Team Notes week 8 2020
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 28 October 2020
The NFC West has a new challenger for the top that's won three straight games. The Arizona Cardinals earned a few style points with the way they pulled off this prime-time thriller, too.
Zane Gonzalez made a 48-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in overtime to give the Cardinals a 37-34 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in a Sunday night show that featured 1,091 total yards, huge plays, crucial mistakes and -- finally -- a winner.
"These are the games you honestly dream about," Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray said.
Seattle led all of regulation until Gonzalez made a 44-yard field goal as time expired to tie it at 34. It meant an entertaining quarterback duel between Murray and Seattle's Russell Wilson would continue.
And that's when the crazy really got started.
The Cardinals stopped the Seahawks opening drive in overtime and then quickly moved downfield. On second-and-15, Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury elected to go ahead and try for the field goal. Gonzalez made the 41-yarder, but Kingsbury called a timeout just before the snap because the play clock was winding down. Gonzalez missed wide left on the next attempt.
"That was pretty bad," Kingsbury said of the sideline and clock management. "Pretty much a complete debacle. But luckily those guys bailed us out."
Moments later, it appeared Seattle had won on the ensuing drive when DK Metcalf caught a 48-yard touchdown pass, but the play was called back because of holding on receiver David Moore. Wilson threw an interception on the next play. The pass was picked off by rookie Isaiah Simmons.
"We could have won it on offense a couple times, on defense a couple times, in overtime as well, and we weren't able to get the finish that we needed," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
That gave Gonzalez the chance for redemption. He nailed the winner to knock off the previously undefeated Seahawks and set off a raucous celebration at midfield.
Murray threw for 360 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for 67 yards and a touchdown. On Wednesday, he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
DeAndre Hopkins had a 10-catch, 103-yard, one-score game that seemed quiet when it was all said and done.
Offense wasn't going to be an issue. It was holding back the Seahawks' offense. And Arizona held Seattle, the highest-scoring team in the NFL, to just a touchdown in the second half.
"It's about takeaways because they'll get their yards," Kingsbury said.
Kingsbury called Sunday night's win "big" because of what it did for Arizona in the NFC West standings. The Cardinals are now 2-0 in the division.
"Wanting to be the best, you got to beat the best," Murray said. "And that's just the nature of this game. In any sport, you got to beat the best. So I think it was a big, big step for us."
Now the Cardinals head into their bye week before hosting the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 8. Arizona travels to Seattle on Nov. 19, a Thursday night, for their second meeting of the season.
Other notes of interest. ... Kenyan Drake suffered a high-ankle sprain in Arizona's Sunday night victory and is expected to miss a few weeks, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
As Rapoport noted, it will be interesting to see whether this is the two-to-three-week type of sprain, or a four-to-six-week sprain that could land Drake on injured reserve. He's a candidate for it regardless, but will be back with plenty of time left in the 2020 season, per Rapoport.
Drake was in visible pain and was understandably displeased in the immediate moments after he suffered the ankle sprain, and tried to play through the pain before finally limping to the sideline.
Arizona has been a place of blessings for Drake, who left a bad fit in Miami for the Cardinals via midseason trade in 2019. The move saw his numbers jump above football's informal version of the Mendoza line, going from 3.7 yards per carry as a Dolphin to 5.2 as a Cardinal. He's remained above the four-yards-per-carry mark in his second campaign in the desert, gaining 512 yards and scoring four times on 119 carries (4.3 YPC).
Arizona will instead have to rely more on Chase Edmonds (29 carries, 176 yards, 1 TD in 2020), and turn to rookies Jonathan Ward (who has logged 68 snaps, with 65 of them coming on special teams) and Eno Benjamin, who hasn't played a down.
Edmonds is averaging 6.1 yards per carry this season after Sunday's impressive showing, and is a run-after-catch weapon in the passing game.
"I'll be ready to answer the bell, whatever my role is," Edmonds said. ...
He isn't alone in that.
As ArizonaCardinals.com's Darren Urban pointed out, there were so many things going on that Larry Fitzgerald's very important game got somewhat lost, but he was a huge factor at the end of the half and at the end of regulation with his catches. His first catch Sunday, which came late in the second quarter (which gave him a catch for a 250th consecutive game), was the 1,400th of his career.
That's the second-most in NFL history, trailing Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who caught 1,549 passes.
He has 1,407 now and the Cards needed every one of them. He said he'd answer the bell when needed. He did.
A few final notes here. ... Sunday's game was a showcase for short guys. Wilson's listed height is 5-foot-11, while Murray checks in at 5-10. According to NFL Research, it's the first game of the Super Bowl era in which two quarterbacks under 6 feet tall finished with more than 250 yards passing in a game.
Also, Murray wasn't sacked. And he didn't even officially take a hit. Considering the number of passes he threw, that's truly impressive.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Chris Streveler, Brett Hundley
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, D.J. Foster, Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Trent Sherfield
TEs: Dan Arnold, Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
Raheem Morris wants the Falcons to learn to "force our will on our opponent."
First, as Associated Press sports writer Charles Odum suggested, the Falcons must find the will to avoid crucial mistakes that have led to loss after loss. Following Sunday's 23-22 defeat by the Detroit Lions, Morris accepted responsibility for some of those blunders.
Atlanta's most glaring mistake was Todd Gurley failing to fall down short of the goal line late in the game when the Lions were trying to let the Falcons score. But Morris, in his second game as interim coach, also pointed to his own decisions earlier in the game.
Morris second-guessed himself for leaving his offense on the field on a fourth-and-5 play at the Lions 13 early in the fourth quarter when the Falcons led 14-13. Instead of attempting a short field goal that would have pushed the lead to four points, Matt Ryan threw a short pass to backup running back Ito Smith that was deflected by defensive end Trey Flowers.
"Just being aggressive," Morris said, adding the decision to go for the first down "on these fourth-and-medium situations" was made before the game.
Those lost three points looked especially big at the end of the game as the Falcons (1-6) moved closer to a third consecutive losing season.
"Obviously looking back you wish you took the three, but we didn't," Morris said before repeating his goal to "be aggressive."
Ryan was obviously excited when Morris left the offense on the field.
"It's your job to go out and make the play come to life. We've got to a better job," Ryan said.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Falcons is simply learning how to hold a lead.
Atlanta opened the season with five consecutive losses and became the first team in NFL history to lose consecutive games after leading by at least 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Dan Quinn was fired as coach hours after a 23-16 loss to Carolina on Oct. 11.
Now, with Morris trying to prove he deserves to be considered as Quinn's full-time replacement, more fourth-quarter misery led to yet another loss.
"We've got to be better finishers," Morris said. "We've got to find ways to finish the game better and we did not do it today."
A big part of that was Gurley's inability to keep himself from scoring. By falling into the end zone with 1:04 remaining instead of stopping at the 1, Gurley opened the door for the Lions' last-minute touchdown drive.
Morris said players were told the Lions would try to allow the touchdown.
"We knew that was kind of going to be their ideal choice for us to get in the end zone so they could have a chance to go down there and score," Morris said. "We wanted to take a knee at the 1. Obviously he tried and fell in the end zone at the last minute there. He got tripped up a bit."
Morris said his postgame message to his players was "no excuses."
"We've got to find a way to get better," Morris said. "We've got to find a way to be more stout."
The Falcons have little time to make corrections before they play at Carolina on Thursday night. ...
For what it's worth, Gurley was "mad as hell" and said he was doing everything he could to not get in.
"I was trying not to. My momentum took me in," Gurley said. "It's kind of crazy, the last time I played Detroit, I went down. This time I end up scoring. It's like what goes around, comes around. It's one of them unfortunate situations. I've been, I mean, plenty of those situations my rookie year, six or seven, and I've always got down. It was an unfortunate one right there."
Gurley said it came up in the huddle a couple of plays before his 10-yard touchdown and he also knew from his own prior experience.
He said they never discussed taking a knee and that he tried to go down but didn't.
The Falcons would have had a 99.0 percent chance to win had Gurley gone down at the 1-yard line, per ESPN's win probability model. By scoring, he dropped Atlanta's chance to win to 97.5 percent.
But the way the Falcons mismanaged the fourth quarter led to their demise and sixth loss of the season. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Looking ahead and trying to figure who will be more statistically productive moving forward between Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop predicts Ridley.
She explained "Given Jones' injury history, it's a safer bet to pick Ridley, who already has four games with more than 100 receiving yards, including eight catches for 136 yards in the Week 5 game Jones missed. Jones is the superior talent, but given the trajectory of the Falcons' season and Ridley's propensity to find the end zone, the former Alabama standout is a reliable star in the passing game for Ryan."
Hayden Hurst was credited with six catches for 68 yards against the Lions. He didn't catch a touchdown pass but was inches close of doing so.
According to AtlantaFalcons.com's Matthew Tabeek, Hurst did, however, make some amazing plays including hurdling a lines defender along the Falcons sideline and also alertly catching a deflected pass intended for Ridley in the first quarter for 7 yards. The Falcons ended up tying the game on that drive, 7-7.
Hurst only caught two passes in the second half. His speed is something the Falcons should -- and hopefully will -- take more advantage of in the coming weeks. ...
The Falcons did not practice Monday, but they had to put out an estimated injury report since they play the Panthers Thursday night.
Jones was listed as a limited participant with a hip injury; he drew the same designation Tuesday.
Jones has spent most of the season on the team's injury report after injuring his hamstring in the season opener. He missed two games and played only 15 snaps in another because of that injury.
Jones, who is not looking for the Falcons to trade him and isn't expected to get a new home, has 31 receptions for 447 yards and two touchdowns.
Center Alex Mack (knee), offensive tackle Kaleb McGary (elbow), receiver Russell Gage (knee) and defensive end Takk McKinley (groin) also were estimated as limited participants.
Speaking of not wanting to be traded. ... Ryan also does not want to be traded, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
With the team off to a 1-6 start for the second consecutive season and looking at a major overhaul after the firing of head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, some believe the Falcons would be better served by trading their veteran assets to amass draft picks. The NFL trade deadline is Nov. 3.
However, president and CEO Rich McKay said on Oct. 12 that the team did not plan to trade veterans -- including Ryan and Jones -- to get picks. There was an NFL Network report noted that team didn't plan to trade Ryan or Jones.
"Nah," Ryan said Monday, when asked if he wanted to be traded. "I don't worry about that stuff. I don't think about it. My job is to get dialed in for Thursday night."
Ryan is in his 13th season with the Falcons. He holds all of the franchise's main passing records and led the team to only its second Super Bowl appearance. He's also the only player in franchise history to win the league's most valuable player award.
"So, I've said it all along, I love Atlanta and I want to be here," Ryan said. "I want to be a part of this organization. I don't worry about noise outside of our building. I try to focus on week to week, getting myself ready to go. I've said it, I want to be here and hopefully that will be the case."
That said, the Falcons have had trade talks about McKinley and other teams believe the former first-round pick gets moved before Tuesday's deadline, though no deal is imminent, sources tell NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Ito Smith, Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Christian Blake, Brandon Powell, Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham, Luke Stocker
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
The NFL's fluctuating schedule provided the Ravens an early, well-timed bye that enabled the team to work out a few kinks and get healthier before its first-place showdown with Pittsburgh this Sunday.
Baltimore was originally slated to host the Steelers last week, but all that changed after Tennessee's matchup with Pittsburgh was postponed from Oct. 4 following several positive tests for COVID-19 among the Titans.
Thus, the Ravens had their bye pushed up a week.
Although the Ravens (5-1) might lose a bit of the momentum generated from a three-game winning streak, the break wasn't their biggest concern after giving up four second-half touchdowns in a 30-28 victory at Philadelphia on Sunday. Baltimore frittered away most of a 17-0 halftime cushion under the weight of several big plays by the Eagles and a variety of mistakes by the Ravens, most notably drew 12 penalties for 132 yards.
The two weeks off will also enable some of the Ravens to mend.
Running back Mark Ingram missed the second half with a sprained left ankle and guard Tyre Phillips left in the fourth quarter with a hand injury.
Both should be ready to go against Pittsburgh, but defensive back Anthony Averett, who hurt his shoulder in Philadelphia, will be out 5-6 weeks, coach John Harbaugh said Monday.
Though the Ravens have some issues on both sides of the ball, their 5-1 start matches the best in franchise history. Twice before they were 5-1, and both times (2000 and 2012) the team won the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, even without Ingram, the Ravens' running game was sound.
That aspect of the offense still hasn't reached the record-setting level it achieved a year ago, but it remains among the league's best. Quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for 108 yards and rookie J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards picked up the slack for Ingram. Baltimore finished with 182 yards rushing, its 29th straight game with at least 100 -- the longest active streak in the NFL.
If Ingram misses time, could Dobbins see enough work to warrant fantasy consideration?
ESPN's Jamison Hensley answered that question with a succinct "Not really."
Even if Ingram misses a game -- and he was not on the practice field to open the week Wednesday, Hensley believes Dobbins would continue to split the workload with Gus Edwards. It's just too difficult to predict how offensive coordinator Greg Roman will use Dobbins. The Ravens gave Dobbins a season-high nine carries against the Eagles, and the rookie second-round pick averaged an uninspired 3.1 yards per carry.
Dobbins has also surprisingly disappeared as an option around the goal line. He scored touchdowns on two red zone carries in the season opener and has not had a carry inside the 20-yard line in the five games since.
I'll be following up on Ingram via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but relying on any Ravens running back is a risky proposition this season. ...
Wide receiver Willie Snead was targeted twice against the Eagles and caught one pass for 32 yards before fumbling at the end of the play. Fortunately, the ball rolled out of bounds. Jackson wants to get Snead more involved, but at this point the six-year pro has been targeted only 15 times. Snead has 11 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. ...
But the Ravens aren't going to beat too many teams if they don't clean up some of the silly penalties that let the Eagles back in the game.
Baltimore's offense was flagged four times before the snap.
"We jumped a couple of times and didn't line up (correctly) a couple of times," Harbaugh noted. "We had wrong formations where we covered up eligible receivers. Those are the things that really should never happen. We'll look at those things and keep working on them."
One few final notes here. ... As Hensley put it, "Trading for pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue transforms a stout Baltimore Ravens defense into one of the NFL's scariest."
No one would've criticized Baltimore for standing pat on defense before the trade deadline this year. The Ravens rank among the stingiest and most pressure-inducing defenses in the league, allowing the fewest points per game (17.3) and ranking second in the NFL in sacks (22).
Acquiring Ngakoue from the Minnesota Vikings during the Ravens' bye provides the much sought-after quarterback-harassing bookend to pair with Matthew Judon.
And on Tuesday, the Ravens finalized a deal to add three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant to their practice squad, a source confirmed to Hensley. Bryant has been out of the league for two years.
NFL Network first reported Tuesday that the Ravens signed Bryant to their practice squad.
Bryant appeared to acknowledge the deal in a tweet Tuesday: "My emotions running high right now... I'm thankful...I can't stop crying"
The biggest question is when Bryant will suit up for the Ravens. Baltimore's wide receivers rank last in the NFL in receptions (58) and receiving yards (737).
Bryant, 31, could become a physical possession-type receiver for reigning Jackson and can complement the speed of Marquise Brown.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Trace McSorley, Robert Griffin III
RBs: J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Mark Ingram
WRs: Marquise Brown, Dez Bryant, Willie Snead, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, James Proche
TEs: Mark Andrews, Eric Tomlinson
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques framed it: "A win is a win, right? That phrase is undoubtedly enshrined in the 'coach speak hall of fame,' along with gems like, 'next man up,' and 'we're taking things one week at a time.' After regurgitating the latter two sentiments over the past two weeks, the Buffalo Bills could finally apply the first, snapping a two-game losing streak Sunday with an 18-10 win over the New York Jets."
Head coach Sean McDermott probably won't complain about a win of any sort after consecutive losses to the Titans and Chiefs over the past two weeks.
Considering the Bills' failure to score outside of a whopping six field goals from Tyler Bass, McDermott and his staff have plenty to focus on as they prepare to host the New England Patriots in Week 8.
Buffalo's offense, which ranked fourth in the NFL in yards per game from Week 1 to Week 4, was nearly outgained by the league's 31st-ranked offense in the first half Sunday, before roaring to life in the final two quarters. The Bills' run defense, which allowed 245 rushing yards to the Chiefs in Week 7, allowed Jets running back Frank Gore, one of the league's oldest players at 37, to average more than 5 yards per carry before the Jets were forced to abandon the run.
Trailing 10-0 at one point in the first half, the Bills (5-2) looked far from the explosive offense they flashed through their first four games. And as the league's worst defense in terms of second-half scoring margin, one could reasonably wonder if they would do the unthinkable and lose to the winless Jets.
But Buffalo's defense woke up in the second half, holding New York scoreless and allowing four yards of offense in the third and fourth quarters. Quarterback Josh Allen said after last week's loss that he needed to do a better job of taking what the defense gave him, and he backed up his words with a 307-yard performance on 30-of-43 passing -- mostly on checkdowns and short crossing routes.
"Sometimes in the NFL, you're going to have to play through lulls, [Josh] did a good job of that today. That's what you like to see out of your quarterback," Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley said.
"Phenomenal job by Josh," McDermott said. "Showed a tremendous amount of discipline and patience. That's a next step for him in terms of taking what the defense is giving him, remaining patient where he needs to be patient with calculated shots down the field."
With the Jets limiting action over the top, Beasley again showed the sort of damage he can do coming out of the slot. Beasley hauled in a career-high 11 receptions on 12 targets and matched a career best with 112 receiving yards. His five grabs for first downs were a season high.
Stefon Diggs is the Bills' star at wide receiver and John Brown, who missed this game with a knee injury, is considered the Bills "1B" receiver, but Louis-Jacques contends Beasley might be more deserving of that title. As Brown has battled injuries throughout the season, Beasley is quietly on pace for his first-career 1,000-yard season after tying a career-high with 112 yards on a career-high 11 catches.
Allen called him the team's most consistent receiver, and it has shown through seven games.
Beasley said he puts it on himself to be at his best when defenses leave room to work inside. With freedom to roam, the veteran worked to stay on script in terms of playing a "quarterback friendly" game, seeking the spots where Allen expects him to be. Allen took advantage.
"Just taking what the defense gave us," Allen said. "We had guys running underneath and guys were able to make some plays, but too far and few in between down in the red zone."
It's a win, albeit an uninspiring one for the Bills; finding a way to win is a trait veteran teams, especially good ones, share.
Now they'll head into Sunday's home game against struggling AFC East-rival New England with a bit of momentum. ...
Other notes of interest. ... For the third time this season, the Bills ran for more than 100 yards, putting up a season-high 126 rushing yards against the Jets. Rookie Zack Moss contributed 47 on seven carries in what looked like his strongest performance to date, but Buffalo hit this figure by getting back to one of its core principles of the past two seasons and letting Allen run.
The Bills quarterback led the team with 61 rushing yards, bringing his two-game total against the Jets to 118 yards on 25 attempts. This is Allen's second straight game leading the Bills in rushing and perhaps is a sign of life for what has been an anemic overall run game to date.
Bass set a Bills franchise record by attempting eight field goals and tied a franchise record by making six of them in the win. The sixth-round rookie is now 12-of-17 on the season. Buffalo more or less expected some growing pains out of Bass, given his lack of a preseason, but this game should go a long way toward building his confidence after a shaky start.
And finally. ... In case you missed it, tight end Dawson Knox tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday. He had already been ruled out against the Jets with a calf injury. But team announced Saturday he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list along with three players in close contact with Knox -- Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney (on the PUP list) and Nate Becker (on the practice squad). They, too, missed the game.
The issue left Tyler Kroft, who was away from the team for the birth of his daughter, was the primary tight end against the Jets. He caught four passes for 64 yards.
This is the first positive coronavirus test for a Bills player since the season began. Each of Buffalo's previous two games were moved from their initial dates because of the outbreak in the Tennessee Titans organization.
I'll have more on this situation as well as Brown's chances of returning from his knee injury via Late-Breaking Update in coming days; for now, it's worth noting Brown was on the practice field Wednesday.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Jake Fromm
RBs: Devin Singletary, T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones, Devonta Freeman, Zack Moss
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, John Brown, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, Reggie Gilliam
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
As ESPN.com's David Newton reported, Matt Rhule believes so strongly that the Panthers should be winning instead of rebuilding that the first-year NFL coach isn't making any excuses, even if it means criticizing his quarterback after a nearly flawless effort.
Rhule said repeatedly after Sunday's 27-24 loss at New Orleans that Teddy Bridgewater shouldn't have taken the 8-yard sack with two minutes left.
That left kicker Joey Slye, who spent the week quarantined on the NFL's COVID-19 list, attempting what would have been an NFL-record 65-yard field goal.
It fell inches short of the crossbar.
"We can't take a sack there, no matter who it is, whether it is the offensive line, the receiver or whoever," Rhule said after Carolina suffered its second straight loss and fell to 3-4. "We just can't take a sack. That is, only thing that couldn't have happened there is that.
"Regardless of what happens, Teddy can't take that sack. The offensive line can't allow that sack. It just can't happen."
While the real-time replay showed the pocket collapsing fast around Bridgewater, he had time to get rid of the ball. According to Next Gen Stats data, the 5.02 seconds it took Marcus Davenport to sack Bridgewater was the fifth-longest time it took to sack the Carolina quarterback this season.
The 8-yard loss on third-and-11 prompted Rhule to send Slye out to kick a field goal 1 yard longer than the NFL-record 64-yarder the Broncos' Matt Prater made in 2013 in the thin air of Denver. Rhule believed Slye had better odds of converting the kick than Bridgewater did of converting a first down.
Interestingly, Bridgewater never took responsibility for the sack, his only one on a day when he completed 23 of 28 pass attempts for 254 yards and two touchdowns for a season-high 128.3 passer rating.
"We had the perfect play call," Bridgewater said. "Probably would've scored a touchdown if we got it off, but they schemed up that protection that we had called well and I really had nowhere to throw the ball.
"As I tried to step up, I was going to throw it away, but there were no outlets for me to just dirt it."
Wide receiver Curtis Samuel had 1-on-1 coverage with the cornerback and inside position toward the middle of the field. Unfortunately for Bridgewater, Davenport came in untouched with only running back Mike Davis to block him.
But the Panthers' loss didn't come down to one sack or one missed field goal.
What has to be fixed before the Panthers face Atlanta on Thursday night is a defense that allowed the Saints to convert 12 of 14 third-down conversions.
The 85.7 percent conversion rate was the highest allowed in team history. The Panthers came into the game ranked 29th in the NFL in third-down defense.
As Newton noted, Atlanta, despite falling to 1-6 with another last-second loss on Sunday, still is dangerous. The Panthers, who beat the Falcons 23-16 three weeks ago, can't afford to fall further behind Tampa Bay (5-2) and New Orleans (4-2) in the NFC South.
On that, Rhule and Bridgewater would agree.
"You've got to be able to turn the page fast in this league," Bridgewater said. "We've got an Atlanta team coming into town that I'm pretty sure after we played them, they felt the same way, that they may have been one or two plays away from tying the game or beating us."
And it should be noted that with Bridgewater, the Panthers have been in every game. With him they should remain in most games moving forward.
And the good news is Carolina could get running back Christian McCaffrey back for Thursday night's game against Atlanta or the following week against the Kansas City Chiefs. That could take this offense from solid to possibly elite.
Bridgewater has shown in McCaffrey's absence that he can do more than manage a game. He can take the game to opponents with pin-point passing, solid decision making and great pocket awareness. Never was the absence of McCaffrey greater than this game in which the Panthers rushed for only 37 yards, putting all the pressure on Bridgewater to carry the load.
Davis> averaged 101.5 yards from scrimmage in the first four games without McCaffrey. He was limited to 12 yards rushing on seven carries and five catches for 24 yards in New Orleans.
Still, McCaffrey's potential return will be the big story this week after the Panthers on Tuesday designated him to return from injured reserve, beginning a 21-day window for the running back to do so.
McCaffrey was wearing a helmet and black jersey Tuesday, a day after wearing a red jersey that meant he was a nonparticipant for Monday's initial session of the week.
Rhule said McCaffrey would have to go through a full practice on Tuesday or Wednesday for the team to consider activating him off injured reserve for Thursday night's game.
He said that would be left up to team doctors.
Rhule said Tuesday he remains "hopeful" McCaffrey can play against the Falcons.
"I'll have to see how he responds to today," Rhule said. "It was great having him out there."
Rhule consistently has said he wouldn't rush back McCaffrey and has been cautionary about the eighth pick of the 2017 draft returning on a short week.
Of course,l McCaffrey is not on the team's official injury report because he hasn’t been activated from IR. Carolina has until Thursday at 4 pm ET to make the decision.
For what it's worth, Rhule said when McCaffrey returns, Davis will still play because he's shown that he deserves to play.
I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Wide receiver D.J. Moore has shown signs of reclaiming his spot as Carolina's No. 1 receiver, none bigger than the first half in which he had touchdown catches of 74 and seven yards. Moore entered the season as the team's top receiver, but Robby Anderson took over that role quickly and entered Sunday's game tied for fourth in the NFL in catches with 40 and second in receiving yards with 566. But Moore has scored in two of the last three games while Anderson hasn't gotten into the end zone since Week 1.
That said, Anderson had six receptions for 74 yards. He's had at least four receptions in every game this season and leads the NFL with 640 receiving yards after the early Sunday games.
Also according to Newton, we should just call Samuel "Mr. Third Down."
Before missing last week's game with a knee injury he was tied for the NFL lead with 11 third-down catches for first downs. He had two clutch ones in the first half on Sunday, then another to start the second half to bring that total to 14.
Samuel only played 22 snaps but had seven touches for 53 yards and a touchdown in those snaps.
One last note here. ... The Panthers announced receiver Seth Roberts' release on Monday afternoon. The move comes a day after Roberts played a season-high 41 percent of the team's offensive snaps in a 27-24 loss to the Saints. Roberts did not catch a pass while playing those snaps and has not had a pass thrown his way since Week 4. He leaves Carolina with four catches for 31 yards.
The Panthers did not announce a corresponding move to fill the roster spot. It could go to McCaffrey if he is activated ahead of Thursday's game against the Falcons.
And finally. ... The Panthers released CB Eli Apple Tuesday. Apple has only played in two games this season, including on Sunday against the Saints, when he apparently didn't play well enough to convince the Panthers to keep him around.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Phillip Walker, Will Grier
RBs: Rodney Smith, Trenton Cannon, Reggie Bonnafon, Mike Davis, Christian McCaffrey
WRs: Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Pharoh Cooper, Brandon Zylstra
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Colin Thompson
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson framed it, "The Chicago Bears traveled to Los Angeles in search of national respect.
"Chicago instead subjected the nation to kind of hideous offensive football that prevented people from buying in."
At 5-2, the Bears are very much NFC playoff contenders, but Monday night's 24-10 loss in Los Angeles once again exposed the team's fatal flaw -- the offense stinks.
In what has become a broken record, the Bears offense established zero rhythm, zero continuity, inspired zero confidence and scored close to zero points -– safety Eddie Jackson's fumble return accounted for Chicago's lone touchdown.
"[W]e've got to get stuff figured out," head coach Matt Nagy told reporters after the game regarding the offense. "It's not good enough and to be outscored by your defense obviously is unacceptable, too. So, that part's frustrating. . . . I don't ever remember having our own defense score more than our offense. That's hard to do. So, that part I don't like, and that bothers me."
It was supposed to be better than this.
In Week 3, the Bears benched a struggling Mitchell Trubisky for Nick Foles, and they promptly came back from a 26-10 deficit to beat the Falcons 30-26. It looked like Foles was the right man to lead their offense.
In four games since then, it has looked a lot different.
According to Profootballtalk.com, the Bears' offense has actually been worse in the four games started by Foles than it was with Trubisky, including in Los Angeles.
Since Foles became the Bears' starter in Week 4, the Bears are dead last in the NFL with an average of 263 yards per game. In the three games Trubisky started, the Bears' offense was never held under 300 yards. The Bears have gained fewer than 300 yards in all four games Foles has started. The Bears averaged 22.0 first downs in Trubisky's two full games; they've averaged 17.5 first downs in Foles' four full games.
Foles has worse stats than Trubisky across the board, whether judging by passer rating (Trubisky is at 87.4 and Foles at 77.6), ESPN's QBR metric (Trubisky is at 56.4 and Foles at 46.2) or yards per attempt (Trubisky 6.5, Foles 5.9). Trubisky and Foles have both thrown six touchdown passes this season, but Foles has thrown six interceptions while Trubisky threw three.
Trubisky is also a threat as a runner who was averaging 10.9 yards per carry on the season; Foles actually has negative rushing yards this season.
From all appearances, Nagy has made his decision and is sticking with Foles as the starter. But there's little reason to believe Foles is going to turn the Bears' offense around. He did it briefly against a Falcons team known for allowing fourth-quarter comebacks, but he hasn't done it since.
Monday night, Foles' best play occurred in garbage time when he connected with Allen Robinson for 42-yards -- Chicago's first 40-plus yard reception of the season. Foles missed a wide open Darnell Mooney on a deep ball down the sidelines as he faced pressure from Los Angeles' defense.
Foles later had a third quarter pass tipped and intercepted in the end zone that effectively ended the game. Foles finished the night 28-of-40 for 261 yards and two interceptions (66.8 passer rating). Not good enough, indeed.
The issues go beyond quarterback.
The offensive line struggled against the strong front of the Rams, producing just 2.9 yards per carry. Foles was sacked four times, twice at the hands of former Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd, and he threw two interceptions.
The question on Tuesday seemed obvious: Should Nagy give up play calling duties?
The coach said that he's willing to do it if it will make the offense better, but that's not his plan at the moment.
"I always look at all that. That's the very first thing I look at," Nagy said of play calling, via Chris Emma of 670 The Score. "I talk to our coaches. We talk through that whole process. I really am honestly not opposed. There's no opposition from me if that's what we feel the issue is. We look at that. Right now, where we're at, that's not where we think it's at. But at the same point in time, I'll always look each week. I'll say this too: When you're in a little bit of a rut like we are, a lot of a rut like we are, you have to look at everything."
The Bears need to look at everything.
It's not time to panic, but the offense is one of the worst in the league right now. That has to change, and changing the play calling may be the best way to change it.
Next up, the Bears host the Saints on Sunday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Chicago spent a second-round pick on tight end Cole Kmet. Finally, the Bears have begun to utilize the rookie. As Dickerson noted, after a mini-breakout performance -- first career touchdown -- against Carolina in Week 6, Kmet caught two passes for 45 yards on Monday night. Kmet needs more targets, but at least Foles is looking his way.
Veteran tight end Demetrius Harris dropped another pass against the Rams and is best suited to block. More Kmet, please.
For what it's worth, Foles' 37-yard completion to Kmet had an air distance of 44.1 yards and Kmet had 0.67 yards of separation when he caught it. The downfield reception marked Foles' longest tight-window completion of the season. ...
Also according to Dickerson, the Bears' never-ending kicker controversy is over. Veteran Cairo Santos -- the reigning NFC special teams player of the week -- made another field goal and is 11-of-13 on the year. Last year's starter, Eddy Pineiro, is stuck on injured reserve with a groin problem, but even when Pineiro is cleared to return, the Bears have to stick with Santos.
Nagy is big on trust -- hence the decision to bench Trubisky in favor of Foles -- and the head coach's history with Santos, dating back to their time together in Kansas City, weighs heavily in the decision-making process. ...
The Bears might want to re-examine their punt return. Veteran Ted Ginn Jr. has struggled to make any sort of impact on either offense or special teams, but Ginn's issues on punt return were magnified at SoFi Stadium. On four occasions, Ginn let a punt bounce that Los Angeles downed inside the 10 in Chicago territory.
Ginn took over punt return after Tarik Cohen suffered a season-ending torn ACL. According to Dickerson, "Might be time for Plan C. ..."
And finally, on the injury front. ... Robinson was evaluated for a concussion after he left the game late in the fourth quarter. He led the Bears with 70 yards receiving and it was announced on Wednesday he's in the concussion protocol. ... I'll be tracking his progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles, Tyler Bray
RBs: David Montgomery, Ryan Nall, Artavis Pierce, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Alex Wesley
TEs: Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham, Demetrius Harris, J.P. Holtz
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
According to ESPN.com's Ben Baby, it didn't matter that rookie quarterback Joe Burrow was without other key offensive pieces needed against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Burrow made the most of whoever was around him and turned in another key performance that shows why the No. 1 overall draft pick is teeming with potential. Burrow turned in the best game of his debut season in a dramatic 37-34 loss to the Browns.
With three offensive starters sidelined with injury, Burrow was still able to post a career-high 406 yards on 35-of-46 passing with three touchdowns and one interception. Burrow has five 300-yard passing games, one shy of the NFL record set by former Colts QB Andrew Luck in 2012. Burrow also had a rushing touchdown in the Bengals' third straight defeat.
Entering the game, the Bengals (1-5-1) were without injured running back Joe Mixon (foot). Left tackle Jonah Williams (neck), center Trey Hopkins (concussion) and right tackle Bobby Hart (undisclosed) also went down during Sunday's game.
That didn't stop Burrow from nearly pulling off the first comeback win of his career. On fourth-and-1, Burrow found running back Giovani Bernard for a 3-yard touchdown pass and a 34-31 lead with 1:06 remaining.
The Bengals' offense arguably had its best game under second-year coach Zac Taylor. The Bengals pumped out 468 yards, the second most under Taylor. And even without Mixon, Williams, Hopkins and Hart, they still scrounged out 81 yards on the ground, Burrow's 34 on six sneaks, scrambles and draws nearly matching Bernard's leading 37 on 13 carries.
After he tied his career-high with 11 catches, slot receiver Tyler Boyd's 101 yards led a balanced effort that saw six players catch at least 52 yards. Throw in his 16-yard toss on a double pass for Bernard's screen play, and Boyd had a better passer rating than Burrow, 118.8-112.5.
The Bengals penetrated Cleveland's red zone on seven of its eight drives. Cincinnati couldn't get enough touchdowns off those possessions, but it's promising for a Bengals offense that has mostly struggled to move the ball consistently the past two seasons.
Even though the Bengals failed to pick up the victory, Sunday was another reminder that Cincinnati has its quarterback of the future.
His next test comes Sunday, when the Bengals host the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans.
Will Mixon be ready to return for this one?
According to NFL Networks' Ian Rapoport, the star halfback is considered week-to-week with this injury, meaning he could sit out against the Titans, too. It's Bernard until Mixon makes his way back. We'll be following up on this one as needed, but Mixon was not on the practice field Wednesday (neither were Williams or Hopkins). Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Meanwhile, it's worth noting that with all the 300-yard days, Burrow is racking up passing yards like no other rookie in NFL history. The 406 yards against the Browns brought his season total to 2,023 through seven games of his rookie season. That puts Burrow on pace for 4,624 passing yards this season, which would break the NFL's rookie record, also set by Luck with 4,374 passing yards in 2012.
Sunday, Burrow became the first rookie in NFL history with at least 400 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in a single game.
Also of interest. ... Tee Higgins caught 5-of-5 targets for 71 yards and a touchdown while A.J. Green caught 7-of-13 targets for 82 yards.
As Rotoworld.com notes, this is now back-to-back games of at least 80 yards on double-digit targets for Green. With John Ross out of the picture and Auden Tate serving mostly as a backup, Green is locked in as a starting receiver on one of the highest-volume passing offenses in the league keeping him in viable territory as a weekly fantasy starter.
Higgins, meanwhile, has caught at least four passes in every game since Week 2. He has hit double-digit fantasy points in five consecutive games. He should be locked into your lineup.
Carlos Dunlap has been looking for a way out of Cincinnati and the Seahawks have been looking for pass rushing help, so it's not a great surprise that they've found each other.
According to multiple reports, the Bengals have agreed to trade their longtime edge rusher to Seattle in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick and offensive lineman B.J. Finney.
Dunlap was told to not to come into the team's facility on Wednesday as the Bengals worked to find a new home for him. Dunlap has been unhappy with a diminished role on the defense this season and was involved in a sideline argument with an assistant coach in last Sunday's loss to the Browns.
QBs: Brandon Allen, Ryan Finley, Joe Burrow
RBs: Giovani Bernard, Samaje Perine, Trayveon Williams, Joe Mixon
WRs: Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, A.J. Green, Damion Willis, Alex Erickson, Mike Thomas, John Ross, Auden Tate
TEs: Drew Sample, Cethan Carter, C.J. Uzomah
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers framed it, "Odell Beckham Jr. was in a much better place emotionally and physically. This was going to be the season he changed minds.
"He was determined to make 2020 -- and its many obstacles -- a special year, re-establish himself as one of the NFL's best players and lead the Browns back to the playoffs, along with best friend and teammate Jarvis Landry.
"Beckham won't get the chance. ..."
The star receiver's second season with Cleveland ended on Monday after an MRI confirmed he sustained a torn left knee ligament in the opening minutes of Sunday's 37-34 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
He was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
Beckham's injury is a devastating personal blow and a potentially major setback to the Browns, who are off to their best start since 1994 and eyeing their first postseason appearance in 18 years.
They'll have to get there without Beckham.
"Obviously, it's a big loss," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "He's a huge part of what we do, so now we just have to huddle up and find some different ways and find some different people and put them in that role. ... I'm sick for Odell."
The three-time Pro Bowler got hurt when his left leg buckled while he was trying to make a tackle after Baker Mayfield's first pass was intercepted by Bengals cornerback Darius Phillips.
Torn ACL's typically require nine months to one year of recovery time. The team said Beckham will be placed on injured reserve, but Stefanski did not have a timetable on when he will have surgery.
The Browns (5-2) played well without Beckham, who for all his talent hasn't been able to make a strong connection with Mayfield since arriving in a blockbuster trade from the New York Giants before last season. The three-time Pro Bowler played most of 2019 with an injury that required offseason surgery.
After Beckham went out Sunday, Mayfield completed 21 consecutive passes and threw five TD passes -- matching a franchise record -- as the Browns outlasted Joe Burrow and the Bengals.
Mayfield was also without injured running back Nick Chubb, tight end Austin Hooper and Landry played with a broken rib. But the third-year QB had one of his best games by making plays with rookie tight end Harrison Bryant (two TDs), Rashard Higgins (six catches) and rookie receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who entered the game without a catch and grabbed Mayfield's winning TD pass with 11 seconds left
Mayfield finished 22-of-28 passing for 297 yards and five touchdowns, with three coming in a wild back-and-forth fourth quarter.
"Everybody was talking we need to get to the 30 for a field goal," Mayfield said. "I told the guys, 'Screw that -- we're gonna win.'"
Mayfield's only incompletion after the first quarter was a spike to stop the clock on the final drive.
He passed Bernie Kosar (1989) and Kelly Holcomb (2003), who previously shared the Browns' record with 16 straight completions. No other Cleveland quarterback in the past 30 seasons had tossed three touchdowns in a fourth quarter, either, according to ESPN Stats and Information research, and none since Derek Anderson in 2007 had thrown five in a game.
On Wednesday, Mayfield was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Mayfield has been battling a cracked rib injury on his right side, which he suffered on Oct. 11 against the Indianapolis Colts and had limited him in practice. He was also coming off one of the worst performances of his career. In a 38-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend, Mayfield was intercepted for a pick-six on his first pass of the game, and he finished with a QBR of just 5.5 -- the third-worst game rating of any NFL quarterback this year.
"He's such a competitor. He doesn't give up," Stefanski said of Mayfield. "He didn't back down. Every time I looked at him on the sidelines, he had that steely look in his eyes."
Cleveland, which hasn't made the postseason since 2002, will have to go the rest of the way without Beckham, who turns 28 on Nov. 5. He had 23 catches for 319 yards and three touchdowns this season and scored on a 50-yard touchdown run.
Beckham's presence alone made defenses account for him on every snap.
"Odell, the energy he brings to practice, the energy he brings to games. No one else is going to be able to bring that type of juice," Stefanski said. "But it's our job to find the guys that can go compete and we'll put them in spots where they can succeed and think we'll be able to do that.
"It's not easy. I don't want to have to do it and I'm very disappointed for Odell, but that's the nature of this beast. Injuries are part of this thing and that doesn't mean any of us have to like it, but we do have to deal with it."
While Beckham had continued to make some headlines with off-the-field antics, he had been emerging as a leader on the Browns. He was healthier than he had been in several years and showing some of the breakaway speed that made him so dangerous with the Giants.
That said, injuries aren't unusual for Beckham. In five seasons in New York, Beckham played 16 games just once. He fought through injury to play all last season, his first in Cleveland, albeit not at 100 percent.
For what it's worth, there have been rumblings about Beckham's future in Cleveland with no guaranteed money on his contract after this year if he were to stay healthy. The ACL tear, however, might keep him in Cleveland in 2021. As NFL Network's Mike Garafolo noted, the injury guarantee means the Browns likely can't cut OBJ, given that he wouldn't pass a physical before the third day of the new league year.
A trade would be possible, but the acquiring team would be taking on a player coming off major knee surgery with a hefty price tag. ...
Next up. ... The Browns host the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.
Other notes of interest. ... As the team's official website noted, Higgins and Mayfield have a unique bond that dates back to the Browns' 2018 training camp. They forged a strong on-field relationship as members of the second-team offense, and it's carried over to the field in games that matter during the regular season.
That became even clearer Sunday when Higgins was tasked to do even more when Beckham went down. The fifth-year pass-catcher responded with a career day, hauling in six catches for 110 yards -- his first-ever 100-yard game. His two receptions on Cleveland's game-winning drive, including a 30-yarder that set up Mayfield's game-winning touchdown pass to Peoples-Jones, were truly difficult catches the Browns absolutely needed.
"It is just stepping up," Higgins said. "One of our brothers went down today, a sad moment. We hope he can come back soon, but we have to step up."
Asked about his bond with Mayfield, Higgins said it came down to simply "playing football" together.
"That is all I can really tell you," Higgins said. "We are playing football. He knows me, and I know him. There is nothing to say about that. It is wine poured in a cup -- smooth."
The Browns only dressed four wideouts Sunday and Landry is playing through a broken rib, so they will look to fill out the group behind Higgins and Peoples-Jones this week. Taywan Taylor was scratched Sunday, KhaDarel Hodge has been designated to come off injured reserve and the team could also look to the trade market before the November 3 deadline.
Hodge appeared in the first three games this season and made three receptions for 51 yards. He injured his hamstring during pregame warmups at Dallas and was placed on injured reserve Oct. 6. ...
A few final notes. ... Stefanski said Chubb could return after the team's Week 9 bye. As FootballDiehards.com's Kyle Dvorchak notes, Kareem Hunt has looked the part of a three-down back in Chubb's absence but that will come to an end soon enough. Hunt could be a sell candidate in redraft leagues as he could only have one more week of RB1 production.
Chubb should be expected to take on a large portion of the carries for Cleveland after returning.
Stefanski also said Monday he doesn't know whether Hooper will be available for Sunday's game against the Raiders, Scott Petrak of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram reports.
As noted above, Hooper sat out Cleveland's divisional win over the Bengals in Week 6 while recovering from an appendectomy, and it looks possible that he could be out until the team's bye in Week 9. Bryant (5-56-2) and David Njoku (2-20-1) both performed well with Hooper out, which could provide the Browns reason to be confident in letting the top tight end sit and get healthy.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Marvin Hall, Derrick Willies, KhaDarel Hodge, Ja'Marcus Bradley, Odell Beckham
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Stephen Carlson, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer understated, "A bad season has gotten worse for the Dallas Cowboys. Much worse. ..."
Already without starting quarterback Dak Prescott due to a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle, backup Andy Dalton was forced out of the Cowboys' 25-3 loss to the Washington Football Team in the third quarter due to a concussion on Sunday.
"We need to be much better, and we're running out of time," head coach Mike McCarthy said.
Dalton, who was making his second start in place of Prescott, took a hit to the head from linebacker Jon Bostic as he slid to the turf with 6:22 to play in the third quarter. Bostic was ejected from the game; Dalton went straight to the locker room for further examination and was replaced by rookie Ben DiNucci.
Before the injury, Dalton completed 9 of 19 passes for 75 yards. He was sacked three times and lost a fumble on the Cowboys' first possession, which led to a safety. He had one pass intercepted on a throw that was behind running back Ezekiel Elliott and tipped into linebacker Cole Holcomb's hands.
According to a team spokesman, Dalton was alert and doing much better than he was when he came off the field following the hit. He was in "good spirits" and will be flying home with the Cowboys.
McCarthy said he was not pleased with the passive reaction teammates had to the Bostic hit.
"We speak all the time about playing for one another, protecting one another," McCarthy said. "It definitely was not the response you would expect."
Asked what he thought of when he saw Dalton get hurt, Elliott said, "Just how s---ty this year has been. Yeah, just how bad this year has been. But we've still got time left. We've got a big division game next week. So, I mean, we've got to go out there and find a way to win."
But there was little hope the Cowboys (2-5) were going to come from behind to beat Washington with Dalton or without him.
Washington had more rushing yards on its first two series than it had averaged in the first six games. The Cowboys allowed three plays of more than 20 yards in the first half, pushing their total to 30 allowed for the season, including a 52-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Allen to Terry McLaurin, who ran by rookie Trevon Diggs for the score that gave Washington a 22-3 lead after two quarters.
Washington finished with 208 yards rushing, led by Antonio Gibson's 128 yards on 20 carries. It marked the third time in the past four games the Cowboys have allowed at least 200 yards on the ground.
Keep in mind, it's not as if Washington is some sort of offensive juggernaut.
"We're ticked off," Dallas defensive end Everson Griffen said. "I feel like everybody is tired of it. I feel like in order to do something about it, we have to do it as a team."
Of course, this is not a new development.
The Cowboys have given up at least 20 points in the first half of six consecutive games -- something no NFL team has done since at least 2000. The only time coordinator Mike Nolan's group was stingier than that through two quarters was in a 20-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1, when LA only scored 13 by halftime.
Since then, though, the first-half point totals for Dallas opponents: 29, 23, 31, 20, 21, 22.
Sunday was the fourth time the Cowboys trailed by at least 17 points at halftime this season.
Nolan's defense is on pace to give up 555 points this season. The Cowboys have given up 200 or more yards rushing in three of their past four games. The Cowboys have not had an interception in 183 pass attempts and have recovered two fumbles this season. The change in scheme simply has not worked, whether Nolan has simplified the scheme this season or not.
The Cowboys' offense also got little done, working with an offensive line in tatters with Tyron Smith and La'el Collins out for the year and Zack Martin missing Sunday's game because of a concussion. The Cowboys' starting line consisted of Cameron Erving, Connor Williams, Tyler Biadasz, Connor McGovern and Terence Steele, who had combined for just 35 starts with the team entering the game.
They could not hold up against Washington's formidable front, which kept Elliott in check, while Dalton was unable to get the ball downfield.
In two games without Prescott, the Cowboys have scored two field goals and one touchdown. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, Sunday marked the first time the Cowboys had just one receiver catch a pass in a game since Sept. 27, 2015, when Cole Beasley had four receptions in a loss to Atlanta.
Amari Cooper had seven catches for 80 yards on Sunday; CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup did not have a reception.
"We've got to be better," Elliott said.
That's by no means guaranteed.
The Cowboys visit the 2-4-1 first-place Philadelphia Eagles Sunday; if Dalton does not clear the concussion protocol, DiNucci would get the start, with Garrett Gilbert, who has been with the team for a week, as the backup.
Other notes of interest. ... According to NFL Network's Bucky Brooks, it is unreasonable to expect the Cowboys' reshuffled offensive line to overpower a premier defensive front, but Washington's frontline dominated the trenches. The Cowboys couldn't generate a push at the line of scrimmage to create room for Elliott and Tony Pollard to maneuver on the ground.
And the unit struggled mightily handling the Football Team's pressure package in pass protection. Washington registered six sacks and eight QB hits. Although the offensive line has been decimated with injuries, the unit has to play better to give the offense a chance to succeed going forward.
Also, it's not clear they're capable of playing better.
It's also not clear anybody on the team is interested in getting better.
Here's Brooks' assessment: "The Cowboys' issues have been well documented over the past few weeks but the lack of connection between the players and coaches shows up between the lines. This is a selfish group of players that operate as independent contractors and their 'me, me, me' ways are one of the reasons why the team is sitting at 2-5.
"Great teams play for each other with the unit connected like a brotherhood. The bond between each player and coach prompts every individual on the squad to give their best effort whenever they are on the field.
"In addition, that unconditional love will result in players protecting one another when they believe an opponent has disrespected a team member. With the Cowboys failing to stand up for Dalton after a vicious hit by Bostic, the lack of love and respect is apparent to anyone watching this team play. ..."
Meanwhile, Dalton attended Wednesday morning's team meeting, but he hadn't progressed enough in concussion protocol to attend position meetings and didn't practice Wednesday. McCarthy doesn't expect him available until "end of the week at the earliest."
While it remains to be seen if Dalton can clear the concussion protocol in time for the Cowboys to face the Eagles this weekend, but the team does expect to have a couple of other players back in action.
Right guard Zack Martin suffered a concussion against the Cardinals in Week 6 and missed the Week 7 loss to Washington as a result. Vice president Stephen Jones said on 105.3 The Fan on Monday that the team believes he will be back in action along with cornerback Chidobe Awuzie.
"We get Martin back this week," Jones said, via the team's website. "We get Awuzie back this week. Looks like [center] Joe Looney may have a chance to come back, and then we've got the guys who are going to work every day. That's what we have to do as a team."
Awuzie was designated for return from injured reserve last week. He's been out since Week 2 with a hamstring injury. Looney has been out since early October with a knee injury.
And finally. ... As Profootballtalk.com put it, "The Cowboys continue to get rid of under-performing veteran players on their under-performing defense."
Tuesday the Cowboys traded defensive end Everson Griffen to the Lions, and today Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports that the Cowboys have informed defensive tackle Dontari Poe and cornerback Daryl Worley they'll be released if they can't be traded today.
Dallas's defense has been a disaster this season, with many calls for Nolan to lose his job. But these moves suggest that the Cowboys think the problem is the players not executing, rather than the game plan.
Poe has played 53 percent of the Cowboys' defensive snaps this season, the most of any defensive tackle on the team. Worley has played 52 percent of the Cowboys' defensive snaps, third-most of any cornerback on the team.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Garrett Gilbert, Cooper Rush, Ben DiNucci, Dak Prescott
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
WRs: Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Malik Turner
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Blake Bell, Sean McKeon, Blake Jarwin
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
Make no mistake, Drew Lock knows. He knows he has completed a wobbly 53 percent of his passes and thrown four interceptions over the past two games.
And after Sunday's 43-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, he knows he just might be pressing too much.
"Yeah, that could be a little bit," Lock said. "I mean, since I've been here, when I was on the sideline [injured in 2019], you saw a lot of people angry, mad, unhappy with the way we started in the beginning of that season, and see how happy and excited and looking forward to it everybody was at the end of last season when we started winning. Coming into this year, you just want it so bad for the guys around you. I mean, obviously, I want it for myself, but it ends up being you want it more for the guys around you than yourself -- that's probably the worst part."
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold, Lock needs that unshakable self-awareness he has routinely shown after games to show up more behind center. Since his efficient evening of work in the season opener -- 22-of-33 passing for 216 yards and a touchdown with no sacks and no turnovers in a last-second loss to the Tennessee Titans -- the potholes have come fast and furious on his developmental path. Lock was 1-of-5 passing when he suffered a shoulder injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2.
He then missed three games and didn't lead the offense to a touchdown in his return, and despite his two interceptions, the Broncos escaped with a win at New England.
"It was up and down, up and down," head coach Vic Fangio said of Lock's day against the Chiefs. "... Thought we had some good throws, some good moments in the passing game, but we didn't have enough. ... We needed to mix in some plays in the passing game there and they didn't seem to be coming."
Lock repeatedly passed up potential completions in the short and intermediate areas Sunday to force the ball down the field. The Chiefs were more than happy to accept that favor.
Toss in four turnovers -- Lock's two interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown, and two fumbles traced to Melvin Gordon, including one on an ill-fated flea-flicker -- and a kickoff return for a touchdown, and Lock's bumpy ride has gotten bumpier.
"Yes, 100 percent," Lock said when asked if he needed to simply take the short throws more often when available. "... I can make the plays when they're there. I just have got to make a little better judgment when to make that play or you know what, they got us and, you know, eventually we'll stop having this conversation. It needs to happen faster [rather] than later and it will.
"I can play a whole lot better, and I'm going to. That's the thing -- I'm going to. This week wasn't the best for me."
To be fair. It wasn't just this week. Lock has four interceptions in the past two games.
But Legwold notes there's hope on the horizon for the 2-4 Broncos. Their next four opponents are 9-16 combined and two of them -- the Chargers and the Dolphins -- will start rookies at quarterback. And the Broncos, with plenty of defensive players such as Shelby Harris and linebacker Bradley Chubb showing plenty of anger Sunday at the way things went against the Chiefs, look to be facing a make-or-break moment.
"They have the credibility and the right to do it in this locker room," Lock said. "Shelby Harris, Bradley Chubb, they have a right to express their feelings, without a doubt. They have the right to tell someone straight to their face you need to pick your s--- up. And if they were to come up and tell me that, I wouldn't mind."
One way to pick it up would be running better.
Against the Chiefs, Broncos opened the day with plenty of success running the ball, usually in bigger personnel groupings -- two backs or two tight ends as well as a smattering of three tight end sets -- but Legwold added they can't seem to resist the lure of the three-wide look as soon as they get behind by even one score.
And the trouble just keeps coming for offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur in those three-wide sets.
In the first half alone, Lock's interception for a touchdown, two sacks, a lost fumble and an intentional grounding penalty were all out of three-wide sets. The Broncos continue to struggle to protect in that look and opposing defensive coordinators have certainly noticed.
We'll see if they can make the necessary adjustments heading into Sunday's game against the Chargers in Denver. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Phillip Lindsay's star-crossed season continued Sunday when he left the game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a concussion.
Lindsay, who had 79 yards rushing on his nine carries in the game, absorbed a helmet-to-helmet from Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen on 5-yard run with just over two minutes remaining in the first half.
Lindsay was groggy as he got to his feet, was helped to the injury tent on the Broncos' sideline and after a brief check from the team's medical staff was taken to the locker room. Lindsay had missed three games and most of a fourth with a toe injury to open the season.
He had returned to the lineup last week against the New England Patriots and provided a spark to the offense with 101 yards on 23 carries. It meant he had rushed 180 yards on his last 32 carries before Sunday's injury.
Lindsay has entered the league's concussion protocol and will be held out of practice until he is cleared. He was not on the field for Wednesday's practice.
Also on the injury front, Diontae Spencer and Tim Patrick (hamstring) will be day to day, according to Fangio. Patrick did not practice Wednesday.
I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed in coming days. ...
Worth noting. ... Albert Okwuegbunam caught 7-of-7 targets for 60 yards in the loss.
As Rotoworld.com notes, even with Noah Fant back from his ankle injury, Okwuegbunam tied his fellow seam stretcher for the team lead in targets as Lock seems to have great confidence in his college teammate, who does have the tools to be a big-play and red-zone threat.
It seems like a stretch to expect Okwuegbunam's current targets pace -- 13 in two games -- to continue with Fant back. But it's worth watching.
And finally. ... Running backs coach Curtis Modkins is back with the team after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, but another one of the team’s assistants is now missing due to the protocols in place for this season.
As first reported by Brandon Krisztal of KOA, offensive line coach Mike Munchak is not at practice with the team on Wednesday. He is absent due to COVID-19 protocols that call for anyone who tests positive or has close contact with an infected party to stay away from the team.
Assistant offensive line coach Chris Kuper will be running the drills in Munchak’s absence.
QBs: Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, Jeff Driskel
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay
WRs: Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler, Daesean Hamilton, Tyrie Cleveland, Diontae Spencer, Courtland Sutton
TEs: Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, Jake Butt, Albert Okwuegbunam
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
The Detroit Lions recorded a huge 23-22 come-from-behind victory over the Falcons in Atlanta Sunday to improve their record to 3-3 on the season and put themselves right back into the conversation in the NFC playoff race.
Detroit hosts the 4-2 Indianapolis Colts at Ford Field next week.
Since 1990, just over 35 percent of the teams that started the year 3-3 have advanced to make the playoffs, per NFL Media Research.
What is that percentage had Matthew Stafford not guided the Lions 75 yards in one minute and four seconds to connect with tight end T.J. Hockenson on a game-tying touchdown that led to Matt Prater's game-winning extra point Sunday afternoon? Teams that started 2-4 since 1990 have made the playoffs just 9.5 percent of the time.
"We had a good win last week, but our thing, and what we said is, 'Hey, one win is solid, but two wins feels even better,'" veteran wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. said after the game.
"We're taking it as an approach like every week we're 0-0. That's what we're doing right now. It just felt great to keep rolling in the same direction."
The Lions will be looking to continue that against the Colts where a win would put the Lions above the .500 mark for the first time this season.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein reminded readers, there was a time that Stafford did this on a weekly basis, where the man became synonymous with the fourth-quarter comeback. It hadn't happened as much the past three seasons, as the Lions had become known for giving up leads and games instead of coming from behind to win one.
It was the 30th fourth-quarter comeback of his career, tying him for eighth all-time with the quarterback he beat, Matt Ryan, and the 36th game-winning drive of his career, according to Pro Football Reference.
It always seems to come down to this with the Lions and the Falcons. From Prater getting a re-do on a field goal in London in 2014 for a win to the Falcons winning with a 10-second run-off in 2017. This one, complete with a booth challenge upholding a Kenny Golladay catch and a longer extra point because a Danny Amendola unsportsmanlike penalty on the touchdown, might have made it the most wild of all.
Stafford didn't find the end zone until the game's final play, but he was smart and efficient throughout the day, completing 25 of 36 passes for 340 yards and a score.
He's made good reads with very few poor decisions, including taking one-on-one chances with his top receiver, Golladay, who had six catches for 114 yards. He also showed his own awareness by getting a snap off with Atlanta having 12 men on the field in the fourth quarter, getting Detroit a first down. It's a move only a veteran quarterback will make.
In addition, Jones has his first really strong game of 2020.
Jones has had these stretches throughout his career where his play dips for three or four games and then he puts up a good stat-line. Sunday against the Falcons was a good line with five catches for 80 yards. Typically, this starts a run of three or four good games in a row for him, so it'll be something to watch, especially since offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell indicated they wanted to find ways to get Jones more involved. ...
Rothstein believes the Lions have gotten too predictable with Adrian Peterson. The solution here is difficult to figure out, but one thing to look at is stopping back-to-back runs with Peterson on first-and-second downs. Detroit did this (at least) three times and on each run; Peterson was less effective on the second-down run than the first-down one. While they can't have D'Andre Swift playing play-in, play-out, how Detroit is using Peterson has started to become more predictable.
Peterson's yards per carry have dwindled by the week, too, including rushing for under four yards per carry in each of the past four games.
Swift scored on a 3-yard touchdown run Sunday. He's the third player in team history with four rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown through their first six games.
The Lions have scored 21-plus points in all six games this season. The only other times the Lions have produced at least 21 points in each of their first six games of a season is 1954 and 1951. ...
And finally. ... Everson Griffen is headed back to the NFC North.
The Dallas Cowboys are trading the defensive end to the Lions in exchange for a conditional sixth-round draft pick.
The veteran pass rusher won't be available Sunday against the Colts because of COVID-19 protocols, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. Griffen's debut with the Lions is expected to be Nov. 8 against the Minnesota Vikings. Griffen was drafted by the Vikings in 2010 and played 10 years before signing a one-year deal with the Cowboys this season.
In seven games with the Cowboys, he recorded 2.5 sacks, 10 tackles and one pass defensed.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniel, David Blough
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Adrian Peterson, Kerryon Johnson, Jason Cabinda
WRs: Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu, Quintez Cephus, Jamal Agnew, Kenny Golladay
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Hunter Bryant
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky reminded readers, when things go bad for the Green Bay Packers -- not that they have very often under Matt LaFleur -- the head coach almost always puts the blame on himself.
When things go well, Aaron Rodgers usually gets the credit.
Demovsky believes it's time LaFleur got some of that, too, after the kind of plan and play calling he came up with for Sunday's 35-20 win at the Houston Texans.
A week after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers whipped the Packers 38-10 -- after which LaFleur said in part that "it definitely wasn't my best game" -- LaFleur was on his game.
The second-year head coach, playing without star running back Aaron Jones and All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari plus half of his starting secondary, went back to his bread-and-butter pre-snap motion plays to keep the Texans' struggling defense guessing. Rodgers' second-quarter touchdowns to Jace Sternberger and Malik Turner -- each with their first NFL regular-season scores -- were perfect examples of the motion and deception that are staples of LaFleur's scheme.
Rodgers completed 14 of 17 passes for 162 yards and all four of his touchdowns when the Packers used pre-snap motion Sunday; he was 9-of-17 for 121 yards without motion. Rodgers had five touchdown passes all season on plays with pre-snap motion entering the game. The Packers have used pre-snap motion on 50 percent of their snaps this season, after doing so 38 percent of the time last season, and 27 percent in 2018 (their last before LaFleur, according to ESPN Stats and Information).
All in all, Rodgers completed 23 of 34 passes for 283 yards. It was his 26th four-touchdown pass game of his career, fourth-most in NFL history behind Drew Brees (36), Peyton Manning (35) and Tom Brady (30).
So of course, it helps to have a quarterback like Rodgers. It also helps having a go-to receiver like Davante Adams and even a backup running back like Jamaal Williams, who had 114 total yards from scrimmage (19 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown, plus four receptions for 37 yards).
Adams, in his second game back after missing Weeks 3 and 4 because of a hamstring injury, caught 13 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
Playing a hapless team like the one-win Texans (1-6) helps, too.
But if the Packers had a plan like this and executed like that a week earlier, they might be sitting at 6-0. Still, 5-1 isn't bad and neither are the Packers a week after everyone wanted to bury them.
This week, they host the Vikings at Lambeau Field. ...
Getting back to Sunday's big game, with Allen Lazard on injured reserve and Jones out with a calf issue, the Packers were counting on Adams to provide a spark to an offense that was limited to only 10 first-quarter points in last Sunday's loss in Tampa Bay.
It quickly became apparent the single coverage he was facing for a majority of Sunday afternoon in Houston would work in his favor.
Whatever the reasons were for how the Texans deployed their safeties, Adams happily went to work against a Houston secondary playing without top cornerback Bradley Roby.
The end result was yet another career day for Adams.
"Part of me just wanted to keep it out; I didn't even want to speak that up into the universe," Adams said of Houston's coverage scheme. "I enjoy my one-on-ones. Those are fun over there. So anytime I can get 'em I'm-a try to make sure we execute and we're on top of it."
Rodgers caught wind of the Texans' strategy early. He threw three passes to Adams on the opening drive alone, including a 3-yard touchdown to extend Green Bay's streak of scoring on its opening possession to six games. Adams finished with eight catches for 114 yards in the first half, marking the fourth time he's recorded at least 100 receiving yards in the first two quarters of a game.
From Rodgers' perspective, it all started on the 28-yard pass vs. Hargreaves.
"It was really the catch down the left sideline on third down that got us going, him and I together," Rodgers said. "Just beautiful late hands by him. We had a couple other adjustments that were really good. He's such a talented player and gives you such a wide margin when you throw the ball to him. So steady."
All seven of Green Bay's third-down conversions Sunday followed a similar script -- Rodgers completing passes to Adams.
"Anytime you can get going early, I feel like that's kind of the recipe for success for us on offense and just Aaron and I's connection," Adams said. "Felt good about everything all week. ... And by the time we got to Friday I had a pretty good feeling about how this game was going to go, you know, with our personnel vs. theirs. So, yeah, it was a good day."
His 196 receiving yards were the most in a game by a Packers receiver since Jordy Nelson had 209 against the New York Jets in Week 2 of the 2014 season. In Week 1, he tied the franchise record with 14 catches against the Vikings.
Meanwhile, the Packers are planning to sign wide receiver Seth Roberts after his release from the Carolina Panthers, according to Demovsky.
Roberts was released by the Panthers on Monday after catching just four passes for 31 yards in seven games played this season. He had gone without a catch in each of the team's last three games and wasn't even targeted on Sunday despite playing a season-high 19 snaps on offense.
The Packers intend to sign Roberts to their practice squad initially to get his start with the team.
Roberts has 183 receptions in his career for 2,128 yards and 15 touchdown. Last season with the Baltimore Ravens, Roberts caught 21 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns.
On the injury front. ... The fact that Jones was able to make the trip to Houston indicates his injury isn't too serious and should give him a chance to play in Week 8.
But that's no lock.
LaFleur told reporters on Wednesday that holding Jones out last week "definitely helped him but he's got to continue to improve and get better each day." LaFleur said they won't risk losing him long term so "we'll be smart with him."
If they hold him out again, Williams would continue to carry a bulk of the workload with Dillon working in as a change-of-pace option.
I'll be watching for more on Jones -- and Lazard, who will return to practice this week -- in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for the latest.
One last note here. ... The Texans are the latest NFL team to close their facility after a positive COVID-19 test. Houston had one player test positive and closed the facility Wednesday. The Packers were at the Texans on Sunday. There has been no immediate word on whether the Packers will need to take any additional precautions.
For what it's worth, The Athletic's Aaron Reiss reports the Packers are among the teams to inquire about Texans WR Will Fuller, but no deal imminent.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, A.J. Dillon, Tyler Ervin
WRs: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Malik Taylor, Reggie Begelton
TEs: Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
The Houston Texans are closing their facility during the bye week.
A player tested positive for COVID-19 leading to the facility shutdown, per a source informed of the situation.
Fortunately, Houston is on a bye week, which means a game isn't in jeopardy due to the positive test. Still, most non-player staff members are usually in the building during a bye week, so they will be sent home until given the all-clear.
The Texans, who will continue to test all other players during the bye week, released the following statement:
"Late last night, we received notice that a Texans player tested positive for COVID-19. In accordance with NFL protocols, the player immediately self-isolated and our Infection Control Officer and other members of the Infection Response Team began working with the NFL to perform contact tracing. Our facility will be closed today to players for deep cleaning. We are in close consultation with the NFL, as well as our team of independent doctors and specialists, and will follow their guidance regarding our scheduled bye week operations. The health and safety of our team, as well as our entire staff, are of highest priority."
With another loss, this time falling 35-20 to the Green Bay Packers in a game that never felt close, ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop believes the Houston Texans are going into their bye week and the trade deadline 1-6 and in serious sell-now mode.
Pass-rusher J.J. Watt and receiver Will Fuller are among several Texans veterans with expiring contracts who could, if put in the right situation, help a contender in 2020. With the lack of young, promising talents -- and limited upcoming draft capital -- the Texans' focus should be on acquiring as many draft picks as possible.
Houston is in a unique position. It doesn't really matter where they finish this season because their first- and second-round picks will be going to Miami as part of the trade that brought left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills to Houston.
There's no way to redo the damage of former general manager and head coach Bill O'Brien's franchise-altering trades since the start of the 2019 season, but the Texans can try and stockpile as many picks as they can for the new front office and coaching staff.
While the Texans' front office is not interested in a fire sale without getting the proper value in return, it is at the point where this team does not resemble a unit that looks like they could be a legitimate Super Bowl contender any time soon, even with quarterback Deshaun Watson under a lengthy contract extension. The team must look toward the future.
Meanwhile, after throwing for a combined 694 yards and seven touchdowns in his previous two games, Watson and the offense couldn't keep up with the Packers. Watson completed 29 of 39 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns. The second score came with less than two minutes to go and the game firmly out of reach.
Again, the Texans are not getting any production from their running game. David Johnson led the way with 42 yards on 14 carries. Duke Johnson had one carry for minus-1 yard. Houston traded for Johnson during the offseason, but so far he has not been consistently productive.
David Johnson did catch his first touchdown with the Texans in the third quarter.
All in all, it's safe to say the frustrations are mounting.
Watson's career -- in high school, college at Clemson and with the Houston Texans -- he has never been through a losing season when healthy. Yes, the Texans were 4-12 in 2017, but Watson was responsible for three of those wins before he tore an ACL after seven games in his rookie season.
So this -- Houston's 1-6 starts, the firing of head coach Bill O'Brien when the team was 0-4 -- is all new for the Texans' quarterback.
"S--- sucks, honestly," Watson said Sunday. "I mean, this is new to me, so I'm going through it just like everyone else. This is my first time experiencing something like this, so I'm just learning on the fly, trying to stay positive, continuing to lead the guys, continuing to come to work each and every day and try to improve and just trying to find ways to win."
Defensive end J.J. Watt has been through something similar once: the 2-14 season in 2013 that got head coach Gary Kubiak fired. But even his normally lengthy answers in his postgame press conference were short and to the point.
"We're 1-6," Watt said. "You are what your record says you are."
"How do you feel?" he was asked.
"Frustrated," Watt said. "I'm angry. I mean, it sucks. I don't know what else I'm supposed to feel."
The Texans were a playoff team last season, losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC divisional round.
Watson and the Texans' offense got off to a slow start Sunday, but in the past three weeks, he has thrown for 1,003 yards and nine touchdowns with no interceptions. The defense has struggled all season, forcing just four takeaways and entering Week 7 allowing an average of 177.5 rushing yards per game, the worst in the NFL.
The Texans showed some potential in their Week 6 overtime loss to the then-undefeated Tennessee Titans, but interim head coach Romeo Crennel said Sunday there's not much the team can take from this loss.
"Anytime you lose, the morale is not what you want it to be," Crennel said. "But after last week's loss, I think you could take a lot from that game, that we played a tough game and went into overtime and lost it by a hair. This game was a different game. And we didn't lose this one by a hair. It was just too much. We didn't do enough early in the game. Didn't play well enough in the game to keep it close."
Now we'll keep an eye out over the bye week to see if any changes are brewing.
One last note here. ... The Texans activated WR Isaiah Coulter (neck) from injured reserve. As Rotoworld.com notes, Coulter missed most of training camp and spent the first seven weeks on IR. The rookie fifth-rounder could make his debut after the bye.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: David Johnson, Duke Johnson, Scottie Phillips, Buddy Howell, Dontrell Hilliard, C.J. Prosise
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Keke Coutee, Chad Hansen, Isaiah Coulter, Damion Ratley, Randall Cobb, Steven Mitchell, Will Fuller
TEs: Jordan Akins, Darren Fells, Kahale Warring
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot reminded readers, head coach Frank Reich makes his run-first preference clear routinely.
He calls running plays early and often to set the tone. He uses them late to chew up the clock. And in between, he stays on the ground to keep defenses honest. It doesn't hurt that he also has some proven horses to rely on.
A year ago, the Colts had a top-10 ground game.
During their bye week, they spent time trying to solve the mystery of how they've slipped to 26th in yards rushing per game and 31st in yards per carry.
"I don't think the gap is huge. We're definitely not where we want to be," longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. "Hopefully, being able to reflect and not having to worry about a game plan, but really being able to focus on the technique type things is going to make a difference for us."
There are plenty of explanations for why the Colts (4-2) haven't been running at full throttle.
Indy lost starting running back Marlon Mack with a season-ending torn Achilles tendon in the first half of the season opener. Castonzo sat out at Cleveland with a rib injury and Indy's top three tight ends -- Jack Doyle, Trey Burton and Mo Alie-Cox -- all have missed time with injuries.
Indy's receiving corps has taken some hits, too. Starter Parris Campbell went down with a left knee injury in Week 2 and hasn't returned. Rookie receiver Michael Pittman Jr., the Colts' top draft pick, hasn't played since Week 3 after being diagnosed with leg compartment syndrome. Campbell and Pittman both needed surgery.
Reich announced on Wednesday that Pittman is officially returning to practice Wednesday.
Whatever the case, Reich's roster is deeper this year than it's been either of his previous two seasons in Indy.
And while backup Nyheim Hines has been more proficient out of the backfield as a receiver, running back Jonathan Taylor is among the NFL's top rookies in total yards (529) even as he gets acclimated to his new role.
"That's always a part of it, kind of him understanding us and us understanding him," Castonzo said. "Where does he like to cut on this play? What is he most comfortable with? But at the end of the day, you have to block the guys you're assigned to block and he has to find the holes he's assigned to find. If everybody just does their job, the running game works."
The Colts also struggled to stretch the field most of the first six games because quarterback Philip Rivers has relied primarily on short, quick throws. Opponents, like the Cincinnati Bengals, responded by frequently stacking nine or 10 players within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Sunday's game might have provided a blueprint for how to beat those defenses. Rivers rallied the Colts from a 21-point deficit by throwing for 371 yards and three TDs, including nine completions of 20 yards or more.
If Rivers keeps it up, the backs could find more open space in those running lanes.
"It did help," Reich said. "You make a couple of those plays and it does loosen them up a little bit not only for the underneath stuff, but for the run game a little bit as well."
Still, Reich doesn't believe the numbers tell the whole tale.
He acknowledges there have been times he simply didn't call enough runs, and when he did the emphasis was on burning clock rather than churning out big gainers. Instead, he believes the Colts have been efficient on the ground and that Taylor has done a good job since becoming the workhorse back.
But everyone knows the Colts must find ways to improve in the red zone and on third-and-short. Indy has struggled in both, and if it wants to make it back to the playoffs, the Colts need their ground game up and running.
"It's just a little technique thing here and there," Castonzo said. "We're going to do a self-scout (this week) where we really look at a lot of the stuff that we've been doing throughout the year and what we need to change to make that next step. ..."
Also of interest. ... Asked if he expects Burton to continue seeing five-plus targets each week, ESPN's Mike Wells suggested that won't be the case.
"If there's one thing Reich and Rivers continue to show it's that they don't favor one player or one position when it comes to the passing game," Wells wrote. "Another reason you shouldn't continue to expect five targets a game for Burton is that fellow tight end Mo Alie-Cox (knee) might be back after the bye. That means the Colts will have three reliable tight ends -- Burton, Alie-Cox and Jack Doyle -- they can use in a number of different ways, depending on the situation."
QBs: Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Marlon Mack
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Michael Pittman Jr., Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon, Parris Campbell
TEs: Trey Burton, Mo Alie-Cox, Jack Doyle
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
Doug Marrone's job is safe for now.
According to Associated Press sports writer Mark Long, Jaguars owner Shad Khan spared Marrone following the team's sixth consecutive loss, a 39-29 setback at the Los Angeles Chargers in which the Jaguars tied an NFL record by allowing at least 30 points in six straight games.
The Jaguars (1-6) showed enough fight against the Chargers -- they led 29-22 late in the third quarter -- for Khan to stick with Marrone into the team's bye week and quite possibly through the end of the season.
"I think that any time you're losing like this and you're not performing well on Sundays, I think it's naive. It can happen," Marrone said. "I just work and do the best job I can for the coaches and players. ...
"That's just what this game is: work as hard as you possibly can, and at the end of the day, you have to hold your head up high knowing that you did everything you possibly could to try to win games while at the same time know that you did your best for the coaches and the players."
Marrone is on the verge of coming up well short of the owner's winning expectations. And the belief is that changes will ultimately be made if Jacksonville continues on its current path. It won't help that Marrone has the youngest team in the league and lost valuable offseason work because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He is 24-34 in three-plus seasons in Jacksonville, falling a few plays shy of the franchise's first Super Bowl in 2017 and then miring mostly in mediocrity since. The Jaguars have dropped 12 of their past 15, including 10 by double digits.
"I can tell you this: we all feel bad," Marrone said. "The one thing you know, that's out there on the field, is that they are playing as hard as they can. We're just not making the plays we need to make. That's on all of us. That starts with me."
The past month has been far from ideal. Miami, Cincinnati and Houston got their first wins of the season against the Jags in consecutive weeks. Detroit followed with a lopsided victory in Jacksonville, and then Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert picked up his first win in five starts Sunday.
"It hurts, but I wouldn't say we're discouraged," Gardner Minshew said. "I think everyone is looking for a solution still and it's a fight. It's tough right now, but as long as these guys keep fighting, we'll figure it out."
Minshew completed 14 of 27 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns, rallying the Jaguars from an early double-digit deficit.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden stuck with the run game even trailing 16-0 in the second quarter and James Robinson responded by getting the Jaguars back into the game.
Robinson has been the Jaguars' best offensive player this season and Gruden finally stuck with the rookie instead of getting away from the run game and going too pass-happy, which he admitted to doing in several games. The undrafted rookie totaled 137 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns against the Chargers. He had a career-high 119 yards rushing and showed plenty of determination on his 9-yard TD reception.
D.J. Chark has 11 catches for 87 yards and no touchdowns in the past three games, looking nothing like a Pro Bowl player or the team's go-to guy. He had one reception for 26 yards against the Chargers (despite a team-high seven targets) and seemed to express his frustration after several of Minshew's off-target throws.
The defense remains a mess. The unit gave up a whopping 1,878 yards in losses to Cincinnati, Houston, Detroit and the Chargers. That's the most for any four-game stretch in franchise history.
The only positive is it's starting to get more pressure with Josh Allen returning from a knee injury and rookies K'Lavon Chaisson and DaVon Hamilton flashing at times.
And that's the general plan here: Get healthy on defense during the bye to at least have a shot against Houston on Nov. 8.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars placed receiver/return man Dede Westbrook on IR with a left knee injury and activated DE Aaron Lynch from the exempt/commissioner permission list to the active roster. Lynch announced last week he was un-retiring and has gone through COVID-19 protocols. Westbrook was hurt on a kickoff return in Sunday's loss at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Tight end Tyler Eifert (neck) is expected back after the bye.
And finally. ... While most NFL players have recovered quickly from COVID-19, running back Ryquell Armstead has not.
Armstead, who some within the Jacksonville organization thought would replace Leonard Fournette as the starting running back, is not expected to play again this season because of symptoms that he has suffered while battling COVID-19, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Armstead has been hospitalized twice and has suffered from a variety of complications connected to the virus, including significant respiratory issues, and has been hit harder than some expected.
Jacksonville placed Armstead on the reserve/COVID-19 list twice this season -- the second time coming during the first week in September, when Marrone said he couldn't "put an exact timetable" on Armstead's recovery but noted that "he'll be out a while."
Armstead, 23, is expected to return next season at full strength, according to sources. Armstead was projected to be a significant contributor to the Jaguars at the time he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
QBs: Mike Glennon, Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton
RBs: Dare Ogunbowale, Devine Ozigbo, Ryquell Armstead, Chris Thompson, James Robinson
WRs: D.J. Chark, Keelan Cole, Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson, Chris Conley, Michael Walker, Dede Westbrook
TEs: Tyler Eifert, James O'Shaughnessy, Tyler Davis, Josh Oliver
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
There was never a question that Brett Veach, one of the most aggressive general managers in the NFL, would pursue two-time All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell to join the Kansas City Chiefs' electrifying offense.
The question was whether Bell would fit.
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta notes, the returns from Game 1 on Sunday couldn't have been much better. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire still ran eight times for 46 yards and a score, and Bell averaged 6 1/2 yards per carry on his six attempts, helping their offense play a solid supporting role for their defense and special teams in a 43-16 rout of the AFC West-rival Denver Broncos.
"It was good to see Le'Veon get out and have an opportunity to carry it," head coach Andy Reid said Monday, "and you saw the things he's capable of doing. And it all starts up front with the guys blocking. I thought they did a nice job."
The pass protection wasn't nearly as good, but it didn't need to be. The Chiefs only ran 47 offensive plays thanks to a pick-6 by Daniel Sorensen and a kickoff return touchdown by Byron Pringle with Patrick Mahomes and Co. on the sideline.
Pringle and Sorensen joined the team as undrafted free agents, Pringle in 2018 and Sorensen four years earlier.
They delivered the game's two biggest plays, Pringle on a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Sorensen on a 50-yard interception return for a score.
The plays, both coming in the second quarter, helped the Chiefs convert a 10-6 lead into 24-9.
"Two of my favorite guys," head coach Andy Reid said. "Non-scholarship.
"They came in not on scholarship and they ended up earning it, and rightly so. They did a great job."
Pringle hasn't been the Chiefs regular kickoff returner. He returned two last season and none this year until Sunday. But he returned in college at Kansas State and scored a couple of touchdowns and the Chiefs finally gave him his chance.
He rewarded them with a big play on his first try.
"He was a good player in college with the return game," Reid said. "He was good in preseason [in previous years] when we did it. He's healthy, and so we wanted to give him an opportunity back there to return. You see how he hits it. That becomes important on kickoff returns."
Pringle is a wide receiver who plays sparingly but makes the most of limited playing time. He had the Chiefs' longest catch of 38 yards in last week's win over the Buffalo Bills.
"I've always thought highly of Pringle," Mahomes said. "He comes in every single day, he works extremely hard, and when his number gets called, he makes plays."
Pringle made another big special teams play on Sunday when he downed a punt on the 1. The two special teams plays made for a big game, but Pringle said he wasn't satisfied. He was in the area when the Broncos fumbled a punt return and regretted not making the recovery.
"I wish I would have taken advantage of that," he said.
On Wednesday, Pringle was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Sorensen also had an interception last week against the Bills. This was his third career touchdown off an interception return.
Whatever the case, the big plays limited the offense.
"So the defense's snaps were way up. The offense's snaps were way down," Reid said. "We weren't able to get the whole game plan going the way we wanted, and the rhythm -- by that point we're way up -- and that's a good thing. That makes the head coach very happy. But it cuts down on the opportunities for the offense to do its thing."
Mahomes still finished with 200 yards passing and a touchdown without an interception, and wide receiver Tyreek Hill finally got involved in the offense with a second-half score. Travis Kelce only had three catches for 31 yards, but again, the Chiefs didn't need much offense from their star tight end in a game that got out of hand early.
"I thought Clyde obviously continued to put up tough runs and break tackles and get different types of stuff," Mahomes said, "and I thought Le'Veon did a great job of coming in off a week of practice where you only get a couple days and being able to step right in and have a few big runs and really get his footing. Obviously there's still some little details that we need to work out here and there, but for someone to come in and have success like that early is really exciting. ..."
Meanwhile, the defense of coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is back on track after it was torched by Derek Carr and the Raiders in a 40-32 loss at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs were stingy against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills and dominated the Broncos, who got much of their yardage in mop-up time in the fourth quarter.
The kicking game remains iffy after Harrison Butker missed another extra point, though Reid said he's not concerned about it. Part of the problem is breaking in a new holder in Tommy Townsend, who replaced long-time punter Dustin Colquitt.
This week, the Chiefs return home to face the winless New York Jets, the bumbling team that waived Bell last week less than two years into his contract when his relationship with coach Adam Gase went sideways.
On the injury front. ... The Chiefs escaped without any injuries on Sunday. They hope to have wide receiver Sammy Watkins and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz healthy soon, which would only add more firepower to their offense.
Reid told reporters on Wednesday, however, that Schwartz (back) and Watkins would not practice Wednesday.
I'll be following up on Watkins' progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
One last note here: Running back Darrel Williams didn't get a carry and second-year pro Darwin Thompson was inactive as the Chiefs went with Edwards-Helaire, Bell and veteran DeAndre Washington in the backfield.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Le'Veon Bell, Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Marcus Kemp, Byron Pringle, Sammy Watkins
TEs: Travis Kelce, Deon Yelder, Nick Keizer
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow reminded readers, the Las Vegas Raiders started their week of practice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by sending home their entire starting offensive line after Trent Brown tested positive for the coronavirus.
The four other starters weren't allowed to return until Sunday morning with their only real preparation coming from individual workouts at home and Zoom calls to learn the game plan.
The result was predictably not a good one as the Raiders matched their season high by allowing three sacks and got no running game going in a 45-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
"I'm not going to use any excuses, we can't," quarterback Derek Carr said. "We're in a production-oriented business. The miscommunication, absolutely, it took place. It's a game of practice, it really is. You got to be available, not just for Sundays, you got to be available all throughout the week cause there's so much information that goes into it."
The problems on the line only got worse when right tackle Sam Young went down with a knee injury in the second quarter and right guard Gabe Jackson was ejected in the third when officials ruled he stepped on an opponent's shoulder during a scrum after a touchdown that cut Tampa Bay's lead to 24-17.
Little went right after that and the Raiders (3-3) went on to their most lopsided loss of the season.
The problems began on Las Vegas' next drive when head coach Jon Gruden opted to kick a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 17 to cut the deficit to 24-20.
"It's easy to second-guess right now, but in hindsight I probably would have done the same thing," Gruden said.
The troubles mounted when Leonard Fournette took a dump off pass 13 yards on third-and-13 to help the Bucs drive down for another TD to go up by 11.
Carr then threw an interception on the Raiders' next play to set up another score and Tampa scored again with a short field after Las Vegas was stopped on fourth-and-1 from its own territory.
The Raiders struggled all day to run against Tampa's dominant front, with Josh Jacobs being held to 17 yards on 10 carries and the team averaging 3.2 yards per carry overall. The Bucs also had three sacks.
"The Buccaneers are one of the top run-stopping defenses in the league," left tackle Kolton Miller said. "We did the best we could with the circumstances throughout the week. I think it could be one or two communication things, or a few things, with running (protection). It's those little details you miss out not being with the team during the week."
The Raiders were hampered all week after Brown was placed on the COVID-19 list on Wednesday. The four other linemen also had to be sidelined for five days because they were not wearing masks at practice on Monday when they were too close to Brown even though the Raiders were in "intensive" protocols that required mask wearing.
Miller, Jackson, center Rodney Hudson and guard Denzelle Good weren't able to rejoin the team until Sunday morning after passing five days of tests.
"It was unexpected," Miller said. "This whole year has been weird with the virus. We did the best we could and we followed protocol along the way. Individually, we tried to do the best with what we could."
Safety Johnathan Abram also missed the game because he had close contact with Brown on Tuesday and the defense was carved up by Tom Brady.
Brady threw for 369 yards and four TDs, while getting sacked no times and hit only once.
"We did not get enough pass rush today," Gruden said. "If you let Tom Brady stand back there and survey the field, he's proven. ... That he's still one of the very, very best. They have an arsenal of weapons. It's a credit to them, but we have to generate a better rush and until we do it's going to continue to be tough."
With the loss, they fall to 3-3 on the season. They'll travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns on Sunday.
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Devontae Booker, Jalen Richard
WRs: Henry Ruggs III, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Zay Jones, Tyrell Williams
TEs: Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
At last, a victory.
Justin Herbert reached a few milestones in his first four NFL starts. The Los Angeles Chargers quarterback didn't accomplish the one thing that mattered most: leading his team to a win.
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy notes, Herbert had another superlative game Sunday, this time in a winning effort. The rookie threw for a season-high 347 yards and three touchdowns as well as running for a score as the Chargers defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 39-29 to snap a four-game losing streak.
"I think we put together a full game," said Herbert, who completed 27 of 43 passes. "It's an awesome feeling especially considering how the past couple games have gone. It got dicey when they blocked that punt in the third quarter, but we never got down on ourselves."
Herbert, the sixth overall pick in April's draft, also rushed for 66 yards, a single-game high for a Chargers QB. He also joined Cincinnati's Joe Burrow as the only rookie quarterbacks in NFL history with 300 yards, at least three passing TDs, and one rushing in a game. Burrow did that earlier Sunday in the Bengals' 37-34 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
The Chargers (2-4) squandered a double-digit lead for the fourth time in five games, but this time were able to rally. The Jaguars were ahead 29-22 late in the third quarter when Los Angeles regained control by scoring the final 17 points.
Herbert connected with Jalen Guyton for a 70-yard touchdown up the right sideline to tie it. Four plays after Tevaughn Campbell forced Dede Westbrook's fumble the ensuing kickoff -- Troymaine Pope recovered at the Jaguars 19 -- Herbert scrambled around right end from 5 yards to put the Chargers in front 36-29. Michael Badgley would tack on a field goal to extend the margin by more than one score.
"He was a major contributor He delivered the ball and created with his feet. He extended drives and showed versatility," head coach Anthony Lynn of Herbert. "We needed that win in a bad way as a team. I'm glad we got it done, but man, we have a lot of work to do."
Los Angeles once again got off to a fast start. After Badgley's 35-yard field goal on the opening drive, rookie Joe Reed scored his first NFL touchdown on a 7-yard jet sweep around right end. It was the Chargers' first rushing touchdown since Herbert in Week 2 against Kansas City. But Badgley missed the extra point for a second straight game.
Donald Parham Jr. became the first Chargers player in 42 years to get touchdowns on each of his first two NFL catches when he drew single coverage for a 22-yard pass from Herbert in the second quarter to extend the lead to 16-0.
Herbert became the first Chargers quarterback since Mark Malone in 1988 to have a 30-yard run, He went 31 yards on a read-option during the first quarter to help set up Badgley's first field goal.
"We knew for a big guy, he's really fast," Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone said. "He did a good job keeping plays going. Did a good job running at critical times and really making some big plays."
One of Herbert's runs saw him lower his shoulder to run over Jaguars cornerback Tre Herndon late in the fourth quarter. It led to cheers from his teammates, but it wasn't what Lynn wants to see.
"He put his shoulders down and he ran over someone," Lynn said, via Gilbert Manzano of the Los Angeles Daily News. "The sideline kind of erupted when he did that. That's the way he leads sometimes. But in this league, I want you to slide. ... I don't want to put Justin in a situation where he may have to run the football too many times. I don't like my quarterback getting hit."
Given Herbert's 347 passing yards and three touchdowns, Lynn's desire to see Herbert remain healthy easy to understand and the start of Herbert's career has not provided much reason to think that he'll be running the ball too often. His nine attempts were as much as the previous two weeks combined and included three kneel downs at the end of the game.
Meanwhile, Hebert became the second player in NFL history to begin his career with five-straight games of 250-plus passing yards next to Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, who did it in 10 consecutive games. On the season, Herbert has accrued 1,542 passing yards and 12 touchdowns. This makes him the first player since at least 1970 to record 1,500 yards and a passer rating over 100 through five career games.
He's also been a godsend for fantasy managers.
According to ESPN.com's Tristan Cockcroft the list of most fantasy points by a quarterback in his first five NFL starts: 130.4, Deshaun Watson; 128.4, Cam Newton; 125.8, Herbert; 125.7, Patrick Mahomes; and 112.2, Daunte Culpepper.
And the most points by a rookie quarterback in a single game (since 1950): 40.5, Josh Allen, 2018 Week 17; 39.4, Russell Wilson, 2012 Week 15; 39.3 Cam Newton, 2011 Week 13; 38.5 Herbert, 2020 Week 7; and 35.9, Marcus Mariota, 2015 Week 13.
So yes. It's been a pretty good run for Herbert. And the above-mentioned fantasy managers.
He'll try to keep that roll going Sunday, when the Chargers travel to Denver to take on the Broncos. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Herbert was the last to leave the field, but not before slapping Keenan Allen (also doing a TV interview) on the buttocks. Allen looked healthy after leaving the last game early because of back spasms, hauling in 10 passes for 125 yards.
Tight end Virgil Green will miss several weeks with a lateral ankle sprain, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports. Green played 20 of 81 snaps, exiting the victory over the Jaguars with the injury. X-rays were negative.
The Chargers could place Green on injured reserve, which would force him to miss at least three weeks before returning.
Green has appeared in six games with three starts this season. He has three receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown.
The Chargers have starter Hunter Henry and Parham at the position among tight ends who have made receptions at the position this season.
And finally. ... Several Chargers staff and players, including Herbert, are among the thousands of people evacuated from their homes amidst the Southern California wildfires, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday. Pelissero added the team is assisting those currently displaced, who are now settled into hotels.
There also is no change to preparations for this Sunday's game at the Denver Broncos, per Pelissero.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Kalen Ballage, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson, Joe Reed, K.J. Hill, Jason Moore, Keenan Allen
TEs: Hunter Henry, Stephen Anderson, Virgil Green
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
The Rams could tell Leonard Floyd was playing with an uncommon fury against his old team, and the rest of the Los Angeles defense followed his lead.
By the time the Rams were done with the Chicago Bears on Monday night, Floyd had two sacks and the game ball -- and Los Angeles had a decisive, energizing victory over a fellow NFC contender.
Josh Reynolds and Gerald Everett caught touchdown passes from Jared Goff, and the Rams won a matchup of dominant defenses, beating the Bears 24-10.
"I thought our defense was outstanding from start to finish," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "They did such a great job. Some key stops, some key turnovers. Offensively, we did enough to get that lead and then really just run out the clock on that game."
The Rams' defense, now coordinated by former Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley, sacked Foles four times and picked off two of his passes, including Jalen Ramsey's first interception of the season near midfield to clinch the victory with 3:13 to play.
Goff passed for 219 yards and Malcolm Brown rushed for a score for the Rams, but their defense did the hardest work.
The Rams led 10-3 at halftime after holding the Bears to 126 yards. Reynolds made his 4-yard TD reception in the first quarter, but the Bears stopped two additional drives just outside field goal range to keep the deficit manageable. The Rams went up 17-3 midway through the third quarter on a TD drive capped by Brown's 1-yard run.
Even Rams punter Johnny Hekker dominated the Bears, pinning them inside their 10 with all five of his punts in a superb performance by the four-time Pro Bowler.
"Johnny is the best punter in the league, and he showed it tonight," Goff said. "He really was a weapon for us."
On Wednesday, Hekker was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
The Rams take that defense to Miami on Sunday, where they'll be a challenging opponent in Tua Tagovailoa's debut start. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Cam Akers only played three offensive snaps and his lone carry was negated by a penalty.
The rookie has now watched in consecutive games while fellow running backs Darrell Henderson and Brown have handled the load for the Rams. Henderson rushed 15 times for 64 yards Monday, and Brown turned 10 carries into 57 yards and the above-mentioned score.
As CBSSports.com notes, McVay discussed incorporating Akers into the offense more after the rookie piled up 63 yards on just nine carries in Week 5, but it hasn't come to fruition.
It might not, either.
Henderson and Brown are morphing into a difficult one-two punch to contain, and Los Angeles looks like an NFC contender. ...
Tight end Tyler Higbee was officially inactive for Monday night's game after entering the contest as questionable with a hand injury. Johnny Mundt had a career-high 47 yards receiving in his absence, including a career-best 34-yard catch in the second quarter.
Kicker Kai Forbath, who was signed by the Rams last week, was also inactive.
That will change.
The Rams waived kicker Sam Sloman on Tuesday.
Sloman had to know this was coming after the Rams signed Forbath last Tuesday. Sloman was down to his last miss, and that came Monday night.
Sloman made a 22-yarder in the victory over the Bears and made all three extra points, but he had a 48-yarder blocked.
Sloman went 8-of-11 on field goal attempts and 18-of-21 on extra point tries this season.
Forbath has had stints with the Cowboys, Patriots, Jaguars, Vikings, Saints, Buccaneers and Washington over the past 10 years. He has made 86.8 percent of his field goals and 93.8 percent of his extra points in his career.
The Rams are signing kicker Austin MacGinnis to their practice squad. He was with them in camp and back now, as they want to carry two kickers, like many teams are doing right now.
QBs: John Wolford, Jared Goff
RBs: Cam Akers, Malcolm Brown, Raymond Calais, Xavier Jones, Darrell Henderson
WRs: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Van Jefferson, Nsimba Webster, Trishton Jackson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt, Brycen Hopkins
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
Tua Tagovailoa is now the Dolphins' starting quarterback, 11 months after suffering a hip injury so bad there were fears it could jeopardize his career.
Tagovailoa said on Wednesday after being named the starter that it's been a long, difficult experience getting himself healthy enough to play, and he's not taking anything for granted.
"It's definitely been a journey," Tagovailoa said, via the Miami Herald. "I definitely think of that injury, when I got hurt, and the process leading up to being able to walk, being able to do football drills, do things in general. I definitely do reflect on that process that I went through. I'm definitely blessed to still be here and be able to play the game I grew up dreaming I'd play."
Tua has thrown only two NFL passes, but he's the Dolphins' most heavily hyped draft pick since Dan became the Man. Hopes are high the former Alabama star will be the best of the 22 quarterbacks to start for Miami since Dam Marino retired following the 1999 season.
According to the Associated Press, there are more differences than similarities regarding the situation, however, and not just because Tagovailoa is left-handed.
In 1983, Marino joined a team that had reached the Super Bowl the previous season. Tagovailoa is taking the reins with Miami in Year 2 of a rebuilding project under head coach Brian Flores.
The Dolphins are 3-3, second in the AFC East and basking in consecutive wins over the 49ers and Jets by a combined score of 67-17. But they've used three rookie draft picks in the offensive line, which raises questions about how well they can protect Tagovailoa's surgically repaired right hip as he returns from the injury that prematurely ended his college career nearly a year ago.
Marino worked behind a veteran line anchored by future Pro Football Hall of Famer Dwight Stephenson. Unlike Tagovailoa, Marino played in preseason games as a rookie, and threw three touchdown passes subbing for David Woodley in the regular season before coach Don Shula made him the No. 1 QB.
These days Marino is a Dolphins special adviser who prefers to stay in the background.
This week, Tagovailoa will get to meet Aaron Donald, the Rams' two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Later come matchups against the other first-round picks starting at quarterback this year, Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers (Nov. 15 ) and Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals (Dec. 6).
Thanks to Tagovailoa, the Dolphins will go into those games with star power they've lacked for most of the past two decades.
"My goals are to do whatever I can do to help this team become successful," Tagovailoa says.
That's another way of saying the whole season is riding on his shoulders.
So who will benefit most from the promotion of Tagovailoa?
ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe believes the biggest beneficiary might be receiver Isaiah Ford, who had a strong connection with Tagovailoa in camp and always seems to be in the right spot as a route runner, which should work well with a timing-based passer.
Wolfe added that DeVante Parker may also get an uptick because he's the best route runner among the Dolphins' top three outside receivers, and his size should make him a favorite target for Tagovailoa.
For what it's worth, tight end Mike Gesicki said on Monday that "everyone is excited" about Tagovailoa's debut and that "we all have confidence in Tua to go out and make plays." Wide receiver Preston Williams said the rookie has "everything you want in a quarterback" and defensive end Shaq Lawson shared a perspective from the other side of the ball.
"I've seen a lot of him in practice, how athletic he is, how incredible of a player he is," Lawson said, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. "You get to see it Sunday this week. It's going to be incredible. He's going to lead his team in the right way."
He's going to make that first effort against a Rams defense coming off a Monday night win in which they shut down the Bears offense led by veteran Nick Foles, who was sacked four times on the night.
One last note here. ... The Dolphins are signing tight end Adam Shaheen to a two-year contract extension with a max value of $7.85 that includes $3.2 million fully guaranteed, a source tells ESPN's Adam Schefter. His deal was scheduled to expire after this season.
Primarily a blocking tight end, Shaheen has played 32 percent of the Dolphins’ offensive snaps this season.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Matt Breida, DeAndre Washington, Patrick Laird
WRs: DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant, Lynn Bowden Jr., Malcolm Perry, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins, Preston Williams
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Adam Shaheen, Durham Smythe, Michael Roberts
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
Minnesota (1-5) returned all the key pieces to its offense this season, aside from rookie Justin Jefferson replacing the traded Stefon Diggs. The Vikings believed they could rebuild a defense missing five starters from last season on the fly, in part because of head coach Mike Zimmer.
As Associated Press sports writer Brian Hall put it, "Reality has set in.?
"When it's time to win the game or time to win the series, we're not very good," Zimmer said of his defense. "And then offensively, it's maintaining the football and controlling drives. I think we're minus-7 in turnovers. All those things lead to bad football."
Heading into the bye week, Zimmer said he would look at possible changes. At least for this season, there might not be many places for Minnesota to turn.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins signed a two-year, $66 million extension in March and holds a hefty cap $41 million cap hit next year that will give the Vikings pause. The options behind Cousins are veteran backup Sean Mannion, 2019 undrafted Jake Browning and Nate Stanley, a seventh-round rookie out of Iowa.
Many of the other 2020 draft picks are already playing after second-round offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland made his first career start on Sunday at right guard. Jefferson is an every-down player, as are cornerbacks Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler, first- and third-round picks, respectively.
"Some of these young guys need a lot of work but some of them are playing every play," Zimmer said when weighing how to handle the bye week of rest and instruction. "I'm kind of going through that a little bit now."
Cousins is struggling, but the team's pass catchers are thriving when given a chance to make plays.
Jefferson has been a quality replacement for Diggs with 28 catches for a team-high 537 yards. Adam Thielen has 32 receptions for 415 yards and seven touchdowns. Pro Football Focus rates Jefferson as the top wide receiver in the league, with Thielen fourth overall.
Tight ends Irv Smith Jr. and Kyle Rudolph have also become more involved, combining for seven catches and 102 yards on Sunday. Smith was targeted five times in each of the Vikings' past two games and caught four passes each outing.
Jefferson had five total catches through the first two weeks of the season but has broken out recently. He had nine catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's loss and has gone over 100 yards receiving in three of the past four games.
He joined Billy Howton of the Green Bay Packers in 1952 as the only players in NFL history with at least 500 receiving yards in their first five career games.
"The most impressive thing to me is the way he goes and gets the football," Zimmer said of Jefferson. "He's got extremely strong hands and catches the ball in traffic as well as anybody I've seen."
But it's hard to overlook Cousins' issues.
He threw an interception on the first play of the Week 6 loss to the Falcons and three in the first half. A year after throwing six interceptions in 15 games, Cousin went into the bye with a league-leading 10 picks this season.
The quarterback himself noted after his latest three-INT game that he "won't finish the season" if he keeps playing poorly.
General manager Rick Spielman, however, remains firmly in Cousins' corner.
"You just kind of have to go back and look at the big picture," Spielman said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "But I don't think anyone has lost any faith in Kirk Cousins. I expect him to come back after the bye week and play well for us."
Financially, the Vikings are tied to Cousins, who signed an extension this offseason that guarantees his $21 million base salary in 2021, and his 2022 salary becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year in 2021. Per Over The Cap, the Vikings would be on the hook for $41 million in dead money if they cut Cousins next year.
Spielman has little choice but to believe Cousins will come out of his funk. If not, it could be someone else's issue to deal with down the road.
Might be tough traveling to Green Bay to take on the Packers this week.
Having Dalvin Cook back in the mix would help. And offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak had some telling words of Cook's status during his weekly radio interview with KFAN on Monday.
Kubiak offered optimism that Cook is ready to re-join team practice, saying "it'll be good to get Dalvin back on the practice field today and get back to work," Vikings Territory's Sean Borman reported.
Zimmer confirmed that at his Wednesday press conference.
Zimmer added that his expectation is that Cook will be able to play against the Packers this weekend, although his history of downplaying the significance of injuries suggests it is best to wait for an idea of how Cook is feeling after ramping up his workload.
But it all aligns with NFL Network's Tom Pelissero's report from last week indicating there's a "99.999 percent" chance that Cook will play on Sunday.
"I am told this is not a major injury. ... They just want to get Cook healthy," Pelissero said before the Vikings-Falcons game. "One source told me it's a 99.999 percent chance that Cook will be ready to face the Packers."
Cook was the league's leading rusher through five weeks despite missing the second half of the Seahawks game on Sunday Night Football. It was on the first play from scrimmage in the second half when Cook caught a screen pass and immediately seemed hampered by the groin strain. He went back to the locker room and returned for one play before the Vikings decided to hold him out.
He currently is the league's fifth-leading rusher with 489 yards in 5.5 games played and is tied for first with seven rushing touchdowns this season. He's scored at least once in every game he's played.
If the Vikings are going to compete on Sunday against the Packers, they will need to establish the run, which they failed to do early in Week 1 when Cook had six carries for 18 yards in the first half.
I'll have more on Cook's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, when the traded with Jacksonville for Yannick Ngakoue at the end of August, they thought they'd eventually be able to pair the defensive end with Danielle Hunter and have the most dangerous pass rush in the NFL. Spielman insists trading Ngakoue to Baltimore last week wasn't the start of a rebuild.
"No, our goal every week is to go out there and win football games," Spielman said. "You have to balance out both. I still think we have a very talented team, we have a lot of talent on this roster. The Ngakoue trade gave us an opportunity to look long term and to add more draft picks as we continue to build this roster. But also from the short-term standpoint, I'm excited to see where this team continues to grow and to see these young guys we're playing, especially on the defensive side, continue to get better.
"I know we have some explosive playmakers on the offensive side."
The Vikings aren't at rock bottom, but they need to shift their focus toward 2021. Soon enough their actions could reflect the notion of the word they refuse to utter.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah, Dalvin Cook, Jake Bargas
WRs: Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Olabisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, K.J. Osborn, Davion Davis, Dan Chisena
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin, Kyle Rudolph
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss notes, in recent weeks, the New England Patriots are learning a hard lesson about life without Tom Brady, one of the greatest ball-security quarterbacks in the history of the game.
Cam Newton continued a troubling trend in Sunday's 33-6 stunningly uncompetitive home loss to the San Francisco 49ers, as he was sloppy with the ball (three interceptions) and looked uncomfortable throughout. The Patriots replaced him with Jarrett Stidham with 13:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, after Newton went 9-of-15 for 98 yards.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said afterward that Newton "absolutely" remains the starter going forward, and he chose to insert Stidham to get him some experience.
"I think he's our best player there, so again there are other problems offensively," Belichick said of Newton. "There are things we need to do better and that is what we're going to work on. I think we have our best players out there. We just have to find a way to be more productive. We have been at times, but we certainly weren't yesterday, and we need to see if we can improve that."
Newton was frank following the loss, which has the Patriots mired in their longest losing streak since 2002, explaining the situation bluntly on Monday: "It's simple, I have to play better."
What was anticipated to be an entertaining game was instead a dominant win for San Francisco, which regained its ground attack and forced four turnovers. Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged the outcome was decided in the second half when he removed Newton, replacing him with second-year developmental project Jarrett Stidham, a move that did not surprise Newton, and one he did not resist.
"No. I am a realist," Newton said Monday. "But yet through it all, I am coachable. ... [Bill] came and said, 'Stidham is finishing.' I agreed and that's what it was. For any type of competitor, do you feel embarrassed? Yeah."
Before Newton faced the reporters or the talk show hosts at WEEI on Monday morning, he had to first reflect upon his performance. For the former NFL MVP, that reflection came from his vehicle's rearview mirror.
"The first thing I said to myself coming home was, 'You keep playing games like that, bro, and it's going to be a permanent change,'" Newton said.
"You don't need to tell me that for me to understand that. I get it loud and clear."
Pride is part of it.
"For any type of competitor, do you feel embarrassed? Yeah," Newton said. "I don't feel offended by what was done. I don't feel offended having this type of conversation. I'm a realist.
"I don't fear my position stability more so than controlling the locker room. Performances like yesterday jeopardizes [that]. It's like, 'Oh my God!' Players talk, and that's what's most important to me. Knowing."
As Reiss noted, Newton hasn't received the best protection in recent weeks, but he welcomed reinforcements along the offensive line for Sunday's game and still struggled. His timing with Julian Edelman was off on at least one play, when Newton threw a pass behind Edelman, deflecting off the receiver's hand before it was intercepted.
Newton acknowledged a "funk" within the Patriots right now, saying he thinks he will "have to let off some chakras or some sage."
The good news: Half of the season remains, which is plenty of time for a Belichick-led team to turn it around. That includes Belichick getting his team's defense in order, which wasn't helped by the turnovers, but also surrendered 467 yards (including 197 on the ground) Sunday.
Newton needs to be better, too.
"For me, I know I am better than what I am putting on film," he said. "That is simple. ... I know there's light at the end of the tunnel. You can't get to three or four wins without getting one win."
Of course, by the time Stidham entered the game, it was well out of reach -- the 49ers led 23-3 at the half and 33-6 when Newton was pulled -- as this marked the worst home loss in Belichick's 21-year tenure as coach. Entering Sunday, the Patriots had lost by 20 or more points at home only three times under Belichick, with two of those losses coming in 2008, when Brady was out for the season because of a torn ACL.
In their 2-4 start, the Patriots have thrown three touchdown passes (fewest in the NFL) and 11 interceptions (most in the NFL). Brady, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has thrown 17 touchdown passes and four interceptions this season.
With the Bills (5-2) and Dolphins (3-3) atop the AFC East, the Patriots continue to find themselves in an unfamiliar spot. The last time they were more than two games back in the division was in 2000, Belichick's first year as coach. The Pats finished six games back that year and were 3.5 games back at the end of Week 7.
Some of the notable lowlights from Sunday as outlined by Reiss:
In fairness to Newton and Patriots' other quarterbacks, it isn't as if they have top-of-the-line personnel to throw to, with Patriots receivers ranking last in the NFL in terms of creating separation entering the game, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The Patriots also rank at the bottom of the league in pass-catching production from tight ends.
New England needs to find some playmakers for Newton to work with, be it within its own roster or elsewhere. That could mean the Patriots trying to engineer a trade for a receiver or tight end prior to the Nov. 3 deadline. It would be even better if they could get them into the fold before Sunday's game against the Bills in Buffalo. ...
With an 11-yard pass to Jakobi Meyers in the third quarter, Newton became the 48th NFL quarterback to reach the 30,000-yard plateau. He also became the first NFL player to pass for 30,000 yards and rush for 5,000 yards in his career.
Despite a few more injuries on Sunday, the Patriots continue to have the least-penalized offensive line in the NFL. It had just one offensive penalty, bringing its total to just three on the season. It's one less thing the offense as a whole has to worry about correcting.
On the injury front. ... N'Keal Harry was absent from practice Wednesday as he recovers from the concussion that knocked him out of Sunday's loss.
This was Harry's first documented concussion at the NFL level, but the 22-year-old has a history of head injuries that caused him to quit football for several years before high school.
Harry has 19 catches on 32 targets for 172 yards and one touchdown in six games this season. He's played 71.2 percent of offensive snaps, second-most among New England wideouts behind Damiere Byrd.
Meyers took over Harry's snap load after his injury. If Harry cannot play against the Bills, the Patriots could choose to elevate Isaiah Zuber, Kristian Wilkerson or Mason Kinsey from the practice squad.
And finally. ... Running back Sony Michel remains out. He is eligible to return from IR, but he has yet to be removed from COVID reserve.
QBs: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Damien Harris, James White, Sony Michel, J.J. Taylor, Rex Burkhead
WRs: Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, N'Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Julian Edelman, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Devin Asiasi, Jordan Thomas, Dalton Keene, Ryan Izzo
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett suggested, "Maybe the New Orleans Saints should start putting all of their game plans together at 3 a.m. on Friday mornings."
Triplett went on to note that somehow the Saints (4-2) managed their most impressive offensive performance of the year in a 27-24 win over the Panthers on Sunday, even though they had to keep adjusting on the fly when receiver Michael Thomas suffered a hamstring injury early in the week and receiver Emmanuel Sanders tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon.
Since the Saints had already installed so much of their offense with Sanders as part of the plan, head coach Sean Payton said coaches were up until 3 a.m. Friday making adjustments. The result: Great performances by Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and undrafted rookie receiver Marquez Callaway, among others, as New Orleans converted a staggering 12 of 14 third-down attempts and never punted once.
"Listen, obviously the first seven weeks here have been challenging. In various ways," Brees said with a laugh after completing passes to eight different pass catchers with 287 yards, two passing touchdowns and a TD run. "We've had injuries at times. We've been without Michael Thomas here for five games, Emmanuel being out for this game, young guys having to step up and really take on a big role.
"I can't say enough about guys like Marquez Callaway, Tre'Quan Smith. ... It's just been one of those deals where each week it's finding a different way to win. Each week it's finding different guys that are able to step up."
The Saints also lost standout left tackle Terron Armstead to an arm injury in the first half. And his backup, veteran James Hurst, promptly allowed a sack/fumble for the game's only turnover. But that was the only drive in which the Saints didn't score, prior to their final possession, when they ran out the clock.
"Look, one thing we know is the games are gonna be played," Payton said of the adversity the Saints have faced this year (they also came back from a 14-0 deficit at Detroit in Week 2 with six starters out of the lineup, and a 20-3 deficit against the Chargers in Week 5). "There's a couple other teams dealing with some pretty extreme adversity. And honestly, no one else outside your building really cares. So I'm proud of how our guys focused and found a way to get the win."
Callaway was the Saints' newest find -- an undrafted rookie from Tennessee who did his best impression of the Saints' most famous former hidden gem, receiver Marques Colston. The 6-foot-2, 204-pounder, who even wears the same No. 12 as Colston, caught eight passes for a team-high 75 yards. He also had a potential TD pass nullified by an offensive pass interference call on a pick play.
"Obviously everybody knows who [Colston] is, and coaches and players told me as soon as I got here when they found out I was wearing No. 12. But ain't no backing down. I'm ready to step up to the challenge and have fun doing it," said Callaway, who had just five catches for 50 yards before Sunday.
Brees also completed a critical 4-yard TD pass to undrafted receiver Deonte Harris just before halftime. Harris, who broke out as a rookie kick returner last year, had never caught a TD pass before he became the 71st player to catch one from Brees on Sunday.
But Kamara remained the Saints' ultimate go-to guy with his fifth consecutive game of 100-plus yards from scrimmage -- the longest current streak in the NFL.
Kamara had 14 carries for 83 yards and eight catches for 65 yards, including a spectacular effort to stay in bounds while converting a third-and-14 play.
"It's always pretty amazing," Brees said of Kamara's body control. "There's not many guys, if any, that can do some of the things that he does."
With 460 receiving yards, Kamara is now the fourth running back since 1950 with at least 450 receiving yards through his team's first six games, joining Marshall Faulk (2000), Paul Hofer (1980) and Timmy Brown (1965) according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Kamara also joined Christian McCaffrey and Roger Craig as the only three players with at least 2,500 rushing and 2,500 receiving yards through their first four seasons.
Last but not least was Brees, who has improved with each passing week after some early-season scrutiny over whether he was facing a steep decline at age 41. Brees' most impressive drive of the night was a TD march that lasted just 1:35 right before halftime.
"Two minute, I'd put us against any defense," Kamara said. "We're locked in on two-minute."
But Brees also led the Saints to a go-ahead field goal midway through the fourth quarter for his 52nd career game-winning drive. According to ESPN Stats and Info, only Peyton Manning has more in the Super Bowl era (54).
But Brees was at his best in his final drive of the first half. Excluding a spike to stop the clock with 5 seconds left, he was 6-for-6 for 71 yards during a 75-yard drive in 1:35 that ended with Harris' TD that made it 21-17.
"In the grand scheme of things, that was a huge drive," Brees said, noting that both teams had relatively few possessions because each produced several time-consuming scoring drives. "To be able to get seven points as opposed to three, obviously in kind of dramatic fashion there with those last couple plays that ends up being a huge turning point in the game."
Next up, the Saints visit Chicago next Sunday.
The big question this week will once again center on Thomas. Sanders is of interest as well.
Thomas underwent an MRI after he was hurt in practice; it revealed a Grade 1 strain that is expected to sideline him one to two weeks, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter, meaning there's a real chance he will not be able to play against the Bears either, according to Schefter's sources.
Thomas is likely to be considered questionable at best this week, as he tries to recover from his hamstring injury as well as the high ankle sprain that he suffered in Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I'll be watching for more on Thomas and Sanders, neither of whom were seen on the practice field early Wednesday (Callaway also wasn't seen) in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for all latest.
QBs: Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Ty Montgomery, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Deonte Harris, Marquez Callaway, Juwan Johnson, Tre'quan Smith
TEs: Jared Cook, Adam Trautman, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
The Giants had a chance to be a contender in the mediocre NFC East and squandered it in Philadelphia.
Instead of a two-game winning streak and being a half-game behind Dallas in the NFL's worst division, the Giants (1-6) have been reduced to a young team struggling to learn how to win under new coach Joe Judge.
The record makes them a potential seller when the NFL trading deadline rolls around on Election Day. They have some talented players about to enter free agency, such as defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, who might get sent to a contender looking for help.
The reality is the Giants aren't going anywhere this season. They have one win and a 1-2 record in the division where Washington (1-5) is the only team they can beat. They are a step below the Cowboys (2-5) and Eagles (2-4-1), but seemingly getting closer.
So getting a couple of extra draft picks for a player who might walk makes sense.
Judge said he has not had too many conversations about potential trades. He plans to use the extra time between games to refresh his team and go over some mistakes. His goals have not changed.
"We're going out there to be competitive and win every game every week," he said. "We're not racing for some kind of a draft pick, that's not our priority right now. We're trying to go out there, we're trying to win, that's our goal as an organization."
It's a goal that has been hard to attain in 2020.
The Giants will have to stew on this one until Nov. 2 when Tom Brady and Tampa Bay visit MetLife Stadium for a Monday night game. If there is a positive, New York has always played well against the four-time Super Bowl MVP. ...
Meanwhile, for all his mistakes and turnovers, quarterback Daniel Jones is a rising star. Sure, social media is trending his 80-yard run, the one that ended when he tripped over his own feet with the end zone 10 yards away and no one near him. It's getting a lot of laughs. It's not the story, though.
The sixth pick in the 2019 draft has become a multi-dimensional threat with his arm and legs. He makes the offense go. New York probably would have won Thursday had not tight end Evan Engram dropped a perfect third-down pass near the two-minute warning. It would have given the Giants a first down and a chance to run out the clock.
Running back Wayne Gallman replaced an injured Devonta Freeman in the second half against the Eagles and ran like he had something to prove. He gained 34 yards on 10 carries and scored a 1-yard touchdown to cap the drive that featured Jones' long run. He also had five receptions for 20 yards.
If Sterling Shepard is healthy, ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan views him as the de facto No. 1 receiver in terms of volume, especially if Darius Slayton continues to be bothered by a foot injury. Golden Tate has become an afterthought in this offense, and Shepard saw eight targets on 24 routes run in his first game back after missing four weeks with turf toe.
Shepard's playing time -- and fantasy potential -- will only grow when he gets to 100 percent.
Several NFL teams have reached out to the New York Giants about the possibility of acquiring Engram, according to Raanan.
Raanan adds that the Giants "view Engram as part of their future" despite the team's struggles to get Engram involved in the offense this season.
The No.23-overall pick in the 2017 draft, Engram has never lived up to his draft pedigree due to a combination of injury issues, the team's across-the-board ineffectiveness, and his own mistakes including a batted ball that led to a brutal interception in Thursday night's loss to the Eagles and a dropped pass on 3rd-and-7 in the last two minutes of that game that should have led to the Giants retaining possession and likely winning the game.
He has always been a dynamic playmaker when healthy, however, until this season.
Held below 50 receiving yards in six out of seven games this year, Engram's value is at an all-time low and he would likely not fetch more than a third or fourth-round draft pick. It seems unlikely that the Giants will part with him at that price. ...
A week after being benched for being late for a team meeting the night before the Washington game, left tackle Andrew Thomas struggled in pass protection. Don't be surprised if the fourth draft pick overall gets benched against the Bucs or he shares playing time with fellow rookie Matt Peart.
As noted above, Freeman left with an ankle injury. Kicker Graham Gano tweaked something in his right leg on a fourth-quarter kickoff. Judge had no update on their conditions, but Dan Duggan of The Athletic reports that Freeman and receiver C.J. Board, who missed last Thursday's game with a concussion, worked on the side with trainers at Tuesday's practice. CB Darnay Holmes (neck) and S Adrian Colbert (shoulder) wore red non-contact jerseys.
And one last note here. ... The Giants say they are aware of a video that shows Jones and injured running back Saquon Barkley maskless and not practicing social distancing while at a bar.
"We are looking into the nature and context of what is on the video," the team said in a statement.
The video was posted on Instagram but has since been taken down.
Sources told Raanan that team discipline is unlikely. The NFL, however, could choose to discipline them.
The two Giants had dinner with some teammates, including Shepard, and friends in a private room at a restaurant in New York on Friday night, a source said. Afterward, they were invited to have a drink at a bar that is closed to the public. A video of Jones sharing a drink with a woman was taken at the Manhattan bar, a source told Raanan.
Judge addressed their actions Tuesday, telling reporters any resulting discipline will be kept in house.
"We're gonna deal with things internally," Judge said, via the New York Daily News' Pat Leonard. "I believe they were trying to do the right thing with getting together and having dinner the other night."
As NFL.com suggests, it's likely that any discipline would not involve suspensions, but would instead hit players in their pocketbooks. With Judge making his Tuesday statement about handling such action internally, it's possible the public won't learn of disciplinary measures.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy
RBs: Wayne Gallman, Alfred Morris, Dion Lewis
WRs: Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Austin Mack, Cody Core, C.J. Board, Dante Pettis
TEs: Evan Engram, Levine Toilolo, Kaden Smith
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini characterized it, "In perhaps a last-ditch effort to save his job, head coach Adam Gase relinquished the offensive play calling Sunday -- but the result was yet another dreary performance in an 18-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills."
With offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains calling plays, the Jets took a 10-0 lead, but the second half was a rerun of their first six games. They had as many total yards (4) as sacks allowed over the final 30 minutes to remain the NFL's only winless team at 0-7.
"I've been thinking about it for a while, just trying to figure out what's going on, how come we're not consistent and productive," said Gase, who had called the plays in his previous 70 games as a head coach.
"I just felt like it was the time to do it and see how the guys would respond and what our offensive staff would put together. It looked like things were going well in the first half."
According to Cimini, this was a significant move by Gase, who has been under fire for an offense that has ranked at the bottom of the league in most categories. Gase has been a playcallers since 2013, when he became the Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator. It was an odd sight-seeing Gase on the sideline without his menu-size play sheet.
Gase came close to making the move a couple of weeks ago, but he said he decided to retain the duties after consulting with his staff. Under mounting pressure, he finally opted for Loggains after last week's shutout loss to the Dolphins. Gase said he's not sure if it will be a permanent change.
"My big thing was, it allowed me to take a step back and just really just focus on every phase of our organization," said Gase, claiming it was his decision and not a suggestion from management.
Cimini went on to point out the obvious: "Gase's job security is eroding by the week."
His record dropped to 7-16. Since the start of last season, the Jets have scored a league-low 361 points.
Loggains, a longtime Gase ally, hadn't called plays since 2016, when he served as the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator. With Sam Darnold back in the lineup after missing two games with a shoulder injury, Loggains tried to utilize his quarterback's mobility by calling plays to get him outside the pocket.
It worked -- briefly.
The Jets took a 10-0 lead on rookie LaMical Perine's 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. After that, they managed only 25 total yards on 23 plays.
Afterward, Darnold was visibly frustrated.
"They made some good adjustments," Darnold said of the Bills, who brought more pressure in the second half. "I just think we have to adjust to their adjustments. We have to beat man coverage and protect. I have to throw accurate football. That's it."
Moments later, Darnold added, "We have to adjust to their adjustments better."
Darnold, claiming there were no residual effects from his injury, passed for only 120 yards and threw a costly interception late in the first half. He was under pressure throughout the game, as the Jets struggled against blitzes. He completed only 12 of 23 passes.
He said he was "comfortable" with Loggains, adding, "With Dowell calling plays, it was just going out and executing it. It's the same for us as players. It's getting a play call and executing. That's it."
Darnold has struggled in five starts, having thrown only three touchdown passes -- the worst stretch of his young career.
"At the beginning of the game, he was getting the ball out, he was seeing things well," Gase said. "He was in a great rhythm. In the second half, it just seemed like we didn't have a lot of plays."
Darnold completed only 1 of 8 pass attempts in the second half.
As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. noted, the leaky offensive line remains an issue. Darnold was sacked six times and faced constant pressure against the Bills.
That helped result in the Jets gaining just 4 total yards in the entire second half.
GM Joe Douglas tried to improve the line in the offseason with four new starters from the end of last year, but the unit has performed just as poorly at times. Guard Greg Van Roten said Darnold isn't getting "a chance to show what he can do" because he's being given no time up front.
"We need to be ruthless with our attention to detail and how we apply technique," Van Roten said. "If you watch the film, individually, guys are playing pretty well. It's just collectively, we're not."
Despite the line's issues, the third-year quarterback continues to make crucial mistakes. His interception late in the first half -- "a terrible mistake," he called it -- flipped the momentum, leading to a Bills field goal that cut the Jets' lead at halftime to 10-6.
While Darnold has shouldered the blame, Gase refuses to dump it all on the quarterback.
"What I see in practice, I see things that are better than last year," the coach said. "We've just got to figure out ways to protect him, let him get in a rhythm."
Whatever the case, whether it's game planning or better play, the Jets are going to have to come up with some answers before facing the high-scoring Chiefs or it could get ugly before the end of the first quarter. ...
Looking for positives?
Denzel Mims, the second-round pick out of Baylor had four catches for 42 yards in his NFL debut, showing glimpses of being a potential playmaker. Mims missed the first six games after injuring both hamstrings in training camp.
According to New York Post staffer Brian Costello, Perine played 70 percent of the team's offensive snaps against the Bills. Frank Gore, meanwhile, played 28 percent of the team's snaps.
As Rotowold.com notes, this comes a week after Gase said the Jets needed to get Perine more carries. Perine had 11 carries for 39 yards and a touchdown, and caught 2-of-3 targets for 16 yards against Buffalo.
Also. ... The Jets were the first team this season to not allow the Bills to score a touchdown, an impressive accomplishment considering how prolific Josh Allen and Buffalo had been.
The Bills were also 0 for 5 in the red zone, with the Jets' defense tightening up. The problem, though, was still too many chunk plays that helped put Buffalo in position to get six field goals -- the difference in the game.
"Keeping them out of the end zone was definitely a plus," safety Marcus Maye said, "but we've just got to figure out how to win the field position battle."
On the injury front. ... Breshad Perriman is in concussion protocol. ... WR Jamison Crowder and K Sam Ficken were being evaluated for groin injuries that kept them out against Buffalo.
I'll have more on all three players via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Sam Darnold, Joe Flacco, James Morgan
RBs: Ty Johnson, Josh Adams, Lamical Perine, Frank Gore
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith, Braxton Berrios, Vyncint Smith, Chris Hogan
TEs: Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
The Philadelphia Eagles needed a desperate rally to beat the New York Giants.
They'll take any win they can get this season.
The Eagles (2-4-1) moved ahead of Dallas (2-6) in the NFC East and now have extra time to prepare for the Cowboys next week following a 22-21 comeback win over the Giants (1-6) on Thursday night.
Carson Wentz threw a pair of touchdown passes in the final five minutes to lead depleted Philadelphia, which again finished the game with two healthy starters on offense.
"Sitting on top of the NFC East is obviously a good thing," head coach Doug Pederson said Friday. "The fact that we were two scores down, came back and won this football game, that's a huge positive. With the amount of injuries that have piled up on offense, it just shows the resiliency of the entire football team."
Wentz and three-time All-Pro center Jason Kelce are the remaining starters from the projected lineup. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson returned after missing three games and suffered an ankle injury that will force him to miss significant time. Right tackle Lane Johnson came back from an ankle problem only to injure his knee. He's day to day.
The Eagles have started 21 different players on offense, including 10 on the offensive line and seven guys who made their first career start. Establishing continuity has clearly been a problem.
"It can be a challenge at times," Pederson said. "The thing is, with this many new players, new starters or guys in the lineup, you don't get much time on task. You don't get many reps during the week with these guys. So some continuity and timing in the passing game, particularly, can lack just a little bit. ...
"But we do our best to put guys in position and utilize their strengths so they don't have to learn two different positions, for instance. They can just learn one spot for that week. Guys are doing a great job. They're making plays. We saw it again (Thursday) late in the game with some of these guys that are making plays for us and helping us win that game."
Backup running back Boston Scott, who is only 5-7, made an excellent catch in the corner on a perfect strike from Wentz for an 18-yard TD that gave Philadelphia the lead with 40 seconds left.
"He wasn't the primary read on that play," Wentz said. "I stepped up in the pocket, and (Giants safety Jabrill Peppers) had pretty good coverage. But gave Boston a chance there to make a play and he did. He plays bigger than whatever he is. He made a great play. I was pretty surprised when we pulled it off. When I threw it I thought it was a little high, but like I said, he plays bigger than he is."
As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi noted, Wentz has been outstanding in the fourth quarter the past two games, leading the team to five touchdowns. He guided the Eagles to 22 points in the fourth quarter only to fall a 2-point conversion short of tying Baltimore in a 30-28 loss last Sunday. Wentz has a passer rating of 118.2 in the fourth quarter of the last two and only 68.6 in the first three quarters of those games.
"Quite honestly, it's good to see your quarterback being able to put the team on his back and lead a comeback like he did," Pederson said. "Obviously, the Baltimore game is another one where we made the comeback and put ourselves in a position to tie that football game. That part is good to see."
Wentz already has a career-high five TDs rushing and is using his legs to extend more plays and create opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Eagles need to get healthy. Too many key players are out but they still have an opportunity to win a weak division.
Jackson and Johnson are joined on the sideline by TE Zach Ertz (ankle), TE Dallas Goedert (ankle), LT Jason Peters (toe), LG Isaac Seumalo (knee), RG Brandon Brooks (Achilles), T Jack Driscoll (ankle), DT Malik Jackson (quadriceps), WR Alshon Jeffery (calf, foot), WR Jalen Reagor (thumb), RB Miles Sanders (knee), S K'Von Wallace (shoulder), DT Hassan Ridgeway (biceps).
The Eagles are bringing four players from their injured reserve list back to practice this week and they also opened a couple of spots on the active roster.
On Tuesday, the team announced that Jackson and Ridgeway have been placed on injured reserve.
Among those being activated to the 21-day practice windows is rookie receiver Jalen Reagor, who suffered a thumb injury in the Week 2 Rams game. Reagor could be coming back at a perfect time. Reagor has five catches for 96 yards, including a 55-yard reception in Week 1. Travis Fulgham emerged in Reagor's absence, so the prospects are scintillating with the two able to work along with slot receiver Greg Ward.
It remains to be see if he'll be ready when Eagles host the Cowboys on Sunday night, but it's not outside the realm of possibility.
On Wednesday they announced that Goedert has been designated for return from injured reserve as well.
Goedert fractured his ankle in the team's Week 3 tie with the Bengals. He's missed the last four games and has 13 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown on the year.
The Eagles placed Ertz on injured reserve last week and he's expected to miss at least a month with his own ankle injury, so Goedert's return would be a welcome development for the offense.
As for Sanders, who was hurt in the Week 6 loss to Baltimore before sitting out against the Giants, the original prognosis was one-or-two weeks, so he should be viewed as truly questionable ahead of a Week 8 tilt with the Cowboys.
That said, The Sporting News points out the Eagles are on bye in Week 9, so if there's any hint of doubt about Sanders' availability, the team will likely choose to sit him. Besides, the Cowboys have a poor defense anyway, so they can probably get something going on the ground with Scott.
Sanders will need to be watched throughout the week. He will be an RB1 if he is in a great matchup, but if he's out, Scott will be a potential top-15 play against Dallas.
I'll be following up on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Beyond that, rookie receiver John Hightower made a 59-yard catch on the first of the two TD drives in the fourth quarter. He's bounced back from a costly drop on a deep ball on the opening drive last week to make catches of 50 yards later in that game, and a pivotal one against the Giants.
Given the injury situation at his position and at wideout, Richard Rodgers is worth a flier for at least another week until the team gets some reinforcements at the skill positions.
After missing a 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half against Baltimore, Jake Elliott hooked a 29-yard try wide against the Giants.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, Jason Huntley, Adrian Killins
WRs: Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, John Hightower, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
To hear the NFL's last unbeaten team tell it, the Pittsburgh Steelers are perfect in record only. The team couldn't have started off any better against the Tennessee Titans.
And they couldn't have finished any worse.
Even so, a missed 45-yard field goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski with 19 seconds left preserved the Steelers' undefeated record, and Pittsburgh held on for a 27-24 win in Nashville despite a fourth-quarter collapse.
With the win, the Steelers are 6-0 for the first time since 1978.
Pittsburgh hinted at what it could be during a dominant first half in which it scored on each of its first four possessions while the defense bottled up Titans star running back Derrick Henry. The swagger vanished over the final 30 minutes amid uncharacteristically sloppy play by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Tennessee's relentlessness.
"Thankfully our guys didn't blink and was able to hold it together and make enough plays to secure a victory," head coach Mike Tomlin said afterward, giving props to the Titans (5-1) in his opening statement after the win. "Not a perfect product. We understand that. But I appreciate their efforts. We are perfect from a record standpoint, and so we respect that."
After throwing just one interception in the first five games, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (32-of-49, 268 yards, 2 TDs) was picked off three times Sunday, including on an attempt to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was defended by a linebacker, with less than three minutes to play. The Steelers were up by just three at the time and in the midst of a 16-play drive that kept Henry off the field. It was the same recipe that worked in the first half, but instead of ending a long, grinding drive with a score, Smith-Schuster bobbled the ball, and Amani Hooker came down with it to give his team a window to work its fourth-quarter magic.
"It's NFL football," Tomlin said. "We play to win. We don't live in our fears. Is it a combat play? Is it tight? Yes, we have a quarterback that's been doing that for 17 years.
"Sometimes you've just got to acknowledge that they made the play in the moment and we desire to, and that's why we're not going to live in our fears. We're going to go in those instances to secure victory."
So it was a bit of a mixed bag offensively.
Smith-Schuster offered a reminder of why he's still Roethlisberger's top target by catching nine passes for 85 yards, including several drive extenders on grabs that were hardly routine. Smith-Schuster has gone out of his way to praise the rise of rookie Chase Claypool and budding second-year star Diontae Johnson.
Yet his combination of physicality and soft hands offers a dimension no one else in the receivers' room can match.
Roethlisberger expertly picked apart the Titans and his decision-making is one of the reasons the Steelers held the ball for more than 36 minutes, effectively playing keep away against a team that came in averaging more than 32 points a game.
Still, he also threw the three picks. While the one at the end of the first half on a desperation pass was no big deal, the decision to throw to Smith-Schuster in double coverage in the end zone was curious. While a touchdown would have salted the game, the unnecessary risk nearly backfired.
But it's the fast start the team is focused on. It's the kind of start the Steelers need to replicate on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, who are rested after a bye week, in the biggest test for the Steelers to date.
The Ravens' defense, which added defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in a trade with the Vikings last week, has allowed only the Kansas City Chiefs to score on an opening drive. ...
Pittsburgh is relatively healthy going into the showdown with the Ravens.
Johnson called his late exit for what he termed an ankle bruise no big deal. Fullback Derek Watt (hamstring) and nickelback Mike Hilton (shoulder) could return against Baltimore. Hilton's presence could be critical to hemming in Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Johnson caught 9-of-15 targets for 80 yards and two touchdowns before he left the game, re-establishing himself at the top of the receiving pecking order. Johnson had his way with the Titans' secondary, getting a free release on both of his short touchdown receptions. ...
James Conner rushed 20 times for 82 yards and caught 3-of-5 targets for 29 yards, but had a touchdown called back because of an unrelated offensive penalty. He also dropped a wide-open pass at the goal line later. According to Rotowold.com, it's worth watching Benny Snell's sneaky role near the goal line.
Snell had a goal-line score and subbed in another time when the Steelers were finishing off drives.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland Jr., Jaylen Samuels, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
TEs: Vance McDonald, Zach Gentry, Eric Ebron
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
Upon his return on Sunday to Gillette Stadium for the first time since he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, it all came rushing back for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
"It was a cool week," Garoppolo told ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner. "Just a lot of emotions, a lot of memories. Especially coming back here, seeing the same stadium, hearing the same songs they used to play, a lot of memories came back. ... But it was a fun night.
"Couldn't imagine it going any better than this."
As Wagoner suggested, "Fun might be putting it mildly considering what Garoppolo and his new team were able to do against his old one."
Fueled by a dominant running game, an opportunistic passing attack and a punishing defense, Garoppolo and the Niners rolled over the Patriots 33-6 on Sunday afternoon. The victory was the most convincing against a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team in Foxboro, Massachusetts, since he took over as head coach in 2000. The 49ers improved to 4-3 with the win, their third in as many tries on the road this season.
Under Belichick, the Patriots' previous biggest home loss was a 25-point defeat at the hands of the Miami Dolphins in Week 3 of the 2008 season. They had lost only three games by 20 or more points at home in Belichick's tenure before Sunday.
"It really was never in my mind," Garoppolo said. "I obviously wanted to come here and get a win. To me it didn't matter if we won by 1 or 100. It was go and get the win. That was the mindset we had this week. Same mindset we had last week. Just got to keep that mindset the rest of the season."
On Thursday, Garoppolo acknowledged it would be an "exciting week" and that he "can't wait" as he prepared to play his former team for the first time. Apparently, that excitement permeated the team as the Niners jumped on the Patriots early and never looked back.
With running back Jeff Wilson Jr. back from a calf injury and on his way to a career day on the ground, Garoppolo took advantage by spreading the ball around and capitalizing on play-action opportunities.
Garoppolo finished 20-of-25 for 278 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions (one of which came on a Hail Mary to end the first half) for a passer rating of 79.7. He went 13-of-14 for 146 yards on play-action passes, the most play-action completions in a game of his career and the most allowed by the Patriots since 2012.
"He was locked in during the week, locked in to the game plan, leads our guys every single play, every single time we're in the huddle," tight end George Kittle said. "He just gives us that energy to go out there and dominate."
The Niners' offense racked up 467 yards on 7.4 yards per play, as the running game put together its best performance of the season behind surprise starter Wilson. Back from a calf injury that kept him on the sideline last week, Wilson rushed 17 times for 112 yards with three touchdowns before departing with a left ankle injury and having his return ruled out.
Wilson is the first player to score three rushing touchdowns against the Patriots since Houston's Ben Tate in 2013. Coach Kyle Shanahan said Wilson likely suffered a high ankle sprain that will cost him some time.
"[I] know he's hurting right now," Shanahan said. "Not sounding great right now."
Rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk also had his first career 100-yard game, finishing with six catches for 115 yards. Fellow wideout Deebo Samuel had five catches for 65 yards before leaving with a hamstring injury.
While the offense was moving at will, the 49ers' defense was suffocating the Patriots. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, San Francisco limited New England to 7:30 time of possession, its lowest in a first half under Belichick, and the Patriots' 16 offensive plays were their fewest in any half under Belichick and fewest in any half since 1997 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For the game, San Francisco's defense limited the Patriots to 241 total yards, 17 first downs and came up with four interceptions, including two for nickel cornerback Jamar Taylor.
As NFL Network's Kevin Patra noted, after a Week 5 blowout loss to Miami in which Garoppolo was benched, the 49ers have bounced back with back-to-back impressive wins over the Los Angeles Rams and on the road in New England despite dealing with a stockpile of injuries. The wins keep the Niners in the thick of the playoff hunt at 4-3, even as they're at the bottom of a tough NFC West.
With their next three games against Seattle, Green Bay and New Orleans, Jimmy G and the Niners have no time to rest on their recent laurels. ...
Other notes of interest. ... According to The Athletic's David Lombardi, Shanahan said the team planned on resting Jerick McKinnon against the Patriots due to his big early season workload.
As Rotoworld.com suggested, it looks like the Niners were protecting McKinnon from overuse after he served as a primary back on and off for the past month and a half. McKinnon saw three carries in garbage time against the Pats.
Back to the injuries. ... Shanahan told reporters on Monday that Samuel (hamstring strain) will be out this week and most likely against Green Bay also. Wilson (ankle) will go to injured reserve later this week.
Speaking late last week, Shanahan alluded to an "outside chance" that running back Tevin Coleman will be available ahead this week's game against the Seahawks.
Coleman suffered a knee injury in Week 2 and has missed four games while on Injured Reserve. The coach expected to learn more about Coleman's availability when the team returns from Foxboro
We got that update on Wednesday, when the 49ers officially opened the practice windows for Coleman, tight end Jordan Reed and CB K'Waun Williams, who are all currently on injured reserve.
All could play on Sunday against the Seahawks, if they make it through the week without issue.
I'll continue watching for more on all involved and reports back via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: C.J. Beathard, Josh Rosen, Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens
RBs: Jeff Wilson, Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman, Austin Walter, JaMycal Hasty, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Kendrick Bourne, Richie James, River Cracraft, Trent Taylor, Jordan Matthews, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel
TEs: Jordan Reed, Ross Dwelley, George Kittle, Charlie Woerner
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
Entering Sunday night, Russell Wilson hadn't thrown multiple interceptions in a regular-season game since the 2018 opener. Only three times in his nine-year career had he thrown more than two.
His uncharacteristic performance led to an uncharacteristic postgame news conference after the Seattle Seahawks' 37-34 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Wilson is rarely as down on himself as he was after the Cardinals picked him off three times, the last of which set up their game-winning field goal in the extra period.
"I thought we played a great game except for those three plays, honestly," Wilson said. "Those are my fault. There's so much that we can do, and we have so much confidence. Our confidence is not going to waver. They're a great football team, too. We knew it was going to be a battle. It always is down here and whenever we play. So nothing really changes except for the fact that we just have to tighten up some things. I have to be better, which I'm looking forward to."
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson noted, the front-runner for league MVP through the Seahawks' (5-1) first five games, Wilson had some brilliant moments Sunday while completing 33 of 50 attempts for 388 yards and three touchdowns. He also led Seattle with 84 rushing yards on six attempts.
Wilson's three touchdowns give him 22 on the season, tying Peyton Manning's record from 2013 for the most in NFL history through a team's first six games.
All three TDs were to Tyler Lockett. The second, a 47-yarder in the second quarter, was another display of Wilson's deep-ball proficiency. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, it had an air distance of 58.8 yards, and Lockett had 0.73 yards of separation when he caught it, making it the longest tight-window touchdown pass (less than 1 yard of separation) in the NFL the past two seasons.
Wilson's third touchdown pass to Lockett gave the Seahawks a 34-24 lead with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter. But they couldn't convert on a third-and-2 run by Carlos Hyde after Arizona scored a touchdown on its ensuring possession. Seattle punted on its first OT possession after nearly reaching midfield, then had a game-winning touchdown pass to DK Metcalf negated by a penalty one play before Wilson's third interception.
"We had some mistakes as a team, and just you can't have those mistakes in close matchups like this," Wilson said. "We had the lead and kinda lost it there in terms of just not staying on schedule, especially for us on offense. We had an opportunity to close out the game really kind of twice, and we just didn't do our job as a team. So it's a team effort, and it starts with me. I look at me first. I've got to be better, and I'm looking forward to being better."
Of his first interception, Wilson said he was trying to zip a pass to Chris Carson, but the defensive end affected the trajectory of his throw. Metcalf saved a touchdown by chasing down Budda Baker in what Wilson called "one of the most remarkable plays I've ever seen."
"Just the play, the effort by DK ... I really respect him for that," Wilson said.
"It was one of the best football plays I've ever seen," head coach Pete Carroll said. "It was just remarkable."
Of his final interception, Wilson said he thought he had an angle to fit a quick throw to Lockett with a blitz coming.
The second interception, Wilson said, was the result of miscommunication with Metcalf, who broke off his route in the end zone.
"We do such a good job in those scramble situations, and I thought he was spinning out to go deep, and as soon as I threw it, he stopped on a dime," Wilson said. "That's just timing, and Patrick [Peterson] made a good play. But we're confident in those. I don't think you can be frustrated about those because we've made so many of those great plays in moments like that. That was just an unfortunate play, and that was on me."
Lockett tied Steve Largent's franchise record with 15 catches and became the only receiver in franchise history other than Largent with 200 receiving yards in a game. He finished with 200 even.
"We can always help him out more," Lockett said of Wilson. "We can always get open more. We can always make those blocks more to move the chains more. It's not on him. It's on all of us. We put ourselves in a hole, and like I said, we could have won this game. We could have won this game at the fourth quarter if we got the third down. We wouldn't have even had to go to overtime. But these are learning experiences, and it might turn out to be one of the best things to happen to us if you really think about it. We could have been 6-0, or we could have been 5-1, and sometimes you've got to have a wake-up call."
According to Seattle Times staffer Bob Condotta, Carroll said he's "not worried" about the interceptions, noting that each had some extenuating circumstances.
Carroll said it's not something he thinks will happen often with Wilson.
"Usually when we make big mistakes in our plays it's because we are trying more than we should, and that's a little bit of what happened on that one," Carroll said.
Carroll noted that the Cardinals began blitzing more as the game wore on, saying that "later on, when the game was desperate, they got into that mode."
That coincided with Seattle losing Travis Homer, who was sidelined with a knee injury, as its third-down, two-minute back, a role in which he has emerged as maybe the team's most adept blocker against pressure.
"We needed Homer in there," Carroll said.
That role instead fell to rookie DeeJay Dallas in overtime, and Carroll said "it was hard on DeeJay." Dallas appeared to go the wrong way on one blitz that turned into a sack of Wilson.
"We missed a couple of blocks," Carroll said. "Misread a couple of things. ..."
Meanwhile, Carson is considered week-to-week after an MRI confirmed a mid-foot sprain, Carroll said Monday.
Carson suffered the injury in the first half and did not return to the game.
"There's something there that we could see," Carroll said of Carson's MRI. "It's just week-to-week, so we'll see what happens. We don't know. He was real determined to say, 'I can go with it,' but we won't know until the end of the week, for sure."
That's just the start of the injuries the Seahawks are dealing with in a suddenly banged-up backfield.
Hyde and Dallas were their only available tailbacks by the end of Sunday night's game, after Carson and Homer went down hurt. But Carroll is unsure of Hyde's status for this week due to tightness in his hamstring. The coach said Homer has a knee bruise and not an injury, adding, "So that's something he has a chance to recover from."
The Seahawks have no other tailbacks on their active roster or practice squad. Rashaad Penny, their 2018 first-round pick, is still on the physically unable to perform list as he works his way back from a knee injury. Carroll said Penny is "getting close" to practicing, but the coach didn't give the impression Penny would begin doing so this week.
It's a potentially problematic situation for the Seahawks given how COVID-19 protocols make it difficult for teams to adjust to injuries on the fly. Players must go through several days of testing before they're allowed to enter an NFL facility. That will make it impossible for the Seahawks to sign a free agent in time to reinforce their backfield for this week's game.
The Seahawks are hoping to have All-Pro strong safety Jamal Adams back this week, but Carroll said it isn't clear whether he'll be ready to practice by Wednesday. Adams has missed the past three games with a groin injury. Seattle had its bye during that span.
I'll have more on Carson, Hyde and Homer via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
And finally. ... The Seahawks are acquiring veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap from the Cincinnati Bengals in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick and offensive lineman B.J. Finney, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Wednesday.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, David Moore, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart, Phillip Dorsett
TEs: Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Greg Olsen, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
Nearly seven months to the day after head coach Bruce Arians said "it's not gonna happen" with Antonio Brown, the Bucs agreed to a deal with the controversial, but highly talented wide receiver who last played for Arians in 2011 with the Steelers.
According to ESPN.com's Jenna Laine, it wasn't coach-speak, Arians is a straight shooter.
He called Brown "too much of a diva" and said he wasn't a fit for the Bucs' locker room, even with quarterback Tom Brady campaigning for him behind closed doors.
But that was before injuries began to mount in the Bucs' receiving corps.
Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans has been hobbled by an ankle injury since Week 4 and has barely been able to practice. Their other Pro Bowl receiver, Chris Godwin, has missed three games because of a concussion and a hamstring strain. Their speedy deep threat Scott Miller has been hampered by a hip/groin injury. And tight end O.J. Howard -- who had become a big part of the screen game -- went to injured reserve because of a ruptured Achilles.
Brady's top receiver against the Chicago Bears was rookie Tyler Johnson, whom he'd never completed a pass to prior to Week 5. And if the Bucs want to not only make the postseason but make a run at a Super Bowl with Brady, they realize that their window is tight and, they need reinforcements at a position that has been hit hard by injuries.
It's the same reason they signed A.Q. Shipley as a backup center, so that if something happened to Ryan Jensen, Brady could take snaps from an experienced center. It's the same reason they signed running backs Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy -- to ensure Brady had experienced running backs to pair with Ronald Jones and Ke'Shawn Vaughn -- who could help in the passing game.
So how will Arians handle Brown, whom he has publicly traded barbs with, had a tryout with the New Orleans Saints that included a camera crew entourage that infuriated members of the Saints' coaching staff, once cursed out former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and arrived to Oakland Raiders camp in a hot air balloon?
Laine reports the feeling inside the organization is Arians' personality is strong enough to handle him.
Arians has never had a problem giving anyone a piece of his mind -- as seen by his expletive-filled tirades in practice -- and he coached Brown with the Steelers. Brown also has ties to several members of Arians' coaching staff: offensive assistant Antwaan Randle-El was his teammate in 2010; Harold Goodwin was an offensive assistant with the Steelers for two years when Brown was there; offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich played with Brown for three seasons in Pittsburgh as the backup quarterback; outside linebackers coach Larry Foote was Brown's teammate in Pittsburgh for four seasons. Newly acquired defensive tackle Steve McLendon played with Brown in Pittsburgh for six seasons.
But the person who can make the biggest impact of all, and who can hold Brown in check, is Brady, whom Brown developed an immediate connection with while in New England. Brady invited Brown to stay at his home when he signed with the Patriots. In their one and only game together with the Patriots, Brown had four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in a 43-0 win over the Miami Dolphins.
The Patriots released Brown less than two weeks after signing him.
Brady has had success keeping troubled teammates in check when others have failed. Examples include LeGarrette Blount, Martellus Bennett, Corey Dillon, Randy Moss and Aqib Talib. But some of Brown's off-the-field incidents are serious -- two cases in which he was accused of sexual misconduct and a felony charge of battery and burglary.
This move signifies just how much influence Brady has on this organization. Brown's personality is in contrast to Evans, Godwin, Miller, Johnson, Justin Watson, Jaydon Mickens and Cyril Grayson -- players who don't complain when the ball doesn't get thrown their way and lead relatively quiet lives off the field.
For what it's worth, after Sunday's blowout win over the Raiders, Arians told reporters that Brady didn't push for the team to Brown.
"Tom had nothing to do with this," Arians said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. "This is something [G.M.] Jason [Licht] and I have been talking about for some time."
Not that long ago, in the grand scheme of things, Arians made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with Brown, at a time when it had been reported that Brady already was agitating for the veteran receiver to join the team.
Brown is now on the team, and Arians is acting like the team made that decision, apparently to avoid reinforcing the impression that Brady has a lot more influence over the roster than any quarterback ever should.
Also worth noting, Arians told Jay Glazer of FOX that his message to Brown was simple and clear: "Be a team player, or be gone."
Of course, the Buccaneers don't have sole say here.
The league reserves the right to impose further discipline against Brown based on evidence developing during the civil sexual assault lawsuit still pending against Brown. The lawsuit, filed in September 2019 by Britney Taylor, is due to go to trial in December.
"No conclusions have been reached in the ongoing investigation of that matter," an NFL spokesman told Profootballtalk.com by email on Sunday. "We are monitoring developments and we will evaluate any additional information that we receive that bears upon whether these allegations are supported by sufficient credible evidence to find a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy. If a further violation is found, he would be subject to discipline at that time."
The trial obviously will generate evidence that could be relevant to the league's consideration of the case. Brown, per a source with knowledge of the litigation, has not yet testified under oath in a pre-trial deposition. The questioning of Brown, as well as his answers (or non-answers) separately could be relevant to the league's consideration of the situation.
The Buccaneers also will be paying attention to the case, apparently.
"Let the court system do its job," Arians told reporters. "If it's found out to be true, he won't be with us."
It may not be found out to be true until after the season ends, given the ever-present possibility of a continuance.
Brown won't be eligible to play until Week 9, but it's an important rematch against the Saints, whom the Bucs have a half-game lead on in the NFC South but lost to in Week 1. ...
Meanwhile, Brady threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns against the Raiders -- he now has 559 passing TDs, surpassing Drew Brees (558) for the career TD passes mark. This wasn't an error-free performance for the Bucs.
As Laine noted, against the Raiders' single-high safety looks in the first half, he had a ton of success on crossing routes with tight end Rob Gronkowski, producing gains of 26 and 28 yards. After a QB sneak for a TD in the first quarter, Brady hit Gronkowski in the corner of the left end zone on a back-shoulder fade, just like they did last week, to make it 14-10. Then just before halftime with :25 remaining, Brady fired a missile to Scotty Miller for a 33-yard touchdown to make it 21-10.
In total, Brady completed 33 of 45 passes for 369 yards and four touchdowns with a fifth on the ground and no interceptions. He was not sacked once, and the Bucs' red zone numbers were back on track after flopping against the Bears, going 4-of-5 in that department.
For the record, Sunday's scoring strike was the 92nd time Brady and Gronk have been on both ends of a touchdown pass, both in the regular season and postseason. According to the NFL, that ties Brady and Gronk for second on the all-time list, with 49ers quarterback Steve Young and 49ers receiver Jerry Rice.
Brady and Gronk have plenty more work to do to catch the No. 1 duo. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Colts receiver Marvin Harrison were on both ends of a touchdown pass a whopping 114 times. ...
Also, as noted above, Evans hasn't been able to fully practice with an ankle injury he suffered in Week 4 and was targeted three times with just one catch. If he's that hurt -- which it appears he is -- there's no reason to play him against the 1-6 Giants this week when a rematch with New Orleans could decide the NFC South in two weeks.
In fact, he was still playing when the Bucs had a two-TD lead, which is baffling.
The news got worse on Tuesday, when we learned that Godwin suffered a broken left index finger and had surgery to repair it, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. He suffered the injury while catching a touchdown pass against the Raiders.
The Bucs hope the injury will heal quickly enough that Godwin could return for the next game against the Saints.
Godwin has already missed three games this season but is still tied with Evans for the team lead, with 25 catches. When healthy Godwin is playing well this season, catching 86.2 percent of the passes thrown to him for 9.6 yards per target.
I'll have more on Godwin and Evans -- and almost certainly on Brown's arrival and impact -- via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... When the Buccaneers signed Fournette, some presumed that would cost McCoy his job. It didn't then, but it now has.
Arians told reporters on Monday that Fournette is the team's new "nickel" running back.
On Sunday against the Raiders, Fournette participated in 40 snaps, a 56-percent rate. Fournette rushed for 50 yards on 11 carries, and he added 47 receiving yards on six catches.
McCoy, in contrast, was the only non-quarterback on either team who didn't play at all.
The next question becomes whether the Bucs keep McCoy or try to move him before the deadline. With Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake suffering an ankle injury on Sunday night, maybe Arizona will be interested in making a deal like the one they did last week for pass-rusher Markus Golden.
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scott Miller, Justin Watson, Tyler Johnson, Jaydon Mickens
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, O.J. Howard
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
The Tennessee Titans got a needed wake-up call in their first loss of the season for the issues that must be fixed on defense and special teams.
According to Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker, fixing those issues is a lot easier at 5-1 sitting atop the AFC South.
"The roof is obviously not falling through," safety Kevin Byard said. "We still played good football up until this point. But like I said, it's a game that we learn from. Obviously, we know that we're a resilient team and we can come back from a big deficit. But it's the consistency."
The Titans' defensive woes cost them early as they fell behind 24-7 by halftime. The offense struggled, too, but Ryan Tannehill threw for two touchdowns, with Derrick Henry rushing for another TD as Tennessee rallied in the second half before losing 27-24 to Pittsburgh in a showdown between the AFC's last undefeated teams.
A.J. Brown said the loss helps magnify what they didn't do well.
"When you're winning, sometimes you sweep a lot of stuff under the rug," Brown said. "A lot of stuff goes unnoticed because you're winning. I think we came out, we played better in the second half. We've just got to play better the whole game, be more consistent."
One thing the Titans can hang their collective hat on: This team simply does not quit, no matter what.
The Titans trailed 27-7 early in the third quarter and appeared headed to a blowout loss. They responded scoring 17 straight points and had another chance late to win. This team won four of its first five with late drives in regulation or overtime.
Head coach Mike Vrabel said hopefully that resilience is instilled in everyone by being a part of the Tennessee organization because things aren't always going to go well.
"You know that you don't want to be there too often," Vrabel said. "But I just told them at halftime we're going to find out who wants to continue to compete and fight and play for their teammates, and most of them did."
Entering this week, Tannehill had led the Titans to four fourth-quarter come-from-behind victories this season.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, entering this week, Tannehill was 1-28 as a starter when his teams have fallen behind by at least 14 points. The lone win came in 2014 against the Vikings.
Meanwhile, Brown is as special a talent as the Titans have had at receiver.
On Sunday, he changed the game with a 73-yard catch and go for a touchdown. Brown was targeted eight times against the Steelers, and he finished the game with six catches for 153 yards and the score. When the Titans needed big plays late, time and again Tannehill looked to Brown, who delivered.
Brown joined Kenny Britt (two) and Nate Washington (two) as the only players in the franchise's "Titans era" (since 1999) with multiple career touchdown receptions of at least 73 yards. His 153 receiving yards tied for the 10th-highest total by a player in the franchise's "Titans era" (since 1999).
If Brown is a plus, Stephen Gostkowski isn't.
The four-time Pro Bowler missed a 45-yard field goal wide right that would've forced overtime. Gostkowski now is 10 of 16 on field goals this season, which is better than last season when the Titans were an NFL-worst 8 of 18. Gostkowski has made all five attempts 50 yards or longer, but he's just 1 of 5 between 40 and 49 yards.
"I got a lot of confidence in Stephen," Vrabel said. "You know, he'd been hitting the ball well. Just unfortunately didn't make it."
Looking ahead, the Titans' home stand is over, but they hit the road only for a week. They visit Cincinnati on Sunday before returning home to host Chicago and Indianapolis. Tennessee needs to continue its strong start with five of the final seven games on the road.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Jeremy McNichols, Senorise Perry, Darrynton Evans
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Kalif Raymond, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Cody Hollister, Adam Humphries
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, Geoff Swaim, MyCole Pruitt
Washington Football TeamCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 October 2020
As ESPN.com's John Keim framed it, "It wasn't just the Dallas Cowboys that the Washington Football Team needed to see. For the team and coach Ron Rivera to prove they were headed in the right direction, they needed a solid all-around performance.
"They finally got it, even if it was a 25-3 win against a wounded Cowboys team."
Washington beat Dallas the way it should have: handily. But after five straight losses and a painful defeat a week ago, Washington does not need to do anything other than embrace its best game of the season.
And it was a strong showing -- with many examples.
Like this: Washington was at its own 48-yard line, and Trevon Diggs was arguing with Terry McLaurin at the end of a three-yard run. It's unclear exactly what Diggs said to the second-year wide receiver, but McLaurin made him pay for it seconds later.
Lined up as an outside receiver, McLaurin took off in a flat-out sprint past Diggs to get open. Quarterback Kyle Allen then delivered a high-arching pass to the former Ohio State Buckeye, who hauled in the ball and ran into the end zone to give Washington a 15-3 lead.
McLaurin flashed a grin as he jogged off the field.
It was just one example of how he and Washington's offense were able to handle the Cowboys' defense with relative ease as the team racked up 397 yards in a 25-3 victory.
From start to finish, Washington moved the ball more effectively than it had all season. As Antonio Gibson put up his first-career 100-yard game with 128 yards on 20 carries and McLaurin caught seven passes for 90 yards, the offense averaged six yards per play compared to the Cowboys' 2.6.
Washington used a two-running-back set to fool the Dallas linebackers and create less traffic for Gibson.
Dallas' run defense stinks; it entered the game ranked second-last in the NFL in both yards per carry and per game. But Gibson showed growth. His vision was better -- he avoided running into blockers as happened in other games. He showed a little more patience; on one run, he sucked in the linebackers by taking a slower step and then cut outside for a 9-yard gain.
Despite going against the NFL's No. 1 offense, the defense was able to stymie a unit that put up 464 yards per game. Andy Dalton and Ben DiNucci were sacked six times, which is the defense's best outing since Week 1, and they combined for 114 passing yards.
Ironically enough, it was the defense that got Washington on the board first after the offense drove down to Dallas' one-yard and was stopped short of the goal line. Landon Collins slapped the ball from Dalton's hand, which forced a safety that gave Washington a 2-0 lead.
Following a Cowboys free kick, the offense marched 63 yards downfield on seven plays. This time, Washington punched the ball in on a 12-yard run from Gibson.
The win, too, comes a week after a failed two-point conversion was the difference in a 20-19 loss to the Giants. After such a week, and with the stench of their other losses, this was a necessary performance. It would have been one thing to win a close game, but Washington did exactly as it should. It showed growth and got a big win. ...
One last note here. ... Allen was not the reason Washington won, but what the team needed from him was just a smart, effective game, and that's what he delivered.
Allen didn't need to be spectacular, as it was the ground game that really delivered for Washington. But Allen avoided killer mistakes and was excellent on third downs for a second consecutive game. He threw two touchdown passes, with the ball to McLaurin placed exactly where it needed to be. Allen completed 15 of 25 passes for 194 yards and two scores.
As Washington heads into the bye, they realize teams with 2-5 records are not supposed to be talking about the playoffs. But, like the rest of the underperforming NFC East, the Football Team is in a unique situation. Through seven weeks, the Eagles are atop the division with a 2-4-1 record. Washington and the Cowboys are tied for second at 2-5, while the Giants have just one win in seven games.
Looking ahead, with a 2-1 division record and another matchup with the Giants looming after the bye week, Washington has a legitimate shot to take control of the NFC East, especially if it performs like it did Sunday.
On the injury front. ... Collins confirmed that his season was over on Tuesday and the Football Team moved him off the active roster later in the day. Washington announced that Collins has been placed on injured reserve. Collins will have surgery on his Achilles on Monday after tearing it in last Sunday's win over Dallas.
"It's always tough when you lose a good football player," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said, via the team. "He's a tough guy that was voted a team captain by his peers. Obviously, any time that happens, it's something you have to work to overcome. We're just going to ask him to heal up and stay positive. We're going to carry on. We're going to continue on and expect to play well."
Rookie Kamren Curl took over at safety after Collins' injury. The Football Team signed safety Jeremy Reaves off the practice squad to fill the open roster spot. He had 15 tackles in 11 games with the team over the last two seasons. ...
And finally. ... Rivera's team celebrated its second Victory Monday this season, and though it's only Washington's second sweet-tasting start of the week, it's unique for the best of reasons.
Rivera completed his last cancer treatment Monday, less than 24 hours after his team trounced the Cowboys.
Rivera's Monday accomplishment completes seven weeks of treatment for squamous cell cancer, with which the coach announced he'd been diagnosed in August. As is common with cancer patients who complete their treatment, nurses, doctors and staff lined the hallway to cheer on Rivera, with some tossing confetti over his head as he walked out and stopped to ring the bell to mark the completion of his treatment.
This isn't the end of the road for Rivera, who will still have to attend follow-up appointments and undergo scans to monitor his progress in the weeks ahead, but it is a milestone for him as he fights cancer while also spending his first season as the head coach in Washington.
QBs: Alex Smith, Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen
RBs: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber, Javon Leake, Lamar Miller, Bryce Love
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims, Isaiah Wright, Steven Sims, Antonio Gandy-Golden
TEs: Logan Thomas, Jeremy Sprinkle