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Thursday's NFL action was filled with highs and lows. Which teams stood out and which ones struggled?
The names of the NFL's replacement referees have remained fairly anonymous throughout the preseason.
Their work, on the other hand, has been highly visible, and prompted Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray to name the fill-in zebras Larry, Curly and Moe.
Gray was seen tangling with the officials in a flag-filled fourth quarter in Thursday night's game against the Arizona Cardinals. It was that exchange that prompted Gray to break out the Three Stooges reference, according to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean.
Titans head coach Mike Munchak complained about the officiating in his post-game comments.
"I think they just got a little sloppy at the end. It seemed like nothing was called most of the game and then all of a sudden there's a lot of calls. At the end of the game there was a little confusion on was the last ball complete or incomplete."
Referees called back-to-back holding penalties as the Titans tried to kick a field goal. On one of those calls, they misidentified the player in question, flagging Leroy Harris who was not even on the field.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis also complained about the officials for a personal foul on Taylor Mays. The Cincinnati safety leveled a big hit on Packers tight end Tom Crabtree. Mays led with his shoulders to deliver the hit, and the personal foul flag is usually reserved for when a player leads with his head.
The NFL has reportedly hardened its stance in negotiations with the referees association. Replacement refs are likely to be on the field when the regular season starts Sep. 5.
Cincinnati Bengals safety Taylor Mays put a big hit on Green Bay Packers tight end Tom Crabtree during the first quarter of Thursday night's preseason game -- the Packers prevailed, 27-13 -- but Mays also drew a big penalty. The personal foul call didn't sit well with Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, as he explained to Bengals.com after the game:
"It was exactly shoulder-to-shoulder. Unfortunately, the guy that made the call's explanation was not correct," Lewis said. "It's one of those things. They are getting better. Hopefully, it will get closer and closer to what we need. His understanding was that the player was a defenseless receiver. He was, but you are allowed to hit a defenseless receiver shoulder-to-shoulder. There is no such thing as a defenseless player unless he is hit in the head with your head. It was a misinterpretation of the rule. I know they are working hard. The league is working hard to get this stuff corrected. They are working overtime on it actually. It'll get better and better."
The hit looked clean upon first glance, and Ryan Van Bibber of SB Nation pointed out that Mays led with his shoulder at the time of the hit. Here is another look so you can decide for yourself.
Skelton earned the starting nod but may have given back any advantage he had in the competition, throwing for just 41 yards and an interception off 4-for-10 passing. Kolb wasn't great, but he clearly outperformed Skelton by going 17-for-22 for 156 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
While coaches usually prefer to rest their starters for the final week of preseason, head coach Ken Whisenhunt may have no choice but to play both quarterbacks in hopes of gaining some kind of clarity. If neither Skelton nor Kolb can perform up to expectations, there is a chance the Cardinals could try to bring on a veteran as a stop-gap solution.
The Jaguars allowed Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to complete 27-of-36 pass attempts for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Tyrod Taylor and Curtis Painter also had good passing performances, giving the Ravens 450 passing yards.
The Jaguars defense also allowed 138 total rushing yards on a combined 26 attempts. Big Cat Country's Adam Stites was most disappointed with the bad tackling on display from the Jaguars.
Most concerning was the poor tackling by the team and the inability to match up with the speedy receivers of the Ravens, most notably Torrey Smith who finished with eight receptions for 103 yards.
Two defensive starters, Derek Cox and Daryl Smith were both out for this game, so that may have contributed to the Jaguars' defensive struggles. The Jaguars next play on Thursday, Aug. 30 against the Atlanta Falcons at 6:30 p.m.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the team with 52 rushing yards and an 8.2 yards-per-carry average on Thursday night in the team's 27-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, but Cedric Benson still put together a nice performance in his Packers debut.
In fact, Benson looked quite good against his former teammates on the Bengals, as he rushed for 38 yards on six carries -- good for a 6.3 yards-per-carry average. Benson rushed for more yards than either Cincinnati running back on Thursday night, so it went well as far as the "show them what they are missing" factor as well.
Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel came away quite impressed with the veteran RB:
Fresh legs or not, Cedric Benson looked like a real back Thurs nt. Been long time since one could say that about anyone in— Bob McGinn (@BobMcGinn) August 24, 2012
The 2 cuts that Benson made reading the back side and slipping behind pursuit for 8 yd. 2X were exceptional. McCarthy keeps saying natural.— Bob McGinn (@BobMcGinn) August 24, 2012
The Green Bay Packers walloped the Cincinnati Bengals in the third game of the NFL preseason on Thursday night, cruising to a rather easy 27-13 victory. The Bengals weren't bad in the second half, but it was clear that the Packers were the better team when the starters were on the field.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers scored a pair of touchdowns on their first three possessions while the defense did its part in holding the Bengals starters to less than 100 yards despite nearly 30 plays with the first team in the game. Our friends at Cincy Jungle took note of this, too, saying it simply wasn't a good day for the Bengals.
It just wasn't a good day for Cincinnati's first-team units on Thursday. Cincinnati's offense ran six plays, gaining five yards and no first downs on their opening two possessions. Alternatively Green Bay scored 14 points on their opening three possessions, abusing Cincinnati's containment with quarterback Aaron Rodgers scrambling six times for 52 yards rushing. Look at this simplistic comparison between the quarterbacks during Thursday's game. Rodgers rushed for more yards than Andy Dalton passed (40), who completed only five of 17 passes.
In truth Cincinnati's first-team offense couldn't overpower Green Bay's complicated 3-4 defense, generating only 87 yards on 29 plays and converting one of seven third down opportunities in the first half. It was such an ineffective effort by the Bengals first-team offense, most of them returned to the field in the third quarter, minus several of Green Bay's key defensive players. Cincinnati failed to generate a first down and punted the football after three plays. Now they're one of eight on third down.
It's unclear whether the Bengals simply had a bad day, were simply overmatched by the Packers or a combination of things, but Cincinnati has just one preseason game left to figure things out before the regular season begins.
Jake Locker sure made the Tennessee Titans' coaches look smart for naming him the team's starter last night. The second-year pro from Washington passed for 134 yards and two touchdowns in a 32-27 preseason win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Jimmy Morris of SB Nation Titans blog Music City Miracles loved what he saw from Locker and Kendall Wright, saying the two will be stars together. Wright had four catches for 44 yards and a 10-yard touchdown reception from Locker.
Meanwhile, former rushing leader Chris Johnson continued to underwhelm, rushing for a mere 27 yards on 13 carries. Morris was too exasperated in his postgame wrap to comment much on him, saying he only looked more like Week 1 Johnson than Week 2 Johnson.
It's important to take any preseason performance with a grain of salt, especially if it's a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But the Ravens were in charge from start to finish, putting up nearly 50 points and allowing only one touchdown by the Jaguars offense, giving their fans a chance to enjoy themselves.
Here's some of what aptly named Ravens blog Baltimore Beatdown had to say after the game:
The offense seemed to be as focused as ever, driving down field each time they touched the ball. It was only a few missed third down conversions that prevented the final score from being even worse for the Jags. QB Joe Flacco continued his torrid performance in the first half to finish the game 27 of 36 for 266 yards in just under three quarters of play before giving way to Tyrod Taylor. He added two TD passes with one meaningless interception at the end of the first half on a Hail Mary attempt.
Defensively, the pass rush may still need work, but it didn't seem to stop the defense from continue to throttle the Jaguars and QB Blaine Gabbert, who seemed gun-shy and threw off his back foot all too often.
The Ravens are now 2-1 on the preseason and will finish their exhibition schedule next Thursday against the Rams.
For more on the Ravens, check out Baltimore Beatdown -- obviously.
It may have been about Kevin Kolb and John Skelton to begin with, but Jake Locker made sure his name was the one to remember with 134 yards passing and two touchdowns in the Tennessee Titans' 32-27 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Rookie wide receiver Kendall Wright got things going early with a 10-yard touchdown reception from Locker after a Skelton (4-for-10, 41 yards, 1 INT) interception gave the Titans prime field position. In the second quarter, Nate Washington would also get into the mix with a 28-yard touchdown of his own on a blown coverage from William Gay and Kerry Rhodes.
Once Kevin Kolb (17-for-22, 156, 1 TD, 2 INT) got into the game and tossed his token mind-boggling interception, the Cardinals offense began to get into their first rhythm of the day. Taking over at his own 14-yard line with slightly under two minutes left to play, Kolb lead Arizona on their best drive of the day, completing all five of his passes including touchdown to Andre Roberts from four yards out.
Instead of building on that momentum, Kolb threw a pick-six to Colin McCarthy on the very first play out of the locker room to extend the Titans' lead to 13. He would remain in the game for one more drive after the error, helping Jay Feely set up his second field goal in the game.
In the fourth, running backs William Powell and Javarris James each ran a touchdown to give the Cardinals their first lead of the evening. Not to be outdone, newly-appointed backup Matt Hasselbeck would lead his team to nine straight points in retaliation, including a 16-yard touchdown run from Jamie Harper.
Ryan Lindley would do his best to try and bring the Cardinals back one last time but ultimately a late holding call from Bobby Massie would kill the drive before they could move any further in the red zone.
Tennessee Titans kick returner and wide receiver Marc Mariani will undergo surgery tonight to repair an open leg fracture suffered on a kick return Thursday night during the Titans' preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.
Though the recovery will be lengthy, no timetable has been set for Mariani's return, according to Schefter.
In 16 games in 2011, Mariani collected five receptions for 24 yards, but shined most as a returner for the Titans, gaining a Pro Bowl selection because of his exploits on returns. His 1,530 yards on returns in 2010 is a Oilers/Titans team record.
Mariani returned all of the Titans kickoffs and all but one of the Titans' punt returns in 2011.
Mariani, who was entering his third year in the league, also recorded three tackles in 2011. The injury likely opens up another roster spot for a special teams player.
For more Tennessee Titans coverage, visit Music City Miracles.
Tennessee Titans running back Jamie Harper broke off a 16-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of a snooze fest against the Arizona Cardinals, who forgot to bring an offensive line with them. His touchdown had nothing on his acrobatics. Watch him flip in the endzone.
From the side,
You know who was really happy about the touchdown, though? This guy.
Imagine if they cut back to him later and he only had one hand on the binoculars? But seriously, the party that these guys are going to after the game is going to be really awesome or really upsetting.
Hey, these guys were there too!
You didn't have to wear a tux. It's only a preseason game.
And that's enough crowd shots, y'all.
The Ravens jumped all over the Jaguars in their Week 3 preseason game on Thursday night, winning by a score of 48-17. Baltimore was in control of this one from the beginning, getting out to a 13-0 lead until the Jags converted a field goal attempt in the final minute of the second quarter.
In the second half, the Ravens scored three unanswered touchdowns to gain separation from the Jags. Joe Flacco hit Vonta Leach for an 8-yard touchdown toss in the third quarter before backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and LaQuan Williams connected on an 8-yard touchdown pass later in the quarter.
Taylor rushed for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
From there, the two teams traded scores, which obviously wasn't enough to keep Jacksonville competitive in this one. Antonio Dennard ran back a pick-6 on a Taylor interception and Richard Murphy scored the final points for the Jags with a 13-yard run.
Tennessee Titans defensive back Robert Johnson almost had his team's fourth interception against an Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night. He did not come up with the ball, and his reaction was entertaining, to say the least.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, not unusual for a missed interception. But when you add some special effects to it ...
It wasn't always pretty, but the result was rarely in doubt as the Green Bay Packers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 27-13 on Thursday night. Looking for their first preseason victory, the Packers came out of the gate strong, ultimately holding a double-digit lead for most of the first half.
With Aaron Rodgers playing fairly well, the Packers jumped out to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Rodgers ended up doing his damage in a multitude of ways, beating the Bengals through the air and on the ground. In addition to completing 12-of-22 passes for 154 yards, Rodgers also ran for 52 yards and two touchdowns to lead Green Bay.
Green Bay's offensive attack wasn't remotely as impressive once its starting quarterback departed for the night, but the defense handled things well for the most of the game. The Bengals could muster just 212 yards of total offense, turning the ball over three times while scoring just one touchdown.
At one point in the third quarter, Cincinnati trimmed Green Bay's lead to 17-13, but the Packers put the game away in the fourth quarter when Jamari Lattimore returned an interception for a touchdown. Bengals starting quarterback Andy Dalton struggled badly, completing just 5-of-17 passes for 40 yards.
While it's too early for the extent of the injury to be clear, reports indicate that Cook's leg was immobilized and he was sent to the locker room for X-rays. Cook was the third player to be carted off the field in this game as Jaguars players Zach Miller and Aaron Morgan also suffered leg injuries that required carts.
Cook has been with the Ravens since 2011, when he signed as a free agent. He appeared in just five regular season games for Baltimore last season and recorded five tackles (all solo) in that time. Cook hadn't done much on the stat sheet in this game, but teams hate to see three players get carted off the field in a preseason game.
Read more on the Ravens at Baltimore Beat Down.
There is, ostensibly, a quarterback battle unfolding on the Arizona Cardinals roster. Unfortunately, John Skelton, who started Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans, and Kevin Kolb are mostly in a race to the bottom. Their offensive line is not helping the cause at all. Both Kolb and Skelton were sacked on their first play of the game.
Kevin Kolb is not happy, not happy at all.
Skelton finished his night with a 4-for-10 effort with 41 yards and an interception. Kolb, with two minutes to play in the second quarter also has an interception to go with his 4-for-7 effort and 15 passing yards.
Arizona has a myriad of problems on offense, and the preseson caveat is hardly enough to inspire much relief. Earlier on Thursday, ESPN's Adam Schefter noted that the Cardinals could be in the market for a veteran quarterback to help them. Another team's castoff may be an improvement, but whoever it is will still have to play behind an offensive line that might as well not be there.
For more on the Cardinals, check out Revenge of the Birds.
There's very few redeeming qualities about the Titans and Cardinals matchup on ESPN. The Cardinals offensive line is a big ol' tire fire, the quarterbacks aren't much better and Chris Berman is serenading us. But dammit, we have a FAT GUY FIRST DOWN. And for that, we are thankful.
Go get some, big fella.
Now, during the play, Trent Dilfer opined that he "didn't have the burst." And to that we say: How dare you? Don't ever question the burst of a fat guy with the football.
Hats off to you, Daryn Colledge. Thanks for the great moment.
A pair of Jaguars players were carted off the field with leg injuries in the team's Thursday night match-up with the Ravens. Defensive end Aaron Morgan and tight end Zach Miller both suffered injuries that required carts in the first half of the game. Miller was injured with 11:35 to go in the second quarter.
Prior to their injuries, Miller had a two-yard catch in the game and Morgan recorded a tackle.
The Ravens went into halftime with a 13-3 lead over the Jags, with Jacksonville converting a field goal in the final minute of the second quarter. This is what teams try to avoid in preseason action, but the nature of the game simply doesn't allow it.
More updates on these injuries will follow when the information is made available. The extent of the injuries are currently unknown.
If you've been watching the Titans and Cardinals on ESPN, you saw something disgusting. It was a bone hanging out as a Mark Mariani's foot faced the wrong way. And it was replayed in slow-motion.
So let's quickly cleanse the palate, friends. Here you go.
I feel much better now.
Marc Mariani has been carted off the field with a left leg injury.— Tennessee Titans (@tennesseetitans) August 24, 2012
Mariani was hurt while returning a punt during the first quarter. He was tended to by trainers before being carted off of the field on a stretcher. The injury appeared to be severe on the field, and could lead to Mariani landing on injured reserve and missing the 2012 season. A picture of the injury can be seen here and a GIF is here, but be warned: it is graphic.
Mariani is entering his third NFL season. He was one of the best returners in the NFL last season, averaging 25.5 yards per kickoff return and 12.2 yards per punt return. He also scored two return touchdowns last year.
For more on the Titans, head over to Music City Miracles.
If you're watching the preseason game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Tennessee Titans, we're truly sorry ... kidding. John Skelton got the start at quarterback for the Cardinals on Thursday night, and his first series did not go very well.
Skelton was sacked for a loss of eight yards on his first play. On his second, he threw a pass that Titans safety Michael Griffin intercepted. Griffin then ran into his teammate, fumbling the ball. He did at least recover it to save himself from total derp.
Tennessee scored on the ensuing drive.
No information was available on the extent of the injury. According to Green Bay's official Twitter feed, Pickett will not return:
Ryan Pickett has a calf injury and will not return.— Green Bay Packers (@packers) August 24, 2012
The Packers were leading the Bengals 17-6 at the time of the injury. Pickett, entering his 12th NFL season, is Green Bay's starting left defensive end. He had 33 tackles in 14 games for the Packers last season. He's backed up by Phillip Merling.
Follow this game stream for updates on Pickett's injury as well as updates on the rest of tonight's game.
Lawson started 15 out of the 16 games in which he appeared for the Bengals in 2011, recording 34 tackles, four pass deflections and 1.5 sacks. Prior to last season, he spent five years playing for the San Francisco 49ers. His best season came in 2009, when he accumulated 49 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
Mays got flagged for a personal foul on that hit, which seems a little dubious. As you can see, he made a hit with his shoulders -- a hard one, but a clean one.
At least he wasn't hitting his own teammate.
Aaron Rodgers beats defensive backs regularly, week after week. Deep, short, middle, left, right, the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player can get the best of a secondary any way he chooses. But did you know that he can also outrun a cornerback?
Yep, there's the belt too.
The Packers lead the Bengals by a score of 7-0 in the first quarter. Rodgers is 6-for-9 with 85 yards and a rushing touchdown. He has three scrambles for 37 yards, topping recently acquired running back Cedric Benson in his return performance in Cincinnati.
Green Bay has yet to win a preseason game, but Aaron Rodgers clearly isn't too worried about it with the regular season two weeks away.
For more on the Packers, check out Acme Packing Company.
Previewing the Packers-Bengals preseason game Thursday, with broadcast information.
Three more games on tap for Thursday night football which include a quarterback battle, a first-year starter, the MJD-less Jaguars and a Cedric Benson sighting.
Looking at the Bengals with SB Nation's Cincy Jungle and their chances of taking another leap forward in 2012.
The Jaguars and Ravens square off on tonight in Baltimore.
The Arizona Cardinals look for their second preseason win against the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night.
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