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NFL morning after: What a crazy Sunday

Ravens' Boldin eludes Cowboys' Carr for a first down in the first half of their NFL football game in Baltimore Reuters

Was it even possible to follow all of the action in the NFL this Sunday?

If you were watching the Lions come from behind and beat the Eagles in overtime, did that make you miss the Cowboys’ failed comeback in Baltimore, where Dallas missed a game-winning field goal as time expired? Maybe you were watching the undefeated Falcons need a 55-yard field goal with one second left to beat a surprisingly game Raiders team. But if you were, did you miss the Dolphins improve to 3-3 with a surprisingly stout defense and a surprisingly effective rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill? And if you watched the Browns get their first win of the year, how were you supposed to follow along as the Jets blew out the Colts and made a statement that they’re a serious team, not a circus?

And that’s just some of the early-afternoon action. In the late afternoon games, the other New York team made a statement as the Giants pounded the 49ers. But if you were watching that game, you missed an absolutely amazing sequence of events — Russell Wilson throwing the second of his two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to lead the Seahawks over the Patriots, Robert Griffin III running for a 76-yard touchdown to seal the Redskins’ win over the Vikings and Jay Feely missing a 39-yard game-winning field goal, just moments after he had made a 61-yard field goal to force overtime for the Cardinals in a game they’d ultimately lose to the Bills — that all happened almost simultaneously.

This was an amazing Sunday of NFL action, but that’s what we’ve grown accustomed to. Week in and week out, the NFL is the best program on television. The NFL’s drama is more compelling than anything anyone could script. And we’ve still got 11 more regular-season Sundays to go.

Here are my other thoughts on the wild day in the NFL:

What Madden Curse? Lions receiver Calvin Johnson was the cover boy for this year’s Madden video game, but there’s no evidence of any curse. In Sunday’s win over the Eagles, Johnson caught six passes for 135 yards, and he’s now on pace for 1,786 this season — more than 100 yards better than his league-leading total last year. If anyone can kill the Madden Curse, it’s Megatron.

The NFL uniform police are pretty silly. Colts receiver Reggie Wayne wore orange gloves last week because orange is the color used to denote leukemia awareness, and Wayne wanted to honor coach Chuck Pagano, who’s battling leukemia. This week ESPN reported that the NFL told Wayne he couldn’t wear the orange gloves anymore. I realize uniforms are supposed to be, well, uniform, but there’s no reason that during a month when the league is painting everything pink for breast cancer awareness, there’s no reason they couldn’t have allowed Wayne to keep wearing the orange gloves.

Rookie quarterbacks continue to impress. It’s stunning how good these rookie passers are. Seattle’s Russell Wilson had 293 passing yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 133.7 passer rating — the highest passer rating of any quarterback in any game on Sunday afternoon — in a win over New England. Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns as the Browns beat the Bengals. Ryan Tannehill completed 21 of 29 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions as the Dolphins beat the Rams. Robert Griffin III had about as good a running game as you’ll ever see from a quarterback, gaining 138 yards and two touchdowns, as the Redskins beat the Vikings. The Colts’ Andrew Luck was the one rookie quarterback who didn’t lead his team to a win this week, but as we discussed last week, he’s already shown plenty of reasons to believe that he’s going to be an excellent quarterback for many years. There was a time when quarterbacks coming out of college needed some time to adjust to the pro game, but that time has passed. These rookie quarterbacks are ready to play, and play well, right now.

Larry Fitzgerald’s amazing career continues. Fitzgerald’s 93 receiving yards put him at 10,045 yards for his career. At 29 years and 44 days old, Fitzgerald has joined Randy Moss as the only receivers to top 10,000 yards before turning 30. What’s really impressive about Fitzgerald, however, is that he has played most of his career with subpar quarterbacks. Other than a few years with Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald has been stuck with the Josh McCowns, Matt Leinarts, Derek Andersons, Kevin Kolbs and John Skeltons of the world. To put up numbers like Fitzgerald while playing with quarterbacks like that is remarkable. It’s also remarkable that Fitzgerald has remained a perfect teammate who never, ever complains that the Cardinals’ quarterbacks aren’t getting the job done.

The Patriots’ pass defense is a mess. After giving up six passing plays of 20 or more yards in Sunday’s loss to Seattle, the Patriots have now given up 33 such passing plays so far this season — by far the most of any team in the NFL. New England’s secondary just isn’t good enough, and if Bill Belichick can’t get it straightened out, I have a hard time seeing New England winning a playoff game against a good quarterback.

The Packers aren’t going down without a fight. The Texans entered Sunday looking like the best team in the league. The Packers took it to them on Sunday night in Houston. Coming off a disappointing loss to the Colts last week, the Packers needed to play their best game of the season. And that’s exactly what they did.

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Packers sign punter Cody Mandell

Cody Mandell AP

The Packers have added a punter to their offseason roster.

Green Bay has signed Cody Mandell, who appeared in one preseason game for Dallas in 2014.

An Alabama product, the 22-year-old Mandell signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in May. He posted a 47.1-yard gross average in his final season with the Crimson Tide in 2013.

Mandell’s signing gives the Packers two punters on the roster, which expands to 90 players in the offseason. Incumbent punter Tim Masthay posted a career-low 37.0-yard net average in 2014, which ranked 30th among qualifying punters. However, it’s often common for clubs to carry an extra kicker and punter in the offseason to take some practice reps and as insurance against injury.

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Brent Grimes’s wife goes off on the NFL

brentgrimes AP

Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes played well in the Pro Bowl on Sunday, but he was not named the game’s Most Valuable Player. That has Grimes’s wife very unhappy.

As a result, Miko Grimes went off on an epic Twitter rant against the NFL on Monday afternoon, starting off with complaints about Grimes missing out on the Pro Bowl MVP award but then veering toward discussions of more serious issues like domestic violence and concussions.

Miko Grimes started by saying that she believes the reason Brent Grimes wasn’t named Pro Bowl MVP is that he took a day off from Pro Bowl practice to be with her while she had emergency oral surgery. Miko said Brent asked coach Jason Garrett for permission to miss the practice and that the permission was granted, but that the NFL was angry at Grimes and froze him out of the MVP award as a result.

Of course, it could just be that another Pro Bowler, J.J. Watt, also had an excellent game, and he was chosen as the defensive MVP as a result. But Miko Grimes sees something much more sinister at play. In a series of profane tweets, Miko Grimes lashed out at the NFL for what she sees as hypocrisy, and she said that she has information about violations of the league’s concussion policies.

Miko Grimes also wants fans to know that players’ contracts aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be, because players can be cut long before they earn the full value of their contracts.

And Miko Grimes is warning the NFL that if her husband isn’t treated properly, she’ll air the league’s dirty laundry.

Roger Goodell, you’ve been warned. You don’t want to get on Miko Grimes’s bad side.

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Seahawks say Falcons are getting a great coach in Dan Quinn

Dan Quinn AP

Boy, to listen to Seattle players talk about defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, it’s almost like he already has a job or something.

Oh, wait, he does, it just hasn’t been announced.

The wink-nod reality that Quinn is going to be the new boss in Atlanta (though he technically can’t agree to a deal while the Seahawks are still playing) is evident in the word choices of his Seahawks players.

They are getting a great coach,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said of the Falcons, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I think he’s done a great job of focusing on the task at hand which is to win the Super Bowl,” Wagner said on Monday. “I know that he’s got bigger endeavors on down the line, but he’s approached it like we need to win this game.”

Wagner and defensive end Cliff Avril praised Quinn’s communication skills.

“DQ is awesome,” Avril said. “He’s a coach you can go and talk to at any time if you have any concerns about any plays or how your position is supposed to play it or whatever. . . .

“He’ll cater to you if need be, if that’s not going to hurt the defense. He’s just someone you can go talk to and break film down with.”

The Falcons need more than a motivator and an X-and-O guy, however. They’ll need players on defense if Quinn is going to have the kind of success they think he will.

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Tedy Bruschi rips Marty Hurney for “culture of cheating” remarks

AFC Championship - Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Getty Images

Former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi taking up for his former co-workers isn’t exactly a surprise.

But Bruschi went after a fellow ESPN contributor, dismissing former Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney’s comments from last week as sour grapes.

Hurney, an occasional contributor on ESPN’s Insiders, openly questioned whether #DeflateGate was just the latest in what he described as “a culture of cheating.”

“There are just certain opinions about the New England Patriots out there because somebody’s team got beat,” Bruschi said during his weekly spot on WEEI, via ESPNBoston.com. “Marty Hurney, your team got beat [in Super Bowl XXXVIII]. That’s all it is. Move on. But you want to talk about and you want to bring it up because you need some reason why as to why you were beat. But this is the reason why: you were outcoached and you were outplayed. …

“We won, that’s the bottom line. And that [Patriots] team is still continuing to win and people want their own justification as to why. Why? You were outcoached, you were outplayed. End of story.”

Actually, that would be the end, if things such as Spygate and #DeflateGate hadn’t happened since the Patriots beat the Panthers in 2004.

But Hurney’s questions were ones shared far beyond Carolina, as the Patriots have frankly made it easy to be skeptical.

But Bruschi passionately defended coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady,

“I think it’s a very difficult position for me to be on set [at ESPN] with certain people that said certain things that of course I was listening to and I heard,” Bruschi said. “Every man is entitled to their opinion. I disagree with them as strongly as I possibly can because I’ve been in this organization for 13 years.

“Tom Brady, I know. Bill Belichick, I know. If vouch is the word, vouch is the word I’ll use. I vouch for these guys. I know their character. There isn’t anything more that they can do or they can say in terms of what they know what happened.”

While successful people are always targets, the Patriots have through deed and defiance brought more scrutiny on themselves.

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Report: Rams L.A. plans met with “quiet applause” by NFL

Stan Kroenke AP

The news that Rams owner Stan Kroeneke’s plans to build a football stadium in Los Angeles have been met with a variety of public reactions from other owners, but a new report indicates that the private response inside the league office has been positive.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that Kroenke’s plan to build a stadium in Inglewood with designs on the Rams moving there in the near future was met by “quiet applause” at the league office. One league source told Breer that “we’re beginning to see the goal line” in the league’s efforts to return to Los Angeles.

Per Breer, the plan was proposed to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in December and should take two steps forward this week. The first was the Rams providing notice to St. Louis on Monday that they will go year-to-year on their lease at the Edward Jones Dome and the other is the presentation of 8,500 signatures on a petition to Inglewood to set up a public vote on rezoning 238 acres of land around 60 owned by Kroenke so that all of it is zoned for a stadium.

St. Louis is still trying to keep the Rams and are working on plans for a new stadium, but they have to sort out financing and the Rams seem disinterested about working with local officials about getting a deal done in Missouri.

Breer reports that Kroenke is “amenable” to another team playing at the stadium, something that could help get three-quarters of the other owners to give a green light to a move for the 2016 season although Kroenke is reportedly prepared to move the team with or without such approval.

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Broncos announce a couple of assistants

Broncos practice at Dove Valley Getty Images

John Fox landed in Chicago as the new head coach of the Bears shortly after parting ways with the Broncos, who have hired a member of last year’s Bears staff as their new linebackers coach.

Reggie Herring will be making the opposite trip from the one Fox took earlier this month to join Gary Kubiak’s staff in Denver. It’s a reunion for Herring and Kubiak, who spent three years together when Kubiak was the head coach in Houston and Herring coached the linebackers. Herring has also worked for the Cowboys and at the University of Arkansas over a 25-year coaching career.

Herring joins defensive line coach Bill Kollar, tight ends coach Brian Pariani and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison as former Texans assistants to rejoin their old boss in Denver.

The team also confirmed that Clancy Barone will be their offensive line coach. Barone is a holdover from Fox’s staff, although he’ll be shifting from working with tight ends to working in his new role. Barone was also the Broncos’ offensive line coach in 2010, but worked with the tight ends during Fox’s four years as the head coach in Denver.

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Ted Wells says #DeflateGate investigation won’t be a quick one

Winter Weather Massachusetts AP

So much for having #DeflateGate tied up in a neat little bow before Super Bowl XLIX kicks off.

Ted Wells, who is leading the league’s investigation, said it will be some time before he’s ready to release any findings about the fluctuations in ball pressure heard round the world.

“We are in the process of conducting a thorough investigation on the issue of the footballs used in the AFC Championship,” Wells said in a statement. “This work began last week, stretched through the weekend, and is proceeding expeditiously this week notwithstanding the Super Bowl.  We are following customary investigative procedures and no one should draw any conclusions about the sequence of interviews or any other steps, all of which are part of the process of doing a thorough and fair investigation.

“I expect the investigation to take at least several more weeks. In the interim, it would be best if everyone involved or potentially involved in this matter avoids public comment concerning the matter until the investigation is concluded. The results will be shared publicly.

That’s no surprise, as the league isn’t commenting on the latest round of reports, including Jay Glazer’s that the investigation has zeroed in on a Patriots ball boy.

So until that time, be prepared for more installments of PSI: New England, which threatens to overshadow the game everybody’s waiting to see this weekend.

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Prop Challenge, Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD on Sunday?

Marshawn Lynch 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 turn it over to you to vote upon which side you would 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 Super Bowl XLIX’s shortest touchdown: 1.5 yards.

Over: +115 (lay $10 to win $11.50).

Under: -135 (lay $13.50 to win $10).

This prop boils down to one question: Will there be a one-yard touchdown in the Super Bowl?

Let’s consider some data.

Per Pro Football Reference, there have been 1,246 touchdowns scored in regular-season and postseason play in 2014.

Of those 1,246 TDs, 195 scores were one-yard long — about 15.7 percent.

Twelve of those scores have come in the first 10 postseason games of 2014, with New England tallying two and Seattle tallying one.

On average, about 4.7 touchdowns per game were scored this season, per PFR’s data, with 0.73 touchdowns of one yard per contest.

Finally, per the PFR database, there have been 42 one-yard TDs in Super Bowl history, including Seattle tailback Marshawn Lynch’s score last season.

So now, it’s up to you. Will the shortest TD in Super Bowl XLIX be OVER or UNDER 1.5 yards? The poll is open, as are the comments.

The floor is yours.

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?

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Bills hire Chris Palmer as senior offensive assistant

Tennessee Titans 2011 Headshots

The Bills have brought on an experienced offensive coach to help them develop EJ Manuel or another quarterback during the 2015 season.

The team announced Monday that Chris Palmer will join Rex Ryan’s staff as a senior offensive assistant. Palmer was the first head coach of the revived Browns in 1999 and has also served as the offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach for the Titans, Giants, Cowboys, Texans, Patriots and the USFL’s New Jersey Generals over the course of his long career.

Buffalo also announced that former NFL safety Michael Hamlin has been hired as the special teams quality control coach and that wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal and defensive assistant D’Anton Lynn will follow Rex Ryan from the Jets. The team also announced the previously reported hires of offensive line coach Aaron Kromer and assistant head coach/running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

Assistant offensive line coach Kurt Anderson, defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson, outside linebackers coach Jason Rebrovich and offensive quality control coach Jason Vrable will return after spending the 2014 season on Doug Marrone’s staff.

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League has no comment on latest Deflategate development

Super Bowl Football AP

The news that the NFL has zeroed in on a Patriots locker room attendant as the key person of interest in the Deflategate controversy has been met with silence from the league office.

After Jay Glazer of FOX Sports broke the latest development in the ongoing controversy, PFT reached out to the league office for a response. The NFL’s response was only that “we are not commenting on any aspects of the investigation.”

The very existence of an ongoing investigation gives the league an excuse to provide “no comment” answers. That may be one of the reasons that the league hired Ted Wells to undergo a thorough and deliberate investigation. The league would much prefer to be talking about the Super Bowl this week, and so all Deflategate questions will surely be met with similar “no comment” answers from Commissioner Roger Goodell and everyone else at the league office.

But just because the league won’t talk doesn’t mean there won’t continue to be developments. Glazer’s report that the league has interviewed the Patriots locker room attendant, and that he allegedly took footballs from the officials’ locker room after they had been inspected and approved and brought them to another area of the stadium before the game started, will have people talking at Media Day.

Even if the league office has nothing to say.

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Raiders re-sign S Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson AP

Charles Woodson is returning for a third season in his second stint with Oakland.

The Raiders announced Monday they had signed Woodson to a new deal covering the 2015 season.

The Raiders’ starting free safety, Woodson notched 113 tackles and intercepted four passes in 2014, his 17th NFL season. He turns 39 in October.

The No. 4 overall pick in the 1998 draft, Woodson played his first eight NFL seasons with Oakland before signing with Green Bay in 2006. Woodson went on to have a splendid seven-season run with the Packers, highlighted by Green Bay’s victory in Super Bowl XLV.

Woodson ranks 11th all-time in career interceptions (60).

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Report: NFL investigation has “zeroed in” on Patriots locker room attendant

Bill Belichick Blinds NFL WIth Science On Deflategate Getty Images

Last week, the NFL released a statement saying they were continuing their investigation into under-inflated footballs used by the Patriots during their AFC Championship game victory over the Colts to determine if the deflation was “the result of deliberate action” by the Patriots.

Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady both denied any knowledge of what happened and Belichick offered up an explanation via scientific experimentation on Saturday, but Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports that the league has “zeroed in” on a team employee in their investigation.

Per Glazer, the league has interviewed a Patriots locker room attendant who allegedly took footballs from the officials locker room after they had been inspected and approved “to another area on way to field” before the start of the game. There’s reportedly video of this attendant with the balls, although Glazer adds that the league’s investigators are “still gauging” if the attendant, called a “strong person of interest,” had anything to do with the deflation.

The Patriots are on their way to Arizona right now. If anyone’s betting on the first question Belichick gets asked after arrival, it would probably be unwise to bet on anything other than Glazer’s report.

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Brandon Browner on Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman: Hit that shoulder, hit that elbow

Brandon Browner AP

Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner is in a very different position this year than he was at this point in 2014.

Browner was a member of the Seahawks, but he wasn’t getting ready to play in the Super Bowl because he was serving a suspension. During an interview with Josina Anderson of ESPN, Browner discussed how difficult it was to sit and watch his teammates beat the Broncos and how he didn’t feel like part of the festivities once they became champions.

Browner told Anderson he made a promise to himself to get back to the Super Bowl to remedy that feeling. Browner says he has no hard feelings for the Seahawks and remains friends with his fellow defensive backs, but that’s not stopping him from advising his teammates to go after Seahawks safety Earl Thomas’s injured shoulder or cornerback Richard Sherman’s injured elbow.

“At the end of the day, this is about the Super Bowl. I’m gonna tell my teammates ‘go hit that elbow,go hit that shoulder,'” Browner said. “Hit it, yeah. Try to break it if you can. You can be my best friend after the game but, at the end of the day, I know you want the Super Bowl just as bad as I do.”

Sherman practiced all of last week and Thomas returned to work on Friday, so they should both be on the field for the Patriots to attack this Sunday.

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Perry Fewell on to Washington in search for new job

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

When the Redskins were looking for a head coach in 2014, they interviewed Perry Fewell before hiring Jay Gruden.

Fewell was defensive coordinator of the Giants at the time, a job he lost at the end of the 2014 season thanks to a dismal performance by his unit on the way to a 6-10 finish. That’s left him in search of a new job and put him on the interview list for a different job in Washington.

Jordan Raanan of NJ.com reports that Fewell is interviewing for the defensive backs job on the staff of new coordinator Joe Barry. Raheem Morris had been in that role, but he’s reportedly agreed to a job in Atlanta. Fewell was a defensive backs coach before making the move to coordinator with the Bills in 2006.

Fewell also interviewed for a job on the 49ers staff and John Keim of ESPN.com reports that he’s making the trip to Washington with an offer from the team in his pocket. It would appear, then, that Fewell will be on someone’s staff come the start of next season.

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Michael Bennett: Gronk is NFL’s No. 2 tight end, after my brother

Michael Bennett AP

Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett says there’s only one tight end in the NFL better than Rob Gronkowski: Martellus Bennett.

Martellus, the Bears’ tight end, is Michael’s brother. So it’s probably safe to say that Michael is a little biased on that evaluation.

“I think Gronkowski’s the second-best tight end. My brother’s first, obviously,” Michael Bennett said.

Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane said last week that he doesn’t think Gronkowski is very good, but Bennett doesn’t agree with that.

“His body’s pretty good,” Bennett said of Gronk. “He’s a good blocker. I think he does great. I think his run-after-catch is second to none. I think he has great hands. He’s just a great player, honestly.”

Everyone except Lane would agree that Gronk is a great player. Even if Bennett can’t go quite so far as to call him the best tight end in the NFL.

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