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Tag:Mark Sanchez
Posted on: October 7, 2011 7:30 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 10:45 pm
 

Haloti Ngata fined $15K for hit on Mark Sanchez

Ngata is now $15,000 lighter in the wallet after this hit on Sanchez Sunday night. (Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been fined $15,000 by the NFL for his hit Sunday night on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, several outlets are reporting.

The play in question happened with 8:22 remaining in the second quarter and Baltimore leading New York, 20-7. Sanchez dropped back to pass and as he was about to throw the ball, Ngata blasted him from his blind side, causing a fumble that was scooped up by Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson and returned for a touchdown.

Referee Mike Carey didn't throw a flag on the play but the NFL, after reviewing the tape, clearly feels differently. The league fined Ngata for roughing the passer. "Specifically, on a pass play, he lowered his head and struck the opposing quarterback,” AFC information manager Corry Rush told PFT.

"I thought Haloti actually hit him in the back with his helmet first, but that being said, he made a great play," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said.

You can judge for yourself below:


Earlier this week Ngata told Dan Patrick that "I love hitting Tom Brady because he always complains. He thinks he should never be touched," When asked if the officials listen to Brady and throw the flag, Ngata said, "No. My hits are usually clean."

Except this time, at least in the eyes of the league.

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 10:47 pm
 

Simms doesn't know if Rex can alleviate pressure

M. Sanchez got crushed during the Baltimore game (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The Jets have the most important game of their young season this Sunday when they travel to New England to face the Patriots. Lose, and they’re 2-3, stuck behind the Patriots and the Bills (and maybe in not that exact order!) in the AFC East with about 1/3 of the season gone. Win, and they give New England their second loss and, if the Bills lose, New York would join a three-way tie for first place.

But with the way the Jets were embarrassed last Sunday vs. the Ravens, is there really a reason to believe they can recover to beat New England? Can Rex Ryan save the day?

“I don’t know if he can take the pressure off his team this week,” said “NFL on CBS” lead analyst Phil Simms, who will be covering the New England-New York game. “Everything has changed.  He’s in a scenario now that he has never been in since he’s been a head coach.  It will be interesting to see how they approach the game and what their overall philosophy will be for this game.  How is Rex going to manage it?  Do they still think they’re going to open up the offense and be a throwing team?  Or are they going to go back -- it’s hard to switch in mid-season?  It can’t be cured in one week.  They just have to get the ship going in the right direction this week.”

One problem with the Jets opening up the offense with the pass is that quarterback Mark Sanchez was dominated by Baltimore last week.

In the Jets 34-17 loss, Sanchez was 11 of 35 for 119 yards and an interception and seemingly was put on the ground after every play. But this week Ryan promised a return to the ground-and-pound game, which will take pressure off Sanchez and make New York much less one-dimensional.

“When your offensive line is in trouble, your quarterback is going to be directly affected by how many times he gets hit, and that shows in his performance,” Simms said. “ Look at what he did against the Baltimore Ravens.  If you go back and dissect that game, there were probably nine throwaways, minimum, and at least six throws he had no idea where he was throwing because he was getting hit upside the head at the same time.  I’m not exonerating him from everything, but you surely can’t judge what he’s doing based on what he was presented against the Baltimore Ravens.”

Simms makes a good point about New York’s offensive line. With Colin Baxter struggling at center to replace Nick Mangold – who is slated to return this week – and with Vladimir Ducasse in the game, New York couldn’t stop Baltimore’s front seven from doing whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted vs. the Jets.

“In the NFL, when there is a weakness in your offensive line, it doesn’t hurt your offense, it hurts your whole football team,” Simms said. “It hurts your quarterback, the receivers, the running backs, the situations your defense plays in.  Right now, the Jets have a few obstacles to overcome. “

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 10:02 am
Edited on: October 4, 2011 4:35 pm
 

Coach Killers, Week 4: Big Ben needs body armor

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

Steelers offensive line. Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the offensive line three years ago, shortly after the team selected running back Rashard Mendenhall and wide receiver Limas Sweed with their first two picks in the 2008 draft, and his response was: there's more than one way to protect the quarterback -- with pass blockers or with a gaggle of phenomenal skill positions players.

To their credit, Pittsburgh has used high picks on o-linemen in recent drafts (center Maurkice Pouncey in '10 and tackle Marcus Gilbert this past April), but the fact remains that the unit is, to borrow a Tomlininsm, consistently "below the line" in terms of production. This is what happens when Jonathan Scott, the starting left tackle, generates absolutely zero interest on the free-agent market and ends up re-signing with the team for roughly $900,000.

In general, six figures is a nice little haul for a day's work. But Scott is one of the lowest paid left tackles in football who, by the way, is charged with protecting Pittsburgh's $100 million franchise quarterback. It gets worse: Scott was injured in Week 3 against the Colts and didn't play Sunday against the Texans. Which meant that Trai Essex, unemployed as recently as August and who admitted that he was afraid he had eaten himself out of the league, was the guy tasked with blocking Mario Williams.

It's a wonder Ben Roethlisberger made it out of Houston with just a sprained ankle. No one would've been surprised if the jaws of life were needed to un-embed him from the Reliant Stadium turf.

Week 4 Recap

To be fair, Pittsburgh's o-line has been victimized by injuries. In addition to Scott, who should be back in a week or two, right tackle Willie Colon was lost for the season after the Week 1 drubbing by the Ravens. It's the second time in as many seasons that Colon's has health kept him on the sidelines. Right guard Doug Legursky also missed the Texans game with an injury, and left guard Chris Kemoeatu has been battling knee issues through the offseason.

But, hey, it's football -- there isn't a completely healthy team in the NFL. It's just that the five guys charged with protecting Big Ben at the beginning of the season were considered an average unit at best. Now that they're down to backups at three of the five positions, it's more like a train wreck, one that usually meets in the backfield, on Big Ben, about 15 times a game. This could end badly.

Eagles defense. There were a lot of double-takes when Andy Reid announced that he had filled the defensive coordinator job with Juan Castillo. Not because of Castillo's awesome wig, but because he had been an offensive assistant in Philly since arriving in 1995. So it was something of a surprise when he replaced Sean McDermott in February.

Through four weeks, the Eagles' D looks, well, a lot like the Eagles' D we're used to seeing: soft, no-tackling units that lose the battle in the trenches and appear uninterested in stopping the run. This time, however, the problem is exacerbated by the all the offseason additions and the media running with Vince Young's throwaway "Dream Team" comment.

Two weeks ago, the Giants manhandled the Eagles and the 49ers (!) put on an encore performance Sunday. It's also worth pointing out that both games were at the Linc; if Philly can't win at home, not only will they be in danger of missing the playoffs, they might not be a .500 team.

Castillo isn't deserving of all the blame (for starters, we're guessing he doesn't teach his players how to miss tackles), and at least publicly, he has the support of head coach Andy Reid. When asked about the job Castillo's done through four weeks, Reid said "I think Juan's doing some good things. If you ask me the same question about myself or the other coaches and players, there's some good things we're all doing and there a lot of things we need to work on. So that's what we're doing. I'm telling you it's not one person, it's all of us pulling this thing together and doing our jobs a little bit better."

Reid's right. Which brings us to one play that might be worth taking out of the playbook forever: having running back Ronnie Brown throw a backward pass while getting tackled at the opponent's goal line.

"It was a designed play," Brown said. "I've just got to make a better decision with the ball. No matter if it's a pass or a run, I've just got to make a better decision. I was trying to out-think myself a little bit. It was a pass play and I was thinking, once the guy slipped off, just try to throw the ball away and give us another chance for fourth down - not take a loss where we can go for it on fourth down, if possible. I've just got to make a better decision with the ball."

Oh my.

Rob Ryan, Cowboys defensive coordinator. Perhaps in an effort to motivate his team, Ryan implied last week that Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson -- one of the best players in the league -- would be the No. 3 wideout in Dallas. "We work against better receivers with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant,” Ryan said, presumably while fighting back a "yeah, I'm BS-ing ya" grin.

Ryan also indicated that the Cowboys' defensive strategy wouldn't change for one player, and that they wouldn't double-cover Johnson. We give Ryan credit for keeping his word, because Dallas lined up cornerback Terence Newman -- all by himself -- across from Johnson on the game's most important play, a fourth-quarter, goal-line situation in which the Lions needed to score a touchdown. Predictbably, quarterback Matt Stafford threw a jump-ball to Johnson who out-leapt Newman for it. Game over.

It gets better: after the game, Lions coach Jim Scwhartz, made with the funny and he did it without cracking a smile.

"I'm glad the third best wide reciever on the Cowboys is on our team," he said.

Johnson, as usual, seemed unfazed by the off-field gum-flapping.

“I don’t pay attention really, I hear about it from other people,’’ he said. “It doesn’t phase me, I just go out there and do what I have to do.’’

(Which, incidentally, is also Tony Romo's philosophy, except you're never quite certain which Romo is going to show up.)

Mark Sanchez, Jets QB. If you need more proof for just how good Ben Roethlisberger is, re-watch the Jets-Ravens game. New York's offensive line, usually a pretty good group, had some injuries and Baltimore exploited the mismatches all night long, usually while knocking Sanchez silly in the process. The difference between that matchup and your typical Steelers game, is that Roethlisberger is not only accustomed to the weekly beatings, he seems to welcome them.

It was clear early on that Sanchez doesn't like all the contact, as was evidenced by his chuck-and-duck approach to the passing game. By the way, when NBC color analyst Cris Collinsworth says -- in the second quarter -- that "Sanchez has had enough" that's a euphemism for "Your QB is uninterested in continuing because the Ravens are beating the crap out of him."

We get that -- Baltimore was teeing off on Sanchez. But that's not a guy who will lead you to a Super Bowl. It's also the latest evidence that Sanchez, at least at this stage of his career, isn't Captain Comeback. He needs the defense and the running game to build a lead, and then the Jets' short, efficient passing game can take care of the rest.

Which brings us to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who has faced criticism in the past for complicating what should be pretty simple: use the run to set up the pass. On Monday, head coach Rex Ryan didn't mince words.  "We've got to get a heck of a lot better here," he said. "We're a team that prides itself on running the football, being able to run and we haven't been successful so far."

As Grantland.com's Bill Barnwell observed on Twitter, "The Jets are really going to a run-happy offense before they play the Patriots? With that secondary? OK."

Whatever you do, DON'T kick to Devin Hester. Duh. (US PRESSWIRE)
Panthers special teams. Did we learn nothing from Mike Shanahan, or Tony Dungy or, more generally speaking, Tom Coughlin and Matt Dodge?

Evidently, not in Carolina, because the Panthers played well enough to beat the Bears in Chicago … if not for two bone-headed special teams miscues that involved kicking or punting the ball right to Hester. It doesn't take any talent to kick (hey, having Chicago start at the 40 is better than the alternative) or punt the ball out of bounds. Even Jimmy Clausen could do that (too much? Sorry Jimbo, force of habit). The thought, it seems, never occurred to Panthers special teams coach Brian Murphy.

Then again, it may not have been Murphy's call. First year head coach Ron Rivera defended the decision to kick to Hester (which is sorta like trying to defend the decision to put Terence Newman in single coverage opposite Calvin Johnson).

"I am [concerned about the coverage teams] to a degree. The bad thing about it is, again, on the punt return for a touchdown, we had guys in position to make tackles. And we didn't do it, unfortunately," Rivera said. "But we have to do it and we're going to find guys that are going to do it."

Or, you know, just kick it out of bounds.

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Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:43 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 1:36 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 4


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter.Make sure and listen to our Week 4 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.



1. The bandwagon rolls on
On Sunday, the mojo disappeared for the Lions and they fell 24 points behind the Cowboys in Dallas, until Tony Romo decided to drag Detroit back from a lockjob of a defeat with a pair of pick-sixes that sparked a rally in which Matthew Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for two touchdowns and the Lions stunned Dallas 34-30 at Jerry Jones' palatial estate.

There are two ways to look at this. One, Romo is a choker again (more on that in a second) and Dallas stinks. Or, two, the Lions are very much for real. I'm inclined to believe the second narrative. So is Cowboys fan LeBron James.


I'm including this mainly because I find it absolutely hysterical that Ohio native James is a Cowboys fan. I'm sure it has nothing to do with bandwagons. But I'm also including it because James is right -- the Lions do "got swag right now."

This was mentioned after Week 2, when the Lions slammed a beatdown on the Chiefs, and it makes sense to mention now.

That's primarily because the Lions are 4-0 for the first time since 1980 and became the fourth team to start a season 4-0 a year after starting the season 0-4 since 1990. (The impressive nature of that turnaround aside, what a statement on the NFL's parity, huh?)

Take it back even further, and count preseason games and the Lions are on a 12-game winning streak, and once, again, appear to develop some of this attitude from their head coach.

"I'm glad the third best wide receiver on the Cowboys is on our team," Jim Schwartz said after the game.

Naturally you'll recall that Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had some comments about the skills of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin versus Calvin Johnson before the game.

Schwartz' comments are a straight burn, of course, but it warrants mentioning that Dez did look otherworldly earlier in the game. But Megatron did some dirty things on his two touchdowns to the Dallas defensive backs. On the first catch, he went up in triple coverage and grabbed a ball that probably never should have been a score.

And on the second -- and most important -- score, Johnson scored when he was isolated in single coverage against Terrence Newman. Based on Ryan's theory, Newman's practice against Bryant and Austin should have prepared him for a one-on-one matchup at the goalline.

Unfortunately, Megatron's the biggest freak of nature in the NFL, arguably the best wideout in the league and slicing up some well-deserved humble pie for Ryan after the Lebowski look-a-like tried to put him in man coverage.

2. Hands on Necks
Obviously the Cowboys loss is going to be classified as a chokejob. And it should -- there's no way to classify it as anything other than that, especially when Romo packaged a pair of touchdowns and mailed it the Lions way.

"The games turn, obviously, on turnovers," Romo said. "It's the most important stat in the game. That's why you protect the ball. That's my No. 1 job and I didn't do a well enough job of that today."

The weird thing about the loss is that Dallas is now 2-0 in games where they were "gritty and tough and found a way to win" and 0-2 in games where "Romo peed his pants and threw terrible picks." Or something like that.

The point is that, yes, the Cowboys choked, but it wasn't even the worst choke on Sunday. And perhaps only the third worst -- Dallas was at least playing a very dangerous team in the Lions and even if the game was at home, we've seen Detroit do this before.

There's no real excuse for Buffalo, who was leading 21-3 against the Bengals on Sunday, to lose on a last-second field goal by Mike Nugent. Sure, it was in Cincy and, sure, it was the Bills and we should have seen something coming after buying in so heavily. But losing like that to a Bengals team with a rookie quarterback is just bad news Bears.

And yet it wasn't even the most embarrassing choke of the day. The Eagles deserve some, um, credit for their inability to hold off the 49ers in a home game where they led 23-3 as late as midway through the third quarter.

The Bills and Cowboys can at least hang their respective hats on records that aren't below .500. The Eagles have no such excuse and it's becoming increasingly clear why "offseason winners" isn't always such a nice thing to say about teams in the NFL.



3. Super Bowl champs remain under the radar

Thus far, the Packers have beaten the Saints, the Panthers, the Bears and the Broncos. It's not exactly a murderer's row of great NFL teams, but it's not the four-worst teams in the league either.

And they've looked outstanding on offense, compiling a league-high 148 points en route to a 4-0 record, and giving plenty of folks justification for selecting the Packers to repeat as Super Bowl champions in 2011.

Yet ... no one wants to talk about the success they've had this year.

This is partially because of the other storylines that are permeating the NFL this season, and partially because after last season's late run, we've come to expect this out of Aaron Rodgers and his outstanding teammates.

"Trust me, we don't have it all figured out as a football team," Mike McCarthy said Sunday. "We're 4-0, but we're very in tune with what we need to improve as a team."

The biggest issue is defense, clearly. While the Packers have arguably improved their running game from last year (James Starks looks like a legit back for their system, especially when it comes to melting the clock with a lead), the defense isn't the championship-winning caliber that showed up in the playoffs last year.

Both Kyle Orton and Cam Newton posted big numbers against Green Bay, and though there were some fantastic moments from the defenses in those games, it's difficult to justify any claim that the Packers defense is better this year than it was last year.

Having said all that, this team did a pretty good job of gelling at the right time last year, and they're off to a much better start in 2011. We should all take notice.

4. Hope you sick people are happy now
2011 has been a tough go for anyone who supports Arian Foster, whether it be Texans fans, fantasy owners or just, you now, nice people who care about other humans.

Fortunately, those people got some good karmic returns for their Foster love on Sunday, as he and the Texans took some punches from the Steelers and punched right back, eventually beating Pittsburgh 17-10 on Sunday afternoon. As my man Mike Freeman points out, everything about the win at Reliant Stadium on Sunday goes against the typical stereotype of Texans football.

More on that in a second, but first, Foster. When Gary Kubiak said he was going to bring Foster back against the Steelers, I thought he was insane. After all, the Steelers are (well, were) a top-10 rushing defense.

But Foster looked fantastic. He broke long runs, he showed tremendous burst through holes, when he got around the corner he was able to cut back upfield and pick up big yards and in general he looked like the 2010 version of himself.

"I go into every contest thinking that I'm the go-to guy," Foster said. "When the flow of the game starts going, we need certain things, and you've got to be there for your team."

Hamstrings are tricky, of course, and there's no guarantee that Foster's going to roll to another rushing title or anything. Plus, the Texans offense sputtered a bit (OK, a lot) after Andre Johnson left with a hamstring injury that really looked like a knee injury in the second quarter and that could be problematic going forward.

But at least for now, there's reason to think that the Texans offense can hop back up on Foster's back and ride him to a division title.



5. Sunday night monstrosity
The Ravens opened up on fire to begin the Sunday night game against the Jets, jumping out to a 27-7 lead before eventually winning handily. But, um, well, you see ... that was ugly.

Real ugly -- Joe Flacco limped his way to a 10 for 31 performance that generated 163 passing yards and an interception.

It would have been the ugliest performance on the field, but Mark Sanchez took full advantage of Nick Mangold's absence, and fumbled four times, three of which were lost, two of which were taken to the house by Ravens defenders and also threw a pick-six.

Things got so bad that, at one point, Rex Ryan called a timeout just to scream at the officials. It actually seemed to work, or it at least confused the Ravens and Cam Cameron, who took a 20-point lead with just a few minutes remaining in the second quarter and desperately tried to let the Jets back in the game.

That didn't matter, but it didn't make the performance of Sanchez, Flacco and their respective teams any worse or weirder. There were five defensive and special teams touchdowns in total during the game, most in NFL history and Sanchez' final pass (he finished 11 of 35, ugh) went off the heel of a defender.

What perplexes me isn't the Jets struggling, because, frankly, they were kind of due to regress a bit. I'm sure they'll start getting better, and they might start stopping the run (although I'm sure Cameron won't figure that out!) and running the ball better. They almost always do, just in time to claw their way into the playoffs.

The bigger concern is how the Ravens came out in Week 4, continuing the metronome-like performance for Flacco through a few weeks. At times (against the Steelers and the Rams) he's looked like an elite-level quarterback. And at others (Sunday and against the Titans), he's looked absolutely lost.

If he wants to truly "make the jump," he's going to need to find some consistency.

6. Goin' out east
There was no shortage of different predictions for the team that would win the NFC West. Well, except for the Seahawks. No one predicted that. The typical favorites were the Rams and Cardinals, mainly because of their quarterback play.

The 49ers should have gotten more love, but Alex Smith held them back, and Jim Harbaugh, in his first stop as an NFL head coach, is showing exactly why. His team managed to storm back against the Eagles on Sunday and move into first place in their division, with a firm command of the typically crappy NFC West.

San Francisco's 3-1, the Rams are 0-4 and the Seahawks and Cardinals are 1-3.

None of the teams out there have, unsurprisingly, looked very good. And the 49ers are the only squad with a positive point differential, which should tell you just how bad this division is. Again. But maybe Harbaugh is the difference -- look no further than his decision to house his team in Ohio for half a week in between their Week 3 game against the Bengals and Sunday's win in Philadelphia.

"Thanks Youngstown, you've been good to us," Harbaugh said in deference to Ohio. "That's as good a win as I can ever remember being a part of. I'm really proud of our players. They never flinched in a tough environment here, and there was no moment or circumstance that made them nervous in this ballgame. We kept fighting, made adjustments -- a great team victory for us."

Frank Gore gashed the Eagles for 127 yards, and Alex Smith played pretty inspired football, going 13 of 17 for 201 yards and two touchdowns in just the second half.

It's a surprising turnaround for a surprising team that stunk the joint out last year. Given the dearth of talent for Seattle, Arizona's inability to close out, and St. Louis' rough schedule ahead, Harbaugh might have this team -- surprisingly -- poised to take over their division.

7. Remember the Titans

Unless Tennessee has something to say about that anyway -- Mike Munchak picked up his third-career win on Sunday afternoon as the Titans vaulted themselves into a first-place tie with Houston in the AFC South

On The NFL Today, Charley Casserly mentioned that Matt Hasselbeck was drawn to Tennessee because of two things: Munchak's commitment to protecting the quarterback with strong line play, and Munchak's commitment to protecting the quarterback's ability to throw deep by leaving in more blockers.

This has paid tremendous dividends for Hasselbeck, who's eighth in the NFL in passing yards, sixth in passing touchdowns, third in yards per pass and first in pass plays of 40-plus yards.

"We thought he had a lot left in the tank from watching him in the playoffs last year," Munchak said. "We didn't bring him here to retire quietly. We brought him here to do exactly what he's been doing."

And he's casually doing all of this while playing for a team that doesn't have a viable No. 1 wide receiver because of Kenny Britt's season-ending injury last week.

Chris Johnson finally managed to get going a little bit in the Week 4 win over Cleveland, and provided the Hasselbeck can stay healthy (which is somewhat of a stretch, but possible), the Titans might be the surprise playoff team that no one's talking about.



8. Pay the man!
Just like 2010, Mike Martz refused to run the ball until the Bears met up with the Panthers early in the season. And just like 2010, Martz got enough criticism for his playcalling that he ran the ball a ton against Carolina. And just like 2010, Matt Forte went HAM.

Last year it was 166 rushing yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. This year it was a career-high 205 rushing yards on 25 carries and a touchdown in the Bears 34-29 win.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, the Bears are 9-0 when Forte rushes for 100 yards or more. Yet ... they don't like to run. Two, the Panthers defense is absolutely terrible. I could put up a hundo on them, and it shouldn't be too huge of a shock to see him go key largo against Carolina's beat-up defense.

That being said ... three, Forte wants a new contract, has wanted a new contract but can't get the Bears to even talk to him about getting more money.

The result, predictably, is a running back who appears to be playing with a great deal of intensity and a desire to be highly productive. Of course, for all of Forte's success against the Panthers, there wasn't that much to love about the way Chicago played. Just don't tell Lovie Smith that.

"We’re not apologizing at all about this win," Smith said. "We feel really good about it."

They shouldn't, even if this year suddenly looks like last year in terms of figuring out to run the ball and not get Jay Cutler killed. Cam Newton did a lot of damage to the Bears defense, though he made some rookie mistakes, and the Panthers were able to run pretty easily on Chicago.

Anyone can score on the Panthers, and do it at will, given the lack of depth they have on the defensive side of the ball right now. That being said, it sure does seem like the Bears might have saved themselves some money if they'd gotten Forte some cash before the season rather than waiting.

As my college football colleague Tom Fornelli likes to say, "Pay the man, Chicago."

9. Review Controversy
Could the NFL's current replay system be any less controversial? As you likely know, all scoring plays are reviewed by a booth official. That sounds simple, but it's not at all -- we've already had plenty of problems with plays that seemed like obvious needs for reviews that weren't scrutinized further by the officials.

Sunday, we saw two more examples. First, there an issue in the Chiefs and Vikings game.

With 5:01 remaining, Michael Jenkins caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb. It appeared, pretty clearly, that he only got one foot inbounds. Fox didn't show any replays of the catch, and the officials at the game never reviewed it. Ultimately, it didn't matter, because the Vikings lost.

But it could have mattered and there wasn't anything Todd Haley or the Chiefs could do to get the play looked at. If Haley had thrown a challenge flag, he'd have been flagged for a delay of game penalty.

Another less controversial instance occurred during the Packers-Broncos game when Aaron Rodgers rushed for his second touchdown of the day on a third down. Rodgers was ruled down at the one-yard line, though replays showed he broke the plane of the goal line.

Mike McCarthy challenged and the Packers were given a touchdown that locked in their win against Denver. Here's the problem: "a scoring play" is only defined as a play in which the officials subjectively rule that a touchdown has happened. If that subjective ruling occurs, then the play is automatically reviewed.

If it doesn't happen, coaches are required to use a challenge.

I realize that the league can't challenge every single play that gets close to the end zone, but it seems to me that these two plays aren't that different. Something was botched by the refs and the booth wasn't available to make sure the right call was locked in. Ironically, in the non touchdown scenario, the coach has more freedom to help out his team with a red flag.

Even if the booth doesn't believe that a call should be looked at by the ref -- and in a close game like that, who's hurt by double-checking? -- there should be an option for a coach to take a stab at having a call overturned as well, if he's really adamant about what happened.

And, of course, there's the whole mess that went down in Arizona with Victor Cruz giving himself up and/or pulling the old stumble-->fumble disaster combo.

That actually seems like it was interpreted correctly, as it relates to the rule book.

"Official shall declare ball dead when a runner declares himself down by falling to ground or kneeling and making no effort to advance," reads Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1(e) of the NFL Rule Book.

In other words, it's a subjective call by the guys who look like zebras. If they believe Cruz gave himself up, then he gave himself up and that's the end of it.

10. Maybe they ARE the NFL's Heat

Whenever something good or bad happens in sports, reporters inevitably ask athletes how they feel. No, I don't know why it happens all the time either, but it rarely produces a good result.

It got a decent reaction out of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on Sunday, though, as he expressed a high level of frustration at the fact that the Eagles just choked away a huge lead against the 49ers -- at home, no less -- that eventually led to a 24-23 loss to San Francisco.

"Do I really have to explain how I feel right now sitting here at 1-3?" Vick asked. "It's frustrating. It's tough. I can't put that in words. I take sole responsibility. Maybe it's a lot of things I can do better. And I gotta figure it out.

"It's frustrating. I'm not going to continue to use that word, but, yeah, it's tough."


That's the thing with the Eagles, though. It's not all Vick's fault.

Is some of it? Sure, of course. But he was 30 of 46 for 416 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. A bigger problem is that he led the team in rushing, with 75 yards on eight carries. When you have a weapon like LeSean McCoy, it seems silly not to utilize him more.

Then again, the lack of a good push from the offensive line causes that too.

And when you can't stop other teams from running the ball, none of it really matters. Frank Gore gashed the Eagles for 127 yards on just 15 carries and Kendall Hunter picked up 38 on nine.

The Eagles might have some really, really talented players at a couple positions, but they're also really, really weak at other positions, and their depth just isn't that impressive at all.

So, come to think of it, maybe they're more like the Miami Heat than any of us could have ever known.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... What the hell was Ronnie Brown thinking? He's not even a quarterback, so trying to throw the ball while being tackled at the goal line doesn't even work as a random logical excuse.
... Johnathan Joseph had two -- TWO! -- touchdowns nullified by stupid penalties by the Texans. First there was the ridiculous block in the back by Danieal Manning when Joseph took a blocked punt to the house to end the half. And then there was the pick six he grabbed to close out the game that was negated by a J.J. Watt penalty. Welcome to Houston!
... Speaking of picks, Vince Wilfork now has two on the season after his second career INT against the Raiders.
... Just for trolling purposes: Nnamdi Asomugha only has one interception on the year.
... In one of the more insane things ever, Rex Ryan used a first-half timeout on Sunday night just to yell at the officials.

Worth 1,000 Words



Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"I woke up in a So Ho doorway ... a policeman knew my name."

"Who Are You" is actually a pretty good thing to ask the Colts quarterback, no?

GIF O' THE WEEK



Hot Seat Tracker
  • Tony Sparano: It would almost be an upset if he made it past the bye at this point.
  • Jack Del Rio: Very impressive that JDR figured out a way to make Maurice Jones-Drew completely ineffective during the first half of a game that was pretty closer during the first half.
  • Leslie Frazier: It might only be his first year, but looking terrible against a terrible Chiefs team ain't helping his cause. 
  • Todd Haley: Can Minnesota visit every weekend?
  • Juan Castillo: New guy for the Eagles, their defense is a leaky ship and someone needs to take the fall.
Chasing Andrew Luck (All odds mine)
We have a new entrant in the usual suspects who are searching for the answer to their franchise woes -- the St. Louis Rams! Heretofore unlisted in this space, the Rams are 0-4 and now squarely in the hunt for Luck, even though they could get to 0-7 and somehow still win their division, based on how easy their schedule is.

What I find fascinating about this is that the Rams and Vikings, my two current faves for Luck, both drafted a "franchise quarterback" in the past two years. Would the Rams consider acquiring Luck if they got the No. 1 overall pick again? Or is Sam Bradford just that much better? Would both they and the Vikings just absolutely trade the pick to whoever was desperate enough for Luck? Because I'm not so sure.

Vikings (2:1) -- Can't imagine they actually feel like Christian Ponder's better than Luck. Right?
Dolphins (2:1) -- As AJB points out below, Miami definitely deserves inclusion here. My bust. Was too worried about Sparano's job.
Rams (3:1) -- So spicy if they get it.
Colts (3:1) -- They'd be the favorites if/when they lose to Tampa on Monday.
Broncos (4:1) -- Stanford, everyone!
Panthers (5:1) -- Fairly confident that the Panthers would acquire some assets for that pick.
Eagles (10:1) -- Andy Reid does love quarterbacks ...

MVP Watch
Stafford, my leader up to this point, did some nice things Sunday. But after Rodgers did the dirty things -- six touchdowns! -- that he did to Denver and helped propel the Packers to 4-0, it's hard not to sit up and take notice and admit that right now he's the best quarterback in the NFL.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 11:49 am
 

Film Room: Ravens vs. Jets preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



Ever since Rex Ryan left Baltimore to become New York’s head coach, we’ve viewed these two teams as mirror images of one another – and understandably so. Both have young quarterbacks. Both have running backs entering their primes who are backed up by a sage veteran. Both feature an aggressive and deceptive 3-4 defensive scheme. And both talk abundant trash even though their respective rivals – the Patriots and Steelers – have all the rings.

Let’s take a closer look at these teams’ similarities.

1. Young quarterbacks
Something that stood out in Week 3 was how the Ravens and Jets heavily utilized play-action early on, but for different reasons.

The Ravens referred to it to allow time for downfield routes to unfold. They wanted to take advantage of a depleted Rams secondary that was starting undrafted second-year nobody Darian Stewart at safety and disintegrating Al Harris at nickel corner outside. (They succeeded, by the way).

The Jets referred to play action because they wanted to prolong the time that Raiders’ defensive backs had to hold up in man coverage. They also wanted to coax the Raider linebackers into running out of position. (They succeeded, but only in the first half.)

Same offensive tactic, but with vastly different inspirations. The Ravens were trying to showcase their young quarterback, while the Jets were trying to simply make life easier for theirs (nothing wrong with that). This makes sense. Flacco has been around a year longer than Sanchez and is clearly a year ahead of him development-wise. He has a stronger arm and, as of late, more refined tools. He has really improved his pocket movement, becoming more consistent in resetting his feet before he throws.

The Jets are working with Sanchez in this realm. Entering this season, the USC star had a habit of bringing the ball down while eluding rushers in the pocket. This compelled him to reset both his feet AND throwing mechanics, which is too slow of a motion for the NFL.

For what it’s worth, don’t expect such a heavy dose of play-action in this game. Both defenses have savvy linebackers and are too likely to blitz. Instead, the key will be which young quarterback does the best job at diagnosing coverages and pass-rushing attacks prior to the snap.


2. The running backs
Let’s get one thing clear: Ray Rice is a better football player than Shonn Greene. It’s not even close. If Rice were a Friday night, Greene would be, at best, a Wednesday afternoon. Rice runs with superb balance and strength, and his lateral agility is second to none (especially when he gets to the second level). What’s more, he’s a demon in the passing game, both as a receiver and blocker.

Greene, on the other hand, has been somewhat disappointing. He sits out most passing downs and has 1,440 yards rushing…in 32 career games. One issue is Greene’s more of a momentum runner than explosive runner. He excels on sweeps because those runs naturally allow him to hit the line of scrimmage going downhill. But sweeps don’t work against elite outside linebackers (like, say, Terrell Suggs).

Between the tackles, Greene’s vision and timing are very average. That’s why the Jets made LaDainian Tomlinson a prominent part of their offense last season. Tomlinson is off to a fantastic start as a receiving back this season (12 catches for 196 yards and a touchdown), but that’s in part because he knows how to outwit pass defending linebackers. On film, it’s clear L.T. has lost a lot of his speed and quickness. If the Jets are to go anywhere in 2011, they’ll have to ride Greene.

Same goes for the Ravens and Rice. Rice’s production is not a problem, though the Ravens were wise to bring in a supporting No. 2 back like Ricky Williams.

3. The receivers
Derrick Mason is the X-factor. He was Baltimore’s possession target last year and is now filling that role from the slot in New York. The crafty 15-year veteran is one of the few players in the league who does not need to get separation in order to be open.

Plaxico Burress is another one of those players. He’s been, for the most part, his same old self this season (which is remarkable when you really think about it). His matchup Sunday night against Carry Williams will be worth watching. If you asked God to make a cornerback specifically for defending Burress, you might get Williams. He’s only 6’1”, 185, but long and upright, he plays much bigger than that. He has an intriguing combination of physicality and change-of-direction ability, and if asked to play man coverage, he won’t be shy about using trail position technique (which will compel Burress to use his “speed” more than his strength).

It will be interesting to see what the Jets do with Darrelle Revis. The likely assignment will be Anquan Boldin, though last week, rookie Torrey Smith turned in a jaw-dropping three-touchdown first quarter that had the Rams redirecting their safety help concepts. Smith gets faster at the end of his routes, which is something all great deep threats do. Antonio Cromartie has the speed to run with him, so expect the Jets to trust that matchup. But expect the Ravens to readily go after it.

The weak link of both cornerbacking groups happens to be an ex-Boise State Bronco: Chris Carr for the Ravens and Kyle Wilson for the Jets. If it comes down to these ancillary matchups, the Jets have the overall advantage. Mason, their No. 3, is as reliable as they come. For the Ravens, newcomer Lee Evans (who now figures to be the No. 3 receiver) has not established any sort of a rhythm with Flacco.

4. The defensive lines
The Jets have a unique run-stopping approach with their three-man defensive line. Instead of asking their downlinemen to occupy blockers and fill two gaps, the Jets ask them to focus on physically manhandling the guy in front of them. The idea is this creates congestion through penetration and also defines the inside linebackers’ path to the ball (David Harris and Bart Scott are tasked with reading the defensive linemen’s action and attacking in the opposite direction that it’s drifting. More on that in the next section.)

The Jets are the only 3-4 team in the NFL that plays the run this way.

This unique approach is why general manager Mike Tannenbaum drafted a fist-fighter like Muhammad Wilkerson in the first round. Tannenbaum would probably give his right eye for a chance to have a guy like Haloti Ngata. The Ravens 335-pound defensive end/nose tackle is the most destructive front line force in the NFL today.

Ngata has the power of a tug boat and mobility of a clipper. Truly, he moves like a linebacker. Expect him to spend most of his time at defensive end this season, as last year’s second-round pick, Terrence Cody, has looked great at nose tackle.



5. The inside linebackers
These are the entertainers – the guys NBC cameras will fixate on Sunday night. The sagacious Ray Lewis and loquacious Bart Scott. Both back up their personas. Lewis no longer has elite sideline-to-sideline speed, but he compensates with instincts, ferocity and fundamentals.

He was a demon attacking Rams lead-blockers last week. The Ravens’ defensive style will always allow Lewis to be productive, as so much of their run approach is predicated on his teammates occupying blockers.

Scott, who is as aggressive downhill as any linebacker in the league, has both an easier and tougher job than Lewis. It’s easier in that he has a stellar running mate in David Harris. It’s tougher in that, as mentioned earlier, he must read the defensive linemen’s battles in front of him and pursue the ball accordingly.

The reason other 3-4 defenses don’t take this type of approach is it requires great intelligence and pursuit skills from both inside linebackers. Most defenses don’t have an inside combination like Scott and Harris.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 4 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 10:39 am
Edited on: September 28, 2011 10:41 am
 

Taylor thinks Henne is better than Sanchez

Who ya got: Mark Sanchez or Chad Henne?(Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Jason Taylor, the future Hall of Fame linebacker, has played for both the Dolphins and Jets during his 15-year career, and he's seen quarterbacks Chade Henne and Mark Sanchez up close during their formative NFL years. And in a recent sitdown with NBC Miami, he compared the two.

"We need to grow and we need to continue to change, and I think Chad has grown immensely since I left here a year ago," Taylor said. "I saw a kid in New York, Mark Sanchez, that is young, I don't think he's as talented as Chad Henne."

Without knowing the context, your first reaction might be to think, "So when did Taylor start doing stand-up?" But he's serious -- at least as long as he's wearing a Dolphins' uniform. As PFT.com's Michael David Smith reminds us, team affiliation has a lot to do with Taylor's favorite quarterback.

In June 2010, when he was with the Jets, Taylor was asked to choose between Henne and Sanchez. He didn't hesitate.

"I know who I'm going to pick, and it's my quarterback here," Taylor said at the time. "I've always been one of those guys that rides or dies with his quarterback. Sanchez is my guy, and I better not hear anybody say anything bad about him."

It's a good thing Taylor doesn't play for the Colts because we're pretty sure the "I ride or die with my QB" mantra would go right out the window.

And while we applaud Taylor for his loyalty (even if he's a flip-flopper), the thing is, there isn't much difference between Henne and Sanchez, at least when comparing them using Football Outsiders' QB efficiency statistics.

In 2010, Henne ranked 17th in the league in total value and 22nd in value per play (Sanchez was 18th and 28th, respectively). Through three games of the 2011 season, Sanchez is 13th in total value and value per play, and Henne is 15th and 17th.

There is no dispute, however, when it comes to designer wife-beaters and off-white skinny jeans. Hands down, Sanchez is your man.


Pay no attention to A-Rodge. Mark Sanchez looks good. (GQ.com)

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Posted on: September 26, 2011 6:47 pm
 

Mark Sanchez will play despite broken nose

M. Sanchez broke his nose against Oakland, but he won't miss any time (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

While it’s not exactly on par with Tony Romo possibly playing tonight with an injured lung and ribs that require the use of a flak jacket made of Kevlar, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will continue to play even though he suffered a slightly broken nose Sunday.

The team announced that bit of news Monday (via the Newark Star Ledger), and the Jets said that he won’t have any limitations and that he’ll wear a clear shield across his helmet to protect his schnozz (you really can’t tell by the photo on the right that his nose was broken, though there is clearly a red mark under his right eye).

"He took a shot in the face," coach Rex Ryan said following New York’s loss to the Raiders. "It wasn’t called, so it must have been in the shoulder."

The good news, though, is that he won’t have to wear any kind of body armor to keep him on the field.

In other Jets injury news, cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who needed help getting to the locker room late in the game, has bruised ribs and a bruised lung. Tight end Jeff Cumberland tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of the season.

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Posted on: September 23, 2011 1:15 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 1:16 pm
 

Sanchez's love of hot dogs motivate Raiders

Are the Raiders using Mark Sanchez's eating habits as bulletin board material? (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson


Remember back in the mid-2000s, when Rodney Harrison would invent flimsily constructed reasons for why no one in the league respected the Patriots? It was an absurd notion, and surely Harrison knew this. But by saying it into a microphone somehow made it true, at least long enough for the New England locker room to buy into the idea and take it out on their next opponent.

The predictability (it seemed to happen almost every week) and lack of originality ("We get no respect!" has been done a time or two) quickly made it annoying. Well, there are no such concerns with the 2011 Oakland Raiders, who face the Jets this Sunday.

Apparently, they're still smarting from the 38-0 whuppin' New York put on them back in 2009. And while getting shutout at home is one thing, the idea that a rookie quarterback would come into their house and enjoy a delicious hot dog while the game was still being played is, well, unconscionable.

That's right: the Raiders are using Mark Sanchez's in-game snacking habits as motivation this week.


"Coach showed that to us," defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said, according to the Oakland Tribune. "It was just a reminder. We're going to remind him of that during the game."

Kelly's kidding (we think). And even if he isn't, head coach Hue Jackson seemed unconcerned.

"I hope we can make it more interesting for him so he doesn't have to eat hot dogs," Jackson said. "Hopefully we can take the mustard and the relish and the onions and all that and put it away and play a little football." Asked if he would use the issue as motivation, Jackson said, "I can't let all my secrets out. The guy had a hot dog. Was it Der Wienerschnitzel? I don't know. It looked to be pretty good the way he was eating it. So I'm sure we'll have some fun this week."

No word yet on what Jets head coach Rex Ryan thinks about all this but we'll venture a guess (naughty language alert).


The New York Jets are in search for their third win as they prepare to take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Who will come out on top? NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz preview this upcoming game. Watch the game on CBS at 4:05 PM ET.

* via Shutdown Corner

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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