Audibles at the Line: Week 6
compiled by Andrew Potter
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to turn into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers 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.
Pittsburgh Steelers 10 at Cleveland Browns 31
Scott Kacsmar: Steelers have started with eight runs on nine plays, which is about as anti-2014 offense as you can get. I know big Phil Taylor is out, but they've tested the edges a lot as well. The Browns have a few nagging injuries on defense. Joe Haden is playing, but he's not locked up with Antonio Brown. Buster Skrine just gave up 24 yards on pass interference trying to cover Brown. And on cue, another injury for the defensive line.
I can't explain why Steelers extended Cortez Allen this year. He couldn't keep up with Jordan Cameron on a play-action pass that went for a long touchdown. This comes after Brett Keisel chased down Cameron on another big play earlier. Steelers wasted a lot of time with the run in the first quarter and only got three points because of more bad red-zone execution and a bad hold on a field goal. Now the passing game will have to find a rhythm, down 14-3.
Cleveland's offense feels more like the one Kyle Shanahan was calling in Washington in 2012. Brian Hoyer isn't as mobile as Robert Griffin, but he can do the bootleg and play-action stuff well enough. Good running game and they have done a great job of getting receivers open down the field. Three pretty solid running backs and it definitely helps to have Jordan Cameron back. Alex Mack left with a serious injury, but you couldn't even tell on Cleveland's third touchdown drive.
There's not a single positive thing I could say about Pittsburgh's performance in this first half. Failure from every unit.
Browns fake the run, then fake the end around to set up another big pass play that Cortez Allen can't defend. Ike Taylor is actually missed at this point. A rare pressure on third down stops the bleeding for now.
Mike Carey gets another one wrong for CBS. Ben Roethlisberger's pass is tipped at the line and intercepted by Skrine. I actually think Carey's explanation was fine and the ball did appear to hit the ground first, but the ruling on the field was a pick.
New England Patriots 37 at Buffalo Bills 22
Cian Fahey: Early in first quarter, on third down, Kyle Orton threw what appeared to be a perfectly placed and timed deep ball down the left sideline. Unfortunately, the receiver, who I believe was Marquise Goodwin, ran the wrong route so the ball fell to the ground.
It's noteworthy though because Orton isn't supposed to be able to throw the ball down the field as well as that and he did complete a similar pass last week.
Aaron Schatz: Moose Johnston seriously just suggested on this broadcast that people don't give Tom Brady proper credit for the Patriots winning so many games.
Cian Fahey: The most annoying thing in football these days for me is the short-yardage, tight formation philosophy. On third-and-1, the Patriots use that approach running off left tackle. Multiple defenders meet the back behind the line of scrimmage before he can sniff a first down.
Of course, the Bills beat themselves with a personal foul penalty after the play.
Andrew Healy: Could not agree more. Maybe a bad call on that personal foul, too. Pats offensive line holding up well again in pass protection. Better play call on the last third-and-1, handing off to James Develin. Where have you gone, Bill Belichick? Field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 13-yard line.
Aaron Schatz: That personal foul penalty wasn't the Bills beating themselves. That was the officials beating the Bills. I think they penalized Jerry Hughes for celebrating with a teammate because it looked sort of like he hit Stevan Ridley on the helmet because of the angle the official was looking from. Or something.
Then the Pats get stuffed a minute later on another short-yardage, tight-formation run. And miss a field goal after a false start.
All Duke Williams needed to do was turn around and he'd have a chance to intercept the ball. Instead, he pushes Julian Edelman down on the most blatant pass interference move you will ever see. Incredibly poor.
Aaron Schatz: That seems needlessly negative. Solder has been a pretty good player. He's struggled this year at times, but he's been a pretty good player. He also was 17th, which isn't exactly "top of the first round." If you are going to criticize offensive tackles taken early in the draft, there are some much, much more obvious examples than Solder, or even Kalil. Remember Jason Smith? Big Mike Williams? Robert Gallery?
Andrew Healy: Jordan Devey is back in with Josh Kline. Patriots pass protection last two plays not good. Brady makes a great play to Rob Gronkowski on third down, anyway. It doesn't stand up on challenge.
The Patriots appear to have five, and only five, competent linemen. At least in terms of how they play together, since I want to say the second down sack came over Solder. Jordan Devey is playing over there, though, so may bear some responsibility for that, too.
Now, Devey, Kline, and Marcus Cannon are all in, late second quarter. Cannon gets called for a hold. And poor pass protection on third down. No first downs with this line this drive and with Devey/Kline the last one. If this is the line the rest of the game, what is the over/under on Patriots second half points? Seven?
Cian Fahey: A DPI that should probably have been an interception, a fumble in a situation where there was no reason not to protect the ball at all costs, losing the turnover battle by three....yet the Buffalo Bills are still in touching distance of the New England Patriots at halftime.
The Bills defense is being led by its dominant offensive line, but the limitations of the Patriots offense are being highlighted more than anything. Brady has thrown very few passes down the field.
Vince Verhei: I know injuries are playing a big part, but I don't remember seeing a team rotate offensive linemen like this year's Patriots. It's Week 6 and it seems like they're still settling training camp battles.
Cian Fahey: You must have missed the Pittsburgh Steelers from the last six or seven years, Vince.
Vince Verhei: Also: I know he's not lighting the world on fire today, with a couple of turnovers, but Kyle Orton was retired two months ago, and at this point would any of us be surprised if he finished the year as the highest-rated quarterback in that division? That's pretty amazing.
Scott Kacsmar: Steelers would mostly change linemen due to injury. I'm pretty sure the Patriots have benched a healthy Vollmer and Solder at times this year. That would never happen in Pittsburgh. They'd keep Jonathan Scott in there all game, Roethlisberger's health be damned.
Cian Fahey: Perfect drive to start the second half for New England. A rare Brady deep ball that connects for a touchdown. Brian Tyms showed that off a lot in the preseason, now doing it when it counts.
Jamie Collins asked to cover Robert Woods in man coverage with seemingly no help. Obviously very easy win for Woods, but I'm not sure Collins ever has a chance in that situation and it's unfair to expect him to.
Andrew Healy: Really surprised by how well the Patriots line has held up with Devey and Kline both in there in the second half. Brady’s had time for that beautiful deep throw to Tyms and now one of those super easy short passes to Brandon LaFell for the touchdown that puts them up 16.
Cian Fahey: It appeared that Duke Williams was out of position for the long LaFell touchdown in the fourth quarter. He's had an absolute nightmare today either way.
Also, Brady has been OK today. Best thing he did was not turn the ball over. Receivers have seemingly been open all day while Patriots offensive line gave him better protection in the second half. I guess they must have got a new supporting cast.
Carolina Panthers 37 at Cincinnati Bengals 37 OT
Rob Weintraub: Welcome back Vontaze Burfict -- highly questionable roughing the quarterback call keeps Panthers drive alive, score on fourth third down conversion of opening drive. Bad vibes all around on this game. Cincy without three top pass catchers, and suddenly can't stop anyone. Feel the home winning streak coming to an end.
Who needs A.J. Green? Dalton connects with Jermaine Gresham and Brandon Tate, the two whipping boys of the week (and much more) in Cincinnati, twice each on Cincy's opening drive, including a nicely executed play where Tate went in wide motion and caught the jet screen in full gallop and dove to the pylon for the tying touchdown.
7-7, early second quarter.
And by the way Cincy, 0-fer on third down versus New England, was 4-for-4 on that drive, all on passes to four different receivers.
The Panthers lined up in that formation on third-and-1, then wisely threw a quick screen out to Kelvin Benjamin one-on-one with Adam Jones. But Pacman Jones foiled the stratagem with a tremendous tackle on a guy twice his size, and forced Carolina to punt.
Meanwhile, Burfict went out again on what looks like his third concussion of the season. May be lost for 2014.
In better news, Gio just went 90 yards off tackle for a touchdown.
Few will be surprised to hear that it was Thomas DeCoud who took a bad angle and failed to hold Gio to a far shorter run. 89 yards officially, for what it's worth. Gio thus almost certain to become first Bengal to crack 100 yards in 22 games.
Spoke too soon on Burfict -- he's back out there after returning from the locker room for tests. Naturally Rey Maualuga gives him a welcome back! headbutt ...
Game-changing play by the Panthers defense -- Bengals driving for points, and Tate broke wide open for six on a double move. But a Panthers defensive lineman (sorry, couldn't quite see who it was from here) deflected Dalton's elbow at the last second. Flutter ball picked off and returned deep into Bengals territory, and the Panthers punch it in. Instead of being up two scores, it's now tied at 17-17.
Penalties, poor run blocking, penalties again, and that one big turnover. Bengals now trail by a touchdown, and with the big play guys out, gonna take a miracle to pull this out.
Aaron Schatz: No matter who is injured, honestly, it never will take a miracle to make up a seven-point lead with more than a quarter left. A 38-3 lead, on the other hand ...
Rob Weintraub: Right on cue -- Dalton overthrow, interception.
I'm not talking regular NFL here. This is the Bengals, and I've seen enough of these to sense it slipping away.
Andrew Healy: Riverboat Ron lives. I was worried he might be less aggressive after the fourth-down failure in the playoffs last year. Tied 24-24, he goes for it on fourth-and-2 from the 37-yard line, defying announcer unwisdom. Cam Newton gets the slant to Benjamin. Leads to a touchdown that puts Carolina up seven with five minutes left.
Really interesting situation at the end here. Carolina had third-and-1 with 17 seconds left and no timeouts, down 34-31. A completion in bounds makes it pretty complicated. They get a three-yard throw and it would have been close to get another snap off, but a Bengals injury bails them out. Probably would have gotten the spike, anyway, but it would have been close. Field goal good, 34-34.
Aaron Schatz: Bengals having huge problems with Cam Newton keeping on the read option in overtime.
Scott Kacsmar: Not much more pisses me off than a tie. Thanks for nothing, Jerricho Cotchery (game-winning touchdown in his reach) and Mike Nugent (missed game-winning field goal from 36 yards away).
Vince Verhei: That's funny. I like ties. Or at least, I like ties on the field more than I like ties in the standings. We probably won't have to worry about tiebreakers for Carolina or Cincinnati for the rest of the year.
Andrew Potter: As a European, the common American aversion to tied games is a never-ending source of amusement to me. Over here, we probably wouldn’t even play overtime until the playoffs.
Looks like this is the highest-scoring tie in NFL history, and third-highest ever including the AFL. Highest ever is 43-43 between Oakland and Boston in 1964.
Jacksonville Jaguars 14 at Tennessee Titans 16
Tom Gower: In the immortal words of Terry Tate, office linebacker, "When it's game time, it's pain time."
Titans lead 10-7 at the half in roughly the sort of game you'd expect. Neither team has been able to find consistent running room, which tells me more about the offenses than it does about the defenses. Jacksonville got a big play, to Clay Harbor, to set up their score on the opening possession of the game. Charlie Whitehurst has made a couple decent throws, though, to lead the Titans to scores. With Jacksonville's safeties and Paul Posluszny, the middle of the field has been fairly open, and Delanie Walker in particular has taken advantage of it. The one big surprise to me has been the Titans' pass rush; they sacked Blake Bortles three times in the first half, or three times as many sacks as they had in their three previous games combined.
Matt Waldman: How has Bishop Sankey looked? The box score doesn't look particularly impressive. What are the play calls going to Sankey?
Tom Gower: Sankey has actually gotten carries from under center today, something that hasn't been a regular part of his workload since Week 1. The Jaguars are playing an extra safety in the box, though, and he hasn't had much running room. Could he be doing better with the yards he has? Maybe. And as I'm typing this, he more than doubles his yardage with a 22-yard gain, coming free through the line and making a cut in the open field to avoid Josh Evans and pick up about 15 extra yards.
The Jaguars saw the same thing I saw in the first half-they can't protect Blake Bortles long enough to run a consistent offense. That's led them to throw entirely too many screens, of many varieties, in the second half, with only modest success. This is a really bad offense right now. Of course, considering I just saw something that looked like a Charlie Whitehurst zone read give, I may just be hallucinating right now.
Green Bay Packers 27 at Miami Dolphins 24
Mike Kurtz: Ryan Tannehill has been cover-your-eyes awful. He has exactly one read on every play, and doesn't just stare down his receiver, he's staring at them from the snap until the ball is knocked down by a defensive back. Miami's defense has been getting great pressure on Rodgers and it's being wasted because Miami's offense is such a joke.
And then they punt from around the Green Bay 45-yard line with 30 seconds left in the half. They're in it to win it!
Vince Verhei: To be fair, I'm not sure anyone on the Miami offense is having a good day. Tannehill has been under pressure a lot, and has made the worst of those bad situations. The running backs can't even find breathing room. Mike Wallace is dropping passes. Brian Hartline didn't do much to break up an interception down the sideline. (Of course, I have no idea WHY Tannehill threw a deep pass to a blanketed Brian Hartline down the sideline.) Charles Clay caught a first down pass, so I guess that's your first-half MVP.
Mike Kurtz: In all fairness to Tannehill, he has had some great throws on broken plays or in the face of pressure. A few of them were drops, but his touchdown was a nice touch pass on the back foot, and he just pulled a Roethlisberger, got to the sideline, and found the hole in the secondary throwing across his body. I think Miami needs to start having him roll out, because at least this game he's been far more effective improvising than straight drop back, stare down receiver, pass defensed.
Vince Verhei: He has been MUCH better in the second half, and his 40-yard gain on a zone-read keeper was Miami's longest play of the year.
Cian Fahey: I haven't been watching this game, but from what I have seen, it appears that Aaron Rodgers is playing brilliantly and the Dolphins are still tied approaching the fourth quarter. If that is the case, it's very telling about the quality of the Green Bay Packers roster as a whole.
Mike Kurtz: Rodgers has been playing well enough but Miami's pass rush has forced a lot of bad throws, including a panicked intentional grounding. Brilliantly is probably overstating things.
Vince Verhei: I will say that on more than one occasion, Rodgers has had time to throw, found nobody open, scrambled, still found nobody open, and thrown the ball into the turf. Probably safe to say that the Dolphins' defense, as a whole, is playing brilliantly right now
Down seven with four minutes and change left in the game, the Packers have fourth-and-6 at the Miami 12-yard line. If they go for it and don't get it, they need a touchdown to tie. Instead, they kick a field goal, so they're down by four and still need a touchdown, although now it will give them a lead. I want to say this is a terrible decision, but without the numbers in front of me I'm not confident in that.
Scott Kacsmar: I'm OK with the field goal by McCarthy. This is small sample, but sure feels like Joe Philbin has been very aggressive in the four-minute offense in his career. Calling any pass play on first or second down is extremely aggressive compared to the rest of the league in this situation. Didn't run the clock out though and Green Bay will have a shot to drive for the win.
Andrew Healy: I didn’t like it. I did it with the win probability calculator and got pretty much a wash, which surprised me. That depends on how you do it, though. I think the decision Miami made to run it on third-and-9 to give it back to Rodgers with 2:20 instead of 2:50 is pretty clearly bad.
Mike Kurtz: My gut says it's a toss-up.
Scott Kacsmar: Miami should have thrown on both downs if it thought the pass was their best option to get a first down. Having over two minutes left and needing 60 yards is an eternity for Rodgers. Thinking a safe run to kill 35 or 40 seconds is helping is foolish in that situation. Just means the go-ahead Green Bay touchdown could come 35 or 40 seconds later, leaving Miami less time to answer.
Vince Verhei: Finish to that game was nuts, even by last-minute touchdown standards. Packers had a first down at the Miami 20-yard line with 30 seconds left, but the clock running and no timeouts. First down, Rodgers throws a quick hitch to the left for a 4-yard gain, but the Dolphins quickly make the tackle inbounds. That's a bad play. Second down, they do the fake spike, but throw another quick hitch to the right side, again inbounds, and that should probably be the end of the game. Cortland Finnegan, though, falls asleep, and rather than make the tackle, he lets Davante Adams get by him for good yardage and nearly into the end zone, before the Dolphins finally push him out of bounds to stop the clock. With six seconds left, Rodgers hits Andrew Quarless in one-on-one coverage in the end zone for the winning score.
Scott Kacsmar: I think a radical approach to pass defense in the final seconds is to just grab every receiver in the end zone if you think the ball's even going to be slightly close and don't let them catch the game-winning touchdown. Yes, you'll get flagged for interference, but at the 1-yard line with time for one more play, that shrinks the options for the offense. Maybe they think they can run it in and you get a stuff. Maybe they try a low-percentage fade. What the Dolphins gave up was too easy and they should have known it was going to be a quick pass into the end zone.
Detroit Lions 17 at Minnesota Vikings 3
Andrew Healy: Lions miss their ninth field goal this year and Matt Prater’s first. They’re on pace to beat Paul Hornung’s record of 26 missed kicks in ’64. Assuming they won’t quite get there.
Aaron Schatz: This is ridiculous. Does someone want to dig an old straight-ahead kicker out of cold storage or something? What's Pete Gogolak doing these days?
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Matt Waldman: Teddy Bridgewater getting little time and Ziggy Ansah is playing excellent football. Ansah made a tackle for a loss in the open field while reading a screen and later strip-sacked Bridgewater with a diving reach around the corner. Bridgewater didn't read the safety on a throw in the red zone that resulted in the defensive back cutting off the post for an interception to end a drive. Overall, Bridgewater has been uneven. He threaded the needle on a couple of passes that should have been big plays, including a third down out to Chase Ford in tight coverage that was dropped and a quick slant to Jarius Wright, who slipped during his break.
Vikings finally dial up the middle screen against pressure and get a big play from Matt Asiata to midfield inside of a minute. Then Teddy Bridgewater executes a fine pump fake and then opts for the check down, but Asiata lets the ball go through his hands into Tahir Whitehead's mitts to foil a shot at a half-ending drive to tie it up.
Scott Kacsmar: Haven't been watching this one today, but Mike Zimmer punted on fourth-and-1 from his own 29-yard line, down 17-0 with 10:26 left. How many possessions does he think he has left? Defensive coaches seem to be the worst at this, but it wouldn't surprise me to see most NFL coaches make this mistake and punt there. Coaches are afraid to lose by a bigger margin instead of doing what's smart to try to come back and win. What do you have to lose there? A touchdown still technically keeps it a three-score game, even if it's the comeback that has never been done in NFL history (three touchdowns and three two-point conversions). A field goal, which shouldn't take as long since you'd be giving them great field position, makes it a 20-point game. So you're talking about needing three touchdowns instead of being able to kick one field goal. Oh well. Then there's the fact that you have a pretty good shot of converting in the first place and extending your drive, down 17-0. But I digress ...
Denver Broncos 31 at New York Jets 17
Cian Fahey: It appears that the New York Jets are highlighting one of the most overlooked things in the NFL: The fragility of the Denver Broncos offensive line.
Andrew Healy: The Jets are staying with Denver early. They fumble a punt, the defense stops Peyton Manning again. Then Geno Smith makes two dangerous throws that fall incomplete. On third down, his terrible decision to throw the underneath crossing pattern to a blanketed receiver (who would have been three yards short of the first down even if it wasn’t picked) is perhaps bailed out by a bat-down at the line. Feel so bad for Rex Ryan.
Vince Verhei: I know that picking on Peyton Manning's arm strength is getting pretty cliche, but man he throws some ugly completions. His passes hang and wobble in the air, but they still seem to get where they need to be most of the time.
Jets have been getting a lot of pressure on him, relatively speaking. They've sacked him twice in the first half. He was sacked twice in a whole game only five times last year, including the playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens 48 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17
Andrew Healy: If Baltimore scores on this drive, Tampa will have been outscored 101-0 across phases of the Ravens and Falcons games. When was the last time that happened?
Rob Weintraub: Georgia Tech against Cumberland?
Aaron Schatz: Well, the Ravens and Falcons games were not consecutive... there have been teams that got blown out multiple times in a season before. The worst team in DVOA history is the 2005 San Francisco 49ers.
Week 2: outscored by Philadelphia 28-0 before halftime
Week 7: outscored by Washington 35-7 before halftime and 49-7 by end third quarter
Week 14: outscored by Seattle 24-3 before halftime and 38-3 by end third quarter
Tom Gower: 2009 Titans lost to the Colts 31-9 a week before losing 59-0 to the Patriots. 90-9 in consecutive weeks is about as bad as you get, I'll guess.
Andrew Healy: Just curious what the biggest combined shutout run to start two games in the same season. At the end of the first half, we've got 38-0 here and 56-0 three weeks ago against Atlanta. So that's 94-0 for Tampa in those two games. Yes, this is an obscure record to think about.
On the positive side of the ledger (and a little easier to think about), the 1976 Steelers won three games in a row by a combined 95-0 margin.
San Diego Chargers 31 at Oakland Raiders 28
Scott Kacsmar: So was Dennis Allen that bad of a coach, is Tony Sparano that much better, or are the Chargers just giving us a "hold on, contender" game? Derek Carr certainly looks better than he has all season today. The running game has been working too, so I like to think Sparano having the bye week to improve the offense is having a big impact on this one.
Aaron Schatz: One game. Don't jump to conclusions on one game, especially one home game.
Cian Fahey: I'm such a big fan of Jason Verrett. I don't care about his height at all. He's 5-foot-9 and it was a much discussed aspect of his game during the draft process. A divisive aspect. Some said he'd be top 10 if he was an inch or two taller, others said he was too small to be effective in the NFL.
Tom Gower: No idea what happened in this game, as I watched four Chargers possessions and saw them score 24 points. I am available for being paid to watch games, by the way.
Verrett's game-ending interception was phenomenal. Unlike Cian, I do care about his height, even if he beat out the much taller Brice Butler that play, and about his injury history.
Scott Kacsmar: Carr didn't need to force that pass. Rookie mistake. If he was a veteran, it'd be a gunslinger flaw.
Chicago Bears 27 at Atlanta Falcons 13
Vince Verhei: I'm not paying a ton of attention to this game, but every time I look at it, it seems like the Falcons are throwing another skinny post, and either the Bears safety knocks the ball free, or the receiver gets alligator arms and drops it (and then gets hit anyway).
Scott Kacsmar: Does anyone know why David Diehl is calling this game with a high-school kid?
Aaron Schatz: Does anyone know why David Diehl is calling any games, period?
Andrew Healy: Antone Smith alert. Another 40-plus-yard touchdown. It can't keep happening at this rate, but he really can fly. He catches these short passes and gets to that top speed so quickly. Perfect play call there with pressure coming.
Antone Smith stats this year:
Running: 12 for 124 (10.3 YPC), 2 TD
Receiving: 9 for 220 (24.4 Y/R), 3 TD
Since he was targeted 10 times, the Falcons intended to get the ball to Antone Smith on 22 plays, and have averaged 15.6 yards on those plays. Maybe he should touch it more?
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Matt Waldman: Based on the context of those Antone Smith plays, there's a decent argument that he's touching it an optimal amount. Atlanta's strategy, which is working, is to vary formations with personnel often in less predictable situations. The play before Smith earned the screen for a touchdown, he was split wide in an empty set. Atlanta is doing a good job mixing formation and personnel to keep opposing defenses off balance. Smith is earning his plays in space rather than between the tackles. Get too predictable about when and how often you feature a player in space and Atlanta then has to deal with Weeks 2 to 5 where it wasn't effective with Julio Jones on wide receiver screens to the level it was Week 1. This week, they finally got Jones free on one of these plays, but they used Jackson in the backfield with play action and pulled a guard to do it -- a different look compared to what I've seen in September when it comes to the screen.
I understand the desire to use Smith more because of the big plays, but it's not like he's tearing through the line of scrimmage and wearing down defenses to achieve these plays. He has been a fantastic counter punch. Unfortunately, we all have the tendency to think that Smith deserves more time when an argument could be made that he's doing what he's supposed to do in his role at a fantastic level of efficiency.
That said, I'd like to see him take over Jacquizz Rodgers' role and see what he could do with it ... ha!
Andrew Healy: Great point. Note that if Smith is in the game, defenses just might want to: A) avoid big blitzes and B) be looking for screens.
Rob Weintraub: Hashtag "PlayTone" -- it's big down here.
Dallas Cowboys 30 at Seattle Seahawks 23
Scott Kacsmar: Week 2, 2012: Seattle takes a 10-0 lead after blocking a Chris Jones punt for a TD with 10:23 left in first quarter.
Week 6, 2014: Seattle takes a 10-0 lead after blocking a Chris Jones punt for a TD with 7:13 left in first quarter.
You have got to be shitting me.
Vince Verhei: Seahawks get their first touchdown on a slick blocked punt. Doug Baldwin lines up wide, then sneaks inside right before the snap, with another defender dropping from the middle to cover the gunner. Baldwin comes in off the edge unblocked and smothers the punt, and the Seahawks scoop and score.
Aaron Schatz: I know, I know, people hate when we complain about officiating but ... they just called a tripping penalty on Richard Sherman. The only "tripping" he did was tackling Dez Bryant by grabbing his leg after Bryant caught the ball. And even stranger -- I figured it would be "penalty declined" but I guess tripping is technically a dead ball penalty so they handed the Cowboys half the distance to the goal, an extra 10 yards.
Vince Verhei: Not for nothing, but the ref for today's Seahawks game is Bill Leavy. You might remember another Seattle game he reffed once upon a time.
That is not, however, why Seattle is down 17-10 at halftime (and it feels like about 28-0). The Cowboys are physically dominating and beating up Seattle on both sides of the ball like I haven't seen in who knows how long. The Seahawks scored on a blocked punt and got a 53-yard catch from Jermaine Kearse to set up a field goal, and otherwise have 30 yards on 16 plays. Dallas, meanwhile, has cranked out 15 first downs. Seahawks came into the game not allowing a 40-yard rusher all year; DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle both went over the 40-yard mark in the first half. Marshawn Lynch, meanwhile, has two carries for 8 yards. There's a lot of football left, but man, that was an ass-kicking.
Aaron Schatz: Dwayne Harris drops an attempt at a fair catch on punt return. Seahawks recover, and with good field position score easily. Great block by Luke Willson on keeper touchdown by Russell Wilson. Seattle's only in this game right now because of special teams. How kooky is that?
Scott Kacsmar: Even the Washington special teams finds this performance embarrassing, Dallas.
Aaron Schatz: For those who didn't see us discussing it on Twitter... halfway through the third quarter, the Seahawks ditched their "keep cornerbacks on sides" strategy and instead had Richard Sherman following Dez Bryant around the field.
Aaron Schatz: In the second quarter, I don't think he was doing it. I remember seeing that whoever had replaced Maxwell was on Dez Bryant a couple times. I think they didn't switch it until the third.
Andrew Healy: I wasn't watching that game much in the first half, but it looked like Sherman shadowed Bryant across the field on that play where he got called for that ridiculous tripping penalty.
Vince Verhei: So much to say about Seattle right now. On the Dallas drive following the Wilson touchdown, Sherman moves to the offense's left to cover Bryant. It hardly matters, though, because two plays later Tony Romo isn't ready for the shotgun snap (and even if he had been ready, the snap hit him below the knee) and the Seahawks recover to set up a go-ahead field goal.
You know in They Live, when Roddy Piper gets the glasses that let him see the aliens? There are times when I think everyone sees Percy Harvin as a great football player, but I've got the special glasses that let me see that he's really not very good (and I edited that from something harsher several times). I know he had a bunch of touchdowns called back on Monday night, but by and large, when he gets the ball, nothing good happens. But everyone still talks about how great he is, and defenses keep keying on him like he's Red Grange or something.
Marcus Burley is in for Maxwell, and with Sherman on the left, Dallas is going right after Burley on the right.
Matt Waldman: Regarding your Harvin thoughts: Roddy White had quite a movie career.
Falcons game on the brain. Maybe Piper saw White in Hollywood with those glasses and freaked out.
Andrew Healy: Murray went over 100 yards for the sixth straight game with the touchdown that puts Dallas ahead 27-23. Those last two runs were great displays of blocking. The first featured some great Murray running in traffic, the second had an awesome cut left to avoid Earl Thomas.
Aaron Schatz: We thought that given their personnel losses, the Cowboys would be an exception to the general rule that says defenses regress towards the mean much more than offenses do. It turns out they are not. Rarely does a team have a defense as bad as the 2013 Cowboys for multiple seasons.
Andrew Healy: Given the context in which it happened and the fact that Dallas looks like they'll win, that pass from Romo to Terrance Williams on third-and-20 is probably the play of the season so far. An incredible escape by Romo, a very good throw, and then an unbelievable catch by Terrance Williams. Does Romo get clutch credit here?
But hold on. A holding penalty means the Seahawks will have 1:09 instead of a little under 0:30. That penalty was very Cowboys from recent years. You have to coach your guys not to commit a penalty there.
Vince Verhei: So here's what Percy Harvin did today: three carries for -1 yard, three catches in four targets for zero yards. He also had a 28.4-yard average on five kick returns, but he ran all five out of the end zone, getting tackled inside the 20 on three returns and reaching the 21 on a fourth.
Percy Harvin stats this year:
Running: 11 for 92 (8.4 YPC), 1 TD
Receiving: 22 for 133 (6.0 Y/R), 0 TD
He has been targeted 25 times this year, so he's averaging 6.1 yards on those plays.
Washington Redskins 20 at Arizona Cardinals 30
Scott Kacsmar: From what I've seen of Carson Palmer today he looks good. Ball's getting out just in time to avoid sacks and usually on target with solid velocity. Always a scary thing to hear "nerve damage," but he more or less is looking like the guy who directed a win over San Diego in Week 1.
New York Giants 0 at Philadelphia Eagles 27
Scott Kacsmar: Ben McAdoo is like a perfect combo of an aged Randal & Dante from Clerks.
Aaron Schatz: I have no idea what the Eagles offense is doing differently tonight compared to past weeks. It's the same backup linemen. They're using misdirection, but they always use misdirection. They're going fast, but they always do that too. Yet LeSean McCoy is getting huge holes.
Tom Gower: First half thoughts on SNF: Man, the Giants have problems on the offensive line. That was expected to be a problem heading into the season, but it had been under control in recent weeks. Not so tonight, and Justin Pugh seems to have been the worst, or at least the most noticeable offender. I haven't exactly been impressed with Andre Williams' work in the run game tonight, and the negative down-and-distance situations the run game has put them in have just magnified the pass protection issues.
I think Cian commented about this on Twitter, but the Giants do not have quick linebackers. The Eagles have taken advantage of that at times tonight, as Shady has been able to take advantage of the space. I think they're also not playing with as heavy a box as the Eagles have been used to facing lately. Nick Foles has also hit some nice deep throws downfield, which is an area he's really struggled with this year. Yes, I wrote about his deep ball struggles this week; this is what happens when you write about things, as Werner Heisenberg could tell you.