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10 claps for Randy Moss

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We’ll accept Randy Moss at his word (for now) that he won’t be returning to the NFL.  And so it’s an appropriate time to reflect on his 13-year career.  Though Moss had more than his fair share of low moments, we’ll accentuate the positive (for now).

And there was plenty of positive.

So here’s one clap for Moss.  Ten different times.

Here are our (or at least my) 10 favorite Randy Moss memories, in chronological order.

1.  September 6, 1998.  Versus Tampa Bay.

Moss arrived from Marshall, which at the time had just moved from Division I-AA to low-level Division I-A.  And despite the large gap between the MAC and the NFL, Moss vowed to come to the pro game and “rip it up.”

He made good on that promise from the first game of his career.

Visiting the Metrodome, the Bucs opted not to use double coverage against the unproven player.  Four catches, 95 yards, two touchdowns, and a 31-7 score later, the Bucs wished they had.

2.  October 5, 1998.  At Green Bay.

The Packers, two-time defending NFC champions, hosted the upstart Vikings in a Monday night game at Lambeau Field.  It was widely expected that Brett Favre and company would put Moss and his cohorts in their place.

What unfolded instead was something former Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick would call a “game for the ages,” via the rookie’s official coming-out party on football’s national stage.

Moss racked up 190 yards on only five catches, adding two touchdowns in a 37-24 romp that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score suggested.

3.  November 26, 1998.  At Dallas.

Like many teams, the Cowboys made the mistake of passing on Moss in the first round of the 1998 draft.  Unlike every other team, the Cowboys told Moss they’d be picking him.

And so that huge shoulder chip Moss carried throughout his rookie season grew even bigger when he showed up in Texas Stadium and delivered three touchdowns on only three catches, averaging nearly 55 yards per reception.

Two of those came out of what would become routine — Moss running deep and coming up with the ball, even with one or two guys trying to keep it from happening.  The third featured Moss catching a short pass and then exploding down the sideline with the kind of burst rarely seen from someone whose hair isn’t on fire.

4.  December 12, 1999.  At Kansas City.

The Vikings of 1998 won 15 of 16 regular-season games, petering out in the NFC Championship at home.  The next season was, in comparison, disappointing, with the Vikings digging an early 1-2 hole and falling to 2-4 before waking up, thanks to the decision to bench Randall Cunningham and rely on Jeff George.

Traveling to Kansas City for a Sunday night game and clinging to playoff hopes with a 7-5 record, the Vikings fell behind the Chiefs, 21-0.  The Vikings tied the game in the third quarter at 21 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from George to Moss.  After a fumble by George was returned 44 yards for a touchdown and a fumble by Moss at the Chiefs’ seven with barely four minutes to play ended a scoring threat, the Vikings held the Chiefs.

Moss lined up deep, received the punt, and ran largely untouched 64 yards for the game-tying score.

But for a late field goal by the Chiefs to win the game, it would have been remembered as one of the biggest regular-season wins in Vikings history.

5.  October 1, 2000.  At Detroit.

On ESPN’s NFL Matchup, Merril Hoge became the first analyst to mention what many had noticed.  When the ball isn’t coming to Moss, he tends to loaf.

Moss responded that same week by catching seven passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-24 win at Detroit.

That’s the first time I’ve ever heard somebody criticize me,” Moss said after the game.

It wouldn’t be the last.  Ironically, however, it was Hoge who spoke out on behalf of Moss after Moss was criticized in 2009 for, you guessed it, loafing when the ball didn’t come his way.

6.  January 9, 2005.  At Green Bay.

Swept by the Packers via identical 34-31 scores during the season but back in the playoffs for the first time since a 41-0 Meltdown in the Meadowlands in January 2001, no one expected the Vikings to go to Lambeau and win.

But win they did, with Moss poofing out his afro and catching two touchdown passes, including the unforgettable faux mooning that left Joe Buck appalled and triggered a $10,000 fine.

And, of course, that fine gave rise to Randy’s “straight cash homey” catch phrase, along with an even more entertaining description of what his next touchdown celebration may entail.

7.  November 18, 2007.  At Buffalo.

The win over the Packers would be Moss’ last victory during his first stint with the Vikings.  Traded to Oakland in early 2005, Moss disappeared for two seasons.  With everyone assuming Moss was washed up, the Patriots stole him for a fourth-round draft pick during the 2007 draft.

And then Moss would only go on to have one of the greatest single seasons for any receiver of all time.

The highlight of the 23-touchdown effort came against the Bills.  For the first and only time in his career, Moss scored four touchdowns in one game, via 10 catches for 128 yards during a 56-10 romp.

8.  The 2008 season.

After quarterback Tom Brady suffered a torn ACL during the first game of the season, Moss could have mentally checked out.

But he didn’t.

Even though the Patriots ultimately failed to make the playoffs (despite winning 11 games), his decision to remain focused and committed with Matt Cassel at quarterback demonstrated a level of maturity that, unfortunately, was the exception and not the rule.  He’d finish with 11 touchdowns, less than half of his record-setting total in 2007, but Moss was a good soldier during what turned out to be a bad year.

9.  September 19, 2010.  At New York Jets.

Dubbed a “slouch” in the offseason by All Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, Moss got a chance to show Revis what a slouch can do.

Drawing single coverage from Darrelle with one minute to play in the first half of a 7-7 tie, Moss blew by Revis and made an incredible one-handed catch in the end zone.

Revis would reinjure a hamstring on the play and miss the second half of the eventual Jets win, plus the next two games.

10.  October 11, 2010.  At New York Jets.

Only three weeks later, Moss was back in New York for the first game of his second tour with the Vikings.

With Antonio Cromartie holding him in check for much of the game, Moss eventually got behind the coverage for a 37-yard rainbow from Brett Favre, his 500th career touchdown pass.

The play gave Vikings fans flashbacks to 1998, even though coach Brad Childress would dump Moss only three weeks later. . . .

Before Super Bowl XLII, Moss said he didn’t really know how he wanted to be remembered.  And that’s fitting, because many football fans don’t really know how they’ll remember him.  Even though I’ll remember plenty of the bad things, including a stubborn, play-when-I-wanna-play unwillingness to get the absolute most out of a God-given skill set that superseded even Jerry Rice’s, it will be hard to forget these 10 moments, along with plenty of other great things he did on the field.

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Darrell Bevell: Robert Turbin “understands his role”

Robert Turbin AP

Some teams use a running back-by-committee approach.

The Seahawks are not one of those teams.

Marshawn Lynch, of course, will get the vast majority of backfield snaps for Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX, and with good reason.

But even a back at the top of his game like Lynch needs a rest once in a while. And when that happens, the Seahawks turn to third-year pro Robert Turbin, who has carved a niche as the backup to Lynch.

The 25-year-old Turbin has been solid in limited opportunities for Seattle, gaining a little more than four yards per carry in 2014 in 83 rushing attempts over the regular season and postseason. He’s never missed a regular season or playoff game, and he’s lost just two fumbles in more than 300 touches on offense in that span.

At Wednesday’s media session, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell praised Turbin’s approach to the game.

“He does a great job. Number one, he understands his role and he embraces that role,” Bevell said, according to a transcript from the NFL. “He doesn’t gripe and complain about the role he is in. He is very prepared. If something happened and he had to play every snap, there would be no question that he would be able to get it done.

“He is a true professional who works hard at his craft. He tries to get better every day. No detail is too small for him. That is why you like guys like that in that role.”

Turbin’s role Sunday figures to be limited — around 10 snaps. But he’s earned that work, and he’s kept it for three seasons now. In a backfield where the starter dominates the carries, Turbin has nonetheless found a way to contribute.

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Pats could get Stork back for Super Bowl

Brady AP

The Patriots won the AFC title without the services of center Bryan Stork, who has a knee problem.  Injured in the divisional round against the Ravens, Stork could be back for Super Bowl XLIX.

According to the official injury report for Wednesday, Stork practiced on a limited basis.  Also practicing on a limited basis on Wednesday were linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), defensive tackle Chris Jones (elbow), and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga (foot).

Quarterback Tom Brady fully participated despite a lingering ankle issue.  His cold apparently isn’t severe enough to merit a mention in the injury report.

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Tyrann Mathieu shares secrets on how to stop Odell Beckham Jr.

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Wednesday’s star-studded edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN included an LSU mini-reunion.  Former Tigers Odell Beckham Jr. (now with the Giants) and Tyrann Mathieu (now with the Cardinals) joined the program to discuss, among other things, how to slow down Beckham.

Mathieu told Paul Burmeister the best way to do it is with a quick jam at the line of scrimmage.

“I think somebody in his face the entire game, it’ll probably give him some trouble,” Mathieu said.

Beckham agreed:  “It’s true, it’s true,” he said.

“That’s probably one of the things that I want to work on the most is just that press game.  I feel like if you can get that first five yards down, I feel very comfortable about the rest of my game,” Beckham said.

Mathieu then got a chance (sort of) to demonstrate when Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill showed up to throw a pass to Beckham.  To see the whole exchange, click below.

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Broncos hiring Joe Woods as defensive backs coach

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The Broncos have added an experienced defensive backs coach to their staff.

Joe Woods, who oversaw the Raiders’ secondary in 2014, has agreed to become Denver’s defensive backs coach, the team said Wednesday night.

The 44-year-old Woods has worked with NFL defensive backs the last 11 seasons. Before his season with Oakland, he had stints with Minnesota (2006-2013) and Tampa Bay (2004-2005).

The news of Woods’ addition comes on the same evening Denver reached a deal with Wade Phillips to become defensive coordinator.

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Seahawks head toward Super Bowl with minimal injuries

Marshawn AP

On Friday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll declared the shoulder injury to safety Earl Thomas to be “over.”  Technically, it isn’t.  As a practical matter, it is.

Thomas fully participated in the team’s “Competition Wednesday” practice session despite the shoulder injury.  Ditto for tackle Justin Britt (knee), running back Marshawn Lynch (back; pictured), cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow), and guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle).

No injured players practiced on a limited basis or not at all.

The Seahawks will place an official availability label on each player after Friday’s practice.  Barring a setback, it’s hard to imagine any of them to be less than probable.

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Broncos hiring Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator

Wade Phillips AP

Wade Phillips is back for a second tour with the Broncos.

Phillips has agreed to become Denver’s defensive coordinator, the team announced Wednesday night.

Phillips, 67, was the Texans’ defensive coordinator from 2011 through 2013, working with head coach Gary Kubiak, with whom he will team again in Denver.

Phillips’ hiring could signal changes ahead for the Broncos’ defense. A move to a 3-4 scheme is likely; the club employed a “40” front a season ago.

Phillips was the Broncos’ head coach from 1993 through 1994 after a four-season stint as their defensive coordinator (1989-1992). This is his eighth stint as an NFL defensive coordinator. In addition to his prior work in Denver and Houston, he oversaw defenses in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Atlanta and San Diego.

Phillips also has a solid resume as a head coach, posting an 83-69 record. He was 16-17 in his two seasons with Denver.

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Revis, Patriots not talking yet

Revis AP

In March, the $20 million in 2015 compensation due and owing to Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis becomes fully guaranteed.  If the Patriots can’t work out with Revis a new deal before then, they’ll have to decide whether to pay the money or to cut him.

Per a league source, negotiations have not yet commenced between the Patriots and Revis on a new deal that would replace the current one.  The starting point presumably will be a package that pays out at least $20 million in the first year.

If the Patriots aren’t willing to go that high, the question becomes whether other teams will be willing to offer more than what the Patriots would put on the table.  Any team that provides that information to the player’s agent engages in tampering; agents, however, call it “gauging the market” in order to better assess the player’s value.

Multiple teams are expected to be interested in Revis, if he becomes available.  Teams currently believed to be interested include the Jets, Bills, Chiefs, and Browns.

Some think that the tampering charges filed by the Patriots against the Jets, based on public comments made by owner Woody Johnson about his interest in re-signing Revis, were intended primarily to scare the Jets away from pursuing Revis.

Drafted in 2007, Revis was traded to the Buccaneers in 2013.  After one season in Tampa, the Bucs opted not to continue his year-to-year $16 million annual arrangement, due in large part to the shift in defensive philosophy to the Cover 2.  Revis then signed with the Patriots a contract that was viewed as a one-year deal for cap purposes, with a trigger aimed at forcing a new contract or putting Revis back on the market.

To keep Revis off the market, there’s a chance the Patriots will have to fork over 2.5 times the amount they’ll be paying to quarterback Tom Brady in 2015.

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Two more candidates for Eagles job didn’t interview

Chip Kelly AP

The list of folks still in the running for the vacant personnel executive position in Philly could be a lot shorter than the list of men either who said “no thanks” or whose teams said “no touchy.”

Per a league source, the list of men who have declined interviews for the job includes Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutenkunst and Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz.  Their teams either denied requests for permission or the candidates declined the opportunity.

Teams can deny permission because the job does not entail final say over the draft or the 53-man roster.

Earlier this month, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie promoted G.M. Howie Roseman to the position of executive V.P. of football operations, gave coach Chip Kelly full power over personnel, and authorized Kelly to hire his own table-setter from a player standpoint.  Kelly has not yet made a hire, and some believe the perception of a power struggle between Kelly and Roseman has caused some candidates to decide to avoid becoming essentially the buffer between the coach and the guy in charge of negotiating contracts.

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that uncertainty exists in the agent community regarding Roseman’s role.  That uncertainty will linger until Kelly’s right-hand man in hired — and possibly longer.

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Report: 49ers likely to hire Geep Chryst as offensive coordinator

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The 49ers are likely staying in-house to fill their offensive coordinator vacancy.

The club “is expected” to tab assistant Geep Chryst to oversee the offense, Albert Breer of NFL Media reported Wednesday night.

The 52-year-old Chryst was the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach the last four seasons. He was last an NFL offensive coordinator with the Chargers under Mike Riley in 1999 and 2000. Chryst also has been an offensive assistant with the Panthers (2006-2010) and Cardinals (1996-1998, 2001-2003).

The 49ers’ offense struggled in 2014, with San Francisco finishing 30th in passing yards and 25th in points. It will be interesting to see what changes Chryst makes after a tough season for a talent-laden attack. The progress of starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick bears watching, and some changes could come at the skill positions. Stalwart tailback Frank Gore and wideout Michael Crabtree are both slated to be free agents.

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Fred Jackson: Rex Ryan the right guy to get us over the hump

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Running back Fred Jackson has been with the Bills for the last nine years and he’s seen a lot of coaches come through the organization in that time.

The last of those coaches was Doug Marrone, who opted out of his contract after two years this month. Jackson, a Bills captain in 2014, said on PFT Live Wednesday that he received a mass text from Marrone about his decision and hasn’t heard anything else from the coach about his choice to leave the Bills.

Not that Jackson seems to mind the result of the change all that much. Mike Florio asked Jackson about Rex Ryan and the veteran running back said he thinks Ryan’s the man to get the Bills back into the playoffs.

“I’m extremely excited about it. Rex is Rex. Everybody knows who he is. He’s a boisterous coach that’s gonna come in and have things go his way,” Jackson said. “Teams usually take on the persona of their coaches. I think he’s gonna give us the push we need to get over this hump. We went 9-7, the best we finished in 10 years, and I think he’s going to be the guy that gets us over that hump.”

Given the histories of Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Jackson should be in line for plenty of work in 2015 whether or not C.J. Spiller re-signs with the team. The 2014 history for both coaches speaks to the need of strong quarterback play to balance out the work on even the strongest work on the ground, however.

Jackson also outlined an unlikely career path from Coe College and the Sioux City Bandits to NFL Europe and the Bills that includes cameos from Marv Levy and 49ers coach Jim Tomsula during his visit with Florio, which you can check out in its entirety below.

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Prop Challenge, Day VI — Over-Under on LeGarrette Blount’s rushing attempts: 13.5

LeGarrette Blount AP

Leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, we’ll take a closer look at one proposition bet per day, something we’ve dubbed PFT’s Prop Challenge.

Here’s the idea: we present a prop, do some light analysis, then let you decide which side to take — hypothetically, of course. (Previous examples are at the bottom of this post.)

When the Super Bowl wraps up, we’ll tally the votes and see how well PFT Planet did.

Now, let’s get to today’s prop, which is courtesy of oddsmaker William Hill U.S.:

Over-Under on Patriots tailback LeGarrette Blount’s Super Bowl carries: 13.5.

Over: -110. Under: -110.

When the Patriots and Seahawks met last back in 2012, the Patriots threw 58 passes and attempted 26 rushes. The Patriots played at a quick pace, stuffing 85 plays into 34 minutes. Overall, New England ran one play per 24 seconds.

The question is, will the Pats employ a similar approach this time around? If so, Shane Vereen, not Blount, could be New England’s key back.

On the other hand, if the Patriots have a more balanced attack, then the 6-foot, 250-pound Blount could be busy. He might not get, say, the 30 carries he had vs. Indianapolis in the AFC title game, but clearing 13.5 carries could well be within his reach. If the Patriots want to stick with the run, then Blount will be the back they lean upon.

Blount has only twice received more than 13.5 carries since returning to New England in November, but the oddsmaker’s total seems appropriate. After all, Blount has taken 78.6 percent of the Patriots’ tailback carries in the postseason (33-of-42).

In short, the prop probably comes down to how you see the game playing out. If New England gets ahead, Blount will be busy. If New England falls behind  . . . well, OVER 13.5 carries could be in trouble.

Furthermore, this is a prop that Seattle fans should have a feel for, too. They know their team’s defense well. Can New England establish the run? Will it even try?

Cast your votes and let us know in the comments.

Previous props studied:

Day I: Over-Under on Brandon LaFell’s receiving yards.

Day II: Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s catches.

Day III: Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown?

Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD in the Super Bowl?

Day V: Over-Under on Tim Wright’s receiving yards.

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Lynch is already among the all-time great postseason runners

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch runs for a first down against the Redskins during their NFL NFC wildcard playoff game in Landover Reuters

Everyone is talking about Marshawn Lynch not talking this week. Which means no one is talking about what Lynch does best, which is run with the ball in his hands, particularly in the playoffs.

That’s too bad, because Lynch has already put together one of the all-time great postseason resumes of any running back in NFL history.

Lynch’s record of postseason runs starts, of course, with the Beast Quake. On January 8, 2011, in Lynch’s first career postseason game, he destroyed the Saints’ defense on his way to a 67-yard touchdown run to seal the Seahawks’ win late in the fourth quarter. Some people consider that the best run in NFL history.

But that game, in which Lynch carried 19 times for 131 yards, was far from Lynch’s only big postseason game. From that postseason debut through his 157-yard day against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, Lynch has topped 100 yards in the playoffs five times, and topped 130 yards four times. Only former Broncos running back Terrell Davis, with five 130-yard playoff games, has reached 130 yards in the postseason more often than Lynch.

Players on the Patriots understand what they’re up against when they’re up against Beast Mode.

“I’ve said many times I think he’s the best back in the game,” Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said today. “With the ball in his hands, catching the ball, running the ball, blocking, yards after contact, you name it. All those areas he leads. He’s amazing when he gets the ball in his hands.”

Added Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, “Marshawn Lynch is a guy that could run through and run over your whole defense if you let him.”

If Lynch does run over the Patriots’ whole defense, he may add a Super Bowl MVP award to his already great postseason resume. Lynch may just go down as the best big-game running back ever.

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Raiders still don’t have a defensive coordinator

Todd Grantham AP

At this point in the offseason, teams without full coaching staffs are scrambling a bit.

Now the Raiders are looking for another defensive coordinator.

According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is staying in college.

He had been offered a two-year deal to take the same job with the Raiders, but apparently decided to stay put.

Whether that’s a bad thing for the Raiders is open to interpretation, but being turned down by a college coach is a bad look for an organization trying to overcome a tradition of bad football and bad decisions.

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Report: Nathaniel Hackett to be Jaguars quarterbacks coach

Blake Bortles, A.J. Bouye AP

The Rams interviewed Nathaniel Hackett in their search for a new offensive coordinator, but it looks like he’ll be coaching elsewhere in 2015.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Hackett has pulled his name from consideration in St. Louis and will be joining Gus Bradley’s staff in Jacksonville. Per Rapoport, Hackett is expected be the team’s quarterbacks coach.

Moving the Jacksonville would allow Hackett to continue working with Doug Marrone, who hired Hackett as his offensive coordinator at Syracuse and again with the Bills when Marrone was a head coach. Marrone will be working with the offensive line in Jacksonville while Greg Olson runs the offense.

The move will give Hackett another chance to work with a young quarterback after spending the last two years tutoring Bills 2013 first-round pick EJ Manuel. Manuel was benched after four games in 2014, a development that the Jaguars presumably don’t want to see happen with Blake Bortles in his second season.

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Benson’s former heirs want him to undergo psychological tests

Benson Getty Images

The bizarre family feud that has clouded the future of the Saints has taken another strange turn, which for this story is saying something.

According to Andy Grimm of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the daugher and grandchildren of Saints owner Tom Benson have asked a judge to order a psychological evaluation of the 87-year-old.

The court filing cites “a pattern of bizarre behavior,” by Benson, and they want to have him evaluated by a geriatric psychology specialist.

This is the latest in a string of filings from his daughter and grandchildren, after he took control of his sports teams and assets away from them and put them in the hands of his wife Gayle Benson.

Stay tuned, as this story only promises to get weirder and weirder.

 

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