Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Audibles at the Line: Week 5
Audibles at the Line: Week 5
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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 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.

Chicago Bears 23 at Carolina Panthers 6

Mike Kurtz: This game is going to be all run, all the time. Both teams have scored on drives that were either mostly (Bears) or entirely (Panthers) running plays. Carolina's offensive line is getting good push against the Bears defensive line and opening up some nice holes.

Two drives in, Matt Forte has 101 yards and two touchdowns. The second came on the first play of the second drive for 68 yards.

And how do you follow that big run up? Why, and end-around to Hester, a run up the middle by Chester Taylor, a broken pass play and a way-too-short quick slant. Awesome.

A series by the goal line ends with Todd Collins with an ugly interception in the end zone. Moral of the story: Forte.

Well, this is interesting. After OPI, they run it into the line for a loss of one, with holding. The Bears decline the penalty, which would've left the Panthers with first-and-30 at their own 5-yard line. The next play, Clausen's handoff flies out of his hands, down to the Carolina 2. Can't help but think there's some chance that could've ended with a safety had they accepted.

Vince Verhei: After a 17-3 halftime lead, Chicago's first three drives consist of three Matt Forte runs, six Todd Collins pass plays, and zero first downs. Bad Mike Martz! No biscuit!

Doug Farrar: Mike Martz: Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!

Mike Kurtz: It's that kind of game -- Matt Moore comes in, immediately throws a pass that bounces off the receiver's thigh, right into Urlacher's hands.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 at Cincinnati Bengals 21

David Gardner: And here's the first evidence of the Bucs without Tanard Jackson -- a 43-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens. Owens was wide open, with Sabby Piscitelli wandering aimlessly around in the secondary.

Doug Farrar: Awe. Some. If you told me that Brian Russell was the Bucs’ secondary coach, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

David Gardner: Cody Grimm just had a nice pick for a score for the Bucs. It looks like they were running Cover-3 with Talib dropping back in deep coverage and Grimm cutting the route underneath.

Doug Farrar: Note to Josh Freeman: This is a learning experience. When you’re dealing with Johnathan Joseph in the opposing secondary, don’t throw to a zone and hope it works out for the best. Bad idea, pick, 60-yard run by Earnest Graham (!) wasted.

Bill Barnwell: Out of the fullback slot, too! Earnest Graham is a really nifty football player. Made Chris Crocker look like ... the other Chris Crocker.

David Gardner: Graham is definitely under-used as well. But he'll get more of a presence in the offense now -- it seems like they are reducing Cadillac Williams' role.

Bill Barnwell: Now, are they also specifically scripting plays where Josh Freeman scrambles for his life and taps the "pass" button on his controller as lightly as possible?

David Gardner: And now Sabby is trying to start fights after the end of plays.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, there’s something wrong with Carson Palmer, Near the end of the second half, the Bengals run a red zone route combo on the defensive right side in which Sabby has solo coverage on T.O. in the end zone for about half a second.

David Gardner: Here's something you aren't used to seeing from the Bucs -- a methodical, 5:30 touchdown drive that moves more than 70 yards down the field.

Bill Barnwell: That drive gets to the one with ... Josh Freeman throwing a jump pass off of his back feet that gets called as a DPI in the end zone.

Very questionable overturn on that fumbled kickoff. Looked like it was far from conclusive.

David Gardner: Piscitelli just managed to let Jermaine Gresham get behind him when the Bengals were on the 1-yard-line. He never even looked back for the ball.

Bill Barnwell: In all fairness, he had an entire field to look at. There was probably something in the distance distracting him.

David Gardner: Bucs go for it on fourth-and-7 from the Bengals' 40-yard line. The pass falls incomplete, but Morris had called a timeout just before the play. It was late-game field goal esque. On try two, they punted and pinned the Bengals at the 5.

Bill Barnwell: Benson promptly dragged Sabby Piscitelli for five yards on first down.

And then for three yards on third-and-1.

David Gardner: Benson is bullying the Bucs. He's averaging 6.8 yards a carry.

On third-and-13, the Bengals decide to throw instead of forcing the Bucs to call their final timeout. Palmer throws it to Owens, but Talib jumps it and hands the Bucs the ball in Bengals' territory.

Mike Williams is officially one of the draft's biggest steals. He elevated on that touchdown catch.

Bill Barnwell: Bengals go right after Sabby Piscitelli to begin the two-minute drill.

Sabby Piscitelli picks off a tipped pass.

Ben Muth: Sabby Piscitelli!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

David Gardner: Piscitelli just lucked into the interception of his career.

Bill Barnwell: And the Bengals drive downfield, take an offensive pass interference penalty, and a tipped pass falls into the hands of ... Sabby Piscitelli. Now, here's where you can tell which members of the media paid close attention: If anyone says Sabby Piscitelli had a good game, they weren't paying close attention.

Doug Farrar: Are you kidding? He’s a white guy with limited physical skills and an attitude. They’ll be nominating him for Defensive Player of the Week.

Ben Muth: Connor Barth's mustache gives me a lot of confidence for this kick.

Bill Barnwell: David Akers was way worse with his mustache, though.

David Gardner: Ben, that is word for word the e-mail I was about to send out.

Ben Muth: Great minds...

Vince Verhei: Unsung special teams hero of the day: Tampa Bay's holder. There was a bad snap on the winning field goal, but the holder did a great job to reach out for the ball and get it into position.

Rob Weintraub: The Bengals had me considering not watching football any more, I was that disgusted. However, I realized that in terms of horrific, unspeakable losses the Bengals have inflicted on me and my fellow fans, this one likely doesn't crack the top ten.

St. Louis Rams 6 at Detroit Lions 44

Doug Farrar: Suh-WEET coverage by O.J. Atogwe on a second quarter deep ball to Calvin Johnson in the end zone. Johnson was screaming for a flag, but Atogwe was playing the ball and didn’t appear to interfere. He had to flip his hips and catch up to Megatron downfield, and that was a really good play.

Bill Barnwell: I actually thought there was a bit of an armbar there. But I don't think it was enough to call a penalty, so I guess I agree.

Doug Farrar: If his head wasn’t turned, they probably would have called it, but I think that was an example of the crew giving the defender latitude because he wasn’t facing the receiver and it wasn’t blatant.

Jahvid Best is making the Rams’ defense look absolutely silly with his ridiculous cuts. I haven’t seen this many bad things happen to this many ankles since the House of Blue Leaves scene in the first "Kill Bill."

Vince Verhei: Calvin Johnson scores a goal-line jump ball touchdown for Detroit. Can't even call it a route, he just kind of ambled half speed into the corner, jumped and caught the ball. I think it was Doug that mentioned this last week, but as bad as Detroit is, you can see them creeping further and further out of the pit they were buried in under the cruel reign of Millen.

Speaking of, did anyone else catch Millen doing commentary for the Michigan-Michigan State game? Was that done intentionally to infuriate the fanbases of both teams?

Doug Farrar: Yep, that was Megatron getting his own back on the same drive. Think that was James Butler getting abused on the touchdown. Over the last two seasons, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a franchise with better consecutive drafts than the Lions. (Note: This is less an empirical statement and more a discussion-starter).

This weekend, Matt Millen, Phil Simms, and Jim Mora will have done football on television. Meanwhile, Tony Boselli remains on the radio. I protest!

Vince Verhei: Lions score again on a pass to Brandon Pettigrew. Rams rushed four against five blockers, and Shaun Hill had more time in the pocket that play than Matthew Stafford did his entire rookie season.

Doug Farrar: Hey, Scramble guys: If you ever choose to add a “Lane Kiffin Award” for the best non-use of timeouts still in the bag, I nominate the Rams, who had two timeouts evaporate at the end of the first half while Daniel Fells bulled his way upfield for about 30 yards from the 50 on a swing pass from Sam Bradford with eight seconds left. It was a very impressive Csonka-esque run, but a total Awareness Fail, as the clock ran out. Best part: Fells went from the right sideline to the right hash to get more yardage. D’oh!

Ned Macey: I fear jinxing it, but the Lions are on their way to winning their first game that was shown on local TV since 2007. (I knew that, but the Detroit Free Press was kind enough to point out that it was a December road game in Kansas City.) Needless to say going more than two years without watching your team win a game is a little difficult for a fan.

Odd start to this game with a surprise onside kick by the Rams -- the attempt itself is not what is really weird, but Josh Brown tried to quick kick the Lions and fake them out that way, but once he did something weird, everyone was aware that something was up, so nobody could get caught retreating early. Lions turned that into a quick field goal.

Lions added their first TD on a great Stefan Logan 100+ yard kickoff return. I heard Schwartz talking on radio earlier this week saying that they were real close to breaking one, so he was apparently right about that. Logan strikes me as a great player to have--can both return explosively and cover kicks. Why did Pittsburgh give up on him?

As for the Rams, they look terrible. Mark Clayton went out early with a knee injury, which if serious is too bad because he was obviously helping Bradford develop. This is the first time I've seen Bradford, but after one half of sort of watching him, he seems solid on executing plays but that he has trouble if his first option isn't there, and he tends to panic and throw it away early.

Burleson just scored to make it 31-6, so this does appear to be all but over. The Lions are among the most improved teams in the league this year, and they'll still probably only win about 5 games. The most interesting thing from here on out is seeing how good Stafford is. With five games with Hill, we have a good view of how good this offense is with roughly the 30-40th best quarterback in the league. So, we should have a better idea if Stafford is any good by the end of the year.

Mike Kurtz: Pittsburgh got rid of Logan because he didn't really produce any value during his time there. It was much more likely the rest of the Pittsburgh special teams was to blame, though.

Doug Farrar: Bradford’s bumping into some rookie traps, most notably trusting that amazing arm of his on some really dumb throws. Chris Houston should have had a pick on a rollout/throw Bradford did into triple coverage in the first half.

New York Giants 34 at Houston Texans 10

Aaron Schatz: Hakeem Nicks is absolutely killing Kareem Jackson the same way that Roy Williams did two weeks ago. Play your number-two receivers against the Texans all year.

Tim Gerheim: Eli Manning has the easiest job in the league today. Sometimes he hands off. Other times, Hakeem Nicks is open, and he can throw it to him if he wants. The Texans corners are playing so far off the receivers that it looks like they don't expect any safety help at all, on any play. Nicks already has two touchdowns a minute into the second quarter, and I think he'd have three if they'd challenged the spot on his catch before the Brandon Jacobs score.

Matt Schaub also seems to throw a bonehead interception every week. I don't know the charting but I think most of them are directed at Andre Johnson. He may rely on Johnson's freakishness a little too much.

Tom Gower: Early on, it was one of those days for the Texans like FOA 2010 thought might happen. The running game wasn't consistently effective, too many of Schaub's passes were going to Giants defenders, and, as noted, Hakeem Nicks was making Kareem Jackson extraordinarily crispy to the point where he was benched for fellow rookie Brice McCain, I believe.

Aaron Schatz: Tony Siragusa: "The Texans aren't covering anybody." Meanwhile, FOX is showing a replay that shows Glover Quin running step for step with Steve Smith at the bottom of the shot while Nicks is toasting Jackson down the sideline. Tony, the Texans are covering somebody. That somebody is just not Hakeem Nicks.

Bill Barnwell: Bad throw by Eli Manning on a play where Brian Cushing was hurrying him. Manning did a full 180 before throwing a pass off his back foot that was picked off.

Tim Gerheim: Texans got an interception against Hakeem Nicks, which was doubly surprising. Kareem Jackson, who's been victimized all season, got it, but it's because he was playing underneath Nicks with safety help nearby over the top. Nicks has been shut out in the second half (just got a catch as I was typing that), and I'm pretty sure they've been consistently doubling him like that, and I think Glover Quin has been mostly handling Steve Smith on his own.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, I believe that interception was on a pass to Mario Manningham, not Jackson. It looks like the Giants tried to move things around after that pick -- on their last scoring drive, Nicks caught two balls with Quin covering him, and I believe that Steve Smith caught his touchdown against Jackson.

Going back to the Texans offense for a moment, man, did it seem discombobulated. Did Schaub throw to Kevin Walter at all? Apparently he did five times, but lord knows it was never when I was watching, because it hardly seemed like Walter was on the field. David Anderson was the third receiver with Jacoby Jones injured, and was targeted twice with one catch for zero yards. I don't know, I figure if you are trying to come back from being down three touchdowns, it probably makes sense to spread it around a little more.

Tim Gerheim: I don't know if I've ever seen the modern Texans offense look that terrible. I don't remember any passes to Owen Daniels, and Walter didn't do much, as you mentioned. Maybe Andre Johnson's injury caused some of the terrible throws to him, because he couldn't get to the spots Schaub would usually expect him in. The Giants may have in turn realized they didn't have to roll coverage to him as much as usual, and that caused a cascade where nobody else could get open like usual. But Schaub just seemed off all day, which may have simply been the pass rush.

Denver Broncos 17 at Baltimore Ravens 31

Bill Barnwell: Alleged goal line back Willis McGahee is stuffed twice from the one-yard line, and then the Ravens go play-action on fourth down and the Broncos get a megasack.

Doug Farrar: It appears that the new Ravens game plan is to sacrifice Joe Flacco for short gains in and out of the red zone. On their first two drives, Baltimore has called at least four quarterback sneaks/draws, and it was Flacco who scored the first rushing touchdown near the end of the first quarter. He’s putting his shoulder down on all these plays. Cam Cameron is making Josh McDaniels’ decision to defer the opening kickoff look pretty good.

Bill Barnwell: They appear to have given up on using McGahee as the goal-line back, which is nice of them considering I just traded for Ray Rice in my other fantasy league.

Doug Farrar: I've noticed that a lot of broadcasters call Josh McDaniels "McDaniel". I think this is because Phil Simms stole that "s" for strategic Asante Samuel purposes.

Atlanta Falcons 20 at Cleveland Browns 10

Ben Muth: Peyton Hillis just caught a touchdown, but came off the field limping. Cleveland can't get a break.

Doug Farrar: It was a ridiculous one-hander off a Seneca Wallace rainbow, and he’s scored a touchdown in every game this season. When you think of Denver’s horsecrap running game, remember that Josh McDaniels traded this guy for Brady Quinn.

Aaron Schatz: In defense of McDaniels, offensive lines do matter to the running game, plus Knowshon Moreno has been injured.

Bill Barnwell: Your Roddy White deep out update: He just ran a triple-move against Eric Wright on second-and-short. An out-and-up-and-out.

Doug Farrar: Joe Thomas is learning that if you come up out of your stance late against John Abraham, bad things happen. Even if you're Joe Thomas.

Oh my God ... that's Jake Delhomme's music!

/out-of-tune banjo is played

And Jake Delhomme lets the clock run out at the half instead of throwing a Hail Mary. What did they pay him again?

Ben Muth: Jake Delhomme is trying to throw a pick in the redzone, but the Falcons defense is not cooperating. So Jake takes matters into his own hands and pitches the ball to Hillis on a dive. The Falcons refuse to recover.

Bill Barnwell: Falcons finally get Roddy White open deep with play-action for a 45-yard touchdown to take the lead. Safety help nowhere to be found.

Ben Muth: Great special teams play by Joe Haden to down a punt at the one yard line. Also, Jake Delhomme continues to struggle.

Epic struggle to see who can turn in the worse performance. Delhomme at quarterback or Charles Davis on commentary.

Kroy Biermann just tipped a pass at the line and made the diving pick. Then took it all the way to the house. Really great play.

Also, has Jake Delhomme thrown more pick-sixes than anyone else in history?

Doug Farrar: Kyle Boller threw four just last year, I believe.

Ben Muth: I should know better than to discount a Golden Bear when it comes to incompetence.

Joe Thomas got bull rushed by John Abraham right into Jake's lap. It caused the game's clinching pick.

Kansas City Chiefs 9 at Indianapolis Colts 19

Bill Barnwell: Colts can't hold contain against the Chiefs. One long run was saved by a great Jerraud Powers tackle on Jamaal Charles, but Charles was able to pick up a first down a couple of plays later when Dwight Freeney spun inside and was totally out of position.

And then Jerraud Powers just saved a touchdown by nearly stripping Jamaal Charles on a sweep. Charles was able to hold onto the ball, but had to slow down and got tackled.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs are running all over the Colts early, driving to a fourth-and-2 inside the ten. So of course, Matt Cassel throws incomplete into triple coverage. Colts defenders were shouting at each other for blown assignments on the drive, and the camera caught Peyton Manning on the sidelines with his funniest face ever, looking like he had given up here in the first quarter. There is no good reason to ever throw against the Colts unless it's third-and-6 or more, or you're behind late in the fourth.

Doug Farrar: Brandon Flowers continues to earn his reputation as one of the game's best cover corners. Third-and-6 with 9:24 left in the first half, and the Colts have the ball at the Kansas City 6. Manning tried to get Pierre Garcon at the back of the end zone, but Flowers has him boxed out, and Manning has to throw it away. Flowers might not be at the Revis/Nnamdi level, but I believe he will be -- and soon.

Bill Barnwell: And then Colts get stuffed on fourth-and-2 when they audible into a draw. Now I give up.

Tom Gower: Jamaal Charles may now be spending more time on the bench, though it's not really his fault. Robert Mathis got his arm in there, and then Antoine Bethea came in and blast him with a very solid (and clean) hit, forcing a fumble the Colts came up with. The Colts get stuffed, though, on another inside run, this one on fourth-and-2, so it doesn't result in points the other way.

Bill Barnwell: Tamba Hali basically just punched Ryan Diem aside and strip-sacked Peyton Manning. Colts recovered, though. Big play on the drive was the Colts isolating Joseph Addai on a swing route versus Derrick Johnson, with Manning throwing to the back shoulder for an easy first down. Touchdown pass was knocked away because Manning was hit in his motion and the pass was short by a foot. Chiefs are staying in it, even if they're necessarily being outplayed.

Chiefs get to the red zone and run a pitch to Thomas Jones. Against the Colts. What the what? At least Eric Foster did the Bushwhackers celebration after the play.

Dwayne Bowe just dropped a pass in the end zone. Hit him in the hands. One of the worst drops you'll see all year. And then he just dropped the pass on second down, to. On third down, Cassel gets out his anger by throwing a screen to Dexter McCluster at about 95 MPH.

The Colts convert a third down with a pass to Pierre Garcon. They rush to the line so that Todd Haley can't look at any replays... so Todd Haley just throws the flag without looking at a replay.

Tom Gower: Peyton was obviously and immediately rushing the Colts up to the line to run another play, so Haley assumed Peyton saw something that required him to run a play quickly. Watching the replay, Peyton was right and Haley wins his challenge.

Peyton needs to do that on a close play where he's confident the ball is right to get a coach to burn a challenge trusting Peyton, because right now he's giving the opposing team valuable information when he does that.

Bill Barnwell: I's the Colts. That could happen on a third down play that wasn't a close catch at all or a third down play that was close that Manning also thought was a catch. I don't think that's great information.

Tom Gower: Peyton has looked a little uncomfortable and off all day, but part of this is probably that Kansas City has a pretty good pair of young corners in Carr and Flowers, who just made a great tip to break up a likely touchdown pass to Garcon.

After the Chiefs, down 19-9, miss a 51-yard field goal and the Colts kneel the clock out, Dan Dierdorf expounds on how important it is for teams that want to win on the road to score touchdowns. Because, frankly, if you're playing at home, scoring touchdowns isn't the least bit important apparently.

Jacksonville Jaguars 36 at Buffalo Bills 26

Bill Barnwell: Awesome football alert: Ryan Fitzpatrick one-hops a bubble screen to Roscoe Parrish. Parrish realizes it's a backwards throw and so he recovers it and starts running, and a surprised Jaguars cornerback promptly facemasks him to give the Bills first-and-goal.

Doug Farrar: Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing with his wedding ring on. Is this as cool as Reggie Roby punting while wearing a watch?

Ben Muth: Nothing will ever be as cool as Mr. Roby.

Vince Verhei: I think it moves him ahead of Doug Christie on the list of most whipped athletes.

Green Bay Packers 13 at Washington Redskins 16

Bill Barnwell: Packers-Redskins has started ugly. The Packers returned a kickoff to the eight-yard line, and then Donald Lee fumbled two plays later. Jermichael Finley appeared to blow out his knee on the tackle and got carted off. The Redskins promptly ran twice for no gain and then the snap on third down went five yards over Donovan McNabb's head, knocking the Redskins out of field goal range. Professionals!

And then Brandon Jackson promptly runs for 71 yards, infuriating everyone who gave up on him in fantasy before this week.

Ben Muth: After pumping Jammal Brown's tires in my column all year, he all of a sudden cannot block Clay Matthews.

Bill Barnwell: In all fairness, if you're going to struggle blocking anyone...

Ben Muth: Santana Moss just dropped a touchdown pass, on a nice throw on a rollout from McNabb.

Doug Farrar: McNabb made up for it by overthrowing Anthony Armstrong and Moss on consecutive plays, though. That was nice of him.

After the long touchdown from McNabb to Anthony Armstrong, the use of Charlie Peprah as the Packers' deep safety has been abolished.

Bill Barnwell: Packers are able to get pressure on the Redskins with three. So how do the Redskins convert? They throw a checkdown to Williams that gets dropped and tipped over A.J. Hawk's head and into the arms of Anthony Armstrong for a first down.

The Redskins are running a nice little two-minute drive to get in field goal range. Of course, the Packers are down to Charles Woodson and the scout team on defense, and McNabb is playing with what appears to be a leg injury. Drive stalls on what amounts to the Packers' eighth borderline DPI of the day, and Graham Gano barely gets a 45-yarder between the uprights to tie it.

The Packers move up the field quickly when Aaron Rodgers scrambles for a first down and then a Redskins a big blitz enables Quarless to get 20 on a quick slant of DeAngelo Hall (of DeAngelo Hall's defense). That sets up the Packers for a game-winning field goal attempt that bounces off of the upright -- and Mike Shanahan doesn't bother to ice the kick attempt. The Redskins then decide to attempt a Hail Mary from about midfield that gets picked off...and Tramon Williams returns it 75 yards or so before falling down.

Ben Muth: Troy Aikman: "It's a good kick, other than the fact that it didn't go in."

Bill Barnwell: Oh, and it looks like Trent Williams busted up his knee on the return. If anyone should know the low upside/high downside of running a play at the end of the game, it's the Redskins.

Redskins-Packers is going to come down to one big play. Neither of these teams can sustain a steady drive because they can't go more than a few plays without taking a sack.

And that big play just came on defense -- Aaron Rodgers just threw a pick and LaRon Landry makes a great play to pick it off. Landry's turnaround has been remarkable this year; he was terrible last season, overrunning plays left and right, and he's been just awesome this year. Best player on the roster.

Two straight makeup calls for the Redskins on pass plays get them first downs. Both were, um, questionable.

The Redskins pick up the win when Graham Gano chips a field goal through. The amazing thing is that they're 3-2 and could, honestly, be 0-5 without having played materially different.

New Orleans Saints 20 at Arizona Cardinals 30

Ben Muth: Max Hall is limping, still no Derek Anderson.

Bill Barnwell: I might prefer Max Hall with his leg amputated below the kneecap.

Cardinals then score when Max Hall fumbles on a scramble and Levi Brown recovers it into the endzone. Hall appears to be out cold on his feet.

Doug Farrar: Brown now has more points than blown blocks for the season, a stat that should stand about two weeks.

Anderson actually does come out for Arizona’s next drive. Cards run a draw and walk off the field at the end of the first half. Between Delhomme and Anderson, that’s twice today I’ve seen coaches seem to say, “Screw it – I don’t even want to chance it with you“ at the end of the half, when high-risk, low-reward plays are generally the standard.

Oh wow. The Saints just had a third-and-1 run against the Cardinals and their offensive line just blew EVERYONE off of the line of scrimmage. Chris Ivory wasn't touched for four yards, and he ran straight forward.

Ben Muth: Carney misses a chip shot field goal. The Saints might become the first team to go for it every time they get inside the 50.

Bill Barnwell: Veteran kickers miss field goals, too.

Cardinals have recovered four of the five fumbles in the game against the Saints. That accounts for about 95 percent of the score line, which is currently Cards up by ten with the ball and five minutes left.

The Cardinals subsequently make an inspired play call on their final drive...

A quote from our old friend MDS: "Ken Whisenhunt just made the worst play call in NFL history. How do you call a pass in that situation?" The situation was a pass on third down with the Saints having no timeouts. Ben Patrick fumbled, and the Cardinals were forced to punt.

And then, in stupid player tricks, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picks off Drew Brees's pass to the sideline. With a three-point lead, no timeouts for the opposition, and 20 seconds left, Rodgers-Cromartie runs horizontally across the field to score a touchdown. The Nate Clements play literally happened a week ago. Why are you running?!?!?

Ben Muth: I was screaming at the television for him to get down.

Tennessee Titans 34 at Dallas Cowboys 27

Tom Gower: Apparently the Cowboys' pass defense consists of interference; in the Titans' touchdown drive to open the game, Mike Jenkins was flagged twice for grabbing a hold of Kenny Britt's jersey and never letting go, and Orlando Scandrick was flagged for running into Nate Washington in the end zone. Never you mind, though, as Washington did a great job of maintaining concentration and balance to haul in the ball.

Titans end the first quarter with the ball and up 10-3. Fernando Velasco, starting at left guard for Leroy Harris, has picked up two holding penalties already. Tony Romo, sacked once in the first three games, has gone down twice already. The Cowboys haven't been flagged for pass interference since the opening drive, but there have been a couple times they probably could have been flagged. Chris Johnson seems to be running pretty decisively thus far and not dancing.

Doug Farrar: Ben, I don’t know if you’re planning to return to Dallas for this week’s article, but if so, you’re going to have fertile ground for your comedic talents.

Tom Gower: Count: Five sacks for Tony Romo thus far today, one on the year entering the game. The Titans are solid on the defensive line, and better than I thought they'd be, but I think it's primarily really awful pass protection.

Bill Barnwell: Leonard Davis has been, according to Tim MacMahon, benched in Dallas. Think you're going to get your wish for Word of Muth this week, Doug.

Ben Muth: Yeah, Levi Brown's lack of celebration on the TD sealed it, writing about the Boys this week.

Bill Barnwell: Think the Cowboys got away with one. Roy Williams catches a fade for 20 yards that puts Dallas inside the five, but it appears that he steps out of bounds on the route before catching the pass. Jeff Fisher rightly calls a timeout so the booth can get enough time to look at it to call an official review, but they don't overturn it, and Williams blows over a cornerback for a touchdown on the next play.

Tom Gower: I thought Williams probably stepped out, but there just wasn't enough there to overturn the call that I could see. Naturally, with Jeff Triplette, the review took forever and didn't change anything.

The rule of thumb against the Titans defense is once again the same: if you can keep your QB upright and he's not terrible, he can make plays against the Titans' secondary. Even on one of Romo's sacks, there was a busted coverage and Austin was running free over the short middle.

Bill Barnwell: Vince Young just missed a wide-open Kenny Britt on a deep post. In fact, he missed him by so much that Young hit Mike Jenkins in stride, but Jenkins dropped the pick.

Tom Gower: Whee, the Titans' 17-3 lead is gone by the wayside, as the Cowboys score late in the second quarter and take the first possession of the second half to the end zone thanks to a 68 yard catch-and-run by Miles Austin against Ryan Mouton (bad) when Austin beats Mouton and then out-jumps Griffin for the ball when Griffin goes for the pick instead of playing the man.

Bill Barnwell: I can't imagine Finnegan would be a good matchup for Austin, though, either.

Tom Gower: Mouton is the fourth corner, and playing because number-two guy Jason McCourty is out and number-three Alterraun Verner was playing on the other side. Normally when they go nickel, safety Vinny Fuller is the nickelback playing slot. They tried something interesting in personnel terms and it burned them. Now they go three-and-out again after Vince Young passes up a scramble opportunity and airmails an open Washington. The game is slipping away from the Titans.

Bill Barnwell: Having seen the replay now, I think Griffin's more at fault there than anything else. He has to make a play on that ball.

And then there's a big gain for Felix Jones when Verner just seems to choose not to make a tackle in the alley.

Aaron Schatz: Jeff Fisher does something really stupid, challenging field position on Michael Griffin's interception return. Griffin picked a pass off in the end zone, got off the ground, and ran to the 15. Fisher is challenging that Griffin was touched in the end zone, which would give him the ball on the 20. Five yards are not worth a challenge (although Fisher does win it).

Then Young hits Kenny Britt deep for an 80-yard touchdown. But no! Mike Jenkins actually grabbed Britt's jersey as he was falling to the ground, making him down by contact at the Dallas 28. Wade Phillips throws the red hanky. See, this is a good challenge. Five yards? Bad challenge. Take away a touchdown and 28 yards? Good challenge.

Bill Barnwell: Cowboys have second-and-goal from the 3-yard line, but the previously-benched Leonard Davis (back in after Montrae Holland suffered an eye injury) whiffs on a block and Stephen Tulloch blows up Felix Jones. Then Doug Free takes a false start. And then a checkdown to Felix Jones gets stuffed.

Aaron Schatz: The Titans defensive improvement this year is for real. That pass rush is for real. Jason Jones in particular is for real, playing very well again today. The Titans were overpowering the Cowboys blockers constantly in the first half. The Cowboys solved the problem in the second half, for the most part, by bringing in third tight end Scot Chandler (number 86 in your program) for nearly every play. They had some three tight end sets, then they used Chandler at fullback with Witten in, and then they had a few two-tight end sets without Chandler, just Witten and Bennett. But Jason Garrett started leaving more blockers back there, and that kept Romo safe. Then one time they don't, they toss five guys into a pattern, and that's when Romo got rushed and threw the pick to Verner in the fourth quarter, on a pass intended for Bennett but tipped by Dave Ball.

There is massive depression in Dallas, where they are 1-3 in a season that was supposed to end in the Super Bowl. But that's three close losses, including one where they totally outplayed the other team and lost on a couple fluky weird plays and one fluky stupid play. If people start discounting the Cowboys, they're not paying attention.

San Diego Chargers 27 at Oakland Raiders 35

Vince Verhei: Chargers special teams strike again -- they get a punt blocked for a safety against Oakland.

Raiders block a Chargers punt for a touchdown. This is not a correction of an earlier e-mail -- Chargers have allowed two blocked punts in the first quarter.

Bill Barnwell: They also had a kickoff out of bounds.

Chargers just fumbled on the one-yard line and the Raiders recovered. They are living a Madden no-way game.

...and after a 55-yard completion, Matt Shaughnessy beats up Brandyn Dombrowski and strip-sacks Rivers, with the Raiders recovering. Oh lord.

Sean: All of which explains how the Chargers can be first in net yards per drive by a good five yards, first in points per drive, and yet on their way to 2-3.

Bill Barnwell: OK, this is now ridiculous. The Chargers strip-sack Gradkowski, but the refs (rightly) reverse the call and say it's an incomplete pass. Gradkowski is injured on the play and taken out, with Jason Campbell coming in.

Doug Farrar: At this point, I think it’s entirely appropriate to credit every blown block by Dombrowski to A.J. Smith.

Ben Muth: On the other hand, I think Rivers-to-Gates is the best passing combo in the NFL right now.

Tom Gower: The San Diego Chargers successfully punted the ball. Of course, on the play the Raiders roughed Mike Scifres so it won't end up in the box score as such, and Scifres was also injured on the play.

Vince Verhei: Campbell is hit and fumbles, and Daniel Loper falls on the ball several yards short of the first down. Then he realizes nobody's around him and LOG ROLLS for a five-yard gain. It's Loper's Roly-Poly Holy Roller!

The play sets up a fourth-and-1. Raiders go for it and Michael Bush picks up the first down.

Bill Barnwell: Philip Rivers is at 278 yards with 35 seconds left before halftime. Malcom Floyd is at five for 153. Rivers even just had Patrick Crayton open in the end zone but missed him on a blown coverage.

Chargers end up kicking a field goal and the announcers note that the Raiders defense "did their job." Really?

Ben Muth: Philip Rivers gets hit as he's throwing, it's ruled a fumble and the Raiders return it for a touchdown. Raiders up eight with 55 seconds left ... This game is unreal.

Mike Tanier: The ending of the Chargers game was very Charger-esque. They were in field-goal range and appeared to just be running the clock and setting up the hashmarks with running plays. But Antonio Gates held, taking them out of easy field-goal range, and then the Raiders started blitzing. Next thing you know, strip-sack (it looked like an incomplete pass to me, but I have given up making sense of that rule) and touchdown.

I don't think Chargers-Raiders was "about" what happened on that last drive. It was "about" all the things that made the game close in the first place: blocked punts, safeties, and other early-game mistakes that kept the Raiders in the game.

Bill Barnwell: I don't understand how you call that anything but an incomplete pass on the field. I can understand not being able to overturn it.

Mike Tanier: Yeah, my thought is that if the ball goes about ten yards forward, you call an incomplete pass, then look at the tape. But I guess they don't want to whistle it dead. Or wait, they do, don't they, to prevent injuries?

Philadelphia Eagles 27 at San Francisco 49ers 24

Bill Barnwell: I went and charted the second half of the Eagles game last week and paid pretty close attention to Kolb's throws. I charted a hurry for almost every pass play before the final two drives. It was insane. Kolb was holding onto the ball too long at times, but there were also a fair amount of plays where he just had no hope. In that sense, Vick's a better fit because he can make crazy escapes from pressure, whereas Kolb either takes a sack or throws an ugly-looking checkdown.

There were three drives where Kolb got decent protection, and they ended with a McCoy fumble in the red zone, a touchdown, and the Hail Mary pass that hit a Eagles receiver in the hands. (Kolb also threw an ugly should-be interception before that.) So far tonight, he's had pretty good protection outside of the touchdown pass and the sack, and he looks good, making easy throws downfield to open receivers. He still forces more throws than I might like, but the "unable to throw downfield" stuff is pass protection, not his skill or style.

Mike Kurtz: Is it just the runs I've seen, or does McCoy have AWFUL ball security? He's popping the ball back and forth, holding it away from his chest, just all sorts of bad habits.

Mike Tanier: Yeah, McCoy's ball security is a problem. He gets too cute with it in the open field.

Sean McCormick: He's also wearing a flak jacket, which can't help matters.

Bill Barnwell: Bad sack for Kolb to take there -- not great protection, but he had a touchdown with the open receiver right in front of him about 15 yards downfield. Not sure why Andy Reid didn't take a timeout post-sack to encourage the replay booth to take a look.

Doug Farrar: And Andy Reid opens the fourth quarter by making a wind-based decision … in Candlestick Park. Of course.

Bill Barnwell: I'm pretty sure kicking a field goal is the worst decision of the three possibilities there, so that's what Reid does.

49ers end up making up for Reid's largesse with an Alex Smith drop-six (it's the new pick-six!) and a three-and-out that leads the 49ers fans into a LOUD "We Want Carr!" chant. No you don't.

Mike Tanier: Nobody loves Milhouse. And nobody loves David Carr.

Bill Barnwell: Impressive closing speed by Todd Herremans to fall on that LeSean McCoy fumble. Seriously! Beat Nate Clements to the ball. That's a few pay grades ahead of him.

Tim Gerheim: I never, ever, imagined I would ever hear "WE WANT CARR!" It's not like he's the worst quarterback ever, but especially in a game against an active pass rush, the last thing you want is David Carr.

Mike Tanier: Tim, that might have been me screaming as Frank Gore waltzed in for a touchdown at the two-minute warning. Nice block by Josh Morgan on that play.

Bill Barnwell: Thank you, Trevard Lindley, for falling down with your game-winning interception.

Mike Tanier: Hey, Trevor Laws made that hit on Alex Smith. He was the "other" guy the Eagles drafted in the second round with Kevin Kolb. After the draft, the Eagles sent both of them to the podium so Laws could stand there while the press asked Kolb a million questions. Laws has been about that visible since. Nice play, though.

Bill Barnwell: It just occurred to me that Niners fans should really be chanting "WE WANT LUCK". In more ways than one.

Watch 60 Minutes

Bill Barnwell: 60 Minutes voiceover: "If you have money in the stock market, you can't afford to miss "60 Minutes"." 60 Minutes graphic: Picture of Eminem. Huh?

Mike Kurtz: Eminem to be appointed new head of SEC.


205 comments, Last at 16 Oct 2010, 8:11pm

#131 by WC Fan (not verified) // Oct 11, 2010 - 4:29pm

Unrelated question ... are you the same zlionsfan who spent some time at wifs?

Points: 0

#79 by JSA (not verified) // Oct 11, 2010 - 1:50pm

Anyone who watched the Chargers-Raiders game, was Floyd beating Asomugha? Or was Aso covering other receivers?

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#91 by commissionerleaf // Oct 11, 2010 - 2:28pm

Nnamdi got beat a couple of times, but he wasn't on Floyd the whole game. Rivers didn't seem to fear him all that much though; he threw into coverage by Nnamdi both to get the ball to Floyd and to Gates.

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#136 by MainerRaider (not verified) // Oct 11, 2010 - 4:57pm

It was the worst game from Awesome that I can remember, and I've seen almost game he's played in.

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#82 by Elroy44 (not verified) // Oct 11, 2010 - 1:55pm

Floyd beat him for a long pass in the 2nd quarter, and he drew an illegal contact a few plays later from him too.

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#93 by BJR // Oct 11, 2010 - 2:50pm

Aso was also called for pass interference on that Floyd completion, and was again called for holding in the third quarter. So not his best night's work. However, Rivers still realised it was a better idea to throw towards Stanford Routt's side of the field the majority of the time.

Points: 0

#90 by lester bangs (not verified) // Oct 11, 2010 - 2:27pm

Schatz: (Nicks killing it) . . . Play your No. 2 receivers against the Texans all year.

Nicks looks like their best receiver to me, or at least 1A. Calling him a No. 2 doesn't ring true to me.

Points: 0

#109 by mrh // Oct 11, 2010 - 3:43pm

Depends on your definition of #1. I think most people would consider the #1 wr to be the most dangerous wr on the team, or the one that draws the most interest from the defense in its scheme. However, when doing statistical analysis sometimes it's easier to use a numerical definition, where the #1 wr is the one who sees the most targets or catches the most receptions. By that definition, which I think is the one used on this site breaking down DVOA by receiver-type, Smith is the #1 in NY. While I agree with you that Nicks in the #1 on the Giants by the first definition, I think in this case Aaron was using the 2nd definition. Frankly, I think you can safely start your #1 or #2 receivers against the Texans. (Manningham, however, did nothing - anyone know if he got hurt?)

Points: 0

#121 by JasonK // Oct 11, 2010 - 4:11pm

Most Giants opponents so far this season appear to agree with FO-- they have been focusing their coverage towards taking Smith away. The Texans switched that at halftime, giving more help to Nicks' side, and it worked for a little while. The Giants went nowhere on their first few drives of the 2nd half. I suspect that future opponents are going to consider following that pattern, given how well Nicks has been playing.

As for Manningham, I think the Giants' played more 2-TE formations than usual, keeping him on the bench (probably to help their OTs against Mario Williams & co). Manningham is healthy, but he didn't get many snaps yesterday and wasn't getting open when he got the opportunity. He seems to be in the prototypical 'big-play 3rd WR' role this season-- will break out every few games, but can disappear in other ones.

Points: 0

#101 by // Oct 11, 2010 - 3:14pm

The jump balls Freeman kept throwing were odd, first time I've seen him throw up floating hopers like that. I think he has a lot of faith in Mike Williams on those balls.

And hey, he has a point. Mike Williams has looked stellar. Best thing he does: use his body to shield the defender and prevent picks. That's probably a big reason Freeman's throwing those floaters out there in the first place.

Plus, Sean Jones appears to be fine, so Sabby won't be playing for now. Rejoicement!

Points: 0

#110 by Ajit (not verified) // Oct 11, 2010 - 3:44pm

Did anyone else feel like alex smith despite the attrocious fumble played a really good game? he was under pressure so many times and yet he was able to find people on roll outs and make some really good medium throws.

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#116 by Marko // Oct 11, 2010 - 4:00pm

Did anyone else feel that despite what happened to her husband, Mrs. Lincoln enjoyed the play?

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#171 by Tundrapaddy (not verified) // Oct 12, 2010 - 12:34am

Probably not. Ford's was notorious for stale crumpets and flaccid crudite, and Tom Taylor was no Gilbert (nor Sullivan).

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#117 by BJR // Oct 11, 2010 - 4:01pm

He made a poor throw in the second quarter into double coverage which got intercepted, but that was at least partially on Ted Ginn who made absolutely no attempt to compete for the ball.

It certainly wasn't Smith's fault that Frank Gore fumbled twice. That was probably what Smith was saying to Singletary on the sideline; "if you're going to bench me for fumbling, then bench him as well".

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#128 by commissionerleaf // Oct 11, 2010 - 4:22pm

Singletary was -screaming- at Smith on the sideline. I think Smith needs to buy him some anxiety meds. It's not that I think Singletary is a bad coach (though he may be) but Smith isn't a bad quarterback, and even if he looks like he's fifteen he's a veteran now. His arm isn't great, it's true. But he's not a gambler like Cutler or DelHomme, and he is capable of reading coverages. He can succeed, even if his ceiling is probably Jeff Garcia. (Which isn't bad, especially if you're a 49ers fan).

And yeah, screaming at your quarterback after your RB fumbles? What?

Points: 0

#134 by Karl Cuba // Oct 11, 2010 - 4:45pm

I for one am sick of the bonehead errors that just happen far too much. That fumble-6 was awful, I know Davis slipped but it's the qb's responsibility to limit the negative play, not to make things worse. Throw it in the dirt, run for the sideline, take the sack, anything, building a small shrine to the celestial teapot would have been preferable to that awful and entirely avoidable play. Without that the niners might well have won yesterday but I'm getting annoyed with retyping a similar sentence to that, it seems like something really dumb happens that costs them the game every week and frankly I can't see anyone with the brains to fix it on our coaching staff.

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#153 by Thomas_beardown // Oct 11, 2010 - 6:46pm

Smith might not be a gambler, but that just makes things worse, since he throws interceptions at a higher rate than Cutler.

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#129 by WC Fan (not verified) // Oct 11, 2010 - 4:26pm

I know I yelled at the teevee a few times when the announcers were dogging Smith that the issue was the O-line ......

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#142 by bravehoptoad // Oct 11, 2010 - 5:53pm

I think he played a good game. That fumble-six was just so atrocious...the guy has less football instinct than just about anyone. He is very smart, though, and learns fast, so he can approximate football instinct if he gets training or he sees the same "surprise" twice. For instance, Philly ran the same blitz that caused the fumble-six two more times, and both times Smith connected for big gains. It makes for a strange QB: he's hard to fool twice, but very easy to fool once. He also plays well when he's adrenalized and hurrying, and not so much when he's got time to think. Really, an odd combo.

Last night he missed a few open receivers, but made some very good throws and at times showed great pocket awareness. His short throws are almost always high; his long throws to the outside are rarely accurate. He seems to throw the deep middle well, and his medium-length throws look good, too. But then, I'm an uneducated observer.

We could be a better team with a better QB, sure. We have a lot of good, non-speedy receivers, so a guy who could lead the receiver on the short stuff, instead of getting it in their general vicinity, would be great for us.

But it's not like he's the big problem. We'd have a decent record if we could improve to average in any single one of these categories: 1) stupid turnovers, 2) our defense giving up long drives to hurry-up offenses, 3) luck, particularly on the turnovers. (Last night, we finally get to keep one of the turnovers we cause...and there's 16 seconds left in the half.)

Also...we have two mystifying blowouts, one to a bad team and one to a team that's still a question mark (KC). That's a lot in a 5-game schedule.

Just my few cents.

Points: 0

#156 by BigCheese // Oct 11, 2010 - 7:16pm

Smith seems to play much, MUCH better in the two-minute drill (or at least he has the two games I have seen him: NO and PHI). Is it because of adrenaline or is it because he has a lot more controll over the play-calling? I wouldn't be surprised if a mixture of him calling the plays he's most comfortable with along with not getting the HORRIBLE play-calling from the sideline has a lot to do with it.

As a Bears fan I really want Samurai Mike to succeed, but it really looks more and more like he doesn't have it...

- Alvaro

Points: 0

#114 by BlackSquirrels (not verified) // Oct 11, 2010 - 3:53pm

Some notes on Giants at Texans:

- The Giants defensive line batted down at least four passes at the line of scrimmage that I can remember, at least two and probably three were intended for Andre Johnson.

- Eli has had some unlucky INTs so far this year, but his two picks in the second half were poor decisions and cannot be blamed on the receivers.

- Perry Fewell and the Giants' defensive staff made up for their poor game plan at Indianapolis a few weeks ago. It seemed like they had the right defense called in almost every situation.

- Has the addition of Clint Sintim had any effect on the Giants defense the last couple of weeks or has the improved play been due to other factors? I honestly don't remember Sintim making many plays the last two games.

Points: 0

#122 by Mark S. (not verified) // Oct 11, 2010 - 4:13pm

Goff has looked better than Sintim, IMO - he was all over the field the last 2 games. In fact, that 2008 draft class is starting to look pretty good here in year 3 - Kenny Phillips, Terrel Thomas, Mario Manningham and now Goff seems to have stepped up.

Fewell definitely deserves credit for the improved defense, esp. the last 2 games, but primarily the improvement has been personnel, IMO. Boley, Tuck, and Canty are healthy this year (and let's not forget Osi - knee injuries like that often take 2 years before full recovery - and I think it's showing with him), and the return of Phillips along with the additions of Rolle and Grant have made a huge difference in safety play, which was absolutely terrible last year.

Points: 0

#124 by JasonK // Oct 11, 2010 - 4:17pm

I think all the Giants LBs are looking better mostly because the DTs are playing out of their minds. Canty and Cofield have looked great, and even Rocky Bernard is showing that last season's miserable performance was a result more of playing injured than of irreversible decline.

Sintim really hasn't been on the field all that much since replacing Bulluck-- he's the first guy to the bench when they go nickel (usually exchanged for Deon Grant who often plays a OLB-S hybrid position), and the Giants have spent the majority of the last few games in nickel or dime. All I really remember about Clint is that he had a nice pressure of Schaub in the first quarter yesterday.

Points: 0

#144 by Quincy // Oct 11, 2010 - 5:58pm

Haven't seen much of Sintim and I don't think he's getting many snaps. Mike Garofolo for wrote last week that Sintim's only notable play during the Bear game was a missed tackle. I'll second the comment that Goff appears to have played very well the last two weeks, which has been a very welcome surprise.

I think Fewell's game plans have been excellent in every game aside from the Colts disaster. The majority of the points the Giants have given up in their 4 other games are largely the byproduct of short fields created by turnovers/awful special teams. Fewell might even deserve credit for the batted passes you mentioned as one of the Giants d-linemen indicated after the game that swatting passes had been a point of coaching emphasis last week as the staff anticipated how Houston would respond to the film from the Bear game.

I don't know about improvement over the course of this season - I think the Colts game was an anomaly resulting from a poor game plan and poor effort, and otherwise the defense has been good in the other 4 games. Improvement from last season appears largely attributable to improved health along the defensive line, a reduction in blown assignments, and no longer having a gaping hole at middle linebacker and both safety positions (The improvements at safety and reduction in blown assignments are closely related).

Points: 0

#140 by Kurt // Oct 11, 2010 - 5:24pm

I was going to comment on the link for the other Chris Crocker being screwed up, but it seems more appropriate under the circumstances to leave Bill Barnwell alone.

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#145 by dianagram // Oct 11, 2010 - 6:02pm

Bears only 3rd team since 1940 to win game despite 4+ INTs and 29 or fewer passing yards.

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#146 by The Hypno-Toad // Oct 11, 2010 - 6:11pm

"I've noticed that a lot of broadcasters call Josh McDaniels "McDaniel". I think this is because Phil Simms stole that "s" for strategic Asante Samuel purposes."

Totally awesome. Slightly embarassing though, in that I had to explain to my wife that I was laughing at NFL broadcaster jokes.

Points: 0

#176 by The Hypno-Toad // Oct 12, 2010 - 3:03am

Just checking to see if there had by any chance been a reply to my utterly content-less post, and I laughed out loud again. "Strategic Asante Samuel Purposes" would be the name of my band if I had a band.

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#178 by ammek // Oct 12, 2010 - 4:27am

It's payback for all the years that Larry McCarren referred to "Randall McDaniels".

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#149 by Joseph // Oct 11, 2010 - 6:35pm

Regarding the Saints' "decline":

Reggie Bush's absence doesn't help, obviously, but the biggest problem is the O-line not blocking well (I think "the best guard in football" Jahri Evans now has 4 penalties). Which is surprising, because our top 6 linemen are the same as last year--and are playing the same positions, etc. Not to mention that it seems like Bushrod, the obvious weak link last year, seems to be playing better. Injuries to the top 3 RB's (Thomas, Bush, and Hamilton) hasn't helped either. The other thing is dropped passes. From what I know, the Saints are among the league leaders this year, when last year they were one of the best at catching them (iirc, I heard somebody say they had the fewest drops of any team last year.)

Points: 0

#157 by BigCheese // Oct 11, 2010 - 7:22pm

The problem with the Saints is OBVIOUSLY the addition of Alex Brown. The Bears went 7-9 with him last year and are almost undefeated this year. The Saints won the SB without him and are lucky to have 2 wins this year with him. Alex Brown just loses!

There, now I'm qualified to be an NFL TV comentator, right?

(Note, I actually like Alex Brown. I still think letting him go, specially for nothing, was BY FAR the Bears' worst of-season move)

- Alvaro

Points: 0

#182 by TomC // Oct 12, 2010 - 11:30am

Imagine how good the Bears defense would look right now with Brown opposite Peppers. Such a penny-wise, pound-foolish decision --- I mean, after you plunk down ~$100M for the luxury car, what's another ~$5M for the rustproofing?

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#196 by Thomas_beardown // Oct 12, 2010 - 7:19pm

Idonije is playing pretty well, so there's that.

I read an article that said the Bears were choosing between Tommie Harris and Alex Brown. One of them had to go to pay for Taylor and Manumaleuna.

It's also easy to say why not just pay a bit more, but when you have a budget, you have a budget.

Points: 0

#158 by johonny (not verified) // Oct 11, 2010 - 7:25pm

Anyone else notice Vernon Davis under minute left. He made that really nice grab then as the rest of the team was running to the line to prevent using the last TO, Vernon just danced. Yeah I know it's fun to get first downs, but your behind, your 0-4 and everyone else on the field is in 2 minute mode. If the team hadn't lineup nearly on top of him I don't think he would of realized they were running a two minute drill. Truly a head up your * play.

Points: 0

#163 by Jimmy // Oct 11, 2010 - 8:54pm

Yes, I did. I couldn't quite believe it. Smith had to shout at him to stop dancing and let them spike the ball to stop the clock. Very bizarre.

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#172 by greybeard // Oct 12, 2010 - 12:41am

It was indeed bizarre.
On the other hand he has played extremely well the last two games unlike the most of the rest of the team.

Points: 0

#160 by Dave OConnell (not verified) // Oct 11, 2010 - 7:58pm

I don't have the stats on it, but I'll nominate Tommy Maddox as the king of pick-sixes, at least in recent memory. I know he threw two pick-sixes in one game against Houston in a 2002 game where the Steelers outgained the Texans 422-47 and still lost, 24-6. (He also had a fumble-six as well.)


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#169 by Shattenjager // Oct 11, 2010 - 10:08pm

I would bet that Tommy Maddox didn't play long enough.

I would be shocked if the all-time leader in pick-sixes is not the all-time leader in interceptions, especially since he has thrown almost 17% more interceptions than George Blanda, who is second all time.

If it were someone like Tommy Maddox, who only threw 54 interceptions in his career, that would be perhaps the most surprising thing I've ever heard.

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#180 by DGL // Oct 12, 2010 - 9:47am

I would guess that someone like Maddox would be the all-time leader in PSOA (a rate stat), while someone like the all-time leader in interceptions would also be the all-time leader in PSAR (a counting stat)...

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#203 by Shattenjager // Oct 16, 2010 - 4:01am

We should have an answer fairly soon:

His first look at the question said that my prediction was right, but he now thinks there was a bug in his query.

EDIT: Chase has the final version up now (same link), and it says that Favre is the all-time leader, just above Marino.

Without actually doing the math, it looks to me like the standouts of those listed (Maddox is listed) in pix-sixes/attempt include Frank Tripucka, Joe Kapp, Gary Hogeboom, Lynn Dickey, Babe Parilli, Joey Harrington and Joe Namath. Maddox also has a high rate (7.3 pick-sixes on 1200 attempts). The king appears to be Frank Tripucka (15.6/1745).

I also, out of curiosity, looked to see who had the most career attempts without appearing on Chase's list, and it's Joe Ferguson with 4519 attempts (25th all time).

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#204 by billsfan // Oct 16, 2010 - 8:41am

But what does it mean?

Harrington's interesting, because he has a pretty low interception rate.

Maybe the Pick-Six per Attempt leaders are the Captains Checkdown, since intercepted short passes occur behind most of the offense?

Or does it just mean nothing, since throwing the ball accurately is a skill, and having your teammates chase down the guy who picked you off isn't? Their non-returned interception rates are all over the place, so it's not like it just comes down to decision-making ability or accuracy. And Ben Roethlisberger is statistically indistinguishable from Joey Harrington on this list.

Then you get down to the bottom of the list: Bledsoe (0.22%), O'Donnelll, Fouts, Culpepepr, Kosar, Esiason, Anderson, McNabb, Hasselbeck, Brady, Montana (0.16%). So maybe there is something to it.

And then you go back to the middle of the list, and see Kurt Warner and Sammy Baugh right next to Jake Delhomme and Trent Dilfer.

(I also like the Eagles)

Points: 0

#174 by some guy (not verified) // Oct 12, 2010 - 1:52am

Who is the Colts number one corner right now, Bethea? As of last week they are a ridiculous -72.6% dvoa against number one wide outs.

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#175 by some guy (not verified) // Oct 12, 2010 - 2:01am

I think it's kelvin hayden, playing out of his mind. I think FO had him pegged as one of the worst corners in football last year.

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#177 by Yaguar // Oct 12, 2010 - 3:38am

That's funny. Kelvin Hayden is neither one of the best, nor one of the worst corners in football.

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#179 by ammek // Oct 12, 2010 - 4:31am

What FO actually said:

"Hayden was in and out of the lineup with assorted injuries, and it’s clear he was never fully healthy. In 2008, he ranked among the top ten corners in Adjusted Yards per Pass; last year, he ranked 71st."

Points: 0

#184 by chemical burn // Oct 12, 2010 - 12:08pm

It turns out he's actually one of the best AND one of the worst CB's in football.

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#187 by commissionerleaf // Oct 12, 2010 - 1:18pm

Hayden is a very good cover 2 cornerback, he fits well in the Colts' system. Of course, eventually they'll let him go, and he'll go to Washington or Cleveland or Tampa Bay and absolutely suck, a la Jason David, the original "hole in zone". Playing #1 corner for the Colts is different from playing for the Jets or Raiders (who play a lot of man coverage). Hayden has Bethea over top and mostly only defends short routes - he has a great YPC average because he only defends against passes less than ten yards downfield except on absolute sell out blitzes (which the Colts do run occasionally now, yes).

That's not a knock on Hayden, but he was never a top ten corner in the league. Top 30? Absolutely, when he's healthy. But he's got limitations.

Points: 0

#193 by dmb // Oct 12, 2010 - 2:47pm

I know I'm waaaaaaaaaay late to the party, but if anyone's still reading, there's a lot to respond to on the GB/WAS comments:

*A quick clarification: GB returned the opening kickoff to its own eight, not Washington's. And this wasn't due to a penalty or anything. Just a meltdown of a return.

*Moss didn't drop a potential touchdown pass; he flat-out missed it. McNabb had almost perfect timing and placement -- it was about a 20-yard fade -- and Moss turned at the right time, but I think he lost the ball in the sun. He clearly couldn't locate it, because he stretched out his hands at least six inches away from where the ball went.

*The Packers were sometimes getting pressure with three in the first half, but they sent their fair share of blitzes, too. But it didn't really seem to matter how many they sent; McNabb was running for his life on nearly every pass. But in the second half -- and I mean that the change really came AT halftime -- McNabb both time and a clean pocket on every attempt. The change was really startling. At least some of that has to be Matthews' injury, but is he THAT good? It's possible, but I have to wonder if the Redskins also made some sort of adjustment at the break.

*It could be my blatant homerism and lack of TV angles, but I thought that the rash of second-half contact penalties on the Packers were well-earned. There was one call that was clearly wrong, but the refs huddled and picked up the flag on that play.

*Landry's turnaround is pretty simple, actually: he's not being asked to be the deep guy in Cover-1 or -2 shells. Even though he has the speed for those assignments, he's consistently struggled mentally with those assignments. (E.g.: He almost single-handedly lost the NO game last year by biting on nearly identical double-moves as the lone deep safety, resulting in two long and easy touchdowns.) His other major weakness has been a tendency to go for the "kill shot" rather than just make a simple tackle -- an issue with less dire consequences in traffic, where hitting a guy while failing to bring him down can still be somewhat helpful.

So basically, their decision to play Kareem Moore (who has coverage and ball skills, but has been an absolute disaster when it comes to open-field tackling) at FS and move Landry up on most plays is what's making him "better." Yes, he's played fantastic, but he's one of the few players on the defense who is actually being put in a situation where he's most likely to succeed.

*The Redskins absolutely could be 0-5 without having played much differently. They could also just as easily be 4-1; one of those losses was that Texans game where Gano "made the game-winning FG," but it was negated because of Kubiak's timeout. They've definitely had more than their share of good luck in close games thus far, but not all of it. I think what's most noteworthy is simply how close most of their games have been; four of the five have come down to the final play.

Points: 0

#195 by Arkaein // Oct 12, 2010 - 4:42pm

A couple of points on your summary.

First, GB did get two sacks in overtime (according to the play-by-play both were by poppinga, though I had thought someone else had one of those), and I'm pretty sure there were some other decent pressures. Missing Matthew definitely made a difference.

Second, I think the comment about the defensive penalties was more about the overtime sequence where penalties were called on two out of three plays in a row. I don't remember the one of them very well (the plays were DPI and holding, but the players committing the penalties are not listed in the play-by-play), I think one was on Woodson and was probably justified, as it doesn't stand out in my mind as a bad call. However the other one was on Poppinga on what was pretty clearly incidental contact as the players' feet tangled and the receiver tripped. Poppinga did start to put his arm around the receiver at the very beginning of the play, but immediately let go without redirecting the receiver at all, so I think either DPI or defensive holding was a bad call in that case.

Bother penalties occurred on the GB 30, one on 3rd-and-1, the other on 2nd-and-15, so even one of those being a bad call potentially made the winning FG much easier for Washington.

And I doubt it was a make-up call, since whether or not refs make them I don't think they do it in critical overtime situations. However I do think that GB's reputation for physical coverage can actually hurt them. Despite some commenters claiming that Woodson gets away with holding or DPI on nearly every play, and an inane comment by one of the broadcasters that some officials look the other way on Woodson's plays, the facts are that Woodson gets called for probably more penalties than almost any other DB. Justified or not, officials absolutely are not afraid to throw flags his way, and opponents nurture this reputation by calling for flags any time Woodson makes contact on a pass play.

Points: 0

#197 by dmb // Oct 12, 2010 - 7:21pm

First point -- you're right, I hadn't really been thinking much about overtime. Even so, the difference in protection was HUGE. Some of the pressures in the first half were because McNabb couldn't find anyone open in a timely manner (some plays because there wasn't anyone open, at other times he just couldn't find them) ... but even so, McNabb had to evade at least one rusher and often two on nearly every first-half attempt. There was hardly any of that in the second half.

OT penalties:

*For starters, I do agree with you that they probably weren't actually intentional "make-up" calls. (There was, however, a pretty obvious thrid-down DPI on Woodson that went uncalled earlier in the game.)

*The OT call on Woodson was the one where he was a couple yards behind Anthony Armstrong on an inside route, and dove to pull Armstrong down from behind, arriving before the ball. It may have even been a horse-collar, though I'm unsure of that.

*The Poppinga call was holding -- it didn't have anything to do with the players falling down. I agree that it wasn't something that's going to get called every time, but it didn't strike me as a particularly "soft" call, either. (However, a good replay could change my mind...)

Finally, this is totally unrelated, but do you have any idea why the Packers were so unwilling to run? In addition to his 71-yarder, Jackson also had gains of 7, 15, 7, 9, 6, and 5 among his 10 carries. And yet GB ran 53 pass plays (46 attempts plus 3 scrambles and 4 sacks) to only 14 runs. And I'm pretty sure that Rodgers audibled into one of those runs, too! The Redskins' pass defense has been particularly horrendous this year, but I think that may have been a tad too unbalanced. (The Redskins were similarly pass-happy, but they weren't having the same sort of success on their rare running calls.)

Points: 0

#201 by ammek // Oct 13, 2010 - 9:13am

do you have any idea why the Packers were so unwilling to run?

Would it be too glib to say, "Because McCarthy's an idiot"?

In his own syntax-mauling words, McCarthy rejected the argument that he abandoned the run as "convenient. My responsibility is to create opportunities. [Washington] played a lot of coverage in the game. I felt we still had good matchups. We did, like we always do, a number of run-pass options at the line of scrimmage that we probably could have taken advantage of a little more. We were very productive on offense as far as moving the ball down the field. Our biggest issues were third down and dropping the football. I think that definitely would have changed our point total if we had been more productive in those two areas."

Decipher that!

You're almost right about Jackson: the overtime rush was for 3 yards, not 5, but your point stands. Six of his 10 runs were "successes", and another (the 3-yarder on first down) was decent. The only possible explanation for McCarthy's calls is that the remaining three runs were all outside zone runs — the staple of the Packer offense — and netted minus-4, zero and 1 yards. Under McCarthy, the Packers have consistently led the league (or been close) in rush attempts outside the tackles, and have consistently not been very good at executing them. Once the rookies Bulaga (tackle) and Crabtree (tight end) became the point of attack, they stopped calling their zone runs to the right side.

Points: 0

#198 by Thomas_beardown // Oct 12, 2010 - 7:33pm

From what I've seen, I think one of: illegal contact, defensive holding, or pass interference could be called on the Packer's secondary just about every play. They are not afraid to hit or hold receivers anywhere on the field. They just hope the refs will miss most of the calls. Charles Woodson is the worse. In the Bears game, every time a receiver beat him, he simply reached out and grabbed him.

Points: 0

#202 by Joe_91 (not verified) // Oct 14, 2010 - 5:37am

In what world does Sabby Piscitelli have a limited physical skill set?
6'3 225lbs 4.44 in the 40, benches 375 and had the quickest cone drill at the combine.

Racial stereotypes FTW

Points: 0

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