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

Audibles at the Line: Week 4

compiled by Rivers McCown and Andrew Potter

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 Buffalo Bills 23

Tweets

@fhyrew: Fouts just said Manuel was "doomed" on a Suggs sack. Maybe wanna save that call for Dumervil?

Aaron Schatz: I want a gif of Aaron Williams' post-interception dance in tomorrow's Audibles SO BADLY.

@fhyrew: About ready to declare this the Ravens' annual road egg-laying against an inferior team.

@GFarri1: Marlon Brown boxing out 2 defenders and holding on. Just no defense against that size. Hit him and hope he drops it.

@AMSportsLive1: Manny Lawson came in totally unblocked on that sack of Flacco. Ben Muth must be having a conniption.

@pchicola: Upset watch alert. Both BUF and CIN pulling the upsets...

Andrew Potter: Did I hear that right? Ravens' first running play of second HALF with 5mins left in Q4?

Aaron Schatz: Edge Manuel just almost handed game to Baltimore, juggling ball on read option keeper. WTF?

Andrew Potter: Kiko Alonso just caught Flacco's FIFTH interception of the game. Alonso's second pick. Great diving catch to pick it.

Scott Kacsmar: Tony Romo's so much better at throwing 5 INT against Buffalo than Flacco.

Aaron Schatz: Kiko Alonso making his case for DROY - I mentioned him playing really well even back in Week 1 vs. Pats. INT on Flacco ends game

Aaron Schatz: So far, it looks very clear that Joe Flacco is still the inconsistent QB of regular seasons past, not the awesome Flacco of January.

Arizona Cardinals 13 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10

Tweets

Tom Gower: The first two touchdown passes of Sunday come from Mike Glennon & Matt Cassel, because of course they do.

Vince Verhei: Man, Mike Glennon is REALLY tall and skinny.

@AMSportsLive1: Hell of a pick from Johnthan Banks. Read Palmer's eyes all the way and timed his jump perfectly.

Andrew Potter: Lost a bit in all of the QB nonsense: this Buccaneers defense is really good.

@MilkmanDanimal: Awful Palmer throw under heavy pressure, wings it at Fitzgerald and Revis picks it off. That's the kind of bad throw Tampa QBs make.

@MilkmanDanimal: 11 minutes left, Glennon has already thrown the ball 35 times. Way to protect your rookie QB, Schiano.

@MilkmanDanimal: Josh Freeman on his worst day would not have thrown that ball to Patrick Peterson with 3 minutes left in the game.

Aaron Schatz: Apparently, nobody bothered to tell Mike Glennon about what happened in Houston five minutes ago.

Aaron Schatz: Then Larry Fitz makes Revis his bitch with an awesomely tight post corner post move. TD, tied game.

@MilkmanDanimal: Glennon inexplicably threw at Patrick Peterson three times within the last 3:30. Two picks. Simply terrible decisions.

Longform

Vince Verhei: I just want to say that for the one half I saw, Mike Glennon looks exactly like what the scouting reports said: very tall, very skinny, and very prone to throwing balls that have a good chance of being intercepted. By the way, I watched the first half, not the second.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 "at" Minnesota Vikings 34 (London)

Tweets

Aaron Schatz: Clearly MIN saw something on tape about PIT's defense playing off WR early; two quick passes to an open Jerome Simpson for 1st downs.

Scott Kacsmar: @FO_ASchatz When you say tape, I think you literally mean VCR tapes as Steelers have done this for LeBeau's last decade.

Aaron Schatz: @FO_ScottKacsmar Yeah, but still, teams don't often start with such QUICK passes right off the bat. Those were like 1-step drops.

Aaron Schatz: On one hand, it's ridiculous that CBS is showing two 0-3 teams as their main 1pm game because it is in London. On the other hand, that's the game I'm watching, so what does that say about me?

@AMSportsLive1: Nice job by Cordarrelle Patterson to break up that Ike Taylor INT. Very underrated aspect of a receiver's job.

@AMSportsLive1: Awful tackling by the Steelers on that Jennings TD run. Very poor angles.

@matthew_carley: Pittsburgh can't tackle, Jennings makes entire steeler defense miss, on the sideline Ponder throws his arms in the air and misses.

@GFarri1: Tomlin won't be happy about rookie Bell flipping into the endzone down 10-0.

Aaron Schatz: Steelers just blew another couple tackles in a TD run by Peterson. Their tackling is worse than their OL today.

@antonio_arias: Adrian Peterson killed it - que corridón de 60 yardas

Aaron Schatz: Loved PIT play call. They had been running WR screens all day, then just faked one on 3-12 to go downfield.

Scott Kacsmar: How you know it's not your year: Cassel fumbles and Vikings still recover for a first down on third down.

Aaron Schatz: Josh Robinson not having a good day. He's given up a number of catches and just got hit with a huge DPI after A.Brown beat him deep.

Aaron Schatz: Great blocking on AP TD. RG Fusco pushes Hood way over, creates big hole, then hits 2nd level while Loadholt pushes Hood even further

Aaron Schatz: Aha. Looks like somebody reminded Everson Griffen that he is in a contract year. Strip sack, Vikings win.

Longform

Aaron Schatz: I thought this game was a great demonstration of each team's strengths and weaknesses. And it may have been the best game the NFL has sent to London so far, even though the poor British fans did have to witness some pathetic tackling by the Steelers defense. A game like this shows you why the phrase "Any Given Sunday" exists. Even two 0-3 teams have some major strengths: Antonio Brown, Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Troy Polamalu, to name four guys who looked really good.

Of course, no team wins with only superstars. You also have to have solid players in between, guys who do their jobs well even if they don't get a lot of attention. If I ever do an all-star team of "guys who do their jobs well but don't get a lot of attention," Chad Greenway is going to be on that team. (This team of course would have no quarterback, because there is no quarterback who doesn't get a lot of attention. Well, maybe a backup quarterback, like Tarvaris Jackson or Kyle Orton or someone.)

As for the weaknesses... The Steelers really don't have the depth they have had in so many recent years. You could see that in secondary when the Vikings went with extra receivers, or in the play of Vince Williams, the sixth-round rookie forced into the lineup for the injured Larry Foote. And of course, the offensive line. The Steelers offensive line didn't look half-bad today on run blocks, and I also thought Le'veon Bell had a couple plays where he looked really good at following his blocks and patiently waiting for holes. But oy, the Steelers line on pass plays. They have to figure out a way to get Mike Adams off the left side. Rookie struggles are one thing, but by the second year, a highly-drafted left tackle has got to be better than this.

The biggest Vikings weakness is the secondary. Josh Robinson was abysmal today, and gave up tons of catches (particularly to Antonio Brown) and a huge pass interference penalty. The Vikings pass rush looked better today, though, as did the weaker parts of their offensive line. I think Matt Cassel made a very good case to replace Christian Ponder permanently. Ponder can't hit the long pass, and Cassel did a much better job on those today. You want to have a quarterback here who can go deep when the opponent brings their safeties up to stop Peterson.

One other note: The past Wembley games were known for really messy fields, lots of slipping. Didn't see that today.

Scott Kacsmar: I thought Ben Roethlisberger's pocket presence was exceptional today -- he was avoiding a lot of sacks early, but was not able to find many receivers on those scrambles. Bell's first touchdown was a very nice run and he finished the game healthy (to my knowledge), so that's a positive debut for him. But the red-zone offense continues to struggle and that ultimately killed the team today. Throwing a fade to a split-out wide Heath Miller is just not the way to go about things. What happened to Derek Moye after his fade score in Cincinnati? The short wideouts are just not much of a threat down there and obviously the pressure on Roethlisberger on the final drive was too much to overcome. Still, you like to see him go down throwing instead of fumbling in the pocket. I also do not understand the spikes on that last drive with over a minute left. I've seen Roethlisberger do this enough to the point where it must be his decision and not the coaching staff.

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Defensively, it was one of the poorest games I've seen from Pittsburgh. Way too many missed tackles allowed for those big plays to Greg Jennings and Adrian Peterson. Ike Taylor not only failed to complete a few interceptions, but he had a big missed tackle on Peterson's run. You just know it's not your year when you force Matt Cassel to fumble, but the ball still gets recovered by Minnesota for a first down on third down no less. The lack of turnovers continues to be the big story, forcing a shaky offense to drive long fields and be nearly perfect, which it just cannot be right now when you have mismatches like Mike Adams against anyone.

Now at 0-4 for the first time since 1968, I can officially say this is the worst Pittsburgh team I have ever watched. They really need this early bye week.

New York Giants 7 at Kansas City Chiefs 31

Tweets

@ptmovieguy: Back-to-Back fumbles in Chiefs-Giants game. All NY games this seasons will be accompanied by Yakety Sax.

@pchicola: I'm just switching over from CHI-DET to NYG-KC. Can anyone tell me what's been the story of this game so far?

Andrew Potter: Eli on a deep ball finds a wide open Will Demps. Not a Giants receiver on the screen when Demps catches it.

Andrew Potter: Dwayne Bowe failed his quarterback on Rolle's interception for the Giants. The type of unlucky pick Manning usually throws.

Ben Jones: Why aren't the Giants bringing pressure on punts? Colquitt was shaken up on a block earlier, and they haven't tested him since.

Andrew Potter: That Dexter McCluster punt return touchdown was a thing of beauty.

Aaron Schatz: Watch NYG. Notice what happens to an offense w/great skill players and terrible OL. Now prepare to watch ATL play NE tonight.

Aaron Schatz: If Giants suffer their usual November decline, will they be worse than Jaguars? Egads.

Indianapolis Colts 37 at Jacksonville Jaguars 3

Tweets

@AMSportsLive1: Andrew Luck steps up into the pocket, dodges two Jaguars, and runs for seventeen yards. Pocket awareness is unbelievable.

Peter Koski: So, you trade for Trent Richardson and have 1st&Goal on JAC 4 and you pass three times?

@RyanCrinnigan: Luck seems to tip off play action in the red zone with his straight-arm handoff fake.

Scott Kacsmar: Donald Brown with a 50-yard run. Richardson sitting at 53 yards on 19 carries as a Colt. Just saying...

@AMSportsLive: Jags have gone thirty straight first half possessions without scoring a TD.

Rivers McCown: Jaguars result should surprise no one. You can argue they were better off when they were an expansion team. Testament to Gene Smith.

@Shake1n1bake: Pretty rough 1st half for Andrew Luck. If not for a TD for INT and Donald Brown breaking a 50 yard run this would be a hideous game

Scott Kacsmar: Colts are looking for back-to-back road wins by 20+ points for first time since 2009.

Aaron Schatz: Worst 0-4 team in DVOA history is 2001 Washington at -71.6%. Jacksonville will definitely challenge that.

@Shake1n1bake: I feel bad for Gabbert. It's not like he's played well today, but all three of his picks were off his WRs hands, tipped right to a DB

Scott Kacsmar: I checked with Bill Polian and Trent Richardson's 3.0 YPC is still okay because 3+3 = 3rd & 4 and Andrew Luck can convert those too.

Seattle Seahawks 23 at Houston Texans 20 (OT)

Tweets

Peter Koski: Ben Tate with a nice run up the middle v SEA. Tate has looked as good as I've seen him in the NFL this year.

Rivers McCown: Andre Johnson definitely getting some plays off early as they try to compensate for the shin.

Rivers McCown: Seattle playing a little more zone than I thought they would early.

Peter Koski: Whitney Mercilus, living up to (exceeding?) his SackSEER projection for Houston

Rivers McCown: Texans are taking more deep shots this week. That's a step in the right direction.

Rivers McCown: Greg Jones had a nice (illegal) block to spring Arian Foster on his touchdown reception

Rivers McCown: Seattle's offensive line is playing a Jacksonville-quality game today. Marshawn Lynch has 60 yards just before halftime. Just about every one of them his own doing.

Tom Gower: Not a surprise, but today is a good example of how good Matt Schaub can be when he isn't facing pressure & how bad he is when he is

@CyrisJonfs: Announcer points out Texans 44-5 when they rush more than 30 times...still work to do.

Rivers McCown: So many "Brian Cushing wasn't on the field" tweets in a row that I think we need to consider how many Middle Linebacker Wins he has

@AMSportsLive: Wait, the Seahawks have rallied from a 20-3 deficit? I thought they weren't built to come from behind!

Tom Gower: The Seahawks just showed why you should sit on the bootleg against the Texans. Clemons with pressure, Sherman beats Daniels, pick-6

@robbbbbb: The Force is with us. Perfect blitz on the rollout, and Richard Sherman jumps the route for the pick-6.

@MilkmanDanimal: Considering the score and time left in the game, that Schaub pick is one of the singly worst INTs I have ever seen.

@AMSportsLive1: Yep. That's Matt Schaub for ya. He had to toss that one up for grabs because taking a sack would have made too much sense.

Longform

Rivers McCown: I'll be longer later, after the binge drinking ... three consecutive games with pick-sixes. Three. All while watching the quarterback I wanted the Texans to take in the 2012 draft spend the entire second half avoiding sacks left and right.

It's not a fun time.

Sean McCormick: Now is the time for Houston to trade for Mark Sanchez. He'll clean that right up...

Tom Gower: When Matt Schaub had time to throw, you saw why Ron Jaworski would put him in the top ten in his quarterback countdown. He repeatedly found open space in the middle of the field, often to tight ends. Andre Johnson also did a good job of winning his one-on-one battle against Richard Sherman, and the Texans took a 20-3 lead. Seattle really did almost nothing offensively in the first half as their makeshift offensive line was terrorized by J.J. Watt.

Matt Schaub under pressure, though, was a completely different story, as it so often is. This was true from the first drive of the game, when Chris Clemons beat Ryan Harris (filling in for an injured Duane Brown) to the end of regulation (as much as I say). The worst moment was his back-breaking pick-6 to Richard Sherman. The Texans were in the four-minute drill and called a bootleg on third down. The Seahawks stayed at home, which they did a couple times, and Schaub chucked up an off-balance throw Sherman beat Owen Daniels to and then took to the house. Russell Wilson's escapability (if you can stand that word) was a key part of Seattle's comeback, as he made plays, often with his legs, when he was pressured and flushed behind that makeshift offensive line.

If you want a theme for this game, it's that owner Bob McNair criticized Houston's mental toughness and resilience in the offseason, and those are still issues. The late defensive struggles were aided by the loss of Brian Cushing, and Ed Reed's leadership skills were not much in evidence. They didn't show up like, say, his attempts to tackle Marshawn Lynch, who had his normal share of hard running, did.

Vince Verhei: I'm not even sure what to say about this game. The Seahawks were missing three offensive linemen, including clearly the best two, against the best defender in the league and his friends. They were predictably impotent for a half. Marshawn Lynch had a couple of big plays, and they got a big defensive pass interference call, but otherwise it was a string of random Houston linemen meeting Seattle ballcarriers in the backfield ad nauseam. The second half improvement, such as it was, was mostly a result ofWilson's mobility, either by design or by necessity. They never really got unhinged, and had some bad turnovers, but somehow they managed make more big plays with fewer mistakes than the opposition.

The defense played a lot of soft zone in the first half. I expect to see the words "short middle" next to the majority of Matt Schaub's completions. Garrett Graham's touchdown came on a seam route against what looked like Cover 3. On the other hand, it also resulted in defenders pointing and shrugging at each other, so who knows. In the second half, they switched to a lot more blitzing and man coverages, and that's when Houston started to have serious problems.

Still, though, you look at the box score, and you see Houston with enormous edges in plays (88 to 58), total offense (476 to 270), and first downs (29 to 15), and considering the were only -1 in turnovers, and it doesn't even make sense that the game was close.

Rivers McCown: I used my press box seat to focus on Richard Sherman and Ed Reed. I think I'd score the Sherman battle about 60/40 to Andre Johnson when he was on the field, but the Texans mostly kept Johnson away from Sherman. I was perplexed by how often Seattle was using zone early in this game when they clearly had the horses to go man-to-man with Houston's skill position players.

As for Reed, it was hard to tell what kind of difference he was actually making because Wilson was under siege. I'd be watching Reed and then the play would be over in the backfield before he had a chance to do anything. That tackling though ... he definitely dogs it on plays when he can. He's smart about angles, but that's about the only thing working in his favor right now.

In the grander scheme of things, separating Schaub from Kubiak is a problem. Sherman said after the game that the Seattle scout team ran the exact same play the pick-six came on in practice on Friday, and he picked that one off too. I'll be honest here and say I thought Schaub would play worse than he actually did in this game. I think part of that was Gary Kubiak accepting that the Texans would need to open up the passing game more. But as soon as the 20-3 lead was in hand (and Ben Tate, you do not escape blame for that fumble), he morphed right back into generic Kubiak land, replete with checkdowns on third-and-long and plays the defense sees coming a mile away.

Being a Texans fan is a very strange state right now. These are all problems I saw coming a mile away heading into the season, but the defense and run game are still good enough to carry the team to victory if Captain Pick-Six over there stops sending games to overtime. This is year eight of Gary Kubiak. To illuminate how long that is: Ron Rivera has been on the hot seat for almost a year and you can almost fit three Rivera tenures into Kubiak's. I've reached the point of learned helplessness when it comes to this team's weaknesses. They stem from the head coach and the quarterback. Even though they got smacked around today, watching a team like the Bears make a bold hire with Trestman and fix their offensive line is really empowering. ...And then you realize it took Bob McNair five years to quit David Carr.

I need another drink.

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Cincinnati Bengals 6 at Cleveland Browns 17

Tweets

@AMSportsLive1: Josh Gordon is quickly turning into one of the best WRs in the game. Great acceleration, fantastic hands, and can outjump Cbs.

Andrew Potter: Dalton just underthrew Sanu on a flea flicker where the WR was wide open. Bad throw bailed out by DPI when the corner clattered Sanu.

Andrew Potter: Following the underthrow to Sanu, Dalton's lucky not to be picked twice. Fourth-and-1 around the 11, Bengals go for it but BJGE fails.

@AMSportsLive1: Hoyermania has overshadowed how good the Browns' front seven has been.

Andrew Potter: Only seen clips of CIN@CLE on RZ, but boy does it look like Dalton's had a rough first half. Missing throws, taking sacks. Concerning.

@THEOSU7: Buster Skrine just flagged for unnecessary roughness on a player obviously out of the play for hitting... the intended receiver

@graham020: That Cleveland trade looking like a good move. They could be a force next year if they draft well. They probably won't though

Aaron Schatz: We can talk all about how CLE has shown they don't need a big name RB, but bigger question: What happened to Bengals today?

Andrew Potter: @FO_ASchatz What I saw of it, Dalton had a very poor game. Missing throws, lucky not to be picked several times, hard time in pocket.

Longform

Rob Weintraub: Just a horrendous showing by the Bengals offensive line in particular and the overall offense in general. On several plays, half the unit went one and the other half went the other way. There was zero inside push, Cleveland maintained pressure without blitzing, and the Bengals sustained zero rhythm all game. Center Kyle Cook had a few bad snaps, including one that became a fumble recovered by the Browns, and another crucial one that the Bengals recovered. Cleveland also stuffed the Bengals on fourth-and-1 inside the 10-yard line, which was the game in a nutshell. The Browns were way more physical from start to finish. Bengals receivers could not find any openings, and got punished when they did. Joe Haden shut down A.J. Green, got in his head early and stayed there. Andy Dalton didn't help by continuing to be inaccurate with deep throws, but in fairness he was under duress. Kiki Mingo was very active off the edge.

Brian Hoyer will get all sorts of love now that he's 2-0, but he's only marginally better than Weeden, and can't throw it as long. He is poised, and effective on medium-range touch throws. Cameron is so frigging huge, but with excellent balance and footwork, that he'll make Hoyer look good. But let's not make Hoyer into anything more than what he is -- a marginal QB. The Bengals were down two secondary starters, and a rotation cornerback, and it's not like Hoyer took much advantage. With luck, he'll win a few too many game for the Browns to draft a true franchise quarterback.

I fully expected a hangover game from Cincy, and got it, in spades. I would have liked to see the team get beyond this kind of thing, but looking around the league, it's not like anybody else save Denver is immune from it.

Rivers McCown: I think the real issue in Cleveland's improvement is that Josh Gordon is back in the lineup. There's a big difference between having one good NFL receiver (Jordan Cameron) and having two.

Chicago Bears 32 at Detroit Lions 40

Tweets

@AMSportsLive1: What's worse; Jim Schwartz not going for it on 4th and 1 from the 6 or the announcers effusively praising him for it?

@pchicola: @MattBowen41 @Andy_Benoit CHI sticks to 2-deep shells. DET countering by going Bush-heavy early on. Pick ur poise approach.

@pchicola: On Bush TD, it was the 4th time today DJ Williams got sucked to the wrong hole and Briggs got man-handled on backside

Andrew Potter: That's the Reggie Bush we thought we were getting out of USC. 37 yard TD run, Detroit crushing Chicago.

Andrew Potter: Stafford misses open WR on deep route with 30s left in Q2. Next play, strip-sacked and CHI recovers. 1F/D, FG. 10pt swing in 30secs.

Scott Kacsmar: When I talk about Jay Cutler padding his 4QC/GWD record by not keeping it close enough, today is a good example of that.

@MilkmanDanimal: That fumble was Cutler's fault; held the ball too long and very loose and let Suh have enough time to get to him.

@AMSportsLive1: Well, it looks like this is just one of those games for Jay Cutler. He has at least two or three of them every year.

Tom Gower: I shouldn't be, b/c it's clear right move, but I'm a bit surprised & happy Marc Trestman is going for 2 down 18 with 4 mins to play.

New York Jets 13 at Tennessee Titans 38

Tweets

@AMSportsLive: Now that Guy Whimper and J'Marcus Webb have been put out of their misery, is Vlad Ducasse the worst starting OL in the league?

Tom Gower: Big break #2 for the Titans as Geno Smith coughs the ball up and they start inside the 30.

@AMSportsLive1: "Turnovers and penalties are killing the New York Jets." Why do I feel like I've heard that before?

@calesgreen: What's with the terrible camera man for the Jets-Titans game? Shouldn't the guy with the ball be on screen?

Vince Verhei:Locker throws up a lob to a well-covered WR. Never should have been thrown. Hunter reels it in for TD. #badprocess #goodresults

Tom Gower: 3 turnovers, 3 conversions into 21 points. Walls should've tackled Hunter there & taken DPI.

Tom Gower: One of these games it will matter that the Titans are giving many carries to an RB with a low-40s success rate averaging 3 ypc

@PigskinLover: Watching the Titans give to Chris Johnson repeatedly for no gain helps me grasp why they would be the team to overpay S. Greene

Vince Verhei: Botched screen play for Jets turns into sack, maybe a safety (challenge pending). I think Geno is getting worse on this team.

Aaron Schatz: @FO_VVerhei I believe QB getting worse because he's on a bad team is called "David Carr disease."

@calesgreen: Jets get cute on 4th and 1, run counter pitch, get stuffed. 4th and 1 should be a dive, a sneak, or Spider 2 Y Banana.

Tom Gower: Geno Smith mistake #4, #Titans touchdown #4.

Vince Verhei: TEN gets pressure up middle. Geno tries to tuck ball behind his back. Leads to sack-fumble-TD. He's getting worse in front of me.

Tom Gower: Recommendation for the Jets: stop calling screens from the 20, because Geno keeps retreating when they result in pressure.

Tom Gower: Another break for the Titans, another touchdown. Like the Lions game last year. When it's your day, I guess it's your day.

Longform

Tom Gower: Geno Smith intercepted, Titans start at the Jets 18, converted for a touchdown. Geno Smith fumble, Titans start at the Jets 26, converted for a touchdown. Geno Smith intercepted, Titans start at the Jets 46, converted for a touchdown. That's your 24-6 halftime lead and about all you need to know in this game aside from Jake Locker's injury.

Vince Verhei: The most surprising thing to me about Jake Locker's improvement this season is that he's become an entirely different player than I expected. Watching him pass through the University of Washington and into the NFL, I saw a big-armed, mobile, mistake-prone quarterback and figured his ceiling was something like a more mobile Jay Cutler. Instead, for four games, he's become a take-what-the-defense-gives-you, keep-the-chains-moving, efficient checkdown game manager guy. Of course I expected him to be a complete bust in the pros, so any improvement is a good thing.

Rivers McCown: Has he really? I didn't get a chance to watch this game, but that's not consistent with the guy I watched the last three weeks. This is going to be a fascinating watch when I go through the AFC South Tuesday.

(Addendum: Locker will be out four to eight weeks with a hip injury.)

Washington Redskins 24 at Oakland Raiders 14

Tweets

Andrew Potter: RZ switches live to WAS game. First clip, OAK ball carrier breaking Skins tackles. Typical Skins D. Play 2, Flynn-Moore deep. Ditto.

Andrew Potter: RZ switches to show Holliday return TD. By time they get back to OAK, OAK has scored. Skins defense playing true to form so far.

Scott Kacsmar: Redskins just ran the league's favorite new play. "The Avery"

Andrew Potter: With the way the WAS defense is playing, I'd be going for 4th-and-goal from the 2 without slightest second thought. 14-3 OAK now.

@toxic: Fake punt in Oakland was almost too easy. Any play engineered to make Washington complete an open-field tackle is going to succeed.

@ptmovieguy: After "gutsy" fake-puntrickeration earlier in drive, Raiders end up punting on 4-n-2 in WAS' territory. Touchback.

Scott Kacsmar: RGIII's awareness on that 4th-and-3 play might be close to 0.

@toxic: Paulson's fumble = still no first downs in the 2nd half of OAK/WAS. And these teams aren't exactly defensive powerhouses.

@ptmovieguy: WAS tackling as advertised. Raiders LOS dumpoff to R. Jennings, breaks 3 tackles to gain 10 yards for first down.

@ptmovieguy: RG III just pulled a Houdini vs untouched blitzer, dumps off to Helu, who hurdles a Raiders defender. One play later, TD.

Tom Gower: Interesting that Raiders went for it on 4th down down 2 scores with less than 4 minutes to play. I know it was 4&1, but still, kick.

Philadelphia Eagles 20 at Denver Broncos 52

Tweets

Ben Jones: The eagles can't go for fg's in the red zone. They should go for it on 4th and 4.

Scott Kacsmar: Trindon Holliday: the new best return man in the NFL.

@AMSportsLive1: Can we start mentioning Trindon Holliday in the same breath as Dante Hall, Devin Hester, and Eric Metcalf?

@pchicola: The key for PHI will be to stick with the running game, no matter how far behind they fall. Otherwise, they are doomed...

Ben Jones: Through no fault of their own the Eagles stopped the Broncos.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not seeing much of Welker getting involved in the DEN offense today. Is that Brandon Boykin playing well?

@PerlStalker: @FO_ASchatz Welker is leading Den in catches and yards but Den's been in 2TE sets a lot, too.

@pchicola: @FO_ASchatz For some reason, Welker wasn't on the field during the no-huddle series which lead to Moreno TD's.

Danny Tuccitto: did chip kelly really just decide to punt on 4th-and-6 from the DEN 36?

Ben Jones: With the Eagles down by 15, they shouldn't settle for anything less than a TD unless there is a long way to go

Scott Kacsmar: Streak's alive. 21 consecutive games scoring 10+ points in 2nd half for Denver.

Scott Kacsmar: Aikman highlighting Chris Clark's block. Could Ryan Clady have done any better?

Scott Kacsmar: This performance hasn't had the obligatory Denver fumble yet.

Scott Kacsmar: Wes Welker has 6 TDs, or as many as he had on 118 catches last season.

@PerlStalker: Dear Eagles, Thanks for playing. Signed, Denver.

Longform

Scott Kacsmar: Here's what I love about Denver: in a league where most teams are up and down from game to game (or quarter to quarter), they play at the same level consistently each week. Everyone expected Peyton Manning to slaughter Philadelphia's defense, and that's exactly what happened. The few stops were more about Denver stopping itself than any plays made by the Eagles. Trindon Holliday continues to impress as a return specialist. The defense continues to play well without Champ Bailey and Von Miller. Philadelphia didn't have a ton of mistakes like against Kansas City, but it was not a productive day by any means for Chip Kelly's offense. I said before last week we could see Kelly take the quickest fall from grace since 2009 Josh McDaniels. At 1-3, that praise for his tempo in Washington feels like a season ago. You have to be able to coach defense too. Surprising that 52 points is the Denver franchise record. It could have been worse if the Eagles made it more competitive.

Aaron Schatz: Well, it's not just about *coaching* defense. You also have to have the players, and they don't really have the players -- in the secondary, at least.

As for the Broncos, their ridiculous outlier performance on third downs seems to finally be fading. They allowed conversions on 8-of-16 third downs today. But the defense is still pretty good on first and second down, and the offense is so good that this defense only needs to be average for the Broncos to easily be the best team in the AFC.

Scott Kacsmar: The Philadelphia defense was fine last year before the bye week, but Juan Castillo was an easy scapegoat ("hey, this guy's an offensive line coach, he can't possibly coach defense, and we need to deflect blame away for the 17 turnovers by the offense!) so they got rid of him. Enter "The Todd Bowles Movement" and the worst six-game stretch of pass defense in NFL history, and the Eagles have never really recovered on that side of the ball.

Dallas Cowboys 21 at San Diego Chargers 30

Tweets

Cian Fahey: Terrance Williams continues to impress in limited time. Makes sense why trade rumors exist RE Miles Austin

@AMSportsLive1: Great TD catch from Dez Bryant. Insane athleticism required to go up and get that ball; Dez is one of about five WRs who can do it.

Scott Kacsmar: Blessed are the sick, children shiver ... watching Philip Rivers. (Props to those who get the reference).

@AlvaroIM77: 3rd and 1. SD comes out in empty backfield shotgun. No one bats an eye. This is today's #NFL

@pchicola: In-series adjustment by SD. After Witten burned Butler twice (completion and PI), they are hi-low'ing 82 w/ OLB Walker & SS Gilchrist

@ptmovieguy: Hey look, a late-game red zone fumble w/ DAL and SD involved

New England Patriots 30 at Atlanta Falcons 23

Tweets

Aaron Schatz: I'm so glad the Patriots got rid of Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick so that they could have a UDFA back up Wilfork. #notglad

@pchicola: @FO_ASchatz Only Deaderick is currently on a roster. Love, Pryor and Brace are Free Agents, in case some familiar faces are required

Aaron Schatz: Sam Baker down. The Falcons need another OL injury like... like... well, like the Patriots need another WR/TE injury. Lamar Holmes in at left tackle. ATL RB gonna start making more chips than a Ruffles factory.

Aaron Schatz: I like Mike Smith's guts to go for it on fourth-and-2. I like the playcall, Roddy White was open. The pass from Matt Ryan was garbage

Tom Gower: Sprint Left Option with a right-handed QB is approximately my least favorite play in the world, and the Falcons just showed why again

Aaron Schatz: He's still overthrowing guys too often, but this is definitely Brady's best game of the season.

@itnw0628: Bill Belichick's decision to kick a FG at opponent's 4yard line makes me sad.

Aaron Schatz: On one hand, how on earth does a defense allow the other team to convert third and freaking 19??? On the other hand, that penalty on William Moore was total B.S. Thompkins ducked into Moore's elbow. It's another example of how the NFL is trying to legislate against the laws of physics. How on earth is Moore supposed to avoid that?

Aaron Schatz: Robert McClain had awesome charting stats last year. I've learned not to get crazy over one great year of nickel charting stats.

@pchicola: Don't look, but the rookies are getting more comfortable in NE. Gronk & Amendola are eventually coming back. Defense is looking good.

Andrew Potter: If this is anything to go by, this is going to be one scary offense when it gets Gronkowski and Amendola back.

@WhispersMoCo: @bighairyandy I literally forgot about those guys watching tonight. Wow! Thompkins and Dobson are going to be good.

Aaron Schatz: Odds on the Patriots blowing two snaps on sneaks in one season? Astronomical, right?

Scott Kacsmar: Ha, Brady NEVER botched a snap in this situation before this season. Twice now. I'm taking credit for SI jinx.

@L_Crosby: Tom Brady is The Greek God of QB Sneaks and he didn't get it. I'm STUNNED.

Aaron Schatz: Somewhere, Marshall Faulk saw the defense the Pats were playing on Tony Gonzalez and nodded. "Yeah, I remember how that is."

Longform

Aaron Schatz: Our preseason projections are never perfect. I certainly didn't see the Giants collapsing, or the Chiefs improving quite this much. But I feel like this game should have been included as a DVD, stapled into the Atlanta chapter of the book. This was everything we thought was going to happen with the Falcons. The "skill players" are still awesome, and Tony Gonzalez is the best to ever play his position, but you can't get the ball downfield to Julio Jones and Roddy White if you can't stay in the pocket. The offensive line is mess, partly because of injuries but also because they cut Tyson Clabo and made no attempt to bring back Todd McClure. Meanwhile, the defense is really not good. There are some good players, sure, but the pass rush isn't doing much and the rookie cornerbacks look like rookie cornerbacks. And how did the Falcons end up starting a rookie UDFA named Joplo Bartu at weakside linebacker. I seriously have no clue who that is.

As for the Patriots, pretty much everybody said after the Jets game that it would get better as the receivers got experience and improved their timing with Brady, and in fact, it has gotten better as the receivers have gotten experience and improved their timing with Brady. When Rob Gronkowski comes back, and if Danny Amendola can actually stay healthy for a week or two, this is back to being a top ten offense. And the Patriots now have a top ten defense to go with it -- unless Vince Wilfork is seriously injured. He's the second-most important player on this team behind Brady. They can't lose him.

Addendum: I wrote those comments when it was 30-13. Obviously, the game didn't end 30-13, but a fluky onside-kick recovery, a bobbled fourth-down Ryan Wendell snap (which may or my not have been a sneak) and one really amazing awesome catch by Julio Jones downfield don't change the general problems of the Falcons offense.

Although, wow, Julio Jones. When Matt Ryan does get some blocking, Julio Jones is a MAN out there.

(Second Addendum: Wilfork is done for the year with a torn Achilles. This is not a good thing for the Patriots.)

Tom Gower: Among other things we saw from this game was why teams like to have a really good corner when playing teams with great individual players. Aqib Talib wasn't absolutely perfect, but on the whole he was really darned good and came up big for the Patriots when they needed him most.

Scott Kacsmar: Matt Ryan certainly needs better blocking, but he still went 34-of-54 for 421 yards. What Atlanta needed was better play in the red zone. That fourth-and-2 earlier in the game was just a horrid pass by Ryan to an open Roddy White. Then that has to be really disappointing to have another drive come up short in the red zone when only a touchdown will do. You'd think a guy like Harry Douglas would always get single coverage and could do some kind of double move in that situation. There's always traffic around Tony Gonzalez, White's not 100 percent and Julio is obviously going to draw a lot of attention. Must draw up some more plays down there, and not the sprint-right option (or sprint left this time).

Rivers McCown: The sneaky problem there is that Harry Douglas isn't actually any good.

Comments

256 comments, Last at 02 Oct 2013, 6:22pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

@ptmovieguy: RG III just pulled a Houdini vs untouched blitzer, dumps off to Helu, who hurdles a Raiders defender. One play later, TD.

This was one of the first times that RG3 well... RG3ed so far this season. The pocket collapsed but he felt the pressure and was able to avoid multiple defenders en route to a perfect pass to Helu. Almost every other QB in the league takes a sack there.

On the flip side, watching Matt Flynn gave me cancer. He felt completely flat in the pocket, would drop back and just stand there not feeling the pressure at all and seemingly never stepped up into the pocket. After they noticed this, Kerrigan and Orakpo were just speed rushing to the outside and destroying the Raiders OTs for seemingly free sacks/pressures/fumbles every single passing play. The rare instances that Flynn felt the pressure and stepped up he did so directly into Barry Coefield. All 3 of them had 2 sacks and surely dozens of pressures and hurries.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

It's really not debatable regarding the expansion Jaguars vs. the current Jaguars. The expansion Jaguars were much better. By Year 2, they had beaten the Broncos in Denver in the playoffs to make the AFC Championship game. They remained a top AFC team for the rest of the 1990s, including a 14-2 regular season record in 1999.

Depressed to hear about Wilfork's injury.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Oh Cutler. I'm not too worried by the offense, it was just one of those games. But, uh, the defense. I'm more than a bit scared. Not "start Bostic" scared, but scared nonetheless. The Lions are good, but I honestly think this was more a bad performance by the Bears than an especially fantastic performance by the Lions.

Other impressions: The Jags may be the worst team I have ever seen play, the Giants have the worst O-Line in the league by a significant margin, I feel smug about saying the Seahawks offense isn't as great as people seemed to assume (it could, however, be a product of 3 O-Linemen being out,) the Jets are still really bad, the Patriots might not be terrible. The Broncos are still going to win the superbowl.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

So the first win is an "almost list" and the second win is a scare quotes "beat."

Did you think the Patriots were a bad team?

It just seems like "not awful" is too low a comment given prior knowledge of the team's offensive capability.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The Patriots, before last night, had played one game that could have gone either way, one game that they not so much won as didn't lose, and one good game. Their opponents were not especially good, and they did not play especially well against those opponents. Terrible is hyperbole, but they did not look like a very good team, and I'm still not certain that they're anything above mediocre. Perhaps DVOA will see it differently.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The Patriots were really bad. The Jets were worse. There was a winner in that game, but it seemed more by default than by any skillful play by the patriots offense.

The phrasing is used to imply that both teams were really bad, but one team was worse.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Receivers are much more likely to drop the ball when they've got good defensive backs in their face. They're also more likely to drop the ball when QBs are throwing off target balls because they're hurried.

NE Def DVOA -18% #4
NYJ Dev DVOA -29% #2

These were two of the best defenses in football.

I know defensive football can be ugly sometimes, and you may not prefer it, but defense does matter.

208 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I didn't see Jets defensive backs in the Patriots receivers' faces, I saw a bunch of rookies dropping easy catches and looking much like the Jets offense. They looked like a completely different team last night.

------
The man with no sig

219 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I'm a Bears fan, if I didn't like defensive football I'd have gone insane by now. The Patriots receivers dropped the ball with or without any input from the defensive backs.

And trying to conclude anything about the strength of a defense before any opponent adjustments have come in s kind of iffy.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Well, they get the Dolphins twice, the Texans, the Bengals, the Ravens, and the Panthers, as fellow members of the "this team could be good or not, and I'm not sure if I believe in them" club on the schedule, so a few of those games should sort out whether they belong in that category or a solid step above it. Only Denver and N.O. look like genuinely good football teams (...subject to tonight's result) on the upcoming schedule, and the Pats get both at home, which says positive things about the Pats' expected record.

I have to consider the Patriots to be in the upper echelon of the AFC yet again and a virtual lock for at least a wild-card spot in a weak conference. It's just that their play and their schedule thus far haven't really been decisive in the way, say, the Seahawks' play has been.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The Seahawks who have played the:

1-2 Panthers (18.4% VOA)
2-2 49ers (-30% VOA)
0-4 Jaguars (-90% VOA)
2-2 Texans (-7% VOA)

Yes, some of that VOA/Record is losing to the Seahawks.

I think its kind of silly to try and assertively claim who is good at this point, especially by looking at Strength of schedule this early.

I mean, just last year we were talking about how the Patriots at 3-3 looked really weak. Turns out that two of their losses were to good team we just didn't know were good at the time (@SEA, @BAL). ARI still sucked though.

NYG looked like a tough spot on most teams schedules...not any more. Same with Pittsburgh. KC looked like a doormat. Who even knows what the Packers and 49ers are.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I know most of us expected the NFC to be the stronger conference this year, but as it stands now the AFC is collectively 9 games above .500.

If the playoffs started now (I know, I know) the two Wild Card teams from the AFC would be the undefeated Chiefs and Dolphins. The NFC Wild Cards would be the 3-1 Bears and the 2-2 49ers or Cardinals.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The Seahawks offense hasn't been consistent at all this year, but playing 3 of the top 5 d lines in the league (2 on the road, at 10am -if you buy into the 10am start bugaboo-) while enduring offensive line injuries probably has a lot to do with that. Next week vs. the Colts should tell us a lot about both teams.

Of course I thought the same about this week's Seahawks v. Texans game and came away still unsure what to think about the Texans as a whole and the Seahawks' offense.

One thing I did figure out is that the Seahawks need to stick to playing man. 334 yards allowed in the first half (well over 200 of them in the second quarter) while playing mostly zone, and then only 124 yards allowed in Qs 3&4 with another 47 allowed in OT. I'm not sure why Carroll and co. thought the Texans were the team to break out their zones on, but at least (from the Seahawks' perspective) they adapted, even if it took a quarter of evisceration to prompt the reversion.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Going back to the Bears part of this post: Oh, Cutler, indeed. I honestly believe that with incremental maturation and brain development (and better qb coaching) that Cutler will have fewer of these games, but the difference now is the bears defense is not good enough to overcome it, so this bears team will lose every one of those games.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

True, but the offense (both talent and coaching) is better, so Cutler is more likely to adjust in-game and potentially overcome the bad plays (as he kinda sorta did against the Lions). You only have to go back to the Vikings game for an example of this - some killer turnovers by Cutler (and Forte), but the offense didn't completely collapse.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I take heart in the fact that at least one of the interceptions was due to a poor throw not a poor decision. I can live with a pass just sailing on him once every 30 attempts, but poor decision making will always bite you against quality opponents.

That said, he looked confused all game. Not trusting what he saw. Trying to fit passes into really tight windows, locking onto a single target, and just standing there dumbfounded. It was not a good game.

253 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

My thought after Sunday's game is that the Bears defense might not just be not good enough to overcome a bad offense, but not good enough period. Cutler's performance doesn't worry me because I know there'll be a couple of games like that each season, but so far after four games, the defense hasn't looked good once.

217 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

So generous of you to grant that Seattle missing 3 offensive lineman, including a reigning All-Pro and Pro Bowler, might have some impact on offensive efficiency when facing the best defensive player in the NFL. Sucks to only have scored the 6th most points in the NFL and have the second biggest point differential.

220 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

It was a joke, jeez. I'm wary about how good the Seahawks offense really is, given that they've now played 2 games where they were bad (against likely good defensive teams, mind,) 1 where they were serviceable, if not fantastic for long stretches (against San Fran) and then a game against Jacksonville, which I refuse to consider a game until the Jaguars can score an offensive touchdown in a close game.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

"@AMSportsLive1: Can we start mentioning Trindon Holliday in the same breath as Dante Hall, Devin Hester, and Eric Metcalf?"

And Tamarick Vanover. Don't forget Tamarick Vanover.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Might as well of been 31. Because when your offense is doomed to never top 10, the opponent's final score doesn't matter much. A shame, too, given Tampa's D is very good.

Question now is whether Schiano can utterly ruin Glennon and have him out of the league for good by the end of the year. I didn't think much of that pick originally, but Schiano isn't going to be the guy to help this kid develop. If he somehow makes it, it'll be in spite of anything Schiano does.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Schiano is doing to the Buccaneers offense what Stalin did to the Red Army with his purges in the 1930s. It seems to him that proving he's in charge is worth gutting his team's season. He's once coach I will definitely not feel sorry for when he's inevitably fired.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Yeah, that'd be great, and . . . oh, sorry, I read "set on fire" instead of "fired". My version is better.

Glennon is utterly hosed; Josh Freeman is clearly a guy with huge piles of talent who needed good coaching to develop further. Suffice to say, that coaching was not there, and Freeman's mechanics got sloppy (at best) and his decision-making went into the toilet. Glennon has far less talent than Freeman and has an even greater need for good coaching. He's not going to get it in Tampa. It's not like Glennon was exactly a shining star who was screaming "FUTURE NFL STAR" anyways, but the kid has zero chance.

I want my team to start Dan Orlovsky.

I'm going to go take a shower now.

127 Orlovsky

Still amazed that Painter is collecting an NFL paycheck. The main difference is that way back when, Indy put him in when they were up by 30 in the 4th. Now the Giants put him when they are down 30 in the 4th. (Cue my entire Giants-loving family pelting me with stones)

198 Re: Orlovsky

In reply to by Bobman

The Manning brothers both love the same very-marginal backups...Orlovsky, and Battleship Lorenzen.

199 Re: Orlovsky

In reply to by Bobman

Very hard to believe that their other very-marginal backup in Painter had more in-a-season college passing yards than Brees.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I have to believe that Bruce Arians is looking at what Schiano is doing with Freeman and is just licking his chops. Freeman's probably not Ben, and he's no Manning, but if he can be had as a free agent while Fitz still has some gas in the tank...

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The ideal situation for Freeman at this point is IMO a two- or three-year contract as a backup to somebody with an older QB where some solid coaching is available. Arizona, possibly, but I've been wondering whether Josh Freeman is Peyton's backup in Denver next year. Gets a chance to learn from one of the best, plus, if there are concerns with his attitude, it's hard to find a better guy to emulate. He spends a couple years getting things right, then has the opportunity to take over for a team with some talent.

The worst situation would be going somewhere like Oakland or Jacksonville; the last thing he should do is decide he wants to be a starter regardless, and wind up on a bad team where he's expected to carry the load. He needs to rehab both his image and his mechanics, and he's not going to do that while starting for a bad team.

I really hope it turns out for the guy; I openly proclaimed for the last four years that I had a Freemancrush. It sickens me to see that somebody who was getting that good wound up both falling apart and getting crapped on by this @#$@!! coach, and I want him to succeed. I live in MN, and my son wore his Freeman jersey for both his 4th and 5th grade school pictures, and it sucks having to explain to him why this giraffe-necked putz is now starting for the Bucs instead of Freeman.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

" but I've been wondering whether Josh Freeman is Peyton's backup in Denver next year."

I know the Colts didn't really draft any of them high, but all of Peyton's backups have been awful. I don't think sitting behind him is actually a good thing.

He seems like one of those guys who can do things that almost nobody else can, and doesn't understand that not everyone is like him. IE, the sort of transcendental talent that makes for terrible instructors.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I think the problem is more the fact that Manning's backups get almost zero reps in practice, and very few in training camp. Manning insists on taking every single rep possible, and how easy is it to play NFL caliber ball with hardly any practice reps? UNless they're the kind of people who can learn just from watching film, then they're hooped from the get go.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Right, but this is true on almost every team. Matt Cassel got almost no reps behind Brady, but he atleast managed to look like an NFL player for a while. Painter and Sorgi, on the other hand....