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Jamaal Charles gaining ground at a rate unseen in NFL history

Jamaal Charles AP

The Chiefs are completing a miserable season that may cost everyone in the front office and coaching staff their jobs, but there’s one very valuable asset that whoever takes over the Chiefs next season will inherit: A running back who has blown away the NFL’s all-time record for yards per carry.

When Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles logged his 750th career carry on Sunday, he earned a spot in the NFL record book that had been owned by Jim Brown for half a century. That’s the spot atop the list of running backs with the highest career average yards per carry: In the official NFL record book, a running back needs 750 career carries to qualify for the yards-per-carry record, and Brown’s career average of 5.22 yards per carry has been the gold standard since he retired in 1965.

But now Charles, with 770 carries for 4,483 yards in his career, has surpassed Brown by a huge margin: Charles’ average of 5.82 yards per carry is something professional football has never seen before from a running back.

Brown’s record has technically been broken, but only by a couple of quarterbacks: First Randall Cunningham retired with an average of 6.36 yards per carry, and then Michael Vick, whose current career average is 7.03 yards per carry, topped Cunningham. But if we look only at running backs, Charles is the best ever in yards per carry average by a huge margin.

In fact, Charles tops all other running backs in NFL history even if we expand the list a bit to include running backs who didn’t have 750 career carries. Pro Football Hall of Famer Marion Motley, for instance, averaged 5.70 yards a carry in his career, an even better mark than Brown. Motley was always cited by the great Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman as the best football player he ever saw, but Motley got most of his carries playing for the Browns when they were part of the All-America Football Conference in the 1940s, and the NFL doesn’t count stats from the AAFC toward its official records, so Motley has never been considered the record holder. Some football historians considered Motley the true yards-per-carry record holder even though the NFL record book gave the nod to Brown, but Charles has now surpassed even Motley’s mark.

Bo Jackson also had a better career yards per carry average than Brown, but Jackson’s career was cut short after just 515 carries. Jackson’s average was an incredible 5.40 yards per carry — incredible, but not as good as Charles’ career average.

A running back who averages five yards a carry for his career is doing something extraordinary. Five yards a carry is better than Walter Payton averaged, better than O.J. Simpson averaged, better than Eric Dickerson averaged, better than Emmitt Smith averaged. A 5.0 average is what Barry Sanders and Gale Sayers had in their careers, and it’s currently Adrian Peterson’s career average as well. Going above 5.0 is the most rarefied air a running back can reach. For Charles to close out his fifth NFL season while carrying a 5.8-yard career average is remarkable.

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Panthers blast Falcons to earn NFC South title at 7-8-1

Panthers Falcons Football AP

Sure, the Panthers went eight weeks without winning a game earlier this season.

But they went the last four without losing one, and now they’re headed to the playoffs.

With no apologies for their 7-8-1 record, the Panthers are headed to the postseason after a dominating 34-3 win over the Falcons.

They outgained the Falcons 306-288, with Cam Newton only throwing 16 passes all day. They outrushed the Falcons 194-63, and played dominant defense all afternoon.

The Panthers closed the season by sweeping through the division (with an ugly win over the Browns mixed in). But like their 41-10 win over the Saints which started this run, the beating they put on the Falcons was thorough.

The Panthers sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan six times, and goaded him into a pair of pick-sixes (by safeties Roman Harper and Tre Boston). They did it with a simple game plan, getting the pressure with their front four and not having to rely on blitzing. It should also be noted they did it without franchise-tagged defensive end Greg Hardy, who made $13.1 million this year for one sack before going on the commissioner’s exempt list because of a domestic violence arrest.

The Falcons had played well down the stretch themselves, but had no answer for the Panthers pressure all day.

While people are going to mock them for the next week and say they have no chance in the postseason (and maybe they don’t), it’s hard to argue with the job Panthers coach Ron Rivera has done with this mishmash of a roster.

His teams are 15-3 in December during his stint as head coach. Even though the first two years of his career those were meaningless December games, he’s now gotten the Panthers to the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in franchise history.

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Brandon, Whaley have no meetings scheduled with ownership

Brandon Getty Images

Amid rumors that CEO Russ Brandon, G.M. Doug Whaley, and Senior V.P. of Football Administration will soon be former employees of the Bills, Brandon and Whaley told reporters after Sunday’s season-ending win over the Patriots that no meetings have been scheduled with ownership regarding their respective futures.

“I’m sure at some point we’ll get into some more in-depth meetings,” Brandon told reporters, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com.  “There’s nothing scheduled at this point.  I talk to Terry [Pegula] all the time, and I have nothing on the books right now for any meetings.”

Brandon also seemed to be annoyed by the chatter that his long-time tenure with the team could be ending.

“I don’t know where all this speculation comes from,”  Brandon said.  “It’s agent-on-agent crime, basically, listening to all the nonsense that’s out there.  It’s hard in our business not to get caught up in the noise, but it’s just that:  It’s noise.”

If it’s noise, then the Pegulas need to say so, quickly.  The longer they wait, the louder the noise will be.

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Broncos holding Raiders at bay

C.J. Anderson AP

The Broncos’ final postseason tune-up has largely gone smoothly.

Though the visiting Raiders have been persistent, the Broncos have been in control throughout Sunday’s matchup, and Denver holds a 33-14 lead with 10:18 left in regulation.

Tailback C.J. Anderson has tallied the Broncos’ first three TDs, with kicker Connor Barth’s four field goals producing Denver’s other points.

The Raiders drew within 27-14 midway through the third quarter on quarterback Derek Carr’s one-yard TD pass to running back Jamize Olawale. But Denver (11-4) has padded its lead since, with two Barth field goals pushing its edge to 19 points.

The Broncos will clinch a first-round bye with a victory.

Denver has lost one starter to injury on Sunday, with left guard Orlando Franklin (concussion) ruled out for the rest of the game.

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Seahawks take lead after intercepting Shaun Hill

Marshawn Lynch, Alec Ogletree, Lamarcus Joyner AP

The Seahawks Defense kept the team alive while the offense was turning the ball over and scoring no points in the first half against the Rams and they turned in a play that led to the first touchdown of the afternoon in the second half.

Rams quarterback Shaun Hill tried to throw away a pass on a screen gone awry, but his toss toward the turf never made it. Seahawks defensive tackle Jordan Hill continued his strong second half by making a quick play to pick the ball off and give the Seahawks possession near midfield.

Quarterback Russell Wilson, who has looked better in the second half, hit Kevin Norwood for 31 yards and Marshawn Lynch sprinted nine yards for a touchdown on the next play to give Seattle a 13-6 lead with just over 12 minutes left in the game. Lynch didn’t punctuate this score with a reprise of last Sunday’s crotch grab, so he should avoid a fine on that front this week.

The Seahawks are the top seed in the NFC if they can close out the Rams from here. With just 119 yards allowed, it’s hard not to like their chances.

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Clock is ticking on Falcons, Mike Smith

MikeSmith AP

It’s not a good sign for current Falcons coach Mike Smith that the franchise has retained a firm to help find a new head coach.  It’s an even worse sign that Smith currently is losing 27-3 at home in a playoff play-in game.

It adds up to Smith being fired as soon as Monday.  Which makes the Falcons arguably the most attractive available option for coaching candidates.

Most vacancies arise in part because the team doesn’t have a competent quarterback.  The Falcons do, in Matt Ryan.  Throw in receiver Julio Jones, and the glass is more than half full for the offense.

Throw in the presence of G.M. Thomas Dimitroff (who drafted Ryan and traded up for Jones) and assistant G.M. Scott Pioli (who helped set the table in New England for years and drafted Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston during his time in Kansas City), and there’s a system in place for upgrading the talent.

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Tommy Smith reiterates that Ken Whisenhunt, Ruston Webster are safe

Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans AP

In early November, Titans CEO Tommy Smith said that he wasn’t considering making a change at either coach or general manager.

Smith said the same thing in early December, but there were still questions about the futures of coach Ken Whisenhunt and General Manager Ruston Webster after Sunday’s loss to the Colts. Smith remained consistent, however.

Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.net reports that Smith simply said “yes” when asked if Whisenhunt and Webster would remain on the job after the 2-14 season. It was Whisenhunt’s first year as the head coach in Tennessee while Webster has been in his role for three seasons.

Both men have plenty of work to do this offseason in order to avoid a repeat of the same questions this time next year. One of the pieces they’ll have to work with is the second overall pick in the draft. It looked for much of the day like they would get the first overall pick, but Tampa couldn’t hold their lead over the Saints and the Titans suffered yet another loss this season.

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Two Megatron TDs tie the score, Rodgers returns

megatron AP

The Lions’ best player has scored two touchdowns to tie the score in Green Bay. Now the Packers’ best player is about to answer.

Lions receiver Calvin Johnson caught two touchdown passes, one late in the second quarter and one early in the third, to turn a 14-0 Packers lead into a 14-14 tie game.

But now Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is getting ready to re-enter the game. Rodgers was carted to the locker room just before halftime after aggravating a calf injury, but now Rodgers is back and ready to go.

The NFC North is on the line in Green Bay, and the Lions’ offense is starting to make some plays. But with Rodgers at the helm, the Packers’ offense is ready to roll.

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Panthers up 27-3 in the third, on verge of playoffs

Cam Newton,Joe Webb , Derek Anderson AP

The Panthers have blown leads in the Georiga Dome before.

But it might be hard to blow this one.

The Panthers are leading the Falcons 27-3 midway through the third quarter, pulling away with the game for the NFC South title, and the distinction of making the playoffs with a losing record.

The Panthers are running well, but they’re also pressuring Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan heavily, with four sacks so far.

They’ve outgained the Falcons 252-116 so far, with their pass rush keeping Ryan from letting anything develop downfield.

 

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Franchise-tag fight looming for Justin Houston

Houston AP

With linebacker Justin Houston ready to hit free agency with 22 sacks, the Chiefs have to decide whether to pay Houston or to use the franchise tag.  Prior offers were deemed to be substandard by Houston; now that he has completed his rookie deal with a four-sack flourish, the leverage swings sharply in his direction.

And so the franchise tag becomes a very real possibility.  Also a real possibility is a fight between player and team over the position he actually plays.

Listed as a linebacker (but wisely not self-described as a linebacker on Twitter), Houston arguably is actually a defensive end, which carries a higher franchise-tag value.  Per a league source, Houston’s camp will now examine the 2014 game film to determine whether Houston lined up more as a defensive end than as a linebacker.

If the tape supports an argument that Houston spent more of his time playing defensive end, a grievance will be filed, identical to the grievance filed several years ago by Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs.  That time, the two sides worked out a compromise.  This time, it could go all the way to an arbitration ruling.

Regardless of the amount of the tag, the two sides will have until July 15 to work out a multi-year deal.  If, however, Houston continues to not like the offers made by the Chiefs, he could choose to take it one year at a time until the Chiefs decide to let him hit the open market — or until they give him a long-term deal that reflects something close to his market value.

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Long Michael Floyd touchdown puts Cardinals up at half

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Ryan Lindley’s first career touchdown pass put the Cardinals ahead in the first quarter and No. 2 has them ahead at halftime despite allowing the 49ers to score 13 straight points at one point in the first half.

Lindley connected with Michael Floyd for a 41-yard touchdown that Floyd punctuated by getting the ball across the goal line before going out of bounds. The score came with 36 seconds to go in the half and left the Cardinals with a 17-13 lead to protect.

If they can and if the Rams maintain their lead over the Seahawks, Arizona would be the NFC West champions and they’d have a first-round bye to use to their advantage. If either of those things doesn’t happen, they’ll open the playoffs at the NFC South winner.

Lindley is having a strong day against an injury-riddled 49ers secondary. He’s completed 16-of-25 passes for 260 yards with one interception serving as the only blemish. It’s exactly what the Cardinals would want to see from Lindley given the continued uncertainty about Drew Stanton’s health and another half of it could make for as unlikely a path to a division title as any in recent memory.

The 49ers turned that interception into a Phil Dawson field goal, but the defense has been much improved from last week outside of allowing a 76-yard Anquan Boldin touchdown.

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Broncos taking care of business vs. Raiders

C.J. Anderson AP

The Broncos are on track for a coveted first-round bye.

C.J. Anderson’s two first-half TD runs have given Denver a 20-7 halftime lead vs. visiting Oakland on Sunday afternoon. The Broncos (11-4) will clinch the No. 2 spot in the AFC with a victory over the Raiders.

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has been solid thus far, completing 15-of-22 passes for 199 yards. His top target has been Demaryius Thomas, who has riddled the Raiders for seven catches for 110 yards.

The Raiders’ lone score came on a somewhat fluky play. A Manning pass parallel to the line of scrimmage was tipped by the Raiders’ Justin Tuck, and rookie cornerback Keith McGill took it back 17 yards for a touchdown. The play was ruled a lateral on the field and was upheld after review.

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Rams keep Seahawks off scoreboard in first half

St Louis Rams v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Seahawks Defense has continued to be inhospitable on Sunday afternoon in Seattle, but the team’s offense has had none of the sparkle that it had against the Cardinals last weekend.

The Seahawks have outgained the Rams 189-66 through the first 30 minutes, but a pair of turnovers and a failed fourth down conversions forced by a very good Rams Defense have conspired to keep them from turning any of those yards into points. Russell Wilson has been sacked twice and thrown an interception while completing 7-of-12 passes for 79 yards and narrowly avoided another giveaway when he fumbled while being sacked by Aaron Donald late in the half.

A teammate recovered, but it was a fitting end to the half for the slumbering Seahawks.

St. Louis hasn’t been doing much other than not turning the ball over on offense, but that’s been enough for them to stay ahead of Seattle thus far. If the Rams formula on defense continues to work into the second half, the Seahawks may need to come up with a score from their own defenders in order to guarantee themselves a division title.

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Aaron Rodgers limps off the field after throwing touchdown pass

rodgers AP

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had to limp off the field today after throwing a touchdown pass against the Lions.

Rodgers felt pressure, escaped the pocked, threw on the run and found Randall Cobb open in the end zone for a touchdown. It was a trademark great play for Rodgers, and it gave the Packers a 14-0 lead late in the second quarter.

But Rodgers, who was already dealing with a calf injury before today’s game, appeared to aggravate that injury and went down untouched. Rodgers had to be helped off the field and then rode a cart into the locker room. Matt Flynn began warming up to replace Rodgers.

The official word from the Packers is that Rodgers is questionable to return with a calf injury.

If Rodgers is out for the game, the Packers may still be in good shape today, as the Lions’ offense hasn’t been able to do anything today. But if Rodgers is hobbled for the playoffs, that would be very bad news in Green Bay.

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Old man Roman Harper makes a play, Panthers rolling

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Roman Harper was the only veteran the Panthers hung onto when they rebuilt their secondary midseason.

And for 16 weeks, you wondered if he had pictures of someone.

But he paid the Panthers back for their loyalty, picking off a Matt Ryan pass and returning it for a touchdown in the second quarter, giving the Panthers a 17-3 lead in the NFC South title game.

Harper’s been valuable to the Panthers for settling a secondary full of kids, and is noted as being good in the locker room. He hasn’t been very good on the field this year, but he just made a play that will make people in Charlotte forget a lot of blown coverages.

The Panthers just created another turnover, and are threatening to run away with this one, and claim a division title with a 7-8-1 record.

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Haslam says Browns won’t tolerate “irresponsible” players

Manziel Getty Images

With the Browns seeing a 7-4 start disintegrate to an 0-5 finish, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam won’t be hiring a new coach or a new G.M.  The same ultimately may not be said for some of the team’s high-profile players.

Via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Haslam said after Sunday’s loss to the Ravens that the Browns are “not going to tolerate people who are irresponsible no matter what round they were drafted in.”

He’s referring to quarterback Johnny Manziel, cornerback Justin Gilbert, and receiver Josh Gordon, each of whom found trouble this weekend for failing to be where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there.

Haslam also said that the Browns will continue to work with the team’s irresponsible players, but he made it clear they’ll be gone if they don’t “fall in line.”

As to Manziel, it remains to be seen whether he has gotten the message.  During Sunday’s loss, he was on Twitter, clicking “favorite” on a tweet from TMZ regarding Chris Rock’s looming divorce from his wife.

Maybe someday Chris Rock will be favoriting a tweet from TMZ regarding Manziel’s looming divorce from the Browns.

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