Team Notes week 5 2019
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
Arizona's problems in Sunday's 27-10 loss to the Seahawks were a familiar story. The Cardinals (0-3-1) moved the ball fairly well in the first half, but couldn't convert that success into touchdowns. To make matters worse, Zane Gonzalez missed two field-goal attempts -- from 43 and 48 yards -- and the Seahawks led 20-3 at halftime.
The Cardinals dropped to 0-3-1 and head to Cincinnati next weekend.
"It's all on us coaches and players to get better," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We have to get better. I like the competitive spirit we're playing with. The execution is lacking at times and that's on all of us."
Kyler Murray's introduction to the NFL continues to be a mixed bag.
Murray scored his first career rushing touchdown with a 9-yard run with 10:21 left in the fourth quarter to pull the Cardinals within 20-10. The No. 1 overall pick finished 22 of 32 passing for 241 yards and one interception. David Johnson had eight catches for 99 yards.
Meanwhile, with Jerry Rice looking on from field level at State Farm Stadium, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald took one step closer Sunday to catching the Hall of Fame receiver on the NFL's all-time receptions list.
Fitzgerald, 36, passed Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez for second place on the all-time list on a 15-yard catch with 1 minute, 41 seconds left in the Cardinals' 27-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on a first-and-10 play from the Cardinals 49.
Fitzgerald came into the game needing five catches to reach 1,326 for his career, which is in its 16th season, one more than Gonzalez. He finished the game with exactly five, for 47 yards.
But Fitzgerald, who has downplayed his other records and achievements in recent years as things he'll reflect on when he's retired, said this feat didn't mean as much because of the loss.
"I don't mean any disrespect to guys on the all-time list but it's hard to take anything good from losing two in a row at home, three home games out of four, and we don't come out with a win," Fitzgerald said. "That's pretty depressing, so there's not much to really be happy about."
Fitzgerald said he received a "real nice message" from Gonzalez earlier Sunday. Fitzgerald then called Gonzalez "arguably the best tight end to ever play the game" and said to have his name mentioned with Gonzalez's "is truly an honor."
With Fitzgerald sitting at 1,326, he's still a far run behind Rice's 1,549.
"It really hasn't hit me that I threw him the ball to pass Tony Gonzales," Murray said. "I'm surprised Jerry Rice has caught that many balls, to be honest with you."
Rice wasn't the only retired player in attendance to watch Fitzgerald move ahead of Gonzalez.
Former Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was at the game for his induction into Arizona's ring of honor. Palmer complete 363 passes to Fitzgerald in five seasons together.
Fitzgerald could already hear what Palmer would tell him after the game: "Man, you guys need to win that game."
Palmer, who retired after the 2017 season a few days after turning 38, thinks Fitzgerald can keep playing physically. It'll be whether Fitzgerald wants to continue doing it mentally, Palmer said.
"Once you get to 32, 33, it's a mental game then," Palmer said. "Do you want to do it? Do you still love it? Do you still love training camp? Do you still love preparing and watching film and practice? He's at that point in his career where he's not showing any signs of slowing down. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... The team will likely play without wide receiver Christian Kirk, who hurt his ankle on an awkward tackle late Sunday.
Kirk has a team-leading 24 catches for 242 yards through four games.
Although he was slated to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, Kingsburry told reporters the Cardinals do not want Kirk to rush back from the injury, adding: "It's a long season."
Kingsbury also didn't rule out Kirk being able to come back against the Falcons in two weeks. "That would be our hope," the coach said. "We'll see how he responds."
In addition to Kirk, Kingsbury said that Damiere Byrd, also "looks unlikely" to play Sunday with his hamstring injury still lingering
Assuming both are out, the Cardinals would essentially be down to four healthy wideouts.
Fitzgerald and Trent Sherfield started with Kirk Sunday. Rookie KeeSean Johnson will be in the mix, while rookie second-round pick Andy Isabella -- who has yet to make a reception but had a season-high eight offensive snaps against Seattle -- is the remaining player with extensive practice work in the slot.
With Kirk and Byrd both likely out, Isabella figures to get his shot at a significant role.
Whatever the case, I'll follow up on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
In a related note. ... The team announced the signing of wide receiver Pharoh Cooper on Tuesday. Cooper spent the offseason with the Cardinals, but failed to make the 53-man roster and had a stint with the Bengals in September. He returned six punts for the Cardinals last season and caught 25 passes while also serving as a returner in 31 games for the Rams from 2016 to 2018.
In addition to leading the team in receptions, Kirk has been the only punt returner in Arizona this season. ...
The Cardinals averaged five yards a rush as Chase Edmonds (6 carries, 37 yards) was integrated into the offense for the first time. ArizonaCardinals.com's Darren Urban believes it'll be intriguing to see how much this Edmonds use will go, along with Johnson, going forward. Especially if Kirk is down and/or defenses keep playing back. ...
Gonzalez had made all nine of his field goals coming into the game. As noted above, he missed two of three Sunday, and while it wasn't the reason for the loss, it helped change the complexion of the game.
Gonzalez said having a new holder -- rookie Ryan Winslow was the punter and holder with Andy Lee inactive with a hip flexor -- was not a factor. Kickers aren't going to make every field goal. But it was a tough day to have a tough day.
The Cardinals have released starting safety D.J. Swearinger after a disappointing start to the season. The seven-year veteran played in all four games this year and was fourth on the team with 28 tackles. The 28-year-old has also played for the Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins during his career.
Arizona also re-signed receiver A.J. Richardson to the practice squad and put receiver Johnnie Dixon on the practice squad injured reserve list.
And finally. ... Longtime Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill died Wednesday while surrounded by his family and loved ones, the team announced. He was 88.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Drew Anderson, Brett Hundley
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, D.J. Foster
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella, Trent Sherfield, KeeSean Johnson
TEs: Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels, Dan Arnold, Charles Clay
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
Head coach Dan Quinn said he didn't feel any added pressure to win now after owner Arthur Blank kept his promise and rewarded Julio Jones, DT Grady Jarrett and LB Deion Jones with contract extensions.
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure suggested, "Surely Quinn feels the heat now."
Quinn's team is off to a disastrous start with a 1-3 record following Sunday's 24-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans at home.
The Falcons' offense -- featuring Jones, Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Austin Hooper -- hasn't exactly been explosive with Dirk Koetter as offensive coordinator. In fact, the Falcons had minus-10 yards on two fourth-and-1 plays against the Titans.
Ryan continues to put up big numbers (397 passing yards) but that doesn't matter if you're not scoring. Ryan was sacked a season-high five times. While the Falcons avoided double-digit penalties for the first time all season, they were still flagged seven times for 50 yards.
In addition, Ryan had a first-quarter fumble within Titans' territory. Maybe the trajectory of the game changes if the Falcons score there and tie the score at 14.
Instead, the play seem symbolic of everything that has gone wrong for the Falcons through the first four games of the season. The quarterback heard the boos cascade down from the home fans.
"That's part of it when you're playing poorly," Ryan said. "You are not giving them much to cheer about. You get it.
"We want to give them something to get loud about. To make those plays to get this place rocking. We didn't do that (Sunday). We've got to find a way to make plays to get the energy in the building going."
The Falcons ended up outgaining the Titans on offense (422 total yards to 365), having the ball longer (30:41 to 29:19) and even tallying more first downs (24 to 22).
So much of the blame will fall on Quinn, who took over as the defensive coordinator this season yet has watched the unit regress miserably.
Whether it be zone or man, 3-4 or 4-3, the Falcons have given up too many big plays while not creating turnovers or generating enough pressure. There have been fundamental mistakes with tackling and technique, which is on the players. But when guys are standing back and giving up room for the Titans to convert on third-and-long situations, scheme and coaching come under scrutiny.
Asked after Sunday's loss whether drastic changes needed to be made, Quinn seemed to be open to that.
"When you're not performing well, you look at everything," Quinn said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Whether that's role or featuring players or however you need to address it, you do. You can't have the one-offs. ... 'Except for, other than this play, in between the 20,' all those things are just excuses to me."
Whether more changes are in store for Atlanta remains to be seen.
After all the coordinators were jettisoned in the offseason, the finger of blame has only so many more places it can land if things continue to slide south in Atlanta.
The Falcons play the first of two straight road games when they travel to Houston to face the Texans. The series is tied 2-2, including Atlanta's 48-21 home win in 2015. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Hooper had nine catches for 130 yards. Mohamed Sanu had nine catches for 91 yards, but Jones was held to four receptions for 52 yards.
As ESPN's Mike Clay notes, Sanu has now cleared 10 fantasy points in three of four games this season. Sanu paced Atlanta's wide receivers in snaps last season and is atop the list again in 2019. His 31 targets are only six behind Jones for the team lead and he's seven ahead of Calvin Ridley in the category. Sanu sits fourth in the league in pass routes (164) and eighth in receptions (24).
Clay added: "The 30-year-old slot receiver has a low ceiling, but he's well on his way to his third-consecutive top-35 fantasy campaign. He's an underrated PPR flex. ..."
The Falcons again suffered an injury along the offensive line with starting right guard Jamon Brown leaving with a concussion. Center Alex Mack exited briefly with a left elbow injury but returned. Remember, the Falcons are playing without rookie first-rounder Chris Lindstrom, who suffered a broken right foot. The Falcons can't deal with much more attrition on the line.
And finally. ... In need of safety help, the Falcons traded linebacker Duke Riley and a 2020 sixth-round draft pick to the Eagles for safety Johnathan Cyprien and a '20 seventh-round draft pick, the teams announced Monday.
Cyprien, 29, has started 70 career games in six seasons, including four years as a starting strong safety in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars run a scheme similar to that of the Falcons. The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Cyprien is known more as an in-the-box safety but has been a liability in coverage.
The Falcons lost their in-the-box safety when strong safety Keanu Neal suffered a season-ending left Achilles tear against Indianapolis. Neal had surgery last Thursday and is expected to make a full recovery. However, the 1-3 Falcons need another body capable of contributing immediately, particularly with tackling.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Kurt Benkert
RBs: Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Ito Smith, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Laquon Treadwell, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus, Justin Hardy
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham, Carson Meier, Luke Stocker
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
The Baltimore Ravens lost more than sole possession of first place in the AFC North. They also lost the pride of what has been one of the traditionally strong defenses.
In Sunday's 40-25 loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens gave up 531 yards of offense in an embarrassing performance where receivers went uncovered deep downfield and running backs went untouched on long runs.
This marked the first time in the Ravens' 24-year existence that they've allowed over 500 yards in back-to-back games. The 40 points were the second-most allowed by Baltimore at home in the John Harbaugh era.
But the offense struggled as well.
As BaltimoreRavens.com's Clifton Brown reported, midway through Sunday's fourth quarter, Mark Andrews ripped off his helmet and threw it to the ground in disgust on the Ravens sideline. Baltimore had just been stopped on fourth down, on a play where Andrews and Lamar Jackson weren't on the same page, resulting in Jackson throwing an errant pass that was nowhere in the vicinity of Andrews.
"Miscommunication, bad on my behalf," Jackson said. "(I need to) hold the ball a little longer, or just get off it, go through my progression."
That was just one offensive misfire for the Ravens, who entered Week 4 with the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense. They didn't have a turnover in their first three games, but the mistakes made in this game were costly.
Jackson was intercepted twice, Mark Ingram lost a key fumble, and Andrews had a crucial drop on the Ravens' second series.
Ingram's fumble may have been the most important miscue of all. Trailing 17-10 midway through the third quarter, the Ravens were driving at Cleveland's 32-yard line when a tackle by Browns safety Jermaine Whitehead caused Ingram to fumble. The ball was recovered by Browns defensive end Chad Thomas, ending Baltimore's drive. The Browns responded by marching 74 yards in 10 plays, putting the Ravens in a 14-point hole from which they never recovered.
Ingram (12 carries, 71 yards) is off to a terrific start this season and rarely fumbles, and he offered no excuse for the turnover.
"I fumbled and it really proved detrimental to our team," Ingram said. "We were down one score, moving the ball well. They were able to get a touchdown out of it, so I put our team in a bad position."
For the second-straight week, Jackson struggled to throw the ball in the first three quarters. He was an ineffective 9-of-12 for 71 yards entering the fourth. Jackson did most of his damage running with the ball and finished with 66 yards rushing. While trying to come back from two scores down, Jackson was intercepted on a deep pass to Andrews.
That ended his streak of not throwing a pick at 248 attempts, which was the longest current streak in the NFL. Jackson falls to 8-3 as a starter in the regular season, but this marks his first defeat to someone other than the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jackson said he didn't feel more pressure to produce offensively, with the Ravens struggling to stop Cleveland's offense. Jackson's approach never changes. When Baltimore has the football, Jackson expects every drive to end in a touchdown. However, the Ravens came away empty on nine of their 13 possessions Sunday. Jackson put the onus on the offense to improve, prior to their Week 5 matchup against the Steelers.
"Our job is to score points," Jackson said. "Our defense gets motivated by us. If we're not scoring points, I would be down, too, if I were on defense. The frustrating part is losing. ... We just have to execute."
Baltimore (2-2) is now tied with Cleveland (2-2) atop the AFC North, but the Browns hold the tie-breaker advantage by beating the Ravens at M and T Bank Stadium. The Ravens will look to stop their two-game losing streak at the winless Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3). ...
On the injury front. ... Andrews (foot) will sit out Wednesday's practice for a second-straight week. I'll obviously be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
One last note here. ... Baltimore rushed for 173 yards against Cleveland and averaged six yards per carry. It came against the best defensive front the Ravens have faced yet this season, and is an encouraging sign for the run offense moving forward.
That's a trend that Harbaugh wants to see continue.
"I thought they played really well," Harbaugh said. "The run game was tremendous. I thought we blocked them very well. Drives got stopped by us either having miscues, we stepped out of bounds, we dropped a pass, had the turnovers in the second half. But it wasn't from them stopping our run. We blocked that front probably better than I thought we would."
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead, Jaleel Scott, De'Anthony Thomas, Chris Moore
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As the Associated Press suggested, head coach Sean McDermott suddenly has bigger worries than Josh Allen's carelessness with the football.
He's not sure when the second-year starter will be healthy enough to be cleared to play.
Allen was placed in the NFL's concussion protocol after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit by Patriots defensive back Jonathan Jones in the opening minute of the fourth quarter of a 16-10 loss to New England on Sunday.
Putting aside the three interceptions Allen threw, McDermott's biggest question was why Jones wasn't ejected.
"There's no room in football for that," McDermott said. "I thought he should have been thrown out. But other than that, I'm not going to get into that. That's for the league to get into."
The hit occurred when Allen scrambled out of the pocket and burst through a hole up the middle while facing third-and-8 at the New England 45. He gained 7 yards before Jones closed in on him, lowered his helmet and struck the quarterback in the crown of his helmet. Jones was flagged for a personal foul for unnecessary roughness.
Allen lay on the field for several minutes before hopping up on his own. He was briefly evaluated on the sideline before being escorted up the tunnel. Allen was spotted in the locker room chatting with teammates following the game.
NFL officiating chief Al Riveron told a pool reporter the decision to not eject Jones came because the hit did not rise to the level of the league standard for disqualification.
"There was a foul called and obviously the penalty stood, but we did not feel this contact rose to that level," Riveron said, who also noted Jones was turning his head just before hitting Allen.
Allen finished going 13 of 28 for 153 yards, and scored on a 1-yard touchdown dive.
Allen's uncertain status leaves Buffalo with veteran backup Matt Barkley the only quarterback on the active roster (Davis Webb is on the practice squad) in preparing to play at Tennessee this weekend. McDermott said Monday he is preparing Barkley to start. Buffalo then enters its bye week.
The loss prevented Buffalo (3-1) from getting off to its first 4-0 start since 2008.
Though the Bills defense held Tom Brady in check, their offense was busy coughing up the ball at critical moments for the third time in four games.
Allen threw three interceptions, two of which translated into a touchdown and a field goal. Punter Corey Bojorquez also had a punt blocked by J.C. Jackson, which led to Matthew Slater returning it 11 yards for a touchdown to put the Patriots up 13-0 in the first quarter.
McDermott was unhappy with Allen's continuing string of committing turnovers. He's now thrown six interceptions and lost two fumbles in four starts this season.
"He's a young quarterback and sometimes they have to learn those lessons. Those are hard lessons and we have to continue to coach it up," McDermott said. ...
For the record, Barkley completed just 9 of 16 passes for 127 yards.
The seventh-year QB initially drove Buffalo down the field upon taking over for Allen, completing a 28-yard pass to John Brown on his first snap. The Bills would reach the New England 2 before turning the ball over on downs. After a pair of three-and-outs, Barkley again moved the chains through the air with four straight completions.
But on third-and-9 from the Patriots 39, Barkley was picked off by Jamie Collins to seal the loss.
Meanwhile, Frank Gore needed 88 yards on Sunday to reach the 15,000 yard mark for his career. He finished with 109. Gore joined hall of fame running backs Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith as the only players in NFL history to reach the mark.
"Blessed you know, I'm blessed," Gore said. "The hard work, loving the game and thanks to all the guys who helped me get it -- my offensive linemen, my receivers, my coaches. Now I just want to keep playing ball."
Gore didn't understate how much it meant for him to be in the same group of Payton, Sanders and Smith.
"It's big, especially coming out of college with injuries to two ACL's and a lot of guys doubted me saying I wouldn't be in the league for three years and I'm still going, having fun, still having success," Gore said. "It's a blessing to be mentioned with those guys, when I was coming up they made me want to be a running back."
Gore is up to 273 rushing yards this season. That total marks the most ever by a player 36 or older through four games in NFL history. ...
Cole Beasley (24 receptions) and Brown (23) are the first Bills duo with 20 or more receptions each through a season's first four games since 2011 when Stevie Johnson and David Nelson did it. It is the fourth time in team history it has happened (1991, 2002, 2011, 2019).
Dawson Knox's 58 reception yards on Sunday and 67 last week marked the 16thtime a Bills tight end had 50 or more reception yards in consecutive games since Nick O'Leary in 2017. ...
On the injury front. ... Beyond Allen, who remains in the concussion protocol, I'll be watching for more on Devin Singletary, who missed a second-game with his hamstring injury, Robert Foster, who was held out Sunday with a groin injury, and Tyler Kroft, who was absent against the Patriots due to ongoing ankle issues.
Singletary was able to practice on a limited basis Wednesday while Zay Jones (shoulder) was also working without the red, no-contact jersey he wore last week.
Check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more in coming days.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Davis Webb
RBs: Devin Singletary, Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon
WRs: John Brown, Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie, Duke Williams, Andre Roberts, Robert Foster
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As Profootfootballtalk.com pointed out on Monday, it's obvious at this point that Cam Newton was far more injured than anyone knew.
And now that we all know that, head coach Ron Rivera doesn't have to pretend anymore.
Rivera told reporters Monday that Kyle Allen would continue to start at quarterback for the Panthers, but he wouldn't elaborate on any timelines after the Jaguars game.
Newton said on his video posted on Friday he could be out anywhere from one more week to six depending on the rehab of his mid-foot sprain.
Allen isn't going to make fans totally forget Newton, but he's 3-0 as a starter, including last year's win over New Orleans in the regular-season finale.
That said, Allen didn't have a big day in Sunday's 16-10 victory over the Texans, a week after he had four touchdown passes at Arizona. He actually made this one more difficult than necessary with three lost fumbles.
Indeed, as ESPN.com's David Newton pointed out, for all the good Allen has done, he has fumbled five times, losing four, in his two starts.
Issues with turnovers at the University of Houston led him to be benched in the 2017 season before he declared for the draft. The bigger issue at Houston was interceptions. And to be fair, at least two of the lost fumbles came when he was blindsided. But he needs to get better at sensing the pressure and taking care of the ball to give his superstar teammate, Christian McCaffrey, more chances.
Not that the running back needs that many more.
After a career-high 37 touches against the Texans, McCaffrey stood at his locker and was asked if he could feel those touches.
"Yeah," McCaffrey said with a smile. "Feels good though."
McCaffrey was battered and bruised in what became a physical dogfight. But he turned all those touches (27 rushes for 93 yards and 10 catches for 86 yards) into 179 of Carolina's 297 total net yards. He also scored Carolina's lone touchdown on the day when he broke a couple tackles on a 3-yard run.
"He had a massive game, probably one of the biggest impact guys of this entire game," Allen said. "It's huge to know he's going to be where he needs to be all the time."
For much of the day, McCaffrey was the offense.
"It shows every Sunday," rookie left tackle Greg Little said. "He's our angel, that's what I call him. He's a workhorse. I'm glad he's on my side."
Last week at Arizona, McCaffrey ripped off a 76-yard touchdown run -- the longest of his career. He didn't have that kind of room to run free on this particular Sunday in Houston. The Texans didn't allow a run longer than 13 yards.
As Panthers.com's Max Henson suggested, "There was a lot of carnage between the tackles."
As McCaffrey said afterward, some games are going to be like that. In some games, 4- and 5-yard runs are big plays. This was one of those games.
"Find a hole, put your head down, get what you can," McCaffrey said.
"He was running his ass off," tight end Greg Olsen said. "It wasn't chunk plays, but it was efficient. He was breaking tackles, finishing runs, just staying after it. It was a workmanlike day.
"He carried us."
Remember, offensive coordinator Norv Turner came into the season hoping to get McCaffrey off the field more than a year ago, when he played on 91.3 percent of the snaps. His goal was more touches, fewer snaps.
McCaffrey played 100 percent of the snaps for the third game this season.
In fact, the only rest McCaffrey gets is during the week, when coaches make him take a day off. His touches are up, to 27.75 per game compared with 22.6 per game a year ago.
And so is the production. McCaffrey currently leads the league in rushing and is tied for 10th in receptions with 25.
On Sunday, he joined Jim Brown (1963) as the only players to record at least 175 scrimmage yards and a touchdown in three of their team's first four games of a season in NFL history. This after nearly posting a 1,000-1,000 season in 2018.
So how does McCaffrey deal with the workload?
"Spend some time in the ice tub," McCaffrey said, "and move on to next week."
As things stand now, the Panthers (2-2) are right back in the thick of the NFC South race and in the conversation as a playoff contender in the NFC.
A few final notes here. .. Olsen played 97 percent of the snaps, his most this season.
And last but not least, kicker Joey Slye was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. The Panthers rookie was responsible for 10 of Carolina's 16 points in its 16-10 victory over the Houston Texans. Slye hit all three of his field-goal attempts, including a career-long 55-yard field goal to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. This is Slye's first professional honor.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Will Grier
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Jordan Scarlett, Mike Davis
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, Pharoh Cooper, Jarius Wright, Brandon Zylstra, Chris Hogan
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Temarrick Hemingway
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
Mitchell Trubisky underwent tests on his left, non-throwing shoulder Monday to find out how much time he might miss.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, those tests revealed the QB has a dislocated left shoulder, with a slight labrum tear. He does not need surgery and should he back "sooner rather than later", a source told Schefter. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport is reporting the same.
For what it's worth, J.J. Stankevitz of NBCSports.com reported a short time after those initial reports that head coach Matt Nagy wasn't prepared to go that far, saying: "Somebody knows more than me. ... We literally are going to wait for more."
Trubisky will travel with team to London but it's doubtful he will play this week against the Oakland Raiders.
A best-case scenario might have Trubisky returning after the Bears' Week 6 bye.
Trubisky left Sunday's victory over the Vikings during the first drive of the game after landing awkwardly on his left arm amid a scramble. After going to the locker room, the starter was quickly ruled out. He returned to the sideline with his left arm in a sling.
In Trubisky's absence, the Bears will turn to 11-year pro Chase Daniel, who led the offense to an opening-drive touchdown Sunday and managed the game as Chicago moved to 3-1 on the season.
Daniel tossed a first-quarter touchdown pass to running back Tarik Cohen and capably managed Sunday's game without any turnovers and finished 22-of-30 passing for 195 yards and the one touchdown.
Allen Robinson II led the Bears in receiving with seven catches for 77 yards, while David Montgomery rushed for a team-high 53 yards on 21 carries.
"Zero change with Chase [at quarterback]. We just keep rolling," Nagy said. "That's the beauty of having a guy like Chase. Chase and I go way back, and he's like a coach out there. He was ready. He prepares himself every single day for when this happens to help his team out. We're very, very lucky to have Chase as our backup quarterback."
The Bears signed Daniel, who played under Nagy in Kansas City, prior to the 2018 season to a two-year deal that included $7 million in guarantees. Daniel will earn $6 million in 2019.
Daniel, 32, started two games when Trubisky was injured last season and said that experience "really helped me with communication, especially with the offensive line."
"I've been in the league a long time," Daniel said. "When you get your opportunities, you never really know when they are going to come as a backup, so my mindset is to always be ready."
The second overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Trubisky started all 12 games as a rookie after taking over for ineffective Mike Glennon in Week 5, though he missed the two games last season because of a right shoulder injury.
Trubisky finished last season with respectable numbers in Nagy's system, passing for 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns with 12 interceptions (95.4 quarterback rating) as Chicago went 12-4 and won its first NFC North title since 2010.
But Trubisky struggled to begin the 2019 season.
After lackluster performances versus Green Bay and Denver, Trubisky got back on track in the Bears' victory over the Redskins last Monday night, throwing for a season-high 231 yards with three touchdowns with one interception. Trubisky had completed 2 of 3 passes for 9 yards at the time of his injury Sunday.
Now, it appears, he'll get at least a week to heal, regroup, reflect and focus on his return. ...
Meanwhile, the Bears are likely to elevate veteran backup quarterback Tyler Bray from the practice squad to the active roster in advance of Sunday's game against Oakland.
Tight end Trey Burton and Cohen are among the team's emergency quarterback options.
With Eddy Pineiro making 3-of-3 field-goal attempts, he is now 8-of-9 in four regular-season games. ...
With Taylor Gabriel sidelined on Sunday, second-year receiver Javon Wims caught four passes for a career-high 56 yards, including a 37-yarder from Daniel that was the Bears' longest play from scrimmage. According to ESPN's Mike Clay, the second-year receiver was on the field for a team-high 94 percent of the offensive snaps and tied for second on the team with five targets well ahead of Anthony Miller (61 percent snap share) and Cordarrelle Patterson (10 percent).
Clay went on to note the 6-4 perimeter threat isn't quite on the season-long radar yet, but is worth a look in deeper dynasty formats.
Miller, meanwhile, is trending toward the bust label and should be on waivers in season-long leagues. ...
As for Taylor, coming off a concussion, I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... Inside linebacker Roquan Smith was a late scratch, deactivated Sunday with for undisclosed personal reasons. The second-year pro watched the game in street clothes from the Bears' sideline. Nagy declined to provide details, saying: "It's completely a personal matter and I'm just going to completely leave it at that."
Smith was slated to work fully in Wednesday's practice and he told reporters he expects to play in London.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Ryan Nall
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, J.P. Holtz, Eric Saubert, Jesper Horsted
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
According to ESPN.com's Ben Baby, receiver Tyler Boyd didn't step around the obvious after a 27-3 blowout loss to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.
"We got embarrassed," Boyd said. "Straight like that. It sucks."
Boyd, elevated to the No. 1 receiver while A.J. Green recovers from ankle surgery, was held to three receptions for 33 yards on the same field where he starred in college at Pitt.
What Boyd can tolerate, he said, is close losses like the one-possession defeats in Week 1 and Week 3. But there's too much pride to have performances such as the one at Heinz Field, where Pittsburgh scored 27 unanswered points and won its ninth straight game over Cincinnati, marking its longest winning streak in the series' 100-game history.
After hopes that things would be different under first-year head coach Zac Taylor, the reality is that the Bengals are one of six winless teams in the NFL.
"We didn't expect to be an 0-4 team, but that's what we are right now," Taylor said. "There's no excuses we can make."
Cincinnati is off to its worst start since the 2008 season, when the Bengals dropped eight games before finishing with a 4-11-1 record. Monday's loss was the latest in a string of defeats for a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game since the 1990-91 season.
The Bengals have dropped 13 of their past 15 games, a span that covers the firing of former coach Marvin Lewis. Taylor, who spent the past two years as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Rams, took his share of the blame for Cincinnati's early struggles.
"To be quite honest, it starts with me," Taylor said. "I've got to make sure the standard is higher than what it is right now because I haven't done a good enough job and there's certainly things that I've got to improve on."
Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was among the contingent who said he was embarrassed by the results. Just like after last week's 21-17 loss at Buffalo, the eighth-year player out of Alabama had choice words for the team's performance.
"We gotta get wins," said Kirkpatrick, who had a coverage breakdown that led to a Steelers touchdown in the third quarter. "They don't pay me to lose, you know what I'm saying? That s--- is unacceptable to me. I don't know how everybody else feels about it, but you gotta feel a certain type of way."
Taylor said the lack of success before his tenure hasn't made an impact on this season's team.
However, as Baby suggested, the winless start through the first quarter of the regular season will be a test of Cincinnati's character, and the self-examination will continue Sunday against winless Arizona (0-3-1).
When asked if his goals for his first season are still attainable, Taylor said that at this point, the Bengals are just looking for a victory.
"Right now we don't have that winning feeling," Taylor said. "We've got to get that before we talk about anything else that goes on this season."
According to NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman, Cincinnati's offensive line has been a liability for what feels like forever, and Monday night was no different.
The Bengals front, without the injured rookie Jonah Williams and veteran Cordy Glenn, played as short-staffed as it was, subjecting Andy Dalton to a career-high eight sacks and 12 QB hits. Tackles Andre Smith, who has filled in for Glenn, and Bobby Hart were particularly poor against the Steelers, proving no match for T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Taylor said after the loss he challenged his linemen to win their one-on-ones.
Well, doing so proved to be a challenge. The Bengals have now surrendered 19 sacks through four games.
Though Joe Mixon "broke out" with a season-high 62 rushing yards, the running game also failed to move the chains with any consistency. The offensive line's poor play didn't allow much to develop downfield for Cincinnati, either, and down the stretch the Bengals relied on long-developing, run-heavy drives to move the ball; down 21 points, the Bengals embarked on one march in the fourth quarter that lasted 7:43, took 16 plays and traveled 67 yards, only to end in, not a score, but an end-zone interception.
Bergman added, "Cincinnati's lack of both urgency and results in the second half underscored how the Bengals have been unable to adjust to adversity and how lost this season already feels for Taylor's squad. ..."
On the injury front. ... Wide receiver John Ross, one of the few bright spots for the Bengals this season, will miss an extended period due to a shoulder injury he sustained Monday night.
On Tuesday the Bengals placed Ross on injured reserve.
They signed wide receiver Stanley Morgan from the practice squad to take his place on the roster. Morgan signed with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent this offseaon. He had seven catches for 73 yards and a touchdown in the preseason.
Ross got off to the best start of his career this season by catching 16 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns over the first four games of the season. Now he’s set to miss at least eight weeks and push his career total of games missed due to injury to at least 23.
With Ross out and Green not quite ready to return, Auden Tate should enter the lineup as the team's No. 2 receiver. As FootballDiehards.com's Kyle Dvorchak notes, Tate doesn't have the speed that Ross does but he does have the size to win jump balls. He may be able to leverage that to win on the same deep balls Ross was making his money on. Boyd may also see a few more deep targets if Ross is out.
I'll have more on Green's progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days as the Bengals prepare to host Arizona Sunday. The Cardinals won the last meeting, 34-31, in 2015.
QBs: Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala, Andy Dalton
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Rodney Anderson
WRs: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Auden Tate, Damion Willis, Mike Thomas, Alex Erickson, Stanley Morgan Jr.
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Cethan Carter, Mason Schreck
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Jake Trotter put it, "Finally, the Cleveland Browns offense we've all been waiting to see. ..."
It took four weeks, but we've finally bore witness to the 2019 Cleveland Browns offense we all imagined when examining their roster.
After facing heavy criticism all week, Baker Mayfield responded with his sharpest performance of the season. The quarterback engineered the offense with confidence and rhythm from the Browns' second possession through the end of the contest, resulting in a 40-25 win and a big boost in the hope that this team can indeed produce wins with more than just its stifling defense.
Mayfield completed 20 of 30 passes for 342 yards. His touchdown pass to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones made Mayfield the only quarterback other than Kurt Warner to throw at least one touchdown pass in 17 games to begin a career.
Mayfield also took only one sack, as the Browns racked up 12 first downs through the air.
Mayfield's individual performance earned him his first plus-100 passer rating of 2019, his second 300-plus passing yards performance and his second win of the season. It also secured his first feel-good postgame presser, as it happened via a rout powered by an unrelenting Browns offense, which was a far cry from the team's first win of 2019 back in Week 2.
For the first time this season, it felt as if the Browns were a force to be reckoned with in all three phases of the game.
"I think that's the best part about this team," Mayfield said afterward. "We know how good we can be, but it's like I said earlier as well, that's the frustrating part about how we started. We knew how good we could be. We just needed to do our jobs, and that's what our guys did this week; focused, heads down and worked."
After posting just 34 yards at halftime, Nick Chubb broke out in a big way, and the Browns finished with their best rushing performance since the midpoint of last season. The second-year running back accounted for 165 of the team's 193 rushing yards and three of its four rushing touchdowns, all of which came in the second half.
On Wednesday, Chubb was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
"We knew we had to get better. We had to play better. And that was just our mindset," Chubb said. "Put our heads down and grind and work the whole week and put it all together on Sunday. And we did that, and everyone played well -- offense, defense, special teams -- it was a great team win."
Cleveland finished with more rushing yards Sunday (193) than it had in the previous two weeks combined (165). A big -- OK, massive -- reason for that was Chubb's 88-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run that immediately zapped the building energy out of M and T Bank Stadium.
It was eerily reminiscent of the 92-yarder he had in last year's win over the Falcons. After Sunday's run, Chubb now owns the first and third-longest runs in Browns history.
The big one, of course, came via Chubb's game-breaking speed.
According to NextGen Stats, Chubb reached a maximum speed of 21.95 miles per hour over the course of the 88 yards, the second-fastest speed a ball-carrier has been timed at this season.
"He can roll. I think people underestimate his speed," Mayfield said of Chubb. "Once he gets to that second level, he's got true break-away speed. People say he's a power back, which he is, it takes more than one guy to bring him down. But, he's got that speed to make a play like that."
This is the type of afternoon folks expected from the Browns when they went out and added Odell Beckham Jr. and Kareem Hunt, the latter of whom is still waiting to make his debut in brown and orange. The people expected points, a lot of them, from start to finish.
And while this is the NFL, in which it is difficult to reach the end zone, this type of talent should produce some points. At the very least, it should create mismatches that the Browns can exploit.
That's precisely what happened Sunday. As Baltimore rightfully paid plenty of attention to Beckham, the rest of the offense flourished, starting with Beckham's best bud Jarvis Landry and continuing through unlikely candidate Seals-Jones, who surprised onlookers but not head coach Freddie Kitchens, who told reporters afterward he knew what Seals-Jones was capable of.
"We trust our guys when we put them out there," Kitchens said. "If they're on our team, they're good enough to play. So, we're going to trust them when they go out there. … That's why we can come out with a tight end that we picked up off the street two weeks ago. He lines up and plays well, because we trusted that he could do that."
Seals-Jones did just that, making three important catches, including the above-mentioned touchdown for the Browns' first score of the afternoon. If you'd have said the Browns would put up 33 more points before it was all said and done, people might have scoffed at such a prediction. But that's what the Browns did, and what they aim to do moving forward.
Landry gave the passing game a jolt with 167 receiving yards, although he then left the game in the second half with a concussion.
Coming into the weekend, Landry ranked 147th in the NFL in receptions per target. Against the Ravens, the Browns finally got Landry involved, as he turned a team-high 10 targets into eight receptions. On his 65-yard reception alone, Landry gained more yards after the catch, 58, than he had the entire season before then.
Landry was too talented to remain dormant, especially with OBJ commanding attention from the other side.
Assuming the concussion injury doesn't keep him out for long, Landry figures to be a problem for opposing defenses moving forward.
Meanwhile, the win over Baltimore gives the Browns their first AFC North divisional lead in five years. Cleveland hasn't won a divisional title in 30 years, the longest drought in the NFL.
On the injury front. ... As noted above, Landry suffered a concussion in Sunday's win and is in concussion protocol with no definitive answer for when he might return. Rashard Higgins has missed every game since the Week 1 loss to the Titans due to a knee injury, but appears to be on the path to returning soon.
So it's worth noting Antonio Callaway has completed his suspension and will rejoin the team this week, meaning a corresponding roster move will have to be made.
So how might the depth chart look Monday night?
For starters, Beckham will be available and expected to contribute plenty. If Higgins is healthy enough to play, he also stands the chance to make a handful of key plays. Callaway's readiness is unknown, considering he's been away from the team for the last month, and Landry's status should be monitored, though not depended upon in preparations for San Francisco.
I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum, Garrett Gilbert, Drew Stanton
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Dontrell Hilliard, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Taywan Taylor, KhaDarel Hodge, Damion Ratley, Rashard Higgins, Derrick Willies
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Ricky Seals-Jones, Pharaoh Brown, Stephen Carlson
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
According to ESPN.com's Todd Archer, as well as things had gone for the Cowboys in the first three games of the season, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said he would be prepared for nights like Sunday's 12-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
The Cowboys entered the game with the NFL's fourth-highest scoring offense (32.4 points), were third in yards (481.3 yards) and first in third-down conversions (58.1 percent).
They scored one touchdown on nine possessions, gained 257 yards and converted four of 11 third downs.
Despite all that, the Cowboys had a chance for a winning drive with under two minutes left. But it ended up like the rest of the night: too many mistakes and a Dak Prescott interception on the final Hail Mary attempt.
"They've got a good front," Prescott said. "I mean that's a good defense we're playing and give them a lot of credit. They came in and they had a great game plan and they executed. I'm sure they'll look at these stats and they're going to be proud of what they did, but simply, we didn't execute. We just didn't do what we needed to do to perform in the pass game, in the run game as well as we have these past few weeks. This will be a great learning experience for us to take a lot from it."
It wasted the best defensive effort of the season by the Cowboys even if New Orleans was starting backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
The only time Sunday that the Cowboys' offense looked like a semblance of itself in the first three games came on the opening possession of the second half when the team went 84 yards on 11 plays and gained as many first downs on that drive (six) as it had in the first half.
Dallas came in with the NFL's third-ranked running attack, averaging 179 yards, and had scored no fewer than 31 points in a game. But the Cowboys met much more resistance in the raucous Superdome, where the Saints' defensive front was bolstered by the return of tackle Sheldon Rankins from an Achilles tendon tear that had sidelined him since January.
Dallas managed just 45 yards on the ground with Elliott getting 35 yards in 18 carries.
In addition, the Cowboys turned it over three times with Elliott and Jason Witten fumbling, and Prescott's last-gasp chance picked off.
Many will focus on Elliott's fourth-down fumble that set up the Saints' field goal to close the first half, but as Archer pointed out, on the previous play, Blake Jarwin ran his third-down route short of the chains, setting up head coach Jason Garrett to make a fourth-down call in the first place. If Jarwin takes that route a yard farther, the Cowboys have a first down and potentially a chance to score on their final drive of the first half.
In a game decided by mere inches, routes like that matter.
The Cowboys had a chance to make a statement inside the Superdome, but instead are left with questions offensively for the first time this season. ...
Worth noting: Prescott is now 28 of 28 for 457 yards with three touchdowns in the third quarter this season. He completed all six of his passes on the Cowboys' only drive of the third quarter Sunday for 73 yards, including a 35-yard play-action completion to Jarwin that helped set up Elliott's touchdown run.
Maybe after four games it is no longer a trend, but the Cowboys certainly seem to be able to come up with answers at halftime. On Sunday, however, those were the only answers.
Prescott finished Sunday night 22 of 33 for 223 yards.
Other notes of interest. ... According to DallasCowboys.com, it was a bad night for the Cowboys receivers overall. Every ball was contested with no real separation. New Orleans defensive coordinator Dennis Allen took Marshon Lattimore and put him on Amari Cooper, just daring Prescott to beat him with Randall Cobb, Devin Smith and Tavon Austin.
The Saints had been getting torched for huge plays in the secondary through three games, but these Cowboys receivers didn't threaten them one bit.
As for Elliott's critical fumble, replays showed the running back's elbow might have been down before the fumble, but the officiating crew upheld their call.
"I just coughed it up," Elliott said. "It's not acceptable. This team relies on me in moments like that, fourth-and-1. I just can't let the team down like that. It doesn't really matter if my elbow was down or not. I've got to take care of the ball in that situation. The team relies on me to take care of the ball in that situation."
On the injury front. ... The Cowboys received good news on star left tackle Tyron Smith's sprained ankle suffered late in Sunday's loss to the Saints. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that Smith might only miss one week due to the injury.
Garrett confirmed during his Monday press conference that the initial tests on Smith were "favorable" and that he's considered "week-to-week."
Smith already has been ruled out for this Sunday's game against the Packers, per Rapoport, but he has not been ruled out for Week 6 against the Jets. Jerry Jones told reporters after the Saints game that Smith was dealing with a "high ankle" situation, but Rapoport reports the injury does not appear to have the standard 4-6 week timeline associated with high ankle sprains.
Garrett said it would be "really all hands on deck" as to who would become the swing tackle with Cameron Fleming moving into the starting lineup. And all hands on deck could mean either guard, Zack Martin or Connor Williams, being an option in case of an emergency. Undrafted rookie Brandon Knight, who opened camp playing tackle before moving inside to guard, could be another option.
Garrett also confirmed that safety Kavon Frazier (torn pectoral) will have surgery and go on IR shortly thereafter, ending his season.
Michael Gallup injured his knee in Week 2 against the Redskins, and he was given a two-to-four week expected timetable for his return after having the knee scoped. Jones said that there's a chance that Gallup, who had 13 catches in the first two games, plays against the Packers if he practices well this week.
"I'm not ruling it out Sunday. We got to see how he does out there," Jones said, via Jon Machota of TheAthletic.com.
According to Dallas Morning News staffer Michael Gehlken, barring a setback, Gallup is expected to play against the Packers.
I'll continue to follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update. ...
And finally. ... A deal between the Cowboys and Prescott is still not close at this time, and no extension is expected in the near future, sources told Archer on Sunday.
No one doubts that a deal eventually will get done, given that Prescott wants to be in Dallas and the Cowboys want to keep him.
There has not been any type of setback in talks between Prescott and the Cowboys -- because a deal has never gotten close and isn't close now -- according to sources. Prescott's price isn't going down, not with the way he's playing and with quarterbacks signing deals that financially leapfrog the ones before them -- and Dallas knows it has its own protections.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes stands a strong chance of becoming the highest-paid player in NFL history this offseason, which will only give other top quarterbacks such as Prescott more leverage in negotiations.
However this situation works out, Prescott looks as if he's betting on himself this season. So far, it appears likely to pay off.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Clayton Thorson
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Jordan Chunn
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Devin Smith, Tevin Jones, Ventell Bryant, Lance Lenoir, Tavon Austin
TEs: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
The Broncos' struggles, it seems, aren't the fault of any one player.
As DenverBroncos.com's Aric DiLalla noted, Von Miller recorded two sacks Sunday. Joe Flacco threw three touchdowns. Noah Fant caught his first career touchdown. The offensive line didn't allow a sack. Courtland Sutton snagged two touchdowns. Justin Simmons recorded seven tackles and two passes defensed.
The list of individual accolades could go on -- but right now, that's all they are.
The Broncos keep finding individual accomplishments when what they really need is a team win.
"I still believe in them," head coach Vic Fangio said after a 26-24 loss to the Jaguars. "I think they're winners as individuals. We've got to find a way to be winners as a team. We're not playing well enough, consistently enough, to do that. But I do believe in these guys."
Miller put it another way.
"[I've] got to take a long, hard look in the mirror, which I always do, but I'll do it again," Miller said. "
However you choose to classify Denver's lack of team success, the Broncos are still searching for answers.
They got "whipped" as a run defense, according to Fangio. They allowed another last-second, game-winning field goal. They scored 17 first-half points but also had an untimely turnover that helped swing the game.
But even as the Broncos sit at 0-4 with a trip to Los Angeles on the horizon, no one is going to feel sorry for Denver.
Flacco, a 12-year veteran, has been in the league long enough to understand that. And in his mind, he or someone else is going to need to share that perspective with the rest of a crestfallen locker room.
"Guys obviously are not feeling as good as we should right now," Flacco said. "It's a tough thing. In these moments, you can tell from the locker room there's probably going to have to be something said to this team, just because we've got 12 football games left. The NFL doesn't wait around for anybody. Before you know it, we're going to be playing again. We're going to be lining up next Sunday. There's no time to feel sorry for yourself or anything like that. We're a bunch of men, and you have to handle these situations as such. There's really nothing you can do about it. You can't go back in time and fix this thing and fix that thing. It is what is. You have to look at yourself in the mirror and you have to be able to push it down and deal with it and move on and still play good football.
"I think as an older guy, my perspective's a little different. There's a lot of people in my life that look up to me. These are experiences that you can teach them and it's tough to look at that. It's tough to get in front of the team and tell them that when everybody's hurting as much as they are, but that's the bottom line, man.
"If you consider yourself a tough NFL football player, well then, damn, look at yourself in the mirror, pick yourself up and get ready to go back to work."
The former Super Bowl 50 MVP only sees one way forward.
"At the end of the day, we play professional football," Miller said. "It's the pros. There's no room for people that want to go out there and halfway do it or quit or have second thoughts or anything like that. We're in it. We've got Week 5 coming up.
"The only way out is up."
No doubt about that. The Broncos are 0-4 for the first time since 1999; they have lost eight consecutive games dating back to Week 14 of 2018; they are now 5-15 over their last 20 games; they are now 11-25 over the last three seasons; they are 20-32 since the Super Bowl 50 win.
Unfortunately, when the Broncos visit the Chargers on Sunday, they'll do so without OLB Bradley Chubb, who will have surgery on his torn ACL and miss the season. Chubb actually returned to the game with his knee injury. Chubb is the biggest loss of Denver's season.
The Broncos looked at several free agent linebackers to take Chubb's roster spot. They settled on Jerry Attaochu.
The Chiefs cut Attaochu out of the preseason. He played 11 games for the Jets last season, making nine tackles, two sacks and forcing a fumble. In 49 career games, Attaochu has notched 84 tackles, 12 sacks and three forced fumbles. ...
Also of interest. ... As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold noted, at times, Flacco looked as comfortable as can be in the Broncos' scheme, such as when he had 197 yards passing with two touchdowns late in the first half. And at others, he seemed unsettled, such as when pass-rushers got on the front porch and the Broncos' crossing routes were out of the equation.
He had just 6 yards passing in the third quarter, and his interception near the end of the first half changed the complexion of the game. He almost saved the day with a composed "been there, done that" drive in the closing minutes, but the second half had largely been a struggle before that.
And finally. ... A quarter of the way in, Sutton is in the midst of a breakout second season.
As ESPN.com's Mike Clay notes, the 2018 second-round pick has been targeted at least seven times in all four games and has accrued at least 62 yards in three of four outings. After not finding the end zone during Weeks 1-3, Sutton scored twice against Jacksonville.
Clay added that Sutton, who has been on the field for 92 percent of the offensive snaps, has produced three top-30 fantasy weeks and sits 14th at the position in total fantasy points. Denver's run-heavy offense is slight concern, but Sutton's heavy workload keeps him in the WR2 discussion.
QBs: Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel, Brandon Allen, Brett Rypien
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Khalfani Muhammad, Theo Riddick, Devontae Booker
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Daesean Hamilton, Juwann Winfree, Fred Brown, Diontae Spencer
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt, Troy Fumagalli, Nick Vannett
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Noah Trister reported, Kerryon Johnson fought for the goal line, disappearing into a mass of bodies. He was short of the end zone, and for a moment the play appeared to be over.
Then, Kansas City's Bashaud Breeland emerged from the pile with the ball and began a let's-see-if-this-counts journey from one end of the field to the other.
"I didn't have a good view of it," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "I had no idea what was going on, and then all of a sudden their defensive player snagged the ball up and started running, so it was kind of a crazy play."
Amid mass confusion on the field and in the crowd, Breeland scored on a 100-yard fumble return in the third quarter, and the Chiefs went on to beat the Lions 34-30 on Sunday.
To its credit, Detroit fought back after Breeland's touchdown and had the lead in the final minute -- but the Lions can look back with frustration at a couple missed opportunities in the third quarter, when they had the ball inside the Kansas City 10-yard line and didn't score.
The matchup between two undefeated teams was tied at 13 at halftime. Then the Lions and Chiefs combined to lose five fumbles in the third quarter -- all in Kansas City territory. The Lions took one of those fumbles and made it to the 5-yard line, when Stafford appeared to throw a touchdown pass to Kenny Golladay. But although Golladay got two feet down, he wasn't able to control the ball completely as he fell to the ground, and by the time he secured it, he was out of bounds. The play was ruled incomplete after a review.
On the next play, Stafford tried to scramble to his left and fumbled the ball away.
"I was trying to do too much probably," Stafford said.
The Lions got the ball back quickly after another Kansas City fumble and drove to the 1. That was when Johnson fumbled.
"I shouldn't be reaching the ball out," the Detroit running back said.
Breeland's touchdown was upheld after a review.
"The officials ruled on the field that they did not see the ballcarrier down. They did not see a body part other than the hand or foot down," said Al Riveron, NFL senior vice president of officiating. "The ball comes loose and then the ball was picked up by Kansas City, No. 21. He was not touched after he possessed the football. There was no whistle on the play, and he runs it back for a touchdown."
Earlier this month, Walt Anderson's crew denied New Orleans a fumble return for a touchdown against the Rams because the play was blown dead when it shouldn't have been. This time, Anderson's crew let the play continue, and the Chiefs scored to take a 20-13 lead.
The Lions recovered, scoring the game's next 10 points, but they ultimately lost in a back-and-forth final quarter.
"We fought, but it always comes back to something," Johnson said. "You lose points and give up points in one play, it's catastrophic."
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein suggested, "Detroit may not believe in moral victories or coulda, shoulda, woulda wins, but there are many more positive things the club can take from this. They showed they can compete with any team in the NFL. That they should be a player in the NFC North with Green Bay, Minnesota and Chicago."
So the Lions head into their bye week with some positives to hang their collective hat on.
Also according to Rothstein, Stafford made some of the most on-target throws of his career. The run game found itself and the defense took probably its biggest challenge all season and for the most part handled it well. The Lions -- for the first time in a half-decade -- have real reason to believe.
The numbers weren't gaudy and Stafford was playing hurt after landing on the injury report as questionable, but he also had one of the better games of his career. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 291 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He ran twice for 18 yards and gave the Lions a real shot to win with how he managed the game.
In addition, Johnson had 26 carries for 125 yards, 1 yard short of his total through three games. Golladay caught five passes for 67 yards and matched a career high with two touchdowns.
According to Rothstein, Johnson looked like his peak self from his rookie year as he danced around Kansas City defenders and plowed through others en route to his first 100-yard rushing day of the season. Over the first three weeks of the season, the Lions faced a bunch of stacked-up fronts designed to limit Detroit's run game.
When the Chiefs played the Lions honestly, it gave Johnson room to run and he took advantage of it. ...
Kicker Matt Prater scored 12 points against Kansas City and passed Shayne Graham (1,260) for the 36th most points scored in NFL history. ...
On the injury front. ... It was a bit of a scary scene in the third quarter when rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson tried to leap over a defender after a short catch and run, and fell awkwardly on his head. Hockenson laid on the field motionless for a bit before sitting up and then finally standing up and walking over to a cart waiting to take him off the field.
Hockenson was evaluated for a concussion and didn't return to the game.
"That was not a good situation to walk out into," head coach Matt Patricia said of walking out onto the field to see Hockenson as doctors and trainers attended to him. "I did get him to smile when he finally got up, so that was good. That made me feel a little better."
While we haven't received a detailed report, ESPN's Adam Schefter advised his Twitter followers on Monday that Detroit will not be placing its rookie first-round pick on injured reserve, per source.
Beyond Hockenson, Detroit was without cornerback Darius Slay (hamstring), defensive tackle Mike Daniels (foot), defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand (elbow) and wide receiver Danny Amendola (chest) against the Chiefs. All four were inactive due to injury.
Stafford is dealing with the hip injury.
This is an early bye week for the Lions, but maybe it's coming at a good time to get everyone back and healthy.
One last note here. ... The Lions worked out receiver Maurice Harris on Tuesday. The former Redskins receiver had a strong camp with the Patriots but was waived with an injury settlement after hurting his foot. He was cleared recently by foot/ankle specialist Robert Anderson.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniel, David Blough
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, Tra Carson, Wes Hills, J.D. McKissic
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham, Geronimo Allison, Marvin Hall
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Isaac Nauta, Logan Thomas
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As NFL.com's Adam Maya pointed out, the Packers weren't getting everything they wanted in the red zone before Davante Adams went down. They got nothing afterward.
The Green Bay wide receiver was having a night to remember until midway through the fourth quarter when he suffered a toe injury deep in Eagles territory. That's where the Packers had their most forgettable possessions in a 34-27 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday.
They made seven trips to the red zone and scored just three touchdowns. Two first-half drives stalled inside the 15 and resulted in short field goals for Mason Crosby. They advanced even further on their final two possessions but came away empty both times.
"You kick enough field goals, that'll get you beat every time," Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur said.
Perhaps the result would have been different with Adams on the field. The Pro Bowler caught eight passes alone in the first half. His final catch was a 13-yard reception on third-and-6 that put the Packers on the Eagles' 8-yard-line. Adams' right foot appeared to jam into the grass as he was tackled, forcing him out of the game while his team trailed by just a touchdown in the fourth. He didn't return and later told reporters he suffered turf toe.
"Obviously having him out there would be for the better, but we had chances," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
With Adams sidelined, Green Bay still managed to earn first-and-goal from the 1. But four pass plays amounted to a turnover on downs. The Packers' defense held serve and Rodgers drove the offense 86 yards down the field. On second-and-goal with 20 seconds remaining, Rodgers forced a throw to Marquez Valdes-Scantling -- just as Darrius Shepherd peeled open -- that Eagles DB Craig James deflected and Nigel Bradham picked off.
"I felt like with the slightly outside leverage on Darrius that Marquez was going to win," Rodgers explained. "It's so tight down there, if I hold it a tick, obviously I'm going to see Darrius."
Afterward, LaFleur wasn't here for the hypotheticals of having Adams available for those final two fateful trips to the red zone. Shepherd, interestingly, was the individual filling in for Green Bay's go-to receiver.
"Who knows, right? You really don't know," LaFleur said. "Credit to the Philadelphia Eagles. They made the plays when they had to and that's what ultimately propelled them to victory."
Adams made them too, catching 10 passes for a career-high 180 receiving yards. But he was kept out of the end zone. Once he left the game, his team was kept off the scoreboard.
According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, the Packers don't know yet how long they will be without Adams and running back Jamaal Williams, but the team did receive positive news one day after their injuries in Thursday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Williams, who was carted off the field and spent the night in a local hospital, was released Friday morning.
Adams saw foot specialist Robert Anderson in Green Bay on Friday, a source told Demovsky. NFL Network reported that the injury is not believed to be serious and if Adams misses time, it won't be much.
"As far as long term, it's tough to say right now," LaFleur said Friday when asked about the prognosis for Adams. "But, you know, it's going to be an opportunity, whether he's able to go or not. It's going to provide some other guys some opportunities and they're going to have to step up, and next man up."
As for Williams, who was kept overnight for observation on his head and neck, he was said to be in good spirits after the game when teammates visited him.
"He was Jamaal; he was himself, making jokes," Aaron Jones said. "The nurse was like, 'Let me listen to your stomach.' And he was like, 'For what? So you can hear how empty it is?' So yeah, he's perfectly fine. That's Jamaal."
Thursday's game was the hardest the Packers (3-1) have been hit by injuries this season. In addition to Adams and Williams, right tackle Bryan Bulaga (shoulder), cornerback Kevin King (groin), cornerback Tony Brown (hamstring) and safety Will Redmond (concussion) all did not finish the game.
LaFleur said on Monday that Adams (toe) is day to day. LaFleur told reporters there isn't currently a plan for Adams' activity this week. "I really can't tell you right now," he said.
But ESPN's Adam Schefter told viewers Monday night that Adams is unlikely to play Sunday.
Neither Adams nor Williams were on the field for Wednesday's practice and I will continue to follow up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
All the time spent on the injuries Friday perhaps prevented LaFleur from contacting the NFL office for clarification on why pass interference wasn't called on Rodgers' interception at the goal line. Eagles cornerback Craig James appeared to make contact with receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling before the ball arrived.
"We have not yet, but that is something we will submit," LaFleur said.
LaFleur was befuddled after the game about why an earlier replay challenge in which there appeared to be clear pass interference on a deep ball to Valdes-Scantling in the third quarter wasn't ruled as such.
He said after the game that "it looked clear and obvious to me" and added, "I really don't know what pass interference is anymore. I'll just leave it at that."
A day later, he still sounded unclear about why he did not win the challenge.
"At the time, to be honest with you, I knew it was P.I." LaFleur said Friday. "I wasn't confident that it was going to get overturned, because I don't know, I mean the league sends out video each week, and you know, it looks some of the other ones that have gotten overturned. But I don't know."
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle, Manny Wilkins
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Dexter Williams, Tyler Ervin, John Crockett
WRs: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow, Darrius Shepherd
TEs: Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Sara Barshop noted, Deshaun Watson spent most of the Houston Texans' 16-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers under pressure, getting sacked six times, including a strip sack with a little more than four minutes left.
After some struggles to start the season, it seemed as if the offensive line took a step forward the previous Sunday, allowing just two sacks in a victory over the Chargers. But after a back injury to Zach Fulton -- who was not on the injury report this week -- the Texans used their fourth different starting offensive line in four games. Guard Greg Mancz filled in for Fulton at right guard.
The Panthers finished with eight quarterback hits.
Head coach Bill O'Brien was left searching for answers as to why his offense, which scored 27 points in a win over the Chargers last week, was stifled on Sunday.
"It was terrible," he said. "We've got to do better. ... I don't really have any answers. I've got to go back and watch the film. I have to start like right now."
The Texans did have success in the running game, combining for 136 yards on 22 carries. Carlos Hyde finished with 58 yards on 12 attempts, and Duke Johnson had 56 yards on six carries, including a 40-yard run in the second quarter. Last week, Houston ran for a combined 39 yards.
Watson completed 21 of 33 passes for 160 yards, averaging just 4.8 yards per attempt. He did score the Texans' only touchdown, on a 1-yard run in the third quarter. Watson spread the ball around again, throwing passes to eight players.
Watson's best traits is his ability to keep plays alive, turning broken plays into big gains, either with his arm or legs. He's done it throughout his career and many times already this season.
In the season opener against the Saints, Watson found Kenny Stills deep down the middle of the field for 37 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute left in the game. Earlier in that game, he found Will Fuller in the middle of the field for a 54-yard catch.
And in Week 3 against the Chargers, Watson evaded a sack attempt and found tight end Jordan Akins for a short pass that turned into a 53-yard touchdown.
But in the loss to the Panthers, Watson's longest pass completion was 14 yards, although he missed on two deep attempts down the field -- one to Fuller and one to DeAndre Hopkins -- that Watson said he put on himself for inaccuracy. Watson said he overthrew Fuller, and with the pass to Hopkins, the ball "just kind of sailed."
"I've just got to hit those," Watson said. "Those are two important plays that could have changed the ballgame. I just put that on myself. Can't blame the receivers. I'm the one that's throwing the ball and directing it.
"Next time I'll make sure I hit them."
He finished the game with just one completion of more than 10 air yards, and it came on his final completion of the game, according to ESPN Stats and Information. He hadn't had a game with just one completion of more than 10 air yards since his first career game.
Keke Coutee said the lack of big plays was indicative of how the game was going, and "you're not going to get big plays every game," so the Texans just need to take what the defense is giving them.
"It's not going to be a home run play every play," Coutee said. "Just take the short and easy [plays and] take it one step at a time."
Watson said part of the reason for the lack of the big plays on Sunday was because of the coverage the Panthers were playing.
"I've got to check the ball down, take what they give us," Watson said. "They play a lot of zone coverage and making us earn it. Keep everything short. Like I said, the deep balls, when he had the opportunity, I've got to hit those."
For Watson, the bigger problem with the offense on Sunday was that the Texans couldn't capitalize, especially in the red zone.
"We have to finish drives," Watson said. "We put drives together. We got in the red zone and didn't finish them. I didn't see the stats, but however many times we got in there, we scored once, got a field goal and we have to capitalize and score more touchdowns. That's the biggest thing.
"We were moving the ball, we were doing this but when we got behind the chips, the penalties, the false starts, the illegal formation, things like that, that put us behind the sticks. That's where we get in trouble. It's not so much of them containing us. We were moving the ball down the field. It's just we got to continue to finish that and not mess up the drives ourselves."
Hopkins had five catches for 41 yards on eight targets. He also threw an interception on a trick play.
Watson said that their film work made them think that the cornerback would follow the tight end on that play to leave it open for Hopkins to complete the pass. When Watson saw that the cornerback didn't do what they thought he'd do he tried to get Hopkins' attention but it was too late.
"So give them credit for staying disciplined and not running with it," Watson said.
In franchise history, passers who aren't quarterbacks are 6-of-19 on pass attempts with four touchdowns and three interceptions, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. Hopkins is the first non-quarterback to throw a red zone interception since Shane Vereen in 2017.
It was Hopkins' second pass attempt in his NFL career; in 2018 against the Bills, Hopkins threw an incomplete pass.
Worth noting: Since Watson wasn't happy with his own performance, he did something about it. Via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Watson was back on the field at NRG Stadium four hours after Sunday's loss to the Panthers, working on things with his personal quarterback coach.
"He cares," O'Brien said. "He cares deeply about trying to help us win. He cares deeply about winning. That's who he is. We've got a lot of guys like that. ..."
On the injury front. ... The Texans are still evaluating the status of Stills, who injured his hamstring against the Panthers and limped off the field.
The veteran wide receiver was replaced in the lineup by Coutee, who is expected to remain on the field for the Texans at least for Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, given how long most hamstring injuries take to recover from. Stills worked on a limited basis Wednesday.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, David Johnson, Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Will Fuller, Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter, Keke Coutee
TEs: Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
According to ESPN.com's Mike Wells, tight end Eric Ebron shouldered the blame for the team's offensive struggles because of his dropped passes in Sunday's 31-24 loss to Oakland.
Ebron, who made the Pro Bowl in 2018 after having 13 touchdown receptions, had three of the Colts' six dropped balls against the Raiders.
"I didn't do anything. I didn't contribute. I didn't help my teammates. I was s---ty," Ebron said. "It sucked to be a part of, and hopefully next week I'll do something more. ...
"It's definitely lack of concentration. It's just mental. Just going through a drought. First time ever going through something like this where I had three drops in one game. It's tough."
All three of Ebron's drops occurred in the first half, when the Colts were trying to come back from two 14-point deficits. Two of the drops would have given the Colts a first down, and the third happened one play prior to rookie receiver Parris Campbell's fumbling at Oakland's 15-yard line with less than four minutes remaining in the first half.
Ebron threw his helmet down on the sideline twice -- first after he was taken out the game and then again after the Campbell fumble.
"I really pride myself being a very, very prideful person," Ebron said. "When these mistakes happen, they hurt because it's not something I want to do, something I try to do. They just happen. But being a professional, I have to learn how to let it go and help my team. [Sunday,] I didn't do that. That sucked."
Ebron's lone reception on five targets was a 48-yard touchdown reception late in the game. He didn't celebrate like he usually does. He simply returned to the sideline after the touchdown.
"I didn't even deserve that [touchdown], not after my performance," said Ebron, who had six drops in all of 2018. "I just have to be better for my teammates. I was a bit disgusted from that performance."
But he wasn't alone. It was a poor showing in general.
In fact, head coach Frank Reich was stunned by the Indianapolis Colts' performance Sunday.
Jacoby Brissett never saw it coming, either.
After three solid games to start the season and a sharp week of practice, one of the league's least-mistake prone teams couldn't do much right.
"I was really surprised, really shocked. There was something missing," Reich said. "We talk about keeping an edge and obviously we didn't have that tonight from me on down."
Sure, Indy again played short-handed. Their opening-day starters at receiver T.Y. Hilton, a four-time Pro Bowler, and Devin Funchess both missed the game with injuries. Campbell left briefly in the second half with an abdominal injury and a fourth receiver, Chester Rogers, went to the sideline late in the fourth quarter after taking a big blow to his midsection.
Starting running back Marlon Mack left with an injured ankle and the Colts were also missing All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard (concussion) and starting safety Malik Hooker (knee).
But they overcame a long list of injuries in the previous week's victory over Atlanta.
The difference: Execution.
Offensively, the Colts were done in by the above-mentioned series of dropped passes, drive-killing penalties and turnovers.
"I think when you look at the stat sheet, it wasn't about them it was about us," Brissett said, referring to the offense. "We had missed assignments -- all 11 of us -- penalties in critical situations. I think that was the deciding factor."
Even Brissett was part of the problem.
After the Colts cut the deficit to 24-17 and the defense finally forced a punt with 2:28 left, Brissett acknowledged he made a poor decision by throwing the ball to Zach Pascal as Raiders safety Erik Harris jumped the route. Harris snared the ball in front of Paschal and jogged 30 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-17.
It was the second costly turnover for Indy, which doubled its turnover total from the first three weeks combined. Campbell lost a fumble at the Raiders 15-yard line late in the first half.
Brissett wound up 24 of 46 with 255 yards, three touchdowns and his second interception of the season while the Colts only rushed for 81 yards on 23 carries.
"It's hard to explain," Reich said when asked about the sloppiness. "That has not been indicative of our offense. We've had very few drops, very few penalties and today was hard to swallow."
Back on the injury front. ... Reich clarified on Monday that Mack was not medically ruled out during the second half Sunday. The coach said the Colts were in hurry-up mode and that's typically Nyheim Hines' role.
Still, Mack and Hilton were held out of Wednesday's practice and I'll be watching for more on both players -- and Campbell -- as needed via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Daurice Fountain, Ashton Dulin, Chad Williams, Dontrelle Inman
TEs: Jack Doyle, Matt Lengel, Xavier Grimble, Mo Alie-Cox
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
According to ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco, Leonard Fournette knew on Thursday night he was going to have a big day against Denver.
That's what his offensive line told him during their weekly dinner, anyway. After struggling to do much in the run game the first three weeks, center Brandon Linder reassured Fournette that things were going to be different against the Broncos. Boy, were they.
Fournette ran for a career-high 225 yards on a career-high 29 carries in the Jaguars' 26-24 come-from-behind victory at Mile High Stadium. He's just the second player in franchise history to surpass 200 yards rushing; the other is Fred Taylor, who ran for 234 yards in the Jaguars' 34-24 victory in Pittsburgh in 2000.
"The O-line had a dinner Thursday and Brandon and everybody else was like, 'Man, we're going to get you there this week,'" Fournette said. "And I believe in them. And I think little things like that, just bonding outside of football, going to lunch with each other ... and also getting trust back."
Fournette ran for 190 yards in the second half, including an 81-yard run that was the second-longest of his career and the second-longest in franchise history. The Jaguars had gone 22 games without a 100-yard rusher -- the second-longest current streak in the NFL (Philadelphia is at 32) -- and now they have one of only two players to have rushed for at least 225 yards in a game in the NFL over the past three seasons.
Fournette finished with 245 yards from scrimmage, which is the third-most in a single game in franchise history. He is now the AFC's leading rusher (404 yards) and is averaging 5.6 yards per rush -- by far the best per-carry average of his career.
Fournette had 179 yards on 43 carries in the Jaguars' first three games, and while that's a respectable 4.2 yards per carry, the bulk of that came on a 69-yard run against Tennessee in Week 3. Head coach Doug Marrone said after that game on Sept. 19 and again last Monday that the Jaguars' run game struggles were mainly the fault of the offensive line and that the group wasn't giving Fournette a chance.
That changed against the Broncos.
"Honestly, we blocked better," Marrone said. "I don't want to say all of a sudden ... because that would be going against what I've been saying. There was some room there, but I will say that he was definitely finishing. I think once you get into the line of scrimmage, you're able to finish. If you're getting hit behind the line of scrimmage, it's very difficult to finish.
"... You're going to say he [Fournette] played well, you've got to give a little credit to those guys up front. We beat them up pretty much when we weren't running the football, so you've got to give them a little credit up there."
Said quarterback Gardner Minshew, who led the Jaguars to a pair of TDs and a pair of field goals in the second half (including setting up the game-winning 33-yarder by Josh Lambo): "That's what won us the game. Leonard, [Ryquell Armstead] the whole offensive line and tight ends absolutely dominated. That makes everything so much easier for an offense."
Also, as Jaguars.com's John Oehser suggested, sometimes, it pays to get lucky.
"Let's make this clear," Oehser wrote. "No one around the Jaguars knew Minshew would be this good -- not this quickly and not ever. Or this clutch. Or this poised. Or this accurate. Or this crafty in the pocket. If they had known all those things, they would have drafted him well before Round 6."
Oehser conceded that team officials knew he had traits they liked, but tons of rookies have likeable traits.
If Minshew were a normal NFL rookie, the Jaguars would be 1-3 or 0-4 right now -- and this season would have a dramatically different feel. He's not a normal NFL rookie. As a result, the Jaguars' season is very much alive. That's lucky. Really lucky.
Minshew was hit hard and often Sunday, and the Broncos hit Minshew questionably low around his knees more than once. One of these occasions came on the Jaguars' final drive, and Minshew limped noticeably after the hit. No matter. He completed two big passes to wide receiver Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley and moved the Jaguars 60 yards for the game-winning field goal.
He was asked about the hit after the game. "Just football stuff," he called it.
That said, Minshew opened the week on the injury report, listed with a knee issue. He was slated to practice Wednesday, but his level of participation remains to be seen.
For what it's worth, cornerback Jalen Ramsey was slated to sit out Wednesday due to a back injury.
I'll have more on Minshew via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
D.J. Chark hauled in four of his eight targets for 44 yards, but he was held out of the end zone for the first time this season and was largely unable to break free from the Broncos' secondary for big plays.
Still, as CBSSports.com notes the performance still had encouraging moments as he hauled in a catch in the end zone that was nullified by a holding call and also led the team in targets. ...
Armstead, a rookie running back, got his most extensive work of the season to date Sunday and took advantage with 42 yards on eight carries to complement running back Fournette's huge day. Armstead also caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from Minshew to cap the Jaguars' touchdown drive to start the second half.
"We've always felt good about Rock and the way he's practiced, his explosiveness and what he can do," Marrone said of the fifth-round selection. "We just really didn't have the ability to get him into the game."
Marrone said a major reason Armstead had played sparingly in the first three games was the team needed to keep Fournette in the game for pass protection. "With Rock, we feel good," Marrone said. "When we can get those snaps and get those carries like we did the other day, then we'll be able to implement him and we'll get really good production out of him. ..."
Lambo's 33-yard field goal with no time remaining seemed like a formality, but a game-winning kick in the final seconds never is a given. Lambo has been so consistent in two-plus seasons with the Jaguars that it's easy to overlook his contributions. When it mattered Sunday, Lambo delivered.
On Wednesday, Lambo was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
"I just live for whatever is put in front of me, man," Lambo said. "If it's fourth down and in my range, I'm going to hit it, so I'm just trying to do what I'm supposed to do."
Next up, the Jaguars visit the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Josh Dobbs
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Jeremy McNichols
WRs: D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Marqise Lee, Chris Conley, CJ Board, Keelan Cole, Michael Walker
TEs: Tyler Eifert, Josh Oliver, James O'Shaughnessy, Charles Jones
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
Patrick Mahomes failed to throw a touchdown pass on Sunday for just the fourth time in his career. His streak of throwing at least two TD passes is over at 14 games, one short of the NFL record.
That sounds like a recipe for failure for the Chiefs, who in the absence of three injured offensive starters have been asking for even more from the NFL's reigning MVP. But it worked out for them on Sunday, as they came back from behind to beat the Detroit Lions 34-30 on Darrel Williams' 1-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds left.
They drove 79 yards for the score. Mahomes was 6-of-9 on the drive for 55 yards, but his most important play was his 15-yard scramble on fourth down to keep the Chiefs alive.
"On the final drive, he made every play we needed him to," tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. "He won't play a game where he's not the most important player on the field. It doesn't matter what the stats show."
The Chiefs appeared headed to defeat after the Lions scored with 2:26 remaining to take the lead. But they left too much time for Mahomes.
"As a leader on this team, [Mahomes] kept us collected and kept us with one goal in mind, and that's to get the ball in the end zone no matter how long it takes us to get it there and whether it takes us one play or 16 plays, 20 plays," tight end Travis Kelce said. "It doesn't matter. We're going north and we're getting the ball in that end zone. I think Pat does an unbelievable job of rallying the troops when we need it the most."
Mahomes threw for 315 yards while completing 24 of 42 passes. Only three previous times in his career has he gone without a TD throw -- twice in the regular season and once in last year's playoff game against Indianapolis.
Peyton Manning's record of 15 games with at least two touchdown passes is also safe, at least for now.
So Mahomes was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this year and the Chiefs turned the ball over three times and they allowed 447 yards to the Lions. There were plenty of areas for head coach Andy Reid to harp on after the game.
He went another route in the locker room with the team after the game by sending a message that a win is always music to his ears.
"Not all of Mozart's paintings were perfect," Reid said. "The end result, though, is that sucker's gonna sell for a million dollars."
Mozart, of course, was a composer and not an artist. But point taken. ...
Worth noting, Mahomes did become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to lead his team to multiple 4-0 starts before his 25th birthday.
In the absence of any Mahomes touchdown passes, the Chiefs received a boost from some unexpected sources. Mahomes scrambled for 54 yards, a career high. Darrel Williams rushed for two touchdowns. Tight end Deon Yelder caught two passes, and wide receiver Byron Pringle caught one, a 13-yarder on the game-winning drive.
It was all part of an unusual Sunday for the Chiefs.
Mahomes opened the fourth with a 10-yard pass to Kelce, who pitched a lateral to LeSean McCoy and he picked up another 23 yards on a play that wasn't planned.
"Just finding ways to win a football game," Mahomes said. "That's how you roll in this league. It's not always the touchdowns and the yards. It's about just finding a way to win.
"If you want to be great as a team and as a player, it's how you win the game. I'm just going to go out there every single week and do what it takes to win."
The Chiefs played without wide receiver Tyreek Hill, running back Damien Williams and left tackle Eric Fisher.
With Damien Williams out and the game on the line each of the past two weeks, the Chiefs gave the ball to Darrel Williams.
"It's just who Darrel Williams is," offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy told ESPN.com's Adam Teicher. "He was that way at LSU. If you pay attention and watch him, [it isn't] by chance that things happen for him on game day. The kids prepares himself. He understands what it takes to win."
Darrel at one stage of training camp was fourth on the running back depth chart behind Damien, Carlos Hyde and rookie Darwin Thompson. He passed Thompson, and Hyde was traded, but the Chiefs then put another obstacle for playing time in front of him. They signed LeSean McCoy days before the start of the regular season.
Williams finally got a break in the form of an injury to Damien Williams. He led Chiefs running backs in playing time and rushing yards against the Ravens. The Chiefs weren't afraid to play Williams on the third-and-9 play, when he took the screen pass 16 yards to effectively end the game.
In Detroit, Williams had two rushing touchdowns, including the game winner. After the previous week, nobody should have been surprised when the Chiefs turned to Williams for a late touchdown.
"When the football is in my hands, I'm going to go to work," he said. "I bring a lot to the table."
As Rotowold.com suggested, Darrel Williams' production will inevitably drop off once Damien Williams returns, but Darrel is at worst third in the Chiefs' backfield pecking order after Thompson saw the field on just three snaps in Sunday's victory and just five snaps against Baltimore.
Meanwhile, Hill has been out since injuring his clavicle in the first game of the season, but he’s progressed enough to make it back to the practice field. Reid didn’t say how much work Hill would do in Wednesday's practice, but any work with the rest of the team is a positive development for the Kansas City offense.
That’s also true for Damien Williams.Reid didn’t comment on the likelihood that Williams or Hill will make their return to game action this weekend, but the injury reports issued over the next few days should provide some hints about how things play out come Sunday.
I'll obviously have more on both player via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
As ESPN's Mike Clay pointed out, Demarcus Robinson (4-35-0 receiving line) and Mecole Hardman (2-9-0) both underwhelmed in Week 4 with Mahomes failing to find the end zone.
But Clay added the good news is that both remained heavily involved.
Robinson was on the field for 91 percent of the snaps and was targeted nine times (his most since Week 17 in 2017). Hardman played 64 percent of the snaps and handled five targets -- his third consecutive game reaching the five-target mark.
Assuming Hill remains out, Clay believes Robinson will be the preferred flex option against the Colts in Week 5, though both are big boom/bust candidates in this Kansas City offense.
Meanwhile, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Hill is not expected to be active this week, but the speedy receiver will undergo imaging tests on shoulder this week to determine how much longer he'll be out. He could be about two weeks away but unbeaten Chiefs will not rush him.
That said, he was on the field running routes and catching footballs during pre-game warmups un Detroit, so I'll continue watching for more there as well as the Chiefs prepare to host the Colts this weekend.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Kyle Shurmur
RBs: Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson, Elijah McGuire, Darrel Williams
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Byron Pringle, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Travis Kelce, Deon Yelder, Nick Keizer
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
Philip Rivers' 120th regular-season victory was his first in Miami.
The 37-year-old quarterback hadn't been born yet the last time the Chargers won a road game versus the Dolphins, which made Sunday's 30-10 victory especially sweet, even if it came against a team off to a historically bad start.
Rivers compounded Miami's misery by throwing for 310 yards and two scores. He completed 24 of 30 attempts with no interceptions and directed a 10 1/2-minute drive in the third quarter that helped Los Angeles take control.
Rivers was sacked just once on the day, posting a 131.9 passer rating. With the victory, Rivers became the ninth quarterback in NFL history to reach 120 career regular-season victories.
The Chargers (2-2) had lost eight games in a row in Miami. Their last victory came in an overtime playoff thriller in January 1982 that's regarded as one of the greatest games in NFL history.
"It has been a long time," Rivers said. "Myself, I haven't played worth a hoot there the last two times. Rough days for us. It was good to win."
The Chargers, who never punted, led 17-10 and scored on their first three possessions of the second half to take command.
Austin Ekeler scored one touchdown receiving and another rushing. Chargers running back Melvin Gordon was active after reporting this week and ending his holdout, but he didn't play.
With only two practices under his belt, however, the Chargers chose not to use the Wisconsin product.
Gordon was in uniform with pads on but wore a baseball hat over his dreadlocks, his gloves tucked in his pants as he comfortably watched from the sideline.
"I'm glad we won by a big margin; it would have been tough sitting there if we were losing," Gordon said. "I'll be out there next week."
With Gordon sitting, Ekeler continued to carry the load for the Chargers' running game, totaling 122 yards from scrimmage and scoring his fifth and six touchdowns of the season.
With three touchdown catches this year, Ekeler became the first undrafted running back since 1967 to have at least three touchdown catches in each of his first three pro seasons.
The Chargers played short-handed, with several core players out thanks to injury. They included receivers Mike Williams (back) and Travis Benjamin (hip), tight ends Hunter Henry (knee) and Virgil Green (groin) and kicker Michael Badgley (right groin).
Defensive end Melvin Ingram (hamstring), linebacker Denzel Perryman (concussion), receiver Dontrelle Inman (quad) and tight end Sean Culkin (ankle) also suffered injuries that forced them to leave the game.
Ingram "is expected to miss some time with a hamstring injury, likely a couple weeks," according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Anthony Lynn said Culkin tore his Achilles and is done for the year.
Culkin's injury will clear the path for more from Green -- assuming he returns this week -- and newcomer Lance Kendricks. The Chargers announced Tuesday they promoted tight end Stephen Anderson from the practice squad to take Culkin's place on the roster.
On Wednesday, Inman joined Culkin on IR.
Inman becomes the ninth player placed on IR already this year, along with left tackle Russell Okung on the non-football illness list.
"Obviously we've got a lot of injuries," Rivers said. "A lot of guys went down during the game, and we were able to overcome it all."
Needless to say I'll be following up on all involved via Late-Breaking Updates as the Chargers prepare to take on the Broncos in Los Angeles. ...
Well, except for Culkin and Inman. And Badgley. ... As NFL Network's Tom Pelissero first reported Tuesday, the Chargers are signing kicker Chase McLaughlin. Badgley is still a couple weeks away after a minor setback in rehabbing from his groin injury. So, McLaughlin -- a rookie from Illinois -- gets his shot. Punter Ty Long has been handling the placement work so far this season. ...
I'll also remind those eager to get Gordon back into their lineups, that he'll be running against a Broncos defense that just gave up 225 rushing yards to Jacksonville's Leonard Fournette and also lost star linebacker Bradley Chubb to a torn ACL. ...
One last note here. ... Entering Sunday's contest, the Chargers had three touchdowns called back thanks to penalties. Now add a fourth, as Keenan Allen had his 69-yard touchdown called back because of offensive pass interference. According to ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams, Allen pushed off on Miami cornerback Xavien Howard at the top of his route to create separation for the big play.
Worth noting: Allen, Geremy Davis and Andre Patton are the healthy receivers currently on the roster.
QBs: Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Andre Patton, Jason Moore
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Lance Kendricks
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
Todd Gurley played 74 of 98 offensive snaps Sunday. He rushed for 16 yards and two touchdowns on a career-low five carries against the Bucs. He caught seven passes for 54 yards.
The running back repeatedly was asked about his health afterward, facing the same questions head coach Sean McVay did.
As Profootballtalk.com's Charean Williams suggested, however; "If you believe them, everything is fine. There is nothing to see here.
"Except the numbers tell a different story."
"There's a lot of different things," McVay said after Sunday's game when asked why Gurley didn't get more carries, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. "Ultimately, it's our job to figure out what we think is the best way to move the football and score points and that was what we decided on, that was what I decided on today."
Gurley averaged 18 carries and three catches per game his first four seasons. He is averaging 12 carries and three catches per game this season.
His last 100-yard game in the regular season came in Week 13 last season, two weeks before the Rams decided to give Gurley's left knee three weeks off, including the bye week.
It's safe to say the Rams failed to establish the run in the first quarter and then were forced to abandon it altogether in the second quarter as they trailed 21-0.
Backup Malcolm Brown was also ineffective on the ground as he rushed for 8 yards on four carries.
McVay continues to take the blame for not getting Gurley the ball more, and Gurley continues to respond with "I don't call the plays, bro."
But McVay said last week he hoped to get Gurley more carries this week. He didn't for whatever reason.
"I control what I control, man, you know?" Gurley said. "At the end of the day, we didn't get the win, whether I had 20 carries or two carries. We didn't get the win. That's the main thing."
Beyond that, McVay took Sunday's loss to the Buccaneers on his own shoulders.
"I'm not going to sit up here and continue to make excuses for why I haven't done a good enough job. I'm just not doing it right now. We're not getting it done and we're just going to continue to put our head down and try to find solutions," McVay said.
Jared Goff, who passed for 517 yards but also had some costly mistakes on Sunday, acknowledged that the Rams' offense needs to improve, and do so in a hurry with Thursday's game at Seattle approaching.
"Frustrating for sure, and I try to have good perspective on it's only Week Four and we did do some things," he said. "But it is frustrating and it is something that we do need to get fixed, quickly."
The 3-1 Rams and 3-1 Seahawks surprisingly find themselves a half-game behind the 3-0 49ers in the NFC West. Los Angeles would suddenly find itself in bad shape in its division if it doesn't get things fixed before Thursday night. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry notes, Goff became the 23rd quarterback to pass for more than 500 yards in a game and the first to do so since Tom Brady passed for 505 yards in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.
But it wasn't enough and Goff did not mince words throughout the week when asked about the offense's subpar performance through the season's first three weeks. They just need to play better, Goff said: "That's the bottom line."
But against the Bucs, Goff had another uneven outing.
The fourth-year quarterback, who signed a four-year extension with $110 million guaranteed before the season, completed a career-high 45 passes on 68 attempts for that career-best 517 yards and two touchdowns, with three interceptions.
Goff also was strip sacked with 1 minute, 6 seconds remaining, with the chance to tie. "We need to execute better on offense and I need to execute better personally," Goff said.
Goff threw interceptions on back-to-back drives in the second quarter that the Bucs converted into touchdowns and a 21-0 lead. In the third quarter, Goff felt pressure up the middle and attempted to squeeze a pass to Brown that was also picked off. And in the fourth quarter, with the chance to lead a game-tying drive with under two minutes to play, Goff was sacked and fumbled, as former teammate Ndamukong Suh scooped and scored to secure the win.
"There's going to be lot of things we can go back and look at," McVay said. "I loved the way that he continued to battle, took some shots, continued to respond."
Goff threw two interceptions in Week 3 against the Browns, giving him consecutive games with multiple thrown interceptions for the second time in his career, and the first since 2016, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
Slow starts on offense. For a fourth consecutive game, the Rams failed to score a touchdown in the first quarter. The last time the Rams went at least four games without a first-quarter touchdown was a seven-game stretch between Week 14 of 2014 to Week 3 of 2015.
Also, as Thiry pointed out, the offensive line continues to struggle.
It wasn't just first-year starters Brian Allen and Joe Noteboom who needed work Sunday. The entire line was porous. Veteran right tackle Rob Havenstein collected a couple false starts, along with right guard Austin Blythe and Allen at center. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth was flagged for holding.
"When you look at just the amount of times that we threw the football and some of the situations that the flow of the game dictated, that does put some pressure on our offensive line," McVay said. "They've got a good pass rush." Goff was forced to work with pressure in his face throughout much of the game.
And finally. ... Gurley has never been a fan of international games or games played on a short week.
"You know how I feel about Thursday night games," Gurley said when asked how the short week would alter his preparation. "I feel like they are the dumbest thing ever."
Following an approach similar to the one they've used the past two seasons, the Rams brought exercise bikes and massage tables into their postgame locker room Sunday to get a jump-start on the recovery process.
Gurley did not appear concerned that the short week would limit the Rams' ability to perform against the Seahawk.
"For the most part, if you aren't really battling injuries or stuff like that, Thursday is kind of like a day you usually feel good anyway," Gurley said. "They played on Sunday, as well. ... We just have a quick turnaround to go up to Seattle."
The Rams play an international game in London against the Cincinnati Bengals next month. ...
The good news this week? The Rams have minimal injuries.
On Sunday, cornerback Marcus Peters was evaluated for a concussion, linebacker Bryce Hager suffered a stinger and rookie safety Taylor Rapp left the L.A. Memorial Coliseum with a boot on his left foot after he suffered an ankle injury.
QBs: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
RBs: Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Josh Reynolds, Nsimba Webster, JoJo Natson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe framed it: "For one half of a football game, there were glimpses of hope for the still-winless Miami Dolphins.
"In the first half of Sunday's 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Josh Rosen looked sharp, Kenyan Drake popped off some nice gains and the defense stuffed running back Austin Ekeler.
"Then halftime happened. ..."
In the second half the Dolphins reared their ugly head, leading to their fourth consecutive loss of 20 points or more.
Indeed, Miami is off to an awful start in part because they fade at the finish.
Miami has been outscored 81-0 in the second half this season, and the pattern persisted Sunday, when the Dolphins fell to 0-4.
The Chargers led 17-10 at halftime and scored on their first three possessions of the second half, including a 10-plus minute drive from which Miami never recovered.
"Same sad story," Drake said. "We've got to make the necessary adjustments in the second half like the opposite team does, and put ourselves in the best position to be competitive. We know it's a four-quarter game."
Three of Miami's losses have come at home, where sweltering September weather is supposed to give them a big advantage. Instead, it's the team accustomed to the humidity that's wilting.
"We're having a lot of trouble in a lot of areas in the second half," rookie head coach Brian Flores said. "I don't think is a conditioning issue. I think it's an execution issue, a coaching issue. We have to coach better to put these guys in better positions. We'll do that."
Players differed on how much coaching might play a role. Cornerback Xavien Howard said not at all.
"We're just not getting the job done," he said. "We've got to come out with more energy in the second half. We've been in the last two games at halftime."
"It seems like we're coming out in the second half flat," safety Reshad Jones agreed. "I'm not sure why."
Drake saw a broader problem.
"Can anybody give me a definition of what coming out flat means?" he said. "All I know is the plays are there to be made. Some of us are not making plays. We have to be better collectively as a group, as an organization."
Not that the Dolphins have dazzled anyone in the first half. Overall they've been outscored 163-26, which is the NFL's worst four-game point differential since at least 1940.
They're on pace both to score the fewest points in a 16-game season, and to allow the most.
"There has been some progress over the first four games," Flores said. "These guys work hard. They fight hard. The effort is there. But there are opportunities that we should take."
Against Los Angeles, the Dolphins missed two field goals and still trailed by only a touchdown at halftime while totaling 197 yards.
But in the second half they gained just 36 yards. The Chargers' pressure up front took a toll as Rosen threw for 21 yards with an interception and three sacks.
"I definitely made a couple of significant errors in the second half," Rosen said. "They started to heat up the pressure a little bit. We're figuring it out, and hopefully we'll give you a better second half next time."
According to Wolfe, Rosen continues to provide some offensive hope despite his struggles.
The second-year quarterback had the best half of his NFL career going 12-of-16 for 169 yards, one touchdown, no turnovers and a 126.8 quarterback rating before halftime. At least two drops, including a brutal one from Kalen Ballage on a play that could have been a touchdown, prevented it from going even better.
Rosen's previous high QB rating for a half was 118.2 in the second half of an Arizona Cardinals' 20-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4 of the 2018 season.
Rosen led Miami into scoring position on all four of their first half drives, but two missed field goals and that Ballage drop prevented them from getting more than 10 points. But a brutal second half spoiled things. The Dolphins have now been outscored 163-26 in their first four games.
Now they'll take their bye week to try to use their Week 5 bye to get things at least pointed in a better direction.
A few more items. ... As Rotoworld.com notes, Ballage logged a season-low eight snaps in Sunday's Week 4 loss to the Chargers. He was in on just 15.4 percent of Miami's plays, serving as "the awkward third wheel" to Drake (28 snaps) and fellow sophomore Mark Walton (13 snaps).
By the way, Walton is a name those in Dynasty leagues (who already haven't) and deeper redraft names need to get on their respective radars.
And finally. ... Flores is "optimistic" all their guys with minor injuries -- including receiver Albert Wilson, who has been out since hurting his calf in the opener against New England -- will play in two weeks when the Dolphins resume play against Washington.
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen, Jake Rudock
RBs: Jordan Howard, Kalen Ballage, Myles Gaskin, Patrick Laird, De'Lance Turner
WRs: DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Michael Roberts
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra noted, the Bears suffocated the Minnesota Vikings run game, holding Dalvin Cook to just 35 yards and a score on 14 carries. With Cook stymied, the rest of the Vikings' offense slowly circled the drain for most of Sunday's 16-6 loss.
Sunday once again showed that when good defenses force Kirk Cousins to power the Vikings, the ship sinks.
Minnesota generated only 59 total yards of offense in the first half. The Vikings' first seven drives either punted or lost a fumble. The offense did not gain a first down from 8:00 left in the second quarter to 2:00 left in the third quarter (21-minute span). Cousins was 9-of-14 passing with 53 pass yards at 2:00 left in the third quarter. He finished with 233 yards passing after the Bears D went lax with a two-score lead.
The ineptitude for long stretches this season has led to frustration, especially with receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who were each visibly exasperated on the sideline Sunday.
"At some point, you're not going to be able to run the ball for 180 yards, even with the best running back in the NFL," Thielen said, via The Athletic. "That's when you have to be able to throw the ball. You have to be able to make plays. You have to be able to hit the deep balls. You have to do that."
Thielen caught just two passes for six yards on six targets. Cousins' only real deep shot of the game came on a first-half heave to Thielen, but the QB overthrew the ball by several yards. A better toss would have gone for a TD and changed the entire complexion of the tilt.
Diggs ended the game with seven receptions and 108 yards, but five of those catches went for 91 yards late in the second half when the Vikings were already down and mostly out. Still, Diggs' yardage total in this one surpassed his previous combined three-game total.
Diggs has not spoken to the media in more than a week, and he left the locker room Sunday before reporters had a chance to ask questions about the Vikings loss. But Thielen seemed to be willing to speak for all involved.
"I think we're just as frustrated as every fan in the state of Minnesota, every Minnesota Vikings fan," Thielen said. "We are more frustrated. We put everything we have into the offseason. We grind every single day, and then to put a performance like that -- it's so frustrating, it's unbelievable."
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin notes, Cousins is averaging only 5.2 air yards per play-action attempt, which ranks 30th among 35 qualified QBs, per ESPN Stats and Info. Of his 29 play-action attempts this season, only six were thrown 15-plus yards down field. His completion percentage on these throws (65.5) ranks 18th, his yards per attempt (6.8) ranks 27th and his 70 QBR ranks 13th.
Cousins has only thrown one play-action TD in four games.
"Would have loved to have come in here and gotten a win, got to 3-1, and it didn't happen," said Cousins, who passed for 184 of his 233 yards in the second half.
"Now we've got to not feel sorry for ourselves, but get back to work and find a way to get a win and get right back on track from here."
Digging deeper, Cronin notes that Cousins is being pressured on 34 percent of his dropbacks in 2019 (the third-highest rate in the league) after being pressured 29 percent of the time last season. As it relates to the offensive line, head coach Mike Zimmer said the unit needs to work on that element of pass protection.
What happened against Chicago where Cousins was under duress often and sacked six times?
"Last night it was this guy got beat, that guy got beat. Just a different guy every time," Zimmer said.
He added: "They overpowered us a few times. Some of them were max protection things and some were others. We need to do a better job. We didn't do a good enough job on our (pass) sets. They had some real wide techniques, 12-techniques out there and we kind of turned and went out to them and turned too soon."
So with Cousins going into checkdown mode early and often behind a struggling offensive line, the Vikings' high-priced, talented receivers are wasted. The frustration will only mount if the trend we've seen early this season continues as the schedule ramps up down the road for the 2-2 Vikings.
But in the short term?
Perhaps the passing game can get on track this week as Minnesota travels to New York to face the Giants. New York has allowed 279.5 passing yards per game, the ninth-highest total in the league. The next week, the Vikings face the 32nd-ranked Eagles pass defense. ...
For what it's worth, Cousins addressed Thielen's comments on Tuesday by apologizing to the sideout.
“I really want to apologize to [Thielen] because there’s too many opportunities where we could have hit him on Sunday,” Cousins said on KFAN, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “and postgame when I talk to the media I always say, ‘Hey, until I watch the film it’s hard for me to really give you a straight answer.'"
I suspect we haven't heard the laste of that. I'll likely have more on Cousins and the passing attack via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Also worth watching, Diggs is not practicing on Wednesday. Diggs did leave the game briefly with an injury on Sunday. Stay tuned for more on that as well. ...
As noted above, Cook finished with 14 carries for 35 yards and a touchdown. He began Week 4 with an NFL-best 375 yards rushing, becoming the fifth player in league history with at least 110 yards and one TD in each of first three games.
"They didn't do anything special," Cook said. "They came in and played a good, clean game and like I said, we just didn't find ourselves today. It just sums up the day."
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Tajae Sharpe, Olabisi Johnson, Davion Davis
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss put it, "The New England Patriots are a team led by its defense."
It's been a while since that could be said decisively in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Era, but that's where things currently stand after a tight 16-10 win on the road against the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots scored just one offensive touchdown but got a blocked punt returned for a score by the special teams and a late interception by linebacker Jamie Collins to help secure a 16-0 win over the Bills.
Now at 4-0, and with a road trip to face the winless Washington Redskins on Sunday, the Patriots are anything but a finished product. The silver lining, of course, is that they've built themselves some early-season margin for error.
Brady, who finished 18 of 39 for 150 yards and had one interception, said Buffalo's defense played a factor in their problems Sunday.
"Offensively we struggled. They force a lot of teams to struggle, and if we're going to score more points, then we have to do a lot better job than we did (Sunday)," Brady said. "We didn't, so that's just the way it goes."
The Patriots' 16 points were scored as a result of Bills miscues. Brandon Bolden scored on a 4-yard run after Devin McCourty intercepted Josh Allen on Buffalo's opening drive. Stephen Gostkowski, who missed an extra point wide left, hit a 23-yard field goal set up by a second interception.
Though Brady didn't play much of a factor, he upped his career record to 31-3 against Buffalo -- extending the NFL career mark for most victories by a quarterback against one opponent. New England won its sixth straight against the Bills and improved to 34-5 against Buffalo since the start of the 2000 season.
Scoring didn't come easy in a game in which the teams combined for 14 punts and one which was blocked.
Brady's 45.9 passer rating was the sixth lowest of his career and lowest since finishing with a 34 rating in a 27-20 loss to Indianapolis on Nov. 5, 2006. The Patriots had lost the previous six times Brady finished with a passer rating of 48 or lower.
As Reiss suggested, the passing game has looked disjointed since the second quarter of the team's Week 3 win against the Jets. After a Week 2 win against Miami, the unit had appeared to be on the cusp of building something special with receiver Antonio Brown, as Brown's ability to win one-on-one matchups and make plays on all three levels of the field brought an added dimension.
Though the Bills' defense deserves plenty of credit for an exemplary performance Sunday, the Patriots' passing game over the past seven quarters has been less than impressive.
As unimpressive as the passing attack was, the run game was largely ineffective as well. New England rushed 23 times for 74 yards on Sunday, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry.
"No team is perfect this time of year. This is not the team we're going to be in December," Brady said during his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI/
While crediting the Bills for making it difficult on Sunday, Brady also made it clear the Patriots' offense can be better.
"We just didn't really execute well in any phase -- the pass game, the run game, none of it was up to our expectation," Brady said on the program. "Really it comes down to our execution and ability to move the football on a consistent basis, to have dependability, to have trust, confidence -- all those things play a role in offensive football."
According to Reiss, the way offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels began Sunday's game was telling, calling on a two-receiver grouping of Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon, along with tight end Ryan Izzo, fullback Jakob Johnson and running back Sony Michel. It was an early reflection of his commitment to the run, with Michel ripping off a 15-yard gain.
Then, on the second play, 335-pound offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor came on as a sixth blocker up front, and another attempt was made to pound the ball with Michel (no gain).
The Patriots entered the game with lingering questions about their ability to run consistently, and though there were flashes on Sunday, there still are too many negative plays on the ground. And the passing game, with little production from the tight ends and banged-up top receivers, is now sputtering too.
Brady isn't panicking.
"Offensive football is always a work in progress," Brady said on WEEI. "It's very rare that I've ever had an offense where I've said, 'We have it all figured out' in the 20 years I've been playing.
"I'm excited to get into work, to learn, improve and try to get better. That's where I'm at this time of year."
Maybe the offense can get back on track against the winless Redskins in Washington this weekend. ...
Also of interest. ...As noted above, Gostkowski struggled again, missing his fourth extra point attempt of the season.
"I think we're all going to look back on this game and say, 'There are some things we can improve on,'" Belichick said. "Certainly, I feel that way. We have a hard-working team. I have a lot of confidence in our team. We'll just keep working hard to do things better. ..."
But on Wednesday, the Patriots worked out free-agent kickers and it turns out they were trying to fill a pressing need rather than doing due diligence.
Jim McBride of the Boston Globe reports that the Patriots are placing Gostkowski on injured reserve with a hip injury.
With Gostkowski down, Kai Forbath and Mike Nugent were in town Wednesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.
Gostkowski last missed time during the 2010 season, but he’ll miss at least the next eight weeks of the regular season. He’s eligible to return to the active roster, but the Patriots only have the ability to bring two players back and already have left tackle Isaiah Wynn, wide receiver N'Keal Harry and fullback James Develin on injured reserve.
I'll obviously be following up when the Patriots decide on a replacement. ...
Ben Watson served a four-game suspension and is set to return this week.
New England has thrown to the tight end on a league-low 3.5 percent of their pass attempts this year. As FootballDiehards.com's Kyle Dvorchak notes, that's likely due to Matt LaCosse being banged up and Lance Kendricks being released after failing a PED test.
If Watson has anything left in the tank, New England could really use it right about now. He's a great add for fantasy rosters in desperate need of tight end help.
And finally. ... The Patriots have released receiver Cameron Meredith, according to Field Yates of ESPN.
The team signed him Aug. 2, four days after the Saints cut him. The Patriots placed him on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury the same day.
Meredith signed a two-year contract, but the Patriots obviously weren't willing to wait on him to heal.
QBs: Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris
WRs: Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Damiere Byrd, N'Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers
TEs: Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
The Saints are surviving record-setting QB Drew Brees' absence with effective defense and special teams, and making it clear that they won't relinquish their status as NFC contenders -- even if that means finding ways to win without the high-powered offense that has largely defined them since coach Sean Payton and Brees joined forces in 2006.
Vonn Bell's forced fumble and two recoveries helped the Saints stifle a Dallas offense that had rolled through its first three games, and Wil Lutz kicked four field goals to lift New Orleans to a 12-10 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday night.
Dallas came in with the NFL's third-ranked running attack, averaging 179 yards, and had scored no fewer than 31 points in a game. But the Cowboys met much more resistance in the raucous Superdome, where the Saints' defensive front was bolstered by the return of tackle Sheldon Rankins from an Achilles tendon tear that had sidelined him since January.
Dallas managed just 45 yards on the ground.
"Hats off to the defense," said quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who improved to 2-0 as starter in place of Brees, who wore a black wrap on his surgically repaired right thumb. "In this league we know how hard it is to win football games and no one said it had to be pretty."
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett notes, Bridgewater did enough to win, completing 23 of 30 passes for 193 yards with one interception on a pass that bounced off the hands of Ted Ginn Jr. But he needs to prove he can push the ball down the field more. He and the rest of the offense need to be better than 0-for-4 in the red zone.
And he had some poor clock management at the end of each half, including taking a sack that knocked New Orleans out of field goal range in the fourth quarter.
"I don't care about the numbers," Bridgewater said. "My job right now is just to help this team win football games."
So even though Bridgewater threw in a playful "sorry to fantasy teams and things like that," he doesn't have to apologize for his lack of style points so far. But he isn't getting a free pass, either.
Bridgewater knows that at some point the Saints will need more from him -- and perhaps he can start providing it this week at home against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that ranks 30th in the NFL in points allowed and 31st in passing yards allowed.
"He can play better -- and I think he would tell you the same thing," Payton said Sunday after his first victory in a game in which his team didn't score a touchdown. "But he's won two games in a row with understanding what we're doing.
"He made some big plays for us [Sunday], and we're gonna need him to. And I think he can improve. I think all of us can improve with the tempo."
The Saints' game plans have been fairly conservative the past two weeks to combat the crowd noise and rainy weather at Seattle and a difficult defense against Dallas. It helped that Bridgewater never trailed by more than three points in either start, thanks to the defense and special teams.
But chances are we won't see another 12-10 game against a Tampa team that just beat the Los Angeles Rams 55-40 in L.A. on Sunday. When the Buccaneers (2-2) came into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Week 1 last season, they beat the Saints 48-40.
It's possible that we could see the training wheels come off Bridgewater if this game plays out anything like those did.
According to Triplett, Bridgewater has completed one of seven pass attempts that traveled more than 15 yards in the air the past three weeks since he replaced Brees in the first quarter of New Orleans' Week 2 loss at the Rams. His 185 passing yards per game are the lowest in the NFL among QBs who have played two full games the past two weeks. His 5.26 air yards per attempt are also the lowest in the league in that span.
All of which led ESPN analyst Bill Barnwell to suggest that Bridgewater has been a "passenger" in the Saints' past two victories while labeling him as the team's biggest concern until Brees returns from thumb surgery in a month or so.
Still, Bridgewater has turned the ball over once in his three games. And that turnover wasn't really his fault.
Bridgewater completed an efficient 23 of 30 passes for 193 yards in Sunday's victory while directing a game-defining field goal drive in the third and fourth quarters that lasted 9:06. It was the second-longest drive by any team in the NFL this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
The Saints boast one of the NFL's most talented and balanced rosters starting with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, so they don't need Bridgewater to do it all.
But the more Bridgewater kicks in, the better off all involved will be. ...
One last note here. ... Payton had mentioned Friday that New Orleans was 12-1 with the officiating crew headed by referee Carl Cheffers that worked Sunday night's game, and joked that his players better be nice. The Saints were penalized nine times for 80 yards, and a pass interference call against Davis extended Dallas' touchdown drive. The Cowboys were penalized six times for 64 yards.
Payton focused criticism about New Orleans' penalties on himself and the team.
"Those have got to get cleaned up. They are going to get cleaned up. I promise you," Payton said. "We have to do better in that area."
QBs: Drew Brees, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tre'quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan framed it, "The New York Giants have two wins, a new quarterback and, maybe most important, renewed hope. That is what Daniel Jones and victories against the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have provided a moribund franchise that was stuck in a rut. ..."
Things change fast in the NFL.
It was just over a week ago that the Giants seemingly conceded their season by benching Eli Manning. Now they have new life after manhandling a bad Redskins team 24-3 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
"It's just the energy is different," starting center Jon Halapio said. "I think a lot of it has to do with we're winning right now, too. A little winning streak and we're just playing good football together as a team."
The Giants (2-2) are tied with the Eagles for second place in the NFC East. We'll find out in the next two games (vs. Minnesota, at New England) if this was anything more than a momentary self-correction against struggling opponents.
But Raanan went on to point out this is the first time they have been .500 or better since Week 17 of the 2016 season. They will also get wide receiver Golden Tate back from his four-game suspension this week, and their defense has shown signs of improvement.
That didn't look likely after the first six quarters of the season, when the Giants surrendered 56 points to the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills. There weren't many reasons to be optimistic.
But Jones has changed the offense, which was 5-of-23 on third downs the first two games of the season with Manning at quarterback. New York is 14-of-26 the past two games since Jones took over.
The rookie's legs have made a major difference.
They helped convert several third downs Sunday, including a third-and-13 in the third quarter when he spun out of trouble and away from three defenders before running for a first down. This keeps the chains moving. This keeps receivers involved with the hope of a big play happening even when there is a breakdown early.
"Him moving around helped us on third downs," head coach Pat Shurmur said. "I think situationally, I think we were 8-for- on third downs, and some of that can be attributed to his legs."
Manning wasn't the only problem, but he also wasn't the solution. As Raanan suggested, an immobile quarterback with a porous offensive line produced an untenable combination.
The Giants' 8-24 record the previous two seasons proved that to be true. They're now 2-0 since Jones took over.
Worth noting: Jones vs. Dwayne Haskins broke out Sunday in a matchup of 2019 first-round rookie quarterbacks. There were times when both looked like rookies, but Jones was a clear winner on the field.
Jones finished 23-of-31 for 225 yards with a touchdown pass and two interceptions. It wasn't perfect. He threw interceptions on consecutive passes in the second quarter but bounced back and looked like the more advanced of the two QB rookies. Jones led the Giants down the field for a field goal before halftime immediately after the two interceptions.
The Giants (2-2) moved the ball consistently until they shut it down with a big lead late, with Jones' poise and ability to make plays with his legs on full display. Jones also benefited from a strong performance by running back Wayne Gallman, who was filling in for the injured Saquon Barkley.
As CBSSports.com notes, Gallman averaged just 3.5 yards per carry against a solid Washington front, but an impactful performance as a pass-catcher allowed him to rack up 118 scrimmage yards. He recorded the opening touchdown of the game on a six-yard reception in the first quarter and added a one-yard rushing score in the second.
Gallman faces a tough matchup this Sunday at home against the Vikings, but he's already proven to be a viable fantasy fill-in. ...
Jones showed improvement with his ball security after losing three fumbles in his first two career games. That's key. The first thing Jones mentioned this week when asked what he could do better after an incredible first start was ball security. It was evident on Sunday, even when he had a Houdini-like escape on a third-and-long in the third quarter.
Jones, the No. 6 overall pick, was in command throughout, while it showed that Haskins was making his first NFL appearance. ...
Tate was home in San Diego, working out, while serving his suspension. He learned about the switch from Manning to Jones from ESPN.
"I'm liking what I'm seeing from him," Tate said. "He's handled the moment really well. Hopefully he continues to improve each day and each game."
And if he does, Tate will be part of it.
"I have been waiting a long time for the hits. I'm excited to be back," Tate told reporters Monday. "I had a big smile on my face yesterday and today. It's great to be back. I miss these guys, I miss the facility. I miss the coaches. I'm ready to get back to work. Here we go."
The team announced on Tuesday that Tate had been activated and that they had released wide receivers Bennie Fowler and TJ Jones.
On the injury front. ... An MRI on Monday confirmed that starting inside linebacker Ryan Connelly tore the ACL in his right knee and is out for the season. It's a major blow for the Giants. The rookie had worked his way into the starting middle linebacker role in recent weeks and had an interception and sack in Sunday's 24-3 win over the Washington Redskins.
There is a strong chance the Giants look outside for help at linebacker. They currently have David Mayo (signed just before Week 1) and Nate Stupar (re-signed last week) as their only healthy linebackers on the active roster. Undrafted rookie Josiah Tauaefa is also an option from the practice squad.
The Giants claimed defensive end Chris Peace off waivers from the Chargers, the team announced Monday. He fills the roster opening left when Connelly when on IR. Peace, 23, played in the Chargers' season opener. He saw action on three special teams snaps.
Gallman (neck), Nate Solder (neck) and Lorenzo Carter (neck) were all limited Wednesday. Shurmur said it’s “game soreness” and he’s not worried about any of them for Sunday.
Meanwhile, Barkley has said he thinks he can beat the timetable given to him for a return from a high-ankle sprain. The Giants running back is on his way to doing just that.
He already has shed the walking boot, a week after his injury.
"When I see him moving around here, he's into his rehab," Shurmur told reporters Monday. "He's eager and champing at the bit to get back. But obviously, that's what I would expect from any of our players. Try to get back as quickly as possible, and then we'll just make those decisions on a week-to-week basis whether he's ready to play or not."
On Wednesday, Barkley was on the field stretching with his teammates and seems to be moving well. According to Raanan, the running back worked on the side and did some sprints and cutting with a trainer afterwards while the media was present.
Shurmur said Barkley "felt good."
He wouldn't rule the star running back out this week agasint the Vikings. That seems unlikley, but I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update early Thursday.
Remember, Barkley missed only two games with an ankle sprain while at Penn State. The No. 2 overall choice in 2018 has 311 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown this season. If all goes to the standout running back's plan, he'll be back on the field sooner rather than later.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Eli Manning, Alex Tanney
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman, Javorius Allen, Elijhaa Penny, Austin Walter
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Cody Core, Da'Mari Scott, Corey Coleman
TEs: Kaden Smith, Rhett Ellison, Levine Toilolo, Scott Simonson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
Sam Darnold can finally start throwing footballs again. When the New York Jets quarterback will be able to do so in a game remains uncertain.
Darnold was cleared Monday for non-contact activities, but declined to say whether the swelling of his spleen -- a serious symptom of mononucleosis -- has dissipated.
"I'll let kind of the specifics come out when they do, and when head coach (Adam) Gase wants to disclose that information," Darnold said during a conference call. "For me, it's just doing what the doctors say. It's out of my control.
"My spleen, at this point, is gonna do what it's gonna do."
Now, that's a statement neither Darnold nor Gase -- or anyone else around the Jets -- ever expected to hear.
But, it has been that type of start to the season for New York, which is 0-3 and coming off a bye-week break that did little to clarify the health statuses of several key players.
Darnold, linebackers C.J. Mosley (groin) and Jordan Jenkins (calf) and wide receiver Josh Bellamy (shoulder) all appear likely to miss the Jets' game Sunday at Philadelphia, although rookie defensive lineman Quinnen Williams (ankle) could be back. Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) remains iffy.
Darnold returned to the practice field Wednesday, and Gase said they would “see how it goes.”
Gase said they were considering Darnold day-to-day, and would potentially push the decision until Sunday, just before their game against the Eagles.
Darnold will undergo more tests with actual doctors Friday, which will probably be a more realistic time frame for knowing whether he’s going to be able to return, after missing the last two games after coming down with mononucleosis.
The uncertainty over Darnold's health means Luke Falk could make his second straight start. Week 5 had been the goal for Darnold and the doctors, but that might prove to be overly optimistic.
Elevated from the practice squad two weeks ago, Falk played in place of Darnold and the injured Trevor Siemian in Week 3 at New England before the Jets' bye-week break.
"It's not an ideal situation," Gase said of not knowing whether he needs to prepare Falk to start against the Eagles or if Darnold will be ready to go. "It's one of those things where it's the sooner the better that I have an answer."
Darnold would like to have a full week of practice before he plays in a game, so getting on the field Wednesday -- even on a limited basis -- is a big deal.
Darnold was diagnosed with mononucleosis on Sept. 11 and has missed two games because of the illness. He also recently acknowledged he was beginning to feel symptoms during the season-opening loss to Buffalo.
After staying away from the facility for a week until he was no longer contagious, Darnold returned to meetings while gradually regaining his strength and stamina. Meanwhile, the second-year quarterback has had to watch as his team got off to a tough start.
"Yeah, I'm super anxious to get out there," Darnold said. "But, right now, I've got to control those emotions and really let the doctors tell me what I've got to do and what needs to happen before I can get back out there. Hopefully, I get to do some more physical activity and we'll kind of go from there."
Darnold says he actually feels his energy level is 100 percent now and has felt that way for at least a week. He insisted he feels as though he could play right now from a physical standpoint, but acknowledged he says that despite not having practiced the past three weeks and needs to sharpen his throwing and timing.
"I think that's kind of the most frustrating part about this," Darnold said. "It's what makes me the most anxious is just feeling 100 percent, but not necessarily being able to go out there and do what I love to do."
Stay tuned. I'll obviouslyo have more on Darnold -- and the rest of the walking wounded -- via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Meanwhile, as ESPN's Mike Clay noted last week, there's not much to say about a Jets offense that has scored two fewer touchdowns than its defense (three to one) this season.
Darnold's return would be a positive, however. And at some point, Thomas will make his Jets debut. Additionally, second-year tight end Chris Herndon is due back from suspension in Week 6.
Herndon was extremely effective as a rookie, averaging 9.0 yards per target, which is the fifth-best mark by a rookie tight end since 2007. If you're desperate at tight end, Herndon isn't a bad player to grab for your bench now.
As NFL.com's Graham Barfield noted, Herndon was the Jets most efficient receiver last season, earning team-highs in YPA (9.0), success rate (61 percent), and Next Gen Stats' catch rate above expectation (11.3 percent) on his targets from Darnold. ...
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets are considering shifting some personnel around on the offensive line.
"As far as the o-line goes, we're going to work through that this week and kind of figure out what's best for us to do on Sunday," Gase said. "I would just say this: All those guys know that we're coming in this week, we're competing and we're going to put the five guys that we think give us our best chance out there. Not really sure who that's going to be quite yet. ..."
The Jets were hoping that bringing veteran center Ryan Kalil back from retirement would fix things. It has not, at least such that you can tell with Luke Falk on the field.
Unless they're planning on benching Kalil after giving him a one-year, $8.4 million contract this offseason, the moves might not be drastic. Left guard Kelechi Osemele has been dealing with a knee issue, but it's hard to imagine that plugging in a Jonotthan Harrison or a Tom Compton or an Alex Lewis would fix things.
And finally. ... As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini noted, Le'Veon Bell received a $1 million roster bonus Tuesday, a guaranteed portion of his four-year, $52.5 million contract. He has now received $12 million in bonus money since signing in March.
He's still earning weekly roster bonuses ($31,250 for every game on the active roster). By the time the season is over, he will have pocketed $14.5 million in total compensation (if he plays every game).
QBs: Sam Darnold, David Fales
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Bilal Powell, Ty Montgomery, Kenneth Dixon, Josh Adams
WRs: Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, Tim White, Demaryius Thomas
TEs: Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As the Associated Press noted, after a couple of weeks when almost nothing went right, the Oakland Raiders found their game in time to make sure they can start their stay in London in a good mood.
The Raiders bounced back from two straight lopsided losses with perhaps their best road game in two seasons under coach Jon Gruden, beating the Indianapolis Colts 31-24 on Sunday.
The positive vibes from that game made were needed before the Raiders took flight overseas as part of their 48-day stretch in between games at the Oakland Coliseum.
The Raiders arrived Monday in London, where they will spend the week before taking on the Bears on Sunday for their first meeting against former star edge rusher Khalil Mack since trading him to Chicago before last season.
"It's already a long flight, so going over there with a loss would have been terrible," rookie defensive end Maxx Crosby said.
The Raiders scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions after posting only two scores in their previous 18 drives and managed to do just enough defensively to beat the Colts.
It was a major turnaround from the previous two weeks, when the Raiders lost 28-10 at home to Kansas City followed by a 34-14 loss at Minnesota.
"There are a lot of reasons to start making excuses, but our guys were really resilient and tough mentally, and those are components that I think that are going to serve us well as we continue to build our team," Gruden said. "I'm really proud of these guys."
Led by a healthy Josh Jacobs and a jet sweep that speedy new receiver Trevor Davis took 60 yards for a touchdown, Oakland had its most productive day on the ground in years. The Raiders ran for 188 yards, their most in a game since Week 16 against Indianapolis in 2016. Jacobs had 17 carries for 79 yards and gained two key first downs late in the fourth quarter to help the Raiders run out the clock.
Derek Carr started white hot on a script of plays that had the Colts shell-shocked.
He completed 11 of his first 13 passes with two TDs, but ended the first half 12-for-21. Granted, Carr was victimized by a trio of drops by Tyrell Williams, including one in the end zone that would have made it a three-score game late in the third quarter, and he had a bad miss on a sideline throw to tight end Darren Waller, but it was a massive improvement from last week's showing in Minnesota as Carr finished 21-for-31 for 189 yards and the two scores.
Worth noting: Gruden has won 101 regular-season games in his coaching career. He has five playoff victories and a Super Bowl ring. And while Sunday's victory was seemingly just a Week 4 notch in the win column, it was more than that to Gruden.
"I'm as proud of this win," Gruden said, "as anyone I've ever had before."
"Well, I think it's a tough schedule that we have, honestly," Gruden added, referencing the Raiders playing at Oakland in their first two games, then not again until Nov. 3.
"There are a lot of difficult things that we've gone through. You show up here today and the guy you're counting on to be the Z position [J.J. Nelson] doesn't play. Your middle linebacker [Vontaze Burfict] gets thrown out ... your right guard [Jordan Devey] goes out, your right tackle [Trent Brown] goes out. There are a lot of reasons to fold your tent. There are a lot of reasons to start making excuses, but our guys were really resilient and tough mentally, and those are components that I think that are going to serve us well as we continue to build our team. I'm really proud of these guys."
But none of it would have been made possible without a quick start by the offense -- Carr in particular -- an opportunistic defense late, and a rookie closer in Jacobs.
"A lot of pride," said Jacobs, whose 307 rushing yards are the most by a Raiders rookie running back through the first four games of a season in franchise history. "To be relied on to close a game, I mean, it was a close game at the end so it was just definitely huge for us."
Asked about the pace of the NFL, the closer shrugged.
"It's not what everybody told me it was going to be, just to be honest," Jacobs said. "Since camp, I feel like I got the pace of the game. And I know there's levels -- the playoffs come and things like that, it speeds up.
"But right now, it's smooth. ..."
On the injury front. ... Nelson was a late scratch in Indy after experiencing tightness in his leg during pre-game warmups; he was limited Wednesday along with Jacobs (elbow). Gruden told reporter on Wednesday that Williams and first-round draft pick Clelin Ferrell were held out of the first practice.
Ferrell, a defensive end, is in concussion protocol and did not practice on Wednesday, nor did Williams, who has a foot injury,
This is one to watch in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Meanwhile, Burfict has been suspended for the rest of the 2019 season for his helmet-to-helmet hit Sunday on Colts tight end Jack Doyle, the league announced.
Burfict was ejected in the second quarter. He was initially flagged for hitting Doyle in the head across the middle. But after the officials conferred, Burfict was thrown out.
The league said that Burfict will be not be paid during the suspension, which covers the postseason as well. The league cited his repeated violations of unnecessary roughness rules in handing out the longest suspension ever for an on-field incident. Burfict will appeal.
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Mike Glennon
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Keelan Doss, Nelson Agholor
TEs: Darren Waller, Derek Carrier, Jason Witten
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra pointed out, the Eagles won a game in which Carson Wentz threw for just 160 yards, 262 fewer than his counterpart, Aaron Rodgers, in Thursday night's thrilling 34-27 win over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
Buoyed by short fields, Wentz and the Eagles didn't need a high-yardage passing night for Wentz to throw three touchdowns in the win. Wentz's 160 pass yards were the fourth-fewest in a game in his career, two of which were during his rookie campaign, and the other was in a blowout loss in New Orleans last year. Wentz became the first Eagles QB with three-plus passing TDs and fewer than 170 pass yards since Donovan McNabb in Week 3, 2001, versus Dallas.
Facing a suffocating Packers secondary, Doug Pederson didn't need Wentz's arm to pile up yardage Thursday. He had a bigger advantage: An offensive line that opened holes wider than the Pennsylvania Turnpike and running backs that plowed for chunk gains.
The Eagles employed a game plan that some coaches daydream about in their free moments to ponder clouds. Philly rushed the ball 33 times for 176 yards while only attempting 27 passes for 160 yards in the win.
Jordan Howard, who spent the first three years of his career in Chicago, earned his first career win at Lambeau Field and was the recipient of huge holes. Howard gained 87 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 15 carries and added a receiving touchdown. Rookie Miles Sanders added in with 11 carries and 72 yards.
"I credit the offensive line," Howard said, via the team's official website. "They did a great job. They made it easy for me. The holes were there and I just took them."
Howard earned the most rush yards by an Eagle since LeGarrette Blount in Week 12, 2017 (97) -- the Eagles haven't had a 100-plus yard rusher since Blount in Week 4, 2017 (32 games -- longest active streak in the NFL). Howard also became the first visiting player in the Super Bowl era to score 2-plus rush TDs and one or more receiving TD at Lambeau Field.
Despite the Packers entering Thursday with the second-ranked scoring D, and a secondary that has stifled opponents, the run defense has been gashed.
"We knew they struggle with the run game and we knew we were going to pound the ball the whole game," Sanders told NBC Sports Philly. "...Doug [Pederson's] plan was to just keep pounding the ball and that opened more stuff and when we needed to pass the ball, we were able to do it and we got first downs. Big thanks for the O-line. They played their ass off the whole game opening up holes for us."
The Eagles ground game had struggled through three weeks to start the season, averaging 2.5 yards per carry as they got off to a wobbly 1-2 start.
"This is what we should be," center Jason Kelce said after his O-line demolished Green Bay. "We utilized both backs to their strengths. We had a great game plan going in. We have the O-line to do it, we have the backs to do it, we have the unit to be a balanced offense. That's just how we function the best."
Beyond the superior run blocking, Wentz, who was sacked six times and endured several hits in the previous two games, was not sacked at all against tough Packers defensive front.
With a winnable game against the 0-3 New York Jets in Week 5 before tilts versus the Minnesota Vikings (2-1), Dallas Cowboys (3-0), Buffalo Bills (3-0), Chicago Bears (2-1) and New England Patriots (3-0) on tap, Thursday night's grinding win was massive for Philly's season.
"The running game was huge," Wentz said. "Riding the O-line and those two backs, that's huge. Huge for me. Takes a lot of pressure off me to be able to move the ball on the ground the way we did tonight."
Howard not only ran hard but caught three passes for 28 yards and one TD. The fourth-year pro leads the team in yards rushing (186) and average yards per carry (4.7). ...
The Eagles had a few extra days off before beginning preparation this week.
We'll see if that time off was enough to get fully healthy.
Alshon Jeffery returned to action on Thursday night and contributed a gigantic touchdown catch even though he did not appear to be 100 percent with the calf injury. The time off should have helped him immensely. DeSean Jackson remains out with an abdomen injury and he was not on the practice field Wednesday.
I'll have more on Jackson's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Beyond that, PhiladelphiaEagles.com's Dave Spadaro loves the way Mack Hollins has progressed in his third season after missing last year. He had a clutch 13-yard grab on a second-and-10 play and has been a consistent pass-catcher who is getting open. Nelson Agholor remains a big-play threat.
Along the same lines, the tight end duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert is just going to get better and better.
Goedert did a great job blocking as part of the 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends) and he caught a touchdown pass and is going to be a big part of the passing game. "Dynamic" is the word to use when describing this picture at tight end, and Alex Ellis has helped with his blocking and is another young tight end for coach Justin Peelle to develop.
Also according to Spadaro, winning in the red zone is critical and the Eagles are doing just that.
The offense scored touchdowns on all four trips inside Green Bay's 20-yard line on Thursday night and held the Packers' offense to just three touchdowns on seven red zone visits. For the season, the Eagles' offense is seventh in the league with a 68.75 touchdown percentage, a big jump from last year's touchdown rate of 59 percent. Defensively, the Eagles are eighth in red zone defense. ...
And finally. ... The Falcons, in need of safety help, traded linebacker Duke Riley and a 2020 sixth-round draft pick to the Eagles for safety Johnathan Cyprien and a '20 seventh-round draft pick, the teams announced Monday.
Cyprien, 29, has started 70 career games in six seasons, including four years as a starting strong safety in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars run a scheme similar to that of the Falcons. The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Cyprien is known more as an in-the-box safety but has been a liability in coverage.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jay Ajayi
WRs: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, Robert Davis
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor reported it, powered by pop passes, the Wildcat formation and a rejuvenated ground game, the Pittsburgh Steelers got in the win column for the first time this season with a 27-3 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night.
If it wasn't enough that the defense mauled Andy Dalton with eight sacks, the offense hummed along after a sputtering start to score on four consecutive possessions spanning the second and third quarters.
More important, it charted a road map for the Steelers to succeed with quarterback Mason Rudolph in 2019.
Primarily targeting his running backs, Rudolph thrived on short-yardage throws, completing 24 of 28 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Rudolph averaged 8.2 yards per attempt, but 169 of his passing yards came after the catch.
Rudolph stretched the field a couple of times -- including on a 43-yard strike to Diontae Johnson in the third quarter that broke it open, but the Steelers' game plan showed he didn't need to. It was enough to chip away with short passes, while allowing the versatile running backs to shoulder most of the offensive load. The Steelers will obviously face tougher teams than the 0-4 Bengals in the coming weeks, but Monday's win was a step in the right direction.
"We knew coming into this game that we was a big part of the game plan," running back Jaylen Samuels said. "So me and [James Conner] knew that we had to come out here and do our thing in the Wildcat and in the running back stuff. Downhill runs and stuff like that, we knew we had to make guys miss in open space.
"James had a couple good runs that busted out and I had a couple good catches, so we was just feeding off each other and that's kind of how we play and that's how it was."
The Steelers were going to be careful not to put too much on Rudolph. They made up for it by asking Samuels to do a little bit of everything.
The second-year running back filled up a stat sheet last night -- running, receiving, and passing -- as the Steelers switched things up to beat the Bengals.
The plan was to let Rudolph throw a bunch of short, safe passes, so they added some Wildcat wrinkles and tried to get Samuels out in space.
Samuels ran 10 times for 26 yards and a touchdown. He caught eight passes for 57 yards. And he completed all three of his pass attempts for another 31 yards, a do-it-all night. They put him in the Wildcat seven times, leading to 43 yards and a score.
He became the first player in the league with multiple catches, runs, and passes since Terrelle Pryor in 2016.
Remember, in Week 3, Samuels was barely used -- he got on the field for 14 snaps but didn't touch the ball.
After an anemic run game at San Francisco, Pittsburgh's coaching staff shook things up and completely integrated Samuels into this week's plan. In addition to traditional running back duties, Samuels was used in the Wildcat formation seven times for 43 yards and a touchdown.
"I think we saw it last year with how special and how versatile he is in space with the football, catching the football out of the backfield," Rudolph said. "He's a great piece of our offense. And he complements James Conner well."
Conner got back on track with three plays of at least 20 yards -- including a season-long 21-yard run. Conner showed visible frustration after the first three games, during which he had only one play that went more than 20 yards. Conner finished the night with 42 yards on 10 carries, and he was the Steelers' top receiver, with 83 yards and a touchdown on eight targets.
On a night when JuJu Smith-Schuster was quiet, Conner's complete performance was a difference-maker.
"We were a team thirsty for a win, simple and plain," Conner said. "Less talking, more action ... our team played great tonight, defense was all over the field. Flying around, creating turnovers and big sacks. We play like that off one another, get the run game going a little bit. ... This is division play. These games are weighted different. Awesome to be a part of. Keep stacking week by week."
On the injury front. ... Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday that Conner, who played through an ankle injury he sustained in the first half Monday night, and Cam Heyward (quad) are being evaluated still. They'll be limited some this week. Practice will dictate game availability, but Conner reports that he's fine.
The Pro Bowler confirmed to 93.7 The Fan that he got treatment on his ankle but added that nothing is torn. He said he could practice Wednesday.
That seems optimistic, and, in fact, Tomlin said he expects Conner and defensive lineman Cam Heyward (quadriceps) to have some limited practices this week.
Conner had 18 touches for a season-high 125 yards and a touchdown in Monday night's victory over the Bengals.
Conner was on the injury report earlier this season with a knee injury. But he has not missed a game this season, playing more than 55 percent of the offensive snaps.
Tight end Vance McDonald sat out with a right shoulder injury. Nick Vannett, acquired in a trade with Seattle last week, started and caught two passes for 28 yards. Tomlin is optimistic about McDonald's availability this week.
For the record, Conner did not take part in practice on Wednesday. Smith-Schuster was was listed as a non-participant due to a toe issue as was McDonald.
I'll have more on Conner, Smith-Schuster and McDonald via Late-Breaking Update in coming days as the Steelers begin preparing to host division rival Baltimore on Sunday. The teams split the season series last year, both winning at home. ...
One last note here. ... The Steelers had wide receiver Donte Moncrief on the active roster for Monday night's game against the Bengals after leaving him inactive in Week 3, but Moncrief didn't play much of a role.
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper notes, Moncrief was in on three offensive snaps and didn't catch a pass on any of them. He'd been benched after dropping five passes in the first two weeks of the season and head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that the veteran needs to stay prepared for more action in the future.
"I like his attitude and work," Tomlin said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "You don't have to be in this a long time to realize the boomerang comes back around. He needs to be ready for it when it does."
One way that boomerang could come back to Moncrief would be someone else falling out of favor. One way that happens is through turnovers like the early fumble by Johnson on Monday, but Johnson recovered to catch six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
QBs: Devlin Hodges, Mason Rudolph, Ben Roethlisberger
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds, Kerrith Whyte
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Johnny Holton, Deon Cain
TEs: Vance McDonald, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
The 49ers (3-0) come out of their week off as one of only three teams with perfect records so far, having squeaked out ugly victories at Tampa Bay and in the home opener against Pittsburgh around a dominating performance in Cincinnati.
As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow notes, this is the first time San Francisco has won its opening three games since 1998 and it's a far cry from the way the past four seasons have gone since coach Jim Harbaugh left following three straight trips to the NFL title game and an 8-8 record from 2011-14.
It took until Nov. 8 for the Niners to win their third game in 2015 under coach Jim Tomsula, they never got there during a 2-14 campaign under Chip Kelly the following year, and they didn't celebrate a third victory in head coach Kyle Shanahan's first two years until December.
"When you lose a lot, which we have over the last few years, losing can be contagious and even though you want to block it out, there's somewhere in there like, 'Hey, we can't let this happen again,'" Shanahan said. "When bad things happen, that feeling does come up. I thought it was obvious to our team, which I feel just watching them and being around them is the opposite feeling. The worse it's going, the more guys still believe that we're going to win."
Never was that the case more than during the 24-20 win over Pittsburgh this past week when the Niners overcame five turnovers, including three in the red zone, to win the game on a late TD pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to Dante Pettis.
Instead of taking a fatalistic attitude that this wasn't their day like may have happened the past two years, the players relished the challenge they created and took advantage of a late forced fumble to set up the game-winning score.
"It's a mindset that we have in that locker room," Garoppolo said. "It's a great group of guys, great coaches, and I think it starts from the top down. We know what we have, and we just have to go prove it on the field now."
That Garoppolo was in position to throw the game-winning TD pass at the end of Week 3 was perhaps the biggest difference from a year ago. He tore his ACL in the third game of 2018 at Kansas City, bringing an end to the optimism the team had to open the season.
Garoppolo is back healthy again and after struggling in the opener, he has played well the past two weeks. He picked apart an overmatched Cincinnati defense in a 41-17 victory in Week 2 and then stood tall under heavy pressure from the blitzing Steelers to make enough big plays in the home opener.
Those types of performances are why the Niners rewarded him with a $137.5 million, five-year contract after he won the final five games in 2017 following a midseason trade from New England.
"He was under duress and he hung in there," Shanahan said of Garoppolo's performance last week. "He made some big-time throws, we missed the safety one time where we should have had it and he didn't hesitate, he didn't flinch, he hung in there took the shot and made a hell of a throw and also got the penalty with it. We had a number of hots in the game where we had to get rid of it and he hung in there and got rid of it and threw good balls. They came after him a ton and he answered."
The other major difference is on the defensive side of the ball where the additions of edge rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa have turned a defense that couldn't create turnovers into an extremely disruptive one this season.
San Francisco has gotten consistent pressure on the quarterback, leading to bad throws and bad decisions and seven turnovers the first three weeks, matching the NFL record-low the team set for all of 2018.
That defense provided two pick-6s in the season opener to beat the Bucs and then set up two second-half touchdowns with takeaways against the Steelers. Then with Pittsburgh taking over with a chance to drive for the winning score, Mason Rudolph was pressured into an incomplete pass on first down, was forced to scramble on second, took a sack on third and had no time before throwing an incompletion on fourth down to end comeback attempt.
"Time and time again, we saw these close games where we didn't make the play at the end of the game, or we ended up losing by three or by one," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "So, to be on the other end of that was huge. ..."
The Niners returned to work Monday to begin preparation for Monday Night Football against the Cleveland Browns.
Shanahan told reporters last week that Tevin Coleman (ankle) and Jalen Hurd (back) could return to practice this week.
According to ESPN's Mike Clay, with Coleman out the past two game, the 49ers' backfield snaps have been split as follows: Raheem Mostert (38 percent of snaps), Matt Breida (35 percent), Jeff Wilson Jr. (23 percent). Breida (5.5 YPC, 1.4 YAC this season) held a slight edge in snaps and carries in Week 3, but Mostert (5.9 YPC, 2.1 YAC) has been effective enough that he figures to maintain a big role. Breida remains the preferred play here, but he is no more than a flex with Mostert playing so well and Wilson, who is tied for the lead league in carries inside the 5-yard line (five), stealing goal-line work.
Coleman's return would likely relegate Wilson to game-day inactive status.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson, Tevin Coleman
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Jordan Matthews
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth noted, it took a trip to the desert for the Seattle Seahawks to find the blueprint coach Pete Carroll was seeking.
Lean heavily on the running of Chris Carson, who rushed for 104 yards and didn't fumble. Allow Russell Wilson to orchestrate without having to carry the entire weight of Seattle's offense. And get a few big plays from the Seahawks defense, including a touchdown from one of their new stars.
The 27-10 romp over Arizona on Sunday played out in nearly the exact fashion Carroll would like to see.
But how much can be taken from beating up on the weak link of the NFC West, or for that matter any of Seattle's results from its 3-1 start?
Seattle has yet to face an offense ranked in the top 15 in the league or a defense ranked in the top 20. They've gotten off to their strong start by picking on the bottom of the league.
That changes on Thursday when the Los Angeles Rams visit in a major division showdown that could have ramifications come December and possibly January.
"It's a solid start. There are a lot of teams in the same position we're in so we haven't separated from anybody, which is hard to do at this time," Carroll said. "It's a good solid start and with one lousy outing that we gave a game away to a really good team. I like where we are at this point I like this matchup as we're kicking into the second quarter of the season and here we go. We'll see what happens."
One thing that's already happening is the connection between Wilson and tight end Will Dissly, which is surprisingly effective.
Dissly was known more as a blocker coming out of college at Washington, and he struggled a little with his pass catching in his rookie season before suffering a major knee injury. But he might be Wilson's favorite target not named Tyler Lockett. Dissly had seven catches on eight targets and grabbed his fourth touchdown of the season against the Cardinals.
Add two catches for Luke Willson and Seattle's tight ends caught nine of the Seahawks' 22 completed passes.
Dissly's big day came in the same stadium where he suffered a torn patellar tendon last year.
"He's earned everything. He's worked for everything and he's a tremendous guy, tremendous player, tremendous teammate and that was big," Wilson said. "I was happy for him for sure."
Wilson continues to be sacked at a rate higher than Seattle would like. The Seahawks kept their quarterback clean on 50 pass attempts last week against New Orleans, but for the third time this year he was sacked four times by the Cardinals. Only Marcus Mariota, Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray have been sacked more than Wilson through Week 4.
But in general, Carroll couldn't be happier with his QB's play.
"I think he's off to his best start ever," the coach said, via ESPN.com's Brady Henderson. "I don't know what it looks like numbers-wise, but I think it is."
Per Henderson, the numbers support that.
Wilson's eight touchdowns are tied for his most through four games and this is the first time he hasn't thrown an interception by this point. His 72.9 percent completion rate, 118.7 passer rating and 8.58 yards per attempt are also his best through four games, per ESPN charting.
"I don't think he's ever been more accurate than he's been and more consistent and in command of everything, so think he's off to a great start," Carroll said. "I don't care how big the numbers are. I'm not talking about how many yards or whatever. Just his play has just been really, really sharp."
That'll help out this week.
It doesn't get much bigger for Seattle than an early-season showdown against the Rams. Los Angeles has won three of its last four trips to Seattle. While San Francisco remains unbeaten, the winner on Thursday gains a significant advantage in the NFC West race. ...
Other notes of interest. ... With all the attention on Carson's fumble problems through the first three weeks, the fact he avoided coughing up the ball while also rushing for more than 100 yards was a major accomplishment. Carson's performance was reassuring for himself and the Seahawks.
Rookie DK Metcalf has disappeared a bit over the past two games. After two big weeks to start the season, Metcalf has just three catches over the past two games. One of those receptions came on a jump ball at the end of the first half in Week 3 against New Orleans and went for 54 yards, meaning his other two catches have gone for a combined 19 yards.
Seattle has seen Jaron Brown and Malik Turner both get a few more targets the past couple of weeks, along with David Moore's return from an arm injury.
And finally. ... Carroll said he hopes backup running back Rashaad Penny (hamstring) will be able to play against the Rams after missing the past two games. Penny's best career game to date came last year against the Rams when he ran for 108 yards and a TD. While Penny's return would be a boost, the more important news was Seattle getting out of Arizona without any major injuries after recent trips where the Seahawks suffered some significant injuries in the desert.
Penny was a full participant in Monday's practice and does not appear on the team's final injury report in advance of Thursday night's game.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Travis Homer, Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Phillip Dorsett, David Moore, John Ursua, Malik Turner, Jaron Brown
TEs: Greg Olsen, Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
According to ESPN.com's Jenna Laine, head coach Bruce Arians wrote in big letters on the team's dry-erase board this past week, "Finish."
After surrendering an 18-point lead at the half and losing to the New York Giants at home last week, the Bucs found themselves in a similar predicament against the Los Angeles Rams on the road Sunday.
But this time, they set a franchise single-game scoring record to upset the defending NFC champions 55-40 and improve to 2-2 (2-0 on the road).
"It was huge. That's what young teams have to learn -- you have to learn how to win," Arians said. "This could have easily gone the other way, but it didn't because we finished -- in all three phases -- we finished the game to win."
The Bucs jumped out to a 21-point lead and picked off quarterback Jared Goff twice before surrendering touchdowns on back-to-back drives in the second quarter. But even as momentum swung heavily in the Rams' favor, Tampa Bay maintained its composure.
"There was no panic on our sideline -- there was a lot of belief," Arians said. "I think we answered whether or not we're tough enough to overcome a tough loss."
Even after Marcus Peters' pick-six against Jameis Winston in the fourth quarter cut the lead to five, the Bucs managed to do what Arians has been preaching incessantly since he got to Tampa Bay: "Bucs can't beat Bucs."
Now they get a shot at grabbing the lead in the NFC South over the next two weeks, with a trip to New Orleans and a rematch with the Carolina Panthers in London as part of a grueling five-game road stretch.
Winston delivered a four-touchdown performance -- tied for second-most in his career -- while Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones scored rushing TDs and former Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh recovered a Shaq Barrett strip sack and returned it for a score with 1:17 to go to seal the win.
Winston connected with Chris Godwin for two scores -- the first on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone and the second on a screen pass. Godwin had career highs of 12 catches for 172 yards.
It was the most catches by a Tampa Bay receiver since Keyshawn Johnson in 2001.
The Bucs scored four touchdowns on their first six possessions in the first half, but unlike the previous week, when they mustered just three points in the second half, they didn't take their foot off the gas, scoring 27 points after halftime: Suh's fumble return was preceded by a 58-yard field goal for Matt Gay, a short pass to tight end Cameron Brate, a 67-yard bomb to Mike Evans -- whom the Rams had doubled up on most of the game -- and a 21-yard field goal from Gay.
The Bucs scored 28 points off four Goff turnovers, including three interceptions.
"Before the play he said, 'Be ready for this,'" Evans said of Winston. "I was getting double-teamed the whole game and then the safety bit on the play-action and it was one-on-one, and I knew I had it and Jameis threw a great ball. ... [Godwin] said it before the game -- we were just playing around and he was like, 'We're gonna need 50. We're gonna have 50.'
"We got it with that [Suh] fumble [scoop and score] at the end."
The Bucs were 5-for-5 in the red zone (including four touchdowns), which was a huge point of emphasis during the past week after they went 1-for-5 in the red zone in Week 3. Scoring in the red zone has been a problem this season for the Bucs. Heading into Week 4, they scored just three touchdowns off 11 red zone possessions (27.3 percent, 31st in the league).
Gay -- who last Sunday missed a 34-yard field goal attempt that would have won the game, missed an extra point and saw another PAT blocked -- made all seven extra points and two field goals against the Rams.
For what it's worth, Arians complimented Winston, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen for the work they've been doing to open the season during.
"He's just growing in the offense," Arians said at a Monday press conference. "I think that Byron and Clyde are doing a great job with him, fundamentally and mentally. I don't know of anyone who's played better over the past three weeks than he has and the numbers should show it, we've put a lot of points up. Especially when you jump out 21-0 you take the crowd out of it and then you just keep playing. The one thing I kept preaching was to just keep scoring. Keep scoring, keep going after it because I knew the Rams were going to score some points."
A Saints defense that just shut down the Cowboys is next up for Winston, who was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, and the Bucs.
Arians said on Monday that he wants the whole team to "play fearless" as they try to bump their record to 3-2 on the young season. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Evans injured his hand in the second half, but returned. Fellow wideout Breshad Perriman didn't return from a hamstring injury in the first quarter. Perriman has been dealing with the issue for some time.
Godwin obviously played through his hip issue without any noticeable difficulty, but he was held out of Wednesday's practice.
I'll follow up on the status of all three via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Bucs linebacker Jack Cichy left the locker room with his right arm in a sling and appeared visibly upset. He said, "I'll be alright." But he appeared to suffer a dislocated elbow during the game. ...
And finally. ... After the game, the Bucs shared a poignant moment on FaceTime with general manager Jason Licht, whose father died suddenly in Nebraska on Saturday after attending the Cornhuskers' game. The players and coaches remotely gave the game ball to Licht, whose father's favorite Nebraska player was Suh.
QBs: Tom Brady, Jameis Winston, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Ronald Jones, Dare Ogunbowale, T.J. Logan
WRs: Justin Watson, Cyril Grayson, Spencer Schnell, Chris Godwin
TEs: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Tanner Hudson
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
The Tennessee Titans' offense got rolling early and scored two first-quarter touchdowns to fuel a 24-10 win over the Falcons on Sunday. Marcus Mariota found a groove -- connecting with rookie WR A.J. Brown on the two early scores -- and stayed on schedule with his throws despite facing plenty of pressure in the pocket.
Beyond that, ESPN.com's Turron Davenport believes the Titans found a blueprint they can follow to keep the wins coming. Head coach Mike Vrabel stresses being sound in all three phases of the game, and the Titans checked each of the boxes in their much-needed win on the road to break a two-game losing streak.
Tennessee jumped out to a 14-7 lead in the first quarter and then relied on its defense, special teams and, ultimately, running back Derrick Henry in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
"For the first time, I feel as a team we showed what we can really do when we hit on all cylinders," linebacker Rashaan Evans said.
It's a formula they can stick to the rest of the season.
First of all, Mariota once again did an excellent job of not turning the ball over. Through four games, he's yet to throw an interception or lose a fumble.
Atlanta was unable to post a single sack against a team that had given up an NFL-high 17 sacks through the first three weeks of the season. That was the most telling stat for Tennessee's offense.
Mariota pointed to the offensive line when asked to explain why the Titans didn't give up any sacks this week despite rotating Jamil Douglas and rookie Nate Davis at right guard. He also credited the receivers.
"The guys up front gave us time and the opportunity to attack the ball down the field," Mariota said after the game. "I thought our guys outside ran some incredible routes. They created a lot of separation and made it easy to throw it. They found windows pretty consistently."
Mariota was on point and more decisive as a passer.
He ended the day having completed 18 of 27 passes for 227 yards, three touchdowns and a 129.7 QB rating. Mariota stared down the pass rush, avoiding sacks (no sacks on Sunday after getting sacked nine times in the last game against the Jaguars) to distribute the ball to multiple receivers.
One of Mariota's best throws came on a timing pass that was released well before Corey Davis made his break and led to a 23-yard score.
Brown and Davis each came close to 100 yards receiving and had a touchdown catch that served as examples of how Mariota was on schedule with his throws on Sunday.
Mariota found Brown across the middle on a play-action pass that hit him in stride, leading to a 55-yard catch-and-run for the opening score. As Davenport suggested, if that throw is not on the money, Brown is not able to accelerate through the catch before he cut it back and outran the defense to the end zone for his first career touchdown.
Davenport added the throw to Davis was an even better example of excellent timing. The ball was out as soon as Mariota hit the third step in his drop and before Davis made his break toward the sideline. Mariota's pass was perfectly placed, leading Davis out of his break and away from the defender on the 23-yard touchdown.
Davis said he and Mariota worked extensively to fine-tune the timing of that route.
"He threw it up early and gave me a chance to make a play," Davis said. "A lot of trust and timing goes into that. We repped that plenty of times. He throws that ball pretty good every time. I just have to do my job of winning and getting where I'm supposed to be when I'm supposed to be there."
Mariota's decisive play in the pocket helped convert a couple of early third-and-long situations and contributed to Tennessee jumping out to a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. Once the Titans took the lead, the defense made sure they'd hold on to it.
And because of that, Henry carried the ball 10 times down the stretch, leading him to reach the 100-yard plateau for the first time this season.
"That was a hell of a job," Vrabel said during his postgame speech via the team's website. "Everybody was doing their job and then trying to do it a little bit better. Keep doing it. That's what works.
"Bring a great defense, bring a run game. We found a way to finish drives, finish through the red zone and do all the stuff that we talked about."
Next on the agenda?
Win a game in October. A year ago, the Titans went into October 3-1 and lost all three games that month before their bye. After hosting the Bills, their lone road trip will be to winless Denver before back-to-back home games against the Chargers and Tampa Bay. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Davis finished with five receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. That came on six targets. The only incompletion was a dropped pass in the first quarter. According to Davenport, offensive coordinator Arthur Smith dialed up a few plays to get Davis early touches, including a call for him on the first offensive play.
That's a good sign and shows the Titans know Davis has to get involved in the passing game. He was targeted more than any other pass-catcher.
And finally. ... Taylor Lewan was reinstated from his four-game suspension Monday. Lewan has been sidelined the first four games of the regular season after he was suspended for violating the league's PED policy. When his appeal fell short, the Titans were left with Dennis Kelly at left tackle and emerged with a modest 2-2 record.
Vrabel told reporters the Titans get a roster exemption temporarily while Lewan comes back from suspension, but he should quickly move back into his usual starting left tackle role.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dalyn Dawkins, David Fluellen
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 1 October 2019
According to the Associated press, for the first time, Jay Gruden looks like a defeated coach.
The Washington Redskins are 0-4 after a blowout loss to the New York Giants and staring down a potential 0-5 start with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots coming to town.
"Nobody saw this coming like this -- I sure didn't -- but here we are," Gruden said. "So, reality has set in the last few weeks. I know our guys are hungry, they're great guys, they want to play well, they want to do well, they're going to work at it, we're going to coach hard at it and we're not going to give up. We're not going to quit. We're going to come out and give New England our best shot."
The Redskins bristled at preseason predictions that labeled them as one of the worst teams in the NFL but have done nothing to disprove them. Only three offenses and six defenses are worse than Washington's units so far, first-round pick Dwayne Haskins flopped in relief in his pro debut and the calls for Gruden and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky to be fired will only get louder.
So the most immediate concern this week is at quarterback, where Case Keenum on Sunday was benched for Haskins, the quarterback of the future who was 9 of 17 with three interceptions in his first NFL action. Missing injured tight end Jordan Reed and top receiver Terry McLaurin didn't help matters, and the banged up offensive line missing two starters couldn't protect well enough or open lanes for the running game.
"I think we are all frustrated in this locker room," Keenum said after a benching that surprised him. "We all have to play better. It's a tough league. Every week. Everybody is really good and you can't do what we did on third down, have penalties, turn the ball over and expect to win. It just is what it is."
So what's the plan this week?
"I think I'll figure that out, especially when I find out the true status of our quarterbacks that are banged up a little bit," Gruden said, in reference to Keenum's foot and Colt McCoy's leg. "Obviously Colt coming back from his leg injury, if he's 100 percent ready to go. Case, how he's doing with his foot -- he was in a boot after the game, precautionary reason. We'll see where they are. And then talking to Dwayne [Haskins], seeing his progress. I'll make that determination.
"I think it will depend on the decision I make and then how that person performs on Thursday and Friday."
Keenum was still in a boot during Wednesday's practice. He was sitting out while McCoy was takeing part.
Meanwhile, Haskins is the future, but Gruden knew the 15th overall pick wasn't ready yet and justifiably held off on playing him. Keenum's foot injury precipitated the change this time, though it should be no guarantee this is now Haskins' turn to be the starter.
"He's got to earn that right first," Gruden said. "I don't care when you're drafted. You have to earn that. He's got to come in here and perform when he's asked to perform."
Gruden was asked whether the fact that Washington is playing the Patriots will be a factor in the decision.
"It has nothing to do with it," Gruden said. "I will absolutely play the person who I think will give us the best chance to win."
It sounds like Gruden may already be leaning in a specific direction.
"I can make a decision now," Gruden said, "I might have already made a decision, but I'm going to let it play out because I need to see these guys perform. I don't need to make an announcement and then change my mind on Friday. I want to come out here and let these guys practice and then hopefully somebody will take the job and run."
It wouldn't be at all surprising if McCoy starts against New England and the Redskins join the New York Jets as the only teams to have three quarterbacks see action in the first five weeks of the season. Whatever the case, come Sunday, the winner may be running for his life against a stout Patriots defense. And if Washington gets blown out, come next Monday Gruden could be getting run out of town.
Of course, there are other issues. The Redskins' 48 penalty flags are second in the league.
"To me it dates back to last year," running back Adrian Peterson said. "They're still holding a grudge against the Redskins? Deep grudge? It's ridiculous. Markers were flying everywhere. I can't even explain it."
And the defense is allowing almost 400 yards and 30 points a game. Opponents are converting at a league-high 62.96 percent on third down against the Redskins. Hard to win in the NFL like that.
Speaking of Peterson. ... In three games in place of Derrius Guice, Peterson has 90 yards on 33 carries (2.7 yards per carry) and four yards on five targets.
As ESPN's Mike Clay points out, based on this workload, Peterson sits just inside the top 50 in fantasy points during the span and is being massively outperformed by Chris Thompson (20th in fantasy points during Weeks 2-4).
Clay added: "Peterson might occasionally find the end zone (as he did eight times in the same role last season), but a lack of receiving work and Washington's low-scoring offense make him a weak flex option. ..."
Meanwhile, I'll have more on the QB situation as well as McLaurin, who worked on a limited basis Wednesday, and his potential return from what was initially reported to be a minor hamstring issue via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
But the decision on Tuesday to release receiver Robert Davis, who ended up playing decent amount Sunday with McLaurin out, is probably telling. ...
Beyond that, Reed's status remains a concern as he continues to recover from a concussion he suffered August 22 vs. Atlanta.
A week ago, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Reed's playing career could be in jeopardy and we've yet to see anything to refute that as the latest reporting indicates the tight end has seen multiple specialists in an effort to return.
QBs: Colt McCoy, Kyle Allen, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Peyton Barber, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon, Cody Latimer
TEs: Jeremy Sprinkle, Hale Hentges