Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Monday, November 28, 2022
By Eric Goska
|Jalen Hurts rushed for 157 yards against the Packers|
(screen capture from NFL Game Pass)
Ouch! That hurt!
Make that Jalen Hurts.
The elusive signal caller sparked a land grab for the ages Sunday night as his Eagles trampled the Packers 40-33 at Lincoln Financial Field. In doing so, the third-year phenom established a record for the most rushing yards gained by a quarterback in a regular-season game against the Green and Gold.
Historically, the Packers have struggled containing quarterbacks who can run. From Bobby Douglass to Michael Vick to Justin Fields, Green Bay has yielded more real estate to throwers nimble on their feet than it cared to.
That Hurts falls into this category is no secret. He, along with Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Kyler Murray, is one of four quarterbacks to have rushed for more than 1,500 yards over the past three seasons according to Pro Football Reference.
Hurts took his game to a new level against the Packers. He ripped off 157 yards on 17 carries to easily break his career-high of 106 on 18 rushes in a 24-21 win over the Saints in 2020.
In hitting the century mark, Hurts joined Douglass (100 yards) and Vick (103) as the only two quarterbacks to hit triple digits against Green Bay in the regular season. San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick had 181 in a playoff game in 2013.
Hurts started feasting early. He hustled for 24 and 28 the first two times the Eagles faced third down.
Stymied on third-and-one on the Eagles’ third possession, Hurts scooted for 42 the next time the team came up against that down. He also moved the chains on an 8-yard advance to set up Miles Sanders’ 15-yard jaunt that gave Philadelphia a 13-0 lead just six minutes into the game.
All that added up to 103 yards on seven totes for Hurts in the first quarter. In the past 100 years, only Walter Payton (117 yards in 1977) and Fred Gehrke (114 in 1945) gashed Green Bay for more than 100 on the ground in an opening period.
Though Hurts gained only 54 yards rushing the rest of the way, he had opened the floodgates. The Eagles tore into Green Bay for 363 yards with Sanders contributing 143 on 21.
Only the Bears of 1955 (406) and 1977 (375) chewed up more at the expense of the Packers in a regular-season game.
Also of note, the combined 300 yards produced by Hurts and Sanders is the most by a duo against Green Bay. The pair surpassed the 281 generated by the Rams’ Tom Wilson (223) and Joe Marconi (58) on Dec. 16, 1956.
So effective was Philadelphia that four players – Hurts (5), Sanders (3), Boston Scott (2) and Kenneth Gainwell (1) – bounded for gains of 10 or more yards. Sixty-seven years have passed since the Bears, with 16 such runs in a 52-31 romp over Green Bay on Nov. 6, 1955, had more than 11 against Green Bay.
So, amidst all this carnage, a question emerges. How often in this era of passing have teams surrendered 350 or more yards on the ground.
Nine times this century, according to Pro Football Reference. And the 363 the Eagles gained ranks fifth best.
For Green Bay, that has to hurt.
Opening the Floodgates
Since 1923, the six players who gained 90 or more yards rushing in the first quarter of a regular-season game against the Packers.
Oct. 30, 1977
GB lost, 0-26
Nov. 11, 1945
GB lost, 7-20
Nov. 27, 2022
GB lost, 33-40
Oct. 10, 1948
GB lost, 7-17
Nov. 23, 1958
GB lost, 21-37
Oct. 11, 2004
GB lost, 27-48
Sunday, November 27, 2022
Credit: Fox Sports and NFL Game Pass
The Eagles will be there. So will Minnesota and Dallas. And that’s not all.
The San Francisco 49ers aren’t just the best team in the NFC West; they’re one of the hottest teams in the NFL. They won their last four, passed Seattle in the division and have playmakers galore on offense – like Deebo Saumuel … and George Kittle … and Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk and Jimmy Garoppolo.
But it’s not the offense that makes the 49ers such a tough out. It’s the defense. It’s tough, violent and fast. Plus, like the other side of the ball, it has a litany of playmakers … like Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw and Talanoa Hufanga.
It also has a litany of accomplishments. San Francisco leads lead the league in total defense, leads the league in run defense and leads the league in fewest points allowed. But, best of all, it’s getting better as the season grows longer.
Over the last four games, the 49ers allowed an average of 10 points per game, outscored opponents 57-0 in the second half and just produced their first shutout of the season, a 13-0 defeat of New Orleans.
It ended a streak of 332 straight games where the Saints weren’t blanked.
“I like what I’m seeing from the 49ers right now,” said Hall-of-Fame coach and NBC analyst Tony Dungy.
So do I. They’re a run-heavy team that can beat you with the pass, stifle you with their defense and outmuscle you on both sides of the lines of scrimmage. Plus, they’re starting to run the table. In short, they’re a lot like the 2019 49ers that wound up in Super Bowl LIV.
I know, they lost to Chicago, Denver and Atlanta. But that was then, and this is now … and now they’re on a roll. All that’s needed is a signature victory, and they have that opportunity next week. They play Miami, and they’re an early 3-1/2-point favorite.
Philadelphia is the logical favorite to win the NFC, but don’t sleep on San Francisco. The 49ers have all their bases covered.
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Taylor Heinicke is the Commander in Chief. All he’s done is win five of his six starts and pull the Commanders … yes, the Washington Freakin’ Commanders … into the middle of the playoff race. But now the road turns sharply uphill: Their last five games are vs. opponents that ae a combined 33-22 (including the 7-4 Giants twice).
2. Cincinnati won’t go away. The Bengals have a brutal schedule down the stretch, but they just checked Tennessee off the list … beating the Titans and doing it without Ja’Marr Chase. They’ve won seven of their last nine and are tied with Baltimore atop the AFC North. But that’s where things get sticky. The Ravens don’t play an opponent with a winning record until Week 18 (Cincinnati), while the Bengals have games remaining vs. Kansas City, Tampa Bay, New England and Buffalo.
3. Trevor Lawrence just took a giant step forward. Finally, mercifully, he looked like the quarterback Jacksonville chose first in the 2021 draft. Producing his best game as a pro, he led the Jags to a last-minute upset of Baltimore – completing 29 of 37 for 321 yards, three TDs and a game-winning two-point conversion. Biggest difference between this year and last? Coaching. A year ago, it was Urban Meyer. Now it’s Doug Pederson.
4. The Jets may have found their quarterback. Mike White, come on down. For the second time in four NFL starts, he threw for over 300 yards and three TDS. More important, he led the Jets to a victory. If the season were to end today, the Jets would be in the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons. Their defense is stellar. Their quarterback … not so much. Until now.
5. It doesn’t matter who wins the NFC South. It’s supposed to be Tampa Bay, but who cares? The division stinks. Nobody is over .500, and Tampa Bay just lost to Cleveland. Cleveland. Last-place Carolina is a mess, running through its head coach and three quarterbacks. Yet at 4-8, the Panthers are only a game out of first.
THIRD AND 20
1. Tell me again: Why did the Raiders think it was a good idea not to pick up a fifth-year option on Josh Jacobs? All he did Sunday was produce 303 yards from scrimmage and score the game-winning TD on an 86-yard blast up the middle.
2. Yes, those were chants of “MVP, MVP” in Miami Sunday, and there’s a reason: Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa belongs in the conversation. The guy quarterbacks a first-place team, leads the league in passer rating and has 19 TDs and only 3 interceptions. In all likelihood, the award comes down to Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts, with Mahomes the frontrunner. But don’t forget Tua.
3. Nope, this is not the time to face Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They won their last 26 games in November and December. Next victim: Cincinnati.
4. The line score says the Bengals’ Joe Burrow beat Tennessee with a 27 yard TD pass to Tee Higgins, but that’s not entirely accurate. The Bengals’ defense won it, holding Derrick Henry to 38 yards rushing, holding him to zero or minus yards on seven of his 17 carries. Henry has failed to reach 100 yards in his last three games.
5. The only quarterback worth watching in Houston is the one the Texans take with the first pick of the 2023 draft.
6. The NFC East is a combined 32-13. The AFC East is 29-15. Neither has a losing team. Horace Greeley was wrong. Go East, young man.
7. Shame on Tampa Bay. The Bucs just lost tackle Tristan Wirfs to an injury that never should’ve happened. Reason: The game had no business going to OT. Someone please tell Todd Bowles that timeouts are meant to be used, especially when Tom Brady has the ball. The Bucs kept Cleveland in this one and wound up beating themselves.
8. Memo to Denver’s new management: You might look into Allstate for help. It claims to “better protect you from Mayhem,” which is crippling your football team. The coaching stinks. The quarterback stinks. Nobody can score. Fans are miserable. Next week is another rock bottom waiting to happen. Take my advice.
9. The more New Orleans loses, the more Philadelphia wins. The Eagles own the Saints’ 2023 first-round draft choice, currently seventh overall.
10. Sorry, Dallas, but the Cowboys don’t need OBJ. They need to rely more on their running game, less on the forward pass.
11. Twelve weeks into the season, and the Ravens are still blowing fourth-quarter leads … only now to Jacksonville … and, yeah, that’s a concern.
12. Melvin Gordon, consider yourself lucky. The Broncos just dealt you a Get Out of Jail card.
13. Green Bay rookie Christian Watson is a load, scoring six times in the past three weeks. My only question: Why did it take the Packers so long to wake up to him?
14. Hard not to like Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel … except when he defies common sense. That happened Sunday when Vrabel called for a field goal in the fourth quarter vs. Cincinnati. Down 20-13, the Titans were sitting on a fourth and-5at the Cincinnati 20 with just over six minutes left. That’s when Vrabel called for a field goal … when a field goal wouldn’t help. No matter if Tennessee made the kick – which it did – it still needed a TD to win. Sadly, the Titans never had a chance. Cincinnati held the ball the last six minutes.
15. There is no reason for Matthew Stafford to return this season. The Rams can’t run, can’t block and don’t have Cooper Kupp. So find out what you have in Bryce Perkins and let Stafford work on those “Pizza, Pizza” audibles at home.
16. Matt Rhule goes 11-27 at Carolina and doesn’t last three seasons. So what happens? He gets a reported eight-year, $72 million deal to coach Nebraska. What a great country.
17. Only one question left for Green Bay at this point: Will the Packers admit the obvious – namely, that the season is kaput -- and take a long, hard look at Jordan Love? We caught a glimpse Sunday night. Time to see more.
18. About time the Chargers delivered with a late TD. Until the last minute Sunday, they found the end zone on only one of their previous 19 second-half possessions ... with Justin Herbert, no less.
19. I don’t know if the Eagles’ 363 yards rushing (and average of 7.4 yard per carry) say more about them or Green Bay’s matador defense. What I do know is that Philadelphia’s offensive line is second to none.
20. Two things I like about the Raiders’ Derek Carr 1) His toughness and 2) his play in OT. He’s 9-2 when games go to a fifth quarter.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET STATS
n The Jets’ Mike White has three TD passes in two of his four NFL starts. Zach Wilson has none in 20.
n According to Elias Sports Bureau, Jalen Hurts’ 103 first-quarter yards rushing were the most single-quarter rushing yards by a quarterback over the last 45 years. His 157 yards rushing for the game are also the most ever by an Eagles’ quarterback , breaking Michael Vick’s record of 130 set in 2010.
n DeSean Jackson has 50-yard receptions from 14 different quarterbacks.
n When Justin Tucker’s 67-yard field goal fell short Sunday, it ended a streak of 65 consecutive field goals made in the fourth quarter or overtime. He hadn’t missed one since 2015.
n Carolina’s Sam Darnold wasn’t sacked for only the third time in his 51 NFL starts.
n According to NFL Research, Washington has the time-of-possession advantage in every one of Taylor Heinicke’s six starts this season.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET QUOTES
n “He made the easy look easy.” – Jets’ coach Robert Saleh on quarterback Mike White.
n “This is the kind of game that great teams win.” – Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow on Sunday’s win.
n “We got lackadaisical out there.” – Baltimore linebacker Justin Houston on the loss to Jacksonville.
n “In the end, they just made the plays, and we didn’t.” – Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady on the Bucs’ latest loss.
n “I hope the Texans don’t cause Bryce Young to stay another year at Alabama.” – Tweet from former Houston Chronicle columnist John McClain.
Credit: CBS Sports and NFL Game Pass
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
by Jeffrey J. Miller
Week 1 – September 3, 1967
Cornerback Goldie Sellers nabbed two passes in leading the Denver Broncos to a come-from-behind victory over the Patriots at Bears Stadium. The second-year man from Grambling State returned one of those picks 29 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, providing the decisive points in the 26-21 win.
Week 2 – September 9, 1967
Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second weekend of the 1967 season goes to Kansas City linebacker Bobby Bell. The Chiefs’ perennial All-AFL performer swiped a Jackie Lee pass early in the third quarter and returned it 32 yards for a score. Bell also recorded seven unassisted tackles as the Chiefs rolled to a 25-20 victory.
Week 3 – September 17, 1967
Oakland linebacker Gus Otto had a monster day in leading the Black-and-Silver to a convincing 35-7 vanquishing of the Boston Patriots at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Otto registered nine total tackles (four unassisted), including three sacks of Boston quarterbacks. One of those takedowns was a strip sack that led directly to a touchdown pass from Daryle Lamonica to Bill Miller to give the Raiders a 28-8 third quarter lead. Otto also recorded an interception of Boston QB Babe Parilli in the second quarter, which led to a 17-yard touchdown pass from Lamonica to Hewritt Dixon.
Week 4 – September 24, 1967
Boston cornerback Don Webb was a six-year veteran coming into the 1967 season, and the Boston brain trust wisely figured a man with his experience could make a pretty good free safety. He’d prove them right continually over the next several seasons, but the payoff really began this week against the Buffalo Bills. The wily Webb, who played his college ball at Iowa State pilfered two Tom Flores passes in leading the Pats to a 23-0 skunking at War Memorial Stadium.
Week 5 – October 1, 1967
In a game that pitted two undefeated teams against one another for the Western Division lead, All-AFL defensive tackle Tom Keating of the Oakland Raiders was all over the field in recording a mind-boggling (for an interior lineman) 16 tackles, seven of which were solo efforts. The former Buffalo Bill led the way to a 23-21 defeat of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders improved to 3-0, whjle the Chiefs fell to 2-1.
Week 6 – October 7, 1967
The Oakland Raiders were on a roll, starting their season at 3-0. They were looking to remain undefeated as they traveled to New York to face the 2-1 Jets on a Saturday night at Shea Stadium. Led by 5-time All-AFL linebacker Larry Grantham, the Jets defense held the explosive Raiders to just 210 yards of total offense. Grantham earned DPOW honors by intercepting two Daryle Lamonica passes in the second quarter, both of which led directly to New York scores (a touchdown and a field goal) and a crushing 27-14 defeat of the Raiders. This would be Oakland’s only loss of the season.
Week 7 – October 15, 1967
Miller Farr was the hero in Houston’s 28-28 tie with the Jets at New York’s Shea Stadium. The six-foot, one-inch, 190-pound cornerback out of Wichita State accounted for three of the Oilers’ six interceptions of Joe Namath, including one he returned 51 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. In all, Farr’s interception returns amounted to 128 yards!
Week 8 October 22, 1967
Veteran safety Jim Norton was the difference maker in Houston’s 24-19 victory over the Chiefs at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium. Norton swiped two Len Dawson throws, returning one 23 yards for a touchdown which gave the Oilers a 24-3 second quarter lead. Norton also contributed six tackles (three solo, three assisted).
Week 9 – October 29, 1967
Oakland’s All-AFL cornerback Dave Grayson takes home this week’s laurels in leading the Raiders to a resounding 51-10 destruction of the division rival San Diego Chargers. Grayson, a veteran of five AFL All-Star games, picked off three Charger passes while 11 tackles (five unassisted).
The win allowed the Raiders to claim half-game lead in the West with a 6-1 record, while the Chargers dropped to second at 5-1-1.
Week 10 – November 5, 1967
On a team filled with All-Stars, Kansas City cornerback Willie Mitchell always seemed to get lost in the mix. He rarely got the headlines, but he sure earned them this week with his outstanding performance in the Chiefs 42-18 drubbing of the New York Jets. Mitchell picked off two Joe Namath passes, returning one 27 yards for a touchdown. He also led the Chiefs defense with 11 tackles, nine of which were unassisted.
Week 11 – November 12, 1967
For the second straight week, a Kansas City defensive back wins DPOW laurels. This week it’s Emmitt Thomas, who registered three takeaways in leading the Chiefs to a 33-10 win over the Patriots in Boston. The second-year corner out of tiny Bishop College in Texas intercepted two passes, including one returned for a touchdown, along with a fumble recovery in the victory.
New York’s All-Star defensive end Verlon Biggs recorded three sacks in New York’s 29-24 over the Patriots at Boston’s Fenway Park. One of the Jackson State product’s takedowns resulted in a Don Trull to fumble, which Biggs recovered to kill a late second quarter Boston drive.
The win improved the Jets to 7-3-1 on the season, increasing their Eastern Division lead to a game and a half over the 5-3-1 Oilers, who were idle this week.
Week 13 – November 26, 1967
Miami cornerback Dick Westmoreland earned this week’s DPOW honors with outstanding performance against the Bills at the Orange Bowl. Westmoreland picked off three Jack Kemp throws, including two in the final frame to blunt late Buffalo scoring threats. The North Carolina A&T alum also knocked down two passes while recording seven tackles (six unassisted). Final score: Miami 17, Buffalo 14.
Week 14 – December 3, 1967
Fletcher Smith didn’t get much playing time backing up the great secondary Kansas City had during the mid-to-late 1960s. Most of his action came as the team’s primary kickoff specialist. But when he got his chance to get on the field, he most the most of it. Getting the start in this battle with the lowly Buffalo Bills, Smith recorded two interceptions to help the Chiefs to a 23-13 win. Smith also registered seven solo tackles and three assisted takedowns to aid the cause.
It was a battle of ineptitude, as the 3-9 Buffalo Bills invaded Boston’s Fenway to take on the 3-8-1 Patriots. The regression the Bills had experienced after winning the Eastern Division the three previous seasons was unimaginable, but less than a year later they found themselves in a fight to avoid finishing in last place. Well, Buffalo’s strong safety Tom Janik was having none if it. The long, tall Texan (six feet, three inches, 190 pounds) led an inspired Bills to a surprising 44-16 shellacking, intercepting Boston QBs three times, including one he returned 38 yards for a score.
Week 16 – December 17, 1967
Oakland linebacker J. R. Williamson earned defensive honors this week with a stellar performance in the Raiders 38-29 win over the New York Jets. The four-year veteran out of Louisiana Tech picked off two Joe Namath passes—the first two interceptions of his career—to lead the Raiders to victory. Williamson contributed 12 tackles (seven solo) as the Raiders improved to 12-1 on the season.
Week 17 - December 23, 1967
The Houston Oilers came into the final week of the regular season at 8-4-1, one game ahead of the 7-5-1 New York Jets in the race for the division crown. All they had to do was win and they were in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Jets, the Oilers were scheduled to face the sad sack Miami Dolphins in the finale. It was expected to be a blowout, but games aren’t played on paper. It might as well have been, however, as the Oilers rolled to an easy 41-10 win. The Oilers defense was led by rookie safetyman Ken Houston, who recorded two interceptions including one he returned 30 yards for the game’s final score.
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
By Clark Judge
The Pro Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday named its 28 modern-era semifinalists for the Class of 2023, and if 28 seems like an odd number it’s because it is. Under normal circumstances, the cut from 129 preliminary candidates should yield 25 semifinalists.
But not this time.
Because of ties, the Hall has more semifinalists for the Class of 2023 than any class at any time in its history. Twice it had 27 but never 28 … that is, until now.
And who are they? The envelope, please:
Eric Allen, CB. 1988-94 (Philadelphia); 1995-97 (New Orleans); 1998-2001 (Oakland Raiders);
Jared Allen, DE. 2004-07 (Kansas City); 2008-13 (Minnesota); 2014-15 (Chicago); 2015 (Carolina).
Willie Anderson, T. 1996-2007 (Cincinnati); 2008 (Baltimore).
Ronde Barber, CB/S. 1997-2012 (Tampa Bay).
Anquan Boldin, WR. 2003-09 (Arizona); 2010-12 (Baltimore); 2013-15 (San Francisco); 2016 (Detroit).
Henry Ellard, WR. 1983-93 (L.A. Rams); 1994-98 (Washington); 1998 (New England).
Jahri Evans, G. 2006-16 (New Orleans); 2017 (Green Bay).
London Fletcher, LB. 1998-2001 (St. Louis); 2002-06 (Buffalo); 2007-13 (Washington).
Dwight Freeney, DE. 2002-12 (Indianapolis); 2013-14 (San Diego); 2015 (Arizona); 2016 (Atlanta); 2017 (Seattle, Detroit).
James Harrison, LB. 2002-12 (Pittsburgh); 2013 (Cincinnati); 2014-17 (Pittsburgh); 2017 (New England).
Rodney Harrison, S. 1994-02 (San Diego); 2003-08 (New England).
Devin Hester, PR/KR/WR. 2006-13 (Chicago); 2014-15 (Atlanta); 2016 (Baltimore).
Torry Holt, WR. 1999-2008 (St. Louis); 2009 (Jacksonville).
Andre Johnson, WR. 2003-14 (Houston); 2015 (Indianapolis); 2016 (Tennessee).
Albert Lewis, CB. 1983-93 (Kansas City); 1994-98 (L.A./ Oakland Raiders).
Robert Mathis, DE.2003-16 (Indianapolis).
Darrelle Revis, CB. 2007-12 (N.Y. Jets); 2013 (Tampa Ba); 2014 (New England); 2015-16 (N.Y .Jets); 2017 (Kansas City).
Steve Smith, WR. 2001-13 (Carolina); 2014-16 (Baltimore).
Fred Taylor, RB. 1998-2008 (Jacksonville); 2009-10 (New England).
Joe Thomas, T. 2007-17 (Cleveland).
Zach Thomas, LB. 1996-2007 (Miami); 2008 (Dallas).
Hines Ward, WR. 1998-2011 (Pittsburgh).
DeMarcus Ware, LB. 2005-13 (Dallas); 2014-16 (Denver).
Ricky Watters, RB. 1992-94 (San Francisco); 1995-97 (Philadelphia); 1998-2001 (Seattle).
Reggie Wayne, WR. 2001-14 (Indianapolis).
Vince Wilfork, DT. 2004-14 (New England); 2015-16 (Houston).
Patrick Willis, LB. 2007-14 (San Francisco).
Darren Woodson, S. 1992-2003 (Dallas).
Included are five candidates in their first years of eligibility (Evans, Freeney, James Harrison, Revis and Joe Thomas), seven wide receivers (eight, if you include return specialist Devin Hester) and 19 individuals who were semifinalists for the Class of 2022. The group will now be reduced to 15 (no ties this time) by the Hall’s board of 49 selectors, with results announced sometime in early January.
So who makes it? Keep reading.
LOCKS AND FRONTRUNNERS
Tackle Joe Thomas and cornerback Darrelle Revis are two of the five candidates in their first years of eligibility, and they’re not only certainties to make the next cut; they’re likely first-ballot inductees. You can also book the five leftovers from this year’s Top 10 vote, which means Ronde Barber, Devin Hester, Zach Thomas, Andre Johnson and DeMarcus Ware are virtual certainties, too. But that’s where it gets fuzzy. Of the five who didn’t make the first cut from 15 to 10 last year, linebacker Patrick Willis and pass rusher Jared Allen are the most likely to return. In fact, I can see Willis moving into the Top Ten for the Class of 2023. Then there’s Willie Anderson, a right tackle who this year broke through for the first time. I’d hope he returns and believe he will. But he’s iffy. Finally, we have wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Torry Holt, and here’s where there could be a speed bump. Two reasons: 1) The glut of wide receivers in this class; and 2) their failure to move forward in three years as finalists. Each failed to make the cut from 15 to 10 in each of the past three years. Worse, Johnson passed them this year in his first year of eligibility. That suggests that neither has momentum. At some point, the logjam at wide receiver has to break, and maybe this is the year.
ON THE BUBBLE
The most intriguing question here has to do with two former teammates: Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Both were star pass rushers for the Indianapolis Colts, and either or both could push into to upper echelon. Mathis was a semifinalist in his first year of eligibility (2022) but that’s where his candidacy stopped. Freeney is in his first year of eligibility and may have the momentum Mathis lacked this year. However, the two are remarkably close in credentials. Mathis was a first-team All-Pro, five-time Pro Bowler and three-time season leader in forced fumbles. He had 54 in his career, along with 123 sacks. Freeney was a first-team All-Pro three times, a seven-time Pro Bowler and all-decade choice who finished with 125-1/2 career sacks and 47 forced fumbles. Both are in the Colts’ Ring of Honor and could cancel each other out. My guess? Freeney moves forward; Mathis does not. Freeney had more All-Pro and Pro Bowl designations and was chosen to an all-decade team. I’d include wide receiver Steve Smith in this group, too, mostly because he has the resume voters love: Two All-Pro first teams, five Pro Bowls and the rare receiving Triple Crown in 2005 (the league leader in receptions, yards receiving and touchdown catches). The problem for Smith is the obstacle all receivers face here: gridlock. There are too many at one position with similar qualifications … but that’s where Smith gets separation. He’s the only Triple Crown winner. If there’s a dark horse here, I’ll take cornerback Albert Lewis. I know, this is only his second turn as a semifinalist (he made it in 2013). But that’s why I favor him. There’s been a lot of buzz about him lately, and it must have resonated with voters. They brought him back after passing on him for nine years. Plus, this is his last year of eligibility as a modern-era candidate, and that could help. Sam Mills was elected in his last year in 2022. Clay Matthews was a Top 10 finalist in 2021, his last year of eligibility and his first as a finalist. There’s a trend there that could help Lewis.
Basically, it’s the rest of the field. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone emerged here – someone like a Darren Woodson. Me? I’d love to see Hines Ward breakthrough, but let me repeat: A glut of wide receivers poses an obstacle. Plus, this is Ward’s seventh consecutive year as a semifinalist, and he hasn’t advanced beyond this point. Logic says: With the competition at his position more fierce now, why should that change? I’d also like to see running back Ricky Watters get through, but I’m a realist. He’s had little traction since becoming eligible for the Hall in 2007. This is his third time as a semifinalist. Fred Taylor suffers from the same issue. He has the numbers; he doesn’t have the votes. Ranked 17th among all-time rushers, Taylor is the only Hall-eligible running back in the top 17 who’s not in Canton. However, that hasn’t moved voters. This is his fourth consecutive year as a semifinalist, and he hasn’t budged. One last Hail Mary: Henry Ellard. He hasn’t been a semifinalist before, but he is now … in his last year of eligibility. Ellard has 15,718 total yards in his career – including 13,777 receiving, which ranked third all-time when he retired after the 1998 season. He also ranked sixth in career receptions then. Ellard has a daunting and, frankly, improbable task. Jumping a raft of receivers to reach the final 15. I just don’t see it happening.
Art credit: Merv Corning
Sunday, November 20, 2022
The Kansas City Chiefs will win their division for the seventh straight season, and the league MVP race has been reduced to Patrick Mahomes and everyone else.
If there were doubts before Sunday night, there are none now. The only team that could’ve challenged the Chiefs in the AFC West were the L.A. Chargers, and they’re toast -- three games behind after Sunday’s 30-27 defeat.
But forget the Bolts. This night was all about Kansas City and why it’s the premier team in the AFC and maybe the NFL.
It produced enough big plays on offense and defense to do more than complete a series sweep of the Chargers; it produced its 25th consecutive victory in the months of November and December and sent a message to the rest of the AFC that the conference race still goes through K.C.
Which is where Mahomes comes in.
Without Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs’ passing game was supposed to be impaired this season. Except it’s not. Mahomes tops the league in touchdown passes and passing yards. Furthermore, two weeks after leading the Chiefs to a come-from-behind victory over Tennessee he led them to another come-from-behind victory over the Chargers, his 14th straight road victory over a division opponent.
Down by four with under two minutes left, it took him only six plays to go 75 yards and drop the hammer on a Chargers with a third TD pass to tight end Travis Kelce. If that sounds familiar, it should. Kelce has victimized the Bolts for 21 catches, 357 yards and five TDs the past three games – all victories.
“Magic Mahomes does it again,” Kelce said after Sunday’s victory.
That should sound familiar, too. In his last five starts, Mahomes’ passing yardage looks like this: 338, 423, 446, 331 and 329. Now that the Chiefs are on top of the AFC at 8-2, the AFC West is theirs and Mahomes is cranking out a litany of highlight-reel plays, the inevitable has occurred.
Mahomes is the frontrunner of what once was a crowded MVP field.
Once upon a time, he, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson were the frontrunners for an award that hasn’t been won by a non-quarterback since 2012 (Adrian Peterson). Then Allen separated from the pack, only to yield in recent weeks to Mahomes and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts.
But now Mahomes seems in command, partly because the Chiefs are accelerating and mostly because his play is, too. Granted, there’s time for others to close. But Mahomes and the Chiefs would have to take a couple of giant steps backward for that to happen.
And I don’t see it.
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Maybe they’re the same ol’ Jets after all. It’s not that they lost to New England. It’s that they lost to New England for the second time this season and the 14th straight time since a 2015 victory. Of all the offensive shortcomings Sunday, this is the one that gets your attention: The Jets never had a second-half snap beyond their own 35. Instead, they had seven second-half punts. But that’s what happens when your quarterback is sacked four times, your offense produces 103 yards and nobody cracks the end zone. There’s nothing wrong with the Jets’ defense. The questions surround underachieving quarterback Zach Wilson and a passing offense that Jets’ receiver Garrett Wilson called “sorry.” Bingo. “Hopefully,” Garrett said, “this is a wake-up call for some people in the facility.”
2. Dallas just joined the NFC’s upper tier. That was more than a defeat of powerful Minnesota. It was a beatdown … in Minnesota, no less … and it came via the Cowboys’ most complete performance of the season. Their running backs scored four times. Quarterback Dak Prescott missed on only three of 25 passes. Their attack was balanced, with 40 runs, 30 passes and zero sacks. Plus, their defense was so dominant that it kept Kirk Cousins from throwing a TD pass for the first time in 40 games and sacked him seven times. In short, one week after getting stunned by Green Bay, Dallas responded with a signature victory … and the rest of the NFC should take notice. Minnesota and Philadelphia comprised the NFC hierarchy until Sunday. Now they have company.
3. It doesn’t matter who does the play-calling in Denver. Nathaniel Hackett? Klint Kubiak? Doesn’t make a difference. Kubiak took over for his head coach on Sunday, and the Broncos responded with a TD on their first series. But after that? Nothing but field goals and a 22-16 overtime loss. It was the eighth time in 10 starts that the Broncos failed to score more than 16 points and the eighth time where Russell Wilson had no more than one TD pass. Talk about a Rocky Mountain low. Nathaniel Hackett, report to the principal’s office.
4. Bailouts no longer needed for Detroit. That’s three straight victories for the Lions, including two in a row on the road. Prior to last weekend they’d lost their last 13 there. Now they’ve conquered a Giants team that, prior to Sunday, was 7-2 and hadn’t allowed more than 23 points in all but one game (Seattle). At 4-6, the Lions have jumped to second in the NFC North and have one more victory than all of last season (3-13-1). Cue Al Michaels Do you believe in miracles?
5. Turn out the lights. The party’s over for the Rams. They lose Cooper Kupp to a high ankle sprain. They may lose Matt Stafford to a possible concussion. They lose to New Orleans. It’s over, people. The Rams become the latest Super Bowl champion not to defend its title the following season. Worse, with two more losses they become the first Super Bowl winner since the 2003 Tampa Bay Bucs to follow with a losing season.
THIRD AND 20
1. With the first pick of the 2023 draft, the Houston Texans select Bryce Young … quarterback … University of Alabama.
2. Let’s get this straight: There is no quarterback controversy in Washington. The Commanders are 4-1 with Taylor Heinicke and 5-1 in Heinicke’s last six road games. They’re 2-4 with Carson Wentz. This isn’t rocket science, people. Nevertheless, after Washington’s latest win, coach Ron Rivera was asked why he decided on Heinicke as his starter. “Winning,” he answered. Imagine that. As Herm Edwards reminded us years ago,” you play the game to win.” Time to change the conversation, people.
3. So Mahomes is the MVP leader. But I’d include Derrick Henry in the conversation, too. He’s responsible for 41.2 percent of the Titans’ offensive yardage and half of their offensive TDs (including one TD pass). All I know is that without Henry the Titans are little more than ordinary (6-5 without him in regular-season games), and isn’t that what defines an MVP?
4. Mahomes vs. Justin Herbert looks more and more like this decade’s version of Peyton vs. TB12. The more you see, the more you can’t wait to see it again.
5. Baltimore has held double-digit leads in all 10 games this season, but that’s not what I like most about the Ravens. Lamar Jackson and Justin Tucker aren’t, either. The schedule is: The Ravens don’t face an opponent with a winning record until the final game of the season (Cincinnati).
6. One question I have about Marcus Jones’ game-winning punt return, and it has nothing to do with a block in the back. It’s about the punt itself. Namely, why wasn’t it kicked OUT OF BOUNDS? Someone? Anyone?
7. If I were a Browns’ fan, I’d be questioning coach Kevin Stefanski, too. With two snaps to gain a yard in the third quarter, he doesn’t give the ball to Nick Chubb. Nope. Too easy. Instead, he calls for … two QB sneaks? Yep. We don’t make ‘em up. Result: No first down, another Browns’ loss and a seat that just got warmer for Stefanski.
8. There’s more to the decline and fall of the Rams than a lackluster offense and injuries. There’s a defense that doesn’t force turnovers. Over the last eight games, the Rams have one.
9. Now we find out about New England: The Pats play Minnesota and Buffalo the next 11 days. Bill Belichick often says football season begins after Thanksgiving. Well, then, take your mark.
10. Justin Fields is an electric performer reminiscent of Michael Vick, and if he’s on your Fantasy Football team you know what I mean. But he’s still more of a running back than a quarterback. The guy makes too many inaccurate throws, and that last-minute interception was the latest example. I know, he was grabbing his left shoulder, suggesting a possible injury. But this just in: He doesn’t throw with his left arm.
11. If the Jeff Saturday hire makes the Colts “a clown show,” as one anonymous Colts’ staff member reportedly called it, then what does that make the Raiders and Eagles? Las Vegas lost to Saturday’s Colts, and the Eagles had to rally to beat them Sunday. I’ll be honest: If it’s a “clown show,” it’s one I want to see.
12. More proof that there are no dynasties without Tom Brady: Sunday’s CFL Grey Cup. Toronto rallied to overcome Winnipeg, 24-23, and deny the Blue Bombers a three-peat.
13. Too bad Las Vegas doesn’t play Denver more than twice a year. The Raiders swept them again this season, won their last six vs. the Broncos and have only one victory over an opponent this season not named Denver. It’s Houston.
14. As bad as the Raiders are, imagine where they’d be would be without Davante Adams. He has six 100-yard games, including three in a row, scored the game winner Sunday and has more than twice as many touchdowns (10) as the Raiders’ runner-up (Josh Jacobs, 4).
15. Jalen Hurts scored the game-winning TD for Philadelphia, but he wasn’t the reason the Eagles beat Indianapolis. Defense was. The Eagles forced Indy to settle for field goals on two second-half possessions inside the Philly 20, including one in the last two minutes that reached the 5. It also held star running back Jonathan Taylor to 35 yards on 15 carries over the Colts’ last 10 series. Surprising? Not really. Philadelphia hasn’t allowed a second-half TD in its past four games.
16. What happened to Saquon Barkley? A Comeback Player of the Year candidate, he had only 35 scrimmage yards (including 22 rushing on 15 carries) vs. Detroit. Combine that with Giants’ three turnovers and lackluster defense, and you know why Big Blue fizzled.
17. Great note per Nick Wright of First Things First on FS1: The Broncos would be 9-1 if they scored 18 points in regulation in every game. Look it up. I did. He’s right.
18. Uh, no, as someone suggested, Atlanta’s Cordarrelle Patterson is not making a Hall of Fame case with an NFL record nine kickoff returns for TDs. Since the Hall opened in 1963 only three specialists have been elected to Canton – two kickers and one punter. Granted, Devin Hester should break that streak soon (he was a Top 10 finalists this year), but setting a special-teams record doesn’t qualify you for admission to the Hall without a ticket. Remember: Tom Dempsey set an NFL mark when he nailed a 63-yard field goal in 1970, a record that lasted 43 years. He’s not in Canton and has never been discussed.
19. Micah Parsons will win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. But how about a push for New England’s Matthew Judon? He had 1-1/2 more sacks Sunday, putting him at a league-leading 13-1/2 for the year. Only one player in Patriots’ history has more in one season, and that’s Andre Tippett with 18-1/2 in 1984 and 16-1/2 in 1985. He’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
20. The Bills will need more than snow plows and loyal fans to bail them out in the coming weeks. They’ll need a running game, too, and they just found one Sunday. With Devin Singletary and James Cook each rushing for 86 yards, Buffalo had 171 on the ground. That took the heat off an embattled Josh Allen, and, trust me, that’s critical to Buffalo’s chances for a Super Bowl run.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET STATS
n The New York Jets had 2 second-half yards, the fewest by any club in any half this season.
n The Cowboys’ Brett Maher is the only kicker with four field goals of 60 or more yards, and he’s 4-for-4 from that distance. No other kicker has more than two.
n Baltimore’s Justin Tucker has made his last 65 field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter or overtime. The runner-up has 14.
n The Vikings are a minus-2 in point differential, the worst for any 8-2 team in its first 10 games of the season.
n The Raiders’ Derek Carr is 8-2 in overtime, the best winning percentage (.800) among quarterbacks in at least 10 career OT games.
n Baltimore has at least one takeaway in 12 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
n The Chiefs haven’t lost to the Chargers in SoCal since 2013.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET QUOTES
n “It was almost like a movie script. I think of all the football movies – “Rudy,” “Any Given Sunday” and “Remember the Titans -- this beats it.” – New England special teams captain Deatrich Wise on Marcus Jones’ game-winning punt return.
n “It was dog s**t.” – Jets’ coach Robert Saleh on his team’s second-half offense.
n “I’m emotional because I love Frank Reich. He’s one of the best damn football coaches I’ve ever been around. I was hoping he and I would be able to coach against each in this game.” -- Philadelphia coach Nick Sirianni after beating Indianapolis.
n “I’m not finished.” – Atlanta’s Cordarrelle Patterson on his kick-return record.
n “I’ve covered the NFL in Houston for more than four decades. I’ve seen a lot bad offenses. This Texans’ offense just might be the worst of all.” – Hall-of-Fame writer John McClain on Twitter.