From The Editor:

The Tennessee Titans, with nothing to lose on a season headed south in a hurry, plan to start rookie Zach Mettenberger at quarterback this Sunday, according to the Tennessean.

Jake Locker has been banged up and Charlie Whitehurst has played like Charlie Whitehurst in his absence, so the Titans will apparently turn to their sixth-round pick this week against the Texans. Mettenberger isn't a typical sixth-round pick, as character concerns and a torn ACL last season with LSU caused a draft drop. He looked just fine in the preseason, leading the NFL with 659 passing yards and looking very comfortable in the pocket.

(USA Today Sports Images)

The Tennessean said Mettenberger was not in the locker room after practice on Wednesday, Locker was off limits to reporters and Whitehurst was told to not talk to the media. The report said indications are Mettenberger was told of the decision on Tuesday night.

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The Titans have lost five of six, with the only win coming against Jacksonville and some terrible losses in that streak. Mettenberger is unlikely to instantly turn around the Titans' season. But it's a chance for the Titans to see what they have in him. It might also indicate that the team is preparing to move on without Locker, a former first-round pick who has rarely been healthy in his Titans career.

Mettenberger looked sharp in the preseason. We can see now if that was a product of facing third-string defenses that rarely blitz, or a sign of a new era starting in Tennessee.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 23, 2014, 3:07 am

Shutdown Corner Playoff Projection (Jay Busbee)
Prior to the season, we made the assumption that the wealth of quality teams in the NFC (and the lack of depth of such in the AFC) would mean that there would be some good teams that find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in

Through seven weeks of the season, that's holding up.

Last season, the Arizona Cardinals finished 10-6 and missed the postseason. It's possible this season that two teams with that record — or better — could be staying home in January. It's just the way the thing is set up.

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Consider that the NFC West has the Cardinals on top at 5-1, the 4-3 49ers a half game back and the 3-3 Seahawks two back. What's more interesting is that the Cardinals, unlike the other two teams, have yet to lose a game in the division.

With five games left to play between these three teams, those head-to-head matchups could tilt the division. And knock one of them from the wildcard race in the process. Right now, the 49ers, having lost once to the Cardinals, are at a slight disadvantage here.

With the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, two one-loss NFC East teams, and the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, two two-loss NFC North teams, and the contenders mentioned above, it's likely two teams could be in the 9-11 win range and miss out.

And it's likely that the NFC South winner could be hovering around the .500 mark and hosting a playoff game. 

Now here are some answers to your likely questions:

Why the Lions over the Packers?

Honestly, we're just going off the fact that the Lions already have that head-to-head win. Are the Packers hotter right now? Yes, but honestly that matters little, especially when you consider how many ebbs and flows there are in the course of the season, which is less than halway through, and that the Lions will get a healthy Calvin Johnson back sooner than later.

So you honestly think the Cowboys keep this up, eh?

For now, yeah, I'm buying in. Aren't we all kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop? Sure, it's natural. Something — be it a DeMarco Murray injury, a Tony Romo cold snap, a Dez Bryant freak-out, a defensive regression — could happen. Right now, the team is executing on a very high level that might be a bit unsustainable. There are two games left against the Eagles, but on the flip side, the Eagles' final stretch (at Dallas Cowboys, vs. Seattle Seahawks, vs. Dallas Cowboys, at Washington Redskins, at New York Giants) looks brutal.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 23, 2014, 1:18 am

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray celebrates a 31-21 win as he walks off the field following their NFL football game agains the New York Giants, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is having a historic season, the kind that we'll be talking about for years to come. He just set an NFL record with his seventh straight 100-yard game to begin a season. But of course, he wouldn't be totaling anywhere near those numbers without a strong offensive line. (Isn't that right, Atlanta?)

Anyway, Murray clearly recognizes the importance of a good O-line, because on Wednesday, he brought them all brand-spanking-new iMacs. Estimated retail value: $1,300 apiece. Not bad.

“Pretty nice,” Zack Martin said. “We just walked in and he gave them to us, so it was pretty cool.”

Here's a photo of the Cowboys locker room with said iMacs already in waiting:

DeMarco Murray surprised his offensive lineman with brand new 21.5 inch iMacs at their locker. valued at $1300 each

— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) October 22, 2014

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Dallas has nine offensive linemen on its active roster, so that was mighty generous of Mr. Murray. Of course, if he challenges the NFL all-time record, as he's on pace to do, he'll need to come up with something even more generous. Should've led with an iPhone, DeMarco.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: October 23, 2014, 12:59 am

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Even though his former college teammate and roommate has been cut by two NFL teams in a three-month span, New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson nevertheless believes that Michael Sam has a future in the league.

Richardson called Sam a teammate for one year at Missouri and the two players were also housemates in an off-campus house in 2012. Sam was a seventh-round pick of the St. Louis Rams and was cut in August after a relatively productive preseason. The Dallas Cowboys signed Sam to their practice squad but released him early this week. Sam is trying to be the first openly gay player to appear in an NFL regular-season game.

Richardson, last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year, thinks Sam can play in the NFL.

“I see it, he definitely can play in this league,” Richardson told Yahoo Sports. “He needs to find a team, find his niche.”

He hasn't talked to Sam since he was initially cut by the Rams (“He's talking to a lot more people higher than me. He's meeting the President to talk to him," Richardson said), but from what he saw in college, Richardson called Sam a player with a “high motor, plays to the whistle. When a play needed to be made, he for some reason always seemed to be making a play.”

When asked, he even thinks that Sam could potentially him the Jets defense. He would give Sam an endorsement if Jets general manager John Idzik ever asked.

“It's a 3-4 defense, a multiple-defense but I think he could. I've never seen him as a linebacker so I'm not sure there,” Richardson said.

“Most definitely I would recommend him. He's a great person, a great athlete. He plays like a Jet. So most definitely.”

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Kristian R. Dyer writes for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer

Author: Kristian Dyer
Posted: October 22, 2014, 11:47 pm

(USA Today Sports Images)You don't want to show up late on Bill Belichick's time, even if you're one of the NFL's best cornerbacks.

New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis showed up late to a meeting at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, so Belichick sent him home, the Boston Globe's Ben Volin reported, citing three league sources. Revis wasn't allowed to participate in practice or any meetings. The players were off Saturday to Monday after beating the Jets last Thursday night.

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The Globe's story said Revis has accepted responsibility for his mistake. The Globe wrote that Belichick didn't make a "big announcement" to the team about Revis being sent home, but a source said, “The message was definitely sent. The rules apply to everybody.”

Revis is in his first Patriots season. He hasn't been his usual great self (he grades out as the 32nd best cornerback in Pro Football Focus' rankings for this season) and getting sent home on Tuesday isn't a great sign. But Belichick seems to have gotten his point across, Revis was back at practice on Wednesday, and all seems to be back on track. And it's a good bet that someone who isn't of Revis' stature won't make the same mistake he did.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 22, 2014, 9:21 pm

One of the great things about last season’s Seattle Seahawks, other than the immense talent on the roster, was the apparent togetherness.

“We all we got, we all we need,” right? The players rallied around coach Pete Carroll’s high-energy ways. They won a Super Bowl.

The last time a defending Super Bowl champion won a playoff game was the 2005 season. One of the reasons for that drought is champions dealing with inevitable coverage, real or exaggerated, that the chemistry isn't the same. Maybe over jealousy issues creeping into the locker room. Last week, the Seahawks were a pretty normal 3-2 team – maybe they didn’t run the ball enough, and the defensive line wasn’t quite as deep as last season ... normal football things. That was before the Percy Harvin trade.

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Players were upset when Harvin was suddenly shipped to the Jets, Doug Baldwin said the trade affected them in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, there were stories of fights between Harvin and teammates, and a report of a near-fight between Harvin and quarterback Russell Wilson. And the latest explosive Seahawks story focuses on the latter issue, and it paints it not just as Harvin vs. Wilson, but part of the Seahawks’ locker room vs. their quarterback.

Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, a widely-respected national NFL reporter, compared the Harvin-Wilson split to the famous Donovan McNabb-Terrell Owens feud in Philadelphia, An unnamed Seahawks player told Freeman that “Harvin was an accelerant in a locker room that was quickly dividing between Wilson and anti-Wilson.”

Freeman said the issue with some players is they seem to think Wilson is “too close to the front office,” and that Wilson “doesn't always take the blame with teammates for mistakes he makes.” Freeman also said, based on several interviews with Seahawks players, “that some of the black players think Wilson isn't black enough," a strange claim that nonetheless paints the Seahawks situation as a little less close than we remember from last season's playoff run.

Are the players who don’t like Wilson jealous? If that's the case, it presumably won't get better after Wilson goes from his $662,000 base salary this year to a contract extension that might be about $100 million. Is the "anti-Wilson" group made up of some leaders of the team or is it just fringe guys? Do the players the Bleacher Report story cites represent a significant portion of the locker room or a tiny amount of disgruntled players? Is any of this real, or just perception from some in the locker room? Whatever is actually going on in the locker room, it’s another thing the Seahawks have to deal with during their title defense.

There was a report from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that an upset Marshawn Lynch didn’t want to get on the team bus Friday to fly to St. Louis after he heard about the Harvin trade, something Lynch’s agent Doug Hendrickson vehemently denied on Twitter. Whether that happened or not, Baldwin’s comments made it clear the trade was a shock (“There's obviously a lot of things that went on this week that affected the team in numerous ways,” Baldwin said after Sunday’s loss, via, and maybe there’s more discord among the Seahawks than we ever knew. Or maybe it’s the same old story: Team wins championship, players have start worrying about their own playing time or numbers or contract situation. That’s nothing new in sports, and it’s fairly normal too. Or maybe this controversy is really nothing at all to worry about and small things are under a huge microscope because of the Harvin trade and the unexpected 3-3 start.

If the Seahawks’ locker room is becoming split over Wilson, as Freeman’s story indicates, that probably wouldn't be a small thing. It’s always hard to figure out the absolute truth in matters like this, because only the Seahawks know for sure. But now the San Francisco 49ers aren’t the only NFC West team that has to answer a lot of questions about reports of dysfunction behind the scenes.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 22, 2014, 8:41 pm

If you've traveled around this great country of ours and thought, "Man, there are Cowboys and Patriots fans everywhere," guess what: you're absolutely right.

One of the more fascinating and borderline sinister aspects of social media is the way it reduces your most heartfelt dreams, desires, and fandoms to nothing more than data for a voracious Internet. But enough of privacy concerns. Let's check out where NFL fans reside!

Twitter has created an amazing heat map that tracks where NFL fans reside. You can see the entire map, you can zero in on a single team, or you can compare two different teams head-to-head. Certain teams (Cowboys, Patriots, Steelers) boast bandwagons that stretch from coast to coast. Others are, well, not so fortunate in the breadth of their fanbases.

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Digging deeper in the data, we can find some fascinating insights, like:

• Nobody much likes the Jaguars except in the immediate vicinity of Jacksonville and, for some reason, Holt County, Nebraska;

• The Cowboys have a broader fanbase than the Patriots, but fight the Steelers to almost a standstill;

• Denver pretty much owns the entire Mountain Time Zone, and Peyton Manning has probably thrown a touchdown to every single person residing within;

• The Dolphins boast a fairly robust fanbase in Montana, which makes zero sense except in the instance of wish fulfilment;

• The Giants absolutely own New York, but the farther you get from the stadium, the more popularity the Jets possess. Presumably because there's less likelihood of actually seeing the Jets play.

Have a go at the map yourself, and post your findings below. Enjoy.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: October 22, 2014, 7:03 pm

Robert Griffin III practiced on Wednesday for the Washington Redskins, but that doesn't mean he's going to play on Monday night. 

Griffin, who dislocated his ankle in Week 2, took some snaps in practice. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he was hopeful to make a final decision on who will start at quarterback against the Dallas Cowboys after practice on Thursday. It all sounds good for Griffin, but Gruden was cautious.

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Griffin will first need to get cleared by the team doctors for full contact. Then Gruden needs to make sure Griffin feels ready.

"He was probably ready to go four weeks ago, in his mind," Gruden said after practice on Wednesday, in a news conference streamed on the team's site.

Then, a big issue: Is Griffin ready to play effectively after more than a month off? Gruden had no answers for that. Gruden said he wants to see if Griffin can see the routes clearly, throw it accurately and on time, and move around in both directions things that are hard to determine without some more practice time. But so far it sounds promising.

"In the team period he did a nice job," Gruden said. "All the quarterbacks did. We’re going to take it day by day."

Gruden wanted to make a decision as fast as possible to give Griffin or Colt McCoy, who will start if Griffin can't go, enough time to prepare. Part of the decision is seeing how Griffin feels Thursday after practicing on Wednesday.

Dianna Marie Russini of the NBC affiliate said that multiple Redskins sources told her there was "no chance" Griffin would play against Dallas.

Now that the team has effectively given up on Kirk Cousins as its quarterback of the future, benching him for journeyman McCoy after Cousins' turnover-filled stint as Griffin's replacement, how Griffin plays the rest of the season is a huge deal for the franchise moving forward. The Redskins invested a lot into Griffin, and after a great rookie season he has taken a step back. Injuries have obviously played a huge factor in his regression. That might be why Gruden is being cautious about Griffin's return, and stated on Wednesday that he's willing to sit Griffin another week or two or even after the team's Week 10 bye if that's what it takes. The Redskins need Griffin to be healthy and ready to get a clearer picture of if he can be the team's franchise quarterback.

"I’m in no rush today to make any crazy decision," Gruden said.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 22, 2014, 5:09 pm

William Powell, during training camp this year when he was with the Texans (AP)The NFL games in London are done for a public-relations reason, to lay the groundwork for the league's desire to have a team there. For the teams who travel across the pond, they still have a football game and normal business to conduct.

That stinks for a guy like William Powell, who made the trip all the way to London just to find he'd been fired and needed to take a long, lonely trip home.

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Powell, a practice-squad running back with the Detroit Lions, went to London to help the team prepare for its game against the Atlanta Falcons. But the Lions have some injuries at tight end, and are getting healthy at safety, so safety Jerome Couplin was cut for tight end Kellen Davis. The Lions wanted to re-sign Couplin to their practice squad, so someone had to be cut off the practice squad to make room. 

So, cheerio, William Powell.

"It's a difficult thing to do, and you certainly would not want to do it -- a guy just gets here and, within 48 hours, he's heading back home," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "But that's kind of the nature of our business. The guys understand it, and I think, if you're up front and you tell them exactly why and what the reasons are and those kinds of things, it's a bitter pill to swallow, but they understand."

The average flight from Detroit to London is a little less than eight hours. The Lions traveled to London on Monday. Powell was cut on Wednesday, and it will be a long trip back. Maybe he'll have a job offer waiting for him when he lands.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 22, 2014, 3:29 pm

On the first play of the second quarter of Sunday's victory against the San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles pulled off an impressive 16-yard broken-field run for a touchdown. However, the play ended with a vicious hit from cornerback Brandon Flowers. While Flowers left the game with a concussion, Charles stayed in ... even though he might have been at real risk for a concussion.

“It definitely hurt,” Charles told ESPN Radio. “It’s like, I woke up ... I mean, like, a couple plays later I was seeing light bulbs, like, light bulbs around my eyes, and I was trying to catch them. But I was in the game so I was like, ‘Alright, let’s get the ball and run again.'"

Was Charles concussed? Perhaps, perhaps not. As LBS notes, "light bulbs around my eyes" are a definite concussion symptom. However, Charles managed to avoid getting tested by the independent doctor on the Chiefs' sideline, in part, Charles says, because he wanted to stay in the game. Charles was taken out of the Chiefs' playoff game last year against Indianapolis, and the Chiefs ultimately lost that game.

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"I didn’t have a concussion but it definitely was a hit that shocked me," Charles said. "But I don’t think I had to go through the concussion protocols and all that. I didn’t want to go through that again because of what happened in the playoffs. I was definitely fine, I think I came out pretty good." Charles ended up rushing 22 times for 95 yards and that one touchdown.

This, then, is the key issue in the ongoing battle to take concussions seriously: if the very players getting concussed don't always want to take the necessary steps to protect themselves, what can the NFL and teams do? Doctors can and do order players out of games, but in certain borderline circumstances, unless the player self-reports, there are situations in which a concussion test isn't ordered or presumed. Obviously, there are situations in which it's obvious a player was concussed, but on many plays, it falls to the player himself for initial self-diagnosis. And if the player understands the downside of coming out of the game, the long-term health concerns take a back seat to immediate short-term gains.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: October 22, 2014, 3:24 pm

New Redskins logo.As if the Washington Redskins weren't having enough problems fielding a halfway competitive team, the debate on whether the team's name is racist or not simply will not go away. The Redskins-as-racially-offensive theme has hit the American mainstream, and unsurprisingly, people who aren't hardcore NFL fans or longtime "Hail to the Redskins" fanatics aren't quite as enamored with the name.

Here's the thing, though: surveys have consistently shown that a majority — a declining majority, yes, but still a majority — of Americans support the continued use of the "Redskins" name. Team owner Daniel Snyder himself has said he will NEVER (he insists on using all-caps) change the name.

Fair enough, says comedian Hari Kondabolu. Keep the name, just change the context a wee bit. His suggestion? Change the logo from a stylized Native American to an extremely sunburned white dude. (It's like that hack joke about changing the mascot to a redskin potato, except funnier.) Then, you're not offending anybody, you're keeping the "Redskin" name intact, and hey, there are plenty of tough, noble, proud white guys who get sunburns. Here's his full explanation:

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Kondabolu has set up a Tumblr page for logo submissions, and he's already got a few gems.

Hey @Redskins, here is a more appropriate logo! #NewRedskinsLogo

— Steven Johns (@stevenjohns) October 20, 2014

For @harikondabolu's logo challenge. Apologies if someone beat me to it already! #NewRedskinsLogo #changethemascot

— TracyMontoya (@TracyMontoya) October 21, 2014

Now this is a logo worthy of the name @Redskins! @harikondabolu #HTTR #NewRedskinsLogo #ChangeTheName #NoMoreSlur

— Tragically, human (@Alhakofi) October 21, 2014

Yep, that's exactly what the NFL needs right now. You know, this might just work out OK after all.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: October 22, 2014, 2:55 pm

The Atlanta Falcons are flying where exactly? (Atlanta Falcons graphic)
The Atlanta Falcons have descended on London and have begun preparations for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions at Wembley Stadium. We think.

Based on a graphic the team sent out on social media, we're guessing that the Falcons' marketing folks did not book the team's itinerary over there. 

Check out the graphic above. Notice anything wrong? Where to begin ...

First of all, it touts the Falcons team and staff taking THREE PLANES across the pond. Only one problem: The graphic shows them taking two — Atlanta to Baltimore, and Baltimore to London. Unless they made an unplanned stop in the Faroe Islands, or something.

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The confusion is over the "to London" part; yes, their third plane apparently will go from London back directly to Atlanta, but goodness, it's not as if we can trust their logistical information at this point. Perhaps the team is taking three planes for its players, coaches and staff, but that would seem to be a bit excessive, no?

And another thing ... whoever Photoshopped this deal also clearly has no clue where London actually is. They've got them playing somewhere outside of Barcelona, or perhaps elsewhere in Basque country.

Enjoy the game this weekend, Falcons! Let's hope you make it back from wherever you're coming or going.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 22, 2014, 1:13 pm

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 16: Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens sits on the bench against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half of their preseason game at AT&T Stadium on August 16, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)In the wake of the outrage comes the lawyers. Pro Football Talk is reporting that former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has filed a grievance against the team for cutting him in September.

First, a refresher: In February, Rice got into an altercation with his then-fiancee (now wife) in an Atlantic City elevator, striking her and knocking her unconscious. He was suspended for two games by the NFL in July; two months later, when tape of the actual striking surfaced, Rice was suspended indefinitely by the league and cut by the Ravens.

Now, Rice is apparently protesting the Ravens' decision to cut him, on the basis that the NFL's collective bargaining agreement only permits for one punishment per infraction. This is not an insignifcant issue; while this puts the NFL Players' Association in the position of having to defend someone whose conduct was reprehensible, the larger point stands. If the NFL and teams can continue to double-dip in terms of punishment based on this precedent, the system is open to abuse.

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The NFL is already potentially close to reinstating Rice; his attorneys have contended that since commissioner Roger Goodell knew of the existence of the incriminating videotape, Rice should not be doubly punished for the same offense just because of public outrage. The hearing against the NFL is scheduled for Nov. 5 and 6. If successful in his grievances, Rice would be entitled to $3.52 million from the Ravens.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: October 22, 2014, 11:28 am

The Cincinnati Bengals are in a bit of a free fall, having lost two of three games (and one tie), and there seems to be a connection with wide receiver A.J. Green having missed the past two contests.

They didn't seem to miss him in a 37-37 tie against the Carolina Panthers, but the Bengals were blanked on Sunday, 27-0, against the Indianapolis Colts, as they went three-and-out on their first eight possessions and 10 times total in the pathetic offensive showing.

Green's toe injury has kept him out, and he's questionable for Sunday's key matchup against the first-place Baltimore Ravens.

Green spoke with Yahoo Sports' Evan Doherty about the status of his toe.

"I feel good," Green said. "It definitely feels better, man, but it still up in the air if I can go on Sunday. But we'll see."

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Green said that he has pain pushing off on the toe and has had trouble getting in and out of his breaks. The problem, too, is that it has been a case of two steps forward and one back in his rehab.

"That's the frustrating part," he said. "One day it feels good and the next day I can't even walk on it. I think that's the biggest thing I am going to have to deal with: managing it throughout the season."

Green said he has been bothered by his team's recent struggles — and there has been nothing he can do about it.

"It's tough," he said. "It's tough because you see us struggle a little bit last week, and I have to watch. Just sitting there and you not being able to do anything to help your team out is very hard."

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 21, 2014, 9:22 pm

The New England Patriots needed to add linebacker depth and hope that a former second-round pick is a temporary solution.

The Tennessee Titans will trade linebacker Akeem Ayers to New England, pending a physical, according to the Tennessean's Jim Wyatt.

Been told #Titans are trading LB Akeem Ayers to the #Patriots. The only thing that would prevent is a failed physical

— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) October 21, 2014

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Per CBS's Jason LaCanfora, the price tag wasn't steep: a swap of late draft picks next year.

So, actually the Pats just trade a 6th round pick to the Titans for Ayers and a 7th round pick. He hadn't been playing. Pats need LB help

— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) October 21, 2014

Ayers had played only 10 snaps this season and was viewed as a poor fit in the Titans' 3-4 system. In addition, Ayers is coming off two knee surgeries (one on each leg) this offseason. Last week, Ayers was a healthy scratch against the Washington Redskins.

The Patriots lost Jerod Mayo for the season after he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in Week 6. Ayers, 25, primarily played on the strong side in the Titans' 4-3 defense from 2011 to 2013, starting 44 of the 48 games he played. He has totaled 232 tackles, nine sacks (six in 2012), 14 passes defended, two interceptions and two forced fumbled in his career. 

Ayers struggled with his demotion and told Wyatt recently that he was itching for a chance to prove himself again.

He might have just received his chance.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 21, 2014, 8:50 pm

The Dallas Cowboys might be one of the best feel-good stories of the NFL so far this season, but they will not be a part of one involving defensive end Michael Sam.

Sam, who is aiming to be the first openly gay player to appear in an NFL regular-season game, was waived from the team's practice squad on Tuesday, per various reports.

Cowboys have released DE Michael Sam from their practice squad.

— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) October 21, 2014

Sam signed with the Cowboys on Sept. 3 after the St. Louis Rams, the team that drafted Sam in the seventh round in May, cut him following the preseason. The Cowboys even had sold Sam's jerseys in its pro shop as he tried to impress the team enough to promote him to the active roster.

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That never happened. Now Sam, who spent the past seven weeks on the Cowboys' practice squad, is a free agent and will be joining his third team in three months if he lands with another club.

The hubbub over Sam's sexuality — and the perceived belief that it has roadblocked his path to the NFL — has quieted since May, when he slid in the draft, and then again in August, when the Rams cut him following a three-sack preseason effort.

The fact that the Cowboys cut him more likely is related to Sam's ability as a football player and the team's desire to add more linebacker and special-teams depth with Troy Davis, who worked out with the Cowboys on Monday and is expected to take Sam's spot on the practice squad.

Meanwhile, Sam's journey goes on, and it's difficult to project where or when he'll land.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 21, 2014, 7:49 pm

(AP)One of the overlooked elements of Peyton Manning’s game is his accuracy.

Manning rarely misses. I’m not saying he never does because that’s not true, but it’s rare you watch him and say, "Wow, he’s missing guys in this game." You’re almost surprised when he throws an incompletion.

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As Manning broke the NFL career touchdown record in the Denver Broncos' victory against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, he was spot on, especially on his two touchdown passes to Demaryius Thomas.

The record-tying score to Wes Welker wasn’t a high degree of difficulty because the design of the play was so good. Let's look at that one first.

The Broncos faked a bubble screen to Thomas, and Manning pump faked it to him, which brought safety Eric Reid up. That allowed Welker to run by Reid on a fade route to the sideline. That’s pitch and catch for Manning.

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The record-breaking score was a nice throw. The 49ers doubled both slot receivers, Welker and Emmanuel Sanders, in Denver’s empty set. 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock was matched up on Thomas on the outside. It was outstanding timing and anticipation, and, just as important, it was great ball placement on the throw. It could be put in only one spot. And Manning doesn’t miss those throws.

The 40-yard touchdown to Thomas later was a great, precision throw, and a good job by Manning to recognize Thomas had a shot at a big play. Single-high safety Antoine Bethea was on the opposite hash from Thomas and was slow to react to his deep middle responsibility – also, range is not Bethea's strength.

Thomas was matched against Perrish Cox, and Thomas got inside and on top of Cox. But it wasn’t like he was wide open. It was just a great throw from Manning to get it to him.

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It was a great performance by Manning. How do you stop him?

One unusual thing I think about Manning is that while you want to speed up almost every quarterback, you need to actually slow Manning down. His decisiveness is ridiculous. I don’t think he ever pauses. More than any other quarterback I can recall, the ball is out fast and decisively and 99 percent of the time it’s to the right receiver at the right time. When he’s playing fast, he’s at his best.

When the New york Jets slowed him down a few times two weeks ago, you’re surprised. The Jets had a coverage-based scheme, often dropping eight into coverage and rushing three. They’d line up a linebacker and a cornerback over a receiver to say, you can’t throw it here; you have to throw it somewhere else, and we’ll try to take that away too.

Or, sometimes teams get quick pressure on Manning with four rushers. That’s what happened in the Super Bowl last season against the Seattle Seahawks. Many teams try to rush Manning with four because he’s outstanding against the blitz and coaches believe if you blitz him you’re wasting a defender because that rusher won't get there anyway. So sometimes teams like the Seahawks, or to a lesser scale the Jets, affect Manning.

It’s not the first time any of these things have been tried. Strategies have worked and then you think there’s a blueprint ... like they’re the only teams to try those strategies. Other teams try. It’s just that most times, like Sunday night against the 49ers, Manning beats you anyway.

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

Author: Greg Cosell
Posted: October 21, 2014, 7:37 pm

Welcome to the latest Shutdown Corner podcast! On today's piping-hot episode, we have:

• The return of our host Kevin Kaduk from new fatherhood-related absence

• A discussion of the most disappointing teams in the NFL (Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans ... heads up.)

• Why Peyton Manning is the best quarterback ever, and if you don't agree, you're insane

• A lightning-fast spin through all the big stories of the week so far.

All this and more as part of the Shutdown Corner Podcast. Listen below, and while you're listening ...

Subscribe via iTunes right here.

Non-iTunes subscription link here.

Leave us a nice review here.

The Shutdown Corner podcast is the product of Kevin Kaduk (@KevinKaduk), Frank Schwab (@YahooSchwab) and Jay Busbee (@JayBusbee). New episodes every Tuesday and Friday, with bonus episodes when you least expect it. Enjoy!

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: October 21, 2014, 6:06 pm

Peyton Manning's record setting touchdown ball traveled to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Monday, not via a special security guard or in a decorative box. It went to Canton in a plastic bag, underneath an airplane seat.

And it flew coach.

That's right: The ball that was thrown by the Denver Broncos quarterback to set the all-time mark for most touchdown passes in a career didn't receive first-class treatment. Upon arrival at the Hall of Fame, however, it will have far more prestigious accommodations.

The ball, which is now safely at the Hall of Fame and already on display, was secured via a long and rather detailed process to ensure that ensured the institution of getting the right piece of history. After Manning threw touchdown pass No. 509, surpassing Brett Favre's former all-time mark, the plan was for the record-setting ball to get into the hands of the Broncos equipment manager who would then get it to Joe Horrigan, the vice president of communications and exhibits for the Hall.

Instead, several Broncos teammates staged a game of keep-away with the record-setting ball on the field, making a smiling and laughing Manning chase the ball around.

“The idea was that Peyton would bring it over to the sideline, the equipment man would retrieve it, then bring it to me,” Horrigan told Shutdown Corner. “When the record was broken, a circle of his teammates surrounded him then the cameras. Then they played 'pickle in the middle,' and when the ball was in the air, it made my heart palpitate.”

In conjunction with the Broncos, and with the full backing of Manning as well, Horrigan was on the Broncos sideline from the start of the game until the record-setting touchdown was thrown in the second quarter. He stayed near the end zone so he'd be in prime position to nab the ball when Manning finally connected on No. 509.

Joe Horrigan with No. 509 (Eric Lars Bakke/Denver Broncos)

Instead of the ball going straight from wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to the equipment manager and then to Horrigan, it instead made its way around the field and finally ended up on the Broncos bench as Manning embraced his teammates. From there the equipment manager labeled it quickly with a silver sharpie and then handed it off to Horrigan.

The scribble on the ball was a simple 'RB' — for 'Record Ball.' Short, concise and then into Horrigan's hands.

From there, Horrigan put it in a Hall of Fame plastic bag for safe keeping. It was only out of his possession, he said, for Manning to pose for photos after the game in the Broncos locker room. Horrigan took a flight on Monday morning to get the ball to the Hall by that afternoon.

During his Monday morning flight from Denver to Charlotte, and then finally to Akron, Ohio, Horrigan kept the ball under his seat for sake keeping. He didn't even eat or drink on the flights so as to safeguard the ball from possible spills or damage.

“I'll just be reading a book,” Horrigan said before boarding the flight.

In all likelihood, the person sitting next to him didn't have any idea just what was going on with Horrigan's carry-on luggage, tucked underneath his seat.

“He or she won't know,” Horrigan said. “They will have no idea what's underneath my seat.”

Horrigan made it through airport security without anyone knowing or wondering why he was carrying a football in a plastic bag as his carry-on.

On Tuesday morning, Keith Rossell of Zionsville, Indiana. along with his twin sons, Owen and Elliott, and his father, Ted, were selected to place the ball officially on display. The boys were on fall break and were the first people in line at the Hall in the morning, earning them a chance to officially give the ball a new home.

Perhaps in this case, it is the destination — and not the journey — that matters most.

Keith and Owen Rossell of Zionsville, Ind., handling the record-setting ball (Pro Football Hall of Fame)

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Kristian R. Dyer writes for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer

Author: Kristian Dyer
Posted: October 21, 2014, 6:01 pm

The St. Louis Rams employed all manner of trickeration to fake out the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Apparently, they're so good at this deception that they even fool their own employees.

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 19: Austin Davis #9 of the St. Louis Rams looks to pass against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter at the Edward Jones Dome on October 19, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Rams beat the Seahawks 28-26.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)Appearing on "The Dan Patrick Show" on Monday, quarterback Austin Davis noted that he still gets asked for ID, even after quarterbacking the team through most of their games this season.

"The guy at the front desk at the facility here actually asked who I was the other day," Davis said. "It was pretty good."

When asked why he doesn't just wear his jersey around, Davis answered earnestly, "I can't do that. It's too big without my pads on."

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Davis also noted that he had no idea that the infamous fake punt was coming; his back had been turned at the time and then he realized he would be heading back into the game. All part of the deception, apparently.

Davis has played competently enough for the Rams, throwing nine TDs against four interceptions. Even though St. Louis has pretty much zero hope in the NFC West, chances are Davis won't go unrecognized that much longer.

[Via Larry Brown Sports]

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: October 21, 2014, 4:39 pm

The Houston Texans already have surpassed their 2013 win total. They've been a competitive 3-4 club, with three of the four losses coming by one score.

They've done so with No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney having missed six straight games and more than half of the one game he did appear in. The Texans have forced 15 turnovers this season, which — incredibly — already has surpassed the 2013 total of 11.

Things, you could say, are slightly brighter in Houston than they were a year ago when the team opened with two straight victories and then collapsed for 14 straight losses.

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But we all know there's still a lot missing.

It's easy to pin the Texans' limitations on one man. Ryan Fitzpatrick, the unlikely placeholder at quarterback, has been no different than most observers have expected him to be based on his itinerant track record: effective enough for him to keep a job but maddeningly ineffective for a team that wants to win games via the turnover battle, clock management and game massaging.

Right now, Fitzpatrick is a back cracker. He's the chiropractor who gives you temporary relief until you get up out of the office and limp home in tears, with more nerve pain than you walked in with.

Five of Fitzpatrick's seven interceptions have come from inside the Texans' own 20-yard line. Those picks have led to 24 points for the opponents. Those points shouldn't be on the defense.

He also hasn't been effective at the ends of halves. In the final two minutes of first and second halves of games, Fitzpatrick has thrown two picks and taken three sacks on only 27 dropbacks.

Fitting both of those categories Monday night was the inexcusable interception in traffic that ended up in the hands of the Steelers' Brett Keisel. That pick fueled the Steelers' incredible end-of-half flurry that won them the game.

It has been the same story most games. Once the opponent realizes that Arian Foster is really the guy they need to stop, Fitzpatrick can sling a few balls, get Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins involved, but the inevitable game-tilting mistake is just around the corner.

That's the thing: Fitzpatrick's stats charm casual observers into the whole he's not that awful routine, as he has more passing yards (on fewer attempts) than Cam Newton; more yards per attempt than Aaron Rodgers; a better completion percentage than Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and a host of other starting quarterbacks.

But the mistakes and limitations are what undercut most of what he does. They are what hold this team back from taking the proverbial next step offensively. Every time the TV broadcast shows Bill O'Brien looking down at his Denny's menu of play calls, you almost think he's saying to himself, Hmm, what can't I call here? 

The Texans certainly know he's not the future, but is Fitzpatrick even the present? We're not aiming to pick on the hirsute Harvardian here, but the Texans had to know what they were getting when they signed him, and that's on O'Brien and GM Rick Smith. What you've seen from Fitz-pick-trick this season is exactly what he has done through his career, now with his fifth NFL team since 2006, having been released by the previous four.

There have been calls to the bullpen for Ryan Mallett, who joined the team via trade just before the start of training camp, or for Tom Savage, who barely averaged five yards an attempt in the preseason and has yet to attempt a regular-season pass.

Those calls are misaligned. Oh, sure, finding out if Mallett (he of the four career regular-season attempts himself) or Savage can play might not be a bad idea at some point. But it is both haunting and telling that Fitzpatrick likely remains the Texans' best chance right now. A win next week at Tennessee puts them at 4-4 and, at least according to logic, in the race for a playoff spot.

But we all know that's not likely to happen. This Texans team has other limitations certainly, and even a major upgrade at quarterback isn't going to magically whisk those away. But it certainly would put the defense in fewer precarious positions and help take advantage of the limited but potent offensive assets the team does have.

That solution won't come until 2015, and the options might not be plentiful to be honest.

Potential free agent Brian Hoyer leads a shockingly mediocre crop at the position, and his connection to O'Brien from their New England days will lead to a lot of speculation of a match in Houston should the Cleveland Browns opt to crank up the Johnny Football machine next season.

But the draft might not be the perfect salve, either. Maybe O'Brien would see something in Michigan State's Connor Cook if he declares, but Cook's inconsistencies have a startlingly Fitzpatrick-esque look to them, and the pricetag still certainly could cost them a first-round selection. Later options that might intrigue the team include East Carolina's Shane Carden and local product Bryce Petty from Baylor, but neither are likely first-year saviors either.

What then? Could the Texans — GULP — be forced to go another season with Fitzpatrick (or Mallett or Savage, equal parts gulp themselves) as the opening act for a yet-to-be-named headliner? If so, the reviews for the O'Brien Variety Show might get a bit ugly.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 21, 2014, 3:23 pm

Troy Polamalu has been a great player in the NFL. Few players are more synonymous with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But, Troy, we beg of you: Can the leap.

As the Steelers were protecting a two-touchdown lead in the final two minutes of Monday night's victory,  the Houston Texans had driven to the Steelers' 1-yard line on a DeAndre Hopkins 16-yard catch. As Hopkins was unable to score and the Texans were without timeouts, they were scrambling a bit, hoping to get up to the line and run a play to get into the end zone with as little time elapsed on the clock as possible.

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Instead, Polamalu gave them a free timeout, essentially. He tried to time the snap and jump over the line — yeah, you've seen him do it before countless times — and short-circuit the play. We would have loved to hear Bob Uecker call this game ... juuuuuuust a bit offsides, maybe.

It was a dumb play. The Texans were frazzled. Maybe they would have spiked the ball to stop the clock and reset themselves. But that would have cost them a down in doing so. Polamalu did them a favor instead by jumping offsides and not only moving the ball a tad closer to the line of scrimmage, but saving that down and allowing the Texans to catch their collective breaths and get the proper play call in.

The Texans scored on the next play because of course they did. The break in the action from the penalty even allowed them to trot out J.J. Watt on the play as an eligible receiver, which might have drawn the Steelers' attention as Arian Foster caught the 1-yard score to make it a one-score game with 95 seconds remaining.

All for naught you say? Then you didn't watch the ensuing onsides kick — at least six different players touched the ball, and the Texans more than had their chances of recovering it. For crying out loud, for some reason the Steelers use noted stone-fingered receiver Darius Heyward-Bey on their "hands" team! That right there should have given the Texans the ball, maybe automatically.

So we can point to Polamalu's leap as an ill-timed, ill-fated decision and a maneuver he should consider retiring. Oh yes, he has pulled it off several times with incredible effect — he pulled it off in the epic body-bag game win over the Baltimore Ravens in the 2008 AFC championship game and later used it again in 2010 famously against the Tennessee Titans for a sack on Kerry Collins.

Those plays were the stuff of Steelers lore. But it's time to retire Polamalu's signature move. It's no longer effective and hasn't been for the past few seasons. He's not the same player anymore, and the move could have cost his team the lead Monday night.

May it rest in glorious peace from here on out.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 21, 2014, 2:04 pm

There are many stats that sum up how miserable the Oakland Raiders' 0-6 start has been, but we have something better than a statistic for that.

Darnell Dockett.

The injured Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman was at his trash-talking finest on Sunday, poking fun at Raiders fans as the Cards sealed up their 24-13 win.

Cardinals DE Darnell Dockett Trolls Raiders Fans With Sign On Whiteboard

— (@Post_Game) October 21, 2014

If you can't see it well, it's a hand-written message from Dockett to the fans reminding them that the Raiders are 0-6, and the worst team in the NFL. Sadly, both are indisputable facts at this point.

Even worse for the Raiders, they just got past what is the relatively easy part of their schedule. And while it's ridiculously early under most circumstances to pose the question, it needs to be asked: Is 0-16 possible for the Raiders?

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Raiders fans are thinking that Cleveland might be a possible win, but this is a Browns team that will be playing at home and refocused after losing to the Jaguars. The Browns are a seven-point favorite, so a Raiders win can't be considered likely. But if the Raiders don't win this week, then when?

Here's what's coming for the Raiders, who have the toughest schedule I've ever seen:

Week 9: at Seattle
Week 10: vs. Denver
Week 11: at San Diego
Week 12: vs. Kansas City
Week 13: at St. Louis
Week 14: vs. San Francisco
Week 15: at Kansas City
Week 16: vs. Buffalo
Week 17: at Denver

Oh my. Where's the win in there? The Raiders will be underdogs in every game from here on out, and probably by at least a touchdown in almost every one of those games. The home game against Buffalo might be less than a touchdown. Maybe the St. Louis game will be a tick under a touchdown. But that's about it.

Odds are the Raiders get a win somewhere. It's mathematically tough for an NFL team to go 16 games without winning at least once, even if they're underdogs in all 16. And this team isn't without any talent you'd hope all these old vets general manager Reggie McKenzie signed this offseason could get at least one win but it still will be scary until they post that first win.

There's only one winless team remaining in the NFL. That's a pretty lonely place to be. And based on the schedule, it's possible the Raiders will be there for a while.

Here are the post-Week 7 power rankings:

32. Oakland Raiders (0-6, Last Week: 31)
The performance against the Chargers two weeks ago has to give them hope that a win is on the way.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5, LW: 30)
Depending on what kind of draft pick the Buccaneers could get, it would make sense to trade Vincent Jackson. Seattle should be first in line if Tampa Bay is serious about dealing him.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6, LW: 32)
There's a huge difference between zero and one win.

29. Tennessee Titans (2-5, LW: 28)
They lost to a bad team. A bad team with Colt McCoy at quarterback.

28. Washington Redskins (2-5, LW: 29)
Jay Gruden didn't come out and say it, but by tabbing McCoy to start next week if Robert Griffin III isn't ready, he effectively said the team no longer thinks Kirk Cousins can be an effective NFL starting quarterback. You wouldn't bench him for McCoy if you did. Maybe Cousins gets a chance to change that perception, but that's where we are now.

27. Atlanta Falcons (2-5, LW: 25)
Julio Jones has 311 yards and no touchdowns in Atlanta's last four games. The Falcons are 0-4 in their last four games. These two sentences are closely related.

26. New York Jets (1-6, LW: 26)
Here's one problem with the Percy Harvin trade: Are the Jets really going to get a good look at him before deciding if he's worth that $10.5 million base salary next season? It's really tough to learn an offense when you join a team right before Week 8 of the regular season.

25. Minnesota Vikings (2-5, LW: 24)
A nice bright spot: Rookie Jerick McKinnon had 103 rushing yards against a good defense. That's not going to make them forget losing a game with one second left, but it was nice.

24. New York Giants (3-4, LW: 23)
Eli Manning played well. They ran the ball well enough. The defense turned a big Tony Romo interception into a short touchdown. And they still lost by 10. That can't feel too comforting.

23. St. Louis Rams (2-4, LW: 27)
I can't say this enough: Calling a fake punt on your own 18-yard line to ice a win over the defending champs is an all-time great call. It was a gamble but not reckless, because it's pretty clear the Rams knew based on Seattle's punt return scheme that they'd have that pass wide open.

22. Houston Texans (3-4, LW: 20)
They really had Monday night's game under control, then it got away in such a hurry. And despite a terrible second quarter they lost by just a touchdown. They can't afford to drop games like that.

21. New Orleans Saints (2-4, LW: 19)
That would have been an enormous win, getting a victory at Detroit with virtually nothing from injured tight end Jimmy Graham. But now it's just a 2-4 hole they're in.

20. Chicago Bears (3-4, LW: 16)
The Bears' offensive rankings: 17th in yards per game, 17th in yards per play, 18th in points scored. With all those weapons to work with, that's hard to comprehend.

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3, LW: 21)
For about 27 minutes of the first half against Texans, it looked like their season was in an irreversible slide. Maybe that turnover and scoring flurry will spark something.

(USA Today Sports Images)18. Cleveland Browns (3-3, LW: 15)
There are reports the Browns briefly thought about benching Brian Hoyer for Johnny Manziel as Hoyer struggled on Sunday. There's a simple reason they didn't do it: Once you do that, the controversy begins again. Coach Mike Pettine doesn't want that now.

17. Miami Dolphins (3-3, LW: 22)
Ryan Tannehill completed his first 14 passes, and 18 of his first 19, against the Bears. It says a lot about the Bears' defense, but it shows again that there's some talent there with Tannehill.

16. Carolina Panthers (3-3-1, LW: 14)
Greg Hardy is good, but not this good. The defense has fallen apart without him.

15. Buffalo Bills (4-3, LW: 18)
The Bills gave up a fourth-round pick for Bryce Brown, just to have him be inactive for seven weeks. With Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller hurt, we'll get to see if the Bills' investment was actually worth anything.

14. San Francisco 49ers (4-3, LW: 10)
Injuries are piling up. They'd have lost Sunday night at Denver anyway, but missing a ton of really good players didn't help. But what will their record be when guys start to come back?

13. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1, LW: 6)
It's fine to lose. It's even fine to go three games without a win. It's not fine to get outgained in a NFL game 506-135, as Cincinnati did on Sunday. That's one of the worst performances you'll see in the NFL all season. Embarrassing.

12. Kansas City Chiefs (3-3, LW: 17)
Since Week 1's absolutely baffling loss to Tennessee, the Chiefs are 3-2 with close road losses at Denver and San Francisco. This is a pretty good team (with one stupefying loss).

11. Detroit Lions (5-2, LW: 13)
Remember, they're doing all this with just 348 yards and two touchdowns from the great Calvin Johnson. He'll be healthy soon.

10. Baltimore Ravens (5-2, LW: 12)
It's always funny when a player like Justin Forsett – 29 years old, seventh season, fifth NFL team, signed to a one-year $730,000 contract this offseason – produces like he never has before. Forsett is fourth in the NFL with 503 rushing yards, and nobody saw that coming. Did everyone else just miss on him for so many years?

9. New England Patriots (5-2, LW: 11)
The lack of a run defense without Jerod Mayo last week was a little concerning. But give Bill Belichick more than three days of preparation, which is all he had for the Jets, and he'll figure something out.

8. Seattle Seahawks (3-3, LW: 5)
Russell Wilson was amazing at St. Louis, becoming the first player in NFL history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in a game. And Seattle still lost. That's not good. Yet, nobody should be writing them off, so don't complain they're not further down in the rankings. They'll be fine.

7. Arizona Cardinals (5-1, LW: 8)
Don't look now, but the Cardinals have two fewer losses than anyone else in the NFC West.

6. San Diego Chargers (5-2, LW: 2)
I'm just going to assume they were looking ahead to Thursday's big showdown against the Broncos. Otherwise, combine the Chiefs loss with the near-miss against the Raiders, and it's a bit worrisome.

5. Green Bay Packers (5-2, LW: 9)
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Aaron Rodgers is "much better" than he was during his unbelievable 2011 season, via Fox Sports Wisconsin. High praise since Rodgers' 2011 season is arguably the best ever. But there's no doubt Rodgers is playing at that MVP level again. The Packers were very, very impressive on Sunday.

4. Indianapolis Colts (5-2, LW: 7)
Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw played well. The defense was dominant. We all know Andrew Luck is legit. If the rest is clicking like it was Sunday, they can make the Super Bowl. The schedule sets up for them to be a top-two seed in the AFC.

3. Dallas Cowboys (6-1, LW: 4)
The win over the Giants is more impressive than it looks on the surface. If there was ever a letdown spot for Dallas, it was after winning at Seattle and hearing all week how great they were. And they still won by 10.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (5-1, LW: 3)
The Cowboys' story is better, but I'd still pick the Eagles right now to win the East. Dallas is just overshadowing them.

1. Denver Broncos (5-1, LW: 1)
The best team in football right now, easily.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 21, 2014, 4:36 am

Before the Pittsburgh Steelers reversed their fortunes in the game, linebacker Lawrence Timmons had what the competitive-eating-circuit folks call a reversal of fortune.

Watch as Timmons, with his Steelers down 10-zip, barfs — on himself, on the field — coming off to the sidelines.

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Well, watch, that is, if you don't get queasy watching such things. And let's note: We're not poking fun at Timmons. Vomiting during a football game is a scary matter because it could be indicative of a possible concussion.

Timmons was all over the place Monday night. He made three straight tackles and four tackles in the five plays right before he came off the field while getting sick. All told, Timmons finished with a game-high 12 tackles, a sack and two tackles for losses.

And the Steelers needed every one of them in a 30-23 win in which they came back from 13 points down. 

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 21, 2014, 4:05 am

The Pittsburgh Steelers overcame a dreary start to wake up right before halftime.

After the Houston Texans took a 13-0 lead and dominated the majority of the first half, the Steelers scored 24 points in the final three-plus minutes of the second quarter — including three TDs in 73 seconds — in a 30-23 victory.

According to NFL Network, the Steelers’ 24 points in that short a span was the most in the NFL since 2002. The last time an NFL team scored three touchdowns in shorter time was the New England Patriotsin a 52-second span during the infamous “Buttfumble” game against the New York Jets in 2012.

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The Steelers raised their record to 4-3 while the Texans fell to 3-4. The Steelers have not lost a Monday night home game since Bubby Brister was quarterback, back in 1991.

The Texans looked strong early — something they hadn’t done a lot of coming into the game. After holding the Steelers on the first defensive series before they crossed midfield, the Texans embarked on a 10-play, 94-yard drive that beautifully mixed zone runs and a few timing passes.

Arian Foster ripped off a 33-yard cutback run that showed the age and lack of speed on the Steelers’ defense, and rookie back Alfred Blue capped the drive with a sneaky little screen for the touchdown from 11 yards out that seemed to surprise the Steelers.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got the ball back and had the Steelers on the move the following drive, but Whitney Mercilus — who really has come on lately — made two big plays to stunt the drive. First, he tagged Steelers running back LeVeon Bell in the backfield for a two-yard loss then took down Roethlisberger on a strip sack, which was recovered by (of course) J.J. Watt.

The Texans converted that into a nine-play drive, but quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick couldn’t connect with Foster on a wheel route, and they settled on a Randy Bullock field goal for a 10-0 lead.

The Steelers’ offense continued to look stagnant and unimaginative, and Heinz Field fans started to boo after they went three-and-out on the first possession of the second quarter.

After a Fitzpatrick scramble on third down and a fourth-and-inches conversion on a Foster run for 11 yards, the Texans stalled on the edge of the Steelers’ red zone and once more turned to Bullock. His 38-yard field goal made it 13-0 Texans.

That’s when the game turned on its head.

After Watt jumped offsides on 3rd-and-15, Roethlisberger hit Bell on an angle route — catching Brian Cushing flat-footed — who ran 43 yards to flip the field. But Mercilus once again sacked Roethlisberger, and the Steelers had to settle for a 44-yard Shaun Suisham field goal.

The Steelers defense finally stepped up with a three-and-out (and a pass rush!), giving the ball back to their offense just inside the two-minute warning. Roethlisberger dumped it to Bell on a screen for 28 yards and then found rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant for his first NFL reception in his first NFL game — a 35-yard touchdown grab, burning a fellow rookie in Texans corner Andre Hal to quickly cut the Houston lead to 13-10.

Bell would finish the game with 145 yards from scrimmage, including 88 receiving.

The Texans’ implosion continued. After Danieal Manning bobbled the ensuing kickoff and only got out to the 5-yard line. Then Foster fumbled the ball on third down, which was reviewed on replay, and the Steelers took over at the Houston 3.

That’s when embattled Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley pulled out the dumbest/smartest/most amazing play call ever.

The Steelers ran a toss sweep reverse pass — with Roethlisberger blocking on Mercilus — with the lefthanded Antonio Brown throwing a touchdown pass to Lance Moore for a 17-13 Steelers lead.

Fitzpatrick then did the unimaginable (for most quarterbacks): He gave it right back to the Steelers. His off-balance pass with pressure closing in was intercepted by Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel after the ball deflected off a Texans offensive lineman’s helmet.

Two plays later, Roethlisberger hit a wide-open Bell for a touchdown — and a stunning 24-13 lead — after the Texans appeared to blow a defensive assignment. Safety D.J. Swearinger ran out late in coverage of Bell and then yelled at his teammates in disgust.

Twenty-one Steelers points on drives lasting 19, seven and 44 seconds before the end of the half — incredible.

The Steelers could have stepped on the Texans’ necks to start the second half. They had a fourth down and less than a yard to go from the Houston 40-yard line, but head coach Mike Tomlin opted to punt instead.

The Texans, meanwhile, at least were aggressive when they had the chance. They converted a fake punt from their own 40 and moved into Pittsburgh territory but were stopped on third down on their second possession of the second half. Third-down failures were a story all game for the Texans.

But they did make it interesting. After Andre Johnson caught a mere one pass for 4 yards in the first three quarters, Johnson dominated the Texans’ first possession of the fourth quarter, catching two passes for 45 yards and drawing a pass interference. But they bogged down in the red zone and had to settle for a Bulluck 31-yarder to make it 24-16, Steelers with just under 12 minutes left.

The Steelers then took over. Brown caught an amazing diving pass for 30 yards on the sideline, which was confirmed on replay, and then caught a fade from Roethlisberger on the next play for what appeared to be a 16-yard touchdown to put the game away. But replay showed Brown’s left toe touching out of bounds. Brown made another tremendous catch and run on third down but came up a yard short, and Suisham’s field goal gave the Steelers a 27-16 edge with six minutes left.

The Texans had a shot to get back into it after Fitzpatrick hit DeAndre Hopkins on a 32-yard pass past midfield, but Hopkins fumbled and the Steelers tacked on another Suisham field goal for a 30-16 lead.

Foster, who would finish with 102 yards rushing on 20 carries, caught a 1-yard touchdown pass with 1:31 left to cut the lead to seven points. But the Texans couldn’t recover the onsides kick after a mad scramble — at least six players touched the squirting ball — and the Steelers ran out the clock with Houston out of timeouts.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 21, 2014, 3:44 am

Aside from all the Peyton Manning hoopla Sunday night, you knew it was going to be a long night for the San Francisco 49ers when the Denver Broncos' defense raised its level of play to Manning's greatness.

That was on display in many forms, but it manifested most in the huge night from DeMarcus Ware, with his three sacks, four tackles and four QB hits.

The first sack was a piece of artwork — or an embarrassment, depending on your perspective.

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On the third play of the game, Ware makes 49ers left tackle Joe Staley, one of the more solid blockers at his position in the NFL, look silly on his first sack of the evening. Watch the video above as Ware goes upfield with a spin move, dips underneath when Staley gets off balance and Ware manages to spin Staley around like a top.

This is pass-rush excellence. That sack set the tone for the rest of the night.

Ware got to Colin Kaepernick two more times in the game. On the second sack, Ware again got Staley spinning around in a way such a technically sound player never should. This is unreal, although asking any tackle to single-block Ware is a tall order.

On sack No. 3, Ware basically tossed Staley aside on the pass rush. Staley was called for holding on the play, and it didn't matter. That was on second and goal with the 49ers down 42-10 in the final five minutes, and they eventually failed to convert on fourth down. Kaepernick was pulled from the game — wisely — on the next possession.

You want to know why the Broncos might be the best team in the NFL? Manning is one reason; the Broncos' improved defense — led by a resurgent Ware — is another.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 20, 2014, 10:13 pm

(AP)The NFL is the most popular sporting league in American history, and you'd be a fool to think that isn't due in part to gambling. Untold millions (billions?) are wagered on bets, fantasy leagues, office pools, survivor pools, or whatever else people figure out to wager on when it comes to football.

The NFL is continuing to play us for those fools by once again taking a public stand against legalized sports betting, according to Reuters.

The NFL, along with the NBA, Major League Baseball and the NCAA, called for an injunction, hoping to block a law that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed which would make sports gambling legal in that state. The lawsuit said the new gambling law is in violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 federal ban on state-sponsored sports betting, according to Reuters.

"If the 2014 Sports Wagering Law is not declared unlawful... the proliferation of state-sponsored and approved sports gambling in Atlantic City casinos and at New Jersey racetracks will cause immediate and irreparable harm" to the sports leagues," the lawsuit said, according to Reuters.

Irreparable harm? Puh-lease. 

The NFL, which has fought gambling publicly for many years, is all in favor of fantasy football though because commissioner Roger Goodell thinks that's a bonding experience. There's an incredible disconnect between that view, and thinking that your three-team parlay on an NFL Sunday is going to cause the league that makes billions of dollars every year "irreparable harm." There's also a disconnect between that stance and the NFL putting out an injury report, which helps gamblers more than anyone.

Any notion that the NFL could somehow be tainted by legal gambling is absurd. The minimum salary for an NFL player is $420,000. No player is risking it all for a fraction of that salary to change the outcome of a game. Also, any potential fix is much more likely to get flagged by a legal sports book than any of the various illegal outlets that take bets on sports. One of the reasons the Arizona State basketball point shaving scandal in the 1993-94 season was uncovered was that casinos in Las Vegas reported unusual betting patterns on the games.

Yet, the NFL still fights gambling. At best that battle is just nonsensical and outdated. At worst it's terribly hypocritical and intellectually dishonest. Either way, it's hard to figure out.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 20, 2014, 9:56 pm

We all make mistakes, present company included. But some mistakes are just really, really funny.

Like talking about Peyton Manning on air and having a photo of Gary Payton appear on the graphic behind you. Oh my.

KOMO 4 in Seattle was talking about the Denver Broncos quarterback setting the NFL's record for touchdown passes during its broadcast, but mistakenly showed the former Seattle SuperSonics guard. The person who caused it to go viral was Payton himself, by posting the screen shot on Instagram. 




That's just great.

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There are more than a few ways this is funny, starting with the fact that other than being Hall of Fame talents in their respective sports, there's not one thing the two guys really have in common. One is a basketball player from the West Coast, the other a quarterback from the South. Let's just say it wouldn't be easy to confuse them based on how they look. Manning is known for his "aw, shucks" humble Southern ways, and Payton was ... well, "The Glove" wasn't. We're pretty sure Peyton Manning was never shouted out in a Too $hort rap song. In fairness, there are probably no country music songs written about Gary Payton. The common sounding name isn't even spelled the same: Peyton and Payton.

I think life went on as normal in Seattle despite the error, and I don't think anyone thought Gary Payton suddenly threw 510 NFL touchdowns. So it was a mistake that didn't hurt anyone. It was just really hilarious.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 20, 2014, 9:22 pm

Kirk Cousins is like the bizarro Willie Beamen from the movie "Any Given Sunday." Unlike Beamen's character, who became a star overnight, Cousins' reputation has dropped in an unbelievably precipitous manner, to the point where he has been benched for Colt McCoy.

Yep, that Colt McCoy.

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All of the talk of Cousins being the savior of the Washington Redskins after Robert Griffin III's injury was a tad much, it turns out. Cousins, who has been prone to turning the ball over in his NFL career, was benched at halftime of Sunday's win against the Tennessee Titans. If Griffin can't come back from a dislocated ankle to play against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 27, McCoy will get the start, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

"We'll move forward with Colt," Gruden said, according to CSN Washington.

It's not fair to declare Cousins' Redskins career dead, but it doesn't look promising. McCoy is 28, has been fairly mediocre his whole career (22 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, 76.1 rating) and is not the long-term answer in Washington. But it doesn't appear Cousins is either, and he has been ruining the Redskins' chances of winning games in the present during Griffin's absence.

Cousins has 19 interceptions to 18 touchdowns in his career, and had turned the ball over 11 times in six games this season. Now that we've seen Cousins play, at least it's unlikely we'll deal with yet another offseason of the Redskins leaking to the media that many teams are interested in trading for their backup. That era seems over.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 20, 2014, 8:22 pm

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Character concerns over the recently acquired Percy Harvin are a non-issue for the New York Jets, even as leaks from the Seattle Seahawks and his old locker room raise eyebrows over his off-field issues.

The Jets acquired Harvin on Friday to bolster a passing offense that is second worst in the league and lacking a true playmaker. Harvin became expendable in Seattle in part because of his locker room antics, which reportedly include a fight with former teammate Golden Tate on the eve of the Super Bowl this past season.

If he is healthy, Harvin can add life to a bland Jets passing attack. But the character issues are a bigger question mark for the Jets, especially given the scrutiny of the New York media market and the string of distractions that have surrounded this team over the past few years. Reports and leaks have indicated Harvin has been involved in two fights over the past year in the Seahawks locker room.

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"I'm definitely not a perfect person. I have a lot of things I wish I could have done a little differently," Harvin said on Monday. “But I'm moving forward, I'm learning from those lessons. I'm happy to be here right now. I'm looking to make the most out of this.”

The message from Jets management, according to Harvin, is to “come in and be myself.”

Harvin says Friday's trade surprised him. As far as why he was traded, he doesn't know or isn't willing to say.

“I'm leaving what's in the past in the past," Harvin said. "I'm happy to be a New York Jet and I look forward to making the most of this opportunity.”

Jets general manager John Idzik, who served for five years as the vice president of football administration for the Seahawks before he came to the Jets, didn't seem concerned over the reports about his new player. He used his contacts with his former employer to gauge the character issues and came away, he said, comfortable with Harvin as a person.

Idzik doesn't have the greatest of track record in this regard during his two years with the Jets. In 2013, free-agent signing Mike Goodson was arrested after the vehicle he was a passenger in was parked in the middle of a five-lane highway in north New Jersey in the early morning. A police officer found Goodson and the driver passed out, and the former Jets running back was arrested on drug and weapon charges. He is no longer with the team.

This past offseason, Dimitri Patterson, another Idzik signing, was supposed to bolster a weak secondary. Patterson went missing right before a preseason game and didn't return to the team until two days later. Patterson was eventually cut following a strange saga where he lashed out at the team.

Idzik cited a strong locker room on Monday as a reason why he thinks Harvin will fit in.

“I think Percy will be the benefactor of that. We got to let that play out and see how he responds,” Idzik said on Monday.

“But we've got a very healthy environment for Percy Harvin.”

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Kristian R. Dyer writes for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer

Author: Kristian Dyer
Posted: October 20, 2014, 6:43 pm

After the official signaled that Demaryius Thomas got in bounds and scored the 509th passing touchdowns of Peyton Manning's career, breaking the NFL record, a little more than a minute passed before the extra point was snapped. And that minute included the Denver Broncos' fun little game of keep-away.

When Thomas scored a 40-yard touchdown later in the game, 44 seconds passed from score to extra point. Which is to say, about an extra 15-20 seconds was carved out to celebrate one of the league's greatest records being broken. The NFL doesn't stop for records or ceremonies.

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But some records do matter. Manning's touchdown record is one of the game's greatest marks. But is it the greatest? Let's find out.

In ranking the NFL's greatest records, let's set a few rules. This is just for individual accomplishments, career or season records. We'll try to avoid the arbitrary and obscure; basically whatever is on the back of a football card will be considered. This isn't the most unbeatable records or the most impressive records, just the top 10 based on what we all hold in the highest regard and got the most attention when they were broken:

Just missed the cut: Career receiving yards (Jerry Rice, 22,895)
This should be higher on the list. But do you remember when Rice broke it? Do you remember who held it before him? (Answers: 1995 on a 13-yard catch from Elvis Grbac, breaking James Lofton's record ... I had to look it up because I honestly didn't remember). And this will become like Cy Young's 511 wins record in baseball, so untouchable that we won't think of it very often. Rice is almost 7,000 yards ahead of second place. It feels like it should be on the list, but even something like Drew Brees' record of 54 consecutive games with a touchdown pass might be more famous, strangely enough.

10. Single-season receiving yards (Calvin Johnson, 1,964)
Megatron's chase of Rice's record was a big deal, but maybe just because anyone breaking one of Rice's records is so unheard of. Someone will make a run at this record as teams play faster and rules keep making it easier for passing games, and we'll have the bonus of a chase for 2,000.

9. Single-season touchdowns (LaDainian Tomlinson, 31)
You don't hear a ton of early-season buzz that so-and-so might beat Tomlinson's record, but maybe that's because it's so rare to see a player anywhere near this pace. Be honest, no matter how important this record is, before you saw Tomlinson's name on the list did you remember he held the record or how many he scored? Or who held the record before him? (Shaun Alexander, with 28.)

8. Single-season passing yards (Peyton Manning, 5,477)
This record ranked higher a few years ago, when Dan Marino had owned it for more than two decades. Then Drew Brees broke it, other quarterbacks got to 5,000 yards, and it seemed a bit anti-climactic when Manning broke it last year, even though he did it on a touchdown.

7. Single-season sacks (Michael Strahan, 22.5)
Considering the controversy that still surrounds how Favre helped Strahan beat Mark Gastineau's record, I'd say this one deserves to be on the list. Sacks are the defensive stat everyone holds in the highest regard. For whatever reason, this mark is more iconic than Bruce Smith's career record of 200.

6. Single-season passing touchdowns (Peyton Manning, 55)
Dan Marino's 48, Manning's 49 and Tom Brady's 50 were all famous numbers for a while. Manning's 55 will be too. Why is this record a bigger deal than the single-season touchdowns record? I'm not sure, but it is.

(AP)5. Consecutive games started (Brett Favre, 297)
Whether it's football or baseball, we have an incredible appreciation for the iron man who can show up game after game without fail. If anyone broke Favre's record (and it doesn't seem likely considering it would take more than 18.5 seasons), it would be worth all the attention it would get.

4. Single-season rushing record (Eric Dickerson, 2,105)
The record is helped in status because it's close to a round number. The attention starts because a back is approaching 2,000 yards, then will just flow right into the chase for Dickerson's record. There has to be a reason NFL fans clearly remember "2,105," yet barely anybody knows "2,509," what it means, why it's important, or who is associated with it (it's Chris Johnson's single-season record for yards from scrimmage, which logically is a more important mark than just rushing yards alone, yet nobody really cares).

3. Career passing touchdown record (Peyton Manning, 510 and counting)
It was a great moment on Sunday night when he broke the record. And given the status quarterbacks have in the game, and Manning's place in history, if anyone breaks this mark it might be even bigger than when Manning broke it against the 49ers. You could make a great argument this deserves to be No. 1 on the list.

2. Career rushing record (Emmitt Smith, 18,355)
Maybe this will move down the list as the league trends toward more passing offense and running backs continue to decrease in value, but it was a huge deal when Walter Payton broke Jim Brown's record, it was a huge deal when Smith broke Payton's record, it was a huge deal when Barry Sanders retired to give up a shot to break Payton's record, and if anyone is lucky enough to break Smith's record, that'll be an enormous deal too.

1. Career touchdown record (Jerry Rice, 208)
The game is built around scoring touchdowns, right? Even with increases in scoring, nobody is coming close to this mark for a long time, if it ever happens. Consider this: The active leader in touchdowns scored is Antonio Gates, with 94, not even half way to Rice's mark. If someone breaks this mark, it'll be as big as it gets in the NFL.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 20, 2014, 6:31 pm

Can't get enough Peyton Manning? Neither can we.

We bask in the glory of the wobbly passes as much as we do the ageless greatness, the oversized forehead and the NFL records, the aww-shucks approach and the killer instinct.

It's all Manning. And it's all in this video — quite simply the most amazing one we've ever come across celebrating all things Peyton.

Watch it. Watch it again. Sing the song in the shower. You know you will.

No best tribute ever should be without the line: "Really tall (oh yeah!) / red forehead (oh yeah!) / His brothers (oh yeah!) / Papa John's (oh yeah!)"

It sums up Manning better than any erudite longform feature ever could.

The second-greatest tribute for a football player ever? That's certainly up for debate. But we'll nominate one for a certain quarterback who happened to share the field with Manning on Sunday night.

Greatness has a weird way of attracting greatness.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 20, 2014, 1:21 pm

DENVER They speak of Peyton Manning with reverence in the Denver Broncos locker room  talk to any of his teammates long enough and "greatest" will be uttered  and rightfully so.

Many of them are fantastic players in their own right, but it's hard to deny they've all benefited from playing with the man who has thrown the most touchdown passes in NFL history.

Take Demaryius Thomas. He was a first-round pick, and he was obviously a special talent even with Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton throwing him the ball. But now he is perhaps the best receiver in the NFL. He had 834 yards in 21 games before Manning arrived, and after his 171-yard outburst on Sunday, he has 3,526 yards in 38 games with Manning. Some of that is typical development, but it's crazy to think Manning hasn't had a huge impact on his career. 

Thomas will be a free agent after the season. Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald have contracts worth more than $100 million. It's possible Thomas, after two-plus stellar seasons with Manning elevating him to an elite level, will join them or at least come close.

"He’s the best to ever play the game," Thomas said of Manning. "He made me a better player."

Thomas said when Manning arrived before the 2012 season he changed how the receivers ran certain routes. He gave them tips on how to watch film. He said he has learned just by watching how Manning studies film.

Thomas talked about what he was thinking as he lined up for the play that became Manning's 509th touchdown, breaking Brett Favre's all-time record. He said he saw how the cornerback lined up and knew how to attack the play ("I came out of the huddle and I was thinking, he’s playing outside, so I have to get on his leverage and beat him"), and it surely seemed like Manning had rubbed off on him.

Emmanuel Sanders says he is better off for playing with Manning too. He caught some heat earlier this year for saying Manning was a better leader than Ben Roethlisberger, his old quarterback in Pittsburgh, but that was blown out of proportion. He has since clarified that he meant no disrespect toward Roethlisberger, but he thinks nobody beats Manning when it comes to leadership. Listen to Sanders talk about his mindset since joining the Broncos this year, and it's clear Manning has meant a lot to his career too. 

"You don't want to mess up," Sanders said. "So every night I go home and I study my butt off, just so I don't disappoint '18.' Everyone knows that he doesn't have too many more years left in his career, and he wants to go out a Super Bowl champion again, and I don't want to be the one holding this group back."

In Sanders' first season with the Broncos, he has 38 receptions for 514 yards in six games. He never had more than 67 catches or 740 yards with the Steelers.

There are other examples everywhere. Tight end Julius Thomas was a basketball player who played one year of college football. He now leads the NFL with nine touchdown catches and like Demaryius Thomas, is on the verge of signing an enormous contract with the Broncos or somewhere else as a free agent next spring. Eric Decker knows all about that. He signed a five-year, $36 million deal with the New York Jets this past offseason after catching 24 touchdown passes in two seasons with Manning. He has 12 touchdowns in his two-plus seasons without Manning.

Running backs benefit from Manning expertly changing the plays at the line. Receivers not only follow Manning's example but they also benefit from Manning always finding them in the right place ask Demaryius Thomas, whose second touchdown was a 40-yarder that could not have been handed to him in a better place. Or Wes Welker, who found himself wide open for Manning's 508th career touchdown off his quarterback's great pump fake.

Coaches owe Manning, too. San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy, who will face the Broncos on Thursday night, got the Chargers' job after a great 2012 season as Manning's offensive coordinator. Broncos coach John Fox had a .507 winning percentage in nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers. His winning percentage with Denver is .722, and that's after going 8-8 in his first Broncos season, which was without Manning.

The list is endless. These coaches and teammates are talented in their own right. But Manning has made everyone around him better. The Broncos celebrated him Sunday night as he broke one of the NFL's biggest records. They all owe him a debt of gratitude.

"There is no doubt we feel blessed the Broncos organization, myself personally, I think our coaching staff he's a tremendous player," Fox said. "I've competed against him for a lot of years, and it's way better having him on our side."

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 20, 2014, 5:30 am

DENVER Peyton Manning gets the big, bold headlines from Sunday night's game, but the fine print should include that the Denver Broncos officially established themselves as the best team in the NFL at this point in the season.

What the Broncos did to the San Francisco 49ers, who have gone to the NFL's final four the past three years and were on a three-game winning streak, was shocking. Denver, behind Peyton Manning's 507th, (NFL record-tying) 508th, (NFL record-breaking) 509th and 510th career touchdown passes pummeled the 49ers 42-17. A meaningless touchdown with a minute to go is all that kept it from being the biggest loss of the Jim Harbaugh era in San Francisco.

The Dallas Cowboys have a good argument as the best team in football, considering they also have one loss and won at Seattle, which handed the Broncos their lone loss. But the way the Broncos are playing, nobody should be betting against them at this point. Everything is clicking at an incredibly high level for Denver.

Manning has picked up where he left off from last season, when he had the greatest season in NFL history. He didn't just inch over the finish line to get the record on Sunday, he turned in a phenomenal performance. He was 22-of-26 for 318 yards and four touchdowns. That's a 157.2 rating; a perfect rating is 158.3. Manning's third touchdown of the game, the record-breaker to Thomas, will be replayed more, but his next touchdown to Thomas was his best throw of the night. Manning had pinpoint accuracy on a 40-yard touchdown that made the score 28-10. Manning was so good, and the Broncos were so dominant, Manning was pulled and Brock Osweiler played the fourth quarter.

Denver's running game has gotten an unexpected boost from Ronnie Hillman, who has been a great find with Montee Ball out with a groin injury. He had a pair of touchdown runs, including a 37-yarder. And the defense looks the best it has been in Manning's three Denver seasons. The pass rush is excellent, with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, and there's no clear weakness elsewhere.

Can the Broncos win the Super Bowl? Dismissing the predictable jokes about Manning in the playoffs, of course they can. A lot can happen over the next few months so nothing is guaranteed, but the Broncos are the class of the NFL right now. Ask the 49ers. San Francisco isn't bad, and it had no chance Sunday night.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 20, 2014, 3:38 am

Here are the top five must-see plays from Week 7 in the NFL:

Great Tate

The Detroit Lions looked all but cooked down 23-10 with just under four minutes left against the New Orleans Saints. But that's when they received a golden moment. Golden Tate ran a simple out route and caught the ball from Matthew Stafford with several Saints defenders closing in. And that's when Tate turned on the jets. He raced 73 yards for the score, past half the Saints' defense, in what would become an improbable 24-23 Lions victory.

Eat your heart out, Elway

John Elway's helicopter manuever after his run in Super Bowl XXXII is the most famous version of the helicopter, but Jamaal Charles' imitation in Week 7 wasn't too shabby. Charles raced 16 yards for the tone-setting score in a crucial win over the San Diego Chargers and was flung around by a hard hit near the goal line by former teammate Brandon Flowers. But don't overlook what Charles did prior to that — it was a great run.

Walk-off touchdown

The Buffalo Bills were down to their last at-bat against the Minnesota Vikings, with five seconds left and down six points. Chris Hogan set up the play from the Vikings 2-yard line with a fine 28-yard catch, but there was no doubt where the next pass was going. Kyle Orton wanted Sammy Watkins, who caught a touchdown earlier in the game, and the rookie rewarded him by hanging on for the game-winning score with two seconds left.

He went where?

In one of the more bizarre fake-outs you might ever see on a punt return, the St. Louis Rams' Stedman Bailey fielded the ball clear across the field from where nearly everyone for the Seattle Seahawks were covering the punt. That's because the majority of the Rams' blockers and decoy returner Tavon Austin were standing. Bailey, the gunner on the play, caught the kick and raced 89 yards for the completely improbable touchdown.

Walking the tightrope

Have you noticed how solid Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen has been recently? Andrew Luck has. That's why Luck was more than willing to look Allen's direction on a key third down early in the third quarter. Allen did the rest — he tightroped the sideline, evaded three Cincinnati Bengals defenders and got into the end zone for a fine 32-yard score in the shutout victory.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 20, 2014, 2:14 am

It wasn’t too long ago that the idea of giving Dez Bryant a huge contract extension seemed like tossing money into a garbage can and setting fire to it.

Bryant was undeniably talented, and a headache for the Dallas Cowboys. You haven’t thought about Bryant’s off-field issues in a while, have you? That’s because there has been nothing to think about. Bryant has been as quiet off the field as he is dynamic on it. But in July of 2012, when Bryant was arrested for allegedly attacking his mother (the misdemeanor assault charges were dropped later in the year), it didn’t seem like Bryant’s future was all that bright. He had a long line of off-field issues that had piled up. 

If suspended receivers Justin Blackmon and Josh Gordon need a role model, Bryant isn’t a bad one. Bryant has completely turned his image around. His transformation in two years has been amazing, and now he’s not only one of the best players on the 6-1 Cowboys, he seems like one of the team’s leaders. It also seems like Bryant will be a sound investment for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones before he hits free agency.

There was concern about having Bryant play out his contract year, especially after left tackle Tyron Smith got a huge extension. How would Bryant react? The results have been good. Bryant had nine catches for 151 yards in a 31-21 win over the New York Giants on Sunday and it’s hard to argue he wasn’t the best player on the field (though DeMarco Murray, who had yet another 100-yard day, would have a good case). Bryant now has 45 catches for 590 yards this season, on pace for another great season.

Bryant turns 26 in November. There’s almost no chance the Cowboys are going to let him go, whether he agrees to a long-term extension or the Cowboys give him the franchise tag. A scout once said Bryant had the “worst background” he’d ever seen, but Bryant has turned that into a great story. And for Jones, whose personnel moves are often mocked, his gamble on Bryant has paid off and then some, especially with his Cowboys looking like one of the NFL’s elite teams.

Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 7 in the NFL:


Kyle Orton and Doug Marrone: When the Buffalo Bills fell to 2-2, Marrone made a decision that was second-guessed, sitting 2013 first-round pick E.J. Manuel for journeyman veteran Kyle Orton.

Not that Manuel had played well, but it was still a bold move to give Manuel the hook so soon into a season, with the Bills still at .500. Especially since Orton has established his role in the NFL: a solid quarterback who can execute the offense but rarely will do anything special.

But lo and behold, Orton made one of the biggest plays of the NFL season so far, and Marrone looks pretty smart. Orton – who also led a last-minute drive in his first start to beat the Detroit Lions – took the Bills 80 yards in 3:06 with Buffalo trailing by six, and hit rookie Sammy Watkins with one second left to give Buffalo a dramatic 17-16 win. The degree of difficulty on the win was high after the Bills lost their top two tailbacks, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Orton came through.

Orton's career looked to be over when he threatened retirement all offseason. He did that to force the Cowboys to release him (you can argue the ethics of that), and then the Bills gave him a two-year, $11 million contract that seemed a bit expensive. But now with the Bills at 4-3 thanks to two late victories led by Orton, it all makes sense. 

Indianapolis Colts defense, and their title hopes: Colts quarterback Andrew Luck played well again, but that's to be expected by this point. He's one of the best players in the NFL. What was surprising is that the Colts once again put on a defensive clinic, this time against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Colts had their first shutout since 2008 in a 27-0 victory, and it was even more lopsided than that score indicates. The Colts outgained the Bengals 506-135. That should not happen in the NFL. Especially to a good team (though, we can argue after the last three weeks how good the Bengals really are).

A.J. Green was out with a toe injury again, and bad Andy Dalton showed up for the Bengals, but that doesn’t explain Cincinnati getting just 135 yards and eight total first downs.

The Bengals were absolutely destroyed. The Colts also dominated the Baltimore Ravens two weeks ago, so maybe we shouldn’t view this as a fluke.

The Colts started 0-2, with losses to the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They’re 5-0 since, and looking like a team that can win a Super Bowl, especially if the defense is capable of more days like these.

Denard Robinson: For his first 22 NFL games, Robinson had 48 carries. After his 22 carries on Sunday, it's hard to understand what took so long for the Jacksonville Jaguars to give him a real shot.

Robinson rushed for 127 yards in the Jaguars' first win of the season, a 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Robinson looked very good too, making defenders miss whenever he had the ball ... basically, what he was at the University of Michigan when he played quarterback. He looked fantastic.

Toby Gerhart hasn't worked out for the Jaguars. Storm Johnson got his shot and struggled too. After Robinson's coming-out party, the Jaguars are going to see if he's the answer. After how he played on Sunday, a lack of playing time won't be an issue for Robinson going forward.

Jeff Fisher: I’ve been critical of Fisher, especially early this year as the St. Louis Rams have underachieved. But I respect his fake punt call at the end, which was the biggest play in a 28-26 win over the Seattle Seahawks. You thought Bill Belichick was being gutsy going for it on fourth down against the Colts a few years ago? Fisher called a fake punt from his own 18-yard line in a two-point game. Wow.

That's how you play to win. Again, let’s celebrate one of the craziest play calls you’ll ever see in the NFL:


Drew Brees: It’s hard to totally blame a guy for a loss after he threw for 342 yards. And he had nothing to do with the Saints defense not tackling Lions receiver Golden Tate on a long touchdown that gave Detroit some hope to come back on Sunday.

But Brees’ lone interception has put the Saints’ season in a really, really bad place.

Brees didn’t see safety Glover Quin lurking in the middle of the field when he threw to Marques Colston with a little more than three minutes to go in a 23-17 game. Instead of the Saints punting and forcing the Lions into a long drive to win the game, Detroit took over at New Orleans' 14-yard line. The Lions got the game-winning score to Corey Fuller on the ensuing drive. It was a terrible mistake, especially from a future Hall of Famer.

Brees hasn’t been bad this season (he has thrown for 300 yards in four of six games and 293 in another) but the Saints are now 2-4 and Brees hasn’t been as great as he usually is. He was far from the only reason the Saints lost Sunday, but the Saints are in a full slump now and needed their quarterback to carry them to a much-needed win. It didn't happen.

Brian Hoyer: Nobody should jump off the Hoyer bandwagon after a bad day. But, most quarterbacks who have a bad week don’t have a first-round pick waiting behind them.

No need to sugarcoat what happened at Jacksonville on Sunday. Hoyer was terrible. He was 16-of-41 and threw 10 straight incompletions at one point. And the Jaguars defense isn’t very good; it was ranked 30th in total yards allowed and 30th in passing yards allowed before Sunday.

It was a terrible game for a quarterback who was pretty good in the team’s 3-2 start. He has built up enough goodwill that his job is certainly not in jeopardy. Not yet anyway. A couple more games like this, and it might need to be reevaluated.

The “Thursday Night Football” matchup: Finally, finally we were going to get a true marquee “TNF” matchup next week between the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos, a great AFC West battle between arguably the two best teams in the NFL through six weeks. And then the Chargers had to go and take some luster off it.

The Chargers have had a couple strange weeks after a great start to the season. San Diego struggled to beat the Oakland Raiders in Week 6, which could have been an excusable blip for the Chargers, had they not followed it up with a 23-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The way the Chargers lost, giving up a long drive in the final two minutes after tying the game, is a bit concerning.

Maybe the Chargers were looking ahead, because Thursday’s game still is huge in the AFC West race. But right now, it looks like there’s some separation between the best team in the division and the second best.

Panthers defense: Last year, the Panthers rode Cam Newton and a great defense to an NFC South championship. This year, at least they have Newton (and even he was off on Sunday). 

The Panthers defense has disappeared. It gave up 38 points to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, a week after giving up 37 to the Bengals, who barely cracked 100 yards against the Colts. In the Panthers' three games before that, they allowed 37, 38 and 24 points. That streak also started when defensive end Greg Hardy went on the exempt/commissioner's permission list.

Hardy's absence is not the only reason for the Panthers' struggles. The struggles are real though. If the Panthers don't figure it out fast, it's hard to see them coming close to repeating last year's success.

What in the world did the Browns think they were doing on this call?: So, Cleveland had the good idea to send out the punt team on fourth down in the fourth quarter, then run it off and run on the offense to fool the Jaguars. And was it ever bad.

The Jaguars' defense was given time to substitute, by rule, when the Browns substituted. So the Jags got their defense back on the field. Then the Browns ran a fairly hopeless option play that lost 2 yards.

That was better than just lining up and running a play on fourth-and-5? Here's the evidence of one of the strangest plays you'll see:

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 20, 2014, 2:12 am

DENVER – The Denver Broncos had a lot of fun with No. 509. 

After Peyton Manning threw his 509th career touchdown to pass Brett Favre on the NFL's all-time list for career touchdown passes, Manning went to get the historic ball from Demaryius Thomas, who caught the record-setting 8-yard score with 3:09 remaining in the second quarter of Denver's 42-17 blowout of the San Francisco 49ers.

Thomas and his teammates hilariously played keep-away.

Thomas tossed it to Wes Welker, with Manning in the middle, then the ball went to Emmanuel Sanders and eventually over to Julius Thomas, just like they were back on the first-grade playground with Manning trying to get it from them. Manning eventually got the ball, and a big hug from coach John Fox when he got to the sideline.


The Broncos practiced the routine over the week, Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported:

Demaryius Thomas just said Peyton Manning called, staged and had the wideouts practice the post 509 TD keep-away prank. Can't make this up.

— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) October 20, 2014

 Manning hadn't said much about his march toward the NFL's all-time record for passing touchdowns, preferring in his normal news conference earlier this week to focus on the San Francisco 49ers and a big game for his Broncos. He rarely speaks in terms of himself and his numbers anyway, deflecting it to the next game he and his team has to prepare for.

But Manning's touchdown to Thomas was a special moment in a game that generally doesn't stop for any ceremony. 

The game didn't really stop (except for the Broncos' keep-away game), as the extra point was kicked as the public-address announcer alerted fans to the record, like nobody at Sports Authority Field knew. During the commercial break, a short video was played with kind words from Manning's teammates, and a congratulations from Favre.

"I'm not surprised," Favre said as part of his pre-taped congratulations. "I wish you great success for the rest of the season, and the rest of your career."

Manning was playing his 246th game on Sunday night. Favre set the record in 302 games, or three-and-a-half more seasons than Manning took to get 509. Manning has lapped the field.

Manning moved past Favre in a rapid pace once he moved to the Broncos, after it looked like his career might be over. He missed a season due to multiple neck surgeries, then was cut by the Indianapolis Colts. He decided to sign with the Broncos, and that has worked out incredibly well. He had 399 touchdowns with Indianapolis. His record-breaking pass was his 110th in just 38 games with the Broncos.

How many touchdowns can Manning compile before he's done? As he showed against the 49ers he hit Emmanuel Sanders for touchdown No. 507 and Wes Welker for No. 508 a little more than 12 minutes into the first quarter he's showing no signs of slowing down. Is 600 possible? Maybe, considering he had a NFL record 55 last season and 15 through Denver's first five games this season. Even with the new rules helping quarterbacks, that would make the record tough to beat for a long time. Consider it this way: A quarterback would need to have 20 seasons of 30 touchdowns to reach that.

That's for another day. Sunday night was about No. 509 and celebrating Manning, the all-time touchdown king and one of the greatest players in NFL history, even if the Broncos wanted to have a little juvenile fun with the 38-year-old man after he made history. 

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 20, 2014, 1:54 am

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning didn't leave much suspense if he'd tie Brett Favre's all-time passing touchdowns record on Sunday night. He took care of that question quickly.

With 2:57 left in the first quarter, Manning threw his second touchdown of the game against the San Francisco 49ers and tied Favre with his 508th career touchdown pass. Wes Welker caught the pass that tied the record, a rare long score for the slot receiver. Welker was wide open, in part due to a great pump fake from the future Hall of Fame quarterback, then Welker scampered into the end zone, diving in to barely beat safety Antoine Bethea in pursuit. Welker was initially called out at the 1-yard line, then the officials changed their minds on the field. Replays showed Welker hit the pylon before he was out of bounds.

Manning, needing two touchdowns against the 49ers to tie Favre, got his first right away. On Denver's first drive he hit Emmanuel Sanders for a score. That gave him 507 for his career.

Nobody remember's Hank Aaron's 714th home run or Jerry Rice's touchdown to tie the NFL's all-time record in that category, so No. 508 just set the stage for Manning to get the score that will pass Favre and will be replayed for a long time.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 20, 2014, 1:02 am

The Kansas City Chiefs stared into the abyss in Week 7. Luckily for them, the abyss didn't stare back.

The Chiefs scored a potentially season-saving victory over the San Diego Chargers, who had won five straight coming in, with a late-second victory on the road.

A loss would have put them four back of the Chargers in the win column, but now they are 3-3 with two games (home against the St. Louis Rams and New York Jets) that should be quite winnable.

The Chiefs now have wins over the Chargers, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins — combined record: 13-7) and respectable losses to the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. (Throw out that inexcusable Week 1 loss to the Tennessee Titans for just a moment, will you?)

For a team many expected to take a step back, the Chiefs are playing at a pretty high level. Alex Smith continues to make big throws. Jamaal Charles has rallied from an early-season injury. Travis Kelce has turned into a pivotal playmaker. And the much-maligned offensive line is developing more than anyone could have expected.

Sunday's victory came in a highly charged atmosphere with big AFC West ramifications. Overcoming a slew of injuries and dropped passes, the Chiefs are in good shape now and would be in terrific shape at 5-3 at the turn if they can get to that point, all things considered. They've run through a gauntlet of a schedule so far and have held up fairly well.

There were unexpected contributors all around in this game.

Cairo Santos came from nowhere to win the kicking job, beating out incumbent Ryan Succop, and he hit three key field goals in the win, including the 48-yarder in the waning moments. 

A shorthanded defense kept Chargers QB Philip Rivers, a league MVP candidate, in check with 205 passing yards on 31 attempts, none going for longer than 27 yards.

Fullback Anthony Sherman did his usual dirty-work blocking with aplomb but also added a stunning 11-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, he made a great tackle in coverage.

Castoff safety Kurt Coleman, who has been on three NFL teams since February, had the game-clinching interception. 

The Chiefs' three leading tacklers — Jamell Fleming, Husain Abdullah and Josh Mauga — are all role players and ones that other NFL teams didn't want.

Andy Reid will take them. Oh sure, he still hasn't figured out how to use timeouts properly. But he has his Chiefs back in the playoff picture and just how he likes it: When the rest of the league doubts a Reid-coached team, that's often when he's at his most dangerous.

Don't forget about these Chiefs.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 20, 2014, 12:25 am

Something's afoot here. Somehow, someway, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack got their cleats stuck together on a fourth-quarter passing play.

Thankfully, offensive linemen Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie were on their toes, and helped the two foes get untangled.

Even weirder: While there was a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty called on Palmer's third-and-5 attempt, Mack was not the guilty party. Linebacker Sio Moore earned the flag, and the Cardinals killed another three and a half minutes off the clock in their 24-13 victory.

You could say the play gave Arizona a leg up on the win. OK, we'll stop now.

Adding to the hijinks of Sunday's game, the Cardinals' Darnell Dockett, who is out for the season with a knee injury, rubbed the loss in the faces of Raiders fans:

Injured Cardinals DL Darnell Dockett trolls Raiders fans with epic sign

— Larry Brown (@LBSports) October 20, 2014

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Author: Ben Rohrbach
Posted: October 20, 2014, 12:22 am

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice could be reinstated by the NFL within a month, reported on Sunday.

While Rice remains indefinitely suspended for punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator last February, the league has set a hearing date for the former All-Pro back's appeal, according to's Jason La Canfora. A decision on Rice's future could reportedly come in mid-November.

The NFL initially suspended Rice for two games prior to TMZ releasing video of his domestic abuse. Rice's legal team allegedly contends he deserves a suspension no longer than the new NFL policy of six games for first-time offenders because commissioner Roger Goodell was made aware of what was on the video.

The hearing will be conducted by former U.S. District Court Judge Barbara S. Jones and is expected to be completed before erstwhile FBI director Robert Mueller completes his independent investigation into the incident on behalf of the NFL, according to La Canfora.

That creates a potential public relations nightmare for the league, since Rice could join a team before Mueller's report potentially reveals another bombshell.

However, it remains unclear whether any team would consider signing Rice prior to the end of the season, even if he is reinstated. La Canfora cites the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots as potential destinations, since both teams have had their share of running back problems this season.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Author: Ben Rohrbach
Posted: October 19, 2014, 11:54 pm

Tony Romo did what Bud Selig probably would have liked to do when Alex Rodriguez violated Major League Baseball's performance-enhancing drug policy last year, nearly trampling the Yankees third baseman prior to Sunday's game between the Cowboys and Giants.

The former Texas Rangers star has played in either Arlington or New York since 2001 — except for this year's season-long suspension — so it's only natural he took in the game between Dallas and New York. 

So, Rodriguez found his way to the tunnel at A&T Stadium before the game. Apparently, A-Rod was lost in thought — as he's been known to be — as the entire Cowboys team stampeded onto the field, nearly running the embattled slugger over. For his sake, Rodriguez should be glad Romo was at the start of the line, since DeMarco Murray probably would have stiff-armed him on his way to another 100-yard game.

Rodriguez has been seen at several college football games this fall, including Alabama's 59-0 win over visiting Texas A&M on Saturday. He's also made stops in Lincoln, Neb., and South Bend, Ind. No word on whether Cameron Diaz is still feeding him popcorn during these games, but we sure hope so.

For the record, A-Rod's performance on Sunday was not enhanced for your viewing pleasure.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Author: Ben Rohrbach
Posted: October 19, 2014, 11:21 pm

There's struggling, and then there's what the Cincinnati Bengals offense did on Sunday afternoon.

Quarterback Andy Dalton and Co. went three-and-out on their first eight drives and totaled just 135 yards on 54 yards — an average of just 2.5 yards — in a 27-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. After starting the season 3-0, the Bengals haven't won in a month, going 0-2-1 after a bye in Week 4.

After totaling 513 yards of offense in last week's 37-37 tie against the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati managed just 27 first-half yards, the league's lowest total over the first two quarters in more than a year.

Dalton finished 18-for-38 for 126 yards, although he managed not to throw an interception. Meanwhile, Bengals fantasy stud running back Giovani Bernard managed only 16 total yards on nine touches. 

All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green missed his second straight game with a toe injury. Encouraging medical reports indicated he could return for next week's game against the Baltimore Ravens, per

Cincinnati's offense didn't cross midfield this week until its first drive of the fourth quarter, thanks in part to Adam Jones' 38-yard kickoff return. That drive stalled when Dalton missed tight end Jermaine Grisham in the end zone on fourth down. The Bengals would get no closer to putting points on the board.

On the opposite side of the ball, the Colts (5-2) amassed 506 yards of offense despite a pair of fumbles. Indy QB Andrew Luck completed 27 of 42 attempts for 344 yards and two TDs in a fifth consecutive victory.

It wasn't a good week for NFL fans in Ohio, in general, as the Cleveland Browns managed only a pair of field goals in a 24-6 loss to the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars. Cleveland QB Brian Hoyer completed 39 percent of his passes (16-of-41) and tossed an interception while Browns backs rushed for 69 yards on 30 carries.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Author: Ben Rohrbach
Posted: October 19, 2014, 10:21 pm

It's a Green Bay Packers tradition for their players who score touchdowns at Lambeau Field to jump into the crowd near the end zone.

We know it affectionally, of course, as the Lambeau Leap.

But it can be a dangerous place to land, as Randall Cobb found out. No Cobb didn't injure himself jumping into the crowd (as some players have in the past). But he did get treated like a piece of encased meat when mingling with the fans.

Cobb was the victim of some friendly fire as some brat-chomping Packers fan dumped his ketchup on Cobb's shoulder after he scored on a 3-yard pass in the second quarter to give Green Bay a 28-zip lead in the second quarter. The Packers ended up routing the Panthers, 38-17.

No truth to the rumor that Packers officials have ordered Tide stain sticks to be supplied for every home game.

Look at the video: You just know some Packers fan watching live on television had to fear the worst, that the ketchup really was blood. Had it been the latter, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy might have been subject to some asinine "pulling the starters" line of questioning after the game.

But really, here's what's most offensive about the whole deal ... ketchup never — NEVER — should find its way onto a meat product. Yes, that might be a Chicago thing, but it really should be an entire-world thing.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 19, 2014, 9:37 pm

In the final seconds of the St. Louis Rams' 28-26 upset victory, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll ran panicking onto the field, presumably wondering why the officiating crew didn't call for a review of his defense's apparent fumble recovery in the final minute. After all, he had a legitimate gripe.

In a wild finish, the Rams converted an incredibly gutsy fake punt from their own 18-yard line with less than three minutes remaining. Three plays later, Tre Mason rushed for a first down that seemed to seal the deal, since the Seahawks had no timeouts remaining, but Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith stripped the St. Louis running back from behind, and the Seahawks appeared to recover the fumble in Rams territory.

Except, referee Brad Allen ruled it St. Louis ball, and Rams quarterback Austin Davis kneeled on a two-point victory that dropped the defending Super Bowl champions to 3-3 on the season. The play was eligible for review, but the replay official opted not to buzz down to the field, sending Carroll into a tizzy.

That didn't sit well with Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who told the Seattle Times, "At least give us a shot. But you know what? I’m not surprised with the referees this season. If you really look at some plays, we’re playing more than our opponents. We’re playing the referees too. I don’t care what anybody is saying. Something is wrong. That needs to be brought up."

Whether the play would have been reversed on official review remains open to interpretation. Rams tight end Cory Harkey appeared to initially recover the fumble, but it squirted loose, and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman fell on the ball in a scrum. A video replay showed the ball still loose once it was lost in the scrum, but Sherman told reporters in the game's aftermath he indeed recovered the ball.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Author: Ben Rohrbach
Posted: October 19, 2014, 9:10 pm

The Chicago Bears fell to 3-4 and 0-3 at Soldier Field with a 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins, and the home team was not too happy with the results.

Bears players let their emotions spill over following the loss, which was audible to media members who waited to enter the team's locker room.

Ugly scene in #bears locker room right after game. Lots of yelling, players pulled out of room

— Jeremy Stoltz (@BearReport) October 19, 2014

Things got ugly in the Bears locker room. Players were yelling and pulled apart. Brandon Marshall ranted and Kyle Long ripped the fans.

— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) October 19, 2014

Loud yelling heard from outside #Bears locker room "when you play with heart!... It's suppose to hurt" .. Then "you just kick the ball"

— Peggy Kusinski (@peggykusinski) October 19, 2014

In a surprise to nobody, I'm told it was Marshall in the middle of the postgame locker room scene. #Bears

— Dan Bernstein (@dan_bernstein) October 19, 2014

According to various reports (including this Bernstein tweet), Marshall — who looked completely peeved on the sideline in the final moments of the game — was one of the leading voices among the discord.

The Bears have been outscored 88-51 in three home games this season and find themselves farther back in the NFC North race with the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, both winners Sunday, sitting at 5-2 apiece.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 19, 2014, 9:04 pm

With the Buffalo Bills missing both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in the running game, rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins saved the day, capping his second 100-yard receiving game with a game-winning catch.

His team trailing 16-10 with seconds remaining, Bills quarterback Kyle Orton rifled a 2-yard pass to Watkins for the game-winner in a 17-16 victory against the reeling Minnesota Vikings. Watkins scored both of Buffalo's touchodwns, also hauling in a 26-yard score early in the second quarter. The Bills improved to 4-3.

Watkins finished with 122 yards on nine catches. He broke the century plateau for the first time since Week 2, becoming the first Bills rookie to record a pair of 100-yard receiving games in a season since Lee Evans in 2004. Watkins' two touchdowns on Sunday matched his total through the first six games of the season.

Buffalo traded a pair of first-round picks and a fourth-rounder to grab Spiller with the No. 4 overall pick this year. He was the team's first opening-round draft pick since — you guessed it — Evans in '04. With Jackson (groin) and Spiller (collarbone) potentially missing significant time, Watkins will be relied upon even more.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Author: Ben Rohrbach
Posted: October 19, 2014, 8:34 pm

Time for a game. Fill in this blank with an NFL team: Just when we started to trust _____________ they went and laid an egg on Sunday.

It's a trick question You'd need way more than one blank to include all the teams that were entirely disappointing in Week 7. A couple teams were at least fortunate enough to save themselves from what would have been a terrible loss.

The Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills looked like they were in real trouble in the fourth quarter. The Lions, who were working their way into the circle of trust with a 4-2 start, looked like the same old inconsistent Lions when they fell behind by 10 points to the New Orleans Saints in the fourth quarter. But the Lions got a long touchdown from Golden Tate, a huge interception and a leaping touchdown catch by Corey Fuller in the final two minutes to get a 24-23 win.

The Bills also avoided a bad home upset. They trailed the Minnesota Vikings most of the game, but Kyle Orton led a late drive and hit rookie Sammy Watkins for the game-winning touchdown with one second left to pull off a 17-16 win.

Now that the pleasantries are done, let’s look at some of the disappointments on Sunday because there were a few. The Seahawks lead the list. The defending champs are now a mediocre 3-3 after a 28-26 loss to St. Louis. That loss came despite an incredible game from quarterback Russell Wilson. The Seahawks might regret this one when it’s time to sort out the playoff picture.

The Seahawks weren’t the only disappointing team. The Cincinnati Bengals weren't favored to win at Indianapolis, but they were a huge disappointment based on how badly they got beat in a 27-0 rout. Then flip a coin to see if the Chicago Bears or Cleveland Browns feel worse after Week 7.

The Browns were one of the NFL’s hot teams after blowing out the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. They were 3-2, and quarterback Brian Hoyer was one of the league’s best stories. The Jacksonville Jaguars were 0-6. The Browns were favored by more points than they have been for any road game since re-entering the NFL in 1999. And they lost. Not only did they lose, they lost bad. The Jaguars won 24-6 and it wasn't all that close.

Hoyer struggled, completing just 16 of 41 passes for 215 yards. The Browns were supposedly entering an easy stretch in their schedule, but it hasn't started well.

Like the Browns, the Bears were big favorites and blew it. The Miami Dolphins controlled the game from the start, winning 27-14. The Bears’ defense hasn’t been great, and even more surprising, the offense has been prone to struggling for long stretches. At 3-4, two games behind the Lions and red-hot Green Bay Packers, the Bears are in some trouble.

A couple teams had late rallies to avoid what would have been tough losses. Some teams weren’t so lucky. When we get to December, they'll be reminded of those upset losses in Week 7.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 19, 2014, 8:22 pm

The St. Louis Rams stunned the Seattle Seahawks and they can credit two amazing special-teams sleights of hand.

In the first half, the Rams pulled off an incredible punt return fake-out for a touchdown that almost defies explanation.

Then, in the waning moments of a game it appeared the Seahawks were going to steal, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher made a call that took some serious onions.

From their own 18-yard line with just under three minutes left, desperately protecting a 28-26 lead, Fisher called for his punt team to take the field on fourth down. But there was no punt.

Punter Johnny Hekker threw to a wide-open Bennie Cunningham for 18 yards and an improbable first down.

The Rams would run out the clock and go on to win, although not without a heart-attack moment. Rookie running back Tre Mason fumbled near midfield, and despite a slew of Seahawks players around the ball, the Rams miraculously came up with the ball and took a knee to close out the upset.

But back to the fake ... who calls that?! If the Rams miss, the Seahawks already are in field-goal range with a chance to milk the clock and win the game. 

The guess is that if you're the Rams, sitting at 1-4 with a chance to beat the world champion Seahawks, why not lay it all on the line?

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 19, 2014, 8:15 pm

In seven days, the Seattle Seahawks were manhandled on the line of scrimmage in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys, traded their malcontent star receiver and then lost to a St. Louis Rams team that was 1-4 entering the day behind a third-string QB.

Other than that, Pete Carroll, how is the 3-3 season going?

The Rams, who had blown 21-0 and 14-0 leads at home earlier this season to the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, respectively, never let up. Even though they tried to give the game away six or seven times.

The Seahawks looked off kilter all game. A result of the stunning Percy Harvin trade? Or an indication that the whole title defense thing is harder than it looked after the Seahawks smashed the Green Bay Packers in the season opener?

Let's start with the football aspect of this team.

Losing Harvin hurts. But the Seahawks are weak on the offensive line, and the defensive line hasn't provided a pass rush that looks anything like last season's swarming defense. In addition, the secondary has a mere two interceptions.

Russell Wilson has been exceptional at times this season, and it's clear — both with the Harvin trade and with the offensive design — that they are trying to build the attack around him and give him a shot at winning an MVP award. But getting away from Marshawn Lynch (18 rushes, 53 yards on Sunday) has hurt them in all three losses.

The sum of this team is definitely not equal to the individual parts.

The emotional factor, however, can't be overlooked. There were a lot of upset players when the news of the Harvin trade hit — especially with Lynch, who reportedly refused to get on the team bus to the airport for this game — and yet the Seahawks brass clearly felt like Harvin was a divisive, unreliable force in the locker room.

The Seahawks' us-against-the-world approach almost has turned into an us-against-us thing.

The irony, of course, is that this was the team that was supposed to be the smooth-sailing outfit, and the rival San Francisco 49ers were the team awash in discord. That's how it looked after the 49ers' 1-2 start, the week that the Seahawks hung on to beat the Denver Broncos and the 49ers blew a lead for the second straight game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Now Jim Harbaugh and the Niners, prior to their Sunday night game against the Broncos, had won three straight and appeared to have turned the chaos on its head. And the Seahawks are the reeling team with two straight losses in fairly shocking fashion.

The Rams had been among the shakier teams in the NFL in terms of trying to close out games, as their 1-4 record entering Sunday would indicate, but they downed the Seahawks with ridiculous punt return trickery in the first half, an even more ridiculous fake punt in the final three minutes of the game and a fumble recovery at midfield that it appeared the Seahawks had every chance to recover.

They did not, and the Seahawks lost again.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 19, 2014, 7:59 pm

Things happen on an NFL field, which is why Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly deserved a break, not an ejection.

Kuechly was in a scrum trying to get a fumble, and was being pulled off by Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers, who was being pulled off by another Panthers player. Like we said, things happen on an NFL field.

Well, the official near that fracas wanted to break it up, so he grabbed Kuechly from behind. At that point Kuechly, last season’s NFL defensive player of the year, couldn’t know it was an official. He probably assumed a Packers player was trying to grab him. So he did what came naturally and pulled his arms away, a bit hard. The official wasn’t pleased with it, so he threw a flag and ejected Kuechly.

Did he deserve the ejection? Probably not. The official is on the field for a violent and passionate game and he has to also understand that things happen in the heat of battle.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 19, 2014, 7:54 pm

Start the Colt McCoy-for-starter controversy.

OK, maybe not. But the Washington Redskins benched Kirk Cousins to start the second half against the Tennessee Titans, after he threw another interception — his ninth in six games — and had some seriously bad body language after it.

So McCoy came in for Cousins to start the second half and after a handoff on the first play promptly threw a 70-yard touchdown, a career long for McCoy, on his first throw of the season. McCoy also led a last-minute drive, setting up Kai Forbath's 22-yard last-second field goal that won it for the Redskins, 19-17.

Granted, Pierre Garcon, who caught McCoy's TD pass, did most of the work. But McCoy helped give the Redskins a much-needed boost after what has been a terribly frustrating few weeks for Cousins.

Both men merely are placeholders. Despite all the early season talk of Cousins perhaps Wally Pipping an injured Robert Griffin III, that just isn't happening. RG3 is expected back in the next week or two, and he appeared to be moving around well in pregame warmups following his dislocated ankle injury, which looks like it has healed well.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 19, 2014, 7:05 pm

The St. Louis Rams are like that Bob Dylan song.

When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.

When the Seattle Seahawks lined up for a punt with 7:24 left in the second quarter, they already found themselves down 14-3 to the Rams. The Rams probably figured, "Why the heck not?" when they pulled off one of the more creative punt-return fake-outs you might ever see.

Every Seahawks special-teamer followed the Rams' return team and apparent returner Tavon Austin, who looked to be trying to field the punt. Only problem: Punter Jon Ryan kicked it to the complete opposite side of the field.

Stedman Bailey, who was the jammer on the other side, was the man who ran it back for a score. He lined up opposite the Seahawks' gunner, retreated and fielded the punt, nearly unimpeded to the end zone for one of the strangest touchdowns in recent NFL memory.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll tried to argue that Austin appeared to call for a fair catch, but it didn't look like Austin's hand ever went above his head.

You could watch this play 10 times in a row. It's that bizarre.

And that wasn't the extent of St Louis' trickery on special teams either. From a fourth down at their own 18-yard line with under three minutes left to play, the Rams faked a punt. Punter Johnny Hekker, who played quarterback in high school, found Benny Cunningham for an 18-yard gain and the Rams held off the Seahawks for a 28-26 win.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 19, 2014, 6:44 pm

Trade rumors began swirling this weekend around running back C.J. Spiller, the impending free agent whose touches have been limited behind Buffalo Bills teammate Fred Jackson. So, when Jackson suffered a groin injury late in the first quarter, Spiller finally got his chance to showcase his explosive skills.

Less than a quarter later, though, Spiller suffered a game-ending — and possibly worse — upper-body injury. Both Buffalo ball-carriers were visibly shaken as they were carted off the Ralph Wilson Stadium field. The Bills trailed the Vikings 3-0 after Jackson's injury and 10-7 following Spiller's departure.

On a third-and-1 with two minutes left in the first quarter, Jackson went down and was ruled out for the game soon afterwards. He entered the game leading the Bills in carries (68) and yards (234). Jackson will undergo an MRI on Monday for what appears to be "a serious" hamstring injury, per Ian Rapoport.

Albeit in a less-than-ideal situation, Spiller finally got his turn as Buffalo's feature back. Spiller, who also returns kicks for the Bills, took his first carry after Jackson's injury for 53 yards midway through the second quarter. At the end of the play, he also went down and was soon ruled out with a shoulder injury.

The fifth-year running back had a towel over his head and appeared to be in tears as he was carted off the field. Soon afterwards,'s Jason La Canfora reported Spiller suffered a broken collarbone.

Bryce Brown was inactive for Sunday's game, leaving Anthony Dixon as Buffalo's only healthy running back for the remainder of the afternoon. Brown rushed for 564 yards and four scores on 115 carries as a Philadelphia Eagles rookie in 2012. Dixon has totaled 544 yards on 162 carries in four-plus seasons.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Author: Ben Rohrbach
Posted: October 19, 2014, 6:39 pm

Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle has jockeyed himself from thief to shill — a subtle and brilliant transformation in less than a week's time.

Randle was arrested for shoplifting underwear and a tester bottle of cologne on Monday, an obvious embarrassment for him and for the team. But now, per ESPN, Randle will be hocking MeUndies brand underwear — yes, he landed an endorsement deal out of this mess — and certainly will more than make up for the $29,500 game-check fine the Cowboys levied on him for the arrest.

An unmentionable crime turns into Randle promoting unmentionables. What a country.

Randle was charged with Class B misdemeanor theft of $50 to $500, according to Dallas-area police, and released on bond early Tuesday morning. Although the team fined Randle, he will not be forced to miss any game action. The Cowboys host the New York Giants in Week 7.

Under the auspice of penance, MeUndies head of marketing and business development Dan King said Randle also will donate $15,000 or more worth of underwear and other clothing to needy children and will make public-service appearances at Dallas-area schools to warn children and students about learning from their mistakes.

How nice.

"Joseph felt the need to turn a negative situation into a positive and teamed up with MeUndies to give back to his community and help families in need," King said, per ESPN. "As a young company, MeUndies is faced with difficult challenges all the time. It's up to us to turn a negative situation into a positive one, almost on a daily basis. How you learn from your mistakes fast is how you find success in our business and those lessons are applicable in all walks of life."

Ah yes, this has everything to do with sending a message. It's all about the kids.

The company approached Randle and agent Erik Burkhardt after the arrest and tried to turn a negative into a positive — for both sides.

"There is no excuse for my mistake last week, and I take full responsibility for my actions," Randle said. "I let down my coaches, teammates, and family. My agent and I have spent a lot of time looking for ways I can turn my situation into a learning experience for young people.

"Partnering with MeUndies allows me the opportunity to give back to others less fortunate than myself, and spread a positive message of not making the same mistake twice."

And divvying skivvies to kids apparently is his road to salvation.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 19, 2014, 3:46 pm

(AP)I don’t know the details of why the Seattle Seahawks traded Percy Harvin or how their offense will look after he was traded to the New York Jets.

But I have studied the Seahawks’ offense so far this season, and can tell you what I have and haven’t seen in their offense so far.

My opinion, from watching the tape, is that they have been relying on outliers to be staples. They’re relying on deception and quarterback Russell Wilson’s (admittedly wonderful) improvisation to be foundations of their offense. It’s hard to rely on deception and randomness, no matter how great it can be, as the staples of an offense. And they've gotten away from a staple that has worked, their base running game. 

In the passing game, there have been very few route concepts. I’ve noticed that for a few weeks. They don’t help their receivers a lot. It’s always easy to say a team doesn’t have great receivers, but the coaches can help them with route combinations and concepts to get open, especially when they play against man coverage. The Chargers are masters of that. The Seahawks don’t do a ton of it. They do some, but you don’t see a lot of things like three-level vertical stretch, stacked formations or bunch concepts.

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It’s easy to see why they would rely on improvisation when you watch what Wilson did against Washington a couple weeks ago. Here’s an example: On a second down and 20 in the first quarter, the Seahawks did call a route combination concept, a post-cross off play action. Every team has that in their playbook and the Seahawks got exactly what they wanted, because the crosser was open.

But it seemed like Wilson saw a flash of Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan in his vision, so he ran immediately. And he ran for 22 yards, a huge play.

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I don’t know if the coaches say “You had the cross,” or if they say “Great job, Russell.” I can’t answer that. I’m just telling you what I see on film. Wilson is the best guy in the league at these kinds of plays, but it’s still somewhat random. Then the random plays don’t work, which is what happened against Dallas, and then what?

As for Harvin, he was not a factor at all in Seahawks pass game this season. He was being used in specific ways, but not really as a receiver and not as a foundation part of the pass game. He was used a lot on jet sweeps and bubble screens, and that’s about it.

One thing they have gotten away from is the run game out of the base offense. Against Dallas, they didn’t have one run to Lynch in the first half with Wilson under center. His first run with Wilson under center in a two-back set came with 4:46 left in the third quarter. Fullback Derrick Coleman played just five snaps on offense against the Cowboys. The Seahawks could not sustain offense in the loss to Dallas. They had no commitment to the run game and they were in far too many third-and-long situations.

I don’t know what the Seahawks are going to do this week against the Rams, if they’ll get back to basics after the Harvin trade. I just know what I’ve seen on film from the Seahawks so far.

Rams mistake on Lloyd TD

A lot was made of the San Francisco 49ers’ touchdown at the end of the first half on Monday night, and it came about because of a horrible mistake by St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

In the final minute of the first half, the Rams ran the same “Cover 3” zone concept they played the previous three snaps. Jenkins was the deep defender and should not have even been concerned with Brandon Lloyd’s stutter move. He should have bailed and played over the top, not allowing any ball to get behind him. But Lloyd got behind him and scored an 80-yard touchdown that helped turn the game around.

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That mistake showed a total lack of discipline and understanding. That happened to the Rams the entire game. They really struggled with the execution of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ defensive concepts all night, and played with poor discipline overall.

Derek Carr report

Rookie Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr played very well last week against San Diego. He looked like a veteran at times – excellent pocket patience, he knew where to go with the ball, had a good feel for what he saw, was a very comfortable pocket mover and a good athlete. He’s also an aggressive thrower, especially against man coverage.

Even the only turnover he had, which ended the Raiders' final chance at a victory, wasn't entirely his fault but was in large part due to a flaw in the design of the play. Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett played in off coverage against a “sluggo” route (slant and go) by Brice Butler, and a “sluggo” against a bailed off corner is hard to throw. It was just second down and 1. The problem for Carr was, there was no check down available in the play. So Carr threw it deep, and it was a game-ending interception.

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Casey dominates

I wanted to single out Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, a really good player who played very well against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Casey dominated the first two plays of the game, stopping two consecutive run plays. The first play in particular showed a snapshot of his ability: great quickness off the ball, and an ability to play off blocks and find the ball-carrier.

On the first play of the game, Casey used his quickness to beat left guard Zane Beadles. The play was “iso lead weak” and because Casey beat Beadles so quickly (I don’t think Beadles even touched him, Casey was so quick), it forced the fullback to block him. He shed the fullback and made the tackle. It was a great play.

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Casey is one of the better defensive linemen in the game, with a build and movement similar to Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins, and he’s doing it a bit out of position. His skill set is more of a three-technique in a 4-3 defense. But he’s playing in a 3-4. And he’s playing really well in that scheme too. 

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

Author: Greg Cosell
Posted: October 18, 2014, 5:55 pm

You knew when the Seattle Seahawks dropped a bombshell of trading receiver Percy Harvin to the New York Jets that there was more to the story, and there is.

Harvin gave then-teammate Golden Tate a black eye before the Super Bowl, had another fight with Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin before a preseason game this season, and the final straw for him in Seattle might have come when he apparently didn't want to go back into a game against Dallas in the fourth quarter last Sunday, the Seattle Times reported.

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The fight with Tate was first reported by Lance Zierlein of Sports Talk 790 in Houston and confirmed by the Times. Zierlein also reported there was almost a fight between Harvin and quarterback Russell Wilson this season. The Tate story led people to start searching for photos of Tate just before, during and after the Super Bowl, and it does look like he had a black eye:

@THE_ELPRESADOR Here's a pic of Golden Tate's black eye after Percy Harvin punched him during Superbowl week.

— Skyler Johnson (@ya_boy_hollywud) October 17, 2014

But that wasn't all, according to the Times. Before Seattle's final preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, Harvin and Baldwin were in a fight, Baldwin got a cut on his chin and both players missed some practices. Harvin didn't make the trip to Oakland for what the team said was "a personal matter," the Times said.

Harvin then "apparently balked" at going back into the Dallas game last week, the Times said, citing sources. Harvin played just six of Seattle's final 17 snaps of the loss to the Cowboys.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider said in a statement that it was a tough call to trade Harvin.

"Although this was an extremely difficult decision, we are constantly evaluating our team and believe at this time, that this is in our best interest to move the team forward," Schneider said. "We thank Percy for his efforts that contributed to a Super Bowl XLVIII victory and wish him well."

This isn't the first time Harvin's name has been associated with some troubling behavior. When the Sporting News ran a long piece in 2012 of how Florida's program had dealt with many character issues under former coach Urban Meyer, Harvin was prominently involved, including a story of how he physically attacked receivers coach Billy Gonzales. Harvin's high school career was "marked with several suspensions for on- and off-the-field incidents, which included hitting a teacher and a referee," according to a New York Times story. When Harvin was traded from Minnesota to Seattle last year, there was more speculation that he was a high-maintenance player for the Vikings.

No matter what happened behind the scenes, the Seahawks decided to move on from Harvin, and got a conditional sixth-round pick that can become a fourth-round pick, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said. And if Harvin becomes an issue in the New York locker room, it's not like the Jets can say they were blindsided. The Seahawks really can't say they were, either. 

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 18, 2014, 3:29 pm

Joe Flacco had a great game last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was even more impressive when you watched the film of it.

The Baltimore Ravens quarterback threw four touchdowns in the first quarter, which is phenomenal, and it’s even more impressive when you see that the four scores came against four different coverages.

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Flacco was really locked in and here’s one way to tell: He was hitting his back foot and the ball was immediately coming out, no matter the coverage. That shows a great sense of timing and rhythm, and also of coverage recognition and where to go with the ball to beat it.

Here are Flacco’s first four touchdowns:

No. 1
Torrey Smith, 15 yards
Coverage: Cover 3 zone

The Ravens lined up in a “12” balanced set (one back, two tight ends) and the Buccaneers had eight in the box with “Cover 3” behind it. Cornerback Brandon Dixon was in press position, then he opened up and Smith had a clean release on a quick slant. Flacco hit him for the score.

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No. 2
Smith, 9 yards
Coverage: Tampa 2 zone

On third and goal, the Ravens came out in “11” personnel and the Buccaneers ran a nickel coverage. The Buccaneers ran a “Tampa 2” coverage. In that defense there are two deep safeties, and the main difference between that and “Cover 2” zone is the middle linebacker drops to fill the deep middle void. Buccaneers linebacker Mason Foster opened to the three-receiver side, after running back Justin Forsett motioned out of the backfield and the Ravens showed an empty set.

Michael Campanaro and Smith were to the two-receiver side. Campanaro ran a hook route, to hold the underneath coverage, and Smith ran a quick in-breaking route in front of safety Major Wright. Flacco found Smith for the score.

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No. 3
Kamar Aiken, 17 yards
Coverage: Cover 2 zone

Aiken was the inside slot receiver, running a seam route against the “Cover 2.” Aiken’s route was designed to split the two deep safeties. Flacco hit the fifth step of his drop and delivered right away with timing and accuracy.

The impressive part of the second and third touchdowns are that when teams run a “Cover 2” or “Tampa 2,” the coverage is designed to take away the three- and five-step drop throws. The pass rush takes care of anything more than that, but the coverage is supposed to eliminate the routes on short drops.

Flacco immediately recognized what the coverage was, understood the seam route would beat it and hit Aiken for the score. At first glance it looks like Aiken was wide open and this was an easy throw, but Flacco made it look easy because he recognized it so quickly.

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No. 4
Campanaro, 19 yards
Coverage: Man free lurk

This score was impressive too, because the Buccaneers had a late rotation. They went from a two-shell before the snap, with two deep safeties, to a single-high safety look in “man free lurk.” Campanaro was running a vertical seam against the slot corner, Flacco read the coverage rotation immediately and threw to the right receiver.

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Flacco is a very interesting player, from a public perception standpoint. He has never missed a start. He has the most wins (including playoffs) of any starting quarterback since 2008, when he entered the league. He has won a Super Bowl. Yet if you ask someone to give you the top seven or eight quarterbacks in the NFL, we all know the first four or five, and Flacco isn’t included. And he’s probably not mentioned in that next tier either. It’s interesting to me that certain quarterbacks, when they win a Super Bowl, get labeled as “winners,” but in Flacco’s case he doesn’t seem to hold that place.

I like Flacco as a quarterback. I think he has the strongest arm in the league as far as throwing intermediate and deep routes. And he’s an easy thrower. When he throws that 22-yard in route it’s like he’s throwing 5 yards. It’s effortless.

Steve Young said the best compliment he ever got was that he made it look easy when he played. He said that’s a great compliment because it’s really hard out there, and if it looks easy that means you’re playing at a high level. Joe Flacco made it look pretty easy last Sunday.

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

Author: Greg Cosell
Posted: October 17, 2014, 11:20 pm

As far as out-of-the-blue NFL trades go, Percy Harvin to the New York Jets ranks pretty high.

A day after slipping to 1-6, the Jets made a big and shocking move, trading a conditional pick to the Seattle Seahawks for Harvin, the explosive receiver and return man. Fox Sports' Jay Glazer broke the news. The pick is a "conditional mid-rounder," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said.

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Had the roles been reversed, and the defending Super Bowl champs were adding a receiver to improve their struggling passing attack from a team whose season is effectively over and looking to restock draft picks, that would make sense. It's harder to figure out as it went down.

The Seahawks, who have thrown among the fewest deep passes in the NFL, had not been using Harvin as a deep threat, and Harvin had been struggling to get anything going this season. But he's still by far their most talented receiver. He had just 133 yards on 22 catches this season, but an expanded role was promised by the Seahawks this week. Before the end of the week, he was gone to the Jets.

The immediate reaction from the Seahawks was one of shock too. There were NSFW tweets from running back Marshawn Lynch and linebacker Bruce Irvin, and defensive end Cliff Avril sent a family-friendly tweet that summed it up:

This business is crazy... Hate to see my boy @Percy_Harvin go

— Cliff Avril (@cliffavril) October 17, 2014

The Jets need weapons too, but their season is practically done, barring a miracle turnaround. He should help next year, but he also has a $10.5 million base salary on a team that has a lot of roster holes.

Last year the Seahawks traded for Harvin, sending 2013 first- and seventh-round picks and a 2014 third-round pick to Minnesota, and gave him a six-year deal worth a little more than $64 million. Harvin barely played last season because of injuries, but was instrumental in the Seahawks' Super Bowl victory. Harvin won't be playing in another Super Bowl this year. We'll see if the Seahawks have enough weapons remaining in the passing game to get back there themselves.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 17, 2014, 9:46 pm

Former Seattle Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson was with the team during its Super Bowl run last season and saw the path to success with the team on offense.

Things have changed quite a bit in less than a year.

Robinson now is an analyst for NFL Network, and the Seahawks appear to have gotten a bit away from what they do best offensively during a slightly surprising 3-2 start to the 2014 season.

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And Robinson didn't hold back on questioning the identity of this year's Seahawks offense.

"When I look at the Seahawks, what type of offense is this? What is your identity? We kind of went through this in 2011 when we were kind of running some speed ball offense. We had Tarvaris Jackson as quarterback, and we really didn’t know what we wanted to do.

Robinson said the turning point that season was offensive line coach Tom Cable proclaiming that the team would make the run game its bread and butter. That set in motion the team's physical style that would develop over the next three seasons, helping morph itself — along with tremendous defense and special teams, of course — into a championship outfit.

As things currently stand, Robinson wonders if the team has gotten away from Marshawn Lynch and the power run game in lieu of a cuter approach from offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who does tend to become a bit distracted by shiny objects at times, it would appear.

"Right now, when the Seahawks go on the four-minute offense," Robinson asked rhetorically, "when they have a lead and they have to secure the lead or they want to impose their will on a team, what do they go to? Do they go to Percy Harvin running the read option and Russell Wilson running for 100 yards? Or do they turn around and hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch?”

And in the two losses, you can't help but notice that Lynch has been underutilized. Robinson has seen it.

“You look at the losses that the Seahawks have had, none of the losses were big enough to warrant Marshawn getting six carries and 10 carries,” he said.

Are the Seahawks without a true identity offensively then?

“I think this team is kind of in transition," Robinson said. "I don’t think they have an identity offensively. When you can run the ball and impose your will, it helps your defense out. It keeps those defensive backs in ball hawking mode because the other team has limited times to possess the ball, so they have to throw the ball.

"I think this team wants to get Russell Wilson that MVP award, I really think they do. But is his skillset supposed to be complementary or is it supposed to be the feature of this offense? That’s the question I think the Seahawks have to answer.”

Robinson made a name for himself in his eight NFL seasons, four of them with the Seahawks, as a player who wasn't afraid to hit hard as a blocking fullback and special-teams ace. It appears he's also not afraid to pack a punch when it comes to calling out the team he played for as recently as February, either.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 17, 2014, 7:22 pm

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