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Monday, October 15, 2018

Winners and losers from Patriots' thrilling win over Chiefs





By Henry McKenna
October 15, 2018

Here are our winners and losers from the New England Patriots’ 43-40 shootout win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night in Week 6.

Winners

Tom Brady, QB: This wasn’t Brady’s most brilliant or complete performance, with one particularly costly drive when he nearly threw an interception and then got strip-sacked. The Chiefs immediately converted the turnover into a touchdown. But he finished the day with 340 yards, a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown. Most importantly, he led a perfectly executed final drive that chewed the clock with just enough time for a chip-shot Stephen Gostokowski field goal to win the game. The drive included this perfect strike from Brady to Rob Gronkowski.

Sony Michel, RB: Another strong outing with 106 rushing yards and two touchdowns. His short-yardage performances were his most impressive achievement. The rookie had been spotty during the season but seemed to gain confidence against the Chiefs’ porous defense, which allowed Michel to poke in for two touchdowns: one for 4 yards and the other for 1 yard. And Bill Belichick will surely love the pass-protection Michel provided on the Patriots’ first offensive play of the second half, as he took on a Chiefs rusher.

Patriots offensive line: They helped the offense finish with 500 yards with some brilliant moments as a unit, including blocking for screen passes where they sold the run before charging downfield for big gains, and a 17-yard gain on a nice job from Joe Thuney.

Trey Flowers, DE: He was all over the field, finishing with seven tackles, one for loss and a quarterback hit. He managed an enormously important pressure on a pass attempt on third-and-7 during the Chiefs’ second-to-last drive. Patrick Mahomes had Tyreek Hill open, but couldn’t lead the speedster because of Flowers’ penetration into the backfield.

Dont’a Hightower, LB: Hightower turned a set of bad snaps into a remarkable one. The Chiefs had been beating Hightower in 1-on-1 coverage by targeting Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt in the first quarter. Hightower then disguised coverage by pretending to pick up Hunt before dropping into coverage in the middle of the field where he picked off Mahomes. Hightower’s legs may not be as quick as his rookie year, but his mind is infinitely quicker.

Julian Edelman, WR: Edelman shook cornerback Kendall Fuller with enough separation that Edelman had time to fix his glove before hauling in a touchdown. The receiver finished the night with four catches for 54 yards and the touchdown.

Duron Harmon, S: Harmon logged a second-quarter interception in the final moments of the half. The play erased at least three points with the Chiefs in chip-shot range. It wasn’t a game-ending pick — Harmon’s specialty — but it was still quite meaningful.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Week 5 NFL Team of the Week





BY GORDON MCGUINNESS
October 8, 2018

It is time again for the PFF NFL Team of the Week – highlighting the best individual performances from the weekend’s worth of action.

The team format will match the improved All-Pro system when it comes to offensive and defensive formation, with a flex player for both sides of the ball that can be either a receiver, slot weapon, tight end or running back on offense, and anybody in the defensive secondary on defense. This gives us the flexibility to reward the player that best deserves it across multiple positions, rather than shoehorning in somebody just to fit a slot receiver or cornerback role.

We lend some weight to playing time, and a variety of factors are considered, but these will largely be the best-graded players at their respective positions throughout the league. This year, our Team of the Week will be coming out before Monday Night Football has been played, featuring the best performances from the Thursday Night and Sunday games. In the occurrence that a performer on Monday night is worthy of a spot on the team, this list will be updated and those with standout performances from the weekend will still be appreciated.

Check out all of our regular season advanced statistics and information including every player’s grade with PFF Elite and Premium Stats 2.0.

OFFENSE



RIGHT GUARD

Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins – 90.1


It was a night to forget for Washington, but Scherff reminded everyone of what he’s capable of with an outstanding performance at right guard. From 44 pass blocking snaps, he allowed just one sack, with no hits or hurries. With the flow of the game, they only ran the ball 17 times, but as he has done before, Scherff made several key blocks, both at the line of scrimmage and second level.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson entering rare company with 300th game





By Katherine Fitzgerald
October 7, 2018

Phil Dawson never really dreamed of this moment. The Cardinals kicker is on the threshold of a major milestone, but it's not what he envisioned when he was playing linebacker in high school in Texas.

"I never really wanted to be a kicker, so I didn’t look up to kickers, and probably still don’t," Dawson said. "I wanted to be a player."

Dawson laughs as he jokes that kickers aren't players, but after 20 seasons, he's reached a serious point in his career.

On Sunday, Dawson will play in his 300th game, making him just the 11th player in NFL history to amass that many. Eight of the 11 members of the 300 Club are kickers. (George Blanda played both placekicker and quarterback, as one could do back in the 1950s.)

Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is the only active player who has tallied more games than Dawson. Dawson could move to seventh-most games on the all-time list by the end of the season, passing Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, and kickers John Carney and John Kasay.

"I don’t know that I ever could have imagined playing this long, but to reach 300 games is a testament to a lot of people who have supported me over the years and a lot of coaches that have poured into me, and a lot of hard work, so that’ll mean a great deal to me," Dawson said Wednesday.

But Dawson coupled each answer with a caveat.

"Obviously, coming off a game like last week, super downer, so you’re going to have ups and downs, and to be able to survive them and accomplish something like this means a great deal," he said.

With a dry sense of humor, Dawson is still reckoning with a three-point loss to Seattle in which he missed two field goals: one from 45 yards and one from 50.

"You know, I went around today, and I was like, ‘You want to be encouraged?’ And everyone was like, ‘Yeah!’ And I was like, ‘You could be me this week.’ And that put a smile on everybody’s face," Dawson said. "So I’m trying to deal with it with some humor, and obviously I’m suffering each and every moment – just want to get back out on the field, and try to get going."

His next chance to set things right comes Sunday against San Francisco, where he played four of his 20 seasons. After going undrafted, Dawson won the starting job in Cleveland in 1999. He played 14 seasons there before heading to San Francisco and eventually to Arizona in 2017.

He's made 33 kicks in his time as with the Cardinals, including three game-winners. But even a few days after the loss to Seattle, his most recent performance was all he would allow himself to think about.

"It lingers," Dawson said. "I can remember misses from 18 years ago. It’s unrealistic to think that I’ll just all of the sudden forget about it. But I’ll use it for good, and no one will work harder to be prepared next time than I will."

But when the kick is good?

"You know, I wish I could remember those as much," Dawson said. "The high moments in this league are great, but they’re not as intense and they don’t linger as long as the bad ones."

Even if he doesn't remember the makes as well, they've certainly happened. He's made 437 over the course of his career, in 521 attempts, good for 83.9 percent. His latest field goal, a 23-yarder in that loss to Seattle, moved him to eighth most all-time.

"I think it's huge, just from the mere fact of him being in the league this long, with being as accurate," coach Steve Wilks said. "I know that comes with the understatement of what happened last week, but pretty impressive over his career. So I think that says volumes about him."

Wilks said he talked to Dawson about the misses on Monday. He finds in-game corrections on kickers can sometimes do more harm than good, so instead, the coach called Dawson up the next day.

"I’ve been living on egg shells for 21 years, so yeah, anytime you get summoned to the head coach’s office, that makes you think twice, especially coming off a game like I had," Dawson said. "But we had a nice conversation, we’re on the same page, and obviously looking for improvement this week."

Dawson didn't just hear from Wilks. He also heard from the youngest player in the Cardinals' locker room: rookie quarterback Josh Rosen.

Immediately after the game, Rosen championed Dawson to the media.

"Phil’s one of the greatest kickers in the history of football,
and it happens," Rosen said after his first start.

He also reached out to Dawson. Dawson is 22 years and 18 days older than Rosen. That age gap is longer than Rosen's been alive, but Dawson liked the message from the precocious quarterback.

"I think that speaks a lot about his leadership," Dawson said. "Here’s a rookie making his first start, and he comes up to the second-oldest guy in the league and has some words of encouragement. So I was impressed by that, and I think this whole locker room can benefit from leadership like that."

While Dawson speaks highly of Rosen's leadership, the kicker has been able to influence his teammates, as well.

"I've gotten a lot of great advice from him," punter Andy Lee said. "Football-wise, life-wise, money-wise, just advice on certain things. ... I would say just all around, he's just a great guy that you can bounce things off of, and you know you're going to get something truthful and honest and very useful."

When Lee heard about the milestone, he started calculating how much longer he would have to play. He said Dawson reaching 300 games is "inspiring," and that was even before he found out how small the company was.

"I didn't even realize it was that low of a number," Lee said. "But to do something only 11 guys have done is pretty impressive."


Dawson says he hasn't talked to the other 10 – "they’re really old" – but that one day, his place in NFL history will sink in.

"That will be something, when it’s all said and done, I think I will take a lot of pride in," Dawson said. "But like I said, I have a job to do this week, and I just don’t have the luxury to reminisce at this point."

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