Tag:Pittsburgh Steelers
Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 1:02 pm
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Polamalu punch vs. Patriots was illegal

Polamalu slapped a loose ball into the Patriots' end zone. Turns out: you can't do that. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Steelers may have dominated the Patriots for 59 minutes and 41 seconds Sunday, but Tom Brady has a knack of pulling out improbable victories, and his history in Pittsburgh has been impressive. So when he took the field with 19 seconds left and the Pats trailing by six, the game wasn't over.

That became official some six seconds later, after defensive end Brett Keisel stripped Brady and Troy Polamalu knocked the loose ball into the end zone for a New England safety.

But here's the thing: when Polamalu sprinted from his centerfield position to make a play on Brady's fumble, he punched the ball a good 20 yards into the Pats' end zone. That's illegal. 


Polamalu's heads-up play was also against the rules.

Via the Associated Press: The rule states that a player may not bat or punch a loose ball in the field of play toward the opponent's goal line; a loose ball that has touched the ground in any direction, if it is in either end zone; or a backward pass in flight, which can't be batted forward by an offensive player."

The call is not reviewable by video replay, though neither Tom Brady nor the Patriots sideline complained at the time. And even if the penalty had been assessed, it would've been 10 yards from the spot of the infraction. Which means New England would've had the ball on their own 25-yard line with about 12 seconds on the clock and no timeouts.  

Given that the Pats don't have a deep threat on the roster, and Brady's longest pass to that point went for 23 yards to tight end Rob Gronkowski, we feel confident in writing that the outcome was unaffected. Plus, it afforded us the opportunity to see kicker Stephen Gostkowski drop-kick the ensuing onside kick clear out of bounds.

Polamalu was asked about the play after the game, and he channelled Costanza before answering.

"Whatever is going to get me in trouble, he said. "I'm saying the opposite."

Nothing to worry about, Troy. The NFL doesn't believe in frivolous fines.

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 10:44 am
 

Hines Ward, James Farrior out against Patriots

Pittsburgh will be without veterans Ward and Farrior when the Steelers face the Patriots Sunday. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

After being listed as questionable heading into the weekend, Pittsburgh will be without veteran wide receiver Hines Ward and inside linebacker James Farrior Sunday afternoon when the Steelers host the Patriots.

In previous years, the loss of Ward would be a concern, but the Steelers have one of the deepest wide receiver corps in the league, and Mike Wallace has redefined what it means to be a deep threat in his two-and-a-half-year NFL career. In addition to Wallace, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has emerging talents in Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, and free-agent acquisition Jerricho Cotchery can handle Ward's role of underneath zone buster. Then there's tight end Heath Miller, who is as good a receiver as he is a blocker.

Farrior's absence, however, is troubling. Partly because he sets the defense from play to play, but also because the Steelers are already without James Harrison and his backup, Jason Worilds. Lawrence Timmons, for the fourth straight week, will replace Harrison on the outside. Farrior will be replaced by second-year linebacker, Stevenson Sylvester, who has made a name for himself on special teams but has very little NFL experience at inside linebacker.  Practice squad linebacker Mortty Ivy has been signed to the 53-man roster to add depth.

But the Steelers may try to game-plan around Sylvester. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau could chose to play more nickel and dime schemes to limit Sylvester's snaps, but more importantly, to encourage the Patriots to run the ball.

Ultimately, Pittsburgh's best chance to win rests with their offense. Not just Roethlisberger, who needs to play well, but also the running game. If Rashard Mendenhall can get going, that means longer drives and fewer snaps for Brady.

Fun starts at 4:00 p.m. ET.


The New England Patriots will travel to Heinz Field to square off against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan to preview this intense showdown. Watch the game on CBS at 4:15 PM ET.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 9:57 pm
 

Pick-6 Podcast: Around the NFL, Week 8 previews

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

In this week's Game of the Year, the Patriots head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers. As you've no doubt heard by now, Tom Brady is 6-1 against the Steelers, his only loss coming during the 2004 regular season (three months later, he'd return to Heinz Field to beat Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game).

But Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is playing some of his best football of the season, and the defense is coming together despite key injuries among the front seven (James Harrison and Aaron Smith are out, Casey Hampton and James Farrior are banged up). So will this be the game that Pittsburgh finally gets the best of Brady and the Pats? Compounding matters: Bill Belichick is 12-3 coming off the bye week.

Other Week 8 topics: Are the Eagles still in "must win" territory? Are the Lions begging for an upset? Can Indy finally win? Is Miami really a sleeper team this week? And are you ready for some Tebowing?

And Paul Bessire of PredictionMachine.com drops by for his weekly visit to break down the best gambling options for this week.

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.


For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 27, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 5:17 pm
 

Goodell explains Polamalu fine for cell call

No exceptions: players can't use cell phones on the sideline during games. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appeared on On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren Wednesday night to talk about the usual fare -- player safety, expansion and the like -- in addition to several issues worth mentioning here.

Van Susteren asked Goodell about the league's decision to fine Steelers safety Troy Polamalu for using a cell phone on the sidelines during a game (that's illegal), even though the call was to Polamalu's wife to let her know he was fine after suffering concussion-like symptoms.

Several days after it happened, head coach Mike Tomlin said Polamalu shouldn't be fined.

"[Troy] had a history of concussion-like symptoms and so forth in the past. [His wife] was concerned. In this era of player safety, you would think that common sense would prevail in regards to some of those things. It wasn't a personal call. He wasn't checking on his bank account. He was talking to his wife to let her know that he was fine, and that was it."

Common sense lost out to the unbending interpretation of the rules: Polamalu owes the NFL $10,000.

"Well, I think it's always a problem trying to have a rule that applies to everybody," Goodell began (you can view the interview here). "Troy's a wonderful young man and there was concern about his health and there are ways of us getting word to families when there is an injury, and to make sure they understand that the player is okay. But we also don't want to have all our players using phones on the sidelines for texting."

Goodell did concede that "When someone's injured and you're family, you want to speak to the individual. And you want to hear their voice. You want to make sure they're okay. And that's something that probably could've happened by taking him off the field and allowing him access to be able to call his wife."

The lesson? The rules apply to everyone … except, you know, when they don't.

Van Susteren, a long-time Packers shareholder, also asked the commissioner about whether the organization would sell more shares.

"I think so," Goodell said. "As you well know as a season ticket holder and an owner, they are trying to expand the stadium. They will add probably six or seven thousand more seats for fans, which I think there's a great demand for that. And as part of that, we will likely approve another issuing of the stock so you'll have a chance to buy some more."

Van Susteren warned that Goodell shouldn't get any ideas about putting a dome on Lambeau Field. "We take great pride in suffering through that snow and cold," she said.

"You're not going to hear that suggestion from me," the commissioner responded. "I also love to see football played in the elements. That's what the game's all about … and I think the experience of going up there in Lambeau in the elements is a great thing in football."


The New England Patriots will travel to Heinz Field to square off against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan to preview this intense showdown. Watch the game on CBS at 4:15 PM ET.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 10:27 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 8:43 pm
 

Pick-6 Podcast: Previewing Pats-Steelers

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Eye on Football analyst Andy Benoit joins the podcast to preview a big Week 8 matchup: Patriots-Steelers. Tom Brady has had his way with Pittsburgh's defense in recent years, and is one of the few NFL quarterbacks who seem unfazed by Dick LeBeau, zone blitzes, or Troy Polamalu's hair. But is this the game the Steelers can finally get to Brady and beat the Pats? (Answer: you have to listen to find out.)

The discussion then turns to the Colts and whether they should fire head coach Jim Caldwell (and if Jim Tressel would be a good replacement). Other topics: what's going on with Titans running back Chris Johnson, why the Chargers are struggling, if the Chiefs are for real, and who has the edge in the Eagles-Cowboys game.

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.


For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 11:01 am
 

Film Room: Steelers vs. Patriots preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



The Patriots are known for their offense. The Steelers are known for their defense. But the other side of the ball is just as intriguing. Here are five keys to Pittsburgh’s offense against New England’s defense.


1. Understanding the REAL Steelers
It’s amazing: we still hear so-called experts refer to the Steelers as a black-and-blue, ground-and-pound offense. Usually a phrase like “getting back to their roots” or “playing true Steeler ball” accompanies this embarrassing misnomer. The people who think of today’s Steelers as run-oriented are the same people who stopped renting movies once the video cassette tape disappeared.

They’re the same people who still worry about the cost of a cross-country phone call, or who think that the best way to make a statement is to send a letter to their local newspaper.

The Steelers are a passing team. This isn’t to say that they can’t or won’t run. In fact, their run-pass ratio is about as normal as it gets. Over the last four years, in games that Ben Roethlisberger has played, the Steelers have called a run play 43.1 percent of the time and a pass play 56.9 percent of the time. The league average is 43.6 percent run and 56.4 percent pass. When the Steelers are protecting a lead, they squeeze the air out of the ball. But when they’re trying to establish a lead, they throw.

The Steelers have put the ball in the air 84.4 percent of the time on third down. This suggests either a.) They are not running effectively (hence, they’ve faced a lot of third-and-long situations) or b.) When they need a money play, they trust their pass game more than their run game. They’re lining up like a passing team, too. So far Ben Roethlisberger has attempted 159 passes out of three-or four-receiver formations. He’s attempted just 21 passes out of two-receiver formations.

This season, the Steelers’ decision to transform into more of a downfield offense was a conscious one. In 2010 they drafted a speed-and-quickness wideout in the third round (Emmanuel Sanders) and a power runner in the fifth (Jonathan Dwyer). They did the same in 2009, drafting Mike Wallace in the third round and Frank Summers in the fifth. These moves were made after it was confirmed that ’08 first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall was an everydown back with a slight predilection for finesse over power.

But the main inspiration behind these moves was the guy under center.

2. Ben Roethlisberger
He’s often not described this way, but Roethlisberger is the most physically gifted quarterback in the AFC – if not all of pro football (it’s a whole other discussion, but strong arguments could be made for Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton or Michael Vick).

Everyone praises Roethlisberger for having the strength to shed would-be sackers before throwing. But what’s more remarkable – and not talked about – is the quality of those throws. Roethlisberger throws off balance and under duress with unparalleled velocity and accuracy.

Very little about his game is fundamentally sound. His footwork is flawed. His balance is poor. His mechanics are okay but often irrelevant given that the majority of his drop-backs turn into sandlot improvs. The reason he’s a sandlot player is because he does not read the field well (if at all) before the snap. For most quarterbacks, this would be a crippling weakness. For Roethlisberger, it’s a strength. He actually prefers to react to a defense rather than dictate the terms.

Roethlisberger might sense a blitz presnap and, like just about any quarterback, make a few tweaks to his protection or receivers’ routes. More often, though, he’d rather just take the snap, actually see the blitz coming and make his own adjustments on the fly.

If any other quarterbacks played this way, they’d look like JaMarcus Russell (a sorry sap who actually did try to play this way). Roethlisberger has the physical talent and uncanny instincts to pull it off.

3. Defending Big Ben & Co.
The brilliance behind Roethlisberger’s unusual style is that it’s hard to gameplan against. It’s not unusual to see a defense strategically defeat the Steelers offense yet still get beat for a big play. Defensive strategies are based on disrupting the quarterback’s fundamentals and progressions. But what do you do when the quarterback does not rely on fundamentals or even progression reads?

But if it were as simple as just playing basic, fundamentally sound defense, every team would do that. Most teams, however, don’t have the resources to contain Pittsburgh’s weapons straight-up. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are bourgeoning inside receivers who have the quickness to separate from man-coverage and a great feel for locating the deep voids against zones (a critical attribute given the way Roethlisberger extends plays).

Outside, the lanky, long-striding Mike Wallace is the most lethal downfield threat in the game. These are wideouts who make you think twice about bringing a safety down in the box. Though the Steelers aren’t the run-first team they once were, they’re certainly capable of pounding a seven-man defensive front on the ground.

Thus, the most viable (and common) way to defend Roethlisberger & Co. is to attack their offensive line. You want to force Roethlisberger into sandlot tactics early in the down rather than let him extend the play. That way, his teammates don’t have time to execute their assignments. The limited timing naturally diminishes the threat of Wallace over the top and allows defensive backs to gamble more against Sanders and Brown.

Aiding this cause is the vulnerability of Pittsburgh’s front five. Left tackle Max Starks was out of football less than one month ago. Left guard Chris Kemoeatu has battled a knee injury and was awful in pass protection in his return last week. Right guard Ramon Foster is an undrafted backup (filling in for injured Doug Legursky) and right tackle Marcus Gilbert is an intriguing-but-still-youthful rookie.

4. How Belichick will attack
Belichick’s M.O. is to take away the opposing offense’s top two strengths. This obviously would mean preventing Roethlisberger from extending plays and eliminating Wallace’s deep routes. The Patriots did this last season in their Week 10 victory at Pittsburgh by blitzing like crazy (the Steelers had been struggling at the time with blitz pickups).

However, this season, Patriots linebackers have been poor in blitz execution. Also, the Pats have been more inclined to use a four-man pass-rush out of nickel packages.

We’ve seen Belichick do a 180-degree change in defensive gameplans from one week to the next plenty before, and anything’s possible when he’s coming off a bye. But given the way the Steeler guards struggle in pass protection, don’t be surprised if Albert Haynesworth finally gets significant playing time as a three-technique next to Vince Wilfork.

That’s a combination the Steelers simply wouldn’t be able to block. The Patriots could have their ho-hum ends play containment, which would keep Roethlisberger in the pocket facing pressure right up the middle. He’d still manage some sandlot plays, but he’d also be throwing into seven-man coverages, which could spell turnovers. The Patriots like to compensate for their vulnerable secondary by generating interceptions (last season they ranked 30th in pass yards allowed but first in interceptions).

5. Miscellaneous note
Jerod Mayo, who has been out since injuring his knee in Week 4, is far and away New England’s best linebacker. If he’s available Sunday, the Patriots would have more options for containing Roethlisberger (Mayo reads the field well and has good awareness in coverage). Not surprisingly, Belichick isn’t disclosing Mayo’s status.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 8 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
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.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com