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Team Notes Week 12 2018
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 20 November 2018
The Cardinals had a win in hand. Then they didn't.
Unable to generate enough offense to sustain a fourth-quarter lead, the Cards (2-8) watched kicker Daniel Carlson boot a 32-yard field goal on the final play for a difficult 23-21 win at State Farm Stadium.
The Raiders (2-8) went 63 yards on nine plays on the final drive before Carlson's kick, highlighted by a 32-yard pass from Derek Carr to tight end Marcell Ateman for a 32-yard gain over defensive back Bene Benwikere.
It short-circuited a great game by Cardinals running back David Johnson, who had 137 yards rushing on 25 carries. QB Josh Rosen had three touchdown passes, but struggled much of the game and threw two interceptions.
Costly penalties by tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Ricky Seals-Jones halted a final possession as the Cards tried to run out the clock.
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss wrote, "Every week, after every loss, the Arizona Cardinals have offered the same explanations.
"They need to improve.
"They need to do a much better job.
"They need to fix things.
"It'll happen next week.
"The next game will be different.
"And yet every week, after every loss, the result is seemingly the same. ..."
While the Cardinals' season in its current form might not be the worst-case scenario for 2018, after Sunday's loss, it's about as bad as it'll get. This is the fourth time since 1990 that Arizona has started a season 2-8, according to Pro Football Reference. The last time it happened, in 2006, Dennis Green was fired after the season.
Head coach Steve Wilks isn't concerned about his job right now.
"I'm just worried about trying to win a football game," Wilks said. "As I watch this tape tomorrow, I'm getting ready for the Chargers. I have so many other things to worry about right now. I'm not concerned with that right now."
Losing to what was the worst team in football -- at home, no less -- left an already downtrodden team even more demoralized.
"Yeah, this one is going to sting," Johnson said. "This is definitely going to sting. The Raiders, everybody knows, they are trading guys away. They are doing everything to try to rebuild. This one is a tough one."
As has been the case more often than not this year, the Cardinals beat themselves. A slew of self-inflicted mistakes cost the Cardinals the win -- potentially what might have been their last one for a while, if not the rest of the season.
The Cardinals simply couldn't get out of their own way on Sunday, especially when it mattered most. Wilks said the blame for the loss is split 50-50. Both players and coaches had a hand in it.
"We have to learn how to finish," he said.
And that's a process.
As the team's official website noted, Rosen is constantly accumulating knowledge, and an old lesson from UCLA popped into the rookie quarterback's mind late in the first quarter of Sunday's loss.
Oakland overloaded the right side and threatened a blitz, but Rosen didn't particularly care if the defenders were rushing or not. He knew the numbers on the left benefitted him, so he switched the play to a wide receiver screen.
Christian Kirk caught the throw, broke a tackle and raced 59 yards for the touchdown.
"Back in college I learned the 'MFer' rule," Rosen said. "If there are a lot of 'MFers' over there, go that (other) way."
It's these types of lessons that will continue to help Rosen develop as an NFL quarterback, but unsurprisingly, there were also times against Oakland when his play led to some profane thoughts on the other end of the spectrum.
Rosen threw the above-mentioned three touchdown passes but finished just 9-of-20 for 136 yards with two picks. The first came on a lofted pass for Larry Fitzgerald, a 50-50 ball that was intercepted by cornerback Gareon Conley.
The other came on a throw intended for fellow rookie Trent Sherfield that was popped into the air and corralled by Raiders safety Karl Joseph. Rosen, Sherfield and Kirk were half of the six rookies who were on the field during that interception, joined by center Mason Cole, left tackle Korey Cunningham and running back Chase Edmonds.
There were offensive hiccups, especially in the middle two quarters, but they weren't glaringly the fault of the youngsters. Rosen said the first-year players will inevitably deal with ups and downs, but on this day "it was across the board (including veterans). And I'm not excluding myself. I made plenty. I dropped a snap. I haven't done that since high school."
Kirk has been the team's most impressive rookie this season and continued showing it with three catches for a team-high 77 yards, including the long catch-and-run score. He shook off a tackle and then had a clear path to the end zone.
"The blocks were amazing by the front line," Kirk said. "(Tight end) Ricky (Seals-Jones) came in at the end and sealed that last guy and all I had to do is just catch it and score."
Kirk added another impressive leaping catch late to set up the go-ahead touchdown. His lone blip was an early drop on a pass that would have resulted in a first down.
As ESPN's Mike Clay pointed out this week, Kirk has cleared 77 receiving yards and/or scored a touchdown during five of his past eight games. Kirk has played 90 percent of the offensive snaps during the past two weeks and sits inside the top 30 at wide receiver in fantasy points since Week 5.
Cunningham filled in for D.J. Humphries at left tackle, getting his first extensive NFL experience after the team selected him in the seventh round of April's draft. Wilks wants to watch the tape more closely to evaluate his performance but was happy with the line overall.
"I know we only gave up one (sack) so that was encouraging," Wilks said. "I know he was hurt a couple times. I thought for the most part those guys did a decent job of protection."
Edmonds finished with five carries for 17 yards while Sherfield caught his first NFL pass. The duo combined to make a great play by downing a punt at the 2 in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the bad outweighed the good for the Cardinals, who are hoping to see experience turn into tangible progress.
"I just remember being frustrated with a lot of little things," Rosen said. "No disrespect to the Raiders, but we feel as though we were the better football team there. That's why this one was so frustrating."
So with Johnson hitting stride at a fortuitous time and Rosen throwing enough touchdowns to keep his tough downfield weapons in the flex conversation on a weekly basis, there's enough here for fantasy owners to hang their collective hat on as the rookies figure things out for the future. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Cardinals announced they cut kicker Matt McCrane on Monday.
Arizona needed McCrane on Sunday with Phil Dawson nursing a right hip injury. McCrane made all three of his extra point attempts against the Raiders.
The Cardinals signed him Saturday when it became obvious Dawson wouldn't play.
McCrane kicked in three games for the Raiders this season, making 5 of 9 field goals and all five extra points.
He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Kansas State, signing with the Cardinals in May.
The Cardinals added McCrane to the practice squad Oct. 26 when Dawson's right hip first flared up, but Dawson ended up kicking against the 49ers.
The Cardinals announced they have re-signed cornerback David Amerson and promoted cornerback Chris Jones and receiver Jalen Tolliver from the practice squad. They released defensive end Vontarrius Dora and cornerback Jamar Taylor in corresponding moves. ....
Also. ... Linebacker Deone Bucannon saw a decent amount of playing time in the base defense but injured his chest in the second half and didn't return. Bucannon finished with one tackle.
Defensive tackle Olsen Pierre went to the locker room to check on an unspecified injury but later returned to the game. He finished with a tackle and a quarterback hit.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley
RBs: David Johnson, Chase Edmonds, T.J. Logan, D.J. Foster
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, KeeSean Johnson, Andy Isabella, Michael Crabtree, Trent Sherfield, Damiere Byrd
TEs: Charles Clay, Maxx Williams
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
According to ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure noted, as much as the Falcons try to preach focusing on the next game, they can't ignore what Sunday's last-second loss to the Dallas Cowboys meant in the grand scheme of things.
A team that entered the season touted to be a Super Bowl contender and possibly the first squad to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium now sits at 4-6.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, only 12 teams out of 163 since 1990 have qualified for the playoffs after starting 4-6.
The last team to do it was the 2016 Green Bay Packers, who rattled of six consecutive victories to finish 10-6, win their division, and make it all the way to the NFC Championship game, before falling to the Falcons.
The quick turnaround against the Saints on Thanksgiving night in New Orleans does not make things easier. The Saints are the hottest team in the league.
At least that gives the Falcons little time to dwell on what happened against the Cowboys. Mistakes were made across the board, from rookie receiver Calvin Ridley dropping a ball that led to an interception and Cowboys' touchdown, to cornerback Robert Alford not coming up with an interception and not making a stop on Cole Beasley that could have kept the Cowboys from driving in for the game-winning field goal.
No Falcon fell on the fumble caused by defensive tackle Jack Crawford in the third quarter, a costly missed takeaway opportunity on a drive that ended with Dak Prescott's four-yard touchdown run off the read option, where Vic Beasley misread the play. And a Falcons' offense touted for its explosive ability failed to score in the first quarter for the second consecutive game and managed just three field goals through the first three quarters.
Now, the Falcons have to figure out how they can maybe salvage the season -- or at least finish above .500 -- with the Saints up next in a hostile environment, along with two other difficult road challenges against Carolina (6-4) and Green Bay (4-5-1). A loss to the Saints would shift the focus to next season and what changes need to be in the offseason to make the Falcons a Super Bowl contender once again.
Close hasn't been good enough for the Falcons. They've lost three home games in the final seconds and have lost four of six games that have come down to the end, including a road loss at Philadelphia.
"We've been in a lot of tight ones and just have not gotten the outcome that we want," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "But we are where we are. And we've got to dig back into it. And that starts Thursday. And we've got to come up with a really good plan and be prepared and ready to go and play our best football Thursday night."
There should be plenty of fireworks in this one.
When the Falcons and Saints met in Week 3 this season, they scored a combined 80 points and gained nearly 1,000 yards of offense. New Orleans has become one of the top teams in the NFL since it came to Atlanta earlier this season, making the Falcons' ability to turn the page all the more important.
"I think the opponent that we're going against, the stage that it's on, makes it pretty easy to be able to turn around quickly and put this one behind us," Ryan said. "And then you just have to stay on them, too. You just have to say, 'No, listen, we are done with yesterday. We learn from it and we get to work and start to prepare.'"
As is the case anytime the Falcons and Saints play, records don't matter.
If there is a team Atlanta will be able to shake off a loss for it is New Orleans, especially with the nation watching after eating way too much Thanksgiving turkey.
"Honestly, we'll just go into this week and just this game," Quinn said. "Not think about the big picture, and just this game, this attitude, this mindset. That's where our focus will lie for this week … The only thing on our minds is getting ready to go fight and play on Thursday night ..."
Think it might be a high-scoring affair Thursday night?
McClure offered up the five top-scoring Falcons-Saints game with Ryan at QB: Saints 43, Falcons 37 (ATL, 2018), Falcons 45, Saints 32 (NO, 2016), Falcons 37, Saints 34 (ATL, 2014), Falcons 38, Saints 32 (ATL, 2017), Saints 45, Falcons 16 (NO, 2011).
The Saints currently lead league in scoring at 37.8 points per game; the Falcons are ninth at 26.3 ppg. ...
The Falcons have a quick turn before taking on the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, but they at least appear to be healthy heading into the matchup.
Atlanta had no players sit out Monday's walkthrough, and it had only six players listed as limited, with Ridley (thigh) being the only skill player on the list. He was limited again Tuesday.
I'll follow on his status in advance of Thursday night's game; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
Meanwhile, Matt Bryant resumed his duties as Atlanta's kicker after missing three games with a strained right hamstring.
The 43-year-old looked as good as new, connecting on field goals of 41, 45, 53 and 21 yards.
He is 13 of 13 for the season, including four kicks of at least 50 yards.
"I got through everything OK," Bryant said. "Obviously, I'd rather have the win."
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Ito Smith, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Russell Gage
TEs: Austin Hooper, Luke Stocker, Jaeden Graham
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley reported, in a span of three days, Lamar Jackson went from a trip to the hospital to rescuing the Ravens' season in his first NFL start.
After missing Thursday's practice with a stomach illness, Jackson returned to end a three-game losing streak and provide a jolt of electricity in a desperately needed 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore.
Showing Michael Vick-like explosiveness, Jackson ran for 117 yards and threw for 150 in replacing Joe Flacco, whose 41-game consecutive start streak ended due to a hip injury.
"I thought he played spectacular. I thought he played winning football," head coach John Harbaugh said. "The playmaking -- that comes from God. He made use of that, too."
Here is how Jackson made his mark with his legs:
His 117 rushing yards are the second-most by a rookie quarterback since 1970 (only teammate Robert Griffin III had more) and set a Ravens single-game record.
Jackson became the first NFL quarterback since 2016 to rush for 100 yards in a game and produced the most rushing yards by a quarterback in four years.
His 27 carries are the most by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).
He reached 15-plus miles per hour on 14 carries, which are the most by any player in a game this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
It's quite a performance for a rookie first-round pick who didn't exactly have a smooth week. Right before Thursday's practice, Jackson suffered stomach pains and was sent to the hospital for precautionary reasons.
"I don't know what happened to my stomach," Jackson said. "I told our trainer, 'You have to tell coach I can't come out.' As soon as I got there, it was over. I told them, 'I'm coming back Friday morning.'"
In delivering the Ravens' first win in 35 days, Jackson showed speed to get to edges, elusiveness in the pocket and the ability to hit targets over the middle with quick-hitting passes against the NFL's worst defense.
Jackson's impressive starting debut was certainly timely.
The Ravens (5-5) currently own the No. 6 and final playoff spot in the AFC because of tie-breaker advantages over Bengals, Titans, Colts and Dolphins based on best win percentage in conference games.
Jackson obviously marked a drastic change of style from Flacco, a pure dropback passer. But Flacco had sputtered during Baltimore's three-game losing streak, throwing three touchdowns and two interceptions while averaging 225 yards passing.
"I think everybody was ready to see Lamar," receiver Willie Snead said. "We're just looking for an edge at some point."
Walking on the field to a resounding cheer to start the game, Jackson began with a bang, leading a 75-yard touchdown drive on his first series. Not attempting a pass, he ran five times for 46 yards, tying the most carries by a quarterback on an opening drive since 2001 (Alex Smith had five in 2013).
By the middle of the third quarter, Jackson had set the Ravens' franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback. By the end of the third quarter, Jackson had eclipsed 100 yards.
The question now is which quarterback leads the Ravens going forward. Flacco will not require surgery on his injured hip, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. He could miss the Ravens' game at home Nov. 25 against the Raiders as well, according to the source, but is not expected to miss time beyond that.
Harbaugh said Flacco has a chance to play Sunday. "It's not a surgical thing. It's a calming down type of thing with the hip. I'm not a doctor. I'm not even a TV doctor, so we'll see."
But asked if it will be difficult for Flacco, who did not practice Wednesday, to play Sunday against the Raiders, Harbaugh said, "Yes, it will be tough for him this week coming up. ..."
I'll obviously be watching for more on that in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
For now, I'll pass along something ESPN's Dan Graziano wrote on Monday: "I'm a big Jackson fan and believe he'll be Baltimore's starter next year. My understanding is that they've been working on a new offense, centered more on Jackson's skill set, that will debut along with Jackson-as-starter. But it's clear that that's not ready yet, and Sunday's game plan was designed for a guy who's still coming along, especially as a passer.
"It's hard to imagine Baltimore muscling its way into this year's playoffs by running the ball 54 times again and throwing it 19. If Flacco's hip allows him to get back, I say he starts again this year before the team moves on in the offseason. ...."
But for now?
As ESPN's Mike Clay suggested this week, receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree will be hard to trust as flex options with the run-first Jackson under center. "Both were overloaded with volume throughout the season, but are risky plays this week after combining for four targets on 98 snaps in Jackson's first start," Clay added. ...
Meanwhile, the Ravens considered Gus Edwards to be a secret weapon heading into Sunday's game. Edwards isn't really a secret anymore after a breakout performance -- 117 yards on 17 carries against the Bengals.
The Ravens dressed four running backs, but Edwards was the one who stood out. In a must-win situation, Edwards became the first Ravens back to rush for more than 100 yards this season. With Jackson running wild for 115 yards, Edwards and Jackson became the Ravens' first 100-yard duo in a game since Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce did it in 2012.
Who saw this coming from Edwards, an undrafted free agent from Rutgers who began the season on the practice squad?
The Ravens had three other backs they could've relied on -- Alex Collins, Javorius Allen or newly-acquired Ty Montgomery.
However, Edwards was the workhorse back who worked over Cincinnati's defense.
"The whole backfield got a game ball -- Lamar, Alex and Gus," Harbaugh said. "Gus was north and south, he's a physical guy. He's been practicing really well. When those young guys start practicing well for weeks after weeks, we want to get them out there. Then he was playing well on special teams, so it kind of gave an indication that he was ready. He sure took the bull by the horns."
Give the Ravens offensive line credit for providing Edwards with running lanes.
Give the Bengals credit for having the NFL's worst-ranked defense. Give Jackson credit as a dynamic running threat who divided the attention of the Bengals' defense.
But give Edwards most of the credit.
After entering the game with just 64 yards on 15 carries, Edwards exited the game as a major reason why the Ravens won.
The Ravens had their best rushing game of the season Sunday, with both Edwards and Jackson topping 100 yards. The offensive line deserves credit for that. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley played through the pain of an ankle sprain, leaving the game on several occasions but returning. Right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. continued his strong play making his fourth straight start with James Hurst (back) still out.
"I thought the offensive line played exceptionally well," Harbaugh said. "Very, very good job with the run blocking and the pass protection. Schemes just a little bit different than we've been working on.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, Justice Hill, Gus Edwards
WRs: Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Seth Roberts, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Jaleel Scott
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
According to Associated Press sports writer John Wawrow, with little money to spend and few impact players interested in signing with the Bills given the uncertainty at quarterback this past offseason, general manager Brandon Beane understood Buffalo's offense was going to struggle.
Little did he realize how much.
"There's nobody that goes into a season and looks for either side of the ball to have a down year and to be statistically where our offense is," Beane told The Associated Press during a wide-ranging interview before Buffalo entered its bye week.
He then recalled something former coach John Fox once said when the two worked together in Carolina.
"There's nobody going to rescue you in-season," said Beane, in his second year in Buffalo. "You've got to dig out of it yourself. And all you can do is put your head down and keep working."
Much of the heavy lifting will have to wait for the offseason when Buffalo is projected to be more than $90 million under the NFL's salary cap, plus a current stockpile of 10 draft picks.
Otherwise, a year after ending a 17-year playoff drought, the Bills (3-7) are realistically out of this year's postseason conversation because of a young, patchwork lineup dragged down by an anemic offense that's had four starters at quarterback.
Whatever life that journeyman Matt Barkley breathed into the Bills during a 41-10 win at the New York Jets on Sunday, the 451-yard, five-touchdown outing that the Bills generated barely moved the needle on an offense that ranks 31st in total yards and points, and last in yards passing.
The struggles reflect a combination of issues including: Breaking in rookie quarterback Josh Allen; unexpected offseason personnel losses, such as center Eric Wood being diagnosed with a career-ending neck injury, and left guard Richie Incognito forcing his way off the team after being unhappy with taking a pay cut; and Beane's intent to shed high-priced contracts in trading quarterback Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland and left tackle Cordy Glenn to Cincinnati, and not re-signing linebacker Preston Brown and cornerback E.J. Gaines.
And there was one mistake the general manager owns up to making.
Beane misjudged the team's lack of experienced depth at quarterback after trading AJ McCarron to Oakland a week before the start of the season, leaving Buffalo with second-year player Nathan Peterman as the starter, and Allen as the backup.
Once Allen was forced to take over after Peterman reverted to his turnover-prone ways midway through a 47-3 season-opening loss at Baltimore, Beane waited until Week 5 to lure Derek Anderson out of semiretirement.
"Yes. One hundred percent. That's on me, and nobody else," Beane said. "I should've known better. I tried to push it off a couple of weeks. It was a mistake that I regret."
At least Anderson was on the roster in time to step in two weeks later after Allen sprained his right throwing elbow in a 20-13 loss at Houston. Even then, Anderson struggled in throwing four interceptions and losing two fumbles in his next two starts before being sidelined by a concussion.
Peterman was cut last week, and McDermott told reporters Monday morning Allen is on track to start Sunday.
"Allen will be a full participant at practice," McDermott said. "We're still taking it one day at a time but we're excited to have him back."
I'll be following up on his progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Though the Bills will likely endure more downs than ups with Allen over the final six weeks, Beane and McDermott stress the rookie's development is critical to the team's needs beyond this season.
McDermott raised eyebrows when explaining his long-term vision following a 22-0 loss at Green Bay, in which Buffalo managed 145 yards and Allen threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
"There's going to be some of these moments. As hard as it is, you've got to understand where we are in the build," McDermott said. "We're trying to develop a culture here. The culture, to me, trumps strategy."
There's no magic wand Beane can wave to speed up the process, which was evident this past offseason in failing to add talent on offense.
It's not as if he didn't try.
"We were in on guys on offense. But it got to the point where they were either higher than we thought they were valued," Beane said. "Or there were cases where we lost out. A guy wanted to go where there was an established quarterback."
Though Beane didn't name which free agents the Bills expressed interest in landing, one is receiver John Brown, who signed a one-year, $5 million contract with Baltimore.
The Bills were also interested in receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, who signed with Chicago. In 2017, the Bills were interested in re-signing Robert Woods, before realizing they weren't in a position to get into a bidding war for a player who eventually signed a five-year, $34 million contract with the Los Angeles Rams.
Instead, Buffalo committed its limited resources on defense in signing defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, pass-rusher Trent Murphy and cornerback Vontae Davis, who abruptly quit the team at halftime during a 31-20 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2.
Difficult as it's been, Beane isn't veering from his plan, and confident the Bills will improve.
Rookies, such as Allen, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, cornerback Taron Johnson and guard Wyatt Teller, are gaining valuable on-field experience. The cap situation is being resolved, though Beane stressed he's going to be "judicious" in spending, while continuing to focus on building through the draft.
"You can't just all of a sudden abort the mission because you're 2-7 and start doing this or just trading away assets to bring in a guy," he said, before the win at New York.
"It will hurt you in the future, and you're going to regret it," Beane added. "We are frustrated. But I am wired that when you put a plan in place, you see the plan out."
Meanwhile, asked if he believes Zay Jones will sustain his big usage and production from Week 10 when Allen returns, ESPN.com's Mike Rodak replied: "Usage, yes. Production, probably not."
Rodak explained, the Bills have opted for a youth movement at wide receiver, reducing the snaps of Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Holmes to season-low levels in a Week 10 win over the Jets. Jones, as one of the core young players the Bills are attempting to develop, should continue to see about 85 to 90 percent of snaps.
However, Jones' receptions-per-target rate (56.5 percent) with Allen under center has been his lowest with any of the Bills' four quarterbacks.
And finally. ... Charles Clay (hamstring) was not on the field for Wednesday's practice -- not a good sign coming off the bye. Logan Thomas and Jason Croom have been filling in and seem likely to continue doing so as the week begins.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley
RBs: Frank Gore, Devin Singletary, T.J. Yeldon
WRs: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Zay Jones, Robert Foster, Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie
TEs: Tyler Kroft, Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney, Lee Smith, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As ESPN.com's David Newton reported, "It had a feeling of desperation for the Carolina Panthers.
"Kick the extra point for the tie with 1:07 left in regulation and put the game in the hands of the defense to force overtime against the struggling Detroit Lions. Show confidence in kicker Graham Gano even though he'd already missed an extra point and 34-yard field goal.
"Ron Rivera chose to go for two. ..."
He put the game in the hands of star quarterback Cam Newton in an attempt to steal a much-needed road victory and put the hangover of last week's 52-21 primetime loss at Pittsburgh in what the coach called the "s--- happens" category.
Newton had all day to find an open target or run for the conversion. Jarius Wright broke free over the middle. Newton didn't get his feet set and badly overthrew the 5-10 wide receiver.
Final score: Lions 20, Panthers 19.
Now a Carolina team that was 6-2 and looking like a lock for the playoffs is 6-4, 1-4 on the road. The feeling of desperation on the two-point conversion may be turning into a feeling of desperation for season as the Panthers are three games back of the New Orleans Saints (9-1) in the NFC South and in a logjam for a wild-card spot.
"It as a good opportunity for us to create some cushion in the division and just getting a much-needed road win," Newton said. "We've just got to be better. We've to be better."
Rivera said he simply was going for the win.
But as David Newton suggested, it still had the feel of desperation, of a coach trying to turn around a season as Rivera did in 2013 when he gambled twice on fourth down at Minnesota to earn the nickname "Riverboat Ron."
It worked out that day as the Panthers rallied from a 1-3 start to a 12-4 record.
But the gamble then wasn't at the end with the game on the line like this was.
"I went for two to win the football game, OK?" Rivera said when pressed on whether his decision had anything to do with Gano's misses earlier. "And that's all I'm gonna say about it. That was my mindset.
"We didn't come here to tie. We didn't come here to lose. We came here to win the football game. And I just felt that was our best opportunity to win."
Newton defended Rivera's decision. He wanted the ball in his hands. He'd directed two fourth-quarter touchdown drives and felt he and the offense couldn't be stopped.
But statistics said even if the play was successful the Lions with three timeouts still had time to get in position for a winning field goal.
We'll never know because Newton didn't make a good throw.
"I've got to make that play," said Newton, who completed 25 of 37 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns despite five drops by wide receiver Devin Funchess. "I've got to make that play. Jarius did a good job of improvising. I've just got to make that play. I've got to make the play.
"[Rivera] trusted in me. I've got to uphold my end of the bargain. I didn't do that. I let this team down. I've got to be better."
Positives? The Panthers are 5-0 at home this season, so they're happy to be home against the Seahawks this week after two straight road losses.
But veteran tight end Greg Olsen provided some cautionary words on Monday.
"Just because we're coming home doesn't mean things are all the sudden going to fix themselves," Olsen said. "If we don't win we're not going to be in the playoffs. We just need to narrow it down. Win one game. ..."
For the record, Newton recorded his franchise-best ninth consecutive game with at least two passing touchdowns, as he connected with Olsen, Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore for three touchdowns. Newton finished with his 18th career 300-yard passing game, going for 357 passing yards on 25-of-37 passing with three touchdowns and an interception for a 114.1 passer rating.
It marked Newton's personal-best fifth straight game with a 100 or better passer rating. Newton has seven games with at least a 100 passer rating this season.
Moore, a first-round pick, made the most of his opportunities to play more without injured receiver Torrey Smith in the lineup. Moore had seven receptions for 157 yards -- both season highs -- and the score that pulled the Panthers within a point late in the game.
Moore turned a short pass into an 82-yard gain in the third quarter and would have scored if Darius Slay didn't tackle him at the 12.
Olsen had two catches for 9 yards and a touchdown. With his two catches, he passed Ozzie Newsome (662) for fifth-most receptions by a tight end in NFL history.
According to ESPN's Mike Clay Funchess posted his fourth consecutive week outside the top 40 at the position in fantasy points on Sunday.
Clay went on to point out that while Newton's top perimeter target struggled with drops in the game, he did tie for the team lead with eight targets. Clay added, Carolina's wide receivers will enjoy one of the easiest remaining schedules for wide receivers, including matchups with Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Atlanta and New Orleans (twice) during Weeks 13-17.
"Funchess is an interesting player to try and acquire at a discount this week," Clay added. ...
As noted above, Gano missed a field goal in the third quarter, ending his league-leading and franchise-record streak at 28 straight made field goals in the regular season, dating back to Week 5 of 2017 at Detroit.
Gano, who missed a 34-yard field goal and extra point against the Lions, isn't the first kicker to have a bad game against Detroit this season. Rivera reminded that Green Bay's Mason Crosby had one -- four field missed goals and an extra point in a 31-23 loss at Ford Field -- earlier this season.
"Let's not forget the guy made a 63-yarder to beat the Giants," Rivera said of Gano. "So let's all calm down. There's a really good kicker in Green Bay that had a rough day, too. The next chance he had he went out and won the game for them. There's a lot of good lessons for all of us, as coaches, players and fans to learn from. This game is tough. Things aren't automatic. You have to go out and do it."
One last note here. ... Smith (knee) returned to practice Wednesday and it's not clear if his return would cut into Moore's increasing workload; the guess here, however, is the rookie's playing time remains unchanged even if Smith is able to snipe some targets. In addition, Funchess did not practice Wednesday due to a previously undisclosed back issue.
More on those issues via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, Will Grier
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Jordan Scarlett, Elijah Holyfield
WRs: D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Chris Hogan, Ray-Ray McCloud, Brandon Zylstra
TEs: Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
Here we go. ... Mitchell Trubisky's shoulder injury is serious enough that he’s unlikely to play tomorrow.
The Bears listed Trubisky as doubtful for their early Thursday kickoff against the Lions.
Trubisky suffered the shoulder injury on Sunday night against the Vikings, and although he was able to finish the game, he hasn’t been able to practice this week. Given the very short work week for the Bears, Trubisky would have to be ready on a very quick turnaround.
Trubisky woke up sore today and with less movement in his shoulder than expected, making it all but certain Chase Daniel will start in his place.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Trubisky is nursing a sprained AC joint. If Thursday’s game were Sunday, the Bears believe Trubisky could play and they believe he’ll be ready a week from Sunday against the Giants.
Daniel has started just two games in his nine-year career, but hasn't attempted a regular-season pass since the 2016 season while with the Philadelphia Eagles. He has appeared in 60 career games and completed 51 of 78 passes for 480 yards and a touchdown with an interception and is 1-1 as a starter.
What will help Daniel's transition from backup to starter against the Lions, however, is his familiarity with head coach Matt Nagy's offensive scheme. The two were together with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2013 to 2015 before reuniting in Chicago during the offseason after Nagy became the head coach.
With Trubisky not expected to play, it wouldn't surprise to see the Bears activate quarterback Tyler Bray from the practice squad. Bray also comes with knowledge of the scheme, having spent the past five seasons with Nagy in Kansas City.
Meanwhile, the Bears listed linebacker Aaron Lynch (concussion) and tight end Adam Shaheen (concussion) as out against the Lions.
I'll have more on the QB situation when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday, but another general positive?
The Bears are good in every phase of the game -- especially on defense and including on special teams.
Whether it was a pick six or a key field goal, they delivered virtually every time a clutch play was needed in Sunday night's first-place clash with the Vikings.
The result was a 25-20 home win that enabled the Bears (7-3) to extend their division lead over Minnesota (5-4-1) to a game-and-a-half.
"These opportunities don't come around a whole lot," said Nagy. "So the challenge to us was being a young team and a new team together, how are we going to respond to this? It's a test. It's not easy. I think being able to play four quarters of good football against that team to get the win shows that we're headed in the right direction."
The Bears defense repeatedly rose to the occasion, generating three takeaways including an interception that Eddie Jackson returned 27 yards for a touchdown. The score came after the Vikings had closed the gap to 14-6 early in the fourth quarter.
"We were fighting and clawing a little bit on offense," Nagy said. "Then for [Jackson] to make that play and score the touchdown, it broke it open a little bit, so that was huge."
The Bears defense dominated in the first half, producing two takeaways and forcing three three-and-outs on Minnesota's five possessions.
The defense stepped up again in the second half, forcing the Vikings to settle for a pair of Dan Bailey 36-yard field goals after Minnesota had started drives at the Bears' 31 and 29 following a Trubisky interception and Tarik Cohen fumble.
After hitting the goalpost on all four of his missed kicks last Sunday, Cody Parkey rebounded to make all three of his field-goal attempts against the Vikings, including a 48-yarder that gave the Bears a two-score lead at 25-14 with 2:48 left in the game.
Parkey was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday.
Other players delivered as well, including Benny Cunningham, who fell on an onside kick after Stefon Diggs had scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass with 48 seconds left in the game.
"It's just amazing how things go in life and how things work," Nagy said. "For that to happen, what happened last week, and then for Cody to come back this week and be 3-for-3 in field goals, it's just a testament to him, who he is as a person. And then to see our team rally behind him, that's a special moment there that we'll all remember."
The win gave the team great confidence -- something that will come in handy with Trubisky sidelined.
"It shows that we can battle with the best of them," Cohen said. "It shows that we are still getting better and that we haven't reached our ceiling yet. Only we can deice what our ceiling is."
Khalil Mack continued his remarkable season, forcing and recovering a Dalvin Cook fumble in the first half and recording his team-leading eighth sack of the season in the second half. Akiem Hicks also had a stellar game, registering six tackles, one sack, five tackles-for-loss and two quarterback hits.
"Our defense is dominant, and we've known that since OTAs," Hicks said. "It's just a matter of going out there on Sunday and putting it on the field. Whatever it took to get us to this point, we have it now, and we've just got to go out every Sunday and put it back on the field."
So while the Bears have great confidence in Daniel's ability to run the offense successfully, their defense is a nice insurance policy.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, Kerrith Whyte Jr.
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Riley Ridley, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims
TEs: Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
Head coach Marvin Lewis and the rest of the team seemed confident this week that they could turn the season around against the Ravens.
So far, the results are inconclusive.
As ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell notes, it wasn't a total disaster, like the outings against the Chiefs and Saints, and that's probably why the Bengals' defensive players weren't hanging their heads in the locker room after the game. The mood certainly was lighter than it had been in the weeks prior to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's ouster.
"I thought they played their tails off," Lewis said.
But at the end of the day, a 24-21 loss to the Ravens counts the same as a 51-14 loss to the Saints.
That isn't to say the Bengals shouldn't take any moral victories out of a close loss to a division rival on the road. If they can learn from it, they have six games left in the season to show that they're better for it.
Lewis certainly seemed to think that could be the case.
"We have to learn something," Lewis said. "Today, I thought they learned something about themselves. We had opportunities, but we didn't take full advantage of them. We've got to take full advantage, but we learn. … But for them, they've got to be excited. We know where we are, and now it's a race to the finish. And they are in the same position we are."
In some ways, the Bengals appeared to play better with Lewis calling the defensive signals. They settled down after a 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game and forced three straight punts. Shawn Williams picked off rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson to set up the Bengals to get points in the second half, and they held the Ravens to a field goal in the fourth quarter.
The offense had two chances to tie or take the lead late, but those drives resulted in a missed 52-yard field goal and an incomplete pass on fourth down to Cody Core, who appeared to drop Dalton's pass after getting two hands on it.
The offense managed only 255 total yards, the second-worst total this season, and punted five times in the first half. Without A.J. Green, the Bengals simply couldn't come up with the plays at the end of the game, like they did against the Falcons, Buccaneers and Dolphins.
That's almost as concerning as the lack of playmakers on the defensive side.
There's definitely blame to go around.
However, defensively, it was clear that changing the play caller isn't going to be some magic bandage to fix the unit.
They still gave up 403 yards and remain on pace to break the record for yards allowed in a season set by the 2012 Saints.
If the Bengals are encouraged, it's because the bar was set pretty low after a series of declining performances. There was nowhere to go but up, and the Bengals think they're starting to make that climb back.
"It was a great step in the right direction. We just didn't get the results we needed," defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. "There are some positives. It was clear and evident we looked like a different defense out there."
If that is the case, all is certainly not lost. Getting healthy would help.
The situation at linebacker has become almost dire, with Nick Vigil and Preston Brown out and Vontaze Burfict, who is dealing with a hip injury, clearly still hobbled. Green could come back as early as next week, and the Bengals have the Browns, Broncos and Raiders on the schedule. It's more manageable than facing the Chiefs or the Saints with an injured cast of characters.
Brown was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.
"You just have to keep fighting and playing until the game is over," Lewis said he told the team. "So let's make plays. We know that we can do that, and we have guys who can do that. We'll get some guys back and healthy, and that will make us better. And that will lift us up. But right now, everybody that's getting the opportunity to play now, just keep playing better."
Meanwhile, although Green was officially listed as doubtful for Sunday's game, it seemed extremely unlikely he was going to play, and never went through a pre-game warmup.
Green did progress to doing work on the side in Friday's practice and looked good doing some cuts, it seemed like he needed more time to heal the toe. And while ESPN's Adam Schefter previously suggested a December return, ESPN colleague Josina Anderson has a source telling her Green has a "good chance" of playing against the Brownw this week, barring any setbacks.
That said, Green did not practice Wednesday.
I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Updates in coming days.
And finally. ... Auden Tate, a rookie seventh-rounder out of Florida State, hasn't been able to translate his great preseason into playing time in the regular season, and apparently his leash is short right now.
The Bengals played him only one snap on the first drive of the game and then sat him for the rest of the day. Lewis said that was because Tate didn't run his route correctly, resulting in a catch that looked short of the sticks on third down.
"He didn't get the depth. ... He's short of the design of the route. And last week he dropped a ball in his one opportunity," Lewis said. "He's a young player, he's got some ability. Hopefully he'll make some plays if he continues to get an opportunity down the stretch."
Lewis also implied there's no rush to get Tate playing time despite injuries to several of the pass catchers.
Lewis also said: "He'll get there when he gets his opportunity ... His involvement in the offense is what it is. This is a guy who has been on the practice squad for a reason. He's been a free agent for all 32 to take a look at. You see what I'm saying? It is what it is. You're not many times going to take a guy off the practice squad and win an NFL game with them."
QBs: Andy Dalton, Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Samaje Perine
WRs: Tyler Boyd, Damion Willis, John Ross, Alex Erickson, Josh Malone, Auden Tate, A.J. Green, Pharoh Cooper
TEs: Tyler Eifert, C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Cethan Carter
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers noted, the losing has slowed, but hasn't stopped for the ever-rebuilding Browns.
They're in the midst of yet another coaching search, and the NFL playoffs are likely to come and go without them again this season -- the 16th straight postseason since their most recent appearance.
But as Cleveland comes out of the bye week, and with six games left in another season going nowhere, optimism abounds around a franchise that has had little to celebrate over the past 25 years.
The dark days of despair are dwindling.
Baker Mayfield is making them go away.
The fearless rookie quarterback with the contagious personality, touchdown-making skills and trash-talking bravado, has the Browns -- and their long-suffering fans -- believing.
"It's not everything, but it's everything," guard Joel Bitonio said with a smile when asked about Mayfield's magnetism and positive influence. "You've got to have a quarterback to win in the NFL and it hasn't been perfect, but to have him out there with you, there's always that hope that, 'Hey, we have a chance to win this game.'"
The No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, Mayfield is changing the Browns (3-6-1) with his actions on and off the field. He's already endured years of chaos in just 10 games as Cleveland has changed coaches, traded its top playmaker (Josh Gordon) and leading rusher (Carlos Hyde), suffered numerous injuries and a few of those punch-in-the stomach losses that the Browns have seemingly mastered.
But every time the Browns have taken a hard hit, Mayfield has responded with one of his own.
"We've got a quarterback who knows how to fight," said defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. "You want to play for a guy like that who inspires you. He comes to the defensive side of the ball like, 'Hey, we're still in this. Just give me one more chance out there.' Guys on defense love that. They love a quarterback who can go out there and make a promise and say, 'Hey, I've got your back.'"
Mayfield, who has gotten better every week, hasn't won the respect of his teammates. He's earned it.
The Browns didn't hand the starting job to Mayfield, who began the season in a backup role before starter Tyrod Taylor suffered a concussion in Week 3 against the New York Jets on national TV. Mayfield came in and led the Browns to their first win since 2016, snapping a 19-game winless streak and providing a preview of bigger things to come.
It hasn't been perfect so far. Mayfield has made his share of rookie mistakes, forcing passes, holding onto the ball too long, missing open receivers. But in the past four games, Mayfield has completed 69 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Despite winning the Heisman Trophy and going 33-6 as a starter at Oklahoma, Mayfield wasn't considered the top prospect in this year's ballyhooed rookie QB class, which includes Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen. Mayfield was too short, too cocky, too much a product of Sooners coach Lincoln Riley's system.
Well, Mayfield has outperformed the other rookies across the board.
"He's developing as a quarterback," said Browns general manager John Dorsey, the man who went out on a limb and picked Mayfield. "He is still a rookie quarterback. He has demonstrated certain things during the course of a game that get you excited. I think that if you would ask him as a person, he still has a lot more football to master the position that he plays. I think he will continue to do that."
Last week, after being encouraged by interim coach Gregg Williams and his teammates to "cut it loose and play," Mayfield delivered the signature performance and victory of his fledgling pro career.
He completed his first 13 passes, finished 17 of 20 with three touchdown passes and outplayed Atlanta quarterback and 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan as the Browns ended a four-game losing streak with a 28-16 win.
Following the game, Mayfield smiled and said he woke up "feeling dangerous" before de-feathering the Falcons, who had their playoff hopes severely shaken.
The comment might have come off as cocky to some, but it was Mayfield at his playful and bragging best, displaying the swagger that made him a college superstar and has endeared him to his Cleveland teammates.
Make no mistake, at 23 and only 10 games into his NFL life, Mayfield is the Browns' undisputed leader, the tone-setter.
"He's taken the role head-first, never looking back," said rookie running back Nick Chubb, who rushed for 176 yards in the win. "He brings that energy and burst that we need. This team will follow him anywhere. He is just a great leader, and you know no matter what is going on around us or outside noise just the bad stuff that has not gone well for us, he is going to give us all 100 percent and he is not going to let it affect him.
"We like that in our quarterback and our leader, and he is fiercely competitive. He gives 100 percent every play. Just being on the team with him, everyone just likes it and loves him and loves who he is."
The praise from Chubb and others fuel him.
"To me, there is nothing better than that," Mayfield said. "As a quarterback, and as somebody that wants to be a leader of this team, it does not get better than that."
In Cleveland, things are getting a lot better. ...
Also of interest. ... As ESPN's Mike Clay noted, Jarvis Landry has underwhelmed in his first year in Cleveland, registering a career-low 5.77 yards per target.
However, there is some hope.
Clay explained that Landry is handling a massive 30 percent share on the season and has eclipsed 10 targets in six of 10 games this season. In Week 10, he was limited to five targets, but the Browns only attempted 20 passes in a game they led throughout.
ESPN.com's Pat McManamon chimed in by noting everyone can't have big numbers every week, and if the touches for Duke Johnson and Chubb increase, somebody's has to decrease. Landry might not always be targeted 10 times. As teams adjust to defending Chubb and Johnson, that might open up Landry's opportunities.
Cleveland's offense has been drastically better since Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were fired, so if Landry keeps up his current target share, he's a strong bet for improved production.
Worth noting. .. Johnson (3.42) and Chubb (3.20) rank first and second, respectively, in yards after contact per attempt among backs with 25-plus carries this season.
ESPN's Mike Clay conceded the sample size is small (especially for Johnson), but the fact is, both backs have been terrific. Given the overall improvement on offense, Clay believes Johnson should be viewed as a flex and Chubb as a fringe RB1 moving forward. ...
On the injury front. ... David Njoku (knee) was limited in Wednesday's practice -- something that's become the norm in recent weeks. I'll follow up as needed, but expect the tight end to be available unless/until you hear otherwise. ...
And finally. ... ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Sunday morning that he Browns would like to interview former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for their head coaching job.
After word of the Browns' possible interest in Rice got back to the team, Dorsey issued a statement.
"Our coaching search will be thorough and deliberate, but we are still in the process of composing the list of candidates and Secretary Rice has not been discussed," he said.
Rice also posted Sunday on Facebook that while she's "not ready to coach," she "would like to call a play or two next season if the Browns need ideas."
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Drew Stanton, Garrett Gilbert
RBs: Nick Chubb, Dontrell Hilliard, D'Ernest Johnson, Kareem Hunt
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, Damion Ratley, Taywan Taylor, Derrick Willies
TEs: David Njoku, Demetrius Harris, Ricky Seals-Jones, Pharaoh Brown
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer reminded readers, a little more than one year ago, the Cowboys' season effectively ended at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the eight sacks of Dak Prescott telling the story of a sorry year.
It was a loss that was particularly tough on Ezekiel Elliott, who admitted he had a difficult time watching last year's loss to the Atlanta Falcons. He was at his home watching it on TV while serving the first game of a six-game suspension stemming from a domestic violence allegation made by a former girlfriend in July 2016.
On Sunday, the Cowboys kept their season alive with a 22-19 win against these same Falcons, punctuated by an all-around superior performance from Elliott, who finished with 23 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown, giving him back-to-back 100-yard games for the second time this season. He also caught seven passes for 79 yards and made a huge block on Michael Gallup's 10-yard catch that converted a key third down on the Cowboys' game-winning drive.
It was Elliott's fourth career game with at least 200 scrimmage yards, which is already tied with Emmitt Smith and DeMarco Murray for the most in Cowboys history, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
"We know he's a difference," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "He's a difference-maker for the opponent. He's a difference-maker for us. He took it on his shoulders. We put it on his shoulders. He basically did everything that you could ask for to win that game. I'm sure they'd tell you the same thing. He was the difference."
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott did his part, too, engineering the winning drive in the final two minutes that culminated with a 42-yard field goal by Brett Maher as time expired.
It was Prescott's seventh fourth-quarter game-winning drive, and he was able to walk out of Atlanta feeling much differently than he did a year ago. Prescott completed 4 of 6 pass attempts on the drive, including the 10-yarder to Gallup and a 19-yard floater to Cole Beasley that put the Cowboys in position for Maher's attempt.
Much like the Cowboys, it has been a season of highs and lows for Maher, who beat the Detroit Lions in Week 4 with a 38-yard field goal, and hit the upright on a game-tying attempt against the Washington Redskins in a Week 7 loss.
More importantly, the Cowboys' season is still alive after winning consecutive games for the first time this season.
But make no mistake: Elliott is the driving force here.
The Cowboys had 323 yards against the Falcons on 63 offensive plays. As noted above, Elliott had 23 carries for 122 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter after a Leighton Vander Esch interception. Elliott also had seven catches on eight targets for 79 yards.
Nearly half of the Cowboys' plays ran through Elliott.
It was his fourth game with 200 scrimmage yards, tying him with Emmitt Smith and DeMarco Murray for the most in team history, and he has played just 36 games.
Since 2016, no player has more games with 200 scrimmage yards than Smith, and he missed six games last season because of a suspension.
During the bye week, the Cowboys made a big change, moving on from Paul Alexander as offensive line coach and promoting Marc Colombo, but it did not pay a benefit immediately with the Cowboys' Nov. 5 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
In the past two games, it has. Elliott has 273 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
In 10 games, Elliott has 953 yards rushing on 190 carries. His 273 yards in the past two wins are the fifth-most he has had in back-to-back games in his career. He has a career-high 42 catches for 341 yards.
If the Cowboys are to continue this push, they will need Elliott to continue to be a difference-maker as a runner, receiver and protector.
At 5-5, the Cowboys have a quick turnaround with the Washington Redskins visiting Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. The Redskins will not have quarterback Alex Smith because of a severe ankle injury.
Also worth noting. ... After Sunday's win, owner Jerry Jones said that the mood in the team's locker room was somber because someone on the team was dealing with a "tragedy" but offered no other details.
Head coach Jason Garrett filled in some of those details on Monday. Garrett said that Gallup, who grew up in Georgia, did not travel back to Dallas with the team so that he could be with his family after his brother committed suicide.
"We just found out after the ballgame that his brother had committed suicide and just wanted to leave it at that," Garrett said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. "Obviously a very personal matter. We're all behind Michael and supporting him and his family, and this is a very challenging time for him. We'll take it moment by moment, day by day and give him all of our love and all of our support."
According to multiple reports on Tuesday, Gallup plans to play against Washington on Thanksgiving. Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports the family is still working out whether the funeral will be held Wednesday or Friday and that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will provide a plane to get Gallup to and from Dallas.
Gallup, a third-round pick this year, has 16 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown on the season.
While Gallup seems likely to be available, the Cowboys will play against Washington without starting tight end Geoff Swaim.
Swaim fractured his wrist on the final drive against the Falcons on Sunday, Garrett said Monday. Swaim will need surgery, but the injury is not considered season-ending.
Swaim has 26 catches for 242 yards and a touchdown in his first season replacing Jason Witten. He made three catches for 25 yards in the first meeting with Washington.
The Cowboys are deep at the position with Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Rico Gathers, but the three have combined for only nine catches for 121 yards.
Beyond Swaim, the Cowboys won’t have defensive lineman David Irving or linebacker Sean Lee against the Redskins.
All three have been ruled out.
Receiver Tavon Austin (groin) remains out, and backup center Adam Redmond (concussion) also won’t play.
Defensive end Taco Charlton (shoulder), defensive tackle Maliek Collins (knee), right guard Zack Martin (knee), left tackle Tyron Smith (neck) and left guard Connor Williams (knee) are questionable. All five were limited at Wednesday’s practice.
The Cowboys played Sunday’s game without Irving, Charlton and defensive tackle Antwaun Woods. Collins played 43 of 56 snaps.
Smith and Martin have played through their injuries all season, with neither missing a game.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Alfred Morris
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Devin Smith
TEs: Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold, if the Broncos (4-6) can do something to build off Sunday's a 23-22 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in the StubHub Center, we'll all look back at this weekend as a turning point.
The rest of the story is still to be told, especially if the Broncos' momentum ends against the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday, but for one weekend in the Broncos looked like the team they've been telling everyone they could be. They were a hard-nosed, gritty bunch on defense that could get to the quarterback, create turnovers and put their offense in position to score.
The Broncos sacked Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who had not been sacked more than twice this season, three times. They intercepted Rivers twice, too, and those picks came from the biggest names on the defensive marquee: Chris Harris Jr. and Von Miller.
And in the end, they, finally, closed the deal.
The Broncos have struggled this season, but they continue to play hard for coach Vance Joseph. The coach's name has been ever present with those on the "hot seat."
The Broncos have pushed the Kansas City Chiefs (twice), the Los Angeles Rams and the Houston Texans to the limit, but didn't get much reward, having lost all four of those games by the total of 16 points. Yet here they were Sunday, having exited their bye week with the fight, grit and just enough points to win a slug-it-out day.
Make no mistake, they cannot pronounce themselves cured, not by a long shot.
They still refuse to be who they are at times, a team that can move the ball when they beef up a bit with some of their bigger personnel groupings. They get a little too infatuated with their three-receiver set, especially in their post-Demaryius Thomas trade life.
But they pounded the ball a bit on offense down the stretch Sunday, the defense swirled around Rivers just enough, a replay review fell their way to turn what could have been an Emmanuel Sanders fumble into an incomplete pass and the Broncos finally, 10 games into the season, took something home for their efforts.
And with the Raiders, Browns, 49ers, Bengals and a second shot at the Chargers to close out the season, there is an argument to be made the Broncos could make something of this.
The Steelers are next and if the Broncos show a little more than they did Sunday perhaps they'll get a few more folks to pay attention to what they've been saying. For one day, however, the Broncos kept their word.
It would also help if they keep focusing on their rushing attack.
In particular, Phillip Lindsay’s contributions in Los Angeles made as big an impact as anyone's. The diminutive running back sparked the Broncos' offense on several occasions during Denver's come-from-behind victory, and he finished with 79 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, as well as 27 yards on four catches.
Though Lindsay is reluctant to talk about his own accomplishments, his quarterback couldn't praise him enough.
"Phillip, [he's] just picking up where he left off," Case Keenum said. "He's an explosive guy, and you just find ways to get him the ball in some space, and even sometimes not a lot of space. He makes things happen. It's fun watching him run the ball."
Two quarters after he gave the Broncos life with his first score, Lindsay again gave the Broncos the lead. This time, he took the direct snap out of the wildcat formation, angled right and then darted to his left, evading one arm tackle and scooting in for a 2-yard score just minutes into the fourth quarter.
After showing patience and explosive speed on his first score, Lindsay showed the ability to improvise on his second.
"Obviously it wasn't supposed to go backside, but things happen," said Lindsay with a laugh. "And we were able to make a play."
Making plays is nothing new for Lindsay, though. He's recorded at least 60 yards from scrimmage in every game except one this season, and Sunday marked his fourth game over the century mark.
Still, it did come with one first: It was Lindsay's first multi-touchdown game. Even with Royce Freeman back in the lineup, Lindsay received the bulk of the work, and he made the most out of those touches. His average of 7.2 yards per carry was his best since Week 2.
"He's growing before our eyes," Joseph said. "He's an NFL first-, second- [and] third-down back. It's amazing at his size what he can do on all three downs catching the ball, protecting, running in the A,B and C gaps. He's a good little football player, and obviously it's no fluke.
"We're in Week 11 and he's still doing it."
The Broncos host the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday. ...
On the injury front. ... Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton suffered a knee injury in the second quarter while Joseph said Monday cornerback Bradley Roby is in the concussion protocol. Roby played 62 of the Broncos' 77 snaps on defense in the win over Los Angeles before he left the lineup after making a tackle. If Roby misses Sunday's game that would put Tramaine Brock into the mix far more than he were against the Chargers -- especially with Adam Jones released on Tuesday.
Hamilton was coming off a knee sprain; Sunday was his first game back.
QBs: Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen
RBs: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Theo Riddick
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, Daesean Hamilton, River Cracraft, Juwann Winfree, Tim Patrick
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli, Jake Butt
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein recounted it, "Kerryon Johnson took the ball and exploded through the hole created by the middle of the offensive line. He showed the short-burst speed along with the instincts he has had since he arrived in Detroit as the team's second-round pick this spring.
"He cut outside, headed toward the right sideline and, 24 yards later, had another big gain. Johnson has had runs like that all season, big plays that ignite drives and are confidence-boosters for a franchise desperate for a big-time runner. ..."
It's why what happened later Sunday should be so concerning. Johnson left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury, and he was first deemed questionable before being downgraded to out. In a game in which the Lions got their first win in almost a month, beating the Carolina Panthers 20-19, there is some degree of angst regarding the best running back the team has had since Barry Sanders retired.
After medical tests Monday, Johnson is considered week to week with a knee sprain, a league source told Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio.
Considering that the Lions play on Thanksgiving, it's no surprise that Johnson was ruled out on Wednesday; it's possible he won't play a few more weeks beyond Thursday. But any time a running back limps off the field with a knee injury there are fears that it could be something more serious, and those fears have been assuaged.
Still, any game without Johnson is a game in which the Lions' running attack may be nonexistent. Johnson has single-handedly given the Lions a running attack this season: Johnson has averaged 5.4 yards a carry, while the Lions' other running back, LeGarrette Blount, has averaged 2.3 yards a carry.
"It's huge to have an explosive guy [like Johnson], a quick guy like Theo Riddick, a power guy like [LeGarrette Blount]," receiver Kenny Golladay said. "So it's funny having three."
Or it was -- unless Zach Zenner can get something done with Johnson out.
Even if that's the case, go ahead and assume the Lions are going to have a tough time running the ball on Thursday against the Bears.
And while they're not worried about the long-term health of their promising rookie runner, Johnson being in the game keeps defenses from focusing too much on Detroit's passing game -- a group that is dealing with injuries itself since starting wide receiver Marvin Jones missed this game with a knee injury for which he's getting a second opinion.
Like Johnson, Jones was also officially ruled out Wednesday.
With Johnson missing time, the Lions might have to rely more on a passing offense that is led by the team's other budding star, Golladay, who had eight catches for 113 yards and a touchdown in his first game as the obvious No. 1 option with Golden Tate traded and Jones injured. That could hurt the balance that Detroit was trying to build.
Golladay caught eight of his 14 targets for 113 yards and a score against the Panthers. He more than doubled the receiving output of the next receiver for the Lions.
Double-teamed and contested most of the day, it didn't matter for Golladay as he made a number of big plays in the game, whether it was stealing a ball from cornerbacks along the sideline or eluding tackles to get first downs.
"I go in there every week the same," Golladay said. "You never know who, what number's going to be called. Any time my number's called, I'm out there going hard. Even when my number's not called, I'm going hard to set up other people. I didn't treat this week no different, there was never no pressure."
It's something head coach Matt Patricia has seen coming for Golladay all year, as he now leads the team with 47 catches for 714 yards with five touchdowns, which ties Jones for the team lead.
"I just can't say enough good things about the way he prepares every single week and he approaches the game," Patricia said of Golladay. "I think I've talked about this all year just how that transfer into that second year in the NFL how different things can be from a cover standpoint and how they can play him and how the people around him affect how they play him. It's good to see him still kind of just push through that and grow from that standpoint. The one thing about Kenny is he works."
When the Lions took Golladay in the third round in 2017, they knew they were getting a bigger receiver -- one who had a growth spurt in college that changed his professional fortunes -- with an exceptional catch radius. They knew they were getting a pretty good route runner for a bigger college receiver.
His reliable hands, though, are key with the strong-armed Matthew Stafford. He has dropped two passes in his entire career -- one as a rookie and one this season.
His drop rate of 1.3 percent this season is No. 18 in the league among receivers. Of those ahead of him, only four have more average air yards per target than Golladay: Paul Richardson, Will Fuller, Taylor Gabriel and Tre'Quan Smith. He's also No. 18 in the league in yards per reception (15.19) and No. 10 in first downs (39).
Many of the plays he has made -- both Sunday and earlier this season -- have been the types of plays that No. 1 receivers make. You just won't hear about it as much because Golladay is fairly quiet.
Yet every once in a while, there's a peek into the confidence Golladay has. Whether it's how he ripped the ball from Bradberry or how he extended for the touchdown in the fourth quarter, it's in how he plays.
Without Johnson and Jones, the Lions will need more of that going forward.
Worth noting, tight end Michael Roberts, who missed last week's game with an injured shoulder, receiver Bruce Ellington (back), Darius Slay, A'Shawn Robinson, Ezekiel Ansah and Damon Harrison are all questionable.
I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday's early afternoon kickoff.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Tom Savage, David Fales
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Jermaine Kearse, Brandon Powell, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Logan Thomas
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
According to Associated Press sports writer Genaro Armas, Mike McCarthy knows his job is on the line.
The Green Bay Packers' 13th-year head coach acknowledged he is aware that the team's 4-5-1 record has led to questions about his future.
But he insisted he and the team are focused on next week's pivotal NFC North matchup with the Vikings in Minnesota, and not the uncertainty surrounding his job security.
"That's the job. That's the way this business has gone," McCarthy said Friday. "We set a standard here the past 12 years, and it's our responsibility to play to that standard. That's the way we approach it."
But with the Packers now in danger of missing the postseason for the second straight, tensions are starting to mount between the team's head coach and starting quarterback.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport said the Packers' record isn't the only reason why McCarthy's future in Green Bay is in jeopardy.
"Mike McCarthy is certainly now on the hot seat for Green Bay," Rapoport said. "He needs to close strong, it feels like, to keep his job in Green Bay. Obviously, one of the longest tenured coaches in the NFL and that is all in doubt.
"And there's a couple reasons why. One of them does involve the disconnect with Aaron Rodgers -- the tension there regarding the direction of the offense. Rodgers has been pretty vocal about his frustration with play-calling and the lack of creativity was there on Thursday night. That, of course, is something [Packers] CEO Mark Murphy will have to make a big decision on at the end of the year."
Of course, McCarthy has had teams rally late in seasons past, including in 2016, when Rodgers famously said the team could "run the table" over the final six weeks. After starting 4-6, the Packers won eight straight games to win the NFC North and advance to conference title game, in which they fell to the Atlanta Falcons.
That was Green Bay's fourth NFC championship game under McCarthy, who led the 2010 team to the Super Bowl title. His Packers made the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons before missing the postseason last year, when Rodgers missed nine-plus games with a broken right collarbone.
"I have great confidence. I've been in this position before, so I have confidence in how we do things," McCarthy said. "You have to react -- there's no doubt about that -- but you can't overreact. So, you've just got to stay in tune with the specifics and the details of why we're not getting it done in those situations."
The Packers have lost three of their last four games, despite being in position in the fourth quarter to win on the road against the Rams, Patriots and Seahawks.
More worrisome still, it was clear during last Thursday's 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks that the Packers offense isn't running to its full potential. The team struggled mightily on third downs and in the red zone. Rodgers' habit of holding onto the ball too long made him an easy target for drive-killing sacks.
While it's debatable to characterize Rodgers' struggles as a byproduct of what NFL.com's Austin Knoblauch characterized as a "bland and often overreaching offensive strategy" orchestrated by McCarthy, the bottom line is it isn't working -- and Rodgers won't be the one leaving if it doesn't get fixed.
This isn't the first time this season that there have been reports of tension between Rodgers and McCarthy. In October, Murphy told Rapoport there was tension between the two, but added he didn't believe it was an issue that would hurt the team.
Murphy expressed confidence the Packers would resolve any problems and turn things around.
Murphy's optimism came immediately after the Packers' 2-2-1 start. We're well beyond that and heading into a tough showdown with the Vikings. ...
Meanwhile, tight end Jimmy Graham suffered a broken thumb last week, but he might not miss any time.
According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, McCarthy said on Monday that Graham was going to try to play this week, but that defensive lineman Mike Daniels was going to miss "a couple of weeks" with his foot injury.
The Packers are expected to sign some defensive line depth, but the chances of getting Graham back is a boost for a team that's in a fairly desperate position heading into Sunday night's game against the Vikings.
Graham will experiment with different splints and braces, but the need for him on the field is profound.
The Packers used Lance Kendricks almost exclusively in Graham's place om Seattle, but McCarthy said rookie Robert Tonyan, who caught a 54-yard touchdown in the first half for his first career NFL reception, could see his playing time increase if Graham isn't able to get on track.
"Robert's definitely ready," McCarthy said. "It's really just a product of who's in front of him. ... Yeah, he's ready to play. I thought he really came on there at the end of training camp, and he's done a lot of good things. ... We have confidence in Robert."
For the record, Graham did not practice Wednesday.
I'll be following up on Graham's progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days; I'll also be watching for more on Randall Cobb, who didn't make the trip to Seattle last Thursday due to ongoing hamstring issues. ...
One last note, in the wake of Marquez Valdes-Scantling's quiet game in Seattle, Demovsky wrote: "That's what you get with a rookie receiver, especially when Rodgers has said repeatedly that the most important thing is getting the ball into Davante Adams' hands."
Indeed, Rodgers targeted Adams 12 times, and he caught 10 of them for 166 yards. At one point against the Seahawks, the Packers went nine straight plays in which either Adams or Aaron Jones touched the ball.
But as ESPN's Mike Clay pointed out, Valdes-Scantling was on the field for a position-high 47 of the team's 48 offensive snaps. He ended up fourth on the team with only three targets, but he also had the toughest cornerback matchup (against Seattle slot CB Justin Coleman), whereas Adams (12 targets) and Equanimeous St. Brown (four targets) picked on Tre Flowers and Shaquill Griffin on the perimeter.
Clay added: "Valdes-Scantling will remain in the flex mix even when Cobb returns."
Finally this week. ... The Packers on Wednesday used their second IR return designation on receiver Jake Kumerow. There was no one else available to return in regular season since Geronimo Allison wasn’t eligible until postseason. Their first designation was used on receiver/return man Trevor Davis, who played last week.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer, Tim Boyle
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Dexter Williams
WRs: Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jake Kumerow, Trevor Davis, Darrius Shepherd
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger, Robert Tonyan
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop suggested, "It wasn't pretty, but the Houston Texans keep winning."
After beating the NFC East-leading Redskins 23-21 on Sunday, the Texans have won seven straight games and put themselves in position to seriously compete for a top-two seed -- and first-round bye -- in the playoffs. Houston now has a two-game lead in the AFC South after the Titans lost to the Colts on Sunday, and the Texans are a position where their ambitions should be more than just a division title.
"[It] wasn't clean, but we know there is something about this team right now," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "They have a strong belief in each other and came up big in the end. The defense did a good job and the offense did just enough."
Houston became only the second team in NFL history to win seven straight games after an 0-3 start. According to Elias, the only team to do it in the past was the 1925 Giants.
"We're just constantly trying to stack wins," safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "I think each and every game we play from here on out is a really important game, especially when you want to go to the playoffs.
"Every game's not going to be pretty ... but I thought we held them when we needed to."
There are still plenty of things Houston needs to fix to make a deep playoff run. Quarterback Deshaun Watson needs to get back to protecting the football after he threw two interceptions on Sunday. The Texans had won their past three games in part because they had not turned the ball over since Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills.
Earlier in the week, O'Brien reiterated the importance of winning the turnover battle, saying, that is "one of the most important stats" in a game. Against the Redskins, the Texans were minus-one and Watson's second interception gave the Redskins the ball at the Houston 9-yard line. Two plays later, Redskins backup quarterback Colt McCoy threw a touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Reed.
Watson completed 16 of 24 passes for 208 yards with a touchdown and the two interceptions. Houston only scored one touchdown on offense, which came in the first quarter to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins finished with five catches for 56 yards and the touchdown.
The defense was again a difference-maker, intercepting Redskins starting quarterback Alex Smith twice before he left the game on a cart with a broken tibia and fibula. As Washington threatened to erase a deficit late in the first half, Texans rookie safety Justin Reid intercepted Smith's pass in the end zone and returned it 101 yards to extend the Texans' lead to 17-7. That play changed the game late in the first half and was at least a 10-point swing.
"I think about our three-game losing streak and there were some instances where we didn't get off the field," Mathieu said. "It was a lot of instances where we didn't make the plays we were making now. So obviously guys are learning from the bad things that have happened. So I think it's important for us to just keep a clear-eyed view and not get ahead of ourselves because we still haven't accomplished anything yet."
There's no doubt the Texans still have work to do, but as O'Brien has said all season, a win is a win. And the Texans now have seven of them with six games left in the season, with no games remaining against a team with a record above .500.
But although the Texans have put themselves in a good position to make a playoff run, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was clear he's not trying to look ahead to that possibility.
"For us, it's just one game at a time. And right now, it's get ready for Tennessee and try to win our eighth straight," Clowney said. "We're not looking ahead right now. We're just trying to look for the next game on the schedule and just try to win them all one game at a time."
Remember, four of the Texans final six games are at home (Tennessee, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Jacksonville) and the road games are at the Jets and struggling Eagles.
As ESPN's Mike Clay suggested, "At 7-3, they're well on their way to a playoff berth. Now if they could only turn some of Ka'imi Fairbairn's league-high 27 field goal attempts in touchdowns. ..."
Also worth noting. ... Though he scored only 9.0 fantasy points on Sunday, that gave Watson 350.4 fantasy points through his first 16 career NFL starts. According to ESPN's Tristan H. Cockcroft, that's the second-most in history by any quarterback, behind only Cam Newton's 370.3.
Lamar Miller rushed 20 times for 86 yards and caught 3-of-5 targets for 22 yards in Washington. It was a nice rebound for Miller, who out-touched Alfred Blue 23 to 8 after Blue and Miller shared carries in Week 9, prior to Houston's Week 10 bye. As Rotoworld.com noted, "When healthy, it's clear Miller is O’Brien’s preferred backfield option."
And finally. ... Demaryius Thomas went without a catch after being targeted one time in Washington. Keke Coutee was targeted nine times in his return from a hamstring injury catching five of them for 77 yards.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: Duke Johnson, Carlos Hyde, Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter
TEs: Jordan Thomas, Jordan Akins, Darren Fells, Kahale Warring, Jerell Adams
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells noted, the defenses continue to get checked off the list one by one, week by week by the Indianapolis Colts.
Buffalo. Oakland. Jacksonville. And the Tennessee Titans.
These weren't defenses that hovered near or at the bottom of the NFL rankings. Three of the four defenses were ranked in the top 10 when they faced the Colts.
Each one of them thought they had a plan to slow Andrew Luck and the Colts' offense down, only to leave with a loss, some worse than others.
Wells went on to note the Colts don't currently have the longest winning streak in the NFL. They don't even have the longest one in the AFC, but what they are is one of the hottest teams in the league. Indianapolis won its fourth straight game, this time embarrassing the NFL's top-ranked defense (in points allowed per game) in its 38-10 victory over the Titans on Sunday.
Catching the Texans, who are on a seven-game winning streak, is a tough task for the Colts, especially since they have already lost to them once this season. But what the Colts are is right in the thick of things for the AFC's final playoff spot. They're one of five teams tied for the sixth playoff spot.
"The good news is we're out the hole," head coach Frank Reich said. "The reality is there is still a mountain to climb because of the position we put ourselves in. That's just what we have to do and we have to take the same approach."
Reich is officially a first-year head coach, but Wells believes his calming demeanor never allowed his team to buckle during its 1-5 start to the season when things could have gone from bad to worse. The "self-inflicting wounds" that many players say cost them early-season games have been replaced with a confident offensive unit, led by a confident play caller in Reich, that believes it can score on any defense in the league.
The way Luck is playing makes it almost laughable that the question over whether he could return to form after missing all of last season with a right shoulder injury was even a topic of discussion.
Luck's teammates describe his desire to return even better before his injury as an "obsession." The Colts are averaging 36.5 points where Luck has thrown for 13 touchdowns and just one interception while completing 74 percent of his attempts during their winning streak. He's gone from being in Europe and not being in a "good spot a year ago today" to throwing 29 touchdowns, which is second to only Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes' 31.
"I saw a lot of what Andrew went through in the offseason," left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. "A lot of credit to him. Physically, he's probably better than he's ever been. I'm not surprised. That speaks to his work ethic. Everything he was doing was to get back and play at a high level. It's awesome it's paying off."
Luck is the first not to take the credit for anything. He points to the skill position players making plays and the offensive line doing its job protecting up front. The offensive line has not given up a sack on 214 straight drop backs.
The Titans entered the game giving up an NFL-low 16.8 points per game. The Colts had 17 points by early in the second quarter.
The Titans hadn't given up a touchdown to a tight end all season. That's fine. Luck didn't try to force the ball to any of his tight ends, who have a league-high 15 touchdown receptions. He took advantage of the Titans trying to single cover receiver T.Y. Hilton with cornerback Adoree Jackson. Hilton had nine catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Focus on trying to take something away and Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni will simply look to exploit the defense in another area. That's how multi-dimensional the Colts are on offense.
"I did visualize our offense being this way," tight end Eric Ebron said. "It's really getting everybody to buy in and then this offense would do exactly what it needs to do ... [Defenses] have to pick a player. They picked me and T.Y. went off. Andrew makes it easier for everyone. By that we all are on the same page. We know what he's thinking, we're not out there guessing."
About the only thing that didn't go right for Luck and the Colts on Sunday was that they couldn't pull off the "Philly Special." Ebron's throw to Luck in the end zone was just out of reach of the quarterback's sprawling hands in the second quarter.
"I gave it my best effort and I'll retire as a wide receiver from here on out," Luck said, laughing.
That's OK because Luck the quarterback is doing just fine for one of the NFL's hottest teams.
Indeed, Luck was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts against the Titans. ...
As for that "Philly Special," Reich told Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio after the game that the Colts call it the "Ebron Special," since it was designed for Ebron to make the throw to Luck.
The play has been in the pipeline for a few weeks. Reich explained that it was the product of coaches trying to come up ideas for featuring Ebron, given the season he's had.
"We sit around and say, 'What can we do with him this week?'" Reich said.
So why has Ebron, who was a disappointment in Detroit, flourished in Indianapolis?
""We're all growing," Ebron said. "We're all maturing. Eric's relationship with Andrew Luck has flourished."
Reich explained that the "Ebron Special" differed from the "Philly Special" in one key way.
Instead of the running back taking a direct snap before flipping it to the tight end, Luck received the snap and handed it to the running back. This resulted in different timing, requiring Luck to get into his route more quickly than Foles, who had sauntered to the line of scrimmage before the snap and was able to nonchalantly get wide open. With Luck having to move more quickly to the spot where the ball would be thrown, the defender noticed what was happening, and he was able to cover the play.
For that reason, any further iteration of the "Ebron Special" could be more likely to begin with a direct snap. If it's ever used again.
And, as these things usually go, it will be used again when it's least expected to be used again. ...
One of the keys to the Colts' success on offense lately has been the fact that opposing teams have been paying extra special attention to Hilton, and, accordingly, leaving openings elsewhere for Indy to take advantage of. But on Sunday, the Titans decided to utilize mostly one-on-one matchups against Hilton -- and he feasted. Mostly lined up against 2017 first-round pick Adoreé Jackson, Hilton caught all nine passes thrown his way for 155 yards and two touchdowns, including a long bomb play of 68 yards.
Hilton now stands just one receiving touchdown shy of tying his previous single-season career high of seven, and he remains on track to be in the 1,000-yard range, despite missing significant time earlier in the season and also being more of a decoy in recent weeks. ...
The Colts have added a new piece to their backfield.
The team announced on Tuesday that running back Jonathan Williams has been promoted from the practice squad. Williams fills one of the roster spots opened on Monday when the team placed cornerback D.J. Killings on injured reserve and waived cornerback Arthur Maulet. Center Josh Andrews took the other spot.
Williams was a Bills fifth-round pick in 2016 and ran 27 times for 94 yards as a rookie. He had three carries for no yardage in three appearances with the Saints earlier this season.
Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines ran 25 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns in last Sunday’s victory over the Titans. ...
One issue. ... On Monday, Reich said, via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, that starting center Ryan Kelly "could miss a little time" as a result of a knee injury. Evan Boehm took over for Kelly on Sunday and helped the team avoid giving up a sack for the fifth straight game.
Kelly told reporters on Wednesday that he is waiting on second opinions from an MRI on his knee but is hopeful he will be able to play with a brace in the coming weeks.
Also worth watching, tight ends Erik Swoope (knee) and Ryan Hewitt (ankle) were both held out against the Titans. I'll be watching for more on both in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for the latest.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Jonathan Williams
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell, Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal, Deon Cain, Devin Funchess
TEs: Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Hale Hentges
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
The Jaguars have lost six consecutive games. This was beyond imagination in September, but it's painfully true. The Jaguars were 3-1 after a Week 4 victory over the New York Jets. They haven't won since. They're also deep in last place in the AFC South -- four games behind the division-leading Houston Texans (7-3) and two games behind both the Tennessee Titans (5-5) and Indianapolis Colts (5-5).
As Jaguars.com's John Oehser noted this week, the playoffs are essentially out of the question. "The Jaguars aren't mathematically eliminated from the postseason," Oehser wrote, "but mathematics are all that's left."
So what can fantasy owners count on here?
Running back Leonard Fournette is fully healthy. ... He didn't look as if he ran with confidence at times in the Week 10 in a loss to Indianapolis.
He definitely looked 100 percent Sunday for much of the game.
And a healthy Fournette matters. Fournette last week made a difference against the Colts -- his first game back after missing four consecutive games with a hamstring injury. He made a big difference against the Steelers, rushing for a season-high 95 yards on 28 carries and catching two more passes for 46 yards.
You may not like the Jaguars' offensive approach, but Fournette's presence is a real boost.
In addition, Carlos Hyde can be a factor.
The reserve running back had his most productive game since joining the team in an October trade: 44 yards on eight carries. He could play his way into more carries.
And that might be necessary because the passing game is broken.
There's so much wrong with that aspect of the offense it's difficult to discuss just one element, but the Jaguars passed for just 104 yards Sunday. More damaging: the passing game was completely ineffective in a fourth quarter in which the Jaguars failed to convert a first down on four possessions.
Blake Bortles is struggling. He completed 10 of 18 passes Sunday without a touchdown pass. He didn't throw an interception for a fourth consecutive game, but he was inaccurate downfield early and rarely looked downfield in the second half.
This was a problem late in the game: When you can't trust the quarterback, it's a problem.
But as Oehser notes, the quarterback is not alone.
A reason Bortles didn't look downfield much in the second half: He rarely had time to look downfield. He was sacked six times, a number that might have been higher had Bortles not averted multiple sacks. This was a problem late, too: When you can't trust the offensive line, it's a problem.
And the receivers are struggling, too.
Jaguars receivers caught five passes for 45 yards Sunday. Bortles wasn't getting them the ball much of the game, but there were too many plays when receivers weren't open, too. This was a problem late, too: When you can't trust the wide receivers, it's a problem.
Oehser added the Jaguars still miss Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The injures that have plagued the offense this season are well-documented, but the absence of a viable tight-end option in the passing game continues to stand out.
Jaguars tight ends caught one pass for four yards Sunday. That's not how this offense was designed.
Whatever the case, head coach Doug Marrone said on Monday that Bortles will start against the Bills in Week 12.
"When you say that, you've got to see if someone you put in there is going to be better," Marrone said about lineup changes in general. "That's the point of what it is right now and I don't think that we've ever not looked at if we can put someone in there that's going to perform better. That comes during the week of practice. Then if someone can perform better during that week we'll be able to do that. You can't just replace people just to replace them. You've got to replace them with people that you feel are going to do a better job for you."
Bortles attempted only 18 passes while getting sacked six times and running twice in Sunday's 20-16 loss to Pittsburgh. The Jaguars were up 16-0 in that game, but went three-and-out four times after the Steelers got on the board late in the third quarter. The last of those drives ended when the Steelers stopped Fournette on a third-and-five run from their own 30-yard-line after the two-minute warning.
Beyond Bortles, who was benched in Week 7 but has otherwise remained a part of the first team this season, the Jaguars have Cody Kessler as the sole QB on the roster following the release of Landry Jones on Monday.
One week after Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey tweeted after a loss to the Colts that "when I'm gone from here, y'all gone miss me," he had his best game of the year. Ramsey had two interceptions, none bigger than in the end zone over Brown.
With the Steelers trailing 9-0 in the third quarter, Roethlisberger threw to Brown over the middle. Ramsay reached over Brown's helmet and juggled the ball before pulling it in. He tried to run out of the end zone, stumbled and kept going until he was ruled down by contact.
And Josh Lambo is still good. The Jaguars' kicker is 17 of 18 on field goals this season, with his lone miss from 52 yards. Remarkable.
Oehser added, the fight remains. This wasn't a team that had quit Sunday. It hasn't been a team that has quit this season.
Marrone talked all week about the need to be a pro despite dwindling playoff hopes. The team responded with an effort that wasn't quite good enough. That will make no one around the Jaguars feel better about Sunday's outcome, but it remains true.
The Jaguars take on the Bills in Buffalo this Sunday.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Josh Dobbs, Phillip Walker, Nick Foles
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Tyler Ervin
WRs: Dede Westbrook, Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, Chris Conley, D.J. Chark, CJ Board
TEs: Geoff Swaim, Seth DeValve, Josh Oliver, James O'Shaughnessy, Ben Koyack
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
Patrick Mahomes threw for a career-high 478 yards. He threw six touchdown passes to tie his career best and set a record for a Monday Night Football game.
But according to ESPN.com's Adam Teicher, Mahomes was beating himself up after the Kansas City Chiefs' 54-51 loss to the Los Angeles Rams because of five costly turnovers: Two fumbles and three interceptions. One of the two lost fumbles was returned 11 yards for a touchdown by Samson Ebukam. Mahomes also threw an interception that was returned 25 yards for a touchdown, also by Ebukam.
Kansas City's final two possessions, when the Chiefs were desperately trying to catch the Rams, ended with Mahomes interceptions.
According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Mahomes is the first player since 1933 (when player stats were first tracked) with six passing touchdowns and five turnovers in a game.
"These are the games that you're going to play hopefully in the playoffs," Mahomes said. "You want to make sure you limit your mistakes but at the same time still be aggressive and still score points."
Mahomes had been good at walking that line for most of the season. He entered the game with seven interceptions in the Chiefs' 10 games. But he struggled when he held the ball for too long on Monday. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Mahomes was 10-of-18 with 186 yards and two touchdowns with at least three seconds to throw, but he also threw two interceptions that took 6.57 and 4.50 seconds.
"We're always talking about protecting the ball, and he normally does a great job with that," head coach Andy Reid said. "They got the best of us on that."
Mahomes lost two fumbles, the first of his NFL career, when he had the ball knocked loose by Aaron Donald, the league leader in sacks.
"He's a smart player," Mahomes said. "On those strip sacks, he could have easily just sacked me. But he came around and got it out of my hand."
Reid said those plays were less on Mahomes and more on Donald.
"It was an All-Pro doing it," he said. "One of the best in the business, if not the best in the business."
The interception return by Ebukam was on Mahomes. He failed to get the ball over Ebukam to an open Demetrius Harris.
"I felt like [Harris] was open, and I felt like I was a little early so I kind of babied it instead of just ripping the ball like I had been doing the whole game," Mahomes said.
But in the end, giving the Rams additional opportunities was costly.
"The turnovers just changed the game," Mahomes said. "I think I gave them 21 points, pretty much, through turnovers. It's kind of just like at the New England game, you can't give good teams points turning the ball over."
The loss left Mahomes feeling not so great as the Chiefs commence a Thanksgiving weekend bye.
"It sucks right now, I mean it's plain and simple," Mahomes said. "You wanted to go win that game going into the bye week against a good team like that, a playoff team. But at the same time we still control our own destiny. We can go out there and win football games after the bye week. It's kind of like that reset, get your body right and come back with that mentality that we're gonna win and we can still get home field advantage, hopefully."
As Profootballtalk.com notes, the Chiefs have benefited from recent losses by the Patriots, who are chasing Kansas City for the top spot in the conference, and the Chargers, who are chasing Kansas City for the top spot in the division.
Still, it won't be easy for Mahomes to forget about a high-scoring classic that already has drawn comparisons to the 66-59 Oklahoma win over Texas Tech when Mahomes played for the Red Raiders.
Mahomes doesn't see the games as similar, due again to his mistakes -- and their consequences.
"Someone asked me that earlier," Mahomes said. "It didn't really, for the most part. I mean if I don't give them the 21 points the score isn't as high probably either way. So just little mistakes that I made is just stuff you can't do."
Also according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Chiefs became the first team to score more than 50 points in a game and lose.
Teams scoring 50 were 216-0 entering the game, which means they're now 217-1 after the Rams' 54-51 triumph.
The Chiefs' 51 in the loss eclipsed the previous record set by Eli Manning and the 2015 Giants (in a 52-49 loss to the Saints) and George Blanda and the 1963 Oilers (in a 52-49 loss to the Raiders).
Manning, like Mahomes Monday night, threw six touchdowns in his loss (Blanda only had five, though he did kick seven extra points).
According to Teicher, Kareem Hunt's 21-yard touchdown reception from Mahomes helped him match a 57-year-old record.
It gave him seven receiving touchdowns and seven rushing touchdowns in his team's first 11 games. The last player to do so was Colts Hall of Famer Lenny Moore, who you don't automatically think of being part of one of the league's most dynamic offenses (though Moore was certainly a dynamic player).
In 1961, Moore ran for 648 yards and seven touchdowns, and caught passes for 728 yards and eight scores. Hunt has 824 rushing yards and 378 rushing yards so far.
Also worth noting here. ... Tyreek Hill finished with 10 catches for a career-high 215 yards and two touchdowns, which included one huge 73-yard strike early in the fourth quarter with the Chiefs trailing by 10 points and really needing a big play.
Hill, who went over 1,000 yards receiving on the season in this game for a second-straight year, now has 11 receiving touchdowns on the season, which is a career-high, and his 15 career touchdowns of 50-plus yards are tied for the second-most (Randy Moss) for any player under the age of 25.
Travis Kelce finished Monday's game with 10 receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns, while snagging a handful of key receptions late in the game when his team really needed him to make a play.
Combined with Hill's big day, the Chiefs had multiple 100-yard receivers in a game for the third time this season.
With Sammy Watkins dealing with a foot issue and playing just five snaps on the Chiefs' first offensive drive and then not seeing any action for the rest of the game, the time for Chris Conley to step up and make plays was there for the taking, and he took advantage.
Conley finished the day with a season-high seven receptions for a career-high 74 yards and two touchdowns.
Conley's touchdowns of 8 and 10 yards, respectively, also marked the first multi-touchdown game of his four-year career.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Moore, Chad Henne
RBs: Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson, Darrel Williams, LeSean McCoy
WRs: Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Gehrig Dieter, Tyreek Hill
TEs: Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Deon Yelder
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
The Chargers outgained the Broncos in total yardage 479-325. They had a 384-217 edge through the air, while Denver had the advantage on the ground, 108-95.
Keenan Allen led all receivers in targets (12), receptions (nine) and yards (89).
Jatavis Brown paced the defense with eight total tackles. Brown additionally had one pass defensed.
Antonio Gates tied/passed Derrick Mason for the 18th most receptions in NFL history. He finished the game with five receptions for 80 yards and a score.
With his two touchdowns, Philip Rivers notched his 11th-straight game with multiple touchdown passes. Additionally, his 401 passing yards were the most in a single game vs. the Broncos since 2011 and the third-most of his career, overall.
Michael Badgley set a team record for points scored by a kicker through the first four games of his career before missing his first kick.
But it was all for naught.
Riding a six-game winning streak, the Los Angeles Chargers got a dose of humble pie by losing to the Broncos on a last-second field goal in a game they led by as many as 12 points and should have won going away.
"We shouldn't have been in that situation," Rivers said. "It should've been about 33-7."
Rivers said Sunday's 23-22 loss to the Broncos at the StubHub Center was a stark reminder of what can happen when you make one mistake after another and let a subpar team hang around.
The mistakes were many for the Chargers. Missed tackles in the open field led to big plays for the Broncos. The Chargers were called for a season-high 14 penalties for 120 yards. They allowed a fake punt to work for a second straight game.
Rivers also threw two interceptions that the Broncos turned into seven points. Michael Badgley missed his first kick with the Chargers, an extra point in a game that the Chargers lost by point.
"We say it every week -- more games in this league are lost than won," Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said afterward. "Today we lost that one."
Even with all of the bad plays, the Chargers had a chance to put the game away late. Leading 22-20 with a little more than two minutes to play, the Chargers had the ball second-and-3 on Denver's 44-yard line. The two-play sequence that followed encapsulated the game for the Chargers. Rivers called a run play to the right, but Melvin Gordon went the wrong way, knocking into Rivers and forcing the veteran signal-caller to keep the ball to avoid a fumble. Rivers lost 4 yards.
"I went the wrong way," Gordon said. "Ain't no excuses for it. When it's the down to go get it and win the game, you can't make that mistake, and I did today. And I just need to learn from it."
The Chargers appeared to solve the team's struggles with winning close games earlier this year.
But as ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams suggested, Sunday's disheartening loss provided some evidence that this team still has work to do if it wants to reach the postseason for the first time since 2013.
Soothing balm for the Chargers' struggles on Sunday should be the team's next opponent, the 2-8 Arizona Cardinals, led by rookie quarterback Josh Rosen.
"I don't think there was any falloff from our approach to the game, yet we had those mistakes," Rivers said. "It can be a reminder that can help us, hopefully, without any awful consequences on the back end [of the season].
"We need to get ready for an Arizona team coming here in a hurry and see if we can get back on the right track."
Also of interest. ... As mentioned above, among the correctible problems against the Broncos were an "embarrassing" number of penalties. That was the word several Chargers used to describe the 14 penalties for 120 yards they committed against the Broncos.
Even worse, they came at the most inopportune times.
Early flags on offense stalled drives, forcing the Bolts to settle for field goals instead of finding pay dirt. A key defensive holding late in the game took an interception off the board, while several personal fouls ended up giving Denver free yards when they were struggling to move the ball at times.
Committing 14 penalties is so uncharacteristic of this year's Chargers team, which is why an angry head coach Anthony Lynn was at loss for words to explain it.
"Today, we lost that one (ourselves). Not to take anything away from the Broncos, that team was ready to play. ... (But) 14 penalties for 120 yards? You have to be kidding me. Those are things we've stayed away from (all year)," Lynn said.
Overall, the Bolts stressed the types of mental errors they made were simply unacceptable. ...
Allen, Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams, Gordon and Austin Ekeler have been lethal all year for the Bolts.
On Sunday, a certain future Hall of Famer proved defenses still must key in on him.
As noted above, Gates turned back the clock against Denver, hauling in five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. Three of his receptions came in the clutch on third-and-longs while another reception was good for a score. All those came even though the tight end was questionable to suit up with a knee injury.
By reminding teams he's still more than capable, Gates' presence will only further open things up for the rest of the passing game.
And finally. ... Lynn said the plan was for defensive end Joey Bosa to play about 20 snaps in his 2018 regular-season debut, but he ended up playing 31. Lynn said Bosa's bruised left foot is a little sore, but he got through the game fine and will play even more this week against the Cardinals.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Melvin Gordon, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman, Geremy Davis
TEs: Virgil Green, Sean Culkin, Hunter Henry
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra reported, Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams twice built double-digit leads only to watch them wiped away by Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Monday night's epic showdown at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
No problem. Goff calmly stepped under center each time and regained the lead. Like a conductor silently directing a blaring orchestra, Goff sprayed the ball around the field, completing 31 of 49 passes for 413 yards (8.4 yards per attempt), four touchdowns and a 117.1 passer rating.
On the final scoring drive, Goff deftly read the defense and found tight end Gerald Everett down the sideline with a gorgeous arching throw to put the Rams up for good in a thrilling 54-51 win.
"He was awesome," head coach Sean McVay said of his quarterback. "I thought especially on the last drive. I think it was a six-play drive, they were mixing in some two man (coverage) and then going into a little bit of an invert and he was just finding the right completions, guys were separating. But it's one of those deals where the offensive line was doing a great job protecting, especially against some elite rushers up front and guys creating separation and he's got to put it on the money."
Goff became the only Rams quarterback since at least 1950 with multiple games of 400-plus pass yards and 4-plus pass TD. Only Peyton Manning (four, 2013) and Dan Marino (3, 1986) have more such games than Goff's two in a single season.
This was no dink-and-dunk operation in which receivers did the heavy lifting. Nope. Goff dive-bombed a susceptible Chiefs secondary with a hoard of on-point strikes. According to Next Gen Stats, Goff generated a 123.2 passer rating on 10-plus air yard passes in Week 11, and three of his four TD tosses traveled over 10-plus air yards.
"I thought the one play to Brandin Cooks on the right sideline when they were in a two man, he hits him on an out route," McVay said digging into Goff's performance. "You look at when you he lets that thing go before Chiefs CB Orlando Scandrick could flip his eyes around and then Brandin runs after the catch. We hit Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett makes a play and then he finishes it off with a touchdown.
"It was a great job. They dropped the safety down in, he put it up and down and then Gerald ends up just right down the sideline, not stepping out of bounds and so many guys made plays today.
"But I thought Jared's poise and confidence and ability to respond after it wasn't always pretty, especially in some instances, is why you love him and why he's such a great quarterback because of that even-keel demeanor and disposition and that poise that we always talk about."
Respond Goff did as the Rams gave up leads of 13-0, 40-30, and 47-44 only to answer with their own touchdown drives.
"There were times where we felt like we had all the momentum, we thought we were going to put the knife in and finish it and then there were times where it was the other way around where we were like, 'All right, we need to kind of claw back into this.' It was a fun one," the understated Goff said.
It wasn't always pretty for the third-year signal-caller. He missed several open throws that would have made his stat line even more bodacious, and his two sack-fumbles led directly to 14 K.C. points.
Goff might not get the hype of his counterpart Mahomes, but the calming mentality and poise of the Rams QB was on display at the end of a noisy back-and-forth affair.
"Like I said, I thought we were one drive away from kind of putting it away and getting enough of a lead and they would make plays and get back in it," he said. "They were in the lead in the fourth quarter and we're like, 'All right, time to respond on our side,' and we did. We made plays."
Respond Goff did. Time and time again.
Meanwhile, running back Todd Gurley has 36 touchdowns since the start of the 2016 season and he had touchdowns in 13 straight games heading into Monday night's game against the Chiefs.
Given the 54-51 score and 14 total touchdowns in the Rams win, one would likely assume that Gurley had something to do with the scoring outburst. Such a thought would be wrong.
Samson Ebukam scored twice for the Rams, but Gurley never got into the end zone on Monday night. Gurley ran the ball a season-low 12 times for 55 yards and caught three passes for 39 yards. Gurley's focus wasn't on his own output after the game.
"It was just cool, man," Gurley said. "Obviously, last-minute game and everybody coming out to support. Had families here, had the responders. So, it was just a great overall crowd. It was good for the city tonight."
All that said, McVay revealed on Tuesday that Gurley did have his ankle rolled up on early in the game, and it did limit him a bit.
I'll obviously be watching for more on that in coming days; keep an eye on the Late-Breaking Updates section for developments. ...
Also. ... While the touchdown streak came to an end, Gurley did hit a milestone. The 55 rushing yards pushed him over 1,000 yards for the third time in his four NFL seasons.
Second-year receiver Josh Reynolds helped the cause in his first game starting with wideout Cooper Kupp on injured reserve with a torn ACL and out for the season.
Reynolds scored his third touchdown of 2018 and added 80 yards receiving against the Chiefs, which is a career high.
Everett also got in on Monday night's point-scoring affair against the Chiefs. Everett caught three passes for 49 yards -- two of those receptions were for a touchdown.
Everett scored the Rams' go-ahead touchdown with 1:46 remaining in the game, on a 40-yard shot from Goff down the right sideline.
QBs: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
RBs: Todd Gurley, Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, JoJo Natson, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster
TEs: Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
The Miami Dolphins arrived at their bye week a .500 team, which is no surprise because for the past quarter century they've been a .500 franchise.
Their record since 1994: 197-197. Their record this year: 5-5. Coach Adam Gase's three-year record: 21-21.
If there's a middle of the pack, the Dolphins are in the middle of it. They haven't won a playoff game since 2000, but they could well be headed for their third 8-8 finish in the past six years.
"These are tough times to be a Dolphin fan," tweeted their former fullback, Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Csonka. "Very frustrating. Shabby football."
Far from perfect, for sure. Given the way the season has gone, it's amazing the Dolphins can still talk with a straight face about making the playoffs.
They've been decimated by injuries, including the loss of quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the past five games. They've been outgained by 787 yards, third-worst in the league, and outscored by 57 points. They rank 28th in offense and 26th in defense.
Yet they began the week with the eighth-best record in the AFC, while eight teams had worse records.
In sum: more Miami mediocrity.
"We are in a good position," running back Frank Gore said with a straight face. "We just need to stay as one, believe in each other, believe in our coaching staff and try to get the next one."
The next one will be Sunday at Indianapolis, with Tannehill back in the lineup after recovering from an injury to his throwing shoulder injury.
Tannehill practiced on Tuesday and Gase announced after the session that the quarterback will return to action.'
Gase said Tannehill looked "good" in practice and is confident about the shoulder holding up.
"He's done a good job of rehabbing," the coach said. “He’s been waiting for this week to come for a while."
As of late last month, Tannehill was still feeling pain while throwing, but Gase said Tuesday the quarterback didn't complain of discomfort during the bye.
Tannehill's season opened as a mixed-bag, completing 65.9 percent of his passes for 972 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions in five games before suffering the injury. After guiding Miami to a 3-0 start, however, the QB succumbed to breakdowns on his offensive line and reverted to being a check-down quarterback.
In his final two tilts, Tannehill completed just 31 of 55 passes for 285 total yards with three interceptions and one touchdown.
The Dolphins went 2-3 with Brock Osweiler in the starting lineup and they hope Tannehill can provide a spark as they try to beat the Colts for a leg up on another 5-5 team in the playoff race.
Remember, only two of the six remaining games are against teams with winning records. So it's not impossible for Miami to actually make the playoffs for only the third time in the past 17 seasons.
"There are certain teams that have kind of separated themselves from the rest of the pack," Gase said. "But right now, the only thing that's really been eliminated for us is an undefeated season. Everything else is on the table. Other teams are having a lot of the same issues we are, and it's really who can pull it together these last six games and find a way to get in."
A bye week may not be enough time to resolve the Dolphins' many issues, however. That could take an offseason or three.
For starters, the Dolphins are on pace to allow the most yards in franchise history. Their run defense ranks last in the league and seems to be getting worse, with 174 yards allowed per game and 5.9 per carry over the past five weeks. Defensive dysfunction is such that two-time Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones took himself out of a game because he was unhappy with a plan to rotate personnel.
And then there's the offense, which has gone nine quarters without a touchdown. In the past three games receiver Danny Amendola has thrown for more scores (one) than Osweiler (none).
Maybe Tannehill's return can change that. Maybe not.
Bad health is less of an excuse on defense, where Gase's decision to jettison tackles Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips left holes that haven't been filled. Yawning run gaps and blown coverage are staples, calling into question the future of second-year coordinator Matt Burke.
That's a topic for the offseason, along with the future of Tannehill. First the Dolphins will try to summon a late-season surge, which would be something new.
Over the past decade, their record in December is 22-22.
Meanwhile, asked why Kenny Stills has seen such a dramatic dip in targets, ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe expressed his belief that Stills has been a victim of Tannehill's injury.
Wolfe explained that Osweiler struggles against the blitz, and teams have been bringing pressure to put a damper on Miami's offense. Stills isn't 100 percent yet following a groin injury that caused him to miss a game, but he's healthy enough to make an impact.
However, he is primarily a vertical receiver and hasn't had many opportunities to get open deep with Osweiler under center. That seems unlikely to change until Tannehill returns.
Beyond that, the initial reports after wide receiver Jakeem Grant's recent injury was that he didn't tear his Achilles.
But he's not returning this season, regardless.
According to Beasley, Grant was undergoing "season-ending lower leg surgery" Monday.
The hope is that Grant would be ready for spring workouts next year, but by having the procedure now, he is expected to be ready for the start of the 2019 season.
The former sixth-rounder was showing progress, and had 21 catches for 268 yards and two touchdowns this year.
Remember, in addition to Grant, DeVante Parker went down with a shoulder injury in Week 10 but Gase says Parker has a chance to play this week.
If Parker is out, Amendola, Stills and Leonte Carroo will work in three-wide sets. As ESPN's Mike Clay notes, Amendola is averaging 8.0 targets per game during his past five outings, so there's certainly some PPR appeal there. Stills has managed only nine targets (7 percent share) during his past four outings and is too risky to start.
For the record, Parker and Kenyan Drake were both wearing non-contact jersey's during Tuesday's practice. They were also limited Wednesday along with Amendola, who is dealing with a sore hamstring.
I'll have more on Tannehill’s return as well as on Amendola, Drake and Parker via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
One last note here. ... ESPN's Mike Clay pointed out this week that rookie tight end Mike Gesicki has seen his playing time dip in recent weeks and the 2018 second-round pick has failed to clear three targets in eight of first 10 NFL games. Gesicki has been on the field for only 37 percent of Miami's pass plays this season. Clay added: "He's no more than a dynasty stash."
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage, Myles Gaskin, Patrick Laird
WRs: DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, Jakeem Grant, Allen Hurns
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Nick O'Leary, Durham Smythe, Chris Myarick
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
Head coach Mike Zimmer didn't mince words following Sunday night's 25-20 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Zimmer pointed out numerous mistakes -- including missed tackles in the first half, soft coverage on some third downs and two turnovers in the red zone, among others -- that contributed to the defeat.
But when it came to the Vikings' inability to protect the football, Zimmer left no room for ambiguity on his feelings, especially when considering the head coach has emphasized the importance of ball security to his team in recent weeks.
"Yeah, it's definitely a concern," Zimmer told reporters. "Either they're not listening or they're not paying attention or they don't really care. So, we'll have to find out which one of the three it is."
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was guilty of two interceptions, including a back-breaking pick-six in the fourth quarter Sunday night, and running back Dalvin Cook coughed up the football inside the Bears' 20-yard line.
Cousins has totaled four interceptions and a lost fumble in the last three games, a span that saw the Vikings go 1-2. The game-changing turnovers in recent weeks have contributed to the Vikings' 5-4-1 record and the team now sits 1 1/2 games behind the NFC North-leading Bears (7-3).
With six games remaining on the schedule, which includes three against divisional opponents, Zimmer's message of protecting the football needs to sink in sooner or later if the Vikings hope to rebound and challenge for a postseason berth.
For his part, Cousins understands the importance of immediately fixing the issues that have recently plagued the team.
"I think anytime you have a game like this, you come back on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday with a real sense of urgency and heightened awareness to your preparation, to being coached, to coaching one another," Cousins told reporters after the game. "It certainly humbles you and I think that's a positive."
Of course, Cousins wasn't the only issue -- at least not on offense.
Two weeks after Cook's return against Detroit when the run game seemed to finally be getting into a rhythm, Minnesota ran the ball 14 times for a total of 22 yards.
A lack of explosive plays and the mistakes that Zimmer had talked about in previous losses kept occurring.
Settling for two field goals when drives stalled at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter was unsettling.
But more than anything, the fact that these mistakes -- especially turnovers in the red zone -- continue is a huge issue.
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin reminded readers, entering Week 11, Cousins had performed admirably under fire -- especially on the road -- having been pressured on 40 percent of his dropbacks, which was the third-highest rate among all NFL quarterbacks.
In Chicago, the pressure forced Cousins into errant throws and disrupted his timing and accuracy.
Facing pressure on 16 of his dropbacks, the second most he's seen in a game this season, the Vikings quarterback completed 30 of 46 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns and the two interceptions.
Cousins walked through each of his interceptions postgame, the first of which happened while he was under duress on Minnesota's final play of the first half. Launching a deep pass intended for Kyle Rudolph, Cousins was picked off by Adrian Amos. "It was my fault," Cousins said. "As simple as that. Can't do that."
Zimmer suggested on Monday that there might be too much "volume" in the Vikings offense right now, which is leading to some of the miscommunication, broken plays and other mistakes.
Zimmer said having a new offense leads to some of the breakdowns, but he doubled down on the perceived negative effect of installing too many plays:
"You want to add new plays every week and new plays and new plays," he said. "If you're not executing them, it might be the best play in the world. Vince Lombardi might have designed it. But if you can't execute it then it doesn't do you any good. You can't protect for it or whatever it is."
Beyond that, the Vikings defense had its fair share of struggles.
Zimmer noted several missed tackles in the first half and 'soft' coverage on a handful of third downs. In the days leading into the game, defenders preached a need to account for Mitchell Trubisky's athleticism. A handful of designed and freelance runs by the Chicago quarterback helped the Bears score 14 unanswered points before halftime.
The Bears accumulated 148 yards on the ground, the most the Vikings had given up since a loss to the Bills in Week 3.
The Vikings' next game comes against a dangerous Green Bay Packers (4-5-1) squad in desperate need of a win. Minnesota will need to do better on both sides of the ball in this one. ...
Also of interest. ... Ameer Abdullah accounted for 67 yards on three total touches in his Vikings debut on Sunday night.
The running back, who was signed just before Minnesota's Week 10 bye, had one reception for 10 yards and two kickoff returns for 57 yards against the Bears.
Abdullah played eight total snaps, including seven on special teams. He returned two of Chicago's six kickoffs.
Abdullah said he's spent the past week getting up to speed on Minnesota's playbook.
"You definitely need to do the best you can to make sure you're holding your end of the bargain," Abdullah said. "These guys are moving at such a high speed, so if you're asked to be in there then you need to be at the same speed. I'm going to do the best I can to do so."
And finally. ... Anthony Barr said Monday he is ready to return to the lineup after missing the past three games.
The linebacker has been sidelined since injuring his hamstring in Minnesota's Week 7 road win against the Jets.
"I plan to play," Barr said of Sunday's game against the Packers.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Josh Doctson, Stefon Diggs, Chad Beebe, Olabisi Johnson
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted, when Tom Brady is knocked off his usual sharp game, he tends to revert to his most-trusted options. That was highlighted in Sunday's blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon were each targeted 12 times. Every other receiver had a total of three passes thrown in their direction.
Better distribution would be ideal.
"I have to figure out a way to get the ball to everybody, so we can all make plays," Brady acknowledged Monday during his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI. "When everyone is making plays, I think our offense is tough to stop. That will certainly be something we try to focus on and make sure everyone is getting looks they deserve and make plays when we get them."
Brady's final pass Sunday -- an incompletion over the middle to Edelman on fourth-and-6 -- was one example of where the quarterback widening his lens could help the team. After reviewing the game, Brady said receiver Chris Hogan was open after running a great route against cornerback Malcolm Butler, and he could have hit him down the sideline.
But instead, Brady was "kind of focused" on Edelman, and cornerback Logan Ryan's tight coverage forced an incompletion.
Hogan played 54 snaps as the Patriots' third receiver and was targeted just once. Meanwhile, Phillip Dorsett was used mostly to spell Gordon, playing 15 snaps and hauling in both passes thrown to him.
At times, Brady seemed to be forcing the ball to Gordon, although it simply might have been a case of giving him a chance to win one-on-one matchups. Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson won more than Gordon.
"I think the reality is that I'm trying to find the open guy and I'm trying to throw it to the guy that I think is going to be the most open based on the play we're running, and what the defense has called. I don't always do that. I certainly make mistakes on my reads," Brady said on WEEI.
"But I'm not thinking much about who's where. A lot of those things are game plan, and we're putting guys in certain positions based on situations, and I'm kind of letting coverage kind of dictate where it goes. It's not like we're throwing into triple coverage. We're throwing into one-on-one. Josh got some opportunities. Julian did. Chris didn't get as many as he'd like.
"We'll have to look at how things have played out the last few weeks and figure out how to get everyone more looks, more targets."
The return of tight end Rob Gronkowski would obviously help, and maybe even giving fellow tight end Jacob Hollister some more playing time as he returns to full health could be beneficial. By Dec. 2, running back Rex Burkhead will also be eligible to play again, assuming he doesn't have any setbacks as he comes off injured reserve (concussion).
So how the Patriots look in the weeks to come might be significantly different than Sunday.
That might partially explain why Bill Belichick didn't seem overly concerned with the topic of lopsided targets in the direction of Gordon and Edelman.
"Our main concern is to score points and win, so whatever falls into that category, I'm for," the head coach said. "And that's what we'll do."
For the record, Brady isn't having a disastrous season. He is still completing 65 percent of his passes and has 17 touchdowns.
In recent years Brady has typically shrugged off questions about his health or any injuries he might be dealing with. It included him famously wearing a glove during the playoffs last season to shield the extent of a cut he sustained on his throwing hand prior to the AFC championship game.
That same, guarded posture has extended to all inquiries about whether any of the hits he's taken this season have affected his performance.
Asked Wednesday about how he was feeling physically heading into the bye week, Brady smiled before saying, "Pretty good, pretty good."
"Some bumps and bruises, but I think that's part of football season and I feel pretty good," he added.
Belichick said he doesn't believe they are putting more of a load on Brady than they think he can handle.
"We'll just have to evaluate those things going forward. Not looking to do an excessive amount of them, that's for sure, but if there's a situational play or something that comes up, then I think we'd consider it," Belichick said. "Quarterbacks get hit in the pocket and quarterbacks scramble and a lot of people converge on them in a hurry. So, nobody knows that better than Tom does."
Running back James White said the onus on protecting Brady extends across the entire offense. That includes better blitz pickup by everyone.
"Definitely need to be better just communicating and when we do -- when we are on the same page -- do a better job of getting Tom enough time to read the coverage out and if he decides to hold the ball, still give him enough time to do that, too," White said.
Brady said he'll be using the time off to recharge going into the stretch run of the regular season.
"We've had a lot of weeks of football and we've got some really important ones coming up," he said. "So hopefully we can learn from the things that have happened over the course of the season and use them to our advantage moving forward."
He said improvement must come across the board.
"The reality is for the quarterback, I can do what I can do and I need to shore things up with what I can do," Brady said. "I don't think any player's really satisfied. I think we're all looking to get better and improve and we have some opportunity to do that."
Meanwhile, of great interest to fantasy owners is how healthy and productive Gronkowski will be following the team's bye week.
According to Reiss, signs are positive that Gronkowski will be back on the field when the Patriots visit the Jets this weekend. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the same on Sunday.
As for productivity, consider what Brady said: "I've played a lot of football with him, and I think I have a lot of trust and confidence. When he's not there, there's just a different level with other players. Sometimes we don't try some things because Gronk's not in there; sometimes we do."
I'll be following up on Gronk as needed via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Finally. ... Per Reiss, the Patriots' willingness to part ways with running back Kenjon Barner last week, despite limited depth at the position and rookie Sony Michel still limited in practice with a knee injury, is reflective of their belief that Burkhead is on a positive track to return to action in early December.
Burkhead landed on injured reserve with a concussion in the third week of the season, and things have gone smoothly since he returned to practice Nov. 8. The first game in which Burkhead is eligible to play is Dec. 2 at home against the Minnesota Vikings.
Between Burkhead and the expected return of Gronkowski Sunday against the Jets, it will give the Patriots a chance to field their most complete offensive lineup of the season, just in time for the all-important home stretch.
QBs: Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
WRs: Julian Edelman, Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, Ben Watson
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett put it, "The New Orleans Saints' offense has gone to ludicrous speed. ..."
The Saints, who have been scoring points this season at the highest rate in NFL history, just routed the reigning champs for their ninth straight victory -- a 48-7 blowout against the Philadelphia Eagles that saw Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram dancing on the sideline for much of the second half.
Drew Brees threw for another 363 yards and four touchdowns Sunday to keep padding his MVP résumé. And the Saints have now scored 45, 51 and 48 points over the past three weeks, respectively -- the most in a three-game span in franchise history.
They are just the fourth team in NFL history to score 45 points in three straight games, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. Even more impressive -- they have scored points on 62.5 percent of their drives this season, which is on pace to be by far the most of any team since the NFL switched to a 16-game schedule in 1978, according to the Elias Sports Bureau data.
The previous high was 53 percent by the 2007 New England Patriots -- who went 16-0 in the regular season.
That's the kind of run the Saints are on right now after losing their season opener 48-40 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in the "Fitzmagic" era.
What's most impressive is the way the Saints just keep gaining steam instead of showing any signs of letting up.
While they could be accused of running up the score on the Eagles, as Brees kept playing midway into the fourth quarter, this is how the Saints have been playing for weeks now.
After they survived a brutal three-game stretch (at Baltimore, at Minnesota and home against the Los Angeles Rams), there was some curiosity if the Saints might come out "flat" for less-hyped games. Instead, they went up to Cincinnati and scored on each of their first nine possessions in a 51-14 blowout.
Then they returned home this week and scored on eight of their first nine possessions against Philadelphia.
Brees is having a ludicrous season himself at age 39, with 25 TD passes and just one interception. Thomas, who caught four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown Sunday, now has 82 catches for 1,042 yards, making him the first player in Saints history to begin his career with three 1,000-yard seasons. Kamara has 15 TDs this season, and Ingram has now run for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games.
But they aren't the only ones getting in on the fun. Rookie receiver Tre'Quan Smith had 10 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown Sunday, shattering his previous career high of three catches in a game. Second-year receiver Austin Carr caught his first career touchdown pass. And undrafted rookie receiver Keith Kirkwood caught three passes for 33 yards in the first quarter in just his second career game.
The Saints, who have to turn around quickly and host the rival Atlanta Falcons on Thanksgiving night, can't really afford to let up with the Los Angeles Rams (9-1) still in serious contention in the NFC.
But it looks like they have no problem keeping up that pace. ....
Worth noting. ... As NFL.com's Herbie Teope pointed out, Smith's performance was timely when considering the Saints brought in veteran wide receivers Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall in the past two weeks to bolster the No. 2 receiver spot opposite of Thomas.
Bryant, however, suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon a day after signing, and Marshall was brought aboard to replace Bryant.
Smith understood the additions meant competition for playing time, but he kept faith in his ability to make plays.
"You got to know your job is at risk because if you mess up, you got a veteran right there trying to take your job," Smith said. "But I know if I do what I got to do week in and week out, I'm at a good place."
Still, the presence of Bryant and Marshall didn't mean there wouldn't be mentorship, and Smith enjoyed the opportunity to learn from the two former Pro Bowlers.
"He came in coaching me, telling me how to beat defenders on routes, and how to attack their leverage and technique," Smith said of Bryant. "Then, Brandon, he talked to me the other day. He just built more confidence in myself. He said, 'You're here for a reason. You're a great receiver. I watched you in college.'
"That means a lot coming from people who have been in the league years, veterans who know what they're doing and had great years. It just means a lot."
Smith clearly took to heart whatever he absorbed from Bryant and Marshall, who was inactive Sunday, en route to a breakout game.
The rookie receiver flashed his speed on a 38-yard catch down the field and displayed toughness to make tough catches in traffic, including his 15-yard touchdown grab between two defenders at the goal line.
Whether the Saints stick with Smith as the No. 2 receiver opposite of Thomas the rest of the way once Marshall is up to speed remains to be seen. But Smith showed Sunday perhaps the team didn't need to bring in a veteran wide receiver to address the spot, especially when considering second-year pro Carr and Kirkwood also contributed in the passing game against the Eagles.
For now, however, Smith proved he could be an answer whenever teams attempt to take away Thomas, who was more than happy to shower praise on his teammate.
"I am real proud of him," Thomas said of Smith. "He came out there and stepped up and made some crucial catches. He did his job and he helped this offense."
Worth noting. ... While the Saints are holding full practice this week, Smith would not have practiced Monday or Tuesday due to a foot issue.
I'll follow up as needed in advance of Thursday night's game against the Falcons.
QBs: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Javorius Allen, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tre'quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, Austin Carr, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
Don't look now, but the New York Giants finally have a winning streak.
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan noted, it's been a while. An infuriating 700 days to be exact. It was December 2016 the last time the Giants strung together wins against the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions.
They have one now after winning two games in a span of six days against the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Giants beat the Bucs 38-35 on Sunday afternoon for their first home victory of the season and first winning streak in years.
Who cares if those teams are a combined 5-15 this season?
"The goal is to win every game," wide receiver Odell Beckham said after reiterating this week the goal was to win out. "So six games left, it's really only crazy until you do it."
Finally, some reason for optimism in a seemingly lost Giants (3-7) season.
Rookie running back Saquon Barkley had a rushing and receiving touchdown in the first half. He's the first Giants rookie running back since Butch Woolfork in 1982 to accomplish the feat. Barkley has been every bit as advertised this season and was again on Sunday. He finished with a career-high 142 yards rushing on 27 carries with three total TDs and was making Bucs defenders miss with amazing regularity.
On Wednesday, he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Barkley and Beckham (who scored his fifth TD in six games on Sunday) give the Giants two All-Pro-caliber weapons on offense. This is something they can build around.
"[Barkley] has gotten better every week. That's what you ask everyone to do and I thought [Sunday] was the best he ran," quarterback Eli Manning said. "He had a better tempo. He was hitting the holes fast and was running hard. He was close to breaking a couple of long ones but was just efficient."
Raanan went on to remind readers that head coach Pat Shurmur was hired this offseason because he was known as an offensive guru and quarterback whisperer. There were moments of doubt in the first half of the season as the Giants offense stumbled on a regular basis. They entered last week averaging 18.3 points per game. They've scored 65 points in the two games since.
There are rays of hope once again.
Shurmur went into the bye week and made some necessary adjustments. He conceded that the Giants with Barkley might be better served running the ball more. They have in the two games out of the bye week. Barkley set a career high in carries each of the past two games.
It has taken pressure off the embattled offensive line and opened things up for Manning. The Giants' 38 points were the most since they scored 49 in a loss to the New Orleans Saints during the 2015 season. Shurmur's offense is trending in the right direction after a slow start.
"We're putting up more points. So we're doing something right," Beckham said. "We're taking steps in the right direction."
The offensive line and Manning are playing better. This likely goes hand in hand, but it's encouraging since neither have played well for much of the past few years.
As for Manning, he completed 17 of 18 passes for 231 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He completed a career-best 94.4 percent of his passes.
For the second straight week Shurmur said he had a "winning performance." Manning had five touchdown passes in the week's two wins -- after eight in the first eight games -- all with his starting job seemingly on the line. At the very least, Manning's Giants career doesn't seem to be ending sadly with weekly public beatings and an inability to get his team into the end zone. It means something to bounce out of the bye with consecutive wins.
"There is always personal satisfaction when you win football games," Manning said. "I feel good for all the guys. The new guys, guys that have been here, the coaches. Losing, it is not fun for anyone. It is not about me. It is about this team coming together and doing it for everyone and for everyone to feel good about all the hard work that has been going in."
Manning and the Giants have provided a sliver of optimism over the past week, with six games remaining. Beckham can still dream of that win-out scenario he's been talking about for weeks.
Also worth noting. ... Evan Engram was outsnapped by fellow tight end Scott Simonson 18-17. Engram played just 32 percent of snaps. But he took the new role in stride and made perhaps biggest play of the game with a 54-yard catch and run late in game.
"If I'm going to be pissy, if I'm going to be selfish, if I'm going to be mad then I'm not going to be prepared, not going to be ready for that time when I'm needed," Engram said.
He was ready. What was he thinking after that key play which he admitted was a little extra special?
QBs: Eli Manning, Daniel Jones, Alex Tanney
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Elijhaa Penny, Paul Perkins
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, Cody Core, Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, TJ Jones, Bennie Fowler
TEs: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Garrett Dickerson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
By the time Todd Bowles walked off the field at MetLife Stadium and disappeared into the tunnel, many New York Jets fans figured that was the last time they'd see him on their team's sideline.
Not quite. Not yet.
As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. noted, an embarrassing 41-10 loss to the equally lowly Buffalo Bills in Week 10 brought out the venom from Bowles' biggest detractors -- the number of whom has quickly multiplied over the past several weeks. They hoped the bye-week break would bring about a change at the top in response to the team's miserable 3-7 start.
Owner Christopher Johnson instead opted to not fire Bowles -- much to the dismay of a large portion of the fan base.
"I understand," wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. "Everybody is frustrated. I understand the fans are frustrated. We're frustrated. It's understandable. We're going to stick together. We're going to stick with Todd. We're going to have his back.
"And, we're going to take the bye week, regroup and try to figure this (stuff) out."
The Jets have six games left and will be hard-pressed to even match the 5-11 records they put up in each of the past two seasons. New York has two games against New England, including a home matchup out of the break, and meetings with Tennessee, Buffalo, Houston and Green Bay -- no gimmes in the bunch.
The general feeling is that Bowles' fate is, in fact, sealed and the Jets will embark on a coaching search as soon as the regular season ends.
"We have to own it and have a week to live with it," Bowles said of having the bye after such a brutal loss. "They get some time off, make sure they rest up and get healthy. We're going to come back and try to win six games, one at a time, and see who wants to play."
The one player everyone's eyes will be on is rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, whose right foot strain kept him out of the debacle against Buffalo.
But even with the bye week to get healthy, the rookie quarterback was nowhere to be seen at the start of Monday's practice before finally appearing in street clothes to observe the session from afar, per the team's official website.
And that has him leaving the door open for Sunday's game against the Patriots, even if the Jets might prefer to take a more cautious approach.
"I think the idea of going up against him and the Patriots, coach Belichick and all those guys, it's a cool thing, especially with me growing up in the era where they really controlled the whole NFL, for the most part," Darnold said. "It would be really cool if I have the opportunity."
Darnold said he had started jogging, and was encouraged about his condition.
"It feels good. It feels great," Darnold said. "Nothing for me to complain about. No pain, either. ... The foot is really good. I feel really good. Like I said last week, I'm just following protocol right now."
Still, as Profootballtalk.com Darin Gantt noted, Bowles deployed the rare double-obfuscation when asked about Darnold's status, referring to him as "day-to-day, week-to-week."
Until he actually practices -- and while Darnold was dressed out Wednesday, he did not practice -- it's hard to tell which direction that cryptic diagnosis is pointing for the rookie quarterback, but I'll obviously be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
In Darnold's absence, 39-year-old Josh McCown and deep backup Davis Webb mined their way through drills ahead of Sunday's tussle with the (eternally) division-leading New England Patriots.
With their season a comprehensive wash, there is little reason to rush Darnold back into the fray. His up-and-down campaign is almost impossible to purely scout inside a banged-up offense bereft of weapons.
Tuesday's practice might flip the script, but for now it appears the Patriots are destined to face a wandering Jets outfit led by McCown and a cast of nobodies. ...
Going forward, Darnold's development will be at the top of the list of priorities, regardless of the job status of Bowles and his staff. The former USC star has thrown a league-leading 14 interceptions and struggled in three straight losses before his injury.
"I think it's just me, at some moments in the game, getting in my own head," Darnold said. "I've just got to stay true to my progressions, stay true to the confidence that I normally have and just go out there and sling it."
Darnold has shown some positive signs, making some impressive plays while also receiving rave reviews from his coaches for his ability to mentally digest the game.
He has made lots of mistakes, too, as he struggles through rookie growing pains. But Darnold is far from the only one having issues.
Jeremy Bates' sluggish offense ranks 29th in the NFL and has been inconsistent. Injuries to receivers Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa haven't helped, neither has the shaky offensive line play. The running game has also been mostly grounded the past few games since gaining 323 yards against Denver in Week 5.
"Right now, we're not scoring touchdowns," Bates said. "That's my responsibility to get our players to score touchdowns and I'll do a better job at that."
That's the resounding feeling all around the facility, from the coaches to the players to general manager Mike Maccagnan, whose spotty record in the draft and free agency has contributed to a lack of roster depth.
While first-rounders Leonard Williams, Darron Lee and Jamal Adams -- and even Darnold -- are starters and major contributors, only 12 of the 22 players drafted from 2015-17 remain on the roster. The bulk of the crop from those draft classes should be major depth pieces now, namely wide receivers ArDarius Stewart (third round, 2017) and Chad Hansen (fourth, 2017). Instead, the Jets will look to make a big-time splash in free agency next offseason with about $100 million in salary cap space.
"This is an offseason we feel really good about," Maccagnan said. "We've done a lot of work already and we're going to do a lot more work on the pro free agency."
Staying patient is a tough task for most Jets fans. After all, they've been doing that for 50 years, since the franchise's one and only trip to the Super Bowl.
Anger and frustration are the prevailing emotions right now among the team's most dedicated followers. And, the Jets insist they're right there with them.
"Imagine if it's your job, how much more upset you are," McCown said. "So I think that's the case for us. I think that's what I would say, is that we feel the same way. We're probably even more so than them because it's our livelihood and this is the game that we love. So when you go out and play like that, we're upset about that and it's unacceptable.
"We want to find a way to make it different. That's the main thing. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Receiver Jermaine Kearse handled five more targets in Week 10, and now he is averaging 6.4 targets per game since Week 3. But as ESPN's Mike Clay pointed out, a massive 30 percent of balls directed at Kearse have been off target, which has limited him to a 45 percent catch rate, an average of 4.4 yards per target and zero touchdowns.
Clay believes Kearse's role makes a bounce-back probable, but the Jets' struggling offense makes him a poor fantasy start right now.
And what about rookie tight end Chris Herndon?
ESPN.com's Rich Cimini believe Herndon's role will grow, but not much.
Herndon has seen a slight increase in playing time, but he's still averaging only four targets and three receptions per game over the past four games. He's one of the few bright spots on offense, but the Jets -- with a new coordinator and rookie QB -- seem incapable of maximizing a potential strength.
And finally. ... In addition to Darnold, Robby Anderson (ankle) did not practice Monday and was not on the field to start Wednesday's session -- not a good sign coming off the bye. Enunwa (ankle) was limited. Again, I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update.
QBs: Sam Darnold, Trevor Siemian
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Ty Montgomery, Trenton Cannon, Bilal Powell
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, Josh Bellamy, Demaryius Thomas, Tim White, Greg Dortch, Braxton Berrios
TEs: Trevon Wesco, Daniel Brown, Chris Herndon
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
According to ESPN.com staff writer Paul Gutierrez, both Jon Gruden and Derek Carr insisted the heated conversation between coach and quarterback late in the first half of the Oakland Raiders' 23-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals was not their first such discussion.
Nor will it be the last.
What was different this time, though, was that the exchange was caught on camera, and that tight end Lee Smith played peacemaker, of sorts, by putting a hand on the back of Gruden's neck in an effort to calm the situation.
Gruden got after Carr after he missed Jalen Richard badly down the right sideline on a third-down pass.
"That's the first time you've seen it," Gruden said with an impish grin, "but it isn't the first time it's happened. We're both competitors. We're competing hard there. We had a man-to-man situation and he went for the big play.
"We had a mild disagreement. But you know what, that's part of this business. We're going to have times where we clash a little bit but we're also very supportive of one another. I'm really proud of him. He's been through a lot this year, and I'm glad he's our quarterback."
A storyline coming into the season revolved around how Carr would adapt to the notoriously-hard-on-his-quarterbacks Gruden. But Gruden has made a point to pump Carr up with positivity at every turn.
As Gutierrez notes, that's what made the sideline exchange in Week 11 so unique.
Still, Carr said he was "surprised" it took this long for cameras to catch them getting after it on the sidelines.
"We're both very fiery -- a lot of people don't see that in me, all the time -- we're both competitive," Carr said. "A minor disagreement on something and the beautiful thing is, when we do that, it's not a demeaning thing or pointing a finger. We're both yelling the same kind of thing, almost: 'Let's fix it!'
"Everything's good, I promise."
Carr completed 19 of 31 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns in Arizona but was sacked four times. It was his 15th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter of his career as the Raiders improved to 2-8.
The sideline show also brought to mind memorable blowups between Gruden and Rich Gannon in Gruden's first tour in Oakland, which lasted from 1998 through 2001. Gannon joined the Raiders in 1999, and while he became a league MVP the year after Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay, Gannon has said his best years in the NFL were with Gruden.
"He wants everything to be so perfect," Carr said. "This stretch of games, we're just trying to get on the same page, every play -- every detail.
"We're just learning each other. And again, no one wants to hear it, but it is a process. It takes time. The beautiful thing about that, people saw that [sideline spat] happen and then we went down and we won the game. We still communicated and we hugged it out."
Carr later said he was joking that they actually embraced, but Smith did get physical, so to speak.
Because after the cameras went back to the game, Raiders radio sideline reporter Chris Townsend reported that the conversation between Gruden and Carr resumed and got more heated. It lasted for the duration of Oakland's defensive series and Smith, a close friend of Carr, "grabbed" Gruden by the back of the neck in an effort to diffuse the situation, Townsend reported.
Asked if Smith was a "peacemaker" on the team, Gruden smiled.
"Is that how it looked?" Gruden laughed. "I can handle my own business."
Smith said he was not trying to be a peacemaker, though.
"It was just, I happened to be in the vicinity and I saw the wild man's face red," Smith joked of Gruden, "so I figured I'd join the party.
"Coach Gruden's a wild man, he's a lot of fun to be around, so I told him, the way he's going to go to the grave is having a stroke on the sideline. It was all in fun. It was all good. There was no intent to be angry at anybody. It was just our head coach and our quarterback were being competitive. ... They're the two most important people on the team."
All three said there were no lingering issues.
"I probably shouldn't have grabbed the head coach," Smith said, "but I got a little fired up. But it was all in good fun. No negativity at all."
Meanwhile, the Raiders are desperate for receiver help.
They dealt Amari Cooper to Dallas at the trade deadline. Jordy Nelson (knee) and Martavis Bryant (knee) were inactive in Arizona and Brandon LaFell injured his Achilles' in the third quarter against the Cardinals.
Oakland didn't have to look far to find a replacement.
The Raiders are signing receiver Keon Hatcher off the Packers' practice squad, the team announced Monday. LaFell was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Hatcher, 24, played for the Raiders in the season opener against the Rams, taking 16 snaps on special teams. Oakland cut him the next day.
He had a brief stint on the Lions' practice squad before joining the Packers' practice squad Oct. 9.
Marcell Ateman and Saeed Blacknall made their NFL regular-season debuts Sunday. The Raiders also have healthy bodies in Seth Roberts and returner Dwayne Harris at the position.
And in what might be more indicative about the overall receiving corps than in his own prowess, Ateman had a team-leading 50 receiving yards on four catches against the Cardinals,
Ateman, a 2018 seventh-round pick making his NFL debut, hauled in a clutch, 32-yard pass from Carr down the left sideline late in the fourth quarter to set up the Raiders' game-winning field goal.
"A lot of people probably think, ‘You're crazy, man, he's a rookie,’" Carr said after the game. "But I trust him, you know? I really trust him."
Also worth noting. ... Gruden told reporters that Jalen Richard reminds him of Charlie Garner. "He might be the MVP of this team, Gruden said of Richard. "He could run for 1,000 yards and catch for 1,000 yards someday. He is tough, hard to tackle. And he can line up in the slot or outside."
As the Sporting News noted, many fantasy owners were confused on Sunday by the fact that Doug Martin didn't see the field in the second half for the Raiders. After playing well in the first half, Martin was nowhere to be seen after halftime, as DeAndre Washington and Richard saw all of the carries.
During the contest, no injury was noted for Martin, so many assumed that he had been benched.
However, Martin apparently did suffer an ankle injury that kept him out of action in the second half, according to Jimmy Durkin of The Athletic.
Martin's status for the upcoming week is unclear right now, but if he sits out, Richard and Washington would see a bulk of the carries. Against a tough Ravens defense, neither would be a particularly inspiring play, but Richard would continue to see heavy work in the passing game.
Nelson's status is worth watching as well; Gruden said on Monday that the veteran wideout has a chance to return this week.
I'll have more on Martin and Nelson via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
And finally. ... Kicker Daniel Carlson is the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Carlson drilled a 35-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Raiders the win in Arizona. Carlson hit all three of his field-goal attempts and both of his extra-point tries.
QBs: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon, Nathan Peterman, Cody Kessler
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Doug Martin
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, J.J. Nelson, Ryan Grant, Dwayne Harris
TEs: Darren Waller, Derek Carrier, Foster Moreau
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
Last Tuesday, offensive coordinator Mike Groh started his media conference by saying "a lot of energy and thought" was being dedicated to the offense's slow starts.
The Eagles entered Sunday having scored 21 first-quarter points on the season -- a league low.
As ESPN.com's Tim McManus noted, fixing that inefficiency was a primary focus this week, and a must to keep up with the high-powered New Orleans Saints.
The effort produced zero results. The Eagles were blanked in the opening quarter for the eighth time in 10 games and found minimal success the rest of the way, allowing Drew Brees and the Saints to speed ahead en route to an easy 48-7 win, dropping the defending champs to 4-6 in the process.
Philly's playoff hopes are still alive thanks to the state of the NFC East. The Washington Redskins are in first place at 6-4 and just lost quarterback Alex Smith for the year with a broken tibia and fibula. With two games still remaining against Washington and one against the 5-5 Cowboys, there is plenty of opportunity ahead.
But it's becoming increasingly questionable as to whether the Eagles have what it takes to do anything with that opportunity. They have problems aplenty. Injuries to the secondary left safety Malcolm Jenkins surrounded by a bare-bones cast that included Chandon Sullivan, De'Vante Bausby, Rasul Douglas, Cre'von LeBlanc and Corey Graham. The front four was unable to generate a pass rush. New Orleans outgained the Eagles 547-196.
But as McManus notes, the plummet in offensive production remains the most startling issue, and raises questions about what -- and more pointedly, who -- is missing.
There have been injuries, yes, but there were injuries last year. Carson Wentz had been having a good season before Sunday's down performance. Zach Ertz is on pace for an historic season, Alshon Jeffery has been solid and they even added Golden Tate at the trade deadline.
Yet the Eagles came in averaging 22 points per game, a full touchdown off their 2017 average. New Orleans was ranked 31st in pass defense coming in, yet Wentz threw for just 156 yards and tossed three interceptions.
While offenses around the league have benefited from the way the game is being officiated, the Eagles have gone in the opposite direction.
The offense is head coach Doug Pederson's baby. He said that he's responsible for scripting the first 15 plays, the results of which have been disastrous to this point. He earned the reputation as an innovator last year during the team's run to the Super Bowl, and maintained a hot hand as a play caller even after Wentz went down with injury and Nick Foles stepped in.
But his group has been ice cold this season. The major difference between this year and last year, besides the fact that opposing defenses have had time to really study up on the system, is that Pederson is without offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. The teams they left for -- the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings -- entered the week ranked seventh and 15th in scoring, ahead of the 21st-ranked Eagles, who were third in that department last season.
Does Pederson miss having Reich as his sounding board? Does he missing having DeFilippo help design red-zone offense, which slipped from second in the NFL (64 percent TD rate) to 17th (56 percent)?
Their replacements, Groh and QB coach Press Taylor, are well-thought of and have bright futures in their own respect. But something is very wrong at the moment. The offense is broken. It's hard to leave Sunday's shellacking at the Superdome feeling any other way.
For what it's worth, ESPN's Mike Clay reports that Tate ran 23 (or 85 percent) of 27 routes from the slot against the Saints. Nelson Agholor ran 10 (or 34 percent) of his 29 routes from the slot. It appears Tate will be the team's primary slot, with Agholor and Jeffery on the outside.
Tate played twice as many offensive snaps against the Saints than he did in his first game with the Eagles and had six touches for 40 yards. Offensive coordinator Mike Groh said it has been difficult fitting Tate into the offense on the fly.
"It's been challenging to integrate him," Groh said, via Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper suggested, it probably won't get much easier in the coming weeks. Even if Tate has the playbook down, the Eagles are at a point where they need to find things that are working for them on a consistent basis so they can win enough games to keep their playoff hopes alive. It's difficult to do that while also trying to find a way to make sure Tate is settled into the offense to a point that he can be a big contributor.
Meanwhile, Josh Adams played 27 of a possible 48 snaps during Sunday's loss to the Saints.
Adams carried the ball seven times for 53 yards and a touchdown, adding three catches for 19 yards on six targets. As ESPN's Mike Clay noted, there are signs Adams is evolving into more of a workhorse role, as in addition to dominating the carries, he ran 16 routes. Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood combined for three carries, two targets and eight pass routes on 17 snaps.
Adams is now averaging 6.1 yards per carry this season (fourth best at the position), including 1.88 after contact (Clay added that Adams' 2017 YAC at Notre Dame was higher than all backs drafted in April).
"Adams is a fringe RB2 option against the Giants in Week 12," Clay summed up. ...
On the injury front. ... Pederson told reporters on Monday that LB Jordan Hicks (calf) and CB Sidney Jones (hamstring) are "week to week" with their injuries and CB Rasul Douglas (knee), C Jason Kelce (elbow) and S Avonte Maddox (knee) are "day to day."
Darren Sproles (hamstring) remains week to week as well. He is not expected back until December.
And finally. ... The Eagles activated DT Timmy Jernigan (back) from the reserve/PUP list.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson
RBs: Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler framed it, "Ben Roethlisberger finally slew the Jacksonville dragon with his hard-nosed play. ..."
Not only did the QB keep a six-game win streak stay alive, but the Steelers also got the ultimate win-win by playing poorly enough to learn from an ugly victory.
The Steelers showed that they can find creative ways to win amid a collapsing game plan by exhausting every second of the 60-minute game clock, being the more physical team on defense and believing that their bevy of playmakers will prevail most weeks.
Roethlisberger used the words "terrible" and "horrible" to describe the offense and his three-interception performance, but he almost wore those words proudly because of what the win represents.
While the fourth-quarter offense racked up 179 yards and two touchdowns, the Steelers' defense held Jacksonville to minus-3 yards.
Through it all, defensive players were encouraging Roethlisberger from the sideline, telling him, "All right, Ben, you've got this."
"They never stopped believing in us. We believe in them and thank them," Roethlisberger said. "I hope if we get in a situation again toward the end of the season where one of us isn't playing well, we can show that, 'Hey, remember that game in Jacksonville when it didn't look good until the final eight seconds and we found way?' Hopefully we can use this."
Most importantly, the Steelers' offense learned that it has a defense that can bail it out on occasion. That didn't look like a possibility when the Steelers were giving up six touchdowns to Patrick Mahomes in Week 2. Things have settled down, and so has a defense that has adequately handled pure passers, read-option passers and run-heavy sets the past six weeks.
This defense might just be built for January.
"Those are the ones you want to win -- when it's ugly," Cam Heyward said. "It shows a lot of character, lot of maturity."
The Steelers didn't cave Sunday because, as guard Ramon Foster says, "We've got too much to play for."
"We're trying to hold on to this run we're on," Foster said. "We've got goals of potentially having a first-round bye. That's our goal right now. Win the North, get a bye."
As Fowler went on to suggest, there are some obvious concerns.
The Jaguars showcased a blueprint for beating Pittsburgh: use rangy defenders to interrupt passing lanes on Roethlisberger and control the time of possession with the running game. Jacksonville held the ball for nearly 23 minutes in the first half.
Slow starts are nothing new.
Sunday was the Steelers' fourth game this season in which they failed to run more than four plays on either of their first two drives.
"We can score a lot of points, and we didn't today," center Maurkice Pouncey said. "We've got to look at the film and correct a lot of things before we play next week. I'm sure a lot of guys are willing to do that."
James Conner has two potentially costly late-game drops to shrug off. Let's be honest: It's unfair but honest to ask if Le'Veon Bell would have taken his eyes off the ball like Conner obviously did.
Conner's hot yards streak slowed Sunday, with 25 yards on nine carries and six catches for 24 yards. But the Steelers believe he's too good to stay that low for long.
After Conner's second drop, which would have been a walk-in touchdown, Roethlisberger jokingly told his teammates thanks because "it gave me a touchdown."
The two had a laugh about it.
The Steelers know they will need more of Conner over the final six games.
"James is one of those special football players where he can't get down on himself," Roethlisberger said. "This will be one of those awesome tests to see how he bounces back. I think he'll be fine."
Of course, for fantasy owners the only question about Conner is who his handcuff is?
According to Fowler, Ridley would probably start based on experience, but head coach Mike Tomlin is unafraid to give fifth-round rookie Jaylen Samuels more work. The team likes how Samuels has progressed over the past two months, and Ridley needs to improve his average of 3.1 yards per carry.
Fowler could see a scenario in which Ridley gets 12 to 14 carries to Samuels' 10.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph
RBs: James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Ryan Switzer
TEs: Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As NBCSports.com's Jennifer Lee Chan noted this week, while the 49ers have managed just two wins this season, there have been a few things that have gone right.
Matt Breida's emergence as a lead back is one of them.
The undrafted second-year pro has shown his toughness. He's battled through an ankle injury though several weeks while still being productive. He also has solidified a future on the offense.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said he had anticipated both Brenda and Jerick McKinnon as a tandem since before the offseason, and that will remain the plan for 2019.
"I envisioned it this year," Shanahan said. "So that won't change next year."
Breida has run for 632 yards on 113 carries, giving him 5.6 yards per carry thus far. While his 8.4 yards per carry led the league through Week 2, he currently is ranked ninth.
The 23-year-old was not known as much of a receiver at Georgia Southern, where he caught 11 passes for 156 yards in three seasons. Since becoming a Niner, he has worked on his receiving ability, and Shanahan has found interesting and productive ways to utilize him.
Breida has 15 receptions for 124 yards through Week 10 and 36 catches for 304 yards as a 49er. Shanahan spoke about how Breida has worked to become more of a receiving back.
"He's worked on it a lot," Shanahan said. "Breida's worked on everything. Breida, I just told our team the other day, and we have lots of guys that work hard, I think all of our guys work hard. But, in terms of taking it to a whole 'nother level, Breida and [George] Kittle showed that the first day of OTAs."
It's really no surprise that both Breida and Kittle have excelled this season with their "extra credit" work.
"They were just pretty obsessive in everything they were doing," Shanahan said. "Every little detail of their game, and it's improved in a lot of areas. And Breida in the pass game, he wasn't our No. 1 target last year. And with Jet [McKinnon] going down this year, it's given Breida more opportunities. He worked a lot in this offseason so he could be ready for those opportunities."
The more immediate question: Is Breida a weekly fantasy starter?
According to ESPN's Mike Clay, that's a yes.
According to Clay, we should consider him an RB2 coming off the bye. Breida's production has been a bit boom or bust, as he's posted a pair of top-6 fantasy weeks, but has no additional top-20s and has been outside the top-40 four times.
Breida's stepped back into a leading role following Raheem Mostert's season-ending injury and we saw evidence of that when Breida played 40 snaps on Monday night.
Alfred Morris was limited to 14 snaps and Matthew Dayes played one.
And what about Nick Mullens? Is he good enough that we can trust him against tougher defenses later this season?
According to ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner, Mullens' performance against the Giants offered a more realistic look at what can be expected of Mullens moving forward. That means there will be a mix of good and bad along the way.
Mullens isn't afraid of the moment, and he showed some resilience in the loss to New York, but he does have some limitations when it comes to arm strength.
The good news is that Shanahan is more than capable of creating favorable matchups and opportunities to maximize what Mullens brings to the table. Is that enough to make him a fantasy starter against a good defense, especially in the closing weeks?
But he should be sufficient to fuel the fantasy fires of the players you are interested in, including Breida, George Kittle, Marques Goodwin and perhaps Pierre Garcon.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman
WRs: Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel, Marquise Goodwin, Jalen Hurd, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James
TEs: George Kittle, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Ross Dwelley
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
As NFL.com's Thomas Warren reminded readers, the Seahawks' run game was so abysmal last season their quarterback led the team in rushing yards. This year, Russell Wilson's legs have gotten a break thanks to a three-headed rushing attack that's proven to be a monster for opposing defenses.
Chris Carson, Mike Davis and first-round pick Rashaad Penny have combined to give the Seahawks a formidable trio, and the reason the team leads the NFL in rushing yards (1,543), yards per game (154.3) and rushing attempts per game (32.3).
Wilson has reaped the benefits. Wilson has only run the ball 38 times this year, though the team has run the ball on 53.7 percent of its plays. The fresher legs has translated to him posting a 110.3 passer rating, at this point a career high.
Carson has been the workhorse with his team-leading 128 carries and 580 yards, and he's run for at least 100 yards in three of the last six games.
Head coach Pete Carroll says he's the stylish runner of the group.
"He's got that kind of lateral footwork, a little bit like Marshawn had, back and forth and can make you miss," Carroll said during an interview with KIRO-AM in Seattle. “He’s got some hops in him too, you can see that at times. And he's a really good ball catcher -- all these guys can catch. Chris has just got a real style about him that I really like; I've always fallen for it kind of."
Davis is second on the team with 372 yards, had a breakout game Week 3 against the Cardinals (21 carries, 101 yards) and he's already outdone his rush total from 2017, when he ran for 240 yards.
Carroll says of the three, Davis brings the power.
"Mike is a really, really savvy runner and he's really got good quickness and fit into the hole. He just seems to have a knack for knowing when to be aggressive. He'll punch you right in the mouth when he gets his chance at times. He's just been really versatile."
The Seahawks drafted rookie Penny with the 27th pick in the first round and see him as the future. For now, he's had to earn his carries, which have been tough to come by as he goes through the normal rookie learning curve. But, Week 8 against the Rams might have been a turning point when Penny got his first career 100-yard rushing game (12 carries, 108 yards).
Carroll calls him the speed demon of the trio.
"Rashaad has unbelievable feet. He's got such quick feet. And he's 230 (pounds) and he's got great speed. He's probably the fastest of those three guys. So you put those elements together. He's got big plays in him obviously. That's what we're seeing. So hopefully we can keep mixing it."
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson noted, Penny has averaged 22 snaps and 10 touches over the past two games; that might be what he's looking at from here on out, barring an injury to Carson. --
Add Wilson, who can always lend a helping leg or two to the run game, to the mix and the Seahawks' reinvention as a ground-and-pound offense could be the recipe that gets them into the playoffs.
Meanwhile, asked after the Seattle Seahawks' 27-24 win over the Green Bay Packers about catching the first touchdown pass of what's been the most trying season of his career,
"Finally," Doug Baldwin replied. "Finally. That's all I can say."
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson reminded readers, there was the injury to one knee early in training camp that sidelined him for a month. Then there was the injury to his other knee in the season opener in Denver that forced him to miss the second half of that game and all of the next two. Three weeks after returning, he hyper-extended his elbow against the Raiders in London. While he's been able to play through that injury, he revealed Thursday night that it was more serious than most knew, calling it a tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.
"It's been hell," Baldwin said. "It's been hell. ... I've never had this many injuries before. So it's been a journey, that's for sure. But it's been a journey that I've come to appreciate because it's taught me a lot about myself not only as a football player but as a man, and how I handle these challenges."
Baldwin may have had his outburst from Week 3 in mind as one challenge he could have handled differently. The FOX broadcast caught him losing his cool during a sideline conversation with one of the team's top scouts. He later chalked it up, in part, to frustration of not being able to play. His second knee injury had snapped his streak of 89 consecutive games played, which had been the fourth-longest among active receivers.
Baldwin entered Thursday's game with 23 catches for 275 yards and no touchdowns, atypical production for the guy who led the Seahawks in receiving in five of his first seven NFL seasons. His seven games without a touchdown to begin this year matched the longest drought of his career.
It looked like it would finally end when Baldwin was wide open in the end zone in the first quarter, but Wilson's pass sailed over his head. The two nearly connected in the end zone in the second quarter. They finally did when Seattle ran a similar play to the opposite corner of the end zone on the next snap, with Wilson lobbing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin.
He finished with seven catches on 10 targets -- both season-highs -- for 52 yards. One of his receptions was a slick one-hander on a poorly thrown bubble screen from Wilson. On another, he got open by putting cornerback Jaire Alexander on skates with a triple move.
"I thought Doug played really well," head coach Pete Carroll said. "... We missed him once, or a couple times really. He's ready to have big games. Again, we didn't throw the ball very much tonight, so there's not a lot of throws, but he's such a good player. He's such a good come-through guy. I thought he played terrific tonight and I'm glad to see we had a chance to get him in the end zone finally."
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer marveled on Tuesday at how spry Baldwin looked last week against the Rams. Baldwin said that was the first game in which he didn't feel like he was being held back by pain in the knee he injured over the summer.
"Today was another step in that process," he said.
Wilson and Baldwin had talked recently about recreating their scorching finish from 2015.
The Seahawks were 4-5 that year with their season in danger of slipping away -- just like they were heading into Thursday night's game. The most proficient stretch of Wilson's and Baldwin's careers led the Seahawks to wins in six of their final seven games. Wilson tossed 24 touchdowns to one interception in that span, with 11 of those TDs going to Baldwin.
As Henderson noted, those are video game numbers that may not be matched anytime soon, especially with Seattle's offense being driven by a No. 1-ranked running game. But that offense, which has averaged almost 27 points over the last six games, even with all that running, becomes more dangerous now that its No. 1 receiver is back.
Also of interest. ... Running back J.D. McKissic returned to practice Monday. The team designated him to return from injured reserve, opening a three-week window when the Seahawks will have to activate him to the 53-player roster of keep him on IR for the remainder of the season.
McKissic fractured a bone on the outside of his foot in the preseason, and with the Jones fracture requiring 4-6 weeks to heal, the Seahawks placed him on injured reserve Sept. 3.
McKissic, 25, became the team's third-down back last season after C.J. Prosise got hurt. He finished with 453 combined yards, with his 30-yard touchdown run in Week Four the team's only rushing touchdown by a running back last season.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, C.J. Prosise, Travis Homer
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, Gary Jennings Jr., Malik Turner, John Ursua
TEs: Nick Vannett, Ed Dickson, Will Dissly
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
Adding another bizarre twist to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' quarterback situation, Ryan Fitzpatrick was replaced by Jameis Winston, who led three scoring drives in a 38-35 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday, prompting coach Dirk Koetter to consider making yet another quarterback change.
"It's pretty obvious -- he came in and lit it up," Koetter said of Winston. "I've been telling you guys, I've been saying all along -- Jameis' day was gonna come back. But that's water under the bridge right now."
As for the quarterback situation, Koetter said, "We'll see. I'll let you guys know [Monday]."
And the decision is?
The Buccaneers will start Winston this week against the San Francisco 49ers.
Winston stepped in Sunday in the third quarter against the New York Giants after Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions, including a pick-six. Winston finished the game 12-of-16 for 199 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
"He played better," Koetter said of Winston's performance. "He got us into the end zone four straight times. ... For the most part, he made good decisions with the football."
It's the fourth quarterback change the Bucs have made this year, including when Winston served a three-game suspension to start the season for a violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy, stemming from an alleged groping incident involving a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016.
Koetter acknowledged that the constant change has been disruptive for both quarterbacks.
"Of course. Both those guys would rather play the whole time," he said. "How much has it been disruptive to everyone else? That's difficult to say. Our quarterback play as been spectacular at times and not good enough at times. That's just the story of where we're at on offense right now.
"Almost every game, we get some beautiful, beautiful play at quarterback -- some great throws, some tremendous decision-making, some beautiful adjustments -- but other times, we've gotten some bad decision-making which has resulted in turnovers. That's hurt our team."
Much has been made about Winston's $20.9 million option and the risk the Bucs run by playing him, should he get injured, but Koetter said that no one in the front office has directed him not to play Winston.
Koetter also said he was unsure whether the Bucs would get to a point this season where they'd stick to one quarterback.
"You're asking me to predict the future, and unfortunately I can't do that," Koetter said. "I never go into it thinking it's a week-to-week thing, but I think continuity is a cop-out. We've got capable quarterbacks. There's no reason they can't play consistent football. I've seen them do it. I know they can do it."
For the record, Winston has turned the ball over 11 times, throwing 10 interceptions -- tied for second most in the league despite playing in just five games with three starts. Fitzpatrick has turned the ball over eight times since Week 9 -- when Fitzpatrick took over for Winston -- more than any other player in the league, and thrown six interceptions. Fitzpatrick has 12 interceptions and 13 turnovers for the season.
"That's always been an offensive focus," Winston said. "We know our main job is to give our team a chance to win and turning the ball over doesn't allow that to happen..."
Other notes of interest. ... Against the Giants, running back Peyton Barber ran 18 times for 106 yards, the Buccaneers' first 100-yard rushing game of 2018. It was the second such outing for Barber, who also had the team's only 100-yard game of 2017.
Barber has now cleared 80 rushing yards during three of his past six games. Unfortunately, he's been limited to two touchdowns and nine catches during the six-game span. As ESPN's Mike Clay notes, the volume has been nice for Barber -- he ranks 13th in the league with 135 carries -- but it's led to no more than flex production in fantasy.
Barber helped the Buccaneers post a season-high 151 rushing yards on Sunday to go with 359 net passing yards. Wide receiver Mike Evans was the leader in the aerial attack, catching six passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. Barber and Evans are the first pair of Buccaneer teammates to record 100-yard rushing and 100-yard receiving games, respectively, in the same contest since Doug Martin and Evans pulled that off against Washington on Oct. 25, 2015.
Sunday's game marked just the 10th time in franchise history that the Buccaneers have had one player rush for 100-plus yards and score a touchdown and another player record 100-plus receiving yards and also score a touchdown.
Evans recorded his fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season and pushed his 2018 total to 957 receiving yards. He is tied for the third-most 100-yard receiving games in the NFL and is fourth in receiving yards overall.
Evans' 957 yards are the most ever for a Buccaneers player through the team's first 10 games of a season. He is on pace for 1,531 receiving yards by season's end which, if realized, would set a new franchise single-season record. Mark Carrier's mark of 1,422 receiving yards in 1989 remains the team's standard. Evans' career high is 1,321 in 2016.
Evans actually scored two touchdowns in Sunday's game because, in the third quarter, he jumped on a loose ball in the end zone after Giants defensive end Mario Edwards had forced Winston to fumble the ball forward from the three-yard line.
Evans is not the first Buccaneer to score on a fumble return, or even the first offensive player in team history to score on a fumble return. However, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first player in franchise history to recover his own team's fumble for a touchdown.
And finally this week. ... O.J. Howard injured his ankle against the Giants. The injury went a bit under the radar since it happened at the end of the game.
Koetter told reporters on Monday that Howard underwent tests but was seeking a second opinion on it. Turns out the second opinion didn't go well.
Howard is going on injured reserve with foot and ankle injuries, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
The Buccaneers’ first-round draft pick last year, Howard was having a good season, catching 34 passes for 565 yards and five touchdowns this year. Howard was putting up those numbers despite playing through an MCL sprain. Howard didn’t miss any games despite that injury, but his latest injury will be the end of his season.
With Howard's season over, Cameron Brate becomes more of a red-zone threat for the Buccaneers.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, Scott Miller, Bobo Wilson
TEs: O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
According to the team's official website, quarterback Marcus Mariota's status for next Monday's game against the Texans will be determined during the course of the week, head coach Mike Vrabel said on Monday.
Mariota left the Sunday's game against the Colts with what was announced at Lucas Oil Stadium an elbow injury, and he did not return.
Vrabel shed further light on the injury during a press conference today. He called it a "stinger."
"He is getting treatment, and it's really not even the elbow," Vrabel said. "He got a stinger. When the guy hit him in the head, he got a stinger. So then he was evaluated by the independent neurologist, and he was cleared. He is not in the concussion protocol or anything like that. So we'll have to see where he's at. It may include, like a lot of injuries, getting a second opinion and making sure he is OK to play."
Mariota did not speak to reporters after the game, as he was getting treatment. He also wasn't available in the locker room on Monday.
Mariota was injured late in the first half when he was sacked, and he was replaced by back-up quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert started the second half for the Titans, while Mariota watched from the sideline.
With 16 seconds left in the first half, Mariota was injured after being hit by Colts defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis. Mariota remained on the field while trainers tended to him, and he was seen shaking his right arm. He eventually headed to the locker room before halftime. The team initially announced the injury as an elbow injury, leading many to believe it was the same injury that left him feeling numbness in Week One.
"When you have a stinger, there is numbness -- it goes from your neck and down your arm," Vrabel said. "When you get your neck twisted and you suffer some inflammation, that is what happens, and it is no different with linebacker and DBs or any other position."
Mariota completed 10-of-13 passes in the first half, for 85 yards in the team's eventual 38-10 loss to the Colts. He was sacked four times.
Gabbert completed 11-of-16 passes for 118 yards with a touchdown and interception after taking over for Mariota.
The Titans returned to practice on Wednesday as preparation for Monday's game in Houston heats up. Mariota was limited.
"I am hopeful -- we saw him this morning and we are hopeful that he'll check out and he'll feel good enough to play on Monday," Vrabel said. "But being less than 24 hours after the game, some of these things take a little bit of time to kind of cool down and really just treat and diagnose.
"We just have to make sure that he is healthy enough to play, and if he is not then we have to make sure that we get somebody in here. But again, we just have to give this thing another day, and make sure that the doctors that are seeing him, and Marcus, and whether he gets a second opinion or not -- all those things take a little bit of time and hopefully we can know sometime tomorrow before we start moving into Wednesday."
In addition to Mariota, Taywan Taylor's status bears watching after he missed a second-straight game with a foot injury.
I'll have more on their progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Of course, the Titans entered their Week 11 game in Indianapolis having won their previous two games, including a blowout against the New England Patriots.
Although it may not have been overconfidence alone that led the Titans to drop to 5-5 overall, the 38-10 Week 11 loss to the Colts was a major letdown.
"We didn't go a good enough job of coaching and executing in the red zone," Vrabel said after the game. "Every series in this league you have to prove your value as a coach and a player. If you don't do that in this league, you'll get beat. There's a lot of things missing from today. All three phases. You can look at the punt team. You can look at the offense. You can look at the defense and obviously the coaching.
"There was a lot wrong today, but we will come back and keep fighting."
Also worth noting, during the first quarter, Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees left the coach's box after receiving care from the medical staff. Pees was taken to a hospital for further evaluation. The defense had allowed only seven points before Pees left, but Indianapolis went on to score 17 points in the second quarter.
"Dean is doing OK," Vrabel said. "They took him to the hospital and evaluated him. They're going to keep him overnight for some tests, but everything that I've heard as of now has been very positive. He should make a full recovery and be fine after whatever he had going on upstairs [in the coach's box]."
Vrabel said he called the team's defensive plays after Pees was forced to leave.
Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur didn't aggressively attack the Colts' secondary even though they were without starting cornerback Nate Hairston and starting safety Malik Hooker. Whatever life was left in the offense was drained when Mariota was injured.
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Ryan Tannehill
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen, Dalyn Dawkins
WRs: Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Tajae Sharpe, A.J. Brown, Darius Jennings, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, Anthony Firkser
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 November 2018
According to ESPN.com's John Keim, as Alex Smith lay on the ground Sunday, his teammates knew one thing: His season was over. They saw his ankle bent at an awkward angle. They witnessed the pain on his face.
So they took a knee and prayed. They waited for him to be loaded onto a cart and then walked over -- every one of them -- to wish him well. Even most of the Houston Texans' bench walked over to the cart.
Smith, 34, broke both the fibula and tibia in his right leg on a third-quarter sack and underwent surgery at a nearby hospital. Colt McCoy replaced Smith and nearly led the Redskins to a comeback win, but a 63-yard field goal in the final seconds fell 10 yards short as Houston beat Washington 23-21.
But now the Redskins confront life without Smith.
McCoy will replace him as the starter, and Mark Sanchez was signed to back him up.
The injury occurred 33 years to the day that former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann suffered a career-ending injury when he broke the same two bones in his right leg against the New York Giants. Theismann, who was in attendance at Sunday's game, said he texted his support to Smith.
"It was just an eerie moment," Theismann said. "It was surreal. You see him go down in a pile and then there's a shot that showed his leg bent and I turned away right after that. I feel so bad for him."
It's uncertain how long Smith's recovery will take -- or how it will impact his game at age 34. He has used his legs often, whether to run or just to extend plays.
"I knew immediately his season was over," running back Adrian Peterson said. "Your heart drops when something like that happens. He's such a great person.
"It's devastating. After seeing the pain in his eyes, I teared up, and it hurts me."
The Redskins traded a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller to Kansas City for Smith in January. They signed him to a four-year extension worth up to $94 million with $71 million guaranteed.
Smith's numbers weren't great this season, as the Redskins' passing game has sputtered. He finished with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions while throwing for 2,180 yards.
On Sunday, Smith and tight end Jordan Reed misread a play that resulted in a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety Justin Reid that left the Redskins trailing 17-7. After Smith's injury, Washington eventually took a 21-20 lead after getting a touchdown pass by McCoy and a second Peterson touchdown run.
But while there is confidence in McCoy -- he's been in the system for five years -- there's also sadness for Smith.
"It's hard to watch someone like that [get hurt]," Reed said. "He's such a good person, and he's a great competitor. We all love him."
Tight end Vernon Davis was on the sideline when the injury happened.
"I was watching the entire play," he said. "I saw him go down, and the way he went down I balled my fists up because it looked brutal. Then when he took his helmet off it was, 'Aaaahhh.' One of those plays. Have to keep pushing -- keep him in our prayers and take him with us out there on the field."
The Redskins have a one-game lead in the NFC East heading into Thursday's game at Dallas. They don't have time to mourn Smith's absence. But they are thinking of him.
"When you have an injury like that, it's more heartbreaking than it is physical," head coach Jay Gruden said. "Just breaks your heart because this is what he loves to do. He loves to lead this team, he loves to be with his guys and now the season is over, and he has a long way back. ..."
A couple other notes on Smith. ... He suffered a compound fracture -- meaning the bone broke through his skin. Trauma surgeons discovered Smith suffered a spiral fracture in his leg - defined as a long bone broken by a rotational force. He faces a lengthy rehab process to try to return.
For the record, the 32-year-old Sanchez hasn't been in the NFL at all this year. He spent last year with the Bears but never got on the field. He last played in a regular-season game with the Cowboys in 2016. His strongest connection to Washington is that he has previously played for offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, with the Jets.
Sanchez was handed a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances this offseason, but he was allowed to serve that suspension while not under contract to an NFL team, so he will be able to play for Washington immediately.
Other notes of interest. ... With 12 minutes left in the game, Peterson once again made NFL history. On first-and-goal from the seven yard line, Peterson took a handoff, made one sharp cut to his left and carried his legacy across the goal line for six points.
And for sixth-place on the all-time career rushing touchdowns list.
In his first season in burgundy and gold, Peterson moved past Redskins legend and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee John Riggins, who had 104 rushing touchdowns over his 14-year career.
Peterson came into Sunday's game with 103 career rushing touchdowns. On his first touchdown of the day, he tied Riggins when he ran it in from three yards out, and then he was able to move into sole possession of sixth all-time with his 105th rushing touchdown.
"There's been some talk about Riggins and it's a great accomplishment to, what's the odds? I'm here, and to pass him at home, it's bittersweet," Peterson said. "You lose Alex and you lose a close game like this. But, hands down, to be able to pass a Washington Redskins legend like him, it feels good."
Peterson now sits one touchdown behind Jim Brown for fifth place. ...
Beyond Smith on the injury front. .... Receiver Jamison Crowder (ankle), running back Samaje Perine (calf) and running back Chris Thompson (rib), all of whom missed the Texans game with their respective injuries, were listed as nonparticipants in Monday's estimated practice.
Thompson was ruled out on Wednesday; Crowder and Perine are listed as questionable.
OT Trent Williams (thumb) is also questionable. He was close to returning last week and could be ready for Dallas.
Peterson (shoulder) Kapri Bibbs (shoulder), kicker Dustin Hopkins (right groin), McCoy (right thumb, left shoulder) and tight end Jordan Reed (hip) all worked fully and avoided injury designations.
QBs: Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins, Colt McCoy
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Bryce Love, Wendell Smallwood, Shaun Wilson, Derrius Guice
WRs: Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn, Terry McLaurin, Brian Quick, Jehu Chesson, Kelvin Harmon, Cam Sims, Robert Davis
TEs: Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, Matt Flanagan