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Scout's Notebook


• The Patriots continue to get off to quick starts by using a mixture of spread formations to keep the defense off balance. By spreading the field with various empty backfield and four-receiver looks, New England is able to dictate the type of coverage that defenses use and Tom Brady exploits the soft coverage most teams go to. This gets Brady into a good rhythm early with high-percentage passes and keeps defenses from attacking the Patriots with an assortment of blitzes for fear of leaving their defenders in single coverage against New England's dangerous receiving corps.

• Buffalo used the no-huddle offense to get off to a good start against Baltimore. Though other teams have had success against the Ravens using the quick-tempo approach, the move was surprising considering the Bills were starting a rookie quarterback -- Trent Edwards. But Edwards has shown maturity beyond his years and appears to have the poise to handle the responsibility of managing the game from the line of scrimmage. His ability to quickly recognize fronts and coverage allowed Buffalo to go to the fast-paced offense and limit the Ravens' personnel changes and blitzes.

• The Ravens' Willis McGahee had a big game in a losing effort thanks to a subtle adjustment by Brian Billick at halftime. After witnessing the Bills' throttle McGahee with a seven-man front, Billick called more off-tackle plays to take advantage of the soft spots of Buffalo's two-deep scheme. McGahee's 46-yard touchdown run was an off-tackle run with fake reverse action and capped a drive that saw McGahee touch the ball four consecutive times on off-tackle runs. Though the Ravens came up short, they should be able to build off McGahee's second-half success.

• Lost in the Cardinals' loss to the Redskins was the stellar play of DarnellDockett. The third-year pro has taken his game to Pro Bowl level this season and is proving to be one of the best defensive tackles in the game. His six sacks led all defensive tackles entering the game, but his ability to disrupt the run also should earn him earn Pro Bowl honors. Using outstanding off the ball quickness and brute strength, Dockett spent the majority of his time in Washington's backfield despite facing some double teams.

• The Giants' running game continues to wear down defenses behind the three-headed monster of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Reuben Droughns. By establishing the run early on an assortment of downhill power runs, the Giants controlled the tempo of Sunday's game with long, time-consuming drives. New York running back Brandon Jacobs bulled his way to 102 yards on a steady diet of isolations and off-tackle power plays.

• Detroit offensive coordinator Mike Martz went against his normal offensive approach by establishing the run to set up the pass. Martz called KevinJones' number on a variety of draws to take advantage of a Bucs' overaggressive pass rush. With Jones established early, the Lions were able to use Calvin Johnson on a reverse in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach.

• ByronLeftwich's insertion into the starting lineup allowed the Falcons to do more things in the passing game. The addition of deep comebacks and digs loosened up the Saints' coverage as the Falcons' offense displayed more explosiveness. Unfortunately, his injury left the offense in the hands of JoeyHarrington and the Falcons were unable to sustain the rhythm.

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• The Bengals' second-half offensive explosion was keyed by their return to a balanced offense. Finally utilizing KennyWatson's skills, the Bengals established the running game and used a conservative passing attack to keep Carson Palmer upright in the pocket. The offensive display wasn't flashy, but it was effective enough for the Bengals to get a win.

• The Jets' Chad Pennington took advantage of a Bengals' secondary that lacked respect for his arm strength. His 57-yard touchdown to Laveranues Coles resulted from Cincy free safety (Madieu Williams) jumping a shorter crossing route and backside corner (Johnathan Joseph) failing to take a deep enough angle to get over the top of the throw. The deep pass attempt loosened up the Bengals' corners and kept them from squatting on short/intermediate routes.

• With the Raiders utilizing max protection schemes to slow K.C. defensive end Jared Allen, the Chiefs took advantage by bluffing blitz-looks before dropping eight defenders into coverage. With only three receivers in the passing tree available, Oakland QB Daunte Culpepper couldn't find anyone open.

• The Cowboys' reluctance to test the Vikings' run defense was surprising considering their offensive line and their dynamic running back tandem (JuliusJones and Marion Barber). By ignoring the running game, the Cowboys fell into a one-dimensional game plan that worked in Minnesota's favor. The Vikings focused primarily on the pass and limited the big play offense by sitting in soft two-deep schemes. Though the Cowboys finally used the running game late in the contest to preserve the victory, the decision to throw so often in the first half allowed an overmatched Vikings' team to stay in the game.

• The Bears' winning 97-yard drive was aided by Eagles defensive coordinator JimJohnson's decision to sit in zone coverage after using a high-pressure approach to slow the Bears for most of the game. By sitting in a mixture of two-deep and quarters' coverage, the Eagles allowed Brian Griese to find open receivers over the middle of the field on his three biggest completions on the drive. And the winning touchdown to Muhsin Muhammad came against a combination zone coverage that left an overmatched Sean Considine isolated over the middle. Johnson's decision to scale back his aggressive approach cost the Eagles a victory.

• Bears coordinator Ron Turner has tried everything to wake up his dormant offense. Turner expanded DevinHester's role as a multi-positional player and rookie tight end Greg Olsen received increased playing time as a hybrid receiver in their spread sets. Despite the changes and obvious attempts to get the duo the ball, the offense continues to struggle moving the ball for most of the game due to their inconsistent running attack. The poor blocking of the offensive line and the ineffective running of Cedric Benson must be addressed if the Bears are to make a serious playoff push.

• The Eagles' inability to score touchdowns is the result of their reluctance to run the football consistently. Unable to hammer the ball between the tackles, the Eagles force Donovan McNabb to throw against defenses dropping seven defenders into coverage in the red zone. With the field condensed, McNabb has a tough time finding open windows against the coverage and the Eagles are forced to settle for too many field goals.

• Gregg Williams has rebuilt the Redskins' defense by using a completely different approach. Relying on a coverage-based scheme built on a two-deep format, Williams is playing to the strength of his personnel (linebackers and secondary) and the results have been outstanding. Entering the Cardinals' game, the Redskins fourth-ranked defense had allowed only two passing touchdowns and had forced 11 turnovers. Though the Cardinals scored through the air twice, the defense came up with three critical turnovers that led to another win. The Redskins will be in the playoff hunt all season behind the strength of a vastly improved defense.