NFL Nation: 2013 Week 13 Upon Further Review AFC

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 13

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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An examination of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 22-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium:

Fitzpatrick
Streaky: When he was bad in relief of Jake Locker after Locker’s first injury, we talked about Ryan Fitzpatrick being a streaky quarterback. In his second relief stint, he was far better. Until this game against the Colts. He made several bad throws en route to three interceptions and also lost a fumble. Fitzpatrick made some bad decisions -- including one that didn’t result in an interception, but cost them a chance to score points. The Titans faced a third-and-10 from the Indianapolis 31 with 8:23 left in the game and trailing 15-14. Seven yards would have gotten them in range for a 51-yard field goal attempt by Rob Bironas that could have put the Titans ahead. Instead Fitzpatrick threw a hopeless deep ball for Justin Hunter that fell incomplete. Fitzpatrick said in hindsight that a shorter option like Kendall Wright would have been better.

Tight-end trouble: When they traded up in the fifth round in 2012 to draft him, the Titans thought Taylor Thompson was going to be a game-changing tight end. He played more defensive end than tight end at SMU. With Craig Stevens already out with a concussion and Delanie Walker knocked out with a first-half concussion, Thompson was the lone tight end for most of the game. Reserve tackle Mike Otto reported eligible often. Thompson was targeted three times and didn’t make a catch. He hardly looks the part of a confident target. He looks very much the part of a draft-day reach.

Johnson
Not enough CJ: Chris Johnson finished the game with 18 carries for 69 yards. Ten carries for 48 yards came in the second half, when I thought Johnson and the Titans’ blocking were starting to wear the Colts down some and figuring out how to get places. But again, the Titans didn’t seem willing or able to stick with it as much as might have been possible. They got away from Johnson too quickly in their first loss to the Colts. In the second, they didn’t ride him enough late.

Low impact: There is a good deal of luck in recovering fumbles. The Colts fumbled three times, with Andrew Luck dropping two on sacks. The Titans couldn’t recover any of them. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick fumbled once and lost it. The Colts grabbed all their interception opportunities, while George Wilson dropped a potential interception that was as easy as they get. “Why can’t we grab that ball that’s lying there three times?” Mike Munchak said. “We had an interception that hits us right in the chest, and that changes the game; we missed it. They didn’t miss one of theirs. They intercepted all of theirs thrown to them. We’ll keep drilling those things, and maybe we’ll get better at it.”

Upon Further Review: Patriots Week 13

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A review of four hot issues following the New England Patriots' 34-31 win over the Houston Texans:

[+] EnlargeJulian Edelman
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsJulian Edelman has 18 catches for 211 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games.
Run defense springs leaks again: The Patriots are struggling to stop the run, as season-ending injuries to defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, as well as linebacker Jerod Mayo, have cut deep. The struggles against the Texans seemed more fundamental, such as getting off blocks and tackling. The Texans rushed for four touchdowns in the game after entering the day with two rushing touchdowns on the season.

Ridley's uncertain future as the lead back: Lead running back Stevan Ridley was a healthy scratch after losing his third fumble in three games Nov. 24 against the Broncos. If Ridley doesn't dress for a game against the two-win Texans, it raises questions as to what type of role he might have down the stretch and in the playoffs. It seems fair to say that his time as the Patriots' lead back has officially reached a crossroads. Shane Vereen took the majority of running back snaps (41 of 70) against the Texans, playing in more traditional sets as he is now positioned to be the team's top option.

Banged-up receivers: Rookie receiver Aaron Dobson was inactive with a foot injury and then his replacement, Kenbrell Thompkins, left the game in the second quarter with a hip injury, and after attempting to play through it, he left the game for good after playing just 15 snaps. That thinned depth at receiver, leaving Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola as the top options, followed by rookie Josh Boyce and special teams captain Matthew Slater. The shortage at the position limits options in terms of personnel groupings and could be something to address if it's clear that Dobson and Thompkins will miss more time.

Edelman positioned for a lucrative payday: Edelman had a big day (nine catches, 101 yards) and upped his season total to 70 receptions, which earns him the maximum incentive in his contract of $250,000. There's good news and bad news for the Patriots in this area. The good news is that Edelman has become a key member of the passing attack, with Tom Brady joking that his nickname for him is "Minitron." The bad news? Edelman is scheduled for unrestricted free agency after the season, and the more he produces, the tougher it could be for the Patriots to retain him.

Upon Further Review: Texans Week 13

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
9:00
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A review of four hot issues from the Houston Texans' 34-31 loss to the New England Patriots:

Texans blitzing Brady: One of the difficulties for Texans quarterback Case Keenum as he learns to play in the NFL is dealing with blitzes. It's a mark of a young quarterback, and experience helps with that. Nothing better illustrated that than what Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did on Sunday. ESPN Stats & Info took a look at Brady against the Texans' blitzes. The Texans blitzed Brady on 21 percent of his dropbacks in the first half. He completed 2 of 7 passes and threw for 3.1 yards per attempt. In the second half the Texans ramped that up, blitzing Brady on 39 percent of his dropbacks. But by then he had figured it out. Brady completed 7 of 9 passes against blitzes in the second half and averaged 15.2 yards per attempt. His experience with figuring out defenses showed Sunday.

[+] EnlargeHouston's Andre Johnson
AP Photo/David J. PhillipAndre Johnson became the second-fastest player in NFL history to reach 900 catches.
Johnson's place in history: Texans receiver Andre Johnson became the second-fastest player in NFL history to reach 900 catches. Only Marvin Harrison did it faster than Johnson's 150 games. And Harrison only beat him by one. Asked about it, Johnson gave answers that matched his personality. "I don't think it's really hit me yet," Johnson said. "To hear that, in my mind, Jerry Rice is the greatest receiver to ever play. So to do something faster than he's done is a tremendous honor."

Gronk'd: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had tremendous success against the Texans' defense. He caught six passes for 127 yards -- 44 yards in the first half and 83 yards in the second half. Gronkowski got open frequently (though we should mention that Texans safety Eddie Pleasant had some nice hits on him) and even when he wasn't open, he helped the Patriots' offense. One example was during a 9-yard touchdown pass to Shane Vereen in the third quarter. The score put the Patriots up 21-17. Vereen was left open with Gronkowski surrounded by Texans in the end zone.

Kubiak on the sideline: After spending two games coaching from the press box, Texans coach Gary Kubiak finally got to return to the sideline. He was relegated to the press box on doctor's orders after suffering a transient ischemic attack on Nov. 3 at halftime of the Texans' game against the Indianapolis Colts. "I think we were operating as an offense better, and that gave us energy," Keenum said. "I think combined with him being on the field calming people down, and coaching us up as we needed it. ... Instead of relaying a message, he can tell me what he wants to tell me, when he wants to tell me. ... It felt like normal again." The offense did click better against the Patriots than it had in a while.

Upon Further Review: Bengals Week 13

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
9:00
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SAN DIEGO -- An examination of four hot issues from the Cincinnati Bengals' 17-10 win over the Chargers:

Dalton's second half: Paced by a running game that rediscovered itself in the second half, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had his own resurgence of sorts in the final 30 minutes of Sunday's game. After stumbling to a 5-for-10, 41-yard, 21.2-passer rating performance through the first half, he bounced back in the second, completing nine of his final 13 passes and connecting with receivers for 149 yards. He also threw a key third-quarter touchdown and didn't turn the ball over, helping push his end-of-game passer rating to 83.6 -- his highest in five games. His 44.4 QBR also was his best since his career-high 98.9 that came in Cincinnati's 49-9 win over the New York Jets in Week 9. Part of what helped Dalton amass those final numbers was the Bengals' decision to recommit themselves to the run in the last two quarters. Cincinnati rushed for more than 150 yards (164) for the first time since its Week 7 win at Buffalo.

Dalton
Dalton
Bush
Maualuga
Huber's (healed) left leg: Wednesday, punter Kevin Huber sent a chill through the Bengals' fan base when he appeared on the injury report for the first time this season. He barely practiced the rest of the week after being limited for part of the week by an injury to his left ankle. He kicks with his left leg. Apparently it wasn't feeling too badly. Huber had four punts in the game and sent them an average of 55.5 yards from the line of scrimmage. The first two, 75- and 56-yard blasts, set the tone early. He routinely flipped field position in the game, even pushing the Chargers up against their own goal line with his first one. That subsequent series resulted in San Diego's own need to punt. With the ball in decent field position, the Bengals drove 67 yards for a touchdown on their following possession.

Quiet secondary: It was easy to praise Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict for his strong 13-tackle, play-through-an-injury performance, but he wasn't the only one on the back end of Cincinnati's defense who had a big day. Linebacker Rey Maualuga, who was returning from his own lengthy knee injury, finished with 10 tackles, including a sack. Although he was beaten a couple of times on passes across the middle, he was a run-stopper much of the day, helping plug his share of holes. Along with their linebacker play, the Bengals also had quietly good performances from defensive backs George Iloka and Reggie Nelson, who each forced fumbles. Iloka's ended up preceding the Bengals' final possession of the game -- a nearly five-minute drive that included four first downs and ended with back-to-back kneel-downs.

Winning without Gresham: For the first time this year, the Bengals won a game in which tight end Jermaine Gresham didn't catch a pass. The only other time they even had a game in which Gresham went reception-less, they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. It wasn't as if Cincinnati was trying to completely avoid Gresham, though. He was targeted twice. Since a clear emphasis was being placed on the running game, Gresham ended up factoring in that department instead, helping open holes along the edges for running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard to run right through.

Upon Further Review: Broncos Week 13

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – An examination of four hot issues from the Denver Broncos35-28 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsMontee Ball's Denver teammates say that they were impressed with the running back's development in 2013.
Double dip: The Broncos had hoped the light would go on for rookie running back Montee Ball sooner rather than later, and he would hang on to the ball and show the instincts in traffic that pushed him up their draft board in April. Sunday may have well been that game, as Ball rushed for 117 yards on 13 carries against the Chiefs' aggressive front seven for his first career 100-yard game. The Broncos want to use more of a rotational system, with Knowshon Moreno as the No. 1 option, but they needed a second running back to step forward. Ball may have just done that.

Man up: Quarterback Peyton Manning sent a message, again, to those who might hope to lock up the Broncos' offense with a heavy dose of man coverage to go with pressure packages up front. With the Chiefs largely double-teaming Wes Welker -- because injured tight end Julius Thomas was not in the lineup -- Manning feasted on one-on-one matchups elsewhere in the formation. Eric Decker finished with 174 receiving yards and four touchdowns and Demaryius Thomas, who suffered a shoulder injury on his first catch of the game and at times was playing almost one-handed, had 106 yards on three receptions. Manning had four completions of at least 40 yards.

Level-headed: In a noisy environment that has rattled more than one visiting team this season, the Broncos' offensive line kept its composure, even as Manning went through his usual presnap work at the line of scrimmage. The Broncos’ front did not have a false-start penalty. The team's one false start came courtesy of Moreno, with four minutes left in the game. Left tackle Chris Clark did have an illegal-shift penalty on that same drive, but overall it was a disciplined performance from the offensive line, which did not surrender a sack to the Chiefs. It was the fifth game this season in which Manning had not been sacked.

More special-ness: Returner Trindon Holliday left Sunday’s game with a right shoulder injury, and some of the team's potential in the return game left with him. But it's clear the Broncos have some other special teams issues to clean up. Knile Davis’ 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter was the longest in Chiefs history and was the longest kickoff return surrendered by the Broncos in their history. The Broncos opened the season strong on special teams, with two blocked punts and two return scores in the first four games. But injuries have eroded the rotation on those units somewhat, and the returners, including Holliday, haven’t had nearly the impact over the last eight games. Couple that with the gaffe in overtime against New England that led to the Patriots' game-winning field goal and Davis’ return Sunday, and it’s clear the Broncos need a little more from their special teamers all around.
SAN DIEGO -- An examination of four hot issues from the San Diego Chargers' 17-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Home-field disadvantage: Since 2011, the Chargers are 10-11 at home, and they have a 2-3 record this season. That’s not exactly a home-field advantage. At 5-7, the Chargers are a game behind Baltimore (6-6) and Miami (6-6) for the last AFC wild-card spot. San Diego has three of its last four games at home, but the Chargers have to play with more swagger at Qualcomm Stadium, particularly early in games. San Diego had the first NFL blackout of the season on Sunday, and a large group of Cincinnati fans packed the Bengals’ side of the field. The Chargers never led against Cincinnati, and have not had a lead at home since a Week 6 win against Indianapolis.

Woodhead
Weddle
Secondary play improves: A point of emphasis leading up to the Cincinnati game, the Chargers played better on the back end defensively. San Diego allowed just 190 passing yards, giving up three plays of 20 yards or more. Safety Eric Weddle had perhaps his best game of the season, finishing with six tackles, his first interception of the season, a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss. Richard Marshall was solid in his first start of the season replacing Derek Cox. The Chargers did have some breakdowns in coverage that led to a few big plays, but overall the defensive backfield play was improved against a talented Cincinnati receiving group.

No pass rush: The Chargers finished without a sack for just the second time this season. In 23 pass attempts, San Diego’s front seven couldn’t even muster a quarterback pressure against Andy Dalton, who had not been playing well leading up to this game. The Chargers finished with four tackles for loss in the run game, but part of the issue on the back end has been the team’s inability to create consistent pressure with the pass rush.

Woodhead’s disappearing act: Running back Danny Woodhead finished with two receptions for 13 yards, and was targeted just three times against Cincinnati. The only other games this season in which Woodhead was targeted three times or fewer was against Houston (three) and Miami (two) -- both losses for the Chargers. Give credit to the Bengals for taking away Woodhead defensively, but the cat-quick runner is an important part of San Diego’s pass game as a playmaker out of the backfield.

Upon Further Review: Chiefs Week 13

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
8:00
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An examination of four hot issues from the Kansas City Chiefs' 35-28 loss to the Denver Broncos:

[+] EnlargeMarcus Cooper and Eric Decker
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelMarcus Cooper struggled to contain Denver's wide receivers.
Trouble at cornerback: After playing well in the early part of the season, rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper had his third straight poor game. Cooper missed a jam at the line against wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on one play during the third quarter, leaving Thomas alone to catch a short pass and turn it into a 77-yard gain. Cooper recovered to tackle Thomas down the field, but the play set up the touchdown that put the Broncos ahead for good. The Chiefs were determined to take away the crossing routes than San Diego repeatedly burned them on last week, but that left Cooper and the other cornerbacks vulnerable to the deep pass.

Big play from Davis: Rookie running back Knile Davis had the biggest game of his NFL career. He returned a kickoff a team-record 108 yards for a touchdown, and he also carried once for 20 yards and caught two passes for 18 yards. Davis, a third-round draft pick from Arkansas, is a logical player for the Chiefs to try in their effort to improve their offense. Playing him on offense requires the Chiefs to take Jamaal Charles out of the game, but giving Davis the ball eight to 10 times a game could be worth the effort. At 227 pounds, Davis is big enough to make his own hole and also fast enough to be a big-play threat.

Injury update: The Chiefs appear to have lost starting left tackle Branden Albert for an extended period with a left knee injury. Albert was taken from the field in the back of a motorized cart, and the Chiefs were expecting to learn from his MRI on Monday that Albert has ligament damage. He was replaced at left tackle by Donald Stephenson, who filled in for Albert last season when he missed time with back spasms. Rookie Eric Fisher, the first player taken in this year's draft, will stay for the time being at right tackle. The Chiefs may also be without tight end Anthony Fasano on Sunday against the Redskins in Washington; he has a concussion. Fasano had become a threat in the red zone. Against the Broncos he caught a touchdown for the third straight game. The only other tight end on the active roster is Sean McGrath.

Playoff primer: At 9-3, the Chiefs are only a game behind the Denver Broncos in the AFC West standings. But the Broncos in effect lead the Chiefs by a game and a half. They swept the season series from Kansas City, and would win any tiebreaker between the teams. The Chiefs will have to finish with a better record than Denver in order to win the division title.

Upon Further Review: Indianapolis Colts

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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INDIANAPOLIS -- A review of four topics from the Indianapolis Colts' 22-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

Eye on a bye: The Colts will win the AFC South unless they completely collapse and Tennessee wins out. Neither is going to happen. The next goal for Indianapolis is to get the second seed (Denver will likely finish with the top seed) so that it can have a bye in the first weekend of the playoffs. The Colts have a chance to improve their odds of reaching that goal if they can go on the road and beat the Cincinnati Bengals next weekend. The Colts and Bengals have identical 8-4 records, but Indianapolis owns the tiebreaker because it has a better winning percentage in the conference. "We have to go to Cincinnati with a good game plan and stop that run, get on the quarterback and make something happen," Colts defensive lineman Cory Redding said. New England currently holds the second seed at 9-3.

[+] EnlargeIndianapolis' Donald Brown
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsDonald Brown got the start and scored a fourth-quarter touchdown that sealed the victory.
Still kicking strong: Just as he's been throughout his 18-year career, kicker Adam Vinatieri was Mr. Reliable for the Colts. He was a perfect 5-for-5 on field goals and had an extra point to give him 16 points for the game. The five field goals tied Vinatieri's career high and the Colts' franchise record. He's got 100 points on the season, which ties him with Jason Elam for most 100-point seasons in NFL history with 16. "To have a security blanket like that, it makes a big difference, it really does," quarterback Andrew Luck said. "When we're struggling like that and can't put a touchdown on the board early, to have that really keeps that momentum going for you."

Staying positive: Running back Trent Richardson was the focal point of the lineup shakeup on Sunday because the Colts gave up a first-round pick to acquire him from Cleveland in September. But the player who deserves credit is Donald Brown, and it's not because he scored the touchdown to put the Colts up eight points late in the fourth quarter. It's because he constantly stayed professional and was ready to play when called upon despite being the third running back on the depth chart not once, but twice this season. Now he's starting. Brown had only 8 yards on eight carries until the Colts' final offensive series. The former first-round pick had 46 yards on six carries on the final drive. "Donnie earned the opportunity [to start] the way he was working and running the football," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.

Still perfect: Pagano and Luck can still say they've yet to lose back-to-back games as an NFL head coach and quarterback. The Colts have gone 28 games without losing consecutive games under Pagano. The 28 games ties for the fifth-longest streak by an Indianapolis head coach. The Colts still have road games at Cincinnati and Kansas City, but the games are split up by Houston in the middle, so they've got a chance to complete two straight seasons without losing back-to-back games.

Upon Further Review: Jets Week 13

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
8:00
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A review of four hot issues from the New York Jets' 23-3 loss Sunday to the Miami Dolphins:

1. Triple option at quarterback: Unless they switch to the single wing, the Jets will have to name a starting quarterback for Sunday's home game against the Oakland Raiders. Rex Ryan will consider all three quarterbacks -- the slumping Geno Smith, the unproven Matt Simms and the ancient David Garrard. It's a no-win selection. Smith, in a serious funk, needs a timeout. He needs to watch a week or two from the sideline, perhaps gathering himself for another shot at the end of the season. Simms isn't ready, but at least he has a live arm and young legs. Garrard, 35, is a grizzled vet, but he has a bad knee and hasn't played since 2010. He'd be a sitting duck in the pocket. My prediction is that Ryan will go with Simms, although he's been known to bypass the No. 2 in this type of situation. Does Tim Tebow/Greg McElroy ring a bell?

2. Blowouts are bad: The Jets' 5-7 record isn't troubling; after all, we all expected this to be a rebuilding year. It's how they're losing that sends up a red flag. A 20-point loss to the offensively challenged Dolphins at home? There's no alibi. The Jets' last four losses (in order) were by 40, 23, 16 and 20 points. Earlier, they lost by 25 points to the Tennessee Titans. The Jets have a minus-121 point differential, which is staggering. The only team with a worse differential is the Jacksonville Jaguars (minus-178). This league is built on parity, and there's no excuse for being noncompetitive in so many games. Yes, there's a talent gap between the Jets and probably half the league, but coaching and effort can narrow the gap. We haven't seen that from the Jets in a month.

3. The Ed Reed jinx: The decision to sign Ed Reed hasn't exactly paid huge dividends. The Jets are 0-3 since Reed's arrival (he's a combined 0-11 with the Jets and Houston Texans) and their pass defense has gone south with him at safety. With the future Hall of Famer in the secondary, opposing quarterbacks have completed 67 percent of their attempts for 849 yards, five touchdowns (all over 27 yards) and only two interceptions. It's unfair to blame it all on Reed, as cornerbacks Dee Milliner and Antonio Cromartie have contributed to the mess, but the nine-time Pro Bowler has made no impact. In fact, he missed a tackle on Brian Hartline's 31-yard touchdown. Showing no accountability, Reed dodged reporters after the game.

4. Bad day for John Idzik: The general manager's first draft pick, Milliner (No. 9 overall), was benched after a feeble tackle attempt on Mike Wallace's 28-yard touchdown in the third quarter. That makes three in-game benchings for Milliner. Idzik's third pick, Smith (second round), was benched at halftime. Suddenly, his bountiful draft doesn't look so bountiful. Idzik inherited a tough salary-cap situation, but other than trading for running back Chris Ivory, his pro personnel moves are easy to pick apart, especially at quarterback. This team is woefully devoid of talent on offense, and some of that falls on the GM.

Upon Further Review: Dolphins Week 13

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
8:00
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A review of four hot issues from the Miami Dolphins' 23-3 win over the New York Jets on Sunday:

Confidence soaring: The Dolphins played their most complete game on offense and defense on the road against the Jets. That combination produced a confident locker room in the bowels of MetLife Stadium on Sunday evening. The Dolphins (6-6) know they have little margin for error but feel they have enough talent and momentum to get hot in December. “We don’t have a choice,” Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. “Everybody is all-in right now."

[+] EnlargeBrian Hartline
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsBrian Hartline had his best game of the season, catching nine passes for 127 yards and a TD.
Hartline shines: The Dolphins had their eye all week on the matchup between veteran receiver Brian Hartline against Jets rookie cornerback Dee Milliner. Hartline has been one of Miami’s steadiest players this year and Milliner one of the most inconsistent for the Jets. As projected, Miami took advantage of the matchup, as Hartline registered nine receptions for a season-high 127 yards and a touchdown. He primarily beat Milliner and Ellis Lankster throughout the game. But Hartline’s biggest play was a 31-yard touchdown catch over Jets No. 1 cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Hartline now has 804 receiving yards and is close to posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for the first time in his career.

Vernon streaking: The first Miami player to reach double-digit sacks isn’t the one you would have expected. Dolphins second-year defensive end Olivier Vernon recorded 2.5 sacks against the Jets and now has 10 on the season. Vernon has been on a tear as of late, with 4.5 sacks in his past three games. Vernon was considered a placeholder for rookie Dion Jordan entering the season. But Vernon’s production has kept Jordan on the bench all year.

Steelers up next: The road does not get any easier for the Dolphins. They have another elimination game coming next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7). Pittsburgh will also be playing for its playoff life, which will make the Steelers tough to beat at Heinz Field. The Dolphins broke a three-game road losing streak with Sunday’s win over the Jets.

Upon Further Review: Browns Week 13

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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An examination of four hot issues from the Cleveland Browns' 32-28 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars:

Haden
Haden’s outburst: CB Joe Haden presented the argument for players not wanting to talk after games. But as he’s been all season, Haden was accountable, and approachable. His emotional statement about being sick of losing and not having anything to say was right on the money. He was upset, mad, disgusted or a combination of some or all the above. He showed it. Because he felt it. There was no reason to be upset about Haden’s statements -- because he showed he cared.

Taking responsibility: Haden also took responsibility for the Jaguars' game-winning TD pass, admitting he fell for the old “Sluggo” route (slant and go). Haden said the Jaguars set the route up by running short all day. Then, in the key situation, they faked short and threw deep. Well ... 20 yards deep. The play came on third-and-9. Haden jumped the slant trying to prevent the first down and hold the Jaguars to a field goal. He got beat. It happens to cornerbacks.

What happened: Longtime Browns watchers could not remember a previous bad snap from Alex Mack, but his first came at a bad time. Mack airmailed a snap over QB Brandon Weeden’s head with the Browns at their 14, and it led to a safety that gave Jacksonville the lead. “My fault 100 percent,” Mack said. “I’m going to be sick to my stomach for quite a while about that one.” Mack said he had some anxiousness about getting off the ball quick, which might have contributed to the bad snap.

Mind-boggling: The Browns have had some bizarre games this season. The second quarter against Cincinnati, the second half against Detroit. But the numbers against Jacksonville may set new standards. The Browns had the lead four times and gave it up each time. Weeden threw for 370 yards. Wide receiver Josh Gordon set NFL and team records. The Browns outgained the Jaguars 439-314. Yet they lost. Go figure.
A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars' 32-28 victory against Cleveland:

[+] EnlargeDwayne Gratz
AP Photo/Tony DejakDwayne Gratz, right, and the Jacksonville secondary had its hands full with Cleveland's Josh Gordon.
Secondary issues: One week after holding Houston receiver Andre Johnson to just two catches for 36 yards, the Jaguars’ secondary was absolutely torched by Cleveland’s Josh Gordon: 10 catches for 261 yards and two touchdowns, including a 95-yarder in the fourth quarter. Cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Alan Ball each had their troubles with Gordon, and they got little safety help from Johnathan Cyprien and Winston Guy. Both seemed to be late getting over to help, and the one time Guy did get there in time he was penalized for hitting Gordon in the head. Guy also was the main guy to blame for the 95-yard TD because he went for the interception -- coming from behind Gordon -- instead of trying to hit Gordon and knock the ball that way or just make the tackle. Cyprien did get his first career interception on a pass thrown behind tight end Jordan Cameron.

Help needed: Rookie receiver Ace Sanders had his most productive day, and the Jaguars certainly needed it, with Cecil Shorts dealing with Browns cornerback Joe Haden (and two drops) and Mike Brown playing through a very sore shoulder. Sanders tied his season high with eight catches and set a season high with 67 yards receiving. He also carried the ball once for 4 yards on a misdirection pitch play. The biggest number, however, is six: Of his nine touches, six resulted in first downs. Shorts came up big late, but Brown had just one catch.

Improved pass rush: All the attention since the bye week has been on how much the run defense has improved, but the Jaguars’ pass rush also has been much more effective the past month. The Jaguars sacked quarterback Brandon Weeden three times on Sunday, including one by Jason Babin that resulted in a fumble that defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks recovered to set up a field goal. The Jaguars now have 20 sacks, which matches their 2012 total. They have recorded nine sacks in the four games since the bye and eight in the past three games. One thing they’re doing differently is rushing middle linebacker Paul Posluszny more often. He had a half-sack (along with Babin) against Weeden.

A Marks man: Marks had another big day: a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Marks’ fumble recovery and 15-yard return set up Josh Scobee's 36-yard field goal at the end of the first half. Marks has three sacks this season after recording just three in his first four seasons in the NFL. Marks, who signed a one-year deal with the Jaguars in April, has been the team’s best defensive lineman.

Upon Further Review: Bills Week 13

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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TORONTO -- A review of four hot issues from the Buffalo Bills' 34-31 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons:

Robey frustrated with call: The Falcons' final scoring drive of regulation saw a barrage of penalty flags, the final one being a pass interference call against cornerback Nickell Robey. The undrafted rookie got tangled up with receiver Harry Douglas in the corner of the end zone, with both players falling to the ground as the pass sailed in. In the locker room after the game, Robey aired his frustrations about the call. "I was just playing football, trying to make a play. I felt like he pushed me more than I held him. I felt like when the ball was coming, it was underthrown and when I was trying to come back to the ball, he extended his arm and I fell. I was just trying to make a ball, playing football, you know? Coaches just kept telling me to play. I felt like that was just a bad call," he said. Coach Doug Marrone said he didn't have a good view of the play but will review it and may include it in his weekly report to the NFL office.

Spiller
Bills secondary expected loose officiating: Cornerback Leodis McKelvin said that the Bills had done their homework on official Walt Anderson and his crew and were expecting fewer penalty flags than the norm. "They let you play. They let you hold. They let you do whatever you gotta do," he said. Robey echoed the same thought. "They let us play all day today," he said. Asked about the officiating, Marrone did not provide an opinion, saying, "You guys are trying to get [me] in trouble. I can't do it. My wife will kill me."

Spiller hobbled, returns: The Bills never officially announced an injury, but running back C.J. Spiller was limping early in the game. It's unclear if it was related to his nagging ankle injury, but Marrone said he spoke to running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley, who said Spiller was fine to re-enter the game. Spiller played more sparingly in the second half but broke a 36-yard touchdown run and finished with 149 rushing yards. "He goes in there and makes a big run, gets nicked up, starts limping a little bit, gets back in there," Marrone said. "I think it's kind of been that type of season for C.J."

Marrone ignores crowd noise, loud or not: The crowd of 38,969 in the Rogers Centre on Sunday was a mix of Falcons and Bills fans, so loud cheers could be heard whenever either team made big plays. That's not entirely the "home-field" advantage the Bills are looking for, but asked after the game about the effect the crowd has on players, Marrone gave an interesting response. "It's funny, when you play and you're out there, even when you're coaching you really don't know what's going on," he said. "I think people think players feed off the crowd and things like that. That may have happened, but basically you have to feed off each other." Asked a follow-up question, though, Marrone changed his tone. "I thought the crowd today was good. They were on our side. They were giving us the boost that we needed," he said.

Upon Further Review: Ravens Week 13

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
10:00
AM ET
A review of four hot issues from the Baltimore Ravens' 22-20 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Chillin' at home: The Ravens improved their record to 14-2 in home games when the temperature at kickoff is below 40 degrees, winning 14 of the past 15 times this has happened. It was 37 degrees at the start of Thursday night's game with the Steelers. The Ravens, who are 5-1 at home this season, have always played their best at M&T Bank Stadium, although not necessarily against their biggest rival. Since 2010, the Ravens are now just 2-2 against Pittsburgh in Baltimore, and 26-2 against the rest of the league (including playoffs) at home.

Flacco
Pressure doesn't result in picks: Joe Flacco didn't throw an interception for the first time since Week 7 (Oct. 20), which just happened to be the last time the Ravens played the Steelers. Over the past four weeks, Flacco had been picked off six times in 78 passes, an average of one every 13 throws. On Thursday night, he wasn't intercepted on 35 passes. Since 2011, the Ravens are 15-2 in games when Flacco doesn't throw an interception. The key against the Steelers was the improved pass protection, especially against Pittsburgh's blitzes. Flacco was 7-of-10 (70 percent) when the Steelers sent five or more rushers, his highest completion percentage against the blitz this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He had a 52 percent completion rate against additional pressure entering the game, which ranked 31st among 38 qualified quarterbacks.

Harbaugh
Harbaugh

Fast starts: The Ravens have dominated the first quarter recently, which is quite a turnaround from the first two months of the season. In the past four games, the Ravens have outscored teams 30-3 in the first quarter. Compare this to the first eight games, when the Ravens ranked third in fewest points scored in the first quarter (16). Baltimore marched 71 yards for a touchdown on its opening drive against Pittsburgh, the second time in four weeks the Ravens have reached the end zone on their first possession of a game. The Ravens are now 43-9 (.826) under coach John Harbaugh when scoring first.

Extending the drive: The Ravens punted only once, marking just the fifth time in team history they had one or no punts in a game. The last time the Ravens punted one time in a game was Oct. 31, 2005, when the Ravens played at Pittsburgh. When you take away the drive that ended the first half and the game, the Ravens were able to get inside the Steelers' 31-yard line on six of seven possessions. The Ravens were able to sustain drives by going 10-of-17 on third downs, which was a season-high 58.8 percent success rate for Baltimore. Six Ravens converted third downs, including Torrey Smith, who did it four times. Flacco threw for 118 yards and a touchdown on third down.

Upon Further Review: Raiders Week 13

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
8:00
AM ET
An review of four hot issues from the Oakland Raiders' 31-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys:

A silver lining: The injury to receiver Denarius Moore more than opened the door for former Cowboys wideout Andre Holmes, who put on a show against his one-time team in catching seven passes for a game-high 136 yards. Especially when you consider he entered the game with five career catches for 76 yards. Bittersweet? “It felt good,” he said. “If I had a calendar, I checked this game because I wanted to come here and play well in front of a team I had played for. It just sucks we didn't get the win.” Said Raiders QB Matt McGloin: “He's a guy I definitely trust. … He's a guy that will go and get the ball for you.”

[+] EnlargeOakland's Andre Holmes
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsAndre Holmes had seven catches 136 yards against his former team.
McGloin takes a step back? After being a profile in efficiency in the first half -- he was 11-for-15 passing for 146 yards -- McGloin was 7-15 for 109 yards after halftime and had a costly end-zone interception when the Raiders were attempting to tie the game at 28-28 with 8:39 to play. He attempted a fade or jump-ball pass to the 5-foot-9 Jacoby Ford, who was covered by the 6-foot Brandon Carr. “If it was a touchdown,” McGloin said, “nobody would have thought a thing about it.” Actually, had Ford caught it, there would have been a lot of talk as it would have been his first TD catch since Nov. 6, 2011.

Injuries: Right guard Mike Brisiel was lost for the game after the first play with a knee injury. He was replaced by Andre Gurode, who was replaced after four false start penalties by Lucas Nix. Also injured: running back Rashad Jennings (concussion), safety Usama Young (stinger), linebacker Kaluka Maiava (calf) and cornerback Mike Jenkins (stinger).

Of explosive plays XII: And now for our weekly tracking of “explosive” plays. As deemed by coach Dennis Allen, such a play is one that gains at least 16 yards through the air, 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders had seven such plays against the Cowboys, all passes. Dallas had five explosive plays, one run and four passes. In 12 games, the Raiders have 86 explosive plays (24 runs, 62 passes), with three TD runs and seven passing scores. Oakland's opponents, meanwhile, now have 84 explosive plays combined, 18 runs (one TD) and 66 passes (seven TDs).

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