Wednesday, September 20, 2017

History: Steelers vs Bears in Chicago

By Chris Willis, NFL Films

Not one of the more heated or intense rivalry in the NFL, but for week 3 in 2017 we have the Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the Chicago Bears for just the 13th time. To say the Bears own this series in the Windy City is an understatement. They’ve only lost to the Steelers once at home- owning a 11-1 mark.

Steelers at Bears
Series History in Chicago
Bears lead 11-1

1936 Bears 26-7
1941 Bears 34-7
1945 Bears 28-7
1947 Bears 49-7
1949 Bears 30-21
1959 Bears 27-21
1969 Bears 38-7
1971 Bears 17-15
1986 Bears 1-10 (Overtime)
1992 Bears 30-6
1995 Steelers 37-34 (Overtime)
2009 Bears 17-14

In those twelve games, the Steelers have been outscored 343-159 (28.5 points per game to 13.2 points per game).

The Steelers only win in Chicago was a 37-34 overtime thriller in 1995

November 5, 1995
Solider Field
Chicago, Illinois
On November 5th the Steelers (4-4 record), traveled to Chicago to face the Bears (6-2 record) at Soldier Field. The temperature was only 37 degrees as 61,838 fans took their seats.

Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell and Bears quarterback Erik Kramer dueled it out on a cold and breezy day. O’Donnell set a Steelers team record for completions with 34- breaking the old mark held by Joe Gilliam of 31 in 1974 against the Broncos- while attempting 52 passes for 341 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Kramer went 15 of 28 for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns that would give the Bears a 20-24 lead entering the 4th quarter.

Then the two squads traded scores:

Bears- Kevin Butler 27 yard FG
Steelers- Eric Pegram 6 yard TD run
Bears- Barry Minter 2-yard INT TD
Eric Pegram run against Bears, 1995
With 3:53 remaining Butler missed a 44-yard field goal- wide right- that would’ve increased the Bears lead to ten points. Setting up the Steelers final drive in regulation. O’Donnell picked apart the Bears prevent defense going 7 for 10 for 76 yards. One completion went for 27 yards to Ernie Mills and another 17 yards to Andre Hastings put the ball at the Bears ten-yard line. From there, with just 1:06 left, O’Donnell hit Mills again for the tying touchdown.

The Bears won the toss in overtime but only gained one yard on three plays. The Steelers took over at their own thirty-one yard line. O’Donnell needed only one drive. He completed four straight passes for 43 yards to put the Steelers in field goal position. On second down from the Bears, six-yard line Norm Johnson converted a 24-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 37-34 hard fought win.

Still the only Steelers win in the city of Chicago.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Decade-and-a-Half of Lost First-round Picks

By John Turney
Watching the Monday night game of the Lions at the Giants we took some time to watch Greg Robinson (who Jon Gruden panned during the telecast) the Lions left tackle. Sometimes he was okay, others not okay, to say the least.

Robinson is one of a long line of Rams first-round draft picks that got dumped for late-round picks or players who were, shall we say, not blue chippers. Robinson, of course, was the second overall pick in the 2014 draft and on July 15, 2017, he was traded to Detroit for a sixth-round pick.
The 2009 second overall pick Jason Smith had issues with concussions and was unloaded on August 28, 2012, in a trade with Jets for Wayne Hunter who had been, essentially, a career backup for the Jets.
The Rams 2007 First-round pick was Adam Carriker. On draft day, 2010, the Rams sent him to the Redskins for a swap of fifth- and seventh-rounders. When one applies the Jimmy Johnson draft value chart is applied, essentially it boils down to a net seventh-round pick for the Rams in exchange for Carriker though this trade chain is a bit complicated due to secondary trades.
Prior to Carriker, the Rams took Tye Hill in the First round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He played 28 games with 21 starts for the Rams in three years and GM Billy Devaney and Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo shipped Hill to the Falcons for a seventh-round pick.
In 2005 the Rams #1 choice was Alex Barron. Barron was a five-year starter but was not highly regarded by Devaney and Spagnuolo (and likely few others). In the Summer of 2010 he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for  Bobby Carpenter, himself a former first-round pick who had no amounted to much in his Cowboy career.
In 2003 the Rams took Jimmy Kennedy with their top pick. In 2007 they traded him to the Broncos for a  2008 conditional sixth-round pick. It was contingent on Kennedy making the Broncos roster, which he did so the Rams got their sixth-round pick in 2008.
UCLA's  Robert Thomas was the Rams 2002 #1 pick. he played middle linebacker, outside linebacker but could not make impact plays, or even average plays at times. On September 3, 2005, the Rams traded him to the Packers for  Chris Johnson. No, not that Chris Johnson. This Chris Johnson played defensive back for the Rams for a season and returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Which, by the way, was the last time the Rams returned a kick for a touchdown. It's true, you can look it up.
In 2000 the Rams raised eyebrows when they took Trung Canidate with the final pick in the first-round. Three years later they shipped him to the Redskins for David Loverne and a 2003 fourth-round pick.

In all that is eight first-round picks the Rams traded away plus a fifth-rounder, a sixth-rounder and a seventh-rounder.The fifth-round pick they received from Washington in the Carriker deal was moved to Atlanta for a fifth- and sixth-round pick. The sixth they received for Kennedy was paired with another sixth to obtain a 2008 fifth-round pick that turned out to be Roy Schuening.

So, included the details in the previous paragraph we ask—What did the Rams get for 8 first-rounders and three late rounders?

Here is the list:
David Loverne (played one game with the Rams)
Chris Johnson (played one year with Rams)
Bobby Carpenter (never played with Rams)
Wayne Hunter (played one year with Rams)
2003 fourth-round pick (DeJuan Groce) Played 52 games with the Rams.
2008 fifth-round pick (Roy Schuening) Played one game for the Rams
2010 fifth-round pick (Hall Davis) Never played for the Rams
2010 sixth-round pick (Eugene Sims) Played 99 games for Rams
2010 seventh-round pick (Marquis Johnson) Played 5 games for Rams
2010 seventh-round pick (George Selvie) Played 16 games for Rams
2018 sixth-round pick   

The best player is Eugene Sims was stated some when Robert Quinn was hurt, but made his mark as a nickel rusher, often as a defensive tackle in a four DE set and also as someone who spelled Quinn at right defensive end. Not tons of value for so many high picks.Maybe the Rams will find a Tob brady on the sixth round of the 2018 draft with the pick they received for Greg Robinson.

Safe Passage Revoked in Atlanta

By Eric Goska

Yes, the Green Bay Packers can and have won on the road when an Aaron Rodgers’ interception is converted into a touchdown by the opposition.

All that has been required is a heart-stopping comeback, one not soon to be forgotten.

Since no such finish was forthcoming by Green Bay in the Mercedes-Benz Dome Sunday night, the Packers succumbed 34-23 to the offensively-gifted Falcons before 70,826 fans. Atlanta built a formidable 24-7 halftime lead, the last seven points set up by cornerback Desmond Trufant’s interception of Rodgers just before the break.

First, the obvious. Rodgers, the Packers starting quarterback these past 10 seasons, doesn’t throw many interceptions. He’s been picked off 74 times in 144 regular-season games.

Second, more often than not, his throws to the enemy do not lead to touchdowns. Only 20 of the 74 interceptions he’s thrown have been turned into six-pointers by the other side.

Thirteen of those 20 occurred in away games. Green Bay’s record on the road when a Rodgers’ INT leads to a touchdown is 3-7.

Before highlighting those three wins and the lengths to which the Pack had to go to secure victory, let’s give Rodgers his due. Prior to Trufant’s steal, the resourceful quarterback broke his own franchise record for the most consecutive passes attempted on the road without an interception.

Rodgers avoided interceptions completely in closing out the 2016 regular season. His last 245 attempts were devoid of theft.

More than half – 154 of those throws – occurred on the road in places such as FedExField, Lincoln Financial Field, Soldier Field and Ford Field. It was in those settings that the Redskins, Eagles, Bears and Lions failed to pick Rodgers.

Before Trufant, the last opposing player to grab a throw by No. 12 away from Lambeau Field was Perrish Cox. The Titans’ cornerback came up with one in the fourth quarter of Tennessee’s 47-25 win over Green Bay on Nov. 13.

In Atlanta, Rodgers opened with a safe pass. He tossed to Davante Adams two yards behind the line of scrimmage and the receiver plowed ahead for a yard.

Shortly thereafter, Rodgers the quarterback connected with Richard Rodgers the tight end. The play gained 14 yards and a first down at the Atlanta 42-yard line.

That was Rodgers’ 157th consecutive interception-free throw away from home. With it, he tied Brett Favre for the second-longest streak in team history.

Rodgers reached 160 on a 5-yarder to Randall Cobb late in the first quarter. He got to 165 when attempting to connect with Martellus Bennett on a third-down pass that hit the turf midway through the second quarter.

Attempt No. 168 deflected off the arm of linebacker Deion Jones. No. 169 sailed over the head of Adams.

With that incompletion, Rodgers matched the team record he set in 2014-15.

Rodgers would better his mark by two. No. 170, the record breaker, was almost intercepted by safety Brian Poole. No. 171 saw Adams gain 8 yards to the Green Bay 13 with one minute, three seconds left in the half.

Trufant halted the run by intercepting a downfield throw. The pass, intended for Geronimo Allison, was too long and Trufant clutched it at the Green Bay 36.

For Rodgers, the 171 in a row was one of a number of 100-plus streaks he has forged. Getting to 100 has been accomplished 20 times in team history with Rodgers (9 times), Favre (6) and Bart Starr (2) the only players to do it more than once.

Rodgers’ numbers over this record-setting stretch were solid if not spectacular. He completed 114 out of 171 attempts for 1,312 yards and nine touchdowns. His passer rating was 107.2.

Of course, Rodgers’ streak may never have ended had a 36-yard throw to Cobb not been wiped out by a questionable penalty. The gain, to Green Bay’s 49, was erased by an offensive pass interference call on Bennett and backed the Packers up inside their own 10. Trufant struck seconds later.

Once Trufant came up with the game’s first turnover, the Falcons didn’t waste time. Quarterback Matt Ryan needed just four plays and 28 seconds to move Atlanta into the end zone. His 3-yard pass to running back Tevin Coleman pushed Atlanta’s lead to 17 points at halftime.

So, how did the Packers win three times on the road after interceptions by Rodgers were turned into touchdowns? The wins didn’t come easily, but they were memorable.

  • On Dec. 4, 2011, Rodgers completed four straight passes in the closing minute to set up Mason Crosby’s 31-yard, walk-off field goal that toppled the Giants 38-35.
  • On Dec. 29, 2013, the Packers converted three fourth downs on their final drive, the last by means of a 48-yard Rodgers-to-Cobb TD as the Packers stunned the Bears 33-28 and clinched a third straight NFC North Division title.
  • On Dec. 3, 2015, Rodgers’ launched a 61-yard Hail Mary that landed in the leaping arms of Richard Rodgers in the end zone on an untimed down, a play that shocked the Lions 27-23.
Back in Atlanta, Rodgers’ second-half numbers – 23 of 32 for 258 yards and two TDs (116.4 rating) – improved over what he had managed in the first half, but the Packers never got closer than 11 points. The team fell behind 31-7 on the second play of the third quarter after Vic Beasley sacked Rodgers and forced a fumble that Trufant returned 15 yards for a score.

Safe Passage
Packers quarterbacks who attempted the most consecutive passes on the road (regular season only) without an interception in team history.

No.   Player                Year(s)
171   Aaron Rodgers    2016-17
169   Aaron Rodgers    2014-15
157   Brett Favre          2003-04
148   Aaron Rodgers    2009-10
147   Aaron Rodgers    2011
146   Bart Starr            1964-65
144   Brett Favre          1992

Packers quarterbacks with the most streaks of 100 or more pass attempts without an interception in regular-season road games.

No.   Player
9       Aaron Rodgers
6       Brett Favre
2       Bart Starr
1       Tobin Rote
1       Lynn Dickey
1       Don Majkowski

Tom Brady Sits Atop Another Record

By John Turney
While dismantling the Saints defense Tom Brady threw for 447 yards which put him one yard past Brett Favre for the 40-and-over title of most passing yards in a game.It was also the third-most in his career. Amazingly, he did it with only three receivers on the active roster.
Click to enlarge:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

TOO MUCH AMMUNITION: Multiple Interception Touchdown Returns & Sacks

By T.J. Troup

Years ago in Steve Sabol's office, we discussed titles for projects we were working on. The best example you ask? The best second place teams of all-time became "Missing Rings". Being a fan of Kipling, chose one of his famous quotes for the title of this story.

John Turney's interesting article on the Rams victory on Sunday inspired this—thanks, John. The criteria:  Team must return at least 2 interceptions for touchdowns, and record at least 4 sacks.

How many teams have accomplished this since 1960? Here is the list and a few notes on Charlie Stukes birthday (he is part of this story).
Should a team win when they have such a dominating defensive performance? Well, in 54 of the 56 times a team has achieved the criteria they have won. It was amazing that the Patriots in '99 and Dallas in '01 lost! Teams on the list averaged 37 points, and of course, some of the scores were downright blow-outs.

No doubt many of you either attended some of the games listed above or watched them. We have expansion teams on the list, Super Bowl champions on the list, legendary defensive teams on the list, and even a team that needed "too much ammunition" to win their first game in franchise history (Tampa Bay).

The Texans/Chiefs with 6 have the most, while the Dolphins are second with five and the Rams and Bengals are tied for third with 4. Some teams have never accomplished this defensive feat (Detroit stands out), and some just once.

As for the teams victimized the most—Denver with 5 stands out, yet the Steelers with 6 lead in this dubious department. During the mid to late 1960s when Pittsburgh struggled each season they allowed four(6 overall). Cleveland in back to back games in 1960 begin our list, and the Jim Kearney led Chiefs in 1972 beat Denver both times to earn a place on the list.
Since Turney's story detailed the Rams, let's close out the story with the first time they did this. On October 18th, 1964 on a sunny afternoon in the Coliseum against the arch rival 49ers. The Rams led by half-time and as the game progressed each interception return gobbled up the turf as Los Angeles returned the pilfered passes 318 yards. Twice in the 4th quarter, Mira & Brodie threw towards the left sideline in Ram territory—Bobby Smith & Aaron Martin returned those thefts 97 and 71 yards for scores. The pass rush garnered 4 sacks; three by fourth-year pro David Jones as he began to dominate the pass pocket and become the "Deacon".

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Seattle’s Field Goals Come Up Short

By Eric Goska
Lambeau Field less than two hours before the Packers and Seahawks kicked off.
Short of pitching a shutout, holding an opponent to nothing but field goals often provides a path to victory.

The Green Bay Packers did just that Sunday at Lambeau Field. A strong defensive performance kept the Seattle Seahawks out of the end zone and on the short end of a 17-9 score before 78,381 fans in the season opener for both teams.

Green Bay allowed Seattle to mount just three drives that produced more than one first down. All three ended in field goals.

Blair Walsh capped the first, a 74-yard advance, with a 33-yard field goal that gave the Seahawks a 3-0 lead as time expired in the first half. Walsh hit a 21-yard chip shot to close to 7-6 in the third quarter. The former Viking then nailed a 41-yarder with six minutes, 21 seconds remaining for the final points of the game.

Seattle’s offense enjoyed its best moments during the time it spent setting up Walsh’s kicks. The unit amassed 197 of its 225 yards and 10 of its 12 first downs during the excursions.

The three advances were the only times Seattle got inside the Packers’ 40-yard line. In each case, Green Bay stopped the Seahawks cold on consecutive plays to force the kicks.

After reaching the Packers’ 15-yard line on a 29-yard scramble late in the second quarter, Wilson failed to connect on back-to-back passes. Cornerback Quinten Rollins nearly intercepted the second attempt intended for Tyler Lockett just four seconds before halftime.

In the third quarter, Seattle went nowhere after picking up a first down at the Green Bay 3. Safety Kentrell Brice held Chris Carson to no gain on first down, and Wilson again couldn’t connect on consecutive pass attempts, the second with defensive tackle Mike Daniels about to hit him.

Finally, in the fourth quarter, Wilson fired incomplete three times from the Packers’ 23. Paul Richardson, Amara Darboh and Jimmy Graham were his targets.

Allowing a team to score nothing but field goals is noteworthy. Last season, at least one touchdown was scored by both teams in 236 of 256 regular-season games.

Throughout history, the Packers have been successful when holding their opponents to nothing but field goals. The team has gone 63-12-3 (.827) in the regular season when doing so.

That record includes 25 straight wins. The last team to beat Green Bay on field-goal strength alone was Dallas which booted seven in a 21-6 win on Nov. 18, 1996.

The last team to beat the Packers with only three-field goals in the scoring column was the Bears. Bob Thomas was good from 18, 49 and 28 yards out as Chicago eked out a 9-7 decision at Lambeau Field on Sept. 16, 1984.

The 10 regular-season games in which Green Bay’s opponents scored nothing but three field goals.

Date                      Result             Opponent
Sept. 10, 2017       W, 17-9           Seahawks
Dec. 17, 2007       W, 17-9           Lions
Oct. 20, 2002        W, 30-9           Redskins
Oct. 28, 1984        W, 41-9           Lions
Sept. 16, 1984        L, 7-9             Bears
Oct. 5, 1980          W, 14-9           Bengals
Nov. 16, 1969         L, 7-9             Vikings
Sept. 19, 1965       W, 41-9           Steelers
Nov. 23, 1961       W, 17-9           Lions
Oct. 2, 1960          W, 28-9           Lions

Opening Day Opponents
The 2017 opener was the 12th for Mike McCarthy as head coach of the Packers. Over the years, the league has been tough on him (and his team) when it comes to the season’s first offering.

On Sunday, the Seahawks became the latest opening-day challenge. Seattle was 10-5-1 a year ago and beat the Lions 26-6 in a wildcard playoff game before falling to the Falcons 36-20 in the divisional round.

The Seahawks are expected to again contend for an NFL championship this season.

McCarthy’s team got a stiff test in his first game as coach in 2006. The Chicago Bears, 11-5 in 2005, blanked the Packers 26-0 while keeping them out of the red zone.

Green Bay has faced similar tests since. In the last 12 years, no team has faced a more daunting opening-day lineup than have the Packers.

Nine of the 12 teams were winners the year previous. Eight won at least 10 regular-season games the year before opening against Green Bay.

Under McCarthy, the Packers have opened against the Bears (11-5), Eagles (10-6), Vikings (8-8), Bears (9-7), Eagles (11-5), Saints (11-5), 49ers (13-3), 49ers (11-4-1), Seahawks (13-3), Bears (5-11), Jaguars (5-11) and Seahawks (10-5-1). Add up the numbers and Green Bay’s opponents were 117-73-2 (.615) in the years prior to facing the Green and Gold.

No other team has been so tested. The closest is the Ravens at 108-83-1 (.565).

Green Bay has done relatively well with the hand it was dealt. The Packers are 8-4 in season openers under McCarthy. Only the Patriots (10-2), Eagles (9-3) and Broncos (9-3) have done better.

So which team or teams have had the easiest go of it? That would be the Cardinals and Seahawks, both at 77-114-1 (.404).

Arizona has opened against three teams with winning records from the previous year. Seattle has done so just twice: Green Bay in 2014 (8-7-1) and Green Bay in 2017 (10-6).

The Seahawks are 7-5 in openers since 2006.

Open to Adversity
Teams with the most difficult season-opening assignments (based on their opponents’ records from the previous year) since 2006.

Team               Opp. Records
Packers            117-73-2 (.615)
Ravens             108-83-1 (.565)
Chiefs               107-85-0 (.557)
Cowboys         107-85-0 (.557)
Bills                  106-86-0 (.552)
Giants               106-86-0 (.552)

Titans               105-87-0 (.547)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The L.A. Rams Tally Four Sacks, 2 Pick 6s and a Safety Versus Colts

By John Turney
Today the Los Angeles Rams scored a safety, had two pick 6s and sacked the Colts QB four times. Trumaine Johnson and  Lamarcus Joyner each took an interception to the house and Morgan Fox tackled Jacoby Brissett tackled in end zone for a safety. Additionally, the Rams sacked the Colts quarterbacks four times

It was the fourth time in their history (since 1963 when team sacks became official) they have done that, the last being September 21, 1980.
Today's feats were also just the second time in team history they had 3 or more sacks plus a safety and returning two interceptions for touchdowns. In 1983 Johnnie Johnson and Nolan Cromwell returned passes for touchdowns and Jack Youngblood sacked Ken Stabler for a safety.
In fact, only the Rams and Eagles have performed that feat. The Eagles did it in 1993 when Eric Allen score a pair of touchdowns on two picks. William Thomas had the safety when he sacked Mike Buck for a safety.
As for games with a safety and two pick 6s it was the seventh time it has happened since 1940. It was the first time it has happened on opening weekend (as if that matters). It seems some in the National media think that the week it happens matters one way or the other. The Rams mentioned it in their postgame notes "- The Rams are the first team in NFL history to record two interceptions returned for touchdowns and a safety in a season opener, per Randall Liu (NFL).".

Would love ask Mr. Liu why the week matters. In the 1983 instance of the Rams versus Saints it happened in a season finale. Does that carry extra meaning? Less?