Audibles at the Line: Week 6
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.
(EXTRA ED. NOTE: Can we please, please, please use this week's Audibles thread to discuss football games and not for a long series of complaints about the new format of Audibles that then turn into an even longer series of complaints about everything you don't like about Football Outsiders, like "why aren't you working 36 hours a day?" and "why can't you hire five or six programmers to constantly work on improving the site?" and "why does it now cost ten times as much to read Football Outsiders when you print only one-third as much content as you used to?" Thanks. -- Aaron Schatz)
Green Bay Packers 19 at Baltimore Ravens 17
Scott Kacsmar: A.J. Hawk is pretty good at pass rushing as long as he's left untouched.
Vince Verhei: Ravens just picked up a first down on a blocked punt. May have been their best play of the day.
Ben Muth: They aren't saying Kuhn, they're saying Boo. Really dumb play touching a blocked punt past the LOS.
@RobertGrebel: After Ravens fail to score three times with 1st and goal at the 5, that *may* have been the exception to the rule on going for it. Of course, I could be blinded by the crappy play call on that 4th and goal.
@timmys24: Can we all agree the 3 TE formation at the goal line is stupid? It's making geniuses of morons who think FG on 4th & 1 is right call.
@pchicola: Is it me, or the 4th down Goal-line stops have become more common this year?
Aaron Schatz: Fourth and goal (1-2 to go): Last year 55%, this year Wk 1-5 (not incl DPI) 40%. But it is still early, small sample.
@RobertGrebel: Randall Cobb got hit in the knee on a catch over the middle and is in agony.
Ben Muth: That Randall Cobb injury is why guys would prefer to be hit high going over the middle.
Vince Verhei: Packers up 6-0, start second half in BAL territory after a punt return. Feels like they can win with one more field goal. Rodgers throws INT instead.
Aaron Schatz: Question for BAL fans: Does it look like something is up with Ray Rice, or is his lack of yardage all about the OL?
@RobertGrebel: Nothing like a play-action bootleg bomb for Aaron Rodgers. Safeties totally bit, and no one within five yards of Jordy Nelson. Webb was playing trail technique, expecting help over the top. Pollard and Elam bit on the play-action. Great execution by Rodgers.
Vince Verhei: As noted in FOA 2013, Jordy Nelson is not deceptively quick, he will torch your ass. Burns BAL for big TD, GB up 16-3, game over.
Vince Verhei: Baltimore's offense was a clown show for about 3.5 quarters today. They picked up a first down on a blocked punt, and that was one of their better offensive plays. They couldn't run for anything (Ray Rice was hit in the backfield over and over again), and only had luck passing when Joe Flacco could stand in the pocket for a long time and wait for receivers to find the soft spot deep in Green Bay's zone. They hit a small number of big plays late to keep it close and pad their stats, but this was not the kind of day that should inspire confidence in their fans.
Green Bay played most of the game without Randall Cobb and James Jones, which limited what they could do somewhat. But they now have a reliable running game, which set up the biggest play of the contest. Rodgers used a sweet play-fake to draw up the safeties, and Jordy Nelson blew right by Lardarius Webb for an easy touchdown.
Mike Kurtz: Much was made by the announcers about Green Bay's red zone woes, but the Packers are roughly where you expect them to be in the red zone: good at passing offense and averageish at rushing offense. The real issue with the offense in the red zone today was that the Packers were down to two functioning wide receivers fairly early in the game. The result was Jarrett Boykin, who did a poor imitation of his canine namesake by dropping everything, including a few very important third down passes.
The most interesting thing to me about this game was the excellent effort in man coverage we saw from Davon House. Baltimore targeted him early and often, and he was stellar in coverage. After Flacco got the message, it often seemed that his second read was removed, and with an injured Ray Rice that makes the Baltimore offense a really bad one-trick pony.
Cincinnati Bengals 27 at Buffalo Bills 24 OT
Andrew Potter: That A.J. Green touchdown catch was fantastic. Covered but he extended high, both feet down as he fell out of bounds. Spectacular.
@blotzphoto: C.J. Spiller is really exploiting the Bengals on the edges. Ugly missed tackles by the Bengals not helping.
Mike Ridley: Things I never thought I'd hear during an NFL telecast: "You've got to be worried about Thaddeus Lewis …"
Mike Ridley: Jackson stopped on three straight goal-to-go situations after replacing Choice, who was running well.
@GDFar: 4th and goal from the 1 and the bills give their practice squad QB a PA rollout with a run/pass option. Needless to say, they didn't get it.
@blotzphoto: Shovel passes FTW! Helps to have the dynamic Giovani Bernard on the receiving end.
Peter Koski: Just saw the highlight of Bernard's TD reception. Wow. Impressive display of athleticism and vision, though that play will not be on Kiko Alonso's DROY campaign film.
Rivers McCown: Giovani Bernard looked so good on his touchdown catch that I may even remember there's only one n in his first name some day.
Mike Ridley: What would the Texans give for Thad Lewis right now?
Aaron Schatz: I'm going to go out on a limb here: Despite a good game today, Thad Lewis will not be a starting NFL QB in 2014. Calm down, folks.
@MilkmanDanimal: Dear Thad Lewis; don't get too excited. Signed, Matt Flynn.
@blotzphoto: No team makes scrub QBs look better than the Bengals
Matt Waldman: I've been willing to go along with the idea that Andy Dalton could develop into a solid NFL starter but as Marvin Jones has shown potential to develop into a complement to A.J. Green, the Bengals passing game is limited by Dalton's down field accuracy. Give the Bengals a quarterback with an aggressive mentality like Philip Rivers and I think the offense would be a solid step ahead of where they are today. Dalton simply waits too long as a deep ball thrower. Green can win some of these targets with his skill in tight coverage, but few receivers have that skill.
I'm not surprised by Thaddeus Lewis' play. He was solid with the Browns in a start last year and Fritz Shurmur thought Lewis flashed long-term potential in Rams' training camp. Lewis is the type of smart, solid passer with enough mobility to hang around the league awhile. Considering how many teams passed around Brian Hoyer, a player who I think the Patriots did a poor job of cutting loose for a big-armed backup in Mallett lacking Hoyer's savvy for the game, I'm rarely shocked that there are surprisingly decent quarterback performances from journeymen.
Rob Weintraub: There is no way this game ever should have gone into overtime. Cincy was up 24-10 late third quarter, and drove deep into Buffalo territory, thanks in part to a fourth-and-15 conversion (!) in the maroon zone. They settled for three, but a very dubious hold turned a made 24-yard field goal into a missed 34-yarder. The Bengals had numerous chances after that to salt it away, but a couple of odd calls from Mike Zimmer (last week's MVAC -- most valuable asst coach) kept the Bills in it. On fourth-and-8 the Bengals max blitzed Thad (deus) Lewis, leaving Scott Chandler to merely run past Carlos Dunlap, of all defenders, with the middle of the field empty for the easiest touchdown in memory. Zim often blitzes on third-and-long, but against more experienced quarterbacks. In this case, he dialed up precisely the lone defense Lewis could have beaten for a big play.
The Bengals then did the usual poor job in the four-minute offense (apparently studied by the Saints). They had fourth-and-1 on their own 46 and punted, assuming Lewis couldn't drive the field. He did, thanks mainly to another blitz call on the bomb touchdown that tied it. Terence Newman either missed the call or was hampered by an injured hip from earlier in the game, because he let Marquise Goodwin run right by him for an easy six.
So, you know, poor. But Zimmer recouped in OT, playing a combo zone that forced a three-and-out with the Bills backed up. A rare good punt return by Brandon Tate set up the winning kick.
Overall, Lewis was decent, hurting the Bengals early with his feet and a nice deep passing touch. But once the Bengals got ahead, and shut down the Bills backs, they were in control -- Lewis was tentative and wild on short and intermediate throws. He might have more success against a team with a lesser pass rush.
Good news for Cincy was the offensive balance. Lots of guys involved, and Andrew Whitworth looked healthy and nimble for the first time this year. Plus tremendous blocking by the wideouts, which was good because the tights ends had an off game blocking.
Detroit Lions 31 at Cleveland Browns 17
Aaron Schatz: Early on, looks like DET is only using Megatron in spread sets, not in 21 or 12 personnel.
@zlionsfan: If NFL ever prohibits going for it on fourth down, Schwartz will finally be ahead of the curve.
Aaron Schatz: Browns just used a 6th OL at FB -- and had to give him help blocking Israel Idonije.
Aaron Schatz: Browns 107 yards on 15 attempts so far against DET defense that was 7th in def ALY going into today. OL opening huge holes.
@MilkmanDanimal: Dachshund races at halftime of Browns-Lions; Detroit expected to sign winner in an attempt to shore up secondary.
Aaron Schatz: Calvin Johnson on and off the field, one catch on five targets in first half... The man is just not right.
Aaron Schatz: Even when Suh makes a clean, legal tackle, whole press box gasps as if we're waiting for a flag.
Aaron Schatz: Browns OL has played great all game, finally gives up a sack on 3rd-long to end Q3. That one is mostly on Mitchell Schwartz.
Aaron Schatz: @ThomasGower I'm afraid Buster Skrine being good has only been true for about 45 minutes. He's been not good most of the year.
Tom Gower: @FO_ASchatz After as much of a disaster as he was, simply being not very good was a big upgrade, I thought.
Aaron Schatz: Tale of two halves for Cleveland, which went into halftime up 17-7, then had 18 net yards on their first four drives of the second half. I thought the offensive line did a good job of opening up holes in the running game, and protecting Brandon Weeden. In the first half, Weeden was getting the ball out quickly, and things looked good -- for the most part. There were still plays where you could see the way he holds the ball too long. There was one play that stood out to me... Jordan Cameron was open from the moment the ball was snapped as he crossed from the right slot all the way over to the left side of the field. I just sat here saying "Jordan Cameron, Jordan Cameron, Jordan Cameron," I knew that's where the ball was going, and yet Weeden just held and held and by the time he threw it, the Lions nearly ended up with a pick. (It was simultaneous catch.)
In the second half, Weeden was suddenly back to holding onto the ball too long all the time, and the offense fell apart. It was hard for me to tell if this was an issue of Detroit just having improved coverage. The run holes seemed to close up too. And finally, when Cleveland could have maybe been driving, Weeden threw one of the dumbest passes ever. The press box people generally thought it was the worst pass ever, but I'll still go with the infamous Jake Plummer left-handed interception because at least Weeden was trying to get it out of bounds. (I can't seem to find that play on Youtube -- anyone know where a video of that is?)
Calvin Johnson was clearly hobbled and was used as a decoy for a large part of the game. (Not always, but often.) He also came on and off the field much more often than I think anyone would expect. I was surprised at just how much of a role Kris Durham plays for this offense. I also want someone to explain to me why Tampa Bay cut Kevin Ogletree, who is a perfectly serviceable depth receiver. Is Tiquan Underwood really better than him?
On a different note, for those who didn't see my tweets about this before the game ... Coming to Cleveland was a really great experience. You've got the stadium right downtown, and while the Lions aren't a rival of the Browns, you had the Michigan-Ohio rivalry so this city was filled with fans in Lions and Tigers gear. All the fans were mixing together last night, then the walk down the stadium today was great. Such a different (and better) experience than driving to Foxboro, where the stadium is out next to a mall and a bunch of cheap motels, or Philadelphia, where all the sports stadiums are out on the edge of the city. I said on Twitter that every analyst should have to go to at least one game a year just to feel the atmosphere, to remind us why we do this for a living (and of the fans whose love of football allows us to do this for a living). I'll amend that to say that every analyst should have to walk from their hotel to a game at a downtown stadium. Now I'm hoping to hit at least one each year... Chicago is like this, I'll bet Indianapolis is like this. Is Seattle's stadium in downtown? It was just a great fun morning.
Vince Verhei: Century Link Field is a half-mile from Pioneer Square, the main club/bar neighborhood in downtown Seattle. And most of that half-mile is made up of other bars and restaurants.
St. Louis Rams 38 at Houston Texans 13
Rivers McCown: Shiloh Keo returning punts is a cry for help.
Rivers McCown: Zac Stacy doing pretty well against a stout run defense. Really like his patience and vision.
Tom Gower: I hate watching the Texans this year. Made it 1Q into that game, now onto OAK-KC.
Rivers McCown: Texans: less compelling than the Raiders.
Rivers McCown: Rams DB (20) completely bought Schaub keeping the ball on that last long Foster run.
@scott_tanner1: despite Arian Foster averaging like 10 yards a carry, Gary Kubiak continually finding ways to call other plays instead
Vince Verhei: Rams giving up big runs because they think Schaub is keeping the ball and are chasing him.
Scott Kacsmar: Somehow Sam Bradford is roughly on pace for 35 TD, 9 INT this season.
Aaron Schatz: HOU is gaining over 10 yards per play and somehow losing 17-6. It's been a nightmare season.
@GDFar: Texans got so close to a SB team. Maybe just Schaub and Cushing injuries from a SB appearance. Looks like it's about to blow up.
Scott Kacsmar: @FO_RiversMcCown Remember 2007 Titans/Texans with the crazy Sage Rosenfels 4Q? Yeah, that's probably not going to happen today.
@MilkmanDanimal: You know, you really want your backup QB to be able to fill in for your starting QB, but, uh, not quite that way, T.J. Yates.
@BrandontheFick: At what point does the Texans offense start practicing their tackling on INT returns?
@pchicola: Someone should check on @FO_RiversMcCown and give him a hug.
Rivers McCown: Things Houston won: time of possession, rushing yardage. Things Houston lost: ability to call themselves an adequate NFL team.
Tom Gower: I don't even know what to say at this point aside from, sorry, Rivers. The Texans used to be good at playing games the way they needed to to win. Now they make way too many mistakes.
Rivers McCown: I came down with food poisoning on Friday night, and somehow that wasn't the worst part of the weekend.
What to focus on that didn't really get discussed ... I think Ed Reed is the worst Texans free-agent signing in their history. He was hurt from the beginning, he actually cost more than Glover Quin, and has been a completely disinterested tackler. I've seen security guards tackle streakers with more intensity than he's shown. The Texans defense has created three turnovers. So has Quin, for the Lions. Total misfire.
This was the worst game I've seen J.J. Watt play since his rookie season.
Texans fans have gone from over-anxious rivalry creators to torching Matt Schaub jerseys, finding out where Matt Schaub lives, and cheering when he gets hurt.
I think this game was probably the official end of the Kubiak Era. I can't see Houston winning more than six games at this pace, and that's even considering they have two games with Jacksonville on the schedule. They are the 2012 Chiefs.
Oakland Raiders 7 at Kansas City Chiefs 24
@ptmovieguy: Nice discipline by Justin Houston, containing edge on OAK read-option. Next play, OAK forgets to block, jailbreak, sack.
Peter Koski: Chiefs have ZERO answers for OAK's blitzes. Another 3rd down sack for OAK.
@ptmovieguy: Is KC's o-line this porous? At least 2 blown blocks by guards. Not like OAK doing anything crazy, a couple stunts.
Tom Gower: Everybody watching game is saying it, but it's true-Raiders D is getting good pressure on Alex Smith & disrupting entire KC pass O
Tom Gower: Great quick slant throw for Pryor on the TD to Moore, plus the YAC. Where did the ability to throw come from after past 5 years?
@GDFar: Wow. Free JHouston stood still in front of Pryor. Pryor's legs clearly in the mind of the D. Smartly threw it away.
Vince Verhei: Terrelle Pryor with the back-foot wounded duck for INT. Thought we'd see more of that this year, honestly.
@ptmovieguy: Haven't seen DVOA splits, but eye test says OAK/Pryor play well in 1st half, not so much 2nd half.
Vince Verhei: Oakland's second-half offense is pretty much a single-wing. Nothing but misdirection built around QB runs.
Mike Ridley: #Chiefs just tied their sack total from last year. Absolutely abusing the Oakland o-line.
Andrew Potter: Oakland in second-and-37. That is one impressive series of screwups on first down. Pryor is sacked to make third-and-Missouri.
Vince Verhei: Raiders just had third-and-48. Is that a record? It fell incomplete. Ensuing punt did not go 48 yards.
@estebistec: 10 sacks of the Raiders by the Chiefs today. That is all.
Tom Gower: In the first half, Terrelle Pryor moved around well and Oakland's pressure got to Alex Smith, who struggled to do anything much when he couldn't escape the pocket and take off. I thought Oakland was the better team in a 7-7 game. In the second half, though, the Chiefs adjusted to what the Raiders were doing offensively, and Oakland struggled to move the ball with any consistent success. Pass protection behind that offensive line (Tony Pashos and Khalif Barnes was a mediocre enough tackle pairing for the 2008 Jaguars, and it's not 2008) was an issue. Pryor chucked one up off his back foot on third-and-long deep in his own territory for an easy pick to set up the score that made it 14-7, and it felt over at that point. Another Pryor pick set up a field goal for 17-7 and then a garbage time pick-6 made it 24-7. The second half was pretty much what I expected this game to look like.
Vince Verhei: Echoing mostly what Tom said. In the second half, both teams figured out that Oakland's only reliable weapons were Pryor's feet. So the Raiders went old school, using tons of fakes and counters off of QB run plays. It worked a few times, but eventually resulted in lots of long-yardage scenarios (including, seriously, a third-and-48), and Terrelle Pryor in obvious passing situations is bad news.
Carolina Panthers 35 at Minnesota Vikings 10
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@BryKno: Rivera going for it on fourth-and-1! Aaaand they burn a time out.
Tom Gower: Apparently Ron Rivera is allowed to be aggressive if every other coach is being conservative
Aaron Schatz: Adrian Peterson 5 carry 12 yds start not related to his personal issues. CAR 3rd in def ALY going into this week.
@Shake1n1bake: Has there been an official ruling on whether a Mike Tolbert score qualifies as a Fat Guy Touchdown?
Mike Ridley: Ted Ginn with an excellent downfield block to help LaFell score. #decleater
Scott Kacsmar: The Panthers basically have to have a massive fourth-quarter lead to win ballgames. 38-0 vs. NYG, 28-3 today.
@CyrisJonfs: Twice this season Rivera has gone for 4th down early. Both games became blowout wins.
Aaron Schatz: Panthers now have 3.8 Pythagorean wins, 2 actual wins.
Philadelphia Eagles 31 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
Aaron Schatz: @MilkmanDanimal TB is 3rd in defensive DVOA. I don't expect Foles to rip them up all day. The prob on that team is offense, not D.
@MilkmanDanimal: This week is reinforcing what I saw 2 weeks ago; Mike Glennon can be good when he isn't pressured. When he is pressured, not so much
Ben Jones: The eagles D is getting absolutely gashed on 3rd down. I wonder what their DVOA on 3rd down is?
Ben Jones: Regardless of how this game ends, this has been a marvelous job of running out the clock by philly. It's best to avoid the victory formation against tb.
@MilkmanDanimal: Up 8, 3 minutes left, 4th and 2 inches, Eagles line up to go for it in obvious attempt to get Tampa to jump offsides, and they do. Dear Greg Schiano; whatever you are doing to make your team be "disciplined", IT ISN'T WORKING.
@MilkmanDanimal: For all the good talk about Mike Glennon in the next few days, I don't think he's completed a pass that went 10+ yards past the LOS.
Pittsburgh Steelers 19 at New York Jets 6
Scott Kacsmar: Umm, Bill Cowher's calling the Steelers game with Simms and Nantz? Is this supposed to be therapeutic?
Aaron Schatz: @FO_ScottKacsmar CBS is doing this a lot today -- sent their studio people to be color guys on different games.
Cian Fahey: Steelers started Isaac Redman Week 1 and Jonathan Dwyer was cut. Now Redman healthy inactive and Dwyer is active. Evaluation is a worry. Furthermore, Mike Adams went from long-term option at LT to healthy inactive behind Guy Whimper and Levi Brown in weeks. And this was after they had Marcus Gilbert at left tackle and switched Adams to that spot in the middle of training camp
@laufy84: Big Ben pass just bounced off not one, but two helmets! Eat your heart out Sanchez/Tebow
@JP_Wright: @FO_ScottKacsmar Was Bill Cowher always this turned on by field goals as a coach? Half expect a Shakespearean sonnet about them.
Cian Fahey: Todd Haley only ever gets abuse, but he's called an outstanding game for the Steelers today. Creating yards through scheme
@TerrapinPrime: Cromartie is a clown. Brown beat him and dropped the td and then Cromartie showboats?
Cian Fahey: The Steelers offense looks more like it did under Bruce Arians today. Lots of third/second and long conversions. No run game
Cian Fahey: Troy Polamalu can't cover, but he still has speed running straight at the quarterback. Not sure problems are really a lack of speed
Cian Fahey: While there was play-action on the Sanders 55 yard TD reception, Cromartie never bought on it. Sanders beat him with his route
Scott Kacsmar: STEELERS HAVE A TAKEAWAY. I forgot what they looked like.
Cian Fahey: Haley will get crucified for that reverse pass call in the redzone, but it's one blemish on a perfect day
Scott Kacsmar: The Steelers finally got some takeaways (two), partly through pressure and confusion of a rookie quarterback, and protected the ball on offense. Ben Roethlisberger was very sharp with the short-passing game, which helped ease up the pressure on him on a day the Steelers were down to six offensive linemen. That did not bode well for the running game against a good run defense, but it did not matter this time.
The Jets had opportunities, but Geno Smith missed Stephen Hill on a deep ball when he was wide open. Jarvis Jones had a big pressure late in the game that led to Smith's second interception. Ryan Clark dropped a pick earlier in the game. The defense played well for Pittsburgh outside of a mental lapse before halftime that led to an open receiver and three points.
Not the most memorable game, but an efficient performance and win by the Steelers. There was also only one "Fire Todd Haley" moment, when he tried to go to the trick WR pass for the second time on the day. The only other thing I would mention is CBS had Bill Cowher do commentary with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, and I did not think he had a good day. He preached on pretty much every conservative call in the book (kick field goal on early fourth-and-1, run the ball on third down with chance to clinch things, kick FG to go up 13 rather than 17 in the fourth quarter, etc.). When Simms is the voice of reason on coaching decisions, that's a scary thought.
Cian Fahey: In many ways, the Steelers' first win of the season was the worst win imaginable. It's a victory that erases that zero on the left side of their record, but it wasn't a performance that suggests they can do anything more than hurt their draft spot for the remainder of the season. The offensive line still can't create running lanes and the offense was handicapped because of that inability. Todd Haley called a perfect game except for that reverse pass in the red zone, but even at that the unit still struggled to put up points because of their offensive line. This wasn't a dominant display from a team that is set to turn things around. It was a display good enough to get the best of an inconsistent team with a rookie quarterback.
That rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, made many good plays, but he couldn't make the pivotal ones to win the game. He led three defenders to the football on Ryan Clark's interception and missed a certain touchdown when Stephen Hill got behind the Steelers' coverage. The same precision that had been on show in Atlanta the previous week was lacking this week. For the Jets and Geno, this was just a part of the development process, for the Steelers, it was technically a step in the right direction. However, that is only if the right direction is mediocrity.
Jacksonville Jaguars 19 at Denver Broncos 35
Andrew Potter: LOVE the Jacksonville fake punt call. Probably going to lose anyway, DEN probably going to score anyway. Need to take those risks.
Andrew Potter: Cecil Shorts now questionable with a shoulder sprain for JAC. They might need a few more fake punts to have a chance. Nothing to lose.
Scott Kacsmar: The best defender at slowing Denver's offense this season: Montee Ball.
Scott Kacsmar: Another one of Denver's fake screens working for an easy TD down the middle.
@RyanCrinnigan: Knew that 2nd TD was coming the sec DEN went 3x1. JAX in Cover 2 and made absolutely no effort to disguise it. Hello Wes. Come on.
Andrew Potter: In SEA, worst possible outcome of a botched FG for SEA. In DEN, best possible outcome for JAC as next play is a Manning pick-six.
Scott Kacsmar: Dan Fouts seriously wishes he would have bet on Jaguars leading at halftime. Said it when the Jags trailed 14-12 and could only tie.
@MilkmanDanimal: Broncos fans actually booing at halftime because they're only leading 14-12. Entitled much, guys?
Andrew Potter: You are winless, have the devastating Broncos offense on third down in the red zone, and get flagged for TAUNTING? Cut on the spot.
@Broncfan07: Orlando Franklin's leg rolled up on the Moreno TD, now out with knee injury.
Aaron Schatz: We may be able to take Denver and Jacksonville off the best/worst DVOA ever lists after this week.
@ander1dw: Jacksonville trying to prove that parity is still alive and well in the NFL. Also, dumb luck.
Scott Kacsmar: If Denver gets a TD, i'd go for 2. Go up 17. Why not?
@bstage: Denver O hasn't looked right since Manning went to locker room. 2 fumbled snaps and some missed throws including pick6
Andrew Potter: Not seen full game, but appears Denver struggling to get pressure. Against tackle tandem of Bradfield and Pasztor, that's a problem. Though lack of pressure hasn't stopped Denver's D-line from tipping about a million Henne passes. Game ending INT off another tip.
Tennessee Titans 13 at Seattle Seahawks 20
Tom Gower: Fitz with his legs and Kendall Wright positives for the #Titans early, as is a D that's playing well.
Vince Verhei: I'm happy Russell Wilson can run. But this is three games in a row now where that's been Seattle's best play.
@SeattleDoorMat: Derrick Coleman has three major blocks in the run game already, including sealing out a blitzer on the Lynch TD. Don't miss MikeRob.
Vince Verhei: Hauschka in locker room with apparent concussion. Seattle driving for score before halftime, but no kicker.
Vince Verhei: I could not summarize the amateur hour end of the half in Seattle in 140,000 characters.
@ExcessiveFarce: Well that's about as bad an outcome as one could have on your first FG attempt
Vince Verhei: Kicker is hurt. Punter becomes emergency kicker. But that means you also have an emergency holder. Chaos ensues. SEA FG try turns into opponent TD for second week in a row.
Tom Gower: #Titans needed at least one big break to get the win today. That counts, legit 10-point swing.
@robbbbbb: @FO_VVerhei Research opportunity: What happens when a team goes for it on all 4th downs instead of taking FG 'cuz the kicker's hurt.
Vince Verhei: I don't think Chris Johnson is a very good running back these days. But man, when he breaks tackles, I start to panic.
Vince Verhei: Seahawks have four fumbles early in the fourth quarter. It's a sunny, dry day in Seattle.
@AndrewLShepherd: Seahawks just caught a huge break. What looked like a fumble rec TD bounces off of defender right to Russell Wilson. Arguably two different 10-point swings in this game, one on each side.
@robbbbbb: Apparently, Fitzpatrick has not learned that throwing deep to Richard Sherman's side is a bad idea.
Vince Verhei: I'm pretty sure that Sherman's INT was the first pass thrown in his direction all day. #ShutdownCorner
@robbbbbb: That whole drive, from the INT to the Rice catch to the Lynch TD, was what I expected from the Seahawks today.
Tom Gower: Nutty catch by Sidney Rice on the sidelines, Lynch finishes off the drive, and moribund TEN O needs 10+ in 7:33. Na ga happen.
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Tom Gower: Surprising me not very much at all, the Titans scored six offensive points. They couldn't run the ball, of course, and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two picks, one a bad overthrow and the other a deep ball where Richard Sherman rather than his target won the jump ball. No surprise there.
Offensively, Seattle looked how I thought they'd look, except for the surprising ball security issues. Marshawn Lynch ran very hard and effectively at times, Wilson got out of the pocket, but overall they didn't do too much. If not for Steve Hauschka's injury, which resulted in the botched hold and fumble giving the Titans the long fumble return touchdown at the end of the first half, this is the sort of 23-6 game I was expecting.
Vince Verhei: Another ugly day for Seattle, their third in a row, though they somehow went 2-1 over that stretch. For the second week in a row, a field-goal try turned into a touchdown for the other team. There were fumbles, and dumb penalties, and bad clock management, and some oddly pass-wacky play-calling.
The defense got caught with ten guys on the field again, so there are still some management concerns here. And they had little interior pass rush, which gave Ryan Fitzpatrick a chance to step up and make plays with his legs. Thankfully, in almost every other way, they dominated. Tennessee held the ball for a while in the first half with small-ball tactics and converting third downs, but eventually got exposed in long-yardage situations. Richard Sherman was outstanding -- I believe he was thrown at twice, one 4-yard catch and one interception.
Due to the injuries on the offensive line, Seattle's most reliable play, by far, is the Russell Wilson scramble. That's fine for moving the ball in the middle of the field, but it's resulting in far too many stalled red-zone drives these days. There's just not enough real estate between the line of scrimmage and the coverage guys to due any significant damage.
New Orleans Saints 27 at New England Patriots 30
@pchicola: That Brady sack inside the red-zone was more a testament to his WR inability to beat man-coverage, than a coverage sack by NO.
@pchicola: For NE, trickle down effect of losing Wilfork, is having to play Big Nickel w/ Spikes in sub. Major liability in coverage vs TE & RB
@pchicola: The year Belichick finally puts up a competitive defense, it falls apart piece by piece (Wilfork, Kelly, Talib, Mayo)
Aaron Schatz: Kenny Stills TD catch to go ahead of Pats 24-23 is extra remarkable because two defenders are right there. Dennard's hand in his face
@WhispersMoCo: @FO_ASchatz Gregory wasn't "right there." He was late and out of position.
Aaron Schatz: @WhispersMoCo No, on further view, you are right. Gregory was a step late. Dennard was right in his face though.
Matt Waldman: Good technique by Stills to keep hands on shoulder of Dennard. Keeps hands free from entanglement & gauge DB
Cian Fahey: Well, that's a fitting final drive for the Patriots offense, at least if that proves to be the final drive
Aaron Schatz: And Aaron Dobson with the straight-out drop on fourth-and-6. Not a PD.
Matt Waldman: Dobson has had hand position issues since college. Perfect example on this route. On this play, would have liked to see Dobson attack the ball rather than wait on it. Hand position was set to wait. If Dobson extends arms for ball, can make catch with palms up rather than down, and have more control of pass.
Cian Fahey: Going for it on fourth down was the only decision there for the Patriots. Still a one score game with either TD or field goal
Aaron Schatz: Pats gets ball back with 1:13 left, no timeouts. Should be time for at least two more dropped passes here.
@GDFar: Loss falls squarely on Sean Payton's shoulders. Talent bailed him out multiple times, continued to make clock errors. If you think Rob Ryan is the reason the Saints lost, you have an already established narrative with no interest in doing analysis.
Tom Gower: I only watched this game after the Titans-Seahawks game was over, but Bill Belichick's call to go-for-it on fourth-and-6 from the 24 was unsurprising and the move I would have made. Aside from that, well, I've watched enough of Brady and the Patriots that the final comeback was not surprising. I wish I had something more insightful to say than that, but I don't, really.
Scott Kacsmar: It's amazing how offenses, including the best in the game, do not even try to do a good job in the four-minute offense to put away games so that these miracle touchdown drives never even have a chance to happen. Everyone knows about the prevent defense, but the prevent offense that practically every coach falls into where you run the ball twice and maybe throw on third down is just as much of a problem. The Saints handled those final minutes as poorly as I've ever seen.
Arizona Cardinals 20 at San Francisco 49ers 32
Danny Tuccitto: Maybe THIS is the week Eric Reid isn't just an honorable mention for our Madden Ultimate team?
@matthew_carley: Glenn Dorsey goes down with wash at looks like a hamstring. Without their top two nose tackles, we could see Quinton Dial next week.
@Coboney: Nominating Andy Lee for Robo Punter. 58 Yard punt there to stick Peterson at the 10 - and penalty moves it inside the 5
@Coboney: Fitzgerald makes a good play to stop a pickoff by Tarell Brown - for another turn over that would have given niners ball inside 10 ... But apparently ... he was feeling that wasn't enough as he gave it to Carlos Rogers next play. Gets to the 12 - so outside the 10!
@matthew_carley: Frank Gore just missed a blitz pickup, first of the year.
@Coboney: In a weird play Arians runs a give to Patrick Peterson to go for 2. Peterson looks to throw as he's blocked nad persued by 9ers. Int
Ben Muth: Glad to see the Cards D act tough w/a personal foul in the end zone after the 49ers rammed it right down their throats all drive.
Tom Gower: That 49ers drive to make it 29-20, 18 plays, 89 yards, 9:21 was what teams built like that need to be able to do; to take a game and throttle them like that. On a side note, kudos to Bruce Arians for going for two at 22-20 in the middle of the third quarter. Knowing you'll probably need two at some point, it makes sense to do it earlier rather than later so you can plan accordingly, as we've probably discussed an nauseum by this point. Aside from that, what I saw of this game was 49ers edges on the lines bearing out, plus a couple big touchdown passes to Vernon Davis.
Washington Redskins 16 at Dallas Cowboys 31
Scott Kacsmar: I picked Dallas, but there's really no result from this game that would surprise me. That's the NFC East in a nutshell.
@GDFar: Is it my selection bias, or does the Washington offense, even when effective, seem incredibly safe? Almost Kubiak-esque.
Tom Gower: Heck of a play by Sean Lee on that QB draw. He was blocked & still made the tackle.
@GDFar: If I was playing madden, I would've slammed my controller over that Sean Lee play and cursed how unrealistic it is.
Aaron Schatz: Al michaels: "Dez Bryant is one of the nfl's best young receivers... And DeAngelo Hall has been around a while." And is not the best.
Aaron Schatz: If you put the Cowboys and Patriots together at this point, you might almost get one entire defensive line!
Aaron Schatz: Washington really getting a lot on these short passes, but they aren't getting anything deeper.
@AlvaroIM77: Washington putting on an absolute clinic on how to most egregiously mismanage the clock.
Andrew Potter: That Romo touchdown pass to Williams was everything there is to love about Romo. Simply incredible play by the QB.
@RyanCrinnigan: Dallas covering the middle of the field well on Washington's play action. RG3 doesn't like looking outside as much off PA.
Tom Gower: Mo Claiborne, what happened to "highly-drafted CBs struggle as rookies, then get better in their second season"?
Scott Kacsmar: Cole Beasley - the last guy you expect to catch the ball in this offense.
Vince Verhei: I think Washington just ran a pistol-slash-wishbone play.
Rob Weintraub: Why even have that "you can't push your teammate into the end zone" rule? Never called, and makes little sense anyway--why not?
@PigskinLover: As unimpressive as both of these teams look, one will likely end up in the postseason this fall. Why not expand the playoffs?