Stats & Info: Alshon Jeffery

Keys to victory: Bears 45, Cowboys 28

December, 10, 2013
The Chicago Bears put on an offensive display in Monday night’s 45-28 win over the Dallas Cowboys, helping them move into a tie atop the NFC North division with the Detroit Lions.

The Bears had nine offensive possessions, scoring five touchdowns, kicking three field goals and taking a knee to end the game. They’re just the third team to have a game without punting this season, joining the Packers and Broncos, with two of those games coming against the Cowboys.

Here were the three biggest keys for Chicago’s victory on Monday Night Football.

McCown Makes Bears History
McCown finished with 348 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. In Bears franchise history, only one other quarterback has had a game in which he threw for over 300 yards with at least four touchdown passes and no interceptions, that was Erik Kramer in a 1995 game that the Bears lost to the Rams.

McCown also added a rushing touchdown in the victory. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, McCown is the first Bears quarterback with five touchdowns (passing plus rushing) in a game since Johnny Lujack did it in 1949.

Bears WR Duo Emerges as Best in NFL
Brandon Marshall finished with 100 receiving yards, giving him over 1,000 on the season, the seventh straight season Marshall has topped 1,000 receiving yards. He’s just the fourth player in Bears history with multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons for the team.

He and teammate Alshon Jeffery are already over 1,000 yards on the season with three games remaining. They’re just the second set of Bears teammates to each have 1,000 receiving yards in the same season, joining Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham, who did it in 1995.

Marshall and Jeffery have combined for 2,283 receiving yards this season, the most combined yards by a pair of teammates this season.

Cowboys Defense Continues to Struggle
Although Tony Romo is criticized for his record in December and later (with Monday’s loss, his career record in such games is now 13-20), he threw three touchdowns in the loss. Instead, it was the Cowboys defense that struggled, as they've been doing all season.

After allowing 490 yards to the Bears, the Cowboys defense is allowing 426.8 yards per game this season, more than 25 more than any other team.

Dallas is on pace to give up 6,830 yards this season, not only the most in franchise history, but the second-most by any team in NFL history, trailing only last year’s Saints (7,042).

It’s the fifth time this season the Cowboys have allowed at least 490 yards in a game. No other team has two such games this season.

Deep passes will be key in MNF matchup

December, 9, 2013

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh Josh McCown has excelled in the starting role thanks in large part to his success on deep throws.

Because the Eagles beat the Lions Sunday, the winner of Monday’s game will be tied atop their division. Let's take a look at some of the key matchups for the Week 14 edition of Monday Night Football between the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears.

Josh McCown’s deep ball vs Cowboys defense

While filling in for the injured Jay Cutler, Josh McCown has posted a Total QBR of 78.4, second best in the NFL. McCown’s success has a lot to do with his deep throws. McCown has completed 51.7 percent of his passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield this season, second only to Russell Wilson. McCown has had most of his success when targeting Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, who have combined to catch 12 of his 15 completions on deep throws.

The Cowboys’ ability to stop opposing quarterbacks on deep throws has had a direct impact on whether or not they win the game. In their seven wins, opposing quarterbacks have completed 34.7 percent of their passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield and posted a Total QBR of 34.0. In the Cowboys five losses, opposing quarterbacks have a nearly perfect 99.8 Total QBR, mostly due to a 66.7 completion percentage on deep throws.

Tony Romo’s deep ball vs Bears defense

Through the first five weeks of the season, Tony Romo was tied with Drew Brees for the best Total QBR on passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield (99.5). Romo was averaging a league-high 18.7 yards per attempt on such throws. But lately, Romo has been unable to find the same success on deep throws. In his last seven games, Romo has a Total QBR of 51.6 on deep balls, 28th among qualified passers.

Romo will look to return to early season form as he goes against a Bears defense that has struggled defending deep passes.

The Bears have allowed a league-high 99.1 Total QBR and 57.1 completion percentage on passes thrown 15 or more yards this season.

DeMarco Murray’s inside running vs Bears defense

The strength of DeMarco Murray this season has been running inside. Murray has averaged 5.2 yards per rush on runs inside the tackles this season, fifth best in the NFL. He has averaged nearly a yard more per rush on those runs than he has on runs outside the tackles.

Murray could exploit a Bears defense that has struggled to stop the inside run.

The Bears have allowed 4.9 yards per rush on runs inside the tackles, third worst in the NFL. Since 2006, the Bears have never had a season in which they allowed more than 4.3 yards per rush on such runs. Since Lance Briggs was injured in Week 7, the Bears have allowed over 100 yards on runs inside the tackles in all five games. The Bears had allowed over 100 such rushing yards twice in their first seven games when Briggs was active.

Top things to know: Giants at Bears

October, 10, 2013

Elsa/Getty ImagesEli Manning has already thrown 12 INT this season, three fewer than he had all of 2012.
Week Six of the NFL season begins tonight as the New York Giants take on the Chicago Bears from Soldier Field.

Through five weeks, every NFC East team has a losing record and the division is a combined 5-14, worst in the NFL.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the only time an entire division has been under .500 through five weeks since the merger in 1970.

Let’s take a look at some storylines for this game.

1. The Giants are 0-5 for the first time since 1987. The only time the Giants lost their first six games of a season was in 1976, when they opened 0-9.

One reason for the Giants rough start has been their defense. They are the second team in NFL history along with the 1954 Chicago Cardinals to allow MORE than 30 points in their first five games of a season. No team has ever allowed MORE than 30 points in each of its first 6 games.

2. Through five games, Eli Manning has been sacked 15 times and has thrown 12 interceptions. He’s already approaching his 2012 season totals in both categories (19 sacks and 15 interceptions).

In addition, his QBR (34.2) is less than half of what it was in 2012 (68.9).

Of the league-high 20 turnovers the Giants have this season, Manning has been responsible for 14, tied for the second most by a player through five games since realignment in 2002.

With two turnovers tonight, he’ll tie Daunte Culpepper in 2002 for the most turnovers through six games.

Manning is one of three starting quarterbacks this season completing under half of his attempts thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage. Both of the other quarterbacks (Brandon Weeden and Josh Freeman) were removed from their starting jobs.

3. Jay Cutler has been sacked three times in each of the last two games (both losses) after being sacked a total of three times in the Bears' 3-0 start.

In addition, he has thrown for 300 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since 2009. He’s never thrown for 300 yards in three straight games. Cutler has also thrown a TD pass in 11 straight games, tying a career high.

4. Brandon Marshall expressed frustration with the Bears offense after their Week 5 loss. He was targeted five times last week after averaging more than 10 targets in his first four games.

Marshall leads the Bears with 46 targets this season, but has just one more than the next highest receiver (Alshon Jeffery, 45).

Marshall finished with 131 more targets than the next highest Bear last season.

The Giants are last in the NFL in rushing at 56.8 YPG. They’ve rushed for under 100 yards in all five games this season.

The Bears have lost two straight following a 3-0 start. They’re 3-4 in their last seven home games since starting 2012 4-0 at home.

Despite forcing no turnovers last week, the Bears still lead the NFL with 58 takeaways since the start of 2012. Last week snapped Chicago’s streak of six straight games with at least three takeaways, the longest in the NFL since the Bills from 2004-05.

The Bears have lost four straight home games against the Giants since beating New York at Soldier Field in 1991.
The University of South Carolina announced today that senior quarterback Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the football team.

Garcia had been suspended five times during his time with the Gamecocks. He was in trouble from the start, getting arrested twice within his first two months on campus.

His fifth suspension came in April, but he was fully reinstated to the team in August. As part of the reinstatement, he agreed on several guidelines to remain with the football team. Today’s dismissal was the result of Garcia failing to meet those guidelines.

When he was on the field, Garcia was one of the most successful quarterbacks in South Carolina history. He was the third Gamecock to throw for more than 7,500 yards in his career, finishing behind Todd Ellis and Steve Taneyhill. He also ranked third all-time in pass attempts, pass completions and passing touchdowns. As a starter, Garcia was 20-14.

Playing for Steve Spurrier, Garcia accumulated two of the top three seasons in total offense (passing yards plus rushing yards) in South Carolina history. He broke the 3,000-yard barrier twice, setting the school record with 3,281 yards of total offense last season.

Despite leading the Gamecocks to four wins in their first five games, Garcia struggled in 2011. After completing 64 percent of his passes in 2010, he was connecting on just over half of his attempts this year. He was passing for 50 less yards per game, and had thrown more than twice as many interceptions (9) as touchdown passes (4).

Garcia did not play in South Carolina’s Week 6 game against Kentucky, but entering that week his nine interceptions were the most in the nation. Among quarterbacks with at least 30 pass attempts, he threw picks at the third highest rate in FBS.

Part of the problem for Garcia in 2011 was his trouble connecting with Alshon Jeffery. The two combined for 1,413 yards and nine touchdowns in 2010. With opposing secondaries focusing on Jeffery this season, Garcia completed less than half of his pass attempts to his primary receiver. Opponents were able to intercept five passes intended for Jeffery while limiting him to two touchdowns from Garcia.

Garcia is replaced at quarterback by sophomore Connor Shaw. Shaw has started two games in his South Carolina career. He started the season opener against East Carolina, but completed just three of nine passes before he was replaced by Garcia. He had much more success against Kentucky, completing two thirds of his passes and tossing as many touchdowns as Garcia had thrown in five games.
1. The nation’s two longest intrastate winning streaks are on the line this week. Ohio State enters its game with Toledo riding a 37-game winning streak against teams from the state of Ohio, and a 43-game unbeaten streak (42-0-1). The Buckeyes haven’t lost to an Ohio team since dropping a 7-6 decision to Oberlin in 1921. Meanwhile, LSU hosts Northwestern State having won 27 straight against teams from the state of Louisiana. The Tigers haven’t lost to an intrastate team since 1982 against Tulane.

2. Auburn dropped out of the AP top 25 this week following a lackluster performance against Utah State in the opener. The Tigers are the first defending AP national champions to be unranked by the second poll of the season since Alabama in 1965. That year, Alabama entered the season ranked fifth, but dropped out after a loss to Georgia. The AP ranked only the top 10 schools back then.

3. Stephen Garcia will start for South Carolina against Georgia. He is now reunited with running back Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery to form a very explosive trio. Last season, Garcia threw for 3,059 yards, while Lattimore ran for 1,197 yards and Jeffery had 1,517 receiving yards. The Gamecocks were one of seven teams (Boise State, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, San Diego State and SMU) last season to have a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher, and 1,000-yard receiver. Of those seven teams, South Carolina and SMU are the only teams with a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher, and 1,000-yard receiver returning from last season.

4. In this week’s only matchup of ranked opponents, Alabama travels to Happy Valley to face Penn State. This will be Joe Paterno’s 14th game against the Tide, sporting a 4-9 record. Alabama has the most wins against Paterno of any school outside of the Big Ten. In fact, among non-Big Ten schools that Paterno has faced at least 10 times, Alabama is the only one with a winning record. He has faced 11 such teams and has an incredible record of 191-32-2 (.853). Those teams? Miami, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Syracuse, NC State, Army, West Virginia, Rutgers, Maryland, Temple.

5. Michigan goes for its third straight win over Notre Dame, and that hasn’t happened in a long time. Michigan won the first eight series meetings from 1887-1908, but hasn’t been able to win three straight against the Irish in the last 30 meetings. Since 1909, Michigan has played only two other opponents at least 10 times without posting a three-game win streak, Those schools are only 45 miles from each other: Cornell (10 meetings) and Syracuse (11 meetings).

Receivers who could contend for Heisman

June, 6, 2011
Only two wide receivers have won the Heisman Trophy (1987 Tim Brown, 1991 Desmond Howard). In 2011, there are three who could emerge as contenders.

Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
The 6-foot-4-inch junior burst on to the national scene last season with 1,517 receiving yards. More impressive was the fact that he dropped just one pass.

In 2010, Jeffery had 88 receptions and 61 of them gained at least 10 yards. There have been only five instances over the past five seasons when a receiver had at least 70 receptions and gained 10 yards or more at a higher rate. Compare that to former Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, the fourth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He gained 10 yards or more on just 56 percent of his receptions last season.

Jeffery’s production is helped by a dynamic teammate who keeps defenses honest, running back Marcus Lattimore. In 2010, South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia completed 84 percent of his passes -- and averaged 19.6 yards per completion -- when targeting Jeffery after a play-action fake. Those numbers could go even higher this season as respect for Lattimore grows. (Lattimore will be featured in our look at running backs on Tuesday.)

Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
He returns to Oklahoma for his senior season to, he said, "win more championships and break every record possible as a receiver.” As a junior, he hauled in an NCAA-best 131 passes.

This season, Broyles’ numbers could be mind boggling.

Last season, he averaged more than nine catches per game and did not drop one ball. In his last two seasons, Broyles has 29 touchdown receptions, 20 of them have been for 10 yards or more. Both figures are tops in college football.

There are two obstacles for Broyles to overcome. Oklahoma’s running game could be a question mark with the loss of leading rusher DeMarco Murray. Also, Broyles isn’t the only Heisman candidate on Oklahoma: QB Landry Jones (who will be featured on Thursday) finished second in FBS last season with 38 touchdown passes. The only receiver in the last decade to finish in the top five of Heisman voting ahead of his quarterback was Larry Fitzgerald in 2003.

Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
The word that comes to mind to describe Blackmon on the field is monster. He's a nightmare for defensive coordinators with his ability to turn screen plays into big gains, and also beat a secondary down field.

Last season, Blackmon averaged 10.8 yards on receptions made at or behind the line of scrimmage. He also caught 63.6 percent of passes that targeted him 15 yards or more downfield. The ability to turn any throw into a big gain helped Blackmon lead FBS last season in receiving yards per game.

What could possibly haunt Blackmon in 2011? He dropped five passes last season, which may not seem like a lot. But it is when you consider that Jeffery had just one drop last season and Broyles had none.
A statistical preview of the Chick-fil-A Bowl (ESPN, 7:30 ET) between the No. 20 South Carolina Gamecocks and the No. 23 Florida State Seminoles.

With stud freshman Marcus Lattimore in the backfield, South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia has put up great numbers after using a play-action fake.

He hasn’t thrown an interception all season and he’s completed more than three-quarters of his pass attempts when using play action.

Garcia’s big-play target is sophomore wideout Alshon Jeffery. When Garcia looks to throw deep -- throwing the ball more than 20 yards downfield -- he’s had huge success throwing it Jeffery’s way and little success anywhere else.

Garcia’s completion percentage is double, his average yards per attempt is nearly triple and he’s thrown four times as many touchdowns without an interception when targeting Jeffery instead of any other player.

On the other sideline, there is uncertainty at who will start at quarterback. Florida State may have to turn to E.J. Manuel if starter Christian Ponder can’t go. Manuel has shown the ability to hit receivers downfield in his limited duty this season, including an impressive 9-for-13 on balls thrown 10 yards or more downfield against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game.

And both quarterbacks will have to be on the lookout if they get into obvious passing situations. Both teams’ defenses have taken advantage of opponents that are forced to pass in the second half.

Florida State leads the nation in second-half sacks while their team is leading with 23. Tied for second, of course, is South Carolina with 21.