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 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.
Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at Kansas City Chiefs 42
Bill Barnwell: Chris Chambers is a healthy scratch for the Chiefs for the second week in a row. That whole resurgence thing didn't go so well.
Mike Thomas returns a punt 49 yards against the Chiefs but has the ball knocked out of his hands as he falls down. A Jaguars player tries to, of course, scoop the ball and run with it. This ends less than well. The Chiefs recover, and Thomas Jones runs 70 yards on first down to set up a Jamaal Charles touchdown.
You know, Rich Gannon might be the worst color commentator in the league. No one clings closer to conventional wisdom. Not even Dierdorf.
Will Carroll: I'm seeing more and more clear offensive PI. Mike Sims-Walker really got away with one where he had a full handful of the DB's jersey, then on the next play, Marcedes Lewis pushed off, Eric Berry didn't budge, and Lewis spent 20 seconds complaining.
Bill Barnwell: It was actually a great play by Berry, who was able to get all the way around Lewis to bat the ball away.
Tom Gower: The best OPI non-call in JAC-KC actually came earlier in the drive, when Todd Bouman threw out, and Deji Karim turned in, right into Derrick Johnson, who was running to get to the ball. There's very little doubt in my mind that if Karim had been the defensive player and Johnson the offensive guy, there's a flag for DPI, so why not flag for OPI?
David Gardner: The commentators were going nuts over Todd Bouman's performance so far. I turn to my roommate and say, "Watch, he's gonna throw a pick now." Sure enough, he throws a pick-six and the Chiefs are up 28-20. And they're getting the ball back again. On a side note, I really like how enthusiastic their fans are -- especially compared to an empty stadium in Tampa.
Tom Gower: Todd Haley, Genius Extraordinaire, just decided to eschew the field goal attempt and go for it on fourth-and-three from the 24 with the Chiefs leading 28-20 with 11:16 to go in the game. I'll just go write up the Martz Award now.
Bill Barnwell: That's a somewhat defensible move -- the Jaguars defense is awful.
Philadelphia Eagles 19 at Tennessee Titans 37
Tom Gower: The Titans started out the game with a statement they're not going to let Collins starting change the game plan, calling a bootleg. The Eagles stayed at home (big shock), so Collins threw the ball away (another shocker). After the Eagles punt, Collins is kind enough to give the Eagles the ball back with a pump fake, pump fake, try to hit Nate Washington by throwing the ball through Quintin Mikell. Ah, well.
Bill Barnwell: What's the interception rate on passes where Kerry Collins double-pumps? 30 percent? 50 percent?
Aaron Schatz: Who attached the rocket to Kevin Kolb's arm today? I switched over from Pittsburgh and saw him throw two straight passes five feet over the receivers' heads. Also, Chad Hall is the first read on third-and-5? Really?
Mike Tanier: Hall got a handoff earlier. He is a big part of the game plan today. Reid must think he is Reno Mahe. And yes, Kolb is a little pumped up.
Bill Barnwell: Hall was open up the seam. Just a bad throw.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not saying he wasn't open. I'm just surprised he's the first read, not the third or fourth.
Tom Gower: Well, at the end of the first quarter, the Titans have 31 yards rushing and 29 yards of total offense. Collins is 1 of 4 for 4 yards (on third-and-eight) plus that aforementioned pick, and has been his current self: quick to feel pressure, hesitant to try to hit a receiver, and quick to throw the ball away. He was the better option in 2008, but he now looks shot.
Offensively, the Eagles aren't getting yardage in big chunks, but have still moved the ball fairly successfully, though it didn't result in any points in the opening 15. It looks like the Titans are playing mostly zone thus far, and Kolb has been locating guys in the voids though he hasn't always been hitting them. The Titans' defense still looks to me like a good defensive line that's generally better than the individual sum of its parts.
Bill Barnwell: Bad process, good outcome: Eagles run a reverse to Kolb out of the Wildcat. Kolb lofts up a bomb into triple-coverage that should have been picked off, but Chris Hope doesn't play the ball and Riley Cooper jumps in front of him for a long gain.
Mike Tanier: They are thinking outside the bun today.
Tom Gower: The Titans did get into the end zone in the second quarter when Collins hit Kenny Britt on a deep fade to the outside before the safety could get over and help. That came right after a similar play to the other side for Nate Washington where the ball was thrown out of bounds. Have I mentioned the deep fade is a great staple of lousy offenses where the quarterback has a decent arm?
I've officially fallen out of love with Kolb as a quarterback, and suspect I'd be even more so if I could see the secondary coverage. His brain just doesn't seem to be operating at the speed it needs to for a real NFL quarterback yet in terms of anticipating coverage and feeling the pass rush. I haven't watched Vick in enough detail this year, but Kolb is not playing so well you can't justify benching him if you have another viable option.
Tom Gower: Collins throws his second pick of the game on the Titans' first possession of the second half. Britt ran a deep in on third-and-seven, Samuel started with inside position and maintained it as Britt cut in after the slot guy ran his clearing route, and Collins threw the ball right to him.
Titans with two with 13 minutes to play, as Kenny Britt hauls in an 80-yarder from Collins. Britt ran right past Nate Allen and was a good seven yards clear, but Collins of course underthrew the ball by a good ten yards. Britt did a great job of adjusting to come back for the ball, then avoiding both Allen and Ellis Hobbs I believe en route to the end zone.
Kenny Britt is up to 209 yards receiving, while the rest of the Titans have combined for 79 net yards. Nate Allen is really looking like a rookie safety out there. Collins will get praised, I'm sure, but few of Britt's 6 receptions have come on good throws, and some of them, like the 80 yard TD, have been lousy. And as I'm typing this, he scores his third TD of the game and now has 225 of the team's 318 yards.
Bill Barnwell: Cortland Finnegan picks off a Kevin Kolb pass to somewhere with nine seconds left and returns it for a touchdown. Not quite as bad because the Titans were up 11 as opposed to one score, but still dumb.
Buffalo Bills 34 at Baltimore Ravens 37
Mike Tanier: I just sat down and Roscoe Parrish already fumbled, with the ball bouncing about 30 yards backwards. It is gonna be one of those weeks.
Doug Farrar: With five minutes left in the first quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick throws a deep pass to Lee Evans, who scores a touchdown and then tries to remember what it’s like to catch a ball that’s thrown over seven yards in the air.
You know, I actually kind of like Fitzpatrick as a Chan Gailey-type quarterback. He has some mobility, he's conversant with fakes, and he can actually make more than one throw. I'll be interested to see how their Alleged Offense might develop with him in there. (Hint: MORE PISTOL!)
Mike Tanier: Joe Flacco is overthrowing everyone, which is why the Bills keep getting possession.
Vince Verhei: Late in the first half, the Ravens have as many incomplete passes (11) as they do total rushing plays. That is a sure sign that you've been passing too much.
Tom Gower: Lindell hits the field goal to send the game to overtime, and the Bills recover from a 10 point deficit to force overtime. Because, you know, NOBODY CIRCLES THE WAGONS LIKE THE BUFFALO BILLS.*
*-After blowing an 18 point first half lead.
Oh, boy. Shawn Nelson fights for extra yardage on a dumpoff after the Bills force a Ravens punt in OT. He's stood up, and, like happened to Edge on Monday night four years ago, the opposing team's star MLB rips the ball away. Should have been a whistle there, but wasn't and of course forward progress is not reviewable. A Bills lineman rips off his helmet and slams it down to put the Ravens in field goal range, and three runs into the line later, Cundiff wins it.
Cleveland Browns 30 at New Orleans Saints 17
Bill Barnwell: Browns ran a really nifty throwback play on a punt where Josh Cribbs fielded a punt on one side of the field, ran a few yards forward, and then threw across the field to an open Eric Wright, who went 61 yards.
Ben Muth: Those millions of people who started the Browns defense against the Saints this week have to feel vindicated.
Bill Barnwell: David Bowens -- he of the "Perfect Year" essay -- just picked off Drew Brees again and ran 65 yards for a touchdown, his second of the day.
Washington Redskins 17 at Chicago Bears 14
Doug Farrar: Early on, people on Twitter are praising Albert Haynesworth for beating the crap out of Chris Williams on yet another Cutler sack. These people have not seen the Bears' offensive line. Mrs. Haynesworth could beat these people for a sack. The Bears have failed to convert their last 24 third downs. That has to be the Stat of the Year so far.
Bill Barnwell: Really dumb play by Donovan McNabb, who is in the grasp of two defenders and tries to get a pass off anyway. The pass gets tipped by Israel Idonije (defender 1) and caught by D.J. Moore (defender 2) and returned for an easy touchdown.
Doug Farrar: Someone needs to tell Donovan that he’s not Roethlisberger.
Aaron Schatz: When Roethlisberger tries to get off that pass, it ends up as a simple fumble and recovery, not an interception and touchdown return.
Vince Verhei: That was the second or third play where McNabb threw a pass with heavy pressure in his face. A turnover seemed inevitable.
Aaron Schatz: If the Chicago first-team offense ever faced the Chicago first-team defense in practice, what would that look like?
Doug Farrar: Well, Mike Tice would pull all the protections and leave Chris Williams alone to face Julius Peppers over and over, so it would look pretty stinkin' bad. Oh, wait, that's actually what they did in training camp!
Ben Muth: Chicago blitzed and Santana Moss had time to run a post-corner-post. It was a touchdown.
Bill Barnwell: Lovie Smith with an impossibly stupid challenge. Earl Bennett catches a 48-yard pass and is down at the 1/2-yard line. Could be a touchdown; hard to tell, but the refs rule him down short of the endzone. Bears have first-and-goal...and Lovie Smith decides to challenge the touchdown. Seriously? I mean, I know it's the Bears, who are awful on the goal line, but you have to think they'll eventually score from the one-yard line.
...and then the Bears promptly fumble on the one-yard line. Cutler stripped on a sneak. Oh my lord. Replay shows he actually broke the plane, but Smith is suddenly hesitant to challenge. I mean, this isn't advanced game theory or anything. One challenge is the difference between a touchdown and four shots from the one-yard line. The other challenge is the difference between a touchdown and a loss of possession.
Ben Muth: Donovan McNabb just threw a second interception that DJ Moore returned for a TD. Luckily they didn't snap the ball in time so the refs called off the TD and gave them a delay of game instead.
Bill Barnwell: Just an awful throw by Cutler against a big blitz. He throws an out off of his back foot that sails, and DeAngelo Hall jumps it and runs in a straight line for a 92-yard touchdown.
Tom Gower: Yes, it was a bad throw by Cutler, but it was also a great one-handed grab and return by Hall.
Bill Barnwell: Great catch by Hall, but it was a great catch because he nearly overran the ball. It was that bad of a throw. I don't know about a great run; he had an entirely open field ahead of him and outsprinted everyone to the endzone.
Tom Gower: Yeah, wasn't that great of a return. Still, he did there exactly what you want your CB to do-did an excellent job driving on the ball, adjusted to an errant ball to make an excellent catch, and immediately went upfield and accelerated.
Bill Barnwell: This Redskins-Bears game is probably the worst game of the year. The Redskins took over after that last Cutler interception and fumbled twice in three plays, with a recovery only averted on the first one when Chris Cooley (smartly) batted the ball out of bounds. Graham Gano hits the upright on the ensuing field goal attempt. The Bears pick up a third down with a pass to Forte, but it's called back for holding. On the makeup play, Cutler is flushed from the pocket and hits LaRon Landry in the helmet; the ball promptly bounces about 15 yards back towards the line of scrimmage, where an offensive lineman catches it.
Vince Verhei: I think the Bears and Redskins have fumbled 700 total times today.
Doug Farrar: Looks like Mike Martz is rubbing off on everybody.
Bill Barnwell: DeAngelo Hall, meanwhile, finished with four interceptions of Jay Cutler. And the Redskins going 7-for-8 on fumble recoveries might be a record.
Cincinnati Bengals 32 at Atlanta Falcons 39
Mike Tanier: All of the Falcons defensive backs are getting hurt again. DeCoud was out with a hammy. Dunta Robinson got knocked out last week, of course, and isn't back this week.
Benjy Rose: Not much to say here so far near the end of the first quarter ... Benson tearing up the Falcons line, Palmer overthrowing receivers, Matt Ryan playing inconsistently...yawn.
Bill Barnwell: Roddy White has 157 yards and a touchdown with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter. The Bengals are without Johnathan Joseph today and are playing Morgan Trent and Adam Jones on one side of the field. I haven't seen a ton of the game, but I suspect these two things are related.
Tom Gower: Don't look now, but the Bengals just turned two turnovers into two scores to come back and take the lead. The first came when Leon Hall picked off a deep pass intended for Michael Jenkins, followed by a long Jordan Shipley TD, then Pac-Man stripped Roddy White after a short completion, ripped the ball out, and took it back. Marvin Lewis went for down after the first TD made it 24-19, failed, then went for two again and just failed for the second time.
Mike Tanier: The Bengals have engineered this amazing comeback. What happened to those fundamentally sound Falcons of a few weeks ago?
DeAngelo Hall and Pac-Man with touchdowns within a few minutes. The fast but clueless have inherited the earth.
Pittsburgh Steelers 23 at Miami Dolphins 22
Aaron Schatz: Just in case anyone needs examples of why Ben Roethlisberger is not one of the top five quarterbacks in the league despite his impressive passing stats, we had one in the Miami-Pittsburgh game. Big Ben's size and scrambling ability give him the chance to extend plays, but that also means he takes more sacks and worse, sometimes tries to make the impossible play. With a bunch of Dolphins trying to drag him down for a sack, Roethlisberger refused to hit the ground and tried to shovel the ball ahead to Ike Redman who had been trying to block. However, Big Ben lost the handle of the ball before he could start the actual shoveling motion, i.e. a forward pass, thus leading to a fumble. Good thing the Steelers defense is so good, they've fumbled twice and it has led to two field goals as the Miami offense pretty much went nowhere twice.
Ben Muth: Is Hines Ward a Hall of Famer? 11,000 yards, 80 touchdowns, 2 Super Bowls, one super bowl MVP, and a reputation for being the best blocker at his position. I don't think he'd get in, but I think it's close.
Vince Verhei: Based on the way they've been voting, he'll get in because of the rings. It's almost impossible for a wideout to get in without one -- ask Cris Carter. Not to say that's how they should vote, but it's the standard they've set.
Aaron Schatz: Ben Roethlisberger just went to scramble, then changed his mind, then pump faked, went to scramble again, changed his mind, pump faked, and overthrew Hines Ward in the end zone... from two yards past the line of scrimmage.
When he comes in as part of the pass rush rotation, rookie OLB Jason Worilds is having an excellent game speed-rushing right tackle Vernon Carey. Anyone know how you pronounce his name? I have no idea. On the other hand, James Harrison vs. Jake Long is advantage Miami.
And geez, Dan Dierdorf, will you please stop slobbering over the amazing pocket that the Dolphins keep setting up for Chad Henne? The Dolphins leave in a back to block on nearly every play, and the Steelers are blitzing less than usual. Every play is six blocking four. It's not THAT spectacular.
Vince Verhei: Miami has used a couple of rollouts today. Not play-action, not bootlegs, just a quarterback rolling to the right and his offensive line moving with him. If Miami can run those with Chad Henne, can't pretty much any team use them? Seems like a good way to keep your quarterback upright that teams should use more often.
Aaron Schatz: Problem is that those rollouts basically cut the field in half, condensing the space your receivers can work in.
Astonishing coaching challenge result in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger runs a quarterback draw but loses control of the football before he crosses the plane. Originally called a touchdown, the Dolphins challenge. Gene Steratore comes out and explains: Roethlisberger loses the ball and therefore it is not a touchdown. However, the challenge has two parts: did Roethlisberger fumble, and who recovered it? Since there is not clear evidence as to which team recovered the football, Steratore says that he can't overturn Pittsburgh possession of the ball. Therefore it goes into the book as a fumble recovered by the Steelers, and it will be Steelers ball, fourth-and-goal from the half-yard line, down by two points. Jeff Reed hits a 19-yard field goal to go up by 1.
Honestly, it looked pretty clear from the video that Miami recovered the football. I guess it wasn't 100 percent sure, but it definitely looked like it.
Vince Verhei: The best part about that was Steratore nervously scratching his elbow during the announcement, knowing the call was lame and he would be hated, but it's the only call he could make. The Dolphins fell on the ball first and probably recovered, but indisputably? No.
Aaron Schatz: Golly, Chad Henne sure likes to throw to people in the flat. When it is third-and-8 with less than two minutes left, down by one, you might want to consider throwing it more than a yard past the line of scrimmage.
San Francisco 49ers 20 at Carolina Panthers 23
Tom Gower: Alex Smith went down hard early in the third quarter and is headed to the locker room with an apparent shoulder injury. David Carr has entered the game. Yes, ALERT, ALERT, David Carr has entered the game.
Ben Muth: The Giants make the World Series and David Carr comes in? Good weekend for San Franciscans.
Bill Barnwell: OK, one of the stupidest decisions of the week: David Carr has the ball on his own 20-yard line with one timeout and 30 seconds left, down three points. No one's open deep, so what does he do? Throw a two-yard checkdown to Vernon Davis, who's surrounded by defenders.
Tom Gower: His career in a nutshell.
St. Louis Rams 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18
Doug Farrar: Halfway through the first quarter, the Bucs have second-and-goal ... from the 35-yard line. OPI, holding, sack. Yikes.
David Gardner: Sam Bradford fumbled from his own 6-yard line on the first Rams' possession. The Bucs took over and were flagged for offensive pass interference, holding, and then Freeman was sacked. They ended up with third-and-goal from the 36. Hilarious. A good catch by Mike Williams put them in field-goal range and the Bucs are up early.
Doug Farrar: The guys doing the Bucs game are comparing Gerald McCoy to Ndamukong Suh. I suppose that was inevitable, and I’m sure McCoy will be a dynamic player, but I was surprised that so many people thought McCoy would have more of an immediate impact. He can be made to disappear on plays when he’d double-teamed, and Suh plays with far more velocity at the line of scrimmage, which is why he’s already beating those same types of double-teams in the NFL.
Aaron Schatz: I always thought that the difference was that people thought that McCoy would make more game-changing big plays, while Suh would be a more consistently good player who affected every play. Not saying that's true, but that was the general impression I got from pre-draft reports.
David Gardner: An offsides call against Ronde Barber on a field-goal attempt gives the Rams a first-and-goal and eventually a touchdown. The Rams game plan has been simple -- run, run, run.
LeGarrette Blount is finally getting the carries in the second half. Blount runs with more power and decisiveness than Williams.
The Bucs offensive line continues to be the weak link of the team. They aren't opening up any holes in the running game, Freeman is being pressured on almost every snap, and they have been flagged a bunch of times, including a late hit on a two-minute drive to try and win the game.
On a third-and-10 with 30 seconds left and the ball at the 20-yard line, Freeman finds Mike Williams for the first down, and he jukes his way down to the one. Two plays later, Freeman rolls right and finds Cadillac Williams for the go-ahead score.
Doug Farrar: How has Davin Joseph been this season? I had him pegged as a future star a while back.
David Gardner: He's been the best of a bad line. He had a dumb penalty today, but he's a really good pass blocker and a decent run blocker.
Freeman also has established some late-game credentials early in his career. Of Freeman's seven wins, five were comebacks.
Arizona Cardinals 10 at Seattle Seahawks 22
Seahawks running a bit more bunch today, with the tight end inside pulling to the other side to block – I like the blocking out of bunch idea, which the Steelers do as well as anyone.
Bill Barnwell: Seahawks get a stripsack of Max Hall when they rush three and get Chris Clemons one-on-one versus Stephen Spach while left tackle Levi Brown just watches the play. Hall gets laid out from behind (and clearly has no feel for the rush), and the Seahawks recover the resulting fumble.
Awesome. Olindo Mare lines up for a 31-yard field goal and hits it, but Cameron Morrah gets called for holding. Mare then hits a 41-yarder, but Morrah is called for holding AGAIN. So then Mare hits the 51-yarder. He's hit 26 in a row -- 28 if we count those two -- since last year, when Jim Mora threw him under the bus. Karma is awesome.
Doug Farrar: Bonus to twelfth-string guard Mike Gibson for the unnecessary roughness call after the successful try, which gave Mare a 15-yard ding on the kickoff. He kicked the ball 77 yards to the Arizona 8. He is officially the baddest kicker alive.
And the Seahawks wind up kicking yet another field goal on a drive in which Mike Williams pretty much made Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie his play toy because they went away from Williams in the red zone. Oh, and they managed two more delay of game penalties, including one on the field goal. Half the time, I'm pretty much convinced that Jeremy Bates is Norv Turner's son, not Jim Bates'.
New England Patriots 23 at San Diego Chargers 20
Bill Barnwell: Chargers run a surprise onside/squib kick after a Kris Brown field goal and, of course, it fails.
Aaron Schatz: Actually, that's not a Chargers thing. That's been an everyone thing. Not counting a Chargers kick with one second left that was just meant to waste time, kicking team has only recovered 2 of 6 first-half onside attempts. I wonder if the Saints Super Bowl kick sort of ruined the strategy, or is this just small sample size? Probably the latter, but still...
Bill Barnwell: Here's the problem with Phil Simms. He starts going off after a fumble on a Kris Wilson checkdown about how guys who don't touch the ball frequently fumble at a higher rate because "it makes sense". Lots of things make sense. That doesn't make them true.
I actually ran a quick test and it's true, although subject to selection bias: Running backs that have more than 60% of their team's carries fumble once every 75 touches, while backs that have fewer than 20% of their team's carries fumble once every 33 touches. But I know Simms didn't test it.
Patriots just a ran a diamond formation with four wideouts on one side. That was nifty.
Aaron Schatz: Second time the Pats have run that formation. Both times, it was a screen pass to the back guy in the diamond: Welker a couple weeks ago, Woodhead today.
Ben Muth: I hope they're setting up the double pass for later this year. I always loved that play.
Tom Gower: Rookie Chargers receiver Richard Goodman caught a pass over the middle, then went down and let go of the ball. Since nobody had touched him, he wasn't down, so the Patriots had one of the world's easiest fumble recoveries. Now, SD turns the ball over again after a pass for Hester is ruled a lateral on the field and there's simply not enough evidence to overturn it. I hate this team.
Bill Barnwell: Richard Goodman made Phil Simms sure look a little smarter.
Aaron Schatz: The thing about the lateral to Hester is that Hester didn't make any attempt to pounce on the ball once he didn't catch it. It was like he had no idea that a backwards pass was a live ball, or that a maybe-backwards pass might be a live ball so you probably should pounce on it just to be safe. That's twice today the Chargers have given the ball to the Patriots without any contact with a defender, simply by not noticing that the whistle had not blown yet.
Good thing their defense is playing so (surprisingly) well this year. Antwan Barnes is an excellent edition. I always thought he was an underrated pass rusher on the rise in Baltimore. The Chargers finally have the pass rush this year that they allegedly have had every year but that they ACTUALLY have not had since Merriman's first steroid suspension.
Also: fun to note that Brandon Meriweather seems to be making a point of hitting everyone with his shoulder today. At one point, he completely leveled a Chargers receiver with a shoulder-to-chest hit and then got up making "did you see that" motions.
Aaron Schatz: Marcus McNeill's return was supposed to improve San Diego's pass-blocking, but this doesn't really work if the opponent (say, the Pats) has the defender (DE or OLB) on McNeill's side hang back while the pass rush goes at the other linemen.
Decision by Belichick to go for it fourth-and-1 from midfield is pretty defensible. Surprised they went with a handoff to Green-Ellis versus a sneak or a pass play, but still think it makes sense. Green-Ellis really didn't read his blocking very well; I think he gets it if he runs up underneath his left guard, but he kicked it outside where there were three defenders waiting. I can see the case for punting, but it keeps your worst unit (pass defense) on the sideline.
Aaron Schatz: Then the Chargers have a false start on the attempt to tie the game with a field goal, making it a 50-yard field goal, and Kris Brown (signed this week with Nate Kaeding injured) knocks it off the right upright. Chargers go to 2-5.
Oakland Raiders 59 at Denver Broncos 14
Bill Barnwell: The Raiders are up 21-0 within six minutes. Boy, am I excited for this 49ers-Broncos game next week.
After yet another Broncos turnover gives the Raiders the ball in the redzone, the Broncos strip McFadden. A Bronco goes to scoop it and can't, of course, and Jason Campbell recovers. The Broncos committed defensive holding on the play anyway, of course. Football!
Darren McFadden now has four touchdowns; it's safe to say he has the starting job in Raiders to himself again. The Raiders have 52 points with 20 minutes left in the game; no team's put up 60 in the regular season since the Bengals in 1989, and if anyone's going to want to run up the score for fun, it's Al Davis against the Broncos.
Minnesota Vikings 24 at Green Bay Packers 28
Bill Barnwell: Vikings just lined up on the opening third down in that same diamond formation we talked about during the Pats game. They also ran a screen to the back receiver; let's see when someone runs something different out of that set.
Vince Verhei: The Seahawks tried it in an earlier game. It was also a WR screen. It also failed. It's big neon sign saying WE ARE RUNNING A WR SCREEN. The next step would be a pump-fake to the back receiver, then a lob to one of the "blockers" who has slipped through the defense on a fade route, but I don't think I've seen that yet.
Aaron Schatz: Well, the Pats screens didn't fail. They both succeeded, although the one earlier in the season was better than today's.
Mike Tanier: There's a lot you can do from the diamond besides a screen. NFL coaches must just be on page one of that playbook.
Bill Barnwell: Aaron Rodgers is incapable of throwing to anyone but his tight end in the red zone. Quarless was double-covered and he still threw it. Of course, it worked.
Aaron Schatz: Cris Collinsworth saying that very few teams are willing to put their left tackles one-on-one against Jared Allen, but isn't that one of the big stories of the Vikings season -- that opponents seem perfectly willing to put their left tackles one-on-one against Allen, and they're pretty much all doing fine, because Allen isn't playing as well as years past?
David Gardner: Wow, what a fourth-down play call by the Packers on that bomb to Andrew Quarless. Even though it failed, I respect the originality of it.
Aaron Schatz: Aaron Rodgers just threw a pick at the goal line. Despite what Collinsworth said, the problem wasn't really the idea of throwing the ball to Jennings being covered by Frank Walker. The problem was that the ball was thrown behind Jennings, where Walker was, instead of ahead of Jennings, where the cornerback couldn't get it. Walker tips, Madieu Williams picks it off.
Packers are squib kicking in order to avoid returns by Percy Harvin. Man, I just hate that play. The Vikings were fifth in kick return value going into this game but still, Harvin is not having a Devin Hester 2006 season. The average Harvin return before tonight, not counting squibs, went to the Vikings 31, and that includes a touchdown return. The touchdown was the only return Harvin has brought back past the 50. To avoid that longshot touchdown, you are just handing the other team the ball around the 40. Heck, that last one after the Favre pick-six gave the Vikings the ball at the 42. The Packers might as well have just kicked it out of bounds. Unless you have a return man who is enjoying a historically great season, it's a bad strategy.
A few minutes later, and the Packers are going for it on fourth-and-1. John Kuhn takes the ball, gets stopped, then slowly rolls over the pile until he has the first down. The problem? The refs whistled the forward progress over before Kuhn was actually down. All these plays we've seen where the refs swallow their whistles because they are afraid of making a mistake, and here they whistle way too early. Worst part for the Packers is that Greg Jennings honestly had the first down on the previous play with forward progress -- but Mike McCarthy didn't challenge, perhaps afraid to blow his last challenge on a one-yard spot when he might need to keep it for a scoring play or turnover.
Bill Barnwell: Favre comes back and throws a pick, though, on a play where Favre's throw is late, Percy Harvin runs a lazy intermediate route, and Nick Collins comes out of nowhere to nab the ball out of the air.
Aaron Schatz: Hello, officials? Phil Loadholt on the final Vikings drive? Holding? Anyone want to call it? Hello?
OK, after a couple plays (and a great play call on an Adrian Peterson screen that had a ton of room to work) they do call Loadholt -- not just for holding, but for a face mask and a 15-yard penalty that makes it (along with the false start before it) first-and-30.
David Gardner: Wow. That Harvin catch wasn't even close. It just goes to show how difficult it is for officials to verify both possession and being inbounds at the same time.
Aaron Schatz: Just so it doesn't sound like the complaints about officiating are one-sided, I should point out that Pete Prisco is tweeting that Clay Matthews took his helmet off after the Harvin catch (that wasn't). Should have been a 15-yard penalty on Green Bay. Not sure which official is supposed to be looking for that stuff. You definitely can't ask one guy to look at the receiver's feet and hands simultaneously, but I'm guessing the "look for dudes taking off helmets" guy is a different guy.
Bill Barnwell: They showed a replay of it. Matthews' helmet came off in mid-play. He took it off, but it was during the play.
Aaron Schatz: So he didn't take it off, it came off? That's not a penalty. If he took it off, even in mid-play, it is a penalty.