Bye Week Impressions

Mitch

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If you spent the day watching the NFC West teams and fruitlessly rooting for three hapless looking opponents in the Bears, Chargers and Raiders...I can commiserate with the ever-growing sense of frustration you incurred over the course of 7 hours, which included 5 minute replay delays on plays where it was clear after one 10 second replay that the WR's foot was half way across the sideline.

When you watch teams you cannot stand play...it's all the more unbearable to sit through the copious delays, the 24 Appleby's 2 for $20 commercials along the way...that and every kind of truck commercial imaginable...

We put up with it better when the team we love is playing...because we really have no choice and most of us can remember when we could not watch the game at all and were forced to reading the twenty minute tickers for 3 hours (man that was more scroll burn and angst than watching the draft for three hour chunks).

The NFL should get its act together and clean this mess up. Games are no longer even close to 3 hours long...in fact many of them are just starting the 4th quarter after 3 hours...and this is depsite the fact that now it's almost impossible to get the clock stopped, save for an incompleted pass.

Anyway...I could go on and on...the product is losing its polish...there's very little momentum to games any more...and that's making this spectator sport very spectator unfriendly.

All this said and vented...if you spent the 7 hours as I did, you may be thinking the same thing as I am today: we have our hands full. I think that is about as euphemistically as I can put it.

While I am not ready to commit to this notion myself...it did occur to me that strong cases can be made that the Cardinals may possibly have both the worst offense and the worst defense in the division.

Yet...the reason why at this point the question is relatively moot is that, as the Cardinals are proving, you can show up at the right times, get lucky in some and totally bail out at others and still be in a tie for first place.

However, in the past two years the Cardinals would still be alone in first place, possibly by two games.

This year is different because the talent is catching up...the organizations are getting more aggressive in adding personnel...the quarterbacking is stronger, as are the defenses and special teams.

Seahawks:

* Matt Hasselbeck is the best and most proven QB in the division, now that he is healthy again and that Warner is retired.

* Unlike the Cardinals who tend to sit on the hands once the season starts, personnel-wise (because they preach the Steeler model of building depth from within regardless of glaring in-season needs), the Seahawks made what could have been the move that wins the NFC West this past week by acquiring RB Marshawn Lynch...and practically breaking even on the deal by fleecing a 4th round pick out of the Patriots for underachieving, egregiously overpaid WR Deion Branch.

* Adding Lynch is real boon to Hasselbeck as it allows him to avoid 3rd and longs and the pounding that come with that.

* It's no coincidence that adding Lynch paved the way for their first road win under Pete Carroll---who seems to be pacing the sidelines as spritely and giddily as ever.

* Their real Achilles heel is in their secondary where they are susceptible to giving up big passing plays and total yardage.

* But, they did one clever thing on defense that Mike Martz, the Bears' o-line and Jay Cutler never adjusted to...they dropped one of the safeties down to the unprotected side (the side opposite of where the RB lined up next to Cutler in the shotgun), and just that one safety blitz call ruined 3-4 Bears' drives as the safety had a clear unimpeded shot at Cutler each time and Cutler was taken by surprise and either got immediate sacked or got panicked and then threw the ball away.

Note: knowing how Whiz doesn't even chip DEs...this Seahawk scheme will hurt the Cardinals similarly if the team isn't prepared for it.

What do you do?

It's actually quite simple. You do one of 5 things.

(1) Before the snap you move the RB over to the safety's side.

(2) You motion the TE over to the FS side...which the Seahawks will counter by not blitzing the FS who will instead pick up the TE man to man...in which case they could blitz the LB/S who was orginally assigned to the TE, but at least you still have your RB to that side so it won't be a clean shot at the QB.

(3) You audible...and roll away from that side...with the center cutting off the backside blitz.

(4) You have the T/G/C trio to that side call switch, where the T takes the FS and the G takes the DE and the C takes the DT...which leaves the middle open, but when the switch call is made the RB knows that picking up the blitz up the middle is his priority.

(5) You audible and run a slip screen to the RB to the Blitzing FS side!

OR---even easier---you line up in a 2 man backfield, the way the Cardinals were doing with THT and Fitz and then motion one where you want him.

* On the Seahawks' offense, you have to defend the Mike Williams Show...what they do is as simple as it gets, something Warner and Fitz would do left and right. You have the WR take whatever the CB was giving him. Yesterday, despite giving up 3 or 4 easy third down conversions to Williams on a simple slant play, CB Charles Tillman never shaded Williams to the inside, thus giving Williams the easy slant all day. The problem is once Williams has the inside position, you cannot defend the pass. Williams is too big and tall...you can't maneuver around him.

So...what Hasselbeck and Williams were ready for was the occasion where Tillman would take away the slant and then they would throw the fade up and over Tillman.

The fade is a tougher pass to complete, especially to a QB's left...but it's a safer pass than the slant in that there's no way a safety can defend it unless he is lined up directly behind the CB to begin with (which never happens, except in the prevent defense)...whereas on the slant---a safety can slide down from the hash and gamble...something you usually want to avoid, for sure.

If it were me...I would play Toler all day on Williams and I would play him straight up as Tillman did, only on third down situations I would line Calais Campbell up to Williams' side and make Hasselbeck have to throw over or around Campbell.

The thing you worry about with the fade is pass interference because when the CB chases he cannot look back for the ball and if the WR stops to fight back for the ball the CB runs into him and it's an instant flag.

* The amazing thing about the Seahawks yesterday was how they basically rode those two simple bread and butter plays (the FS blitz--open edge---and the Williams Slant/Fade option) to victory...it was kind of like when an NBA team just simply beats you on the pick and roll.

Rams

* The Rams are legit...because they play consistently solid defense (most so in the division by far---save last week---but 5/6 weeks gives them the nod) under Steve Spagnuolo and they are getting smooth, unruffled QB play out of rookie Sam Bradford, and along the way a big, dreadlocked RB named Steven Jackson slides and skates for 100 yards. Ever notice how Jackson runs???...he doesn't...he skates...it's so weird to watch...he has such tremendous body control he just skates away from the first tackler by taking a hard jab with his lead leg and then tries to stop and reskate to avoid the second tackler...and as big as he is, he rarely takes a big hit.

* The Rams' secondary is a real strength...CB Ron Bartell and FS Oshi Otogwe are a prolific tandem...they shut down the Chargers yesterday...and having a much improved pass rush with Chris Long and James Hall at DE...QBs have to make quick reads and throw into some very tight windows...which Philip Rivers elected not to do and thus took what 7 sacks?

49ers

* I hate to say this but I don't think Alex Smith has played as badly as some people are insisting. In fact, I think he played well enough to win at least two other games...but bad breaks and a bad play here and there have made the difference.

There is a great deal of credence to the relation between Smith's progress and the fact that he's had what now 7 offensive coordinators in 6 years? That is insane. He also has two rookies starting in the o-line...good rookies, but rookies nontheless...and between keeping Frank Gore happy while showing equal love to Davis, Morgan and Crabtree...it aint so easy. What I think their biggest problem is is there's only one ball and the head coach and the OC of the week still hasn't figured out whether this is a run-first or open it up offense.

On defense...they are getting especially good play from their oldest two veterans DE Justin Smith and ILB Takeo Spikes. Talk about leadership (and they get it every snap from Patrick Willis---a true stud who is headed to the HOF if he stays healthy)...yet the rest of the unit, as crazily talented as they are, blink off and on like light switches. Parys Haralson will play lights out for a series and then disappear...and the same could be said about Manny Lawson and every member of their secondary.

The trio of kicking tandem Andy Lee and Joe Nedney and PR/KR Ted Ginn is dang good (man so are Donnie Jones, Josh Brown and Joey Amendola).

What jumps out at you is the talent on that team...which means they cannot be counted out at all. They could sweep the rest of their NFC West games and blow everyone out doing it. I will say this---they will believe they can and see this as the real treat of their schedule.

But...and here's the thing...games, as we well know...are not won on paper. There are reasons why the 49ers are 1-5. Part of it is their schedule, which has been challenging...but that opening day clunker up in Seattle was a very poor way to go into the tough stretch of their schedule and it off-set their grand expectations so much they are still trying to recover mentally.

There are so many twists and turns in NFL games---and so many personalities---and players taking games off---and coaches losing their grasps on the players---which, as Chris Berman says, "is why they play the games."

With a good deal of money to spend it would be great of the Cardinals could make a splash trade or two of their own before tomorrow. But...as stated previously...they like the Steelers' model...but the Steelers also have been at it a lot longer and on defense they have a guy named Dick LeBeau whom players run through brick walls for.

I am excited to watch the Cardinals the rest of the way because I like the energy and grit that Max Hall brings...I also am very enamored with the young talent on the team and it's just plain fun watching good young players develop...frustrating, no doubt at times, but fun---because you can dream about the day when the production will become commensurate with the talent. So, here's to watching MAX EFFORT from here on in because it appears that this is what it's going to take to keep our Cardinals atop the NFC West!:newcards:
 
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Mulli

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Mitch, good call on the audibles. Bears' announcers could not understand why Cutler was incapable of reading that blitz and changing the play.
 

Russ Smith

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Mitch, good call on the audibles. Bears' announcers could not understand why Cutler was incapable of reading that blitz and changing the play.

Because he's Jay Cutler?

:D
 

DeAnna

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...it's all the more unbearable to sit through the copious delays, the 24 Appleby's 2 for $20 commercials along the way...that and every kind of truck commercial imaginable...

Not to mention the numerous ads for erectile dysfunction medications :mad:
 

Catfish

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Mitch-----man, you are still the VERY best. Great write up on the West. Your knowlege and insight comes to light for us every time.

This is not our daddy's division anymore, and I totally agree that we have our hands full with all three of these teams.

Yet, I love what we can bring to the table too, as the play behind Max against the Saints was truly inspired. I look forward to more of that.

Just as everyone feels that Bradford is the real deal-----so do I believe that Max is that same real deal for us. This just might be the most entertaining season we have witnessed since Whiz and company's arrival. We may not go as far as some, but it sure looks to be fun.
 

ajcardfan

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Because he's Jay Cutler?

:D

All-world arm, retained in middle school brain. When the Bears finish with a losing record, the people who started to pump out the Cutler hype, again, will have to try and find more excuses for him.
 

Russ Smith

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All-world arm, retained in middle school brain. When the Bears finish with a losing record, the people who started to pump out the Cutler hype, again, will have to try and find more excuses for him.

Truly amazing that Shanahan wanted so desperately to get rid of Jake Plummer that he drafted as his replacement, Jake with a better arm.
 

az1965

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Before praising 49ers too much, we have to realize that Raiders were missing both their starting QB and RB. Campbell sucks in a major manner and Raiders just could not move the chains.

I am, however, concerned with our Seattle game... they can have a sack fest against our OL or at least Max Hall get a good beating.
 

82CardsGrad

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Good write-up Mitch.

- While the NFL absolutely needs to focus on keeping the games from becoming 4 hour snore-fests, they have the luxury of competing against MLB, which, under Bud the Slug, offers zero competition to the NFL...

- The competiveness across the NFL and specifically in the NFC West has certainly been enhanced... Parity is here in full tilt mode. I think most of us agree that, on paper, there really isn't much of a difference between the 9ers and the Cards... in fact, IMHO, the 9ers are actually the more talented team. Yet, the Cards have 3 wins and the 9ers stand at 1 & 5. The Hawks and Rams are coming together and will be serious forces to be reckoned with. I think your statement about the Cards possessing the worst offense and the worst defense in the division is spot on. Which, IMHO, makes the job Whiz is doing all the more impressive...

- We simply need to take care of our non-division business.... We got that stretch coming up, beginning with the home game vs the Hawks in week 10, culminating in week 15 at the Panthers... 6 games. 4 are home. The two away games are KC and Carolina. We need to at minimum win 3 of those games. If we can grab 4 W's, I really like our chances to repeat as division champs. If we falter and only win 2, we will be in serious trouble...
 

desertdawg

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Thx for another good read Mitch. I too would like to see more in a 2 man backfield, and I am pretty excited about our TEs getting more involved.
 

RugbyMuffin

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The Cardinals.

Worst defense, worst offense, avg special teams, and bad coaching.


And, 3-2 atop the division.

Don't know how they do it.
:D

Good post Mitch, very enjoyable.
 

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Seahawks fan here...just felt the need to say, "Nice write-up, Mitch."

Nice write up, Mitch.
 

Garthshort

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Still another effort by Mitch that deserves a wider publication, although I don't know which Blog or newspaper should pick it up. But one should.
 

Duckjake

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The Cardinals.

Worst defense, worst offense, avg special teams, and bad coaching.


And, 3-2 atop the division.

Don't know how they do it.
:D

Good post Mitch, very enjoyable.

Craziest fans in the division.

They got to Janikowski and Brees for two big wins at home. :D
 

JeffGollin

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Mitch - Great job - especially the schemes, coverages and offensive plays.

I just wish there was some sort of convenient "chalkboard" web utility here that could enable you & others to diagram plays (preferably in motion).

One thing we fans don't know enough about is "what the QB sees" - both before the snap and as the play develops. How easy it is for him to pick up a blitzing S or LB or a player dropping off to double-cover?

All of which is very relevant to Max Hall: What's he seeing? How much knowledge is he absorbing so that he understands what he's seeing and knows what he has to do when he sees it?
 

Duckjake

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By the way I'd say our Special Teams are well above average ranking in the top 10 best in about every category except punt returns.

Just having Ben Graham puts us above average. What a weapon that guy has been.

It will be interesting to see how our coverage guys who have been so good this season do against Leon Washington in Seattle.
 
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Mitch

Mitch

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Mitch - Great job - especially the schemes, coverages and offensive plays.

I just wish there was some sort of convenient "chalkboard" web utility here that could enable you & others to diagram plays (preferably in motion).

One thing we fans don't know enough about is "what the QB sees" - both before the snap and as the play develops. How easy it is for him to pick up a blitzing S or LB or a player dropping off to double-cover?

All of which is very relevant to Max Hall: What's he seeing? How much knowledge is he absorbing so that he understands what he's seeing and knows what he has to do when he sees it?

Great points, Jeff.

One adjustment Whiz made for Hall was to run him more out of the shotgun. Hall is far better off getting the ball early so he can keep his eyes downfield and shuffle his feet into clear passing lanes. Plus, he can react to quick pressure faster and better, because as you say Jeff, he can "see" it quicker..

For some inane reason, Mike Martz kept calling regular dropback passes for Jay Cutler even on 3rd and longs, and I cannot recall Cutler completing any of the passes from a regular dropbacks.

The thing is---not only is it getting much harder for QBs to be as effective passing on straight dropbacks---it's getting harder and harder to play action pass, because of how trendy the run blitzes are these days. What teams are realizing is that they call a run blitz and it ends up blowing up a play action pass before a QB has a decent chance to set his feet and find his WR or TE downfield. A win-win situation.

And I have always felt the best defense is to rush like every play is a pass and defend the run along the way...

Even bootlegs are not as simple as they used to be as teams are run blitzing the edges straight into where the QB turns for his bootleg.

What Whiz needs to do is run more out of the shotgun. The 49ers had a nice play where Alex Smith acted like the ball was snapped over his head yet the ball had been snapped to Frank Gore for a surprise sweep which gained a good 8-10 yards.

There is no question that spreading the defense out is an advantage for THT, Beanie and LSH.

And...the Rams are doing a great thing by keeping TE Billy Bajema, their best blocking TE in to chip and slow the DE, and then they have him release to the area of the field that is wide open, either the middle or the flat. The Rams actually converted two third and longs on that play, as Bajema was nifty at looking the ball in, turning upfield and making the first defender miss. I wonder of Jim Dray could do the same. Regardless, helping on the edge is now imperative and must become an integral part of the scheme.

The Rams did not let Shaun Phillips beat them, like the Cardinals did without any adjustments, which is why the rams kept Bajema to Phillips' side. Talk about win-win. Phillips was not a factor and Bajema converted two key third downs off delays.
 
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JeffGollin

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Shotgun vs Under Center...

Mitch - There are 2 schools of thought regarding Under Center vs. Deep Snap.

One is that QB's operating out of the shotgun don't have to worry about drop-back footwork and have more time to get set & scan the field.

But another is that, because a QB has to look down to handle the deep snap, it takes his eyes off what he sees downfield and it costs him a split second while he regains his focus.

If it were me - If I had confidence my center would direct-snap to a dime-sized target 99 out of 100 times (so I wouldn't have to worry about "looking down") I'd rather operate out of the shotgun. Plus - the risk of having a center or guard step on my foot would be eliminated).

Late breaking intelligence of questionable value - When asked the question: "Who do you think is going to have a big game (vs. Seattle)?" LSH answered:

"I'm watching Max (quarterback Max Hall). I feel like he's getting comfortable back there. He's looking good out here in practice. I'm really excited to see what he can do."

(sound of fingers crossing)
 
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