Stats & Info: Anquan Boldin

Keys to victory: 49ers 23, Panthers 10

January, 12, 2014
What were the keys to the San Francisco 49ers' 23-10 win over the Carolina Panthers?

49ers chew up the clock with long drives
The 49ers had five scoring drives in this game and they lasted a combined 52 plays.

The key drives in this game were the 49ers last one of the second quarter and first one of the third quarter, each of which resulted in touchdowns. In those two drives, the 49ers ran 25 plays that gained 153 yards over a span of 8 minutes and 18 seconds. The Panthers went three-and-out in between those two touchdowns.

It helped that Phil Dawson made all three of his field goal attempts. He has now made 35 of his last 36 attempts since going 0 for 2 against the St. Louis Rams in Week 4.

Kaepernick was able to throw it
Despite being heavily pressured through much of the game, Colin Kaepernick was successful when passing downfield. He was 6 for 8 for 136 yards on throws longer than 10 yards downfield in this game. He was 0 for 6 against the Panthers in the Week 10 loss.

His 23-yard throw to Quinton Patton and 45-yard throw to Anquan Boldin were longer than any throw he completed in the previous game against the Panthers.

Boldin was the biggest beneficiary of Kaepernick’s passes. He finished with eight catches for 136 yards. Kaepernick was 4 for 4 on his second-half throws, all of which went to Boldin. Three of those passes resulted in first downs. The fourth was a yard shy of the first down.

Vernon Davis also had a touchdown catch. His seven postseason touchdown receptions are tied with Dave Casper for the most by a tight end in NFL history.

Newton struggled when pressured
The 49ers were successful when they were able to get to Cam Newton.

Newton had more passes caught by the 49ers (two) than his teammates (one) in the four instances in which he got a throw away under duress.

Newton was sacked five times. The Panthers went 0-4 this season in games in which Newton was sacked at least five times.

The Panthers failed to capitalize on the opportunities they did get. They ran eight plays inside the San Francisco 10-yard line during the game and did not score a touchdown.

Stats of the Day
The 49ers snapped their four-game road losing streak in the divisional round. This was their first playoff road win in that round since beating the Minnesota Vikings during the 1970 postseason.

The 49ers are the fourth NFL team to win 30 postseason games, joining the Dallas Cowboys (33), Pittsburgh Steelers (33) and Green Bay Packers (30).

This will be the 49ers' 15th appearance in an AFC/NFC championship game, tying the Steelers for the most all-time.

The 49ers are the first NFC team under the current playoff format (since 1990) to return to the Conference Championship the season after losing the Super Bowl.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Jim Harbaugh became the first head coach to lead his team to the AFC/NFC Championship Game in each of his first three seasons.

Matchups to watch: 49ers at Packers

January, 3, 2014
Last season, the San Francisco 49ers knocked the Green Bay Packers out of the postseason on their way to the Super Bowl. The Packers look to return the favor at home in Sunday’s wild-card game. A few matchups to keep an eye on:

Colin Kaepernick versus Dom Capers

The talk heading into their Week 1 matchup this season was how Dom Capers would scheme against Colin Kaepernick after he ran for an NFL-quarterback record 181 yards against the Packers' defense last postseason.

The Packers held the 49ers to 10 yards on seven zone-read rushes in Week 1, but Kaepernick threw for a career-high 412 yards. That included 350 from inside the pocket, which by itself would stand up as his career high.

Kaepernick has two of the four highest Total QBR games against the Packers in the last four seasons.

Kaepernick has been even better with his full complement of healthy receiving options.

Since Michael Crabtree returned in Week 13, Kaepernick has averaged nearly 50 more passing yards per game compared with his first 11 games, and his Total QBR of 73.3 ranks fourth in the NFL over the last five games.

Also, Capers will have to plan without Clay Matthews. Matthews had a season-high eight tackles, including three for a loss and a sack against the 49ers earlier this season.

Anquan Boldin vs. Packers' secondary

Anquan Boldin had 208 yards and a touchdown on 13 receptions against the Packers in Week 1, his most receiving yards since recording 217 in his NFL debut in 2003.

He was specifically a headache for the Packers out of bunch formations (three skill players clustered together, stacked on one side of the center). Boldin caught all five of his targets for 92 yards in those sets.

He also caught 4 of 5 third-down targets for 63 yards and a touchdown in Week 1.

That third-down success wasn't an aberration; Boldin ranked first in the NFL this season in third-down receptions (33), receiving yards (529) and first downs (27). Additionally, he caught 75 percent of his third-down targets, tied for the best catch percentage in the NFL among wide receivers (minimum 20 targets).

The bright lights won't intimidate Boldin. His 380 receiving yards in last year's postseason were the fourth most by a player in a single postseason under the current playoff format (since 1990).

Aaron Rodgers/Randall Cobb vs. 49ers’ secondary

Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb returned to the field against the Bears in a big way, hooking up for two touchdowns, including the game-winning score on fourth down with 46 seconds left.

Cobb played 37 of the Packers' 76 offensive snaps (48.7 percent) in that game, but made his only two targets of the game count. In fact, no quarterback and wide receiver combo has connected on a higher percentage of passes the last three seasons (minimum 150 attempts).

Rodgers was 7-of-9 passing with 108 yards and a touchdown targeting Cobb against the 49ers in Week 1, including 3-of-4 for 74 yards when he targeted Cobb at least 15 yards downfield.

The 49ers’ secondary has allowed a touchdown on such throws in four straight games, after allowing a total of two in their first 12 games this season.

This was also a weakness exposed last postseason when the 49ers allowed more touchdowns on throws at least 15 yards downfield (four) than in the entire 2012 regular season (two).

Did you know?

Temperatures are expected to be in the single digits. Since the start of 2008, his first year as a starter, Rodgers is 12-4 with the temperature at or below freezing and has the highest Total QBR (73.7) of any player to make at least three starts in such conditions.

Gore runs wild between tackles in 49ers win

September, 27, 2013
Scott Rovak/USA TODAY SportsFrank Gore ran for 153 yards against the Rams.
After two straight subpar weeks that resulted in consecutive losses for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick got back on track against the St. Louis Rams to snap his team’s losing streak.

Kaepernick threw multiple touchdown passes for the fifth time in his career, all five of which have resulted in 49ers victories.

Kaepernick averaged 9.8 yards per attempt when targeting Anquan Boldin or Vernon Davis, including a pair of touchdowns. When targeting all other receivers, Kaepernick averaged 4.9 yards per attempt with no touchdowns.

Despite the improved numbers on Thursday, Kaepernick continues to struggle on throws of at least 15 yards downfield this season. Kaepernick was 2-of-5 on such throws Thursday. This season, Kaepernick is completing 34 percent of throws at least 15 yards downfield after completing 54 percent of such throws last season, which ranked third in the NFL.

Gore looking young again
Frank Gore had 153 rushing yards, his most in a game since Week 14 of the 2009 season (167 vs Cardinals).

Gore now has 14 career rushing touchdowns against the Rams, the most by any player against the Rams in franchise history. The next-most is 12 by Lenny Moore, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

His touchdown came on a 4th-and-1 at the Rams' 34-yard line. It was the longest fourth-down rushing touchdown by any player since LeSean McCoy's 50-yarder in Week 11 of the 2010 season against the New York Giants.

Gore ran for 115 yards between the tackles. In Gore’s first three games this season, he totaled 88 rushing yards between the tackles. Gore averaged 9.6 yards per carry between the tackles Thursday, the most by a running back in a game this season (minimum 10 such rushes).

Rams' rushing problems
The Rams had trouble running the ball against the 49ers, who had allowed more than 170 rushing yards in each of their previous two games. The 49ers came into the game allowing the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL this season after allowing the fourth-fewest last season.

The Rams totaled just 18 rushing yards on 19 rushes, the first team with at least 19 rushes and 18 or fewer rushing yards since (coincidentally) the 2008 Rams, who had 19 rushes for 14 rushing yards against the Bears in Week 12.

The Rams' struggles on the ground are nothing new. They now have nine straight games with less than 100 rushing yards, tied with the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers for the longest active streak in the NFL.

49ers find another way to beat Packers

September, 8, 2013
Colin Kaepernick found Anquan Boldin often, especially on the right side of the field.
The San Francisco 49ers got the best of the Green Bay Packers both in last year’s playoffs and on Sunday afternoon.

But the manner in which they did so differed a little bit this time around.

Here’s a closer look:

Boldin the beautiful
Statistically speaking, Anquan Boldin had one of the best season-opening games in NFL history.

Boldin had 208 receiving yards, the most in a season opener since 2003 when Boldin had 217 as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

He is the only player in the Super Bowl era to have one season opener with at least 10 catches and 200 receiving yards, let alone two.

Boldin was most effective on the right side of the field, as noted in the image atop the article. He finished with five catches at least 15 yards downfield, tied for his most in a game in the last six seasons.

Boldin’s 208 yards were 39 more than 49ers great Jerry Rice had in his best season opener for the team (1994).

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Boldin is the first player in NFL history to have 100-yard receiving games in his debut for three different teams.

Packers shut down read option, but not Kaepernick
When the 49ers and Packers met in the playoffs, the 49ers had 16 zone-read rushes for 176 yards en route to the win. They had only seven such rushes for 10 yards on Sunday.

But that did nothing to thwart Kaepernick’s effectiveness.

Kaepernick completed 69 percent of his passes and threw for 350 yards and 2 touchdowns from the pocket Sunday. The last time these two teams met, Kaepernick completed a career-low 55 percent of his passes from the inside the pocket.

Kaepernick was 9-of-11 for 152 yards and a pair of touchdowns using play-action fakes. Vernon Davis caught all four targets for 74 yards and both touchdowns on play-action passes.

Davis also had 81 of his 98 total receiving yards from the slot. Last season, Davis gained less than one-quarter of his total receiving yards from the slot.

Kaepernick's 89.8 Total QBR against the Packers was the best in any game against them in the last four seasons.

Rodgers struggles against pressure
Aaron Rodgers was his normal productive self against a standard pass rush Sunday, completing 20-of-30 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns.

However, when the 49ers sent extra pressure after Rodgers, as they did on four of his eight third-down dropbacks, he was ineffective. Rodgers finished the game 4-of-8 for 45 yards on third down, converting only twice.

Key injuries as training camps open

July, 29, 2013

Getty ImagesJeremy Maclin (left) and Dennis Pitta (right) each suffered season-ending injuries on Saturday.

Three notable players went down over the weekend with season-ending injuries.

On Saturday, the Baltimore Ravens lost starting tight end Dennis Pitta after he suffered a dislocated hip in practice. The Philadelphia Eagles lost their top wide receiver from last season, Jeremy Maclin, with a torn ACL in his right knee.

And on Sunday, the Denver Broncos lost starting center Dan Koppen to a torn ACL in his left knee.

How will each injury impact each team?


Pitta was a vital part of the Ravens' third-down success last season. On third down with Pitta on the field, the Ravens averaged more than twice as many yards per play as they did with him off the field. Baltimore was also sacked less often, and all seven of their third-down passing touchdowns came with Pitta on the field.

When Pitta was on the field, he was Joe Flacco’s go-to guy in the red zone. Over the last two seasons (including the playoffs), Pitta had a team-high 10 red zone touchdowns. Second on that list were Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, who’s no longer on the team, with seven.

Pitta, if nothing else, has been extremely dependable when the ball comes his way. He's dropped just three passes over the last two seasons. Among tight ends who have been targeted at least 100 times since 2011, the only tight end with fewer drops is Anthony Fasano with one.


Regardless of who the Eagles end up starting at quarterback, the loss of Maclin is huge as he led the team in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns last season. In fact, Maclin leads the Eagles in all of those categories over his four seasons with the team.

In 2009, Michael Vick signed with Philadelphia as a free agent shortly after they drafted Maclin. In that time, Vick has thrown more touchdowns (17) and completed more passes (138) to Maclin than any other Eagles receiver.


The Broncos offensive line took a major hit in losing Koppen. Peyton Manning was sacked eight times in the Broncos first three games last season, all played without Koppen taking a snap. Koppen played 95 percent of the team's snaps the final 13 games of the season, with Manning getting sacked 13 total times in those games.

The Broncos allowed one sack for every 35.8 dropbacks with Koppen on the field last season, compared to one sack for every 18.1 dropbacks with him off the field. Although the Broncos were much better with Koppen on the line, they managed to remain above the league average of 16.7 dropbacks per sack in his absence.

New NFC West WRs make different impacts

March, 11, 2013

USA TODAY SportsBoth Percy Harvin and Anquan Boldin are headed west after being acquired via trade
The two NFC West leaders from 2012 each traded for a wide receiver that will address a weakness from last season.

Percy Harvin to Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks lacked play-making ability from their wideouts last season ranking in the bottom four of the league in receptions (143), receiving yards (2,007) and yards after catch (523).

The trade for Percy Harvin immediately remedies that as Harvin, despite playing in just nine games last season, had 528 yards after the catch – more than the entire Seattle wide receiver corps combined.

Harvin also brings versatility to the Seahawks. Since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970, Harvin is one of only three players to have at least four rushing touchdowns, four receiving touchdowns and four kickoff return touchdowns (Brad Smith and Brian Mitchell are the others).

Anquan Boldin to San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco ranked 21st in red zone percentage during the regular season. During the playoffs, only two 49ers (Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis) received red zone targets.

By comparison, Boldin was targeted six times this past postseason. He caught six of the targets, four of which went for touchdowns.

Boldin’s arrival in San Francisco could mean more three-receiver sets for the 49ers. Including the playoffs last season, the 49ers used three-plus wide receiver sets 29.8 percent of the time when trailing last season, the lowest rate in the NFL (league average: 59.5 percent).

Impact on Joe Flacco
Boldin was Flacco’s go-to receiver last year. Including the playoffs, he had a 61.7 completion percentage on throws to Boldin and a 48.1 completion percentage on throws to all other wide receivers.

And on third downs in the playoffs, Flacco targeted Boldin 12 times. The next most targeted Raven in those situations was Jacoby Jones with six.

Flacco dominant downfield against Niners

February, 4, 2013

Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsJoe Flacco had a Total QBR of 95.1 Sunday, tied for the 2nd-best single-game Total QBR of his career.
Joe Flacco's exceptional playoff run is a significant reason why the Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl XLVII champions, but where specifically did he excel? An advanced look into his performance as well as some others from both the Ravens and San Francisco 49ers:

Flacco Dangerous Downfield

For starters, Flacco was able to find success downfield. He was 7-13 for 171 yards and two touchdowns on passes deeper than 10 yards downfield in Super Bowl XVLII. By contrast, Flacco struggled on those throws in the regular season, posting the second-worst completion percentage (41.1 percent).

From 2008-11 in the postseason, Flacco had just one touchdown and six interceptions on throws over 10 yards downfield, but this postseason, he tossed seven touchdowns and had no interceptions. On Sunday, Flacco also took advantage of a San Francisco defense that had been allowing the big play more often.

Including the Super Bowl, the 49ers allowed five touchdowns and a 67.5 completion percentage on passes more than 10 yards downfield in the postseason. In the regular season, the 49ers allowed only three touchdowns (fewest) on those throws and a 38.7 completion percentage (third best).

Bold When it Matters

Flacco completed seven-of-10 third-down throws for 158 yards and two touchdowns, including four-of-four and a touchdown targeting Anquan Boldin. Boldin entered the game with just one third-down touchdown reception in 105 career third-down targets with the Ravens.

Boldin also became more of a threat near the goal line in the playoffs. He caught four-of-four passes thrown into the end zone during the postseason, including a 13-yard touchdown reception to open the scoring. Compare that to the regular season, when he caught three of 10 end-zone targets.

Teammate Jacoby Jones was also a significant threat. Jones scored on a 56-yard reception with 1:45 left in the second quarter, giving the Ravens a 21-3 lead. The pass traveled 47 yards downfield, giving him two touchdowns this postseason on throws at least 40 yards downfield. He is the first player since Larry Fitzgerald in 2008 to score two touchdowns on such passes in a single postseason.

Kaepernick Connection Issues

On the San Francisco side, Colin Kaepernick's strengths often became weaknesses. Including postseason play, Kaepernick entered Sunday leading the NFL with an on-target throw percentage of 87.5 among quarterbacks with at least 20 pass attempts. Against the Ravens, Kaepernick under or overthrew seven of 28 attempts (25.0 percent) including the only interception by either quarterback on a pass that sailed well over the head of Randy Moss.

Targeting Moss has been an issue for the Niners quarterback. Kaepernick threw three interceptions on 42 passes when throwing in Moss’ direction this season (interception every 14 attempts). When targeting his other receivers, Kaepernick threw two interceptions on 242 attempts (interception every 121 attempts).

What's more, the 49ers ran 13 option plays in both the Super Bowl and NFC Championship, but Kaepernick kept only once on those plays. In his first eight starts, Kaepernick kept a third of the time, including seven rushes for 99 yards in the Divisional Playoffs.

Flacco, Ravens show Colts how it's done

January, 6, 2013

AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyJoe Flacco had a day to celebrate on Sunday.

The experience of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco won out over the performance of an up-and-coming rookie.

The Ravens became the sixth team in NFL history to win a playoff game in five straight seasons and improved to 6-1 all time in the wild-card playoffs.

Ray Lewis got much of the attention for his team-high 13 tackles, but Flacco and the Ravens' offense also played a huge role.

Let’s take a look at some of the statistical highlights.

Flacco’s big day
Flacco completed 12 passes but managed 282 passing yards.

The only other quarterback since 1960 to have at least as many yards on that few completions in a postseason game was Tim Tebow for the Denver Broncos against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season.

Flacco was 5-of-8 passing at least 15 yards downfield Sunday, including 4-of-5 targeting Anquan Boldin.

Anquan Boldin set a Ravens team playoff record with his 145 receiving yards. He had two catches on throws that traveled 31 yards or more in the air, matching the number he had in the entire regular season.

Flacco finished second in the NFL behind Drew Brees with 10 such completions in the regular season. He was 2-for-2 on such throws Sunday after completing only 10 of 39 in the regular season.

Ravens were tough on Luck
Andrew Luck set a postseason single-game rookie record for pass attempts and had the most passing yards by a rookie in a playoff game since Sammy Baugh in 1937.

But the Ravens' aggressive pass rush caused Luck a lot of trouble. He was 5-for-14 for 56 yards when the Ravens sent five or more pass-rushers at him. He was also sacked three times by that rush.

Luck had a fumble and an interception, snapping a streak of three games without a turnover.

Colts receivers didn’t help him out. They registered seven dropped passes by our video review, tied for the most by any team in a game this season.

Luck finished with a 27.2 Total QBR, his third-lowest in any game this season.

Pierce picks up for Rice
With teammate Ray Rice fumbling twice (once more than he did in the entire regular season), Bernard Pierce picked him up with a terrific day -- 103 rushing yards on 13 carries, the first 100-yard-rushing game by a Ravens player in postseason play since Jamal Lewis had a pair in 2000.

Pierce had 46 yards after contact. His 3.54 yards after contact per rush average was the best of any Raven with at least 10 rushes in a game since Willis McGahee averaged 5.8 in Week 17 of 2009.

Pierce averaged 2.1 yards after contact on runs in the regular season. With Adrian Peterson and the Vikings having been eliminated, Pierce’s average ranks best among those still in the postseason.

Looking ahead
The Ravens will get a second look at the Broncos, and Flacco will hope for a better performance than he had against them in Week 15.

In a 34-17 loss that day, Flacco posted an 0.4 Total QBR, tied for the second-worst single-game QBR by a quarterback in a game this season.

Flacco overthrows hurt Smith's deep impact

November, 14, 2012
The Ravens used the 58th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft to select speedster Torrey Smith from Maryland, hoping he would provide a vertical threat for Joe Flacco. In 2011, Smith was targeted once over his first two games, a 22-yard Flacco overthrow against the Steelers in the season opener.

While the Flacco overthrow remains a theme, it became clear against the St. Louis Rams in Smith's third game why he had warranted a second-round pick.

Smith caught five passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns against the Rams, and four of his eight targets were thrown at least 26 yards downfield. Smith would be targeted at least five times in 11 of Baltimore’s last 13 games, and he developed into Flacco’s favorite deep target.

It’s no secret how the Ravens use Smith.

His career average target distance is 18.6 yards downfield, more than a yard deeper than any other qualified receiver. No receiver has been targeted on more throws deeper than 20 yards downfield than Smith in the last two seasons, and Smith’s six touchdowns on deep throws is tied for fifth in the league.

Targeting Smith downfield has been a focus for Flacco since that breakout game in Smith’s rookie season, and Smith has proved reliable. Of his league-high 56 deep targets, Smith has dropped one.

But the Flacco-to-Smith connection hasn’t exactly progressed.

In Smith’s rookie season, Flacco completed nearly 54 percent of his passes targeting Smith, which ranked 67th out of 81 qualified wide receivers. While a lack of efficiency was expected given Smith’s role as a deep threat (average target was 18.2 yards downfield, second-most in NFL), 36 qualified receivers had a better drop percentage than Smith’s 3.2 percent.

This season, Smith has been targeted at about the same rate (7.0 targets per game compared to 6.2 targets last year), but the completion percentage is down (49.2 percent, fifth worst out of 79 qualified wide receivers). And Smith has dropped as many passes (three) as last year.

The silver lining?

He’s caught just as many touchdowns (seven) as last year and his 9.0 targets per touchdown is sixth in the league.

Smith’s big-play production out of the gates could be more impressive if not for Flacco.

Flacco has 52 overthrown passes deeper than 20 yards downfield in the past two seasons, 15 more than the next-closest quarterback (Cam Newton). In that span, Smith has been overthrown 26 times, seven more than the next-closest receiver (Larry Fitzgerald).

Flacco’s efficiency problems in Smith’s first season could be attributed to adjusting to a new and unfamiliar weapon.

Smith was clocked at 4.43 seconds at the combine before the 2011 Draft, and Flacco’s three most-targeted wide receivers in 2010 were Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Anquan Boldin - none of whom had Smith’s speed.

But this year, Flacco has overthrown Smith on 27 percent of his total targets, with only the Blaine Gabbert-to-Justin Blackmon duo yielding a higher overthrow percentage.

Brees blows into record book

December, 27, 2011

AP Photo/Rusty Costanza
Drew Brees celebrates after breaking Dan Marino's all-time single-season passing yardage record in the fourth quarter of the Saints 45-16 win over the Falcons
With the NFC South title on the line in New Orleans, all eyes were on Drew Brees and his pursuit of Dan Marino’s 27-year old record for most passing yards in a season.

Brees broke the record with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles with 2:51 left in the fourth quarter. Three minutes later, the New Orleans Saints had clinched the NFC South title and the party was on in the French Quarter.

With one game left to play in the 2011 season, Drew Brees has thrown for 5,087 yards. That’s three yards ahead of Marino and 190 ahead of Tom Brady, who also has a chance to pass the old record this season.

Brees finished with 307 pass yards and four touchdowns through the air. He extended his NFL record for 300-yard pass games in a season with his 12th. It was his sixth straight 300-yard passing game, which pulled him even with Rich Gannon, Kurt Warner and Steve Young for the most in NFL history.

With four touchdown passes, Brees increased his season total to 41. It’s the seventh time in NFL history that a quarterback has thrown for at least 40 touchdowns in a season. With at least one TD pass in 42 straight games, Brees is five behind Johnny Unitas for the all-time NFL record.

Brees success hasn’t been limited to one type of pass this season. He has thrown for at least 1,600 yards on throws of fewer than 5 yards, 6-14 yards and 15 or more yards. He leads the NFL with 21 TD on throws of fewer than 5 yards and 15 TD on throws of 15 or more yards and also tops the league in completion percentage over both distances.

It wasn’t just a record breaking day for Brees.

Sproles ran for 67 yards to become the 2nd player in NFL history with 500 rush yards, 500 receiving yards and 1,000 combined return yards in the same season. The only other player to reach those marks in single season was Dick Christy for the 1962 New York Jets.

Both the Falcons and Saints are streaking in Monday Night Football games. The Saints have the longest active winning streak, with seven straight victories. The Falcons are heading the other way, setting a record with 10 straight road losses on Monday Night Football.

Julio Jones recorded his fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season, tying Anquan Boldin for the most 100-yard receiving games by a rookie since the NFL merger in 1970.

Both teams are heading to the playoffs this season, but each has something to play for in Week 17. The Saints can claim a first-round bye with a win and a loss by the San Francisco 49ers, while the Falcons can pass the Detroit Lions for the fifth seed with a win and Detroit loss.
The Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Atlanta tonight to take on the Falcons. While the Falcons are fighting for a playoff berth, the Jaguars are trying to avoid one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

The Falcons trail the New Orleans Saints by two games in the NFC South, but their 8-5 record is currently good for the 5-seed in the NFC. With a win, they would clinch a winning season for the fourth-straight year with Mike Smith as head coach. Before he arrived, the Falcons never posted back-to-back winning seasons.

The Georgia Dome has been a house of horrors for opponents since Smith and Matt Ryan arrived in Atlanta. The Falcons own the best home record in the NFC over the past four seasons.

Rookies have been the key to Atlanta’s fortunes this season. Julio Jones posted his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season last week. Since the merger, the only rookie with more was Anquan Boldin with five games in 2003.

On the other side of the ball, the Falcons are facing a rookie quarterback for the fourth straight week. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last team to face rookie starting quarterbacks in four straight games was the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals.

The Jaguars beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week behind a season-high 41 points. Jacksonville hadn’t scored more than 20 points in any of its first 12 games. The Jaguars haven’t won back-to-back games since Weeks 13 and 14 last season.

The Jaguars are 4-9 this season. With one more loss, they would reach double digits for the sixth time in the franchise's 17-year history. If they lose out, their 4-12 record would tie the team's debut in 1995 for the most losses in Jacksonville history.

The Jaguars are averaging 141 net passing yards per game this season. According to Elias, the only team over the last six seasons with a lower average was the 2009 Cleveland Browns. Blaine Gabbert’s 21.8 QBR is the lowest in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks this season.

Maurice Jones-Drew leads the NFL with 1,222 rushing yards. No Jaguars player has ever led the league in rushing. After passing Fred Taylor for the most touchdowns in franchise history last week, Jones-Drew needs two rushing touchdowns to pass Taylor’s 62 for the Jacksonville record.

The Falcons have had trouble running the ball recently. They have rushed for fewer than 100 yards and 4.0 yards per carry with no touchdowns each of the last three weeks. Elias states it’s the first time they’ve done that in three straight games of one season since Weeks 2 through 4 in 1999.

Matt Ryan ranks among the top 10 quarterbacks in yards per attempt (6.5) and TD-Int ratio (+9) on throws fewer than 15 yards downfield this season. The Jaguars have defended that area of the field well recently, as they lead the AFC with three interceptions on such passes over the last three weeks.

Ryan continues winning ways at home

November, 12, 2010
Let's take a look at some of the notes, stats & trends that emerged from the Atlanta Falcons' 26-21 win over the Baltimore Ravens...

• The Falcons drove 80 yards in 45 seconds for the game-winning TD with 20 seconds left. How unlikely was this? Entering Thursday's game, the Ravens had allowed touchdowns on just 9.4 percent of opponent drives that began at least 80 yards from the end zone over the last five seasons. That ranked them as the second-stingiest defense in the league by this measure over that span.

• The Falcons improved to 5-0 at home this season. In fact, the Falcons are 7-0 in games played outside of the state of Pennsylvania. Their only two losses are at the Pittsburgh Steelers and at the Philadelphia Eagles.

• Atlanta is now 7-2 this season, one game ahead of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South. The Falcons' 7-2 record is tied for their best ever through nine games. They were also 7-2 after nine games in 1998 and 2004.

Matt Ryan threw for 316 yards and three TD, including the game-winning 33-yard TD to Roddy White with 20 seconds remaining. It's Ryan's fourth career 300-yard passing game, which is the most by a Falcons QB in his first three seasons. Ryan is also the first Falcons QB with 300 yards, three TD and zero Int in a game since Chris Chandler in 2000.

• Ryan has won 14 straight home starts and is now 18-1 all-time at home. Atlanta is 18-3 at home since 2008, which is the best record in the NFL over that span.

• Roddy White finished with 12 catches for 138 yards and two TD. White now has an NFL-best 70 receptions and 934 receiving yards this season, which are both the most ever by a Falcons player through the team's first nine games of the season.

• It's White's sixth game with at least 10 receptions, which is one shy of Andre Rison's franchise record.

• The Baltimore Ravens fell to 2-3 on the road this season (4-0 at home).

Joe Flacco threw all three of his TD in the second half, becoming the fifth different Ravens QB to throw three TD in the 2nd half of a game.

Anquan Boldin recorded his 16th red zone TD since 2008, which is tied for the third-most in the league over the last three seasons.

Terrell Suggs notched two sacks, giving him a team-high 6.5 this season. It's Suggs' 11th career game with multiple sacks, which is the second-most in team history.

D-Gaps: Matthews at head of the Pack

September, 23, 2010
(Filling you in on what you may have missed on the "other" side of the ball)
No player, regardless of position, has had a better start to the season than Green Bay Packers' linebacker Clay Matthews. After recording three sacks and a crucial fourth-and-one stop of Michael Vick in the Packers' season-opening win against the Philadelphia Eagles, Matthews made things nearly impossible for Trent Edwards and the Buffalo Bills in week two, picking up three more sacks and five quarterback hits.

With six sacks through two games, Matthews enters the third week of the season with more sacks than 25 teams. The only clubs with more sacks than Matthews (other than the Packers) are the Detroit Lions (10) and Tennessee Titans (eight). Here’s the list of players with more sacks than Matthews through two games, since sacks became an official statistic in 1982: Antwan Odom (seven in 2009) and William Gay (6.5 in 1983). That’s it. With 14 games still remaining in his sophomore season, Matthews has already tied a Packers record for most sacks by a player in his first two seasons, joining Tony Bennett at the top of the list with 16.

Polamalu’s return has Steelers defense looking super
Injuries limited the Pittsburgh Steelers' Troy Polamalu to just five games in 2009. Without their star safety, the Steelers secondary was sluggish, allowing 221.6 passing yards per game in the 11 games Polamalu missed compared to 201.8 when he played. But Polamalu’s strength is not just limiting the opponents' passing yards, it’s in forcing opposing quarterbacks into mistakes. In Polamalu’s five games in 2009, the Steelers had seven interceptions (Polamalu himself had three). In 11 games with Polamalu sidelined, Pittsburgh registered a total of five picks.
With Polamalu back in the lineup, order has been restored in the Steelers secondary as Pittsburgh enters week three tied for the league lead in scoring defense and sixth in total defense. Polamalu has two interceptions in two games, giving him nine in his last 14 regular-season games dating back to 2008.

Ravens defense still the best of Baltimore
Despite the continued development of young talent in the backfield (Joe Flacco, Ray Rice) and the offseason acquisition of Anquan Boldin, it looks like the script remains the same for the Baltimore Ravens. A subpar offensive attack will again rely on its defense to keep opponents out of the end zone. And sometimes, even that won’t be enough. Through two games, the Ravens are the only team in the league yet to surrender a touchdown, but they’re 1-1 after losing to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The loss was the Ravens' fourth when not allowing an offensive touchdown since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002, one behind the Steelers for the most such losses over that span.

Baltimore is the first team to lose one of its first two games of a season despite not allowing a touchdown in either contest since the 2006 Denver Broncos, who allowed six field goals to the St. Louis Rams in a week one loss before beating the Kansas City Chiefs 9-6. If the Ravens hold the Browns without an offensive touchdown on Sunday, they will be the first team to not allow an offensive touchdown in the first three games of a season since the 1944 New York Giants.

D-Gaps: Two-way trouble for Jets D

September, 16, 2010
Filling you in on what you may have missed on the "other" side of the ball this week:

Loss of Kris Jenkins a blow to Jets Kris Jenkins
Need proof that losing Kris Jenkins for the rest of 2010 will leave a sizable hole in the New York Jets rush defense? Jenkins played in six games last season before being placed on injured reserve after tearing the ACL in his left knee late in the Jets' Week Six loss to the Buffalo Bills. In those six games, New York allowed 215 yards on 72 rushes up the middle, an average of 3.0 yards per carry (fifth-best in the NFL through six weeks). With Jenkins out of the lineup, opponents averaged 3.4 yards per rush on carries up the gut and were more successful at moving the chains when rushing up the middle.

Anquan Boldin, Ravens show holes in Jets secondary
Despite the much-anticipated arrival of Darrelle Revis, Jets fans have reason to be concerned about their team's vaunted pass defense. Anquan Boldin registered 110 yards on seven catches Monday night, becoming just the second player to have a 100-yard receiving game against the Jets since the start of last season (Wes Welker had 192 yards on 15 catches last November). But Boldin didn't just work underneath, stretching the Jets defense with receptions of 38 and 27 yards. Since Rex Ryan's arrival in New York, Boldin is the first wideout to have multiple catches of 25 or more yards in a game against the Jets.

Depth at cornerback could be an issue for the Jets secondary. In his NFL debut, rookie Kyle Wilson was flagged for two costly penalties resulting in automatic first downs for the Ravens on 3rd-and-28 and 3rd-and-10. For what it's worth, the Ravens faced third-and-10 or more 55 times in 2009, converting only 11 times (20 percent).

Clay Matthews makes short work of Eagles Clay Matthews
Former USC Trojans teammate Brian Cushing might have won the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year Award last season, but with his week one performance, Clay Matthews showed that he may very well be the league’s best young linebacker. Matthews finished with two sacks, seven solo tackles, a forced fumbled and a pass defensed on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, becoming the first Green Bay Packers defender to record multiple sacks in a season opener since Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (three), Vonnie Holliday (two) and Jim Flanigan (two) each did it in Green Bay's 28-6 win vs the Lions in week one of the 2001 season.

Before Matthews' monster game Sunday, no Packers player had recorded seven tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in a game since KGB against the Panthers in 2005. On the seven plays Matthews made a tackle on Sunday, the Eagles gained a total of three yards. His best play was unquestionably the game's biggest, when he shed not one but two blocks to stone Michael Vick for no gain on 4th-and-1 late in the fourth quarter. Teammate Charles Woodson is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but Matthews could be the best candidate to emerge this season from a Packers defense that is crowded with playmakers.

Same face, new place

September, 14, 2010
Several notable players made their 2010 debuts with new teams in Week 1. Here's a look at how they fared in their new uniforms.

Donovan McNabb completed 15 of 32 passes for 171 yards as the Redskins hung on to beat the Cowboys 13-7.

• McNabb's former teammmate in Philadelphia, Terrell Owens, caught seven passes for 53 yards in the Bengals 38-24 loss to the Patriots in Foxboro.

• Former Panther Jake Delhomme completed 20 of 37 passes for 227 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, but his Browns lost to the Buccaneers, 17-14.

Brandon Marshall caught eight passes for 53 yards as the Dolphins hung on for a 15-10 win in Buffalo.

Jason Campbell completed 22 of 37 passes for 180 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Raiders lost by 25 points to the Titans.

Anquan Boldin caught seven passes for 110 yards as the Ravens won their sixth straight game vs the Jets.

• Speaking of the Jets, former Chargers LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Cromartie each made an impact Monday. Tomlinson rushed 11 times for 62 yards and Cromartie picked off a Joe Flacco pass and returned it for 66 yards.