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Tag:Nate Burleson
Posted on: January 4, 2012 4:15 pm
 

Film Room: Saints vs. Lions wild-card preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


This wild card contest, featuring the NFL’s No. 1 and No. 5 offenses, might play out more like a college bowl game, with a back-and-forth barrage of points and yards. Unlike a bowl game, however, we can be sure that the barrage is a product of great quarterbacking and not mistakes from shaky underclassmen defenders.

Oh, also, unlike a bowl game, the outcome actually matters in the bigger picture, as the winner will still be in contention for a title.


1. Any hope of stopping the Saints’ offense?
Not really. The Lions gave up 31 points and 438 yards when these teams squared off in Week 13. They were without starting corner Chris Houston and starting free safety Louis Delmas that night, but attributing the loss to those players’ absence would be like attributing The Simpsons early-2000s popularity dip to the death of Maude Flanders.

The last team to slow Sean Payton’s offensive juggernaut was – believe it or not – St. Louis. They did it with a feisty four-man rush, press-man coverage outside and zone coverage inside. But that was 10 weeks ago – before Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod found his groove in pass protection (the first-time Pro Bowler has improved tremendously after being a major pass-blocking liability his first 4 ½ years).

Of course, the Lions will still have an effective pass-rush even if Bushrod can contain the relentless Kyle Vanden Bosch. And they have linebackers and safeties who have the speed to be rangy in coverage. And their corners, while primarily off-coverage zone defenders, have actually been impressive at times in man-to-man on third down this season.

But in the end, this is still a vanilla Cover 2 defense that would be nothing more than a house of straw if it got away from its foundation against Drew Brees. Not that Brees and the Saints can’t exploit Cover 2:

Something the Saints do as well as any team in football is create favorable matchups for wide receivers by aligning them in tight splits. This is easy to do against a Cover 2 defense like Detroit’s. In this shot, Devery Henderson is aligned tight, and Marques Colston (New Orleans’ top slot weapon) is even tighter. Because Cover 2 defenses always keep their outside corners on opposite sides of the field, the nature of this offensive alignment dictates that either Colston or Henderson can run an inside route against a linebacker or safety. In this case, we show you the option for Colston.

2. A crazy idea…
The Lions should do what all Cover 2 teams essentially do: commit to bend-but-don’t-break defense. Only in this case, they actually can break – as long as they bend a lot first. The Saints thrive on fast tempo and big plays – especially at home. If they have the ball, they’re going to score.

The Lions should try to make those scores come after 10 or 12 plays, rather than four or five. Coaxing an offense into long drives may sound insane, but think about: The more plays the Saints run, the more chances there are for a freak turnover. Also, the more chances for a red zone stop. Most important, long drives eat clock and shorten the game. That could keep the contest artificially close down the stretch.

Of course, this extreme bend-but-don’t-break idea is based on Detroit’s offense being able to dominate New Orleans’ defense ... which didn’t happen in Week 13.

3. Recapping the last meeting
A lot of Matthew Stafford’s 408 yards passing in the last meeting were empty, as the Saints held the Lions to just 17 points. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams took an uncharacteristically cautious approach, often rushing only three or four and focusing on double-and triple-team tactics against Calvin Johnson.

Williams often had his best corner, Jabari Greer, shadow Megatron, with plenty of help over the top and inside. Because Johnson devours man coverage, the Saints stayed mostly in zone (though they did match up man-to-man a bit when Detroit went to base personnel).

This formula held Johnson to 69 yards on six catches, though the numbers would have been much different if Stafford hadn’t underthrown him on what would have been a 53-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The rest of the Lions receiving targets took advantage of their opportunities against the Johnson-intensive coverage.

TE Tony Scheffler had 41 yards receiving; RB Kevin Smith had 46; Nate Burleson posted 93 (though his performance was overshadowed by three offensive pass interference flags); second-round rookie Titus Young had 90 yards (though he too overshadowed his performance with mistakes – mainly a boneheaded personal foul after the whistle).

In the end, though, it was the lack of big plays from Johnson that stood out.

4. Forecasting this meeting
Gregg Williams may go conservative again. His defense aims to create turnovers and chaos through fervid six-man blitzes, but that aggression is part of the reason the Saints’ yielded a league-high 14 passes of 40-plus yards this season. Against a top-notch aerial attacks like Detroit’s, a high-risk/high-reward approach is unlikely to go in your favor.

But Williams also knows that when Detroit has struggled, it’s been due to Stafford’s waffling accuracy and decision-making. Those issues calmed down considerably over the season’s final month, but there’s no telling how the 23-year-old might respond under the pressure of dueling with Brees in Detroit’s first playoff game since 1999. Williams will want to find out.

Stafford isn’t the easiest quarterback to blitz, though. He has a strong arm, quick release and the willingness to make stick throws with defenders racing at him. The Lions don’t have elite pass-blockers, but because they operate almost exclusively out of the shotgun, Stafford can be tough for defenders to reach.

Williams might find a happy-medium by playing coverage but giving his back seven defenders extra freedom in moving around and disguising their looks before the snap. That would get Stafford’s mental gears grinding. The Lions don’t like motile defensive presnap looks – that’s why they rarely use presnap motion themselves.

5. The X-factors
Figure Williams is going to do all he can to make someone other than Calvin Johnson beat him. The guys who must step up are tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler.

They both give the Lions formation versatility from base personnel by lining up along the front line, in the slot or split out wide. This is often done to create mismatches for, but on Saturday it will create mismatches for THEM.

If the Saints blitz, the tight ends are logical quick-strike outlets. If the Saints play coverage, one of the tight ends will draw a favorable matchup against strong safety Roman Harper (who got destroyed in coverage at Seattle in last year’s wild card).

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all wild-card games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 11, 2011 12:34 pm
 

Jim Schwartz draws line in sand for his team

PettigrewBy Josh Katzowitz

With a rash of postplay personal foul penalties last week, not to mention the whole Ndamukong Suh saga, it sounds like Lions Jim Schwartz has had enough.

As ESPN reports, Schwartz told his team that he’s invoking a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to postplay personal foul flags. If somebody is penalized, Schwartz said he’ll be banished to the bench for the rest of the day.

Even if it’s Matthew Stafford? Apparently, yes.

Schwartz came to the decision after watching Brandon Pettigrew bump an official last week, taking a $25,000 fine in the process, Stefan Logan earn a taunting penalty when he flipped the ball to his opponent, and Titus Young shoving a Saints player in the face after a play was finished.

“Obviously, everything on the field is a reflection of the organization,” Schwartz said, via the NY Times. “It’s a reflection of the head coach, it’s a reflection of all the coaches and reflections of the players.

“That’s not a presentation we want.”

Nate Burleson, a receiver who was called for four (!) penalties last week, weighed in with his thoughts on how the Lions could rein in themselves.

“Now that we’re actually in the hunt, the microscope is bigger, and we’ve had some issues,” he told the paper. “A guy getting suspended. Those same mistakes aren’t going to fly anymore.

“They’re not going to be swept under the rug. The ref’s not going to look at that and hold his flag, like he did earlier in the season. Now, he’s saying: ‘Oh, those are the Detroit Lions. They’re the guys who are going to do a little bit extra.’ That flag is coming out a lot faster.

“The other teams are probably saying, ‘Hey, if you pick at these guys, they’ll end up doing something stupid.’”

Thus far, those other teams have been absolutely correct.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: December 6, 2011 12:20 pm
 

Coach Killers, Week 13: Dumb penalties are dumb

Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat.

By Ryan Wilson

Caleb Hanie, Bears

This makes two weeks in a row that Caleb Hanie, who has two career starts, has appeared in Coach Killers. Of course, no one expected him to even be in this position; after a slow start, the Bears and Jay Cutler had found their groove only to have Cutler suffer an injury to this throwing hand against the bad-luck Chargers in Week 12. Now Chicago's playoff hopes lie with Hanie, who turned out to be the worst quarterback on a field Sunday that also included Tyler Palko and Kyle Orton.

By the time it was over, Hanie was 11 of 24 for 133 yards with three interceptions. In two games against, he has six picks. Exacerbating things: Matt Forte suffered a knee injury and he could be out 2-4 weeks. If it's any consolation (and we suspect it isn't), wide receiver Roy Williams takes responsibility for one of the interceptions since, you know, he gift-wrapped it for the Chiefs defender … in Kansas City's end zone.

"It was my fault. I’ve got to make those plays," Williams said. "Did that lose the game? Nope. There were a lot of things that happened before that that [could have made a difference]. But in my mind, yes, it [did]. In the fans’ mind, yes, it [did]."

Week 13 Recap
Well, it didn't help, that's for sure. The Chiefs won 10-3, the only score coming on and end-of-half modified "Hail Mary" touchdown pass from Palko. (We're calling it "modified" because the ball only traveled 38 yards as measured from line of scrimmage to goal line. For any other NFL quarterback, that's a flick of the wrist. For Palko, it was a throw that required everything he had. Whatever you call it, it counted, and that was the difference.)

Despite Hanie's second uninspiring performance, head coach Lovie Smith doesn't plan to change things going forward.

“That’s our group,” Smith said, referring to Hanie, rookie Nate Enderle and veteran Josh McCown. “We’re going to make improvements with our group, like all positions. We’re not looking on the outside. We’re not having a quarterback tryout or anything like that. These are our guys and they’re all going to get better.”

There was some speculation that Donovan McNabb, released by the Vikings last week, might be an option but as Devin Hester pointed out Monday on ESPN Radio, "That would be a waste of time." Not so much because McNabb has nothing left (which is probably true), but because he wouldn't have time to learn Mike Martz's offense.

And things don't get easier for Chicago: they face Denver this week. A month ago, everybodyhad the Bears and Cutler wiping the floor with the Broncos, the team that sent him to Chicago in 2009. Now, with Tebowmania on track to be a national holiday, the Bears will have the worst quarterback on the field for the third game in a row.

Nate Burleson, Lions

Here's the good news for Detroit: unlike the Bears, their NFC North rivals, the Lions are able to move the ball on offense. And while they may not have beaten the Saints in New Orleans Sunday night, the game should've been a lot closer. Which leads to the bad news: the Lions have all the self control of a fat kid locked in candy store. Except instead of stuffing their faces with caramels, they're incapable of not committing personal foul penalties after the whistle.

Nate Burleson, it turns out, didn't have such problems, but he did have three (THREE!) offensive pass interference calls against the Saints, all big plays that cost the Lions field position. And even though he wasn't penalized 15 yards for slapping an opponent in front of an official or inadvertently hitting an official while trying to get at an opponent, his was a mental mistake too.

By the time it was over, Detroit had committed 22 penalties (to New Orleans' six) despite outgaining the Saints in total yards, 466 to 438. The silver lining: mental mistakes are easier to correct than physical mistakes. In theory this makes sense, right? "Hey, don't slap a player on the other team right in front of the ref" or "For the love of all that's holy, do not push off when coming out of your break, Burleson" seem straightforward pretty easy to fix.

Then again, the Lions were without their best defensive player, Ndamukong Suh, because he was serving a two-game suspension after stomping on a Packers player after the whistle.

We mentioned it on the Pick-6 Podcast, but head coach Jim Schwartz has to fix this. We're guessing he's had similar conversations with his players in recent weeks but to rack up personal-foul penalties like they did against the Saints is a sign that they didn't hear him.

But in terms of the postseason implications, it could be worse. See the Bears, for example. They'd love to have their franchise quarterback and a franchise wide receiver if that meant only fixing the dumb penalties. As it stands, they're stuck with Caleb Hanie. Of course, maybe we're giving Detroit too much credit. Why should we think that now, after three-quarters of the season, they'd suddenly stop making back-breaking mental mistakes?

Dunta Robinson, Julio Jones, Falcons

Without a doubt, the Philadelphia Eagles are the NFL's most disappointing team this season. The Chargers are second. After that, though, it's a wide open race. Depending on the week, it could be the Giants or the Titans or maybe even the Rams. We're going with the Falcons. At 7-5, they're right in the mix for a wild card spot. And Football Outsiders says their relatively consistent from one week to the next, but that's sort of the problem. If you're consistently mediocre you're still mediocre.

They were probably expecting something more than that after giving up a ton to get Julio Jones during the draft. Their latest loss came against the Texans, down to their third-string quarterback, T.J. Yates. And while Houston's offense is built to lean heavily on the run, the Falcons had their chances. Two series in particular stick out.

On the second play of the fourth quarter with the game tied 10-10, Yates threw a pick-six to linebacker Mike Peterson. Huge play … except that Dunta Robinson -- on the other side of the field away from the play -- was flagged for defensive holding. It was the right call and it cost the Falcons six points. (Linebacker Sean Witherspoon was called for defensive holding, as well. Apparently, it's contagious.)

Then, with a minute to go in the game and Atlanta trailing 17-10, quarterback Matt Ryan needed to lead a touchdown drive. After a 17-yard completion to Harry Douglas Ryan wanted to spike the ball to stop the clock. Except he had to wait while Julio Jones made his way back to the line of scrimmage. Jones was a good 40 yards downfield with Douglas was tackled but instead of, you know, hustling back to line up for the spike, he looked confused about what was going on.

Two plays later, Jones was penalized for an illegal touch pass, and then on the final play of the game, he dropped what would've been the game-tying touchdown. It wasn't an easy catch, but you don't trade away your draft to acquire a guy who only makes the easy grabs.

Richard Seymour, Raiders

This really isn't about Seymour, who was ejected for the second consecutive season after throwing a punch at a player. It's about the entire team on both sides of the ball getting thoroughly outclassed by a Dolphins outfit that began the season 0-7. Oakland's defense couldn't stop Reggie Bush (!) and the offense didn't get on the board until the fourth quarter after trailing 34-0.

And now the Raiders, 7-5, not only drop out of the lead in the AFC West (they got Tebow-ed), but they're also behind the Titans for the final wild-card spot.



Head coach Hue Jackson didn't make excuses after the loss and that includes the play of his de facto franchise quarterback Carson Palmer, who finished the game 20 of 41 for 273 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT.

"He's our quarterback and today we lost," Jackson said. "He didn't produce a win for our football team. We didn't play well. I'm not going to say it's because he's fatigued or anything. This is the National Football League. When they say 'set hut' you gotta play."

This never would've happened if the Raiders drafted Tebow. (That's a joke.)

The Raiders' schedule over the final month of the season doesn't help, either: at Green Bay, Detroit, at Kansas City, San Diego. Meanwhile, the Broncos have Chicago, New England, at Buffalo, Kansas City.

That Dolphins loss could prove to be huge.

Dan Bailey, Cowboys

This is "Coach Killers." Presumably, Princeton trained head coach Jason Garrett wasn't trying to get himself fired in Dallas. But as has been well documented the last 36 hours, Garrett did manage to ice his own kicker by calling a timeout milliseconds before Bailey split the uprights with what would've been the game-winning field goal.

Instead, Garrett burned a timeout, mumbled something about the kicking team "still settling in," and then watched helplessly as Bailey honked his second attempt.

By the way, you know you messed up when the opposing coach, without cracking a smile, says after the game, "I was glad they iced their kicker so I didn't have to."

We brought it up on the podcast and Grantland.com's Bill Barnwell wrote about it Monday: research suggests that icing the kicker doesn't work. But that research didn't account for the coach of the kicking team calling the timeout because, well, why would anybody do that?

Barnwell continues: "So if Garrett deserves a pass for his timeout, why should we be excoriating him? Well, because of what Garrett did before the timeout. On Dallas' final offensive play, Tony Romo hit Dez Bryant over the middle for a 15-yard gain to pick up an essential first down on third-and-11. When Bryant hit the ground, the Cowboys still had 23 seconds left on the clock and two timeouts to work with. The ball was on the Arizona 31-yard line, which is within makeable range, but far from a chip shot; the average kicker will boot that through less than 65 percent of the time."

Which was the point CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco made. "What I can't understand is not trying to get more yards with two timeouts to make the kick easier. Last time I checked, a 49-yard field goal isn't a chip shot."

As CBSSports.com's Will Brinson pointed out Sunday night, that's something you'd expect from Wade Phillips, not Jason Garrett. And yet here we are.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 3:17 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 9:43 pm
 

Film Room: Broncos vs. Lions preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



It’s impossible to avoid the Tim Tebow coverage at this point. Since you’ll be hearing about the Broncos-Lions game all week, you might as well make the best of it and be familiar with the two teams. Here is a five-point rundown of the matchup, starting with a quick ode to You Know Who.



1. Tebow
The argument is no longer whether Tebow can become a more conventional quarterback; it’s whether the Broncos can win without him becoming a conventional quarterback. The elongated throwing motion probably isn’t going away. The flawed footwork may improve, but no guarantees. The arm strength will likely always be what it is: middling.

At this point, the Broncos coaching staff is limiting Tebow’s reads with simplified gameplans. That’s common with young quarterbacks. But usually young quarterbacks have more passing tools to work with. Tebow has running tools, which are hard to successfully incorporate into an NFL gameplan.

Tebow worshipers love to tout his “It Factor”. Twice now we’ve seen that “It Factor” late in the fourth quarter when the trailing Broncos have been compelled to cut loose Tebow’s inner sandlot soul. And it’s worked. So why doesn’t John Fox have Tebow play this way for all four quarters? Because he fears that if he did, the Broncos would trail by 30 late in the fourth instead of the usual 15 or 16.

Let’s look at the rest of this matchup.

2. Broncos offense
As we highlighted in last week’s Finer Points analysis, the Broncos have severe limitations at wide receiver. None of their targets are vertical threats. Eric Decker gets off press coverage well but is restricted to underneath stuff. Eddie Royal is an uninspiring slasher. Demaryius Thomas is solid and has upside, but only in a possession sense. And undrafted Matt Willis is untested.

Because of this, the Broncos are a throwback offense that operates out of traditional two-backs, one-tight end sets and abides largely by the laws of run-run-pass. That’s not a winning formula, but if the run game is working, it can at least be a “not losing” formula.

The run game has worked the past two weeks. Though Willis McGahee rushed for 103 yards against the Packers in Week 6, 125 yards against the Chargers in Week 5 and 76 yards against the Dolphins this past Sunday, he's out for for at least the next month with a broken hand. That means, Knowshon Moreno -- last year's first-round pick who is a mechanic, finesse-based back who has been relegated to third down duties -- will take over. Like McGahee, at least Moreno has the benefit of operating behind an offensive line that is well sized and, for the most part, athletic.

3. Lions defense
The Lions run defense is not nearly as bad as its ranking (28) indicates. A few missed tackles have led to big gains on the ground. Missed tackles are the type of mistakes that can quickly be corrected. The Lions have one of the deepest, most athletic defensive lines in football.

The line’s ability to win early in the down allows speedy linebackers DeAndre Levy, Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch to play untouched and downhill – something all three are doing extremely well. Safety Louis Delmas is also outstanding at locating and quickly filling the point of attack against the run. He’ll see plenty of time in the box given Denver’s nonexistent downfield passing game.

Denver needs to forget about running outside and instead attack Detroit right up the gut. That may seem problematic given the presence of Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams, but in the last two weeks, the Niners and Falcons, two other power-run teams, have taken a clever approach to this.

Instead of trying to stop Ndamukong Suh’s initial penetration, the Falcons, taking a page out of the 49ers’ playbook, found a way to use it against him. Right guard Garrett Reynolds let Suh get his amazing jump off the ball.



Center Todd McClure swept around to shield Suh backside, while Michael Turner carried the ball right to the spot that Suh vacated. Reynolds stepped to his right to take care of the defensive end (an easy block given the angle of the hole it was creating) and right tackle Tyson Clabo was able to immediately work up to the second level and block the linebacker (also an easy block given that the linebacker had virtually no time to diagnose and react).



The 49ers used a similar tactic the previous week (see the video here), only with different players. They let Suh get penetration and blocked him backside with motioning tight end Delanie Walker. Center Jonathan Goodwin went cleanly to the second level to block the linebacker, while right guard Adam Snyder handled the left defensive tackle that Goodwin left behind.



This concept did three things for the Falcons and 49ers:

1. Eliminated Suh from the play without costing the offense an extra blocker in a double team, and without asking the right guard to win a one-on-one matchup that few, if any, right guards could possibly win.

2. Opened a natural hole in the A-gap, which is the easiest hole for a running back to hit quickly.

3. Allowed an offensive lineman to immediately reach a linebacker without being touched (a run-blocker’s dream).

Expect the Broncos to try a similar tactic this Sunday. It will be interesting to see what adjustment the Lions will have made to combat this (it’s doubtful they’d ask Suh to NOT penetrate off the snap).

4. Lions offense
This unit has had the chinks in its armor exposed the past two weeks. At this point, Matthew Stafford and the Lions are overly dependent on Calvin Johnson. That’s fine when Jahvid Best is in the lineup. But with Best out, the Lions don’t pose much of a run threat out of shotgun (overwhelmingly their favorite formation).

They also lose Best’s outside presence on bubble screens. This allows defenses to be more aggressive near the line of scrimmage against Titus Young, Nate Burleson and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, all of whom struggled last Sunday.

This puts more pressure on Johnson. He’s an otherworldly talent, but he’s never been inspiring against intense double coverage (he was nowhere near as impactful against the Niners two weeks ago as his 113 yards suggested).

Also, as we saw against the Falcons, with the passing game’s quick-strike element suppressed, this unathletic front five gets exposed.

5. Broncos defense
The Broncos have the resources to exploit Detroit’s pass-blocking. Von Miller is the AFC’s answer to Clay Matthews. Elvis Dumervil has had a quiet season but will still a handful for Jeff Backus. And last week the safeties and linebackers timed their blitzes extremely well.

The Broncos also have the resources to keep up with Detroit’s passing attack. Champ Bailey is still a top-tier cornerback, shadowing the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver week in and week out. Bailey will need rookie free safety Quinton Carter (who has replaced Rahim Moore) to be a little more reliable in help coverage than he’s been, but with a respectable pass-rush, the Broncos shouldn’t feel too nervous about this matchup.

Nickel linebackers D.J. Williams (insane athlete) and Wesley Woodyard are both stellar pass defenders who can contain Pettigrew. The deciding factor will be whether cornerbacks Andre Goodman and Jonathan Wilhite can physically stymie Burleson and Young. Teams have targeted Wilhite, who’s been in and out of the lineup.

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 21, 2011 11:50 pm
 

Meriweather rethinking way he plays the game

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It’s taken quite a bit to get through Bears safety Brandon Meriweather’s head, but perhaps two separate fines worth $45,000 for hits on Carolina’s Steve Smith and Detroit’s Nate Burleson and a benching by Chicago has done the trick. Now, Meriweather -- who had a disturbing habit of unnecessary roughness penalties and fines -- says he’ll have to adjust the way he plays the game.

NFL Keeps Taking Money
"Apparently I need to fix something if (the NFL) is concerned about my hits," Meriweather told the Chicago Tribune. "I have to change it, or else I'm going to keep getting fined. Eventually if you get enough fines, you're going to end up getting kicked out the league. For me to continue to do something I love, I just have to change the way I play."

Although the league isn’t planning to meet with Meriweather, who was fined $40,000 last year for two separate hits on then-Ravens tight end Todd Heap in the same game, his organization has told him to simmer it down with the way he leads with his helmet.

"Everybody told me that," he said. "It's not necessarily what they said, but how they said it. People have told me before that I had to change my ways. I've been trying. It's just something you can't do overnight."

Yes, overnight is too big an expectation. But we’ve been talking about this seriously for about a year at this point. When you consider it’s been many months since James Harrison was fined for anything (!), that should have been plenty of time for Meriweather to make a change.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 2:52 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 2:30 pm
 

Film Room: Cowboys vs. Lions preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

For the first time seemingly since their Portsmouth days, the Detroit Lions will enter a nationally-followed non-Thanksgiving game with high expectations to live up to. They’re taking their 3-0 record to Dallas to face Tony Romo’s Ribs and a Cowboy defense that is getting more potent by the week in Rob Ryan’s scheme.

You’ll hear plenty this week about how the Lions can bring some much needed joy to the struggling Motor City, and about how they have crawled out of a miserable past decade, and about the wonders of NFL parity and turnaround stories.

These human interest stories are nice, but they’re only relevant because of what the Lions do on the field. Here’s a look at that.



1. Open formations
The Lions have lined up in shotgun 67 percent of the time this season, mostly in a 2 x 1 single-back set (two receivers to one side, one to the other). Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has taken this approach because it plays to the strength of his two young backfield stars: Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best.

The semi-spread formations clarify the reads for Stafford and propagate a lot of quick-strike throws (which he has the arm strength and compact release to execute). Because defenses are compelled to roll coverage to Calvin Johnson (by far the most athletically gifted wideout in the NFL), Stafford has opportunities to exploit the seams.

This is a big reason why Detroit drafted Titus Young in the second round. Young is an unrefined route runner at this point, but route running precision is not the end-all, be-all when you’re attacking zone coverages from the slot.

Also helping spread the field is the way Detroit crafts sideline routes for Johnson. When a receiver runs a downfield pattern outside the numbers, safety help over the top often becomes irrelevant due to the nature of the limited spacing. Thus, you get a one-on-one matchup by default. Johnson has never been great at beating double teams.

That’s partly why the Lions specifically send him on isolation patterns outside. They’ll do this at least five or six times Sunday because the Cowboys, like most teams, don’t have a corner who can handle Megatron alone.

Detroit’s running game also benefits from the three-receiver shotgun sets. The very nature of the formation creates extra spacing, which is what a finesse runner like Jahvid Best needs. It also aids Detroit’s blocking. Receiving tight end Tony Scheffler often aligns in the slot as the third receiver. Scheffler has never been a great run-blocker, but as a slot receiver he doesn’t have to rely on strength and technique as much.

When it’s a wideout in the slot, it means the Lions get to run against a nickel defense, something they’ve done with alacrity thus far. Best’s rushing numbers aren’t great, but the Lions’ run game overall is not the weakness it was a season ago.

2. Receiving X factors
Detroit’s second and third best receiving weapons are not wideouts. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew caught 11 balls for 116 yards against Minnesota. He’s a plodding runner with softer hands and more effective agility than you’d guess. Stafford loves when Pettigrew is matched up on a linebacker. It will be interesting if that’s still the case after he watches outstanding Cowboys inside linebacker Sean Lee on film this week.

Pettigrew ranks third on the team in receiving. Ranking second is Best, who has 15 catches for 182 yards. Best, who has great elusiveness and acceleration, hurts opponents as a true receiver out of the slot, and he kills them as a screen receiver out of the backfield. One of the unheralded reasons Best thrives on screens is Calvin Johnson is a superb downfield blocker.

3. The much-ballyhooed defensive line
The Lions front four is as good as advertised. And it may only get better this week if Nick Fairley debuts as a pass-rushing defensive tackle (the first-round rookie has been out since undergoing foot surgery in August). Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch plays with great leverage and tenacity. Opposite him, Cliff Avril is a vastly underrated athlete who has recently gotten faster and stronger. Inside, underrated Corey Williams can play both a one-and two-gap style.
 
Of course, Ndamukong Suh is the driving force of Detroit’s front four. Suh’s greatest asset is his ability to quickly exert power off of movement. Elite defensive tackles like Vince Wilfork, B.J. Raji or Haloti Ngata often overpower opponents with their sheer size and force.

But those guys all weigh 330-plus and are wide enough to play the nose. Suh, at 307 pounds, is a beast, but he doesn’t quite have that exceptional raw power to dominate every down in a phone booth. However, he compensates by having the initial quickness and agility of a Pro Bowl caliber defensive end (that’s end, not tackle).

Suh is off to an incredible start this season because he’s now learned to consistently use that quickness to create favorable positioning immediately off the snap. Moves that take most players two seconds to execute, he executes in less than one. Thus, he’s always facing blockers who are caught just a little bit off-guard. That’s all Suh needs to take their manhood.

For the most part this season, the Lions have relied on straight four-man pass-rushes. But last season, against upper-tier offensive lines, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham would have a few of his linemen roam around before the snap in order to create confusion. Given Dallas’ inexperience, it would not be surprising to see Cunningham move Suh around on Sunday.

But Cunningham won’t dig too far into that bag of tricks if he doesn’t think it’s absolutely necessary. He knows there are also plenty of ways to create matchup problems with his traditional fronts. For one example, see the illustration below:


From this alignment, Suh creates a mismatch either for himself or the defensive end next to him – it depends on how the Cowboys choose to block it.

In this formation, the Cowboys have three players to block two. But personnel is still a problem. By splitting the defensive end out wide (in what’s called a nine-technique) and putting Suh in the B-gap (between the offensive guard and tackle) the Cowboys have three options here, all of which put them in an unfavorable position.

Option A: They double-team Suh with guard Kyle Kosier and tackle Tyron Smith, which leaves their tight end (either Jason Witten or Martellus Bennett) overmatched one-on-one against Cliff Avril.

Option B: They let OT Smith block Avril, which leaves a terrifying one-on-one matchup for G Kosier against Suh.

Option C: They send the tight end on a passing route, but it will have to be a short one because they’re still dealing with a one-on-one matchup between G Kosier and Suh.

Option D: The Cowboys slide protection to the right side, which is unlikely because it makes life too easy for Detroit’s other two defensive linemen and could also compromise the left side of the field for passing route options.

4. Lions pass defense
The secondary has been the Lions’ Achilles heel the past two years. But this season, the Lions are allowing only 188 yards per game through the air, fourth best in the NFL. That could just be a function of weak opponents, though. In Week 1, the Lions faced a Bucs receiving group that lacks speed. In Week 2, the Lions faced a Chiefs offense that was without dynamic tight end Tony Moeaki and thin behind the seemingly detached Dwayne Bowe.

In Week 3, the Lions faced a Vikings team that humorously believes Michael Jenkins and Bernard Berrian form an adequate one-two punch outside. A true test for the Lions secondary may have to wait another week, as the Cowboys without Miles Austin have a fairly feeble receiving corps.

Quality of opponent aside, give this secondary credit for its improvements. The Lions play a lot of Cover 2, but their corners have performed well in man coverage on third downs. Plus safety Louis Delmas has sharpened his ball-man prowess against tight ends.

5. What to expect
The Lions have not seen a defense as conceptually difficult as Dallas’. Against the Bucs and Vikings, Stafford had to only read zone coverages behind basic four-man pass-rushes. This Sunday, he and his offensive line will have to decipher more blitzes and sub-package personnel.

They have an ultimate resource in Calvin Johnson, though. The Cowboys simply can’t cover him.

If the Lions can exploit that mismatch early and play from ahead, they’ll make the Cowboys offense one-dimensional and vulnerable in long-yardage situations. That should be enough to get to 4-0.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 1 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 24, 2010 2:04 pm
 

Steve Johnson fined $5K for 'Joker' TD shirt

Posted by Will Brinson

Bills breakout wide receiver Steve Johnson had a little fun at the expense of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens on Sunday, as the Buffalo receiver revealed a t-shirt with "Why so serious?" written on it after his first of three touchdowns.

That, for those that aren't big fans of comic books turned awesome movies, is one of the Joker's lines from The Dark Knight. It was an expensive one too, because Johnson's been fined $5,000 for revealing the shirt.

The shirt itself is funny, since Owens and Ochocinco call themselves "Batman and Robin." And it's flat-out hysterical because Johnson's ridiculous afternoon helped propel the Bills to a blowout victory after falling behind 28-7 early in the game.

Of course, this is pretty standard NFL procedure for breaking uniform -- as much as you have to think that the league chuckles seeing T. Ocho get publicly and intellectually torched on a TD celebration, they have no choice but to peg Johnson with a fine.

It's the same sort of thing as when Nate Burleson busted out some Detroit slang on a shirt (although he got $15,000 for punting the ball into the stands as well) Roddy White revealed a "Free Mike Vick" tee a long while back, and, as always, it's the not the message that gets punished, but the action.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 8, 2010 3:03 am
Edited on: November 8, 2010 3:27 am
 

10 stories that deserve your attention Week 9

Posted by Andy Benoit

1.) The common sense approach for Jerry Jones

Out of principle, I’ve been trying to avoid Dallas Cowboy stories at all costs these past few weeks. I’ve also been buying into the idea of keeping Wade Phillips around for the remainder of the season just because, well, the Collective Bargaining Agreement issues do W. Phillips (US Presswire)complicate matters, and promoting someone from Phillips’ staff to the top position on an interim basis doesn’t pack much punch.

But what happened in Green Bay can’t be ignored. Thus, I’m writing a Cowboys story – an opinionated Cowboys story – that should cover the thousands of other Cowboys stories you’ll read this week. Here it goes:

It would be wrong to say the Cowboys quit Sunday night, as “quitting” would imply they actually got started at some point. The problems for this team are as numerous as they are obvious. Based on the way Jon Kitna seems to be received by teammates, you’d swear Dallas’ 52 other players are all atheists. The only way Kitna could be ignored any further is if Andre Gurode simply stopped snapping him the ball. Beyond Kitna, the running backs appear to be forbidden from pass blocking. The only time Dallas’ defense looks the least bit complex in the presnap phase is when a linebacker or safety lines up in the wrong spot. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick has been particularly awful all season, though at least he hasn’t mortgaged his heart and self respect the way Mike Jenkins has (what kind of tackling effort was that on the James Jones touchdown???).

We could go on forever, but the point is, this team has crossed the threshold of pathetic, and because of that, Jerry Jones needs to fire Phillips. Yes, a head coaching change at this point is complicated, but I’ll take complicated over helpless any day. For the rest of this season, replace Phillips with Dave Campo, a fiery motivator with some head coaching experience. Don’t promote Jason Garrett – he may be just as big a part of the problem. Over these next eight games the former NFL backup quarterback needs to prove he’s still worthy of being an offensive coordinator in this league. The overly-simplistic system, lack of identity in the ground game and inconsistency of key players suggest he’s not. (By the way, have we ever seen a hot young head coaching candidate cool as quickly as Garrett? Those two 6-2 teams playing this Thursday night were both turned down by Garrett at one point.)

The second the game clock reads 0:00 in Week 17, Jones needs to offer a contract to Bill Cowher. Cris Collinsworth made a great point during the broadcast: when the Cowboys have had a no-nonsense disciplinarian head coach (i.e. Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells), they’ve prospered; when they’ve had a “players’ coach”, they’ve floundered. Go get Cowher. He’ll instill toughness, he runs a 3-4 scheme and, though maybe not a top echelon personnel guy the way Johnson and Parcells were, he’ll ultimately improve the roster.

Cowher wants to coach; it’s amazing he’s still available after four years. Jones got lucky there. If for some reason Cowher is hesitant to get back in, Jones should offer him $10-12 million a season. He should be willing to give up part of his power, too. Sure, if there’s a lockout, Cowher may not get to instill his modus operandi on the team until August, which would be a problem. But that problem pales in comparison to the one that is the status quo.



2.) Childress sets a new standard for buzz kill
B. Favre (US Presswire)
We’ve all made a joke that falls painfully flat. It’s a terrible feeling. The ensuing silence makes the air around you feel thick, and when you try to backtrack or play it off, the nightmare only intensifies. No matter what your politics, in that moment you find yourself marveling at the courage it must take for someone like Vice President Joe Biden to face the world every day.

Biden at least specializes in the foot-in-mouth variety of failed jokes. That’s the harmless kind. The other kind of failed joke is the one that derives from spite and pettiness. The room falls silent on these jokes because everyone knows that there is an uncomfortable hint of truth behind it. That’s what happened when Brad Childress said in his postgame press conference, “I'm not going to stand here like Brett Favre and tell you I need compassion, I need a hug. I'm all right."

(Crickets)

Why – why?! – say that? Now, instead of talking about how Favre threw for a career-high 446 yards and led an incredible two-touchdown comeback in the final four minutes against Arizona, we’re talking about how the quarterback and head coach still don’t like each other.

And it’s not just the Favre storyline that takes a backseat. Percy Harvin played on a bad ankle and was fantastic (nine catches, 126 yards). Adrian Peterson (15 carries, 81 yards and a touchdown, plus four catches, 63 yards and another touchdown) showed late in the game why he has reclaimed his spot as the league’s best running back. Jared Allen, with 2.5 sacks and six hits on Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson, quieted all his naysayers (which even those naysayers were glad about, considering everyone agrees that Allen is a great guy and fun to root for). If the Vikings beat the Bears next week, they’ll welcome the Packers to the Metrodome in Week 11 with a chance to get within one game in the NFC North.

THESE are the storylines that should be highlighted this week. But thanks to Chilly’s chill-hearted joke, we get another week of drama in Minnesota.

3.) What the Hillis happened in Cleveland?

You wonder if the Trap Game is simply a law of nature. If any team would be immune to it, it’d be the Patriots. But sure enough, with showdowns against the Steelers and Colts on the horizon, Bill Belichick’s team came out flat as board Sunday in Cleveland. It was apparent right from the start that the Trap Game law was in affect. Trailing 3-0, rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski signaled for a fair catch on the ensuring kickoff, then, for some reason, though “eh, never mind”, and let the ball bounce to the turf. After a scrum, the Browns came away with possession, leaving a short field for football’s new giant-killer, Colt McCoy (actually, the tongue is not ALL THE WAY in cheek calling McCoy a “giant killer”, considering that the rookie is 2-1 as a starter and has beaten the Patriots and Saints).

New England’s socialistic ball control offense never came close to mustering enough firepower for a comeback. The story of the day, however, was on the other side of the ball. Fullback turned tailback Peyton Hillis rushed for a career-high 184 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. He also caught three passes for 36 yards. By now, you’ve probably heard about eight or nine different people refer to the 240-pounder from Arkansas as a battering ram. Indeed, Hillis seems to perk up at the point of contact.

The Browns have a meat and potatoes offense and, thanks in large part to Rob Ryan, one of the best-coached defenses in the NFL. The talk about Eric Mangini getting fired is clearly preemptive. Credit Mike Holmgren for giving the one-time wundercoach a vote of confidence over the past several months. Mangini is capitalizing on the tough lessons he learned early in his career.



4.) Poor BillsR. Fitzpatrick (US Presswire)


It’s hard to feel sorry for a professional football team, but goodness, how can you not want to see the Bills get off the snide? After back-to-back overtime losses, Chan Gailey’s club went to Canada to clear its mind and play before a crowd that, we’re guessing, literally does not know how to boo. (By the way, only 50,746 people showed up for the game, which is fine with the Bills, as they’ve already been paid $78 million for the whole Canadian home games arrangement. The Rogers Communications executives, on the other hand, aren’t thrilled with the low attendance, though they recently said they’d like to extend the deal past 2012. In fact, they might even try to negotiate with the Buffalo community an even split for Bills home games, which means the Bills would become the divorce children of the NFL.)

Aside from two interceptions and a few ground balls, Ryan Fitzpatrick played well Sunday. So did his new favorite receiver, Steve Johnson. The third-year pro from Kentucky surprisingly won the starting job opposite Lee Evans in training camp. After catching 11 passes for 145 yards against the Bears, Johnson leads the Bills with 30 receptions for 409 yards on the season. He’s a humble, try-hard guy, which makes him an embodiment of this entire club.

But this is still a club that fell three points short Sunday. Since a city change didn’t do the trick for the Bills, how about a temporary name change? Given this team’s heart and tenacity, I propose the Buffalo Anti-Cowboys.



5.) Charlie Whitehurst makes his debut; quarterback controversy in Seattle?


Hahaha, uh, no. Let’s move on.



6.) Colts-Eagles…..annoying?

The Colts are 5-3. The Eagles are 5-3. The Eagles just beat the Colts. That means the Eagles should be above the Colts in the power rankings, right? Sure – whatever, we can have that debate later in the week.

Regarding Sunday’s Colts-Eagles game itself, I can’t get over how maddeningly choppy this game was. Did anyone else notice the utter lack of rhythm? It was one of those games where you have to keep checking the top of your television screen because you can’t remember what the score is and you have absolutely no idea how much time is left in the quaA. Collie (US Presswire)rter.

Forget trying to sort out what, exactly , happened in this game – at the end of it, all I could think about was how pissed off the hardcore 60 Minutes fans must have been. The 60 Minutes announcement – you know, the “For those of you expecting to see 60 Minutes, you’re watching the NFL on CBS. 60 Minutes will be seen in its entirety immediately following this game, except on the West Coast, where it can be seen at its regularly scheduled time” – is something we’ve all come to associate with the ending of what are usually exciting games But when Jim Nantz read the CBS announcement during this game, there was still 13:47 left in the fourth quarter. Thus, the 15 million or so people who plan their Sunday evenings around the news magazine program had to wait 40 minutes for their show. And you know the type of person who is hardcore 60 Minutes fan is also the type of person who thinks football is a ridiculous waste of time. Those people had to be seething waiting for this choppy game to end.

Why was this game so choppy? For one, it was loaded with injuries, including a scary one for Colts receiver Austin Collie that delayed the action for several minutes. (More on this shortly.) Two, the game began with a 62-yard run by LeSean McCoy and an interception by Asante Samuel. This gave the Eagles 10 quick points, which many people did not notice because a couple of the early window games were still finishing up. Thus, when you finally got into watching the game, you instantly felt behind. Finally, Peyton Manning was brilliant at times, but he threw 21 incompletions. That’s a lot of clock stoppages.

If you were to go back and edit out some of the commercials and obnoxious (and scary) injuries from this game, you’d see that it was actually a pretty good contest. A few key notes:

***Michael Vick was every bit as superb as his numbers suggest. Vick was 17/29 for 218 yards and a touchdown, along with 74 yards and another touchdown on 10 runs. You forget how much more fun football is when Number 7 is a star.

***The Eagles were able to get pressure on Manning, sacking him three times and forcing him to redefine his pocket on several occasions.

***Jacob Tamme will be claimed in every fantasy football league across America this week (if he wasn’t already). Dallas Clark’s replacement posted Dallas Clark-like numbers Sunday: 11 catches, 108 yards and a touchdown. The surprisingly-lithe third-year pro was targeted 17 times.

***Jim Caldwell made a mistake in the way he utilized his timeouts on Philly’s final drive. Caldwell should have used his first timeout after DeSean Jackson’s 11-yard run on the drive’s first play. Instead, Caldwell used his timeout after Philly’s next first down play. His thinking was, he’d then still have a timeout to use after the second down play and third down play. That’s exactly what happened, so all was well. But Caldwell still should have used his timeout right away. If you need to save clock, then start saving clock ASAP. If Indy had, say, recovered a Philly fumble on the second down play, they would have had 40 seconds more left on the clock. The odds of that scenario playing out are small, yes, but they’re still greater than zero.

***Regarding the hit on Austin Collie, it’s understandable that the Eagles disagreed with the personal foul call. It wasn’t a helmet-to-helmet shot, and it’s debatable whether Collie was even defenseless anyway. That said, some of the Eagles could have shown more respect in arguing the call while Collie was still down. Upon seeing the replay on the big board, Asante Samuel jumped up and down and actually ran around Collie’s motionless body on his way to getting in an official’s face. Come on, Asante.



7.) Indy’s uniformsP. Manning (US Presswire)

Jim Nantz noted that the Colts wore throwback uniforms for only the second time in franchise history. It’s kind of hard to wear throwbacks when your current uniforms are basically already throwbacks. It doesn’t get much blander that then blue and white in Indianapolis. Given that they employ the most marketable player in the league, it’s actually amazing the Colts have not done some modern redesign to their jersey and brand. Yes, the horseshoe logo and understated color scheme has tradition, but most of that tradition is tied up in Baltimore. (And the people of Baltimore hate the Colts anyway.)

The only other time the Colts have worn throwbacks was Thanksgiving ’04 at Detroit. Those uniforms were basically the same as the modern unis, except that the white helmet had the horseshoe on the back, not the side. The significance here is that those helmets were white. On Sunday, Indy’s helmets were blue. Why does that matter? Because, ostensibly, this marked the first time in Peyton Manning’s entire football career that he took the field for a meaningful contest in a helmet that wasn’t white. Manning has worn a white helmet as a Colt. He wore a white helmet at Tennessee, and his Isidore Newman high school team wore white helmets. Sunday, he got to wear blue.



8.) No joke by The Bay

The Raiders are for real, given that reality in this case is a solid but not spectacular 5-4 record. Winners of three-straight for the first time since 2002, Oakland held the first-place Chiefs to just 104 yards on the ground. Coming into the game, Kansas City had rushed for over 200 yards in each of its previous three outings.

Fourth-round rookie Jacoby Ford (2010 Scouting Combine best 4.28 forty time) had six catches for 148 yards, including two crucial long grabs late over the middle right in front of Chiefs star corner Brandon Flowers. (Give credit to Jason Campbell, who on both plays showed fantastic pocket poise and accuracy.) Ford also took the second half opening kickoff back 94 yards for Oakland’s first score.

There were plenty of unusual interruptions in this game due to confusion among the officials. Jeff Triplett crews are usually great crews, but every once in a while Triplett and his men will have a few bumbling moments. One hiccup came on the overtime coin toss. The Chiefs called heads and won, but Richard Seymour thought they called tails. This wasn’t nearly as bad as the Jerome Bettis-Phil Luckett ’98 Thanksgiving game, but still, the NFL could put an end to this silly risk of coin toss controversy by having the home team always be heads and the away team always be tails. What’s the point of having players call heads or tails?



9.) Fine, I missed an extra point; so Suh me!
N. Suh (US Presswire)
Do not let anyone tell you that the difference in the Jets-Lions game wound up being Ndamukong Suh’s missed extra point. Football is way too complex for that. If Suh makes that third quarter extra point, the Lions are up 14-10, rather than 13-10, which changes the play-calling and, subtly, the mindset of everyone involved. It would have been a totally different game; who knows how it would have played out?

The difference, or differenceS, in the Lions-Jets game were Matthew Stafford’s shoulder injury (it’s very concerning just how easily that part of his body gets hurt), LaDainian Tomlinson’s six catches for 47 yards (seemingly all of which came at a convenient time for the Jets), Santonio Holmes’ big 52-yard catch-and-run in overtime (amazing how significant one missed tackle can be, huh?) and Darrelle Revis’ All-World performance against Calvin Johnson (the Lions star receiver caught one pass for 13 yards and was targeted just four times).

The Jets have some work to do offensively, but the good teams find ways to win even when they’re not clicking on all cylinders.

10.) Quick Hits

***Sticking with Lions-Jets, I wish someone would force Jahvid Best to change his number. Tiny running backs with explosive speed and quickness shouldn’t wear 44, it just doesn’t look right.

***As expected, the smashmouth Falcons were able to run the ball down the Bucs’ throats all afternoon Sunday. Michael Turner had 24 carries for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

***In his first game back since suffering a week 6 concussion, Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson did not look at all eager to stick his nose in there and be physical. Not saying the Falcons have another Bryan Scott situation on their hands (remember Bryan Scott, the rising safety for Atlanta who got a concussion and, for the next year or two, was noticeably afraid of contact?). But Robinson’s lack of aggressiveness was plain to see.

***This seems like a perfect segue into ripping Mike Jenkins one more time for his pathetic tackling effort (or non-effort) on the James Jones touchdown. Seriously Mike. What. Was. THAT?

***Nate Burleson got flagged for celebrating a touchdown by kicking the ball into the stands a few weeks ago. When he scored Sunday, Burleson did a wind up to boot the ball again, only this time he intentionally missed it. Clever. (P.S. Burleson had seven catches for 113 yards this game.)

***How about Ray Rice racking up 97 yards on seven receptions?

***Safety Chris Harris spent some time at linebacker for the Panthers. It’s a little surprising they didn’t try him at quarterback.

***When was the last time we saw two teams score fumble recovery touchdowns on kickoff coverage on the same day? Talk about the ultimate lucky touchdown. The Cardinals got one from Michael Adams and the Packers got one from Nick Collins on a fumble that would have been ruled down by contact if the Cowboys had been able to challenge.

***Hope you enjoyed watching Nick Collins, by the way, because if the NFL is true to its word about cracking down on illegal hits, the Packers safety should be suspended a game for his shot on Roy Williams. That hit was almost as egregious as Brandon Meriweather’s hit on Todd Heap. (True, Meriweather was not suspended, but that was likely only because the hit occurred the week before the NFL issued the harsher punishment for violating the rule.)

***I didn’t watch the Chargers-Texans game, but in seeing the highlights and scanning the box score, it’s looking like I might have to learn how to say the name Seyi Ajirotutu. Dammit all.


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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