NFL Nation: NFL83109
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Thoughts from the Chargers' 27-24 defeat at Atlanta:
- The Chargers' offense was clicking. San Diego converted 7 of 8 third-down situations. Quarterback Philip Rivers was fantastic, as was receiver Vincent Jackson. This team is ready to go.
- The Chargers allowed just one sack Saturday night. Last week against Arizona, Rivers was sacked four times.
- The Chargers also improved in their kick coverage.
- The Louis Vasquez-Kynan Forney battle continued at guard and may continue for a few more weeks.
- Rookie running back Gartrell Johnson displayed his downhill running ability with a 42-yard gain.
- Top pick Larry English made his preseason debut and displayed his famous motor. He is going to be able to help this team early.
- Veteran running back Michael Bennett scored on a 48-yard touchdown catch. Bennett is valuable and he should make the team.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
A look at the Chiefs' 14-10 loss to visiting Seattle:
The Chiefs didn't say what Matt Cassel's injury was other than he has a leg injury. It's believed that Cassel has a knee injury that is not overly serious. He departed after being sacked on the third play of the game and he did not return. The Chiefs are expected to next address Cassel's situation Monday. The Chiefs start the season in 14 days at Baltimore.
Cassel was brought to Kansas City for stability at the position after the Chiefs saw two quarterbacks do down with injuries last season.
Cassel's injury Saturday night was another indication of how the team needs much better offensive line play. This unit is a liability, and Cassel, when he returns, is going to have to deal with playing under constant pressure.
The Chiefs have to find a way to protect the quarterback better or the injuries are going to pile up.
With Tyler Thigpen replacing Cassel, it makes you wonder if the team will still consider trading him if Cassel is going to miss any time.
Matt Gutierrez, who is competing with Thigpen to be the No. 3 quarterback, completed 10 of 13 passes. Brodie Croyle didn't play Saturday night because the Chiefs wanted to get Thigpen and Gutierrez more playing time, but Croyle still appears to be the choice as the No. 2 quarterback.
The Chiefs were terrible on third down, converting just 1 of 10 opportunities.
Top pick Tyson Jackson was terrific and showed his play-making ability.
Newly signed receiver Ashley Lelie showed a spark and he had 52 yards on four catches. Lelie has some ability and the Chiefs need receivers, so he may have a chance of making an impact.
Rookie kicker Ryan Succop has been good, but he missed a 27-yard field goal Saturday night.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Rookie quarterback Nate Davis, rookie running back Kory Sheets, and backup receiver Micheal Spurlock likely are not going to help the 49ers in meaningful ways this season. They did help the 49ers during their exhibition game Saturday night.
Davis rallied the 49ers in the second half. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 132 yards. He found Spurlock for a 35-yard gain, setting up Sheets' winning touchdown run.
The game was not televised in my area and I will not offer observations until I watch the NFL Network replay Sunday. But I do think we can say this: The first-team offense was not productive, starting with quarterback Shaun Hill.
As Hill said during the game, according to the 49ers: "I would have liked for it to have gone a bit smoother than it did. I don't know. You can't tell a whole lot right now. I just wish we could have put a few more points on the board."
Hill completed 9 of 17 passes for 79 yards, or 4.6 yards per attempt. I know offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye has said running back Frank Gore is the most important member of the offense, but teams generally must throw the ball efficiently to win meaningful games. Hill did miss practice time during the week after experiencing back soreness. That did not help.
More broadly, how much evidence have we seen suggesting the 49ers are developing momentum in their passing game this summer?
Thoughts and observations on the Seahawks after watching the first half of their exhibition game against the Chiefs:
- Brandon Mebane disrupts. The Seahawks need the third-year defensive tackle to get upfield quickly. Mebane did that effectively from the beginning in this game. His sack on Matt Cassel sent the Chiefs' quarterback to the locker room with an injury.
- Tackling still shaky. The Seahawks' Leroy Hill, Lofa Tatupu and Josh Wilson all missed tackles on 31-yard Chiefs run to end first quarter. Individual players made a few nice plays for Seattle, but the defense as a whole wasn't consistent, struggling against the run. Holding the Chiefs to zero third-down conversions in the half would have seemed more impressive if Cassel hadn't left the game.
- Kicking battle in focus. Olindo Mare badly missed two first-half field-goal attempts. Brandon Coutu, though shorter on his kickoffs, has never missed in preseason. Advantage, Coutu (although he has now missed one from 50-plus yards in second half). Update: Receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said the grass is slick and the holders were having a tough time placing the ball.
- Running game picks up. Julius Jones started having success on the ground once Justin Griffith replaced Owen Schmitt as fullback. I thought it wasn't a coincidence. Griffith knows the offense and his presence on the field raises the team's football IQ, a point of emphasis for Seattle this offseason (also enhanced by adding Houshmandzadeh and running back Edgerrin James).
- Matt Hasselbeck is heating up. The veteran quarterback strengthened his rapport with Houshmandzadeh and tight end John Carlson. He worked the 2-minute offense nicely before the half, finding Houshmandzadeh repeatedly and Deion Branch as well. Hasselbeck looks better than any quarterback in the division this summer. He also took a couple more awkward hits, including one in the back, without flinching. He has completed 19 of 25 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns through the first two-plus quarters. His lone interception came on a tipped pass early in the game.
Those are a few of the things I noticed in the first half and while writing this in the third quarter.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
A look at the Raiders' 45-7 defeat to visiting New Orleans on Saturday:
I'm not big on preseason wins and losses. I am big on the play of individuals and units. In a 38-point loss, there wasn't much good anywhere for Oakland. What is most concerning about the blowout loss is that the third game is the most important of the preseason because the starters play the longest. This was likely the last tune-up for many of Oakland's starters before the regular-season opener Sept. 14 against San Diego. It could be a long 16 days in Oakland.
The Saints, who led 31-0 at halftime, had their way offensively. The Saints had 311 yards passing and 232 yards rushing. Oakland's run defense continues to be gutted. It has allowed 507 yards on the ground in the last two games. This is a major problem.
Rookie receiver Louis Murphy looked good at points, but he struggled holding onto the ball as well. He will likely be a starter to open the season, so he needs to improve.
Top pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, also set to start against San Diego, had one catch for 12 yards.
Ricky Brown made another strong push or the middle linebacker job with 10 tackles.
Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell had decent numbers. He completed 12 of 18 passes for 153 yards. Yet, the fact that he generated zero points while he was in is troubling.
Oakland had 10 more penalties. It has 31 penalties in three preseason games.
Overall, it was a bad day for Oakland as it couldn't improve in problem areas and looked out of sync.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
But it wasn't too hard getting a grasp of what was going on in Charlotte. Watching the play-by-play, looking at the stats and reading some of the in-game reporting, it was easy to see that Carolina's defense didn't play well.
The surprising thing was it had nothing to do with Carolina's gaping hole at defensive tackle (which will be addressed through a trade or a waiver pickup before too long). The Ravens did the Panthers a favor by not really pounding the ball over the middle.
They moved it through the air. Baltimore's Joe Flacco threw for 199 yards in the first half. It has to be noted that Carolina was playing without injured linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis and free safety Charles Godfrey.
Beason and Davis are two of Carolina's best defensive players and there's no doubt their absence was felt. But did the absence of Godfrey, a second-year pro, really drag the secondary down that much? I'm not so sure. Godfrey's a pretty average player at this point in his career.
What's much more of a worry is that the rest of Carolina's secondary struggled. Chris Gamble, who's supposed to be a No. 1 corner, didn't play like one. The other members of the secondary aren't nearly as talented in coverage as Gamble.
Sure, it's just a preseason game and, if Davis and Beason are healthy for the start of the preseason, that's going to be a big help. But the Panthers already had a glaring problem in the middle of their defensive line.
Now, they might have another one with the secondary.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
In addition to the Cleveland Browns, a pair of AFC North powerhouses also saw action Saturday night in the preseason.
- Saturday was a great night for AFC North quarterbacks because Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Baltimore's Joe Flacco both brought their "A" game. Flacco had a near-perfect night, completing 23 of 28 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown in a 17-13 win over the Carolina Panthers. Roethlisberger was 15-of-19 for 168 yards in a 17-0 shutout win over the Buffalo Bills. Since both performed very well in the third and most important preseason game, it's safe to say the two quarterbacks are ready to start the regular season.
- Baltimore's starting defense cleaned up its leaks in the run defense from the previous week. The Ravens' first team only allowed three points in the first half, and as a team allowed just 78 yards on 20 carries (3.9 yard average).
- Pittsburgh's defense also was its dominant self against the Bills. Not only did the starters dominate the first half, but middle linebacker and team captain James Farrior put points on the board with a 22-yard interception return. The longest play the Steelers gave up to Buffalo Saturday was a 17-yard passing play.
- Ravens veteran receiver Derrick Mason looks all the way back following shoulder surgery and a brief retirement. Mason and Flacco quickly developed chemistry during Flacco's rookie year in a 2008, and after Mason missed the start of training camp, it appears the two have it going again. Mason caught six passes for 71 yards, which is a lot for a preseason game. In the past two games, Mason has nine receptions for 139 yards.
- I'm convinced that Pittsburgh's Stefan Logan is a natural kick returner. He fielded four punts against Buffalo and averaged 15.8 yards per return, which has been consistent with the rest of his preseason. Most NFL special teams coaches believe if a punt returner can get a first down (10 yards or more), then that player did his job. But Logan is exceeding that on most attempts.
- Both teams have a short week upcoming. The Ravens travel to play the Atlanta Falcons Thursday. The Steelers play at Carolina on the same day. Don't expect the starters to play much as both teams proved this weekend they are ready for the regular season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
The Cowboys' starters had a 10-3 lead over the 49ers' starters at halftime, but the reserves weren't able to protect the lead. The 20-13 loss to San Francisco didn't really matter, although a local TV station in Dallas led its newscast with the following words: "The Cowboys' preseason winning streak in their new stadium is over."
Hey, it was good while it lasted. Since the game wasn't televised nationally, I'll try to give you a little more analysis than usual. You'll be relieved to know that neither punter banged a punt off the 90-foot-high video board during Saturday's preseason game. San Francisco punter Andy Lee made contact with the board before the game, but he admitted that he was trying to hit a moon shot.
Now that the dream of a perfect preseason is over, let's take a look at what happened against the 49ers:
I think Kevin Ogletree, a rookie free-agent receiver out of Virginia, deserves the lead note. I don't think many people gave Ogletree a chance to make the team heading into training camp, but he kept making plays in practice. And unlike a lot of rookies, he was able to take those solid plays into the preseason games. During the Cowboys' first possession of the game, Ogletree used excellent body control coming out of his break to get some separation from Pro Bowl cornerback Nate Clements. And on the same drive, he ran a crossing route before catching a perfectly thrown ball from Tony Romo. There's no way you can keep the guy off the roster. Right now, he's running better routes than some of the more experienced wide receivers such as Miles Austin -- and Romo's looking for him a lot. In Washington, there's Marko Mitchell. In Dallas, it's Ogletree. Isaiah Stanback had a fumble in Saturday's game and he doesn't look as smooth as Ogletree. I'd be shocked if Stanback makes the final roster.
Why is everyone in the '09 draft class getting injured? Offensive tackle Robert Brewster and linebacker Brandon Williams are already out for the season. And on Saturday, rookie safety Michael Hamlin suffered a broken right wrist and linebacker Jason Williams had to leave the game with a sprained ankle. The Cowboys expect Hamlin to miss six weeks. The coaching staff loved Hamlin's ball skills and he catches the ball like a wide receiver. At this rate, the Cowboys will have a special-teams unit comprised mostly of starters at some point.
If Cory Procter wants to make this team, he has to find a way to successfully snap the ball to Jon Kitna. I'm not sure what the problem is with these two, but it's been happening since early in camp. On Saturday, a botched snap ended what had been a promising Cowboys drive. Kitna's not going anywhere, so it's up to Procter to figure out the problem. Offensive coordinatorJason Garrett doesn't show a lot of emotion on the sideline, but you could tell he was upset with the play.
Courtney Brown's trying to learn how to play cornerback on the fly -- and it's not working out so well. That was a really bad pass interference when he basically face-guarded Jason Hill and then made some contact. That's one of the main plays that helped the 49ers win the game. I realize there's a learning curve for learing a new position, but Brown's running out of time.
That was Leonard Davis getting flagged for the holding penalty on Nick Folk's 49-yard field goal. You can't let that happen in the regular season. I didn't get to see a replay of what Davis did, but you have to be doing quite a bit to get noticed during a field goal attempt.
Defensive end Jason Hatcher must've been reading our blog. I basically said that Hatcher had been non-existent for much of the preseason. But he played a lot better Saturday. I saw him beat Alex Boone for a sack. I'm not familiar with Boone's body of work, but I know that Hatcher overwhelmed him at the line of scrimmage.
Also in the bad, bad penalty category was rookie DeAngelo Smith's horse collar tackle. I realize it's hard to bring someone down from behind without grabbing for their shoulder pads, but Smith will have to figure it out. Watching him in that No. 31 jersey reminded me of the man who inspired the horse collar penalty, Cincinnati Bengals safety Roy Williams.
Jay Ratliff is one of the quickest interior linemen in the league. On one play, 49ers guard Chilo Rachal didn't know what to do with Ratliff as he raced past him. Inside linebacker Bradie James and Ratliff teamed up to put consistent pressure on 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill. Wade Phillips is going to have a difficult time taking Ratliff off the field, but he needs to keep him fresh. I do not like the Cowboys' depth behind Ratliff at all.
That was very generous of the announcers on our local CBS affiliate to say that an upset stomach may have led to a Martellus Bennett drop. I don't think Bennett needs any apologists. He's extremely confident, but he does need to hold onto the ball. His drop in the first half was unacceptable. Everyone's going to drop the ball, but I didn't like how lethargic Bennett looked during Saturday's game.
I thought the Cowboys' first-team defense did an excellent job against the 49ers' version of the Wildcat formation.
At times, defensive end Marcus Spears doesn't get off the ball quickly enough. But he did a really nice job of stuffing the run up the middle out of the Wildcat. Very heady player.
Late in the first quarter, I hear local TV anchor and former Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg say that Romo's still "very early in his career" and that he's close to becoming a "really, really elite guy." On the next play, Romo fired an ill-advised pass that was easily picked off by safety Mark Roman. The Cowboys quarterback admitted after the game that he should've taken the sack and lived to see another down. Romo's doing a much better job of protecting the football in the pocket, but he still has to watch his throws. He gets careless with the ball -- and he could've been picked off by Dre' Bly on another play. And when is it OK to stop using the "he's early in his career" defense of Romo? He's been the starter since taking over for Drew Bledsoe six games into the '06 season. Now it's '09 and Romo's pushing 30. He can't play the "inexperienced" card any longer.
I think Keith Brooking's going to be a better fit than Zach Thomas in this defense. Brooking appears to be more physical than Thomas and he's putting some heat on the quarterback. The combination of James and Brooking at the inside backer spots already looks good.
Austin is too talented to remain in the shadows. I've been concerned about the lack of production Austin's had in the preseason. I love the way he blocks in the running game, but he has to get back to being a deep threat. Austin should've had the catch on the sideline in the first half. And later, he stumbled during a route, which nearly caused an interception. Austin bounced back and made a nifty catch on a ball thrown behind him. He needs to do more of that.
How dynamic is Felix Jones? I think he's on the verge of becoming one of the most elusive running backs in the league. He almost broke a 94-yard touchdown in the first half. He eluded a defender at the line of scrimmage and then he froze another player before darting into a clearing. (Shades of Tony D. in Minneapolis). The safety made a shoestring tackle on Jones, but it was still an exciting run. He's one of those rare players who can make a run of any distance seem entertaining.
In a halftime interview on local TV, Stephen Jones said the Cowboys would be looking for reinforcements at linebacker. They could wait until next Saturday and see who gets cut. Or they could try to make a trade this week. The Cowboys need someone who can rush the passer and I'm not sure if their latest addition, Tearrius George, is up to the task.
When he's healthy, Terence Newman's still an elite corner. He made an excellent play on the ball when the 49ers tried to go to Josh Morgan in the first half. And his 43-yard punt return had to please Jerry Jones. The owner's been looking for a dynamic return man for years. Maybe Newman's a guy who can return a couple punts per game.
Jason Witten is the best tight end in football right now. End of discussion. He's an excellent route runner, but the part of the game that has steadily improved is his blocking. He buried a 49ers defensive end on a fourth-and-1 play in the first half. Witten's just really smart with how he sets up his blocks. He engaged with the defensive end for a split second and then he turned him inside and shoved him to the ground. Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo also had nice blocks, but it was Witten who sealed off the player with the best chance to make a play.
I still don't think Doug Free's ready to start at left tackle in a pinch, but he has looked a lot better. And by the way, kudos to Davis for a pancake block on a running play in the first half. He cleared the way for a Felix Jones touchdown run. With Free, you can see that's he's improved a lot with his footwork -- and he's pretty aggressive. I just don't know if he's ready to go one-on-one with Osi Umenyiora or Justin Tuck. And throw in Trent Cole while we're at it.
It was interesting to see Marion Barber do all the legwork on the Cowboys' touchdown drive and then get replaced by Jones near the goal line. Jones looks more and more like a featured back to me every day. He just doesn't have a weakness. I was impressed with how he lowered his shoulder and banged his way into the end zone.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
CLEVELAND -- Despite a stellar performance by Brady Quinn in Saturday night's 23-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans, Browns coach Eric Mangini says he's still not ready to name his starting quarterback for the 2009 season.
On the field, it appears Quinn all but locked up the position based on his performance. He completed 11 of 15 passes for 128 yards, one touchdown and notched an 121.0 passer rating against a solid defense in Tennessee.
But Mangini continues to play this quarterback derby as close to the vest as possible, even down the final days of the preseason.
"I'm going to look at it and evaluate it," Mangini said bluntly Saturday night. "When the decision is made, I will definitely let everybody know. I don't have a timetable on it."
Anderson didn't play poorly. But he didn't do enough against Tennessee to stay even in the competition. Anderson completed 7 of 11 passes for 77 yards. But he also took a sack that stalled one drive and nearly threw an interception that was dropped by a Tennessee defender and bounced into the hands of Browns receiver Mike Furrey.
Both quarterbacks were nervous after the game to say too much about the ongoing competition.
"I expect to practice on Monday and that's about it," Quinn said. "Derek and I are both two mentally tough guys, and that's why we're here on this team as quarterbacks. If our coaches wanted us to go forever, I'm sure we can go forever."
|Jason Bridge/US Presswire|
|Trent Edwards and Buffalo's starters have not impressed this preseason.|
The Buffalo Bills' strutted into the preseason schedule with serious offensive weaponry, bandoliers strapped across their chests and looking dangerous at the skill positions.
Through four preseason games, their first unit is firing nothing but blanks.
Buffalo's starters have yet to score a touchdown in the preseason. They were shut out again Saturday night in a 17-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
Despite opening camp a week earlier than almost half the teams in the league, playing an extra game and running a no-huddle offense that theoretically should give defenses extra trouble, the Bills have been flummoxed.
In fact, they have been on the field for more points against than points scored.
Granted, the Steelers are the defending Super Bowl champs and the Bills were without star receiver Terrell Owens for a third straight game. But a team that's under pressure to win this year needs to look better than this. They've even been playing with Marshawn Lynch, who will be suspended the first three games.
Bills first-teamers have played a total of 78 plays over 16 series, netting 269 yards. Their possessions have ended in nine punts, three interceptions, one fumble and one field goal.
The average possession has lasted 4.9 plays and gained 16.8 yards.
- Hall of Fame Game against the Tennessee Titans: one series, nine plays, 50 net yards for an interception.
- Week 1 vs. the Chicago Bears: three series, 25 plays, 108 yards for punt, punt, field goal.
- Week 2 at the Green Bay Packers: five series, 24 plays, 50 yards for interception, fumble, punt, fumble, punt.
- Week 3 at the Steelers: seven series, 20 plays, 61 yards for punt, punt, interception, punt, punt, halftime, punt. The possession right before halftime was only one play for no yards, but it was a completed pass to Dominic Rhodes, who fumbled out of bounds.
Two other notable stats from Saturday: The Bills' failed to convert any of their eight third downs, and their time of possession was 18:45. Not for first-team possessions, but for the whole game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Long ago, I learned not to read too much into preseason games. I saw Tampa Bay teams coached by Sam Wyche look good in the preseason and then hit double-digit losses in the regular season.
But I am going to take one thing seriously out of Saturday night's preseason game between the Falcons and Chargers. That's the Atlanta defense.
It didn't look good at all and that's a growing reason for concern. We all knew the Falcons would be entering this season with five new starters on defense and that means there is going to be some transition.
But shouldn't we be seeing some positive signs by now? Probably. But we haven't. In the only preseason game that really matters (because the starters play a fair amount), Atlanta's defense struggled. Yes, San Diego has a good offense, but LaDainian Tomlinson wasn't even playing. It didn't matter because the Chargers barely ran the ball.
They were throwing it and throwing it very well. In the first half, the Chargers had somewhere around 250 passing yards. That's not good news for any defense and every offensive coordinator the Falcons face in the regular season will be watching the video blueprint of how to carve up Atlanta's defense.
The Falcons aren't going to go out and blow up their defense at the end of the preseason. They're going with what they've got and that's a little scary. They could have gone out and grabbed some blue-chip defensive backs in the offseason. But they didn't.
They're going with Brent Grimes and Chris Houston as their starting cornerbacks and Erik Coleman and Thomas DeCoud as their starting safeties, for better or worse. If the Falcons are going to make the best of this, they need to do some of the same things they do with their offensive line. They don't have a tremendous amount of talent there, but they make the most of it because they hide their weaknesses.
They need to do the same thing with the secondary. The best way to do that is with a pass rush. They've got an elite rusher in John Abraham, but they need more than that. They need third-year pro Jamaal Anderson to step up from the very start of the season. Anderson was a top 10 pick in 2007 and he'll be on the bench if he doesn't start quickly.
The Falcons have Chauncey Davis, Lawrence Sidbury and Kroy Biermann as alternatives to Anderson. One, or some combination, of all those defensive ends will have to step up or the secondary really might be in trouble.
The Titans lost at Cleveland Saturday night, but took a lot of good developments out of their fourth, and most important, preseason game. Some thoughts from the 23-17 loss:
- It's been clear for some time they will wind up carrying four tight ends -- Bo Scaife, Alge Crumpler, Jared Cook and Craig Stevens. Scaife and Cook on the field together caused some difficulties for the Browns. Stevens did some nice things in the second half of this game. So did the versatile Quinton Ganther, who is going to make them keep four running backs too. No way he's not one of their best 53 players.
- Mark Jones could have gotten away with all types of stumbles in his first action as the primary return man candidate. Fumbling one return away was not one of them. A year removed from a very solid year for the since-departed Chris Carr, the return jobs remain a giant question mark. Titans Radio said Jones suffered a stinger later when he was smothered on a kickoff return.
- In relief of Kerry Collins, Vince Young had one great run and threw the ball decisively much of the time he was in the game. But his two bad plays were big. The first was a lost fumble at the goal line just before the half. And the pick-six interception he threw deep in the Titans' own end was the sort of gaffe that does an awful lot to offset the good. It was good that he bounced back to lead a touchdown drive and threw a scoring pass to end it. Patrick Ramsey, who's dealing with sore ribs, didn't play.
- Cornerback Cortland Finnegan worked on the left instead of his usual spot on the right, getting some work in case the Titans need to shuffle or for an occasion when he might draw a particular receiver and have to follow him over there. Corner depth remains an issue -- Cary Williams started in place of Nick Harper, who sat out, and didn't fare particularly well. DeMarcus Faggins did well to force Braylon Edwards out of the end zone before he could get a second foot down during a remarkable one-handed catch.
- Cleveland played starters into the fourth quarter, while the Titans' went only to halftime.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
CLEVELAND -- In what was a big night for the quarterbacks, the Browns played their best preseason game to date with a 23-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Here are some observations on the Browns from Saturday's game:
- This was considered a swing game for the quarterbacks and both played well. But by the end of the night, Brady Quinn put a stronger hold on becoming the team's next starter. Quinn threw the football well and had a stellar outing, completing 11-of-15 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown. Quinn was efficient in moving the chains and led the Browns to three scoring drives that consisted of one touchdown and two field goals. His best throw was a 20-yard touchdown strike in stride to receiver Braylon Edwards.
- Derek Anderson also showed well for himself but it likely wasn't enough. He led one scoring drive that ended in a field-goal to start the third quarter. Anderson finished 7 for 11 for 77 yards. It will be interesting to see when Browns head coach Eric Mangini makes his final quarterback decision. If Mangini decides at this point before next week's preseason finale, it would have to be Quinn based on performance.
- Cleveland's first-team defense played hard. The run fits were solid. Tennessee has a terrific tandem in Chris Johnson and LenDale White, and the Browns defended them well and held the pair to a combined 47 yards rushing. The first-half defense also held firm in the red zone and allowed just one touchdown in three trips, not to mention an interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter off Tennessee's Vince Young by backup linebacker Alex Hall.
- But an area Cleveland's defense struggled with was against the pass. The starting secondary looked very shaky, particularly in the first half as Titans starting quarterback Kerry Collins picked the unit apart, completing 11 of his 14 attempts for 102 yards and a touchdown. Even Young led a solid two-minute drive where the Titans marched down the field with ease. But Young fumbled near the goal to end the first half.
- Odd play of the night: Anderson was flagged for 15 yards because he stood too far off the sideline and collided with a referee during a passing play. The unsuspecting referee was not happy. Neither was Mangini with the call.
- Rookie tailback James Davis continues to impress. He rushed for 28 yards on five carries (5.6 yard average) and continues to show the burst Cleveland is seeking for in its running game behind starter Jamal Lewis. Davis also had four catches out the backfield for 27 yards. Jerome Harrison is competing with Davis this summer but was inactive for the second straight preseason game, which continues to widen the gap in favor of Davis.
A couple of observations out of the Colts' 18-17 loss at Detroit Saturday afternoon:
|Matthew Emmons/US Presswire|
|Dallas Clark looked to be in midseason form against the Lions on Saturday.|
Peyton was precise: The team has to feel like Peyton Manning is ready to go. He was sharp and in control and they won't feel compelled to give him much work, if any, on Thursday night in Cincinnati.
Dallas was featured: The NFL's official stat book on a game has a new feature this year, keeping track of how many times receivers are targeted. Dallas Clark was targeted six times against the Lions and he caught all six balls. He looked like he could have done virtually anything he wanted.
Wait and see: Joseph Addai averaged just 3.1 yards a carry and Donald Brown was at 3.2. But Addai looked really good running on a short catch that turned into a 21-yard play and Brown squirmed into the end zone from 2 yards out to cap a long drive. And the Colts didn't even try to run in the first half, with five handoffs producing three yards. We're just not going to have a good sense about the run game until we see the real thing. But that Addai reception really got my attention.
Wait and see II: The story is the same with the Colts' run defense. Detroit had 22 carries in the first half for 103 yards and a 4.7-yard average. If we're going to allow for concern from a preseason game, this might rate as the biggest.
Third down: On offense, it didn't even matter much in the first half, when the Colts converted two of their four chances. On defense, two stops in eight first-half chances isn't enough.
No Sorgi: There was the possibility we'd see Jim Sorgi for the first time this preseason, but the No. 2 quarterback who's coming off of a hamstring injury didn't play. If he's good to go on Thursday, he could get the bulk of the work in Cincinnati.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
As I'm watching the New Orleans Saints this afternoon, I'm thinking about changing my predictions for our upcoming season preview package.
I won't reveal who I have picked to win the Super Bowl at the moment -- that will come in early September. But I'm thinking about changing it to the Saints. I'm also thinking the Saints just might go undefeated.
Then again, part of me realizes this is just a preseason game. More importantly, the Saints are playing the Raiders, who are far worse than I imagined and I already thought they were pretty bad.
The Saints are winning 31-0 at halftime. It's not going to be this easy all the time. But let's give the Saints credit for being just about perfect so far.
Drew Brees has been just about flawless, but we've come to expect that from him all the time. The most encouraging thing I saw out of the offense was the play of tight end Jeremy Shockey. He's healthy now and he's playing like the guy who used to be a Pro Bowler for the Giants. If Shockey can play anything like this during the regular season, he'll be going to the Pro Bowl for the Saints.
The other impressive thing out of the offense has been the running game. We've talked all offseason about the Saints wanting a short-yardage running game and it looks like they've found it. On their first drive, Mike Bell converted a third down into a first with a strong run. The next play, fullback Heath Evans scored a touchdown.
Enough with the offense because we already knew that would be a good unit. I think the defense is showing its potential today. Gregg Williams was pretty conservative in the first two preseason games, but he's called some blitzes today and that's brought some results.
Again, it's a preseason game and it's the Raiders, but you couldn't ask the Saints to look any better than they have.