Archive for December 11th, 2011

The loneliest face in the world: I really hope Marion Barber is renting a place in Chicago. I also hope he has a kind and forgiving landlord, and that no one knows where he lives.

Don’t worry, Marion, because we have the perfect solution for survival in the city of Chicago. Find a blue hat, a pair of old glasses, and an old early 90s Walkman. You’ll blend right in.

(via Jose 3030)

The happiest face in the world: We can only wish to feel the same joy that Tim Tebow feels. So instead we’ll debate him mercilessly, and dedicate hours of television to answering a question that’s asked repeatedly using different words, and answered repeatedly using different words.

Eventually, we’ll all feel better about ourselves, and we’ll be guided to an intellectual Utopia by the passion of the Tebow.

This face instantly started another Tebow Interweb meme. Tomorrow if your boss abruptly stops in the middle of a boardroom presentation and holds his mouth wide open with his eyes firmly shut for several seconds, you’ll know what’s going on.

(pic via Mocksession.com)

Worst attempts to pass a football: At the 12:30 mark of the fourth quarter, Caleb Hanie and Tim Tebow had combined for just 121 passing yards after completing 12 of their first 31 pass attempts. That math adds up to a completion percentage of 38.7, with Tebow accounting for three of those completions on his 16 attempts.

That’s depressing abacus work even by Tebow’s lowly passing standards, and as we’ve seen so often with Denver’s highly inconsistent Messiah over his eight starts, this game reached the point where a simple completion from the pocket was a monumental accomplishment. Tebow’s 14-yard completion to Demaryius Thomas during the Broncos’ second drive of the fourth quarter was his first completion since the first quarter, ending a 0-for-11 stretch.

And those are the two paragraphs I wrote before the lord descended from the heavens again, saving his disciple from the wrath of Denver, and the fiery scourge of his loyal believers.

This is now becoming an exercise in mockery for Tebow. He’s teasing us, validating and then crushing every word we speak of him, and every belief we think is solidified. For over three quarters he’s often a loser, a quarterback whose elongated throwing motion and wobbly ball put him on the same level as a pre-schooler learning to jump rope.

Then suddenly he remembers that he’s in an offense that’s tailored to his every thought and movement, and he remembers how to run that offense, and in turn he remembers how to win a football game. But let’s be fair/realistic here: didn’t Hanie and Marion Barber lose this more than the Broncos won?

And will anyone even remember that Matt Prater booted a football a combined 110 yards between his game winning and game tying field goals? He needed 59 of those yards on the kick that sent the game to overtime, and it likely would have been good from at least five yards further.

Worst injury that would usually be a really big deal: Tebow makes everything in our lives feel significantly less important. If you’re just realizing right now that you’ve forgotten your anniversary, tell your wife that Tebow was busy winning. She’ll understand.

An exciting football team may be leading us to overlook a possibly historic football team, and a key member of the latter team went down as Green Bay cruised to a win over Oakland. Greg Jennings left in the third quarter with what’s being called a knee sprain, and Aaron Rodgers is already saying that he’s “hopeful” his No. 1 wide receiver will return for the playoffs. Jennings’ injury will be evaluated with an MRI tomorrow, but that’s already a pretty nasty and dirty word being used by his quarterback.

A nation of foam cheese wearers holds its breath after they watched Rodgers play nearly three full quarters in a 46-16 game. It’s time to start wondering if 16-0 is really worth the price in bruises and battered bones.

While the Green Bay Packers were annihilating one of the league’s best road teams to move to 13-0, the entire country was watching two significantly less skilled teams stumble over each other 1,100 miles away in Denver.

That’s the power of Tim Tebow, the story of the year that just keeps getting better.

Tebow and the Broncos once again used their fourth-quarter magic to come back from a 10-0 deficit and beat the Chicago Bears in overtime. After completing just three passes in the first three quarters, Tebow was 18 of 24 in the fourth Q and overtime, leading a touchdown drive and a field goal drive in the final five minutes to tie the game.

As per usual, he had a lot of support when it mattered most. In Tebow’s defense (as if he needs my defense), his receivers were dropping passes left and right earlier in the game. The defense also failed to haul in a pair of would-be interceptions and they had a field goal attempt blocked. But the D stepped up when the game was on the line, holding Chicago to three-and-outs on all four of their fourth-quarter possessions. And some credit should probably go to kicker Matt Prater, who was good from 59 and 51 to tie and win the game.

It also doesn’t hurt that Denver’s opponents continue to turn into the Washington Generals. It appeared the Chicago offense was doing everything in its power to give Tebow and the Broncos more opportunities to stay in the game late. I understand why Lovie Smith and Mike Martz would be conservative with Caleb Hanie making his third career start, but then you had Marion Barber inexplicably running out of bounds with the Bears in clock-eating mode in the final minutes (had he stayed in bounds, Denver would have had about 16 seconds for its final drive, not 56). And in overtime, you had Barber fumbling in field goal range (credit Wesley Woodyard for a great play to force the turnover).

Regardless, Tebow is now 7-1 as the starter in Denver, and the Broncos have won six straight. They now have a full game edge on the Raiders in the AFC West, and Oakland has been hammered in back-to-back games. It’s very difficult to imagine them not winning the division at this point. Instead, we’re wondering if #TebowTime can continue into January, where the Broncos are likely to host at least one playoff game in the wide-open AFC.

The drama attached to each Tebow comeback is why his team and his story have caused us to forget that we’re watching history being made in Wisconsin. The Packers clinched a first-round bye with their 19th straight win against Oakland. As they were putting the finishing touches on a 46-16 blowout, we were all watching Tebow and the Broncos. Makes sense, but it’s funny how an amazing story has eclipsed amazing football. The Broncos have still managed to give up 33 more points than they’ve scored this season, while the Packers are lapping the field.

Plus, everyone loves an underdog. Tebow was never supposed to succeed in this league and Denver was never supposed to compete in 2011. They’ve now won five straight games as a Vegas dog, while defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay keeps bullying the competition.

Unfortunately, that’s just how these things go. But there is a solution. We can merge these stories. I can see it now: Feb. 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Super Bowl XLVI between the 18-0 Green Bay Packers and the Tim Tebow-led Denver Broncos.

Easiest 65-yard run in the history of 65-yard runs: A rich history indeed, and Kordell Stewart set the record for the longest touchdown run by a quarterback with his 80-yarder in 1996. Joe Webb–who replaced Christian Ponder after the Vikings rookie threw three picks and was generally horrible–can’t help where the line of scrimmage was on this play.

He would have broken Stewart’s record with a 137-yard run if that was possible. Yep, the Lions allowed a backup quarterback to run for a 65-yard touchdown, and he wasn’t even touched.

Here’s a video shot by a man wearing only his underwear while in his parents’ basement. Yes, it was me.

Most terrifying piece of team merchandise: One of the friendly neighborhood blogger men over at The Jets Blog is in the process of moving, and he found this menacing-looking character buried beneath several vintage Fireman Ed helmets prior to today’s game (I probably made up that last part).

This was manufactured by a little known Japanese Anime NFL outlet, a fine merchandise-maker that’s also made Rex Ryan, the real-life person.

Most disorganized start: Ryan is known primarily for being a boisterous buffoon, and for wanting a god damn snack. Motivation is his primary skill, but organization is somewhere far lower on the rung of priorities, likely just above the ability to make wise decisions with a video camera.

Ryan’s lack of organization made an appearance the first time the Jets’ offense lined up at the line of scrimmage during their win over Kansas City, when only six seconds had ticked off the game clock. The Jets called a timeout before their first offensive play, which was also the first offensive play of the game.

That’s where my feeble criticism will end, though, because first half timeouts are vastly less important than second half timeouts, and Shonn Greene had a season-high 31-yard run on the next play. Still, when critics throw their barbs that stick into Ryan’s ample mid-section, this is the kind of needless disorganization that fuels their angst.

Best multi-tasking: Jake Locker came into the game during Tennessee’s loss to New Orleans in the first quarter after Matt Hasselbeck suffered a left calf injury. He was impressive, nearly guiding the Titans to a surprise comeback win. The sample size is still minuscule, but after his performance today (282 passing yards and a touchdown), Locker now has three touchdowns in 50 pass attempts this year.

But the most impressive number in Locker’s box score today puts Chris Johnson to shame after the Titans running back tumbled down to earth once again. Locker out-rushed Johnson by 13 yards after he gained 36 yards on six carries, while Johnson sputtered for just 23 yards on nine carries, and a paltry average of 2.5 yards per carry.

The highlight of Locker’s rushing day came on a six-yard touchdown run when he reached to break the plane and was successful after he held the ball over top of the pylon. While airborne and crashing to the ground, Locker still wanted to know the ruling, and he glanced at the official.

Today’s youth can’t wait for anything.

(via Mike Tunison)

Most Tim Tebow-esque first half passing stats: Tyler Palko needs to start praying more. A lot more.

Actually, the entire Chiefs offense should have done a mass Tebow, because at halftime the net offensive yardage was 253-4 in favor of the Jets. That means Palko’s offense only had four more positive yards than me in the first half, and that may even be debatable, because my walk to the GLS worldwide headquarters is at least two football fields long.

Reddest faces: Tom Brady looked oddly casual in the pocket as he threw just the third red-zone interception of his career late in the fourth quarter of New England’s narrow win over Washington. Every red-zone pick is costly, but this one could have been especially damaging after Josh Wilson jumped the route on a pass intended for receiver Tiquan Underwood with the Pats on Washington’s four yard-line.

Brady had gone 178 pass attempts without throwing an interception, a stretch that spanned over four games. Anger is a pretty natural emotion when an offense turns the ball over and fails to score after pushing to the opponent’s four yard-line. Rage is even more understandable when that turnover could have contributed to an upset loss, with the score 34-27 for New England at the time, a score that would hold after a Rex Grossman pick.

But seeing Brady angry is still a little jarring for some reason, probably because subconsciously we assume that someone who’s married to a supermodel is eternally happy and therefore incapable of expressing anger. And maybe because we’ve also grown used to seeing that giddy and gleeful grin on Brady’s face as he rockets down 13-foot waterslides, and when he does a Brazilian twist.

Ask Patriots offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien if Brady is capable of showing anger. He’ll tell you that when Brady is angry he instinctively thinks of all the teams that passed on him in the draft. The anger grows, and so do the tears.

Do not cross angry Tom.

For our American friends who can’t view the video above, here’s the visual evidence of Brady’s wrath.

Worst game seat: Jabar Gaffney was excited after he hauled in a nine-yard pass from Rex Grossman that cut New England’s lead to 14-10 in the first quarter. So he did the good ol’ crowd plunge.

But I often wonder if for just a fleeting instant a player considers the consequences of this celebration before his leap, even through their excitement and adrenaline. There could be a fan who wants to grab parts of the player’s body that shouldn’t be grabbed, or there could be an inebriated man who’s a spilly talker.

You could also wind up with your knees adjacent to your nose while you’re sitting in a rather undesirable position.

(via Jose 3030)

Drama in Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Washington. Hearts racing. You know the drill.

Texans-Bengals, Vikings-Lions, Saints-Titans and Patriots-Redskins. Six of the eight teams involved fighting for division titles and/or playoff spots. The team with the better record won in all four cases, but it came down to the final seconds, and one final play, in all four instances.

Cincy was the only place where the offense came out victorious on that final play. T.J. Yates, making just his second career start, hit Kevin Walter on a six-yard touchdown pass with two seconds to play to give the Texans a one-point victory and clinch their first playoff berth in franchise history. The 10-3 Texans have now won seven straight games, and three in a row since losing starting quarterback Matt Schaub for the year. Considering that Yates was making his first road start, that Andre Johnson was out of the lineup and that the Bengals have a top-10 defense, this might have been Houston’s most impressive win of the season.

HIGHLIGHTS: Texans pull it out in Cincy (Canada only)

In Detroit, the Lions led 21-0 and 28-7 and nearly blew it against Joe freakin’ Webb. Webb had touchdowns running and throwing in the second half as Minnesota stormed back to scare the hell out of a Lions team fighting for their playoff lives. Without any timeouts, the Vikings had a first-and-goal on the Detroit one-yard line with nine seconds on the clock, but Webb never stood a chance on that last gasp, fumbling while taking a sack for a huge loss. The Vikes walk away with a moral victory and a quarterback controversy, while the Lions walk away breathing a sigh of relief but shaken after a piss-poor defensive effort on their home field. They can’t afford to play like that against Oakland, San Diego or Green Bay in their final three games.

HIGHLIGHTS: Vikings fall short in Detroit (Canada only)

In Tennessee, Jake Locker was working his magic in relief of an injured Matt Hasselbeck. Down five, the Titans also had a chance to pull off an upset with one final play inside the New Orleans five-yard line with the clock running out, but Locker didn’t have an open target. He scrambled but was eventually sacked and the Titans’ playoff push took a major hit. Tennessee needed this, so it hurts, but they’ve got to be encouraged by Locker’s play — he completed three big passes for 75 yards earlier on that final drive and appeared poised and steady despite a low completion percentage on the day. The New Orleans defense exhibited some serious issues Sunday, but they stepped up when it mattered, and now the NFC South is probably theirs.

HIGHLIGHTS: Saints survive in Nashville (Canada only)

In DC, defense also prevailed in the final moments, but it wasn’t before the Patriots let a Rex Grossman-led Redskins team somehow compile 463 net yards and come one completion short of a big upset. Washington had it inside the New England 10-yard line with less than 30 seconds left, but Jerod Mayo picked off Grossman on third down to close the game and salvage a seven-point victory. As a result, the Pats keep pace with Houston, with both 10-3 squads surviving in dramatic fashion in the final seconds.

HIGHLIGHTS: Redskins fall short against New England (Canada only)

It’s a cliché to say that good teams find ways to win tight games in the final moments, but it’s interesting that the better team came through in all four of the clutch situations that made Sunday’s early batch of games so exciting. Did luck play a role? Of course it did. It almost always does in sports. Injuries are primarily luck-related, and so is timing. If games were 61 minutes, the Lions, Saints and Pats might have lost in Week 14. If they were 59 minutes, the Texans probably would have fallen. You don’t always have to be good to be lucky, but there seems to be a correlation.

We’re assuming/hoping it’s standard procedure in mid-December for public relations departments to print out playoff press passes, although that seems like an especially doomed and cruel practice in places like Indianapolis and St. Louis. The Dolphins have played much better of late, and they’ve likely saved Tony Sparano’s job, but handing out the post-season press creds pictured above is little more than a public shaming.

And that’s how we’ll begin this glorious Week 14 Sunday here at GLS, a time when backup quarterbacks continue in their attempts to save playoff bids, and the legend of Tebow could grow to even more nauseating levels if he beats another very respectable defense.

Hold on tight and grab your green hat. Let’s take our weekly trip around the league.

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

Most will rightfully focus on Ray Rice’s torching of Cleveland last week with 214 all-purpose yards and a touchdown, and the likelihood that he’ll post similar numbers against an Indy run defense set to supply even more gaping holes.

But Indy’s status as the league’s worst third-down defense that’s allowing opponents to convert on 48.2 percent of their attempts could mean this game will get out of hand even faster.

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers

Matt Ryan faces a far weaker defense than the one in Houston that held him to his fourth-lowest career passer rating a week ago. As D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes, Week 13 was likely an outlier for Ryan, but we’ll quickly find out if it was instead the beginning of a downward trend

Before the Houston game, Ryan had passed for 1,204 yards and nine touchdowns and had only two interceptions in the previous four games. He had his highest passer rating (128.2) of the season in the game before, against Minnesota on Nov. 27.

Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals

In what could be a first-round playoff preview, Andy Dalton needs to rebound quickly from his season-low 45.8 completion percentage last week. That won’t be easy against a Texans secondary that’s allowing opponents to complete just 49.8 percent of their passes.

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions

As expected, Kevin Smith likely won’t play, which will shift the Lions backfield duties to Keiland Williams and Maurice Morris, and the focus of Detroit’s offense to Matthew Stafford’s arm.

Also, the Lions may be severely bruised and battered defensively, but they won’t have to deal with Adrian Peterson.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars

Two draft picks that generated constant discussion last spring are on opposing sidelines today in Jacksonville. Some draft prognosticators (*slowly raises hand in shame*) pegged Blaine Gabbert as the top quarterback in the 2011 draft class. Meanwhile, Bucs defensive end Da’Quan Bowers was slotted as a potential top three pick before serious questions about his knee surfaced, the same doubts that led to his massive tumble.

Seven months later, Bowers is quickly silencing his critics, while Gabbert’s are getting louder each week, and with each wobbly pass. Bowers fell to the second round, and since he replaced the injured Michael Bennett two weeks ago he has nine tackles–five of which have been for a loss–along with 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits.

Philadelphia Eagles at Miami Dolphins

Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin return to the Eagles’ offense, but sadly the Dolphins are still looking like the better 4-8 team in this game.

Kansas City Chiefs at New York Jets

Try to find two more opposite coaches than Todd Haley and Rex Ryan. It’s possible, but it’s damn hard.

One is brash,and somehow he manages to be both arrogant and easy going. The other just yells a lot and wants to fight everyone.

New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans

Chris Johnson’s return to being the explosive and elusive CJ2K in recent weeks is well documented. But here’s another number that illustrates both how drastic his turnaround has been, and how pathetic he was over the first eight weeks of the season: 40.3 percent of Johnson’s rushing yards this year have come over the past two weeks.

Defensively, the Titans may be dealing with Drew Brees’ arm even more with Mark Ingram inactive. Quick digression related to that link: John Clayton’s Twitter background is still amazing.

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins

Barry Cofield says that a “little pressure” isn’t going to scare Tom Brady. He’s right.

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

A little bit of experience on the lower levels of the depth chart never hurt heading into the playoffs, and that’s the glass half-full approach that San Francisco is taking towards Patrick Willis’ absence today.

Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos

A late-season game against Tebowmania is bad enough for a Bears team now forced to maintain its playoff standing without their starting quarterback and running back. Throw in the high altitude in Denver, and this could be a long afternoon for the Bears, especially if Mike Martz really meant it when he said that he’s not changing his game plan.

Oakland Raiders at Green Bay Packers

In 2007, the Patriots came one game short of making history and becoming just the second team to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl. If they can get past a beat-up Oakland team today, the Packers will then face the similarly depleted Chiefs and Bears, meaning the only major regular-season test left could be the Lions.

And Green Bay’s going for it, with both head coach Mike McCarthy and key veteran players on both sides of the ball focused on history, and not the risk of a late-season injury.

One player who could aggravate an injury today is Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk. He was slated to be a game-time decision after practicing Friday, but he’ll likely play.

Buffalo Bills at San Diego Chargers

‘Tis the season for disappointment in Buffalo, and as Sai Maiorana of the Democrat and Chronicle writes, crushing ineptitude has become a holiday tradition in upstate New York. It’s a yearly ritual that starts in earnest every time a Bills player gives a bland December quote, like the one from Ryan Fitzpatrick below that’s followed by Maiorana’s historical perspective:

“All we can do is go out there and play, try to get better and compete, be a professional and that’s what we have to do.”

This year and last year it was Fitzpatrick saying that in December. Previously it was Trent Edwards, J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Drew Bledsoe and Rob Johnson. The names change; rarely does the situation. It’s practically a holiday tradition, discussing the latest Bills’ collapse over a glass of eggnog in front of the crackling Yule log.

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

Second-year Giants defensive lineman Linval Joseph became a starter when the Redskins couldn’t retain Barry Cofield this past offseason during free agency. Joseph is essentially still a rookie after he received very limited playing time last year, and recently he started to listen to the advice of Jimmy Kennedy, New York’s veteran defensive tackle.

Joseph now wishes he’d done that a lot sooner, and his open ears could contribute to another very average game from DeMarco Murray tonight.