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Tag:Dallas Cowboys
Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:45 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 7

Posted by Will Brinson



Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 7 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Forte  Revis Braman  JDR
Judge  Brees Flowers Scobee Haley
Prisco Murray Woodley Scobee  JDR
Brinson Murray Flowers Scobee Haley
Katzowitz Murray Flowers Bryant Haley
Wilson  Foster Flowers Scobee Haley
Week 7 is in the books and that means it's time to hand out some awards. Oddly enough, we've got a pretty good consensus going this week, as a number of players were just so impressive that they garnered an easy victory.

Big ups to new Cowboys starting running back DeMarco Murray who wins his first-ever Eye on Offense Award. I'm sure he's slightly more excited about that than he is about breaking Emmitt Smith's single-game Cowboys rushing record.

On defense, multiple members of our esteemed panel requested the freedom to vote for Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer. Since that's not allowed, Brandon Flowers ran away with the hardware like it was a Palmer pass to the flats.

If you saw the abomination that was Monday night's game between the Jaguars and Ravens, there shouldn't be any question who won the Eye on Special Teams Award -- Josh Scobee knocked out three 50+ yard field goals and picked up the cheese from us.

And Todd Haley, the bearded wonder, has his Chiefs within one win on Sunday of creating a three-way tie in the AFC West. For that, plus blanking the Raiders on Sunday, he's your Eye on Coaching Award winner. No, we didn't see this coming either.

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Matt Forte Matt Forte, RB, Bears
You can be predictable and pick Arian Foster. Or Drew Brees. He threw for a cabillion yards and 800 touchdowns against the Colts. But it's the Colts. The way they're playing Brees could have thrown for five touchdowns on one leg while drinking a Dos Equis. I'm going with Matt Forte. He had 183 total yards against Tampa in England, mate. He's surpassed 1,000 total yards for the season already. Pay the man.
Drew BreesDrew Brees, QB, Saints
Tim Tebow had three spectacular minutes of play; Brees had 60. So whom are we talking about now? Yeah, well, that's what happens when you win a Super Bowl and throw TD passes every week. Only this week he had six. I don't care that it was against the Colts. I care that he did it, period. Magnificent performance by a magnificent quarterback.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
DeMarco Murray DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys
Murray -- He comes off the bench to rush for a franchise-record 253 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown run, so there can't be any other player in this spot. Murray is an explosive back who just might be taking the starting job from Felix Jones.
DeMarco MurrayDeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys
When your first carry of the day goes for a 91-yard touchdown, you're probably going to end up with a decent statistical outing. But take away that monster run and Murray still averaged 6.75 yards a carry against St. Louis en route to his 253-yards, a Cowboys single-game record.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
DeMarco MurrayDeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys
For a guy who had 71 career yards entering Sunday’s game vs. the Rams, Murray’s record-breaking 253-yard performance was enough to lead Dallas to a monster win, give Jason Garrett a reason to keep playing him instead of Felix Jones, and lead the man whose record he broke to give him a shout-out on Twitter. That, of course, is Emmitt Smith.
Arian Foster Arian Foster, RB, Texans
I know DeMarco Murray went buck wild on the Rams defense but, well, it's the Rams defense. What else was he supposed to do? Arian Foster, against division foe Tennessee, had more than 100 yards receiving by halftime. He ended the day with 234 total yards (119 receiving, 115 rushing) and three touchdowns as the Texans whipped the Titans, 41-7.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Darrelle RevisDarrelle Revis, CB, Jets
Man crush alert. I have one. His play at CB is remarkable right now and he had another interception returning this one 64 yards. This on the heels of an INT last week that was returned 100 yards for a TD. The pick wasn't classic Revis but it was still solid and reflected how the Jets are using him in coverage. He's playing everywhere, doing everything.
Brandon Flowers Brandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs
The Chiefs intercept Oakland six times, two of them by Flowers and two of them for touchdowns. Flowers had one of those scores, and it was notable because it marked Carson Palmer's first TD of the season. Give Flowers and the Chiefs credit. They were give little chance here, and they won ... with defense.
Prisco Brinson
LaMarr WoodleyLaMarr Woodley, LB, Steelers
Woodley had two sacks, spent the day in the Cardinals backfield, and showed why he's one of the top pass rushers in the NFL. Woodley can do it with speed or power. He's a tough one to block without help.
Brandon FlowersBrandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs
Like last week, it might be fine to hand this award to Kyle Boller or Carson Palmer, but give Flowers credit for picking off two passes, taking one to the house and making three tackles in a crucial game that got the Chiefs back into the AFC West race.
Katzowitz Wilson
Brandon Flowers Brandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs
The Chiefs embarrassed two quarterbacks (Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer) and one head coach (Hue Jackson) by intercepting six Raiders passes. You could go with the collective effort of the entire Kansas City defense, but since Flowers recorded 33 percent of the interceptions, plus a pick-6, I’ll single him out for recognition.
Brandon Flowers Brandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs
We could have gone with the entire Chiefs D -- or, hell, Carson Palmer and Kyle Boller for doing their part as the defensive players of the week -- but Flowers had two picks against Oakland, including a 58-yard TD return against Palmer. On the day, KC's D had six picks, and made Palmer look a lot like the guy who bumbled his way through 2010 in Cincinnati.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Bryan BramanBryan Braman, LB, Texans
The most unusual choice perhaps I'll ever make but I love these kinds of stories. Rookie Bryan Braman made the Houston team as an undrafted free agent.John McClain of the Houston Chronicle pointed out how Braman made two big hits that helped to set the tone on special teams.
Josh Scobee Josh Scobee, K, Jaguars
Thank goodness he was in the lineup. Otherwise, neither of these two teams might have scored until Friday. Scobee did what Sebastian Janikowski did two weeks earlier, which is nail three 50-yarders. Janikowski was my pick then, and Scobee is my pick now. I bet he's Jack Del Rio's, too.
Prisco Brinson
Josh ScobeeJosh Scobee, K, Jaguars
Scobee made three field goals from outside 50 yards and added another as the Jaguars upset the Baltimore Ravens. Scobee has not missed a field goal this season, going 14 for 14 and making all five of his kicks outside 50 yards.
Josh ScobeeJosh Scobee, K, Jaguars
The Jaguars won 12-7 on Monday night and Scobee's the only reason why, belting four field goals, three of which were more than 50 yards long. His clutch knockdown of a 51-yarder with 1:43 left saved Jack Del Rio from another questionable coaching decision. He's 14/14 on the year too.
Katzowitz Wilson
Red Bryant Red Bryant, DE, Seahawks
The hard-headed (quite literally) Seahawks defensive end blocked two Browns field goals, and though ultimately, Cleveland won a terribly ugly game and Bryant was ejected for head-butting Browns tight end Alex Smith, that doesn’t take away from his special teams performance.
Josh Scobee Josh Scobee, K, Jaguars
He striped three field goals from beyond 50 yards  and accounted for the Jaguars' only points against a Ravens team that featured an offensive game plan crafted before the invention of the forward pass. Outside of MJD, Scobee is Jacksonville's best scoring threat, and Monday night he was their only scoring threat.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Jack Del RioJack Del Rio, HC, Jaguars
He's going to be fired at the end of the year. He knows it. Everyone on the Jaguars does. He's been terrible this season and for the past several years the only person Del Rio hasn't fired and thus scapegoated is the owner. If Del Rio could, he'd fire him, too. But his win against Baltimore was gritty, smart and nicely done despite the ugliness of the game.
Todd Haley Todd Haley, HC, Chiefs
Not only did he go into Oakland and pull out an improbable victory; he blanked the Raiders, the first time the Chiefs have had a road shutout since 1973. I thought Haley's coaching career was supposed to be on life support. Yeah, well, all I know is that he won his last three and can tie for first in the AFC West with a win Monday.
Prisco Brinson
Jack Del RioJack Del Rio, HC, Jaguars
He is clearly on the hot seat, and there had been talk of his being let do during the bye week, but Monday's impressive victory over the Baltimore Ravens changes that. Del Rio's team shut down the Baltimore offense in a 12-7 victory.  For his efforts: A trip to Houston this week.
Todd HaleyChan Gailey, Bills
I've already spent some time apologizing to (a) Chiefs fan(s), who find their way back to .500 after Week 6, even though the teams they beat are a combined 5-16. But the only team with a winning record in that list is Oakland, and give credit for Haley coming in and whipping the Raiders.
Katzowitz Wilson
Todd Haley Todd Haley, HC, Chiefs
The winning streak beard continues to grow on Haley’s face, and though we saw some jokes before Sunday’s game that questioned the last time the haggard-looking Haley had bathed, there’s no doubt of the turnaround the Chiefs have made the past three weeks. Remember how Scott Pioli was on the verge of firing Haley? Well, those days are gone, after the Chiefs smashed the Raiders on Sunday.
Todd Haley Todd Haley, HC, Chiefs
I was all set to give this to Jack Del Rio, but Brinson reminded me that not only did Del Rio challenge whether Joe Flacco stepped out of the back of the end zone, but he also chose to kick a 51-yard field goal with the Jags up by two and 1:43 to go in the game. Instead, I'll take Todd Haley, who could've been fired after the first three weeks of the season. Now, Kansas City is 3-3 after smoking Oakland 28-0. Clearly, this has everything to do with Haley's new hobo chic appearance.
Posted on: October 24, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: October 24, 2011 2:31 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 7

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 7 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.


1. He's Just a Winner
For the second time in three weeks, we lead the Pile with a story about Tim Tebow, thanks to Denver's 18-15 win in Miami on Sunday. And for the second time in three weeks, we lead the Pile with a story that was going to involve the phrase "Tim Tebow is a bad quarterback." And for the second time in three weeks I fully expect to be thrashed in the comments for not giving Tebow enough credit because he's a "winner."

This is fair, because Tebow did win. But it's unfair because Tebow looked unlike anything resembling an NFL quarterback for the majority of the game. Ask anyone who watched the game and they'll agree with you. My colleagues Pete Prisco ("looked lost," "isn't close to being a good quarterback") and Josh Katzowitz ("a mirage," "terrible," "horrendous," "no idea what he was doing") threw down lines on Tebow that belong on the back of the straight-to-DVD cover for the latest Adam Sandler movie.

To sum up everything about this game, let's watch the two-point conversion when Denver tied the game at 15. Before you click play, though, I want you to imagine you're a Dolphins defender and you know the Broncos only need two yards.


OK, presuming you played along, that video got McFly'd, because it never happened. Since, you know, anyone with a modicum of football sense saw the quarterback draw from Tebow coming on the play and snuffed it out. Somehow, the Dolphins failed to do this.

There's plenty of blame to go around, of course. Everyone on Miami's defensive coaching staff should be embarrassed for not knowing that was coming. And everyone on the Dolphins defense should be embarrassed for not recognizing what was happening, regardless of the playcall. Tony Sparano should be embarrassed after he went for a two-point conversion at the beginning of the fourth quarter with the Dolphins up 12-0; an extra point would have rendered this entire discussion moot.

In case you don't believe me, just look at the rollercoaster that is the win probability for the Broncos over the course of Sunday's game, courtesy of AdvancedNFLStats.com:



I realize that knocking on Tebow after he led a comeback on the road (well, kind of) in the face of adversity makes me a jerk, especially when that adversity includes a) a coach who might not want him to succeed, b) no real help at the other offensive skill positions and c) lacking the appropriate skills to play quarterback in the NFL.

But you know what he does have? The best attitude in the NFL.

"It's a good stadium," a smiling Tebow said after the game. "I enjoy playing here. Sometimes you have to find a way and keep believing and keep fighting."

That's classic Tebow, even if he had no business winning the game. I like what I heard on Twitter Sunday -- that Tebow is everything his critics say he is and yet, at the same time, everything his fans say he is -- because it's true. Tebow's a mechanically flawed, imperfect quarterback for the NFL, but he's fantastic young man who works his ass off and has such an improbably high level of faith in a higher power that he's automatically a lightning rod for discussion and/or controversy.

Look, I like Tebow and I don't necessarily enjoy taking the side of the argument where I have to dog the guy. I don't, I swear. But so very much about the Broncos victory in Miami was about the Dolphins inability to operate as a successful football team, and so very much of the Broncos victory was not about Denver's ability to dominate offensively.

But pick a side -- you have to, of course! -- and call me a jerk in the comments either way. Just remember that if you're the one screaming about how he's a winner you're on the same side as Skip Bayless and and LeBron James.

2. A Hue, Tiny Mistake
On the bright side, Tebow only cost the Broncos one first-round draft pick. Carson Palmer might, depending on how Oakland finishes the season, cost the Raiders two of them. Although if Palmer plays like he did on Sunday afternoon, it's pretty unlikely, since throwing three picks in one half isn't a great formula for making it to the AFC Championship.

Palmer did just that on Sunday, helping Kansas City blowout the Raiders 28-0 in Oakland. Oh yeah, it's awkward, and we'll get to that. But real quick, let me say I'm sorry, personally, to my colleague Matt Moore (not the guy who stinks for the Dolphins; and no, that never gets old) for consistently ripping the Chiefs over the past few weeks. They've now won three-straight games and next week they're playing the Chargers to determine who'll be in first place in the AFC West. Yes, the NFL is as insane as you think.

Back to the Raiders: for the most part, Hue Jackson's done a nice job with this team so far in 2011 but he's shown an ability to botch a decision or two. And he botched a big one on Sunday, waiting until 10 minutes left in the third quarter to bring in Palmer for Kyle Boller, who was the first quarterback in Raiders history to throw three picks in the first half of a single outing.

It's not that Hue should have yanked Boller more quickly, or that Hue should have left Boller in. It's just that he went into the game with no idea of how to handle the Palmer situation and by bringing in Palmer -- who obviously wasn't ready, because otherwise he would have started, right? -- for part of the second half, he not only offered up a pile of doubt for Raiders fans to judge Palmer on, but he put his would-be franchise quarterback out there for injury.

"Uncertainty at quarterback is not what led to interceptions or anything like that," Jackson said on Sunday, instead chalking up the lack of a clear-cut decision and the uncertainty at quarterback to "some gamesmanship."

Jackson was in a bad situation, because Darren McFadden was injured and Boller looked miserable, but if you're coaching this team and you're the guy who pulled the trigger on the Palmer trade, you need to have a plan locked in and stick with it regardless of how poorly things are going.

3. Elsewhere in the AFC West ...
For such a seemingly shoddy division, the AFC West is slinging some Week 7 storylines -- we've got Tebow, the Raiders controversy and the Chiefs getting back into the race. Oh yes, and the Chargers losing a "shoulda won" game against the Jets on Sunday, falling 27-21 in New York on a day that, instead of establishing the Chargers as one of the elite teams in the AFC, exposed them as having the same flaws they've always had.

"We can sit here and think of a bunch of reasons why," Philip Rivers said after the game. "The bottom line is that we came out playing really well. We just didn't finish off the game."

The Bolts came out white-hot -- on the fourth play from scrimmage, Donald Butler stripped Dustin Keller and took a "fumble" to the house to give San Diego an early lead. The Chargers caught a break on a Nick Mangold holding call that led to a Mark Sanchez interception and turned it into an Antonio Gates touchdown.

Gates return was the early key for San Diego, who appeared to solve their red-zone woes with the future Hall of Famer in the starting lineup.

But Brian Schottenheimer and Sanchez figured out that the Chargers had a bigger problem -- they don't have anyone that can matchup man-to-man with Plaxico Burress who, just a few months removed from being in prison, caught three touchdowns in the Jets win.

There's another problem for Norv's team, too, and it's Rivers playing poorly. I'm not sure whether or not the two-minute drill they ran at the end of the game was Turner's doing or Rivers' work, but it was one of the most mangled series of plays I've seen in a long, long time.

After holding the Jets to a field goal and a six-point lead, the Chargers started their final drive with 1:29 on the clock. They then proceeded to run five plays, move the ball a whopping 25 yards and burn 1:18 off the clock, meaning that in the most dire of circumstances, one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL moved the ball a quarter of the field at a snail-like pace of 3.12 seconds per yard.

Can you imagine how hot Turner's seat would be if the Chargers had coughed up a couple of their September squeak-by victories?



4. Quite Unprobable
It's a shame that Emmitt Smith's no longer dropping knowledge bombs on television, because I'd love to hear what the Hall of Famer would say about rookie third-rounder DeMarco Murray breaking his single-game Cowboys record for rushing yards in a game after piling up 253 yards on 25 carries.

As I wrote in this space after Week 2, "the former Sooner is a highly-talented receiver out of the backfield, and has the potential to be a serious threat." That was based on what I'd seen from Murray in very limited action through the first two weeks and, clearly, it was an understatement.

The Cowboys still didn't fire on all cylinders, but it doesn't take a maximum effort to beat up on the Rams, even to the point of a 34-7 whipping. Murray won't run like that every week but, man, even if you take away his first-quarter, 91-yard touchdown run, Murray still averaged 6.75 yards per carry against St. Louis.

Having talent, though, is typical of the Cowboys. Using it to maximize their success on gameday's the bigger issue. But with Seattle, Buffalo, Washington, Miami and Arizona on the schedule over the next six weeks, it's hard not to want to double down on their chances of winning the NFC East.

5. Six Or One-Half Dozen
One of the reasons to love the Cowboys? The Redskins are in the middle of a freefall. And it's all on the Jekyll and Jekyll combo that Mike Shanahan is rolling out under center this year.

Honestly, what would it take for Shanahan to admit that he made a mistake coming into 2011 with Rex Grossman and John Beck as his starting quarterbacks? Because before the season started, it was an indefensibly ridiculous gamble, the kind that seemed just bat-poop crazy enough to work but obviously wouldn't anyway.

Yet after four weeks, the Redskins were 3-1, held sole possession of first place in the NFC East. Sure, the end of the world was nigh, but at least Shanny seemed smarter.

Now, after John Beck's performance -- 22/37 for 279 yards, a passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown and a pick -- on Sunday in a 33-20 loss in Charlotte, it's really impossible to imagine that they'll be a mathematical contender for much longer.

"I think overall John played very well first time out," Shanahan said Sunday.

Beck's numbers weren't that terrible, but he didn't look particularly adept at running Washington's offense and whether or not he's the answer for the Redskins shouldn't even be a question any more: he's not.

Adding to the problems for Washington is a report that running back Tim Hightower has a torn ACL (which would obviously put his season in jeopardy) and that receiver Santana Moss will miss 3-4 weeks with a broken hand. Oh yes, and Rex Grossman has pneumonia, so he's unlikely to be available any time soon.

Like I said on the podcast before Week 7, I'll pull a reverse Rex right now and guarantee that the Redskins finish in the basement of the NFC East. That's a better bet than them winning the division at this point.

6. Everyone Off This Bandwagon!
Those first five weeks were sweet for Lions fans, and as Mike Freeman wrote from Detroit on Sunday, it's not panic time yet, but it's getting close.

That's mainly because in Detroit's 23-16 loss to Atlanta on Sunday, their flaws as a team were really on display. With Jerome Harrison out for the season and Jahvid Best potentially sidelined for the year, this team has zero running game -- Maurice Morris led the way with nine carries for 50 yards.

They can't stop the run either; Detroit ranks 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed (129.4 yards per game) and Michael Turner carved them up on Sunday, ensuring that Matthew Stafford didn't get another shot at a comeback.

Getting a look Sunday might not be the biggest concern for Stafford either, because a bad result from the MRI he's reportedly undergoing Monday could spell for doom for what appeared to be a magical season. Stafford might be fine and then the passing game isn't a concern.

But if the Lions can't run the ball and they can't stop the run, they're going to struggle to win games against teams later in the year.

And all that swagger we've been talking about? Somehow it's backfiring. Last week it was Jim Schwartz' fiery tirade towards Jim Harbaugh; this week Lions defensive players were supposedly taunting Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan after he suffered an injury.

The Lions have enough talent to keep winning, and the future is bright in Detroit. And none of the things happening to them are, in an individual sense, devastating. But them all together and it's a quick recipe for the wheels coming off.

7. And Back on This One!
I was pretty sure the Texans would cover on Sunday. Win? Maybe. But it would be close. After all, Houston's been pretty putrid on offense since Andre Johnson injured his hamstring two weeks ago, managing just 39 points in losses to the Ravens and Raiders.

Needless to say, then, I wasn't prepared for the 41-7 smackdown that Arian Foster and company laid on the Titans. Foster piled up 234 total yards and three touchdowns, Matt Schaub missed on only five passes and the Texans defense stifled the Titans, holding them to 148 total yards on Sunday.

Chris Johnson, who said afterwards that his play is "not an issue," was, um, the biggest issue, rushing for just 18 yards on 10 carries.

"It's just a situation I got to continue to say I can't do nothing but keep working hard, running hard and doing what I can do for this team," Johnson said.

The problem is that Johnson's not running hard. Ask anyone who's watched him play this year and it's pretty apparent that he's not the same guy who deserved the big contract he held out for prior to this year. He's not showing any burst through the hole, he's got happy feet at the line and he looks like a running back who might be really fast but doesn't know how to run.

That's unfortunate for the Titans, obviously, but I'm not sure it would really matter in an AFC South race that's already wrapped up for all intents and purposes. The Texans showed on Sunday that despite their flaws, their still head and shoulders above the Jaguars, Titans and Colts. They might be second only to the 49ers when it comes to odds for making the playoffs, and with two matchups against the Jaguars, one against the Browns, one more against the Titans and a trip to Indy still on the docket, nine wins seems like a shoo-in.

Which means so is the division title; everyone else in the South is just that terrible this year.

8. Recent Super Bowl Rematches
I thought it was kind of interesting that we had a pair of matchups from the last three Super Bowls this year in Week 7, as the Colts and Saints squared off on Sunday night and the Steelers and Cardinals played during the day.

I also thought it was interesting that the teams who lost those Super Bowls are terrible -- the Colts remain winless and got absolutely whooped 62-7 by New Orleans Sunday night. I'm as guilty as anyone of discussing how important Peyton Manning is to Indy's chances, and I think they'd be a .500 team with him this year.

But they'd still be bad, because the dude doesn't play defense, and he certainly isn't responsible for Drew Brees throwing five touchdowns and only four incompletions in a single game.

As for Arizona/Pittsburgh, man does that Kevin Kolb trade look awesome or what? Kolb had a 73-yard touchdown, but it's poppycock to give him too much credit, since it was basically a five-yard drag route that LaRod Stephens-Howling turned into a long score.

I used this analogy in the podcast, but it's like the Cardinals are Netflix and Kolb is Qwikster, only the parent company doesn't have the option of hitting the reset button.


9. No Offense But ...
No offense. Like scoring and points and stuff -- there wasn't much of it during the early portion of the day games. Dolphins-Broncos, Redskins-Panthers, Browns-Seahawks; all were field-goal contests for at least the first half and, in some cases, longer.

There were plenty of scores (49, according to NFL Network's Red Zone, during the "day" games) but clearly offensive output was down from previous weeks. Brees blew up and Aaron Rodgers blew up and Ben Roethlisberger blew up, but those guys were the only quarterbacks to go over 300 yards on Sunday.

By contrast, four guys went over 400 yards in Week 1 (and 14 went over 300). Nine went over 300 yards in Week 2. 11 over 300 in Week 3. 10 in Week 4. Six quarterbacks crossed 300 yards in Week 5, and just six again in Week 6.

To me, this represents the point in the year where the defense finally caught up with the high-octane offenses in the NFL.

That doesn't mean the NFL's not a passing league any more, because it certainly is. Instead, a combination of the lockout, the reduced offseason workouts, the reduced in-season contact and rules designed to protect wide receivers and quarterbacks really set defenses back for the first few weeks of the 2011 season.

Lots of dudes could still break Dan Marino's record -- Aaron Rodgers is on pace 5,421 yards, Tom Brady's on pace for 5,768 yards -- but we've said that before only to see cold weather, injuries and improved defenses slow down incredible passing numbers.

It might just be happening again right now.

10. On Another Planet
When we see great athletes succeed, sometimes it's difficult to see just how dominant they are, because the game moves so slowly and looks so easy for them. This is often called "the zone."

Aaron Rodgers isn't just hanging out in this space -- at the beginning of the 2010 playoffs, he paid cash for about 30 acres of land in the zone and he's been living there ever since.

His level of play in his first three years running the Packers offense was incredibly impressive, but what he's doing in 2011 is absolutely phenomenal and, without being crass, watching him carve up defenses with precision is like football porn.

Rodgers has a combination of skills -- a lightning quick release, rapid movement through his reads, the ability to look off defenders, quick feet, to name a few -- that make him as deadly and precise a quarterback as we've seen in the NFL in a long time.

That's not a knock on Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, because Rodgers is different. And right now he's better -- it seems like every single drive he makes a throw that knocks your socks off and seems virtually impossible.

If Rodgers keeps up his current pace, he'll become the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards, complete more than 70 percent of his passes and throw less than 10 interceptions. (Drew Brees accomplished the first two in 2009 but threw 11 picks.)

There are things that could go wrong, of course, but if you look back at 2010, Rodgers didn't even really get hot until November and holy hell did he get hot.

Just remember that when you're deciding what to watch over these next few weeks.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... Olindo Mare made three-straight field goals, each five yards longer than the last (35, 40, 45) because of two-straight Panthers offensive
... Brian Robison apologized for kicking T.J Lang in the groin and said it was an accident. The GIF below disagrees. Thankfully, Lang says his groin is fine. In case you care.
... Will Indy remember Sean Payton eating a hot dog the next time they play the Saints?
... The Broncos first third-down conversion on Sunday came with 4:22 remaining. In the third quarter.
... Calvin Johnson became the first wide receiver in Lions history with 10 or more touchdowns in three seasons on Sunday. That still doesn't mean Matt Millen should have drafted all those guys.
... Big ups to Tony Gonzalez for becoming the NFL's second all-time leader in receptions.
... Mike Wallace now has six-straight games with a reception of 40 yards or longer.
... The Packers are just the fourth team in NFL history to start the season 7-0 after winning a Super Bowl.
... Cam Newton extended his own streak -- only player in NFL history with seven or more rushing and passing touchdowns through seven games.
... Newton also tied Vince Young's record for rookie rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, with seven. Something tells me he breaks it.

Worth 1,000 Words



Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"There's a lot of things,that can kill a man..a lot of ways 2 die...and some already dead,that walk besides me"

Ray LaMontagne probably couldn't have imagined the grizzly death that went down on Sunday night.

GIF O' THE WEEK
That the referee -- who quite clearly saw Brian Robison kick T.J. Lang in the man-region -- didn't throw Robison out for this is absolutely impressive. Even Roman Harper thinks this is cheap.



Hot Seat Tracker
It's totally worth noting that Todd Haley isn't on this list. Impressive move by him.
  • Jack Del Rio -- Some kid asked Rashean Mathis when JDR was getting fired. I texted my aunt in Jacksonville asking if it was one of her sons. She said it wasn't but that she was wondering the same thing.
  • Jim Caldwell -- Just because Indy's going to ride him out doesn't mean his job is safe.
  • Tony Sparano -- Adios, amigo.
  • Steve Spagnuolo -- The Rams are crushed by injuries but the bad losses are piling up. They need a good close to the season.
  • Ken Wisenhunt -- He's got the Cards practicing on their off day during their bye week. Might be feeling some pressure.
  • Norv Turner -- That two-minute drill against the Jets was a borderline fireable offense on its own.
  • Mike Shanahan -- What happens if the Redskins finish 4-12?
Chasing Andrew Luck
This is a heated race, folks. Certainly more interesting than the AFC South.

Colts (-500): Is point differential a tiebreaker? Because that would be good -- er, bad for the Colts.
Dolphins (-450): Their schedule is also quite bleak. At least their fans are happy?
Rams (-350): The NFC West schedule should keep them from landing the top pick, but it's not a guarantee.
Cardinals (-225): Wouldn't this be something after they traded for Kevin Kolb?
Jaguars/Vikings (-200): There sure are a lot of teams on this list who already invested heavily in quarterbacks.

MVP Watch
As I noted above, Rodgers is doing unholy things right now. There might be some sort of interesting, half-hearted argument at the end of the year, but if Rodgers keeps doing what he's done through seven weeks, he'll win in a landslide.
Posted on: October 22, 2011 10:14 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 10:17 pm
 

Rob Ryan on Rex's comments: 'It's ring envy'

Posted by Will Brinson



Rex Ryan -- despite his many failed guarantees and unnecessary (but accidental!) potshots at other coaches -- remains interesting to those that follow the NFL. Maybe it's, and I mean this in a totally non-insulting way, the same reason we still enjoy seeing Jack Black in movies.

Or maybe it's something else. Rob Ryan, defensive coordinator of the Cowboys and brother of Rex, doesn't have the answer, per se, but he does have a fantastically quotable potshot back at Rex and his "ring envy."

"I'm glad you asked that question," Rob said when asked about Rex's comments towards Turner. "I've been waiting for that answer. Let me tell you something, that whole comment there is about multiplicity. Rex is constantly using that multiple ring thing, multiple ring this, multiple ring that, multiple ring this. The simple fact is it had nothing to do with Norv Turner. I coached with Norv. Norv is a great coach and a good man. He's done obviously a great job in San Diego.

"The multiplicity thing is really ring envy. It's ring envy. His twin brother has two rings, his dad has three rings, he only has one, so you can see the multiplicity thing. It's embarrassing, because it's all about the family. It's a sibling rivalry and Norv got in the way of a sibling rivalry.''

Kaboom. Roasted.

Of course, what Rob failed to mention is that Norv has multiple rings too, when he was offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys during their run in the early 90's. So maybe it does involve Norv in a way.

There's probably an entirely different argument about whether or not a Super Bowl ring "qualifies" for the debate dependent on what level one coached -- are two rings as the linebackers coach of the New England Patriots worth more than a single ring as the defensive coordinator of a Ravens team that ranks among the all-time greatest defenses?

I don't know. I'm just asking questions. Because I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that's exactly the kind of chatter that happens at the Ryan family dinner table. (And, man, I think I'd pay at least $23.99 for Season 1 of "The Ryan Bros." Right?)

And Rob is probably spot on, because Norv -- an unassuming guy next to anyone in the Ryan family -- somehow did end up caught in the middle of a ring-measuring contest that would have no business being public if it wasn't so entertaining.

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Posted on: October 22, 2011 4:19 pm
 

Sam Bradford ruled out against Cowboys Sunday

Posted by Will Brinson

Earlier Saturday, we pointed out that Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant thinks his team is "unbeatable." We didn't necessarily agree with his statement, but he's likely to look accurate on Sunday, especially with the Rams now ruling out Sam Bradford for Week 7's game in Dallas.

Bradford's absence is official -- he's missing the game thanks to a high ankle sprain that he suffered in the loss to Green Bay during Week 6. And that means A.J. Feeley gets the nod under center for St. Louis.

"I’m definitely, I’m doing everything I can to play…whether we were playing in Dallas or in Alaska, I’m going to do everything I can to play every Sunday,” Bradford said Friday.

Indeed, it seemed as if Bradford would start as late as Thursday, but the injury obviously didn't warrant putting the face of their franchise at future risk by rolling him out Sunday.

Plus, it probably doesn't matter -- Bryant's statements about the Cowboys are correct in this case, Bradford or not. So for the Rams to hope and make anything out of this season going forward, they're better off allowing Bradford to get healthy and hoping the other NFC West teams stumble as their schedule gets easier.

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Posted on: October 22, 2011 10:27 am
Edited on: October 22, 2011 12:26 pm
 

Dez thinks Cowboys are 'unbeatable,' pros easier

Posted by Will Brinson

The Cowboys are currently 2-3. They're a tremendous disappointment thus far in 2011, and have some, ahem, trust issues, but, as we talked about on the most recent podcast, Dallas dealt with a tough schedule through the first five games and are just now getting healthy, setting them up as a sleeper to make a run in a wide-open NFC East.

Unless Dez Bryant decides to blow their cover by saying ridiculous things. Like, for instance, that the Cowboys are "unbeatable" and the "pros is much easier" than college football.

"I like to keep my personal goals to myself," Bryant said during a recent interview at the Dallas House of Blues, via the Dallas Morning News. "As far as the team, I like our chances. I feel like, it may sound crazy, I think we are unbeatable."

Yes, the obvious counterargument is that the Cowboys have already lost. Three times. But apparently it doesn't count in the L column if you beat yourself.

"I think the losses, we lost those games ourselves," Bryant continued. "I feel like once we get back in that meeting room and regroup, and we learn from our mistakes, the sky's the limit."

This is very, very true. The Cowboys don't have issues with the people that are on the field for them, insofar as athletic skill and raw talent is concerned. They're fielding a team that's capable -- on paper -- of winning the Super Bowl.


But, as Bryant points out, the Cowboys make silly mistakes. Like giving a Tom Brady and the Pats the ball back with 2:43 left in a game at home and down less than a touchdown. Or like insulting NFL defenses by saying that it's easier to play receiver than in college.

"I really think the pros is much easier," Bryant said. "The reason I say that is because in college I didn't see too much man, too much 1-on-1. I always got double-teamed and a lot of zone coverages. When I see that one-on-one in the league, my eyes get big. I start visualizing what I'm going to do after the play."

OK, real quickly: why is it that people can't delineate between statements that are "team-oriented" and "silly"? Because surely Bryant doesn't think NFL defensive backs are no good, and surely he understands he only gets a ton of one-on-one looks because there are other good receiving options on his team. Surely he gets that. Right?

Look, Bryant was saying these things on an episode of Inside the Huddle, a weekly FSN show which is filmed at the Dallas HoB and co-hosted by Miles Austin and Tashard Choice. It's a relaxed environment in front of Cowboys fans, and no doubt he felt comfortable saying some outlandish things to his teammates. (See for yourself here -- spicy quotes begin at 13:43.)

Additionally, Choice is the one interviewing Bryant. So Bryant didn't look at TMZ, pound his chest and scream "we are UNBEATABLE!" -- he's just telling a teammate in front of a bunch of Cowboys fans (albeit with a camera rolling) that he thinks Dallas is really good.

The problem is those darn cameras. Dez needs to realize that they're usually running whenever he or someone on the Cowboys says anything.

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Posted on: October 20, 2011 9:59 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 10:18 pm
 

Jason Garrett says he trusts Tony Romo

The decision to run the ball late against the Pats had nothing to do with lack of faith in Romo. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was singled out last week by, welleverybody for his decision to run the ball late in the game against the Patriots. Dallas led by three at the time, handed the ball on three straight plays before punting to New England. That left Tom Brady 2:31 to lead an 80-yard touchdown drive. Want to take a guess how it turned out?

Let's just put it this way: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had this to say in the locker room afterwards:

“When you get in a situation like that, you’ve got to go for the kill,” he said. “I felt like we could’ve been more aggressive. Our defense had been good all day, but you knew Brady had a length-of-the-field drive in him -- so it didn’t surprise me at all when he took them down at the end.”

So, naturally, Garrett spent the week answering questions about that decision, and if he had lost faith in Tony Romo, the Cowboys quarterback with a knack for momentum-killing miscues.

“There is absolutely no issue in my trust level with Tony Romo,” Garrett said, according to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Nick Eatman. “I think anyone who has followed this football team understands the trust that I have in him and our football team has in him. Playing quarterback in the NFL, there’s a tremendous amount of responsibility that comes with that. Tony knows that. He prepares for it and we know it as coaches. We give him a lot of responsibility on Sunday. He’s responded to that really well over the last four and a half years and there’s no reason for us to think otherwise.”


A full set of predictions for the 7th week of the season! Charles Barkley joins Cris Collinsworth, Phil Simms, and Warren Sapp for a super-sized web-exclusive from Inside the NFL. Also: don't forget to check out the Pregame: Rams-Cowboys edition.

Romo agrees with Garrett -- and disagrees with the notion that his three-interception effort against the Lions in Week 4 had any bearing on the play-calling against the Pats last Sunday.

“No, if you watch the game . . . our defense played outstanding,” he said in reference to the 20-16 loss to the Patriots. “It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback to say something the day after. I trusted our defense too when they went out there. I felt very comfortable with our defense on the field in that game. I thought Jason has done a great job all year long. He’s going to keep doing a good job. We’re lucky to have him.”

One quibble: why would Romo trust any defense against Tom Brady with the game on the line? I get saying that publicly -- it's important to support your teammates and whatnot -- but he privately had to be seething about the decision to hand the ball off three consecutive times on the Cowboys' penultimate drive, right?

Maybe not.

“We study a lot for certain situations at the end of the games and anybody that was watching the game last week knew our defense played really outstanding football for the entire second half," Romo continued. "I don’t know how many points New England scored but it couldn’t have been that many. You go by what you’re watching and playing with and I didn’t envision their offense going down to score a touchdown either at the time. It’s easy to second guess but no me and Jason, we’re going to continue to go forward and have a great relationship. He’s a great coach.”

We're still not buying it. Either that, or Tony and Jason were the only two people on the planet who were shocked when Brady found Aaron Hernandez in the back of the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.

The Cowboys host the Rams this week and Romo, who suffered a punctured lung and broken ribs in the Week 2 win over the 49ers, will continue to wear a protective Kevlar vest.

"They're getting better," Romo said after Thursday's practice, according to ESPNDallas.com. "Hopefully in a couple of weeks, they'll be all the way healed. Still the vest. I think we've got the [pain-killing] shot one more week hopefully and then we're done. We'll see. That's what they're telling me."

You know what else eases the pain? A convincing win to get back on track (Sorry, Rams!).

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Posted on: October 17, 2011 4:30 pm
 

Podcast: NFL Week 6, 'What's your deal?' edition

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Another week is in the books and this one includes some coach-on-coach midfield crime. By now, you've heard about Jim Harbaugh vs. Jim Schwartz: handshakes, shoves and naughty words. Naturally, we talk about that, as well as the fact the both the 49ers and the Lions are 5-1. 

Additionally, we wonder what's going on with Jason Garrett's play-calling for the Cowboys, and how the NFC South now shakes out. (If you recall during the last podcast, Will convinced Ryan that the Panthers were the second-best team in the NFC South. No one believes that after the Bucs beat the Saints and Atlanta whipped up on Carolina.)

We also discuss what the Raiders do now that Jason Campbell's done for the season and the offense is in Kyle Boller's not-so-capable hands, whether Rex Grossman deserves another shot at the starting gig in Washington (no), if the Eagles can still make a playoff run (yes), and if we should be talking about the Ravens as the best team in the NFL (maybe).

Chatting starts promptly...

Just hit the play button below to listen (and did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes?). If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.


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Posted on: October 17, 2011 1:40 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 8:49 pm
 

Felix Jones to miss time, Jerry Jones questions O

The Cowboys' running game is in shambles and losing Jones doesn't help. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

In addition to concerns about the Cowboys' ultra-conservative play-calling late in the game against the Patriots Sunday, there's more bad news for an offense that has received plenty of criticism this season: the high-ankle sprain running back Felix Jones suffered in Foxboro will keep him out for a considerable time, which means he'll be sidelined for Week 7 and likely beyond.

Jones left in the first half with just 14 rushing yards on eight attempts. And his backups didn't fare much better. Tashard Choice rushed five times for 14 yards, and DeMarco Murray rushed 10 times for 32 yards. This came against the NFL's 25th-ranked run defense, according to Football Outsiders. Unfortunately, the Cowboys' run offense is dead last.

And we saw why Sunday. Inexplicably, the Cowboys decided to run the ball late in the game and, predictably, it cost them. Even Dallas owner Jerry Jones knew that. "You'll always second-guess whether or not we should have tried to run a little offense down there instead of running it three times. We went conservative rather than try to get some points and it bit us." 

Jones, according to Yahoo.com's Michael Silver, had some additional thoughts on the drive in question. “When you get in a situation like that, you’ve got to go for the kill,” Jones said. “I felt like we could’ve been more aggressive. Our defense had been good all day, but you knew Brady had a length-of-the-field drive in him -- so it didn’t surprise me at all when he took them down at the end.”

Even with Felix Jones out, NBC reported Sunday night that Choice was on the trading block.

Whoever's in the backfield, the Cowboys have to be able to run the ball.

"We've got to be more consistent with it," tight end Jason Witten said of the running game, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "[The Patriots] are big up front. We knew that. But we have to be better at it. There are no excuses. You have to find ways to run."

Whatever fate awaits Choice, Murray, a rookie and former third-round pick, says he's ready for a bigger workload with Jones out.

"When I get an opportunity when I'm in there, I'm just going to try to make plays and continue to work hard," he said. "I think Felix is going to make a full recovery. I think he'll be fine. He's tough. He's a fighter."

In other injury-related goings-on, there's more bad news for Dallas. Starting guard Bill Nagy will likely miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle suffered during the Patriots game. CBS Rapid Reporter Nick Eatman writes that veteran Derrick Dockery has been out for three weeks with a broken tibia/sprained knee. If he's not ready to return, outside help at guard could be on the way.

UPDATED 8:44 p.m. ET: Garrett said today that he and Jones had a good conversation today about Sunday's game.

"I think everyone is well intended," Garrett said. "Everybody is passionate about it, and when you lose a ballgame like that sometimes things are said and you've just got to kind of understand what the environment is, process it and move on. We all went up there and we swung the bat hard against New England. ... We came out on the short end of it. We've got to somehow process that and go forward. We have a great challenge this week against St. Louis."

And though he might not have intended for it to sound this way, some of his comments made it appear that he wasn't really blaming the coaches for Dallas' inadequacies.

"We work these situations over and over and over again, in hopes that when we get in those situations, we can execute ball plays to allow us to win," Garrett said. "At the end of this thing it comes down to execution, and we have to be able to block them, we have to be able to run, we have to be able to throw and catch, we have to be able to tackle, we have to be able to catch the ball on defense, make a play. And as coaches, what we're trying to do is put our players in a position to do that as well as we can."

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com