Twenty things that jumped out in the film room
After looking at the film, Gary Horton tells you 20 things you might not have picked up on.
After breaking down film, Scouts Inc. runs down what jumped out at us, including Tony Romo's ill-advised throws, Eli Manning's ball control and the Panthers' 1-2 punch at running back.
• The Jaguars are really struggling on defense, and nothing they try seems to work. They blitzed the Steelers 12 times in the first half and only got to QB Ben Roethlisberger once -- and that was out of their base defense.
• Atlanta's pass rush is much improved, and DE John Abraham already has seven sacks off the edge. He can play on both sides, and his pressure frees up everybody else in one-on-one blocking situations. Plus, Abraham is so quick that he draws a lot of holding calls when offensive linemen try to block him.
• The Eagles really need a quality big back who can be effective in short-yardage and goal-line situations, because that is not RB Brian Westbrook's strength.
• Dallas QB Tony Romo has thrown an interception in five straight games. It seems like every week he makes an ill-advised play or two, but you get the feeling that the Cowboys' offense is so confident they can overcome those mistakes. If Romo's discipline doesn't improve, that casual attitude will cost them.
• Washington's solid play starts with its offensive line. The linemen did a great job of sealing off the backside versus the Eagles when RB Clinton Portis cut back against the grain. The Redskins' offensive line was also very good in pass-protection and blitz pickup. As a result, QB Jason Campbell was only sacked once.
• Coming off a bye week, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick came up with a creative game plan. He called a direct snap to RB Kevin Faulk on fourth down near the goal line, which resulted in a touchdown, and the Patriots used several exotic defensive wrinkles to keep the 49ers' offense off-balance. On defense, they used a sub package that had only one defensive lineman and six defensive backs, which was designed to be fast, active and match up well versus the 49ers' spread offense.
• The Dolphins used the Wildcat formation several times with good success versus the Chargers. The formation is successful because of the execution rather than the trickery. The Dolphins' blocking is perfect, and the Wildcat puts a lot of pressure on the defense to make the right decisions.
• It looks like Chicago made the right decision choosing Kyle Orton to play quarterback. He is spreading the ball all over the field, making good decisions, recognizing good matchups and his accuracy is consistent. The Bears are no longer stubborn, trying to force the run versus eight-man fronts.
• Falcons rookie QB Matt Ryan is playing with excellent composure. He just doesn't get rattled, although his success came versus a Green Bay secondary that is ravaged by injuries and struggles to match up in sub packages. The Falcons are using all their weapons on offense and they are well-prepared each week.
• The Pats really tried to throw the deep ball versus the 49ers to open up better opportunities in the run game. As a result, the 49ers were forced to sit back and play basic defense, and it now looks like defenses have to respect QB Matt Cassel's arm a little more.
• Arizona will be competitive every week if QB Kurt Warner takes care of the football and distributes it to all of his weapons. The Cardinals' short passing game almost serves as a running game, which makes it hard for defenses to pressure Warner.
• Carolina used both of its RBs, DeAngelo Williams and rookie Jonathan Stewart, to wear down the Chiefs and control the ball for nearly 39 minutes. That is the Panthers' perfect recipe for success, and they did it without both starting offensive tackles. When they control the clock with the run, it keeps their underrated defense fresh and it sets up play-action for QB Jake Delhomme.
• The strength of the Giants is their offensive line and a trio of backs that dominate opponents with a powerful rushing attack. The Giants' backs can slow the game down and also have the ability to close out games. The reason for this is because they are having a lot of success on first and second down, which puts them in a lot of favorable third-down situations.
• Neither the Titans' or Ravens' pressure defenses recorded a sack, which is a tribute to two underrated offensive lines.
• The Broncos finally played with aggressiveness on defense. They had three sacks and they brought a lot of blitzes, which hasn't been their style. That pressure helped a secondary that has had to hold coverages forever. This defense does not have to play great for the Broncos to win. It just needs to be a middle-of-the-road unit.
• Miami spent its bye week working on fundamentals, and the Dolphins looked like a sound team versus the Chargers. They incorporated a lot of tackling drills last week, especially in space, and it paid off versus Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson (35 yards on 12 rushes).
• Dallas went back to its proven offensive game plan versus the Bengals -- run the ball, wear down the defense and set up big pass plays. In Week 4 RBs Marion Barber and Felix Jones combined for eight carries, 26 yards and zero touchdowns, but this week they had 32 carries for 180 yards and one touchdown combined.
• Kansas City's defense is in a shambles, but its biggest problem is a marginal pass rush (three sacks in five games). On top of that, the Chiefs have two rookie cornerbacks who cannot cover opposing wide receivers for a long period of time.
Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm, The War Room.