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Bears bury Falcons 30-12: Post game insight, observations

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 04:43 AM PDT

Chicago Bears vs. Atlanta Falcons

September 11, 2011

Game Day Observations

  • As I entered the stadium the beer vendors were rested and ready for the new season—complete with catchy sales lines.  My personal favorite…  "I have a 15 yard, personal foul against that man who did not buy a beer from me."  More entertaining and impressive, though, was a nationally televised National Anthem by Jim Cornelison.  Waving their miniature American flags, the crowd was electric on this anniversary of September 11th.
  • There were cheers and jeers when Lance Briggs was introduced despite his recent contract grumblings.  I think Briggs should quit whining about his contract. He signed the deal and knew what he was getting into.  As a fan, I cheered Briggs because I want my team to do well.  Do I agree with what he is trying to accomplish?  No.  But Briggs is an integral part of the Bears' success.
  • I guess Mike Martz was re-confirming in the first quarter that the end around play does not work.  To Martz's credit he did create screen plays to gain positive yards and a touchdown by Matt Forte.  Can Matt Forte get paid, please?
  • The offensive line did an admirable job pass blocking for the offense, but the running game needs work.  It's back to the chalkboard for Mike Tice to find the run game and to incorporate Chris Spencer at either center or guard while Lance Louis is out with injury.
  • Brian Urlacher. Enough said. Along with his defensive teammates, he held the Falcons to 6 points (6 other points on a Cutler interception for touchdown) and limited a powerful offense to no scores in the red zone and only 30% third down efficiency.  Couple that with 5 sacks and constant pressure on Matt Ryan and that's a pretty good day.

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Browns Let One Slip Away Against Bengals

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 10:12 PM PDT

After watching the Bengals build a 10-0 lead at the end of the 1st quarter., the Browns gained momentum back before halftime by establishing a 14-13 halftime lead.

The Browns would tack on a FG in the 3rd Qtr., and the score would remain that way until there was less than 6 minutes to go in the 4th Qtr., when Cincinnati's back-up QB, Bruce Gradkowski, hit rookie WR, A.J. Green, for a 41-yard score that gave the Bengals a 20-17 lead late in the game.

Cincinnati would regain possession of the ball right before the 2:00 warning in the 4th Quarter. Cedric Benson finished off the Browns with a 39-yard scamper to the end zone for his first TD of the game.

Final Score: Bengals 27 – Browns 20

The Pat Shurmur era got off to a rough start against the Bengals. In the 1st Qtr. alone, the Browns new head coached watched his team manage 6 penalties and come-up with just 3 yards of total offense.

Cincinnati, however, took advantage of great field position on their first two drives, and rookie QB, Andy Dalton, surprised a few critics as he led the Bengals to a 10-0 1st Qtr. lead.

After the previous three kickoffs sailed out the end zone, Browns return-man, Joshua Cribbs, decided to finally bring one out. Cribbs' return gave the Browns excellent field position, setting the offense up on the Cincinnati 42-yard line.

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Tony Romo Fumble and Pick Do In Cowboys in Jets 27-24 Win

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 09:50 PM PDT

Jets kicker Nick Folk kicks the game winning 50-yard field goal

The New York Jets were given the special privilege of hosting the one of the most special games in NFL history. On Sunday night, in front of a city and nation who were respectfully remembering the tragic events that took place 10 years ago, the NFL wanted to give the city of New York and a nation a football game to remember.

For the New York Jets, they wanted tonight to be a chance to honor those who were so deeply affected by those events. They wanted to win this game for their city and their nation. Who better to play this tremendous game of opportunity against than, "America's Team", the Dallas Cowboys.

There were still many questions surrounding the Cowboys, mostly on defense, as they headed into week one. The Cowboys defense was coming off a less than stellar preseason, and, coordinator, Rob Ryan, wanted to answer some of those questions against his brother Rex. With their father, the legendary Buddy Ryan, in attendance, the stage was set for a great football game.

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Post Game Thoughts on Ravens Beating of the Steelers

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 09:30 PM PDT



I'm still shocked at how the Ravens utterly dominated the action today in Baltimore but perhaps no one is more stunned that their opponents today. This was a huge statement game from the purple and black as they drew first blood in the race to the AFC North title.

Here are some other thoughts rattling around my head after today's shellacking.

  • I guess the Offensive Line didn't need to practice together after all.  They allowed Joe Flacco to get quite comfortable with his progressions and were more than solid in the run game. (170 Total Yds. Rushing) That meant that my biggest concern with this match-up was rendered null and void.
  • My second worry was turnovers and that was taken care of as Baltimore's defense pounded away all day at Pittsburgh to cause seven total while the Ravens did not give the ball away once. There's your ball game.
  • Baltimore has 20 new players on the roster and they all had a hand in some way in today's win. The new vets especially, as Bryant McKinnie seemed to swallow up blockers, Vonta Leach was always pushing forward and Bernard Pollard was laying hits in the backfield.

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Final New England-Miami Injury Report For Monday Night

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 08:37 PM PDT

A revised last look at the Patriots-Dolphins injury report for Monday night in Miami:

New England

Out: LB Jermaine Cunningham (groin), WR Taylor Price (hamstring), LB Jeff Tarpinian (knee), OT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OL Ryan Wendell (calf)

Questionable: DE Mark Anderson (knee), CB Kyle Arrington (hip), G Dan Connolly (foot), LB Dane Fletcher (thumb), DT Albert Haynesworth (illness), DL Myron Pryor (groin), RB Stevan Ridley (ankle), RB Shane Vereen (hamstring)

Probable: CB Leigh Bodden (hand), WR Julian Edelman (hand)


Out: FB Charles Clay (hamstring)

Questionable: RB Daniel Thomas (hamstring)

Tolbert, Chargers ruin McNabb’s Vikings debut 24-17

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 07:31 PM PDT


The San Diego Chargers seemed headed for another one of those slow starts that have defined coach Norv Turner's tenure.

The Chargers not only let Percy Harvin return the opening kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown, but kicker Nate Kaeding hurt his left knee on the play, forcing punter Mike Scifres to do his first place-kicking since college.

Well, guess again.

With the Vikings sputtering badly, Philip Rivers got the opening he'd been waiting for all afternoon. He threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to fullback Mike Tolbert with 5:01 to play to lift the Chargers to a 24-17 win on Sunday.

"When we face adversity, we don't curl up and call it quits," said Scifres, a nine-year veteran who signed a $19 million contract extension Wednesday.

"It's big," Rivers said. "We'd love not to have those interceptions, and we'd love to have that kickoff back and just let it be smooth and easy, but it's these kind of wins that you really grow. You grow more than a week."

On the winning play, Rivers rolled left and waited for Tolbert to get open inside the 5-yard line, then lobbed the pass.

"The protection was great, so I had time to step up, step up, and then to get out of the pocket, he was hanging with me," Rivers said. "He was looking at me like, 'Are you going to run it or throw it?' I would prefer to throw it.'

Rivers completed 33 of 48 passes for 335 yards and was intercepted twice.

Tolbert also scored on a 7-yard run in the third quarter and had a 1-yard TD catch in the first quarter.

"We were hyped even when were down 17-7," said Tolbert, who had stars shaved into his hair to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11. "Nobody had their head down and said, 'Here we go again.' "

Minnesota led 17-7 at halftime, but gained only 26 yards on 17 plays in the second half. Their new quarterback, Donovan McNabb, struggled against San Diego's defense and was only 7 of 15 for 39 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

"It's embarrassing to have the numbers that we had, whatever we had," McNabb said. "I can do that in one series and we'll get them corrected."

Adrian Peterson, who set the NFL single-game record with 296 yards against San Diego as a rookie in 2007, was held to 98 yards on 16 carries one day after signing a contract extension potentially worth $100 million.

"We really had some opportunities and felt we ran the ball pretty well in the first half," Peterson said. "We didn't get anything going in the second half. We have to get our passing game going better."

Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes said he heard that Peterson said during the week that he was going to rush for 200 yards and the Vikings would win.

"We really felt disrespected," Spikes said. "

San Diego's rally included Tolbert bulling in from the 7 early in the third quarter and Scifres kicking his first NFL field goal, a 40-yarder with 10:05 left that tied the game at 17. Scifres also had three PATs.

The game had a crazy first few minutes.

Harvin returned the opening kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown, showing that the Chargers hadn't fully erased their special teams nightmare of 2010, which cost them a playoff berth. Kaeding hurt his left knee on the play and missed the rest of the game.

On the Vikings' first play from scrimmage, Chargers outside linebacker Shaun Phillips(notes) deflected McNabb's pass and intercepted it at the 6-yard line. Three plays later, Rivers found Tolbert wide open for a 1-yard scoring pass to tie it.

Ryan Longwell kicked a 33-yard field goal for the Vikings in the second quarter, and then Peterson finally got going with a 46-yard run. Chargers safety Eric Weddle, who signed a $40 million contract in the summer, had an arm around Peterson's right foot at about the 40, but the running back broke free and raced to the 3. McNabb then threw a TD pass to Michael Jenkins for a 17-7 lead.

Rivers overthrew a wide-open Vincent Jackson on what would have been a sure touchdown pass late in the second quarter that would have made it 17-14. Rivers stood with his hands on his head after the play.

Notes: Before the game, both teams and the crowd marked the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 by observing a moment of silence, then listening to a live version of "Taps" beamed live from Arlington National Cemetery. A giant American flag, unfurled and held by sailors and Marines, covered the field as Colbie Caillat sang the national anthem. Chargers tight end Antonio Gates wore red-white-and-blue cleats and gloves. Chargers DE Luis Castillo hurt a knee in the second half and didn't return.

New NFL Kicking Rule Produces More Touchbacks

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 07:07 PM PDT

The NFL’s new rule that moved kickoffs up 5 yards this season produced a huge number of touchbacks during the opening weekend.

The league moved kickoffs up to the 35-yard line hoping to address safety concerns, and that produced nearly triple the number of touchbacks from last year, according to STATS LLC.

Heading into Sunday night’s game between the Cowboys and Jets, 49 percent of kickoffs (63 of 129) were touchbacks. Last season only 18 percent (24 of 137) were not returned the opening weekend.

About the only surprise on opening weekend was that three kickoffs were returned for touchdowns – up from one last year.

Packers rookie Randall Cobb tied the NFL record for longest kick return with a 108-yard score on Thursday night against New Orleans.

Minnesota’s Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff 103 yards for a TD against San Diego on Sunday. It was costly for the Chargers as kicker Nate Kaeding hurt his left knee on the play and missed the rest of the game.

Ted Ginn Jr. also had a 102-yard TD return for San Francisco against Seattle.

“I got an opportunity to go out and show what I had,” Ginn said. “It’s great. You do it on the video game a lot but you don’t see it a lot in real life.”

Rugged Rams lose more than just a game against Eagles

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 07:01 PM PDT

The only thing the Rams were very efficient in during their week 1 game against the Philadelphia Eagles was combining mistakes with injuries.  The Rams lost most reliable receiver Danny Amendola to a potentially serious elbow injury. (UPDATE: Looks like Amendola is now out 8-10 weeks.) Quarterback Sam Bradford left the game with a thumb injury that should allow him to return next week.  Running back Steven Jackson was lost to a quad injury after his first run of the game, a long touchdown run.  Jason Smith was pulled from the game with a reported ankle injury, but he was so ineffective, the injury could have been formulated as an excuse by the Rams coaching staff.  The Rams also lost cornerback Ron Bartell to an injury.

The Rams mistakes on the offensive side stunted any chance the Rams overwhelmed squad could generate.  Rookie tight end Lance Kendricks had two solid gold drops and Brandon Gibson and Greg Salas joined him in the drop parade.  The Rams offensive line, who has been much heralded, played like the overpaid, underperforming side we have seen over the past 2-3 years.  The Eagles have a good defensive line, but the Rams offensive line were pushed back into Bradford on every single pass play and allowed penetration on almost every run play.

The defense had their fair share of mistakes as the Rams failed to cover DeSean Jackson on one play, failed to tackle Mike Vick frequently and allowed Vick to break contain when they were unable to get to him.

The moral of the story here is that the Rams are not as good as the Eagles.  We knew that coming in.  But, the way the Rams lost, with injuries and a bushel of mistakes is hard to swallow.

Rex-led Redskins Rip Apart Giants; 28-14

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 06:54 PM PDT

The six game winning streak that the New York Giants held over the Washington Redskins – one that's spanned for almost four years – is now officially over.

After being down 14-7 just before halftime, the Redskins scored 21 unanswered points, and held the Giants to zero points in the second half, winning by a final score of 28-14.

Quarterback Rex Grossman, who was named the starter over Labor Day weekend, easily had one of his best games since the 2006 season (when he was still with Chicago), completing 21 of 34 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns (with no interceptions).

Similar to the last few times the Redskins have played the Giants – over the last five games the two teams have met, the Giants have outscored the Redskins by a margin of 104-28 in the first half of those games – they started their first two drives going three-and-out, and found themselves down by a touchdown after the Giants second offensive possession.

Facing third and ten from their own 30-yard line, the Giants needed just two plays to find the endzone. Eli Manning completed a deep pass to receiver Hakeem Nicks, spanning 68 yards, and then kept the ball himself on a bootleg quarterback keeper for a two yard touchdown run on the very next play.

It looked as though the Redskins would respond, as Grossman drove the Redskins 39 yards, down to th Giants 16 yard line. The drive then stalled, Grossman was sacked, and kicker Graham Gano missed a 39 yard field goal, keeping the score at 7-0.

The Redskins would manage to tie the game on their very next possession. They went 67 yards on 11 plays, on a drive capped off by a one yard touchdown run by newly-acquired running back Tim Hightower. The key play on the drive was a 10 yard completion from Grossman to Santana Moss on 4th and 5 from the Giants 37 yard line. Instead of attempting a 54 yard field goal, the coaches decided to take a risk and go for it, especially considering the Redskins were just coming off a drive resulting in a missed field goal attempt.

After trading punts, the Giants would regain the upper hand on the scoreboard, albeit for the last time that day. With a steady diet of runs from Brandon Jacobs and solid throws from Eli Manning, the Giants would go 85 yards on eight plays, capped off by a six yard touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw, giving the Giants a 14-7 lead with just under three minutes left in the first half.

But Grossman would respond by leading the Redskins during the "two minute drill," going five-for-five on the drive, culminating in a six yard touchdown throw to receiver Anthony Armstrong with just 38 seconds left in the first half, tying the score at 14-14 at intermission.

The fortunes of both teams on the day were basically dictated on the Giants very first drive after halftime. Facing a 3rd and 11 from their own 18 yard line, Manning's pass attempt was batted up in the air by Redskins rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan – their first round pick out of Purdue University – who also ended up catching the deflected pass and returning it nine yards for a touchdown, giving the Redskins a 21-14 lead.

The Giants best opportunity to change momentum, which at the time was clearly favoring Washington, early in the fourth quarter. On third and nine during the Redskins first drive of the fourth quarter, Grossman was sacked by Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (who abused left tackle Trent Williams for a large part of the afternoon), causing Grossman to fumble the football. Giants linebacker Michael Boley returned the ball 13 yards, but was tackled by Hightower in what was most likely a touchdown-saving tackle.

The Giants would end up attempting a 38 yard field goal, as a result of the great field positon from the fumble recovery and return, but kicker Lawrence Tynes attempt looked more like a low knuckleball, and was blocked by linebacker Brian Orakpo.

The Redskins quickly capitalized on the error, going 68 yards on 10 plays during a drive of their own, that also ended up being helped via another "gift" from the Giants. On 3rd and nine from their own 45 yard line, Grossman completed a seven yard pass to tight end Fred Davis. Davis fell to the ground short of a first down, but was hit from behind by safety Antrel Rolle, who hit Davis while he was on the ground and led the hit with the crown of his helmet against a defenseless receiver. The personal foul call cave the Redskins an automatic first down, and six plays later, Grossman threaded the needle beautifully for a four-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jabar Gaffney.

The Giants would mount almost no comeback attempt, as they couldn't gain more than 15 yards on either of their remaining drives before the games conclusion. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett blitzed the Giants mercilessly on the game's last two drives, easily disrupting Eli Manning's timing on his passes, in what was already a subpar performance for him. Manning finish the game going 18 of 32 for 268 yards, no touchdowns, and one critical interception.

The win marks the first time the Redskins had defeated the Giants in Washington since the 2005 season; they were 0-5 against the Giants over the last five games at FedEx Field.

49ers Smoke Suspect Seahawks 33-17

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 06:47 PM PDT


Here's the deal, Pete Carroll: Jim Harbaugh is one up at this level.

Ted Ginn Jr. returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in a minute's span late in the fourth quarter, and the San Francisco 49ers gave Harbaugh a 33-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in his much-hyped NFL debut and renewed coaching rivalry with Carroll.

Ginn ran a kickoff back 102 yards moments after the defending NFC West champion Seahawks had closed within 19-17. It was the second-longest kick return at home and fourth-longest in team history. He then scored on a 55-yard punt return.

It was the first time in 49ers history they had a kickoff return and a punt return for touchdowns—let alone by the same player.

Alex Smith exhibited the poise and polish Harbaugh believed the 2005 No. 1 overall pick still had in him despite recent history, going 15 for 20 for 124 yards and running for a 1-yard TD. David Akers kicked four field goals in his first game with San Francisco.

New Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson(notes) threw a late 55-yard touchdown pass to Harbaugh's former Stanford star, Doug Baldwin(notes), in his Seahawks debut as Matt Hasselbeck's replacement.

Harbaugh pulled Smith into a seconds-long bearhug after he hustled to the sidelines after his short TD run just before halftime in which he spun into the end zone to put the 49ers up 16-0. Ginn saved the game with a huge day on special teams. This is the guy who returned kickoffs of 100 and 101 yards for touchdowns in a 30-25 win for Miami over the New York Jets on Nov. 1, 2009.

With his parents, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, in the stands to cheer him in the opener, the former NFL QB was as animated as ever—waving his arms, pacing the sidelines and congratulating his players at every chance.

Dozens of American flags whipped in the wind off San Francisco Bay in the parking lots of sold-out Candlestick Park before the game on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. Flags inside flew at half-staff and many of the 69,732 fans sported red, white and blue.

And San Francisco police considered it a well-behaved crowd at Candlestick, where fan violence and a shooting marred the Raiders-49ers exhibition matchup last month.

Rivals dating to their days in the Pac-10, Carroll couldn't complain about Harbaugh running up the score in this one. Seattle's offense had enough problems for Carroll to worry about what was happening on the other sideline. The two quickly shook hands afterward and called it good.

It was Carroll who in 2009 met Harbaugh at midfield postgame with a "What's your deal?" after Stanford ran up the score in a 55-21 rout at Southern California and even attempted a late 2-point conversion with the game out of reach.

In Harbaugh's first season in 2007, the Cardinal traveled to Los Angeles as 41-point underdogs only to stun the second-ranked Trojans 24-23 and end their 35-game home winning streak.

Akers kicked field goals of 27, 24, 31 and 18 yards in an impressive first game with the 49ers in place of the retired Joe Nedney.

Jackson, Brett Favre's backup in Minnesota the past two seasons, completed his first six passes but was sacked twice in as many drives to start the game— by Ray McDonald and Justin Smith —and five times total. He was 21 of 37 for 197 yards and two TDs with one interception.

First downs were scarce and San Francisco's defense stingy behind defensive tackles McDonald and Smith.

The 49ers were 0 for 9 on third-down conversions before Smith's 12-yard completion to Braylon Edwards early in the fourth. Edwards wound up with three catches for 27 yards in his 49ers debut. He was given a fresh start by another Michigan man, Harbaugh.

Same for Smith.

Back on a one-year free agent deal when most everybody figured he'd turn up elsewhere, Smith generated cheers instead of boos from the home crowd. He made quick decisions and scurried out of trouble several times with defenders coming right at him.

The Seahawks, 7-9 last year before stunning the reigning Super Bowl champion Saints in the playoffs for the first victory by a team with a losing record, have their work cut out for them to defend in a division that became known as the NFC Worst in 2010.

One telling moment Sunday: Jackson was sacked by Parys Haralson, who forced a fumble that was recovered in the air by Will Tukuafu on his first career play from scrimmage. That set up Akers' second field goal.

What a difference from last year's opener between the division foes.

The 49ers lost at Seattle 31-6 last September on the way to a surprising 0-5 start that dashed San Francisco's hopes of winning the division. The 49ers returned the favor with a 40-21 home win in December but it wasn't enough to save then-coach Mike Singletary's job.

Harbaugh was hired away from Stanford on a $25 million, five-year deal to turn around a franchise that has gone since 2002 without a playoff berth or winning record.

Frank Gore, with a new $21 million, three-year deal after he missed the final five games last season with a fractured right hip, ran for 59 yards on 22 carries and made three catches for 19 yards. Vernon Davis had a team-high five receptions.

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