Mike Florio talks with former Ravens head coach Brian Billick about the divisional round matchups in the NFL playoffs. Can the Ravens slow down Peyton Manning and the Broncos this time around? And can Joe Flacco prove to be among the elite? Billick also talks about the Falcons needing to come out strong and wear the Seahawks down before they can retaliate.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Can Flacco prove he’s elite?
Sure, Broncos kicker Matt Prater knew what the NFL record for the longest field goal was.
He just didn’t know he was going to be asked to break it.
Prater said he was caught off guard when asked to kick a 64-yard attempt just before halftime yesterday, which he nailed to establish a new distance record.
“I was clueless,” Prater said, via Mike Klis of the Denver Post. “I didn’t know he was going to call for the field goal. I didn’t know the kick would be from where it was. I think it helped me to get out there late. Because I had to rush out there, I didn’t have much time to think about it.”
Elam and Janikowski hit theirs in Denver also, but Prater said he thought the bitter cold negated any advantage the altitude gave him.
Of course, Prater wasn’t the only one unaware. Long snapper Aaron Brewer said he realized it was long, and just wanted to make sure he did his part to prevent a long return such as the Auburn win over Alabama the weekend before.
“I didn’t know it was for the longest,” Brewer said. “I just knew I was supposed to run down and cover it. So I ran down and turned around and everyone was going crazy. It was pretty cool.”
For a bunch of guys who barely know where they are on the field, they’re pretty good at their jobs.
With Mike Shanahan on the outs in D.C., the next question becomes who will be on the ins.
From the moment Baylor announced another extension with head coach Art Briles, speculation intensified that Baylor and Briles hoped to prevent speculation that he’ll reunite with Robert Griffin III. Talk like that could undermine if not destroy a recruiting class.
Now that Shanahan seems highly unlikely to be back next year, Briles already has been asked about whether a jump to the NFL could happen.
“I’ve had zero contact with anybody,” Briles said Sunday night, via WacoTrib.com. “I’m a Baylor Bear — that’s all I’m concerned about.”
That quote became a headline that Briles “plans no reunion” with Griffin. But what college coach is ever candid about his plan?
For college coaches, the plan becomes evident only when the plan becomes implemented. Rarely do college coaches flirt with leaving without leaving. When they do (and it’s not unprecedented), it becomes difficult to persuade teenagers and their parents that the man recruiting them to make a four-year commitment to a given also has made a four-year commitment to that school.
Whether Briles would truly want the job presumes that Washington owner Daniel Snyder would want Briles. While it makes sense to have a coach who had a strong and successful working relationship with Griffin in college, hiring Briles strengthens the narrative that Griffin has too much power and influence over Snyder.
Still, it’s critical that Snyder hire a coach who wants Griffin to be his quarterback. There’s a chance a new coach would say what he has to say to get the job, and then lay the foundation (subtly or otherwise) for getting his own quarterback. The challenge for Snyder will be to find a coach who means what he says when he says he wants Griffin.
Does anyone think Josh McDaniels told the Broncos he’d run quarterback Jay Cutler out of town as the first order of business in Denver? Does anyone think Shanahan told Snyder that Shanahan would provoke a showdown with defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth as the first order of business in D.C.?With Kirk Cousins under contract for two more years, there’s a chance the next coach will prefer Cousins to Griffin.
That’s why it will be critical for Snyder to find a coach who truly wants Griffin. The guy who most likely fits that mold is Art Briles.
The Jaguars are back to work after an extended break following last Thursday’s win and the business at hand includes some roster shuffling.
Running back Justin Forsett and wide receiver Stephen Burton are heading to injured reserve while former Colts running back Delone Carter will be coming on board. Forsett broke a bone in his foot a couple of weeks ago, ending a season that saw him get the ball just 21 times in 12 games. Burton, a 2011 seventh-round pick in Minnesota, has been out with a concussion for about a month.
Carter was with the Ravens this summer after a trade with the Colts, but couldn’t win a spot on the roster. The 2011 fourth-rounder ran 133 for 499 yards and five touchdowns during two seasons with the Colts.
Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds is eligible to return from suspension, so he may be ticketed for the other currently open roster spot in Jacksonville.
After another huge game on Sunday, Peyton Manning his closing in on the fifth Most Valuable Player award of his career.
Manning is already the only player in NFL history to win the Associated Press MVP award four times, and on Sunday he had one of his best games of a great season, completing 39 of 59 passes for 397 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Manning is now at 45 touchdown passes on the season, meaning he’ll likely break Tom Brady’s record of 50. Breaking that record would generate a new round of attention for the great season Manning has had, and would likely tip most MVP voters in Manning’s favor.
Perhaps equally important for Manning’s MVP candidacy is that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, the player who was beginning to generate some solid MVP buzz as an alternative to Manning, had a mediocre game in Seattle’s loss to San Francisco. There aren’t a lot of other alternatives to Manning.
It’s still possible that Manning could fold down the stretch and the Broncos could lose the division race to the Chiefs. If that happens, someone like Wilson or Eagles running back LeSean McCoy might still be able to win the award.
But right now, Manning looks like he’s going to be named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. Again.
The Falcons season hasn’t turned out as planned, but offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter still may be able to move into a head coaching job next season.
Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman reports that Koetter will interview for the vacant head coaching position at Boise State. Chris Petersen, Boise’s former coach, left the school to become the head coach at the University of Washington.
Koetter’s familiar with the school and the job, since he held it from 1998-2000 before leaving to become the head coach at Arizona State. Koetter had a 26-10 record during his stint, which featured the team’s first trip to a bowl game and came just before their vault to national prominence over the next decade. Per Cripe, Koetter has “hinted” in the past that he’d be interested in returning to the school.
His interview will reportedly be on Monday and take place via phone because of “travel issues.”
It’s Koetter’s second season as the offensive coordinator in Atlanta. He guided one of the league’s best offenses last year, but injuries to Julio Jones, Roddy White and Stephen Jackson have combined with a faltering offensive line to make Koetter look less clever this time around.
The weekend seems to have clouded the outlook up a little bit. Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union reports that Jones-Drew said Monday that he hopes to return to practice on Friday, which is a schedule for the week that lends itself to a questionable designation more than a definite one.
Jones-Drew would surely like to close out the year healthy and on the field in order to make the strongest possible case for himself heading into free agency. Ending the year with injury limitations is the surest way to remind potential suitors that 30 is right around the corner and that’s not going to do much for contract offers.
Having a healthy Jones-Drew would also improve the Jaguars’ chances of finishing the year riding the same wave that has made them winners in four of their last five contests. That won’t erase the way things started, but it would be a hopeful ending note for Gus Bradley’s first year as the man in charge in Jacksonville.
You didn’t need to see Cardinals rookie Tyrann Mathieu go down to know it was bad.
Tests have confirmed it’s perhaps worse than it looked.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Mathieu tore both the ACL and the LCL in yesterday’s ugly collision.
Tearing multiple ligaments complicates any recovery, so it might not be as simple as assuming he’ll be well when the Cardinals start back next summer.
Mathieu was blossoming into a playmaker for the Cardinals, justifying the third-round draft pick, as be could play safety and cover slot receivers.
The Redskins and Patriots had very different results on Sunday, but both teams are facing questions about their future on Monday.
Washington got blown out at their rapidly emptying home stadium by the Chiefs a few hours after a report about coach Mike Shanahan’s dissatisfaction with the relationship between quarterback Robert Griffin III and team owner Dan Snyder came to light. Shanahan didn’t deny the report or say much of anything else after the game, so Mike Florio will welcome Rich Tandler of CSN Washington to PFT Live to discuss what’s going on in D.C.
The questions about the Patriots future are more localized than the ones the Redskins face after this mess of a season. Tight end Rob Gronkowski’s season is done because of a torn ACL, leaving the Patriots to forge on without their most productive receiver in the postseason once again. Tom Curran of CSN New England will let us know how the Patriots will move on in the wake of Gronkowski’s injury.
You can watch it all live at noon ET by clicking right here.
Yesterday’s weather conditions made a mess of many game plans.
But for the Chiefs, the sorrier the conditions, the better things are looking for Jamaal Charles.
“Jamaal continues to be the best,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, via Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star. “He’s as good as they come.”
Charles had 19 carries for 151 yards yesterday against the Redskins, the latest in a series of strong performances as the weather gets colder. He’s averaging 7.3 yards per carry over the last three games.
“I knew I was going to get the ball the whole day, because of the type of weather that was outside,” Charles said. “I knew everyone was saying, ‘It’s your type of day.’ But it doesn’t matter what type of day, . . . it’s every day for me. No matter what kind of weather conditions, I love to get the ball anyway.”
“I’ve been playing in Kansas City for six years, so I’m kind of used to it. You’ve got to suck it up. It’s football right here, and you’ve got to out there and play, no matter what the conditions outside, . . . sleet, snow, you got to go.”
While Charles isn’t a power running per se, his ability to make one decisive move and go is huge for the Chiefs, and can only help them the later in the year they go.
For a coach whose team is in first place with three weeks left, Detroit’s Jim Schwartz can’t feel great about his job security right now.
The Lions’ loss on Sunday to the Eagles puts the pressure on: If they win their next three games, they win the NFC North. But if the Lions lose any of their next three, there’s a good chance they’ll lose the division to either the Bears or the Packers (who play each other in Week 17).
And that raises a question: How could Lions owner William Clay Ford justify keeping Schwartz if the Lions don’t win the division in a year like this? If the Lions can’t win the division in a year when the Packers and Bears were both devastated by injuries and the Vikings totally melted down, when could they ever win the division?
The good news for Schwartz’s job security is that Ford is a very patient man. This is, after all, the man who sat through year after year of “Fire Millen” chants raining down on him before finally firing Matt Millen. But with Schwartz currently sitting on a 29-49 record in his fifth year as the Lions’ coach, it’s difficult to see how Ford could stomach a late-season collapse.
Detroit is favored to win its next game, at home against Baltimore a week from tonight, and the Lions will be favored to win their final two, home against the Giants and at Minnesota, as well. So there’s a good chance that Schwartz will lead his team to a three-game winning streak to end the season, and that the Lions will host their first playoff game in 20 years.
But if that doesn’t happen, it may be time for Ford to show Schwartz the door.
But you don’t have to be a doctor to know the Patriots are going to have to do business differently — yet again — without their star tight end.
“You just have to find a different formula. That’s the important part,” Brady said during his weekly appearance on WEEI, via Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “Gronk provides a certain margin of error because of how talented a player he is. The other guys play different roles for us. Those roles are going to have to just shift, kind of what we did on the last two drives of the game. We ended up going four wide receivers at points. [At] different points, we had more with [James] Develin and [Matthew] Mulligan on the field. We’re going to have to make due. Whatever the combinations are, if Gronk’s not out there, then we have to try to figure those out.
“We’re going to go down to Miami with confidence that we’re going to win the game, I know that — confidence in our game plan, confidence in what we’re doing and what we’re asking all the players to do. It may be different than what the game plan was with Gronk in there, but we’re just going to have to try to figure it out.”
Of course, getting through a game with the Dolphins is one thing.
How successful they’ll be able to be without Gronkowski (considering the season-long state of their passing targets) remains to be seen.
“That’s perfect for you guys to talk about all day, but that’s not something that we engage in or talk about those types of things,” Brady replied when asked if they can win the Super Bowl without Gronkowski. “However it ends up playing out — I don’t know anything about the injury or severity of it — but we’ve got a talented group of players that are playing. Every team has players that they wish were out there every down, and if they’re not out there every down you’ve still got to find a way to win.”
While no one’s going to feel sorry for them as long as they have Brady, the procession of stars on IR — which includes Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and soon Gronkowski — certainly presents a tremendous challenge to overcome.
Per a league source, an MRI confirmed the damage. Gronkowski will miss the rest of the season. Surgery and rehab will affect his preparation for 2014.
The MRI also shows damage to the MCL. Surgical repair might not be needed of the MCL.
If so, that provides a bit of a silver lining. In 2008, Tom Brady tore an ACL and an MCL, and surgical tinkering with the MCL reportedly resulted in an infection.
For Gronkowski, who battled an infection following forearm surgery earlier this year, the prospect of future complications looms over the ACL repair.
“After the third [forearm] surgery, Robbie said, ‘I’m never doing this again,’” his mother said in October, amid questions that his return from forearm and back surgery was taking too long. “And weeks later, he’s back in for the fourth one. So he doesn’t want to go back where he was and start all over again. It wasn’t fun. It was so discouraging.”
The current situation will be discouraging for Gronkowski, the Patriots, and their fans. From his return in Week Seven through Week 13, the Patriots had the highest-scoring offense in the NFL.
Without Gronkowski, the task of getting back to the Super Bowl becomes a lot more challenging.
Running back Tashard Choice got pink slipped in Buffalo last week, but he wasn’t out of work long.
The Colts announced Monday morning that they have signed Choice while placing Chris Rainey on injured reserve. Rainey joins Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard and Daniel Herron as Colts running backs to see their seasons come to a premature end this season.
Choice was the third back with the Bills and should slide into the same role with the Colts. Donald Brown and Trent Richardson will continue in the top two rungs as the Colts try to get back on track in the final weeks of the season. They clinched the division on Sunday while getting knocked around by the Bengals, but they won’t be able to back into anything once the playoffs roll around.
Choice probably won’t have much to do with that effort, especially since Rainey was only playing a special teams role, but he’ll be there all the same.
Browns safety T.J. Ward hit Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in the knee on Sunday, causing Gronkowski to be carted off the field with what is feared to be a torn ACL. After the game, Ward said he felt bad about it, but hitting Gronkowski low is what the NFL wants.
“If I would’ve hit him up high, there’s a chance I was going to get a fine,” Ward said, via the Boston Globe.
Ward says NFL defensive backs are put in a tough position by the league office.
“It’s kind of being caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “It’s a decision you have to make, but you have to follow the rules at the same time. When they set the rule, everyone knew what was going to happen. This can happen if you have those types of situations. It’s pretty much inevitable, and they forced our hand with this one.”
Ward said he prayed for Gronkowski, but he doesn’t think he did anything wrong.
“But I’ve got to play football, man. I’ve got to play football,” Ward said.
And the way the NFL wants defensive backs to play football is to hit low.
For all the frantic finishes yesterday, the Steelers might have topped them all, if Antonio Brown’s left foot hadn’t been just out of bounds.
The wide receiver’s foot on the line killed a five-lateral play that passed through six sets of hands with no time left on the clock, what would have set up a game-winning extra point against the Dolphins.
“I thought I had it clean,” Brown said, via Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I thought I separated really well getting to the sidelines, but it didn’t seem quite enough.”
It was close, however.
Sanders tossed it to Jerricho Cotchery, who then gave it to Le’Veon Bell. Bell pitched it to tackle Marcus Gilbert, who had the good sense to get it back to Roethlisberger. After a few yards, the quarterback chunked it back to Brown, who had space.
Brown made Dolphins safety Reshad Jones miss, and appeared to be clear of Chris Clemons, but his left foot hit the white line around the 12-yard line.
What he really could have used was coach Mike Tomlin standing there to force him inside.
Instead, the Steelers were left to lament their eighth loss of the season, caused by a pile of problems bigger than Brown’s left foot.
“When you put yourself in a position where you are banking on Marcus Gilbert handling the ball for you to win the game,” safety Ryan Clark said. “That means you haven’t done what you were supposed to do earlier.”
It’s a familiar refrain for the year, and one they can think about in what’s almost certain to be an offseason that begins in three weeks.