Montee Ball (2009-12) is hitting his stride. Last week, the rookie running back had his highest amount of rushing yards in his young career (117). This week, he set a new career-high in rushing attempts (15) in the Denver Broncos' 51-28 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Ball's 15 rushing attempts led to 77 yards and a touchdown, his fourth of the season (fourth among rookie running backs). He also caught three passes for 10 yards on four targets in the game. His 87 all-purpose yards were the second-most of his career, and he now has 458 rushing yards on the season.
The five-yard touchdown served as icing on the cake for the Broncos as it extended their lead to three possessions with just over three minutes remaining in the game.
It's no secret that Ball has seen more carries as of late, averaging 10.0 rushing attempts per game over the last six, compared to just 6.14 attempts per game through the first seven. With an average of 7.92 carries per game, Ball ranks fifth among all rookie running backs.
The Denver Broncos (11-2) have a short week as they host the San Diego Chargers (6-7) on Thursday Night Football in Week 15.
It's beginning to get embarrassing now for the Houston Texans, as they have now dropped 11 straight games, with the last most recent one coming to the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday.
The good news is that whenever a tight end for the Texans is performing well, one can be rest assured that he is a former Badger. Owen Daniels (2002-05), Garrett Graham (2006-09) and Jake Byrne (2008-11) are currently the Texans' three tight ends -- Daniels is on the IR-- and all three played football at Wisconsin.
As he has done all season, Graham shined for the Texans on Sunday afternoon, reeling in eight receptions for 73 yards and one touchdown on 14 targets. The eight receptions tied a career mark for Graham, matching his reception total from Week 10 of 2012 against, you guessed it, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Graham is second on the team in receptions (49) and targets (88), and tied with Andre Johnson for the most touchdowns (five).
Houston (2-11) heads to Lucas Oil Stadium to try and give the newly-clinched AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts (8-5) a run for their money in Week 15.
Brad Nortman (2008-11) has not seen a lot of time in this series recently, mainly because the Carolina Panthers have been playing so well. Fortunately for the sake of this series, and unfortunately for the Panthers, Nortman saw the field a fair amount on Sunday as the Panthers took a step backwards in their quest to make the playoffs with a 31-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Nortman punted five times for a total of 227 yards, including a long of 57. His average of 45.4 yards per punt fell right in line with his season average, fifth=best in the NFL at 47.3.
It isn't just Nortman's punt distance that has been impressive this season. His ability to pin the other team deep in its own territory (19 punts inside the 20-yard line and only four touchbacks) while also limiting opponents' return yards has left Nortman with the seventh-best net average (40.8) in the league.
The Carolina Panthers (9-4) head back home to take on the New York Jets (6-7) in Week 15.
Other notes from Badgers in the NFL
- 2008 sixth-round draft pick defensive tackle Nick Hayden (2004-07) had two tackles -- one for a loss, in the Dallas Cowboys' 45-28 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. The Cowboys' five-game road winning streak on MNF also came to an end.
- 2009 third-round draft pick outside linebacker DeAndre Levy (2005-08) had five tackles in the Detroit Lions' 34-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
- 2011 first-round draft pick defensive end J.J. Watt (2009-10) had three tackles, three quarterback hits and one pass deflection in the Houston Texans' 27-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars had scored a touchdown in the red zone a league-worst 25 percent of the time through the first eight games. Thursday night, Jacksonville was 2-for-2 in scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
- 2012 third-round draft pick quarterback Russell Wilson (2011) was 15-of-29 for 199 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one fumble (recovered). Wilson was just 2-of-8 with a touchdown and an interception on throws deeper than 10 yards down the field in the Seattle Seahawks' 19-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers Sunday.
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