Ravens

Sack is back for Merriman in 2nd stint in Buffalo

Sack is back for Merriman in 2nd stint in Buffalo

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) It seems like it's been so long since Shawne Merriman got a sack, he can't get the numbers straight.

``What's it been, `09?'' the Buffalo Bills defensive end said Wednesday.

Actually, Merriman overlooked the one he had against Cincinnati during an injury-shortened season with Buffalo last year.

But who's counting? One sack over two seasons for someone who had 39 1/2 in his first three campaigns isn't exactly much to crow about.

What matters is that it wasn't his last one.

A month into his second stint with the Bills (4-6) after the team released him in August, Merriman got an opportunity to reintroduce his sack dance in the final minutes of a 19-14 win over Miami last week. The eighth-year player finished with two tackles for losses - he also stopped running back Daniel Thomas for a 1-yard loss - while being on the field for a season-high 20 plays.

It was enough for coach Chan Gailey to call it Merriman's best performance in two-plus seasons in Buffalo.

``Hopefully he can build on that,'' Gailey said, looking ahead to the game at the Andrew Luck-led Indianapolis Colts (6-4) on Sunday. ``Probably, his confidence has taken a notch up a little bit, so I'm looking forward to see what happens with him as the weeks unfold.''

Merriman's confidence has grown, and the outing against Miami provided him a shot of validation after fearing he had run out of second and third chances of an injury-troubled career.

``It's been a tough road,'' Merriman said. ``Five weeks ago, I wasn't even on a team, and wondering, `When you're going to get that call or why nobody wants to give me a shot?' All those things go through your head. But you have to know that when you get that opportunity you have to take advantage of it.''

The opportunities were dwindling because of injuries that hampered the NFL's 2005 Defensive Rookie of the Year and three-time Pro Bowl selection.

The troubles began in San Diego in 2008, when Merriman was limited to just one game before having reconstructive knee surgery. Then he was nagged by a sore right Achilles tendon, which eventually led to the Chargers waiving him in November 2010.

The Bills claimed Merriman, who didn't make it through his first practice before aggravating the Achilles tendon. He made it through only five games last season before having surgery to repair the tendon.

In the spring he returned to Buffalo feeling rejuvenated, but was the odd man out. He was released in August because the Bills wanted to free up room to develop Kyle Moore.

Merriman spent two months waiting to find a new team before the Bills came calling. They required immediate help to shore up a defensive line that lost starter Mark Anderson (right knee) and backup Spencer Johnson (ankle) over a two-week span.

Merriman had not lost faith in his ability, and yet started to believe others around the NFL began to regard him as being washed up.

``The perception was, `This guy can't even play. He can't rush the passer. He can't be physical. He can't be Shawne Merriman,''' Merriman said. ``That really got under my skin. That upset me more than anything.''

It's unclear what future role Merriman will have with the Bills. Moore is starting in place of Anderson, who is listed as week to week. And veteran defensive end Chris Kelsay is set to return against the Colts after missing two games with a neck injury.

Whatever happens, Merriman has learned to appreciate the chance to play again.

``You know, this is a privilege. It's hard to play in this league, and even harder to stay around,'' Merriman said. ``I feel like I've done that. And now I'm back to where I need to be. And I have to keep on progressing.''

NOTES: FB Corey McIntyre left practice after aggravating a nagging left knee injury. Gailey plans to hold McIntyre out of practice Thursday, but expects him to play Sunday. ... Rookie CB Ron Brooks missed practice after having emergency dental surgery, Gailey said. ... Kelsay (neck) and RB Fred Jackson (concussion) practiced fully and are expected to play. Jackson was cleared to practice for the first time since being hurt in a 37-31 loss at New England on Nov. 11.

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Lamar Jackson becomes first QB to rush at least 70 yards in five straight starts

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Lamar Jackson becomes first QB to rush at least 70 yards in five straight starts


With Lamar Jackson under center for the past five games, the Ravens offense’ has relied on his legs to move the ball. The rookie quarterback has struggled at times throwing the ball, but utilizing the read options, Jackson has had no such problems making an impact. 

On Sunday against the Buccaneers, Jackson had 100 yards rushing going into the fourth quarter. With that, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for at least 70 yards in five straight starts.  The streak started with a bang in the Ravens 24-21 win over the Bengals when Jackson rushed for 119 yards  It was followed by games of 71 and 75 yards against the Raiders and Falcons and a 67-yard game in Week 14’s loss against the Chiefs. 

He knows the risks running quarterbacks face,  but winning is his No. 1 priority. 

"I’m going to put it all on the line," Jackson said in an interview with ESPN. "I want to win. I hate losing. I hate that feeling. You have to deal with it the next week. So, I want to win regardless. If it happens, it’s going to happen. I’ve been good so far.”

Coming into Week 15, the Ravens were fourth in the NFL in rushing yards. The team has rushed for at least 190 yards since Jackson took over.

At feat that hasn’t been achieved since the Steelers did it in 1976. With Jackson continuing to dazzle defenders, Baltimore will continue to maintain its dominance in the ground game. 

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It was ugly and boring, but the Redskins won a wild and important game in Jacksonville

It was ugly and boring, but the Redskins won a wild and important game in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE -- The Redskins played one of the ugliest games of the NFL season on Sunday, but they got an extremely important win, and in the end, that's all that matters. 

Across the league, offenses are getting more inventive and creating new ways to move the football through the air. That didn't happen in Jacksonville.

What did happen was a gutty performance from fourth-string quarterback Josh Johnson, a great pass rush, and an opportunistic defense combined to grind out a victory. 

The team overcame some mistakes and proved they will still play for head coach Jay Gruden. There's a lot to unpack, let's dive in. 

1. Not Too Bad:

Josh Johnson played well on Sunday, finishing with 151 passing yards and completing 16 of 25 passes. He connected with Jeremy Sprinkle for a late touchdown to tie the game, and never made the kind of killer mistakes that often bury a team playing backup QBs. 

2. Beast Mode: 

The Redskins defensive front played a monster game, sacking Jags QB Cody Kessler six times. Ryan Kerrigan and Jonathan Allen each logged two sacks on Kessler, and Kerrigan moved into second place all-time on the Redskins sack list. Now with 82.5 sacks, Kerrigan trails only Dexter Manley on the Washington franchise list. The defense also limited the Jags to under 200 yards of total offense. 

3. Secret Formula:

The formula for the Redskins when they got out to a 6-3 start was fairly simple; control time of possession and win the turnover battle. That worked on Sunday. The Redskins won the clock battle and forced two turnovers from Kessler. The late interception from Fabian Moreau was a huge play for the Redskins, as it kept the Jags from a field goal attempt when the game was tied at 13 with less than five minutes remaining. Then a good drive from Johnson led to the game-winning 36-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins. 

4. The Curse Continues:

Penalties have been killing the Redskins for weeks, and Sunday's game was no different. The team finished with six penalties for 48 yards, and on a number of first down plays, flags brought the gains back. Morgan Moses added to his league-leading penalty total, a title that nobody wants. The Redskins offensive line is a mess due to injuries, playing their 10th guard of the season, but still, the pace of penalties demands attention and correction. 

5. Not so Special:

 The Redskins defense didn't give up any touchdowns, but the Redskins special teams did. Late in the first half, Maurice Harris got the mistake train rolling when he tried to field a punt with the sun directly in his eyes. Rather than just letting the ball go, Harris attempted a backward over-the-shoulder catch. It didn't work. He muffed the punt and had to retreat about 10 yards to fall on the football. From there, the offense went 3-and-out and had to punt. Then that punt got returned for a touchdown, with a remarkable missed tackle from Byron Marshall. Seriously watch this. 

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