Stats & Info: NFL

Seahawks units look ready for postseason

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
12:09
AM ET
The Seattle Seahawks look playoff-ready in every aspect.

The Seahawks routed the Arizona Cardinals 35-6 on Sunday night. They’ve outscored opponents 114-33 during a five-game winning streak that has put them in position to win the NFC West.

The Seahawks and Cardinals are tied for the division lead, but the Seahawks hold the tiebreaker, having beaten the Cardinals twice in the past five weeks.

The Seahawks set a franchise record with 596 total yards in the game.

The running game looks ready
Marshawn Lynch, playing with a stomach ailment, had 10 carries for 113 yards, including the longest touchdown run of his career, an amazing 79-yarder in which he bounced off multiple hits.

This was Lynch’s 24th game with at least 100 yards rushing, tied with Chris Warren for second-most in Seahawks history. Only Shaun Alexander (37) has more.

That was Lynch’s only run against a tackle box that had more defenders than available blockers. He is the only player with more than 400 rush yards against a loaded box this season.

Russell Wilson also had an impressive couple of runs, one of which was a 55-yarder, the other of which was a 5-yard run, including a nifty feint to get into the end zone. He’s now rushed for 842 yards this season.

Wilson scrambled three times for 81 yards, giving him 523 this season. He is the only quarterback with more than 500 scramble yards this season.

The passing game looks ready
Wilson was 20-of-31 for a career-high 339 passing yards, including an 80-yard touchdown throw to Luke Willson that matched the longest touchdown throw of Wilson’s career (he had an 80-yarder to Golden Tate last season).

Wilson excelled in a myriad of ways in this game.

He was 12-of-17 for 264 yards and two touchdowns when facing five-or-more pass rushers.

He was 7-of-11 for 150 yards and a touchdown throwing from outside the pocket.

He was 10-of-14 for 194 yards and a touchdown when using play action.

He finished 5-of-8 for 208 yards and two touchdowns on throws of 15 or more yards downfield.

The defense looks ready
In the Seahawks' past five games, they have held the Cardinals and the 49ers to their two lowest points totals of the season and the Eagles to their fewest points in a game this season.

The Cardinals were held to 29 yards on 15 carries. The Seahawks have held six of their past eight opponents to fewer than 65 yards on the ground.

The defense sacked Ryan Lindley four times. The Seahawks have recorded at least four sacks in four of the five games during this winning streak.

Targeting a title
The Seahawks will be trying to become the first team to win consecutive Super Bowl titles since the 2003 and 2004 New England Patriots, the first NFC team to do so since the 1993 and 1994 Dallas Cowboys.
Tags:

NFL

Romo best of Cowboys, maybe best in NFL

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
8:49
PM ET
Who says Tony Romo can’t play in December?

Romo had one of the best games of his career as a Dallas Cowboys quarterback, setting a couple of team records in an NFC-East clinching rout of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

The Cowboys are division champs for the first time since 2009. They’ve scored 35 or more points in three straight games in the same regular season for the third time in team history. The other two instances were in 1983.

Romo is 3-0 this month. He entered this season 14-21 in his career in December and January, including playoffs.

Romo at his best
Romo broke Troy Aikman’s team record for career passing yardage and broke his own team mark for highest completion percentage by completing 18 of 20 passes (90 percent).

Romo had a stretch of 16 straight completions, which lasted more than 42 minutes of game time and 2 hours, 6 minutes, 50 seconds of real time.

This game marked the second time in Romo’s career that he opened each of his first three drives with a touchdown pass. The other was in 2011 against the Bills.

He was a perfect 6-of-6 on throws 10 or more yards downfield, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. That was far better than Andrew Luck, who had only one completion in five attempts that far downfield.

The Cowboys offensive line also had a nice game from a pass-protection standpoint.

Romo was under duress on only one of his pass attempts and was pressured (sack or duress) on just three of his 24 dropbacks (12.5 percent). That's the lowest pressure percentage against Romo this season.

Best in the league?
Romo now leads the NFL in completion percentage this season (70.3 percent), as his performance today pushed him ahead of Drew Brees. He also leads the league in touchdown percentage (touchdowns divided by pass attempts) and first-down percentage (first downs divided by pass attempts).

He has 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions, a 4-to-1 ratio that has been bettered only by Aaron Rodgers this season.

Romo moved to the top of the leaderboard in Total QBR.. He's at 82.3, just ahead of Rodgers (81.2) and Peyton Manning (80.8), who plays on Monday night.

Where Romo separates himself is in the fourth quarter when the score is close. He has an 84.4 Total QBR in those situations (due to a completion percentage of nearly 70 percent, six touchdowns and two interceptions). Rodgers' QBR in those situations is 69.5. Manning's is 60.2


How did Murray fare?
DeMarco Murray, playing less than a week after surgery on his broken left hand, had 22 carries for 58 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run.

Murray is 6-of-6 in scoring on runs from his opponents’ 1 this season.

Murray didn’t do much when trying to run to his left, managing 11 carries for only 22 yards. He had 36 rushing yards on his 11 other carries.
Tags:

NFL, NFC East

Top stats to know: Chargers 38, 49ers 35

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
1:04
AM ET

Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesPhilip Rivers threw four touchdown passes, three of them after halftime.
Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers turned things around dramatically after halftime in their comeback victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

In Saturday night’s game, the Chargers overcame a 21-point deficit for the second time in franchise history, the first time since a 49-41 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10 of 2006. A big reason behind the rally was Rivers’ performance in the second half.

Rivers finished with four touchdown passes, tying his career high. It was his sixth career game with four passing touchdowns, his first since 2013 Week 1. Three of those touchdown passes came after halftime.

In the first half, Rivers had as many interceptions as completions (two) on throws more than five yards downfield. In the second half and overtime, Rivers completed seven passes at least 15 yards downfield, matching his most in a game this season. He was 5-of-5 after halftime when targeting Antonio Gates.

The Chargers converted two fourth-down plays – a fourth-and-8 and a fourth-and-10 – on their game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter. Across the NFL this season, teams have converted 17 percent (about 1 in 6) of fourth-quarter fourth downs when they have faced eight or more yards to go for a first down. Those two conversions made the Chargers 3-for-3 on fourth down in the game; they were 1-for-5 on fourth down this season before Saturday.

49ers rely on the run
The rushing game carried the 49ers’ offense. They totaled 355 yards on the ground, the most by the team since 1948 and third-most in franchise history. The 49ers became the first team to rush for 300 yards and lose since the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 16 of 2012 despite rushing for 352 yards.

The highlight play of the 49ers’ rush game was Colin Kaepernick’s 90-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, which helped restore the 49ers to a 14-point lead, 35-21, after the Chargers had closed to seven by outscoring the 49ers 14-0 coming out of halftime.

Kaepernick’s run was noteworthy on a couple of fronts. It was the second-longest run by a quarterback since 2001. Only Terrelle Pryor’s 93-yard run in Week 8 of 2013 against the Steelers – on the first snap of the game – is longer than Kaepernick’s in that time. In 49ers history, Kaepernick’s run was the second-longest rush touchdown, behind a 96-yard scoring run by running back Garrison Hearst in 1998.

Two 100-yard rushers a rarity
The 49ers’ Frank Gore totaled 158 yards on the ground, including 93 after contact – his most after contact since 2008. Gore and Kaepernick became the first 49ers duo to each top 100 rushing yards in a game since Nov. 13, 1977 (Wilbur Jackson and Delvin Williams).

The 49ers were especially effective between the tackles. Their 243 yards inside the tackles were their most since 2008.

The Chargers allowed more than 300 rush yards in one game for the first time since they allowed 378 against the Vikings in Week 9 of 2007. That game was memorable because Adrian Peterson set the NFL single-game rushing record with 296 yards.

As rare as the Chargers’ rally was, the 49ers’ collapse was more so. They had lost only one game when leading by 21 or more points: 42-41 to the Vikings on Oct. 24, 1961. San Francisco led 35-14 at halftime of that game.

Eagles pay price for mistakes

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
8:17
PM ET
Not to take anything away from Washington, but the Philadelphia Eagles will have plenty to kick themselves about after they lost 27-24 on Saturday.

The Eagles committed 13 penalties. That is their most in a game since Week 9 of 2010 (14 penalties).

Cody Parkey missed two field goals. He had missed two all season entering the game. Parkey’s first miss was from 34 yards. He had been 17-of-17 on field goals of 35 yards or shorter this season. Entering the game, the Eagles’ special teams were the most efficient in the NFL and were averaging 4.0 expected points per game.

Turnovers lead to scores
The Eagles entered the week with the most turnovers and the second most points allowed off turnovers in the NFL. Both of the Eagles’ turnovers resulted in points for Washington.

Mark Sanchez was sacked and fumbled on Philadelphia’s first drive, and Washington capitalized for a 3-0 Washington lead.

The Eagles’ second turnover came with the score tied and 1:36 remaining in the fourth quarter. Sanchez’s pass was intercepted, and Washington drove to the winning field goal, helped by -- you guessed it -- two Eagles penalties.

Combined, Sanchez and Nick Foles have 26 turnovers, two more than league-leader Jay Cutler. Sanchez wasn’t helped by four drops, which tied the Eagles’ high this season.

Among the other challenges the Eagles encountered was Washington’s DeSean Jackson. Released by the Eagles in the offseason, he had two receptions of more than 50 yards Saturday. He has seven this season -- three of them against the Eagles.

Offensive stalwarts
The game featured other positive performances of note.

The Eagles got a big game from Zach Ertz. The second-year tight end out of Stanford set the franchise record with 15 receptions.

Washington’s Alfred Morris rushed for 83 yards and has 1,031 this season. He reached 1,000 rush yards for the third season in a row and is the first player to start his career with such a streak since Chris Johnson from 2008-10.

Luck's deep touch brings more success

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
1:51
PM ET

Michael Conroy/AP PhotoAndrew Luck has atoned for early mistakes and has led the Colts to the AFC South title.
Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts did it again, earning their second straight AFC South division title last week.

Despite his fifth consecutive game with a turnover, Luck joined Russell Wilson in an exclusive club of two: They are the only quarterbacks in NFL history to lead their teams to 10 or more wins in each of their first three seasons. While Luck and the Colts ride a four-game winning streak into Arlington to face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Luck has averaged two turnovers per game during that streak. Can he limit the turnovers in time to lead the Colts on a postseason run?

Overcoming turnovers
Luck enters Week 16 leading the league in passing yards (4,492) and touchdowns (38), but he also is not far off the lead in a more dubious category: turnovers.

Jay Cutler is the only player with more turnovers than Luck this season, and Luck’s turnovers have been costly. Luck has thrown three interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns and lost two fumbles that have been returned for touchdowns. Only Austin Davis (six) has more turnovers leading to defensive touchdowns this season.

Better after break
Luck has played better after halftime this season, in large part due to erasing the negative plays. Luck has fewer interceptions and fumbles in the second half, and his sacks taken are also way down.

Among quarterbacks to start at least 10 games this season, Luck’s 1.8 sack percentage in the second half is the lowest in the league.

Development on deep ball has been key
In their second year together with the Colts, Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton have taken more chances downfield.

During his rookie season, Luck attempted the most deep passes (throws at least 15 yards downfield) in the league despite negative results. No quarterback threw more interceptions on deep balls than Luck that season.

Understandably, the Colts cut down on the deep passes in 2013, but it didn’t lead to more efficient numbers for Luck. His completion percentage and yards per attempt dropped after his rookie season.

But this year, Luck and the Colts have found the right mix of quality and quantity in the deep passing game.

Luck again leads the league in deep attempts this season, but he also is completing 50 percent of those passes, with the second-best touchdown-to-interception ratio (behind Aaron Rodgers).

Bears have issues with pass on both sides

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
8:35
PM ET
Even though the Chicago Bears are eliminated from postseason contention, they got some national attention on Wednesday.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that the team is planning a starting quarterback switch from Jay Cutler to Jimmy Clausen. The Bears have not made an announcement related to a potential move.

Cutler posted a 6.8 Total QBR and was sacked seven times in Monday night’s loss to the Saints. It was the second-worst quarterbacking performance of the week, better than only Johnny Manziel.

It was also the second time in six weeks that Cutler posted a Total QBR below 7.0 and the third time in that span in which he had a Total QBR lower than 25.

Cutler had a 59.0 Total QBR through Week 11, which ranked 15th-best in the NFL. His Total QBR since then is 43.6, which ranks 21st.

The cash value of Cutler’s contract this season is $22.5 million. That’s the highest in the NFL for a player who leads the league in both interceptions (18) and turnovers (24).

Cutler has averaged a turnover every 33.3 snaps. The average NFL quarterback averages a turnover for every 65.3 snaps.

The replacement
Clausen hasn’t started a game since the 2010 season and the reason is likely due to his ineffectiveness then. Clausen went 1-9 as a starter for the Panthers that season. In those 10 games, he threw three touchdowns and nine interceptions, posting a league-worst Total QBR of 11.0

In fact, that Total QBR is the lowest season-ending QBR for a quarterback for any of the nine seasons in which that stat has been tracked.

Far from the only thing wrong
The problems for the Bears have been magnified in recent weeks because of the team’s struggles.

The other big issue they’re currently dealing with is that they can’t stop anyone. They lead the NFL with 409 points allowed.

Their defense added a league-leading 7.6 expected points per game in 2012. Last year they fell all the way to 30th, costing the team about 6.6 expected points per game. They are again 30th this year, costing the team about 7.3 expected points per game.

Opposing quarterbacks have completed 67.6 percent of their passes against the Bears this season, the second-highest completion percentage in the NFL. Their 3,811 passing yards allowed are the second-most of any team. They’ve allowed 33 touchdown passes, most in the NFL.

Teams have exposed the Bears secondary with intermediate-length passes. The Bears have allowed 48 completions on throws 11 to 15 yards downfield, the most in the NFL. Opponents have completed 59 percent of passes thrown at least 11 yards downfield, the worst percentage for a defense this season.

Opponents are putting up big numbers outside the numbers. They've allowed 18 touchdowns on such throws, one fewer than the team with the most, the Steelers.
Tags:

NFL, NFC North

Defensive rookie of the year candidates

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
1:41
PM ET

AP Photo/Ed ZurgaRams DT Aaron Donald leads an impressive group of Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates
As the NFL season closes in on the end of the regular season, ESPN Stats & Info looks at some of the leading candidates for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

DT Aaron Donald, Rams
Forget about Defensive Rookie of the Year for a minute. Donald has been one of the best defensive tackles in all of football this season.

Donald has 8.0 sacks while lined up as an interior pass rusher, trailing only Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the most in the NFL this season (8.5) and Ndamukong Suh for the most by a rookie in the last seven seasons (10.0 in 2010).

Opponents have a Total QBR of 44 against the Rams in 388 dropbacks with Donald on the field. That would rank fourth in the NFL. The Rams have allowed a Total QBR of 74 in 147 dropbacks with Donald off the field, which would rank 31st.

Signature play: With just less than two minutes remaining in a Week 14 matchup against the Washington Redskins, Donald lined up as the left defensive tackle against right guard Chris Chester. Donald pushed Chester straight back eight yards as if the veteran weren’t even there and sacked Robert Griffin III.

ILB C.J. Mosley, Ravens
Mosley is another player whose numbers stack up against the best in the league, regardless of draft year.

Among all linebackers this season, Mosley ranks fifth in snaps (877), seventh in tackles (117), tied for second in interceptions (two) and 14th in disrupted dropbacks (10.0). All of those numbers are at least tied for first among rookie linebackers. The snaps and tackles lead all rookies.

Mosley has a knack for impact plays. He is one of three rookies with at least one sack, interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery this season. Bradley Roby of the Denver Broncos and Telvin Smith of the Jacksonville Jaguars are the other two.

Signature play: Mosley had a big fourth-quarter sack in Week 15 against the Jaguars, but his sack on "Monday Night Football" against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints might be the most impressive one to date. Mosley blitzed from his inside linebacker position, was held by center Jonathan Goodwin but still fought through for the sack. That knocked the Saints out of field goal range, and the Ravens eventually won the game.

OLB Khalil Mack, Raiders
Mack’s strong rookie season has flown under the radar during another rough year for the Oakland Raiders.

But the No. 5 overall pick, out of Buffalo, has led a Raiders defense that is above average in terms of defensive efficiency against the run and yards per rush. They lead the NFL in negative rushes allowed (69).

Mack alone has 27 tackles for a loss or no gain, the highest total among rookies and sixth among all defensive players. Mack trails J.J. Watt, Lavonte David, Justin Houston, Ryan Kerrigan and DeAndre Levy in tackles for loss or no gain. That is good company for a rookie to be in.

Signature play: Mack sacked San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick twice in a Week 14 win. On the second one, Mack lined up over the right guard, waited for left side of the line to collapse and showed great burst around the outside before he brought down Kaepernick to end the game.

Honorable Mentions
OLB Anthony Barr, Vikings: 70 tackles, 4.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and a rookie-high three fumble recoveries, including a scoop-and-score game-winner (on a fumble he forced) in overtime against the Buccaneers

ILB Chris Borland, 49ers: NFL-high 97 tackles since his first start in Week 7, when he took over for an injured Patrick Willis

Offensive rookie of the year candidates

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
3:40
PM ET

Al Bello/Getty Images
Odell Beckham Jr. has made a case of NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in just 10 games.
As the NFL season closes in on the end of the regular season, ESPN Stats & Information looks at some of the leading candidates for offensive rookie of the year.

RB Jeremy Hill, Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals have a rookie running back in contention for offensive rookie of the year for the second year in a row.

This year it is Hill, a second-round pick out of LSU, who played behind Giovani Bernard early in the season. He leads all rookies with 1,082 yards from scrimmage, which accounts for 22 percent of the first-place Bengals’ team total. That is the highest percentage of team offense among rookies and 11th among all running backs.

Signature play: A 60-yard touchdown rush in Week 9 against the Jaguars with 8:13 left in the fourth quarter. Hill made one cut, broke free down the left sideline, shed a tackle inside the 10 and found the end zone.

WR Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
The New York Giants wide receiver is second behind Hill in yards from scrimmage among rookies with 1,007, despite missing the first four games of the season due to a hamstring injury. Beckham’s 101 yards from scrimmage per game leads the next closest rookie (RB Tre Mason) by more than 23 yards.

Beckham, a teammate of Hill's at LSU, is averaging 7.1 receptions, 97.2 receiving yards and 0.9 touchdowns in the 10 games he has played. All three of those averages are the highest among rookies in a season dating to the start of 2001.

Signature play: What else can it be? The incredible, one-handed touchdown grab that took over social media in Week 12 against the Dallas Cowboys (pictured above) was a catch for the ages. And Beckham believes his best has yet to come.

WR Mike Evans, Buccaneers
Evans, the seventh overall pick, has 11 receiving touchdowns for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season. That is tied with former Bucs receiver Mike Williams for the most by a rookie receiver since Randy Moss had 17 in 1998.

Evans, out of Texas A&M, is the only rookie to top 200 receiving yards in a game this year. His 209-yard performance against the Washington Redskins in Week 11 is tied for the sixth-highest total in a game for any receiver this season and second-highest in a game by a rookie wide receiver in the past 10 years (Justin Blackmon in 2012).

The quarterback play in Tampa has been poor, but that has not stopped Evans from being one of the best deep threats in the NFL. On passes thrown at least 20 yards from the line of scrimmage, Evans ranks first in receptions (18) and yards (579) and second in touchdowns (six).

Signature play: It’s tough to choose just one for Evans. His over-the-shoulder grab on his second touchdown against the Browns showed some impressive concentration, and the touchdown against the Falcons showed how tough it is to cover a 6-foot-5 receiver who has a 37-inch vertical leap. Both passes were thrown more than 20 yards downfield, showing off Evans’ ability to stretch the field.

Honorable Mentions
WR Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers (third in scrimmage yards, tied for second in touchdowns among rookies)
G Zack Martin, Cowboys (played all 892 Cowboys snaps)
WR Sammy Watkins, Bills (72 percent of plays have gained a first down, highest among rookies)

Power rankings: Cardinals at 5, somehow

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
3:01
PM ET

Tom Gannam/AP PhotoRyan Lindley is the latest starting QB for the Cardinals, whose record defies their play.
The Arizona Cardinals are 11-3, share the best record in the NFL (with the Broncos and Patriots), are the only NFC team to have clinched a playoff berth and sit at No. 5 in the weekly ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings.

An argument could be made that their résumé is deserving of an even higher spot in the rankings. An argument could also be made that with two injured quarterbacks and less-than-dominant play, the Cardinals should be ranked lower.

How good are the Cardinals?

Quarterback situation
The Cardinals were 6-0 this season with Carson Palmer starting at quarterback. They were 5-3 with backup Drew Stanton under center. With both hurt, the team is turning to Ryan Lindley, who last started a game nearly two years ago (Dec. 23, 2012).

Stanton posted a 58.0 Total QBR this season (15th in the NFL) to keep the Cardinals in contention. Lindley might not be able to replicate that success, though.

Since entering the NFL in 2012, Lindley ranks last in Total QBR (9.1) among the 60 quarterbacks with 150 passes. Lindley has thrown 181 passes in his career, and none have gone for a touchdown. According to Elias, that’s the most passes without a touchdown in NFL history (next highest: Mike Kruczek, 154 passes).

Behind Lindley is rookie Logan Thomas, who saw action in a blowout loss to the Broncos. He was sacked on his first two dropbacks and then was 1-of-8 passing. The one completion, however, was an 81-yard touchdown pass.

Winning close and winning late
Win probability is a measure of a team’s chances of winning based on the game scenario, factoring in score, time left, field position and down and distance among others.

The Cardinals have an average in-game win probability of 51.8 percent this season, which is 15th in the NFL and puts them on par with 7-7 teams such as the Dolphins (52.0 percent) and Texans (51.4 percent).

Despite not controlling games at the same level as the other top teams in the NFL, the Cardinals have come through in close games. The Cardinals are 5-0 in games decided by eight or fewer points, best in the NFL.

The Cardinals’ defense has keyed the team’s performance late in games. The Cardinals have forced an NFL-high 14 takeaways in the fourth quarter this season and are holding opponents to a field goal (3.1 PPG) in the fourth, also best in the NFL.

The good, the bad and the lucky
The Cardinals’ defense as a whole has been strong all season. The Cardinals rank third in points allowed, making impacts on the passing and rushing game. They have the fourth-most interceptions this season and rank sixth in yards per rush allowed. That’s the good.

The bad is the offense, which has produced two touchdowns in the last four games. Only the Raiders (56.6 percent) have punted on a higher percentage of drives than the Cardinals (54.5 percent) over the last four weeks.

And although luck can’t be quantified, the Cardinals have had some bounces go their way. The Cardinals have recovered 10 of their 15 fumbles on offense and seven of 12 fumbles on defense. Overall the Cardinals have recovered 63 percent of fumbles in their games this season, highest in the NFL.

Sharon Katz of the Stats & Information Group contributed to this article.

Stats to know: Saints 31, Bears 15

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
11:53
PM ET
The New Orleans Saints took advantage of the Chicago Bears' struggles in a big way, beating them in a game that wasn't as close as the final score of 31-15 indicated.

The Saints lead the NFC South with a 6-8 record and control their own destiny in terms of winning the division. They've won three straight road games after starting the season 0-4 on the road. This is their third straight win against the Bears.

The Saints are 12-4 on Monday Night Football in the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era (since the start of 2006). The Bears have lost three straight, all in games that have been nationally televised.

The Bears clinched their first losing season since 2009. They also had their five-game home win streak on Monday Night Football snapped. Jay Cutler fell to 7-2 on Monday Night Football since joining Chicago in 2009.

A good day for Brees
Brees was 18-of-20 passing in the first half, just short of the most accurate opening half in his career. He went 19-of-21 against the Falcons in 2009.

Brees surpassed 4,000 yards for the ninth straight season. He has seven straight seasons of at least 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. Both of those are record streaks.

Brees added two more touchdown passes to tight ends, giving him 16 such touchdowns this season. That's tied with Tom Brady for most in the NFL. Both touchdowns went to Josh Hill, who had his first career multi-touchdown game.

This was Brees' 46th game with at least 300 passing yards and three touchdown passes, tied with Peyton Manning for most all-time.

Trent Dilfer referred to Brees' performance as total mastery of the West Coast offense. Brees won with short throws, going 21-of-25 on passes of 10 yards or fewer. He was 17-of-18 with three touchdown throws when the Bears didn't blitz.

Cutler with another rough game
Cutler had a bad night, adding to his NFL-leading interception (18) and turnover (24) totals with three more Monday night.

Cutler's numbers were padded slightly by a late touchdown. In the game's first 58 minutes, he was 1-for-8 with those three interceptions on passes more than 10 yards downfield.

He was sacked seven times Monday, tied for the second-most in a game in his career.
Tags:

NFL

Top stats to know: Saints at Bears

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
11:23
AM ET

Getty ImagesQuarterbacks Drew Brees, left, and Jay Cutler face off in Chicago on "Monday Night Football."
The New Orleans Saints travel to Soldier Field on Monday to take on the Chicago Bears (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Saints control their own destiny in the NFC South, but they face a Bears team that has won five straight home games on "Monday Night Football." Here are the top stats to know about Monday’s matchup:

Brees near 4,000-yard mark
Saints quarterback Drew Brees enters the game just 17 passing yards shy of 4,000 this season. He has thrown for at least 4,000 yards each season since he signed with New Orleans in 2006, already the longest streak in NFL history.

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is the only other quarterback to reach the 4,000-yard mark in at least five consecutive seasons.

Bears defense struggling
The Bears have allowed an NFL-high 29.1 points per game in 2014, on pace to be the second-most points allowed by Chicago in a single season. The only season with more? Last season (29.9 points per game), coach Marc Trestman’s first year with the team.

And don’t blame pace of play for the Bears' troubles. Chicago also ranks last in the NFL in opponent points per drive (2.48) and percentage of opponent drives ending in touchdowns (27 percent).

Cutler closing in on Bears record
Although Jay Cutler has struggled with turnovers in 2014 (NFL-high 21 entering Monday), he has also found the end zone. Cutler ranks among the top 10 league-wide with 26 touchdown passes this season, three shy of Erik Kramer’s team record set in 1995.

Cutler’s career high of 27 was set in 2009, his first season with the Bears after being acquired in a trade from the Broncos.

Ingram rolling on the road
Mark Ingram
Ingram
Brees may be the face of the Saints’ offense, but running back Mark Ingram has been the go-to player for New Orleans on the road of late.

Ingram has rushed for at least 100 yards in two straight road games and is trying to become just the fourth player in team history to top the 100-yard mark in three straight games on the road. The last Saints player to do it was former pro bowler Deuce McAllister in 2003 (five straight).

Back in prime time
This will be the 11th time that the Bears have appeared on "Monday Night Football" since the start of the 2010 season (most in the NFL over that span), and a win over the Saints would give Chicago multiple wins on MNF for the third straight year.

Not to be outdone, New Orleans is making its ninth MNF appearance since 2010, tied with the Jets and Chargers for the second-most league-wide over that span.

Despite their frequent appearances on MNF, tonight marks the first meeting between the Bears and Saints on "Monday Night Football" since the series debuted in 1970.

How the Bengals contained Johnny Manziel

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
4:59
PM ET
It was a rough first start for Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel in just about every way.

The Browns were shut out for the first time since the 2009 season, 30-0 by the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Manziel is the first quarterback to get shut out in his first career start since Rusty Smith of the Titans lost to the Texans in 2010.

The last Heisman winner to be shut out in his first start was Danny Wuerffel for the 1997 Saints (he got shut out in his first two starts).

Manziel is the first quarterback to have no touchdown passes, multiple interceptions and three sacks in a game in which he had fewer than 100 yards passing since Alex Smith of the 2005 49ers did so against the Colts.

The Browns have now gone four straight games with no touchdown passes and multiple interceptions. The last time that happened was in 1977, when the Buccaneers did it in five straight games.

Keys to defensive success
Manziel looked a lot different from the quarterback who starred at Texas A&M. The Bengals defense had him well scouted.

The Bengals contained Manziel with a standard pass rush, blitzing only twice on his 24 dropbacks. Entering Sunday, there had been only eight games all season with a lower blitz percentage than the Bengals’ 8 percent.

Manziel was 6-of-7 throwing on first down, but 4-of-11 with both interceptions when passing on second or third down.

Manziel was 0-of-4 with two interceptions on throws at least 15 yards downfield. It was the Browns' first game this season without a completion on such throws.

Manziel broke the pocket on 10 of his 24 dropbacks. He was 2-of-7 with an interception out of the pocket Sunday, and he is now 3-of-11 on the season on such passes.

Five of Manziel's eight incompletions were broken up or intercepted by Bengals defenders. Only two of his passes were off-target (overthrown or underthrown).

Worst of the Year
Manziel finished with a Total QBR of 1.0. That is the lowest QBR by any starting quarterback this season and matches Brandon Weeden for the lowest by a quarterback in his first NFL start within the first five seasons.
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NFL

Wilson’s legs, decisions make him elite

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
11:53
AM ET
AP Photo/Michael PerezRussell Wilson has the Seattle Seahawks looking like Super Bowl contenders.
Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks are back to their dominant selves with three straight impressive wins against the Cardinals, 49ers and Eagles.

Although the defense has played a large part in the Seahawks’ recent run, Wilson’s return to form should not be overlooked. During the last three games, Wilson has played a bigger role in Seattle’s rushing game and has taken more time to find open receivers. Wilson’s ability to make plays with his legs and make the right decisions places him in a class of his own.

Wilson at his best when scrambling
Wilson leads the league again in scrambling this season, which is nothing new. Wilson led the league in scramble yards last season and was second to Robert Griffin III during his rookie season.

Although Wilson’s scrambling success might not be breaking news these days, his increased efficiency should be. Wilson has increased his yards-per-carry average on scrambles each season in the league.

Seahawks’ zone-read success starts with Wilson
Last season, Wilson and the Seahawks found their zone-read somewhat contained. Although Wilson still averaged a notable 4.6 yards per carry on his zone-read attempts, that average was down from 7.8 the year before.

Seattle ran 75 zone reads in the first seven games this season, with Wilson keeping 13 times. The Seahawks' success in Week 10 against the Giants, however, appears to have reignited the scheme. During the last five weeks, Wilson has kept the ball on 17 zone-read plays, averaging 8.7 yards per carry.

Wilson has rushed for five touchdowns on zone-read carries this season, more than in his previous two seasons combined and matching the total of every other quarterback in the league this season.

The king of extending the play
Wilson’s running ability makes him an unusual quarterback for opposing defenses to prepare against each week.

The Seahawks’ quarterback averages 2.9 seconds before his passes, the most in the league this season. Wilson has thrown 71 passes this season with at least four seconds before the throw. After Wilson, the next two quarterbacks on that list are Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck.

Simpler approach = improved passing?
Wilson is on pace for his most passing yards in a season, along with his best touchdown-to-interception ratio.

A change in philosophy could be the reason for Wilson’s improved passing numbers this season. Since his rookie year, Wilson’s average throw distance has declined each season, while the Seahawks’ yards after the catch have increased. The shift in focus has also dropped his interception rate each season.

No offense, no problem for Cardinals

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
2:32
AM ET
The Arizona Cardinals have won 11 games for the first time since 1975, tying a franchise record for most wins in a season. It’s their most wins since moving to Arizona.

With the win over the St. Louis Rams, the Cardinals all but clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2009. It becomes official as long as the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles don’t end their game in a tie this weekend.

The Cardinals have double-digit wins in consecutive seasons for the second time in franchise history (1974-76). Their 21 wins over the last two seasons ties their most in a two-year span in franchise history (1975-76).

No offense
The Cardinals and Rams both failed to score a touchdown. It’s the first NFL game without a touchdown by either team since Week 15 of the 2012 seasons when the Oakland Raiders won 15-0 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Cardinals are the first team this season to win a game without scoring a touchdown.

It's the first win for the Cardinals without scoring a touchdown since 2004 Week 17 against the Buccaneers.

The Rams are the first team since the 2011 Dolphins to not allow any touchdowns in three straight games. The Rams won their previous two games by a combined score of 76-0.

Lackluster QB play
Shaun Hill struggled to solve Arizona’s standard pass rush Thursday, completing 8-of-18 passes for 123 yards, two sacks taken and an interception.

The Cardinals’ 12 interceptions when sending standard pressure are the fifth-most in the NFL. The Cardinals sent a DB rusher on 14 of Hill’s 43 dropbacks Thursday, resulting in 4-of-14 passing for 14 yards. It is the highest percentage of dropbacks in which the Cardinals sent a DB rusher in a game this season.

Drew Stanton had just 109 passing yards before leaving in the third quarter with a knee injury. If Stanton can’t play next weekend, Ryan Lindley is likely to fill in for the Cardinals. That’s potentially bad news for the Cardinals. Lindley has the worst Total QBR (9.1) in the NFL over the last three seasons (minimum 200 action plays).

NFC South trending toward all-time low

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
1:00
PM ET
The NFC South has a combined 16-35-1 record and no team with more than five wins through Week 14. The NFC South’s .317 winning percentage is threatening the 2008 NFC West’s .344 winning percentage for the worst by a division in NFL history (according to Elias).

Since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, only one team with a sub-.500 record has made the postseason – the 2010 Seahawks won the NFC West despite a 7-9 record. The Falcons or Saints need to win out to avoid joining the 2010 Seahawks and reach 8-8 – a record with which nine other teams have qualified since 1990. Atlanta and New Orleans face off in Week 16, and the Falcons host the Steelers and Panthers, whereas the Saints travel to the Bears and Buccaneers to close the season.

NFC crowded at top
This season marks the first time the NFC has had six nine-win teams through 13 games, one of whom will miss the playoffs. Season simulations from numberFire.com offer an 8.7 percent chance that all six NFC teams with at least nine wins finish with at least 11 wins. Since 1990, the only 11-win team to miss the playoffs is the 2008 Patriots, and nine 10-win teams have been on the outside looking in.

Though this is the first time the NFC has had six teams with nine wins at this point in the season, it’s happened in the AFC three times (2000, 1976 and 1975). In each of those instances, the eventual Super Bowl winner came out of that conference (2000 Ravens, 1976 Raiders and 1975 Steelers).

AFC North cleans up
The futility of the NFC South has even affected the AFC playoff race. The AFC North is 11-2-1 against the NFC South. No other AFC division currently has a winning record versus the NFC division it was scheduled against this season.

The AFC North’s combined .820 win percentage against the NFC South (11-2-1 record) is the highest by any division over another (with all teams playing each other) in the last five seasons. The Ravens, Bengals and Browns were a combined 10-0-1 against NFC South opponents this year (the Steelers lost at home to the Buccaneers and Saints).

Weakness of schedule
According to Elias, this is the first season any conference has had at least 11 teams two games over .500 after 12 games. Considering the entire AFC North accounted for four of those 11, it would make sense to assume they played a difficult schedule.

The NFC South prevented that, however. Through Week 14, none of the AFC North teams have played a schedule ranked in the top half of the league in opponents’ winning percentage. After 13 games played, the Ravens (19th) were the only AFC North team that played a schedule in the top 20 in difficulty, despite the whole division being above .500.

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