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Charleston Daily Smell, September 7, 2008
Baltimore Thumps Cannons, 34-24, Behind Losman
Pair of TD Passes to R. Brown Erases Hosts’ Early Lead
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Wilmington Snooze-Terminal, September 7, 2008
Evans Scores Twice as Cherries Crush Hershey, 32-19
Rivers Passes for 299 Yards in 4th Straight Win
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Philadelphia Ink Crier, September 7, 2008
Lakers Persevere, Edge New York, 28-27
Favre to McCareins for Winning TD with 3:49 Left
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Washington Postage Stamp, September 7, 2008
Capitols Beat Richmond, 10-6, Despite Jackson
Punt Return by Sproles is Sufficient Firepower
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Providence Kernel, September 7, 2008
Steam Roller Hit Bottom–Syracuse Coasts, 30-6
Drop to 0-5 as Frerotte Fails to Revive Offense
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Albany Sliced Onion, September 8, 2008
Racers Shrug Off Wilkins’ Misses, Beat Connecticut, 17-13
Late Blocked Field Goal Keeps Comets from Retaking Lead
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Wilmington Snooze-Terminal, September 7, 2008

Rip Snorter

Rivers Syncing with Deeper Receiving Corps

It’s hard to ignore the backsliding of the Cherries’ defense this season. But I’ll go easy on that unit here for two reasons:

Ahh, that offense.

As potent as it was last season, with averages of 29.9 points and 361.9 yards per game, it has been turbo-charged here in 2008 to the tune of 30.6 points and 414.6 yards. Almost all of that large increase in yardage is attributable to the aerial attack.

The biggest share of the credit goes to Rivers. He worked hard in the off-season to refine his mechanics. Then, once the Cherries’ received Chris Chambers by trade from Washington, Rivers took the SFL veteran aside and they worked on their timing. The 299 passing yards Rivers put up against Hershey gives him 1,251 for the season, just 20 less than league leader Eli Manning of Charleston.

It took until week #3 for the Rivers-Chambers collaboration to bear fruit. In that game against New York, Rivers led Chambers perfectly for a 17-yard insurance touchdown. Then the next week Chambers really came into his own against, ironically, the Caps, with five receptions for 80 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown and a big 20-yard catch-and-run in overtime to set up what should have the game-winning field goal.

Against Hershey, Chambers caught five more passes for 92 yards. All five moved the chains, the best either a 16-yarder on 3rd and 7 in the first quarter, on which he outwrestled defender Napoleon Harris to make the grab, or a play down the middle on 2nd and 19 in the second quarter on which he broke an arm tackle attempt by Jarrad Page to turn what would have set up a 3rd and long situation into a 39-yard gain. Both plays helped set up John Kasay field goals.

On the other side of the formation, Jon Brams has taken the unorthodox approach of having Lee Evans and Isaac Bruce share time. The approach seems to be working. Last night Evans had 24- and 51-yard touchdown catches:

Bruce, meanwhile, had only two catches, but his second was notable. After Hershey had cut Delaware’s 16‑10 halftime lead in half just past the midway point of the third quarter, a holding penalty put the Cherries into a 1st and 20 hole at their own 25. Rivers found himself under heavy pressure. Bruce, who was not the primary option on the play, saw what was happening and broke off his route. Rivers threw on the run and hit Bruce for a 10-yard gain. The drive would culminate with a 2-yard plunge for a touchdown by Michael Turner, putting the Cherries up by 10 as the quarter ended.

Chambers, Evans, and Bruce have combined for 44 receptions so far this season — 18, 16, and 10, respectively.

But this is a deeper receiving corps than last season, and Rivers is taking advantage of that. In addition to the big three wide receivers, there are impressive rookies Sidney Rice (9 catches) and Jason Avant (4), the reliable Heath Miller (16), and LaDainian Tomlinson (21) coming out of the backfield.

Interceptions are a concern, though. Last season Rivers threw only six. This season he threw four in the first four games. He was not victimized against Hershey, though, so maybe he’s worked the picks out of his system. If so, look out — it will take a brilliant game plan and flawless execution to put the brakes on this offense.

By the way, Evans’ second score was set up by a smart play by Brian Dawkins, so smart even Brams failed to anticipate it. Hershey had 4th and 3 at the Cherries 37. Steve McNair slightly underthrew Greg Jennings on a deep route, giving Dawkins an opportunity for a pick. Dawkins realized he would be tackled immediately, though, for Jennings had switched into the role of a defensive back and had him wrapped up. So Dawkins deftly guided the ball to the turf.

As a result of the incompletion, the Cherries took over on downs at the line of scrimmage, constituting about a 25-yard improvement in field position. Video showed Brams momentarily reacting with disappointment by Dawkins’ failure to make the interception. Then he realized the Cherries were better off and pumped his fist in Dawkins’ direction with an embarassed grin.