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Tag:New England Patriots
Posted on: December 24, 2011 7:37 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 1:43 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 16: Cam's the GOAT

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action, figures out the winners and losers and asks the big questions. Slightly condensed version this week as it's the holidays. No podcast, no picture of the week and only eight questions. Blame Mrs. Brinson if you're so inclined. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter.

The Greatest Rookie Season Ever?

That's right. The greatest rookie season ever is precisely what Cam Newton's going to wrap up in Week 17 against the Saints a game of no real consequence when it comes to his legacy as the best rookie in NFL history.

There should be no argument that Cam's season, even without the final week, goes down as the greatest season by a rookie quarterback in history. He has the record for most passing yards in a season (again, with a week to go) by a rookie. He has the record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie. He has the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season by any quarterback.

Of the seven rookie quarterbacks with 3,000 passing yards, Newton doesn't have the most passing touchdowns, but he doesn't have the most interceptions either. There shouldn't be any question that his rookie year is the greatest by any quarterback.

As far as other rookies go, you could argue for Eric Dickerson (more than 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns in 1983), Dick Lane (14 interceptions, two pick sixes for Night Train in 1952), Randy Moss (17 touchdowns and 1,313 receiving yards in 1998) or Lawrence Taylor (9.5 sacks -- before they were even counted -- in 1981) if you want.

But none of those guys dealt with the complexities of running an offense. None of those guys dealt with a lockout-shortened offseason. None of those guys performed the way they did under the intense scrutiny of 2011 Twitteratiland. None of those guys carried the expectations of the No. 1 overall pick who was supposed to save a franchise ... or cost a GM his job simply because no one was sure how good they'd be. None of those guys inspired the fierce debate that Newton did leading up to being drafted.

Cam's rejuvenated a franchise that was dead in the water and he might be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL right now. It's been a marvel to watch him perform and it's insane to think that there was a debate as to whether or not the Panthers should take him.

Winners

Matthew Stafford: The Lions are in the playoffs. That's worthy of "winner inclusion" all by itself. But the Lions were secretly facing a pretty bad situation, with the white-hot Chargers and the very good Packers over the next two weeks. 9-7 and getting snuck out of the playoffs wasn't out of the question at all. Until Stafford got his surgical precision on and shredded the San Diego secondary, going 29 of 36 with 373 yards and three touchdowns. Stafford's next up for the "is he or isn't he elite" debate.

Pete Prisco
: Yes, my CBSSports.com colleague and former life coach (Pete doesn't know it, but I fired him when he suggested I not wear socks with my loafers). Prisco's the only guy that I know of who refused to budge off his negative stance of Tebow during the Broncos winning streak. There might be an argument that Pete's stubborn and you might be inclined to call him a "hater" but with the way that Tebow egged on Saturday, there are going to be a LOT of people ripping him over the next week. And Prisco's the only one of those people who's stood his ground the whole time.

Kevin Kolb:
The Cardinals were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday and that means Kolb avoided his worst possible nightmare. That would be "John Skelton marching Arizona to an improbable postseason run and the team deciding to bail on Kolb's albatross of a contract." Instead, Arizona now plays out the string and regroups for 2012, likely with Kolb as the starting quarterback for at least another year.

Matt Forte
: What's that, you say? Forte didn't play on Saturday. Oh, I know that. I also know that if the Vikings hadn't handed Adrian Peterson a monster contract before the 2011 season, things would be awkward right about now. Over the past month, the Bears have collapsed without Forte and Jay Cutler, meaning he's beefed up his leverage as an important player for the franchise and, with the Peterson injury, justified his rationale for wanting a new contract.

Jerome Simpson: Did you see his touchdown catch?

Turner's time might be up in San Diego. (US Presswire)

Losers

Norv Turner: A lot of credit goes to the Lions for the way they played on Saturday. Detroit is a very good team and a formidable opponent. But how can the Chargers not show up, especially knowing that the Broncos lost and that they were either a Bengals/Jets pair of losses or a Broncos loss in Week 17 away from making the playoffs? That's still not "controlling your own destiny" but out of everyone who was gifted an early Christmas present during the early games on Sunday, Turner and the Chargers were probably the luckiest. A 24-0 halftime deficit in the most critical game of the season isn't going to inspire any Spanos family members to keep their pink slips tucked away.

Jason Garrett
: No one's going to blame him for losing to Philly. That's what happens with Stephen McGee under center. But holy cow does Garrett have the hardest decision -- and the most scrutiny -- of his short career coming up over the next week. The Giants and Cowboys will play in Week 17, with a trip to the postseason and a division championship on the line. Tony Romo will almost certainly play, but will he be effective? Can Garrett gameplan in order to play to Romo's injury? Will he cough up a shot at the postseason? These are the ways we will judge him after next week's game. And by "we" I obviously mean "Jerry Jones and his potentially angry family."

Adrian Peterson
: AP's leg injury on Sunday was so brutal that I even feel like a jerk putting him in the "losers" section. But if you saw the horrific nature of Peterson's injury, you know precisely why he's not feeling like a winner right now. The Vikings announced after the game that it was a sprained knee but -- all due respect to Minnesota -- that's just not believable at all. The multiple reports that it's a torn ACL (and potentially worse) make a lot more sense. It's just sad that Peterson could miss significant time because he was playing in a meaningless game for a three-win team.

Rex Ryan: Ryan spent all week running his mouth about the New York-New York rivalry and when push came to shove, his guy Mark Sanchez fumbled on the Giants goal line and threw a "pass" to an offensive lineman that resulted in a safety in a devastating loss on Saturday. The Darrelle Revis/Antonio Cromartie combo got torched by Victor Cruz (that's his name, right?) and Brandon Jacobs got to say "It's time to shut up, fat boy." That's just embarrassing. Oh, right, and the Jets lost control of their own destiny with respect to the playoffs. It wouldn't be nearly as mortifying if Ryan hadn't run his mouth all week.

Pipedreams: Just like San Diego, the Eagles were very much a longshot to make the playoffs. But I'm telling you, there was a chance. Then the Giants killed that chance (adding to their winner-y-ness) with a win over the Jets. That means Week 17 is no longer a dream scenario for fans of long shots, because both early-season favorites are now removed from any chance of a postseason berth. You don't have to root for the Eagles or Chargers. In fact, you can root against them. But if you don't like ridiculous storylines and clowning around with playoff predictors then we're not friends.

The Big Questions

 
The new Tebow narrative could be awkward. (AP)

1. What's the new Tim Tebow narrative?
No, but it's on life support (and Prisco wants to pull the plug!). Look, Tebow can still win against Kansas City in Week 17, or even lose as long as the Chargers beat the Raiders. But think about how quickly this narrative could be absolutely flipped on its head: if Kyle Orton, the man Tebow replaced, beats Tebow in Week 17 because Tebow can't win late, and the Raiders beat the Chargers and make the playoffs, the Broncos new narrative will be as chokers. No, really, it will. And that is nuts when you consider where we were just two weeks ago.

2. Why does Leslie Frazier keep playing guys who are hurt?
NO CLUE. But this is a story that's flown under the radar for the past few weeks and it culminated with AP's injury against Washington, as well as the concussion that Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder suffered on Saturday. The Vikings are 3-12 after winning on Christmas Eve, but they didn't even need Peterson or Ponder to put up points -- it was all Joe Webb against the Redskins. Of course, winning, at this point, should be secondary. Frazier's top priority should be the health of his franchise quarterback and running back. Instead, these guys keep getting trotted out with injuries late in a lost season. That's not the sort of thing that keeps a job safe for long.

3. Did Raheem Morris get fired on Saturday?

Almost certainly. The Panthers went out and walloped Tampa Bay 48-16 in Charlotte, meaning that the Bucs lost their eighth game in a row.  Worse than the losses is the way they've happened: over the last four games, the Buccaneers have been outscored 158-64. They've given up 40 points to the Panthers and Jaguars and have topped 20 points just once since their trip to London in late October when things really started to unravel. It's an embarrassing collapse down the stretch and it's hard to blame the Glazer family and GM Mark Dominik when (not if) they fire Morris.

4. Anyone else getting fired?
Gotta think that Turner's done in San Diego now and that Romeo Crennel's the only interim hanging around. I can't buy that Jim Caldwell's saving his job so I'd add him to the list too. But I think any questions about Chan Gailey can now be reserved for a while, given the way he dismantled the Broncos on Sunday.

5.  Why should Tom Brady be worried?
Because his offensive lineman are dropping like flies. And while the Patriots are going to continue being good because that's what the Patriots do, there's absolutely cause for concern in New England if Logan Mankins and Matt Light are hurt for any length of time. As you may be aware, this isn't a team predicated on playing any sort of defense, and if they can't protect Tom Brady, there's little chance of them advancing in the postseason.

5. How mad are the 49ers?
Furious. And it doesn't matter that they won, because they gave up a rushing touchdown to Marshawn Lynch. They might hold the record for most games without one, but you know they wanted to make it the entire season. They did not.

6. Am I going to have to watch Matt Flynn on Christmas night?
Not as much as you might have feared. The 49ers won against the Seahawks on Saturday, and that means Green Bay hasn't clinched the top seed yet. Which means that Aaron Rodgers will stay in the game against the Bears for the entire game, barring an absolute Packers blowout.

7. Was Simpson's catch the play of the year?
Yup, it sure was. Maybe not the "play of the century" or anything insane like people are saying, but it was an absolutely bananas catch and it deserves incredible props. Watch -- it's going to be the type of thing you talk with your relatives about on Christmas. That's the way you can truly judge the greatness of a play.

8. Should Ben Roethlisberger play next week?
No. There's just no need. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice handled the Browns just fine in Week 16, and Charlie Batch/Rashard Mendenhall can do the same in Week 17. Rest the guy, run the ball, cross your fingers that Cincy can summon the strength to beat the Ravens on the road and let Roethlisberger rest.

GIF O' THE WEEK

I mean duh. Did you notice I liked it?



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Posted on: December 24, 2011 5:12 pm
 

Video: Dolphins-Patriots recap


Tom Brady ran for two touchdowns and threw for another and the New England Patriots rallied to clinch a playoff bye with a 27-24 win over the Miami Dolphins on Saturday. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts recap all the action from Gillette Stadium.

By Ryan Wilson


Follow all the Week 16 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

1 p.m. ET games:
CLE-BAL | DEN-BUF | TB-CAR | ARI-CIN | OAK-KC | MIA-NE | NYG-NYJ | STL-PIT | JAC-TEN | MIN-WAS

4 p.m. ET games:
SD-DET | PHI-DAL | SF-SEA



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: December 24, 2011 4:40 pm
 

Patriots come back on Dolphins, clinch bye

D. Branch scores a TD to help New England to its comeback win against Miami (AP).By Josh Katzowitz

All is right in the world. Well, in the AFC, at least. Especially if you’re a New England fan.

Despite falling behind by 17 points at halftime, the Patriots battled back in a hot third quarter and escaped with a 27-24 win in order to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs and secure at least one home game. 

It was a surprising turnaround for New England, simply because the Patriots looked so bad in the first half. But Tom Brady, who completed only 3 of his first 14 passes, went on a streak in which he connected on 19 of 25 to help score 17 unanswered in the first 13 minutes of the second half. Somehow the Patriots defense, the worst in the league, mostly shut down Miami in the final two quarters.

While the running game never got much going -- probably because the Patriots were without three starting linemen (Logan Mankins, Matt Light, Sebastian Vollmer) -- Brady and his receivers heated up in the final 30 minutes.

After taking a 27-17 lead, Matt Moore -- who finished 17 of 33 for 294 yards, three scores and an interception -- tossed a touchdown pass to Davone Bess with 1:48 to play to cut the lead to three. But all the Patriots needed was one first down, and they got it with a Brady-to-Welker pass.


Follow all the Week 16 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

1 p.m. ET games:
CLE-BAL | DEN-BUF | TB-CAR | ARI-CIN | OAK-KC | MIA-NE | NYG-NYJ | STL-PIT | JAC-TEN | MIN-WAS

4 p.m. ET games:
SD-DET | PHI-DAL | SF-SEA




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Posted on: December 24, 2011 2:37 pm
 

Dolphins surprise punchless Pats, up 17-0 at half

Miami is having no problems with New England so far today (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

It has not been a good day for the Patriots. First, they lost left tackle Matt Light to an ankle injury in warm-ups (!) and then, his replacement, Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins, injured his knee in the first quarter.

The Dolphins have not been very forgiving.

With New England having the ability to clinch a first-round playoff bye with a win vs. Miami, the Dolphins are the only ones who seem to care about winning today, taking a 17-0 lead into halftime.

Reggie Bush, in going over the 1,000-yard mark on the season, has 16 carries for 81 yards, while quarterback Matt Moore has thrown for 179 yards and two touchdown passes. Meanwhile, the Patriots rush game has been anemic (33 yards), and Tom Brady has been less than mediocre, completing 7 of 19 passes for 87 yards.

While the Dolphins began playing better earlier this season once it was clear former coach Tony Sparano would not return, they’ve obviously saved their best for interim coach Todd Bowles against perhaps the best team in the AFC (though I’m not sure a “best team” in that conference even exists).

 “I don’t have any expectations, really,” Bowles said earlier this week. “I’m just trying to get the guys to play hard and play better and play fast and try to come out with wins.”

His team is halfway there.


Follow all the Week 16 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

1 p.m. ET games:
CLE-BAL | DEN-BUF | TB-CAR | ARI-CIN | OAK-KC | MIA-NE | NYG-NYJ | STL-PIT | JAC-TEN | MIN-WAS

4 p.m. ET games:
SD-DET | PHI-DAL | SF-SEA




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Posted on: December 24, 2011 1:54 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Patriots offensive line injured and in turmoil

MankinsBy Josh Katzowitz

With the playoffs coming soon, this is a bad time for the Patriots to lose multiple men off the offensive line. But today, that’s exactly what’s happened only a quarter into their game with the Dolphins.

Starting left tackle Matt Light was a surprising (and late) deactivation today after suffering an ankle injury in warmups, and left guard Logan Mankins, one of the best in the league, replaced him on the end of the line. But in the first quarter, Mankins hurt his left knee and left the game. He is questionable to return.

Already, New England -- which has fallen behind 10-0 -- was without right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, and now, the Patriots have to play with rookies Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder on the line.

After he got hurt, trainers looked at Mankins’ leg on the sideline, and during the course of their examination, Mankins took off his pants on the bench. Whatever that means, it’s probably not a great sign.


Follow all the Week 16 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

1 p.m. ET games:
CLE-BAL | DEN-BUF | TB-CAR | ARI-CIN | OAK-KC | MIA-NE | NYG-NYJ | STL-PIT | JAC-TEN | MIN-WAS

4 p.m. ET games:
SD-DET | PHI-DAL | SF-SEA




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 21, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Rodgers tops Pro Bowl voting; Tebow third AFC QB

Aaron Rodgers led the way in all Pro Bowl voting.(Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We've wondered whether or not Tim Tebow is a Pro-Bowl candidate before this year and the answer is probably "no." But that doesn't matter when it comes to Pro-Bowl voting, where Tebow was the third-highest vote getter among AFC quarterbacks.

Aaron Rodgers, named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Wednesday, was the top vote-getter among all NFL players, pulling in 1,581,982 votes from fans. Tom Brady was second among all NFL players with 1,454,311 votes. Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski joined Brady in the top 10, via NFL.com:

Top-10 Pro Bowl Vote Getters
Player Position Team Votes
Aaron Rodgers
QB Packers 1,581,982
Tom Brady
QB Patriots 1,454,311
Drew Brees
QB Saints 1,188,893
Calvin Johnson
WR Lions 1,180,777
Wes Welker
WR Patriots 1,133,787
LeSean McCoy
RB Eagles 962,824
Rob Gronkowski
TE Patriots 936,886
Ben Roethlisberger
QB Steelers 935,535
Adrian Peterson
RB Vikings 925,554
Mike Wallace
WR Steelers 923,073

So, yeah, breaking: the Patriots and Steelers are popular! Also popular? Tebow.

AFC Pro Bowl Leaders by Position
Offense Defense
Player Pos Team Votes Player Pos Team Votes
Tom Brady
QB Patriots 1,454,311 Andre Carter
DE Patriots 511,693
Arian Foster
RB Texans 896,804 Haloti Ngata
DT Ravens 592,603
Vonta Leach
FB Ravens 149,801 Terrell Suggs
OLB Ravens 546,851
Wes Welker
WR Patriots 1,133,787 Ray Lewis
MLB Ravens 413,222
Rob Gronkowski
TE Patriots 936,886 Darrelle Revis
CB Jets 561,986
Michael Oher
OT Ravens 327,644 Troy Polamalu
SS Steelers 230,649
Logan Mankins
G Patriots 337,844 Ed Reed
FS Ravens 198,075
Maurkice Pouncey
C Steelers 376,457 Shane Lechler
P Raiders 228,782
Sebastian Janikowski
K Raiders 244,512 Joe McKnight
KR Jets 140,926

Once again, I'll point out that the Ravens and Patriots are popular (and also good at what they do), along with the Steelers. Brendon Ayanbadejo was the leading "special teams" vote-getter, with 106,515. On the NFC side, well, I hope you like the Packers:

NFC Pro Bowl Leaders by Position
Offense Defense
Player Pos Team Votes Player Pos Team Votes
Aaron Rodgers
QB Packers 1,581,982 Jared Allen
DE Vikings 784,527
LeSean McCoy
RB Eagles 962,824 Justin Smith
DT 49ers 525,578
John Kuhn
FB Packers 322,260 DeMarcus Ware
OLB Cowboys 581,554
Calvin Johnson
WR Lions 1,180,777 Patrick Willis
MLB 49ers 581,554
Jimmy Graham
TE Saints 725,612 Charles Woodson
CB Packers 763,198
Chad Clifton
OT Packers 392,106 Roman Harper
SS Saints 147,542
T.J. Lang
G Packers 327,740 Morgan Burnett
FS Packers 223,292
Scott Wells
C Packers 436,693 Andy Lee
P 49ers 161,812
Mason Crosby
K Packers 184,665 Devin Hester
KR Bears 268,293

For the NFC, Jarrett Bush of the Packers received the most special teams votes with 134,696. (And yes, I suppose I could have kick returners on the offense side, but I'm not trying to have my tables be all uneven. Oh no I'm not.)

Naturally, none of this means any of these guys are guaranteed to make the Pro Bowl -- the fan vote only counts as one-third of the total. The players vote is worth two-thirds. But there's a good chance that many of these guys will end up in the Pro Bowl.

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Posted on: December 20, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 11:22 am
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 15

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 15 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman Hernandez  Smith Succop Belichick
Prisco   Brees  Babin  Lee Crennel
Brinson   Brees  Smith  Lee Crennel
Katzowitz   Brees Abraham  Suh Crennel
Wilson  Stafford  Smith  Lee  Turner
Week 15's a wrap and that means the NFL's regular season is just about over. Sigh. Anyway, hardware time.

Drew Brees moved well within range of Dan Marino's passing yardage record on Sunday and the near-perfect performance earned him our Eye on Offense Award.

And Aldon Smith's beasty performance on Monday night locked him into our Eye on Defense Award pretty convincingly as well. His teammate Andy Lee's big-footed evening was enough to warrant an Eye on Special Teams nod.

And though Romeo Crennel made some mistakes on Sunday with his clock management and fourth-down decisions, taking down the previously undefeated Packers and getting his first Gatorade bath was enough for him to pull in the Eye on Coaching Award this week.

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

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Ryan Wilson
Aaron Hernandez Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots
The other Gronkowski destroyed a solid Denver defense with nine catches for 129 yards. Actually, Tom Brady should win this award, but he wins the damn thing every week. When the Broncos shut down Gronk, Brady shifted to Hernandez, and Hernandez, like a growing number of players at his position, presents huge matchup problems for a defense.
Matthew StaffordMatthew Stafford, QB, Lions
Sure, the Raiders didn't play much defense on that final fateful drive, but Stafford threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns (with no picks), including the game-winner to -- you guessed it -- Calvin Johnson with 39 seconds to go.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Drew Brees Drew Brees, QB, Saints
He threw for 412 yards and five touchdown passes and sat much of the second half against Minnesota. Brees did what he wanted to against an overmatched Minnesota defense.
Drew BreesDrew Brees, QB, Saints
Brees is probably going to win the award next week too when he breaks Dan Marino's passing record ... with a week to spare. Want real proof QB rating is dumb? 32 of 40 for 412 yards and five touchdowns somehow doesn't garner a perfect rating. Brees was just that on Sunday.
Josh Katzowitz
Drew BreesDrew Brees, QB, Saints
I don’t think I’ve voted for Brees once this season, but come on, the guy has been spectacular. Against the Vikings, he was 32 of 40 for 412 yards and five touchdowns. If not for guys named Rodgers and Tebow, Brees would be THE story as he hunts down Dan Marino’s passing yards record. Somebody should give that dude a raise.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Wilson
Aldon SmithAldon Smith, LB, 49ers
One play he drove Max Starks so far into the Pittsburgh backfield, Starks was in San Jose. Once the 49ers play better offenses with quarterbacks not on one leg, that defense will truly get tested. But for now, it's dominant, and Smith might be its most dominant player.
Aldon Smith Aldon Smith, LB, 49ers
Steelers LT Max Starks should get some credit for his turnstile-tastic effort. To paraphrase Jon Gruden on Monday Night Football, if the game had gone on much longer, Smith would've earned a trip to Canton on that singular performance. 
Prisco Brinson
Jason BabinJason Babin, DE, Eagles
He had three sacks against the Jets, whipping tackle Wayne Hunter all day long. Babin leads the NFL with 18 sacks and has been one of the best free-agent pickups this season.
Aldon SmithAldon Smith, LB, 49ers
The real culprit for the blown transformer prior to the Monday night game? Smith, who ate the damn thing and used it as a source of power to terrorize the Steelers offensive line all night, repeatedly pummeling Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh's backfield.
Katzowitz
John Abraham John Abraham, DE, Falcons
He took over the game in the third quarter when he sacked Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert 3 ½ times and forced fumbles on consecutive Jacksonville series. Abraham is 33 years old, but he’s now got 8.5 sacks on the season, showing that even though he keeps getting older, his level of outstanding play isn't decreasing.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Wilson
Ryan SuccopRyan Succop, K, Chiefs
Succop kicked four field goals in Arrowhead on Sunday afternoon and was one of the main catalysts for knocking off the previously unbeaten Packers.
Andy Lee Andy Lee, P, 49ers
He punted six times, always changing field position in the process. He had punts downed at the Steelers' 5, 10, 8 and 14. David Akers gets all the notoriety but Lee is just as important to the 49ers' success.
Prisco Brinson
Andy LeeAndy Lee, P, 49ers
He averaged 47.5-yard per punt and 49.2 net yards  -- the latter speaks volumes about hang time -- and he also had four punts inside the 20 against the Steelers Monday night.
Andy LeeAndy Lee, P, 49ers
Turns out the only way the Steelers were winning on Monday was by generating some turnovers and getting good field position. Lee made sure the latter didn't happen, sticking the Steelers inside their own 20 four different times and averaging 47.5 yards per punt on the night.
Katzowitz
Ndamukong Suh Ndamukong Suh, DT, Lions
If there’s anybody in this world who can make a game-winning, NFL record 65-yard field goal, it’s Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski. Suh wouldn’t let that happen. After sitting out his two-game suspension, Suh helped save the Lions by getting a hand on Janikowski’s attempt.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Wilson
Bill BelichickBill Belichick, HC, New England Patriots
Solved the riddle that is Tim Tebow. Now, the Lions were able to shut down Tebow earlier in the season, but that wasn't this Tebow. The Patriots, after a disastrous first quarter, battered Tebow and made him throw the football. At this point, he can't do that consistently well.
Norv Turner Norv Turner, HC, Chargers
He won't get many more chances to win this award since he could be looking for work in a few weeks, so I thought I'd honor him after blowing the doors off the Ravens' defense Sunday night. Philip Rivers looked like, well, Philip Rivers. Looks to be too little, too late, though … or does it?
Prisco Brinson
Romeo CrennelRomeo Crennel, HC, Chiefs
He takes over for the fired Todd Haley and his team pulls off one of the biggest shockers of the season in beating the Packers, ending their chance for an undefeated season. Who else could win this award this week?
Romeo CrennelRomeo Crennel, HC, Chiefs
For some weird reason, I'm enthralled by the picture of a Gatorade-soaked Crennel getting love from his players after beating Green Bay Sunday. He took down an undefeated behemoth as an interim coach and did it with his speciality: defense. How could it be anyone else?
Katzowitz
Romeo Crennel Romeo Crennel, HC, Chiefs
The Chiefs were a different team with Crennel. They played hard, and we didn't have to see Tyler Palko go out there and fling the ball around. My favorite moment from the Chiefs win? With the victory in hand, Crennel is smiling and clapping. He gets a Gatorade bath. For a second, Crennel stops, startled by the cold. Then he smiles and begins clapping again.

Posted on: December 20, 2011 10:02 am
 

Tracking Tebow, Week 15: Learning experiences

We're Tracking Tebow … because it's impossible not to watch. 

By Ryan Wilson

Here's the deal with the new (old)-look Denver Broncos offense: there is virtually no margin for error. The run-heavy, read-option strategy works so well because a) the defense keeps games close, b) the offensive line is playing out of its mind, c) Tim Tebow and Willis McGahee might be the best backs-by-committee in the league, and d) Tebow doesn't turn the ball over.

Heading into Sunday's game against the Patriots he had just two interceptions and three lost fumbles all year. By the time New England left Denver with a 41-23 win, the Broncos had three turnovers -- all in the first half -- and that, coupled with a Tom Brady-led offense capable of capitalizing off said turnovers, proved to be the difference.


Tebow finished 11 of 22 for 194 yard, and added another 93 rushing yards on 12 carries, including two rushing touchdowns. Unlike the Lions game in Week 8 (the last time the Broncos lost, by the way), where Tebow looked thoroughly confused (and, incidentally, a week before the Broncos went all in on read-option football), the second-year quarterback continues to get better. And, really, that's all you can ask of your 24-year-old former first round pick: show improvement from one week to the next and do it while helping the team go 7-2.

But there are also signs that opposing defenses are beginning to get a bead on the offense that made Tebow a Heisman trophy winner in college. The question now, with two games left in the regular season and the Broncos trying to old onto the AFC West lead: Can Tebow's mastery of option football be enough to overcome its potential flaws? It's one thing for an opponent to know how to stop Tebow, it's something else entirely to actually pull it off.

The Patriots defense, among the worst in the league, was able to slow Tebow but they certainly didn't stop him. They were also the beneficiaries of Tom Brady's right arm (and, if we're splitting perfectly coiffed hairs, his legs -- he had a rushing touchdown for the first time all season).

As it stands, the Broncos are 8-6, a game up on the Chiefs and two games up on the Chargers, with two games to go. If they win in Buffalo and at home to Kansas City, they win the division. Otherwise, we'll have to rely on the nerds down at the nerdery to figure out the possible playoff scenarios.


                                                   Play by Play



(Note: Below are the plays -- both running and passing -- involving Tebow. You can view the entire play-by-play breakdown here)




                                                        Quotes



"The core of what New England did was force Tebow to stay in the pocket and throw. Since he still possesses the accuracy of a malfunctioning Scud missile he was relegated to 11 completions and no throwing touchdowns," - CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman.

"Tebow mania, meet Brady Brass, and kindly kneel down and kiss the ring," - Yahoo.com's Michael Silver

"Personally, that's what I took that as. Because of the build-up between Tebowmania vs. Brady, I think he took that personally. And football is a personal game. I don't blame him for taking it personal. It was our job to keep him out of the end zone so he doesn't spike the ball." - Broncos cornerback André Goodman, explaining Brady's Gronkwoskian spike after scoring a touchdown.

"We did have things going pretty well early. We scored on our first three possessions, but then we put the ball on the ground, and that's something you can't do against a great team. You know Brady is going to make his plays. We've got to hang onto the ball. That's my fault, and I'll get that straight. With the turnovers, we were playing from behind a little bit.'' - Tim Tebow

"He's gotten better every week. Six or seven weeks ago people said that he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, but I think he does that. I think he can do that. I don't think that's why we lost the game tonight.'' - Broncos head coach John Fox


                                                   Audio-Visual



This is what makes Tebow Tebow-tastic:


Tim Tebow eludes several Patriots defenders to run for a 9-yard touchdown on the Broncos' first possession of the game.

At the other end of the spectrum, there's this…


Tim Tebow tries to extend the play but fails as the Patriots defense sacks the QB for a 28-yard loss.

For a glimpse at how Tebow has improved, here's a simple passing play from early in the game:

With the running game working so well early, the play-action fake (to #35 Lance Ball in this case) froze the linebackers, creating a window for Tebow to hit favorite target Eric Decker on a post pattern. As soon as the inside linebacker turns his head to drop into coverage, Tebow throws the ball at his left ear, finding Decker in the hole in the zone created by the run fake. He wouldn't have made this throw two months ago. 

"I feel like we've gotten better throwing the ball,'' Tebow said after the game. "We were able to do a lot of what we wanted to early, throwing the ball. We were right in groove, and we were able to do some good things. Then we got behind and were pressing a little bit.''

So how did the Patriots slow Tebow (other than by the "our offense is our best defense" strategy)?:

ESPN's Merril Hoge pointed this out Monday: New England hit Tebow repeatedly and on Tebow's only fumble of the game, which came on an option play (he could either keep it or pitch it wide left to RB Lance Ball), DE Mark Anderson had one job: run straight at Tebow and don't worry about anything else. That singular focus put him in the backfield before Tebow could get any closer to the line of scrimmage. It limited not just his time to make a decision, but his options. Tebow should've kept the ball; instead Anderson knocked it lose. Expect the Bills and Chiefs to do this too.


                                                   Eye on Tebow



Quite possibly the best incompletion in tackle football history. (Getty Images)

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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