Playbook: Monday notebook

This week, the Playbook research staff started its day by putting aside watching every game from Minute 1 to Minute 60.

But that doesn’t mean we took a real break.

Instead, we sifted through every touchdown, every sack and every interception of this past weekend on coaching tape to try to find some trends in the NFL. And after we labored over the statistics … we watched every game.

Statistics Anonymous

We’re addicted to tape study, and it shows

Runs of 20-plus: Who says fullback is a dead position? Fifty percent of runs of 20-plus (14 of 28) were with a fullback blocking. And another trend: 57 percent of those 28 runs were accomplished through zone blocking by the offensive line.

Picks-six: In Week 4, there were eight interceptions returned for touchdowns. Through the first four weeks of last season, there had only been seven pick-six plays total.

Sacks: The idea that most pressures are brought by blitzing was proven to be a falsehood this weekend. Of the 59 sacks allowed in Week 4 (before Monday night’s game), 38 were against a four-man rush.


A few things we noticed along the way

San Francisco 24, Philadelphia 23

Nnamdi Asomugha is playing at safety, at linebacker depth over the tight end (in this case, over Vernon Davis on third downs), and at nickel corner. The Eagles seem to be playing him anywhere but where he earned a reputation for being one of the best corners in the league — in press, man coverage. On the few occasions he played up in a Niners receiver’s face, Asomugha mirrored him with ease. Otherwise, Asomugha looked out of place.

Green Bay 49, Denver 23

Broncos rookie safety Rahim Moore and veteran Brian Dawkins are a combination of youth and speed with strength and maturity. But against Green Bay’s explosive offense, Aaron Rodgers exploited Moore’s immaturity and Dawkins’ lost step. Rodgers didn’t just manipulate Denver’s safeties with stare downs and pump fakes, but made perfect throws and decisions against the Broncos’ varying coverages.

Denver allowed 10 plays over 15 yards.  Moore looked like a rookie — often having eyes in backfield and misjudging the speed of the Green Bay receiving corp. Dawkins, a moving piece throughout the game, rolled down inside the box but lacked the speed and burst to get into throwing lanes.

Houston 17, Pittsburgh 10

While Antonio Smith had only one of Houston’s six sacks on Ben Roethlisberger, he made pretty much all of them. On two consecutive sacks by Connor Barwin, Smith took two blockers on a stunt and allowed Barwin to come free. On Smith’s sack, he came through two blockers and hit Big Ben. Quite a show from Smith, not withstanding his patented fencing celebration.

Chicago 34, Carolina 29

On the first play of the game, the Panthers had already chosen their target — Bears safety Brandon Meriweather. Cam Newton found Meriweather not maintaining his zone coverage responsibilities in both Cover 2 and Cover 3 and exploited that on big pass plays to Steve Smith.

And it wouldn’t be surprising to see Meriweather receive another call from the league office on a helmet-first hit on Smith’s 26-yard reception in the second quarter. Meriweather continues to play undisciplined and has proven to be a liability for the Bears, who lost Danieal Manning to free agency and Chris Harris to injury.


You won’t see their jerseys on the rack

Detroit defensive end Willie Young, a 2010 seventh-round pick out of North Carolina State, showed up to play against this year’s ninth overall pick, Tyron Smith.  With the same move — taking his right hand and shoving it up Smith’s left armpit — Young was able to gain leverage on three pass rushing situations against the Cowboy’s right tackle. On one of those rushes, he got Smith completely off-balance, pushed him aside and sacked Tony Romo for a 10-yard loss.

Some interesting characters lined up at fullback this weekend, including three defensive players. The Patriots used linebacker Dane Fletcher on a goal line touchdown, even though he got shellacked by a Raiders defensive back. Josh Brent, the Cowboys’ defensive lineman, hinted to the Lions that Dallas was about to punch the ball in on the goal line, but instead the Cowboys used play action and threw to Jason Witten. In Philly, San Francisco aligned Isaac Sopoaga in the backfield on several occasions, pairing him with every-down fullback Bruce Miller — who played defensive end at Central Florida last year.

Fullback Jed Collins, a War Room favorite, scored a touchdown this weekend, but that’s small potatoes compared to the yards he has earned the Saints blowing up linebackers in the run game. He plays with reckless abandon in searching out his blocks, but each week he has shown more discipline in positioning himself correctly and sealing off defenders. Collins can get careless every now and again, losing his feet to make a block or shoulder shrugging a guy, but this journeyman has found a home in New Orleans.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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