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ProFootballTalk: Texans sweating it out?
While a talent gap clearly exists between Cutler and McCown, a performance gap doesn’t. And if McCown can continue to play like he did Monday night against a talented playoff contender with a small margin for error in Chicago-style December elements, the Bears would have an extremely viable Plan B.
Which could eventually become Plan A, if the Bears win the NFC North under McCown.
With neither Cutler (who is 30) nor McCown (34) the long-term answer at the quarterback position, the best move for the Bears could be to keep McCown and have him groom a rookie drafted by Emery and coach Marc Trestman in 2014 or 2015.
Bears fans won’t be picky. With precious few (arguably no) franchise quarterbacks since Sid Luckman, the name on the back of the jersey won’t matter, as long as the guy throwing the passes is completing them. That’s a far easier proposition with guys like Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett running the routes.
The situation could make Cutler more eager to return from his week-to-week high ankle sprain that at one point had his lower leg in a hard cast. It also could nudge the Bears toward applying the 100-percent rule to Cutler, prompting them to wink-nod the medical staff toward not concluding Cutler is able to play for the rest of the season.
Speaking of winks and nods, a few of both could be necessary when it comes to McCown. He signed a one-year deal in the offseason under the minimum salary benefit, which allowed the Bears to pay him $840,000 at a cap charge of only $580,000. The Bears can’t re-sign McCown until he becomes a free agent in March. Technically, they can’t even negotiate with McCown until he hits the market.
If McCown carries the Bears to the playoffs, Chicago may have to pay McCown more than they’d want to pay a guy to hold the spot and mentor a rookie.
That’d still be a lot less than the $60-plus million over three years that the franchise tag would generate for Cutler. Which would give the Bears plenty of money to spend on positions other than quarterback. Which would be in capable hands in the short term with McCown — and over the long haul with whomever Trestman and Emery regard as the best guy from the current crop (or the next crop) of rookies to run Trestman’s offense for the next decade.
If they make the right choice, Trestman and Emery become much more likely to be employed by the Bears for most or all of the next decade.
It’s no mystery that Mike Munchak is on the hot seat, as are many in Tennessee.
But the Titans coach insists he’s not worried about that as he prepares his team for what could be his final three games.
The Titans have squandered a 3-1 start this year by losing seven of the next nine. Munchak’s overall record is 20-25, meaning not even an unlikely three-game win streak to close would get him to .500. He’s also 4-12 in division games in his tenure.
“We have three games to go. We have a lot of football to play, so that is not a concern right now,” Munchak said, via Jim wyatt of the Tennesseean. “Once we play our last game, we’ll have an opportunity to speak on how we go forward as a football team like I did last year and the year before that. I’ve had the same discussion when the season ends and I’m assuming I’ll have that same discussion when the season ends.
“I’ll have a chance to talk to everybody then and say ‘Here’s what happened. Here’s how we go forward. Here’s the plan.’ And then a decision is made and we’ll move forward.”
Of course, there is one different element to the conversation — it will be held with new Titans CEO Tommy Smith, who replaces the late Bud Adams in that capacity.
Munchak said he and Smith were “on the same page.”
But with just a year left on his contract, there’s very little secure about his position.
Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu’s season came to an end after he injured his knee in Sunday’s victory over the Rams, a tough blow for a rookie who has carved out a place for himself in the NFL.
Rams rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin hasn’t been as quick a study as Mathieu, but he also suffered an injury in Sunday’s game. Austin hurt his ankle at the tail end of a 56-yard run against Arizona and wound up leaving the game for good a short time later. Coach Jeff Fisher updated Austin’s condition on Monday and said the wideout avoided the kind of serious injury that Mathieu suffered.
“We did our tests and he’ll be day-to-day this week,” Fisher said, via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com.
Austin has not been a consistent threat in his first season, but he’s made several plays that flash the kind of talent that made him the eighth overall pick in April. He’s scored touchdowns as a receiver, runner and returner this season and it seems he’ll have a chance to score a few more in the final three weeks of the Rams’ season.
Last year the Saints set a new NFL record by allowing 7,042 total yards over the course of the season, a pathetic defensive performance that resulted in New Orleans making wholesale changes on defense, including hiring coordinator Rob Ryan, who had just been fired by the Cowboys.
This year, Ryan has turned the Saints’ defense around. But his old team is threatening to break his new team’s dubious record.
After last night’s pathetic performance in a loss to the Bears, the Cowboys’ defense has allowed 3,880 passing yards and 1,669 rushing yards for a total of 5,549 yards on the season. That means if the Cowboys allow 1,494 yards over the final three games, they’ll break the record. That works out to 498 yards a game, and last night the Cowboys allowed 497 yards to the Bears.
New Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is taking a lot of the blame in Dallas, as he should. There was a time when Kiffin was among the most respected defensive coordinators in football, but that was a long time ago. Kiffin was an utter failure as a defensive coordinator while working for his son, Lane Kiffin, at USC, and he’s been a failure this year in Dallas. It would be a shame for Kiffin to end a fine career by coordinating a defense that sets an all-time record for yards allowed, but he’s heading in that direction.
Starting center Max Unger left Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers with a chest injury that head coach Pete Carroll said after the game was a strained pectoral.
Unger did not return to the game and was replaced by backup Lemuel Jeanpierre.
Carroll said Monday that Unger has a chance to play this week against the New York Giants.
“He’ll be in limited fashion during the week. We think we’ll get him for the ball game,” Carroll said.
Unger hasn’t played up to the level he did last season when he was named a first-team All-Pro. He’s battled several injuries this season in missing three games for Seattle. An elbow injury cost him two games and a concussion kept him out for a third.
Seattle’s offensive line as finally been back to full strength for the last three games. Unger being able to play against the Giants would be a big boost for Seattle as they continue to rebuild their continuity after missing Unger, Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini for significant portions of the season.
On a freezing cold night in Chicago, the Bears offense was on fire.
Chicago scored on all eight of their offensive possessions on the night (except for a kneel down on their final possession) in cruising to a 45-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Chicago didn’t benefit from remarkable field position either. Each one of the Bears drives started on their own side of the 50-yard line.
A beleaguered Cowboys defense appeared to be functionally frozen in place all night as they proved to have little chance of slowing the Bears attack.
Josh McCown threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another on the night. Matt Forte also ran for 102 yards on 20 carries as the Cowboys defense continued their struggles. Sean Lee returned for his first game in a month but left the game early after suffering a neck injury.
Tony Romo threw three touchdowns but was held to just 104 yards passing and 11 completions by the Bears. Dallas ran for 198 yards against a poor Chicago run defense, but the Cowboys just couldn’t keep up with a team that was scoring every time they touched the ball.
The NFC North playoff picture is now as murky as ever. Chicago moves to 7-6 and into a tie with the Detroit Lions at the top of the division, though the Lions hold the tiebreaker with two wins over the Bears. The Green Bay Packers remain just a half game behind with Aaron Rodgers getting closer to returning to the field.
Dallas now falls a game behind the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.
Sean Lee’s return to the lineup for the Dallas Cowboys ultimately proved to be somewhat short-lived.
Lee left Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears with a neck injury. While attempting to make a tackle, Lee dove forward and took a knee/thigh to the head.
Lee was making his return to the lineup for the first time in nearly a month. Lee missed the last two games for Dallas after suffering a hamstring injury against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 10. Lee had racked up seven tackles for the Cowboys on the night before leaving the game.
Lee’s absence levies a further blow to an already maligned Cowboys’ defense. The Bears have scored on each of their first seven possessions against Dallas in building a 42-14 lead.
Alshon Jeffery has shown a penchant for making difficult, contested catches in becoming a reliable weapon for the Chicago Bears in his second season with the team.
Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys is proving to be no exception.
With 17 seconds left in the first half and the Bears holding a 17-14 lead, Josh McCown took a shot at throwing to a fairly well-covered Jeffery in the end zone. Jeffery was being trailed by cornerback B.W. Webb and had safety Jeff Heath tracking over the top as well.
McCown placed the ball perfectly in the back corner of the end zone but it still required a stellar catch from Jeffery. He leaped above the coverage of Webb to snag the ball out of the sky and managed to get both feet down in the corner of the end zone while falling backward out-of-bounds for a 25-yard touchdown grab.
Jeffery already has five catches for 84 yards and a touchdown against a shaky Bears defense. The touchdown was his third in the last two games after exploding for 249 yards on 12 catches and two scores against the Minnesota Vikings last week.
The touchdown gave Chicago a 24-14 lead at the break with the Bears getting the ball to begin the second half.
It’s a cold Monday night in Chicago, but both offenses are heating up.
Dallas got the game started with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that included some big running by DeMarco Murray and ended with a two-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant. It was a great drive that looked like it was going to start a long night for the Bears.
And after holding the Cowboys’ offense, the Bears got the ball again and marched down the field on a 10-play, 65-yard drive that ended with McCown leaping into the end zone at the end of a seven-yard run.
Much like we saw on Sunday, there’s a lot of good football being played in the cold.
As the NFL ponders whether to export the replay function from stadiums to a central location such as the league office, Sunday’s bungling of a Bengals touchdown call provides the best evidence that change is needed.
With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Cincinnati running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis hit the ground short of the goal line and then skidded across. Ruled not a touchdown on the field, the replay assistant activated the replay function by buzzing referee Jeff Triplette.
The question then became whether indisputable visual evidence existed to overrule the on-field decision that Green-Ellis was down. Triplette, who presided over the Week 13 Sunday night first-down clusterfudge in Washington, determined that the call on the field was wrong.
Triplette’s decision seemed to ignore the possibility that Green-Ellis was tripped up in the backfield by a Colts player, causing Green-Ellis to stumble and ultimately fall. As it turns out, Triplette’s decision did ignore that possibility; Triplette said after the game that he looked only at the end of the play.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Tom Pelissero of USA Today that Triplette had the authority to review the entire play. Triplette, however, admitted to a pool reporter after the game that Triplette didn’t.
“It was a judgment call,” Aiello explained to Pelissero. “Jeff determined in the review that the runner was not down by contact.”
But that’s not the standard. The question is whether Triplette detected indisputable visual evidence that Green-Ellis wasn’t tripped up or otherwise touched by a defender on the way to the ground. Triplette necessarily failed to apply that standard because he didn’t even consider the visual evidence regarding the events that caused Green-Ellis to stumble and fall.
It’s easy to see why Triplette erred. Efforts to make a detached, clinical assessment of film becomes difficult if not impossible for officials who are attached to the playing field; a voting-booth curtain hardly transports the official to an environment that is conducive to a proper assessment of the video. These review need to be conducted in a place where reliable, consistent, and efficient decisions can be made by specialists who are sensitive to the applicable standard and in turn equipped to overturn only those rulings that are clearly incorrect.
Triplette’s mistake proves once again that the current system isn’t working. With replay mistakes being the easiest officiating gaffes for casual fans to identify and criticize, the NFL needs to find a better way to implement the replay system.
Taking it out of the stadiums and sending it to New York is the best way to do that.
Late in Sunday’s Seahawks-49ers game, San Francisco, trailing 17-16, marched deep into Seattle territory. The 49ers were able to run six plays, force the Seahawks to use their remaining timeouts, run two minutes off the clock, and finally kick the winning field goal with 26 seconds left.
That raises an interesting question: Should the Seahawks have allowed the 49ers to score a touchdown as soon as they got into field goal range? That would have meant the Seahawks would need a touchdown, not just a field goal, to come back and win. But it also would have given the Seahawks a lot more time to score.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said that question occurred to him at the time, and he briefly discussed it with his assistants. But Carroll said it was his gut feeling that he doesn’t believe in allowing opposing teams to score.
“There’s a lot of gut in that decision,” Carroll said on 710 ESPN. “We had the talk, and it’s just not in our mentality to let anybody have anything.”
Still, Carroll said he’s going to look into whether it might have been beneficial for the Seahawks to let the 49ers score.
“I’m going to do a little research this week and see if anyone has ever done that and won,” Carroll said.
There have been high-profile instances of teams allowing opponents to score touchdowns, including the Patriots allowing the Giants to score late in Super Bowl XLVI and the Packers allowing the Broncos to score late in Super Bowl XXXII. In those cases, however, the tactic didn’t result in a dramatic come-from-behind win. And unless Carroll can find a prior example of a team actually winning after letting the other team score, he doesn’t sound interested in conceding a touchdown to an opposing team.
Rob Gronkowski isn’t the only NFL tight end to have his knee blown out by a low hit this year. And one of the other victims of a low hit wants the NFL to do something about it.
Dustin Keller, the Miami tight end whose season ended before it began when he took a low hit in the preseason, took to Twitter today to express his concern for Gronkowski and to say it’s time for the NFL to do something about players getting hit in the knees.
Praying for @RobGronkowski and a speedy recovery and a MAJOR comeback..something has to be done about these low hits!!!—
Dustin Keller (@DUSTINKELLER81) December 09, 2013
The player who hit Keller and caused him to miss the entire season was Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger, who said at the time that it had been impressed upon him not to hit high, even though he personally would rather take a hit to the head than to the knee.
“I was making a hit playing football,” Swearinger said after the hit on Keller. “In this league you’ve got to go low. If you go high you’re going to get a fine. . . .The rules say you can’t hit high so I went low and I’m sorry that happened. I would think you’d rather have more concussions than leg injuries. Leg injury, you can’t come back from that. A concussion, you be back in a couple in a couple of weeks.”
The NFL, however, wants players to stop thinking of concussions as injuries that are easy to brush off. And if the NFL’s player safety rules mean players are lowering their targets, that’s exactly what the NFL wants.
It’s common for NFL head coaches to contact the league office when they have a complaint about the officiating. It’s less common for the league office to reach out to coaches about the officiating.
But Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said today that the league called him about the officiating in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens.
“The fact that they called should give you an indication of how they felt about things on that day. That was encouraging that they wanted to talk about that game from yesterday,” Frazier said, via 1500ESPN.com.
Frazier said he didn’t want to go into all the details about what was said in that conversation, but he did acknowledge the obvious: The Vikings weren’t happy about the officials’ ruling on Toby Gerhart’s fumble, which was upheld on replay even though the video showed that Gerhart’s knee was down.
“We did talk about the Gerhart play,” Frazier said.
The Vikings were also unhappy about the way pass interference was inconsistently called on Sunday, with those inconsistencies seeming to benefit from the Ravens. It’s a little surprising that the league office would reach out to Frazier, but it’s not surprising at all that there were more plenty of bad calls on Sunday, because this NFL season has been full of them.
The Patriots have officially ended tight end Rob Gronkowski’s season.
The team announced that Gronkowski has been placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL and MCL on a shot to the knee by Browns safety T.J. Ward during Sunday’s 27-26 Patriots win. Gronkowski, who also suffered a concussion on the play, is likely going to be impacted for much of the 2014 offseason as well as he tries to work himself back to full health for the second straight year.
New England also announced that tight end D.J. Williams has been re-signed to the active roster. Williams played in the Week 13 victory over the Texans, but was released last week when Michael Hoomanawanui returned to the lineup. Williams also played seven games for the Jaguars earlier this season.
Williams is on the roster, but he isn’t filling Gronkowski’s shoes. No one’s going to be able to do that, as we saw during the first chunk of this season while Gronkowski recovered from back and forearm surgery. The Patriots will have to improvise and do it quickly in order to keep their offense humming with Gronkowski out of action.
The Sunday that the NFL became a snow globe is starting to recede from view, but we’re not quite ready to give up on one of the more memorable days of regular season action in many years.
We’ll be covering all of the fallout from the day’s games on Monday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN. Rodney Harrison and Scott Pioli will be on hand to help break down the 49ers defending their home turf, the Redskins ceding theirs to the Chiefs in a rout and everything that happened on snowy fields around the league.
We’ve got all the biggest news from Monday as well as we catch you up on everything you need to know in the NFL. We’ll also take a look ahead to Monday night’s matchup between the Bears and Cowboys from Chicago.
It all gets started at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.