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SEC In the NFL – The Awesome, The Elite, And The Option Quarterback

Patrick Peterson – awesome playmaker

Thanks to a blocked field-goal, Patrick Peterson (LSU) avoided becoming the goat at the end of game.  Thanks to an amazing punt return, he became the hero in overtime.

Peterson was flagged for pass interference as time was winding down against the St. Louis Rams Sunday.  The subsequent field-goal attempt was blocked and the 13-13 game went to overtime.

When the Cardinals defense forced the Rams into punting in the overtime’s first possession, it was Peterson’s time to shine.

Fielding the punt at the 1-yard line, Peterson streaked 99 yards for the game winning touchdown.

“I knew that was gutsy,” Peterson said afterward. “I decided to catch the ball and run for my life.”

The Cardinals have won two games this year (2-6) and in both wins, Peterson has scored the game-winning touchdown via punt returns.

“He has such a great feel and he is definitely a force,” said Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt. “The thing that gives you comfort is that he doesn’t drop balls.”

Eli Manning – elite QB?

When Eli Manning (Ole Miss) faced the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, he walked off the field a world champion.  Sunday in Foxborough, he once again came out a winner thanks to a last-minute rally.

Down 20-17, Manning led the Giants on an 80-yard drive, capping it off with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jake Ballard with 15 seconds left in the game.

So is Manning now an elite quarterback?  His teammates think so.

“To me, he’s better than ‘12’ [Brady],’’ running back Brandon Jacobs said. “Twelve couldn’t get it done today. Ten [Manning] got it done.’’

Yahoo! Sports columnist Jason Cole has a different take.

“If you’re looking for a bottom line answer to whether New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is the equal of New England Patriots counterpart Tom Brady, the answer is still no.”

Manning’s teammates disagree “You can’t spell elite without Eli,” said defensive end Justin Tuck.

Tim Tebow – option QB

Tim Tebow (Florida) and the Denver Broncos took the Oakland Raiders to school on Sunday, using a read-option offense that’s more at home in the college game.

Tebow rushed for 118 yards – the Broncos ran for 299 yards total – and the Broncos blitzed the Raiders 38-24.

“That’s hard to defend,” said Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey (Georgia).  “Especially when you have a quarterback who’s as explosive as Tebow is.  Tebow doesn’t get enough credit for his explosiveness.  I know he would love to sharpen up his passing, but at the same time he’s running the ball extremely well.”

Tebow and running back Willis McGahee become the first Denver quarterback/running combination to each cross 100 yards in a game since Norris Weese and Otis Armstrong in 1976.

Tebow also threw two touchdowns on the afternoon.

“All in all, he progressed,” said coach John Fox. “I think it was, by far, (Tebow)’s best game to date.”

A few other notes from around the league:

Cold Hard Football Facts calls Andy Dalton and A.J. Green (Georgia) “the best QB-WR rookie combo maybe ever.” Green caught 7 passes for 83 yards on Sunday in the Bengals 24-17 win over Tennessee.

Rookie wide receiver Julio Jones (Alabama) had another nice game on Sunday for the Falcons – catching three passes – two of them for touchdowns – in Atlanta’s 31-7 victory over Indianapolis. One of those TD catches went for 80 yards.

Running back Arian Foster (Tennessee) crossed the 100-yard mark for the third straight week, the fourth time this season, as the Houston Texas rolled over the Cleveland Browns 30-12.

Peyton Hillis (Arkansas) and Monterio Hardesty (Tennessee) have already been ruled out for this week’s game against St. Louis. Hillis has been battling hamstring problems and Hardesty tore his calf muscle against San Francisco.

ProFootballTalk.com says Albert Haynesworth  (Tennessee) of the New England Patriots “is giving Ochocinco a run for his money as the biggest acquisition bust on the team.”

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SEC In The NFL – Georgia Tops Florida, Again

The Georgia Bulldogs got the best of the Florida Gators on Saturday in Jacksonville.  They did again the next day in Denver – at least when it came to the performances of the two quarterbacks.

Matthew Stafford (Georgia) and the Detroit Lions blew out Tim Tebow (Florida) and the Denver Broncos 45-10 at Sports Authority Field Sunday afternoon.

Stafford completed 21-of-30 passes for 267 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.  Quarterback rating – a Sunday best 130.8

Tebow finished the game 18-of-39 for 172 yards, one TD, one interception and a quarterback rating of 56.8.

QB rating or scoreboard totals – Stafford won convincingly.  For the struggling Tebow, the inevitable questions are being raised.

“How long,” wonders Denver Post columnist Dave Kreiger, “before Bronco fans and Tebow fans part company?”

“It’s not his fault,” said Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch in regards to Tebow’s struggling performance. “It’s the media that gives him hype. Obviously, he’s a young player.  He has a lot of learning to do.  Taking nothing from him, he’s a great player, he just has to find his niche as an NFL quarterback and I think he’ll be able to do so in due time.”

Tebow was sacked seven times on the day, including one time by Tulloch who struck the “Tebowing” pose afterwards.

Lions tight end Tony Scheffler also mimicked the one- knee prayer following a second-quarter touchdown.

A story earlier in the week at NFL.com had hyped the game as Good (Tebow) vs. Evil (Ndamukong Suh of the Lions).

But as news Detroit News columnist John Niyo wrote after the game, “this was simply good vs. bad. The Lions are a good team.  The Broncos are a bad team.”

Broncos coach John Fox initially refused to commit to Tebow as his starting quarterback next week against Oakland but has apparently changed his mind – for now.

“For this week, yes.” Fox said when asked about it today, in a less than ringing endorsement, amid calls for Tebow to perhaps consider another position or the Broncos to consider dumping him following this season.

As for Stafford’s performance, Mike O’Hara reminds us that the Lions haven’t had a Pro Bowl quarterback in 40 years – Greg Landry back in 1971.  But that drought should end this year.

Speaking of impressive quarterbacks, Eli Manning (Ole Miss) and Cam Newton (Auburn) continue to shine while their teams move in opposite directions.

Manning threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns as the Giants moved to 5-2 with a come-from-behind 20-17 victory over Miami.

“Eli made some big plays,” said Giants coach Tom Coughlin.  “Obviously he threw the ball a lot today. No turnovers, no interceptions, and he made plays when we had to have them. Once again, he did a very good job.”

Newton threw three touchdown passes for Carolina but the Panthers came up short three points short against the Minnesota Vikings when a last-minute field goal attempt missed.

The Panthers dropped to 2-5 but the Carolina rookie drew praise from the opposing coach.

“(Newton’s) a terrific athlete,” said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who also started a rookie quarterback in Christian Ponder. “He’s a guy who has a great head on his shoulders and really understands football. He knows how to make plays and he has a great future in the National Football League.”

Arian Foster (Tennessee) had his third 100-yard rushing game of the season Sunday, carrying the ball  33 times for 112 yards in the Houston Texans 24-14 win over Jacksonville.

Foster and teammate Ben Tate (Auburn) have combined to rush for 1,040 yards in the first eight weeks of the season.

Finally, Marcell Dareus’ (Alabama) move from defensive end to nose tackle paid off in a big way for the Buffalo Bills Sunday.  Buffalo shutout Washington 23-0 and the Bills defensive line dominated.

Buffalo had nine sacks – Dareus was credited with 2 ½.  His teammate – linebacker Chris Kelsay was impressed.

“He’s a force to be reckoned with,” Kelsay said. “He’s got a number of years ahead of him playing like that. We’re fortunate that he’s on our side.”

The nine sacks by Buffalo’s defense were the second-most in team history.

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SEC In The NFL – Campbell’s Collarbone, Cutler’s Comments

 The Oakland Raiders Jason Campbell (Auburn) suffered a broken collarbone Sunday but the quarterback says he could return to action as soon as six weeks.   An earlier report had Campbell out for the season.

“I’m having surgery today. It was a tough break,” Campbell said. “I’m going to stay positive. If everything goes right I could be back in six weeks.”

The Raiders are now 4-2 on the season after beating Cleveland 24-17.  Campbell went down with the injury in the second quarter.

With the trade deadline on Tuesday, what are the Raiders to do?

“If I was in at quarterback,” Darren McFadden (Arkansas) joshed Sunday, “we probably would have thrown for 600 yards, and the running backs would have been mad at me.”

A more serious option for Oakland could be Denver’s Kyle Orton, suddenly out of a job now that Tim Tebow (Florida) is now the Broncos starting quarterback.

Filling in for an injured LaGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay running back Earnest Graham (Florida) made the most of it Sunday, rushing for 109 yards in the Bucs 26-20 victory over New Orleans.  It marked Graham’s first 100-yard game since 2008.

“That Earnest Graham kid is a pretty good player,” said cornerback Ronde Barbee

Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt) had a special message for someone last night.

“Tell him I said (bleep) you,” was picked up by the cameras as Cutler moved to the line of scrimmage.

The subject of Cutler’s line was unknown but speculation has centered on Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, known for taking his time calling plays which in turns leads to blowing multiple timeouts.

Cutler threw for 267 yards, connecting on 21-of-31 passes and two touchdowns as the Bears routed the Minnesota Vikings 39-10.

The Bears quarterback, who’s taking a beating this season from defensive lines, was sacked by the Vikings only once.

Chicago has changed its play-calling to help the offensive line.

‘It was a group effort,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘We’re all trying to manage what we can do on the football field. If we are smart about it, do the things we did [Sunday], more than likely we’re going to be successful.’’

A few other SEC-related notes from around the league:

Peyton Hillis (Arkansas) suffered a hamstring injured early in the Browns loss to the Raiders and underwent an MRI today.  Coach Pat Shurmer says Hillis is not being shopped prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline. Hillis rushed for 14 yards on six carries Sunday.

The New York Giants are 4-2 and lead the NFC East after the victory on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.  Eli Manning (Ole Miss) threw for 292 yards on 31 throws and coach Tom Couglin praised his quarterback after the game.  He “played very, very well,” said Coughlin.

Matthew Stafford (Georgia) threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns but struggled in the red zone as the Lions lost for the first time this season.  Stafford was only 4-of-10 in the red zone as San Francisco beat the Lions 25-19.

“We threw the ball a lot tonight, and sometimes that’s going to happen,” said Stafford.  “They played a lot of man underneath coverage, so you know your completion percentage isn’t going to be as high. Guys did a great job catching the ball for me.  We just didn’t do enough and make enough plays to win the game”

The Lions loss was overshadowed by fireworks after the game between the head coaches as Lions coach Jim Schwartz took exception to the celebration and post-game handshake from San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh.

The NFL announced that neither coach will be fined.

“On Detroit-SF coach incident, fortunately, there was no fighting and thus no basis for a fine,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. “However, both coaches told Ray Anderson today that their post-game conduct was wrong and will not happen again.”

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SEC In The NFL – Tebow Time In Denver

It’s finally Tim Tebow time in Denver.  Broncos’ fans got their wish on Sunday as the former Florida quarterback replace Kyle Orton in the second half against the San Diego Chargers (and was greeted with a standing ovation).

Down by 16 points, Tebow led two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, running for one score and throwing for another.  After a failed two-point conversion on the last touchdown that would have tied the game and a San Diego field goal put the Chargers up by five points, Tebow led a final Bronco drive, making it to the Charger 29-yard line before a pass was knocked down  as time expired.  San Diego won the game 29-24.

“It was fun to play football again,” Tebow said after the game, “but there is no rejoicing in a loss.”

The Broncos are off this week so that buys the Denver coaching staff some time to make decision on a starting QB but if coach John Fox names anyone but Tebow the starter, he may have to” build a fortress around his house so that the citizens of Denver don’t attack Fox’s family.”

Update: No surprise here.  Denver Post says Tebow likely to be be named starter. The Broncos are off this week and then head to Miami, giving Tebow a start in his home state.

For their part, The Chargers downplayed Tebow’s impact in Sunday’s game. “Believe me, there is a specific game plan you need when you’re playing a quarterback like him, and you’re torn a little bit when you’re facing two,” San Diego coach Norv Turner said.

A few other former SEC quarterbacks made news in a losing effort on Sunday.

Rookie Cam Newton (Auburn) continues to be the bright spot of the most exciting losing team in the NFL.  The Carolina Panthers are now 1-4 with all four losses coming on fourth-quarter scores.  On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints rallied to beat the Panthers 30-27.

“It hurts losing, period,” Newton said afterwards “You know you have standards and when you don’t meet that quota of yourself, you just ask yourself why. There’s a reason we keep losing and I want to know the reason.”

For the day, Newton was 16-of-31 for 224 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

No one threw for more yards this weekend than Eli Manning (Ole Miss).  The New York Giants quarterback was 24-of-39 for 420 yards and three TD passes against the Seattle Seahawks.  But Manning also threw three interceptions against the 10-point underdogs and the Giants lost the game 36-25.

Down 29-25, Manning had the Giants on the door step of taking the lead.  From the Seahawks 10-yard line, Manning threw a pick-six interception that put the game out of reach.

“It kind of came down to the one play at the end,” Manning said.  “We had a tipped ball that they picked up and intercepted.  It’s a shame to lose a game with that type of play.  I’d kind of rather get outplayed than one of the games when we had a chance but didn’t make the play.”

The 420 passing yards were a career-high for Manning.

A career-best for another Ole Miss alum Sunday in New England.  Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis went for 136 yards and two scores as the Patriots beat the New York Jets 30-21.

“BenJarvus is a great guy to block for,” Patriots guard Logan Mankins said. “He reads the play out, he finds the hole and he won’t fumble.”

Running back Arian Foster (Tennessee) crossed the 100-yard mark –as a receiver Sunday.  Foster caught five passes for 116 yards and rushed for 68 yards in the Texans 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (LSU) was key to the Chiefs 28-24 win in Indianapolis.  Bowe caught seven passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns.  If you haven’t seen it, check out this juggling touchdown catch by Bowe.

A few other SEC-related notes from around the league:

Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons (Georgia) should be included in the league’s top pass rushers, according to Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times.  Clemons had two sacks in Seattle’s upset victory over New York. Clemons has four sacks on the season and led Seattle with 11 a year ago.

Oakland defensive tackle Richard Seymour (Georgia) had two sacks in the Raiders win over Texas. “I just felt like we grew up as a team today, we took a step forward as a team, we continued to fight,” Seymour said. “Last year, we probably would of lost this game.”

Green Bay Packers left tackle Chad Clifton (Tennessee) suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday night’s victory over the Atlanta Falcons and could miss several weeks.

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SEC In The NFL – A.J. Green & Julio Jones Putting Up Almost Identical Numbers

Many similarities exist between A.J. Green (Georgia) and Julio Jones(Alabama).  Both are wide receivers who played their Saturday football in the SEC, both were taken early in the first round of the NFL draft – Green went fourth to the Bengals while Jones went sixth to the Falcons– and a quarter of the way through their first NFL season, both wideouts find themselves atop the rookie leaderboard.

On Sunday, the symmetry continued as both players went over 100 receiving yards, their teams won close games and the Bengals and Falcons now sport identical 2-2 records.

Green caught four passes – including a couple of highlight grabs – for 118 yards in Cincinnati’s 23-20 victory over the previously undefeated Buffalo Bills.

On the road at Seattle, Jones caught 11 passes for 127 yards in Atlanta’s 30-28 victory over the Seahawks. Only seven players have ever caught more passes against Seattle.

It was the second this season Jones has had more than 100 yard receiving in a game.  Green has also crossed the century mark twice.

For the season, Jones leads all rookies in receiving yards with 342.  Second place? Green, of course.  He has 312 receiving yards.

Rookie running back Stevan Ridley (LSU) saw his most extension action on Sunday, carrying the ball 10 times for a game-high 97 yards in New England’s 31-19 victory over Oakland.

“The offensive line did an awesome job. Like I said, those were the biggest holes I’ve ever seen in my life. So I just had to keep running and hit them at full speed,” said the Patriots rookie.

While Ridley had more rushing yards than Oakland’s Darren McFaddeen (Arkansas) who finished with 75 yards on 14 carries, McFadden still leads the NFL in rushing for the season – with 468 yards and an impressive 6.2 yards per carry.

Matthew Stafford (Georgia) and his Detroit Lions are a weekly staple here on SEC in the NFL – and this week is no exception.  Stafford led the Lions back from a 20-point deficit for the second straight week as Detroit defeated Dallas 34-30.

“Any time you can come back from 20 down, you are doing some kind of stealing.  But you have to play great to steal one like this,” said the Lions quarterback.

The Lions trailed Dallas 27-3 in the third quarter before embarking on their comeback. The Lions defense was responsible for two touchdowns but Stafford led the Lions on two TD drives, including what proved to the game winning score with just 2:34 left in the fourth quarter.

Stafford finished with 240 yards passing on the day.  The Lions are 4-0 for the first time since 1980.

In Houston, it was the running game that made the difference against Pittsburgh. Arian Foster (Tennessee) played his first full game since last January and become only the third running back in the past decade to rush for more than 150 yards against the Steelers defense.

“One thing about him,” coach Gary Kubiak said, “if you don’t have a good play, that big body of his falls forward, and it’s still a 2- or 3-yard (gain). He’s always a falling-forward guy. That’s just the way he plays the game. It’s so positive with what we’re doing.”

Foster rushed for 155 yards on 30 carries in the Texans 17-10 win over the Steelers.

A few other notes from around the league:

Two former SEC quarterbacks faced off in Chicago.  One got the stats – the other got the victory.  Cam Newton (Auburn) threw for 374 yards but the Carolina Panthers fell short against Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt) and the Chicago Bears – losing 34-29.

Two SEC alums accounted for all the points for the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday.  Ryan Succop (South Carolina) kicked five goals – including one from 54 yards – and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (LSU) caught a 52-yard touchdown pass as the Chiefs got their first win of the season – beating Minnesota 22-17.

Eli Manning had another impressive game and the New York Giants got another win.  The Giants rallied to beat the Arizona Cardinals 31-27.  Manning threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns.

The last touchdown came right after perhaps the most controversial call of the weekend.  Receiver Victor Cruz caught a Manning pass, dropped to the ground, left the ball, and then got up– all without being touched.

“We got a break on that one I think,” said Manning after the game. “I thought it was going to get ruled a fumble and I saw it pretty clear.  I don’t know what the call was or why.”

The referee ruled that Cruz “game himself up” on the play and was therefore down. Manning connected with Hakeem Nicks on what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on the very next play. The Giants are 3-1.

And finally, a week in the NFL can’t go by without mentioning Tim Tebow (Florida) and the Denver Broncos.  Denver was crushed by the Packers on Sunday 49-23.  Tebow saw action for one play and lost a yard.  After the game, Denver coach John Fox said he’s sticking with the starter. “We feel Kyle Orton is our starting quarterback.”

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