A few things that jumped out from Week 11
Scouts Inc. shares its key observations from Week 11.
Sometimes, it just jumps off the screen. Other times, it takes a second or third look. Scouts Inc. watched all the Week 11 games and learned a few things about each team.
Browns 29, Bills 27
• Defensively, the Browns are going to have to find a way to pressure the pocket, because their base front three are simply not getting the job done. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker chose to drop a maximum number into coverage rather than blitz either of his outside linebackers for most of the game, which gave QB Trent Edwards a lot of time to go through his progressions.
Scouts Inc. gives you more observations from Week 11. Insider
• Does Quinn limit Cleveland's offense?
• Is T.O. still a deep threat?
• Chargers' under-the-radar weapon
• Rams' only weapon not named Jackson
• Can someone bail out Frerotte?
• Titans' run game is tale of two halves
• It was hard to watch Edwards continually struggle to read the field. Early in the game he made some poor decisions, resulting in three interceptions. He was consistently late with his reads and he stared his receivers down too often. His offensive line gave him plenty of time in the pocket, but Edwards was reluctant to pull the trigger and showed no ability to anticipate his receivers coming out of breaks.
Broncos 24, Falcons 20
• The Broncos used a sliding pocket in pass protection to make it more difficult for the Falcons to know where the quarterback was. This slowed down the Falcons' tenacious pass rush and allowed Broncos QB Jay Cutler to throw on the move outside the pocket, which he does very well.
• The Falcons' defense could not contain the Broncos' ground game with their base front seven. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder had to bring up extra defenders to crowd the box, which opened things up on the back end for Denver's powerful passing game. When their front four can't pressure the pocket, the Falcons struggle on the back end because they are lacking top cover corners.
Packers 37, Bears 3
• The Packers' game plan was to attack the edges of the Bears' run defense with their front-side zones and counter, off-tackle plays. RB Ryan Grant did a great job of using his one-cut running style and vision to get downhill and attack the spacing between the guards and tackles. The Packers' offensive line did a great job of creating run space and keeping QB Aaron Rodgers upright in the pocket.
• The Bears' third-down offense was terrible versus the Packers, and they were very predictable on first down. Rookie RB Matt Forte continues to be heavily involved in the offense as a three-down player, and he has excellent vision, quickness and balance as a runner. The Bears also do a nice job of moving TE Greg Olsen around in the formation to create mismatches they can exploit. However, this offense is in dire need of an explosive, playmaking receiver that would place a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.
Colts 33, Texans 27
• The Colts have a fast, undersized defense that is very aggressive within the structure of their 4-3 defense. However, they continue to struggle with their gap integrity in certain situations. With or without SS Bob Sanders, the Colts struggle to maintain consistent gap control and give up too many explosive running plays. The Colts need to find a way to improve this area.
• Head coach Gary Kubiak relied on the Texans' power zone-running game to take pressure off backup QB Sage Rosenfels. Rookie RB Steve Slaton continues to perform at a very high level with his explosive one-cut ability, vision, speed and lower-body strength. Slaton is a dynamic playmaker who needed to touch the ball more in this game. However, the Texans did a nice job of using some misdirection to get Rosenfels out on the edges of the Colts' defense, which allowed him to attack their maximum zone coverages on the back end.
Saints 30, Chiefs 20
• The Saints have so many weapons to work with that defenses have an extremely difficult time focusing on who to contain. Head coach Sean Payton did a great job of using all his personnel groupings to give QB Drew Brees more options in the passing game. Brees responded by hitting seven different receivers while completing 25 of 36 attempts.
• The Chiefs put an extra defender into the box, generally SS Bernard Pollard, and trusted their three corners (nickel coverage) to man up on the dangerous New Orleans receiving corps. This allowed Kansas City to slow down the Saints' ground game and then pressure the pocket from more directions.
Dolphins 17, Raiders 15
• The Dolphins cut their splits down on passing situations, but were still inconsistent protecting QB Chad Pennington in the pocket. Pennington took what the defense gave him on high-percentage passes, hitting lots of check downs and short option patterns. The Dolphins were able to move the ball effectively with their power ground attack by hitting creases often between the tackles. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning also was creative getting the ball to WR Ted Ginn Jr. on a reverse, off an inside fake handoff.
• Oakland used multiple interior stunts and eight-man fronts to get penetration early in the contest. The Raiders were able to get some pressure on Pennington and were able to put the Dolphins in long-yardage situations at times. Oakland also utilized a variety of nickel and dime packages, which kept the Dolphins' passing attack at bay.
Eagles 13, Bengals 13
• The Eagles' defense did a nice job on early downs by putting eight in the box, using some zone-run blitzes and being physical in the trenches to derail the Bengals' ground attack. This forced backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to move the chains.
• The Bengals used a hard count often to take advantage of the Eagles' aggressive defense to create short-yardage conversions. Fitzpatrick did a nice job with three-step drops and hitting his hot reads versus the many different blitz pressure packages the Eagles provided. Fitzpatrick appeared to get his offensive line and protections in a good position to block the Eagles' aggressive defensive approach. Plus, he appeared to be in complete control of the complex package that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson threw at him.
Giants 30, Ravens 10
• Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride called a nice game, mixing in a variety of spread sets as well as power formations to attack the Ravens' defense. It was obvious the New York offense wanted to establish a physical ground assault with power zone-run schemes to set up wide-open high-percentage passes for QB Eli Manning. The Giants set the tone of this contest from the first series and never really relinquished it as the game progressed.
• Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron tried to use a variety of motions and shifts to get an advantage, especially early in the contest, but to no avail. Baltimore tried to spread New York's defense out (by formation) to create some creases in the middle, but wasn't very effective until the Giants took a substantial lead in the contest.
Buccaneers 19, Vikings 13
• In the first half, the Bucs stayed primarily in their base Tampa Cover 2 defense and Vikings RB Adrian Peterson had a very good half. However, in the second half Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and his defense made adjustments that put the Vikings in a lot of third-and-long situations, which limited the Vikings' second-half possessions. Plus, the Bucs often put a safety at the line of scrimmage late and did not give Vikings QB Gus Frerotte an opportunity to check out of the run.
• Even though Frerotte did not throw an interception in the game and was 14 of 20, which is a respectable completion percentage, he struggled reading coverage and was tentative. The Bucs' defense got to him early, which forced him to spend a lot of the game looking at the line of scrimmage instead of down the field. The Buccaneers did a nice job of bringing pressure off the backside corner, or occasionally from the linebacker position, and Frerotte often folded or did not step up into the right spots. Frerotte was sacked five times and missed numerous hot reads versus blitz pressure.
Panthers 31, Lions 22
• The Panthers used misdirection and quick cutbacks early in the game to test the Lions' back-side discipline. Once Detroit's defenders were forced to run laterally, Carolina attacked the edges with RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart off tackle. The Panthers took control of the line of scrimmage in the second quarter, but their initial strategy had a lot to do with their overall success.
• The Lions' pass-blockers struggled to handle the speed and power of the Panthers' front four. Not only were Detroit's offensive tackles quickly walked back to the quarterback with power rushes and counter moves, but the entire offensive line had trouble reacting to line stunts. QB Daunte Culpepper often was forced from the pocket just after making his drop, and had to rely on his athletic ability to deliver the ball on the run.
49ers 35, Rams 16
• QB Shaun Hill put on an impressive performance against the Rams, particularly considering that the 49ers' offense was shorthanded at wide receiver Sunday. With WRs Arnaz Battle and Josh Morgan inactive, Hill was efficient and took what the defense gave him, which wasn't all dink and dunk. San Francisco's recent formula on offense -- RB Frank Gore carrying the load and Hill avoiding forced throws -- is working. At the half, Hill had missed on only two pass attempts and had compiled 192 passing yards and two touchdowns.
• The Rams' passing game involved a lot of short drops and quick decisions by QB Marc Bulger. He had some success moving the chains with throws to his young wideouts and backs from the shotgun, but the fumbles, interceptions and missed field goals were too much to overcome. Once the 49ers built a lead, the Rams were forced to throw. And after LT Orlando Pace and RG Richie Incognito left the game because of injuries, St. Louis no longer could adequately protect Bulger.
Cardinals 26, Seahawks 20
• The Cardinals had trouble adjusting to the Seahawks' blitz pressure on a short field. To create pressure in the absence of injured DE Patrick Kerney, Seattle was forced to send extra pass rushers (usually linebackers). Arizona was slow to identify and pick up the pressure, which affected the team's ability to extend and finish drives, and resulted in field goals instead of touchdowns. In particular, the Cardinals' backs need to be more sound in their reactions in protection.
• The Seahawks' passing game with QB Matt Hasselbeck was only slightly more effective than it had been without him in recent weeks. He completed passes to seven different receivers by halftime, and showed the quick release and timing Seattle's offense requires. Hasselbeck's pre-snap recognition was good, and he delivered crisply to his receivers coming out of their breaks. But the offense needs the wide receivers' reactions to coverage to be in sync with the quarterback's, and that will take time to reestablish.
Titans 24, Jaguars 14
• The Titans used a mix of base fronts with maximum coverage on passing downs and eight- and nine-man fronts on rushing downs in an effort to slow the Jaguars' run game. Tennessee clearly wanted to force QB David Garrard to beat its defense with his arm rather than take its chances against RBs Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor.
• The Jaguars have made it difficult for opponents to run up inside on their defense, but the team has struggled to contain opposing backs on the perimeter. Jacksonville's defensive ends are better pass rushers than run defenders, and they were the main culprits in allowing RBs LenDale White and Chris Johnson to move the ball out on the perimeter.
Steelers 11, Chargers 10
• A Steelers offensive line that doesn't move well and isn't well-coached should be considered among the league's worst. Pass protectors too often are confused about their individual responsibilities, and this unit is insufficient in short-yardage situations -- two deficiencies that were on display Sunday. Moreover, C Justin Hartwig is a terrible shotgun snapper, which happens to be a huge part of Pittsburgh's offense. The Steelers no longer are winning because of their front five, but in spite of them.
• New defensive coordinator Ron Rivera has wasted no time putting his stamp on the Chargers' defense, which is quickly improving. San Diego has been more aggressive the past two weeks and used interior stunts and games to confuse the Steelers' blocking schemes Sunday. The Chargers' talented cornerbacks eliminated the big play -- which had been a huge problem for the defense -- and the defensive front routinely outplayed Pittsburgh's offensive line. Though San Diego's defense was on the field far too long (which might have been its eventual undoing), that unit can't be blamed for this loss.
Cowboys 14, Redskins 10
• QB Tony Romo's injured right pinkie clearly is affecting his passing. He made some throws Sunday that were pushed, without proper spin on the ball. But Romo also made some impressive throws, including out routes and frozen ropes into tight windows. His comfort level, crispness and confidence grew throughout the game. It helped that he wasn't forced to do much after the Cowboys took a lead, with RB Marion Barber pounding the middle of the Redskins' defense and carrying Dallas to a win. But Romo's progress was encouraging.
• The Redskins clearly didn't trust their protection Sunday -- with good reason. C Casey Rabach (facing NT Jay Ratliff) and the right side of the line were stuck in mismatches, and even LT Chris Samuels got all he could handle from LB DeMarcus Ware. Washington's run game never posed enough of a threat to set up play-action. QB Jason Campbell took a lot of big hits. The offense showed little to no vertical element, which is a crime with WR Santana Moss in the lineup. And because the Redskins never drove the Cowboys' pass defenders off the ball, Dallas became more aggressive in keying and driving on quick-hitting short routes.
Jets 34, Patriots 31 (Thursday)
• The Jets' offensive line is finally meshing up front and becoming formidable -- but only in the run game. It was apparent that New York didn't trust its pass-blockers to hold up long enough to use many seven-step drops or really stretch the field. Obviously, QB Brett Favre is an accomplished deep passer, but his front line is far better coming off the ball and going forward than retreating in pass protection, and that limits what this passing game can do. This was especially worrisome because the Patriots were missing OLB Adalius Thomas and DE Ty Warren.
• It should come as no surprise that the Patriots' coaching staff made some excellent in-game adjustments to neutralize the Jets' strengths. NT Kris Jenkins was simply dominant in the first half and owned both A-gaps on every snap. So the Patriots went to a no-huddle, hurry-up attack to play catch-up, get Jenkins off the field more often and use a quick-hitting passing attack out of three-wide sets. The pass-catcher who benefited most was TE Benjamin Watson, who had a huge game against a Jets defense that struggles guarding tight ends. QB Matt Cassel keyed on Watson and used him as his safety valve. That role usually goes to WR Wes Welker, but he had a tough time getting away from CB Darrelle Revis. Plus, Randy Moss was consistently covered by two defensive backs. This allowed Watson to abuse the Jets' linebackers, who were unable to keep up with his speed and route-running skills.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
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