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Tag:BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Posted on: December 4, 2010 9:00 pm
 

Running backs are the new, um, kickers?

Posted by Will Brinson

The fantasy football mantra "don't draft a kicker" holds true in real life most of the time -- there's plenty of reason not to burn an early on someone who's just a drunk idiot. Er, whatever, the point is that running backs, well, those guys are absolute first-round gold.

Maybe not so much anymore, though -- Michael David Smith of the Wall St. Journal took a look at the success undrafted running backs are having in the NFL this season, and, frankly, it's kind of astonishing.

Six (!) undrafted backs are leading their teams in rushing, including Arian Foster, who leads the entire NFL is rushing. This is the most teams have relied on undrafted backs since the merger in 1970, and it's particularly astonishing when you consider who these guys replaced.

Foster took Steve Slaton's job (Slaton was the 89th overall pick when he was drafted), the law firm BenJarvus Green-Ellis made Laurence Maroney (21st overall) tradeable, Fred Jackson's finally come into his own even after the Bills took C.J. Spiller (9th overall), Mike Tolbert is the guy making LaDainian Tomlinson forgettable instead of Ryan Mathews (12th), Chris Ivory's made it easier for the Saints to live without Reggie Bush (2nd) and LeGarrette Blount just straight-up replaced Cadillac Williams (5th).

That's a ton of "wasted" draft picks given how well their "worthless" replacements have played since getting significant carries. Foster's situation is particularly impressive, as MDS notes, since he's on pace to break the record for rushing yards by an undrafted player, owned by Priest Holmes, who piled up 1,615 yards for the Chiefs in 2002.

Perhaps, then, everyone with a first-rounder in 2011 should reconsider snagging Heisman winner Mark Ingram. Actually, given how poorly first-round running backs have performed over the past decade or so, maybe anyone desperate for help should just wait until after the draft's over to start grabbing hep.

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Posted on: November 22, 2010 3:57 am
Edited on: November 22, 2010 9:14 am
 

10 Stories worth your attention Week 11

Posted by Andy Benoit


1. Giants-Eagles: The hyped game that didn’t quite live up but was still fun

You know how college authorities realize they can’t prevent underage drinking so instead they settle for an extra vigorous crusade against drinking and driving? It’s a case of wisely fighting an important battle instead of trying to win an unwinnable war. Apply this concept to the anticipated media coverage of Tom Coughlin this week. It’s November and the Giants have lost two straight. Given the Giants’ history of late season stumbles – including last year’s 3-8 finish – you just know the New York press won’t be able to resist a hot-seat storyline these next few days. V. Young (US Presswire)

Since telling the New York media to not overreact to a negative Tom Coughlin storyline is like telling a college freshman not to drink, we’ll take the media’s keys by saying, “Okay, don’t try to create a hot seat by questioning Coughlin’s disciplinary tactics and relationship with players; if you MUST criticize Coughlin this week, criticize him for his clock management at the end of the first half and for not imploring defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to throw more blitzes at Michael Vick.”

Coughlin had all three of his timeouts with about 30 seconds left at the end of the half. Instead of using one of them, he let the Eagles run down the clock and attempt a field goal to end the half. As it so happened, the field goal was blocked. Had Coughlin used a timeout, the Giants would have had the ball near midfield with 20 seconds and two timeouts left. But even if the field goal wasn’t blocked, the Giants could have at least forced the Eagles to kickoff. You never know what happens from there (though with the way Will Blackmon handled kick returns in the first half, maybe you don’t want to know).

Regarding the blitzes – there wasn’t an Eagles fan in America who wasn’t breathing a sigh of relief every time the Giants rushed only four. Cris Collinsworth said throughout the broadcast that Vick and the young Eagles receivers needed to prove they understood their hot route assignments. But they didn’t fully have to. Vick was flustered nearly every time the Giants brought heat. He made a few plays, but he took even more hits. When he was successful – which was more often than not – he was standing back in a clean pocket.

At the end of the day, Philly played well enough to win. But since the New York media will start questioning Coughlin anyway, let’s hope they at least take one of these two sensible angles.


2. Peyton Manning Loses

The difference in the Colts-Patriots game was Peyton Manning’s three interceptions. Shockingly, all three were HIS fault. The first interception was an overthrow that landed in Brandon Meriweather’s lap.

On the second pick, as CBS’s bird’s-eye-view camera revealed, Manning read two deep coverage when, in fact, the Patriots played four deep. When tight end Jacob Tamme correctly read the coverage and cutoff his route, Manning threw it deep down the sideline to a wide open…Devin McCourty.
P. Manning (US Presswire)
Manning’s third pick was the coup de grace that prevented a potential game-tying field goal from Adam Vinatieri. Of the play, Manning said he got a good look but just did not properly execute the throw.

Of course, saying Manning lost the game is like saying Abraham Lincoln caused the Civil War: technically, you could argue it’s true, but come on. Aside from a small handful of throws, Manning was his usual ingenious self. And so was Tom Brady, of course. The man who legitimized the Bieber haircut was 19/25 for 186 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was surgical between the numbers, spreading the wealth to Wes Welker (who got his first touchdown in eight games), Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Deion Branch. Brady now has 19 touchdowns and just four picks on the season for a passer rating of 100.6.

P.S. The common perception is that the Patriots have a backfield by committee. Nope. The Patriots have a traditional feature running back they really like. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has had 17 or more carries in three of the past four games. His 133 attempts are 77 more than third down back Danny Woodhead, who is the only other Patriot getting regular carries these days. Fred Taylor has been injured and Sammy Morris has been an afterthought. Green-Ellis is a smart runner with natural downhill momentum; Woodhead is a patient open field weapon. Together, they give the Patriots a classic NFL backfield.


3. Young no more

Whether they get rid of him now or after the season, Sunday, November 21, 2010 will ultimately go down as the day Vince Young threw the final straw on the camel’s back in Tennessee. Please, no more stories about Young maturing or getting his life together or harnessing his talents or whatever else so many people have wistfully said about the guy. This 27-year-old man taunted the home fans when they started booing him. This was actually an improvement from Week 1 of ’09, the last time a Nashville crowd booed Young. In that instance, Young quit on his team, got hurt and then disappeared the next day. V. Young (US Presswire)

After this 27-year-old man taunted the home fans, he injured his thumb. Word is, Young did not ask Jeff Fisher to go back in the game after the injury. FOX repeatedly showed shots of Young sulking on the sideline, even though the Titans were fighting in a fiercely close game.

After the Titans lost in overtime, this 27-year-old man threw his jersey AND shoulder pads (his shoulder pads!) into the stands, then abruptly left the team, but not before calling out his head coach in front of the rest of the locker room. This is the same 27-year-old man who missed meetings earlier in the season, got in a bar fight during the offseason and partied so hard this past spring that even callow Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was taken aback.

The most obvious sign that Fisher and the Titans are done with Young is that Fisher has said Young is not his starting quarterback right now, even though that might mean entrusting the job to rookie Rusty Smith until Kerry Collins (calf) is fully healthy. Did you see Smith, the sixth-rounder from Florida Atlantic Sunday? He looked every bit like a sixth-rounder from Florida Atlantic. Smith was so awful that even a pun involving his first name would be too complimentary at this point. If Fisher is willing to even risk putting Smith on the field again, you know he’s utterly fed up with Young.

If Young is not dismissed now, he’ll be dismissed after the season. After all, he’s scheduled to count $15.21 million against the cap (if there is a cap), which is about $15.21 million too much.


4. McNabb makes Kyle Shanahan look like a jackass

It was Kyle Shanahan who chose to bench Donovan McNabb against the Lions a few weeks ago (Mike Shanahan took the bullets as the messenger – the extremely ill-prepared-for-the-DC-media messenger). The reasoning behind it? Cardiovascular endurance and no understanding of the two-minute offense (which the Redskins spend zero time practicing, by the way).

Well, Sunday at Tennessee, McNabb’s Redskins were tied 16-16 with the Titans with 1:37 to play. Instead of asking Rex Grossman to put on a Superman cape he doesn’t own, Shanahan (either Mike or Kyle, it doesn’t matter) let their franchise quarterback go back out there and actually be their franchise quarterback. All McNabb did was complete 5/6 passes (the scorebook says 5/8, but that’s only because the NFL foolishly credits a spike as an incompletion) for 44 yards. It was a textbook two-minute drill that set up a potential 47-yard game-winning field goal.

Graham Gano happened to miss that kick. But thanks to three first downs resulting from three Titans penalties (including two personal fouls) on Washington’s second overtime possession, Gano got another crack at it. His successful 48-yard field goal gS. Moss (US Presswire)ave Washington a victory (albeit a Pyrrhic one, as seven Redskins, including Clinton Portis and Casey Rabach, got hurt) and a 5-5 record.
Afterwards, when asked about McNabb and the two minute offense, Mike Shanahan said, “"I guess we don't have to talk about that anymore".


5. Moss and Moss

There were two Moss’ playing wide receiver in the Redskins-Titans game. The little one did extremely well (six catches, 106 yards, one touchdown); the bigger one, eh, not so much.

It’s doubtful many people care to talk about how Santana Moss beat the Titans defense over the top on more than one occasion Sunday. What people want to talk about is how Randy Moss was blanked for a second straight game. Each person who has helped make Moss’ Titans jersey a top-seller these past three weeks has as many catches in that Titans jersey as Moss himself does.

Moss was targeted just four times Sunday. What was the issue? The same as usual: help coverage against Moss compelled the quarterback to look in a different direction. Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall shadowed Moss and played well, but he had the luxury of shepherding the receiver inside to safety help all afternoon. Moss’ presence is still valuable – this special coverage was part of the reason Nate Washington had 117 yards on five catches – but the guess here is that he’ll probably want to catch a pass sooner or later.


6. The Raiders are back!

Lately we’ve been hearing all about how the Oakland Raiders are back. It’s true. The team that came into Sunday having lost seven straight after the bye extended the streak to eight in spectacular fashion. This wasn’t a case of the Steelers showing up and being the more focused team. And it wasn’t a case of mistakes costing the Raiders (heck, it was the Steelers who committed 14 penalties for 163 yards). No, this was simply a case of one football team being significantly better than another. R. Seymour (US Presswire)

The Steelers’ front seven thrived in its usual aggressive, downhill attack mode much of the afternoon. Every time Jason Campbell seemed to finally anticipate a jailbreak blitz, the Steeler linebackers would drop back into coverage. Every time Campbell anticipated a traditional rush, the Steelers would bring overloads off the edges. Each blitz seemed to be uniquely designed to exploit a particular mental weakness of Campbell’s (which explains why there were so many different blitzes). It didn’t help that Oakland’s No. 2 ranked rushing offense managed just 61 yards – only 14 of which came from Darren McFadden.

The highlight of this game, besides the fluid acceleration showcased by Rashard Mendenhall (his 59 yards on 23 carries seemed more like 115 yards) and besides Ben Roethlisberger’s 18 completions and three touchdowns (all of which seemingly resulted from him extending the play), was Richard Seymour’s ejection in the first half. The ejection came after the All-Pro defensive tackle’ got involved in his third scrum on the day. Seymour, incensed by something Roethlisberger whispered in his ear after a touchdown, turned around and struck a blow to the quarterback’s face (helmets were on). Roethlisberger immediately hit the deck in a reaction that was probably 20 percent Divac, 80 percent legit.

In what was a really nice touch, referee Tony Corrente announced that Seymour “ejected himself because of his actions.” Some might try to paint this as another classic installment of the Raiders-Steelers rivalry. Don’t get poetic. The Raiders-Steelers rivalry was three and a half decades ago. In today’s world, this was a matchup between a first-class organization and a no-class organization. Have the Raiders improved from “no class” standards this season? Perhaps, but we didn’t see it Sunday.


7. Heartbreakers

Last week, the Jets crushed the Browns’ hearts on a last second overtime touchdown. Minutes earlier, the Jaguars had crushed the Texans’ hearts on a hailmary. This week, the Browns’ hearts were re-crushed by those same Jaguars, while the Texans’ hearts, presumably still broken, were further shattered by those same Jets.

And so we have the Jets at 8-2 sitting atop the AFC East. And, believe it or not, the 6-4 Jaguars are atop the AFC South. That good looking young star quarterback for the Jets has now conducted three game-winning drives in the past three weeks, with the most impressive coming Sunday. Sanchez’s 42-yard sideline strike to Braylon Edwards was the product of a great throw and great play design against Houston’s two-deep man coverage (which is a terrible coverage to call in that situation because the corners are told to push the receivers toward the sideline, which helps the Jets when they don't have any timeouts). A seam route from a Jet in the slot held safety Eugene Wilson just long enough for Sanchez to unload the ball over the top; it was a classic case of offense simply defeating defense.

The following play brought about the touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes, which struck yet another blow to all the Friar Tucks out there who claim that off-the-field character issues matter. (Only when they spill into the locker room or onto the field do they matter.)
Sanchez still isn’t reading coverages with great efficiency, but he’s obviously showing poise in crucial situations. His surprising surge (passing yard totals of 336, 299 and 315 the past three games) is what has New York in first place.

As for the Jaguars, it’s time to start asking if they’re for real. David Garrard still hasn’t gone out and singlehandedly won a game for them yet, but when you have a player like Maurice Jones-Drew, maybe the quarterback really can be average (MAYBE). Jones-Drew led all Week 11 rushers with 133 yards, and by now you’ve seen his five broken tackles on that magnificent 75-yard catch and run to set up the late go-ahead score against the Browns.


8. Saints go marching in

It was disappointing that New Orleans wasn’t able to build a bigger lead against Seattle Sunday. Some expected thD. Brees (US Presswire)e Saints to run the score up on Pete Carroll because, as Sports Illustrated’s Peter King wrote, “I wouldn't be surprised if there's a sentiment among some on the Saints who think Pete Carroll left Bush out to dry when he returned his Heisman in September over the USC football scandal.” Bush and Carroll exchanged warm pleasantries before the game, but that was likely just the ultimate display of teeth-gritting diplomacy from Bush.

Oh well, Bush didn’t play anyway, as he’s still recovering from the fractured fibula (you wonder if the fact that New Orleans has to play again in four days had anything to do with the decision to keep him out one more game).

Fortunately, the Saints didn’t need Bush. Drew Brees was 29/43 for 382 yards and four touchdowns. (He did have two interceptions.) Five different Saints had over 35 yards receiving, including wideout Marques Colston (113 and two scores) and rising, long-armed third-round rookie tight end Jimmy Graham (five catches, 72 yards). The Saints offense clicked on all cylinders.

It’s likely that New Orleans will get a victory in Dallas on Thursday. A coaching staff’s preparation for a Thursday game is totally different than for a Sunday game, and we’re talking about a Sean Payton/Gregg Williams-led coaching staff versus the interim Jason Garrett/Paul Pasqualoni-led coaching staff. In that case, the defending World Champs will suddenly be 8-3.

As for the lowly Seahawks, they’re 5-5…and in firm command of the putrid NFC West.



9. The obligatory Vikings mention

We can save the Brett Favre-Brad Childress talk for another time (like, say, all other times for the rest of this week). All you really needed to see in this game was Greg Jennings’ touchdown catch early in the third quarter. The play was not only a masterful display of quarterbacking by Aaron Rodgers (four touchdowns, no picks on the day – though thanks in part to the buttery fingers of Husain Abdullah in the red zone), it was also a microcosm of Minnesota’s season.

Defensive end Jared Allen was unable to get around the single blocking of Packers left tackle Chad Clifton (a leading Pro Bowl nominee). With minimal pass-rush up front, Vikings cornerback Asher Allen became vulnerable late in his coverage against Jennings. Allen gave up separation on a slight double move, then failed to make the routine open-field tackle. The safety helping over the top, Madieu Williams, had no idea what angle to take in pursuit of Jennings. Waffling between a downhill angle and lateral angle, Williams eventually settled on an awkward cross between doing both and doing nothing, which resulted in him goofily attacking thin air. Jennings wound up walking into the end zone.


10. Quick Hits

**Please, nobody try to start a discussion that goes anywhere near the sentiment of, “Dallas has momentum under Jason Garrett – you never know, crazier things have happened.” No, crazier things have not happened. A win over the Lions does not make the 3-7 Cowboys special. And just in case you are a Cowboys fan who, for some reason, is still holding out hope, just know that your team faces New Orleans, Indy and Philly over the next three weeks.

**Raiders punter Shane Lechler brought a strip of smelling salt with him on the field bD. Revis (US Presswire)efore every punt Sunday. That’s what it takes to be arguably the greatest punter of all-time.

**The Chiefs lined up Mike Vrabel at wide receiver on one of their goal-line plays. Todd Haley must be shocked that defenses still don’t respond to Vrabel when he lines up in goal-line offense. Putting Vrabel at wideout was probably Haley’s way of pinching himself to see if this is real, if defenses still aren’t alert. (For the record, Cassel’s pass to Vrabel on that play was incomplete, as the wideout/linebacker had trouble getting off the jam of safety Kerry Rhodes.)

**Whoever suggests that Darrelle Revis has not been his MVP-caliber self this season is not paying attention. Two weeks after holding Lions star Calvin Johnson to one catch for 13 yards on four targets, Revis held Texans star Andre Johnson to four catches for 32 yards on nine targets.

**Why is the middle of the field brown and dead in San Francisco but outside the hash marks it’s green and luscious?

**The FOX crew working the Cardinals-Chiefs game had a heck of a good time telling viewers that Arrowhead Stadium was as loud as a jet engine Sunday afternoon. My beef with this is, whenever we get these decibel level comparison things, I never know how close to the jet engine we’re talking about. There’s a difference between a jet engine that’s in the sky or lifting off two runways over and a jet engine that is within arms length. So where, exactly, are we in relation to this make believe jet engine being talked about at all the noisy venues?

**For the record, I kept a close eye on both the Bucs-Niners and Cardinals-Chiefs games. The bits about the field color and the jet engine were the best either game had to offer.

**The Jets really missed right tackle Damien Woody Sunday (Mario Williams had a field day). Let’s hope the veteran’s MCL injury is not serious.

The Bengal defense’s heart will be seen on milk cartons across the southern Ohio and northern Kentucky areas Monday morning.

**Panthers second-year running back Mike Goodson rushed for over 100 yards for a second straight week. And against the Ravens, no less.

**Kudos to Ed Reed for pitching the ball to Dawan Landry for six points on Reed’s interception return. Why don’t more teams pitch the ball in return situations? It’s not like the offensive players-turned-would-be tacklers naturally know how to react to that….

**Just so we can touch on all 14 games from Sunday, I’ll pass along the most substantial note I wrote myself from the Falcons-Rams game: Matt Ryan is excellent throwing off of rollout motion.

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Posted on: November 22, 2010 3:35 am
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Posted on: November 1, 2010 3:21 am
Edited on: November 1, 2010 10:53 am
 

10 stories that deserve your attention Week 8

Posted by Andy Benoit

1.) D.C. Drama

It was one of those scenarios that make you question yourself. You see Donovan McNabb standing on the sidD. McNabb (US Presswire)eline with 1:45 left in the fourth and the Redskins trailing the Lions 30-25. You see Rex Grossman taking the field. You pause a second. Once you’re sure it’s really happening, you say, Wait, what’d I miss here?

Benching McNabb for Grossman is a decision that’s somehow as downright stupid as it sounds. Most baffling is that this stupid decision was made by Mike Shanahan. It’s one thing to bench a veteran star quarterback. It’s another to bench him when he’s managed to lead your team to a decent 4-4 record despite having a fourth-string running back and a slew of fourth-string receivers playing prominent roles. And it’s another when he had been playing well in the very game you sat him down.

Behind a banged-up Washington offensive line that was overmatched by Detroit’s suddenly vibrant front four (Ndamukong Suh is the early favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year), McNabb endured five sacks, 10 hurries and 11 hits Sunday. Yet still, he was 17/30 for 210 yards passing, plus he ran for 45 yards on four scrambles. OK, sure there was the interception to Alphonso Smith and, before that, another bad ball that Smith should have picked and taken to the house. But fine, let’s say McNabb’s performance Sunday was only mediocre. There’s still the unforgivable factor in Shanahan’s stupid decision, which is that the guy he replaced McNabb with was Grossman.

That’d be the same Grossman who could barely find a team last season; the same Grossman who actually invented new ways to turn the ball over as a Bear. When you flip karma the bird like Shanahan did, karma tends to respond quickly. Sure enough, on his first snap, Grossman made a play that only Grossman could make, fumbling the ball on a nasty blindside sack. Karma was so ticked off at Shanahan that not even Suh’s foolish Leon Lett impersonation while returning the recovered fumble could prevent a Lions victory at that point.

Thanks to a bye, the Redskins now have two weeks to deal with the ensuing storm of controversy that is about to unload on D.C. And karma is not likely to throw them any breaks. The next time McNabb and the Redskins take the field will be Monday, November 15, when they host…the Eagles.



2.) NFC powers tighten gap on AFC powers

You had to know it wouldn’t last. Yes, the AFC is better than the NFC this year, but not by the ridiculous margin that September and October gave us. Outstanding defense brought us closer to equilibrium Sunday, as the Packers stifled the Jets and the Saints swarmed the Steelers. Both NFC teams dominated behind their defensive pass rush.

The Jets had no answer for Clay Matthews’ speed off the edge. It helped that Brandon Chillar had his best game of the season, and Green Bay’s young defensive linemen, B.J. Raji and C.J. Wilson, controlled the trenches.

The Steelers could not get ahead of the Saints’ über-aggressive blitzes. It was remarkable that Gregg Williams dialed up the attacks, considering he was without top three corners Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter and Patrick Robinson (who left early with a right ankle injury). The two most popular preseason Super Bowl picks from the NFC are now both 5-3.



3.) New York’s Gamble
S. Weatherford (US Presswire)
Sticking with the Jets-Packers game…

When Jets punter Steve Weatherford took off and ran from inside his own 20-yard line late in the first quarter Sunday, you could have sworn you were watching your idiot roommate playing Madden on the X-Box. The Jets actually fake punted from their own 20-yard line! And on fourth and 18! After replay, it was determined that Weatherford stepped out of bounds a yard-and-a-half short of the first down. Green Bay wound up getting three points out of the splendid field position – the only points the Jets D has allowed in any first quarter this season – and Rex Ryan left himself open to easy second-guessing.

Except, it wasn’t Ryan’s decision. Turns out, Weatherford made the call. That’s right, the punter – the punter! – called his own number. Whoa, talk about gall. Take any receiver willing to go over the middle, any quarterback willing to step into a blitz and any linebacker willing to shoot the gap against a steamrolling running back and, chances are, none of them have the stones Weatherford must have. Afterward, he explained himself:

"It would have been a good decision had it been fourth-and-nine, but that’s my fault. I made the decision to try to make the play, but it didn’t work out for the team. We’re a team that’s willing to go out there and lay it on the line, but it just didn’t work out today. It’s a situation where I don’t have the green light, but if I do it, he’s not going to be mad if I get it. It has worked out in the past. It worked out in Oakland, it worked out in Miami, (but) today, it didn’t. It could have been a huge swing for us in the game, but obviously we came up about a half-yard short."



4.) Little Big Men

Let’s shift to a positive special teams note and go back to the Lions-Redskins game. Did you see the electrifying return artists in that contest? In order to, you may have had to squint in order to. Detroit’s Stefan Logan (5’6”, 180 pounds) and Washington’s Brandon Banks (5’7”, 150 pounds – that’s right, 150) put on a show.

Logan had a dazzling 71-yard punt return in the second quarter to set up one of Calvin Johnson’s three touchdowns. (Johnson, by the way, spent all afternoon taking advantage of the inconsistent safety help on DeAngelo Hall’s soft man coverage.

Banks had a 96-yard kick return for a score. He also had a 46-yard kick return, a punt return that went for 35, and another kick return score that got called back for holding. And before he was aware of that holding penalty, Logan celebrated his score by dunking the ball over the goalposts. That’s a 5’7” man dunking over a 10”-high crossbar while wearing full padding and still catching his breath after running the length of the field.



5.) The bad NFC team we should be talking about

I refuse to discuss the Dallas Tin Men, errrr, Dallas Cowboys this week. We just saw them last week on Monday night. We have to see them next week on Sunday night at Green Bay (apparently, that is “America’s Game of the Week”). We have to see them on Thanksgiving and again a few weeks later on NFL Network. There will be plenty of chances to talk about what’s wrong with America’s team, what changes Jerry Jones will make, how obvious it is that Wade Phillips is a dead man walking, etc. And mind you, the Cowboys will be irrelevant in the playoff hunt this entire time. So, knowing that’s ahead, I’m going to rest upB. Green-Ellis (US Presswire) and save my sanity by pretending the game against the Jaguars never happened (this, by the way, makes me feel like a Jacksonville native).

I will, however, talk about the NFC’s other fallen team, the Vikings. While it’s chic (and easy) to assume that everything is Favre’s fault, the reality is, the Vikings defense has been one of the great underachieving units in football this season. Jared Allen dressed as a ghost for Halloween. Come to think of it, Allen actually busted out that costume a few weeks ago. His teammates haven’t stepped up, either.

For the first time in team history, the Vikings have gone three straight games without a sack.

With a nonexistent pass rush, Minnesota’s ho-hum secondary has been exposed. Madieu Williams put on a clinic Sunday for how not to make plays; Pats receiver Brandon Tate should have given the veteran safety a game ball afterwards. And scouts are finally figuring out what’s wrong with cornerback Asher Allen: he’s not good at playing football. Allen gives up separation in his man coverage technique, he struggles to locate the ball in the air and his open-field tackling is hit or miss.

What’s more, the Vikings’ once-impenetrable run defense is giving up only 3.9 yards per carry, but overall, it ranks 13th in yards per game. That’s as startling drop considering this group ranked second last year and first in each of the three years before that. Late in the fourth quarter Sunday when the Vikings needed a stop on the ground, they plain couldn’t get one. On New England’s final possession, BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran the ball six times for 60 yards to ice the game.



6.) Uh oh

You ever noticed the amount of misbehavior the youngest kids in families with a lot of children can get away with? It’s stunning. While the parents are getting drained dealing with the older kids breaking curfews, fighting amongst each other and bringing home ugly report cards, the younger kid is secretly living a dream that includes watching raunchy movies, stealing bits of cash from around the house and detonating fireworks in the elderly neighbor’s mailbox. It isn’t until something goes really wrong before the parents realize that they’ve been neglecting their biggest handful of all.

Think of Randy Moss as the rebellious youngster in Minnesota. While everyone is focusing on Brad Childress and Brett Favre and, perhaps now, Jared Allen and the defense, the newcomer at wide receiver is subtly stewing about what’s turned out to be a lost season in his contract year. Did you hear what Moss said after the Patriots game? Here are the big pieces:
R. Moss (US Presswire)
On his relationship with the media…

"I got fined $25,000 for not talking to you all, and me personally, I really don't care, but at the same time, I do ask questions, I mean answer questions throughout the week. The league can fine me $25,000. I'm not going to answer any more questions for the rest of this year. If it's going to be an interview, I'm going to conduct it. So I'll answer my own questions. Ask myself the questions, then give you all the answers.”

On his former teammates…

"Man, I miss them guys, man. I miss the team," Moss said. "It was hard for me to come here and play.

"Been an up-and-down roller-coaster emotionally all week. And then to be able to come in here and see those guys running plays that I know what they're doing, and the success they had on the field, the running game -- so, I kind of know what kind of feeling they have in their locker room, man, and I just want to be able to tell the guys that I miss the hell out of them. Every last helmet in that locker room, man."

On his preparation with the Vikings coaching staff for this game…

"The bad part about it -- you have six days to prepare for a team, and on the seventh day, that Sunday, meaning today, I guess they come over to me and say, 'Dag, Moss, you was right about a couple plays and a couple schemes they were going to run.' It hurts as a player that you put a lot of hard work in all week, and toward the end of the week, Sunday, when you get on the field, that's when they acknowledge about the hard work you put in throughout the week. That's actually a disappointment."

His final word…

"I'm definitely down that we lost this game. I didn't expect we'd lose this game. I don't know how many more times I'll be in New England again. But I leave coach Belichick and those guys with a salute: (and yes, Moss actually saluted while saying this). 'I love you guys. I miss you. I'm out.'"

Read into all that what you will. I read into it that this is Moss’ way of telling the Vikings, I hate being on this team.



7.) The NFL’s best team?

According to the standings, it’s the Patriots. They’re the only team that has just one loss on the season. It’s kind of hard to believe, given that New England pairs a ball control offense with a defense that ranks 28th in yards allowed and dead last on third down. But no team manages in-game situations better than the Patriots. (That’s why their games always feel so choppy.)

At least that 28th-ranked defense is improving by the week. Jerod Mayo is a star at inside linebacker. He’s a rock of a run defender and a sterling open-field tackler against the pass. First-round rookie Devin McCourty is blossoming into a bona fide No. 1 corner. The defensive linemen around Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork have elevated their games; Mike Wright has a sack in four-straight contests, and last year’s second-round pick, Ron Brace, showcased his development on the fourth-down goal-line stop in which he blew up Phil Loadholt and stuffed Adrian Peterson. Finally, safety Brandon Meriweather is close to regaining his ’09 form. Overall, this is a young defense that should only get better.



8.) Do we believe the nautical villains?

I’ve been saying all season that the Buccaneers are not good enough in the trenches to make the playoffs, and that the Raiders’ greatness on paper is matched only by their embarrassing ineptitude on the field. I’m not ready to eat crow yet, though I’m fingering my silverware (I’ll assume crow is something you’d eat with a knife and a fork).

The Bucs got their fifth consecutive road victory with a 38-35 win at Arizona Sunday. But Tampa’s MVP that game was Cardinals quarterback Max Hall. When the undrafted rookie threw his first career touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald, the veteran receiver, rushed over and gave Hall the ball (it was a truly classy move by Fitzgerald, considering how justifiably frustrated he’s been with the team’s quarterback play this season). Along these lines, it would have made sense for Bucs corner Aqib Talib to give Hall a souvenir ball on the second quarter pick-six he threw, as that was Hall’s most precise touchdown strike on the afternoon. D. McFadden (US Presswire)

That was also Hall’s second pick-six on the day, which is why Ken Whisenhunt decided that maybe Derek Anderson is the best guy to lead the team after all. (If Anderson and Whisenhunt were dating, all of Anderson’s friends at this point would be pleading with the quarterback to stop letting the head coach just use him like this.)

My point? The Bucs are 5-2, but their most recent win came against a hapless Cardinals club. Obviously, a win is a win in the NFL. But if the Bucs’ head coach wants to talk about his team being the best in the NFC, then the “they haven’t beaten anybody” argument is fair game. The combined records of the teams Tampa Bay has defeated (Cleveland, Carolina, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Arizona): 12-24. The combined record of the teams Tampa Bay has lost to (Pittsburgh, New Orleans): 10-5. So, I’m skeptical. It will be easier to gauge this team after it faces division foe Atlanta next week.

Regarding the 4-4 Raiders, wins over Denver and Seattle don’t exactly merit great acclaim, but the convincing nature of those wins does. After spanking the Broncos 59-14, the Raiders pounded the Seahawks 33-3. Darren McFadden – whom I was shocked to learn, led the league in yards after contact heading into this game – rushed for 121 of the team’s 239 yards. This against a Seattle run defense that ranked second in the league prior to Sunday.

Jason Campbell was a sterling 15/27 for 310 yards and two scores – and those numbers aren’t inflated by one or two Jon Kitna garbage time-like plays. Campbell threaded the needle on both touchdown strikes. The first was to fullback Marcel Reese, a versatile second-year pro who can best be described as “exactly what 49er fans erroneously claim Delanie Walker SHOULD be”. Reese is an effective route runner when lining up as a wide receiver. Campbell’s second touchdown was to Darrius Heyward-Bey, who is inconsistent, but in a good way (given that last season he was consistently dreadful).

Is Oakland a legit contender? In the AFC West, perhaps. But overall...well…at least they can win in the trenches. (The defensive line was every bit as dominant as the offensive line Sunday.) That makes them more stable than Tampa Bay. Still, at the end of the day, a team must be able to throw in order to win. The Bucs at least have an upstart first-round quarterback in Josh Freeman. The Raiders still have a controversy between Campbell (who played well Sunday but, throughout his career, has proved to be a robot programmed for mediocrity) and Bruce Gradkowski (a poor man’s Jeff Garcia).



9.) NFL makes a good impression in Europe

So the Brits wound up seeing a pretty good game between the 49ers and Broncos. Dammit all. The hope to avoid having to share the truest American sport with the rest of the world looks more futile than ever.

On Sunday, after a slow start that probably still had Wembley Stadium’s soccer-acclimated sellout crowd of 83,000-plus on the edge of its seats, the offenses for both teams came to life late in the second half. Thirty of the game’s 40 points were scored in the fourth quarter. Both teams relied on their usual identity. For the Broncos, that meant riding Kyle Orton (28/40, 396 yards). For the Niners, that meant riding Frank Gore (29 carries, 118 yards).

Though a compelling contest it was, and though interesting is the debate over whether it was a mistake for Josh McDaniels to keep the team in the U.S. until Thursday (three days longer than the Niners), the story of this game is the success of the NFL’s British venture. Not only did the game sell out, but approximately 38,000 fans filled Trafalgar Square for an NFL block party Saturday. Earlier in the week, Roger Goodell said the league’s goal is to put a team in London. Maybe that’s just lip service the Commissioner had to pay in the days leading up to this game, but if the world has learned anything the past 10 years, it’s that in whatever way globalization can happen, it will.

So start getting your minds wrapped around it, football fans: the NFL is only going to ingrain itself deeper in London. And, perhaps, other foreign markets. Maybe you’re cool with that. If you are, great. If you’re not (like me), Sunday was just another reminder that you’d better start getting used to it.



10.) Quick Hits

***Todd Haley went for it again on fourth down Sunday. This time the Chiefs had fourth-and-two and were deep in Buffalo territory. For the past few weeks, people have been commenting on Haley’s gutsy fourth down calls. But we’re discovering that this is just the way the man coaches. He’s attempted 11 fourth downs this season, tied for fourth most in the NFL. The difference is that very few of them have been of the desperation variety. Haley believes it’s a numbers game, and he usually makes the decision to go for it a few plays before reaching fourth down (to help the play-calling, he tell offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss ahead of time when it’s four-down territory). It’s an unusually aggressive approach.S. Smith (US Presswire)


***Interesting that the Jets had Darrelle Revis play left cornerback in the first half and then had him shadow Greg Jennings in the second half. Revis was effective in both cases – it was just fun watching Rex Ryan change up the game plan.


***Steve Tasker, who spent the entire overtime period between the Chiefs and Bills trying to add a soothing calm amidst the lovable screaming of Gus Johnson, had a great line about Ryan Succop’s first field goal attempt in OT. When Succop’s ball got caught in the wind and suddenly hooked sharply left, Tasker said “that ball had a left turn signal on it”.


***The Rams wore their blue and yellow throwback uniforms to honor the retirement of Isaac Bruce’s number 80. It’d probably be good if we started debating Bruce’s Hall of Fame credentials now. Given the length of the Art Monk trial, and the Andre Reed-Cris Carter-Tim Brown dilemmas, Bruce’s candidacy is going to be particularly complicated.


***Turns out cornerback Sean Smith didn’t fully regain his starting job for the Dolphins this week, but against the Bengals he played extremely well. Smith got some help from an erratic Carson Palmer on the game-sealing interception, but before that, he was very active covering receivers with underneath technique.


***I’m not affiliated with the San Diego Chargers, but even I felt a little awkward seeing Vincent Jackson standing on the sideline in street clothes Sunday.


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Posted on: October 25, 2010 3:26 am
Edited on: October 25, 2010 3:13 pm
 

10 stories that deserve your attention Week 7

Posted by Andy Benoit

1. Favre Favre Favre Favre Favre

Two things about the Brett Favre hoopla:

a.) You like it. Even if you’re part of the vocal majority that loves to groan about how much you don’t like it, deep down you really do like it. Or, in the very least, you like that you don’t like it. You like that you can pretend to be above it all. But you’re not. None of us are. That’s why we all watched with keen interest Sunday night. B. Favre (US Presswire)

b.) As someone who loves the Favre hoopla, I’ll admit that it does distract from all the other storylines. That’s why we’ll take this opportunity to acknowledge those storylines here. They include…

**The Vikings are now 2-4 and go on the road to face the Patriots next week. Thus, we can crank up the “Is it all over in Minnesota?” talk again this week. It will take about 24 hours for that storm to gather, but make no mistake: it’s coming.

**Those of us who decided Chris Johnson is a better running back than Adrian Peterson may have to reconsider. Johnson was the better running back in 2009. But in 2010, Peterson is averaging an NFL-best 114 yards per game on the ground. Each of his 131 yards against the Packers was a testament to the very concept of manhood. In his fourth season, Peterson has improved in all of his areas of weakness. His fumbles have disappeared. He’s shown more awareness in blitz pickup (did you see the block he had on the Visanthe Shiancoe touchdown that was ruled not a touchdown but probably should have been ruled a touchdown?). And he’s a factor in the passing game (two crucial catches for 41 yards Sunday night, and he was averaging three catches per game coming into Week 7).

**I’m not going to issue a full mea culpa on my Matchup breakdown for a second consecutive week, though I will say the Vikings offensive line performed much better than expected. John Sullivan is finally healthy at center, which stabilizes things at least a bit. Bryant McKinnie had one of his better games of the season (his name wasn’t called once against the Packers). That said, Sullivan and McKinnie still cannot be fully counted on week in and week out.

**I will actually issue a mea culpa to Anthony Herrera. He played so well Sunday night, particularly in generating movement to the left as a run-blocker – than whatever criticism I laid on him last Friday has been rendered moot (or just plain incorrect) for at least the next two weeks.

**Bernard Berrian is a shell of his former self. If a person were to lose weight with the same speed and decisiveness that Berrian has lost confidence, we’d give him or her a pamphlet about eating disorders.

**For the past four months or so, Paul Charchian of KFAN and I have had an on-going debate about Jared Allen. My stance: Allen is a top five defensive end. Charch’s stance: Allen, in the past year and a half, has become overrated as a pass-rusher, and he only turns in major production against inferior competition.

The Packers deliberately game-planned for veteran left tackle Chad Clifton to block Allen one-on-one Sunday night. Clifton easily shut Allen out. I haven’t conceded the debate to Paul just yet, but in our next few email exchanges, my arguments will at least be ending in more periods and fewer exclamation points.



2. Prognosticators, just quit now

In this week’s preview podcast, Will Brinson and I clumped the Saints-Browns, Ravens-Bills and Broncos-Raiders game into one quick segment that lasted all of 10 seconds. We didn’t feel it was worth spending part of our 30 minutes previewing these games because the outcomes, we figured, were predetermined.

As it turns out, Drew Brees threw four interceptions, two of them resulting in scores to David Bowens, and the Saints were never really even in it against the Browns. (When you consider that the Steelers are visiting the Big Easy next Sunday for a nationally televised Halloween night showdown between the past two Super Bowl champions, it’s obvious that this was a classic trap game. Why did we not at least recognize that before!?)

The Bills, facing a stingy Ravens D and led by a Harvard quarterback whose three greatest attributes – heart, grit and guts – are euphemisms for his overwhelming lack of talent, generated 506 yards of total offense (or, in Buffalo terms, “a half season of offense”). If not for a Hall of Fame play by Ray Lewis in overtime (the strip fumble of Shawn Nelson), we might not be describing the Bills as “the league’s last winless team”.

By the way, regarding that strip fumble, what a poor sequence of events for Bills center Geoff Hangartner. The play would have almost certainly been blown dead on forward progress had Hangartner not come in and pushed Nelson and the pile forward for a few extra yards (it was during those extra yards that Lewis stripped the ball). Can’t fault the veteran captain Hangartner for the extra effort, though. Nineteen times out of 20, an effort play like that pays off. But you CAN fault Hangartner for exacerbating the mess by slamming his helmet on the ground afterwards. That resulted in a 15-yard penalty to help put the Ravens in range for Billy Cundiff’s game-winning field goal. D. Bowens (US Presswire)

Finally, regarding the Broncos-Raiders game: nothing much to say, other than the Broncos apparently talked among themselves about the league’s new emphasis on illegal hits and decided, just to be safe, they wouldn’t hit any opponent under any circumstance Sunday afternoon.

That obviously included Darren McFadden, the Raiders’ third-year running back who is finally coming into his own. Credit Oakland for using McFadden more to his strengths this season. He is not a physical runner, and he does not have agile hips and power to press a hole and consistently move the chains inside. McFadden does, however, have the acceleration and breakaway speed to be a force in space, which is why the Raiders have taken to running him off tackle and on halfback tosses more often. After his career-high 165-yard, four-touchdown performance Sunday, McFadden is averaging 111 yards per game on the ground, second best in the NFL.

So the Browns pound the Saints, the Bills take the Ravens to the limit and the Raiders, behind 328 yards rushing, hang 59 points on the Broncos. It’s the NFL; those of you who can guess what I’m going to say next, don’t worry – I have too much respect for CBSSports.com readers to use clichés about parity and “any given Sunday”. I’ll just say, good action, fun games.



3. Picked!

Let’s stay with the Browns-Saints game for a second so that we can talk about David Bowens. Yes, it’s impressive for any player to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game. (Bowens is the first Brown to do it since Bob Franklin in 1960.) More impressive is that Bowens, 33, is a former defensive lineman turned linebacker. But even MORE impressive is how he celebrated both scores. On the first TD, Bowens leaped and performed somewhat of a Pas de Chat while crossing the goal-line (it’s a ballet term – use your Wikipedia). As gracefulness goes, it was about a seven.

On his second score, Bowens came to nearly a complete stop before somersaulting across the goal-line. The gracefulness of that was a one-and-a-half, maybe a two. But the cleverness? A 10. Best of all was the half-second of reluctance the ref showed before signaling touchdown on that play. You just know he wanted to flag Bowens for taunting. But thankfully, it was during live action, and this is not college, so he couldn’t. (Don’t worry, purists, the NFL will probably make somersault touchdowns a suspendable offense within in the next few days.) Bowens had just one career touchdown coming into this game. Major props to him for having the presence of mind (and gall) to come up with two original celebrations on the fly like that.

In all, there was a record nine pick-six’s on the day Sunday. (I’m sure I’m the only one who cares, but for what it’s worth, when I first heard this, I was able to immediately remember/visualize eight of those pick-six’s; out of pride, I refuse to look up the one I’m forgetting.) One of those pick-six’s was turned in by DeAngelo Hall. Hall’s 92-yard interception return was just one of his four – FOUR! – second-half interceptions.

That’s a great accomplishment. And, quite frankly, it couldn’t have happened to a more obnoxious guy. Hall had a great game, but poor Jim Haslett now has to deal with the even-more-inflated ego of a cornerback who has no problem publicly demanding a bigger role in the defense or questioning the scheme.
D. Hall (US Presswire)
I hate to be negative about Hall when he’s just had the game of his life, but a week ago experts were saying that the film was revealing the slight diminishments in his speed. Hall’s man coverage technique can be iffy, and his tackling – though excellent against the Bears – is generally poor. I bring this up only because you’re going to be offered an awful lot of DeAngelo Hall Kool-Aid this week.



4. Da Bears

While we’re on the topic of Hall and this game…

Bears fans, I assume, will have no problem this week if I go ahead and point out that their team is still a mess offensively. No need to rehash everything here. We all know the Bears aren’t running the ball worth a cent right now (the debate is whether you blame Matt Forte, Mike Martz, the offensive line or all three). The pass protection has been poor – unless, for some reason, you consider blowing simple assignments a key asset, in which case the pass protection has been superb. Guard Chris Williams was particularly shaky Sunday.
Finally, there’s the standard Jay Cutler scrutiny. Cutler made some spectacular strong-armed throws in this game, but he’s not the type of quarterback who can thrive when players around him aren’t performing. Thus, if the blocking doesn’t get better and receivers like Devin Hester and Johnny Knox don’t become more consistent in their technique, the Bears will only continue to flounder. It wasn’t until just over four minutes to play in the third quarter against Washington that Cutler ended an 0/28 drought on third down.



5. A lesson for the kids: it’s okay, maybe even good, to get in fights

Sorry, but what else can you deduce here? Kenny Britt gets in a bar fight at 1:45 Friday morning. It isn’t his first off-field incident, so the NFL could wind up suspending him soon. With this dark cloud hanging overhead, Jeff Fisher benches Britt for the first quarter against the Eagles. All Britt does is go on to set a Titans franchise record (not Oilers, just Titans) with 225 yards receiving. He also scored three touchdowns. All this just days after getting in trouble. Coincidence…or pure genius?

Actually, Jeff Fisher says coincidence. "His performance has absolutely nothing to do with what happened [Friday], OK? Absolutely nothing," Fisher told reporters after the game. "It was a great performance. I mean, an outstanding performance. It is two separate issues right now."

Fisher may further punish the second-year pro once he learns more details of the fight. Britt is probably rooting for that, as a punishment from Fisher would likely mean he wasn’t punished by the NFL or Nashville authorities (which could still happen).

Britt has now caught a touchdown in five straight games. However, prior to Sunday, he had only topped 45-yard receiving mark once. (You didn’t know 45 yards was a mark, did you?)



6. The NFC’s best wide receiver

Larry Fitzgerald used to hold this title. But through no fault of his own, that title is now out on loan until the Cardinals get a real quarterback. (Looks like they could be going back to Derek Anderson now that Max Hall, who left the loss at Seattle with a head injury, has had a fair chance to show everyone why he wasn’t drafted.)

With Fitzgerald gone, the best wideout in the NFC is Roddy White. (Sorry, Miles Austin fans.) Entering Week 7, White led the conference in receptions and yards. His 11-catch, 201-yard performance against the Bengals only wR. White (US Presswire)idened his lead. If you were to put White’s six-year career on a line graph, it would come out looking a lot like Facebook’s traffic numbers over that time. The former first-round pick has progressed in each season as a pro.

This week, White made no bones about wanting to steal the spotlight from Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. He even starred in his own homemade trash-talking video. On Sunday, he backed it up, proving to be an elite vertical threat, underrated possession target and vastly underrated run-blocker (White’s not Hines Ward, but he’s close.). Most noteworthy is how White bounced back with a touchdown and two-point conversion after Adam Jones ripped the ball away from him in the third quarter for what seemed to be a momentum-shifting 59-yard fumble return for a score.

White was the main reason Atlanta won Sunday, though also give credit to Michael Turner and his downhill tackle-breaking abilities. Turner, capitalizing on Atlanta’s offensive line beating Cincy’s defensive line for most of the day, racked up 121 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.



6B. On that note….what’s the deal with Cincy?

The Bengals, meanwhile, have Dallas Cowboys Syndrome: talented team that plays well on paper, but at the end of the day, somehow still loses. Carson Palmer was a surgeon, throwing for 412 yards and orchestrating a hurry-up offense that took advantage of Atlanta’s fairly rudimentary zone scheme. Cedric Benson was phenomenal in setting up his blocks and creating his own space (his 70 yards on 20 carries don’t accurately illustrate his performance). The Bengal defense was poor, but the offense overcame that in the third quarter, going up 25-24 after trailing 24-3 at the half.

So what gives? Hard to say without studying the film. But we do know, on the surface, the Bengals, like the Cowboys, have a very hands-on owner, a head coach with tenuous job security (Marvin Lewis is in the final year of his contract) and a bunch of talented individuals but no clear cut leader (admittedly, I’m a little uneasy implying here that Palmer isn’t a leader – but that’s a whole other discussion best saved for another time).



7. It could be worse

The San Diego Chargers were out to prove to the world Sunday just why they’re a legit 2-5 team. The Chargers had three turnovers (it was actually four, but Philip Rivers’ interception to Devin McCourty was essentially the same as a 36-yard punt, so we won’t count it), including Richard Goodman and Jacob Hester fumbles that truly embodied the term “giveaway”. K. Brown (US Presswire)

After making his first career catch, the undrafted rookie Goodman went to the ground, wasn’t touched but, thinking the play was over, let go of the ball. "I'll be the first one to admit that it was my fault," Goodman said afterwards. "I've got to learn from my mistakes. After making that catch, I've got to give it back to the ref." (Since he wants to learn from the mistake, someone should probably tell the poor guy exactly what the mistake was: it’s not about handing the ball to the ref, it’s about making sure you’re actually down). Hester’s fumble is a little harder to criticize, as even the Patriot players thought it was an incomplete forward pass. The man who should get credit for the recovery is Pepper Johnson, New England’s defensive line coach who was standing on the sideline and shouting at his oblivious players to jump on the loose ball.

The two gimme fumbles were costly, though not costly enough to prevent the Chargers from attempting a game-tying field goal in the closing seconds. Kris Brown, who was signed to fill in for injured Pro Bowler Nate Kaeding earlier in the week, would have had a 45-yard attempt if not for a Louis Vasquez false start. After that penalty moved the Chargers back five yards, Brown’s 50-yard boot hit the right upright. Mind you, this came after Brown’s second errant pooch kickoff of the day went out of bounds (his first errant pooch kick hit a Patriot and came out looking like a horrendous onside attempt). The Chargers also missed a few tackles on a 34-yard Julian Edelman punt return that helped set up a Patriots field goal to end the first half.

To be fair, the Chargers did get a great special teams play when they recovered a surprise onside kick in the fourth quarter. But in the end, turnovers, special teams errors and a few penalties cost Norv Turner’s club. (This is a sentence that could have been copied and pasted from any number of previous 2010 Chargers stories.)



8. Kudos to FOX studio analysts

Normally I wouldn’t do this, but the FOX studio analysts deserve acknowledgement for their late shift Sunday. They didn’t have to stay any later than usual, but they did have to stick around and do a halftime show for the Cardinals-Seahawks game, even though that was the lone late window contest on FOX. That must have been rough. Think about it: only the states of Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and parts of Montana, Kansas, and tiny parts of Florida and Ohio, got that game. This means FOX’s big dogs spent an entire afternoon at work just so they could talk for two or three minutes about what amounted to a locally televised contest. How tempting must it have been for Curt, Terry, Howie, Michael and Jimmy to simply record a generic halftime report at the end of the early window games so that they could just head out and enjoy the rest of the NFL action from the comfort of their living or hotel room?



9. Being an American pig

Call me jingoistic, but I’m glad the British are getting an absolute clunker of a game next week (the 1-6 Niners face the 2-5 Broncos in London). I know I’m not doing myself any favors with the folks at 280 Park Avenue by saying this, but I can’t stand the NFL sharing any part of its regular season with our friends across the pond.

We have our football and they have theirs. If we share ours, they’re going to eventually realize how boring theirs is. Then they’ll be clamoring for more and more of ours, and the league will oblige because, dammit, it’s a business and there’s money to be made. Before we know it, we’ll be forking over a significant piece of our great American sport.

Is this fear talking? You bet. But the football gods don’t want the NFL to go international, either. That’s why they’ve done their best to make the Broncos-Niners game as unattractive as possible. What’s funny is that the 49er fans who have been chanting for David Carr over Alex Smith may actually get their wish, but they won’t get to see it because the Niners’ home game won’t be in Candlestick.

And on the subject of chanting for the backup quarterback…if you were one of the Bronco fans chanting for Tim Tebow in the first half Sunday, you’re a moron. Kyle Orton, like the rest of the Broncos, was not good against the Raiders. But he’s nowhere remotely close to deserving a benching.



10. Quick Hits


**Josh Freeman has now led two game-winning drives in the closing seconds of a fourth quarter (vs. Rams and vs. Bengals). The Bucs are 4-2 and, according to Raheem Morris, the best team in the NFC (insert laugh track audio here).M. Williams (US Presswire)

**Marshawn Lynch (24 carries, 89 yards) looks a little trimmer than I remember. He’s proving to be a very solid pickup for the Seahawks.

**For the second straight week, Seattle’s Mike Williams set a career-high for receptions (10 last week, 11 this week). Williams has incredibly strong hands and, for a 6’5”, 235-pounder, uncanny body control.

**The Jaguars’ biggest problem remains their tendency to give up big plays. Dwayne Bowe (two touchdowns) proved this, as did Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles.

**For what it’s worth, Devin Hester cut his dreadlocks. He also had zero punt returns Sunday because the Redskins wisely refused to kick anywhere near him.

**It came in a losing effort, but Israel Idonije had a terrific game for the Bears. He was a big reason why Donovan McNabb was uncharacteristically off kilter.

**The Redskins have scored 17 points or less in all four of their wins this season. This is remarkable considering they entered Sunday with, technically speaking, the league’s 32nd-ranked defense.

**It was surprising to hear that Roger Goodell actually called James Harrison this week.

**Even if this is only Quick Hits, I refuse to mention anything specific about the Panthers-49ers game.

**Imagine if the Chargers had won – then we’d all have to recycle the “Belichick going for it on fourth down” debate. Glad we don’t. (Though in case we do, my stance: it was absolutely the right call, just like last time; the problem on this particular play was BenJarvus Green-Ellis not trusting his blocks and bouncing it outside, where end/linebacker Antwaun Applewhite, who had a marvelous game, made the play.


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Posted on: October 5, 2010 10:14 am
Edited on: October 5, 2010 6:41 pm
 

Top Ten With a Twist: Curse of Wally Pipp

P. Hillis has taken over the Cleveland running game (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

We’re a quarter of the way into the season, and some players who were originally slated to be backups suddenly have emerged as starters. Maybe it was through an injury to the former starter. Maybe it was because the starter wasn’t as good as the team thought and the backup was better. Maybe it was because – and Wally Pipp could relate to this – somebody just needed an off-day.

In fairness to the old-time Yankees first baseman, who was replaced one day (permanently, it turned out) in 1925 by a guy named Lou Gehrig because Pipp had a headache, that story might not be true exactly. Instead, he might have been benched because manager Miller Huggins simply wanted to shake up the lineup. Either way, Gehrig played the next 2,130 games, and Pipp ended up in … Cincinnati (and apparently, he was also one of Sports Illustrated’s first writing hires, one of those cool but useless facts).

Anyway, there have been some impact players to emerge this season so far, simply because they, like Gehrig, were given that chance to shine. Some have won a starting position. Some are just holding it until the real starter returns. But they’re all making a (mostly good) impression. It sounds like the perfect Top Ten With a Twist list to me.

10. Lance Moore, WR/PR, Saints: The story of Moore’s career. A Saints starts gets injured. Moore steps in and makes plays. Remember in 2008 when Moore caught a team-high 79 passes for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns after Marques Colston was hurt? Obviously, when Reggie Bush returns from his broken leg, Moore will fade back into the background – maybe. But man, he looked electric against the Falcons (six catches, 149 yards, two touchdowns), and he’s become a big target for New Orleans when it’s in the red zone.

9. Max Hall, QB, Cardinals: Look, we all know Derek Anderson isn’t a very good quarterback. But I didn’t think he would have a chance to lose his job this early. Hall, meanwhile, was a 2010 undrafted free agent (seriously, how poor is Anderson to lose to an undrafted free agent?). Not that Hall was great when he replaced Anderson on Sunday, because he wasn’t, but he might be Arizona’s best option at this point. Coach Ken Whisenhunt, meanwhile, isn’t talking. “I think we're going to go without [a quarterback) this week,” he joked Monday. “I think we're going to go with all Wildcat."

8. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots: He averaged about eight carries per game his rookie year in 2008, but with Kevin Faulk lost for the season – and Fred Taylor unavailable for the Miami game Monday – Green-Ellis (47 carries this year for 215 yards) has already nearly doubled his attempts from last year. He had his breakout in Week 3 against Buffalo when he carried the ball 16 times for 98 yards and a score, and vs. the Dolphins, he was impressive with a 16-carry, 78-yard, one-touchdown performance.

7. Shaun Hill, QB, Lions:
The reason Hill is so low on this list is because there’s no way he’ll take the job from Matthew Stafford. But still, how impressive has Hill looked the past few weeks? After Stafford went out with the shoulder injury in Week 1, Hill was terrible. But the past three weeks, he’s completed 61.9 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and six interceptions (he’s also averaging 301 passing yards per game), and he really impressed me in Detroit’s two-point loss to Green Bay.

6. Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Raiders: It didn’t take long for Raiders coach Tom Cable to figure out that, in order to save his job, he’d take his chances with Gradkowski instead of Jason Campbell. This is not to say Gradkowski is an elite quarterback, because that’s a laughable notion. But he played well at times when he was in Tampa Bay after Chris Simms ruptured his spleen in 2006 (Gradkowski failed to win the starting job in 2007). For now, though, Gradkowski is entrenched as Cable’s guy. As long as Cable is around.

5. Koa Misi, LB, Dolphins: Ikaika Alama-Francis was supposed to be the starter, but the night before the season opener, he caught some kind of illness and he’s been recovering ever since, losing 15-20 pounds in the process. Misi, the team’s second round Draft pick this year, has taken over his starting spot with consistent play and a smooth transition to the pro game. It was originally thought that Misi’s main objective would be as a situational pass-rusher – he was, after all, a defensive end in college – but he’s proven his worth as an every-down back with two sacks and a fumble recovery TD. In the meantime, he’s also Wally Pipp’d Alama-Francis.

4. Taylor Mays, S, 49ers: Mays so Wally Pipp’d former starter Michael Lewis that San Francisco released Lewis Monday, the day after Mays’ huge game against Atlanta. Mays had taken Lewis’ starting job already, and it sounds like Lewis asked for his release, but still, that’s pretty impressive for a rookie. Mays, in case you didn’t see it, had a phenomenal touchdown (both feet down!) after a punt block to give San Francisco a 14-0 lead. He also made 11 tackles.



3. John Carney, K, Saints: Carney, who will turn 65 later this year (I’m kidding, he’s 46), has returned once again to the NFL, and after making three kicks this past week, you have to wonder how much longer Garrett Hartley will stay on the roster – or why he’s on the roster at all at this point. Obviously, Carney isn’t the future kicker in this organization, and maybe the Saints are keeping Hartley around, because they’re hoping he can overcome what’s been a terrible start to the season for him. Otherwise, he’d already have been Pipp’d.

2. Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins:
Torain and Clinton Portis have split carries, but it seems that if this was the 100-meter dash at the Olympics, Torain would be Usain Bolt and Portis would be the other seven guys. Meaning Torain is pulling away and eventually will take Portis’ starting role. It could happen this week actually as Portis hurt his groin Sunday. Let me also briefly mention San Diego’s Mike Tolbert, who replaced first-round pick Ryan Mathews when he was injured and rushed for 255 combined yards the past three games (including a 100-yard performance Sunday when Mathews was in the game). But coach Norv Turner says he’s committed to keeping Mathews as the starter, so Tolbert doesn’t fit on this list all that well.

1. Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: It was supposed to be Montario Hardesty and Jerome Harrison running the ball in Cleveland. Hillis – who was traded from Denver in the Brady Quinn deal this past offseason – was supposed to be just an afterthought. Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs had never heard of the guy until he ripped off 180 total yards (144 on the ground, the most Baltimore has allowed in five years) against the Ravens. With Hardesty out with a season-ending injury and with Harrison failing to make an impression on the Cleveland coaching staff, Hillis has taken advantage, tying the league high with four touchdowns and averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Like Gehrig, it appears that Hillis has no future plans to give up his starting spot.

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Posted on: October 4, 2010 5:09 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2010 5:11 pm
 

Patriots v. Dolphins: MNF Preview w/ Gregg Doyel

Posted by Will Brinson

The Patriots and Dolphins square off on Monday Night Football in a few hours, and unlike past years, this promises to be a pretty good shootout .

CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel is on-hand for the game, so I caught up with him to discuss who will score more points, whether or not the Pats can win the AFC East without a strong defense this year (and if that defense can mature), how the Fins can hope to control the game on the ground, why BenJarvus Green-Ellis has 17 names, and whether or not Brandon Marshall has any business mouthing back to Sterling Sharpe.

Oh, hey, and be a friend and subscribe via iTunes .

If you can't view the podcast, click here to download .




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Posted on: September 29, 2010 9:52 pm
 

Running game a major factor in New England

Posted by Andy Benoit

You probably remember that, back in August in our preseason AFC East podcast, we talked about how the New England Patriots would have to get back to running the ball and assume more of a balanced identity on offense. (You do remember that….right? You listened to our preview podcast….didn’t you?) The thinking at the time was, the Pats don’t know what they’re getting with Wes Welker coming off the knee injury, Randy Moss’ limited route running has diminished his “constPats running backs (US Presswire)ant big-play threat” status and the defense is too shaky to face an extra possession or two each game.

Well, through three weeks, Welker looks like his usual self. Moss is generating big plays, but it’s true that he’s not the same pure down-to-down threat he was in 2007. And that defense, while phenomenal in Week 1, has indeed been shaky.

So what have the Patriots done? Run the ball – just like we told them to (okay, that’s it for the shameless chest pumping…we don’t want to be thought of as a Bill Maas-esque self-aggrandizer).

The Patriots are currently averaging 123 yards per game on the ground (10th in the league, though take statistical rankings with a grain of salt this early in the season). They’re averaging 27 runs per game. These numbers are actually very similar – almost identical, even – to what New England did on the ground last season. But only twice did the ’09 Patriots truly rely on their rushing attack to win a game (Week 3 win over Atlanta and the Week 14 win over Carolina).

And not once did the ’09 Patriots reach the 200-yard rushing mark like the ’10 Patriots did against the Bills last Sunday. New England’s 200 yards came on 38 attempts. Rising third-year running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (aka The Law Firm), filling in for a dinged up Fred Taylor, led the way with 98 yards on 16 carries. Former Jet Danny Woodhead, playing the part of Kevin Faulk, generated 42 yards on three carries (including a 22-yard touchdown scamper off a shotgun draw).

It was classic Patriots football: exploit an opponent’s glaring weakness (Bills run defense), stay with the game plan for four quarters and make heroes out of little-name backups.

Don’t expect the Patriots to become a run-first team this season. But don’t be surprised if we see a greater emphasis on the run moving forward.

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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