Mike Pettine's decision to take the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback job from Johnny Manziel came because of a series of off-field missteps by the second-year quarterback, culminated by the most recent video of him holding what appears to be a pink champagne bottle at a club in Austin, Texas. Here's a look at Manziel's time with the Browns, going back to the draft:
- Feb. 14, 2014 -- Before the draft, Manziel said many things about Johnny Football being gone and taking his job seriously.
- May 9 -- Manziel texted the Browns during the draft and urged the team to take him so they could “wreck this league” together. After being taken 22nd overall, Manziel did his money sign as he walked on stage.
- May 10 -- After the draft, Manziel partied the night away with magnums of champagne and celebrities.
- May 26 -- Manziel appeared in several online photos in Vegas during a down time in the team's offseason work.
- June 10 -- The infamous photo was taken of him on the floating swan with a bottle of champagne.
- June 16 -- The “money phone” video appeared.
- June 27 -- At the rookie symposium, Manziel spoke with the media and said he would not change his life for anybody.
- July 4 -- A photo of Manziel rolling money into a small tube in a Vegas bathroom appeared.
- July 25 -- The Browns admit they were “alarmed” by some of Manziel’s behavior.
- July 26 -- The Browns called Manziel in the day before training camp and spoke pointedly to him about his off-field habits. Owner Jimmy Haslam said the team “expects better from him.”
- Aug. 14 -- Manziel was late for a training camp meeting, saying he “misread the schedule.”
- Aug. 18 -- Manziel extended his middle finger to the Redskins' bench in a nationally televised game, for which he was fined $12,500.
- Aug. 20 -- Brian Hoyer was named the starter and Manziel admitted to not being ready.
- Nov. 22 -- There was a lobby incident/fight between Manziel, a friend and a fan Manziel described as aggressive and intoxicated. The Browns expressed disappointment at the timing of the incident, at 2:36 a.m. the morning the team was flying to Atlanta for a game.
- Dec. 1 -- Manziel replaces Hoyer in Buffalo and runs for a touchdown to end his first drive.
- Dec. 12 -- Yahoo! posts a story detailing the crazed lifestyle Manziel had in college, and how he went from being a college player "to Elvis."
- Dec. 14 -- Manziel started his first game against Cincinnati and threw for 80 yards as the Browns lost 30-0.
- Dec. 21 -- Manziel pulls his hamstring and leaves the game just before halftime in Carolina.
- Dec. 23 -- Manziel says he intends to take his job more seriously, that “it’s a job for me now.”
- Dec. 27 -- Manziel did not show up for a team walk-through and treatment, with Browns security going to his home to find him. He later admitted to being out the night before.
- Dec. 29 -- Manziel says he can't say anything more to prove himself, that he has to put his words into action. The team agrees.
- Dec. 30 -- The Instagram video appeared with Manziel wishing LeBron James happy birthday.
- Jan. 16, 2015 — Manziel and Josh Gordon spend time in Aspen, Colo.
- Jan. 23 — ESPN.com story appears chronicling Manziel’s rocky rookie season.
- Jan. 28 — Manziel enters treatment at the Caron Center outside Reading, Pa.
- April 11 — Manziel leaves treatment after an extended 10-week stay.
- June 1 -- Manziel throws a water bottle at a badgering fan at the AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament in an incident that was dismissed as "fairly straightforward" by a police spokesman in Irving, Texas.
- June 17 — Manziel meets media for the first time, promises to junk the signature “money sign” and says he will do all he can to tamp down the off-field hype.
- Aug. 13, 20 -- Manziel has a running and passing TD in each of the first two preseasons games.
- Aug. 23 — Manziel leaves practice with elbow soreness. He would miss the final two preseason games.
- Sept. 13 — Manziel takes over after Josh McCown leaves the opener with a concussion and has poor results.
- Sept. 20 — With McCown out, Manziel throws two long TD passes to Travis Benjamin in the Browns' first win of the season.
- Sept. 27 — McCown returns to the starting lineup against Oakland.
- Oct. 12 — Manziel is questioned by police after witnesses called reporting he had been driving dangerously on the shoulder. He parks his car in Avon, where his girlfriend tells a witness he had been beating her. Manziel admits to drinking downtown during the day. No charges were filed and the couple was allowed to leave together.
- Nov. 5 — Manziel starts for an injured McCown in Cincinnati and struggles in a 31-10 loss.
- Nov. 7 — Manziel is honorary captain at Texas A&M and parties that night in College Station. Photos appear on social media early the following week.
- Nov. 15 — Manziel starts in Pittsburgh and plays well, throwing for 372 yards in a 30-9 loss.
- Nov. 17 — Mike Pettine names Manziel the starter for the rest of the season. In doing so, he tells Manziel he has to live up to the responsibility. Manziel promises he will do nothing the bye week to embarrass the team or the organization. Later that day, the NFL announces Manziel will not be disciplined for the Oct. 12 incident under the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.
- Nov. 23 — A video appears online on bustedcoverage.com and TMZ.com showing Manziel singing a hip hop song while holding a bottle that appears to be pink champagne at an Austin, Texas, club. Other photos appear from his Thursday and Friday evenings in Austin.
- Nov. 24 — Pettine expresses his disappointment and frustration with Manziel’s actions, then announces he has lost the starting job. Pettine says McCown will start Monday night against Baltimore. Manziel is made the team’s third quarterback.
The benefit of adding Clausen is he's already familiar with Marc Trestman's offense. Clausen, 28, played under Trestman in Chicago last season.
Outside of bringing in a young passer with upside, this was probably the best the Ravens could do given that there are only six weeks left in the regular season. On Monday, coach John Harbaugh said it would be "a plus" to bring in a quarterback with experience with the system.
The Bears waived Clausen on Monday after a team -- perhaps the Ravens -- showed interest in practice squad quarterback David Fales, who was drafted in the sixth round when Trestman was the coach in Chicago. To keep Fales, the Bears promoted him to the active roster and cut Clausen.
The Ravens were in need of a backup after Flacco suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday and Matt Schaub moved into the starting role.
Clausen, a 2010 second-round pick by the Carolina Panthers, is 1-11 as a starter. He has completed 53.2 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
In his only start this season, Clausen was 9-of-17 for 63 yards in a 26-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel's decisions off the field this season have cost him the chance to establish himself on the field.
Coach Mike Pettine announced on Tuesday that Manziel had not only lost the starting quarterback job, but that he would be the third quarterback behind both Josh McCown and Austin Davis for Monday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Clearly the team's level of frustration and disappointment -- to use Pettine’s words -- over Manziel’s off-field actions hit the breaking point.
One week ago Manziel was named the starter for the rest of the season. He was coming off a 372-yard passing performance in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game in which he played well and earned further opportunities.
At the time, Pettine made sure to tell Manziel he had a responsibility to act properly during the bye week. Manziel publicly promised that he would do nothing to embarrass the team or the organization.
Then a video appeared online of Manziel holding what appeared to be a pink champagne bottle singing "March Madness" by Future with a DJ at an Austin, Texas, club. The exact date the video was filmed is not known.
The Browns were not at all pleased. Manziel’s recent actions have eroded the trust the team has in him.
The team supported him during his 10-week stay in treatment in the offseason and stood by him after he returned. But on Oct. 12 he had an incident with his girlfriend while driving in suburban Avon, Ohio. He told police he had been drinking downtown. He was not charged and the league did not discipline him, but there were concerns over what happened.
In the weekend following a Thursday night game in Cincinnati, Manziel appeared in social media photos at parties at Texas A&M.
Then came the video and photos on bustedcoverage.com and TMZ.com that showed Manziel singing to the camera in Austin.
When Pettine spoke about Manziel on Tuesday, he did so with words that made the eventual decision clear, saying he's particularly concerned by the fact that there have been multiple incidents.
“That’s all a part of the frustration, the disappointment,” he said. “It’s a little easier to handle when it’s just a one-time occurrence, but then the behavior repeats, not just him but with anybody, it’s certainly a cause for concern.”
The Browns' statement said the decision was Pettine’s and it came with the support of general manager Ray Farmer and owner Jimmy Haslam. The decision was based on the fact that the team did not feel Manziel lived up to the responsibility given him as the starter and that his actions did not support the team as a whole.
Some focus on how long it has been since Upshaw recorded a sack. The Ravens remember everything he's done to get to that point.
"Here’s a guy that has been competing like crazy, been listening to all of your criticism from time to time and doesn’t let it get to him because he knows how hard he works," coach John Harbaugh said. "He knows what kind of player he is, and to see it pay off for him in a moment like this is just incredibly rewarding for him and for all of us [coaches], too."
With that timely turnover, Upshaw ended some long-running frustration.
This marked Upshaw's first full sack since Oct. 6, 2013. That was a drought of 36 straight regular-season games.
Upshaw nearly had a sack in Week 2 last season, when he had a crushing hit on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But he was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
Asked about his first sack in two seasons, Upshaw said, “Oh, man, I don’t even want to think about it like that. But at the end of the day, I made the play. I’m just happy I was part of making that play."
Upshaw's play was the highlight of just the second fourth quarter shutout for the Ravens this season.
“I was like a proud big brother," linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "He has been working on it since camp, and I just kept telling him, ‘Just keep working on your get-offs.’ Behind the scenes, I know how hard he works at it, and to see him, everything going in place."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens don't believe quarterback Joe Flacco will miss the start of the 2016 season after tearing his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in Sunday's 16-13 win over the St. Louis Rams.
"Indications that I've been given is he would be back for the start of training camp and it wouldn't be an issue," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "However, as we well know, those are always things that get determined by how the rehab goes."
An MRI on Monday confirmed that Flacco tore both knee ligaments. He will wait at least one week until the swelling comes down in the left knee before having both ligaments surgically repaired, according to Harbaugh.
The recovery period for ACL reconstruction is generally six to nine months. The start of Ravens' training camp is about eight months away.
Flacco suffered the left knee injury on the first play of the winning drive, when backup left tackle James Hurst was pushed into him. He remained on the field and played the final three snaps.
This will mark the first time in his eight-year NFL career that he'll miss a game. Flacco had played in 137 straight games (including playoffs), which is the fifth-longest streak in NFL history.
"Most guys come back from those things pretty well," Harbaugh said. "He's certainlly going to have plenty enough athleticism even if there is a little drop-off there. The way technology is, guys bounce back from these things really well. I have every expectation that he'll bounce back 100 percent and be stronger than ever and be ready to roll next year."
The Browns, Titans and Chargers are all tied with a league-worst 2-8 record. But because the Browns have had the easier schedule of the three, they'd be listed first.
Six games remain before the final draft order is determined. Next for the Browns is a Monday night game against Baltimore. The Ravens are 3-7, and would draft fourth if the draft were today.
That means Monday's game has large draft implications for both teams. The winner actually might give the other team the best chance at the best player in college football next spring.
This is new territory for the Ravens, who have not been in the top 10 since 2000. The Browns, though, have been drafting high almost every year since they returned in 1999. The illogical reality is that even with the top picks, they still keep drafting high.
When the season began, some snarky fans had a "Fail for Cardale" mantra going for the Browns. As in lose so that the team could get the first pick and take Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones. The oddity is that while the Browns have held up their end of the bargain, Jones has failed the Browns.
The Ravens have never had the first overall pick since they became the Ravens after the team that was the Browns moved from Cleveland to Baltimore. Their highest overall pick was fourth, when they took OT Jonathan Ogden in 1996 and LB Peter Boulware in 1997. In 2000, they drafted RB Jamal Lewis fifth.
That was the last time the Ravens had a pick in the Top 10.
The Browns have been in the Top 10 of the draft 10 times since 1999. Twice they had the first overall pick. In 1999, they took Tim Couch as the first pick of the new Browns. In 2000, they took DE Courtney Brown. Impatience and injury derailed what could have been a solid career for Couch. Injuries completely wiped out Brown's career.
The post-1999 Browns have had the third overall pick four times. They took DT Gerard Warren, WR Braylon Edwards, OT Joe Thomas and RB Trent Richardson. Edwards had one record-season for the Browns, but Thomas is the only consistent standout in that group.
The first overall pick is not an "honor" that teams strive to achieve. There is no tanking in the NFL. As Herman Edwards once famously said when he coached the Jets: "You play to win the game."
But the reality is the reality.
The loser of Baltimore-Cleveland has an improved chance for a higher pick in the 2016 draft -- and the other reality is that if the Browns beat a Ravens team that will be without Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett, they'll have helped the team that came into existence when it moved from Cleveland obtain the best player in the 2016 draft.
If Baltimore handles the draft properly, the Browns would see the player they pick twice a year for the next several years.
BALTIMORE -- Long after Joe Flacco's career is over, there are moments that will be forever ingrained in his legacy with the Baltimore Ravens -- the Joe Montana-like Super Bowl run, the fastest five touchdown passes in NFL history and the final three plays on Sunday.
On the last drive of Sunday's 16-13 win over the Rams, Flacco gutted out the final 50 seconds after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee. He stayed on the field after 312-pound left tackle James Hurst rolled into him. He remained despite feeling "a lot of crunches" in his knee. He refused to leave, even though the Ravens are not in a playoff hunt.
So, why did Flacco continue to play?
“I wanted to win a game, and I didn’t know what was wrong," Flacco said. "I tried to hop up as quickly as I could, and I was heading toward the sideline. The fact that I was able to hop up and head toward the sideline, I said, ‘Oh, OK, let’s hang out here and see what I can do.’ I don’t know if that was the best thing, but it’s just a reaction.”
It's fair to question Flacco's consistency, accuracy and place among today's quarterbacks. What can't be debated is his toughness.
After collapsing from that hit by a teammate, Flacco lined up in the shotgun and handed the ball off to Buck Allen. Following a timeout, which gave him an opportunity to exit the game, he lined up under center and gave the ball to Allen. He then waited until the clock hit 4 seconds before spiking the ball.
At that point, Flacco hobbled to the sideline, where he watched Justin Tucker make the winning field goal.
“He never really winces or makes a face, and he never really shows emotion," tight end Crockett Gillmore said. "He kind of bent down and touched his knee. We made eye contact, and I knew something was wrong, really wrong. He’s a tough guy. He’s a stone-cold West Texas kind of guy, old-school cowboy."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was stunned when he was told of the severity of Flacco's injury after the game.
"I didn’t expect that, obviously," he said. "How could you expect that kind of news?”
Just like his demeanor is on a winning drive, Flacco showed little emotion when talking about the abrupt end to his season.
"I’m probably still in shock a little bit," Flacco said. "You play football and you play as long as I have and you play as hard as we do out there, then stuff like this happens. You have to just stand tall and be tough about it. That’s all you can do. I think that’s the way I am about everything in my life, and I’m not going to be any different this time.”
This isn't the first time that Flacco has proved his grittiness. In the playoff run six seasons ago, he dealt with a painful bruise on his right hip and quadriceps that forced him to stand throughout the team's flights for road games. Then, two years ago, Flacco played the final two games with a mild MCL sprain as the Ravens were fighting for a playoff berth.
Flacco's streak of 122 straight regular-season games played ranks No. 5 in NFL history among quarterbacks. Only Brett Favre (297), Peyton Manning (208), Eli Manning (177) and Philip Rivers (154) have been more durable.
Since Flacco's streak started in 2008, 23 quarterbacks started games in the AFC North:
- Cincinnati Bengals (three): Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andy Dalton.
- Cleveland Browns (14): Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, Thad Lewis, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw and Josh McCown.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (6): Ben Roethlisberger, Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich, Michael Vick and Landry Jones.
"I told the team he’s an absolute iron man, warrior-type of a player out there, and now it’s our turn," Harbaugh said. "We have to step up and rally up for him, just like he has done so many times for so many guys.”
Andy Dalton: Yes, night games have been the bane of the Bengals quarterback's existence throughout his career, but he -- like he's been doing in recent prime-time games -- shook free of the old narrative about his play at night. Going 22-for-39 with 315 yards and two touchdowns, Dalton performed about as well as he could have, given the circumstances. He was playing behind a porous offensive line; one that gave up four sacks. His decision-making also was sound all evening as he routinely made the right pre-snap changes to get plays to open up, whether they were screen passes or deep throws downfield. Even his decision to throw to A.J. Green in the end zone on a last-minute third-and-2 was the right one. He had a favorable matchup and tried to exploit it.
Jeremy Hill: No, Hill's overall production wasn't all that good, as his 45 yards on 13 carries will attest. But he did at key times showcase some of the wiggle and power that has made him such a valued piece of the Bengals' offense in the past year. It was primarily on his two rushing touchdowns (two yards and one yard) Hill trended back onto the positive side of the ledger. Those two scores ended up giving his fantasy owners 16 points under ESPN's standard scoring system. It's been five weeks since he's even had a double-digit scoring output.
Tyler Eifert: Just after dropping away the Bengals' hopes in a Monday night loss to Houston, Eifert trended back positively Sunday night. He only caught three passes, but he made them count. Two of the receptions resulted in touchdowns, including a 10-yard snag that gave Cincinnati life in the fourth quarter.
Bengals' secondary: It's hard to consider the Bengals' secondary as "down" since two of its key backup pieces suffered mid-game injuries, and a starter missed the game due to his own aches. Still, the players themselves believe they missed out on executing in the clutch, particularly on the final drive of the game when the defense gave up three straight long passes to open the series. Safety George Iloka reiterated that he has long vouched for the depth in the Bengals' secondary. That depth just didn't show up even after Adam Jones, Darqueze Dennard and Shawn Williams all fought through respective injuries.
Bengals' offensive line: As mentioned above, Dalton was on the ground four times Sunday. With the Cardinals regularly assaulting the Bengals with extra pressure, the offensive line struggled to keep Dalton both upright and free to sit in the pocket for long. Running back Giovani Bernard also missed a block on one sack.
Johnny Manziel couldn’t have scripted it better if he had written it himself.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and noted Browns tormentor Justin Forsett both were lost for the season to injury in Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams. Flacco has a torn knee ligament, Forsett a broken arm.
That’s five key skill players, including the leader of the defense.
This also is not your mother’s Ravens defense. Josh McCown threw for 457 yards as the Browns scored 33 points in a win in Baltimore earlier this season. The Ravens' pass defense started Sunday in the bottom quarter of the league.
Flacco has not missed a game since he was drafted in the first round in 2008, but he’ll miss Monday night. Matt Schaub will start his first game since the season finale in 2013, when he played for the Houston Texans.
There is no such thing as a gimme. Not for the Browns. But this script seems perfect for a young quarterback trying to prove he belongs.
The Browns play at home.
Manziel is coming off a 372-yard passing day.
And the Ravens are decimated by injury.
If Manziel and the Browns can’t succeed Monday night, a game that has first-overall-draft-pick implications, you wonder when they will ever be successful.
"We didn't finish," the fourth-year defender said. "That is pretty much the bottom line and the headline. We didn't finish."
Mark that down as two straight weeks the Bengals have lamented the way they closed out a game. With the playoffs coming into even greater focus, and a high seeding still very well within reach, they must figure out a way to get their sudden end-of-game problem corrected. The best way to snap out of this recent tailspin of back-to-back losses is to finish all 60 minutes next week against the St. Louis Rams.
Early in the season, being able to finish game wasn't an issue at all. To go along with the Bengals' fast starts -- they entered this week with five opening-possession touchdowns; tied with the Patriots for the most in the NFL -- they were closing games well, too. Remember, it was in the first half of the season against Baltimore, Seattle and Pittsburgh when they won games thanks to fourth-quarter comeback bids conducted by Andy Dalton and the offense, and a series of late holds by the defense.
For eight games, the Bengals played a string of complete, well-rounded games, albeit with a few minor issues to iron out along the way.
They have walked away from their last two, though, seeing end-of-game struggles on alternating sides of the ball.
Only five days before this latest loss they couldn't quite finish a late-game charge against the Houston Texans because receiver AJ Green fumbled with about 40 seconds remaining on a hopeful game-winning touchdown drive.
This time around, it was on the Bengals' defense to preserve a tie that was reached going into the final minute of regulation. If the defense could have held like it did so many fourth-quarter drives before, it would have forced the game into overtime, where the Bengals' believed their offense would sustain the late-game momentum it had built up.
That didn't happen. Three straight passes in a minute and six seconds from Carson Palmer -- 19, 18 and 20 yards -- took the Cardinals from their own 16 and all the way into range for Chandler Catanzaro's game-winning 32-yard field goal.
"I haven't even processed what happened," Bengals safety George Iloka said, adding the entire final-drive sequence happened far too quickly for him to comprehend.
To Dalton's credit, he and the offense did what it couldn't against Houston. It responded to a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit by driving down field and bringing the Bengals to within inches of a go-ahead touchdown. Although Green caught a pass that deflected off the Cardinals cornerback covering him with about a minute left in the game, there was question about whether his feet were in bounds as he kicked past the pylon. The play wasn't reviewed, and the Bengals ended up being given a third-down incompletion that resulted in the game-tying field goal.
Comebacks are nice, but the Bengals believe wins are better.
"There is no moral victory because we have high expectations for ourselves, man," Rey said. "For us to fight back and be in it in the end, and then we as a defense let them drive on us to score, we've got to do a better job. But it's definitely not the end of the world for us. We've got six more games, at least. It's just tough. I know it's going to be a long flight home."
The bigger question is whether the Ravens will have Flacco in 2016 when they look to rebound from one of the most disastrous seasons in franchise history.
“I have no idea at this point," Flacco said about a half hour after tearing two knee ligaments. "We just have to see what we can do and get back as quick as possible, but I have no idea.”
While there are no guarantees, it's reasonable to target Flacco for the start of the season, according to ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell.
That said, there are nuances to the injury that are unknown. Doctors can surgically repair Flacco's medial collateral ligament or they can opt to let that ligament scar over to avoid a procedure before proceeding to the ACL. So, this all affects the overall timetable, Bell said.
What helps Flacco's case for returning at the start of next season is he's not a scrambler. He doesn't have the same agility demands of a running back or wide receiver dealing with the same injury.
Flacco's recovery schedule ultimately comes down to how he heals and if he can avoid setbacks. There could be concern about how much Flacco can do when training camp begins in late July, but the likely projection is he'll be ready to start the 2016 season or close to it, according to Bell.
Flacco was hurt with 50 seconds left in Sunday's 16-13 win. Backup left tackle James Hurst was pushed back by the Rams' Matt Longacre, and he fell into the side of Flacco's left knee.
"I’ve done my MCL a couple of times, and I knew it was a lot worse than that," Flacco said. "I felt a lot of crunches and stuff like that. I felt a lot of stuff.”
The recovery period for ACL reconstruction is generally six to nine months. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tore his ACL and MCL in the 2008 season opener, returned to practice nearly nine months later and became the 2009 NFL comeback player of the year. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee on Dec. 24, 2011, skipped the preseason and played every regular season game (leading the league in rushing in 2012 with 2,097 yards). The Ravens watched backup defensive back Terrence Brooks tear the same ligaments last December and get on the field for the third preseason game at the end of August.
So, if everything goes as expected on reworking Flacco's contract, he won't be practicing in the Ravens' offseason workouts in the spring and he could miss all of training camp as well as the preseason. But, based on the information known, Flacco has a chance of being under center when Baltimore opens the 2016 season, which the Ravens hope will mark a return to the postseason.
One group has had injuries and suspensions, the other has lost some cachet after back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. But make no mistake -- the Pittsburgh Steelers' passing game against the Seattle Seahawks' Legion of Boom secondary is one of the league’s best matchups this week.
Antonio Brown and Richard Sherman are destined to spark several good downfield matchups, with some friendly on-field dialogue along the way. Both love to talk. Sherman’s known for it, and Brown, though soft-spoken off the field, is louder on it. He’ll have a few words for Sherman if he gets a few big gains.
Sherman customarily played one side for the Seahawks' defense, but as ESPN Seahawks reporter Sheil Kapadia reports, Sherman has shadowed some of the big dogs at times this year. Brown simply isn’t a fair matchup for Cary Williams. And Brown moves around enough where he’ll see plenty of Sherman’s long arms and range. This matchup will be entertaining at the line of scrimmage, where Sherman can use his length to jam receivers and where Brown has enough moves in his arsenal to disrupt a good jam.
On the surface, it’s difficult to know what the Steelers will get from Seattle compared to previous years. The stats -- 203 passing yards allowed (second in the league) and nine touchdowns allowed (tied for third) -- suggest this group is still feared. The 5-6 record suggests there’s something missing with these Seahawks.
How some of the game’s best receivers have fared against Seattle:
Randall Cobb, Week 2: Eight catches for 116 yards.
A.J. Green, Week 5: Six catches for 78 yards
Dez Bryant, Week 8: Two catches for 12 yards
Larry Fitzgerald, Week 10: 10 catches for 130 yards
Sherman shadowed Green and Bryant, who, to be sure, had just returned from a foot injury that cost him half the season. But Sherman also held Torrey Smith catchless in Week 7.
Sherman did not play exclusively on Fitzgerald, who often works from the slot as part of the Cardinals’ lethal multiple receiver sets.
The Steelers have depth at the top with Martavis Bryant, who has five touchdowns in five games since returning from a four-game suspension. The Seahawks could designate Sherman to cover Brown and slide safety Earl Thomas toward Bryant, a natural deep threat.
This will be Sherman’s biggest test of the season. Brown is on pace for 1,826 yards on 126 catches. In two and a half seasons, Brown has had one game with less than 40 yards.
Safety play will be crucial for Seattle, because Brown can usually get the short gains in the Steelers’ quick passing game. The Seahawks will need Thomas and Chancellor to help redirect Brown on downfield attempts and limit his yards after the catch.
Brown is probably the game’s best receiver working the sideline. His footwork in this area is unparalleled. It will be fascinating to see how much Brown and Roethlisberger can connect to that part of the field, and whether Sherman’s athleticism and instincts can thwart those plans.
In a game that had so many juicy storylines coming in -- the Bengals' prime-time woes (now 8-18 since 2003) and and the revenge nature of Carson Palmer's second game against his old team -- it was a last-second, game-winning field goal that did in the Cincinnati Bengals during their 34-31 loss at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday night.
While Andy Dalton always bears the brunt of the blame in the Bengals' prime-time defeats, this one certainly isn't on him. Blame a porous defense on the game's final drive, which put the Arizona Cardinals in position to kick the 32-yard field goal with two seconds remaining on the game clock. Only one minute and two seconds before, the Bengals had pushed through with a drive for the ages from Dalton that brought them from an 10-point fourth-quarter deficit into a late-game tie.
Drives like that one are what will be needed from Dalton as the Bengals move forward and try to rebound after a second straight disappointing loss.
What it means: The Bengals are now 8-2 and still very much in control of the AFC North. With the Pittsburgh Steelers off this week, they only lost a half-game in the standings. Cincinnati now has to quickly rebound next Sunday, when it hosts St. Louis at home. It will be the first time in three weeks the Bengals have played a game earlier than 7 p.m. ET.
What were they thinking? Although the Bengals ultimately scored on their first possession of the fourth quarter, there was a serious "what were they thinking?" moment when offensive coordinator Hue Jackson had receiver Mohamed Sanu line up behind center on a pivotal down with the game clock running down. Dalton had just been sacked for an 11-yard loss the play before, so the Bengals were facing a second-and-21. With the safeties dropping, Sanu would have had zones deep to throw into, but there was one problem: He couldn't get the play off before the clock ran down for a delay of game. It could have been a costly penalty. Two 10-yard-plus passes and a fourth-down conversion ultimately preceded Jeremy Hill's 1-yard touchdown run.
One reason to be excited: These two words have to make a Bengals fan smile these days: Geno Atkins. The Bengals defensive tackle has been playing well all season, but he really showed up Sunday night. He made his most visible contributions in the first half, with a sack and another tackle for loss. All night he put pressure on Palmer, making it slightly more difficult to regularly exploit weaknesses in the Bengals' hobbled secondary. Although Palmer still got his yards, he probably could have had even more had it not been for the pressure Atkins applied, and the subsequent response from defensive end Michael Johnson, who also was in Arizona's backfield often. Atkins finished with four tackles.
One reason to panic: You'll read a little more about it in the "Ouch" section, but it's clear that injuries are beginning to take their toll on the Bengals' defensive backfield. Those injuries certainly could make things challenging for Cincinnati as the season continues. Also of concern: The Bengals, injured or not, gave up a few long passes and were gashed for big plays in the secondary due to missed tackles.
Fantasy watch: While the Bengals still didn't get from from Jeremy Hill the type of performance they have spent all season waiting for, he did end up giving his fantasy owners something to cheer about. The second-year running back scored two touchdowns. The scores were a lot like others he has had this season -- they came from inside goal-line territory.
Ouch: Remember when the Bengals were fully healthy and had all members of their 53-man roster consistently practicing? Yeah, that's starting to seem like a long time ago. Just when things looked the most bleak for the Bengals' secondary after cornerback Adam Jones was announced inactive with a foot injury, Cincinnati lost two more defensive backs during the game. Jones' replacement, Darqueze Dennard, was run from the contest with a right shoulder injury he sustained while attempting to tackle Cardinals receiver John Brown in the end zone during a third-quarter touchdown pass. It was announced that he had X-rays, but no results were made available. Along with Dennard, backup safety Shawn Williams sustained a second-half ankle injury that forced him from the game. This will be an important week for the Bengals' secondary as it tries to get as many of the injured defensive backs at closer to full health.
And it officially makes the Ravens a favorite to land the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
With Flacco, the Ravens could hold out hope for a late-season run to respectability. Without him, Baltimore is a shell of a team that many believed would be a Super Bowl contender.
After Sunday's 16-13 win against the Rams, Baltimore (3-7) is one game ahead of the Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans for the worst record in the NFL. Should they fall to Browns at home on Nov. 30, the Ravens could move into the inside track for the top pick.
"We’ll be fine as a football team," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "We’ll bounce back, that’s what you do."
That's what you can say when it's "next man up." For the Ravens, it's next, next, next man up.
The Ravens have lost their top two wide receivers (Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman), top two running backs (Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro), top tight end (Dennis Pitta) and starting center (Jeremy Zuttah). Baltimore was without two other offensive linemen (left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele) by the end of Sunday's game.
The decisive shot was the news that Flacco was finished for the season. The Ravens might have had a chance to upset the Browns or Dolphins or Chiefs with Flacco. Now, no one would be stunned if Baltimore lost its final six games.
Flacco wasn't having his best season, but he admirably kept the Ravens in games. Before gutting out the final plays with torn knee ligaments, Flacco rallied Baltimore from a 13-3 deficit in the fourth quarter by completing 9 of his final 12 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. His fourth-quarter rating of 137.2 trailed only Tony Romo on Sunday.
How are the Ravens going to win games now? How are they going to score? What the Ravens are left with is Matt Schaub (who has lost his last six starts) handing off to Buck Allen or throwing to Kamar Aiken and Chris Givens. This is what you would expect to see in the second half of preseason games, not the second half of a regular season.
"Matt Schaub can play quarterback, and he’s going to come in [and] he’s going to play very well," Harbaugh said. "Those who want to consider themselves amateur evaluators, they can say what they want. It’s OK, we’ll rally behind Matt. We’ll rally behind the rest of our running backs, because we’re a football team. We are a team, and that’s how we approach it.”
The Ravens' reaction to Flacco's season-ending knee injury tells the story of a nightmare campaign.
Flacco had never missed a football game in his life. Not in high school, college or the NFL. He had the fifth-longest consecutive games streak for a quarterback in NFL history.
But the biggest surprise was that few in the Ravens' locker room was shocked by the loss of one of the most durable quarterbacks in football.
"Obviously, it's the way our season has been going," cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "At this point, you kind of expect it. It's the way things are going this year."
This will go down as the most painful, disappointing and bizarre season in the Ravens' 20-year history.
Last week, Baltimore lost a game that the NFL later acknowledged the Ravens should have won. This week, the Ravens won a game that will be remembered by the tremendous loss of Flacco.
He was on pace for a career-high 4,465 yards. He accounted for Baltimore's last seven touchdowns, whether it was throwing or running it in himself. He hobbled for the final three plays because he wanted to win so badly.
"To lose him is tough," linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "It still feels a little surreal."
The truly surreal moment could come in five months, if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks to the podium and announces, "With the first pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens select ... ."