proCanes Stats from Week 16

Andre Johnson: 5 catches 71 yards 1TD


Brandon Meriweather: 6 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection, 1 interception returned 56 yards


Jonathan Vilma: 6 tackles, 5 solo tackles

Santana Moss: 8 catches 92 yards


Rocky McIntosh: 5 tackles

Calais Campbell: 1 solo tackle, 1 sack

Antrel Rolle: 4 tackles, 3 solo tackles

Kelly Jennings: 1 solo tackle

Frank Gore: 28 carries 71 yards, 1 TD, 4 catches 81 yards

Kellen Winslow: 4 catches for 76 yards

Roscoe Parrish: 1 punt return for 0 yards

Greg Olsen: 3 catches, 47 yards, 1 TD


Darrell McClover: 1 solo tackle

Willis McGahee: 2 carries, 17 yards

Ray Lewis: 4 tackles, 2 solo tackles, 1 fumble recovery



DJ Williams: 6 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss

Sinorice Moss: Was not active in Week 15

Jeff Feagles: 3 punts for 123 yards with a 41.0-yard average

Bruce Johnson: 1 solo tackle, 1 pass deflection

Reggie Wayne: 3 catches 33 yards

Jon Beason: 13 tackles, 9 solo tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss

Damione Lewis: 1 solo tackle, 1 tackle or loss


Antonio Dixon: 1 solo tackle

Spencer Adkins: Played but did not record a tackle

Orien Harris: Was not active in Week 15

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Reed says there is no rift with Harbaugh

Speaking to the media Wednesday for the first time in several weeks, safety Ed Reed disputed media reports related to his injured groin and hip, and when he would return to action for the Ravens. Reed has missed the past three games.

Reed denied a Baltimore Sun report this week that he wanted to play against the Steelers on Sunday but coach John Harbaugh nixed that plan.

"Me and Coach didn't have any [disagreement] at all," Reed said. "Honestly, he asked me what I think, I told him I could probably give him about 15 plays. That's not my type of play. We made a decision that I would not play because we need the roster spot to give somebody a break on special teams. I was never in the game at all."

Reed also dismissed a report on ESPN that he'll play this week against the Oakland Raiders. The NFL Network had a similar report Tuesday.

"I was laying in the bed last night and saw ESPN reported that I was possibly playing," Reed said. "I mean, I was possibly playing the last couple weeks. There is no change. I'm not up right now, so I don't know where they're getting their information from, but it's wrong. [Reporters] seem to know the decision before I even make it. It's funny, but none of it is right. I don't really pay no mind to it."

So will Reed play this week?

"Honestly, it will be a game-time decision," Reed said. "It's a really hard decision when you don't practice. ... It's way tougher [with a groin injury]. It was a little tear, and not knowing without practice what you're going to get, it's really hard making that decision come game day."

Reed said he wouldn't have a problem playing in a limited role if he could contribute somehow.

"I'll be like a sixth man off the bench," Reed said. "Going into the playoffs, not knowing if I'm going to play this week and not knowing if I'm going to play next week, it's hard. But if I can be that sixth man off the bench, I'll be that."

Reed said being on the sideline has been eye-opening in some respects.

"It gives me a different perspective," Reed said. "Coaching is something I want to do. Not being out there affects you because you're not able to communicate the things yelling from the sideline. Guys don't like that. You just take it in stride."

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His spirit in-Vince-ible

FOXBORO - As emotional as Vince Wilfork [stats] is, he can’t deny it hurt.

When the season began, his negotiations for a long-term deal with the Patriots [team stats] appeared to be going nowhere. It wasn’t easy to put the uncertainty behind him.

To handle it, he did what he does: showed up and worked.

No holdout for him.

“It was tough at first, but once it got going, I really blocked it out,” Wilfork said. “I am a true believer in everything working itself out. I don’t have any regrets. If I had to do it again I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Wilfork’s reward, in part because of his workmanlike attitude, is another Pro Bowl selection.

Instead of wasting his energy to gripe about the team not extending his rookie contract, a six-year deal that paid him $18 million, Wilfork channeled his energy onto the field.

He has made 65 tackles in leading a tough run-stopping unit, despite battling ankle and foot injuries that finally caught up to him and forced him to miss the last two games. As for his health, Wilfork said, “I’ll be back sooner rather than later.”

Wilfork has also been key in freeing linebacker Jerod Mayo to make a team-leading 105 tackles in the 12 games he’s played.

“Something down deep in me that my father and my mother taught me, is if you’re going to do something do it the right way,” Wilfork said. “I try to teach my kids that. I continue to play hard no matter the situation.”

Like most players in contract years, Wilfork would love a blockbuster, long-term deal. If the team decides to slap him with a franchise tag, he’ll still make top money - this year’s franchise number for his position was $6.06 million - but without the security.

Wilfork may not generate the big statistics of some defensive tackles. Not in a two-gapping, 3-4 scheme that often has him tying up blockers to allow others to make the play.

Wilfork, of course, wouldn’t mind seeing a few sacks next to his name.

“As a football player, I want the stats,” Wilfork said. “I want the sacks, I want the tackles and I want the tackles for losses. But for the position I play, you know I don’t get them. To be recognized at my position with the elite that says enough. . . . Now, people are starting to understand the position as a nose tackle.”

His ascension into the NFL’s elite is not a surprise to those who knew him at the University of Miami.

Andre Johnson, a former college teammate and a receiver for this week’s Patriots foe, the Texans, laughed when recalling ridiculous feats of athleticism by the 6-foot-2, 325-pounder.

“(Guys) will be surprised at how much of an athlete Vince is because he’s so big,” Johnson said. “I remember on Friday (in walk-throughs), Big Vince would be out there. He’d set up a little offense and he’d be out there playing quarterback..”

Johnson said he also heard Wilfork could dunk a basketball, but “I’ve never had the chance to see it.”

Perhaps his wide-ranging skills will come out during Pro Bowl week. Or perhaps he’ll just continue to prove the kind of player he is, rich contract or not.

He’s not even bitter about getting stuck with a six-year rookie deal when most NFL draftees get five-year deals.
“It’s easy to get caught up in it, ‘Sixth year, it’s your last year, you shouldn’t be playing.’ ” Wilfork said. “I could have easily taken that role but that’s not me. I love football.”

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Texans’ Johnson hard to ignore

FOXBORO — Andre Johnson is 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds and was a Big East champion in the 60- and 100-meter dashes at the University of Miami.

In other words, he’s big. And fast.

And he’s been a nightmare matchup for every defense that has faced him in recent years.

The 28-year-old former No. 3 pick hasn’t always gotten the attention he likely deserves because he plays for a Texans team that always seems to be on the cusp of the playoffs but hasn’t gotten there yet.

But given his numbers and the way he’s thoroughly dominated games, he’s been impossible to ignore.

“He’s pretty good at everything,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said this week. “He’s a big target, tough after the catch. He’s like Terrell Owens, where he catches short balls and breaks tackles and runs a long way. People get up there and try to play him tighter and he runs past them. He’s good on intermediate routes, he’s good on deep routes, and he’s good on short routes, and running with the ball after the catch. He certainly attracts a lot of attention, as he should.”

Last Sunday against Miami, Johnson had five receptions for 71 yards, and went over the 1,500-yard mark for the season. Coupled with the 1,575 yards he had last season, Johnson is now just the second player in league history to post back-to-back 1,500-yard seasons, after former Colts star Marvin Harrison.

It is the fourth time in his seven-year career he’s been over 1,000 yards, and he barely missed as a rookie in 2003, when he recorded 976.

In the two weeks before Houston’s game with Miami, Johnson torched the Seahawks and Rams for a combined 389 yards on 20 catches.

“He gets paid the ultimate compliment every week with what people try to do defensively (against him). He’s been something else,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s kind of been the rock ever since I’ve been here. I’ve known him for years and he’s as good a player as I’ve ever been around. He’s been exceptional.”

Johnson moves all over the field for Houston, lining up wide or in the slot, running go routes and crossing patterns. His ability to do that is part of the reason it’s so tough to cover him.

Patriots cornerback Leigh Bodden and his teammates will have their hands full trying to contain him.

“He does it all. He does all the routes. You never know where he’s going to run, where he’s going to be,” Bodden said.

Bodden has faced Johnson twice before — once last year, when he was with the Lions, and in 2007, when Bodden was with the Browns.

The Lions used both man and zone coverages against Johnson, and — much like nearly everything else Detroit tried last year — it didn’t work too well. He had one of his best games of the season, with 11 catches for 141 yards.
Kubiak says it is Johnson’s intelligence as a football player that allows the Texans to move him all over the field and still get results.

“I’ve said this many times: he’s a smart player. I mean, we move him all over the place and you’ve got to try to make it tough on defenses by what you do with him. He deserves a great deal of credit for his football mind and the way he handles game plans. It gives us the flexibility to move him all over the place. That’s a credit to him; he’s a very sharp player.”

Because defenses tailor their coverages for Johnson, Kubiak said the Texans must do a lot of adjusting on the fly to alignments the other teams hadn’t seen on film. Not surprisingly, Johnson receives a great deal of double coverage, and quarterback Matt Schaub has clearly done a good job of finding the open man because he leads the league with 4,467 passing yards.

Going by the numbers, the Jets and cornerback Darelle Revis did the best job on Johnson this year, in the season-opener, when Revis held him to four catches for 35 yards.

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A closer look at McKinnie's road to Pro Bowl

Bryant McKinnie was enjoying his day off Tuesday when he received a call on his cell phone from coach Brad Childress. Like everyone these days, McKinnie checked the caller ID on the phone, saw it was the boss and immediately gave thought to sending the call into voicemail.

"I didn't even know why he was calling," McKinnie said. "I don't want to say I had forgotten about it, but I wasn't even thinking about it at the time. So I'm looking at the phone, debating like, 'Hmmm. Should I let it go to voicemail?' So I said, 'Let me answer the phone.'"

That turned out to be a good move. Childress simply wanted to tell his big left tackle that he was one of eight Vikings picked to the NFC Pro Bowl roster and one of five who would start in the game. The Pro Bowl berth is the first of McKinnie's eight-year career and considering he was pulled in the second half two games ago in Carolina there were some surprised that he made it at all. The fact the Vikings have lost three of their past four doesn't help matters.

McKinnie was one of many Vikings who led the NFL at his position in the fan voting but that wasn't enough to get him in the game. The fan vote counts one-third toward determining the roster, with players and coaches also getting a say in the process.

So how did they land on McKinnie and Philadelphia's Jason Peters as the starters with New Orleans' Jon Stinchcomb as the backup? (McKinnie and Peters are left tackles and Stinchcomb is a right tackle.)

Last season, the tackles on the NFC Pro Bowl team were Seattle's Walter Jones, Carolina's Jordan Gross, Washington's Chris Samuels, Dallas' Flozell Adams and New Orleans' Jammal Brown. Jones and Samuels pulled out of the game and were replaced by Adams and Brown.

Right now, Jones (knee), Gross (broken ankle), Samuels (neck) and Brown (hip, sports hernia) are all on injured reserve. Jones is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and among the NFL's most respected offensive linemen. What this meant is that  players and coaches had to begin identifying new offensive tackles to pick and the pattern is that left tackles usually get the most attention because they are ordinarily the guys who are paid big bucks to protect the quarterback's blindside.

Peters wasn't that tough of choice because he had been a Pro Bowl selection during his days with the Buffalo Bills. But that only filled one spot. I started covering the Vikings in 2005 and McKinnie probably had the best season I've seen him have that year. However, he is definitely a recognizable name and he rarely misses playing time -- save for the four-game suspension to start 2008 -- so that had to help.

A guy like Green Bay's Chad Clifton could have gotten consideration if he hadn't missed time because of injuries. 

McKinnie hasn't talked very much about the ankle injury he suffered on Dec. 6 at Arizona but on Wednesday he admitted he is still trying to get himself right.

"I'm doing everything I can to get refreshed because I know once the playoffs start it's like a whole 'nother season 'bout to start," he said. "And the intensity is going to be real high, so you have to be at the best that you can possibly be. So I've been doing everything. I sat in the hot tub yesterday. I got a massage yesterday. I got in the cold tub two times this week. I'm just trying to do everything I can to put myself in position so I can play fast and physical."

And at a Pro Bowl level.

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FOXBORO  –  Thanks to the Patriots media relations staff, here is the transcript of Vince Wilfork’s press conference at Gillette Stadium’s media work room.

VW: It’s an honor to make my second Pro Bowl. As a football player, that is something that you may not set up as a goal, but everybody in the back of their mind has it as a goal of theirs, even if they say or don’t say it – what it means to be a Pro Bowler. I am very thankful and happy to be chosen for my second one. It’s an honor and a lot said, not just by mouth but just by the way you play the game, the people you play with, the coaches that coach you, coaches that coach against you, your teammates, your friends, your fans.

“It’s just a lot said when you go out there and put a lot of hard work into what you do and the passion you have for what you do. I thank my fans, my coaches, my teammates and everybody that knows me. [Everybody that] knows I play this game always with a chip on my shoulder because of the passion I have for it, and hard work pays off.  I continue to play hard no matter what the situation may be, but that is just something to me, that’s the personality that I have. It’s something down deep in me that my father and my mother taught me, is that if you’re going to do something do it the right way. I try to do that and I teach my kids the same thing.  It’s an honor and it’s a privilege to be recognized with the elite at my level in this game.

Q: The four guys your team is sending – yourself, Logan [Mankins], Tom Brady and Wes Welker,  Wes was undrafted and Tom goes in the sixth round, you were projected as a top ten but had to sit there, Logan was in the end of the fist round. What does that say about this team and about the way you four represent this team?

VW: I think that’s a lot of leadership right there. There are a lot of guys that come in day in and day out putting a lot of work in, [who are] happy [about] putting a lot of work in and continue to do it on and off the field. It’s just amazing how you can see things with guys like that. This team has a lot of leaders on it, don’t get me wrong, Logan, Tom, Wes, Randy [Moss], Ty Warren, and Jerod [Mayo] coming into his own. The list goes on and on. For you to do the right thing and play hard and get recognized for it, that’s, like I said, a goal, but really it’s not a goal. You lead by example and I think all of us do. We don’t really have any big mouths on this team. That’s just the way we do things. I have a lot of respect for my teammates, especially the ones that have made it and I am very happy to be in it with these guys.  Like I said, it’s an honor to be playing with the elite; you can’t get any better than that. It’s an honor to be selected with four of my guys – it’s cool.

Q: How much does it mean to you that even though you don’t have statistics for what you’re asked to do that you can still kind of garner the respect around the league to get something like this?

VW: It’s hard. As a football player I want the stats. I want the sacks, I want the tackles and I want the tackles for losses. I want all of that stuff but for the position I play you know I don’t get them. To be recognized at my position with the elite that says enough. I get satisfaction when I face guys that congratulate me on plays or at the end of the game telling me what a great ball player I am. I get satisfaction from that. A lot of guys I face in this league that got elected with me on the AFC side, a lot of them I see, especially offensive linemen. We have fun, but at the end of the day it’s hard for a nose tackle to get the recognition. But I think now people are starting to see and understand the position as a nose tackle and I think that is why you are starting to see more nose tackles being selected because if it’s going off of sacks [then] you won’t have a nose tackle. Everybody would be a defensive tackle or three technique. Everybody is starting to recognize the nose tackle and what we stand for and how tough it is to be down where we are at.

Q: I know Casey Hampton was a guy you looked up to, is it kind of cool you will be going to the Pro Bowl with him?

VW: Yeah, in ’07 when I met Casey we had a bond right then and there and we’ve kept in contact.  We give each other shout outs after games and stuff. To see somebody who I’ve watched in film and basically learned how to play the game – learned how to be a nose tackle – to play with him, that’s an honor itself. I’ll see him again hopefully, but I don’t want to see him again, not in the Pro Bowl. Hopefully I will have to miss that one for other reasons, but we try to take it one game at a time. It’s an honor.

Q: Do you think this is the best season you have ever had?

VW: I don’t know, every year I go in and try to get better. I can’t answer that one. Me personally, I beat myself up a lot; my wife can tell you that. Certain plays I want to make that I didn’t make- I didn’t make the tackle or I wasn’t even near the ball. Sometimes I just have to keep myself in check, humble myself and I think that’s why I am the way I am because I don’t need Bill [Belichick] to yell at me to get me fired up, I yell at myself. I find little things to get myself fired up; I always try to get better. A lot of guys on this team do the same things. I don’t know if this is the best season I’ve ever had.

Q: Playing through contract talks earlier this season. How satisfying is this particular season that given the off-season and your commitment to the franchise?

VW: Like I said, when I signed up I signed up for six years and I am going to honor that.  All year I have been playing and never thought twice about what I was doing because if I thought twice about it, I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s easy to get caught up in it, ‘sixth year, it’s your last year, you shouldn’t be playing’, I could have easily taken that role but that’s not me. I love football; my teammates know that, my coaches know that, my family knows that, and that’s the only thing that matters to me. They all understand that and I truly believe in if you do the right thing it will work itself out, and I’m sticking by that. It will work itself out sooner or later it will come to a time where it will have to work itself out and whatever happens, happens. I’ve been taking it like that and I will continue to take it that same way- address it at the end of the year after football and go forward from there.

Q: How much do you, as a team, owe the other teams battling the Texans for a playoff spot and give it your best shot this weekend? Also, can you tell me what you thought of the Colts decision to pull their starters the other day?

VW: I have nothing to do with the Colts. Everything we’re doing is Patriot related. I really don’t care what the Colts have done.

Q: What about what you as a team owe?

VW: We want to win point blank. I’m sure my teammates feel the same way. That’s how we are approaching this game just like any other. We are going to go out there, prepare and practice hard. Practice the right way and try not to get into any bad habits and put it together on Sunday. Hopefully we can come out with a ‘W’. Whatever happens after that happens, but we definitely want a win point blank.

Q: How are you feeling? Are you physically feeling better?

VW: Day-to-day. I am getting better.

Q: Do you feel confident, if not this week, you will be back for the playoffs?

VW: I’ll be back sooner rather than later. I am getting better day-to-day. I don’t try to look forward to the future really, but day-to-day is how I take it.  Everyday I wake up and see how I feel and go forward from there. I have been getting better so hopefully I will be out there quicker rather than later.

Q: In your mind is there any one thing that has righted this ship since the Miami game?

VW: Commitment. I really think our focus level and our preparation – everybody stepped up to bat and basically put everything in every week, everything we had and we will need that going forward. Our focus level and our practices have been better. The younger guys are starting to come into their own. The leaders are starting to play better football; everybody as a team and as a unit is doing one thing and that’s their job. I think we got away from that at times this year and when that happened we weren’t successful. Everybody understands what can happen if we do things the right way. Everybody stepped up to bat and has been starting to trust one another and it has been working out and paying off for us. That is something, as a team, we have to continue. Every week we challenge each other. We come in on Wednesday put in a game plan and look at film, after film we go through what we went through and the next day do the same thing, make the corrections and move on. Everybody knows the focus level has to be higher around here. Everyone is doing there best at doing that. For the most part we have been on the right track.

Q: Has it been harder than you anticipated being able to put business on the side, not take it personally that nothing has gotten done and go out and doing your job?

VW: At first it was. I can’t lie, at first it was. Never being in this situation before it was a problem and I could have talked to hundreds of people about it. I talked to certain people and everyone had different answers. It basically boiled down to what I want to do and what’s best for my family and me. My wife put it on my shoulders. She said, ‘What’s best for you? You make the decisions.’  She knows how much I love football and right then and there I say you know what, its football. I am a true believer in everything working itself out and I am sticking behind that. Once I put that behind me, it was behind me [and] I didn’t look back and I don’t have any regrets. If I had to do it again I wouldn’t change a think.

Q: This must be a hell of a reward for you putting faith in yourself and faith in your passion of the game and going out there and saying you are going to play the year then you make the Pro Bowl.

VW: Yeah, everyday I try to get better. I’m a ball player. I’m not the greatest by a long shot but one thing I do is put a lot of effort and time into football. I put a lot of time in over here. Sometimes I don’t want to be here, I want to be home with my family, but it’s just something in me. It’s for the best, for my teammates and myself. I make those decisions and move forward. It was tough at first, but once it got going I really blocked it out. I want to thank you guys because I am pretty sure you guys want to ask me all the time about it, but you haven’t and I really appreciate that, dearly. It’s one thing going in the locker room and having to answer something about the contract every week. You guys gave me my space and I appreciate that. You helped me out with that big time. In fact, if I did it all over I would do it the same way.

Q: There aren’t really any nose tackles in the Hall of Fame. Do you ever think you would be one of the first or so nose tackles in there?

VW: I don’t. At the end of my career I can look back at the success I had and the team I was surrounded by, my teammates and my coaches and think about it then. Right now I am just happy to play football. I don’t think about after football, really. I still have a little more time to play and enjoy the game. I try to not look into the Hall of Fame. When that time comes it comes. I can only do what I can do, be the best player I can be and everyday try to get better. I will continue that the rest of my career no matter what the situation may be – that’s me. I will move forward and play football as long as I love it. The day I stop loving it is the day I hang my cleats up. I am far from that right now.

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NFL U Week 16 Photos

Check out Week 16 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here or above on the proCanes Gallery link.

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2010 proCane Pro Bowlers

The NFL 2009 Pro Bowlers were announced with 9 proCanes named on the AFC and NFC rosters.

- Andre Johnson - WR - Houston Texans - Starter
- Reggie Wayne - WR - Indianapolis Colts - Starter
- Vince Wilfork - DL - New England Patriots
- Ray Lewis - MLB - Baltimore Ravens - Starter
- Ed Reed - S - Baltimore Ravens - Starter
- DJ Williams - OLB - Denver Broncos - Alternate

- Bryant McKinnie - OL - Minnesota Vikings - Starter
- Jonathan Vilma - MLB - New Orleans Saints
- Antrel Rolle - S - Arizona Cardinals - Alternate
- Frank Gore - RB - San Francisco 49ers - Alternate*

*Updated 12/31/09 1am

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McIntosh injures back

Roger McIntosh's status for Week 17 is "uncertain" after the linebacker strained his back against the Cowboys on Sunday night, according to the Washington Post.

Our View: Playing in all 15 games so far this season, McIntosh has recorded 88 tackles.

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D.J. Williams named Pro Bowl alternate

The Denver Broncos‘ five Pro Bowl representatives mark the franchise’s largest number since 2001. Inside linebacker D.J. Williams is an AFC no-show away from making it six.

Williams has earned Pro Bowl alternate honors, Josh McDaniels told reporters Wednesday, meaning he’ll appear in Miami’s game in the case Baltimore’s Ray Lewis or Houston’s DeMeco Ryans don’t go.

Williams leads the Broncos with 111 tackles. The 2004 draft pick has 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles on the season.

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Is Texans star the best receiver? Question is catching on

Larry Fitzgerald is charismatic, Randy Moss is acrobatic and Brandon Marshall is enigmatic. But is Andre Johnson the best receiver, or is that too Socratic?

On Sunday, the Texans' star wideout caught a 14-yard pass against Miami that put him over the 1,500-yard mark. It meant that he and former Colts great Marvin Harrison are the only receivers in NFL history to have at least 1,500 yards in consecutive seasons. It's been 19 years since a player led the league in receiving yards in back-to-back seasons. Johnson has 1,504 yards this year, well ahead of Fitzgerald, Moss and Marshall.

The last player to lead in consecutive seasons? Jerry Rice.

"Andre's the whole package," said CBS analyst Rich Gannon, who broadcast the game between the Texans and Dolphins. "I was saying to [broadcast partner] Ian Eagle before the game that he's big and fast and catches the ball perfectly with his arms outstretched. He's arguably the best receiver in the game."

Argument? Not from the Dolphins.

"You can't find a weakness," said nickel back Nate Jones, who saw Johnson slip his tackle to score a 10-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

"We had our hands full with him," said cornerback Sean Smith, who was in single coverage when Johnson caught a 13-yard pass on the first play of the game. It was the last time Miami coach Tony Sparano left Johnson in single coverage.

"He's the best receiver in the league," said linebacker Charlie Anderson, who was a rookie with Houston in 2004, Johnson's second year in the league. "I'm 6-4, 240, and he looks as big as me."

Johnson is all size (6-3, 225 pounds) and speed (4.4 in the 40-yard dash), with a running back's thighs.

"He uses his size and strength to drive off defenders and catch the ball," said Dolphins commentator Jim Mandich. "He's a Rolex, others are Timex."

Johnson grew up in the shadow of Land Shark Stadium and was part of the great University of Miami team that went 12-0 in 2001 and had players like Jeremy Shockey, Ed Reed, Clinton Portis and Jonathan Vilma. On Sunday, Johnson had 150 of his friends and family sitting in Section 407, where nearby Miami fans spent the afternoon booing.

But they were booing the Dolphins. Johnson and the Texans scored on their first five possessions and kept their (slim, slender, slight) playoffs hopes alive with the 27-20 win.

"The playoffs have been my goal since Day 1," Johnson said. "I know it sounds like a broken record."

While Johnson has been breaking records, the Texans have never been to the playoffs and have never had a winning season. This is the first Houston team to even think of the postseason since the Oilers made a run in 1993.

"We're all here to take it to the next level," said quarterback Matt Schaub, who mostly played throw-and-catch with Johnson (five receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown on Sunday). "Andre is so disciplined, and he opens things up for the other receivers."

Johnson addressed the topic after the game.

"There were a few times that I was in the slot running a little 5-yard out and the defenders seemed more worried about me than covering the tight end," he said. "A lot of times I was running a basketball pick."

Three of his picks resulted in 65 yards for tight end Joel Dreessen. It was a day of mismatches, with Houston coach Gary Kubiak putting Johnson in motion to create confusion and open space.

"Andre probably thinks setting picks was his biggest contribution of the game," Kubiak said of the modest receiver who doesn't analyze statistics. "He's been through so much with this franchise in seven years, yet he's never wavered from his work ethic or his offseason commitment."

Houston's game this Sunday should be a fan fiesta. Johnson and the Texans will face the AFC East champion Patriots and Wes Welker (second in AFC receiving with 1,336 yards) and Moss (fifth with 1,189). Welker leads in receptions with 122, while Johnson and the Colts' Reggie Wayne are tied for third with 95.

Want more? Welker and Johnson are tied for the most 10-plus reception games (seven) in a season. Welker is averaging 11 yards per catch this year; Johnson has him beat with 15.8. Moss is also standing tall, averaging 15.2 yards a catch.

"It's an enormous challenge for us, but I think we're ready, Kubiak said.

After the game against Miami, Johnson cut the profile of a CEO. Wearing an elegant three-piece suit and speaking in a quiet baritone, he would not say if he considers himself the best in the game.

"I'm not that big on attention," he said. "To have people ask about it, though, I suppose it means I'm headed in the right direction."

OK then, what about being the best-dressed receiver?

"Can't say that either," he said with a smile.

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Gore Record Shining Light in Dark Season

The San Francisco 49ers franchise has racked up plenty of milestones over the years -- inventors of the shotgun formation and the West Coast Offense, first team to win five Super Bowls, only team to play multiple Super Bowls and win them all. But they've never had a running back rack up four 1,000-yard seasons in a row -- until Frank Gore did just that in Sunday's 20-6 win over the Detroit Lions.

Gore's 71 yards and one touchdown put him at 1,013 yards for the season, with Sunday's contest against the St. Louis Rams still to come. And the Rams have the league's sixth-worst rushing defense. 

The milestone is nothing new for Gore. He also set the franchise mark last year, when he became the first 49ers running back to run for 1,000 yards for three consecutive seasons.  Now he's made it a fourth.

It's astonishing that for all their division titles, playoff wins, and championships,  the 49ers have never had a back with so many consecutive 1,000-yard seasons until Gore. Those teams in the 80's and 90's won a ton of games and a number of Super Bowls alright -- but they did it with a constantly rotating cast of backs like Roger Craig, Ricky Watters, and, during really desparate moments, Lawrence Phillips.

None of those teams ever had a solid year-in, year-out workhorse back like Gore. You can bet that the franchise would have a few more Lombardi trophies and Hall of Fame inductions if they had.

It surely means more to Gore that this may be the team's first non-losing season since he's been a 49er. With a win over the Rams, the Niners will finish the season at 8-8  "Since I've been here, the best record was 7-9," Gore told the San Francisco Chronicle. "My boys know we had a good chance to go to the playoffs."

Gore is still, however, a few thousand yards shy of the all-time franchise rushing record. With 5,454 career rushing yards, Gore remains more than 3,000 yards behind Joe "The Jet" Perry, a 49ers running back who put up 8,689 yards between 1948 and 1960.

Perry was actually the first NFL running back ever to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, in 1953 and 1954.

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Beason named NFC player of the week

Jon Beason's season wasn't rewarded with a second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance; he had to settle for being a second alternate.  But his performance against the New York Giants last Sunday was honored when he was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.
Beason was honored for recording 13 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, the latter of which was the signature defensive moment of the Panthers' 41-9 win, when he hit New York wide receiver Mario Manningham midway through the first qaurter, forcing loose the football at the Carolina 17-yard-line. James Anderson recovered for the Panthers.

"When a team's driving on you, someone's got to step up and make a play," Beason said. "Then our offense goes all the way down (the field) and gets points out of it. I think that's demoralizing."

It was the first of four Carolina takeaways and deflated the Giants' spirits after they'd converted three consecutive third downs to open the game. They wouldn't convert another until the second half, by which point they trailed 31-0.

Such plays have been the norm for Beason the last five games; he's intercepted two passes, forced a fumble, recovered another and logged a sack while leading the Panthers with 58 total tackles in that span. He has 156 tackles this year, just four away from his personal and franchise record of 160, set in 2007.

Beason becomes the second Panther to earn Defensive Player of the Week plaudits this season, joining defensive end Julius Peppers, who was honored for notching a sack, a forced fumble and an interception return at Arizona in Week 8.

It's Beason's first Defensive Player of the Week award in three seasons as a professional, but he was NFC Defensive Player of the Month in October 2008.

Click here to order Jon Beason’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Report: Ed Reed will return this week

For the second straight year, the Raiders could knock a team out of a playoff spot in Week Seventeen.  (Although we doubt John Harbaugh will subsequently be fired and join the Monday Night Football crew.)

Oakland's upset bid became a little more daunting Tuesday with the news that Ravens safety Ed Reed is expected to return to the lineup.

Jason La Canfora of NFL Network reports Reed is planning to play, barring setbacks to his hip injury.  Reed has missed the last four weeks.

Reed will try to pick off passes from Charlie Frye, who should benefit from Tom Cable's exceptional coaching of quarterbacks.

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Lauryn Williams: Jeter sets 100m bar high

PORT-OF-SPAIN: Former world 100m champion Lauryn Williams has described Carmelita Jeter’s 2009 performances as ‘amazing’ while saying her American compatriot had set the bar high for female sprinters.

“Her performances are amazing, you know (it was) the second fastest in history,” Williams said of the 10.64secs, which puts Jeter only behind Florence Griffith-Joyner (10.49) on the all-time women’s 100 list.

“It (10.6) is something definitely everybody has been gunning for, getting the times down. You see the 10.8’s sometimes. I think for women it is a little bit harder for women to be consistent and she was very fortunate to not only be consistent but to start the season off healthy the whole time,” added Williams, who defeated Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown to win the 2005 World Championships 100m in Helsinki.

Williams, who returned to lose the 2007 World Championships to Campbell-Brown in a photo finish, added: “10.8 has been kind of the bar for the fastest run each year and to come on down all the way to 10.6 is great.”

“We had a lot of 10.7’s run last season. It is just a matter of being healthy and everybody stepping up their game a notch,” added Williams the 2004 Olympics Games silver medalist.

Williams also won the 2003 Pan American Games 100m title and was second at the 2006 World Indoors, but in the last two years – 2008 and 2009 – which saw two major Championships – Olympics and World Champs – has not sparked.

Asked what has happened since her last medal performance in 2007, she replied: “I think in 2008 I came out a little bit short. I was ready. I was fit. At the end of the day you could have eight people on the line who are capable of running the same time. Everybody can’t do it all at the same race otherwise you would have an eight person photo finish and (that) don’t happen often or ever.”

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proCanes Extend TD Streak to 121 Regular Season Weeks

Did you know that a former Miami Hurricane/current proCane has scored at least one touchdown in 121 consecutive regular season NFL weeks? Dating back to Week 15 of the 2002 season where Clinton Portis scored 4 TDs, at least one proCane has scored a TD in each regular season week since then. We have chronicled every touchdown since 2002. See below:

Week 16 2009:
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 15 2009:
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 14 2009:
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers

Week 13 2009:
Andre Johnson - 1TD - Houston Texans
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Week 12 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Week 11 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Andre Johnson - 1TD - Houston Texans

Week 10 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Reggie Wayne - 2 TDs - Indianapolis Colts

Week 9 2009:
Greg Olsen - 3 TDs - Chicago Bears
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 8 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 7 2009:
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Brandon Meriweather - INT returned for a TD – New England Patriots
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 6 2009:
Jeremy Shockey - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 5 2009:
Clinton Portis - 2 TDs - Washington Redskins
Ed Reed - INT returned for a TD - Baltimore Ravens
Kellen Winslow - 2 TDs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 4 2009:
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins

Week 3 2009:
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Sinorice Moss - 1 TD - NY Giants
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 2 2009:
Antrel Rolle - Blocked Field Goal Return for a TD - Arizona Cardinals
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Frank Gore - 2 TDs - San Francisco 49ers
Bruce Johnson - 1 TD - New York Giants

Week 1 2009:
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Jeremy Shockey - 2 TDs - New Orleans Saints
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Click below to see the rest of the list:

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Jarrett Payton Will Be At the Champs Bowl

Jarrett Payton contacted us last week and let us know that he will be supporting the current Canes in the Champs Bowl this Tuesday night. Jarrett wants Canes fans traveling to the game look out for him tailgating and on the field or in the stands! We’re hoping to meet up with Jarrett before the game for some photos. We’ll keep you posted.

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Santana Moss Has Big Game

Santana Moss caught eight balls for 92 yards in the Redskins' loss to the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.

His second best game all year, and most productive since Week 3. The Skins obviously made a concerted effort to get Moss involved, targeting him early and often at the expense of Fred Davis, Malcolm Kelly, and Antwaan Randle El. Moss figures to square off mostly with Antonio Cromartie in Week 17.

Click here to order Santana Moss’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Winslow's new high

Bucs TE Kellen Winslow established a franchise mark for tight ends when he reached 828 receiving yards this season, surpassing Jimmie Giles (786 yards in 1981). But it wasn't so much his numbers as the timing of his plays that mattered most. With the Bucs' passing game disjointed for much of the day, Winslow proved the most consistent threat and exploited the Saints' soft downfield coverage. With the Bucs' running game working well, the Saints used two-deep coverage that often gave Winslow favorable matchups. "They wanted to let Josh (Freeman) beat them," Winslow said of the Saints. "We didn't capitalize early, but we made a few adjustments and stuck with it and came out and did it." Freeman joked afterward, "Kellen, if you listen to him, he's open on every play. But Kellen did a great job (Sunday) of beating man coverage (and) working the zones. It was just a matter of Kellen understanding the coverages and running good routes and us being on the same page." What struck Winslow, however, was the fortitude of his young teammates. "It's just coming together," he said. "Our record is what it is, but we're progressing. We've had a lot of these (close games) when you look back on the year. We're just preparing for the big moments here and in the future."

Click here to order Kellen Winslow’s proCane Rookie Card.

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For Gore, milestone salves disappointing year

Gaining 1,000 yards rushing over the course of a 16-game season doesn't have the cachet it once did when seasons were 12 and 14 games, but it's still a nice four-digit figure, and Frank Gore will take it.

With 71 yards on 28 carries, Gore cracked 1,000 yards for a fourth straight season in helping the 49ers to a 20-6 win over the Detroit Lions at Candlestick Park. He was already the first back in franchise history to post three straight 1,000-yard seasons.

"It means a lot," Gore said. "It was an up-and-down season. It was a tough year. It's a blessing. I got to give it all to my offensive line, and the receivers downfield blocking well. I just stayed positive."

Gore was a busy Niner on Sunday. In addition to his rushing total that included a 1-yard touchdown run, Gore also had four receptions for a team-high 81 yards. One of his catches was on a fourth-down play that surprised the Lions, gaining 48 yards to set up his touchdown run in the third quarter.

It has been a strange season for Gore. His offense tried to start out as a power-running team, abandoned that for a spread-shotgun attack and, of late, has gone back to a more traditional two-back set out of an I-formation.

Gore missed all of two games and most of a third with an ankle injury, so his season total of 1,013 yards carries a little more weight.

His motivation now is to reach .500 for the first time in his five seasons in San Francisco.

"That will be good," he said. "Since I've been here, the best record was 7-9. My boys (teammates) know we had a good chance to go to the playoffs. We hurt ourselves. All the games we lost on the road by three to seven points, that hurt."

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Johnson makes history with 1,500-yard season

Andre Johnson caught a 14-yard pass in the 3rd quarter that put him past the 1,500-yard mark. He and Marvin Harrison are the only receivers in history to have at least 1,500 yards in consecutive seasons.

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Gore, 49ers tame the Lions

Frank Gore can beat you in a variety of ways.

Gore actually struggled running the ball (71 yards on 28 carries), and he also lost a fumble,  but he got in the end zone and led the 49ers with 81 receiving yards on four catches. He was basically a one-man wrecking crew during the Niners' 20-6 victory, as San Francisco couldn't get much going besides a 50-yard bomb to Michael Crabtree in the first quarter. Alex Smith was plenty capable, and Vernon Davis got into the end zone, but this is still clearly Gore's team.

As he goes, so goes the 49ers, so you can expect him to continue being among the league leader in touches. And today once again proved that even when he's not running well, he's still dangerous.

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Calais Needs Improvement

DE Calais Campbell has six sacks in his first full season as a starter, but he still has improvement to make. Campbell has been inconsistent and a perfect example of that is his one tackle performance last week against the Lions.

Click here to order Calais Campbell’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Hester doing all he can to face Vikings

The Bears hope to have wide receiver Devin Hester back Monday night after he missed two games with a strained calf. He practiced for a second straight day Thursday but was limited again.

Despite his latest injury and missing half of the Detroit Lions game in Week 4 with a shoulder injury, Hester leads the Bears with 54 catches and 682 receiving yards.

"Devin has been a good player for us," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "He's made a lot of plays. You take his playmaking ability, and you take that speed off the field, it always hurts.

"So hopefully we'll get him back this week, and I'm looking forward to it if we do."

Like just about everyone else on the team, Hester did not play well last month against Minnesota, catching just 1 pass for 20 yards in the 36-10 blowout. So this game is an opportunity to make amends and more.

"It's not just Minnesota, this is Monday Night Football and, as an NFL player, everybody wants to play in a game like this," Hester said. "I'm just trying as hard as I can to get back out on the field."

Earlier in the season, Hester was on schedule for a 1,000-yard season, and although he has fallen off that pace, he's hoping to finish strong.

"We don't want to go into the end of the season with these two games and regret not taking advantage of it," he said. "At the end of the season we want to feel good about ourselves."

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Moss: Giants knew my routes

If it looked like the Giants knew everything that was coming Monday night, there's a reason. They often did. At least that's what Redskins receiver Santana Moss said Wednesday.

"Those guys were prepared," Moss said. "They knew everything. I remember guys calling my routes off of my alignments. It's very interesting. When we play the Giants, they come up with a whole different game plan. I've never seen the same thing playing them. Out of all the times we've played them, they come up with something different the first and second game.

"Those guys knew more than us and knew things that we were doing before the snap. It's hard to do something if someone is waiting on you to do it. Or they're putting you in a situation where they want you to check into it so they can get you to do what they know you're going to do.  You can't get off the ball here and there and you can't be yourself at the quarterback position. If he's out of whack, we're out of whack."

Moss said other teams do not call out the Redskins' pass routes at the line.

"You might see it now and then, where a team might look at something, but to hear it wows you at times," Moss said. "Before you're running routes, you hear guys saying they're looking for this. We ran a route one time where I knew they knew my alignment so I changed it and when they called out ... I heard the guys talking, saying I thought he would do this. I was shaking my head."

Click here to order Santana Moss’ proCane Rookie Card.

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McKinnie discusses benching and being 'out of whack'

Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie talked about his rough performance against Carolina after practice on Wednesday.

McKinnie gave up two sacks, was called for two penalties (false start and holding) and a difficult time blocking Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers. The coaching staff finally benched McKinnie in the third quarter, replacing him with veteran Artis Hicks.

“When I watched the film, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, as far as going against Peppers,” McKinnie said. “I felt like people probably made it seem like more than what it was. When I finally saw the film, I saw that he got a sack. And I think what threw me out of my game is that when I tried to jump the snap count one time and the ball didn’t get snapped and I got a false start. And then they called me for holding, so it took me away from something else that I normally do, something that I tend to do when I’m pass setting.

“But other than that, it was OK. It wasn’t my best game, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. They made it seem like he was back there every play and that wasn’t the case. But I definitely need a better game this week. It looked like I got out of whack with my techniques. I’ve been focusing a little more on my technique.”

McKinnie admitted that the penalties affected his play. He was asked if it was a good thing that he was taken out of the game.

“I think I would have rather stayed because it wasn’t really much of a difference,” he said. “I would have probably preferred to stay, I guess. I think they just thought that mentally I was a little confused, like I didn’t know what was going on actually. I was trying to figure out what I needed to do. When I watched the film, I had an idea during the game. The two penalties, it just makes you not as aggressive because you’re trying to eliminate some things to avoid penalties. It kind of took me out of my game plan.”

McKinnie said he’s talked to different coaches about the situation, including Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

“We basically just moved on,” he said. “Just to make sure that mentally, that’s not me mentally. Just because I had a bad game, don’t feel like I’m going to carry that with me. Put it in my rear view. I’m looking to prepare for the future. I’m not worried about that anymore because I can’t do nothing about it. I can’t bring it back.”

Childress acknowledged on Monday that the coaching staff should have given McKinnie more help on Peppers.

“Usually on the road, no matter who the tackle is and if you have a premier pass rusher, they usually get help,” he said. “I didn’t get any, but that’s not to blame. Still at the end of the day I’ve got to do what I have to do … You’ve got to be comfortable and I don’t think I was comfortable with a lot of stuff that I was doing. I feel like the penalties and stuff were kind of throwing me out of whack because then I started concentrating on not getting penalties. I was kind of behind sometimes on the snap count.”

McKinnie later admitted it was one of the roughest outings of his career.

“It’s up there in the top two,” he said. “I had another one about six years ago.”

“I have to be on point, basically,” he added. “Some people, when they come to play me, they don’t bring their A game. So I have to make sure I bring mine when go against a premier [pass rusher] and stay calm. I’m a relaxed player. I don’t get all excited and all that. I’m just like an even, level player. I have to stay that way during the course of a game. Once I get out of my box or whatever and start doing too much thinking then things are going to start going the wrong direction.”

Click here to order Bryant McKinnie’s proCane Rookie Card.

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McKinnie trying to adjust his game

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Even the biggest and strongest of players can be rendered ineffective when the brain and the body are not in sync.

They don't come much bigger and stronger than Minnesota Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who was reminded of that last week. After making a push for his first Pro Bowl bid in the first 13 games of the season, McKinnie played so poorly against Julius Peppers and the Carolina Panthers that he was benched in the fourth quarter, the first time that happened in his eight-year career.

The 6-foot-8, 335-pounder charged with protecting Brett Favre's blind side is trying to get back on track. The Vikings (11-3) need him too, coming off two ugly losses in their past three games that have shaken their once-firm hold on the NFC's No. 2 seed -- and first-round bye -- for the playoffs. Minnesota plays at Chicago (5-9) on Monday night.

McKinnie, a former first-round draft pick, insisted this week his performance against the Panthers wasn't as poor as it was made out to be.

"He played a good game. He made a good play on me," McKinnie said, referring to the one sack Peppers was credited with. "But when you go back and really watch the film, he didn't have that many plays on me."

Two penalties, for a false start in the first quarter and for holding in the third quarter, threw McKinnie's mind out of whack. He also said he was focusing too much on his footwork, worried his stance might be tipping off the defense to what type of play was coming -- as one report suggested earlier this month.

"It was entirely too much thinking going on," said McKinnie, who joined the starting lineup midway through his rookie season in 2002. He has missed only four games since then -- at the beginning of last year because of a league suspension for off-field behavior.

This week, McKinnie has been working on fine-tuning his technique. He also said there's a plan in place to adjust the snap count in order to make it easier for him and rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt.

"That will put me in a better position to get off the ball," McKinnie said. "I just have to make it where I don't have to look at the ball. When I'm in a position to hear it, I don't want to have to look at the ball if I can hear the cadence."
Coach Brad Childress took some of the blame for not giving McKinnie more help, either by putting a tight end to McKinnie's side for a double team or using a running back to help chip Peppers more often.

"We didn't do a good enough job with getting him help, whether it was chip help or tight end help or fading a guard in that direction," Childress said.

Still, that's no excuse for a player who sees himself as one of the best at his position.

"Usually on the road, no matter who the tackle is and if you have a premier pass rusher, they usually get help," McKinnie said. "I didn't get any, but that's not to blame. Still, at the end of the day I've got to do what I have to do, you've got to be comfortable and I don't think I was comfortable with a lot of stuff that I was doing.

"I feel like the penalties and stuff were kind of throwing me out of whack because then I started concentrating on not getting penalties. I was kind of behind sometimes on the snap count."

McKinnie wasn't the only lineman who struggled in Carolina. Favre was sacked four times and Adrian Peterson rushed for 35 yards on 12 carries in the 26-7 defeat.

Favre said it was more of a case of Peppers playing well than McKinnie playing poorly. Either way, the veteran quarterback warned, McKinnie and the rest of the offensive line have to be ready to get the best from their opponents from here on out.

"A lot is being made of Bryant was getting beat here. I love our guys up front. Peppers gets paid a lot of money for a reason," Favre said. "He showed it. ... To think that we're going to get anything less than what we got the other night in every game we play is stupid. We're going to get the best from everyone, so we'd better be ready for it."

Click here to order Bryant McKinnie’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Andre Johnson would look great in a Dolphins uniform

Logical progression: A season in which the Dolphins have faced Reggie Wayne, Vincent Jackson, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Steve Smith now could come down to stopping Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson.

Who else on the Texans can deal death to the Dolphins on Sunday afternoon? Houston's fumbling backs run as if they were carrying a greased pig through mud. They rank 31st in the league in yards per carry and are tied for last in the NFL in yards per game.

Behind Johnson among wide receivers, Kevin Walter, not exactly Lance Alworth, averages four catches per game and 11.7 yards per catch. Sunday's tight end worries ended eight weeks ago with Owen Daniels' season-ending injury.

There is some irony in the Dolphins trying to prevent Johnson from burning down their house Sunday: It would be the perfect place for Johnson to call home.

Oh sure, every team would love a guy who gets double-teamed from pregame stretch on and beats it for 20 catches for 389 yards, as Johnson has the past two games.

``Without question, I think, the best receiver in the league,'' Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell said. ``The guy does everything. He does the little things. He does things he might not want to do. He makes all the hard catches. The guy's getting doubled every game, but they find ways to get him the ball.''

The Dolphins, as has been said ad nauseum, lack a dynamic playmaker at wide receiver. Still, you have to go beyond quality to see why Johnson would be the perfect Dolphin (if he weren't signed with Houston through the 2014 season). Let's start with the next-obvious element . . .

• Johnson would be home. He didn't leave South Florida until Houston drafted him third overall in 2003 out of the University of Miami. And every college football coach not dressed in UM colors breathed a little easier that day.

``Miami had just graduated Reggie Wayne,'' said Dolphins defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, Syracuse's head coach from 1991-2004. ``I told our [defensive backs], `Don't worry, the guy who replaces him can't be as good as Reggie Wayne.' On the first two possessions, he scored on a post corner and a corner post. The cornerback came out and said, `Coach, I think this guy might be better.' ''

Johnson went to Miami High, but he is from the Carol City area.

``I could actually walk from my mom's old house to the stadium,'' Johnson said. ``I grew up right there. I always had dreams of playing in Land Shark Stadium.''

Despite being from the same region as Michael Irvin (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, old-school UM) and Chad Ochocinco, nee, Johnson (Miami Beach High, cheers for UM, old-school UM in spirit), Johnson refrains from putting much show in his boat. Which leads to . . .

• He has the perfect personality for this Dolphins regime. Under the Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland-Tony Sparano ruling triumvirate, the Dolphins prefer consistently loud performances from consistently quiet men. In defending the Dolphins receivers, offensive coordinator Dan Henning is fond of saying how diva receivers can drain the energy from a team.

With cars and wideouts, high performance usually means high maintenance. Not so with Johnson.

When Johnson says publicly he would like the ball more, it is rare and comes off more as admission than demand. There is no record of Johnson engaging in any quality trash talk. In fact, the lack of yak and flamboyance keeps Johnson as under the radar as a wide receiver could be with his credentials.

``I think it is more of my family,'' said Johnson, explaining his personality. ``Just growing up in the house, if you were ever in my mom's house you would probably not even know if anyone was in there because there wasn't really much talking or anything going on unless we were talking amongst each other. My mom is the same way, my brother is the same way, so I think it is just a family thing. We don't really need much attention. A lot of people think that we don't talk, but I do talk. I am not just quiet like everyone thinks.''

• He will take a hit and deliver one, too. The Dolphins lords also want a physical team. Few wide receivers, maybe none with his speed, can claim to be as physical as Johnson, who is 6-3 and 223 pounds.

On a 17-yard touchdown catch against Arizona, Johnson made the grab at the Cardinals' 5-yard line. Linebacker Gerald Hayes went for a demolition-derby hit as Johnson landed. Hayes careened away to the ground. Johnson then blasted former UM teammate Antrel Rolle onto his back before carrying cornerback Bryant McFadden into the end zone.

• Johnson is loyal. He hasn't made noises about leaving, though Houston has had only one .500 season; he has never finished above third place in the AFC South; and he can't seem to catch a break with injuries.

``I have pretty much been through all the rough times with this organization, except for the first year,'' Johnson said. ``I knew it wasn't going to be easy when I got here. I never thought it would take seven seasons. It is a work in progress. That is what keeps me motivated because I want to do everything I can to help get this organization to its first playoff berth and first Super Bowl.''

So it is that the perfect Dolphin for the current era is a Texan.

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Salmons takes Del Negro's benching hard

The questions surrounding Vinny Del Negro's job security intensify by the day. People all around the city, and for that matter, the country seem to be waiting for the ax to fall on the embattled Chicago Bulls coach.

In the meantime, the Bulls remain maddeningly inconsistent and continue to have issues on the offensive end. Their energy level appears close to empty on most nights, and when they do start playing hard, it's usually not enough.

Del Negro made several interesting decisions during Tuesday night's game against the New York Knicks that could have longer-term ramifications on the psyche of his team, whether he remains as coach in the next few weeks or not.

At the start of the second half, he inserted Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson back into the starting rotation, replacing the under-performing Brad Miller and John Salmons. Neither player has played particularly well this season, but Salmons obviously took the news hard.

"I guess it was said today that I'm pretty much the reason we're losing," Salmons said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I just have to stay with it and hopefully still help the team win. I haven't been playing up to my potential. It's something I have to deal with. We're losing, I haven't been playing well. I just got taken out of the lineup, so put two and two together."

There's no question the Bulls' problems go a lot deeper than just Salmons, but the move appears to have shaken his confidence even more. The good news for Del Negro is that Tyrus Thomas may be back in the lineup on Saturday against the New Orleans Hornets, which means that for the first time since early November, all the key contributors on the Bulls roster should be healthy and ready to go.