Bucky Brooks
Monday November 19th, 2007

• The Cowboys exploited the Redskins' inexperience at safety by attacking down the middle of the field. With the Redskins sitting two-deep and some three-deep zones, Tony Romo manipulated the safeties by looking outside before hitting Terrell Owens repeatedly down the seams. Two of Dallas' three second-half scores were the result of Washington's young safeties being out of position and unable to recover before the ball arrived.

• Owens' game-clinching touchdown was the result of a brilliant play design and personnel movement. Facing the Redskins two-deep coverage, Jason Garrett put Owens in the slot to take advantage of a favorable matchup against the Redskins' MIKE linebacker. Owen ran a double move off a dig fake before attacking the middle of the field. Both safeties were occupied by post corners on the outside, which left the middle open.

• After losing Donovan McNabb to injury, the Eagles leaned on Brian Westbrook (32 carries for 148 yards) and the running game with backup quarterback A.J. Feeley in the lineup. The run-first approach catapulted the Eagles to an improbable playoff run a season ago and it may be called into play with McNabb's injury status still in question.

• The return of David Garrard makes Jacksonville's offense more dynamic. His efficient passing and sneaky athleticism is the perfect complement to the Jags' power running game. If Garrard can continue to make defenses pay for sitting in eight-man fronts, the Jags will be one of the tougher teams to deal with as the playoffs approach.

• The Jags were able to rattle San Diego's Philip Rivers by blending their five-man zone dogs with their conventional two-deep coverage. The combination of bluff and pressure kept Rivers off balance. His disappointing play has been one of the reasons behind the Chargers' sub-par start. And teams will continue to use pressure to disrupt Rivers' rhythm until he regains the Pro Bowl form he displayed a season ago.

Ryan Grant's emergence as a workhorse is giving the Packers a more balanced offense. But Green Bay's new balance involves more than incorporating extra runs into the offense. The Packers are seamlessly switching from a quick, rhythm passing game to a vertical passing attack complemented by a power running game. Such versatility will serve them well during their playoff run because it allows them to compete in and win any style of game.

• The Panthers' decision to punt out of their field-goal formation failed miserably. The premise of the pooch kick is to catch the defense off guard and place the ball inside the 10, but the ill-fated strategy backfired when Green Bay anticipated the pooch and kept a safety/returner deep. By setting up a return against Carolina's field goal unit, the Packers were able to take advantage of the lack of skilled athletes on the field.

Joey Galloway's touchdown against the Falcons was the result of the Bucs taking advantage of DeAngelo Hall's tendency to key three-step drops. By using a slant-and-go with a pump fake from Jeff Garcia, Galloway got past Hall on the 44-yard score.

Byron Leftwich's immobility and failure to deliver passes quickly put the Atlanta offense in a quandary. By leaving Leftwich in the lineup, the Falcons are making it easy for teams to disrupt their offensive flow with high-pressure tactics. Atlanta's offensive tackles are struggling against speed rushers and Leftwich's hesitation in the pocket led to sacks and turnovers. Bobby Petrino trusts Leftwich because of his leadership ability and toughness, but his lack of athleticism will make it hard to leave him in the lineup for the remainder of the season.

• The return of Chris Henry to the Bengals' lineup has ignited their high-powered offense. His presence as their third receiver enables T.J. Houshmandzadeh to move into the slot and gives the Bengals a counter to the two-deep coverage teams have been using to slow their attack. Though Henry's numbers haven't been mind-blowing, his impact has been part of the reason the Bengals' offense has started to show improvement.

• Texans receiver Andre Johnson's 73-yard touchdown was another in a long line of big plays given up by New Orleans' Jason David. Though he wasn't solely responsible for the deep coverage over the middle, his tendency to peek into the backfield allows receivers to run past him off play-action. The Saints have been victimized by the big play in all of their losses and David's disappointing coverage has been a major factor in their leaky coverage.

• The Chiefs' defense successfully kept the Colts' Peyton Manning off balanced by blending in "two-man" coverage with their two-deep coverage. "Two-man" uses some of the same principles of standard two-deep coverage, but the underneath players lock up with the receivers in man coverage with two safeties over top. When used in conjunction with two-deep, it clouds the read for the quarterback.

Chester Taylor's 164-yard rushing performance illustrates the strength and depth of the Vikings' running game. Though Taylor rushed for over 1,200 yards a season ago, he was viewed as an afterthought in the game plan with the emergence of rookie sensation Adrian Peterson. But the Vikings didn't adjust their game plan with Peterson out of the lineup and Taylor responded with an outstanding performance against the Raiders. Minnesota's rushing attack may soon be viewed in the same light as the Broncos, capable of coming up with big games no matter who starts at tailback.

• The Jets took advantage of the Steelers' over-aggressiveness by using a flea flicker early in the game. The call worked perfectly because it went against New York's tendency to run out of "I" formation on first down. The Jets also turned to the running game to handle the Steelers' aggressive blitz-package. Using Thomas Jones on an assortment of sprint draws and powers, New York was able to slowly grind it out against the top-ranked rush defense. This is the type of output the Jets envisioned when they got Jones from the Bears in the offseason.

• For at least one game, Dewayne Robertson looked like the dominant defensive tackle the Jets' envisioned when they selected him with the fourth overall pick in 2003. He dominated his matchup with Sean Mahan on the way to 2.5 sacks. His consistent penetration against the run and as a pass rusher keyed New York's surprising defensive performance against Pittsburgh.

Kyle Boller's fourth-quarter performance should lead Baltimore coach Brian Billick to name him the starter for the rest of the season. Not only did Boller show surprising poise and confidence during the comeback, but also the Ravens' offense finally appeared to have rhythm and direction. His ability to stretch the field made a difference, highlighted by the key 41-yard pass that led to the game-tying score.

• The Seahawks' decision to rely on the passing game continues to pay dividends. By spreading the field early, they are able to create space and running lanes for Maurice Morris on draws/delays. The running game has been better since the decision to become pass-happy, but it will be interesting to see how productive Shaun Alexander is when he comes back.

• The 49ers' inability to stretch the field makes it tough for their offense to counter high-pressure tactics. Defenses are willing to take their chances in press coverage against the 49ers' receivers and will continue to do so until San Francisco makes them pay for playing blitz-man coverage outside.

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