Tag:Cleveland Browns
Posted on: December 9, 2011 10:00 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 12:33 pm
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Big Ben in walking boot, thought 'leg was broken'

By Will Brinson



Pittsburgh beat Cleveland 14-3 on Thursday night, but nothing about the victory was easy. Ben Roethlisberger suffered a nasty ankle injury that looked a lot worse at the time, but eventually returned and led the Steelers to a win.

When the injury happened, though, Roethlisberger didn't think he'd be walking back out. In fact, he said after the game he thought the "leg was broken" although it turned out to just be a high ankle sprain, though he was seen leaving the stadium in a walking boot.

"“I thought my leg was broken, honestly," Roethlisberger said after the game, per our Steelers Rapid Reporter Chuck Finder. “We’ll find out how bad it is. Feels like my [left] ankle’s about to explode."


Roethlisberger also added, via Finder, that he couldn't "drop back to pass" after the injury, so his success was entirely dependent on the offensive line keeping the pocket clean for him, which they did.

Ben left the stadium in a walking boot on Thursday night and as Mike Tomlin pointed out after the game, probably going to be on the injury report when the Steelers play again in 10 days.

The good news for the Steelers is that Ben's got time to heal and, as my colleague Ryan Wilson pointed out last night, it's not like "being injured" exactly turns Roethlisberger into an unproductive quarterback.

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Posted on: December 9, 2011 12:17 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 12:19 am
 

Injury not enough to stop Roethlisberger in win

A high-ankle sprain wasn't enough to keep Roethlisberger from playing the 2nd half against Cleveland. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

For the fourth time in five seasons, head coach Mike Tomlin has the Steelers at 9-3. On Thursday night, however, it required something more than your typical Ben Roethlisberger performance. On most nights, that means holding the ball too long in the pocket, fighting off would-be tacklers, taking more hits than anybody should be able to take, and making plays. On most nights, he comes out the other side bruised but no worse for wear.

Against the Browns, it was a different story, one that takes Big Ben, football player, from cult hero to legend in the span of the halftime intermission. With 6:02 to go in the second quarter with the Steelers leading, 7-3, two Cleveland defender made a Roethlisberger sandwich, and he turned his ankle badly in the process.

Big Ben, in obvious pain and unable to put weight on his left leg, needed two Steelers' assistants to help him to the tunnel, where he took a cart to the locker room. Charlie Batch, who has started for Roethlisberger six times since 2004, played two series before the half.

Roethlisberger-ankle_medium

And then, minutes after NFL Network's Alex Flanagan reported that the Steelers had "positive" news about Roethlisberger's ankle injury, Big Ben, with his ankle heavily taped, limped out onto the field to begin the second half and didn't miss another snap.

Pittsburgh leaned heavily on Rashard Mendenhall to start the second half and he averaged 5.5 yards per carry. But the Steelers are a passing team, even with a one-legged quarterback. So that's what they did … even with a one-legged quarterback.

By the time it was over, Roethlisberger was 16 of 21 for 280 yards and two touchdowns, the last a 79-yarder to Antonio Brown with 2:52 remaining to put the game away for good.

For the Browns, it was more of the same: an offense unable to score points, protect the quarterback or avoid dropped passes in critical situations. Colt McCoy ended the game 18 of 35 for 209 yards but threw two interceptions, the back-breaker coming two plays before Roethlisberger-to-Brown broke the game wide open. A pass into the end zone intended for Mohamed Massaquoi was intercepted by William Gay.

A touchdown there would have given Cleveland a 10-7 lead with three minutes on the clock. Instead, Pittsburgh got the ball at the 20, still leading 7-3, and in the time it took cornerback Joe Haden to fall down, Brown hauled in a Big Ben pass and streaked 79 yards down the sideline.

After the game, Tomlin said Roethlisberger has a high-ankle sprain, but unlike just about anybody else on the planet, it wasn't enough to keep him on the sidelines.

"The doctor said he was okay to go, he wanted to go," said Tomlin. "I'll always give him an opportunity to show what he's capable of. We know what kind of competitor he is, we know his pain tolerance, we know what he's capable of."

Brown, quickly becoming one of Big Ben's favorite targets, called Roethlisberger's return to start the second half "rejuvenating."

"The guy exemplifies toughness … we needed him out there and it was exciting to have him back," he continued. "He persevered through the situation and made the plays we needed to win the game."

The Steelers now have 10 days off to prepare for a Monday-night matchup against the 49ers, and if Thursday night was any indication, Big Ben will be on the field in San Francisco.

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 9:39 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 10:00 pm
 

Big Ben leaves with injury, returns limping

Big Ben left in the second quarter with a left ankle injury. He returned to start the second half. (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

UPDATE: 10:09 p.m. ET -- Ben Roethlisberger, with his ankle heavily taped, limped out onto the field to start the second half. He was met with loud cheers but is clearly limited by the injury. There hasn't been an official diagnosis, but the speculation is that it's a high-ankle sprain.

UPDATE: 10:02 p.m. ET
-- During halftime, NFL Network's Alex Flanagan had this report: "I had an opportunity to speak to Mike Tomlin and he called the news 'positive' about Ben Roethlisberger. He had an X-ray on his ankle, that X-ray is negative. [Tomlin's] not sure if it's a high-ankle sprain or a lower leg issue, telling me that he would know a little bit more once he got in the locker room at the half and evaluated Ben a little more. His availability is still up in the air. Charlie Batch came in for him. Hines Ward would be the next (quarterback), he played at Georgia.


"But also concerning: (center) Maurkice Pouncey, we just saw him carted off into the X-ray room. Also an ankle issue. Doug Legursky likely taking the second half for (Pouncey)."

Midway through the second half with the Steelers leading the Browns, 7-3, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rolled right looking for a big play down the field to one of his young wide receivers. The Browns had great coverage, and Roethlisberger, as he's known to do, held the ball waiting for something to develop. As often happens, he was sacked, this time by two Cleveland defenders at once, and in the process, suffered a left ankle injury.

He left the field with the aid of two assistants and he was limping badly.

Roethlisberger has a history of injuries and a history of playing through them but upon first appearances this looked bad.

Veteran Charlie Batch replaced Big Ben in the lineup, something he's done at various points during his Steelers career.

Roethlisberger-ankle_medium

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 9:17 am
 

Pick-Six Podcast: George Atallah + Thurs Preview

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Despite there being no lockout, the NFLPA's been under fire for a number of issues (a lack of HGH testing, the suspensions of some Redskins, Cedric Benson) and union spokesman George Atallah was kind enough to join the show in break down where the union stands on those issues.

We also discuss in depth some of the issues surrounding HGH testing and whether or not it's a viable option for 2011.

Then Ryan and Will break down the Thursday night matchup between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, wondering if the Browns have any shot at all to upset the Steelers and if the trade that gave Atlanta Julio Jones (and the Browns Greg Little) is already a bust for Cleveland, and if Pittsburgh is the best team in the AFC.

The guys also break down Archie Manning's latest comments about Peyton and Andrew Luck and how they relate to the Colts future.

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: December 7, 2011 11:11 pm
 

Colt McCoy could really use a big-play WR

Turns out, Little might be better as a No. 2 receiver. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Cleveland Browns are in desperate need of a big-play wide receiver. They had a chance to land such a player during the 2011 NFL Draft. Instead, they traded the sixth-overall pick to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for the Falcons' 2011 first, second and fourth-round picks, as well as a first and fourth-rounder in 2012.

Atlanta promptly selected Julio Jones, who along with A.J. Green were considered can't-miss prospects. Green has been that and then some this season -- 50 catches, 832 yards, seven touchdowns. Jones has battled hamstring issues but has started nine games, catching 34 passes for 566 yards and two touchdowns.

The Browns, meanwhile, used their first-round pick on defensive tackle Phil Taylor and took wideout Greg Little in the second round. Little has struggled with drops this season and is considered something of a project. This has to be disconcerting to Cleveland's second-year quarterback Colt McCoy.

After playing well as a rookie, the expectations were that McCoy would continue to get better in Year 2, especially if the Browns gave him a legit downfield threat to complement Peyton Hillis and Josh Cribbs. That didn't happen.

Instead, McCoy has regressed, the offense has stalled, and the Browns (4-8) are one of the worst teams in the league. On Thursday, they'll face the 9-3 Steelers on NFL Network. Draft guru and color analyst Mike Mayock, who will work the game, spoke about the Browns' offense and McCoy and Little in particular.

"I think the kid's got the deck stacked against him a little bit right now," Mayock told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot. "They don't really have anyone like a [Mike] Wallace or [A.J.] Green that can stretch the field for them vertically, and that's a difficult thing when you're a quarterback. Basically, you're kind of playing small ball. You're trying to run the football and move the chains with a lot of play-action and underneath stuff. And at some point, you've got to be more than that."

Mayock was also troubled by the Browns' unwillinginess (inability?) to throw the ball down the field.

"[McCoy's] not making the downfield throws and what's really happening is that teams are starting to squat on the wideouts, and it's difficult to watch when your offense is so compressed. It's an old-school West Coast offense -- a lot of three- and five-step drop, get the ball out of your hand. I understand it, but at some point you've got to watch this kid throw the ball. You've got to see more of the intermediate routes that demonstrate arm strength."

And that goes back to not having a premier pass catcher.

"Maybe the wide receivers aren't getting as much respect as you'd like," he said. "Greg Little is having a good year, but he's dropped four or five passes [actually six] in the two games I've watched. Mohamed Massaquoi is a pretty good receiver and Josh Cribbs obviously has the 'wow' factor, but he's certainly not a polished receiver."

It's hard to fault the Browns for making that deal with the Falcons. After all, on draft day, New England coach Bill Belichick told Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff, "Thomas, I'm just telling you as a friend. I wouldn't do it."

Belichick added that he thought Jonathan Baldwin was "just as good if not better" than Jones. Which leads us to this: the Browns weren't wrong to trade out of the No. 6 pick, but they really could've used a playmaker.

As it stands, their offense is so predictable that people half-paying attention know what's coming.

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Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:46 pm
 

Cribbs is fed up with losing, Shurmur understands

Cribbs is tired of losing but he's not tired of Cleveland.  (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

In Josh Cribbs' six NFL seasons prior to 2011, the Browns have averaged fewer than six wins. Currently, Cleveland's 4-7 and manages just 15 points a game. Next up: the Ravens, a team they haven't beaten since 2007.

So it stands to reason that Cribbs, in his words, is fed up with losing.

“I’m tired of losing," he said this week, according to the Associated Press. "Everybody in this locker room, they’ll say they’re tired and they want to win every game. I want to win this year. Everybody says we’re building, we look good. I don’t really care about the building process because I want to win now. I’ll worry about next year next year. I want to win now.”

Head coach Pat Shurmur, in his first year on the job after replacing Eric Mangini, not only understands Cribbs' frustration, he doesn't have an issue with it.

"I have an open door and I expect if they have an issue, they come see me man-to-man about it," Shurmur said, via the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "That's the way we handle things here."

Shurmur encourages players to have an open dialogue with him as well as the media, and that's the case with Cribbs.

"I talk to coach all the time," Cribbs said. "I just finished talking to him. I talk to him casually, through the hallway, at the beginning and end of practice."

Cribbs, whose 29 receptions and 358 yards (4 TDs) this season are career highs for the former Kent State quarterback who went undrafted after college. Those totals are third on the team behind rookie Greg Little and Benjamin Watson.

But Cribbs' remarks aren't about getting more involved in the offense, they're about -- stop us if you've heard this before -- winning.

"That doesn't mean that I want to leave [because] I am sick and tired of losing like everybody is," he said. "Me being sick and tired doesn't mean I want to leave. It means I want to win now. So we're going to focus all our energy in trying to win. I'm tired of losing."

Unfortunately, the Browns have played some uninspiring football this season. Whether it's the unusually predictable offense or the sudden collapse on special teams, there's little reason for optimism. Shurmur looks like he's aged 20 years in three months and second-year quarterback Colt McCoy has regressed from his rookie form. And in two days they'll face Baltimore, an outfit they haven't beaten in six tries.


After a big win over the 49ers last week, the Baltimore Ravens hope to repeat this Sunday as they take on the Cleveland Browns. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan preview this upcoming game. Watch the game on CBS at 4:05 PM ET.

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 12:55 pm
 

Hillis, Andre Johnson to make their returns today

Hillis

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Peyton Hillis hasn’t played since Week 6, and he’s only competed in four games this year because of a hamstring injury or strep throat or because his agent, eyeing a potential big payday, told him not to suit up and to go home instead.

His five-game streak of not playing, though, will end today, because he’s on the Browns active list against the Bengals along with running backs Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya and is expected to see action. His carries probably will be limited, but just having him back could spark the Browns against their in-state rival. [UPDATE 12:54 p.m. ET:] According to multiple reports, Hardesty tightened up during warmups, and now, it appears Hillis will start.

JohnsonWhile Hillis somehow has become less important to his team after his monster year last season, the Texans best offensive player not named Arian Foster also will return. Andre Johnson, out for the past seven games with a hamstring injury, will return to the starting lineup Sunday.

The return of Johnson, who seemingly has been week-to-week since hurting himself in Week 4, couldn’t come at a better time for Houston. As the Texans look to stay in front for the AFC South title and their first-ever playoff appearance, they’re forced to start quarterback Matt Leinart with Matt Schaub out for the rest of the season.

And while Houston’s run game is one of the best in the league, Foster, Ben Tate and Derrick Ward also will be much less effective if their opponents can keep eight defenders in the box. Having Johnson back, making up for some of Leinart’s deficiencies, could make the Texans more two-dimensional, which will be a key component in order for Houston to land in the postseason.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 10:00 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 11: Johnson returns to form

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.

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Mark Sanchez, Jets

It's been five days since Tim Tebow led the Broncos on a 95-yard game-winning drive against the Jets. The other, perhaps more important storylines to come out of that game: Von Miller is scary, Denver's defense is improving, and Mark Sanchez was the worst quarterback on the field last Thursday.

That's not hyperbole. Sanchez looks the part and has the pedigree but nearly three years into his NFL career and he's a replacement-level quarterback. That would be one thing if he were, say, a former seventh-round pick like Ryan Fitzpatrick (pre-shiny new deal, obviously). It's a different story altogether given that the Jets traded up from No. 17 to No. 5 to take Sanchez in the 2009 NFL Draft.

When New York's defense is one of the best in the league and the running game is working, Sanchez has been good. But that's sort of the point: you don't draft a franchise quarterback to man the controls when everything is going well. You draft a franchise quarterback to win those games that you were previously losing. The Jets are 5-5 and a big part of that is because of Sanchez.

Late in the third quarter of the Broncos game, with the Jets leading 10-3 and facing a third and short, Sanchez threw a pick-six. It wasn't a tipped pass, or a 50-yard bomb that was effectively a third-down punt. It was a jerk route to Plaxico Burress. Typically, the joke is that the defender in coverage ends up looking like a jerk on such plays.

Not this time. Sanchez's throw was off target, Burress didn't come back to the ball, and cornerback Andre Goodman jumped the route. Twenty-six yards later, the score was 10-10. And then Tebow happened.


Mark Sanchez has thrown three pick-sixes this season.

Head coach Rex Ryan defended Sanchez (Because, really, what's he going to say? "I'm happy to announce that Mark Brunell, 52 years young, will now lead us to the playoffs!")

"This is our quarterback," Ryan said at his Friday press conference. "He’s going to be our quarterback for as long as I’m here, which I hope is a long, long time. He can make all the throws. He’s a competitive guy. Has it been perfect? No, absolutely. But it hasn’t been perfect for our entire team."

But Rex, what about the children!?

Graham Gano, DeAngelo Hall - Redskins

It may seem unfair to blame Gano for the Redskins' latest loss, but let's be honest: he's the team's best offensive player. (And, hell, he might even be the team's best quarterback. We haven't seen him throw but we have seen the Rex and Becks show. It can't be worse than that.) If Washington is going to win, Gano will have to make everything, including the out-of-zip-code attempts. Instead, he missed two field goals Sunday against the Cowboys, the first from 49 yards, the last from 52. And it was that last miss in overtime that allowed Dallas to march down the field for a game-winning kick of their own.

Now, for your unintentional comedy interlude, courtesy of Redskins' Radio Network (featuring Larry Michael, Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff and by way of DC Sports Bog)…
The missed Gano field goal

Larry: We are ready, this is it, from 52 yards out. The kick is on the way, he’s got the distance, and heeeeeeeee…
Sam: He’s got it!
Larry: He missed it! He missed it wide right!
Sam: He missed it?
Larry: He missed it wide right, so the Cowboys will take over.
Sam: I thought it went through?
Larry: Wide right.
We've been saying for several weeks that there's a decent chance the Redskins lose out. They're now 3-7 and six weeks closer to that reality. Silver lining: players are taking responsibility. In fact, cornerback DeAngelo Hall thinks he should be cut. We won't disagree with him.

“It’s frustrating, but I can’t point a finger at anybody but myself,” Hall said, via the Washington Times. “The way I’m playing right now, they need to go cut me because I’m definitely not worth what I’m getting. It’s frustrating. Hopefully they see something in me and they bring me back next year, but the way things are going right now, I’m definitely not playing up to par.”

Could the Redskins really lose out?

We know Hall wasn't responsible for a wide-open Jason Witten sprinting to the end zone on a 59-yard reception midway through the fourth quarter. But Hall didn't exactly track Witten down, either. For a former "NFL's Fastest Man" champion, he sure looked slow (but not quite as slow as the time Hines Ward, wearing one shoe, outran him to the end zone).

One last thing: former NFL quarterback turned handball aficionado Jake Plummer spoke recently about playing for Mike Shanahan. The two were together in Denver from 2003-2006 until Plummer retired after it became clear that Jay Cutler would be the starter.

“It just seemed like every game I could have completed these four more passes or these five more shots here and it would have been perfect," Plummer said, via Yahoo.com. "And that just wasn’t my personality....But Shanahan wanted perfection and he wore a lot of us down there.”

We're guessing Shanahan would do just about anything to have such problems now. To Plummer's credit, he didn't take pleasure in Shanahan's current predicament (at least not publicly).

“Yeah and you know what, I don’t like to see that,” he said. “I mean I don’t want to see anybody struggle. And I’m not sitting here gloating or feeling better about his lack of success down there. As time goes you learn more things. … Hey, I was lucky to get the opportunity to play for Shanahan. He helped turn my career around and gave me a chance to show that I was a winner, regardless of how things went down."

Chris Johnson, Titans

First, some background: the Lions selected running back Kevin Smith in the the third round of the 2008 draft. After suffering late-season injuries in '09 and '10, the team chose not to re-sign him. He was out of football until two weeks ago when Detroit, in dire need of warm bodies in the backfield, gave him a call. Against the Panthers Sunday, Smith ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and added another 61 receiving yards and a score.

Recapping Week 11

We mention this because after Chris Johnson treaded the Panthers for 130 rushing yards last week, there were some rumblings of him "being back." Turns out, that performance was an aberration and unless the Titans are facing the Panthers every week from here on out, Johnson continues to be one of the worst backs in the league.

Back during training camp, when Johnson was parked on his couch waiting for a new deal, one of the reasons his supporters gave for paying him was that Johnson's presence in the backfield would take pressure off rookie quarterback Jake Locker. Well, Locker saw extensive action against the Falcons and he looked just fine. And he did it without anything resembling a running game.

Maybe the Titans should sign this Kevin Smith.

Which brings us back to CJ. He carried the ball 12 times in Atlanta for a grand total of 13 yards. That works out to a nifty 1.08 yards per carry. Put differently: Matt Hasselbeck, who left the game with an arm injury and probably travels 40 yards in closer to six seconds than five, was the Titans' leading rusher with 17 yards on the afternoon.

(Even more embarrassing, courtesy of colleague Will Brinson's Sorting the Sunday Pile: "There were nine -- NINE! -- quarterbacks with more rushing yards than Johnson in Week 11.")

“I know we didn’t execute some plays that we could have,” Johnson said, via the Tennessean. “They are a pretty good defense, and they made a lot of plays out there. I’m sure if we would have executed better, then we could have had a better day in the running game.”

Or, as we mentioned above, the Titans could just petition the league to face the Panthers every week.

Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars

Let's be honest: Blaine Gabbert Bears very little responsibility for the Jags' 3-7 season. He's a rookie quarterback on one of the NFL's worst offensive teams, and Jack Del Rio is a lame-duck coach who'll likely ring in the new year looking for a new job.

Jacksonville's final drive against the Browns Sunday was a microcosm of their offense and their season. Trailing 14-10 and on the Browns' 2-yard-line with 13 seconds to go, the Jaguars ran the following three plays:

1st and goal: Maurice Jones-Drew 1-yard run (eight seconds remaining).
2nd and goal: Gabbert throws incomplete to Jason Hill (three seconds remaining).
3rd and goal: Gabbert throws incomplete to Mike Thomas (game over, thanks for coming).

So that happened. When Del Rio was asked after the game why he didn't get the ball to the Jags' best playmaker, MJD, this happened:

“Our offensive coordinator [Dirk Koetter] calls the plays. I can’t speak to his thinking. You’ll have to get with him,” he said via the Florida Times-Union.

Translation: "I checked out of this job in September and I'm just going through the motions until I'm officially canned. I almost forgot we had a game Sunday."

What makes Del Rio's comment even more bizarre: Jacksonville called timeout with eight seconds left. Presumably, he had some say in the final-play strategy.

“We certainly talked about those things through the course of the drive. We got down and took our crack. You can make a case for doing that. You can guess any number of plays when you don’t connect. [It’s] a missed opportunity,” Del Rio said.

As PFT.com's Gregg Rosenthal noted Monday: "Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick and Mike Smith would all be involved in a call like that. They are defensive coaches, but they make big decisions on offense. It’s their team."

You know what else those three coaches have in common? They ain't getting fired in two months.

Philip Rivers, Chargers

There is very little to be excited about in San Diego but there is this: Philip Rivers has played much better the last two weeks. Moral victories are for losers, but … well, the Chargers are exactly that. Unfortunately, "Not Bad" Rivers in 2011 isn't a top-5 quarterback. In fact, he might crack the top-15. But unless he can play defense, special teams and coach, San Diego's five-game slide isn't entirely on him. That said, he leads the league in interceptions, and he threw two more Sunday -- both in the fourth quarter, both in critical situations.

The first pick was another miscommunication with Vincent Jackson in the end zone (it happened in Week 10 against the Raiders). The second was inexplicably bad. Rivers, flushed from the pocket, went to throw the ball away. Somehow instead of, you know, throwing the ball away, the pass sailed right into the arms of Bears defensive back Corey Graham.


The 2011 Chargers: where not even incompletions are routine

When you're incapable of throwing an incompletion, it portends bad things for the season.

After a 4-1 start, the Chargers are now 4-6. Next up: the 5-5 Tebows are coming to town and Rivers is reduced to saying things like this:

“We’ve got to find a way to think that we have a one-game season against Denver at our place,” he said, via the San Diego Union-Tribune. “And let’s find a way to win that game.”

There are six games left in the 2011 season and barring a miraculous turnaround and a ton of luck, San Diego will miss the postseason. And that, according to the Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee, could mean curtains for Norv Turner.

"At this point, it is apparent only a drastic turnaround will save Turner, as the Chargers have lost five straight and are in last place in the AFC West, in grave danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight season. [Team owner Dean] Spanos also has wondered about repeated game management decisions, and after five years it is possible Turner has been given enough time to get done what no Chargers coach ever has – win a Super Bowl."

Maybe Rex Ryan was onto something.

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