Carey Indiana - click here to make your reservation

News

Print
RSS

AFC AND NFC NEWS AND NOTES

Posted Oct 9, 2012

AFC AND NFC NEWS AND NOTES

AFC NOTES

YEAR TWO: THE SECOND TIME AROUND

What a difference a year makes! Year two in the NFL can provide players increased confidence and a clearer understanding of what it takes to succeed.

“I just feel more relaxed out there, I’m not nervous at all,” says Texans second-year defensive end J.J. WATT, whose club is 5-0 for the first time in franchise history. “I’m just going out there and playing the game I love. I just feel confident in my game. I know what I’m doing. I know what my teammates are doing and I can just let loose and have fun.”

Through Week 5, Watt leads the NFL with 8.5 sacks and has played a pivotal role in a Texans defense that allows AFC-lows in points per game (14.6) and yards per game (275.6).

The Cincinnati Bengals’ second-year tandem of quarterback ANDY DALTON, who was selected in the second round (No. 35 overall), and wide receiver A.J. GREEN, who was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, have connected 97 times for 1,422 yards and nine touchdowns since last season. Dalton’s development this season has been on display late in games as he leads the NFL with a 127.7 fourth-quarter passer rating. He says that his increased production in year two is due to playing with confidence and being more relaxed.

“Last year, I was trying to learn an offense,” says Dalton. “Now I have a good understanding of everything and I’m really comfortable out there. And I’ve been able to do a better job as the leader of the offense.”

Green, who played his 20th career game last week, is the first player in NFL history with at least 100 receptions (101), 1,500 yards (1,550) and 10 touchdowns (11) in his first 20 career games. Through Week 5, Green is tied for third in the NFL with four touchdown receptions, ranks fifth in the NFL with 493 receiving yards and is tied for fifth with 36 catches.

“Andy and I were lucky to have a pretty good natural communication from the start, but this year I feel like it’s a lot better,” says Green. “More and more things, we just seem to be thinking the same way without really saying it. And I’m more comfortable personally with everything this year. The whole routine of being a pro player is more natural. It’s easier to focus.”

The second-year players that rank in the top five in various statistical categories through Week 5:

PLAYER

TEAM

CATEGORY

STATISTIC

NFL RANKING

Christian Ponder

Minnesota

Completion Percentage

69.0

2

Stevan Ridley

New England

Rushing Yards

490

5

Stevan Ridley

New England

Rushing Touchdowns

4

T2

A.J. Green

Cincinnati

Receptions

36

T5

A.J. Green

Cincinnati

Receiving Yards

493

5

A.J. Green

Cincinnati

Touchdown Receptions

4

T3

Julio Jones

Atlanta

4

T3

Kyle Rudolph

Minnesota

4

T3

J.J. Watt

Houston

Sacks

8.5

1

Justin Houston

Kansas City

6

T3

Robert Quinn

St. Louis

6

T3

Jeremy Kerley

NY Jets

Punt Return Avg.

17.0

3

Tommie Campbell

Tennessee

Punt Return TDs

1

T1

Randall Cobb

Green Bay

1

T1

Jeremy Kerley

NY Jets

1

T1

Vikings second-year quarterback CHRISTIAN PONDER has led his club to a 4-1 record through Week 5 after the Vikings started 1-4 in 2011. The No. 12 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft ranks second in the NFL with a 69.0 completion percentage (ROBERT GRIFFIN III, 69.1). Opponents certainly have been impressed with Ponder’s development in year two.

“I think you're seeing the steps that a second-year player takes,” says Lions head coach JIM SCHWARTZ. “He had his feet wet last year and he's a smart guy. He's a first-round draft pick, he had a good off-season this year, he had a good training camp and you’re seeing improvement.”

The largest increases in several key statistical categories from year one to year two among active players (minimum 10 starts as a rookie):

PASSING YARDS

Rookie Year

Passing Yards

2nd Year

Passing Yards

Increase

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

2009

2,444

2010

3,291

847

RUSHING YARDS

Rookie Year

Rushing Yards

2nd Year

Rushing Yards

Increase

Le’Ron McClain, Baltimore

2007

18

2008

902

884

RECEIVING YARDS

Rookie Year

Receiving Yards

2nd Year

Receiving Yards

Increase

Rob Gronkowski, New England

2010

546

2011

1,327

781

INTERCEPTIONS

Rookie Year

Interceptions

2nd Year

Interceptions

Increase

Thomas Howard, Oakland

2006

0

2007

6

6

SACKS

Rookie Year

Sacks

2nd Year

Sacks

Increase

Mario Williams, Houston

2006

4.5

2007

14

9.5



NFC NOTES

BEARS’ DEFENSE OFF TO HISTORIC START

The Chicago Bears are 4-1 and tied for the NFC North lead. A big reason for Chicago’s early success has been the play of the team’s defense.

“This 4-1 start has been spearheaded by the Bears’ defense,” says NFL Network analyst TOM WADDLE.

The Bears lead the NFL with five interception-return touchdowns and are the first team in NFL history to return five interceptions for touchdowns through the first five games of a season.

“The Bears are the best team in the NFC North,” says NFL Network analyst ERIC DAVIS. “Defensively, they can compete with anyone in that division. They’re playing well. They have playmakers and they’re stepping up and making plays on the defensive side of the ball. They’re the best team in that division.”

Chicago has five interception-return touchdowns in the past three games and the Bears joined the 1960 Cleveland Browns as the only teams in league history to record five INT-TDs over any three-game span.

The Bears’ five interception-return touchdowns this season:

DATE

PLAYER

OPPONENT

QUARTER/TIME

YARDS

9/23/12

Major Wright

St. Louis

4th Quarter, 9:06

45

10/1/12

Charles Tillman

Dallas

2nd Quarter, 2:38

25

10/1/12

Lance Briggs

Dallas

3rd Quarter, 6:11

74

10/7/12

Charles Tillman

Jacksonville

3rd Quarter, 5:04

36

10/7/12

Lance Briggs

Jacksonville

4th Quarter, 7:54

36

“The defense knows how important it is to take the ball away,” says Chicago head coach LOVIE SMITH. “After a while, you see one guy doing it and you want to join in on that action. The players know how important that is. It’s discouraging for the offense too when you can take it away and get in the end zone too.”

For the first time in the franchise’s 93 seasons, the Bears have scored at least one touchdown off an interception-return in three consecutive games.

“The guys are playing well and there’s no other way to put it,” says Bears seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end JULIUS PEPPERS. “It’s exciting to see guys contributing and it’s a great time right now because it’s not one person. It’s been different guys every week and that’s just how we play the game. We want to continue to ride this wave.”

Cornerback CHARLES TILLMAN and linebacker LANCE BRIGGS each had an interception-return touchdown in the team’s Week 4 win at Dallas and the club’s Week 5 victory at Jacksonville. Tillman and Briggs are the first set of teammates in NFL history to each return an interception for a touchdown in consecutive games.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Bears eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker BRIAN URLACHER. “Two straight weeks and the same guys have pick-sixes. It’s fun to be part of it and watch these guys do it.”

Tillman, who was selected to his first Pro Bowl last year, is the franchise leader with seven career interception-return touchdowns. Briggs, who has been named to seven consecutive Pro Bowls, has five career INT-TDs, the second-most in club annals.

“Those were big,” says Chicago quarterback JAY CUTLER about the interception-return touchdowns. “For ‘Peanut’ (Tillman) to turn around and make another heck of a play in back-to-back weeks speaks a lot for the way this defense is playing. They’re playing extremely well.”

Since 2005, the Bears are 14-1 (.933) under Smith when returning an interception for a touchdown. During that time, Chicago ranks third in the NFL with 18 interception-return touchdowns behind Green Bay (23) and Baltimore (20).

“We know we win when we score on defense,” says Smith.

Stay up-to-date on everything Colts! Sign-up for the Colts E-newsletter
Leave your comments below Join the COLTSTRONG Fan Community

Recent Videos

  • Sounds of the Game: T.Y. Hilton

    (3:14)

    Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton was wired for sound in the week 2 matchup against the Eagles and QB Matt Hasselbeck helps him break down the tape.

  • Colts host Hispanic Heritage Football Camp

    (1:21)

    Colts players including Cory Redding, Darius Butler, Dewey McDonald, and Daniel Adongo participated in a Hispanic Heritage Football Camp as part of this week's "Community Tuesday."

Recent Photos