Saturday, December 29, 2012

NFL '12 Dread News - Week 16

The numbers simply don't add up - points scored: 22.1 per game; points allowed: 25.6 per game; turnover margin: -17 (in 14 games). What does that look like to you? To me for sure that's a losing team. But oddly enough, those were the numbers of a team not only with a winning record, but a team that had already clinched a playoff spot with two weeks to spare. That team, of course, is the Indianapolis Colts, who seemingly have been touched by a magic wand throughout the 2012 season. In compiling their 9-5 record prior to last Sunday's trip to Kansas City, the Colts' victories have been by margins of 3, 3, 4, 6 (in overtime), 3, 17 (the Jaguars), 7, 2, and 4 points. And the magic continued against the Chiefs. Despite being dominated for much of the game, the Colts picked up win #10 by a score of 20-13.

It doesn't take magic to beat the Chiefs this season. But to their credit, despite winning only twice all year and having little to play for, they really showed up for this one. After being held to a pathetic 119 total yards by the Raiders one week earlier, the Chiefs inexplicably shredded the Colts' D for 507 total yards, including an incredible 352 yards on the ground. How do you rush for 350 yards and still lose? You beat yourselves, same as the Chiefs have done all season. Their -3 turnover margin in this game dropped them to -25 for the season - worst in the league. The Colts' defense, coming into the game with just 10 takeaways all season, got a pick 6 on the Chiefs' first possession of the day. The Chiefs' other two turnovers were both in the red zone and both on 1st down. The Chiefs ended with gaining 50+ yards on 6 different drives and yet got just 1 TD and 2 FG.

That one TD came on an 86-yard run by RB Jamaal Charles on the first play from scrimmage in the 2nd half. It was the 3rd time this season Charles (photo above) has had a run of 80 yards or longer.
A lot has been said about the amazing comeback season by Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. But since the Chiefs have been so horrible, maybe not as many people know that Charles, also coming back from a torn ACL, is having a great season himself. He definitely has been worth the price of admission, a beacon of light amid the darkness of a 2-13 season. Jamaal was rewarded for his excellence this week as he was selected to play for the AFC team in the Pro Bowl. A column in the Kansas City Star (link below) pretty well sums up his bittersweet year.
Last week I mentioned that it would be a rarity for my head dread award to go to a player on a team that lost. Charles was so close to pulling it off with the 230 total yards. But his fumble was a killer, coming on 1st down from the Colts' 18-yard line with the Chiefs threatening to tie the game in the 2nd quarter. So I couldn't give him the award. 
Opposing Charles in the Pro Bowl will be both starting CBs for the Chicago Bears. Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings were selected as starters for the NFC team, even as the once 7-1 and now 9-6 Bears find themselves on the brink of missing the playoffs. The Bears kept hope alive with a 28-13 road win over the Cardinals, but they'll need another win - and help - in Week 17 to get to the playoffs. Tillman (photo above celebrating his TD with teammates) finished with 8 tackles (8-0) and took an INT return 10 yards to the house for the Bears' 9th defensive TD of the season (one short of the NFL record). It was Peanut's 3rd INT this season, and all three have been returned for TDs. It was also his 33rd career INT, which sets a new club record for career INT by a CB. The TD was the 9th of his career, which extends his team record for career TDs by a defensive player. 
Jennings had a quieter day, finishing with 4 tackles (4-0) (one of them in photo above) and a pass interference penalty. But just being on the field was a victory for him. Because it meant he had survived an attack by the human wrecking ball known as Michael Robinson. In one of my very first posts in this blog four years ago I mentioned that Robinson, now a FB with the Seahawks, had ended the career and permanently ruined the shoulder of Minnesota S and pro prospect Brandon Owens in a violent collision in a 2005 game when he was the QB at Penn State. And earlier this month, when Robinson once again lowered his head and slammed directly into Jennings' shoulder in a similar-looking collision, my heart sunk. I thought Jennings would be done for the season. Thankfully Tim 'only' dislocated his shoulder and was back last Sunday after missing just 2 games. And barring a miraculous run by the Bears to the Super Bowl, he'll on the field in Hawaii for his 1st career Pro Bowl.
I'm not sure, but I think there was a new record set last Sunday - for the most players with dreads on one team to record tackles in a game. In the Packers' 55-7 demolition of the Titans eight players with dreads for Green Bay had at least 1 tackle. Leading the way was S Morgan Burnett (photo above) with 7 (4-3). S M.D. Jennings, CB Tramon Williams, and LB Erik Walden had 3 each, with Walden also getting his 2nd INT of the season (photo below). And LB Jamari Lattimore along with rookies Terrell Manning, Jerron McMillian, and Dezman Moses also made the stats sheet. The Packers' D held RB Chris Johnson to 41 total yards, including 28 yards rushing on 11 carries.
The solution to the Ravens' offensive woes is really quite simple: make sure Torrey Smith gets into the end zone. Smith, the 2nd year WR, fell a bit short of a 100-yard game, but I'm including him on the dread stars list anyway for his role in a 33-14 home win over the N.Y. Giants that ended the Ravens' 3-game losing streak and hopefully gets them back on track toward the Super Bowl. Torrey ended the Ravens' first drive of the game with a 6-yard TD catch (photo below) - and that was a very good thing for Ravens fans because the Ravens never lose when he takes one to the house. Well, almost never. Including that playoff loss to New England last season, the Ravens are now 10-2 (and 6-0 this season) when Smith scores at least 1 TD. After giving the Ravens a 7-0 lead on Sunday, Smith had highlight reel receptions on the Ravens' other two TD drives in the 1st half as they took a 24-7 lead into the locker room. 
Perhaps one of the reasons the Ravens recently fired their offensive coordinator is that not enough passes have been thrown in Smith's direction this season. I mean, you don't have to throw it to him on every play, but it's inexcusable for him to go through a whole game (as he did in the Week 14 loss at Washington) being targeted just 3 times. For the season Torrey has been thrown to 109 times (49 catches), or 7.3 targets per game. By comparison Falcons WR Roddy White has 133 targets, and Lions superstar Calvin Johnson has 190 targets. Now Torrey is a team player, so you won't hear him complaining. But you'll certainly hear me complain: just throw him the damn ball, will ya!

Seahawks CB Richard Sherman won his appeal (details in article on link below) to the NFL and will not have to serve a 4-game P.E.D. suspension. And that's huge because Sherman has been one of the team's best players this season. Richard made the dread stars list this week as the Seahawks defeated the 49ers shockingly easily 42-13 to improve to 10-5 and clinch a playoff spot. Sherman got his 7th INT of the season (photo below) in the end zone to end a 49er threat on the first play of the 4th quarter and keep the score at 35-6. But thanks to everybody figuring he was going to be suspended, he got the snub for the Pro Bowl team.
From the details that have emerged, Sherman's victory in the appeal was a slam dunk, because whoever was assigned to do his drug test collected his urine improperly - and that's a big no-no. Sherman, of course, is proclaiming his innocence, which I want to believe but know better than to believe. If you truly are innocent, Richard, then we apologize. But if you just got away with one ..... well, if you're as smart as you supposedly are, then you've learned your lesson and this will be the last time you ever test positive, right?


I would still be a Falcons fan even if they had nobody with dreads. But for real, with all the key players with dreads they have, it makes watching them all the more enjoyable. Starting CBs Dunta Robinson (9 years) and Asante Samuel (10) have been in the league forever. But while Dunta's dreads look like he's been around for 9 years, Asante's dreads keep getting shorter (photo below from OTA practice on May 29). Much to my delight, Mike Peterson (and his sick dreads) was brought back for one more (final?) season, his 14th in the league. Jacquizz Rodgers is an emerging star, and his brother James is on the practice squad. Roddy White, same as always, has had his dreads reduced for about half the games. No, I don't like it, but at least he's consistent. Falcons' grade would have been an A if WR Julio Jones had kept his dreads, but unfortunately he cut them off back in April. LB Robert James also now an ex-dread.
ACTIVE: DT Jonathan Babineaux, DT Peria Jerry, LB Mike Peterson, CB Dunta Robinson, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, CB Asante Samuel, WR Roddy White
INACTIVE: WR Kevin Cone (IR), WR James Rodgers (PS)

Season started off wrong when rookie CB Josh Norman cut off his dreads at the end of training camp. Norman became leader for longest dreads on the team the instant he signed his contract but sadly decided to go in a different direction. DeAngelo Williams, Antwan Applewhite, and Charles Godfrey (photo below celebrating his pick 6 against Drew Brees in Week 2) all are key players. But I just wish they wouldn't be on the field with reduced dreads so often.
ACTIVE: WR Joe Adams, S Charles Godfrey, RB DeAngelo Williams
INACTIVE: DE Antwan Applewhite (IR)

One of the few teams with more players with dreads on offense than defense. Chris Ivory's dreads have attained awesome status (photo below); but unfortunately, except for highlight reel TD vs, Falcons in Week 10, hasn't had much of an impact. Later in that game, Ivory had his dreads pulled on a tackle by DE Ray Edwards, nearly starting an incident. Yo Chris, if you're going to be on the field with your dreads like this, better get used to having them pulled. Good to see undrafted rookie Travaris Cadet on the team and on the field. He has been a minor contributor.
ACTIVE: RB Travaris Cadet, WR Saalim Hakim, RB Chris Ivory, S Jerico Nelson
INACTIVE: OT Jermarcus Hardrick (PS)

Davin Joseph and Adrian Clayborn (photo below) have dreads among the most awesome in the league, but sadly they've been injured (Joseph on IR all year and Clayborn since Week 3). Also sadly, E.J. Biggers has joined former college teammate and Lions S Louis Delmas in going with his dreads reduced permanently. Rookie Mark Barron a future star. Still undecided if I need to welcome LeGarrette Blount to the house.
ACTIVE: S Mark Barron, CB E.J. Biggers
INACTIVE: DE Adrian Clayborn (IR), G Davin Joseph (IR), CB Myron Lewis (IR), TE Danny Noble (IR)

1. Thanks to good blocks by TE Tony Gonzalez (on CB Jonte Green) and OT Sam Baker (off camera) WR Roddy White takes a screen pass untouched 39 yards to the house for his 2nd TD of the game and 7th of the season, giving Falcons a 14-3 lead over Lions during 2nd quarter at Detroit on Saturday night.

2. Rookie CB Jonte Green gets his only PBU of the game, knocking a pass away from WR Julio Jones with Lions trailing by 8 midway through 3rd quarter. Falcons punted three plays later. Green finished with a season high 8 tackles (6-2), but Lions dropped their 7th in a row, losing to Falcons 31-18.

3. Rookie WR Alshon Jeffery of Bears beats Cardinals CB Greg Toler deep for a 35-yard reception to the Arizona 38-yard line on 2nd and 3 on the first play after the 2-minute warning during 1st half. It was the only tackle of the game for Toler and the only catch by Jeffery. Bears scored a TD 4 plays later to take a 21-6 halftime lead and went on to win 28-13.

4. Early in 2nd quarter at Seattle, on 4th down from the 3-yard line, Seahawks CB Richard Sherman looks on as DE Red Bryant blocks a 21-yard FG attempt by 49ers K David Akers .....

5. ..... The ball takes a friendly deflection right over to where Sherman is standing, and he scoops it up at the 10-yard line .....

6. ..... Only Akers and P Andy Lee (the holder, #4) have a chance to catch Sherman as he sets sail for the end zone, and that ain't happenin' ......

7. ..... In the clear with nothing but green in front of him, Sherman takes the return 90 yards to the house to increase Seahawks' lead to 21-0 with 14:05 to go in 2nd quarter. It was Sherman's 2nd TD of the season. Seahawks went on to rout 49ers 42-13 to clinch NFC playoff spot.

8. Bills LB Kelvin Sheppard can't knock Dolphins RB Reggie Bush out of bounds, and Bush finishes off a 17-yard TD reception to give Dolphins a 7-0 lead late in 1st quarter. It was the 1st of Bush's 3 TD on the afternoon. Sheppard finished with 6 tackles (6-0), but Bills dropped their 3rd straight, 24-10 to Dolphins. 

9. In the closing seconds of a tie game at Pittsburgh, Bengals S Reggie Nelson returns the ball 10 yards after intercepting an ill-advised pass thrown by QB Ben Roethlisberger. It was Nelson's 3rd INT of the season, and it gave Bengals possession at the Steelers' 46-yard line with :14 remaining. Bengals moved into FG range on the next play, then kicked a 43-yard FG with :04 on the clock to win it. Nelson also had 3 tackles (3-0) and 1 PBU as Bengals clinched AFC playoff spot with 13-10 win and in the process eliminated Steelers from playoff contention. 

10. Early in 4th quarter at Denver, after Browns WR Josh Cribbs muffed a punt, Broncos rookie CB Omar Bolden makes sure he doesn't recover it. RB Lance Ball eventually got the recovery for Broncos, and they cashed in with a TD 3 plays later. Bolden finished with 3 tackles (3-0), while Cribbs had 74 all-purpose yards and 2 tackles. Broncos whipped Browns 34-12 to improve to 12-3. 

11. LB Philip Wheeler takes the legs, and DE Andre Carter takes the shirt as they combine to tackle Panthers WR Steve Smith at the Raiders' 23-yard line after a 16-yard reception on 2nd and 22 late in 1st quarter at Charlotte. Smith made a catch for a TD on the next play, putting Panthers ahead 7-0.

12. A rough day for WR Denarius Moore gets even rougher as he is nearly decapitated by LB Doug Hogue while trying to return a punt with 10:05 remaining in 4th quarter. Hogue was called for a facemask penalty, but Raiders also had a penalty on the return, so by rule Raiders took possession at the spot of their penalty. Moore finished with 2 punt returns for 0 yards and 3 catches for 12 yards.

13. With Raiders down by 8 and desperately needing a stop, Philip Wheeler gets beat as TE Greg Olsen hauls in a bullet from QB Cam Newton for a 20-yard reception, moving Panthers into FG range with 3:50 remaining. Panthers kicked a FG 4 plays later to put game out of reach. Wheeler finished with 3 tackles (2-1) and 1 PBU as Raiders lost 17-6.

14. Packers sick RB DuJuan Harris (the former Jaguar) takes it to the house for a 7-yard TD run, giving Green Bay a 27-0 lead over Titans on their first drive of 2nd half. It was Harris' 2nd TD of the season. He finished with 29 yards rushing on 8 carries in Packers' easy 55-7 victory.

15. Cowboys sick WR Dwayne Harris (no relation to DuJuan) beats CB Johnny Patrick for a 16-yard TD reception, cutting Saints' lead to 31-24 with 3:35 to play at Cowboys Stadium. It was Harris' 2nd TD of the season and his 1st career TD catch. After Cowboys got a stop on Saints' ensuing possession, Dwayne brought the punt return back 28 yards to give Cowboys good field position for their final drive. Cowboys then drove 64 yards for the tying TD, but Saints won it in OT 34-31. Despite the defeat, Cowboys can still make playoffs with road win against Washington in Week 17. 

16. LB Dannell Ellerbe led Ravens with 5 tackles (5-0), but he didn't get credit for this sack of Giants QB Eli Manning on the third play from scrimmage at Baltimore because teammate Terrell Suggs was offside on the play. Ellerbe was a big spark for the Ravens' D in his comeback after missing the previous 3 games due to an ankle injury:

17. After scoring a TD to finish off the Ravens' 1st drive of the game, WR Torrey Smith makes another big play on the 2nd play of their 2nd drive, somehow making the over-the-shoulder catch even while CB Corey Webster has a hold of his head. Smith went down at the 1-yard line after a 43-yard gain, and Ravens scored 2 plays later to up their lead to 14-0.

18. Torrey Smith makes another highlight reel play, pulling in a reception one handed to beat the coverage by Corey Webster late in 2nd quarter. The 21-yard gain to the Ravens' 45-yard line was the first play of a 7-play, 76-yard TD drive that gave Ravens a 24-7 halftime lead. Ravens went on to defeat Giants 33-14, putting the defending champs' playoff hopes on life support.

  • Torrey Smith - Ravens - 5 catches for 88 yards and 1 TD in 33-14 home W over Giants
  • Richard Sherman - Seahawks - 5 tackles (5-0), 3 PBU, got his 7th INT of season, and returned a blocked FG attempt 90 yards to the house in 42-13 home W over 49ers
  • Marshawn Lynch - Seahawks - 26 carries for 111 yards and 1 TD rushing, and had 2 catches for 19 yards and 1 TD as Seahawks moved to within a half game of 49ers for lead in NFC West
  • Larry Fitzgerald - Cardinals - 8 catches for 111 yards in 28-13 home L to Bears
  • Jamaal Charles - Chiefs - 22 carries for 226 yards and 1 TD rushing, plus 1 catch for 4 yards, in 20-13 home L to Colts

For the 2nd week in a row there were a pair of games in which 3 TD were scored by players with dreads. So the end zones at Ford Field in Detroit and CenturyLink Field in Seattle were the houses of dread for Week 16. In the Seahawks' 42-13 thumping of the 49ers, RB Marshawn Lynch scored TDs on a 24-yard run and a 9-yard reception (photo below), and Richard Sherman a had 90-yard TD return of a blocked FG attempt.
In the Lions' 31-18 loss to the Falcons, rookie RB Mikel Leshoure had a 1-yard TD run for the Lions, and the other 2 TD were by this week's player of the week.

OTHER WEEK 16 TDs: Dwayne Harris (DAL), DuJuan Harris (GB), Jamaal Charles (KC), Janoris Jenkins (STL), Steven Jackson (STL), Torrey Smith (BAL), Charles Tillman (CHI)
WEEK 16 INTs: Asante Samuel (ATL), Erik Walden (GB), Marquice Cole (NE), Reggie Nelson (CIN), Janoris Jenkins (STL), Usama Young (CLEV), Charles Tillman (CHI), Richard Sherman (SEA)

You'd never know that Roddy White has a sore knee by the way he played in the Falcons' 31-18 win at Detroit. White, who despite another fine season was not selected for the Pro Bowl, scored the Falcons first 2 TD of the game - the first on a beautiful over-the-shoulder grab of a perfect Matt Ryan pass on 3rd and 1 for 44 yards (photo below) to put Atlanta ahead 7-0 in the 1st quarter; and the second on a 39-yard catch and run on a well-blocked WR screen pass, increasing Falcons' lead to 14-3 in the 2nd quarter. But White's most important catch of the game came early in the 4th. The Lions had cut a 21-3 deficit to 21-16 and had momentum and had the crowd in the game. Staring at a possible three-and-out, the Falcons kept the ball when Ryan hit White for a 15-yard gain to the ATL 43-yard line on 3rd and 4. The Falcons went on to drive 78 yards for a TD to regain control. For the night White finished with 8 catches for 153 yards and the 2 TD. It was his 7th 100-yard game of the season and his 2nd with 2 TD. I'd still like to to see Roddy take a game off before the playoffs. But the problem is he has never missed a game in his entire career, and I know he doesn't want that streak to end. So how 'bout this? Next game play one or two series and then take the rest of the day off.    
Hopefully I'll be wrong, but I think it will be Rashean Mathis' last game in a Jaguars uniform as Jaguars face Titans. Two NFC playoff spots are up for grabs, with the key games being Packers at Vikings and Cowboys at Redskins. And if you're looking for the game with the best dreads, it's probably Ravens at Bengals, a game I'm planning to watch as much of as possible.


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