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Scouts Buzz: Week 5

10/9/2007

Scouts Inc. is watching every NFL game and will let you know after each game what had us buzzing. It might have been an individual player or a particular play, a theme that played out over the course of the game or an important sequence that affected the outcome of the game.

Check in with the Scouts Buzz every week to get the inside info on why each game was won or lost and who or what impressed the scouts.

Cowboys 25, Bills 24
In a game decided by field goals, it was really the receiving skills of TE Jason Witten that made the difference for Dallas. Buffalo did everything it could to try and confuse QB Tony Romo, from zone blitzes to having all its defensive linemen using a two-point stance. Having their front four or five play out of a two-point stance made it hard for Romo to recognize the defense the Bills were in, which contributed to his throwing four interceptions in the first half. Unfortunately for the Bills, they were unable to contain Witten. Dallas used its signature double tight end formation to score its first touchdown. The Bills had to cover the Dallas tight ends with linebackers for most of the game since the safeties were needed on the outside to provide over the top help for the corners on the dangerous receiving combination of Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton. This allowed Witten to stretch the middle of the Buffalo secondary with linebackers trying to cover him, and the Buffalo linebackers simply could not stay with him.

-- Doug Kretz

Bears 27, Packers 20
It's amazing how often the Packers run and complete quick slant routes. They mix in a few crosses, screens, hooks and the occasional vertical route when the corners are biting too hard on the slant. As happened against the Bears, the rare vertical routes often result in points. But for the most part, Green Bay can beat a defense with slant after slant. Brett Favre and his receivers execute this route extremely well. When cornerbacks press, the Packers' strong wideouts use their hands well to get off the jam quickly. When corners play off, the receivers get underneath the coverage and shield them with their strong bodies. The receivers often are going into the teeth of the defense after the catch, but they avoid tacklers well. Favre's timing is superb, and he puts the ball on the money time and time again. He is extremely confident in his receivers and is throwing to a spot, which shows a great deal of trust. However, when Green Bay got away from it, the offense sputtered and lost its rhythm.

-- Matt Williamson

Chargers 41, Broncos 3
The Chargers jumped all over the Broncos early in the game, and Denver couldn't recover. Denver continues to be terrible when playing from behind because its defense can't stop and get off the field. San Diego had 214 yards rushing, including 147 by backup Michael Turner. Denver was manhandled at the point of attack, and its linebackers consistently were out of position. San Diego used its patented cut-back runs against an over-pursuing Denver unit that does not recover well when it is out of position. Denver is going to continue having trouble stopping the run if it doesn't play with more discipline, better gap integrity and more control on the second level. San Diego didn't do anything special running the ball. Instead, it was more of the same old mistakes by an undisciplined Denver front seven.

-- Jeremy Green

Ravens 9, 49ers 7
The 49ers set offensive football back about a decade with their conservative approach to this game. With veteran QB Trent Dilfer at the controls, the 49ers played not to lose, but it's tough to win with that approach. San Francisco failed to open up the offense early, which allowed the Baltimore defense to jam the box with eight- and nine-man fronts and really load up on RB Frank Gore. The 49ers also struggled to throw the ball in the short to intermediate range because the Ravens safeties were playing so close to the line of scrimmage. Right now, the 49ers are playing offense in a small, 10-yard box, which allowed Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to be aggressive with no fear of giving up a big play. The Baltimore defense was quicker to the punch all day long and brought consistent safety pressure from the back end to disrupt Gore and the running game.

-- Jeremy Green

Colts 33, Buccaneers 14
The Colts dominated on both sides of the ball, more than doubling the Bucs' total yards and nearly doubling the Bucs' time of possession. Manning and Co. used a good mix of run and pass to keep the previously fifth-ranked Bucs defense off balance. Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore didn't change the Indy approach despite injuries to its stars, running the ball with backup Kenton Keith (121 yards) and spreading the ball effectively to six different targets. The Indy defense derailed the Tampa Bay offense by using its base 4-3 scheme and a mixture of two- and five-underneath man coverages. There was no magic in what the Indy defense employed; the front seven just stymied the Bucs' ground game and forced QB Jeff Garcia to put the ball in the air more often than Tampa Bay likes. The once-much maligned Colts run defense, using a good mix of interior stunts and hard-nosed football, held the Bucs to just 17 yards on the ground.

-- Ken Moll

Steelers 21, Seahawks 0
Pittsburgh's secondary blanketed Seattle's pass-catchers. Seattle did mount a dominating pass rush, but Ben Roethlisberger did an exceptional job of moving his feet, keeping plays alive and shrugging off would-be tacklers. He threw strikes despite not always being able to set his feet and properly step into his throw, and he saw the entire field and threw with an exceptional touch. Roethlisberger's ability to keep plays and drives alive was the difference in this game. He was absolutely crucial in the field position battle in a game the Steelers played without several important players, helping Pittsburgh wear down the Seahawks and take control of the game in the second half. Roethlisberger is proving that his struggles last season were an aberration.

-- Matt Williamson

Redskins 34, Lions 3
The Washington offense was unpredictable and overpowering against the Detroit defense. Redskins offensive coordinator Al Saunders called an excellent game, doing what Washington does best by running the football and setting up play-action passes for QB Jason Campbell. Campbell's accuracy got passes over the Detroit linebackers and on target to WR Antwaan Randle El and FB Mike Sellers. Saunders also had the Redskins' offense line up in a short-yardage formation on a gutsy fourth-and-2 call, and Campbell executed a slant pass the lone receiver, Randle El, for a 37-yard gain. Saunders definitely was more creative than Detroit offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

-- Marwan Maalouf

Texans 22, Dolphins 19
The depleted Miami secondary allowed Houston QB Matt Schaub to get the ball to his key players, WR Andre Davis, WR Kevin Walter and TE Owen Daniels. The middle of the field was open all day for the Texans to complete option routes and skinny posts, most of which went for more than 10 yards. Houston offensive coordinator Mike Sherman used mismatches in the middle of the field when Miami linebackers were trying to cover Walter and Daniels. The Texans also took advantage of the open middle on the final drive to set up the game-winning field goal by kicker Kris Brown.
-- Marwan Maalouf

Giants 35, Jets 24
Even though the Jets got help scoring points from all three phases (offense, defense and special teams), they still can't stop the run. Simply put, the Giants controlled the line of scrimmage in the second half and wore down an undersized Jets defensive line by using RB Brandon Jacobs and their power rushing attack. The Giants' offensive line, which averages more than 313 pounds, opened up running space for Jacobs between the tackles. This allowed QB Eli Manning to get into rhythm in the second half. Manning attacked downfield to both TE Jeremy Shockey and WR Plaxico Burress off the Giants' play-action attack.
-- Keith Kidd

Patriots 34, Browns 17
We can't say enough about offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, QB Tom Brady and the Patriots' ability to attack with all three levels. However, defensive coordinator Dean Pees and the Patriots' zone blitz schemes created a lot of problems for QB Derek Anderson, resulting in game-changing interceptions. The Patriots did a great job of mixing up their coverage schemes on the back end while not allowing the Browns any explosive downfield plays by usual playmakers WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow. The Patriots were very physical out on the perimeter while relying on their four-man rush with some interior games and zone blitz schemes to disrupt the flow and rhythm of the Browns' passing attack.

-- Keith Kidd

Panthers 16, Saints 13
The Saints won this game in every area except the final score. Coach Sean Payton had an effective game plan that got the ball to RB Reggie Bush in several ways and made the Panthers defend him on all levels, and Bush was effective on the perimeter as both a runner and receiver. Payton called flares and sweeps to get Bush in space and create mismatches. New Orleans had several methodical drives that controlled the clock, but two miscues in the fourth quarter doomed the Saints. A blocked field goal due to defensive penetration and a low kick by the banged-up Olindo Mare, plus a late interception, let the Panthers steal the win on the road.
-- Ken Moll

Jaguars 17, Chiefs 7
This wasn't so much a game in which the win hinged on one play or another. It was the total domination by the Jacksonville defense that made the difference. The front four's ability to maintain gap responsibility and control the line of scrimmage made it impossible for Chiefs running back Larry Johnson to get anything going. Holding Johnson to a mere 12 yards on nine carries, not to mention the whole Kansas City team to a total of 10 yards on 10 attempts, proved to be the difference. When you can stop Johnson before he gets to the second level and has a head of steam up, you have a chance to limit his effectiveness. Jaguars defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson did a great job of keeping the Kansas City offensive linemen from getting to their legs or bodies, which allowed them to not only defend two gaps but to protect their fleet linebackers so they were free to run around and make plays.

-- Doug Kretz

Titans 20, Falcons 13
When Byron Leftwich replaced Joey Harrington in the fourth quarter, coach Bobby Petrino hoped the change would provide a much-needed spark. Unfortunately, Leftwich probably was even more ineffective, connecting on just two of eight attempts. After a turnover gave the Falcons the ball in the red zone, Leftwich threw an interception as his arm was jostled by a pass-rusher. One of the issues Leftwich had while in Jacksonville was his long-armed, slow delivery. He has a tendency to drop the ball as he winds up to throw it, which gives defenders more time to read the pass and close on the receivers -- or defensive linemen an extra half-step or full step to close on the quarterback. He still needs to improve on his ability to make a quick decision and pull the trigger.

-- Doug Kretz

Cardinals 34, Rams 31
The Cardinals got their first road win despite a subpar defensive effort. St. Louis had its best outing in terms of running the ball, and a banged-up offensive line tightened its splits and protected Gus Frerotte better than it did Marc Bulger in the first four weeks of the season. St. Louis coach Scott Linehan isolated Cardinals CB Rod Hood on many occasions, and the Rams exploited him in both man and zone coverage in the first half. Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt threw the ball more than in recent weeks, picking on Rams CB Benny Walls and allowing WR Larry Fitzgerald to have a big day. Arizona was less physical on both sides of the line of scrimmage, due in part to the fact that the Rams' spread packages forced the Cardinals to use more nickel schemes on defense. St. Louis' eight-man fronts on defense also stymied the running game at times. The Cardinals used a good mixture of five-underneath man and two-deep zone coverage to force three interceptions, and Frerotte went back to the well too often in the second half while Hood bounced back with some big plays that were too much for the Rams to overcome.

-- Ken Moll

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.