11.09.2005
 
Wednesday Football
    Week Nine Game Reviews
    Carolina - Tampa Bay | Seattle - Arizona | Atlanta - Miami

    Carolina Panthers:
    Carolina always seems to take their games with the Bucs more seriously than Tampa does. The stats don't really show the blowout that this game was. Carolina was balanced on offense, they didn't turn the ball over, and no one can stop Steve Smith.

    Julius Peppers again had Kenyatta Walker playing scared. Peppers has just owned Walker over his career.

    The Panthers rank 4th in the NFL in points per game, 3rd in third down efficiency, and yet they are 31st in average gain per rushing attempt. The Panthers have forced 20 turnovers this year (tied for 3rd), but they've given away 15 themselves. But they are in first place by a wide margin in red zone touchdown percentage (77% versus second places' 70%). The Panthers do have some holes in their game, and they'll struggle when facing a team as disciplined and well coached as they are, but there are few out there. Carolina is essentially a NFC contender based on their third down and red zone efficiency alone. Anyone who wants to beat them will need to focus on what Carolina is doing when they need to convert a play.

    The Panthers have won five in a row but they still have both games against Atlanta on their schedule.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Smith- 8(5)
    Foster- 3(2)
    Colbert- 2(1)
    Davis- 2(1)
    Proehl- 1(1)
    Gardner- 1(0)
    Mangum- 1(1)


    Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
    I don't think Jon Gruden and his staff are doing a good job at getting their team ready to play. I think they are underestimating their weaknesses and overestimating their strengths. The difference between the Chris Simms that played against SF and the Simms that played against Carolina was clear. Against the 49ers, Simms was in over his head, unsure of the offense, and confused; even though he had a bye week to prepare for the game. Against the Panthers, Simms looked like the player most expected to see. He was getting the ball out on time, and his throws for the most part were where they needed to be.

    Now, that said, he's still a young QB and he's making mistakes. The INT TD he threw to Chris Gamble wasn't pretty. It was a 5 yard out that Simms has to make an adjustment on, even as he's delivering the ball. Gamble broke on the first move and when you see that as a QB, if you're already throwing you still have the ability to throw it high and over both targets. Simms has always had the label of being a better practice QB than a gamer, and I think a lot of that has to do with how he delivers the ball. Simms has a great arm, and a good throwing motion, he's just a little too casual with his throws. He's a reps and rhythm guy who isn't a playmaker.

    Anthony McFarland and the rest of the Bucs was really working hard in this game. The entire defense again gave a good effort, but these safeties still aren't good enough in coverage to make their system work properly.

    TARGETS(catches):
    Galloway- 13(5)
    Clayton- 8(2)
    Pittman- 6(4)
    Hillard- 5(4)
    Smith- 3(3)
    Williams- 3(3)
    Becht- 2(2)
    Alstott- 2(2)



    Seattle Seahawks:
    Seattle used a lot of draws against the attacking Cardinals defense, especially on their opening drive. And it definitely was effective at keeping the Cards off balance on defense.

    There has been talk this season that the team chemistry on the Seahawks is in a place it's never been before. There appears to be something special going on here. Their offense is first in the NFL in total yards per game, average gain per rush, first downs per game, average gain per play, and they are 5th best in points per game. Don't sleep on them.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Jurevicious- 6(4)
    Engram- 5(3)
    Stevens- 3(2)
    Hannam- 3(1)
    Strong- 1(1)
    Morris- 1(1)
    Urban- 1(1)


    Arizona Cardinals:
    New quarterback, same red zone struggles for Arizona. They have scored a touchdown just 3 times in 21 red zone trips this year. And six times they've come away with zero points.

    I still put this on Kurt Warner. He never had great arm strength, and now it seems he's a little wary of it and so he holds onto the ball too much. And in the red zone, when passing windows are open for less time than they are anywhere else, Warner is struggling the most. And he had time to throw against the Seahawks, but for almost three full quarter the Cardinals couldn't punch the ball into the end zone.

    The unfortunate part about all this is that Arizona has someone who could potentially be one of the best red zone WR in the game (Fitzgerald).

    Someone needs to ask: Why is Kurt Warner starting? This offensive line cannot pass block. Kurt Warner cannot throw on the run. Connect the dots. Why is Kurt Warner starting.

    J.J. Arrington is officially back on the radar. He's been improved over the last few weeks but this was the first game I've seen him run with a purpose since his days at Cal. Arrington is still a fish out of water in this offense, however, so I don't expect anything big to happen. He needs to play in a west coast hybrid system.

    Bryant Johnson may have had a nice fantasy day, but he made a couple of key mistakes in this game; including dropping a slant pass in the end zone and blocking from behind on Edwards' long catch and run. There's a reason Johnson, a former first round pick, has been a third receiever for most of his career.

    And losing Bertrand Berry for the season is going to kill this defense. Take the Cardinals out of the grill, it's over for them.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Fitzgerald- 14(8)
    Johnson- 11(6)
    Newhouse- 7(2)
    McCoy- 4(3)
    Arrington- 4(4)
    Ayanbadejo- 3(2)
    Shipp- 2(1)
    Bergen- 2(2)
    Edwards- 2(1)


    Atlanta Falcons:
    Michael Vick's numbers for this game were certainly impressive, but the Dolphins- who don't really have a good secondary to begin with- did him a lot of favors by blitzing frequently. You just cannot send 6 or 7 guys to rush Michael Vick. He's going to be just as fast or faster than any of those blitzers and what you're doing with the biltz is handing him a decision on where to throw to ball. His one weakness, pass selection, is taken away when you tell him off the snap of the ball where he should go. It becomes a much easier choice for Vick. That's why Tampa has always been effective against him. They get pressure off the left tackle and they drop seven in coverage.

    Atlanta's defense is still soft against the run, but that is offset by their third down efficiency. The Falcons are 2nd in the league at getting off the field on third downs, a stat that is supplemented by their 4th best QB sack percentage. In this game, their speed was too much for Miami to contend with.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Finneran- 11(8)
    Crumpler- 8(6)
    White- 5(3)
    Dunn- 4(4)
    Griffith- 2(1)
    Blakely- 1(0)


    Miami Dolphins:
    Teams who run the ball are going to be able to move down the field against Atlanta. And Miami's ground game is still it's strength. Still, this game wasn't as close as it needed to be. During the first half, the Falcons gave the ball up on Miami's 10 once and on their own 15 once, essentially giving the Dolphins 10 points. That allowed Miami a chance to stay with their run game, and stay in the game overall. To their credit, the Dolphins were technically in this game until late into the fourth quarter. Miami can stop the run and they can run the ball pretty well themselves. But they are 30th in the league in time of possession and in order to be competitive, they have to keep the ball out of the air- on both sides.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Chambers- 6(3)
    McMichael- 4(3)
    Brown- 4(2)
    Booker- 3(2)
    Welker- 2(1)
    Morris- 2(2)
    Williams- 1(0)


    I should have a couple more games up tonight.


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