Audibles at the Line: Week 8
compiled by David Gardner
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.
Minnesota Vikings 18 at New England Patriots 28
Aaron Schatz: I'm at Gillette watching CBS on one TV, Red Zone on another, and wondering who convinced the Patriots to switch from Direct TV from Verizon so that an NFL press box doesn't even have Sunday Ticket.
By the way, I have to note that Brett Favre really does bring the party with him. This place is a national media festival today. Our little NFL section includes not just me and the ESPN Boston guys but Seifert, Graham, and Ed Werder. The national media section on the other side has Pete Prisco, Judy Battista, Mark Maske, Alex Marvez, and on and on. Bob Ryan is here, I think this is only my second time in the press box where he's been here too. Greg Bedard just showed up for his first game as Globe beat writer. I met Alex Flanagan, the chick who does the NBC FNIA pregame show. She does the on-camera report from whatever they consider the most important afternoon game. And everyone is sitting in the press box watching the Packers-Jets out of one eye while desperately waiting for Favre to get on the field so they can pull out their binoculars and come up with the best possible description of his exact limping form.
Will Carroll: OK, now that concussions are blanketed and taken seriously, can we begin to take a hard look at painkiller usage? Steven Jackson's finger started to sense again with a couple minutes left and while all we'll hear all afternoon is how tough Favre is, it's really that part of his foot is numb. Who knows what long term damage a ton of players are doing to themselves? Why are steroids evil but being numbed into playing condition is just fine? We have players on the field that you wouldn't want driving.
Aaron Schatz: Early report from Foxboro: Patriots seem to be double-covering Moss on pretty much every play, with Brandon Meriweather playing out of the box and shading towards Randy Moss. They better be double-covering him, or else they are manning Kyle Arrington up on Randy Moss and that simply can't end well.
Combine the Patriots doubling Moss with an intensive concentration on stopping Peterson in the front seven, and the Pats' strategy today seemed to be "we'll let Percy Harvin try to beat us." Which Harvin did, with a sweet slant route for 21 yards ... until he crumpled to the turf and was eventually carried off by two trainers with some sort of injury. Uh-oh.
Will Carroll: Looked like an ankle for Harvin, maybe his hip again. Not real clear on the replay.
Aaron Schatz: Just got announced here as an ankle injury.
Madieu Williams just tried to intercept a deep Brady pass to Brandon Tate. At first I thought it was similar to the Terrell Owens play from earlier today, where the Dolphins defender tipped it in the air trying to intercept and Owens came down with it. But on the replay, it looks like the ball literally went right through Williams' arms, barely touching his jersey, and then into the hands of Brandon Tate behind him, almost like a "throw the ball through the tire" drill. Wacky.
The Patriots' "Let Percy Harvin beat us" strategy seems to be working well for Percy Harvin, who came back into the game and is, in fact, beating the Patriots regularly. However, the Vikings made it up to fourth-and-goal and the Pats pushed back, especially on Phil Loadholt, to stop Peterson and end the first half 7-7.
With the Pats on offense, the Vikings don't look like they've changed their defense in the slightest from what they might do if Moss was still on the Pats. Everything is still basically a Cover-2 shell with either zone or man underneath. Talking to the other reporters, this is apparently VERY different from what San Diego did last week -- they really did bring the safeties much closer to the line because the threat of Moss was gone. I will say that anyone who suggested that defenses might double Wes Welker without Moss here was completely wrong. Not only is there no doubling of him whatsoever, but he doesn't even seem to be quite as involved in the offense now that Deion Branch, a somewhat similar player, is the other starting wideout.
Tom Gower: I can't decide who did a worse job on that long Brandon Tate touchdown: Asher Allen for getting roasted in the first place, or Madieu Williams for his utter failure to do anything effective after Tate beat Allen.
Aaron Schatz: Allen wasn't toasted. That play just totally broke down, and Brady had Ben Roethlisberger-like escapability to keep it alive. There's only so long you can expect a cornerback to stay on his man, and Madieu Williams just plain isn't fast enough to catch up to Brandon Tate once Tate catches that ball. The only people I think you can blame for that one are the Vikings pass rushers who broke down the pocket and just couldn't finish the job.
We enter the fourth quarter 21-10. The Patriots' young defense seems to clearly get better in the second half of games. I don't know if that is because they are younger and have more stamina, or because they "Get it" more as games go along, or because the coaches make "halftime adjustments," but it does seem to be the case and is again today.
Meanwhile, at what point do we have to wonder why the Vikings are so reticent to spread the field with multiple receivers? Everything is either is either 2-2-1 or 1-2-2. Bernard Berrian has only been in the game when Harvin was injured. Greg Camarillo has been in for like two snaps or something. We know the Pats do not have depth at defensive back. Why not go four-wide, or three-wide with Shiancoe flexed, and try to get the Pats to bring in Darius Butler or Jon Wilhite? Plus, you spread things out like that, now you create new and interesting lanes for Peterson to run in. It seems to me this is a defense you want to spread out against and get to those corners the same way the goal in baseball is to tire the starter and get to the crappy middle relievers. But the Vikings keep coming out with just the two wide receivers, and while Harvin has made plays, Randy Moss has ONE target so far this game and no catches. Favre is barely even looking at him.
Tim Gerheim: You realize you're arguing in favor of playing more of Bernard Berrian and Greg Camarillo, right? Minnesota has about as much depth at receiver as New England has in the secondary. Also, they may be trying to make sure they keep enough tight ends or backs in to ensure good protection for Favre and his ankle.
Aaron Schatz: Maybe I like Greg Camarillo more than you do. Anyway, they just brought in Berrian and went three-wide, so they're starting to get there.
And, by the way, it turns out my subjective vision of the Pats defense in the second half is completely wrong. The Pats actually are the worst defense in the league in the third quarter this year. The defense has played much better in the fourth quarter, except for Weeks 1-2.
Doug Farrar: It seems that on offense and defense, the theme you're coming up with is that the Vikings are not scheme-creative, and this puts more pressure on their personnel. I agree that they should start considering breaking out of those boxes -- you might also see some advantageous intermediate match-ups if both Harvin and Camarillo are playing slot roles and the Pats respond with a deep safety to address the threat of Moss.
Aaron Schatz: Brett Favre gets intentional grounding to make it third-and-13, so the Pats decide to throw in a corner blitz. For the first time all game, Randy Moss is not doubled. Throw to Moss? Ding ding ding! 24-yard defensive pass interference on Brandon Meriweather. So technically, Moss still has one catch for just eight yards. Technically.
Tim Gerheim: Is it just because I have Randy Moss in my fantasy league, or did it look on that long pass interference against Meriwether like Moss could still have caught the ball and scored if he had wanted to instead of looking for the flag as soon as the infraction occurred?
Tom Gower: I thought the issue with Moss on that long pass play was he lost track of the ball after the contact and couldn't re-locate it until it was too late.
Aaron Schatz: And ... Brett Favre goes off the field with a laceration when a hit after the pass causes his chinstrap to cut up his chin or something. The sad part is, Favre was probably enjoying his best performance of the year so far, and now the Vikings will need to have Tarvaris Jackson lead the comeback. He does the first part by completing a 1-yard pass to a wide-open Naufahu Tahi for a touchdown. 21-18.
Mike Tanier: After that third-and-12 conversion in the fourth quarter, I think I am becoming a Danny Woodhead believer.
Aaron Schatz: Someone in the press box called him the Great White Hope again. Sorry, we don't need to hope anymore. Woodhead just is. And what he is is the Great White Meggett.
Mike Tanier: He is methodone to Flutie heroin.
Aaron Schatz: I think you underestimate the power of the Flutie. Compared to Flutie, Woodhead is not methodone, he's like dipping your pinky in Twinkie filling.
Mike Tanier: I have been trick or treating all day, I have eaten nothing but Twix bars and beer. A Twinkie with frosting would rock my socks.
Doug Farrar: And yet, it's it equally obscure BenJarvus Green-Ellis who's ripping up the formerly impenetrable Vikings run defense.
Aaron Schatz: The improvement in Green-Ellis' field vision since he first showed up two years ago has been phenomenal. He really sees holes. The Pats are running clock now and Green-Ellis is twisting and turning through guys for five, six yards at a clip. This is not the undrafted free agent guy they were stuck playing in 2008 because of injuries.
Will Carroll: Some early reports that Favre has a broken jaw. I think that seems a bit much - they treated him AS IF he had one, but that's the smart play medically. I did see what looked to be some teeth, but at some point, the league might want to think about requiring good mouthpieces and chinstraps. If nothing else, it's visible.
Aaron Schatz: Randy Moss' post-game comments are crazy. He basically sounds like he realizes he makes a huge mistake forcing a trade and wishes he could undo it. He seriously disses the Vikings.
Vincent Verhei: You know, I was talking with a friend about where Moss would be next year, and I realized that I have no idea what makes that guy tick. I have no idea what he wants most -- money, glory, stats, fame, titles. Most guys I can guess what their biggest priority will be, but Moss is a complete mystery to me. Now I guess you can add a family environment to that list, although I still don't know where it goes on the totem pole.
Denver Broncos 16 vs. San Francisco 49ers 24 (in London)
Bill Barnwell: I am about 20 rows off the field in Wembley. Heavy pro-49ers crowd. Will give a few updates here and there.
The three people next to me all left halfway through the second quarter and are extremely doubtful to return.
Vincent Verhei: Frank Gore takes a pitch to the left, finds no room, and cuts back to the right where he is swallowed for no gain. I bring this up only because Troy Smith threw the block of the year after the cutback, catching a defensive lineman much bigger than him completely off guard, hitting him in the chest and putting him on his back.
Bill Barnwell: Tim Tebow's about to come in for the Broncos. Manny Lawson came clean on a twist and just leveled Kyle Orton, driving him into the ground. Blocking back that was in totally lost the plot and was off on the side lost in traffic.
Tim Gerheim: Bill, were you watching the receiver on that insane long pass to Delanie Walker that led to the San Francisco touchdown? (Also: Who the hell is Delanie Walker?) It looked like a wing and a prayer that somehow was a completion, but I'm wondering if the route improvisation that Troy Smith called for gave that a good chance to be complete, or if the defenders (Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins) misplayed the ball in the air. As usual, I wish the TV coverage, at least the replays, would show what's going on downfield.
Bill Barnwell: Walker pushed off on Dawkins. Should have been OPI.
Vincent Verhei: Demaryius Thomas had a low Playmaker Score coming out of Georgia Tech and we discussed how his numbers were skewed by the triple option offense he played in. It looks like he is going to buck the system. He just had a long gain on a screen pass, breaking and dodging several tackles. Nobody that big should be that shifty.
Bill Barnwell: That was awful tackling. Spencer and Mays basically felt up Thomas.
Aaron Schatz: Delanie Walker is a tight end who never, ever plays tight end. Dude is always flexed out and often he's wide. If Champ Bailey isn't playing specifically on Michael Crabtree, I'm not sure how you end up throwing four passes to Walker and only one to Crabtree ...
Bill Barnwell: Well, there's your Crabtree. The 49ers score after an awful Broncos punt and two passes to Crabtree. One was a nice 13-yard out against Champ Bailey where Bailey was slow turning his hips. The second was one-on-one versus Andre Goodman, and Goodman was just lost. He never looked back for the ball; the first time he saw it was when Crabtree was catching it.
Aaron Schatz: I saw that one on red zone. It looked like a dismayed Goodman was trying to slap the ball out of Crabtree's hands like ARod with Bronson Arroyo in the 2004 ALCS. More pathetic-looking, but at least in football, legal.
Vincent Verhei: The Walker catch looked more like a horrible decision with a lucky break than anything else. I don't want to credit Smith with anything positive there. As for who Delanie Walker is, he's a great athlete who makes a poor football player. The 49ers have tried him at wide receiver, tight end, and fullback without much success. I think They've tried him at kick returner too.
Bill Barnwell: 49ers love those guys. (See: Robinson, Michael).
Tim Gerheim: Aaron, since you've crapped on Brandon Lloyd as a guy who's eventually going to show himself as an asshole and alienate his team mates, do you at some point have to say he's not going to turn back into a pumpkin? He's the Broncos' best receiver until Demaryius Thomas puts it all together, and he has been for weeks. (I'm not trying to call you out; I just don't recall anyone else saying anything more specific about him than that he's been a bust everywhere he's been until now.)
Bill Barnwell: Touchdown pass to him was an isolation against Will James. Will James one-on-one versus anyone is a bad matchup. (Not saying you're wrong.)
Aaron Schatz: Well, it has always been because of his attitude, and I honestly have no idea if his attitude really has suddenly changed or not. As I often say, if I understood what was going through some of these guys' heads, the site wouldn't be called Football Outsiders, it would be called Football Psychologists.
Tom Gower: Lloyd's other problem has been terrible inconsistency. He'll have 2 of the 5 best catches and 2 of the 5 worst drops in the league if he gets enough targets.
Mike Tanier: My theory on Brandon Lloyd is that he is an Eddie Kennison-type who has figured out the mistakes of his early career and is now more committed and ready to be productive in a specific role. Back to begging for candy.
Bill Barnwell: OK. After Matt Prater shanks an XP and the 49ers go three-and-out, the Broncos return the punt for a touchdown .. but it's called back for a block in the back. Orton gets sacked two plays later ... and Ahmad Brooks is rightly called for a shot to the head on the sack. Now the Broncos are driving throwing exclusively to Lloyd, who is being covered by Will James. Neither of these teams deserves anything.
Washington Redskins 25 at Detroit Lions 37
Doug Farrar: And another trip/slip for Mac5. What's the deal with this field?
Doug Farrar: DeAngelo Hall is officially en fuego. Matthew Stafford throws to Calvin Johnson in the end zone in the first quarter, and while the ball should have been about a foot higher where only Megatron could have caught it, Hall made a great play on the pick.
Doug Farrar: Heh. Kitna's third pick would have been his fault, but it was called back. Defensive holding, it seems.
Doug Farrar: In the "Holy f---ing S--t" Department: Ndamukong Suh sacked McNabb on consecutive plays in the second quarter. A rookie defensive tackle with 6.5 sacks, and we're not even done with Week 8. Turning double teams into mush. I have never written so favorably about a draft prospect in my life, and he's exceeding my expectations.
Tom Gower: The Redskins stuff the Lions on third-and-1 inside the 10, then get called for encroachment on the field goal attempt. Stafford promptly cashes in with a touchdown pass to Brandon Pettigrew. The Pettigrew touchdown pass reminds me of one of my pet peeves: Why are defenders so content to play the back of a receiver in the end zone and let the quarterback have a target who's looking at him?
Rex Grossman comes in with the Redskins down 31-25 with less than two minutes to play, and is immediately sacked, fumbles, and the fumble is picked up by Mr. Suh and returned for a score. Gee, nobody ever could have predicted that.
OK, Mike Shanahan says in his postgame comments he put in Rex Grossman for the final drive because Rex knew the two-minute offense better than McNabb, and that Donovan was fine with him playing Rex. I think I know who the Minnesota Vikings' starting quarterback next year is likely to be.
Mike Tanier: So Rex Grossman gives the Redskins the best chance to lead a two-minute drill, according to Mike Shanahan. I don't know what to say about that, except that McNabb got benched and I don't have to live it all week.
Green Bay Packers 9 at New York Jets 0
Tom Gower: Rather than run the game's sixth-straight punt to open the contest, Rex Ryan called for a fake punt. On fourth-and-18 from his own 20. It was close -- the officials initially gave it to them, but after McCarthy's challenge, Weatherford was properly ruled out at the 37 and one Jennings completion later the Packers were inside the 5.
Doug Farrar: I'd expect nothing less from Mike Westhoff, the man who invented the onside kick (well, not really).
Vincent Verhei: Packers kick a field goal after the failed fake punt. There have been seven possessions in that game, and I believe three total first downs. Why, in such a field-position oriented game, would Rex Ryan of all people call that fake? Very bizarre.
Aaron Schatz: I don't think it is that crazy. It's a big risk-reward play but remember, the Jets call more fake punts than any other team. They've got Brad Smith as the upback and Steve Weatherford, the punter, is a former high school decathlete. Plus, they probably read Walkthrough his week.
Vincent Verhei: It was not a fourth-and-5 at midfield. It was fourth-and-18 deep in their own territory. The upside is that you have a first down well on your side of the field and likely end up punting anyway. The downside is that you hand the Packers a field goal when they could do almost nothing against your defense previously. The more I think about this the more I move from "that was bizarre" to "that was horrifically stupid."
Aaron Schatz: Fourth-and-18? OK, I'll go with crazy, then.
Tim Gerheim: The commentators in Jets-Packers are doing a good job of watching how Revis is lining up. In the first half he was playing outside on one side of the field, not matching up with any particular receiver, and in the second half he's been matching up with Greg Jennings. Unless you want to preserve the opportunity for your corners to blitz from the side they're familiar with, or you play a two-deep type zone, I don't really understand why you would locate your corners, rather than let them match up with a receiver, at least most of the time. Seems like it would improve your ability to use film to prepare for their tendencies and general usage patterns.
Jennings has also been having trouble locating and adjusting to the ball in the air. There have been two fairly long outside passes to him that I've seen where he seemed to have a good chance to get to the ball but failed to. The first one may have just been a good play by the defender in coverage, but it looked like Jennings picked up the ball late and wasn't able to time his jump right. The second he had a step on the defender and the pass was thrown to lead him downfield, but he seemed to turn the wrong way as the ball was in the air, and he couldn't recover in time to catch up with the throw.
Aaron Schatz: OK, you are Rex Ryan, losing 6-0. Mark Sanchez is sacked to make it fourth-and-11 from something around your own 20 with 3:03 to go. You have no timeouts left. Do you go for it on fourth-and-11 in a last-gasp effort? Or do you punt the ball and hope to stop the other offense. It seems like you go for it, but thinking about it ... If you punt it, the other team will get the ball back around 3:00. Each run will take about 35 seconds off the clock, plus you have the 2-minute warning, so if the defense does its job, you will end up with the Packers punting back to you with about 1:20 left. Which is easier: Converting fourth-and-11, or going 80 yards in 1:20 with no timeouts, but starting with a first down again?
Carolina Panthers 10 at St. Louis Rams 20
Bill Barnwell: As someone just noted on Twitter ... Sam Bradford is currently 12-of-15 for 58 yards.
Doug Farrar: My name is Trent Edwards, and I approved this message.
Tom Gower: Sam Bradford just hit Laurent Robinson for a 16-yard gain. That was his 16th completion, and the first more than 9 yards downfield. I refer you to my Audibles comment from earlier this season about how "deep" in the Rams offense is anything more than 15 yards downfield. They simply can't threaten teams downfield, especially with Danario Alexander on the shelf. Damn if Bradford isn't incredibly, incredibly accurate though, and he's also throwing with some anticipation-on the touchdown (completion No. 18), he recognized Amendola would be open quickly and threw the ball before he'd even begin to turn.
Doug Farrar: All kidding aside, I'll give Bradford credit for understanding the situation. Rookie quarterback on a bad-but-improving team, and he's down to his seventh-, 12th, and 29th-string receivers. A lot of guys in his shoes would try to do too much.
Jacksonville Jaguars 35 at Dallas Cowboys 17
Doug Farrar: We need to find a way to "credit" interceptions to other position players. Jon Kitna's first two picks were absolutely not his fault -- there was a bobble by Felix Jones that was picked by Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton, and
another that bounced off Miles Austin and into the hands of Derek Cox.
Aaron Schatz: Actually, we do have in the charting where INT can have "Dropped" as the reason for incomplete, where the ball bounces off a guy's hands. But that still doesn't take care of interceptions where the receiver runs the wrong route like an idiot.
Then again, a lot of those tipped interceptions are not dropped passes but overthrown passes that the receiver leaps to try to catch.
Bill Barnwell: I don't think that's really fair. We don't give a cornerback "credit" for a long completion when he blows coverage and take it away from the quarterback. You get some breaks, some go against you.
Tom Gower: After Barber gets stuffed at the goal line on third-and-goal, the Cowboys elect with nine seconds left to play in the first half, to pass up the field goal down 14-3 in favor of going for it. It's another handoff for Barber, who runs into Kitna getting the ball, then gets stood up by Daryl Smith at the goal line and can't make it in despite the second effort. The -and-goal situation was set up by a fantastic diving catch by Dez Bryant.
Aaron Schatz: All the offensive linemen were pushed back on that play. Smith was originally on the second level in case of a pass, and had made it past the offensive line by the time Barber even got there.
Bill Barnwell: I'm OK with the decision to go for it there against the Jaguars rush defense down 11.
Aaron Schatz: Oh, right decision, definitely, and honestly, good play call. Just awful execution.
Doug Farrar: You have GOT to be kidding me. 10:56 left in the third quarter: A Jon Kitna pass bounces right off the hands of Roy Williams into the arms of Derek Cox. This was a perfect lob right to Williams in a little zone pouch. These are perfectly good passes that are being wasted. That's three!
Doug Farrar: Halfway through the third quarter, the Jaguars go up, 27-3, on a touchdown pass to Marcedes Lewis in which Lewis is single-covered by Keith Brooking. Seriously. The 300 people left in Jerry World are chanting, "Let's Go, Rangers!"
Buffalo Bills 10 at Kansas City Chiefs 13
Aaron Schatz: I just went to look and try to figure out how on earth Buffalo-Kansas City is 0-0 despite KC having 100 more yards than Buffalo. Apparently, after a long first-quarter drive, the Chiefs punted from fourth-and-8 on the Buffalo 33. I repeat. PUNTED FROM THE BUFFALO 33. Are the winds that bad that you don't want to have Ryan Succop try a 51-yard field goal? And even so, why not go for it? Instead, Dustin Colquitt put it in the end zone for a touchback and 13 fabulous yards of field position. Yay, Todd Haley.
Bill Barnwell: KC's actually been really good about going for it on fourth-and-short, although they just punted on fourth-and-1 from midfield.
Tom Gower: It looks like the Bills are driving for a potential game-winning field goal, then on the edge of field goal range Ryan Fitzpatrick has a ball slip out of his hands and go straight to Eric Berry, far from any receiver. Matt Cassel gets sacked, and we're headed to overtime.
Tom Gower: Rian Lindell hits from 53 yards in overtime, only Todd Haley had called a timeout before the kick. After the timeout, Lindell misses. The Chiefs drive down, but Succop puts it wide left from 39. We're 3:38 away from a tie game, and it's feeling quite possible.
Miami Dolphins 22 at Cincinnati Bengals 14
Tennessee Titans 25 at San Diego Chargers 33
Tom Gower: The Chargers go three-and-out and drop back to punt. Being The 2010 San Diego Super Chargers Special Teams, the Titans now lead 2-0.
Aaron Schatz: I believe this movie is called "Mike Scifres in the Ninth Circle of Hell."
Mike Tanier: Did the Chargers just have another kick blocked?
Vincent Verhei: Yes, the Chargers have another punt blocked, this one for a safety. They have tied the record for STDs (see Any Given Sunday, Raiders over Chargers) and the season is not yet half over.
Also, I'm sitting at a table with three guys discussing black holes and dark matter. It's like having lunch with three Gregg Easterbrooks.
Tom Gower: Kenny Britt goes down with a probable right hamstring injury after just failing to haul in a deep pass from Vince Young when he was a couple yards clear 40 yards downfield. No matter, VY the next play hits Jared Cook on sideline pattern where Cook used his physical ability to run away from the linebacker. I'm not a big fan of Fouts as a commenter, but he is useful for pointing out uncalled DB contact-Cason on Britt's play, then Jammer on Damian Williams the play after the Cook completion.
Before this drive, the Chargers methodically marched straight down the field, primarily getting their yardage on short to medium passes. I think it was on the Matchup show this morning (might've been Playbook) that they showed the Titans singled up Will Witherspoon on the opposing TE in crunch time. I'm sure there's a good reason they don't do that regularly.
Chris Johnson had a 29 yard run where he probably ran 75 yards. The play design was to go right, and he went right, found no space, danced, then cut back across the field, almost got pushed out of bounds on the left sideline, got a block from VY about 18 yards downfield, and made it into the end zone. A great play by CJ, but some horrific work by the Chargers in terms of pursuit and tackling.
Jason McCourty picks Rivers at the close of the first half, as Rivers tries to finally hit something deep against what looks like zone coverage. McCourty grabs the ball with about :11 left and decides to try to break the return instead of getting what he can and going down. He manages to burn :09 and get 11 yards to very long (maybe 63) field-goal range, then a block in the back pushes the Titans back even further. Very frustrating.
Kenny Britt was apparently carted to the locker room from the sidelines with what was confirmed to be a right hamstring injury. The Titans have nonetheless been throwing the ball downfield with some success, as VY has 7 completions for 150 yards and could easily have two more 40+ yard completions.
Well, OK, considering Antonio Gates just burned him for a 48-yard touchdown, maybe singling Will Witherspoon on the opposing team's top TE isn't a recipe for surefire success. That was a five-play, 91-yard drive for the Chargers that was almost a disaster-Michael Griffin was called for grabbing Antonio Gates' jersey on 3&6 to negate his own pick-6 after he used the leverage to undercut the ball. The other big play on the drive was a 36-yard outside gallop by Mike Tolbert, which was about as ungainly as you'd expect from that description. I think rookie corner Alterraun Verner was supposed to have outside contain and blew it, and I know Tolbert ran him over at the end of the play.
The Titans have now gone three-and-out, four-and-out, and three-and-out in the second half. Credit to San Diego's D for getting off the field on third down, but VY hasn't been entirely sharp either.
VY hits Nate Washington for a 71-yard score after Cason and Weddle both decide to take the same guy and neither bothers to follow Washington. The 2-pt conversion play was another candidate for "burn this play"-an ugly swing pass for CJ.
Tennessee special-teamer Donnie Nickey just got tossed for punching an official (by accident) as part of the wrangling after the kickoff.
The San Diego Super Chargers 2010 Special Teams Adventure continues, as they blow the XP to leave it a one score game at 33-25.
VY scrambles and goes down awkwardly, then immediately grabs his left ankle area, so he may have aggravated his existing left ankle injury. Fouts immediately claims Achilles injury.
The Titans back the Chargers up to their own 1 after a punt, then the Titans are flagged for what's called offsides. After announcing the offsides call, the ref confers with his compadres and properly changes the call to a false start. Something you don't see every day there. The Titans nearly get their second safety of the game the next play, as Hester just barely gets out of the end zone on a pass to the flat.
Kerry Collins is unable to lead the Titans' to a game-tying score, and the Chargers come away with the victory. CBS credits the Titans with six dropped passes, the last of which came when CJ was unable to haul in a pass from Collins on 4&2 at the 15. Yes, VY is still the best option at QB in Tennessee.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38 at Arizona Cardinals 35
David Gardner: The Bucs aren't able to cover any Arizona receivers, but that's OK -- Arizona doesn't have a quarterback who can complete passes to them.
By the way, you have to love every time Fitzgerald catches a touchdown because he is donating $5,000 to breast cancer research for each.
Max Hall just missed a handoff and got sacked for a loss of five. Growing pains.
... And then threw a pick-6 to Geno Hayes.
Aaron Schatz: Ooo ... This is the long-awaited Geno Hayes-Gerald Hayes deathmatch!
Derek Anderson came into the game and got the Cardinals down to the 4-yard line before Breaston dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone.
Tim Gerheim: That's not fair. It's true in 2010, but Warner was obviously Warner, not Arizona Quarterback. Jake Plummer was unique, and there were only a few years of wandering in the desert between the two. Saying that is really an insult to Chicago QB; that situation is one of a kind.
Mike Tanier: How much worse would Leinart have been than their current situation? Or how much better?
Aaron Schatz: The difference is that we don't know. With Leinart we didn't know, and let's be honest, with Hall, there's the possibility he'll develop, so we don't fully know. With Anderson, we know, and we've always known, and that's what makes the decision to a) start him from the beginning of the year and b) go back to him today so damn head-scratching.
Tom Gower: I'm pretty sure that with Matt Leinart we already do know, and that Leinart would not have been clearly better as a short-term option and we already know his long-term future is limited, but I already sent you that email.
Arizona has to answer, I think, two questions:
1. Why did you not make a serious effort to acquire a better quarterback in the offseason? Moot right now.
2. How do you best find out if Max Hall can be a competent NFL quarterback? I think the lesson of the two pick-6's to Whisenhunt was that he's not ready enough to the point where he's seriously hurting the team. In that case, you play Derek Anderson even though Derek Anderson is a known really mediocre quantity.
Tom Gower: Our Hayes Touchdown Battle is now tied at one, as Gerald recovers a LeGarrette Blount fumble and returns it to match Geno's pick-6 from earlier in the game.
Aaron Schatz: I may have to stand corrected, as Derek Anderson seems to be bringing Arizona back against the Bucs.
Mike Tanier: Anderson has always been good at random hot streaks.
Aaron Schatz: I'm don't generally have a problem with alternate uniforms, but the Cardinals wearing uniforms that have almost no red on them whatsoever is a little strange.
Tim Gerheim: That pass was for Stephens-Howling, not Breaston.
David Gardner: My bad. Down 38-35, Derek Anderson had the Cardinals down in the Bucs' red zone with just a little more than two minutes left. Anderson then threw into triple coverage. Interception by Aqib Talib. The next play, LeGarrette Blount got hit in the backfield then spun out and broke off a 45-yard run. Brian Billick said, "I won't even say a word. You have got to come back and see this again, folks."
Aaron Schatz: Remember when the projection system spit out an 8-8 mean projection for the Bucs and I couldn't figure out what was going on because it was just a lot of little factors adding up and nothing obvious? They're going to be 5-2 here and I still can't figure out what's going on other than an easy schedule.
Tom Gower: Passing game, particularly the improvement of Josh Freeman and addition of Mike Williams. It's 20 percent better than it was last year in DVOA terms. I'm not in love with him like I am with Bradford, but Freeman's far ahead of where I thought he'd be in terms of learning curve.
Seattle Seahawks 3 at Oakland Raiders 33
Vincent Verhei: On fourth-and-1, Raiders line up with one receiver, and that receiver is Marcel Reese, a fullback who played receiver in college. (How did SF miss this guy?) He runs a perfect slant, catches the ball for a first down, the Seahawks miss some tackles, and the Raiders are up 10-0.
Ensuing possession, Seattle goes three-and-out -- for the fifth time in fifth drives.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Seahawks have just over 100 yards of offense, five total first downs, and they're 0-for-10 on third down. I'm not surprised to see the offensive line manhandled, but the wide receivers have been manhandled too -- they have four catches, total. Darrius Heyward-Bey has that many by himself. Oakland's defensive backs are just crushing them.
Doug Farrar: The Raiders scouted those defensive back blitzes Pete Carroll loves very well -- they have been blowing open lanes all day when the Seahawks have gone with those calls.
Vincent Verhei: Seahawks are down to undrafted rookie Nate Ness at corner. Heyward-Bey promptly gets a 69-yard touchdown. How is Josh Wilson doing in Baltimore?
Bill Barnwell: Seahawks are 1-of-15 in converting third downs.
Pittsburgh Steelers 10 at New Orleans Saints 20
Aaron Schatz: Did these teams forget to bring their offenses this evening?
Mike Tanier: So, do they just give the Steelers a touchdown every time they get inside the five at this point?
Doug Farrar: Wow -- Pete Morelli just totally screwed up that challenge by saying the no-touchdown ruling stood. Ball was short, but it's hard to believe that he couldn't remember that the original ruling was a touchdown.
By the way, Pete Morelli was the same ref who overturned the Polamalu interception in the 2005 divisional game against the Colts. So, there's yinz conspiracy theory, Steelers fans.
Mike Tanier: Its hard to believe how often the Steelers get that premature touchdown call. Can the league make Steelers touchdowns a point of emphasis this week? Can they remind the referees that the ball has to cross the plane in the player's possession, even if that player is wearing black and gold? Sure, this play was called properly, and it resulted in a field goal instead of a touchdown. But we wouldn't want another game to come down to one of these oddball calls.