Skip to content

NFL morning after: Tom Brady is back

Pittsburgh Steelers v New England Patriots Getty Images

Until Sunday, Tom Brady wasn’t just having a bad year. He was having by far the worst year of his NFL career.

Heading into Sunday’s games, the list of quarterbacks who had a higher passer rating than Brady this season included Chad Henne, Matt Schaub, Mike Glennon and Thad Lewis. Brady’s passer rating was a career-low 74.9. Brady’s completion rate was a career-low 55.7 percent. Brady’s average yards per pass was a career-low 5.9. Brady was throwing touchdowns a career-low rate, with only nine in his 307 attempts through eight games. There was talk that Brady’s hand was hurting, that he was getting old, that he couldn’t adjust to all the turnover in his receiving corps. In short, Brady stunk.

And now Brady is back.

In Sunday’s 55-31 win over the Steelers, Brady completed 23 of 33 passes for 432 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Brady led the Patriots to 33 first downs and 610 yards, and the 55 points were the most ever allowed by the Steelers, in the 81-year history of the franchise. It was as good a game as Brady has ever played, and it should pretty well silence any talk that there was anything wrong with Brady over the first half of the season that won’t be fixed over the second half of the season.

“It feels good,” Brady said after the game. “They don’t always go like that. That was a fun day. It was good execution. I think for the most part, that was our best day of execution. You don’t wake up in the morning and think they’re going to be like that. That was pretty sweet.”

That was pretty great. Brady was the player who impressed me most on Sunday. Here are my other thoughts:

If workplace harassment is common in the NFL, the NFL has a problem. The odd story of Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, who left the team as a result of apparent harassment from his teammates, has some people to say hazing goes on in every locker room, and it’s just a part of the culture of being a professional football player. To which I say, so what? If Martin didn’t like the way he was being treated, it was incumbent on others to stop treating him that way. And it was incumbent on the Dolphins to see to it that their employee wasn’t mistreated. The Dolphins showed they’re taking this seriously by suspending Richie Incognito for his treatment of Martin. Now it’s incumbent on the NFL to ensure that every player and every team knows that players mistreating their teammates will not be tolerated.

The NFL’s modified sudden-death overtime is great. It used to feel like such an anticlimax when an overtime game would be decided by the team that won the coin toss driving down to the 30-yard line and winning on a 48-yard field goal. The new sudden-death, which requires the team that wins the toss to score a touchdown to win on its first possession, is so much better. On Sunday Washington ran a great game-winning drive in overtime that included five plays after they were already in field goal range. A long, sustained drive is a lot more fun to watch than a short drive and a long field goal.

Yes, the Jets are improving. I was skeptical last week, when Jets owner Woody Johnson said his team was improving rapidly — days after the Jets had lost 49-9 to the Bengals. But I’ll have to eat some crow after the Jets beat the Saints on Sunday. Rex Ryan knows how to build a defense, and Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is doing a nice job of calling plays that take advantage of rookie quarterback Geno Smith’s strengths and mask some of his weaknesses as a passer. The Jets aren’t a great team, but they’re getting better.

Good call. My favorite play call of the day came in Carolina, where the Panthers went for it on fourth-and-1, lined up as if they were going to run power to the left, then had Cam Newton roll to the right and hit a wide-open Greg Olsen for a 14-yard touchdown. A great decision by head coach Ron Rivera to go for it, and a well-designed play by offensive coordinator Mike Shula.

Bad call. With the Bills leading the Chiefs 10-3 in the third quarter and facing third-and-1 at the 1-yard line, the obviously right thing to do was to play it safe, hand it off to Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller, and kick the field goal if you don’t score. Instead, the Bills let undrafted rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel, making his first NFL start, throw a pass. The result: Tuel throws it right into the hands of Chiefs defensive back Sean Smith, who picks off the pass and runs it back 100 yards. Instead of the Bills leading 17-3 or 13-3, they found themselves tied 10-10. It was a terrible decision by Tuel but an even worse decision by the Bills’ coaches to put the game in their third-string quarterback’s hands in that situation.

Ugly call. What on earth was that end-around the Saints ran on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter against the Jets? New Orleans coach Sean Payton has always been a creative offensive play caller, but sometimes he outsmarts himself. That was a prime example.

Why was Brandon Weeden ever the Browns’ starting quarterback? The Browns have now started three quarterbacks this season: Weeden had the job at the beginning of the year, then relinquished it when he hurt his thumb, then got it back after his replacement Brian Hoyer suffered a season-ending knee injury, then lost it to Jason Campbell. We’ve now seen enough of all three quarterbacks to make it clear: Weeden is by far the worst of the bunch. Hoyer played very well early in the season, and now Campbell has played two straight strong games, including leading the Browns to a victory over the Ravens on Sunday. It’s hard to imagine what the Browns were thinking putting Weeden ahead of both Hoyer and Campbell on the depth chart, when he’s clearly not as good as either of them. The Browns have a good defense, and they play in the weak AFC North. They don’t need a great quarterback to win their division, just a competent quarterback. With Campbell, they have a chance to catch the Bengals in the AFC North. Unfortunately, the Browns may not be able to overcome the four games they lost with Weeden as their quarterback.

Chip Kelly is an offensive genius again. Nick Foles tied the NFL record with seven touchdown passes in Sunday’s win over the Raiders, and Kelly’s Philadelphia offense looked outstanding. It’s hard to understand how an offense that looked so awful in losses to the Cowboys and Giants could look so good in Oakland, but when Kelly’s offense is rolling, it’s a nightmare for opposing defenses.

Gronk is great, when he’s healthy. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is such a unique offensive weapon — you just don’t find guys that big and strong who also have soft hands and run great routes. Gronkowski had nine catches for 143 yards against the Steelers on Sunday and was a big part of Brady’s big day — and a constant matchup nightmare for Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, Gronkowski’s arm and back injuries have caused him to miss 11 of the Patriots’ last 14 games. As long as the Patriots have a healthy Gronk, they can expect to have Brady at his best.

Permalink 46 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Features, Rumor Mill, Top Stories

Rex Ryan: We can win with Vick, but Geno is the starter

genosmith AP

Jets coach Rex Ryan made official after Friday night’s preseason game what has been expected all along: Geno Smith will open the regular-season as the starting quarterback.

Ryan said that the Jets have been pleased with Michael Vick, but Smith has earned the starting job.

“He’ll be our starter,” Ryan said of Smith. “He’s done everything that we’ve asked him. This is no slight to Mike Vick because, believe me, I wanted to come out of this with two really good quarterbacks that we think we can win games with, and in my heart, I feel that we have two that we can win with. I’m really happy with the way Mike played as well, but we’re going to go with Geno. I feel very comfortable with that.”

Ryan was asked if Smith is “a week-to-week starter,” and he didn’t seem to like that question.

“Oh man. It’s week-to-week. We don’t name starters all the dang time. We don’t have to do the song-and-dance,” Ryan said. “We’re happy with both the quarterbacks, period. We think we can win with both quarterbacks. Just refer to any other coach who has a similar situation and what he would say. I know we have two really good quarterbacks. A lot of things happen. That’s why I never wanted to do this. Last year, we thought the competition was still wide open, but Geno had three interceptions in one game. It wasn’t great. You leave it there and let guys compete. The thing that I love about what Mike and Geno are doing is that they push each other. They support each other more than anybody. It’s a great situation to have and one that I feel blessed to have. We have two outstanding quarterbacks.”

Now Smith has to play like an outstanding quarterback when the season starts, so Ryan can stop getting questions about Vick.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Greg Gumbel stopped using Washington’s team name years ago

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Add Greg Gumbel to the list of NFL broadcasters who won’t say the name of the team in Washington.

Gumbel, the No. 2 play-by-play announcer on CBS and the host of Showtime’s Inside the NFL, told NJ.com that he doesn’t say the team’s name. Although the long-simmering controversy over the team’s name has boiled over in the last year, Gumbel said he stopped using the controversial team name years ago.

“I told our PR department this summer: I haven’t used that nickname on the air in three years,” Gumbel said. “It’s just a personal choice; I just didn’t feel like I needed to call a news conference and announce it to everybody.”

Gumbel added, however, that he does not believe Daniel Snyder is prepared to change his team’s name, and Gumbel will be surprised if a change is made.

Snyder has insisted that he won’t change the name. But as more and more people in and around the NFL disassociate themselves with Snyder’s team’s name, Snyder is going to find himself more and more alone.

Permalink 9 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Jaguars stick to their guns, name Chad Henne starter for Week 1

Jacksonville Jaguars v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars swore that Chad Henne would be their starting quarterback this season even after drafting Blake Bortles with the No.3 overall pick in the draft.

They gave no indication they were willing to deviate from that plan despite Bortles’ strong play during the preseason. After Friday night’s 13-12 loss to the Detroit Lions, they once again announced their intention to stick to the plan.

Chad Henne will start the Jaguars season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 7.

Bortles was 10-of-16 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown Friday night against the Lions. That pushes his preseason totals to 28-of-44 for 435 yards and a touchdown, or a passer rating of 103.9.

Nevertheless, head coach Gus Bradley said after the game that Henne will start the opener, per Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

Henne was 9-of-14 passing for 70 yards against the Lions. For the preseason, Henne is 25-of-38 for 230 yards and one touchdown, good for a 90.9 passer rating.

The Jaguars had committed to Henne playing all season with Bortles being a spectator from the bench. But with Bortles’ performances this preseason, there will be a loud contingent wanting to turn to the rookie if Henne struggles out of the gate this year.

Permalink 27 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Seahawks offense rolling again in building 21-0 lead over Bears

Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson AP

The Seattle Seahawks first-team offense scored on each of their first four possession in building a 24-0 lead last week against the San Diego Chargers.

The offense hasn’t slowed down at all this week against the Chicago Bears either.

Seattle scored touchdowns on each of their first two possessions in the first quarter of Friday night’s preseason game against the Bears.

Marshawn Lynch carries three times for 16 yards on the opening drive and scored a 7-yard touchdown to give Seattle a 7-0 lead. The one drive was all Seattle needed to see from their starting workhorse back as he took to the bench after the opening series.

Russell Wilson then led Seattle on a 14-play, 89-yard scoring drive with Wilson scrambling for a 7-yard score to give the Seahawks a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.

The Seahawks scored again on their third possession of the game. Wilson connected with Jermaine Kearse for a 12-yard touchdown to cap an 11-play, 83-yard drive to give the Seahawks a 21-0 lead.

Seattle has now scored on seven straight possessions with their first-team offense dating back to last week’s game against the Chargers. Six of those possessions have ended with touchdowns.

The Seahawks defense is still expected to be one of the league’s top units. If Seattle’s offense can play like this during the regular season too, they could be a nightmare for the rest of the league.

Permalink 60 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Bucs’ position on Evans “unchanged” in light of TMZ video

Evans AP

In the wake of a video that surfaced Friday on TMZ involving Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans, the team that made him the seventh overall pick in the draft has reiterated its faith in and commitment to Evans.

“During his time here since we drafted him in May, Mike has met all of our expectations both on and off the football field,” coach Lovie Smith said in a statement issued Friday night.  “After speaking with Mike, our feelings about him remain unchanged.  We expect him to be an important member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for many years to come and we consider this matter closed.”

While TMZ contends the events occurred last Saturday night, Evans claims it happened several months earlier.

“The incident in question happened during spring break in March while I was vacationing with friends in Miami,” Evans said in a statement.  “The issue occurred at the end of the night when someone in my party was approached by a member of the security staff.  The situation escalated very quickly from there, but fortunately no one was injured.  I regret that this incident that happened nearly six months ago has become a distraction to my team and I look forward to continuing to prepare for the start of my rookie season with the Buccaneers.”

No arrests were made or charges filed.  Given that the incident, which included Evans eventually taking a swing at a bouncer, happened before Evans became an NFL employee, it’s less likely that he’ll face scrutiny under the personal-conduct policy.

Permalink 10 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Blake Bortles is making it very difficult for Jaguars to sit him

Jacksonville Jaguars v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Jaguars have said, affirmed, insisted that Blake Bortles was going to sit and watch Chad Henne play this year.

Bortles keeps making it more and more difficult to justify that decision.

The No. 3 overall pick continued to put up solid numbers in the preseason, and looking more and more like the guy the Jaguars can build around now instead of later.

Bortles was 10-of-16 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown Friday night against the Lions. That pushes his preseason totals to 28-of-44 for 435 yards and a touchdown, or a passer rating of 103.9.

Granted, some of those numbers were inflated by playing against deep reserves. But Bortles has looked composed and calm in all three appearances.

As the Jaguars build to the future, they were hoping to use this year to develop Bortles as a passer, and let him take over when the team as a whole was better able to contend.

But with every passing week, it looks like he’s the guy to help them take that step.

Permalink 51 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Sio Moore gives thumbs-up as he’s stretchered off field

Nick Roach, Sio Moore AP

The most frightening-looking injury of the night happened in Green Bay, with Raiders linebacker Sio Moore taken off the field on a stretcher.

According to Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com, Moore gave a thumbs-up as he left the field after a scary few moments.

Moore won’t return to the game, but there has been no further word on his condition.

He was hit in the back of the neck by Packers fullback John Kuhn, and was face-down on the turf for several minutes.

Trainers took his facemask off his helmet and strapped him to a backboard before he was taken off.

Permalink 7 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Maybe it’s the preseason, but see how they run

reggiebush AP

Perhaps coaches just want to keep the clocks rolling in the preseason.

But there have been a number of outstanding rushing performances tonight, or at least enough to make you think the art of handing off to the guy behind the quarterback isn’t dead.

The best of the bunch was an 86-yarder by Lions veteran Reggie Bush. He took one good block from Eric Ebron and took it to the house against the Jaguars, showing the kind of burst that will get him plenty of looks in a high-powered passing game as well.

The surprise might have been Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew’s 40-yard touchdown, as he showed a bit of popped he lacked in Jacksonville last year. He looks to be in condition, which didn’t always seem to be the case last year.

The Jets also showed the ability to pound the ball, with Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory each popping long runs (18 and 17 yards), combining for 62 yards on 11 carries.

On the other sideline, Giants running back Rashad Jennings had 67 yards on 13 carries in the first half.

So while all the attention this preseason has been on the emphasis on certain rules to free up the passing game, old man football can still work from time to time.

Permalink 1 Comment Feed for comments Back to top

Giants guard Geoff Schwartz carted off with dislocated toe

Geoff Schwartz AP

The Giants made an early push in free agency to land guard Geoff Schwartz from Kansas City, but he wasn’t able to make it through the preseason without being carted off the field.

Schwartz left the game in the first half, and Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reports that he suffered a dislocated toe. Trainers were working on his right foot, and he couldn’t put any weight on it before he was loaded onto the cart.

A powerful run blocker, Schwartz would be a tough loss if he’s out a significant amount of time.

And the way the Giants are playing on offense (despite a touchdown just before halftime), it’s a loss they can ill afford.

Permalink 15 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Ndamukong Suh seems to be in midseason form

Ndamukong Suh AP

It looks like Ndamukong Suh will be making a preseason donation to The Human Fund.

The Lions defensive tackle was already flagged for a late hit on Chad Henne, which was fairly egregious.

SB Nation has a good look at it, as Suh takes a good two steps after Henne has thrown the ball before drilling him in the chest.

So perhaps Troy Vincent’s talk with him might not have been as productive as Vincent thought.

Suh is one of the league’s best players, but too often, finds the spotlight for unnecessary hits like this one that take the spotlight away from his talent.

Permalink 67 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Jason Pierre-Paul, Sheldon Richardson dodge injury bullets

New York Giants v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

The second big-name defensive player has already left the Giants-Jets game, and it appears both sides can breathe a sigh of relief.

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul left the game, and though he walked off the field under his own power, was having his right knee checked by a fleet of trainers and doctors.

Injuries have kept Pierre-Paul from following up on the 16.5 sacks he posted in 2011, and he has vowed to come back better than ever.

He was able to return to the game, though it’s worth monitoring.

The Jets were at least able to breathe a sigh of relief, as defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson returned to the game after leaving the field with trainers earlier.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Short night for Tom Brady, as Ryan Mallett works with ones

Ryan Mallett AP

Maybe the Patriots are still trying to polish him up for a trade, or maybe they want to see how he reacts against a good defense.

But the Patriots put quarterback Ryan Mallett in with the starters in the middle of the first quarter, replacing Tom Brady. He led them to a field goal drive and an early 3-0 lead over the Panthers.

Mallett’s currently competing with Jimmy Garropolo for the backup job, and as the Patriots have carried two quarterbacks in recent seasons, it’s natural to wonder whether they’re willing to keep both.

Brady worked a couple of series and completed 4-of-6 passes, but he also went down after being stepped on by his center, so the Patriots might just be seeing how Mallett reacts to a possible relief situation.

UPDATE 8:30 p.m. ET: Brady returned to the game on the next series, and hit Shane Vereen for a 40-yard touchdown pass, so he’s OK.

Permalink 16 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Sheldon Richardson heads to locker room with trainers

Jets Falcons Football AP

The early stages of the Snoopy Bowl hasn’t featured much offense, but one of the better defensive players in the league has already left the field.

Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson left the field immediately after a play, holding his face.

It’s unclear if he was poked in the eye or otherwise injured, but he was quickly taken to the locker room with trainers. He returned to the sidelines moments later, however.

Otherwise, there hasn’t been much to see in this one, as the two offenses continue to do what they’ve been doing lately.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

High school games at Levi’s Stadium scrapped over grass issues

levis AP

A high school doubleheader originally scheduled for next Friday night at Levi’s Stadium has been scrapped because of problems with the grass at the 49ers’ new stadium.

Just weeks after the new stadium opened, the sod already has to be replaced on the 49ers’ home field, and as a result of that replacement the field won’t be available for the two previously scheduled high school games next week.

Jesuit High School of Sacramento was supposed to square off against Concord De La Salle in one of the two games, but now those two schools are scrambling to determine where else they can play.

Yeah, we’re disappointed,” Jesuit athletic director Chris Fahey told the Sacramento Bee. “The kids are really disappointed, but it happens and we’ll deal with it. And we need to get over it quickly because we’re still playing a great team. It’s no one’s fault what happened. It’s like a natural disaster – sod.”

The 49ers have announced that the four schools that were expected to play next Friday will all get to use Levi’s Stadium for their home games the weekend of October 10-11 instead.

Permalink 10 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: M.I.A., NFL settle middle finger dispute

Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show Getty Images

On a day in which we learned Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel was reportedly fined $12,000 for showing his middle finger toward the Washington bench on Monday night, we also learned the NFL and rapper M.I.A. have settled their dispute over the performer’s middle finger display in Super Bowl XLVI.

The Associated Press reported Friday that the two sides have struck a confidential settlement in arbitration over the matter. The NFL had been seeking as much as $16.6 million for the incident, which occurred during the annual Super Bowl halftime show in 2012.

The NFL first filed a claim for breach of contract against M.I.A., whose given name is Mathangi Arulpragasam, in 2012, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

But since it’s a confidential settlement . . . well, we may never know if, indeed, everyone’s a winner in this case.

Permalink 21 Comments Feed for comments Back to top