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NFL Week 14: Winter weather becomes primary story line across league
Blowing snow made traction and visibility difficult for Lions at Eagles, Vikings at Redskins, Chiefs at Redskins, and Dolphins at Steelers. Detroit running back Reggie Bush injured himself on the slippery field at the Linc in warmups and was not playing.
The snow so obscured the yard markers it was nearly impossible for fans to tell exactly where the ball was at all four stadiums. Televising networks superimposed the yard lines and numbers for viewers at home.
Small tractors with plows, and workers with shovels tried to clear the snow in Baltimore, to no avail. Workers used handheld snow blowers in Philadelphia, with little effect.
Conditions were at their worst in Philly, where predictions had been for a bit of snow later in the day, not a full-scale squall.
Referee Ed Hochuli told the teams during the pregame coin toss he would improvise if the coin landed on an angle. There was no need for that.
But there was need to bundle up. Lions and Eagles both huddled around portable sideline heaters. Even the cheerleaders wore winter vests.
The Lions fumbled four times, losing one, in the first quarter alone. But after scoring in the second period, they went for a 2-point conversion and made it because trying a placement kick was too treacherous.
But Detroit called a timeout after going ahead 20-14 to attempt an extra point kick by David Akers, a former Eagles kicker. The Lions had been penalized 5 yards for a false start before trying a 2-point conversion, so opted for the kick. It was blocked.
The fans that stuck this one out appeared to be having fun and no, they werent throwing snowballs. But with temperatures in the 20s, there were some huge gaps in the second level and upper deck.
In Baltimore, Vikings holder Jeff Locke wiped down the spot he planned to place the ball, clearing a path for kicker Blair Walsh on a field-goal try. The preparation paid off with a 39-yarder that got Minnesota within 7-3.
Swirling snow turned the field into a veritable ice rink. The players had difficulty running, passing and catching the football. The first play from scrimmage was a dropped pass by Jacoby Jones.
With fans covered with snow, the conditions seemed more appropriate for outdoors in Minnesota than Maryland. Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson, the 2012 NFL MVP, hurt his ankle on the slick turf in the second quarter.
A short drive away in the Washington suburb of Landover, the Redskins had a snow game for the first time since FedEx Field opened in 1997.
Players were slipping and sliding: Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers took a big-time slide trying to keep up when Pierre Garcon made a cut on a passing route. But Robert Griffin III missed making the throw.
When Kansas City had the ball deep in Redskins territory, Andy Reid asked for a measurement even though the Chiefs were a full yard short of a first down. Reid couldnt judge the distance because the yard lines werent visible.
The Chiefs went for it anyway and converted.
Several Dolphins came out in shorts and T-shirts during individual warmups. but the team left the field early, with the Steelers staying on the field until the usual time to head back to the locker room.
For the coin flip in Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger was wearing gray sweatpants over his gold football pants.
Snow intensified after the opening kickoff, and during a stoppage in play due to an injury, a small army of workers came on the field with snow blowers to clear the hashmarks, every 5-yard stripe as well as the yardage numbers. But some of them got covered quickly as the snow picked up.
NFL preview: Raiders unit analysis
The biggest mistake that general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen made last year was messing with the offense, and a switch from the power, gap scheme to a zone-blocking one was disastrous. Darren McFadden is running straight ahead again this year, and free-agent signee Rashad Jennings looks like a nice, powerful backup. Long-striding quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who could be the starter sooner than later, is the X-factor. The loss of left tackle Jared Veldheer to a triceps injury hurts a lot.
Pass offense Carson Palmer completed 61 percent of his passes for 4,018 yards but took a lot of the blame for the fall from 8-8 to 4-12. He's gone, and Matt Flynn was supposed to run an offense that was more horizontal than vertical. Flynn's marching orders were to avoid turnovers, and then he threw two interceptions and fumbled in the third preseason game. That has opened the door for Pryor, whose escapability and run-away-from-you ability might be better suited for this patchwork offensive line, anyway. Denarius Moore should be the No. 1 receiver, but the coaching staff has been questioning his want-to and focus. Applications to play tight end are still being accepted.
Run defense Defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly didn't really buy in last year with Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, so they're gone. All the staff really wants out of experienced defensive tackles Pat Sims and Vance Walker is for them to stand up against the run. Fourth-year defensive end Lamarr Houston came to camp in the best shape of his career and will be asked to blow up some plays. Middle linebacker Nick Roach, previously with the Bears, is an immediate upgrade over retired bust Rolando McClain, though if we were nitpicking, 6-foot-1, 234 pounds is a little small for a middle linebacker.
Pass defense Oakland signed free-agent cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, drafted cornerback D.J. Hayden in the first round and then signed free-agent safeties Usama Young and Charles Woodson in the offseason. They, and returning safety Tyvon Branch, are the core of this defense. With the different looks, pass-coverage ability, blitzing and expected ball-hawking skills of the defensive backs, the rest of the defense can ride the secondary's experience, play-making and excitement. The pass rush is counting on, among others, a fifth-rounder last year (end Jack Crawford) and a seventh-rounder this year (end David Bass). Did we mention the secondary?
Special teams Sebastian Janikowski was perfect on 25 field-goal attempts from 49 yards or closer, and was 6 of 9 from farther. He is back and will be joined by either Chris Kluwe or Marquette King at punter. King, the second-year player, has a bigger foot, but Kluwe, the former Viking, is better at coffin-corner kicks. There is a very good chance the loser of the competition gets a job elsewhere in the NFL. Special teams was a focus at training camp - last year's kick-return and coverage units were lackluster enough that coach Bobby April was added to replace Steve Hoffman.
Coaching Dennis Allen definitely is carrying himself with more confidence in this his second season. He has more younger players and guys with a chip on their shoulder than he did last season. Whether he has enough talent to improve on 4-12 is debatable, as is whether he makes his players better with his game plans or game-day adjustments. Tarver hopes his defense's energy and communication skills can match his, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson is saying all the right things, even though when he accepted the job, it was to work with Palmer.