AFC West: 2013 Week 5 Upon Further Review

An examination of four hot issues from the Raiders’ 27-17 win over the San Diego Chargers:

[+] EnlargeCharles Woodson
AP Photo/Tony AvelarVeteran Raiders DB Charles Woodson certainly had a reason to celebrate on Sunday night.
Pryor matures: If you think the Chargers were surprised by the Raiders throwing deep on their first offensive play of the game -- a 44-yard scoring bomb from Terrelle Pryor to Rod Streater -- imagine Pryor’s reaction when he received the call from offensive coordinator Greg Olson. After all, accuracy has been an issue for Pryor, and things did not work out so well the previous two times the call came in -- interceptions in the preseason finale at Seattle and in the regular-season opener at Indianapolis. “I thought we started fast and then we slowed down,” Pryor said. “And that’s not going to work in the NFL.” It’s all part of Pryor’s evolution as an NFL quarterback.

C-Wood makes like Rickey: It was on this same field, granted, 22 years earlier, that former Oakland A’s outfielder Rickey Henderson proclaimed himself the “greatest” upon breaking Lou Brock’s career stolen-base record. But about a football field away, in the Raiders' locker room, Charles Woodson was feeling it when he was asked about tying Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper for the all-time NFL mark for defensive touchdowns (13) with his 25-yard fumble recovery and run. “It just means I’ve been around a long time,” Woodson said. “I’ve made a bunch of plays, and I’m one of the greatest to ever play this game.” He’s also been better than the Raiders could have hoped this season.

A D.J. Hayden sighting: Observers had started to come down a bit on the Raiders’ first-round draft pick. After all, isn’t a No. 12 overall draft pick (the Raiders, who had the No. 3 pick, said they liked Hayden enough that they would have taken him at No. 3 if they hadn't been able to trade down) supposed to be an immediate impact player? But after having a rough game against fellow rookie Keenan Allen, Hayden distinguished himself by picking off Philip Rivers in the back of the end zone late in the fourth quarter. “I saw Allen kind of do a little dig, and I just followed him,” Hayden said. In fact, he made the kind of impact play the Raiders expected when they selected the cornerback. “Sometimes,” Rivers said, “they make good plays.”

Of explosive plays V: And now for our weekly tracking of “explosive” plays. As deemed by coach Dennis Allen, such a play is one that gains at least 16 yards through the air or 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders had six such plays against San Diego, one run and five passes, while the Chargers had seven explosive plays, all by air and four on one fourth-quarter drive. In five games, the Raiders have 40 explosive plays (13 runs, 27 passes), with four passes for touchdowns. Oakland’s opponents, meanwhile, have 38 explosive plays combined, eight runs and 30 passes with a touchdown each way.

Upon Further Review: Broncos Week 5

October, 7, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- An examination of four hot issues from the Denver Broncos51-48 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday:

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsPeyton Manning and the Broncos used a balanced offensive attack to beat the Cowboys in Week 5.
No runs: It’s easy to lose track of some things when two quarterbacks combine for 920 yards passing in a single game. But the Cowboys, despite all of the aerial heroics by Tony Romo, still made the mistake everybody has made this season -- they still kept giving the ball back to Peyton Manning. The Broncos' defense did not face a running play in the fourth quarter Sunday, even after the Cowboys had some limited success running against the Broncos’ nickel package earlier in the game. Overall, 11 of the Cowboys' 14 rushing attempts came against the Broncos' nickel and they gained 41 yards in those runs.

Missed opportunities: After four games of fairly solid work tackling, Broncos defenders had their share of difficulties against the Cowboys. They missed tackles, took poor angles and in the case of cornerback Tony Carter on a 79-yard catch-and-run play by Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams in the fourth quarter, didn’t wrap up when trying to knock the ball free. All in all, add it to the rather long list of defensive question marks.

Stay with it: Perhaps everyone is jaded by what Manning does each week -- 20 touchdown passes and counting after five games to go with back-to-back 50-point outings -- but Manning and offensive coordinator Adam Gase actually found a way to be somewhat balanced in this wild roller coaster of a game. When all was said and done, the Broncos had put 51 points on the board and wound the clock to make the winning kick as time expired. They ran it 31 times to go with Manning’s 42 pass attempts.

Battered and bruised: The Broncos have one more game before Von Miller returns from his suspension, Champ Bailey has yet to play this season and now the defensive attrition has reached a troubling rate. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard (neck), defensive end Robert Ayers (shoulder) and cornerback Chris Harris (concussion) all left Sunday’s game and did not return. Cornerback Omar Bolden, who already has dealt with a shoulder injury this season, also looked as if he aggravated it making a tackle late in the fourth quarter as well. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, coming off allowing 506 passing yards to Romo, may not even know who’s available this week until Saturday.

Upon Further Review: Chiefs Week 5

October, 7, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Chiefs’ 26-17 win over the Titans:

[+] EnlargeMarcus Cooper
Jim Brown/USA TODAY SportsSigning CB Marcus Cooper before the start of the regular season has proved valuable for the Chiefs.
Don’t hit the QB: The Chiefs received a huge break on their go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter when the Titans were penalized for a late hit against quarterback Alex Smith, who had scrambled and was heading out of bounds. Smith went out of bounds before the first-down marker on the third-down play, so the Chiefs would have had to punt. Tennessee’s Moise Fokou appeared to launch at Smith while he was still in bounds, but the call will almost always be made when a quarterback is involved. A Tennessee penalty on a similar play on Dexter McCluster’s punt return moments earlier was erased after officials determined the Titans player launched at him before McCluster had gone out of bounds. But, then, McCluster is not a quarterback.

Not playing like a rookie: Cornerback Marcus Cooper made a big contribution for the second straight game. He scored the game’s first touchdown when he recovered a punt muffed by the Titans in the end zone. He also intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter to set up a field goal. The Chiefs claimed Cooper, a seventh-round draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers this year, off waivers a week before the start of the regular season. He started last week’s game for the injured Brandon Flowers and against Tennessee, he was the third cornerback instead of veteran Dunta Robinson.

Penalizing the defense: The Chiefs were penalized on defense three times against the Titans and it’s no coincidence the penalties all happened in Sunday's third quarter, their worst defensive period of the season. Tennessee had 153 yards in the quarter and scored 10 of their 17 points. Their last touchdown happened on the first play of the fourth quarter. Two holding penalties and another for pass interference allowed the Titans to continue two different scoring drives. The Chiefs had been penalized just four times on defense in the first four games.

Negative field position: The Chiefs had been thriving this season by winning the field position battle, but things were even in that department against the Titans. Each team started two possessions on its opponent’s end of the field. Average starting field position for both teams was the 29-yard line. In their first four games, the Chiefs had started 13 possessions in opposing territory while their opponents had started just one on Kansas City’s end of the field.
An examination of four hot issues from the San Diego Chargers27-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

[+] EnlargeManti Te'o
Tony Avelar/AP PhotoManti Te'o has the maturity and smarts to handle heavy adversity, Chargers GM Tom Telesco said.
Te’o needs to play free: After playing just 14 snaps in his regular-season debut last week, San Diego rookie linebacker Manti Te'o saw significantly more time against the Raiders. Te’o finished with a combined five tackles but did not make any of the game-changing plays that he became known for at Notre Dame. “I’ve got to do a better job,” Te’o said. “Personally, for me, I can’t take that long to get into a groove of things. I’m just thinking too much. When you think, you stink. As a rookie you’re trying so hard not to make a mistake, but sometimes by taking that mentality, you end up making mistakes anyway. So I need to just let the game flow and just go out there and play football.”

Turnovers still an issue: The Chargers have a minus-eight turnover differential through five games, tied for fourth-worst in the NFL, after turning it over five times against the Raiders. San Diego has forced just two turnovers this season while giving up the ball 10 times. And San Diego’s defensive backfield still does not have an interception. The Chargers will not be a consistent winner until they do a better job in this important statistical area.

Freeney’s absence noticeable: The Chargers sacked Terrelle Pryor four times, but none in the first half as the Raiders jumped out to a 17-0 lead. Starting outside linebacker Jarret Johnson did a nice job of picking up the slack with the team’s best pass-rusher, Dwight Freeney, done for the year after suffering a torn quadriceps injury last week. Johnson finished with two sacks, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble. However, Freeney’s replacement, Larry English, finished with just two tackles, and did not make an impact as a pass-rusher. Thomas Keiser, the team’s backup edge rusher, had one tackle in limited duty. “There was definitely more I could have done,” English said. “It wasn’t a good enough showing for me, personally, and we know as a team it’s wasn’t good enough.”

Allen a draft steal: While first-round selections Tavon Austin, Cordarrelle Patterson and DeAndre Hopkins have received more attention nationally, San Diego’s Keenan Allen is quickly developing into one of the most productive rookie receivers this season. Allen was targeted by Philip Rivers nine times against Oakland, finishing with six catches for 115 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown catch. Allen posted this impressive performance a week after totaling five catches for 80 yards in a win against Dallas last week. NFL scouts questioned Allen’s speed and ability to create separation at the next level because he's 6-foot-2, 211 pounds. But the Chargers grabbed the physical receiver out of California in the third round, and he’s averaging a healthy 16.1 yards per catch this season. He's also earned the trust of Rivers.