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The NFL’s odd offensive holding blip: What happened

On the other hand, the spikes we have seen this season are unusual and not necessarily the result of judgment errors or poor technique by players.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale They are intentional, purposeful changes in enforcement. The league has acknowledged some and been silent on others.

It began in the preseason with a two-stage slowdown in calling the new use of helmet rule. The league issued a clarification after officials threw 51 such flags in the first 33 preseason games. There were only 20 calls over the final 32 preseason games, and then just eight in the first 12 weeks of the regular season.6

In Week 4, the league announced a clarification to stem a wave of roughing the passer flags. After calling an average of 11.3 per week in the first three weeks, officials slowed its pace by about 45 percent to an average of six per week.

The holding extravaganza was less public, though. Former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said on Fox Sports during Week 14’s Thursday Night Football game between the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars that the league had issued a “point of emphasis” and was “trying to get more holding calls.” The league would not confirm this when I inquired.

The motivation behind the holding spike is less clear. Why would the league want to make it harder for linemen to protect quarterbacks in a year of unprecedented passing numbers and improved television ratings?cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Entering Week 13, the league was about 10 percent below last season’s pace on offensive holding calls. But after 14 weeks, the numbers are almost identical. There have been 691 holding calls this season, compared with 690 calls at this point in 2017.

Is it possible that NFL players are holding at the exact same rate as they did in 2017? Perhaps. But what’s clear is that the foul is now being officiated at precisely the same rate.

Considering that offensive holding is the most common NFL penalty at this moment, it’s worth pointing out a larger trend. In 2014, NFL officials threw a total of 4,093 flags for all types of penalties.

Jaylen Samuels ready for Steelers close-up with James Conner out

Maybe that rise coincides with Samuels’ weekly preparation, which leaves him feeling comfortable running with the first-team offense.

“I’ve always got to prepare the same way, because you never know what will happen,” said Samuels, who has 85 yards and two touchdowns on 19 touches, including seven catches for 54 yards. “I had to be 100 percent prepared like I was going to start. Keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Veteran Stevan Ridley is second among Steelers running backs in rushing with 56 yards in 18 carries, but since Week 10, Samuels has 24 offensive snaps to Ridley’s 10. When Conner left Sunday’s loss to the Chargers, Samuels wasted no time producing with two catches for 14 yards in the red zone, taking a pass over the middle for 10 yards.6

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio show on 93.7 the Fan that Samuels was his second option over the middle, signaling he has trust in the young player. The two shared a moment after the game-tying score.

Samuels was a versatile hybrid back in college, and the Steelers were intrigued by his receiving ability. Whether he can become a consistent rushing threat is still uncertain, but he looks natural locating the ball in the open field.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“Do what I’ve been doing all my life, getting in open space, catching the ball,” Samuels said. “[Roethlisberger’s] one of the best. He’s smart. When you’re out there with him, you can’t do nothing wrong, really. You should feel confident to play fast. He makes you play fast.”

If you think the Steelers weren’t pass-happy before this week, imagine the dynamic with Conner out. Pittsburgh passes 67.21 percent of the time, second in the NFL to the Minnesota Vikings (67.31). Tomlin said he approved of the team’s run-pass ratio, and Roethlisberger said on his show that no one in the building had an issue with it. The Steelers emphasize dictating pace depending on the matchup, and since the Chargers kept a safety in the

Gronk not peaking, but Patriots ‘better when he’s on the field’

This is why what unfolded late in the second quarter of Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings stood out as such an outlier, and sparks a question as to whether Gronkowski can ultimately get the consistent explosion back in his legs in order to return to his status as the game’s premier tight end.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

In the official box score, it reads as a 4-yard completion to Gronkowski, but there was much more to it than that.

The Patriots were carefully managing the clock in their two-minute offense, facing a second-and-5, when Gronkowski — moving laterally from right to left — caught the football 1 yard shy of the sticks. Safety Anthony Harris chased him and didn’t make contact until after Gronkowski had caught the ball and began to turn up the field.

In the tale of the tape, the 6-foot-6, 268-pound Gronkowski had favorable odds to lunge forward and get the necessary yardage against Harris, who is 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds.5

That it was even a question was telling, because at his best, Gronkowski has always been the player initiating contact in those situations, driving his legs with powerful force and playing fearlessly, whether it’s a 202-pound safety or two 202-pound safeties bearing down on him.

But since Gronkowski landed on the injury report with ankle and back injuries two months ago — missing three games over a five-week stretch — he hasn’t been that player. Hence the reason Gronkowski’s production is considerably down in nine games played, as he has totaled 35 receptions for 530 yards and two touchdowns.

“It’s great to have him back out there. Certainly coming back and working back into it, he’s practicing hard,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “He has a great attitude and approach, he’s unselfish and does whatever [you need]. Ran-block pretty well the other night and does some things, too, that don’t necessarily get noticed or don’t show up on the stat sheet, but helps us do a lot of different things and also takes a tremendous amount of coverage. Sometimes they put a lot of attention to him and the ball goes somewhere else.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Gronkowski, whose upbeat demeanor uplifts his teammates, seemed to have an extra hop in his step the past two weeks. His interactions with reporters were filled with humor and smiles.

Richard Sherman finding his footing in first year with 49ers

Earlier this month, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman passed the one-year mark since suffering the devastating Achilles tendon injury that ended his 2017 season early.

Much has changed for Sherman in that year: The Seattle Seahawks released him, the 49ers signed him, he recovered from the Achilles injury, he had a couple of minor injury setbacks and he’s managed to fight through others. He’s also hit a variety of benchmarks in his return from injury,cheap nfl nike jerseys free shipping but validation of a return to form might have come in its biggest dose when Sherman was able to play well during a Week 8 game against the Arizona Cardinals, then turn around and play four days later against the Oakland Raiders.

“It was really meaningful for me,” Sherman said. “I wanted to do it for the team. Obviously, I’m a competitor, I want to play every game if I can and thankfully the trainers and doctors and everything were able to help me get to where I needed to get to play, so I was excited about it.”6

Given some time to rest after that victory against the Raiders, the 30-year-old Sherman said his legs “felt as good as they’ve ever felt,” and coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh noticed an uptick in his practice performance to go along with it.

“I’m sure it was a great confidence boost for him, too,” Saleh said. “Even as much as he’s done in his career, he could always use a confidence booster. But, for Sherm to be able to stack days up and be able to practice and play games consecutively like that, I’m sure it was a big deal for him.”

On Sunday, Sherman will return to Seattle for the first time in a different uniform, that of his former adversary Niners, no less. As he makes that return, he does so as a team captain for the first time in his career and an integral part in a 49ers defense that is going through more than its share of growing pains.

Sherman, by his own account, has experienced his share of highs and lows this season.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

“It’s been so-so,” Sherman said. “It’s been ups and downs. I’ve had good games where I’ve felt good and been in real control and then other games where I’ve had to just kind of get through it. So as my leg and body progresses, I think I’m going to be feeling better.”

How Plaxico Burress’ shooting may have cost the Giants a title

It has been 10 years, but a conversation about the 2008 New York Giants still gets former All-Pro guard Chris Snee irritated. The memories of how it all unfolded — culminating with the NFC’s top seed losing to the rival Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs — remains too raw.

It might always be that way. Snee doesn’t talk about it with his father-in-law — former Giants coach Tom Coughlin — because he believes they are both too competitive. It would be the equivalent of ripping a Band-Aid off a still-raw blister.

That 2008 season is the one that got away. It’s also the one where, a decade ago this week, wide receiver Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg at a Manhattan club.cheap wholesale nike nfl jerseys

“Honestly, it’s still one that haunts me,” Snee said of that ill-fated season, during a recent phone conversation with ESPN. “I don’t think there was a team that could beat us. I really don’t.”

The Giants had beaten the four teams that went on to reach championship weekend (Eagles, Cardinals, Ravens and Steelers) in a five-week stretch earlier in the season. Three of those four wins were on the road.5

They had raced out to a 10-1 record before the Burress incident derailed their season.

“We were the best team in the NFL at the time of the shooting,” Coughlin has said in recent years.

Snee thought that was the best Giants team of that era, even though they had won a Super Bowl the previous year and another four years later. Quarterback Eli Manning said he probably agreed.

“We could hang with anyone and were rolling,” Manning said. “And then obviously lost Plaxico.”

The Giants lost four of their next six games, including 23-11 in the playoffs at Giants Stadium. They failed to score 20 points in each of the four losses. Yet there doesn’t seem to be much ill will or hard feelings toward Burress, even though all seem to agree the shooting was the turning point.cheap nfl nike jerseys free shipping

Maybe it’s because Burress got the worst of it all. He sustained a gunshot wound to his leg and served nearly two years in prison for attempted criminal possession of a weapon. The perfect storm of a public figure violating New York’s stringent gun laws made for a high-profile case that even had the mayor pushing for strict prosecution. The self-inflicted wounds turned Burress’ life upside down and ended his Giants career. After the incident. he caught a total of 48 passes with the Jets (2011) and Steelers (2012).

His teammates aren’t blaming their demise on the receiver, who had caught the game-winning touchdown to beat the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl nine months earlier.

Amazing connection: Jets WR meets brother he never knew

Instead of watching football on the couch Sunday or flying home from a bye-week getaway, New York Jets receiver Jermaine Kearse used his day off to fill a void in his life.

He connected with his half-brother, whom he met only recently for the first time. It was the culmination of a search that took nearly a year.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

Kearse spent the day in Hoboken, New Jersey, catching up over lunch with David Ashley, 34, who lives in Manhattan and works as a hair-styling instructor. They have the same father, but Kearse didn’t know about Ashley until after their father died. That was 11 years ago, when Kearse was 17.

“It was definitely different,” Kearse told ESPN, recalling Sunday’s meeting. “I mean, it’s a stranger who’s your brother. But he’s been real cool. [Sunday] was real nice. We talked a little bit, and I heard how he grew up.”5

“I knew of him and I knew his name, but that was it,” Kearse said. “Last I heard, he lived in California. But that was it.”

As his football career flourished — University of Washington, the Seattle Seahawks and the Jets — Kearse remained curious about his mystery brother. His curiosity piqued at the end of last season, when he brought up David in a conversation with his paternal grandmother. He was looking for any shred of information. She knew the name of Ashley’s mother, so he took that clue and researched her on the internet.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

“Did a little more digging and found him,” Kearse said proudly. “I did the research and I looked him up. It was very impulsive. I had my aunt vet it to see if it was him. It was. She met him before I met him. He met my aunt and my grandmother out in North Carolina.”

Kearse spoke to David by phone in February, and they set up a brief meeting after the Jets’ home opener, Sept. 16, a loss to the Miami Dolphins. They exchanged pleasantries, but it wasn’t an in-depth conversation. That didn’t happen until Sunday.

“He was surprised,” said Kearse, recalling his brother’s reaction the first time he contacted him. “He said he knew about me. He said he never wanted to contact me because he didn’t want to be ‘that guy.’ I guess, with me being in the NFL, he didn’t want to be that random person who comes out of nowhere and says, ‘Hey, I’m your brother.’ Which I respect.

Seahawks’ margin for error gets slimmer after sloppy loss to Chargers

Eight points separated the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Chargers on the scoreboard Sunday, but it might have been closer to a half-inch that separated them on the field.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

Or whatever amount of fingertip safety Jahleel Addae managed to get on Russell Wilson’s final pass into the end zone, an incompletion on the game’s last play that ended the Seahawks’ comeback bid.

“It was really close,” Wilson said of the last play.6

The Seahawks were also really close to rallying from 15 down over the final seven minutes of what turned out to be a 25-17 defeat. They would have needed a two-point conversion to send the game to overtime, but they never got the chance after Wilson’s throw to David Moore bounced off the receiver’s chest and through his hands after being tipped at the last second.

“It’s heartbreaking, especially at home,” receiver Doug Baldwin said after Seattle’s second loss in three games this season at CenturyLink Field. “We’ve got to do better.”

The loss drops the Seahawks to 4-4 as they head into the second half of the season. Their road to the playoffs becomes that much tougher, and their upcoming schedule doesn’t get any easier as they head to Los Angeles next week for a rematch against the 7-1 Rams, who are still in control of the NFC West after suffering their first loss of the season.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

In other words: This was a win Seattle really could have used.

It was right there, despite the Seahawks’ most uneven performance since an 0-2 start that preceded four wins in five games. They committed drive-killing penalties on offense, got uncharacteristically gashed early by big plays on defense and didn’t get the type of mistake-free play from Wilson that he had been giving them of late.

He threw an interception that Desmond King returned for a touchdown to put the Chargers up 25-10 with less than seven minutes left. On Seattle’s first possession of the third quarter, Wilson had Jaron Brown open behind the Chargers’ secondary for what could have been a touchdown, but his underthrown pass fell incomplete, leading to a punt. He took a sack — one of four for the Chargers — for a 13-yard loss in the third quarter in one instance of him not getting the ball out quickly enough.

Wilson entered Sunday with 11 touchdowns to only one interception in his past five games. The pick-six was his second of the season and only the third of his career.

Seahawks haven’t been shy about how well they ran against Rams

Fluker’s postgame comments will make for some added spice in Sunday’s rematch — assuming he’ll even able to play through a calf injury. His iffy status and that of running back Chris Carson threaten to undermine what might be the Seahawks’ best chance of prevailing, even with the Rams having just surrendered four touchdown passes at the New Orleans Saints in their first loss of the season. Because if they Seahawks are going to pull off an upset as 10-point road underdogs, it’s going to have to be with the same formula that nearly got it done last time, which included 190 yards on the ground and nearly 6 yards per carry.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

“We definitely have to have that again,” Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown said. “We have to have a solid run game in order to win.”

That won’t be easy given the injury situation. Carson is dealing with a sore hip that had him listed as questionable heading into Seattle’s home game against the Los Angeles Chargers last week. He left after only 10 snaps and didn’t return. Fluker left late in that game because of a tight calf; and while coach Pete Carroll said at the start of the week that Fluker appeared to be OK, the coach didn’t sound as certain on Wednesday when he said Fluker came back from the off day feeling more sore than he did earlier.5

Neither practiced Wednesday or Thursday, so their statuses heading into Los Angeles seem far from certain.

Carson looked like he could he headed for his fourth 100-yard performance in five games when he carried four times for 30 yards on the Seahawks’ opening touchdown drive against the Chargers. But he had an ice pack wrapped around his left thigh by halftime as Mike Davis took over.

Davis has proved to be a nice secondary option and even a more-than-capable spot starter. He averaged more than 4 yards per carry in Carson’s absence on Sunday. Davis had more than 100 yards and added two touchdowns in a start at the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4. And has shown enough to hold onto the No. 2 job ahead of first-round pick Rashaad Penny. But there’s a drop-off from Carson, especially when it comes to the punishing style that none of Seattle’s other running backs can replicate. Davis even acknowledged that when he said after the Chargers game that not having Carson “changes the physicality.”cheap nike nfl jerseys china

“Chris has been pretty hot lately, and he’s been doing a lot of really good things for us,” Carroll said, “and we certainly missed him.”

With season saved for a week, Cowboys need to go on a run

It took Jerry Jones a little time to get from his suite inside Lincoln Financial Field to the Dallas Cowboys’ locker room on Sunday night.

Some players were talking about the hows and whys of their 27-20 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. Others were getting dressed, cinching up their ties for the plane ride back home. Others were making sure they had some ice on hand to numb their aches.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Heard clear above it all was Jones, the Cowboys’ owner and general manager, letting loose with a loud “Wooooh,” like he was Ric Flair, as he entered the room. Some players responded with their own “Woooohs.”5

Less than a week earlier, the players were deflated inside their AT&T Stadium locker room after the loss to the Tennessee Titans. At 3-5, the Cowboys saw their season slipping away and knew Sunday’s game against the Eagles was a must-win.

Ezekiel Elliott was asked if beating the Eagles saved the season.

“I think we did,” said the running back, who finished with 151 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including a TD catch.

In reality, the victory has saved the Cowboys’ season for a week.

At 4-5, they remain in the NFC East chase, two games behind the Washington Redskins. A loss would have kept them alive only in a mathematical sense.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Now they have to show they can win back-to-back games. And they get the chance to do it where their 2017 season effectively died. Last November, the Cowboys lost 27-7 to the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Dak Prescott was sacked eight times. Elliott did not play, serving the first game of a six-game suspension. It was the start of a three-game losing streak that ultimately led the Cowboys to a 9-7 finish that kept them from the playoffs.

Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce have special homecomings in Cleveland

When it comes to being prepared to play, coach Andy Reid doesn’t worry about two of the Kansas City Chiefs in particular: running back Kareem Hunt and tight end Travis Kelce.

“They don’t need much to get them going,” Reid said. “That little extra doesn’t hurt. They were excited to be here. They get to play in front of family and friends. It can be expensive at times, but it’s worth it.”nike nfl cheap jerseys

Hunt and Kelce showed a lot to the hometown crowd. Hunt accounted for 141 total yards, while Kelce led the Chiefs with seven catches and 99 yards in the 37-21 win over the Cleveland Browns.

The two scored all five Kansas City touchdowns. Hunt had three and Kelce two.6

“We definitely can relate because we both came from this area,” Hunt said. “We know everything about it. It’s kind of special we’re on the same team going out there and having a big game for both of us. He had a big game and I had a big game. I think only Cleveland people scored today. That’s a good thing.”

Said Kelce, “That just tells you the type of special place that lies here in Northeast Ohio. It’s dear to my heart, and I love it to death … Browns fans, I’m sorry we had to do it, but we’re about business in Kansas City.”cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Each player shelled out for tickets for family members and friends. Kelce said he “couldn’t even count” how many people from the area he had at Sunday’s game.

Hunt, as a gesture of appreciation, bought tickets for the players and coaches at his former high school, Willoughby South.

“It’s really a dream come true that I’m able to do something like that for the high school and for the program, for the coaches,” Hunt said. “I just really wanted to go out there and win this game because it meant more to me, this game, than a lot of the other ones.

“I was definitely very excited coming into the game. It’s a stadium I used to drive by every day, almost. Now actually getting to play on the field in the NFL is really an honor.”