Week 6: QBs losing third-down mojo; carelessness costing Cowboys
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Week 6 analysis: Tide turning on third down
By John Clayton, ESPN.comSEATTLE -- In recent years, Tom Brady of the Patriots and Peyton Manning of the Colts turned third-down efficiency into an art form. Since 2003, the league numbers for quarterback efficiency on third down have been improving each year, going from 37.3 in 2003 to 39.51 in 2007, much of it having to do with Brady and Manning working at 50 percent efficiency. Whether it's the complexities of nickel defenses or the result of more than 15 wide receivers being inactive because of injuries, defenses are starting to win back the passing wars. That was very apparent Sunday. Quarterbacks were successful on only 37 percent of their third-down plays. Several of those attempts weren't even close, and it led to a little less scoring than we saw in the first five weeks of the season.
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The Lions' Dan Orlovsky was one of many QBs who were plagued by third-down woes in Week 6.
It was no wonder the Vikings were barely able to squeak out a 12-10 victory over the Lions even though Adrian Peterson rushed for 111 yards. Lions QB Dan Orlovsky was only 2-for-13 on third down. The Vikings' Gus Frerotte was just as bad, going 3-for-15.It's no wonder the 49ers couldn't hold a 26-17 second-half lead over the Eagles. San Francisco QB J.T. O'Sullivan converted only 2 of 12 third downs. Chad Pennington of the Dolphins was 2-for-10 in a loss to the Texans. The Rams-Redskins game had a combined 8-for-26 third-down rate. Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco was 3-for-13 against the Colts. If you can't move the chains on third down, it's hard to win games. "That has been going on the last five years in this league,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "The wide-open defenses and combination coverages go against the formations you have. Defenses aren't scared in trying to take away your pass concepts.'' McCarthy said offenses have to have the "corresponding concept to the base concept.'' What does that mean? Nickel pass defenses have developed aggressive coverage schemes that enable them to shut down certain parts of passing formations. In other words, they have answers for what offenses want to do. It's a great chess match. The Eagles made enough adjustments against Mike Martz's scheme to shut down O'Sullivan in the second half and come back with 23 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. The Eagles forced three turnovers during that comeback. "We made a couple of little adjustments,'' Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "I thought the defensive line upped its game. I thought we played on their side of the ball more than just in that neutral zone there. I thought we were able to get some penetration. They tried the tight end screen a couple of times and we were able to shut that down and get pressure on the quarterback.'' Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was 10-for-18 on third-down conversions, the best rate so far in Week 6. Wide receiver Greg Jennings credits that to not having many third-and-long situations and instead being able to concentrate on third-and-6s or third-and-5s. "We were able to put us in comfortable situations and call plays to our liking,'' Jennings said. So many of Sunday's games went in favor of the teams that did the best on third down.
Five things I learned in Week 6
By John Clayton, ESPN.com
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The steady Jeff Garcia guided Tampa Bay to a convincing victory over Carolina.
The Panthers draw too many false-start penalties. And on Sunday, Jason Baker had another punt blocked -- his third this season. A blocked Baker punt in the first quarter handed the Bucs a seven-point lead in what turned out to be an easy 27-3 victory.Meanwhile, the Bucs and Falcons are each 4-2 because they are boring but efficient. Bucs coach Jon Gruden probably stayed with Brian Griese a week too long as the starting QB. Jeff Garcia played well Sunday and the Bucs are tied for the division lead. Atlanta coach Mike Smith is running an efficient offense and defense. Rookie QB Matt Ryan is playing like a six-year veteran and the defense isn't giving up big plays. The Falcons won ugly -- 22-20 over the Bears -- but it was pretty for Falcons fans.
John Clayton's game balls
Loose endsWeek 6 Studs & Duds: Saints QB Drew Brees had his fourth straight 300-yard game. Panthers QB Jake Delhomme threw three interceptions in a loss to the Bucs. • Fantasy: The TRUM blog: Sure, now Marvin Harrison shows up • Experts' picks: How did we do?
Sunday Countdown | ESPN.com • NFL Blog Network
Week 6 rundown• Atlanta 22, Chicago 20
Matt Ryan to Roddy White. It's not Montana to Rice or Manning to Harrison, but the young Falcons' combo (nine catches for 112 yards and one TD on Sunday) has a lot of potential. Photos
New York Jets 26, Cincinnati 14
Brett Favre mixed in plenty of bad (three turnovers) with some good. That's fine against the winless Bengals, but Favre's gunslinging ways could be an issue down the road. Photos
Tampa Bay 27, Carolina 3
So much for the Panthers' taking control of the NFC South. Does QB Jeff Garcia put up huge numbers? No. Does he continue to prove he's the right fit for the Bucs? Yes. Photos
St. Louis 19, Washington 17
The most relieved man in St. Louis? Offensive lineman Richie Incognito, who nearly cost the Rams their first victory of the season with a foolish unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Photos
Houston 29, Miami 28
Has any team had a stranger season than Miami? Two losses, followed by victories over last season's AFC title game representatives, followed by a loss to the previously winless Texans. What gives? Photos
Jacksonville 24, Denver 17
The Jaguars' defense (three takeaways) deserves credit, but it was playing against a Broncos offense missing three valuable contributors: WR Eddie Royal (ankle), TE Tony Scheffler (groin) and RB Selvin Young (groin). Photos
Arizona 30, Dallas 24 (OT)
The Cardinals have shown they can play with anyone at home. Their upcoming road test (three of the next four on the road) will likely determine if they'll be real players in the NFC. Photos
The Seahawks had Super Bowl aspirations entering the season. Now they're tied for last place in the NFC West -- with banged-up QBs and a patchwork WR corps to boot. Photos • San Diego 30, New England 10
Don't put all the blame on Matt Cassel, Pats fans. New England seems slower and more vulnerable on defense than it has in years. Photos • Monday Night Football: Giants at Browns
(ESPN, 8:30 ET) Distractions? The Giants don't worry about any stinkin' distractions, star defensive end Justin Tuck says. That's why they're 4-0. Meanwhile, Cleveland must win ... or disappear into the AFC North muck.
Blog network: NFC East | AFC North blog • FB Outsiders: Injuries, drops cripple Browns
• Play animations | Streak For The Cash: Win $1M
• Podcast | MN Surround | Jaws
Looking aheadAn early look at next weekend's biggest games:
• New Orleans (3-3) at Carolina (4-2): Can Carolina slow down Drew Brees? Will the Panthers' running game show up?• Indianapolis (3-2) at Green Bay (3-3): Both of these offenses had big games in Week 6. Will the momentum carry over? • Denver (4-2) at New England (3-2): The Broncos historically play well against the Pats. The Chargers' Philip Rivers torched New England's D in Week 6. Will Jay Cutler follow suit? • Week 7 schedule