Tag:Kyle Orton
Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:49 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 5:36 am

Tebow is your new Broncos starting QB

Posted by Ryan Wilson

It might have taken four and a half games into the regular season, but it looks like the Broncos coaching staff has finally fallen in line with its fans: Head coach John Fox named Tim Tebow the team's starting quarterback on Tuesday. And that's where we'll begin today's discussion with Pete Prisco, Mike Freeman, Josh Katzowitz, Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson. Fire away.

"Well, I think [the] 1-4 [record] has a lot to do with it," Fox said, according to the Associated Press. "We haven't gotten it done as a football team. It's not one guy. It's not all Kyle Orton's fault. But we do have to make adjustments, we have to change and we have to do something to win football games."

Tebow replaced Orton in the second half of Sunday's loss to the Chargers where he completed 4 of 10 throws for 79 yards, including a passing and a rushing touchdown, and the Broncos were a last-second completion in the end zone from beating their division rival. Orton, for his part, has played poorly enough to lose the job, although the organization decided not to trade him to the Dolphins prior to training camp because Tebow wasn't deemed to be ready for the full-time gig. Now, it seems, that has changed. (Maybe Fox was blown away by Tebow outperforming Aaron Rodgers in Week 5.) 

It's go time. (US PRESSWIRE)

"He gave us a spark. That's Tim Tebow," running back Willis McGahee Sunday, via the Denver Post. "Everybody's been cheering for him for the longest, and now he finally got in and came in and moved the ball for us."

For his part, Orton has promised to support Tebow.

"I'm disappointed with everything," he said. "I wish I could have played better. I wish we had a better record. There's a lot of things, but reality is what it is."

More via the AP:
Orton, who's in the final year of his contract, is 6-21 since winning his first six games as Denver's starter. The Broncos tried to trade Orton, who's making $9 million this season, when the lockout ended, but talks with Miami broke down and Fox instead threw open the quarterback competition, something for which Tebow proved ill-prepared.

Stop...Tebow Time?
Orton had worked extensively with teammates in workouts organized by safety Brian Dawkins during the lockout. So had Tebow, but he also spent time pitching products and his autobiography across the country. Orton's and Brady Quinn's offseason workout program paid off when training camp rolled around.

Orton maintained his stranglehold on the starting job and Quinn appeared to win the backup job despite a poor performance in the final preseason game, but Fox said this week that wasn't really the case: Tebow was his No. 2. This despite Tebow showing almost no progress in becoming the pocket passer that Broncos football chief John Elway has said he must become to make it in this league.
After the bye, the Broncos head to Miami to face the Dolphins. It could be a homecoming for Tim Tebow, starting NFL quarterback, who made his name at the University of Florida. 

It could also be an opportunity for the Broncos to hand-deliver Orton to the Dolphins, a team desperately in need of a starter after losing Chad Henne for the season.

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 5:55 pm

Tracking Tebow: Week 5 vs. Chargers -- go time

Posted by Ryan Wilson

What started as a way to keep up with Tebow Mania through the preseason has now taken on a life of its own. That's right, Tim Tebow took the field in Week 5 against the Chargers, and not as an emergency wide receiver or wildcat specialist, but as a real live NFL quarterback. Broncos fans have been clamoring for this moment pretty much since the team drafted Tebow in April 2010 and now, thanks to hard work, perserverance, and some truly dreadful performances from incumbent Kyle Orton, the masses have gotten what they asked for. 

Stop...Tebow Time?

What happens next? Who knows. Head coach John Fox isn't yet naming a starter, and once you get past the "Tebow played?!" hysteria, there is no obvious choice for the job. Orton is, in general, a better player. But he's been uninspiring this season and he'll be a free agent in January. The same issues that plagued Tebow when he came into the league -- the long delivery, the inadequate arm strength, the inability to read defenses -- were still present and accounted for against the Chargers. 

But it's not like the Broncos' playoff hopes rest on this decision. Whoever ends up under center will be leading a team destined for another losing season. The only question is who would benefit most from the experience. Common sense says Tebow because he's younger, and the team's former top pick. The problem with that, though, is that Tebow has yet to prove he is, you know, a legit NFL quarterback. We suspect that, at this point, Broncos fans don't care. They just want change and Tebow is certainly that.

Whatever happens, we're just happy to reintroduce the Tebow Tracker, and idea originally born out of the football world's fascination with Tebow, even in games that didn't count. We figured that once the regular season began, the Tracker, like Tebow, would be shelved. Thankfully, Tebow is no quitter.

And neither are we. We'll chart every one of his regular-season snaps, the result, and what it all means going forward.  Let's get to it.

First up: a play-by-play breakdown of Tebow's Week 5 performance against the Chargers Sunday.

Week 5: San Diego Chargers
Situation Down/Distance Result
8:54 left in 3rd qtr     (Note: you can see the entire play-by-play log here.)
  1st & 10, DEN 31 Tebow handoff to McGahee left guard to DEN 36 for 5 yards  
  2nd & 5, DEN 36 Tebow handoff to McGahee right guard to DEN 33 for -3 yards  
  3rd & 8, DEN 28 (From the shotgun) Tebow pass short right to E.Decker to DEN 33 for no gain It's a short drop, Tebow looks left, his first option is covered, then looks right, throws the ball across the field for a play that had no chance of gaining two yards, much less eight. Upside: it was a completion. Downside: it went for no gain.
  4th & 8, DEN 28 PUNT  
3:56 left in 3rd qtr 1st & 10, DEN 7 Tebow handoff to McGahee right guard to DEN 10 for 3 yards  
  2nd & 7, DEN 10 (From the shotgun) Tebow pass incomplete deep left to B.Lloyd 3-step drop, Tebow eyes Lloyd running down the left sideline and throws to him in single-coverage. Lloyd almost comes down with the ball but was ruled out of bounds. Not a bad throw.
  3rd & 7, DEN 10 (From the shotgun) Tebow pass incomplete deep middle to E.Decker Short drop, can't find a receiver, scrambles left before launching a ball down the field just out of the reach of Decker near midfield. From the snap until the ball left his hand, seven seconds elapsed. In general, this is one of Tebow's problems. 
  4th & 7, DEN 10 PUNT  
13:35 left in 4th qtr 1st & 10, DEN 20 Tebow pass incomplete short left to D.Rosario Ugh. Play-action pass, Tebow short-hops Rosario on a sideline route that's 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. The ball travels 13 yards.
  2nd & 10, DEN 20 (From the shotgun) McGahee up the middle to DEN 32 for 12 yards  
  1st & 10, DEN 32 (From the shotgun) McGahee up the middle to DEN 33 for 1 yard
  2nd & 9, DEN 33 (From the shotgun)  Tebow scrambles up the middle to DEN 38 for 5 yards Another play-action pass, Tebow pulls the ball down early and runs. As was the case during preseason, he seems antsy in the pocket.
  3rd & 4, DEN 38 (From the shotgun)  Tebow pass incomplete short left to M.Willis Another example of Tebow holding the ball too long, disrupting the timing of the patterns, and eventually short-hopping his receiver.
  4th & 4, DEN 38 PUNT  
8:54 left in 4th qtr 1st & 10, DEN 49 McGahee left guard to SD 23 for 28 yards.  
  1st & 10, SD 23 Tebow scrambles left end pushed ob at SD 12 for 11 yards Play-action, Tebow takes off early up the middle, breaks two tackles before getting to the sidelines. Nice run. In what would become a recurring theme, Tebow struggled with the snap when under center.
  1st & 10, SD 12 Tebow up the middle to SD 12 for no gain  Another bobbled snap, Tebow was lucky to get back to the line of scrimmage.
  2nd & 10, DEN 12 (From the shotgun) Tebow left guard for 12 yards, TOUCHDOWN We've seen this play hundreds of times when Tebow was in college and yet the Chargers seemed completey surprised. 
4:38 left in the 4th qtr 1st & 10, SD 41 (From the shotgun) Tebow right tackle to SD 33 for 8 yards  Hey, if the Chargers couldn't stop it on the TD run, try it again, this time to the right. It workd. Again.
  2nd & 2, SD 33 Tebow handoff to McGahee up the middle to SD 28 for 5 yards  
  1st & 10, SD 28 (From the shotgun)  Tebow pass short right to K.Moreno for 28 yards, TOUCHDOWN Tebow takes a five-step drop, turns right and throws the ball five yards in the air. Moreno does the rest.
  2-pt. conversion (From the shotgun) Tebow pass to B.Lloyd is incomplete, conversion fails. SD finally plays the QB sneak, Tebow takes a few steps to his left and throws a nice pass to the back corner of the end zone but Lloyd is well-defended. 
 0:24 left in the 4th qtr 1st & 10, DEN 20 (From the shotgun) Tebow pass incomplete deep right to B.Lloyd. Play Challenged by Replay Assistant and REVERSED. (Shotgun) Tebow pass deep right to B.Lloyd ran ob at DEN 40 for 20 yards Easily Tebow's best completion of the day even if it required a great effort from Lloyd. Tebow stood tall in the pocket, delivered the ball between two defenders, and it ended up being a 20-yard gain.
  1st & 10, DEN 40 (From the shotgun) Tebow pass to D.Fells to SD 29 for 31 yards  With SD in their prevent, Tebow holds the ball for five seconds before finding Fells in the middle of the field with two seconds to go (after the Broncos rush to the line and Tebow spikes the ball for one more play...)
  2nd & 10, SD 29 (From the shotgun) Tebow pass incomplete deep right to M.Willis  Pretty sure this wasn't how the Broncos drew the play up. Tebow takes scrambling to a new level (see graphic below) before throwing the ball into the back of the end zone for an incompletion (though we wouldn't have been shocked if Willis came down with the ball).
    GAME OVER, SD 29 DEN 24  


Here's the route Tebow took on the last play of the game. It speaks for itself.

And for completeness, the moving-pictures proof of the same play.

Here's the CBS recap.

Philip Rivers overcame an interception and a fourth-quarter fumble to lead the San Diego Chargers to a 29-24 win over the Denver Broncos. CBS Sports' Marv Albert and Rich Gannon have the recap.

                                                   Action Shots

(click images to enlarge)

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 5:27 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 10:51 pm

Fox to address Broncos starting QB job Tuesday

Who will be under center when the Broncos face the Dolphins in Week 7? Good question. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

As they had done on three previous occasions in this five-week-old season, the Broncos lost Sunday. But it was one of the most exciting losses in recent team history because Tim Tebow saw extended action, and not as a backup wide receiver or glorified running back. But as a legitimate NFL quarterback. Even though his numbers weren't much to look at (4 for 10 for 79 yards and a touchdown), and he still looks like the guy with the long windup who struggles to read defenses and deliver the ball accurately, there's no denying that he's given Broncos fans something they haven't had in some time: hope.

It wasn't pretty, but Tebow was a 29-yard pass away from beating the Chargers. When Orton left after two uninspiring quarters, he was 6 of 13 for 34 yards and an interception, and showed absolutely no ability to move the ball. So, naturally, head coach John Fox was asked if Tebow gives the team the best chance to win.

“That’s something we’ll evaluate; we’ll meet," Fox said Monday. "I’ll have the team in, and with all do respect for what you guys do, the way we will operate is we will communicate with the people involved and the team long before we announce it to you guys. That won’t be happening today because we don’t see the team until tomorrow.”

And unlike a normal week, the Broncos are now on their bye and won't play again until Week 7 when they travel to Miami (perhaps to deliver Orton in person).

So when will the starting quarterback job be announced? “I’d say there is a strong likelihood that we will address that [Tuesday],” Fox said. He also hinted that he won't be making the decision alone. "[T]here will be some staff meetings. We haven’t met in that particular area as a staff but will sometime today.”

And what about Brady Quinn, the former Browns' first-round pick who many felt outplayed Tebow in the preseason to earn the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Orton -- is he in the mix, too?

“You said ‘perception,'" said Fox. "I think sometimes that’s not reality. I think the call to go with Tim was obviously something we discussed before, but I didn’t want that outwardly known regardless of perception. I think we kind of showed our hand.”

For now, mum's the word but we should know more Tuesday.

Philip Rivers overcame an interception and a fourth-quarter fumble to lead the San Diego Chargers to a 29-24 win over the Denver Broncos. CBS Sports' Marv Albert and Rich Gannon have the recap.

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:06 am

John Fox needs to name a starting QB quickly

Posted by Will Brinson

Perhaps you've heard of the quarterback controversy going on in Denver right now? Yes, perhaps -- Tim Tebow entered the game against the Chargers yesterday and sparked the offense, the fanbase, nearly led the team victory, and warranted many a smart media person (such as my colleague Clark Judge) to anoit him the obvious starter.

Head coach John Fox hasn't named a starter yet, and while I might not necessarily agree with rolling Tebow out there, I do think it's absolutely necessary that Fox name a starter quickly.

The Broncos have their bye coming up and travel to Miami after that for a very winnable matchup against the struggling Dolphins, which is why if Fox is going to go Tebow, he needs to go Tebow ASAP.

Two weeks from now, the Broncos will actually play another game. That means that for nearly 14 consecutive days, everyone in and around the Denver sports media world will be asking Fox about his starting quarterback, and making reference to "The Tebow Thing."

In fact, it will be as suffocating and grating for Fox as it probably was for Kyle Orton during every day of work leading up to Sunday's benching.

Then there's the matter of the matchup -- Miami is, last I checked, in the state of Florida. That's the same state of Florida where Tebow played his college ball, and the same state of Florida where he's a cultural icon.

Starting him, if that's the move Fox is making, would almost absolutely mean homefield advantage for the Broncos when they head east. Plus, it would allow the team to start making contingency plans for Orton, who'll be a free agent after this year.

There's little question he's bolting Denver first chance he gets, and if Tony Sparano can convince his bosses to still make a deal, it's hard not to think that the Dolphins, having lost starter Chad Henne for the season, would at least offer some reasonable compensation for 10 weeks of Orton.

In that sense, it behooves Denver greatly to make a firm decision now, and stick with it.

Mike Klis of the Denver Post believes that Fox will indeed act quickly, selecting Tebow as his starter as soon as Tuesday.

If that's the case, it's impressively fast, a wise move by Fox, and a pretty clear-cut indication that he's ready to see what the future might hold for Tebow as Denver's quarterback.

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 1:25 am
Edited on: October 15, 2011 12:36 pm

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 5

Posted by Will Brinson

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 Billboards Worked!
When John Fox decided to bench incumbent starter Kyle Orton at half for would-be Denver football messiah Tim Tebow, it seemed like a pretty good excuse for Fox to let the fan-favorite quarterback struggle his way to a miserable second half, giving Fox has a totally justifiable excuse for refusing to answer any Tebow-related questions and instead just glaring at whoever asks them with a stern, judgmental look.

Then Tebow scored on a rushing touchdown that was a designed quarterback draw.

Then Tebow threw a screen pass to Knowshon Moreno, a ball so blessed by Tebow's hand that Moreno used its powers to break several tackles, cross the goalline and bring the Broncos inexplicably within two points.

So, um, we have a quarterback controversy, right? Rich Gannon and Marv Albert certainly think so.

Fox agrees, I think. Maybe. Possibly.

"I think Tim Tebow sparked the team today," Fox said. "We haven't had a chance to watch the tape. We haven't had time to watch the film. I think at this point we've got a bye week. We do need to improve offensively. And it will all be up for discussion."

Right. We definitely do. Although it's pretty arguable that Tebow, despite his shortcomings, should be starting for the Broncos. Kyle Orton will be a free agent after this year, and would still have trade value to a few teams (ahem, Miami).

Tebow, as Fox noted, managed to make the Broncos play harder, even if his own personal play was lacking. Yes, he ran for a touchdown. Yes, he threw for another. And, yes, he gave the Broncos a shot at winning a game in which they had no business having a shot to win. But he still finished 6 of 13 4 for 10 for 34 79 passing yards (28 came on the Moreno touchdown) and played so poorly up until four minutes left in the game that at least one dork fired up Photoshop and created fake, apologetic billboards.

(Ed. Note: Had Orton's stats in there. My bad. Note strikes. Still doesn't make Tebow's stats "good.")

Doh. And, yeah, I literally put this on Twitter 10 seconds before Tebow scampered in for his first touchdown.

Look, I'm prepared to take a ton of flak from Broncos fans in the comments for even begin to suggest that going to Tebow isn't the smart move. But from a perspective of "putting the best player under center" it isn't. Orton's still better. But the Broncos are bad and won't sniff the playoffs this season, so perhaps rolling the dice with Tebow now and at least seeing what he can is the play.

He apparently inspires the team, and that's great. But the reality is that he's a below-average quarterback with a limited skill set who just about helped his pretty awful team pull off a come-from-behind victory against a much better team at home.

And failed.

Yet, we're still talking about Tebow. And that's OK. But there's a whole lot of chatter about Tebow being "the guy" in Denver. And even though the statistics and the tape show that he wasn't all too productive -- though the statistics can't measure heart, not yet anyway! -- that chatter won't stop until Fox caves and names him the starter.

Which should make the next two weeks (the Broncos are on the bye) of speculation super-duper fun.

2. The Snooze Button Is Broken

Leading up to the Eagles's Week 5 matchup with the Bills, Michael Vick made sure the media knew that Philly no longer saw themselves as "the Dream Team." Unfortunately for him, we already knew that. It comes with the territory on a 1-3 start.

After a 31-24 loss in Buffalo, the Eagles are 1-4, and with all due respect to the very-much-for-real Bills, it's not even that hard to fathom. Sure, Andy Reid's team "won the offseason," but as their NFC East compatriots the Redskins know, that means nothing in the regular season.

"No. 1, there's nobody to blame but me," Reid said after the game. "That's how I look at it. I take full responsibility for it. It's my team."

And that's fine, because the Eagles are an incredibly sloppy team right now. If you need more proof than Vick's four interceptions -- he had six all of last year -- just look at the way each half ended. With the Eagles in the Bills territory, Vick took to long to throw the ball away and chunked the rock through the end zone as time expired. In Philly he might have gotten a second, but on the road, that clock's ticking, and the Eagles didn't got a shot at three points.

The worse crime came on a fourth and one with 1:23 to go and the Eagles down seven -- the Bills somehow managed to draw Juqua Parker offsides, grabbed a free first down and took knees to move their record to 4-1.

Buffalo is the real story, because it's absolutely improbable that they're a legit playoff contender. But the Eagles, clear-cut preseason favorites to win their division, are quite the nice juxtaposition to a Buffalo team that's well-coached, scraps for everything and plays sound football en route to winning games.

On the bright(ish) side, there have been seven teams since 1978 to make the playoffs after starting the season 1-4. So Philly's got that going for them.

3. Just Win, Baby

Since Al Davis died on Saturday morning, there were any number of very impressive, very emotional and very deserving tributes for one of the all-time great figures in NFL history.

But the best tribute of the weekend? Oakland figuring out how to just win in Houston, in what was clearly an emotional game for everyone on the Raiders payroll.

"I know he's looking down on this team," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said Sunday. "And he's with us every step of the way."

As Clark Judge noted Sunday, Oakland is indeed finding ways to "just win" and most of the season, they've looked better than their AFC-West counterparts the Chargers, despite sitting a game back in the standings of their division foes. They're still just 2-2 outside the division, but those two wins equal the number they had outside the AFC West in 2010.

If they can replicate their in-division success, 2011 could be a special year. And it probably won't hurt that Oakland has three-straight games at home starting in Week 6 -- you can bet that the Black Hole will be especially dark, which is exactly how Al Davis would have wanted it.

Real quickly, if anyone that's as "young" as I am (30; I'm using the term loosely) is confused by the heartfelt tributes to Al Davis over the weekend, take some time to read about his history in the AFL and NFL and watch some of the offerings the NFL Network is putting out there right now.

The stereotype that my generation takes from Davis is that he ran the Raiders into the ground with his obsession for speed and athleticism. This is because the Raiders last Super Bowl win was in 1983 and since they moved back to Oakland from Los Angeles in 1995, they've made the playoffs just three times.

Reality is that while some of those stereotypes do apply, Davis helped spark the rise of the NFL that we know today, he broke down serious barriers when it came to minority hiring in the NFL, and while he owned the team, the Raiders became the only franchise in NFL history to make a trip to the Super Bowl in four consecutive decades.

That's sustained success by any measure, and throughout it all, there really was only one constant: Al Davis.

4. Meanwhile, Across the Bay ...
The San Francisco 49ers are 4-1 after taking Tampa Bay to the woodshed 48-3 on Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.

Improbably, Alex Smith threw three touchdowns as San Fran's offense, with the help of a second-straight 125-yard rushing game from Frank Gore, carved up the Buccaneers defense. Vernon Davis found the end zone twice, and the 49ers used the all-around dominant performance to vault themselves to 4-1, as they maintained firm control over the NFC West.

What Jim Harbaugh is doing with San Francisco (and this is the second week in a row I've written this) is absolutely phenomenal, even if allowing a wide receiver to suffer a potentially serious ankle injury with four minutes left and up 41-3 deserves some flak.

Everyone felt confident believing that the Niners needed better coaching to really utilize their talent. That might be true.

But they're a miraculous comeback -- and just three points -- away from being undefeated, and it doesn't really matter who they've played against. Because, frankly, their schedule doesn't get that much tougher. Not counting NFC West games, San Francisco has games in Detroit, versus Cleveland, at Washington, versus the Giants, at Baltimore (Thanksgiving), and versus Pittsburgh.

No one's going to confuse them for the most dominant team in the NFL, even if their win Sunday looked that way, but even if they win the rest of their division matchups and lose the rest of their games (the latter's harder to fathom than the former, by the way) , they'd still end up with nine wins.

They're squarely in the driver's seat for a playoff game at home come January, Alex Smith's got the keys and everyone seems alright with this.

5. Paint it Blonde
I asked this like 12 times on Twitter Sunday, but no one could give me a good answer, so I'll ask again: How is that Reggie Wayne was the only person in the entire Colts organization that knew Curtis Painter was better than Kerry Collins?

Because Wayne knew -- he knew so much that he told us twice that Painter could compete. Unfortunately for Wayne, the newest Manning brother (Curtis!) actually prefers Pierre Garcon when it comes to touchdown passes ...

Don't get me wrong -- even Jeff George would have found Garcon on that play, so terrible was Brandon Flowers coverage. But it's pretty obvious at this point, even with Indy sitting at 0-5, that Painter gives them a better shot at winning than Collins, even if they're now 0-5 after a 28-24 loss to Kansas City.

So why did it take three games and a Collins concussion to figure that out? It's a great question and it probably involves someone(s) on the coaching staff or the front office not being as in-tune to the roster as Wayne is.

For Chiefs fans (read: my good friend and colleague who runs Eye on Basketball, Matt Moore): let's not get too frisky just yet. Your two wins are squeakers against teams that are a combined 1-9. But Todd Haley's seat is cooling at least.

6. Come on, It's All Ball Bearings These Days!
Actually, if you're the Vikings, it's simpler than anything Irwin M. Fletcher ever suggested: just give Adrian Peterson the ball.

Through four games -- all losses -- Peterson was "only" averaging 20.3 carries per game. This isn't to suggest Leslie Frazier should have run him into the ground as soon as he got the head coaching gig in Minny, but if you're leading by double digits at halftime, there's nothing wrong with a healthy dose of AP.

Frazier finally figured that out, and let Peterson loose against a suddenly hapless Cardinals team. Peterson ended the day with 29 carries for 122 rushing yards and three touchdowns; all the scores came in the first quarter, making AP just the fourth running back in the last 20 years to find the end zone three times in one quarter.

The obvious gameplan led to an obvious result: Frazier's first win as a (non-interim) head coach.

Now he's got a bigger problem to solve -- what to do with his quarterback situation. Donovan McNabb struggled again, completing just 10 of 21 passes for 169 yards against a Cardinals secondary that doesn't begin to qualify as "competent." The oft-maligned QB was pelted with "We want Ponder!" chants from the crowd at the Metrodome, and it's probably time for Frazier to perk his ears up and listen.

Could Ponder have produced the same stat line as McNabb? Absolutely. And he certainly could have handed the ball off 29 times, with the potential upside of actually letting Frazier find out if he's a legit franchise quarterback.

7. When the Circus Comes to Town
Victor Cruz of the Giants now holds the (unofficial) NFL record for ridiculous, luck-based catches. Unfortunately for the Giants, he canceled out his big-top performance against Seattle with two absolutely back-breaking turnovers that eventually cost New York the game.

His final statline? Eight catches, 161 receiving yards, a touchdown, a rush for three yards, a terrible fumble and a tipped pass with just over a minute left that the Seahawks Brandon Browner returned 94 yards for a game-clinching pick six.

The catches are nice and the acrobatic entertainment is fun to watch (see: below). But you absolutely can't miss a catch near the goalline that results in the ball being tipped up to a crowd of defenders and gets intercepted.

Eli Manning and Co. could have won even if they probably shouldn't have, given that they were pretty much outplayed from the get-go. Instead, the Redskins are all alone atop the NFC East, which is exactly what Rex Grossman predicted, the Seahawks finally won a game on the East Coast and it's perfectly acceptable to go running for your bomb shelter right now.

8. Clock Mismanagement
Speaking of circuses, whoever spiked the collective Kool-Aid of NFL coaches with Andy Reid's Jamba Juice probably won a lot of money in their pick-em league this week -- the final two minutes of the early games featured a series of incredible gaffes, many of them game-changing.

The Panthers, for instance, lost by three. You think calling a timeout with two seconds left as the Saints scrambled to set up for a field goal, which they eventually made after the pause in action, helped New Orleans? Yes it did. The Saints won by three.

We chronicled the Eagles mistakes -- in each half, no less! -- above. This is nothing new to an Andy Reid-coached football team. But it's still inexcusable.

The Raiders probably appreciate the Texans going incomplete-incomplete-sack with three timeouts to close out the first half, instead of utilizing their clock-killers to get good field position and a shot at some points. The Raiders didn't score, and Jacoby Jones probably deserves some fault, but you can't give the ball back to the other team that quickly.

The Vikings and Giants also behaved in a manner unbefitting of quality teams near the end of the first half, and both Mike McCarthy and Hue Jackson made poor decisions to go for a two-point conversion at an inexplicably early time.

Just sloppy decisions all around. On the bright side, maybe this Les-Miles-to-the-NFL thing could work out after all!

9. Best Team's Best Win?
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Packers march to the Super Bowl in 2010 was their resiliency amid tons of injury. Well, that and their ability to adapt when things weren't going their way. It's what great teams do, and it's what the Packers did once again on Sunday night, despite getting down early to a sharp-looking Falcons team and, most devastatingly their stalwart of a left tackle in Chad Clifton.

Bryan Bulaga was already out on the right side, but it didn't matter -- Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers adjusted their gameplan and spent the second half doing their best General Sherman impersonation, piling up a whopping 25 unanswered points on Atlanta's defense en route to a convincing 25-14 win that puts the Packers at 5-0 for the first time since 1965.

"We just stayed patient," Rodgers said afterwards. "It was a tough game -- I took a lot of shots. I had to move around a lot. [The offensive line] did a great job. The rhythm wasn't there all the time, but we just stayed with it, stayed patient and knew the big plays were going to come."

Rodgers threw for 296 of his 396 passing yards after the half and completed passes to a franchise-record 12 receivers. That's even more impressive considering that the Packers seriously stalled after Clifton went out, as the Falcons were actually able to get some pressure on Rodgers.

It was a brief period in neutral, though, as Rodgers -- who's established himself as the best quarterback in the NFL at this point, and I hope you're alright with that -- and the Packers got rolling and ended up winning in near-blowout fashion.

If they continue to adjust when adversity hits as they have this season (and last), Mike Freeman's note earlier this week about the Packers going undefeated doesn't seem remotely far-fetched.

And as long as No. 12 is under center, neither does another Super Bowl.

10. The Old Don't Bury 'Em Yet Game
High-quality teams that are struggling, like the Steelers, always bust out this old chestnut, randomly ripping into an opponent and reminding us that they're not dead yet.

So we come not to bury the Steelers, but to praise them, on the heels of a 38-17 beatdown of the Titans on Sunday that happened despite a weakened Steelers offensive line, an aging Steelers defense, a surging Titans offense and a busted-up Ben Roethlisberger.

"I told ya, I was just faking it," Roethlisberger said. "I'm a wimp."

Ben, obviously, is the complete opposite of a "wimp," mainly because pain either a) doesn't effect him or b) makes him better. Or something -- the dude was limping like crazy in pre-game warm-ups, and I felt pretty good about my Steelers pick.

Then all 350 pounds of Max Starks managed to rejuvenate the Pittsburgh offensive line who bullied an underrated Tennessee front four, giving Jonathan Dwyer his first career 100-yard rushing game, only allowed Roethlisberger to get sacked once, and protected like a unit capable of helping a team get to the Super Bowl.

Oh yeah, the defense was OK too -- LaMarr Woodley made it quite clear early on that Pittsburgh was going to have a statement game, recording an interception and 1.5 sacks, one of which was one of the most beasty sacks I've seen in a while -- Woodley fought off a blocker after briefly getting his hands on Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and just forcing his way to the takedown.

Pittsburgh's still tied with the Bengals (right?), but they're both just a half-game back of the Ravens now, and in case you thought the Steelers would just limp off into the sunset, you were clearly wrong.

Worth 1,000 Words

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... What the hell was Matt Schaub thinking on the final play of Raiders-Texans??? Just a horrible pass.
... When Antonio Cromartie picked off Tom Brady to end the half in the Jets-Patriots tilt, it was the first red-zone interception that Tom Brady has thrown at home. Ever. In his career. Say what you want about cherry-picking stats, but that's absolutely insane.
... Comebacks continue: the Chiefs stormed back from 17 points down, making it the seventh time an NFL team has done so this season, the most in NFL history.
... Cam Newton became the first player in NFL history with more than five passing and five rushing touchdowns in the first five games of his career Sunday. Yes, they lost. Whatever.
... Speaking of that Panthers game, what it's gonna take for the NFL to let an official eject someone? Because what Roman Harper did -- needlessly cheap-shotting Steve Smith after Smith made it to the end zone Sunday -- was about as close as it came, and nearly sparked a brawl. Not to wussify the sport further but how about we make a statement before we get Auburn Palace 2.0.

Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"Take a bottle,drink it down...pass it around"

This is what you want the owner of your football team saying shortly before Curtis Painter gets second career start to try and get your team the first win of the season. Obviously.


Courtesy of the fine mustachioed fellas at SB Nation, Victor Cruz' insane circus catch.

Hot Seat Tracker
  • Jack Del Rio: He called his team's performance "crappy" and no amount of blame-shifting by Maurice Jones-Drew is going to save his gig at this point. Bye-week tracking engaged.
  • Tony Sparano: He's making it through the bye week and, hey, might make it the whole season, if only so Stephen Ross can chase Jon Gruden.
  • Jim Caldwell: The Colts are frisky right now, but they're sure not winning. If they land Andrew Luck, won't they want someone that can groom him?
  • Andy Reid: Welcome aboard, sir! Although he could just throw Juan Castillo over the side to cool his seat.
  • Tom Coughlin: Premature? Probably. But I'm just trying to get ahead of the inevitable surge from angry New Yorkers.
  • Ken Wisenhunt: What happens when you trade a bunch of stuff for a quarterback and then spend $63 million on said quarterback but still stink? I'm just asking questions.
Chasing Andrew Luck
Colts (-400) -- It occurred to me today ... if Andrew Luck is really patient and wants to enjoy life and learn things and go about things the smart way, wouldn't he want to end up sitting behind Peyton Manning for two or three years? He'd be like Aaron Rodgers on play-calling steroids after that time frame.
Dolphins (-250) -- Presumably, Luck is part of Ross' package to Gruden.
Rams (+150) -- One would think they'd trade the pick for a lot of wide receivers.
Jaguars (+250) -- Another team with a franchise passer, huh?
Vikings (+300) -- Boy, it's a good thing they didn't rent McNabb for just one year ...
Broncos (+400) -- But, but ... Tebow!
Cardinals (+500) -- Wouldn't this be awkward? "Hey, Andy ... Do you do refunds?"
Panthers (+750) -- Also a very serious "trade the pick" candidate.
Eagles (+1000) -- Are their odds of getting Luck better than their odds of making the Super Bowl? So. Awkward.

MVP Watch
Last week, I pointed out that Aaron Rodgers easily eclipsed anyone else with his performance against the Broncos. (Stafford and Tom Brady got honorable mention and still do.) With stiffer competition on the road, Rodgers again stepped up in a big way. We're only five weeks into the season, so it's a touch silly to speculate on votes, but he'd win unanimously right now.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 6:14 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 7:41 pm

Tebow enters game in place of Orton

T. Tebow replaced K. Orton in the lineup on Sunday (AP).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

After an unimpressive first half where Kyle Orton went 6 for 13 for 34 yards and an interception as the Broncos fell behind the Chargers by 13 points, Denver coach John Fox turned the keys of his offense over to the guy most everybody in the city was united behind.

That would be Tim Tebow -- he who inspires billboards to pop up throughout the Mile High area.

In recent weeks, Fox has had to defend Orton and repeatedly say that Orton was his No. 1 quarterback. And you’ll recall that in training camp Brady Quinn actually beat out Tebow for the second-string spot behind Orton.

But against the Chargers, that didn’t matter.

Instead, Tebow trotted out early in the third quarter and was met with plenty of fan approval at his home stadium. Or as CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman tweeted, “God puts down his lightening bolts, pulls up a chair.” Meanwhile, Orton stayed on the sideline with a Broncos cap on his head.

On his first series, Tebow handed off twice to running back Willis McGahee, and then, on third and eight, he completed a pass to Eric Decker for no gain.

It was, I must say, a magical experience. And now, no matter what Fox says, we have a quarterback controversy in Denver.

UPDATED (7:37 p.m. ET): We almost certainly will have a quarterback controversy after Tebow's performance today.

For the second half of Denver's 29-24 loss to the Chargers, Tebow was 4 of 10 for 79 yards and a touchdown, and though he wasn't impressive throwing the ball -- his touchdown was more a credit to Knowshon Moreno for what he did after catching the screen pass from Tebow -- he made plays with his legs, rushing six times for 38 yards and a score.

The Broncos had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds, but a last-second Hail Mary play from Tebow, in which he showed how effective he is at buying time in and out of the pocket, fell incomplete.

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 1:05 pm

NFL Winners/Losers and experts live chat

Posted by Will Brinson

The world is a far better place when there are clear and distinct delineations between who is a winner and who is a loser. Since actual football records only do so much of that for us, let's dive into who's winning and who's losing a quarter of the way into the 2011 NFL season.

BUT FIRST -- we need to talk. No, seriously, let's chat -- starting at 1:00 pm ET on Wednesday. You can tell Pete Prisco his Power Rankings are awful, ask fantasy questions or just yell at me for not including [insert your favorite player's name here] in the winners list below. Either way, come on by.

Carolina Panthers: Yes, the Panthers are 1-3 and that is not what you would call winning. But this season, thanks solely to the early emergence of Cam Newton, is already eleventy billion times better than 2010, when the Panthers went 2-14. In fact, I'd argue that Carolina could lose out the rest of their schedule -- and they could! -- and it would be a better season than last year, when they despondently limped to the worst record in the NFL. There are plenty of arguments to be made against Newton's performance thus far (namely: he's posting some garbage-time stats and he's made plenty of rookie mistakes), but there's little doubt that Carolina landed themselves a franchise quarterback, and did so at a very reasonable cost.

Detroit Lions: This is a case where the record actually does match up with the placement. Matthew Stafford could go here, as he's proving himself to be a potentially elite quarterback. So could Calvin Johnson, who's vaulted himself into the pole position when it comes to wide receivers in the NFL. And so could Jim Schwartz, as he's clearly the best "new" head coach in the NFL. Which is why the organization as a whole gets the nod, since they've somehow managed to justify the hype and make the early Thanksgiving game -- a Packers-Lions matchup -- more meaningful than it's been in years.

Ryan Fitzpatrick/Fred Jackson: The oft-overlooked offensive duo that drives the Buffalo Bills are in full-on resurgence mode early in the season, with Jackson sitting at fourth in the NFL in rushing yards being the most obvious example. Fitzpatrick's been pretty spectacular himself even if his total passing yardage only ranks him 13th in the NFL. Passing yards can be misleading anyway -- he's thrown nine touchdowns to three interceptions and completed 63.4 percent of his passes. Most importantly, the Buffalo Bills are 3-1, something no one saw coming. They were so hot at one point this season that Fitzpatrick was impossible to book for an interview this season and both he and Jackson are working their way towards new, big-money contracts.

Matt Hasselbeck: Mentioned it in Sorting the Sunday Pile, but Hasselbeck is seeing a serious return to dominance as a result of his move to Tennessee. He's got 1,152 yards in just four games -- last season he barely crossed over 3,000 in 14. His average yards per pass is all the way up to 8.9, and his passing yards per game, 288, is currently the highest of his career. It helps to play for a coach that puts an emphasis on the offensive line, of course, and is willing to keep blockers at home in order to make sure Hasselbeck doesn't get touched and is able to throw the ball deep.

Darren Sproles: Arguably "the Saints" could be on this list ... just for landing Sproles. Has a guy ever fit what Sean Payton wants to do better than the diminutive Kansas State-star-turned-Chargers specialist? We used to think that Reggie Bush was the king of Payton's offensive scheming, and he did fit what the offensive guru loves to do, but Sproles, with better big-play burst, is the perfect addition to the already explosive Saints.

Gary Kubiak: First of all, kudos to the Texans for correctly playing the 2011 offseason. We've said this before, but they failed to draft for secondary help, which seemed weird, but now looks genius, especially since they went out and signed Johnathan Joseph in free agency. He's been a difference maker for Houston, and not just because he represents better value than Nnamdi Asomugha already. Kubes, on the other hand, is sitting at 3-1 and has a pretty clear path to a division title, the Titans success notwithstanding. Obviously the Texans aren't locked into the 2011 playoffs just yet, but their chances are looking pretty good right now, and that'll do a lot to justify his return for this season.

Matt Forte: Another topic in this past week's SSP, Forte is mauling defenses this year -- even if they are the Panthers! -- and forcing the Bears to pay him this offseason. For whatever reason, Chicago believed that Forte wasn't worth the cash and didn't pony up before 2011 began. That's fine, and that's their prerogative. But if they want to keep him, Forte's success this year is going to make it expensive.

NFL Fans: In just a few hectic weeks, fans of football went from "OMG, we might not get football at all this year" to "OMG, football is more exciting to watch than at any period of time, ever." We've seen scoring cranked up, we've seen incredible storylines (Lions, Bills, oh my), we've seen incredible comebacks (four 20-pointers in the last two weeks) and we've seen no truly noticeable ill effects of the missed offseason. If there are any complaints, it might be the new kickoff rules and the lack of consistency on replays. The former everyone who's not over now will be over by the end of the year, and the latter can be fixed. It's a good time to be an NFL fan.

Todd Haley: That Haley ended the quarter-season mark on a high note, with a victory over Minnesota, is a good thing. Otherwise the Chiefs might be starting at an 0-4 start and his seat would be somehow be hotter. It's really an unfathomable dropoff from winning the division in 2010. Haley's been victimized by a lot of key injuries -- Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles all went down for the year -- but things weren't all that good with the win against Minny, as Haley managed to get in a screaming match with Matt Cassel.

Tony Romo: It amazes me that Romo can't do anything right. Or, maybe, he can't avoid whatever he does being scrutinized to the nth degree. After Week 1, when he threw a terrible pick against the Jets that cost him the game, he was a goat. Then he injured his ribs against the 49ers, led the Cowboys to victory and he was a hero. Then he played with busted ribs against the Redskins, overcame his entire team stinking the joint up and morphed into a different person that we knew.  Then came the Lions loss. Romo tossed back-to-back picks that Detroit took to the house and everyone hopped off the "I heart Romo" bandwagon and back on the "Choker" train. It's not fair to Romo because it's not all his fault, but none of that matters to anyone that applies the labels.

Ben Roethlisberger: For years, the Steelers have managed to succeed despite a porous offensive line. That's mainly because Roethlisberger's strength is keeping a play alive by being a physical beast. But even he's struggling to fight through the Steelers inability to block, and suddenly Pittsburgh's in a precarious position at 2-2 with Roethlisberger banged up. Of course, he missed time for non-injury reasons last year, and he also suffered through injuries and the Steelers line was also terrible last season. Still, it's hard to fathom Roethlisberger staying healthy if he keeps getting destroyed at this rate.

Kyle Orton/Donovan McNabb: Because quarterbacks seem to be succeeding at an earlier stage than ever before, there's immediate cries for the next guy any time a veteran struggles. Orton and McNabb, neither of whom is putting up great numbers thus far in 2011, are the best examples because of the two guys -- Tim Tebow and Christian Ponder, respectively -- who sit behind them. Both Orton and McNabb are slightly under 60 percent in terms of completion percentage this season, and while neither one is lighting up the scoreboard with touchdown passes and passing yardage, it's important to remember that one (Orton) is running a John Fox offense and the other (McNabb) is on a team with Adrian Peterson.

Juan Castillo: The Eagles shipped out Sean McDermont because Jim Johnson's shadow was too much to overcome. And then they brought in Castillo, who coached Philly's offensive line for 12 years. Yes, that's offensive line. Given that the Eagles added both Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the offseason, it looked like it might not matter. But Castillo's new-age "don't tackle" defense hasn't gone over well against an opponent yet, and the Eagles find themselves 1-3 primarily because they simply can't stop anyone. Sure, they're tough to pass on ... unless you have a good tight end. And if you don't, and you happen to have a decent power running game, you don't even have to worry about it.

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Posted on: October 3, 2011 4:49 pm

Broncos, Vikings sticking with Orton, McNabb

Posted by Will Brinson

Neither the Broncos nor the Vikings are having a particularly great season so far; Denver's 1-3 and just got eviscerated by Green Bay. Minnesota's 0-4 and coming off a tough loss to previously winless Kansas City.

But neither of those teams is going to make a quarterback change, despite having an younger backup that fans already want to see take snaps.

John Fox reiterated Monday that Kyle Orton, despite the continued harassment clambering by fans for Tim Tebow, would continue to get the starter's snaps for the Broncos.

"We need our starting quarterback to get experience for us to improve. That's the idea behind that. You know [Orton] needs to get better in our system," Fox said, via the Denver Post. "I know he gets judged on the past couple of years, but we're trying to get him better in our system and use that experience to get better."

Leslie Frazier had a similar statement for reporters who didn't hint so subtlety about the timing for Christian Ponder's regular-season debut.

"Based on these four games this season we are not at a point where we are making a quarterback change," Frazier said following the game. "There are a lot of things we need to correct on our football team based on the fact that we are 0-4.  At this point a quarterback change isn’t one of those changes."

Look, starting a young quarterback is the chic thing to do right now, what with Cam Newton lighting things up for the Panthers and Andy Dalton producing some wins for the Bengals in an impressive fashion.

And at some point, the Vikings and Broncos would probably like to see what Ponder and Tebow, respectively, can do as starters. But is a quarter of the season the time to give up on a veteran starter just for the sake of experimentation? I don't think, so.

Neither do the first-year coaches who run those teams. Which is why it doesn't matter how many billboards fans buy -- for now, both teams will stand pat.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com