NFC West: all-NFC West team
- This might go down as the most memorable NFC West season on special teams since divisional realignment. Records fell and players made dynamic, game-changing plays from beginning to end. The San Francisco 49ers led the NFL in field position. They succeeded on a fake field goal and a surprise onside kick. Only a replay challenge could stop the 49ers from executing another fake field goal.
- The 49ers' Andy Lee was an easy choice at punter. He set an NFL record since at least 1976 for net average, according to Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information. Simon named Lee his punter of the year -- yes, he tracks such things -- and pointed out a few superlatives. Lee posted a 59.6-yard average in Week 1, third-best in league history. One of his final punts, a 64-yarder at St. Louis, was downed at the 1. Lee led the league in gross and net punting. Lee finished first when Simon tested formulas weighting various averages with inside-the-20 percentages, fair catches and touchbacks, plus punts returned for touchdowns.
- Lee's teammate, David Akers, was an easy choice at kicker. Akers set a league record for most field goals made in a season (44) and most kicking points (166). He was special-teams player of the month for December after scoring a league-high 58 points. Akers even threw a touchdown pass on a fake field goal in Week 17. His point total broke Jerry Rice's single-season franchise scoring record.
- Arizona's Patrick Peterson beat out the 49ers' Ted Ginn Jr. as the return specialist, although I should probably break out separate categories for kickoffs and punts. I decided to stick with the format we've used in past seasons. Peterson scored four touchdowns on punt returns. The Cardinals went from 27th to second in punt return average. Ginn scored twice on returns in the season opener and played a key role in the 49ers' field-position dominance. Peterson's 99-yard return touchdown against St. Louis in overtime was the second-longest in league history.
- Seattle's Red Bryant and Arizona's Calais Campbell deserve mention for blocking field-goal tries (Peterson blocked two). Bryant blocked two field-goal attempts and an extra-point attempt at Cleveland. Campbell blocked three field-goal tries for the Cardinals, including a critical one against St. Louis.
- Several special-teams coverage players drew my attention. Seattle's Heath Farwell led the NFL in special-teams tackles (counting assists) despite playing only 11 games. He blocked a 49ers punt in Week 16, helping Seattle take a 17-16 lead in the final minutes. The 49ers' Blake Costanzo and C.J. Spillman made plays, as did the Cardinals' LaRod Stephens-Howling and O'Brien Schofield. I went with Farwell and Spillman. We could not go wrong with any of these guys. They all deserve recognition.
- I don't have a category for a long-snapper, but if I did, it would be named after the 49ers' Brian Jennings. He is one of the best ever, according to guys I know who can tell the difference between a good snapper and a great one.
The chart breaks down all-division choices from 2008 -10, plus this season.
- San Francisco 49ers rookie Aldon Smith defied categorization. I wasn't going to list him at the expense of every-down players at defensive end or linebacker. Neither was I going to leave him off the team after Smith collected 14 sacks. Smith commanded his own category as a situational pass-rusher. Consider that a compliment.
- Some St. Louis Rams fans I know will insist James Laurinaitis should show up among the linebackers. I wasn't going to list him above Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman or Daryl Washington. The Cardinals blocked Laurinaitis well while Beanie Wells set a franchise rushing record with 228 yards. The Rams ranked 32nd against the run most of the season, settling in at No. 31. Dallas' DeMarco Murray also set a franchise single-game rushing record against the Rams. Laurinaitis was not primarily to blame, obviously, but neither was he able to stem the bleeding. He remains a good player with a bright future, but this was not his year.
- The choices along the defensive line forced leaving off very good players such as Darnell Dockett, Ray McDonald and Red Bryant. Alan Branch also played well after leaving Arizona for Seattle. Chris Clemons' obvious strength as a pass-rusher and strong play against the run made him stand out. Insider subscribers might have noticed Clemons showing up third behind Jared Allen and Jason Babin on a list of most valuable sack artists. The piece ranked pass-rushers by the importance of their sacks relative to game situations.
- Seattle's Kam Chancellor was a narrow choice over Arizona's Adrian Wilson at strong safety. I had no problem with Wilson beating out Chancellor in Pro Bowl balloting. Wilson earned that recognition. He was a worthy choice. I do think Chancellor made a bigger impact from start to finish this season, and he did it for a defense that was far more consistent. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. agreed with me on that choice. An NFL scout I called for another opinion also gave Chancellor a slight edge. Both players were legitimate choices.
- The division has good, young prospects at cornerback. Arizona's Patrick Peterson will probably show up on this team next season. He was trending that way. The 49ers' Carlos Rogers was an easy choice. Seattle's Richard Sherman enjoyed a breakout rookie season and was even better, I thought, than teammate Brandon Browner, a first-alternate to the Pro Bowl.
The chart breaks down all-division choices from 2008-10, plus this season. Still to come: special teams. Let the discussions begin.
- San Francisco's Michael Crabtree had competition from Doug Baldwin and Brandon Lloyd for the second receiver spot behind Larry Fitzgerald. Baldwin was the best on third down. Lloyd made the most spectacular grabs. Crabtree was a starter within the division all season and an aggressive blocker. He also caught more passes. Baldwin would have made it if we had space for a slot receiver. But with Crabtree making a few big plays, including an outstanding grab for a 41-yard gain at Seattle with the NFC's second seed on the line, he had the edge.
- Arizona's Daryn Colledge edged out the 49ers' Mike Iupati at left guard. Colledge, as a seasoned veteran, was more consistent. Iupati was outstanding on his best plays. Colledge, signed from Green Bay in free agency, upped the standard for the position. I thought he was strong as a run blocker in particular.
- Seattle's Max Unger overcame a slow start to beat out Arizona's Lyle Sendlein and San Francisco's Jonathan Goodwin at center. Unger picked up his game beginning with the Seahawks' strong rushing performance at Dallas. He looks like a long-term starter.
- The right side of the offensive line won out by default. The 49ers' Anthony Davis was the only right tackle in the division to start all season. Seattle's Breno Giacomini finished the season strong and could remain the starter next season. St. Louis' Harvey Dahl was an easy choice at right guard even though he finished the season at right tackle.
- The NFC West produced four strong candidates at running back. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch was an easy choice after leading the league in rushing since Week 9. He was a threat after contact, as a receiver and even when opponents seemed to have him tackled. The Rams' Steven Jackson edged out the 49ers' Frank Gore for the other spot mostly because Gore's production diminished as the season progressed. I didn't like leaving off Gore, because I respect the way he plays, but he also dropped too many passes this season.
- Alex Smith was the easy choice at quarterback.
Those were the primary considerations. I'll be back with defense and special teams. The chart breaks down my all-division choices for offense since 2008.
The comments section is now open. As always, let's work through our differences with civility and restraint.
- Jon Ryan was the choice at punter after finishing the season with 27 punts downed inside the 20 and only one touchback. That's a sensational ratio. Ryan didn't spend half his games punting indoors, adding to degree of difficulty. The Rams' Donnie Jones and the 49ers' Andy Lee are worthy choices most years.
- Cardinals kicker Jay Feely set an NFL record by scoring 22 consecutive points for Arizona against Denver, including six on a fake field goal. That set him apart. The Rams' Josh Brown made more field goals, but Feely connected on a higher percentage than Brown or Seattle's Olindo Mare. Mare had 20 touchbacks, Feely had 16 and Brown had five. Feely was the too often the Cardinals' greatest scoring threat.
- Several candidates deserved consideration for overall special-teams play. The 49ers' Manny Lawson and Reggie Smith were consistent performers even though Lawson started all season and Smith started some of the time. Smith had 26 special-teams tackles. The Rams' Chris Chamberlain would have earned a spot, most likely, had he not missed five games. Seattle's Matt McCoy deserves mention. He and Chamberlain each had 19 special-teams tackles.
- Arizona's LaRod Stephens-Howling threatened Leon Washington as a returner for part of the season, but Washington's production on kickoff returns and punt returns set him apart. Stephens-Howling was stronger on coverage teams when opponents focused on former teammate Sean Morey. Stephens-Howling also played more on offense this season.
The chart breaks down all-division choices from 2008 and 2009, plus this season.
- Please read through my explanations before ripping some of these choices. I was tempted to leave a couple of these spots vacant.
- Darnell Dockett would usually hold down a spot on the defensive line. The shoulder injury he played through affected him. I thought Chris Long, Justin Smith, James Hall and Chris Clemons had better seasons. With the division split between 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, I paid less attention to specific positions on the line. The San Francisco 49ers' Aubrayo Franklin lost out to players with strong sack numbers. Franklin played well after reporting late. Update: And let's not forget about Fred Robbins. He easily could have earned a spot at tackle.
- Seattle's David Hawthorne was a consideration at linebacker. The 49ers' Takeo Spikes was the choice. He had three interceptions and nine passes defensed. Tackle totals aren't reliable, but unofficial stats showed each with more than 100.
- All four free safeties earned consideration. I went with Seattle's Earl Thomas, who covered the most ground and usually tackled well against the run. Thomas picked off Philip Rivers, Drew Brees and Sam Bradford in the end zone or near the goal line. He also finished strong. The Rams' Oshiomogho Atogwe made big second-half plays against Denver, San Diego and San Francisco. The Cardinals' Kerry Rhodes was the only player in the NFL with at least four picks and four fumble recoveries. He returned two fumbles for touchdowns. The 49ers' Dashon Goldson was steady, but made fewer impact plays.
- Strong safety was a tough one. The Cardinals' Adrian Wilson admittedly struggled, but he played very well at times, notably against St. Louis. The Seahawks' Lawyer Milloy outperformed expectations. Was his best better than Wilson's down year? Wilson was the choice even though I'm fully aware of his shortcomings in coverage this season. His performance against the Rams in Week 1 was as dominant as any I could recall from an NFC West safety during the 2010 season.
- Coming up with two cornerbacks wasn't easy. The Rams' Bradley Fletcher earned a spot with four interceptions. Seattle's Marcus Trufant returned to Pro Bowl form early in the season, but his play fell off significantly as the defense declined overall. The Rams' Ron Bartell was a consideration, but nothing stood out. The Cardinals' Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a division-high 15 penalties for 117 yards this season.
The chart breaks down all-division choices from 2008 and 2009, plus this season. Still to come: special teams.
- There was no clear-cut choice at receiver after Larry Fitzgerald. The St. Louis Rams' Danny Amendola was more consistent than Seattle's Mike Williams or San Francisco's Michael Crabtree. Amendola ranked ninth in the NFL with 85 receptions. He had 29 catches for 298 yards and two touchdowns on third down. Only Atlanta's Roddy White and Buffalo's Steve Johnson had more third-down catches this season. Williams had 25. Amendola also carried seven times for 81 yards.
- The 49ers' Mike Iupati was my choice at left guard. Iupati's raw power and improvement made him the choice. The Arizona Cardinals' Alan Faneca was better than advertised. The 49ers had the better offense and ground game. The Rams' Jacob Bell played well enough to factor as well. At his best, though, Iupati stood out.
- Not much to choose from at right guard in this division. The right side in general wasn't very strong. I went with the Rams' Jason Smith for his run blocking. Was he worth the second overall choice? That isn't the relevant question here. Smith was the best right tackle in the division, I thought.
- The Rams' Rodger Saffold will have competition from Seattle's Russell Okung at left tackle for years to come. Okung missed six games to injury this season. Otherwise, he might have been the choice.
- Sam Bradford was the choice at quarterback. He was more consistent than the other quarterbacks and the only one to play every offensive snap (or even close to every snap). Matt Hasselbeck's strong finish made him a consideration.
- Teams did not use fullbacks frequently enough for me to consider one. I went with the two best running backs, an easy choice even though Frank Gore missed the final five games. Gore had 853 yards and a 4.2-yard average. He averaged a career-high 9.8 yards per reception on 46 catches.
I'll be back with defense and special teams in a bit. The chart breaks down all-division choices from 2008 and 2009, plus this season.
That's why we put both on the All-NFC West Offense. The NFL found room for both as well, with Jackson's withdrawal from the Pro Bowl creating a spot for Gore.
I'll republish our all-division teams for those who missed the previous items.
The Rams claimed their lone victory after kicker Josh Brown threw a touchdown pass to Daniel Fells against the Lions on a fake field goal.
The Seahawks were no match for the Cardinals in Week 6 except when they found tight end John Carlson for a 41-yard gain on a fake punt.
More conventionally, Cardinals punter Ben Graham tied the single-season record for punts downed inside the 20 (fittingly, 49ers punter Andy Lee set the record in 2007). As good as Graham was this season, Lee was the one earning a Pro Bowl berth -- even though Seattle's Jon Ryan and St. Louis' Donnie Jones also deserved consideration.
The Cardinals badly needed a spark at Tennessee when LaRod Stephens-Howling broke free for a 99-yard kickoff return.
Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare set a franchise record for consecutive field goal tries without a miss. He also ranked fifth among NFL kickers in touchback percentage at 31.8 (the Cardinals' Neil Rackers was next among NFC West kickers at 21.5, ranking 11th).
These and other factors came into consideration when I settled on the all-division team of specialists for the 2009 season.
There were some tough decisions.
The 49ers' Michael Robinson is probably the best all-around special-teams player in the division, but Stephens-Howling made a strong impression helping Graham match the inside-the-20 record. He posted one of the finest single-game efforts in memory against the Titans when he downed three punts inside the 10 and also had the 99-yard touchdown return. Stephens-Howling led the Cardinals' in special-teams tackles and helped their kickoff coverage team improve significantly from last season.
The Rams' Danny Amendola was consistently the best return specialist on punts and kickoffs, but Stephens-Howling broke the 99-yarder. All four punters enjoyed strong seasons.
"I would suggest Amendola as both PR and KR and LaRod Stephens-Howling as general special-teamer," Yuma81 wrote in the comments when we discussed the subject last week. "Amendola has more kickoff returns and a higher average. Stephens-Howling has been a standout on punt and kickoff return coverage."
Amendola ranked tied for second in the NFL with five kickoff returns of at least 40 yards. He tied for third with five punt returns of at least 20 yards. No one in the division had more returns.
I combined the punt and kickoff return positions and added a second spot for a general special-teamer, allowing Robinson and Stephens-Howling to earn the recognition they deserved.
Those who helped settle on the 2009 All-Defense Team for the NFC West had to consider philosophy as well. (Check here for the All-Offense team).
Finding four worthy defensive linemen was easier than finding four worthy linebackers. Finding even a third worthy linebacker after Patrick Willis and Karlos Dansby proved a little tricky. I reached out to a couple NFL personnel people to help get a clearer picture. The Cardinals' Gerald Hayes then emerged as the third linebacker.
Going with four linemen allowed the 49ers' Justin Smith and the Cardinals' Calais Campbell to both earn spots. Leaving one off for a fourth linebacker wouldn't have seemed right.
"Campbell or Smith is a tough one," brentyson wrote when I opened up the subject for discussion on the blog last week. "I think Smith might be the most consistent through the season, but both are studs play by play, down by down. I think next season we will really see Campbell break out -- unfortunately for us Niner fans."
The decision to go with Hayes left 49ers situational pass-rusher Ahmad Brooks on the outside. Brooks finished the season strong. He wasn't a consistent force all season, though. I'll save a spot for him on the 2010 team if he picks up where he left off this season.
Brooks might have a tough time, though, because Rams rookie James Laurinaitis looks like a very good player in the making. I would give Laurinaitis a good shot at earning a spot on the all-division team next season. A case can be made that he belonged this season after starting all 16 games and finishing with two interceptions, 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble.
The situation at linebacker figures to change next season. Dansby could leave in free agency. The Seahawks' Lofa Tatupu will be coming back from injury, while Aaron Curry could emerge in his second season. Leroy Hill also has talent.
The choice at free safety was potentially difficult. The 49ers' Dashon Goldson prevailed over the Cardinals' Antrel Rolle in discussions with NFL personnel people and on the blog.
"I would take Goldson over Rolle," arvi_mu wrote. "Hard to say as a Cards fan, but I still have nightmares about the Monday night game (with Goldson enjoying a breakout game against Arizona)."
That left more work than usual in identifying an all-division offense for 2009.
Your input last week helped define the structure and substance for the team I put together here.
RedRumRBS thought we needed to include Frank Gore as a second running back instead of singling out a fullback. I agreed because San Francisco didn't use its fullback as much as anticipated, while the Rams' Mike Karney missed time to injury.
Primeau1203 made a case for the 49ers' Joe Staley at left tackle, even though Staley missed seven games to injury. That made sense to me because injuries also affected left tackles elsewhere in the division, and Staley was clearly the best when healthy.
supninerfan wanted at least some mention for the 49ers' Eric Heitmann at center. Consider it done.
No Seahawks earned spots this season. A few players had decent seasons, but they did not play better than other players at their positions.
Jackson's success running the ball for the Rams partly explains why St. Louis placed two offensive linemen on the all-division team, even though the Rams' offense struggled. It's also true that the rest of the division didn't produce obvious choices at some positions.
Let's tackle the defense, where quite a few positions could be open to debate.
I'll take your thoughts into account when putting together all-division teams after the season.
We might need to adopt a 3-4 structure to best accommodate worthy players in the division.
Some of my initial thoughts ...
NT: Aubrayo Franklin, 49ers. Probably deserved Pro Bowl recognition this season.
DE: Darnell Dockett, Cardinals. Pro Bowl starter has 7.0 sacks. Listed at defensive tackle, but plays end in the 3-4.
ILB: Patrick Willis, 49ers. Three-time Pro Bowl choice is easily the best linebacker in the division.
SS: Adrian Wilson, Cardinals. Five interceptions show he can be more than just an in-the-box safety.
CB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cardinals. Earned Pro Bowl berth in first full season as starter.
CB: Shawntae Spencer, 49ers. Played well consistently in his first season back from knee surgery.
Up for discussion
FS: Antrel Rolle, Cardinals, or Dashon Goldson, 49ers? Rolle probably gets the edge overall, but both have four interceptions and Goldson is just getting started.
DE: Justin Smith, 49ers, or Calais Campbell, Cardinals? Both play right end in the 3-4. Campbell has 7.0 sacks. Smith was more disruptive early in the season.
OLB: Parys Haralson, 49ers, or Chike Okeafor, Cardinals? Both have 4.5 sacks playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. I lean toward Haralson. Okeafor has been banged up.
OLB: Ahmad Brooks, 49ers. I almost put him in the "pencil them in" section. Brooks is more of a situational player to this point, however.
ILB: Quite a few players might qualify here. Arizona missed Karlos Dansby at Tennessee when a shoulder injury sidelined the franchise player late in the game. The Cardinals' run defense suffered when inside linebacker Gerald Hayes suffered an injury. The Rams liked what they saw from rookie middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. Seattle's David Hawthorne made an impact when the team lost Lofa Tatupu. The 49ers' Takeo Spikes quietly had 4.0 sacks even though stopping the run was his specialty.
Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane has been pretty good again, but I couldn't find a spot for him among defensive linemen.
Who is missing?
Let's dive into the offense first.
We can tweak the structure to accommodate a second running back at the expense of a fullback. That seems logical to me, but it's our team, not just mine. We can adjust again if someone makes a compelling argument.
The initial offensive structure features two halfbacks, two wide receivers and one tight end.
And we're off ...
WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals. Trails only Randy Moss in touchdown receptions this season.
WR: Anquan Boldin, Cardinals. Needs 14 yards for his fifth 1,000-yard season.
TE: Vernon Davis, 49ers. Trails only Moss in touchdown receptions. Tied with Fitzgerald with 12.
RB: Steven Jackson, Rams. Trails only Chris Johnson in rushing yards despite sitting out Week 16 with a herniated disc.
QB: Kurt Warner, Cardinals. Needs four touchdown passes to match 2008 total (30).
Pencil them in
RB: Frank Gore, 49ers. Made a late run for the Pro Bowl and still might get in as alternate.
C: Jason Brown, Rams. Big, physical presence helped Jackson dominate despite little threat from passing game.
RG: Deuce Lutui, Cardinals. Reduced penalties and became more consistent overall.
Up for discussion
LT: Joe Staley over Barry Sims despite missing six games? The Cardinals' Mike Gandy played more games than either, but an injury seemed to affect him.
LG: Jacob Bell or Reggie Wells? Bell played well much of the season before a hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve.
RT: Levi Brown? Relatively slim pickings in the division at this spot.
FB: Moran Norris or Mike Karney? Dan Kreider? No fullback at all? I would rather clear a spot for Gore than carry a fullback for the sake of it.
Who is missing? I trust you'll hold me accountable, as usual.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Larry Fitzgerald also seemed worthy after posting three 1,400-yard seasons and staking the Cardinals into a late lead with a dramatic 64-yard touchdown reception in Super Bowl XLIII.
"I'm hard pressed to come up with [a tight end] better than Vernon Davis," wrote regular blog contributor Mind of no mind. "But if there is nobody better, then maybe we should drop the TE from the team and go with 3 WR with Bruce."
Such was the give and take as I sifted through nominations left on the blog and on my Facebook page. One request I couldn't quite accommodate: finding a spot for the legendary Kim Il Zong, a ka The Zonger.
A position-by position look at my NFC West all-decade team follows. Thanks to Adam from Mesa, Ariz., for getting the conversation started (download his suggested team here).
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
How convenient of me to skip out on vacation after filing all-decade packages to run in my absence. The all-decade defense entry has more than 1,200 comments. The all-decade teams entry has nearly 600. The most recent entry, ranking the top 25 players of the decade, has nearly 3,000 comments and counting.
In the interests of time, I'll have to assume every comment agreed with every aspect of every item. How gratifying. I'd like your help in the next endeavor: naming an all-decade team for the NFC West based on what we've seen from 2000 through last season.
Blog contributor Adam from Mesa, Ariz., has offered his version, which I'll include below. That should help get the discussion running. We can discuss the dilemmas on the blog. I'll put together my own choices in an item for Wednesday.
I've converted into PDF format and made available for download Adam's fully researched document, complete with charts. I'll summarize his choices below:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Despite putting brettbrett1213 to sl
eep, our recent discussion about the all-NFC West team produced spirited debate.
I went through the roughly 170 comments and picked out a few that resonated.
Steven Jackson gets the call at running back over Frank Gore in an upset. I feel OK going with Jackson because he finished the season stronger and wound up with slightly more yards rushing and receiving. Smallstan has my back: "Gore has a better line than him and they put up identical numbers."
Walter Jones is the choice at left tackle even though he finished the season on injured reserve. The choice doesn't really need much defending. He's just better than other guys.
I went with the Rams' Leonard Little at left defensive end. He played hurt and still managed to get pressure situationally. There weren't many suitable choices at this position. MiamiOmar said Little "still brings that heat off the edge and gives OTs fits. Might not put up huge sack totals, but gets constant pressure. Underrated player at this point of his career." I can buy that.
Takeo Spikes' surprising production for the 49ers, complete with three interceptions, gave him the edge for the third linebacker spot. The fact that unflinching Seahawks fan RhynoEsea12 gave Spikes some credit put me over the top. RhynoEsea12: "I think [Leroy] Hill was more valuble to his team only in the fact that he was a bright spot amid an otherwise flat defense. Spikes played well too, but not as solid I think."
John Carlson gets the call over Vernon Davis at tight end based on his superior receiving skills and despite Davis' superior blocking. Shamyslamy: "I'm a Niner fan and Davis is not the right pick. I've seen him short arm and give up on too many passes. Have you ever seen him lay himself out to make a catch? That would be no. That being said, I'm not ready to give up on him yet though."
Marcus Trufant, Nate Clements and Ron Bartell drew consideration for the second cornerback spot. Trufant was effective in single coverage against Randy Moss, but Larry Fitzgerald gave him lots of trouble (even when covered). Clements' physical play at Arizona seemed to bother Fitzgerald, but Terrell Owens had his way against the 49ers.
"You can't give Trufant the 2nd Corner Spot, Sando, you just can't," joblo876 wrote. "After watching him give up highlight catch after highlight catch to Fitzgerald in Week 17, I'm inclined to think there's got to be another corner in the NFC West who is better than him."
I went with Bartell in an upset. He had 20 passes defensed, with three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Trufant had 13 passes defensed and one interception. Clements had nine and two. Those stats can be a function of opportunities, but I just don't remember Bartell giving up many big plays this season (even though the Rams gave up plenty).
Olindo Mare was the choice at kicker even though others also seemed worthy. Josh Brown's accuracy from beyond 50 yards stood out, but Mare was also effective from that distance, and Mare led the division with 22 touchbacks, including 13 outdoors. Mare also overcame the pressure of having a rookie kicker on the roster all season, just in case he misfired.