Tag:Julius Peppers
Posted on: December 9, 2010 12:43 am
 

Top Ten With a Twist: Non-Brady MVP votes

M. Ryan would be the top MVP candidate in the league right now if it wasn't for a guy named T. Brady (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

This week, seemingly everybody is proclaiming Patriots QB Tom Brady as the player who should be named MVP – including his former teammate, Troy Brown, who I talked to for this week’s Five Questions (or more) segment. After watching Brady dissect the Jets on Monday, that’s hard to argue.

But we’ve still got four weeks of regular-season NFL football, so Brady can’t be named the Most Valuable Players quite yet (I think that’s actually in the rules). That said, there are a number of players who have done quite a bit to help their respective teams this season that also must be in the conversation for MVP. What happens, after all, if Brady throws 10 interceptions in the final four games and the Patriots go 0-4 in that stretch?

Thus, this Top Ten With a Twist pays homage to those who are having hellaciously good years for teams good and bad and could creep into a voter’s conscience (assuming he/she doesn’t simply write Brady’s name in every possible space on the ballot). I’m not saying most of these guys should win; I’m just saying they should be considered.

10. Julius Peppers, DE, Bears: In his first season in Chicago, the defense, ranked as the third-best in the NFL, is a huge reason why the Bears are 9-3, lead the NFC North and own the second-best record in the conference (tied with the Saints). He’s recorded seven sacks and a very strong six passes defended and he’s forced three fumbles. You could also make a case for Brian Urlacher in this spot.

9. Drew Brees, QB, Saints: So many other quarterbacks have made big headlines this season – some for good reasons (we’ll get into those candidates later) and some for bad reasons (ahem, Brett Favre) – and it seems like Brees has been slightly ignored. That’s also because he isn’t the top quarterback in his division at this point and because the Saints are in danger of not winning the NFC South (more on the Falcons below). But the fact is that Brees is statistically the most-accurate quarterback in the league, and the Saints are 9-3 with a chance to return to the Super Bowl. That’s not too shabby.

8. Clay Matthews, LB, Packers: Remember how amazingly fast Matthews started the season, recording six sacks in the first two games? Well, he’s slowed considerably since then, and even Miami’s Cameron Wake has surpassed him for the league lead (Wake has 12 sack to Matthews’ 11.5). Matthews only has one sack in the past three games, but he’s still got a good shot at defensive player of the year (along with Julius Peppers, Steelers LB James Harrison, Eagles DE Trent Cole and Bills NT Kyle Williams), and he’s still having one heck of a year. 

7. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: Coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 5.9 yards per rush and finished 2009 with 1,120 yards and seven TDs, Kansas City rewarded him by going out and getting (gulp!) a legitimate RB in Thomas Jones. In his first two games of the season, Charles averaged 11 carries and 70.5 yards per contest, leaving some of us to wonder what was going on in Kansas City. But Charles has been awesome for the resurgent 8-4 Chiefs, averaging a ridiculous 6.2 yards per carry while gaining 1,137 yards.

6. James Harrison, LB, Steelers: You’d be forgiven if, the other day when Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin was defending Harrison in another laborious discussion about fines, you would have scoffed when Tomlin said Harrison was having an MVP-type season. But look at the plays he’s made and the numbers he’s produced. Harrison is third among linebackers with 10 sacks, he’s defended six passes and produced two interceptions, and he’s forced six fumbles, best among LBs. And he does it for a top-five defense which could help the Steelers to a deep postseason run. He's the MVP of NFL fines, but he might be the MVP overall as well.

5. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: You’ve got Matthews on defense, and now you’ve got Rodgers as the catalyst for an offense ranked in the top-10, despite a dreadful running game. Rodgers has been so impressive (a 65.4 completion percentage, 3,243 yards, 23 TDs and nine INTs) without the benefit of Ryan Grant and having to play with very little support in Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn (they rank 30th and 50th in rushing in the league, respectively). His MVP candidacy obviously will ride on whether he can get Green Bay into the playoffs.

4. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: A week ago, I might have picked Rivers a little bit higher, but he’s coming off a bad, bad home loss to the Raiders that dropped San Diego two games behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. Not that Rivers played poorly, because he wasn’t bad. But it’s tough to get excited about a QB leading a 6-6 squad who very well could miss the playoffs, even if he is the guy who’s led his team to all six of those wins.

M. Jones-Drew has made himself a strong MVP candidate in the past five weeks (US Presswire). 3. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars: What would you say if I told you that Jones-Drew has rushed for at least 100 yards in his past five games and helped Jacksonville win four of its past five to take over first place in the AFC South? Would you say that man would be an MVP candidate? I would.

2. Michael Vick, QB, Eagles: Yes, he’s missed three games because of injury, but other than that, Vick is, bar none, one of the best quarterbacks in the league and he’s having a career season in a year in which he wasn’t supposed to be the starter (you might have forgotten about a guy named Kevin Kolb). He could, throughout his career, always change the game’s dynamic with his running ability (and he’s got 467 rushing yards, a 6.3 average and six scores this season), but he’s showcased his arm this year as well (63.8 completion percentage, 2,243 yards, 15 TDs, two INTs). He is absolutely a complete quarterback and absolutely an MVP candidate.

1. Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: The “Matty Ice” moniker has already worn thin – unlike the “Pocket Hercules” nickname for Jones-Drew – but there’s no question that it’s reflective of his playing ability. Even when he doesn’t play altogether well – an example would be last week in Tampa Bay – he still somehow finds a way to lead Atlanta to a win. At this point, the Falcons are the best team in the NFC, and Ryan is the biggest reason for that. If Brady falls off in the last month of the year, my vote at this point would go to Ryan.

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Posted on: December 2, 2010 10:12 pm
 

Player of the month awards

M. Cassel has been named the AFC offensive player of the month (US Presswire). Posted by Andy Benoit

Between tweets and posts like this one, we’ve mentioned most of the NFL Players of the Month awards for November. But now that the NFL has finally released an official all-encompassing announcement (which, thankfully, is easy and permissible to copy and paste), we’ll pass along all the November awards information once and for all. Here it goes:

AFC

OFFENSE: QB Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs

Completed 90 of 144 passes (62.5 percent) for 1,111 passing yards with 12 touchdown passes versus one interception and a 111.2 passer rating.

DEFENSE: LB Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

Recorded 18 tackles and tied for an AFC-best with four sacks as he helped the Ravens to a 3-1 November record. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: KR-WR Jacoby Ford, Oakland  Raiders

Led the NFL with two kickoff return-touchdowns (94 yards, 101 yards) and totaled 283 receiving yards with one touchdown catch.

(Note: Not sure why the NFL included his offensive receiving stats in explaining his special teams award, but whatever.)

NFC

OFFENSE: QB Matt Ryan, ATLANTA Falcons

Completed 106 of 153 passes (69.3 percent) for 1,001 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions for a 102.3 passer rating during the month.

DEFENSE: DE Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears

Had 18 tackles and tied for second in the NFL with four sacks during the month as the Bears went 4-0.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K David Akers, Phildadelphia Eagles

Led the NFL with 13 field goals and 52 kicking points during the month as the Eagles went 3-1. He converted 13 of his 14 field-goal attempts and all 13 PATs. 

ROOKIES


OFFENSE: QB Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

Started all three games during November and completed 79 of 121 passes (65.3 percent) for 792 yards with six touchdowns and one interception for a 96.8 passer rating. 

DEFENSE: CB Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns

Recorded 15 tackles and tied for an AFC-best with three interceptions as the Browns posted a 2-2 record for the month. 

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Posted on: November 30, 2010 11:58 am
 

Locker: 'It would be awesome' to be a Seahawk

Posted by Will Brinson

At one point, Jake Locker was like the greatest prospect to ever enter college and a surefire No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Since then, his draft stock has done a very impressive "Brady Quinn in the green room" impersonation, but, hey, having three games with more than 20 attempts and less than 75 yards passing in your senior season will do that to you.

Still, he's the top senior quarterback in the draft and, according to our NFL Draft Scout friend Chad Reuter, somewhere in a mishmash of Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett after Andrew Luck on the boards, which means he's probably a late first-round pick, depending on what teams land there. And if one of those teams happens to be the QB-needy Seattle Seahawks, well, Locker won't be totally not-stoked to play under Pete Carroll.

"I think it would be awesome," Locker said Monday when asked on 710 ESPN Seattle (via Mocking the Draft) if he'd like to play for the Seahawks. "I would have no opposition to that at all."

This is for two reasons. One, Locker would get to play in Washington for high school, college and the pros, something that's obscenely rare for NFL'ers (Julius Peppers, until jumping to the Bears, is the only one that jumps to mind, though it was pointed out on Twitter Mark Tauscher also did it with the Packers in Wisconsin).

And two, it would probably mean that he won't plummet to the second round after previously being considered such a stone-cold lock for the top spot in the draft. Unless he totally eggs the Combine, etc., in which case he could end up in a Jimmy Clausen situation where he falls just far enough for a QB-needy team to swoop him up early in the second or something.

But the point is this: Jake Locker wouldn't mind playing in Seattle. His only problem is hoping that Seattle does well enough this year in order to avoid a top-20 pick, otherwise he'll just be considered a reach.

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Posted on: November 26, 2010 8:40 am
 

Hot Routes 11.26.10: Josh Freeman No. 1 overall?

Posted by Will Brinson



Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • Raheem Morris told Baltimore writers this week that regardless of what pick the Bucs had in the 2009 NFL Draft, they would have taken Josh Freman. Now, typically, that's either a statement entirely fueled by the hindsight of a Joe Montana-like steal or a really, really crappy draft. It's a little bit of both in this case, as there have been some good selections that developed out of those top picks (Pro Bowlers Brian Orakpo, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews in addition to Mark Sanchez, Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin and Hakeem Nicks) but Freeman's also a special talent that people are falling in love with. That being said, this is similar to the "We're the best team in the NFC" bit -- if Tampa had the first pick, they COULDN'T take Freeman first overall, because his inherent awesomeness would be suppressed because of his monster contract. Instead, they'd trade down and pick him up later in addition to something else. But I get what Raheem's saying.
  • Keith Null is "braced for action" when it comes to playing with the Panthers. What I wanna know is why the Panthers haven't called my cuz Riley Skinner (from Wake Forest, currently living in Charlotte) yet. Null came to Carolina when Brian St. Pierre turned them down the first time by the way.
  • I'm a little biased towards Andre Brown (NCSU guy), but I agree with him, and the Redskins coaching staff, in an optimistic view that he could succeed with Mike Shanahan and the Redskins. It's a much better fit than his first 25 teams.
  • Pete Carroll's got "mad respect*" (that's what the kids are saying after all) for Matt Cassell's tenacity in refusing to give up, always playing as hard as he can on the practice squad and eventually getting an incredible injury opening that led to a monster contract. Or something. *No, he didn't actually say that.
Posted on: November 19, 2010 10:31 pm
 

Dolphins O-line should get some help

J. Berger should be ready to return by Miami's next game vs. Oakland (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

You probably saw Thursday night (or, considering how many people don’t have the NFL Network, you might have read it somewhere) how bad the Dolphins offensive line performed.

QB Tyler Thigpen, who took six sacks (three from Julius Peppers alone), was molested throughout the game by the Bears defense, and partially as a result, Miami racked up 226 offensive yards and exactly zero points.

When your quarterback is taking a pounding and your top-two running backs (Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams) are combining for 11 yards on six carries, you know you might need to call for reinforcements – especially with LT Jake Long’s shoulder badly hurting him.

The Dolphins will get some help in time for their Nov. 28 meeting with the Raiders.

According to the Miami Herald, starter Joe Berger, who missed Thursday’s game with a knee problem and a “personal issue,” should be ready to play.

Without him Thursday, backup Cory Proctor got the start, but in the second offensive series of the game, he suffered a knee injury. That meant Richie Incognito – whose day job is to play guard – moved to the center spot.

Yes, the Dolphins have many, many problems on offense, but assuming Berger returns for the team’s next game, at least they can focus on improving their third-string-turned-starting QB and from keeping their star WR from throwing the ball wherever he wants after a play is complete.

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Posted on: November 18, 2010 6:57 pm
 

Report: Long 'does expect to play tonight'

Posted by Will Brinson

Jake Long is the key to what probably amounts as the biggest matchup in Thursday night's matchup between Miami and Chicago (although Andy earlier made a compelling case that Cameron Wake is actually the biggest factor), because without one of the top tackles in the game, the Dolphins will have their hands full with Julius Peppers.

So, good news for Miami -- Long, according to ESPN's Rachel Nichols "does expect to play tonight."

Miami should have it's hands full running against a Bears defense that's been second best in the league against the run so far this year as it is (with Tyler Thigpen taking his first start with the 'Fins, surely Chicago will be looking to stack the box anyway).

So the news that Long will play is great for the Dolphins, at least right now. As Andy and I discussed on the preview podcast, however, a shoulder injury is nothing to play around with, and even though this game is vital for the 2010 season, there has to be a little concern about the long-term effects that playing with the injury could have.

That being said, it seems unlikely that Miami would put Long on the field if they weren't confident he was healthy enough to play.

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Posted on: October 11, 2010 4:36 am
Edited on: October 11, 2010 2:18 pm
 

10 Sunday stories that deserve attention Week 5

Posted by Andy Benoit

1.) The Almost Legend

The Alex Smith Story on Sunday night was like a Greek tragedy. The much-maligned quarterback of the disappointing 0-4 Niners makes one of the great blunders of the 2010 season when he reads blitz from the Eagles, eschews his hot receiver (Vernon Davis) and instead fumbles, resulting in an easy Quintin Mikell touchdown return. Smith endures the wrath of a Candlestick crowd that showed up at the stadium seemingly determined to boo their own team until the visiting Eagles could feel right at home. A. Smith (US Presswire)

Mike Singletary hears the boos, hears the We Want Carr! chants (which, by the way, surely sparked a few wry smiles from Houstonites watching the game) and, from the looks of it, tells his quarterback he’s making a change. His quarterback appears to respond with something along the lines of, Like hell you are! Singletary, to his credit, sticks with Smith – which is important because not only did Smith practice all week and clearly beat out Carr when the two were competing for the job this summer, but also because Al Michaels, during one of his rare breaks from gushing about the paradise that is the Bay Area, had told the NBC audience that Singletary deeply values loyalty.

Smith, backed by the support of no one but himself, goes back out and goes 5/5 with a touchdown on a drive that was crisper than a dry Cornflake. No one could have blamed Smith if he’d celebrated that touchdown by giving the Candlestick crowd the Chuck Cecil treatment. Instead, he goes back to the sideline, watches the game through a fierce stare, and then goes back out and does it all again.

The 49ers get the ball back trailing 27-24 with 1:28 to play. When Smith completes a 27-yard pass to Vernon Davis (who finally got to do what he does best, which is run seam routes), we think we might be seeing a modern comic book hero unfold before our very eyes. But three plays later, Smith’s arm gets hit by a penetrating Trevor Laws, resulting in an interception and gut-wrenching 0-5 start for the preseason NFC West favorites.

Now, Singletary’s job could come into question. (You know, because it’s his fault Frank Gore fumbled twice. And because it’s his fault Smith gave up the ball to Mikell before all the fireworks. And because it’s his fault Joe Nedney missed a 40-yard field goal. And because it’s his fault offensive tackles Joe Staley and Anthony Davis played poorly at times.) Smith’s starting status should be secure, but a winless record has a way of tricking decision-makers into hasty moves. So we’ll see.

Overall, at least this sure-to-be-boring game that yours truly openly dreaded all week turned out to be one of the best dramas thus far of this young 2010 season.

2.) Rethinking the NFC?

The Green Bay Packers were supposed to run away with the NFC North. Instead, they’re a game and a half behind the 4-1 Bears and, after Monday night, could be only a half-game up on a Vikings team that just acquired the greatest deep threat in NFL history. If Sunday’s loss at Washington alone isn’t bad enough, how about the fact that quarterback Aaron Rodgers, tight ends Donald Lee and Jermichael Finley, outside linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett all came away with injuries that could put their status for Week 6 in jeopardy?

Rodgers has a concussion. Lee has a shoulder (he hurt it on a play in which he caught a touchdown…and celebrated). Finley, according to reports, has a displaced hamstring (don’t worry, no one knew you could displace your hamstring). Matthews has the more traditional pulled hamstring. Pickett has a knee. This for a team that has already lost for the season running back Ryan Grant, safety Morgan Burnett and inside linebacker Nick Barnett.

Packer fans should actually be breathing a sigh of relief, though. Finley initially appeared to have some sort of serious knee injury (he was doing the whole “towel over the head thing” while riding a cart to the locker room, and he came back to the sideline on crutches).
A. Rodgers (US Presswire)
From a Super Bowl standpoint, the Packers are not good enough to survive the loss of Finley. If he is out for an extended period of time, the Packers will discover that Greg Jennings and Donald Driver aren’t actually impossible to defend. The outside wideouts benefit greatly from the attention Finley commands from opposing safeties. Not to mention, Finley himself is good for at least 80 yards a game. Green Bay still has enough talent at wide receiver to compete, but an offense can’t disguise its intentions with a wide receiver the way you can with a tight end.

Regarding the other two injured superstars: Rodgers will presumably be back soon (not to put any pressure on the guy, but quarterbacks in Green Bay don’t really miss games); Matthews has successfully come back from a hamstring injury once already (he missed virtually the entire preseason, and then recorded three sacks in each of the first two regular season games). It’s important he get healthy ASAP. There was a noticeable decline – perhaps even disappearance – of Green Bay’s front seven prowess after Matthews went out Sunday (the Redskins punted on seven of their first eight possessions but exploded in the second half to finish with over 350 yards through the air).

Note: The original diagnosis of a "displaced hamstring" for Finley was accurate (Finley says he's had the issue before), but his knee was actually the bigger deal. On Monday we learned that Finley will undergo arthroscopic surgery and miss around three weeks. 

Note II: For a full rundown of Green Bay's substantial list of injuries -- updated Monday afternooon -- click here.  

3.) Taking the Pack to task

Now that we’ve (sort of) played the sympathy card for the banged-up Packers, how about censuring them for bungling the field goal at the end of regulation? Mason Crosby missed a 53-yarder that would have won the game. But he’s not to blame.

Instead, blame the head coach and quarterback. Why – WHY !? – did Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers settle for a 53-yarder in that situation? Two plays before Crosby’s kick, Rodgers made a masterful presnap read against a Redskins blitz from his right side. He lasered a ball to rookie tight end Andrew Quarless for a 21-yard completion. There were 26 seconds on the game clock when that play commenced. After Quarles’ catch, the Packers sauntered to the line of scrimmage and got around to spiking the ball with seven seconds left.

Seven seconds is enough time to take two stabs at a quick-out pass that could pick up around five yards. That’s the type of play Green Bay’s offense does better than any offense. Instead, the Packers settled for a 53-yard attempt. Thinking you can make a 53-yarder to end a game is almost as bad as thinking you can block Chicago’s 21-yarder to end a game.

4.) You play to win the game. Hello ?!

If only Herm Edwards had said this when he was with the Chiefs, instead of when he was with the Jets. Oh, that would have been the perfect introduction here. Instead, we’ll settle for a somewhat flimsy angle of “Play to win the game – that’s what Edwards’ replacement in Kansas City, Todd Haley, did Sunday at Indianapolis.”T. Haley (US Presswire)

Of course, Haley’s Chiefs did not win the game. Their loss allowed the 1972 Miami Dolphins to schedule their annual champagne celebration unusually early (first time since 1970 that no NFL team started 4-0). But Haley sure played to win. Figuring he probably couldn’t outscore Peyton Manning with Matt Cassel straight-up (indeed, Cassel was a modest 16/29 for 156 yards and, like the rest of the Chiefs team, produced zero touchdowns Sunday), Haley looked to manufacture points through calculated (reckless?) gambles. He opened with an onside kick. He went for it on fourth-and-two on the teams’ first possession. Both moves were unsuccessful, putting the Chiefs on the wrong end of a six-point swing. But at least Haley was willing to take the risks.

Haley maybe would have taken a more traditional approach had he known his defense would be so stifling. Chiefs fans should feel encouraged about Romeo Crennel’s young group. It was the real deal Sunday. Ends Glenn Dorsey and Wallace Gilberry got consistent separation against the Colts front line (both in terms of penetration and shedding blocks in lateral run support).

Outside linebacker Tamba Hali all but locked up a trip to Hawaii with the way he destroyed right tackle Ryan Diem (forget what I said in the Key Matchup feature about Hali being a minimal factor because he tends to wreak havoc late in plays rather than immediately off the snap). 

Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson was a stud in all phases. Formerly a strict open-space player, Johnson is proving his mettle between the tackles in high-traffic areas. He’s one of the fastest-closing tacklers in the game today. (Johnson led the Chiefs with nine stops in this game.) Plus, he can drop into coverage.

Speaking of coverage, the Chiefs have arguably the league’s best young cornerback tandem in third-year gems Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr. Flowers was, once again, barely challenged Sunday. Carr, to the surprise of many, held his own against Reggie Wayne; he has excellent size and strength. Crennel is able to variegate his defensive looks because he has two trustworthy cover corners on the outside.

The Chiefs still have plenty of issues to take care of offensively. Cassel  needs to rely less on his legs and more on his arm. The front five must stay viable for four quarters (the Colts defensive line was the markedly fresher unit late in this one). Jamaal Charles is a sensational home run threat, but he fumbles too often and goes down if a defender so much as breathes on him. And Dwayne Bowe must lose the oven mitts if he is to be the true No. 1 receiver this offense needs (Bowe had a pair of crucial drops late).

There are no moral victories in pro football. And Haley’s team could have won Sunday if it had only executed better in the second half. But at the end of the day, if we were wondering whether Kansas City is a legit contender in the AFC West, the answer is a resounding Yes.

5.) Which brings us to…

Written somewhere in Norv Turner’s contract is a clause that says the Chargers fourth-year head coach only has to win at home. At least it sure seems that way. You would have thought San Diego could win in Oakland given that the empty seats would create a 2010 Qualcomm Stadium feel. Not to mention, the Chargers had defeated the Raiders 13 straight times.

You actually can’t blame Tuner for this one. If you’re into blaming coaches, go ahead and feast on special teams coordinator Steve Crosby. Even if you’re not into blaming coaches, feast on Crosby; the Dolphins last week made criticizing special teams coaches the new chic thing. Crosby’s unit gave up two early blocked punts that resulted in nine Raiders points. In all, the Chargers special teams have allowed three blocked punts and four return touchdowns on the season.

The offense also gave up a return touchdown of its own. Phillip Rivers’ fumble on a hit from Michael Huff was scooped up by Tyvon Branch for what amounted to the game-clinching score. The only thing unusual about that Chargers turnover was that it did not occur in the red zone. (San Diego had two first half turnovers inside the 20.)

Malcolm Floyd had 213 yards receiving. Rivers had 431 passing. Antonio Gates, who had five catches for 92 yards, extended his all-time tight ends record for consecutive games with a touchdown catch to nine. Still, when Rivers kept looking for Patrick Crayton and Craig “No Longer Worthy of a Catchy Nickname Like Buster” Davis late in the fourth quarter, you couldn’t help but think that this team might (would definitely) be better off with Vincent Jackson lining up outside.

On the Raiders side, this win, naturally, came at the hands of a backup quarterback. It seems like Bruce Gradkowski gets knocked out for at least part of every game. This week it was a shoulder that sidelined the Jeff Garcia ersatz. After some Jason Campbell-like jittery passes early on, Jason Campbell did a spectacular job filling in for Gradkowski. Campbell finished 13/18 for 159 yards and a touchdown.
Also, running back Michael Bush, filling in for injured Darren McFadden, rushed for a hard-earned 104 yards on 26 carries. The Raiders, 2-3, may have a few backfield controversies to sort out before facing their winless Bay Area neighbors in Week 6.

6.) That other team with quarterback drama

Before we dispel the notion that Max Hall is going to lead a resurgence in Arizona, let’s dispel the notion that the Saints have serious issues. Yes, the Saints, by their standards, are struggling a bit. They miss Reggie Bush in the passing game and Pierre Thomas in the running game. They’re uncharacteristically turning the ball over at inopportune places on the field. (Heck, even Drew Brees got into the act, with two of his three interceptions being the result of an underthrown ball). Most concerning is, defensively, the Saints are not creating turnovers – at least not like they were last season. They have just four interceptions on the season. Their fortunes hope to change once free safety Darren Sharper (knee) gets off PUP. M. Hall (US Presswire)

Regarding the Cardinals – you have to admire Max Hall’s grit. He seemed determine to break the NFL record for most injuries suffered in a single game (four players currently share the unofficially record – Albert Haynesworth, Jason Peters, Jevon Kearse and, somehow, Vince Carter). Hall took gobs of big hits Sunday.

One hit, in particular, stands out. It was on the play in which Hall fumbled and lost his helmet. This was a cool play because we actually had a review to see if Hall lost the football before he lost his helmet (new rule states that a play is immediately dead if a player with the ball loses his lid). Sean Payton challenged the play because not only did Cardinals right tackle Levi Brown recover the fumble, he also scored. (By the way, don’t tell Beanie Wells, but Brown actually doubled Wells’ fantasy output on Sunday. Wells requested more playing time and then spent the entire game running to the right and meeting the Saints safeties.)

Here’s a question for the Competition Committee: is it really fair for a team to score a touchdown recovering its own fumble? Rules prohibit a team from fumbling forward inside the final two minutes of a half (thank you, Dave Casper and the Raiders). Why not just prohibit the offense from fumbling forward or advancing a recovered fumble at all times? The offense should not be rewarded for fumbling.

7.) Another change…

Drew Brees’ first half interception to Paris Lenon came off the hands of running back Ladell Betts (Betts, by the way, had a tough all-around game Sunday). Carson Palmer’s final interception – hauled in by Sabby Piscitelli – resulted from a tipped ball by Chad Ochocinco. Tony Romo’s second pick – courtesy of Michael Griffin – was tipped by tight end Martellus Bennett. In all three of these instances, the receiver was at fault for the turnover. We see this kind of thing every week.

It’s time the NFL do something about it. Obviously I’m not talking about outlawing tipped interceptions. (Come on.) I’m talking about crediting tipped interceptions to a guilty receiver. Much like how a fielder’s error doesn’t count as a hit against a pitcher, a receiver’s error shouldn’t count as an interception against a quarterback.

Of course, maybe it all levels out in the end. Look at Romo, for example. Yes, he had the tipped pick. But his 69-yard touchdown to Miles Austin should have been an interception. Safety Michael Griffin disguised his coverage and baited Romo into throwing into a double team. Romo’s poor quarterbacking on that play was nullified only by Griffin’s poor angle and timing. Perhaps luck swings both ways. Still, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t make sense to keep better turnover statistics.

8.) NFC East

While we’re on Romo…it’s time for him to lose that little Scottish hats in the postgame interviews. Oh, and it’s time for him and the Cowboys to start winning. (How’s that for analysis?) The Cowboys, at 1-3, are still only 1.5 games out in the NFC East. But that division is looking a lot better as of late. The Giants have rediscovered their pass rush (10 sacks against the Bears last week, three on Sunday against the Texans). They also have one of the brightest young stars in the game in wideout Hakeem Nicks, who has amazing body control and change-of-direction ability to go with long arms, long legs and hands big enough to palm a table for two. Nicks had 130 yards and two scores on 12 receptions Sunday.T. Romo (US Presswire)

The Eagles are 3-2 and have not only a rejuvenated Michael Vick but a freshly-blossomed LeSean McCoy. The second-year running back is averaging over 100 yards per game in total offense.

Finally, the Redskins appear to be rock solid defensively. They too have a second-year sensation in outside linebacker Brain Orakpo, though it’s been the play of rangy safety LaRon Landry that has galvanized Jim Haslett’s new 3-4 defense.

In short, the NFC East has four quality teams. The most polarizing of the bunch can’t have many more games like the one it had against the Titans (12 penalties for 133 yards, minus-three turnovers, six sacks allowed).

9.) Move the fans

The Redskins-Packers broadcast was constantly interrupted by the outstretched arms of fans that repeatedly got into the camera shot celebrating on big plays. These were the fans sitting in the row in front of the camera. This kind of interruption should absolutely never happen. Yet, we see it each week (especially in Redskins games).

The television networks should demand that seats near key cameras be left unoccupied. In fact, go ahead and leave open the first row or two of seats that are closest to the broadcast booth, as well. Nothing is more obnoxious than hearing in the background the cheers of a few individual fans during a telecast.

10.) Quick Hits

***The NFL’s best pass defense (Baltimore) got the better of the NFL’s best pass offense (Denver). But the story of the game was the return to full health of Ray Rice, who showed his familiar lateral explosiveness in rushing for 133 yards on 27 carries. Also, Joe Flacco was effective against the Broncos’ non-existent pass-rush.

***Is Todd Collins the first quarterback in NFL history to get benched late in the third quarter despite his team protecting a 14-point lead? What’s funny is that Collins clearly deserved the hook. If Mike Martz had called just four or five more deep passes outside the numbers, Collins would have found a way to finish with more interceptions than completions. (In the end, he had six completions and four picks.) The only thing shakier than Collins’ accuracy was his decision-making when his pocket trembled.

***Hard to decide who had the better self-tipped interception, Julius Peppers or Kroy Biermann. Obviously, Biermann returned his for six points, while Peppers did not. But Peppers had the wherewithal to shush the Carolina crowd after the play, which was a nice touch.

***Carson Palmer’s first interception – the pick six to Cody Grimm – was inexcusable. But his second was on Terrell Owens for not coming back to the ball. And the third was on Chad Ochocinco for deflecting it up in the air.

***Disappointing to see the Rams not show up in Detroit. Instead of that game giving us the story one of super awful team and one potential Cinderella, it just gave us the story of two really bad teams. The Rams are 2-3; the Lions are 1-4. The Mark Clayton injury is devastating for St. Louis. He had finally blossomed after joining a team in which he was the elder statesman.

***Memo to all announcers: quit saying a team “burned a timeout” when the team is using the timeout to stop the clock late in a game. That’s not burning a timeout – that’s wisely spending it. Burning a timeout is when you call one early in a half because of miscommunication.


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Posted on: October 11, 2010 4:24 am
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