Audibles at the Line: Week 4
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 49ers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.
Thursday, September 27
Cleveland Browns 16 at Baltimore Ravens 23
Vince Verhei: Brandon Weeden, unpressured, just underthrew an open receiver on a 5-yard hitch.
Aaron Schatz: Kid, if you can't hit that pass at age 28, when are you planning on learning?
Vince Verhei: I was so intrigued I looked this up. There were 63 unpressured underthrows on passes 4-to-6 yards downfield last year. So about two per team. Two players tied for the league lead with six: Blaine Gabbert and, no kidding, Tom Brady. Nobody else had more than three.
Peter Koski: [Disclaimer: Ray Rice fantasy owner] I don't understand Baltimore's offensive game plan so far. It seems to be a, "Look, we can pass! Flacco has arrived!" gameplan. On a short week, when you have a good running offense you can lean on, I was thinking they'd soften up the defense in the first half with mainly run. Even Baltimore's first half two-minute drill seemed to be forcing things.
Rivers McCown: Baltimore was not getting anything to Dennis Pitta ... actually, the Browns came into the game with the fourth-lowest DVOA allowed to tight ends. I wouldn't have guessed that with all the injuries they have had at linebacker. Maybe a "T.J. Ward is healthy" thing?
Sunday, September 30
New England Patriots 52 at Buffalo Bills 28
Andy Benoit: The Patriots were extremely efficient on their first opening drive touchdown of the season. Long pass to Rob Gronkowski was the big blow -- Tom Brady had plenty of time and space to step up and throw. 7 plays, 90 yards.
Aaron Schatz: Yes, very little pass rush from the vaunted Buffalo front four. I'll be watching that more this game. I noticed that Mario Williams plays more on the left (offensive right) which surprises me a little bit. Also, that drive was a good example of one of the good things about Stevan Ridley: He always seems to stumble forward for an extra yard or two at the end of every play. That really does add up.
Andy Benoit: Ryan Fitzpatrick's second interception was a pure underthrow. T.J. Graham had beaten Devin McCourty on the fly route, and the route was far enough outside the numbers that safety help over the top was not going to be relevant. But Fitzpatrick short-armed it; mechanics are still a bit of an issue for him at times.
Aaron Schatz: It's interesting, the Bills have done a good job of keeping the Pats offense down; they've had just 19 yards with no points after two Bills turnovers. But Mario Williams is doing nothing. Sebastian Vollmer has him totally contained. Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus are having a much bigger impact.
Rivers McCown: Mario had a reputation for disappearing for a couple games at a time in Houston. I'm not really surprised that he's having a quiet start. Especially given that cast he's wearing ... he is always playing dinged up.
Aaron Schatz: Here's that play in a nutshell: Chung is 5-foot-11, Chandler is 6-foot-7. That concludes "play in a nutshell."
Andy Benoit: What's up with Stephen Gostowski? It's weird seeing the Patriots have kicking issues. Bill Belichick looks befuddled.
Aaron Schatz: I was shocked when they called timeout and brought out the kicker. Fourth down with a foot-and-a-half to go on the 25? Go for it, kiddies.
Andy Benoit: At the 4:10 mark in the second quarter, Fred Jackson made a phenomenal over-the-shoulder catch near the sideline over great man coverage by Jerod Mayo. Jackson has flashed wide receiver like talent before.
Jackson is running with decent fluidity and good solidity (fluid movement, solid in balance and body position) in his first game back from a leg injury. He has three catches for 50 yards through 34 minutes.
Chandler's second touchdown was another very good adjustment on the ball. Chandler is a tall hands catcher. Linebacker Brandon Spikes is great downhill, but he doesn’t have the speed to run vertically with a target like that. He didn't think to run with him initially, anyway.
Aaron Schatz: Pats defenders always seem to be playing the man, not the ball.
Vince Verhei: Actually, there were times last season I don't think they were playing the man OR the ball.
Aaron Schatz: From the replay, it didn't even look like Spikes was trying to run vertically with him. It looked like that should have been on the safeties, and they were just both too late to get to the middle of the field.
I think I may have mentioned this last week, but I swear that Brady used to throw the ball away under pressure, didn't he? It seems like he just gives up and goes down in a clump these days instead of trying to get rid of it to save yardage.
The Patriots just failed on third down again on their first drive of the second half. Third-down conversions on offense just awful today. I think they are something like 1-for-6.
Also, it may not have been Mario Williams disappearing. It may have been Vollmer playing well, because on the second-and-8 where Gronkowski almost catches a long touchdown, the Bills ran a stunt and Williams pushed Ryan Wendell back like ten feet on skates.
Andy Benoit: The Bills are having tons of success throwing inside the numbers, splitting New England’s two deep safeties. Donald Jones' catch-and-run touchdown was a great illustration of that.
The key with Bills offense is Fitzpatrick having room to plant, windup, and launch. He’s been very good today with a clean pocket this game.
Aaron Schatz: The Patriots just scored, finally, to make it 21-14. Almost the entire drive was runs. Huge holes. One remarkable thing about this game is the way the Pats have completely shut down the Bills' run -- remember, C.J. Spiller is currently leading the league in rushing DYAR by leaps and bounds -- while themselves running wild on the Bills. Yet they can't seem to complete passes on third down, until, finally, the touchdown to make it 21-14.
Gronkowski is clearly off today as a receiver, he dropped another possible TD pass on that drive, but at least when he's off as a receiver he's still a bad mofo as a run blocker.
Andy Benoit: The Patriots have generated minimal pressure with a four-man rush. Chandler Jones has been very quiet for most of the game working against Cordy Glenn. (Right as I type this, Rob Ninkovich turned the corner for a forced fumble and sack around Erik Pears. Also, Cordy Glenn got his knee rolled up on the play. Maybe the next sentence I'll type will be "Andy Benoit has not won the lottery lately.")
Aaron Schatz: The Bills have had two offensive linemen go out with injuries. The one good thing about the insane constant churning of their offensive line the last year or two is that all the backup linemen have regular-season experience.
Andy Benoit: Bills corners Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams did a very good job on Brandon Lloyd. The reason: both are pretty well-sized and long, which is a formula for beating a guy like Lloyd who lacks speed and quickness, but relies on acrobatics and positioning with the ball in the air.
Aaron Schatz: Well, the second half was certainly different.
I warned everybody before the season about trusting rookie cornerbacks, but I have to say, I'm very impressed with Gilmore's play today, at least what I've been able to see on TV angles.
This just came over Twitter from the Patriots official Twitter feed: This is the first time the Patriots have had two 100-yard rushers in the same game since December 19, 1982 against Seattle. Thirty years. Wow.
OK, I just put this on Twitter, but I'll put it out to all of you. What comes after a law firm? We need a nickname for Brandon Bolden, the Pats' latest Ole Miss UDFA find.
Rivers McCown: If they're using him as a change of pace back, my vote is for "Countersuit."
Aaron Schatz: The current Twitter leaders seem to be "Judicial Review" and "The Prosecutor."
Seattle Seahawks 13 at St. Louis Rams 19
Andy Benoit: Seattle's white uniforms are ugly. They look like a mistake, like someone ordered the wrong color of pants.
Vince Verhei: The good news for Seattle is that the Rams interior line just can't handle their defensive tackles. Big mismatch for Seattle on virtually every play. The bad news for Seattle is that Richard Sherman is having a lousy game. He gave up a bunch of completions in the first quarter, including one to Chris Givens for a 52-yard gain. He got an interception in there too, but that was due to a St. Louis miscommunication and not anything special Sherman did.
And I disagree strongly with Andy on Seattle's uniforms. I dig the white-on-grey look.
Seahawks try the surprise onside kick to open the second half, but the Rams recover. They proceed to go three-and-out, then Greg Zuerlein kicks a 60-yard field goal. He also has a 58-yarder, and the Rams' touchdown right before halftime came on a fake field-goal try.
Every time I decide I'm out of patience with Russell Wilson and want to see Matt Flynn, there's another jailbreak in pass protection where Wilson is one of maybe eight or ten guys in the league that could escape it.
[ad placeholder 3]
Seattle has high-profile rookies at quarterback and pass rusher, and now their rookie running back is making plays. Robert Turbin has five carries for 45 yards, I think all in the third quarter. He's doing a lot of it on his own, breaking tackles and finding cutback lanes.
The last Seattle drive pretty much summed up their entire offense at this point. Down six points in the fourth with about six minutes to go, they go run, run, penalty, run, incomplete, incomplete, punt. They have no faith in their own passing attack unless down-and-distance forces it.
J.J. Cooper: The Seahawks are trying to drive for a game-winning touchdown in the final two minutes. Wilson does a decent job of dinking it down the field, but his wideout falls down on a comeback route and the ball lands in Bradley Fletcher's hands. Which is bad since he plays for the Rams. Not Wilson's fault, but nice win for the Rams.
Vince Verhei: Let's not go overboard praising Wilson there. At the two-minute warning, they had a third-and-2 with no timeouts left. They ran for the first down, let 30 seconds go by, threw short and in bounds, let 30 seconds go by, and then threw the interception, which was another short route in bounds. The interception was not his fault. The fact that he was running a six-minute drill with one minute to go is.
Carolina Panthers 28 at Atlanta Falcons 30
Andy Benoit: The Panthers played it safe with a three-man rush, eight-man drop in the red zone against the Falcons on a late first-quarter drive. They got a sack on Matt Ryan followed by an interception. Ryan threw the ball with confidence on the pick, which implies that he was fooled and didn’t see the field correctly.
Early in the third quarter, the Falcons tried a zone blitz that involved safety William Moore and defensive end Kroy Biermann. That meant the defensive end played safety on the play ... a very aggressive, unusual tactic by Mike Nolan. He likely did this as a show tactic for Cam Newton, who has been struggling with blitz identification a bit this year.
Rivers McCown: I don't really do the whole "apocalypse is coming 2012" joke, but I'm a little nervous after Michael Turner nabs a 60-yard touchdown on a screen pass.
Andy Benoit: Newton is beating the Falcons with his legs late in this third quarter touchdown drive. He scrambled in for a touchdown and did a variation of Deion's dance.
Rivers McCown: Newton rushes for what should be the game-ending first down, but fumbles and Carolina recovers behind the first-down marker. Carolina is going to punt on fourth-and-1 from the ATL 45, with 1:10 to play. That's just a brutal call mathematically.
Atlanta gets one last crack at this. Roddy White catches a 59-yard play-action bomb on the first play after that, outdueling Haruki Nakamura on a jump ball. The Falcons are not far from field-goal range.
Aaron Schatz: Sometimes, football people argue that us stats people don't take into consideration the talent on the field when we endlessly go on about needing to go for it on fourth-and-1.
You know, like taking into account that you have Newton at quarterback, and that you gave big money to not one but TWO running backs.
Rivers McCown: And that your defense is brutal. And hasn't been non-brutal since 2010.
Vince Verhei: Small sample size, but...
Coming into today, the Panthers had five carries with one yard needed for a first down, and picked up the first down four times. In the same situation, the Falcons had given up a first down seven times in eight carries. Carolina's odds of picking up a fourth-and-1 are, very conservatively, in the 80 percent range. And probably a lot higher.
Andy Benoit: Get ready for a week of "Is Matt Ryan elite?" discussions.
Aaron Schatz: You know who is elite? Roddy White.
San Francisco 49ers 34 at New York Jets 0
Peter Koski: The Niners open the game with Michael Crabtree against Kyle Wilson. Crabtree draws a defensive pass interference penalty on a double move. Wilson was beaten off the line often early in this game.
Colin Kaepernick seeing a lot of action early. In for Alex Smith after a Frank Gore first down run, they run an option to the left, Kaepernick keeps it for 17 yards. The option pitch man? Delanie Walker.
Third-and-6 from the Jets 7, Kaepernick in the gun, Bruce Miller, Vernon Davis, and Walker bunched to the left. Kaepernick keeps it for the touchdown. Two plays earlier, Smith ran option right with a pitch to Kyle Williams for nine yards.
Andy Benoit: The Niners are showing the Jets how to run an option. Kaepernick has long legs and light feet –- looks like a deer. I’d take him over Tim Tebow eight days a week.
Ben Muth: Kaepernick's touchdown was a Quarterback Toss Crack. It's the same concept that Smith scored on against the Saints last year in the playoffs.
Vince Verhei: Jim Harbaugh is such a magnificent bastard. Hasn't used Kaepernick hardly at all until he plays the Jets, and then he breaks out the Kaepernick-cat just to emphasize how impotent the Tebow-cat has been all year. And the 49ers get more success out of it in one quarter than the Jets have all year.
Jets counter by lining Tebow up in the backfield next to Sanchez as an extra pass blocker. And honestly, Tebow does a hell of a job picking up blitzes. They gave him one old-school Florida short-yardage jump pass, and he completed it for a first down, though the receiver was hit and fumbled. But today more than ever, Tebow looks like a fullback who got the wrong jersey number on accident.
Aaron Schatz: James Brown came on for the game update, showed the Kaepernick play, and said "who says the option won't work in the NFL?" Uh... I don't think that was the option. There was no pitch man. For a play to be the option, don't you need to have, you know, an option?
Ben Muth: Wilson has been beat deep three times today (twice by Mario Manningham, once by Crabtree). But Smith has just overthrown it every time. It's 10-0, but it could be much worse.
The positive for San Francisco is that it seems like it would take the Jets 10 quarters to score 10 points on the them.
Andy Benoit: The Niners have piled on 10 extra points since establishing an insurmountable 7-0 lead over the hapless Jets.
Just in case anyone may have had any smidgen of optimism left for the Jets' 2012 season, Santonio Holmes goes down with a non-contact knee injury. (Which also led to a fumble and touchdown return for Niners.)
J.J. Cooper: Mark Sanchez's lack of accuracy continues to amaze me. Sanchez completed less than 50 percent of his passes for the 12th time in 50 regular season NFL games. If this was 1975, that would be acceptable, but in today's NFL that's mind-boggling.
To put it in perspective:
Tom Brady has 11 sub-50 percent completion percentages in 165 career regular season games
Peyton Manning has eight sub-50 percent games in 212 regular season games
Drew Brees has six sub-50 percent games in 158 career games
Aaron Rodgers has four sub-50 percent games in 73 games
Sanchez's inability to put together strings of four-to-six straight completions makes it really hard to sustain drives. Of course, the Jets don't really have a better option for accuracy on the bench -- Tim Tebow has nine sub-50 percent games in 25 regular season games.
Danny Tuccitto: Sanchez's college completion percentage was 64.3 percent. Tebow's was 66.4 percent. We often say in the context of Lewin Career Forecast that, "A quarterback doesn't learn accuracy when he goes pro." These two prove that the inverse is false.
Aaron Schatz: With Tebow, at least, that's totally a product of the style of offense that has grown in popularity in college in general, and was played at Florida specifically. It's a ton of short bubble screens, and a lot of stuff predicated on the fear of Tebow running. This is why the completion percentage variable in the LCF is now logrithmic. Once you get over like 62 percent or so, additional accuracy in college doesn't mean much. Below 56 or 57 percent, it means a lot.
Danny Tuccitto: Yeah, I was just about to make that addendum to the comment. Sanchez "learning" to miss the ocean from the beach is definitely more troubling given that he actually played in a pro-style system at USC.
Tennessee Titans 14 at Houston Texans 38
Andy Benoit: Texans have dominated ball control in first quarter versus the Titans. That’s been a major element with both teams since last year: Texans controlling possession, Titans not having enough possession.
Rivers McCown: The Titans defense has been brutal. Only third-and-short has haunted the Texans in the first quarter. They had a pair of third-and-1's stuffed, but converted on a fourth down on one of them. Tennessee's coverage is just brutal. Everything underneath is wide open, and without Colin McCarthy, their linebackers cannot tackle.
Oh, and to add to the J.J. Watt for Defensive Player of the Year campaign: on Brooks Reed's third-down pass breakup early in the first, Reed ran an inside stunt with Watt. David Stewart was supposed to slide over to pick up Reed, except Watt pretty much shoved him right to the ground.
Tennessee special teamer Tommie Campbell just had his second block in the back on Alan Ball of the game, and to make matters worse, he threw him right in to Darius Reynaud, causing a fumble that the Titans were lucky to keep.
The Titans have actually been really impressive on the ground today. They are generating some giant holes for Chris Johnson, and to his credit he has not tried to be cute about it for the most part. That has and will continue to be a flaw in Houston as long as Shaun Cody and Bradie James are manning the middle.
A tipped Taylor Thompson pick-six has put the Titans in catch-up mode though, and they aren't really generating much consistency in the passing game. Even on the touchdown to Craig Stevens, he was practically blanketed by Danieal Manning. It was just a great individual effort.
Watt has 7.5 sacks in four weeks. He is a 3-4 defensive end.
Vince Verhei: Out of curiousity, have any of those sacks come in a four-man front? I know Wade's 3-4 in Atlanta would go to a four-man line in nickel situations.
J.J. Cooper: Watt is insane. It's not just the sacks. He seems to knock down whatever passes he decides to allow to be thrown.
Rivers McCown: Yes. But he often plays inside in the dime fronts, with Connor Barwin and Reed outside.
[ad placeholder 4]
Kareem Jackson just correctly played a slant route, broke in front of it, and returned it for a pick-six.
I am now unsure that I am actually awake.
Tom Gower: Cell phone reception from inside Reliant Stadium is terrible, so I didn't even try sending any emails during the game. With Britt out and Jared Cook limited, the Titans had trouble winning one-on-one matchups on the outside. Johnson ran well, much better than he did the first few games, but it didn't matter.
Defensively, the Titans looked okay in the second quarter, but struggled badly in the second half again. And, yes, J.J. Watt is awesome.
Minnesota Vikings 20 at Detroit Lions 13
Vince Verhei: Great blocking by the Vikings on Percy Harvin's kickoff return touchdown. He cut left to right all the way across the field and no Lions defender got within five yards of him.
Andy Benoit: Lions should put quotes around the "special" of their special teams. Lions "special" teams.
Aaron Schatz: Andy, noticed you say something on Twitter about how you are impressed with the way the Vikings teach their defensive players fundamentals, and how that's contributing to their good play this season. Who do you think is leading that, Frazier? He's been there since, what, 2007? Is it Spielman?
Andy Benoit: With a loss today, the Lions are now 6-10 (including playoffs) since their 5-0 start last year.
San Diego Chargers 37 at Kansas City Chiefs 20
Vince Verhei: I guess it's not over yet, but the Chargers got some turnovers deep in Kansas City territory for some easy scores and a 17-0 lead. The Chiefs have had a tendency for several seasons to just not show up some weeks. I thought that tendency would leave town with Todd Haley, but I guess I was wrong. I bet that over the past few seasons, the Chiefs' worst four or six games each year are as bad as anyone else's.
Andy Benoit: Matt Cassel threw behind Tony Moeaki on a crossing route that resulted in an easy tipped pick-six for Donald Butler, who has made a few nice plays in this game. Butler had a sack coming clean off the edge at around the 12-minute mark in the third quarter. He’s also looked fast in run defense going sideline-to-sideline, too.
Vince Verhei: The Chiefs go into halftime with five turnovers and a missed extra point and trail 27-6.
Miami Dolphins 21 at Arizona Cardinals 24 (OT)
Vince Verhei: Last week, none of the early games were close to over when the late games started. This week, Arizona-Miami just started, and we've got five finals and three more in the last five minutes. Thank the Lord for real refs.
Ben Muth: Cameron Wake beats Bobby Massie around the edge for a sack on third down in Dolphins territory. People seem to think that because the Cardinals are 3-0, their offensive tackles are suddenly not bad. This is not the case.
Ryan Tannenhill takes my all-time pet peeve sack. The Dolphins tackles are cut blocking to get the ends hands down on a three-step drop. Tannenhill doesn't see anyone open, so he makes like a statue in the pocket. Sam Acho sheds the cut and sacks Tannenhill from behind. I'm rooting against the Dolphins and I yelled at my TV for him to throw the ball.
Wake is destroying Massie. Three sacks for Wake in 13 dropbacks
Dolphins had a third-and-goal from the 21. They complete a pass to the one. After the two-minute warning, they decide to go for it on fourth-and-goal. They get it. 10-0 Dolphins at the half. The Cardinals offense has looked awful.
Andy Benoit: Tannehill is doing a good job this week of keeping his eyes downfield and using subtle movement to avoid the rush. He’s been willing to challenge Patrick Peterson, too.
Ben Muth: The Cardinals got inside the 10-yard line, then throw to Larry Fitzgerald three times in a row. The last one was a wideout screen for a touchdown. There's something to be said for giving it to your best player three times in a row when you need a touchdown.
Tannehill just threw a ridiculous fade route, jumping off his back foot. He was bailed out by an awful defensive pass interference call. Miami converts another third-and-long.
Jake Long is on an island every play. The Dolphins never slide his way, chip towards him, or keep a tight end in to his side. I wish people would consider stuff like that when citing pressures and hits allowed.
Also, the Cardinals finally caught one of Tannehill's interceptions.
Vince Verhei: Cards get a goal-to-go following a long fumble return by Peterson. On second down, Kolb looks for Fitzgerald again, but the defender jumps the route for the interception. When I say "looks for Fitzgerald," I mean Kolb was throwing this ball to Fitzgerald no matter what. I'm pretty sure that Fitzgerald was already out of bounds before Kolb even released the ball.
Right after Kolb's interception, the Cardinals forget to cover Brian Hartline, who gets free on a simple shallow post for an 80-yard touchdown. Hartline now had a Dolphins-record 245 receiving yards, with seven minutes to go. Tannehill is over 400 yards, but still more than 100 short of Dan Marino's best day.
J.J. Cooper: Wow. Who would ever think that Hartline had an outside shot at Flipper Anderson's record?
Andy Benoit: Kolb had a pair of terrific fourth-down completions on a game-tying touchdown drive in the waning seconds. The legend is building!
Aaron Schatz: I think that Kolb's biggest problem the last couple years has been self-confidence more than anything else. He just looks yippy, and makes huge mistakes under pressure. Well, Miami ranked 31st in adjusted sack rate coming into today, and Kolb just showed great composure and marched the Cardinals downfield for a game-tying, last-minute drive which included two fourth-down conversions.
Vince Verhei: You're right, but let's not forget that Kolb started that drive by taking back-to-back sacks. He was sacked eight times in regulation.
Aaron Schatz: Gotta give some props to the Cardinals' offensive line (strange to say that) for how they've protected Kolb in these last few minutes of the game. Third-and-7 in overtime, Miami sent six guys and Kolb still had a good pocket, which meant no yippy Kolb, and that meant a completion and a first down.
Jay Feely makes a long field goal, and the Cardinals are 4-0. Six-for-six on fumble recoveries today. I know their defense is playing well, I know that Kolb looked really good on the game-tying drive, but this is just not sustainable.
Ben Muth: No it is not sustainable, but it sure is fun.
Oakland Raiders 6 at Denver Broncos 37
Andy Benoit: The Broncos went heavy on the crossing patterns on first series, wanting to make Oakland’s safeties and linebackers play lateral pass defense. They cap the drive with a deep seam to Joel Dreessen: all vertical on that play. Outstanding first drive.
Vince Verhei: With Denver up 34-6 late in the fourth quarter, CBS cuts to a shot of one coach from each team running stairs. The Oakland coach is a tubby Greg Knapp. He's running those stairs, I'd like to believe, not because he is trying to lose weight, but as punishment for the horrible football he has spread across the league over the last decade.
Ben Muth: Everyone was burying Peyton Manning and the Broncos for going down big the last two weeks. No one mentioned that:
A) They played Houston and Atlanta, maybe the best two teams in the league.
B) They almost came back both times.
New Orleans Saints 27 at Green Bay Packers 28
Andy Benoit: Aaron Rodgers was incredible on his first touchdown throw. He eludes pass-rush pressure to his left, gathers on the move, and throws back to his right. Pass may have been intended for Jermichael Finley but James Jones got it.
The story of this game so far: the plays Rodgers has made late in the down to extend the play. He and Ben Roethlisberger are the best in the league at keeping their eyes downfield as they’re on the move behind the line of scrimmage.
Aaron Schatz: I think this may be what puts Rodgers ahead of Brady and Drew Brees as the best quarterback in the league right now. Everyone would rather have a quarterback who knows how to dissect a defense and make the right throw, instead of a guy who likes to improvise and wing it and "just make plays." But the best thing you can have is a quarterback who knows how to dissect a defense, who would prefer to dissect a defense, but *can* improvise and wing it and "just make plays" when everything breaks down. I think the only guys who qualify right now, excepting rookies, are Rodgers, Newton, and Roethlisberger. Rodgers is the best of those three guys in both categories. (Newton is better at *called* run plays, of course.)
Rivers McCown: Putting Jeff Triplette in Green Bay this week may be Roger Goodell's greatest troll job yet.
Andy Benoit: The Saints are getting good production out of Marques Colston in the slot. That hasn't consistently been the case this season. He's getting sit down type stuff in Green Bay's intermediate zones.
Rivers McCown: Yep, the biggest difference for the Saints between this game and their first three is that Colston is healthy and playing well.
Saints get first-and-goal from the 2 on a B.J. Raji personal foul, first play, swing pass to Mark Ingram (isn't this what Darren Sproles is on the roster for?), second play is a fade to Colston that is overthrown. Third play, slant inside to Jimmy Graham, and Tramon Williams does an excellent job of anticipating that and breaking it up.
But still, three shots from the 2 and you don't even try to run it once? With the fourth-best rushing offense (by DVOA) in the league through three weeks? Against a defense that is much better against the pass?
Aaron Schatz: Haven't the Packers been a primarily man coverage team for a while now? Today it seems like a ton of zone, and Brees is picking on the hole in the middle of the field in the same way Ryan Fitzpatrick did in the first half of the Pats-Bills game.
Andy Benoit: Rodgers and Jordy Nelson may have the best chemistry of any quarterback-receiver combination in the league.
At least the Packers are getting screwed by the right refs this time.
Aaron Schatz: You can really see in the Saints-Packers game the way that the regular officials take charge of breaking up a player fight so much better than the replacements did.
Rivers McCown: There have been a lot of completely bonkers receptions in the fourth quarter of this game, especially the fourth-down conversion to Lance Moore that was practically perfectly executed by every player on the field, but James Jones catching a ball that he can barely even SEE takes the cake. Wow.
Cincinnati Bengals 27 at Jacksonville Jaguars 10
Andy Benoit: Great acceleration and ball-tracking by A.J. Green on his late first-half bomb. He’s one of the best in the league at catching those.
Would you believe Blaine Gabbert has the longest current streak of passes without an interception? (127)
Vince Verhei: This comment was accurate for 22 minutes.
Washington Redskins 24 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 22
Andy Benoit: Billy Cundiff is 0-of-3 on field goals. Including a 31-yarder. He’s sitting on the bench with the face of a man who can’t help but envision his imminent unemployment.
Rivers McCown: Boy, Andy had a rough week. #Narrative
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Danny Tuccitto: At 10:20 of first quarter, William Beatty flagged for what can only be described as an attempted sleeper hold. Did the Giants add Brutus Beefcake to their coaching staff?
Aaron Schatz: Giants definitely seem to be leaving in extra blockers on every play to make sure that Eli Manning doesn't get killed back there.
I get this feeling that the Giants are just throwing long as much as possible, figuring that if they keep doing it, eventually they'll hit a couple of plays and either score or get into field-goal range, and that might be enough to win this game.
Danny Tuccitto: Al Michaels mentioned it early in the broadcast, so I figured I would look at our charting stats regarding the Giants having success with five or more rushers against Michael Vick. He missed last year's Week 11 game, so here are the relevant stats for the other three games over the past two seasons:
5 or more rushers: 41 pass plays, 68.3% defensive success rate, 4.1 yards per play
4 or fewer rushers: 62 pass plays, 50.0% defensive success rate, 7.5 yards per play
Rivers McCown: I'm really excited about Nnamdi Asomugha's Fresh Prince haircut.
Aaron Schatz: This is the kind of game that's probably more fun to chart than it is to watch live. Charting it, you would probably get a better appreciation of the excellent defensive line play. Live, I just feel like, somebody just get more than one first down on the same drive already.
Vince Verhei: Cris Collinsworth talks about how teams that get nothing on the ground in the first half can spring big runs in the second half if they stick with it. Because if there's one team known for pounding opponents into submission with a powerful ground game, it's the Andy Reid Eagles.
Danny Tuccitto: I'm not charting the Giants, but Corey Webster appears at a glance to be on pace for some awful coverage stats. Seems like once or twice (or thrice) per nationally televised game, he just gets made to look silly in coverage. The Giants are one of those teams that doesn't lock their No. 1 cornerback onto a specific side of the field, obviously because they think Webster's worth of that status. I looked at last year's success rate rankings for the No. 1 corners on the other seven teams ranked in the bottom eight of "CB by sides," and noticed this:
Aqib Talib (TB) = 6th
Darrelle Revis (NYJ) = 11th
Ike Taylor (PIT) = 16th
Rashean Mathis (JAC) = 28th
Corey Webster (NYG) = 36th
Sean Smith (MIA) = 57th
Patrick Peterson (ARI) = 68th
Ron Bartell (STL) = N/A (neck injury in Week 1)
So, aside from a guy who was on IR by Week 2 (Bartell was 12th in 2010) and two under-25 players (according to last year's age) who seem to have made the leap this year, Webster was ostensibly the least worthy of the bunch. And that's on the heels of a 28th ranking in 2010 and a 39th ranking in 2011. I'm not going to pretend I know more than the Giants front office or coaching staff, but it's pretty -- um -- odd.
Aaron Schatz: I've always thought he was a reasonable No. 1 corner. They do play a lot of zones, which could affect the charting stats.
Danny Tuccitto: Ah, the totally valid "this is an imperfect measure" caveat.
Aaron Schatz: Awesome move by the Giants to end the third quarter; in a situation where you usually just try to draw the other team offsides (fourth down with 13 seconds until the end of the quarter) they instead suddenly went shotgun and ran a play, and the perfect play for the situation, slant inside to Victor Cruz. Just a great play.
And then Eli throws a terrible interception. So, um, yeah. 1-for-2, I guess.
Rivers McCown: It's really a shame, I was positive that Cruz's catch had totally shifted the momentum towards the Giants.
Danny Tuccitto: The last few minutes have been one fail after another. Eli fails throwing a red-zone interception down three points. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie fails trying to return the interception rather than taking a touchback. Giants defense fails by allowing the Eagles to take the ensuing drive into field goal range in three minutes on (mostly) running plays.
Aaron Schatz: Eagles defense then fails by letting the Giants drive down the field on three passes.
Rivers McCown: Brian Dawkins may be the best Eagles safety to set foot on the field today.
Vince Verhei: Somebody said this years ago in Audibles, I think way back when he played for Atlanta, but it's still true today: Vick is a far shot from being the best quarterback in the league, but boy is he scary when he only needs a field goal to beat you.
Danny Tuccitto: It's a fourth quarter in which Philadelphia has either been clinging to a three-point lead or been down by one. They've run the ball on 12 of the past 18 plays. Super-duper top secret play-calling trend if the Giants' IT staff is hacking this e-mail thread: IT'S A RUN!
Aaron Schatz: The Giants are trying to win the game with a final field goal drive, and the whole drive is filled with pass interference calls. Guess what -- they were mostly pretty good! First, on fourth-and-1, DRC totally hugs Ramses Barden. Then there was a questionable PI on Nnamdi Asomugha, ok, that one was questionable, but then they called offensive PI on Barden when he was completely all over Asomugha. I know Collinsworth disagreed with the middle one, but the first one and the third one were pretty much textbook.
Rivers McCown: I'm really disgusted that Lawrence Tynes missed that second field goal. END ICING.
Vince Verhei: You know how some players have great rookie years, then never seem to get any better, but kind of hang around the league on raw athletic talent alone? Andy Reid is like the head coaching equivalent of that. He's got severe flaws in clock management, often forgets that running the ball is legal, and still does wonky stuff like icing the kicker. But he's such a great coordinator and quarterbacks coach that he's hung around forever, and been successful more often than not.
By the way, Vick's first sentence in the postgame interview on NBC: "I don't believe in icing the kicker."
Aaron Schatz: I love the idea that Tynes missing the second kick shows that icing works. So what does Tynes missing the first kick show? How about Billy Cundiff's missed kicks without timeouts called before them? Or Stephen Gostkowski, or David Akers?
Someone just tweeted to me: "Giants won the Super Bowl last year. Would have missed playoffs (factually) without icing. Stats don't dictate everything."
Yes, that's right. The only reason the Giants made the playoffs is the fact that Jason Garrett iced his own kicker. Because kickers never, ever miss field goals for any other reason, ever.
Rivers McCown: To be clear, my objection to icing is an aesthetic one: it's annoying and adds nothing to the game.