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Season In Review: 32 Storylines From The 2012 NFL Regular Season 0

Posted on January 03, 2013 by Andy Larmand

It’s been a good one and I’m sure I speak for everybody when I say we’re all sad to see it go, but the 2012 NFL season has provided us with exciting finishes, triumphant record-breaking performances, comebacks, winning streaks, losing streaks and of course, replacement officials. Disappointments, pleasant surprises, rookies leading their teams to the playoffs and unspeakable tragedy have all left their marks on the past 17 weeks as well.

Here are 32 of the biggest stories – one about each team – from the 2012 regular season of NFL football.

Ryan Lindley watches as Janoris Jenkins (left) scoots into the endzone, returning another Arizona pass for a touchdown.

Flew into a wall: Cardinals QB Ryan Lindley watches as Janoris Jenkins (left) scoots into the endzone, returning another Arizona pass for a touchdown.

Arizona Cardinals (5-11, 4th in NFC West): Normally, when you lose nine games in a row, that’s the biggest story of the year. That was not the case for the Arizona Cardinals this year, however. Following the rib injury to starting quarterback Kevin Kolb in Week 6, things went from bad to worse in the desert as the Cards spiraled from a 4-0 first place team all the way to the bottom of the NFC West. Arizona’s quarterbacks, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer, were three big reasons why. In that time frame, they combined to go 1-9 and throw 18 interceptions to just three touchdowns. A five-game stretch even resulted in Lindley throwing more touchdowns to opposing teams via interception returns (four) than he threw to his own receivers (zero). A few of the trio’s passing highs included 74, 72 and 64 yards. It probably didn’t help that All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had just 20 catches for 213 yards and no touchdowns in the final seven games of the season. Either they will trust that Kolb will return healthy next season or one would think they spend their first-round pick this spring on a competent quarterback. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt was fired by the team on ‘Black Monday.’

Atlanta Falcons (13-3, 1st in NFC South): The Falcons went 13-3 in 2012 and locked up their second straight No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, but that’s not really news – at least not until they actually do something in the playoffs. Matt Ryan improved his home record to 33-4 in five NFL seasons, but that wasn’t even the biggest thing, in my opinion. For the sixth consecutive season, Roddy White played in all 16 games (hasn’t missed a game in his eight-year career) and put up what would seem like Pro Bowl worthy numbers. He did not make it, however, but teammate Julio Jones did. White had 13 more catches and 153 more yards than Jones on the season. Interesting. In fact, White has finished out of the top 10 in receiving yards just once in the last six seasons (2009). In the last six seasons, he has ended up ninth, eighth, second, 13th, fourth and eighth in the NFL in receiving. He has gone to just three Pro Bowls, however, including one due to an injury of another player. The biggest story out of Atlanta this season may just be the fact that one of the most productive receivers in the league from year to year was snubbed from the Pro Bowl after once again bringing that consistent level of exceptional play. Should he be mad? Yes.

Baltimore Ravens (10-6, 1st in AFC North): It was kind of a tale of two seasons for the AFC North champion Ravens. They began the year 9-2 and were in the driver’s seat in the division as well as in good position in the hunt for a first-round bye. Then came injuries, however. Already without Pro Bowl defensive lineman Terrell Suggs, All-Pro Ray Lewis tore his triceps in Week 6 and was out for the rest of the regular season. In Week 7 against Houston, Suggs would return. Their success in the last few seasons shows the importance of those two players to the team. As if the Lewis wasn’t bad enough, cornerback Lardarius Webb tore his ACL in the same game and he, too, was lost for the year. Lewis is slated to make his return this weekend, but without these three players all on the field in the second half of the year, Baltimore went from a 9-2 team to one with an average 10-6 record. Should they face an early exit in the playoffs, these injuries will have likely given them their death sentence as the up-and-down offense can’t really be counted on.

Buffalo Bills (6-10, 4th in AFC East): As one of the most disappointing teams of 2012, the Buffalo Bills were projected by some to be contenders in the AFC East and perhaps even make the playoffs. That illusion was quickly lost, however, after the team began the year with a 3-6 start, including a 48-28 loss to the Jets on Opening Day. They finished 6-10 at the bottom of the division for the fifth straight year. Buffalo has missed the playoffs in 13 consecutive seasons. Of the six teams that they did beat on the year (the Chiefs, Browns, Cardinals, Dolphins, Jaguars and Jets), not one of them had a winning record. In fact, they had a combined record of 27-69. The defense, which was supposed to be solid with the addition of Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus in his second year, gave up 45-plus points four times on the season as the Bills finished 31st in the league in rush yards against, allowing 145.8 per game. C.J. Spiller did have a solid season as he finished eighth in the league with 1,244 rushing yards, but a knee injury to Fred Jackson really ended up hurting the offense, which finished 19th in the league in total yards. Buffalo fired head coach Chan Gailey on Monday.

Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly led the NFL in tackles this season, but the Panthers still finished below .500.

Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly led the NFL in tackles this season, but the Panthers still finished below .500.

Carolina Panthers (7-9, 2nd in NFC South): For the third straight year the Panthers finished under .500, but for the second straight year they had a dynamic rookie on the field with them. As the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft, linebacker Luke Kuechly not only led the team in tackles, but he led the entire league. He finished the season with 164 while also picking off two passes, recovering three fumbles and deflecting eight passes for the 10th-ranked defense in Carolina. He was not selected to the Pro Bowl, however. Kuechly was so impressive that he may have even slightly overshadowed the sophomore season of Cam Newton, who was just the third quarterback ever to lead his team in rushing yards in a season. With the two of them as their foundation, the future looks bright in Carolina if they can build around them. They could return to the playoffs as early as next year for the first time since 2008.

Chicago Bears (10-6, 3rd in NFC North): You can have a good beginning. And you can have a good end. But if you don’t have a good middle, most of the time, success is not on the horizon. The Chicago Bears found this out the hard way in 2012 as they became just the second team since 1990 (out of 53) to miss the playoffs after starting a season 7-1. Unfortunately for them, they lost five of their next six before finishing the season with two straight wins, but by then, it was too late. Jay Cutler‘s injury had a bit to do with it, but ultimately the offense they put out on the field could not get it done in the second half of the year as they averaged just 17.3 points per game in the final eight weeks of the season. Chicago has now missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons with their only playoff run ending in the NFC Championship Game to the eventual champion Packers two years ago. Head coach Lovie Smith was fired on Monday in a very surprising move that could ultimately result in more bad than good for the team.

Cincinnati Bengals (10-6, 2nd in AFC North): The Bengals are going to the playoffs for the seconds straight year behind their talented second-year playmakers Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. Green really made a leap in his second year as he finished 10th in the league in receiving yards (1,350), tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns (11) and seventh in receptions (97) while making his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He even had a stretch early in the season in which he caught a touchdown pass in nine consecutive games. His 84.4 yards per game also cracked the top 10 in the league. As the team’s biggest name on the offense, Green continued to put up monster numbers even when drawing the best coverage schemes from opposing defenses. His 164 targets in 2012 were tied for fifth in the league behind five of the best receivers of this generation. Green came up seven catches shy of breaking the record for the most receptions by a player in his first two NFL seasons as Cincy opted to rest most of its starters in their season finale. He has a chance to be the most productive receiver in Ohio since Chad Johnson.

Cleveland Browns (5-11, 4th in AFC North): In a backfield that featured two rookie starters in quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson, the Cleveland Browns were not able to avoid a second straight last place finish in the AFC North, but did win one more game than they did last year (four) if that’s any consolation. Richardson broke Jim Brown‘s franchise record for most rushing yards in a season by a rookie with 950 and also scored 12 total touchdowns. He started every game he appeared in and went over 100 yards three times before being forced to miss the team’s final game with an ankle injury. Weeden also missed the season finale with a shoulder injury. In 15 games at quarterback, he was 297-of-517 passing for 3,385 yards and threw 14 touchdowns. If both of them can come back healthy next year and the Browns can put some other pieces of the puzzle together, they look to be able to contend in the tough AFC North in 2013. Head coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert were both fired by the team on Monday.

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A Week For The Record Books: Week 16 NFL Storylines 0

Posted on December 26, 2012 by Andy Larmand

Week 16 gave us plenty of gifts right before Christmas including playoff clinching performances, records being set, quarterback controversies and of course a little Tim Tebow. Like always, it was fun to watch and even more exciting for those lucky enough to be in fantasy championship games.

The Falcons became the first team in the league to reach 13 wins as they got the best of the not-so-mighty Lions, 31-18, to open the week on Thursday/Saturday/Monday Night Football. While their performance was certainly appreciated in Atlanta, it was probably overshadowed around the rest of the country as Calvin Johnson broke the 17-year receiving yards record previously held by Jerry Rice with 11 catches for 225 yards on the night. He surpassed Rice’s record of 1,848 yards and now has 1,892 with one game to go and a real shot at becoming the first ever 2,000-yard receiver. On top of that, Megatron also set NFL records with his eighth straight game of 100-plus receiving yards and fourth straight with 10-plus catches. Matthew Stafford set an NFL record for the most passing yards in a game (443) without throwing a touchdown.

No. 1: Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice's record for receiving yards in a season with 225 in his team's loss to the Falcons Saturday night.

No. 1: Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s record for receiving yards in a season with 225 in his team’s loss to the Falcons Saturday night.

Atlanta did clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with the win. Their two big targets, Roddy White and Julio Jones combined for 15 catches, 224 yards and three touchdowns. White had 100-plus yards and two TD catches in the 1st half alone – the second time he’s done that in his career. Jones now has at least five catches in five straight games and has a touchdown catch in four out of five. Matt Ryan continued his dominance at home as he threw four TD passes and set a new career-high with 31 on the year, tying the Falcons single-season record. He completed his first 12 passes of the game and dating back to last week, had completed 22 straight – a Falcons record – while also tying another career-high with the four touchdown passes. With one reception, Tony Gonzalez has caught a ball in 194 straight games. The Falcons improved to 13-2 and the Lions fell to a disappointing 4-11.

Steven Jackson entered Sunday’s game against the Bucs needing 91 yards for his eighth straight 1,000-yard season, but only got 81 as the Rams won the game 28-13. Rookie Janoris Jenkins returned another interception for a touchdown – his third of the year, which tied the rookie record set back in 1981. Josh Freeman tied the Bucs’ career record for TD throws with 77, but also threw four interceptions in his second consecutive game. He also now holds the Bucs’ single season passing yards record with 3,843 through Sunday. Sam Bradford was not sacked at all for the first time in 31 games. St. Louis improved to 7-7-1 and Tampa fell to 6-9 with their fifth straight loss.

Greg McElroy made the first start of his NFL career as the Jets hosted the Chargers in a battle of disappointing AFC teams. It was the first time since 2009 that Mark Sanchez had not started a game for New York and they looked pretty good on offense to start, driving for two early Shonn Greene touchdown runs. San Diego would come back, however, behind two touchdown passes from Philp Rivers, including one to Antonio Gates, who now stands alone as the Chargers’ all-time leader in touchdown catches with 82, and hand the Jets the loss, 27-17. San Diego sacked McElroy 11 times in the win – the most by a team since 2007. McElroy was the second quarterback since the merger to be sacked 11 times in his first start. The Jets fell to 6-9 and Chargers improved to 6-9 with the win.

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Scoreless In Seattle: Week 14 NFL Storylines 2

Posted on December 12, 2012 by Andy Larmand

As Christmas approaches, some NFL coaches were doing whatever they could to get back on the nice list in the eyes of their owners. Teams that hadn’t been doing a lot of winning this year found ways to get the job done in upset style in Week 14, but some, however, continued to fall face first into the snow (or desert sand).

No. 1: Peyton Manning got the Broncos to the 10-win mark for the first time since 2005 as he has the team poised to make a playoff run.

Peyton Manning highlighted the weekly Thursday night game as he threw for 300 yards for the first time since Week 10 at Carolina, but threw just one touchdown pass after eight in his previous three games. This marks the seventh time in his career that he has thrown 30 or more touchdowns in a season. He also turned the ball over at least once for the sixth straight game, but his Broncos still won their eighth straight, beating division rival Oakland 26-13 on Thursday night to improve to 10-3 on the year. The eight-game win streak is the longest for the Broncos since 1997-98 and with their 10th win of the year, they have hit double-digits in wins for the first time since 2005. The Denver D picked off at least one pass for the ninth straight game. Denver’s five-game lead in the AFC West is tied for the Falcons for the largest division lead through 14 weeks.

Rookie running back Doug Martin, a regular name in this post, became the first rookie running back since 2008 to record 1,500 yards from scrimmage in Tampa Bay‘s last-second 23-21 loss to the Eagles. Philly won for the first time in nine weeks behind Nick Foles, who threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner as time expired. He became the second rookie in as many weeks to win a game with a TD pass as time expired (Luck). All seven of Tampa Bay’s losses this season have been by eight points or fewer. The Eagles now have as many wins (one) since Oct. 1 as the Phillies.

Don’t look now, but the Jets – yes, the New York Jets – have won two straight after picking up their first ever win in Jacksonville Sunday by a score of 17-10 and are now being considered as a team with a chance to sneak into the playoffs. Mark Sanchez was back in there, but the Jets found the endzone twice on the ground and picked Chad Henne off twice en route to their second straight win and third in four games. Montell Owens scored his first rushing touchdown since 2008 for the Jags, who have lost two straight. Sanchez didn’t throw an interception for just the fourth time this year.

The joke that is the Arizona Cardinals just keeps getting funnier as they dropped their ninth straight game after starting the season 4-0. They didn’t just lose though – they lost 58-0 (not a misprint) to the Seahawks. The Seattle defense forced eight turnovers (four fumbles, four interceptions) and led 38-0 at halftime – their largest halftime lead since 1977. Marshawn Lynch ran for three touchdowns on just 11 carries and finished with 128 yards – his first multi-TD game of the year. Larry Fitzgerald remainedinvisible as he caught just one ball for two yards and Arizona quarterbacks John Skelton and Ryan Lindley combined to go 19-of-39 for 111 yards and four interceptions. The 58-point margin of victory is the largest in Seahawks history and the 58 points are the most the team’s ever scored in a single game. Not surprisingly, the 58-point loss is good for the worst in the 92-year history of the Cardinals.

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Martin, Marshall and Mikel Headline Week 9 NFL Storylines 1

Posted on November 06, 2012 by Andy Larmand

Buccaneers’ rookie running back, Doug Martin, had a day for the ages on Sunday, rushing for 251 yards and four touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s 42-32 win over the Raiders.

In case anyone forgot why we love this game so much, here are a few incredible achievements, outcomes and performances to remind us all.

Tampa Bay rookie running back, Doug Martin had perhaps the performance of the year in the Bucs’ 42-32 win over the Raiders on Sunday. Martin ran the ball 25 times for a franchise-record 251 yards and not one, not two, not three, but four touchdowns. He was responsible for 24 out of Tampa Bay’s 42 points and 220 of those yards came in the 2nd half. The 251 yards was good fir the third-most all-time by a rookie behind Demarco Murray and Adrian Peterson. If you don’t know Doug Martin, now you know.

Not surprisingly, this performance gave him the top spot in fantasy football leagues this week, as he racked up 51, yes 51, points in standard ESPN leagues. He became just the third Tampa running back to ever rush for 200 yards in a game. He also became the first Buc to rush for 130 yards in consecutive games. More importantly, the Bucs won just their fourth ever game in the state of California.

Wow. Talk about Andrew Luck or RG3 being offensive Rookie of the Year may just have to be put on hold as Martin has combined for 386 yards and five touchdowns in the past two weeks. He has a total of 794 yards on the year, is the top rookie runner in the league after nine weeks and is second overall, trailing only Peterson, who incidentally had a huge day himself on Sunday, running for 182 yards and two scores on just 17 carries.

Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and Detroit’s Mikel Leshoure also had huge days in wins by their respective teams. Marshall caught nine balls for 122 yards and three touchdowns in the Bears‘ 51-20 drubbing of the Titans and Leshoure ran 16 times for 70 yards and three scores of his own as the Lions bested the Jaguars 31-14. It was the first time since 2008 that a Lions player had scored three rushing touchdowns in a game. Matthew Stafford reached 10,000 career passing yards in his 37th career game and became the 2nd-fastest to ever do it behind Kurt Warner, who did it in 36 games.

In that Bears win, Brian Urlacher picked off a Matt Hasselbeck pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown. This marked the seventh interception return for a touchdown by the Bears D this season, just two shy of the all-time NFL single-season record. The 51 points the Bears scored are their most since they scored 61 against the Packers in 1980. Titans running back, Chris Johnson, scored on an 80-yard run in the 4th quarter. Two weeks ago, Johnson ran for his fourth career score of 80 yards or more, breaking an NFL record. His fifth adds to his own record.

The Giants and Steelers played an exciting one in East Rutherford as Pittsburgh, trailing 20-10 entering the 4th quarter, scored the game’s final 14 points to win 24-20. For a change, Ben Roethlisberger, and not Eli Manning, led his team to a 4th quarter comeback. Sorry, I don’t have a stat that says how many 4th quarter leads Manning has blown. Steelers running back, Isaac Redman ran 26 times for 147 yards and a TD as both Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer were out with injuries. With their 35 rushing attempts in the game, Pittsburgh improved to 17-1 under Mike Tomlin when running the ball at least 35 times in a game. Due to Hurricane Sandy, the Steelers only got to New Jersey on Sunday morning.

Out west, maybe they are who we thought they were, as the Cardinals have lost their fifth straight game after a 4-0 start. Without Kevin Kolb, they are forced to start John Skelton, who is 0-4 in four starts since Kolb went down. They fell 31-17 to the Packers at Lambeau Field and still have never won a game there (0-6).

Elsewhere, the aforementioned Luck, has the Colts over .500. They beat the Dolphins, who had won three straight, 23-20 on Sunday for their third straight win. After reaching the 4-3 mark last week, Indy is over .500 for the first time since the end of Peyton Manning’s last season in 2010. Luck became the second rookie in NFL history with four 300-yard passing games in his first year. The other? Manning. Luck finished with 433 passing yards on the day – a new rookie record. He also has four 4th quarter or overtime game-winning drives through eight games. The four other rookie QB’s have combined for four among them. And if that wasn’t enough, Luck’s 2,404 passing yards through his first eight games are the most ever by a rookie.

Cowboys tight end, Jason Witten tied and broke the team’s all-time receptions record in Sunday night’s loss to the undefeated Falcons as he caught seven balls for 51 yards to bring his career total to 754. He passed Michael Irvin, who was the Cowboys’ leader with 751, for the honor. The Falcons did get the win and improved to 8-0 as the last undefeated team left in the league. Six of the last 14 teams to open a season 8-0 have won the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan improved to 30-4 in his career at home, the best home win percentage (.882) by a quarterback since the merger. Tony Gonzalez became just the second player ever to register 15 50-reception seasons. The other is Jerry Rice.

The Panthers finally got their second win of the season as Cam Newton’s squad got the best of Robert Griffin’s, 21-13. Griffin did outperform Newton both in the air and on the ground, however as he and running back, Alfred Morris, became the first pair of rookie teammates to each rush for 500 yards in a season since 1976 and it is the first time ever that this has happened with one of the rushers being a quarterback. Interestingly, the Redskins have not won their last game before Election Day since 1992.

The Bills fell 21-9 to the Texans as defensive tackle, Mario Williams, made his return to Houston. He led Buffalo with seven tackles (two for a loss) and recorded one of their two sacks. For the first time in five weeks, the Bills allowed less than 175 rushing yards as they only surrendered 118.

The week started off with the Chargers scoring 21 4th quarter points to beat the Chiefs 31-13 in a battle of struggling AFC West teams. Kansas City has lost five in a row and still has not led at any point in their eight games this season (1-7). This is the first time since 1929 that has happened, according to Elias.

San Diego had lost three in a row after beating the Chiefs 37-20 in Week 4. Antonio Gates caught his 79th career touchdown, leaving him two behind the Chargers all-time record of 81 set by Lance Alworth. Though they only gave up a single touchdown to San Diego, the Chiefs have now been outscored 61-6 in the 1st quarter this season. Philip Rivers threw his first red-zone interception of the year, but also set a Chargers record by completing 90% of his passes (18-20).

The Broncos beat the Bengals 31-23 and improved to 5-3 atop the AFC West. The Bengals fell to 3-5. Eric Decker caught eight balls for 99 yards and two touchdowns. He now has a TD catch in five straight games, one shy of the franchise record. Trindon Holliday returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown and claimed the longest touchdown in Broncos history.

Saints quarterback, Drew Brees, threw a touchdown pass in his 51st straight game on Monday night against the Eagles. Brees extended his own record with the throw. Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, had a bye in Week 9. The pass went to Marques Colston and it was the 54th time those two have hooked up for a score, tied for the 11th most in NFL history.

Patrick Robinson picked off a Michael Vick pass in the red-zone and returned in 99 yards to give the Saints a 7-0 lead in the 1st quarter. The Eagles have scored a grand total of seven points in the 1st quarter this season after being shut out on Monday night. After a lackluster previous three games, however, LeSean McCoy broke out for 119 yards, but just 17 of those came in the 2nd half.

New Orleans has now won eight in a row on Monday night, the second longest streak all-time and the longest active. This ties the Eagles’ longest losing streak under head coach, Andy Reid, and the first time that all four NFC East teams lost in the same week since Week 13 in 2011. Vick was sacked seven times for 46 yards and took many more hits as he tried to scramble to make something happen. The Saints have won 12 straight games in the month of November.

Some information taken from ESPN Stats & Info.

 

 Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.

Week 8 NFL Storylines 0

Posted on October 31, 2012 by Andy Larmand

Matt Ryan’s three 1st half touchdowns helped the Falcons improve to 7-0 with a Week 8 victory over the Eagles.

It was a week for offenses to shine in Week 8 as five NFL teams picked up wins by 20 or more points and a total of five teams put up 30 or more points.

The 49ers, Broncos, Patriots, Dolphins and Bucs all won by 20 or more and those teams with the exception of the 49ers all put up 30 or more points. The Falcons also put up 30 against the Eagles en route to their seventh win of the year while staying undefeated.

Atlanta became the sixth NFL team to start a season 7-0 and score at least 23 points in each of those games. They also improved to 15-0 when Matt Ryan throws three or more touchdown passes in a game. Philly had been 13-0 following bye weeks under head coach, Andy Reid.

The Saints couldn’t win their third straight and fell to 2-5, but Drew Brees threw a touchdown pass in his 50th straight game to extend his own record. New Orleans fell to Denver 34-14 on Sunday night. Peyton Manning and the Broncos improved to 4-3 and it was the first time that they have won back-to-back games this year.

Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, didn’t let the time change or long flight to London affect him as he also threw a touchdown pass again and this marks 40 straight games for him – still 10 behind Brees for the all-time record. More notable for the Patriots, they gained 473 yards of total offense against the Rams, marking the 17th straight game that they have recorded more than 350. This broke the all-time record set by those Rams in 1999-00.

The Patriots’ offensive explosion left plenty of storylines and it was hard to just pick a few. The 45-7 win for New England was the largest of the weekend and in two games in London since 2009, the Pats have outscored their opponents 80-14 (beat Tampa 35-7 in 2009).

Four different Pats scored touchdowns and both Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Lloyd caught two apiece. It was the 50th time that Brady has had a game with three or more touchdown passes, which is good for fourth all-time. Wes Welker recorded at least one reception in his 102nd straight game. Believe it or not, the Rams scored the first seven points of the game before New England rifled off 45 unanswered.

The last two times Bill Belichick and Jeff Fisher have met, Belichick has outscored him 104-7. Also, Rams receiver, Chris Givens, caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Sam Bradford and now has a 50+ yard reception in five straight games. Bradford was also sacked at least once in his 24th straight game.

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