NFL Nation: Clinton Hart

Definitive look at NFC West turnover

September, 8, 2010
9/08/10
2:21
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Roster turnover is a leading topic for discussion in Seattle following the release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh in particular.

I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.

This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.

Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).

St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)

Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)

Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)

Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)

Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)

Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)

Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)

Special teams: Ryan Neill

Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)

Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)


Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)

Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)

Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)

Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)

Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)

Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)

Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)

Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)

Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)

Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)


Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)

Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)

Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)

Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)

Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)

Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)

Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)

Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)

Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)


San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)

Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker

Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)

Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)

Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)

Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)

Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt

Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)


The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.

The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.
Tags:

Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Leonard Little, Jerheme Urban, Owen Schmitt, Josh Wilson, William James, Justin Green, Raheem Brock, Derek Anderson, Walt Harris, Tony Pashos, Darryl Tapp, Sam Bradford, Mark Roman, Dan Kreider, David Carr, Ralph Brown, Lawrence Jackson, Isaac Bruce, Charlie Whitehurst, Chris Clemons, Shaun HIll, Junior Siavii, Leroy Hill, Kevin Dockery, Matt Leinart, Chike Okeafor, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Rex Hadnot, Brian Westbrook, Bertrand Berry, Dominique Zeigler, Eric Bassey, Eric Young, D.D. Lewis, Brandon McDonald, Nate Burleson, Alex Barron, Ryan Neill, Samkon Gado, Kyle Boller, Brit Miller, Patrick Kerney, Clinton Hart, Quincy Butler, Michael Robinson, Arnaz Battle, Ray Willis, Leger Douzable, Jerome Johnson, Trumaine McBride, Glen Coffee, Brooks Foster, Monty Beisel, Renardo Foster, Mansfield Wrotto, Shane Andrus, Donnie Avery, Karlos Dansby, Alex Boone, Marcus Hudson, Leon Washington, Troy Smith, Adam Carriker, Cody Brown, Kurt Warner, Cordelius Parks, Jeff Ulbrich, Chris Ogbonnaya, Neil Rackers, Pago Togafau, Scott McKillop, Randy McMichael, Kentwan Balmer, Lance Laury, Sean Morey, Mike Gandy, Mike Reilly, Brian St. Pierre, Ruvell Martin, Mark Clayton, Ben Hamilton, Anquan Boldin, Marc Bulger, Nate Davis, Chester Pitts, Cory Redding, Antrel Rolle, Matt McCoy, Brandon Jones, Alan Faneca, Chris Baker, Anthony Davis, Keenan Burton, Hank Fraley, Joey Porter, David Roach, Phillip Trautwein, Tyler Roehl, Jason Hill, Taylor Mays, Mark Setterstrom, Travis LaBoy, A.J. Feeley, Brandon Frye, Craig Terrill, Keith Null, Cody Wallace, K.C. Asiodu, Jordan Kent, Kyle Williams, Quinton Ganther, Stacy Andrews, James Wyche, Reggie Wells, Victor Adeyanju, Jonathan Wade, Seneca Wallace, Thomas Clayton, Paris Lenon, Deon Grant, Kerry Rhodes, Fred Robbins, John Owens, Bryant McFadden, Matt Wilhelm, Steve Vallos, Gerald Hayes, Jeff Robinson, Herman Johnson, Walter Jones, Mike Williams, Justin Griffith, Jason Banks, Jamar Adams, Anthony Becht, Na\'il Diggs, Damion McIntosh, Tyler Polumbus, Derek Walker, Louis Rankin, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Cyril Obiozor, Mike Iupati, Kevin Houser, Dan Williams, Russell Okung, Golden Tate, Anthony Dixon, Anthony McCoy, Mardy Gilyard, Earl Thomas, A.J. Jefferson, Kennard Cox, Andre Roberts, Walter Thurmond, Rodger Saffold, George Selvie, Daryl Washington, Jerome Murphy, Navorro Bowman, E.J. Wilson, Mike Hoomanawanui, John Skelton, Nate Byham, Eugene Sims, Jermelle Cudjo, Ricky Schmitt, Dominique Curry, Fendi Onobun, Kam Chancellor, Dexter Davis, Phillip Adams, Stephen Williams, Thaddeus Lewis, Chris Patrick, Clint Gresham, Danny Gorrer, Darian Stewart, Keith Toston, LaJuan Ramsey, Roger III Allen, Ryan McKee, Ted Jr. Ginn, Tramaine Brock, Trevor Canfield

Age rankings for every NFL team

July, 12, 2010
7/12/10
12:10
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Rookie free agents and other young prospects drag down age stats for NFL teams this time of year.

The relative averages are more relevant than the averages themselves.

The chart shows where NFL teams ranked in average age heading into the weekend. The figures count undrafted free agents and unsigned draft choices. They do not count kickers, punters or snappers because older players at those positions could distort averages in a misleading way.

Having an older roster can be fine and even preferable as long as the team is contending. Being old and bad leads to massive roster overhauls. The St. Louis Rams fit the profile two years ago, leading to a dramatic roster overhaul that continued this offseason.

Quick thoughts on each NFC West team's current age ranking, based on the rosters I maintain for every team, and not counting specialists:

12. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals subtracted Kurt Warner, but they're counting on 33-year-olds Clark Haggans, Alan Faneca and Joey Porter. The team also re-signed 36-year-old nose tackle Bryan Robinson.

Arizona does have good young players, though.

13. Seattle Seahawks

This ranking was higher than I would have anticipated given how much coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have talked about embracing youth.

Seattle re-signed Lawyer Milloy and added two more older players, receiver Sean Morey and guard Ben Hamilton, as free agents.

18. San Francisco 49ers

More than half the 49ers' starters could be 26 or younger, the highest total in the division (based on tentative projections): Vernon Davis, Parys Haralson, Alex Smith, Manny Lawson, Dashon Goldson, Joe Staley, Patrick Willis, Josh Morgan, Chilo Rachal, Mike Iupati, Michael Crabtree and the youngest player on the roster, 20-year-old tackle Anthony Davis.

28. St. Louis Rams

The Rams were generally among the three youngest teams on average last season. They added some seasoning this offseason by signing Fred Robbins, A.J. Feeley, Chris Hovan and Na'il Diggs. Those four players are between 32 and 33 years old.

The Rams remain one of the NFL's youngest teams after adding 11 draft choices, releasing Marc Bulger and failing to re-sign three unrestricted free agents in their 30s (Randy McMichael, Leonard Little and Clinton Hart).

NFC West teams need safety help

March, 6, 2010
3/06/10
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The Cardinals lost Antrel Rolle, the Rams could lose Oshiomogho Atogwe and the 49ers might need to replace Michael Lewis. The Cardinals could also lose backup safety Matt Ware, who could draw interest from the Rams.

The Seahawks aren't exactly set for life at safety, either.

What to do?

I've gone through the list of available safeties -- NFC West fan favorites Brian Russell and Mark Roman are out there -- and come up with a few fallback options, listed with their 2009 teams:

  • Ryan Clark, Steelers. The 30-year-old longtime starter couldn't work out a long-term deal with Pittsburgh. The Cardinals are running their defense in the Pittsburgh mold. Clark could fit.
  • Brodney Pool, Browns. Teams generally do not sever ties with productive 25-year-old starters, but the Browns decided against tendering Pool as a restricted free agent after he suffered a series of head injuries last season. Pool picked off four passes in 11 games last season, making 10 starts before his season was ended.
  • Darren Sharper, Saints. The 34-year-old Pro Bowl choice would upgrade every secondary in the NFC West, but at what price? Sharper is probably most valuable to the Saints.
  • Jermaine Phillips, Bucs. Injuries have severely limited Phillips' contributions recently. It's probably not a great sign that Tampa thought about moving him to linebacker. Still, Phillips is 30 years old, hardly ancient by safety standards, and he has 74 starts.

Other safeties who are unrestricted free agents: Ware, Russell, Roman, Nick Ferguson, Sean Jones, Will Allen, Todd Johnson, Clinton Hart, Roy Williams, Vernon Fox, Marquand Manuel, Mike Brown, Tyrone Carter and Lawyer Milloy.

Other safeties who are free agents (but technically not UFAs): John Busing, Hamza Abdullah, Aaron Francisco, Kennard Cox, Eric Bassey, Jamaal Fudge and Quinton Teal.

NFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 3, 2010
3/03/10
6:17
PM ET
Arizona Cardinals

Unrestricted free agents: TE Anthony Becht, LB Monty Beisel, LB Bertrand Berry (retired), LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, FB Dan Kreider, WR Sean Morey, LB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware.

Restricted free agents: SS Hamza Abdullah, WR Steve Breaston, G Ben Claxton, FB Justin Green, LG Deuce Lutui, TE Ben Patrick, TE Lyle Sendlein, TE Stephen Spach, WR Jerheme Urban, NT Gabe Watson.

Franchise player: none

What to expect: The Cardinals generally do not pursue marquee free agents from other teams. That trend figures to continue. The Cardinals have too many of their own free agents to re-sign for them to worry about chasing other teams' castoffs. We might see Arizona plug the roster with a few lower-tier free agents. They had success doing that last offseason, particularly with Becht at tight end. Dansby leads the list of 2009 starters expected to depart.

St. Louis Rams

Unrestricted free agents: QB Kyle Boller, DE James Hall, SS Clinton Hart, LB Paris Lenon, DE Leonard Little, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.

Restricted free agents: S Eric Bassey, S Craig Dahl, TE Daniel Fells, LS Ryan Neill, DT Clifton Ryan, CB Jonathan Wade, DE Victory Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin, G Mark Setterstrom.

Franchise player: none

What to expect: The Rams could be in the market for a veteran quarterback such as Chad Pennington. Beyond quarterback, coach Steve Spagnuolo said the Rams could use a little more seasoning in the form of veteran role players. The Rams will remain a young team, but they could add some experience. The team parted with players fitting that profile last offseason, but most had inflated salaries. The ones St. Louis adds this year figure to carry lower price tags in most cases. The Rams have said they want Little and Hall back. McMichael figures to be gone.

Seattle Seahawks

Unrestricted free agents: WR Nate Burleson, FB Justin Griffith, LS Kevin Houser, LB D.D. Lewis, CB Ken Lucas, T Damion McIntosh, S Lawyer Milloy, DE Cory Redding, LS Jeff Robinson.

Restricted free agents: T Brandon Frye, WR Ben Obomanu, LB Lance Laury, G Rob Sims, G Chris Spencer, DE Darryl Tapp.

Franchise player: K Olindo Mare

What to expect: The Seahawks are a little difficult to figure. Their owner has the money to bankroll aggressive spending if Seattle chooses to go that route. Coach Pete Carroll surely realizes the team could use talent upgrades. The new general manager, John Schneider, comes from the Ted Thompson school of personnel. Thompson's aversion for free agency is well established, although Schneider has characterized himself as slightly more aggressive. The problem, of course, is finding good players on the market. Burleson will hit the market. He could return if the price is right. Carroll has said nice things about Redding, who should be affordable.

San Francisco 49ers

Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre Bly, CB Walt Harris, T Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, T Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich (retired), LB Matt Wilhelm.

Restricted free agents: LG David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks, CB Marcus Hudson.

Franchise player: NT Aubrayo Franklin

What to expect: The 49ers have largely turned their back on free agency now that they feel better about their roster. I would expect the team to lay low again when the signing period begins late Thursday night on the West Coast.

Rosenhaus leads UFA agent scorecard

February, 18, 2010
2/18/10
11:16
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The NFL's list of projected unrestricted free agents for 2010 included one column showing agents and another showing starts.

This made it easy to see which agents had the most projected UFA clients, and how many starts those clients averaged in 2009.

The result is the chart below. Drew Rosenhaus has more than 100 clients across the league, more than any agent. The NFL lists 15 of them on its projected UFA list, including Terrell Owens and three NFC West players (Randy McMicahel, Anthony Becht and Olindo Mare).

Agents Peter Schaffer and Brian Mackler are next on the list with seven projected UFA clients apiece, but no agent with at least four players listed can match Tony Agnone for players with lots of 2009 starts. Agnone's list features 16-game starters Casey Rabach, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Bobbie Williams, plus seven-game starter Michael Gaines.

The NFL has no agents listed for Phillip Daniels, Tully Banta-Cain, Leigh Bodden, Mike Furrey, Damion Cook, Tank Johnson and Matt Ware.

Jeff Feagles, Jeff Zgonina, Daunte Culpepper, Paul Spicer, Clinton Hart and Vernon Fox are listed as representing themselves.

Free agency: NFC West

February, 16, 2010
2/16/10
1:00
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AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free-agent situation in the NFC West.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Arizona Cardinals

[+] EnlargeKarlos Dansby
Tony Medina/Icon SMIKarlos Dansby has led the Cardinals in tackles in each of the past two seasons.
Unrestricted free agents: LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, OLB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, WR Sean Morey, TE Anthony Becht, DE Bertrand Berry, LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, FB Dan Kreider, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware, LB Monty Beisel.

Key figures: The more than $17.7 million Arizona has paid to Dansby over the past two seasons should suffice as a parting gift if, as expected, the linebacker leaves in free agency. Dansby could be leading an exodus. Okeafor turns 34 in March and could be on his way out. Berry announced his retirement. Morey has had concussion problems. Gandy's return probably depends on whether he's willing to stay for less than the $5 million he earned last season. Safety Antrel Rolle does not appear on the list, but he would hit the market when free agency begins if the Cardinals decline to pay a $4 million roster bonus.

San Francisco 49ers

Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre' Bly, NT Aubrayo Franklin, CB Walt Harris, RT Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, LT Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich, LB Matt Wilhelm, CB Keith Smith.

Key figures: The 49ers have been proactive in re-signing their own players. That explains why relatively few big names appear on this list. The franchise tag appears well suited for Franklin, the only marquee UFA on the 49ers' list this offseason. Tagging Franklin at the $7 million franchise rate makes sense heading into labor uncertainty. Why spend lavishly on a long-term deal? Franklin has played at a high level consistently for only one season, and a lockout could keep him off the field in 2011. Re-signing Sims for depth would make sense. Ulbrich, meanwhile, has retired and joined the Seahawks' coaching staff.

Seattle Seahawks

Unrestricted free agents: DE Cory Redding, CB Ken Lucas, K Olindo Mare, LB D.D. Lewis, FB Justin Griffith, LT Damion McIntosh, SS Lawyer Milloy, LS Kevin Houser, LS Jeff Robinson.

Key figures: New coach Pete Carroll is on the record saying he likes what he's seen from Redding. Mare is coming off an outstanding season. Lucas has the size Seattle's new leadership wants in its cornerbacks. Milloy played for Carroll in New England. There isn't much more to say about this relatively nondescript group, and it's unclear how much the new regime will value these UFAs. Unrestricted free agency isn't the only road out of Seattle this offseason. The team will probably part with a few established players who haven't lived up to their salaries because of injuries and other factors. Patrick Kerney and Deion Branch come to mind.

St. Louis Rams

Unrestricted free agents: DE Leonard Little, DE James Hall, LB Paris Lenon, QB Kyle Boller, S Clinton Hart, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.

Key figures: Boller, 28, is the only player on the Rams' list younger than 30. Franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe and starting tackle Alex Barron become only restricted free agents under rules governing the uncapped year, explaining their absence from the Rams' UFA list. It's unclear how seriously Little and Hall figure into the team's plans for 2010. Chris Long's emergence late last season should make it easier for the team to move on without them, but the aging defensive ends did combine for 27 starts and 11 sacks last season.

As usual, Chargers bounce back

October, 25, 2009
10/25/09
8:00
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  John Rieger/US Presswire
 San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers led one of the best offensive performances of the season for the Chargers.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson

KANSAS CITY -- Philip Rivers drove home from the San Diego Chargers’ practice facility Wednesday night, knowing everything was going to be OK.

Coming off a bitter home loss to the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos less than 48 hours earlier, the Chargers were crisp, deliberate and focused as they began their work week in preparation for Sunday’s game at Kansas City. The fresh, relaxed, productive approach lasted all week.
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“That was so encouraging,” Rivers said Sunday. “We could have slumped around practice all week, feeling sorry for ourselves. But we went out and had our best week of practice. We knew it was time.”

The Chargers followed up their most productive week of preparation with their best overall game of the season. San Diego hammered Kansas City 37-7 in a driving rainstorm. The Chargers were dominant in all three phases of the game. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and were never challenged by the still green Chiefs, who were unable to parlay the good vibes of their first win last weekend at Washington.

While the Chiefs couldn’t put together a modest winning streak, San Diego was determined not to lose a third straight game.

San Diego has become famous for bouncing back, and Rivers is hoping Sunday’s win signifies the Chargers are starting their annual resurrection early. In 2007, San Diego started 5-5 before winning six straight and the AFC West title. Last season, the Chargers became the first team to make the playoffs after starting 4-8. It took a four-game winning streak and a historic collapse by Denver.

The Chargers are now 3-3, but still trail the Broncos, who were idle Sunday, by three games.

“We can’t chase anyone,” Rivers said. "We just have to take care of ourselves and hopefully look up in a month and we’ll be closer [to Denver]."

Rivers has no explanation but he does believe the Chargers tend to play their best when they have to.

“I think guys on both sides decide to take care of their individual jobs,” Rivers said. “There is no magic call or magic solution. So instead of waiting for it, guys just take control of their own situations. I think we play our best when we do that."

Rivers said he and several other leaders on the team, including tight end Antonio Gates and linebackers Stephen Cooper and Shaun Phillips, were in communication this week, making sure that players from both sides of the ball were in good spirits and ready to bounce back from the Denver game.

“There was no question about it, when the practice week started,” Rivers said. "Guys are relaxed. They just knew things weren’t that bad.”

A balanced offense is a winning formula: The Chargers had their most balanced offensive game of the season. The Chargers entered the game tied for last in the NFL in rushing. All of San Diego’s offensive production was coming from Rivers, who is having an outstanding season.

Rivers carried the load again Sunday. But at least he had help.

San Diego had 135 yards rushing. LaDainian Tomlinson had 71 yards on 23 carries, but one run was for 36 yards. So it would be premature to categorize Tomlinson as being at full strength considering he had 35 yards on 22 carries. But Tomlinson played well enough to allow backup Darren Sproles to be a factor as a change-of-pace back. Sproles had 41 yards on the ground and he broke a 58-yard touchdown on a short pass.

San Diego, which scored touchdowns on only two of five trips to the red zone, made huge plays in the passing game. Rivers completed 18 of 30 passes for 268 yards. He threw three touchdowns and he was not intercepted. Receiver Vincent Jackson had 142 yards on five catches. He had two 51-yard catches as he and Rivers continue to become one of the best deep-ball combinations in the NFL.

Chargers play safety blitz dance: The Chargers got creative in an attempt to create some pass rush.

The Chargers had their safeties blitz extensively and it was very effective. San Diego had four sacks. Safeties Eric Weddle and Steve Gregory (who was playing nickel cornerback) each had one sack. Phillips had two sacks.

“We came out with an aggressive approach,” Weddle said. “I think it caught them off guard and we were able to do some nice things. The key is staying aggressive. We’re better when we play that way.”

San Diego has been making changes in the secondary in recent weeks. Before the Denver game, starter Clinton Hart was cut out of the blue and rookie Kevin Ellison was made a starter. This week, Gregory took over for 2008 top pick Antoine Cason at nickel. The moves have worked.

Ellison, a sixth-round pick from USC, has played well in his two starts. Gregory had an interception to go with his sack.

Cassel gets sloppy: Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel had been very good in his past four games, but he struggled Sunday.

Cassel, who went 153 straight passes without throwing an interception, threw three interceptions in a span of eight plays. He completed 10 of 25 passes for 97 yards. The Chiefs used a hurry-up offense in the second half, but still couldn’t get much going.

Kansas City coach Todd Haley was not happy with any aspect of his team, especially on offense.

“Disappointed, mad,” Haley said, describing his thoughts. “I’m the head coach of the team. I’m running the offense and we've got to be better than that. We’ve got to be better protecting, we’ve got to be better run blocking, we’ve got to be better catching the ball, we can’t be tipping it to them and we’ve got to be better at quarterback.”

If there was a bright spot for the Chiefs, it was backup running back Jamaal Charles gaining 33 yards on four carries. Starter Larry Johnson had 49 yards on 16 carries. Watch for Charles to get more playing time if Johnson can’t get going.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

SAN DIEGO -- What a glorious opportunity Sunday night for the New England Patriots to declare they would not fade away, that they very much remain viable contenders.

The Patriots resurfaced from their Week 4 bye to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in a game that brought much relief to their fretting fans. Next up were their cross-country rivals, the San Diego Chargers.

No, this wasn't the same matchup it has been in recent years, but it was a convergence of two teams eager to make a statement.

To carry out that analogy, the Chargers went on a filibuster with a loud and rambling 30-10 victory in Qualcomm Stadium.

The Patriots either couldn't get a word in edgewise or simply had no response at all. Their only touchdown came in garbage time.

"They did a better job than we did," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I would say that about the players, the coaches, the whole works. The San Diego Chargers were better than the New England Patriots tonight. That's across the board."

The Patriots never had lost two games by 20 or more points in the same season under Belichick. Until now.

Here are five storylines that emerged for New England in their setback.

 
  Christopher Hanewickel/US Presswire
 New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel is sacked by the San Diego Chargers defensive end Igor Olshansky during the first quarter Sunday.

The Patriots' offense and Matt Cassel failed to follow up.

The Patriots scored a season-high 30 points against the San Francisco 49ers, generating optimism the Patriots just might be able to cope without Tom Brady. In their previous games they managed only 17, 19 and 13 points.

With running backs Laurence Maroney and LaMont Jordan injured, more of the responsibility fell on Cassel's right arm. But the Chargers fell on him, too.

Cassel completed 22 of 38 passes for 203 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He had a 61.6 passer rating. The Chargers sacked him four times.

"He did more moving around than Brady, and with experience he'll become better with that," Chargers safety Clinton Hart said. "He held the ball a lot more than Brady would've. That's inexperience.

"We put pressure on him and gave him looks that I'm pretty sure that he wasn't confident in seeing because we were moving around back there."

The Patriots also failed to get Randy Moss involved. They threw at him, but connected only three times for 26 yards. At halftime, Moss had one catch for 6 yards.

"When you remove the best quarterback in the National Football League, of course, they're [licking] their lips," Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said of opposing defenses. "They're excited because they feel like we lost an integral part or the most important part of our team.

"But we realize that's over and done with. We can't harp on that. This year is totally different than last year. We're not going to score 38 points a game. We're not going to blow people out by 25 points at halftime. It's just not going to happen.

"We don't have that type of team. So we're going to have to go back to ways of fighting, scrapping and just fighting for every single bit of yardage, every single bit of victory that we can get."

(Read full post)

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