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All Bets Are Off As NFL Season Starts Second Half 2

Posted on November 08, 2013 by Dean Hybl
With a 9-0 record to start the season, Alex Smith has the Kansas City Chiefs pointing in the right direction.

With a 9-0 record to start the season, Alex Smith has the Kansas City Chiefs pointing in the right direction.

With the NFL season now officially past the mid-point, there has been quite a lot of unpredictability. Some based on off-season player and coaching changes and some that can be attributed to injuries and on the field successes and failures.

So far no team has benefited more from adding a new player and a new coach than the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. Head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith have proven to be a great combination as the Chiefs have gone from two victories and the first overall draft pick in 2012 to nine wins and counting in 2013. Granted their success is due as much to their defense and running game as it is to Smith, but he has definitely provided the stability needed under center. Reid has also proven that leaving Philadelphia was the right tonic he needed to get back to his role as one of the best coaches in the NFL.

In a league where 12 teams have either four or five victories after nine weeks (either eight or nine games depending on whether the team has already had their bye week), one or two players can make a huge difference.

A week ago the Green Bay Packers seemed poised to take control of the NFC Central and solidify themselves as a Super Bowl contender. One of the big reasons for that was the play of rookie running back Eddie Lacy. Lacy ranks in the top ten in the NFL with 596 yards rushing in his first seven games. However, after All Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collar bone early in their Monday Night loss to the Chicago Bears, the Packers are now considered a long shot to overcome the loss of their quarterback and make the playoffs.
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Panthers Embarrass Giants, Body Parts Lost: Week 3 NFL Headlines 1

Posted on September 24, 2013 by Andy Larmand

As September continues to move toward October, this NFL season is providing us with some truths that stand the test of time and some that have and will continue to shock us all. And then, there are the teams or players who break the norm – finally. Week 3 saw the end of an almost-century-long losing streak, the worst loss ever for one head coach, a potential Cinderella story getting to 3-0, a first for the 49ers since 1958, and the Jaguars, well, being the Jaguars. Here are your Week 3 NFL headlines.

Alex Smith in Kansas City is working out all right so far as KC is 3-0.

Alex Smith in Kansas City is working out all right so far as KC is 3-0.

The Eagles lost their eighth straight game at home and the Chiefs, led by former Eagles coach, Andy Reid, improved to 3-0 with a 26-16 win to open the week on Thursday night. It is just the second time Philly has ever lost eight in a row at home and first time since 1936-37. Lesean McCoy managed his third-highest rushing total in the loss, but only second-highest of the season with 158 yards and Michael Vick posted a career-high 61-yard run. The Chiefs joined the 2002 Panthers as the last team to start a season 3-0 after winning two or fewer games the year before. Alex Smith became the first Kansas City signal caller to win his first three starts with the team since Joe Montana in 1993.

Calvin Johnson tied Torry Holt as the fourth-fastest player to accumulate 8,000 career receiving yards as he did so in his 95th career game and Detroit beat the Redskins, 27-20. The win was the first ever for the Lions in the city of Washington (1-21) as they had not beaten the Redskins on the road since they were in Boston in 1935. The Skins fell to 0-3, but Robert Griffin III’s 975 yards through three games are the second-most all-time by a quarterback who started out 0-3. Matthew Stafford became just the second quarterback since 2001 to throw for 200-plus yards in the first half of each of his first three games of a season. Read the rest of this entry →

Rodgers Has A Day, Manuel Shocks Panthers: Week 2 NFL Headlines 0

Posted on September 18, 2013 by Andy Larmand

Week 1 had a lot, but Week 2 might have it beat. There was everything from a weather delay (those 49ers) to four last-second wins, of course some interesting quirks mixed in and who could forget about the Manning Bowl. Here are your Week 2 NFL headlines.

Aaron Rodgers was the top performer in Week 2.

Aaron Rodgers was the top performer in Week 2.

Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass in his 50th consecutive game as the Patriots beat the Jets, 13-10, to open the week on Thursday Night Football, but was also below a 50-percent completion rate for the first time since 2009. He now sits just four behind the all-time record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass. New England forced four turnovers and now have at least one in 29 straight games, the longest since the Eagles did that between 2003-04. The win gave the Pats 12 straight victories over division opponents, which is the longest current streak in the league, according to Elias. The only other time the Patriots began a season 2-0 with both wins by three points or less was in 1999. They won this one despite having more punts (11) than first downs (9) – the first time that has happened in the Bill Belichick era. Julian Edelman had 13 catches, but just 78 yards. That is the third-fewest yards in a 13-catch game in the Super Bowl Era. Brady improved to 6-0 in his career in games played on a Thursday.

Cordarrelle Patterson tied a team record with a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as the Vikings fell to 0-2 with a 31-30 loss to the BearsAdrian Peterson had 100 rushing yards and has just 193 through two games. He had only 144 last year, however. After doing so nine times last season, the Bears scored their first defensive touchdown of 2013 with an interception return from Tim Jennings in the win. Their 10 defensive touchdowns since the start of last year are the most in the league. Devin Hester had 249 kick return yards in the win, setting a new franchise record. Jay Cutler hit Martellus Bennett on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left in one of four games to be decided in the final seconds. Bennett became the fourth player in Bears’ history to catch a touchdown in each of his first two games with the team.

Aaron Rodgers threw for 335 yards in the first half alone as the Packers got out to a 24-0 lead and topped the Redskins, 38-20. Rodgers finished the game 34-of-42 with a career-high 480 yards – tying the Packers’ record. In so doing, he became the first NFL quarterback to record 480 yards passing and throw four touchdowns with no interceptions since Y.A. Tittle in 1962. James Starks had 132 yards rushing and became Green Bay’s first 100-yard rusher since 2010.  They won their eighth straight home game and their 21st of 22. Washington fell behind 24-0 after two quarters and have now been outscored 50-7 in the first half this season. The Pack now rank second in the NFL with 66 points scored. The Broncos, who are first, have scored 66 points in the second half. Read the rest of this entry →

Offense, Offense And More Offense: NFL Division Weekend Storylines 0

Posted on January 15, 2013 by Andy Larmand

Does it have to be over? That was one of the best weekends of sports we have ever seen. The only bad thing about the Super Bowl getting closer is less football games over the weekend.

If it looked familiar to you, there’s good reason for that. The four AFC teams in the divisional round this past weekend were the same final four as last season and it was the first time that phenomenon has ever happened. Defense was certainly hard to come by on both Saturday and Sunday. We have a lot to cover, so let’s get to it.

Obi-WON-Jacoby: Joe Flacco's 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime, where the Ravens eventually shocked the Broncos.

Obi-WON-Jacoby: Joe Flacco’s 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime, where the Ravens eventually shocked the Broncos.

What. A. Game. The Ravens and the Broncos opened the weekend in one of the best postseason games we have seen in a while. Despite two return touchdowns from Trindon Holliday, Denver fell to the underdog Ravens, 38-35, in the first double-overtime game in the NFL since the Panthers beat the Rams in another divisional playoff game on Jan. 10, 2004 – they ended up making it to the Super Bowl that year. Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones with a 70-yard pass to tie the game at 35 with 31 seconds left in regulation and tied Eli Manning for the most road playoff wins with his fifth. If you missed it, start kicking yourself. Peyton Manning, who had won nine straight starts against the Ravens coming into the game, tied Brett Favre for the most playoff losses by a quarterback in NFL history. In 12 playoff appearances, which are tied for the most ever, he is now 9-11, including eight seasons of one-and-done performances. In what has become his typical fashion, he threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. The Ravens got 17 points off of those turnovers, including the game-winning field goal with 13:18 left in the second overtime period following Corey Graham‘s second pick of the night.

The game featured three return touchdowns, including two in the first 5:11 and also saw a 42-second stretch in which the Ravens scored two touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead. Holliday’s 90-yard punt return was the first ever in Denver postseason history and the longest by any player ever in the playoffs. His 104-yard kick return for a touchdown was also the longest return TD in playoff history and he became the only player to ever return both a kick and a punt for touchdowns in the same playoff game. Finally, Holliday became the first player to ever score two touchdowns of any kind of 90 or more yards in a playoff game. Baltimore lost one fumble on the day and have now lost three in their first two playoff games this year after losing just five in the regular season. The 28 combined points in the first quarter of the game were more than the four games combined for in the first quarter last weekend. It was only the third time in the Super Bowl era that both teams scored 14 or more points in the first quarter of a playoff game. It was also the first ever playoff game with an offensive (Torrey Smith, Brandon Stokley), defensive (Graham) and special teams touchdown (Holliday) in the first quarter.

The 35 points are the most the Ravens have ever allowed in their playoff history. The Broncos lost their first overtime playoff contest as they had been 2-0 in such games entering this one, including the victory over the Steelers last year. Baltimore improved to 1-0 in overtime playoff games. Graham became the sixth player in the last five postseasons to pick off multiple passes in a playoff game. Three of them are Ravens. The combination of Flacco and John Harbaugh is going to its third AFC Championship game in their five seasons together (0-2). Justin Tucker‘s 47-yard field goal to win the game was his only one of the night, the fourth-longest overtime field goal in playoff history and the longest ever by a rookie. Ray Lewis made an astounding 17 tackles and will live to play another week. The game lasted 76 minutes, 42 seconds. It was the fourth-longest playoff game in NFL history and the longest since 1986. Manning fell to 0-4 in his career in the postseason when the temperature was lower than 40 degrees and his 21 career postseason interceptions are the fourth-most ever. Denver committed 10 penalties in the game for 87 yards. Smith’s 59-yard TD reception just before the half was the second-longest in Baltimore postseason history. Manning took a knee with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter, still possessing two timeouts.

Well, that was a good start. The Ravens will travel to Foxboro for a rematch of their Week 3 game with New England on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

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Win Or Go Home: NFL Wild Card Weekend Storylines 0

Posted on January 08, 2013 by Andy Larmand

There were only four football games on TV this weekend – two on Saturday and two on Sunday. But, thats okay. It’s the playoffs! Someone really should have told Andy Dalton, though as some unfortunate quarterback play stole the spotlight on Saturday.

PLAYOFFS?! Jim Mora, made famous for his rant at a press conference in 2001, is getting gained on by Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis as the coaches the two with the most playoff losses without any wins (Mora: 0-6, Lewis: 0-4).

The Bengals and Texans kicked off Wild Card Weekend for the second straight year on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last year’s Wild Card game and the first playoff game of  Matt Schaub‘s career (was injured last season). Houston won last year’s game and they won this one too, though it was ugly, 19-13. The game was the fourth rematch in the Wild Card round from the previous year in history and all four times the team that had won the first one has won the second one. In an ugly first half, the only touchdown that was scored was a Leon Hall interception return for Cincinnati, but they trailed 9-7 at the end of two thanks to some very sloppy play. The Bengals were the first team with negative passing yards in the first half of a playoff game since 2006. Dalton had -6 yards through the air in the half. It was the fourth consecutive game with a defensive TD for the Bengals and their first interception return for a touchdown in the postseason since 1973. A.J. Green had no catches or targets in the first two quarters of the game. Cincinnati has not won a playoff game since 1990 and also fell to 0-6 on the road all-time in the postseason. Dalton finished with just 127 yards on 14-of-30 passing.

Both Owen Daniels and Arian Foster were huge for the Texans, who have now won a playoff game in consecutive seasons. Daniels finished the game with nine receptions for 91 yards and Foster finished with 140 yards and the team’s only touchdown as he became the first running back to ever rush for 100 yards in each of his first three career playoff games. His 425 rushing yards in those games are also good for the most by a player in his first three career postseason appearances. Shayne Graham made all four of his field goal attempts in the game. Houston still has a chance to become only the second team to win the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season 1-3 or worse. Schaub nearly doubled Dalton’s passer rating (83.4 to 44.7) as the veteran came out on top in this one. Jermaine Gresham caught just two passes for seven yards and had two drops bounce off his hands. The Texans will head to New England to take on the Patriots in a rematch of their Week 14 game on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Houston lost the contest 42-14.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton struggled hearing the play calls in noisy Reliant Stadium and struggled even more in executing them as Cincinnati's season is done.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton struggled hearing the play calls in noisy Reliant Stadium and struggled even more in executing them as Cincinnati’s season is done.

A couple hours before kickoff, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder determined his injured elbow was not going to allow him to play in the game against the Packers. Joe Webb, who hadn’t thrown a pass this season, got the start and became the first quarterback in NFL history to start a postseason game after not attempting a pass in the regular season. He was the first QB to start a playoff game with only one career win on his resume since Kelly Holcomb in 2003. With all that going against them, it was never really close after the Packers scored 24 unanswered points to win, 24-10, and earn a rematch with the 49ers next week. Dalton may have felt a little better as Webb threw for just six yards in the first half of this game. Adrian Peterson ran for just 99 yards in the game on 22 carries and failed to become just the second 2,000-yard rusher to win a playoff game in the same season. No rushing champion has run for 100 yards in a playoff game since Edgerrin James did in 2000.

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ST&N 2012 NFL Awards 0

Posted on January 03, 2013 by Andy Larmand

While the NFL won’t give out its real awards until Super Bowl time, I will make my predictions for who will be receiving said awards. Only one thing is certain as of right now: the best of 2012 have a lot to live up to next year. It’s time, for me at least, to tell everyone who will win the awards in February and why.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuehly not only led the 10th-ranked defense of the Carolina Panthers in tackles as a rookie. He led the entire division. He led the entire NFC. And just for good measure, he led all of the NFL in tackles as a rookie fresh out of Boston College. Kuechly, a 6-foot-3-inch, 235-pound linebacker, finished the season with 164 tackles, 15 ahead of NaVorro Bowman of the 49ers who had 149 on the year. He’s begun to transform the defense of the Panthers, which just last year, was 28th in the league. Out of the 17 defenders drafted in the first round of this past year’s draft, Kuechly was far and away the most productive. The next most was Bucs‘ safety Mark Barron, who had 89 tackles on the year. Carolina gave up 22.7 points per game in 2012 after allowing 26.8 last season. Kuechly was instrumental in holding strong offensive opponents like the Giants, Seahawks, Cowboys and Chargers to seven, 12, 14 and seven points, respectively. My 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly.

2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly.

2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: In a season that was definitely going to result in one of the first two picks in the draft winning this award, it just had to be determined whether it would be Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. So, with that being said, my offensive rookie of the year is Russell Wilson. Wilson is just as much of a two-way threat as the other two and threw more touchdown passes than his two fellow rookie quarterbacks. In fact, Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s 1998 record for the most touchdown passes by a rookie with 26 on the year. In the month of December, when the games mattered most, Wilson quarterbacked a Seattle team that put up 150 points in a three-game span. And he didn’t even enter training camp as the team’s starter. His 69.6 QBR was eighth in the league, just behind Griffin and just ahead of Luck, while his 100.0 passer rating was fourth in the league, just behind Griffin and well ahead of Luck. Neither the Seahawks, nor the Redskins or Colts would likely be in the playoffs without their rookie quarterback, so it kind of came down to stats in making this decision. My 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year: Russell Wilson.

2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year: Russell Wilson.

2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year: Russell Wilson.

Coach of the Year: What a year it was for the Colts. It takes a special coach to turn a 2-14 team into an 11-5 team and make the playoffs in the tough AFC South. It’s even more impressive that he did it in an interim role with all that must have been on his mind after head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in October. Bruce Arians took over the team and, under his direction, they never lost focus and were able to win 11 games. They became just the seventh team ever to win at least nine more games than they did the previous year. Pagano has since returned and will coach the team in the playoffs, but they would not be there without the job that Arians did. To keep the team composed under those unbelievably difficult circumstances and to actually succeed on the field at the same time is so impressive and incredibly unique. Some season highlights for Indianapolis included wins against teams like the Texans, Vikings and Packers. My 2012 Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians.

2012 Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians.

2012 Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians.

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    • Rod Carew: Hitting Machine
      July 5, 2014 | 3:42 pm
      Rod Carew

      Rod Carew

      With the Major League All-Star Game being played this year in Minnesota, we recognize as the July Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month one of the best hitters of the last half a century who was named to 18 straight All-Star teams, including in each of his 12 seasons with the Twins.

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