Tag:Marion Barber
Posted on: December 23, 2011 12:24 pm
 

Barber 'expected' to sit, Kahlil Bell to start

Kahlil Bell's set to start Sunday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Bears quarterback Josh McCown, making his first NFL start since 2007, won't be the only new face for Chicago against Green Bay on Christmas: running back Kahlil Bell is poised to get the starting nod as well, with Marion Barber expected to miss Sunday's matchup.

Barber, who averages just 3.7 yards per carry on the year, hasn't had the best few weeks: he piled up just 33 yards against the Seahawks in a Week 15 loss and though he went over the 100-yard mark against the Broncos, he famously ran out of bounds and fumbled in an overtime loss that caused Tebowmania to top out at a dull roar last week.

So maybe it's best that, according to the Chicago Tribune, Barber is "expected" to miss Saturday's game against the rival Packers. Going with a third-string running back doesn't appear to bother coach Lovie Smith either.

"There are bigger concerns I have, and Kahlil is not one of them," Smith said Thursday. "I vividly remember his first carry he had at Soldier Field. I see him every day in practice going against our No. 1 defense."

Bell's first carry was in 2009, when he ripped off a 72-yard run against the Eagles, a Bears record for the longest carry by a rookie.

"He can make you miss in the open field," Smith said. "He can run with power inside. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. I'm excited about the opportunity he has."

Bell's probably excited too -- Saturday will mark just his second career start, and since the Bears-Packers game is the only contest on Christmas, he's got a shot to make his mark in a big way. Over the past three weeks, Bell's seen 28 total carries and averaged five yards a pop on those carries.

Green Bay is above average in rush defense, but if Bell has a big day he'll give Chicago the best Christmas present of all: a chance to stay in the playoff hunt.


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Posted on: December 13, 2011 10:01 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:47 pm
 

Coach Killers, Week 14: DeAngelo Hall is a statue

Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat.

By Ryan Wilson

DeAngelo Hall, Redskins

Back in Week 11, DeAngelo Hall suggested that the Redskins should cut him for his performance against the Cowboys. They didn't, but it sure seemed like he wasn't on the field for long stretches Sunday when Washington faced New England. And the few times he did make his presence known, it just made things worse.

The lowlight (in a day filled with them) came in the first quarter when Hall stood by (literally, he was standing two feet away and didn't move; it was as if he was trying to will himself invisible) as two teammates tried unsuccessfully to bring down Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (it was scene straight out of Gulliver's Travels). So instead of a 12-yard gain, Gronkowski rumbled for an extra 35 yards before Hall thought it wise to try to keep Gronkowski out of the end zone.

You can see the frame-by-frame hijinks here (or watch the moving-pictures proof below).


Want to see DeAngelo Hall pretend to be a statue? Then watch the video. It looks a lot like the freeze-frame above except that everybody else is moving. 

"DeAngelo Hall was guilty of poor effort, poor judgment and poor leadership," the Washington Post's Mike Jones wrote Monday. "[On the Gronkowski play] Hall said he thought the tight end was headed out of bounds, and maybe he didn’t want to get a penalty, but even a shove — not a head of steam blast -- could’ve helped. Instead, Hall turned and walked away."

It gets better. In the third quarter, Hall was flagged for holding, he disagreed, and thought it made sense to chuck the penalty flag up the field. He was flagged an additional 15 yards for being a d-bag. In one play, Hall had cost his team 20 yards of field position (and 35 more yards on the Gronkowski mishap). DeAngelo Hall: Your Washington Redskins team captain, everybody!

Ryan Succop, Chiefs

Kansas City isn't 5-8 because of kicker Ryan Succop. And Todd Haley wasn't kindly asked to leave Monday because of Ryan Succop. But what we're about to show you from Sunday's Chiefs-Jets game serves as a metaphor for Kansas City's season, which makes you want to laugh, cry and punch yourself in the face all at once.


Chiefs' kicker Ryan Succop failed in his onside kick attempt in the fourth quarter against the Jets. Was this the worst onside kick attempt ever? (Editor's note: unequivocally, YES.)

So that happened. To Succop's credit, he's the team's most consistent scoring threat this season, converting 18 of 21 field goal attempts, including 3 for 3 from beyond 49 yards. It's just that he struggles with distance control, particularly from 0-10 yards.

Silver lining: it's no longer your problem, Todd Haley!

Olindo Mare, Panthers

When Mare honked a 31-yard game-winning field goal in October, we gave him a pass because Cam Newton told us to.

“Whoever thinks this game came down the last possession is a fool,” Newton said at the time. “Offensively and defensively we had opportunities and we just didn’t finish it off.”

Week 14 Recap
Fair enough, and certainly wise words from the franchise's rookie quarterback. First-year head coach Ron Rivera also tried to be positive after Mare yipped the chip shot.

“The only thing I did for Olindo was I went and told him to keep his head up,” Rivera said. “He’s a heck of a football player and he’s going to get a chance to win football games for us and I believe that. We brought him in for a reason because we believe he can be our guy for the next few years.”

Yeah, about that…

The Panthers trailed the Falcons 24-23 with five minutes to go and the only thing between them and the lead was a 36-yard field goal. Again, a chip shot. Except that again, Mare somehow missed it.

"I haven't seen it. I don't need to see it. It didn't go in," Mare said, standing in front of his locker 45 minutes after the game. "Regardless of how good I think I hit it or how windy it was or whatever ... I've made kicks in windier conditions. I have no excuses. The only excuse is I just didn't do my job."

Rivera, presumably uninterested in pep talks, instead said "we will have to sit down and visit with him on [the miss]."

Worth pointing out: the Panthers led 23-7 before letting the Falcons back in the game. If Newton's “Whoever thinks this game came down the last possession is a fool" speech was ever relevant it was Sunday. It doesn't change Mare's failures, but it could be worse: he could be Ryan Succop (though Succop will probably have a job next week).

The Panthers signed Mare to a four-year $12-million deal before the season. Just a hunch: Mare isn't around for the life of the contract.

Carson Palmer, Raiders

Maybe Palmer wishes he stayed on the couch.
After Sunday's 1 o'clock games, we had Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky penciled in here. His rough outing against the Ravens wasn't unexpected (in fact, he thought he'd play worse), but the loss dropped Indy to 0-13, and Orlovsky, who started seven games for the Lions in 2008, ran his career record to 0-9. (Detroit, you may recall, went 0-16.)

But Carson Palmer's performance against the Packers guaranteed him a spot in this week's Killers. Green Bay's defense forced Palmer into four interceptions, including one on the opening drive and another in the Packers' end zone. This is the same Green Bay defense, by the way, that ranks 24th in the league, according to Football Outsiders, and headed into Week 14 having allowed more total yards than that hapless bunch in New England.

Palmer, who the Raiders acquired after sending a couple high-round picks to the Bengals earlier this season, has been a disappointment. In seven games (six starts), he has nine touchdowns, 13 interceptions and Oakland is 3-4.

Sunday's loss not only put them a game behind the Broncos in the AFC West, it dropped them to ninth in the wild-card hunt (behind the Titans and Bengals).

"I just need to be more patient, take what they give me and try not to score 14 points on one drive," Palmer said after the game, according to the Oakland Tribune. "Take it one play at a time, take the shot if it's there, and if not, live for the next down, and I didn't do that."

No, no you didn't. Raiders head coach Hue Jackson, the man who orchestrated the Palmer trade, obviously has a lot riding on this.

"I'm disappointed in the four picks, and I told him so," Jackson said. "I think you have somebody who's pressing, trying to make plays for a football team. There were times we made some ill-advised throws and we've got to do a better job of taking care of the ball, and he knows that."

The Raiders are long shots to make the playoffs. They face Detroit, Kansas City and San Diego and there's no telling which team shows up. They're just as likely to go 3-0 as 0-3.

Marion Barber, Bears

The Power of Tebow compelled Barber to fumble.
Poor Marion Barber. He seems like a hard worker and a solid dude but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time -- twice -- Sunday against the Broncos.

We watched in horror as Barber ran out of bounds with 1:55 left in the fourth quarter and the Bears leading 10-7. Denver was out of timeouts; if Barber goes down in the field of play, the clock continues to run, Chicago runs the ball again on third down, and by the time the Broncos get the ball back, they'd have about 25 seconds to get into field-goal range.

Didn't happen.

(Aside: In the 1986 World Cup, Argentina's Diego Maradona scored a goal against England on an obvious hand ball -- well, it was obvious to everyone but the officials. It became known as "The Hand of God" goal. Different circumstances Sunday, but we're pretty sure The Hand of God played a part in the outcome.)

Barber is a seven-year veteran who knows that you have to stay inbounds. And yet he didn't. Our theory: The Hand of God pushed him out of bounds. And it was the Hand of God that knocked the ball out of Barber's arms in overtime, just as it looked like he was about to break off a big run -- maybe even a touchdown -- and end the Broncos' six-game winning streak.

It sounds ridiculous, we know. But there is no rational explanation for what happened Sunday. Or for the five Sundays before that. But that's the Power of Tebow.

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Posted on: December 12, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 10:34 am
 

Church of God, Church of Satan weigh in on Tebow

By Will Brinson

The Tim Tebow media saturation is in full swing Monday. And just in case you don't believe me, someone decided to ring up a preacher and ask him whether or not God is the cause of Tebow's success.

Yes, this "someone" is TMZ. How'd you know? (And the preacher is referred to as "one of Tim's Colorado pastors," although he isn't directly referred to as "Tim's preacher" which leads me to believe he is, in fact, not Tebow's preacher.)

"It's not luck," Hanson told TMZ Monday. "Luck isn't winning 6 games in a row. It's favor. God's favor."

Hanson added "God has blessed his work" and would Tebow be winning if he wasn't such a strong believer in God? Well, "of course not."

TMZ, wanting to get both sides of the story, also spoke with Magus Peter H. Gilmore, a high priest in the Church of Satan (we're not kidding). Gilmore points out that if God is helping Tebow that would mean he is actively ensuring the other team loses. 

Instead, Gilmore says that "Those who have a winning attitude tend to do better, and whatever fuels such team spirit, be it religious fervor or simply an overwhelming desire to succeed, is the real source for success."

He goes on to say, "Satanists are atheists, and we would consider any triumph to rely on a combination of skill and luck – most certainly not in any form of supernatural intervention from either Heaven or Hell."

Now, this makes for fun water cooler chatter and pageviews, but let's be clear: God is not intervening in Tebow's football career. God does not care more about Tim Tebow than God cares about Marion Barber.

Does Tim Tebow succeed because he has a strong faith in something that allows him to persevere in the face of adversity? That's absolutely a possibility. Does Tebow's faith and resolve strengthen those around him? Sure, that's called being a leader. Could this be the karmic rewards of Tebow's actions as a good human being paying him back in kind? If you want to think so, yeah.

But this ain't God staring omnipotently down at 22 men chasing an oblong leather ball, leaning in and flicking the ball out Barber's hands so Matt Prater can crush a long field goal to give the Broncos a regular season win in an NFL game.

God has lots of important things to do. One of them is not something that amounts to "fixing the outcome of football games."

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Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:43 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 1:36 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 4


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter.Make sure and listen to our Week 4 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.



1. The bandwagon rolls on
On Sunday, the mojo disappeared for the Lions and they fell 24 points behind the Cowboys in Dallas, until Tony Romo decided to drag Detroit back from a lockjob of a defeat with a pair of pick-sixes that sparked a rally in which Matthew Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for two touchdowns and the Lions stunned Dallas 34-30 at Jerry Jones' palatial estate.

There are two ways to look at this. One, Romo is a choker again (more on that in a second) and Dallas stinks. Or, two, the Lions are very much for real. I'm inclined to believe the second narrative. So is Cowboys fan LeBron James.


I'm including this mainly because I find it absolutely hysterical that Ohio native James is a Cowboys fan. I'm sure it has nothing to do with bandwagons. But I'm also including it because James is right -- the Lions do "got swag right now."

This was mentioned after Week 2, when the Lions slammed a beatdown on the Chiefs, and it makes sense to mention now.

That's primarily because the Lions are 4-0 for the first time since 1980 and became the fourth team to start a season 4-0 a year after starting the season 0-4 since 1990. (The impressive nature of that turnaround aside, what a statement on the NFL's parity, huh?)

Take it back even further, and count preseason games and the Lions are on a 12-game winning streak, and once, again, appear to develop some of this attitude from their head coach.

"I'm glad the third best wide receiver on the Cowboys is on our team," Jim Schwartz said after the game.

Naturally you'll recall that Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had some comments about the skills of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin versus Calvin Johnson before the game.

Schwartz' comments are a straight burn, of course, but it warrants mentioning that Dez did look otherworldly earlier in the game. But Megatron did some dirty things on his two touchdowns to the Dallas defensive backs. On the first catch, he went up in triple coverage and grabbed a ball that probably never should have been a score.

And on the second -- and most important -- score, Johnson scored when he was isolated in single coverage against Terrence Newman. Based on Ryan's theory, Newman's practice against Bryant and Austin should have prepared him for a one-on-one matchup at the goalline.

Unfortunately, Megatron's the biggest freak of nature in the NFL, arguably the best wideout in the league and slicing up some well-deserved humble pie for Ryan after the Lebowski look-a-like tried to put him in man coverage.

2. Hands on Necks
Obviously the Cowboys loss is going to be classified as a chokejob. And it should -- there's no way to classify it as anything other than that, especially when Romo packaged a pair of touchdowns and mailed it the Lions way.

"The games turn, obviously, on turnovers," Romo said. "It's the most important stat in the game. That's why you protect the ball. That's my No. 1 job and I didn't do a well enough job of that today."

The weird thing about the loss is that Dallas is now 2-0 in games where they were "gritty and tough and found a way to win" and 0-2 in games where "Romo peed his pants and threw terrible picks." Or something like that.

The point is that, yes, the Cowboys choked, but it wasn't even the worst choke on Sunday. And perhaps only the third worst -- Dallas was at least playing a very dangerous team in the Lions and even if the game was at home, we've seen Detroit do this before.

There's no real excuse for Buffalo, who was leading 21-3 against the Bengals on Sunday, to lose on a last-second field goal by Mike Nugent. Sure, it was in Cincy and, sure, it was the Bills and we should have seen something coming after buying in so heavily. But losing like that to a Bengals team with a rookie quarterback is just bad news Bears.

And yet it wasn't even the most embarrassing choke of the day. The Eagles deserve some, um, credit for their inability to hold off the 49ers in a home game where they led 23-3 as late as midway through the third quarter.

The Bills and Cowboys can at least hang their respective hats on records that aren't below .500. The Eagles have no such excuse and it's becoming increasingly clear why "offseason winners" isn't always such a nice thing to say about teams in the NFL.



3. Super Bowl champs remain under the radar

Thus far, the Packers have beaten the Saints, the Panthers, the Bears and the Broncos. It's not exactly a murderer's row of great NFL teams, but it's not the four-worst teams in the league either.

And they've looked outstanding on offense, compiling a league-high 148 points en route to a 4-0 record, and giving plenty of folks justification for selecting the Packers to repeat as Super Bowl champions in 2011.

Yet ... no one wants to talk about the success they've had this year.

This is partially because of the other storylines that are permeating the NFL this season, and partially because after last season's late run, we've come to expect this out of Aaron Rodgers and his outstanding teammates.

"Trust me, we don't have it all figured out as a football team," Mike McCarthy said Sunday. "We're 4-0, but we're very in tune with what we need to improve as a team."

The biggest issue is defense, clearly. While the Packers have arguably improved their running game from last year (James Starks looks like a legit back for their system, especially when it comes to melting the clock with a lead), the defense isn't the championship-winning caliber that showed up in the playoffs last year.

Both Kyle Orton and Cam Newton posted big numbers against Green Bay, and though there were some fantastic moments from the defenses in those games, it's difficult to justify any claim that the Packers defense is better this year than it was last year.

Having said all that, this team did a pretty good job of gelling at the right time last year, and they're off to a much better start in 2011. We should all take notice.

4. Hope you sick people are happy now
2011 has been a tough go for anyone who supports Arian Foster, whether it be Texans fans, fantasy owners or just, you now, nice people who care about other humans.

Fortunately, those people got some good karmic returns for their Foster love on Sunday, as he and the Texans took some punches from the Steelers and punched right back, eventually beating Pittsburgh 17-10 on Sunday afternoon. As my man Mike Freeman points out, everything about the win at Reliant Stadium on Sunday goes against the typical stereotype of Texans football.

More on that in a second, but first, Foster. When Gary Kubiak said he was going to bring Foster back against the Steelers, I thought he was insane. After all, the Steelers are (well, were) a top-10 rushing defense.

But Foster looked fantastic. He broke long runs, he showed tremendous burst through holes, when he got around the corner he was able to cut back upfield and pick up big yards and in general he looked like the 2010 version of himself.

"I go into every contest thinking that I'm the go-to guy," Foster said. "When the flow of the game starts going, we need certain things, and you've got to be there for your team."

Hamstrings are tricky, of course, and there's no guarantee that Foster's going to roll to another rushing title or anything. Plus, the Texans offense sputtered a bit (OK, a lot) after Andre Johnson left with a hamstring injury that really looked like a knee injury in the second quarter and that could be problematic going forward.

But at least for now, there's reason to think that the Texans offense can hop back up on Foster's back and ride him to a division title.



5. Sunday night monstrosity
The Ravens opened up on fire to begin the Sunday night game against the Jets, jumping out to a 27-7 lead before eventually winning handily. But, um, well, you see ... that was ugly.

Real ugly -- Joe Flacco limped his way to a 10 for 31 performance that generated 163 passing yards and an interception.

It would have been the ugliest performance on the field, but Mark Sanchez took full advantage of Nick Mangold's absence, and fumbled four times, three of which were lost, two of which were taken to the house by Ravens defenders and also threw a pick-six.

Things got so bad that, at one point, Rex Ryan called a timeout just to scream at the officials. It actually seemed to work, or it at least confused the Ravens and Cam Cameron, who took a 20-point lead with just a few minutes remaining in the second quarter and desperately tried to let the Jets back in the game.

That didn't matter, but it didn't make the performance of Sanchez, Flacco and their respective teams any worse or weirder. There were five defensive and special teams touchdowns in total during the game, most in NFL history and Sanchez' final pass (he finished 11 of 35, ugh) went off the heel of a defender.

What perplexes me isn't the Jets struggling, because, frankly, they were kind of due to regress a bit. I'm sure they'll start getting better, and they might start stopping the run (although I'm sure Cameron won't figure that out!) and running the ball better. They almost always do, just in time to claw their way into the playoffs.

The bigger concern is how the Ravens came out in Week 4, continuing the metronome-like performance for Flacco through a few weeks. At times (against the Steelers and the Rams) he's looked like an elite-level quarterback. And at others (Sunday and against the Titans), he's looked absolutely lost.

If he wants to truly "make the jump," he's going to need to find some consistency.

6. Goin' out east
There was no shortage of different predictions for the team that would win the NFC West. Well, except for the Seahawks. No one predicted that. The typical favorites were the Rams and Cardinals, mainly because of their quarterback play.

The 49ers should have gotten more love, but Alex Smith held them back, and Jim Harbaugh, in his first stop as an NFL head coach, is showing exactly why. His team managed to storm back against the Eagles on Sunday and move into first place in their division, with a firm command of the typically crappy NFC West.

San Francisco's 3-1, the Rams are 0-4 and the Seahawks and Cardinals are 1-3.

None of the teams out there have, unsurprisingly, looked very good. And the 49ers are the only squad with a positive point differential, which should tell you just how bad this division is. Again. But maybe Harbaugh is the difference -- look no further than his decision to house his team in Ohio for half a week in between their Week 3 game against the Bengals and Sunday's win in Philadelphia.

"Thanks Youngstown, you've been good to us," Harbaugh said in deference to Ohio. "That's as good a win as I can ever remember being a part of. I'm really proud of our players. They never flinched in a tough environment here, and there was no moment or circumstance that made them nervous in this ballgame. We kept fighting, made adjustments -- a great team victory for us."

Frank Gore gashed the Eagles for 127 yards, and Alex Smith played pretty inspired football, going 13 of 17 for 201 yards and two touchdowns in just the second half.

It's a surprising turnaround for a surprising team that stunk the joint out last year. Given the dearth of talent for Seattle, Arizona's inability to close out, and St. Louis' rough schedule ahead, Harbaugh might have this team -- surprisingly -- poised to take over their division.

7. Remember the Titans

Unless Tennessee has something to say about that anyway -- Mike Munchak picked up his third-career win on Sunday afternoon as the Titans vaulted themselves into a first-place tie with Houston in the AFC South

On The NFL Today, Charley Casserly mentioned that Matt Hasselbeck was drawn to Tennessee because of two things: Munchak's commitment to protecting the quarterback with strong line play, and Munchak's commitment to protecting the quarterback's ability to throw deep by leaving in more blockers.

This has paid tremendous dividends for Hasselbeck, who's eighth in the NFL in passing yards, sixth in passing touchdowns, third in yards per pass and first in pass plays of 40-plus yards.

"We thought he had a lot left in the tank from watching him in the playoffs last year," Munchak said. "We didn't bring him here to retire quietly. We brought him here to do exactly what he's been doing."

And he's casually doing all of this while playing for a team that doesn't have a viable No. 1 wide receiver because of Kenny Britt's season-ending injury last week.

Chris Johnson finally managed to get going a little bit in the Week 4 win over Cleveland, and provided the Hasselbeck can stay healthy (which is somewhat of a stretch, but possible), the Titans might be the surprise playoff team that no one's talking about.



8. Pay the man!
Just like 2010, Mike Martz refused to run the ball until the Bears met up with the Panthers early in the season. And just like 2010, Martz got enough criticism for his playcalling that he ran the ball a ton against Carolina. And just like 2010, Matt Forte went HAM.

Last year it was 166 rushing yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. This year it was a career-high 205 rushing yards on 25 carries and a touchdown in the Bears 34-29 win.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, the Bears are 9-0 when Forte rushes for 100 yards or more. Yet ... they don't like to run. Two, the Panthers defense is absolutely terrible. I could put up a hundo on them, and it shouldn't be too huge of a shock to see him go key largo against Carolina's beat-up defense.

That being said ... three, Forte wants a new contract, has wanted a new contract but can't get the Bears to even talk to him about getting more money.

The result, predictably, is a running back who appears to be playing with a great deal of intensity and a desire to be highly productive. Of course, for all of Forte's success against the Panthers, there wasn't that much to love about the way Chicago played. Just don't tell Lovie Smith that.

"We’re not apologizing at all about this win," Smith said. "We feel really good about it."

They shouldn't, even if this year suddenly looks like last year in terms of figuring out to run the ball and not get Jay Cutler killed. Cam Newton did a lot of damage to the Bears defense, though he made some rookie mistakes, and the Panthers were able to run pretty easily on Chicago.

Anyone can score on the Panthers, and do it at will, given the lack of depth they have on the defensive side of the ball right now. That being said, it sure does seem like the Bears might have saved themselves some money if they'd gotten Forte some cash before the season rather than waiting.

As my college football colleague Tom Fornelli likes to say, "Pay the man, Chicago."

9. Review Controversy
Could the NFL's current replay system be any less controversial? As you likely know, all scoring plays are reviewed by a booth official. That sounds simple, but it's not at all -- we've already had plenty of problems with plays that seemed like obvious needs for reviews that weren't scrutinized further by the officials.

Sunday, we saw two more examples. First, there an issue in the Chiefs and Vikings game.

With 5:01 remaining, Michael Jenkins caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb. It appeared, pretty clearly, that he only got one foot inbounds. Fox didn't show any replays of the catch, and the officials at the game never reviewed it. Ultimately, it didn't matter, because the Vikings lost.

But it could have mattered and there wasn't anything Todd Haley or the Chiefs could do to get the play looked at. If Haley had thrown a challenge flag, he'd have been flagged for a delay of game penalty.

Another less controversial instance occurred during the Packers-Broncos game when Aaron Rodgers rushed for his second touchdown of the day on a third down. Rodgers was ruled down at the one-yard line, though replays showed he broke the plane of the goal line.

Mike McCarthy challenged and the Packers were given a touchdown that locked in their win against Denver. Here's the problem: "a scoring play" is only defined as a play in which the officials subjectively rule that a touchdown has happened. If that subjective ruling occurs, then the play is automatically reviewed.

If it doesn't happen, coaches are required to use a challenge.

I realize that the league can't challenge every single play that gets close to the end zone, but it seems to me that these two plays aren't that different. Something was botched by the refs and the booth wasn't available to make sure the right call was locked in. Ironically, in the non touchdown scenario, the coach has more freedom to help out his team with a red flag.

Even if the booth doesn't believe that a call should be looked at by the ref -- and in a close game like that, who's hurt by double-checking? -- there should be an option for a coach to take a stab at having a call overturned as well, if he's really adamant about what happened.

And, of course, there's the whole mess that went down in Arizona with Victor Cruz giving himself up and/or pulling the old stumble-->fumble disaster combo.

That actually seems like it was interpreted correctly, as it relates to the rule book.

"Official shall declare ball dead when a runner declares himself down by falling to ground or kneeling and making no effort to advance," reads Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1(e) of the NFL Rule Book.

In other words, it's a subjective call by the guys who look like zebras. If they believe Cruz gave himself up, then he gave himself up and that's the end of it.

10. Maybe they ARE the NFL's Heat

Whenever something good or bad happens in sports, reporters inevitably ask athletes how they feel. No, I don't know why it happens all the time either, but it rarely produces a good result.

It got a decent reaction out of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on Sunday, though, as he expressed a high level of frustration at the fact that the Eagles just choked away a huge lead against the 49ers -- at home, no less -- that eventually led to a 24-23 loss to San Francisco.

"Do I really have to explain how I feel right now sitting here at 1-3?" Vick asked. "It's frustrating. It's tough. I can't put that in words. I take sole responsibility. Maybe it's a lot of things I can do better. And I gotta figure it out.

"It's frustrating. I'm not going to continue to use that word, but, yeah, it's tough."


That's the thing with the Eagles, though. It's not all Vick's fault.

Is some of it? Sure, of course. But he was 30 of 46 for 416 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. A bigger problem is that he led the team in rushing, with 75 yards on eight carries. When you have a weapon like LeSean McCoy, it seems silly not to utilize him more.

Then again, the lack of a good push from the offensive line causes that too.

And when you can't stop other teams from running the ball, none of it really matters. Frank Gore gashed the Eagles for 127 yards on just 15 carries and Kendall Hunter picked up 38 on nine.

The Eagles might have some really, really talented players at a couple positions, but they're also really, really weak at other positions, and their depth just isn't that impressive at all.

So, come to think of it, maybe they're more like the Miami Heat than any of us could have ever known.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... What the hell was Ronnie Brown thinking? He's not even a quarterback, so trying to throw the ball while being tackled at the goal line doesn't even work as a random logical excuse.
... Johnathan Joseph had two -- TWO! -- touchdowns nullified by stupid penalties by the Texans. First there was the ridiculous block in the back by Danieal Manning when Joseph took a blocked punt to the house to end the half. And then there was the pick six he grabbed to close out the game that was negated by a J.J. Watt penalty. Welcome to Houston!
... Speaking of picks, Vince Wilfork now has two on the season after his second career INT against the Raiders.
... Just for trolling purposes: Nnamdi Asomugha only has one interception on the year.
... In one of the more insane things ever, Rex Ryan used a first-half timeout on Sunday night just to yell at the officials.

Worth 1,000 Words



Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"I woke up in a So Ho doorway ... a policeman knew my name."

"Who Are You" is actually a pretty good thing to ask the Colts quarterback, no?

GIF O' THE WEEK



Hot Seat Tracker
  • Tony Sparano: It would almost be an upset if he made it past the bye at this point.
  • Jack Del Rio: Very impressive that JDR figured out a way to make Maurice Jones-Drew completely ineffective during the first half of a game that was pretty closer during the first half.
  • Leslie Frazier: It might only be his first year, but looking terrible against a terrible Chiefs team ain't helping his cause. 
  • Todd Haley: Can Minnesota visit every weekend?
  • Juan Castillo: New guy for the Eagles, their defense is a leaky ship and someone needs to take the fall.
Chasing Andrew Luck (All odds mine)
We have a new entrant in the usual suspects who are searching for the answer to their franchise woes -- the St. Louis Rams! Heretofore unlisted in this space, the Rams are 0-4 and now squarely in the hunt for Luck, even though they could get to 0-7 and somehow still win their division, based on how easy their schedule is.

What I find fascinating about this is that the Rams and Vikings, my two current faves for Luck, both drafted a "franchise quarterback" in the past two years. Would the Rams consider acquiring Luck if they got the No. 1 overall pick again? Or is Sam Bradford just that much better? Would both they and the Vikings just absolutely trade the pick to whoever was desperate enough for Luck? Because I'm not so sure.

Vikings (2:1) -- Can't imagine they actually feel like Christian Ponder's better than Luck. Right?
Dolphins (2:1) -- As AJB points out below, Miami definitely deserves inclusion here. My bust. Was too worried about Sparano's job.
Rams (3:1) -- So spicy if they get it.
Colts (3:1) -- They'd be the favorites if/when they lose to Tampa on Monday.
Broncos (4:1) -- Stanford, everyone!
Panthers (5:1) -- Fairly confident that the Panthers would acquire some assets for that pick.
Eagles (10:1) -- Andy Reid does love quarterbacks ...

MVP Watch
Stafford, my leader up to this point, did some nice things Sunday. But after Rodgers did the dirty things -- six touchdowns! -- that he did to Denver and helped propel the Packers to 4-0, it's hard not to sit up and take notice and admit that right now he's the best quarterback in the NFL.
Posted on: July 30, 2011 9:40 pm
 

Bears land Marion Barber, Amobi Okoye

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It took a couple days, but the Bears have finally gotten going in free agency.

Already, they had signed former Cowboys WR Roy Williams and taken a chance on former Jets LB Vernon Gholston, and Saturday night, the team added more pieces, announcing that it’s come to terms with former Cowboys RB Marion Barber and former Texans DT Amobi Okoye.

The team said Okoye’s contract is a one-year deal, while NFL.com’s Jason LaCanfora writes Barber’s contract is for two years and $5 million.

Considering Bears RB Matt Forte isn’t happy right now and has threatened to hold out because he’s slated to make only $550,000 in base salary this year -- he has reported, by the way -- Chicago’s move seems like one that could help change Forte’s attitude. As Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune pointed out, you also have to wonder about Chester Taylor's future with the organization. 

Barber had a hard time staying healthy in Dallas, and earlier this week, he was dropped in favor of rookie DeMarco Murray. Meanwhile, Okoye, a former first-round pick, hasn’t been all that productive since he recorded 5 ½ sacks in his 2007 rookie season, recording just 5 ½ sacks since then.

Now, both get a chance to rejuvenate their careers in Chicago.

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Posted on: July 26, 2011 3:47 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2011 3:51 pm
 

Cowboys to cut Williams, Colombo, Barber, Davis

Posted by Will Brinson

Yesterday, the Baltimore Ravens drew a ton of attention by slashing prices cutting a slew of veterans including Derrick Mason and Todd Heap. Tuesday, it was the Cowboys turn, as reports started flying that Dallas had cut wide receiver Roy Wiliams, offensive linemen Marc Colombo and Leonard Davis, kicker Kris Brown and running back Marion Barber.

None of the cuts were that surprising, particularly Barber and Williams, who seemed like likely targets to be cut when colleague Ryan Wilson wrote about the very subject just a few weeks ago.

Williams (who, by the way, just got some bling back after the most notorious mailed-wedding-ring incident of the entire offseason) makes sense as a roster expense, particularly because now the Cowboys will simply start Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, both of whom are better than Williams anyway.

Cowboys Offseason
And Barber's become the least effective back in Dallas' stable; even though Barber had more carries than Tashard Choice last season (113 to 66), he still on managed a feeble 3.3 yards per carry and an unimpressive 28.8 yards per game. Additionally, he found the end zone just four times.

The combination of just Barber and Williams will save the Cowboys nearly $10 million in terms of salary cap number, and it's become pretty clear -- based on all these cuts -- that they are in fact players in the Nnamdi Asomugha market this offseason.

Whether or not they land the coveted cornerback, though, they've probably made a slew of good roster decisions anyway.

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Posted on: July 5, 2011 2:26 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 3:00 pm
 

Cowboys could end up releasing Barber, Williams

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Last season, Marion Barber had 113 carries, the fewest of his six-year NFL career. His 374 rushing yards, 3.3 yards-per-carry average, 11 receptions, and four touchdowns were also career lows. Those numbers coupled with Barber's contract could mean that the Cowboys will release him once there's a new collective bargaining agreement.

In fact, according to ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins, Barber is the Cowboys player most hurt by the lockout.

"It might seem strange to see Barber's name as the player hurt most by the lockout, but here's why: The Cowboys are expected to release Barber because they don't want to pay him a $500,000 roster bonus in addition to a $4.5 million base salary," Walker writes. "He's underachieved since becoming the full-time starter in 2008. As long as the lockout lasts, Barber is in limbo. He can't talk to other teams about his services and if the Cowboys decide to keep him, which seems doubtful, he most likely will compete with [Felix] Jones for the starting job."

Two weeks ago, one of Barber's teammates, Roy Williams, said there were benefits to the lockout. “I talked to a player who was contemplating retirement, but the lockout has gotten his body back to where it needs to be,” Williams told the Odessa American at the time. “For us older players, it’s good.” ESPN's Tim MacMahon added that Williams might have job security because cutting him would force the Cowboys to take a huge salary cap hit.

However, the National Football Post's Dan Pompei wrote over the holiday weekend that Williams could be among the veteran free-agent wide receivers looking for work once the lockout ends.

"There are two reasons why Williams is likely going to be a former Cowboy in the near future," Pompei wrote. "The first is he’s making more money than he’s worth. The second is the team wants to clear the way for Dez Bryant to play more. There will be a healthy market for Williams though. His effort and attitude has remained good in Dallas despite the fact that he hasn’t found his niche in the offense, and that will help him find future employment."

This sounds a lot like the reasons Watkins cited above for why Barber might struggle to find a new team. That said, you'd have to think that Williams, who is just 29, would be a much more attractive option than 37-year-old Terrell Owens. Not only because he's younger and healthier but, as Pompei points out, he puts forth the effort and has the attitude teams appreciate. (We'll also assume Williams doesn't struggle to learn the playbook.)

Whoever's on the roster, the Cowboys are set to start training camp on July 29.

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Posted on: April 8, 2011 2:16 pm
 

Hot Routes 4.8.11 TGI cliche time

Hot Routes

Posted by Andy Benoit

  • The Vikings stadium bill was posted in the Senate on Friday. The Senate was not in session, so the bill cannot be officially introduced until Monday.

  • Many believe that Marion Barber, due $4.25 million in 2011, will not be in a Cowboys uniform at the beginning of the season.

  • For the draft, Colts president Bill Polian will assume that his team's free agents are gone. (This sounds like lockout news, but chances are, Polian always takes this stance when drafting.)

  • With the Orioles off to a hot start and the Ravens not doing anything whatsoever at the moment, now seems to be a fair time to ask if the city of Baltimore is a baseball town or a football town.

  • Chris Dielman is testifying in defense of his buddy Brian Giles, who is the defendant in a domestic violence case.

  • Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick is visiting with the Raiders.

  • The Patriots could be looking at Illinois running back Mike Leshoure.

  • Brett Favre is hosting a one-day seven on-on-seven high school football camp in Mississippi to raise money for charity.

  • Drew Rosenhaus doesn’t think the Dolphins can win a playoff game with Chad Henne. (It’s rare to hear the super-agent say something that burns any chance of him snagging another client.)

    For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com