January 18, 2018

49ers 23, Panthers 10

The third game of the divisional playoffs had the San Francisco 49ers heading east again to play the Carolina Panthers.  The 49ers were coming off a 23-20 win over the Packers in frigid Green Bay and the Panthers were coming off a bye week.  There was nothing frigid about the weather in Charlotte.  It was sunny and in the mid 50s with a light breeze.  Carolina kicker Graham Gano sent the opening kickoff through the end zone and the 49ers started at their 20-yard line.  On third and ten from the 20, quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked to his left and found wide receiver Quinton Patton for a gain of 20 yards.  A five-yard carry by running back Frank Gore and an eight-yard pass to Gore netted a first down at the Carolina 44.  On third and six from the 40, Kaepernick threw to his right for wide receiver Anquan Boldin.  The ball was tipped and fell incomplete.  However, safety Mike Mitchell was flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That got the 49ers a first down, but they went no farther.  As a matter of fact, Kaepernick was sacked for a loss of seven yards on third down.  Kicker Phil Dawson came on and his 49-yard attempt was good and the 49ers led 3-0 with 9:12 to go in the first quarter.

The Panthers started at their 20 and on second and eight, quarterback Cam Newton completed a six-yard pass to wide receiver Steve Smith.  On third and two, Newton completed another short pass to tight end Greg Olsen for a first down at the 34.  From the 34, Newton hooked up with wide receiver Brandon LaFell for seven yards.  On second and three, Newton looked for LaFell again but the pass was thrown behind him and picked off by linebacker Patrick Willis.  There were three Panthers in the general area of the pass, but Willis still came away with the interception.

The 49ers had good field position at the Carolina 46.  On second and eight, Kaepernick dumped off a short pass intended for tight end Vernon Davis.  The pass was incomplete, but linebacker Luke Kuechly was flagged for defensive holding.  That gave the 49ers a first down at the 44.  The zebras weren’t done throwing their flags either.  On the next play, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was flagged for unnecessary roughness to give the 49ers yet another first down at the 20.  The drive was halted at the 15 and Dawson was called on again.  His 33-yard kick was good.  With 4:33 to go in the first quarter, the 49ers led 6-0.

Dawson kicked the ball short and it was fielded at the Carolina 18 by running back Kenjon Barner and returned to the 34.  Newton went deep for Smith on first down and that play was good for 28 yards.  A seven-yard carry by running back DeAngelo Williams and a 14-yard pass to Ted Ginn moved them down to the 17.  Newton ran up the right side for 11 yards and the Panthers found themselves with a first and goal from the six-yard line.  Big fullback Mike Tolbert got the call on first down and gained three yards.  Newton kept it on the next play and gained two more yards.  On third and goal from the one, Tolbert once again was unsuccessful at finding the end zone.  The Panthers decided to go for it on fourth and about one foot from the goal line.  The attendance for this game was 73,784 and I’m pretty sure all of them knew that Newton was going to run the ball up the middle.  Add 11 more people to that number.  When the ball was snapped, every player in a white jersey did their best to clog the middle and stop Newton from scoring.  It worked and he was stopped short of the end zone.  Why not try a bootleg?  Maybe sell a play fake and toss it to Olsen?  Unimaginative play-calling led to zero points for the Panthers.

The 49ers went three and out and punter Andy Lee hit a nice 52-yard punt that was fielded by Ginn at the Carolina 45 and returned to the San Francisco 31-yard line.  On first down, Newton fired a perfect strike to the left for Smith who caught it in stride for a touchdown.  Gano made the point after and the Panthers led 7-6 with 13:40 to go in the first half.

The 49ers gained 20 yards on their next possession and punted again.  Ginn fielded it at the 17 and tried to escape, but could only get three yards on the return.  Three scrambles by Newton and a six-yard pass to LaFell moved the Panthers to the 47.  A 35-yarder to Olsen, a nine-yard pass to Smith and a short run by Tolbert had the Panthers knocking on the door again.  Newton ran up the left side and was brought down at the one-yard line.  On second down, Newton was stuffed for no gain.  Before the ball was snapped on the next play, linebacker Ahmad Brooks did his best impression of a bird as he jumped over the line and Newton.  That was an obvious offside penalty and moved the ball a little closer to the goal line.  Tolbert had no luck gaining any yards on third down and the Panthers decided to try a field goal on fourth down.  A delay of game moved them back five yards, but Gano had no trouble making a 25-yard field goal and the Panthers led 10-6 with 3:41 to go in the first half.

The 49ers started at their 20 and a five-yard carry by Gore and a 12-yard pass to Boldin moved them to the 37.  On second down, Boldin caught another pass for 14 yards.  Wide receiver Michael Crabtree got in on the act and hauled in a pass for 20 yards and a first down at the Carolina 29.  Another five-yard run by Gore and a 15-yard pass to Boldin made it first and goal from the nine.  After that play, safety Quintin Mikell was injured and did not return to the game.  Every time Boldin made a catch, he talked a little louder.  After that previous catch, he started chirping again and slammed his helmet into Munnerlyn’s helmet.  Doesn’t that qualify as a head-butt?  Shouldn’t there be a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct?  Taunting?  Guess not.

On third and goal from the nine, Kaepernick floated a pass to the right side of the end zone for Boldin.  The pass was incomplete, but cornerback Drayton Florence didn’t turn around to look for the ball.  As I saw that, I started to count.  5…4…3…Boom! There’s the flag!  It was now first and goal from the one.  Gore was stopped for no gain on first down.  On second down, Kaepernick rolled to his right and tossed a pass to Davis in the end zone.  Initially it was ruled incomplete, but replay showed he had possession and got both feet down for the score.  After the pass was ruled incomplete, San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh stormed the field in protest of the call.  He was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct that was enforced on the kickoff.  Harbaugh, didn’t you have a procedure done last year for an irregular heartbeat?  It was inside of two minutes and that means that every play will be reviewed from the booth.  Just calm down and stop whining.  You’re acting like a damn child.  If you keep having these emotional explosions, you’re going to be in a straightjacket before the game is over.  After all that went down, Dawson made the point after and the 49ers led 13-10 at halftime.

The Panthers needed to get back on track with a good drive to start the second half.  That didn’t happen and punter Brad Nortman got off a 51-yard punt that was fair caught at the San Francisco 23.  Some more tough running by Gore and a 16-yard pass to Boldin moved the ball to the Carolina 47.  Kaepernick looked for Boldin once again and he hauled it in for a gain of 45.  On first and goal from the two, Gore and Kaepernick weren’t on the same page during the exchange and the ball came loose.  Gore pounced on it and the 49ers retained possession.  I’d hate to see what Harbaugh would have done if Carolina recovered the fumble.  On second down, Kaepernick kept it and ran up the left side.  He dodged a couple of defenders and made it into the end zone.  Dawson made the point after and the 49ers increased their lead to 20-10 with nine minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Panthers really needed to get some points on this drive and they started at their 24-yard line.  Passes to LaFell and Olsen and some scrambling by Newton had them moving in the right direction.  On second five from the San Francisco 48, Newton went deep for Ginn, and the pass fell incomplete.  But the 49ers were flagged for defensive holding.  That moved the ball to the 43 and gave the Panthers a first down.  On third and one, Newton completed a five-yard pass to LaFell and the Panthers were looking good.  They were looking good until the 49ers stepped up their pass rush.  After an incomplete pass on first down, Newton was sacked by linebacker NaVorro Bowman for a loss of eight yards.  On third down, Newton had room to run up the middle, but didn’t move quickly enough and he was sacked by Brooks for another eight-yard loss.  That put them out of field goal range and really hurt their chances of getting back into the game.  They had control of the ball for 8:20 and came away scoreless.

Nortman punted and the 49ers took over at their 12.  Another score would most likely put the Panthers away.  On third and two from the 20, the Kaepernick and Boldin connection came through again and Boldin caught another pass for five yards and a first down at the 25.  Two carries by Gore netted nine yards and on third and one, Gore got loose for a gain of 39 yards.  He was finally dragged down by Mitchell and Florence at the Carolina 27.  The drive would stall at the 15, but they held on to the ball for almost eight minutes and took precious time off the clock.  Dawson came on again and made his 33-yard field goal attempt.  With 7:35 to go in the game, the 49ers led 23-10.

All the Panthers could do now was hope for the best and cope with the rest.  Starting at the 23, Newton completed passes to LaFell and Ginn, but he was also sacked two more times.  They moved down to the San Francisco 28, but when Newton looked for Olsen, his pass was picked off at the nine by safety Donte Whitner.  The Carolina faithful started to head for the exits as that pretty much ended any hopes of the Panthers heading to Seattle.  The 49ers ran out the clock and advanced to the NFC championship game for the second straight year.

For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of 28 for 196 yards and one touchdown.  He added a rushing touchdown and finished the game with 15 yards on eight carries.  Anquan Boldin had himself a good day and led the 49ers in receptions with eight and receiving yards with 136.  On the ground, the 49ers rushed for 126 on 34 carries.  Frank Gore led the way with 84 yards on 17 carries.  Their defense came up huge when it needed to with two big goal line stands.  Defensively, they sacked Newton five times and Bowman, Willis and Brooks tied for the lead in solo tackles with five apiece.  Brooks also had 2.5 sacks.

For the Panthers, Cam Newton completed 16 of 25 for 267 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  He also led the team in rushing with 54 yards on ten carries.  Ginn, Smith, Olsen and LaFell each had four receptions and Ginn had the most receiving yards with 104.  As a team, the Panthers rushed for 93 yards on 24 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Thomas Davis led the team in solo tackles with four.  They had plenty of opportunities in this game.  Simply put, they couldn’t find a way to score from the one-yard line on two different occasions.

Whenever the 49ers and Seahawks get together, you can expect an intense game with lots of trash talk.  I expect that’s what will happen Sunday when they meet at 6:30 eastern time to determine the winner of the NFC.

Stellar Performances and Records in the 2013 Postseason

The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl XLVII Champions after enduring a 35-minute power outage in their 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. There were many stellar performances and records broken during the NFL playoffs, including several of them during Super Bowl XLVII. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers received outstanding performances from several players. Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones, Ed Reed and Joe Flacco broke or tied several records while the 49ers received great play from Vernon Davis, Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore.

During Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore Ravens receiver/returner Jacoby Jones broke two Super Bowl records. He amassed a record-setting 290 all-purpose yards in the Super Bowl, including a 108-yard kickoff return and a 56-yard reception for touchdowns. His 108-yard kickoff return is the longest return in Super Bowl history. The return was originally ruled a 109-yard return but the NFL later changed it to 108 yards. The NFL record for both the regular season and postseason is 108 yards.

Earlier this season, Jones had a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys. Jones is the only player in NFL history with three kickoff returns of 105 or more yards for touchdowns.

On the Ravens defense, free safety Ed Reed tied an NFL playoff record during the second quarter of the Super Bowl with his ninth career playoff interception. Reed is tied with Ronnie Lott, Charlie Waters and Bill Simpson for most career playoff interceptions. During the regular season, the future Hall of Famer has 61 interceptions.

Super Bowl XLVII MVP quarterback Joe Flacco threw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions during the playoffs. When his Ravens defeated the New England Patriots 28-13 in the AFC Championship Game, he became the first quarterback ever with six career playoff victories on the road, breaking a tie of five road wins that he shared with Eli Manning of the New York Giants.

49ers running back Frank Gore rushed for 110 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Throughout the playoffs, Gore averaged a shade over five yards per carry and had two 100-yard rushing games. Gore quietly puts up good numbers each year. During the regular season, he rushed for 1,214 yards for his sixth season of 1,000 or more yards. He currently ranks 34th all-time in rushing yards with 8,839 yards, just ten yards behind regular season MVP Adrian Peterson. Both look to join the 10,000-yard club in 2013.

When the 49ers defeated the Packers during NFC Divisional Playoffs, Gore and quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first QB/RB duo with each having 100 yards rushing in a playoff game. They are only the third duo since 1960 to each have 100 yards rushing in a playoff game.

If the 49ers weren’t running the ball, tight end Vernon Davis was catching passes for them. Vernon had two 100-yard receiving games during the playoffs including six receptions for 104 yards in the Super Bowl. Davis has played in five career playoff games and already has achieved four games with over 100 yards receiving. The player either handing or throwing the ball to Gore or Davis was Kaepernick.

Kaepernick splashed onto the playoff scene in a big way. Against the Green Bay Packers, he became the first player ever to rush for 100+ yards and pass for 250+ yards while passing and rushing for two touchdowns each. Kaepernick joins only Jay Cutler and Otto Graham with two rushing and two passing touchdowns in a playoff game. Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards with two touchdowns (20 and 56-yards). His 181 rushing yards are the most rushing yards by a quarterback in any game (regular season or playoffs).

On the road against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, Kaepernick lifted the 49ers to a victory after trailing 17-0 in the first quarter. The 17-point deficit is the second greatest comeback in a conference championship game. The Indianapolis Colts came back from an 18-point deficit against the New England Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship Game.

During Super Bowl XLVII, Kaepernick nearly lead his team to the greatest comeback ever in Super Bowl history. The 49ers trailed 28-6 in the early part of the third quarter, but couldn’t complete the comeback as his 4th and goal pass fell incomplete late in the fourth quarter. Kaepernick completed 16 out of 28 passes for 302 yards with one touchdown and one interception while rushing for 62 yards on 7 carries, including a 15-yard rushing touchdown.


Super Bowl XLVII

This year, the Super Bowl matched up the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens against the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.  It was the first time in Super Bowl history that brothers (John and Jim Harbaugh) were coaching the teams and it was being billed as the “Har-Bowl” or the “Super-Bro.”  So, after two weeks of hype, we were finally ready for the game to start.  The Ravens won the toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Justin Tucker kicked it deep for a touch-back and the 49ers started at their 20.  They got the game off to a good start when quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed a 20-yard pass to tight end Vernon Davis.  Unfortunately, that play was called back due to an illegal formation penalty.  Three plays later, punter Andy Lee came on and hit a 50-yard punt that was fielded at the Raven 32 by return man Jacoby Jones.  He returned it to the 49 and the Ravens had good field position for their first drive.

From the 49, quarterback Joe Flacco completed a short pass to fullback Vonta Leach that went for eight yards.  Running back Ray Rice ran for four yards on the next play and that got the Ravens a first down at the San Francisco 39.  From the 39, Flacco went to wide receiver Torrey Smith for 20 more yards and the Ravens were marching.  A short run by Rice and an incomplete pass made it third and nine.  On third down, Flacco looked for tight end Dennis Pitta and the pass was incomplete.  However, the 49ers were flagged for an offside penalty.  On third and four from the 13, Flacco threw for the end zone and the pass was caught by wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens had an early 7-0 lead.

Starting from their 20, the 49ers went to work.  Running back Frank Gore was thrown for a loss of one on first down, but Kaepernick came back with a 19-yard completion to wide receiver Michael Crabtree.  Runs of nine and five yards by Gore and 16 more rushing yards from Kaepernick moved the ball to the Raven 32.  Kaepernick then found Davis open for a gain of 24 and the 49ers were at the Raven eight-yard line.  They would go no further.  In fact, they went backwards as Kaepernick was sacked on third down for a loss of ten by linebacker Paul Kruger.  Kicker David Akers came into the game and made his 36-yard field goal attempt.  That made it 7-3 with 3:58 to go in the first quarter.

The Ravens managed to get a couple of first downs on their next drive but ended up punting.  Sam Koch’s punt went into the end zone and the 49ers were starting from their 20 again.  Passes of 29 and 11 yards to Davis had the 49ers off to a good start.  Rookie running back LaMichael James ran up the left side for eight yards and Gore got seven more on the next play.  On first down from the Raven 24, James ran off right end and the ball came loose.  It was recovered by defensive end Arthur Jones at the 25.

Running back Bernard Pierce got some action to start this drive and he netted 12 yards on three carries.  From the 37, Flacco found Pitta for nine and Pierce got two yards on his next carry for a first down at the 48.  Flacco then found tight end Ed Dickson for 23 yards and Rice ran up the right side for seven more.  Flacco looked for Dickson again and he was dragged down at the San Francisco eight-yard line.  A facemask penalty on safety Donte Whitner made it first and goal from the four.  On second and goal from the one, Flacco fired a pass into the end zone that was caught by Pitta for another Raven touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 14-3 with 7:06 to go in the first half.

The 49ers got the ball back at their 21 and Kaepernick put up a deep ball for wide receiver Randy Moss.  The ball was picked off by safety Ed Reed at the San Francisco 44 and returned to the 38.  After that, a huge brawl ensued.  Offsetting penalties were called and the Ravens were in business again.  Three runs by Rice, a short pass to Leach and a seven-yard pass to Rice got them a first down at the San Francisco 15.  The next three plays netted one yard and Tucker came on for a field goal attempt.  Instead of kicking the ball through the uprights, Tucker took the snap and ran up the left side in hopes of getting a first down.  He was pushed out of bounds one yard short of the first down marker by safety Darcel McBath.

A quick three and out by the 49ers gave the Ravens the ball at their 44.  On third and ten, Flacco looked deep for Jones and the ball was caught at the San Francisco nine.  After Jones caught the pass, he fell to the turf, quickly got up and made his way into the end zone for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now had a 21-3 lead with 1:45 to go in the half.

Starting at the 20, Kaepernick completed a six-yard pass to Crabtree and a 14-yard pass to tight end Delanie Walker.  A roughing the passer penalty on defensive tackle Haloti Ngata got them 15 more yards and a first down at the Raven 45.  Kaepernick looked for Walker again and found him for a gain of 28.  That got them down to the 17, but they couldn’t get the ball into the zone.  Akers made his 27-yard field goal attempt and the Ravens took a 21-6 lead into the locker room.

The second half got started with a bang as Jones fielded the kickoff eight yards deep in the end zone and ran straight up the middle.  Not a 49er could catch him and he ran it in for a 108-yard touchdown.  By the way, that was the longest scoring play in Super Bowl history.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 28-6 with 14:49 to go in the third quarter.  The 49ers started at their 14 and on first down, Kaepernick hooked up with Crabtree for a gain of 29 yards.  On first down from the 43, Gore ran up the left side for three and Kaepernick was sacked for a loss of six yards.  And then the lights went out.  The lights stayed out for a grand total of 34 minutes.  I felt like I was in the twilight zone.  After they finally came back on, the 49ers faced a third and 13 and didn’t get the first down.  The Ravens didn’t fare much better on their next drive and punted after four plays.

From their 20, the 49ers went to work knowing they had to get something going if they wanted to avoid being blown out.  Kaepernick had two scrambles that netted 20 yards and a first down at the 40.  On third and eight from the 42, Moss caught a nine-yard pass for a first down at the Raven 49.  From the 49, Kaepernick hit Davis for 18 yards and a first down at the 31.  Next, Crabtree caught a pass on the left side, bounced off a couple of defenders and made his way into the end zone for a 49er touchdown.  Akers made the point after and the score was now 28-13 with 7:20 to go in the third quarter.

On their next drive, the Ravens went nowhere as Flacco was sacked on third and ten by linebacker Ahmad Brooks.  49er return man Tedd Ginn fielded the punt at the San Francisco 48 and returned it to the Raven 20.  It took two plays to go 20 yards and Gore ran the ball in from the six-yard line for a touchdown.  Akers made the point after and it was now 28-20 with five minutes to go in the third quarter.  You could feel the momentum swing in favor of the 49ers.  What made it worse for the Ravens was an injury to Ngata.  He would not return to the game.  It couldn’t get worse than that, could it?  Yes it could.  On second and seven from the 23, the 49ers brought the blitz.  Flacco managed to dump off a pass to Rice on the left side where he was hit by cornerback Tarell Brown.  The ball came loose and Brown recovered it at the 24.

This time, the Raven defense was ready.  The 49ers managed to gain only three yards on three plays and it was up to Akers to put some more points on the board.  His kick sailed wide left, but the Ravens were flagged for running into the kicker.  That moved them up five yards and Akers was granted another try from 34 yards.  The kick was good and the score was now 28-23 with 3:10 to go in the third quarter.

The Ravens took over at their 28.  Two runs by Pierce and a 30-yard catch and run by Boldin moved the Ravens to the San Francisco 35.  Pitta caught another one for seven yards, Rice ran for two and Pierce had a nice run up the left side for a gain of eight.  He was hurt after that play, but would return later in the game.  A four-yard run by Rice and a nine-yard catch by Boldin made it first and goal at the four.  Two runs by Rice got them down to the one.  Instead of running it again, Flacco rolled out to the right side and couldn’t find anyone open.  The pass was incomplete and the Ravens had to settle for a 19-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and that made it 31-23 with 12:54 to go in the game.

The 49ers had little trouble moving the ball from their 24-yard line.  A five-yard run by Gore, a 32-yard catch by Moss and a 21-yard run by Gore made it first down at the Raven 18.  On second and seven from the 15, Kaepernick took it the rest of the way for another touchdown.  That made it 31-29 and they went for two to tie the game up.  The Ravens blitzed and Kaepernick’s pass to Moss was overthrown.  The score remained 31-29 with 9:57 to go in the game.

The Ravens started at their 21 and on third and nine, a pass interference penalty was called on cornerback Chris Culliver.  That gave them a first down at their 36.  A short run by Pierce and another catch by Boldin appeared to give the Ravens another first down.  But 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh challenged the spot and it was ruled Boldin was short of the first down.  That made it third and one from the 45.  I think everyone in the building was expecting a run up the middle on the next play.  Instead, Flacco called an audible and threw to the right side to Boldin.  Despite being blanketed by cornerback Carlos Rogers, Boldin managed to haul in the pass for a gain of 15 and a crucial first down.  Rice finally got loose for a gain of 12 and another first down at the San Francisco 28.  Two short runs by Rice and an offside penalty made it third and two at the 20.  Flacco fired a pass to Pitta, but he couldn’t hold on and that brought up fourth down.  Tucker came into the game again and his 38-yard attempt was good.  The Ravens now led 34-29 with 4:19 to go in the game.

Eight-yard runs by Kaepernick and Gore got the 49ers a first down at their 36.  On second and ten from the 36, Kaepernick hit Crabtree for a gain of 24 and a first down at the Raven 40.  From the 40, Gore ran up the left side and was finally pushed out of bounds at the seven-yard line.  The 49ers had to go seven yards to take the lead after they had trailed 28-6 earlier in the game.  From the seven, James ran for two yards.  On second down from the five, Kaepernick looked for Crabtree and the pass was incomplete.  He would look for Crabtree again on third down and get the same result.  That made it fourth and goal from the five.  Kaepernick took the snap and once again looked for Crabtree in the end zone.  The pass fell incomplete and the 49ers turned the ball over on downs.  There was definitely some contact between Crabtree and cornerback Jimmy Smith on that final play, but no flag was thrown.  This caused Jim Harbaugh to lose his mind and he was very critical of the zebras after the game.

The Ravens took over at their five-yard line and three plays got them exactly three yards.  The 49ers used up their remaining timeouts and on fourth down with 12 seconds remaining, the Ravens went into punt formation.  Koch took the snap and held the ball as long as he could before running out of the end zone for a safety.  That made it 34-31 with four seconds remaining.  From the 20, Koch blasted a 61-yard punt that was fielded by Ginn.  He fielded it at the 19 and was brought down at midfield.  That brought the game to an end with the final score: Baltimore Ravens 34 San Francisco 49ers 31.

For the Ravens, Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco completed 23 of 33 for 287 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.  Anquan Boldin led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 104 and a touchdown.  The Ravens had a tough time moving the ball on the ground and Ray Rice led the way with 59 yards on 20 carries.  Rice also had 19 yards receiving and one lost fumble.  As a team, the Ravens rushed for just 93 yards on 35 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Dannell Ellerbee led the Ravens with six solo tackles and one tackle for a loss.

For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick completed 16 of 28 for 302 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  He also had 62 yards rushing on seven carries and one rushing touchdown.  Vernon Davis led the team in receptions with six and Crabtree had the most yards receiving with 109 and a touchdown.  On the ground, Frank Gore led the way with 110 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.  As a team, the 49ers averaged 6.3 yards a carry and racked up 182 yards on 29 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Patrick Willis led the 49ers with eight solo tackles.

That was one hell of a game.  The Ravens could do no wrong until the lights went out.  After they came back on, all the momentum switched to the 49ers.  But, when it came to crunch time, the Raven defense got the job done.  Linebacker Ray Lewis played his last game and is retiring a champion.  The next time we see him will be at his Hall of Fame induction speech.  It was indeed a tough loss for the 49ers, but they have a bright future with Colin Kaepernick at the helm.  I would imagine quarterback Alex Smith won’t be back next year.  Maybe he’ll end up in Arizona or Kansas City.  As of right now, your guess is as good as mine.

I enjoyed writing all these post season articles and I’ll return next month as The Raider Guy.  They have the third pick in the draft this year and need help at lots of positions.  As far as I am concerned, Damontre Moore from Texas A&M is the guy they need to get.  That will be discussed at a later time.  Until then, take it easy.


49ers 45, Packers 31

The second game on the playoff schedule had the Green Bay Packers heading out to San Francisco to take on the 49ers.  The Packers were coming off a 24-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings and the 49ers had a first round bye.  The 49ers won the toss and elected to receive.  Return man LaMichael James fielded the kick at the five and returned it 23 yards to the 28.  A nine-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Crabtree and two carries by running back Frank Gore moved them to the 47.  On second and six, quarterback Craig Kaepernick looked for tight end Vernon Davis and the pass was picked off by cornerback Sam Shields and returned for a 52-yard touchdown.  Kicker Mason Crosby made the point after and the Packers took an early 7-0 lead.

From their 20, the 49ers went to work again.  Short runs by Gore and Kaepernick set up a third and two at the 28.  A defensive holding call gave them five yards and a first down.  On third and ten from the 33, Kaepernick rolled to his left and lofted a pass to Gore.  The play went for 45 yards and Gore was finally dragged down at the Packer 22.  On third and eight from the 20, Kaepernick took things into his own hands and ran up the left side for a 20-yard touchdown.  Kicker David Akers made the point after and the game was tied at seven with nine minutes to go in the first quarter.

The teams traded punts and with 3:13 remaining in the first quarter, the Packers got the ball at their 20.  Three carries by running back DuJuan Harris got ten yards and a first down.  On third and five from the 38, quarterback Aaron Rodgers let one go down-field and the pass was caught at the San Francisco 18 by wide receiver James Jones.  Harris took the ball right up the middle on the next play and the Packers went up 13-7.  Crosby made the point after and the Packers now led 14-7.

With 11:43 remaining in the second quarter, the 49ers started their next drive from their 20.  Kaepernick hooked up with Crabtree on first down for a gain of 15.  They got to midfield and were forced to punt.  Punter Andy Lee got off a high punt and return man Jeremy Ross muffed the ball at the nine-yard line.  It was recovered by 49er safety C.J. Spillman.  That set the 49ers up nicely.  On third and goal from the 12, Kaepernick found Crabtree across the middle for the touchdown.  Akers made the point after and the game was tied at 14 with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter.

A holding call on the kickoff return moved the Packers back to their seven-yard line.  On third and seven from the 26, Rodgers looked for wide receiver Jordy Nelson and the pass was picked off by cornerback Tarell Brown at the San Francisco 13.  He returned it to the Packer 48 and the 49ers were in business again.  Some good running by Gore and James got them down to the 25.  On third and nine from the 24, Kaepernick scrambled down to the nine for a first down.  After his impressive run, he was flagged 15 yards for taunting.  They still had a first down, but the ball was moved back to the 24.  On second and six, Kaepernick put one up the left side to Crabtree for a 20-yard touchdown.  Akers made the point after and the 49ers now led 21-14 with 5:26 to go in the first half.

Starting at their 20 again, Rodgers scrambled for a nine-yard gain and Harris ran up the middle for three yards and a first down.  Then, Rodgers completed a pass to tight end Jermichael Finley for a gain of 19.  Harris ran off right tackle for a gain of three and safety Dashon Goldson came in late with a brutal helmet to helmet hit.  That cost him 15 yards and the Packers got a first down at the San Francisco 31.  Three plays later, Rodgers looked for Jones in the end zone and found him for a 20-yard touchdown.  The extra point was good and the game was tied at 21 with 2:33 to go in the half.

Two scrambles by Kaepernick netted 22 yards and had his team moving in the right direction.  On third and ten from the 42, he took off again for 18 more yards and a first down at the Packer 40.  They got as far as the 18 when they were faced with a fourth and one.  With time running short, Akers was called on for a 36-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and the 49ers took a 24-21 lead into the locker room.

The second half started with each team unable to move the ball very well.  With just under 12 minutes to go in the third quarter, the Packers took over at their 11.  Two completions to wide receiver Greg Jennings gave them a first down at the 43.  Then, two completions to Nelson got them into San Francisco territory.  A carry by wide receiver Randall Cobb went for 19 yards and a first down at the 22.  The drive stalled at the 13 and Crosby snuck the ball just inside the right upright for a 31-yard field goal.  That knotted the game at 24 with 8:25 to go in the third quarter.

Starting at their 20, Kaepernick hooked up with Crabtree again for gains of 18 and six yards.  Then he totally caught the Packers off guard.  From the shotgun, he took the snap and bolted up the right side for a 56-yard touchdown.  Some good down-field blocking helped him out too.  Still, I knew Kaepernick was fast, but, I didn’t know he was THAT fast!  He left the Packer secondary in the dust.  Akers made the extra point and the 49ers now led 31-24 with 7:07 remaining in the third quarter.

That long run seemed to ignite the 49er defense.  They allowed the Packers only 21 yards on their next drive and forced a punt.  Punter Tim Masthay got off a good one that was fair caught by Ted Ginn at the seven-yard line.  Two carries by Gore and a 16-yard completion to Crabtree made it first down at the 31.  Another holding call on the Packers gave them another first down at the 39.  On second and eight from the 41, Davis caught a pass for a gain of 44 and they were knocking on the door again.  Gore ran straight up the middle and was brought down at the two.  He finished the drive on the next play with a two-yard touchdown run.  Akers made another point after and the 49ers went up 38-24 with just one quarter to go.

The Packers went from their 11 to their 49 and on third and five, Rodgers saw Jennings behind the secondary on the left side.  The ball hit his hands and fell incomplete.  That was a killer for them.  If he had been able to catch that pass, he may have scored and the Packers would have been right back in the game.  Instead, it led to another punt.

The 49ers took over at their seven and some more carries by Gore and Kaepernick had them moving again.  The Packer defense was getting worn down and frustrated.  It seemed like after every play, players had to be separated.  There were no personal fouls called, but it was obvious these teams do not like each other.  Some more tough running by Gore brought the 49ers down to the Packer 27.  A holding call moved them back ten yards.  A four-yard run by Kaepernick and a 14-yard pass to Crabtree made it fourth and one at the 18.  On fourth down, defensive tackle B.J. Raji jumped offside and that gave the 49ers a first down at the 13.  Gore ran up the middle for 11 and on second and goal from the two, running back Anthony Dixon finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.  Akers made his final extra point attempt of the night and the 49ers now had a commanding 45-24 lead with 3:34 to go in the game.  Rodgers would hook up with Jennings for a three-yard score, but it was too little too late.  Final score: 49ers 45 Packers 31.

For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers completed 26 of 39 for 257 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.  James Jones led the team in receptions with four and receiving yards with 87 and a touchdown.  DuJuan Harris had only 11 carries in this game and ended up with 53 yards and a touchdown.  As a team, the Packers rushed for 104 yards on 16 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Brad Jones led the team with nine solo tackles.

For the 49ers, it was a great night for Colin Kaepernick as he completed 17 of 31 for 263 yards, two touchdowns through the air and two more on the ground.  His lone bad spot was an interception early in the game that was returned for a touchdown.  Michael Crabtree led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 119 and two touchdowns.  Kaepernick paved the way on the ground with a quarterback rushing record of 181 yards and two touchdowns.  Frank Gore also had a good night with 119 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown.  Gore also caught two passes for 48 yards.  As a team, the 49ers rushed for 323 yards on 43 carries.  They out-gained the Packers in total yards 579-352.  Defensively, linebacker Patrick Willis led the team with seven solo tackles, one sack and a tackle for a loss.

Up next for the 49ers will be the winner of the Seahawks-Falcons game.  If the Falcons win, the 49ers will travel to Atlanta.  If the Seahawks win, they’ll head to San Francisco.  The Falcons and Seahawks are the early game today followed by the Texans and Patriots.  I’ll return with recaps of those games later today.  Until then, take it easy and enjoy the games.





All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: That’s back to back upsets for the Cardinals of division leaders. Good to see they still have some fight left in them…..Unfortunately, QB Kevin Kolb didn’t play long as he suffered a head injury early in the game and did not return. He has yet to practice in full this week and seems certain to be a game time decision this week…..Everyone thought WR Larry Fitzgerald would be the happiest guy in Arizona when the Cardinals signed Kolb, but he has had his best games this season with John Skelton under center.

Atlanta Falcons: Big comeback win by the Falcons over the Panthers last week. The Falcons are unlikely to catch the Saints in the NFC South, but are looking pretty solid to take one of the wildcard spots…..Although the Falcons keep stating it’s a minor injury, RB Michael Turner just hasn’t been the same since suffering a groin injury. He hasn’t missed any game action, but isn’t putting up his typical numbers either. If it is not the groin, maybe the long season is catching up with him.

Baltimore Ravens: It looks like LB Ray Lewis will be back in the lineup this week. The Ravens played it smart and kept Lewis out of the lineup until he and the team were sure he was ready to return…..WR Torrey Smith has been getting a bigger and bigger role in the Ravens offense each and every week. If he continues to develop, the Ravens may have an offense that can at least rival their defense, but more importantly it will take some of the opposing defense’s attention off of RB Ray Rice.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills came out and stated this week that they won’t take a QB in the first round of next year’s draft. Once again reinforcing their faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick. I have a feeling that’s a mistake. Fitzpatrick can look good at times, but still doesn’t have the look of a franchise quarterback…..The Bills will also have a big decision to make with WR Steve Johnson. Contract talks have broken off, so they may have to figure out if they want to use their franchise tag on him.

Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton finally played like a rookie last week, throwing two interceptions to open up the second half and with his team up 16 points in what eventually became a loss. Oh well, growing pains are a part of the job…..It looks like the only thing that may be keeping K Olindo Mare on the roster would be his four-year, $12 million contract. The Panthers brought in Adi Kunalic and promised he will kick Sunday if he outperforms Mare this week in practice.

Chicago Bears: If not for the injury to RB Matt Forte, Marion Barber may have been released before the plane hit the ground after failing to stay inbounds to keep the clock running on the Bears final drive of the 4th quarter; thus giving the Broncos the chance they needed to tie the game and send it to overtime. He than fumbled on the first drive of overtime when it looked like he was breaking into the clear, allowing Denver to win the game.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are quickly blowing what was a good start to the season. They have had trouble beating winning teams all season and it is quickly catching up to them. At this point they may have to win out to make the playoffs…..This all being said, the Bengals do get a layup this week in St. Louis, than Arizona, and even the last game versus Baltimore could be in their favor if the Ravens don’t have anything to play for with their playoff picture solidified.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are catching plenty of heat for their handling of the concussion suffered by QB Colt McCoy versus Pittsburgh. Apparently no one on the Cleveland medical staff saw McCoy get hit by the oncoming truck that was LB James Harrison, and when they did check him out they were worried about his finger, not his head. Now apparently Browns players suffered multiple concussions during this game which may have spread the medical staff kind of thin, but still someone had to see that hit and say “Hey, you may want to check Colt out.”

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Sunday night, blowing a 12-point lead with five plus minutes left in the game…..Everyone seems to want to blame QB Tony Romo for missing WR Miles Austin with a pass that would have gone for a touchdown late in the 4th quarter, but Austin admitted that he lost the ball in the lights and that’s why he didn’t catch it. Criticizing K Dan Bailey for the block seems to be off base also since the kick wasn’t low. It was much more of a blocking problem or maybe it was just a great play by Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul.

Denver Broncos: QB Tim Tebow is starting to make a believer out of me. This guy finds a way to win every game, even if he did have a tremendous amount of help from the Chicago offense in this one. Now if the Broncos and Tebow are able to beat the Patriots on Sunday, I might be a true believer…..With Tebow being 7-1 as a starter, now the Broncos have little choice but to anoint Tebow as their starting QB next season.

Detroit Lions: Not sure what to make of the Lions who almost blew that game to Minnesota last week and if not for a missed face mask penalty on the final play of the game, may have blown it indeed…..The Lions right now are in a playoff spot but have an interesting schedule over the remainder of the season. They play an Oakland team that is fighting for their playoff lives, a San Diego team that may be doing the same next week, than a Green Bay squad that could be playing for a perfect season. It should be fun times in Motor City.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers can clinch home field throughout the playoffs with either a win or a San Francisco loss. Than the big question would remain, do you play your starters and go for a perfect season, or rest them and make sure you are completely healthy for the playoffs? Now the injury to WR Greg Jennings last week, which will keep him out for the remainder of the regular season, could push the Packers towards playing it safe. But they know that an undefeated season would be immortality, plus they did win the Super Bowl last season which should make going for 19-0 even more of a must.

Houston Texans: You just can’t stop these Texans no matter who is at the wheel. QB Tyler Yates led an impressive comeback over the Bengals last week, a game that was in Cincinnati and much more important to the Bengals than the Texans, but still Yates led them to a game winning drive. Impressive indeed, still though, I’m having a tough time seeing the Texans winning more than one game in the playoffs…..Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be away from the team for the next 7-10 days as he will have a procedure to deal with a kidney ailment. Good luck Wade.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Peyton Manning has started throwing again. The question is, does he have the same zip on the ball that he did before the surgery? Next question still remains, what will the Colts do with Manning after the season and are they still planning on having Manning get in some game action before the end of the season?…..TE Dallas Clark did indeed return to action and didn’t suffer any setbacks with the leg, but did suffer a stinger that has kept him from practicing this week.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The NFL officially ratified Shahid Khan as the owner of the team, and Khan for his part stated once again that he is not planning on moving the team. Now moving the team would be hard anyway as they do have a lease through 2029, but there is an out clause if the Jags lose money for three straight seasons…..RB Maurice Jones-Drew is having an incredible season for a bad team. The numbers he is putting up for a team that has no other offensive weapons is unbelievable.

Kansas City Chiefs: So much for the Todd Haley era as he was fired this week. At least he won’t be around for the beating that the Chiefs are going to take from Green Bay this week. Look for the Chiefs to hire former Broncos head coach and current Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for the top job once the season concludes. He is the man they wanted instead of Haley in the first place, but Denver offered him the job first…..QB Kyle Orton has recovered from his dislocated finger and will start for KC this week.

Miami Dolphins: Head coach Tony Sparano was put out of his misery this week as well. The team certainly played hard for him even though we all knew he was a walking dead man. He won’t have any problems getting another job, either at the head coach or coordinator level…..QB Matt Moore left the game last week with a concussion and hasn’t practiced yet, but should be available to play this week against Buffalo.

Minnesota Vikings: Tough loss for the Vikings last week but some good did come out of it. QB/WR Joe Webb played pretty well after taking over for Christian Ponder and may be able to handle that role in the future. The problem is Minnesota also likes what he can do as a receiver. You really can’t have your backup QB playing receiver, too good a chance of an injury. Maybe you can have your third string QB play receiver though…..Ponder is expected to start this week even though Webb was more effective than he was last week.

New England Patriots: That was some pretty funny stuff watching QB Tom Brady and the Pats offensive coordinator yelling at each other on the sideline after Brady threw an interception last week. Seems though if any of the Pats coaches were going to yell at any of the players, it should be on the defensive side of the ball…..If that was the funny part of the game, than the ridiculous part was watching the Redskin defense trying to tackle TE Rob Gronkowski. It looked like a high school team trying to tackle a top college player–just a joke.

New Orleans Saints: If you’re not a fan of any team in the NFC, you have to be rooting for a Green Bay-New Orleans rematch in the championship game, hopefully in good weather. Now that would be entertainment….TE Jimmy Graham is dealing with a bad back that almost kept him out of the game against Tennessee. He was able to play and has also been able to practice this week so this may not be as serious as it once looked…..RB Mark Ingram has yet to practice this week and may yet miss another game due to turf toe.

New York Giants: What a win for the Giants over the Cowboys on Sunday. They are now in control of their own destiny in the NFC East, but things could get testy. They have what should be a gimme versus Washington this week, although the Skins played the Pats tough. They than have to play the Jets and then Dallas once again. Here’s hoping that last game is a winner take all…..The most impressive thing to me about the Giants’ win wasn’t the 37 points they scored but that they didn’t give up a sack.

New York Jets: The Jets have come alive once again and look like a team that could be dangerous come playoff time. They have a strong running game with Shonne Green and LaDainian Tomlinson, and QB Mark Sanchez has been more careful with the football in the past couple of games. The loss of S Jim Leonard is a blow to the defense, but he missed the playoff run last season as well due to injury.

Oakland Raiders: Not that the Raiders had much of a chance of beating Green Bay anyway, but that is back to back weeks that they virtually didn’t get off the plane. The team certainly has dealt with its share of injuries. Their receiving corps has been decimated and losing their biggest playmaker in RB Darren MacFadden has been huge, but that’s still no excuse for their play of late.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Michael Vick had a successful return to action last week, but WR Jeremy Maclin did not as he had to leave the game early when his hamstring tightened up on him. He might give it a go once again this week but there is no way of knowing if he will be able to finish the game…..WR DeSean Jackson actually showed up last week and had a big game. The question is, can he do it again, especially with the games becoming more and more meaningless?

Pittsburgh Steelers: It seems unlikely that QB Ben Roethlisberger will play Monday night after suffering a high ankle sprain, an injury that looked pretty ugly when it happened. The Steelers need to think about the future. Sure they would like to win the division, but they have a wildcard spot all but locked up and need to make sure Ben is as close to 100% as possible for the playoffs…..C Maurkice Pouncey also suffered a high ankle sprain. He wants to play, but once again the Steelers may play it safe and hold him out.

San Diego Chargers: Can the Chargers make another miracle comeback in the division? Probably not, but they are once again giving it a go. If only Tim Tebow would stop pulling out these miracles…..With the rash of coaching changes that have been going on, it’s fair to wonder if Norv Turner could be let go when the Chargers next lose a game and are officially eliminated from playoff contention.

San Francisco 49ers: That’s two losses in a row for the 49ers and now they have the Steelers coming to town. Now they have a firm grip on the NFC West but that first round bye might be slipping away…..I still can’t see how this team can win a playoff game. They need to score points. Their defense is good, but not great…..RB Frank Gore is certainly beat up and the 49ers admit that he’s not 100%. But what running back is at this point in the season? The real question is, how far from full health is he?

Seattle Seahawks: RB Marshawn Lynch has set himself up to make a ton of money next season, assuming the Seahawks don’t franchise him. He’s as tough a runner as there is to bring down. Inconsistent, sure, but once he’s in the secondary he’s a runaway train. The Hawks must retain his services next season.

St. Louis Rams: It’s hard to believe that OC Josh McDaniels will be in high demand next season with the way the Rams offense has been this season. Of even more importance is that QB Sam Bradford has certainly regressed this season. Still look for McDaniels to be the Chiefs first choice…..If McDaniels were to leave, would free agent WR Brandon Lloyd leave with him?….Speaking of Bradford, his ankle seems to have taken a turn for the worse and as of now he is unlikely to play Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs look to be out of control and it seems unlikely that coach Raheem Morris keeps his job…..QB Josh Freeman stated that he still doesn’t have the same zip on his fastball due to injury. That could explain the problem he has had with interceptions this season. Freeman has to be one of the more disappointing players this season…..Freeman should be licking his chops at facing the Dallas secondary Saturday–Lord knows everyone else has this season.

Tennessee Titans: Tough loss by the Titans versus the Saints. They had a chance to beat them at the end. They might have had an extra play had rookie QB Jake Locker thrown the ball on the final play. He had time. Even if he throws the ball away, he still would have had another play. Then he could have run around forever and tried to make a play. You can’t take a sack, even if you just heave it up for grabs. Give your team a chance.

Washington Redskins: On that great run by TE Rob Gronkowski last week, did anyone notice CB DeAngelo Hall observing the play while two of his teammates were being dragged by Gronk? Way to get involved…..Coach Mike Shanahan stated this week that QB Rex Grossman is auditioning for the starting job next season. While that may be true, the Skins are sure to use their first-round pick on a rookie quarterback.

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: How many owners did RB Beanie Wells cost last week with his last minute deactivation? It’s not that he got deactivated, — Wells has a history of missing games — it’s that he swore up and down all week that he would play. Oh, he is game-time decision for this week as well…..With Wells out, Chester Taylor had a chance to show what he could do, but apparently he couldn’t do much as Alfonso Smith looked much better than Taylor.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Roddy White is dropping more passes than he ever has and now he is dealing with a thigh injury…..RB Jason Snelling will miss this week with a concussion so look for rookie Jacquizz Rodgers to play a few more snaps this week, especially if Michael Turner has a rough time once again.

Baltimore Ravens: That was quite a coming out party for WR Torrey Smith last week with three touchdowns. He will get a chance for an encore this week as he will once again start for Lee Evans. Evans will most likely not play once again…..Former 1st round pick Sergio Kindle, who didn’t play all of last season due to a skull fracture, has been deactivated for the first three games of this season; not a good start to his NFL career.

Buffalo Bills: Quite an impressive win the by Bills last week. They seem to have another layup versus the Bengals this week, but their schedule gets much tougher in the coming weeks as they will play the Eagles, Giants, Redskins, Jets, and Cowboys. NFL fans should get a much better read on how good a team they are after this stretch.

Carolina Panthers: It took a heavy rainstorm last week to stop the Cam Newton show, but still the Panthers won their 1st game of the season. It’s nice to see that Newton can throw the ball when necessary, but the Panthers would still best be served this season if they can get their running game going with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart…..Do you think TE Greg Olsen would like to have a big game this week to show the Bears they made a mistake in trading him?

Chicago Bears: QB Jay Cutler admitted this week that he is starting to see the rush due to all the hits he is taking. It’s always been kind of strange that the Bears didn’t look to get him a top WR, which would have enabled him to have more confidence with his passes. They did try to upgrade the OL in the draft with Gabe Carimi, but that might take a few years to “bear” fruit…..One receiver who could help is Earl Bennett, but he is still out for at least another game or two.

Cincinnati Bengals: RB Cedric Benson must have made some headway with his appeal to commissioner Roger Goodell as he will be allowed to play this week. One would think if it was a slam dunk case that he would have already heard about the decision…..There has been no news this week regarding the legal situation that WR Jerome Simpson found himself in regarding the marijuana found in his home. He didn’t play well last week–could be he has bigger things on his mind.

Cleveland Browns: RB Peyton Hillis didn’t play last week due to strep throat and lost about 12 pounds, but he should be good to go Sunday…..Josh Cribbs is once again being used as a receiver. Now, he’s not someone you need to rush out and grab, but in deeper fantasy leagues he could be worth a look.

Dallas Cowboys: With their dramatic win last week versus the Redskins, the Cowboys have now played in nine straight games decided by a field goal or less. With injuries to a big part of their team (Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Felix Jones, Orlando Scandrick), it may be awhile before they are able to score enough points to put teams away early…..Romo may have to take a pain killing injection to play again this week, and with the play of his receivers last week, it may not be because of his fractured rib.

Denver Broncos: Not that the Broncos have much of a chance to beat the Packers this week, but if CB Champ Bailey is unable to play because of a hamstring injury, this game could get out of hand quickly…..Injury news doesn’t get any better for Denver as WR Eddie Royal will miss the game with a groin injury…..RB Knowshon Moreno is expected back in the lineup this week, but Willis McGahee will remain the starter.

Detroit Lions: Last week was the first one in which QB Matthew Stafford took a few hits. He is still alive and standing which is good news for Lions fans. The Cowboys are sure to put him on his back a few times this week too. As good as Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson have been so far this season, an injury may be the only thing that could stop them…..Don’t look for a big game from RB Javhid Best this week. The Cowboys may have problems versus the pass, but haven’t had a problem stopping the run.

Green Bay Packers: Not that anyone should be rooting for an injury, but RB James Starks should be pretty happy that Ryan Grant will miss this game with a bruised kidney. Starks was clearly outplayed by Grant this week and may have been close to losing a good deal of his carries had Grant remained healthy…..WR Donald Driver has only had one catch in the last two games, his role has certainly been reduced, with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and JerMichael Finley the favorite targets of QB Aaron Rodgers.

Houston Texans: RB Arian Foster is due to return once again this week. I still have a hard time seeing him stay healthy all season and in fantasy leagues I would still hold onto Ben Tate…..TE Owen Daniels looks to be back in form as he and QB Matt Schaub look to be developing that chemistry once again that made them a lethal duo before injuries set Daniels back…..LB Mario Williams injured his knee last week but should be good to go for Sunday.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Kerry Collins suffered a concussion last week and won’t play Monday, leaving Curtis Painter behind center. Ouch! Fantasy wise, WR Reggie Wayne may be the only player still remotely valuable to a fantasy team as even TE Dallas Clark may have a tough time getting targets…..Gary Brackett and Melvin Bullitt are both out for the season due to injury. The suck for Luck continues…..The Colts keep holding out hope that Peyton Manning can return this season, but is there any doubt that they would be better off letting Manning take the season off and come back completely healthy next season.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars are trying to get TE Mercedes Lewis more involved in the passing game. Good idea, a TE is usually a young QB’s best friend…..RB Maurice Jones-Drew is off to a solid start this season but defenses are going to start to key on him as they won’t be afraid of the passing offense, especially one with a rookie QB…..DE Aaron Kampman, the Jags only real pass rush threat, is out once again this week…..This game is not going to be pretty if you’re a Jacksonville fan.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jonathan Baldwin is still out with a thumb injury, starting to look like this may be a lost season for the rookie…..K Ryan Succop is only 2 of 5 on FG attempts this season. One  more miss and he may find himself on the unemployment line…..RB Dexter McCluster may be taking on a bigger and bigger role in the offense. He could certainly be an interesting pickup in fantasy leagues.

Miami Dolphins: The news just keeps getting worse for the Dolphins: they are 0-3, play the Chargers this week, plenty of talk about the job security of the head coach, and now RB Daniel Thomas, who has played well in the past two weeks, is unlikely to play Sunday with a hamstring injury…..WR Brandon Marshall and QB Chad Henne certainly look to be in better shape this season than last, but by my count, there is at least three TD passes that Marshall has dropped this season.

Minnesota Vikings: Someone has to explain to me how a team can have a 20 point lead at halftime, yet only hand the ball to Adrian Peterson five times in the second half. It’s decisions like this that leave fans and critics alike shaking their heads, not to mention the Vikings have blown a double digit lead in each game so far this season…..WR Percy Harvin was a bigger part of the offense last week, but still had to leave the game early after taking a shot to the gut.

New England Patriots: Not sure which was more of a shock, that the Pats blew a big lead to the Bills last week or that QB Tom Brady threw four interceptions…..TE Aaron Hernandez will indeed miss this week’s game versus Oakland…..S Patrick Chung, he of the broken thumb, is questionable to play this week. Lord knows the Pats pass defense could use his help…..Don’t be concerned about WR Deion Branch not catching a pass this week, Brady was just looking to exploit matchups, and last week he apparently loved Wes Welker’s matchup.

New Orleans Saints: WR Marques Colston is apparently healthy after breaking his collarbone in Week 1. Its only been three and a half weeks. It is hard to believe he is 100% recovered after such a short time to recuperate, not to mention, why would you bring him back early in a game that should be easily won with or without him…..K Garrett Hartley was placed on IR this week, which means John Kasay is indeed the full-time kicker this season…..RB Mark Ingram is off to a slow start, and it certainly doesn’t help any that Darren Sproles is off to such a fast start. Sproles needs to get his hands on the ball as much as possible right now.

New York Giants: Big win by the G-Men last week. WR Victor Cruz proved that he could make a big play, which is good news for QB Eli Manning as he is running out of healthy receivers with Hakeem Nicks nursing a knee injury and Mario Manningham a concussion…..DE Osi Umenyiora will most likely make his season debut this week after having knee surgery in camp…..DE Justin Tuck however may be forced to miss the game with neck and groin injuries.

New York Jets: CB Antonio Cromartie, who had a tough game last week (penalties, long passes, bruised lung), should play this week…..C Nick Mangold has a shot of playing this week and the Jets offensive line could use him, but he is unlikely to be at full strength and would probably benefit from another week’s rest…..QB Mark Sanchez broke his nose during the game last week, so much for that GQ cover…..The Jets are having a tough time getting their ground game — ummm “off the ground”, so look for LaDainian Tomlinson to get more touches if Shonne Greene is not getting the job done.

Oakland Raiders: RB Darren MacFadden, who is off to a fast start this season, will be a full go for this game after suffering a slight groin injury last week…..WR Jacoby Ford could possibly return this week. The Raiders could use him as they are going to need their offense to be in high gear to keep up with the Patriots…..QB Terrelle Pryor’s five-game suspension was upheld — shocking…..QB Jason Campbell has a foot injury which could limit his ability to avoid the rush, but then again it’s not like the Patriots put much pressure on the quarterback.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Michael Vick (hand) and WR Jeremy Maclin (hamstring) are both going to start this week, whether or not they finish the week is another story…..Rumors are starting to float around again that WR DeSean Jackson is more worried about his contract than about winning football games. Is it me or is this dream team quickly becoming a nightmare?…..Back to Vick, he seems to be a bit off base in complaining about the refs not calling late hits against him. Numbers don’t back him up, as he is in the middle of the pack as far as getting the call. Perhaps, he should talk to his offensive linemen about blocking better, chat with his coach about getting maximum protection, or just get rid of the ball quicker.

Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Rashard Mendenhall was told that he still remains the goal-line back, which is all fine and good, but with the Steelers offensive line being one of, if not the worst in the league, I’m not sure it matters. Mendenhall and QB Ben Roethlisberger could both be in for subpar seasons unless the line picks up its play…..CB Bryant MacFadden will miss the game this week. This certainly doesn’t help as Pittsburgh travels to Houston to take on the high flying Texans.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates could be out quite awhile as he tries to recover once again from Plantar Fasciitis. It still seems unlikely that he will ever be 100% over this injury…..WR Vincent Jackson was hobbled this week (abdomen) as was RB Ryan Matthews (left foot), but both look good to go on Sunday…..S Bob Sanders was placed on IR this week. One has to wonder if his career is over at this point.

San Francisco 49ers: This could be a tough week for fantasy owners trying to figure out the 49ers running back situation for this Sunday’s game. Frank Gore has an ankle injury that could limit his effectiveness but he will probably will play. He has a juicy matchup against a porous Philadelphia run defense and you wouldn’t want to sit him, but how frustrated would you be if he was only able to last a quarter…..WR Michael Crabtree is probable to play this week after suffering a foot injury, but it probably won’t matter much as the Eagles may not be able to stop the run and shouldn’t have much problem with the 49ers passing game.

Seattle Seahawks: WR Sidney Rice had a solid return from his shoulder injury. He may be the only bright spot on a dull offensive squad…..Do you think TE Zach Miller is starting to regret his choice in free agency? How quickly he has fallen off the radar?

St. Louis Rams: I can’t say how disappointed I am in the play of TE Lance Kendricks so far this season. I thought he would be a major part of the Rams offense, but so far he’s done little to nothing…..RB Steven Jackson is said to be a bigger part of the offense this week as he is another week into his recovery from the quad injury suffered in Week 1…..Remember when WR Danny Amendola thought he could return quickly from his dislocated elbow? Well, he is out another week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This has to be a get well game for QB Josh Freeman. He has been having problems getting the ball downfield to WR Mike Williams. Although it won’t be easy with DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis coming after him, it’s a big Monday night game and big plays in the passing game are needed…..For those of you in IDP leagues, LB Mason Foster is now an every down player.

Tennessee Titans: The loss of WR Kenny Britt for the season could have a severe impact on the Titans. Their passing game was rolling but now they lose their deep threat. Opposing defenses will now devote most of their attention to stopping the running game, which hasn’t yet gotten on track — not good news for RB Chris Johnson…..The Titans signed Donnie Avery to replace Britt on the roster…..QB Matt Hasselback may take a few more hits with the loss of Britt as teams should have an easier time covering the team’s other receivers.

Washington Redskins: How will Washington react to losing a game Monday night that they probably should have won? Pretty well I think. Even though it is a short week and they are playing on the road, they are playing a Rams team that just hasn’t been able to get anything going so far this season…..It’s looking more and more like Roy Helu is the back you want in the Skins backfield. Sure Tim Hightower is the starter, but in the last two weeks, Helu has had the bulk of the carries in the second half and has shown a better burst and play making ability.

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Safety Adrian Wilson has started practicing on a limited basis and will continue to try and play through a torn biceps. I have a hard time seeing that last all season…..Great news for the Cardinals and their fans that WR Larry Fitzgerald signed an eight-year, $120 million contract…..RB Beanie Wells will once again get another shot at proving to Arizona that he deserves the full-time gig with the season ending injury to RB Ryan Williams.

Atlanta Falcons: DE Ray Edwards has been battling knee problems this training camp but will play this weekend…..RB Michael Turner revealed this week that he played last season with a special wrap to protect his groin. The injury has healed now and Turner is expected to get back that burst he didn’t have last season…..Some scouts believe WR Julio Jones may be ready to play a major part in the Falcons offense this season, not just take away coverage from WR Roddy White.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Lee Evans has made his presence known for Baltimore. Perhaps, he can be that deep threat the team has been looking for…..OT Bryant McKinnie was signed to provide depth along the offensive line. It’s a gamble, but if McKinnie is in shape and wants to play, he can still help a team…..Big things are expected of RB Ray Rice this season with FB Vonta Leach leading the way.

Buffalo Bills: While LB Shawn Merriman has looked like his old sack machine self at times, he is still getting nicked up more than one would like…..LB Kirk Morrison signed with the Bills this week. It is hard to see where he fits in with this defense, but he does have experience playing both the inside and outside…..RB Fred Jackson is getting frustrated with his role in the Buffalo offense, as he is not sure why he isn’t the starting back.

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton may have been the first overall pick in the draft this past April, but anyone who watches him play can clearly see that he is not yet ready to play in the NFL as a starting QB. Problem is though, the Panthers don’t have anyone else on the roster who is…..WR Steve Smith hasn’t come out publicly and stated anything, but you have to wonder if he is a powder keg ready to explode and would prefer to get out of Carolina and play for a contending team.

Chicago Bears: I’m still bewildered that the Bears somehow think they will be okay at WR with Devin Hester and Roy Williams. They need an upgrade there…..LB Lance Briggs is out for the remainder of the preseason with a knee injury. As of right now, he is not expected to miss any regular season time…..Have a feeling the Bears won’t be in the playoff hunt this season.

Cincinnati Bengals: Speaking of a feeling, one of the two Ohio teams should be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes come the end of the season…..The Bengals offense showed some signs of life this week as RB Cedric Benson and rookie WR AJ Green looked good during their preseason game versus Carolina. Problem will be during the regular season.  Weeks like this may be few and far between…..The Bengals traded for S Taylor Mays from the 49ers. Well someone had to trade for him! It shows that Mays was literally one and done for San Francisco.

Cleveland Browns: QB Colt McCoy continues to impress for the Browns. He’s never going to be a gunslinger in the pocket, but rather someone you can count on to lead the team and find a way to win…..Smart move by Cleveland in locking up OT Joe Thomas. He’s one of the best and they don’t want to lose him…..RB Brandon Jackson is out about six weeks with turf toe.

Dallas Cowboys: If the Cowboys offensive line can hold up and give QB Tony Romo time, Dallas is going to score quite a few points this season…..Problem though, unless their secondary improves an awful lot, they are going to give up quite a few points as well…..RB Felix Jones is having a monster preseason. If he can just stay healthy, he could have a monster regular season, as defenses will more than likely be  more worried about the Dallas passing game.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos finally made it official that Kyle Orton will start at QB. Not really a shock considering how poorly Tim Tebow has played. He might be lucky to be the backup and not third string…..WR Brandon Lloyd has missed some practice time this week with some swelling in his knee…..RB Knowshon Moreno looks to be the starting back, but remember, coach John Fox likes to use more than one back and Willis McGahee was a touchdown vulture last year with Baltimore.

Detroit Lions: The Lions are playing it cautious and smart with RB Javhid Best and his concussion, holding him out of this weekend’s game. One has to wonder if this will hinder him as the season rolls along, not like a RB can avoid contact to his head…..WR Calvin Johnson is also dealing with an injured shoulder, although his injury shouldn’t be of any concern once the season starts.

Green Bay Packers: There are rumblings that RB Ryan Grant could lose his starting job to James Starks. Neither one had a great game Friday, although neither one touched the ball all that much. It doesn’t seem like the coaching staff is all that concerned, and who could blame them with QB Aaron Rodgers and the plethora of targets he has to throw to each week. I wouldn’t want to take it out of his hands either.

Houston Texans: The Texans are looking more and more like the team to beat in the AFC South…..RB Steve Slaton is still battling a hamstring injury and is unlikely to make the final roster. This is not a surprise, but his injury has made it highly unlikely that the Texans could trade Slaton for a draft pick…..LB DeMeco Ryans could miss the remainder of the preseason with an elbow injury.

Indianapolis Colts: The signing of QB Kerry Collins tells you two things; first, there is a pretty good chance that Peyton Manning is going to miss a game or two, and second, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky aren’t the answer…..The Colts are built to win with Manning at QB. I’m not sure it would matter who was behind center, without Manning, they are a considerable underdog.

Jacksonville Jaguars: As if there was any doubt, David Garrard was named the starting QB. Blane Gabbert is going to be a good one, but it’s best that he learn behind a veteran for now…..The Jags coaching staff believes Rashard Jennings is ready for a bigger role in the offense this season. This is also not a surprise, as we started to see that last season.

Kansas City Chiefs: Kind of surprised that the Chiefs announced that Dexter McCluster will only be used as a running back this season. I’m not sure you want to feed any mouths other than Jamaal Charles in that backfield…..LB Derrick Johnson looks like he might be ready to take that next step this season…..TE Tony Moeaki still hasn’t fully recovered from off-season surgery. It might be time to get a little worried with the season just two weeks away.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are growing more and more concerned with RB Daniel Thomas’ unwillingness to hit the line of scrimmage hard in practice, so much so, that Reggie Bush may become a bigger part of the offense than first thought…..The Dolphins haven’t named a starter opposite WR Brandon Marshall. In other words, they aren’t very happy with Brian Hartline and have even given Davone Bess reps on the outside in practice even though he excelled last season in the slot.

Minnesota Vikings:  QB Joe Webb, who is listed 2nd on the depth chart, has also been taking reps at wide receiver…..It looks like DT Kevin Williams will only be suspended two games instead of four in the StarCaps case…..WR Percy Harvin returned to practice this week. He still has bruised ribs, but that shouldn’t hinder him in the regular season, and at least it’s not migraines.

New England Patriots: The Patriots have come out this season like they are on fire, dismantling teams in the 1st quarter. They are already regular season ready…..Rookie RB Stevan Ridley missed practice this week with an undisclosed illness and won’t play this weekend….DT Albert Haynesworth returned to practice this week. One still has to wonder if he has the will to play football at the level he is capable of, even for Bill Belichick.

New Orleans Saints: Saints are dealing with some injury issues; RB Mark Ingram has a knee problem, WR Lance Moore a groin, and WR Marques Colston has knee issues of his own…..Like Kevin Williams of Minnesota, there is a chance that Will Smith’s suspension will be reduced to two games…..I would love to grab TE Jimmy Graham late in my fantasy drafts.

New York Giants: The Giants are being crushed with injuries to their secondary, suffering four season ending injuries so far. They did sign Brian Williams for depth purposes this week…..RB Ahmad Bradshaw is dealing with a back injury that is starting to worry the team. They believe it might linger into the regular season…..Speaking of RBs, Brandon Jacobs stated this week that he would like to play another 3-4 seasons; good news for the G-men who can always use a battering ram in the backfield.

New York Jets: WR Plaxico Burress made his presence felt in his first game for the team with a touchdown reception. If he is actually back to the player he used to be before ending up in jail, the Jets could have a dangerous offense…..With Hurricane Irene threatening the east coast this weekend, the Jets and Giants moved their game to Monday night, which means these two teams will play their final two preseason games in four days.

Oakland Raiders: Someone has to explain to me the Raiders philosophy of running a football team. You let your two best players leave in free agency (Nnamdi Asomugha and Zack Miller) but then spend a 3rd round pick in the supplemental draft on Terrelle Pryor, a player who may be a great athlete, but who no one believes will be a top NFL QB. They don’t have a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th round pick in next year’s draft. Exactly how is this team going to get better?

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles may have defeated the Browns in their preseason game Thursday and put 24 points up on the scoreboard, but they are going to get QB Michael Vick killed if they don’t fix that offensive line. I believe last week I put the over/under of Vick’s games played at 13.5. I’m starting to think double digits might be a more accurate line. I can’t see how anyone in fantasy leagues can take Vick as the number one QB, more or less the 1st player taken overall.

Pittsburgh Steelers: I’m a big Cowboys fan, but the game I am looking forward to seeing most on the first Sunday of football is definitely Pittsburgh-Baltimore. The hatred these two teams have for each other is for real, and a joy to watch…..The Steelers would like to see a big game out of QB Dennis Dixon on Saturday, possibly to showcase him for a trade as they have plenty of backup QBs on the roster…..The Steelers have also let it be known to teams not to salivate over the possibility of S Troy Polamalu becoming a free agent next season. They will franchise him if they can’t come to an agreement on a new contract.

San Diego Chargers: WR Malcolm Floyd, who did suffer a concussion last week, returned to practice this week, so all seems to be well there…..RB Ryan Matthews has redeemed himself in his coach’s eyes but may still share the spotlight with Mike Tolbert…..Fantasy wise, I think I’d rather have Tolbert. Sure, Matthews will catch more passes out of the backfield, but Tolbert is more than likely to be the man at the goal line.

San Francisco 49ers: RB Frank Gore is getting more and more frustrated with his contract situation and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if this comes to a head before the season starts…..WR Michael Crabtree seems more and more unlikely to play in Week One as he is not running yet. However, he is out of the walking boot…..The back to watch if Gore were to miss any time is Kendall Hunter. Even if Gore plays, Hunter should have a few plays designed just for him.

Seattle Seahawks: Kicking news, it looks like Jeff Reed has won the starting job for the Hawks…..LB Aaron Curry agreed to restructure his contract this week. So far Curry has looked like a pretty big bust in the NFL…..Still no word on the severity of TE John Carlson’s shoulder injury, although initial word is that the injury could be pretty severe.

St. Louis Rams: It seems TE Lance Kendricks has quickly become a favorite target of QB Sam Bradford, so much so, that he could be Bradford’s favorite target on 3rd downs and in the red zone…..RB Steven Jackson no longer looks like a top NFL back as he no longer possesses the elusiveness he once had. Oh he can still be productive, but it’s more of a hit the hole and then run over someone type.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Aqib Talib met with the commissioner this week to discuss his run in with the law this past offseason. Depending on whom you believe, the commissioner may have his rulings challenged by the union once he doles out what he considers is the proper punishment…..WR Arrelious Benn is scheduled to play this week. It seems he will likely open the season as the number three WR as Dezmon Briscoe has looked awfully good in camp.

Tennessee Titans: WR Kenny Britt is in the same situation as Aqib Talib and could face a suspension. He is also dealing with a hamstring injury that has cost him most of the preseason so far…..RB Chris Johnson met with Titans officials this week to discuss a new contract. No dice! Both sides still seem to be pretty far apart on what his next contract should be worth. If this heads into the regular season, Tennessee is in deep trouble.

Washington Redskins: John Beck and Rex Grossman are still battling for the number one job. The Skins know what they have in Grossman, a gambler who will either hit big or miss big. Beck may be the one that requires less Pepto Bismol on a regular basis…..RB Tim Hightower has looked nothing short of awesome so far this preseason leaving some to predict that a huge season is on its way.