Let’s run through my notes from the Week 5 Sunday schedule in the NFL. Some Xs and Os, personnel, etc. Ten things you should be talking about—starting with the Colts’ comeback win over the Packers in Indy.
1. Colts stun the Packers: Think about this: the Colts were without head coach Chuck Pagano and down 21-3 to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Did anyone see this team coming back to get this one? Big win for a rebuilding club that leaned on veteran WR Reggie Wayne (13-212-1TD) and rode their rookie QB on the final drive to take the lead. And I love the play call to put the Colts ahead: double-stack alignment; Slant-7 (corner) vs. Cover 1. A “pick” play that Packers’ CB Tramon Williams played properly from a technique perspective. However, look at the effort from Wayne to get this ball across the goal line. Great finish in Indianapolis. And now Green Bay is suddenly 2-3.
2. Brees breaks the record, lights up the Chargers: Brees (370-yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT) broke the record of legendary QB Johnny Unitas (47 straight games with a TD pass) on the double-move vs. man-coverage to Devery Henderson. However, he also targeted WR Marques Colston (9-131-3TDs) on some classic Saints’ route schemes. Look at the inside seam route vs. Cover 1 with Colston in the slot, the quick "Dino" route (slight stem to the 7 cut, break to the post) vs. a deep half safety in the red zone and the back-shoulder fade. The Saints’ defense still has plenty of issues, but this night belonged to Brees on the national stage in New Orleans’ first win of 2012.
3. More defense from the Bears: That’s two straight weeks with both CB Charles Tillman and LB Lance Briggs finding the end zone on INT returns. And this is the style of defense the Bears play when it comes to creating turnovers and scoring points. Lovie Smith’s unit shut down Jags’ RB Maurice Jones-Drew with their 7-Man front and QB Blaine Gabbert had no answer (outside of one first half drive) for the Cover 2 scheme. Nothing complicated here when you play the techniques of the 2-deep shell. Chicago whips Jacksonville 41-3 with a defense that has to be in the discussion as one of the league’s top units.
4. Patriots’ balance on offense: Wes Welker is going to see the ball if Tom Brady targets him. That’s exactly how this system works in New England with the route combinations inside of the numbers and Welker's ability to work underneath. But let’s focus on what the Patriots are doing on the ground. We saw it last week in the win over Buffalo and again on Sunday in the 31-21 victory vs. the Broncos. New England rushed for 251-yards with Stevan Ridley racking up 151 and a TD. A balanced offense takes some pressure off of Brady and also gives him the exact matchups he wants with play action and 8-Man fronts. That’s tough to stop.
5. Bradshaw’s 200-yard day: There wasn’t anything “exotic” here from the Giants when we talk about Ahmad Bradshaw and the run game. I saw the Lead Open (weak), Lead Closed (strong), Counter Lead, etc. Base 2-Back schemes in the downhill run game. Bradshaw finished runs, lowered his pads on contact and also showed us that cutback ability with vision. New York started slow in this game falling behind 14-0 to Cleveland, but they beat up this Browns’ defense on the ground with Bradshaw’s 200-yards in the 41-27 win.
6. Harvin’s role in the Vikings’ offense: I really like what the 4-1 Vikings did with Percy Harvin in the win over the Titans. Minnesota used the “Bubble Screen," threw the 9 (fade) route, ran the inside zone out of the gun with the WR in the backfield, etc. Why not get creative with Harvin when he is the top offensive weapon for your offense outside of RB Adrian Peterson? This forces defenses to prep for different packages because Harvin’s skill set allows the Vikings to use him in multiple alignments. Ten touches for the WR and 2 TDs.
7. Tony Gonzalez fills up the box score: One of the great things about the Falcons’ TE is his route running ability. I saw it my own career and was a victim in the red zone vs. the “Shake” route. Gonzalez (13-123-1TD) can still beat plenty of safeties on the inside seam and always finds a way to make a play on the 7 (corner) route off of play action on the goal line. Plus, with Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ scheme, you will see Gonzalez aligned all over the field. This was another good win for Atlanta in D.C. as they move to 5-0.
8. Mendenhall’s impact on the game plan: With Todd Haley calling the plays in Pittsburgh, expect to see the run game featured. And that’s the exact reason Rashard Mendenhall’s impact is vital moving forward. He ran for 81-yards Sunday in a tough win for the Steelers at home vs. Vick and the Eagles. And when Mendenhall is healthy, I don’t see the Steelers having to constantly rely on QB Ben Roethlisberger to rescue them on 3rd and 7-plus situations.
9. Bills’ defense continues to disappoint: The Bills are playing bad football on defense. No other way to say it. The Patriots whipped them in the second half last week and the 49ers’ poured it on them Sunday in the 45-3 win. Poor technique in the secondary that led to big plays from QB Alex Smith and a defensive line with Mario Williams (one that cost some big money to put together) that can’t win up front or make impact stops. There is a lot of time left in the season for this defensive to show up. I get that. But after five weeks, this unit has to be one of the early disappointments in the NFL after the offseason hype.
10. More production from Tannehill: The rookie QB is making plenty of us (myself included) go back and look at his scouting report coming out of Texas A&M. Last week, Tannehill threw for 400-plus against the Cards and came back Sunday to throw for 223-yards on 17-26 passing with no INTs. The Dolphins’ QB worked the inside seam, targeted the RBs out of the backfield, displayed the ability to step up in the pocket (while keeping his eyes down the field) and throw with pressure at his feet. Good ballgame for the rook on the road in the Dolphins win over the Bengals.
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