Colts trying to bounce back after rare 0-2 start

The Colts are ready to start fighting back.Green Bay Packers Don Barclay Men's Elite Green Nike Jersey
They know the unpleasant reality of a 0-2 start – that only 12 percent of those teams have made the playoffs Mike Neal Elite Jersey since 1990. They understand why outsiders worry about the lack of a consistent pass rush.

They’ve heard Andrew Luck walk into postgame news conferences the past two weeks and lament his own decisions. And they understand why so many questions are being asked just two weeks into the season.

Now, for the first time in more than two years, Indianapolis is attempting to rebound from back-to-back losses Sunday at Jacksonville.

”You can point out every week if we did this, this and this we’d be 2-0,” coach Chuck Pagano said Tuesday. ”We have 14 games left and the only that matters right now is Jacksonville and that’s the next one. The record is the record. We’re not going to sit there and dwell on anything other than Jacksonville.”

The Colts haven’t been this desperate since Peyton Manning went down with a neck injury in 2011 and the Colts opened the season at 0-13.
After Monday night’s debacle, there are obvious reasons for concern.

The defense allowed 24 points over the final 20 minutes and still hasn’t found a replacement for the suspended Robert Mathis, the 2013 sacks champion who will miss the entire season after tearing his Achilles’ tendon during a private workout last week in Atlanta.

Indianapolis couldn’t even generate consistent pressure against Philadelphia’s makeshift offensive line, and now the Colts could be without their key free agent acquisition, Arthur Jones, for several weeks, too. Pagano confirmed Tuesday that Jones has a high right ankle sprain and listed him week to week.

The offense, which ran for 169 yards – its highest total since Week 3 of the 2013 season, couldn’t seal the win because the Eagles converted two second-half turnovers into two TDs.

And instead of running the ball on third down when they were in field goal range with a little over 5 minutes to play, the Colts got aggressive and threw the ball – and essentially the game – away with an ill-advised pass from Luck.
Sure, there were complaints about that there was no call when Luck’s intended receiver, T.Y. Hilton, appeared to be grabbed on the play.

But the Colts refused to make the calls the issue.

”We played as good a half as you can play against a good team, a playoff team,” Pagano said, referring to the Colts’ 17-6 halftime lead. ”But it’s a 60-minute game and that’s what we’re shooting for, to play a complete game.”

Where do the Colts look to fix things?

Perhaps they’ll start with Luck, who acknowledged he ”wasn’t sharp” Monday night.
While his completion rate is up, from 60.2 percent last season to 63.2 percent through two games this season, his yards per attempt have dropped for the third straight year. And he’s already thrown three interceptions after throwing only nine during the 2013 regular season.

The biggest concern: Decision-making.

A week ago, he called his decision to run a hurry-up quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal at Denver ”stupid” because the right players weren’t on the field. Luck was stopped cold and the Colts wound up losing 31-24.

On Monday, it was the late interception.

Indy also signed defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, an undrafted rookie from South Carolina, to the active roster. The hope is he can help replace Jones.

But, for now, the Colts are going to have to look at internal options to fill their biggest hole, putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

”We’re going to continue to develop the guys that are here,” Pagano said. ” The Robert Mathis’ of the world, all the great pass rushers, right now, this time of the year, they’re not falling out of the sky and driving over to west 56th Street and getting ready to rush the passer. So we’ve got to get that fixed.”

And even though it is early, the defending AFC South champs realize they face an uphill battle to get back into the playoff chase.

”It appeared we had that game won and we let it slip away,” Pagano said. ”I’ll start with myself. I’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better.”

Brady throwing to familiar receiving corps

When Tom Brady played in last year’s opener, none of his top five pass catchers from the previous Josh McCown Jersey season were in uniform.
When he starts this season Sunday, the nine players with the most receptions last year for the New England Patriots should be ready to catch his throws.

”I hope we’re at a better place than we were last year because we started pretty fresh last year,” Brady said Wednesday. ”We certainly have some new players, some new additions who are doing different things. Different guys are playing some different spots. But everyone’s kind of got to find a role for themselves, and then we go out there and let it rip and see where we’re at.”

In 2012, Patriots wide receivers and tight ends caught 346 passes. In the 2013 opener, players who caught just 26 of those passes were active.

Last year, those positions produced 296 receptions for the Patriots. Players who caught 279 of them are expected to play Sunday at the Miami Dolphins.

”The more we’re on the same page, the better we’re going to be,” Brady said. ”Offensive football is about anticipation and about having a lot of trust and confidence in one another. I think we built on that.”
The Patriots began last season with a new veteran wide receiver, Danny Amendola, and three rookies – Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce. Tight end Rob Gronkowski missed the first six games following forearm and back surgery.

This season’s newcomers are wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who had a career-high 49 catches last season, his fourth with Carolina, and tight end Tim Wright, who had 54 receptions as a rookie last season with Tampa Bay.

LaFell has had plenty of time to adjust to the Patriots system after signing as a free agent on March 17. A turning point came in the week leading up to the preseason opener at Washington when the Patriots practiced with the Redskins.

”I started getting a little comfortable in this offense probably after the joint practices against the Redskins,” he said. ”It was going against somebody else who hasn’t seen what we run every day in practice. After a while you go against your defense every day. They know your calls. They know your checks.”
Wright has had much less time to prepare.
The Patriots obtained him for six-time Pro-Bowl guard Logan Mankins on Aug 26. Two days later, Wright caught four passes, all from rookie Jimmy Garoppolo, in a 16-13 preseason loss to the New York Giants.

Brady will be doing the throwing Sunday.

”He’s a great quarterback and we’re trying to do as much as we can on the side, just trying to get that connection down,” Wright said. ”Tom (and) the coaches are going to do a good job getting me ready and I’m going to feel confident on game day.”

Wright came to the NFL as a 6-foot-4, 220-pound wide receiver who wasn’t drafted out of Rutgers. He was converted to tight end by the Buccaneers and gives the Patriots an athletic pass catcher.

”We’re trying to get to know each other and spend extra time communicating, gain his understanding of the things that he expects versus my expectations. It’s really a learning process,” Brady said. ”If he’s out there, if they don’t cover him. I’ll probably throw him the ball.”
Wright was happy to hear that from the 15-year veteran who has been his teammate barely a week.

”I feel good about it, just trying to go out there and be consistent and try to earn his trust,” Wright said. ”Just know I could be a person that he could rely on.”

The biggest addition is Gronkowski, who played just seven games last season then missed the last three of the regular season plus two in the playoffs Josh McCown Elite Jersey with a knee injury. He said Monday that he will play Sunday after missing all four preseason games.

Coach Bill Belichick wasn’t ready to declare that publicly.

”We’re going to do what we always do, which is evaluate the players and select the active roster based on the players that we feel give our team the best opportunity to win this week,” he said. ”That’s what we’ve always done and that’s what we’ll do for this team for every player and every situation. How that will turn out, I don’t know.”

NOTES: The Patriots released defensive linemen Bruce Gaston and Kelcy Quarles. They also released safety Charley Hughlett from the practice squad.

Raiders FB Reece’s injury not as bad as feared

Men's Carson Tinker Elite White Nike Jersey Oakland Raiders fullback Marcel Reece escaped a scare when an injury to his right foot was not as significant as initially feared and he expects to be at full strength Will Blackmon Authentic Jersey when the season opens next month.
Reece was a full participant at practice on Wednesday, two days after undergoing an MRI on the foot he injured during last week’s preseason game against Detroit. Reece would not disclose the official diagnosis of the injury, calling it only a ”foot issue.”
Reece has missed just four games because of injury since becoming Oakland’s regular fullback in 2010 and said he never wants to be off the field. He admitted to some concern that he may need to miss some time before getting the encouraging news earlier this week.

”It was a sigh of relief to know that it wasn’t as serious as they thought initially,” Reece said. ”It was definitely a sigh of relief. It’s been feeling better every day. I had that one day of rest and it’s amazing what one day of rest will do for you when you haven’t had one in a while.”

Reece hurt his foot early in last Friday’s game and initially tried to continue playing before it became too painful. X-rays after the game were negative but Reece was forced to leave practice early on Sunday when he didn’t feel quite right.

He underwent an MRI on Monday and was back at practice on a limited basis Tuesday before being able to do everything Wednesday. Reece is wearing a walking boot on his right foot while away from the field.

”When I watched him out there today running around, he looked pretty good running around, so I don’t expect that to be something that we’ve got to manage, but we’ll see as this thing moves along,” said coach Dennis Allen. ”Obviously if it becomes a hindrance we’ll have to manage it, but if not, we’ll let him go out there and play. But I didn’t notice anything today.”

Allen wouldn’t say whether Reece will play in Friday night’s exhibition game against Green Bay. Reece said he always wants to play but will do whatever he is told by the coaching staff.

”If coach tells me they don’t want to play me in a preseason game I’ll respect their decision,” he said. ”I want all of my teammates to know as a leader and captain of this team that if I’m able to play and help them win I’ll be out there, no matter if it’s a preseason game, Super Bowl, first week of the year, no matter what.”

Reece said he expected to get some rest next week when many starters will get the final preseason game against Seattle off and hopes to be 100 percent for the season opener against the New York Jets on Sept. 7.

While fullbacks are often minor players on most teams these days with the prevalence of three receiver or multiple tight end sets, Reece is an integral part of the Raiders offense. A converted wide receiver in college, Reece has the ability to line up outside and take advantage of mismatches against slower linebackers or use his size to exploit smaller defensive backs.

Reece had 46 carries for 218 yards and caught 32 passes for 331 yards last season, scoring four touchdowns overall. He lost weight this offseason in hopes of being faster and the Raiders were hoping to use him even more on offense in 2014.

NOTES: Allen said no decision has been made on whether backup QB Derek Carr will play Friday after leaving last week’s game with a concussion. … TE Scott Simonson has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion, while WR Brice Butler still must pass an additional test before he can play. … OL Matt McCants and DL Justin Ellis remain sidelined by concussions. … The Raiders re-signed K Kevin Goessling and waived-injured S Jeremy Deering.

Three-down LBs more scarce as pass plays increase

Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett had a simple answer for how often he left the field Mark Barron Authentic Jersey when the opponent had the ball.

A slight exaggeration? Perhaps.

What’s certain is that an NFL linebacker’s role has changed since Tippett’s retirement after the 1993 season ended a 12-year career, all with the New England Patriots, in which he sacked quarterbacks, shadowed receivers, tackled rushers and tried to catch his breath.

In today’s NFL, few linebackers are as busy as Tippett. Rules that encourage passing have led teams to replace a big linebacker with a speedier one, or with a defensive back in nickel packages. Some linebackers are used exclusively to rush the passer. Others are used in running situations. And many linebackers are not as well-rounded coming into the league because they have less practice time in college, and even NCAA coaches are using a platoon system.

”That position has been specialized for several years now,” New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said.
Today’s linebackers must tussle with big, fast tight ends. Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, Julius Thomas and Jason Witten all are at least 6-feet-5 and 250 pounds. And who can keep up with super-speedy Vernon Davis?

Through 2008, there was just one season in NFL history, 2005, when at least eight tight ends caught 60 passes or more. That’s been done in each of the last five seasons.
In Tippett’s 12 years, tight ends caught at least 60 passes just 28 times. In the past three years, 31 have done it.

”Everybody seems to have that special guy that, is he a tight end? Is he a wide receiver? Is he both?” Tennessee defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. ”So you do need special people” to cover them.

Few teams have more than two linebackers who play all of the first three downs.

Last season, only 73 linebackers played more than two-thirds of the league-wide average of running and passing plays. Just 60 of them, less than two per team, were on the field for more than three-quarters of that amount.
”You look at those Super Bowl years (the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons) that we won, we won with the 3-4 defense and most of those guys pretty much stayed on the field,” said Tippett, the Patriots director of community affairs and franchise leader with 100 sacks. ”It’s a badge of honor.”

New England coach Bill Belichick recalls having Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson and Harry Carson in the 1980s when he was linebackers coach and defensive coordinator for the Giants.

”I can’t remember too many times when (they) were standing behind me,” Belichick said, ”but it wasn’t very often.”
Just like the freedom defenders once had to hit quarterbacks and receivers, those days are gone. And this season officials are cracking down on contact with receivers.

The three-down linebacker ”is a dying breed,” said Gunther Cunningham, senior coaching assistant with the Detroit Lions who has spent the past 32 seasons as an NFL head coach or assistant.

One of his linebackers, Stephen Tulloch, rarely comes off the field.

”It takes a lot of work in the offseason, taking care of your body to stop the run and defend the pass,” Tulloch said, ”and a lot of work in season watching film so you can help the team in every situation.”

A run-stopping linebacker usually is replaced by a defensive back on third down, especially with the increase in four-receiver formations.

The days of smashmouth football when Dick Butkus patrolled the middle are long gone.

”The evolution you can trace to certain rule changes that make (it) a little bit more advantageous to throw,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. ”You are still looking for big, strong guys that can defend the run on first and second down and have the versatility to play in coverage.”

Top linebackers Ahmad Brooks of San Francisco, Lavonte David of Tampa Bay, Tamba Hali of Kansas City and Luke Kuechly of Carolina play all three downs.

So do Philadelphia’s four starting linebackers; DeMeco Ryans played 1,189 snaps last season, the most of any NFL defensive player. That’s more than 74 snaps per game.

Now his workload may be reduced.

”I’ve said, ‘Look, I know you want to be out there every down, everybody does. But I’m telling you right now that I’m going to work to get some ways to give you some relief to have you with us in Week 15 and 16,’” Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said, ”and he’s great about it.”

Tippett wouldn’t have liked that at all.

He has worked in the Patriots’ front office since retiring and has teased players in the locker room.

”I say, ‘You know, I never came off the field. You know that, don’t you?’” Tippett said. ”Then they’ll start laughing a little bit.”

Long Davis homer lifts Pirates over Cardinals 3-1

Ike Davis wasn’t able to play meaningful late-season games during his time with the New York Mets. He’s making the most of his chance Lavonte David Authentic Jersey with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
”It’s the first time he’s been involved in games that have this kind of significance this late in the season,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Wednesday after Davis’ long home run keyed a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. ”He’s showing up to the ballpark ready contribute any way he can.”

Davis hit a two-run drive off a speaker above the seats in right-center field in the second inning. A day earlier, Davis had a pinch-hit, tiebreaking, three-run homer in the eighth inning of Pittsburgh’s 5-2 win.

Davis arrived in the major leagues with the New York Mets in 2010 and was traded to Pittsburgh in April. The Mets finished with losing records in all of his seasons in New York.

”It’s hard when you’re mathematically eliminated,’ Davis said. ”You hit a home run and it’s a great feeling still, but it’s kind of like it didn’t really matter. If you’re still in it, it definitely feels a little sweeter.”

Davis hit his 10th homer after Adam Wainwright (15-9) plunked Russell Martin on the left elbow with a pitch that Martin barely tried to avoid. Davis sent an 88 mph cutter clanking off a speaker raised on a pole, about 15 feet above the seats, a drive estimated at about 433 feet.
”I just got the barrel on it,” Davis said. ”It just carried out today.”

Wainwright knew he made a mistake when he saw where his pitch was headed.

”I threw it right into Ike’s swing path, and he made a good swing on it,” Wainwright said. ”I wanted to get the pitch higher, but I got it and down and in, and that’s a left-handed hitter’s honey spot right there.”

Davis also had an inning-ending lineout that left the bases loaded in the fifth.
Pittsburgh took two of three from the defending NL champions and has won five of seven overall. St. Louis (71-61) leads the NL wild-card race, with San Francisco (69-62) trailing by 1 1/2 games and the Pirates (69-64) one game back of the Giants for the second wild-card berth.
Jeff Locke (6-3) allowed one run and six hits in 7 1-3 innings, giving up Matt Holliday’s third-inning homer. Locke also singled in the third and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s sacrifice fly, just the 11th hit for the pitcher in 98 career at-bats.

Mark Melancon pitched a one-hit ninth for his 24th save in 28 chances.

Locke escaped trouble in the third, stranding Daniel Descalso on third when Josh Harrison made a diving stop on Randal Grichuk’s two-out grounder down the line and threw to first

Wainwright allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings. He gave up five runs to Philadelphia on Aug. 22 and has gone winless in consecutive starts for just the second time this season.

”Yo’ure not going to be at your best all time,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. ”Right now, he’s not at his best, but he showed some good signs today.”


C Yadier Molina was to begin an injury rehab assignment and catch five innings for Double-A Springfield on Wednesday and could return to the Cardinals on Friday. He has been on the 15-day DL since July 10 because of a torn ligament in his right thumb. … RHP Michael Wacha was to throw a batting practice session before Springfield’s game Wednesday. A right shoulder stress reaction landed Wacha on the DL on June 18.

3B Pedro Alvarez was out of the lineup, a day after he was removed from a game due to left foot discomfort. Alvarez left PNC Park with a walking boot on his foot after Tuesday’s game and was seen wearing the boot in the clubhouse Wednesday.


St. Louis opens a three-game series at home Friday against the Chicago Cubs. RHP Shelby Miller (8-9, 4.26 ERA) is slated to start against Chicago LHP Felix Doubront (2-4, 6.07 ERA).


Pittsburgh is off Thursday before the Pirates continue their six-game homestand against the Cincinnati Reds. RHP Edinson Volquez (11-7, 3.56 ERA) starts the opener against Lavonte David Elite Jersey his former team and RHP Mike Leake (10-11, 3.51 ERA).


Pittsburgh centerfielder Andrew McCutchen was in the lineup, a day after he was removed from a game because of discomfort in the same area of his ribs that caused him to go on the 15-day DL earlier this month. McCutchen finished 1 for 3 with a RBI. ”We’re always going to be a better team with him in the lineup,” Hurdle said.

The Eagle gathered

The Eagle gathered infront of a small training camp for two weeks, but it sounds like a rookie receiver Qiao Danma Hughes may be from one day mid-season.

Since last month’s leave from the online travel agency, has called the work of bending Matthews Performance Institute and Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson and AJ Green’s training facility in Atlanta. By Tom bending machine operation, the device has seen the door to the best in the league.

Tim McManus bird talk 24/7, Bender said Hawks rookie has been impressive, their limited time together.

“They like him, they love his work.” Del. “He approached AJ maybe the next day he is here, began to ask the key question of which one of the biggest things that you have to re-translate the season to take care of your body how your product will keep your body and you As for Calvin, a lot of people, but he was not, then he helped [Matthews] to correct some of his route running. ”

To the people around him are no new Matthews for his teammates praised Matthews online travel agency in the last month.

“I think he is a great addition to our quarterback,” Nick Foles said. “I think he’s doing a great job, what to buy chips (Kelly) want us to do here.”

From teammates and media acclaim, Matthews has led to high expectations, he was still running second team last month.

While this may be only temporary, and that is the fact that Matthews is a rookie, and according bender, there are a lot he can improve.

“It’s just a way for him to move better,” Bender, “clean up his route, just clean up all aspects of his game.”

Where Matthews’ ultimately ends up on the Eagles’ depth chart will be interesting. There is no denying he needs to prove he can play in the NFL, but he seems to have the highest ceiling of any receiver on the Eagles given his combination of size and speed.

Especially if he played a level, Johnson and Green apparently thinks he can.