NFL Nation: 2013 Week 11 NFL Buzz

Locker Room Buzz: Denver Broncos

November, 18, 2013
DENVER -- Observed in the locker room after the Denver Broncos' 27-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs:

Welker injured: Wide receiver Wes Welker, who has nine touchdown receptions this season, suffered a concussion on a 20-yard catch-and-run play in the fourth quarter. Welker started to leave the field and then took a knee. He had a reception later in the same drive, a 9-yard catch, but did not return to the game following that play. By the league’s concussion protocol, Welker will be limited in practice this week -- Friday would be his first full day of practice at best -- even if he passes a baseline test Monday. The Broncos play Welker’s former team, the New England Patriots, next Sunday night.

Grind it out: Running back Knowshon Moreno didn’t have the prettiest yards per carry average -- 2.9 -- but in the end he did outrush Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles 79 to 78. Moreno carried 27 times to hit that total, but that commitment to the run allowed the Broncos to keep the Kansas City pass rush away from quarterback Peyton Manning.

Zero sum: In the end, it may be the number that meant the most as Manning walked into the locker room after the game with a clean jersey. The Chiefs came into the game as the NFL’s sack leader and did not sack Manning. “We knew this would be a game where (the offensive line) would have to play well for us to have a chance,’’ Broncos interim coach Jack Del Rio said.

Julius Thomas a question mark: Thomas grabbed his right knee after a collision with a Chiefs player following an incomplete pass in the third quarter. The Broncos officially classified his injury as “lower leg,’’ but Thomas was getting treatment following the game. Joel Dreessen played as the lone tight end in the team’ three wide receiver look after Thomas left the game. Earlier in the game Thomas was the first opposing tight end to catch a TD pass this season against the Chiefs defense.

Locker Room Buzz: Kansas City Chiefs

November, 18, 2013
DENVER -- Observed in the locker room following the Kansas City Chiefs' 27-17 loss to the Denver Broncos Sunday night:

Calling it closely: Both sides were penalized in the secondary for holding and pass interference in the secondary. Cornerback Sean Smith said it didn’t take long to understand how the officials were calling the game. "They throw a couple of flags and you understand you get one quick pop and then you’d better get your hands off," he said.

Forsaking the field goal: Coach Andy Reid initially sent Ryan Succop on to the field for an untimed down after a Denver penalty at the end of the first half for what would have been a 64-yard field goal attempt. Then, after seeing the Broncos send returner Trindon Holliday out to return the kick, Reid changed his mind and had the Chiefs try one more offensive play that didn’t come close to the Denver end zone. "(Sixty-four yards) is a pretty good shot, even in the high altitude," Reid said.

Injury update: Two starters on the offensive and defensive lines were injured in the defeat. Right tackle Eric Fisher injured his shoulder, guard Jon Asamoah his calf, defensive end Mike DeVito sprained his knee and defensive end Tyson Jackson strained his abdomen. Fisher, DeVito and Jackson were scheduled for MRIs.

Locker Room Buzz: Minnesota Vikings

November, 17, 2013
SEATTLE -- Observed in the locker room following the Minnesota Vikings' 41-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

QB carousel could spin again: Coach Leslie Frazier again was noncommittal on the Vikings' starting quarterback for next Sunday's game in Green Bay, offering the familiar response that he would get together with his coaches this week and make a decision. But after Christian Ponder threw for just 15 yards in the second half and was intercepted twice (including once for a touchdown), the Vikings could decide to start Josh Freeman for the second time this season, or give Matt Cassel another look after he relieved Ponder. Cassel threw an interception, as well, and Freeman's one game this season was an ugly 20-for-53 performance against the New York Giants, but with the Vikings now at 2-8, Frazier might decide it's time to look at Freeman. "It's four weeks (since the Giants game) to learn, digest stuff that you had a week (to learn) the first go-around," said Freeman, who signed with the Vikings on Oct. 7. "But I'm just working, trying to help my understanding of everything, how we do it, how everything's called, why it's called, what it's called, and continue to grow in this offense." Freeman said he had a hunch throughout the week he would be inactive, but didn't find out for sure until he didn't see pads in his locker on Sunday.

Achilles injury keeps Jennings down: Wide receiver Greg Jennings was listed as probable for Sunday's game with a strained left Achilles tendon, and when coach Leslie Frazier was asked on Friday if there would be any issues with Jennings' heel, he said, "No. He'll be ready to go." But Jennings woke up Sunday morning feeling like he wasn't going to be able to play, and he was deactivated for the game. "We went out early and ran around," Jennings said. "It didn't feel good enough to play and put out a great performance. I wasn't going to put myself or my team in that position." Jennings wasn't sure what caused the injury, saying he woke up with it on Thursday morning and calling it "the flukiest thing," but said he plans to be back for his return trip to Lambeau Field next week.

Harvin returns with a bang -- and a jab: Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin only played a limited role in his return to the field, but he made an impact against his former team after coming back from hip surgery. Harvin tipped his first catch to himself for a spectacular 17-yard gain, and once kick returner Jermaine Kearse went down, Harvin got his wish to return to his role as a return man. He brought his first kickoff back 58 yards, and the Vikings didn't kick to him again. And after the game, Harvin took a bit of a jab at the Vikings' offense when asked to compare it to Seattle's. "It's the complete opposite," Harvin said of the Seahawks' scheme. "It allows you to stretch the field." Considering Harvin had dropped hints he was unhappy with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's scheme during his time in Minnesota, it wasn't surprising to hear him say it on Sunday, but the remark was more frontal than his previous criticisms of his old team.

Simpson has one catch after sitting early: Wide receiver Jerome Simpson, who was arrested on Nov. 9 for drunken driving, did not start for the Vikings on Sunday, even with Jennings out. He served as the Vikings' fourth receiver for much of the day, with Joe Webb often seeing time ahead of Simpson in the Vikings' three-receiver sets, but Jennings' absence forced the Vikings to use Simpson in different parts of the game. Asked if he would have used Simpson less had Jennings been healthy, Frazier said, "There's no sense in me talking about that now. The decision was made. Simpson was out there on the second play. Circumstances dictated this is what we had to do." Simpson finished with one catch for one yard.

Locker Room Buzz: New Orleans Saints

November, 17, 2013
NEW ORLEANS – Observed in the locker room after the New Orleans Saints23-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers:

Rewarding win: After the Saints beat the 49ers for the first time in three years, some players admitted it mean a lot for them to prove they could win a physical matchup like this. Others insisted they treated it just like any other big game. But everyone agreed that the way this game played out – overcoming adversity to win in the final minutes – was even more rewarding than a game like last week’s 49-17 rout of Dallas, when they were nearly flawless. “This game means more,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “These are the ones that just sharpen you.”

Rewarding kicks: Saints kicker Garrett Hartley certainly admitted that his two field goals in the final 2:06 were more rewarding than most after the personal adversity he faced in recent weeks, missing four of his last six kicks. He said he had just been talking to mentor and former Saints kicker John Carney on the way to the game about blocking everything else out and doing his job.

Colston’s record: Naturally, Saints receiver Marques Colston didn’t overplay the significance of setting the franchise record for receiving yards and yards from scrimmage. He said he’ll probably take time to reflect on it after the season. “Obviously there were more important things going on at the time,” Colston said.

Greer’s injury: Saints coach Sean Payton said cornerback Jabari Greer’s knee injury looks serious, but added that the team was awaiting tests to get the final diagnosis.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Observed in the locker room after the San Diego Chargers' 20-16 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

One that got away: The mood was somber in the Chargers’ locker room, particularly from some of the veteran players who realized how important this game was for San Diego to continue to have realistic hopes of making the postseason.

“It’s tough,” Chargers outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “We needed to get this win. This was a big one. Now we’ve dug ourselves in a hole, and we’re going to have to beat some good football teams to get back out of it.”

Taking it one week at a time: Despite the three-game losing streak, along with losing a tiebreaker to a Miami squad in the mix for the last AFC wild-card spot, San Diego coach Mike McCoy says no one on his coaching staff or players are waving the white flag.

“I’m not worrying about the playoffs right now,” McCoy said. “We were trying to beat the Miami Dolphins today. That’s the only thing on our mind. We’re taking it one week at a time, and there’s a lot of football left. We’re taking the same approach this week.

“There’s a lot of football left. Things are going to change weekly from now on. … We’ve got to get better as a football team, No. 1. And play a lot better to win games in the National Football League.”

Better tackling needed: Defensive captain Eric Weddle focused on his unit's obvious struggles tackling against the Dolphins.

The Chargers allowed eight plays of 15 or more yards by Miami’s offense.

“We need to tackle better,” Weddle said. “Even if you’re a smaller guy, take his legs and then he cannot really run. It was a tough loss, but we’ll bounce back.”

“It’s not good enough,” Chargers middle linebacker Donald Butler said when asked how his team played defensively. “We gave up too many big plays and missed tackles. And that’s a recipe for a loss, and that’s what we got.”

Locker Room Buzz: Green Bay Packers

November, 17, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed in the locker room following the Green Bay Packers' 27-13 loss to the New York Giants.

Taking responsibility: Scott Tolzien, who was making his first NFL start, blamed himself for throwing three interceptions -- including a pick-six to Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in the fourth quarter.

“Three turnovers. Those are killers,” Tolzien said. “The guys work too hard, and that’s on me.”

Grounded: Eddie Lacy, who led the NFL in rushing the previous five weeks, was held to just 27 yards on 14 carries.

Lacy mentioned that the Giants were putting extra men in the box. New York clearly wanted to make Green Bay beat it through the air, and the Packers couldn’t.

“They have a great defensive line,” Lacy said. “They shed blocks good. Their pursuit to the ball was good.”

Not good enough: The Packers’ defense gave up several big plays. And they made no excuses about it. It wasn’t that they were on the field a lot. It wasn’t that they were decimated by injury. The bottom line? They didn’t make plays.

“We didn’t get it done,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “We’re facing adversity right now, but the only thing we can do is come back to work, keep fighting, stick together and that’s what we’re about. Adversity is hitting us right now, and no one’s making any excuses. We just need to get back to work.”

Locker Room Buzz: New York Giants

November, 17, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed in the locker room following the New York Giants' 27-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers:

The second "P" stands for "prescient": Justin Tuck interrupted Jason Pierre-Paul's postgame news conference to inform reporters that Pierre-Paul had predicted his game-clinching interception in the huddle prior to the play. Pierre-Paul said he saw the Packers' formation, figured out that they were running a screen pass to his side, and jumped at the line to get both hands on a pass he knew was coming. He returned the interception 24 yards for a touchdown that set the final score at 27-13. "I told him I'd only seen one other guy make that play, and it was another No. 90," said linebacker Jon Beason, referring to his former Carolina Panthers teammate, Julius Peppers.

Team game: Running back Andre Brown said he didn't care that Brandon Jacobs vultured his goal-line touchdown because he [Brown] did the same thing many times last year to Ahmad Bradshaw. "As long as we get the score and B.J. keeps the pile moving, it's all good."

Aw, shucks: Told that his teammates gave him credit for the in-season turnaround of the defense, Beason grinned and said, "Well, they're nice guys."

Locker Room Buzz: Miami Dolphins

November, 17, 2013
MIAMI -- Observed in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 20-16 win against the San Diego Chargers.
Happy times: It was a much more joyous locker room Sunday than what we’ve seen recently from the Dolphins (5-5). Many players were smiling and were very happy after picking up a key win against San Diego (4-6). The Dolphins had lost five of their past six games before Sunday. But now they are back at .500 and in the playoff hunt.

Checked out: Dolphins tailback Daniel Thomas had a solid game, rushing for 57 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. However, Thomas went into the X-ray room afterward to get checked out for an unspecified injury. Thomas finished the game and it didn't appear the injury was serious.

Brenner gets congrats: Miami backup lineman Sam Brenner made his first career start at guard after center Mike Pouncey was a late scratch with an illness. Brenner held his own and helped the Dolphins rush for 104 yards on 19 carries. Brenner received a lot of congrats from his fellow offensive linemen in the locker room for stepping up.

Locker Room Buzz: Baltimore Ravens

November, 17, 2013
CHICAGO -- Observed in the locker room after the Baltimore Ravens' 23-20 overtime loss to the Bears in Chicago.

Ravens grasping at hope: Ravens coach John Harbaugh said there was "a lot of anguish" after the loss, but the Ravens aren't ruling out the playoffs even though they fell to 4-6 on the season. "It's tough to continue to tell yourself and convince everybody that we just have to keep going, keep going and move on to the next game. But that's what we're going to do," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "You can't look too, too far ahead. It's kind of easy to do that and you don't want to fall into the trap. But we have to take care of business right now and it'll all play itself out."

Just another delay: Baltimore's 10-0 lead disappeared after a 1 hour, 53-minute delay due to severe weather. But the Ravens think they're used to stoppages these days. "I think we lead the league in delays the past few years," Harbaugh said. This was the fourth delay for the Ravens since 2010 and the third in their past 11 games.

No penalty?: Flacco was upset in overtime that the officials didn't call pass interference on third down after receiver Tandon Doss couldn't hold on to the ball. He was less insistent about the play after the game. "I think he got held," Flacco said. "But that's just me." The Ravens punted and never got the ball back. The Bears won the game on the next drive, a 38-yard field goal by Robbie Gould.

Locker Room Buzz: Washington Redskins

November, 17, 2013
PHILADELPHIA -- Observed in the locker room after the Washington Redskins' 24-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles:

Simmer down: When left tackle Trent Williams was relaying what an official had said to him, several teammates tried to get him to stop. Initially no one was loud, but then receiver Pierre Garcon from across the room started in, trying to prevent Williams from eventually earning a fine. “I hear ya,” he said when Williams said why he was saying something, “but they're going to fine you.” That clearly didn't matter to Williams. And if he's right, there's no need for him to be the one worried about a fine. A loud discussion continued as the players showered.

Injury update: The Redskins have several players who will need MRIs on Monday, with receiver Leonard Hankerson possibly tearing his lateral collateral ligament -- the same ligament Robert Griffin III first hurt last December. Defensive end Stephen Bowen said he suffered no ligament damage, but will have an MRI. He's been playing with a meniscus tear. Corner/safety E.J. Biggers will get an MRI to see if he tore cartilage. Garcon said his ankle was hurting him badly after the game. Tight end Jordan Reed suffered a concussion and will follow the league's mandated medical protocol throughout the week. Safety Brandon Meriweather injured his arm, though coach Mike Shanahan did not include him on his postgame injury report.

Wash, rinse, repeat: The Redskins' locker room feels the same after games these days. Players talking about how they're better than this, and how they can't explain the constant losing. They still seem to take losses hard; it would be wrong to think they're immune from it. But numb? Yeah, probably. “Week to week it's a struggle,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said.

Locker Room Buzz: New York Jets

November, 17, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Observed in the locker room after the New York Jets' 37-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Hot Willie: Guard Willie Colon, one of the veteran leaders, wore a T-shirt after the game that said: "Don't Make Me Get Nasty." It was a fitting choice of a attire because Colon got fired up when asked if he still considers the Jets a "playoff team."

"I'm tired of answering that damn question," he told reporters at his locker. "I don't want you to ask me that no more. We're not a playoff team until we're in the playoffs. Right now, we just lost to the f---ing Buffalo Bills. I'm tired of answering that question, so please don't ask me that." At least he said "please."

Somber Rex: Curiously, reporters were kept out of the postgame interview room until Jets officials gave the go-ahead to a security guard at the door. It should be noted that the interview room is adjacent to the locker room, and a yelling coach could be heard through the old walls at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Maybe the Jets didn't want reporters to gauge Rex Ryan's decibel level. If Ryan ripped into his team, he expressed none of that anger in his news conference. He was downcast, almost matter-of-fact as he tried to explain the embarrassing performance.

"We've bounced back before," Ryan said. "We've got some wins over some quality teams, and I think if we take care of the football and we do a better job in coverage, I think we'll have a chance to compete with anybody. But, obviously, if we play like today, we're not going to beat anybody."

Calm Geno: Rookie quarterback Geno Smith was relatively calm for someone who just committed four turnovers and registered a 10.1 passer rating. He beat himself up, admitting he was "awful," but he did it in his usual, even-keeled manner.

"This isn't who I am or who I want to be," he said.

Locker Room Buzz: Pittsburgh Steelers

November, 17, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- A few thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 37-27 win against the Detroit Lions.

Staying the course: The Steelers did not make any drastic adjustments after giving up almost 300 passing yards in the second quarter alone to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. So how did they limit Stafford to 3-of-16 passing for 35 yards in the second half while holding Calvin Johnson without a catch after intermission? “It was just being more sound,” Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu said. “They weren’t drawing up any great schematics things against us. We just did our jobs better. We got a much better pass rush in the second half as well from the four-man rush. We weren’t blitzing or anything like that.”

A win and a keepsake: The two wide receivers who put on a show swapped jerseys after the game. Antonio Brown holds Johnson in such high esteem that leaving Heinz Field with the Lions’ wide receiver’s jersey ranked second -- albeit a distant second -- to exiting with a comeback victory. “To get his jersey was icing on the cake,” Brown said. “Excited to get his jersey. Hopefully I’ll get some work with him next offseason down in Atlanta.” Brown and Johnson combined for 13 catches for 326 yards and four touchdowns.

Just one win: Coach Mike Tomlin refused to give more weight to the win even though the Steelers showed a lot of mettle in rallying from a seven-point halftime deficit to beat the team that is in first place in the NFC North. “I don’t want to play ball,” Tomlin said. Translation: The seventh-year coach did not want to give even the hint of appearing like he thinks the Steelers are poised to go on the kind of run they need to become a legitimate playoff contender.

Big Ben's bad throw: As good as Ben Roethlisberger was in throwing for 367 yards and four touchdowns, he took the blame for overthrowing a wide-open David Paulson in the end zone in the third quarter. “I have to make that throw,” Roethlisberger said of perhaps the easiest throw he had all game. “Heath Miller is our first read in the flat. He was double-covered, so I looked back to Paulson. I couldn’t see if there were any defenders that inside, so my safe throw was high and away where only he could make [the catch]. I put it a little too high for him. That’s on me. I have to make that play.”

Locker Room Buzz: Buffalo Bills

November, 17, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Observed in the locker room after the Buffalo Bills' 37-14 win over the New York Jets:

Hackett moves to sideline: After spending the first 10 games of the season in the coaches' booth, offensive coordinator Nate Hackett was instead stationed on the sideline for Sunday's game. "We made a decision during the week that we thought it would be better for the quarterback to have Nate down there," coach Doug Marrone said after the game. "With a young quarterback ... just to be down there it's a different sense. Those guys talk to each other all during the week, they talk to each other all during practice, [so] there's a little bit of separation when [Hackett] was [upstairs]." Marrone said Hackett will remain on the sideline for the rest of the season.

Bills brush off Jets' Saturday night plans: Upon arriving in Buffalo on Saturday, the Jets reportedly skipped team meetings to make a trip to Dave & Busters, a restaurant and arcade facility. Head coach Doug Marrone said after the game that he was aware of the report but "did not use it as motivation." Bills safety Jim Leonhard, who played three seasons with the Jets, also said he read the report and that Marrone "mentioned something afterwards" about it. But like with Marrone, it wasn't a hot topic among players in the locker room. "It didn't matter. We needed to win so bad, it didn't matter what they did. We needed to come and bring the energy, and I thought that was the difference in the game," Leonhard said. "It had nothing to do with their activities last night."

Spiller instructed to confront O-line: Rushing 13 times for just 6 yards, running back C.J. Spiller called his performance "terrible." Marrone placed blame on the offensive line, telling reporters that he instructed Spiller to confront the offensive line and "tell them you're pissed." Asked about Marrone's comments, Spiller said letting loose on his offensive line wouldn't be the wisest move. "If I go over there and yell at my guys, y'all are going to blow it up and say [I'm] frustrated," he explained.

Locker Room Buzz: Oakland Raiders

November, 17, 2013
HOUSTON -- Observed in the locker room after the Oakland Raiders28-23 win over the Houston Texans.

A house of redemption? Two years ago, the Raiders' locker room was filled with tears after Oakland’s last-second win the day after Al Davis’ death. This time, it was the scene of a raucous celebration. Undrafted rookie Matt McGloin was the last one in the locker room, and he was greeted with salutes, cheers and a game ball.

Holding court: McGloin had already spoken at the lectern in a side room, so who better to command the attention of the media than his former college teammate, center Stefen Wisniewski? Li’l Wiz waxed poetic about the former walk-on’s tenacity.

Oh we, oh we, oh: Rashad Jennings, fresh from his 80-yard touchdown run and career-high 150 rushing yards, rocked the suit of the year, a crushed velvet-esque purple (rain?) number. Or, as @SalSilva2 wondered, did he “raid morris day’s closet?”

What is bliss? Linebacker Kevin Burnett was the last one to conduct an interview and was expansive at times, unaware at others, like when he said he did not remember his key fourth-quarter tackle. Or when he did not know about the Al Davis game two years ago.

Locker Room Buzz: Cleveland Browns

November, 17, 2013
CINCINNATI -- Observed in the locker room after the Cleveland Browns' 41-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

Four plays: The Browns knew that the loss to the Bengals came down to four plays -- one blocked punt, one tipped punt, one interception that set up a Cincinnati touchdown and one fumble that was returned for a touchdown. The Browns gave the Bengals 28 of their 31 points in the second quarter on what coach Rob Chudzinski said were plays that “were a disaster.”

Tough to stomach: T.J. Ward could not believe the Bengals had 31 points and three first downs in the first half. Nobody could, especially defensively. It’s simply not a stat that makes a lot of sense, or that folks see too often.

My bad: A lot of folks took the blame in the locker room. Jason Campbell said it was his job to get the team in the end zone early, and he didn’t. Barkevious Mingo said he was at fault for the blocked punt that the Bengals returned for a touchdown. A 21-point loss in a “big” game tends to lead to a lot of responsibility being shared.

It was expected: Punter Spencer Lanning said he fully expected Cincinnati to pressure his punts when he kicked into the wind. The Bengals obliged, tipping one punt and blocking another, even though Lanning said his side of things was as it should have been.

Getaway: The Browns had an abbreviated locker room and hustled their players to the team plane within an hour after the game ended. The goal: To beat the storm that was heading toward Cincinnati; the same storm that delayed the game in Chicago. Players did interviews with team officials scampering around yelling “five minutes.”