compiled by Andrew Potter
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to turn into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.
As is now tradition, we have a special Opening Night Audibles covering the regular season opener between the Patriots and Steelers.
Pittsburgh Steelers 21 at New England Patriots 28
Scott Kacsmar: Sammie Coates didn't even get exaggerated praise from Ben Roethlisberger, who praises everyone to the nth degree. Seriously, he'll make you believe he had the Hogs in front of him in 2008. That's discouraging, because I don't know what these teams are still seeing in DHB to roster him, let alone give him snaps.
Tom Gower: Heyward-Bey is a fine and energetic blocker who also plays special teams. On the right team, that's a very valuable thing for a fourth or fifth receiver, and playing ST makes it easy to keep him up on a regular basis.
Cian Fahey: Hope he gets a few chances to cover some punts as a third receiver tonight then!
Vince Verhei: Note to whoever it was in New England that decided to play "Hate Me Now" as the Patriots were warming up: Well played. Well, well played.
Aaron Schatz: As far as Sammie Coates, look, the dude is a project. Some guys are projects. That doesn't necessarily make them failures. And the Steelers did look like a team that had its receiving corps set and could take time to develop a project at the position.
Whether that project will actually develop, or was worth a third-round pick instead of a fifth or sixth, is a different story.
Tom Gower: Also, Robert Quinn was a healthy scratch his first game, and he turned out okay.
Cian Fahey: Quinn probably has better hands than Coates.
Aaron Schatz: Hell, Richard Quinn might have better hands than Coates.
Vince Verhei: That pregame banner-dropping trophy-raising concert was the best damn thing I ever saw. And I cheer for Seattle. Holy crap.
Aaron Schatz: Hello from the press box, high above Gillette Stadium, where the most common thing heard seems to be "I need a note about the Steelers... Does anyone know anything I can say about the Steelers? Just one thing?"
The second-most common thing heard is, of course, any deflategate joke.
Mike Kurtz: &$-%$#$&&& Todd Haley.
Scott Kacsmar: Yes, the first #FireToddHaley of the season came rather quick. A gadget like Antonio Brown passing on the opening drive? Save that for later. Simplicity was carrying that drive right down the field until that.
Cian Fahey: Dominique Easley had made a great start to this game. Was exploding off the snap and penetrating pocket consistently. Just gone off with what appears to be a significant hip injury. Awful for a guy who has two torn ACLs in his past and is finally healthy.
Aaron Schatz: Honestly, I think handing it to the fullback on second-and-28 has to be considered as weird as calling the trick play in the middle of a successful opening drive.
On the positive for the Steelers, Cody Wallace is pushing some guys early. Making some holes. Looks pretty good.
Tom Gower: After the idiot trick play and they were backed up, the Steelers called plays like they were trying to get a field goal attempt. They did, and we saw what they got out of it.
Mike Kurtz: That may be the first time I've seen illegal formation called for that. As long as I can remember, "through the belt" means "vaguely in the area of a guy."
Scott Kacsmar: That's a long failed completion when you get 17 yards on third-and-18, but it's still a good field position gain to help your D/ST. I guess that's why we have a binary counting stat like failed completions and something more advanced like DVOA to deal with such plays.
Cian Fahey: Steelers headsets aren't working. I'm sure it's just a coincidence.
Scott Kacsmar: Headset failure not uncommon in NFL games. Getting the other team's radio broadcast? Never heard anything like that before.
And we look to be headed to a scoreless first quarter.
Tom Gower: Both teams made it to the edge of scoring territory, but couldn't actually put points on the board. The Steelers missed their field goal, and Bud Dupree sacked Brady on the Patriots' third down near field goal range on what looked like it was supposed to be a screen. So, while it hasn't been as scoring-heavy as I expected, both teams have moved the ball some.
Aaron Schatz: Guy next to me asks "is this the longest Gronk has ever gone without a catch to start a game?" Next two plays, passes to Gronk, including a badly blown coverage where the safety forgot to go over to cover Gronk man-to-man lined up wide. Touchdown, Patriots.
Cian Fahey: Gronkowski was uncovered for his touchdown, but he wasn't the only one:
Scott Kacsmar: If the Patriots keep getting Julian Edelman on Blake, this is going to be a long night for the defense. That guy can tackle, but he can't cover. That's the advantage of how the Patriots run their offense differently from most, and how most defenses refuse to shadow receivers. We know Edelman is the best receiver on the field (Gronk the biggest threat, so let's not even put a guy on him, but I digress), so why not shadow him with your best cornerback? That's William Gay this season, but other teams have better options and still don't do it like they should.
Cian Fahey: If there is one cornerback in the NFL that Darrius Heyward-Bey can beat, it was always going to be Bradley Fletcher(or Cary Williams). Heyward-Bey with a huge play in response to Gronkowski's touchdown.
Scott Kacsmar: Of course DHB makes a bigger play than what he did all last year. Now if only he can get Bradley Fletcher in coverage more.
Mike Kurtz: After the last fg attempt, I'm amazed they aren't going for it on fourth and three.
Hey look, he missed it.
Aaron Schatz: If you aren't going to put a deep safety over to help Fletcher, why do you even put the guy on the field? The Pats are supposed to excel at using guys in ways that hide their weaknesses. Not there.
Vince Verhei: Maybe the Steelers should have considered going for it on fourth-and-3 instead of asking their third kicker of the year to try a 46-yard field goal. Just an idea.
Cian Fahey: Jarvis Jones is repeatedly obliterating Nate Solder. He's beating him with speed rushes, bull rushes and shedding him v run. Solder isn't a star left tackle, but Jones has been woeful to this point in his career so this is a major development.
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Vince Verhei: Beautiful, beautiful play fake on Brady's second touchdown to Gronkowski. I was still watching the "runner" as the ball was in the air.
On the first play following that touchdown, Pittsburgh runs the Seahawks' goal-line play and execute it perfectly. They trolled Seattle. I laughed.
Scott Kacsmar: Steelers need to go down the field more in the second half. Really test this secondary instead of trying all the horizontal stuff.
Cian Fahey: Antonio Brown's athleticism is incredible. Just glides away from defensive backs who are desperately making an effort to follow him. That's what he did against Malcolm Butler late in the second quarter down the sideline.
Aaron Schatz: OK, second-and-5 from the 26, 20 seconds left. How on earth do the Patriots leave Darrius Heyward-Bey wide open in the corner of the end zone for seven or eight seconds? And how on earth does DHB not notice his foot is OUT OF BOUNDS when he's wide open for a touchdown?
Mike Kurtz: DHB Was always an avid student if the Raider Way.
Tom Gower: On the play before that, how do the Steelers out of a timeout burn :22 of :42 seconds with a pointless running play when they're 31 yards from the end zone? Aside from, of course, Todd Haley'ING.
Scott Kacsmar: Can we just recycle one of my rants from the last two years of Audibles of the Steelers botching the clock before halftime? I don't feel like going over that one. Just brutal.
Mike Kurtz: It's one thing to say that the Steelers defense is weak at secondary; they've had issues there for years now. One thing that we never saw when LeBeau was running the show was such complete unpreparedness. Not just the miscommunications, but basic gameplanning, like starting the game playing off the receivers against Brady's popgun arm.
Scott Kacsmar: Have to disagree, Mike. Steelers usually have that kind of start in at least one game every year. Seahawks hit a handful of open sideline passes to start SB XL even. Dalton was doing it in Cincinnati last year. That's just part of their scheme and it looks really foolish against a team spreading receivers out and gladly taking those easy yards.
Ben Muth: Halftime thoughts:
I missed part of the second quarter, but I thought the right side of Pittsburgh's OL (David DeCastro in particular) looked good. Also think both tight ends for Pitt are blocking their asses off. Pittsburgh overall has looked okay but the botched double pass, two missed field goals, a DHB blunder, and horrific clock management has them 2 scores down.
Vince Verhei: I've never bought into the anti-Tomlin stuff, but, uh, he's not having a good night.
Aaron Schatz: OK, here's the problem with some of the old Boston media.
Ron Borges tweets after the really well-run Will Allen safety blitz sack: "Marcus Cannon is already on top of his game, which is why Will Allen was on top of Brady." Except, Marcus Cannon blocked the guy he was supposed to block there. Will Allen came in untouched. It was a great play design. Either Brady hits the hot read, or he goes down. Cannon did nothing wrong.
I don't know why Cannon was in the game for Solder -- as bad as Solder was playing, he's the better player, you want your better player in there, right? -- but he was not responsible for that sack.
Apparently, my Twitter followers have pointed out the Pats have been rotating their linemen around all game. Not sure the strategy behind that, but that's what's up. They had Cannon in for Sebastian Vollmer on an earlier drive.
Ben Muth: Yeah, people are crushing Cannon on Twitter. He might've screwed up by over sliding inside when he didn't need to, but I put it at 70/30 that two blitzers off that edge means you throw hot. That's the classic, if you don't know the call/scheme you don't know who messed up scenario.
Cian Fahey: They've done that previously, but I don't remember them doing it with their LT?
Tom Gower: Cannon was playing left tackle for Solder there, and right tackle for Sebastian Vollmer earlier. The Patriots were also giving some of their interior lineman series off earlier in the game, with Shaq Mason, I think, moving in and out. I know other teams have rotated linemen at times, but it's normally like the continuation of a camp battle. Does any team regularly give their linemen series off like that, and have the Pats ever explained why?
Vince Verhei: Pittsburgh down ten and on the verge of scoring a crucial touchdown, and they run a draw on third-and-goal from the 6. Can't defend that.
Mike Kurtz: WHO RUNS UP THE MIDDLE WITH A FULLBACK ON THIRD AND GOAL FROM THE 6 %&$&$$%$&$&
Aaron Schatz: Actually, I think it was DeAngelo Williams, but otherwise, yeah.
Vince Verhei: Didn't New England spend the first month or so last year shuffling their linemen in and out? It's like they don't trust the preseason as an evaluation method, and they want to see different players and combinations in REAL real games before they settle on a starting five.
Aaron Schatz: Can someone explain to me how on earth the Steelers keep leaving Gronk open? First they had Bud Dupree on him one-on-one in an empty-back set. Huge gain. Bud Dupree is not here to be covering tight ends. The next play, Brady overthrew Edelman but he didn't even see he had Gronk wide open again in the slot!!! Ridiculous.
Cian Fahey: The coaching staff is terrible and has been for a few years now.
Tom Gower: The Dupree coverage looked like a zone where he didn't realize he needed to carry Gronkowski's route because the deep defenders were otherwise occupied (outside route held CB, not sure about middle defender). I didn't rewind to check on the Edelman overthrow. So, yeah, inexperienced and/or not very good players not executing their assignments in high pressure situations. Basically, what we all expected coming into this game.
Vince Verhei: Steelers punt on fourth-and-3 down 14 points with 8:29 to go in the game. They have made every possible wrong decision tonight.
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Aaron Schatz: Patriots had a terrible clock-munching drive munch only 53 seconds after that, so hey, who knows. Maybe Pittsburgh has life still. Crowd is chanting "Where is Roger?" Shades of the 1999 ALCS.
Aaron Schatz: Oh, I'm sorry. Deep pass into the wind is too short for DHB to catch. Interception. Fire extinguished.
Scott Kacsmar: Well I've watched them all live, and it's hard to think of another game where the Steelers were this dumb under Tomlin. Dumb is the simple word I'd use to describe this performance. The offense was very respectable given who didn't suit up tonight, but we may be quickly learning the Patriots are in a real bend-but-don't-break mode this season. Pittsburgh left a ton of points on the field and had several poor decisions on play calls and clock management. Bad debut for Josh Scobee. Keep that up and the Steelers will be looking for a fourth kicker in 2015.
We tend to just ignore the preseason, but the Buffalo quarterbacks were 30/33 for over 300 yards against Pittsburgh. Never in the 96-year history of the NFL had an offense completed over 90% on 30-plus passes. And that was the Buffalo quarterback situation with most of the top receivers out. What was Brady's peak rate tonight? 24/28? Think he hit 19 in a row. That's very alarming, especially when you can't line up and are leaving countless receivers wide open. Nothing more unforgivable than how often Gronkowski can be left open like that. The game plan looked nonexistent tonight, and I don't know if that's mostly on Tomlin or Keith Butler, but I've seen nothing to believe the Steelers won't be one of the bottom defenses this year. They might rough up Josh McCown at home, but anything even resembling competence should have success against this defense.
Overall it was more competitive than I expected as the Patriots didn't pull away as easily after halftime. I hope this was just a Week 1 snapshot of two great offenses (both missing several starters) going up against two awful defenses. If the standard of defense is getting to this level...
Vince Verhei: Yeah, I'm feeling very good about my pick for Pittsburgh to fall short of their DVOA projection.