ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For much of the last two seasons, the Denver Broncos have lived the hot-hand life in the run game.

Running backs coach Eric Studesville, with a collection of backs he ranks every week for playing time but close enough in abilities to split the carries in some fashion, would roll them all through the huddle.

As he puts it: “It’s a gut feel, you look at the guys, look at where were are on offense, see how they’re running and you go from there."

Besides, when a team throws the ball as often as the Broncos have since Manning’s arrival in 2012, there aren’t always that many carries to go around.

Still, C.J. Anderson is now poised to have a stretch of games like the Broncos haven’t had since Manning’s inaugural season.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I just look at it like I need to get myself ready to handle whatever they ask me to do," Anderson said. “[Studesville] tells me to go in and I go in. He tells me to run it, I run it. If you need to block, you block, if you need to catch the ball, you catch the ball. And if you need to wait a bit to do it, you wait and stay ready."

With injuries to Montee Ball (right groin) and Ronnie Hillman (left foot), the sturdy Anderson might get a workload that resembles a primary-back approach like he did in Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins. Anderson had 27 carries for 167 yards -- both season-highs for a Broncos running back and easily career-bests for Anderson.

In Manning’s first season with the Broncos in 2012, the Broncos had five games in which a running back had at least 22 carries -- three of those by Willis McGahee and two by Knowshon Moreno. The Broncos had two such games in 2013. Moreno had both in back-to-back games with 27 carries for 79 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs followed by 37 carries for 224 yards against the Patriots the following week.

This season, with Ball, Hillman and Anderson having been at the top of the depth chart, the Broncos have had three games where a running back has had at least 22 carries. Two of the three have resulted in 100-yard games, with Anderson’s against the Dolphins to go with Hillman’s 24-carry, 100-yard day against the New York Jets.

“C.J.’s a baller," guard Orlando Franklin said. “He’s hungry out there ... I look forward to watching him as the weeks progress."

“Whatever’s working, keep it going," Anderson said. “... I think you just stick to your roles, keep your same routine, never get too big about it all and just continue to play hard."
SAN DIEGO -- After he's dealt with a nagging back issue for most of the season, the San Diego Chargers finally brought center Rich Ohrnberger's season to a conclusion, placing the Penn State product on the season-ending injured reserve.

U-T San Diego reported that Ohrnberger will have surgery to correct the issue. The Chargers now have placed three centers on injured reserve this season in Nick Hardwick (neck), Doug Legursky (knee) and Ohrnberger.

Rookie Chris Watt started in place of Ohrnberger last week against the St. Louis Rams and played well. The Chargers selected Watt in the third round of this year’s draft as a potential long-term replacement for Hardwick at center, and the Notre Dame product will get a chance to prove his worth for the rest of the season with Ohrnberger out.

With a vacant spot, the Chargers signed outside linebacker Cordarro Law from the practice squad to the active roster.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's a new week, so we'll refresh your memory about what the Kansas City Chiefs are getting from their wide receivers this season.
  • Catches: 86, last in the NFL.
  • Yards, 997, last in the NFL.
  • Touchdowns 0, last in the NFL.
  • Longest gain, 33 yards, last in the NFL.
  • Targets, 141, last in the NFL.
  • Percentage of dropped passes, 6.4, last in the NFL.
These are all good reasons the Chiefs need to get newly signed wide receiver Jason Avant involved in Sunday night's game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium.

It's a mistake to consider Avant a savior. He won't be. His best season, from his younger days with the Philadelphia Eagles, had Avant catching 53 passes for 648 yards and zero touchdowns. That was in 2012, when he was 29. Avant has 13 career touchdowns in 127 games.

This season, in 11 games for the Carolina Panthers at age 31, Avant had 21 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown.

Still, the Chiefs are desperate for help at wide receiver. Dwayne Bowe, after a midseason surge, has slumped the past two games. Donnie Avery could conceivably play against Denver for the first time in two months, but in that case how much do the Chiefs have a right to expect from him?

Otherwise, the Chiefs are getting little in terms of catches and yardage from their wideouts. So get Avant in the lineup and let's see if he can make a difference.

Boneheaded plays overshadowing Sio Moore's solid season

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Sio Moore became a national punchline for his sack-dance celebration 30 yards from the line of scrimmage late in the final minute against Kansas City last week. It almost cost the Raiders a chance at their first win and obscured the fact Moore has been playing at a very high level this season.

A third-round draft pick in 2013, Moore is the Raiders' co-leader in tackles (82) and is tops on the team in sacks (3). Moore has reached double-digits in tackles four times this year, including matching his season-high of 12 against the Chiefs.

Moore has benefitted from playing in the same linebacking corps as first-round draft pick Khalil Mack. Mack regularly faces double-team blocking from opponents, and that has freed Moore up to make additional plays.

Yet there are a handful of incidents like the one against the Chiefs that have prevented Moore -- who is tied for 14th overall in tackles among all NFL players -- from being considered one of the top at his position.

During Oakland's 41-17 loss to Denver in Week 10, the Broncos scored on a 51-yard screen pass from Peyton Manning to C.J. Anderson. At least six Raiders defenders whiffed at a chance to stop Anderson. Moore? He didn't come close and instead took himself out of the play with a half-hearted effort that later was widely criticized by Mike Mayock of the NFL Network.

Mayock pointed out that while numerous Oakland players missed a chance to stop Anderson, it was Moore's "egregious lack of hustle" that was the biggest mistake made on a play that ultimately swung momentum in the Broncos' favor for good.

Until Moore matures and stops making the boneheaded plays like that one and his ridiculous celebration of a sack against the Chiefs, he'll continue to get overlooked by the national media.

That's a shame, too, because the kid is actually having a very good season.

QB snapshot: Alex Smith

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
A quick observation of quarterback Alex Smith and how he played in the Chiefs' 24-20 loss in Week 12:

While Smith wasn't exactly the Mad Bomber against the Raiders, he did take more chances down the field than usual. Smith completed three passes that went at least 15 yards, the most he has had in a game since Week 2 against Denver.

All three passes went to tight ends, which highlights the problems at wide receiver. With the Kansas City Chiefs needing a touchdown on their final drive, Smith was just 1-of-4 on passes intended for wide receivers.

Smith averages 7.1 yards per pass attempt to a wide receiver this season. The league average is 8.0 yards. Meanwhile, Smith averages 7.0 yards per pass attempt to a tight end or back, which is slightly higher than the league average (6.9 yards).

QB snapshot: Peyton Manning

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
A quick observation about quarterback Peyton Manning and how he played in the Denver Broncos' 39-36 win in Week 12:

In the win over the Dolphins, Manning had his 13th game in his past 27 starts with at least four touchdown passes, a staggering number that this time was a direct result of the team’s ability to dial back Miami’s pass rush, as well as the Broncos' ability to run the ball out of their favored formation.

Manning was 28-of-35 passing -- 10-of-11 in the fourth quarter -- for 257 yards and the four touchdowns. But the win was another example of how much more efficient he is out of the team’s three-wide-receiver set when the Broncos have a commitment to run the ball and some success doing it.

When the Broncos are in three-wide they usually have Manning in the shotgun or pistol -- Manning not under center, but in front of the running back -- so that’s how the running plays come.

In the nine games the team has used the three-wide set the most this season (in their first two games of the year they were in two-tight-end more than three-wide during Wes Welker’s suspension), their three losses have come when they ran the ball just six (St. Louis), 11 (New England) and 12 (Seattle) times out of the shotgun or pistol -- three of their four lowest totals of the season.

For the most part, Manning’s highest efficiency and the Broncos' highest point totals have come when they’ve run the ball 21 times with Manning in the shotgun or pistol against Arizona (41 points), 19 times against Oakland (41 points) and 18 times Sunday against the Dolphins (39 points).

QB snapshot: Philip Rivers

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
A quick observation of quarterback Philip Rivers and how he played in the San Diego Chargers’ 27-24 win over the St. Louis Rams in Week 12:

Even though he threw an interception to St. Louis cornerback Janoris Jenkins that was brought back the other way 99 yards for a score, for the most part Rivers returned to the precision passing he demonstrated earlier this season.

Rivers completed 83 percent of his throws against St. Louis. He was just as effective against the blitz, finishing 13-of-16 for 148 yards and a touchdown when facing at least five pass-rushers.

Rivers' ability to get the ball out quick against an aggressive Rams defensive front resulted in some explosive plays from San Diego's receivers on slip screens and other throws down the field. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chargers gained 205 yards after the catch against St. Louis, the team’s highest total since it gained 228 yards after the catch in Week 12 of last season in a 41-38 win over Kansas City.

The Chargers can use that big-play ability in facing the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, who rank No. 29 in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 265 passing yards a game. The Ravens also have given up 40 passing plays of 20 yards or more, tied for No. 23 in the league.

QB snapshot: Derek Carr

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
A quick observation of quarterback Derek Carr and how he played in the Oakland Raiders' 24-20 win in Week 12:

Much was made of the poise shown by Carr when he engineered the winning drive in the fourth quarter of last Thursday's win against Kansas City.

A closer look at the stats reveals that the rookie QB was pretty poised throughout the game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Carr completed 7 of 14 pass attempts on third down against the Chiefs, converting six into first downs. He was a perfect 4-for-4 on third down when throwing to wide receiver James Jones, who has emerged as Carr's favorite target. That bodes well for a team that is 28th overall on third-down conversions (35.3 percent).

Oakland should be able to improve on that this week at St. Louis when the Raiders go for consecutive wins for the first time since October 2012. The Rams are 23rd in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 42.1 percent of the time.
SAN DIEGO -- With the league clearly focused on relocating a team to Los Angeles, discussions on a proposal to build a multi-use facility in downtown San Diego that would house a new convention center expansion and an NFL football stadium continue to move forward for the San Diego Chargers.

However, the proposal has yet to build consensus among city business and civic leaders, an important step for the team if it wants the project to succeed when inevitably placed on a countywide ballot for voters to weigh in.

The Chargers are keeping their options open because of what is happening in Los Angeles.

Serving as a backdrop for the team’s effort is the possibility of an NFL team relocating to the lucrative Los Angeles market. The Chargers are keeping a watchful eye on what happens in L.A., with 30 percent of the team’s premium sales -- including advertising, sponsorships, club seats and suites -- originating in the Los Angeles market.

Last December, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke purchased 60 acres of land in Inglewood, California, near Hollywood Park racetrack that could house an NFL stadium.

[+] Enlarge Qualcomm Stadium
USA TODAY SportsQualcomm Stadium hosted a Super Bowl as recently as 2003 but may not host the Chargers for much longer.
Kroenke and Chargers owner and president Dean Spanos talked briefly on the field at Qualcomm Stadium about an hour before their teams played over the weekend.

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis has made inquiries about the possibility of moving to Los Angeles if his franchise cannot get a new stadium deal done in Oakland.

Los Angeles has not had an NFL team since the Rams and Raiders departed for St. Louis and Oakland, respectively, in 1995. Both the Rams and the Raiders have the ability to terminate their lease at the end of this season.

JMI Realty, the development company responsible for the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park, has proposed building a $1.4 billion multi-use facility with a retractable roof that would house a stadium for the Chargers, along with planned expansion of the convention center that would include an exhibition hall below the football field and a meeting room and ballroom space in an attached building, with views of the field and bay.

JMI says the project would save hundreds of millions of dollars, rather than building stand-alone facilities for both projects. JMI uses the same architect the Chargers have used, HOK Populous out of Kansas City. Done separately, the price tag on the two projects could reach $1.8 billion.

JMI presented plans to the mayor’s office, city officials, the port and other stakeholders earlier this year. They have proposed three different alternatives. All would require the use of hotel tax money the city earmarked for the convention center expansion.

“We’ve worked very closely with JMI and have a good, cooperative relationship,” said Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Spanos and the team’s point person on the stadium issue.

Fabiani and representatives of San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer have had regular meetings on the project since March. But no timetable has been established on when an official proposal would be presented to the city council, and ultimately to voters.

“Over the past several weeks my office has been meeting with stakeholders, including the lodging and convention industry, the Chargers, JMI Realty, and various experts to discuss options for moving forward,” Faulconer said in a prepared statement. “My review of these proposals, many of which have been covered by local media outlets, is preliminary.

“As I take a fresh look at expanding the convention center, I am open to all options. These include finding alternative financing for the current plan to expand directly next to the existing convention center as well as exploring a non-contiguous expansion at a different location that could include a new stadium for the Chargers. I continue to believe that any proposed Chargers stadium project should be brought before voters.”

The Chargers argue that non-contiguous expansion of the convention center is a more suitable alternative, coupled with a multi-use stadium because it would allow for multiple conventions at the same time.

“The big advantage is if you had a convention space inside a stadium with a retractable roof, you could host the biggest events in the world, including the World Cup, Final Fours, major boxing matches, major MMA matches or huge conventions that require an abundance of flat floor space,” Fabiani said. “All of that could be hosted in the type of facility we’re talking about.”

However, proponents of the initial proposal for expanding the convention center argue that at least 750,000 square feet of contiguous space is needed to attract large conventions, which generate the most revenue. The current convention center houses 525,000 square feet.

In August, an appellate court ruling struck down the financing plan for a $520 million expansion of the convention center along San Diego’s waterfront.

“There have been a number of customer studies and feedback from key citywide conventions that clearly articulate the need for expansion of the existing convention center,” said Joe Terzi, president of the San Diego Tourism Authority. “We would love to see a new multi-purpose stadium downtown and believe it would have a tremendous positive economic impact as Petco Park did when it opened, leading to the revitalization and creation of East Village."

If consensus on a proposal is met, a vote on the project could appear on a countywide ballot as early as the general election in November 2016.

The proposal would need a two-thirds majority vote in order to use hotel tax money as a funding source for the project. That same funding source has been contemplated for use on the convention center expansion.

“We believe it’s achievable, otherwise we would not be spending time on this,” Fabiani said. “But it’s not achievable if you’ve got significant opposition in the community.”

While there’s no official deadline on reaching an agreement on a stadium plan, the Chargers have a three-month window to renew the team’s year-to-year lease with the city of San Diego for Qualcomm Stadium that permits the team to terminate the lease at any time between Feb. 1 and May 1.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs will begin their practice week on Wednesday in preparation for their biggest game of the season. One of the things they will need to decide: How to replace strong safety Eric Berry in the starting lineup on Sunday night when they host the Denver Broncos.

The decision shouldn’t take long. Berry, who has what the Chiefs believe to be lymphoma, missed five games this season because of a high-ankle sprain.

Ron Parker replaced Berry in those five games and played so well that the Chiefs believed he deserved a place in their secondary even after Berry returned. Parker moved to one of the starting cornerback spots once Berry returned to the lineup in the Nov. 9 game against the Buffalo Bills.

The Chiefs not only survived but thrived without Berry. They went 4-1 in games without Berry and 3-3 when he is in the lineup.

Berry made the Pro Bowl in three of his first four NFL seasons, missing only in 2011 when he missed all but a handful of plays because of torn knee ligaments.

This has been perhaps his worst NFL season. He was bothered in the preseason with a heel injury and then had the high ankle sprain. Pro Football Focus has Berry with an overall negative grade for the first time in his career.

Moving Parker to safety will require some shuffling at cornerback, but the Chiefs have some options there. Jamell Fleming has missed the last several games because of a strained hamstring but could be ready to return.

Rookie Phillip Gaines has been working as the nickel back in place of the injured Chris Owens but could start at corner if Owens is available against the Broncos.

The Chiefs also have Marcus Cooper, who began the season as a starter but has been buried on the bench because of poor play.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Almost two years to the day of the Kansas City Chiefs’ most recent tragedy, team officials revealed one of the franchise’s best players and brightest hopes has, in all likelihood, lymphoma.

The Chiefs were hopeful the outcome for safety Eric Berry will be different. Perhaps they caught Berry’s illness early enough. Maybe his plan for treatment will make all the difference.

The Chiefs, and by extension Berry, are due that good fortune. The Chiefs, like all teams and families, have been touched by tragedy, but perhaps more than their share.

It was almost two years ago, on Dec. 1, 2012, that linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and the mother of his child and then committed suicide in the parking lot of the team’s practice facility.

The career of one of the franchise’s best players, linebacker Derrick Thomas, was cut short when he died from complications after an auto accident. Promising running back Joe Delaney drowned while trying to save the life of some children.

Another running back, Mack Lee Hill, died shortly after having knee surgery. A third, Stone Johnson, died from a broken neck he received during a preseason game.

Then there’s head coach Andy Reid, who dealt with his son Garrett's death of a drug overdose while he was coaching the Philadelphia Eagles.

Perhaps all this experience will help the Chiefs deal with yet another situation more important than football. Chairman Clark Hunt flew in from Dallas on Monday morning so he could not only speak with Berry but also be available for other players, coaches and staff members.

“I don’t think you’re ever equipped necessarily to handle what life throws at you," Hunt said. “Certainly this was completely unexpected. I do think we have a culture where we respect and support each other and really that’s the most important thing at a time like this."

Berry was the Chiefs first-round draft pick in 2010. He reached the Pro Bowl in three of his first four seasons, missing only in 2011, when a torn ACL cost him all but a handful of plays.

More than that, Berry is one of the most active Chiefs in the community. Among his many projects: Sending underprivileged Kansas City students to school with fully loaded backpacks.

“When you have somebody who’s been with you for a number of years and I’ve had a chance to get to know him personally and he’s been such a leader for our football team, it probably does pull at the heart strings a little more," Hunt said. “Putting that aside, whether it’s an employee in the front office or someone on the football field, when they’re going through a tough time we want to be there to support them."

To that end, the Chiefs sent Berry off to Atlanta, where he will undergo more testing and treatment, with more than a few words of encouragement. They know from experience that at this point, that’s about all they can do.

“The important thing for us to do as an organization and as a family is -- tell Eric that we love you, we’re thinking about you and that we hope you have a quick recovery," Hunt said. “I had a chance to speak with Eric earlier today and I just told him that my family’s going to be thinking about you and praying for speedy recovery.

“He sounded upbeat actually and very positive. As you know he’s a very focused individual and his mindset was very much of tackling this and trying to get past it as soon as possible."
SAN DIEGO -- Ryan Mathews has totaled 175 rushing yards in two games since returning from an MCL knee sprain that forced him to miss seven games.

But through two games, Mathews has carried the football an average of 14 times a contest, with just four of those carries coming in the fourth quarter and two in the red zone.

So what gives?

San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy explained his team's approach to Mathews.

"We are monitoring that to a certain extent," McCoy said, when asked if Mathews' workload will increase in the weeks ahead. "But he'll kind of help us dictate that also. The longer he can go will come into effect, with this being the second week back. More last week we told them to monitor that. We didn't want him to play too much or too little. And the same this week, he's going to kind of dictate some things there."

McCoy went on to say the coaching staff is going to do what they think is best, and that means using Branden Oliver and Donald Brown for specific plays that feature them. Mathews and his injury history also plays a role in McCoy wanting to limit how many carries Mathews can get so he can make it through the regular season and beyond healthy.

Mathews suffered a shoulder injury in the second half, but later returned to the game. He was further evaluated in the locker room after the game, and it appears the injury is not serious. However, McCoy did not provide an update on Mathews' injury status on Monday.

Raiders await word on Latavius Murray

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders still don't know whether they'll have running back Latavius Murray for Sunday's game in St. Louis.

Four days after sustaining a concussion in last week's 24-20 win against Kansas City, Murray remained absent from practice and interim coach Tony Sparano said Murray has not yet passed the full battery of tests required by the NFL to get back on the field.

"Right now he's involved in the middle of it," Sparano said Monday. "We'll see where he is by tomorrow and have a pretty good idea what's going on for Wednesday. As you know these things take time or they can be very fast. It just depends on the player and the severity."

Murray was injured when he absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit and fumbled late in the second quarter of the Kansas City game. He sat out the remainder of the game but still finished with the best numbers put up by an Oakland running back this season (112 yards, two touchdowns).

He made a brief appearance in the Raiders' locker room after the game but did not talk to reporters.

While Murray's situation remains uncertain, wide receiver Rod Streater took another step toward returning when he was cleared to practice and took part in his first full workout since undergoing surgery to repair his broken left foot earlier this season.

Streater was Oakland's leading receiver a year ago but has not played since a Week 3 loss to New England.

"It felt good being able to cut and run full speed," Streater said. "It felt good to be back out there. I think I'm close. I went through pretty much the whole practice without any pain."

Left guard Gabe Jackson was excused from Monday's practice for personal reasons, according to Sparano.
SAN DIEGO -- A job usually handled by middle linebackers around the league, San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle has worn the green dot on his helmet the past two games, which means he's wearing a radio headset in his helmet so he can directly communicate with defensive coordinator John Pagano and relay the calls to the rest of his teammates.

"I'm a unique kind of guy," said Weddle, known for his long, gnarly beard. "I do a lot more than most people."

Middle linebacker Donald Butler wore the green dot earlier this season. But with the University of Washington product's reduction of playing time, coupled with Weddle's experience in the defense and the fact he doesn't leave the field, the defensive co-captain became the natural choice.

"It's been awesome," Weddle said. "It helps me because I'm not waiting for the call. And then all of the alerts from what I see, I can get it out because I'm in front of the huddle. So anything the coach is alerting me on I can get it out instead of running around the field telling each guy because I'm already in the huddle with them. So it's been good. We haven't had any mishaps."

The Chargers are 2-0 since making the switch, and have played more consistent on that side of the ball since the bye week. Weddle said he called the plays defensively three years ago, but he never consistently got back to the huddle to call the plays, something he's doing a better job this time around.

"I think it takes the burden off of other guys," Weddle said. "I can handle it. I've been in this league a long time. When you have a bunch of voices talking to you -- not only Coach [Pagano] but other players -- sometimes it can be overwhelming. But it's been good."

The Chargers have allowed just 23 points defensively in two games, holding teams to 9-of-29 (31 percent) on third down. Better communication has resulted in more consistent play.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs fell to 7-4 after losing 24-20 on Thursday night to the Oakland Raiders. Here is our weekly look at the Chiefs’ place in the AFC playoff picture.

Where the Chiefs stand: They are 7-4 and tied for second place in the AFC West with the San Diego Chargers. The Denver Broncos lead the AFC West at 8-3. The other AFC division leaders are New England (9-2), Cincinnati (7-3-1) and Indianapolis (7-4).

If the season ended today: The Chiefs would be the second of the AFC’s two wild-card teams and the sixth overall seed in the conference playoffs. The Chiefs are one of four AFC teams not in first place to have a 7-4 record. The Baltimore Ravens can make it five by winning tonight against the Saints in New Orleans. Because of tiebreakers, the Chiefs would rank second among those teams, behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Chiefs would be headed to play the Bengals in Cincinnati for their wild-card round playoff game. The 7-3-1 Bengals are in first place in the AFC North.

Chiefs this week and what it means: The Chiefs have a lot on the line in Sunday night's game against the Broncos at Arrowhead. A win moves them back into a tie for the division lead. A loss ends all realistic hope of winning the AFC West championship for the Chiefs.

Other games to watch this week: In games involving 7-4 AFC teams not in first place, Pittsburgh is home against New Orleans, Cleveland is at Buffalo and San Diego is at Baltimore.