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Sometimes, it just jumps off the screen. Other times, it takes a second or third look. Scouts Inc. watched all the Week 13 games and learned a few things about each team.
Texans 30, Jaguars 17
• The Texans' defense played the run aggressively, and consistently loaded up the box with eight defenders. The front four did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage, and they were able to create penetration and disrupt blocking schemes. Once Jacksonville was forced to throw, DE Mario Williams and Houston's pass rush were successful generating consistent pressure on QB David Garrard.
Scouts Inc. gives you more observations from Week 13. Insider
• Texans' biggest steal on draft day
• Panthers' uncharacteristic offense
• Bucs' keys to winning in postseason
• Ravens' biggest deep threat
• What is LT being forced to do?
• Hester's improving as a receiver
Colts 10, Browns 6
• The Colts were much weaker up the middle than they were two weeks ago. RG Ryan Lilja and C Jeff Saturday were out this week, and MLB Gary Brackett left this game early in the second quarter with an ankle injury. This was particularly a problem versus the Browns because they are an interior running team with RB Jamal Lewis and the strength of their defense is up the middle where NT Shaun Rogers resides. The offensive linemen were replaced by rookies Jamey Richard and Mike Pollak, and the Colts' ability to move the pile in short-yardage situations was clearly compromised, as evidenced at the end of the first half when Indy couldn't punch the ball in on four tries. Rogers was also clearly a force in the run game because he blew up rushing attempts with regularity.
• Not that he should have been expected to, but QB Derek Anderson really hasn't gotten any better. Anderson wasn't terrible versus the Colts and did make some very impressive throws, but he also had the benefit of playing in a close game with a strong run attack. But his accuracy and ability to handle the weather conditions and throw a wet ball remained problematic. His protection was also very good, but his inability to feel the rush resulted in a Colts' defensive touchdown that was caused by DE Dwight Freeney's sack and strip that led to DE Robert Mathis' touchdown.
• QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had a lot of passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. While Fitzpatrick isn't the tallest quarterback to see or throw over huge bodies in front of him, most of the reason his passes were batted down was due to the fact that defensive coordinator Rex Ryan knew that the Bengals' passing game has little to no downfield ability. When Fitzpatrick tried to take three-step drops and get the ball out quickly, his protection was already getting driven backwards by the powerful Ravens' pass rush and the passing lanes were greatly compromised.
Watch highlights from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 23-20 win over the New Orleans Saints.
• The Saints have no confidence in the running game and are simply a one-dimensional passing team. With that said, head coach Sean Payton dialed up a lot of different looks that involved bunch formations designed to flood the short and intermediate areas to try to attack different levels. However, Brees had a very difficult time fitting the ball into tight windows in the Buccaneers' underneath zones, which resulted in some game-changing mistakes late in the game. This game was decided on turnovers.
• The Rams controlled the clock and the tempo of the game, especially in the first half, by running between the tackles with a healthy RB Steven Jackson and a high-percentage passing game. Offensive coordinator Al Saunders made a concerted effort to get Jackson the ball and establish the Rams in the trenches. The Rams' offensive line was physical against the Dolphins' stingy 3-4 scheme, until the Rams got into the red zone. The Dolphins' defense tightened up its coverage (techniques and alignment) once St. Louis threatened to score.
Watch highlights from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 33-10 win over the New England Patriots.
• Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels should be on a lot of short lists for head coaching positions this offseason. He is a dynamic playcaller who knows how to attack opposing defenses. And his development of QB Matt Cassel has been impressive. However, the Steelers' defense dominated the Patriots' offense in the second half, and the Patriots were unable to make plays on third down or handle the Steelers' pressure schemes.
• Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's approach was to be physical in the secondary against the Broncos' perimeter receivers. New York's corners used a combination of tight man and zone techniques to reroute Denver's explosive targets. The Jets had some success utilizing this approach, but for the most part Cutler was able to exploit New York's coverage defenders due to a lack of pressure in the pocket. The Broncos' combination of solid blocking along with a complex offensive package (formations, shifts, motions, etc.) appeared to limit the overall aggressiveness of the Jets' defense.
• The Redskins' offensive line struggled early on trying to figure out where the blitz was coming from, and as a result, QB Jason Campbell was under consistent pressure. Campbell is one of the more accurate passers in the league when he has time to survey the field and step into his throws, but he can struggle when he has bodies around his feet and ends up taking a lot of hits.
• The Bills' offensive line did not do a great job of recognizing San Francisco's defensive fronts, especially in the first half. The 49ers showed a variety of fronts, making it difficult to determine if they were in an odd front with a blitzing linebacker or an even front looking to two-gap. Sloppy conditions also made it difficult for the Bills to finish drives off despite dominating the game statistically.
• The Raiders came with a heavy blitz package in an attempt to rattle QB Tyler Thigpen. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan trusted his cornerbacks to man up on Kansas City's receivers, generally matching up CB Nnamdi Asomugha with Gonzalez. Unfortunately, the Raiders' pass rush did a poor job of staying in their lanes and the Chiefs had a lot of success with designed quarterback draws. Thigpen gained 44 yards on 11 carries.
• The Chargers' offense has been the strength of the team this year, but they had little success moving the ball against Atlanta's defense. Rivers never looked comfortable in the pocket, and the vertical passing game suffered. His receivers dropped balls and had trouble creating separation out of their breaks.
• Early in the contest, Orton was on target with a three-step quick passing game to move the chains, and he was aided by physical ground attack led by RB Matt Forte. Early in this matchup, the Bears' offensive line appeared to hold their blocks longer (especially in the running game) to create rare creases in the stingy Vikings' defensive unit.
• QB Aaron Rodgers did not get off to a good start, but he found his rhythm and timing in the third quarter. The deep ball completion to WR Donald Driver in the third quarter helped Rodgers gain some confidence, but the Packers also used stacked-receiver alignments to flood Carolina's zones, which were effective.
• The Cardinals were forced to bring a safety up in the box and keep a linebacker in (instead of adjusting out against specific spread sets) to stop the Eagles' ground assault. Clearly the Eagles were the more physical group in the trenches. Defensively, the Cardinals didn't get off blocks quickly enough to slow down an impressive Philadelphia running game.
Cowboys 34, Seahawks 9 (Thursday)
• TE Jason Witten showed excellent awareness in the passing game. He has very good reactions to coverage. His ability to settle quickly in zones and make adjustments when the QB was flushed was a key to their success in attacking the interior of the defense. Witten was impressive, especially considering he is still dealing with a rib injury.
• Seattle's offensive line play has definitely been affected by the shuffling of players at left guard, center and right guard. Their lack of cohesion and continuity up front was noticeable in pass protection against the Cowboys' pass rush and blitz schemes. The run game also does not have the same type of movement off the ball or ability to sustain blocks that it needs against a good defense like Dallas.
Titans 47, Lions 10 (Thursday)
• The Lions could hardly even get a hand on Chris Johnson, whose role in the offense continues to grow. Of course, the Titans' run blocking was exceptional, as Johnson and LenDale White had gaping holes to run through all afternoon, but the Lions' back end support was just awful and someone as explosive and fast as Johnson was off to the races before the Lions could do anything to get in his way. His vision and start/stop ability is impressive and he needs just a tiny crack to make a big play. Tennessee also continues to get him more involved as a receiver. It was equally as dominating by Tennessee's running game as it was pathetic by Detroit's defense.
• The worst thing that could have happened to the Lions was getting down early. On a short week with aching bodies and far overmatched from a physical and talent perspective, Detroit had little chance in the trenches against Tennessee on both sides of the ball. With a lead, the Titans could run at will while mixing in a few throws to keep Detroit honest, but the Lions' defensive front was quite simply out-manned and worn down by the end of the first half. It looked like a varsity team against the JV squad.