Skip to content

Ten ways to improve the Hall of Fame selection process

9109029-large

Every year, on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, 44 men and women gather in the host city and determine the members of the next class of Hall of Famers.

Typically, the panel considers 15 modern-era candidates, which systemically is whittled down to five finalists for an up-or-down vote.  The voters also consider two previously-determined finalists determined by the Seniors Committee, which comes up with two players who, for whatever reason, were passed over during past sessions.

In the end, as few as four and as many as seven secure admission to Canton.

Every year, complaints inevitably arise regarding the persons who make it and those who don’t.  At times, those complaints are aimed at the process.  Usually, the debate fizzles by the next day, when the Super Bowl starts.

This year, largely through the efforts of Jason Whitlock of FOXSports.com, the criticism has lingered.  The fact that Whitlock’s opinions have sparked a pointed response from two of the voters has served only to give the discussion ongoing life.

Though some of the voters who perhaps feel a threat to their fiefdom may not like it, any effort to consider whether the process can be improved represents a valuable expenditure of time and effort.  In this vein, we now offer 10 specific ideas for improving the procedure for determining who gets in, and who’s left out of, the Hall of Fame.

1.  Expand the panel.

The panel currently consists only of media members, some of whom are unemployed, underemployed, self-employed, and/or semi-retired.  One voter is assigned for each team, even if the voter has no specific jurisdiction over that team.  For example, Len Pasquarelli of The Sports Xchange holds the vote that corresponds to the Falcons, even though he hasn’t focused his efforts on that team for years.  Ditto for David Elfin, the Redskins’ representative who no longer works for a Washington-focused publication.  Others, like Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, had limited experience covering the NFL but was the only guy at the only paper in the town in which the team is headquartered.

That’s not a knock on Joe, whom we know and like.  But, surely, he’ll acknowledge that he had limited experience covering the NFL when he got the assignment.  Before inheriting the Bengals beat from Mark Curnutte in 2009, Reedy previously covered the Jets for two years (1997 and 1998) at the Post-Star in Glen Falls, New York and the Jaguars for one year (1999) at the Gainesville Sun.  Many would contend that three relatively distant years at non-first-tier publications shouldn’t be enough to secure 2.27 percent of the say as to who makes it to Canton.

The panel also includes one representative of the Professional Football Writers Association and 11 at-large media members.  That’s 44 total voters.

The panel, put simply, is too small.  (And, trust me, I’m not saying that because I’m angling for a seat at the table.  I don’t want one, I don’t expect to ever be offered one — especially after writing this article — and I wouldn’t have the time to do the assignment justice unless and until I become unemployed, underemployed, self-employed, and/or semi-retired.)  Because the human beings who comprise the panel are subject to the same human factors that influence us consciously or otherwise, one way to neutralize those realities is to involve more voters.

As explained below, that doesn’t mean more media members.  To enjoy the full faith and confidence of football fans, the process needs more voices, more perspectives, and less power in the hands of any one voter.

Many of the persons who hold these votes take great pride in the assignment.  As a result, they naturally will be inclined to resist any changes that will make the achievement less significant, such as adding significantly more people to the process.

Regardless, significantly more people need to be added to the process.

2.  Overhaul the Board of Trustees.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is governed by a Board of Trustees.  Some of the names are instantly recognizable, like Commissioner Roger Goodell, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.  (One name is recognizable but curiously out of place. ESPN’s Todd Blackledge, whose bailiwick is college football, has a seat on the Board of Trustees.)

There is also a cluster of persons with no connection to the NFL, but who hold positions of prominence in and around Canton, Ohio, the geographic location of the Hall of Fame.

With all due respect to those Canton-area businesspeople, it makes no sense for the policies and procedures of the Hall of Fame to be set by folks whose biggest contribution to the process is the ability to show up for meetings without incurring travel expenses.  Though it makes sense for the Pro Football Hall of Fame to seek the support and involvement of the Canton business community, the Board of Trustees should be composed of folks who have a direct role in the game and who have the best interests of the game at all times in mind.

To the extent that there are some Canton-area businesspeople who have a direct role in the game, such as Packers great and successful Akron businessman Dave Robinson, they should have a seat at the table.  We also realize that some members of the Board of Trustees are instrumental in organizing the events that surround each year’s enshrinement ceremony.  But most of the persons who are setting policy for the Hall of Fame should have names that ardent fans and followers of the sport instantly recognize.

Currently, it’s roughly a 50-50 split.  That needs to change.

3.  Change the bylaws.

The Board of Trustees ultimately determine the contents of the Hall of Fame’s bylaws.  All too often, members of the panel who are faced with criticism of the selection process instantly explain that their hands are tied by the bylaws.

So change the bylaws.

Every year, the NFL changes multiple rules in the hopes of making the game better.  In the past half-decade, the only meaningful change to the bylaws occurred when the modern-era finalists were increased from 13 to 15.

The bylaws shouldn’t be used as a shield for avoiding change, but as a sword for implementing it.  All too often, the bylaws become an excuse for the status quo, not the impetus for improvement.  For that reason alone, the powers-that-be need to be willing and able on an annual basis (or more often) to look for ways to improve the rules that govern the selection process.

4.  Include Hall of Famers.

Every year, the winner of the Heisman Trophy acquires the ability to vote on all future winners of the award.  The logic is simple, and undeniable.  Winning the Heisman represents membership in an exclusive club, and the men who have won it should have a say in who gets it.

The argument applies even more strongly to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame coach John Madden believes that the busts talk to each other at night.  If they do, the first comment when a new crop joins them shouldn’t be, “Who in the hell let that guy in?”

They say it takes one to know one, and a Hall of Famer is in the best position to know another Hall of Famer.  Though giving Hall of Famers votes would introduce the possibility of biases and prejudices, those factors surely apply from time to time (or, as the case may be, every year) to the 44 men and women who currently have the keys to Canton, especially when players who earn a reputation for being hard on the media seem to have a hard time getting into the Hall of Fame.

The only requirement?  To vote, the Hall of Famer must attend the meeting.  No proxies or absentee ballots.  If they show up, they get a say in the process.

5.  Include coaches and other established football minds.

In responding to Jason Whitlock’s column calling for change, Bob Gretz argued that “Rick Gosselin has forgotten more football in a week than Whitlock has known in his life.”  That same observation likely applies to many of the folks currently on the selection committee.

And that observation probably would apply to all of them if, say, guys like Joe Gibbs or Ron Wolf or Bill Parcells or Chuck Noll were in the room.

So why not give people who have devoted their careers to coaching football and/or running football teams a direct say in who should and shouldn’t land in the Hall of Fame?  For those not already in the Hall of Fame, they’d have to forfeit their own eligibility for the Hall until two years after leaving the committee.

Frankly, those folks are far better suited to picking the new members of the Hall of Fame than pretty much everyone on the selection committee as its currently constituted.

6.  Categorize the candidates.

Every year, the finalists are thrown into a vat regardless of the position they played, with the new members of the Hall emerging from a stew that can’t distinguish between pancake blocks and pick-sixes.  It would make more sense to allow one new member per year from each of the various positions on the field:  quarterback, running back, receiver/tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back, and coach/G.M./contributor.

The finalists would be determined by position, with the list of candidates trimmed to three-to-five before the selection meeting, and with no requirement that a person be admitted from each position group.

This would expand the potential maximum size of the class from seven to eight, but the high-water mark of seven per year has been in place since 1964, the year after the charter class was inducted.  At the time, the NFL and AFL had only 22 teams.

Today, the NFL has 32 franchises, as a result of the addition of two in 1966, one in 1967, one in 1968, two in 1976, two in 1995, one in 1999, and one in 2002.  Moving the maximum annual class from seven to eight in light of the growth of the league isn’t simply justified, it’s overdue.

7.  Scuttle the Senior Committee.

The Senior Committee serves the purpose of allowing the selection committee to revisit two players from past seasons who fell through the cracks.  In other words, it gives the selection committee to right past wrongs.  By improving the selection process, there would be no reason to clean up past messes by devoting two of seven annual spots to guys who failed to get in when competing directly with their peers.

In his response to Jason Whitlock’s criticisms, Bob Gretz unwittingly proved our point.

Gretz explained that, ever year, a pair of Hall of Famers join the Seniors Committee to assist in the process of whittling down the previously overlooked players to two finalists, who seem to almost always get in.  For the 2011 class, Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham and Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders worked with the Seniors Committee.

Ham, per Gretz, made a strong case for linebacker Chris Hanburger.

“Ham told the group that when he went to the Steelers in the 1971 NFL Draft out of Penn State, the Pittsburgh coaches gave him film of Hanburger to study,” Gretz writes.  “There was no doubt in Ham’s mind that Hanburger was a legitimate candidate.  Whose word are your going to take on this subject:  Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, or Jason Whitlock?”

Gretz essentially is admitting that the selection committee screwed up by not putting Hanburger in the Hall years earlier.  With the involvement on the selection committee of guys like Hall of Famer Jack Ham convinced that Hanburger should get in, that wouldn’t have happened.

In other words, if Ham and the other Hall of Famers had a seat at the table, perhaps Hanburger wouldn’t have been erroneously passed over.

After all, whose word should the Hall of Fame been taking on this subject:  Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, or any member of the media?

8.  Embrace transparency.

Though many voters seek refuge in the bylaws and regard them as if they’d been etched onto stone tablets by the hand of God, many also will acknowledge the validity of Whitlock’s complaint that the process unfolds in secrecy.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC, who has nothing but the best interests of the process in mind (and I say that not because he’s a friend and a colleague but because I’ve spent enough time around him to know that’s who he is and how he operates), would welcome transparency.

I’d be fine with our votes being made public, which the Hall currently doesn’t want us to do,” King wrote in his February 7 Monday Morning Quarterback column.  “The feeling from Hall officials is if our votes are published, then some voters might vote differently; if a voter from Buffalo, for instance, didn’t vote for Andre Reed (and this is only an example, not the truth), he might face a backlash when he goes back to cover his team. Or in some small way it might affect his vote if he or she knew everyone would know exactly how the vote went. I believe it’s incumbent on us to not hide behind the privacy of the room. The Hall is a huge deal, obviously, with burgeoning interest every year. If we’re going to sit on the committee and sit in judgment of these men for enshrinement, I think you ought to know how we vote.”

If one of the most respected members of the NFL media believes that the process should be more transparent, then it’s fair to say that the process should be more transparent.  With an expanded panel of voters, anyone who covers the team on which a player played most or all of his career could abstain from voting, thereby addressing the biggest concern that King raised.

9.  Involve the NFL.

As mentioned above, the Commissioner and various owners occupy seats on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees.  But the NFL should be even more involved than that.

Though it’s called the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s essentially the NFL Hall of Fame, and the NFL should be in position to propose changes to bylaws and initiate procedural enhancements aimed at improving the process of determining each class of enshrinees.

One change the NFL would likely make relates to the consideration of off-field conduct.  Currently forbidden by the bylaws, the reality is that plenty of voters consider the things a candidate did when not playing football, especially in close cases.  The bylaws, then, should change to reflect the reality of the process.

If the NFL is the perpetual custodian of the highest levels of the sport, the NFL should have much greater involvement in and dominion over the museum that celebrates those who made the biggest impact on the game.

10.  Commit to continuous improvement and change.

Most of the criticisms of the current selection process arise from a perception that the system is stale and stagnant, in large part because change doesn’t happen often and doesn’t seem welcome.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly explains that the league constantly must look for ways to enhance and improve the game.  That same attitude must infect, and overtake, the Hall of Fame.

So many things about the selection process need to be changed because so little change has happened in the 48 years since the Hall of Fame opened.  Egos and agendas and pride and any other factor that stands in the way of change needs to be set aside, and folks need to look for ways to make the process better, and ultimately more fair.

We’re not advocating change for the sake of change.  But in this case there has been little or no change.  Changes need to be made, and then the Hall of Fame needs to be willing to consider future change without external calls for it.

Permalink 44 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Features, Rumor Mill, Sprint Football Live - Rumors, Top Stories
yo

Seahawks step up, shut down the Cardinals 19-3

Russell Wilson AP

The Seahawks have had plenty of issues this season. But for a moment, they looked like the team that won the Super Bowl last year.

And it took that kind of effort to beat what might be the best team in the NFC this year.

The Seahawks snapped Arizona’s six-game hot streak with a 19-3 win at home, keeping the defending champions in the NFC playoff chase.

They put the shackles on the Cardinals, limiting them to 204 total yards.

The Cardinals had won six in a row, and they played the kind of defense for most of the day to extend that streak. But they couldn’t get into the end zone with chances, and couldn’t match the Seahawks when they finally woke up.

After a first half which saw the two teams combine for 232 yards, the Seahawks finally put together something resembling offense in the third quarter.

Quarterback Russell Wilson was 7-for-7 for 75 yards and a touchdown in the third, finally answering the Cardinals pressure. A scrambling, ducking-out-of-a-sack pass to Marshawn Lynch went for a 23-yard gain, and gave Seattle the spark it was looking for. Wilson finished the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cooper Helfet.

But it was far from a polished effort for Wilson and the Seahawks, as he was sacked seven times.

But the Cardinals finally looked like a team that was forced to go next-man-up one too many times, falling to 9-2. They’re still a game clear of the rest of the NFC in pursuit of home field advantage for the playoffs, but their schedule stiffens after next week’s game against the Falcons, closing with the Chiefs and three division games.

The Seahawks improved to 7-4, but they’re still on the outside looking in for a wild card spot.

Permalink 24 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Lions’ Dominic Raiola admits going at a Patriot’s knees

Dominic Raiola AP

Lions center Dominic Raiola admitted after today’s blowout loss at New England that he purposely went at the knees of Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore on the final play of the game.

Raiola said he was angry that the Patriots scored a late touchdown to go up 34-9 instead of just taking a knee. Raiola said his shot at Moore was retaliation.

I cut him,” Raiola said, via the Detroit Free Press. “We took a knee, so I cut the nose [tackle]. They went for six. They went for a touchdown at two minutes. They could have took three knees and the game could have been over. It’s football. He wants to keep playing football, let’s play football. Not a big deal. It’s football.”

Raiola was not penalized, and he may not be fined, either. It’s not illegal for an offensive lineman to go low on a defensive lineman, as long as that defensive lineman isn’t also engaged up high and as long as the hit isn’t from behind. But the Patriots weren’t happy about it, and understandably so.

“I just heard what happened, but that was stupid,” Wilfork said. “I didn’t see it, but from what I heard . . . you’re taking a knee. They’d get mad if we were just to blow up one of their players, so I mean, it’s just uncalled for. But at the same time, you always have to protect yourself, so you always have to play with your neck on a swivel and being alert for 60 minutes, and it came down to it today on a bonehead play like that. But luckily no one got hurt and we can move on.”

Greg Schiano may not see anything wrong with trying to take out an opponent on a kneel-down play, but most NFL linemen will. Raiola was at the very least being unsportsmanlike. And by admitting it afterward, he was also being stupid.

Permalink 27 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Rams battling back vs. Chargers

St Louis Rams v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Chargers began the third quarter looking like they would roll on by the Rams.

But not so fast.

Tavon Austin’s six-yard TD run on a sweep cut San Diego’s lead to 20-17, an edge the Chargers still hold as the fourth quarter begins.

Austin’s TD run was set up by a Chargers punt mishap. Defensive back Chris Davis ran into wideout Keenan Allen, causing a muff recovered by St. Louis. Three plays later, the Rams had cut the lead to three points.

Then, on the Chargers’ next drive, Allen fumbled at the St. Louis 16, with the Rams recovering.

The Chargers trailed 10-6 at halftime, but they scored the first two touchdowns of the third period, with tailback Ryan Mathews‘ 32-yard run giving San Diego the lead. On the Rams’ ensuing series, Chargers defensive lineman Corey Liuget sacked Rams quarterback Shaun Hill, with outside linebacker Andrew Gachkar returning it for a 13-yard score to extend San Diego’s lead to 20-10.

Permalink 2 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Bashaud Breeland, Tracy Porter leave with injuries in third quarter

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The Redskins are running low on cornerbacks in the third quarter of their game against the 49ers.

They opened the day without David Amerson, who reportedly broke a team rule and was declared inactive, and lost E.J. Biggers to a concussion in the first half of the game. Their defense has held up well, but they’ll be further tested with two more corners leaving on successive third quarter series.

Tracy Porter left with a shoulder injury and he’s been labeled questionable to return by the team. Bashaud Breeland left a short time later and the team is yet to update his situation, although trainers were working on his back earlier in the game.

That didn’t cause the 49ers to test the beleaguered secondary, however. On a third-and-one in their own territory after Breeland went out, the 49ers tried a quarterback sneak and Colin Kaepernick got stuffed. Of course, their previous possession ended with Greg Ducre picking off Kaepernick so that might have something to do with their planning.

Kai Forbath hit a field goal with 31 seconds left in the third quarter to cap a drive that saw Robert Griffin III connect with DeSean Jackson for a long gain and then take a big hit from 49ers linebacker Aaron Lynch that was flagged as a personal foul. It was a questionable call, but it definitely helped Washington move back into a tie heading into the final quarter.

UPDATE 6:35 p.m. ET: Breeland has returned to the game in the fourth quarter, but Porter has been ruled out for the duration.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Chargers take lead vs. Rams

Philip Rivers AP

With the Chiefs falling to the Raiders on Thursday night and the Broncos looking wobbly against the Dolphins this afternoon, the Chargers can really help their cause in the AFC West with a win vs. St. Louis.

And they have started the second half on the right foot.

Tailback Ryan Mathews‘ 32-yard TD run gave the Chargers a 13-10 third-quarter lead over the Rams at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Chargers trailed 10-6 at halftime after a major defensive play by St. Louis. With the teams even at three, Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins picked off Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and took it back 99 yards for a touchdown, giving St. Louis a seven-point lead.

The Rams later missed a couple of other chances to add to their lead. A field goal attempt was blocked, and a facemask penalty on rookie offensive tackle Greg Robinson nullified a Kenny Britt TD reception.

The Chargers, meanwhile, would edge to within four points at half’s end on a Nick Novak 48-yard-field goal, which capped a 10-play, 55-yard drive.

The Chargers (6-4) are currently a half-game behind Kansas City (7-4) and a full game behind Denver (7-3), pending Sunday’s results.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Broncos continue to struggle, fall behind Dolphins

tannehill AP

Things are not going well in Denver.

The Broncos, losers of two of their last three games, trail the Dolphins at halftime at home, 21-17.

Peyton Manning wasn’t able to get much going downfield at all for most of the second half, but he finally engineered a couple of good drives late in the second quarter, each culminating in touchdown passes to Demaryius Thomas. Until those two drives, it felt like a game the Dolphins would dominate.

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has played well, completing 11 of 14 passes for 122 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Tannehill also ran for a touchdown.

The Broncos lost last week to the Rams, struggled for much of the game in a win over the Raiders a week earlier, and lost to the Patriots the game before that. Whatever is going wrong in Denver, the Broncos need to get it fixed. Preferably within the next 30 minutes.

Permalink 22 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

49ers grab lead just before halftime

Colin Kaepernick AP

Jay Gruden hasn’t had to avail himself of Colt McCoy just yet.

The Redskins came into Sunday’s game with the 49ers on the heels of another drama-filled week mostly centered on quarterback Robert Griffin III that culminated with a Sunday report that Gruden is prepared to pull Griffin in favor of McCoy during the matchup in Santa Clara. The offense got off to a slow start, but Griffin looked better on the fourth possession of the day and drove the team for a touchdown.

It wasn’t enough to give the Redskins the lead, however. Colin Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for 25 yards on fourth down with 11 seconds left in the half to set up a Phil Dawson field goal that gave the 49ers a 10-7 lead at the break. Crabtree did a great job of going up for the ball and then getting his feet down inbounds on a play that would have offered Washington a Hail Mary chance if it had gone incomplete.

Kaepernick was 10-of-14 for 155 yards overall in the first half, which saw Washington do a good job of stopping the 49ers on the ground. Griffin is 5-of-8 for 54 yards and Alfred Morris has run for 57 yards and a touchdown.

Permalink 14 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Suh, Blount exchanged words after Patriots beat Lions

suh AP

Two NFL players with reputations for being hotheads got into it in New England today.

As players walked off the field following the Patriots’ win over the Lions, New England running back LeGarrette Blount and Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh were seen yelling at each other. Several players were between them, and it didn’t appear that it was close to getting physical, but both men were heated.

Blount first came to national attention in a post-game altercation in college at Oregon, when he punched a Boise State player and was suspended from the team by then-Ducks coach Chip Kelly. Suh has a well-worn reputation for on-field altercations.

Whatever happened after the game, Blount got the better end of things during the game: He ran 12 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns.

Permalink 30 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Seahawks lead Cardinals 9-3 in a defensive war

Drew Stanton AP

The Cardinals have a three-game lead on the NFC West, but this game against the Seahawks is being decided three points at a time.

The Seahawks are up 9-3 at the break, as neither team can get into the end zone, and both sides are hitting hard.

The two teams have combined for just 232 yards at halftime, which is more of a function of strong defense than bad offense.

The Cardinals have sacked Russell Wilson five times and blocked a field goal. The Seahawks have dropped Drew Stanton twice and picked him off.

And with Marshawn Lynch in and out of the game with a sore back, and the Cardinals depleted, it might continue that way.

With Larry Fitzgerald out with a knee injury, the Cards were down a dependable red zone weapon. The absence was obvious when Jaron Brown dropped a touchdown pass just before halftime.

That’s the kind of mistake which could haunt them, as it’s unclear if either team will be able to do much with the ball.

Permalink 7 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Janoris Jenkins’ interception return TD gives Rams the lead

St. Louis Rams v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

With a golden opportunity to take a second-quarter lead vs. the Rams, the Chargers saw themselves fall behind in no more than 15 seconds time.

With the game tied at three, Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins stepped in front of Chargers wideout Keenan Allen and intercepted a Philip Rivers pass near the goal line. From there, Jenkins was on his way to a 99-yard touchdown, giving visiting St. Louis a 10-3 lead with less than 12 minutes left in the first half.

After upsetting Denver last week, the Rams are seeking their second straight win, and they are off to a solid start, thanks in part to Jenkins.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

E.J. Biggers departs with a concussion

Jordan Matthews, E.J. Biggers AP

The Redskins knew there was a good chance they’d be shorthanded on the offensive line this week, but they weren’t expecting to be down two cornerbacks before the end of the first half.

That’s just where they find themselves, however. E.J. Biggers has been knocked out of their game against the 49ers with a concussion, which means he’ll join David Amerson on the bench for the rest of the afternoon. Amerson was declared inactive before the game for reasons that are unclear since he was not on the injury report during the week.

The defense has held up well enough to force two punts and a Carlos Hyde fumble, but they gave up a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin on the Niners’ opening drive and trail 7-0 with under 12 minutes to play in the half.

Given the way the Washington offense is playing, those seven points might be enough. They’ve allowed two sacks with left tackle Trent Williams inactive because of ankle and knee injuries and have picked up just 31 yards in their first three possessions.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Bears win second straight, beat Buccaneers 21-13

Christian Jones AP

Led a playmaking defense, the Bears rallied for a 21-13 victory over the visiting Buccaneers and former Chicago head coach Lovie Smith on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field.

In securing their second straight win, the Bears (5-6) forced four turnovers, including three in the third quarter, two of which led to Matt Forte TD runs as Chicago turned a 10-0 halftime deficit into a 21-10 third-quarter lead.

The Buccaneers (2-9) would draw within eight points with about five minutes left on a Patrick Murray 39-yard field goal, and their defense would force a three-and-out on Chicago’s next possession. But the Bears’ defense came up big one more time, stopping the Bucs’ Josh McCown on a 4th-and-1 QB sneak with about two minutes left.

McCown, the Bears’ top backup a season ago, completed 25-of-48 passes for 341 yards, including a 19-yard TD to rookie Mike Evans. However, McCown committed two turnovers in the third quarter, including a lost fumble when sacked by Bears defensive end David Bass. That set up Forte’s first TD run, a 13-yarder giving Chicago the lead for good at 14-10. Then, on the Bucs’ next series, a deflected pass was picked by Bears safety Ryan Mundy, which helped lead to a one-yard Forte scoring run.

Later, Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson would fumble deep in Chicago’s territory, ending a promising scoring chance.

Forte racked up 89 yards on 23 carries for Chicago, which was held to a paltry 204 yards on 56 plays. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw for just 130 yards on 17-of-27 passing, with his two-yard TD toss to Alshon Jeffery first getting Chicago on the board to start the third quarter.

Then, Chicago’s defense would take over. Even more impressively, the Bears’ skilled defensive play came with outside linebacker Lance Briggs (groin) and cornerback Kyle Fuller (knee) out with injuries.

The Bears’ next game is in just four days at rival Detroit on Thanksgiving. The Buccaneers will host the Bengals on Sunday.

Permalink 7 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Browns’ illegal formation wouldn’t have triggered runoff

Flag Getty Images

With 16 seconds on the clock, no time outs remaining, and the ball at the Atlanta 30, the Browns opted to throw caution to the windless Georgia Dome and try to get the ball closer than what would have been a field goal of Norwoodian distance.

The gamble worked.  Quarterback Brian Hoyer threw a 10-yard pass to receiver Miles Austin in the middle of the field.  Hoyer and the Browns rushed to the line, and Hoyer took the snap and spiked it with six seconds left.

On the next play, Billy Cundiff converted easily from 37 yards instead of 47.

But it appears that the Browns had lined up in an illegal formation.  With the “X” and “Y” receivers to the left side of the formation both on the line of scrimmage.  While it’s permissible for more than seven guys to be on the line of scrimmage, the outside receivers can’t “cover up” other eligible receivers.

Per a league source, it’s a close call that could have drawn a flag.  However, it’s not the type of violation that would have resulted in a 10-second runoff.  Instead, it would have resulted in a five-yard penalty.

That would have made the field goal a little tougher.  But if an NFL kicker can’t make a 42-yard field goal in a dome, he shouldn’t be an NFL kicker.

Permalink 6 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Marshawn Lynch’s back tightens up, Seahawks lead 9-0

Marshawn Lynch AP

The Seahawks have moved the ball well, but they haven’t made it pay off so well.

With running back Marshawn Lynch in and out of the lineup, the Seahawks have had to settle for a pair of short field goals and a 52-yarder as they lead the Cardinals 9-0 in the second quarter.

Lynch’s problematic back has flared up and he was getting worked on by trainers on the sidelines, with Robert Turbin subbing in for him.

He returned to the game later in the second, splitting wide as a receiver on a series, so it appears he’s going to be good to go.

We’ll keep you posted as to whether he makes it in for halftime this week.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Eagles cruise past Titans to move to 8-3

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwy1odvjmti3ymy1y2q1otywywi5ztuzmjg5ztrhy2vh AP

When people talk about trap games, games like the Eagles’ date with the Titans on Sunday come to mind.

A two-win team coming to town a few days before a Thanksgiving trip to play the Cowboys, who are tied with the Eagles for the lead in the NFC East, certainly has the potential to be overlooked. The Eagles weren’t looking ahead, though.

Things stayed close into the third quarter, but a pair of fumbles by the Titans and bushels of pressure from the Eagles Defense helped them pull away for a 43-24 win that felt like it was headed Philly’s way from the opening kickoff. That’s when Josh Huff went 107 yards for a touchdown and the Eagles never really looked back.

There were a pair of bad Mark Sanchez interceptions, but Titans running back Bishop Sankey fumbled on the next play to hand the ball right back and Sanchez had plenty of good throws over the course of the day on his way to a line of 30-of-43 and 307 yards. LeSean McCoy chipped in with 130 yards and the Eagles might have reached 50 if their red zone work was a bit sharper. That will have to change, as will the turnovers and the habit of giving up big passing plays, once the caliber of competition rises again.

The Eagles sacked Zach Mettenberger five times, but the Titans got back into the game in the second quarter on the back of two long gains on passes to Justin Hunter and Delanie Walker. The Titans had no running game to speak of, however, and the pass rush was clearly too much for the Titans line to handle all afternoon.

Even with the flaws in mind, it was a big step in the right direction after last week’s debacle against the Packers. Beating the Cowboys and grabbing control of the division next week would be an even bigger one.

Permalink 31 Comments Feed for comments Back to top