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Tag:Caleb Hanie
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: December 6, 2011 12:20 pm
 

Coach Killers, Week 13: Dumb penalties are dumb

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

By Ryan Wilson

Caleb Hanie, Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nate Burleson, Lions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dunta Robinson, Julio Jones, Falcons

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Seymour, Raiders

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

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



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

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

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

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

That Dolphins loss could prove to be huge.

Dan Bailey, Cowboys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on: December 5, 2011 1:57 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 2:15 pm
 

Report: Brett Favre would listen if Bears called

Posted by Will Brinson



And so it begins: a report out of Chicago Monday indicates that Brett Favre "would listen" if the Bears, dealing with serious deficiencies on offense, came calling.

Mike C. Wright of ESPN Chicago cites a "source familiar with the quarterback" who said Favre "would listen if the Bears made a pitch." Wright also adds, however, that it's "highly doubtful" that the Bears would call and that, as of the report, Chicago had not contacted Favre.
Week 13 Recap

That backs up what Bears coach Lovie Smith said on Monday when addressing the offensive issues following a sprained MCL injury to running back Matt Forte that could sideline the Bears two best offensive players -- quarterback Jay Cutler and Forte -- for the rest of the regular season.

"That's our group," Smith said of his quarterbacks. "We're going to make improvements with our group. We're not looking on the outside. We won't have a quarterback tryout or anything like that."

On the heels of back-to-back three-interception games from Caleb Hanie, the Bears were tied to plenty of rumors surrounding free agent Donovan McNabb. (Wide receiver/kick returner Devin Hester believes that would be "a waste of time.")

The upshot to either Favre or McNabb is that they have more experience (and, hopefully, skill) than Hanie. The downside is that they don't know Mike Martz' offense, and getting either up to speed wouldn't be the easiest of tasks.

Additionally, each one would bring a touch of drama to the situation, as you might expect.

The more likely scenario is that Chicago does what Chicago does, which is try to win games with defense and special teams. But the Bears are still in the playoff hunt, and Favre will, apparently, never go away. So let's not rule anything out completely just yet.

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Posted on: December 5, 2011 11:46 am
 

Matt Forte to miss 2-4 weeks with sprained MCL?

Posted by Will Brinson



Matt Forte's injury on Sunday -- the running back left in the first quarter after Derrick Johnson tackled him -- might have backed the Bears season into a corner and taken away its claws. This is particularly true if Forte, as reports indicate, will miss between two and four weeks.

"I feel bad for Matt, especially with everything he's going through,'' wideout/returner Devin Hester said. "This is like a big slap in the face.''

Week 13 Recap

Hester, by the way, also said signing Donovan McNabb would be "a waste of time." Multiple reports out of Chicago indicate that Forte's injury is a Grade 2 MCL sprain and that it will require him to miss up to four weeks of playing time.

Interestingly, as Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune notes, Forte's played through a serious knee injury once already in his career. In 2009, Forte sprained his MCL in Week 3 of the season but never missed a game, eventually getting surgery in the following offseason.

There's one huge difference between 2009 and right now, though: Forte's contract.

The running back has wanted a new deal for several months now, and the Bears have simply refused to "pay the man." Whether or not Forte's willing to play through the injury this time around will be interesting; at least one of his teammates believes if he can, he will.

"He's a competitor," wideout Roy Williams said Sunday after the game, per The Trib. "That's what we are: We're competitors. A lot of people don't play this game for money. I don't. I could quit right now and be fine [financially]. I play because I love the game and I want to compete. That's the same with Forte. If he can play, he's going to play, no matter the money situation."

No one doubts that Forte wants to play. And even if Forte misses four weeks, it doesn't mean he's purposely laying low to guarantee himself a payday. In fact, far from it.

But it'd be hard to blame Forte if he was cautious with his returning timeline, given the way the Bears have handled his contract situation. Of course, Sunday was a perfect example of not only why Forte wants to get paid, but why the Bears haven't paid him.

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Posted on: December 5, 2011 10:28 am
 

Hester: Signing McNabb would be a 'waste of time'

Posted by Will Brinson

With the Bears falling out of a playoff spot (if it ended today) during Sunday's action, and with Matt Forte suffering an injury that could end their playoff chances, it's not unreasonable to think that Chicago might consider signing free-agent quarterback Donovan McNabb.

In fact, at least one report out of Chicago has the Bears considering the move on Monday. However, it doesn't sound like the type of thing that would make wide receiver/returner Devin Hester particularly happy, as he called the idea "a waste of time."

"It’s going to be tough right now to pick up a quarterback that hasn’t played in the Mike Martz offense," Hester said on Mike and Mike in the Morning, via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. "This is a difficult offense to run, so as far as a quarterback who hasn’t played in the offense, right now it’s going to be a waste of time."

Alternately, the Bears could, you know, not run Mike Martz' offense. It's not working for Hanie, who's got six interceptions in his two games as a starter, and it's probably not a surprise. Teams don't win by suffering injuries and then stuffing quarterbacks into particular offenses just because they're on the depth chart. Teams overcome adversity by running a maleable gameplan that changes to fit the strengths and weaknesses of whoever's under center.
Week 13 Recap

This should be self-evident to Martz and the Bears based on Jay Cutler's performance through the first five games of the season against the next five games of the season, when Martz stopped making him take seven-step drops on every single play.

There's also the matter of whether McNabb can still be an effective NFL quarterback in any offense. If Christian Ponder and Rex Grossman both look better than McNabb, is he really more prepared to step in and succeed than Caleb Hanie?

Maybe, but maybe not. And the fact that he definitely doesn't know the offense is probably reason enough to scare the Bears away. But with the way their grasp on a playoff spot appears to be slipping, don't be surprised by anything.

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Posted on: December 5, 2011 2:20 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 13

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 13 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.

 

1. Tebowtainment

Before diving into another Tim Tebow victory -- this time a 35-32 squeaker on the road in Minnesota -- let's go ahead and get you ready for the upcoming week of screaming talking head mania by offering up the Official Tebow Haters Stat Du Jour: opponent's victories!

As people will tell you over the next seven days, Denver's last five victories came against five teams five teams with a combined 25 victories. (Don't think I'm defending that, just know that I'm preparing you for it.)

You know why people are going to focus on that, as well as the Vikings two-win season and a miserable Minnesota secondary?

Because Tebow just won a game by being a -- gasp! -- traditional passer. Tebow went 10 of 15 for 202 yards and two touchdowns and only rushed the ball four times, one of which was was a lateral kneel to set up the game-winning field goal.

The result of Sunday's win is the most improbable of improbable situations: Denver being the favorite to land the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs. With "just" the Bears, Patriots, Bills and Chiefs remaining on the schedule, Denver's in a better position than Oakland (losers Sunday, with the Packers, Lions, Chiefs and Chargers remaining) to make the postseason.

And if you're a Tebow hater, you better get your block button on Twitter ready, because things are about to get hairy when they get there. On the other hand, if you're a Tebow hater, what's your beef with a team that utilizes an opportunistic defense, a run-based offense that doesn't make mistakes and a quarterback who may or may not have mystical powers to win games?

I understand that people have to argue about something during the week, but are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?

2. You Just Iced Yourself, Bro

On Sunday, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett took clock mismanagement to an entirely new level in Dallas' 19-13 loss to Arizona in overtime.

First off, Garrett iced his own kicker. Icing an opponent's kicker is a foolhardy move, because it really doesn't work all that well in the first place. But icing your own kicker? That's the stuff that Jim Mora rants -- and knee-jerk firings -- are made of.

Somehow, though, Garrett's ridiculous decision wasn't his worst move of the Cowboys loss. With over a minute remaining, Dallas facing a second and 20 and holding two timeouts, Tony Romo took the snap and completed a pass to Dez Bryant for nine yards. 30 seconds later, Romo took another snap and hit Bryant for 15 yards and a first down, then spiked the ball with eight seconds remaining on the clock.

No timeouts used, 53 seconds burnt and the Cowboys still needing Dan Bailey to kick a 49-yard field goal. Cue up icing of Bailey, and cue up a Kevin Kolb-led game-winning drive for the Cardinals in their first possession in overtime.

There's no need to dive into the hyperbole-filled world of "worst clock management ever," but suffice to say Wade Phillips is laughing his jolly ass off somewhere right now.

3. Yes We Cam ... But Maybe We Shouldn't

Sunday -- a 38-19 win for Carolina over Tampa Bay -- was a big day for Cam Newton. The Panthers won. (It's the most important thing, haven't you heard?) Newton won his first division game. Newton picked up his first winning "streak." And the rookie phenom had, arguably, his best game as a professional quarterback.

Newton went 12 of 21 for and only threw for 204 yards, but he had one touchdown through the air, no turnovers and managed 54 rushing yards on 13 carries and three rushing touchdowns.

That total, by the by, means Newton now holds the single-season rookie record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 13, leaving poor Steve Grogan with no other real historical notation to his name.

Here's the crazy thing though: Newton's just five touchdowns short of Eric Dickerson's record for rushing touchdowns in a season by any rookie. With four games to go, 18 or 19 is well within his sights.

Should it be, though? I say no, and that's coming from someone who's a conductor on the CamWagon and a Newton fantasy owner. Here's why: Newton hasn't learned how to avoid contact yet. He's getting a little better about avoiding shots, but watching him go into a headfirst horizontal spin has to make Jerry Richardson's heart skip a couple of beats.

On a day when you win by 19 points against a terrible rushing defense like Tampa's, especially when they don't have their starting quarterback, there's no reason why Newton has three more carries than DeAngelo Williams, who got $43 million this offseason.

Watching Cam break Dickerson's record would be fun, but not as fun as watching Cam stay healthy over the next decade.

4. Defining Swagger

For the first few weeks of the season, I'm pretty confident I pumped a lot of words in this space in the direction of the Detroit Lions because of their new-found attitude under coach Jim Schwartz.

A "swagger," if you will. Well, it's backfiring, and backfiring badly. Sunday was a perfect example, as the Lions piled up well over 100 yards in penalties -- most of them incredibly stupid and chippy -- during their 31-17 loss to New Orleans.

Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham preach a hard-nose brand of football, and that's great for a Lions team that's been pushed around and publicly mocked for more than a decade because of futility in every aspect.

But you can't give away games by trying to be tough. The Lions, for the first time in a looooong time, are in the middle of a playoff race, and other contenders (the Giants, the Bears, the Falcons, the Cowboys) are imploding all around them.

Did they learn nothing from Ndamukong Suh getting suspended for ridiculously dumb and violent on-field actions? Just go out and be tough without being dumb.

Having swagger doesn't mean having to be stupid.


5. Hibernation Time

Say what you will about Caleb Hanie, but the Bears had a shot at the playoffs even with Jay Cutler out. But after Matt Forte sprained his MCL in Sunday's 10-3 loss to Kansas City, that pipedream just went down the tube.

Hanie was 11 of 24 for 133 yards and three picks, Marion Barber carried the rock 14 times for 44 yards and anyone watching the game knew that it was going to take a Bears defensive touchdown to win that game.

The Bears got burnt because Kansas City hit a Hail Mary to Dexter McCluster at the end of the half, and as pointed out last week, Romeo Crennel really does deserve some love for the defensive schemes he's cooking up these days, but this is a Chicago team that looked like a legit Super Bowl contender just three weeks ago.

Since then, they've been absolutely snakebit with injuries to stars, and even if they're still technically "in" the NFC playoffs as of today, is that defense really going to shut out three of the next four opponents?

Or, put more a little succinctly: Chicago just lost to Tyler Palko. Goodnight, sweet Bears.

6. Next Man Up

Speaking of injuries to key players, can we go ahead and get love for the work Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips are doing in Houston?

Because as soft as the Texans schedule is, Kubes somehow managed to shock the world (well, some of us) by beating Atlanta 17-10 despite having T.J. Yates under center.

But what's new, right? The Texans, as Clark Judge noted on Sunday from Houston, have won without every single one of their stars and it's not just because this team gets to beat up on the cupcakes of the AFC South.

It's because they've got established a quality of depth on this team that allows them to succeed despite potentially debilitating injuries to critical players.

"Because we have a defense that's playing well," Arian Foster said after the game. "We have receivers that can make plays. [We have] a solid offensive line. We have running backs who can make plays. We have weapons around him to help [Yates]."

This steady diet of consistency and quality of depth is precisely why Houston hasn't -- and won't -- collapse under the weight of a run to the playoffs this year.


7. Rookie Wall

The BCS laid a couple of stinkbombs on Sunday that would actually make Jim Caldwell cringe, but the most important thing for us NFL types is that the college season is now over. Not because we want it to end, but now's a good measuring stick of the rookie wall.

The last time Andy Dalton, leading a surprising Bengals playoff run, played a game after the first weekend of December, it was probably on a month's worth of rest, because of the bowl system.

This year, Dalton gets four games in that stretch, with about six days in between each one.

And though the Red Rifle wasn't awful during Sunday's 35-7 loss to Pittsburgh, he was banged up and beat down enough that Bruce Gradkowski came in for mop-up duty.

As noted above, I'm all for keeping rookies safe. But there's got to be some concern that Dalton's entering an unknown area in terms of wear and tear on his body and mind.

It probably won't help that he gets a pair of elite defenses -- Baltimore and Houston -- over the next few weeks either.

8. Please Don't Punch the Zebras

Twice on Sunday we saw players -- Da'Quan Bowers of the Buccaneers and Brandon Pettigrew of the Lions -- make what could at best be called "incidental" contact with referees on the field.

Both Bowers and Pettigrew were involved in scuffles on the field and neither was going after the official, but when they were being pulled away from whatever mini-ruckus was taking place, both struck the official.

That's a 15-yard penalty and it should be an ejection. Only Pettigrew was flagged and neither was ejected. (Oddly, when Bowers lashed out, Brian Price was booted to the locker room by coach Raheem Morris.)

It's not an epidemic running around, but with some of the non-calls we've seen on violent plays this year, it's a little disappointing that the guys in stripes aren't making more of a concerted effort to look out for their own safety.

Expect fines for both guys, particularly if the league wants to ensure players aren't taking aggressive contact with the officials on the field of play.

9. Save Our Sparanos

My man Pete Prisco already broke down the odiferous nature of Oakland's 34-14 stinkbomb in Miami on Sunday, but there's something else at play here: is Tony Sparano saving his job?

Because the Dolphins are suddenly riding a hot streak (they've won four of their last five) that seemed impossible after an 0-7 start to the season. Not only are they no longer the worst team in the NFL, they might not even be the worst team in their division, what with the 5-7 Bills racing them back to the bottom.

Matt Moore looks like Matt Moore looked when Matt Moore was helping the Panthers win meaningless games late in 2009, and Reggie Bush looks like Reggie Bush looked when ... well, Reggie Bush hasn't ever looked like this. But he looks good.

The defense is stifling teams (I don't care how many starters the Raiders were missing), and Miami's got three winnable games on their schedule remaining, as they play the Eagles and Jets at home and the Bills on the road.

If Sparano gets this team to 7-9 by winning seven of their last nine, it really seems inconceivable that Stephen Ross could can him.

10. Utah, Gimme Two

If you're listening to the podcast -- and why aren't you listening and/or subscribing -- you probably heard us rant on the ridiculous nature of two-point conversion usage in football.

And if you're not listening, here's a synopsis: people are doing it wrong. A great example occurred during the Packers-Giants game on Sunday (eventually won by Green Bay 38-35). With 3:35 remaining, the Packers held a one-point lead when Aaron Rodgers hit Donald Driver for a ridiculous touchdown grab.

Up seven points, the Packers had two choices. One, kick the extra point (and go up eight). Or two, go for two and have roughly a 50-percent chance (the conversion rate for two-point conversions) of going up nine points.

An unsuccessful conversion would simply mean the Giants needed to go down and score a touchdown, same as before, except without having to score a two-point conversion afterward. (Same odds apply here for the Giants getting theirs, obviously.)

A successful two-point conversion, however, would put the Packers up nine points, which means the Giants would need to go down, score a touchdown, kick an extra point, recover an onsides kick and then get in range to kick a long field goal. The odds of this happening are a) much worse than the Giants scoring and getting a two-point conversion; or b) much, much, much lower than a coin flip.

For whatever reason, coaches -- and most fans -- don't understand the tremendous advantage being up two possessions present, as opposed to simply being up eight points. The reward (basically ending the game) substantially outweighs the risk (a tie ballgame), however.

Muffed Punts

Leftovers from Sunday's Action ...
... The Packers tied the second-longest winning streak in NFL history, and are just three shy of the 03-04 Patriots, who won 21 straight.
... Frank Gore passed Joe Perry as the 49ers all-time leading rusher, on a day when San Francisco clinched the division.
... Drew Brees became the first player in NFL history to record 4,000 passing yards in his team's first 12 games.
... Jimmy Graham became the first Saints tight end in history to top 1,000 yards receiving in a season.
... Hines Ward became the 19th player in NFL history with 12,000 receiving yards in his career Sunday.

Worth 1,000 Words


GIF O' THE WEEK

A combo GIF this week! Via SBNation, first we have Hakeem Nicks showing the world how to do the not-so-sissy strut:



And then Nicks following that dance up by doing ... this:


Hot Seat Tracker

  • Steve Spagnuolo -- On the bright side, there might be an opening for a defensive coordinator in Philly ...
  • Jim Caldwell -- You can't not fire your coach if he goes 0-16, right?
  • Andy Reid --  I still don't buy that Philly dumps him, but his seat is warm for sure.
  • Raheem Morris -- Losing to the Panthers, even without Josh Freeman, isn't helping Morris.
  • Norv Turner -- He can get off this list with a playoff berth. So, yeah, um, yeah.

MVP Watch

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers continued their pursuit of perfection, but for the first time all season, Rodgers didn't look totally ridiculously amazing. He was still really good, though. And no one was that much better -- Tom Brady's got a case building, I suppose, but Rodgers is winning in a walkaway, barring something silly happening over the next four weeks.
Posted on: December 4, 2011 2:08 pm
 

Matt Forte ruled out with knee injury

Posted by Will Brinson

Things haven't been going the Bears way for a few weeks and the downturns continued on Sunday as running back Matt Forte was ruled out for the remainder of Chicago's game in Kansas City with a knee injury during the first quarter.

Forte got his spikes caught in the grass and took a clean shot from Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, then remained on the ground for several minutes before walking off, slowly, on his own power.

As our Bears Rapid Reporter Gene Chamberlain notes, a serious injury to Forte isn't just bad for the Bears, it's bad for Forte "personally," since he's been seeking a big-money deal from the Bears all season long.

Chicago's still capable of beating the Chiefs on Sunday -- after all, Kyle Orton's already entered and left the game with a finger injury! -- but losing Forte would put a serious damper on the realistic playoff possibilities for Chicago.

A combination of Caleb Hanie handing off to Chester Taylor and/or throwing to Johnny Knox and Roy Williams is likely too much for even the Bears defense and Devin Hester to overcome for multiple weeks.

Screenshot via

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Posted on: December 1, 2011 2:11 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 6:23 pm
 

Vikings to release McNabb, Bears next?

Chicago missed out on Orton. Could McNabb be next? (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Last week, the Broncos released former starting quarterback Kyle Orton to give him a chance to catch on with another team now that the trading deadline had passed. On Thursday, the Vikings reportedly extended the same courtesy to Donovan McNabb, Minnesota's starter to begin the year who was replaced with rookie quarterback Christian Ponder in Week 7.

The Vikings were 1-5 when McNabb headed to the bench; they're 1-4 since with Ponder. There's a decent argument that Minnesota is virtually the same team before and after McNabb. Fair enough, but the biggest difference is that Ponder is gaining experience and has upside. With McNabb what you see is what you get. And, frankly, the last two seasons it's been hard to watch him at all.

According to Leslie Frazier, it was a mutual decision between McNabb and the team.

"He's been a true pro in every sense of the word," Frazier said. "He's a class guy. Always has been, and he's done a good job in spite of the fact he wasn't our starting quarterback.

"When you have a guy who has been this successful in this league, he has an idea how he wants his career to continue or not to continue. That played a role in making that decision," Frazier said.

But, hey, one man's trash…

In the NFL, competence is relative and there are several teams in the playoff hunt who are suddenly in need of a replacement-level quarterback. When Denver cut Orton, Chicago was an obvious landing spot. The Bears had just lost Jay Cutler to a hand injury and backup Caleb Hanie had yet to start an NFL game (that happened over the weekend and it didn't go well).

McNabb probably isn't as good as Orton but at this point in the proceedings, with just five games remaining in the regular season and Chicago's tenuous hold on a playoff spot, there's no time to be picky. The question, at its most basic, comes down to this: does McNabb give the Bears a better chance to win than Hanie?

If Lovie Smith and Mike Martz think so, they'll put in a waiver claim for him. If they don't, they'll pray that Hanie plays better and that Cutler's hand magically heals in the next few weeks.

But even if Chicago wants McNabb, there's no guarantee they land him. They also wanted Orton, but the Chiefs, by virtue of having a worse record, were awarded Orton off waivers. A similar scenario could play out again for McNabb's services.

This is bad news for Chicago but good news for McNabb, who hasn't been wanted since the Eagles traded him a few years ago. We're sure his confidence could use the boost.

Other teams that might be interested: the Texans, who just signed Jake Delhomme (!) to backup T.J. Yates and Kellen Clemens, and possibly the Cowboys, who put in a waiver claim for Orton last week.

UPDATE: The Houston Chronicle reports that the Texans aren't interested. Put differently: they have more faith in Yates, Clemens and Delhomme. 


After an overtime win last week over the Chargers, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos will travel to Mall of America Field to battle the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz take a look at this game.

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Posted on: December 1, 2011 10:43 am
 

Martz blames execution not call for Hanie INT

Martz has been calling screen passes for 20 years, Hanie just didn't execute it properly against Oakland. (AP)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Before Caleb Hanie made his first NFL start last Sunday, replacing Jay Cutler in the lineup when the Bears faced the Raiders, Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who coached the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis earlier this century, said that he wouldn't ask Hanie to be Kurt Warner in Chicago's offense. (That didn't go without saying?)

Not surprisingly, Hanie looked like an inexperienced quarterback against the Raiders. He would occasionally flash potential, but he also threw three first-half interceptions, the last coming with Chicago deep in Oakland territory. The sequence led to a Raiders field goal and a spot in this week's Coach Killers (Hanie's delayed fake spike to end the game helped, too). The play -- Hanie rolled right and threw a screen pass across the field to his left -- is a lot to ask of a young quarterback. CBSSports.com MLB blogger Matt Snyder, a huge Bears fan, was apoplectic after the play. Not because of Hanie per se, but because Martz would think Hanie was capable of pulling it off. On Wednesday, Martz was asked about the decision.

“I’ve done that for 20 years, and it’s never anything but a good play really,” Martz said, via John Mullin of CSNChicago.com. “We didn’t execute it very well. The ball got tipped. So when you throw a screen and the ball gets tipped. . . . Screens aren’t hard. It’s just something that happened. No, I’m not aware of [any criticism for the play call]. I didn’t think twice about that call. I thought it was OK.”

To be fair, that wasn't your garden-variety screen pass (you can view it here). And while Cutler (and Warner) might've had little trouble executing it, Hanie, who had a grand total of 14 attempts and eight completions prior to Sunday's game, could've benefitted from a more conservative play call.

Just ask Cutler.

“We’ve just got to be really careful what kind of situations we put [Hanie] in,” Cutler said. “Mike’s got be careful with that. We don’t really know what Caleb’s comfortable with; Caleb doesn’t know what he’s comfortable with. He hasn’t run a lot of these plays, hasn’t run a lot of this stuff in the offense in game situations, in high-pressure situations. We’ve just got to take care of him.”

In theory, yes. But Martz is the same guy who, for the first month of the season, thought it was a swell idea to let Cutler stand in the pocket all day with little protection and take a beating. That strategy finally gave way to more Matt Forte, quicker throws from Cutler and -- wait for it -- more wins.

Can Martz adapt the Bears' offense to fit Hanie's strengths? Sure. The only question is if he'll get around to it before it's too late and the season's lost.

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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