NFL Notebook

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Associated Press
The college football notebook …
WASHINGTON — Six bleeps in 40 seconds. Maybe that’ll be the most noteworthy statistic from the Washington Redskins’ loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The liberal use of expletives came from cornerback DeAngelo Hall, one of the Redskins’ five team captains, before the team’s public relations staff cut him off in the locker room following Monday night’s 18-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Too late. Hall had already ripped the refs for a facemask call and criticized his coach’s decision to a dial up a blitz that backfired.
A week ago, the Redskins were jokingly — and happily — calling themselves “boring.” Now they’ve got their drama back, thanks to another crazy game against their most hated rival.
There’s Hall’s verbal barrage. There’s coach Mike Shanahan — his hair a mess because he just took off the headset — unleashing a glare that would set fire to glaciers after Rex Grossman’s latest critical turnover, a play that down the road might be remembered as the moment another quarterback controversy began. There’s the curious pass-happy play-calling by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in the second half. There’s yet another Redskins chapter in the book on how to botch a field goal.
The loss dropped Washington to 2-1, in a three-way tie for first in the NFC East. It also exposed many of the flaws that had critics doubting the Redskins in the first place. Yet they were oh-so-close to 3-0, beaten by a hair by a Cowboys team that looked thoroughly disorganized and needed a heroic game from Tony Romo to muster six field goals — with no touchdowns.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Say this much about the Dallas Cowboys under Jason Garrett: They sure don’t get blown out.
Then again, they don’t blow anyone out, either.
Over their past nine games, the Cowboys have won or lost by a field goal every time. It’s the longest such streak in NFL history — by three, of course.
Dallas is 5-4 in this white-knuckle stretch, having won the past two. The way wounded quarterback Tony Romo and rookie kicker Dan Bailey combined to pull out both wins shows that this club is becoming comfortable dealing with adversity and late-game pressure.
It’s good for ratings, but not necessarily Garrett’s vocal cords. His voice was raspy following an 18-16 victory Monday night that featured six field goals, no touchdowns and, most of all, a 2-1 start that guarantees the Cowboys won’t repeat their toxic 1-7 start from last season.
Dallas also can savor its first winning record since the end of the 2009 season, and being part of a three-way tie atop the NFC East.
LOS ANGELES — The developer behind a $1.2 billion plan to build a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles got a key boost Tuesday with a law that will help it avoid lengthy court fights.
Billing the measure as a job creation push, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill (SB 292) at a Los Angeles Convention Center ceremony with executives from Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is proposing to build a 72,000-seat stadium next to the convention center.
PITTSBURGH — Marcus Gilbert and Doug Legursky’s left shoulders appear to be OK. Maybe. Jonathan Scott’s left ankle remains tender but not terrible. Probably.
Still, if you’re an out-of-work offensive lineman, there could be a call from the Pittsburgh Steelers in your near future.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday the Steelers are “open to looking to maybe bring someone in” this week to provide the team with some much-needed depth after three starters had to be helped off the field during Sunday night’s 23-20 victory over Indianapolis.
Tomlin stressed the team is looking for depth, not someone to show up on Wednesday and be ready to play in Sunday’s game at Houston.
“It would just be for practice purposes only,” Tomlin said.
At least, as of now. Given the perpetual state of flux the line has been for the last two seasons, Tomlin knows it’s too early to rule anything out.
If Scott can’t go, veteran Trai Essex — signed off the street earlier this month — will be in charge of protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side at left tackle against the Texans (2-1).
His job? Try and hold off a Houston pass rush led by Mario Williams. Not exactly the player the Steelers want to see after allowing Indianapolis defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis wreak havoc in the backfield in front of a national audience, sacking Ben Roethlisberger three times and forcing him to put it on the ground twice.
Tomlin gave credit to Freeney and Mathis rather than point fingers at his players, though he acknowledges the line needs to get better if the Steelers want to take some of the pressure off Roethlisberger.
The running game is 20th in the league in yards per game (85.7) and 26th in yards per attempt (3.3). Not exactly the formula the franchise typically uses to win games.
Tomlin would like the offense to be more balanced but refuses to place blame on the line or running back Rashard Mendenhall.
“We’re still very much a team in development in that area,” he said. “I’m trying not to frame it.”
Plugging holes along the line is almost an annual challenge for the Steelers. They did it with aplomb last year, using seven different starting combinations en route to a Super Bowl appearance.
If Scott can’t play, the line will have its fourth different lineup in as many games.
There haven’t been nearly as many injuries on defense, and there’s proof the Steelers are starting to round into shape after getting whipped in Baltimore in the season opener.
Pittsburgh shutout lifeless Seattle and held the Colts to 241 yards even though Indianapolis managed a late touchdown drive to tie the game at 20 behind lightly experienced backup quarterback Curtis Painter.
The defense could get a boost on Sunday if defensive end Brett Keisel’s sprained knee continues to improve. Keisel sat out last week, though third-year man Ziggy Hood held his own.
Though Tomlin says the run defense could be better, the Steelers have been solid against the pass, allowing a mere 164 yards per game. Linebacker James Harrison continues to round into form as he comes back from a pair of offseason back surgeries, registering a sack and forced fumble that safety Troy Polamalu returned for a touchdown.
Tomlin laughed when asked if there’s evidence the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year appears to be getting healthier.
“He’s a sandbagger,” Tomlin said, “we expect that.”
The Steelers also expect their turnover problems to end. Pittsburgh is minus-9 through three games, easily the worst turnover ratio in the league.
Despite the mistakes, they’re still 2-1 on the season. The miscues, while highly visible, haven’t damaged the season. Yet.
“We were not perfect by any stretch,” Tomlin said. “We’re very much a team in development … but it’s encouraging to see necessary plays in all three phases of the game.”
The Associated Press
09/27/11 15:13