Skip to content

Chargers throw their way to halftime lead

Philip Rivers AP

The Chargers have made a habit of blowing leads in the second halves of games this season.

They’ve got another chance to show they can actually protect one. They lead the Bengals 13-10 at halftime in San Diego after a Nick Novak field goal as time expired in the second quarter.

Philip Rivers turned in an excellent half, hitting on his first 10 passes and completing 16-0f-23 for 189 yards overall. He’s also shown a better knack for throwing balls away instead of forcing things that have turned into turnovers earlier this season. The Chargers have relied heavily on Rivers, they’ve run just four times, and it is paying off for them thus far.

Andy Dalton has had some good moments, but the Chargers scored their only touchdown on an interception return by Demorrio Williams. Dalton also missed A.J. Green in the end zone in the second quarter when the Bengals wound up settling for a field goal. With BenJarvus Green-Ellis running well (77 yards on 11 carries) and the defense keeping the Chargers out of the end zone, the quarterback needs to do a little bit more to get his team a win they need to improve their shot at a playoff berth.

Permalink 4 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Cincinnati Bengals, Rumor Mill, San Diego Chargers, Top Stories
yo

Steve Smith expects criticism of Ravens offense, won’t pay attention to it

Torrey Smith, Steve Smith AP

Sunday was a miserable day for the Ravens Offense.

They gained just 211 yards, quarterback Joe Flacco threw three interceptions while picking up under four yards per attempt and generally looked inept from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. Wide receiver Steve Smith, who had five catches for 49 yards, didn’t search too hard for a way to describe what went down on Sunday.

“Bottom line is offensively, we just got our ass kicked,” Smith said, via ESPN.com. “That’s what happened. That’s what the score looks like. That’s what it looks like when you just lose. That is the consequences of losing.”

Smith’s succinct explanation of a disastrous day for the Ravens offense doesn’t mean that he’s keen on hearing any criticism of the team’s effort. Smith told reporters to write about concern for the offense so that Smith could tell them how much BS it was and told anyone else who might find fault with the team that their words are going to fall on deaf ears.

“We expect and understand and anticipate all of the negative feedback and all of the fat, lazy, sorry couch quarterbacks are going to come out,” Smith said. “We expect that and understand that. We’re not going to pay attention to it.”

Ass kickings come with negative feedback whether Smith and the Ravens want to hear it or not and putting a positive spin on being the worse offense in a game that saw Case Keenum quarterback the other team isn’t going to change the realities for Baltimore. They don’t control their playoff destiny and could see their season end in seven days even if they’re the ones doing the ass kicking against the Browns.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

NFL morning after: Playing hard, with nothing to play for

marcelreece AP

I admire the upset pulled off by Washington this weekend. I respect the way the Bears and Jets played in hard-fought losses. And I’m amazed by what the Texans did to the Ravens.

But the most surprising result might have been that the Raiders — considered the worst team in the league for most of the season — pulled off a big upset and ended the Bills’ playoff hopes. That game was a fitting end for Sunday afternoon in the NFL, as this was a weekend that reminded us that even when we, the fans, say there’s “nothing to play for,” football players have a funny way of deciding for themselves that they have something to play for.

It happens every year, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m always impressed by the teams that seemingly have every reason to pack it in and give up on their seasons, and instead put forth a spirited effort.

Washington has looked like a disaster for most of this season, but on Saturday, in a game the Eagles desperately needed to win, it was Washington that won a hard-fought, back-and-forth battle. And Houston seemed like it was even more of a disaster, down to fourth-string quarterback Case Keenum. But the Texans, whose playoff hopes are slim, put their quarterback issues aside and dominated the Ravens, who are right in the thick of the battle for a playoff berth.

And even the teams that came up short showed a lot of heart. Everyone thought the Bears had quit on this season, and yet Jimmy Clausen, starting after Jay Cutler’s benching, looked pretty good as Chicago gave Detroit a tough four quarters of play. Then there were the Jets, whose coach, Rex Ryan, is sure to be fired a week from now. They did everything they could to give Ryan a win over the rival Patriots before coming up just short.

By Week 16, when the playoffs are within reach, we have a tendency to write off those teams who have been eliminated from playoff contention. But we shouldn’t. There are a whole lot of players still playing hard, even if we don’t think they have anything to play for. The Jimmy Clausens and the Case Keenums of the world don’t get a lot of credit, but they were some of my favorite players on the field on Sunday.

Here are my other thoughts on this weekend’s action:

J.J. Watt for B.F.P. J.J. Watt won’t win the Most Valuable Player award, mostly because when people think about what constitutes “valuable” they almost always think of a quarterback, or maybe a running back — and they almost always think of a player on a playoff team. But I propose another award, the Best Football Player award, or BFP. If we gave an award for the best player in football, is there any doubt that Watt would win it? In Sunday’s win over the Ravens, Watt had seven solo tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss and four quarterback hits. There’s no better football player than J.J. Watt.

A surprising vote of confidence for Joe Philbin. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said after Sunday’s game that Philbin will remain his head coach, despite the Dolphins being eliminated from the playoffs. That’s surprising. I’m not at all convinced that Philbin, who still hasn’t made the playoffs after three seasons at the helm, deserves to keep his job. Miami has not improved during his time at the helm.

Chip Kelly’s blunder. I like Chip Kelly. I said when he was at Oregon that I thought his system could work in the NFL, and I still think it can. But Kelly made a huge mistake when he cut receiver DeSean Jackson, and it probably cost the Eagles a playoff berth. Jackson burned Philadelphia’s secondary for 126 receiving yards when the Eagles lost at Washington on Sunday, and the Eagles, who averaged 6.8 yards a pass, could have used a big play threat. Sometimes a player is talented enough that a coach has to put up with him, even if the coach doesn’t much like him. Kelly should have sucked it up and put up with Jackson. Cutting Jackson was a mistake.

Robert Griffin III didn’t look good. There’s a tendency to praise any quarterback who wins, but let’s be honest: Even though Washington pulled off an upset over Philadelphia on Saturday, RG3 didn’t play very well. He managed only 220 passing yards and no touchdowns, didn’t do anything impressive running the ball, and threw an ugly interception on an underthrown pass to DeSean Jackson. If Jay Gruden wasn’t convinced before Saturday’s game that RG3 is his quarterback of the future, he isn’t convinced now, either.

Joe Flacco was terrible. Flacco’s halftime stats: 3-for-18, 27 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, one sack, one fumble and a 0.0 passer rating. Flacco was a little better in the second half (he couldn’t really be any worse), but this was still an abysmal performance by Flacco. The Ravens are paying Flacco a fortune because he came through in a big way when they won the Super Bowl two years ago. But Flacco was nothing short of terrible in a big loss to the Texans on Sunday.

A future Hall of Famer joins an exclusive club. Raiders defensive back Charles Woodson got his 60th interception on Sunday, making him just the 11th player in NFL history to pick off 60 passes. Woodson is the career leader in interceptions among active players and is still playing surprisingly well at age 38. Woodson isn’t getting much attention because he’s on a terrible team in Oakland, but he’s still playing well at an age when few defensive backs are still playing at all.

Panthers-Falcons: Great game or terrible game? There’s no Week 17 game with more at stake than Panthers-Falcons, which is essentially a playoff game because the winner wins the NFC South and the loser goes home. And yet it’s also a matchup of a 6-8-1 team and a 6-9 team. The NFC South is awful, but I confess that I’m looking forward to seeing which seven-win team wins the division. I feel pretty confident saying that those two losing teams will still be playing hard until the end.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cowboys bang MVP drum for Tony Romo

Tony Romo, Brandon Carr AP

Sunday was a good day for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

He led a 42-7 rout of the Colts that sewed up the NFC East title and returned the Cowboys to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. He also passed Troy Aikman to become the leading passer in the history of the franchise and continued a December run that’s been nearly flawless for both individual and team. Romo has 10 touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 79.2 percent of his passes in a closing kick that has some in Dallas talking about Romo as the MVP.

Owner Jerry Jones said Romo is the MVP in his book, tight end Jason Witten admitted his bias while saying Romo should be in the mix and Dez Bryant is all for the guy who has helped him to 14 touchdowns this season.

“Hell yeah, he is. He’s the MVP,” Bryant said, via ESPNDallas.com. “Look at the performance. He’s giving ‘em hell in December. Icing on the cake. Give it to him. He’s doing a hell of a job.”

In addition to his strong finishing kick, Romo leads the league in yards per attempt and completion percentage over the course of the entire season and there’s no arguing with the leadership he’s provided to the division champions in Dallas. That should earn him a look from MVP voters, although Aaron Rodgers may ice his own cake with a big outing against the Lions in Week 17’s matchup for the NFC North title.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Sunday Night wrap-up: Seahawks have too many big plays

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Seahawks had more than enough offense to beat the Cardinals Sunday.

Actually, they had more than enough on four snaps.

The Seahawks traded on big plays and an opponent which couldn’t score, taking a 35-6 win over the Cardinals and the inside track for the NFC West title.

They racked up 596 yards, but 263 of those yards came on four plays.

They’re hurt up front and they’re thin in receiving threats, but they had enough Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch to make the difference.

Lynch came back from an upset stomach which kept him out for a quarter to run for 113 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Wilson’s 55-yard scramble was impressive, but it was his 80-yard touchdown pass to Luke Willson which gave the Seahawks a double-digit edge they weren’t going to give up. Throw in a 49-yard pass to Doug Baldwin, and they had enough home run plays to overwhelm.

Whether that’s enough to compete with teams that might actually be able to score points is another matter.

As long as they can run and play defense the way they do, they’re going to have a chance against anyone in the league.

But when they’re able to get yards in chunks the way they did this week, it might be hard for anyone to have a chance against them.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. Back in my former life as a newspaper reporter, I covered one of the truly ridiculous games in NFL history.

With both teams beset by injuries at quarterback in 2007, the Cardinals and Panthers ended up competing for the signature of Vinny Testaverde. The Panthers won the battle and the war, as the Cardinals ended up signing Tim Rattay and then beating him the following week in Arizona.

Which is a long way of saying, either Testaverde or Rattay might be a better option than Ryan Lindley right now.

Bless his heart, the poor kid simply doesn’t look competitive, especially against a defense the quality of Seattle’s. The Cardinals even tried to run Logan Thomas out there for a change of pace (to throw a deep ball, not run), but it didn’t work.

At the moment, barring a Testaverde comeback at age 51 or Drew Stanton making a quick comeback, it’s hard to see how the Cards have much of a chance in the playoffs against anyone.

2. The Seahawks played without left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger. But they actually protected fairly well.

The Cardinals sacked Wilson seven times in the first meeting, but got him just once this week. Credit to Alvin Bailey and Patrick Lewis for replacing injured starters and allowing their offense to continue at record pace.

That’s a solid showing for the group they scrapped together, which they hope will be back to normal soon.

3. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians gets a lot of credit (which he should), but defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was making chicken salad too, prior to Sunday

The Cards are not just competitive, they’ve been good with a defense missing three difference-makers in Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington and John Abraham, which is emblematic of their next-man-up approach.

They don’t really have what you’d call a pass-rusher, and they’ve got a bunch of role players like Larry Foote and Frostee Rucker playing bigger roles than you’d normally expect of them.

It was hard to tell against the Seahawks once the avalanche started rolling downhill, but this can still be a dangerous defense.

4. Should we be worried about Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka missing three field goals?

Of course we should.

The misses are rare for Hauschka, and they were from distance. But kicking is a confidence game, and misses in big games can linger.

Until he hits something, it’s worthy of being concerned about, as you pick out every little weakness in a team playing well.

5. Willson, the tight end (man, that extra L in a similar last name is murder on spellcheck), can be a match-up problem for a lot of teams.

He seemed to surprise the Cardinals with his speed, but he ran a 4.51 40-yard dash prior to the 2013 NFL Draft, so he’s a legitimate threat to run away from linebackers.

It was still a bit of a shock to see him pull away from a safety, but he has the kind of size and speed to create space, and make the most of it.

Permalink 25 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Lynch caps touchdown with dive that probably will provoke a fine

lynch5

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch iced Sunday night’s win over the Cardinals with a career-long 79-yard touchdown run.  He entered the end zone with a dive that included a crotch grab.

The maneuver was identical to the manner in which Lynch capped off the “Beastquake” touchdown run from the wild-card playoffs four years ago.  When he did it the last time, no one noticed — so he was neither flagged nor fined.

This time around, it was noticed.  (Even though it wasn’t flagged.)  Lynch will now be in line for a fine.

Last year, Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan was fined $10,000 for making the same gesture.

Permalink 38 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Packers favored by at least seven points

Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers AP

The Lions and Packers have identical 11-4 records. Moreover, Detroit won the first 2014 regular-season meeting between the clubs by double digits.

Nevertheless, in the rematch, host Green Bay is a big favorite to knock off Detroit next Sunday and capture the NFC North for a fourth consecutive season.

Oddsmakers have made the Packers 7- to 7.5-point favorites over Detroit at Lambeau Field, where the Lions have not won since 1991.

Per Spreadapedia.com, the Lions haven’t won as underdogs of seven points or more since upsetting Green Bay 7-3 on December 12, 2010.

The Packers, meanwhile, have not lost as favorites of seven or more since falling 27-20 to Chicago on November 4, 2013.

The common factor in both games? Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn’t finish the game because of injury.

Rodgers, of course, tweaked his calf in Sunday’s victory at Tampa Bay, but he played through it, and the Lions will likely need their best defensive effort to stop Green Bay’s powerful offense on its home turf.

Permalink 18 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Steelers host Bengals next Sunday night

Roethlisberger AP

The final Sunday night game of the season has been announced.  And it won’t be the NFC South win-and-in-lose-and-go-home championship game.

Instead, it will be the AFC North title game, with the Steelers hosting the Bengals.  The league opted for Bengals-Steelers even though the Steelers already have clinched a playoff berth.  On Monday night, the Bengals can do the same, with a win over the Broncos.

Of course, Cincy’s Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe tendencies suggest they’ll lose on Monday night.  Which would make Sunday night the equivalent of a playoff game for the Bengals.

Which the Bengals would become more likely to lose because the game is being played in prime time.

Permalink 43 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Seahawks offense finally wakes up, now up 14-3

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Marshawn Lynch is obviously feeling better.

The Seahawks running back, who missed exactly the first quarter with what was reported as an upset stomach, has now upset the Cardinals fans.

His touchdown run has given the Seahawks a commanding 14-3 lead, on a night which doesn’t seem to favor the Cardinals ever scoring that many.

The Seahawks scored the game’s first (and looked like possibly only) touchdown when Russell Wilson hit tight end Luke Willson for an 80-yard strike earlier in the second.

It was a surprising play for a number of reasons, including Willson’s ability to run away from the Cardinals secondary.

But the Seahawks Defense has put the clamps on Ryan Lindley, making a comeback look unlikely.

Permalink 31 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cardinals jump out to big 3-0 lead on Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Points are so overrated.

The Seahawks and Cardinals are whaling on each other thus far in this one, and the Cardinals might have just taken a decisive 3-0 lead with a second-quarter field goal.

Cards sub quarterback Ryan Lindley is off to a rough start, hitting 4-of-10 passes for 39 yards. But he managed to scratch together enough short passes and Seahawks penalties to get Chandler Catanzaro in position for a short field goal.

That’s been enough so far, because the Cardinals Defense is doing its part.

Other than a 55-yard scramble by Russell Wilson, the Seahawks haven’t put together much offense.

Marshawn Lynch’s upset stomach miraculously cured itself at the end of the first quarter, but he hasn’t contributed anything to the stat sheet yet.

Permalink 10 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Harbaugh decision will be “swift”

Harbaugh Getty Images

No one still knows what 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s future will be.  Answers apparently will be coming soon after the regular season ends.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported during the Sunday pregame show that a “swift” decision will come after the regular season ends regarding Harbaugh’s future.  The options are fairly limited in number:  (1) keep him for 2015, the final year of his contract; (2) extend his contract beyond 2015; (3) trade him; or (4) fire him.

The most likely options are No. 3 and No. 4.  It has been widely reported that the 49ers will try to trade Harbaugh, and for good reason; in February, they nearly sent him to Cleveland for a pair of third-round picks.

But it won’t be easy to accomplish a trade quickly.  To move Harbaugh, another team must fire its current coach, comply with the Rooney Rule by interviewing at least one minority candidate, negotiate a deal with the 49ers, and negotiate a deal with Harbaugh.  That only happens within 24-48 hours after the season ends if plenty of winking and nodding happens before then.  Which means that the minority-candidate interview will make a mockery of the Rooney Rule.

So if a swift decision is truly coming, it could be that the 49ers simply fire Harbaugh, get nothing for him, and possibly watch him drive up the Bay to coach the Raiders.

Permalink 66 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Marshawn Lynch misses early work with upset stomach

Marshawn Getty Images

The Seahawks may be thinking about life without Marshawn Lynch after this season.

They got a sneak preview tonight.

Lynch wasn’t on the field for the start of the game, with what the Seahawks called an “upset stomach.”

In his place, Robert Turbin got the start and ran four times for 22 yards.

The Seahawks opening drive stalled at midfield, and it remains to be seen how much of a role Lynch is going to play.

Permalink 14 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cardinals won’t release Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald Getty Images

When Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill hired G.M. Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians, no one expected them to face so much adversity due to injury — or to have so much success with a collection of next men up.

Next year, they also could be dealing with a salary-cap problem.

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald has a cap number of $23.6 million for 2015.  It’s widely believed he’ll be cut.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, he won’t be.

He could be traded, he could restructure his deal, or he could elect to negotiate an extension.  But he won’t be released — even if it means carrying $23.6 million in cap space.

Few players other than quarterbacks have cap numbers even approaching $20 million.  For Fitzgerald, who remains a solid player but no longer dominant, that’s a huge commitment.  The Cardinals are willing to make it, if necessary.

Permalink 32 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Bills eliminated from playoff contention with loss at Oakland

marcusthigpen AP

A promising season for the Bills has come to a disappointing end, as a loss in Oakland today has eliminated Buffalo from playoff contention.

The Raiders came out playing hard and surprised the Bills, winning 26-24.

Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr showed again that he’s a promising prospect, if not yet a great quarterback. He had his ups and his downs against a very good Bills Defense, but late in the fourth quarter, after the Bills inexplicably punted, Carr marched the Raiders down the field on a long drive that ended with a game-sealing touchdown pass to Jamize Olawale.

The win means the Raiders will not earn the first overall pick in the draft, but most Oakland fans are probably OK with that. The franchise quarterback of the future in Oakland isn’t Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, it’s Carr.

For the Bills, who fall to 8-7, tough questions about the quarterback position will have to be answered this offseason: If Kyle Orton and EJ Manuel aren’t the right men for the job, who is?

The Bills have a good roster but no franchise quarterback. The Raiders don’t have a good roster, but in Carr, they seem to have a quarterback they’ll be able to win with in the future.

Permalink 81 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Raiola could be facing a suspension after Sunday stomp

Raiola Getty Images

When the Lions head to Lambeau Field for the NFC North championship game next week, they possibly won’t have veteran center Dominic Raiola.

Raiola is facing discipline in the wake of his stomp on the leg of Bears defensive lineman Ego Ferguson.  That discipline could include a suspension.

“I want to emphasize that our number one goal and priority is protecting our players from unnecessary risk,” NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent told PFT on Sunday afternoon.  “Actions or techniques that may result in harm or injury are unacceptable.  This will be reviewed and appropriate discipline will be applied to these actions and any potential playing rule violations.”

Vincent declined comment on potential discipline for Raiola.  The player’s history will potentially work against him.  Last month, Raiola was fined $10,000 for clubbing Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore in the head.  Raiola escaped discipline for firing into Moore’s knees during a kneel-down snap to end the game.

Some believe the stakes of the game will be a factor in any decision to suspend Raiola.  Per a league source, that won’t matter.

Look for a decision to come by the middle of the week.  Raiola then will have immediate appeal rights, if he’s indeed suspended for Sunday’s game.

Permalink 67 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Giants help Tom Coughlin’s cause with third straight win

Eli Manning AP

The two best arguments to use in favor of Tom Coughlin returning as Giants head coach for another season are that the team’s players still play hard for him and that the offense installed this season will be a strong unit with a year of experience under its belt.

Sunday brought support for both notions. The Giants may have been playing too hard for Coughlin, as evidenced by their excessive penalties and two ejections, but they certainly weren’t rolling over with their coach’s fate for 2015 publicly unaddressed. And their offense put up a great performance against a Rams Defense that hadn’t allowed a touchdown in its last three games.

The Giants won 37-27 as Eli Manning completed 25-of-32 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns. Two of the scores went to Odell Beckham, who became the first rookie in NFL history to post at least 130 receiving yards and a touchdown in three straight games during his first pro season. Beckham had eight catches for 148 yards overall and the prospect of teaming him with a healthy Victor Cruz in 2015 is a pretty good reason not to rock the boat on offense for the Giants.

Rookie running back Andre Williams chipped in with 110 yards to add to the reasons for positive thoughts about the future on the offensive side of the ball for the Giants. Recent signs for Coughlin’s future with the team have been encouraging and this win shouldn’t do anything to swing the pendulum the other way.

Permalink 34 Comments Feed for comments Back to top