Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Futures: Ronnie Harrison

Though teammate Minkah Fitzpatrick gets more headlines, the other Alabama safety prospect in this year's draft deserves plenty of attention too.

10 Sep 2012

Audibles at the Line: Week 1

compiled by Rivers McCown

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

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

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a 49ers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Indianapolis Colts 21 at Chicago Bears 41

Vince Verhei: Bears' first drive of the season: sack, penalty, short run, dropped pass, punt. They're in midseason form!

Bears follow that stellar first drive with a one-play affair, a pick-six on a swing pass (a swing pass!). They've since gone on to add a touchdown thanks mainly to some big Matt Forte runs, but Jay Cutler is currently 1-of-10 for 13 yards and a pick, and a sack. Against the Colts!

Andy Benoit: Shocking how utterly ill-prepared the Bears look early on. Cutler gets sacked on the first play because the Bears slid protection off their play-action in a way that left tight end Kellen Davis one-on-one against Robert Mathis?! That’s just bad scheming. Second play is a false start from Chicago. Third play (third-and-21) is ruined by a bad snap. The Bears offensive line is in its midseason form.

Every year in Week 1 some team comes out looking like they haven’t practiced all summer long. After Cutler’s horrendous pick-six, I’m ready to declare the Bears this year’s Haven’t Practiced All Summer Long team.

Mike Kurtz: It's hard to overstate how important Dwight Freeney is for the Colts' defense. Pre-injury, Cutler was 1-of-9 with an interception and two dropped interceptions. Since, he is something like 9-of-10 with a touchdown. The extra second he has without Freeney breathing down his neck is a massive difference.

Colts injury update: Winston Justice is injured. Nobody notices.

Andy Benoit: The Bears offense got clicking once Forte was featured. Forte ran with great swivel and burst, particularly on the edges.

Colts cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Jerraud Powers did an excellent job in man coverage in the first half. Davis played the defensive left side, Powers played the right. Ultimately, neither guy could match up with Brandon Marshall near the numbers, but Indy should be encouraged by what they have at cornerback. Chuck Pagano will be able to run his entire system. Lots of heavy blitz pressures from the Colts. They often brought six rushers. It's an undersized front seven, so they have to play with speed and deception to compensate. Once Bears started running, the Colts lack of size started to show.

Andrew Luck struggled to hit Reggie Wayne in the flats on at least three different occasions. Just a timing and comfort issue, Luck was under pressure and played a little hurried in these instances. Not a ton of zip on Luck’s ball. His arm strength is not deficient, but it’s definitely not overly impressive. Henry Melton was noisy all game. Finished with two sacks. Colts have issues in pass protection with their guards. Brian Urlacher sat out most of the second half when the Bears had a relatively comfortable lead.

Chris Conte had a good game in coverage. Made stops out of the slot and in lending help from his natural free safety spot. Also, Tim Jennings was fantastic all afternoon. He's fluid in man concepts, and levated well to defend jump balls downfield, including an interception on a Luck underthrow).

Miami Dolphins 10 at Houston Texans 30

Rivers McCown: Ben Tate and Arian Foster on the field at the same time on an early snap for Houston. Tate motioned wide. That's something on tape now.

So far the Dolphins are having their way in the running game, pushing around the Texans front seven. They've gotten a little lucky with a missed Houston field goal and recovering two of their own fumbles, but they have definitely proven they can run on Houston.

Danny Tuccitto: Have to say, Don King and crew are doing a great job so far in this game.

Aside from Houston's two interceptions, Miami's is (somewhat surprisingly) the better defense on the field through the first half. Of course, Miami's offense has had two unintentional completions, and they've recovered their own fumble.

Also, Brian Cushing has given up something like 70 yards via missed tackles on dumpoffs and screens. Miami's running backs are abusing him in open space.

Rivers McCown: Ryan Tannehill is learning that, in the NFL, J.J. Watt is there to tip your passes at the line. Texans have three picks in the first half, and two of them were popped up tips by Watt.

Andy Benoit: At least his wife is still hot.

Danny Tuccitto: Figures that since I said that bit about the Miami defense, their offense has gone all "Yakety Sax" on us. Four straight possessions ending in a turnover.

Rivers McCown: The Texans pulled away after that deluge of turnovers, but they were nowhere near as impressive as the score looked. Andre Johnson proved he was healthy, and that can cover a lot, but they had problems running the ball at times. The middle of their run defense is still very soft (and I suspect Cushing may be not-so-secretly hiding an injury), and they posted a lot of dropped passes today.

It was really interesting to see them go all-out with the pitch play. I don't think I've ever seen them run it so often. Wonder if that was a Miami-only thing, or a philosophy change driven by the lack of solid skill position blockers.

New England Patriots 34 at Tennessee Titans 13

Aaron Schatz: Great play call by Mike Munchak on the Titans' first drive. They get down to fourth-and-a-foot. Titans go three-wide, and instead of running to get the easy first, Jake Locker lobs it over the head of Kyle Arrington isolated on the left side and Nate Washington picks up a 24-yard gain. Nice aggressive call there.

I said on Twitter Wednesday night that my problem with the replacement refs is not missing calls, because all refs miss calls. My problem is them not knowing the rules. However, Titans fans may disagree after they missed a pretty clear defensive pass interference on Devin McCourty in the end zone. McCourty just threw his body in front of the receiver without looking at the ball. No call, field goal for the Titans.

Chris Johnson seems to want to stutter-step on every run.

Tom Gower: Locker has looked mostly okay in the early going. He had a nice touch pass to Kendall Wright for a third-down conversion on the first drive that ended in a field goal. He tried an ill-advised deep pass that ended in an interception in the end zone, and just got sacked and coughed up the ball near his goalline and the Pats returned it for six. Beyond the blown block by Michael Roos on Chandler Jones, NFL Matchup today highlighted Locker's tendency to unnecessarily climb the pocket for no apparent reason, and it was evident on that play as he moved up three yards or so from where he initially set up.

Defensively, this week Bill Belichick referred to Michael Griffin as one of the league's best at safety. He's bitten badly on play-action a couple times, including one play that would have been a touchdown had Brandon Lloyd not slowed down, and gotten beat in coverage a couple times, including by Aaron Hernandez for an actual touchdown.

Rivers McCown: Is climbing the pocket unconsciously an easily correctable thing? I wouldn't think it would be.

Aaron Schatz: I don't know if the deep pass was ill-advised as much as it was hung up there in the air for a very long time.

Remember all the mean comments we ran about Leroy Harris in the book, from various game charters? Wow, the previously underperforming Jermaine Cunningham just made Harris his bitch to take down Locker. Harris just sort of waved at him.

Tom Gower: I prefer to just think of plays like that as part of his essential Leroy Harris-ness.

I'm fine with the Titans not pretending like they can run the rest of the year, in part because Johnson has a lot of plays where he remains a very difficult player to watch. I keep wishing he'd learn one of these years that sometimes it's a better idea to stick your nose into the line and see if you can get two yards instead of just standing there and getting tackled, but by now I'm pretty sure he won't ever learn that.

Ben Muth: Leroy Harris is baffling. He looks the part, and has a couple of really good plays a game, but he he leads earth in dumb penalties.

He might be the Jacoby Jones of offensive linemen, with penalties replacing drops.

Aaron Schatz: Pats using a lot of "toss crack" today, which is a play that sounds much dirtier than it truly is. Stevan Ridley showing nice balance running the ball, getting extra yards after being hit.

Vince Verhei: I've predicted doom for Locker for years now, but credit where it's due: That touchdown to Nate Washington, a laser-beam pass off one leg with a defender draped over him, was just a sick play.

Andy Benoit: I'm surprised how vertical the Titans passing game is. Chris Palmer isn’t kidding when he says he wants to execute run-and-shoot. Locker showed decent pocket poise (decent as in "better than I would have guessed at this point"). He has more natural arm strength than I would have guessed, too. One concern, however, is that his ball tends to sail, particularly on deep-intermediate throws down the seams.

Washington Redskins 40 at New Orleans Saints 32

Vince Verhei: Do we have the record for screen passes thrown in a single game? Because Washington ran at least a half-dozen on their first drive, mostly to wide receivers. It led to a field goal. Then on the next drive, Robert Griffin finally went deep, throwing a great pass with a man in his face, finding Pierre Garcon open in one-on-one coverage for an 88-yard touchdown.

J.J. Cooper: It would be hard to be more impressed with how RG3 has looked in the first half. His stats are inflated by the touchdown Vince mentioned, that was really a 15-yard pass, but he has looked precise, in control, and his speed makes play fakes much more effective.

Vince Verhei: Agree 100 percent with J.J. on Griffin. It's not even the numbers, which are stellar, and inflated by the one big play and the million short ones. But man, he looks like a guy who's been doing this all his life, showing poise in the pocket, going through progressions, and even when he scrambles he's looking downfield for guys getting open on ad-lib routes.

Washington punts in the fourth quarter. It's a bad snap, but former Aussie rules player Sav Rocca recovers the ball, evades a defender, and gets off a low kick on the run. It gets a good roll to put New Orleans inside the 20. The whole thing was just wiped out on a penalty, but it was still really fun.

Andy Benoit: Jimmy Graham was double covered on his touchdown, but all he had to do was outjump London Fletcher in order to win on the play. We’ve seen before that teams like to target Fletcher with their athletic tight ends. To be fair, Fletcher also made some outstanding individual plays Sunday. You can’t expect him to cover Graham.

Rivers McCown: You can't expect anyone to cover Graham at this point.

Aaron Schatz: Wow. Whatever Washington fans made a trip to New Orleans are chanting "RG3, RG3, RG3!" in the stands, and they're a lot louder than the home fans right now.

Andy Benoit: The Redskins consistently took away Drew Brees’ early reads.

Washington was protecting a lead late and faced third-and-16. They chose to go for the sticks. No one wound up getting open and Griffin just had to tuck the ball, but the point is they were comfortable putting the game in their rookie’s hands like that. How many teams, even teams with veteran quarterbacks, would have just ran a draw or set up some sort of catch-and-run in that situation?

Buffalo Bills 28 at New York Jets 48

Vince Verhei: Looks like the Jets offense is about three parts Mark Sanchez, one part Tim Tebow at this point. Sanchez has made all the big plays, both the bad (a silly attempt at a shovel pass on the run that led to an interception) and the good (a pair of touchdowns, one of them a go route to Playmaker hero Stephen Hill).

J.J. Cooper: Can we please just skip the preseason games in the future? After being subjected to wall-to-wall coverage of the Jets' offensive struggles throughout the preseason, now we have them scoring 48 points in their opener. Well at least this hopefully means that we can skip one week of Tebow-Sanchez debates.

Andy Benoit: The Jets are showing some base 4-3 looks early on, which they said they’d be doing more this season.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s first two interceptions came about because of cornerbacks jumping routes. That’s a sign of predictable quarterbacking. Without seeing the film, my guess is Fitzpatrick was either staring down the targets or, more likely, late in putting the ball on the receivers.

Atlanta Falcons 40 at Kansas City Chiefs 24

Vince Verhei: Chiefs' first drive gets them into field-goal range, where they have a third-and-8. Matt Cassel drops back to pass, and without a hint of pressure, immediately dumps it off to a receiver who is standing six yards behind the line of scrimmage. The drive, uh, stalls there.

Cassel has made some good plays today and the game was close in the third quarter, but the Falcons have gone ahead and now he is pressing and doing Matt Cassel things. He tried a bootleg and the Falcons were not fooled, with a rusher right in his face. His response was to throw an off-balance pass across his body right to a Falcons defender. Falcons have scored on every possession and now lead 40-17.

Jacksonville Jaguars 23 at Minnesota Vikings 26 (OT)

Peter Koski: Jacksonville has first-and-goal at the one, runs play-action and Blaine Gabbert has Guy Whimper wiiiiiide open. Chooses Marcedes Lewis instead for the touchdown. Probably the right decision.

Ben Muth: I'm officially out on Gabbert. I cannot abide anyone depriving the public of a big man dance.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, and wow, what an ending. With 25 seconds left, Gabbert just launched the ball to Cecil Shorts in the front right corner of the end zone, something like 40 yards downfield. Chris Cook from the Vikings got completely lost trying to figure out where the ball was, and Shorts picked it off his feet. Touchdown, Jaguars victory.

Did I say Jaguars victory? I meant Blair Walsh 55-yard field goal and overtime.

Vince Verhei: Vikings get a field goal in overtime, then kick off. Anybody else forget about these wacky new overtime rules, or was it just me?

Rivers McCown: Wow, that was an ugly fourth-down throw by Gabbert to end it. There goes that good will from their final drive of regulation.

Tom Gower: I don't like the playcall, but Laurent Robinson surely should have broken to the outside and away from the safety. Then again, he and Gabbert have consistently been off, so why should then have been any different?

J.J. Cooper: That is the first time in NFL history that an overtime game was decided (did not end in a tie) by an incomplete pass. Going to take some getting used to.

St. Louis Rams 23 at Detroit Lions 27

Vince Verhei: You know how RG3 put "GRIFFIN III" on the back of his jersey, and people pointed out that Ken Griffey Jr., for example, never put "GRIFFEY JR." on his? Well, Titus Young of the Lions is out there with "YOUNG SR." on the back of his jersey. Young Senior! He reproduced just so he could have more marketable merchandise!

Surprise of the day so far: Rams lead the Lions 13-10 at the half. Matthew Stafford is 17-of-24, but three of his incomplete passes were interecepted and returned for 34, 42, and 31 yards, the last for a touchdown. All three passes have looked the same: forced balls to well-covered receivers running out routes. Sam Bradford is getting a surprising amount of time to throw and is doing a good job attacking the midrange holes in Detroit's zones, but the Rams have 91 yards of offense, and 107 yards on interception returns.

Bradford to Brandon Gibson for a 23-yard touchdown that puts the Rams up six, pending an extra point. More importantly, Rodger Saffold is injured on the play, going down with an apparent head/neck injury and being carted off the field. Hard to tell what happened -- looked like a pretty routine pass play, and as he was blocking he kind of fell sideways into his own man. Praying for him.

Detroit comes back and beats St. Louis on a last-minute Stafford touchdown pass to Kevin Smith. Honestly, I have no idea what to make of this game. Should Detroit be worried that that they needed all 60 minutes to beat a bad team, or happy that they screwed up as much as possible and still won? Should the Rams be happy they made so many plays against a playoff team, or worried that Detroit damn near tried to lose this game outright and just couldn't get it done? It all makes no sense, so I'm just going to forget about it for seven days.

Andy Benoit: The Lions ran a play-action on the game-winning dumpoff touchdown to Smith. Surprising play call considering that the defense had no reason to bite on the run fake in that situation. Nevertheless, it worked.

Philadelphia Eagles 17 at Cleveland Browns 16

Vince Verhei: It's almost halftime, and though they are averaging better than seven yards a rush, the Eagles have as many turnovers (three) as points scored. Think I'll go check Tanier's Twitter!

Rob Weintraub: Are the Vikes-Jags really a full quarter ahead of the Eagles-Browns?

Vince Verhei: Michael Vick just threw his fourth interception of the game, a pick-six thrown right to a linebacker covering the middle zone. Vick was throwing a short post and never saw the defender. No pressure or anything, that's all on him. Browns now lead 16-10, even though Brandon Weeden has thrown three picks of his own and has a passer rating of (not a typo) 6.0.

Andy Benoit: Vick finished with 56 pass attempts. Why not feature LeSean McCoy and the run game more? The Eagles are a zone-blocking team, the Browns defense struggled MIGHTILY against zone running teams last season. It was apparent midway through that the Eagles were getting "Reckless Vick" in this game. Why stick with featuring him?

Weeden’s head seems too fat for his helmet. This, coupled with his naturally florid face, makes it perpetually look like he just got done bawling a few minutes ago.

Tom Gower: So, down 10-6 early in the fourth quarter, Pat Shurmur elects to kick the field goal on fourth-and-goal from the four to cut the deficit to 10-9. On the ensuing Eagles possession, Michael Vick throws a pick-six. Up 15-10, Shurmur opts to kick the extra point. Yes, both decisions came very early in the fourth quarter, but...

Aaron Schatz: By the way, that Cleveland decision to go for one up 15-10 just cost them a chance to go to overtime. They will lose 17-16.

Andy Benoit: The Eagles rolled the pocket left for Vick all game. Was that because they didn’t trust their protection? If they can’t handle Cleveland’s pass-rush, whose pass-rush will they be able to handle?

J.J. Cooper: The decision to draft Weeden didn't help either.

Rivers McCown: Way too soon to bury that decision completely.

But yes, Weeden is firmly in the Gabbert Zone through Game 1 of his career, and the fact that he's already 28 is ... something.

Aaron Schatz: He certainly is set up for a season full of Loser League all-stardom.

San Francisco 49ers 30 at Green Bay Packers 22

Peter Koski: How do you get a block in the back on the punting team? Scab refs, that's how.

Aaron Schatz: Oh well. From all accounts, and certainly in the games I watched, the scab refs did a reasonable job in the early games. I didn't see a lot of complaints on Twitter either.

Andy Benoit: Interesting that they're running out of shotgun considering Cedric Benson isn’t a darting scatback type.

Rivers McCown: Nick Perry: not much of a defender on slants.

I think the difference between the scab refs and the regular refs is noticeable, but there haven't been any truly glaring examples of terribleness so far.

Aaron Schatz: Randy Moss seems to be playing a reasonably large role so far, and he looks at least as good as he did in the first few games of 2010, before he was traded to Minnesota. Back then, my feeling was that Moss could draw a double team but no longer could beat a double team. The Packers are not generally doubling him, they basically just have Jarrett Bush on him.

Andy Benoit: Moss took advantage of his opportunities, but most of his catches were a function of shrewd play design. In other words, anyone could have made those plays. In the limited iso shots that I saw of Moss, it didn’t look like he had terrific downhill burst.

Rivers McCown: Colin Kaepernick coming in on a designed run near the end of the second quarter. I'm going to just start calling those plays the TEBOWCAT, because it sounds fun.

Vince Verhei: David Akers with the record-tying 63-yard field goal try at the end of the half. The kick hits the upright ... and bounces through! It's so awesome that the sports bar crowd in Seattle erupts in cheers.

Aaron Schatz: Packers are leaving some huge, huge holes in their defensive coverage right now. Alex Smith finding them easily.

Rivers McCown: No way, Jermichael Finley had a key drop!

Wait, what year is this?

Aaron Schatz: I'm having a problem putting my finger on why, but wow, the Packers offense looks really discombobulated.

Andy Benoit: The Niners’ four-man rush consistently gave Green Bay fits. Even when Rodgers wasn’t getting sacked, he was getting moved off his spot. NaVorro Bowman played in the dime sub-package but Patrick Willis came off the field for it. Is Bowman now San Francisco’s unquestioned No. 1 linebacker?

Ahmad Brooks showed up all day as a pass-rusher. He moved all over the formation and got penetration both outside and inside. He also exhibited an ability to drop back and man the second level.

Randall Cobb is extremely dynamic from the backfield and slot. It's a brilliant use of him because it gets him running the first three or four steps of his route completely clean. That allows him to buildup speed and maximize his explosiveness, almost like he’s returning punts. I expect defenses to fear and prepare for him the way defenses fear and prepare for Darren Sproles.

Rivers McCown: Well, they have nine carries for 18 yards from non-Rodgers scrambles. That wasn't a problem for them last year, but I can see where it would be against a defense that has enough solid cover defenders and pass rush to keep the passing game (relatively) in check.

Or, yano, small sample size.

Well, that picked up block in the back flag that brought Green Bay within eight may be your first glaring example of a scab ref screwup. Yikes.

Aaron Schatz: 49ers got screwed on the spot on a Frank Gore run on third-and-long. I thought Gore very clearly had the first down, but the refs didn't give it to him. Jim Harbaugh made a spot challenge, but honestly, those never seem to work, even when they are probably correct, which I think it was in this case.

Mike Kurtz: The spot in question was good, Aaron, his knee hit before the ball was extended.

The Packers march down the field and put another touchdown on the board. The 49ers have only been sending three this entire drive, and Rodgers just ate them up. 15 points isn't enough of a cushion to take the foot off the gas, Harbaugh. Bad angry coach man! Bad!

Aaron Schatz: Also some pretty dismal tackling there on the 49-yard pass to James Jones.

Andy Benoit: The James Jones touchdown came about because Dashon Goldson reacted strongly to Cobb coming out of the backfield.

Aaron Schatz: For the edification of our audience, I present this list of teams similar to San Francisco, teams one year after an improvement either from 6-10 or worse to 12-4 or better, or from 7-9 to 13-3 or better.

Back to Earth, Or In the Clouds?
Year Team Record First Game
1981 Atlanta Falcons 7-9 Win 27-0 over New Orleans
1982 Cincinnati Bengals 7-2 Win 27-6 over Houston
1982 San Francisco 49ers 3-6 Loss 23-17 to Los Angeles Raiders
1989 Cincinnati Bengals 8-8 Loss 17-14 to Chicago
1992 Denver Broncos 8-8 Win 17-13 over Los Angeles Raiders
1992 Detroit Lions 5-11 Loss 27-24 to Chicago
1999 Atlanta Falcons 5-11 Loss 17-14 to Minnesota
2000 Indianapolis Colts 10-6 Win 27-14 over Kansas City
2000 St. Louis Rams 10-6 Win 41-36 over Denver
2002 San Francisco 49ers 10-6 Win 16-13 over New York Giants
2002 Chicago Bears 4-12 Win 27-23 over Minnesota
2005 Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5 Win 34-7 over Tennessee
2005 San Diego Chargers 9-7 Loss 28-24 to Dallas
2007 Baltimore Ravens 5-11 Loss 27-20 to Cincinnati
2012 San Francisco 49ers ? Win 30-22 over Green Bay

Pro-rating the two 1982 teams to 16 games, the teams on this list that won their first game averaged 9.1 wins that season. The teams that lost their first game averaged 6.2 wins. Perhaps the 49ers can be one of those teams that go against historical trends.

Seattle Seahawks 16 at Arizona Cardinals 20

Ben Muth: I just want to take this time to distance myself from the Russell Wilson bandwagon. He's got a whiff of Rick Mirer to him.

Aaron Schatz: In what way?

Ben Muth: He's a mobile guy, who played on a real good college team. I've only seen him a little bit, but when he's moving, he's looking to just get away, not to make plays down the field. Plus, they both got drafted by the Seahawks.

Mirer comparison may not be the best, and admittedly it is 80 percent because of the team, but Wilson is a guy whose college coach thought Mike Glennon was close enough in skill level that he could make a point about dedication to his team. Maybe (probably) O'Brien is an egomaniac, but most coaches would sell their children for three extra wins. O'Brien didnt think Wilson was worth that, and an NFL starter is worth three wins in college.

Then, every team in the league passed on him twice. People want to point to height, but Drew Brees was picked 43 spots ahead of him 10 years ago, when size seemed to be more coveted. Maybe both his college coach and every NFL front office (but one) is wrong, but I think people need to calm down on the guy.

Tom Gower: For the record, I'm with Ben in wanting to distance myself somewhat from the Wilson hype train. I think he can be successful for the first few weeks of the year, then will really have to be managed and manipulated. If he's good in Week 13, talk to me again. (Disclosure: not watching that or any other game right now.)

Aaron Schatz: I would like to both agree and disagree with both of you. I'm all aboard the Wilson hype trade if we're talking about Week 13 of 2013. I know rookie quarterbacks have played better in the last few years than in the history of the NFL before that, but they still are going to generally struggle and there is still a learning curve. As I said on a couple radio interviews this week, what's the hardest part of being a rookie in the NFL? Facing complex NFL defenses that are designed to beat your weaknesses. What's the thing that rookies don't have to face in the preseason? Complex NFL defenses designed to beat their weaknesses.

Rivers McCown: I will stay on the Wilson hype train as long as the Wilson hype train is not "the Seahawks are winning the Super Bowl this year." Sorry, Bill Simmons.

I think he can be a productive quarterback this year as long as he is used correctly. I don't think he's going to be RGIII or Andrew Luck right away, and I don't think he's going to be Drew Brees in the long run. But, I could see him maxing out as a upper-class QB ala Ben Roethlisberger or Jay Cutler. Someone of that relative production.

(Also, this Arizona defense has a chance to be really friggin good.)

Vince Verhei: I love watching the Seahawks play run defense, and tackle receivers who have caught the ball. I am not enamored with their pass rush, or lack thereof. Cardinals get a touchdown on a 12-play drive that only covered about 60 yards. Dink-and-dunk-a-go-go.

Ben Muth: I'm pleasantly surprised by how well the Cardinals offensive line has played. They aren't the Washington Redskins Hogs or anything, but they're not the the disaster I expected.

I should point out that this applies only to pass protection. Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams combined have 10 carries for 14 yards. Andre Roberts is the leading rusher with one carry for 15 yards.

Aaron Schatz: Have you noticed anything from Bruce Irvin, the Seattle rookie pass rusher (a.k.a. "The SackSEER Jason Pierre-Paul control set"?)

Ben Muth: No. Haven't noticed Irvin at all, and I've been looking for him. Chris Clemons is the only guy for Seattle who's had any pressure.

Vince Verhei: At halftime, Arizona's defense is dominating. I think Seattle has one play over 10 yards, and they're 1-of-6 on third downs. Wilson, unlike Griffin, looks like what he is: a talented rookie. There have been unblocked defenders, penalties, and dropped passes (Braylon Edwards, of course). They've mixed in some good runs, and got a field goal after a Cardinals fumble, but it was not a fun 30 minutes.

Irvin has been a step away from John Skelton once or twice, but could never finish the deal and Skelton completed passes anyway.

Wilson with a rookie mistake, throwing a screen pass to Marshawn Lynch, who has a defender all over him. The defender takes Lynch down at the same time the ball gets there. Worse, Lynch was behind Wilson at the time. It's ruled incomplete, but challenged and (correctly) ruled a fumble and recovery by Arizona.

Ben Muth: After the fumble recovery, the Cards go to Williams for a short loss, throw an incomplete pass to a double-covered Larry Fitzgerald, then Skelton throws an interception that comes back because of an offsides penalty. After that, a pass gets batted down by Red Bryant because he destroyed Bobby Massie on a three-step drop. Field goal. Bad possesion and a wasted oppurtunity.

Vince Verhei: Calais Campbell, who the announcers say has the longest arms in the league, bats down a pass by Wilson, the shortest quarterback in the league. Next play, though, Wilson hits Sidney Rice for a touchdown to make it 13-10. Score was set up by an 80-some-yard kickoff return by Leon Washington.

Aaron Schatz: Campbell led the league with 8 passes batted down at the line last year, to go with his 3 blocked field goals.

Ben Muth: Richard Sherman, former wideout at a small private school in northern California, makes a great pick by dragging his feet on the sidelines. Skelton tried to throw it out of bounds, because of pressure by Clemons, but didn't quite get it there. The Cardinals offense has gained eight yards in the first three possessions of the second half.

Vince Verhei: So, I've been quiet about this Seattle game for a while now, but it's time to say that their second-half defense has been just lights-out. Six drives, one turnover, four three-and-outs, and one 4-yard field goal drive. Fitzgerald has two catches in eight targets, and it's not because Skelton is missing him, it's because Fitzgerald can't get separation from Sherman and company. Still no Irvin impact, aside from drawing a double-team here and there, but the coverage is so great it hardly matters.

Ben Muth: Skelton completes a 12 yard pass to Roberts with 8:30 left in the fourth quarter for the first Cardinals first down of the second half. Skelton is hurt. Here comes Kevin Kolb. Also, the Cardinals offensive line is showing its true colors in the second half. Seattle only has one sack, but they are around the quarterback every play. Clemons is abusing anyone he's lined up against.

Rob Weintraub: Here is where Kolb leads the comeback win, and the quarterback controversy begins ... in Philadelphia.

Ken Whisenhunt runs on the field, begging for a timeout. No one sees him, though, and Kolb throws the go-ahead touchdown pass. Lesson -- coaches can only screw things up.

Vince Verhei: And Kolb, who supposedly gets flustered under a heavy pass rush, promptly leads a touchdown drive. Of course he does.

Andy Benoit: Kolb was able to attack the seams and release the ball at the top of his drop. Kolb is at his best throwing between the numbers.

Aaron Schatz: Breno Giacomini is just brutal on a sack of Wilson. He let Darnell Dockett go right past him. By the way, who the hell is Breno Giacomini? I've never heard of this person but he seems to be playing right tackle for Seattle.

Rob Weintraub: Hope he can play left tackle, whoever he is, because Russell Okung just limped off.

Vince Verhei: He's one of the anonymous guys who came in at the end of last season when everyone else got hurt. He's the starting right tackle at least until James Carpenter comes back.

Aaron Schatz: Apologies to Brian, because he did apparently write about him in the book and I just didn't remember.

Vince Verhei: And the finish of the most exciting game of the day comes down to everyone standing around trying to figure out how may timeouts the Seahawks have. Replacement refs!

Mike Kurtz: The stupid thing about the timeout imbroglio is that after 30 or so seconds, it didn't MATTER if they had the time out. First, the wing almost certainly told Seattle they had one left (and even if they didn't, the officials' reactions showed they had no idea what happened), so they couldn't really hit them with an unsportsmanlike or delay of game. At that point, they've given them the time out, right or wrong, just call it an officials' error, set the ball and whistle it in.

Don't spend four minutes wandering around aimlessly trying to count to three.

Aaron Schatz: There's the mistake by the replacement officials I was waiting for -- a mistake that has to do with knowing the rules, not with making a "bad call" on something difficult to see at the speed of football when you have just a human eye, something like pass interference.

Rivers McCown: I'm gonna say Braylon Edwards on a slant is not the optimal fourth-and-goal playcall.

Vince Verhei: Agh. That second half was phenomenal, chock full of big plays, momentum swings, and tons of drama. And then we got that finish, with timeout-gate, a lot of defensive flags, and the Seahawks getting about 19 tries to score and coming up short. I mean, credit to Arizona's defense for bending but not breaking, but that was not the climax I was looking for.

Carolina Panthers 10 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Vince Verhei: The Panthers were third in the league last year with 150.5 rushing yards per game. At halftime against Tampa Bay, they have six carries for -1 yards (that's minus-one yards). They are wearing blue jerseys with silver pants and helmets. Perhaps God is playing Madden and wanted to give them Detroit's playbook.

They just showed a "highlight" reel of Carolina runs. It looked like everything was an option or other gimmick play out of a shotgun. Am I imagining things ,or didn't they use a lot of I-Fomation and multiple-tight end stuff last year?

Rivers McCown: I guess losing Jeremy Shockey was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Or small sample size. Whichever.

Vince Verhei: Panthers have a third-and-goal down nine in the fourth. They go with the quarterback draw, on a day when it's been established they can't run at all. Bucs stuff the run, Panthers add a field goal, and it's a one-score game. Panthers now at 13 carries for 10 yards on the day.

Rivers McCown: The Buccaneers, of all teams, are the one that finally figured out how to shut down the Panthers run attack. I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, run defense is particularly inconsistent from year to year but that just seems ridiculous.

Pittsburgh Steelers 19 at Denver Broncos 31


Vince Verhei: I don't disagree that Pittsburgh's play-calling is too conservative and predictable, but the worst thing that can happen to them this game is an injury to Ben Roethlisberger. And every time he tries to pass, with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil matched up against those Pittsburgh tackles, with the way Ben likes to hold the ball ... it's a high-risk scenario. So they need to pass more, but they still need to be selective about it.

Rivers McCown: Derek Wolfe's motor is as advertised.

Aaron Schatz: We're about a quarter and a half into this thing, and I think Peyton Manning looks pretty much like Peyton Manning. The Broncos haven't scored because the Steelers defense looks pretty much like the Steelers defense.

Danny Tuccitto: Knowshon Moreno sighting!

Aaron Schatz: I took Moreno in the 10th round of the insane 32-team expert league and I had to start him this week with James Starks and Shane Vereen hurt. Seriously. I started Knowshon Moreno. I may be the only person in the entire world who did.

Danny Tuccitto: On that alone, you've justified your spot in an "expert" league no matter what happened before or what happens from here to eternity; a story to tell your grandkids from the rocking chair.

Ben Muth: Marcus Gilbert is down. An NFL season never officially starts untill the Steelers lose a tackle to injury.

Danny Tuccitto: Man, that four-minute drill by PIT at the end of the first half looked a whole lot like their potent offense circa 1-5 BH (before Haley).

Vince Verhei: I'm starting to think the false start is part of the Steelers' playbook. It's something they practice and work on. Gotta have a good false start unit to win in this league.

Aaron Schatz: Ben Roethlisberger needs to take quarterback sneak lessons from Tom Brady. That sneak about five minutes into the third quarter was awful. It looked like he was weakly trying to lean on the pile backwards or something. I honestly don't think he got it, but they gave it to him.

Tom Gower: Pretty much every quarterback needs to take sneak lessons from Tom Brady. Brady does a great job of using timing and picking his spot, whereas most teams just try to MANBALL it and drive forward.

Ben Muth: So, Demaryius Thomas is still faster than the Steelers secondary.

Aaron Schatz: Not to mention, Manning caught them with nobody on that side of the field. Two guys in man coverage were easily blocked off by two other wide receivers, and by the time Ryan Mundy got over, Zane Beadles had hustled downfield to block him. Then it was race time.

Mike Kurtz: I think that was the play where Ryan Clark's absence was most apparent. Troy Polamalu thought he could cut it in and failed, which took him out of the play. Mundy just had a bad angle and wasn't fast enough.

I'll be a lot happier with this team when everyone is healthy and playing in stadia that aren't potentially lethal to them.

Tom Gower: Jacob Tamme was not going to the ground when he caught the football. He caught the football, completed the catch, then got tackled and lost control of the ball.

Rob Weintraub: Didn't really think I'd feel dumb for starting Tony Gonzalez over Tamme in fantasy, but here we are.

Denver by six after a big goal-line stand. As a longtime victim of Mr. Roethlisberger, all I can say for the Broncos is ... uh-oh.

Aaron Schatz: That's ok, I started Trent Richardson over Jonathan Dwyer.

Rivers McCown: I started Chris Johnson over Stevan Ridley, while we're coming clean.

Looks like Tracy Porter was a pretty good buy-low for Denver.

Rob Weintraub: I'll say this for Porter, the man picks his spots.

Ben Muth: It was a rough night for Doug Legursky.

Vince Verhei: Just to emphasize the key mismatch the Pittsburgh offense suffered all night, they close with three sacks in their last four plays.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 10 Sep 2012

196 comments, Last at 14 Sep 2012, 5:29pm by t.d.


by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 9:57am

Regarding Fitzpatrick: He was both late with the ball and staring down receivers. On the first pick, Revis turned away from the route and then came back and jumped a pass that took a long time getting there. That's good CB play, but also shines a light on what we mean when we say a QB doesn't have the arm for the NFL route tree. The second pick was under thrown and hit the defender pretty squarely. The third pick was thrown directly to the CB, with the WR running somewhere else entirely. That one was weird. I suppose the WR and Fitz made entirely different reads, but Fitz was staring at the play side the whole time, so you'd expect he'd abort when things were so different from what he expected.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:29am

Yup. The receiver-staredown was painfully obvious all game. And the late timing direslty led to one of the picks (threw behind receiver, right to the coverage man a step behind). Revis of course did make some spectacular plays too.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:53am

I don't think arm strength was an issue on the Revis pick; it was just an incredibly late throw. The commentator doing the game had a good line "If you wait, you're late." The cut was made fairly close to the sideline meaning the ball needs to be there immediately coming out of the break to avoid the receiver running out of field. I'm not sure he'd have been inbounds even if the ball had gotten to him.

by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 9:47am

I was worried about him having this issue when they started working on his mechanics, and he did it in the preseason games, too. He doesn't have enough talent/arm strength to overcome the issues that arise with thinking too much in the pocket. Hopefully he'll come along during the year - he looked better at the end of the game, and the Jets weren't exactly playing prevent - but that first half was abysmal.

by Joseph :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:19am

Re: Tracy Porter, now of the Broncs: I think that he must have seen something on film of Big Ben. He tipped a pass near the endzone before PIT's first FG, then in the 2nd half he undercut 2 other passes before the late pick-6. On the first one, the WR (Sanders?) was able to strip the ball out of his hands, and on the other he was about 1/4 second late, or it would have been a pick-6 too. He also broke up a long pass to (iirc) Wallace. Four PD's and a pick-6. Man, the Saints could have used him yesterday with Greer out.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:22am

I'm really pulling for the Niners this year, just to have a team succeed by being above average on both lines of scrimmage, instead of the more normal (these days) approach of "Our qb is great, so we don't have to be that good on both lines". I'm tempted to note that the this was the 2nd meaningful game in a row where the much lauded Packer receiver corps has been distinctly less than impressive (except for Cobb yesterday, of course), but then I think about the fact that there aren't many teams with the defensive personnel equal to the Niners'. I do think the Packers weakness at running has a real chance to haunt them against the better teams this year.

As to other matters, think about how weird it is that Peyton Freakin' Manning was a free agent. If he is willing to put the work in, that guy just might make something of himself someday.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:28am

The scary part is Manning still noticeably isn't throwing amazingly well. I didn't really buy into that "Manning is smart enough anyway" line of thinking (despite being an unabashed Manning lover), but maybe I was wrong. That was, after the switch to the no-huddle, a masterful performance.

Also really liking the 49ers. As Rodgers said during the week, Smith wasn't a game manager. I like the idea of limiting Moss's snaps like that. Everytime he was on the field he was effective. As for the Packers, were the 49ers playing more zone than normal? That short underneath route was open a lot. They limited YAC and even the length of the throws. Just a great performance.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:34am

Manning is one of the few guys I listen to in post game press conferences, just for the moment like in the presser yesterday, when he was asked what adjustments he made at the line on the 80 yard play, and he gave the reporter the "If I told ya' I'd have to kill ya'" response. The sequence later in the game when he a Pomalalu were cat and mousing at the line of scrimmage was great, too.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 9:17am

I don't know that Manning could still make a lousy supporting cast into a good offense. I do think he can still take a pretty decent supporting cast and make a very, very good offense, and that looks to be the situation in Denver.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:34am

Agreed on the Niners. I just like that style of team.

Extra points if we get HD slo-mo shots of apoplectic crazy-man spit firing from Harbaugh's mouth every week.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:39am

For some irritating reason, a spam filter is preventing me from posting the comments I really want to make. Maybe some magic will happen and I can post later.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:44am

For some irritating reason, a spam filter is preventing me from posting the comment I'd really like to post. Maybe something magic will happen later on and I'll get to actually talk about the game.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:47am

I do hate the way the 9er playcalling gets so conservative with a lead late in the game. It guarantees that the team is in nail-biter after nail-biter. Green Bay had their most convincing offensive success the one series the 9ers played nothing but 3-man rush, and after punting only once all game, they suddenly had trouble getting a freaking first down once they were up 16. It's infuriating to watch.

Announcers were saying the Green Bay defense gave up some huge number of big plays last season. They were clearly playing to prevent the big play yesterday, but I think they picked the wrong team to do that against. There's only a handful of quarterbacks in the league more adept at the dump off than Alex J. Smith.

I'm really pulling for the Niners this year, just to have a team succeed by being above average on both lines of scrimmage....

I guess the trouble with having that kind of team is that you have to have great players at so many spots. The defense has three genuine, best-in-the-league kind of stars, and really good players around them. Hard to build that, hard to sustain it. Way easier to get lucky on landing a single great quarterback.

Also...not sure the o-line is that far above average.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 4:20pm

It is extremely nerve racking as a fan to watch your team turtle up with a 16 point lead against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. BUT I am not sure it is actually poor coaching. It is clear that Alex - with the lead or early in the game - is instructed to take NO risks with the football. Throw out of bounds, eat the ball and take a 3 yard sack - but don't be Brett Farve or Tony Romo.

This failed once last year (Dallas game) and led to some very close finishes (Saints game) but I cannot say for sure that it's poor tactics given this teams strengths (defense, punter) and weaknesses (pass blocking, QB).

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 7:17pm

I think that it could be that the turtle tendency is responsible for the number of close games that the 49ers played in last year and could also be one possible explanation for the niners' success in close games last year. By going 'prevent' on both sides of the ball they increase the number of close games but they get into those close games on their own terms.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:48am

Heh...most of my comment I was able to post, except for the paragraph talking about how encouraging the game was for a 9er fan and taking a side-swipe at a missed-blocking-in-the-back call. Maybe the spam filter doesn't like criticisms of the refs?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:24am

"Pats using a lot of "toss crack" today,"

That was a staple of the 90s Cowboys offense. It was a devastating play against LT in the 80s, too.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:27am

Oh, and early reports on Rick Spielman's consolidation of personnel power in Minny are positive. Turns out, using a later draft pick on a kicker who can hit from beyond 50, and obtain better field position, can be worthwhile.

(edit) Oh, and Adrian Peterson may have a future as a healer, if he can tell other people how he does it.

by jimbohead :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:31am

My impression of the GB defense was that they looked very confused by the niner's formation diversity. There really is no film of that team going 4 and 5 wide, and very little of them with 3 wideouts, yet that's what they did a lot in the first half, and that's where they got many of their big plays.

As to GB's running offense, to me it looked a lot less like an incompetent run game, and more like the fundamentally dominant defense that I've come to know and love crushing a marginally bad run offense. GB fans, just be glad your last-back-standing wasn't injured, like so many RBs were last year against this defense.

by N8 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:32am

Awesome chart from Aaron regarding the 49ers vs. history. I love footballoutsiders for this stuff.

by nat :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:33am

"McCourty just threw his body in front of the receiver without looking at the ball. No call, field goal for the Titans."

The "rule" about "playing the man, not the ball" isn't an automatic interference call. You still have to actually interfere with the man. The definition the NFL uses is

"It is pass interference by either team when any act by a player more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage significantly hinders the progress of an eligible receiver’s opportunity to catch the ball."

The business about playing the ball or the man is a guideline for refs in determining whether contact is allowed as incidental. To wit: "Contact by a player who is not playing the ball that restricts the opponent’s opportunity to make the catch..." is presumed illegal. If you are playing the ball, you can often make such contact, so long as you don't do a few prohibited things, like playing through the receiver's back, grabbing his arms, hooking his body, etc. In short, to be called for interference, you must make contact that interferes.

Complain about refs if you must. But first check your understanding of the rules. They appear to have gotten this one right.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 2:00pm

Yeah, he quite clearly does not make DPI type contact on the play in question, nor does Arrington on the deep pass that eventually gets intercepted.


by RC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 9:08am

McCourty's contact is definitely a bit much, but he made contact with the ball before he made contact with the defender.

Arrington's play is just a case of the defender having a better position on the ball than the receiver. He has equal right to the ball. They were both handfighting, and both looking back for the ball.

Its not DPI every time the receiver doesn't catch a close ball.

by nat :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 11:32am

It didn't even occur to me that contact that happened after the ball was knocked away would be a factor. I know you don't think that. But seriously, does ANYONE think that contact after the ball arrives could ever be interference?

by PatsFan :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 8:37pm

They better not think that. Once any defender touches the ball, PI is by rule off the table.

by nat :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 4:15pm

On the other hand, I don't want to be too critical of a comment in "Audibles at the Line". It's almost real-time commentary, so it's okay to go overboard occasionally. You're wrong to have complained about this non-call, but you were giving an honest if emotional response, so it's forgivable.

It's great to have real football again.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 4:21pm

Great point. I consistently get annoyed at this idea that it's pass interference automatically if the player doesn't look for the ball, regardless of level of contact. Unfortunately, it does seem on occasion that refs throw the flag on this basis.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:33am

"J.J. Cooper: That is the first time in NFL history that an overtime game was decided (did not end in a tie) by an incomplete pass."

Not true. The Ravens beat the Texans in 2010 on a pick-6. That counts as an incomplete pass in the record books. There are potentially 46 such games (I didn't go through them all).

Oddly, two OT games have ended in a safety.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:37am

I would not count an interception as an incomplete pass. It counts as an incompletion for the QB's stats, but that's because "completions/attempts" really means "completions to teammates/attempts."

I think FO writers are on pretty solid ground if they use "incomplete pass" to mean "pass that is not caught by player on the field."

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:40am

I'm with you, RickD. Interceptions don't count as completions for the offense (if a QB threw one pass, an interception, he'd be 0/1), but they're not really incompletions, either.

Think of this scenario: defender makes a diving interception that is questionable. The offense can then challenge that it was actually an incomplete pass.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:48am

"The offense can then challenge that it was actually an incomplete pass."

They can, but they'd have more luck challenging whether or not the ball was caught.

by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:57am

Technically correct, the best kind of correct.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 1:23pm

I'm reminded of a play a couple of years ago, involving the return of a questionable fumble, where the defender was also credited for breaking the plane on a very close call during the tackle.

So there are two potential challenges: the fumble itself, and whether the return was a TD.

The challenging coach very wisely challenged the ruling of a touchdown, and not specifically whether he broke the plane or fumbled. This allowed the occurrence of the fumble to also be susceptible to review.

The moral here is that sometime ambiguous phrasing has real meaning.

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 2:14pm

Technically, I believe that the phrasing only impacts whether or not the team "wins" the challenge (i.e. doesn't lose a timeout).

When a play is challenged, ALL(*) aspects of the play are under review. So even if the coach in question phrased his challenge as "the ball did not break the plane", the non-fumble could also have been overturned. However, the challenging team would still lose a timeout.

However, I believe this wasn't the case when replay was first re-introduced; rather, it was changed some time after.

I'm sure other posters can correct any errors I've made, but I think I have the general gist of this correct.

(*) "ALL" meaning "things that can possibly be overturned", judgement penalties being the most notable exception.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 2:15pm

This allowed the occurrence of the fumble to also be susceptible to review

It's open to review regardless. A coach has to specify the particular thing he's challenging (I assume because that'll be the yardstick used to determine if the challenge is "successful" for determining if he loses a timeout or not?), but everything reviewable in the play is open for review no matter what specific thing the coach challenges.

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:58am

Yes, and if they win the challenge, the official rule that the pass was "incomplete".

What's the issue, here? An incomplete pass and an interception - while technically the same thing from a QB statistics point of view - are different things. To say that previous overtime games have ended on incomplete passes is being a bit pedantic.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:44am

To me, the pedantic point is that it was alleged; "the game was DECIDED by an incomplete pass." No, it was decided by a field goal, the incomplete pass was merely the last play.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 8:18pm

No, that's not pedantic, it's simply poor usage.

Pointing out that "decided" is the incorrect usage when everybody understands what was meant - now that's pedantic!

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 6:36pm

citation, please. Unfortunately the NFL does not seem to make their official scorer's guide available to the public like MLB does, but the official rule book makes a clear distinction between incomplete and intercepted passes, and the Record and Fact book does not list incomplete passes as a category (if it did, we could look up the game in question).

by Travis :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 7:45pm

Here's the official NFL Guide for Statisticians (from 2008, but I don't think anything's changed since then). The only thing on point is on page 15:

Charge a player with a pass attempt when he:

1. Throws a completed pass ...;
2. Throws an intercepted pass;
3. Throws an incomplete pass ....

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 2:04pm

Hmm. Based on that, I'd have to disagree that interceptions are counted as incompletions.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:34am

"However, Titans fans may disagree after they missed a pretty clear defensive pass interference on Devin McCourty in the end zone. McCourty just threw his body in front of the receiver without looking at the ball. No call, field goal for the Titans."

There were a few plays where the announcers were talking about a missed PI call. Actually three I can think of. If you're talking about the on I think you are (the second), the receiver slid to the ground, McCourty kept going and knocked the ball away. And any contact was caused by the fact that the receiver had fallen in front of him.

If you're talking about the third, McCourty didn't even touch the receiver! And whether he was looking at the ball or not, his arm knocked the ball away. I think you're thinking of the old rule about face-guarding. But this wasn't face-guarding, it was playing the ball.

If you're talking about the first of the three, there was a consensus where I was that McCourty did push the receiver some. But I don't think you're talking about this play because it was not in the end zone and because McCourty was looking back.

by jebmak :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 12:57pm

(Only kind of related to your comment.)

If I had to choose between refs being too lenient and not calling enough DPI, and being too strict and calling too many, I would take not calling enough without a doubt.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 8:20pm

As would I, at least in comparison to the current climate.

I wouldn't want to go back to the 70s, though.

by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:39am

Can I join in with the coming clean? I started Trent Richardson over Adrian Peterson

by DGL :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:12am

I picked up DeAngelo Williams so I could start him over, well, does it really matter?

by coboney :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 10:24am

I started DeAngelo Williams in 3 leagues ( and faced him in my other 2) but the league it really hurt me in - I started him over Kevin Smith and that was the margin of victory.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 11:58pm

Ryan Williams over Alfred Morris in the flex. That's a 22 point swing. And the Bills gave me a -4. I lost by 28....

Also DROPPED Morris for Williams in another league (where I won so probably won't get him back on waivers).

And then there's Chris Johnson over CJ Spiller (in a game I lost by 5), Matt Shaub over RGIII, and the Bills defense in FIVE leagues over anyone else. One of which I lost by 1 :'(

Man, I love fantasy...

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by SFC B (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 1:14am

Ike Redman over Randall Cobb in the flex.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:40am

I'd be interested to know what the expected number of wins should be for teams in general who win or lose their first game. It might be as uninteresting as 8.5 for teams that win their first game and 7.5 for teams that lose their first game. But it might be a bit more skewed than that.

This is a roundabout way of saying that the "Back to Earth" table is not very interesting.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:24am

Dear God, I hope it's not 8.5/7.5. That would mean that the first week contains absolutely no information whatsoever as to whether or not the team is good (since it means the team goes 7.5/7.5 on the remaining 15 games).

It's got to be skewed above 8.5/7.5 slightly. Otherwise it implies that the outcome of the first week is entirely random.

by Travis :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:48am

Since 1978 (the start of the 16-game schedule), and throwing out the two strike seasons (1982, 1987):

Teams that won Week 1 won an average of 9.13 games over the full season.
Teams that lost Week 1 won an average of 6.87 games over the full season.


Ties count as 1/2 a win.
No team has tied Week 1 since 1978.
The Week 2 results were used for the five teams that didn't play Week 1 (1992 Dolphins, 1992 Patriots, 1999 Chargers, 2000 Bengals, 2001 Cardinals).

by Travis :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:58am

(double post)

by RickD :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 8:23pm

Thanks! I love getting away with being lazy.

So, the table really tells us very little at all. I kind of doubted that it would.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:40am

Last year never happened, so I have no idea what anybody is talking about.

As for the Bucs run defense, Gerald McCoy had a simply monstrous game; he lived in the backfield. He's shown loads of promise, but he has this whole problem where he apparently tears a bicep scratching his own . . . never mind. Anyways, yesterday he played great, and I noticed that he and Roy Miller (the other DT) were frequently swapping positions back and forth, probably helped sow some confusion. Going to hit up NFL Rewind for more detail, but the real key was push up the middle.

Also, Doug Martin is my new very best friend ever. I saw him pick up blitzers. RBs can do that? Really?

by Gridiron Grammarian (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 5:29pm

Of course, this is a site that holds statistics in the highest esteem. But how do you factor in the fact that last season, the Bucs players simply lost all faith in Raheem Morris's "system" (such as it was), and took it easy for the remainder of the year? The stats are completely anomalous.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 5:46pm

Simple, you add a dummy variable called incompetent coaching and map out its impulse response function, the same way you would if say, team A lost its hall of fame qb or team B's running back got hit by a bus.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:52am

I thought the one area across the board where the Scabs refs were absolutely terrible was PI.

Missed calls, inventing calls, maddening inconsistent calls...sure the regular NFL refs don't get it right all the time either...but the Scabs were really, really bad IMO.

And Manning was flat-out surgical last night...I'm still smiling thinking about his 2nd half performance...how fantastic is it to be a football fan in 2012...Manning, Brady, AP...so many legendary players to watch...very glad football is back!

by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:04am

I've not really had an issue with them on calls. They've been inconsistent, but I don't think they've really been any worse than regular officials, and I don't think they've made any mistakes (in the regular season) that normal refs absolutely wouldn't have made. I did only watch the Lions V Rams early and redzone late, so I may have missed stuff, but the only bad calls I saw in that were ones that I'd probably say was me being a Rams homer and either not getting calls that I wanted or getting calls that I didn't. There didn't seem to be anything hugely glaring.

The main area I've noticed them being not as good in is just speed of the calls. Its flag, look around to figure out who threw the flag, look around to figure out who they need to tell, chat for a bit about the stuff the ref needs to say, chat for a bit about presumably where the ball will be spotted, ref goes to say stuff, forgets something, asks the official for some more info, make the call, then check where the ball might be spotted, what time is on the clock, what they are having for dinner tonight, how are the kids, what's your favourite colour, then get on with the next play.

Whereas with the proper refs its flag, tell the ref, ref calls it, we get on with the play.

I do like some of the refs though. They have personality. I liked the one who did the Cowboys Giants game who refused to say anything more than the absolute bare minimum of words. I liked the one who was doing one of the late games who looked like Scott Glenn.

by Independent George :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:54am

There were two calls yesterday that I thought the scabs blew, but the regular refs wouldn't have:

1. Seattle's extra timeout
2. 12 men on the field by Pittburgh

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 12:06pm

On the Packers punt return, there may have been three or four illegal blocks. I think the regular guys may have gotten one of them called.

by Guest789 :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:14pm

Not to mention the Joe Staley false starts. It boggles my mind that they weren't called.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 9:51am

Really. How hard is it to spot a false start?

Maybe it's that a false start takes quick reflexes, and the refs are clearly taking their time with the flags, trying to get them right.

by RC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 9:19am

There are two or three illegal blocks on almost every kick/punt return. Catching one of three or four is about right.

by Insancipitory :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 6:40pm

The regular refs give the occasional extra timeout too. It's not even what I would consider particularly rare. What they don't do is have a conference call about it tens of thousands chant bullshit from the stands and millions make dismissive jerking motions at home.

What I haven't seen the replacements do:
Mistake a team logo for a football and award a touchdown.
Watch a TE drop a ball in the endzone and award a touchdown.
Watch a reciever catch a ball in the air land outside the back of the endzone and award a touchdown.
Inexplicably talk themselves out of correctly awarding possession following an interception ala Steelers @ Colts.
Call a game blatently one sided.

As I've said before, the one virtue the regulars have over the replacements is they keep the game moving.

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 7:12pm

Give them time.

by dbt :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 8:50pm

Over how many seasons, how many weekends, did you accumulate these mistakes? So far you've only seen the temps for 1 week.

by BJR :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 12:12pm

Completely agree about the speed of the calls rather than bad calls, at least in the games I was watching. It's entirely understandable that the replacement refs want extra time to consult, but it makes the games tough to watch. The Colts/Bears game went on for 3.5 hours - too long for a game of football - at least in part because the refs were taking an age after every flag. Say what you will about the regular refereeing crews, but they mostly deal with the routine penalties (e.g. false starts, holds) quickly and efficiently.

Troy Aikman kept wittering on about the flags coming out late in the SF/GB game but I don't think that is an issue. I'd far rather all refs, replacement or not, took a split second to assess matters before tossing their flags.

One bad missed call in that game was Tramon Williams' flagrant helmet to helmet hit on Frank Gore when he was already in the end zone. The commissioner might be having a look at that one this week.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 1:35pm

Thankfully video evidence shows that BJR is making things up with respect to the Williams hit on Gore. Gore's butt has just barely touched the goal line when Williams initiates contact, and because Gore was backing in to the end zone the play was not over.

And as far as the helmet to helmet hit, to me it looks possible there was some contact there, but the majority of the impact came from Williams clearly extended forearms. I doubt we hear from the commissioner on this one.

The refs were dreadful in this game, for both sides, but we don't need to make up missed calls.


by RickD :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 8:29pm

The video you link shows a defender making a helmet-to-helmet hit on a player already in the end zone.

Williams actually lowers his head to make the hit.

He should be fined for this one. I don't think anybody would care about the fact that it was a teensy bit late, but the helmet-to-helmet hit, when the defender lowers his helmet to make said hit, is something that the NFL has been consistently penalizing.

by Guest789 :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:23pm

But looking at the way Gore was leaning, it's pretty much impossible for Williams to avoid helmet-to-helmet contact. No way this gets fined.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

by Arkaein :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:43pm

RickD, you obviously didn't watch the video very carefully, so I've made it simple for you: still frame of fist contact, Gore's back side barely breaking the plane, not "already in the end zone". If this hit had jarred the ball loose (unlikely as it would have been) it could have saved a TD, maybe even cause a touchback. Hardly a play to give up on.

And like I said, maybe there is helmet contact, but you can't tell from that angle. To me it looks like his helmet has dipped under Gore's head and into the shoulder pads. Not the best form, but not conclusive of anything.


by claude balls (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 1:02pm

Pierre Thomas would like to remind you that it is neither a penalty nor a fine-worthy act to lay a helmet-to-helmet hit on a ball carrier. Only non-running QBs and defenseless receivers get such protection.

by CoachDave :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 5:53pm

Arms down, leading with the crown...it doesn't get any easier to call H2H than that one.

Will he get fined? Who the heck knows...usually they fine based on the outcome, not on the penalty...but with this commish...no clue.

by BJR :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 3:28pm

I've watched it several times and not changed my mind that the hit was both late and dirty. It's a virtual definition of 'unnecessary' roughness. Care to disclose which team you follow?

by Rhombus (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 12:13pm

This I would agree with had I not watched the entirety of the Packers-49ers game. That may have been the worst officiating I've seen in sports. The only reason it's not being talked about much is because they were equally terrible for both teams, and didn't really affect the outcome of the game. But it had every single missed call and bad call: missed false starts, questionable PIs, 60 yards and a touchdown awarded to a team after picking up the flag on what was initially a good call, a phantom block in the back call on the kicking team during a punt, a personal foul on Aldon Smith for taking his helmet off after it was knocked off by Rodgers' foot. The replacements were fine for the most part, from the other games I saw, but I do not envy whoever has this crew next week.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 6:53pm

The missed block in the back had to be the biggest of those, since it led directly to 8 points. Without those, Green Bay is out of it a lot sooner. So no, it didn't affect the outcome (and thank heavens for that), but it sure changed the course of the game.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 8:31pm

The people you would expect to be talking about it are all on the payroll, either directly or indirectly, of the league that locked out its officials.

by verified (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 1:29pm

The crew at Chicago certainly had a different definiton of PI than the regular refs. 5 PI calls in the game and maybe one of them would have been called by the regular refs. In general I thought the replacements did a poor to terrible job (I watched Chi-Ind, Det-StL, SF-GB, Pit-Den).

by TomC :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 2:01pm

At least they were consistent about being ticky-tack. (And I think the call on the 3rd-down pass from Cutler to Bennett was legit, but I agree on all the V. Davis-on-Marshall calls and the call on Tim Jennings.)

The strangest officiating moment in that game (IND-CHI), though, was on the play where Wootton knocked the ball away from Luck as he was starting to throw. The ball was eventually properly awarded to the Bears, but the initial call was an incomplete pass, which was wrong in two different ways: 1) it was a fumble, and 2) Peppers caught the ball before it hit the ground, so even if they ruled it a forward pass, it would be an interception. What really stunned me (though I guess it shouldn't have) is that Gumbel and Dierdorf never mentioned the fact that Peppers clearly got his hands between the ball and the ground, even after looking at the replay multiple times during the challenge. They just kept talking about whether Luck's arm was going forward before the ball came out.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 5:18pm

No, Peppers didn't get his hands under the ball - it clearly hit the ground while he was trying to control it, as the TV announcers plainly stated during the replay.

by TomC :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 5:28pm

Say what?! I admit I was at a bar and a few beers in, but man, that's not how it looked to me (all eight times I watched the replay). I'll go home & look at the replay again, and I'll apologize to Greg & Dan if you're right.

by Independent George :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 6:03pm

I hope you realize you're appealing to the authority of Dan Dierdorf, right?

It seemed pretty clear to me that Peppers got his hand under the ball - and I count the fact that Dierdorf thought otherwise as a point in my favor.

by Marko :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 6:25pm

I thought that Dierdorf and Gumbel first started saying that Peppers did catch the ball before it hit the ground. Then they realized that it should be ruled a fumble so it was moot whether Peppers caught it or not. The officials correctly ruled on replay that it was a fumble and obviously a clear recovery by Peppers.

I admit that I wasn't paying full attention to the commentary because as soon as I saw the first close-up replay, it was obvious to me that it should and would be ruled a fumble due to Luck's "empty hand." Once I saw that, I was busy calling and talking to my dad to tell him that it would be ruled a fumble, so I didn't listen carefully to the analysis by Dierdorf and Gumbel.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 6:56pm

"I didn't listen carefully to the analysis by Dierdorf and Gumbel."

Indeed, if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 8:29am

Hmm. It sure looked to me like the ball never hit the ground, although if it had been ruled a pass rather than a fumble, I'm not sure if there would have been enough evidence to overrule the call of an incompletion. Regardless, I think the officials eventually made the right call as I think it was correct to call it a fumble.

by Zord (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 6:06pm

The worst call of the game was on Luck's first interception. Idonije was clearly offside and Luck thought he had a free play and underthrew a deep ball that Jennings made a great play on to intercept. No call.

Luck was inaccurate all day, alternating between overthrows and underthrows. It looked like the pressure got to him enough to disrupt his mechanics. It'll be interesting to see how he responds against the Vikings next week when he should have more breathing room.

The only concern I'd have for the Bears chances this year (injuries notwithstanding) is that Cutler tried to force it into Marshall several times when he was double or triple covered. I don't think any of these throws went for completions and a couple of times Marshall had to play DB to prevent an interception. This will hurt against good defenses.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:09am

And still the no-call that sticks in my mind the most on that game is that Marshall threw a ball into the air after a completion. Isn't that supposed ot be delay of game?

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by ZenyattaMondatta (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 7:59pm

Same exact thing happened in the Seattle-Arizona. There were 5 defensive pass interference calls (3 against AZ, 2 against SEA) and I can only think of 1 that was fairly obvious, the rest were very ticky tack judgement calls. I would've preferred they call none of them than 5. The game had 23 total penalties and took forever.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:07am

The be bad for Barkley watch has officially begun...

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 4:25pm

Blow it for Barkley.

by Ryan :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:07am

So has anyone else figured out that whole "the Browns drafted a 28-year-old quarterback" thing yet?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:11am

Other than "they're the Browns?"

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:40am

The actual drafting of Weeden made more sense to me than anything that's happened since then. I didn't understand why they immediately named him the starter. I also didn't get how McCoy stayed with the team after they basically promised he'd be gone. That's just all kinds of awkward--their options were to let the guys compete or move McCoy along if they had zero confidence in him and/or were afraid his presence would hamper Weeden's development.

Somehow, they ended up in the worst of all worlds where the guy they badmouthed and clearly don't want to play is the backup of the guy they prematurely named the starter but may have to bench. Welcome to the Browns!

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:41am

The actual drafting of Weeden made more sense to me than anything that's happened since then. I didn't understand why they immediately named him the starter. I also didn't get how McCoy stayed with the team after they basically promised he'd be gone. That's just all kinds of awkward--their options were to let the guys compete or move McCoy along if they had zero confidence in him and/or were afraid his presence would hamper Weeden's development.

Somehow, they ended up in the worst of all worlds where the guy they badmouthed and clearly don't want to play is the backup of the guy they prematurely named the starter but may have to bench. Welcome to the Browns!

by jebmak :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 1:11pm

Well, it worked so well for the Dolphins a few years Beck.

by Led :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:08am

Regarding the 49ers, I'm really not a fan of the "isolate one variable and list historical comps" form of analysis. It's fine as a quick and dirty analysis, and maybe even provides a basis for a rebuttable presumption, but it's just too simplistic to justify disregarding other information about the team/player. For example, with the 49ers, what if you take all the historical comps and look at the trends for the preceding years to see whether you get a different results for teams that were trending up or trending down or where there was no trend. Maybe the year with the bad record was the outlier. I have no particular interest in (or opinion on) the 49ers. This is more of a methodological point.

by David :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 2:36am

I agree. The table feels like a further justification by FO (well, I mean Aaron, but I don't want to get personal about it) for why a win by a 7-9 team over the presumptive SB champions still doesn't mean anything

If I have a criticism of this site, it is that sometimes the model spits out a result which gets latched onto, and defended with more vehemence, and for longer, than possibly it deserves. The projected record for the 49ers this year is an obvious example. I seem to recall similar overreactions regarding the Giants (for winning when the model said not that good) and the Eagles (for not winning when the model liked them)

Occasionally, it's okay to say that the model doesn't seem to pick up outliers - that's okay. However, it's easy to end up in a mental state where there is a personal feeling involved, and an overreaction becomes easy

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 9:56am

I think the model would be correct at 7-9 or 8-8...if the 9ers still had Singletary or Nolan as head coach, because that is in fact what they were able to do -- in Singletary's case with a very similar team -- year after year.

How to quantify the difference between Singletary/Raye and Harbaugh/Roman/Fangio? Between the worst coaching squad in the league and a very good one? No shocker that FO predictions have such a hard time with it.

by t.d. :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 11:32am

I argued this point in the preseason, and I'm still arguing it after week one: it is stupid, and bad process, to argue that the NFC West is likely to be bad because it has been bad in the recent past. This isn't the same thing as 'teams that are unusually successful/unsuccessful on 3rd down tend to regress towards the mean', or 'running backs with high usage tend to drop off', it's voodoo, and every team in the division has turned over their front offices from previous unsuccessful regimes. I actually think all four teams in the division look like they're going to be above average on defense, and there's no reason to think that the division will be horrible this year except that they have tough schedules. Everybody in the NFC has a difficult schedule, since the conference is loaded.

by Alternator :: Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:17pm

Bad teams in one year are more likely to be bad, than an average team is likely to be bad.

Therefore, a division with three bad teams is more likely to be a below-average division than one with fewer than three bad teams.

I do not see why this should be controversial. Teams can fall off a cliff, they can jump up, but in the aggregate, past performance is very much an indicator of future results in sports.

by t.d. :: Thu, 09/13/2012 - 6:50am

Last year, there was one 'bad' team in the nfc west, two average teams, and a great one.

by tuluse :: Thu, 09/13/2012 - 9:47am

Arizona was 28th in DVOA, and St Louis was 32nd.

by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 09/13/2012 - 11:00am

DVOA isn't the be-all, end-all. The Cardinals seemed a lot better than the 28th best team. Their point differential wasn't that bad (-36). Their conventional rankings weren't that bad. I think teh 28th is definitely underrating that team.

by COtheLegend :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:10am

We may not know how good or bad the Browns may turn out to be, but the Eagles' defense WAS very good. The linebackers are improved, as DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks made several plays, especially Ryans. He made a nice tackle on a short pass on third down, stopping the receiver short immediately after the catch and forcing a punt. The corners played pretty good, even though I must point out that there were several open receivers, some in the end zone, that Weeden missed wildly. Here's a "hidden play" treat: On an end-around in the 2nd quarter, Nnamdi hustles from across the field to make the tackle and prevent a touchdown. A few plays later, the Eagles come away with an interception, taking potential points off the board in a 1-point game.

It looked like Andy Reid was trying to "punish" the offense by calling time outs at the end of the 1st half to get one more posession, and fortunately, it worked out. It may just been me, but Jeremy Maclin certainly appears "larger" this year.

I'm not sure what I can say about the offense that won't be talked about all week. Perhaps Andy was discouraged from running because every time McCoy broke a nice run, holding was called. What is really troubling is that the offensive line COULD NOT BLOCK. With the Ravens, Cardinals, and Giants left, how is this offense going to set up if after the line had this much trouble yesterday? Wether it's the line or the quarterback, something is schematically wrong with the passing offense. Every passing play, it feels like it's a challenge just to get the ball off.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:13am

Did anyone else watching Bucs-Panthers (assuming anybody else actually watched that game) note how absolutely and utterly terrible Mike Martz was at color commentary? I mean, TERRIBLE. He mumbled, was late on his comments, didn't have anything insightful to say, and really was a giant anchor on the broadcast. It's not like I'm exactly expecting the #1A broadcast team for that game, but Martz was about as bad as could be.

by Ryan :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:17am

He was too busy pouring various colored liquids into beakers and test tubes, cackling maniacally as he imagined Marc Bulger passing from an empty backfield into a Pittsburgh defense that was somehow blitzing 17 men.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:18am

Having seen him on the NFL Network, and interviewed when he was coaching, I can't say it is surprising.

by David :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 2:38am

Absolutely agree - I felt his worst moment was praising the ST coach of the Bucs for the blocked punt, due to a personal connection ("I hired him when I was head coach for the Rams...") - when the play was entirely down to the player doing well (or, rather, the Panthers forgetting to block him) rather than any particular call, or set-up, or something that might be attributable to the coaching!

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:33am

Its amazing, but denver has completely molded itself to manning, not the other way around. All of denver's run success was a result of running against optimal fronts(its really telling that the colts ran into optimal fronts and still couldn't run the ball). This defense was getting shoved around most of the night, but once manning's offense controlled the game, the defense got to play off it. The receivers catches, the o lines blocking, all of these put into optimal points with manning. This is what vince missed when doing his upset watch. Yes, denver isn't overly talented and has flaws, but manning is maybe the only person in history that makes everyone on the roster better. He fundamentally changes everything(except special team returns) a team can do. People like to say the colts were super talented in their heyday, but i don't think they were. They never had the talent say the packers or 49ers have now, but everything was elevated with manning that people often confused this. Lets not forget, the same things vince said about denver's weaknesses are very true, but manning can and does cover them up.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:40am

The Denver defense actually seemed to be really good on 1st and 2nd down and against the run all night, but just mostly putrid on 3rd down. On downs where they should be
'pinning their ears back' they didn't get to Ben in time, and Ben converted what seemed like four or five (maybe more) 3rd and 10+.

They finally made a couple of stops late and that is all they needed. But with all the 3rd adn long conversions, it really looked like vintage Colts defense. That has to get better. They can't undo their good work on 1st and 2nd down with just bad, bad play on the most important down.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 7:36pm

The Broncos defense looked pretty good against the run, and they defended the sidelines. Unfortunately, the linebackers and safeties were pretty awful in pass protection, routinely leaving Heath Miller or the slot receiver open in the middle of the field. Even before the big interception, Tracy Porter was having a good night of pass breakups, and we know about Champ.

The problem was that linebackers were taking outside leverage on seam routes and the safeties were over the top and unable to get down to (10-17 yards downfield (!) to stop the pass. Another related point. Denver's safeties were very deep, until very late in the game.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 09/14/2012 - 3:01am

I would be careful of lauding the Broncos too much for defense on first and second downs. I thought the Steelers were incredibly predictable on those downs. And if you know what your opponent is going to do, defending becomes much, much easier.

by Ryan :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:42am

As a dedicated Colts fan, this game made the Manning Intangible that much more apparent. I'm starting to think that maybe Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne (who had a handful of impressive catches yesterday) were the only true outstanding talents Manning has had over the years, and that virtually all other offensive gain came from his orchestration. In retrospect, his 2010 squad, especially midseason, was a 4-12 team with almost any other quarterback.

Exhibit A: Whither Blair White?

by rageon :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:57am

Broncos fan who is glad to have Manning but also thinks it's unfortunate he didn't finish his career in Indy.

If nothing else, Manning in Denver adds a data point to the discussion of how valuable a quarterback can actually be. If Denver wins 12 games after winning 8 the prior year with basically the same team (which should have won maybe 6), I think it's further evidence that Manning can singlehandedly make an offense great.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 09/12/2012 - 9:23pm

Pierre Garcon is looking pretty good so far without Manning

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 12:11pm

I don't see a lot of evidence that the Packers are that talented, outside of the league MVP. Don't get me wrong: this isn't like the poorer Colts rosters, surviving on qb performance alone, but they just aren't that impressive, in my opinion.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 1:33pm

Oh i think thats probably true on defense, but the offense to me, outside of rb and lt, is one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the nfl. They really run 4 deep at receiver- with none being elite, but all being very good. The o line is similar in that regard, no one is overly elite(other than sitton i would say), but all are pretty good(except newhouse).

Its telling that matt flyn, yes the same matt flynn who couldn't beat out third round rookie russell wilson, looked like a hall of famer with this talent.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 3:31pm

I think the o-line is below average when run blocking and just average at pass blocking, which is covered by a terrific qb. They have some talent at receiver, but I saw drops again yesterday. Yes, I would be surprised to see them win fewer than 12 games, but I would not be surprised to see them fail to get to the conference title game again. Having said that, the way the game is played now, you certainly have to say that it would not be surprising to see them hoist the trophy, either.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 7:40pm

5 deep at receiver:


Cobb is a starter (at least in the slot) for 25 teams.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 9:22pm

When you mean starter, do you mean as the #3, because there are certainly 8 teams with better 1-2 WRs.

by Guest789 :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:35pm

8 better than Jennings-Nelson? I think Jennings is criminally underrated - he might be the best route-runner in the league. Nelson's no one-season wonder either, and I don't think there are 8 better 1-2s.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

by Marko :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:50pm

Nelson is not very good because he is white. However, he is a gritty fan favorite who has deceptive speed.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 5:20pm

so awesome...thank you.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:52pm

I think he meant that there are at least 8 teams with #2 WRs better than Cobb, i.e., Cobb would not be a starter for so many as 25 teams.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 1:15am

This is what I meant.

Jennings-Nelson is one of the better, if not the best, #1-2 combos in the NFL.

by Guest789 :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 9:10am

Ah, my bad. CommissionerLeaf's comment didn't show up for me before for some reason.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 1:39pm

I thought "At least in the slot." was a clear statement that I meant that Cobb was better than most #3 receivers in the league. The third receiver is pretty much a starter in Green Bay (as well as many other teams).

This is checkable (if possibly fuzzy due to flexible players like Aaron Hernandez and Cobb) but isn't 11 personnel the most common personnel grouping for the modern NFL?

I would think 21 personnel (which defines "starters" in some minds) is possibly behind 12 personnel as well.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 11:20am

It's safe to say Driver is the #5 at this point. I think he was charted as on the field for 3 plays against SF?

by Eddo :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 11:45am
by Mike W :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 2:06pm

Bingo. This whole "Super Bowl Favorite," "best organization in the NFL" stuff is going to look silly when they go 11-5 or so and lose in the playoffs again. They are an average club with a great QB. They got hot and won the Super Bowl two years ago. Great. The Giants did that twice and nobody thinks they're an awesome club or organization. They won all their close games last year. Great. It was obvious they were deeply flawed and vulnerable, and no great shock that they lost at home in the playoffs.

And I'm a GB fan.

by Independent George :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 2:11pm

I think you're undervaluing the Super Bowl year a bit - that was a complete team with an excellent defense to complement Rodgers & the offense. The problem the past two seasons was a combination of worse defense and a creakier OL.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 4:18pm

There are some very clear differences between the 2010 packers defense and the present. That team lost two elite defensive stars in nick collins and cullen jenkins, not too mention, charles woodson was at the absolute peak of his powers- ie- was dominant in coverage and thus could be fully utilized in his slot joker role.

I still disagree about the line. I feel its very good and its the running backs that suck. They've shown they can be good running the ball even with the likes of starks and ryan grant, but now its a weaker version of all those 2 plus an old and useless benson. Again, i hate to bring pff but they seem to be the ONLY ones that actually attempt to grade this stuff and the pack are in their top 10 for just o lines.

Their receivers, yes have drop problems, but outside of finley, thats really a recent phenomenon. I still think this team has really deep talent on offense.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 3:27pm

I think anyone who has been watching the past 20 years of football and doesn't think P. Manning is the GOAT needs their head examined. No other player is close to as valuable.

He made a lot of pretty middling IND teams look very very good, and looks to be doing the same with DEN. He is consistently worth a few wins a year over the average starters at his position, and several over a replacement player.

by Independent George :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 3:33pm

I think Manning is on the short list as GOAT, but as far as elevating his teammates goes, you could make the exact same statement about John Elway, Dan Marino, and the stubblefaced blue jeans model.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 4:01pm

Meh, I saw them, I would take Manning any day (not an IND/DEN fan). You would really bet against Manning in a game between him and an average set of players against any other QB and an average set of players? I wouldn't. I would give him points against anyone, and quite a few against some of the "greats".

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 4:38pm

What was the line?

He'll take his and beat yours, then take yours and beat his?

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 4:59pm

What year's ruleset are we using?

It's it's 1973, I think I would take Fran Tarkenton. If it's in the 80s, I would think about a couple other guys before Peyton.

With today's rules? Then yes Peyton every time.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 5:09pm

Why would 80s rules favor necessarily hurt Peyton? I think don't think he relies on short dink and dunk type plays the way say a tom brady or aaron rodgers does. Everything about Peyton is in the name of optimal execution. If the defense is giving short routes, he takes them. If the defense is not helping a weaker corner- then he goes there. Against the vaunted jets D in 2009, manning shredded the defense for big medium throws play after play when it became clear the jets were just going to sit in nickle and rush 4. He runs if you play 2 man or weaken the fronts. He runs if you're playing ameoba like pittsburgh did last year.

I can buy pre rule change 80s with some other qb. But post rule change? idk, hard to find someone better though I don't feel comfortable judging peyton against past greats that i wasn't watching carefully.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 7:24pm

The increased protection for quarterbacks helps any passer who operates out of a singleback or spread system. Running that stuff in the mid 80s would get you killed. The same can be said for the increased propensity to call illegal contact.

Helmet radios help, the league has continued to make changes that help qbs.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 7:26pm

The Redskins and Falcons did run single back offenses in the mid-80s.

I think the Rams ran it some in the 1950s.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 7:40pm

I will admit that I entirely forgot about the run and shoot and those Redskins. I still think there's some validity to what I said, for example I think that the 46 Bears would kill Manning or Brady in the offenses they run today.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 9:36pm

The Joe Gibbs Redskins used a lot of 2 TE sets.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 7:25pm

Pre-1949 rules, Sammy Baugh or Randall Cunningham
1949-2012 rules, Peyton Manning

by RickD :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 8:36pm

Does "all time" include the future?

It's the kind of thing I ponder.

by theslothook :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 3:39am

As far as legacies go, manning and brady will be the only qbs i think that will be remembered by future generations from the 2000s( i really don't consider rodgers part of that era). And of course, the future will bring about new bright signal callers so if manning or brady does end up with his share of goat title, its not likely he'll to be with them forever. I imagine every decade, the current fans look at the crop of legendary but aging qbs and wonder how future signal callers will be able to replace such titans. It was probably said after montana got old, after elway and marino got old, and now after brady and manning get older. But really, the next legendary qb is probably already in the league now and will be set to emerge in the coming future.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 09/14/2012 - 4:33pm

People will remember the other Manning and Roethlisberger because we remember players who won multiple Super Bowls, like, say, Jim Plunkett. On the flip side, Rivers ought to be remembered, but he never won a title, so he likely wont, except maybe in the context of the class of 2004.

by t.d. :: Fri, 09/14/2012 - 5:29pm

Why is Rivers considered better than Romo? I think Rivers always had inflated stats compared to Eli and Ben. Playing for years in a lousy division in perfect weather did wonders for his dvoa, but not his legacy

by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 09/14/2012 - 4:26pm

I think Graham is the GOAT, but my phrenologist says I have the occipital bun of a contrarian.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:42am

I forgot how much I enjoyed watching Peyton Manning. The moment I realized this was after the second touchdown, he just starts walking off the field and he's looking over at the receiver, smiling but not gesticulating, because this is number 401, been here before folks, just another day at the office.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:48am

Oh also, just a few thoughts on the 49ers and Packers- I don't know what was wrong with Rodgers, but it wasn't really pass rush, his throws were almost entirely short and some of them were just inaccurate. I can't tell if it was awesome 49er coverage or the receivers, but clearly, rodgers was super flustered. I was stunned.

by stephenbawesome :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 12:16pm

Regarding the Bucs stopping the Panthers running game, the Schiano teams at Rutgers were generally pretty good at neutralizing some higher caliber running teams. They had their bad games, but he also didn't have this talent to work with.

Schematically, it's just being aggressive through the gaps and disturbing a lot of runs before they can get going. Gap control isn't the right description because they tend to have defenders attacking each gap upfield and trying to put the offensive line on their heels. They use a lot of stunting and zone blitz concepts to disguise which player is attacking which gap.

I didn't get to watch enough of this game because it was solely through Red Zone, but it seems like the defensive line scheme was similar to Rutgers, just with more talent and athleticism along the line.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 1:29pm

Good comment, stephenbawesomd.

Schiano good ochac and defense schemed well yesterday. Remember tema had good young personnel 2011 but horribly coached by Radio-like cheerleader coach R. Morris. Just needed better coaching to unleash Buccs defensive potential. Very good players on line, good secondary and nice young LBs. L. David rookie from Nebraska very nice.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 2:31pm


by tuluse :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 12:25pm

With regards to the Bear's horrific start, it seemed like last year even during their "good" streak (post MNF against the Lions, pre-Culter injury), they would always start really poorly. It was mostly the offensive line. Say what you will about Mike Martz, but one of his strengths is the scripted stage at the beginning of games. I can't come up with a good explanation for why this would be. The only reasons I can think of are inane things like the offensive line is nervous and needs to calm down.

My solution: put in the backup running back and just run up the gut 3 times on the first possession and punt.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 1:41pm

I can't tell if it was the bears being this good or the colts being this horrid, but i suspect a good chunk is just the colts being this horrid. Costanzo was a turnstile out there and noticeably held mcledon a number of times. The interior was awful too. On defense, yes they got pressure, but cutler just hosed them down the field for big plays all game. I like cutler a lot, phenomenal thrower and accurate on medium routes, but too many of these receivers were streaking down the field. This game, to me, was even more lopsided than it could have and should have been. It once again affirms how far this roster has fallen and the number of years its going to take to repair.

That being said, the bears look scary. Their defensive line runs very deep with melton, peppers, idonije, and mclendon. The linebacker level is a bit injury prone at this stage, but still good. The receivers look like huge upgrades, while the o line still looks pretty terrible. The only part I don't know much about is the secondary so id have to ask a bears fan to offer their opinions. But so far, this team looks quite formidable. The NFC feels like a loaded conference this year.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 1:54pm

I still can't buy that Tim Jennings is actually good, but he keeps playing well, so what do I know?

If he is, and if the starters can stay healthy (which is a huge concern actually), this is the best secondary the Bears have fielded since 06. That's when Vasher could still play, Mike Brown was in his prime and Chris Harris/Danieal Manning were competent next to him. While none of the 4 guys are elite (though I think Conte has the chance to become so), there are no soft spots a team can reliably attack. It's 4 guys who are all above average.

Also, I wouldn't call the Bears linebackers injury prone, just injured. I think that situation will improve as the season progresses, but we'll see.

by TomC :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 2:07pm

Agreed on Jennings. He was brilliant yesterday.

But this I just can't understand: "Bears Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman suffered a lower-leg injury on a punt return Sunday...[Chicago Sun-Times]". Now, I love good special teams as much as the next guy, but every time I see Peanut on the PR team, I want to scream. He's over 30, and there is no way the difference between him and the next guy on the depth chart in blocking for Hester is as big as the difference between him & Kelvin Hayden starting at CB.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 3:53pm

Two things:

Jennings must have actually improved his play, because he was behind Kelvin Hayden on the Indy depth chart.

What was Indy doing letting these modestly-priced corners go if they can still play in Chicago?

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 5:12pm

He was serviceable, barely, in 2009. Then competent last year and maintaining it this year. I still think it's some kind of illusion though, I've never seen a player improve as much as he has so late in his career.

However, I think it's possible and maybe likely that the Bears have much better coaching that the Colts have since Dungy left. They have 3 secondary coaches actually, a defense backs coach, an assistant defense backs coach/safeties coach, and a nickelback coach. I don't follow how many coaches other teams employ, but this does seem on the high side.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 5:15pm

It also could be that the bears personnel is pass defense is just better and thus allows corners to have an easier job than they did in Indy. It also could be that indy's offense forced opposing teams into shoot out mode. But overall, the bears safeties and linebackers were way better than most of those colts teams, and especially post bob sanders era colts.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 5:27pm

Another possibility, but it doesn't explain why they let the corners leave the team then. If the problem is with the LBs and safeties, you should replace them right?

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 5:50pm

The colts had a weird habit about things honestly. They paid their receivers and their d ends and outside of sanders, they let anyone and everyone else walk. The thinking was at the time everyone was scheme product more or less and you could just draft new guys over and over. The whole "next man up" concept. Still, jennings could just be an isolated incident of a player just developing in a different city. Its not like most of these players, once leaving the colts, have really done anything anyways.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 6:31pm

Half the Bears secondary is FROM the post-Bob Sanders era Colts...

by Roch Bear :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 1:50pm

Re: Improvement of Jenning over a few years in mid career.

That IS odd. And I *think* I see that too, although most of for me is really the game of his life against the Colts. As you say, hard to think of many guys (not QBs) who did. Lots of players get better for their first few years, of course, but few from year 5 to year 7 (Jenning with the Bears in 2010 to 2012).

He was a little young coming into the league (born dec 24, 1983 so he was a 22 year old rookie, which is common enough but a bit young). Sadly, I'm afraid the odd 'data' are his play vs. the Colts not his 'steady improvement.' He probably will be regular ol' Tim Jennings soon, "fine against the run, okay against the pass but messes up too much."

Incidentally, he has tools. His combine 40 was 4.32 with 17 reps on the 225lb bench, and we know he is quick and courageous.

by Marko :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 6:03pm

Based on an article I read last week in which a Bears beat writer interviewed former Colts GM Bill Polian, the Colts let them both go because of injury concerns. Jennings had a bad ankle, which Jennings agreed was a factor in why the Colts let him go. Hayden had some other injury (don't remember what) that deterred the Bears from signing him before last season. He then signed with the Falcons and had some injury problems with them last year (I think it was a toe injury, which may or may not have been the same injury that he had before).

Polian also said he regretted letting them go. Someone should ask Jim Irsay what he thinks of those decisions now. Then again, maybe it's not worth reading Jim Irsay's twitter rants in response.

by Roch Bear :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 9:43pm

Marko has the main point, injuries, I believe. I also think they were not minor salary issues. Hayden signed for a relatively big CB salary with the Colts after his rookie 4, and Jennings was reported to be asking for a fair amount too (a lot of teams were playing cover 2, I guess, making Jennings a viable starter).

Jenning DID look as though he spent the entire summer working on catching the ball. I think his two catches Sunday were the two best interceptions of his entire Bears time. He also was responsible for "Conte's" interception with a strong tip. I would love to see scorers divide such picks up, like sacks, and give each player half.

by jedmarshall :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 6:37am

Hayden was definitely let go more out of injury/$ concerns rather than performance. The Colts were right up against the cap and his number was quite large for someone who was constantly injured. I always thought he was good when he played.

I still refuse to believe Jennings is actually somehow good now. He wasn't just bad for the Colts, he was HORRIBLE. I've only recently got used to not cringing when I see a Colts player wearing 23.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:31am

I agree. At the time I said Jennings finished that game with 2.5 Interceptions.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by Roch Bear :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 1:33pm

Is the injury rate, per play, much higher among "blocker of the gunner" (is there a real name for the spot?), than among CBs? He's not being asked to fly down the field among the 'suicide squad' covering kickoffs.

If the injury rate is not too bad he is worth putting in as he is really really good. He used to be used along as a blocker when the other side would be double teaming, he was that good. Always made me long for a defense that called on him to chuck at the line. He's big, tough, agile and (as judged from his fumbles caused :) he has a ferocious punch.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:39am

"Costanzo was a turnstile out there and noticeably held mcledon a number of times."

Well, that's what you get when you have your back-up MLB lining up at OT, I guess.

OK, NOW I get that you're referring to Anthony Castonzo (and not Gabe Carimi as I oringially thought, or Blake Costanzo), but that is only because I couldn't find a single player on the Colts' entire roster who could be this misterious McLedon. So, I'm guessing you mean Shea McClellin?

Not jsut trying ot be pedantic, but getting the names even remotely right would help A LOT in understangind what you're saying.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by TomC :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 1:53pm

The strangest thing is that, when they finally shook off the bad start, the pass protection was not just OK, but great. Sure, plenty of that had to do with Freeney's injury, but I couldn't believe how long Cutler had to throw through the 2nd and 3rd quarters.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 4:30pm

I was mildly annoyed by the "midseason form" comments just because, as noted, the Bears line really is much worse at the beginnings of games--and seasons, for that matter. Freeney's exit helped, but so did the end of whatever jitters always afflict this line.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 1:22pm

I thought that was some of the best officiating I've seen in quite some time. To my eyes, any leverage the "real" refs might have had, just went "POOF!".

Some thoughts on the Patriots:

1) I'm surprised no one mentioned the all-first-round defensive TD when Jones strip-sacked Locker and Hightower returned the fumble to the EZ.

2) NE's run D is legit. This isn't a case of TN's offense having early season jitters, the Patriots are just that good at stopping the run this year.

3) Another thing about the defense, they finally look like they might return to the days when teams were punished for trying to score on them. This is a physical, athletic group that is only some experience away from being really good.

4) I guess all the fuss about the OL was for naught. Solder was still sketchy at times in pass pro, but his run blocking is excellent and NE proved that the preseason issues could be effectively schemed around.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 8:41pm

And I thought I was a Pats' homer.

1) The Jones-Hightower TD has gotten a lot of coverage. Just not here.

2) The Pats' run defense has actually been pretty good for quite some time. At least, it's been pretty good since Spikes joined the team. OTOH, I think the fork we suspected was in CJ2K's back last season is officially there now.

3) Whoa, slow down there! I'm still far from sold on the secondary.

4) Also still not sold on Solder, but he should proceed along the learning curve, I would think. More worried about Vollmer's back, to be honest.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 8:00am

3) I specifically didn't say that the coverge was great, just that teams would take a beating. I can spot a punishing defense a mile away, and this unit has all the makings of one. It may not happen consistently until next year, but it will happen.

4) I'll agree that Solder had a semi-rough game in pass pro, but he is going to be fine. It isn't like Matt Light didn't get Brady faceplanted once or twice a game, and Nate is already as good as Matt was at run blocking.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 9:27am

One other thing:

1) I know, but this is pretty much a casual conversation and the fact that NE's first rounders combined to earn a defensive TD seems like something that would have been brought up these types of situations, especially if there are NE fans and/or intelligent fans.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 2:37pm

The officiating looked decent in most of the games but the crew running running the Green Bay game were horrendous and I think the niners bore the brunt of it.

There were some awful call that went against the Pack, Joe Staley jumping offside about a second early and the official failed to register it (Joe had quite a tough day after Clay Matthews broke his nose on the first series.), Aldon SMith jumped offsides but the call went on Bulaga.

However, the real horror show calls hit the niners. The unsportsmanlike conduct on Aldon Smith for taking off his helmet was ridiculous, it turned a 3rd and 19 into a 15 yard gain and a first down. The DPI preceding Finley's touchdown was a nonsense, Whitner had great position and was entitled to hold his ground, then the refs further distinguished themselves by calling it on Dashon Goldson, who was on the other side of the field. 2nd and 15 tuns into 1st and goal at the one.

The worst was when they picked up the flag on the punt return TD. Probably a result of confusion as Spillman was knocked down by a block from the side just before Dixon was levelled by an illegal block in the back. I expect that one ref told the others that the Spillman block was legal confusing it with the illegal block. That directly caused a 7 point swing and irritatingly will hang over the 49ers special teams DVOA all year. Cobb had two punt returns for 5 yards up till then.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 3:58pm

Meh I thought the Aldon Smith penalty was an easy mistake to make. But then you are a 49ers fan right? SO that elevates it from "thing that might sensible be missed during a game" to "ridiculous".

by zenbitz :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 4:32pm

I think the Aldon Smith call, along with the Clay Matthews roughing call were both ticky-tack by-the-book calls that were technically correct, but stupid.

Aldon was kicked in the helmet, and it did seem to loosen it, but he did use own hands to remove the helmet after the play was dead. He didn't do this to taunt or tease or annoy, but thems the rules (as I understand it).

Similarly, Matthews simply started to tackle Smith well after the ball was released. It was clearly unnecessary and avoidable contact to a QB, and the refs are instructed to call that.

I think they called DPI when it occurred about 1/2 the time, and 1/2 the time they called DPI when there was none. But Kudos! for getting the OPI call correct.

by verified (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 5:49pm

It was a bad call. If your helmet is barely on and your chin strap is caught on your nose and you want to see if the play is over or not (to perhaps avoid getting blind-sided while blinded by your helmet) then it should be allowable to remove your helmet.

by RC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 9:41am

Whether or not it should be allowed is irrelevant. The rule is pretty clear, its not.

Its not the official's job to ignore bad rules.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 4:37pm

His helmet was wobbling around and the facemask was probably hitting him in the face so he pulled it off. The refs could have and should have picked that flag up. Lets assume that you're a Packers fan who isn't at all bitter.

by Jonadan :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 4:34pm

I started Shonn Greene over AP.

It didn't work out too badly, what with the Jets apparently having an offense this week, but man, I needed those points.

"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

by tunesmith :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 5:11pm

The refs "disappeared" 48 seconds of game time in the 4th quarter of the denver/pittsburgh game. Pass to Decker near the goal line. Tomlin throws a challenge flag as the next play starts, a failed run to the end zone. Clock runs. Refs decide that Tomlin threw the flag before the play started - review the play, take a time out from Pittsburgh, and then re-play. Seconds are never put back on the clock. At the time, it was hard to say who the extra time would have advantaged, but in hindsight I bet Roethlistberger would have appreciated the extra game time.

I'm personally one to think that 48 seconds (noticed by Jon Bena at milehighreport.com) is a huge, huge deal.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/10/2012 - 8:44pm

The refs should have ignored that challenge flag. If a coach doesn't get the attention of officials before the play starts, he's just SOL.

by PerlStalker :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 1:12am

There was a metric @$$ ton of scoring this week. 5 teams with 40+ points and 5 more over 30+. Is this a result of the replacement refs; a random fluke or a sign that defense no longer exists in the NFL?

by Independent George :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 9:17am

Last year started the same way, then the defenses slowly caught up around midseason. I expect this season will likely play out the same way, maybe even catching up sooner due to having an actual training camp.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 12:39pm

Some of this had to do with just sloppy play. More turnovers, shorter fields. The yardage totals weren't ridiculous like early last season, just the points.

by theslothook :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 1:40pm

I would actually disagree and say this week, there were very few gaudy performances offensively and especially compared to last year, defenses responded big time. The jets 40 is misleading as their was a special teams return and an int return for tds. Ditto for the Pats game. If you just look at the numbers, there were no crazy massive yards being put up like last year's opener, where 300 yards felt like a ho hum day for passers.

by Lane Changer (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 3:20am

From: Aaron Schatz

To: FO Staff

Subject: 49ers

It looks like we will need to come out with a bunch of articles backtracking on our 49ers prediction. See if we can "find" some stats that actually predict the 49ers will go 14-2. Get on this quick, its urgent.


by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 6:27am

No no no no! FOMBC! shhhhhh!

At the very least use the damn template.

by TomC :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 9:23am

Actual quote from Aaron:

"Perhaps the 49ers can be one of those teams that go against historical trends."

Quote as interpreted above:

It looks like we will need to come out with a bunch of articles backtracking on our 49ers prediction. See if we can 'find' some stats that actually predict the 49ers will go 14-2. Get on this quick, its urgent."

Go away, troll, and don't come back.

by RC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 8:54am

" including one play that would have been a touchdown had Brandon Lloyd not slowed down,"

That play had nothing to do with Lloyd slowing down. It wasn't a touchdown because Lloyd was expecting the ball to come down on his right shoulder and it came down about 3 yards to his left.

Its something Brady has a lot of trouble with, and its why you very rarely see a Patriots WR catching a deep ball in stride. They always seem to have to turn around, or come back for it.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 10:04am

Brady's deep ball isn't the greatest, but I think there is room for debate as far as who takes most of the blame on this particular play. It certainly looked like Lloyd slowed up.

by RC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 11:20am

He definitely slowed up, I just think it had very little to do with him not catching the ball. Its almost impossible to turn around without slowing down.

He didn't catch the ball because he had trouble figuring out where it was, because it was poorly thrown/to the wrong side.

I don't know enough about the playcall to tell whether he misread something, and the ball was supposed to be where it was, or whether Brady threw the ball poorly, but I've seen enough similar looking plays with Brady that I'm going to give Lloyd the benefit of the doubt.