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Archive for the tag “Antonio Brown”

The Denver Broncos Survive A Scrappy Pittsburgh Steelers Team

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

Going into the Divisional Round, it looked like everything was lining up for the Denver Broncos. They were getting to face a Pittsburgh team that would be without starting running back DeAngelo Williams, wide receiver Antonio Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was playing with a shoulder injury himself. But when the game was actually played on Sunday, the Broncos actually struggled. The defense had some issues with the plethora of weapons the Steelers had at wide receiver and the offense just could not kick it into another gear. But one big play was enough to sway the momentum Denver’s way. Leading 13-12 with a little under 10 minutes left in the game, the Steelers were driving to add to their lead. Steelers’ running back Fitzgerald Toussaint ran the football around the left side of the offensive line on a 2nd and four from the Broncos’ 34 yard line. He seemingly was going to get the first down for the Steelers and move the chains, but Denver’s Bradley Roby made a fantastic play to turn the tide. Roby fought off a block from Pittsburgh wide receiver Darius Heyward-Bey to hit Toussaint and dislodge the football. The result was a fumble recovery by the Broncos. Denver would turn that turnover and drive down the field for a touchdown. The Broncos added a two-point conversion on top of the touchdown as the Broncos took a lead they would never relinquish. The final score was 23-16 and with that, the Broncos are headed to the Conference championship game to play the New England Patriots.

The Broncos were solid defensively in spurts in this game. The one interesting move they made in this one was backing off their cornerbacks to start the game. Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips remembered how Ben Roethlisberger torched them in the second half of their regular season matchup when they played tight man-to-man coverage and wanted to switch it up. The changeup Phillips threw out there was inconsistent in its effectiveness. The Steelers were able to give the Broncos more issues because they had more space to operate in. The Broncos defense eventually mixed up how they were going to line up during the game and that essentially helped them win the football game. The mixup of coverages helped the Broncos get pressure on Big Ben down the stretch. You could notice as the game went on, Big Ben was trying to find people that were breaking open down the field. Part of the sack issue falls on Big Ben because he held the ball waiting on his receivers to get open. But you have to give credit where credit is due. The pressure they are able to create can come from any angle and when the coverages are mixed up, that gives that Denver defensive front more time to get to the quarterback. And with the likes of Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Derek Wolfe up front, that can give any quarterback nightmares. They sure gave Big Ben fits when they got to him.

Offensively, it was a grind for the Broncos in this one. They just could not get it going the way they wanted to. Part of the reason they could not do so was the running game. With Gary Kubiak there as head coach, the emphasis on the stretch run game was brought in. And over the season, they have had times where the running game was effective and times where it was non-existent. In this game, the running game was just like it was all season. It showed up at times and at other times, it disappeared. But on the lead-taking drive in the fourth after the turnover, the combination of Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson came through for Denver. They totaled 31 yards together on that drive and Anderson finished the drive with a 1 yard plunge. These two may not be consistent, but they were enough of a threat in the second half that it gave the Denver offense some sort of threat to help the passing game. The other thing that kept the Denver offense sputtering was the drops they had. They had the Pittsburgh defense beat numerous times. And if they would have caught the basketball, then they would have done much more damage with the passing game. But Manning was not getting much help from his receivers and it nearly cost them the game. Usually in the cold-weather games, it falls on Manning and his performance in the eyes of many. But in this one, he still went 21/37 despite the numerous drops that hit wide receivers square in their hands. The Denver receivers would have gotten a lot of unwanted attention for how bad they were if it would not have been for the big catch by wide receiver Bennie Fowler on the lead-taking drive for 31 yards.

The Denver Broncos now move on and welcome the New England Patriots to Denver next season. And once again, we will hear the Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning talk. But for Denver, it’s about much more than stopping Tom Brady. They have to clean up the offense and defense for them to make it where they want to go. It will be interesting to see what adjustments they make to try and keep up with the Patriots.

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A Loss Of Composure Leads To The End Of The Bengals’ Season

(photo courtesy of USA Today)

(photo courtesy of USA Today)

The Cincinnati Bengals were on their way to winning their first playoff game since 1990. It was late in the fourth quarter and the Bengals just took the lead 16-15 on a pass AJ McCarron to AJ Green touchdown with 1:50 left in the game. All the pressure fell on the Pittsburgh Steelers as they were being led by backup quarterback Landry Jones (Ben Roethlisberger left the game injured in the second half). And on the first play on that drive following the Bengals’ touchdown, Jones threw an interception to Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. That seemingly was the end of the game. All the Bengals had to do was run the clock down as much as they could (Pittsburgh had three timeouts left). But instead of controlling the clock, Bengals running back Jeremy Hill had the ball forced out of his hands by Steelers’ linebacker Ryan Shazier. The Bengals had given up possession and all Pittsburgh had to do was drive the field and kick a field goal for the win. Roethlisberger, who was on the sideline, decided to come back in the game and drive his team to the final score. The Bengals were making the Steelers take a ton of time making their way down field, when with 18 seconds, key players from the Bengals lost their cool. Big Ben through a pass to the Antonio Brown and Burfict was flagged for a defenseless receiver flag. Antonio Brown laid on the field and was diagnosed with a concussion and will be in concussion protocol with the NFL. Steelers assistant Joey Porter came on the field to check on Brown and that is when some more shenanigans happened. Brown reportedly said something to the Bengals players and there was a push and then a flag came down. Altogether, there were two flags for a total of 30 yards (the second flag was on Pacman Jones) that got the Steelers into field goal rang. And with that, the Steelers kicked the game-winning field goal and won the game 18-16.

The Bengals players and fans looked distraught after the game. There were camera shots of a fan crying and there were shots of Adam “Pacman” Jones crying on the sideline as well after the game. Just like that, the Bengals go from winning a physical game to losing a game in a careless way. The Bengals were the more talented team. There was no question that they have a great array of talent on both sides of the ball. But what has escaped the Bengals over the years is getting over the hump. In Marvin Lewis’ tenure, the Bengals are 0-7 in the playoffs. And it isn’t as if they are a bad team each year. It just seems they find ways to lose games. But this year had to be the most maddening way to lose a game. The team lost their composure and that is a bad reflection on the coach of this team. He is already under enough pressure with trying to win that now he has to deal with the attitudes. There was already the thought out there that Marvin Lewis did not have control of his team. But with this latest demonstration, it definitely displayed that. And along with the loss, he now has to answer for what happened at the end of the game. Marvin took chances on Burfict and Jones and it would be bad to see him get fired on account of this moment in time being the last straw.

As far as Burfict, he is a talented football player. He has gotten better and better as he has been in the NFL. But for the same reason he was an undrafted player out of college is the same reason that he is in the middle of this mess. It seemed like every single situation, he was right in the middle of it. He was right there being separated from the Steelers’ players and he was talking to the refs about things all game long. His passion to play the game is unquestioned. But Burfict has yet to learn how to control himself when on the field. It seems that fines or things like that never seem to get his attention. So the next step has to be taken. Burfict has to be released. He is a good player, but he just does not get it that he cannot do some of the things he does out there. If he is to get cut, that may let him know that he has to reign it in some. Other than that, I don’t know what else will help that young player get it together. Because if he does not reign it in soon enough, then he could end up doing something that could endanger someone else and himself.

Adam “Pacman” Jones has been around the league long enough to know better in some situations. There were some other things going on that the Steelers may or may not have done on the field. But in the end, you have the ultimate control over yourself. When someone knows they can get under your skin, then they try to use that as an advantage. And as a result, the Steelers are marching on while the Bengals and Pacman are mad and headed into the offseason. As a veteran player on this team, he should be the one reigning everyone in, not riling everyone up. Now this one incident does not diminish all the things that Pacman has done to become a better player and better person on and off the field. But what he can do going forward is not let this incident define what all he has done to become who he is today. It was a bad incident, but he has to learn from it and recognize when someone is trying to get under his skin.

The antics of a few cost the Bengals the game and the whole team must suffer the consequences for it. The leaders of this team should take control of this situation first and foremost. And by leaders, that means the players that lead this team not the coach. No matter if Lewis is fired or not, there has to be some players take ownership of this team or these type of things will continue to disrupt what they are trying to build. This had to be very embarrassing not only to the NFL but to the ownership of the team. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what changes happen as a result of this mental breakdown at the wrong time.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers Are The Most Dangerous Team In The NFL Playoffs

(photo courtesy of Associated Press)

(photo courtesy of Associated Press)

The Pittsburgh Steelers looked like they were going home early after last week’s game versus the Baltimore Ravens. The team looked lifeless, the passing game looked off and the defense was getting burnt by a bunch of backups that the Ravens had on the field. The Jets, meanwhile, were looking good. They beat the New England Patriots at home and only had to beat the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Steelers have the best wide receiving corps in the NFL and were thought to be out of the playoffs. But in one week, the situation for the playoffs changed in the Steelers’ favor. The Jets went to Buffalo to face their old coach, Rex Ryan. And in their effort to play spoiler, the Bills knocked off the Jets 22-17. Meanwhile in Cleveland, the Steelers handled business and knocked off the Browns 28-12 to go into the playoffs. And now a team that many thought were done is back in the playoffs. And just like that, some trepidation just came from teams in the AFC.

The Steelers have not played consistently all season. The perfect example is their last two games of the season. They showed up against the Browns today but mailed it in against the Ravens the week before. But what scares many is the weapons that they have. Through good drafting, they have created the best wide receiving corps in the NFL. Their best receiver (and arguably the best receiver in the NFL), Antonio Brown, does a little bit of everything. He may not be the tallest of guys, but he uses his quickness, route-running and smarts to make things happen each and every game. You would think that most teams would put more coverage towards him, but the Steelers have another weapon on the opposite side that craves attention from defenses as well. Second-year wide receiver Martavis Bryant has been getting it done ever since he returned from his four-game suspension to start the season. He has over 700 yards receiving in the ten games he played and he also accounted for six touchdowns. He scored his touchdowns in a myriad of different ways just like his counterpart, Antonio Brown. For a guy his size (6’4”) he is very fast and is a homerun threat from any point on the field he catches it. And as we all saw, he took some short passes the distance and he also burned defensive backs on deep patterns. These two are dangerous, but what takes this wide receiver corps to the next level is the development of wide receiver Markus Wheaton. The third-year wide receiver from Oregon State is enjoying his best season as a pro. Wheaton has accumulated almost 700 yards receiving despite having twelve less receptions from last season and he also has doubled his touchdown production (up to four from two touchdowns last season). And like Bryant and Brown, he can take it to the house from any point on the field. Guarding these three can make any defender sweat a little more. And with veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger extending plays a lot, their opponents are often at their mercy.

The wide receiving group has been downright scary all year long. But there is one other guy that helps make this team as dangerous as they are. In the offseason, running back DeAngelo Williams was deciding where he wanted to play. He was no longer with the Carolina Panthers and wanted to go somewhere that he had a chance of winning. The place he chose was Pittsburgh, as he agreed to a two-year deal worth $4 million. It was thought that he would get some playing time in his first two games due to Le’Veon Bell being suspended for the first two games. Williams performed well in those first two games, averaging over 100 yards rushing in those two performances while scoring a total of three touchdowns. But when Bell was back, it was expected that he would go back to his backup role. But when Bell went down for the season on November 1st against the Bengals, Williams resumed the role as the starter. And it seems the Steelers have not even missed a beat. Williams has been the biggest bargain in football this season, giving the Steelers 899 yards rushing and scoring 11 touchdowns. Not bad for a guy that was not expected to have this much of the workload this season. He was injured against the Browns in the season finale, but it is expected that he will play in the Wildcard round of the playoffs. His running gives the Steelers offensive balance and makes defenses have to play the Steelers honest. And just like Le’Veon Bell, he can also be effective in the passing game, where he averaged 9.3 yards per reception and totaled 354 yards.

The Steelers’ offense is one of the most explosive in the league. And they will have to be on top of their game to make up for their defense, which has not been as tough as they usually are (ranked 22nd overall and 30th against the pass). If the Steelers’ defense is able to get at least three or four stops a game in the playoffs, then they will be in the driver’s seat and the pressure will shift to the opponent’s offense. And in the playoffs with the pressure picked up, the battle-tested Steelers have some players that have been to there before. The team no one wanted to see in the playoffs has made it. And with that, the Steelers are the most dangerous team in the playoffs.

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TEM’s Wild Card Weekend Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers vs Denver Broncos

Denver is the Mile-High City. Its also the home of Tebowmania. Tebowmania will definitely be tested this weekend when the Pittsburgh Steelers, complete with their fans bearing terrible towels, invade Denver.

QB Ben Roethlisberger(4077 yards, 21 TDs, 90.1 passer rating) has been the model of a toughness this year. He’s broken his nose, sprained his ankle and had other assortments of injuries over the years and he still has played in games. He’s the unquestioned leader of the Steelers offense. This year he’s gotten the chance to pass the ball a whole bunch more. WRs Mike Wallace(72 receptions, 1193 yards, 8 TDs) and Antonio Brown(69 receptions, 1108 yards, 2 TDs) have been explosive all year for him. But the key for the Steelers is the running game in my opinion. With leading running back Rashard Mendenhall(928 yards, 9 TDs) injured and out for the post-season, expect RB Isaiah Redman and RB John Clay to get the bulk of the carries. These guys must fill in well for Mendenhall. That will allow Big Ben opportunities to hit the Broncos up for the big play due to Denver having to respect the run. If they don’t, that puts it all on Big Ben’s shoulders. An immobile Big Ben throwing a ton of passes with the likes of rookie LB Von Miller(11.5 sacks) and LB Elvis Dummervil(9.5 sacks) lurking isn’t a good recipe for a victory.

QB Tim Tebow(1729 yards, 12 passing TDs, 72.9 passer rating) hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire with his statistics. But, for what he hasn’t done statistically, he more than has made up for in intangibles like leadership and clutch play. But clutch play can only lead you so far. Tebow must get back to valuing the football and doing the things that made him successful. One of the things that helped him was the success of the running game. RB Willis McGahee(249 yards, 1199 yards, 4 TDs) found the fountain of youth this year and he must be effective in keeping the Broncos offense on schedule. If they fall into unfavorable down and distance situations, then the advantage goes to the Steelers. And with OLB James Harrison and S Troy Palamalu lurking on the Steelers defense, that’s a scary proposition for Tebow. Another thing that helped Tebow was being smart with the football. Tebow must make the throws to players like WR Eric Decker(44 receptions, 612 yards, 8 TDs) when they are open and throw it away when those plays aren’t there.

All in all, this game will be ugly. I expect points to be at a premium. And in a game where points are at a premium, I trust the team that has more offense. Big Ben and the Steelers win this game in a close one.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Denver 13

NFL Thursday Night Showcase: Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers

The rivalry is intense. The hate is real. Who am I kidding? There hasn’t been a true rivalry here between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns in years. The Browns are headed to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in what should be a physical game.

Pittsburgh has been known as a smashmouth team for pretty much all of its existence. They ran the ball right at you and dared you to stop them. Well this year, the Steelers are airing it out much more. With weapons like wide receivers Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace on the outside, can you blame them? With Cleveland headed to town though, the Steelers may need to go back to their gritty mindset. The Browns have been porous in stopping the run, so expect a heavy dose of running back Rashard Mendenhall. But, like any running game, you have to have an offensive line that’s getting it done. They must get on the second level of the defense and negate the athleticism of the Brown’s defense with their brute strength.

Browns quarterback Colt McCoy hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire. In fact, the jury is still out on him as a professional quarterback. Colt must make smart decisions and have a healthy helping of his running game to be effective. That means the offensive line of the Browns and running back Peyton Hills must come ready to play. If Hillis can have some success on the ground, expect McCoy to be able to hit up the weakness of the Pittsburgh Steeler defense: their cornerbacks. The problem with that is the Browns don’t have any significant weapons that will scare the Steelers.

In the end, this game could get ugly and Mendenhall should take some positive strides toward getting prepared for the playoffs. Browns fans, your team will fight, but you just don’t have enough weapons to threaten the Steelers seriously.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Cleveland 13

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