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NFL morning after: How I learned to stop worrying and love overtime

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans Getty Images

I used to think that I, and I alone, knew the perfect solution to the question of how overtime games should be decided. Nine years ago this week, I wrote about my proposal to reduce the importance of the coin toss in the NFL’s system of sudden-death overtime. I called it splitting the overtime pizza, and I was sure that I had come up with the original and perfect solution for overtime, by letting one team choose the yard line for the overtime kickoff, and then letting the other team choose whether to kick or receive.

There were a couple of problems with my original and perfect idea: One was that it wasn’t original, as I later learned that others had proposed similar overtime solutions. The other is that it must not have been perfect, because no matter how hard I tried to explain that my system was the fairest method of resolving a game that’s tied at the end of regulation, I usually just got confused looks when I talked about it.

Still, I soldiered on, and as the NFL adjusted its system of overtime, tweaking the pure sudden-death format and eliminating the ability to win on a field goal on the first possession, I would stubbornly insist to anyone who would listen (a diminishing number of people) that my way of overtime was the better way.

And then I sat there watching the three overtime games going on simultaneously at 4:30 on Sunday afternoon, thinking to myself that I couldn’t remember the last time I enjoyed an afternoon of football so much, and I realized I had been hoist with my own petard.

Yes, the NFL’s overtime system is wonderful.

The new rule, which largely keeps the sudden death format but adds the provision that a team can’t win with a field goal on the opening possession, really is the best of both worlds. It has the excitement of knowing that the game can end on any play, which was always the best part of sudden death, but it gets rid of the games when the team that receives the overtime kickoff just picks up a few first downs and plays it safe as soon as it gets into field goal range, which was always the worst part of sudden death. That change to sudden death overtime, which the NFL implemented for the playoffs two years ago and expanded to include the regular season this year, adds a strategic element and just generally makes overtime more fun.

It was a lot of fun on Sunday, when three of the eight early afternoon games went into overtime and we got to see three different ways that an overtime game can end:

1. The Texans became the first team in NFL history to score twice in overtime: Houston received the overtime kickoff and marched down the field on a 14-play, 73-yard drive that culminated with a field goal, which under the old rules would have ended the game — and the old rules would have deprived us of a great overtime period after that. The Jaguars received the ensuing kickoff and went on an 11-play, 53-yard drive that culminated in a field goal of their own. That tied the game, and from there the next score would win. We then saw a wild sequence in which Texans quarterback Matt Schaub threw an interception, which was followed by the Jaguars getting stopped for no gain on four straight plays and turning the ball over on downs, which was followed by Schaub hitting Andre Johnson for a game-winning 48-yard touchdown pass.

2. The Buccaneers received the overtime kickoff and were forced by the new rules to try to score a touchdown, rather than settling for a field goal. The Buccaneers were in field goal range after four plays, but they didn’t settle for a field goal right then and there, instead running four more plays and winning the game on the opening possession with a touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to Dallas Clark.

3. The Cowboys and Browns traded punts on their opening drives, but the Cowboys had won the field position battle by driving 39 yards on their opening possession and then punting deep into Cleveland territory and holding the Browns’ offense to three-and-out. Once each team had possessed the ball, it was sudden death from there, and on the third drive of overtime, the Cowboys needed to go just 28 yards to set up Dan Bailey’s 38-yard game-winning field goal.

When I watched all three of those thrilling overtime endings back-to-back-to-back, it was impossible not to love the way the NFL does overtime. Sunday afternoons don’t get much better than that.

The three simultaneous overtimes were my favorite part of Sunday’s NFL action. Here are my other thoughts:

Give Rex Ryan credit. After a week in which the NFL media wrote the Jets off for dead, called their locker room a circus and generally acted like they were the biggest joke in the NFL, Rex Ryan had his team playing very hard in a 27-13 win at St. Louis. This Jets team has all kinds of problems on offense, but Ryan has always done two things very well as a coach: Design defensive game plans, and get his team to play hard when their backs are against the wall. The 4-6 Jets probably aren’t going to make a playoff run — losing Darrelle Revis for the season was devastating to the defense, and the talent on offense just isn’t there — but Ryan isn’t driving a clown car. He’s running a football team and doing a pretty good job of it.

Ken Whisenhunt’s failure to figure out the quarterback position will be his undoing. It’s surprising that Whisenhunt, who was known as a smart offensive schemer during his time as an assistant coach, has so thoroughly botched the quarterback position during his tenure as a head coach. Early in his tenure as the Cardinals’ head coach, Whisenhunt failed to see what should have been obvious, which is that Kurt Warner is a much better quarterback than Matt Leinart. Eventually Whisenhunt realized Warner was the man for the job, and Warner got the Cardinals to a Super Bowl. But after Warner retired, Whisenhunt again failed to find a quarterback, playing musical chairs among Derek Anderson, John Skelton and Max Hall, before the Cardinals made the disastrous decision to trade for Kevin Kolb. Whisenhunt’s latest decision at quarterback was to bench Skelton on Sunday in favor of Ryan Lindley, who proceeded to throw away an early lead, completing nine of 20 passes for 64 yards and losing a fumble that was run back for an Atlanta touchdown. After the defense carried the Cardinals to a 4-0 start, the Cardinals have now lost six in a row, and Whisenhunt is in jeopardy of losing his job because he couldn’t find anyone to play quarterback.

The Eagles have given up on the season. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is a great talent, but the Eagles’ defense made him look like Joe Montana as he completed 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards and four touchdowns. Philadelphia coach Andy Reid is about to get fired, and the Eagles have a whole lot of guys who look like they don’t care.

What was Belichick thinking? Deep in the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ 59-24 win over the Colts, coach Bill Belichick kept many of the Patriots’ most important players on the field, even though the game was out of reach. I’m baffled that Belichick would expose key players like Tom Brady (who was throwing passes with a 28-point lead late in the fourth quarter) and Rob Gronkowski (who broke his arm on the Patriots’ last extra point) to injury at a time when the Patriots already had the game locked up. Brady emerged from the game unscathed, but Gronkowski’s injury is a major blow to the offense. With the Patriots having a quick turnaround before playing the Jets on Thanksgiving, Belichick should be resting his players, not working them overtime. Leave the overtime to the teams that have to play overtime, coach.

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Harbaugh: Jonathan Martin has “done an excellent job of getting the job done”

Jonathan Martin AP

The 49ers’ initial 53-player roster has just seven available offensive linemen — five starters and two backups. One of those reserves is ex-Dolphin Jonathan Martin, who will back up both tackle spots and could also be asked to play guard in a pinch.

In a conference call with media on Saturday, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh called Martin an “example of someone who’s really earned the position” on the club’s roster.

“He’s been mainly playing tackle, but he has the ability to play guard and going forward that will be something that he’ll continue to learn and be good at,” Harbaugh said, according to an interview transcript from the club. “I feel very good about it. He’s done an excellent job of getting the job done.”

The 25-year-old Martin started seven games for Miami in 2013 before leaving the club amid allegations he had been bullied. He started all four preseason games this summer in place of right tackle Anthony Davis, who sat out the exhibition slate after spring shoulder surgery.

Harbaugh said Martin has transitioned well to life with the 49ers, who acquired him in March.

“It’s all been very good. We’re very fortunate to have him and excited about it,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh was non-committal Saturday on Davis’ status for the season opener against Dallas. Martin, who’s started all 23 NFL regular season games in which he’s played, would be the next man up. And given how last season ended for Martin, it’s a nice accomplishment to have earned a backup role for a team that had no starting offensive tackle spots available.

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Michael Sam expects “a long and successful career”

michaelsam AP

Shortly after he was released by the Rams, Michael Sam said he sees today as just a minor setback.

Sam wrote on Twitter that he still believes he’s going to make it in the NFL, even if he didn’t make the Rams’ 53-man roster after today’s final cuts.

“I want to thank the entire Rams organization and the city of St. Louis for giving me this tremendous opportunity and allowing me to show I can play at this level. I look forward to continuing to build on the progress I made here toward a long and successful career,” Sam wrote.

Sam played well enough in the preseason that he has a chance to get picked up on waivers by some other NFL team. If so, he’ll be on a 53-man roster heading into Week One of the NFL season.

If Sam isn’t claimed on waivers, he may be signed to the Rams’ practice squad, or he could end up on another team’s practice squad. So Sam will likely get another opportunity to try to make it in the NFL. Even if he fell short on his first opportunity.

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All 32 teams are down to 53 players

maurkice AP

The toughest day of the year for NFL players on the roster bubble has come and gone, and all 32 teams are now down to the 53-player roster limit.

About 700 players were released, placed on injured reserve or otherwise removed from active rosters today, and we have all their names in our 53-man roster tracker. Those who remain are on 53-man rosters.

But those rosters are not final, and this weekend’s business in the NFL isn’t done: Dozens of waiver claims and free agent signings will happen on Sunday, and that means dozens more players will have to be cut to make room for those players who are changing teams.

And then teams will begin assembling their practice squads, with about 300 of the players who were cut today finding out that they’ll have jobs in the NFL after all, albeit jobs that don’t pay quite as well as active-roster spots.

Bottom line: It’s been a busy day. And it’s just the start of a busy NFL weekend. And just the appetizer for next week’s much more fun NFL weekend.

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Raiders the last team to announce cuts, such that it matters

Oakland Raiders v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

As per custom, the Raiders were the last team to announce their cuts, rolling in three hours after the league’s deadline to submit them.

There wasn’t what you’d call a surprise among the group, though they did cut veteran wideout Greg Little.

The rest of their cuts include wide receiver Seth Roberts, kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, running back George Atkinson III, running back Jeremy Stewart, fullback Karl Williams, guard Lamar Mady, offensive lineman Jarrod Shaw, tackle Jack Cornell, tight end Jake Murphy, tight end Scott Simonson, tackle Dan Kistler, tackle Erle Ladson, defensive end Jack Crawford, defensive end Denico Autry, defensive end Ryan Robinson, linebacker Carlos Fields, linebacker Spencer Hadley, linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu, defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin, safety Brandian Ross and cornerback Casey Chance.

But hey, they were the last ones to reveal their cuts. So there should be an award or something.

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Kendall James, Kain Colter, Chris Crocker among Vikings cuts

JEROME SIMPSON,KENDALL JAMES AP

Sixth-round pick Kendall James was among the Vikings’ 19 cuts on Saturday, the club announced.

A cornerback from Maine, James is eligible to be added to a practice squad if he clears waivers.

Other Vikings cuts included undrafted rookie wide receiver Kain Colter and veteran safeties Kurt Coleman and Chris Crocker.

The Vikings also parted ways with guard Jeff Baca, defensive tackle Chase Baker, running back Joe Banyard, defensive tackle Fred Evans, defensive tackle Isame Faciane, tight end Chase Ford, wide receiver Donte Foster, linebacker Justin Jackson, center Zac Kerin, cornerback Julian Posey, tight end Allen Reisner, offensive tackle Mike Remmers, defensive end Justin Trattou, tailback Dominique Williams and linebacker Mike Zimmer. The release of Evans was reported earlier Saturday.

The Vikings also announced they had placed safety Jamarca Sanford and offensive tackle Antonio Richardson on injured reserve. The transactions leave Minnesota at the 53-player limit.

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Seahawks cut roster down to 53 players

San Diego Chargers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks terminated the contracts of two veterans, placed one player on injured reserve and waived 20 players to reach their roster limit on Saturday.

The Indianapolis Colts announced earlier in the day they had traded cornerback Marcus Burley to the Seahawks in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2015. That led Seattle to have to let go of 23 players to get to the maximum of 53 players by the 1 p.m. PT deadline.

Seattle terminated the contracts of cornerback Phillip Adams and offensive tackle Eric Winston. They placed defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith on injured reserve and waived tight end RaShaun Allen, cornerback Akeem Auguste, running back Demitrius Bronson, wide receiver Arceto Clark, quarterback B.J. Daniels, guard Caylin Hauptmann, tackle Nate Isles, center Patrick Lewis, wide receiver Chris Matthews, defensive end Benson Mayowa, safety Terrance Parks, tight end Morrell Presley, quarterback Terrelle Pryor, defensive tackle Andru Pulu, fullback Kiero Small, defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, safety Steven Terrell, linebacker Korey Toomer, wide receiver Bryan Walters and running back Spencer Ware.

Toomer, Ware, Staten and Small are all former Seattle draft picks.

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Cardinals trim roster to 53

Bruce Arians AP

Twenty players were released, one was given an injury settlement and one was moved to injured reserve as the Cardinals got down to 53 on their roster today.

Arizona announced that the following players were cut: RB Zach Bauman, LB Marcus Benard, G Philip Blake, LB Jonathan Brown, WR Dan Buckner, C John Estes, DT Bruce Gaston, WR Brittan Golden, TE Andre Hardy, CB Jimmy Legree, CB Bryan McCann, T Kelvin Palmer, RB Jalen Parmele, DT Isaac Sopoaga, G Anthony Steen, S Curtis Taylor, LB Adrian Tracy, DT Christian Tupou, S Anthony Walters and CB Teddy Williams.

The Cardinals also released tackle Nate Potter with an injury settlement after he hurt his shoulder, and placed safety Eddie Whitley on injured reserve with a broken foot.

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Buccaneers finish up cuts, let Major Wright go

Miami Dolpins v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Safety Major Wright was supposed to be one of the guys to help spread Lovie Smith’s message in Tampa Bay, but he won’t be doing that now.

The veteran safety was one of the final eight roster cuts made by the Buccaneers, as they reached the 53-man roster limit.

Wright was signed in April after spending three years with the Bears, three as a starter. His last year under Smith in Chicago was his best, with four interceptions.

But with Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson starting, they elected to go with some younger players to back up and play special teams.

The Buccaneers also released tight end Cameron Brate, running back Jeff Demps, quarterback Mike Kafka, linebacker Brandon Magee, defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo, wide receiver Solomon Patton and defensive tackle Ronald Talley.

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Packers keep three quarterbacks

Scott Tolzien, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn AP

Reports on Saturday indicated the Packers were only going to keep two quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster, but those reports have been proven incorrect.

The Packers unveiled their roster on Saturday afternoon and it includes Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien. Both Flynn and Tolzien saw time with the Packers offense as they cycled through options after Rodgers was injured. Having two guys on hand will lead to less scrambling if things unfold that way again this year, although one imagines Green Bay would rather just have Rodgers in there all 16 games.

Green Bay got down to 53 players by cutting safety Chris Banjo, wide receiver Kevin Dorsey, linebacker Jake Doughty, tackle John Fullington, center Garth Gerhart, wide receiver Alex Gillett, defensive tackle Carlos Gray, running back Michael Hill, linebacker Adrian Hubbard, guard Jordan McCray, safety Tanner Miller, tight end Justin Perillo, running back LaDarius Perkins, defensive end Luther Robinson, cornerback Jumal Rolle, tackle Jeremy Vujnovich, wide receiver Myles White and cornerback Ryan White.

They also placed tackle Aaron Adams, linebacker Nate Palmer, tight end Jake Stoneburner and defensive tackle Khyri Thornton, a 2014 third-round pick, on injured reserve.

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49ers reach 53-man roster limit

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers are the latest team to reach the NFL-mandated limit of 53 players on the roster.

San Francisco announced that 19 players were released on Saturday: T Carter Bykowski, TE Asante Cleveland, WR Lance Lewis, LS Kevin McDermott, CB Darryl Morris, G Al Netter, DL Lawrence Okoye, WR Kassim Osgood, T Michael Philipp, NT Mike Purcell, G Ryan Seymour, LB Shayne Skov, RB Alfonso Smith, G Adam Snyder, S C.J. Spillman, LB Chase Thomas, S Bubba Ventrone, WR L’Damian Washington and RB Glenn Winston.

The 49ers also placed cornerback Kenneth Acker and fullback Will Tukuafu on injured reserve.

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Broncos get to 53-man limit, keep just two QBs

Zac Dysert AP

The Broncos have a pretty good quarterback, so they’re only going to keep two.

The Broncos waived third quarterback Zac Dysert, leaving only Brock Osweiler and some guy named Peyton Manning.

Otherwise, the Broncos’ cuts were pretty by the book. They terminated the contracts of five veterans: Tight ends Jameson Konz and Cameron Morrah, cornerback Jerome Murphy and defensive linemen Brian Sanford and Kevin Vickerson.

They also waived 14 other players, placed rookie defensive end Kenny Anunike on injured reserve and kicker Matt Prater on reserve/suspended.

The waived players included: Linebacker Shaqil Barrett, running back Kapri Bibbs, safety John Boyett, linebacker L.J. Fort, wide receiver Bennie Fowler, defensive tackle Sione Fua, safety Duke Ihenacho, guard Ryan Miller, guard Vinston Painter, wide receiver Nathan Palmer, center Matt Paradis, tight end Gerell Robinson, cornerback Jordan Sullen and cornerback Louis Young.

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Browns announce initial 53-man roster

Connor Shaw, Austen Lane AP

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said recently that he thought the Browns should put Connor Shaw into the mix for the starting quarterback job.

The Browns may have seen the Gamecocks get steamrolled by Texas A&M on Thursday night or they may have just dismissed Spurrier’s NFL acumen based on his experience in Washington because they decided to move on from Shaw on Saturday.

The undrafted free agent was one of the players cut in Cleveland as the Browns set an initial 53-man roster that includes Rex Grossman as the third quarterback behind Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel.

In addition to the previously reported departures of running back Dion Lewis, wide receiver Nate Burleson, running back Chris Ogbonnaya and cornerback Leon McFadden, the Browns also parted ways with defensive back Josh Aubrey, defensive lineman Calvin Barnett, defensive lineman Jacobbi McDaniel, offensive lineman Justin Staples, offensive lineman Reid Fragel, offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey, offensive lineman Donald Hawkins, linebacker Zac Diles, linebacker Jamaal Westerman, tight end/fullback MarQueis Gray, offensive lineman Alex Parsons, offensive lineman Abasi Salimu, wide receiver Willie Snead and tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi. Cornerback Isaiah Trufant was placed on injured reserve.

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Stephen Hill’s agent disappointed in Ryan and Idzik, thinks Browns will be interested

Stephen Hill, Curtis Marsh AP

The Jets cut wide receiver Stephen Hill, a 2012 second-round pick, on Saturday and Hill’s agent Alan Herman was less than thrilled with the team’s decision.

Herman argued that the team’s quarterbacks and offensive schemes were to blame for his client’s struggles in his first two seasons. Hill had 45 catches and four touchdowns in 23 games for the Jets.

“He didn’t have a chance that first year with that whole Tim Tebow-Mark Sanchez fiasco,” Herman said, via USA Today. “His second year, Geno Smith was learning how to play quarterback. So they never threw the ball deep because they wanted to simplify things for Geno.”

No one will argue that the Jets have had good quarterback situations the last two years, but Hill’s hardly blameless. He had too many drops and too hard a time staying healthy to be a reliable part of any offense.

Hill’s big and fast, though, and that should land him other chances. Herman says he “would think” the Browns will be interested because of Josh Gordon’s suspension and head coach Mike Pettine’s previous relationship with Hill when both men were with the Jets. Herman also told Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer that he thinks Panthers wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl would have a positive impact on his client and much has been made this summer about the thin receiver depth chart in Carolina.

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Giants keep some young projects instead of veterans

Giants Jets Football AP

The Giants cut some big names, but kept some young players who fit their mold of finding talent in unusual places.

They were able to keep undrafted rookie wide receiver Corey Washington and defensive end Kerry Wynn, after explosive preseason performances.

Washington had 10 catches for 155 yards and four touchdowns (three game-winners), setting him up to be the Giants’ next Victor Cruz-level breakout star. Wynn had a pair of sacks, and replaced veteran Israel Idonije.

They’re great stories and that’s what this thing is all about,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, via the team’s official website. “Your needs are much deeper than seven picks in the draft or sometimes you’re not in position to help yourself in free agency because of the cap, so this is still the source. And when a young guy comes along and they look like they’ve got a high end, you’re excited about it. Especially when they work hard, they study hard, it’s important to them and they have great desire. You can see it on some of these kids’ faces that this means so much to them, and quite frankly it re-energizes me.”

In addition to the previously reported cuts of veteran quarterback Curtis Painter, fullback John Conner, tight end Kellen Davis and Idonije and placing wide receivers Trindon Holliday and Mario Manningham on injured reserve, the Giants waived-injured tackle Rogers Gaines, placed guard Eric Herman and cornerback Jayron Hosley on reserve/suspended and waived tackle Mark Asper, running back Michael Cox, defensive back Chandler Fenner, linebacker Dan Fox, running back Kendall Gaskins, defensive back Thomas Gordon, tackle Adam Gress, defensive back Bennett Jackson, guard Jamaal Johnson-Webb, linebacker Terrell Manning, defensive tackle Kelcie Quarles, defensive end Jordan Stanton, wide receiver Julian Talley and cornerback Bennett Jackson.

Jackson, a sixth-rounder from Notre Dame, was their only 2014 draft pick released.

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Bears cut Kelvin Hayden, set initial 53-man roster

Kelvin Hayden, Larry Fitzgerald AP

Cornerback Kelvin Hayden re-signed with the Bears after missing the entire 2013 season with a hamstring injury, but he won’t get a chance to play for them in 2014 unless the team has a change of heart.

Hayden was one of the players let go by the Bears on Saturday as they set their initial 53-man roster. The 2005 Colts second-round pick played 16 games for the Bears in 2012 and was competing for a backup cornerback job in Chicago this season, but Sherrick McManis and Demontre Hurst remain on the roster.

The Bears also released safety M.D. Jennings with an injury settlement and released defensive end Austen Lane.

In addition to the previously reported cuts, the Bears also waived wide receiver Josh Bellamy, defensive tackle Brandon Dunn, defensive tackle Tracy Robertson and cornerback Al Louis-Jean.

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