Offense wins games, Defense wins Championships

Week 12 Defense player wire is filled with the up and coming stars across he league, injury updates and roster moves.

Saints
DE Charles Grant came up with the first interception of his three-year NFL career with 40 seconds to play in the third quarter against the Falcons. Michael Vick tried to flip a screen pass to running back Warrick Dunn in the right flat, but Grant got in the way, leaped high and made the grab. Grant returned the pick 8 yards before being dragged down from behind by Dunn, who saved a touchdown, at the Falcons' 30. The interception, however, led to a 7-yard TD pass from Brooks to Horn.

Buccaneers
DT Chidi Ahanotu is making an impact on the Bucs defense. Released by Miami, he signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay and switched from defensive end to tackle. He has recorded three sacks in as many games.

DE Simeon Rice leads the Bucs with six sacks and needs one to reach 100 for his career. But he is not having the success he enjoyed playing alongside Anthony McFarland and Warren Sapp. McFarland was placed on Injured Reserve with a torn triceps, and Sapp signed as a free agent with the Raiders. "I don't know that some of the Beatles, when they broke up and played on their own, were as successful as they were together," coach Jon Gruden said.

Eagles
DE Hugh Douglas might get his first start of the season Sunday if Derrick Burgess is unable to play. Burgess is nursing a rib injury suffered against the Giants on Sunday.

DE Jevon Kearse notched the first blocked punt of his career Sunday when he snuffed a Jeff Feagles punt. "Did you see?" he said to special teams coach John Harbaugh in the locker room after the game. "I stayed low just like you said, just like this. I took it right off his foot." Said Reid: "There are so many things he can do. This is just another thing in his repertoire."

Broncos
DE Reggie Hayward had Denver's only sack on Sunday night. After an early-season slump, Hayward has been coming on lately as a consistent pass rusher, something Denver needs in Trevor Pryce's absence.

Steelers
NT Chris Hoke has started five games since Pro Bowler Casey Hampton was knocked out for the season with a knee injury. The Steelers have allowed only 209 yards rushing in those five games.

Patriots
DL Jarvis Green scored his first career touchdown when he recovered a Kyle Boller fumble in the end zone after Tedy Bruschi strip-sacked the Ravens quarterback. "It felt good. Tedy Bruschi made a great play and I saw the ball bouncing around and I fell on it," Green said. "I told myself that I wouldn't let it out of my hands if I got the ball."

Panthers
DE Julius Peppers blocked a field goal, posted his seventh sack in four games and intercepted a pass and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown. He also chased down running back Michael Pittman on a screen pass, saving a touchdown.

Dolphins
DE Jason Taylor had his first multi-sack game of the season in Sunday's 24-17 victory at San Francisco. Taylor, who entered with 4.5 sacks, logged three sacks of 49er quarterback Tim Rattay, including one that resulted in a one-yard fumble return by linebacker Derrick Pope.

Bengals
DE Robert Geathers had 1.5 sacks, including one for 10 yards in the fourth quarter that forced the Browns to punt after they scored touchdowns on five consecutive second-half possessions. The rookie from Georgia has 3.5 sacks this season.

49ers
DE Andre Carter surrendered the first touchdown in pass coverage in his career. Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson called a zone blitz in which Carter was matched against Dolphins tight end Randy McMichael on a third-and-goal from the 15-yard line with the 49ers leading 10-7 in the fourth quarter. When safety Tony Parrish did not get over quickly enough, McMichael caught the go-ahead touchdown.

Cowboys
DE Greg Ellis had a strong game Thursday, adding one forced fumble and 1.5 sacks against Craig Krenzel and Jonathon Quinn, who took over for Krenzel ankle in the second quarter. Ellis has eight sacks this season, matching his career-high 2003.

DE Eric Ogbogu notched 3.5 sacks to lead a defense that recorded six in the game Thursday. Before the game Ogbogu had 4.5 career sacks, with 3.5 of those recorded in 2003.

Colts
DE Brad Scioli was inactive for the Lions game. It's the fifth time this season that Scioli has been made inactive for a game.

DE Josh Thomas is expected to be out indefinitely with a sprained posterior collateral ligament in his left knee.

Jets
DE Shaun Ellis was awarded a long-awaited contract extension this weekend, a seven-year deal that will pay Ellis close to $15 million up front. After coming out with an injury late in the first half, Ellis returned after halftime to notch a sack.

Titans
DL Kevin Carter will not be moved back inside to tackle fulltime, even though the Titans will be without DT Rien Long knee this week and get Bo Schobel added to the roster off PUP.

DT Randy Starks doesn't even turn 21 until mid-December, but the kid made some big plays in Tennessee's 31-21 loss to Houston: Two sacks - one of which sure looked like a safety despite the official ruling - to go with a blocked field goal and a pass defensed. "Those young guys they've got potential, especially Randy Starks," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "He's ready now." "Young Starks is coming of age, man," linebacker Keith Bulluck said. "You know he's going to play well. I've been challenging him since he got here, since I lost one of my favorite players in Robaire Smith. So I've been on Starks a lot. He's showing that he's here to play, He's young, he's not even 21 yet, and he wants to be taken seriously, and he has the right attitude to be successful in this league."

Falcons
NT Ed Jasper, who blocked a 37-yard field goal try in the Falcons' 24-21 win over the Saints Sunday, broke the scheme of special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis to do it. He shot a guard gap on a play that was supposed to be an outside block. "Now, the downside of that is, if I hadn't blocked the field goal, Joe D. would probably still be chewing me out right now."

Vikings
DT Chris Hovan, whose streak of 69 consecutive starts was snapped the previous week, fell completely out of the team's plan of attack against Jacksonville RB Fred Taylor. The Vikings decided to activate seven defensive linemen and told Hovan at the team hotel on Saturday night that he wasn't one of them. Hovan, who had played in 74 games since being drafted out of Boston College in 2000, didn't take the news well. He was gone before reporters reached the locker room after Sunday's 27-16 victory over the Jaguars. Hovan has 21 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks but has been criticized by coaches for undisciplined play and a general lack of production this season. Hovan is a free agent at the end of the season. He reportedly has put his house on the market because he knows he won't be with the Vikings beyond this season.

DT Chris Hovan's days as a Viking are numbered. After losing his starting job to rookie free agent Spencer Johnson the previous week, Hovan was de-activated against Jacksonville. The Vikings wanted better run stoppers on the field to try to stop Fred Taylor, who rushed for 147 yards on 22 carries 6.7. Hovan is a free agent after the season.

Titans
DT Randy Starks had a big game in Houston with two sacks -- one of which should have been a safety -- and a blocked field-goal attempt.

Dolphins
MLB Derrick Pope responded in place of injured Zach Thomas with a performance belying his rookie status. Pope had five tackles, one sack and a one-yard fumble return for a touchdown, marking Miami's first defensive touchdown of the season. "When I saw Jason Taylor hit the quarterback and the ball came out, my eyes got as big as the moon," said Pope, who recovered a Tim Rattay fumble forced by a Taylor sack. "I just wanted to make sure I picked the ball up and stepped in for a touchdown." Dolphins interim coach Jim Bates was pleased with the performance of his team's 2004 seventh-round draft choice. "He's just got that eye," Bates said. "He made some mistakes. We all made some mistakes. But he plays hard, he plays with a lot of emotion, and he's a very, very physical football player."

Saints
SLB James Allen took over for Sedrick Hodge in Sunday's game with the Falcons and will probably start Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

Chargers
LB Ben Leber missed a few tackles on Sunday, and finished with only three tackles.

Rookie OLB Shaun Phillips has gone four games without a sack, his longest stint of the year.

Texans
LB Jason Babin, one of two first-round picks for the Texans in this year's draft, was benched in the fourth quarter for the third time this season Sunday against Tennessee in favor of second-year pro Antwan Peek.

LB Antwan Peek made one of the biggest plays of the game, hitting QB Steve McNair from his blindside and causing a fumble with the Titans driving for the potential game-tying field goal. Peek had to leave the game after the play. "To the point I couldn't do the next play," Peek said. "I just got so excited, I started throwing up. Sometimes your adrenaline gets going, and it just happens. That's how fired up I was."

Patriots
LB Rosevelt Colvin notched his fourth sack of the season on Sunday against Baltimore and is now tied for second on the team with Richard Seymour behind Willie McGinest, who leads the club with six sacks. Colvin is now 11 games into his comeback from a fractured hip and appears to be improving steadily. If he can make a bigger impact over the final month, he could give New England a defensive boost in the pass rush department.

Raiders
LB Sam Williams made six tackles and blocked a Jake Plummer pass in his second start.

Dolphins
MLB Derrick Pope was pressed into extensive duty in Sunday's 24-17 victory over San Francisco when Zach Thomas went to the bench. Pope finished with five tackles, one sack and a one-yard fumble return for Miami's first defensive touchdown of the season.

Saints
LB Sedrick Hodge sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee midway through the first quarter of Sunday's game with the Atlanta Falcons and did not return. Coach Jim Haslett said the early prognosis on Hodge, who was replaced by James Allen, is that he'll probably miss at least two games.

Cowboys
LB Keith O'Neil continued his strong play on special teams, leading the unit with four tackles.

Chargers
LB Donnie Edwards got his first interception of the season after getting his hands on numerous passes during the year.

Giants
LB Barrett Green, who returned to active duty after three weeks on the inactive list, was ejected from the game for punching Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter when he ran into the Giants' sideline after pushing QB Eli Manning out of bounds and drawing a flag for unnecessary roughness.

Colts
LB Gilbert Gardner continues to recover from a strained right hamstring. He has been sidelined for the past three weeks. Gardner is expected to resume practicing this week.

Steelers
LB Joey Porter and defensive end Aaron Smith lead the team with seven sacks. Porter had only five last season after he missed the first two games because of a gunshot wound.

Jets
MLB Sam Cowart was active but didn't play against Arizona. Cowart played sparingly the last two games since coming back from a knee sprain and registered just one tackle. The Jets are unsure if Cowart can get back to 100 percent this season.

Packers
LB Nick Rogers was added to the roster for the third time this season.

Cardinals
MLB Ronald McKinnon, who's seen his role diminish over the course of the season, played perhaps his finest game of the season Sunday. McKinnon had 10 tackles against the Jets, a power running team. McKinnon comes out in nickel situations, but he's still effective on first and second downs.

Browns
MLB Andra Davis tore his MCL in his left knee and will go on injured reserve. Davis tore the same ligament, along with his PCL, in college. He will not require surgery.

Chargers
LB Randall Godfrey had another good game -- he had five tackles and a sack.

49ers
LB Derek Smith scored the first touchdown of his eight-year career when he recovered a fumble and ran 46 yards to give the 49ers a short-lived 10-7 lead against the Dolphins in the fourth quarter.

Jets
OLB Mark Brown made his first career start Sunday in place of Victor Hobson. He made two tackles and played well as the Jets held Arizona to just 71 yards rushing.

Rams
MLB Robert Thomas will return to the starting lineup Monday night against Green Bay after not starting for five games. Thomas missed two games because of injury, then watched as Trev Faulk was the starter for the next three games.

Bengals
CB Rashad Bauman on Monday was the 14th player placed on a reserve list this year by the Bengals. Bauman, whose Achilles injury has forced him to miss the last seven games, was placed on injured reserve. Coach Marvin Lewis also announced that Bauman's 5-month-old son died Thursday and would be buried by Bauman and his fiancée this week in Salem, Ore.

Seahawks
CB Marcus Trufant is sometimes giving receivers too much cushion, coach Mike Holmgren said. Part of that has to do with the Seahawks' inconsistent pass rush, but Trufant has the physical skills to play more aggressively.

49ers
DB Mike Adams recorded his first career interception for the 49ers, and fellow rookie Shawntae Spencer had the presence of mind to get the football for Adams. "I think I was too excited," Adams said. "Shawntae said, 'What are you doing?' I was so hyped up."

Cardinals
CB Renaldo Hill has played well this season, but he was burned for the only touchdown in Sunday's game. Hill misplayed a pass to Santana Moss, and the result was a 69-yard touchdown.

Chargers
CB Jamar Fletcher becomes the nickel back with Sammy Davis hurt and Drayton Florence moving into the starting lineup.

CB Drayton Florence will replace injured Sammy Davis in the startling lineup.

Buccaneers
CB Mario Edwards, acquired as a free agent from the Cowboys to serve as the team's nickel back, has apparently lost that position to second-year pro Torrie Cox.

Panthers
CB Chris Gamble, who entered the game having recorded an interception in each of his last two games, almost had an interception that he could have taken to the house. Gamble made a great break on the ball, but Brian Griese's pass was just a little low for him to grab. Gamble also returned punts for the Panthers.

Vikings
CB Brian Williams had one of his best games of the season with a game-high seven solo tackles and eight total. He forced a fumble in the red zone that teammate Dontarrious Thomas recovered.

Jets
CB David Barrett, following a poor start, has picked up his game tremendously over the last month. Against Arizona he totaled six tackles and notched his first interception. He also had a forced fumble and mass a pass defense for the fourth time in five games.

Broncos
CB Roc Alexander, who has been a valuable special-teams contributor, will become Denver's dime cornerback with Lenny Walls out for the season.

Patriots
CB Randall Gay intercepted his second pass of the season when he dropped off his man and picked off Kyle Boller in zone coverage. Gay started at corner against the Ravens opposite Eugene Wilson in what is becoming the secondary shuffle. Dexter Reid started at safety along with Rodney Harrison, who also lined up at cornerback with Gay moving back to safety and linebacker Don Davis also taking snaps at safety at times. Troy Brown was once again the slot cornerback in the nickel and recorded one pass defense. The team's top three corners, Ty Law, Tyrone Poole and Asante Samuel, all missed the game.

Raiders
CB Phillip Buchanon had his third interception of the year, running it back 37 yards out of the end zone.

Broncos
CB Champ Bailey gave up some big plays to Raiders WR Jerry Porter on Sunday. The Raiders weren't scared to throw Bailey's direction, and it paid off. Porter caught three touchdown passes, although the third one was against a zone coverage in a goal-line situation.

Falcons
CB DeAngelo Hall was picked on by the Saints on Sunday, especially by wide receiver Joe Horn nine catches, 101 yards, but was not beaten for any deep balls. He was the defender when Horn caught a two-point conversion attempt.

Falcons
CB Jason Webster left the Falcons' 24-21 win over the Saints after aggravating the groin muscle that bothered him earlier in the week. He did not return and was in street clothes for the second half.

Bengals
CB Deltha O'Neal sealed the victory with a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the game. It was the fourth touchdown scored by the Bengals' defense in 11 games.

Bengals
CB Tory James had his league leading seventh interception Sunday in the first half, a turnover that set up a field goal at the end of the first half.

49ers
DB Mike Adams, an undrafted rookie from Delaware, recorded the first interception of his career.

Titans
CB Samari Rolle said a young, struggling defense is obligated to continue to fight, but the next two weeks could be ugly as the team faces two of the league's best offenses -- Indianapolis and Kansas City. "This is only like my second time going through this; it's not fun," he said. "But you've just got to come to work every day and try to make the best out of it."

CB Rich Gardner got his first major playing time and appeared to do reasonable work covering receivers in the middle of the field as part of the dime package.

Patriots
S Omare Lowe was activated from the practice squad by New England. Lowe was signed to the practice squad on Nov. 16.

CB Asante Samuel shoulder joined Tyrone Poole knee and Ty Law foot on the inactive list.

Giants
CB Will Peterson: "After the first half you are supposed to make adjustments and go out and play better. We came out and played worse. We threw a pick an interception and then we dropped a sure one by cornerback Will Allen and you can't beat a good team when you do things like that."

Steelers
CB Deshea Townsend's interception in the fourth quarter was his fourth of the season to go with four sacks.

Jaguars
S Donovin Darius had an up and down day against the Vikings. He intercepted a pass, but then gave up a two-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss in the third quarter. Darius, who also had one pass defensed, said he'd like to have the play against Moss back and said he didn't turn his head around quickly enough.

Dolphins
S Yeremiah Bell is another young defensive player who earned praise from coach Jim Bates following the 49ers game. Bell, who moved up the depth chart following the team's recent release of free safety Antuan Edwards, played as Miami's third safety against San Francisco. "Yeremiah came in and did a real nice job the half that he played," Bates said. "He showed his talent. He showed his speed. He did some things down the field that proves he's consistent and getting better." A 2003 sixth-round draft choice, Bell spent most of his rookie season on Miami's developmental squad before landing on injured reserve with a leg injury.

Falcons
FS Cory Hall, who signed with the Falcons last year as an unrestricted free agent after spending his first four pro seasons with the Bengals, is with a winner for the first time in his pro career. The Falcons' 24-21 win over the Saints moved Atlanta to 9-2, assuring a winning season. "It's what I've always wanted. It's like a dream, to be honest with you. I'm just like, 'Don't wake up, don't wake up, keep winning, keep on as far as you can," Hall said. "That's why I signed here, to play with No. 7 and not against No. 7. I call Michael Vick the Jordan of football. No quarterback is perfect all the time. He has the talent to make up for some things that maybe he didn't do well earlier in the game."

Redskins
S Sean Taylor has a new signature play -- the personal foul. Against the Eagles on Nov. 21, Taylor was flagged for giving WR Terrell Owens an elbow to the head. Sunday at Pittsburgh, Taylor picked up another foul for shoving C Jeff Hartings. Both incidents occurred after the whistle and away from the play. Taylor is assembling a lengthy list of maneuvers that are calling his character into question. This week he must head to court for a DUI arrest, recently he was accused of spitting in the face of a Bengal and his offseason included a string of dubious incidents. Coaches like how hard Taylor plays but are hoping he can lose the penalties. "We talk about it all the time," assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams said. "Taylor plays with an awful lot of emotion, but we just can't have those kinds of things that hurt the football team. We'll review it."

Dolphins
S Yeremiah Bell received extensive playing time in last Sunday's 24-17 victory over San Francisco. The Dolphins' desire to gain a better assessment of Bell led to the release of FS Antuan Edwards earlier this month.

Chiefs
FS Shaunard Harts struggled in deep coverage against San Diego in his first start this year for injured Jerome Woods. It didn't help either that his backfield mate, Willie Pile, was making the first start of his short NFL career for injured strong safety Greg Wesley.

Chiefs
SS Willie Pile didn't learn until he was coming off the field after the opening kickoff that he would be playing for strong safety Greg Wesley, who began experiencing hamstring soreness during the pre-game. Pile drew the day's toughest assignment -- principle duty on San Diego tight end Antonio Gates, who began the day as the AFC co-leader in receptions and expanded his TD count to 11 with a pair of fourth-quarter grabs against the Chiefs.

Bills
FS Izell Reese, who had started the season's first nine games, now hasn't dressed for the past two. He was inactive against the Seahawks in place of rookie Rashad Baker.

Patriots
DB Eugene Wilson, who started his last 25 regular season games at safety, started at cornerback against the Ravens in place of Earthwind Moreland, with rookie Dexter Reid moving in at safety for Wilson. Linebacker Don Davis rotated in at safety for Reid throughout. That secondary helped limit Baltimore to 47 net passing yards.

Browns
SS Robert Griffith made four tackles in the Cincinnati game, giving him 103 for the season. It marks the third straight time he reached the century mark in tackles and eighth time in his career.


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