ASN's NFL Top 10: Rookie beast Rawls breaks out for Seahawks
At the start of the season, the Seattle Seahawks seemed primed to return to the Super Bowl behind an offensive unit that featured Marshawn Lynch. But Lynch has been injured throughout the season, opening the door for rookie Thomas Rawls.
Rawls started his NFL career as an undrafted free agent, third on Seattle’s depth chart behind Fred Jackson.
Suddenly, he’s a star.
Ranked No. 10 among NFL running backs in terms of total yards (786), Rawls has scored four touchdowns, including one this week against Minnesota.
“When we can block up front and play good from the line of scrimmage and the defense is on schedule, and the offense is clicking also, and we’re playing as one unit, there is nothing that can stop us and that’s just what we did,” Rawls said on Seahawks.com.
The only downer to his performance was a first Rawls might rather have skipped – he fumbled for the first time in his pro career.
“You been so much in your life, you can recover from that,” Rawls said. “It’s all about recovering from your losses.”
Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks
The rookie running back out of Central Michigan has started only five games this season, but has been a pleasant surprise. Rawls carried the ball 19 times for 101 yards and a touchdown in the Seahawks' 38-7 victory against Minnesota on Sunday. He also caught three passes for 22 yards. The game was Rawls’ fourth during which he rushed for more than 100 yards. He has scored in each of the last three games. On Sunday, Rawls scored the first touchdown of the game, a 5-yard run on the left side with 3:42 to play in the first quarter.
J.J. Nelson, Arizona Cardinals
Another ASN rookie making a name for himself, Nelson (UAB) scored the Cardinals first touchdown of a blowout against the St. Louis Rams when Carson Palmer found him far to the right side of the end zone with a 22-yard pass. The reception was one of only two for Nelson for the game, and was his second touchdown of the season. The Cardinals stomped the Rams, 27-3.
Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders
Mack (Buffalo) moved into the NFL’s Top 5 in sacks for the season when he added two in the Raiders' 34-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Mack is a second-year linebacker who has become a key cog in the Raiders defense. He’s started every game this season and has 53 tackles and a forced fumble. Despite the loss, the Raiders held K.C. to only 232 yards and QB Alex Smith attempted only 22 passes.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Big Ben has put together quite an impressive two weeks since the bye. After passing for a season-high 456 yards in Week 12, Roethlisberger (Miami Ohio) came back this week to score a season-high four touchdowns in the Steelers' 45-10 trouncing of the Colts. Roethlisberger completed 24 of 39 passes, rushed once for 13 yards and had no interceptions or fumbles. He is ranked No. 7 in the league in average number of yards per attempt (8.9) and his ranking moves up to No. 3, when the players with only one attempt are removed from consideration.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets
Fitzpatrick is easing the Jets ever closer to a playoff berth. He completed 36 of 50 passes for a season-high 390 yards and two touchdowns as New York won its second consecutive game, this time a 23-20 victory against the cross-town rival Giants. Fitzpatrick had his second straight game without throwing an interception. Fitzpatrick (Harvard) is currently ranked No 9 among NFL quarterbacks for touchdowns (22), No. 15 in terms of passing yards (2,866).
Isa Abdul-Quddus, Detroit Lions
A veteran free safety out of Fordham, Abdul-Quddus has his best game on Thursday night despite the Lions losing to the Green Bay Packers. Abdul-Quddus did what he could to keep the Packers from moving the ball, forcing a fumble and recording 11 tackles (nine solos, two assists). The forced fumble was a game-changer, but not for Detroit. Abdul-Quddus tackled James Starks and the ball came free at the 5-yard line, but the Packers recovered the ball to score their first touchdown of the game. Prior to Thursday night, Abdul-Quddus had a season-high eight tackles on Nov. 15 also against Green Bay.
Jimmie Ward, San Francisco 49ers
Ward had two highlight-reel worthy moments on Sunday — plenty for a guy who scored the first touchdown of a two-year career. First, Ward picked off a Jay Cutler pass at the 29 and then flipped himself into the end zone for a touchdown in the first quarter. A second-year defensive back out of Northern Illinois, Ward was also credited with two tackles in San Francisco’s 26-20 victory against the Chicago Bears.
Antonio Andrews, Tennessee Titans
Andrews’ 1-yard touchdown run at the tail end of the second quarter marked his first score since Week 5 against Buffalo. Andrews (Western Kentucky) has scored three rushing touchdowns for the season, and in Sunday’s victory against Jacksonville, he carried the ball 13 times for 58 yards. He also caught one pass for 10 yards.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Oops. Brown had a heck of a game, but it was marred by an unsportsmanlike penalty after he used “the goalpost as a prop,” officials said. That said, the veteran wide receiver out of Central Michigan scored two touchdowns and led all Steelers receivers with eight catches for 118 yards in Pittsburgh’s win against Indianapolis. Those two TDs mark the second time this season Brown has scored twice in a single game (Week 10 vs. Cleveland) and brings his season total to seven.
Austin Davis, Cleveland Browns
Backup quarterback Davis’ second shot at leading the Browns didn’t go quite as well as his first, when he stepped in for Josh McCown and engineered a fourth-quarter scoring drive in Week 12. In Week 13, Davis (Southern Miss) got his first start of the season, and while he completed 25 of 38 attempts for 230 yards, the Browns didn’t score a single touchdown while being trounced by the Bengals, 37-3, on Sunday. Davis also threw an interception and carried the ball three times for four yards.
New York Giants TE Will Tye (Stony Brook) was second only to Odell Beckham in receiving yards with 70 yards on three catches in a loss to the Jets. … St. Louis Rams return specialist Benny Cunningham (Middle Tennessee) averaged 32.6 yards on four kickoffs in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals. … Atlanta Falcons LB Paul Worrilow (Delaware) led the team with 10 tackles (six solos, four assists) in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. … Jacksonville Jaguars CB Jonathan Cyprien (Florida International) had 11 tackles (seven solos, four assists) in a loss to the Tennessee Tennessee. … Pittsburgh Steelers LB James Harrison (Kent State) had three sacks and seven tackles in a victory against the Indianapolis Colts. … Colts S Mike Adams (Delaware) led all defenders with 11 tackles (10 solos, one assist) in a loss to the Steelers. … Carolina Panthers FB Mike Tolbert (Coastal Carolina) scored his third receiving touchdown of the season in a victory against the New Orleans Saints.
Above: Running back Thomas Rawls of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)