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Here is What Have We Learned from Week 8 of the 2014 NFL Season, thanks to AP Pro 32 for photo & help in this article.
- PITTSBURGH (AP) — Sure, all those touchdowns and all those yards and all those big plays were nice.Yet the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 51-34 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday left the man who conducted it wanting more. A lot more.”We showed flashes of being really good,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “But I missed some throws and we turned the ball over, so we still left stuff out there.”The scary part might be that he’s right. If that’s the case, the Steelers (5-3) might want to have a dry erase board double as their team record book.
On a day Roethlisberger set new club marks with 522 yards passing, 40 completions and six touchdowns, he insists it could have been even better. If not for a couple of drops and a pair of fumbles that allowed the Colts to hang around longer than any team that trailed by as much as 25 points has a right to, it could have gotten really ugly.
“There are still a lot of things we need to improve on,” he said.
Just not nearly as many as it appeared a few weeks ago following a mystifying loss to Cleveland.
The red zone issues that plagued Pittsburgh vanished against the Colts. The Steelers scored five touchdowns in six trips inside the Indianapolis 20, the only mistake coming when running back LeGarrette Blount was stripped while trying to fight for extra yardage midway through the fourth quarter. The emergence of rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant has certainly helped. Stashed on the inactive list for the first six weeks, Bryant now has three touchdowns in two games. His 35-yarder in his season debut against Houston sparked a second-quarter deluge and his two scores on Sunday showcased the value of having a 6-foot-4 target for Roethlisberger to work with in tight spaces.
- DETROIT (AP) — That familiar refrain “Same Old Lions” has been quieted lately.Detroit’s star-crossed NFL franchise is now alone in first place in the NFC North thanks to a pair of improbable victories the last two weekends.Sunday’s win in London over the Atlanta Falcons was particularly remarkable. The Lions prevailed 22-21 on a last-second field goal by Matt Prater — after a miss by Prater was nullified by a delay-of-game penalty against Detroit.”We keep finding ways,” wide receiver Golden Tate said.
Two weeks ago, the Lions trailed by 13 late in the fourth quarter against New Orleans before scoring two touchdowns in the final 3:38 to win. That comeback was aided by an interception — and a fourth-down penalty by the Saints that gave Detroit another chance to score the winning touchdown.
On Sunday, the Falcons led 21-0 at halftime, and with the score 21-19, Atlanta had a chance to run down most of the remaining time at the end of the game. But a holding penalty on the Falcons stopped the clock, then a dropped pass by Julio Jones forced Atlanta to punt with 1:38 to go.
The Lions drove into position for a field goal, which Prater missed. But Detroit got a reprieve and Prater made his next attempt from 48 yards as time expired.
According to advancedfootballanalytics.com, the Lions had less than a 5 percent chance to win during the fourth quarter against both New Orleans and Atlanta.
“They don’t quit. They’re not deterred. They play with poise,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “Down the stretch, you know, the pressure doesn’t bother them and they find a way to make plays.”
The Lions have certainly benefited from some good fortune in these last two victories, but they’ve had to deal with plenty of adversity, too. Star receiver Calvin Johnson has been a nonfactor for the last month or so because of an ankle problem. Detroit has also dealt with injuries at the running back and tight end spots — and all over the defense.
Yet the Lions (6-2) lead Green Bay by a game atop the division, and now they’ll have a chance to rest during their open date. Detroit does not play again until Nov. 9 against Miami.
- ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — After taking vastly different routes to the NFL, Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. have seen their paths intertwined in 2014 as they lead Denver’s defensive revival. Miller, a former first-round pick, and Harris, who went undrafted, spent the Super Bowl on the sideline with knee injuries, helpless to prevent the Broncos’ blowout. That was just the start of their arduous time together. They were workout partners for six months in the offseason as they rehabbed from ACL surgeries, both of which were performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Florida. Since the start of the season, they’ve been the vanguard of Denver’s defensive resurgence that has seen them rise to fourth overall and first in the NFL against the run. They’re two of the biggest reasons the Broncos are 6-1 heading into Sunday’s showdown against the Patriots (6-2) in the 16th installment of Manning vs. Brady.Miller, who had his right ACL repaired in January, has nine sacks, one shy of league leader Justin Houston. He’s teamed with free agent DeMarcus Ware to give the Broncos the best pass-rushing partners in the NFL with 16 combined sacks and 45 tackles altogether.Harris, who had his left ACL fixed in February, has 11 pass breakups, one shy of NFL leaders Vontae Davis and Perrish Cox. He’s teamed with free agent Aqib Talib to give Denver the top cornerback tandem in the league, one that’s collected five interceptions and broken up 21 throws.
- FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — John Idzik blames himself for the mess that has become the New York Jets’ season.No, the general manager isn’t happy with the job he has done. And, no, this isn’t what he envisioned in his second year in charge of the franchise.”There are no excuses: My performance to date is unsatisfactory,” Idzik said Monday during his annual state-of-the team address. “It’s a direct reflection of our record.”At 1-7, the Jets are mired in a seven-game skid that has some fans and media calling for wholesale changes. Idzik understands the frustration and he empathizes with a fan base that hasn’t seen its team reach the Super Bowl since 1969.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” he said, struggling to find words for the team’s start. “It’s brutal. You feel like you’ve been punched in the face. It’s painful.”
Idzik opened with a 19-minute statement during which he raised his voice at times, rambled through other moments while talking about the players’ resilience and highlighting stats, and appeared uncharacteristically emotional before taking any questions from reporters.
While he took accountability for the lousy start, Idzik didn’t offer many concrete answers on how the team would turn things around.
“Ultimately, I’m responsible for the performance of our team, the product that we put on the field,” he said. “That lies with me. The buck stops here.”
Idzik said the team’s struggles are “very personal for me,” and alluded to the fact that his father John Sr. was the team’s offensive coordinator in the late 1970s.
“The Jets are my team,” he said. “The Jets are our team.”
He praised coach Rex Ryan as the team’s leader, saying he spends more time with him than his own family.
“Our commitment extends to Rex Ryan and our coaching staff,” he said. “The last time I checked, all the traits that make Rex Ryan our leader, our head coach, are still intact. He’s an excellent football mind. He’s a teacher, he’s a coach, he’s a motivator, he’s a mentor.”
But Idzik also wouldn’t commit to keeping Ryan as his coach for the final two months of the season or beyond — saying it’s not the Jets’ policy to evaluate jobs in season.
Idzik also wouldn’t say whether Geno Smith, benched in the first quarter of Sunday’s 43-23 loss to Buffalo, or Michael Vick would start at Kansas City. Smith threw interceptions on consecutive possessions before giving way to Vick, who had three turnovers of his own in the blowout loss.
Ryan said later in the day that Vick would start on Sunday.
- LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston will miss the remainder of the season after he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while celebrating a late sack in a blowout loss.General manager Phil Emery confirmed the injury on Monday. He says Houston will have surgery once the swelling goes down.Houston was injured celebrating a sack — his first of the season — against backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo late in Sunday’s 51-23 loss at New England. The Bears were trailing by 25 with about 3 minutes left when it happened.Emery says the Bears are “disappointed for him and in him.”
He also says starting guard Matt Slauson will miss the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
- OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens will attempt to rebound from their frustrating loss to the Cincinnati Bengals without cornerback Jimmy Smith, who will be sidelined for several weeks with a sprained left foot.Baltimore (5-3) fell out of first place in the AFC North with a 27-24 defeat in Cincinnati on Sunday.Smith left during the opening drive and did not return. The Ravens subsequently allowed several long passing plays, including a 53-yarder that set up the game-winning touchdown with 57 seconds left.Now in his fifth season, Smith started all 16 games last year and the first eight this season.
Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Smith has a “mid-foot sprain” and will “be out a few weeks,” beginning with Sunday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dominique Franks filled in for Smith against Cincinnati. If the Ravens don’t sign or trade for another cornerback this week, they’ll just have to make do with what they’ve got.
“The way this organization is run, and the way that we practice, we’re built for things like that to happen,” Franks said. “It’s sad to see Jimmy go down, but at the same time I had to step up and other guys had to step up.”
Sunday’s loss was particularly distasteful because Baltimore rallied to take the lead in the fourth quarter before Cincinnati came back. Then, an apparent 80-yard touchdown from Joe Flacco to Steve Smith was wiped out when Smith was called for pushing off defender George Iloka to get open.
Harbaugh bristled on Monday when asked about the play and said he sent a copy of the play to the league office.
After insisting he couldn’t comment on the call because of “league policy,” Harbaugh said, “It was a great play. I think it shows great heart and talent and effort. It says a lot about Joe and Steve and the offensive line that they could make a play like that. It was one of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen. That’s how I feel about it. What else can I say?”
A week ago, the Ravens were in first place. With a loss to the rival Steelers (5-3) on Sunday night, they could be in third.
- SAN DIEGO (AP) — No one’s pushing any panic button in San Diego just yet.The Chargers have lost two straight after a five-game winning streak and linebacker Dwight Freeney acknowledges the last few weeks have been rough. But he has put it all in perspective as the team prepares for this Sunday’s game at Miami.”The biggest thing for us is just to get back on track,” Freeney said Monday. “You have to be able to understand that it’s not all bad when you lose and it’s not all good when you win. It’s about the team that is standing at the end. We are going to play a Dolphins team that does a lot of things. It’s going to take some focus and attention so we can get to 6-3.”After a season-opening loss to Arizona, the Chargers were on a roll until losing back-to-back games to the Kansas City Chiefs and then last Thursday to the Denver Broncos.
“It’s been a rough last few weeks,” Freeney said. “It hasn’t been our best ball. I know we are kind of banged up. I know the healthier we are we’ll play better, but that’s not the only reason why.
“But this is the National Football League and the other team doesn’t care. So we have to find a way to somehow put our best product out there. We got to hem some things up, and personally, I have to do more however I am.”
Freeney is nursing a sore knee and is on a long list of ailing Chargers players.
Cornerback Jason Verrett (shoulder) and safety Jahleel Addae (concussion) both left last Thursday’s game and their availability on Sunday in Miami isn’t clear.
Starting Next Tuesday also will be the NFL Playoff Picture going into Week 10 everybody.