Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Scouts Inc. on AFC North's top performers
By James Walker
We tapped into Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson to assess three terrific Week 15 performances in the AFC North:
Small man, big game
Cleveland Browns tailback Jerome Harrison rushed for 286 yards -- the third most all time -- in a 41-34 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Entering the game, the 5-foot-9 Harrison had just 301 yards rushing. He found his groove after halftime, rushing for three touchdowns.
"People forget this guy led the NCAA in rushing not too long ago," Williamson said of Harrison, who attended Washington State. "He knows how to accumulate yards, and he’s a very good runner who doesn’t get enough credit. Part of the problem is the Browns don’t trust him in pass protection."
Harrison's 34 carries Sunday were a career high. With tailback Jamal Lewis (concussion) on injured reserve, Harrison will continue to get more opportunities.
Cribbs takes it to the house
The price tag continues to rise for Browns kick returner Joshua Cribbs. He scored touchdowns on kickoff returns of 100 yards and 103 yards Sunday, giving Cribbs an NFL-record eight for his career.
Cribbs has 2,336 all-purpose yards this year and needs 323 more yards to break the NFL season mark held by receiver Derrick Mason (2,659 yards) in 2000.
Cribbs has a special mix of skills. He has the field vision of a quarterback, the speed of a receiver and the strength of a running back to break through tackles. The combination makes Cribbs arguably the NFL's most dangerous returner.
"I think he’s clearly the best right now," Williamson said. "Part of it is because Devin Hester has taken a back seat. He’s trying to be a full-time receiver, so Chicago doesn’t use him as a returner like they used to. But that’s not to take anything away from Cribbs. Cribbs is terrific, and I think he’s clearly the best all-around special-teams player in the league."
The Browns and Cribbs have been in a contract dispute for two seasons, but it appears he will have his contract redone after another great year.
Big day for Big Ben
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for 503 yards, the 10th-best performance in NFL history, in a 37-36 win over the Green Bay Packers. Pittsburgh needed every yard as Roethlisberger’s 19-yard touchdown throw to receiver Mike Wallace won the game with no time remaining.
Roethlisberger has had big games before, but none more explosive than this one. His first throw was a 60-yard touchdown pass to Wallace.
"I thought they had a really great game plan against Green Bay," Williamson said. "It was the first time that I can really say [Packers cornerback] Al Harris has been missed. Charles Woodson is great, but the other corners can be exposed, and Pittsburgh exposed them."
Roethlisberger has another chance for a big game Sunday against the depleted secondary of the Baltimore Ravens (8-6). Ravens cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington are out for the season with knee injuries, and safety Ed Reed has missed the past three games with groin and foot ailments.