better against Matt Moore.

Aaron Schatz: This is over at halftime, right? I don't even think the Giants look that bad... the Colts are just outplaying them in every way. The top five teams in VOA from Week 1 all lost this week (assuming no amazing Giants comeback), showing once again that one week doesn't forecast the whole season.

Mike Tanier: The Giants just woke up. Single coverage on Manningham on the outside.

Bill Barnwell: That play was nearly another sack that likely would have resulted in a fumble. Freeney did a spin move and was by Beckum before Beckum got out of his stance. And David Diehl wasn't very far out of his. Sigh.

Aaron Schatz: A couple of plays later, they did get the sack, fumble, and touchdown. Diehl looks awful tonight, Freeney is killing him.

Bill Barnwell: Their strategy on the last play was to let Mathis run by McKenzie and then McKenzie pushed Mathis into Freeney.

I know it's gone out of vogue in the league, but this would be a good time for the Giants to bust out the old Pro Set.


178 comments, Last at 25 Sep 2010, 9:26pm

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

BUF vs. GB: The most astonishingly bad play-call I've seen in a long time happened yesterday in this game. Buffalo on offense called what looked like a naked bootleg with Trent Edwards circling back to the offense's right, preparing to throw downfield.

This little deception involved not blocking Week-1-Three-Sacks-Nearly-Knocked-Kevin-Kolb-Into-October Packers LOLB Clay Matthews, who had already sacked and nearly buried Edwards once, and forced Edwards into a second sack by RDE Cullen Jenkins. Needless to say, Matthews didn't bite on the play-action and took Edwards down for a twelve-yard loss almost before Trent had turned his head back around to look for a receiver. (The video highlight for this, if you can call it that, is on

Note to offensive coordinators across the league: unless your quarterback is named Michael Vick, or your running back is named Adrian Peterson, letting CM3 have a free run after your trigger-man is a BAD PLAN and will result in lost yardage and possibly severe injury.

I was aghast, and remain so nearly a day later. Does Chan Gailey not like Trent Edwards?

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Thoughts on the Seahawks...
-We did learn one thing. They're not going to win when they go into a legendarily hostile environment and turn the ball over in the red zone. I think we knew that, though.

-Can't say I liked the "we give up/we're still fighting" confusion from the sideline after the Hasselbeck rushing TD: You score, you're down by 18 points. If you get a 2 point conversion, you're down by 16 with enough time for 2 drives. Yeah, it's unlikely, but it's a lot more likely than 3 drives. So kicking the P.A.T. is throwing in the towel. But wait, now you onside kick. Stilll fighting. Don't get the kick, but you make a good defensive stop. Still fighting. Now punt. Wait, what?

-Golden Tate is going to be a real asset once he learns that taking odd angles in the middle of long runs doesn't fool pro DBs, and they aren't going to tire out like the guys he outran in college. He needs to stop with the weird cuts, he's only giving more guys a chance to hit him doing that.

-Kelly Jennings is still terrible if the quarterback gets time to throw. He played pretty well last week, but he appears to be overmatched unless he's able to press, which breaks down if the QB can hold the ball a little while. Which Orton did.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I have heard Fisher pulled Vince Young because of an injury or to give his team a spark. In my experience, making the opposing defense's job easier is not akin to giving your offense a spark. Maybe it was fair, since PIT lost their mobile quarterback. It did afford us the opportunity to see Charlie Batch playing opposite Kerry Collins, something I did not even consider seeing this season.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

New offense, new dropback.

It's weird (to me) watching it. I'm sure it's no different from any other 7 step drop, but he really seems like he's racing back there as fast as he can.

Or were you referring to the left foot back thing? The announcers seemed to indicate that's a trait of his.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Hmm, I remember noticing that on occasion last year, though I haven't seen it much this year (though that's probably me not being that attentive). I remember either Jaworski or Joyner criticizing Cutler's mechanics and/or footwork last season; could this have been what they meant?

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Vince: actually the two really big guys the Colts brought in off the street got cut.

They replaced Lilja with Richard and otherwise it was the same line that started last year (though they eventually replaced Pollak with Devan). You should've seen the overreactions to last week - people calling Polian one of the worst GMs because of the OL situation, etc. It was pretty funny.

Linkenbach ended up taking some snaps at LT in the 2nd half yesterday. I guess he counts as big and off the street (UFA).

They'll never be maulers, but Richard plays mean and Pollak is strong. The Giants basically played all D Ends, though, so it remains to be seen whether they can open holes against actual DTs.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Dave, Well said, though I was under the impression that NYG reverted to a more standard set in the 2nd half. Their 4 DEs, 1 LB, 6 DBs alignment was an interesting experiment....

I think a bigger component was adding Brody Eldridge to the OL this week. He's not pro-caliber yet, but akin to adding an extra OL to the mix. In a year or two I assume his inclusion will be a de-facto 6th OL in terms of blocking ability. Hey, maybe playing TE behind an All America TE in college isn't all bad--by playing C for most of last season, he now has a broader and very valuable skill set.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Giants down 31-7, six minutes to go in the 3rd quarter, 4th and 5 on the Colts' 49 yard line. The Giants punt. Did this infuriate anyone else?

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I didn't see it because I turned it off by then but it always drives me nuts when coaches are obviously playing to avoid greater embarrassment rather than doing anything to win.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I just started laughing. It was ridiculous that he did that but didn't then pull his starters (and he also used a timeout or two), because it was clearly signaling the end of the game.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

BILL!!!! I said the same thing about the Giants busting out the pro set... specifically considering that Boss is out and their best personnel is probably 3 WR and Jacobs and Bradshaw. The problem with the Giant tackles isn't as much strength as it is speed so if you can give them the little chips it would be a huge help and I'd take the Giants 3 WR vs the Colts DBs any day if you have protection for the routes.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Re: Charles Woodson shutting down opposing #1 often do your game-charts have woodson defending the other team's #1 WR? Based on my eyes over the past few seasons it is actually a very rare occurence. CWood generally mans up in the slot and tramon williams always mans up the #1 WR on the outside (Al Harris used to do this). When teams line up with only 2 WRs the Pack corners generally just take the guy on their side, and if they don't, it is typically woodson flipping to the #2 WR. Do you have chart data that contradicts this, or is the commonly held belief that "Woodson shuts down opposing #1 WRs" as inaccurate as I believe it to be. PS - huge woodson fan but he is more of a play-maker in the middle of the field than an island corner.

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Really he lines up all over the place. They definitely play him in the slot a fair amount, although I'm not sure if they have as much so far this season with Harris out (thought I do recall at least a few plays against the Bills with nickel CB Sam Shields iso'd on the left and both Williams and Woodson on the right).

Really, it's been tough to track Woodson in the two games this year except when he blitzes or makes a play against the run, because he's barely been thrown at. Actually, the entire secondary was practically untested against the Bills.

Woodson was definitely lined up to the outside for the DPI against Lee Evans. I think he has the capacity to shut down WRs, it's just that GB uses him in other ways so we never see a true game-long matchup.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Gotta agree here...Woodson is clearly not a shutdown corner in the make of Revis, but he is not used that way either. I see him cover the TE and slot more than outside so that he can make plays on the ball, blitz and also cover the run plays. He is really a good defensive player, not a shutdown corner. I also am interested in seeing hte charting stats against #1 receivers. My guess is they are horrible cause if he is covering them...someone else probably blew their assignment which makes for a huge gain.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Cameron Wake FTW.

When Aaron made that comment in the "FOF Media: Miami" about the Dolphins not having a passrush, I said the same thing:

Cameron Wake FTW.