Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Audibles at the Line: Week 3
Audibles at the Line: Week 3
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Rivers McCown

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.

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 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.

New England Patriots 31 at Buffalo Bills 34

Aaron Schatz: On New England's first drive, the Bills present a clinic on "how not to cover Wes Welker." Four catches on the first drive. The touchdown pass really stood out to me. The Patriots have Welker tight left, with Rob Gronkowski in a tight end position, and then two receivers right. The Bills have Drayton Florence covering Welker, but he starts six yards off the line of scrimmage. That's going to make it difficult to cover Welker on those drag routes of his. So Welker releases and takes two steps in to the right. Florence probably thinks Welker is going across the field, so he breaks into the middle to try to get to Welker so he can cover that. Welker, after two steps, switches, goes left and deep. Florence tries to reverse, falls down, and Welker saunters into the end zone untouched.

By the way, the Bills were mostly playing a 4-3 on that first drive, not a 3-4. Yet another variable defense, although I'm not sure what I think about a formation that has you using Shawne Merriman as a normal linebacker rather than a pass rusher.

Ben, if you want to see two offensive lines who are totally kicking a defense's ass, make sure to turn your head towards the TV showing Buffalo-New England every so often.

Chan Gailey just won this week's Colbert Award for going for it on fourth-and-14 from the New England 35. They must feel that since they can't really stop Tom Brady, field goals are pretty much useless. They had a third-and-4 on the 25 but Eric Wood got flagged 15 yards for a chop block.

Ben Muth: The Bills need to do something to get to Tom Brady. They aren't getting any pressure with their down linemen and Brady is shredding them. At least with blitzes, you have a chance of making a big play.

Aaron Schatz: Bills making another dramatic comeback. Leodis McKelvin picks off Brady by undercutting Chad Ochocinco on a route. A lazy cut by Ochocinco. Bills come down field, Fred Jackson slashes them, and then nobody covers Scott Chandler in the end zone.

The Patriots spent a second-round pick and a third-round pick on running backs to go with the two they already had, and who do they have lining up at running back today? Julian freakin' Edelman.

Let the record state that at 14:18 of the fourth quarter, 3:32 p.m. EDT, the New England Patriots finally got pass pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Egads. Fitzpatrick throws ridiculous interception, chucking ball up for grabs when he has nobody open -- and gets lucky when Sergio Brown of the Pats interferes with David Nelson. That gives Bills the ball at the 1, and they punch it in. Game now tied 24-24.

Vince Verhei: Hell of an effort by Brady to bring down Florence on the go-ahead pick-six.

Brady has thrown as many interceptions today as he did in all of 2010.

Aaron Schatz: Chad Ochocinco was wide open and dropped what would have been the tying touchdown on the next drive. Horrible.

Absolutely stunning result for the Bills-Pats game. Pats defense needs serious work. They need to figure out what was improving at the end of last year, and how on earth they can get that back. Bills defense isn't very good either. Three of their four interceptions came off the tip drill, otherwise they couldn't stop Patriots. Both offenses very powerful, but of course one of those is a surprise.

New York Giants 29 at Philadelphia Eagles 16

Mike Tanier: Casey Matthews cannot cover Brandon Jacobs. When I find the player that he can cover, I will let everyone know.

Actually, the real problem is that Matthews was sucked in utterly by play action. It is almost as if he had not quite learned one position before being moved to a totally different one!

Giants throwing so many different defensive fronts at the Eagles in the first quarter that they have Michael Vick and the offensive line all screwed up. Some times, they bunch three defenders over the center and guards, and the other end is at Wide 9. Other times, Dave Tollefson and Justin Tuck are wide over right tackle. Jason Pierre-Paul is over left tackle, and there is no one up the middle, making the Eagles' inexperienced center and guard stand around while Todd Herremans tries to do all the work.

Vince Verhei: The Eagles give up their second long touchdown, and once again it's clearly a bad play by one individual defender. In this case, Kurt Coleman (a free safety, but I'm sure you knew that) is in position to tackle Victor Cruz for a short gain but, well, doesn't. He chases him downfield and has a chance to tackle him again, but instead knocks down his own teammate, giving Cruz a free path to the end zone. 14-0, Giants.

Mike Tanier: I picked the wrong day to quit popping pills.

Aaron Schatz: I think they definitely miss Quintin Mikell. I'm curious about Stewart Bradley. Curious, Mike, do you think Bradley would be better than what they have now at linebacker? I'm surprised to see he's not even starting in Arizona.

Mike Tanier: The old Bradley would be great. He could be a 2-down guy at middle linebacker in this system. He was very good at interior run defense. I am not really sure what he has lost to injuries though.

Vince Verhei: The Giants' first half in a nutshell: Their two touchdowns totaled 114 yards. Their other 20 offensive plays produced 91 yards and only three first downs.

Mike Tanier:The Eagles somehow got the field goal unit on the field and got a successful field goal off with the clock ticking down from about 10 seconds to zero. The highlight was Brent Celek all but grabbing Vick and throwing him off the field, because Vick appeared to have forgotten it was fourth down and wanted to run a spike-the-ball play.

Eagles football. Always perplexing.

I will not try to explain how Jason Peters wound up recovering a Vick fumble and gaining positive yardage. I have officially given up trying to make any sense of the Eagles. Oh, Owen Schmitt just hurdled a defender. I double-triple give up.

Vince Verhei: For the second time today, the Eagles are stopped at the goal line and kick a field goal. In six goal-to-go plays, they have yet to run what you think would be their best option, the Vick play-action bootleg with a tight end in front of him. Instead, it's things like fullback belly plays for two-yard losses on third-and-goal from the 1. Because when you think about the 2011 Eagles, you think "physical dominance."

Mike Tanier: Vick heading for tunnel. He looked rather shaky on the drive that ended with him failing to score on two quarterback sneaks. Draw your own conclusions about that.

By the way ... it is Vick's right hand that is getting looked at, officially, as Mike Kafka gets ready to take the field.

Vick is back. He got x-rayed during a commercial break. I demand his HMO plan.

Vince Verhei: Eagles go for it on fourth-and-1 just across midfield. Is this the bootleg? No, a straight handoff to McCoy, for a predictable loss.

Mike Tanier: I did not mind the handoff, because it was to Shady, and the Eagles had their receivers on the field to stretch things out a little bit.

Aaron Schatz: Instantly, some Giants writer on Twitter criticizes Reid for going for it on fourth-and-1. How long is it going to take us to teach people about fourth downs? Seriously, you should never, ever punt on fourth-and-1 in opposing territory in the first three quarters of a game. NEVER. The play call may have been bad, but the basic decision is good there.

I mean, the fourth down thing is so damn obvious that people can't stop writing academic papers about it. We decided last night after the NESSIS conference that there are now four research papers nobody in sports statistics is ever allowed to write ever again:

1) I have a better version of the BCS rankings.
2) I have a new adjusted plus-minus for the NBA.
3) I have a linear weights system to create a new NBA player rating.
4) I have proof that NFL coaches need to go for it more often on fourth down.

Vince Verhei: What about "I have a new way to rank quarterbacks?"

Aaron Schatz:. Ooo, that's going on the list too.

Vince Verhei: Kafka on the field for Philadelphia. First pass: interception on a deep pass to Jeremy Maclin on which it appears Aaron Ross was the intended receiver. I was going to ask how Reid could have played Vick for so long if he was still punch-drunk, but, well, there you go.

Mike Tanier: It is long overdue for beer time.

Denver Broncos 14 at Tennessee Titans 17

Ben Muth: Jason Jones leads with his head and creams Kyle Orton for a roughing the passer. Orton was slow to get up and a Broncos fan at the bar starts clapping and yelling "Tebow time baby!" Orton stays in, Broncos fan takes big gulp of beer.

Vince Verhei: Do Broncos fans like that even watch the games? Orton has been completely competent with that team, completing 60 percent of his passes with a 2-to-1 TD/INT ratio. This is not a player who desperately needs to benched.

Tom Gower: Orton re-learns the lesson that you shouldn't miss routes over the middle high when there's an over-the-top defender as he just overthrew Eric Decker and Jason McCourty has an easy interception.

The game is tied at seven thus far. Chris Johnson has yet to find much running room but they lined him up outside on a simple "just run downfield" play and he made a nice sideline grab off a good, accurate throw by Matt Hasselbeck on the big play on the Titans' TD drive. Hasselbeck is having another very good game so far, completing 13 of his 14 attempts. He's been a little lucky, completing one duck Brett Favre would've rejected as too risky, but for the most part has been very good. The Titans' latest drive is at an end, as Kenny Britt fumbles and goes down with an injury.

Vince Verhei: Just to throw some water on the Hasselbeck fire: At halftime, yes, he's 16-of-19. But only seven of those completions went for first downs, and the Titans only have 10 points.

Tom Gower: In defense of Hasselbeck, the Titans have no running game. CJ has seven carries for eight yards. Punter Brett Kern has their longest carry of the game and the year, a 21-yarder. His best receiver on the field is Nate Washington. They would likely have more points if Kenny Britt hadn't blown out his knee (speculation) and dropped the ball from the pain while they were in field goal range.

Kyle Orton nickel-and-dimes his way down the field, and the Broncos take a 14-10 lead. That's what I was expecting coming into the game, though with a little more intermediate stuff mixed in. The Titans have done a good job on limiting Brandon Lloyd today. After Von Miller strip-sacks Hasselbeck after the kickoff, the Broncos take the ball down to the 1. John Fox eschews the field goal for a seven-point lead and tries to take the two score lead, but gets stuffed. A run, a completion, and a penalty, and the Titans are out near the 30.

I assume John Fox will take a lot of heat for his decision not to kick the field goal from the 1 in a game the Broncos would lose by three points, or at least he would if Broncos-Titans was a higher-profile game. I thought he made the right call.

The Titans ended up getting the eventual game-winning score next on that drive that started at the 1, but the next drive. The big play on the drive was a 58-yard catch and run by blocking TE Craig Stevens. The TD came on a pass to former Bronco Daniel Graham when he was left open on blown coverage. In between, the Titans picked some on their favorite pigeon, Champ Bailey replacement Cassius Vaughn, who is not particularly excellent. Good news for the game, as Johnson ended up matching Kern's 21 yards rushing.

Aaron Schatz: Tom, is Hasselbeck really playing that well? His numbers are excellent, so much better than a year ago.

Tom Gower: Hasselbeck's doing an excellent job of reading the defense, finding open receivers, and getting the ball out quickly. It's not world-beater stuff, but smart veteran play -- I think an upgraded version of Kerry Collins c. 2008. If Britt is going to be out for any length of time, which it seems like he will be, that'll hurt the offense a ton. The passing offense thus far has been mostly Britt, Washington, dumpoffs to Johnson, and the odd pass to somebody else. If Britt's out, well, that's probably not good news.

Doug Farrar: From what I’ve seen, it’s a lot of single-read stuff pretty quick off the snap, and they generally give him a bailout option underneath or to the side. Protection is also excellent for the most part, and it’s been about half a decade since he’s had that. Britt has also bailed him out a few times.

Houston Texans 33 at New Orleans Saints 40

Rivers McCown: Superior play calling gets the Texans a lead early. They dug their way out of third-and-14 from inside their own 10 on the first drive, and on the second, fullback/tight end hybrid James Casey was left uncovered out of the backfield on a blitz and rumbled down the field 62 yards to set up a field goal.

Ben Muth: Darren Sproles takes a quick pitch, gets a great kickout block from Zach Strief (I think), makes the safety miss, and is gone for the TD. Reggie who?

Mike Tanier: Leave Reggie Bush alone! He has four carries for three yards early in the Dolphins game!

Rivers McCown: After the Sproles touchdown, the Texans march down the field with a pair of huge pass plays and nab a rebuttal field goal. The Saints zone is getting shredded when Houston has field to work with.

At least Reggie Bush has Pizza Hut. And being the object of generic pizza-eating guy's fantasy.

Ben Muth: I have Reggie Bush on a fantasy team. I would take a pizza for him right about now.

Mike Kurtz: Lots of people have Bush on their fantasy team. Nobody listens!

Mike Tanier: Bush is up to five carries for a loss of one, by the way. At this rate, by the fourth quarter he will be traveling backward in time.

Rivers McCown: Or, with Reggie's predilection towards appearing in commercials, perhaps they listen too much!

Vince Verhei: It's a good thing none of us picked Reggie Bush as the player most likely to beat his KUBIAK projection. (Looks down at ground, nervously kicks a rock.)

Rivers McCown: Wouldn't be the first prediction that went totally wrong. I've got the under on Buffalo!

Danny Tuccitto: I just noticed Rackers has four field goals, with his longest being from 36. Care to elaborate on the Texans' red zone difficulties, Rivers?

Rivers McCown:They're really missing Arian Foster. Ben Tate is a good thumping back, but his vision is questionable and he's getting them into a lot of passing situations down there so far. When the Texans actually tried to pass on normal down and distance, it was a gimmick Jacoby Jones play that went for no gain. The exact words Gary Kubiak will use at the end of the game is "we didn't stay on schedule."

By the way: Steve Slaton, NFL running back, is a ship that has sailed at this point.

And now Mario Williams is having his knee looked at.

Wild play in Houston for the go-ahead touchdown. Schaub under pressure, dumps it to Joel Dreessen. Jonathan Casillas in coverage almost intercepts it, it tips off of Dreessen's leg, and lands in Kevin Walter's hands. Wow. Four minutes left.

Mike Tanier: There was just an ugly pass interference no call with three minutes to play. Johnathan Joseph smothered Robert Meachem.

Rivers McCown: I should add: most of this Saints comeback has come on the backs of Kareem Jackson and Troy Nolan, who have been brutal in underneath coverage. Sean Payton forced the Texans into the nickel and Wade Phillips didn't really have an answer for it.

Don't want to step on Ben's feet, but New Orleans' offensive line has been stellar all day. Very little pass pressure on Drew Brees. Big push on the Mark Ingram go-ahead touchdown.

The Saints just converted their second two-pointer. They used the same play both times.

San Francisco 49ers 13 at Cincinnati Bengals 8

Danny Tuccitto: First quarter over in Cincinnati, with the Bengals up 3-0. My first impression is, wow, this game is boring. My second impression is that watching Andy Dalton being decisive with his reads, and getting rid of the ball quickly is really highlighting just how slow Alex Smith is.

J.J. Cooper: Just going to guess we won't have a lot of comments on the 49ers-Bengals game.

Danny Tuccitto: As this game goes on, I'm realizing more and more that these are three wasted hours of my life I'm never going to get back. Still 3-0 midway through the third quarter. First team to four wins.

Robert Weintraub: Actually wrote my college column during the "action" which is rare for me. But since this scarcely resembles football, not concerned I'm missing much.

Danny Tuccitto: Michael Crabtree makes a great catch for a touchdown, but true to form for this game, he gets called for illegal touching. Points come off the board.

Robert Weintraub: Yes, and whether Crabtree was actually out of bounds is extremely questionable.

Doug Farrar: For anyone watching 49ers-Bengals: With six minutes left in the third quarter, did Jerome Boger really call a false start on “the entire offensive line?”

Danny Tuccitto: Doug, yes. False start on the entire line. It was a domino effect beginning with -- shockingly! -- Chilo Rachal.

Notwithstanding the lack of offense in this game, it really is stunning how much more pocket awareness Dalton has than Smith. Dalton slides around and evades pressure, whereas Smith just stands there and takes his decleating.

Rivers McCown: J.J., I hope you've learned never to doubt the power of how many comments a game gets when two writers have a favorite team involved. Even if it is the 49ers and the Bengals. Besides, Danny isn't really awake until 2:30 ET anyway.

Danny Tuccitto: I may be in Miami, but somehow I'm as sluggish as the 49ers during these 1 p.m. starts.

Robert Weintraub: Give the defenses some credit here - -the Niners coverage is airtight. A.J. Green hasn't had much of a sniff all day. And the Bengals pass rush is controlling the game on the other side. That said, sheesh.

First-and-goal at the 5. Up the middle stuffed. Waggle boot nowhere. Fade with no chance at success. Field goal, the second of the day from the shadow of the goal line. If this is Jay Gruden's best stuff, it ain't good enough.

No team falls for more throwback screens than the Cincinnati Bengals.

Danny Tuccitto: Frank Gore fumbles inside the Niners' 20, and uses the Carlos Rogers' facemask method of catching passes. In comes Kendall Hunter, and the 49ers' running game comes to life. Go-ahead drive capped by a seven-yard touchdown run by Hunter.

And just as I say that, Rogers abandons the facemask method, actually using his hands to make a potential win-sealing interception. These are the 49ers, though, so I probably shouldn't have just written that.

Vince Verhei: Well, I was wrong about Reggie Bush, but I was right about Gore. I think my player comment in FOA was the only media write-up that predicted anything other than success for him.

Danny Tuccitto: Third-and-11 at the Bengals' 33 after Rogers' interception. That's a 50-yard field goal if San Francisco doesn't gain a yard. Not impossible, obviously, but not automatic. What does Harbaugh call? End around to Vernon Davis. Akers nails a 53-yarder anyway, but that play call makes no strategic or tactical sense to me whatsoever.

I may have lauded Dalton's superior pocket awareness earlier in the game, but his last two interceptions, including the actual sealer by Reggie Smith just now, have been pretty ugly.

Vince Verhei: 49ers about to punt inside their own 20, up six, with eight seconds to go. Time for the punter to run around, then throw the ball through the back of his own end zone for the intentional safety? And they do, but don't kill all the clock. 49ers will free kick up four with two seconds to go.

Danny Tuccitto: Though I'm of course happy the 49ers won, I'm even happier that their win makes it less likely I'll have to follow through on that tiger suit guarantee.

Robert Weintraub: I thought Jim Mora on the telecast had an interesting point on that final pick of Dalton. He said that on seam passes to the tight end, like the one the Bengals tried at the end, if the linebacker has a certain depth it requires a back shoulder throw. If not, he leads the tight end. Clearly, Dalton was going back shoulder on the pass, and Jermaine Gresham kept running, and it flew right past him. Smith made a helluva catch too.

None of that excuses the fact that the teething problems for Dalton began in earnest today. And maybe the Niners defense is better than advertised. Also -- 42 thousand for the home opener. That is a loud statement, not that Mike Brown will unplug his ears.

Jacksonville Jaguars 10 at Carolina Panthers 16

Aaron Schatz: Turned to red zone channel to see Carolina with a third-and-3 around the Jacksonville 20. Cam Newton ran an option play, but this seems messed up to me ... he faked the handoff to a running back going right, but then ran right himself and was totally hemmed in. Isn't the point of the play fake to send the defense one way and the ball the OTHER way?

Vince Verhei: So, Jacksonville and Carolina are playing in a goddamn monsoon. The hard camera is so rain-spattered it may as well be opaque. Guys are kicking up enormous puddles with every step.

Mike Tanier: Oh my gosh, you are right. I just saw the Panthers highlights. That looks awesome! (On television. Would be very sad if I were there.)

J.J. Cooper: The monsoon in Charlotte has made this game surprisingly compelling TV. Blaine Gabbert showed off an interesting tweak on the Hail Mary. Instead of throwing it into the end zone he threw it to an open Mike Thomas at the Panthers 8, then Thomas splashed and slithered into the end zone.

Vince Verhei: The Jaguars' end-of-half touchdown was, well, odd. It was a Hail Nary situation and a Hail Mary formation, but instead of running downfield in a cluster, the receivers all ran separate vertical routes. Mike Thomas was lagging several yards behind his teammates, and all the defenders. When he caught the ball, the other receivers effectively became blockers. It was kind of like a bubble screen through a wormhole.

Mike Tanier: So is Mike Thomas the best Hail Mary receiver ever?

Vince Verhei: It's stopped raining in Carolina, but everyone's still completely soaked, including the Panthers cheerleaders. We need more cheerleaders with wet hair.

Aaron Schatz: Boy, Carolina's stadium sure does have an NFL-quality drainage system. By which I mean, they do not.

Detroit Lions 26 at Minnesota Vikings 23

Mike Kurtz: So, my (one-year-old) daughter is watching with us. At one point the Lions dial up a safety blitz, which causes a throwaway and a hit on Donovan McNabb. While this is happening she's doing a little happy dance. Then they show replay, she lets go of the table she was using for support and starts clapping. Love of defense, apparently, is genetic.

Rivers McCown: Matthew Stafford just took a shotgun snap right to his crotch. It works on so many levels!

Ben Muth: The Vikings are in the midst of blowing another lead. It's like they're playing the Dillon High Panthers every week.

Vikings march down the field to get in field goal range. McNabb overthrows Bernard Berrian on third down for what should've been a sure TD. We're going to OT.

Jeff Backus, barf on that Jared Allen sack.

Mike Tanier: Calvin Johnson is good. Going out on a limb here.

Arizona Cardinals 10 at Seattle Seahawks 13

Vince Verhei: Seahawks first drive ends when the newly signed Paul McQuistan can't block Calais Campbell and give up a sack on third down.

Ben Muth: Tarvaris Jackson drops back to pass from about the 10-yard-line, and after an eternity runs for the touchdown. Announcer claims that "that touchdown was all Tarvaris Jackson". What about the five guys up front who have struggled all year? Would it kill him to throw them a shout out?

Vince Verhei: Seahawks have completely shut down the Arizona run game. No Beanie Wells, which helps, but they were good in Weeks 1 and 2 too. The departure of Lofa Tatupu and benching of Aaron Curry are irrelevant.

Passing D is less spectacular, but they're not giving up big plays, and Marcus Trufant has an interception when Kevin Kolb apparently didn't see him in underneath zone coverage.

The Seahawks line, by the way, has given up four sacks, so I'm not ina hurry to heap praise upon them.

Ben Muth: Fair enough Vince, but allow me to treat the Seahawks offensive line like a color guy treats a first or second year QB.

"This Seahwaks offensive line has struggled all game long. They've taken some lumps and made some mistakes, but that's part of playing in this league. But here in the second half, with the game on the line, they get into the red zone and make a play when they have to. If I'm Pete Carroll, that's what I want to see from my young unit."

Vince Verhei: Well played, sir.

Cardinals try a game-tying 49-yard field goal. The aim is true, but it comes up way short. It's very windy in Seattle, that may have had something to do with it.

Ben Muth: Is that what it was, the wind? I can't remember the last time I saw an NFL kicker come up five yards short on 49-yarder.

Jon Ryan has about a 10 yard punt going the opposite direction of Jay Feely's kick. Swirling winds!

Kolb throws a brutal pick to end the game. The "at least he's not Derek Anderson" good will is wearing off.

Green Bay Packers 27 at Chicago Bears 17

Ben Muth: Left the bar and am now stuck with Packers and Bears. I did not plan my Sunday well.

Mike Tanier: Could be watching Seahawks on one screen, Chiefs on another, and Ravens beating tar out of Rams on the rest...

Rivers McCown: Troy Aikman thinks Bears fans are mad that they didn't run it once from first-and-goal. Apparently he hasn't seen their red zone rushing numbers the past few years.

Aaron Schatz: Bears have the ball, trying to come back from a ten-point deficit. Second down, Jay Cutler has Devin Hester open on a square in, but for some reason he doesn't throw it and he takes a sack even though the Bears had picked up a seven-man Packers blitz. Two downs later, fourth-and-6, Cutler has Johnny Knox absolutely not open on a square in, and throws it there anyway, and Sam Shields slaps it away. Game.

Robert Weintraub: Awesome Bears deke on a punt return, with Hester pretending like he's about to fair catch it -- but the ball is actually on the other side of the field. Knox takes it the distance --but a totally unnecessary hold wipes it out. The best laid plans...

Funny that the gunners really have that little idea of where the ball actually is, and key on the returner that much. I mean, the whole Pack team was sucked in.

Kansas City Chiefs 17 at San Diego Chargers 20

Tom Gower: If the Chargers can get out of their own way, they'd be awesome. They've given up 60 yards of offense in their last four quarters at home (second against MIN, first today), and haven't allowed the Chiefs to score in the last eight quarters of play. Yet, it's only 10-0 at the half thanks to turnovers and the usual nonsense.

San Diego's shutout streak is over, as Javier Arenas returns a punt into Charger territory. Two completions to Dwayne Bowe, one that really should have been a pick if Steve Gregory hadn't been so slow, and another on a great sideline grab that I didn't think was in, cut the lead to 10-7. Ryan Mathews is getting a lot of work today, and I mostly like what he's doing.

Leading 20-17, the Chargers face a fourth and one at the Kansas City 33. If they convert, they can kneel the clock out. Norv smartly decides to go for it. Unfortunately, the call is a QB sneak into the teeth of the defense AND the Chargers snap the ball with :21 on the playclock with 1:37 to go in the game. That leaves the Chiefs plenty of time, except Matt Cassel on the second play of the drive is intercepted on a screen pass by Eric Weddle.

Atlanta Falcons 13 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Tom Gower: One day I'm just going to snap, and I'm either going to write 4,000 words about how frustrated I am with the Falcons' offense or I'll forswear ever watching them play again. Right now I'm currently thinking neither Matt Ryan nor the offensive line is actually that good, or anywhere near as good as I think they should be.

Mike Tanier: The Bucs are up by ten and trying to run out the last 25 minutes. Did they hire Bruce Coslett?

Robert Weintraub: Bucs are getting that ole familiar sinking feeling when the Falcons are in town...

Falcons and Bucs in a scrum --"remember, these teams don't like each other."

Aaron Schatz: OH MY GOD. Tampa Bay just did the "try to draw the other team offside" thing on fourth-and-1 and it WORKED to seal the game.

Robert Weintraub: I feel much better for the Bengals and Pat Sims (recall the Saints did it to us last season) now. Ballgame!

Aaron Schatz: I forgot about that. So now it has worked twice in two years. Wacky.

Danny Tuccitto: Tampa Bay's best offensive weapon today: voice inflection.

Mike Tanier: Eagles also got drawn offside by the Giants today.

New York Jets 24 at Oakland Raiders 34

Aaron Schatz: It was hard to watch the Jets-Raiders game without the voice of Merril Hoge haunting me. A seal here, a seal there ... and then we've got the ALL-LEH! How sad is it that I've watched so much NFL Matchup that I hear Hoge's voice and not Vince Lombardi's? Anyway, the Raiders run defense is awful, although the Jets had not given up a 100-yard rusher in 25 games before today.

Ben Muth: Mark Sanchez just took an awful sack on a naked bootleg. I hate that, you're already outside the pocket and you know the defensive end is unblocked. Throw the ball away!

Tom Gower: Sanchez is good at taking that kind of sack.

Aaron Schatz: I liked the HB Option pass attempt where Darren McFadden ended up scrambling and was still pump-faking 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.

Mike Tanier:This Raiders beating of the Jets is starting to be fun.

Baltimore Ravens 37 at St. Louis Rams 7

Mike Tanier: They just flashed a Most Vowels in the NFL graphic in the Ravens game, and the Rams had the players ranked first and second. The Rams lead the league in something!

Rivers McCown: The Rams lead the league in a few things. One of them is "allowing touchdowns to Torrey Smith."

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 at Indianapolis Colts 20

Aaron Schatz: I am surprised by how well the Colts are containing the Steelers' running game. Ben Roethlisberger is finding all the holes in Cover-2, but when the Steelers run, they're not getting anywhere.

Tom Gower: This looks like the familiar Kerry Collins -- some bizarre misses, some good execution when he has the ability to throw the ball quickly, and intermittent success. I think he's starting to adjust the Colts' pass protection and showing why he was among the least-sacked QB's in the NFL, even when the Titans' line declined from its 2008 peak. I also like the game Joseph Addai's having. Sure, he doesn't have a third or even much of a second gear, but he'll get what's there and more.

Jonathan Scott is a liability at left tackle against a good edge rusher. Who knew?

Rivers McCown: On the bright side, Jonathan Scott seems like a good tackler.

Aaron Schatz: Antonio Brown, not so much. Nice 15-yard penalty there, buddy.

I wish I had more to day about this potential upset, but it seems like the Colts have had one good drive, plus a scoop-and-score fumble. Doesn't it seem like the Steelers are outplaying them? It seems like they're generally able to find Mike Wallace and Heath Miller, so how come every time I look up the Steelers seem to have a drive ending?

Rivers McCown: Because they've turned the ball over on half of their non-clock killing possessions?

Danny Tuccitto: This definitely looks to be shaping up as one of those games where the better VOA team ends up on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Plenty of time left, though.

Aaron Schatz: Chris Kemoeatu just got completely turned around trying to run-block ... OK actually, Collinsworth is noticing it too, apparently the defensive player there is named Drake Nevis. I'm just mystified by this suddenly solid Colts run defense.

Danny Tuccitto: Going along with the theme of today, readers of my ESPN fantasy matchup article are, I'm sure, equally mystified. Almost every awesome defensive matchup has been inexplicably turned on its head today. A.J. Green does squat against San Francisco's pass defense? Chris Johnson does squat against Denver's run defense? Rashard Mendenhall doing squat against Indianapolis' run defense? Week 3 sponsored by Erno Rubik, I guess.

Rivers McCown: I originally read that as Emo Rubik, and wondered how that would work, since I assume that cube would be all-black.

Danny Tuccitto: With skinny jeans, a western shirt, and wavy bangs, of course.

Vince Verhei: Just sat down to catch the last 12 minutes of the game. As for why it feels like the Steelers are winning... well, they have nearly double the first downs (15 to eight), and more than double the total yards (353 to 141).

Some of these numbers are amazing. Reggie Wayne has three catches for 24 yards on 12 targets. The Colts are averaging seven yards per catch, and Collins is still completing less than half his passes. Statistically, this has been a complete ass-whipping.

Aaron Schatz: Doug Legursky just went out with an injury, and as we all know, if there's any unit where Pittsburgh has depth, it is of course offensive line. They are now down to five. You never want to root for injury, but I must admit to being curious about what the Steelers would do if another one got injured and they were left with only four.

Mike Tanier: Thor's little brother is in at quarterback.

Aaron Schatz: Steelers just called up the Colts and offered to send Dennis Dixon over for Benjamin Ijalana, right now. Like a game of "Red Rover."

Brian McIntyre: Colts are evaluating Kerry Collins for a concussion, which may be the only acceptable explanation for having 93 yards passing on 29 attempts when having Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon to throw to.

Mike Tanier: A lot of Steelers drives are stalling thanks to patented Roethlisberger "wait forever" sacks.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, you mean like the one that knocks them out of freakin' field-goal range and costs them a chance to take the lead?

Mike Tanier: Luckily, the Steelers can start over with a long punt return. Again.

Rivers McCown: Have the Steelers ever heard of "play action"?

Aaron Schatz: Kemoeatu looks awful tonight. He just got stuffed by a defender trying to pull right, which led to Mendenhall getting stuffed.

Mike Tanier: Oh cripes, and it is gonna end that easily ... with a strip sack.

Mike Kurtz: Play-action isn't very useful when your running game is averaging two yards per carry.

Hopefully they can stop them here and this nightmare can end...

Aaron Schatz: Well, the running game is averaging two yards per carry in large part because the Colts defense is clearly playing to stop the run first and foremost, with eight in the box. So theoretically, a play-fake should leave Mike Wallace in one-on-one.

Danny Tuccitto: Am I the only one hoping there's a mullet inside Curtis Painter's helmet?

Vince Verhei: "That thing does not like Dwayne." Commercial of the year has been won.

Mike Tanier: Ew. Yuck. Can we at least complete that last short pass of the game and get the pitch play going?


241 comments, Last at 28 Sep 2011, 9:01am

#1 by Mikey // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:19am

So where did Chan Gailey's 4th and 14 call come from? It didn't work, but I guess you figure a punt doesn't do much for you, a field goal is low-percentage, so what the hey?

Points: 0

#2 by P (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:28am

Oh Minnesota,

Your best skill player is your RB. Second best is a WR/RB hybrid. Your TEs are as good at catching passes as your WRs. Your offensive line is generally regarded as better at run blocking than pass blocking. Your QB is basically an older version of Jason Campbell. So, naturally, your offense has about a 2/1 pass/run ratio, despite having the lead most of the game.


Points: 0

#6 by andrew // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:45am

They have not been able to convert third downs in the second half, having missed their last 14 now.

So in the Lions game on 3rd and 1 while still leading by 10, they throw. Peterson was visibly vocal in his anger over that. Next series, after the Lions cut it to a 3 point game, Booker gets a kickoff back 67 yards so they have the ball in Lions territory. on 3rd down they get most of it, leaving 4th and a yard (a full yard). Frazier thinks about it and sends out the field goal unit.

Peterson is again vocal, and waves the FG team off, and Frazier apparently gives in and leaves the offense on the field (a measurement gave them time to think about it). Okay, while you can say that if they'd made the FG they would have won since it went to overtime, you can't really say the end would have played out the same way... but okay. I have no problem with them going for it. Peterson was angry, and he runs angry anyway, figure he can do this (though I should not he has not been automatic in these situations). So what do they do? Run up the middle into the heart of the Lions D-line with Toby Gerheart. I know, if it works he's a genius. But I can't agree with putting that in Toby's hands.

Part of it is that they just haven't run as well in the second halves, but there's more to it than that. They've had passes open that McNabb missed, they've converted 3rd downs that were called back due to penalty, they've had plays where the receiver caught it and didn't get the extra yard, they've had passes dropped, and they've been stuffed for no gain or losses. Its like the entire offense just fails on many levels after halftime.

After the Vikings tied it, the defense suddenly got fired up and Jared Allen forced consecutive false starts to back the Lions up, then made a beautiful move to get a clean sack of Stafford.... I thought he should have gone for the ball, but regardless it had them backed way up. Next down Allen again penetrated and almost stopped Best for what would have been a game-winning safety... but Best got out, just barely. Okay. Lions run clock down and have to punt from the goal line, figure they can get the ball and one pass gets Longwell a shot at making a FG to win it. The punt goes 52 yards, is returned 10, that's still at the Lions 45. ten yards would do it, heck, 5 yards and its worth a shot. But someone late-hits a lion after the whistle and they are backed up 15 yards, killing that.

At this point you knew they were gonna lose the coin toss as well.

I sent in a DVOA question asking how the discrepancy in the Vikings first/second half splits compares to the greatest in history. Aaron wrote back that it was only two games, too early to establish a trend for something like that. Okay, 3 and counting...

Points: 0

#19 by ASmitty // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:20am

AP had a long run on the first drive of the game. Not counting that run, he averaged 2.2 YPC the rest of the game. In fact, 25% of Minny's net yardage came on two plays: the aforementioned run by Peterson and a long reverse by Harvin.

Minnesota's offense is just a mess. Unless they can bust a big run by Peterson or get some magic out of Harvin, they just can't do anything with the football at all. It's a shame too, because their defense is still well above average IMO. But you just can't play a grind it out game with a boom or bust back.

Points: 0

#219 by Karl Cuba // Sep 27, 2011 - 10:08am

I really don't think that there is such a thing as a 'boom or bust back'. A runner with very good speed is probably more likely to rip off a long run if he gets to the open field but with a runner like AP it's more likely to be a function of always facing 8 or 9 men in the box, meaning that he's likely to get stuffed by the free defender but when he does get through the initial line of defenders he's then facing fewer defenders.

I think similar effects can be seen in Matt Hassleback's resurgence in Tennesse, defenses are loading up on Chris Johnson, who's going nowhere fast and the passing game is the major beneficiary. The same thing can be seen when Favre arrived in Minnesota, he had his best season in years because of defenses continuing to key on AP.

Points: 0

#241 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 28, 2011 - 9:01am

Sanders, Barry

Most rushes for 20+ yards. Most rushes for loss.

Points: 0

#38 by jimm (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:03am

I don't have DVOA for you but here's score yardage, and per play average

First half stats

Vikings 54, opp 7
658yds, 6.45 per play vs 285 yds, 3.52 per play

2nd half stats

Vikings 6 opp 67

248 yds, 3.60 per play vs 815 yards, 6.91 per play

Points: 0

#93 by jackgibbs // Sep 26, 2011 - 2:08pm

are the new overtime rules not in effect yet? detroit kicked a field goal on the first possession of overtime, shouldn't minnesota get the ball after that?

Points: 0

#99 by Eddo // Sep 26, 2011 - 2:12pm

Those rules only apply to the playoffs, still. Unless I missed something...

Points: 0

#24 by JS // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:31am

Watched the NFL network pregame show, and all five guys picked Detroit, and laughed, like, duh! I thought, this is a classic setup. All of a sudden everyone has Stafford in the HoF, and Minnesota has exactly one good player. People think whatever happened yesterday will happen today, tomorrow, and on and on until the end of time. Is Detroit going to go 16-0? 13-3? Is Minnesota going to go 0-16? No, of course not. So I figured Minnesota would win this one. They needed it, it's a home game against a divisional opponent, Detroit is probably starting to get overconfident. Sure, pick Minnesota.


I thought they got rid of Childress.

Points: 0

#33 by drobviousso // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:47am

They did. Then they replaced him with an internal promotion, and made 0 substantive changes.


Points: 0

#3 by zlionsfan // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:28am

I said almost exactly what Tanier said, and probably at the same time. Megatron's obviously not going to catch 32 TDs this season, but seeing how Stafford is finding him (and how defenses are losing him), a top-5 season (17) isn't impossible.

It was good to see Stafford able to take some hits and get back up: 0 sacks allowed through two games, 5 sacks by the Vikings. No turnovers - either way, which is surprising. Only 4 sacks allowed by the Vikings, which I assume is a tribute to the Vikings' line, based on what happened last year in Washington. (I figured McNabb wouldn't be escaping much; I'll find out in more detail when I chart this week.)

No one "gets" to throw to Pierre Garçon. You "have" to throw to him.

It's hard for me to get across to anxious Colts fans that the best QB is not always whoever isn't currently in the game. (I saw this for decades in Detroit. I know what I'm saying.) I'm sure that one drive against Pittsburgh will have people convinced that Painter should have been playing all along ...

Points: 0

#7 by Travis // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:49am

Curtis Painter has been the Colts' QB for 20 drives in his career. On those 20 drives, the Colts have been outscored 14-7.

Points: 0

#15 by starzero // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:14am

the best colts qb was up in a booth all night.

we're quite aware that if curtis painter were the solution we wouldn't have picked up kerry collins. though i don't feel better thinking pat mcafee is the third-string.

hail damage

Points: 0

#20 by DGL // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:21am

"It's hard for me to get across to anxious Colts fans that the best QB is not always whoever isn't currently in the game."

Oh, it's not just Colts fans - it's an axiom that the backup quarterback is the most popular guy in town.

Points: 0

#87 by zlionsfan // Sep 26, 2011 - 1:53pm

In most cities, yeah, but keep in mind that there are Colts fans who have never experienced that themselves. (Depending on when they started to watch football - what do they teach these kids in school? - they could actually be kind of old.) I suppose '98 might have been different, but after that, no one has ever suggested anyone other than Manning (for good reason).

So they've seen the arguments from afar, but they've never actually experienced them firsthand ... until now. It's one thing if the QBs involved were two Just A Guys, but my fellow Purdue grads and I agonized over Painter's tenure at Purdue - we go back before the Tiller days, so we remember when Purdue didn't run a spread offense, and we've seen plenty of bad QBs. Painter wasn't bad, but he wasn't great, and that was in an offense he was recruited to run, with nearly four years of practice as the #1. I suppose he could pick up a Kurt Warner Alien QB Implant (TM), but short of that, I wouldn't expect him to suddenly develop into an NFL QB. I think Collins needs more practice reps as the #1, and if Painter is getting them, Collins isn't going to get more familiar with the offense. (Obviously a concussion should/will overrule all of that.)

And he still doesn't play defense or special teams (or WR). The DL certainly got through Pittsburgh's backup OL, but they won't be facing backups every game. (Not that the DL is bad, not at all, but they will be playing some solid offenses, and if they don't force enough turnovers like they did last night, it'll be more like the Week 1 thrashing.)

Points: 0

#190 by Bryan and Vinny Show (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:25pm

Yep, here in Denver, the calls for Tebow are endless, like loons at the lake. A local right-wing political talk show host has spent the last three weeks talking about this. Tebow is truly a cause celebre with the Focus on the Family/Tea Party crowd. I knew this would happen when he was drafted. It's not just the religious conservatives, though, it's also the people who say 'He's a proven winner and he's better than Elway' ( actual quotes from people in the paper ), and they are getting louder and louder. Orton hasn't helped his cause entirely, but the Broncos are injury-depleted and, frankly, not all that great. I will predict that Tebow will be starting by week 5, lest the home stadium be half-empty, and Denver will finish this season at, maybe, 3-13. Their schedule is brutal, and they are bad.
It'll be fascinating when the Bears, and Cutler, come to town later this year. Nobody here likes Cutler, but I bet he's cheered like a returning astronaut.

Points: 0

#194 by The Hypno-Toad // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:45pm

"It'll be fascinating when the Bears, and Cutler, come to town later this year. Nobody here likes Cutler, but I bet he's cheered like a returning astronaut."

Ummm, really? Since the trade I've been specifically dreading this game the inevitable awful behavior of the Broncos fans for Cutler's horrible crime of finding Josh McDaniels unpleasant and deceptive, and being insulted by the attempt to trade him for Cassel, coupled with McDaniels lying to him about it. I don't think I'll ever be less glad to have season tickets than I will be for that game. I'm pretty sure this game will be very embarrassing for rational Bronco fans.

Points: 0

#4 by Karl Cuba // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:38am

Rogers really has been incredible, after three games I think he's been hit squarely in the head four times (at least twice in the facemask) and has only managed one interception. You couldn't do that if you were trying to head the ball.

Also, Ray McDonald is playing his socks off, he's been more productive that Justin Smith in this young season. You could say the same for Bowman and Willis. Soapy is as immovable in the middle as he was at left end too, meaning the middle five of the 49ers front seven is scary good. Ahmad Brooks looks like he has size, speed and good football instincts. However, he also jumps offside twice a game and that is getting rather tiresome (even though the NFL admitted that last week's neutral zone penalty vs Dallas was incorrect, he still has the other one from the Dallas game) how long can he keep this up for before he gets a well deserved benching?

Points: 0

#5 by Insancipitory // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:45am

The weather was unseasonably early, and seems as if it will continue so. By that I mean the wind storms and generally garbage November weather was sampler sized today. NFL team flags line each side of The Hawk's Nest in the north endzone. At one point, the flags on the east side of The Hawk's Nest were blowing straight north, the flags a couple score feet away on the west side were blowing straight south. At the same time the flags atop the north uprights were blowing straight up and straight down respectively. I sit under complete cover, and was being lightly sprayed from both the front and the back at the same time.

There's something to be said for Feely being aware of the conditions, and being realistic with his coaches. But if he was on top of his responsibilities it might not be nearly as hilarious to watch him kick FGs in person.

Also wrt to Hasslebeck, it's amazing what having an O-line that's not historically bad will do for a QB's numbers.

/At least this year, there's hope the O-line will improve.

Points: 0

#8 by theosu // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:51am

You guys really need to hire a Browns fan.

Points: 0

#83 by TomC // Sep 26, 2011 - 1:42pm

That's an elegant way to remark on your team's game getting no comments while not incurring multiple "read the damn intro" responses. Well done.

Points: 0

#101 by andrew // Sep 26, 2011 - 2:15pm

I know it got a little exciting at the end, but most of that game was really, really boring. I can't imagine a disinterested party sticking with it. It was one of my options because I'm in south florida, but as long as their was red zone channel there was no need to pay it any attention.

Points: 0

#118 by Rivers McCown // Sep 26, 2011 - 3:15pm

But we have several guys that went to Brown!


Points: 0

#134 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 26, 2011 - 4:03pm

I'll thank you to keep potty humor out of this.

\I'll be taking my talents to South Beach

Points: 0

#9 by t.d. // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:00am

I'm curious regarding the Bills, when and why did the o-line stop being atrocious? Wasn't it a major weakness from the time they cut Peters until at least midseason last year? I know qbs with a quick release can cover up a lot of problem areas, but is that what's going on?

Points: 0

#14 by Timmah! (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:13am

Most of the problem with the Bills line last year was at RT - Cornell Green was a turnstile so he was replaced by Wrotto and Howard who weren't much better. After some more injuries, the Bills picked up Erik Pears, who looks generally competent at the position. They also moved Eric Wood to C, picked up a decent RG or two with Urbik/Rheinhart, and LT Demetrius Bell has improved tremendously over the last few years.

Points: 0

#10 by J (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:03am

I just want to say that Joe Buck's call on the Hester fake-out punt return had to be the worst call by an announcer ever. That was seriously one of the most shocking and unpredictable plays I have ever seen, but his call was completely monotone and void of any surprise or enthusiasm whatsoever. How anyone could be watching that play live and be as lackluster as Buck was is beyond me. How does this man have a job?

Points: 0

#16 by Spoon // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:16am

Now if it had been a fake-out mooning instead of a fake-out punt, I'm certain you'd have the reaction from Buck that you wanted.

Points: 0

#27 by Quixzlizx (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:34am

He was also monotone during the Tyree SB42 catch.

Points: 0

#77 by Sophandros // Sep 26, 2011 - 1:18pm

He only has a job because of who his father was.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

Points: 0

#11 by johonny (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:05am

The Dolphins pretty much dominated the Browns for 57 minutes. In a stunningly boring game. Reggie Bush fumbled one scoring opportunity and the Dolphins settled for a touchdown early when they were in perfected field goal range. The Browns offense missing everyone anyone cares about looked out of sink. The last 3 minutes saw the Browns suddenly find their offense then suddenly try really hard to give the game away with 2 penalties that nearly put Miami in field goal range. Miami would not blow their chance at Andrew Luck and wisely threw an interception. The highlight of the game were the many roughing the QB calls by a ref crew that apparently isn't aware that QBs can be touched in NFL football. Seriously roughly 50 % of touches on either QB resulted in a roughing call today.

Points: 0

#12 by Raiderjoe // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:09am

Raiders madr adkustments. Gerat coacjing. Jets dign't make adjustmgnts. Also wjen score 34-24 with 50 seconds or so left jets try to score Td on 4th down. Did not make it. Game ovef. If kick FG at least tema extend game and try onside kick. Was r. Kotitr coachimg team. Maybe took over Rex Ryans body like thay alien beast im The Thong that they show trailer for durimg game. D. McFadden on way to rushing title and ofdensice player of year. D. Moore exciting up and cominger. J. Moss denver broincos trash, Raiders treasure.

Points: 0

#25 by DGL // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:32am

At the end of the game when the Jets went for it on 4-Goal, two factors made it a good decision: 1, they'd just gotten down to the 2 yard line, so their chance of scoring the TD was probably around 50%; 2, the clock was running, so they would have run an extra 10-15 seconds off the clock in running the FG unit onto the field. If they kick the FG they'll be lining up for the onside kick with about 30-35 seconds left on the game clock; even if the onside kick is successful, they end up with the ball on their own 45 needing a touchdown with 25-30 seconds on the clock and no time outs.

I'd rather take the shot at getting two yards in one play.

If Sanchez instead throws an incompletion on third down, so it's 4-Goal from the nine with the clock stopped at 1:05, I agree that you kick the FG and go for the onside kick.

Points: 0

#39 by Bots Meat Commission (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:06am

How did I miss all those commercials for "The Thong"?

Points: 0

#60 by Mike B. In Va // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:21pm

It's coming from another a brass pole near you!

Points: 0

#59 by BigWoody (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:20pm

Oh god RJ, the thought of Rex Ryan in a thong absolutly ruined my Monday morning! Please don't ever do that again.

Points: 0

#216 by Kevin from Philly // Sep 27, 2011 - 9:55am

Beach flip-flops are sometimes called thongs. I can see Ryan being interested in wearing those.

Points: 0

#226 by TomC // Sep 27, 2011 - 10:52am

I think Ryan would be even more interested in his wife wearing those. Interested enough to film it and post it on the internet.

Points: 0

#230 by Blackamallow (not verified) // Sep 27, 2011 - 12:55pm

Do we know if Raiderjoe is a woman? She might just have misspelled the "j" in her name?

Points: 0

#13 by Zieg (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:13am

Bucs game was great. The defensive line was playing like their draft positions. Adrian Clayborne's take down of Matt Ryan was incredible. Sportscasters like to prattle on about how he plays violent and other nonquantifiables to make up for a somewhat vacant stat sheet, but violent is the best word I can think of to describe that hit. Though it worries me that the line stepped up and the the defensive backs took a step back. Particularly now that Grimm is out for who knows how long. Taking away the run game and making your opponent throw is only a good strategy if you can keep your opponent from completing throws. Too many receivers looked wide open in situations where you knew Atlanta wanted to go deep. And what's with Freeman suddenly getting INT happy? I mean it was a great game to watch, and I'll take a win any way we can get it, but we need play that inspires more fist pumping and less remote throwing.

Points: 0

#22 by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:22am

Two years ago the first two picks were DTs, then DEs with the first two last year; I'd be fine with a double safety draft next year. Julio Jones caught a couple deep passes where there wasn't anyone within five yards of him. I don't think Talib's name was called once all day, he was pretty invisible.

I was surprised Matt Ryan got up after Clayborn drilled him, he slammed him down onto his throwing shoulder and it was pretty vicious.

Points: 0

#111 by Peregrine // Sep 26, 2011 - 2:42pm

I'll chime in for the Falcons. The pass protection is the pulsating neon-sign weakness of the team right now. Ryan's gotten sacked 13 times in three games and taken a lot of other big hits. For the sake of comparison, Ryan was sacked 23 times in 2010, Ryan (and Redman) were sacked 27 times in 2009, and Ryan was sacked 17 times in 2008. The playmakers are there - Roddy White kick-started the comeback with a slew of plays, and Julio Jones topped 100 yards (something Michael Jenkins never accomplished). But Ryan's getting hit and Mularkey isn't doing much to help him. We are, without question, the worst screen team in the league. We rarely run them and we suck at them.

Thing is, there's only one new offensive lineman, Garrett Reynolds at RG instead of Harvey Dahl, now with the Rams. Sam Baker must be in the bottom third of starting left tackles in the NFL; he's a 1st round draft pick in his 4th season and should look like a stud at least some of the time. Instead he's S-O-F-T.

Other issues... the special teams are no longer a strength, hurt in part by the new kickoff rules. I think everyone knew losing Koenen would hurt, but the fact that we spent a draft pick on a pretty poor punter who can't pound a kickoff out of the end zone is disturbing. And the penalties and brain farts are coming at an alarming rate... totally different than last year.

At Seattle next week. I have no idea what team will show up.

Points: 0

#184 by // Sep 26, 2011 - 8:00pm

The weird thing about the line is that it really wasn't Garrett Reynolds' fault. He held up pretty well. Instead everyone else was getting beat like a drum. You know, everyone who held up well in previous years.

Points: 0

#17 by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:17am

I would like to extend my sympathies to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who tried their hardest to lose that game yesterday, yet somehow pulled out the win. Tough one, guys.

Tampa's defensive line was mauling the Falcons in the first half, but went back to playing politely and not bothering Ryan in the second half. There was a significant difference between the halves, and it was very surprising to see the Bucs just blowing through the line. There was one down where Gerald McCoy obviously knew the snap count and was through his gap the moment the ball was snapped; I'm guessing the Falcons switched up the snap count in the second half.

Also, between Bucs-Falcons, Bills-Pats, Vikes-Lions, and Browns-Dolphins, this was just a damn fun Sunday.

Points: 0

#185 by // Sep 26, 2011 - 8:03pm

The line wasn't as devastating in the second half, but it sure got a lot of pressure still. They were mostly absent throughout that ridiculous 15-play drive or so at the end, but other than that there wasn' that big a difference between the first and second half. Half of the sacks came in the second half too. Including that nasty/awesome hit by Clayborn.

Points: 0

#18 by zerlesen (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:18am

Vince: "Do Broncos fans like that even watch the games? Orton has been completely competent with that team, completing 60 percent of his passes with a 2-to-1 TD/INT ratio. This is not a player who desperately needs to benched."

It's not Orton's fault, but he's not going to be the QB the next time the Broncos are good. What we (uh, I mean "they") desperately needed to do this year was: improve the run defense, preferably by drafting a DT (utter fail) and establish whether we need to spend a first or second rounder on a quarterback in 2012, preferably by throwing Tebow in and seeing if he can build on last year's not-totally-unpromising performance (option not being considered). Sure, maybe with Tebow playing we don't manage to beat the Bengals by two, but really, what's the point?

There may be people out there who actually think Tebow is currently a better QB than Orton, of course, but those are silly people.

Points: 0

#55 by Aloysius Mephi… // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:11pm

I understand where you're coming from, but I don't agree that the Broncos can't be good with Orton as the QB. Orton is a league-average starter. Every year teams with average QBs advance in the playoffs by excelling in other areas. All fans want their team's QB to be the next Tom Brady or Drew Brees, but it's not smart to spend a first- or second-rounder on a QB when you already have an average starter (unless you have a shot at a truly dynamite prospect). Average starters are rarer than you'd think.

Points: 0

#69 by tunesmith // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:55pm

I think you're just repeating what other people have said. Denver's run defense was spectacular against Tennessee and pretty darn good against Cincinnati, too. It was not great against Oakland, but neither was New York's.

Orton is fool's gold.

Points: 0

#103 by zerlesen (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 2:16pm

"I think you're just repeating what other people have said."

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

Hey, maybe I'm being overly pessimistic. I don't think Tennessee or Cincinnati are good teams (and I'm not sold on the Raiders yet, either). But if it turns out that we really have finally fixed the D with baling wire and Von Miller then I'll be delighted. Certainly, it would make a nice change to not fire the defensive coordinator at the end of the year.

"Orton is fool's gold."

I think you're just repeating what other people have said.

Points: 0

#128 by sundown (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 3:41pm

Their pass defense is what killed them yesterday. Hasselbeck has been playing well, but nobody should complete 75% of his passes against you.

As for Tebow, there are different levels of supporters. On the one hand, most Denver fans realize (but do the Broncos?) that at some point the kid needs to play enough to decide if he's a bust or worthy of more development. They also wonder why a team that can't pick up a yard rushing to save its life doesn't have a package of plays for a pass/run threat to at the very least keep the defense guessing.

The whackos think he's already an NFL star and that there's some vast conspiracy within the Broncos and extending into the media to keep him down. My prediction is the whackos will eventually cause the Broncos to release or trade him and it will be on some other team where the questions about him get answered.

Points: 0

#165 by jimbohead // Sep 26, 2011 - 6:12pm

I've heard the "we need to see what we have in Tebow" argument a few times (being a California ex-pat in Denver is really an awesome experience), and I have to say, I don't get it. The coaches see him every day in practice and meetings. They just finished a training camp where he went from potentially being the starter to the 3rd string. Sure, you give a young qb time to prove himself, but who says the only time that's relevant is actual game time? I'd say they have a pretty good handle on who he is as a QB. Besides that, you have a pretty good QB in Orton. Why would you want to waste actual game time, of which you only have 16 hrs in a year, to see if a poor qb could become almost as good as Orton?

Points: 0

#169 by Dales // Sep 26, 2011 - 6:20pm

The "we need to see" argument is hard to dismiss, because guys at various positions have been cut and gone on to success elsewhere.

The problem with calling for Tebow in this instance is that Orton has shown no real reason to be replaced. He had an awful first season, with the Bears, and then has been a pleasant surprise since.

Points: 0

#187 by jimbohead // Sep 26, 2011 - 8:43pm

You see it a lot with players who are changing position or circumstance, or at the least what they're asked to do. For instance, Justin Smith going from being a 3-tech in CIN to a 5-tech in SF, or Moss going from the whirlpool of suck in OAK to NE.

The QBs I think of off hand who were cut or traded, then went on to success, are folks like Kerry Collins, Brett Favre, and Steve Young. In each of those cases, I don't think even a solid counterfactual argument could be made for giving them more playing time on their original teams. They succeeded in large part b/c their situation changed; Collins and Favre straightened out their life/work ethic, and Young went to the best qb coach in game history.

I'm not dismissing it, but i think there's a degree of "sunk cost" fallacy going on - "we drafted him in the 1st rd, we ought to put more in to maximize that investment" - whereas he's just another heisman-winning third string QB. No need to look further.

Points: 0

#220 by Karl Cuba // Sep 27, 2011 - 10:10am

Justin Smith was a 4-3 right end in Cincy. What is more astonishing is that the 49ers (Mike Nolan) thought he was a 3-4 outside linebacker when they signed him, which beggars belief.

Points: 0

#239 by jimbohead // Sep 27, 2011 - 7:45pm

ah you're right, my bad. but still, change of position.

Points: 0

#191 by Bryan and Vinny Show (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:31pm

Because Tebow has a friend in Jesus. That's where a lot, not all, but a lot of this comes from.

Points: 0

#188 by tunesmith // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:02pm

Ha, you got me there on the fool's gold. I have heard it before, but I really do think it is just a perfect metaphor for Orton. My opinion is that most of the people defending Orton aren't the ones watching the full play-by-play every week, sometimes twice. Myself, I tend to believe stats like EP/WP, even QBR more than general quarterback ratings and "td-to-interception ratio in the red zone" (a completely useless statistic unless you're savvy enough to realize its underbelly).

One very possible thing that could happen is that Denver's running game and defense will improve, Orton's record will improve, and you'll start seeing success like Denver just missing a playoff tiebreaker, or losing a wildcard game, usually due to game situations that aren't quite Orton's fault like a tipped-ball interception or sack that is the left tackle's fault, or the defense not able to keep the other team out of field goal range at the end of the game. It'll never be Orton's fault, and everyone will overlook the added value that a true playmaker of a quarterback would give. The Orton defenders will continue to nod and sagely says his outcomes are reasonable, with nothing special ever happening. The dude's like a walking Markov chain when a quarterback is supposed to be better than that.

Points: 0

#198 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:15pm

Someone would actually have to consider Orton gold for him to be fools gold. He's more like shiny brass.

Points: 0

#222 by ASmitty // Sep 27, 2011 - 10:20am

I honestly, for the life of me, can't see what the difference is between Orton and Matt Ryan, absent circumstances and "rookie splash." Ryan, however, is considered a star, while Orton is continually considered a placeholder.

If you traded one for the other, would either team be any different? I don't get it.

Points: 0

#229 by zerlesen (not verified) // Sep 27, 2011 - 11:33am

Heh, I think "walking Markov chain" is all yours, though.

If the Broncos do end up in contention for a wild card, then you have to play the best guy, and that is Orton. I will be very surprised if this happens, but who knows? I think, given the personnel and coaching churn over the last three years, that this is likely to be a longer-term project. Meanwhile, Orton is going to be a 29-year-old free agent after the season; he has a few years left during which he can be a real asset to a team that's a quarterback away. I don't think Denver is that team. (Especially if we get bored and fire John Fox after going 4-12 or something.)

Some teams rebuild gracefully on the fly, some sink into a decade-long slough of despond, punctuated only by the giddy joys of another head-coaching search every couple of years. We'll see.

Points: 0

#21 by tedkerwin // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:21am

Seriously, you should never, ever punt on fourth-and-1 in opposing territory in the first three quarters of a game. NEVER.

Except it was the 4th quarter.

Points: 0

#71 by tunesmith // Sep 26, 2011 - 1:00pm

Very glad to see this distinction. I think Fox's 4th-and-goal call for Denver isn't the slam-dunk it seemed to be.

I was only able to analyze it with advancednflstat's EPA/WPA model. According to EPA (which pays not attention to score differential or time-remaining), you go for it if you feel you have a 29% chance (or better) of converting it.

However, according to WPA (which does pay attention to score differential and time-remaining), you go for it if you feel you have a 54% chance (or better) of converting it.

I went through a little more detail here:

Points: 0

#124 by SandyRiver // Sep 26, 2011 - 3:25pm

Putting Aaron's comment as a positive: Teams facing 4th-and-1 in the opponent's territory should punt only when protecting a 4th-quarter lead. (And not always then.)

Points: 0

#127 by tedkerwin // Sep 26, 2011 - 3:40pm

Which is the situation the Eagles were in at that time, up 16-14 with 11 mins left in the 4th quarter, facing a team that had not moved the ball except for 2 big plays in the 1st quarter. Punting is a valid option

Points: 0

#146 by SandyRiver // Sep 26, 2011 - 4:43pm

Agreed. (And obviously, I wasn't watching the game at that time and didn't check the PBP.)

Points: 0

#23 by Temo // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:28am

You can add ERA estimators to your list of sports articles that don't need to be written.

Points: 0

#26 by DGL // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:33am

Nothing is as entertaining as reading Tanier's comments on an Eagles game that isn't going well.

Points: 0

#31 by Temo // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:45am

Nothing's as entertaining as reading [any eagle fan's comments] on an Eagles game that isn't going well.

/drinking that hateraide

Points: 0

#107 by Independent George // Sep 26, 2011 - 2:30pm

On the other side, it's really hard as a Giants fan to watch/listen to the game without wondering how they're going to blow the game this time. Am I exaggerating if I called them the most bafflingly inconsistent team over the last 5 years?

Points: 0

#147 by Dales // Sep 26, 2011 - 4:55pm

I think so. I am fairly confident that most Giants fans think so.

Maybe it's an NFC East thing.

Points: 0

#159 by Temo // Sep 26, 2011 - 5:34pm

It is an NFC East thing, but more because the media noise around any NFC East team is like 2x greater than another team.

Points: 0

#212 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 27, 2011 - 9:13am

The thing with the Cowboys is that I would believe literally any result from them, without surprise.

Beat the Pats 42-7? Sure.
Beat the Redskins on the back of 6 FGs? Why not?
Lose to the Chiefs 32-3, with 4 missed FGs, an INT thrown by a running back, and Rob Ryan shooting Tony Romo where he stood on the field? Absolutely.

Points: 0

#28 by BlueStarDude // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:36am

RE: "It was hard to watch the Jets-Raiders game without the voice of Merril Hoge haunting me. A seal here, a seal there ... and then we've got the ALL-LEH!"

Yes, that happened to me all day yesterday! I've been watching Matchup for years but it's like yesterday's show was the tipping point and now I can't watch a running play replay without hearing Hog-ee.

Points: 0

#29 by JS // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:37am

The call on the Bears' late deke punt return was terrible. Completely irrelevant to the play. Reminds me of the call in the Ravens-Giants Super Bowl when an INT return got called back for some insignificant thing 30 yards away from the play. I speak as a Packer fan.

Great play. Unfortunately, the camera guy and producer also fell for it. Maybe that's why Buck struggled with the call, not that he needs a reason.

Points: 0

#35 by NoraDaddy // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:54am

This makes me wonder. Do the announcers watch the game on monitors or do they watch it out the window of the booth? They can see things more up-close on monitors but if the camera operators are crossed up like this play, then the announcers are off as well.

Points: 0

#54 by CoachDave // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:10pm

I know an at-game Producer for CBS and I've asked him this question and he told me that they are taught to watch the game from the monitor but also complement their commentary with on-the-field viewing...but the Spotters (one for each team) definitely watch it live, usually with binoculars.

He said that most, if not all of the "Professional-Journalism-trained" play-by-play guys do this b/c that is how they are trained at Journalism school in college, but the ex-NFLers color commentary guys are 50/50...some watch the monitors, some watch the game live.

And some like Phil Simms watch SpongeBob Squarepants and comment on the game anyway.

OK, in full disclosure, I made up that last line. :)

Points: 0

#57 by ASmitty // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:16pm

This makes sense to me. If I was a PBP guy, I would watch the monitor, since it basically zooms you right in on the ball, and following the ball and identifying the players is 99% of action PBP in football. If I were a color guy, though, particularly someone who spent years as a player breraking down film, I would probably rely a lot more on the "all-22" view from the press box.

Points: 0

#41 by Jimmy // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:20am

Do you have any idea who held? I couldn't see anyone (but as you say the camera angles were borked). Was it at the start of the play or after the fake catch?

Also did anyone else notice that Toub had been using Knox as a decoy on kickoff returns for a fake throw to the other side of the field. Toub seems to have taken the new kickoff rules as an opportunity to experiment. Last week he had Hester stood five yards deep in the end zone waiting for the kick team to charge down the field (every kick team seems to sprint through the end zone on every touchback, specials coaches must be grading them for effort) whilst Bears blockers were surrepticiously picking guys up and moving to leverage positions for (what I am guessing was) a bench screen onl for Hochuli to whistle the play dead. I am looking forward to see what else Toub has prepared.

Points: 0

#82 by talys // Sep 26, 2011 - 1:42pm

First the announcers said it was on Corey Graham, but on replay he was nowhere near anyone. Then I think Buck mentioned it had been called on #29, but that there was no #29 on the Bears. The official play-by-play would probably say, but I'm at work and can't look it up right now.

Points: 0

#89 by TomC // Sep 26, 2011 - 1:55pm

It was definitely on Graham (#21), and he was indeed nowhere near the play. That doesn't make it a wrong call necessarily---if he was really holding someone, then the flag was legit by the letter of the rules---but Fox showed the replay many times, and I could never see the foul, and neither could Aikman or Buck. Without the all-22 tape I don't think we'll ever know.

It's unlikely the Bears would have won or tied it anyway, but that call makes something like a 10% chance (successful onside kick plus a play or two then a FG) into a 0% chance. I felt the same way about the unreviewed Sproles TD last week: probably didn't matter, but you never know, and either way it makes the officials look really bad.

Points: 0

#113 by Anonymously Social (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 2:51pm

It was indeed Graham (#21) and it was a hold.

Points: 0

#208 by Mr Shush // Sep 27, 2011 - 6:42am

If I was an NFL GM looking for a new head coach in four months' time, I would seriously consider bringing Toub in for an interview. He's clearly a smart, organised man who can teach and motivate.

Points: 0

#56 by Arkaein // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:13pm

Refs were also clowns for that whole game.

A play clock that seemed at least 5 seconds too quick, resulting in delays of game and wasted timeouts for both teams. Non-offsetting penalties on the Hester-Shields slap fest. The fumble "recovery" by Peppers where he never closed his hands or arms around the ball until he slid to a stop a foot out of bounds. The play where it looked like Chicago's O-line all moved before the center snapped the ball, but GB ended up getting a sack instead of a false start.

I have no idea whether there was a legit hold on the punt return play. Doesn't matter if it was close to the ball or not, those get called all the time on returns and always have. Plus, the flag came out early enough that the hold must have been while the ball was in the air, so it's impossible to know if the player could have still influenced the play. However the refs clearly called the wrong number, and neither the announcers or the cameramen seemed to find a decent angle to show which player actually was called.

Points: 0

#171 by Jimmy // Sep 26, 2011 - 6:24pm

Peppers recovered the fumble inbounds. I looked for something that would tell me when he had control and the angle from the opposite sideline showed that he was pulling the ball in with one hand at the moment that the other sort of reached out away from his body (surely pulling the ball towards you counts as control). When they showed the same movement from the near sideline angle he was over a foot inbounds. You could also tell that at the moment he had both hands on the ball he was about six to eight inches inbounds. Admitedly it took a fair bit of winding backwards and forwards to do this but it was the ad break and I had nothing else to do. When I saw it live I thought he was probably out too.

Bears still lost though :(

Points: 0

#195 by Arkaein // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:02pm

I didn't rewind and rewatch like you did (maybe one one manual rewind), but it sure looked to me like Peppers didn't even know exactly where the ball was until he was out of bounds and nearly stopped. IIRC, the low view from across the field had line of sight to the ball until he was nearly stopped, so his left (inside) arm had not yet closed around the ball, and at the time I didn't think he could have had his right arm around it because he was laying flat. It looked like the ball was trapped between his torso and the ground, and in that case I don't see it being possession just by pulling his arm in. I seriously doubt that if it had been called the other way on the field it gets reversed to a recovery upon review.

Moot point in any case. I also find it aggravating that every time a play like this happens the announcers talk about "piecing together from multiple views", but the broadcasters never actually show multiple vantage points replayed together in sync. It would make it so much easier if we could see the high view (indicating when Peppers touched OOB) and the side view (which showed the ball under his body) simultaneously.

Points: 0

#30 by Will Allen // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:44am

I'm not surprised to see the Vikings at 0-3, although I expected the Lions to have a much easier time of it. What I can't figure out is how any opposing defense is giving up two first half touchdowns to the Vikings offense.

Memo to Mr. MMcNabb; Mr. Berrian doesn't get open often enough to make missing him a tolerable mistake. Then again, and to contradict Ben, there is nothing about Berrian catching a football that gets into the neighborhood of a "sure thing". If the corner shouts, Pop Warner style, "HEY!!!!" as the ball approaches ol' Berrnie's hands, there's a decent chance it's hitting the turf.

Points: 0

#37 by andrew // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:00am

On the McNabb TD throw to Shiancoe, I'm convinced the only reason it happened was because the snap was one-hopped to him which resulted in him having to ditch whatever plan the play initially called for and just throw it.

As for the rest of their first half scoring, blame special teams. Between Harvin scoring outright and Sherels setting up another, that's two of them right there. In the second half of course they manage to blow those.

Points: 0

#40 by ASmitty // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:09am

The Lions are nearly Charger-ing themselves this year. On paper they should have excellent coverage units, but they've handed points to the opposition several times already this year. Against a team as offensively challenged as the Vikings, that's pretty unacceptable. You really shouldn't undermine your defense like that.

Points: 0

#157 by LionInAZ (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 5:29pm

They were much better on kick coverage in 2010. This year they haven't looked so good. Not sure just how much turnover there's been in ST personnel, but they lost Zack Follett, and Rashied Davis was out. Wendling getting a PF on return is totally uncharacteristic.

Points: 0

#46 by jimm (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:27am

Berrian sure isn't your type of receiver Will - he won't fight for any ball, can't block or fight through chucks at the line of scrimmage. I was amazed they brought him back this year.

I find it hard to like this team. I love watching Peterson and Harvin, but the team is so behind the times. Since Childress showed up this team has committed itself to being able to run and stop the run. They have been remarkably successful at doing that - out rushing teams by over 2000 yards since 2006. But they have been a 500 team over that time because the game is about passing. The only successful year was when Favre came in a threw the ball all over the field. It was also their worst running year offensively but the only year they were really competitive.

It's really hard for me to cheer for a team that seems so dimwitted in management.

Points: 0

#50 by Will Allen // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:56am

There is still room for power running in an NFL offense, but it can't be the only dimension, or even the primary dimension. The reality is that the rules are such that it is almost impossible to construct a defense any more which is good enough to allow for an offense which runs first and foremost. This team is in the shape that it is in because A) They wasted years on Tavaris Jackson, and haven't made any other decent qb drafts, unless I'm wrong on Ponder, B)they have neglected and mismanaged the offensive line since signing Hutchinson, and C)they have mismanaged and neglected the defensive backfield since signing Winfield and drafting Griffin.

Well, if they manage to lose to the Chiefs next week, they have a decent chance at drafting Andrew Luck!

Points: 0

#51 by ASmitty // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:58am

That game next week is going to be handoffapalooza.

Points: 0

#58 by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:18pm

I had this conversation at the Metrodome week two with a couple Vikings fans in the line to the bathroom; the Vikings have made six picks combined in the first two rounds of the draft over the last three years, and four of those six picks have been skill position players (RB, WR, TE, QB) while there's been one on the offensive line (Loadholt, who run blocks well at least). Skill position players are significantly less effective when the QB is in risk of getting annihilated on every play.

Points: 0

#62 by Will Allen // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:32pm

Hell, in a Metrodome bathroom line, there's usually enough time to analyze every Vikings draft pick from the last decade!

Points: 0

#132 by Whatev // Sep 26, 2011 - 3:58pm

Can you get away with combining power running with other running, or does it have to be passing?

Points: 0

#63 by jimm (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:34pm

Will - have you noticed Loadholt's pass blocking has been this year? From what I've seen he has been horrendous - particularly yesterday.

Points: 0

#65 by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:38pm

Loadholt's pass blocking has never been good. He's big and strong enough to where he can flatten people blocking for Peterson, but fast defenders just run around him to the QB.

Points: 0

#115 by Dan Snow // Sep 26, 2011 - 2:54pm

Cliff Avril, who's not known as a power guy, bull-rushed him into McNabb early in the day. He caught Loadholt off-balance and just ran him right back.

Points: 0

#66 by Will Allen // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:38pm

Yeah, I'm surprised that he has turned out to be so bad; I thought last year that it may have been in large measure due to bad coaching, but a new coach for the o-line this year hasn't made much difference.

Points: 0

#70 by Independent George // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:58pm

That's a shame, because Loadholt is a great name for an offensive lineman.

Points: 0

#32 by Coop (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:45am

I love reading the Audibles every week but as a Browns fan I can't say I'm happy that the Browns have won two straight and haven't gotten a single mention either week. When they resume their usual losing ways, I assume they'll be discussed in great detail?

That being said, I can kind of understand it. The Browns really aren't playing very well. They've played three games, all of them against weak teams, and have looked mediocre to bad in all three. They really should have lost to Miami. I want to love Colt McCoy --- nice kid, hard worker, gutty underdog type --- but the Browns have two first-round picks next year and it's starting to look like they need to use one of them on a QB. McCoy looks okay, so-so, not terrible but not good enough to ever take a team higher than third in the AFC North. And believe it or not, there are some Browns fans who actually aspire to something better than third place at some point in the next twenty years or so. An absurd expectation, I know.

Points: 0

#106 by zlionsfan // Sep 26, 2011 - 2:28pm

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.

Points: 0

#34 by bravehoptoad // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:51am


Actually wrote my college column during the "action" which is rare for me. But since this scarcely resembles football, not concerned I'm missing much.

A lot of comments like this, and I don't know what game you guys were watching. Admittedly, I came in late in the 2nd quarter, but it was an exciting game to watch, with two very fun defenses dominating the game. 3-0 does not necessarily mean a boring ball game.

Andy Lee may have been the best player on the field, but that Maualuga was amazing yesterday. First time I've seen him -- he was everywhere.

Man, I wish the 49ers would have traded Frank Gore at the beginning of the season. Bill Walsh would have done it. They had the perfect excuse since he wanted a new contract, and he was universally considered a prime running back. That's never going to be true again. The offense woke up once he left and Hunter came in and the 9ers could actually run the ball some.

Sadly, once we had a lead, Harbaugh pulled his Singletary impression and the offense rolled up like a fist and hardly made another yard for the rest of the game. I'm mighty tired of the 49ers playing that kind of ball through three different head coaches.

Points: 0

#102 by Karl Cuba // Sep 26, 2011 - 2:15pm

The 49ers helped Mualaga out by not blocking him. Rachal was bloody awful yesterday. The line has been like that for years now and I can't work out if it's coaching, new systems, inexperience or simply awful players. It seems like at least one lineman makes a mental error on every other play.

Points: 0

#119 by bravehoptoad // Sep 26, 2011 - 3:16pm

I know -- all those resources on our line, and it stinks. We'd be a half-way decent football team if our line was playing up to their draft status or anything close to it.

Bad drafting? Bad line coaching? Convenient if it's the latter -- much easier to fix. Horrible if it's the former -- San Francisco never gives up on their draftees, and we'd have to bring in a whole new front office to draft a different kind of lineman.

"False start, on the entire offensive line...."

Never heard that one before.

Points: 0

#174 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 26, 2011 - 6:28pm

I watch very little college ball, but I did see some USC games, and always though Maualuga was an incredible player. I was shocked that he fell to the 2nd round in the draft.

Points: 0

#189 by The Hypno-Toad // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:20pm

If was like getting kicked in the stomach watching the 2009 draft when Josh McDaniels traded away a first round pick in '10 and didn't use the pick he traded for to take Maualuga, who was still on the board. The fact that he actually used it on Alphonso Smith was just the failed icing on the bad decision cake.

Points: 0

#192 by Bryan and Vinny Show (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 9:38pm

I know what you mean. Wasn't (Cincy LB) considered a 'character risk', which is why teams avoided drafting him. It wouldn't have been the Patriots-West Way. I think Smith is out of the league now, as well. What a mess.
I am happy for Tony Scheffler that he's on a winning team ( Detroit )that knows how to best use his receiving skills.

Points: 0

#214 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 27, 2011 - 9:50am

Smith is on the Lions, but currently injured.

Points: 0

#215 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 27, 2011 - 9:50am

Smith is on the Lions, but currently injured.

Points: 0

#221 by ASmitty // Sep 27, 2011 - 10:16am

As not, Smith was traded to the Lions last year (for one of the lesser Gronkowskis) and is currently their #3 CB, but injured.

He is notable for playing in a handful of games for the Lions last year and intercepting 600 passes while surrendering 5,000 yards receiving. A performance that would make DeAngelo Hall blush.

Points: 0

#36 by drobviousso // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:57am

I picked the Chargers in my office survivor league this week because I didn't think I could handle a game against a good team with Norv on the sidelines. Turns out, there is no game that Norv can't turn into a heart attack.

I should have known.


The Vikings are weird. They aren't the worst team in football. They probably aren't the worst front office in football, but they are crying out for a corporate take over by someone who can figure out which parts are good, and which parts are bad, and get rid of the bad parts.


What happened to Mike Wallace in the second half of the Steelers game? I couldn't tell from the broadcast. Did the secondary adjust?


This year is a great reminder that, for top teams, "They were at their best ever last year, and this year the'll be even better!" is probably a bad way to go into a season. GB isn't leaps and bounds better passing the ball with Findley. The Steelers are regressing in the run game (alot). The Falcons... who knows. Brady threw four picks in one game.

It's probably safer to say that for young, not terribly good teams like the Bills and Texans.

Points: 0

#42 by Rocco // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:21am

Wallace was taken out of the game by the inability of the Steelers line to hold up for more than 1 second. When you have a terrible o-line, a QB who likes to hold onto the ball, and a coordinator that doesn't believe in short routes it leads to disaster.

Points: 0

#53 by Will Allen // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:07pm

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that what success the Vikings have had in recent years is due to the Director of College Scouting, Scott Studwell, and their Pro Personnel Consultant Paul Wiggin. My suspicion is that the notable draft flame-outs the Vikings have had in the last decade were instances where head coaches, owners, and other management have decided to ignore Studwell's board.

Paul Wiggin has been great for the Vikings now for decades, but he is in mid 70s now. They need to find a new guy to evaluate trades and free agents.

Points: 0

#78 by JMM* (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 1:20pm

"This year is a great reminder that, for top teams, "They were at their best ever last year, and this year the'll be even better!" is probably a bad way to go into a season. GB isn't leaps and bounds better passing the ball with Findley. The Steelers are regressing in the run game (alot). The Falcons... who knows. Brady threw four picks in one game."

A classic observation as to why "it ain't broke, so don't fix it" is a recipe for failure. Everyone else is doing everything they can to improve, if your not, you are falling behind.

Points: 0

#94 by DisplacedPackerFan // Sep 26, 2011 - 2:10pm

I'm not sure I get the Packers pass offensive comment.

They had a 34.1% VOA last year. They are at 74.6% through two games (and that likely won't change much after 3 likely to go up actually). I used VOA because well the D isn't really in yet.

In so much as you can relate a QB stats to a passing offense as a whole, Rodgers had 6 games with over 100 DYAR during the regular season last year. He has 2 already and I'm guessing will have 3 when we see the numbers tomorrow. 71.8% completion rate, 8.9 yards a pass so far this year. 65.7% and 8.2 last year. Leaps and bounds are hard when you are already good, but the Packers so far have improved what was a great passing offense to what will be an historical passing offense if they keep it up. I can't expect them to keep this pace, but 395 for 549 for 4890 yards, 42 TDs and 5 ints would be one of the better QB seasons in the league, even given that there might be a better year by other QB's this season. It would certainly be the best season by any QB in Green Bay history.

That's not resting on your laurels. Now if you wanted to use the Packers passing defense in that observation, I'd let you, even though I believe they are coming around.

Points: 0

#137 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 26, 2011 - 4:10pm

"but the Packers so far have improved what was a great passing offense to what will be an historical passing offense if they keep it up"

That sounds impressive, but it seems like everyone is having a historic passing year this year.

You might pass for 5500 yards, and finish 3rd in the league, the way things are going.

Points: 0

#154 by DisplacedPackerFan // Sep 26, 2011 - 5:16pm

Yes and no.

Rodgers is 1.9% ahead of the next best on completion percentage (Brady #2). Sure he is only 8th in yards/games, he is also 3rd in TD% (8.27% Brady to 7.76% Rodgers), 1st in INT% as well. So even if the whole league is way up, if you are the best in 2 out of 4 of the traditional categories, and likely to be top 3 in DYAR/DVOA (he was 4th/3rd going into this week and I think he could move up) it's still impressive and very likely still a real improvement.

Even if you leave the passing offense as even and say the improvements are only because of league inflation. Their running game has improved, their run defense has improved, their passing defense has gotten worse, their special teams have improved. So they are better in 3 areas, even in 1, worse in 1.

Again, 3 weeks is not enough enough to draw conclusions, but the eyeball test says they have improved. But I've seen teams start hot and crash, I've seen teams start poorly and take off.

The initial argument was talking about team strengths from the previous year it looks like and that was pass offense and pass defense for the Packers last year. I think pass offense is better, but I think pass defense has declined more than the offense has improved. So given that I would concede the general point. The team as whole though is still slightly better. Last year I think they were simply just a very good team that got hot at the right time. I think they have bumped up to a great team this year. We'll see though. I've still seen enough flaws that I think aren't huge that maybe will be exposed and they will fall apart. But I still think we are watching a 14-2 team, not a 10-6 or 11-5 team.

Points: 0

#43 by Joseph // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:24am

My audibles on several games:

Saints-Texans: So much for that improved Texans' pass defense. Dear HOU DB's: If you didn't remember, Lance Moore is Brees' favorite receiver--you should cover him--esp. since the last 3 times the Saints have converted a 2 pt. conversion (SB & 2 yesterday), they did it THE SAME WAY EACH TIME!!
Saints DB's: allowing Andre Johnson to get 100 yds is perfectly understandable. But JAMES FREAKING CASEY????

Bills-Pats: I didn't see any of this game. Having said that,
To NFL DB's who will play the Bills this year: you might want to cover Scott Chandler near the goal line.
Dear Bills OC: It's okay to try to score BEFORE the other teams scores 21 points. But I will say, that your 2nd half adjustments seem to be pretty impressive. Do you consult with Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and Andre Reed in the locker room?
Mr. Brady--what you experienced today is called "regression to the mean." You will go back to being a HOF QB next week.

Jets-Raiders: Marky-Mark--you don't heave up passes 30 yds toward the endzone with 3 receivers in the same area when you're winning by 7 in the 2nd Q. You do that when down by 7 in the 4th Q with less than 30 secs left.
Dear Raiders OC--normally a 60/40 pass/run ratio is best in this era. Examining your personnel leads me to believe that a 40/60 ratio would be best for your team. Just to let you know, the DC's of the Broncos, Chiefs, and Chargers vehemently disagree with me on this.

Eagles-Giants: I've got to know--who was covering the receivers when Eli threw 4 TD's??? I understand the Victor Cruz one--that was bad tackling. But with Asomugha, Samuel, & DRC, I think some people might have taken the under on the Eagles giving up 4 TD passes to WR's FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR!!

PIT-IND: Do we need to start an irrational Painter-Collins thread?

The Panthers & Titans are exhibits 1A & 1B that competent QB play can make a team look much better. The 2010 Panthers & 2011 Colts are 1A & 1B on how a less-than-replacement-level QB can make a team with good skill players look really horrible.

If a seer would have told you that after Sunday, the Jets and Pats would have the same record, and BUF's would be different, how many of you would have bet on the Bills beating the Pats and the Jets losing?
If the Bills don't make the playoffs, it won't be because of their offense.

Points: 0

#48 by RichC (not verified) // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:30am

"Mr. Brady--what you experienced today is called "regression to the mean." You will go back to being a HOF QB next week"

You don't understand what "Regression to the mean" means.

Points: 0

#67 by Joseph // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:50pm

Isn't regression to the mean going from an extreme outlier (4 INT's all of last year) back to a more average performance (say, 10-12 INT's for the year for a guy like Brady)? Now, I didn't see the game (but I did see the highlights), but even the guys in Audibles say that 3 were "tip-drill"--in other words, Brady didn't make horrible throws, the Bills just got somewhat lucky (ESP that last one off Dareus' helmet). Now, maybe I should have said "unlucky"--but Brady is going to have more INT's than he did last year--and over the course of a year, that will not be just because of bad luck.

Points: 0

#177 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 26, 2011 - 6:32pm

You said Brady experienced regression to the mean this week. That's not at all what happened. He experienced an outlier this week, and you would expect regression next week when he doesn't throw 4 picks.

Points: 0

#237 by Joseph // Sep 27, 2011 - 4:45pm

tuluse--fair enough. I guess my comment to Brady should have been "you were subject to a half season's worth of regression to the mean in one game."

Points: 0

#64 by Independent George // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:34pm

Eagles-Giants: I've got to know--who was covering the receivers when Eli threw 4 TD's??? I understand the Victor Cruz one--that was bad tackling. But with Asomugha, Samuel, & DRC, I think some people might have taken the under on the Eagles giving up 4 TD passes to WR's FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR!!

One of the Cruz TDs was into what looked like pretty tight double-coverage with Asomugha and a safety (#41, I think?). I actually thought it was a bad read - Asomugha had the outside, the safety had the inside, but sometimes, you just get beat.

I can't remember the other Cruz TD, but the other TDs were a play fake to Brandon Jacobs, and a screen to Ahmad Bradshaw.

Points: 0

#68 by Joseph // Sep 26, 2011 - 12:51pm

Of course, now that I watched the highlights, you're exactly right.

Points: 0

#75 by JasonK // Sep 26, 2011 - 1:16pm

Yeah, that's it. The Jacobs wheel-route that Tanier talked about, the screen to Bradshaw against a heavy blitz, the missed-tackle Cruz TD (wherein a Safety not only missed the tackle but also knocked Asomugha out of the play), and, um, a 2nd-year undrafted player out of UMass in his first career start going up for a ball against Nnamdi Asomugha with safety help behind him and winning.

Points: 0

#148 by Dales // Sep 26, 2011 - 4:59pm

I read that Eli thought it was a bad read as soon as he let it go. It was well thrown, though, and Cruz did a great job fighting for the ball.

Eli was more accurate than usual yesterday. His pass to Jacobs was thrown absolutely perfectly. Yes, Jacobs was very open, but the throw was right in stride and with enough touch that stone hands was still able to bring it in.

Points: 0

#158 by BJR // Sep 26, 2011 - 5:33pm

An extremely minor point, but it sure looked to me that Cruz fumbled that ball over the goalline. Of course it made zero difference to the outcome (other than to fantasy players and the stats-book) because Cruz then recovered the fumble himself in the end zone. But the officials were maybe being charitable to Eli in awarding him that TD.

Points: 0

#162 by Dales // Sep 26, 2011 - 6:07pm

I may be wrong, but I think if it is was a fumble on a completion and recovered for a TD he would still get credit for a TD pass.

But, the NFL issued a clarification, saying that Cruz had established the criteria for a completion and then broke the plane, ending the play, before he fumbled, so the charity would extend to the league office at this point.

Anyone know for sure? Travis, what's the verdict? If it was a completion but fumbled before breaking the plane, and he jumped on it in the end zone, would it have been a TD pass for Eli?

Points: 0

#173 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 26, 2011 - 6:24pm

I may be wrong, but I think if it is was a fumble on a completion and recovered for a TD he would still get credit for a TD pass.

I think you are. Once a fumble occurs, the pass is over. It would then be a rushing stat I believe. Imagine if he fumbled earlier, and a teammate picked it up and ran across the goalline. Would that be a pass from Eli?

Points: 0

#196 by Arkaein // Sep 26, 2011 - 10:06pm

No, if the fumbling player is also the recovering play it counts as a TD pass.

I remember a specific instance of this from the Packers in 2003 or 2004 when they ran a lot of shovel passes at the goal line, and Favre was credited with a TD pass for a shovel pass that was completed, fumbled, and the recovered by the fumbling player about a yard farther in the end zone.

Quirky, and I thought it was wrong at the time, but that's the rule.

Points: 0

#200 by Travis // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:43pm

Yup. From the 2004 Week 10 game against the Vikings:

3-2-MIN 2 (14:13) (Shotgun) B.Favre pass to T.Fisher to MIN 1 for 1 yard. FUMBLES, and recovers at MIN 0. TOUCHDOWN.

Packers 2 14:09 T.Fisher 2 yd. pass from B.Favre (R.Longwell kick) (9-65, 3:39)

Points: 0

#186 by Travis // Sep 26, 2011 - 8:14pm

It would have been a TD pass for Eli and a TD reception for Cruz.

From the NFL Guide for Statisticians: "When a player recovers his own fumble, credit him with net yardage gained or lost on the play in the category initiating the action. (Charge him with a fumble and credit him with 'own recovery.')"

Had Ballard recovered the fumble in the end zone, it would not have counted as a TD pass for Eli.

Points: 0

#163 by BaronFoobarstein // Sep 26, 2011 - 6:11pm

He did fumble it over the goal line. But that doesn't matter at all since the play was over the instant the ball crossed the line while in his possession. It's exactly as meaningful as fumbling the ball after already having put a foot on the sidelines.

Points: 0

#167 by BJR // Sep 26, 2011 - 6:17pm

I guess I should have said he fumbled it 'across' the goal line.

Points: 0

#178 by BaronFoobarstein // Sep 26, 2011 - 7:19pm

Oh sorry. I misunderstood what you were getting at. I didn't see him fumbling before crossing the goal line, but then I didn't look all that closely at that aspect since the "was it a catch?" angle is what I've been hearing disputed.

Points: 0

#74 by ChicagoRaider // Sep 26, 2011 - 1:10pm


I would agree with you on the mix, except that the passing was working pretty well for the Raiders, and the run not so much. Looked to me like the Jets' plan was to force the Raiders to beat them with the pass and the outside run. So the Raiders got yards passing and running outside. The inside runs were awful, and the Raiders kept doing them to keep the Jets honest.

Points: 0

#86 by Joseph // Sep 26, 2011 - 1:52pm

Chicago Raider,

My point is that the Raiders seem to do very good running the ball--and not just with McFadden--Jones & M. Bush seem to do good also. Which, in watching part of 2 Raiders games this year (#1 & #3), plus most of their 3rd preseason game against my Saints, to me screams "this O-line run-blocks REALLLY well." So, do what you do best more often than anything else. For the Pats, that seems to be the short passing to Welker & the TE's. For the Saints, it's Drew Brees throwing to whoever's open. For the Raiders, it's running the ball wide--primarily with McFadden, but also with the other guys.

Points: 0

#91 by RickD // Sep 26, 2011 - 2:02pm

It would be really cool if Joseph, ChicagoRaider, and RaiderJoe were all the same person.

Points: 0

#202 by Joseph // Sep 26, 2011 - 11:59pm

I can tell you that I am NOT RJ--he is unique. I don't drink, I grew up in New Orleans, and live outside the US. I'm not Chicago Raider either. And I doubt that they are one and the same.

Points: 0

#211 by Sophandros // Sep 27, 2011 - 9:04am

"I don't drink, I grew up in New Orleans"

Does not compute...

(from a fellow New Orleans native)

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

Points: 0

#238 by Joseph // Sep 27, 2011 - 5:07pm


I grew up in a religious family (and I currently pastor). It's rare, I know. But I never liked the smell as a kid, either--it just never appealed to me. Of course, had I grown up there and not liked the Saints also, well, I don't know that I could claim to have grown up there. (Of course, I grew up in Gretna--so that makes a little bit of a difference.)

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support rivers
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and rivers mccown. Use promo code RIVERS to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip rivers.