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Tag:San Diego Chargers
Posted on: November 26, 2011 10:25 pm
 

Tebow's read-option draws comparisons to wildcat

Is Tebow bringing the option back to NFL offenses or is he a gimmick? (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

As if Norv Turner, Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers didn't have enough to worry about -- what with being 4-6, tied for last in the AFC West, and playing some incredibly awful football -- now there's this: local scribe Nick Canepa isn't yet a believer in Tim Tebow, who comes to San Diego Sunday in a pretty important division matchup.

Most of the skeptics and critics have abandoned their anti-Tebow talking points because, well, Tebow does find a way to win games. No, it's not entirely his doing, and yes, he has looked absolutely dreadful for long stretches. But he's also 4-1 after Kyle Orton "led" the Broncos to a 1-4 start. Tebow, despite virtually no support from his coaches or the front office early in the season is now the team's unquestioned starter (though that could change, apparently). Orton, meanwhile, is the newest member of the Chiefs.

But Canepa isn't yet sold on Tebow's ability to will his team to victories. The details:
"So, what has Tebow done to deserve all this, one way or the other? Absolutely nothing. In his own unorthodox way, he has won three straight games for the Broncos, who meet the Chargers here Sunday. Off the field, he hasn’t been arrested, busted for dope or tweeted nasty things to his opposition. …

In the case of Tim, people are thinking with their glands. Tebowmania is not going to last. A quarterback who can run but can’t throw the ball across a pantry isn’t going to continue winning in the NFL.

They’re going to figure him out. They always do. Remember the wildcat? It lasted about as long as the poodle skirt. Sooner or later, they’re going to get to him. Steve Young at least was a threat with his arm, as are Michael Vick and Cam Newton. A fearless quarterback (which Tebow is) who runs the option in the NFL is fair game. I can’t see him having a long shelf life.
Comparing the read-option to the wildcat has been a popular meme in recent weeks and there's something to it. The Dolphins began the 2008 season 0-2, busted out the wildcat in Week 3 against the Patriots, and blew them out of the water, 38-13. Miami finished the regular season 11-5 and made the playoffs. The following year, after teams around the league had an offseason to figure out the wildcat, it was obsolete.

The Dolphins, who overestimated its shelf life, used a 2009 second-round pick on QB/wildcat specialist Pat White, who ended up retiring from football a year later. Miami went 7-9 in 2009 and 2010, and are currently 3-8.

Based on Broncos executive John Elway's recent comments, not only is the read-option a short-term solution to a problem he inherited from the unspectacular Josh McDaniels era, it's one that probably won't last behind this season. Which means that the rest of the NFL has six weeks or so to figure out a way to slow it down.

The Jets did it for 55 minutes, but Tebow was able to drive 95 yards for the decisive score. The bigger story from that game: New York's inept offense, which included a national coming out part for Broncos rookie linebacker Von Miller, and more questions about Mark Sanchez's abilities as an NFL quarterback.

So, no, Tebow isn't the long-term answer in Denver. But he's not supposed to be. The thing is, nobody thought he was the short-term answer, either. As it stands, he's winning 80 percent of his starts. And if the Chargers play Sunday like they have in the previous five games, Tebow's winning percentage will rise to 83.


After a win over the Jets last week, the Denver Broncos hope to keep their streak alive as they take on the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz preview this game. Watch the game at 4:15 PM ET on CBS.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 26, 2011 12:15 pm
 

Is Philip Rivers playing hurt?

We might not find out if Rivers is really injured until after the season. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Through 10 games this season, Philip Rivers has thrown 17 interceptions. His previous high in five seasons as the Chargers starting quarterback: 15 in 2007, and that was over 16 games. Annually considered one of the league's best quarterbacks, Rivers' sudden plunge into mediocrity has been, well, baffling.

Offensively, the names are virtually unchanged, although Vincent Jackson and Rivers seem to find themselves on different pages of the playbook on a weekly basis, and tight end Antonio Gates doesn't yet appear to be fully healthy. Ryan Matthews occasionally flashes first-round talent, but he still lacks consistency. Then there's the offensive line which, due to injuries, is currently held together with duct tape and chicken wire. And let's not forget head coach Norv Turner, who could be out of a job come January.

While all of these issues play some role in Rivers' Season of Forgettable Football, there might be a simpler answer: he's hurt.

You'd never know it to ask him (he's denied it every time the question comes up), but there's a growing belief in league circles that Rivers' unexplained slide can actually be explained pretty easily: he's not 100 percent.

"Rivers repeatedly says nothing is wrong, but numerous NFL executives and coaches around the league disagree," ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote Friday. "What has happened many times in the past is that a quarterback who struggles during the season will acknowledge afterward that he was hurt. It wouldn't be stunning if the same happened with Rivers. Based on the opinion of people around the league, Rivers has to be playing hurt, no matter how much he denies it."

Sports Illustrated's Peter King echoed those sentiments during a Friday appearance on NBC SportsTalk, suggesting that we'll learn after the season that Rivers was playing hurt.

It sure would explain a lot, though we suspect such a revelation won't do much for Turner's job security.

The gamble, assuming any of this is true, presumably was that Rivers at less than full strength still gave the Chargers the best chance to win, especially in a relatively weak AFC West. Well, as it turns out, the West is relatively weak ... and San Diego is still a bad team. Not all of that is on Rivers; he's played better in recent weeks. The defense has been atrocious and Turner's aforementioned game-management issues haven't helped, either.

Wherever the truth may lie, here's the reality right now: the Chargers are 4-6 and tied for last in the division. They'll probably need to go 9-7 to have a chance to win the West. If the previous 10 games are any indication, that's all but impossible. Then again, we say this every year, and almost every year, San Diego makes a late charge. We're just not sure they have it in them this time around.

Fun starts Sunday when Tim Tebow comes to town.


After a win over the Jets last week, the Denver Broncos hope to keep their streak alive as they take on the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz preview this game. Watch the game at 4:15 PM ET on CBS.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 23, 2011 9:33 am
 

Press box officials to aid in concussion battle

K. Dielman had a grand mal seizure after suffering a concussion Oct. 23 (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

When Chargers guard Kris Dielman suffered a concussion in the Oct. 23 game vs. the Jets, the game officials sensed something was wrong with the way he wobbled and fell down after his collision with Calvin Pace. But Dielman ignored the officials’ advances and stayed in the game, and the Chargers coaching and training staff didn’t force him to return to the sideline.

On the plane ride home, Dielman suffered a grand mal seizure, and since then, the NFL has come under greater scrutiny, even though San Diego coach Norv Turner said at the time, “Everything was handled extremely well."

Obviously, the league has disagreed. Although the NFL told officials to be on the lookout for players suffering from head injuries, the league is giving them some help. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that league observers who sit in the press box for every game now will be responsible for communicating with each teams’ training staff in order to care for players who might have suffered concussions.

In a memo sent to each team obtained by ESPN, the league writes, “A direct ring-down phone line must be in place from the NFL Observer position in the press box to both the home and visiting bench areas. This line should be clearly marked on the NFL Observer's phone. The purpose of the additional phone lines is to allow the NFL Observer to alert the Athletic Training staff to a possible injury that may have been missed at field-level."

After receiving a call from the observer, the training staff will be responsible to double-check the player to determine whether he can continue to play.

The reason the observer could be a better judge of whether a player should be observed than an on-field official is because the observer will have access to game broadcast replays to determine more accurately where a player was hit and what his reaction was.

After the Dielman incident, this is what NFLPA medical director Dr. Thomas Mayer had to say:

"I've looked at the play at least a hundred times. 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.”

And one lesson to be learned is that an extra set of ears and eyes can be helpful in helping a player avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Because as we see time and time again, players are willing to ignore their head injuries in order to get back in the game. We need somebody to save them from themselves.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 12:30 pm
 

Report: Norv Turner's days could be numbered

Turner could be looking for work come January. (AP/US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Norv Turner is in his fifth season as the Chargers head coach. He took over the team in 2007 after general manager A.J. Smith fired Marty Schottenheimer for going 14-2. In three of the four seasons since, two things have been constant: the Chargers have gotten off to glacially slow starts only to mount a late-season run and make the playoffs. And San Diego, despite a franchise quarterback and plenty of playmakers, is still looking for its first Super Bowl.
Turner's record in San Diego
2007: Started 1-3, finished 10-2, lost to the Pats in the AFC Championship game
2008: Started 3-5, finished 5-3, lost to the Steelers in the AFC Divisional game
2009: Started 2-3, finished 11-0, lost to the Jets in the AFC Divisional game
2010: Started 2-5, finished 9-7, missed the playoffs 
But 2011 was different; the Chargers started 4-1, were the clear favorites in the AFC West (and even some folks' Super Bowl favorites), and everything was finally coming together. Unfortunately, the new collective bargaining agreement didn't shorten the regular season to five games. San Diego has dropped five straight and is a complete mess of a franchise. Philip Rivers has looked, well, awful, the run defense is non-existent, and head coach Norv Turner, through it all, remained expressionless.

But barring a Tebow-like miracle, Norv won't have to worry about the Chargers much longer. The San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee writes that Turner's days could be numbered.
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. [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.
Ah, yes, those game-management decisions. The latest came Sunday, in the Chargers' loss to the Bears. San Diego lost its final two timeouts with 3:16 to play and trailing by 11. They burned the first one, and then during thee timeout decided to challenge a ruling. The Chargers lost the challenge (of course they did) and another timeout. You don't see that every day.

But Turner isn't the only guy who should be worried about his job. Smith could be in trouble, too. Acee writes: "But even late last week, word had begun to circulate in league circles about Spanos' escalating concern about the state of his franchise in the hands of Turner -- who has the second-highest winning percentage in team history at .608 (45-29) -- and even Smith, the man Spanos has given virtually complete control of football operations over the past nine years."

In general, Smith has done a good job of roster-building and fielding a winning team. But the lack of success in the postseason coupled with Turner's weekly gaffes have started to add up.

Early last season, when Vincent Jackson was holding out for a new deal and Smith refused to budge, Jackson's agent Neil Schwartz said "We had multiple deals in place. It is our understanding … that the Chargers were unreasonable. More than one general manager referred to A.J. as the 'Lord of No Rings.'"

Short of an improbable turnaround, Norv and A.J. might soon be the Lord of No Jobs.

As we mentioned in Tuesday's Coach Killers, maybe Rex Ryan was onto something.

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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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Posted on: November 21, 2011 2:15 am
Edited on: November 21, 2011 12:23 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 11

Posted by Will Brinson


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 10 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.

 

1. Bear Down

The only thing surprising about Chicago's 31-20 victory -- their fifth-straight win -- over the Chargers was that the Bears let San Diego keep it that close. But not all is good news in Chicago right now, as multiple reports indicate that quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a broken thumb during Sunday's game, may need surgery and could be lost for the season.

At a minimum, Cutler's likely to miss six weeks, so let's assume he's done for the regular season. So can the Bears still make the playoffs? Well, surprisingly, yes, but it obviously won't be easy.

If the Bears beat three of their final six opponents (we'll guess the Vikings, the Seahawks and the Chiefs) they'll finish 10-6. No one from the NFC West will cause any damage and it looks like Chicago just has to fight off the Giants or the Cowboys, the Lions and the Falcons.

They've got the tiebreaker over Atlanta, although right now the Bears lose out to the Lions because of division record. (Fortunately for them, Detroit has to play Green Bay twice.)

And Chicago has a formula for winning games without a ton of offense. The Bears defense knows how to score and Devin Hester can alter the outcome of a game every time he stands back to return a kick. The passing game should all but disappear, however.

Which means that Chicago will lean heavily on a below-average offensive line and ... Matt Forte.

Perhaps they should reconsider their stance about paying him after all.

2. Little Giants

Everyone always expects the Giants to swoon late in the season (because it's something they do, which is fair I suppose) but this year looked different after New York's win over New England two weeks ago and a tough loss in San Francisco last week.

Until Sunday night, when the Giants coughed up a 17-10 loss to the Vince Young-led Eagles anyway.

"This is as big a disappointment as we have had around here in a long time," coach Tom Coughlin said Sunday.

It should be, because things aren't going to get easier for Coughlin's squad any time soon. They face the Saints in New Orleans next week and then welcome the potentially undefeated Packers to New York in Week 13 before squaring off against the Cowboys in Dallas in Week 14.

That's about as big a nightmare as a schedule can be for an NFC East that just kicked itself out of the playoffs, and the Jets still loom, as does a second matchup with Dallas.

The Eagles wanted to give away this game too. DeSean Jackson had a ridiculous taunting penalty that (also somewhat ridiculously) resulted in a loss of 50 yards for the Eagles. Vince Young had three terrible picks. LeSean McCoy never really got going (53 yards on 22 carries before his final 60-yard run to end the game). Riley Cooper was the top receiver.

But the Giants wanted it less, and couldn't get any offense going, as receivers egged on easy passes and the offensive line got no push. Some of the playcalling was suspect, and it put the Giants in a pretty untenable position late in the game.

Which is probably fitting since that's where their 2011 season stands as well.

And even though it's OK to anticipate a Giants swoon, let's hold off on talking about the Eagles running the table just quite yet, please. We were here three weeks ago when they handled the Cowboys too.


3. Missing Pieces

One look at Cincinnati's 31-24 loss to Baltimore, and it's pretty clear how much the Bengals missed wide receiver A.J. Green and cornerback Leon Hall.

Andy Dalton got a shot at boosting his Rookie of the Year stock on Cincy's final drive, but came up short when the Ravens defensive line stepped up in a big way in their own red zone. Dalton missed Andrew Hawkins on first down, was busted for intentional grounding on second, threw incomplete to Jerome Simpson on third and was sacked by Pernell McPhee on fourth. One has to wonder how the goal line playcalling changes if Green's in the game.

On defense, the previously stout Bengals unit was gashed by the Ravens own rookie, Torrey Smith. Smith notched six catches for 165 yards, one touchdown and a number of different catches where he was wide open but made some fantastic grabs on throws from Joe Flacco that was a bit off.

There were three big plays that stand out for Baltimore's passing game: a 35-yard touchdown catch by Anquan Boldin (he was wide open), Smith's 38-yard TD (also wide open) and a 49-yard bomb that Smith reeled in near the goal line, where he just torched Nate Clements (watch below).


It's clearly not a coincidence when a team loses its best cornerback and subsequently gives up a bunch of big passing plays the next week.

And lest we leave this game without pointing out the obvious, the Ravens won once again when Ray Rice was productive and got more than five carries. That's not a coincidence either.

4. Silent Bob Strikes Back

Three weeks ago, Kevin Smith was unemployed, sitting at home, doing nothing. Or signing himself to various Madden rosters, which is even more depressing. On Sunday, he piled up 201 all-purpose yards, revived the Lions rushing attack, and was the catalyst in a 49-35 comeback win for the Lions over the Panthers that kept Detroit at the forefront of the NFC Wild Card race.

It's an awesome story, and Smith deserves all the love he's getting from analysts and all the love he got from the Detroit sideline every time he scored on his three touchdowns.

Three questions stand out to me with respect to Detroit's playoff hopes. 1) Can they avoid early deficits? 2) Can Smith sustain this success? 3) Did Matthew Stafford get healthy at halftime?

With no running game and an injured Stafford, the Lions look like the walking dead against Chicago last week. It was much of the same story in the first quarter against the Panthers, as Stafford threw two picks, looked terrible and the Lions mustered less than 10 yards on four rushes. But a Keiland Williams fumble with 2:30 left in the first quarter gave way to Smith, and he started off his second-chance Lions career with a 43-yard run and followed it up with a 28-yard touchdown catch on the next play.

If Smith is the answer -- and I'm not completely sold yet, but only because a one-legged homeless guy off the street could put 100 yards on that Panthers defense -- and Stafford's healthy, the answer to question No. 1 should be "yes."

We'll find out when Detroit plays Green Bay (twice) and New Orleans over the next six weeks whether they can avoid needing comebacks to win. If they can, there won't be a question about whether or not the Lions are playoff-worthy.

5. More Like a Tropical Storm

For 149 consecutive weeks of NFL action, a former Miami Hurricane has scored a touchdown. Consider that there are 17 weeks in each NFL season, and it works out to more than eight and a half years since a Hurricane failed to score in the NFL. That's bananas.

And yet we sit here, heading into Monday night's Patriots-Chiefs matchup and no member of "The U" has scored in Week 11. (Yes, this is considerably ironic since the 'Canes announced Sunday they wouldn't accept a bowl bid.)

Complicating matters for fans of Miami is the fact that it's pretty unlikely that a Hurricane will score on Monday night. There are only two players left that went to school in Coral Gables: Allen Bailey, a rookie defensive end for the Chiefs who's played in nine games, started none and recorded four tackles, and Vince Wilfork, veteran defensive tackle for the Pats who's inexplicably got two interceptions this season.

Wilfork's the best bet to score, but it'll almost certainly have to come on a fumble in the end zone or a red-zone interception. We've already seen Wilfork try to take on to the house this season, and it didn't work well.

So if you see Bill Belichick trot Wilfork out in a goal line formation during a late-game blowout, you know why. Of course, that alone would totally be worth seeing "The U" continue to tout itself as a producer of fine athletics.

Perhaps the craziest part of Miami alums not scoring? As pointed out Monday by my colleague Bruce Feldman, ex-Cane Kellen Winslow scored a touchdown but it was called back because he pushed off a defender. That defender was Sam Shields ... also a Miami alum.

6. The Jermaine Gresham Rule

I understand that Gresham actually fell victim to the "Calvin Johnson Rule" but he might deserve his subsection at the very least if/when the NFL addresses this disastrous rule.

See, the rule got the nickname when Calvin Johnson lost possession in the end zone. But that's the key -- he was in the end zone. Johnson caught the ball there and then lost it there. (Watch here at the 2:20 mark.)

Gresham, on the other hand, actually crossed the plain with possession. He had his feet in-bounds.

If he was a running back, we wouldn't have this issue, right? I'm pretty sure we wouldn't. Because possession would've been established (vis-a-vis the handoff, etc).

Technically, the officials got the call right, because Gresham lost possession as he fell to the ground, and he didn't make a "football-related move" inside the end zone.

But if you are in possession of the ball and cross the plain with said possession, that should be a done deal, right there. That's the reason why the goal line extends in hypothetical perpetuity. If a running back dives into the end zone over a big pile of people and fumbles after the ball's crossed the plain, it's a touchdown.

But if a wide receiver crosses the plain with possession of the ball, gets a freaking foot into the end zone and then doesn't maintain control all the way to the ground -- even if he had possession before he got into the end zone! -- it doesn't count?

Come on. That makes no sense. Let's fix it, please.

7. Chris Johnson Is 'Back,' Alright

Over the last week, I was repeatedly blistered by people who didn't believe me when I said that Chris Johnson was not "back" to his CJ2K form, despite a 130-yard rushing effort against the Panthers.

I watched that game closely, and what stood out to me was that Johnson's effort and burst and general running ability didn't mesh with the statistics he produced.

After Sunday's 23-17 loss to Atlanta, well, there's no question that Johnson's 2011 season remains lost. The Titans leading rusher in Week 11 was Matt Hasselbeck (one carry, 17 yards). Matt Ryan had a higher yards-per-carry average than Johnson. There were nine -- NINE! -- quarterbacks with more rushing yards than Johnson in Week 11, and it was almost ten as well as two on his own team:


If you take out Johnson's "long" run of the day, he finished with seven rushing yards on 11 carries. That's just flat-out embarrassing and any opponent with a modicum of rush defense can shut him down and make him ineffective.

That's really quite a shame, too, because Hasselbeck's renaissance season would be a lot more interesting with a rushing attack.

And while I'm doing rookie Jake Locker a disservice by not pointing out how good he was in backup duty for Tennessee, it's not as big a disservice as Johnson is doing to the team and the rookie quarterback who might have to overcome one of the most-talented backs in the NFL getting paid and totally disappearing from relevancy.

8. Moore Please

There's a fun little debate about whether the Dolphins, on a three-game winning streak that seemed unfathomable just, um, three weeks ago -- or the Bills -- on three-game losing streak after holding with the AFC East lead as late as the middle of October -- are the bigger story after Miami knocked Buffalo around 35-8.

But maybe the bigger story is the convergence of these two teams on a metaphorical NFL elevator, with the Dolphins trying their best to get out of the lobby and the Bills falling like Dennis Hopper rigged their ride.

To me, it might just be more about these two teams playing closer to what we expected. Buffalo's early-season run was an awesome storyline, but it was unsustainable, particularly with the loss of Eric Wood at center and Kyle Williams on the defensive line. Add in defenses figuring out that the Bills don't have a legit deep threat, and it's no surprise that they're not winning anymore.

Although considering the ridiculous amount of money they handed Ryan Fitzpatrick, they'd probably like to see something resembling offense. At least there aren't a ton of great quarterbacks in this upcoming draft class!

The Dolphins will likely be taking a quarterback at some point in the upcoming draft, but the question is how high they'll be picking, and that largely depends on how sustainable Matt Moore's current level of play under center is. Well, history tells us it's actually possible for him to succeed the rest of the way in.

In 2009, while playing with the Panthers, Moore stepped in for Jake Delhomme and closed out a lost season with a shocking 4-1 record for Carolina that saw him average 16 of 25 passing (62.7 percent) for 198 yards and two touchdowns per game. And that was in a John Fox offense, no less.

Don't expect him to backdoor the Pro Bowl or anything, but don't be surprised when the once-hapless Dolphins keep playing spoiler because Moore keeps streaking.

9. Best Draft Class ... Ever?

I've noted in this spot a couple times in the past few weeks that the 2011 NFL Draft class is one of the best we've seen in a long time, and maybe, dare I say, ever.

The first seven picks of the draft have been outstanding thus far into the season, and that doesn't even factor in Andy Dalton or DeMarco Murray, who might be the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year honors.

Well, two more guys made their mark on Sunday for this class.

Jake Locker entered the game for an injured Matt Hasselbeck against the Falcons on Sunday, and proceeded to nearly lead the Titans to a comeback, completing nine of 19 passes for 140 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Atlanta was up 23-3 at the time, so it's not like they were playing their opening-game defense, but Locker looked darn good in relief duty and the Titans should be excited, even though Hasselbeck will remain the starter.

Prince Amukamara, who the Giants took at 19th overall when he fell past Houston, made his first start on Sunday and also picked up his first career interception, while generally looking like a veteran against the Eagles. And yes, it still counts as an interception, even if Vince Young threw it.

10. Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

Early in the season, the Thanksgiving games contained only a little bit of drama, thanks to the Harbaugh family reunion in Baltimore. But suddenly we've got three of the best games in the NFL taking place on Thursday, and one of the most memorable Turkey Day slates we've seen in a while.

All six teams playing on Thursday won on Sunday and, collectively, those six teams are on a 26-game winning streak this season.

The Lions and Packers square off with Detroit getting its first shot at ending the Packers undefeated season, the Cowboys have a shot at really generating some separation in the NFC East as they host the inexplicably hot Dolphins and the Ravens/49ers square off to determine who gets all the pie at the Harbaugh household.

It's a collection of three fantastic games and it's almost enough to make me boycott my family's lunch-time festivities away from electronics. Thank goodness for DVR. And 200-person pot-luck lunches.

MUFFED PUNTS

Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... Cam Newton set the rookie record for rushing touchdowns on Sunday (twice, technically) as he's got nine on the season now.
... Aaron Rodgers is just the second quarterback in history to throw for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in his team's first 10 games; the other was Tom Brady in 2007.
... 2011 is the first season in NFL history to feature three quarterbacks with 3,000 yards and 20 or more touchdowns through 10 games, as Rodgers, Drew Brees and Brady all met the criteria this year.
... The Dolphins became just the third team in NFL history to win three straight games after losing their first seven or more games.
... After Keloah Pilares' TD return, six 100-yard kick returns have happened so far in 2011, which is one short of the NFL record.
... The Lions became the first team in NFL history to record three comebacks of more than 17 points in a single season on Sunday.

WORTH 1,000 WORDS


GIF O' THE WEEK

No Michael Vick and too many Vince Young interceptions make Andy Reid go something-something.


Hot Seat Tracker

  • Mike Shanahan: Six losses in a row for the Redskins, who showed some promise by only losing in overtime. Or something.
  • Norv Turner -- The Chargers keep collapsing and there's nothing promising about their schedule. Three games against Jacksonville, Denver and Buffalo have to mean 2-1 at worst, or it might be time for Turner to move on.
  • Todd Haley: If the Pats whip the Chiefs on Monday night while the Raiders and Broncos keep winning, his seat just gets warmer.
  • Jim Caldwell: The Colts were upset by their bye. What can I say?
  • Steve Spagnuolo: I don't really understand the heat, but it's there.
  • Tom Coughlin: Also don't understand this heat, but let's just go ahead and get out front on this before the fans do.

Chasing Andrew Luck

Colts (-1000): Haha, but no really, they were upset by their bye. Do you see?
Vikings (+125): See: below.
Panthers (+150): The Colts have to win two games.
Rams (+250): Again, it would require the Colts winning games.
Redskins (+300): If only they hadn't won three games early.

MVP Watch

Despite playing -- ahem -- "poorly," Aaron Rodgers is still the clear-cut favorite to win the MVP at season's end. I'm not sure what it would take to derail him, but I think it's probably an injury and an injury only. Tom Brady's got a shot to come from the outside because he's Tom Brady and the Pats schedule stinks, but if the Packers go undefeated, he won't have a chance. Meanwhile, I still like Tony Romo to get darkhorse candidacy by Week 14. Maybe we should just talk about the other awards.
Posted on: November 20, 2011 1:35 pm
 

Bennett to be removed if he wears orange shoes

Posted by Will Brinson

Earl Bennett's orange shoes have cost him $15,000 already this season -- though the Bears are 2-0 when Bennett rocks the kicks, the NFL's fined him twice this season, once for $5,000 and the second time for $10,000.

According to CBS Sports' Charley Casserly, if Bennett wears the orange shoes on Sunday against San Diego, he'll be fined another $15,000. And he'll be removed from the game until he changes.

"The NFL told me they called the Bears this week and told them this: if Bennett wears the shoes today during the game, he will be fined a minimum of $15,000," Casserly said on The NFL Today. "But more importantly, he will be removed from the game and he will not be allowed to go back into the game until he has the proper footwear on."



Bennett's decision to continue wearing the shoes obviously didn't sit well with the league office -- and it sets a dangerous (well, relatively dangerous) precedent if the league simply continues to fine Bennett. There's a strict uniform policy around the NFL, but if there's no substantial punishment for breaking that policy apart from financial incentivizing, it wouldn't be shocking to see players do what Bennett did over a longer period of time.

The NFL clearly wants to nip that in the bud, and they're doing so by potentially keeping Bennett from playing on Sunday.

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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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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com