It’s clear that Mark Sanchez’s future in New York is limited and Mike Florio wonders if there is a decent chance the Jets dangle Sanchez as trade bait despite having one year left on his deal. Florio also talks about the failure that was the Tim Tebow trade and if the Titans made a good decision by keeping Chris Johnson around for next year.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Sanchez as trade bait?
Injuries to three defensive starters took some of the fun out of the Steelers victory on Sunday night and it looks like the Steelers will be feeling those absences as they try to build on the win over the Panthers.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that linebacker Jarvis Jones likely needs wrist surgery to repair his injury and that he’ll be out indefinitely as the team sorts out exactly what’s wrong. Jones has two sacks in three starts this season, which is already double what he managed as a rookie, and he’s forced one of the two fumbles the Steelers have caused this season, so his absence will be a significant one.
Arthur Moats is the next man up at outside linebacker, although the Steelers may need to look for other help for what’s suddenly a thin linebacker group. Schefter reports that Ryan Shazier has been diagnosed with a sprained MCL. He’ll have an MRI on Monday to sort out the extent of the damage and the length of his absence from the lineup.
With cornerback Ike Taylor also down with a broken forearm, the Steelers are going to have their hands full finding a defensive lineup that works in the coming weeks.
The Steelers are coming off a huge win, and the Buccaneers a terrible loss.
But when they meet next weekend, the advantage may go to the one with the most available bodies.
According to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, the Bucs are optimistic they’ll get defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (broken hand), running back Doug Martin (knee) and right defensive end Michael Johnson (ankle) back in time for the Steelers game.
Less likely is that quarterback Josh McCown will be back from his sprained thumb, but having their best two defensive linemen back should help.
“Gerald, [tight end] Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Michael Johnson — all those guys will eventually help us,’’ Smith said. “That’s why we’re optimistic things are going to change, because we don’t have those players out for the season. They’ll all be coming back, so reinforcements are on the way.”
Considering the Bucs lost an embarrassing 56-14 decision to the Falcons Thursday night, the cavalry better hurry.
The Packers struggled across the board on offense in Sunday’s 19-7 loss to the Lions and running back Eddie Lacy’s production was anemic for the third straight week.
Lacy ran 11 times for 36 yards, leaving him with an average of 3.1 yards per carry for the entire season. That’s a full yard off last year’s mark and things got even worse when Lacy fumbled a ball that Lions defensive back Don Carey returned for the opening touchdown before getting pinned in the end zone for a safety later in the game.
There were several takes about what’s wrong with the ground game, but Lacy pointed the finger at himself after the loss.
“We just have to figure out better ways to run the ball,” Lacy said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I don’t know if I have to be more patient or speed things up but one way or another I’m responsible for the run game.”
It hasn’t helped Green Bay that the schedule spat out three of the league’s better run defenses in the first three weeks of the season, but teams rarely get far by shrugging off their struggles as the product of the other team just being too tough in that area. No matter how good the opposition, the Packers have too much talent on offense to get held to seven points and the onus to get things moving in the right direction is going to be up to a lot more people than Lacy.
As we wait (and wait . . . and wait) for the Ravens to address the alleged “errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings” in the ESPN report alleging that Ravens director of security Darren Sanders knew the contents of the notorious elevator video in February and Ravens president Dick Cass knew in early April, coach John Harbaugh has addressed the report that he lobbied for the team to cut Rice in February.
“Every single football decision we make, we work together,” Harbaugh told reporters after Sunday’s win at Cleveland, as Josh Alper has pointed out. “Just like every football decision. You get together, you hash it out. [G.M.] Ozzie [Newsome] uses the term scrimmaging. You scrimmage it out, everybody’s got their opinions. It’s not black and white.”
Asked by Peter King of TheMMQB.com whether Harbaugh wanted to cut Rice in February, Harbaugh didn’t provide an unequivocal no.
“That is such an unfair characterization,” Harbaugh said. “It is not fair to the organization. We said all along that the facts would determine the consequences, and that was my stance from the start of this.”
Reading those comments together in light of the ESPN report, it’s a fair characterization to say that Harbaugh at least raised the possibility of cutting Rice in February, and that Newsome’s “scrimmaging” process resulted in a consensus that the Ravens would keep Rice — but that ultimately “the facts would determine the consequences.”
The facts, once they finally came to light via TMZ, determined the ultimate consequence for Rice. If Harbaugh indeed raised during the “scrimmaging” process that the team should cut Rice, it’s reasonable to believe that Harbaugh’s agreement to keep Rice hinged on the facts showing that Rice didn’t punch his then-fiancée.
Once the facts showed he did, end of story.
So if, as the ESPN report contends, Sanders, Cass, and perhaps others in the organization knew the true contents of the elevator video before the elevator video came out, perhaps they concealed the truth not only to secure a short suspension from the league office, but also to keep Harbaugh from winning the internal scrimmage as to whether a player who had been paid $25 million between July 2012 and December 2013 should be dumped from the roster.
Either way, ESPN’s contention that the Ravens knew the contents of the video long before seeing it has not yet been rebutted by Sanders or Cass. The only person who has spoken is Harbaugh, whose remarks actually help demonstrate why a coverup happened, if a coverup in fact did occur.
The Ravens refused to address the inaccuracies and errors they believe are included in ESPN’s report about the way the team reacted to Ray Rice’s February arrest over the weekend, but that didn’t stop coach John Harbaugh from being asked about the report after Sunday’s victory over the Browns.
Specifically, Harbaugh was asked about a part of the report that had him pushing for Rice’s release in February only to be overruled by General Manager Ozzie Newsome and others in the organization. The Ravens’ denial of that claim is in the report and, after initially saying he’d discuss these matters on Monday, Harbaugh said the team was united in their decision.
“We work together in our organization. I’m going to go ahead and answer this question, OK? Every single football decision we make, we work together,” Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “Just like every football decision, you get together, you hash it out. Ozzie uses the term scrimmaging. You scrimmage it out. Everybody’s got their opinions. It’s not black and white. It’s never nuanced on anything. That decision was exactly like all the other ones. And we walked out of that room, we were united, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder, and that’s how I felt about the decision. I thought it was the right decision. And the way we handled it, all the way through, I felt like was the right way to handle it all the way through. I felt like we did the right thing, and I stand behind it. That’s all I’m going to say about it.”
What Harbaugh doesn’t say is whether or not he wanted Rice dropped from the roster and ultimately the answer doesn’t matter if Harbaugh’s not going to take issue with the team’s ultimate decision. It’s still a question he’s sure to get again once the Ravens break their silence in response to the report on Monday, though.
The 49ers melted down in the second half again on Sunday, allowing the Cardinals to outscore them 17-0 on the way to a 23-14 loss that left San Francisco with a 1-2 record after three weeks.
The team has now been outscored 52-3 in the second halves of games this season, a problem that needs to be addressed if they are going to turn things around and return to the playoffs. One good place to start would be penalties, which played a major role in both of their losses.
One of the costliest on Sunday was a head butt delivered by wide receiver Anquan Boldin to Cardinals cornerback Tony Jefferson late in the third quarter that took the Niners from first-and-goal on the six to first-and-10 on the 21-yard line. They had to settle for a field goal try, which was blocked, and the Niners wouldn’t come close to scoring again. Boldin acknowledged his error after the game, but said it came after officials missed several infractions by the Cardinals before throwing flags on his side.
“For me, it’s been obvious the last two weeks: The amount of calls that have gone against us and the amount of calls that we’ve gotten hasn’t been close,” Boldin said, via the Sacramento Bee. “Every week, it’s the same thing — send the tape in, the NFL just reports back, ‘We made a mistake.’ But at the same time, the crap cost us another game. At some point, they need to be held accountable.”
On some calls, like the one on linebacker Patrick Willis for an unambiguously clean hit on Drew Stanton, Boldin is absolutely right about the officials making blunders that need to be corrected on the field and not during the week. On others, though, the 49ers have only themselves to blame. Whether it was Boldin’s head butt or Chris Culliver’s taunting wiping out a Cardinals holding penalty, the 49ers’ inability to keep their emotions under wraps was their fault alone.
Those latter issues are the only penalty-related ones that the 49ers can control by themselves and they’ll need to against the Eagles in Week Four if they want to avoid another disappointing result.
Sure, the Seahawks squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, showing a vulnerability at home that most believe didn’t exist. But not everyone on the sideline was dismayed by the outcome.
“I know I shouldn’t say this,” Wilson told Peter King of TheMMQB.com, “but I actually wanted overtime. Of course I want to win in regulation, but overtime is so much fun. I live for those moments.”
That’s essentially what he told his teammates before the game-winning opening drive of the extra session.
“This is what we live for, fellas: championship moments,” Wilson said. “Let’s go out and embrace it.”
Wilson has a habit of embracing it against the game’s best quarterbacks. In his two seasons and three games, Wilson has a 7-0 career record against Peyton Manning (2-0), Aaron Rodgers (2-0), Drew Brees (2-0), and Tom Brady (1-0). As King points out, Wilson has thrown 14 touchdowns and only one interception — a turnover coming Sunday on a tipped ball.
So maybe Wilson deserves more credit than he gets. Viewed as a game manager who is blessed with a great defense, the truth is that Wilson does whatever he needs to do to win. Over the course of his career, as players come and go on both sides of the ball, it’s likely that Wilson’s presence will continue to ensure that the Seahawks will be competing for more championship moments.
The Dolphins were shellacked for the second straight week on Sunday, losing 34-15 at home to a previously winless Chiefs team.
According to a report from Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, the way things turned out left players on the defensive side of the ball “beyond furious” and “irate” with the defensive scheme cooked up by defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. Among their complaints was the team’s decision to use players like Cameron Wake and Jason Trusnik to cover running back Joe McKnight, who scored twice on passing plays in the second half to help the Chiefs break the game open.
The coaches probably have some of their own issues with the players. The Dolphins did not tackle well on Sunday as Knile Davis shrugged off attempts to bring him down several times on his way to 132 rushing yards and a touchdown.
With plenty of issues to sort out on offense as well, the Dolphins won’t be headed to London on a pleasure trip this week. Should things get even worse against the Raiders, the bye week won’t wind up being a particularly restful one either.
Short passes worked out better than deeper shots for the Bills.
The Patriots’ problems on the offensive line haven’t shown signs of subsiding.
Penalties have been an issue for the Jets in the first two weeks of the season.
The Steelers had two backs with 100 rushing yards for the first time in almost 30 years.
Said Colts QB Andrew Luck, “There definitely was a sense of urgency and you don’t want to start 0-2 but you definitely don’t want to start 0-3. We realize we control that and we go out and play this game. I think guys took it to heart and it was a divisional game on the road. This counts big time and we managed to put two decent halves together and get the win.”
The Jaguars defense is moving in the wrong direction.
There were no moral victories for the Broncos in Seattle.
Defensive plays stood out in the aftermath of the Chargers win.
The Cowboys pulled off the biggest comeback in franchise history.
Said Eagles QB Nick Foles, “My teammates are fighting for me, so I’m not going to stay down. I’m going to get up for those guys. That’s my mindset. It’s not a pride thing where I have to be a tough guy. I know those guys are depending on me so I’m going to get up and keep fighting for them.”
The Redskins head into a short week with some injury concerns.
The Bears expect to see a lot of blitzing on Monday night.
Sunday’s win showed what the Lions offense can be this season.
The Vikings defense was caught off guard early in Sunday’s loss to the Saints.
The Saints got their first win, but they didn’t solve all their problems.
The Buccaneers spent Sunday watching the rest of the league.
There were bright spots for the Rams on Sunday, but too many mistakes for them to get a win.
Said Seahawks QB Russell Wilson of the game-wininng drive, “The key to taking advantage of those moments is still playing smart football, but also playing with an edge. Playing to the edge, but not falling off the edge. Playing with great poise and great composure.”
Gore carried the ball just six times for 10 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals, as the 49ers went to more and more multiple-receiver formations.
“We did what the defense gave us,” Gore said, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, saying he didn’t know that would be the plan.
Then after less than a minute of answering questions, Gore said: “I’m sorry, I can’t talk right now.”
The 49ers have been outscored 52-3 in the second halves of games this season, the time when they’d normally feed the ball to Gore and he’d keep chains and clocks moving. Part of the problem was the lack of tight ends Davis and Vance McDonald, which kept them out their preferred personnel packages.
But after drafting young backs to eventually replace him for years, the 49ers showed what could be a sign that Gore’s role might not be what it used to be.
With the Steelers deep in their own territory in the third quarter on Sunday night, running back Le’Veon Bell took a handoff at the 8-yard line and raced up the middle, running all the way to the Panthers’ 11-yard line before he was finally caught by Carolina’s Thomas DeCoud, for a run of 81 yards. That was a rare feat.
Bell’s 81-yard run was the longest in the NFL this year and the longest since then-Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor ran 93 yards against the Steelers on October 27, 2013. Even more unusual, however, is that Bell ran 81 yards but didn’t reach the end zone. That hasn’t happened in the NFL in 20 years.
The last time an NFL player ran for more than 80 yards but didn’t score a touchdown was in 1994. The runner was Lions Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, and the guy who ran him down on an 85-yard run before he reached the end zone was then-Buccaneers cornerback Martin Mayhew, who is now the Lions’ general manager.
The 81-yarder contributed to a 21-carry, 147-yard day for Bell, who is off to a huge start this season for the Steelers. Bell has 315 rushing yards and 146 receiving yards this season, giving him a league-leading 461 scrimmage yards. (He’s also leading the league in all-purpose yards, even though he doesn’t return kicks.)
Sunday night was the best game yet in a big month for Bell.
Cam Newton didn’t play poorly last night, he just didn’t have much of a chance.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he pulled his hobbling quarterback for his own good during last night’s loss to the Steelers.
“I just took Cam out mostly because I was trying to protect him,” Rivera said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. I just didn’t want to see him get hit anymore.”
Prior to that, in case you weren’t clear about the cause of their problems, Rivera answered a question about rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin by steering it back up front.
“But, we can’t do anything unless we protect the quarterback,” Rivera said. “That’s the first thing we have to do.”
The Panthers allowed three sacks, but many more pressures. Some of that was on the Steelers who were getting there on three-man pressures throughout the game.
Part of it was on Newton, forced to hold the ball too long because receivers weren’t getting open.
But most of it was on a patchwork and inexperienced line, which is one of the problems they knew about this offseason, but were able to mask in a 2-0 start.
“No, I was not pleased at all by no stretch of the imagination,” Rivera said of the protection. ” We missed opportunities. There are some things that we have to do as coaches to make sure we put these guys in the best positions to have success. We have to take a good long evaluation of ourselves first and foremost and then we will watch the tape and evaluate the players.
“This is a team game and we have to make sure we are giving the players the best opportunity to succeed. At the same time we have to make sure the players are executing.”
The Panthers don’t have a lot of personnel buttons to push on their offensive line, as they’re already rotating guards and trying tackles at new positions. Maybe the simple shaming of showing them the tape of the game, and Newton limping back and forth, will be enough.
He’s a backup quarterback whose team lost, and yet Kirk Cousins was the player who made the biggest impact on the NFL on Sunday.
Cousins, starting for Washington against Philadelphia because Robert Griffin III suffered a dislocated ankle last week, was excellent: He completed 30 of his 48 passes, threw three touchdowns, showed off a great arm on deep balls and nice touch on short passes, only had one interception and — maybe most importantly — felt the pressure so well and got the ball away so quickly that he was never sacked. Cousins totaled 427 yards on the day, topping Griffin’s career high by 98 yards.
Yes, Washington lost. But blaming Cousins for that would be silly. Washington lost because its defense allowed Nick Foles to throw for 325 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Not because of anything Cousins did, or failed to do.
What Cousins did was make a real case that he’s a better quarterback than RGIII.
Cousins is nowhere near as talented a quarterback as Griffin. Cousins doesn’t have Griffin’s athleticism (for that matter, no quarterback in NFL history is as good an athlete as Griffin, who was an Olympic-caliber hurdler before he left track behind to focus on football), and Cousins probably doesn’t have as good a natural arm as Griffin does, either. In their first two seasons together in Washington, Griffin was better than Cousins, and it wasn’t close. Anyone calling for Cousins to be the starter in the last two years was probably more interested in stirring up a quarterback controversy than in accurately assessing the state of the quarterback position in Washington.
But things have changed. Griffin suffering yet another injury last week has only solidified the feeling that he’s simply too fragile to last in the NFL. And in the new offense run by new coach Jay Gruden, Cousins just looks like a better fit. In Week One, Griffin’s only full game in Gruden’s offense, Griffin looked overly cautious and never got much of anything going. Cousins has looked comfortable taking shots downfield.
I loved RGIII when he was at Baylor, and loved watching him in his rookie year. But I’m getting a sinking feeling that his career will go one of two ways: Either he’ll keep getting hurt, or he and his coaches will be so worried about him getting hurt that he’ll be put in bubble wrap by a stifling offense that doesn’t make use of his talents.
Cousins doesn’t have the same talent as Griffin. But Cousins may have a longer and more successful NFL career than Griffin. He certainly did enough on Sunday to make the case that he — not Griffin — is the quarterback of the future in Washington.
Here are my other thoughts on Sunday’s action:
What a game in Seattle. The Super Bowl rematch was everything we could have hoped for, with the Seahawks jumping out to an early lead and the Broncos storming back to force overtime. The Seahawks got the 26-20 win, the Broncos got at least some satisfaction from knowing they can play a competitive game with the team that blew them out in February, and football fans got a treat. With what the NFL has dragged the game through over the last couple weeks, we deserved it.
Protection of the quarterback going too far. In theory, I support the NFL’s desire to make the game of football safer by taking out hits on defenseless players, particularly hits to the heads of quarterbacks who are in postures where they can’t defend themselves. In practice, NFL officials often go way too far in protecting the quarterback, at the expense of preventing defensive players from doing their jobs. That happened on Sunday in Arizona, where the Cardinals were handed 30 yards on back-to-back plays when 49ers players were flagged for hits on Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton. Former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira said on the FOX broadcast that he disagreed with the calls, and so did I. The first was a hit from San Francisco’s Dan Skuta to the head of Stanton while Stanton was beginning to slide, but it’s important to note that he was just beginning to slide — he hadn’t actually touched the ground yet. And on the second, 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis used his shoulder to hit Stanton in the chest — exactly the way players are told to hit — and yet he was called for roughing the passer anyway. Those 30 yards helped the Cardinals march down the field for a touchdown. A raw deal for the 49ers’ defense.
A big screwup in Seattle. While the Broncos had the ball in the third quarter, they successfully drew Seattle’s K.J. Wright offside. An official saw it and threw his penalty flag. And then something strange happened: Another official came in and claimed that Wright hadn’t been offside, and the head referee — who has the final call when two officials disagree — went with the official who got it wrong. The TV replays made it clear that Wright had been offside, but that didn’t matter because offside calls aren’t reviewable on replay. The NFL needs its officials to get better at communicating on the field, or make more calls reviewable on replay to get those mistakes right. Or both.
The Bengals are really, really good. Of all the NFL’s 3-0 teams, the one that has impressed me most is in Cincinnati. The Bengals, who just destroyed the Titans on Sunday, have a stifling pass defense and an offense that revolves around receiver A.J. Green, who in my view is the best receiver in football not named Megatron. The Bengals have their bye this week and then visit New England. The Bengals are already the only unbeaten team in the AFC, and a win over the Patriots would be a huge statement that the road to the Super Bowl will go through Cincinnati.
Tulloch pulls a Gramatica. Please, NFL players, take it easy with the celebrations. Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch hurt his knee jumping up to celebrate a sack, in a move reminiscent of former NFL kicker Bill Gramatica blowing out his knee. After watching that I paid closer attention to the way players celebrated for the rest of the day, and honestly, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often. Guys are jumping up and down, jumping on each other, smacking each other and generally doing things that can only lead to pain when they involve multiple adrenaline-fueled 250-pound men. Be smart, guys. A simple high-five is sufficient.
NFL should improve the broadcast rules. In the final moments of the Washington-Philadelphia game, FOX’s Joe Buck announced that some viewers would not be able to see the end of the game “because of NFL broadcast rules.” Those rules are dumb. It didn’t affect me personally because I have the NFL Sunday Ticket package, but for fans who only see NFL games through their local network affiliates, it’s ridiculous to have to miss the end of that game. A great game like Washington-Philadelphia should be exactly the kind of game the NFL wants as many fans as possible to see.
Quarterback Jake Locker played poorly for the second straight week as the Titans fell to the Bengals, leading to postgame questions for coach Ken Whisenhunt about whether or not he contemplated making a move to Charlie Whitehurst in an attempt to rally a struggling offense.
Locker was 17-of-34 for 185 yards and two interceptions. He also fumbled twice, although the Titans didn’t lose either of them, and has generally displayed little growth over the early part of this season.
Whisenhunt said after the game that such a move was never on the table. He also cited his own history running a quarterback carousel in Arizona as part of the reason why his focus is on fixing things rather than finding a new starter.
“Jake is still our quarterback. … One of the things that you asked me when I first go here was what would I do differently,” Whisenhunt said, via 247Sports.com. “One of the things was patience with the quarterback. Jake has to play better. Once again, we all have to play better.”
Patience is better than blindly picking between the likes of Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, Max Hall and John Skelton, but it can’t be endless. Locker’s set to be a free agent after this season and the Titans owe it to themselves to find out about rookie Zach Mettenberger if they know Locker’s not going to be back next season. Three weeks into the season is probably too early to contemplate such a move, but it can get late early in the NFL when you don’t have good quarterback play and the Titans don’t have it right now.
Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is one of the smallest players in the NFL.
But Saints quarterback Drew Brees was comparing him to Hulk Hogan after the game.
Munnerlyn caught the Saints’ attention by suplexing Brees at the end of a sack in the third quarter, and perhaps unnecessarily firing up the quarterback.
“It created some fire, some momentum,” Brees said, via Evan Woodberry of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Obviously I wasn’t too happy about getting suplexed. The guys up front, they don’t like seeing that either.”
The guys who look more like wrestlers noticed, for sure.
“If you want to fire this team up, that’s the guy to go after,” tackle Zach Strief said. “We’re going to defend him.”
The penalty was a killer for the Vikings, because it woke the Saints offense after two sluggish quarters and led to the game-clinching touchdown.
“I talked to [Brees] after the play,” Munnerlyn said. “I told him the play wasn’t what you think it was. I mean, I told him, ‘One guy threw you down and then I piled on top of you and that’s what happened.’ I told him, ‘I inadvertently hit your head and hit your back.’ I mean, he got the call. At the end of the day, we’ve got to learn from this and just stop making mistakes.”
Munnerlyn’s a fiery player who is well known to Brees from his days with the Panthers, but he won’t win the belt making plays like that often.