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Eagles Defense and Rookie Carson Wentz Has Philly Buzzing After 3-0 Start

2 Oct
jordan-matthewsandcarsonwentz

Eagles wide receiver and Carson Wentz shake hands after they connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass in the Birds 34-3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday.

 

During bye week, there’s a lot for Birds fans to feel good about.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The Philadelphia Eagles enter the bye-week on the kind of good note that they probably weren’t expecting at this point in the season with an untested rookie quarterback.

The Birds are 3-0 for the first time since 2014, thanks to a stout defense and an offense designed around the skills of rookie Carson Wentz and the City of Brotherly Love is buzzing with excitement again, especially after last Sunday’s 34-3 thrashing of a Pittsburgh Steelers team considered a major contender in the AFC

While it’s easy to focus on the stellar play of Wentz, the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week, the defense has managed to shut down opposing offenses.  So far, this season the Eagles defense has allowed just two touchdowns in three games.

The Eagles are fourth in the NFL in total defense, second in stopping the run, allowing just 71 yards per game, and eighth against the pass.  In fact, the Eagles defense has yet to allow a touchdown pass this season.

Yes, it’s only three games into the season, but considering that they were next-to-last in touchdown passes allowed and 28th in passing yardage allowed last season, it’s definitely an  improvement. If they can maintain this level of play, the Eagles will be tough to beat for the rest of the season.

But don’t tell the team that.

“We can still be better,” said Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who had two sacks in Sunday’s game. “We can grow. We’re not comfortable. That’s what I think about this team. Nobody is comfortable or patting themselves on the back.”

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz deserves credit for creating an aggressive, attacking 4-3 defense that puts pressure on opposing quarterbacks and gives very little yardage in the running game. Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said Schwartz does a good job of rotating fresh bodies on the defensive line.

“It’s a good thing because when you rotate, you do not want to drop off,” said Graham, who had a sack and a fumble recovery against the Steelers. “The backups are just as good as the one guys. When you have a good rotation, you have a good bench. You don’t want it to drop off.”

The Eagles shut down down one of the league’s best ground attacKD when they held the Steelers to just 29 yards on the ground for the game. The Birds made the Steelers a one-dimensional team and sacked Ben Rothlisberger four times and forced two turnovers.

“[The]Defense has been getting big stops whenever we get the opportunity. Getting pressure on the quarterback; doing a great job stopping the run,” said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.  “And as a team, we just are staying patient in these games and as soon as our opponents make mistakes we pile it on. Just a patient team.”

Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, Wentz is doing a good job of managing the game thanks to a short, but accurate passing game that patiently moves the ball down the field and lulls the defense to sleep to come up with the big play.

Wentz, who completed 23-of-31 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns, spread the ball around to seven different receivers. He didn’t try to force anything and didn’t make any mistakes with the football.

“He puts himself in a position where he doesn’t have to put pressure on himself,” said Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who caught a 12-yard touchdown from the rookie in Sunday’s game. “He works his butt off every day.”

It also helps that Wentz has enough mobility to buy time when rushers are on his heels.  In the third quarter of Sunday’s game, Wentz escaped the Pittsburgh rush and found a wide-open Darren Sproles, who sped into the end zone untouched for a 73-yard touchdown pass.

One of the things that will help the Eagles down the road is if they improve the running game.  Both Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner showed speed and quickness in the running game. Smallwood gained 79 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown. Barner added 42 with a touchdown as well.

“(Smallwood) is a downhill runner. A one-cut runner. He did a great job for us,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, said. “Darren, Kenjon and Wendell really stepped up and did a nice job.”

After taking this week off, the Eagles will hit the road to Motown to take on a lackluster Detroit Lions squad Oct. 9th at Ford Field.

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The Other Guys The Eagles Drafted

7 May

Sure, Carson Wentz got a lot of the attention as the Philadelphia Eagles first round draft pick. But the team picked up a few other pieces in the 2016 NFL Draft.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Wendell Smallwood

Can Wendell Small be the next great running back for the Eagles. Photo by wvusports.com

The 2016 NFL Draft will obviously be remembered for the Philadelphia Eagles wheeling and dealing into the No. 2 spot to get quarterback Carson Wentz, the man they hope will be the Birds next franchise quarterback.

But I thought that there were a few more things that the Eagles needed to do in the draft on the offensive side of the ball in addition to getting a new number one quarterback.

I think they addressed the things that they needed. The only problem is, we won’t really know for quite some time how good the pieces they picked up in the draft will be.

That said, I thought the Eagles did a good job of adding some depth on their offensive line and finding a running back that would fit head coach Doug Pederson’s scheme.

Perhaps the most intriguing Eagles draft  pick in is former West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood (5-11, 208).  When you look at what he did at the collegiate level, Smallwood, a back similar to the Kansas City Chiefs Jamaal Charles is an ideal fit for Pederson’s version of the West Coast offense.

In 2015, Smallwood led the Big 12 in rushing, gaining 1,512 yards and scoring nine touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yard per carry and ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Smallwood also caught 26 passes for 160 yards and has experience as a pass blocker.

Smallwood has a good shot to get some playing time alongside guys like Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. He’s definitely a good three-down back and reminds me of, dare I say, LeSean McCoy.

But the downside for Smallwood, a native Wilmington, Delaware, is that he’s had some off-field incidents that have raised more than a few eyebrows. In July 2014, he was arrested for allegedly trying to get a witness change her story implicating a friend in a robbery attempt.  No charges were filed against Smallwood. He’s also made a few offensive statements on social media.

But from most accounts and from the Eagles extensive background checks, Smallwood is a mature young man who has stayed out of trouble since  and is looking to do the right thing.

“We spent a lot of time with him and we feel that this is a good kid,” said Howie Roseman, Eagles vice president of football operations. “He’s got to prove it on and off the field, but we have no doubts about what kind of player and person he is.”

After former coach Chip Kelly inexplicably refused to bring in more offensive linemen last season via the draft last season, Pederson and Roseman made sure that the Birds brought in some beef on the offensive line after the team struggled in that department last year.

Third round draft pick Isaac Seumalo (6-4, 303) played just about every position on the offensive line during his collegiate career at Oregon State.  He will probably challenge Allen Barbre for the left guard spot and some observers are saying that Seumalo could be the team’s next center.

According to Pro Football Focus.com, Seumalo is a solid pass protect who can locate and knock down opposing defenders while on the move. More importantly, Seumalo is probably better than anyone the Eagles currently have on the roster.

Former TCU tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (6-6, 320), is big enough to block out the sun and most opposing defenders. He has played at both left and the right tackle. He will probably back up veteran Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jason Peters, who’s at the tail end of his career.

Vaitai will eventually be playing at one of those tackle positions if Peters retires or gets hurt during the season. If that does happen, Vaitai would move to the right tackle slot while Lane Johnson would take Peters’s spot.

But let’s not put the cart before the horse here, Vaitai and Seumalo both have to show that they can beat out guys who are already immersed in the Eagles offensive scheme.

But at the end of the day, having solid depth at the offensive line position can only help an offense that couldn’t block many people last year.

 

 

Cam Newton Proves His Draft Day Critics Wrong

28 Jan
SuperCam2

Cam Newton flexing his Superman pose after scoring a touchdown against Tampa Bay. Newton led the Panthers to Super Bowl 50.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will be coming into Super Bowl 50 with a myriad of accolades thanks to the NFL and a target placed on his back by the Denver Broncos defense.

Newton was voted the NFL’s Most Valuable Player by the Associated Press and the Pro Football Writer’s of America. He’ll be taking on future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning when the Super Bowl is played on Feb. 7 at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

When you look at his stats this season, it reminds me of something one would see in a John Madden football video game. Newton passed for 3,837 yards and threw 35 touchdown passes. He also ran for 636 yards and scored 10 rushing touchdowns.

In total, Newton accounted for 4,473 yards and 45 touchdowns. At 6-5, 245 pounds, Newton is bigger than some linebackers and defensive ends and is a punishing runner.

During the 2015 season, Newton made himself into one of the league’s elite players and arguably elite quarterbacks. He was voted the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year.

But what makes all of the praise he’s getting now so ironic is that many of the people lauding him were pouring haterade by the gallon on Newton in the days leading up to his being taken as the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Coming out of college, draft experts and NFL pundits alike trashed Newton by throwing out every racist stereotype of Black quarterbacks that had ever existed.

Never mind that he had won a national championship at Auburn, a junior college championship the previous year and was the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, all the so-called experts questioned his intelligence and his leadership.

Most of the criticism centered on a perceived inability to read NFL defenses and how that inability would all but ensure he wouldn’t make it in the NFL. These “experts” also said he was arrogant because he told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that he planned on being an icon and an entertainer.

Some so-called experts including Hall of Famer and Fox Sports football analyst Terry Bradshaw, said that former University of Missouri star Blaine Gabbert and University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker were better than Newton.

ESPN’s Skip Bayless said Newton didn’t have accuracy of a Tim Tebow, who is now a college football analyst on the Worldwide Leader In Sports.

One columnist of a popular sports website said Newton was going to be a bust along the lines of quarterbacks Ryan Leaf, Matt Leinart and Vince Young.

Of course, Newton did get kicked off the football team at Florida for stealing a laptop, a crime in which all of the charges were dropped due to a pre-trial intervention program in Florida. There were also reports of academic misconduct as well.

And then there’s the charge that Newton father, Cecil, was trying to peddle his son’s services to Mississippi State for $180,000. That allegation was never proven and Auburn was not sanctioned by the NCAA because of it.

Meanwhile, as the investigation into those alleged NCAA violations was reported on all the major sports networks, Newton never wavered in his focus in leading the Tigers to a national championship. One of those games include Newton leading Auburn back from a 24-0 deficit on the road against a Nick Saban-coached University of Alabama squad that was coming off a national championship the year before.

And yet, Newton’s critics said that the recent Auburn University graduate didn’t have the IQ or leadership ability to be an NFL quarterback, which was completely absurd because you don’t win a national championship without being a team leader and having the mental toughness to stay focused in the face of all of the hoopla around the possibility of NCAA sanctions.

But despite struggling to adjust to the pro game, something all young quarterbacks do, and despite doing some sulking on the sidelines his second year in the league, something that you’d also expect from a 23-year-old and that veterans such as Steve Smith Sr. quickly got him out of, Newton has led the Panthers to three straight playoff appearances including this year’s Super Bowl run.

This year, Newton showed that he could make other around him better, something he did at Auburn. When Carolina’s best receiver Kelvin Benjamin went down with a season-ending injury, Newton utilized his tight end, Greg Olsen as a deep receiver and he’s made Devin Funchess, Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery into better receivers.

Whether Newton leads Carolina to a Super Bowl victory or not on Feb. 7 , he can say to his Draft Day critics that old Kool Moe Dee lyric, “How ya like me now?”

Birds Add Depth at Key Positions, But Not A Super Bowl Contender Just Yet

12 May
Rowe has the ability to play corner and safety for the Birds.

Second-Round Draft Choice Eric Rowe has the ability to play corner and safety for the Birds.

Eagles top draft choice Nelson Agholor hopes to make a big impact in his rookie season with the Birds.

Eagles top draft choice Nelson Agholor hopes to make a big impact in his rookie season with the Birds.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—So now that the Philadelphia Eagles have made their picks in 2015 NFL Draft, the question fans are asking themselves is if the team is better now than it was before head coach Chip Kelly made some highly publicized moves to make over the team in his image.

To be honest, I don’t think so at this point. There are too many unanswered questions on both sides of the ball to drink the “Philadelphia Eagles are a Super Bowl Contender” Kool-Aid at this point.

Let’s look at the draft picks.

Former University of Southern California star Nelson Agholor, the wide receiver the Eagles picked at number oneis almost a clone of the wide receiver Kelly let go to the Kansas City Chiefs, Jeremy Maclin.

At 6-foot, 190 pounds, he is almost the same as Maclin from a physical standpointAgholor is also a speedy wide out with a reputation running good routes and being a deep threat. He’s coming off a season in which he caught 104 passes for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“I have the ability to compete and do things I need to do to get open and in blocking,” Agholor said. “I’d like to go where I can help the team and manipulate the coverage.”

Agholor will join a receiving corps that will include veteran Miles Austin, Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper and Josh Huff.  It’s a decent group of pass-catchers—Matthews is coming off a pretty good rookie season with 67 receptions for 872 yards and eight touchdowns.

At the same, it’s not a crew that strikes fear into anyone. While Kelly thinks that Agholor can stretch opposing defenses, he’s not going to make anyone forget that DeSean Jackson is no longer in Eagles Green.

“I think he’s got good linear speed that can get down the field and I think people will have to be leery about that,” Kelly said. “He’s got excellent speed, outstanding hands, catches the ball away from his body. Outstanding route runner, real student of the game.”

But the real issue for the Birds is at quarterback. In Sam Bradford, the team has a couple of question mark: Can he learn the system, and can he stay off of Injured Reserve for 16 weeks? That last one is something he hasn’t done since 2012, although he’s saying that he’ll be ready for training camp, meaning that he’ll be healed from his most recent ACL repair. The one edge that he does have is that he ran a similar spread-option offense at Oklahoma.  

Kelly believes that Bradford’s ability to make quick decisions make him an ideal fit for the Eagles fast-paced no-huddle offense. The burden won’t be all on Bradford with running back DeMarco Murray in the Eagles backfield.

But the Birds are a bit shaky on the offensive line.  They got rid of Todd Herremans and have been trying to move guard Evan MathisThe offensive line could be the difference between the Eagles making the playoffs and having to watch from home, especially since the line will not only be protecting a quarterback with a newly repaired knee, but making holes for a running back that has his own fragility issues.

On the defensive side of the football, the draft enabled the Eagles to have some depth in the secondary.  In the second round, the Eagles drafted Utah defensive back Eric Rowe.   At 6-1, 205 pounds, Rowe has the kind of versatility that Kelly likes for his defense, similar to safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has also played cornerback and safety.

Rowe said he studies film of NFL stars like New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis and Cleveland’s Joe Haden.

I love to hit, I love to come on the blitz and tackle,” Rowe said. “On the press man, l love to take charges on the line of scrimmage. I would say I’m an aggressive corner.”

Prior to his senior year, Rowe played 36 games at the safety position. He played cornerback in his final season with the Utes and had 13 passes defended with one interception. Rowe runs a 4.4 40-yard dash so he has the speed to keep up opposing receivers.

“We’re looking for safeties that can cover and this kid has actually played corner so he’s got those skills,” Kelly said. “He’s a taller and longer guy, so you hope those are things, but we’ll get him in here and look at everything he can do. The fact that he’s got that many starts under his belt at safety but then really excelled at corner this last year is very intriguing to us.”

The Birds further bolstered their defense in the third round by drafting former University of Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks, who had 147 tackles during his senior year. In the sixth round, the Birds picked up two more defensive backs in cornerbacks former Kansas star JaCorey Shepherd and Kansas State’s Randall Evans, who also has played both safety and corner.  

The Eagles closed out the draft with seventh round pick with Boston College defensive end Brian Mihalik, who 4.5 sacks during his senior year.

For the Birds to even be consider a Super Bowl contender, the defense, which gave up 30 touchdown passes last season, has nowhere to go but up.  It also has to stay healthy. Newly acquired inside linebacker Kiko Alsonso and DeMeco Ryans have to show that they are 100 percent ready to go.  

The rookies on both sides of the ball have to grow up quick because they’re not going to have too much margin for error.  

 

Eagles Fans: Curb Your Enthusiasm and Your Pessimism, It’s Not as Good or Bad As You Think

24 Apr
Newest Eagles quarterback Tim Tebow is hoping to catch on as a starter with the Birds.

Newest Eagles quarterback Tim Tebow is hoping to catch on as a starter with the Birds.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—The early reviews of Chip Kelly’s offseason moves have sparked two very distinct reactions from fans.

If you listen to an old high school chum of mine who is also a diehard Eagles fan, the moves that Kelly has made, moves that include trading running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills, letting wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson go due to free agency and just plain hubris, and trading Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for an injury-prone Sam Bradford, mark the beginning of the Birds apocalypse..

My friend expects the Eagles to be winless by the halfway point of the season and for Kelly to be unceremoniously ridden out of town on a rail. Until then, he’s done with the team.

Then you have those Eagles fans that my Significant Other equates to fans of Tyler Perry movies; fans so willing to trust anyone in Eagles Green that they’ll cheer any move they make, even if it’s one that the management of her crazy, but beloved, Oakland Raiders wouldn’t.

After all, the Birds signed the NFL’s leading rusher, former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, to a lucrative free agent deal. The Eagles have also acquired former San Diego Chargers running Ryan Matthews and former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell to help the team’s struggling pass defense.

Another move that turned heads this week was the signing of quarterback Tim Tebow, a move that rankles Kelly’s detractors and is seen by his supporters as proof of his willingness to think outside the box.

But here are some things to think about as you debate the Eagles offseason moves.

Murray, the man replacing McCoy, is not chopped liver. He almost single-handedly took a Dallas Cowboys team with a mediocre defense to the playoffs in 2014 and running style seems to fit what Kelly wants in a back, someone who’s going to power through the hole and not dance around as McCoy sometimes did..

Matthews will be a solid backup to keep the Birds from overusing Murray. At 6-foot, 220 pounds, he has no fear of contact and will hit the hole quickly. He gained 1,255 yards rushing and scored six touchdowns with the San Diego Chargers in 2013.

And don’t forget about Darren Sproles, who can still run as a speedy change of pace back that can catch passes on third down situations.

And if you’re thinking that Maxwell was simply riding on the coat tails of Richard Sherman, his superstar counterpart in Seattle, consider this: according to the website, Pro Football Focus.com, a website that keeps track of virtually every play of every NFL play, Maxwell held opposing quarterbacks to an average quarterback rating of 78.5.

And because teams didn’t want to throw in Sherman’s direction, Maxwell was the fourth most targeted corner in the league.

That said, don’t get too excited or start picking your hotel room in San Jose, the site for Super Bowl 50 just yet. This team is a long way from being a finished product.

The Eagles still need a safety that can cover and knock the living snot out of a ball carrier or a receiver unfortunate enough to catch a pass in his presence. The team also needs to increase its depth in the secondary. Maxwell may be a part of the solution, but the problem is still there.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles need to fill the rather large holes left by Maclin and Jackson at wide receiver. Let’s be honest here, Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews are scaring no one.

But the real mystery is at quarterback. With the current crew, there’s no one that gives you any real long or short term hope.

First, you have Sam Bradford, the quarterback that the Eagles got from the Rams and who hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2012.

You also have Mark Sanchez, who literally threw the Eagles out of the playoffs last season.

And then there’s Tebow, a quarterback with a rating so low that it would appear he’s done nothing but throw to Byron Maxwell his entire career.

On one hand, bringing Tebow in to run the read-option makes sense because he ran a similar offense in college. The Eagles have run the read-option 514 times over the last two years more than any other team. Tebow is more mobile than Bradford and backup quarterback Mark Sanchez. He has 989 career rushing yards.

But if you’re going to be a quarterback in the NFL, it might be a good idea if you knew how to pass.

Tebow has completed just 47 percent of his passes. While there are some football observers who say that since Kelly’s offense is geared to the run and shorter passes a QB with a big arm isn’t necessary, defenses get wise to that after a while.

With the draft on the horizon, I still wouldn’t put it past Kelly to come up with some crazy scheme to get Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or draft a mobile quarterback, possibly UCLA’s Brett Hundley. But like most of his offseason moves, no one knows what’s coming.

So while Philadelphia Eagles fans shouldn’t head to the Walt Whitman or Ben Franklin Bridges to take that final leap, they also shouldn’t bet the mortgage and car payment on a trip to Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in February, either.

 

 

 

 

WTF:Bad Play Call Dooms Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX

2 Feb

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

New England's Vince Butler makes the game-saving interception for the Patriots in their 28-24 win over Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX.

New England’s Malcolm Butler makes the game-saving interception for the Patriots in their 28-24 win over Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX.

I have been an observer of pro football since I was six-year-old kid growing up in Baltimore back in 1968 and I like to say that I’ve seen it all.

But the minute you start thinking that something else happens to boggle your mind and make you say, “Huh?”

With under 30 seconds left in Super Bowl XLIX, the Seattle Seahawks had the football at the New England Patriots one-yard line on second down after a four-yard run by Marshawn Lynch. Two plays earlier, an improbable juggling catch by wide receiver Jermaine Kearse put the Seahawks at the Patriots five-yard line.

With the score 28-24, most of America is expecting another run by Lynch to put the game away for Seattle.

Instead the unthinkable, the unfathomable happens.  Russell Wilson passes the ball on a slant to Ricardo Lockette, but Patriots rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped the route and made the game-ending interception. Game over, the Patriots win their fourth Super Bowl in an unforgettable football game.

“The last play we had a formation where we could throw it on them,” Wilson said after the game. “Lockette was coming underneath and the guy made a great play. That’s what it really comes down to—the guy just made a great play.”

The Patriots are the Super Bowl Champions and looking forward to their parade in Boston while Seattle fans at home and at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. were no doubt uttering the phrase, “What the f…..?!”

Let me get this straight, you have one of the league’s most powerful running backs, you’re one yard from pay dirt with one timeout left and you call a risky pass in that situation?

It was a dumb call.

“There’s really nobody to blame, but me and I told them that clearly,” said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll.  “A very, very hard lesson. I hate to learn the hard way, but there’s no other way to look at it right now.”

Granted, it wasn’t the only thing that beat the Seahawks. You have to take your hat off to Brady and the Patriots for overcoming a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit against the league’s best defense. The Seahawks offense didn’t take advantage of chances to increase their lead and let the Pats hang around.

All that said, you don’t pass at the one-yard line with one time out when you have Lynch, who gained 102 yards on 24 carries and was averaging 4.1 yards running through the Patriots defense. Carroll tried to rationalize the call when he spoke with reporters after the game.

“It’s just because of the matchups,” Carroll said. “At this time, it seems like overthinking, but they have goal line guys on. We have three wide receivers, a tight end and one back in that situation; they’ve got extra guys at the line of scrimmage. So we don’t want to waste a running play at that.

“Yeah, I just told them ‘Make sure, let’s throw it here.’ We’ll run on third or fourth down.’ “

Third down, along with their second straight Super Bowl victory never came for the Seahawks, who will be second-guessed ad infinitum all winter until minicamp and organized team activities in the spring. In the lore of NFL history, the fans will talk about this game for a long time.

But when you get beyond what was an extraordinary moment in an exciting, well-played Super Bowl, there were some other moments that determined the outcome of this game.

As much as folks may not like Brady, he made the big plays when it counted. He rallied the Patriots from a 10-point deficit with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns passes. For the game, he was 37-of-50 for 328 yards and four touchdowns.  It was not surprising that he was named the game’s most valuable player.

“(Brady) is so calm and collected. He’s the best,” said Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola. “He gets everybody to play at a higher level. He’s our leader emotionally. … He’s the best quarterback we all love playing for him.”

After taking a 10-point lead in the third quarter, the Seahawks offense failed to extend their advantage. On their third possession of the third quarter, the Seahawks had a third and two at the New England 47.  Wilson found Kearse streaking down the sideline.

Kearse had the ball in his hands but dropped it deep in New England territory. Seattle was forced to punt.  The Seahawks went three and out on their next two possessions before that fateful final drive.

“They busted their tales and did everything they needed to do to put us in position to win and unfortunately, it didn’t work out,” Carroll said. “(Seahawks) were on the precipice of winning another championship and unfortunately the play goes the other way.”

 

 

Carrying the Ball and Their Own Baggage: Marshawn Lynch and LeGarrette Blount

29 Jan

Super Bowl XLIX Will Be A Matchup of Two Complex Running Backs  Who Have Issues with Authority 
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When Marshawn Lynch has the ball, he can do a lot of damage. He hopes to do that against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Photo by Webster Ridddick.

When Marshawn Lynch has the ball, he can do a lot of damage. He hopes to do that against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Photo by Webster Ridddick.

If you’ve had enough of the hot air surrounding the “Deflate-Gate scandal, but still have a taste for the quirky and bizarre of Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale,look no further than Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and his fellow ball carrier LeGarrette Blount of the New England Patriots.

While Lynch and Blount will be key components in the game plans of their respective teams on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium, a lot of focus has been placed not on their ability to carry the ball, but on the baggage—Lynch’s refusal to talk to the media and Blount’s unceremonious kick to the curb from the Pittsburgh Steelers– they drag with them as they do it.

Not since Dallas Cowboys running Duane Thomas’ gave his famous “What time is it” line to reporters in the buildup to Super Bowl VI in 1972 has a running back’s words made the kind of headlines that Lynch’s “I’m here so I won’t get fined” did.

During the Seahawks Media Day session on Tuesday, Lynch kept repeating that line over and over again during a strange, yet amusing three and a half-minute confab with more than 200 reporters.

According to the NFL Network, Lynch chanted the sentence 29 times. Lynch’s aversion to press availabilities and how it manifests itself has become the stuff of legend.

From the one-liners he delivered during the regular season that cost him $50,000 in fines to the complaints filed by the Pro Football Writers Association for his refusal to talk to reporters during last year’s Super Bowl Media Day, Lynch has figuratively grabbed his crotch when it comes to the League’s mandated press conferences.

And speaking of crotch grabs, the NFL has warned the Seahawks that if Lynch decides to do that after scoring a touchdown, the former Cal star’s antics would cost them 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct each time. It’s already cost Lynch a grand total of $31,050 ($20,000 for doing it during the NFC title game and $11,050 for a regular season game in December.)

Lynch’s Seahawks teammates say that Lynch should be able to handle his media duties his own way, but several prominent members of the media have chided Lynch for not following the league rules and not promoting the game that pays him. That’s a good point.

Oddly enough, Lynch’s Media Day Theatre of the Absurd might have done more to promote the game, something that the NFL probably doesn’t want to admit. No one wants to admit that anti-heroes and knuckleheads make the game as intriguing as the game’s superstars, especially in a year where the League has endured a lot of bad press.

For all his public misbehavior, Lynch’s teammates and coaches benefit from the damage he does on the field when he’s in “Beast Mode.”

During the regular season, he gained 1,306 yards with 13 touchdowns. He also gained 157 yards on 25 carries in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers and scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the four quarter. He’s also a leader in the locker room.

“Obviously, he’s a little different with us than he is out in public, but he’s a great guy,” said Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “He works hard in the meeting room in the meeting room with those guys (running backs) to help prepare them.” ​​

LeGarrette Blount came up huge for the Patriots in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.  He scored three touchdowns.

LeGarrette Blount came up huge for the Patriots in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. He scored three touchdowns.

But while Lynch’s shenanigans tend to anger Seahawks beat writers, Blount’s angered Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Blount expected to be a bigger part of the Steelers offense, but with the emergence of Le’Veon Bell, his playing time was reduced. Blount had just 266 yards rushing in 11 games.

A few minutes before the end of the Steelers win over the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 17, Blount decided he had enough of being Bell’s backup and walked off the field before the game was over. By the time the rest of the team got to the locker room, Blount was headed for the team bus.

Twelve hours later, the Steelers gave Blount his walking papers.
Head coach Bill Belichick, remembering how well Blount played for the team in 2013, took him back immediately after he cleared waivers.

While most coaches might have shied away from him because of how his time in Pittsburgh ended, it didn’t matter to him, he said.

“Yeah, I don’t know anything about Pittsburgh, you’d have to ask Pittsburgh about Pittsburgh,” Belichick said. “I think he’s been a good addition to our team, very popular guy in the locker room. He’s good for our team and he’s a good player, so it worked out well.”

Blount has paid dividends. In five games for the Pats in 2014, he gained 281 yards. In the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, Blount gained 148 yards on 30 carries and scored three touchdowns.

Blount’s return to the Patriots energized his teammates.

“I felt like it was almost like he never left once we got going,” said Patriot running back Shane Vereen.

And in the end, leaving the Steelers was a good thing for him, Blount said.

“Things didn’t work out as planned, so we had to part ways and I ended up here,” he said. “And now I’m about to play in the Super Bowl.”

Belichick has a knack for finding talented players with baggage and Blount is no exception. He was suspended much of his senior year at Oregon for punching a Boise State player after his Ducks lost their 2009 season-opener. In his first training camp with the Steelers, he and, ironically enough, Bell, were arrested on possession of marijuana charges. Blount will be in a Pittsburgh courtroom on Feb. 4, hoping to have those charges dismissed.

Lynch and Blount may have their share of personal issues with authority, but they help their teams win. During Media Day, Blount said Lynch shouldn’t change a thing about himself.

“Whatever he’s doing, I recommend him to keep doing it because he’s been successful in this league at it,” Blount said.