Archive | February, 2013

Still Fighting at 48, Bernard Hopkins Refuses to Go Gently into That Good Night

22 Feb

Hopkins will take on Tavoris Cloud for the IBF Light Heavweight Title

By Chris Murray

Bernard Hopkins (left) gets his hand taped by his trainer Nazim Richardson during a workout session at Joe Hand's Gym in North Philadelphia. Hopkins will take on Tavoris Cloud for the IBF Light Heavyweight crown on March 9 in Brooklyn, N.Y.  Photo by Chris Murray.

Bernard Hopkins (left) gets his hand taped by his trainer Nazim Richardson during a workout session at Joe Hand’s Gym in North Philadelphia. Hopkins will take on Tavoris Cloud for the IBF Light Heavyweight crown on March 9 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo by Chris Murray.

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—If 48-year-old Bernard Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 knockouts) were to actually retire today, he would do so with a long list of accomplishments as a boxer and a promoter.

Without question, Hopkins is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Unlike most boxers who blow their millions on foolish things, Hopkins is a very frugal man who is set for life financially and not wanting for money like some of his younger colleagues in the boxing world.

Knowing all of this, we always have to ask the question why. Of course, Hopkins will definitely tell you why in his own enigmatic way. It’s his goal to break his own record of being the oldest man to win a world championship in boxing.

“My legacy is on the line and my record is on the line,” Hopkins told reporters during a training session at Joe Hand’s Gym in North Philadelphia. “This falls into the category of can Bernard Hopkins out do himself and break his own record?”

With Father Time seemingly stalking him on a constant basis, Hopkins will be back in the ring on March 9 against a younger, unbeaten International Boxing Federation light-heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud (24-0, 19 KO’s) at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. The fight will be televised live on HBO.

In his last fight against Chad Dawson in April 2012, Hopkins was a step behind the younger fighter and wound up losing a majority decision. The late Emmanuel Steward said at the time that Hopkins couldn’t put his punches together and was off-balance when he did throw his punches.

“(Hopkins) gets one shot and his balance is gone,” said Steward, who passed away on Oct. 25, 2012. “I can’t see him beating all of those guys out there. It’s amazing he’s never been cut up, never been beaten up. It’s amazing what he’s accomplished, but he should quit.”

But Hopkins doesn’t quite know the meaning of the word quit. On one level, Hopkins does not have the body of somebody in their late 40s. The man has a training regimen that would make Spartans blush.  Hopkins is still arguably one of the best defensive fighters in the game.

Hopkins trainer, Nazim Richardson said he knows when guys don’t have it anymore both in and out of the ring.  He said he’s going to prepare Hopkins for this fight by sparring him against younger, faster fighters to get a good gauge of how much his fighter has left in the tank.

“Every fighter has a certain number of fights in him, none of us know the number. None of us can predict the number,” said Richardson. “I put them young boys on (Hopkins). I tell them young boys, he’s a legend, you can’t be a legend. He’s a champion, you can’t be a champion right now. “But I tell them you’re 23, (Hopkins) can’t be 23.  Be 23 on his ass, every minute of every round and (Hopkins) answers the call.”

Richardson said he advised Hopkins to retire after he defeated Antonio Tarver in 2006 only because he beat everybody he could beat to that point. But it’s Hopkins discipline during training that gives his camp the confidence that he can do well in the ring.

“That focus of his is ridiculous, it’s at another level, it’s exceptional,” Richardson. “That’s the reason why he’s here, he’s the exception. We’ve got out of trying to dictate when the end is, we’re trying to be the best we can be while we’re still here.”

Hopkins said the 31-year-old Cloud is tailor-made for him because he’s young, aggressive and likes to come forward like Kelly Pavlik, whom he beat  for the light heavyweight crown back in 2008.

“I believe that his aggressiveness will make it a great fight and will make it an action-packed fight,” Hopkins said.

“I think that when you have a guy that will approach me with no respect for what will happen because he’s thinking of himself first.  There’s nothing wrong with that until you run into a guy like Bernard Hopkins where your biggest strength come March 9 will work against you.”

Throughout his career, Hopkins has thrived on proving the experts and his naysayers wrong. If there’s no actual motivation for him to fight, he will invent one.

“Because I know there are certain things in life that I’m not going to be able to do, but I’m not going to submit to that until I try it,” Hopkins said.

“That’s because I’m not going to let reasons for not doing something stop me from opening that door because when I open that door that’s where the money’s at. But if I didn’t open it, I would never realize what was there.”

In the Mix: A Confident Dennis Dixon Is Ready Take On All Comers for Birds QB Spot

20 Feb
The Eagles might be Dennis Dixon's best opportunity to be a starer.

The Eagles might be Dennis Dixon’s best opportunity to be a starer.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA–If you look at his career statistics in the NFL, there’s no reason to give Dennis Dixon a snowball’s chance in hell to be the Eagles starting quarterback.

In just three career starts, he’s 2-1 with a quarterback rating of 71.4 and has been mostly a backup during his five years in the league. In 2012, he was a practice-squad quarterback with the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens.

But Dixon’s heyday as a quarterback was at Oregon when Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was his offensive coordinator.  In his senior year in 2007, he passed for 2,136 yards with 20 touchdown passes and four interceptions in 10 games before tearing up the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

While Dixon is intimately familiar with Kelly’s offense, he believes that his experience backing up Ben Roethlisberger and playing the scout team quarterback on the Ravens practice squad will be a great asset in the competition with Michael Vick and Nick Foles.

“I was fortunate enough to work around some good defenses from the Pittsburgh Steelers and to the Ravens,” Dixon said. “Just practicing with them made me better overall. I just want to be able to show what I’ve learned and hopefully it’s good enough.”

Even though he hasn’t logged in the time on the field that Vick or even Nick Foles has, Dixon is confident that he has just as big a chance to be the Birds starting signal caller.

“Anybody in their right mind would love competition and that’s what we have,” Dixon said. “And I’m quite sure that Michael Vick and Nick Foles would say the same thing as well. We’re excited. We’re just excited to work and let the chips fall where they may.”

Of course, we all want to know if Dixon is best equipped to run Kelly’s fast-paced, no-huddle, read-option offense the way he did at Oregon.  Dixon said he’s not expecting to Kelly the exact offense he ran his senior year.

“(Kelly) can tailor his offense to whomever is presented at that given time and it’s good to see,” Dixon said. “If you have a dual threat quarterback, everyone will say they want to throw the ball first because you never want to have that stigma of you just being a running quarterback. Chip Kelly has made it known that he wants to throw the ball and mix up the run and the pass.”

Looking at how things evolved in his professional career over the five years since that season-ending knee injury during his senior year at Oregon, Dixon hasn’t had the best of breaks and has strived to make the best of a bad situation.

For the first 10 games of his senior season with the Ducks, Dixon was mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate and possibly a high-round draft pick.  With the injury, Dixon’s stock dropped significantly. The Steelers drafted him in the fifth round as a backup to Roethlisberger.

Dixon started his first game for the Steelers in 2009 against the Baltimore Ravens when Roethlisberger and backup Charlie Batch went down because of injuries. He completed 12 passes for 26 for 145 yards with one interception and ran for 27 yards on three carries with one touchdown.

With Roethlisberger suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season, Dixon defeated the Atlanta Falcons and completed 68 percent of his throws for a career-high of 254 yards. But he got hurt in the next game where he tore the meniscus in his left knee.  The Steelers released him after the 2011 season.

For all setbacks and the fact that he could only get a practice squad job in Baltimore, Dixon refuses to feel sorry for himself and views every situation is an opportunity to show what he can do.

“As far as getting a starting job, I had an opportunity with (Pittsburgh) and I came out on top. I was excited about it,” Dixon said. “Unfortunately, it ended the way it did. But I’m moving forward. I did have an opportunity and now another opportunity has come. I just want to be ready when it comes.”

Next Phillies Star? Rising Prospect Zach Collier Has a Bright Future Ahead of Him

19 Feb
Phils prospect Zach Collier is on the Phillies 40-man spring training roster. He will likely be playing with the Class Double-A Reading .

Phils prospect Zach Collier is on the Phillies 40-man spring training roster. He will likely be playing with the Class Double-A Reading when the 2013 season begins.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Last month, Phillies prospect Zach Collier got a glimpse of what it could be like play in the major leagues when he and several of the team’s minor league prospects visited the team’s clubhouse at Citizen’s Bank Park as a part of the team’s orientation program for aspiring Phillies.

“It’s been my goal ever since I picked up a baseball to compete and play at the big league level,” Collier said. “I’d like to make the team here at Citizen’s Bank, but I’ll play where they send me.”

The 22-year-old outfielder from Chino Hills, California was certainly impressed with the surroundings and got a good understanding of what it’s like to play here from former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins who spoke to the young players about how passionate fans are in Philadelphia.

“What I got from (Dawkins) is to be a leader and lead by example,” Collier said. “He emphasized the importance of giving the effort. Keep grinding and working hard.  He said you have to have a thick skin. I believe that when my time comes, I’ll be able to handle that. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like.”

If anything, Collier, who is apart of the Phillies 40-man spring training roster, is confident about his ability to play the game and so are the people in the Phillies organization.

The Phils’ supplemental first-round pick in the 2008 MLB draft is coming off a solid 2012 season playing for the Phillies Class A Advanced squad, the Clearwater Threshers.

“I don’t think you can pick out a month where you didn’t see progress, said Joe Jordan, the Phillies minor leagues director. “He’s got a lot of physical ability. I think last year some things really started to come together for him. The game slowed down for him a little bit. “

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Collier batted .269 with 32 runs batted in, six home runs, 11 stolen bases and 39 runs scored in 78 games after missing the first 50 games of the season after testing positive for amphetamines. He also posted career highs in on-base percentage (.339) and slugging percentage (.399).

“He’s got a really good left-handed swing,” Jordan said. “He played very solid center field in Clearwater in that big ballpark. Especially in July and August, we saw a guy starting to get comfortable. I think that’s it more than anything.”

Collier played some of his best baseball in the five-week Arizona Fall League where he batted .371 with 10 runs batted-in, four doubles, three triples and three stolen bases.  In that league, Collier went up against mostly Double-A pitching.

Jordan said while Collier has a lot of power, he wants him to focus on hitting for a good average first.

“That’s the type of hitter he needs to be right now,” Jordan said. “He hits the ball very hard. He’s going to hit some homeruns, but he needs to lead our team in doubles. I see him more as a hitter, he’ll have some power.”

Jordan said he wants to see Jordan work on becoming a better base stealer to further improve his stock as he moves up in the Phils minor league system.

Collier has played all three-outfield positions. He said centerfield is his favorite because of his ability to see everything in front of him.

“I like centerfield because I like the advantage of having that vision behind second base into home plate because you can see the ball in each direction,” Collier said.  “When you’re playing in the corner, it’s all about reaction and you know you have a whole lot of grounds to cover.”

Jordan said while the Phils organization is projecting him to play centerfield, the fact that he’s played the other outfield positions bodes well for him.

“I think he can be a good centerfielder and I think he showed us that last year, but it’s a big benefit to him that he’s been exposed to both corners and he’s comfortable playing all three outfield spots,” Jordan said. “This is going to settle itself out as he gets to the big leagues depending upon what our major league club has at that time.”

If there’s one area of his game that he would like to improve is his, Collier said he wants to have an even stronger arm in the outfield.

“It’s something that I can work to because I’m always looking to improve,” he said.

Unless he makes a big splash and makes the Phillies 25-man roster, Collier will probably be playing with the Phils Double-A affiliate in Reading to start the season. Jordan said that will be the best thing for him at this stage of his development.

“Zach is going to be playing at a good level,” Jordan said. “He’s going to be challenged. We’re going to have him in a good place and we’re going to have him with a good staff. When he’s good enough and he’s ready, he’ll tell us. His performance will tell us.”

Despite Injuries and Turnovers, New Eagles Coaching Staff Likes Michael Vick

13 Feb
The new Eagles  coaching staff likes what Michael Vick brings to the table despite his injuries and turnovers over last two years.

The new Eagles coaching staff likes what Michael Vick brings to the table despite his injuries and turnovers over the last two years.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—At the end of the season, it was assumed by most of the football intelligentsia in this town that after Andy Reid’s departure, Michael Vick would out the door as well.

But as it turned out, Vick will be with the Birds for at least one more year after restructuring his contract to a one-year deal reportedly worth $10 million.  He’s not guaranteed be to the Birds starter and will have to compete with Nick Foles for that spot.

Even through all his Vick’s injuries and his penchant for turnovers in 2012, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly saw enough film of the 32-year-old former Virginia Tech star that he is willing to give him another shot to run the Birds offense.

“What I look at is skill-set first and foremost,” Kelly said.  “What he can do, how he can throw the football, how he can beat people with his feet. There are a lot of different factors he has.  And you have to look at the landscape for other quarterbacks.

“I guess the best way I can put this is I agree there is a change of scenery going on here.  For Michael Vick, there is a change of scenery, but not a change of address.”

Maybe that change of scenery will be a better offensive line or an offensive scheme that fits Vick’s athletic skills whether it’s some form of the read-option or just simply having more balance on offense.

“On video, it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot of difference from 2003 as far as the arm strength,” said Eagles quarterback coach Bill Lazor, who worked with Vick when he was an assistant coach with the Atlanta Falcons. “I see some accurate throws down the field. I see the ability to set his feet. He’s the kind of athlete that can do anything.

“We just to make sure whatever confines of our offense wants put him in as far as foot work, I don’t see anything that Mike can’t do. Obviously, he can run around the defense and we want to see him do that.”

The 2012 season was one that Vick and Eagles fans would like to forget. He threw 12 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions along with 11 fumbles.  He had a quarterback rating of 78. 1.  He was sacked 28 times and got hit dozens of other times.

Battered and bruised with concussions and rib injuries behind an injury-riddled patchwork offensive line, Vick eventually lost his starting job to Nick Foles.

In the midst of all of his mistakes in 2012, Vick, especially in the first five weeks of the season, was the reason the Birds either won or were in position to win games. That’s the thing that stood out to new Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

“He an extremely tough player and he’s won football games and we’re looking forward to working with him,” said Shurmur, who was Andy Reid’s quarterbacks coach from 2002 to 2008.

The problem with Vick is that he has been injury-prone for the last two years. If he is running Kelly’s version of the read-option, he is going to take his share of hits. Recently, Vick was a guest on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning and he said is not going let the possibility of getting hurt stand in the way of playing his style of football.

“The thing is, you have to be very cautious and meticulous about what you’re doing on the field but  not to a point where it takes away from your game,” Vick said. “Once you try not getting hurt, that’s when you get hurt. What I have to do is just go out and play lights-out football and not worry about getting hurt.”

Actually, Kelly and the Eagles coaching staff will be doing all the worrying about Vick’s health.

Given how the Eagles offensive coaches were gushing over Vick’s skills, you get the feeling that the offense is going to be more suited for what Vick can even though Kelly and Shurmur are publicly saying that the offense they plan on putting together will be flexible to the skills of both quarterbacks.

If Kelly and the Eagles organization were really all in for Foles, they probably would have given Vick his walking papers by now and put all of their energy into developing the former Arizona star.

With Vick competing for the starting job, along with reports that the Eagles have been talking to Baltimore Ravens practice squad quarterback, Dennis Dixon, who Kelly coached when he was at Oregon, is a clear indication that the Birds new coaching staff was not completely sold on Foles.

The idea that a new coaching staff can teach an old dog some new tricks is certainly not unprecedented in the annals of NFL history.  We’ve seen former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick transform Randall Cunningham from a quarterback known for his running prowess into a complete quarterback that could do both.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was former Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders head coach Tom Flores that turned a struggling, injury-prone Jim Plunkett into a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. Before Lou Saban’s arrival in Buffalo in 1972, OJ Simpson was considered a bust.

After Saban made Simpson the focal point of the Bills offense, the former USC star became an all-time great running back.

Will that happen here? Who knows?

If Kelly can win with his unique brand of offense and somehow keep Vick healthy, he will be canonized a saint by Eagles fans and be labeled a genius. If not, well, there always college.

What a Game: Super Bowl XLVII Was to Definitely One to Remember

5 Feb

By Chris Murray

Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

For the Chris Murray Report

So what did we learn in the aftermath of the Baltimore Ravens thrilling 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII?

One- it is now safe to say that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.  In Super Bowl XLVII, Flacco passed for 287 yards and three touchdowns passes and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

In the playoffs, Flacco beat Andrew Luck, the No.1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft and then knocked off two league MVPs in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Aren’t those guys considered elite quarterbacks?

If you’re still not convinced that Flacco is that dude or at the very least well on his way to becoming that dude,  you need to consider that in the 2012 postseason,  Flacco tossed 11 touchdown passes without an interception which ties Joe Montana and Kurt Warner for the most in a single postseason  without  a pick.

“One of the things is that without question he’s a big-game performer,” said Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.  “My old high school basketball coach used to always say cream will always rise to the top and that’s Joe.”

Flacco is the only quarterback in the Super Bowl era to play in four playoff games without tossing an interception.  He has won seven career playoff games on the road including this last Super Bowl. It is the most road wins by a starting quarterback in NFL history. Flacco has a better record (9-4) in the postseason than Peyton Manning (9-11), whom he beat in the divisional playoff round.

“Joe is one of those guys that the bigger the game the better he plays and I think that you’re going to see that continue throughout his career,” Caldwell said.

Flacco is currently in negotiations with the Ravens for a new contract. To quote Hall-of-Fame cornerback and NFL Network analyst, Deion Sanders: “Pay that man!”

Colin Kaepernick scores on a 15-yard touchdown run to bring the 49ers to within two points of the Ravens.

Colin Kaepernick scores on a 15-yard touchdown run to bring the 49ers to within two points of the Ravens.

Two-, Colin Kaepernick and the read option are here to stay despite losing in the Super Bowl. Yes, he had a slow start, but Kaepernick still played his butt off, especially in the second half. Kaepernick and the 49ers offense shredded the Ravens defense for 468 yards of total offense-including 182 yards rushing.

With his team down by 22 points, Kaepernick brought the Niners back using a combination of the pass and the running game with Frank Gore and LaMichael James in the Pistol offense.

Gore, who would finish the game with 110 yards rushing and a touchdown, had two runs of 20-plus yards including a big 33-yard run that put ball deep in Baltimore territory late in the game from that read-option offense.

Kaepernick was 16-of-28 for 302 yards and one touchdown. He also ran the ball seven times for 62 yards including a record-breaking 15-yard touchdown run, the longest in Super Bowl history by a quarterback. Not bad for a guy with just 10 starts in his brief career.

On their final drive of the game, the 49ers, in the Pistol formation, drove through a tired Ravens defense from their own 20-yard line to the Baltimore five. One of the big plays on that drive was Gore’s big 33-yard run to the Ravens 7.  A two-yard gain by James moved the ball to the five with about two minutes left.

That leads us to No. 3-Never get away from what’s working. On the 49ers remaining three downs of the game, they passed the ball on three straight plays and came up short.

You would have thought with Kaepernick’s running ability and the way Gore was crashing through the Ravens defense that head coach Jim Harbaugh or offensive coordinator Greg Roman would have called a play with one of them running the ball.

“I always thought they were going to run. I really did. All of those pressures were called for the run, not the pass,” said Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

A quarterback draw or a designed run by Kaepernick from the Pistol or just giving it to Gore on the same option plays that got them into the red zone in the first place.

“We could’ve ran on them all day,” Gore said. “We called plays that we thought that was good, and things didn’t happen.”

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (left) shakes hands with his brother Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers head coach after the end of Super Bowl XLVII.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (left) shakes hands with his brother Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers head coach after the end of Super Bowl XLVII.

No. 4-This was one hell of a Super Bowl.  This game had just about everything including several interesting storylines. You had the Harbaugh brothers-John and Jim matching wits against one another.

You had Flacco cementing his claim as a top-notch quarterback with an MVP-performance.

Beyonce’s performance at halftime, which included the reunion of Destiny’s Child, was a showstopper within a showstopper of a football game.

There was a 35-minute delay of the because of the power outage in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. I don’t pretend to know what caused it, but I suspect that origins of this outage came from a Buffalo Wild Wings in San Francisco where a 49ers fan sent a text to an electrician friend at the Superdome to shut the power down to stop Baltimore’s momentum.

Just kidding, but the Super Bowl power outage would make a great commercial for Buffalo Wild Wings.

The incredible performance by Ravens receiver and kick returner Jacoby Jones, who caught a 56-yard touchdown pass that will go down as one of the great plays in Super Bowl history.  Jones caught the ball falling to the ground at about the 49ers seven yard line. He got up, put a move on a Niners defender and sped past another for the touchdown.

As a kick returner, Jones opened the second half with an electrifying, Super Bowl record 108-yard kickoff return. To paraphrase a Baltimore Sun reporter Jones will never want for a drink in Baltimore for the rest of his life.

There was also the 49ers valiant comeback from a 28-6 deficit in the third quarterback, led by Kaepernick, who is going to be a star in this league for a good long time barring injury.

Ray Lewis ends an incredible 17-year career with his second Super Bowl ring.

Ray Lewis ends an incredible 17-year career with his second Super Bowl ring.

San Francisco’s comeback fell short on what was a controversial non- pass interference

call on Michael Crabtree who locked horns with Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith in the endzone as Kaepernick’s pass on fourth down sailed over both players’ heads.

Was it  holding or pass interference against Baltimore or a good non-call by the officials?  It will be debated for a long time.

And last, but not least, Ray Lewis ending his storied career on an incredible goal-line stand by the Ravens defense. It was a fitting end for arguably one of the best middle linebackers to ever play the game.

Unstoppable? Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers are a Defense’s Worst Nightmare

3 Feb

Can Baltimore Slow  Down  Kaepernick and 49ers  Pistol Offense?SB47_Primary_National_RGB

By Chris Murray

for the Chris Murray Report

In many respects, Super Bowl XLVII will be a matchup of two distinct offensive philosophies.  It’s the San Francisco 49ers new fangled Pistol read-option offense, which is taking the NFL by storm, versus the Baltimore Ravens conventional drop-back passer style of offense.

If the 49ers win this game, there will be a radical rethinking of how teams run their offense in the NFL run their offenses in the way Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense did back in the 1980s.

The 49ers Colin Kaepernick may be fast, but he's smart enough to have a firm grasp of the 49ers Piston Read-option offense.

The 49ers Colin Kaepernick may be fast, but he’s smart enough to have a firm grasp of the 49ers Piston Read-option offense.

There are already teams around the league-the Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers- that use a version of this read-option offense. New Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is looking to install his version of that offense as well.

In the Pistol read option formation, the quarterback is lined up about four yards behind the center while the running back lines up directly behind the quarterback so that the defense doesn’t see the running back while the quarterback can either run, handoff to the running back or even throw a play-action pass.

The 49ers, led by athletic quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have averaged 476 yards in their two playoff games using their Pistol read-option offense. Perhaps the biggest splash that Kaepernick and the read-option have made thus far was the 49ers divisional playoff win over the Green Bay Packers.

In that game, Kaepernick literally ran the Packers out of the playoffs with a record-setting performance. He rushed for NFL- record 181 yards (most ever by a quarterback regular season or playoffs) and scored two touchdowns. He passed for 263 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. The 49ers compiled 579 yards of offense.

Against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship, so much attention was on Kaepernick keeping the ball and running it that the Falcons forgot about Frank Gore, who gained 90 yards rushing on 21 carries, and tight end Vernon Davis caught five passes for 106 yards. Kaepernick was an efficient 16-of-21 passing for 233 yards and one touchdown pass.

So what is it about the read-option that keeps defensive coordinators and the players the coach up late at night?

“They can do so much and do so many things,” said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. “They can pass out of it. They hand the ball off. There are so many things they can do with it. They can even bring in the trick plays. You have to stay fundamentally sound to defend so many things and play.”

That’s because the read option makes teams have to defend the entire field. In effect, it’s 11-on-11 football where the quarterback serves as an extra blocker by reading where the defender is going to go. In the 49ers read option, Kaepernick can read the ends and linebackers. If those ends and line backers converge on him, the ball is going to the running back or it might go downfield on a pass play.

“It can force a defense to play certain ways that they might not play,” said 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. “It is another way to put pressure on the defense. That is what we want to do. We want to try to put pressure on 11 people on the field. Make it a bad day for them.”

Added Kaepernick: “You’re actually blocking the defender by reading him.”

Even worse for the defense if the offense doesn’t the run ball, the other option for the quarterback is to pass the ball.

“It freezes them a little bit. It gives you a little bit more time,” Kaepernick said of his running ability. “If it’s just a split second, that’s an advantage for the offense.”

In a Dec. 4, the Ravens had trouble stopping the Washington Redskins and Robert Griffith III and their version of the read option. The Redskins rolled up 469 yards of total offense. RGIII passed for 242 yards and one touchdown and also ran for 34 yards.

Meanwhile, rookie running back Alfred Morris gained 129 yards rushing and the Redskins came from behind to beat Baltimore in overtime. There was something the Ravens learned from that experience that could serve them well against the 49ers on Sunday.

“It’s really hard to play that type of package as individuals,” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said.  “You have to play it as a group. I said that if you were to try to slow it down, that is the only way to slow it down, is to play it as a group. Make sure before the ball is snapped, everybody is on the same page.”

Offense Comes Up Big For Flyers in Win Over Carolina

3 Feb

By Chris Murray

Ilya Bryzgalov had 42 saves for the Flyers in their win over the Carolina Hurricanes

Ilya Bryzgalov had 42 saves for the Flyers in their win over the Carolina Hurricanes

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette would like to bottle his team scoring output against the Carolina Hurricanes for the rest of the season.  But knowing that his team has had problems on offense, he will take Saturday night’s effort as a start in the right direction.

After struggling to score more than two goals in their last three games, the Flyers offense finally awoke from its slumber and snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in front of 19,591 fans at the Wells Fargo Center.

“I thought we came out hard and had a good start,” Laviolette said. “That first shift was really important and it set the tone.  We went down in the opposition’s end and we tried to pound it at the net and on the forecheck.”

In the first period, the Flyers scored three times which was more than the entirety of their last two losses to the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals. What made this win even more special for the Flyers is that five different players scored goals.

“When you look at the past two seasons, we were successful because we always had a guy like (Claude) Giroux who was leading the charge or Mike Richards before, but we were getting offense from all the way down the line,” said Flyers center Danny Briere. “That’s probably what was missing a little bit this year.  To come here tonight with five different goals, five different goal scorers, I think it’s good for everybody’s confidence.”

The Flyers were perfect on their power-play chances, going three-for-three. Defenseman Kurtis Foster scored the game’s first goal in the first period when the Flyers had the man-advantage over the Hurricanes.

“We had a better presence at the net,” said Danny Briere, who scored on a power-play goal in the first period. “Even the first power-play that Foster scored it wasn’t pretty.  But it was the presence in front of the next on all three goals if you look we had one or sometimes two guys in the crease to block (the goalie’s) view or pounce on the rebound.”

Meanwhile, Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov had a slow start, giving up a pair of first period goals that came primarily from a couple lapses in the Flyers defense. Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen got a clean shot ath the goal from Bryzgalov’s right while Flyers defenders were stacked to the opposite side.

The Hurricanes got a power-play goal from center Eric Staal who stole a Flyers pass and scored an unassisted goal to bring Carolina within 3-2.

From there Bryzgalov settled down and stopped 42 Hurricanes shots on goal. He gave up a late power-play goal in the third period. With the Flyers defense seemingly taking the foot off the gas pedal in the third while compiling time in the penalty box, Carolina got 15 shots and scored just once thanks Bryzgalov’s outstanding play between the pipes.

“The second period was good, but in the third period, they had a lot of shots and there was a lot of traffic coming from their power-play,” Laviolette said. “They really started to press the issue in the third period.

“They were checking forward with their defenseman. They were high risk, high reward and they ended up staying in the zone. They had lots of zone time on us. The second period was good for Bryzgalov, but he was unreal and really strong player for tonight.”

Notes-Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine was suspended three games for an elbow to the head of Flyers rightwinger Wayne Simmonds.