Game Charters Speak

Here's what I wrote for Football Outsiders for the games that I've charted for them this season. I'll post the link to the FO site when they post it on Friday.
***Update*** Check out the NFC comments.

AZ(Week 1 & 10)- The Cardinals’ success is directly related to their passing game weapons and the fact that opposing defenses can’t double team everybody. In week one, Anquan Boldin was held without a reception in the first half. In the second half the Cardinals moved Boldin around and used Larry Fitzgerald as a decoy to create open space underneath. Boldin had eight catches on 11 targets in the second half, six of the catches resulted in first downs. Boldin is a beast and is continually exploiting mismatches. With Larry Fitzgerald demanding attention wherever he is on the field and the emergence of Steve Breaston as a deep threat, smaller nickel backs or slower linebackers are forced to try and stop Boldin who racks up YAC once he gets the ball. We saw a lot of this in last Monday night’s game against the 49ers as well. Fitzgerald had eight catches, but most underneath for shorter gains. Breaston got deep and had over 120 yards receiving while Boldin caught most of his passes within ten yards of the line of scrimmage and found the end zone twice. We also saw Boldin running the Wildcat a couple times. I was going to say I’m surprised we haven’t seen Boldin running the Wildcat more this season, but I think I’ll say don’t be surprised to see Boldin running the Wildcat more the rest of this season. Pay the man.

ATL(Week 2 and Week 4) – Week 2 at Tampa Bay. Michael Turner was held in check this game. Turner had a third of his carries stopped for no gain against Tampa Bay. The Falcons red zone offense suffered because of the struggling running game. Only two of the Falcons’ 12 red zone plays gained more than one yard. The Falcons were not afraid to pass the ball after the running game stalled as they tried to attack Philip Buchanon, but he played relatively well, for him, giving up five completions on eleven targets. Tampa’s running game was strictly boom and bust this game. Dunn only had two carries for more than 15 yards(1 TD and 1 FD) while he had eight rushes for less than five yards. Earnest Graham had a similar line, but broke a 68 yarder to appease fantasy football owners. The Bucs spread the passes around amongst the coverage, but all four of the passes at Chevis Jackson picked up first downs. Tampa’s running game was inconsistent and that carried over to their red zone performance. One of nine rushing plays in the red zone gained a first down, Dunn’s 15 yard scamper. This game was won on field position as Matt Ryan threw two picks on Atlanta’s side of the field that gave the Bucs the ball in the red zone. Ryan didn’t look like a shell shocked rookie this game, rather just an inexperienced QB running into a disciplined, strong defense.

Week 4 at Carolina was similar to the week 2 matchup versus Tampa. Michael Tunrer struggled running the ball against a good defense and the passing game wasn’t able to create plays down field. Micahel Turner’s longest run on 18 carries was for ten yards. Again, the Falcons weren’t afraid to go to the passing game, but Ken Lucas and Chris Gamble were up to the challenge. Ryan completed 11 of 21 passes against those two, but only four first downs and no touch downs. Another game where Matt Ryan looked uncomfortable, but not panicky, but the Falcons weren’t able to move the ball inside the Carolina 15 yard line all game. Meanwhile the Panthers picked on Brent Grimes, a lot, with Muhsin Muhammad no less. Delhomme completed eight of twelve passes against Grimes, seven of the eight for first down/touch downs. All six of Muhsin’s catches against Grimes were for first downs and a touch down.

OAK (Week 2 and Week 6) - An Oakland Raiders game is a tough watch in real time. It’s even more excruciating to chart them, but they don’t throw too much so at least the clock moves a little faster. Since the less that is said about the Raiders is probably the better, I’ll stick to the interesting stuff. The Bills attacked DeAngelo Hall 11 times in the Week 2 game. The first four were incompletions including and interception. Six of the next seven passes were completed, four for first downs, all in the second half. In Week 6, Drew Brees completed more passes in three quarters than JaMarcus Russell completed in the two games I charted for the Raiders, combined. In fact, Russell couldn’t even attack 2007 FO PiƱata Jason David, instead, David only allowed one catch on seven targets and grabbed and INT. On the other side, the Saints didn’t attack Hall that much and instead focused on the Raiders LBs. Brees completed 13 of 15 passes against Raiders LBs to seven different receivers, eight of those receptions gained first downs or touchdowns. In fact, 14 of the 30 pass plays for the Saints got first downs and they were six of six on third down rushing, five first downs and one touchdown. If game charting is “Press Your Luck,” drawing the Raiders is a “Whammy.”

SF – My home town team and team I’ve charted most of the season has been a disappointing roller coaster, but it’s better than trying to watch the Raiders. Nate Clements has been solid and I think he’s living up to his contract. Although Larry Fitzgerald caught a touchdown in each game against Clements, he’s been limited to underneath routes and I don’t know anyone that can stop Fitzgerald one-on-one inside the five yard line. I charted the 49ers-Lions game, but I don’t even feel like that counted. 11 of 16 completions went for a first down or touch downs and eight of 25 rushes did the same. The Lions receivers were sloppy and had six drops. Although Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson caught six passes against Walt Harris and Nate Clements, five were in the second half, well after the game was decided. Vernon Davis has played rather well, which probably sounds strange, what with the poor numbers and missed opportunities. Davis is an excellent blocker, which has doomed him to being held back to block a lot more that in the past because of all the deep drops in the Martz offense. Last season, Davis caught 52 passes, while this season he only has 17 receptions. This discrepancy has less to do with his abilities as a receiver and more to do with the amount of targets he’s seeing. Another “loser” in the 49ers offense if Frank Gore, which sounds absurd because he was leading the league in yards from scrimmage for a while. Gore is the type of runner who is always capable of breaking a big play so it makes no sense to limit his touches. Martz seems to forget about Gore sometimes, important times. Against the Pats, Gore didn’t have a third quarter carry and only three fourth quarter carry even though the game was close. Against the Eagles, when the 49ers gave up 23 points in the fourth quarter, while JT O’Sullivan turned the ball over three times, Gore only had two carries.

New England(Josh McDaniels) is really good at creating mismatches for their receivers, just like the Cardinals. Moss is a constant deep threat and often draws double teams allowing McDaniels to move Wes Welker around underneath as he sees fit to exploit coverages. Against the 49ers, Welker caught seven of the eight passes thrown his way and got five first downs. New England focused on nickel back Donald Strickland, much like the Cardinals did, and completed five of six passes against him for four first downs. I didn’t get what the 49ers were doing on defense against Moss. The 49ers chose to double Moss a lot, which is valid, but they used two cornerbacks to do it. I don’t understand that logic. After all, corner backs are used to getting help over the top and not giving help over the top. Secondly, the book on Moss is to jam him at the line and disturb him physically. The 49ers played off Moss. On Moss’ long touch down catch, he ran free down the field for 10 yards before Walt Harris and Nate Clements were on him, only Harris stumbled and that was that, TD.

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