Audibles at the Line: Week 7
compiled by Bill Barnwell
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 tune 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.
Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which 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 Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Raiders fan, not so much.)
Green Bay Packers 31 at Cleveland Browns 3
Bill Barnwell: Not sure what the most yards after catch a fullback has gotten on a non-screen pass, but Spencer Havner just caught a pass at the sidelines and went 35 yards or so for a touchdown.
It takes the Packers six tries from inside the five to get the ball into the end zone. Six tries! And on the touchdown, Ryan Grant fumbles the moment after the ball crosses the plane.
Doug Farrar: Clearly, Norv is beaming his super-secret Red Zone Failure signals to the Cleveland area.
San Francisco 49ers 21 at Houston Texans 24
Doug Farrar: So much for the folderol regarding Michael Crabtree’s first NFL snap. On first-and-10 against the Texans, Joe Staley pinches inside to help the left guard, leaving Mario Williams completely and totally free to shoot through and sack the crap out of Shaun Hill. With that kind of protection, I’m thinking Crabtree might be more helpful with some VERY quick receiver screens.
Tom Gower: Matt Schaub displayed beautiful touch on a nice seam pass to Daniels to help set up a Slaton TD. Patrick Willis had excellent coverage, but there was room over the top and Schaub hit Daniels in stride. Though Slaton did finish off the drive, the Texans' problems in run blocking are still apparent. One thing they tried to do was having Schaub fake a bad snap and run backwards in an attempt to distract the defense (Slaton still only got 2). That's not something you normally see a team go to in the first.
Vince Verhei: With 8:43 to go in the second quarter, the 49ers get their first first down, on a short corner route to Crabtree. Their first three drives were all three-and-outs, against the 26th-in-DVOA Texans. The Houston defensive line is having their way with things -- which says all you need to know about the San Francisco offensive line.
And after the first down, Niners go three-and-out. But Crabtree has now tied Heyward-Bey in catches. (DHB is still ahead by 14 yards though. Crabtree should pass him before the fourth quarter starts.)
Bill Barnwell: Sal Paolontonio noted on Matchup that the Niners have more three-and-out drives than anyone in football.
Tom Gower: Ridiculously premature statistical projection alert: after Crabtree's second catch, PBP guy Chris Myers notes that Isaac Bruce didn't have any catches his first game, so he's already ahead of Bruce's pass for career catches.
Bill Barnwell: Wow. Shaun Hill benched for Alex Smith in Houston. I guess he has a better rapport with Crabtree than Hill does, considering Smith's job was to get him ready...
Doug Farrar: If they want rapport with Crabtree, I guess the next step is signing Graham Harrell.
Vince Verhei: You know, unless Smith brings some Steve Young-level escapability, this benching makes no sense. It's not Hill's fault that he's been swarmed by blue jerseys all day.
That being said, Smith did lead the team right down the field and hit Vernon Davis on a seam route for a touchdown, so what do I know?
Vince Verhei: Smith hits Davis for another touchdown. Smith is playing very well (8-of-9 with two scores), but he's getting much better protection than Hill did.
Aaron Schatz: Alex Smith has thrown three touchdowns to Vernon Davis in the second half. This leads to the question: What did Mike Singletary do with his pants at halftime?
Tom Gower: Alex Smith can't complete the comeback-he spikes the ball on first down, has to throw the ball away on second down, scrambles for a couple on 4th down, takes his 3rd delay of game, then gets picked on 4th down overthrowing the seamer under pressure. The 49ers continue to have OL issues, and Frank Gore's 13-32 against the Texans rush D suggests it's not just in the pass game. Vernon Davis had a very nice game, though-looked like the matchup threat you'd expect coming into the league.
Will Carroll: In virtually every fantasy league I was in, I picked up Crabtree with the late "oh what the bleep" pick. I guess it's kinda paying off now?
Vince Verhei: I noted this in Any Given Sunday after the Falcons game, but the 49ers offensive line is quite likely the worst unit in the league. It's pretty much either them or the Raiders wide receivers.
Bill Barnwell: Can I make nominations for worst unit in the league? Because I really think the Chiefs secondary and the Bears offensive line deserve mention.
Tom Gower: Unless you're a big fan of Danny Amendola as a #2, Rams wideouts are definitely down there.
Doug Farrar: The Seahawks offensive line would like to nominate itself, but everyone got hurt in the voting process.
Vince Verhei: Check out our offensive line page for a bit. The SF line has been substantially worse then either SEA or CHI. It's really not close.
San Diego Chargers 37 at Kansas City Chiefs 7
Bill Barnwell: Vincent Jackson is absolutely ripping apart the Chiefs. He somehow ended up 50 yards downfield with only Jon McGraw on him, and while I think Jon McGraw is a nice little underrated player, he's not someone you match up against a huge WR that far downfield. They also just ran a really nifty throwback screen to Antonio Gates with the offensive lines pulling to either side.
It's irritating when the announcer suggests that Antonio Gates runs like a halfback, though. He doesn't -- honest. He doesn't even run like a wide receiver. His cuts are far slower, and he doesn't accelerate the way they do. He runs like a talented tight end, with the cuts more effective because people are afraid to tackle a guy so big. What's the shame in that?
The Chargers proceed to fail to score with five plays inside the two-yard line against the Chiefs. Norv Turner challenges a Chris Chambers drop out of sheer desperation. Whee! Norv Turner is suck.
Doug Farrar: Some college teams now have co-offensive coordinators. Maybe A.J. Smith needs to hire someone to take the headset away from Norv from the opponent’s 20-yard line in. On the other hand, the Chargers are currently 31st in Power and 27th in Stuffed. We all know what happened to San Diego’s ability to deal with power on defense, but what’s the deal with their inability to generate power on the other side of the ball? They’re first in ALY to left tackle, but that’s probably sample-size – they only run that way five percent of the time.
Bill Barnwell: I've always been harsh on Matt Cassel, but he just made a gorgeous throw to Lance Long, splitting three defenders and hitting him in the hands, only for Long to lay out and drop the pass. He then tried to convince Todd Haley to throw the challenge flag on a pass he didn't catch.
Dick Enberg on the undersized, we'll say underpigmented Long: "He's one of those little guys with a lot of grit, quick, not exceptionally fast, but he'll try for everything..."
Not to pick on poor Jon McGraw, but he gets matched up as the one deep safety against Darren Sproles, who's the hot read on a big blitz and gets thrown a swing pass with about 25 yards of space. McGraw just freezes until Sproles makes his move, runs right by him, and goes for a touchdown.
Minnesota Vikings 17 at Pittsburgh Steelers 27
Mike Kurtz: It's a sack-and-punt fest in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is getting great field position and doing nothing with it. The defense, however, looks very sharp, especially the linebackers. In the last drive, they went
up for third-and-long in something akin to 11 Angry Men (had two linemen set, but the same vaguely-defined, ambling formation). Very cool.
David Gardner: I just saw the Holmes' touchdown catch (before it was called back for holding), how long has Holmes been doing the Joey Galloway-style flex celebration? I've never noticed it before.
Mike Kurtz: I believe he's been doing it since the start of this year, but not entirely sure. I'm almost positive that he didn't do it last year, so it's something relatively new.
Gay is really screwing it up this quarter. This drive popped when he made a huge mistake and delayed his CB blitz, which left his guy wide open. Another play, he fails to make a tackle on Berrian on a play to extend the drive.
The next play, while an incomplete, is really telling... he should know that Berrian is to his left, the outside. He notices that Berrian has cut his route short by the sticks. Gay turns around, to his RIGHT. It was an incomplete, but that is a massive mistake. The safety should be converging to the WR's inside, so the CB needs to be in position to make sure that the WR doesn't just grab the ball and streak down the sidelines, where no other defender would have an angle on him.
So, he's screwed up in ways both big and small. They'll probably start shading Polamalu to the left side to give Gay help against Berrian, because now he's lining up with a massive cushion.
Bill Barnwell: Adrian Peterson's carries so far: -1, 3, -3, 15, 3, -2.
Are the Steelers not isolating Ike Taylor against #1 guys anymore?
Mike Kurtz: It appears they're having Taylor play the right side this
week instead of matching up. Not sure if it's new for this game or if
they've done this the past few games, just noticed myself.
Aaron Schatz: Someone needs to tell the Vikings how the Cover-2 works. When you let Mike Wallace catch the ball in a colossal hole between the first level of defenders and the second level of defenders, it is the job of the second level of defenders to TACKLE HIM.
Mike Kurtz: Roethlisberger has looked really shaky the final drive of the half, but the final pass was a thing of beauty, right over the outstretched hands of the linebackers in the mid zone, right into Wallace's hands.
Favre has probably looked better of the two thus far today. I think we're going to see a lot of adjustments for fast-paced passing in the second half, the Vikings to keep the Steelers' defense as simple as possible, and the Steelers to take advantage of Roethlisberger.
Of course, they'll probably come out with the all-Willie Parker offense, with my luck.
Vince Verhei: I just want to thank the Steelers and Vikings for playing a close, entertaining game. Steelers lead 10-7 at halftime. In every other early game somebody was ahead by 14 points or more at the half.
Mike Kurtz: Roethlisberger with a good scramble, runs just past the sticks and OOB, Sapp apparently believes he has been transported into the XFL and just launches himself at Roethlisberger as he's stepping out.
Bill Barnwell: You take that back. No one pulled that kind of crap in the XFL.
Doug Farrar: Sapp did make a nice move a couple of plays later betting a ball away intended for Hines Ward, but that late hit was stoo-pid. The way they’re protecting quarterbacks this year, I’m surprised Sapp didn’t get deported on the spot.
Wow. It would seem that Norv is now beaming to Pittsburgh. The Vikings have first-and-goal in the third quarter and go to Peterson on first down, Favre overthrows Sidney Rice by about 10 feet on second down, and throws an incomplete pass to Jim Kleinsasser on third down. Field goal. Or was that Brett Favre receiving the NorvGram and saying, “No thanks, man – I’ve got this one!”
Mike Kurtz: Holy crap, Santonio Holmes. Slant, Holmes shrugs, hops, then stiff-arms and makes a huge play after the catch...
And then Mendenhall dives, Williams jabs his arm in and pops the ball out. Jumping over the line not such a great idea.
Bill Barnwell: Fast Willie wouldn't have done that.
Aaron Schatz: Watching Harvin take a nice end around made me think: Whatever happened to all that talk about using Harvin in the backfield? Not just Wildcat stuff, but as a running back sometime? Hasn't really happened, right?
Vince Verhei: I'm watching this with Steelers fans who can't understand why the Pittsburgh corners are giving the Minnesota receivers 10-yard cushions. Then Percy Harvin blows right by Gay and his 10-yard cushion. The pass was underthrown and incomplete, but that shows why the cushions are so big. Maybe they should be 20 yards back.
Aaron Schatz: Sidney Rice is having a hell of a game, and he'd be having even more of a hell of a game if he didn't keep having good catches called back by holding penalties.
Bill Barnwell: Well, in all fairness, the holding penalties help make those plays happen.
Aaron Schatz: The holding penalties make it possible for Favre to get the ball there. They don't create the good catches by Rice.
Bill Barnwell: The strip sack of Favre that ended up turning into a touchdown was pretty remarkable beyond the obvious reason; that it followed an overturned touchdown. Notably, Favre totally loses his idea of where the ball is. It's rare to see a veteran -- let alone a downright old guy like Favre -- lose control of where the ball is.
That play's also a great example of why scoring touchdowns on defensive returns is mostly random. Woodley nearly fell over twice, just barely eluded the grasp of a tackler, and made his cuts at exactly the right time, while the offensive players took terrible routes to the ballcarrier.
Mike Kurtz: Part of the evils of Fantasy Football: I'm slightly annoyed because the sack/fumble/TD trifecta gave my opponent 9 fantasy points. By the way, Pittsburgh appears to be going with its patented "try to run out the clock way before the game is in hand" strategy. Awesome.
Bill Barnwell: Vikings strip Roethlisberger but try to pick the ball up. FALL ON THE BALL!!!!
Mike Kurtz: Gay may have lost the Steelers this game, right there, getting bowled over by AD.
The Steelers need to let them score, but they won't. And they will lose.
Will Carroll: Favre with the late INT, but watch the play - the LB gets the pick-6, but the guy chasing him is step for step .... and it's Loadholt, who's like 6'8 and big enough that Siragusa was calling him big. I'll say it again, step for step for about fifty yards. I'd love to see what that guy did in the 40.
Aaron Schatz: Kurtz, what's with the pessimistic Steelers fandom? Geez, man, two rings in four years. Don't be such a downer. You sound more like a Philly guy than a Pittsburgh guy with that kind of talk.
Mike Tanier: Philly fan? Two guys at my lunch table were complaining about how bad the Phillies bullpen will be next year. Those are true Philly fans!
Tom Gower: Mr. Kurtz is just that sort of fan, unfortunately.
Mike Kurtz: Aaron: not sure if it's Steelers fandom in general or just FOIRC, but we at least are ridiculously pessimistic. We even espouse the theory that Steelers performance is inversely proportional to how much the media hypes them. Agreed, for such a hugely successful team, we're really, really weird fans. But we do always believe the worst-case scenario.
Also, I generally just see the bad side of lots of things. That's why my comments are largely negative regardless of what I'm watching... I just notice the bad stuff more.
Bill Barnwell: You also see holds that the normal fan cannot see.
Mike Kurtz: I am an official. I may have a skewed perspective.
After the game...
Bill Barnwell: OK, really? The headline on the MIN-PIT game on NBC Sports is "Steelers stun Vikings behind Favre's late gaffes". Really? Favre was strip-sacked from behind after a penalty by someone else cost his team a otherwise-legitimate touchdown, and then hit Chester Taylor in the hands with a pass that bounced into a Steelers' player's hands. The returns have nothing to do with him. And people say we play the games on paper...
Indianapolis Colts 42 at St. Louis Rams 6
Bill Barnwell: The Rams bust out a flea flicker to Donnie Avery for 51 yards against the Colts. Considering that they follow that with a dropped quick slant by former Giants washout Tim Carter and a miscommunication on a route pattern heading into the end zone, the flea flicker might be a good base offensive play for the Rams.
Aaron Schatz: Check out the placement of the ball by Peyton Manning on the Dallas Clark TD pass. That thing was like six inches past the outstretched fingers of the Rams defender and landed nice and soft in Clark's hands. Sweet.
Doug Farrar: It is rare that you see a veteran like Marc Bulger telegraph a throw as he did on the third-quarter interception by Jacob Lacey. He gets the Samuel Morse Award for that one.
New England Patriots 35 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7
Bill Barnwell: Wembley really is a gorgeous stadium. Josh Johnson must have been admiring it, since he threw a spacing route about three seconds too late and Brandon Meriweather, himself often distracted by things occuring on the sideline, picked it off and returned it for six.
David Gardner: Games in London are awesome because hardly anyone in the crowd has a jersey for either team. The most recent jersey I've seen so far is Matt Ryan.
... And another Meriweather interception, this time off a tip on a pass intended for $25-million man Michael Clayton.
Bill Barnwell: I swear, I never even noticed that Michael Clayton had signed an extension. $25 million?! Really? For a guy with five consecutive seasons between 22 and 38 catches???
David Gardner: I remember flipping around on some local Tampa radio stations the day the extension was reported and all I could hear was weeping.
Aaron Schatz: Cadillac Williams has already slipped on the turf twice, and Antonio Bryant once, reminding us that groundskeepers keep a football field different than a soccer pitch (where the point is for the ball to
travel fast across the grass).
Bill Barnwell: I don't know if that's necessarily true. I mean, soccer players run more and make a fair amount of cuts.
Will Carroll: The grass isn't the issue, it's how it's cut. Wembley was kept by the NFL in "Super Bowl condition."
Aaron Schatz: They showed a shot of four Tampa Bay "fans" with Buccaneers bandanas covering their faces "bandit-style." The problem? 1) Bandit Ball was a DIFFERENT Tampa football team. 2) Two of these guys were wearing Roethlisberger jerseys, and a third was wearing a Peyton Manning jersey.
Sebastian Vollmer was supposed to be a project when the Pats took him in the second round, but he looks really good. How apropos for this European game to see the German playing well -- although I think if the NFL wants a homegrown European star, they would prefer someone who was NOT an offensive lineman.
Not to steal Uni Watch's thunder, but it's very strange in the Bucs-Pats game to see Brandon McGowan wearing red arm-warmer thingies when all the other Pats are wearing blue arm-warmer thingies.
Vince Verhei: As long as we're discussing uniforms, I tried to watch some UFL highlights last night, but gave up when I realized that every team in the league has the same colors, and those colors are white, sky blue, and lime green.
Mike Tanier: Oh gosh, those UFL uniforms were ugly. And the television feed was horrible. The HD Cameras must have been set to Ultra Bright or something.
New York Jets 38 at Oakland Raiders 0
Vince Verhei: Oakland first drive: JaMarcus Russell is sacked and fumbles. Jets recover on the 4-yard line.
New York first drive: Thomas Jones runs for 3, 0, and 0 yards, then finally picks up the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
A barnburner, this is.
Leon Washington fractures his fibula.
Will Carroll: That did not look good for Washington. It looked like ankle rather than knee.
Vince Verhei: Guys, JaMarcus Russell is getting worse. He just threw a pass while jumping backward that came down 8 yards short of his intended target for an easy interception that was returned inside the 10. Mark Sanchez runs it in on the next play.
Heyward-Bey did catch a 24-yarder to back in front of Crabtree in yards, though he still trails him in catches.
They just showed Robert Gallery on the sidelines with ponytail and shaggy beard. He looks like Bruiser Brody reincarnate.
In football news, Russell goes deep to a well-covered receiver and Darrelle Revis intercepts it in the end zone. It's Russell's third turnover of the opening quarter.
Bill Barnwell: And Rex Ryan gets the Colbert Award with a THIRD fake punt this year, this one from his own 23 on fourth-and-7. AWESOME.
JaMarcus Russell's coming out in Oakland. Fortunately, he qualified for Loser League this week, and delivered a -3.
Vince Verhei: I don't know who Shonn Greene is, but he's ripping up the Oakland defense. He took a pitch to the right took off like a lightning bolt,
then broke tackles on an 8-yard up-the-middle touchdown run.
Will Carroll: Does it matter who Shonn Greene is at this stage? Wouldn't Frank Caliendo gain yardage running against the Raiders?
Aaron Schatz: Not necessarily. Richard Seymour definitely helped their run defense. Their problem is offense, not defense.
Mike Tanier: Running against the Raiders? Wish Andy Reid thought of that.
Doug Farrar: Question on the Shonn Greene touchdown run that put the Jets up, 38-0: Can you call it “breaking tackles” when the defense doesn’t appear to be making any concerted effort to wrap up?
Sean McCormick: This was a game where I expected the Jets to have trouble moving the ball through the air. Having watched Oakland dominate Philadelphia along the line of scrimmage and repeatedly play press coverage with cover one or cover zero looks, I expected that the same approach would work against a Jets team that was missing its second and third receivers. But that was predicated on Oakland showing up along the defensive line, and they most assuredly did not. The Jets offensive line looked like they were working against blocking sleds all day long; when Shonn Greene came in, he was breaking the kind of explosive runs that you would expect from Leon Washington, not from a guy who was brought in to pound out three yards a carry between the tackles. Sanchez didn't play exceptionally well--his touchdown pass to David Clowney hung up in the air and would have been picked off by a more alert corner, and there were another 1-2 throws that hit Raiders in the hands and were dropped--but the dominance of the offensive line meant that he could be as conservative as he needed to be.
Aaron Schatz: Fanntasy stampede on Shonn Greene!
Chicago Bears 10 at Cincinnati Bengals 45
Mike Kurtz: This game just has me speechless. The Bears' offensive and defensive lines are just getting destroyed 75 percent of the time, and it's showing. I could say that Cutler isn't having a great day, but it's really, really not his fault. Cincinnati looks really good.
Atlanta Falcons 21 at Dallas Cowboys 37
Vince Verhei: Atlanta ran what appeared to be a triple-option on their early touchdown drive. I'm sure in reality it was a fullback give and the quarterback and halfback activity was just for show, but how cool would it be if they started doing that regularly?
Doug Farrar: Early in the second quarter, Felix Jones puts on as impressive an exhibition of pass-blocking as you'll ever see. Cornerback Chevis Jackson shoots off the right edge on a corner blitz. Jones engages him, takes him off the ground with the force of his block, and hauls him backward a good five yards, Jackson in the air the whole time. He looked like he got picked up by a tornado. That there's what you call an ass-whomping.
Dallas had early red-zone success confounding Matt Ryan with a zone blitz in which DeMarcus Ware went into coverage, which you don't see every day.
Bill Barnwell: Tony Romo with the play of the week, juking and backdropping rushers in the backfield to create time and get the ball to Patrick Crayton for a touchdown. The only other person in the league who can make that play -- maybe -- is Big Ben.
Tom Gower: Matt Ryan, who's struggling some against DAL's surprisingly decent-seeming pass D, just misses the outstretched arms of Tony Gonzalez on a pass, but the ball continues on right into the waiting arms of Roddy White on the sideline. Not sure which of the two he was throwing to, but if it was to Gonzalez, it's a bad and dangerous pass and if it's to White, it's right where it should have been.
Bill Barnwell: Almost positive it was to White and Gonzalez just ran his route too deep. Doesn't make sense that Gonzalez would run an out two yards short of the first down marker, and that Ryan would throw it.
Miles Austin just physically abused Brent Grimes on a back-shoulder fade for his second touchdown. I understand that it's Brent Grimes, but...Austin is blowing away Roy Williams. J.I. brought this up on Twitter -- the Jets could've offered Austin a contract this offseason that the Cowboys would've struggled to match and picked him up as a restricted free agent for a second-round pick. Instead, they acquired Braylon Edwards, will have to give him a bigger deal, and gave up two players and a third and a fifth for him, getting five fewer games of him in the process. And I'm pretty sure Austin's the better player.
Mike Tanier: So Romo is no longer a scrambler? Twice he has scrambled, and twice Aikman and Buck have commented that he isn't known for his running. Since when?
Bill Barnwell: Well, Mike, he's one of those little guys with a lot of grit, quick, not exceptionally fast, but he'll try for everything...
Doug Farrar: That’s actually Thom Brenneman in the booth with Aikman. Buck is getting ready to further disgrace baseball broadcasting with his buddy McCarver.
Vince Verhei: The best thing about the baseball playoffs is that it means Joe Buck is not around to ruin football games for a few weeks.
New Orleans Saints 46 at Miami Dolphins 34
The Dolphins get out to an early lead on the strength of their running game...
Aaron Schatz: DVOA defensive rankings for New Orleans going into this week:
vs. pass: 2
vs. run: 22
Since they had never been behind in a game until today, the Saints had faced twice as many pass plays as running plays in their first five games. So of course, that split didn't stop them from having the number two defense overall. But now here we are, they're down 14-3 against a team with a great running game, and we're seeing that Gregg Williams didn't solve ALL the problems with the New Orleans defense.
Vince Verhei: That does not explain why Drew Brees is currently 4-of-9 for 22 yards and a pick.
Bill Barnwell: Make that two picks, as a tipped pass falls into a diving Reggie Torbor's hands. Dolphins are blitzing Brees -- just like the Giants should have last week -- and forcing him into mistakes.
Aaron Schatz: Dick Stockton doing PBP on Saints-Dolphins just fell into the trap of conventional NFL team stats. "This is a surprise, because both these teams were strong against the run coming into this game -- Saints were fifth, Dolphins were third." No, no, no. Saints were fifth in yards allowed per game because nobody runs against them when they're trying to come back from a three-touchdown deficit. For crying out loud, dude.
Bill Barnwell: Color guy just added the mythos of "This is a day where you find out a lot about your ballclub, you find out how you react to playing from behind." Like the Saints haven't been behind in a game in either of the previous two seasons with mostly the same roster? What, is Darren Sharper going to bowl over and cry in the locker room at halftime?
Speaking of, holy crap. Darren Sharper has ANOTHER return for a touchdown.
David Gardner: The Miami-New Orleans game is getting a little crazy. Drew Brees threw a nice pass to Colston on a third and 12 around the Dolphins' 30. Colston had possession for a moment and then was stripped by Nate Jones who ended up with an interception and a touchback.
Aaron Schatz: Good point by Scramble Emeritus Ian Dembsky: Why are the Dolphins going pass-happy to start the fourth quarter? They're getting wrapped up in playing New Orleans' type of game. They should keep running, going Wildcat, breaking down that Saints run defense.
David Gardner: It's fitting that Drew Brees scored on a sneak to put the Saints ahead. It was his decision to go for it at the end of the half that allowed the Saints to crawl back in the game.
Tom Gower: That was a beautiful QB sneak/draw by Brees. Very nice design by Payton and well-executed.
David Gardner: Greg Camarillo catches a pass just before the two-minute warning and can't get the first down or get out of bounds. As he's heading toward the sidelines, he kind of shoves the ball out of bounds, and the officials rule it an illegal forward pass. It took them like 3 minutes of real time to decide. I don't know how you can determine his motives. It was hard to tell even from the replay, in my opinion.
Aaron Schatz: Well, the Dolphins really melted down here in the fourth quarter. Stupid penalties, dropped passes, and going away from the running game that got them the lead in the first place -- even before New Orleans actually went ahead. Quite a mental collapse. Adding a significant comeback to all those blowouts really makes the Saints look like the current best team in football -- unless that title belongs to the team that employs Archie's kid. Bring on the Manning Family Reunion in Miami.
Arizona Cardinals 24 at New York Giants 17
Aaron Schatz: Big news from the Giants: Kareem McKenzie inactive, making tonight the first regular season game since 2006 where the Giants will not start the same five linemen.
Mike Kurtz: NBC pregame stuff actually on the field during warm-ups, this week; Fitzgerald came over to rub Collinsworth's head, and they actually called over a Giant (forget which one) to come over and say hi. That was actually pretty cool.
Bill Barnwell: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the proto-DeAngelo Hall. He's fast and he has great ball skills. On the other hand, he doesn't have very good instincts, doesn't win the battle at the line of scrimmage, is awful in the running game, and is easily fooled. Of course, Hall never developed. We'll see if DRC does.
When did two people naked in separate bathtubs become the universal symbol of impending lovemaking?
Aaron Schatz: Spoken like a true single person, Bill. Us marrieds know that the first important purchase after you tie the knot is always matching bathtubs.
Cris Collinsworth is emphasizing that the Cardinals are bringing their safeties up to stop the run and dare the Giants to win with the pass, but that's not some kind of new strategy because they're playing the Giants. Have you seen the run defense numbers for the Cards this year? This is how they are playing against everybody.
Bill Barnwell: That screams "I didn't watch any game tape." I'm not saying he did or he didn't, but that's what it tells me.
Doug Farrar: One thing I’ve noticed about Arizona’s defense in the switch from Clancy Pendergast to Bill Davis is that they’re much better with gap control, which I think is the key to their massive improvement in Defensive ALY, Power and Stuffed. Pendergast was more creative, but you’d see the defense flying around too fast, missing assignments and getting burned by any misdirection. Now, they’re much better at holding spaces and making key plays.
Aaron Schatz: Wow, with all the crazy personal fouls and roughing the passer penalties being called this year, how on earth did the officials not flag Antrel Rolle for the fourth quarter helmet-on-helmet hit on Kevin Boss that had Boss clearly woozy afterwards? Holy cow.
Doug Farrar: Rolle will be getting a letter from the league office and a charitable deduction from a future paycheck, I'm sure.
Penalty note #1: Can someone explain to me why Lyle Sendlein got flagged in this game for bobbing his head pre-snap, and Olin Kreutz got away with it about ten times last week against the Falcons? The only time the Bears saw a flag for it last Sunday was when Kreutz’s head movement got another Bears lineman to move early.
Penalty note #2: How was Antrel Rolle’s hit on Kevin Boss with four minutes left in the game not a 15-yard penalty under the “defenseless receiver” rule? He led with his helmet on a guy up in the air with his full attention on making a catch. It’s not a rule I’m in favor of, as it requires the refs to make bang-bang judgment calls and the players to go stop-motion in mid-air, but call the thing if you’re going to call it.
Aaron Schatz: Another set of playcalls here that may go down in the annals of strange clock management. Cardinals have a touchdown lead, luck into a Ahmad Bradshaw fumble with 3:30 left, and go pass, pass, pass -- with two of them incomplete and stopping the clock.
And oy, this kid William Beatty, the new right tackle, on this drive. Not a good set of plays. A false start, then he gets completely whipped on the blitz where the Cardinals tackled Bradshaw behind the line.
And some lousy throws by Eli Manning on this last drive, throwing to covered guys. He did it once on the left where the ball got slapped away, and then once on the right where Antrel Rolle picks it off.
Bill Barnwell: So this doesn't count as clutch Eli, right? I just want to make sure that we can separate clutch Eli situations solely into the ones where he plays well.
Tom Gower: Obviously, Bill, Burress would have prevented the end zone interception and the interception at the end of the game, since he clearly would've outfought the DB in each case and caught those balls.
Sean McCormick: When Kenny Phillips went down, everyone assumed it would have a big impact on the Giants pass defense. Everyone was right. The Giants simply cannot cover the middle of the field at all, as their linebackers are subpar in coverage and their safeties are abysmal. No one noticed this for the first five weeks because of a schedule that featured potent passing attacks like Washington, Kansas City, Oakland and Tampa Bay, but against upper echelon passing attacks, the Giants are helpless to defend the deep middle. If they can't generate a pass rush, they're cooked. Speaking of pass rush, I think that's another area where the Giants have been able to camoflauge a big dropoff due to the poor quality of their schedule. It's not that the front four are necessarily worse off than they were last year (though they don't seem to be playing at quite the same level), but that the blitz packages have gotten radically less effective since Steve Spagnolo left.