Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Detailed Game Review - Offense vs PIT


Another week, another nail-biter. Can we play the Rams again? These games are fun because every play is so important, but they also wear me out. I get nutso superstitious from whether I should lean back in my chair or stand up... whether I should talk to the TV (change that to yell) or stay silent (the neighbors preference)... whether I should drink a glass of water or not.

It was a lot of fun to watch the defense unleashed. Losing last week the way we did was very frustrating. Let's not discuss why we played that way, though. Let's focus on the fun of watching them attack Pittsburgh. Jim blitzed on about half of the plays in the game. Normally that number is 20%. This was a very aggressive scheme. Blitzing only works if 2 things happen. First, you need the blitzers to get to the QB. Second, you need the coverage to be solid. The defense came through in both areas. By my rough estimate 11 different defenders got their hands on Roethlisberger. The Steelers only play of more than 20 yards came on the final drive. Hit the QB and cover the receivers. Done and done. Amazing how much smarter JJ looks when the guys execute well. There is more on the blitzing at the end of the writeup.

The offense was up and down. Our first drive went down to the PIT 20 yard line, but Hunt fumbled. The next two drives got us 10 points. We got inside the PIT 45 a couple of more times, but had to punt. We finally got points off Dawk's FF/FR late in the game. Only a FG, though. We finished 0-2 in the red zone. That isn't good, but give the Steelers credit. Their defense (ranked #2 in the NFL) played well when it had to. I also think McNabb's chest injury really slowed him down. He was laboring to breathe at times. Donovan looked very good early on, but struggled as the game went along. In the end, we had just enough offense to win and that is all that matters.


* Ben was only 8 of 18 after the opening drive.

* We forced 2 turnovers for the 2nd game in a row.

* The defense scored points for the 2nd game in a row (safety).

* Each team had 6 points off turnovers.

* The Steelers were only 2 of 13 on 3rd downs.

* Mike Tomlin didn't do a good job in this game. As the announcers pointed out, he should have kicked the FG on 4th down with :35 seconds to go. PIT was down 9 points. They needed 2 scores. Going for it on 4th/long was dumb.

I also think the Steelers were dumb not to run the ball. They were struggling to run, but why keep getting your QB hit. Run the ball over and over and then punt and play defense. Westy was out early. McNabb was hurt. By throwing the ball they played into our hands. I'd be real frustrated with this loss if I was a Steelers fan.


* We finally ran a Flea Flicker. McNabb got sacked and hurt on the play. Foote came free through the line. Tra tried to get a hand on him at the last minute. When he did that, his DL came free. Both guys hit McNabb. Ugly play. The next play Westy got hurt. Brutal sequence.

* 3rd/3 play that preceded the TD pass. We lined up in "20 personnel", that is 2 RBs and 0 TEs (and obviously 3 WRs). Avant was in the right slot. DeSean was wide right. Jackson took a hard inside release at the snap and ran a shallow cross. Avant had a LB and CB directly in front of him. He went into both players at the snap, essentially blocking them. LoBo lined up as the right halfback. He released into the flat. Donovan hit him with a quick swing pass and he only had to make one LB miss to get the 1st down. Nicely designed and executed.

* TD play. We had 1st/10 at their 20. DeSean and GLew lined up to the left. They drove the defense up the field. Buck was a safety outlet on the play, running a short route. McNabb hit him with a pass on the move (right at the LOS) and Buck was able to turn upfield and use his speed to run away from the LB. He then hurdled a DB at the 2 yard line and got into the endzone.

* Kolb's first pass was an INT. LJ lined up wide right and ran a slant pattern. I think Kolb made a bad read on the play. The CB squatted on the route, meaning he played the slant and wasn't worried about a deeper route. The CB hit LJ prior to the ball getting there. It also looked like he may have gotten a hand on the pass. The ball popped up in the air and Polamalu made a great pick. Andy challenged it (which I agreed with), but the call was upheld.

* The Safety. We had a 4-man DL (75, 68, 90, 58). Bradley and Gaither lined up over the C and acted as if they were going to blitz. At the snap, they bailed into coverage. We only sent the 4 DL. Cole looped inside on a stunt. Howard drove the LT backward. Parker flew around the RT, who tried to hold him. Klecko beat the LG. Jailbreak. Trent got Ben around the waist and Parker closed ground quickly. Ben tried to throw the ball away, but hit Juqua with it. He almost picked it off for the TD. The refs called grounding and gave us the safety. There was a receiver somewhat in the area (Willie P.) and that had the PIT coaches/players fuming. Ben's knee was on the ground when he threw the ball. Trent Cole should have been fuming because he was robbed of another sack.

* Dawk's strip. It was 3rd/15. We rushed 7. Sheldon and Dawk came off the edges. Gaither came up the middle. The two blitzers off the edge kept Ben from being able to go right or left. He was trapped. Sheldon came free, but overran Ben and forced him to step up. Dawk was initally blocked, then got off that and dove for the ball. He knocked it loose, then grabbed it. Awesome.



DONOVAN – Weird game. Started off 15 of 15 and looked really good. As the game moved on, his injury seemed to bother him more. Was only 9 of 20 the rest of the way. I liked the checkdown throws he made. Donovan got the ball to backs and short receivers rather than hold the ball. He did mix in some deep and intermediate throws. Donnie was sacked 3 times, but I don't think any of them were due to his holding the ball excessively.

* Threw an absolute bullet to Baskett on 3rd/16. That was about as good a throw as I can recall McNabb making.
* Threw a beautiful pass to DeSean down the right side for a good gain.
* Didn't make a very good pass to LJ on 3rd down inside the PIT 10. The ball was low and didn't give Smith much of a chance.

KOLB– Played in the 3rd Qtr. Had a one-snap drive when his pass was picked off. Started the next series as well. Completed a couple of passes to the right side. One throw to Baskett was a bit forced into tight coverage, but Hank made the catch. Also had a couple of handoffs before giving way to #5.


WESTY – Had 5 carries before getting hurt. The injury came on a running play to the far left. A PIT DB cut Tra's legs out from under him. Brian jumped over them. He didn't want to put his cleat hard into Tra, so he tried to land hard on the other foot. He got caught off balance as he landed and the ankle just bent.

BUCK – Very good game. Buck had to alternate between fullback and running back because of injuries to Westbrook and Tony Hunt. He did both jobs as best he could. Buckhalter had 10 carries for 43 yards. He caught six passes for 44 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown. Caught a screen pass after lining up at FB. Got 11 yards on the play. Ran hard. Really hit the hole. Good chip block on #94. Tried to block Foote on a blitz up the middle. Got a good shot on him, but Foote kept going and was able to get McNabb for a sack. Had one run where he started to his left, stopped, and then used a spin move in the hole to make a LB miss. Got about 5 or 6 on the play. Made Larry Foote look a little bit silly. Longest run went for 11 yards to the right side. The blockers gave him daylight and Buck hit it hard. Had a good pass block on a LB in the 3rd Qtr. Cleanly took on a LB coming off the edge and stopped him. Used good form and actually looked like he knew what he was doing. Used a spin move to get away from the NT and back to the line on a busted running play.

LOBO – Okay game. Had 5 carries for 11 yards. Caught 2 passes for 5 yards. Made a horrible attempt to pick up a blitzing LB. Passively threw his shoulder toward the guy, but whiffed badly. McNabb was hit and picked off on the play. Best run was a 5-yard'er up the middle. Got low and burrowed. Made the one big 3rd down conversion, but overall another disappointing game.

HUNT – Only played on the opening series. Caught 2 passes for 12 yards. Unfortunately took a big hit on the 2nd pass and fumbled the ball while we were already in FG range. Suffered a concussion and didn't return.


L.J. – Quiet game as a receiver. Solid job of pass blocking. First pass that came his way was a red zone throw on 3rd down. LJ was sorta open, but the pass was real low and he couldn't come up with it. Had a good block on an 11 yard run by Buck. Occupied Woodley and helped to give Buck a big running lane. More of a blocker than a receiver for the 2nd week in a row.

CELEK – Didn't play a whole lot, but was primarily used as a blocker. No standout moments good or bad.


PEANUT – Solid game. Finished with 5 catches for 40 yards. I had us with 7 attempts to him. One pass was barley off target and the other picked off.

Caught a short pass to the right side. Tried to get away from the defenders, but couldn't do it. Only a short gain. Caught another short pass on the right side. This one came on 3rd/2 and got us the 1st down. CB was playing well off him on both early passes. Threw a WR screen to him. Turned short throw into 9 yard gain. Caught a short pass on the right side from Kolb. Got 6 on the play. Just missed a key 3rd down catch early in the 4th Qtr. The ball was high and wide. Jackson got one foot down, but not the second. Good try.

One dumb rookie moment and one smart rookie moment. On McNabb's pick late in the half, DeSean made sure to come over and get a hand on the DB while he was down. That eliminated a 13-yard return. The dumb moment came late in the game when we used DeSean on an End Around. He took the handoff coming from the far sideline. He couldn't turn upfield because of pursuit. Unfortunately went out of bounds instead of just going down. This stopped the clock at 2:38 and gave the Steelers a bit of hope. That is two mistakes in two weeks. Neither cost us, but one of them will down the road.

AVANT – Finished with 2 catches. Converted 3rd/long on opening drive. Had other passes come his way on 3rd down, but was either covered or the throws were off target. Tried to work the deep middle, but the Steelers had him covered pretty well. Did catch a short pass on the right side.

BASKETT – Terrific game. Caught the ball really well. Wasn't plucking the ball. Did use his body. Still, was able to make several tough catches. Baskett played his best game as an Eagle. I know he has some long touchdown catches in other games, but this week he made several important grabs in a tight game. His long touchdown catches have all involved mistakes by defensive backs. That wasn't the case against Pittsburgh. Baskett played well and earned each of his catches. He used his big frame to shield defensive backs and give McNabb a target. Baskett finished with a career-high eight catches for 85 yards. Hank adjust to the ball really well. He caught passes thrown high. He caught some thrown behind him. There was one questionable pass from McNabb that Phil Simms said was Hank's fault for not adjusting his route. That explanation didn't make sense to me based on what I saw, but Phil is the ex-QB and knows the passing game. I simply thought Donovan was off target.

GLEW – Quiet game. Caught one pass over the middle. Had another pass come his way, but was well covered. I actually thought he was limping a bit at one point, but that could have just been a tired player jogging off the field.

BROWN - Only had a couple of passes thrown his way. Ran an out cut and McNabb was just off target. Wouldn't have gained much. Had a deep ball come his way and almost connected.


TRA – Solid job in pass pro. He kept control of LB James Harrison. Tra didn't dominate the guy, but Harrison didn't have any QB hits or sacks. He was largely a non-factor.

TODD – Pretty good game. Sealed a blitzing ILB on a running play up the middle. Gave Buck a good running lane. Had a good block on a LB on a 3rd Qtr run by Buck. Had a good block on Foote on Buck's long run. Got into him downfield and just stuck with the block. Got called for a penalty on a 4th Qtr screen to LoBo. Is Todd allergic to playing well in the 4th??? Cost us a solid gain and put us behind the chains.

JAMAAL – Big man played well only a day after attending his brother's funeral. That's an emotionally strong dude. Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke both played NT in the game. They combined for 1 tackle. Good block on screen to give Buck a good running lane. Did a good job on Hampton on a running play up the middle. Struggled to block Hoke on a running play to the right. Got his arms on him, but wasn't able to really make solid contact and move him off the line. Drove Hampton off the ball on a LoBo run up the middle.

MAX– Okay game. Didn't really stand out good or bad. Didn't seem confused by any PIT blitzes. Good block on Farrior on screen pass. Hustled to get over to the left side to make the block. Solid block on NT helped on short run by Buck.

RUNYAN – Didn't have an easy time in pass protection. Woodley gave him trouble. Jon kept him blocked most of the time, but barely. Woodley stays low and is very active. He was always spinning to get off a block and had Jon reaching and lunging. Had a good block on the LDE on a LoBo run up the middle. Jon got him moving off the ball and then Max joined in. Set the edge on Buck's 11 yard run to the right side. Sealed the DE and gave Buck lots of room. Gave up a sack when Woodley got under and around him. Had a sloppy run block on Woodley on a Buck run to the right side.

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