Audibles at the Line: Week 7
compiled by Rivers McCown and Ben Jones
This year, we have a new format for our Monday morning feature Audibles at the Line, combining our Twitter feeds with our e-mail discussion. First, we're replacing our usual back-and-forth with some longer-form dissection of each game that at least one of us watches in depth. Second, every game that we find time for will also have a selection of tweets from us and a few reader tweets we found particularly insightful. To follow these tweets live on Sunday, or to contribute your own thoughts or a question for the FO staff, you can use hashtag #foaud. We discussed the new format in this post.
On Monday, we will compile a digest of tweets and e-mails to produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed, not entirely grammatically correct, and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
Audibles is still being written from our point of view, meaning we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a 49ers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game. Audibles is often written from a fan perspective as much as an analyst perspective; in order to properly accuse FO writers of bias, please check our FAQ.
Buffalo Bills 23 at Miami Dolphins 21
@GDFar: Why are the Fins favoring Thomas over Lamar Miller? We have ample evidence saying that's the wrong decision.
Robert Weintraub: Seconds later yet another third down conversion and great catch by CJ and now 21-17.
Dallas Cowboys 17 at Philadelphia Eagles 3
Rivers McCown: Aikman says LeSean McCoy is often compared to Barry Sanders, and that's fair. Um. Nice season so far, but ... wat?
Scott Kacsmar: Cowboys punt on fourth-and-5 at the PHI 36 "in the nervous light of Sunday."
Rivers McCown: Cowboys punt on 4th-and-5 from the 37. The punt goes 22 yards. Bad process, bad results
Rivers McCown: Nick Foles is spending an awful lot of time in the pocket early. Routinely having to go to third read or beyond.
Aaron Schatz: Somebody tell Nick Foles to dial it back a bit. Everything is overthrown.
Aaron Schatz: Hey remember when Chip Kelly owned Monte Kiffin's defense? That was fun.
Scott Kacsmar: Big game for the Eagles and they're down 10-0. That sounds like the Buddy Ryan/Cunningham era all over again.
Rivers McCown: Nick Foles facially resembles Owen from Dodgeball. Also: playing quarterback like Owen from Dodgeball.
@OlDirtySaltz: with Foles out, EAGLES QB enters the game
Rivers McCown: On both Matt Barkley picks — one negated by penalty — underneath zone defenders got him.
Rivers McCown: This is the kind of oddball game I've come to expect from the NFC East this year. Dallas' defense really impressed me. Philadelphia only really has DeSean Jackson at this point, but they had a hard time beating the Cowboys' cornerbacks one-on-one. Foles dealt with this by holding on to the ball forever, and that led to sacks, throwaways, and a lot of pressure throws. I didn't watch the Tampa game last week at all, so I have no idea what the difference was between them and Dallas, but it's a bit perplexing.
No matter which path the Eagles choose between Foles and Michael Vick, I think it's clear that Barkley shouldn't be part of the discussion.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 at Atlanta Falcons 31
Scott Kacsmar: Atlanta vs. Tampa Bay: Seriously, doesn't Mike Glennon look like Matt Ryan stretched out like he was Gumby?
@MilkmanDanimal: Second time Tampa has gotten a false start on 3rd and short so far. Tell us again how well-coached this team is, Schiano.
@MilkmanDanimal: Lost in Tampa's wreck of a season is that Lavonte David has been great this year. 4 or 5 tackles in the 1st Q, 2 for loss this game.
@MilkmanDanimal: Leonard Johnson just had the singly ugliest failed pass defense jumping pirouette ever; P.I., plus Douglas caught it anyways.
Scott Kacsmar: Good job to pick up what would have been a horrible flag on Doug Martin hit. Greg Schiano came out to make it look like he's human.
@MilkmanDanimal: If "Harry Douglas is unstoppable" are not the words that get Greg Schiano fired, what words could ever do it?
@MilkmanDanimal: Tampa has a 1st and goal from the 30, and runs up the middle on next play. Nothing could better describe how this season has gone.
Tom Gower: As ex-staffer Russell Levine pointed out on his Twitter, this game had an 18-play, 55-yard, nine-minute drive ... after which Tampa elected to kick a field goal that left it (still) down two scores with five minutes to play.
Scott Kacsmar: I thought Greg Schiano was nuts when I heard that, but it was fourth-and-goal from the 23. Why not kick the field goal and get a high-percentage three points over an absolute prayer that will likely give you nothing? Plus, with a make you can try an onside kick. Tampa Bay did get the ball back after a quick three-and-out, which happens often in those situations when leading teams play conservatively. So I don't mind that field goal.
Danny Tuccitto: Remember how bad the Falcons special teams are right now, and how few people they even have available for their hands team. The field goal was the sanest thing Schiano has done in weeks.
Tom Gower: Do you think you'll score two more times in the final five minutes? That it was fourth-and-goal from the 23 makes it more reasonable, but the whole experience, particularly the "getting the ball back down two scores early in the fourth quarter and kicking a field goal with five to play" thing, drives me nuts as a matter of principle. That the Bucs did not then onside, given how banged up Atlanta is right now, just adds to my general incredulity.
Matt Waldman: Rookie Mike Glennon is aggressive. It's a good thing within the context of targeting Vincent Jackson, a fine receiver on 50/50 balls. However, there were at least five attempts Atlanta had a reasonable chance to intercept. Three of them could have been pick-sixes. One of those targets was an opposite-hash deep comeback that gave me flashbacks of Mike Ditka having a conniption on the sideline when Jim Harbaugh tried that route on a Monday night game resulting in a pick-six.
There's something there with Glennon, but it's buried under a layer of conceptual immaturity that leaves me wondering if the Freeman-Glennon situation is nothing more of "six of one, half-dozen of another."
San Diego Chargers 24 at Jacksonville Jaguars 6
@ronJ_havas: King Dunlap hurt...get ready for the 2012 Chargers?
@zgeballe: Sadness is...Jaguars players exhorting their fans for noise during a goal-line stand already down 14-3
Andrew Potter: What was Philip Rivers thinking on that goal-line scramble? Seven seconds left, no TO, MUST throw & quickly. Cost his team 3 points.
@MilkmanDanimal: Chad Henne just tried running on a read option. Burn this play. Burn this playbook. Burn this team. Burn everything you can.
@ronJ_havas: Diddle diddle, Danny Woodhead up the middle. A screen gets the first down on 2nd & 20
Cian Fahey: Jaguars wide receiver Mike Brown is a baller. Next QB in JAX will have many, many weapons to work with
Cian Fahey: This was the worst-officiated game of football that I have ever witnessed, and most of the bad calls went against the Jaguars. There were a number of very questionable calls, but most notable was Antonio Gates' obvious fumble that was reviewed and still stood. Regardless of that, the Jaguars shouldn't be happy with their display.
Anyone who hasn't watched the Jaguars this season will just mark it off as another loss, but this loss occurred because of the defense, not the offense as had been the norm this season. The Jaguars played like they did the previous week against the Denver Broncos -- they dropped coverage off and never blitzed. In fact, they sent three-man rushes so often it was just peculiar.
With that game plan and talent advantage in his supporting cast, Philip Rivers was able to check the ball down all day to sustain drives. The Chargers had 37 minutes of possession and the Jaguars had just two possessions in the first half. Even though the Jaguars had given up a lot of points in previous games, they had at least made offenses earn those points. In this game it was way too easy, while the Jacksonville offense kept themselves out of the end zone with a number of near-miss plays that killed drives.
Rivers McCown: I'll second that Jacksonville has not been a flaming pile of garbage on defense this year. Did not get to watch any of this game, but it is notable that Jeremy Mincey sat. He's the only guy on this unit that I see getting any kind of pressure.
New England Patriots 27 at New York Jets 30
Aaron Schatz: Jets repeatedly running up the gut on Pats. Clearly miss Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. Jeremy Kerley is killing them in passing game.
@pchicola: With Gronkowski back, the rookies getting more in sync w/ Brady, & w/ Amendola and Vereen eventually coming back, Pats O will get better.
@Shake1n1bake: Belichick goes for it on 4th and an inch in easy FG range, I hate him, but wish all my teams coaches were more like him
Aaron Schatz: Steve Gregory seems confused. Why are refs calling pass interference? All he did was slam into the receiver while never looking for the ball.
Scott Kacsmar: Hell of a run by Geno Smith for the TD. Just think of what body part Mark Sanchez may have fumbled off of down there
Aaron Schatz: @FO_ScottKacsmar Those Geno Smith scrambles are more evidence that taking him out to go wildcat is stupid.
Aaron Schatz: Gotta go back and look at film to see what Jets changed at halftime. Pass rush so much better now.
@GilbertDenizard: @FO_ASchatz I think Rex gave them all a foot rub at the half
Aaron Schatz: I actually like the Jets attempt to play-action for a deep pass on second and 10. Three point lead not really safe against Tom Brady.
Aaron Schatz: Whether Folk hits this long field goal or not, final runs were stupid conservative play call by the Jets
Aaron Schatz: OK, we've established by now that the penalty called on Chris Jones was not as ridiculous as it seemed at the time. Yes, this thing about pushing an opponent into the line of scrimmage is a real thing. I still think it is ridiculous for NFL officials to apparently completely ignore this rule for six weeks, get a memo from the league, and then suddenly call it for the first time in a situation that essentially decided a game.
Well, half-decided a game. If they don't call that penalty, the Patriots get the ball back in very good field position but they still haven't won the game at that point. Obviously, the Patriots didn't look like a great team today. People on Twitter were criticizing Pats fans for blaming the loss on the penalty because the Pats didn't do enough to clearly win the game. But that's exactly the kind of game where it's agonizing to see an unprecedented penalty go against your team. When the Pats ran out of gas against the Bengals, I mean, they were outplayed that day. Sometimes the other team just has a better day. Today's game with the Jets was essentially a tie. You know a game like that is probably going to be decided by either a single clutch play or some random capricious event. You kind of want that play or that event to go in your team's favor.
So, yeah, as to the Patriots not playing better than the Jets... the defense is clearly missing Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, and Mayo. The Jets ran up the middle easily in the first quarter, and once the Patriots tried to get guys into the box to stop that, it opened up other things. And my god, I have no idea why but Jeremy Kerley just OWNS this team. Kerley has six games of at least 75 receiving yards in his career, and four of them are against New England. It doesn't matter who covered him, or what kind of formation the Jets used to get him open. He got open. The Pats tend to play zone but they were playing mostly man today, which also left plenty of space open for Geno Smith to scramble.
As for the Patriots' offense, Gronk was back, Gronk looked pretty good, and Brady clearly knew he was there, targeting him 17 times. Gronk did open things up for other receivers a bit. So at this point, there's no debate about whether something is wrong with Brady, right? You can't blame this anymore on not being in sync with his receivers, or missing Wes Welker, or bad drops by Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. The Pats were 1-for-12 on third downs today, and when you overthrow a guy to the point where the ball lands five yards out of bounds, that's not possibly an issue of "not being in sync with your receivers yet." There's no option routes where one of the options is "be five yards out of bounds." (The exception to this were the passes at the end of the fourth quarter which generally all landed ahead of the receivers. Brady had to throw these ahead of his receivers because once he was in field-goal range, he couldn't risk an interception at all ... keeping the ball away from the defenders meant throwing low-percentage passes.)
As for the Jets, I feel a bit vindicated. We said before the season that this team would be a wild card contender, that they would bounce back in all three phases of the game, and that despite the constant anonymous criticism during the run-up to the draft, Geno Smith is a pretty good quarterback prospect. All of those things seem to have turned out to be true. So can we please now stop expecting the Jets to be a circus all the time? The circus moved to Tampa, people. The Jets are a mediocre team, better on defense than offense, with hope for the future thanks to a promising but inexperienced quarterback. Really not much different from Buffalo, and the Muhammad Wilkerson/Sheldon Richardson combo is probably better than the Kyle Williams/Marcel Dareus combo at this point. They will lose games, but it isn't going to be a series of pratfalls like last year.
Cincinnati Bengals 27 at Detroit Lions 24
@Coboney: Andy Dalton has no deep ball. AJ Green had to slow down to catch the ball. Lucky Green is so good at getting open, else thats a pick
Tom Gower: Jim Schwartz actually wins a spot challenge on a QB slide. Thought it was a winner, but that's a rare thing.
Robert Weintraub : Lions are 11-of-15 on 3rd down and face key 3rd and long. Wanna bet on result?
Tom Gower: No flipping way, Calvin Johnson. NO FLIPPING WAY. Beats a triple team for a long TD. Stafford got crushed, too.
@Coboney: How did Calvin Johnson come up with that? That looked like a Hail Mary play with 3 defenders there beating at the ball and he gets it
Robert Weintraub: Only a hail Mary TD to Johnson who goes over 3 guys to make an unreal TD. Stafford nailed as he throws and still heaves it 65 yards
Vincent Verhei: Your favorite receiver's favorite receiver is Calvin Johnson.
@THEOSU7: 54 minutes in, I was worried we were going to go a whole game without a ridiculous Marvin Lewis Challenge. Crisis Averted!
Robert Weintraub: Nugent!!!!!!!! Flashback to when he had a big leg. 54 yard field goal to win it. Second straight week he kicks one to win 27-24.
Rob Weintraub: For three-and-a-half quarters, Detroit was unstoppable on third down. Both teams were pretty good, actually, especially given neither ran the ball with any effectiveness. But Stafford was driving this particular Bengals fan to drink (and I don't drink) with his ability to sidearm, shovel, and slip balls into tiny windows and make just enough to move the chains, time and again. It got ridiculous -- that Megatron Hail Mary was even more amazing for being third-and-18 (and how did Stafford throw it that far while getting nailed by Michael Johnson?).
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The Bengals were in control at 21-10 in the third quarter, and Detroit had a third-and-20 at its own 10. Sure enough, Stafford threw a 40-yard pass up the right sideline to Kevin Ogletree, as Terence Newman asked where the safety help was. George Iloka said, "who, me?" A couple of plays later, Stafford threw a bullet back shoulder pass to Johnson for another awe-inspiring TD, and it was game on. But for the second straight week, the Bengals got a big late stop (in OT last week) and set up a short field to win it. Good pass rush late wins games, as Bill Walsh always said, and it got the job done today.
For all their explosiveness, Detroit remains flawed. The Bengals won the special teams battle handily (a huge blocked field goal, a shoddy punt late by Sam Martin to set up the long Mike Nugent field goal to win it), and exposed several mismatches in coverage, especially against Chris Houston, who had his lunch eaten not only by AJ but by Marvin Jones. The Bengals did a very good job in pass protection in the middle, and that allowed Andy Dalton to carve the Lions up. Seam routes were especially effective. Dalton continues to underthrow on "heave it as far as you can" plays, but has been exceptionally accurate on intermediate stuff the last couple of weeks.
I know the officiating always gets ripped, but this crew (Scott Green) was brutal today, both ways. Just no clue half the time.
I was very worried about injuries before this game, for some reason, and sure enough, Leon Hall tore his Achilles tendon for the second time in three seasons. Long term that's a crucial loss unless Dre Kirkpatrick stays on the field health-wise and improves drastically.
Sean McCormick: I didn't see a ton of the game, but I was shocked by how cavalier Stafford was with the ball. He was spraying the ball all over the place, whether it was throwing to blanketed receivers or just chucking it to avoid pressure. That heave to a triple-covered Calvin Johnson was pretty symbolic of his decision-making process on the day.
Rivers McCown: I see you haven't watched much Matt Stafford tape...
Rob Weintraub: Because he has such a cannon, Stafford gets away with that stuff more than he should, so he keeps doing it. I stopped counting his "awkward" throws after ten, and it was the third quarter, and the Bengals hadn't made him pay for any of them.
St Louis Rams 15 at Carolina Panthers 30
Tom Gower: Rams do right thing in going for it on 4&G from the 1, do wrong thing by targeting Jared Cook again.
Vincent Verhei: Cam Newton holding the ball too long. Can't do that when SL DL is better than CAR OL.
Vincent Verhei: Tavon Austin finally gets open for long TD ... And the play is called back for a tripping penalty.
Vincent Verhei: Panthers take knee at end of half instead of trying Hail Mary. RIVERA!!!!!
Tom Gower: Panthers-Rams fight. Yes, Steve Smith is involved. Only reason Cortland Finnegan isn't is he's inactive.
Vincent Verhei: Smith baits Chris Long into getting ejected, then catches apparent TD. (Call is challenged.) Panthers appear to be in blowout mode.
Tom Gower: Man, that was a pretty close to perfect deep pass by Sam Bradford to Brian Quick. Sets up 1&G. Rams need 7, get it on Zac Stacy pass.
Vincent Verhei: Steve Smith makes run blocking look like boxing match, then slips two tackles and scores (for real). Rams DBs must hate this guy.
Tom Gower: Through 3Q, Cam Newton has been very sharp today. Part of that may be #Rams coverage, which has been soft too often.
Tom Gower: There are times I watch Zac Stacy running through the offensive line and I think, if he ever stops running hard he'll be out of the league in two weeks. Then he does something surprisingly effective in the open field, and I think maybe there's something more to him than just a guy who will run hard. On the whole, though, St. Louis's targets are living up the experience-related concerns we had with them in FOA 2013.
On the other side of the ball, Cam Newton was very sharp, throwing the ball accurately, seemed to make good decisions, and ran effectively at times. Any time the Rams threatened to get back in the game, the Panthers scored again. The Rams defense is still a front four in search of a back seven, as I'm sure part of Newton's success was what looked like some pretty soft coverage by the Rams. As inexperienced they are at the offensive "skill positions," they're pretty much as young in the secondary, and I think it's still a work in progress and likely to remain one the rest of this year.
Vince Verhei: The Rams front seven is better than the Panthers offensive line, and that was very evident today. Panthers couldn't run for much, and Newton got in trouble a few times by holding the ball in the pocket too long. He was usually able to break tackles and make plays on the run, so it's not really reflected in his stats. The Rams secondary was woefully outmatched. Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn both looked like perfectly competent wideouts. And then there's Steve Smith. He was right in the middle of every fight, and had a great day as a receiver, scoring once and being called down just short another time. He also managed to bait the Rams into a lot of fights, including getting Chris Long thrown out of the game He said afterwards that Janoris Jenkins had been talking trash about Smith's wife and threatened to sucker punch Jenkins if they met on the street. And it's Steve Smith, so you know he ain't bluffing.
Now, on that note, there were a ton of personal fouls in this game, on both teams, but it seemed like mostly on St. Louis. The worst of these came when Sam Bradford was injured. Bradford scrambled and ran to the sideline. Mike Mitchell pushed him out of bounds, totally clean, and celebrated. Unbeknownst to Mitchell, Bradford's knee buckled as he went down. Rams guard Harvey Dahl, apparently thinking that Mitchell was celebrating Bradford's injury, shoved Mitchell away. Mitchell walked away and headed back to the huddle. A good five seconds passed, and then Dahl turned to the field and went charging after Mitchell. The two players were kept separated, but it still resulted in a personal foul for Dahl. He finished with two of the three Rams PFs on the day, and that doesn't include Long's ejection.
Zac Stacy looked pretty good in an Ironhead Heyward-style, tackle-breaking, slow-and-steady way, but otherwise the Rams just don't have nearly enough playmaking talent to overcome that kind of lack of discipline. Tavon Austin did finally get open for a deep touchdown pass, but it was called back on a penalty. So officially his most notable plays were his two fumbles.
Chicago Bears 41 at Washington Redskins 45
@matthew_carley: Washington sack Jay Cutler to make him the most sacked QB in Bears history, Cutler hurt on the play. These things might be related
Vincent Verhei: Unreal blocking by Bears on Hester TD. Unreal career for Hester.
@scott_tanner1: I know we had this discussion in audibles in the last few years, but seeing what the new guys think: Devin Hester, HOF?
@hscer: Jordan Reed's 1st half: 6 targets, 6 catches, 87 yards, 1 TD plus 3 more first downs. RGIII is 4-11 throwing to everyone else.
Rivers McCown: That’s ... that’s Josh McCown’s music!
@Shake1n1bake: Don't worry, even if the Bears win you'll still be the best McCown RT @FO_RiversMcCown: That’s … that’s Josh McCown’s music!
Vincent Verhei: Seems like every RG3 completion today is a bootleg/crossing route combo.
@scott_tanner1: tony siragusa after orakpo comes in unblocked: "the offensive line did a pretty good job. mccown has to get rid of it faster"
@TCBullfrog: At what point is it justified for an offensive player to just take out Brandon Meriweather's knees
San Francisco 49ers 31 at Tennessee Titans 17
@blotzphoto: Colin Kaepernick had enough time to scout and draft a receiver to catch that ball.
Danny Tuccitto: Admittedly, I was not expecting the 49ers to thoroughly dominate this game as much as they have. Pretty much everything is working.
Tom Gower: Wrote in my season preview Titans would be team that gets called scrappy when they weren't getting blown out. Today, the blowout
Tom Gower: Frank Gore drags Jurrell Casey for an extra 5 yards. Dragging a DT = just another day at the office.
Tom Gower: In after Eric Reid was shaken up the prior play, Craig Dahl with a bad angle on that CJ screen TD
Danny Tuccitto: Bernard PLOLlard. Go retire to your natural occupation of bounty hunter, ok?
Danny Tuccitto: Eric Reid back. Destroys runner. Noted.
Tom Gower: The Titans can't make any mistakes and beat good teams, and they made a ton of them today. Jake Locker, who generally played better than I expected him to in his surprisingly premature return from his hip injury, threw a first-half pick on a double-move where cornerback Tramaine Brock never for an instant bit on the first move. An Akeem Ayers low hit call negated a Bernard Pollard interception, and that was just one of a plethora of first-half penalties for the Titans. Return man Darius Reynaud cemented an awful performance that may see him on the street in the next couple days by muffing a punt the 49ers recovered in the end zone just when the Titans were showing some brief signs of life.
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On the other side of the ball, the 49ers looked like the 49ers. Frank Gore ran hard, pretty effectively at times and less effectively at others. Colin Kaepernick wasn't perfect, but he had some very good throws and the Titans struggled to contain him just as much as they did Russell Wilson and Alex Smith. Anquan Boldin is still very good at catching the football even with minimal separation. On macro terms, this looked more to me like the 2011 49ers team, with a decent offense and a strong defense, than the great 2012 49ers with a powerful offense to go with the strong defense, but either way they mostly throttled a Titans team that now looks a lot closer to mediocre than it did three games ago.
Houston Texans 16 at Kansas City Chiefs 17
Cian Fahey: Did the NFLPA order a tribute to Matt Schaub that other NFL QBs misinterpreted?
@nath_on_fire: Gary Kubiak calling a third-down draw with his team on the edge of field goal range is the quintessential Gary Kubiak play call.
Rivers McCown: Ed Reed trying to tackle Jamaal Charles is like trying to shoot pool with a rope
Aaron Schatz: Think Houston wants to run with their UDFA QB? KC may be playing with 13 guys in the box today.
Rivers McCown: This offensive scheme fits much better with the rest of the personnel than the one Kubiak was stringing around Schaub
Scott Kacsmar: 2013 Chiefs: I haven't seen smoke & mirror tomfoolery on offense like this since 2003 Patriots. And yes, I hate it.
@brendanscolari: So how many teams would you take over the Chiefs on a neutral field right now? Anyone besides Broncos and Seahawks?
Aaron Schatz: Texans lose Brian Cushing. Looks like serious knee injury. Just not their year.
@ronJ_havas: Dwayne Bowe takes out 2 defenders on Dexter McCluster's 3rd & 21 conversion. He's very gruntled
Vincent Verhei: I (heart) Jamaal Charles. Holy moley, that guy is good.
Aaron Schatz: Surprised that the Chiefs aren't getting more pressure on Keenum. I think that is what's leading to a number of open receivers.
Vincent Verhei: Chiefs have figured out that Case Keenum has no idea what to do against overload blitz.
Vince Verhei: I'm sure Rivers will have more to say later, and what he says will be more well-informed, but my general impression of Case Keenum is that he was much more mobile than Matt Schaub, and much more willing to take risks and give his receivers chances to make plays on 50-50 jump balls. His performance is probably going to get a little overblown. After all, the Texans only scored 16 points (though that's partly due to Gary Kubiak's insistence on kicking field goals on fourth-and-1. Then, by the end of the game, Kansas City realized that Keenum was helpless against an overload blitz, and that was the end of that.
I've been an Alex Smith supporter for a while now, but man he was lousy today. He had multiple receivers open on his fourth-and-goal incompletion, and threw a bad interception late that kept Houston in the game.
Rivers McCown: Wow, I forgot that NFL quarterbacks could actually throw long touchdown passes. Thanks, Case Keenum.
Overall I thought most of the success early was about the Chiefs not being prepared for this game plan. The pistol-based Keenum attack was much different than what the Texans were running going into the game. However, it's impossible to look at what Keenum did and not be a little bit encouraged. He wasn't great with the hot reads on some well-designed Bob Sutton blitzes, but his functional pocket mobility was a giant leap in the right direction after years of Matt Schaub. I think the Texans should showcase him the rest of the season and treat it like the Browns planned to treat Brian Hoyer: perhaps they've found a high-caliber backup that can push a first-round quarterback in 2014.
God, this Chiefs offense is boring. How many times can Jamaal Charles motion wide and come back in? I guess this is what happens when Bowe is your only real receiver and he's struggling to find separation. The Chiefs managed to move the ball mostly on the Texans safeties. Ed Reed's read on the Alex Smith busted-play touchdown run was one that made me ache for the glory days of John Busing, Wil Demps, and C.C. Brown. Reed is legitimately the third-best safety on this team right now, behind Shiloh Keo and D.J. Swearinger.
Cleveland Browns 13 at Green Bay Packers 31
Vincent Verhei: CBS has NORV CAM in Lambeau Field today. This should be a fixture in every stadium.
@MilkmanDanimal: The Packers throwback uniforms are to aesthetics what Greg Schiano is to coaching.
Aaron Schatz: Billy Cundiff one of the best kickoff guys in the game. Lots of touchbacks. Why do Browns have him squibbing???
Vincent Verhei: Josh Gordon: Zero targets in first half. Did he get traded and nobody told me?
Aaron Schatz: Looks like the horrid injury to Jermichael Finley was caused by the ground. As I always say, you can't legislate against the ground
Aaron Schatz: Green Bay gets ball with 5:00 left in the third. CBS shows a graphic featuring an absurd bit of random nonsense and small sample size, showing that the Packers have scored a touchdown with between two and five minutes left in the third quarter in all five games so far. Graphic is titled "Packers' magic moment."
Packers, of course, are forced to punt the ball without scoring, with 1:10 left in the third quarter.
Rob Weintraub: Boy, those are some ugly-ass throwbacks the Packers sported today.
Vince Verhei: I agree with Rob's opinion of the Green Bay throwbacks. But they are still way way way better than Jacksonville's contemporary getup.
Cian Fahey: Jacksonville's outfits look like pyjamas.
Rivers McCown: I think Jacksonville just needs to commit to the gold. You can't really half-ass gold and have it look good.
Baltimore Ravens 16 at Pittsburgh Steelers 19
Cian Fahey: It's so refreshing to see a Steelers running back who runs with his head up to actually see where defenders are
Cian Fahey: The Steelers look much better than they have previously, I'm not sure how to feel about this. Headed to purgatory
Scott Kacsmar: This might be a first ever: an offensive player (Le'Veon Bell) gets called for a facemask.
Matt Waldman: Torrey Smith has made the next step this year. He has always done a fine job winning the ball in tight coverage on vertical routes, but he's making tough catches over the middle and running more of the route tree than what was required of him in the past. He deserves credit for his continued growth because we didn't see that growth from the likes of Lee Evans or Chris Chambers, similar styled players.
Marlon Brown's rookie year is less surprising to me based on his skills, which I saw evidence of at Georgia, and far more based on his torn ACL last November. If Brown regains some of his pre-injury explosiveness, he could offer Joe Flacco a true co-No.1 option that can take a lot of heat off Smith
Le'veon Bell's recent performances are a good example of where people get it wrong when they base talent evaluation on pointing out flaws and failing to piece together all of the available information. Cian did a fine job of pointing out Bell's positives today and they echo a lot of the things people thought wouldn't translate with Bell's game in the NFL. Look at Bell's tape and you see a quick athlete ... not a quick guy for 240 pounds, but quick, period, end of story. Bell has a 6.75-second, three-cone drill. That's a faster time than Giovani Bernard, Stevan Ridley, Doug Martin, LeSean McCoy, or Mike Goodson. It's also equal to Jahvid Best's time -- in fact, it's the 12th best three-cone time I've seen from a runner since 2006 and he's the biggest player in that top-12.
It goes to show that in some cases there are players who just look too good to be true. When we see the tape we cling to the tape measure and stopwatch to shoot it down. When we see evidence that Bell has rare quickness for his size we want to believe so badly that it's a fallacy because the highlights and stats aren't flashy enough to match it, that we invent reasons as logical as the Warren Commission.
Scott Kacsmar: Typical Ravens-Steelers game: low scoring and down to the final second. Special teams were not a huge story in the game, but on the last drive Emmanuel Sanders had a huge 44-yard return that the Ravens probably wish he would have stayed in bounds for a touchdown on so they'd have a chance. Joe Flacco pretty effortlessly led the offense down the field to tie it at 16.
Ben Roethlisberger didn't need miracles with the field position, but a broken tackle by Antonio Brown on Corey Graham was pretty big. I would still say they kept it pretty conservative at the end, settling for a 42-yard field goal on the "bad end" of Heinz Field, but it's about time to give Shaun Suisham some props. He has yet to miss this year and has been great from inside 50 yards.
Suisham may also be a good example of why we shouldn't always bury a kicker on a couple of bad misses. He missed a short field goal that would have likely beaten the undefeated 2009 Saints and was soon after gone from the team. Before joining the Steelers he was 87 of 110 (79.1 percent) on field goals, so it's not like he was great, but he's over 86 percent as Pittsburgh's kicker with roughly half of those attempts coming in arguably the toughest stadium to kick. I've gone way over the limit for kicker talk, but it's nice to see him drill a game-winner down the middle. Kickers haven't been choking in epic fashion yet this season.
Though it will come soon enough.
Denver Broncos 33 at Indianapolis Colts 39
Scott Kacsmar: Colts can lose by 50 tonight and still shouldn't have much of a struggle to go 10-6/11-5 and win the division.
Rivers McCown: Good to see Pep establishing that run early. Helpful to control time of possession against Peyton Manning. Just ask the Dolphins.
Aaron Schatz: "Mediocre man coverage" has, of course, long been the preferred defense to stop Manning.
Andrew Potter: The Colts just got utterly jobbed on that refereeing decision. Terrible call. Robs them of a perfectly legitimate touchdown.
Vincent Verhei: Note to all NFL coaches: This Trindon Holliday fumble is the kind of play you should challenge every time. This is why replay exists.
@MrTimLivingston: Refs need to let something play out before making a call to allow for all possible outcomes from a challenge. Easy thing to change.
@ptmovieguy: Imagine if that was Janikowski making that tackle. Might have to extract Holliday from the fifth row.
Aaron Schatz: Holy mackerel I think the man coverage is actually working for the colts. Even by Greg Toler?!?!
Rivers McCown: Finding a lot of irony in a “grabby” Colts defense stymying Peyton Manning’s offense.
Cian Fahey: Leon Hall is injured, Champ Bailey is injured, Lardarius Webb played poorly, Darrelle Revis is in zones. I hate this
@WhispersMoCo: Wondering if Peyton finds it hard to _not_ throw ball to open Colts in the end zone.
Tom Gower: I have no clue where "Adam Vinatieri can suddenly make long field goals again" came from, but it's been true for a while now.
@WhispersMoCo: Loving the mental image of Colts' fans terrified of a classic Peyton comeback.
Rivers McCown: Well the important thing is that Trent Richardson has good tape. Or something.
@TerrapinPrime: Richardson is a dumpster fire.Doesn't get the yardage..Can't hold onto the ball and worst of all 2 teams used first rounders on him
Tom Gower: Like the Broncos' last loss, in the playoffs against the Ravens, I'm left after a very long game (about 3:44) with the feeling that I need to go away somewhere and process what happened before expressing my thoughts. Plenty to touch on. What stood out:
1. The Colts' pass defense, particularly Darius Butler and Vontae Davis, seemed to play very well. Even when the Broncos made plays, they were often contested catches and pinpoint passes.
2. This was beaten to death, but after the Robert Mathis hit that led to the safety Peyton Manning's passes just didn't look right coming out of his hand. It was a bit like watching the Atlanta game early last season or, yes, that Ravens game. That's definitely an issue to watch going forward, though of course he still made plenty of plays late.
3. Also an issue to watch going forward: the Broncos offensive line. Peyton is of course his own best pass protector, but especially with the arm issues and especially considering the Broncos are now staring up in the AFC West at a Chiefs team with two very formidable outside pass rushers and a force in the middle plus some creative blitz schemes, this is a real issue.
4. Also an issue to watch going forward: the Broncos defense. They have enough reasonable defensive backs I thought could be very effective, but it seems like the middle was exploited by Dallas and again tonight. Granted, Wesley Woodyard was out and he and Danny Trevathan were the only linebackers I liked in coverage, but it's an issue. More of a pass rush to help, but was Von Miller that effective in his first game back? I didn't think he was, but need to re-watch to have a more informed opinion. I also expect him to be more effective in, say, six weeks.
5. I was pretty sure the Broncos did not have a sustaining run game. As it turns out, and contrary to what I think we saw the first six games, they did not even have a situationally-effective run game tonight with the third-and-1 failures and the goal line fumble. Of course, give the Colts credit for what they did on third down, including particularly I believe Antoine Bethea coming up in support. LaRon Landry also showed up as a hitter at times.
6. I'm going to embargo myself on Trent Richardson jokes at this point because I think it's getting the point where it's no longer funny unless he does something incredibly bad. But Donald Brown was reasonably effective at times.
7. Andrew Luck played pretty well for the most part, but he had some bad plays in the fourth quarter. The missed pass to Reggie Wayne on third down and the throw to Stanley Havili on the play where Kevin Vickerson picked up the roughing the passer call were the two biggest of those.
8. As a fan of a team in the same division I know it helps my team, but I'm devoutly anti-"any injury more serious than a chipped nail." If that's the last of Reggie Wayne we see (older player with torn ACL, wouldn't be a surprise, though of course I don't even play an MD on TV and did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night), the NFL will be a poorer, less entertaining place.
9. On the whole, I thought the Colts played better than the Broncos did. They also won the game. In such an interesting, complicated game with results that sometimes feel "unjust," I'll never complain too much about a game where that is true.
Rivers McCown: I will not put an embargo on Trent Richardson jokes. Much like Richardson himself, this is precisely the right time to sell high. If it gets any worse, he'll be so pathetic that humor will not be able to escape his situation. It crossed my mind that he might actually be blind on the last Colts attempt to run out the clock before Punt Marathon 2013 -- he was basically holding his hand out to feel for defenders.
OK, the actual game. I thought this was a nice repudiation of Pep Hamilton's critics, myself included. Even though I snarked on him early in the game, there were a few very memorable play designs, and getting Darrius Heyward-Bey involved in the running game was generally fruitful. It's still not how I'd prefer an offense to be run -- and I still would never give up actual draft value to make it happen -- but the Stanford tree has seemed to get decent mileage out of the fullback and six-linemen sets in a league that has generally left them behind.
Any kind of serious Wayne injury would be a huge blow for this team. T.Y. Hilton is a nice deep threat, but he's hardly a consistent underneath receiver and has had communication issues with Luck. Heyward-Bey is not optimal in any role which calls for him to use his hands.