Rams add Pro Bowler Lloyd to sputtering offense
The Rams traded a conditional draft pick to the Denver Broncos on Monday for wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, the former 49ers wideout who led the NFL in receiving yards last season.
According to ESPN, the Broncos receive a sixth-round pick which could become a fifth-rounder if Lloyd catches 30 passes during the remainder of the season.
In St. Louis, Lloyd will reunite with former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, now the Rams' offensive coordinator, and provide Sam Bradford with a much-needed downfield threat.
Lloyd is in the final year of a deal that pays him about $1.4 million, a bargain for a player who led the league with 1,448 yards receiving last year, when he caught 77 passes, 11 of them for touchdowns.
Lloyd, who played his first three NFL seasons with the 49ers from 2003-2005, was named to his first Pro Bowl after the season.
His numbers are down this year, with 19 catches for a team-high 283 yards and no touchdowns.
"We appreciate all the hard work that Brandon did during his three years in Denver and wish him the best with the Rams...," Broncos football chief John Elway tweeted.
"I'm excited about our wide receiver group – This is as healthy as we've been at that position since the start of the year. Our young WRs have really emerged and made some plays, and this is a great opportunity for them to continue to step up," Elway added.
Last month, Lloyd complained about a lack of downfield chances under the new regime in Denver. Coach John Fox blamed Lloyd's dip in productivity largely on a groin injury that kept him out against Cincinnati – Denver's only win – although Lloyd maintained the Broncos' conservative offensive philosophy was the primary culprit.
Lloyd had a breakout season in 2010, his eighth in the NFL. He had 18 catches of 25 yards or more and posted the third-highest receiving average (18.8 yards) since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 after a mostly nondescript career in San Francisco, Washington, Chicago and Denver, where he played in two games in 2009.
Even at 30, Lloyd is one of the most athletic players in the NFL and is widely considered the receiver with the best hands in football.
The departure of their top target follows the Broncos' benching of Orton, who was replaced by Tebow at halftime after an awful performance against San Diego on Oct. 9. The next day, the Broncos handed their offense to Tebow, the popular and polarizing former Florida star who started three games last season.
During that stretch, Lloyd caught 14 passes from Tebow for 263 yards and two touchdowns.
Same old story for winless St. Louis
The Rams had more yards, more first downs, more plays and more time of possession Sunday than the undefeated Packers.
But when the game had ended, all that didn't matter because the 424 yards the Rams gained meant little as they managed to score only one field goal in a 24-3 loss.
They now prepare to play the Dallas Cowboys on the road, and coach Steve Spagnuolo knows his team won't win any games if they continue to fail to finish drives and allow big plays on defense.
Asked about the team playing better than it had in previous games, Spagnuolo said, "I said to the team that we do not accept losing and our actions will reflect that. It's about winning football games, not moral victories. I'm not going to sit here and dissect the game because in reality it's some of the same things that have happened to us in some of the other games.
"Until we get that squared away the result is going to be the same. The motto is still going to be to continue to get better. We're going to reach a certain point and we're going to turn this thing around."
"I know there were some good things that we did. Our offense moved the football but we just didn't get it in. We played periods of good defense but you can't give up big plays, especially to an offense like this."
Cornerback Al Harris, who bit on a pump fake with the result being a 93-yard catch-and-run by wide receiver Jordy Nelson on a pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to give the Packers a 17-0 lead, was asked where the team goes from here.
Said Harris, "I am at a loss for words. The things that happened out there shouldn't happen on that level. Until we overcome that, it is going to be an uphill battle. We will continue to fight, but you have to play near perfect ball and that is just something that we aren't doing right now."
The litany of miscues that have affected the offense has been a combination of penalties, dropped passes and failures in the red zone. The Rams had three trips inside the 20 Sunday and scored three points. In 12 red-zone trips in five games, they have scored just three touchdowns.
"That's something that we've struggled with all year," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "There have been several games where we've been able to move the ball up and down the field and then we get to the red zone and just have silly mistakes to not allow us to put the ball in the end zone. In this league if you want to win you've got to score touchdowns."
One of those instances Sunday came when the Rams were at the Green Bay 10-yard line on first down. Bradford passed to 6-5 receiver Danario Alexander, but woefully underthrew him and the pass was intercepted by Sam Shields.
Defensively, the Packers gained just 66 yards on their first 14 plays, but on fourth-and-1 from midfield, running back James Starks gained 15 yards. The next play was a 35-yard touchdown to James Jones and the next play they ran was the 93-yard scoring play. They closed out the scoring with an 11-play, 62-yard drive, so after those first 14 plays, the next 14 totaled 205 yards.
Cards close or just deceiving themselves?
The Cardinals took a deep breath during their bye this week, and they'll look to make a fresh start after losing four of their first five games.
They realize no magical solution for their problems was going to be found during the bye. And that's OK with them because they steadfastly believe not all that much is wrong.
Arizona lost three games by a total of eight points. The fourth loss came to the Vikings because of a horrible first quarter.
Perhaps the Cardinals are deceiving themselves, but they think their biggest problem now is a lack of confidence. With three closes losses, players are starting to tighten up, and that's the last thing coach Ken Whisenhunt wants.
He didn't beat them up in the bye. The players had two practices, both in shells, and they addressed specific problem areas such as breakdowns in the final two minutes (both offensively and defensively), converting on third downs and scoring in the red zone.
The Cardinals think they are just a big play away from a turnaround. Even in the blowout loss to the Vikings, they dropped an interception that would have been returned for a touchdown, failed to complete a pass to an open receiver for another score and had another touchdown called back because of a penalty.
The failure to make plays, however, is a telling symptom of bad teams everywhere. Every losing team can point to moments in games when making a big play could have turned things around.
It'll soon become apparent if the Cardinals are right in believing they are close, or if they are just deceiving themselves.
Arizona emphasizing two-minute offense
The Cardinals' two-minute offense failed in three of their four losses, so improving upon that has been a point of emphasis the past two weeks.
Against the Redskins in Week 2, receiver Chansi Stuckey lost a fumble on first down from the Washington 20 with 1:45 remaining.
Kevin Kolb had a pass intercepted late against the Seahawks, and a late scoring chance against the Giants ended when the Cardinals couldn't convert on fourth-and-two. A 10-yard sack on second down contributed to that problem.
"Obviously, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that with the two-minute, there have been three games for us where we have had a chance," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "It only makes sense to work on that and make sure we get tempo for both sides of the ball in practice."
The roots of the problem trace to training camp, when the Cardinals probably didn't devote enough time to two-minute situations. With so many things to work on and no offseason, Whisenhunt didn't feel he had the time.
It's a decision he probably regrets and is doing his best to rectify now.
Typically, the Cardinals go over their two-minute offense on Thursdays. It has been a half-speed drill, but last week it was changed to full speed.
"We pulled up the intensity," Kolb said. "The last two days here have been great work. It's the most impressive two days of work I think we have had so far. I really believe that."
The team's work ethic came into question two Sundays ago, when Kolb made reference to Whisenhunt's post-game speech.
He said the coach "hit the nail on the head. We have to get more detail-oriented. It starts with meetings, showing up to work on time, getting in early, getting your work done, and all the stuff a professional is supposed to do. Maybe it takes a game like this to figure out."
The implication was that players were slacking off. Whisenhunt said that's not the case, and Kolb said later he had not expressed himself correctly. He meant to say that players should devote additional time to details and making sure they were performing their jobs correctly."
Seahawks hoping QB healthy after bye
After giving the players four days off to finish the team's bye week, the major question Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had to answer Monday regards the health of his starting quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson.
Injured during the second half of Seattle's win over the Giants on a designed running play, Jackson is attempting to rehab from a high-grade pectoral strain near his throwing shoulder.
A good sign for the Seahawks during the bye week was that Jackson on the sideline watching practice, attempting a throwing motion to see if his arm would hold up to the pain.
Still, Carroll was questioned about exposing his starting quarterback to a tough hit on a designed run play.
"I'm a fan of taking advantage of the opportunities when they're given to you, but I'm also a fan of getting down and not getting hit," Carroll said. "I like them to play keep-away with their bodies. Sometimes they can't help if they're going to get hit, but when we have the choice, they need to get down.
"We didn't do that very well. Tarvaris has led us into that because he's been so hard and tough on himself. This was not a big hit, it was just unfortunate. We have got to protect the quarterback. They're just so vulnerable. They have to avoid those kinds of hits as much as possible."
If Jackson can't go against Cleveland, then the Seahawks feel they have an able backup in Charlie Whitehurst. The Clemson product was frustrated he did not get a chance to compete for the starting job at the beginning of training camp.
However, Whitehurst has diligently worked to pick up the offense, and he played well in filling in for Jackson in the second half of the Giants game, leading Seattle to the game-winning score.
"Charlie and I are pretty close," Carroll said. "From the time we've been here, I've looked after Charlie's growth through this program, and I think the world of him, so I'm excited for him when he gets a chance. He's so ready, and he wants to be part of it and he wants to contribute."
Seattle gives up on Curry, ships LB to Raiders
The Seahawks are giving linebacker Aaron Curry an opportunity to start his career anew in another setting.
The Oakland Raiders got a jump on Tuesday's trade deadline, giving up a late-round pick in 2012 and a conditional mid-round pick in 2013 for Curry, drafted No. 4 overall by Seattle in the 2009 draft.
Curry was in Oakland's starting lineup at outside linebacker for Sunday's 24-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Carroll said the play of rookie K.J. Wright, who replaced Curry in the starting lineup three weeks ago, made it possible for the Seahawks to move on from Curry.
"He's played so well," Carroll said about Wright. "He played that Mike and that Sam 'backer spot and took over the Sam 'backer spot three weeks now starting and did a beautiful job.
"And we think we can really move ahead with him so it gave us a chance to at least make an effort to make a deal and get a couple more players for the future here, you know, with picks."
According to reports, the Seahawks restructured Curry's contract for a second time since August in order to make the deal happen.
Curry signed a six-year, $60 million contract that included $34 million in guarantees in August 2009.
Earlier in August during training camp the Seahawks restructured Curry's contract, making it easier to part ways with the underperforming linebacker at season's end if they chose.
Curry agreed to cut his rookie deal from six to four years. In return for giving up $5.75 million in guaranteed salary Curry's due to make in 2012, he can become a free agent at the end of that season – two years earlier at the age of 27.
By season's end, Curry would have earned $28.25 million in guaranteed money over three years of the six-year, $60 million deal he originally signed with Seattle's previous regime in August 2009.
Curry started the first two weeks of the season before losing his job to Wright, a fourth-round pick in this year's draft. Curry has 22 tackles on the year, but also dropped two sure interceptions.
Considered by many draft analysts as the safest player in the 2009 draft, Curry's athleticism has never translated to consistent production on the football field, as he often found himself out of position and did not create explosive plays defensively.
For the most part, Curry's been healthy, playing in 32 of 36 possible games, including 30 starts. And he's been a model citizen off the field. But Curry's production has not lived up to his lofty draft status.