Posted on: December 17, 2011 11:10 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 11:16 pm

Bucs Morris looks to be in trouble

TAMPA --There are 69 reasons why Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris is in big trouble.


That's the number of consecutive points Tampa Bay's opposition scored in the past two games without an answer.


Sixty-nine to nothing isn't good for the old resume.


It would be hard to imagine Morris coming back in 2012 after his team fell to 4-10 Saturday night when the Dallas Cowboys came into Tampa and dominated them from start to finish in a 31-15 victory. 

The Bucs have been one of the league's biggest disappointments this season, but nobody could have imagined it would have been this bad. Tampa Bay has lost eight straight games. 

Dallas took a 28-0 first-half lead to add to the 41 unanswered points the Jacksonville Jaguars scored against the Bucs last Sunday.


In the first half, Dallas had 19 first downs, Tampa Bay 1. The Cowboys had 279 yards and Tampa Bay had 55.


It was so bad that one has to wonder if Morris might not get fired Sunday, especially after rumors that he was on the verge of getting it after the Jacksonville loss.


Losing is one thing. Losing without competing is another -- especially at home.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 15, 2011 5:24 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 12:29 pm

Week 15 Matchups to watch: Tebow vs. Belichick

Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow vs. Patriots coach Bill Belichick -- Tebow has done some nice things in the fourth quarter for the Broncos. But that has offset his struggles earlier in games. He isn't comfortable reading defenses. Even though the Patriots have struggled on defense, I look for Belichick to come up with all kinds of ways to slow down Tebow's running and option offense. He will force him to pass it. You watch. Can he?

Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware vs. Bucs tackle Donald Penn  -- Ware is the NFL's best outside rusher. Penn has had success against some of the better rushers, but he tends to slack off sometimes against some lesser players. I think he shows up here and gives Ware a nice battle. The Cowboys might be wise to flop Ware to face right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who struggled last week

Bears MLB Brian Urlacher vs. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch  -- Seattle's recent resurgence has come in large part because Lynch has been able to run the football. The Bears have to shut him down and put the pressure on the Seattle passing game. That means penetration up front to free Uralcher room to run and chase. These two will spend a lot of time banging heads.

Titans left tackle Michael Roos vs. Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney  -- These two have had some good battles over the years. This game doesn't mean anything for the Colts, but it does for the Titans. Roos has to keep Freeney off of either Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker, whoever starts.

Eagles defensive end Trent Cole vs. Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson -- Cole can be a disruptive force in terms of the pass rush, but Ferguson is good in pass protection. Cole isn't as good in the run game, so the Jets might run at him some with Ferguson leading the way.

Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe vs. Packers corner Tramon Williams -- It is Williams, not Charles Woodson, who usually draws the other team's top receiver in man coverage. Williams did a great job on Calvin Johnson on Thanksgiving Day, so look for him to spend the day on Bowe. If he can take him away, it will make it tough for whoever starts at quarterback for the Chiefs.

Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali vs. Packers left tackle Marshall Newhouse -- Newhouse has started the past eight games, but was benched some in last week's game against the Raiders for rookie Derek Sherrod. He is expected to start in this one, but if he has a rough go of it he could be on a quick hook. Hali has dominated some bad tackles this year and done some goof things against good ones. He is relentless.

Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson vs. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis -- Jackson hasn't had the season many expected, but he can fly and he's a dangerous deep threat. I expect to see the Jets put Revis on him a lot. Revis excels in man coverage and he's great getting his hands on smaller receivers. If he doesn't against Jackson, there could be some big plays there.

Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs vs. Chargers tackle Jared Gaither -- These two are former teammates, so they know a thing or two about each other. Suggs is having a Pro Bowl season, and is relentless pass rusher. Gaither was acquired a couple of weeks ago off waivers from Kansas City and has had two good starts, especially in pass protection. He will be key in keeping Philip Rivers clean.

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen vs. Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod  -- Allen leads the NFL with 17 1/2 sacks. Bushrod has done a good job in the past month after a rough go at St. Louis. But none of the players he's faced is in Allen's class. He did a good job on him in the playoffs two years ago, and Bushrod is better now.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 12, 2011 4:47 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 4:49 pm

Coaching changes: About the next guy

Why would the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs fire their coaches with three weeks to go?

Here's why: They want a jump-start on picking their next coach.

With Jacksonville already looking for a coach, the Chiefs and Dolphins couldn't afford to wait.

That's why Kansas City fired Todd Haley Monday and the Dolphins followed by firing Tony Sparano.

Firing a guy with three games won't turn things around. What it does is give these teams a chance to dip their toes into the coaching pool for names like Bill Cowher, Jeff Fisher and Jon Gruden.

Time is important. Waiting will only bring in more suitors once other coaches are fired.

This isn't about now.

It's about the future.

Category: NFL
Tags: Chiefs, Dolphins
Posted on: December 12, 2011 12:50 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 12:53 pm

Monday Musings: Titans hurt by bad play calls

If the Titans don't make the playoffs, which they probably won't, they might want to look to two horrible play calls late in their loss to the Saints. Twice in the final four minutes, Titans coach Mike Munchak and his staff made questionable decisions. 

Trailing 22-17 with just over three minutes left, the Titans faced a third-and-1 from the New Orleans 24. Instead of running the football to get a first down, the Titans threw into the end zone but the pass was incomplete. On fourth down, they ran a sneak and Jake Locker was stuffed.

Why not get the first down on third down and go from there? Bad move. Then the Titans got the ball back again with a 1:34 when the Saints foolishly passed on third down and the ball was incomplete on their possession.

 After two passes moved the ball to a first down at the New Orleans 45 with 48 seconds left, the Titans ran Chris Johnson inside. Why? They had no timeouts and they hit two passes in a row. That might have been the dumbest play call I've seen in 10 years. Johnson didn't gain a thing, but more importantly the Titans lost 20 seconds. 

So after a 40-yard completion from Locker to Washington put the ball on the New Orleans 5, the Titans had just seven seconds, time for two plays. Locker's pass was batted down on first down and he was sacked on second. Game over. Two bad play calls, but the run to Johnson on the final drive was the worst.

I just can't see the logic. Even if he pops it for 10, it's not worth the time that would be lost. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

---- They will blame Tony Romo. That's inevitable.

Romo missed a wide-open Miles Austin with his Cowboys leading the Giants 34-29 Sunday night on a third-down play that would have iced the game. Was it a bad throw? A little bit. Was Austin's perfect? Probably not.

But here's my problem: Why not try and get a first down?

The Cowboys went for the kill shot and it ended up killing them.  Facing a third-and-5 at their own 25 with just 2:33 left in the game, the Cowboys tried to go deep to Austin. They had success with deep balls earlier in the quarter, but everything has to be just right to hit them.

The Giants had one time out and the 2-minute warning. A first down essentially ends the game. So why not a short pass to Jason Witten? I like aggressive play-calling, but this was a situation that called for something safer. A first down wins the game. You don't need the touchdown.

As it turns out, the Giants ended up driving 58 yards to a game-winning touchdown.

Blame Romo all you want. I put that on the play that was called.

---I mentioned to you two weeks ago in my Power Rankings that I thought T.J. Yates would be better than just average. The rookie is showing us that now. He has led the Texans to back-to-back drives to win games in the fourth quarter, the first rookie since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to accomplish that feat. What makes his game-winning drive against the Bengals even more impressive is that he did it without Andre Johnson, who missed the game with an injury. The Texans won't be an easy out in the playoffs, because Yates doesn't act like a rookie.

----Strategy Denver Broncos need to use: Tell Tim Tebow the opening kickoff is actually the overtime toss. Tebow seems to do nothing for three quarters, but flourishes in the fourth. He was horrible for three quarters against the Bears, but somehow found a way to pull it out in the fourth. He made some good throws in the fourth quarter. Of course, it took the illogical to give him even a chance, including Marion Barber's dumb decision to run out of bounds in the final two minutes. If the Bears take three knees -- or three Tebows -- they probably win the game.

---Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris better hope his team plays well in the final three games. After jumping to a 14-0 lead, the Bucs looked lifeless against the Jaguars, losing 41-14. At 4-9, Morris is in big trouble. 

---Maurice Jones-Drew had four touchdowns for the Jaguars against the Bucs. He is having a huge season. Jones-Drew is a tough guy who never backs down. But the scary thing for him is that he's going to be beat up and broken down by the time the Jaguars get good. Call it the "Steven Jackson Syndrome." Jones-Drew is all they have on offense for now.

---We had six passers throw for over 300 yards Sunday. Five won and Romo lost to Eli Manning, who threw for 400 yards. We had nine players go over 100 yards rushing. They went 4-5. You tell me? What's the right way to play?

---So much for Hue Jackson as coach of the year. The Raiders have been horrible the past two weeks. It's more than them just missing all that speed in Darren McFadden Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore

---If Tony Sparano goes in Miami, shouldn't general manager Jeff Ireland go with him? But word is Ireland has become close to owner Stephen Ross. Ireland's reputation in Dallas was that of a guy who made sure he got close to Bill Parcells. Isn't that considered "ass-kissing?"

--Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is a beast. He had two sacks and blocked the potential tying field goal. I loved that kid coming out of South Florida. He was raw, and most scouts downgraded him for that. But he has special athletic ability. The scary thing is he's still learning to play the position. With his long arms and reach, he should take on this nickname: The Condor.

---Come on, Scott O'Brien. You really think Tom Brady needs you in his face? You know what looked like to me? It was a coach trying to make his bones. Some will see that as a plus for O'Brien, standing up to a great. I don’t.

----I hate seeing players injured, but if Matt Hasselbeck's calf injury allows the Titans to start Jake Locker it will be a good thing for the organization. The Titans aren't going to the playoffs, so playing Locker will be good for the long-term health of the franchise.

---Where was Bears defensive end Julius Peppers on the Broncos last two drives? Anywhere? 

Posted on: December 11, 2011 11:53 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 11:54 pm

Giants save season

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Season on the line, down five late, the New York Giants looked done against the Dallas Cowboys.

Fifty-eight yards stood between then and their season essentially being over.

Then Eli Manning did what he's become known for, even if he doesn't get credit for it: He was clutch in the end.

Manning drove the Giants 58 yards to the game-winning touchdown, that coming on a 1-yard run by Brandon Jacobs in the final minute and then Giants held on with a blocked field goal with 1 second left from 47 yards out to beat the Cowboys 37-34. 

The victory gives the Giants a 7-6 record and puts them ahead of the Cowboys in the NFC East, based on them having the same record but the Giants winning Sunday night.

The two teams meet again in the final week of the season, but, for now, it's the Giants on top of the NFC East.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 8, 2011 4:51 pm

Week 14 matchups to watch: Peppers vs. Clady

Bears defensive end Julius Peppers vs. Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady -- This is a battle of two of the better players at their positions. Peppers has to be contained for the Broncos to run their option offense. Clady is a good player who has played well the past month, more like the Pro Bowl player we saw in 2009. These two will get after it.

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis vs. Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe -- Even though the Chiefs passing game is struggling with Tyler Palko, Bowe is still the top threat. I imagine the Jets will throw Revis on him to try and take him away and put more pressure on Palko to go somewhere else. Revis Island has a new visitor.

Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake vs. Eagles right tackle Todd Herremans -- Wake has played much better in the last six weeks, showing his explosive speed. Herremans is a grinder, a former guard who was moved to tackle this season. He has to be able to handle Wake if Mike Vick is going to make plays down the field against an improved Dolphins secondary.

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen vs. Lions left tackle Jeff Backus -- Backus had a good game last week against Will Smith of the Saints, while Allen was quiet against the Broncos. These two know each other well, having faced each other a bunch, so that makes this even more intriguing.

Lions receiver Calvin Johnson vs. Vikings corners Cedric Griffin and Asher Allen -- The Vikings corners busted some coverages last week against the Broncos for big plays. They have to be better here against Johnson. I'm sure they will double him a lot, but these two have to be able to slow him down.

Falcons defensive end John Abraham vs. Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross -- Abraham is coming off a good game against Houston last week, getting a sack and several pressures. But Gross is a better player than Houston left tackle Duane Brown. If the Falcons are to contain Cam Newton, Abraham has to get pressure off the edge.

Falcons running back Michael Turner vs. Panthers run defense  -- Carolina has struggled all season to stop the run, and it will be even tougher this week since both starting tackles are out. Look for the Falcons to run Turner more this week to take advantage of that and keep Cam Newton off the field.

Cowboys tackles Doug Free and Tyron Smith vs. Giants ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck -- Free struggled last week against Arizona. Smith has played at a high level the past month. But this is a real test for those two. The Giants can get after the passer with these two and others. Pierre-Paul had a huge game last week against Green Bay, even if he didn't get a sack. The Cowboys tackles have to keep Tony Romo clean.

Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins vs. Texans center Chris Myers and right guard Mike Brisiel -- Atkins can be a disruptive force against the run and the pass. He has had a Pro Bowl-like season. Myers has been one of the top centers in the league and is very good at getting his face across defensive tackles. Brisiel is a tough guy who is just OK.  Atkins' quickness could be the thing the Bengals need to disrupt the Texans' zone-blocking schemes.

Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali vs. Jets right tackle Wayne Hunter -- At times this season, Hunter has been really bad. He has trouble with speed rushers. Hali has dominated bad tackles this season -- see Chargers game -- and he should be able to do some damage here. The Jets have to contain him if Mark Sanchez is to have any success throwing the football.

Category: NFL
Tags: NFL Week 14
Posted on: December 5, 2011 11:33 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 12:35 am

Chargers: Where has it been all season?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The San Diego Chargers fans had to be sick watching Monday night's 38-14 blowout of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

That's because the Chargers threw the ball welll. They ran the bal well. And quarterback Philip Rivers looked sharp, accurate and a lot like the Rivers we've seen the past four seasons. So where has it been all season?

It helped that Rivers and the San Diego offense were playing a beat-up Jacksonville team that was without its top three corners and offered little resistance on the night.

Even so, the production has to be the frustrating part for Chargers fans, who expected this team to be playing deep into the playoffs.

"Until the horn goes off January 1, we will play our hearts out," Rivers said. "It's been a rough six weeks. We finally put a complete game together."

San Diego snapped a six-game losing streak, and technically they are still alive in the playoff race, but not playing the way they did against the Jaguars this season will almost certainly cost coach Norv Turner his job if they don't rally to make the postseason.

Rivers sure didn't look a guy who had injury issues, which he has denied all season long. Rivers was 22 of 28 for 294 yards and three touchdowns. He threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to rookie Vincent Brown, a 35-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson and a 54-yard touchdown strike to Malcom Floyd.

Floyd missed November with a hip njury, a real hit to the offense. It was clear that the Chargers are a much better team when he and Jackson are on the field together.

"Anytime you have No. 83 (Jackson) and No. 80 (Floyd) on opposite sides of the field, it's hard to lean one way or another," Rivers said.

San Diego rallied to make the playoffs after a 4-8 start in 2008. It's possible they can get to 9-7 and hope they can pass both the Oakalnd Raiders and Denver Broncos, who are each 7-5.

"Hey, let's get to 9-7 and see what happens," Rivers said.

If they do that, by closing on a five-game winning streak, the question will be asked:

Where has it been all season?

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 5, 2011 5:08 pm

Monday Musings: Garrett blew it

I am a stickler for clock management. It is something that really annoys me most about coaches.

Why can't they get it right?

We saw Cowboys coach Jason Garrett botch the end of the Cowboys-Cardinals game. Garrett's Cowboys had a first down at the Arizona 31 with 21 seconds left and two timeouts. Garrett opted to let the clock run down, rather than trying to get the ball closer, and settled for a 49-yard attempt.


Get 5 or 10 more yards, call time out, and then go from there. That's not playing to win, 

Instead, he called time out and then as his field-goal team was readying to kick, with kicker Dan Bailey actually making the kick, he called time out again, seemingly icing his own kicker.

Garrett said he called the timeout because the play-clock was winding down. That I can understand.

What I can't understand is not trying to get more yards with two timeouts to make the kick easier. Last time I checked, a 49-yard field goal isn't a chip shot.

---I was saddened this weekend to hear about the death of Buffalo News sportswriter Allen Wilson. He was the gentle giant, a big man with a kind heart. We spent time out on the road together, and Wilson was always one of those guys who put up with my stupid sense of humor. He was a bear of a man who loved to laugh. I knew he was battling leukemia and exchanged e-mails with him last month, but he lost his battle Saturday night.  I will remember eating pizza in the snow late night with him in Philadelphia after hitting the town one night. I will remember taking full advantage of the bar at a suite at a Houston Rockets game with Allen and my wife and the good time we had. He didn't say a lot, but he sure could laugh. Allen Wilson, you will be missed.

---Did you ever notice how Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees always seem to know exactly when the pocket is breaking down and where they need to go with their throws when it does? That's what makes them so great. They have a feel for where everybody is on the field. I've watched them both live the past two weeks and studied their tapes. That's a special way to play quarterback. They are two greats in two great passing offenses.

---Ray Rice with 29 carries for 204 yards against the Browns is something the Ravens have to love to see. Remember all the bitching when they lost to the Jaguars on Monday night that Rice wasn't getting the football enough? One thing the Ravens did in their losses was get away from Rice. They can't do that and have success in the playoffs.

---I mentioned Ravens rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee as a guy to watch a couple of weeks ago. The front office loves him. Now we're seeing why. He had two sacks against the Browns Sunday. He is a young, explosive player to watch in the final month.

---Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour got ejected from the Raiders-Dolphins game for throwing a punch at Dolphins guard Richie Incognito. That was really dumb. But the reason I like Seymour is that he is always one to stand up for his mistakes. Most players would shy away from talking with the media after that incident, but Seymour was at his locker and apologized for his stupidity. Seymour has always been a class act with the media in my eyes.

---Bears running back Matt Forte had to see his potential millions going bad when he suffered a knee injury against the Chiefs. It looked bad. As it is, Forte only has an MCL injury and not an ACL. The latter could have prevented him from getting a long-term deal. As it is, he will miss 2-4 weeks. That's a big difference. But if I were Forte, I'd get a deal signed soon. That’s why you take a good deal when you can. Don't hold out for the great one. Most of the time, you never see that money anyway. Get a nice deal with good up-front money and go from there. One other thing: The scare is always why it's so tough to pay backs. The life expectancy is so short.

---For those talking about the Jaguars moving to Los Angeles, I hear there are provision in the sale contract that state that new owner Shahid Kahn will have to pay penalties in the first three years he owns the team if he wants to move it. Severe penalties. I also hear there are penalties in year four and five. Combine that with a tight lease agreement that will be tough to break, and you can pretty much count on the Jaguars being in Jacksonville for at least five years. After that, all bets are off.

---It's looking more and more like Raheem Morris is in trouble in Tampa. The Bucs have lost six consecutive games, and they look worse than they have in a long time. I know they played with a backup at quarterback in losing to the Panthers, but it's more than that. The Bucs have taken a major regress this season. They expected some, but not this much. That could cost Morris his job.

Category: NFL
Tags: NFL Week 13
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