Archive | January, 2014

The Champ Is Here: Bailey Finally Gets to Enjoy Super Bowl Spotlight After 15 Years

31 Jan

 

 

Today’s Super Bowl XLVIII Report is powered by the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society 

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By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey fields questions from reporters during Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day. Photo by Chris Murray.

Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey fields questions from reporters during Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day. Photo by Chris Murray.

JERSEY CITY, NJ.—Most of the talk during the buildup to Super Bowl XLVIII has been about players and their lasting legacies in the game.

For a player like Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, it’s about solidifying an already outstanding legacy as one of the game’s great quarterbacks by taking two different teams to a Super Bowl win.

In the case of young players like Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman, it’s about establishing themselves and their team as one of best in the game in the here and now.

But let’s face some reality here, they’re a lot of great Hall of Famers who played in the NFL with distinction and have never come close to winning or even playing in a Super Bowl.

In the eyes of some football fans and observers in the age of sports talk radio and 24-hour cable sports networks a player not having that Super Bowl ring is that one thing that diminishes his greatness.

Considering that football is the ultimate team game, it’s a pretty silly notion.

“Championships define the greatness of teams. That’s the way it is,” said Tedy Bruschi, who won three Super Bowl rings as a linebacker with the New England Patriots. “I don’t need a Cris Carter to have a championship ring to know how great he is.”

The same could be said for the 15-year career of Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, who will be playing in his first Super Bowl on Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks.

Bailey has done it all as a cornerback in this league and has done it longer than some of the guys who are in the Hall of Fame now. He’s a 12-time Pro Bowl selection and a five-time All-Pro selection, making the first-team three times. His career Pro Bowl selections are the most in NFL history by a defensive back.

Not many corners have lasted as long as Bailey and not been moved to safety. He is still playing the game and his position at a high level.

Going through a plethora of interviews during Super Bowl week, Bailey isn’t measuring his ring size or even thinking about what it would be like to win a championship. He’s more focused on trying to shut down Seattle’s passing game and helping his defense contain running back Marshawn Lynch.

“All I been thinking about is the things we got to clean up from yesterday,” said Bailey, who has 52 career interceptions. “We had a good practice. It’s never perfect. That’s really all I been thinking about. … I haven’t thought about what kind of ring or anything. I’m just worried about winning.”

Some of Bailey’s teammates, especially his colleagues in the Broncos secondary, want to win this game for him because he has been a leader and mentor to them. Safety Mike Adams, himself a 10-year veteran in the league, said the joy Bailey would experience, if Denver wins,  would be indescribable.

“I cannot imagine what he would be feeling because I know I would be feeling tears of joy and everything and I was in it for 10 years. [Bailey] has been in it for 15 years,” Adams said. “For him to get to this point and if he wins, that’s the ultimate. That’s what we play for.”

This season, Bailey played in just five regular-season games while playing through a foot injury that he suffered during the preseason. Though he was on the sideline, Bailey was coaching and advising his teammates during the course of games and in practice.

“He spent many games inactive, but he was always there,” said Denver head coach John Fox. “And in that defensive room, his guidance, his leadership was always there and that never wavered.”

While Bailey, who spent his first five years with the Washington Redskins, appreciates the encouragement of teammates, he said he’s just happy to be with a solid group of players, the best team he’s played on in his long career.

“I finally got with the right group of guys,” he said.

Bailey said whether his team wins on Sunday or not, he will not leave the game with any regrets.

“It’s been a journey to get here, but I don’t regret anything that’s happened in my career,” Bailey said. “I’m not worried about winning or losing right now. I’m just worried about going out and making sure we’re prepared to play and give ourselves a chance to win.

“If I feel like on (Sunday) that we’ve done enough to prepare and we don’t win, I’m cool with that because we gave it our best.”

Special thanks to www.aviationqueen.com

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Pot Roast Versus Skittles: Former Temple Star Terrance Knighton Enjoying Super Bowl Spotlight

29 Jan

Today’s Super Bowl Report is powered by the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society

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By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Former Temple and Denver Broncos start defensive lineman Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton taking questions at Super Bowl Media Day. Photo by Chris Murray.

Former Temple and Denver Broncos start defensive lineman Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton taking questions at Super Bowl Media Day. Photo by Chris Murray.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. –Former Temple star and Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton has spent a year in unfamiliar territory and it’s not because he was playing with a team in a new city.

In his fifth year in the pros since playing his college ball in North Philadelphia, Knighton is experiencing what it’s like to be on a winning team after playing for losing teams at the collegiate level and for the first four years of his NFL career.

Playing for a Denver Broncos team that is gearing up for their Super Bowl XLVIII matchup against the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Knighton has enjoyed the season and relishing the opportunity to play for a championship.

“You dream about it, you pray on it, you hope it happens,” Knighton said. “I’m just glad take advantage of the moment.  … It was frustrating (playing for losing teams), but looking back on it now, it makes me cherish this moment even more. Adversity builds character. A lot of time people forget about the downs. But I remember it at times like this.”

This season, Knighton has made the difference in the middle of the Broncos defense. He has 31 tackles, three sacks, five tackles for a loss, seven quarterback hits and one interception. In the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots, Knighton had four tackles, including two for a loss and had one sack.

“We are very excited to have him. He has been a real stalwart up front, especially inside in both the run and the pass. We are pleased in the growth and development he made this year, but I attribute it to him,” Broncos head coach John Fox.

Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said Knighton really increased the level of his play when several Denver defensive lineman went to down to injury.  He was called upon not just improve his own game, but to also to be a leader of the defense.

“Basically it became, ‘Look we really need you to step up and not just play well. We need you to step up and lead, help Sly (Sylvester Willliams) be comfortable next to you, talk with him,” Del Rio said.  “He’s really taken that and run with it. He’s really embraced the role. He’s played well and he’s done more things behind the scenes aside from playing well, in terms of leadership and helping Sly, the young D-tackle playing next to him play at a better level.”

At 6-foot-3, 335 pounds, Knighton has become popular with his Denver teammates who affectionately call him, “Pot Roast.”  He said the name came when he ordered pot roast on a six-hour flight back to Denver.

“Plane is dark and the lady is walking down the aisle saying, ‘Pot roast, pot roast’, and I’m like, ‘Right here, right here’. My teammate behind me was like, ‘You’re saying that like that’s your name. I’m going to call you ‘Pot Roast,’’ Knighton said.  “And then it stuck with me. It was either that or ‘shrimp Alfred,’ so I’m glad I got that.”

Coming into their Super Bowl matchup with Seattle, Knighton will be among the players on the defensive line expected to slow down Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who gained 1,257 yards rushing and scored 12 touchdowns.

“I’m ready for the challenge,” Knighton said. “Our group is ready for the challenge. We have to play gap sound football and make we tackle him and knock the pile back because their offensive line does a great job of pushing the pile and finishing guys.  We want to be that force on the field.”

Oddly enough, some observers are billing this matchup as “Pot Roast versus Skittles.”

During his college days, Knighton excelled for a Temple team (2005-2008) that wasn’t very good. In his first year at Temple in 2005, Knighton played for a Temple team that went 0-11. He played under then-head coach Al Golden for three years and never had a winning season.

In three seasons as a starter with the Owls, Knighton accumulated 184 tackles (105 solo), seven sacks and 26 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and four blocked kicks. He said playing at Temple made him mentally strong despite all the losing.

“You’re playing in the heart of North Philadelphia, it’s a rough area,” Knighton said. “You gotta be tough. That’s why we take pride in being Temple-made and being Temple tough with two Fs.”

Though Knighton said he was blessed to be a third-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he still experienced losing.   When he became an unrestricted free agent, Knighton said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally play for a winner.

“You can’t pass up playing for a Super Bowl contender,” Knighton said. “Playing next to a (linebacker) Von Miller, Champ Bailey behind you, Wesley Woodyard, you can’t pass up on things like that. I had the opportunity to play here and I jumped on it.”

Student of the Game: Seattle’s Richard Sherman Says He’s the Best because of His Intellect

29 Jan

Today’s Report from Super Bowl 48 is fueled by the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society

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Sherman says He Regrets Postgame Interview with Fox

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Richard Sherman addresses reports during Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Photo by Chris Murray

Richard Sherman addresses reporters during Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Photo by Chris Murray

NEWARK,N.J.—Even if you thought Richard Sherman’s bombastic postgame interview with FOX’s Erin Andrews was unsportsmanlike, loud and the obnoxious immaturity of a 20-something athlete, he did give you something think about.

When he proclaimed himself the best cornerback in the NFL, you have to ask yourself is he lying?

In his three years with the Seahawks, Sherman has certainly put in the work to make that claim. The former Stanford star has 20-career interceptions including a league-leading eight in 2013. Sherman is a two-time All-Pro including the 2013 season.

Since his rookie season in 2011, Sherman’s interceptions are more than Tampa Bay’s Darelle Revis and Cleveland’s Joe Haden—the other two cornerbacks who also believe that they are the best in the game.

“We know that Richard Sherman is the best cornerback in the league and we believe in that,” said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson during Tuesday’s Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day at the Prudential Center. “In terms of what he does on a regular basis, he puts in the work. … He’s one of the best. He backs it up by his play, his actions and everything he does.”

The six-foot-three, 195-pound Sherman is more than a guy with tremendous athleticism with a penchant for talking trash. With all his physical ability to keep wide receivers from making big plays, Sherman is also a solid student of the game, a trait not often associated with African-American athletes.

“A lot of people do have that misconception that athletes don’t think the game through and that it doesn’t take a ton of intelligence to play this game because it’s such a brute sport because of guys running into each other,” said Sherman, who had a 3.99 grade-point average in the class room at Stanford. “It takes a lot of intelligence and quick thinking. You have to think on your toes, study the concepts and you have to be able to translate what you learn in the classroom onto the field and that takes a tremendous amount of talent.”

Perhaps the biggest edge that Sherman has as a cornerback was that he played in 37 games as a wide receiver and accumulated 81 receptions for 1,340 yards during his days at Stanford. He said his understanding of the receiver position has enabled him to play the cornerback position well.

“That’s given me a tremendous amount of insight just being able to understand route concepts, understand formations, tendencies and things that they like to do,” Sherman said. “It’s situational football. When receivers split outside the numbers, what they’re trying to do inside the numbers. It really helps, especially in the West Coast offense.”

Sherman also credits his coaches at Stanford-Vic Fangio, now the defensive coordinator with the 49ers and Derek Mason, former Stanford defensive coordinator and new Vanderbilt head coach for helping him to understand the Xs and Os of the game.

Denver wide receiver DeMaryius Thomas said he considers Sherman to be among the league’s best corners and is looking forward to going up against him.

“He’s a great player, I’ve watched him on the field and he’s smart,” said Thomas, who caught 92 passes for 1,340 yards and 14 touchdowns during the regular season. “He knows a lot that’s going on. I’m looking forward to a good game.”   

During the course of Super Bowl Media day interviews, Sherman was inevitably asked about the postgame interview and the things he said about San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree, he admitted that it was something he wished he could take back.

 “Last week I felt like I was just attacking a man—attacking it and taking away from teammates,” Sherman said. “You never want to talk down to a man to build yourself up and things like that. So I regretted that and I regretted taking away from teammates. That’s the one thing that I wish I could do again.”

Sherman said the viscerally racist reaction to his post-NFC Championship on the social media site Twitter may have been a blessing in disguise in terms of generating a dialogue on race.

“I feel that anytime you can restart that conversation and you get people past that,” he said. “You get people on the other side of that conversation to be accepting and have no color lines.

“Understand that everybody ought to be judged for who they are as a person and what they do for the community instead of just how they look and their appearance, regardless men, women, child, whatever their religious beliefs are. People should be judged by their character and who they are and not by anything else.”

 

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Flyer Can’t Overcome Slow Start in Loss to Carolina

23 Jan

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Claude Giroux scored the Flyers first goal in the loss to Carolina Photo by Webster Riddick.

Claude Giroux scored the Flyers first goal in the loss to Carolina Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—For the first 39 ½ minutes in their game against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Flyers looked like a team that didn’t get enough sleep the previous night. The team hadn’t skated in two days thanks to Tuesday’s snowstorm. They were down 2-0 until they got a goal from Claude Giroux with 25 seconds left in the second period.

Three minutes into the third period, a goal by Scott Hartnell evened the game and it looked like the Flyers had found their energy.

Unfortunately, the Flyers once again found out that you can’t fall behind a team and expect to win.   Carolina came with a 3-2 win over the Flyers in front of a sell-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night.

 Jiri Tlusty’s goal with 6:10 remaining in the third period was the game-winner for the Hurricanes (21-19-9).  

“We didn’t play very good and we ended up losing the game,” said Flyer head coach Craig Berube. “The whole game we weren’t very good. You’ve got to have a lot more energy than that.”

In the first period, the Flyers (25-20-6) couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end and managed to get off just three shots.

“We can’t be shooting ourselves in the foot like this we need to have better starts,” Giroux said. “I think first period was the way we wanted to play. I know we didn’t skate for two days, but that’s not good enough.”

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes Alexander Semin provided the only scoring of the period when he took a pass from center Eric Staal near the right-wing circle and shot it past Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros and goalie Steve Mason for a 1-0 lead.

“It was just a heck of a shot,” Mason said. “He got a really good shot through (Meszaros) body a little bit. It was just a nice shot.”

The Hurricanes upped the margin to 2-0 on a break-away goal by center Nathan Gerbe, who  took control of the puck that went through the leg of defenseman Luke Schenn, who was standing at the top of the blue near the right wing circle.

Late in the second period, the Flyers got into the scoring column a goal by Giroux, who rebounded a shot by Jakub Voracek that bounced off the pad of goalie Anton Khudobin. Giroux, who was to the left of Khudobin, somehow got the puck behind the Carolina goalkeeper and into the net.

“When (Giroux) scored late that was a big goal for us to give us some momentum,” said Flyers left winger Scott Hartnell.

The Flyers would even things three minutes into the third period on a power-play goal by Hartnell, who shot the puck into the net on a rebound off a shot from Wayne Simmonds that was blocked by Khudobin.

After Hartnell’s goal, the Flyers simply could not sustain the momentum and they looked like a team struggling to find some energy on the offensive end. On defense, they allowed Tlusty’s goal because Voracek broke his stick and didn’t have enough time to get a new one from the bench.  

For the last two games going back to Monday’s overtime shoot-out loss to the New York Islander, the Flyers have been lulled into thinking they can just turn it and off even if they fall behind as they did in Wednesday’s game.

“We just sat back and thought that we were going to wait until overtime and maybe win it in a shootout,” Hartnell said. “That’s not the way to play. It hasn’t been our ‘MO’ when we’ve been successful, but we’ll change that.”

AFC Championship: Win or Lose, Peyton Manning Still Among the Best to Play the Game

19 Jan

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning greet each other after the Patriots 34-31 win on Nov. 24.  Photo by the DenverPost.com.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning greet each other after the Patriots 34-31 win on Nov. 24. Photo by the DenverPost.com.

There are some who are touting Sunday’s AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Denver as some sort of legacy game for both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

It’s like Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier III in boxing or Achilles versus Hector in Greek mythology. We are looking for another epic struggle for the ages that will be etched indelibly on the minds of football fans everywhere.

I guess what folks are really trying to say that this will be a contest of how history will view what Brady and Manning done during their careers.  What people really want to know is who is the greatest between Brady and Manning?

To be honest, I think that both quarterbacks will be voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. After all, Brady has led the Patriots to three Super Bowls. Manning, who has one Super Bowl ring, he has re-written the NFL record book and considered to be among the all-time greats to play the game.

For all the things that Manning has done as a quarterback, it will not resonate for a lot of fans in this day and age because he doesn’t have as many Super Bowl rings as Brady. Hell, he doesn’t have as many as his brother Eli, who has two with the New York Giants.  Let’s face it, Eli is not as good as his elder brother.

Even if the Broncos can’t get past the Patriots, please don’t go around saying that Manning’s greatness as a quarterback is diminished because he doesn’t have as many rings as Brady or anybody else.

One of the things that bothers me about our current media landscape of 24-hour sports networks, talk radio and social media is that we are so caught up in the bling of championship rings that we tend to forget one immutable fact that’s important to success in sports like football—It’s a “team game.”

In an era where the No. 1 talking point in sports that we all get off on is Michael Jordan winning six rings as a member of the Chicago Bulls, we determine the greatness of players by how many championships they won while playing for a particular team.

The problem that I have with that notion is that Jordan didn’t win those titles by himself and neither did Brady. They were part of some great teams. Their names are not on those trophies by themselves. They played with players that complimented their skills.

I find that reminding fans that teams win championships, whether it’s a column in the newspaper or on social media, is like your mother telling you when you were a kid that you should eat your vegetables because they’re good for you.  You would rather have chocolate cake and other assorted sweets because it tastes better even though it has too much sugar.

We like to believe that our heroes act alone like they do in all the super hero comic books or in the movies. Such things as having outstanding offensive lineman, a great defense and special teams become secondary to making our favorite players larger than life.

In football, success in the postseason, contrary to popular belief, is dependent upon your teammates-offense, defense and special teams.  A bad day in one of those areas and you won’t win.

In Manning’s case, he is 10-11 in playoff games and has just one Super Bowl ring. If you look back through the playoff games he lost, I would venture to say that when you cut it down the middle that some of those losses weren’t his fault and some were very much his fault.

For example, in a crazy 21-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005, a missed chip-shot field goal near the end of that game ended his season.

In some of those games, the defense couldn’t stop the other team’s offense. Last season’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional playoff round was a classic example of that. You know the story.

The Broncos were up seven with under a minute to play and seemed on their way to the AFC Championship until a mistake by the defense allowed Jacoby Jones to score on a 70-yard touchdown pass that tied the game and sent it into overtime.

Of course, Manning’s last pass of the game in overtime was intercepted by Baltimore’s Corey Graham. It doesn’t come to that if Denver safety Raheem Moore is in better position to defend Jones in regulation.

Sometimes, the players on the other team are just better than your team that day. The Patriots beat Manning’s Indianapolis Colts teams twice in the playoffs because the Patriots defense outplayed his offense while the Colts defense couldn’t stop Brady and the Patriots.

There are plenty of great quarterbacks in this game who never won one Super Bowl. I think of the Dan Marinos, the Warren Moons, Jim Kellys and the Dan Fouts who were great quarterbacks, but never won a championship because some aspect of their team’s dynamic was flawed in some way.

I still remember flashes of Fouts watching helplessly on the sideline as the Oakland Raiders offense ran out the last seven minutes of the 1980 AFC Championship after the Chargers had scored the touchdown to come within seven.

The glare of those rings blinds us from the reality that winning a championship in team sports is hard. You need the right mix of players and good coaching along with a little bit of luck to win. You can have the greatest player in the world, but if you don’t have a solid team around him playing together, you’re not going to win jack.

Whether or not he beats New England on Sunday or the NFC squad two weeks later in the Super Bowl, Manning is still among the great quarterbacks in the history of the game.  Losing Sunday or two weeks from now will not dim the glory of his outstanding career.

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NFC Championship: 49ers Receivers Will Be The Difference

19 Jan

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

With a healthy Michael Crabtree along with tight end Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin, 49ers might have it what it takes to win against a tough Seattle squad.  Photo by the Bleacherreport.com.

With a healthy Michael Crabtree along with tight end Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin, 49ers might have it what it takes to win against a tough Seattle squad. Photo by the Bleacherreport.com.

When you look at the raw numbers for Sunday’s NFC Championship game, everything seems to come up roses for the Seattle Seahawks chances to get to Super Bowl XLVIII.

Over the last two years, the Seahawks are 16-1 at Century Link Field including two wins over the San Francisco 49ers—their opponents in Sunday’s NFC title tilt. They have the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL overall — No. 1 in scoring defense and against the pass. On offense, they have quarterback Russell Wilson and a force at running back in Marshawn Lynch.

But I wouldn’t completely count the Niners out of this one.

I think the 49ers have a good shot of going up there and beating the Seahawks, even in that noisy cauldron of a stadium. It won’t be easy, but I think they can pull it off because of their weapons on offense and how they have been playing coming into this game.

The Niners three main receivers are better than any of Seattle’s wideouts. Since Michael Crabtree joined tight end Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin back in week 11, quarterback Colin Kaepernick has completed 64 percent of his passes.

In the Niners win over the Green Bay Packers, it was Crabtree who came up huge with eight receptions for 127 yards.  In the win over the Carolina Panthers, Boldin caught eight passes for 136 yards.  Davis had a touchdown pass that put the 49ers ahead to stay late in the first half.

“It’s Boldin and [WR Michael Crabtree] Crab both. They’re doing a great job getting open. [Quinton’s [Patton] making plays, Vernon’s making plays, there is a lot of people getting open on our team,” Kaepernick said earlier this week.

 If the 49ers can get running back Frank Gore going, it could be a long day for the Seahawks. The last time San Francisco and Seattle met on the Niners’ homefield, Gore gained 104 yards rushing on 17 carries including a big 51-yard run.

“I think the hardest part is because since he’s a smaller guy he gets real low, and he’s downhill. He runs downhill and behind his big tackles and guards,” said Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor.

 “It’s just a matter of being gap sound because as a defense if you’re not gap sound good running backs like Frank Gore will find that hole. So we just have to be gap sound on defense and learn from the mistakes that we’ve had in the past.”

Perhaps the biggest reason that I can give the 49ers a chance to win is the struggles of the Seattle offense, especially the passing game.  Over the last five games, the Seahawks have averaged just 144 yards in the passing game.

In last Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Saints, Wilson was 9-of-18 for just 103 yards. But the Seahawks say they’re not all that worried about their issues in the passing game.

“I’ve said numerous times that we’ve played some terrific teams,” said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. “They’ve done a nice job on us and we haven’t been able to take advantage of some of the opportunities that we have. But all in all, when we take care of the football and we run the ball really well and manage the game like we have been, that gives us a great chance to win.”

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks passing game has struggle over the last five weeks. Photo by USAToday.com.

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks passing game has struggle over the last five weeks. Photo by USAToday.com.

Meanwhile, Wilson said there’s nothing overly complicated other than he just has to put the ball in his receiver’s hands.

“I think the biggest thing is to  be more accurate on a couple throws I normally make,” Wilson said. “That’s what it comes down to. It’s nothing I need to search deep down for or go study a whole bunch for. It’s just put the ball on the money right where you need to be.”

When you have Lynch in your backfield, Wilson may not need to do as much in the passing game. Lynch gained 140 yards on 28 carries in the win over the Saints including a game-clinching 31-yard touchdown run.

This game will no doubt be a physical game because both defenses are capable shutting the other team down. Seattle opened the playoffs last week by keeping the explosive Saints offense off the scoreboard until late in the game despite allowing over 400 yards of total offense. The Seahawks held highly-touted Saints tight end Jimmy Graham to just one catch.

In their battles against the 49ers in Seattle, the Seahawks defense have shutdown Kaepernick and the Niners’ offense.  The last time San Francisco played at Century Link Field, the Seahawks intercepted the former Nevada star three times and sacked him three times.

“Just playing ourselves, playing discipline, sound football. If you’re playing man-to-man, you’ve got your man,” said outspoken Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. “Guys just playing discipline, sound football and not allowing them to scramble. That’s on our front four and front seven. Scheming it up, making sure he stays in the pocket.”

Meanwhile, the 49ers had two interceptions of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and sacked him five times while shutting down the Carolina running game.

 The last time San Francisco saw Lynch they held him to under 100 yards on the ground. Niners linebacker Patrick Willis said his team has to focus on shutting down the Seattle offense whether it’s Lynch on the ground or Wilson running to buy time in the passing game.

“[Lynch] is just a tough guy to bring down. There’s no question about that,” Willis said. “Russell Wilson, he’s able to scramble and able to throw the ball as well. So, we just have to play a complete game.”

It’s hard to pick against the Seahawks in their house with that defense and Lynch on offense, but I think the 49ers receivers will be the difference in this one. Look for the Niners to spring the upset, 27-23.

Jackson Burglary An Example of How Athletes are Easy Targets for Criminals

17 Jan

The Break in of DeSean Jackson’s Home shows that criminals can be among your circle of friends. 

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson had a break-in at his home in South Philadelphia.

Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson had a break-in at his home in South Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA—When you’re a professional athlete, you’re almost always the life of the party based on your ability to keep it going financially.

But as Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson found out recently, it’s sometimes best not to have the party at your house.

Jackson’s South Philadelphia home was broken into sometime between Jan. 6 and Jan. 10 while the former University of California star was out of town, according to Philadelphia Police. Police say that the receiver’s mother reported the incident after coming to the house and finding Jackson’s bedroom, which was usually locked, open.  There were no signs of forced entry and the home security system had been removed, police said.

A safe, a 9-mm handgun, a collection of jewelry worth about $125,000 and about $250,000 cash were among the things taken in the burglary. Jackson is offering a $50,000 reward to anyone who has information to help police.

So far, no arrests have been made. However, the evidence from the police report does raise the question as to whether or not the burglar or burglars were friends or acquaintances of Jackson’s.

Jackson, who signed a contract worth $51 million in 2012, isn’t the first athlete to have his home broken into, but this incident is a harsh reminder that millionaire athletes are often targets of people looking to make money at their expense.

Former Eagles linebacker and WIP radio host Garry Cobb said one of the first things that young players coming into the league are told at the NFL’s Rookie Symposium is that with more money can come new problems.

“Don’t put a target on your back; Don’t put a target on your head by telling everybody everything you got in your house,” said Cobb, a regular speaker at the Rookie Symposium. “You don’t want to be walking around with cash money. This incident now really puts the target on DeSean. You have to watch who you’re around. It’s a shame you have to do that, but that’s the world we live in.”

Some of Jackson’s neighbors have told reporters about the traffic coming in and out of Jackson’s home when the wide receiver is in town. Because police saw no signs of  forced entry, according to the report, it’s easy to suspect that the burglar was someone who knew the layout of the house and where to find his valuables.

“That’s why you don’t have people rolling in and out of your house,” Cobb said. “You can’t keep track of everybody. You’ve got other people that talk to other people and tell them things that they see at your house. That’s dangerous.”

In some cases, that danger can be more direct than it was in Jackson’s case. Former NBA star Antoine Walker and the family of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor know that all too well.

Walker and two of his friends were robbed at gunpoint at his home in Chicago. The assailants came away with jewelry, cash and a car, but no one was hurt in the confrontation.

Taylor wasn’t so lucky.

Taylor attended the birthday party of his half-sister Sascha Johnson and gave her a purse that contained a $10,000 cash gift.

One of Johnson’s party guests got the idea to rob the Redskins’ safety, and got five of his friends to help him. When the six men broke into Taylor’s Miami home with the intent of cleaning him out while he was away, they found the football player, who was there with his girlfriend and their daughter, who was 18-months-old at the time.

Taylor was shot to death. The trigger man, Ed Rivera, was convicted of second-degree murder in November.

Cobb said he hoped Jackson would use the break-in as a wakeup-call to remind him that he needs to put a limit on people who come in and out of his home.

“I hope he gets drastic with the changes he makes,” Cobb said. “He needs to greatly restrict the number of people he has coming into his house.”

ESPN.com contributed to this story.