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Chiefs shocking Chargers to close out Week One

As midnight approaches on the East Coast, the Kansas City Chiefs have ambushed their division rivals from San Diego through 30 minutes of action.

The Chiefs lead the Chargers at halftime, 21-7.

It seemed early on that the Chargers would systematically pull away from the perpetually-rebuilding Chiefs, seizing a 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass from quarterback Philip Rivers to tight end Antonio Gates.  But then the skies opened up over Missouri, and the Chiefs eventually rained three scores on the Lightning Bolts.

After starting the game with a pair of three-and-out drives, the Chiefs made their third time a charm, via three runs that covered 70 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown jaunt from running back Jamaal Charles.  After the teams traded two punts each, Chargers rookie running back Ryan Mathews fumbled, the Chiefs recovered at the San Diego 12, and three plays later quarterback Matt Cassel floated a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Moeaki — and the new Arrowhead Stadium was a-rockin’.

Three total three-and-out drives later, Chiefs rookie Dexter McCluster took a punt at his own six, and he made a cut to the outside that induced a slip-n-slide move from Chargers special-teamer Mike Tolbert, springing McCluster for a 94-yard score.

There’s plenty of time for the Chargers to pull it out.  But there’s a new feeling in the air in Kansas City.  After 4-12 in 2007 and 2-14 in 2008 and 4-12 in 2009, there’s a sense that times are changing for the Chiefs — to the obvious chagrin of the other three teams in the AFC West.

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Ravens show Jets how it's done

The Baltimore Ravens played the style of football on Monday night that Jets coach Rex Ryan dreams about.

The Ravens were more physical than the Jets, knocking them around in the second half.  Baltimore had the opposing quarterback confused.  They possessed the ball 38 minutes.

Baltimore only won 10-9, but the game didn’t feel that close.  The Ravens had 20 first downs; the Jets had six.  Joe Flacco threw for 248 yards, including 110 to Anquan Boldin. 

Mark Sanchez, on the other hand, completed 10-of-21 passes for 74 yards.  He completed one pass over ten yards and looked just as overwhelmed as he did all preseason. 

Sanchez looks like he’s regressed since his rookie year. An attempted two-minute drive at the end of the game was unprofessional.  (Dustin Keller’s game-ending brain fart was an appropriate finish to the game.  He stepped out of bounds half a yard before the first down marker on fourth down.)

“We got beat by a point by the heck of a football team,” Ryan said after the game.  “They beat us probably in every statistical category there is except turnovers.”

The Jets should have taken a big first half lead after forcing three turnovers, but the inept Jets offense couldn’t take advantage.  Darrelle Revis his did thing, but Antonio Cromartie and rookie Kyle Wilson were victimized on a number of mistakes.  The Jets had 14 penalties for 125 yards.

The Jets defense had sloppy moments, but any team with an NFL-quality passing attack wins this game.  Ryan still blamed his defense.

“I was alarmed that we couldn’t get off the field on defense than that we struggled a little offensively,” Ryan said.  “That’s a pretty good team over there, a good defense. An excellent defense.”

The Jets have an excellent defense too.  Sanchez wasted it Monday night.

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Revis holdout is hurting the Jets tonight

Before Monday night’s game between the Ravens and the Jets, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News explained that Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis won’t be following his usual approach of covering by himself the best receiver on the opposing roster.

“It’s a tough first assignment for Revis,” Mehta wrote.  “Boldin’s physical style and
crisp intermediate route running will surely test Revis’ ability.  The
more likely scenario is that the Jets All-Pro cornerback will cover
Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmanzadeh too.”

And that’s how it has played out, with Boldin repeatedly victimizing the non-Revis defender who has been covering him.

If Revis had been present for training camp, he presumably would have been matched up on Boldin all night.  And Boldin likely would have fewer than five catches for 93 yards through three quarters, including two passes that (as ESPN pointed out) covered more than 21 yards in the air, double the amount Boldin caught that sailed that far for all of 2009.

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Dexter McCluster will play for Chiefs

A national audience will get to see Kansas City’s intriguing three-man backfield of Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, and Dexter McCluster.

McCluster, a rookie, is active for the game.  While he’s listed as a wide receiver, he took a lot of snaps at tailback in the preseason.  He was questionable with an illness.

Out for the Chiefs: WR Jeremy Horne, CB Jackie Bates, RB Mike Cox, LB Cameron Sheffield, LB
Justin Cole, DE Alex Magee, RT Ryan O’Callaghan, and NT Anthony Toribio.

For the Chargers, linebacker Shawne Merriman is out as expected.  Strong safety Darrell Stuckey will also miss the game; he’s supposed to be a starter. 

The rest of the Chargers: QB J.T. O’Sullivan, T Adam Terry, NT Cam Thomas, DE Vaughn Martin, LB
Brandon Lang, and CB Dante Hughes.

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Haynesworth trade market could heat up, again

With one game in the books and another one six days away, the Redskins reportedly may once again explore the possibility of trading defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.

Mort reports that the Redskins “could try” to trade Haynesworth through Tuesday, and that the Titans remain the top potential trade partner.

The price had been a second-round draft pick; Mort believes that the Redskins may take less than that.  He says that Haynesworth hasn’t learned the Redskins’ 3-4 defense and that he doesn’t care to learn it.

Meanwhile, coach Mike Shanahan did his best to preserve leverage by projecting a sense that Haynesworth is going nowhere.  “We had most of our linemen play between 15 and 30 plays and they rotated,” Shanahan said Monday, explaining the limited snaps Haynesworth received on Sunday night against the Cowboys.  “We had six lineman up for the game.  Talking about Albert, Albert played hard.  He’s getting more comfortable with the 3-4 scheme every time he takes a rep.  Hopefully, he keeps on getting better and better, but he did play extremely hard.”

Possible translation?  “If you trade for him, you won’t be getting a head case who only plays hard when he’s chasing a pot of gold.”

As we pointed out in the Week One Monday 10-pack, the Titans should not risk adding to the locker room a head case who only plays hard when he’s chasing a pot of gold.

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Jets lose Kris Jenkins, again

Last year, Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins tore an ACL.  On Monday night, he reinjured the same knee early in the Week One opener against the Ravens.

Jenkins left and won’t return tonight.  The duration of his absence remains to be seen.

Matt Kroul and Marcus Dixon are the second- and third-team nose tackles, respectively.

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Texans kicking tires on two veterans on Tuesday

With Week One come and gone, NFL teams are beginning the process of checking out vested veterans whose base salaries would have been guaranteed if they had been on a roster for the first game of the season.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports, and we have confirmed, that defensive end Adewale Ogunleye and defensive end Bobby McCray will work out for the Texans on Tuesday.

One or both (or possibly neither) will be signed to replace defensive end Connor Barwin, who suffered a season-ending injury on Sunday against the Colts.

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Lions add Nathan Vasher

The process of signing vested veterans has begun.

Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News reports that cornerback Nathan Vasher has agreed to terms with the Lions, a day after the Lions lost to the team for which Vasher played for six years, the Bears.

Vasher worked out for the Lions last week.  If he had been signed, his full-season base salary essentially would have been guaranteed.

The Lions developed a stronger need for Vasher on Sunday, when defensive back Aaron Berry suffered a shoulder injury. 

Vasher signed with the Chargers in the offseason after being cut by the Bears.  The Chargers cut him on September 4.

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Jets belt Joe Flacco early

It’s fitting that, as Bruce Jacobs of Sporting News Radio and I were discussing the theory that the Jets don’t have a smash-mouth defense, the Jets defense smashed Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco hard in the mouth.

On the first offensive snap taken by the Ravens, Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis applied to Flacco the most violent hit we’ve seen on a Monday night since Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams ended Steve Young’s career.

Florio Jr. thought Flacco wouldn’t be getting up after taking the top of a helmet to his chin.  But get up Flacco did, and he was back on the field on the very next drive.

Meanwhile, the Ravens defense stiffened after the Flacco fumble, and the Jets converted a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.

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Schefter: Bob Sanders' return to practice could have been a "dress-up" session

Much has been made of the fact that Colts safety Bob Sanders returned to practice on Monday, a day after suffering an elbow injury that is actually a biceps injury that could be bad enough to keep him from playing again this year.

Colts fans who hope Sanders will play again this year are using his presence at practice as ammunition to justify shouting down those of us in the media who are serving as the messengers regarding the very real concern that Sanders may have a serious injury, again.

As Adam Schefter of ESPN explained it during Monday Night Countdown, Sanders’ return to practice possibly was a “dress-up” session, aimed at making folks think that Sanders isn’t hurt as badly as he is.

So why would the Colts do that?  Because if they are hoping to sign a new safety or trade for one, they don’t want the player or the other team to have the kind of leverage they’d have if it’s known that the Colts badly need a replacement for Sanders.

And if any of you don’t believe that teams try to set up ruses of this nature, you may be surprised to learn that Nick Saban actually is the Alabama coach.

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Bill Polian's weekly radio show disappears from the Internet

From our friends at StampedeBlue.com comes one of the most entertaining news nuggets of a busy first football Monday of the year.

Colts president Bill Polian does a radio show every Monday during the season.  In the past, the show streamed over the Internet.  Today, Polian’s show was treated like an NFL game, which routinely are blocked from streaming on a radio station’s website.

“The play-by-play currently airing is subject to blackout rules, and cannot
be heard on this stream.  Regular programming will resume after the
game,” the message reads, per StampedeBlue.com.

Big Blue Shoe’s instincts likely are on the money.  There’s no “play-by-play” to black out.  But Polian surely realizes that the Internet audience is far more likely to include those who may transcribe and repeat his words in a manner that may expose inconsistencies or express criticism of Polian. 

On terrestrial radio, the audience is most likely to include folks inclined to nod along with Polian, including a local media that the team does a nice job of keeping under its thumb.

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Vince Young wants Reggie's Heisman

In July, Joe Schad of ESPN.com reported that Titans quarterback Vince Young doesn’t want the Heisman Trophy that may be stripped from Saints tailback Reggie Bush.

On Monday, Vince Young told ESPN that, to the contrary, the former Longhorn wants to hook the hardware.

I definitely want it, I definitely want it,”
Young said, via CFT.  “But he won it fair and square definitely, and it’s much
respect to Reggie, man.  He had a great career and he’s already won a
Super Bowl before me.  I’m already mad about that.
“But at the same time I am definitely happy for him, man, and he is
definitely the Heisman Trophy winner for that year.  But if they send it
over to me I am not going to say no to it.”

It’s unlikely that this ever will occur.  Yahoo! Sports reported last week that the Heisman Trophy Trust is expect to strip the trophy from Bush and to not award it to anyone else.

Vince Young’s mother recently said that the Young family doesn’t want Reggie’s Heisman.  So, basically, it’s good to know that Florio Jr. isn’t the only kid who doesn’t listen to his parents.

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Brodney Pool, Lardarius Webb to miss Monday Night game

The Jets-Ravens game has been delayed, but the inactive lists are on time.

Out for Baltimore: cornerback Lardarius Webb, nose tackle Terrence Cody (knee), wideout Donte’ Stallworth (foot),
tackle Jared Gaither (back), and defensive end Paul Kruger (shoulder).

Webb was listed as probable, but it seems like the team is playing it safe as he recovers from a torn ACL.

For the Jets, starting safety Brodney Pool will miss the game.  He was listed as questionable.  Eric Smith will start at free safety. 

Other notable inactives include Hard Knocks punching bag running back Joe McKnight, and second round pick Vladimir Ducasse.  Also out: tight end Jeff Cumberland, tackle Patrick Brown, quarterback Kellen Clemens, defensive tackle Marcus Dixon, and linebacker Calvin Pace.

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Jets-Ravens will be delayed "at least" 30 minutes

The first regular season game at Jets Stadium will have to wait a little longer.

Ravens-Jets has been delayed “at least” 30 minutes because of thunder and lightning in the New York/New Jersey area.  (It’s 6:15 and is about pitch black outside my window.)

It’s unclear if this could affect the timing of Chargers-Chiefs, the second game of ESPN’s doubleheader.  (Which already has a very late local start time.)   UPDATE: Chris Mortensen says the Chargers-Chiefs will start on time and probably be joined in progress. 

For now, the stands have been cleared at New Meadowlands Stadium and there will be another weather update in 20 minutes.   Time to go eat a goddamn snack!

UPDATE:
Looks like it won’t be 30 minutes.  Kickoff will be at 7:25 ET.  ESPN2 will carry the Chiefs-Chargers kickoff, which is scheduled for 10:15 ET. 

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Redskins-Cowboys one-liners

The Washington Post is loving the Mike Shanahan era after the Redskins won 13-7: Michael Wilbon says the tide has turned, while Thomas Boswell says this time feels different.

Donovan McNabb promised Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan after the game that the Redskins would get things right next week.

Redskins fans burned Tony Romo in effigy to get ready for the game.

Mike Shanahan was impressed with rookie tackle Trent Williams’ first game.

Tony Romo bemoaned all the mistakes that the Cowboys offense made.

Cowboys WR Miles Austin showed why he’s worth the money Dallas is paying him.

LB DeMarcus Ware says he’ll be ready to go next week after leaving the game with a neck injury late.

An analysis of what coach Wade Phillips really said after the game.

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