Tag:Jared Allen
Posted on: September 8, 2011 4:58 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 5:09 pm
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Film Room: Bears vs. Falcons preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



On paper, the top two seeds from last season’s NFC playoffs are both improved heading into 2011. Consequently, the Atlanta Falcons have become somewhat of a trendy Super Bowl pick. But the Chicago Bears? They’re the team most are picking to finish right behind Detroit in the NFC North. In analyzing five key threads these teams share, we might understand why.

1. Receiver Infusion
Thomas Dimitroff realized that Atlanta’s offense was a playmaker short of being nearly unstoppable. So, the fourth-year general manager traded five premium draft picks to move up and select Alabama wideout Julio Jones sixth overall.

Jones is a great fit because he’s not only a dynamic downfield threat who also has the thickness to go inside, but thanks to his days in the Crimson Tide’s black-and-blue offense, he’s also a savvy downfield blocker. That’s important, as Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has always had a predilection for power runs out of two tight-end/two back formations.

In Chicago, with a system built around downfield routes out of three-and four-receiver formations, offensive coordinator Mike Martz needed more firepower outside. Instead of reaching for an unproven wideout late in the first round, overpaying for free agents Santana Moss or Santonio Holmes or taking a risk on Braylon Edwards (attitude) or Plaxico Burress (rustiness), the Bears acquired  Roy Williams after his star fully plummeted in Dallas.

Williams, a straight-line runner with big hands and feet, was never a good fit for the Cowboys’ shifty catch-and-run oriented system. But in the 28 games he played for Martz in Detroit, Williams produced 2,148 yards receiving. However, whatever optimism the Detroit success instilled was likely blown away by Williams’ dropped passes and admission to being out of shape this past August (candor has always been his Achilles heel).

Because the Bears refuse to admit that Devin Hester is merely a return specialist with modest slot receiving ability (i.e. NOT a starter), it was rising third-year pro Johnny Knox whom Williams supplanted in the lineup. Knox, who has superb speed and quickness and excellent chemistry with Jay Cutler, particularly in deciphering zone coverages, is eager to recapture his starting job (and thus, his leverage for a new contract in the near future). He will, if Williams continues to struggle. And the Bears’ passing game will essentially be right back in the same place it was a year ago.

The Falcons figure to clearly have an improved pass attack. The Bears are TBD.

2. Big meaty offensive lines
To put it politely, Atlanta’s and Chicago’s offensive lines both feature more size than athleticism. The lunch pail approach has worked great for the Falcons. They have a straightforward power-run offense that’s conducive to forming good chemistry up front. In the passing game (where a line’s athletic limitations get exposed), the Falcons rarely use more than three wide receivers, which makes an extra tight end or running back available to stay in and block. In short, the Falcons can bend their system for their offensive line.
 
The Bears, on the other hand, are more inclined to bend (or break) their offensive line for their system. Martz frequently has Cutler take seven-step drops, which only gives heavy-footed offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb, laterally stiff guard Chris Williams and the rest of the front more time to get beat in pass protection. Also, with the running back often being an important receiving option in Martz’s system, Bears linemen must shoulder more responsibility in blitz identification and pickup – an area in which they’ve struggled.

Hence, the 52 times Cutler was sacked last season.

3. The traditional  4-3 defense: evolve vs. resolve
Mike Smith was a classic zone-based 4-3 defensive coordinator in Jacksonville. But over his three seasons in Atlanta, he’s drifted away from vanilla Cover 2 tactics and towards more diverse blitzes and zone exchanges. Impressive considering he employs these tactics out of traditional base and nickel sets.
 
Lovie Smith was a classic zone-based 4-3 defensive coordinator in St. Louis. Over his seven years in Chicago, he’s ... remained a proponent of classic 4-3 zone-based defense.

The Bears are the only team that virtually still runs a fulltime strict Cover 2. They’ve made it work largely because they have two perfect linebackers for this scheme in Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. But as we’ll explore more in-depth another week, there are significant vulnerabilities to a Cover 2. Those vulnerabilities are why Smith and the Falcons have chosen to evolve.

4. The No. 2 defensive end
Arguably the best two defensive ends in the NFC are Julius Peppers and John Abraham. Both have devastating explosiveness off the edge and both can play the run (Peppers is by far the NFL’s best all-around run-stopping 4-3 end; Abraham is more finesse-oriented but is still underrated as a backside chaser).

What the Falcons learned last season is a pass-rush is incomplete without a second outside presence. Kroy Biermann is a very active run-defender, but he registered just three sacks in his debut season as a starter. So, Thomas Dimitroff spent $11 million (guaranteed) on free agent Ray Edwards, who each of the past two years in Minnesota posted at least eight sacks against frequent one-on-one blocking opposite Jared Allen. Edwards is also an adept all-around run-defender.

The Bears have a stalwart No. 2 pass-rusher of their own in Israel Idonije. Versatile enough to line up inside or outside, the ninth-year veteran tied Peppers for the team lead in sacks last season (eight). Idonije does not quite have Edwards’ quickness around the corner, but he’s one of the best in the league at executing stunts.

5. Safeties
Over the years, watching the Bears try out different young safeties in the starting lineup has been like watching Gilbert Brown try on outfits that don’t make him look fat. The Bears drafted Danieal Manning in ’06; Kevin Payne in ’07; Craig Steltz in ’08; Al Afalava in ’09; Major Wright in ’10 and Chris Conte in ’11.

All, with the exception of Conte, were given a shot at starting. And, assuming that newly signed Brandon Meriweather soon supplants Wright as the current first-string free safety, all were ultimately deemed unqualified.

The Falcons have taken a flier with young safeties, as well. The difference is theirs have succeeded. Thomas DeCoud, a third-round pick in ’08, started all 16 games each of the past two seasons. His instincts in coverage have improved and he’s a fast, firm open-field tackler.

His running mate, William Moore, a second-round pick in ’09, stayed healthy for the first time last season and showed genuine game-changing potential over 15 starts. Moore’s a fierce hitter who is developing in pass defense quicker than expected.

So who will win? Check out the video below. And see who our experts pick for all the Week 1 games


Read Andy's Film Room breakdown of Jets-Cowboys.

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter and contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: May 19, 2011 9:59 pm
 

Ray Edwards ready to start new career

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Vikings DE Ray Edwards will start a new career Friday. A career where he’s going to get hit in the face quite a bit.

As we’ve written about before, Edwards will face former kickboxer T.J. Gibson in a pro boxing match. It will mark Edwards’ pro debut – and he reportedly will be getting a $5,000 payday and half the gate receipts for the card at Grand Casino Hinckley in Minnesota.

And he continues to claim that if he doesn’t get more money from the Vikings – or more likely, a trade to somebody who WILL pay him more money – he’ll simply continue merrily along on his boxing career.

NFLers freelancing as boxers
"I've openly said I won't play for the Vikings, because of the simple fact of my backup is getting paid 70 more percent than I am -- there's no way I can do that to myself,” Edwards told 1500 ESPN. “I'd rather do what I love doing. I love doing football as well. But if there's nobody that's going to trade for me, I will be definitely focusing on boxing."

He also talked about Brian Robison, his backup who signed a three-year, $14.1 million contract (as opposed to Edwards $2.836 million tender), and DE Jared Allen – who is in the middle of a six-year, $73.26 million deal.

"I was happy for (Robison)," Edwards said. "He's definitely a great guy. I love the guy off the field, love him on the field. Great teammate. I wished him all the best, because we both were up for contracts. So, I told him that more than likely they're going to keep you because of the numbers situation.

"They're paying Jared. You've got Kevin (Williams), who's almost due for a contract and he's been there forever and he's a six-time Pro Bowler, I believe. I don't know if they're going to try to keep Pat (Williams) or not. It's just a numbers game.”

So, boxing it is – for now, at least.

But let’s be honest. How long will it take Edwards to earn $2 million a year by boxing? Most likely, never.

Perhaps he should just stick to football. Because he gets to, you know, wear a helmet.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: February 3, 2011 7:32 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2011 1:43 am
 

DeMarcus Ware talks Cowboys, Garrett and fame

D. Ware pushes incoming rookie Cameron Heyward at the Gatorade Sports Institute.

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

When nobody was looking at the end of the season, Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware seemed to emerge from nowhere to finish 15 ½ sacks, the most in the NFL. It’s the fifth-straight season in which he’s recorded at least 11 sacks, and though you might not think of him in these terms, he’s one of the best defenders in the NFL.

This week, he’s been in Dallas to work with Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward in the Gatorade Sports Science Institute where, as Ware puts it, he’s helping teach Heyward “about nutrition, how to play at a peak performance and learn your body better and learn about yourself.”

We caught up with Ware today for a Super Bowl week edition of Five Questions (or more):

CBSSports: Tell me about the entire spectrum of the year for you. Wade (Phillips) getting fired and Jason Garrett taking over and the team being disappointed with the season but you having high individual performances. It was a crazy year, huh?

DeMarcus Ware: It was a rollercoaster year. First, you have the Super Bowl coming to your stadium, and you have the high hopes of playing in it. Then, your season starts off 1-7, and then all of a sudden, you have a coaching change where Jason Garrett comes in and sort of sparks us and gives us a little bit of motivation to play a lot better. Our season turned around a little bit, and you hoped it could have turned around a lot earlier.

But no matter what, it’s a job. You have to have your individual goals, and with me, it’s rushing the passer and making big plays. You have to do that regardless of how the season is going. I think I did that this season. There’s a lot of things I need to do better, but as a whole, I think I did my role.

CBS: I’ve been around a lot of teams that have the “dead coach walking” thing going, and I know what the clubhouse or locker room is like in that situation. Was that tough to experience, and when Jason was hired, it seemed like he sparked you a little bit. How much of a change …?

Ware: I think it wasn’t really a spark. But sometimes guys do well with change. The team did really well with change with a new coach and a new philosophy on how he does things. Also, putting the pads on (us at a mid-season practice) changed us too …

CBS:
Yeah, what was the reaction to that?

Ware: I didn’t like it.

CBS: I bet.

D. Ware works with incoming rookie Cameron Heyward. Ware: I don’t like to wear pads at practice during the season. For the older guys, either you know how to do it or you don’t, regardless of whether you have pads on or not. You should know how to practice. But that changed for us. It really helped out the younger guys. Sometimes they have to put the pads on and go through the fundamentals and be taught those things.

CBS:
There are a lot of pass-rushers around the NFL, like Clay Matthews and Jared Allen, who get a lot of pub. But you were the sack leader. From a national perspective, it doesn’t seem like you don’t get the same kind of attention they do.

Ware: I don’t.

CBS:
Why is that?

Ware: The thing is I’ve never thought about that. From when I had 20 sacks (in 2008), I didn’t get any pub. From getting 16 or 17 sacks a year, I didn’t get any pub. I think it’s the person that I am. Sometimes it’s the team you play on, but even when we were 13-3, I still didn’t get any pub.

CBS:
But you play for the Cowboys.

Ware: Yeah, but I don’t know. People have favorites, and maybe I’m not a favorite. To the fans, I am. To certain guys, I’m not.

Photos courtesy of Gatorade


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Posted on: December 19, 2010 8:46 pm
 

The 50 greatest Vikings ever

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

One day before Minnesota takes on the Bears in what should be a strange Monday Night football game, the Vikings held a gala to honor their 50th season. In doing so, they honored the top-50 players in club history.

Here’s the list:

1. Grady Alderman, T, 1961-74
2. Jared Allen, DE, 2008-present
3. Matt Birk, C, 1998-2008
4. Matt Blair, LB, 1974-1985
5. Bill Brown, RB, 1962-74
6. Joey Browner, S, 1983-91
7. Bobby Bryant, CB, 1967-80
8. Anthony Carter, WR, 1985-93
9. Cris Carter, WR, 1990-01
10. Fred Cox, K, 1963-77
11. Daunte Culpepper, QB, 1999-2005
12. Chris Doleman, DE, 1985-93, ’99
13. Carl Eller, DE, 1964-78
14. Chuck Foreman, RB, 1973-79
15. John Gilliam, WR, 1972-75
16. Bud Grant, coach, 1967-83, ’85
17. Wally Hilgenberg, LB, 1968-79
18. Steve Hutchinson, G, 2006-present
19. Tim Irwin, T, 1981-93
20. Steve Jordan, TE, 1982-94
21. Tommy Kramer, QB, 1977-89
22. Paul Krause, S, 1968-79
23. Gary Larsen, DT, 1965-74
24. Carl Lee, CB, 1983-93
25. Jim Marshall, DE, 1961-79
26. Randall McDaniel, G, 1988-99
27. Keith Millard, DT, 1985-91
28. Randy Moss, WR, 1998-2004, ’10
29. Dave Osborn, RB, 1965-75
30. Alan Page, DT, 1967-78
31. Adrian Peterson, RB, 2007-present
32. John Randle, DT, 1990-2000
33. Ahmad Rashad, WR, 1976-82
34. Ed Sharockman, CB, 1962-72
35. Jeff Siemon, LB, 1972-82
36. Robert Smith, RB, 1993-2000
37. Scott Studwell, LB, 1977-90
38. Doug Sutherland, DT, 1971-81
39. Fran Tarkenton, QB, 1961-66, ’72-78
40. Henry Thomas, DT, 1987-94
41. Mick Tingelhoff, C, 1962-78
42. Stu Voigt, TE, 1970-80
43. Gene Washington, WR, 1967-72
44. Ed White, G, 1969-77
45. Sammy White, WR, 1978-86
46. Kevin Williams, DT, 2003-present
47. Antoine Winfield, CB, 2004-present
48. Roy Winston, LB, 1962-76
49. Ron Yary, T, 1968-81
50. Gary Zimmerman, T, 1986-92

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: November 29, 2010 4:37 pm
 

Hot Routes 11.29.10 Sunday box score tidbits

Hot Routes

Posted by Andy Benoit

Mike Tolbert had 26 carries for 103 yards.

Chargers inside linebacker Kevin Burnett has been one of the most pleasantly surprising players of 2010. He led the team with 10 tackles Sunday night.

Matt Ryan threw just four incompletions against the Packers Sunday.

Greg Jennings continued his dominance with 119 yards on five catches. Jennings averaged 36.6 yards per outing the first five games; he’s averaged 106.5 in the past six games. (One factor has been increased opportunities resulting from the absence of Jermichael Finley.)

The Steelers ran 83 plays against the Steelers, seemingly all of them coming on the first drive.

The Steelers also had over 100 yards in penalties for a second straight week.

Hines Ward had 107 yards receiving. Fred Jackson led the Bills with 105.

Donte Whitner had 18 tackles for the Bills. That speaks well for the safety and poorly for the front seven’s run defense.

Another strong outing for Peyton Hillis: 26 carries, 131 yards against the Panthers. Oh, and three touchdowns. Hillis has 11 rushing touchdowns on the season. If 131 yards rushing aren’t enough, how about the 63 yards Hillis added through the air?

Abram Elam, a safety, led the Browns with two tackles for a loss AND two sacks Sunday.

The Jaguars rushed for 207 yards against the Giants, with more than 140 of them coming in the first half. Maurice Jones-Drew had a career-high fourth-straight 100-yard game. Backup Rashad Jennings (seven carries, 53 yards) continues to look better each week.

Brandon Jacobs got 14 carries (87 yards). Ahmad Bradshaw got nine (49 yards).

Giants wide receivers caught a total of five passes Sunday.

Despite being without Adrian Peterson most of the day, the Vikings outrushed the Redskins 137-29.

Toby Gerhardt had 76 yards on 22 carries. In a startling display of consistency, Gerhardt’s longest carry was just six yards.

Jared Allen recorded a sack and three tackles for a loss. He has 5.5 sacks his last three games after getting just one sack his first seven. (A few of his 5.5 sacks have been cheap, though.)

The Titans had just nine first downs at Houston, two of them coming from Texan penalties.

Randy Moss got his first, second and third catch as a Viking, though even listing them one at a time like that doesn’t make the total sound at all substantial.

Arian Foster: 30 carries,143 yards; nine receptions, 75 yards.

Miami Dolphins: 82 plays. Oakland Raiders: 45. What does this tell us? Oakland’s run defense still isn’t good. (Dolphins had 186 yards on the ground.)

Worth mentioning is that the Raiders run offense doesn’t appear to be very good, either. The Raiders ran the ball 12 times for 16 yards. Darren McFadden was stifled for the second week in a row.

The rushing disparity in Oakland almost pales to that in Seattle. The Chiefs: 270 yards on the ground. The Seahawks: 20. The Chiefs had the ball for more than 41 minutes.

Fantasy owners, take note: Seahawks wideout Ben Obomanu was impressive for a second straight week. The willowy fifth-year pro had 159 yards on five receptions.

Michael Vick’s 333 yards passing marked his second 300-yard game this season and just the fourth of his career. The Bears held Vick to 44 yards on nine runs.

The Bears’ top three wideouts, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox, all went for over 55 yards receiving.

The people calling for Josh McDaniels’ head can’t use the Jay Cutler trade as part of their argument. Kyle Orton threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns against the Rams. Clearly, offense is not the problem in Denver.

Joe Flacco continues to quietly post big numbers. He had 289 yards through the air against the Bucs, with two touchdowns and only one pick (the Aqib Talib interception between the knees).

Bucs rookie DT Gerald McCoy had two sacks and two tackles for a loss.




Combed through all the box scores to bring you any nuggets that may have fallen through the cracks. Enjoy.

No need to read the Colts-Chargers box score too closely – only one stat stands out: Chargers zero turnovers, Colts five.
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 7, 2010 7:18 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2010 10:15 pm
 

Childress' seat becomes a little cooler (maybe)

Brad Childress perhaps won himself a reprieve today (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Did the Vikings somehow save Brad Childress’ job today? Probably not. Even if Minnesota would have fallen to Arizona – and make no mistake, they SHOULD have lost that game – owner Zygi Wilf probably wouldn’t have terminated Childress until after the season.

Or maybe not.

But make no mistake: the come-from-behind victory, thanks to RB Adrian Peterson, QB Brett Favre and TE Visanthe Shiancoe, makes life easier for the Vikings – at least for this week.

"A win will calm things,” Favre told reporters.

Last week couldn’t have gone much worse for the Vikings and Childress. He went above his boss’ head and released Randy Moss. He and WR Percy Harvin (eight catches, 120 yards) reportedly had to be separated in a verbal confrontation Friday (Childress said after the game it was due to his desire for Harvin to get an MRI, which he did Saturday). Everybody seems to have crapped on Childress – his personality, his coaching style, the essence of his soul. And it sounds like it’s been deservedly so.

When the Vikings fell behind the Cardinals 24-10 late in the fourth quarter, chants of “Fire Brad Childress” could be heard around the dome. But Favre, who went 36 for 47 for a career-high 446 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, and Peterson (144 total yards and two scores) led the Vikings to a pair of touchdowns in the final 4 minutes of the game.

In overtime, Minnesota’s defense – surprisingly led by DE Jared Allen, who’s been so irrelevant this year but had a tremendous 5-minute stretch near the end of regulation and in overtime – stopped Arizona. That led to a 35-yard field goal from Ryan Longwell that sealed the win.

And, for now, might make Childress – who said the crowd at the Metrodome attended the game today to see an execution – feel better. Not that, ahem, he needs it.

"I'm not going be here and be like Favre and tell you that I need a hug,” Childress said. “I'll be all right.”

(Childress, I think, was not trying to be an ass with that comment. I think he was actually referring to what Favre said earlier in the week when he was asked whether Childress is a compassionate coach: Said Favre: "Is he compassionate as in give us a hug or something? Boy, I sure could use one. But he hasn't given me one.")

UPDATE (10:12 p.m.):
Favre had an interesting comment when he was asked if he felt like he was playing for Childress' job today.

"I felt like I was playing for mine," Favre said. "I am just being honest. I have played for 20 years. I have always wanted to be the best. I had to ask myself, 'Are you willing to do what it takes?'

“Do I always get along with my head coach, quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator? No. Do I always agree with the plays that were called? No. Why should that factor in to me wanting to be the best player I can be?"

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