Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Tom Brady
Posted on: January 15, 2012 1:26 am
Edited on: January 15, 2012 2:07 am
 

Tom Brady's play emphasizes Tim Tebow's flaws

Brady's play and the Pats big lead exposed Tebow's biggest flaws. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

This isn't breaking news, but it really helps to have a good quarterback if you want to make a deep playoff run. And Tom Brady, in dismantling the Broncos defense during New England's 45-10 beatdown in Foxboro on Saturday, proved just that.

Brady wasn't perfect, per se, because he threw an interception and he "only" completed 26 of 34 passes.

But Brady did just about everything else, setting an NFL record with five touchdowns in the first half and tying an NFL record with six touchdowns in the win. If the Broncos had been remotely competitive, Brady would've destroyed any number of NFL postseason records while he piled on statistics at the end.

Instead, he had to settle for a 48-yard punt, the second of his career.

"We’ve been practicing it for seven years; a situation came up," Brady said after the game when asked about the punt on third down. "I was trying to get it inside the five but I needed a penalty to do that. I was happy about the call."


Brady punted because the Broncos couldn't generate anything remotely resembling a comeback, which is a direct result of having Tim Tebow under center. That's not to attack the Broncos quarterback; he had a fantastic storyline of a season and we assume there'll be some chatter about between now and the start of the 2012 season.

But Tebow's not built to hang with a guy like Brady in the playoffs. This is Tom Freaking Brady: he has 36 passing touchdowns in 20 career postseason games and has thrown for over 4,750 yards.

Tebow might have 316 working in his favor, but he doesn't have the pedigree, prestige or playoff performances of Brady. Although you wouldn't have known it heading into the game, when all the focus was on Tebow.

Pats throttle Broncos

After the game, Brady didn't directly say that said attention bothered him, but he came pretty close.

"I think that everyone focused on one player and I think all week we were focused on the entire Denver Bronco team," Brady said when asked about the attention Tebow got. "We knew what kind of challenges they presented. Tim is a very good quarterback, they have a good defense, great rushing team, make some big plays in the pass game like they did against Pittsburgh. We knew the threats; we understood the danger of not playing our best game. I thought we came out and really responded well."

That much is obvious: the Patriots had this game in the bag before the teams adjourned to the locker room. Tebow had three completions. Brady had five touchdown passes. What else do you need to know? Because it's not like this year's Patriots team is known for shutting down opposing quarterbacks.

But everyone knew there would be no comeback. And there would be no hope for a comeback. That's because of a clear difference between the two guys running the offense for each team. Tebow can do some crazy things -- and he did this year -- but coming back from a 28-point deficit just isn't on the old miracle to-do list.

Tebow might be the story everyone loves to hop on, but Brady's still the quarterback with a trio of rings on his hand. And he reminded everyone of that on Saturday night.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 15, 2012 12:08 am
Edited on: January 15, 2012 12:21 am
 

Patriots serve championship notice in blowout win

Brady has three Super Bowl rings but had a record-setting performance against Denver Saturday. (AP)
By Will Brinson

Heading into Saturday's Patriots-Broncos game, there was plenty of concern about what kind of miracles Tim Tebow could work against a weakened Patriots defense. With a virtuoso, record-breaking performance against Denver in a 45-10 blowout win, Tom Brady and the Pats quickly dispelled that ridiculous notion.

Pats throttle Broncos

Speaking of ridiculous notions, we all need to get rid of the idea that the Patriots can't win a Super Bowl with their porous defense. Because they can. After winning eight-straight games to close the season, people still disrespected the Patriots; after all, they didn't beat a single team with a record above .500 in 2011.

And, of course, they had the second-worst defense in the regular season. But this isn't about the long grind of 16 games. This is about preparing for two more individual opponents and maximizing chances over the course of 120 minutes on the field, which is precisely what the Patriots excel at doing, as they showed on Saturday night.

"Once we found out who were were playing [after the bye week] I think these guys really did a good job of focusing on a target and they were obviously ready to go today," Bill Belichick said after the game. "I have to give the players all the credit in the world. They stepped up and made a lot of big plays."

In other words, once the Patriots figure out who they'll play in the AFC Championship Game, it would be foolish to believe they can't figure out a way to slow said team down. If you don't believe me, just ask the 2007 Indianapolis Colts.

That Colts team finished 29th in total defense. The idea that they could slow anyone down was laughable heading into the playoffs. But they did just that in limiting the Chiefs and Ravens to 14 points total, winning a shootout with the Patriots and then limiting the Bears to 17 points in the Super Bowl.

They gelled at the right time and it's possible the Patriots could be doing the same thing right now. No, the Broncos aren't the Packers. But you think the Patriots can't win in a shootout? Because they can. And if their opponent makes a mistake, they're infinitely dangerous -- we saw just that at the end of the first half against Denver when Brady tossed two (more) touchdowns in less than two minutes.


"That was huge," Belichick said of the two-touchdown swing to end the first half. "And then we got a stop to start the third quarter so that sequence there … was big for us. We had the lead but then the game got out of hand at that point. That was really well executed by our football team, especially offensively."

It's the kind of swing only a few teams are capable of pulling off, and the Patriots and Packers probably qualify as the only teams remaining with that much explosiveness. Broncos coach John Fox, given his comments after the game, likely agrees.
"They're better than us," Fox said after the game.

They are. And the Patriots are better than a lot of teams, even if the defense stunk all year and they didn't have a hard schedule.

Now they just have to be better than two more teams to get that fourth ring for Brady.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 14, 2012 9:58 pm
 

Brady breaks TD record in first-half blowout

Brady throws five first-half touchdowns, three to his tight end. (US PRESSWIRE)
By Will Brinson

All week long, there were rumblings that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was as focused and as intense as he's ever been. After watching him toss an NFL record five touchdowns in the first half of a 35-7 beatdown of Denver in New England, that sounds about right.

Brady's hasn't been entirely flawless, going "only" 18 of 25 with a pick, but 246 yards and five touchdowns are numbers you'd love to see from a quarterback over the course of a game, much less a half.

Denver's got no answer for the Patriots on defense, and haven't gotten a sniff of pressure on Brady throughout the first half. So with plenty of time to throw, he spent 30 minutes of football time breaking records and getting Rob Gronkowski a playoff-record three touchdowns in the first half as well.

Tim Tebow's not having quite as much success, going 3/10 for 28 yards and rushing five times for 13 yards.

It's not that he's just not showing up in the coldest game of his career though; the Patriots defense is playing at a surprisingly high level. Even if the Broncos aren't the most potent offensive team, it's a friendly reminder what can happen if a defense has a superstar on the other side of the ball and starts clicking at the right time.

Although if Brady plays like he did in the first half for the rest of the playoffs, the defense can probably do whatever it wants. As CBS Sports Dan Marino pointed out at halftime, the only way the Broncos are coming back is if they convince Brady to swap uniforms.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 2:24 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 2:27 pm
 

Harvard analysis examines Pats speaking patterns

T. Brady isn't an interesting speaker at the podium (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

While Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a well-earned reputation for being a press conference bore, quarterback Tom Brady seems to get a pass when it comes to how (un)interesting his answers from reporters can be.

Well, a new study from the student-run Harvard Sports Analyst Collective reports that Belichick and Brady actually aren’t much different when they’re addressing the media.

As in, both of them kind of stink.

The HSAC analyzed the speaking patterns of Belichick and Brady from the transcripts of postgame pressers, and the collective found that Belichick’s answers average 72 words while Brady is slightly less than that with 60 words. After a loss, though, Brady’s average response is 59 while Belichick’s answers drop to an amazingly low 25 words (to give you an indication of how long that kind of answer would look on a piece of paper, this parenthetical aside is 25 words). Considering Belichik’s post-win answers average 82 words, you could make the case that Belichick is an awfully sore loser.

The HSAC also analyzed the most-used words by the two (click this link to see the top-10), and as the authors pen, “Unsurprisingly, the results for Belichick include a list of profoundly uninteresting words, matching his style at the podium. And Brady, though his list includes a few more syllables, isn’t conveying much more meaning; 'We gave them another chance’ tells me just as much (or little) as' We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.'"

So, what do we draw from all this analysis? Ah, not much really. But by working with a quarterback and a coach who don’t seem to enjoy dealing with the media, you have to give props to those Boston-area reporters who have effectively learned to adjust their coverage around the lack of verbiage that emerges from the tongues of these two.

And while you might think dealing with Brady would be better than having to question Belichick (as I would have guessed), the HSAC has this to say: “Personally, we appreciate Belichick’s approach. The Hoodie has no intention of giving comprehensive answers to anyone’s questions, but at least he doesn’t pretend to by dragging out the same timeworn clichés heard all over the sporting world. His concern is winning football games, and the less other people know about how he does it, the better.”



For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 2:40 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 9:40 pm
 

Film Room: Patriots vs Broncos divisional preview

Will Gronk get his Gronk on this time around? (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

It was assumed the Patriots would draw a rematch in their divisional round playoff opener. However, most figured that rematch would be of their Week 8 bout with Pittsburgh, not their Week 15 bout with Denver.

Here’s the breakdown of what could turn out to be the highest-rated divisional round Saturday night game of all-time.


1. New England’s plan for Tebow
Something to keep in mind is the Steelers had a sound gameplan last week, playing man coverage and using a tepid pass-rush to ensure that Tim Tebow stayed in the pocket. What the Steelers didn’t count on was Demaryius Thomas being able to get by Ike Taylor and Tebow being able to pull the trigger on downfield throws. Those two young ’10 first-rounders both had career days.

The Patriots might bet that the two youngsters can’t do it again.

On the one hand, that’s a smart bet given that Thomas and Tebow were inconsistent all season (Tebow especially). On the other hand, it’s foolish given that cornerback Kyle Arrington – who would draw the Thomas matchup, as Thomas almost always lines up on the favorable side of the left-handed Tebow – is not half the cover artist Ike Taylor is, and given that logic says if Tebow can win against the man coverage of the league’s best pass defense, he can surely win against the man coverage of the league’s worst pass defense.

In the last meeting, the Patriots played predominant Cover 3 in the first half:

The Broncos had success throwing skinny posts to Tebow’s left against the Patriots Cover 3 defense in the last meeting. Cover 3 is what you’d guess it is: three defensive backs each responsible for a third of the field. Because there is so much field to cover, the outside defensive backs often play man-to-man concepts (as Devin McCourty is doing on the right side). Cover 3 is something defenses play when they blitz or when they want to force a quarterback to throw (it’s the default zone coverage behind an eight-defender box).

In this example, the Patriots were clearly baiting Tebow to throw. Notice there are only five rushers (which is hardly a blitz considering Denver has seven guys in pass protection – the idea was to keep Tebow from scrambling). Also notice how linebacker Dane Fletcher has his back to the quarterback and is running towards the left passing window. (Fletcher was late getting there; Tebow did a good job recognizing the coverage and getting the ball out quickly. The result was a 22-yard completion to Eric Decker.)

The Broncos used great routes for beating this anticipated coverage, but Tebow was unable to connect on some of the throws.

Still, throws against Cover 3 are easier than throws against quality press-man, as long as the pass protection holds up. Denver’s protection was tremendous last week.

If tackles Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin (who may need some help on the right side) can keep speed-rusher Mark Anderson at bay, the Broncos will be golden. (Keeping a backup like Anderson at bay may not sound difficult, but the former Bear was actually very disruptive in the last meeting.)

2. Stop the run!
The Patriots gave up 167 yards rushing in the first quarter of the Week 15 contest. They wound up winning the game handily, but they were on the fortuitous side of a few fumbles.

Common sense says you can’t bank on having success with such porous run defense. The issue last game was outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich’s inability to set the edge and the defensive line’s inability to prevent the Bronco linemen from contacting inside linebackers. This was a problem both with New England’s 3-4 and 4-3 fronts.

Nose tackle Vince Wilfork must stand out more this time around. The Broncos will be willing at times to block him one-on-one with J.D. Walton. The second-year center has been up-and-down (in a good way) handling tough solo assignments against nose tackles down the stretch this season. He was phenomenal against Antonio Garay of the Chargers in Week 12 but had been just so-so the previous week against Sione Pouha of the Jets. In Week 15 he held his own against Wilfork, but in Week 16 he got schooled by Marcell Dareus.
 
If Walton has a strong game, the Broncos can pound the rock inside. If he struggles, Denver’s at least capable of getting to the perimeter, though they’ll miss the fervid blocking of wideout Eric Decker.

3. Defending the Patriots tight ends
Greg Cosell, executive producer of the NFL Matchup Show, did an excellent job breaking down the Week 15 film back in December. Cosell wrote that the Broncos focused their coverages on Rob Gronkowski, successfully disrupting his timing by hitting him at the line of scrimmage.

However, that left fourth-round rookie safety Quinton Carter on Aaron Hernandez. Carter, like the rest of Denver’s safeties, is not great in man coverage, which Hernandez proved by posting what were at the time his career highs in catches (nine) and yards (129).

Though still a little green as a route runner (particularly against zone), Hernandez has the movement skills of a wide receiver. The Broncos may choose to defend him with rising rookie nickel back Chris Harris. That would leave safeties and linebackers to cover Gronkowski.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen may figure he can get away with that as long as coverage linebackers Wesley Woodyard and D.J. Williams are once again physical with the second-year superstar.

The Patriots’ counter to this would be splitting Gronkowski into a slot receiver position (likely in a spread 2 x 2 or 3 x 2 set), where he could line up a few yards off the line and operate against an overwhelmed defender in space. Even if the Broncos decided to sacrifice their run defense by going with dime personnel against the two tight ends, they still would be overmatched.

After all, just because Jonathan Wilhite is a corner doesn’t mean he can cover Gronkowski. This is the problem New England’s offense poses, this is why the Patriots are the No. 1 seed.

4. If lightning strikes twice ...
As the tight end analysis just suggested, the Broncos are faced with a very serious matchup problem that can only be solved by their players rising up and doing things no one thought they could do. It’s improbable, but as Denver’s offense showed last week, not impossible.

So let’s say for the sake of extra analysis that the Broncos can stop Gronkowski and Hernandez with their inside pass defenders. That leaves outside corners Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman on Wes Welker and Deion Branch (who did not play in the last matchup).

If the Broncos want to avoid the matchup problems that New England’s flexible formations create (such as Welker working against a linebacker in the slot), they’ll have to play man-to-man, with Bailey assigned on Welker and Goodman on Branch. Those aren’t bad matchups for either side – it would come down to who executes better (general rule of thumb, over the course of 60 minutes, put your money on the offense).

What we’re not considering is New England’s ability to run the ball. They’re not known for that, but against nickel or dime defense, they’re capable of controlling the game the old fashioned way.

Danny Woodhead has great lateral agility. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a steady, highly professional runner. Of course, he may lose snaps to the more dynamic Stevan Ridley, a third-round rookie who has come on as of late. The Patriots have an excellent run-blocking front five with LG Logan Mankins being a premier puller, RG Brian Waters a shrewd playside anchor, LT Matt Light a crafty angles-creator (including at the second level) and RT Nate Solder a ridiculous athlete out in front.

5. Broncos pass-rush slowing down?
Pass-rush pressure is always a prerequisite for beating Tom Brady. Lately, the Patriots have nullified it with an increased emphasis on three-and five-step drops. Brady is especially sharp at this when working out of an empty backfield.

The Broncos have not had the most fervid pass-rush the last month anyway. They sacked Brady just twice in Week 15. They got Ryan Fitzpatrick just once the next week and Kyle Orton once in the season finale. They got to Ben Roethlisberger in the wild card round but that’s a product of Roethlisberger’s style of play. Denver’s pass-rush did not control the flow of last Saturday’s game. Von Miller has had just one sack since his first game back from a thumb injury (December 11 at Minnesota) and has been less explosive playing with a cast.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all divisional-round games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 10, 2012 1:33 pm
 

Brady says McDaniels has 'inside information'

Will McDaniels be the difference in Saturday's Denver-New England game? (Of course not.) (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Oh boy. Tom Brady has gone and done it. During his weekly appearance on Boston's WEEI, the Patriots quarterback said that new (old) offensive assistant Josh McDaniels, who was hired over the weekend and began work immediately, "obviously has some inside information" on New England's opponent Saturday, the Denver Broncos.

On the surface, they're hardly inflammatory comments … except that some segments of the media have already questioned the hire for the very reasons Brady mentioned. The Denver Post's Mike Klis writes Tuesday that "Once again, Belichick has found a loophole in the rulebook by hiring McDaniels as an offensive assistant coach the week before the Patriots play McDaniels' former team. And the NFL has plugged its ears and covered its eyes to a move that would seem to at least violate the spirit of fair competition."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello explained the move thusly: "Teams in the playoffs can sign players."

Klis' response: "Yes, but playoff teams can't sign players from other teams. And a case can be made that in regard to the 2011 season, McDaniels' job should be finished."

And that leads us back to Brady's remarks:

“He obviously has some inside information on that team and those players, as he coached them. I haven’t seen Josh yet, so I really don’t know,” Brady said. “I think coach [Bill] Belichick has a pretty good idea of what he’s going to want Josh to do. I talked to Josh briefly but I really haven’t had a chance to sit down with him. He’s a great coach and we’re lucky to have him. I’m excited to get back to work with him. How that plays into this week, we’ll see. We’ll try to figure that out here in the next five or six days.”

But here's the thing: McDaniels got fired midway through the 2010 season for being pretty bad at his job. In '09, the Broncos started 6-0 before finishing 8-8. The next season, they went 4-12. And while Tebow was drafted on McDaniels' watch, the Broncos were still a season away from running the read option under John Fox.

Not only that, but the Patriots have already played -- and soundly beaten -- the Broncos this season without McDaniels' assistance. So whatever knowledge, inside or otherwise, McDaniels might possess, we can't imagine it will much affect the Pats' game plan.

The Post's Woody Paige feels differently.

"Belichick brought in Kid McCoach as an 'offensive assistant' just in time to interrogate him before the Patriots' rematch with the Broncos and 32 of McDaniels' players and nine assistant coaches from last season's team. The Broncos fired McDaniels on Dec. 6, 2010, because of failure as a coach (17 losses in McD's last 22 games), his poor player-people-press skills and, ultimately, the videotaping scandal that undid the franchise. …

"[McDaniels] can provide inside information and tendencies of players and coaches, especially the offensive coordinator he worked closely with, Mike McCoy. Some aspects of his old playbook passing offense were retained."

Yes, because the Patriots looked lost against the Pats in the Week 15 matchup they won 41-23. Tom Brady threw for 320 yards, tossed two touchdowns and ran for another. Tebow, meanwhile, was 11 of 22 for 194 yards with two rushing touchdowns and a lost fumble. We're quite certain that whatever insights McDaniels might have, occurred to Belichick and his coaching staff when they were preparing for the Broncos the first time.

Put differently: if McDaniels is so smart, he'd still be a head coach. Or at the very least, something more than the offensive coordinator for the league's worst unit.

Either way, Brady isn't so much concerned with what McDaniels may or may not know as he is with Denver's defense.

"Look, I’m thinking about Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil and Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey," he said. "They’ve got plenty of good players on defense for me to worry about. Just like last time, coach talks about doing your job. And there’s no better coaching point this week than for everyone to do their job, not only on the field but off the field, taking care of what you need to take care of so we can be at our best for the most important game of our season."

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: January 8, 2012 8:51 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2012 10:12 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile, Wild Card: Ranking Tebow

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action, figures out the winners and losers and asks the big questions. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Listen to the Pick-Six Podcast Wild-Card Weekend recap below and don't forget to
subscribe via iTunes
.

Ranking the Remaining QBs

Are you ----ing kidding me? Did that just happen? That, of course, is Tim Tebow hitting Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard, walk-off touchdown in the first-ever game featuring the new NFL overtime rules to push Denver past Pittsburgh and into the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

The lesson, as always? You're gonna want to have someone who can sling the rock when the playoffs roll around and Tebow somehow morphed into that in the first round of the playoffs against one of the all-time great defenses. But where does he rank with the rest of the quarterbacks remaining in the playoffs?

8. T.J. Yates, Houston Texans
With all due respect to the only former UNC quarterback to win a playoff game, he just doesn't stack up with the rest of the folks in the playoffs. That being said, he's a perfect fit for the zone-stretch offense that the Texans run, and as long as he doesn't have to do too much, he's fine. He's probably gonna have to do too much against the Ravens this week.

7. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
Smith's been incredibly improved in 2011 so it's not like this is taking a potshot at him. Smith had his best season -- by far -- of his career, throwing just five picks and completing 61.3 percent of his passes. But you're telling me you're taking Smith if you need to win a game? No, no you're not.

6. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Flacco's had great moments this year, but his inconsistency is absolutely terrifying. Seven times (seven!) he's gone under 200 yards passing on the season, and many times this year the Ravens have been forced to overcome his poor play. Some of those times, they just don't lean on Flacco because they have a beasty run game and a really good defense. But that's not exactly helping his cause, you know?

5. Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos
COME ON DOWN THE OLD KOOL-AID FILLED RABBIT HOLE! But, no, seriously. Tebow made throws on Sunday night that he's not supposed to make. And he did it against a defense that doesn't let most quarterbacks make throws like that, much less a would-be remedial QB like Tebow. But he brings a running game, he brings an improved passing game, he brings along the worst wide receiver corps (by far) of anyone in the playoffs and he brings along the dreaded intangibles.

4. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Eli's a top-five quarterback in the NFL this season, and he's got a legitimate case to be right there in Tom Brady's class (just like he said before the season!). When it comes down to it, though, you're not taking him for a playoff stretch run over any of the rest of the guys on the list. At least not yet anyway ... (But yes, there's a HUGE gap between 1-4 and 5-8.)

3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
People keep saying that Brady does the most with the least but that argument's kind of ridiculous when Rob Gronkowski just wrapped up the greatest season by a tight end in the history of the NFL. Three here, by the way, is like "1c."

2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
The third quarterback in NFL history to throw for 450 yards in a playoff game.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Last I checked he's still the defending champion. Plus, he's got the mobility that no one else on this list (even Tebow) has, he's the most accurate quarterback on the run and he's working on a week's rest in addition to two weeks of hearing everyone talk about how he's not the best quarterback left in the playoffs.

Winners

Josh McDaniels: Not only is the former Broncos head coach and Patriots offensive coordinator now back with the Patriots but he's going to play against Tim Tebow next week. This is a good thing because McDaniels basically got fired for drafting Tebow. I mean, not entirely but it didn't help things. Doesn't everyone look kind of silly for not trusting him now.

T.J. Yates:
Yates was the rookie who was going to screw things up for his team, but instead he played the perfect foil to Andy Dalton's inconsistency, going 11 of 20 for 159 yards and a touchdown. Those aren't mind-blowing numbers, and 40 of the yards came on one touchdown pass to Andre Johnson, but Yates did exactly what he was supposed to do, which is "don't screw things up."

Overtime Rules: It -- literally -- took Ron Winter longer to explain the new overtime rules than it took the Broncos to end the overtime. One play to DeMaryius Thomas and that's it. Which is good for the NFL because a longer, more prolonged overtime opened up the possibility for mistakes by refs and scrutiny by media and fans. Instead now we think it works perfectly!

Pierre Thomas: Dude was kiliing it on Saturday and might be the biggest reason New Orleans won. He "only" scored once and but he put up 121 total yards and he fought for every freaking one of them; there's a reasonable chance 115 of them were after contact. Thomas' refusal to go down to the turf resulted in a lot of Saints drives getting extended a lot further than they should have, and he deserves props for his effort.

Cleveland Browns: When the Falcons were eliminated, the Browns locked up better draft picks in 2012, thanks to the Julio Jones trade. (They'll now pick a lot earlier, no worse than 23rd, in the first and fourth rounds.) Tom Heckhart also looks a little bit smarter today -- even if Julio Jones is special (he is) and even if the Falcons will eventually be more explosive (they should), that deal didn't work out the way the Falcons and Thomas Dimitroff thought it would. Yeah, they made the playoffs, but it was as a wild card and they didn't score a single point on Sunday.

Smith would like you to re-spot that ball, sir. (AP)

Losers

Mike Smith: Twice on Sunday, Smith had a controversial fourth-down decision to make. OK, the decisions weren't really that controversial, but the playcalls -- and the result -- were. Each time, once with Michael Turner on the freaking sideline, the Falcons snuck Ryan against a stout Giants defensive line, and each time, he was stuffed. Those decisions don't change the outcome of the game, per se, because the Giants still outscored Atlanta by more than six points, but Smith's going to answer a lot of questions about his decision-making.

Chris Crocker
: Crocker's a friend of the blog, so we don't want to rip him too hard, but that was a pretty terrible game from the Bengals safety. He dropped a crucial would-be pick-six at the start of the second half, he missed a sack of Yates, and his incredibly poor "tackling" on Arian Foster's 42-yard touchdown run is going to be replayed all week long. Not a good day for Crocker.

Lions Defense: It's not rare for a defense to get surgically dissected by Drew Brees. But the Lions have to be shaking their heads at missing a good chance at up-ending the Saints on Saturday because their defense couldn't get any penetration on Brees, couldn't make any stops on fourth downs, didn't make the Saints punt a single time and generally looked lost in coverage. They also dropped a pair of easy interceptions, one of which Eric Wright should've taken to the house.

Mike Mularkey: After a great season from the Falcons and a strong finish to the year, Mularkey's been a hot name as a coaching candidate and has a slew of interviews lined up. But the people looking to hire him for a full-time job are going to wonder about the incredibly conservative gameplan Mularkey dragged into the Meadowlands on Sunday, and how he managed to get outscored by Eli Manning 2-0. And then there's the short-yardage stuff (see: Mike Smith above). Smith's saying "go" but Mularkey's the guy dialing up the plays, and it might behoove teams to put him through a "Fourth-and-Short Playcalling Quiz" before giving him the gig.

John Elway: At halftime against Pittsburgh, Tim Tebow had thrown for 185 yards (all in the second quarter) and tied two of Elway's playoff records with the Broncos: he and Elway are the only Broncos quarterbacks with a) two 50-yard passes in the same game and b) a rushing and passing score in the same game. Oh and then he walked off the Steelers in overtime with an 80-yards pass. Please tell me how he's not going to bring Tebow back in 2012.

The Big Questions

 
Marvin needs to challenge his challenges. (AP)

1. What was Marvin Lewis thinking on those challenges?
He wasn't. The Bengals didn't lose because Lewis bungled a pair of first-half challenges, but that shouldn't excuse him for the actual bungling. Lewis gave away two timeouts and any chance of challenging in the second half by deciding that the Bengals (4/4 on short-yardage conversions against the Texans in Week 13) needed to challenge a bad spot on a second down and two that only went for one yard. Then he compounded it by challenging a catch in the second quarter, which allowed him to enter halftime with a deficit and no challenges.

2. Can the Saints win on the road?
Of course they can. But will they? The Saints are 0-4 in franchise history away from the Superdome when it comes to the playoffs and that's an applicable lesson for this year's team, who only played five games outside of a dome the entire year.

That's right: just five games. Now, the Saints know this. They talked about it with our own Pete Prisco after their win over Detroit on Saturday. The Saints are guaranteed nine games inside a year, because of eight home matchups and a game at division rival Atlanta. Here's what happened when they did venture away from the comfort of turf:

Week/Location Result Points Scored Passing Yards TD/INT Total Yards
Week 1 @ Green Bay L 34 419 3/0 477
Week 4 @ Jacksonville W 23 351 1/2 503
Week 5 @ Carolina W 30 359 2/1 444
Week 6 @ Tampa Bay L 20 383 1/3 453
Week 14 @ Tennessee W 22 337 2/0 437
Weekly Average N/A 34.2 334.2 2.9/0.9 467.1

Two of the Saints three losses this season came outside on the road, and they only went above 30 points twice on the road, despite averaging 34.2 points per game this season.

To paraphrase our Vice President, that's a big freaking deal.

3. Do Matt Ryan's playoff losses make him a bad quarterback?
No. But Ryan's the guy who'll be heavily judged over the next year with respect to his postseason performance, since he's now 0-3 in the playoffs. In those three games, Ryan's 70 of 110 for 584 passing yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. He's definitely the victim of a) conservative gameplans and b) playing against good teams (the NFC Champion Cardinals, the Super Bowl Champion Packers and this year's Giants), but that isn't going to stop people from discussing the fact that his stats stink in the playoffs and he can't win. It's the same thing people said about Aaron Rodgers before last year.

4. Can the Giants really win the Super Bowl?
Damn right they can. The "shades of 2007" storyline is a bit played out at this point ... but it's just kind of true. They're a wild card that everyone counted out, Eli Manning's hitting his stride at the absolutely perfect time, they've got a running game that's shaping back up and their pass rush is absolutely deadly. This is the kind of the same team, just with different players. (San Fran up-ending the Saints and keeping the Giants away from the Superdome would help a lot, too.)

5. Did you really rank Tim Tebow FIFTH on the remaining quarterbacks list?
Yes. Let's just move on before I emerge from my overtime-induced blackout.

6. How bright is the future for the Lions?
Very bright. They'll obviously want to lock down Calvin Johnson at some point, and they need to get some secondary help this coming offseason, and getting Mikel Leshoure back to provide a power running game is critical. But Matthew Stafford's primed to be the next quarterback who warrants a debate for "elite" status, in case the 5,000+ yards he tossed in 2011 didn't clue you into that. 

7. Why did the Saints draft Mark Ingram?
Not sure. But it at least seemed like a good idea the time, right? Ingram was supposed to be the power runner for the Saints, but in his first season he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and scored only five touchdowns. He's not playing now and Chris Ivory's performance on Saturday night really leads me to believe New Orleans could've gotten better value at a different position in April's draft.

8. Could Kevin Kolb land another big contract?

Possibly! Doing so would mean that Kolb would lose his first big contract though: Charley Casserly reported on Sunday that the Cardinals are a sleeper candidate for Peyton Manning if the Colts let him go. To make that happen, they'd obviously have to bail on Kolb's contract, which they can reportedly do at a fairly cheap cost. The timing is the issue though, since Kolb's roster bonus is due in March as well. But if it happens, Kolb could instantly become the third- or fourth-best quarterback available on the market, along with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Matt Flynn. It's a longshot, but an interesting situation to watch nonetheless.

9. Does Tebow deserve all the credit for the Broncos win?

As usual, no. Tebow gets a ton of credit because he does some amazing things late in games, but let's be clear: the Steelers played pretty freaking badly on Sunday night. Their pass defense was AWFUL and they ran Ben Roethlisberger out on a bad ankle and looked anemic early on on offense. The Broncos defense deserves some credit too, of course, because they played a nice game. And so do Tebow's wide receivers. Just figure out a way to spread it around.

GIF O' THE WEEK

OH NO Hakeem Nicks DID NOT JUST DO THE DIRTY BIRD. OH YES HE DID Jamaal Anderson.

Worth 1,000 Words


For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 7, 2012 12:35 pm
 

Ocho on Motorola's OCNN, 'scripted' ESPN and Pats

Ochocinco is embracing the "Patriot Way." (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

In 2009, at the Super Bowl in Miami, the OchoCinco News Network (OCNN) "launched." Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, then with the Bengals, partnered with Motorola to create his own news network, with various NFL players (Ray Rice, Darnell Dockett, Chris Cooley) serving as correspondents.

This year, Chad and Motorola are bringing OCNN to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, but it will be fans who are the correspondents -- winning a shot to take a trip to the Super Bowl and enjoy media day are one of the many reasons to check out Motorola's Facebook page.

We talked to Chad about OCNN, Wes Welker on Twitter, ESPN (it's "scripted"), the Patriots (they, um, don't care about statistics apparently) and much more below.

Will Brinson: Chad, what's going on?

Chad Ochocinco: What's up Will?

WB: Not much, man. Hey, talk about the contest you've got going on with Motorola and OCNN because I think it's something that'll interest our readers, especially with the idea of working with a media mogul like yourself.

Ochocinco: Basically what I'm doing is instead of what I did last year is have fellow colleagues of mine in the NFL that were in the OCNN. This year I'm flipping it around and the folks who send in videos -- who will probably be journalism majors and other people who love journalism and sports and football itself. And so it'll help springboard whatever else they have going on. And I think it's a great idea to give the fans and those people the opportunity to experience media day at the Super Bowl -- that's the chance of a lifetime, especially for a fan.

WB: Yeah, for sure. Kind of break down what someone has to do to win, and what the responsibilities are for the winner -- do they get to spend media day with Ochocinco?

Ocho: Oh no. He won't be with me. I'm not planning to be doing media day because I plan on playing.

WB: [Laughing] Oh right, sorry man. You'll be getting interviewED.

Ochocinco: Yes, that's correct. The whole point is you put in your 30 second video on why you think you should be chosen and whatever comes to your mind that's creative and then the winner's chosen and after that there will be an itinerary for the winner. When I started doing it, it was new to me -- so this person will go through credentials and the whole nine yards and actually be a part of the media.

WB: Well, that's kind of awesome. I talked to Darrelle Revis and Chris Cooley who were correspondents. Will you have players back again this year?

Ochocinco: You know what? I think I want to use the fans this year. I think the players are good but there are so many people out there that love the media, that want to do broadcast journalism, I think it's really cool that they're into it like that. So to give them a chance to interact not just with the real media but in an atmosphere like the media day at the Super Bowl will be awesome.

WB: Yeah, I agree. And I think the NFL's a tough sport to cover because the sport's so saturated -- there are so many organizations that cover it. And I know when OCNN started people thought of it as "one of Chad's crazy ideas" or whatever. But you guys have done a nice job of keeping it relatively serious. Do you think it can be something that other media companies will respect?

Ochocinco: Yeah it takes a long to get to that point. It takes a long way to get to that point. With the right backing and the right steps and wanting to take it to that serious and take it to the next level, we can get that respect we deserve. But stuff like that takes time. And breaking the stories takes time and getting the trust of the athletes around the NFL to allow them to tell us things before anybody else … but it's possible and we can legitimately compete against ESPN and it's affiliates.

WB: Lemme ask you this -- you're preparing for the playoffs and the Patriots have a bye. How different is the approach in New England versus when you were in Cincinnati?

Ochocinco: I don't want to compare, I can't compare. And I care not really to talk about Cincinnati at all. I'm a Patriot and the Patriots, they win for a reason. So obviously the preparation is what it is and it's been the same way for a reason. Whatever way we do prepare, which I really don't want to get into, is the reason why we win all the time.

WB: Ha, OK. I think that's called "The Patriot Way." People always use the phrase "new season" to describe the playoffs. I know 2011 wasn't your greatest season, statistically speaking, but you seemed to show promise at the end of the year. Do you look at the playoffs as a new season for you as well?

Ochocinco: I have no idea. I do what I'm asked to do. One thing outsiders don't realize: they don't give two sh*ts about stats. They care about one thing winning: that's it. And I've embraced what they've asked me to do and that's it.

WB: Do you think Tom Brady's season has gone under the radar? I know that's weird and I know no one cares about statistics but Brady broke Dan Marino's record too and went over 5,000 yards and no one's talking about it -- is that something you find odd?

Ochocinco: I have no idea, man. I have no idea.

WB: OK … I was just curious because I find it odd. Um, back to the media aspect of stuff, is there something where you're working with OCNN is there something that the mainstream media does -- not wrong -- but that you'd like to see done differently?

Ochocinco: I don't really pay the mainstream media any mind on what they do or don't do. I think OCNN is just refreshing because it's different. For one, it's from players that are still active which makes it a lot more fun especially for those who get their news. Sometimes the mainstream media can be overhyped -- it's about filling the stories, it's like the TMZ of sports if that makes sports. And I think OCNN would be a lot better, hearing it from different views and different personalities.

And it won't be scripted you know? ESPN is so scripted.

WB: Yeah, I don't disagree. It gets old even when it's on in the background -- I'd be interested in something like that, that's more towards the fans and less towards entertainment. Is that what you're going for?

Ochocinco: Exactly, most definitely.

WB: As it turns out, you're Mrs. Brinson's favorite athlete of all-time. She's a big fan of "Ultimate Catch" and wanted me to ask if you've got any more reality shows coming down the pipeline?

Ochocinco: I'm not sure. I'm supposed to be filming with my fiancee in a few weeks. But I'm not sure what's going on with that. Just let her know my fiancee and I are supposed to be filming and right now that's about it.

WB: Ha, will do. Fiancee stuff is totally worthy of reality television. I want to talk to you about Twitter real quick -- your Twitter account is one of the most popular among athletes. How do you stay ahead of the curve in being an athlete on Twitter and engaging fans? Is there a strategy towards it?

Ochocinco: Nah, no strategy. Just having no filter. No filter is what makes it what it is.

WB: And did you play any part in getting Wes Welker on Twitter? He's pretty funny there too.

Ochocinco: Yeah, yeah, of course. He wasn't into it and I got him on two weeks ago and now he can't stop tweeting.

WB: Ha, good stuff man, alright. Well thanks again for taking the time to talk with us and hopefully you'll be interviewed by your own media network, pretty sure that would be a first.

Ochocinco: Alright man take it easy.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com