Press Association German forward Andre Schurrle netted a second-half hat-trick to keep Chelsea top of the Barclays Premier League with a 3-1 win in the west London derby at Fulham, who remain bottom. For Fulham boss Felix Magath, there remains plenty more hard work ahead if his side are to pull clear of trouble, and had only a consolation goal from John Heitinga to show for their spirited efforts on Saturday afternoon. It had earlier been a bright start by the home side in some welcome sunshine. Pajtim Kasami’s cross from the left was flicked wide by Clint Dempsey, when a proper contact from the American could well have put the ball in the net. On 12 minutes, Fulham goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg delayed clearing the ball, which saw him closed down by Fernando Torres. The ball ballooned back up off the Chelsea striker and into the penalty area, but Torres could not make the most of the gift, as he mis-kicked and then eventually sent a scuffed cross-shot wide. Fulham had to make a change shortly afterwards as captain Brede Hangeland was unable to continue, and replaced by Dan Burn. On 20 minutes, Richardson got away again down the left and his deep cross picked out Dempsey, but John Terry and Gary Cahill were quick to close the Fulham striker down as he shaped to shoot. Neither side were able to gain much possession in midfield, with some niggling tackles flying in. With five minutes to go until half-time, Fulham tried a well-drilled free-kick from 25 yards which saw three players run over the ball before Kasami sent in a low drive, which Petr Cech got down well to save. However, it took a fine reaction save from Stekelenburg on the stroke of half-time to keep the scores level when he deflected an angled drive from Torres over the crossbar. Chelsea were on the offensive again at the start of the second half, as Schurrle saw a curled effort deflected wide, when Oscar was free on the overlap. The German, though, made no mistake a few moments later when he fired Chelsea ahead on 52 minutes. Hazard – on his 100th Chelsea appearance – chipped a ball down the right, which Schurrle, took in his stride with a superb cushioned header. A darting run saw him surge past Burn and to the edge of the Fulham penalty area, where he coolly slotted the ball under Stekelenburg. Hazard almost crafted a second with a lovely reverse-foot chip to the far post where Richardson just got there ahead of Torres. It was, though, 2-0 on 65 minutes, with the Belgian playmaker again the provider as his slide-rule pass split the Fulham defence as Schurrle slotted in his second from 12 yards. Despite having the game won, Chelsea remained ruthless in attack and Schurrle completed his hat-trick on 68 minutes. Torres brought down a long ball from the goalkeeper, which he flicked on out to Schurrle, who sprinted clear to the edge of the Fulham area before slamming a low shot past Stekelenburg. Fulham at least salvaged some pride from the derby when defender Heitinga bundled the ball in from a corner by Lewis Holtby with 16 minutes left, but it was too little too late. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho had been concerned a gruelling midweek Champions League trip to Istanbul would leave his players fatigued for the short journey down to Craven Cottage. However, despite a slow start, the Blues, driven on by brilliant Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard, blew Fulham away with three goals in the space of 16 minutes following the restart to stay clear of Arsenal and Manchester City in the championship race.
James White (center) attempts to slip by two NIU defenders Saturday, something he did often in gaining 126 total yards a score.[/media-credit]CHICAGO – Opposing defenses are going to have to learn not to turn their backs on Wisconsin’s passing game.Time and time again in Wisconsin’s (3-0) 49-7 win over Northern Illinois (1-2) Saturday, quarterback Russell Wilson feigned a handoff and connected downfield to an open teammate, taking advantage of the tendency of Northern Illinois’ safeties to fill the holes against Wisconsin’s well-known run game.Midway through Wisconsin’s second drive of the game, on a handoff to running back James White, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis was flagged for a block in the back when the Northern Illinois defender quickly turned his back on the wide receiver to cover the run.The play caught the eye of UW head coach Bret Bielema and his coaching staff, who then deduced that the play-action should leave targets open downfield.“That first penalty on Abby, the safeties were turning their shoulders right away to fill on the run game and we can’t put our hands on them – Abby did,” Bielema said. “But as soon as they do that, the counter-action to that is, they can’t see what our receivers are doing. Once they started doing that, that’s why I went to the play action.”Easily the best example of that strategy’s success came in the third quarter with the Badgers on the Huskies’ 9-yard line. Wilson faked the hand-off to running back Montee Ball, turned around and tossed a touchdown pass to Jacob Pedersen, who was standing upright and alone in the endzone.Nobody was within five yards of the redshirt sophomore by the time the ball landed in his hands.“That was nice,” Pedersen said. “We’ve been working on that all week. We saw teams bringing that safety down hard and everything and it popped and worked just the way we hoped it would.”Two of Wilson’s three touchdown passes stemmed from the play-action while several other chain-moving throws – including a 38-yard pass to Abbrederis and a 55-yard pass to Pedersen – did, as well.The long passes to Abbrederis and Pedersen were two other examples of the play-action’s effectiveness, as both plays saw the two Badgers slip by all three levels of NIU’s defense before making the grab.In completing 23-of-32 passes for 347 yards (and one interception) Wilson was able to hit seven targets – four of which gained at least 50 yards receiving.Abbrederis led the team in that category, with six catches for 83 yards, while Nick Toon scored two touchdowns on top of his five catches for 75 yards.Pedersen and fullback Bradie Ewing, meanwhile, combined for 115 yards on six receptions.“It’s a positive thing for our football team, that a lot of guys can make a lot of great plays,” Wilson said. “Just giving the ball to the right guy, that’s my job, to just facilitate the ball to the right guy at the right time and make plays when I need to. So that’s a positive thing and we’re doing a great job of doing that right now.”Wilson also combined the play-action with rolling out of the pocket – sometimes appearing by design and other times as improvisation.With Northern Illinois determined to stop Wisconsin’s running backs, Wilson’s ability to expand the game outside of the pocket – to throw or tuck and run – went a long way in helping UW gain a season-best 621 yards of total offense.Wilson gained an additional 37 yards on the ground on five attempts and avoided getting sacked on the day, leading his head coach to come away from Saturday’s win with the highest of praise.“Russell Wilson, he’s a guy that he knows the plan, he knows how to stick to it, but he can adapt very well,” Bielema said. “Very creative. Some of those plays that he got us out of with his feet were extraordinary.“He’s playing at a high, high level, if there’s somebody that’s better out there right now I’d like to see him compete.”
Top Stories 2.9 yards per carry.Of course, that’s not all him. Some blame surely is on the offensive line. Monday, Bruce Arians was clear he was not pleased with their work in Santa Clara.But last year the Cards rushed for 3.3 yards per carry for the whole season and made it to the playoffs. We all know the number 3.3 isn’t the reason they couldn’t get any further in the playoffs than they did.The injury would be much easier to accept if Andre Ellington were healthy, but he’s not. The tough-but-fragile Ellington is now dealing with a turf toe, one that may keep him out longer than Johnson according to one former NFL team doc on twitter.Can David Johnson, Stepfan Taylor and perhaps Kerwynn Williams keep defenses honest enough to allow Carson Palmer to do what he does? After watching how far they went last year with a suspect running game I certainly think the answer is yes. How the rookie out of Northern Iowa performs in blitz pickup may determine more than anything else. And then of course there is the fumbling issue that causes all involved to hold their collective breath.I can’t predict what will happen from here on out. But I know what a devastating late-season injury looks like. I saw it and so did you. And this ain’t it. The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo When news first broke from Jay Glazer that Cardinals running back Chris Johnson suffered a fractured tibia in the win over the 49ers, my thoughts — in order — went something like this:How long is he out (answer: not sure yet but not necessarily the rest of the year)?Gratitude. Cornball as it sounds, it’s entirely appropriate given how important Johnson has been in providing the Cardinals something they’ve so rarely enjoyed; a steady productive running game.Is 2.9 irreplaceable?As important as Chris Johnson has been up until this point, it’s also fair to wonder if that needle was on “E”. Excluding the extremely productive game against Baltimore (18/122/TD), Johnson has rushed 99 times for 287 yards and no touchdowns in his last five games. Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) runs for a touchdown as Baltimore Ravens defensive end Carl Davis (94) looks on during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling – / 21 Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires Comments Share