Youth Baltimore Ravens Justin Tucker Nike Black Alternate Game Jersey

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With the Baltimore Ravens’ offense struggling to move the ball and getting booed throughout Monday night’s game against the Houston Texans, it was up to the defense and the right leg of Justin Tucker to close out an important victory.

That’s the safest proposition for the Ravens these days.

With the game hanging in the balance, the Ravens forced two turnovers in the final five minutes and held on for a 23-16 victory.

The Texans trailed by four points when Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs beat Kendall Lamm and strip-sacked quarterback Tom Savage with C.J. Mosley recovering.

Tucker converted his third field goal to make it a seven-point game with 2:58 to play. Defensive back Anthony Levine Sr. then all but finished the Texans with an interception on the ensuing possession.

The Ravens improved to 6-5 and leapfrogged the Buffalo Bills for the AFC’s sixth seed and second wild-card spot with five games to play.

They did it despite the downfield passing game being virtually nonexistent. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco finished 20 of 32 for 141 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.

Flacco actually did more damage with his legs, rushing for 42 yards on six carries. It was his 25-yard run after the two-minute warning that allowed the Ravens to take a knee. The Texans fell to 4-7.

The Ravens held a seven-point halftime lead, but momentum started to slowly go the Texans’ way about midway through the third quarter. Savage engineered a penalty-aided 13-play, 65-yard drive that ended on a Ka’imi Fairbairn 36-yard field goal.

That cut the Ravens’ lead to 17-13.

After the defense forced a three-and-out on the Texans’ next possession, the Ravens took over around midfield and finally made a couple of plays on third down.

The Ravens were 1 for 9 on third down when Alex Collins ran for 12 yards on a third and eight and Flacco hit Mike Wallace for 13 yards on a third and four. That set up Tucker’s 31-yard field goal, which gave the Ravens a 20-13 lead with 10:59 to play.

However, the Texans answered with points immediately. DeAndre Hopkins, who terrorized Jimmy Smith and the Ravens’ secondary all night, caught a 39-yard pass in between Smith and safety Eric Weddle.

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The Texans couldn’t get in the end zone and settled for a 37-yard field goal by Fairbairn to make it a 20-16 game with 8:36 to play.

The Ravens’ first Monday night home game since the regular season opener of the 2012 season started about as poorly as possible.
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On offense, the Ravens got the ball first and went three-and-out despite picking up eight yards on a Flacco to Chris Moore completion on the first play from scrimmage. The next two plays were Flacco incompletions.

The Ravens’ defense, which was coming off a dominating shutout of the Green Bay Packers, allowed the Texans to drive 90 yards on nine plays for a touchdown. The Ravens were their own worst enemies on the drive as they gave the Texans 39 yards on three penalties. Lamar Miller ran it in from four yards out for a 7-0 Texans lead.

The Ravens were energized by Coach John Harbaugh calling a fake punt on fourth and six from the Houston 41. Running the same play that they ran successfully two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, punter Sam Koch lofted a pass to the outside to gunner Chris Moore, who made a diving catch to pick up 22 yards.

Two plays later, Buck Allen carried several defenders and Ravens blockers into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown run.

The Ravens added to their lead on their next drive after they set up in good field position following safety Tony Jefferson’s first interception as a Raven.

Harbaugh again was aggressive on his team’s next drive, going for it on fourth and one from the Houston 37. Flacco pitched it outside to Collins, who picked up 29 yards as the Texans failed to set the edge. On the very next play, Collins powered in from eight yards for his second touchdown in as many weeks to give the Ravens a 14-7 lead.

Men’s Los Angeles Chargers Melvin Gordon Nike Royal Color Rush Legend Jersey

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That’s how many yards per carry the Cowboys defense has allowed in the second halves of the Rams, Packers, Falcons, and Eagles games, i.e. the games without Sean Lee. In the first halves of those games the defense usually gave up about 30-40 or so yards and then in the second half, for whatever reason, they simply crumbled. For as much consternation as there is over the pass defense, and it’s plenty warranted, the run defense has been arguably the biggest culprit in the second half defensive collapses.

Carson Wentz made a few timely throws on third down last week but he didn’t even put up 100 yards passing in the second half. Aaron Rodgers threw for less than 150 in the second half, which isn’t necessarily great but if you hold Rodgers to under 300 in a game (which the defense did) you feel pretty good about it.

What really killed the Cowboys in those games, and the Falcons and Rams games, was that the defense has consistently given up 90+ yards in the second half, and in some cases they gave up well over 100. Jared Goff, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Carson Wentz are clearly all very good quarterbacks, you have MVP’s, a Super Bowl winner, at least one Hall of Famer, and two of the brightest young quarterbacks in the league.

But again, they didn’t single-handedly kill the Cowboys. Each of them certainly made timely throws and played well overall, but it was the running game that was the real killer, often times after successfully limiting the run in the first half. You have absolutely no hope of stopping a top-tier quarterback when you allow a team to consistently run the ball at a decent clip, let alone if you’re giving up 6-7 YPC.

And on Thanksgiving the Cowboys will face yet another quarterback similar to those other four in Phillip Rivers. He is at the back end of his career but he is still a borderline top 10 quarterback who is more than capable of carving up any defense on any given Sunday, especially if afforded a running game popping off for 5+ yards a clip.

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All of that brings me to Melvin Gordon, the Chargers 2016 Pro Bowl running back. Gordon had a disappointing rookie year in 2015 after being drafted 15th overall out of Wisconsin, but he bounced back in 2016, putting up 997 yards and 10 touchdowns, which ranked 13th and 7th in the league respectively. He was also a potent threat out of the backfield with 41 catches for 419 yards.

He’s had a similar season in 2017, ranking 9th in the league with 633 yards rushing, 5 touchdowns, and another 35 catches for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns. Gordon is a bit of a plodder, averaging only 3.8 YPC in 2017 and 3.9 last season, but he is capable of busting long runs when he hits the hole at the right angle, evidenced by his 87-yard touchdown a few weeks ago against New England.replica-football-jerseys-cheap-300x200

Either way, when your defense has gotten torn apart recently by the likes of Aaron Jones and Tevin Coleman there isn’t much room for arrogance when it comes to stopping opponents. Gordon might not have elite speed but he is certainly a very good overall player and is one of the more consistent, versatile backfield threats in the league who can keep an offense on-schedule.

Even if the Cowboys are able to limit Gordon in the first half, as they have in those four collapses, the Chargers won’t get away from the run. Gordon ranks 8th in the league in attempts in 2017 and was 10th in 2016. He will get his 15-20 rushes one way or the other, and if he starts breaking off long runs late in the game you better believe they’ll keep feeding him with his physical style.

So the defense, without Sean Lee, will have to figure out some way to stifle the running game while not getting carved up by Rivers through the air. It’s hard to pinpoint why exactly the defense falls off so steeply after halftime but some of it has to be that opponents are seeing something and adjusting because the pattern is too stark and obvious to discount it as mere happenstance, especially when for the most part the personnel on the field doesn’t change from one half to the next.

I wish I had answers for how the Cowboys can accomplish this but at this point I’m clean out. You simply have to hope that Tyrone Crawford, David Irving, Demarcus Lawrence and company can elevate their games to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, and that Anthony Hitchens, seemingly the only “3-down” linebacker left in Lee’s absence can stay available and on the field.

I’m not optimistic given what we’ve seen out of them lately.

NFL Pro Line Men’s Jacksonville Jaguars Telvin Smith Team Color Jersey

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Even before Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer took his first snap on Sunday afternoon, Telvin Smith already had him figured out.

Throughout last week’s preparations, Smith studied Kizer on tape and paid particular attention to the way he repeatedly stared down receivers before attempting throws.

On a rain-soaked, cold and snowy afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium, Smith didn’t have to wait long to expose Kizer’s flaw during the Jaguars’ 19-7 victory that kept the Browns (0-10) winless.

It came on the first play during the Browns’ second drive of the game when Kizer locked into receiver Corey Coleman as he ran his intermediate route into the flat.

Smith anticipated the play perfectly, jumping in front of Coleman to make the interception and 26-yard return.

Four plays later, the Jaguars scored their first touchdown on a 10-yard Blake Bortles pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis.
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“Earlier this week, I said he (Kizer) was a rookie quarterback and we were going to expose that,” Smith said. “In film, we seen that he was going to stare stuff down. On the interception, I knew it was going to be a glance and he threw it. I saw the formation and I knew what we were getting on that play and I played it. I was there all day and shouldn’t have threw it.”

Smith’s interception turned out be the start of another solid overall performance by the Jaguars’ defense. They forced five turnovers, including two in the final two minutes.

They also had five sacks to push their NFL-leading total to 40.

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The Browns had only four yards of total offense in the first quarter and finished the game converting only 3-of-13 third-down attempts.

The Jaguars (7-3) came in as the NFL’s top-ranked scoring defense (14.9 ppg). Through they didn’t quite meet safety Tashaun Gipson bold predictions of shutting the Browns out and putting up 40 points, Cleveland’s only touchdown was on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Kizer to running back Duke Johnson in the second quarter after the Jaguars were leading 10-0.

“It was just a great team win,” said Smith, who signed a four-year, $50 million contract extension in October. “Obviously Gip put it out there with us this week and we give them something to chew on getting ready for the game. But like I say every week, if we do what we do, there’s not a team in the league that can play with us. What we realize is if everybody keeps playing, the plays are going to come. Whether it be at the beginning of some games when we get out fast and blow teams out or whether at the end, it’s going to come.”

In addition to his interception, Smith scored a fourth-quarter touchdown when he recovered a Kizer fumble that was caused on Yannick Ngakoue’s sack at the Cleveland 9-yard line with 1:24 remaining.

It’s Smith’s second defensive touchdown this season. In a Week 5 victory at Pittsburgh, Smith returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown and had 10 tackles to win the AFC Defensive Player of the Week award.

“This was another one of those games where the defense had to hold it down and make plays and even score,” linebacker Myles Jack said. “Telvin is in a league of his own. That’s that $50 million play, he’s out there balling. To be able to play next to a guy like that and see him make plays all the time, it just motivates me to go even harder.”

Men’s Atlanta Falcons Vic Beasley Jr NFL Pro Line Big & Tall Team Color Jersey

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Vic Beasley, who led the NFL in sacks last season with 15.5, started at strongside linebacker against the New York Jets on Sunday.

He moved fluidly when dropping into pass coverage in the base defense. He also moved to defensive end in obvious passing situations and in the team’s nickel package.

The Falcons have been working with Beasley since cheap authentic jerseys the offseason, but haven’t played him much in games at that position. With Duke Riley out after knee surgery, the Falcons moved De’Vondre Campbell to weakside and put Beasley at strongside linebacker in the base defense.

“We are bigger when we do that,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “Having De’Vondre (Campbell) there  (at weakside) adds that versatility to it.”

Beasley had only one tackle against the Jets, but looked fine.

“I feel like anything, the more reps that you get, you become better at it,” Beasley said. “Put the time in and stay positive with it, you become better.”

That was Beasley’s approach during his transition to a hybrid linebacker/defensive end.

In addition to the sacks, Beasley led the team with 16.5 quarterback hits and 33.5 hurries last season. Totaled with his sacks, he affected the quarterback on 65.5 plays and was named first-team All-Pro.

Beasley, who added some countermoves to his pass rush last season under the guidance of former defensive line coach Bryan Cox and future Hall of Famer Dwight Freeney.

Some players might resist the move because it could lead to fewer sack or pass-rushing opportunities.

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“I still can make plays out of that position,” Beasley said. “I’m not disturbed by it or anything by any means. I’m actually excited about the (opportunities) that I get.”

It was a work in progress for Beasley over the offseason. The hardest part was dropping into coverage.

“I’ve tried to catch on pretty quick,” Beasley said. “The opportunities that they give me, I try to take advantage of them. Now, that they feel comfortable with me playing that position, more often, I think we’ll be OK.”

Quinn expects to expand Beasley’s linebacker role.

“I would say that you can expect to see more of that,” Quinn said.

Beasley’s conversion was slowed by a hamstring injury he suffered against Green Bay on Sept. 17. He missed the next two games and returned against Miami after the bye week Oct. 15.

Beasley didn’t appear to have all of his pass-rushing speed against the Dolphins and has been rounding back into form.

He was fine against the Jets as he appeared at or near 100 percent healthy.

“He felt fine and explosive,” Quinn said. “The hamstring can take a little while to come back from. He was a little guarded with his play. Now, he’s fully equipped to not think about it. Sometimes when you have an injury and you’re healthy, but you don’t trust it to explode. You have to go through that process once you get back to let it rip.”

Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said Beasley, his college teammate at Clemson, is handling everything well.

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“He’s been good playing on the (defensive) line as well as performing at linebacker and dropping into coverage, which is what he doesn’t usually do,” Jarrett said. “He’s been doing it very well for us. He’s been doing usual Vic stuff.”

Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel also was impressed.

“We were very pleased with that, just from the stand point of (him) stepping in,” Manuel said. “He did what we asked him to do on third down and on first and second. He not only played the run, he played the pass in coverage as well.

Manuel knows that some players are not receptive to position changes or role alterations.
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“So, we take our hat off to him for doing what we asked him to do down-in and down-out,” Manuel said.

Beasley knows he’ll have to be stout against run-heavy Carolina and make the right decision when quarterback Cam Newton runs their zone-read plays.

“We are real familiar with their offense,” Beasley said. “There is a whole bunch of flying colors (deception and mis-direction).”

Beasley thought he might have to drop in coverage to help against Kelvin Benjamin, but he was traded to Buffalo on Tuesday.

“I was definitely shocked by the fact that they let (Kelvin) Benjamin go,” Beasley said. “I felt like that was their primary receiver with (Greg) Olsen being out, but we are pretty familiar with them.”

As far as the hamstring, “I’ve actually recovered real well,” Beasley said. “Things are going real good right now.”