Tag:Philip Rivers
Posted on: November 17, 2011 12:56 pm
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Mojo-less NFLers

P. Rivers has struggled this season (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Where there’s a star football player*, there’s always a star football ready to fall. Sometimes, they get old overnight. Sometimes, they get satiated by a rich, new contract and lose the desire to stay hungry and work out as hard. Sometimes, their one shining season was a mirage and their talent wasn’t all that great in the first place.

*Or a football coach, executive, etc.

Earlier this season, we discussed the league’s most underrated players, the players you really should know about, and in this edition of Top Ten with a Twist, we examine the players who, for whichever reason, have fallen off the cliff. Not necessarily overrated players, but players who once were great -- or showed us the potential to be great -- but have fallen on hard times. Some of these selections still play at a very high level. That’s not the issue. The question is: are they as great as they were?

The trick for them is to rediscover what made them great in the first place, to rediscover their mojo. If they can.

10. Bernard Pollard: It was at the beginning of the 2010 season when I ranked Pollard No. 4 on my top-five safeties list, which led CBSSports.com film-watching guru Andy Benoit to write, “I like that you went with Pollard -- that shows you’re paying attention. Few people even know about the fifth-year pro.” And just two years later, after Pollard was jettisoned out of Houston, few people remember how effective he used to be. Now, he’s in Baltimore and he’s actually a starter, and really the only time he’s making news is when he’s being fined for illegal hits.

9. Logan Mankins: Once one of the best offensive guards around -- and still a top-notch player -- the contract dispute of the last two seasons seems to have taken something out of him (in August, he signed a six-year, $51 million deal). Though he emerged from last year’s holdout, in which he missed seven games, as a Pro Bowl player, he’s struggling a bit this season. He’s been whistled for more penalties, and he’s allowed more sacks than normal. Listen, he’s still one of the best guards out there, but New York’s Justin Tuck and Pittsburgh’s LaMarr Woodley found success against him this year. That rarely happened in the past.

8. Andy Reid: Is it fair that Reid, after back-to-back 10-win seasons and a plethora of success during his 12-year Eagles career, is on the hot seat for the mess Philadelphia has become this year? Maybe not. But is Reid partially -- if not, mostly -- to blame for how the Eagles season has progressed? Yes. Bringing in high-priced free agents like Nnamdi Asomugha seemed like a great idea at the time, but some of those moves have fizzled. Moving former offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator has not worked out well. And at this point, it seems like a lock that the 3-6 Eagles will finish outside the playoffs. Should he lose his job? Probably not. Will he? Maybe.

7. Chris Johnson: True, he’s coming off his best game of the season (27 carries, 130 yards, one touchdown), but Johnson has been a major disaster this year. Which has to give heartburn to the Titans front office, which signed Johnson to a six-year, $55.3 million contract before the season. And with that, Johnson stopped producing. He stopped hitting his holes with big-time bursts, he stopped breaking tackles and he looked lackluster. It’s hard to imagine that a big, fat contract would have caused such an appetite loss for Johnson, but all we’ve seen out of him this year are two pretty good games and a whole lot of blame deflection.

6. Bill Polian: Has an executive’s talent-spotting reputation ever fallen as far and as fast as Polian this year? With the loss of Peyton Manning imploding the Colts, eyes have shifted to Polian as perhaps a reason why Indianapolis has struggled so badly this year. No quality backup quarterback and a bushel of questionable draft picks in the past few years have us wondering if Polian’s job is in danger (owner Jim Irsay has said it’s not). But man, did the talent of Manning shield our knowledge of Polian’s ability this entire time?

Polamalu5. Troy Polamalu: Some of my colleagues (cough, cough) love to rail on Polamalu as the most overrated player in the league. I don’t think he’s that at all. Polamalu still plays at a high level, and he’s still a guy you have to gameplan against. But to say he’s the same player he was five years ago is obviously untrue. He can still lay a mean hit on a receiver, but he struggles in coverage (as shown by his inadequate defense against an A.J. Green touchdown bomb last week), and he doesn’t have the speed of his youth. He doesn’t even have the speed of two years ago. Yes, he’s been hampered by injuries (he’s missed 13 combined games in the past two seasons), but he’s not the all-world safety anymore (though he’s smart and experienced, which certainly helps). That was proven correct in Super XLV when the Packers made him irrelevant all game.

4. Chad Ochocinco: We’ve over-analyzed Ochocinco to death on this blog, but man, it’s still kind of crazy that he has just 11 catches for 201 yards and zero touchdowns on the season. The guy used to be ultra-confident. Now, he’s slowly disappearing like Marty McFly’s family photo.

3. DeSean Jackson: You have to think that, with the statements Jackson has made about how protecting his health was his No. 1 priority this season and with the fact he overslept and missed a team meeting last Saturday and got himself deactivated on Sunday, Jackson is really, really interested in his new contract. Naturally, he wants to get paid, but I don’t think being tied for 71st in the league with 29 catches is going to attract a ton of positive attention.

2. Sam Bradford: This is a strange case. Bradford seemed on the verge of a breaking out in his rookie season last year, but he’s been a forgotten man this year. That’s probably because the Rams are a forgotten team and because he’s missed a few games because of an ankle injury. But his completion percentage is down this year (55.8 percent), his touchdown-to-interception ratio is a bit worse, and he’s lost twice as many fumbles (his offensive line and receivers are not helping matters at all). And it’s not just that Bradford has played worse; it’s that nobody nationally seems to be talking about him at all, good or bad. That’s just kind of strange for last year’s No. 1 overall pick.

1. Philip Rivers: He’s never had great form, but something about the Chargers quarterback seems off this season. His strange mechanics look even stranger, and Rivers leads the league in interceptions while his 4-5 San Diego unit is sinking in the AFC West. I’ve made the joke that, now that Rivers has six children, it's no wonder he’s had a tougher time. But in San Diego, this can’t be a laughing matter. Not when Norv Turner’s job is at risk and with the Chargers losing hope fast. I keep thinking Rivers can turn it around, but at this point, it’s tough to say if he will.

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Posted on: November 16, 2011 5:48 pm
 

Chargers place Kris Dielman on injured reserve

After suffering a concussion against the Jets on Oct. 23, Dielman lands on IR. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Chargers placed left guard Kris Dielman on injured reserve Wednesday, three weeks after he suffered a concussion during an October 23 game against the Jets. The move means no relief for a beleaguered San Diego offensive line -- or quarterback Philip Rivers -- and it also snaps Dielman's streak of four straight Pro Bowl appearances.

Concussions are a weekly occurrence in the NFL, but Dielman's injury drew the league's attention because he suffered a grand mal seizure on the team flight back to San Diego. He sustained the concussion early in the fourth quarter. It went undiagnosed at the time, though Dielman clearly struggled to maintain his balance after the collison with the Jets Calvin Pace.

The Chargers came under scrutiny for how they handled the injury, but head coach Norv Turner believed that "Everything was handled extremely well."

"All the proper precautions were taken. Kris was evaluated when we landed and all the tests were excellent. We're fortunate, he's fortunate and we're moving on," Turner said at the time

He added that nothing seemed out of the ordinary at the time because players routinely take hard hits during the course of a game.

"Guys get bounced around pretty good. It's tough to see everybody from the sideline, or even from upstairs or a TV screen what a guy's condition is," said Turner. "Our guys understand that if they aren't able to go, they need to get out. I think it was handled the way we'd try to understand any injury situation."

Dielman's case led the NFL to instruct its officials to actively look for concussion-like symptoms during games.

"I've looked at the play at least a hundred times," NFLPA medical director Dr. Thomas Mayer said earlier this month. "And not only does the broadcast footage provide a clear visual record, you can hear the collision loud and clear on the audio. It really was an unfortunate event, but this is a process and an opportunity to further strengthen our protocol. There are a lot of lessons to be learned here. ...

"You can see on the video when Dielman wobbles backwards that the umpire (Tony Michalek) is concerned and the referee (Ron Winter) notices something, too," Mayer continued. "Dielman waved off the umpire. I know he's one tough dude, but this is what we're trying to avoid. We can educate the officials to treat this like a significant injury, stop time and call for medical attention. When Dielman continued to play in the game, he was subject to further collisions by the nature of the sport and his position."

More bad news for the Chargers: left tackle Marcus McNeill, who suffered a neck injury during the Week 10 loss to the Raiders, saw a specialist Monday, and right guard Louis Vasquez was seen in a walking boot that same day. Rivers has had enough issues with consistency this season without additional concerns about his pass protection.

San Diego will face Chicago on Sunday, and given how the Bears treated Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford last week, Rivers has legitimate reason for alarm.

In related news (via Chargers.com): San Diego added guard/tackle Tony Moll on Tuesday and rookie guard-tackle Stephen Schilling also remains on the roster.

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Posted on: November 16, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Film Room: Bears vs. Chargers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


The Chargers have not won a game since we featured (and lauded) them in a Week 7 Film Room post. The Bears, on the other hand, are white-hot, having won four straight in taking over the NFC wild card lead.

Here’s a five-part breakdown of the two teams in this Sunday’s late afternoon showdown at Soldier Field.


1. Quarterback
It was not long ago that the preeminent strong-armed, interception-prone quarterback in his mid-twenties with an on-field demeanor that rubbed many the wrong way was Jay Cutler. This season, however, it’s Philip Rivers.

His league-leading 15 interceptions have been genuine turnovers – not the kind of cheap tipped picks that plagued Eli Manning last season. Rivers’ downfield accuracy has waffled. He also has been uncomfortable passing from a dirty pocket. That’s alarming given that his best trait in years past has been making strong throws in the face of pressure.

Cutler knows all about operating in the face of pressure. However, lately he’s been throwing from much cleaner platforms. Because he has the strongest raw arm in football, he does not necessarily need to set his feet in order to throw. He’s a solid athlete with underrated mobility that allows him to buy time. But it’s when the time is bestowed upon him and he is able to set his feet that he gets in rhythm.

It’s not quite a Brady/Brees/Rodgers-like rhythm – Cutler has too many fundamental flaws for that – but it’s a potent enough rhythm to carry a team to victory.

2. Offensive line
The reason Cutler has been more comfortable is he trusts his pass protection. Mike Martz knows that his unathletic offensive line cannot hold up long enough to consistently protect seven-step drops, so he’s built more three-and five-step drops into the gameplan (though the Bears did drift away from this just a bit against the Lions last week). As Cutler has said, he’s potent when he has room to throw.

To be fair, the Bears offensive linemen have elevated their play as of late. Guard Lance Louis has been particularly solid since becoming the new right tackle. Losing left guard Chris Williams (on I.R. with a wrist injury) hurts because, until Gabe Carimi returns from his knee problem (he’s missed seven games and underwent arthroscopic surgery last week), Frank Omiyale will likely play. Omiyale was a train wreck at right tackle earlier this season. He played guard earlier in his career, but if he were truly viable there, he never would have moved outside. Edwin Williams replaced Chris Williams last week, but the Bears have not named him the new starter. He could still be in the mix.

Either way, offensive line coach Mike Tice will have his hands full helping this group continue performing at an acceptable level.

Rivers has felt a lot of Cutler’s old pain as of late. Left tackle Marcus McNeill has fought injuries the past few weeks; after he left the Raiders game last Thursday night, backup Brandyn Dombrowski was eaten alive. Inside, backup left guard Cornell Green, filling in for All-Pro Kris Dielman (out since suffering a concussion-related seizure after the loss to the Jets), has struggled to move his feet in pass protection.

Even though Norv Turner’s playbook is heavy on slow-developing downfield passes, the Chargers did not give the left side of their line much help last Thursday. That should change going up against Julius Peppers.

3. Receivers
Once again, these two clubs are going in opposite directions. The Bears have recently gotten healthy outside, with Earl Bennett back and showing newfound quickness. Bennett is no longer just a plodding possession slot receiver – he’s Cutler’s go-to guy. His presence has eased the burdens on the unreliable Roy Williams and permanently raw Devin Hester.

Also, what can’t be understated is the brilliance of Matt Forte. His success on the ground has given the offense balance, which helps the passing attack. Forte is also one of the best receiving backs in the league.

The Chargers, on the other hand, are without Malcom Floyd (hip injury). His absence has been ameliorated by the flashes of athletic explosiveness from rookie Vincent Brown.

However, San Diego’s usual stars have disintegrated in recent weeks. Antonio Gates has looked heavy-footed and Vincent Jackson has consistently failed to separate against man coverage. Jackson had a three-touchdown outburst against Green Bay thanks in part to some coverage busts. But in the three games before that, he caught a total of seven balls for 98 yards. Last week against Oakland, he had just one reception for 22 yards.

4. Cornerbacks
It will be tough for Jackson to reignite at Soldier Field. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman is having arguably the best season of his stellar career. Tillman thoroughly won his one-on-one battle against Calvin Johnson last week, using a mixture of aggressive press coverage and well-timed post-reception physicality from off-coverage positions.

Tillman, like all Bears cornerbacks, used to only play one side of the field. It was part of Chicago’s strict Cover 2 scheme. But as this season has progressed, Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli have drifted away from Cover 2 and more towards single-high safety concepts with the corners playing both man and zone principles. This allows the other safety to roam the field as an extra run supporter or, more often, versatile pass defender.

Consequently, the corners have moved around based on matchups. Tillman defends the opposing team’s biggest (and often most dangerous) receiver, while Tim Jennings (who is having the best season of his career) follows the smaller-but-quicker No. 2 receiver. The commendable performance of these corners is the reason Chicago has been able to spice up its defensive scheme.

In sticking with our theme, San Diego’s secondary has been increasingly disappointing the past month. Left corner Quintin Jammer and slot corner Dante Hughes have been fine, but on the right side, Antoine Cason and rookie Marcus Gilchrest have taken turns replacing one another in the starting lineup. Free safety Eric Weddle moves well and has some interceptions, but he’s not a true stopper.



5. Defensive front
A feeble pass-rush doesn’t help matters for San Diego. The loss of Shaun Phillips (still out with a foot injury) and Larry English (injured reserve) leaves the Chargers with journeymen Antwan Barnes and Travis LaBoy on the edges. Barnes is fast and has actually been as impactful as his team-high six sacks suggest. LaBoy’s run defense compensates for his low sack total (1).

Still, the bottom line is the forces that once buttressed San Diego’s pass-rushing depth are now the forces that comprise San Diego’s pass-rush period.

If the Chargers want to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback, they have to blitz. Inside linebacker Victor Butler and slot corner Dante Hughes are the two best options for this. Blitzing is not preferable for defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, though.

It’s never been preferable for the Bears. They almost exclusively use a traditional four-man pass-rush, which works when you have a deep rotation, a highly-skilled No. 2 rusher like Israel Idonije and a monster like Peppers. In an effort to create matchup problems, Peppers has been lining up at both end positions and, lately, inside on certain passing downs.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 11 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:54 pm
 

Chargers fans have it rough

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

You think you had a rough day as a Chargers fan after watching Oakland's Carson Palmer and Michael Bush carve up the defense in route to a 24-17 win on Thursday?

Well, consider these two tales.

1)The Chargers, through the power of Twitter, had to send a condolence message to former “Saved by the Bell" star Mario Lopez -- apparently a big San Diego fan -- after a clearly down-in-the-dumps Lopez wrote, “Being a Charger fan is tough.. It's sad actually. But, I'm loyal to my home town teams. So much for loyalty! All good.. New day tomorrow :)”

The Chargers official response? “Thanks, Mario. We know it's not easy right now.”

But hey, at least Lopez hasn’t attempted to fight Philip Rivers the same way A.C. Slater and Zack Morris threw down once upon a time.



2) Or you could be the guy who was so out of it after Thursday’s game that you woke up on the couch of an 81-year-old woman you don't know. Then, instead of cooking you breakfast, cops led you out of this strange person’s house in handcuffs before charging you with public drunkenness.

That probably was unpleasant also.

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Posted on: November 11, 2011 1:40 pm
 

Podcast: Week 10 NFL preview, Oakland/San Diego

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Week 10's gotten started, thanks to Oakland's big win in San Diego, and we break down that game -- the return of Carson Palmer! -- before diving into Week 10's preview podcast.

Are the Bengals capable of upsetting the Steelers at home? Does anyone care about the Eagles-Cardinals game except for Kevin Kolb? Have the Bears improved enough on offense since losing to the Lions last time to move into a tie for second in the NFC North this week? Can we really bank on the Patriots losing three-straight games? Is Chad Ochocinco really the key to beating the Jets this week? Are the Giants overmatched heading out west against San Francisco?

All those questions answered, plus much, much more, below.

Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes?

If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.



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Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:03 am
Edited on: November 13, 2011 11:17 am
 

Old Carson shows up, looks great in Raiders win

Palmer was the best quarterback on the field Thursday night. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

It's been 23 days since Carson Palmer hoisted himself off his couch to resume his football career. After nine months off, the first six quarters of Palmer's comeback were highlighted by indecisiveness, incompletions, sacks and interceptions (six of them to be exact). And then against the Chargers, it clicked.

Palmer missed on his first two throws then proceeded to connect on 13 consecutive passes, including two touchdowns to rookie Denarius Moore and completions of 41, 46, 33 and 55 yards. It was as if Palmer hopped in a time machine, set course for 2005, and that guy suited up for the Raiders Thursday night against the Chargers in a game Oakland would win 24-17.

Maybe Hue Jackson really does know what he's doing.

San Diego, meanwhile, continues to flounder, although their fourth straight loss had nothing to do with quarterback Philip Rivers. One of the league's best passers, Rivers admits that he hasn't played well this season. The 14 interceptions through eight weeks are a testament to that.

Against the Raiders, it was injuries along the offensive line that doomed San Diego's chances. Left tackle Marcus McNeill went down midway through the first quarter, which prompted NFL Network color analyst Mike Mayock to predict a long evening for McNeill's replacement, Brandyn Dombrowski --and by extension, Rivers.

"All day long Dombrowski is going to have trouble if he doesn't get some help. And at halftime they gotta get that kid some help," Mayock said.

Raiders linebacker Kamerion Wimbley had three first-half sacks, all coming against Dombrowski who did little to slow him up.

Despite all that, Rivers had the Chargers in position to tie the game late. Trailing 24-17 with just over three minutes to go and the ball on the Raiders' 42-yard line, Rivers threw a ball into the end zone looking for Vincent Jackson. Except Jackson appeared to lose the ball in the air. Safety Matt Giordano (who was replacing the injured Michael Huff) had no such trouble and came up with the interception.

Two plays later, the Chargers had a chance to get the ball back. Facing third and 11, Carson From the Past calmly stood tall in the pocket, before stepping up and finding tight end Kevin Boss over the middle … for a 24-yard gain.

San Diego got the ball back for one more series, with 1:04 on the clock. Rivers drove them to midfield and then, as if scripted, Wimbley sacked him on the penultimate play and Tommy Kelly sealed the Chargers' fate with another sack a snap later.

The six sacks are a season high for Oakland, who now sit atop the AFC West at 5-4. The Chargers, losers of four straight, fall to 4-5.

It's not an exaggeration to say that Palmer put on a clinic. And while his story of redemption makes for a swell After School Special about never giving up, the best offensive player for the Raiders Thursday was running back Michael Bush.

Oakland was without Darren McFadden for the second straight game and all Bush did was rush for 157 yards and haul in another 85 yards receiving. He softened up the Chargers' defense, made the Raiders' play-action passing game effective, and perhaps most important, kept Rivers off the field. (By the way, Bush's 242 yards from scrimmage is a new team record, surpassing Bo Jackson's mark of 235, set in 1987 against the Seahawks.)

After the game, Bush sounded thankful for the opportunity.

"You know, today, I think a lot of people doubted me. Darren's hurt -- he is a big part of our offense, and I miss him just like everybody else misses him -- but today the o-line did a great job, Carson did a great job, and coach called some great plays and we got a win," Bush said.

When NFL Network's Alex Flanagan asked Bush what he proved to his doubters, he said, "That's what they get. I laugh at them. I work hard just like every back in the league and I come out here and try to have fun."

We're only midway through the season but this game is a vindication of sorts for Jackson, who staked his reputation -- and the Raiders' future -- on Palmer. It took three games but Palmer looks legit and Jackson looks like a genius. How long it lasts remains to be seen, but for now Jackson has silenced his critics.

A month ago Palmer, in his words, was "hitting up Norv (Turner) for tickets to a game -- I was going to take my son." Now he's the quarteraback of the first-place Raiders.


Cris, Phil, and Warren go into overtime to complete their set of predictions for Week Ten. Watch a web-exclusive from SHOWTIME's Inside the NFL.

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Posted on: November 8, 2011 10:02 am
Edited on: November 9, 2011 1:21 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 9: The curse of Carson Palmer

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. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Oakland defense (added bonus: dumb penalties!)

We can forgive Carson Palmer for looking rusty. He spent the previous nine months kicking it in his La-Z-Boy, probably figuring that there was no way Bengals owner Mike Brown would trade him. Plus, it's not Palmer's fault that Raiders head coach Hue Jackson gave up a first- and (likely) second-round pick for him, and then inserted him into an actual game after a week of practice. The results were equal parts slapstick and dramedy.

But there's no excuse for Oakland's defense, which seemed completely unprepared for the possibility that Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow might actually run the ball. Because, really, there isn't any evidence that Tebow is quick to take off, especially if it means he doesn't have to flutter a medicine ball in the vicinity of would-be targets.

Tebow, who had two more rushes than completions, finished the afternoon with 118 yards on the ground on 10 carries, including runs of 32 and 28 yards, the last of which set up a Willis McGahee "this game is officially a blowout" touchdown late in the fourth quarter. McGahee, by the way, rushed for 163 yards and two scores and Oakland was helpless to stop it.


"I'm shocked," defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said, according to the Oakland Tribune. "Ain't no way I thought that team could put 38 points on us with that quarterback. This hurt more than Buffalo. … And I thought we were past this (expletive)."

"You have to do your job," defensive tackle Richard Seymour added. "The things that happened out there today ... it's Football 101."

As long as the Raiders are going back to basics, maybe they should review what are and aren't penalties. They were flagged 15 times for 130 yards Sunday, including two of the "wait, that didn't just happen" penalties on fourth down late in the first half.

With 22 seconds before halftime and the Broncos facing a 52-yard field goal, rookie Taiwan Jones jumped offsides. Undeterred, Jones was flagged on the next play for roughing the kicker. Broncos first down. Denver kicker Matt Prater would end up missing a subsequent kick three plays later, but Jones' two miscues encapsulated the Raiders' day nicely.

"I think we're not a very intelligent football team right now," head coach Hue Jackson said. "We're not playing very intelligently when it comes to penalties. Some of them are uncalled for.

"We're going to continue to address it. I don't want anyone to think we haven't. We emphasize it, and we're not going to stop. It might be Game 16 when we get it fixed, I don't know."

Nothing to worry about, people: Jackson will get it fixed, even if it takes all year.

New England secondary

Unless Bill Belichick gets ahold of some magic beans New England could have a permanent home on Coach Killers. Which is ironic since Belichick is solely responsible for the team's current personnel plight.

Yes, we know: Leigh Bodden wasn't happy with his role and Darius Butler and Brandon Meriweather were high-round disappointments. But would the Patriots be a better team with them on the field than, say, Sergio Brown, Phillip Adams or Antwaun Molden? Well, they couldn't be much worse. 

Reviewing Week 9

Belichick knows better than anybody that his defense is in shambles. He tried to pressure Eli Manning Sunday and it blew up in his face. The Giants picked up the blitz and Manning carved up the secondary (just like Ben Roethlisberger did the week before). It's easy to just blame it all on inexperience but the Patriots traded for Albert Haynesworth in the offseason to shore up the run D and as an antidote for any deficiencies in the defensive backfield. Haynesworth was last seen on the field Sunday with 9:10 left on the clock in the third quarter.

(We're midway through the season and it's not too early to suggest that Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco -- the Pats' two "big" acquisitions -- have been among the NFL's biggest busts in 2011.)

Tom Brady took some heat Monday for not displaying his usual super-human awesomeness. He looked rattled at times but he also led New England on a go-ahead touchdown drive with 1:27 on the clock. That was more than enough time for Manning, who hooked up with tight end Jake Ballard twice on the final drive: once for a 28-yard gain on 3rd and 10, and again for a one-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds left. Ballard, by the way, wears No. 85, which belonged to David Tyree, Giants folk hero and unassuming Patriots nemesis.

John Beck, QB, Washington

Washington's inability to regularly score points isn't because of Beck. Don't misunderstand: he's not good, but no matter what Norman Einstein says, neither is Rex Grossman. The problem starts with Mike Shanahan, who traded for Donovan McNabb last season and dumped him in favor of Beck and Grossman this season. No one's surprised that the Skins are 3-5 and as our collegue Will Brinson pointed out Monday, there's the very real possibility that Washington could lose out.

It sounds like an overreaction, but this is the same crew that was shut out last week in Buffalo, and needed a 59-yard field goal against the 49ers Sunday to get on the board after nearly seven quarters of goose eggs.

“Right now you take a look at the offense and it’s tough to take. It’s tough to take for me,” Shanahan said. “But I understand how this thing works. We’ve got a lot of young guys with talent, and we’re not all collective on the same page right now. . . . Everybody wants wins. . . . Everybody wants the answer. I wish I had the answer, but that’s as close as I can get.”

Interesting. You know who's coordinating the offense that Shanahan has so much trouble taking? His son, Kyle.

Beck, meanwhile, struggled to do the things even average NFL quarterback can manage: throwing accurately, connecting on the occasional deep ball and he was at his best on short throws and screen passes (Hmm, we've read that scouting report before somewhere…).

More demoralizing details via the Washington Post's Mike Jones:

"For the game, Beck went 30 for 47 for 254 yards, a touchdown and an interception. None of his passes traveled longer than 16 yards. And a 17-yard gain came when Helu caught a batted ball and scampered up the field before he was run out of bounds.

"The offense generated only 303 yards and did not get closer to the end zone than the San Francisco 37 until Beck completed his nine-yard touchdown pass to Gaffney with 1:10 left. Beck then hit Leonard Hankerson on the two-point conversion to give his team its 11 points."

When Tebowing goes very, very wrong. (US PRESSWIRE)

Perhaps the saddest part of all this is that even if the Redskins lose out, they still won't be in position to get Andrew Luck because there's now way the Colts are winning three games.

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego

Rivers might not admit it publicly, but something's wrong with the guy. Whether it's a sore arm, a bum shoulder, a goiter -- something has to be bothering him. Because you don't go from one of the NFL's most prolific, accurate passers, to Kurt Warner when he was with the Giants unless there are underlying issues.

“I appreciate everyone trying to come up with a theory and a reason that I'm hurt," Rivers said Sunday. “I’m not hurt. I’ve thrown a handful of picks that I normally don’t throw and I’ll probably throw some more throughout my career. There won’t always be a reason why.”

So Rivers is fine according to … well, Rivers and that's about it. Even team owner Dean Spanos admitted after the Chargers' latest loss that his franchise quarterback is having an "off year." “Sometimes you just have [one]” Spanos told NBC's Alex Flanagan. “That is what Philip Rivers is having so far.”

By the way, "a handful of picks" is one thing. Rivers has 14 interceptions through eight games. The most he's ever thrown in a 16-game season is 15.

He added three more against the Packers, all of the groan-inducing variety. Sometimes balls are tipped, or receivers run the wrong route. Neither was the case Sunday. Rivers' first interception went off a Packers' defender before Charlie Peprah hauled it in and ran through approximately 27 arm-tackles (everybody but Rivers attempted to bring him down at least twice) on his way to the end zone. The second pick was worse: Tramon Williams jumped a route near the sidelines and could've done the electric slide into the end zone there was so much distance between him and the nearest defender. The final interception was on San Diego's last drive, one that could've tied the score after a furious second-half comeback. Instead, Rivers underthrew his receiver by a good 10 yards and Peprah was there again to make the play.

Sure, Phil, everything's fine. If you say so.

Colt McCoy, QB, Cleveland

Like Beck above, McCoy doesn't deserve all the blame. But after a surprising rookie season in 2010, when he outplayed everyone's expectations, he's regressed in 2011. A lof of that has to do with the Browns' West Coast scheme, and that there aren't any playmakers to speak of.

Josh Cribbs is a dynamic returner but he's not a No. 1 wide receiver. Perhaps Greg Little can grow into that role, but he's not there yet. And there's Peyton Hillis, of course, the basket case who has gone from fan favorite to public pariah all because he wants a new contract.

We mentioned last week that the Browns are so married to their offensive philosophy that even the blind know what's coming (we're only half-kidding). Via the NFL Network's Mike Lombardi:

"Writing about the Browns offense leads me to a game I play every week at NFL Films. I sit in my office in Mt Laurel, N.J., put the Browns offense on my screen and call a friend who was a coach in the league, but is now in between successes. I tell my friend the personnel group, the formation, where the ball is located on the field and what hash mark and describe the motion -- if there is any -- and ask him to tell me the exact play that will be run," Lombardi writes.

A former coach can predict the Browns' offensive play call 95 percent of the time. (Getty Images)

"He is correct about 95 percent of the time. No lie. The Browns are so integrated into the West Coast system that their predictability is becoming legendary around the league."

This, along with the shortage of big-play threats, explains why McCoy ends up on the turf after most plays. If a former coach hearing the pre-snap formations knows what's coming, what do you think opposing defensive coordinators will have planned?

McCoy was blitzed often Sunday in Houston, sacked four times and hit eight more times after he threw the ball. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot points out that McCoy's been hit 52 times after the throw -- fifth most in the NFL. Which led left tackle Joe Thomas to marvel at his quarterback's resilience.

"He's a super-tough kid," Thomas said. "Not many guys in the league would be able to take a hit like he did on that long pass [a fourth-quarter sideline throw to Greg Little] and be able to come back, but he's a guy that wants to be out there competing. He plays big and that's all you can ask for."

That and some playmakers. (In related news: Hillis has already been ruled out for next week. We were shocked, too.) Which reminds us...

After watching Julio Jones go off on the Colts, anybody else think that the Browns should've just drafted him instead of taking all those picks from the Falcons? We're guessing McCoy does.

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Posted on: November 7, 2011 2:21 pm
 

Antonio Gates gets ripped for being 'old and fat'

Posted by Will Brinson

The Chargers are struggling, obviously. At 4-4 after their loss to Green Bay, though, they're still in a position to win the AFC West, although figuring out exactly what is bothering quarterback Philip Rivers would probably be nice.

On Monday morning, Yahoo Sports Mike Silver pegged the blame on someone else -- Chargers general manager A.J. Smith. Silver argues that other general managers wouldn't grab much talent off San Diego's roster, and that includes tight end Antonio Gates, who was called "old and fat" by Silver's team source.

"It’s harsh to say, but he looks old and fat," the source told Silver about Gates. "He’s not beating people. We don’t have any speed, we’re soft on defense, and we put so much on our quarterback. When he was playing great, we could kind of get away with it. Now he’s not playing very well, and it’s all falling apart."

This is supposed to be an indictment (I think) of Smith's ability to construct a roster, but obviously it comes off as quite insulting to Gates. And it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, honestly.

Week 9 Review

Gates is older, at the age of 31. And he is slower, considering that he's dealing with plantar fascitis. Has he gained weight? Well maybe, but whatever, he's still been pretty productive thus far this season, catching 25 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns.

At that pace, Gates will catch 772 passing yards over the course of the season. Just four tight ends since the merger have caught more than 775 passing yards in a season after turning 31. Tony Gonzalez did it three times, Shannon Sharpe did it twice and Mickey Shuler and Wesley Walls each did it once.

None of those guys played less than 15 games, either. Which is a nice way of saying that while the Chargers might be in trouble when it comes to their current roster construction, the quality of Gates play isn't the issue.

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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