Audibles at the Line
Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Audibles at the Line: Week 4
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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

Peter Koski: So, Joe Flacco is still Joe Flacco, eh?

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.

Tom Gower: Jake Locker did it on consecutive plays over the middle in Week 2, throwing first at Kenny Britt's feet and then one-hopping a ball to Chris Johnson.

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.

Andy Benoit: Scott Chandler made a great mid-air adjustment on a touchdown catch over the well-played face-guarding of Patrick Chung. Chung played only the receiver, and didn’t see the ball.

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.

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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.

Jake Locker got destroyed by Glover Quin on a disguised slot blitz, and it doesn't look like he's back on the field yet. Matt Hasselbeck is warming up.

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.

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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.

Comments

277 comments, Last at 02 Oct 2012, 9:40pm

109 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Isn't the original expression "shadow of their own goal posts"? Since the goal posts actually do cast shadows, which tend to be in the end zone or very close to it (at least in one direction on the field).

135 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Surprisingly, Google gives me 25,900 hits for "shadow of their own goal line" and only 9,120 hits for "shadow of their own goal posts."

(Clearly I have too much free time.)

137 Re: Audibles: Week 4

"Sadly, it's been dumbed down to the point where people don't even know what they're saying."

Unfortunately, this is true of many sayings, not just this one.

My two biggest pet peeves for announcers are (1) when they shout "reverse" when it's an end around (and of course, if it's an end around that then becomes a reverse, they call it a double reverse), and (2) when they say "the ground can't cause a fumble" because, you know, it can if the player is not down by contact. What they mean is that if you are down by contact, it's not a fumble when the ball comes loose.

224 Re: Audibles: Week 4

I don't get it. If the paint on the grass casts a shadow, then the unpainted grass from the end zone surely does as well.

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FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

30 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Aren't young quarterbacks like young pitchers? If they stay healthy, have some degree of ability and can use that thing 3 feet above their backside they can probably play in the league?

42 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by bigtencrazy (not verified)

A pitcher's job is so much easier than a quarterback's; I can't imagine that there's much of an analogy to draw here.

A pitcher has all the time in the world to plan, and very little to do once things are actually moving. A quarterback has to think and move fast, think and move smart, with chaos all around.

Plus there's that team leadership thing, and the fact that QBs don't get the luxury of taking games off, sharing that responsibility with a bullpen, etc.

QB is a position where I could see talent, brains, and hard work not being enough to guarantee any sort of success in the NFL.

195 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Pitchers have to aim at a smaller target many more times per game, the batter has just as much time to prepare for each pitch, and there aren' t defenders trying to make a batter miss the ball. It's a mistake to make such cross-sport comparisons, especially on locker-room issues such as 'leadership'.

263 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Tougher to stick as a QB because of talent saturation. What, 12 active pitchers per club or so? So ~360 in the league at a time? If you restrict to starters, then about 5 per club, which is 150+ starting pitchers in the big leagues. Only 1 relevant QB per team in the NFL. I think a lot of guys who don't make the starting gig as QBs would be useful in some sort of situational role... except that such roles don't really exist.

39 Sub-50 completion pct games

Probably not fair to compare Sanchez to 4 of the best QB's in the league. How does he stack up to the likes of Cutler, Romo, Schaub, Roethlisberger?

40 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

Sanchez isn't as good as any of those four either. In fact, I'm having a difficult time thinking of another team's starter that he might be better than. I'd have said Kolb, but even he hasn't looked that gawd-awful these last few weeks.

89 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

Sanchez was ranked ahead of Cassel in DYAR and DVOA in 2009, 2011 and through the first three games this year (in 2011, Cassel played fewer games, but his DVOA was quite a bit worse). Even in Cassel's flukily good 2010 season he wasn't that much ahead.

I would bench Cassel for Sanchez. I think it is clear by now that Matt Cassel just is not that good. Totally flustered by pressure. Way too pick prone.

121 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

Cassel played well in the second half of 2008, such that by the end he was one of the highest QBs in DVOA in the league (doesn't translate to his year-long numbers because he started so poorly). He responds to coaching, and played well behind a strong offensive line--kind of like Drew Bledsoe. Sanchez reminds me of Jay Fiedler a little, although not quite as good. I think Sanchez might be a better starter than Sam Bradford is at this point in his career; I would take him over Hasselbeck in Tennessee at this point too, most likely; under some circumstances I would prefer him to Fitzpatrick; That's about it.

138 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

I think his larger point, outside of the Randy Moss effect, is that Cassel is a product of his environment, with a much greater upside than Sanchez. I think Cassel's floor is about the same as Sanchez, and they both stay around that. I just cannot imagine a scenario where Sanchez could do what Cassel did with Moss because he honestly cannot hit a striding receiver. Cassel can, but has been plagued with ineptitude in terms of coaching.

Neither has a ceiling even around, say, the floor of Jay Cutler/Tony Romo, and many people claim that those two are inconsistent, erratic, and prone to boneheaded mistakes. But at least they are talented.

242 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

Cutler and Romo have some pretty low floors. I thought I was going to have to take my shoes and socks off to keep track of Romo's INTs last night.

Romo week 4: 5 INTs - 2 returned for TDs

Cutler week 3: 17/31 for 183 and a pick
Cutler week 2: 11/27 for 126, 1 TD and 4 INTs

There are three ugly games in the last three weeks from your "high floor" QBs. That said, I'd still take either way ahead of Sanchez or Cassel. I just think their ceilings are higher than the Cutler/Romo floor.

227 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

You've got to be kidding. Now you're stepping on my toes. I used to love Jay Fiedler. Sure, he was a limited QB athletically, he made some bonehead plays and often put his team in a tough spot early in games. But he usually came fighting back in the 2nd half, he had a big heart and he was smart, and I don't recall him ever having those god-awful games Sanchez has. Like every other normal QB, perhaps, but not every few games, like Sanchez.

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FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

264 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

I said that he reminded me of Fiedler but not as good. Memories tend to be short, but Sanchez has also had a knack for bringing the Jets back in gut-check, big-heart drives, like in the game against Houston in 2010, or against the Pats in the playoffs that same year. His performance has tailed off as his receivers, backs, and o-line have deteriorated, but there's a case for Sanchez as something like a poor man's Jay Fiedler.

Incidentally, I liked Fiedler too. His throw through Mobley's arms in Denver in 2002 was epic.

133 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

Is it time to start the irrational Cassel-Sanchez thread?

Seriously, it's hard to believe that Cassel is into his fifth season as an NFL starting QB. And Sanchez is into his fourth.

The NFL still has a serious QB shortage.

189 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

I think there is a lot more QB talent than there used to be. Where are the Gus Frerottes and Tony Banks's of 2012? Who are the worst starting quarterbacks of today? I'd say the list goes something like this:

Tannehill
Weeden
Sanchez
Wilson
Kolb
Cassel
Fitzpatrick
Gabbert
Bradford
Freeman

That's not a bad list at all.

We've got 3 rookies who we don't enough about, and they're not really that bad, anyway, excepting perhaps Wilson.

Gabbert's in year 2 with a weak supporting cast. Arguably, he could turn into Marc Bulger or Jake Delhomme down the line.

Kolb could also be Jake Delhomme, although he could mature into something more like Matt Hasselbeck. He could use better protection and a little confidence, and he seems to be at least passable as is.

Bradford and Freeman are both young talents, still developing with plenty of upside. I think it's too early label them lousy. Let's say that Bradford's pocket presence makes him a dubious prospect, and Freeman could use some better coaching...

So we're left thumbing our noses at Cassel, Fitzpatrick, and Sanchez. I think it's one of the best crops of quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen.

197 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

The real question is: which teams are likely to be searching for new qbs within the next 2 years assuming their current qbs stay where they are skill wise:

The current qbs of those teams:

Sanchez
Cassel
Fitzpatrick
Bradford
Freeman
Kolb
Gabbert
Wilson

Thats roughly 8 keeps, which feels right in line with the general leaguewide demand for qbs. The real truth is, the standards for qbs have increased as the new garden variety replaceable qb has increased. Of the mentioned qbs above, only imo sanchez and gabbert really feel comparable to the old style terrible qb. Even cassel is capable of putting up decent stats, its just, decent stats gets you a loss nowadays unless the rest of your team is super talented.

198 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

The real question is: which teams are likely to be searching for new qbs within the next 2 years assuming their current qbs stay where they are skill wise:

The current qbs of those teams:

Sanchez
Cassel
Fitzpatrick
Bradford
Freeman
Kolb
Gabbert
Wilson

Thats roughly 8 teams, which feels right in line with the general leaguewide demand for qbs. The real truth is, the standards for qbs have increased as the new garden variety replaceable qb has increased. Of the mentioned qbs above, only imo sanchez and gabbert really feel comparable to the old style terrible qb. Even cassel is capable of putting up decent stats, its just, decent stats gets you a loss nowadays unless the rest of your team is super talented.

211 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

This seems like the perfect place to re-introduce the question "which of these QBs would you replace with Jason Campbell"? I'd say that any of them are good candidates. And I would include Locker while we're at it.

249 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

I still think Bradford's going to come good. His numbers have been depressed by his horrific supporting talent, and that won't last forever. Yes, his pocket presence is an issue, but not a David Carr-level issue.

265 Re: Sub-50 completion pct games

I also think Kyle Orton is better than most of these guys, but I disagree about Locker. He's flashed some greatness a few times this season. Give him time. As for right now though, yeah Campbell would be better.

43 Re: Audibles: Week 4

All talk of backup qbs and starting qb accuracy aside, if you don't show up for slugfest when the Niners are on the schedule, they will make you look bad.

72 Re: Audibles: Week 4

There is a reasonable chance the Jets get shutout in back-to-back home games.

That Jets offense is awful, and that Texans defense is great.

It was good to see the 49ers back in their beast mode, but I still want to see more from Alex Smith. He was really confident and on point those first two weeks. Granted, Rex can usually scheme up a good game plan against the pass, and there was no need to run, but he didn't look all that great.

243 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Wow. Shutout at home 2 weeks in a row - how often does that happen?

They'd have to fire Fatty Pie, right?

Let Tebow be the starting QB and the head coach.

44 Re: Audibles: Week 4

I know it's just Audibles, but weird comment balance on the Pats-Bills game. 18 emails from the first three quarters, 3 from after the game (two about moronic nickname ideas), and 0 about a fourth quarter that started tied 21-21 and featured 38 points.

Surely between possible-upset-now-completely-up-for-grabs and blown-out-beyond-hope something noteworthy must have happened. Ya think?

127 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Yeah the game was interesting whilst the Pats were fumbling and missing field goals. Once they began marching down the field every possession (marching is quite an apt description) it quickly turned into a blowout.

166 Re: Audibles: Week 4

I was actually interested in knowing EXACTLY what the hell happened that game. I wanted to know in the first half- how the heck was the bills offense containing the pats offense? Is some malady now lingering over the pats this year?

Then the 2nd half the obvious- What the hell changed?

Any pat fans that actually saw the game explain both to me?

174 Re: Audibles: Week 4

The Pats moved the ball well in the first half as well, but two of their drives ended in missed field goals, and a further two ended after lost fumbles. That explains the lack of points. Not much more to it than that really.

202 Re: Audibles: Week 4

I'm a Pats fan who watched the game and I really thought the game turned when Tom Brady hit Wes Welker for 10-15 yard completions on the same option type routes on the 1st play of NE's first 3 possesions after the Bills took a 21-7 lead. The Pats also played at a faster tempo and the Bills kept getting stuck in their nickle and dime packages. Rbs Stephen Ridley and especially Brandon Boldin took full advantage.

203 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Also, turnovers aside:

In the first half, Brady and/or McDaniels was locked in on the idea of passing the ball, especially to Brandon Lloyd, despite the fact the Bills were selling out to stop the pass. (The essentially played the entire game in a lightweight nickel, with just one LB and one hybrid LB/S on the field). Also, the Bills (mostly) weren't blitzing. Brady (usually) had plenty of time, but just couldn't find an open guy. The Bills CB's in particular made a couple of amazing pass breakups. A couple of Pats drives ended (or were forced into FG attempts that were then missed) when Brady tried to force the ball to a well covered receiver. Other than one stout stand on 3rd and 2, the Bills never had much luck stopping the Patriots rush in the first half...the Pats just weren't trying to run all that much.

In the second half, the Pats said "OK, you're going to sell out to stop the pass, then we're going to run". And they did. Lots and lots. The Bills compensated not by going back to their base, but by moving their safeties up...which Brady then used to pull off a few very successful playactions.

It also helped that his receivers stopped dropping the ball (either before or after the catch).

45 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Also, I've tended to think that Schwartz was a good hire for the Lions, but I've really have started to have significant doubts. They just don't seem to be very well coached.

52 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by Will Allen

His brazen attitude was great when they were a bunch of scrub players overachieving. Now that they have some good talent, they really need somebody that can make better in-game decisions regarding down/distance/time, somebody that makes better play-to-play personnel decisions, and somebody that can reign in the chaotic nature of the football team -- so pretty much the antithesis of what Schwartz is.

I like the guy, but he is better suited to a coordinator/position coach. A few of my Detroit friends feel the same.

58 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by Keith(1) (not verified)

His brazen attitude was great when they were a bunch of scrub players overachieving. Now that they have some good talent, they really need somebody that can make better in-game decisions regarding down/distance/time, somebody that makes better play-to-play personnel decisions, and somebody that can reign in the chaotic nature of the football team -- so pretty much the antithesis of what Schwartz is.

I know I know! Mike Singletary is available!!!

86 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Perhaps Jim Schwartz is the NFL's version of Harvey Keitel's Winston Wolf--can come in and fix a disastrous situation when required, with the difference being that Winston knew when his job was done. Now that the Lions don't have a bloody, headless corpse in the back of their car, maybe it's time to find someone else? Because right now, Schwartz handling a non-laughing stock team is like asking Wolf to cater a debutante ball. The skill sets aren't matching up.

123 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by Independent George

If Andy keeps making dumb moves like last night, he'll be available soon.

212 Re: Audibles: Week 4

It's hard to say how well the Lions are coached considering how much turnover there has been on the roster the past three years -- but I will say that the special teams have gotten progressively worse, so it's time to think about firing Danny Crossman.

65 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Thrilled with the Eagles' victory last night. However, it seems every week, Nnamdi Asomugha gets beat on a play where the announcer says he "thought he had help." On the Hixon pass in the 4th quarter that he got beat on, was Nate Allen the safety on that side?

On the opening drive on the 2nd half, when the Eagles got stuffed at the 1 yard line and had to kick, you don't want to try at least one run up the middle?

66 Re: Audibles: Week 4

"What comes after a law firm?"

The bill.

158 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Why not reference America's favorite legal duo with Bolden and Bash? It also helpfully implies that Brandon Bolden, lovable as he is, is clearly the Breckin Meyer of the duo.

75 Re: Audibles: Week 4

To comment a bit more on the Packers Defensive scheme.

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

What the Packers had been doing a lot of was man coverage on the outside, with Shields and Williams, and then zone with everyone else in whatever combination of players they had; anywhere from 1 to 5 linebackers, anywhere from 3 to 7 DB, anywhere from 1 to 4 linemen. They did change on Sunday, and that is part of why Shields looked worse. He still can't play zone. People were talking about how bad of an idea it was to use Asomugha in zone last year, it's probably even more of a bad idea to use Shields that way. Shields in man is probably 90% of Asomugha but in zone is he is probably 50%. He's better in zone this year than last year, which is good since this is year 4 of playing CB or any kind of defense for him so getting better is a good thing, but he still is very poor in zone. The 80 yard TD was because he had no idea what his assignment was and sat down in a zone.

Part of the other problem yesterday was the early injury to McMillian, he played 68% of the snaps in week 2, and 71% in week 3. The game plan was going to involve a lot of DB's, pulling LB's off the field for additional safeties since McMillian, Jennings, and Burnett are all generally better in the run game than all the corners except Woodson and Williams, who are on the field all the time, and better in the passing game than any of the linebackers. Initial adjustment was Jarret Bush playing defense again, later that changed to scrapping the original plan and going with more linebackers in coverage, and things were worse than they might have been.

76 Re: Audibles: Week 4

To comment a bit more on the Packers Defensive scheme.

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

What the Packers had been doing a lot of was man coverage on the outside, with Shields and Williams, and then zone with everyone else in whatever combination of players they had; anywhere from 1 to 5 linebackers, anywhere from 3 to 7 DB, anywhere from 1 to 4 linemen. They did change on Sunday, and that is part of why Shields looked worse. He still can't play zone. People were talking about how bad of an idea it was to use Asomugha in zone last year, it's probably even more of a bad idea to use Shields that way. Shields in man is probably 90% of Asomugha but in zone is he is probably 50%. He's better in zone this year than last year, which is good since this is year 4 of playing CB or any kind of defense for him so getting better is a good thing, but he still is very poor in zone. The 80 yard TD was because he had no idea what his assignment was and sat down in a zone.

Part of the other problem yesterday was the early injury to McMillian, he played 68% of the snaps in week 2, and 71% in week 3. The game plan was going to involve a lot of DB's, pulling LB's off the field for additional safeties since McMillian, Jennings, and Burnett are all generally better in the run game than all the corners except Woodson and Williams, who are on the field all the time, and better in the passing game than any of the linebackers. Initial adjustment was Jarret Bush playing defense again, later that changed to scrapping the original plan and going with more linebackers in coverage, and things were worse than they might have been.

OK will that get through the filter?

95 Re: Audibles: Week 4

M.D. Jennings didn't come back in after his injury did he? That may have forced the switch back to more linebackers.

206 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Geez I confused myself, I meant the MD Jennings injury, I don't know why I thought it was McMillian.

But it was 21 - 7 when he got hurt and the D had forced 2 punts. But yes it was the injury that forced some of the formation changes, and opened things up even more. The Saints were still able to move while he was in, he wasn't the whole reason by any means. The Packers were playing straight zone way more than typical for them this year.

Another thing I've said about the Packers is that they have great game preparation coaching. They tend to scheme very well, but they don't always adjust great during the game, and typically only adjust at all during halftime. I know this is hard for any team to do, the whole "you win the game during the week". But it's the biggest area of weakness for the coaching staff I feel, even if they are NFL average it. Well maybe not the biggest weakness, I'm not convinced that Campen is a good o-line coach. I also don't know what to think about Slocum on the special teams, I used to think he was awful, but the special teams have turned around recently and they have also gotten an infusion of talent. Perhaps it just took longer than I thought to fully shake off the effects of the horrible Sherman contracts and get things to a point where special teams became more of a talent/money focus.

79 Re: Audibles: Week 4

The problem for Sanchez is that he only has one weapon now with whom he is comfortable. Back in 2010, he proved to be efficient when he had five guys (Holmes, Edwards, Cotchery, Keller, LT) with whom he had familiarty. With Keller's injury, only one of those five guys remain. The Jets cant run, cant screen, cant stop the run, cant rush the passer, and their qb is trying to learn a new system with new receivers on the fly. If Holmes, Hill and Keller all play in the same game though, i imagine Sanchez will look better.

Also, the lack of an out-of-the-backfield running back is absolutely killing this team.

104 Re: Audibles: Week 4

A legitimate QB would be able to do SOMETHING even with the crappy bunch of skill players the Jets have. But oh how crappy they are. Holmes would be a good second receiver these days but he drops a lot of balls and is good for at least one bonehead play a game. Kerley could be useful in the slot but either Sanchez or the scheme (or both) fail to make proper use out of him. With Hill and Keller out, there are no other NFL caliber receivers on the team. My kingdom for a receiver with the ball skills of Domenik Hixon! And Greene and Powell are pretty much maxed out at about 8 yards if the blocking is perfect, which it rarely is. Free Joe McKnight! He at least offers some possibility of a big play. I didn't think the Jets were going to be Greatest Show on Turf, but I thought the offense could be passable. Maybe even feisty on a good day. Boy was I wrong.

124 Re: Audibles: Week 4

What about Stallworth and Gaffney? Terrell Owens? Ochocinco? The market is flooded with passable free agent receivers who can catch and run. The Jets must think they have talent.

134 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Yes, adding Terrell Owens or Ochocinco to a team that has Sanchez at QB, Tebow as the backup QB, Rex Ryan as coach, and Bart Scott on defense, and is covered by the New York media, is an excellent idea. What could go wrong?

This wouldn't be a three-ring circus, it would be a five-ring circus. On the bright side, the Jets could have a great sponsorship opportunity with Barnum & Bailey.

Maybe this is a good idea to you since you are a Patriots fan.

139 Re: Audibles: Week 4

I actually don't think those guys are worth anything, except maybe Gaffney. I'd rather young, cheap and crappy than old and crappy. At least the young guys can contribute on ST.

144 Re: Audibles: Week 4

I support TO or Ocho going to the Jets, just for the sheer trainwreckiness it would likely produce.

192 Re: Audibles: Week 4

I actually have a hard time imagining Owens or Ochocinco being as disruptive as Holmes was last year, and I don't really think that Ryan cares about having a circus in the locker room anyway.

My point was just, if there's truly a shortage of wide receiver talent, one or another of those guys ought to be brought in for a workout. Even Salas, who the Pats just cut could probably help them out.

I guess, I don't really understand the Jets' skill position problems--especially at running back. There are always lots of talented young guys available at that position--street free agents join teams and put together big performances all the time--like Brown on the Giants. Why do the Jets stick with what doesn't work? Greene, Kerley, and Holmes have been weak for a number of years now.

82 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Pats-Bills game in a nutshell:

In the first quarter, the Patriots came out with a better gameplan and bottled the Bills up on defense while effortlessly scoring a TD on offense.

Toward the end of the first quarter, and in the second quarter, the Pats fell apart and the Bills played really well. Bills figured out the middle of the field was theirs and that the Pats LB's can be abused as pass defenders, while on defense they stayed in a 7 cent defense (halfway between nickel and dime) and McDaniels kept trying to get cute with tricky pass plays when the Pats receivers were all well covered. Meanwhile, you had Pats receivers dropping balls or fumbling them when they caught them, safeties not covering TE's or forgetting how to tackle, and Gostkowski missing FG's. Only a young and mistake-prone, but opportunistic Pats defense kept the game from getting out of hand.

Third quarter started out much the same way, with the Bills extending their lead, when suddenly McDaniels decided to cut the cutesy crap and just pound the ball with 2 TE's versus a lightweight nickel. Of course this worked, helped by the Bills secondary forgetting how to tackle. Throw in a few opportunistic turnovers by the Pats defense and you ended with a Pats blowout.

90 Re: Audibles: Week 4

I like how both teams are situated leading into next Week's Rivalry-in-more-ways-than-One game in Gillette.

Neither team is 1-3 and desperate. Both teams are coming off blowouts (including a dominant performance by Denver, as only self-inflicted wounds like Thomas's fumble and the fake field goal, kept it from being 45-6).

The only issue is it is early enough that neither team is really in danger of falling too far behind the pack with a loss (especially if Denver can rebound the next week with a win in San Diego). I think the Pats are better, but their defense hasn't looked too good the past two weeks.

141 Re: Audibles: Week 4

They didn't really play in an NFL game last week, so it's hard to say how their defense looked.

This week, their defense actually looked pretty good, except for the inability to cover a big TE down the seam or a RB who is good at catching. Of course, doesn't Denver have both, and a QB that can find them? So it could be interesting...

142 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by dmstorm22

The defense forced 4 INTs, and 3 Fumbles (2 of which they recovered).

Its pretty tough to keep from giving up yards, and some points, when your offense is either turning the ball over, or going 3 and out for 45 minutes.

Of the 28 points they gave up, 7 were on a turnover on the 24 yard line, and 7 were in garbage time. They also managed to stop a drive (off turnover) that started inside the 20.

Frankly, as poorly as the Patriots played in the first half, they were lucky they weren't down by 40 when the offense decided to play again.

151 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by Anonymousse (not verified)

They forced a lot of turnovers, but chances are that won't happen again. Their run defense was strong, but their pass defense seemed lost at times. They made plays on te ball when Fitz gave them a chance, but it wasn't exactly good coverage.

164 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by dmstorm22

"They made plays on te ball when Fitz gave them a chance, but it wasn't exactly good coverage."

I noticed this on a Pat's site yesterday. If the opposing quarterback (in this case Fitzpatrick) can only throw the ball forty or so yards, it's actually quite good coverage to be a few yards underneath the opposing receiver beyond that range. I'm referring in this case to McCourty's first pick. The ball was thrown from the 4 to the 42, which is probably CLOSE to Fitzpatrick's limit, and certainly counter-productive when Graham was streaking past mid-field.

170 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by Anonymouse (not verified)

On that play, Fitz seemed locked in on throwing that deep pass. Didn't seem to go through any sort of progression. The first pick was also a batted ball.

I still don't think the Patriots defense is all that good. They've always been able to have games where they force a lot of turnovers. This was no different. They really capitalized on each one in that second half, though.

184 Re: Audibles: Week 4

The run defense is much more consistent than last year and the safety play is far better, albeit inconsistent. Tackling seems sounder. I think they're apt to be mediocre with upside and may get better as the year progresses. Last year, they basically played without safeties for most of the season.

87 Re: Audibles: Week 4

""A quarterback doesn't learn accuracy when he goes pro." These two prove that the inverse is false."

My brain is starting to hurt from trying to figure out the inverse of that statement. A quarterback does learn accuracy when he's not a pro?

94 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified)

I think it means that a QB can FORGET accuracy after he turns pro. I think.

99 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified)

The inverse of, "If a QB is inaccurate in college, then he will be inaccurate in the NFL," is, "If a QB is accurate in college, then he will be accurate in the NFL."

131 Re: Audibles: Week 4

Danny is correct. It's the inverse.

The inverse is logically equivalent to the converse in the same manner that the contrapositive is logically equivalent to the original statement.

To summarize, if you start with a -> b, then
~a -> ~b is the inverse
b -> a is the converse
and ~b -> ~a is the contrapositive.

154 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by Danny Tuccitto

Well yeah, if you change the statement it becomes a lot easier.

250 Re: Audibles: Week 4

I suspect the reality is more:

If a QB has a bad completion percentage in college, he is almost certainly inaccurate.

but it is not the case that

If a QB has a good completion percentage in college, he is almost certainly accurate.

103 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified)

It's easier if you translate it into an if-then statement: If a quarterback is inaccurate in college, then he will be inaccurate as a pro. The inverse is then: If a QB is not inaccurate in college, then he will not be inaccurate as a pro. Ditching the double negatives leaves us with: If a QB is accurate in college, then he will be accurate as a pro.

Tebow and Sanchez (and many others, undoubtedly) are living proof that this statement is false.

107 Re: Audibles: Week 4

In reply to by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified)

That would be the converse. The inverse would be "A quarterback goes pro when he doesn't learn accuracy."

126 Santonio Holmes

Shouldn't Holmes have been ruled down when fumbled? It seems to me it was a clear example of the same rule applied to Victor Cruz last year. He was clearly giving himself up, and not trying to advance the ball.

130 Re: Santonio Holmes

In reply to by tuluse

I certainly thought so, and I'm surprised the refs didn't rule it down on review.

143 Re: Santonio Holmes

A runner not being ruled down by virtue of giving himself up isn't reviewable.

The Jets' only hope on review was that Holmes's fling would be ruled an illegal forward pass, resulting in a 5-yard penalty and possession reverting to the Jets. Something similar happened with Vincent Jackson against the Raiders in 2006.

162 Re: Santonio Holmes

Sure, but it would still be Jets' ball at the spot of the illegal pass. An incomplete illegal forward pass ends the play as soon as the ball hits the ground.

152 Re: Audibles: Week 4

"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."

They were at the Rams' 45 yard-line at the two minute warning. It takes six minutes to go 45 yards? The best result would be that they would get several cracks at the end zone with around 30 seconds left, just like they got against Arizona in the first game, and just like they got against Green Bay in the third one, and I don't see how the strategy they pursued wouldn't have allowed them to be able to achieve this. If the receiver hadn't fallen down, they would've had a first down around the 25 yard line with 50 seconds with the clock running, and that sounds like perfect time management to me.

183 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Russell Wilson is now averaging the fewest yards per pass in the entire league. He has about 2 games worth of production in 4 games. Is it not possible to bench him for a little while so he can learn behind a less raw starter? The guy just isn't ready and the Seahawks are capable of being more competitive than this. Basically, I think there are much better arguments for benching Wilson than there are for benching Sanchez or Cassel.

200 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Well there is certainly one better argument for benching Wilson than Cassel or Sanchez, which is that they have another guy on their roster who may have the potential to become the long term starter.

A Cassel or Sanchez benching would really just be a token way of the coaches saying 'we've had enough', as neither Tebow or Brady Quinn are realistically going to provide any improvement. Although given the complete lack of healthy receiving talent on the Jets I'm beginning to think they might as well start Tebow (shudder) so that opposition defensive coaches at least have something to plan for the week before games - as well as for some entertainment value.

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Bears are really stepping up tonight. Seems like the Cutler - Marshall connection is kicking into gear. And without the pressure of trying to be a #1 receiver, Hester has a nice TD catch his own self.

216 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Hey, I don't to short the Bears' effort, but I really have to say it is more the case of the Cowboys receivers taking a step back. That may be the worst receiver performance I've ever seen.

217 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I watched at the bar tonight, so I didn't pay as much attention as I might, but the mistakes looked more like a 50/50 split to me.

Also, I don't think the Cowboy's receivers played as poorly as the Bears did against the Packers.

220 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

When it gets to the point that a receiver just gives the opponent 7 points, when he acknowledges a signal from the qb, and then doesn't run the right route, it's hard to get worse than that. Another int, in the red zone, happened on a tipped ball that should have been caught. There were other drops as well.

Dez Bryant is a moron.

218 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Dez was just awful. That first pick-6 was totally on him. The final two picks were just awful reads by Romo. Classic Cover-2 interceptions, really. Basic stuff that Romo just got wrong.

That Cowboys defense is so inconsistent. They look so good against the Giants and then last week against the Bucs, and look completely incompetent tonight. Surprised they didn't blitz Cutler more.

219 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I don't think the defense was a huge problem. It allowed 3 point in the first half, and 10 points in the second when the game was still in reach. They also forced one turnover at that point, which should have set up the Cowboys for a field goal a minimum.

Obviously they didn't end the game well, but it might have been Rob Ryan gambling to try to make something happen.

230 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

It helped that the Bears had fewer possessions because of pick-6s.

The drives went Punt, Punt, FG, kneel, TD, fumble, FG, TD. After two punts, the only time they stopped the Bears was the sack fumble by Ware. Against an up-till-now bad offense, that isn't great.

232 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I tried to watch this game very closely and I have concluded that the bears linebackers are now becoming a liability. The hallmark of that cover 2 style( i know they really don't play cover 2 standard anymore), is that the linebackers are able to have speed to get back into throwing lanes and read the plays. It was happening to urlacher, but even briggs was guilty of not reacting and getting back fast enough. This led to really huge holes in the zone.

The other thing about the bears D and maybe this was just one game, the safeties were late getting over the top on several plays. I didn't get a chance to rewatch with coaching film, but I suspect they were either biting hard on PA or just simply not reacting fast enough.

Still- bears d line and corners are very good. The d line especially. I remember about 2 years ago, after the bears had lost the nfc champ game- remarking how they were going to be facing some serious questions as the defense was getting old and it looked like they were entirely dependent on peppers for rush. Now the dline looks positively stacked with healthy rotation of men, with a possible superstar in melton. Amazing how perceptions can change over just 2 years.

234 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I don't think it's perceptions that changed, I think it's the team that changed. Melton, Paea, Mcellen, and Okoye have all been added since then.

The safeties are up and down, especially Conte. However, they are both pretty young. It's Conte's 2 year, and Wright's 3rd.

239 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I bought into Marshall, but I never bought into OL - and still don't. The Bears might go 11-5, but Cutler might get himself killed in the playoffs if he faces San Francisco, Philly, or the Giants. The Cowboys, too, if Ware, Spencer, and Ratliff are healthy.

247 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

This is what I was aiming at with my original point. The Bears have a legit #1 WR for the first time in a long time. And that lets Hester be a #2 WR, which he did very well last night.

And yes, the Cowboys were awful, esp. Dez Bryant.

253 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I'm going to raise the issue in the DVOA column, but having an owner who insists on hiring really dumb players, and insists on putting them on the field, makes game days a lot less enjoyable for Cowboys' fans, while making things kind of fun for the fans of the Cowboys's opponents.

240 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Hey can someone help me find stats for team defense in goal line situations? Or red zone defense or whatever. Would appreciate the help!

241 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Well, the Bears' defense isn't going to force 5 turnovers every week, but that was fun to watch. I'm a little worried about how the Cowboys seemed to be able to make the Bears miss tackles and turn 0-2 yard plays into decent gains. And I think the jury is still out on Urlacher and whether or not he'll be any good this season.

That said, this is the game I was waiting for from the Bears' offense. I'll take a 75% completion rate and no interceptions from Cutler (could have done without the fumble, of course) any day. Even though the game got out of hand in the second half thanks largely to the defense, this is the first time all season I would have felt reasonably confident if the Bears had been playing in a tie game or even with a 1-score deficit. I thought the offensive line looked the best it has all season, too.

252 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I think it's clear Urlacher is good this year, just a much slower good than he has been. He still knows his assignments inside and out, and can read an offense as well as anyone.

If you catch him on PA, he has no chance to recover, but if he guesses right he can still get to where he should be in time.

255 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Yeah, last night was possibly the worst tackling I've seen from the Bears under Lovie Smith. And yet, there is so much talent there that they still had a good game overall. Henry Melton's progression into a force at DT is a testament to the coaching staff.

248 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Cris Carter and Mike Golic are arguing vehemently on Mike and Mike that Ron Rivera did the right thing by not going for it on 4th and 2 feet. They argue that the coach is playing the percentages, even though the data doesn't bear that out. They claim that they are nor arguing out of fear, even though they jump on the fact that Cam Newton had just fumbled on the play before.
Greenie has it right but he cannot get the jocks on his side.

254 Packers No Good??

Amazed how negative the buzz is getting about them. OK-- by all rights, they should be 3-1 now. The Saints game was a) against a totally desperate team with a first-class offense; b) made closer than it should have been by three huge officiating calls-- the first, the OPI, debatable, the next two: Graham's "catch" and then Sproles' fumble, just flat out wrong. On top of that Packers are going in for an 11 pt lead and Rodgers gets scratched in eye and Harrell fumbles away the drive. Could have/should have been a victory and a cover.

Did the defense get shredded? Yup-- and Aaron quite rightly points out they were in zone whereas their best work previous to this has largely been man. Was the Saints defense porous and ripe for a Rodgers' breakout performance? double Yup. Will they be a TD underdog in two weeks in Houston? probably. But they have a pretty damn good track record in domes the past few years. Win that game and be 4-2 (really 5-1) and then where do they rank? It's early-- the trick is to play well at end of season, not beginning.

256 Re: Packers No Good??

In reply to by Paul MAnonymous (not verified)

Please stop boohoo-ing for the Packer loss in week 3. Many teams have been the victims of bad calls (by regular refs!) that have cost them games - even playoff appearances.

I saw this posted in a thread at a Vikings site last week and it applies well here:

"I'm still waiting for the Packers to admit Nate Poole was out of bounds, that the refs blew that call, and the Vikings got screwed out of a playoff appearance in favor of Green Bay.

Since we all know that will never happen, all I can say in regard to last night’s blown call and the victory it cost the Packers is:

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA"

That said, I think the jury is out on Green Bay. Part of the negativity comes from them winning a SB two seasons ago and then going 15-1 last year - people are surprised at the slow start. To then host an 0-3 team and beat them by 1 point just invites further criticism. I'm expecting GB to figure things out and get on a roll at some point, but even a 10 or 11 win season might feel like a let down after last year.

258 Re: Packers No Good??

OK-- one simple fact. They are 23-3 in the last 26 games played with referees who didn't make an incompetent series of 4th Quarter calls, culminating with a horrendous game-changing mistake. Their three losses were to a) the 2011 SB champs; b) the team that lost in the nFC title game to the 2011 SB champs; and Kansas City.

As to your other points, i agree that the jury is still out. But I can't see it leaning to a "guilty" verdict-- not with this QB, head coach, and playmakers on both sides of the ball. The 1 pt win against NO was tainted-- decent refereeing and absent the horrendous timing of Rodgers' eye injury (yes, blame Harrell-- his fault on the fumble)-- it could and should easily have been a 10-14 pt win. And I'd be prefectly happy with 10-6 or 11-5-- in fact, I predicted the latter before all this craziness happened-- if they are playing their best ball in December/January. Nate Poole stuff happens all the time-- the replacement's screw-ups at the end of the Seattle game were epic. But I will say this: glad to see you guys beating up on Scharwtz and his punk team-- that's a no-class operation headed for oblivion.

259 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I'm having trouble with the spam filter, so I'm rewriting my response to be much shorter.

I agree with you.

Also, the Lions deserve their losses. Cheers!