Audibles at the Line: Week 8
compiled by Rivers McCown
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.
Miami Dolphins 17 at New York Giants 20
Danny Tuccitto: Oh joy. Dan Dierdorf is doing color -- already three superlatives in the first two minutes of action.
Tom Gower: Don't feel too bad, the crew doing Tennessee and Indianapolis said that (a) the Titans recovered the fumbled opening kickoff and (b) the Colts have won all nine AFC South titles.
Danny Tuccitto: It's still early, but the Dolphins' corners look absolutely helpless against in-breaking routes so far. Two slants and a shallow cross for a couple of first downs already.
Vince Verhei: Giants' first drive ends in a failed fourth-and-9 at the 33. Obviously the right call to go for it there, but I hate the third-down call -- a long incompletion. If you know you're in four-down territory, why not call a screen or draw to make fourth down easier? Especially because they just put up a graphic saying the Giants had the worst third-and-long conversion rate in the league.
Danny Tuccitto: I think the operative phrase there is, "If you know you're in four-down territory..." I continue to be amazed at NFL head coaches seemingly making the go-for-it decision on the fly.
Mike Tanier: Giants were three-for-three on dropped passes on one second quarter drive.
Fade to Mario Manningham, covered by some rookie, for a touchdown before halftime. Sometimes, the simple call is the right call.
Danny Tuccitto: At some point the quarterbacks have to start hitting open deep receivers. Midway through the third quarter, Eli Manning is 1-for-5, with the one "deep" completion being a 20-yard toss to a tight end. Matt Moore is 0-for-4. On almost every one, the receiver had a step on the defender.
Indianapolis Colts 10 at Tennessee Titans 27
Tom Gower: Well, the Colts are somewhat more inept than I expected them to be. The Titans have had very little success offensively, but a third-down conversion and one big pass were enough to set them up for a long field goal, and they just got a score off a punt block. The Colts have been killing themselves with penalties (seven in the first quarter-and-a-half) and special teams mistakes, particularly when punting. They've also been throwing way too much even though they're having success running the ball. If the Titans were any good, they'd be up way more than 10-0, as they've started in Colts territory twice and punted without getting a first down both times.
The Titans get their first actual drive going in the two-minute drill at the end of the first half to take a 20-0 lead. The other 13 points came off two field goals where they got decent field position and one big pass play each (aided by what looked like a bogus 15-yard defenseless receiver penalty) and the punt block. The Colts' special teams have really been abysmal this game. In addition to the punting problems, Joe Lefeged should NEVER bring a kickoff out of the end zone.
The Colts take the opening second-half kickoff down the field, and then on third-and-goal from the 4 they run a wide receiver screen and kick the field goal on fourth down to get to 20-3. Is Jim Caldwell playing the Titans D/ST in fantasy football? I just wish I was surprised by the move.
Danny Tuccitto: Caldwell's either playing the Titans defense in fantasy or he's scoreboard watching. He sees Arizona, St. Louis, and Miami all on track for improbable wins, and figures a field goal there gives Indianapolis the inside track for Luck.
Tom Gower: The Colts move the ball a lot more effectively in the second half, but a Curtis Painter pass is tipped at the line of scrimmage, the Titans convert that good field position into a 27-10 lead, and Painter gets two meaningless fourth-and-goal failures in an attempt at a semi-pointless comeback.
I suppose I haven't mentioned Chris Johnson's play today. To some surprise from me (and to their credit), the Titans played Javon Ringer more, especially in the second half, and Ringer was consistently more successful. The Titans aren't as good a run-blocking line as they were in, say, 2007, but Ringer makes them look a whole lot better. I don't think he's much more than Just A Guy, but he's actually bothering to run out there.
Arizona Cardinals 27 at Baltimore Ravens 30
Tom Gower: If you get a chance, watch Patrick Peterson's punt return touchdown to make it 17-3. I only saw a replay on streaming red zone, but counted eight potential tacklers avoided.
Vince Verhei: I don't know what's happened to Baltimore, but the past two weeks have looked like player-organized workouts during the lockout, not midseason games. And the bounces are going Arizona's way -- Joe Flacco hits Torrey Smith for what should be a first down, but Smith can't handle it, and it bounces into a Cardinals defender's hands.
Benjy Rose: Watching this at a La Guardia gate (and so is Randy Cross, I'm pretty sure), and it was a nice touchdown drive followed by a sweet punt return touchdown. The aforementioned bobbled interception came next, and then a quick drive for another touchdown.
Arizona looks to be much more aggressive on defense, and Baltimore isn't getting much pressure.
Mike Tanier: The Cardinals now have a big enough lead to take the Ravens completely out of their power/play action offense, so they are bringing a lot of house blitzes. The Ravens are not what I think of as a "comeback" team.
Ravens are now running non-stop sideline passes to Anquan Boldin. There have been about seven straight, four caught. Then, Boldin over the middle draws pass interference in the end zone.
Ben Muth: Terrell Suggs causes a turnover and the Ravens go to Boldin again and get an obvious pass interference for a first-and-goal. Boldin is murdering the Cards right now and seems thrilled about it. Ray Rice scored the next play.
Vince Verhei: After Baltimore takes the lead, Kevin Kolb tries really hard to give the ball back to them, but they just won't take it. First he throws a pass right to Ray Lewis, but Lewis drops it. Then Kolb scrambles, waving the ball around like a child with a sparkler on the Fourth of July, and inevitably fumbles. That play is waved off on a Ravens penalty.
This is getting ridiculous. Kolb throws a pass that's intercepted by Ed Reed, but Baltimore is called for pass interference. This is all one drive.
Mike Tanier Ravens are playing punt-and-pin with the score tied and three minutes left. They put the Cardinals on the 3, so maybe it will work.
Who watches a lot of Cardinals? How bad is that cornerback named Marshall?
Sean McCormick: Isn't that Richard Marshall, who used to play for Carolina?
Ben Muth: Awful. Him and A.J. Jefferson both are just atrocious. The Cardinals secondary is almost as bad as Houston's was last year.
Jacksonville Jaguars 14 at Houston Texans 24
Rivers McCown: Blaine Gabbert left early on after taking a shot to his ribs, but made it back after one series -- he has been pretty much what you would expect from his stat line so far. I note that he does look a little more comfortable in the shotgun, and I'm surprised that they don't run that more often. The Texans were having problems getting pressure on him in the latter part of the second quarter, which let the Jaguars get a late drive going, but for the most part they are in this game because of the sack-and-fumble inside the Houston 20.
Meanwhile, Houston is taking a lot of shots downfield on Jacksonville and the timing just isn't there. Matt Schaub has overthrown three or four deep balls, another one was barely defensed, and Kevin Walter couldn't get both feet inbounds on another. The Texans' low halftime score was also produced by Gary Kubiak punting inside Jacksonville's 40 and a missed field goal.
The final score made this game seem much closer than it actually was. The Jaguars' run defense was absolutely great, and Terrance Knighton and company kept Arian Foster in check for most of the day, but that was about the only thing they did right. Their two scoring drives were off turnovers and went a total of 34 yards. Gabbert was skittish and ineffective outside of the aforementioned stretch of the second quarter, Maurice Jones-Drew was running into walls all day, and Houston would have won this game by 30 if Schaub was a little more on-target.
Bit of an ugly duckling game, but that's the AFC South for you this year.
New Orleans Saints 21 at St. Louis Rams 31
Vince Verhei: We talked about how the Cards are getting some breaks in their early lead against the Ravens. Well the Rams are up 17-0 on the Saints at halftime, and while a blocked punt was a big part of that, this looks more like one team clearly outplaying another. The Saints' tackles are losing badly against Robert Quinn and Chris Long, and the Rams have the Saints' screens completely figured out -- Jed Collins and Pierre Thomas have five catches for a combined 14 yards, and 14 of those yards came on one play. Drew Brees threw an interception right before halftime to set up a Rams touchdown. There's a difference between giving your receiver a chance to outfight a defensive back for the ball, and forcing a throw to a guy who's not open, and this was the latter.
Danny Tuccitto: Is it fair to say Long and Quinn are one of the more unheralded end combos in the league right now? I haven't watched enough of the rest of the league to know where they stand in terms of perception and publicity. From what I've seen of them this season, seems like they're consistently beating the tackles, but the back end can't cover.
Vince Verhei: Steven Jackson scores again to make it 24-0 St. Louis. The Rams are attacking the edges in the run game with multiple off-tackle runs and wide receiver runs. Jackson had a big run on that drive with three great perimeter blocks that I badly want to go back and diagram.
Mike Tanier: Drew Brees just attempted an Archie Manning underhand pass.
With the exception of the Saints, everyone is being who we thought they were today.
Minnesota Vikings 24 at Carolina Panthers 21
Aaron Schatz: I would like to congratulate Leslie Frazier for blowing both his challenges on plays where the television replay clearly showed the refs made the right call, thus leaving himself with no challenges for the final 28 minutes of the game.
Rivers McCown: Gary Kubiak is challenging your compliment.
Aaron Schatz: I think Christian Ponder must leave the pocket twice as often as Cam Newton. You never would guess that Newton was the quarterback who was supposed to be the runner. Once again, this week, Minnesota with a lot of designed bootlegs for Ponder to split the field in half.
I want to know why Brian Orakpo and the Geico Caveman are playing "circular Scrabble."
Vince Verhei: Obviously Cam Newton deserves the lion's share of the credit for Carolina's offensive turnaround, but he's not the only new addition on the team. The Panthers have gone from two lousy tight ends (Dante Rosario and Jeff King, both of whom are fighting to stay in the league right now) to two pretty good ones (Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen). When you've got two quality weapons like that, it lets you get so many mismatches on both running and passing plays.
Mike Tanier: Vikings just completed an 57-minute field-goal drive.
Aaron Schatz: I also like this kid Antwan Applewhite, who was an outside linebacker for San Diego but is now playing defensive end for Carolina.
Cam Newton's incomplete of choice is "overthrown." Everytime he misses a guy, he misses him high.
Luck finally turned for Minnesota today. When Olindo Mare honked the would-be game-tying field goal for Carolina, it was the first field goal missed by a Minnesota opponent all season.
Mike Kurtz: Minnesota won that game? Funny, based on the highlights I thought it was 49-0 with Newton curing cancer during halftime.
New England Patriots 17 at Pittsburgh Steelers 25
Aaron Schatz: The entire first Pittsburgh drive seemed to be Heath Miller. Just a huge void sitting in the middle of the field.
J.J. Cooper: Steelers clearly looked at the Patriots' cornerback depth chart before the game. They spread the Patriots out frequently on the first drive, sometimes the Patriots stayed in their base 4-3 against three wide.
Mike Kurtz: Good lord, Miller is giving the Patriots fits.
J.J. Cooper: Dick LeBeau has changed up much of his usual approach against Tom Brady. More tight man coverage, less zone. It doesn't hurt that nickel back Keenan Lewis gives them another corner comfortable in man compared to when Bryant McFadden played last year.
Aaron Schatz: The Steelers are doing a great job of coverage on the Patriots receivers today, very tight coverage. Looks like it is mostly man coverage. When they do send more than four pass rushers, they're getting to Brady fairly easily. On one play, LaMarr Woodley just went right past Sebastian Vollmer, as if Vollmer wasn't even blocking at all.
J.J. Cooper: Patriots bring out three tight ends and one wide receiver to start the second half -- Steelers stay in nickel.
Mike Kurtz: I think one of the big stories from this game is that Pittsburgh is just ignoring the possibility of downfield throws by New England. It's working because, while they're getting to Brady at a decent clip, their non-blitzes are still rushing Brady to his throws.
Aaron Schatz: Are we all enjoying Ben Roethlisberger's seminar on Finding Huge Holes in Zone Coverage?
Danny Tuccitto: I'm not one to pile on bad announcing, but during the review of Pittsburgh's game-icing safety, Phil Simms first marvels at the divots created by Ziggy Hood during his fumble recovery, and then forgets who was involved in the Holy Roller.
Mike Kurtz: The real problem with these Steelers is that they're very good at the start of the game but bad at building up leads. Tomlin is very happy to get field goals, so when they're in range the offense gets much less aggressive. That said, the defense was top-notch today and it didn't matter.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah, this game was not as close as the final score. The Patriots offense looked lousy until their last touchdown drive, and the Steelers had a lot of good drives where they settled for field goals (or a missed field goal). Not sure what changed in that drive that they suddenly were able to get open. Maybe part of it was more throws on the sides rather than up the middle.
Stephen Gostkowski has to be the worst onside kick kicker of all time.
J.J. Cooper: Part of what happened for the Patriots late, as I saw it, was the Steelers pass rush limped off when Woodley left the game with a hamstring injury. Lawrence Timmons has shown zero pass rush skills since moving to the outside to replace James Harrison and rookie Chris Carter, the fourth outside linebacker on the depth chart (Jason Worilds, like Harrison, was inactive because of an injury) has a predictable speed rush and no counter to it if an offensive tackle sells out to stop his speed.
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is a master of the zone blitz, but I give him credit for going completely against type today against the Patriots. LeBeau's teams generally play a lot of zone, and very little bump-and-run man. Today, they played a whole lot of man coverage with their corners up at the line.
LeBeau's teams want to make sure they stuff the run and prevent the big play, while allowing teams to complete short stuff underneath -- the theory is that at some point the Steelers will generate pressure to make the opponent make a mistake. Today the Steelers dared New England to run -- staying in nickel packages even when New England went to two and three tight-end sets -- and the Steelers dared the Patriots to throw deep.
LeBeau's teams generally don't let any one player for an opponent change up what they do. But today, the Steelers took their best cornerback, Ike Taylor, and had him cover Wes Welker all over the field, even though Taylor generally never plays in the slot.
It worked, even if the Steelers played the fourth quarter without one starting linebacker in their starting spot. It wasn't LeBeau's normal style, but it was one of the better games he's ever called as a defensive coordinator.
Tom Gower: I've been hesitant to wade into the New England thicket, because I'm not necessarily watching them closely every week and not covering them, but they seem like an offense that's very horizontal in how they get open. Whatever Brady's strength's are, he's not a great deep ball thrower, and they don't have an exceptional deep ball target. LeBeau's gameplan is the way to attack that. Of course, you then have to execute and actually cover guys like Welker and Rob Gronkowski, and I'll be re-watching today's game to see how the Steelers managed that.
Aaron Schatz: This is generally true. The way that the Patriots stretch defenses is very abnormal, they do it more with the tight ends than with the receivers. They tried to stretch the defense with Chad Ochocinco on one play today and when the cornerback jammed him (don't remember which corner it was) he couldn't quite recover and Brady ended up overthrowing him deep. That play seemed like the final straw in Ochocinco's non-participation in this offense. For most of the game they were playing Taylor Price instead of him.
Two other thoughts on the Pats now that I've had time to consider things a bit.
1) This game really highlighted what seemed at the time like a very strange decision -- using both second- and third-round picks on running backs. Stevan Ridley has been reasonable, but generally unnecessary. Shane Vereen, the second-rounder, can't get on the field and seems completely superfluous, especially now that Kevin Faulk has come back from his ACL tear. Most of us here in New England thought Faulk was only being kept around as a semi-coach, basically, and maybe in case one of the other backs got injured before Faulk came off PUP. But Faulk not only was activated this week, he was on the field more than any other running back. Why on earth would a team with Faulk and Danny Woodhead need Vereen? Meanwhile, this defense is awful and really could have used a second-round defensive player and a third-round defensive player instead of all the undrafted free agents they have running around providing bad zone coverage.
On the other hand, the Pats haven't exactly done much with the defensive players they have drafted early. This is the biggest problem with this team. The late-season defensive improvement that was supposed to carry over from last year has disappeared instead, or even gone backwards. The idea was "young talent, will improve." Instead it's "young talent, barely playing." So many of these players never developed -- Terrence Wheatley is gone, Darius Butler is gone, Jonathan Wilhite is gone, Jermaine Cunningham is barely playing, Ron Brace hasn't played much and is still on PUP ... Belichick's defensive drafting has just been terrible the last couple years. Even Devin McCourty is sophomore slumping.
2) As long as I'm criticizing Belichick ... I do not understand the decision not to challenge when Gronkowski scored what looked like a touchdown with 4:02 remaining, but was instead called down at the 1. The replay seemed to show touchdown. I understand the general argument there is "you want to save your touchdowns for the final drive," but at that point you have 4:02 left and you know you are going to need to score, stop the Steelers, and score again. What does it matter if you save 30 seconds by taking a timeout now or two minutes later? In fact, the Patriots spent something like 30 seconds just setting up the next play, Brady was adjusting all kinds of stuff at the line and really could have used the timeout there. Which would have not mattered anyway because the challenge likely would have resulted in a touchdown. It would have been a lot better to kick deep with 4:02 left than to try the world's worst onside kick with 2:35 left.
Cleveland Browns 10 at San Francisco 49ers 20
Danny Tuccitto: First series of the game: Ahmad Brooks abuses Tony Pashos, loses his helmet when Pashos grabs a handful of mask in desperation, and gets the strip-sack on Colt McCoy. San Francisco takes over at the Browns 20.
Vince Verhei: On their second drive, San Francisco comes out with an unbalanced line to the right. They run a bootleg to the left. Joe Staley, who lined up tackle-eligible to that side, is wide-open for a catch-and-run. The bootleg to the short side of the line, with the tackle to that side running a route, is about the ballsiest call I've seen all day.
Danny Tuccitto: I really believe this kind of stuff is what's separating this year's offense from last year's. Not so much an increase in gimmickry; moreso increasing the amount of deception within the parameters of a traditional, run-first offense.
I should also mention Harbaugh and Roman once again used end-around action on a simple handoff early in the first quarter. The last two games, they've done the same thing, and then gotten an efficient gain from Ted Ginn end around later in the game.
Tom Gower Alex Smith's TD pass to Michael Crabtree to make it 17-0 late in the first half was really, really easy. The Niners were in goal-to-go, Crabtree lined up on the wing. The Browns blitzed a defensive back off the edge, Crabtree ran an out pattern, Smith managed not to completely melt down from the pressure, and T.J. Ward had no chance to get to Crabtree in time.
Danny Tuccitto: At some point, the NFL really needs to clarify what an illegal hit on a receiver is. This week's edition of "lamenting the quasi-violent days of yore" stars Dashon Goldson, who used a double-forearm shiver to the chest of Greg Little to dislodge the ball on second-and-3 with about a minute left in the half. No contact to the head, no spearing, no launching. Just a hard hit. Obviously, I'm biased here, but I think an objective observer would wonder what was illegal about it.
Tom Gower: I saw that Goldson hit live and even on the replay didn't see any head contact. No contact to the head of the defenseless receiver, no foul, at least as I understand the rule. I'm not sure crews are doing a good job of calling it that way this weekend, though.
Mike Tanier: Every NFL clarification is another layer of obfuscation. Stop legislating and let refs use their brains.
Mike Kurtz: Amen, brother.
Danny Tuccitto: Tanier, were you channeling Damon Wayans/Oswald Bates there? "First of all, we must internalize the flatulation of the matter by transmitting the effervescence of the Indonesian proximity..."
Mike Kurtz: It's also illegal if you lead with your helmet. Or if you lie in wait for a receiver to get into the air and unload on them (compared to just running to them and hitting them).
Tom Gower: To clarify, the contact with the defensive player by Goldson and on the play the Colts were flagged on against the Titans that I noted earlier appeared to be with the shoulder, not with the helmet.
Danny Tuccitto: All of a sudden, the Browns are finding open holes in the 49ers zones with their tight ends. It nets two first downs. Then, inexplicably, McCoy throws a Hail-Mary-esque pass to a double-covered Greg Little, which is intercepted by Goldson. During the replay, I believe Dan Fouts calls him "Dasher" Goldson. Guess that makes Donte Whitner, "Donner." San Francisco only rushing four most of the time, so not sure Blitzen showed up today.
Rivers McCown: *groan*
Danny Tuccitto: My friend and I have been suspended in mutual disbelief that Aldon Smith hasn't been playing many snaps today. Like clockwork, he comes up with a sack on third-and-12 with 10 minutes to go in the game.
And, as I predicted 2 hours ago, there's the reverse to Ginn. This time, however, Cleveland was all over it. Film study, it's a beautiful thing.
This game has all the makings of a Niners-Cowboys Week 2 redux. Regardless of how lame his penalty was, Goldson has been at the center of pretty much every big play Cleveland's had today; or at least it sure feels that way.
Vince Verhei: Isaac Sopoaga just became the second 49ers lineman of the day to catch a pass for a first down, lining up as a fullback and running out into the flat on play-action.
Danny Tuccitto: Although that's, of course, interesting in itself, the play was perfectly designed to force defensive end Jayme Mitchell into deciding whether to go after Smith or follow Sopoaga into the flat. He chose to go after Smith, and that's what left Sopoaga wide open for the conversion.
Cincinnati Bengals 34 at Seattle Seahawks 12
Vince Verhei: Charlie Whitehurst starting for Seattle again. Seahawks, needless to say, go three-and-out their first drive. Ensuing punt is boomed 64 yards, but Adam Jones breaks a few tackles and hits the open field. Jon Ryan, the punter, then proceeds to run him down from behind. Not making that up. Jones comes up grabbing at his hamstring.
Andy Dalton hits Jerome Simpson on a post route for a touchdown shortly thereafter. Seahawks cornerbacks today are CFL refugee Brandon Browner and fifth-round rookie Richard Sherman. Sherman gave up that touchdown pass.
Brian McIntyre: The Seahawks deactivated WR Mike Williams. Didn't appear on the injury report at all this week and presumably has more of a rapport with Whitehurst than Sidney Rice or rookies Doug Baldwin and Kris Durham. One of the great stories of the 2010 season has just nine receptions for 89 yards and one touchdown in five games this season.
Vince Verhei: OK, I need someone to explain this to me. Dalton wants to throw a swing pass to his left, but the Seahawks are all over it. So he tries to pull the pass back, but the ball comes out of his (right) hand and goes almost straight backwards. He falls on it, but it's obviously a loss of yards, right? Wrong. It's ruled an incomplete pass because his arm had started off in a forward motion.
I think this discussion came up in an earlier in the year, but if this is the way it's written, then it's an awful rule. Dalton was standing there unmolested. The ball came out of his hand and landed five yards behind him. It didn't travel forward and bounce off his non-throwing hand. He just ... threw it backwards. How can that not be a fumble?
(For the record, Cincinnati runs two more plays and punts, so it turns out not to be a huge deal.)
Whitehurst is benched. This means the coaching staff has deemed him inferior to an injured Tarvaris Jackson. I'm inclined to agree.
On Jackson's first play, he bonks right into Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. Ball is fumbled and Bengals recover.
The 2011 Seahawks, everyone!
Danny Tuccitto: It's been proven that I'm not the rules guy here, but kudos to Dalton for remaining unmolested.
Doug Farrar: I'd like to point out, without additional comment, that Tony Corrente, the head official in this game, is also the officiating coordinator for the Pac-12.
Brian McIntyre: Surprisingly chippy game between two teams who play each another once every four years. On the Bengals first offensive possession, Simpson continued to block Browner while whistles blew the play dead, so the former CFLer made like Bret Hart and delivered a nice suplex (it was Canada Day at CenturyLink Field) and earned a 15-yard personal foul penalty. On Seattle's second offensive possession, Bengals safety Reggie Nelson picked up a 15-yard unnecessary roughness for kneeing Golden Tate in the head after the play.
Andre Caldwell also punched Browner in the head, which would've been an ejection if the eight officials on the field were the only eight people watching or playing in the game to not see it. Domata Peko ripped Lynch's helmet off and threw it downfield, too, and there's been lots of jawing between both offensive and defensive lines and Bengals receivers and Browner.
Doug Farrar: Best part of the Peko play was Tony Corrente’s ruling that there was no facemask (and thus no penalty) because "the helmet was pulled off with both hands on the side of the head." I’d give Mike Pereira 500 bucks if he could explain that one to me in a way that would make me believe it.
Mike Kurtz: Did he grab the facemask?
Doug Farrar: No ... but the defender ripped the helmet off with both hands. So there was no facemask. I'd really like to know how ripping a guy's helmet off and throwing it isn't a penalty of any sort though.
Aaron Schatz: Seahawks decide to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the 3 with 14 seconds left. Lynch runs for two yards, but doesn't get the touchdown. Seahawks have no timeouts, and the Bengals basically sit on top of Lynch to prevent the refs from setting the ball up so they can spike it on first down. Clock runs out, end of half.
Tom Gower: The decision to run with no timeouts left was deeply questionable, but the Bengals should have been flagged for delay of game. It's in the rulebook precisely for situations like that one.
Robert Weintraub: Even the little bit of this game I saw was horribly officiated. I think Corrente's crew did the London game last week; possible they are still jetlagged?
Vince Verhei: I suppose a penalty could have been called at the end of the half, but I think the Seahawks knew when they called the play it was an all-or-nothing gambit.
Bengals lead 17-3 at the half. A.J. Green burned Earl Thomas on an in-and-up move for a touchdown. Fantastic throw by Dalton on the play. Prettiest football by either team in a Seahawks game in weeks.
Seattle, as expected, moved the ball better with Jackson in at quarterback.
In defense of both Jackson and Whitehurst, Seattle receivers have dropped a number of balls, Rice in particular has been a repeat offender.
Dalton is not perfect. He misses a wide-open Caldwell on a crossing route. He was under pressure, but wasn't hit until the ball was released. Then he tries a deep pass to Green, but Sherman has him blanketed and pulls in the interception.
Seahawks drive down the field and answer with a field goal. The big play was a deep sideline pass to Ben Obomanu that seemed to hang in the air forever. On third-and-goal, Rice caught a pass in the back of the end zone, but couldn't quite get his feet inbounds.
For the second time today, Sherman turns a long pass to Green into an interception. Green was a step behind him, but the pass was underthrown. Sherman outfought Green for the ball, tipping it into the hands of Kam Chancellor.
Doug Farrar: Sherman was one of my training camp faves. Really tall corner and a former receiver from Stanford who initially struggled with anything that wasn't a straight go route, but he's starting to put it together.
Vince Verhei: Brandon Tate returns a punt 56 yards for a touchdown to ice the game against Seattle. It's actually seven yards shorter than Pac-Man's non-touchdown return earlier.
Quote of the year by Pete Carroll, on the Lynch run that ended the first half: "That's what happens when a coach gets hormonal."
Robert Weintraub: I actually had to miss the first two-and-a-half quarters of the game (halloween parade, chili tasting party). Good to know others were actually watching. Needless to say I'm satisfied -- the two fly patterns to Green that got picked (one A.J.'s fault, one just a great play by the corner) made it closer than it should have been. The one thing the Bengals are doing this season that they haven't consistently done in the past is getting putaway scores late in the game. Today they got two: a punt and pick-six. And somewhere Bill Walsh is smiling, for the fourth quarter pass rush continues to be excellent. In fact, the key play was Carlos Dunlap making a very athletic sack of Jackson on third down when it was still 20-12. So often, the QB eludes the big end in that scenario and makes a throw on the move. I've seen Cincy get burned by that a billion times. But this time, Dunlap got a paw on Jackson's jersey, pinioned him around and got his other hand on him, and then it was over. The next play was the Tate punt return for six that ended it.
Washington Redskins 0 at Buffalo Bills 23
Rivers McCown: Bills, employing the Bill Simmons offense, get a long C.J. Spiller defensive pass interference penalty on Josh Wilson -- questionable in my eyes -- to set up a field goal.
John Beck would be a lot more acceptable as a starter if he didn't take so many sacks.
Tom Gower: From the first half of this game, Beck's primary virtue as a starting quarterback is he's not Rex Grossman. I thought the Wilson DPI penalty on Spiller was absolutely legitimate, but if Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't underthrow the ball, it's six points as Spiller as behind Wilson. Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick doesn't have the arm to hit the deep pass or the anticipation to make up for his arm.
Mike Tanier: Every time I check in on the Bills game, Fred Jackson is gaining seven yards.
Tom Gower: And Scott Chandler now has two touchdown catches, the latter giving the Bills a 20-0 lead and making this game pretty much over, I'd think.
Detroit Lions 45 at Denver Broncos 10
Mike Tanier: The Matthew Stafford Experience is three bombs and ten passes that don't come within 20 feet of a receiver.
Ben Muth: I know you can't use stats when discussing Tim Tebow's game, but 4-of-13 for 37 yards at halftime pretty accurately describes his play. Or you could use 24-3, which is the score at the half.
Vince Verhei: Early in the third quarter, the Broncos have given up more sacks (five) than they've completed passes (four). They have two passing first downs and -7 net yards through the air.
Oh, and Tebow has fumbled twice.
Ben Muth: On the final play of the third quarter Tebow runs for a first down. Notable because it was the Broncos first third-down conversion of the day.
Mike Tanier: There is something transcendant about a team in the full house backfield while down 38-3.
Dallas Cowboys 7 at Philadelphia Eagles 34
Tom Gower: Nice audible on the screen to Jeremy Maclin for the first score of the game, and he had an absolute convoy of blockers downfield. No real bombs, but otherwise that seemed like a very Eagles opening drive.
Ben Muth: I have no idea what Michael Jenkins was doing on that screen to Maclin. He looked so passive, almost like he was just waiting to get blocked. I'm not sure he could've made the play no matter what he did, but breaking down and waiting for the left tackle to come block you is not the a very good effort.
Mike Kurtz: Ben: for a second he thought he was playing for the Giants.
Rivers McCown: Can we talk a little bit about Jason Babin? I remember trying to sneak him into an underrated free agents column during the July blitz and getting an argument on that. Now he's got eight sacks and is keeping up last season's breakthrough under Jim Washburn again. All for only about $6 million in guarantees.
Tom Gower: I think Babin's career says his value is very scheme-dependent, and in the wrong role, he's not a very good player. The Eagles should have been, and were, the right team for him to go to, and he's been pretty effective, including particularly that first quarter series where he just killed Tyron Smith.
Rivers McCown: I don't know that I entirely buy that. The Texans shed him without ever giving him a real shake at defensive end once he failed as a Charlie Casserly outside linebacker. He showed some promise as a situational pass rusher in Philly in 2009. The wide nine definitely jump-started his career, but he hadn't really been given much of a chance to succeed -- and this is a guy SACKSEER was really high on coming out of school.
Mike Tanier: I say, but this was quite a smooth start for the Eagles.
Danny Tuccitto: It seems like this season, more than others, there's a point in every game where a football receiver turns into a volleyball setter. Tonight, it took less than a quarter for that point to come. Martellus Bennett with the set, Nnamdi Asomugha with the kill.
Mike Tanier: I know that is still Keith Brooking, not Keith Brooking Jr., but I don't believe it. It's just like I was certain the guy the Flyers got had to be Jaromir Jagr Jr. because there was no way the original was still playing.
Mike Kurtz: The only thing keeping me awake at this point is trying to figure out which writer will sanctimoniously mention Tony Romo playing with sleeves.
That was the most horrible hut-hut I've ever seen. Romo was wandering aimlessly in the backfield.
Mike Tanier: I expected a tricky fake snap. Or maybe he has been reading Camus.
So I check the boxscore, and it's even more one-sided than that. Neither Bryant nor Austin has even seen a single target (partly because the Cowboys have only eight total pass attempts, plus three sacks).
Mike Kurtz: And as you say that, Michaels comes back and runs down a graphic that includes the "no targets" stat.
Danny Tuccitto: And I tweeted it with a minute left in the first half. #thatguy
Aaron Schatz: Is this Eagles Porn Part II?
Vince Verhei: Can anyone think of a worse call, ever, than the "backwards pass" ruling that is about to be overturned on replay? Michael Vick released the ball at the 11. DeSean Jackson was standing at the 8. They are off by nearly 10 feet.
Mike Tanier: Pathetic, really. Just a "no one is thinking, let's go with the flow" call.
Vince Verhei: On replay, the pass was tipped, but it was still tipped ten feet ahead of where Vick was standing.
Tom Gower: That's a terrible call, but not close to the worst ever, in part because it's not a high-leverage situation in the game. Think about the calls that got replay reinstated, particularly the Jets-Seahawks phantom touchdown that kept the Seahawks out of the playoffs in 1998 (not to pick at any sore wounds) or the Oilers-Steelers Mike Renfro touchdown catch that wasn't. Add in penalties that were and weren't called and rule misinterpretations and you have plenty more to choose from.
Vince Verhei: There may have been more critical mistakes that changed games, seasons, or careers, but I still say that was the worst as far as "how can they possibly be so wrong on this?"
I saw the Vinny Testaverde non-touchdown in the Jets-Seahawks game. The ball was one yard short of the end zone on that play. The "backward pass" tonight was inconsequential (especially since it was overturned), but it was still three yards away from being backwards. In my mind, that makes it three times as bad as the Testaverde call.
Mike Tanier: Cowboys cannot stop LeSean McCoy until they are at about the 9.
So last two games on Sunday night it has been ... 96-7?
Rivers McCown: Which has been worse this year: the Sunday Night slate, or the Monday Night slate? Sunday has had better teams, but even when they get what seems like a good matchup (like this or Jets-Ravens) it turns into a slog.
Vince Verhei: Laurent Robinson for a long touchdown. Even in their biggest win of the year, the Eagles can't cover third receivers.
Tom Gower: Just wanted to note the Eagles' possession up 34-7 where they punted at 9:15 of the fourth quarter was their first of the game that did not end in points. Now seven possessions: four touchdowns, two field goals, one punt.
Danny Tuccitto: That non-pass-interference call late in the fourth on Amosugha versus Bryant ... that's my vote for the worst call ever.
Mike Kurtz: That's a bit silly, but wow, that was really, really bad. Not a great game for Steratore's crew.