A few things that jumped out from Week 10
Scouts Inc. shares its key observations from Week 10.
Sometimes, it just jumps off the screen. Other times, it takes a second or third look. Scouts Inc. watched all the Week 10 games and learned a few things about each team.
Cardinals 29, 49ers 24
• SS Adrian Wilson makes a lot of plays that don't show up on the stat sheet. His outstanding quickness and reactions near the line of scrimmage allow him to create penetration and force ball carriers back into traffic. He is also an excellent blitzer in passing and running situations, and he has the lower-body strength to keep his feet in traffic and play off contact. Wilson finished Monday night's game with three tackles and one interception.
Scouts Inc. gives you more observations from Week 10's matchups. Insider
• Cardinals' most versatile wide receiver
• Vikes' Williams is poor man's Polamalu
• Giants' newest red zone threat
• The Lions' one bright spot on offense
• Running game to the rescue for Carolina
• Packers' defense continues to be vanilla
• What did the Steelers' offense do wrong?
• The 49ers used a lot of Cover 2 with both safeties playing deep to help bracket star receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. This served to limit the number of explosive plays the duo made -- Fitzgerald's longest reception was 9 yards and Boldin's was 22 -- but that left No. 3 WR Steve Breaston a lot of room to work underneath and in the middle, which resulted in a big night for him (seven catches, 121 yards and a long reception of 46 yards).
Falcons 34, Saints 20
• While the Falcons didn't avoid the blitz completely, they relied on their four-man front to apply most of the pressure and dropped a maximum number of defenders into coverage. The front four's pass rush, especially DE John Abraham, allowed the Falcons to come up with three interceptions on QB Drew Brees (the most he has thrown in one game in more than a year). CB Domonique Foxworth, who started his second straight game, provided excellent blanket coverage and allowed Atlanta's two safeties to read Brees' eyes and break on the pass.
• New Orleans consistently brought an eighth or ninth defender into the box, but Atlanta still managed to run the ball effectively. When the Saints plugged things up on the inside, they failed to seal off the edge and often allowed either RB Michael Turner or RB Jerious Norwood to bounce to the outside. Their defensive front did not do a great job of playing disciplined or maintaining gap control.
Titans 21, Bears 14
• The Titans' potent running game was stuffed by the Bears, but offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger made very good in-game adjustments. The Titans' offensive line did a great job of keeping QB Kerry Collins upright in the pocket and utilized their short, underneath passing game to TE Bo Scaife as an extension of their running game to set up deeper pass plays. The Bears' defensive game plan centered on the run with eight-man fronts and a single safety high, so Titans WRs Brandon Jones and Justin Gage were able to get separation against the Bears' corners in one-on-one matchups on the outside.
• Defensive coordinator Bob Babich loaded up the box and forced the Titans to move the ball through the air, but the Bears could not get pressure with their front four and struggled to match up on the outside in man-to-man situations. Even though the Bears did a great job of shutting down the Titans' explosive running game with multiple fronts and stems, they lost the battle of third-down efficiency -- which played a big part in the outcome of the game -- on both sides of the ball.
Jaguars 38, Lions 14
• Much has been made of Jacksonville's replacement guards, but the entire offensive line really isn't very good. They are slow-footed and lack lateral agility and quickness. There isn't much athletic ability across the board, and the group does too much waist-bending and leaning on opponents. However, it didn't matter much against the Lions' inferior defensive front, and Jacksonville's offensive line played probably its best game of the season in terms of being fundamentally sound in its assignments. Things have to improve if the Jags are going to regain their identity as a physical team.
• Not only did the Lions have a new quarterback in wristband-laden Daunte Culpepper, but they also were breaking in a new center, and backup QB Drew Stanton had to handle the red zone offense. This was a no-win situation for the Lions' offense, but all things considered, there might be a slight bit of optimism for this offense. Culpepper missed some short timing routes, but his feel for the game and his teammates will improve with time. The offense was also severely limited with a preseason-like set of plays at its disposal, but things should get somewhat better as the rest of the season plays out.
Dolphins 21, Seahawks 19
• Miami used a lot of different personnel groupings, including an empty backfield, a Wildcat formation and having three running backs on the field (some lined up at WR). This appeared to confuse Seattle's defense and forced the Seahawks to make decisions before they were ready. QB Chad Pennington simply took what Seattle gave him as he threw a lot of dink-and-dunk passes. Plus, he started to throw a lot of back-shoulder passes when Seattle was in tight man coverage.
• Seattle did a good job of disguising its defensive schemes, with both linebackers and safeties showing blitz and then dropping into coverage. Defensive coordinator John Marshall moved LB Julian Peterson up and down the line of scrimmage, which freed him up to find the best lane to blitz and also forced the Dolphins to be sure to account for him, which often freed up the other linebackers to blitz.
Vikings 28, Packers 27
• One of the key factors in this game -- outside of RB Adrian Peterson's monster day on the ground -- was the play of backup RB Chester Taylor. He has been somewhat of the forgotten man since the arrival of Peterson, but is still one of the better offensive weapons on this team. The Vikings are starting to create more opportunities for Taylor on third down, and he has the hands and open-field ability to excel. Taylor also does a nice job of helping and chipping on outside rushers before releasing. As the Vikings continue to look for ways to have QB Gus Frerotte manage the football game, Taylor's role as a receiver out of the backfield should continue to grow.
• This was one of the worst offensive performances we have seen from the Packers in a long time, and while a lot of the credit goes to the Vikings' defense, Green Bay's offensive line did not show up. The Packers never made on-field adjustments to slow down the Vikings' pressure packages, and the Vikings continued to bring inside blitz pressures, which allowed DE Jared Allen to work one-on-one. When the Packers adjusted to double Allen, C Scott Wells and both guards were not able to pick up the inside blitzes from LB Ben Leber, LB Chad Greenway or FS Madieu Williams. The Vikings' front seven had the Packers' offensive line and QB Aaron Rodgers confused all day long, which resulted in Rodgers taking a beating.
Patriots 20, Bills 10
• The Patriots clearly wanted to get the ball to WR Randy Moss more often. He had only five receptions, but the ball was thrown in his direction often, including some deep passes designed to stretch the defense. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has expanded the playbook for QB Matt Cassel, and with the ground attack working so well, the offense was very effective. This showing should build confidence and send a message to opposing defensive coordinators that New England still has a vertical element to its offense.
• The Bills' poor tackling out of their base 4-3 front forced them to use an extra man in the box as well as some zone-run blitzes to slow down a beat-up Patriots backfield. This opened up some nice seams and void areas for Cassel to exploit, but the bigger story is that Buffalo was pushed around in the trenches for most of the day on both sides of the ball, which doomed the Bills.
Jets 47, Rams 3
• New York's offense appeared to have much better rhythm and balance in this game. The Jets got TE Dustin Keller and RB Leon Washington involved early and leaned on RB Thomas Jones behind a strong offensive line. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer had his entire playbook at his disposal after building an early lead, which made QB Brett Favre's job far easier. Favre still is making some ill-advised throws from compromising positions, but it is clear that the Jets' offensive line has jelled in the running game.
• The Rams had no answer whatsoever for Jones, who consistently found cut-back lanes in the defensive front and exploited them for big gains. Jones and his powerful blockers deserve plenty of credit for this effort, but the Rams offered little opposition and were simply outmanned across the board. This was especially true on first down, which really put the Rams' defense in a tough spot in second-and-short and third-and-short situations.
Ravens 41, Texans 13
• Baltimore used a balanced attack on offense to dominate Houston's defense. QB Joe Flacco had a lot of time to scan the field because his offensive line did a great job of blocking DE Mario Williams & Co., especially in the second half (Houston got all three of its sacks in the first half). Flacco rediscovered previously forgotten TE Todd Heap, who caught five passes and scored two touchdowns.
• The Texans managed to gain a nice 4.7 yards per carry on the league's No.1-ranked run defense, but they rushed the ball only 16 times. Houston relies on a lot of play-action fakes in its passing game, and when the Texans had to start playing catch-up in the third quarter, the Ravens were able to think pass first, devote extra defenders to coverage and rush the pocket a lot more aggressively.
Panthers 17, Raiders 6
• DE Julius Peppers had little trouble providing pressure off the edge against the Raiders' offensive tackles. He used speed moves and power moves to keep LT Kwame Harris and RT Cornell Green off-balance in passing situations. He also showed excellent quickness and reactions against the run or when dropping into coverage.
• The Raiders' defense did a good job of capitalizing on the mistakes of the Panthers' passing game. Holding WR Steve Smith to one catch for 9 yards and coming up with four interceptions was an impressive performance, considering the Raiders just released starting CB DeAngelo Hall. Oakland's DBs did a good job reading the quarterback and reacting to throws.
Colts 24, Steelers 20
• The Colts found a way to stymie Pittsburgh's rushing game, which gave them a chance to make plays against QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers' passing game. Indianapolis used a variety of zone-run blitzes, interior stunts and eight-man fronts to hold the Steelers to 55 yards on the ground. Pittsburgh's impatience with the run was evident late in the first half when the Steelers elected to throw the ball deep in their own territory, rather than running out the first half. As a result, Roethlisberger threw an interception leading to a Colts touchdown.
• Pittsburgh played well enough to win, but it's almost impossible to come away with a victory when you're minus-3 in the turnover category. Roethlisberger completed more than 70 percent of his passes but he appeared to stare down his receiver on a few occasions, which gave the Colts' defenders opportunities to make plays on the ball. He also forced the ball into tight coverage on a few occasions, leaving himself little room for error on many throws.
Chargers 20, Chiefs 19
• A lot has been said about the running and receiving skills of Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson, but the blitz pickup he made on WR Malcolm Floyd's third-quarter touchdown deserves mentioning. His quick recognition of the Chiefs' inside blitz and excellent technique picking up the LB allowed QB Philip Rivers the extra second he needed to deliver the ball to Floyd for the touchdown, which started San Diego's comeback.
• The Chiefs did a good job of generating inside pass-rush pressure on Rivers. With defenders in his face, Rivers had trouble getting the ball to his receivers over the middle several times. The Chiefs knew Rivers often steps up in the pocket when he is under pressure, rather than outside, and this allowed Kansas City to disrupt his timing and delivery several times. Giants 36, Eagles 31
• WR Steve Smith is developing into a solid third-down target for QB Eli Manning. Smith has the quickness and footwork to create separation at break points, plus the reliable hands and good concentration to make tough catches in traffic. His ability to react to coverage quickly is impressive for a young wideout. Philadelphia
• The Eagles were effective in limiting Giants DE Justin Tuck's impact on the game. RT Jon Runyan was stout and steady in passing situations, giving QB Donovan McNabb time to read the field. When McNabb felt pressure, he was quick to pull the ball down and escape. Runyan also received help from TE L.J. Smith to seal the edge on outside run designs, allowing RBs Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter good opportunities to turn the corner.
Broncos 34, Browns 30 (Thursday)
• Head coach Mike Shanahan's game plan for the rest of the season is to put his team in a position to score a lot of points. With a group of banged-up running backs, the Broncos had to rely on their passing game to win this game. Even though QB Jay Cutler made some dangerous throws and missed some reads, the Browns could not capitalize. Cutler put the offense on his shoulders in the second half, managed the game and took what the Browns' defense gave him on the back end. The Broncos' offensive line should get a tremendous amount of credit for protecting Cutler, especially with all the empty sets and spread formations Shanahan called.
• Defensively, the Browns' game plan was to rely on their three- and four-man rush while playing maximum coverage on the back end. However, this defense can't create pressure with just a four-man rush. Plus, the Browns don't have a lot of speed at linebacker and lack a big-time cover corner. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker tried to disrupt the flow and rhythm of the Broncos' passing attack by attacking the strong side, but couldn't find a way to be more creative with his blitz-pressure schemes. However, this defense had no answers and must find a way to close out games moving forward -- something the Browns haven't done the past two weeks.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
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