AFC-NFC NEWS AND NOTES

AFC-NFC NEWS AND NOTES

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AFC NEWS AND NOTES

BIG-PLAY AFC RUNNING BACKS MAKING AN IMPACT

It's the ultimate moment for a running back – seeing "daylight" and racing for a long gain. Every yard is earned in the NFL, and long gains are not only important to scoring points, but can have a profound impact on opposing defenses.

"It affects everything from dictating how defenses line up, be it zone or man and where they can blitz from," says Baltimore Ravens running back RAY RICE. "If you are able to run well on a team, it really helps the guys on the outside. Any time you have to bring a safety down to help stop the run, the receivers start licking their chops with the one-on-one match-ups it creates."

NFL offenses racking up hefty yardage on "big plays" in the running game provide the offense with a bevy of options. The "big play" is often considered to be a 30-or-more-yard gain that results in a score or sets the tone against aggressive NFL defenses.

Buffalo Bills running back C.J. SPILLER has been the model big-play running back in 2012. Spiller has rushed for an NFL-best 292 yards on 29 attempts and is averaging 10.1 yards per carry. He is the first player to average at least 10 yards per carry through his team's first two games of a season (minimum 25 attempts) since Pro Football Hall of Famer JIM BROWN in 1963 (35 carries for 394 yards; 11.3 average).

Spiller, now in his third NFL season, became only the second player in team history with at least 100 rushing yards and a touchdown in each of the first two games of a season (O.J. SIMPSON in 1973 and 1975).

What's the key to big gains in the ground game?

"Patience is a word I would use," says Bills head coach CHAN GAILEY, whose team averages an NFL-best 198 rushing yards per game through Week 2. "C.J. is not just seeing the first cut and saying, 'I am going to take that 100-hundred-miles-per-hour'. He tries to see everything and read everything. Then when he makes a good decision, he is exploding through the crease."

Miami Dolphins running back REGGIE BUSH, who ranks second in the league with 241 rushing yards on 40 attempts (6.0 average) this season, rushed for 172 yards in Week 2, the most in a single NFL game this season. Bush also recorded two rushing touchdowns, including a 65-yard TD in the Dolphins' 35-13 win over Oakland.

"First downs are tough to come by and points are tough to come by," says Dolphins head coach JOE PHILBIN. "When you can get somebody to stick the ball in the end zone from a distance, it makes everybody's life easier."

Most career rushing TDs of 30 yards among active players:

PLAYERS

TEAM

MOST RUSH TDs OF 30 YARDS AMONG ACTIVE PLAYERS

Chris Johnson

Titans

12

DeAngelo Williams

Panthers

12

Frank Gore

49ers

11

Maurice Jones-Drew

Jaguars

11

Adrian Peterson

Vikings

10

Most career rushes of 30 yards among active players:

PLAYERS

TEAM(S)

MOST RUSHES OF 30 YARDS AMONG ACTIVE PLAYERS

Frank Gore

49ers

28

Chris Johnson

Titans

28

Steven Jackson

Rams

26

Adrian Peterson

Vikings

26

Michael Vick

Falcons/Eagles

26

ALL-IN-ONE:A complete NFL back has the ability to lead the charge on the ground and serve as a reliable receiver and blocker in the passing game.

Texans quarterback MATT SCHAUB relies upon All-Star ARIAN FOSTER as an option in the rushing attack and as a receiver out of the backfield. Since 2010, Foster leads the league with 138.2 scrimmage yards per game.

"It's huge to have a running back not just run the ball but pass protect and catch the ball out of the backfield," says Schaub. "It adds such a dimension to your offense. You're not just throwing to your tight ends or receivers. The defense has to account for where the running back is and the mismatches he can present for us really are in our favor. Teams can't just let the back go and make the tackle. They have to account for where he is."

NFL Network analyst and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back MARSHALL FAULK can relate to a running back executing in all phases of the offense. In 1999 with the St. Louis Rams, Marshall set a single-season record for a running back with 1,048 receiving yards.

"When I look at offenses, what they're doing is having a back who doesn't just protect in the backfield and run the football," says Faulk. "They're looking for guys that can catch the football out of the backfield. Teams are starting to do that because of the emergence of the tight end and because you want to stretch the field vertically. Having that back to attack out in the flats and be an added part of the offense is something that every team wants."

The most receiving yards in a season among running backs:

PLAYERS

TEAM

YEAR

MOST RECEIVING YARDS IN A SEASON BY A RB

Marshall Faulk

Rams

1999

1,048

Lionel James

Chargers

1985

1,027

Roger Craig

49ers

1985

1,016

Larry Centers

Cardinals

1995

962

Charlie Garner

Raiders

2002

941

NFC NEWS AND NOTES

ARIZONA HOSTS PHILADELPHIA AS PAIR OF 2-0 TEAMS MEET

As the NFL enters Week 3, six teams find themselves undefeated at 2-0. Two of those clubs will meet at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday afternoon (FOX, 4:05 PM ET) when the Philadelphia Eagles visit the Arizona Cardinals.

Both teams are coming off exciting Week 2 victories by a combined total of three points. The Eagles defeated Baltimore 24-23 and the Cardinals knocked off the Patriots in New England, 20-18. Combined, the two teams have won all four of their games this season by a total of eight points (Arizona 6 and Philadelphia 2).

The Eagles, who scored a late touchdown to win 17-16 at Cleveland in Week 1, are the first team in NFL history to start 2-0 and win each of its first two games by one point.

"When you boil down the first two wins for Philadelphia, their mental toughness prevailed," says NFL Network analyst MICHAEL LOMBARDI. "They haven't let bad play affect them and they go on to the next play. That's been critical. That's really been the testimonial to why they're 2-0 right now."

Philadelphia is the first team since the 1983 Los Angeles Rams to win its first two games despite turning the ball over at least nine times.

"They've had nine turnovers but they're still undefeated," says NBC analyst TONY DUNGY about the Eagles. "Wait until they learn how to take care of the ball."

The Cardinals are looking for the franchise's first 3-0 start since 1974 when the team won its first seven games. Last week, Arizona handed the Patriots their first loss in a home opener at Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002.

"Going to New England and getting that win can definitely propel our season to the next level," says Arizona cornerback PATRICK PETERSON, who had an interception in the contest. "Some guys in the locker room described it as a statement game. But we'll have to wait and see what the rest of the season has for us."

Defensively, the Cardinals limited the Patriots to 18 points, snapping New England's streak of 25 consecutive home games with at least 20 points. It also marked just the second time in his past 37 starts that New England quarterback TOM BRADY lost a regular-season game at home.

"The Cardinals have Pro Bowl players on every level of their defense," says Lombardi. "This is a tough defense. There is nothing easy to get from them. They have great speed and they have great size."

Over the past 11 games dating back to last season, the Cardinals are tied for the best record in the NFL at 9-2.

"We have a lot of games left," says Arizona head coach KEN WHISENHUNT. "We still have a story to tell as far as who this team is going to be."

Sunday's contest will also mark the first time these two teams have met in Arizona since the 2008 NFC Championship Game, which the Cardinals won to advance to Super Bowl XLIII.

A trip to the Super Bowl isn't on the line in Week 3, but a victory would give one of these teams an impressive 3-0 start.

"We've got a big challenge ahead of us this week against Arizona," says Eagles head coach ANDY REID. "They're coming off a big win at New England. They're playing good offense, defense and special teams so we have to make sure we prepare ourselves right this week."

SCORING AT ALL-TIME HIGH AS NFL ENTERS WEEK 3

After a record-setting Kickoff Weekend, offenses continued to put up points in Week 2. A total of 1,556 points have been scored this year, the most through the first two weeks of any NFL season in history.

SEASON

POINTS THROUGH TWO WEEKS

2012

1,556

2011

1,502

2002

1,442

2003

1,368

2009

1,360

As the NFL enters Week 3, six teams – Arizona, Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego and San Francisco – find themselves undefeated at 2-0. Of those six, three – Arizona, Philadelphia and San Diego – did not make the playoffs last year. But that's the unpredictability of the NFL. In each of the past 16 seasons, at least five clubs made the playoffs that were not in the postseason the previous year. Will that streak continue in 2012?

"We're 2-0," says Eagles linebacker DE MECO RYANS. "We're excited about it and we're happy about it. A win is a win. Wins are hard to come by in this league. Any time you can get one, no matter how you get it, it counts as a 'W.' So we're excited to be 2-0 but we know we still have things to clean up."

And don't count out any of the 1-1 or 0-2 teams. Since realignment, 70 of the 120 playoff teams (58.3 percent) began the year at either 1-1 or 0-2, including eight teams last year. Among those eight were the Super Bowl XLVI champion New York Giants.

There are 20 teams with 1-1 records, the most through the first two weeks of a season in NFL history.

It's two weeks down – but there is a long way to go. Here's a look at some of the key showdowns in Week 3:

NEW YORK GIANTS (1-1) at CAROLINA PANTHERS (1-1) (Thursday, NFL Network, 8:00 PM ET)

Week 3 kicks off on Thursday night when the Giants visit the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Both teams are coming off Week 2 victories.

The Giants knocked off Tampa Bay 41-34 and became the second team in NFL history – 1951 Los Angeles Rams – to have a 500-yard passer and two 150-yard receivers in the same game. ELI MANNING passed for 510 yards and HAKEEM NICKS (199 yards) and VICTOR CRUZ (179) each went over the 150-yard mark. The other trio to accomplish the feat featured three Pro Football Hall of Famers: NORM VAN BROCKLIN (554 passing yards), ELROY (CRAZYLEGS) HIRSCH (173 receiving yards) and TOM FEARS (162).

"We hung in there and kept playing," says Giants head coach TOM COUGHLIN about the team's Week 2 win. "It was right down to the wire. We are happy to be 1-1 at this juncture. There's plenty to correct but it's a lot better correcting it when you win."

The Panthers were victorious in Week 2, defeating New Orleans 35-27. Quarterback CAM NEWTON passed for 253 yards with a 129.2 passer rating and rushed for 71 yards with a touchdown in the win. He joins MICHAEL VICK (11/15/10) as the only players in NFL history with at least 250 passing yards with a 125 passer rating and at least 70 rushing yards with a TD in a single game.

"The vibe is changing," says Newton about the attitude in Carolina. "Not only this team, but the whole organization. The fans are building as well. We found out so much about ourselves with this win. Our potential is through the roof."

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (2-0) at ARIZONA CARDINALS (2-0) (Sunday, FOX, 4:05 PM ET)

A pair of 2-0 teams will meet at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are also coming off thrilling last-minute victories in Week 2.

Quarterback MICHAEL VICK passed for 371 yards and rushed for the game-winning touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the Eagles' 24-23 win over Baltimore. In Week 1, Vick threw the game-winning TD to CLAY HARBOR with 1:18 left in the game as Philadelphia beat Cleveland 17-16. The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to start 2-0 and win each of its games by one point.

"Going into the fourth quarter, I felt confident," says Vick. "You just want to get it done. It was an opportunity to be 2-0 and that's what it all boiled down to."

Arizona aims for the franchise's first 3-0 start since 1974. The Cardinals defeated the Patriots 20-18, handing New England its first loss in a home opener at Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002 (previously 10-0). Arizona's defense limited the Patriots to 18 points, snapping New England's streak of 25 consecutive home games with at least 20 points.

Over the past 11 games dating back to last season, the Cardinals are tied for the best record in the NFL at 9-2.

"We have a lot of games left," says Cardinals head coach KEN WHISENHUNT. "We still have a story to tell as far as who this team is going to be."

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (1-1) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (1-1) (Sunday, NBC, 8:20 PM ET)

On Sunday night, the Patriots and Ravens will meet for the first time since last year's AFC Championship Game, which was won by New England (23-20).

Both teams will look to rebound from Week 2 losses. The Patriots lost by two points to Arizona while the Ravens were knocked off by a single point at Philadelphia.

New England quarterback TOM BRADY passed for 316 yards last week and moved past Pro Football Hall of Famer JOHNNY UNITAS (40,239) with 40,531 passing yards. Brady has a touchdown pass in 34 consecutive games, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history.

For the Ravens, running back RAY RICE had 152 scrimmage yards (99 rushing, 53 receiving) against the Eagles. He will look to continue his success against the Patriots. In four career meetings, including the playoffs, Rice has 515 scrimmage yards (128.8 yards per game).

"We fought and competed," says Baltimore head coach JOHN HARBAUGH about the team's Week 2 contest. "It didn't go our way at the end, but I'm proud of our guys. I like the way they competed and I think we'll be just fine coming out of this game going forward."

GREEN BAY PACKERS (1-1) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (1-1) (Monday, ESPN, 8:30 PM ET)

Week 3 concludes with a Monday-night showdown between two NFC clubs coming off Week 2 wins. The Packers defeated the division-rival Bears 23-10 and the Seahawks beat the Cowboys 27-7.

Green Bay's defense had seven sacks and four interceptions last week, including 3.5 sacks by linebacker CLAY MATTHEWS and two interceptions by cornerback TRAMON WILLIAMS. Combined with an offense led by MVP quarterback AARON RODGERS, the Packers hope to build momentum off last week's win.

Seattle rookie quarterback RUSSELL WILSON, who led Wisconsin to a Big Ten title and a berth in the Rose Bowl last year, won his first NFL game and posted a 112.7 passer rating last week. Running back MARSHAWN LYNCH rushed for 122 yards and has now recorded 100 rushing yards in a team-record six consecutive home games.

"We're a smart team, a tough team and a team that plays together," says Seahawks safety KAM CHANCELLOR. "We're very stingy and stubborn and we don't want to give up anything."

NFL FACTOID: Buffalo running back C.J. SPILLER, who leads the NFL in rushing with 292 yards, is only the second player in NFL history to open a season with back-to-back 100-yard games while averaging at least 8.0 yards per carry in each contest. Pro Football Hall of Famer JIM BROWN accomplished the feat in 1963.

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