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ProFootballTalk: Breaking down Brady’s deal
Just as the Chargers were creeping back into the game, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick delivered a potential knockout blow.
Late in the third quarter and just inside the San Francisco 10, Kaepernick exploded for a 90-yard touchdown run to re-establish the home team’s 14-point lead, 35-21. The effort came on a pass play, with Kaepernick stepping up in the pocket to his right, seeing a crease, and taking off.
That 14-point lead had just been carved in half by a Kaepernick blunder deep in 49ers territory, losing the ball while trying to avoid a sack. San Diego recovered in the end zone to cut the margin from 28-14 to 28-21.
The Chargers’ score came one play after an impressive 63-yard catch and run by tight end Vernon Davis was wiped out by a pair of penalties.
There’s still time for the Chargers to come back and win, but the momentum has just swung sharply to the 49ers, not long after it had swung sharply to the 49ers.
Looking like a team ready to make its move to the top of the NFC only 23 days ago, the Eagles have chased their 9-3 start with an 0-3 run that has a once-promising season on the brink.
The formula is now as simple as it can be for the Eagles: Root for the Cowboys to lose the next two, and beat the Giants in New York. Dallas faces the Colts on Sunday.
Coach Chip Kelly doesn’t seem to be interesting in donning blue and white.
“We have one game left against the New York Giants and we need to win that game,” Kelly told reporters after the loss. “There are a lot of other things that have to happen besides that and we have no control over those. The only thing we can do is prepare for the Giants.”
Maybe Kelly has the right idea. Rooting for the Colts on Sunday becomes rooting for the team that just beat Philly next Sunday, when Washington hosts Dallas. Which means rooting in part for receiver DeSean Jackson, the guy Kelly no longer wanted after 2013. The guy who gained 126 yards against the Eagles on Saturday.
“We felt like our corners could stay with him and obviously they didn’t,” Kelly said.
No, they didn’t. And the Eagles now need help to stay with the Cowboys.
Every year in the NFL, there’s a late-season game in which a team with nothing to play for beats a team with everything to play for. Today it’s happening twice in one day.
Washington has already beaten Philadelphia, and now San Francisco is dominating San Diego.
The 49ers, who are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, are running all over the Chargers, who are still fighting for a wild-card berth. Just five minutes into the second quarter, the 49ers took a 21-0 lead when Antoine Bethea picked off a Philip Rivers pass and ran it back 49 yards for a touchdown.
The Chargers will either pull off one of the biggest comebacks of the season, or they’ll lose a huge game to a team that’s already out of the playoff race.
No team has been more devastated by injuries at one position this season than the Chargers at center.
Chris Watt, who got the start tonight against the 49ers, was San Diego’s fourth different starting center this year. And in the first quarter, he suffered an apparent left ankle injury and limped off the field. He was later carted to the locker room and replaced by Trevor Robinson.
The injury to Watt isn’t the only problem for the Chargers tonight: A bigger problem is that their defense can’t stop the 49ers’ running game. San Francisco had 126 rushing yards in the first 12 minutes of the game and took an early 7-0 lead.
The big winners in Washington on Saturday were the Lions, who clinched a playoff berth with the Eagles’ loss.
And the big losers were, of course, the Eagles: They’re not eliminated from playoff contention yet, but they’re precariously close and now have to have a whole lot of games go their way.
Here’s how the NFC playoff picture looks after the Eagles’ surprise loss.
THE BIG SIX
1. Arizona Cardinals (11-3). NFC West leader. Has clinched playoff spot. Would clinch NFC West and No. 1 overall seed with victory Sunday vs. Seattle.
2. Detroit Lions (10-4). NFC North leader. Would clinch NFC North with a win and a Packers loss.
3. Dallas Cowboys (10-4). NFC East leader. Would clinch NFC East with a win vs. Indianapolis on Sunday.
4. New Orleans Saints (6-8). NFC South leader. Would clinch NFC South with a win vs. Atlanta and a Panthers loss.
5. Seattle Seahawks (10-4). Wild card No. 1. Would clinch a playoff berth with a win vs. Arizona on Sunday.
6. Green Bay Packers (10-4). Wild card No. 2. Would clinch a playoff berth with a win vs. Tampa Bay on Sunday.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
Philadelphia Eagles (9-6). Can still win the NFC East but only if they beat the Giants next week while the Cowboys lose both Sunday against Indianapolis and next week against Washington.
OTHER NFC SOUTH CONTENDERS
Carolina Panthers (5-8-1). Will win the NFC South if they win out and the Saints lose once.
Atlanta Falcons (5-9). Will win the NFC South if they win out.
Philadelphia had everything to play for. Washington had nothing to play for. Everyone figured the Eagles would win easily.
It didn’t work out that way.
Instead, the Eagles went into Washington badly needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and instead choked the game away, losing 27-24 on a Kai Forbath field goal with five seconds left. Mark Sanchez was good for much of the game, but his one interception was what set up Washington’s game-winner.
Adding insult to injury for the Eagles, the best player on the field for Washington was DeSean Jackson, the wide receiver whom Eagles coach Chip Kelly released this offseason. Eagles tight end Zach Ertz was excellent catching short passes, with 15 receptions for 115 yards. But the Eagles could have used a receiver who can stretch the field — that’s what they had last year with Jackson, and that’s what they lacked today.
The loss doesn’t completely eliminate the Eagles from playoff contention, but it does mean their playoff hopes are slim. Eagles fans are now desperately hoping the Cowboys lose tomorrow against the Colts.
Washington won’t be going to the playoffs, but it will go into the offseason with a tough decision about the quarterback position. Robert Griffin III helped the team win today, but he was far from spectacular as a passer, completing just 16 of 23 passes for 220 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception. (In fact, the best thing he did was draw repeated roughing the passer penalties against the Eagles.) Has Griffin done enough to get the starting job next year? Has Jay Gruden done enough to keep the coaching job next year?
Those questions remain to be answered. But today, Washington fans can celebrate. They just earned a hard-fought win, and likely knocked the rival Eagles out of the playoffs in the process.
A vague sense has emerged in recent weeks that a draft-stock gap exists between 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota and 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston. There indeed may be a gap by the time the 2015 draft begins, and it may be Winston who’s the better player.
Jets quarterback Mike Vick, the first overall pick in the draft nearly 14 years ago, recently heaped praise on Winston.
“He may make some poor decisions, but he gets on that football field and he plays his ass off,” Vick said, via Darryl Slater of NJ.com. “Yeah, he can mature. He’ll mature. I see him maturing as time goes on. Like, this year hasn’t been as bad of a year as the first year was for Jameis. I think the kid will continue to improve. I think he’s the future of the NFL.”
This year hasn’t been perfect, though. The offseason featured the crab-leg caper. Then, Winston was suspended for a game after yelling an obscene phrase on campus. He nevertheless dressed for the game and entered the field in full uniform before being sent back inside. More recently, Winston placed his hands on and physically moved an official who was delaying the snap.
As a result, Winston will attract plenty of attention, wherever he goes. And that could make it difficult for him to thrive with a team like the Jets.
“I think it’s hard,” Vick said. “I think his support cast just has to be around him. You can’t put him in a room with a group of young guys. . . . The more veterans around, the more he’ll pick up on things and he’ll mature quickly. That’s the trend I’ve been around since I’ve been in the league.”
For Winston, the trend at the college level has been to win, each and every week. He’s 29-0. A win over Mariota and Oregon will move him to 30-0 and commence talk that, despite Mariota’s accomplishments, perhaps Winston is the better NFL prospect.
Two roughing the passer penalties have helped Washington take a surprising lead in the third quarter today.
Both of the calls were questionable. Neither was particularly late, neither was a direct shot to Griffin’s head and neither drove Griffin into the ground at the end of the hit. Plenty of worse hits go uncalled every week.
But these two were called, and they went against the Eagles, who now trail 17-14.
In a development that’s not really surprising given that one team has something to play for and the other team is hoping to simply get this thing over with already, plenty of Eagles fans have shown up at FedEx Field for Saturday’s game against Washington.
Still, Eagles fans may not actually be outnumbering Washington fans. That’s the assessment made by Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. Steinberg points out that there may indeed be more Eagles fans than home-team fans in the stadium’s standing room-only area.
For now, Eagles fans should be happy. Through two quarters, Philly leads 14-10.
In a must-win game in Washington, the Eagles came out looking sloppy but quickly turned things around.
On Philadelphia’s first drive, Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez was sacked by Ryan Kerrigan, forcing a fumble that Kerrigan recovered. Washington’s offense then managed to pick up 40 yards on a 12-play drive before settling for a Kai Forbath 25-yard field goal.
But on Philadelphia’s second drive, things went more according to plan. The Eagles marched down the field covering 79 yards on 10 plays, culminating in a LeSean McCoy touchdown run that gave the Eagles a 7-3 lead.
This is a big game for Philadelphia and a game in which Washington has nothing to play for. We’ll see if Washington will keep fighting hard anyway.
Washington left tackle Trent Williams is ready to play today against Philadelphia.
Although he was listed as questionable with a shoulder injury, Williams is active and will start. That’s good news for starting quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Potato, potahto. Tomato, tomahto. Los Angeles. Los Angeleez.
Despite the words used, the NFL won’t be returning to L.A. in 2015. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported on Saturday that Commissioner Roger Goodell informed the three contenders to relocate — the Rams, Raiders, and Chargers — that no team will move to Los Angeles next year. A league source tells PFT that, technically, the teams decided not to try to move next year.
It’s probably a distinction without a difference. However, Schefter’s report creates the impression that Goodell dictated the outcome to the teams. Given the year the league office has had, that’s not the most favorable message to send.
Even if, as we’re told, the decision was made by the teams, it’s quite possible if not likely that the teams made the decision only after it was made clear to them that an attempt to move to L.A. would not succeed in 2015.
Then there’s the reality that going against the wishes of the powers-that-be in 2015 could make it harder to secure approval to move in 2016.
Either way, L.A. won’t be getting one or more NFL teams in 2015. But the signals are getting stronger and stronger for an L.A. relocation come 2016.
Everyone expects Peyton Manning to start on Monday night in Cincinnati, but officially that’s no sure thing.
The Broncos listed Manning as questionable on the official injury report for Monday’s game against the Bengals. Manning has been getting treatment for a thigh injury and has also battled an illness.
If Manning can’t go, Brock Osweiler would get the nod. Osweiler played briefly — and played poorly — when Manning went to the locker room during Sunday’s win over the Chargers.
Obviously, it would be very, very bad news for the Broncos if there really is a risk that Manning can’t play. But from all indications, there really isn’t any question. Manning may be listed as questionable, but he will play.
The Browns will be without one of their key defensive players for the rest of the season.
The club announced Saturday it had placed free safety Tashaun Gipson on injured reserve. Gipson, whose six interceptions are tied for the NFL lead, suffered an MCL sprain in the Browns’ November 23 win at Atlanta.
A third-year pro from Wyoming, the 24-year-old Gipson has 12 interceptions for Cleveland since 2012.
Jim Leonhard has stepped into the lineup in Gipson’s absence.
To replace Gipson on the roster, the Browns promoted linebacker Scott Solomon from the practice squad. The 26-year-old Solomon has appeared in 20 regular-season games in three NFL seasons, including six with Tampa Bay earlier this year.
The 7-7 Browns are the lowest-seeded club still in playoff contention in the AFC. They play at Carolina on Sunday.
Jets S Rontez Miles had emergency surgery on Thursday after being kicked in the shin during practice.
Steelers players are lobbying for LB Lawrence Timmons to make it to the Pro Bowl.
The Texans will get a good look on Sunday at a running back they maybe shouldn’t have let get away.
Maligned in May, the Colts’ quintet of draft picks has done well.
If you’re among the many who passed on Thursday night’s game, here’s what the win revealed about the Jaguars.
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt summarizes his first season with the team in three words: “It’s not fun.”
Former Chiefs Pro Bowl OL John Alt is helping LT Eric Fisher.
The Raiders may be shorthanded at cornerback with Buffalo coming to town.
So what does the Chargers’ defense need to do to win some games? Defensive coordinator John Pagano makes it as simple as possible: “Play better.”
How bad is Washington’s offensive line? Really bad.
Here’s a great look at how the Packers are trying to slow down great receivers at a time when the rules are helping them.
The win the renewal of the Bay of Pigs rivalry, the Buccaneers will need to be able to run the ball effectively.
The Cardinals joined the NFL in 1920; Sunday night’s game is the biggest regular-season contest in franchise history.