compiled by Rivers McCown and Ben Jones
This year, we have a new format for our Monday morning feature Audibles at the Line, combining our Twitter feeds with our e-mail discussion. First, we're replacing our usual back-and-forth with some longer-form dissection of each game that at least one of us watches in depth. Second, every game that we find time for will also have a selection of tweets from us and a few reader tweets we found particularly insightful. To follow these tweets live on Sunday, or to contribute your own thoughts or a question for the FO staff, you can use hashtag #foaud. We discussed the new format in this post.
On Monday, we will compile a digest of tweets and e-mails to produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed, not entirely grammatically correct, and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
Audibles is still being written from our point of view, meaning 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. Audibles is often written from a fan perspective as much as an analyst perspective; in order to properly accuse FO writers of bias, please check our FAQ.
Baltimore Ravens 20 at Chicago Bears 23 (OT)
Scott Kacsmar: Jim Nantz just called Dallas Clark "Pitta." But then said he really meant "Dennis Clark."
Mike Ridley: Ray Rice's 47-yard run equaled the total of his last two games combined.
@TCBullfrog: With the wind going nuts in Chicago, ground game is probably going to be doubly important. #Ravens killing #Bears on that right now
Robert Weintraub: Ravens-Bears is weather-delayed, by my count the 4th such delay this season.
@RavenBerns: Bears not even attempting to pass in this weather.
@Shake1n1bake: Either it's still very windy in Chicago or Flacco has a filthy breaking ball
Scott Kacsmar: "Dallas Clark with the tough catch" is the reason why every easy drop is met with "you never see that!"
Scott Kacsmar: I'll admit I've hardly seen any of this BAL/CHI game, but this might be a tie game alert with these conditions.
Scott Kacsmar: I do hope BAL gets a FG so we can see that extreme rarity in the NFL: a team playing 4-down football in a one-score with no time constraint.
@BeccaDannysWife: Watching the Ravens this year is like an endless loop of TheExorcist -- "Joey, why you do this to me? Joeeyyyyyyy..."
@MilkmanDanimal: The Bears-Ravens game was fun; I propose the NFL drench all fields and set up giant fans in all stadiums for future games.
Rivers McCown: I pose this as a question, as I can't possibly be unbiased about this due to certain name-related factors. Is it possible that Josh McCown is just better than Jay Cutler at this point in their respective careers? Better yards per attempt. Lower sack rate. Zero interceptions. I know Cutler played hurt last week, but still...
Oh, and nice to see Ray Rice get going for the first time all season against Football-like Unit That Once Resembled The Bears Defense. Mel Tucker, what have you wrought?
Cleveland Browns 20 at Cincinati Bengals 41
Robert Weintraub: Pain is seeing the score go from 6-0 to 12-0 on the Red Zone scoreboard and feel the Haden pick six in your bones. Sure enough.
Robert Weintraub: I've lost count on the number of out patterns to AJ Green that have been picked off this season, mostly due to throws too far inside
Robert Weintraub: Eight picks in last nine quarters for Dalton, hard on the heels of winning AFC Player of the Month. Unreal.
Robert Weintraub: Of course penalty wipes out the pick six, so Bengals. If they score now it will be a miracle. In total reverse on offense.
Scott Kacsmar: Good throw by Dalton to Gresham, but that's pathetic tackling near the goal line by the Browns.
Vincent Verhei: James Harrison's tackle-busting pick-six would have been year's best TD if clipping penalty hasn't wiped it out.
@BryKno: If your quarterback is struggling, have your receiver throw the pass.
Robert Weintraub: Mo Sanu throws a pass to set up the TD, then catches the TD to put Cincy up 14-13.
@pchicola: CLE shows lack of respect for Dalton. Play base on almost every down & Cover1-man under vs Green. Daring CIN to beat them through air
@pchicola: Haven't seen good replays so far, but it seems that both CLE's blocked punts came from missed assingments at the right C-gap.
@matthew_carley: The Ohio derby, where the bloodied corpse of offensive execution is on display for a sold out stadium. And the bad weather awaits...
Robert Weintraub: This bengals turnaround no accident. Team with wind advantage has scored all 41 points thus far.
Robert Weintraub: Bengals haven't scored 28 points in a quarter since 1989. Boomer!
@waitinbythelake: The Real Jason Campbell is here. He waited for hope to arrive, saw hope open downfield and chucked the damn ball into the Ohio River.
Scott Kacsmar: Jason Campbell is who I thought he was.
New York Jets 14 at Buffalo Bills 37
Aaron Schatz: Egads. Austin Howard just nearly got Geno Smith killed. What a horrible non-block on Marcel Dareus.
Aaron Schatz: The Jets' DL is really good. Strength, athleticism, AND awareness. Plus: Youth.
@RyanCrinnigan: Dee Milliner: "As long as I'm running, like, next to the guy, it's considered good coverage, right? I mean, I was in the area."
Aaron Schatz: Geno Smith sack and fumble. Score for Bills FB Frank Summers, the fourth Summers brother. His mutant power: vulturing TDs.
Mike Ridley: Apparently the Jets bye week didn't double as their down week.
@MichaelEdits: Considering how effusively the CBS team praised Rex Ryan and the New York Jets, this really was inevitable.
Aaron Schatz: Antonio Cromartie is a good player, but he just doesn'thave the speed to keep up with a guy like Marquise Goodwin.
Scott Kacsmar: That's very impressive the way Marquise Goodwin separates at the end.
Aaron Schatz: Second pick by Jarius Byrd completes Geno Smith meltdown. Bad decisions, bad pressure, and bad decisions under pressure.
@nickpcomedy: So after this week there will be 8 teams in the AFC on either 5-5 or 4-6, plus the Bills on 4-7. All competing for 6th seed.
Aaron Schatz: My first takeaway from the Jets-Bills game is wow, is Austin Howard bad. Just horrible. Run plays, pass plays, the guy is continually beaten easily. It's part of a generally poor Jets offensive line. D'Brickashaw Ferguson has declined, and the Jets lost the two veteran guards this offseason, so Nick Mangold is the only guy playing at a high level at this point.
Howard's crappy play was part of the general pattern of this game, which was: defensive lines good, offensive lines bad, cornerbacks bad, safeties good, and receivers surprisingly good adjusting to balls caught up in the wind. The big difference between the two teams is that Geno Smith just completely wilted under the Buffalo pass pressure while EJ Manuel played well. He had a couple of long bombs, like the one where Marquise Goodwin beat Antonio Cromartie deep, but he also had a lot of short dumpoffs under pressure and he found the guys Smith couldn't find, going 20-for-28 with no picks.
Rivers McCown: Why do I feel like Buffalo is the sixth-best team in the AFC right now?
Atlanta Falcons 28 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41
@L_Crosby: This is getting stupid, y'all. Gerald McCoy's collecting rent from Matt Ryan right now. THREE SACKS.
Robert Weintraub: Falcons 2014--draft Clowney, sign Michael Johnson, a GA Tech alum, and suddenly they have a pass rush again.
Mike Ridley: With 2 trick plays already, the Bucs have officially entered IDGAF-mode
@MilkmanDanimal: Falcons currently playing so dumb I'm beginning to wonder if Schiano wandered over to their sideline by accident.
@MichaelEdits: Do the Atlanta Falcons know it's too late to suck for Luck?
@MilkmanDanimal: Down 18 with a terrible offensive line, Falcons apparently want to "establish the run" with a 30-year-old RB. What could go wrong?
Scott Kacsmar: Mike Glennon would break some rookie passing records if he got to play this Atlanta defense every week.
@MilkmanDanimal: Just because I'm enjoying this blowout doesn't mean Greg Schiano still isn't a douche who needs to be fired.
Washington Redskins 16 at Philadelphia Eagles 24
@MilkmanDanimal: Eagles' TDs are Brent Celek outrunning the defense and Nick Foles powering through a tackle. Wow, does the Redskins defense suck.
Robert Weintraub: Nick Foles gets drilled like a wisdom tooth by London Fletcher, even harder than RG3 was nailed by Barwin earlier.
Robert Weintraub: And crap, Shady McCoy just went down grabbing his hammy.
@GDFar: No protection or complexity to this Redskins offense. Either RG3 can handle a full offense or he can't, but this isn't working.
@Shake1n1bake: Washington's defense doesn't appear to be very good at covering, or tackling, or getting off blocks, or football.
@toxic: Redskins game is so bad, local TV has cut to 2nd half of DET/PIT. Steelers uniforms may be worse than Skins defensive performance.
@WhispersMoCo: Really terrible, terrible decision by RG3 on that interception. Finds wide-open defender. Game over.
Arizona Cardinals 27 at Jacksonville Jaguars 14
@MilkmanDanimal: My son's comment seeing Jacksonville having 14 points; "they got 7 safeties, there's no way they could score two TDs."
Andrew Potter: @MilkmanDanimal Has he seen their defense? Without Poszluszny they'll be lucky to make 14 tackles, never mind score 14 points.
Scott Kacsmar: Not sure how ("Jags" is probably a good answer), but Carson Palmer has 417 yards and the running game has 21 carries for 17 yards.
Vincent Verhei: ARI takes over up by 13 w/about 3 mins to go. They then go run-pass-pass. What?
@JXPrime: @FO_VVerhei running game kinda non-existent for both teams today.
Scott Kacsmar: Jags and Cardinals finish with 46 combined rushing yards -- 2nd fewest since 1950 (2005 SD/PHI had 45).
Detroit Lions 27 at Pittsburgh Steelers 37
Scott Kacsmar: Steelers using no-huddle to start game and Ben's having his best 1st quarter of 2013. Of course they wait until they're 3-6 to do it.
@RavenBerns: Meanwhile, the Lions are acting like Antonio Brown has some sort of horrible disease which is passed through tackling.
Scott Kacsmar: Stafford has now missed on 3 potential TD passes (think Bush had the space), though I'd put a little of the latest one on Pettigrew.
Mike Ridley: When all else fails, fling it to Megatron 55 yards downfield
Scott Kacsmar: Steelers have lost two games (both at Bengals) when leading by 11+ points since 1988. Led 17-3 today and now down 24-20.
@MilkmanDanimal: @FO_ScottKacsmar Come to Tampa, where losing after leading by 11+ points is pretty much what we call "Sunday".
@RyanCrinnigan: Tune in to the DET-PIT game for a free seminar, "How Not to Run the 2-Minute Drill." Continuing ed certificates signed by C. Cameron
@ptmovieguy: Tomlin just chickened out of a 4th-and-short, opting for FG down 7 late 3rd Q.
Aaron Schatz: When discussing fake FG, remember it often isn't as much about "the numbers." It's about exploiting a ST weakness you saw on film.
Aaron Schatz: On the other hand, yeah, you know. Rookie kicker. Or punter. Whichever guy it was. Not very trustworthy in the rain.
Aaron Schatz: TERRIBLE DPI on Lions. Worst thing they could do now is give Steelers more downs/time, take time away from Stafford comeback attempt.
Aaron Schatz: One other note about DET fake FG: You really shouldn't expect your defense to allow a 97-yard drive. That's the real failure.
@pchicola: PIT's half-time adjustment: Playing more Cover-1 Robber shells on secondary to avoid getting burned by Calvin on crossing routes.
Danny Tuccitto: and whadyaknow? horrific game management/play-calling gets rewarded again for PIT!
Cian Fahey: Todd Haley has called many, many good games for the Steelers this year. Narrative is way too harsh on him
Aaron Schatz: Most of the discussion about this game is going to be about the fake field goal that didn't work. I'll let my earlier tweets stand as my opinion on that. But that's not what lost this game for the Lions. Part of the decision to go for that fake field goal is that you know you'll pin the Steelers back at their own goal line, even if it fails. The expected next score with the Steelers at their own 3 is for the Lions to actually score next, not the Steelers. You're supposed to be able to trust your defense to prevent the other team from marching 97 yards down the field for the go-ahead touchdown. When your defense then lets the Steelers throw another touchdown on third-and-5 when the Steelers are supposed to be running out the clock, that's even worse. It also doesn't help when Dick LeBeau figures out your offense and you can't complete a single pass to Calvin Johnson in the second half. Given the way the Steelers and Lions played in the fourth quarter of this game, how can you trust that the Lions would have been able to keep the Steelers from tying the game, even if they had kicked the field goal to go up seven? The fake field goal did not lose the game.
Scott Kacsmar: Not going to say too much about the ending since this may be my top game this week, but that was a strange second half. We don't get the All-22 until later in the week, but I'd be surprised if the Steelers changed a lot of what they did to defend Calvin Johnson as Mike Tomlin said they wouldn't. You come to expect a lack of adjustments by now, but Stafford did finish 19-of-46 passing and he missed some great opportunities in the first quarter.
This game, which was played in rain, was really about dropped passes for both teams and both sides of the ball. Johnson dropped a fourth-down pass early. Ike Taylor, who was god awful against Johnson in the first half, dropped two interceptions. DeAndre Levy dropped an interception. Brandon Pettigrew had a high pass he couldn't bring down in the end zone while Heath Miller couldn't hold onto one. Antonio Brown bobbled a score away. Most of these were not difficult catches, but make the balls damp and this is what could happen.
Last year when the Steelers wore these awful bumblebee uniforms, the Redskins dropped at least 10 passes. Fun coincidence, but an indictment of outdoor Pittsburgh weather in the fall.
Even with mistakes from his receivers, this was probably the best game Ben Roethlisberger has played in quite some time. He took the trade rumors and "not cerebral" criticism this week very well, even getting to open the game with the no-huddle offense. I'm still not sold the Detroit defense is anything more than mediocre at best, but Roethlisberger had solid protection and receivers were open as Brown had another huge game.
Detroit's definitely going to have to look at where all that offense in the first half (27 points in the second quarter alone) went. The drive ending with the fake field goal was really the only scoring opportunity they had after the half. When you take away Johnson and Reggie Bush's not playing that well, it's a very limited offense with a quarterback who can be careless with the ball. Some weeks those bombs into coverage for Johnson work, but this week it was a bad interception and the Steelers, unlike Dallas a few weeks ago, made Stafford pay for it with a game-clinching touchdown.
Oakland Raiders 28 at Houston Texans 23
Vincent Verhei: Case Keenum with a "This is why I went undrafted" INT out of his own end zone.
Scott Kacsmar: Houston's been so competitive early against teams like SEA/KC/IND/ARI, yet down 14-0 at home to Raiders w/undrafted QB. The NFL...
Cian Fahey: Keenum looks more and more like a young Romo every week
Rivers McCown: Actually pretty impressed by McGloin so far. No deep strikes or anything, but crisp throws. Hurt by drops.
Tom Gower: It's going to take a while for me to wrap my head around this McGloin being the same guy I saw at Penn State in 2011.
Tom Gower: Oh my. Rashad Jennings trucked D.J. Swearinger 8 yards downfield, then outran the Texans D for the other 72 on a wildcat play. Ouch.
Vincent Verhei: Rashad Jennings quietly on one heck of a three-game roll.
@Shake1n1bake: hmm... what?... but... My god, THAT'S Matt Schaub'S MUSIC!!!
Cian Fahey: I'm not as down on Schaub as everyone else, but that decision from Kubiak reeks of him not understanding the state of the franchise
Tom Gower: Understand why #Texans made move to Schaub, as blitzing Keenum was having too much success, but doesn't feel like right move.
@ptmovieguy: I don't understand HOU's motion Tate wide, 7 yards behind LOS, formation. Seen it at least 3 times today.
@nath_on_fire: I don't know what the Texans will do on 4th-and-short, but it feels destined to fail. Hey, if Keenum was in, rollout would look nice.
@nath_on_fire: The fact that there was a question as to whether Andre Johnson would be in on this play is a succinct indictment of Kubiak's tenure.
@nath_on_fire: "Slant that comes up short of the sticks, but bailed out by own false start" is the Platonic ideal of a Texans 4th-and-short play.
Rivers McCown: Andre should just keep walking home to Miami until he gets the call that Kubiak has been fired.
Tom Gower: Matt McGloin looked okay this game. He was dinky-dunky the first half, but it didn't matter because the Raiders started two drives at the Houston 16 after miscues. He had a bit more downfield success in the second half, but on the whole I don't think he was much better than average. Of course, Terrelle Pryor has really, really struggled as a passer of late, so even average looks like a big improvement if it's sustainable.
The big news out of this game is the Texans finally got tired enough of Case Keenum's limitations they put Matt Schaub back in despite no health issues. Schaub looked like Matt Schaub normally does, minus the pick-6 thing. The Raiders got the stop in the red zone at the end of the game by covering Andre Johnson. That Johnson and Schaub had words on the sidelines after the fourth down failure may end up overshadowing the "Schaub is un-benched" news, or, more likely, become part of it.
Both these teams are not very good, by the way.
Rivers McCown: I'm not going to write out my thoughts about everything that happened here for two reasons. 1) I'd just be rehashing material from the first ten weeks of the season and 2) you're smart football fans, I assume, if you're on this site. You don't need to guess at my reaction to Matt Schaub coming back in.
That said, if Kubiak is back next season, the Texans essay in FOA 2014 will be as long as the Federalist Papers.
I can tell I'm really getting big -- Gary Kubiak just left me a message on my phone. Let me play it for you:
San Diego Chargers 16 at Miami Dolphins 20
@dingerc: Impressive stop of momentum by Keenan Allen on a curl route, then stupid taunting penalty on same play.
@dingerc: Wow, Teo's tackle whiff on the MIA TD to Clay was amazing. Don't think Teo even touched him.
Scott Kacsmar: Down 20-16, San Diego punted on 4th & 12 at the Miami 36 with 3:58 left? That's very questionable.
Scott Kacsmar: Tannehill just pulled a Glennon by running out of bounds to take a sack. These QBs make me sick in the 4MO.
@pchicola: God Rivers. Spike the ball. Took him 10 secs to get the play called at the line...
San Francisco 49ers 20 at New Orleans Saints 23
Danny Tuccitto: kudos to FOX for giving us the ultra-zoom, ultra-slo-mo look at greer's leg achieving macroscopic supersymmetry.
@matthew_carley: Jim Harbaugh WASTES both of his challenges early on in NO. Clearly no one in the booth has a view of a television, or any sense.
@cptii: That Baldwin no-catch is a pretty good example of why Kap doesn’t trust anyone but VD or Boldin.
Tom Gower: Oh my Drew Brees. Holds, holds, holds, waits, Jimmy Graham releases, throws, & Ahmad Brooks makes the leaping INT.
Aaron Schatz: Rushing just three against Drew Brees just doesn't seem like a great strategy to me.
@Golfer07840: got an INT w/ 3 man rush RT @FO_ASchatz: Rushing just three against Drew Brees just doesn't seem like a great strategy to me.
Aaron Schatz: Got me there! Over 8 yds/pass in 2011 vs 3 rushers. In 2012, same stats as he had vs 4 rushers @Golfer07840 got an INT w/ 3 man rush
Danny Tuccitto: really wish NFL kept data on what play clock is at start of play/timeout. SF seems to waste ton of TOs this way, but more than most?
Scott Kacsmar: Wow, violent collision on Brees, but I still hate the penalty. That's a lost fumble in crunch time for Joe Montana.
Danny Tuccitto: corrente: illegal careless whisper, number 55, defense. 15 yards. automatic first down.
@Coboney: That was a stupid penalty! Grabbed him on the shoulder pads - momentum moved Brees head. The "strike" zone is knees to shoulder
Aaron Schatz: @Coboney Just another example of the NFL's attempt to outlaw the laws of physics.
Aaron Schatz: That's grounding on Kaepernick. The 49ers OL just crumpled on two straight plays. Miss Iupati that much?
Aaron Schatz: Wait, how on earth is three steps to your right "well outside the pocket"? Maybe it is "slightly outside." MAYBE.
Tom Gower: Kudos to the 49ers defense for playing better than I thought they would. Drew Brees was under some pressure, and the ground game wasn't as consistently effective as I expected it to be (and yes, my expectations were lower than what the Saints did against Dallas last week). Yes, Jimmy Graham's continuing injury and Darren Sproles getting banged up during the game were probably part of that.
On the other side of the ball, I struggled with San Francisco's offense in the game. The run game hasn't been working consistently, especially with the non-Gore backs, and the passing game is still too reliant on Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin. Maybe I'm underrating NO's contribution to these, but I don't think so. This is not new, of course.
Some weird stuff in this game -- the whole Corey White interception/was he down/did the fumble go out of bounds, Jim Harbaugh utterly wasting both his challenges on complete no-hopers, Sean Payton kicking the field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 3 in the fourth quarter to get within 3, and of course the whining about some (correct) late-game calls. Garrett Hartley hit the field goals, though, and the Saints came away with the win in regulation.
Danny Tuccitto: I've been meaning to write something like this for a while, but there's never seemed like a right time until today, so here goes...
I don't know about everyone else on staff, but as time has gone on, I've become more and more tortured by maintaining the dual role of (D-list) NFL commentator and rabid fan of an NFL team. I feel like there are thousands -- possibly millions -- of 49ers fans out there who watched today's game that, either during or immediately after the game, were calling for Greg Roman's head or Jim Harbaugh's head or (newly minted replay guru Eric Mangini's head). They want Kassim Osgood to take the next Greyhound back to Detroit (or worse). They think Tony Corrente is the most biased referee since Danny Davis. Today, I was one of them. Every week, I watch 49ers games with one of them. But at the same time, I consciously realize that these men play the game, coach the game, and officiate the game; whereas fans (including me) are (mostly) nobodies who have never been in their position, and aren't privy to half of the information they're trying to process when making their decisions. Who are we to judge so harshly in circumstances like this? It's for this reason that, at earlier depressing moments this season, I've fought my heart with my brain, giving people the benefit of the doubt.
And today, Vance McDonald dropped another third down pass. But c'mon, he's a rookie! The Saints defense was playing with eight men in the box and man-to-man coverage behind it. But c'mon, the 49ers currently don't have the personnel to counter it! Osgood made an awful special teams blunder. But c'mon, The Naked Gun parody of Queen Elizabeth waved more forcefully than Sproles did on his fair catch signal. Corrente's call on Brooks killed them (among other mysterious calls). But hey, he was judging things in real time! (In slow motion, there's clearly no contact to the neck or head, but he's not making calls in slow motion. Of course, what is Brooks supposed to do as he's running by Brees? Whisper sweet nothings in his ear? Pull his towel out, and hold it up to the referee to signal a captured flag? See how torturous this kind of cognitive dissonance can become?)
But see, then my mind doubles back on itself. "Wait a second, these guys are getting paid millions of dollars, and some of these mistakes are just totally unacceptable to anyone with two eyes, regardless of whether they're an outsider or not." Fans (and D-list NFL commentators) may not know the inner workings of NFL strategy and tactics, but there's just no excuse for bungling three -- not two; three -- challenges in one quarter: The two no-hopers that they failed on, and the awful third-down spot in favor of New Orleans that Harbaugh didn't challenge because, presumably, he was gun shy after the first failed challenge. Then there's the 49ers' consistent inability to get plays called in a timely fashion. Is it Roman's fault? Harbaugh's fault? Kaepernick's fault (or Smith's fault before him)? Who cares? It's three years now, and that stuff is still happening -- constantly. Fans don't have to be in on team meetings to know that it's a performance worth the X of Great Shame.
As I continue to mull this sort of cognitive dilemma, I come closer to realizing that we're on much better footing as fans (and D-list NFL commentators) if we focus on these game management failures more so than the seeming, "What the f*** kind of play call was that?" failures. You want to say that we don't know what we're talking about in terms of strategy, tactics, and the rigors of a physical profession? Fine, guilty as charged. But don't tell me that, any number of sentient humans couldn't have been sitting up in the booth today, and gotten those three challenge situations right. Don't tell me that there's no way, after three years, you can't devise a method for calling plays more quickly.
And yet, as I say that, all of this remains a constant struggle.
Vince Verhei: The San Francisco offense mystifies me. Sometimes they look unstoppable and sometimes they can't stop shooting themselves in the foot (the constant struggles to get plays off in time are a good example here.), and you never know which is going to show up from drive to drive or even from play to play. They're much scarier, I think, than their numbers will indicate.
Minnesota Vikings 20 at Seattle Seahawks 41
Mike Ridley: Jarius Wright burned Richard Sherman. Never thought I'd type those five words.
@robbbbbb: My wife, re: Marshawn Lynch: "Maybe he greases himself."
Vincent Verhei: Power is out in Seattle, so my review of everything right now is __________.
@UpsideOfSports: Ponder one-ups his earlier underthrown slant with the more rare undertossed pitch
Vincent Verhei: Power back just in time to see SEA score in 50 seconds.
@robbbbbb: Huge Percy Harvin return sets up extra TD drive at end of 1st half. I was shocked Carroll sent him out for it.
@UpsideOfSports: #Vikings, #Texans need a checkdown challenge. Ponder and Schaub can always find a way to throw it short of the sticks.
@robbbbbb: 2nd Ponder INT in as many series. Walter Thurmond baits the throw, and a pick-six results.
Vince Verhei: Give Russell Wilson his three starting linemen back, put him at home against the 26th-ranked (by DVOA) pass defense, and hey, look, he has his best game of the year. He was sacked on the first drive, and then rarely pressured the rest of the day, getting plenty of time to find receivers downfield. Percy Harvin also shined in about a dozen total plays, getting a big kickoff return to set up an end-of-half score and a 17-yard catch to convert a third-and-10.
Richard Sherman had one of his worst games of the season. Cordarelle Patterson drew a DPI on Sherman to set up one Vikings score, and Jarius Wright, of all people, burned him deep for a touchdown. (I actually missed that play due to a power outage, but everyone on Twitter filled me in.) There were reports that Sherman was suffering from a bad hip today. For what it's worth, I don't think he was targeted in the second half. And it's not as if Minnesota didn't have plenty of passing opportunities, trying to catch up.
Last year, Seattle was an awfully mediocre team for half a season, then caught fire after Halloween. This year, Seattle lost only one game in the first half of the year, but some of those wins (Houston, St. Louis, Tampa Bay) were pretty ugly. Now they've stomped two bad teams in a row, Wilson topped 10 yards per pass in both games, and the defense is starting to smother opponents. If they continue to improve in the second half this year like they did last year, this could get scary.
Kansas City Chiefs 17 at Denver Broncos 27
Aaron Schatz: Should we just count the number of plays where Chris Clark gets away with holding on Tamba Hali?
Scott Kacsmar: Alex Smith to Donnie Avery is the new Elvis Grbac to Lake Dawson.
Scott Kacsmar: Lost Dumervil, but I think Shaun Phillips has been a fine emergency replacement this year.
Scott Kacsmar: I think I picked too many points (43) in this game. Then again, slow starts are the Denver way. Last week was an outlier.
Aaron Schatz: Bad news for fant players: Peyton Manning will be credited with fumble. Good news in IDP leagues: He also gets a tackle!
@csoandy: The Chiefs receivers appear to have borrowed the early season Patriots receivers’ gloves.
Tom Gower: Arm extension by Dwayne Bowe. OPI is called, what, 10% of the time it happens? Most of the time picks rather than push-off, though.
Tom Gower: You don't normally see Peyton miss a wide open TD the way he didn't see Decker on that fake screen there.
@StanSellsBoats: Welker has great SBFAR (successful begging for flag above replacement)
@itnw0628: Denver O is really struggling after halftime. So, great halftime adjusment was on John Fox after all?
Aaron Schatz: Alex Smith read option fake 1, NBC cameraman 0.
@hscer: I don't care. Whatever the reason, I don't care. Punting down 14 with 12 minutes left on 4th and 7 from the opp 41? Just no.
@nath_on_fire: "So down two TDs at their 40 in the 4th, you thought you'd punt to the league's best offense and win that way?" -My dream reporter.
Aaron Schatz: In the end, the Chiefs simply are who we thought they were. Very good defense, mediocre offense, not as good as W-L record indicates.
Scott Kacsmar: Wes Welker concussion? Crap, he's probably going to line up with New England's defense next week.
@StanSellsBoats: A truly pathetic last-minute effort by KC. They may as well have taken a knee — why risk injuries if you don't care to win?
Tom Gower: Aaron mentioned this on Twitter during the game, but this felt more or less like the game we expected. Kansas City got their 17 points, but never looked fluid or particularly good offensively. I think Denver's protection was a little bit better than I thought, but I thought the offensive gameplan and Peyton's work, both of which seemed to concentrate on getting the ball out quickly to avoid pressure, had a fair amount to do with that. I thought the key matchup for this game was whether Denver would be able to run the ball with six against six. They did so with reasonable success at times and less success at other times. I wasn't sure just how good Marcus Cooper was, and it didn't surprise me to see the Broncos go after him and continue doing so after they had initial success with it. One thing that separates this Denver offense for me is the bigger bodied receivers in Julius and Demaryius Thomas, and I think they both showed well tonight, or at least better than they (particularly Demaryius) did in the loss to the Colts.
Aaron Schatz: Yes, I guess one of my takeaways from this game is maybe we should all take a step back before we jump on the Marcus Cooper bandwagon. We've done Brice McCain and Robert McClain, and I'm generally ready to stop freaking out about young undrafted or late-drafted nickelbacks who have a single excellent season of small sample size. (And honestly, I don't even know how Cooper is doing in our charting stats so far -- I just know he's getting written about a lot as some kind of revelation.)
However, I will give props to Chris Clark for playing better than I expected, and no, he didn't have to spend the whole game making uncalled holds on Tamba Hali. However, I agree with Tom, I think a lot of what limited Kansas City's pass rush was Peyton Manning getting rid of the ball quickly.
Rivers McCown: Don't take that step back too close to Brice McCain; you'll beat him for a touchdown.
Scott Kacsmar: That was a wire-to-wire win for Denver and frankly nothing at all surprising. I had 27-17 on my podcast the other night, but changed to 27-16 for some reason. It wasn't a blowout, the Chiefs had a few good chances -- just not to the extent Cris Collinsworth believed. I thought Andy Reid was too conservative against a historic offense on the road. The field goal in the second quarter was a poor decision, even if the Chiefs did stop Denver from scoring on the drives before and after the half. I also thought there was a bad punt in the fourth quarter when down 14 and I would have onside kicked after the touchdown. They were likely going to need one anyway.
I expect we'll see a different game in Kansas City when Manning will have to call the shots with crowd noise and the Chiefs can make some adjustments on their coverages. But I thought he played a smart game tonight by mixing in the run and not putting it all on his shoulders with the ankle sprain. He still had 40 attempts, but got rid of the ball very fast to neutralize the rush. He can still do that in Kansas City, but plain and simple the Chiefs need to find more offense than this to get past the Broncos. Alex Smith tried some deep shots, Donnie Avery dropped a big one early, but I just didn't see much from them. There were way too many tipped balls. Even Jamaal Charles seemingly only had the one really good run.
Aaron Schatz: You know when would be a good time for Alex Smith to try throwing the ball down the field? Like, when losing by 10 in the final minute. That would be a really good time to try one of those.