The first three games of the NFL divisional weekend have confirmed the value of a playoff farewell – the Chiefs, Rams and Patriots break out of the postseason goal, like the Secretariat, American Pharoah and Justify. And then, in the last relatively sleepy games, the pitfalls of the Bye week seemed just as clear.
The Saints had not really set foot on the stage gas since this slugfest at the Steelers two days before Christmas. Accordingly, that proved to be.
"We just had to settle down and play as we play," Corner Marshon Lattimore said from the locker room as he acknowledged that the departure had a temporary negative impact on New Orleans. "We came out a bit flat. And they did plays and we did not do it. And that was basically what happened. "
Simple enough. And it was just as easy as things developed.
The second quarter was at 1
What the Eagles did. After the click, Zach Ertz was on the left side of the formation in an H position. With the Saints in Cover 2, Philly chose a bike path for the Pro Bowl end, perfect for using the reach of the sideline. And that could have happened if Lattimore had not recognized the route and followed Ertz down the field and out of his zone.
"I had to wear the bike," Lattimore continued. "When I saw him throw the ball, I just went up and made the game. And that's it really, you know. Basic Cover 2 – I just went up and made the game for the team. "
Foles pulled the ball down a bit and opened a door through which the saints wandered. From there, Lattimore said, "the game has changed enormously," and he was not joking. Consider the before and after:
Eagles 20 games, 169 meters
Saints play 10, 21 yards
Eagles 14, Saints 0
The Eagles 27 plays, 81 yards
Saints 61 plays 399 meters
Saints 20, Eagles 0
It's not as if we have not seen the saints have imposed their will on an opponent. That is different. The defense was the engine on Sunday. And that's exactly what has made this New Orleans team's potential over the past two years so appealing.
How many times have you been able to do this in the past in this area without seeing the names Drew Brees or Sean Payton?
Four rounds of division play have come down and we have an all-time quarterback for 40 people, a guy who will be tomorrow's all-time quarterback for 40's (Happy Birthday, Drew!), And his 24- and 23-year-old hot colleagues who had a weekend that really, almost mind-boggling, was not about it. We will repeat this as you would expect from us, with a look at it:
• The patriots look much more than the flat-aged price-fighter that I pictured as earlier in the year. No, New England seemed to be a veritable powerhouse in destroying the Chargers – and so we will respond to a shockingly dominant performance from others in the league.
• The Chiefs' Defense has been discontinued – that's right, Kansas City D did – in the first 54 minutes of their game against the formerly glowing Colts, which gave us all a glimpse of how scary KC can be be in playing complete games for the eventual league MVP Patrick Mahomes.
• The Rams heard how hard the Cowboys had become all week. Probably, who played mobbing on Saturday night in the Coliseum ?
And GM's Brian Gutekunst will lead us through the Packers to see a glimpse of that Brian Flores could have set in Miami and about Kyler Murray's Situation while encountering a number of draft-related topics. However, we start with a Saints team that looks terrible for a quarter, and the remainder of the way to suspend the Super Bowl champions, terribly impressive.
Last year, the Saints showed off their defense and growth skills by Lattimore and Marcus Williams, the return to health of Alex Anzalone and the additions of veteran Demario Davis and rookie Marcus Davenport in the spring and ex-first-rounder Eli Apple in October, the idea gave hope that the D could be among the best in football.
Likewise the summer. For the first time since the arrival of Brees in 2006, a defense often used in training camps played down the offense in this environment. That seemed to signal the most complete team of the Brees / Payton era.
"We have a legendary quarterback, and that will make us better if we approach them every day in practice," Lattimore said. "Well, yes, [playing them tough in practice] changes things."
Or so they believed it. New Orleans finished the regular Seaosn in 14th place in the defense and allowed points. And that's good, of course. But bumpy Sundays against teams like the Rams and Steelers left the Saints unit in search of additional equipment.
JONES: An 18-player drive showed the best of the Saints
Superdome on Sunday. Just before Lattimore's pick during the first-quarter break, when All-Pro Cam Jordan told me via text, players told each other how a game could change everything.
"We talked about sales," wrote Jordan. "It starts with a turnover."
That certainly did. The Saints' attacks took the momentum of the defense with this Lattimore pick and went 79 yards in 12 games (including a first-down conversion of Taysom Hill on a fake punt and a quarter-final touchdown) to Philly & # 39; s to cut edge to 14-7. From there, New Orleans scored two defensive stops and hit half with a frantic 67-yard march to beat a field goal and reach within four points.
After half New Orleans held the Eagles on three-and-out, and that led to the biggest drive of the game – literally and figuratively. The defense had bought the crime for a while to pull it together, and the offense was repaid with an 18-time, 92-meter ride that killed most of the clock in the third quarter. The Saints took the lead at the end of this journey from 17 to 14 and would not give in anymore.
"We can not win without defense," Lattimore said. "As good as Drew is, sometimes you know they're fighting, sometimes we fight. It can not only be punishable. We have to close people and play a role in everything. It goes hand in hand. To win the Super Bowl, you need the entire team. And of course we feel on the same level as me.
"We're getting better and better so we can win the Super Bowl."
The Saints needed one more to play the game down, and it was Lattimore who made it.
After Will Lutz made a 52-yard field-goal attempt to drift to New Orleans's right at nine, the eagle drifted quickly to the Saints' 27, looking for the start. In the second and second rounds, Foles Alshon Jeffrey was just below the reach of the Saints Zone. But the ball bounced off the receiver's hands as Anzalone closed in on him, and Lattimore was there to make his second choice and seal the match with 1:52 before the end.
"We were in the zone and I was just trying to pull off the ball route," Lattimore said. "I was right there, so I knew something would happen. I do not know who it was, but someone drove the slope and the ball jumped in the air. And that changed the game right there.
One of Alvin Kamara, who was later down, was over. And for ever, the defense (along with a special-team squad that had picked up that crucial fake punt) had sparked a playoff win for Sean Payton's crew.
By the way, Brees was really good and his No. 1 receiver, Mike Thomas (12 catches, 171 yards), was great, and that's obviously great for Payton and his co-workers.
But the story of the day was really that it did not necessarily have to be
THE PATRIOTS THROUGH THE CHARGERS AND OPEN SOME EYES
Based on what we got from the Chargers during the four Months of the season and the Wildcard Weekend (including the Steelers, Chiefs and (Ravens on the road) and the talent they brought to Gillette Stadium on Sunday, I'm not sure what else we can say about how New England has played half in a 41:28 win with 35: 7. Let's throw some facts in your direction:
• After two quarters, the Patriots had almost as many touchdowns (five) as the Chargers ( 6) and 347 scrimmage yards on the Chargers' 128, one of three that came down to Keenan Allen's 43-yard touchdown.
• Round one in the first round Sony Michel had 105 yards before the break on 16 transfers, this was a essential fact or for the advantage that the Patriots had in the first 30 minutes (20: 11-). 9:49).
• The Patriots had Brady as a full-time starter for 16 of the last 17 seasons. They reached the AFC title game 13 times during this period. The exceptions: 2002 (Brady was 25), 2009 (Brady's after-ACL season) and 2010 (when Rex Ryan's jets reversed the top-seeded Patriots in the division round).
• Tom Brady now has more playoff wins (28) than any other quarterback has playoff start (Peyton Manning is 14-13 in his 27). These are bananas.
VRENTAS: The patriots look better than they have all season
. With that in mind, I decided to pull out of the game and decided to ask some executives to attract and explore directors to ask for their response to the eye-opening defeat. The answers were interesting.
AFC GM: "That the playoff bye is fantastic !!! It is their adaptability from game to game, from opponent to opponent. Develop week by week, depending on who you play. QB is an all-timer that is never underestimated, but they execute the plan at such a high level. Their preparation is conspicuous because they play determined and make the adjustments in the game so well. Then it is the situation and the management in the game to hold, secure and expand leads. "
AFC exec: " The biggest thing from the games is how big the Bye week was and health. New England has Brady, and they used the time effectively to increase the pressure on the defense.
NFC Pro Scouting Director: " It's NE! They find different ways every year. They have no playmakers at WR, and Gronk is not himself, so they beat you at RB.
PIERCE: The running game of New England makes the Pats newly dangerous
AFC exec: "Patriots do the most sensible things – the chargers are soft in the middle, so hit it. You can not play Zone or Brady. And the patriots transform fronts and cause confusion with the protection of chargers.
NFC Executive: "Anyone who signs off New England at the start of the season should be fired. Belichick admits it – every year is a new year. They learn their staff and their style, and they adapt themselves throughout the year until they find out who they are and what their strengths are. Their trainers adapt to their personal strengths throughout the year, and in the end, they take their step.
What the Patriots Dare Next Week …
IT IS NOT ALL MAHOMES IN KC
Some Statistics are hidden. Others are in sight of us.
Did you know that the Chiefs sacked the NFL this season?
That's right. This Kansas City defense, where everyone has (rightly) shot all the time, is, at least statistically, as good in the crossbar as anyone in football. It also makes sense to look at who's playing up there – two guys with big second missions (Justin Houston, Allen Bailey), a former first-rounder (Dee Ford) and a man who takes a high rank in the second round has reached (Chris Jones).
And just as simple is the explanation why in most cases this did not lead to consistently good or even good defense in 2018.
"Look at every defense, there are certain things you can and can not do," Ford said about the Colts right after Saturday's win. "What we do best is when we have offenses behind the sticks. It's not always easy if you do not play well in the first and second down. At some point we focus on the first and second tee. "
That's why the very first Scrimmage game to defend the Chiefs on Saturday was so important – it set the tone for everything to come. Prior to this click, Ford saw that Ally-Cox, Indy's H-Back, moved away from him and blocked the Braden Smith to the right. That told Ford that Alie-Cox came back over the formation to fetch him. So Ford broke into the backcourt before that could happen, leaving Colts Marlon Mack behind in a three-yard defeat.
BISHOP: Mahomes Unimpressed by the Chiefs' Success
One of these games coaches say, if you do that, you have to make it, "Ford said." I've made a gamble and it it worked. I understood the band to study what they wanted. The Colts, they're not trying to fool you. They are so efficient in what they do, they do not try to deceive you. So if you can study the band and understand what they should do, you can play much faster. "
This game sets the tone. The defense started the game, forcing four straight-and-outs, and the Colts had a total of minus three yards in the four first-down games that triggered these possessions. This trend remained largely firm in the fourth quarter and led to further long-yard situations for Indianapolis, which gave the KC horses many opportunities to move up to quarterback.
Kansas City officially ended with three sacks and five hits on Andrew Luck. But even these numbers do not convey the pressure that has put the pressure on luck. And that gave the defense guys a chance to talk about their improvement. For his part, Ford says he has not listened to the criticism – "First, you're an immature player if you pay attention to these things. And second, it can bring your team down.
BENOIT: Mahomes Vs. Belichick, Round 2 – What the Patriots Should Do Differently
But he was ready to admit that he and his defensive teammates saw the game on Saturday as an opportunity to change some perceptions.
"We made a huge statement," said Ford. "[Patrick] Mahomes, he does everything they say he deserves. He only needs the pieces around him. If we play well around him, he is even scarier. That's how we understand the identity of our team. Once we knew that we were first in this field as defenders, this is the mindset. Get the ball back to our attack, period. We knew that out of the gate, we just wanted to start early. "
Of course, the Chargers looked good the week before they even played the Patriots, and we saw how it turned out. We'll see if the Chiefs are doing better.
ANDERSON AND THE SOUL OF RAMS
If you have C.J. Told Anderson a month ago he was going to rip up the division's playoff weekend? Would he have believed you?
"I thought  was over," said the Rams, who had run back on Saturday after midnight, after the victory of L.A. between 30 and 22 over Dallas. "It was late in the year, the teams that had the back of the season, that was on their list, I thought that my CV, which was very productive in 2017, would give me a fair deal and give me the opportunity and I would build on that. "
In fact, when the Rams called for an injury to Todd Gurley in mid-December, Anderson moved his belongings out of the house he had rented in Charlotte ( because of his involvement with the Panthers) and sent it to his permanent home in Texas, and plans to travel to Florida to work for his foundation.
KLEMKO: The Rams hear the garbage talk and answer
It would be difficult to blame him on this approach, as Anderson signed with Carolina in May in an accident in Denver in April where he had rushed $ 1,700 for 1,007 yards In Carolina he collected cobwebs when Christian McCaffrey accumulated the yards and he was cut off on November 12th. Anderson was connected to Oakland on Dec. 5, did not play this week, and was then cut off at the Raiders. He had to find an offensive lineman.
In nine games this year Anderson, before signing with the Rams, had 24 transfers for a total of 104 yards. In three games since joining L.A.: 
• 23 carries, 132 meters against the Niners.
• 23 wears 123 yards against the Cowboys.
What the Rams learned about Anderson from the first two games secured his role for the third, even though Gurley was back in the lineup. And so, from the beginning, the coaches were impressed by how good Anderson was for everything they had thrown at him.
"It's the type of player I am. Anderson said. "I had many amazing veterinarians [as teammates]. One of those amazing veterinarians is Peyton Manning, who was probably the best at preparing and playing his game. In the first three years of my career, I learned from him. I've learned as much as I can from him, and you know it's a disadvantage if you do not take anything from the Hall of Famer veterinarians.
About the First Three Rams' Properties on Saturday At night, Anderson wrote down the returning Gurley. And his presence – remember that he was originally hired in return for a pace – gave Sean McVay and his staff the artillery to pin the ball of an aggressive Dallas front in the throat.
The Rams were in control The result of the game was that 76 games were played until Dallas 55 and accumulated 30 first downs and 459 yards, although Jared Goff threw only 186 yards. Gurley had 115 yards on his 16 carry to increase Anderson's performance. That was way too much, of course, to reassure a Dallas team that had talked about removing the Rams soul during the week.
MORNING HUDDLE: It's McVay vs. the NFL's Old Guard in Conference Championship Games
"I've heard the 'Soul' comment," Anderson said. "I also heard the comment" Oh, CJ Anderson, he had two games against the Niners and the Cardinals. "They do not investigate that, I let my game speak for themselves, obviously the O-Line took over personally, so we'll leave Each team will have one player, whoever that is And of course we also have some claw hunters in our team. "
Yes, we'll discuss that in a moment.
WHAT MATT LAFLEUR TO GREEN BAY BRINGS
So good was Matt LaFleur's interview with Green Bay – he appeared with three iPads (one for the president) Mark Murphy, one for GM Brian Gutekunst and one for EVP Russ Ball) and planned He never gave this presentation, and he got the job anyway.
"I can not really tell you what he would show us because ic h never saw what it was, "Gutekunst told me by phone on Friday. "But you can tell he worked a lot on it. I'm sure he probably thinks for himself, how many hours did I spend with these things? "
Of course he does not have to worry about it anymore. The 39-year-old former offensive coordinator of Rams and Titans won a wide-open trial, which really started with the release of Mike McCarthy on December 2. And right in the middle was 45-year old Gutekunst, a GM from the first year who had no experience in finding a head coach.
In fact, when the Packers were last hired (McCarthy (2006), Gutekunst was the scout of the team's Southeast area and far from it. "I fought on the street, probably in the East-West game, as anything collapsed, "he says.
So I called good art to see what that experience looked like for him, here's a part of our conversation.
Was there any advantage in starting the search early?
"I think that gave us time to really test candidates and narrow the list, and even though we actually talked to a bunch of people, I think it helped that Broad net, and I think we did, just after Mark had relieved Mike.
How did Matt's name land on your radar?
"In the staff we are taught from the time we were young Scouts are to always have an eye. Of course, it's the players who are our job, but all the young coaches, good coaches you see along the way, keep your list, keep your information, and talk to them about it. So Matt is someone who has been on my radar for a while, and when we started our process, he was part of that broad network.
Do you remember how his name first came to be?  "Kyle Shanahan and these people were in Atlanta [where LaFleur was QBs coach in 2015 and ‘16 under Shanahan as OC] we played them a couple of times and really fought with them, really with their plan and how they did things. I always liked how they attacked us and what they called the game. I was impressed with how they dealt with their offensive stuff. All these guys who came from this system somehow kept an eye on you.
What Dropped During the Interview?
"His vision – I thought he was really driven, and he had a certain self-confidence, when he talked about these things, his vision and what he wanted to do with our football team was very much in line with my vision, and it was pretty clear we could work together well, and I thought he could work well with our players . "
Of course the relationship with the quarterback is under investigation.
" No doubt, I mean, it's about the team, but Aaron [Rodgers] is a big part of ours That was certainly part of how he would use Aaron, and how the partnership would go there with the offense, he is a head coach, he is responsible for all decisions, he must first de be head coach. But the relationship with our players and of course Aaron is very important.
KAHLER: The success of Matt LaFleurs Packers will be tied to Aaron Rodgers
. You see the arrival of Sean McVay's assistants. You have one, so are you worried about overreaching?
"I think it has always been that way. I'm going back when I started in this league. Everyone who trained in San Francisco got a job as head coach. And then, in the late '90s, Green Bay was really good, and all the guys who came through Green Bay got top chefs because of this success. That's the league and it's always been that way. It was certainly the success of the places he was at, that helped make us interested in him, but obviously he was also part of it. So maybe it was a small part to interest you, but then it really depends on the substance of the guy.
… THE WEEK
"He brings nobody [expletive] here!"
"Have you popped that peep. He is right. He's right.
– CB Aqib Talib and QB Jared Goff .
There is not a second behind this – and I must mention here Fox's old friend Chris Myers, who proved how to deal with Cagey Mic Handling / Crisis Management quickly by Talib with a not too serious warning at the Corner, that all were actually on TV at the scene.
Excellent timing and delivery 17 years on Colts K Adam Vinatieri, hero of the Patriots / Raiders villain, missed a 23-yarder in the final game of the first half. You may recall that Woodson was the sparkling corner that hit Brady on the fidgety, incomplete pass that will forever play as a Tuck Rule. Woodson and Brady, who joined the Michigan recruiting class in 1995, both had Super Bowl rings. Following this piece, the wait time of the first one was much longer (nine years) than that of the second (two weeks).
I have no more adjectives. This one is not just about the crazy arm power it takes to get that kind of heat on the ball, the side weapon and a middle section of guard Andrew Wylie. It is also the accuracy and anticipation with which the throw was made to get the ball to linebacker Darius Leonard to a spot where only Travis Kelce can catch him. Just ridiculous.
It's good to see that patriot owner Robert Kraft carries about as much rhythm as me.
I'm not sure if anyone could have been so accurate By the way, this is Goose Island's Saturday challenge for Bears fans to beat the 43-yarder, the Cody Parkey could not beat against the Eagles. No one person was successful. And was our own Kalyn Kahler – he got a shot after taking some kick-offs. She will tell this story later this week on the website.
Obviously, The Snake had the TB12 method itself.
S / O to …
Broncos star By Miller, who at one point was a young man who had difficulty to stay out of trouble, and has since become a great role model for all his younger teammates. I came across his name as he scoured the stuff for this week's shoutout, and saw that he signed a $ 200,000 pledge late last year for SHIELD616, a program designed to improve relations between the public and the local community Law enforcement agencies had used. Then I went over to the team's Twitter and saw the effort to collect $ 25,000 for Von's Vision its Denver support foundation for teenagers who need eye exams and eyewear. You have the idea – Miller really works with this stuff everywhere. Good for him. He has always been a kind-hearted guy and has come a long way in the last five or six years.
SIX FROM SATURDAY
Spätestens am der Entwurf von 2019 und mehr vom College Football.
1. Die Entscheidung, sich für den Entwurf zu bekennen, wird von namhaften College-Spielern getroffen, und der Rekord für die ersten Teilnehmer (106) des vergangenen Jahres ist bereits gebrochen. Vor den Spielen am Samstag waren es schließlich 116, und die Kinder haben bis heute noch Zeit, um sich einen Namen zu machen. Dies ist nicht unbedingt eine großartige Entwicklung, wenn man bedenkt, dass es je nach Ausgleichsauswahl nur etwa 255 Spieler pro Jahr gibt. "Es gibt wahrscheinlich 40 dieser Typen, die nicht angezogen sind, wenn Sie 120 oder mehr Erklärungen haben", sagte ein AFC-Manager. "Es wird eine Menge Kerle zu Hause sitzen, nachdem der Entwurf undraftiert worden ist." Also, was ist das Problem? Zuerst kommen viele Kinder auf dem Campus an, mit dem Ziel, dass sie drei Jahre dort bleiben werden, dann gehen sie zur NFL, und es kann für sie schwierig sein, das zu rütteln. Zweitens gibt es Agenten und Läufer, die ihnen sagen, dass es besser für sie ist, in die Liga zu gehen und die freie Entscheidungsfreiheit zu erhalten [a year earlier]ohne zu erkennen, dass ein zweiter oder dritter Spieler viel mehr Geduld haben wird als eine späte Runde Auswahl oder College Free Agent. ”
2. Beispiele für Leute, die das College früher verlassen wollten, aber davon profitierten? Eines davon ist Bills im zweiten Jahr, Ecke Tre'Davious White, der 2016 wieder zur Schule ging und in der ersten Runde des Jahres 18 war. Ein anderer ist Baker Mayfield. Und in diesem Jahr, ist Kentucky LB Josh Allen eine großartige Wahl, um auf hinzuweisen – er wäre wahrscheinlich ein zweiter oder dritter Spieler im Jahr 2018 gewesen, und er hat seinen Weg in die Top-15-Auswahl gefunden in diesem Jahr und vielleicht höher.
3. Und ich lasse das hier, und ich erinnere mich daran, dass der ehemalige Trainer des Bundesstaates Ohio, Jim Tressel, seinen Spielern sagte: Wenn Sie in der ersten Runde sind, sollten Sie wahrscheinlich gehen. Wenn Sie in die Top 10 gehen, müssen Sie fast gehen. Warum der Drei-Runden-Cutoff? Weil Männer, die in den ersten drei Runden eingezogen wurden, generell Zeit bekommen, sich zu entwickeln. Danach kann es ein Crapshoot sein.
KAHLER: Was NFL-Scouts von Trevor Lawrence im Meisterschaftsspiel sahen
4. Ich liebe Kyler Murray. Aber die Mehrheit der Rückmeldungen, die ich von Pfadfindern auf ihn erhalten habe, wurde als Freitagsauswahl angesehen (Runde 2-3). Bedeutet das also, dass er keinen Fußball spielen sollte? Nein, als Quarterback gesehen zu werden bedeutet für Sie oft, dass Sie am Donnerstag gehen. In den letzten acht Entwürfen sind 25 Quarterbacks in der ersten Runde gegangen, acht in der zweiten und elf in der dritten. In den letzten vier hatten Sie in der ersten Runde 13, in der zweiten zwei und in der dritten sieben. Warum die Ungleichheit? Einfach. Often, if a team likes a quarterback enough to take him in the second round, they don’t want to risk it, and so they just take him in the first. So let’s look at the reports that Murray’s asking the Oakland A’s for $15 million to play baseball rather than football (and we’re just using that number as an example; it sounds like it might not be correct). On paper, that would basically amount to a bet by Murray that he’d be taken 12th or higher in the NFL draft. (Vita Vea got $14.8 million guaranteed as the 12th pick last year, and there’s annual inflation to account for.) It seems a little unlikely to me that he’d go that high, but you just never know with quarterbacks.
5. Everyone I’ve talked to sees Clemson freshman QB Trevor Lawrence as a generational talent. But the caveat here is that the NFL hasn’t studied him yet, and that time, for quarterbacks, means other teams getting a bead on you. We were talking about Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg in first-round terms in 2013 and UCLA’s Josh Rosen as an outsized prospect in 2015, and neither went as high as we figured they would a couple years later.
6. As for the rule itself that’s keeping Lawrence in school, don’t hold your breath waiting for changes. Back in 2004, the courts ruled, in the cases of Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett and USC’s Mike Williams, that the NFL’s early-entrant rules were a labor issue, not a legal issue. That means that it would be up to the NFLPA to fight for change. And why would the union do that? Creating jobs for 19- and 20-year-olds would just take jobs away from older players who might be looking to extend their careers another year or two. I can’t imagine such a change would be high on the list for the Players Association when it goes to the table for CBA negotiations the next couple years.
1. As long as this column has been here—going back to when Peter King started it in the late 1990s—Ozzie Newsome has been in charge of the Ravens’ football operation. This morning he is not. On Friday Newsome passed the torch, as has long been planned, to new general manager Eric DeCostaa highly-regarded 47-year-old who worked his way up through the organization, starting in 1996, the franchise’s first year in Baltimore after moving from Cleveland. DeCosta addressed the scouting department Friday morning to outline his vision for where the organization is going. And Newsome was in the office, as he plans to be going forward. Awkward? Maybe it would be in some places, but as one scout told me later that day, “We’re family here.” And that’s one place where that’s actually believable. Newsome, DeCosta, SVP of football administration Pat Moriarty, college director Joe Hortiz and pro director Vince Newsom have all been with the organization continuously since the late ‘90s. And senior personnel assistant George Kokinis, save for two years in Cleveland with Eric Mangini, has been too. That’s staggering stability by NFL standards, and it gives DeCosta a strong infrastructure as he moves into his new role. As for Newsome, his impact on the NFL is pretty hard to measure. He was an all-time great as a player. And he was a trailblazer as an African-American football executive, and an all-time great GM. I think there’s a very compelling case to be made that he should be the first person ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame a second time. And I don’t think you’d get much argument from anyone who’s gone through Baltimore the last 23 years.
FROM THE VAULT: Ozzie Newsome through the eyes of those who know him
2. While we’re on the Ravens, I mentioned in my Sunday Rundown that there was interest from other teams in Greg Roman as an offensive coordinator candidate. And while that’s true, I did want to make this much clear—his promotion to OC in Baltimore was not about concerns that he’d leave. As I understand it, this was about Roman being the best guy for the offense that the Ravens are building around 22-year-old quarterback Lamar Jackson. Roman, as assistant head coach/tight ends coach, was a driving force in helping John Harbaugh put together a plan last spring for an offense that would work for both incumbent Joe Flacco and Jackson, which they presented to Newsome and company ahead of the draft to give the scouts a comfort level with the idea of drafting the former Heisman winner. Roman, of course, also built an offense for Colin Kaepernick to great success in San Francisco.
3. One team that was interested in Roman was Miami, with New England defensive coordinator Brian Flores expected to be hired as head coach whenever the Patriots’ postseason ends. Another name on Flores’ list, as we said Sunday, was Kliff Kingsbury, who’s since taken the Arizona head job. Want a third name? Ex-Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell. I expect him to be a part of the staff, but maybe not as OC. Even if Flores had landed Roman or Kingsbury, my understanding is that Caldwell likely still would have been in the mix in an associate head coach-type role. It’s unclear whether missing on a couple OC targets would mean Flores would just make Caldwell the coordinator. But my feeling is the door is still open in Miami on the idea of bringing in a younger coordinator, in addition to Caldwell.
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4. Freddie Kitchens deserves credit for moving aggressively to fill out his staff in Cleveland. Landing coordinators Todd Monken and Steve Wilks reflects how the Browns are suddenly operating from a position of strength. Wilks, of course, comes from a pretty good lineage of defensive coaches, having worked all those years with Carolina’s Ron Rivera and Buffalo’s Sean McDermott. And Monken blew away the Jets and Packers in his head coach interview. In fact, he had strong support to get the job in New York. That’s great for Cleveland on one hand (in that he’s really good), and problematic on another (he may become a head coach soon, which would mean having to replace him). For now, it should be pretty good for Baker Mayfield.
5. I asked C.J. Anderson about #McVayMania on the coaching carouseland what’s impressed him to this point about his new head coach. His answer will make Jets fans feel pretty good: “What people miss is him at 4:30 in the morning. When I pull up and I see his car already parked—and I’m there at 5:30—you know the preparation that Sean goes through. Super cerebral. Smart. Understands the game. I think the biggest thing he does, he listens to the players. He listens to myself and [Andrew] Whitworth and what we say. And Jared [Goff]even though he is the ultimate play-caller. I think that’s what people want and what people are trying to grab. There’s only one other coach that’s been like that for me, and that was Adam Gase. [McVay] and Adam Gase are probably the two smartest coaches I’ve been around when it comes to planning and preparation and trying to put their matchups together and their team in the best position.”
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6. While I had Washington State’s Mike Leach on the phone the other day, it made sense to ask if he has any NFL interest now—after all, he’s one of the godfathers of the Air Raid offense that we’re now seeing at all levels of the gameincluding the NFL. “I wouldn’t rule it out,” Leach said. “I’m in a great situation here. So it’s not like I’m chasing or running. But at the end of season I watch NFL film to just sort of stay up-to-date and make sure I’m not missing anything.” Then I asked Leach if he takes pride in seeing his stuff cribbed on that NFL tape, and, per usual, he was hilarious. “A little bit,” he answered. “And if they imitate it poorly, it kind of pisses me off. Like, if you’re going to run this at the highest level, at least do it right. One thing about coaching, it kind of haunts you. If you can see somebody lined up wrong, and it doesn’t really matter who’s doing it, boy it pisses me off. How can you not even line up? You can’t line up? So if some guy has bad effort or doesn’t finish a play, even though I’m not coaching the guy, shoot, I wanna strangle a couple people.” Leach remains the best.
7. We mentioned Darrell Bevell as a potential OC for Bengals coach-to-be Zac Taylor on Twitter the other day. The connection is simple—Bevell coached under Taylor’s father-in-law, Mike Sherman, in Green Bay from 2000 to ’05. And to that end, there’s speculation out there that Sherman could join Taylor in a senior assistant role. Having that sort of resource could help the 35-year-old Taylor, much like having Caldwell would help Flores in Miami.
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8. From the Timing Is Everything Dept.: The Falcons were blocked from talking to Denver’s Gary Kubiak earlier this month about their offensive coordinator opening. Atlanta has had an eye on Kubiak since losing Kyle Shanahan to the Niners two years ago, and my sense is he’d have been a strong favorite for the job if he was available a couple weeks ago. At that point, Denver still believed Kubiak would be its OC, so they weren’t going to let him go. And that’s too bad, because Kubiak would have been perfect in Atlanta. Dan Quinn has insisted on keeping Shanahan’s system in place because of the roaring success the Falcons had with it. And Kubiak is, of course, a mentor of Kyle Shanahan’s, having helped teach him that system.
9. Remember this name: Sean Kugler. The new Cardinals offensive line coach promises to be a big key to whatever success Kliff Kingsbury has running his brand of the Air Raid in the desert. Talking to scouts who’ve studied Texas Tech and been through Lubbock, Kingsbury should be able to seamlessly import his innovative passing game to the NFL. Where he’ll need to adjust is having more diversity in his protections, and more creativity in his run game. And since the line coach is often the run-game coordinator, Kugler figures to be very involved in both areas. Credit, too, to Kingsbury for getting a guy in that spot with more than a decade of NFL experience, plus five years of collegiate head coaching experience. Kugler is very well thought of.
10. Speaking of the run game, in a year when the passing game numbers exploded, the tale of divisional playoff weekend could be told on the ground. The Chiefs outrushed the Colts 180-87; the Rams outrushed the Cowboys 273-50; the Patriots outrushed the Chargers 155-19, and the Saints outrushed the Eagles 137-49. And while we’re here, and since #McVayMania is boiling over, it’s worth mentioning that the foundation of all that McVay does (and Kyle Shanahan too, for that matter) on offense is in marrying the run game to the pass game. Their offenses are hard to defend largely because so many of their run concepts and pass concepts look the same, which of course requires being effective running the ball. Which the Rams are.
It’s championship week, so I’m going to give you one storyline to watch in each of the games to kick things off.
Who can get a stop? When the Rams and Saints met in Week 9, there was a grand total of three punts—two by New Orleans and one from L.A. Along the way, the teams combined for almost 1,000 yards of offense, and Brees and Goff accounted for 737 of those through the air. The difference in the end? The Saints forced the one Rams punt with 4:58 left and got a turnover on downs after that, while New Orleans scored on two of its final three possessions, and got into victory formation on the other. So Saints DC Dennis Allen vs. Rams DC Wade Phillips is a real factor.
Mahomes vs. Belichick. Patrick Mahomes didn’t have his best game back in October against the Patriots. But he was damn impressive for a very simple reason—in a spot where a lot of young quarterbacks might crumble, Mahomes kept on swinging. The second-year Chief was 14-of-23 for 164 yards and two picks, with his team down 24-9 at the half. After the break, he was 9-of-13 for 188 yards and four touchdowns. And he left the field for the final time having tied the game at 40 with 3:03 left. Brady and company subsequently drove the field, sapped the clock, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked the game-winner at the gun for New England.
We’ll see you all later this afternoon for the Monday Afternoon Quarterback.
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