Friday, January 05, 2007

L.T. Sweeps; Taylor, Pennington Get Awards

With a handful of records and an MVP award already in his 2006 collection, LaDainian Tomlinson added The Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year to his resume Friday.

Tomlinson, voted Most Valuable Player on Thursday, broke Shaun Alexander's league record for touchdowns by scoring 31 (28 rushing) and also threw for two scores. The brilliant running back not only surpassed the mark Seattle's Alexander established last year in also winning the MVP-offensive player double, but Tomlinson surpassed Paul Hornung's 46-year-old record for points by getting 186.

And LT rushed for a league-high 1,815 yards on 348 carries, had 56 receptions for 508 yards and was 2-for-3 as a passer, both completions for scores, giving him six in his six-year career, tying him for second among non-quarterbacks.

It paid off with 38 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league. Next was Tomlinson's former quarterback with the Chargers, the Saints' Drew Brees with eight, followed by Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning with three and St. Louis RB Steven Jackson with one.

Brees also was second and Manning third in the MVP balloting.

Tomlinson rushed for at least 100 yards 10 times this season, including nine in a row, and scored two or more TDs in 10 games.

This is the third successive season with an MVP who also won top offensive player. Before Tomlinson and Alexander, Manning did it in 2004. In all, it has occurred 19 times since the first offensive player award was given in 1973.

Quarterback Dan Fouts in 1983 was the only other Chargers player to win the award.

Jason Taylor's superb all-around performance for the Dolphins earned him The Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, announced Friday. While Miami finished just 6-10 in 2006, the dynamic Taylor was having the best season of his nine-year pro career.

The end who sometimes lines up at linebacker or inside had 62 tackles, 13½ sacks, 14 quarterback hurries, two interceptions - both returned for TDs - 11 passes defensed, 10 fumbles forced and two fumbles recovered. Yes, 10 fumbles forced, making Taylor a takeaway machine.

While dozens of defenders were doing it well this season, Taylor outdistanced five who received votes, in particular Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. Taylor earned 22 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL, and Bailey got 16.

It is a measure of how effective Taylor was that he took the award playing on a losing team. But Miami's defense ranked fourth in the NFL.

He is the first Dolphins player to win the award since DE Doug Betters in 1983. Ten years before that, safety Dick Anderson won it.

San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman, who missed four games for violating the NFL's steroids policy, got six votes. Last week, Taylor said he didn't believe any player who served such a suspension should be considered for league awards.

Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher received four votes, followed by two Baltimore Ravens with one apiece: LB Ray Lewis and lineman Trevor Pryce.

Urlacher won the award last year.

Chad Pennington spent two nerve-racking weeks at home in Tennessee last fall wondering if his right shoulder would ever be the same.

Pennington overcame a second torn rotator cuff in as many years - and incredible odds - to win The Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.

The seven-year veteran has led the Jets to a surprising 10-6 record and a wild-card berth one season after they went 4-12 -- most of it with him sidelined -- and changed coaches. He started all 16 games in a season for the first time, finished second in the AFC with a 95.7 passer rating and threw for a career-high 3,352 yards, along with 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Most importantly, he re-emerged as a leader.

Pennington earned 27 votes in balloting by a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL. He finished ahead of two other quarterbacks, Drew Brees of New Orleans (8½) and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer (5½). Pennington, the fifth quarterback to win the award in its nine years, is the first Jet to receive the honor.

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