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The question is not whether Saquon Barkley is the best running back in this draft class. The question is whether any running back, even one as good as Barkley, warrants a top-five draft selection in the NFL in 2018.

28 Sep 2009

Audibles at the Line: Week 3

compiled by Vince Verhei

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Raiders fan, not so much.)

Washington Redskins 14 at Detroit Lions 19

Doug Farrar: Jim Zorn goes for it on fourth-and-goal from the Detroit 1-yard line, and Clinton Portis doesn't make it on the run. Zorn may want to stay in Detroit when this one is over.

Vince Verhei: Bryant Johnson gets isolated against Carlos Rogers and out-jumps him for a 21-yard touchdown. Detroit goes 99 yards in 12 plays on the drive, helped by a few offsides penalties on Washington. Eighty-five of those yards were either passes or Stafford scrambling, and Calvin Johnson hasn't caught a pass yet.

Albert Haynesworth carted off the field in Detroit. Right after that, Detroit kicks a field goal to go up 10-0. It's been mostly the Redskins rushing four and getting no pressure on Matt Stafford, and now they won't have Haynesworth to suck up double-teams. Note to Jim Zorn: Blitz or die.

Doug Farrar: Well, Greg Blache usually blitzes a lot, but this team is reeling. When you catch yourself saying, "Well the Lions only got a field goal on that possession -- their opponents could crawl back into the game," said opponents have a problem. Early word on Haynesworth is a hip injury, and he is questionable to return.

Bill Barnwell: Dennis Northcutt with an early Keep Choppin' Wood nomination, deciding to dance around inbounds with 10 seconds left and no timeout around the five and nearly costing the Lions a field goal on a quick hitch.

Vince Verhei: Detroit goes into the half up 13-0. They were kind of undone by some wonky clock management at the end of the half and gave themselves only one play after a first-and-goal. And the funny thing is, as good as Stafford has been -- 14 of 24 for 164 -- it feels like he should be better. He has missed some open receivers. Washington is just sticking with what looks like a man-2 defense, and Stafford is sitting back, waiting for somebody to get open underneath or occasionally tucking the ball and running for good yardage.

Calvin Johnson has just one catch for seven yards. From what I've seen, he's been mostly covered by the diminutive DeAngelo Hall. Megatron is getting shut down by Bumblebee.

Doug Farrar: Some really scary numbers from the Redskins' first half -- Detroit had the ball exactly 22:00 minutes to Washington's 8:00. The Redskins ran the ball five times for 0 yards. Washington led the league on defensive three-and-outs last year, but the Lions put up 16 first downs. Jason Campbell was 8-of-13 for 101 yards, no touchdowns, no picks, and everybody's gonna blame it all on him.

Aaron Schatz: Not if the FOX halftime crew is any indication. They are CLEARLY blaming this on Zorn. "Has Washington quit on their coach?" Florio also posted something at PFT saying that Zorn should put his house on the market.

Doug Farrar: Well, there is that. But it's like blaming Mike Holmgren when Seattle's defenses used to collapse in 2003 and 2004. The Lions had a 99-yard drive. How is that Zorn's fault?

Vince Verhei: Campbell throws a 57-yard touchdown to Santana Moss to deflect criticism. Lions kept both running backs in on the play to block, and Moss had time to run all the way across the field on a deep cross until Detroit's safeties lost track of him.

Calvin Johnson finally makes a play, fighting through interference from LaRon Landry to place the ball inside the five. Wait, check that -- Johnson, not Landry, was called for interference on the play.

Also Haynesworth is back on the field. Lions go three-and-out after the Redskins' touchdown.

Campbell makes his first bad play of the day. With an unblocked rusher in his face, he panics and throws an underneath pass over the middle that is easily intercepted. His defense bails him out though -- Stafford is sacked by Brian Orakpo on third down. Washington was rushing five on the play.

Doug Farrar: Five? Oooh ... how exotic! Orakpo could be something special.

One play after Carlos Rogers gets away with an armbar on a stutter-go to Bryant Johnson, Johnson heads deep inside hash through the zone, and Chris Horton bumps into him in the end zone. That time they call it, and the Lions have the ball at the Washington one-yard line with eight minutes left. The second-longest losing streak in NFL history is in great danger.

Vince Verhei: Maurice Morris scores from two yards out to put the Lions up 19-7. (They went for two and didn't get it.) Play was set up by a 47-yard pass interference penalty on Chris Horton, covering Bryant Johnson. Redskins were mortified by the call, but it was pretty obvious. Horton had his back to the ball and was charging full speed at Johnson, only turning his head after a collision was inevitable. Redskins have 5:20 left to try and score twice.

Rob Weintraub: Quick Washington touchdown and nerves are raw in the Motor City.

Vince Verhei: Well, that didn't take long. Campbell leads Washington right down the field, throwing a touchdown with 2:36 left. Washington trails 14-19 with 2:36 to go.

Ned Macey: Nobody's mentioned this, but as for what I thought was a big Zorn mistake: They forced a fourth down on what would have been a 50-yard field goal, but accepted a 10-yard offensive pass interference call instead. Two plays later, Stafford threw a touchdown. Maybe I'm wrong about the percentages, but you have to decline the penalty there.

Aaron Schatz: I know how this story ends: Zorn rips off his mask and reveals that he's actually Jerry Jones, destroying Snyder's School for (Monetarily) Gifted Youngsters from the inside this whole time.

Green Bay Packers 36 at St. Louis Rams 17

Mike Tanier: The Rams are killing me. Killing Killing me.

San Francisco 49ers 24 at Minnesota Vikings 27

Vince Verhei: Percy Harvin Is Who We Thought He Was, Part One: He takes a kickoff back 101 yards for a touchdown. He has ridiculous speed. Once he got in the clear, he appeared to be the only player on the field who was running.

Percy Harvin Is Who We Thought He Was, Part Two: He drops a pass that would have converted a first down, and San Francisco gets the ball back, down by only 3.

Bill Barnwell: Vikings coverage sure is making Shaun Hill looking good. They're leaving gaping holes out there in their zones.

Vince Verhei: Vernon Davis is also having a career day. He just made a pair of fine jumping catches for big gains, the second for a 20-yard go-ahead touchdown.

Bill Barnwell: And Vernon Davis beats the Vikings on the same seam pattern, two times in three plays. The Vikings can't point fingers at each other fast enough.

(San Francisco goes ahead 24-20 with 8:12 to go in the fourth quarter.)

Bill Barnwell: So, the Niners are this year's Cardinals?

(Brett Favre throws a touchdown to Greg Lewis to put Minnesota ahead 27-24 with two seconds to go.)

Rob Weintraub: Thing I hate about NFL analysts No. 49385: Yelling "gotta clock it, gotta kill it!!!" as the spike is coming. Thanks.

Thing I hate about NFL play-by-play guys No. 498396590: Yelling "Favre did it!!!" as Lewis makes a sensational play to drag his feet and score the winning touchdown.

Bill Barnwell: Well, in all fairness, that was a hell of a throw. Exactly where it needed to be.

Rob Weintraub: It was -- but with any other quarterback in there, Lewis gets the love on the play.

Doug Farrar: Yep. There were announcers crediting Favre's handoffs in the season opener.

Vince Verhei: I'm going to need some time to recover from that Minnesota finish.

Mike Tanier: The problem with Favre: You don't want to credit him when he's successful because you just don't want to add to the Hosannas.

Bill Barnwell: Well, we're supposed to be better than that.

Ned Macey: That's three games I've watched of Minnesota, and I keep thinking their defense, including against the run, just doesn't look that good. But its DVOA is still really good, and they held Glen Coffee (who is, admittedly, Glen Coffee) to 54 yards on 25 carries. Still, they'll lose a game somewhere when a team can run against them, particularly off tackle.

Atlanta Falcons 10 at New England Patriots 26

Aaron Schatz: Early thoughts on the Patriots offense after one quarter:

Tom Brady is still overthrowing guys. Again, we're asking ourselves, is it the slippery football in the rain? Is it mechanics because of the injury? One overthrow could have been a deep touchdown to a wide-open Randy Moss.

Joey Galloway blew a chance at a touchdown because when he made his cut, he stepped out the back of the end zone. He's made a ton of mental mistakes in these first three weeks. Dude, get your head in the damn game.

On the other hand, running game looks good. Laurence Maroney looks better today than I remember him looking for a couple years. He's hitting the hole hard and doing a very good job of following his blockers to gain a couple extra yards on each run. Also, the Patriots converted twice on third-and-1 by running the ball, which warms my heart. They can't expect to have the same success they had throwing in short-yardage situations two years ago.

Falcons are not blitzing the Patriots as much as I would have expected given the Jets' success last week and the fact that "the NFL is a copycat league." (Everyone, drink.)

As for the Falcons after one quarter: Matt Ryan looks great and Tony Gonzalez would have had a touchdown in the corner but Patriots safety Brandon McGowan got away with some clear holding on the play, so Ryan had to go under to Brian Finneran and Finneran couldn't catch it.

Doug Farrar: The Falcons would have an easier time blitzing if they still had tackle Peria Jerry, the rookie who's out for the season with a knee injury he suffered last week. He was playing very well and soaking up a lot of double-teams.

Bill Moore: Patriots are using lots of misdirection plays to work over the Atlanta zones. It's been very effective, especially if you consider Brady has missed a few guys he should have hit.

I'm searching if cutJoeyGalloway.com is available. Decent chance that it's not.

Ironically, Brady-Moss missed a touchdown because Brady didn't throw it far enough -- clearly not his problem the last three weeks.

Aaron Schatz: The Falcons miss Jerry on the run defense more than the pass defense, because Fred Taylor just walked up the middle untouched for a 10-yard touchdown.

I think the non-touchdown throw to Moss was pretty darn accurate -- unfortunately for New England, Brian Williams was step-for-step with Moss (did you ever think you would read that statement?) and slapped the ball away with a great play. Think Jacksonville wants some of that back?

Bill Moore: It was hardly a bad throw, but if he led Moss a little more, touchdown. My point being, a majority of his misses have been overthows (charting can confirm if that is correct).

Bill Barnwell: I've seen a lot of throws landing at people's feet or on the side, from what I remember.

Bill Moore: Looking at Week 1, he had five overthrows and four underthrows. However, if I recall right, between Weeks 1, 2 and the beginning of 3, his long balls were overthrown, and his underneath routes were underthrown.

Doug Farrar: Wow. Galloway drops a great throw by Brady in the end zone hear the end of the first half. Fortunately for Galloway, Brady hasn't figured out a way to shoot lasers from his eyes, though he looked pretty close to doing so after that one.

Aaron Schatz: Leigh Bodden and Michael Jenkins are having some serious battles down the left sideline. First, Matt Ryan made a perfect pass that came in right over Jenkins' shoulder, and he was able to catch it even though Bodden had his hand right in there. Then Ryan his Jenkins with another great pass for a touchdown in the left corner of the end zone, but Jenkins was flagged for offensive pass interference.

Department of small plays that make a difference: Brian Finneran blew a block on a wide receiver screen. Brutal. Hardly got his hands on Adalius Thomas at all, and Thomas took down Roddy White the minute he caught the ball for a five-yard loss. Wow, Finneran looked bad.

Tennessee Titans 17 at New York Jets 24

Tom Gower: Titans: Nice gap control on rushing plays, but anything that looks like a pass is succeeding. They finally blitzed on third-and-10 from the 14, and Mark Sanchez had a lane and scrambled for the touchdown, lowering his hand and making a spin to get in the end zone.

It's probably too early to say this, but this looks like the Titans D c. 2003 -- excellent gap control by the defensive line allowing the other guys to fill rushing lanes, but not enough push allows quarterbacks to find guys downfield.

And now they fumble the kickoff. Javon Ringer has been mediocre, so maybe they'll try somebody else there now.

Correction: that was Ryan Mouton, not Ringer, that fumbled the kickoff return. Ringer had the job and looked mediocre, muffing a kickoff return last week, but maybe the job will be his again, not that he's actually any good at it.

Doug Farrar: Mark Sanchez is going to get an "Attaboy" and then a good slap upside the head for his first NFL rushing touchdown. He takes it in on third-and-10 as the Titans bring an all-out blitz. As he gets to the end zone, Sanchez puts his head down to take on Nick Harper (here is where I'm having "Matt Hasselbeck fractured rib" flashbacks), gets the ball over the plane, and then fumbles it. Touchdown, of course, negates the fumble. He looked awesome on the first drive of the day, though he will likely be advised to be a bit more careful in future.

And the Jets force a fumble on the subsequent kickoff. This team is in "Shark Week" mode right now.

David Gardner: Stupid/studly run by Mark Sanchez, who lowered his shoulder near the goal-line and reached across the line to cap a 14-yard run for the Jets' first score.

Tom Gower: Credit where credit is due: LenDale White had a nice touchdown run where he did an excellent job to maintain his balance two plays after he powered up the middle to convert a third-and-1. He seems to be getting the carries inside the 10, with Chris Johnson getting the rest of the field less breaks. The drive started after Tony Brown forced a fumble by Sanchez. Very poor ball security by Sanchez on that play; he had the ball down low and didn't do a good job of adjusting or otherwise getting out of the way of Brown, whom he could see coming.

If you want, you can start uncrowning Sanchez's ass on third down. On the drives after the fumble, he has had the ball slip out of his hand and nearly been picked to end a drive, then showed off his (lack of) arm strength with an awful looking pass to Jerricho Cotchery on a deep out on the other side of the field that couldn't have been caught in bounds.

Very nice interception by Eric Smith. Kerry Collins was rolling to his right and tried to find Johnson streaking up the sideline, but Smith had perfect position and made a nice grab along the sideline.

Mike Tanier: Sanchez is stating to impress me in the Ryan/Flacco way. The pump fakes are nice. The play fakes are nice. When he hands off on a draw, he does a good job finishing his drop like it is a pass play.

Tom Gower: Maybe I was a little hasty with the doom-and-gloom earlier today. Ever since 14-0, the Jets have done squat and the Titans have been able to move the ball. Collins has put some throws into tight spaces -- he hit Kenny Britt over the middle on the most recent drive with Darrelle Revis in man coverage and David Harris playing underneath, and then Nate Washington for the touchdown on a play where Dwight Lowery looked completely lost. Titans now up 17-14.

Bill Barnwell: I love that the commentators are shocked that the Titans were able to get pressure on the Jets with four guys. It's not like they do that 95 percent of the time or anything.

Tom Gower: We have a Vernon Gholston sighting, with a nice pursuit tackle on Chris Johnson. Only 30 yards downfield.

One thing the Titans have been doing today to cope with the expected pressure from the Jets is putting Alge Crumpler in other spots than on the line -- he's played a lot of H-back and offset fullback today, more than they've ever done with him. I presume this is because he's better able to recognize and adapt to blitzers than fullback Ahmard Hall, but he just flubbed a pickup on a key third down play and Collins was nearly picked on a forced pass to Justin Gage.

Kerry Collins ended the game with 13 straight incompletions. I'm not really sure what to say about that, other than at least three of those hit Nate Washington in the hands, and one of them, on third-and-23, went through Kenny Britt's arms 20 yards downfield.

Since I haven't mentioned it yet, Kris Jenkins caused massive problems in this game for Kevin Mawae and Jake Scott. Leroy Harris, starting at left guard for an ill Eugene Amano, didn't seem to be matched up with him often, but seemed to do a better job when he did, though Harris was himself pushed back into Collins by Sione Pouha to force an interception.

Sean McCormick: Sanchez had his worst game as a pro, but it was more a question of his struggling with the wet weather than it was his making bad decisions. The ball slipped out of his hands repeatedly, resulting in several fumbles and a few throws that were lame ducks. He corrected the problem to some extent in the second half, but his inability to handle the football had a lot to do with the Jets offense going into a deep freeze in the second and third quarters. (Of course, running for one yard a pop doesn't help matters, either.)

Despite the final numbers, I thought Kerry Collins played very well. He made a number of throws into tight coverage that were right on the money, but his receivers consistently let him down. The Titans blocking schemes did a good job of neutralizing Ryan's blitzes throughout the first half, but unfortunately for Collins, the protection broke down late and prevented him from having any realistic chance to drive for a tying score at the end.

The Jets were able to get away with being down two of their top four cornerbacks due to a combination of the weather and Tennessee not having effective receivers, but they better get healthy before heading down to New Orleans. Otherwise, there could be some serious trouble.

Kansas City Chiefs 14 at Philadelphia Eagles 34

Mike Kurtz: The Kansas City line looks horribly, horribly bad. They got a good play off on a screen (played well by the strong safety), but every other play the line has been just blown up. They got lucky on the offsides, because it wasn't that egregious and the line still disintegrated.

And then pretty much three defenders converge on Cassel on third-and-25. Absolutely awful.

I'm struggling mightily to say anything at all insightful about PHI-KC, but I really can't. Kansas City is just so bad at pretty much every aspect of offense and defense that it's impossible to tell where the Eagles' execution ends and KC's ineptness begins.

Aaron Schatz: Kevin Kolb, 6-for-8 so far, sneaks up middle for a 1-yard rushing touchdown. I await my Tanier text message.

Bill Barnwell: I've had to chart the first two Chiefs games this year (whatever I did to you, Aaron, I'm sorry) and there's just everything you might imagine. Lots of missed assignments, lots of easy places to pick on. Brandon Carr looks good, but teams don't need to throw at him because there's flotsam across the field. They don't have much of an offense, especially without Dwayne Bowe, so Todd Haley's implementing a lot of trickery that isn't tricking anything.

Andy Reid's going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 46. Maybe he read the Wall Street Journal today.

Aaron Schatz: Halftime text message from Tanier in Delaware: "Cant w8 2 read da elam code"

Mike Kurtz: One of my pet peeves of announcing came up again, complaining that Mike Vrabel's brilliant sack was taken away by a personal foul/facemask downfield on a wide receiver. Taking a wide receiver out of any play (not just having the corner shut down the receiver) is huge, especially if he's one of the first reads. Much like a big return that gets called back, this sack may very well have been created by the penalty. Yet they're treated as two separate events.

Mike Tanier: Looks like I have to read the damn crazy kicker novel. No text message neccessary as the Internet does in fact extend to Delaware. The Kolb throw to DeSean Jackson was a nice little slant; he has a couple of other good throws. My only hope, bet-wise, is that the strength of opponent adjustment expects 9 touchdowns from any quarterback facing the Chiefs.

Bill Barnwell: Opponent adjustments don't get factored in yet. Everyday, I'm hustling.

I'd advise that you go for the "Acceptable" quality, Mike.

Mike Kurtz: "Philadelphia taking advantage of every opportunity." Which is really true if you consider "Kansas City has players on the field" as an opportunity.

Bill Barnwell: By the way, just for reference, Kolb ended up with a 10.1% DVOA.

Whoops, total misread. That's his DVOA on the season. His DVOA in Week 3 was 67.9%.

New York Giants 24 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0

David Gardner: To no surprise, Brandon Jacobs is running straight at the Buccaneers defense and taking two or three hits before being tackled. In other news, wideout Antonio Bryant started today, so the Tampa Bay offense may be a little better than in the first two weeks.

Doug Farrar: From what I've seen of them, the Bucs are playing a lot of "under" coverage, stacking the line, and they're still getting gashed. Bad news for Jim Bates.

To continue the "What the hell happened to Tampa Bay's defense???" discussion, Ahmad Bradshaw broke off a long run at the end of the first quarter, breaking about 15 tackles on the way.

And Tony Siragusa just called the Giants' fullback "Madison Hedgehog." So that was fun.

Aaron Schatz: What happened to Tampa Bay's defense? Um, the defensive coordinator left and most of the best players have retired?

Doug Farrar: Yeah, but I still go back to when Monte Kiffin announced his retirement and the Bucs gave up eleventy billion rushing yards to the Panthers the next week, and just kept falling down the elevator shaft.

The Bucs' offense has 30 total yards at the start of the fourth quarter. In other news, a deep sideline route against the Tampa Bay defense is an almost sure touchdown.

David Gardner: And Josh Johnson is in the game for the Bucs. It's a little surprising that they put him in instead of Josh Freeman, but Johnson is 4-of-6 passing to start and has a 15-yard run.

And then Johnson misses three passes in a row from the 5-yard line, and the Bucs continue to hold on to that 0 on the scoreboard.

Cleveland Browns 3 at Baltimore Ravens 34

Mike Tanier: God the Browns are a horror show. That being said, Joe Flacco is just winging it all over creation.

Doug Farrar: I don't know if anyone else has been watching this game, and the performances by both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, but Eric Mangini might want to seriously consider putting Josh Cribbs in at quarterback since there's nobody remotely competent to throw to him anyway.

Bill Barnwell: The Ravens make everyone look bad.

Doug Farrar: Well, Anderson fell down untouched in the red zone on one play (basically asking Haloti Ngata to sack him), and threw up a pop fly of an interception on another. And frankly, the Ravens' pass defense hasn't been completely amazing so far this season.

Bill Barnwell: They also had to play the Chargers. (And they looked a lot better against the Chiefs than Croyle's numbers say.) But yes, it's true that Anderson makes the Ravens defense look better.

Mike Tanier: Both Browns quarterbacks look silly. I lost track of that Ratliff kid. Do the Browns still have him?

Jacksonville Jaguars 31 at Houston Texans 24

Doug Farrar: Nice call by the Texans on fourth-and-1 with 1:04 left in the first half. Houston goes with an empty backfield, but Kevin Walter motions into the backfield from trips right and Matt Schaub gives him a pitch left for the first down and then some.

Rob Weintraub: Maurice Jones-Drew is phenomenal today. On fourth-and-1 he makes a sick cut in the backfield to move the chains, then scores his third touchdown of the game on the next play, barging over a tackler to do so.

Doug Farrar: What's that we said about Fantasy Threat No. 1? Pocket Hercules just scored his third touchdown of the game against the Texans, though the most impressive run of the day probably came on a short play off a little hitch pass in the third quarter, where he pinballed off five different guys.

Bill Barnwell: The Texans have a way of making backs look phenomenal, don't they?

Rob Weintraub: Tough pick call on Kevin Walter to nullify tying touchdown in Houston. Still driving, but game was tied but for pick-y call.

Bill Barnwell: Oh lord. The Texans get the tying score on an Owen Daniels touchdown catch, but a holding call pushes them back; Chris Brown gets the ball and then fumbles right at the goal-line, and the Jaguars recover.

Rob Weintraub: And the Texans fumble on the goal line, and Jacksonville recovers. Reviewing but looks correct.

New Orleans Saints 27 at Buffalo Bills 7

Bill Barnwell: I'm really impressed with the Bills' defense this first half. Recovering a Drew Brees fumble helped, but they're getting good pressure around the edges on Brees, attacking left tackle Jermon Bushrod to the point where he appears to have hurt himself and is out of the game. They've got a good enough secondary to keep up with the Saints if they can keep up that level of pressure up front.

Vince Verhei: Buffalo scoring a touchdown on a fake field goal is becoming an annual event. This one came on a sweet rollout pass from punter Brian Moorman to defensive end Ryan Denney. Buffalo's special teams are always awesome, and that's without counting these kind of plays, which count as offense in conventional stats and DVOA.

Chicago Bears 25 at Seattle Seahawks 19

Vince Verhei: Breaking news from the Seattle Times Web site: The Seahawks are going to debut rave green jerseys today against Chicago. Photographs included. You have been warned.

Doug Farrar: I think they're trying to do to the Bears what Oregon frequently does to their opponents -- confuse them with unthinkable uniform horribleness. It worked on the early screen for a touchdown to Julius Jones. I believe Hunter Hillenmeyer and Charles Tillman were busy averting their eyes.

Bill Barnwell: Assorted comments around my apartment regarding the Seahawks jerseys:

  • "They look like an underfunded Pop Warner team."
  • "They should go out hunting in those things."
  • "They look like lazer-tag jerseys."

Mike Tanier: Three people fit in your apartment?

Bill Barnwell: Aaron can attest to the size of my place.

Vince Verhei: Since you brought up Oregon, Doug, I have to mention how hysterical it is that the team of 1,000 uniforms apparently ran out of new uniforms and had to break out throwbacks yesterday against Cal.

Looking closer at the Seahawks, I think they're wearing new pants too. They're dark blue, not the normal greyish-blue.

Jay Cutler's throws a dumb interception in the red zone, lobbing a 10-yard pass to Johnny Knox, who was only five yards downfield. The ball comes down in the arms of David Hawthorne, filling in for Leroy Hill.

Bill Barnwell: Bears can't keep anybody off of Cutler. Seahawks are just rushing four or five guys straight ahead and the Bears are letting everyone through.

Vince Verhei: Olindo Mare has missed field-goal attempts of 43 and 34 yards. Then Seneca Wallace, rather than throw the ball away, forces an interception deep in his own territory, and Chicago goes three-and-out then kicks a field goal. That's a nine-point swing based solely on the kicker and quarterback not doing their jobs.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh was horrible for the first 44 minutes of this game, fumbling his only catch. Then he picks up a third down towards the end of the third quarter, and then on the quarter's last play, Wallace throws up a duck of a pass. Houshmandzadeh manages to come back to the ball and fight off two Bears defenders to pull down the catch for a first down.

Doug Farrar: Meanwhile, T.J. Houshmandzadeh goes up for a Wallace prayer of a pass as Wallace is once again overwhelmed by rushers. Great play. Yes, Deion Branch, it is possible for a receiver to jump for a ball that's a foot over your head.

Vince Verhei: Down one in the fourth, the Seahawks need a stop to get the ball back, and Aaron Curry has a coming out party. On first down, he comes across the play to nail Matt Forte for a loss of two. Then on third down, Curry gets a sack and forced fumble, and Cory Redding recovers.

And then Seneca Wallace makes a concerted effort to lose the game. On first down, he's pressured outside the pocket, but has ample opportunity to throw the ball away. Instead, he just runs out of bounds for a three-yard loss. On third down, he's pressured outside again, and has the opportunity to throw the ball away or, better yet, tuck the ball and run and maybe even pick up the first down. Instead, he lobs up another duck that is nearly picked. Olindo Mare kicks the 46-yard field goal to put Seattle ahead, but they need to start offering Wallace incentives for every time he successfully throws it away.

Bill Barnwell: Seattle's last play on offense was a joke. Throwing a designed swing pass as your primary option? Seriously? Not to mention that Wallace couldn't throw it in stride.

Vince Verhei: The Seahawks game ended with a Devin Hester touchdown and one of the worst two-minute drills you'll ever see. It was almost all worth it, though, to hear Jim Mora's postgame press conference. First he said that the Seahawks' emergency quarterback -- the guy who goes in when everybody else is hurt, when you just want to avoid further injuries -- would have been Deion Branch. He said they practiced with Branch at quarterback and were prepared for him to throw a pass. Then he pointed out that NFL seasons go for 16 games, while baseball seasons go for 162. He then tried to calculate the baseball equivalent of a two-game losing streak in football, finally settling on either 32 or 36 games. Jim Mora doing math equals unintentional comedy gold.

Doug Farrar: Mora is fast approaching Jackass Status after blaming kicker Olindo Mare for the loss. Mare missed two field goals, but he made four, and to put it all on Mare was ridiculous and completely unprofessional. What about the shoddy playcalling that had the Seahawks trying that many field goals in the first place? A reverse to Deion Branch on third-and-one late in the game? Are you kidding me? Nah, not a problem. Mora said that it was a great playcall, but the Bears had the right defense. What about the horsecrap pass protection or the abysmal mid-zone coverage? Nope. Didn’t exist. All the kicker’s fault. After Ryan Mouton had problems in the return game for the Titans in their loss to the Jets, Jeff Fisher (who certainly didn’t expect to be 0-3 at this point) deflected blame off the kid and said that it was the coach’s responsibility to put the right people in the right places to succeed. That’s how you handle these things publically, and that’s one of the reasons Fisher’s been successful for a long time.

Mora may be a good defensive coordinator in a vacuum, but I really don’t believe he has the makeup to be a top-tier head coach. He’s a high-energy guy no matter what – rah-rah if everything’s going right, and completely scattershot if things aren’t going his way. Remember that he was available for the Seahawks after telling Seattle radio station KJR that he’d quit the Falcons and go coach the Washington Huskies at the drop of a hat. Bobby Petrino was rightfully excoriated for the way he left the Falcons, but Mora got a free pass from a lot of people. When all is said and done, I don’t think Seattle will regard him so highly.

Mike Tanier: Mora just struck you now as a jackass?

Doug Farrar: I was trying to be optimistic.

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 at Cincinnati Bengals 23

Mike Kurtz: The Steelers really need to abandon the Willie Parker project. I know the offense is awful at run-blocking, but he's probably the weakest of the three running backs the Steelers have on their roster. Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore might not be anything special, but they at least have the strength to run forward and get a yard, yet they keep throwing Parker in short-yardage situations, and IT NEVER WORKS. EVER. Such a well-coached team, but for some reason overwhelming loyalty to a mediocre player.

Cincinnati is really cheating, firing on the outside in an attempt to hem in and sack Ben Roethlisberger. The problem, then, is that the Steelers have been running Parker right past the ends and getting decent yardage. Cincy needs to figure out a better way of getting to the quarterback, or at least work some more inside stuff.

Rey Maualuga down after a Steelers quarterback sneak touchdown, moving but not walking off.

Steelers were looking a bit dicey for a while, where the Bengals stopped gunning with their defensive ends. Then again, that opened up the passing game, and Roethlisberger just picked them apart on mid-range throws.

Maualuga had his knee sat on, apparently. He's out.

Vince Verhei: Except for the pick-six, where he threw shallow and his receivers ran deep, Roethlisberger has been really, really good today. Holding the ball a long time, of course, but never too long. He always manages to find a receiver and hit him with a good pass.

(Limas Sweed drops a touchdown pass.)

Mike Kurtz: Which, of course, is then dropped. In the end zone.


Steelers games are usually well-called, if sometimes wonky. Pittsburgh has run pretty much every first down in the second half, which isn't a great idea even if you have a good running game, much less a mediocre one.

I can't figure out what's wrong with the Steelers. It's not like it's an overwhelmingly green team that builds up leads and then get too excited and just deflates, it's a very experienced team that went out there and just beat the royal hell out of the Bengals for one half, then did pretty much nothing in the second.

Maybe it is complacency -- I didn't see one blitz in the entire fourth quarter, which was baffling, and it looked like they were trying to run out the clock with a bad running game and 5 minutes left in the game. I'm sure Cincinnati made some adjustments, but I can't imagine anything that would lead to such a severe turnaround. Just no idea.

Bill Barnwell: Well, here's what they did on first down in the second half:

  • Five-yard pass to Heath Miller
  • Willie Parker rush for no gain
  • Willie Parker rush for one yard
  • Willie Parker rush for two yards
  • Willie Parker rush for a two yard loss
  • Nine-yard pass to Willie Parker
  • Willie Parker rush for three yards
  • Willie Parker rush for three yards
  • Willie Parker rush for no gain
  • Willie Parker rush for three yards
  • Incomplete pass (final play of the game)

What's the pattern you see there?

Mike Kurtz: Yeah, I mentioned that before. That can't explain all of it, but that's definitely part of it.

Mike Tanier: The first-down runs have a lot to do with it. The dropped touchdown pass has a lot to do with it: if I recall, they also had another big pass play where the receiver stepped out of bounds. Some of it has to do with facing two decent opponents; the Bears are pretty good, the Bengals better than expected. A couple of tough losses to some good early opponents is nothing to get alarmed about.

Vince Verhei: On Cincinnati's eventual game-winning drive, they twice spiked the ball to stop the clock. The first time they had two timeouts; they still had one left for the second spike. They still had a timeout in their pocket when the game ended, but they had wasted two vital downs. They overcame this to win, but it was some lousy, lousy clock management. What was Marvin Lewis saving those timeouts for? Is he going to call one during film review tomorrow?

Rob Weintraub: Still recovering from finally -- finally! -- beating those blasted Steelers at home. Game started totally Bengal-like, which meant getting smeared in every facet. But in most un-Bengal-like fashion, they hung in, made some plays, got some breaks (a lot of them), and actually took advantage to win. Give Marvin Lewis credit -- that first spike was dumb, yes (less of problem with the second one -- they had a mass personnel switch after the fourth-down play to Brian Leonard), but he has somehow transformed the team to one that's extremely tough, mentally. Remember, before the BS deflection play in Week 1, Cincy was awful for 56 minutes, then drove 90-plus yards for what should have been the winning score, and an unbeaten record. After the horrifying loss, they shrugged it off and whipped Green Bay in Lambeau. I can't remember a Bengals team that didn't cave at the first sign of adversity. Not this bunch.

On the subject of tough, Maualuga came back in, and made a couple more tackles -- thank God.

Vince Verhei: If they were making a mass personnel switch, that's all the more reason to call timeout.

Denver Broncos 23 at Oakland Raiders 3

Tom Gower: Just because people are complaining about lack of AFC West coverage...

The Broncos went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first period. LaMont Jordan got stuffed by Thomas Howard and friends, and the camera switched to Josh McDaniels, who attractively spat in disgust.

The decision pays off for the Broncos, as JaMarcus Russell is looking for Darrius Heyward-Bey on a 99 yard score, but Heyward-Bey falls down when he runs into Renaldo Hill (the good one, not the ex-Titan) and Hill then makes the pick. Broncos
start at the 23.

Bill Barnwell: Don't listen to the people, Tom. They don't know what's best for them.

DHB falls down all the time. It's really weird. He's the Alex Mack of wide receivers.

Tom Gower: Broncos made it to the end zone on third down on try number two, as Kirk Morrison can't cover Brandon Marshall. Rich Gannon harps over a linebacker covering a wide receiver, which (a) has a point to it and (b) is sure to earn him more love from the Raiders brass. Good job by the Raider D on the playfake on second-and-goal, though, as nobody was the least bit open.

JMR pick number two, this one again intended for DHB. He was lousy coming out of his break, but it wouldn't have helped him on this throw, which was too high and thus right to the deeper defender.

Gannon continues to make friends in O-town, talking about JMR's consistent problems with overthrows being the result of poor mechanics and fundamentals.

Vince Verhei: JaMarcus Russell after one quarter: 2-for-5 for four yards with two picks. It's ironic that the color commentator is Rich Gannon, quarterback for the last good Raiders team. I don't mean the most recent good Raiders team. I mean the last.

Bill Barnwell: Said [Raiders bigwig John] Herrera, "[Gannon] seems to be a guy who can't get over the fact that he played the worst Super Bowl game in the history of the game and he wants to blame everybody but himself."

Broncos are just running all their receivers over the middle and isolating them against linebackers in option routes.

Vince Verhei: Broncos lead 13-3. It could be much worse -- Denver has run ten goal-to-go plays and have one touchdown, one field goal, and one turnover on downs to show for it.

I keep waiting for JaMarcus Russell to get benched. Then I remember that the backups are Charlie Frye and Bruce Gradkowski.

We need to do an offseason research piece on the worst quarterback staffs of all time. This should be right up there, along with those Mike Ditka Saints teams.

Did I mention that the Raiders -- with the rocket-armed passer and track team wide receiver corps -- have completed a total of 10 passes for just 6.5 yards per catch and four first downs?

Tom Gower: The 1994 Houston Oilers -- "featuring" Cody Carlson, Bucky Richardson, and Billy Joe Tolliver as their three quarterbacks -- will probably be the only team in history with three of the bottom five quarterbacks in DVOA. No wonder Jeff Fisher wanted to draft Kevin Carter instead of Steve McNair with the No. 3 pick in the draft.

Miami Dolphins 13 at San Diego Chargers 23

Bill Barnwell: Really heads-up play by someone on the Chargers when Ronnie Brown fumbles at the goal line. The ball bounces into the end zone, and as a Dolphins offensive lineman goes to fall on it, the Chargers defender pushes him so that half his body is out of the end zone, turning a touchdown recovery into a touchback. Heads-up play.

David Gardner: Has anyone mentioned that Chad Henne is in for Chad Pennington, who is out of uniform after the second half?

The Dolphins are using the Wildcat a lot, but Henne is leading them straight down field.

Bill Barnwell: Would believe that means that Pennington and Pat White are both out of the game.

Indianapolis Colts 31 at Arizona Cardinals 10

Mike Kurtz: Tony Dungy refers to the secondary as "safetymen." This guy is so weird.

David Gardner: Since when does the Colts offense show any variety? They are running end-arounds and reverses more often than I do in Madden.

Mike Kurtz: They're running these because their running game, especially their power running game, is pretty useless. If they stuck to conventional running, then they probably wouldn't get much out of it, and it confuses the heck out of the linebackers. Cris Collinsworth thinks they're scared of the play-action because they're scared of the running game, but I think it's more that they're scared of being out of position on a double-reverse or something.

Bill Barnwell: No team gets booed more at home than the Cardinals.

David Gardner: Well, the power running game isn't what the Colts are known for, but the stretch play has been pretty effective tonight.

Vince Verhei: Oh my God, the poorly synced halftime interview with Rex Ryan and Bob Costas. This is funnier than Mora.

Bill Barnwell: It's pretty sad when Joseph Addai is struggling to pick the right hole because there are too many open at one time.

The Colts are also going right after Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and making him look, well, overrated. The closest comp I think I can come up with for him so far is DeAngelo Hall. Good ball skills and fast, but can't tackle, awful in run support, and gets thrown at too frequently to be a great corner.

Vince Verhei: Kurt Warner taking a sack for a 28-yard loss on fourth down pretty much sums up their entire evening, doesn't it? I knew this after writing the Cardinals chapter, but it's even more evident after three weeks: The Cardinals' tackles are awful. Just awful. I feel like going back and watching last year's playoff games to figure out how Levi Brown and Wayne Gandy didn't knock Arizona out of the postseason on their own.

On defense, yes, they look bad, but it's the Colts. See prior comments on opponent adjustments concerning the Ravens and Texans.

Ned Macey: Tim Hightower gained 22 yards on nine carries against the Colts. Maybe he's a good receiving back, but he just is not a feature back.

Also, Arizona seemed to be trying to go downfield too much against the Colts. It is as if they didn't watch the last six years of tape. You can get 7-yard completions at will, but if you're throwing 15 to 20 yards down the field, you will get sacked/hit, and you will turn the ball over.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 28 Sep 2009

213 comments, Last at 01 Oct 2009, 4:36pm by Tim Wilson


by PatsFan :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:32am

What did you think about Belichick going for it on 4th-and-1 from his own 26 with only a 6pt lead? Yeah, it worked out well (I believe NE ended up with a FG on the drive), but disaster if they hadn't picked it up.

by Billingham (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:15am

That's nothing compared to Dick Jauron's decision to punt on 4th and 1 from his own 29 down by 10 with 7 minutes left. What's the number on 4th and 1 conversions again? 90%?

by Temo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:18am

Obviously he was running up the score. That unsportsmanlike bastard.

by Purds :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:26am

I thought it was BB's classic arrogance, the same arrogance that made him think he didn't need another receiver in 2006 (trading Branch and then watching no-name WR's drop sure TD's in the AFC Championship game at Indy), that made him think he wouldn't get punished for filming the opposing coaching signals (costing him $500,000 and a first-round draft pick), and that made him a winner in three Super Bowls. It's going to burn you at times, but it's worked out pretty well for him overall, and it did so yesterday (though they got only a FG from that drive -- a waste for such a risk).

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:42am

It was a bit extreme, but I really like the fact that the is at least one NFL head coach who understands how overvalued punting often is. Of course, it helps to have a resume like Belichik's when going against conventional wisdon in such a strong fashion.

by The Anti-Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:31pm

Jack Del Rio goes for it on fourth and short often, including in his own territory.

Of course, conventional FO wisdom is that Del Rio is an idiot because his punter didn't understand the risks of swinging an axe at his foot.

by Joseph :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:29pm

I thought it was ballsy, esp. with Pats' general lack of a power running game. Having said that, it was 4th and at most a half-yard. If it's 4th and a FULL yard, I think he punts it.

by RickD :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 10:40am

When Belichick does something like that, he feels 99% sure that his OL can get enough push to get the yardage.

Like I find myself saying often, football really is not a game of chance. It's only modeled that way. Belichick historically has a very high success rate when he goes for it on 4th down. That's because he does so only when it's necessary or when he's certain that his team will succeed (or when neither a punt nor a FG try makes sense).

On a day when the Pats were running with success against the Falcons, trying for 4th and 1 makes sense.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:33am

> Jason Campbell was 8-of-13 for 101 yards, no touchdowns, no picks, and everybody's gonna blame it all on him.

Did you watch the game? 4th Q 3rd and 20 from your own 40 and throwing a 2 yard checkdown? How about seeing the Blitz on the 2nd to last drive and throwing a 1 yard pass to Santana Moss and begging for a facemask that had nothing to do with him not converting.

Jason Campbell had probably his best statistical game of his career, and his team put up 7 points minus the garbage TD against Prevent defense. That 1 TD was a generated play after half time anyway to Moss. The guy put up no TD's against the Rams, and not much vs a weak Lions defense...

After the game Dan Patrick asked Rodney Harrison what the problem with washington was.... " Jason Campbell is a backup QB to me, he's not a starter, no team fears him, no defense is worried about him...".

At some point yes you can blame Zorn for the conservative play calling, but why does he ( and Gibbs did the same thing) call conservative plays with Campbell? Could them not believing he can command a passing downfield offense have anything to do with it too? If they thought he was Peyton Manning he would for sure be running a more opened up scheme... Todd Collins was 4-0 that same Season Campbell was 5-7...

Other big news to me was Jim Zorn on the Jim Zorn show... " Detroit is a good football team". Really? Was that the right choice of words? I know you are supposed to talk up your opponents but he could have said something like they are "improvinig, or better than last year, or better than their 0-19 record or working to get better" but to call them a "good football team"?

How about the Giants having 18 first downs before Tampa got their first first down with 6 minutues to go in the 3rd quarter?

How about that 3rd down conversion by Brett Favre where he threw a laser beam to his WR, then sprinted about 20 yards down field and threw a block at Patrick Willi's legs? That play was nearly as amazing as the hail mary at the end of the game that was thrown 50 yards on a line. Favre might be old but he still has a very strong arm.

Stafford had his best game and I wasn't impressed, and I'm still not drinking the Jow Flacco Kool-Aid just yet either.

How does Tanier feel about Kevin Kolb now? Still ready to write him off?

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:36am

Did you watch the game?

No, man, they're making all this stuff up.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:56am

OK, the Redskins couldn't score on the 0-19 Detroit Lions but THAT was the first mistake by Jason Campbell. Seriously? It's just the "haters" like Rodney Harrison just trying to peg blame on him...

You guys say that I am arguing into the wind on Campbell but every week people (mainly Homer Redskins fans) still try and defend him and on the Jim Zorn show they still say ignorant things like " Campbell hasn't had a fair shot". Fair shot? How many years has the guy been in the league?

Let me guess, that highest payroll in the NFL he has no line, no receivers, no running game, was facing hard defenses, bad coaching... rinse wash repeat. It couldn't possibly be HIM.

by steve from virginia (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:45pm

Lessee ... get rid of Campbell, you can see the gears turning inside his head. Then ... get rid of Portis. Over the hill. Get rid of all the other running backs (too slow). Get rid of Santana Moss. Isn't he 50? The other highly- drafted wide receivers from last year ... get rid of them, unmotivated and too easy to cover. And the offensive line ... ugh! Get rid of all of them! In fact ... outside of Sellers and Cooley, there aren't any offensive players on the team worth keeping.

Pretty decent punter. The kicker is okay, too.

On defense, there is broken Carlos Rogers (reconstructive knee surgery). Who is the other corner? Methusela? Fred Stokes? Horton and Landry are good, as is ILB Fletcher. Orakpo is a future star. Why on Earth did Snider give $100m to Haynesworth? Talk about demolishing locker room stability! Is he out of is mind? The defensive line sucks. The outside linebackers are too slow. The secondary is too slow or can't jump. Outside of the punter and kicker there are only about 5 decent players on the team. No wonder they lose to the Lions.

Watch, they will lose to Carolina and losing to KC is a possibility. The other NFC East teams will destroy them. Fortunately, they don't have to play the Ravens this year. I have the Redskins penciled in @ 5 - 11 ... I think I was optimistic!

The problem is Cerrato and Snider. Snider needs to hire a football guy to run the team, then step back. The football executive would then hire a GM who drafts interior linemen year after year - like the Ravens do - and role players. The 'skins need a decent quarterback. If they stick with Campbell, he does better with a no- huddle, simplified scheme like Peyton Manning runs in Indy. Gibbs did this a few times and Campbell did welll. The Redskins need a 'horse' running back to follow the rejuvenated O- line. They need to pick better -cheaper - free agents. They could have signed Wes Welker when Miami didn't extend, but let him go to New England instead.

The Redskins alse need a new coach. Zorn is in over his head. A rerun of the last Snider coaching follies is coming soon. Snider will pitch Cowher the job ... and if Cowher is smart he will demand that Snider and Cerrato hire a real GM and a football executive to run the team.

This is an IQ test for Snider. I bet he fails ...

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:38pm

"The defensive line sucks."

That's an understatement. Two of their defensive ends are still Renaldo Wynn and Philip Daniels, who are 35/36. That's pretty much unheard of.

"The Redskins need a 'horse' running back to follow the rejuvenated O- line"

What? Have you been watching the same Redskins games I have? *What* rejuvenated offensive line?

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 6:22am

I'm pretty sure he meant the rejuvenated offensive line that the hypothetical new GM would hypothetically draft. He wants to axe every offensive player bar Cooley and Sellers, remember.

by Monkey Business (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 6:53pm

"If they stick with Campbell, he does better with a no- huddle, simplified scheme like Peyton Manning runs in Indy."

Um... The Colts run one of the most complex offenses in the NFL. Let's say you have a singleback formation with Addai, Wayne, Robinson, Clark, and Garcon at your skill positions. From that same formation, you can split Clark out as a slot receiver, or you can move Manning to the shotgun and use Clark as either another WR or an H-back, you can move Robinson to fullback, run the stretch play, throw in a little play action, etc.

Any of the five guys at skill positions can run the ball, catch the ball, and block for the guy with the ball. And Manning has to figure out what's best based on what the D is showing.

So, as condescending as it may be, I watch Peyton Manning on a weekly basis, and Jason Campbell is no Peyton Manning.

As Collinsworth said last night, Donald Brown is a smart kid, and even he said that if the NFL is a foreign language, the Colts offense is Chinese.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:26pm

"Let me guess, that highest payroll in the NFL he has no line"

Campbell's biggest mistake came when there was a completely free rusher coming at him because absolutely no one on the line blocked him, which I doubt was the plan - you can actually see Heyer turn to square against the rusher, who blows by him, and then just turn to help Rinehart. Oh, and on the right? Check out Derrick Dockery just standing around, thinking "I know I should be trying to block someone..."

I'm not forgiving Campbell; obviously the interception was a mistake, and the TE was wiiide open for an easy first down. That being said, there was no throwing lane to the left because the blocking was so totally screwed up.

On their line, one tackle is a 3rd year undrafted free agent who's never started a full season in his career. One guard is a 3rd round rookie from this year. They couldn't pick up a 4th and 1 at the goal. Portis and Betts gained under 3.5 yards/carry.

Yes, it's fair to say that Campbell has no line.

"Let me guess, that highest payroll in the NFL "

Welcome to the salary cap. You're only about 10 years behind the times. The Redskins make a ton of money, but poor salary cap management has meant that the Redskins' roster is filled with guys they picked up at the 7-11 for a buck and a quarter. OK, maybe a buck seventy-five.

The Redskins have almost $18M in dead cap space. They rolled over basically no money (like, $2M). Their roster counts for $108M in total. Their roster is filled with players who make nothing, by NFL standards. Almost half the roster (24 players) count for ~$530K or less this year.

For reference, the Eagles roster counts for $135M - about 25% more than the Redskins! - and the number of players on the roster who count for $530K or less is 15.

I've been saying for years that the Redskins were going to have cap problems, and they do. They worked around it in the worst way I can imagine: they started filling up the remainder of their roster with UDFAs and vets who cost less due to the vet salary cap rule.

Replacing Campbell will not come *close* to fixing the Redskins.

by RickD :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 10:43am

Most of the Skins fans I know (I live in the DC area) think that the problem is with the O-Line, not the QB. Not that Campbell is a top-tier QB, but the O-Line is awful.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:35am

and just one more time. Does DVOA still think the Redskins have a better offense than the Giants? 14 points vs the fearless Lions D, and 9 vs the Rams...

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:56pm

Rawr!!! The Giants are the awesomest. Everyone else in the NFC East is a pile of crap. Jason Campbell is the suck. Eli can do no wrong. DVOA sucks because it doesn't give the Giants extra points for their awesomeness. Rawr!!!

Former Eagles Fan. Go JETS!

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:25pm

13 going on 30

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:02pm

Don't blame me for the fact that you've become so trite and predictable that you fit into a zlionsfan-esque template.

Former Eagles Fan. Go JETS!

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:22pm

and you don't?

You don't talk X's and O's, you just jump into threads and attack me. Do I get under your skin that much talking bad about the Redskins inept offense?

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:34pm

Chris, it's your vendettas against Campbell, Russell, Jackson, and Leftwich that tend to get under people's skins. You jump into every thread that is even minutely relevant to Jason Campbell are start railing against him. No one disagrees with you all that much, but you just don't stop.

Throw in that you refuse to learn how to spell Leftwich, JaMarcus, and various other player names, and it makes for quite the package of annoyance.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:55pm

If you'll notice most of the comments I make are geared towards the Giants, the Redskins, the best teams, the worst teams, and quarterbacks around the NFL.

The Giants are good ( receive good comments pointing out little things that help make them good), the Redskins are bad ( receive bad comments on problems I see with the team). The wins/losses aren't an accident. Look at the QB's that make the playoffs every year. You'll usually the better QB's in the playoffs and the weaker QB's not ( with standing beast defenses).

I don't like garbage quarterbacks and the guys you listed aren't the only ones I harp against and have harped against. Maybe next week I'll be complaining about Chad in Miami?

The local media has been "believers" in Jason Campbell ( I never was) I'll call out Doc Walker as sitting in the front row of the church of Jason Campbell. Sometimes ( although infrequently people argue with me regarding Campbell). Now that everybody knows where I stand, I'll do my very best to quit cold turkey and point out stuff from other games.

I'll quit talking about Jason Campbell and Eli Manning unless asked.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:45pm

"You don't talk X's and O's, you just jump into threads and attack me."

No, he doesn't. I've seen actual signs of a human being thinking about football from him. Your problem right now is that when the Redskins look bad, you show up and sound exactly the same as you always do. When the Redskins look good, you don't say anything. Thus, you always think you're right because you're only selecting the data that supports you.

And for reference, throwing a checkdown on 3rd and 20 is fairly commonplace. Most Seahawks fans can tell you that - you do it when you think "look, there's no chance we can make this first down, let's get a couple of yards and punt."

Seriously, blaming the loss on Campbell is getting a bit insane. Campbell generated 67 yards of offense on their first drive. The running game generated 6, and failed to gain the last yard for a TD. That's not Campbell's fault. Then the next few drives stalled because they ended up a *yard* short of a first down. That tends to not be the QB's fault, either - it's usually the receiver running a route wrong.

And then the rest of the game was just a ton of Redskins mistakes - a few of which were Campbell's, but most were not.

I'm not trying to sing the guy's praises here. He's the worst QB in the NFC East, and at best a league-average QB right now. But he is *not* the weak link in their offense. The offensive line is. I don't know how anyone could have watched that game and *not* thought that the Skins OL has problems.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:33pm

Pat you know everything.

You said I only harp on the Redskins when they look bad. Please wake me up when they actually look good. When WAS the last time they looked good Pat?

I always think ( my original throughts) are right ( what, am I supposed to think my thoughts are wrong?) Do you ever think you are ever wrong?

> And for reference, throwing a checkdown on 3rd and 20 is fairly commonplace.

You mean when your team is at the 40 yard line, down 2 scores to an 0-19 Lions team and after countless other checkdowns, that's common place? Are you sure or do you just want to tell somebody else they are wrong Pat?

> That's not Campbell's fault.

Nothing is Jason's fault, he did after all have good stats. Probably his best statistical game ever!

> But he is *not* the weak link in their offense. The offensive line is. I don't know how anyone could have watched that game and *not* thought that the Skins OL has problems.

That's such an excuse. It's always the line when ever some quarterback fails... ( that or the receivers). I mean, that line had Clinton Portis leading the league last year, but now they are awful?

> I've seen actual signs of a human being thinking about football from him.

I see you jump into threads and blindly argue with anything anybody ever says about the Eagles good or bad. How human is that?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 5:12pm

"I always think ( my original throughts) are right ( what, am I supposed to think my thoughts are wrong?) Do you ever think you are ever wrong?"

Um. Yes? Often? The word is "introspection." You review what you thought, based on new information or new perspectives, and adjust accordingly. Or, you just flat out recognize that what you're going on is a "gut feel" and you could be wrong.

Before the Carolina game, I thought the Eagles were going to be very, very bad this year. Their preseason performance was abysmal, and injuries were just piling up. After the Carolina game, I still thought they were going to be bad - I thought the Panthers would be even worse - but I wasn't so sure anymore.

I feel safe in saying that probably every single person who has ever read any comment you've made in the past several years would agree: you're overconfident, and you ignore all facts which would poke holes in your conclusions while throwing out facts to support your conclusions which are frequently simply not true. Which tends to make your conclusions seem shallow and repetitive.

"You mean when your team is at the 40 yard line, down 2 scores"

What play are you talking about? They were never at the 40 yard line, down two scores, on a 3rd and 20-ish.

I'm talking about the 3rd-and-21 checkdown in the 4th quarter. At that time they were down by 6 points, had plenty of time, and they ended up pinning the Lions inside the 20 and getting the ball back with better field position than when they punted. That wasn't a bad call at all.

There wasn't a single checkdown on 3rd down when they were down 2 scores at all. In fact, every 3rd down attempt by the Redskins came within 1 yard of gaining a first down *in the entire first half*.

This is another problem with your analyses: you criticize people for not watching the game and then repeatedly get facts about the game wrong.

I mean, that line had Clinton Portis leading the league last year, but now they are awful?

1: Clinton Portis did not lead the league in anything last year. Not yards, not yards per carry, not DVOA, not DYAR, not yards from scrimmage, not touchdowns. This is what I mean when I say you repeatedly get facts wrong.

2: This is not 2008. That is *not* the same line. Of the 5 players that started last year for the Redskins OL, they started 3 this year. Of the 5 players that finished last year for the Redskins OL, 2 of them are starting this year. And two of those 3 starters are 32 this year, so expecting a decline isn't exactly a surprise. And it's not like the guys they got were guaranteed improvements - Dockery was released by the Bills (and clearly, the Bills are just *loaded* with OL talent - that's sarcasm, by the way), and the other different guy is a 3rd round rookie.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 8:23pm

You know what one of your problems is besides this whole " your dog sh$t on my lawn angry attitude at all times?

For the years you've been posting at FO, you constantly use straw man arguments when you have your pissing matches. I don't know if you do this because you don't understand what people are saying or because you just ignore them. Did I ever say that Clinton Portis lead the NFL in rushing anywhere? Do you ignore what other people say or do you try and change their comments around on purpose?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 9:20pm

"you constantly use straw man arguments"

The difference between a strawman and an example is one of degree. Claiming that even ROBO-PUNTER wouldn't be worth a first overall pick could be claimed to be a strawman, since it's an unreasonable exaggeration, but it didn't really matter, because the original argument didn't specify realistic bounds.

"Did I ever say that Clinton Portis lead the NFL in rushing anywhere?"

No, you said that line had him leading the league. I said that Clinton Portis didn't lead the league in anything last year. Which is true. How in the world is that a strawman? I had no idea what you meant by leading the league, but it didn't matter, because by any metric of merit, it was a false statement.

So strangely, it's the same as the ROBO-PUNTER example: your original statement was vague, and any reasonable person would likely find it false, but it needed bounds to be definitive.

Look, your point *was* valid: they were a good rushing line last year. It unsurprisingly sucks this year because the new additions just aren't great and the stalwarts are, well, old. You hurt your argument by exaggerating. Which you do fairly often. This isn't malice; it's simply an observation.

Again, it's similar to the Campbell "3rd and 20" thing. If you remember, I said Campbell's biggest problem last year was his tentativeness - he never wanted to throw an interception, and it really hurt his team. It *definitely* is true that he's still too tentative, and part of that is checking down. But that wasn't a great example, and you hurt your argument by exaggerating the circumstances.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 6:33am

I think he meant that at some point a reasonable way into last season (maybe around Week 8 or something, Clinton Portis was leading the league in rushing. Which I have a feeling is probably true. From what I remember of last season, Portis was dominant early on and then fell away badly. I suspect he got dinged up somewhere around mid-season and wasn't the same afterwards, but I'm not a fan of the Redskins (or any other NFC East team), so I wasn't following the situation that closely and may well simply be misremembering/delusional.

None of this undermines the general validity of what you're saying, of course.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 9:13am

Ding Ding Ding

See here's the thing with Pat. He loves using straw man arguments and argues against things you aren't arguing about ... he loves to argue.

C: Clinton Portis WAS leading the league in rushing ( at some point)
Pat: Clinton Portis didn't lead the league in rushing last YEAR!(foaming at mouth)

Did anybody say that Pat? Do you get pleasure from jumping into threads and telling people they are wrong?

By the way, Clinton Portis doesn't have that break away speed he once did, and he actually looks a little bit heavier like he's gained weight.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 8:44pm

"C: Clinton Portis WAS leading the league in rushing ( at some point)"

Wait, so you can leave out three words that completely change the context of the statement, and expect me to understand you?

Let me try! Believe it or not, I've actually managed five different NFL teams. (The missing words were "on XBOX 360.")

Oh, and see what the other poster did? Politely explain what you might have meant without insulting? That's what adults do.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 09/30/2009 - 11:31am

I gotta agree with Pat here (although he's being a bit too snarky while at the same time pointing out the pleasant responce from another poster - I think you both could tone it down a bit; I think you agree with each other more than you realize).

The way you put it was certainly confusing, C. I think I got what you meant but I wasn't sure. In any case, the fact that the Redskins' line was playing well at the beginning of last year doesn't prove that it was a good rushing line. In fact, the full year statistics are probably more telling, so your point still may not be a good one.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 9:23am

> biggest problem last year was his tentativeness - he never wanted to throw an interception, and it really hurt his team. It *definitely* is true that he's still too tentative, and part of that is checking down. But that wasn't a great example, and you hurt your argument by exaggerating the circumstances.

Dude, it was 3rd and 21 instead of 3rd and 20.

How come teams take 5 yard penalties on purpose sometimes when punting on the other teams 40 yard line? Some punters actually prefer to punt from the 45 as opposed to the 40 so that they can kick more "normal" in an attempt to pinning teams deep.

The difference between kicking from the 45, 50, 45 is minimal. You don't gain anything from a field position standpoint as it's all very similar for the punter.

When you are at your own 40 yard line on 3rd and 21... Throwing a 2 yard check down ( that ends up +7 yards) did nothing. Those 7 yards were irrelevant and the odds were minimal that the back would pick up the first down. Let's say he gained 11 yards, or 13 yards, or even 20 yards... It still leaves his team in the exact same position as before. It is the punter trying to pin the other team back deep inside their 20.

Now if you were on say your own 10 yard line on 3rd and 21... Nothing was open ( we have no idea if it was or not), and you throw a 2 yard pass that gains 7 yards to pick up field position, then I see your point. From where they were on the field, those yards meant nothing.

It would be like asking your field goal kicker to kick from the 8 yard line instead of the 10 yard line. Does a 2 yard checkdown even matter or would you rather let your QB throw the ball in the endzone where only he could catch it? That's not even a good example because you want your QB to not make a mistake, but the point is that those 2 yards are pointless. They just make your kickers job a tiny tiny bit easier but in the punter example.

by Eddo :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 10:19am

Sunday, Seneca Wallace threw a short little pass to Julius Jones on third-and-nineteen from the Bears' 39. The play went for a touchdown. I sure hope he got ripped for such a stupid decision.

Chris, sometimes receivers get enough yards after the catch to make a short pass on third-and-long worth it. Usually they don't. The Redskins were still able to punt. If Campbell holds the ball longer on that play, he may force an interception or get sacked or fumble, which give the Lions the ball in better field position if the Redskins punt.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 12:02pm

Sure, and Deangelo Williams ran a draw play for a 1st down on 3rd and 19 last night... Sometimes stuff works, but that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

- Seneca Wallace was also in a 0-0 ball game with 10:35 seconds in the 1st quarter.
- Seneca Wallace had fumbled on the previous play and they ran a low risk play.
- The Seahawks were at the Bears 39 yard line and JUST outside of field goal range. If the 3rd and 19 play picked up 10 yards... ( not a first down), then Seattle would be at the Bears 29 and would be able to attempt a 46 yard field goal for Mare who does have a strong leg... So even thought Seattle might not pick up the first down, those yards were very valuable because they were just outside of field goal range. Each marginal yard Julious Jones were to pick up, he'd increase the odds of Mare making a field goal...

When you are near the 50 yard line on 3rd and 21 in the 4th quarter, losing to an 0-19 team, picking up 2 yards, 7 yards, or even 10 yards don't really matter. You aren't really doing your punter a big favor ( where as Wallace picking up even 10 yards raises the odds of Mare making the field goal).

Julious Jones > Mike Sellers

Sure, you can argue against any individual check down you want, NOT throwing an interception is always good, but at some point you HAVE to take risk.

If you are ever going to throw an interception, 3rd and 21, from your own 40 yard line... throwing even a 22 yard interception at the sticks won't kill you. Throwing a ball further past the sticks could get a DPI or maybe even a catch when you have a 6'5" WR... Throwing a deep interception could act like a punt...

The point you need to take risk. If your QB never threw a pass he'd never throw an interception but he'd also never throw any touch downs. If your QB ONLY threw passes he'd throw TD passes but he'd also have interceptions ( minus Tom Brady in 2007).

There IS an optimal risk/reward level.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 9:01pm

You exaggerated the circumstances by saying that they were behind by 2 scores, which they weren't. They were down by 6 points. Down by 2 scores, I'd be more inclined to agree with you - though it was a bit early for 4-down territory.

"How come teams take 5 yard penalties on purpose sometimes when punting on the other teams 40 yard line?"

That's 20 yards away from where the Redskins were. I don't get the point of this comment.

"When you are at your own 40 yard line on 3rd and 21... Throwing a 2 yard check down ( that ends up +7 yards) did nothing. "

No, it did do something. It didn't end up in a sack. That's the entire point of a checkdown on 3rd and long - take the snap, nothing's there, check down or throw it away, and go ahead and punt. Avoid the sack, because at around the 40, you've got a good chance of pinning the other team inside the 20.

Like I said, go ask Seattle fans about a 3rd and long draw. They saw it *all the time*. It's a safe, simple play to avoid a bad consequence when punting can actually be a positive play. It's passive, but it's not terrible.

"The difference between kicking from the 45, 50, 45 is minimal. You don't gain anything from a field position standpoint as it's all very similar for the punter."

Just to clarify, we're not talking about the difference between 55, 50, and 45 yards to go (the 45, 50, 45). The play started off with 60 yards to go, and ended with 53. That's a little bit longer.

So are you trying to say that the difference between kicking with 60 yards to go is the same as kicking with 50-ish yards to go? If so, I really, really don't think you're correct. I'd really like to see any evidence that punts with 60 yards to go end up on average at the same location as punts with 50 yards to go, because given that the average punt is around 40-ish yards, I think the onus is on you to prove that it's the same.

Yardage before punting doesn't become useless until about 40 yards to go, at which point a punt has a strong chance of accidentally going into the endzone.

"It is the punter trying to pin the other team back deep inside their 20."

Which he did. If they didn't have that 7 yard pickup, Washington would've had to down a 45-yard punt (which is a lot less likely than a 38-yard punt) to end up at the same position.

Does this make that 7-yard pickup super-great? No, definitely not, but it's certainly not *nothing*.

by mattymatty :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:03pm

Ha ha! You sure showed DVOA a thing or two! I bet DVOA feels stupid now!

by mattymatty :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:03pm

Ha ha! You sure showed DVOA a thing or two! I bet DVOA feels stupid now!

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:08pm

You are now aware that the Giants offense is ranked 9th and the Redskins offense is ranked 20th as of week 2.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:49am

On the one hand, I never thought the 49ers would be good enough to play with a team as talented as the Vikings, particularly with our lone offensive star on the sidelines. So hurray, we could stay in the game.

On the other hand, every time I see these guys play, I think their offense is twice as good as the play calling is allowing them to be. Minnesota is stacking 8 or 9 in the box, and we keep running Coffee up the middle against the Williams Wall. What? Why? Why? Why? Every game we have a single drive where we decide to run off-tackle, play-action pass, occasionally pass on first down, and our pass:run ratio is about 8:1. That drive invariably scores a touchdown.

We lost this game at the end because of five runs up the gut by Coffee in six plays, leading to two three-and-outs. It was so moronic that I was screaming at my radio (while driving, which admittedly is a fun thing to do.) It makes me weep nostalgically for the days of our best recent O.C., Norv Turner.

On my third hand, which I'm keeping around here someplace, I have to say our defense looks like the real deal. This is three games in a row where they've rocked. Is it hard for a defense to look like it's rocking against the Viking offense? We looked good against the Cards and the Seahawks, too, and they both have fairly decent offenses.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:27am

bht, I wasn't surprised at all that the game was essentially a tie. Outside of the Vikings game against the Giants (and it likely will be a stroke of luck for the Vikings that they play them in week 17), neither team is likely to have an opponent that is better on the line of scrimmage. Believe me, I've seen plenty of football the last couple of years which features one-dimensional play calling, but
I also think that there is a tendency to underestimate the degree to which personnel dectates playcalling. The 49ers don't have outstanding wideouts, and that always limits playcalling somewhat.

I love Singletary's approach (look what effect he has had on Jordan!) to his team, after a loss like they experienced yesterday, and it really would be great if these two teams met again, in the playoffs.

by The Anonymous Commenter (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:45am

Someone's going to say it, so it may as well be me: the proper name for that third hand of yours is "gripping hand," as in "on the gripping hand,..."

And if you haven't read "The Mote in God's Eye", well, you may just possibly have more of a life than I do.

by Xorn (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:40pm

I most certainly do not have more of a life than you do. And I got the X-men reference. I win (lose?).

by Tim Wilson :: Thu, 10/01/2009 - 4:35pm

Outstanding reference. No word on whether or not Zorn will proceed to aimlessly decimate Manhattan and then get his head cut off by Trent Cole.

by RickD :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 10:47am

"Mote" rocks!

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:01pm

I can see what you are getting at with the playcalling, more passing before the final ten minutes might help and the Coffee dives for a loss of two were annoying. However, on the final drive Staley and Baas were injured and I had no desire to see Sims trying to block Jared Allen.

The D looks solid though, apart from the last two seconds.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:52pm

Agreed, there should have been more passing and less ramming Coffee into the line, but the 4th quarter was not a great time for it. I got very scared when i saw Sims and Wragge forming the left side of the line.

by navin :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:12pm

Gonna use this spot to repost some of my (updated) 49er thoughts from the game thread...

1) Dre Bly needs to hold on to that interception for a pick-6 and put the game away on Minnesota's next to last drive. Favre got away with so many bad throws with only one INT. I recall another drop by Nate Clements and a third by another member of the secondary.

2) Running three times into the line. At least run a PA fake bootleg on one of them. Even Detroit threw downfield to burn the clock. BHT touched on this above. I have no problem with running three times, I just wish there had been a qb bootleg or something like that. Minnesota was selling out up the middle, just one play fake bootleg would have probably converted.

3) Rush the passer on the last drive! Favre had forever to throw on the last drive. SF had been doing a wonderful job bringing pressure earlier in the game and on the last drive they just let him sit back and move the team down the field.

4) How DVOA accounts for the last Vikings play (Lewis TD) vs. how it will score the blocked FG touchdown. In my book they are both great plays that are unpredictable. However, DVOA will compare the passing TD to a normal 32 yard score when in reality it was a hail mary. Both should be labeled as non-predictable events, but in this case I guarantee the Vikings will come out looking better.

5) Minnesota defenders knowing the snap count... Early in the game the Vikings defensive line was getting off the ball amazingly fast. I swear that Jared Allen was offsides on the first play from scrimmage (strip sack). Hill needs to work on changing up his cadence.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:22pm

When the Vikings failed on 4th down, I was relieved to see they still had three timeouts left. I hoped and expected the 49ers to try run out the clock by just plowing Coffee into the front like they had all day to little effect, and thought there was at least a chance to get the ball back (not that I really expected the miraculous ending, but it was a chance).

Regarding the 49er defense, I was impressed. I think the strategy to stop Peterson is pretty basic: plug the middle to make him break outside, make sure outside defenders are in a position to bottle him, and tackle well. The 49ers seem to have the personnel to make it work. I'm not sure about the pass defense though: there were several misconnections to open receivers (either inaccurate throws or drops), and the Viking pass protection has been sketchy (at best) through three games.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:40pm

True, the Vikings left a few good completions on the field, especially from Berrian. What's up with him and Favre? But the 49ers also left 2 or 3 interceptions out there, of the sort where the ball bounces off the defender's hands.

I'm not convinced our receivers are that bad. When we use them with any kind of intelligence, they make their share of plays. It's in the 3rd-and-long situations that we fall apart. 0 for 11 on third downs, yeesh.

This is the first time I've seen the Vikings play in a while. I can't tell if they're particularly strong up the middle, or if our abysmal play calling was simply allowing them to play the run.

While I'm fantastically irritated at how we lost this game (through O.C. stupidity, it seems to me), I'm still shocked we could play this kind of game against a good team. Maybe we're a decent team ourselves. It's taking a while to sink in.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:49pm

I'm tellin' ya', it will not be a shocker to see the Niners clinch the division by week 16.

by navin :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 5:23pm

Good point on the 3rd down conversions. I wouldn't put that entirely on the passing game. A lot of those were 3rd and shorts--I was very frustrated at the lack of conversion on 3rd and 1 or 3rd and 3...

As for the open receivers. I think the defense was gearing towards stopping Peterson and daring Favre to win the game (which he did in the end); however, the strategy did work fairly well for 59 minutes. That final touchdown was the only points that the Vikings offense scored in the second half.

by RobinFiveWords (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:41am

Robbie Gould's first quarter field goal attempt was from 53 yards, into a 5-yard wind (judging by the difference between Seattle's first and second quarter kickoffs). His career long is 49. Why did Lovie Smith think this was a good idea? The kick bounced in the end zone.

by Nate :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:50am

Horrible coaching decision. It was like 4th and 5 or 6, right? Should have gone for it.

Also, the Cardinal's LT is Mike Gandy, not Wayne Gandy. Former horrible Bear.

by TomC :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:26am

Agreed on all counts. The decision to try the FG is especially puzzling given the previous play --- the decision to throw 40 yards into the end zone on 3rd and 5 only makes sense if you're prepared to go for it on 4th down.

And I can't believe someone watched tape of the 2004 Bears and thought: "Oh yeah, there's my left tackle."

One quibble about the CHI/SEA FO comments: Cutler got hit in the back as he released that ball to Knox that was intercepted. (Brought to you by the Chicago Chapter of Cutler Apologists, TomC founder and president.)

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:18pm

I actually think the Bears should have punted after that first failed possession. The special teams had just given them excellent field position, and after the offense sputtered, why not keep the field position advantage?

The interception was mostly on Cutler - he really should just eat the ball there - but it wasn't an absolutely terrible decision. Knox was open and Cutler didn't force the throw (as you pointed out, he was hit as he threw), and Knox didn't help matters by tipping the ball upward, allowing the Seattle linebacker to make the pick.

Cutler has impressed me without being flashy, so far. The offense has been moving the ball well, and I particularly like that they consistently get 4+ yards on first down passes (though it was more evident last week against the Steelers). My fear was that the Bears would wind up having more Grossman-esque boom-or-bust offensive series, but that hasn't really been the case.

by Chip :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:39pm

Can you imagine how bad this team would be with Orton under center still? Cutler has carried this team so far. They have one or two slightly above avg. skill players (TE, RB) on offense and absolutely no offensive line - I fully expect them to be ranked #32 on ALY when full opponent adjustments kick in. The defense can't get pressure with the front four against bottom quartile offensive lines. Wait until they play a team with a good O-line.

On the good side: The offensive and defensive play calling have been generally pretty good (yes Turner is making do with what he has). The LB corp looks nice even without Urlacher. The secondary with Tillman / Bowman remain uninjuried and thus solid starters.

But they remain a 9-7 playoff bubble team that had a little opponent FG luck along the way.

by TomC :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:18pm

Your words hurt. But I am afraid they contain a nonzero amount of truth.

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:27pm

Agreed, Orton would be dead-to-rights behind this line. I'm cautiously optimistic that as they play together more, the line will improve, but I'm not necessarily counting on it.

While the defensive line hasn't been good at generating pressure, I do like that Lovie has been calling even more blitzes. They were getting pressure on Wallace, but he was using his legs nicely (and Seattle was calling lots of waggles and rollouts, it seemed); and they did force him into several bad decisions, as chronicled above in some of the Audibles.

Chris comments about Seattle's excellent linebacking depth below, and he's right, but I think the Bears also displayed their good depth. Roach is their third-string MLB, and he had a very good game. Jamar Williams filled in adequately when needed, as well.

My gut feeling that losing Urlacher might be a blessing has been somewhat correct; I felt that the staff wasn't willing to accept Urlacher was on the downside of his career and was still asking him to do too much, to the overall detriment of the defense. With him out, the coaching staff has to be more vanilla with their linebacker coverages, which has worked out in their favor so far (the middle zone wasn't there for Seattle for most of the game).

The Bears do look like a 9-7 team so far, but also factor in their schedule. The Packers are a good team, the Steelers are a very good team, and the Seahawks are a mediocre team that has very good homefield advantage. I think 11-5 is still a very real possibility for the Bears.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:33pm

My gut feeling that losing Urlacher might be a blessing has been somewhat correct

Totally disagree, as soon as Urlacher left the Packers game, they could run. The Steelers had a couple runs against us, and Seattle had a decent running game against us. We would have the best run defense in the league right now if Urlacher was healthy. He's also a much better blitzer than who ever is behind him.

by Nate :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:42pm

I think we miss Urlacher most in coverage, honestly. The holes in the mid-field zones look a lot bigger once Urlacher leaves.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:53pm

Well we definitely missed him on the Julius Jones TD, but we shutdown Carlson and it was Nate Burleson who was killing us. Don't know how much Urlacher would help with that.

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:01pm

Ugh, the Jones touchdown may be the single most infuriating play I can remember under Lovie's tenure. From the blowing of a third-and-nineteen situation, to it being a touchdown, to Tillman delivering a high blow in the hopes of a turnover (did I mention it was third and nineteen and a simple tackle gets the Bears the ball back?), it was a comedy of poor execution.

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:56pm

I think we'll have to agree to disagree, tuluse, because I definitely respect your opinions here, so here goes my argument:

I actually think that Hillenmeyer and Roach being worse blitzers is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, yeah, they're not as good at getting to the quarterback. However, they are also getting sent less (Briggs and Manning or a safety are being sent more). Following this logic, they are also showing blitz less, enabling them to play farther off the line and get back to the middle zone more quickly.

That was Urlacher's problem last year; he and Briggs would often dance near the line of scrimmage, as the defensive call dictated, and while Briggs was quick enough to get back into coverage, an aging Urlacher was not. Since the coaching staff doesn't have the overconfidence and deference to Roach and Hillenmeyer that they do towards Urlacher, they are more capable of filling their assignments.

The run defense has slipped a bit, I agree, but I would always trade off run defense for pass defense, provided the run defense doesn't fall apart completely (which it hasn't). The Bears' defensive line may be inadequate at pressuring the quarterback, but they're disciplined and play the run well.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:01pm

I can see your point, unfortunately the problem isn't with Urlacher, but with the coaches. It would have been interesting to see how Lovie would have used him this year calling the plays himself though.

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:03pm

Yes, it was a coaching problem (for not realizing 2008 Brian Urlacher is not the same as 2005 Brian Urlacher). I do have more confidence in Lovie calling the defensive plays, so it would have been interesting to see how Urlacher was used this year. I may have wound up being wrong, in which case, that would have been awesome.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:04pm

I think the major reason Urlacher (and Briggs) was being used to mug the line was down to the injuries that limited Tommie Harris. Harris still foesn't seem to tbe 100% but does look better, I suspect that as the season (and Harris' knee) progresses the Bears will want to blitz less and drop more.

To me the last two and a half games demonstrate exactly how good and valuable #54 is to the Bears defense. It isn't just that the backups aren't quite as good, it is that the Bears asked Urlacher to do things that most MLBs in the game would find nearly impossible (ie line up at the line and then cover a deep third) and they asked him to do this stuff nearly all the time. He was used almost like defensive polyfiller to smooth over any cracks in the unit. His loss for the season leaves a huge void in the middle of the defense that isn't going to get any smaller for 11 months.

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:26pm

"It isn't just that the backups aren't quite as good, it is that the Bears asked Urlacher to do things that most MLBs in the game would find nearly impossible (ie line up at the line and then cover a deep third) and they asked him to do this stuff nearly all the time."

That's why I wasn't too bothered when Urlacher went down. It's not that he's any worse than Hillenmeyer or Roach (in fact, he's definitely better than them) at any single skill. Rather, the coaching staff asked too much of him because he's Brian Urlacher, who used to be able to do anything asked of him, and often appeared to be in multiple places at once.

However, he's not that guy any more, and last year, the coaching staff didn't quite realize that. My ideal situation would have been for Urlacher to stay healthy, but be asked to do less. That would utilize his now-diminishing skills properly. However, he was asked to perform like he did from 2001-2005.

I guess my point it this: let's say Urlacher is still an 85/100 linebacker; he was being asked to do things only 90+ linebackers are able to do and counting on his play to make up for other players, who might be taking more risks. Hillenmeyer and Roach are 65/100 linebackers, but the coaching staff is only asking them to do things that other 65/100 linebackers can do, then asking other, better players (i.e. Briggs) to make up for them.

I don't want to come across as harsh on Urlacher. He's still an extremely valuable linebacker, as long as too much is not asked of him.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:44pm

I think the Bears have played like a 9-7 team and look like a 9-7 team but they have a new QB and just lost their starting MLB. I'd expect as Cutler gets more comfortable and the team finds what works on offense ( and which receivers will step up)... they should get better. The Bears/Pack/Vikings have the advantage of an easy schedule this year ( or so it looks) and it wouldn't shock me to see Green Bay do very well record wise ( or even Chicago). Basically, the Bears might look like a 9-7 team now, but they should get better as the year goes on and their last 2 wins were not bad at all and they did fight with GB in week 1 despite all the mistakes that you'd expect from a brand spanking new QB with his new teammates.

Hasselback and injuries aside ( but Wallace played alright), winning @ Seattle was impressive considering the circumstances. This was the 4PM game I watched and I did like what I saw from Cutler and the Bears. The pick wasn't his fault, and Seattles defense was strong at home.

If I were a Bears fan I'd be optimistic about this year and beyond. You have a good head coach, a good QB, and a historically good defense with a good homefield advatnage (especially for a strong armed Cutler)... I think your GM overall "gets it" too. I want to see how Cutler plays in that wind later in the year when he should have a clear advantage over weaker armed quarterbacks.

by Independent George :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:17pm

If I were a Bears fan I'd be optimistic about this year and beyond. You have a good head coach, a good QB, and a historically good defense with a good homefield advatnage (especially for a strong armed Cutler)... I think your GM overall "gets it" too. I want to see how Cutler plays in that wind later in the year when he should have a clear advantage over weaker armed quarterbacks.

Is it me, or do the Bears sound an awful lot like the Philadelphia Eagles circa 2001?

I would also add that it's a heck of a lot harder to find a good QB and a good HC than it is to re-tool a defense. I don't see the Bears being a Super Bowl threat this year, but I think they're going to be dangerous for years to come.

by Chip :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:15pm

It's funny you say that. I'm considerly more optimistic for the future than for the present season.

Lovie is an above average coach. Certainly not top 5, but he probably rounds out the top ten. His strength is not as a gameday manager, making half-time adjustments, etc.. It's the strategic planning leading up to gameday and getting his guys to play hard, which is probably 90% of coaching. Turner is far better than his reputation. Tanier has never been one to complement the Bears, yet even he was quite complementary of Turner's strategy / play-calling (here)

Angelo probably rounds out the top 10 GM's as well. He's become more conservative / conventional with his top picks and taken to "stock-picking" in the later rounds where he does consistently well. They draft for need and the FO seems to work well with the coaching staff, finding the right kind of prospects that the coaching staff wants. Bobby Depaul has done an excellent job in free agency and I hope they don't lose him soon.

I'd trade a tenured FO / coaching staff that rounds out the top ten rather than spin the roulette wheel on the flavor-of-the-week assistant coach (Haley, Spags, McDaniels, Schwartz, R.Morris) only half of which will make decent head coaches and only 1-in-50 will become the next Belichick.

The only problem for this team over the next two years is that you have needs at many positions: C, LG, OLT/ORT (depending on how Williams fares), MLB, RDE, LDE, and DT.

by Quincy :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 8:43pm

I agree with the general sentiment. A good QB and competent head coach/front office puts you in position to contend for 8-10 years. I don't think the comparison to the 2001 Eagles holds up yet because the Eagles had their bookend offensive tackles already in place and had more ascending or still-in-their-prime defenders than the Bears currently do. But one good defensive draft and a key offensive line addition could make up the difference in a single off-season.

by brodelicious :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:01pm

As a Bears fan I would like to agree with most of your thoughts. Unfortunately after watching every snap of 3 regular season and 2 preseason games I just can't.

I agree on the issue of Cutler becoming more comfortable. But I think Cutler's comfort with the offense will only be matched by opponent's familiarity with inherent O-line weaknesses.
The historical nature of the defense's dominance is rearing it's head in the present. Age, injuries and scheme are like an extra blocker for most opponent's offensive lines. There does not seem to be any consistent push any more. If you look at the defense from 2005 and 2006 it is a night and day comparison.

Which leads me to the comment about about our GM who "gets it". Often times I feel like Angelo hangs on to hope for the bargain player far too long, or he overpays for talent and refuses to let more talented players take over because of a poor investment in the past. This is the case with the secondary (Mike Brown, Nathan Vasher etc.) and the O-line (Frank Omiyale in particular). Angelo has a tendency to try to "out think the room". In some cases he ends up looking like a genius (drafting Devin Hester in the 2nd and Johnny Knox in the 5th round). But in others you just end up scratching your head (Overpaying for 2nd string Panther lineman Omiyale).
On the plus side...Lance Briggs is a beast. 1 sack ,1 interception, multiple tackles for loss (3 I think), and a fumble recovery. If he doesn't get defensive player of the week there is no justice in the NFL.
I am optimistic about the development of young offensive talent at the skill positions (Olsen, Bennet, Hester, Forte and Knox all look to be promising). At the same time I'm horrified at what the front office has allowed to happen to the Bears aging Offensive line. Going on three years now they have refused to address the issue early in the draft.
The Bears have a shot at 10-5, but I would be much more surprised at 10-5 then I would be at 7-9. There just seems to be too much good fortune to the Bears wins thus far.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:08pm

Chris Williams

by brodelicious :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:17pm

True to form Angelo took a risk on a player with known health issues. Now we have a 2nd year player who is really in the first year of his development, because 1) he sat out with back spasms most of his first year and 2)he was moved to the opposite end of the line to accommodate a stop gap solution in Orlando Pace. A legendary stop gap, but a short term one nonetheless.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:33pm

Omiyale is starting to wind me up. Every time the Bears try to pull him around the right side he ends up jogging along getting a freat view of the linebacker he is supposed to be blocking tackling Forte. Garza has also had issues with making the wrong decision on which guy to block in space. By my reckoning though Kreutz and Pace are both getting out to the second level pretty well and doing some damage when they get there although Pace has struggled when left on an island against speed rushers. Williams needs to get more consistent which may or may not come with experience but at the moment he is missing too many blocks. I do think the biggest problem with the line right now is a lack of understanding between them. To an extent this has happened to Bears' lines coached by Heistand before and they generally start to sort things out.

It would also help the running game if McKie stopped playing patty-cake with opposing LBs and started lead blocking properly but that one isn't happening.

by TomC :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 5:40pm

Agreed on Omiyale. He's been brutal. I personally enjoy his whiff blocks on screen passes, which cause half the bar I'm at to scream at Turner for calling a dumb-ass short pass on 2nd- or 3rd-and-long, when in fact the playcall was dead right.

by Independent George :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 1:49pm

Maybe he's just playing a lot of Madden, and he thinks that's how offensive linemen are supposed to block?

by Chip :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:24pm

11-5 is a huge stretch. I'm homer like the rest, but look at their schedule: 3 high probabilities losses remain (vs. PHI, @MIN, @BAL), which leaves you with at least 4 losses. Assuming you win the games that you should (DETx2, vs. GB (?), vs. CLE, vs. ARI, vs. STL) - which is inevitably a stretch - you pick up 6 wins. Which means four games define your season, three of which are on the road [@ATL, @CIN, @SF, vs. MIN]. At best you split them, leaving you at 10-6 on a good day. A stumble or two against the teams you should beat and bad stretch against the critical four and you're on the outside looking in at Brett Favre in purple wearing the NFCN crown.

Put it another way, they've scored 57 points and allowed 54 in three games. Small sample size aside, that's a 0.500 ballclub per the Pythagorean theorem.

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:32pm

I said 11-5 is a possibility, not a likelihood. Quite a few "true" 9-7 teams finish 11-5 every year, just like a few of them finish 7-9. Both are very real possibilities for this Bears team.

by Chip :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:49pm

I think 11-5 is still a very real possibility for the Bears.

And I still think that's a huge stretch. Yeah, they've benefited from 4 missed FGs in the 35-40 yard range which are normally hit at an 80% clip, but at some point that luck evens out. A quick look at the schedule and early DVOA indications (which aren't kind so far), says that 7-9 is more likely than 11-5. Indeed, 11-5 is very low probability (as is 7-9) not a very real possiblity.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:06pm

Gould has made a 52 yarder, but it was called back due to a penalty.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:41am

Favre has been the topic of more bad sports punditry than any other subject over the past fifteen years. The mindless Favreophilia, combined with the, well, unique way Favre has managed his career the last couple of years, has prompted mindless Favreophobia, like the moron on CBSsports.com who ripped Favre for his last touchdown pass yesterday.

Yeah, the guy has been stupidly careless with the ball at times, but he still makes ridiculously good throws, and his teammates respond to him. Has any guy benefitted more from great catches by non-great receivers? Perhaps it is just perception or chance, but it seems to have been going on for a long time.

Top it off with a play that may be truly unique, like when he threw a laser on a skinny post at his own goal line, and then ran forty yards (at age forty!) downfield, to knock a Pro Bowl linebacker off his feet, well, it really is pretty bizarre stuff. I still think he's gonna get hurt, but I'll enjoy the show for now.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:51am

Will that play stood out to me the most.

That throw was an absolute rocket on a line! That was on a key down, with his team down, and it was very unique for an old QB to sprint down there like a youth football player and dive at the legs of one of the top LB's in the game. I didn't see that one the highlight shows but THAT'S why people love Favre.

by Flounder :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:54am

It'll be interesting next week. I kinda expect Green Bay to get rolled, as their run defense and offensive line play are still a disaster. You never know with these games though. Since the advent of the Williams Wall, Green Bay has inexplicably run it down Minnesota's throat on more than one occasion. They're very hard games to predict.

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:06pm

The problem I have with the Favre coverage is neither the phobia nor the philia, it's the volume of commentary that is not really about Favre at all, but rather about the other media coverage of Favre (I guess that makes this self-referential). 'Everybody else is going to say...', except most of the time, what everybody else is saying is yet another comment on what everybody else is saying.

It was a very good drive and good clock management, topped off with a nice scramble and both a great pass (where Lewis and only Lewis could catch it), a good catch and an unbelievable job of keeping his feet in bounds (which adds up to a great catch). Credit well-deserved by both parties.

And almost all the comments in the original 'audibles' are about the media. I greatly appreciate this site and the mass of terrific information you guys provide, as well as the intelligent commentary; I assume a few selected e-mails don't capture everything, but I'm hoping you guys actually ENJOY an exciting game like that more than comes across here.

by The Anti-Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:46am

No, Jacksonville most definitely wants none of Brian Williams back. However, Williams has some history of performing well against Moss (e.g., 2007 divisional playoffs).

by chuck d (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:52am

this is chuck d.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:15am

Cool. You going to bring the noise?

by The Anti-Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:34pm

Don't believe the hype

by Temo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:58am

Bill Barnwell: Aaron can attest to the size of my place.

Is it wrong that my juvenile mind replaced "place" with another word and then I giggled?

Also, free Javon Ringer.

by Tarrant :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:58am

While it certainly wasn't all Jason Campbell, I am often stunned by his poor decision making. Living in DC, I get to see it week after week.

I can just imagine the hardcore Redskins fans out here going crazy watching him throw another 3-yard pass on 3rd and 8, with a receiver open past the sticks. Sure, some quarterbacks are Captain Checkdown, but Campbell seems to go for the checkdown option more and more as the pressure gets to him - in times when the last thing they need is a 4-yard completion, even when it isn't necessary to take the safety valve option.

Yesterday, he threw a 2-yard pass on 3rd and 20, and on the final drive, with 8 seconds left, needing either a touchdown, a quick incomplete, or an out-of-bounds pass, on 4th and 10 about 30 yards from the end zone - and after a Detroit timeout gave the Redskins "extra" time to come up with a play - he throws a 7-yard completion to a receiver with multiple defenders converging, leading to the receiver quickly trying to lateral for a Cal-Stanford (or Boise State-Oklahoma) style play, which is quickly quashed to end the game.

Hell, even had there been a bit more time for another play, he didn't even throw past the first down marker.

Were I Zorn, during that timeout all I'd be saying is "Jason, they're only rushing three - assume we can't do sideline, they'll be guarding for that. Watch the end zone. No checkdowns, no screen passes. End zone. You know, that place we can't seem to find, even with a map?"

Brett Favre managed the last-second long completion. Sure, it won't work out every time, but at least make the pass!

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:18am

Thank you !!! Somebody actually watches the games. This is what I've been saying for years...

In the 4th Quarter, you are at your own 40 on 3rd and 20... You need to get to the other teams 40... Why on earth would you throw a 2 yard check down? Mike Sellers has a very small chance of picking up the yards, and the 5 yards in field position don't really help your punter at all. At least TRY and win the game and pick up the first down. Do you think those yards helped your punter to move from the 40 to the 45?

If you throw the ball downfield YES, you might have a pick which can act like a punt... It's not as bad as throwing a pick on say 1st down from your own 20 yard line...

You might actually convert it to one of your receivers OR you might get a DPI.

Then even later on 3rd and 5 Campbell throws the 0-1 yard checkdown to Santana Moss.... I mean this stuff is great for your stats but horrible for winning games. Getting the completion and the yards looks nice but come on.

If you picked up the stat sheet and saw Campbells stats ( the garbage yards included), you might not think he's the problem but just watch the games? Throwing 2 yard passes on 3rd and long is this guy's mantra. Sometimes your back runs and picks up the 1st down but usually not. Keep in mind the defenses he was playing too. Rams, Lions, and Giants ( garbage yards) and with exception to the Moss TD, the guy is picking up garbage yards at the end of games...

Checkdowns and garbage yards = Jason Campbell.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:34pm

"... Why on earth would you throw a 2 yard check down? "

I thought it was a terrible play on Cambell's part, but why were multiple pass catchers hanging around near the LOS? Its tough to throw downfield when most of your targets are sitting 2 yards away.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:55pm

Doesn't the assumption here have to be that it wasn't a checkdown, it was a planned play that way? There were too many players hanging around the line of scrimmage for it to be a checkdown of any sort. That was, for good or ill, a called play. A very badly called play, yes, but it's not like Campbell was dumping it off in a panic.

by Greg Trippiedi :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:00pm

I think if you are looking to the result of 3rd and 20 plays for examples of what is/is not right with the Redskins offense, you're badly missing the point.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:55am

I don't really disagree, but Favre's grasp of distance and clock is even better than the last pass shows. The completion prior, a seemingly innocuous eight yard clock-stopper to the sideline, was critical as well. Favre mentioned after the game that he wanted, prior to throwing to the end zone, to get close enough that he could go for the td while throwing a pass with very little arc. He thought that this gave his receivers a much better chance to only have to outfight one defender for the ball. I guess it helps to have been in the situation many times prior, while still having enough of a fastball to execute the plan.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 5:22pm

"Yesterday, he threw a 2-yard pass on 3rd and 20"

The Redskins were down 6 at the time. They had plenty of time left (the 4th quarter had just started). They were on their own 40. They've got a decent punter. The likelihood of them converting a 3rd and 20 is pretty low. The likelihood of Campbell getting sacked trying to convert a 3rd and 20... higher. Campbell took the safe route, which, I'm *sure* Zorn told him to do.

And for the record, the punter pinned the other team within the 20. The defense held them to a 3 and out. And the Redskins got the ball back *in better field position than they had when they punted*.

I don't really argue about the final play of the game being bad, but it looked intentional. Otherwise you don't normally have receivers that close to each other when you need that much yardage. If that was Campbell's decision, it sucked, but I don't think it was.

by JasonK :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:10am

Hidden stat of the week: The Giants didn't get any sacks against Tampa, but, according to the NFL.com gamebook, they had 10 QB hits. And that's in a game where the Bucs only threw 26 passes. The Bucs really really miss Jeff Faine. Fred Robbins was eating their interior OL alive, and Mathias Kiwanuka had a very nice game on the outside.

The bad news for the Giants is that both Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie left the game. Severity of injuries is TBD. (Although Kevin Boothe and Will Beatty did an OK job at LG and RT, respectively.)

I was in a sports bar in suburban MD for the early games. There was one brave Lions fan there (wearing a Dre Bly jersey, of all things). He had a fun day.

by Quincy :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 8:33pm

I know Leftwich was rushed into some bad throws and made some more entirely on his own, but does anyone else think that all of the draft picks the Giants have spent on the secondary are finally paying off and the unit has gone from a weakness to a strength? Webster has become one of the NFC's best corners, I think Thomas has a lot of potential as well and Johnson and Johnson both look like solid complimentary players. They should have the top-rated pass defense after three weeks and with Canty out, Tuck injured, and Osi not looking like his old self yet, their pass rush really hasn't been the reason. Granted, the real test will be 3 weeks from now against the Saints, but so far I'm encouraged.

by Anger...rising (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:14am

Even as someone who detests the Patriots, it was thrilling to see a move that ballsy, juxtaposed as it was with Smith's decision to punt on 4th-and-5 from the New England 38 just moments before. And then the punt on 4th-and-4 with seven minutes left, trailing by two scores. Ugh.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:16am

The GB/St Louis section is short, but sufficiently covers the topic.

by BostonHawk (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:17am

Ned Macey:

I don't think the choice was between a 50 yard FG and 3rd and 13. If the Detroit coach is as smart as FO says he is, he probably would have gone for it on 4th and 3 and had roughly a 40-50% chance of converting. a 3rd and 13 should be a pretty good situation for the defense against a rookie QB. it should be a risky situation for the offense that might lead to an INT or sack. gotta play the odds and Zorn seems to do that better than most head coaches.

by Xorn (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:28am

Aaron, great comparison of Jerry Jones to Magneto/Xorneto. But unfortunately, only about 1% of the readers of this site are as nerdy as us to get it. Still, excellent comic drop.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:44am

I think you are seriously underestimating the nerd factor at this site.

by Basilisk (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:18pm


by PatsFan :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:09pm

Ah! An old-school Captain Britain fan! I'd recognize that Crazy Gang member's laugh anywhere.

by Tim Wilson :: Thu, 10/01/2009 - 4:36pm

Think that was actually still a reference to the same Morrison Xorn story. That was how the gooney guy Basilisk with one eye laughed.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:03pm

Seriously. And it's not like the X-men mythology is all that outside mainstream culture. I have seen much geekier references on this site, and I'm sure I've missed dozens more due to my (considerable) geekery level being insufficient to the task.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:28am

> Ned Macey: Tim Hightower gained 22 yards on nine carries against the Colts. Maybe he's a good receiving back, but he just is not a feature back.

Also, Arizona seemed to be trying to go downfield too much against the Colts. It is as if they didn't watch the last six years of tape. You can get 7-yard completions at will, but if you're throwing 15 to 20 yards down the field, you will get sacked/hit, and you will turn the ball over.

Agreed. Everybody knows the you can run on the Colts defense, but that they are built to defend the pass with 2 good pass rushers, and a decent defensive secondary, under sized pass coverage LB's but you can easily run on them.

I finally get it.

If the Colts are winning and you have to pass against them, it's not going to happen, you are playing against their defensive strength. They don't really get into shoot outs like they used to back in the day.

If you get into low scoring games... Maybe even games where Peyton has the ball 15 minutues and less than 10 possessions... You will have to slowly and methodically move down the field, 5 yards at a time running the ball, and then score red zone TD's intead of FG's.

Bill Pollian still didn't beef up the defense because he feels like as weak as the Colts run Defense can be... that he still bets that Peyton Manning is more likely to score/convert red zone ops than the opponents and their chinese water torture 5 yards at a time. You have to execute over and over and over again...

Much like Bill Bellicheck WANTING Thurman Thomas to get 100 yards in the Giants/Bills super bowl ( it means Jim Kelly and the offense won't torch you)... The Colts tempt and WANT you to try and execute over and over and over again, because they feel like that Machine they have at QB will beat you at that game....

The Colts run defense sucks because they want it that way. You still have to convert in the Red Zone, and you have to be more efficient than Manning in close games ( not easy), and you have little to no chance in games you are behind in because that's what they are built to stop. THAT's why the run D sucks, and THAT's why the always kept drafting Corners/Safeties and trying to refine that secondary when it wasn't that bad...

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:09pm

I don't know about the Colts actually WANTING their run defense to be bad, but otherwise, yeah, this is what Colts fans have known for some time. The Colts' entire defensive philosophy is based around preventing big plays. They'll give up 6-7 plays all day long if you're willing to take it.

The bet is that the opposing offense can't successfully execute 10+ plays in a row without screwing up along the way -- a penalty, a sack, getting greedy and making a risky pass, whatever. Then you're in 2nd or 3rd and long, and you have to pass, which is what they want. That's when the sacks and turnovers happen.

Meanwhile, the Colts' offense is hopefully gouging the opposing defense for a few early scores, putting you in a situation like we had last night against the Cardinals. They had to go to a pass-only offense in the second half, and the pass rush (particularly Freeney) went wild.

It doesn't always go according to plan, but the overall results have been better than average over the years. I'm not sure why other teams don't do it. It's a pretty simple system to implement. Just acquire one of the best QBs ever, a few other hall-of-famers on offense, and go kick some tail. Piece of cake.

by Purds :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:30pm

All true. Except, Manning usually takes a few series to figure out a good defense, and if that defense has a QB efficient enough to take what the Colts are giving ("Brady!" -- said with my best Seinfeldian "Newman!" hiss), then the Colts are behind early and in trouble.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:30pm

Yeah I agree.

They are counting on the turnover/penalties, maybe a lucky stop of the run/3rd and long before you can execute 10 plays (This isn't really new news)... This defense isn't build to stop runs and get 3 and outs... I've known that but I don't think they care that their run D isn't very good.

Instead of stopping the run/having trouble with the pass and getting into 31 - 34 type ball games. They said we'll have less possessions on offense ( with a super efficient QB), you'll have less possessions on offense than a normal game... and you'll have to execute over and over and over gain and slowly beat us.

If they get a lead, great.

If they don't get a lead, you'll have to be more efficient than Manning amd that's not easy to do weak run D and all.

by ammek :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:43am

The 1984 Browns' top two quarterbacks were Paul McDonald and Tom Flick. I don't know who was #3, but he didn't take a snap, so let's assume he wasn't very good.

Going back a bit, the 1972 Packers made the playoffs behind the trifecta of Scott Hunter (career rating 55.2), Jerry Tagge (44.2) and the legendary Frank Patrick (14.2).

Who was the third Charger QB behind Craig Whelihan and Ryan Leaf in 1998?

Why are the Rams killing, killing Mike Tanier?

by Paul A (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:20pm

Yeah, I went to their playoff game. The late, great George Allen had the Skins play a 5 man front and dared the Packers to pass. Skins won 16-3.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:24pm

Man, that was a game that really triggered my interest in the strategic aspects of football. Until then, I was a kid who loved to root for my favorite team. George Allen made me start to think about how teams won.

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:40pm

I remember that game and I remember that Packers team. I've often referenced that season as evidence of the limits of a running game, no matter how good it is (and the Packers, with Brockington and Lane were formidable), without some kind of passing game to keep defenses honest.

5 down linemen. And that was the end of that.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:49am

Byron Leftwich was 7/16 for 22 yards and 1 INT.

Wait, I need to repeat that.

Byron Leftwich was 7/16 for 22 yards and 1 INT.

I never thought I'd say these words as a Tampa fan, but I really miss the Bruce Gradkowski era.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:54am

That is positively Russellesque. Which is appropriates since the primary reason Russell is still playing is the aforementioned Gradkowski.

by JasonK :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:41pm

... and now he's benched. Josh Johnson to start.

by cjfarls :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:52am

Tom - Thanks for the AFC-W coverage. We really do appreciate the effort.

Bill - Thanks for being a Jack-A$$. Was the sniping really necessary?

While I don't think Denver is a great team by any stretch, I hope the 3-0 start can firmly dispel any rumors of Denver being the worst team in the NFL. While they could easily lose 7 out of the next 8 games coming up due to a killer schedule, the team has never been an OAK, KC, CLE, etc... regardless of what the punditry in the mainstream media is telling you.

Denver is the same as they have been the past few years... a mediocre team with a elite O-line, excellent WRs/TEs, and generally young, high-potential players elsewhere. But anyone thinking Seattle would have the #1 pick next year really wasn't paying attention to the fact that DEN gets the luck of playing OAK and KC twice each a year.

I understand why the DVOA projection doesn't like them... replacing 8 of 11 starters and the coordinator on defense is not a typical harbinger of success... but it also has no way of understanding that the players/coaches replaced were such infamous talents as Nate Webster and Bob Slowik.

That is why many of us have said "you're not paying attention".

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:54am

Yes it was completely necessary. You really are an awful whiner.

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:29pm

Three cheers for the AFC West coverage! Zero cheers for crack the Jack-A$$. (Hmm... "Crack the Jack-A$$" sounds like an amazingly disturbing party game...)

Maybe someday someone will end up on staff here that is actually partial to the Broncos, but in the meantime I'll just enjoy Denver continually outperforming expectations. The only way I can possibly eat my hat now is if they go 0-13 down the stretch.

by MJK :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:58pm

...and there goes the Denver season.

by Temo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:01pm

There's really no need for the "$$" when there's no automatic censor on this site and the moderation will edit/delete your post if they want to whether you use dollar signs or actual letters.

Might as well get your money's worth.

by Bobman :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:13pm

Ass! ASS! ASS!

Damnm, that felt good. Thanks for the tip, Temo.

Now, to borrow a line from Buster Bluth, "Mother's nothing but a BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP horny old slut. And a BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP...."

Sometimes the bleeps, and the horrified reactions of others, are better than what they might actually say.....

by morganja :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:57am

I can't believe they overturned that fumble for a touchdown in New England. The replay clearly showed the game was in New England and that the Patriots had scored. They owed it to NE after that horrible, violent hit on Brady that drew the roughing the passer flag. It's just a miracle the poor guy wasn't carted off.

by Esperanto Slim (not verified) :: Wed, 09/30/2009 - 3:08pm

Gosh, you're funny.

Know any good ways to work the word 'cheat' into their names? That's the kind of crackerjack wit I'm waiting for.

by Tim (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:08pm

Can anybody point me to the origin of the bet Mike and Aaron had regarding Kevin Kolb?

by zerlesen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:09pm

Doug: "Mora may be a good defensive coordinator in a vacuum, but I really don’t believe he has the makeup to be a top-tier head coach. He’s a high-energy guy no matter what – rah-rah if everything’s going right, and completely scattershot if things aren’t going his way."

This has kind of been my fear about the McDaniels era in Denver following the Offseason of Doom. On the one hand, everyone's saying the right sorts of things for now, on the other hand we're still very much in the "rah-rah" stage. We'll see whether and how the upcoming losses affect things.

(Mind you, given that as recently as 59 minutes into the Cincy game I wouldn't have ruled out a full-on crater of a 2-14 season, I have to say this year has already exceeded my expectations.)

by navin :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:14pm

Has Denver really been *that* much better than expected? They had an incredibly lucky fluke win against Cincinnati in a game where they were severely outplayed. That was followed up by wins against the two of the four worst teams in the NFL (counting the Rams and Bucs as the other two).

I'll be impressed if Denver stays competitive in the next four games.

by cjfarls :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:21pm

I think you're right... its only much better than expected if you thought DEN would be one of the worst teams in the NFL, which was a good media story line but not very well supported in fact.

The next 4 games will say alot... I expect 3 or 4 losses. If they continue winning, than they really will be better than expected...

by cjfarls :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:34pm

Also, did you actually watch the Cincy-DEN game? I didn't see the VOA on the game, but I wouldn't say Cincy absolutely outplayed them... DEN was ahead for all but one drive of the game... Yes, DEN's offense was way out of sync, but they were up 6-0 w/about 5 min left play before Cincy had 1 single successful drive (this occurring after a bad KO sack knocked them out of range for a FG that would've put them up by 9 and essentially sealed it.)

Yes, a miracle play bailed them out for the W in the end, but its not like Cincy wasn't looking just as bad all game.

by Vandal :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:17pm

After week 1, DEN had a DVOA of 3.6% and CIN had a DVOA of 5.1%. The game was a coin toss, and it was in CIN.

What this season has taught us is:

Believe in the coaches. Wildly successful Coordinators are having great success as head coaches this year...

Rex Ryan
Josh McDaniels
Jim Schwartz (well... you know...)

DEN will make the playoffs.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:28pm

Todd Haley?
Steve Spagnuolo?

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:41pm

Ryan has put together a team that looks like it will be a contender all year, yes, but the other two?

McDaniels also finds himself 3-0, but he beat the Bengals in a terribly sloppy game, and then the Browns, probably the worst team in the league, and the Raiders, who have a black hole of suck playing quarterback. Let's withhold judgement, shall we? (I also don't see how McDaniels's coaching has really made a difference, unless he drew up that tip-drill touchdown (he didn't) and went back in time and genetically altered the DNA of the Browns' and Raiders' quarterbacks.)

And Schwartz? He took over an 0-16 team. I think he'll be a good coach, but starting 1-2 has not proven anything yet.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:06pm

I have a suspicion that Ryan is going to succeed where his dad did not; interacting effectively with his offensive coaches and players. If that happens, and the Jets personnel department doesn't screw it up (they certainly have seemed to make the good/lucky evaluation with Sanchez), Ryan is going to make a ton of money at the Meadowlands.

by Vandal :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:39pm

Let's clear: Jim Schwartz is not going to lead the Lions to the playoffs, but they played NO closer than BUF or PHI did... That's not to be scoffed at. It's a different team, and doesn't belong to be mentioned in the lower 5 of the league anymore...

Bronco's: The record of DEN's opponents is 3-3 (excluding the DEN games),
OAK put up 3 against DEN (at home)
OAK put up 23 against SD

CIN put up 7 against DEN,
CIN put up 28 against GB
CIN put up 23 against PIT

They aren't going to blow anybody out, but watch the game start to finish. The game is perfect called. Every 4th down decision is right, every timeout well placed, and the clock management at the end of the first half is exceptional. This will be a team that will keep themselves in any game until the end.

They'll bury bad opponents (and they have), and they'll play strong opponents close (wait for week 4).

by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:24pm

Let's clear: Jim Schwartz is not going to lead the Lions to the playoffs, but they played NO closer than BUF or PHI did

Well, maybe by final score, but as someone who watched each of those games, the Saints seemed to be firmly in control of the Lions game by halftime; the Eagles game by about 1/2-way through the 3rd quarter; and the Bills by about 1/2-way through the 4th quarter.

That said, I thought the Lions looked like an improved team against the Saints (they were awful in the game the Saints played against them last year), and the fact that they led Minnesota at halftime certainly supports the idea that this is a team that will get at least a few more victories this year.

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 2:48am

Just a quick note about Cleveland - they may very well be the worst team in the league, but it's worth noting that so far, they have only lost to undefeated teams.

by navin :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 5:33pm

Mea culpa, I should give Denver some credit for hanging with Cincy. I remembered the stats showing that Cincy was moving the ball better prior to the last play. I would like to see the VOAs without the Stokley touchdown.

However my point still stands on the other two teams (and Oakland's win is over an even worse KC).

Finally, can you imagine Mike Shanahan staying on as head coach while hiring Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator? If that were the alternative, I bet Denver would actually be a contender this year.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 6:33pm

Dont go down that road. It'll, trust me, drive you crazy. If you're a Bronco fan, anyway.

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 2:51am

That was part of Shanahan's problem though - he refused to hire Nolan. Didn't like him. It was suggested to him multiple times by Pat Bowlen. Shanahan was prickly and had some odd, fixed ideas regarding personnel (both players and coaches).

by cjfarls :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 12:44pm

yep... one of the reasons Shanny was fired was because he refused to fire Slowik... only GB truly understand the horror that was a Slowik defense, and Shanny wanting to stay with Slowik is the reason Bowlen needed to fire Shanny. But of course, Shanny backed himself into that corner of feeling he needed continuity by continuously firing D-coordinators the previous 3 seasons.

I like Shanny... I didn't want to see him fired, and am still not sure that we couldn't have been successful keeping Shanny & Cutler.

But at the same time, firing Shanny was far from irrational/illogical, and McD is actually doing a lot of things that look good and make sense if you actually look at what is happening rather than simply regurgitating the hysterics many in the media, including a few here at FO, keep repeating. Things have never been as bad as those not paying attention keep saying... DEN is not OAK, KC, CLE, millen-era DET, etc.

by ammek :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 4:02pm

only GB truly understand the horror that was a Slowik defense

Nope. Browns, Broncos and even Bears fans are all in on the secret. Never had positive DVOA in eight seasons as a coordinator. Defenses always improve the year after he's fired. Etc.

by zerlesen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:53pm

Well, it depends what you expected. Sure, they were outplayed by the Bengals, but two games later the Bengals also seem to not exactly suck.

Given the massive elective coaching/system/personnel overhaul and the existing weaknesses from last year, it wouldn't have shocked me to see the Broncos alongside the Bucs on your list. So, yeah, beating the Browns and the Raiders may only merit a golf clap, but coming into the season I don't think anyone was taking it for granted. (I don't have my copy of FOA to hand, but wasn't Denver forecast to be the year's worst team?)

I'll be impressed if Denver stays competitive in the next four as well. Frankly, I'd settle for disciplined play, an absence of meltdowns, and McDaniels not flipping his wig when he's no longer undefeated.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:44pm

Surely there's going to be a huge opponent adjustment, but still, it's pretty hard to play three games and give up 15 points - if the Steelers had done so, we would be saying how they were who though they were.

And I totally agree - I would've settled for 6 wins in a hearbeat.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:36pm

I never liked Jim Mora. Him, Mike Nolan, ( and Lane Kiffen) benefit from a severe case of NFL Nepotism. None of these 3 have (had) any business leading an NFL roster.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:20pm

Is Bob Slowik still coaching? The guy was a disaster in Green Bay as a defensive coordinator.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 8:03am

Slowik was Denver's defensive co-ordinator last year, and believe me, that defense was even worse than anything he produced in Green Bay. In any normal year, it would have been by far the worst in the NFL (considerably worse, for example, than the dreadful 2005 Texans) - but this being 2008, it couldn't quite equal the Team That Millen Built for suck. Rumour has it that Shanahan was fired for refusing to sack Slowik. That's a "with cause" dismissal if ever I heard of one.

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 8:40pm

I remember that defensive backs, including Champ Bailey, really liked the guy. I wonder what they liked about him. Of course, after getting rid of Slowick, they got rid of everyone in the defensive backfield except for Bailey, so maybe the other guys liked him because they had a job.

by Led :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:21pm

"then showed off his (lack of) arm strength with an awful looking pass to Jerricho Cotchery on a deep out on the other side of the field that couldn't have been caught in bounds"

Pretty sure Sanchez's forearm/elbow brushed against the facemask of a pass rusher on that throw. He's shown on a number of occasions that his arm is plenty strong. But Sean Mac is right about this being his worst game as a pro, and I'm a little concerned about his ability to play in winter weather if rain bothers him this much.

by putnamp (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:23pm

Glad I'm not the only one who found blaming Mare, who was virtually automatic all of last year and during the preseason, really tasteless and (more importantly) misguided as hell.

by TomC :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:09pm

Also, Mare's kickoffs were great, basically neutralizing the Bears' return game after the opening runback by Jackass. But asking an NFL coach to pay attention to that is a useless exercise.

by coltrane23 :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:13pm

Yes, ditto to that. Haven't seen the second half yet (I taped it, taking advantage of the glorious weather), but in the first half I saw at least three blatant drops, a couple of overthrown passes, and a third-and-short deep in CHI territory that didn't get converted. None of those plays had anything to do with the kicker.

So far, the problem I've seen with the Seahawks in yesterday's game is an offense that's forced to rely on a kicker to bail out drives which have petered out. Absolutely ridiculous to single out the kicker for losing this game. I wasn't sure what to think of Mora coming into this season, I wanted to keep an open mind, but I'm beginning to look forward to his replacement.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:54pm

Oh and now love for "Heater" Hawthorne in his first NFL start? The guy had a pick in the Red Zone, 8 tackles, and a Forced Fumble and Recovery at the 1 yard line ( that was called back) and that was all in 1 half!

Seattle wore their Fubu Jerseys but they proved they have the best LB core up and down in the NFC. They played 2 backups at LB but the backups played like solid starters.

I think Seattle was robbed on the call at the end of the first half. Cutler played pretty well ( did you see him Jaw at Don Carey after the no roughing the passer call)? Cutler seems like such a hot head. Jawwing at D-Lineman last week, yelling at Don Carey this week... yeah and the off season. Besides Phillip Rivers, you don't usually see QB's jawwing at the Refs/other teams lineman like that.

by TomC :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:16pm

Yes, Cutler is a hothead, but at the moment no one in Chicago gives a damn. That could all change quickly, though.

And you had a pretty good argument for best overall LB corps on the other sideline in that game. The Bears were also starting two backups (Hillenmeyer & Roach), one of whom got hurt and forced another backup (Jamar Williams) into the lineup. So they were on their 5th LB and their 3rd MLB, all of whom I thought played pretty well. And Briggs was clearly the best LB on the field (apologies to Hawthorne, but Briggs's pick was a thing of beauty, whereas Hawthorne's got tipped right to him, plus Briggs had a sack). And I assume you're restricting yourself to 4-3 teams, otherwise there are several AFC squads that would like to have a word with you.

by reinhard (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:28pm

The Cardinals should have ran Wells a lot. This would put them in favorable 2nd and 3rd down situations. It seemed like a strange game plan meant to teach Wells a lesson.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:35pm

I almost hate to pile on, but every time I think the Raiders have reached the pinnacle of ridiculousness, they show that the summit is still out there. Barring a network analyst because the analyst said unflattering things after a team has gone about a thousand games under .500 in a few years?

by PatsFan :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:11pm

A network analyst who used to be a Raider. Al Davis does not suffer apostates gladly, it appears.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:38pm

The scary thing is that Crazy Al may really think that apostasy is a factor here. I'm about half serious now; who are Davis' closest relatives, and what is California law regarding having someone declared legally incompetent?

by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:41pm

I really didn't have a problem with Greg Knapp's play-calling outside of the Branch reverse on 3rd and 1. I did have a problem with Seneca Wallace over-throwing wide open receivers, I imagine Knapp got conservative because Wallace is a turnover waiting to happen.

Blaming Mare did tick me off though. I'm impressed with the coaches Mora has brought in (Knapp, Bradley) but I am not impressed with his leadership. It wasn't just what Mora said about Mare, it was how he said it almost implying that Mare isn't a part of the team. Mike Holmgren's play-calling is not missed, but his leadership is.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:16pm

I would agree with you about Seattle's playcalling for the most part. Knapp called a decent game and Burleson especially played well (WRs who run after the catch well always do against the Bears). Wallace did great job of keeping plays alive with his feet and finding guys in space down the field although they never seemed all that likely to do much in the redzone. Not that Mora could spot that when he had a kicker to pile it on.

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 1:59pm

I think I finally get it with tim hightower. All this time people have complained about how he is a poor halfback, but I think that misses the point. Hightower simply isn't a halfback. He's actually a fullback who plays a special role in what is a fairly unique arizona offense. He carries the ball in short yardage/goal line situations, but his primary role is to catch passes and block while kurt warner runs a shotgun-spread offense that doesn't rely on running the ball. Defined that way, hightower might actually be quite good.

It makes you wonder then what their ultimate plan is with beanie wells. Is he insurance for when warner retires in a year or so or possibly breaks his neck this year and they have to go back to running a more traditional offense with leinart that actually requires running the ball? Will they then run a lot of 2 back sets with hightower as a fullback who actually catches the ball a la the classic west coast offense?

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:04pm

Interesting. Could Hightower have been a Howard Griffith-esque fullback, if he learned pass protection better? Given his skills with the ball, I could see it.

by Q (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:17pm

What's with the horrible summary of the Rams/Packers game? If time is an issue then just use that cop out with other many crappy teams in order to maintain consistency.

By what imaginable criteria is a game between Wash/Det worth magnitudes of text more than a GB/Stl game that features a Dark Horse SB contender in GB and a team FO's projection system tabbed as 1 of the biggest surprises

by ammek :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:16pm

Because the Packers-Rams game was crap.

Oh, and read the intro.

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 8:49pm

I don't know how they measure the "Fan Score" over at nfl.com, but the fan score of this game was one of the higher ones of the week. So take that for what it's worth, but it's at least an indication that a sizable population thought it was a good game.

by Geo B :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:24pm

Thanks Bill Barnwell for that review of some very uninspired Steelers second-half offense. It seemed like they were trying to kill the clock like Cincinnati would never score. Big Ben had his fastball yesterday and except for the blown pattern/pick 6 seemed to have a good game. Can someone explain the thought behind the rule that made Sweed's elbow landing in the endzone an incompletion - I know it's a rule, I just don't get it.

So is there that much of a talent drop-off going to Tampa Bay? Leftwich didn't look that bad playing for the Steelers last year.

Steeler fan trapped in Houston!
Six Time SB Champs! ;-)

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:38pm

I think the big differences affecting leftwich in tampa are the obvious ones that we all see between those two teams. The tampa D sucks whereas the steeler D is excellent, so when you play the bucs it's usually with a lead so you can play pass every play which makes a huge difference, especially when the offensive tackles aren't very good. Also, the steeler receivers are distinctly better than what the bucs have run out this year so far.

by JCRODRIGUEZ (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:27pm

I agree on Big Ben's efficiency, but how on earth did the Bengals (The Bengals!!!) forced the offense to turn Mike Wallace into their Go To Guy???...I was not able to notice anything special, but sure as hell something happened in order to make Santonio, Hines and Heath basically dissapear. Can somebody get a proper authopsy on this?

by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 7:48pm

If you catch the ball and immediately go to the ground, you have to maintain possession all the way into the ground. The ball popped out immediately as he hit the ground, so he never had control, therefore no catch.

by mrparker (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 2:52pm

re: Jason Campbell

The guys moves the chains and doesn't make mistakes. Thats great and all if you want to be 8-8 every year. I don't blame him for anything. Having a qb who doesn't lose you football games is not a negative or a positive. However, with the Skins being run by Snyder and co. thats all the Skins will ever be unless Campbell starts to take some more chances. Kelly Malcom(words of Billick yesterday) is 6'4 and has great ball skills. I wish the SKins would stop playing as if there is a roof over the football field. More Jump Balls. Especially in the end zone.

by Q (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:30pm

"Because the Packers-Rams game was crap.

Oh, and read the intro."

Thank you for that tremendous insight. Perhaps you could explain the criteria that you use to develop these insights. Other games were even more 1 sided and likely were far worse to watch (Philly with Kolb vs KC for example)

From the intro I see this claim:

"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"

Now since the Packers are 1 of the most popular NFL teams in the country it meets the requirement of being a game many people would want to know about. Are you suggesting that since the game was broadcasted so much that everyone saw it and therefore does not warrant a discussion due to its wide distribution? If so I am surprised in that I did not know it was seen so prominently throughout the country

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:39pm

The outsiders watch games based on personal preference, and game availability. Packers-Rams was only shown on local television in Wisconsin and the St. Louis area (see here before week 4's maps are posted), where none of the writers live.

How's this for a zlionsfan-style template?

Why [no/so few] comments regarding [game that my favorite team played]? It was clearly a better game that [other game that garnered more comments] and [list of reasons that apply to me personally that don't apply to any FO staff]. [More angry comments trying to redefine what the Audibles at the Line feature is].

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:14pm

Bravo. I like it. The zEddo template.

by Phill (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:02pm

They write about the games they watch, and they watch the games they personally are interested in. There is absolutely no, none at all, attempt to cover games that anyone else thinks they [i]ought[/i] to be interested in, or that are important match-ups.

I too feel no obligation to have watched the Packers play the Rams, and didn't.

I might wish to see more about games I am interested in, or about the Vikings (my poison of choice), but funnily enough, what I want doesn't come in to it either.

Think of this column as, more or less, you overhearing a bunch of friends talking about the games they saw at the weekend with each other in the bar. And you might understand why walking up to them and complaining that they're not talking about the game you enjoyed isn't going to get you a great reception. Hence the disclaimer at the top...

by ammek :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:15pm

Perhaps you could explain the criteria that you use to develop these insights.

Ok, I take the bait.

In the first quarter, we witnessed a blocked field goal, two fumbles, and three Packer drives for a cumulative 20-odd yards, all of which ended in field goals. Kicker Mason Crosby would later atone for his prodigious competence by missing an extra point.

In the second quarter, the Packer defense temporarily allowed Kyle Boller to look like an NFL quarterback. (Shades of Monday night in Baltimore, 2005.) Again, St Louis reciprocated by allowing Ryan Grant to masquerade as an NFL-quality running back in the fourth quarter.

Obviously engaged in a sort of predictability joust with Mike Tomlin, Packer coach Mike McCarthy called no fewer than 17 Ryan Grant runs on first down. They netted a superhuman 34 total yards — an average of 2.0. Only one was a loss, meaning that the other sixteen were crapola gains of a few inches against one of the league's very worst defenses.

In the end, the difference came from turnovers (3-0 Pack) and the three bombs launched by Aaron Rodgers which were not dropped by his star receivers. In other words, a poorly-coached team with considerable talent overcame an inept team with minimal talent.

The Outsiders were better off watching Detroit.

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 6:14am

Donald Driver made an astonishing catch. That's about the only reason I can put up in the "I'm Glad I Watched This Game" column. The only other possibility is "the Rams didn't look quite as bad as they did last season, but that's more because last season we were truly horrible". Neither makes me particularly happy about how I spent 3 hours of my Sunday.

On a side note, Ryan Grant is really quick behind the line of scrimmage, and really slow in front of it.

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:36pm

I have never liked the Raiders, but I was actually angry watching their level of play yesterday. No satisfaction there, it more just brought out my homerism instincts for the NFL in general. I suppose it's not unprecedented though, can anyone argue that what Davis is doing is a worse situation than what Millen was doing to Detroit?

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:45pm

If not worse, at least creepier.

by Robo-Hochuli (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:06pm

It's theoretically worse because Davis is the owner; we don't know how far this thing's going to go nor what the endgame is. The Ford family always had the option of firing Millen; they just took much longer than most people would have to do so.

by ammek :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:13pm

It's especially a shame in the season which is celebrating the half-century of the AFL. No living person did more to put the AFL on the map. This should be a time to honor and acclaim Al Davis; instead, he's the butt of ever-nastier jokes about his age and mental health.

by CandlestickPark :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 12:20pm

Hear, hear. Davis is possibly the most important living figure in football and he's a joke. It's really rather sad.

by jebmak :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 12:02pm

I have never liked the Raiders, but I was actually angry watching their level of play yesterday. No satisfaction there, it more just brought out my homerism instincts for the NFL in general. I suppose it's not unprecedented though, can anyone argue that what Davis is doing is a worse situation than what Ford is doing to Detroit? Except that Ford has been doing it for much longer?

Fixed that for you.

MANAGEMENT: Unfortunately, you forgot to close italics in the process. So I actually fixed that...for you.


by tunesmith (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 8:51pm

thanks for helping me out, there! :)

by Bobman :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:55pm

Any game charters out there count holding penalties against DEs/OLBs? And of course, more importantly, the non-calls that should have been.... Kind of like last year's QB hits/hurries count.

I'd love to know who is held the most but doesn't get the calls. After last night's "Lets Dry-Hump Freeney Until They Flag Us--and Then Do It Some More" Fest. (Or until he's injured....) My unofficial (and admittedly biased) count had at least a dozen against both Freeney and Mathis with, what, two holds actually called? Three? My 8 year-old no longer knows what holding is supposed to look like. Maybe I'll tell him to go all NFL on his peewee league opponents until he gets flagged. He has been headlocked as an OLB without a flag. His coach might object to my unscrupulousness.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:30pm

"Three? My 8 year-old no longer knows what holding is supposed to look like."

I don't know what holding is supposed to look like. Each Ref/Ump clearly has a different opinion.

by Bobman :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:20pm

Amen, brother.

Though Collinsworth and Michaels suggested a pretty good indicator last night. When an OL holds up his hands like a guilty DB after pass interference and looks around innocently saying "not me....?" Guilty!

Last night the refs actually hit one of the holders with his flag, just in case we weren't sure who was in violation. Next step--paintball guns to tag the guilty parties.

by dryheat :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 11:15am

Paintball tagging violators? From your mouth to Goodell's ears.

by Duke :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 6:47pm

Surprised there was no comment on the challenge reversing the Forte fumble. I didn't see his knee touch the ground, but as a Bears' fan I'm glad it was reversed (and I thought the challenge was a good idea, even if the chances of success were small).

by Kal :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 7:09pm

It was pretty clear that Forte was down; you could see his leg (complete with stupid socks) laying on the ground before the ball came out. It wasn't a hard one to overturn, even if it wasn't a classic knee down situation.

by RobinFiveWords (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 11:17pm

If memory serves me right, Fox didn't show the angle that proved Forte was down until after the ref announced the call was overturned. Based on the angles they had shown to that point, I was shocked that they overturned the call. It seemed plausible but in no way conclusive that he was down until that last angle.

by JPS (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 6:54pm

If the Cardinals score TDs twice instead of fumbling with goal to go on one drive and having a short pass tipped and intercepted in the end zone on another, it's an entirely different ball game.

by jayinalaska :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 8:14pm

I only caught one glimpse of the Seahawks uniforms during a CBS game break and I think my eyes are still bleeding. The uniforms are enough by themselves to make me almost glad my local Fox affiliate chose to show the 49ers/Vikings early game instead of the Bears/Seahawks late game, although I was left with that wonderful pairing of Raiders/Broncos for the afternoon game. You'd think the local TV stations here had some kind of an arrangement with the local eye care community. After all, how can you expect your eyes to heal after seeing those ghastly Seahawks uniforms when the NFL product on your TV has the Raiders as one of the teams? I guess I should count my blessings. It could have been the Raiders and Chiefs, in which case I'd probably be blind now. --Jay

by GnomeChumpsky (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 8:57pm

Where's the love for the Ravens Offense and Saints Defense? Nobody has to fawn over them, but maybe some analysis?

by Q (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 10:26pm

"In the second quarter, the Packer defense temporarily allowed Kyle Boller to look like an NFL quarterback. (Shades of Monday night in Baltimore, 2005.) Again, St Louis reciprocated by allowing Ryan Grant to masquerade as an NFL-quality running back in the fourth quarter."

In 2007 Grant finished 12th in FO's rankings and this year ranks in the Top 20 as far as rbs. While not a superstar rb there is little to suggest that he is not an "NFL-quality back." Even this year with a horrible offensive line he has ranked in the Top 20.

While Boller is not great, he is significantly better than most backup qbs and even better than some current starters. His numbers are even more impressive in relation to the performance of GB's Defense this year as judged by FO's metrics.

"In the end, the difference came from turnovers (3-0 Pack) and the three bombs launched by Aaron Rodgers which were not dropped by his star receivers."

Most NFL games are decided by turnovers and a few big plays. You speak about poor special teams performances but yet the game in Minn arguably had even worse/more impactful ST plays (block fg for a td and a kick return td)

"In other words, a poorly-coached team with considerable talent overcame an inept team with minimal talent."

There is definitely no quantative proof to suggest that GB is poorly coached. Even a subjective look would show many teams with far worse coaching (SD, Wash, Dal, etc)

by ammek :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 4:17am

Hyperbole, my dear.

If you include receiving in your calculations, as you should, Grant is slightly below replacement level so far in 2009. He was slightly below replacement level in 2008, also. At some point, we can start calling that a trend.

The Rams-Packers game — or at least the first half — was bad not because there were "poor special teams performances" but because both teams were altogether sloppy, predictable and offensively impotent. The big plays in the game were mostly caused by poor play and errors until Rodgers connected with Driver and Jennings on long passes. Driver's one-handed grab was the first 'wow' moment in the contest. Prior to that, I felt as though I was watching a re-enactment of last week's Raiders-Chiefs crapfest. I don't ask for much, but watching Leonard Little amble past a Packer lineman or the Ram linebackers accumulating holding penalties isn't my idea of good football. At least Detroit-Washington had an exciting finish.

by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 6:35am

Harvin caught TWO third-down passes on the game-winning drive, let's not forget - for 5 on 3rd&1, and for 15 on 3rd&10. And his oh-so-buttery fingers are responsible for more receiving TDs this season than all the other first-round wide-outs combined. If I didn't know better, I'd say the play referenced was cherry-picked to reinforce the FO party line.

by Eddo :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 10:23am

Audibles happens in realtime, and judging from the order of the other comments in that section, the one you're referencing likely happened well before he ever made any catches on the final drive.

by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 11:45am

Hi! There isn't an FO party line on Harvin, I wrote that stuff about him not being such a great pro WR.

So far, he looks good. It's been three games. If he'd had three awful games, it wouldn't confirm that my opinion on him heading into the season was right, either.

by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 8:17am

Peachy - I agree with you - some serious cherry picking. Harvin has been spectacular in the 3 games to date. He's had two drops on a couple of short passes but everything else has been excellent. After two weeks his combined DYAR for receiving and rushing put in the top 3 receivers and that doesn't include his return capabilities.

I think the Vikings will get him more touches as the season wears on. Which is likely a good thing for several reasons. He's a playmaker so he needs the ball. It opens up things for Peterson because it will make it harder for teams to focus everything on him. Lastly, it keeps Peterson's workload down - which in the long run is crucial.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 9:23am

I don't think anybody who saw Harvin play in college would ever have doubted his ablility to play the game. Reservations about him tend to be that he had a lot of injuries in college (which to be fair he always tried to play through), that his career might disappear in a puff of green smoke and attitude problems in general.

by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 10:06am

Jimmy - I certainly understand those reservations but there was much written here that suggested he'd be not much good based on his lack of route running skills and polish. And, that he would be a bust like many of the other 1 round SEC receivers of previous drafts.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 1:06pm

These presumably would be the same people who said Devin Hester couldn't catch or run routes. To be fair to FO they get more stuff right than anyone else I have ever read on the internet and it isn't as though Harvin had run a full route tree at Florida. I am not convinced he can now but playing on the same team as AP he might not need to.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 10:17am

Gamepass worked properly for the first time all season on Sunday, so I was able to watch the Texans game pretty much in full. It was a depressing experience. Schaub looks great. Slaton, facing a front seven which I estimate to be close to league average, ran well for the first time this season. The receivers are still excellent. The offensive line is clearly somewhat weakened by the loss of Pitts, but is still a decent unit. Overall, the offense looks if anything a touch better than last season, especially Schaub. The front seven made some nice stops close to the line of scrimmage, although the lack of pressure on Garrard was disappointing. But the secondary is still maddeningly awful. I have spent more than four years watching a rotating cast of stooges flopping in the vague general direction of ball carriers' ankles as they waltz around the perimeter and through the defensive backfield. Over the last two weeks, opposing running backs have scored touchdowns of 57, 69, 91 and 61 yards. On three of those, mutliple tacklers flat out missed. The fourth was the mind-bending "What, cover Chris Johnson? Nah" play. I am simply sick of it. I don't know why any offensive co-ordinator whose team is facing the Texans ever calls any play other than a smoke screen - in fact, the Joey Harrington Falcons beat us with precisely that gameplan a couple of years back. The problem has persisted through two head coaches, three defensive co-ordinators, five seasons and by my count no fewer than fourteen starting defensive backs. Earl, Brown, Boulware, Demps, Ferguson, Wilson, Barber, Busing, Robinson, Faggins, Buchanon, Sanders, Bennett, Reeves. In the words of Bon Jovi, "It's all the same - only the names change." Staggeringly, that pretty much amounts to thirteen players starting at three spots in four and a bit years, since Robinson has been almost ever-present.

On a side-note, hats off to the NFL for offering me a refund on the previous week's Gamepass, without my even asking for one. Acknowledging that your service is unacceptable and addressing it promptly is a refreshing surprise from such a corporate megalith.

by ammek :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 10:34am

I had trouble with Gamepass all last season and through week two of this. I found that the support service varied from week to week. I never managed to get a refund, though a couple of times I did receive an apology, which is better than nothing.

Weirdly, Gamepass worked perfectly the one week when I wouldn't have minded if it didn't, and so I got to see every snap of Packers at Rams. Yippee.

by Anonguy :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 12:55pm

So I watched the Colts-Cards game, and the thing that struck me outside of Arizona saying to Indy, "Hey dawg, you know that cat Dwight Freeney? Well, we're gonna block him ONE-ON-ONE! Bring it!" was Collinsworth's weird attempt to make Darnell Dockett out to be some stud, when he really didn't do anything of note before being hobbled and the one play he did make, tackling Don Brown for a loss, was erased by Brown walking out of the backfield and zooming 72 yards down the field. Alan Branch basically spent his time filling in for Dockett by mauling Mike Pollack like he was Mike Gandy, including being the DT who hit Manning's arm on the pick.

Warner having a huge bruise on his forehead and a footstool stare on his face was insane. They left him on an island all day in the tsunami that was the Colts' pass rush. I understand, Mistah Wisenhunt, you have Larry Fitz, but good lord man, chip with the Tight End, three step drops, something! And this is from a Colts fan.

Still, I think it was amazing that Warner got strip sacked by Freeney, which was recovered by I believe Levi Brown who tried to rumble ahead with it, only to be comically planted by Tim Jennings on the tackle. I know he doesn't carry the ball and all, but that's like a waterbug smashing a semi here.

by BywaterBrat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 3:08pm

HELP!!!! Long-time reader (seldom commenter) here...I know we have a large group of ex pats who read FO. I'm in Istanbul for the next month and can't find anywhere to watch the games on Sundays. I haven't missed more than 3 Sundays of any given season since I was 10- is there a site that lists where games are played abroad or anything like that?

by Jimmy :: Wed, 09/30/2009 - 4:18pm

You can purchase weekly or season passes to view streaming games online either through gamepass or gamepass HD. It is approx $240 for the season for HD but you can buy weekly or team passes for less.

EDIT: OK FO not happy with the torrent option.

If you haven't got a good enough braodband connection find a bar with a big screen that shows soccer and so forth. I don't know if Istanbul has different liscencing laws from elsewhere in Turkey but there must be masses of tourists and the last time I was in Turkey I simply went into a bar and asked if they would put the game on after the soccer was finished. Your only problem would be the time the game finishes but if you aren't all that bothered about listening to the talking heads and don't mind having music on while you watch the game then this should work. Look for crowds of Englishmen in soccer shirts around 10pm Turkish time, the big Sunday evening soccer game will finish at this time and the NFL kicks off just afterwards.

If none of this works (and at this point I would start to question your determination) a last resort would be to contact the American Embassy in Istanbul. No seriously there must be at least 100 yanks who work there, at least half of whom want to watch the games someone there must know of a bar somewhere in Istanbul that shows some NFL.

by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 09/30/2009 - 3:58pm

Please do not link to torrent sites in our comment threads. Thanks!