Tag:Ryan Mathews
Posted on: December 13, 2010 2:25 am
Edited on: December 13, 2010 4:41 pm
 

10 stories worth your attention Week 14

Posted by Andy Benoit

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T. Brady (US Presswire)1.) Goodness!

For the second week in a row, the New England Patriots took center stage on the NFL’s headline game of the week and gave viewers an entire second half of garbage time. The garbage time is almost worth it, though, because watching the Patriots obliterate opponents in the first half has become like watching Picasso paint, Sinatra sing or Rosie O’Donnell eat. New England’s latest masterpiece took place at Soldier Field, where the Patriots were the only people who refused to be bothered by a little frozen rain. (You could almost hear the Bears saying down on the sidelines, “Hey what the hell? I thought we agreed beforehand that the weather was going to have a significant impact on this game!)

Tom Brady, the unquestioned MVP of 2010, has 19 touchdowns and 0 interceptions over his last eight games. Thanks in part to the frost-bitten fingers of the Bears linebackers, Brady has thrown 268 passes without an interception (18 behind Bernie Kosar’s all-time record). The last time Brady was this brilliant (2007), opponents at least knew where he wanted to go with the football (Randy Moss over the top; Wes Welker underneath). There’s no figuring out THIS version of Brady. A great illustration of this would be Deion Branch’s improbable 59-yard touchdown on the final play of the first half. Yes, that play was aided by the Bears’ coverage mistake, but Brady lulled the Bears into that mistake.

None of New England’s receivers or running backs would be surefire starters on a typical NFL team (not even slot master Wes Welker). But Brady has made viable weapons out of all of them. You already knew that, though. We all know that the Patriots are versatile and balanced. What we didn’t know is that a “versatile and balanced” formula can yield five straight games of 30 points-plus.

Even more surprising is that the Patriot defense has been nearly as dominant as the offense recently. The Pats have allowed just 10 points over their last two games. This season, the lineup has consisted of Vince Wilfork at nose tackle, Jerod Mayo at inside linebacker, Devin McCourty at cornerback and a mixture of players rotating at the other eight positions. The “fluidity” of the lineup made for ugly inconsistency at times early this season. But now Bill Belichick has broken-in his rookies and found niches for all his ancillary players. The Patriots rank near the bottom against the pass and on third down, but they also lead the AFC with 20 interceptions. Consider this proof that the best way to hide your weaknesses defensively is to play with a lead (something this club knows how to do).

 



2.) One game where the snow was too much

By now you’ve probably seen the footage of the snow crashing through the torn roof of the Metrodome. What’s the rule of political correctness with this one? Do we have to leave it at “Scary sight, lucky no one was hurt”? Or are we allowed to mention how cool it was? (Absolutely positively no pun intended.) Metrodome (US Presswire)

The Vikings may not be thrilled about the snow damage…right now. It turned their Week 13 home game into a glorified road contest. But in the big picture, you have to figure that a collapsed roof can’t hurt Zygi Wilf’s leverage for getting a new stadium.

When the history books are written, the Giants-Vikings game will probably be remembered for something other than the “awesome but only because nobody was hurt” Metrodome roof collapse: it’s entirely possible, maybe even likely, that Brett Favre’s consecutive starts streak is coming to an end. We include it in this piece – which is normally a review of Sunday’s action – because, predictably, during the hours of 7:00 am to 1:00 pm Sunday we got new Favre quotes and updates every three to four minutes. Even with no game being played, or perhaps because of no game being played, Favre was a dominant story Sunday. The last update was that Favre’s shoulder is a multi-week injury, and an extra 30 hours wouldn’t make that much of a difference in his recovery. Thus, it’s likely Favre sits. (Of course, Leslie Frazier refutes this, so perhaps yet another extensive Favre piece could be for naught.)

Obsessive compulsive Favre fans will find themselves dry-heaving if the legendary streak stops not on the nice round 300, but rather, on 297, which is not prime number but on first glance, sure looks like one. (If you’re counting playoffs, Favre’s streak is at 321.)
Whether you love Favre or love to ride around on your high horse and tell everyone how you can no longer stand the guy (even though you still watch all his games, perk up during the SportsCenter and Pardon the Interruption segments about him, listen to his press conferences and click on every Jenn Sterger story you Googler, errr, “happen to come across”), there’s no denying that the end of the streak is a big deal.

But you know what? It won’t be that big a deal for long. Peyton Manning, who at 34 years old has started all 205 regular season games of his career, needs to play six more years to pass Favre’s mark. No guarantees, certainly, but Manning will probably do that. If he does surpass Favre, the moment will feel like an enormous let down. Favre has battled bumps, bruises and full-on injuries his entire career. And, to everyone’s pleasure and chagrin, he’s always been very public about them (the Ed Werder reports throughout this past week confirm that). Manning, aside from a broken jaw in 2001 that most people don’t remember and a bursa sac issue late in the ’08 preseason, has never been hurt. That makes his streak far less sexy, even if its smoothness is yet another testament to his brilliance.



3.) Jags


The Jaguars-Raiders provided the best 60 minutes of action we got Sunday. The story of the game was once again the effectiveness of Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars rushing attack. MJD had 101 yards on 23 carries (his sixth consecutive triple-digit-yard rushing performance); backup Rashard Jennings – who, if you haven’t seen him, is essentially the AFC’s version of Ryan Torain – came in and capitalized whenever the Raiders showed signs of fatigue. One instance of this was Jennings’s 74-yard touchdown run that was part of Jacksonville’s 21-point third quarter.

Two of Jacksonville’s touchdowns were set up by big plays on special teams: Montell Owens’ recovery of Jacoby Ford’s kick return fumble in the third quarter and rookie Deji Karim’s 65-yard return late in the fourth. Jacksonville needed to make plays on the third side of the ball Sunday because, aside from a few effective play-action passes and drag routes to blossoming tight end Marcedes Lewis, David Garrard and the passing game had no answer for Oakland’s vastly underrated defensive line.

At the end, however, the Raiders looked like the 6-7 team they are when Jason Campbell was forced to make plays in obvious throwing situations. It’s too bad Campbell, who was asked to hand the ball off and get out of the way at San Diego a week ago, struggled down the stretch. He had been fantastic early on, completing 11 of his first 14 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He evaded the rush and consistently hit his second and third reads. But when the Raiders were compelled to be one-dimensional, Campbell began staring at the pass-rush and gyrating unnecessarily in the pocket. He took an awful sack on the second to last play of the game and then somehow topped that mistake by throwing in the middle of the field to Jacoby Ford, which caused the game clock to expire.
M. Jones-Drew (US Presswire)
At the end of the day, the better team won this game. With this victory, the Jaguars ensure that they won’t reproduce last season’s disappointing collapse (0-4 finish after 7-5 start) and they put themselves in position to clinch the AFC South with a win over Indy next week.

But don’t get too giddy, Jags fans. Your team’s defense has a glaring weak spot that Peyton Manning will ruthlessly attack. That weakness is named Sean Considine. The backup safety who already lacks speed in the worst of ways put on a tackling-missing clinic Sunday. If regular starting safety Courtney Green does not return from a separated shoulder suffered against Tennessee, the Jags are in trouble.



4.) Following up on the run

Last week we talked about how, lately, teams have been winning games by dominating on the ground. Nine teams in Week 12 and five teams in Week 13 outrushed their opponents by 150 or so yards. It's an interesting trend, and we promised we’d check in on the running game again this week. So how’d it look?

After San Diego got underrated inside linebacker Stephen Cooper back and predictably stifled the Brodie Croyle-led Chiefs offense. The Chiefs were held to just 48 yards rushing. The Chargers, meanwhile, racked up 207.

Kansas City still has the No. 1 rushing offense in football, though the Jaguars are less than eight yards per game behind them now. Jacksonville gashed Oakland for 234 yards (the Raiders, spurred by Darren McFadden’s ability to accelerate, rushed for 153 yards).
The Panthers totaled 212 yards against the Falcons, but of course, only the Panthers would know how to convert 212 yards rushing into a 21-point loss. The Cardinals got 211 yards, 79 more than the Broncos.

Overall, teams are continuing to win on the ground. Again, this isn’t to say that a rushing attack is more important than a passing attack. But the data does seem to say that a rushing attack is more important this year than last year. Of the top 10 rushing offenses in 2009, five made the playoffs. Of the top 10 rushing offenses this season, seven are playoff bound (the three that aren’t are Oakland, Minnesota and Houston).



5.) Changes needed in Cincy

Another week, another loss for the Bengals. This time it was on the road to a Pittsburgh team that Cincy played close on a Monday night back in November and beat twice in 2009. Terrell Owens once again expressed his frustration in the postgame press conference. The 36-year-old has actually been one of the few bright spots on the Bengals this season, but there are questions about whether he’ll be back once his contract expires after the season. Ditto head coach Marvin Lewis.
C. Palmer (US Presswire)
But the man whose future in Cincy needs to seriously be questioned is Carson Palmer. He is not the same player he was prior to his ’08 elbow injury, and he’s certainly not the same player he was prior to his ’05 knee injury. Palmer threw two more pick-six’s Sunday – one to his close USC friend, Troy Polamalu, and another to LaMarr Woodley. Like Palmer’s three previous pick-six’s this year, these were gimme interceptions resulting from a blatant misread.

Palmer insists that he’s healthy; perhaps he is. But his bizarre accuracy issues and decisions from the pocket suggest something is awry. More troublesome is that the Bengals have become a team that expects – and is expected – to lose each week. That’s partly the product of ownership’s willingness – nay, eagerness – to bring in every underachiever and character-flag guy under the sun. But it’s also a product of poor leadership. As the immensely-compensated franchise quarterback, Palmer shoulders a chunk of the leadership burden.
 
Insiders around the league complain that Palmer is too nice – that he’s too willing to turn the other cheek and endure an earful of criticism from teammates (i.e. Chad Ochocinco). The dynamic of the quarterback-receiver relationship in Cincy has become the most defining aspect of this team’s identity. And now we’re talking about the identity of a team that’s lost 10 straight.

The problem is Palmer is under contract until 2015, and it’s doubtful that owner Mike Brown, who has a reputation for caring more about dollars than victories, will be willing to take the bath he’d need to take in order to make a change under center.



6.) The Jets are “struggle-ling”

From one struggling USC quarterback to another, what’s up with Mark Sanchez? He was awful against Miami – and that’s putting it kindly. Sanchez completed 17 of his 44 passes Sunday, threw an interception (along with a handful of “near interceptions”) and fumbled four times (losing just one). His two early turnovers led to Miami’s only 10 points. Ten points wound up being three more than what was needed to beat a Jets team that has now gone nine straight quarters without an offensive touchdown.

Time to panic in New York? Yes and no.

We’ll start with the “no” first. The Jets, at 9-4, are two games up in the AFC Wild Card race with three to play. They hit a slump last season, still got in at 9-7 and went on to the AFC Title Game.

But the “yes” part is that the ’09 slump came earlier in the year, and from Week 1 through Week 17, the ’09 Jets were one of the league’s best rushing teams. The ’10 Jets seem to be hitting a wall on the ground. LaDainian Tomlinson looks more like what we thought he’d look like all along: a savvy third-down back but not a 20-carry-a-game star. Shonn Greene has been little more than a flaky flirt this season. After 17 yards on eight carries againsM. Sanchez (US Presswire)t the Dolphins, Greene has averaged fewer than four yards per rushing attempt in four of his last five outings (granted, this could be in small part because the Jets prefer to use his bruising body in short-yardage situations).

It’s not just the offense. Coming into Sunday, there were concerns about New York’s pass defense. As the NFL Matchup Show pointed out, teams are max-protecting against Rex Ryan’s complex blitzes more this season and finding ways to exploit the safeties and linebackers in coverage. However, it’s hard to gripe about the pass defense this week, considering the Jets held Chad Henne to 5/18 for 55 yards (those are his final stats – not first, second, third or fourth quarter stats).

But defensive dominance is only valuable if you have an offense that can at least control tempo. The Jets controlled tempo last season by running the ball some 60 percent of the time. This season, they’re running less than 48 percent of the time. In other words, they’ve hitched their wagon to their second-year Trojan horse, and now that Trojan horse is showing iffy footwork, jittery pocket presence and questionable decision-making skills under pressure. Sanchez is capable of bouncing back, but it looks like it will take more than a well-publicized lunch meeting with the head coach to make that happen.



7.) P.S. from Jets-Fins game


The late window of games was surprisingly futile Sunday. The Bears got devoured by the Patriots. The Seahawks went to San Francisco and pulled another one of their maddening inept masterpieces out of their…ears. The Rams looked like an upstart but overmatched club facing the defending World Champions on the road. The Chiefs gave the type of performance that had to make Matt Cassel, who was watching at home, sick to his stomach all over again. And, out of principle, I boycotted the Broncos-Cardinals game (the poor Sunday Ticket-less folks in my hometown of Boise, ID got stuck with this as their CBS afternoon game). So I have no idea what happened there, though I heard the Cards won by a lot.

The only late-window contest that was close was the Jets-Dolphins. And, let’s be honest, that game was only close because neither team knew how to play offense in a driving rainstorm.

But we can’t be sour about an entire late afternoon of football. So, in an effort to give a toast with a glass that’s half full (half full for these next few paragraphs, anyway…can’t be half full too long because we still have an NFC West story on the way), I present to you Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake. The former CFL superstar entered Sunday’s game with an NFL-best 12 sacks. He secured a Dolphins victory by increasing that total to 14 on the final two plays of the game.

Everyone has been touting Clay Matthews as the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year. But until Sunday at Detroit, the Packers outside linebacker had been somewhat quiet the past month-and-a-half (quiet for DPOY standards, that is). Wake has been a beast week in and week out. As quick as he is off the edge, the 250-pounder takes on blocks remarkably well. This vast array of skills has made him one of the premiere run-defending outside linebackers in the game (did you see the fourth down stop he had on Shonn Greene in the second half?).

Consider this bit here an effort to get Wake’s name where it belongs: in the forefront of the DPOY discussion.



8.) The NFC West: You’re kidding, right?


It looks like the NFC really is going to have a sub-.500 team in the postseason this season. The Rams and Seahawks both got dismantled Sunday, falling to 6-7. St. Louis is a young team; Seattle is just downright irritating. When they lose, they sure like to get their money’s worth.

Both the Rams and Seahawks will be underdogs in Week 15. The two square off for what could be a “win and you’re in” game in Week 17. (The league wouldn’t dare make that the Sunday night game, would it?)

We could debate all day about the merits of a 7-9 playoff team. There are two sides to the debate: the side that says “division title or not, you can’t let a sub-.500 team in and screw over a likely 10-6 team” and the side that says “a division title is a division title, let ‘em in – even if it means screwing over a likely 10-6 team.” The problem here is that, both sides can agree, a 10-6 team, or ever a worthy 9-7 team, is going to get screwed over.

The NFL needs to use common sense and change the playoff regulations after this season (the suggestion here is only guarantee a playoff spot to ABOVE .500 teams AND re-seed all playoff teams by record). If the league can’t find the motivation to fix this soon-to-be embarrassing mess on its own, maybe FOX can provide encouragement. The playoff games represent a significant chunk of the NFL television package’s value. It’s not fair that FOX, which forks over the GDP of a small country for the right to broadcast NFC games, gets stuck with a pathetic Wild Card matchup simply because the NFL refuses to amend its outdated playoff system.



9.) The Real McCoy

How is it that LeSean McCoy plays for one of the most prominent franchises in professional sports, records over 120 yards in offense four straight games yet does not come up in most discussions involving the top echelon of running backs in the NFC? McCoy was quiet throughout most of the first two-and-a-half quarters against Dallas Sunday night. Then, midway through the third, he burst up the middle for a 56-yard run (left guard Todd Herremans was spectacular all night, and particularly in getting to the second level on this play). In the fourth quarter, McCoy had runs of 13, 6, 12, 19, 13 and 6 yards. He finished with 16 carries for 149 yards, leaving him with 972 yards rushing on the season. L. McCoy (US Presswire)

Because he has become arguably the best screen pass weapon in the game, McCoy leads the Eagles with 67 receptions on the season (534 yards). Prior to DeSean Jackson’s 210-yard outburst – highlighted by an NFL-long 91-yard touchdown catch that was nearly as stunning as his fall-into-the-end-zone celebration was clever – Philly’s leading receiver in terms of yardage was Jeremy Maclin. In short, the Eagles are rolling behind Michael Vick and three bona fide stars with a combined four years of experience coming into this season. The key is that all four players have lethal speed, which forces defenses to play more zone. Safe but simple zone looks has given these young Eagles easier reads to make.

Speaking of Vick, if Andy Reid was displeased about the amount of hits he was enduring prior to this game, he must now be downright irate. That’s one thing the Eagles must be concerned about moving forward.



10.) Quick Hits

***Donovan McNabb once again looked pretty good running that super complex two-minute offense in Washington. When the Redskins botched the extra point snap (actually, the Redskins didn’t botch the extra point snap – only long snapper Nick Sundberg and holder Hunter Smith did), it marked the second time this season that McNabb’s successful two-minute drive at the end of regulation was ruined by the field goal unit. (The other was against the Titans in Week 11.)

***The game in Buffalo managed to be as poor as the weather. Would you believe it was two Jake Delhomme turnovers in the fourth quarter that helped seal the loss for the Browns?

***Two defensive ends who stood out in the Jaguars-Raiders game: Jeremy Mincey for Jacksonville and Lamarr Houston for Oakland. Both can pressure the passer but also play the run.

***Raise your hand if you had Andre Whitworth, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley in the touchdown pool for the Bengals-Steelers game.

***Did you see the way Dick LeBeau censured Polamalu after the safety inexplicably tried to pitch the ball back on his second interception? How many assistant coaches would grab a superstar by the pads like that and read him the riot act? And how many superstars would go up to that coach afterwards for an apology hug? It’s a special culture in Pittsburgh.

***I realize the Lions’ surprising win over the Packers probably deserves more than an afterthought mention in the quick hits like this, but really, what is there to say? I watched a majority of this game and I can tell you, in all honesty, nothing happened. Well, there was the Aaron Rodgers injury, of course. But we’ll be talking about that all week anyway. As far as everything else goes, this was a game in which neither team converted a third down until midway through the third quarter. The Packers lost because of unfortunate first half turnovers

***The Bucs front seven looked disinterested in run defense in the first quarter. Unable to shed blocks, the Bucs surrendered 121 yards to Ryan Torain (the most rushing yards in an NFL first quarter since Tiki Barber against the Raiders in 2005). Torain had just 51 yards the rest of the game, though.

***Somehow, the Redskins actually got more out of Albert Haynesworth this Sunday than they got in any other game since Halloween.

***The Saints got Pierre Thomas back after his nine-week absence with a left ankle injury. (Thomas had 39 yards on 12 carries against the Rams.) This team is rolling. Reggie Bush is once again healthy and in top form. Gregg Williams’ defense has been extra effective with safety blitzes in recent weeks. On Sunday, bourgeoning free safety Malcom Jenkins intercepted Sam Bradford (who, for a lot of this game, was rattled by New Orleans’ pass-rush) and returned it 96 yards for a game-swinging interception touchdown late in the first half. How is it that no one is really buzzing about the 10-3 defending World Champions?

***Good idea to paint the lines red on Chicago’s snowy field.

***The Chargers rediscovered their rushing attack Sunday (big time). Mike Tolbert had 66 yards on 16 carries. That was one more yard than rookie Ryan Mathews had on the same number of attempts. Darren Sproles, who came into the game with only 36 rushing attempts, produced 53 yards on six carries.

***Sean Smith is a somewhat limited cornerback in terms of fluidity and physicality, but he was tremendous Sunday. Smith was credited with four pass breakups, though it felt more like 12.


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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 23, 2010 12:43 am
Edited on: November 23, 2010 8:16 am
 

Turner is the reason for SD's turnaround

M. Tolbert had a big game for San Diego as it defeated Denver 35-14 (Getty).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The San Diego Chargers are going to win the AFC West again.

That much seems clear after watching San Diego dominate the Broncos 35-14 tonight. Although Denver scored on what was an easy game-opening drive, this game was almost never in doubt. For a team that lost five of its first seven games this year, the Chargers once again are the class of the division.

And it’s not like other teams haven’t had a chance to bury the Chargers early in the season.

The Chiefs played well early, starting out 5-2, but they’ve lost two of their last three – including a 49-29 decision defeat to Denver – and are barely hanging onto first place (the Chargers and Chiefs will play again Dec. 12). The Raiders have exceeded expectations while shuffling two quarterbacks in and out of the game seemingly every week, but they’re still only 5-5 (and tied with San Diego for second place in the West). And Denver … well, you can forget about the Broncos.

So, what’s changed?

Philip Rivers has been fantastic all season – he’s now thrown for 3,177 yards (and he’s still on pace to break the season mark for passing yards), 23 touchdowns and just eight interceptions – and he’s perhaps the No. 1 MVP candidate at this point in the season.

But first-round pick RB Ryan Mathews still hasn’t played that much. The special teams have been downright awful. And the underachieving Norv Turner is still the head coach of the club.

Yet, in place of Mathews, Mike Tolbert has been more than solid as the No. 1 RB (tonight, he rushed for 111 yards and a score). Though the Chargers have played without top-flight WR Vincent Jackson – who will return next week – all season and TE extraordinaire Antonio Gates the past two games, Patrick Crayton has been productive (105 receiving yards and a TD tonight) and RB Darren Sproles has done well catching passes out of the backfield.

And the defense, mind you, has been really good, leading the NFL by allowing 270.7 total yards per game and recording a league-high 32 sacks (coming into tonight's game).

But perhaps the biggest reason for the turnaround? Turner himself. As you might be aware, Turner isn’t exactly the fiery, motivating-type coach. But when San Diego fell behind 19-14 to Tennessee at halftime in Week 8, Turner gave a teary-eyed halftime speech that inspired San Diego to turn that five-point halftime deficit into a 33-25 victory.

That carryover has led to a three-game winning streak, including the Chargers’ most complete game of the season tonight.

“When I saw Norv crying, I knew it was real,” Gates told a radio station after the Chargers beat the Titans. “This means the world to him. That spoke volumes and it worked. Not to say that guys didn’t believe up to that point, but I think he made himself clear.”

Now, the Chargers are making it clear to everybody else in the division. The AFC West title is for San Diego, and nobody else will take it from the suddenly-resurgent Chargers.

And yeah, Turner, once again, will be on the hot seat if the Chargers don’t make a playoff run, but still, he deserves plenty of credit for his team’s turnaround.

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Posted on: November 20, 2010 11:02 pm
 

Week 11 injury report analysis Part V

Posted by Andy Benoit

Colts @ Patriots

The Colts listed basically their entire roster as questionable this week, so who knows what the starting lineup will look like come kickoff. Generally, Indy’s rule is players who don’t practice don’t play. If that’s the case, then don’t expect to see running backs Joseph Addai (neck) and Mike Hart (ankle) or linebackers Gary Brackett (toe) and Clint Session (elbow). It looks like WR Austin Collie will return after his frightening concussion two weeks ago.

Patriots return star Brandon Tate missed the week with a sickness and is questionable. Guard Steve Neal was limited in practice with a shoulder. S Jarrad Page and RB Fred Taylor are both ostensibly closer to returning, though both remain questionable.

Giants @ Eagles

The Giants are without two of their three best offensive linemen: LT David Diehl (hip) and C Shaun O’Hara (foot). Diehl’s backup, Shawn Andrews, is once again battling back problems and is questionable. New York is also missing its steadiest offensive weapon, WR Steve Smith. This significantly alters Eli Manning’s approach to third down and the inside passing game.

Eagles DE Juqua Parker was limited in practice this week, but he’s the only player battling a significant injury. Sine there’s nothing left to talk about here, do we go ahead and take this opportunity to heap more praise on Michael Vick?

Broncos @ Chargers

The Chargers are getting starting receiver Malcom Floyd back from a hamstring injury, but No. 2 wideout Legedu Naanee will need at least another week. Antonio Gates is expected to miss another week with plantar fascia. Don’t count on RB Ryan Mathews (ankle) playing, either.

For the Broncos, WR Eddie Royal (hamstring) and CB Andre Goodman (hip) both missed practice. Royal is questionable; Goodman is out.

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Posted on: November 1, 2010 6:40 pm
 

Hot Routes 11.1.10 box score tidbits

Hot Routes

Posted by Andy Benoit

We read through all the box scores so that you wouldn't have to. Here's what was pulled out.

Neither quarterback was very good in the Bengals-Dolphins game. Carson Palmer struggled with distance-based accuracy, completing just 17/38 passes. Chad Henne was 24/37 with no touchdowns and an awful interception to Morgan Trent.

M. Stafford returned to Detroit and helped lead his squad to a victory against Washington (Getty). For the seventh time in seven games this season, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were both held to 80 yards or less on the ground.

Davone Bess, who started ahead of Brian Hartline for the first time this season, caught seven balls for Miami. The shifty slot receiver is on pace for 89 receptions and nearly 1,000 yards in 2010.

Maurice Jones-Drew had his best game of the season against the Cowboys, rushing for 135 yards on 27 carries.

In his first game since injuring his shoulder in Week 1, Matthew Stafford was 26/45 for 212 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. (DeAngelo Hall, who was outplayed by Calvin Johnson for most of the afternoon, snagged the interception on a brilliant first quarter play.)

The box score shows Washington gaining 80 yards on the ground, but 45 of those yards came on four Donovan McNabb runs. The Redskins never came close to sustaining a true rushing attack on Sunday.

Ndamukong Suh is running away with the Defensive Player of the Year award. The behemoth DT recorded two more sacks Sunday, bringing his total to 6.5 on the season. Suh also had five tackles and a game-sealing touchdown off a fumble return.

Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril also recorded a pair of sacks for the Lions.

Only 42,339 people paid to see the Lions defeat the Redskins.

The Bills became the fourth team in NFL history to lose back-to-back overtime games on the road. (Of course, that kind of heartbreak is nothing for a franchise that once lost back-to-back Super Bowls back-to-back times.) The last team to lose two straight road overtime games was the ’09 Steelers (remember them?).

For what it’s worth, Kansas City’s Thomas Jones became the first player in NFL history to rush for 500 yards for a fifth different team. Jones had 77 of the Chiefs’ 274 yards rushing. (Jamaal Charles led the way with 177; he also led the Chiefs with 61 yards receiving.)

C.J. Spiller seemed to spend as much time at wide receiver as running back. And not at slot receiver – split out WIDE, as in outside the numbers. Spiller finished with four catches for 28 yards and six carries for 17 yards. (It’s apparent that the first-round rookie is still doing too much reading and not enough reacting.)

Paul Posluszny led the Bills with 18 tackles. He has extra chances to tackle because none of Buffalo’s defensive linemen can get off blocks.

Steven Jackson played with a broken finger against the Panthers. He came out in passing situations (one catch, four yards), but rushed for 59 yards on 23 carries (his performance looked better than the numbers suggest).

You can call off the search party for Carolina’s running game – not because the run game was found but because it’s safe to declare it dead. Jonathan Stewart managed just 30 yards on 14 carries against the Rams. DeAngelo Williams stayed home with a foot injury.

James Laurinaitis is putting together a Pro Bowl season. On Sunday the second-year linebacker had eight tackles, a sack, three tackles for a loss and an interception (which came on a horrendous decision and throw by Matt Moore).

The Packers told Aaron Rodgers all week not to worry about his completion percentage – just make sure he didn’t turn the ball over. Rodgers listened. He was 15/34 passing with zero interceptions and fumbles.

Mark Sanchez was equally inaccurate, going 16/38 but with two picks (one of which was Charles Woodson plain ripping the ball away from Dustin Keller.)

LaDainian Tomlinson is clearly the No. 1 back for the Jets. He got 16 carries against Green Bay; Shonn Greene got six. Neither player was particularly effective (LT got tripped up on several shoestring tackles).

After catching a pass in 133 straight games, Donald Drive was held without a catch for a second straight game. He was still hampered by a quad injury.

Troy Smith was an efficient 12/19 for 196 yards and a touchdown in his 49ers starting debut. Looks like Mike Singletary may have a new starting Smith to threaten with a benching.

Brandon Lloyd hauled in seven passes for 169 yards. Lloyd has had triple-digit receiving yards in five games this season.

Justin Smith led the Niners with two sacks and two tackles for a loss.

The trio of Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert and Darren Sproles combined for 145 yards rushing for San Diego.

Some guy named Seyi Ajirotutu (save some vowels for the rest of us, pal) had three catches for 48 yards for the Chargers. Ajirotutu is an undrafted rookie from Fresno State.

The Seahawks were 1/16 on third down against the Raiders.

How’s this for consistency: Adrian Peterson carried the ball 25 times for 92 yards Sunday, with his longest run going for just nine yards.

Danny Woodhead turned in five catches for 45 yards against the Vikings.

LeGarrette Blount had 22 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s win at Arizona. (Cadillac Williams had just four carries for 10 yards.)

In his first game since Week 3, Steve Breaston caught eight passes for 147 yards.

No one for the Steelers had more than 43 yards receiving at New Orleans Sunday night.

Robert Meachem and Marques Colston both had six catches and at least 75 yards receiving for the Saints.

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Posted on: October 17, 2010 7:08 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 7:11 pm
 

Gates dealing with an ankle injury

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Forget the 20-17 loss to the Rams, though, in actuality, it’s a terrible loss for the Chargers. Forget the fact TE Antonio Gates’ NFL record streak of nine consecutive games with a touchdown reception is now history.

The most painful aspect of today’s loss in St. Louis was the injury to Gates. He injured his left ankle in the second quarter while making a block for RB Ryan Mathews and missed the rest of the game. He’ll undergo an MRI on Monday, and he was seen leaving the stadium with a walking boot.

"I got tripped up and I guess some guys fell on the back of my leg," Gates told reporters afterward. "That's initially how it started. Then on a pass down the middle on the last play I was in, someone fell on my ankle. I just couldn't go. I couldn't move."

The loss obviously is a big deal for San Diego. Gates has a team-leading 31 catches and a squad-high seven touchdowns this season, and he’s one of the most dangerous receivers in all of football. His absence won't help what is apparently not a very good Chargers squad.

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Posted on: September 23, 2010 8:53 pm
 

Ryan Mathews probably out for Sunday

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It doesn’t sound like Chargers rookie RB Ryan Mathews will play this Sunday against the Seahawks.

Though the headline of the story in the San Diego Union Tribune is definitive for an article in which nobody explicitly states that Matthews will be inactive, it’s a pretty good bet Mathews won’t be on the field.

You’ll recall that he suffered a high ankle sprain last Sunday against the Jaguars, and he hasn’t practiced this week. He ran on a treadmill today, but it will be tough for him to get on the field in three days time.

Luckily for San Diego, backup FB Mike Tolbert rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries after Mathews left last week’s game. Also, the Chargers can count on Darren Sproles to pick up some of the slack.

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Posted on: September 19, 2010 4:53 pm
Edited on: September 19, 2010 5:12 pm
 

Ryan Mathews carted off in first quarter

Posted by Will Brinson

Ryan Mathews was supposed to the "next LaDainian Tomlinson." Or at hte very least, a serviceable replacement. After a horrible start to his season against the Chiefs, things got even worse Sunday against the Jaguars as Mathews lost an early fumble and then was carted off after a right foot/ankle injury in the first quarter.

Mathews was running into a pile and a rewind and slow-mo job shows that Kirk Morrison came down on his right foot as he pushed forward, in a relatively nasty looking little injury.

10 bucks says he's classified as "questionable" to return, and another $10 says he won't see the field again against Jacksonville; San Diego has too much invested in Mathews to risk further injury, particularly if he's dealing with something like a high ankle sprain.

Update: (5:10): Well, scratch THAT idea. Mathews is already back on the Chargers sideline and seems likely to play. Guess he's not the next LdT after all. (Because, you know, he would have put on a helmet and a raincoat and sat on the bench staring at nothing.)

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