NFL Hangover - Week 8

Ryan PopilchakCorrespondent INovember 2, 2009

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 1: Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

In the spirit of still tinkering with my weekly NFL column, I’ll be trying to publish the NFL Hangover on Sunday or Monday and I’ll post the “Choice” Analysis on Tuesday or Wednesday once the stats I want are available. Hopefully that gives all you readers a little more timely information.

Quick Observations from the Couch

The game that everyone wanted to see didn’t disappoint. The crowd cheered A-Rodg and booed Favre in a big way. Unfortunately for Packers fans, the game was won and lost in the first half by defensive line play. The Vikings got constant pressure on Rodgers with their front four, which allowed them to blanket the Packers receivers. The Packers couldn’t get pressure from just their defensive line, but for some insane reason didn’t start blitzing until the third quarter was half over. By the time Green Bay mounted their push in the second half, it was too late and too big of a hole to climb out of. A-Rodg had better learn to get the ball out of his hands quickly, or he’ll set a new record for sacks in a season. Somewhere David Carr just got offended.

The Fins scored on a fumble recovery and two kick-off returns from Ted Ginn Jr. That kind of play reminds me of the years the Bears and Ravens had early in the decade. They rode good defense and great special teams to the play-offs, could Miami do the same?

The Giants appear to have fallen apart. After starting the season 5-0 against a fairly creampuff schedule, they have lost their last three against New Orleans, Arizona and Philly. It’s not just the losses, but the fact that their formerly #1 ranked defense has given up 112 points in three weeks. Also of note, the Eagles DeSean Jackson has now scored six touchdowns of more than 50 yards this season.

The Texans chalked up yet another impressive victory but suffered what could be a big loss. If Owen Daniels’ injury turns out to be for more than a week or so, their offense could suffer. Daniels, Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton provide enough weapons to make this offense difficult to defend, but that could change if any of them miss extended time.

This just in, Derek Anderson sucks. The “suck-i-tude” is so high that I’m curious as to whether Brady Quinn slept with the Mangenius’ wife. There is no other explanation for Quinn being kept on the bench at this point. Anderson’s line was 6 of 19 for 76 yards. I’m pretty sure Danny Wuerffel was better than that for the Redskins under Steve Spurrier. Yes, I know Quinn got in the game but he only had three pass attempts, give me a break.

Vince Young is 1-0 as a starter this year. I wasn’t able to watch this game so I can’t give any first hand observations. That said, he was 15-18 for 125 yards and 1 TD without any turnovers. He also added 31 yards on the ground. The big story, obviously, was Chris Johnson’s domination on the ground with 228 yards on only 24 carries.

This game started as such a defensive battle, that Kelley Washington celebrated a 5 yard catch like he’d just lost his virginity. The Broncos front seven shut down the Ravens running game early on, but their offense just couldn’t move the ball. The Ravens took away the short routes from Kyle Orton, practically daring him to throw deep. It worked since the Broncos offense looked out of sync all day. Late in the 1st quarter, the Ravens set the tone for the rest of the game when Ed Reed hit Knowshon Moreno on a swing pass to jar the ball loose. That was easily the best hit I’ve seen all season.

Live Game Spotlight: 49ers at Colts

While I thought about giving you an extremely detailed account of Favre Bowl 2, I decided that every writer would be doing just that. Instead, I followed the 49ers-Colts game in order to see how Alex Smith’s first start in almost two years would turn out. Also, it gave me a great excuse to zone in on a clash between my favorite team, the Colts, and my fan crush for the 09-10 season, the 49ers.

1st Half
Early on, the Niners try an absolutely terrible Wildcat play. Frank Gore was lined up for a direct snap, but there was no motion or misdirection and he simply ran right into the line. Obviously the 49ers should read this article about Off-Balance Plays.

Manning narrowly missed a deep pass to Pierre Garcon (or as I like to call him, Peter Waiter) on play action.

Frank Gore opened the scoring with a superb 64-yard touchdown run in which he squeezed through a miniscule hole in the line and shrugged off two tackles before outrunning the Colts defenders to the end zone. 7-0 Niners.

One of the announcers just used the following phrase to describe Alex Smith. “You don’t get to be the #1 pick if you’re not loaded with skill sets”. Uh…yeah. Apparently it’s not just enough to have a good skill set, you need multiple.

The Colts are trying to get their running plays to the edge but the Niners defense won’t let them get outside containment. This would be a perfect time to use a crack block. I love crack blocking, just because it must be fun for receivers and tight ends to thump a defensive end or linebacker when they’re not looking.

San Francisco is leaving all of their defensive lineman and linebackers standing up on 3rd downs. It’s confusing the blocking scheme of the Colts and causing Manning to wait a half second longer before throwing the ball. What a great method of changing up the pass rush and coverage behind it.

The Colts are still trying to generate deep passes using play action. Manning narrowly missed Reggie Wayne on one such pass. That’s two straight he’s missed, and both would have been touchdowns.

Up to this point, Alex Smith has looked confident and made solid throws when asked to. Unfortunately, the Niners have struggled to protect him so far and several throws have been rushed.

Just as I was writing the last paragraph, Smith let a throw to Crabtree drift high and it was intercepted by Bob “Biceps” Sanders on the tip. The Colts turned the pick into their second FG. 7-6.

With two minutes left in the half, Alex Smith gets a chance to try driving the team in the no huddle. Smith completes passes to: Crabtree up the seam, Bruce at the sideline, Davis up the middle, Gore in the flat twice and finally a TD pass to Vernon Davis. 14-6 Niners and Smith just proved why he’s starting today.

The only problem with the drive, was that San Fran left 33 seconds on the clock for Manning. Manning completes two passes to Austin Collie and one to Dallas Clark, getting the Colts into FG range. 14-9 at the half.

2nd Half
Manning starts off the second half with a 32-yard rocket to Pierre Garcon. He continues to roll down the field but they are stopped short of the endzone. The Colts kick a FG to make it 14-12.

Both the 49ers and Colts defenses are doing a solid job of keeping the offenses in check.

Joseph Addai rattles off a 10 yard run on the stretch play to end the third quarter. This play sets up a great OBP to start the fourth quarter. The Colts appear to run a stretch play to the left and the defense steps up to stop the run. Addai stops and throws to the endzone where Reggie Wayne makes an outstanding fingertip catch for the TD. 18-14 after the Colts miss a 2-pt conversion.

Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree have changed the prospects for San Francisco’s offense. They add a vertical element to the offense and force teams to back off of Frank Gore. Unfortunately for the Niners, their offensive line is not able to keep Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis off of their quarterback. With the 49ers closing in to field goal position, Mathis sacks Smith on 3rd and 12 to take them out of field goal position.

The Colts hang on and become the first team to 7-0.


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