By Matt Bowen, National Football Post
Let’s run through my game notes from the Week 2 Sunday schedule in the NFL: some Xs and Os, game plans, personnel, big plays, etc. Here’s what I saw—starting with Eli Manning and the Giants.
The Giants scored 25 points in the 4th quarter to come back and beat the Bucs 41-38. Eli Manning made some poor decisions early with the football, but he finishes with 500-plus yards passing. Victor Cruz (11-179-1 TD) made plays from the slot and Hakeem Nicks (10-199-1 TD) put up numbers. Look at the deep ball to Cruz in the 4th vs. the Bucs’ pressure scheme or the TD Manning threw to TE Matrellus Bennett on the “Switch” route (No.1 on the Dig, No.2 on the Wheel). Bottom line here: Eli made big throws to bring this team back—just like we saw in the 2011 season.
Breaking down the 49ers win over the Lions, we can talk about the San Fran run game with Frank Gore, Justin Smith, a physical Niners’ secondary, Vernon Davis or Michael Crabtree. But I have to start with QB Alex Smith. He protected the football, made big throws on third down in the second half and looks confident in Harbaugh’s offense. I said the 49ers were the most physical team in the NFL last week and I have no problem saying it again, but let’s start to give some credit here to the QB.
I’m looking at this Eagles’ defense in the 24-23 win over Baltimore. They limited QB Joe Flacco in the second half and when they needed a big stop in that 2-miniute situation we saw press-coverage. No disguise, no window dressing. Get hands on the WRs at the line, allow the defensive front to rush and take away the inside seams the Ravens’ QB wanted to throw in Philly’s 24-23 win.
After the Cardinals 20-18 win over the Patriots, I’m really interested in watching the “All-22” coaches film to get a better feel of Arizona’s defensive game plan. I know the Pats had a chance to win this one, but we should expect everyone in the league to study this tape. The Cards won up front vs. the Patriots’ O-Line and limited explosive plays while holding New England to 5-15 on third downs. That’s great defensive football vs. Tom Brady.
This is what you should get from the Carolina offense every Sunday. Run the ball, use some option looks with QB Cam Newton and take vertical shots down the field. A much different game plan than we saw last week in the loss to the Bucs. The Panthers run for 200-plus in the win over the Saints—who are now in an 0-2 hole.
Think about the Seahawks’ win over Dallas: big plays on special teams, Marshawn Lynch, a controlled game plan for rookie QB Russell Wilson and a defense that took away the deep ball from Tony Romo and the Dallas offense. Pete Carroll’s team beat up the Cowboys. No other way to say it.
The Bucs defense “going low” when the Giants were in the “victory” formation trying to run out the clock? I don’t blame Coughlin for lecturing Schiano after the game. Let’s see if this turns into a bigger story throughout the week.
More 2-Man vs. Calvin Johnson on Sunday night. The Lions had to move Johnson’s alignment to get him open underneath because of the deep half help over the top and I expect to see more teams play this scheme (along with Cover 2 or Cover 6) vs. Detroit. Take away the deep ball.
Reggie Bush deserves a game ball. Everyone saw his 65-yard TD run, but let’s not discount the 26 carries in the win over the Raiders. The Miami RB finished with 172-yards on the ground. He put in some work on Sunday.
The Josh Morgan penalty late in the Redskins’ loss to the Rams is bad football. With your team working to get field position to send a game into OT, you can’t throw a ball at an opponent. That is exactly what DBs want—and they are looking for you to retaliate. Little league stuff right there from Morgan.
Where is the defense in Kansas City after another blowout loss? I picked the Chiefs to win the AFC West because of Romeo Crennel’s unit. But after two straight weeks of giving up big plays, what’s the story here? I don’t see this as a scheme or game plan issue. Instead, this is on basic techniques and fundamentals. If you can’t get off blocks, take solid angles to the ball in the secondary and limit the run game, you won’t win in this league. The Bills rushed for over 200-yards in the 35-17 win.
Steelers’ WR Mike Wallace gets the nod for play of the day after his TD catch vs. Jets’ CB Antonio Cromartie. Vet move from Wallace here on an underthrow ball with the slight push (or shove) to the back of Cromarite. Create some separation on a move that will never get called. But don’t forget about the finish here with Wallace finding a way to get two feet down.
Staying on the Steelers-Jets matchup: how do you insert Tim Tebow into the game and keep a rhythm going on offense? It doesn’t add up when you throw Mark Sanchez into the huddle on 3rd and 7-plus and ask him to make a throw to move the sticks. The Jets have to manage this better if they are going to use Tebow.
A quick coaching point on Vernon Davis’ first TD vs. the Lions. Whenever you see an offense motion the FB out of the core to a No.1 alignment, the ball is going inside. That is called “waste motion.” Widen the defense and create an inside matchup. Exactly what the 49ers did when they ran a Smash-7 (corner) concept to get Davis up the field for the TD.
The Jags didn’t have an answer for the Texans’ defense and we should have expected that. Houston’s front seven is legit and they can play man-coverage in the secondary. That gives you options as a defensive play caller. Blaine Gabbert isn’t going to make plays vs. this defense just yet.
Rams’ fans should be excited about Sam Bradford after the 31-28 win over the Redskins. The St. Louis QB was able to work the ball to WR Danny Amendola (15-160-1TD) in the underneath zones of the Washington defense and despite making a bad decision in the red zone he finished with over 300-yards and a 3 TDs.
The Redskins are making smart decisions with RGIII in the game plan when they are in the red zone. Look at the Zone Read out of the Pistol offense or the QB Lead Draw from a 2x2 spread alignment. Add in the movement (boot, sprint) you are accustomed to seeing in a Shanahan offense, and there is a reason Griffin is producing. Put him in a position to succeed.
Both Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden played much better football in their second starts. Give them time—and reps. That’s the goal with rookies at the quarterback position. The more game experience they have, the more opportunity to learn and develop the skill set necessary to produce.
Follow me on Twitter: @MattBowen41