Team Notes week 9 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 4 November 2020
As the Associated Press notes, 24-year-old Chase Edmonds is in his third season with the Cardinals and has quickly become an indispensable part of the roster because of his ability to run, catch passes out of the backfield, block, and contribute on special teams.
The backup running back's role is set to increase over the next few weeks after starter Kenyan Drake went down with an ankle injury in Arizona's 37-34 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks.
True to his do-it-all nature, Edmonds is ready for anything. His unselfish nature is part of why he's so popular in the locker room.
"Whatever happens, happens," Edmonds said. "I'm going to be ready to answer the bell whatever it is, whatever my role is. We've got a creative head coach with Kliff (Kingsbury) so I'm sure he'll find ways to get more people involved until we get KD back."
If Edmonds is the main man for the next several weeks, it won't be a completely new situation. He was briefly the starter in 2019 when David Johnson was battling injuries, and responded with a few good games, including a breakout performance against the Giants when he ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns.
Edmonds suffered a hamstring injury late in that game that hampered him the rest of the season, but that afternoon was proof he could be a lead back.
"When he gets that ball, he's not trying to be pretty, he's not trying to dance around, he's trying to get yards," left tackle D.J. Humphries said. "That's one of my favorite things about Chase. He's going north."
Edmonds skills were vital as the Cardinals pushed to a 5-2 record with the come-from-behind win over the Seahawks in Week 7. Drake left the game with an ankle injury late in the fourth quarter when the Cardinals were trailing 34-24.
Edmonds caught an 11-yard pass during the drive that cut the Seahawks' advantage to 34-31, then had a critical 12-yard run in the final seconds of regulation to push the Cardinals into range for the tying field goal. He finished with 58 yards rushing on just five carries and caught seven passes for 87 yards.
Expect more of the same going forward.
ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss contends Drake will get 80 to 90 percent of the workload.
"It's just a testimony to my hard work this season," Edmonds said. "I busted my (butt) this offseason, truly. From the start -- even before COVID -- I was working every single day."
The combination of Drake, Edmonds and Kyler Murray has helped the Cardinals run for nearly 161 yards per game, which ranks second in the NFL.
All of them had carved out defined roles over the first seven weeks: Drake was the power runner usually used to get tough yards; Edmonds could run or be a problem catching passes out of the backfield; Murray's scrambling was a constant headache for opposing defenses.
Now Edmonds, a fourth-round pick out of Fordham in 2018, might have to pull double duty.
The question is for how long?
Drake may not play against his former team when the Dolphins pay the Cardinals a visit this week, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury offered a positive update on Drake's status Monday.
"It looked more severe than probably what it's going to end up being, hopefully. He's really made good progress," Kingsbury said, via Kyle Odegard of the Cardinals website.
Until Drake returns, Arizona is confident Edmonds can handle anything. Kingsbury has said Edmonds would be a starting running back for many NFL teams and Murray loves having him in the huddle and on the field.
"He can do it all," Murray said. "He can run the ball, he can catch it out of the backfield, he can block. He's a smart football player. He loves the game. I can't say enough about Chase, to be honest. He's a great football player. ..."
Meanwhile, Murray's ability to run and scramble was always part of his game -- it's why he was the No. 1 overall pick. But he and Kingsbury have unlocked the run in 2020.
Murray is on pace for just under 1,000 yards rushing, he already has scored seven touchdowns on the ground and he is averaging 6.7 yards a carry. At the same time, he has figured out how to use his legs for good, avoiding sacks much better than as a rookie, having been sacked only nine times in seven games.
DeAndre Hopkins has been spectacular in his first seven games as a Cardinal. He leads the league in catches (57) and yards (704) and has already made a handful of crucial plays. As the Cardinals' offense evolves, it underscores how they needed a No. 1 receiver, and what impact Hopkins has made. ...
Worth watching. ... Sunday brought word of two positive COVID-19 tests for Cardinals players during bye week testing and Kingsbury confirmed those results on Monday.
The Cardinals placed cornerback Byron Murphy and linebacker Devon Kennard on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Kingsbury said that there have been no additional positive tests and that contact tracing showed little interaction with the infected players. That's left the team planning for "business as usual," which includes a practice session on Monday.
"I don't see this being a problem," Kingsbury said, via Darren Urban of the team's website.
That continued with no positive tests through Wednesday morning.
The Cardinals are set to host the Dolphins in Week 9 and there should be no reason for that to change as long as the positive tests remain limited to the current number.
After hosting Miami and Buffalo the next two weeks, the Cardinals head to Seattle for a Thursday night game.
According to Weinfuss, of Arizona's final nine games, five are against teams that currently own winning records, three against teams with losing records and one, the Dolphins, with a .500 record. ...
One last note here. ... The Cardinals on Monday designated tight end Maxx Williams to return from IR and re-signed tight end Evan Baylis to their practice squad.
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 4 November 2020
The Panthers will have had 10 days to recover from the loss to Atlanta and get things right in time to travel to face the defending champion Chiefs. That won't be an easy task, but if there is some good news it's that McCaffrey is expected to return after missing six weeks with a high ankle sprain. The original prognosis for recovery was from four to six weeks.
After the Falcons reached the midpoint of their season with only two wins, Matt Ryan dared to suggest the second half of the season could be very different.
Ryan claimed there's no game remaining on Atlanta's schedule the last-place Falcons can't win.
Clearly, the Falcons' success in Thursday night's 25-17 win at Carolina did wonders for the quarterback's confidence. Can the Falcons (2-6) make a run?
"Absolutely," Ryan said. "We've been in every game we've played this year. We've had some crazy losses, just to be frank. I really believe we've got the caliber of team to be in every game we're going to play the rest of the season."
Ryan's confidence may not be as farfetched as some might think. The Falcons have won two of their last three games. They could have beaten Detroit last week if not for running back Todd Gurley's inability to keep himself from scoring late in the game, leaving the Lions time for their last-minute winning drive.
An unlikely turnaround would be needed to save the Falcons from their third consecutive losing season, but interim coach Raheem Morris also was inspired by the performance against the Panthers.
The Falcons followed the script laid out by Morris by having their offense finish each half with the ball and their defense deliver the necessary big play.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson's interception with less than a minute remaining clinched the win.
On Friday, Morris was still beaming with pride.
"It all boils down to getting the win," Morris said. "So, to see the guys come out and make plays is something that I expect every single week. We have so much talent and so many good players on this football team, I always wonder which one is going to make the play."
If the Falcons had made better use of their talent and not started the season 0-5, former coach Dan Quinn probably would still have his job. The challenge for Morris is to build momentum from the win over Carolina. The Falcons will look for their third win in four outings in their Nov. 8 home game against the Denver Broncos. Atlanta won 23-16 at Denver on Oct. 9, 2016 in the last meeting between the teams.
For what it's worth. ... The Falcons were dominant within the 20s, posting lopsided advantages in first downs (28-18) and holding the ball 13 minutes longer than the Panthers.
Ryan completed nine passes of 16 yards or longer while passing for 270 yards. There was good balance with 131 yards rushing.
Despite the big offensive numbers, the Falcons continue to struggle in the red zone.
The offense reached the end zone on only two of six red-zone possessions. That includes an unlikely 13-yard scoring run by Ryan.
As the offense stalled too many times near the goal line, Younghoe Koo kicked four field goals.
"We've got to score touchdowns; we have to do a better job in the red zone," Julio Jones said. "I wouldn't say it's a negative because we got points out of it, but we have to score touchdowns. We're too explosive, we got too many great players at a lot of positions. The offensive line is doing a great job for us, [Gurley] in the backfield doing a great job, Ryan is doing a good job for us and we have guys to make plays on the outside. We have to score touchdowns, not dependent on who we're playing but for our sake, who we are as a unit, we have to score touchdowns."
Though Gurley scored on a key 3-yard run in the fourth quarter and had 18 carries for 46 yards, he watched many plays from the sideline as Brian Hill had 11 carries and led the team with 55 yards rushing.
It appeared Gurley was often trying to stay loose when on the sideline, and he said his time out of the game was not his decision.
Asked if Gurley was limited by an injury, Morris said, "You just never know with Gurley. I don't know what happened injury-wise. I just know he's got to get himself going and he got himself going late. He had a couple really good runs at the end and finished the game for us and that's what he was brought here to do."
ESPN.com's David Newton considers it more than likely that Gurley was on a "pitch count" because of the short week. Newton went on to point to the fact that Gurley got the ball on a critical fourth-quarter touchdown run Thursday night is reason to believe the former Ram remains the lead back.
That said, Newton conceded with Gurley's injury history and on a one-year deal, the Falcons might give Hill some extended playing time as the season progresses, especially if they aren't in contention. ...
Calvin Ridley injured his left ankle in the second quarter and missed the second half. Morris said he would know more about the wideout's status this week, but Ridley, who had his MRI on Friday, was considered day-to-day with a mid-foot sprain, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Rapoport added, "The tests didn't show much, so the hope is he's back shortly."
Ridley's injury again tested Atlanta's depth. Christian Blake filled in for Ridley, just as Brandon Powell and Olamide Zaccheaus moved up following recent injuries to receivers Russell Gage and Julio Jones, respectively. ...
I'll have more on Ridley, who wasn't on the practice field to open the week Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... In case you missed it, Jones had seven catches for 137 yards, his 58th career game with at least 100 yards receiving. That is the fourth most in NFL history and the most among active players. The players with more 100-yard games are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Jerry Rice (76), Randy Moss (64) and Marvin Harrison (59).
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 4 November 2020
As ESPN's Jamison Hensley framed it: "The Baltimore Ravens didn't just watch their chances of a third straight AFC North title take a hit.
"Sunday's 28-24 loss to the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers put a question mark over one of the preseason Super Bowl favorites and the reigning NFL MVP. ..."
In another big-game disappointment, Lamar Jackson turned the ball over four times as Baltimore (5-2) fell two games back of Pittsburgh in the AFC North. His first career pick-six and an interception thrown deep in Ravens territory led to 14 points for the Steelers, and his fumble inside the Baltimore 10-yard line took points away from the Ravens.
"The turnovers, I feel, are the reason we lost the game," Jackson said. "I put that on me.
Baltimore dominated running the ball, rushing for 265 yards against the NFL's No. 2 run defense. The Ravens just couldn't come back when they had to rely on their passing game.
Without two starting offensive linemen -- left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right guard Tyre Phillips left with ankle injuries in the first quarter -- Jackson was harassed often and finished 13-of-29 for 208 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. His final pass fell incomplete in the end zone to wide receiver Willie Snead.
According to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, the Ravens were the first team since 1950 to outrush their opponent by 200-plus yards and out pass them and still lose.
It also didn't help the defense, which allowed 21 points in the second half after Pro Bowl linebacker Matthew Judon was ejected for making contact with an official.
"Now, we're in a situation where you look at it from the perspective that this is where our season begins, and we go from here; from the very best football team we can be, starting in Indianapolis next weekend," head coach John Harbaugh said.
Baltimore still remains in excellent position to reach the playoffs. It's just unknown how much noise the Ravens can create once they get there.
This season, there's been a trend of Baltimore beating up on the teams with a losing record and struggling against the AFC's best.
Baltimore got roughed up in its only previous marquee matchup of the season, when it lost 34-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3. Jackson threw for a career-worst 97 yards in that game against the Chiefs.
After the Ravens lost to the Steelers, it's legitimate to ask where they fall in the AFC balance of power. Baltimore entered Sunday having beaten only one team with more than two wins. The Ravens' last four wins came against teams whose combined record was 6-20-2 (.250) entering Week 8: Houston, Washington, Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
The Ravens next travel to face the Indianapolis Colts (5-2) on Sunday.
"It's early in the season still," Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said. "All this means is that we won't go better than 14-2. Just take it one day at a time and find some ways to win some ballgames."
Meanwhile, rookie running back J.K. Dobbins got his first taste of a starring role Sunday, and he showed he's ready for it.
The second-round pick topped 100 yards for the first time with 113 rushing yards on 15 carries (7.5 per rush) and hauled in one pass for eight yards.
"[Dobbins] wasn't anything surprising to us; he's going to play well," Harbaugh said. "All of our backs are excellent backs. They all make plays. They all run well when they go out there. So, it wasn't anything that I think was surprising in any way. We kind of expected him to play well, just like we do the other guys to play well when they go in there."
With veteran starter Mark Ingram still sidelined by an ankle injury, Gus Edwards got the start and had one more carry than Dobbins (16 to 15). But the rookie played 54 offensive snaps compared to 26 for Edwards, and it was Dobbins who the Ravens leaned on down the stretch when trying to mount a fourth-quarter comeback.
"That's what they brought me here for," Dobbins said. "They brought me here to play in big games like this and help the team win. But we didn't get the win, so we need to just keep working."
Dobbins' longest run of the day was for 28 yards, a sprint to the right in which he outraced Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane to the edge, then turned up field and followed good blocks by tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Miles Boykin.
Despite facing a Steelers defense that entered the game allowing a league-low 68.8 yards per game, the Ravens rumbled for 265 yards and averaged 5.6 per carry. Edwards had 87 yards and Jackson picked up 65 more.
Dobbins' previous rushing high this season was 48 yards versus Houston. He's still looking to reach the end zone for the first time since he scored twice in the season-opener against Cleveland, but that seems imminent.
The Ravens drafted Dobbins to one day be their lead back. If he continues running the way he did Sunday, that day could come sooner than later.
It was Dobbins' first taste of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry and it certainly won't be his last as the rookie seems to be hitting his stride midway through the season with a Thanksgiving rematch with the Steelers still on the schedule.
"Yes, definitely a physical game, and that's what I expected," Dobbins said of his first Ravens-Steelers battle. "We've got to be better next time."
For what it's worth, Ingram might not be ready to go against the Colts this week, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Still, Harbaugh won't rule out the possibility Ingram could practice this week.
"I don't want to sign that just yet because I don't know for sure," he said.
Per Rapoport, it's more of a high-ankle sprain than a low-ankle sprain and those often cause multi-week absences.
I'll be following up on Ingram's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
But the news isn't good on Stanley, who was carted off the field with a serious ankle injury just two days after signing a five-year, $98.75 million extension. His season is over. Stanley's injury came shortly after Phillips left with an ankle injury. Forced to shuffle up front, Baltimore moved Orlando Brown Jr. from right tackle to left tackle and put in right guard Patrick Mekari and right tackle D.J. Fluker off the bench.
This offensive line did an admirable job in run-blocking but struggled in pass protection. ...
As passed along by Bleacher Report, receiver Marquise Brown expressed frustration on Twitter about his usage in the team's offense.
In a since-deleted Twitter post, Brown said "what's the point of having souljas when you never use them."
Posting it at all guaranteed people would see it, however, and Harbaugh was asked about Brown at his Monday press conference.
"He did play the game like a solider. He was fighting very hard out there. ... I promise you we're trying to use all of our guys," Harbaugh said. "He's probably a little frustrated. He's not a selfish guy. I don't believe he is for one second. If he was, he wouldn't play as hard as he did or be the good guy that he is around the building."
Brown caught one of the two balls thrown his way for a three-yard touchdown. He has 27 catches for 379 yards and two touchdowns, which leaves him on pace to better his rookie numbers in the first two categories even if he'd clearly like to be doing more than he's been tasked with to this point in the season.
At this point, barring a major turnaround, it's fair to wonder if the Ravens offense can support even one reliable fantasy pass catcher. ...
Finally. ... Cornerback Marlon Humphrey has COVID-19. He announced the news in a Monday morning tweet: "I got the Rona hopefully I'll be back healthy soon."
The Ravens subsequently confirmed the positive test.
Humphrey played all of Sunday's game against the Steelers. Presumably, he learned that he's positive from a game day PCR test.
NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills said on a Tuesday conference call that six players have been deemed high-risk close contacts of Humphrey as a result of contact tracing after Humphrey's positive test.
As it turns out, Sills was off by one. The Ravens placed seven players on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. Hensley reports one player was added to the group after Sills spoke to reporters.
The group includes linebackers Matthew Judon, Patrick Queen, Tyus Bowser and L.J. Fort. Each member of the quartet has played at least 42 percent of the defensive snaps this season and Queen has played the most snaps of any linebacker. Safety DeShon Elliott, linebacker Malik Harrison, and cornerback Terrell Bonds are also on the list.
The seven players should be able to play against the Colts as long as they continue testing negative. They won't be able to take part in practice this week, however.
Humphrey will not be able to play against the Colts.
Since both teams already have had their bye week, this one can't be postponed to any week other than an eighteenth one.
That said, the Ravens reported no new positives on Wednesday. More on this as needed via Late-Breaking Update.
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 4 November 2020
As Marcel Louis-Jacques noted, it's not always the prettiest game when the Bills and Patriots play each other, but Sunday's game felt especially like an ode to the ground-and-pound era of football.
The Bills entered the game averaging the eighth-most pass attempts per game at 37.7, but one week after attempting 43 passes, quarterback Josh Allen threw the ball 18 times during their 24-21 win Sunday. Meanwhile, Buffalo's rushing attack turned in its best game of the season.
After rushing for a season-high 126 yards against the New York Jets in Week 7, Bills players felt like their ground game was getting back on track. Their optimism looked prophetic Sunday, as Buffalo set another season high with 190 rushing yards, finally taking advantage of a bottom-tier run defense (New England's run defense ranked 27th in the league entering the game) for the first time this season.
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss handled an even workload, turning in season highs with 86 and 81 yards, respectively, each on 14 carries. Moss reaped the fantasy benefits of Buffalo's big day on the ground, scoring the first two rushing touchdowns of his NFL career. Sunday marked the first time Buffalo had two rushers gain 80 rushing yards or more in the same game since Dec. 24th, 2016 against Miami, when LeSean McCoy had a team-high 128 and Mike Gillislee added 91.
Given the windy weather conditions, this was a game plan the Bills needed to execute, and they know they will need to do it again later in the season.
"We came in here with a plan. We made a statement to run the ball today," left tackle Dion Dawkins said. "The Patriots had a great plan, but we just kept it personal that we were going to run the ball today."
The Bills owned the league's eighth-best rushing offense in 2019, when they averaged 128.4 yards per game. That figure had dropped dramatically to 97 yards per game entering Sunday's game -- the fourth-lowest average in the NFL.
But both teams knew the Bills would seek to establish the run, and Allen said Buffalo needed to be able to run the ball "when teams know we're going to run."
Said Moss: "They're a very good team. We needed to make sure we weren't one-dimensional. It started from Monday and our mentality working the entire week. It definitely paid off today."
So why the uptick in productivity over the past two weeks?
As Marcel-Louis explained, for starters, Moss is healthy after missing three games with a toe injury. The Bills also activated guard Jon Feliciano, who had missed the previous seven games with a torn pectoral muscle. Buffalo still isn't healthy on offense, playing its second consecutive game without left guard Cody Ford; the Bills might not be healthy next week either, as center Mitch Morse left the game in the first quarter with a concussion and did not return.
But Moss insists he and Singletary are "more than capable" of running the ball effectively, and the team's previous seven games did not reflect their ability to do so. He also credited Buffalo's offensive line for opening up ample running lanes.
"They did a great job knocking guys off the ball," Moss said. "We talked about being physical all week. They did a really good job of that. Me and [Singletary] were able to really get downhill and puncture the defense. There were very few times, if any really, that we were going backwards."
Buffalo gets an opportunity to prove its newfound run game is no fluke this week against a Seattle Seahawks defense that ranks eighth in the NFL against the run.
Considering the Seahawks' league-worst pass defense, however, it's more likely Allen and the Bills' passing game will shoulder more of the load in Week 9. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Buffalo snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Patriots Sunday. It was the Bills' first win over New England since October 2016 and marked head coach Sean McDermott's first win over Patriots coach Bill Belichick after he lost in his first six tries.
McDermott downplayed Sunday's game throughout the week as nothing more than his team's next against a division opponent. That sentiment appears to have permeated throughout the locker room, as Bills players didn't believe their coach put any more stock into this game than any other contest.
After the game, McDermott reaffirmed his stance that Sunday was simply the Bills' next game and nothing more; but the coach did say that he wishes Bills fans could have seen the win in person.
"It gets me emotional," he said. "We try to go though it one game at a time -- but we know. We know what this game means to our fan base."
On the injury front. ... The Bills announced that John Brown would not practice Wednesday; it's not clear if this is a maintenance day for his ongoing knee issues or because of a new injury. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
A few final notes. ... Allen's pass attempt total was the lowest single-game total of his career in a game that he started and finished. His previous low came in his rookie season when he attempted 19 passes in a Nov. 25, 2018 victory over Jacksonville.
Stefon Diggs had six receptions for 92 yards in Sunday's victory. The Bills top wideout now has six or more receptions in five straight games, becoming the second Bills player ever with streak of at least five games, joining Eric Moulds (six games in 2001-02).
The Bills are again the league leaders in third down conversion rate at 51.6 percent. Though they only went 5-11 on third downs against the Patriots, it kept their season success rate in moving the chains at a level that moved them into the top spot for the fourth time in 2020.
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 4 November 2020
While running back Christian McCaffrey has missed Carolina's last six games with a high ankle sprain, his return seems imminent.
"I hope Christian will be back next week," head coach Matt Rhule said Friday, a day after Carolina fell to 3-5 with a loss to Atlanta.
Rhule mentioned several players who could return in Week 9 when the Panthers travel to face the Chiefs.
But he added, "at the very least," he hopes McCaffrey and defensive tackle Zach Kerr -- who missed Thursday's game with a toe injury -- will be among them.
McCaffrey was designated to return from the reserve/injured list last Tuesday, beginning his 21-day practice window. He was on the field for that day's portion of practice open to the media, which included stretching. There was no media availability for Wednesday's practice, and because McCaffrey is not on the 53-man roster, his status was not included on the injury report.
"I think he was excited and exhilarated to be out there today, to be out there with his teammates, to have a chance to practice," Rhule said last Tuesday. "I know he wants to play, but I also know he's a process guy and understands that we can't shortcut the process."
The Panthers did not activate McCaffrey for Thursday's game, electing to stick with Mike Davis as the starting running back. Rhule has been steadfast in saying Carolina will not activate McCaffrey until he's fully healthy. McCaffrey suffered the injury in the second half of the Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay. In two games this season, McCaffrey recorded 223 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns.
In eight games, Davis has 594 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. He had 13 carries for 66 yards and a reception for 11 yards in Thursday's loss to Atlanta.
Meanwhile, opposing defenses are learning success can be had when blitzing Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers.
In what has become a common theme in recent weeks, the Falcons brought the heat against Bridgewater, sacking him three times and forcing him to throw the ball away on several others. That left head coach Matt Rhule pointing the finger directly at his offensive line after Carolina's 25-17 loss to Atlanta.
"You just can't really win when you can't control the line of scrimmage," Rhule said. "I don't feel like we controlled the line of scrimmage today.”
The Falcons did more blitzing than normal and played more Cover-2 on second downs with left tackle Russell Okung out with a calf injury.
"Even on the four-man rush, there were too many times where he had to flush," Rhule said.
For the second straight game Bridgewater took a costly sack on third down that took the Panthers out of field-goal range. On the play, Bridgewater barely had time to get the ball in his hands before the Falcons were all over him.
Bridgewater hinted the Panthers need to do some self-scouting before their next game as teams are picking up on Carolina's tendencies.
"As the season goes on, teams get more film on you," Bridgewater said. "You play more games and teams come up with different ways to try to get after the quarterback. I think those guys had a good plan and we did a good job for the most part, but those guys made plays, too."
Added Rhule: "He was kind of under duress. There was a lot of pressure. (He) took a lot of hits. ... I can't say that any of us played well enough on offense to deserve to win a game. ..."
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed noted, the Panthers' use of wide receiver Curtis Samuel in the backfield is working well. A former Ohio State "athlete" who played both running back and wide receiver in college, Samuel has now scored touchdowns rushing in each of the last two games on inside handoffs. He scored on a 12-yard burst against the Falcons to put the Panthers up early 7-6 on Thursday night.
Samuel finished with three carries for 23 yards and is now averaging 4.8 yards per carry on the season, rushing 19 times for 91 yards.
Should we expect Samuel's role to continue giving him similar upside?
ESPN's David Newton wouldn't bet on it.
With McCaffrey expected back, look for Samuel's role as a running back to all but be eliminated. He could also lose touches at receiver with the return of McCaffrey, who has been the team's leading receiver the past two seasons.
On the injury front. ... Bridgewater was able to return to the game Thursday night after taking a shot to the neck from Charles Harris, who was ejected on the play. While Bridgewater did finish the game, his status is unclear moving forward, although the Panthers have 10 days in between games.
I'll be watching for any developments on Bridgewater and McCaffrey, Rhule confirmed again on Monday that the running back would continue practicing this week -- and he was working fully to open the week on Wednesday, in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
Finally. ... The Panthers activated cornerback Rasul Douglas from the reserve/COVID-19 list.
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 4 November 2020
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson noted, the Bears' formula for "winning ugly" finally failed them against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
For the third time in 2020, the Bears erased a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit and were in position to win another game they had no business winning.
Bears kicker Cairo Santos' valiant, 51-yard field goal -- Santos went 3-of-3 on the day -- sent the game to overtime. But Chicago's offense -- the bane of Bears fans' existence -- just proved too ugly to overcome as New Orleans left Soldier Field with a 26-23 victory.
The Bears' offense, which stumbled six days ago at the Los Angeles Rams, roared back to life -- on occasion -- in Week 8.
Chicago's four-play, 80-yard second-quarter scoring drive contained all the ingredients head coach and play caller Matt Nagy has searched for since he arrived in town in 2018.
For once, the NFL's least-explosive offense looked explosive. In the blink of an eye, veteran quarterback Nick Foles aired out a deep ball to rookie speedster Darnell Mooney, who came down with a 50-yard reception -- the Bears' longest catch of the year.
Two plays later, Foles fired a corner route to Allen Robinson, who laid out to make a sensational 24-yard touchdown grab.
The Bears were back. Or so we thought.
After the Bears crashed back to reality for much of the second half, Foles caught fire again in the fourth quarter as the Bears scored 10 straight points to push the game into overtime.
The Bears have displayed resiliency all season, overcoming adversity and rallying to erase deficits late in games. But they've also been plagued by costly mistakes, communication issues and inconsistent play—especially on offense. The same scenario transpired again Sunday.
All too often the Bears (5-3) fell back into their old habits on offense: Delay of game penalties, sacks, interceptions and a shocking loss of composure.
"There [are] issues there," said head coach Matt Nagy. "That's what bothers me and that's what [ticks] me off, is that there is that issue still going on."
The Bears defense entered Week 8 ranked No. 1 in the NFL in the red zone and No. 2 on third downs and excelled in both areas Sunday. The unit allowed just one touchdown on four red-zone possessions and limited the Saints to a 15 percent conversion rate on third downs (2 of 13). But the defense failed to generate a takeaway and struggled to contain New Orleans' two superstars.
Next up, the Bears visit Tennessee next Sunday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Foles finished the game completing 28 of 41 passes for 272 yards with two TDs, one interception and a 92.7 passer rating while being sacked five times. David Montgomery rushed for a season-high 89 yards on 21 carries.
The Bears' situation on the offensive line went from bad to worse when veteran right tackle Bobby Massie left Sunday's game with a knee injury. The Bears were already without a pair of Week 1 starters (center Cody Whitehair and left guard James Daniels) prior to Massie's latest health setback. To add insult to injury, Jason Spriggs, who replaced Massie at right tackle, briefly left the game himself with an undisclosed injury.
At one point, the Bears' offensive line consisted of Charles Leno Jr. (LT), Alex Bars (LG), Sam Mustipher (C), Germain Ifedi (RG) and Rashaad Coward (RT). The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, and the Bears figure to aggressively search for available offensive line help.
Dickerson contends the Bears' offense needs a breathtaking quarterback in order to be consistently good -- especially with a diminished offensive line. Foles is good but not spectacular. The middling results of the entire offense speak for themselves.
The Bears debuted their mini-version of the Taysom Hill package when benched former starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky entered the game on Chicago's opening drive and gained three yards on a designed QB keeper. It marked Trubisky's first snap since Nagy pulled the plug in favor of Foles in Week 3. The Bears are in no rush -- barring injury -- to make the permanent switch back to Trubisky, but the 2017 second overall pick is infinitely more mobile than Foles.
Dickerson believes the Bears ought to explore all options to jump-start the offense -- and that might include calling Trubisky's number on occasion. ...
Receiver Javon Wims was ejected in the third quarter after he sucker-punched New Orleans safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
Wims appeared to tap Gardner-Johnson, who had his back turned, on the chest and then hauled off a wild sucker punch that glanced Gardner-Johnson on the helmet. Wims then hit Gardner-Johnson with an open-handed slap to the face mask before Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins jumped in the fray. Jenkins attacked Wims and wrestled the Bears wideout to the ground before members of both teams gathered to break up the fight.
Wims emerged from the pile clapping and smiling before security escorted him back to the Chicago locker room.
Nagy said after the game that the punch was "completely unacceptable."
On Monday, the league announced that Wims has been suspended without pay for two games for violations of unsportsmanlike conduct rules; he appealed and the suspension was upheld Wednesday. ...
Also on Wednesday, Profootballtalk.com learned, via a league source, that the Bears are releasing veteran receiver Ted Ginn Jr. on Wednesday.
Ginn signed a one-year deal with the Bears in May and appeared in six games with the team this season. He did not play in last Sunday’s overtime loss to the Saints and only played 32 snaps in the previous four games.
Ginn had three catches for 40 yards and returned five punts for 24 yards when he was in the lineup.
This is Ginn’s 14th NFL season and he’s also played for Dolphins, Saints, 49ers, Panthers, and Cardinals. We’ll see if he adds to that list or if this is the end of the line for him in the NFL. ...
Santos has become one of the Bears' most reliable players in recent weeks. The veteran kicker connected on all three field goals against the Saints, including the above-mentioned 51-yarder into a strong wind to send the game to overtime. A late addition to the team, Santos has made the most of his opportunity filling in for an injured Eddy Pineiro.
Santos has connected on 14 of 16 attempts this season, including a career-long 55-yarder against the Carolina Panthers. Santos has connected on his last 10 attempts, with his last miss coming in Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons.
And finally. ... Spriggs tested positive for COVID-19, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Spriggs has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. In addition, guard Germain Ifedi was determined to be a high-risk close contact, and was also put on the reserve/COVID-19 list, though he does have a chance to be back and play on Sunday.
The Bears had no more positive tests through Wednesday morning.
The team also placed offensive lineman Bobby Massie on injured reserve.
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 4 November 2020
Joe Burrow has quickly learned something about fellow rookie Tee Higgins.
As ESPN.com's Ben Baby put it, "If Burrow throws it in the wide receiver's direction, there's a high probability something good will happen."
One of the plays that didn't count in a 31-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday was a prime example of that. In the second quarter, Burrow threw a hopeful ball for Higgins near the back right corner of the end zone. Even though Higgins didn't catch it, he elicited a pass interference penalty that put the ball on the 1-yard line, setting up a touchdown on the next play.
At the midway point of their rookie seasons, the connection between Burrow and Higgins has been very effective for the Bengals and strengthened in recent weeks. And it appears the connection between Cincinnati's top 2020 draft picks will be at the core of the franchise's rebuilding project.
"[Higgins] is a great player," said Burrow, who is judicious with praise. "We've had a couple months now to really understand each other."
As the Bengals (2-5-1) have found their offensive form, Higgins has been the most productive receiver. He has 336 receiving yards in the past four games, the third-highest total in the NFL during that span.
On the season, Burrow and Higgins have combined for 33 catches for 488 yards and three touchdowns. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, their total expected points added of 34.4 ranks seventh in the league among quarterback-receiver tandems (the Burrow-Tyler Boyd connection leads the NFL with 47.5 total EPA).
Heading into Cincinnati's bye week, the rapport between Burrow and Higgins is vastly different from what it was at the beginning of the season.
Higgins was hampered by a hamstring injury during the preseason and saw limited action in the Week 1 loss to the Chargers. The former Clemson standout had zero targets and was on the field for 22 percent of Cincinnati's offensive snaps.
In Week 2, Higgins was given the starting spot as the third wide receiver over former first-round pick John Ross, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. Higgins' target rate increased as he got more familiar with Burrow. Against the Titans, the synergy between the pair was evident.
On a third-and-5 in the first quarter, Burrow scrambled to his right to extend the play. On the original route, Higgins broke to the right sideline and turned toward the line of scrimmage.
But when he saw Burrow stalling for more time to throw the ball, Higgins flipped his hips and reversed course upfield. Burrow lofted a pass to Higgins, who leaped over the defender, extended his arms to catch the ball and tapped both feet in bounds to complete the 24-yard gain.
It perfectly illustrated the budding chemistry between the rookies.
"We're right there with it," Higgins said last week regarding his communication with Burrow. "That's where you want to be with your quarterback. You want him to have trust in you -- just throw up the ball and go up and get it."
The duo's effectiveness is also having ramifications on two significant levels. From a short-term perspective, Higgins gives the Bengals' offense another reliable weapon if a defense deploys most of its resources to stop Cincinnati's more high-profile weapons in A.J. Green, Boyd and Joe Mixon.
But as with everything in 2020, the long-term outlook is most important. And the early returns suggest Higgins will live up to his billing as the franchise's next big-time receiver. That also reinforces the decision to decline the fifth-year option on Ross' rookie contract -- although the team didn't grant Ross' trade request before the deadline on Tuesday.
Over the final eight weeks of the season, the Bengals are looking to set the foundation of their rebuild and provide optimism for a playoff push in 2021.
Sunday's victory over the Titans was another reminder that any grand plans about the future will revolve around Burrow and Higgins.
"We have a couple [of] great players on this team," Burrow said. "I'm excited for the future with Tee."
Worth noting. ... From last week to this week, the Bengals had 80-percent turnover on their offensive line. Other than right guard Alex Redmond, the rest of the starters were new, due to injury.
They held together very well, allowing zero sacks and drawing praise from Burrow.
"They played great," Burrow told Profootballtalk.com by phone after the upset win. "They really did. I can't say enough good things about those guys."
Burrow was 26-of-37 for 249 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and was steady even without his starting offensive line and Mixon.
Sunday's win was exactly what the Bengals (2-5-1) needed to quell the unrest for at least one more week. And if Cincinnati can build on this win, it could be exactly what it needs to gain some long-term momentum to set the foundation of the Burrow era. ...
For the record. ... With 26 on Sunday, Burrow has 221 completions through eight games. Per the NFL, that's the most completions by a player in his first eight games in NFL history.
It was also Burrow's sixth game of 25 or more completions, one short of the all-time record for a rookie, set by Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz in 2016.
Burrow also remains on pace to break the rookie passing yardage record, set by Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in 2012. ...
Also of interest. ... For the first time since the second game of his career in a win over the Steelers in 2013, running back Giovani Bernard scored a touchdown rushing and receiving. Both his receiving touchdowns have come in the fourth quarter the last two weeks.
"With the game on the line, Gio's going to make a play for you," Burrow said.
Samaje Perine also ran in a touchdown, but Mixon should return after the bye rendering both moot from a fantasy perspective. ...
Wide receiver Auden Tate easily had his best game of the season and showed why he will merit more offensive snaps and targets moving forward. Tate caught all seven of his targets for 65 yards, including a 15-yard grab at the end of the game that showed off his catch radius. Tate made a strong case for more playing time in future games.
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 4 November 2020
As ESPN.com's Jake Trotter reported, the Lake Erie weather hampered the Browns' offense. And an injury to Myles Garrett defanged its defense.
Battling 35 mph winds, along with rain and sleet, the Browns failed to punch the ball into the end zone a week after losing Odell Beckham Jr. to a season-ending knee injury.
The Browns did their best to capitalize on what they could control.
Cleveland had plenty of uncontrollable factors to deal with against the Las Vegas Raiders. Difficult catches -- and whether or not they stood as catches after official reviews -- made a big difference in the success from each offense. So were the gusty weather conditions, which led to uneven passes and missed field goals from both sides.
The Browns, however, will focus on what went wrong in areas that were controllable in their 16-6 loss. Dropped passes, third-down conversions and overall inconsistency on both sides of the ball limited how much damage the Browns could do against the Raiders. That'll be at the heart of the Browns' focus as they head into the bye week and move on from their Week 8 loss.
"We got beat," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "We didn't do enough things in those conditions to go win. I don't think anyone can use that as an excuse."
The Browns failed to find the same big plays they used in their five previous wins that helped them build an early head start in the playoff race. Quarterback Baker Mayfield needed to be even more precise on throws that swirled around the quick winds, while receivers needed to ensure both hands were firmly in position to catch the ball.
Neither of those variables played in Cleveland's favor Sunday.
Browns receivers dropped five of Mayfield's passes -- the most drops by Cleveland since Week 6 of the 2018 season. The Browns also produced just 92 yards in the first half, their fewest in a first half since 2018, as well.
Perhaps no plays became more costly than Mayfield's two touchdown attempts to wide receiver Jarvis Landry. The first came on a perfect 20-yard lob to Landry in the end zone that would've given the Browns a lead and stood as the first touchdown from either side in the game.
Landry seemed to make an incredible overhead catch to secure the football, but replay ruled the ground aided him in securing the catch. The call was reversed, and the Browns had to settle for a field goal. Landry did all he could to squeeze the ball into his chest and make the difficult catch, but the play just wasn't made.
Later in the fourth quarter, Mayfield went to Landry again for a difficult leaping catch on a tricky 19-yard pass. Landry originally appeared to catch the ball between a pair of Raiders defenders, but a jolting hit to the back from safety Lamarcus Joyner sprung the ball loose.
"He'll always tell you that every ball thrown his way should be a catch," Stefanski said. "That's just what he'll tell you. I have high expectations for Jarvis. He has tremendous ball skills. I think he'll make those plays, and I haven't lost faith whatsoever in him."
Stefanski pointed to one particular statistic that summarized the difficult afternoon -- the Browns only possessed the ball for 22 minutes, while the Raiders had possession for 37 minutes. He wanted to emphasize how the offense couldn't sustain long drives, while the defense struggled to find ways to take the Raiders offense off the field.
"Time of possession is a great team stat," he said. "Offensively, you have to possess it by sustaining drives and making first downs on third down and just find ways to get first downs. Obviously, we didn't do that on offense. Defensively, I don't know the exact numbers, but they were just much better than us on third downs and sustained drives."
Cleveland was met with more bad news following the game, too. Defensive end Myles Garrett suffered a knee injury in the second half and will undergo an MRI on Monday morning. His presence was missed late in the game, as well as that from Beckham, whose reliable set of hands could've been useful in the tough conditions Sunday.
But the Browns focused on what they could control. That approach has helped them find several ways to win in previous weeks, but they didn't find a formula Sunday.
They didn't blame the wind, the close calls or injuries -- they blamed themselves.
"(The Raiders) found a way to put 16 points up on the board," Stefanski said. "We did not."
With several of Cleveland's stars ailing, including Garrett, Mayfield (ribs), Landry (ribs), tight end Austin Hooper (who didn't play for the second straight week due to an appendectomy) and running back Nick Chubb (out since Week 4 with a knee injury), the bye couldn't come at a better time for the Browns.
Indeed, Stefanski said Hooper, who was on the practice field Wednesday, will definitely be able to face the Texans on Nov. 15. Stefanski said he feels good about how Chubb (knee) is progressing.
For what it's worth, Stefanski addressed Garrett's injury on Monday by saying: "Nothing structurally significant." Stefanski added that Garrett should be good to go after the bye against the Texans. ...
On top of all that, Cleveland was conducting meetings virtually Monday out of an abundance of caution after a player reported symptoms consistent with COVID-19, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero reported. As of Tuesday, there weren't any positive tests from the Browns.
Because of the ongoing pandemic, the bye week doesn't mean the Browns will experience an interruption in COVID-19 testing. NFL and NFLPA protocol requires players to stay in the geographic area of their club during their bye week in order to provide daily COVID-19 samples for testing.
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 4 November 2020
According to ESPN.com's Todd Archer suggested, as difficult as it might be, as far away as it might seem, head coach Mike McCarthy is thinking of the day his Dallas Cowboys' tenure turns around.
Sunday's 23-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles might not be the low point.
What kind of realistic expectations could there be for a team starting its third different quarterback -- a 2020 seventh-round pick, no less -- in four games?
Ben DiNucci earned some high praise from running back Ezekiel Elliott: "He was fearless. Didn't blink." But DiNucci threw for 180 yards on 21-of-40 passing. He didn't throw a touchdown pass and he wasn't intercepted, but he was sacked four times and lost two fumbles. On passes thrown more than 5 yards down the field, he completed 6 of 20 attempts for 68 yards. On attempts more than 10 yards downfield, he was 0-of-9.
The result was a Cowboys offense that failed to score a touchdown for the second straight game, something that has happened four times in franchise history.
For McCarthy, his team now 2-6, this is the first time he has had a team go consecutive games without a touchdown in his head-coaching career.
"I think like anything in life, the game of football will teach you humility in every form or fashion you can imagine," McCarthy said. "To me, it's just part of the course of the season; it's part of our challenge. I believe we will be better off because of these hard times."
McCarthy was hired because of his offensive acumen. He has presided over some of the best offenses in football with quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers with the Green Bay Packers. He had success as the New Orleans Saints' offensive coordinator with Aaron Brooks as his quarterback.
One of the first decisions he made as the Cowboys' coach was to keep Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator and play caller, and it does not seem like he will make a change in his plan.
But there might be another change at quarterback.
The Cowboys won't be getting Andy Dalton back this week and that could lead them to start their fourth different quarterback of the season.
Dalton is being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, so he's going to miss the game even if he is able to clear the concussion protocol.
Multiple reports indicate that Cooper Rush is a real possibility to start against the Steelers. Rush was signed to the practice squad after Dak Prescott was lost for the season and he was also with the team from 2017-2019, so he's familiar with Moore and Moore's offensive scheme. But NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports the team Garrett Gilbert and Rush reps in practice and pick one of them at week's end.
The only certainty is it won't be DiNucci.
Asked about DiNucci during his Tuesday appearance on 105.3 The Fan, owner Jerry Jones said that facing the Eagles was "frankly more than he could handle."
Regardless of the replacement, it's fair to temper expectations here.
Since Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the third quarter of the Cowboys' Oct. 11 win against the New York Giants, Dalton and DiNucci have started 36 possessions and the offense has recorded one touchdown and seven field goals.
The touchdown -- a Dalton pass to Amari Cooper -- came with 2:52 left in the Oct. 19 loss to the Arizona Cardinals when the score was 31-3. A McCarthy-coached team has never scored fewer than three touchdowns in a three-game span, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
"It is frustrating," Elliott said. "But it's something we've got to fix. It just starts with protecting the quarterback and protecting the ball. We've just got to find a way to make a couple of more plays."
Against the Eagles, the Cowboys dug deep into their bag of tricks. Elliott lined up as a quarterback in the Wildcat formation. Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, who has as many touchdown passes as Dalton, lined up at quarterback as well. The Cowboys had a double reverse and a fake reverse.
At a key juncture in the third quarter, they called another reverse to Wilson, who had the option to pass, but the Cowboys failed to block Fletcher Cox and Wilson was dropped for a 10-yard loss. Greg Zuerlein's subsequent 52-yard field goal try sailed wide right.
"When you have a drive where you're running it good and you try to hit a play like that, obviously when it doesn't work, it can be frustrating," McCarthy said. "But we had some deceptions in the game plan. Frankly, we have it in every week and probably called more of them. But those are plays you try to set up, and at the end of the day, timing and execution is a part of it."
The last time the Cowboys seemed this futile was in the first three games of Elliott's six-game suspension in 2017. Left tackle Tyron Smith missed two of the three games. The Cowboys lost three straight to the Atlanta Falcons, Eagles and San Diego Chargers and were outscored 92-22.
In 31 possessions, the Cowboys scored two touchdowns and kicked three field goals, but they still had Prescott in his second year for all of those games.
This recent run of Cowboys futility is reminiscent of the last time the Cowboys had to start at least three quarterbacks in the same season, in 2015. Tony Romo started and finished two of his four starts because of collarbone injuries. Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore combined to win one of 12 games.
The Cowboys failed to score at least 20 points eight times that season.
Scoring touchdowns was hard -- just as hard as it has been so far without Prescott in 2020.
It won't be any easier this week when the Cowboys host the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday -- and it doesn't matter who the quarterback is. ...
Also of interest. ... Cooper finished the night with one catch for five yards on five targets. While the Cowboys' game plan was built around the run-heavy approach, the lack of touches by their top downfield threat was surprising based on his history of torching the Eagles since joining the Cowboys.
With Darius Slay missing part of the game with an injury, the Cowboys should've made it a point to get Cooper the ball on the perimeter in a must-win game with the NFC East lead on the line.
Tony Pollard expected to emerge as a key contributor but stumbled out of the game. Against the Eagles, Pollard looked like the multi-purpose playmaker that garnered hype throughout the offseason. The second-year pro amassed 64 scrimmage yards on nine touches while exhibiting the stop-start quickness and burst that makes him difficult to bring down in the open field.
If Pollard can continue to make contributions as a change of pace back, the Cowboys will have a formidable 1-2 punch in the backfield in 2021 and beyond.
One last note here. ... Aside from Dalton, the Cowboys had no further positive tests through Wednesday morning.
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 4 November 2020
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold reminded readers, in back-to-back games, Drew Lock's rocky sophomore year has been put squarely under the football microscope. Because life in the AFC West was a lot more fun for the Broncos when they were on the top end of the quarterback pyramid in the division, with John Elway and Peyton Manning doing Hall of Fame things and Jake Plummer providing wins and playoff appearances in between.
And whether it's always fair -- it's not, but welcome to the NFL -- Lock has certainly seen his future in a span of seven days. Patrick Mahomes still hasn't lost to the Broncos, with trophies already filling his mantel, and Justin Herbert bounced back from an interception on his first pass attempt of the game to show a dump truck’s worth of potential on Sunday.
But Lock, with three touchdown passes in the Broncos' 21-point fourth-quarter surge, including one on the last play of the game, shook off what was shaping up as a day-after-Halloween horror show, turning it into a 31-30 comeback win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Herbert had his fourth game with at least three touchdown passes, but Lock had the game that finally might let him breathe.
Lock, who had entered the game last in the league in completion percentage and touchdown passes (he hadn't thrown one since the season opener before his TD pass to Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth quarter Sunday), spent the week after Denver's 43-16 loss to the Chiefs dealing with his decision-making process, as he passed up easier completions for far riskier, less-productive throws.
He'll spend the coming days talking about how to keep it going.
All due to a 14-play, 81-yard drive that culminated with a 1-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Hamler as time expired, moving the Broncos to 3-4 and giving Lock the boost he has needed.
Remember, the Broncos had 60 yards and two first downs while falling behind 14-3. That led Lock to address the unit in the locker room at halftime.
"I just got up in front of the offense and said, 'Listen, it's so easy for us to come in here and yell and scream and get mad about what we're doing bad, but we just need to man up, and when the plays come our way, we need to make them, myself included. I'm not yelling at y'all, I'm obviously talking to myself right now, screaming to myself right now,'" Lock said, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. "And that's exactly what we did."
The speech didn't spark an immediate turnaround.
The Chargers would go up 24-3 before the Broncos fully joined the fight.
Lock was 17-of-26 for 190 yards after the break and threw all three of the fourth quarter touchdowns -- to DaeSean Hamilton, Okwuegbunam and Hamler -- to secure a much-needed win in Denver.
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper suggests, the challenge now will be playing that kind of offensive football for a full game rather than waiting until it’s almost too late.
Legwold agrees. He explained, the Broncos' offensive plan is too-often a brief scoring feast or a lumbering punt-filled football famine. Lock was 12-of-23 for 93 yards at the end of the third quarter Sunday before he topped 100 yards passing in the fourth quarter.
Legwold went on to note that Lock's footwork and mechanics are often going the wrong way -- especially when he faces pressure from the middle. The Broncos don't make big plays at important times often enough, and they aren't consistently putting any drives together when not in comeback mode.
Are they a run team? A play-action team? A throw-it-around team?
None of the above at the moment, at least not consistently.
Phillip Lindsay, with his 55-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, continues to look like a starting point, at least one the Broncos should consider going with in the near future.
The touchdown, which cut the Chargers' lead to just two touchdowns, did more than just light a fire under the offense. It also did the same for the defense.
As the Broncos hope to build on one of the franchise's finest comeback victories, Lindsay wants to ensure they don't have to do it again.
"It was a great win, but we've got to go back to work and find ways to do something in the beginning of the game so that we're not in predicaments like this," Lindsay said. "That's our problem right now. We need to find ways to have explosive plays so that our defense isn't put under pressure for so long. You can only do that for so long."
Next up, the Broncos visit the Falcons on Sunday.
It's worth noting, by the way, that since a 22-of-33, 216-yard performance in the season opener against the Titans, Lock had not been the same since his Week 2 right (throwing) shoulder injury against the Steelers until the fourth quarter on Sunday. Lock finished 26-of-41 for 248 yards with the three touchdowns and an interception.
Lock has five interceptions in his three starts since returning to the lineup and didn't have a completion of more than 27 yards until the fourth quarter on Sunday. But that fourth quarter, when he seemed to decide it was now-or-never, tipped the scales for him. ...
The Denver Broncos have placed tight end Jake Butt on injured reserve due to an ongoing hamstring injury.
Butt was injured prior to Denver’s Week 7 game against the Kansas City Chiefs and has been inactive for the last two games. In five games played for the Broncos this season, Butt has caught two passes for five yards. He started his first game of the year in Week 6 against the New England Patriots.
He will miss the next three weeks for the Broncos before being eligible to return for the team’s Week 12 game against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 29.
The Broncos are banged up at the position in general as Andrew Beck was placed on injured reserve last week and Nick Vannett is battling a foot injury. Noah Fant and Okwuegbunam remain on the active roster along with Vannett. ...
Both teams' work weeks were interrupted by the novel coronavirus with Chargers backup guard Ryan Groy and Broncos starting right guard Graham Glasgow both going on the COVID-19/reserve list. The Broncos also were without two assistant coaches who were under COVID-19 protocols: defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and O-line coach Mike Munchak.
On Tuesday, GM John Elway and CEO Joe Ellis tested positive.
The Broncos are confident the transmissions originated from outside the building, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported.
The Broncos announced on Wednesday they would conduct practice virtually and return to the practice field Thursday.
On the injury front. ... Lindsay jammed some toes in Sunday's win over the Chargers, a source told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Lindsay didn't practice Wednesday, but there's optimism he'll be ready to go this week against the Falcons.
CB A.J. Bouye (concussion) and Vannett were both hurt during the game. Receiver Tim Patrick was held out against the Chargers with a hamstring injury.
I'll have more on Lindsay, Patrick and Vannett via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
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 4 November 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Noah Trister framed it: "The postgame stats stuck out in glaring fashion after the latest home loss by the Detroit Lions."
Adrian Peterson: five carries for 7 yards.
D'Andre Swift: six carries for 1 yard.
Detroit's anemic running game -- and indeed, its offensive ineptitude in general -- had the Lions playing from behind the entire second half Sunday, and they eventually lost 41-21 to Indianapolis. The defeat was Detroit's seventh straight at home. The Lions managed only 29 yards rushing and lost the time of possession battle badly.
"You want to try to do your best to stay balanced all the way through the game," head coach Matt Patricia said. "When that's not happening, it just gets a little bit away from you."
Detroit's only touchdown of the first half came shortly after the Lions blocked a punt. On their first five possessions, they had only two first downs, and one of those was on the touchdown.
Detroit had only 5 yards rushing in the first half and entered the third quarter trailing 20-7. Unlike the previous weekend at Atlanta, quarterback Matthew Stafford couldn't rally the Lions late.
And there's a good chance he won't do it again this week.
The team announced on Wednesday that Stafford has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The reason for the placement was not given as teams are not permitted to say whether players go on because of positive tests or close contact with someone who has tested positive. The Lions did not report any positive tests on Wednesday morning.
Stafford was on the list for a day this summer after what was called a false positive test.
Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis was placed on the list this week, but multiple reporters say that the Stafford move is not related to Davis.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Stafford is considered a "high-risk, close contact" from a non team member. His last contact was Monday, which means he would be eligible to come off the Resvere/COVID list Sunday and play vs. the Vikings, pending negative tests for him, per source.
Chase Daniel would get the start against the Vikings if Stafford cannot play.
Stafford's potential absence comes after Detroit's receiving corps took a hit with a hip injury to Kenny Golladay.
Golladay is expected to miss at least one game after injuring his hip in a loss to the Colts this past Sunday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. The Pro Bowler will undergo further testing but is considered week to week moving forward, Rapoport added.
Golladay, who's coming off consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, leads Detroit with 338 receiving yards in 2020 while averaging 16.9 yards per catch. Detroit is just 1-3 when he doesn’t play four quarters (and 3-1 when he does).
Now Jamal Agnew is down too because of a rib injury, intensifying the depth crunch at the position.
Expect to see more of Marvin Hall and rookie Quintez Cephus this week, as well as perhaps a bigger role for pass-catching tight end T.J. Hockenson.
There's a chance Golladay ends up on injured reserve and is sidelined for a minimum three game, but a full determination on how much time he'll be out has yet to be made, per Rapoport.
I'll have more on Stafford and on Golladay's status going forward via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant.
In a related note. ... After a brief stint in San Francisco, free agent wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is getting another look. Sanu was listed as a workout for the Lions today, although under this season's COVID-19 rules, that just means he entered the testing protocol that would allow him to visit the team facility for a workout.
The 31-year-old Sanu has had some strong seasons in his NFL career, but he hasn't done much recently. He was a disappointment in New England last year after the Patriots gave up a second-round pick to acquire him from the Falcons midway through the season. The Patriots cut him before the start of this season and the 49ers signed him, but he only lasted long enough to catch one pass for nine yards.
Sanu may not have many more chances to make an impression with an NFL team, but the Lions are at least willing to see what he can still do. ...
Meanwhile, it's worth noting Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. still has value. He had three catches for 39 yards and two TDs. In last week's win at Atlanta he had five catches for 80 yards.
Hall, playing opposite in Jones, in Golladay's place, had four catches for 113 yards.
The Lions also targeted Hockenson often during Sunday's game. In the first three quarters against the Colts, Stafford threw to Hockenson 10 times.
Patricia announced on Monday afternoon that Trey Flowers is headed for injured reserve. The defensive end suffered an undisclosed injury in the fourth quarter Sunday.
Flowers' move to short-term IR means he will have to miss at least three weeks. He is eligible to return as soon as Detroit's Thanksgiving game against the Houston Texans.
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 4 November 2020
According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, Aaron Rodgers doesn't need more weapons at the trade deadline as much as the Green Bay Packers' defense does.
Something has to change, whether it's an influx of playmakers who can stop the run or a scheme overhaul.
If not, it will be another year where the other side of the ball costs Rodgers a shot at his second Super Bowl. Not that Rodgers has been without fault in his pursuit of a second title, but Sunday's 28-22 loss to the Minnesota Vikings (2-5) -- who essentially beat the Packers (5-2) with one player, running back Dalvin Cook -- exposed the same issues that knocked out Green Bay last year in the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Those same 49ers just so happen to be up next on the Packers' schedule on Thursday in California.
One of the hallmarks of the Packers over the past two years has been how well the team has bounced back under losses under Head Coach Matt LaFleur.
That maxim will be put to the test with a short turnaround that's going to be further complicated by COVID-19 issues.
The Packers were holding virtual meetings in place of in-person activities Monday following a new positive test; running back A.J. Dillon was the player who tested positive, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported, per a source informed of the situation. He was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday and will not play this week.
Dillon's positive test came from Sunday's pregame testing, per Pelissero. Dillon played 14 snaps in Green Bay's loss to Minnesota, per Next Gen Stats, rushing five times for 21 yards.
Contact tracing began immediately within the Packers organization, which could affect the team's status for Thursday night's game. With Aaron Jones missing Sunday's game due to injury, the Packers were already working with a limited number of running backs before Dillon's test, creating concern about their ability to suit up Thursday.
It turns out LB Kamal Martin and running back Jamaal Williams were both designated high-risk close contacts to Dillon, Pelissero reported Tuesday. They must isolate for five days. Since they're contact with Dillon was on Sunday, they're out until Saturday.
Packers remain unsure if Jones will return from his calf injury in time for this game. But NFL Network's Ian Rapoport advised his Twitter followers on Tuesday there's pessimism that Jones, who has missed the last two games, will be back for Thursday. He also reminded us the Packers tend to be very cautious with injuries like this.
But Jones was able to work on a limited basis Tuesday and he's officially listed as questionable.
"We'll see come game time if Aaron can go or not," LaFleur said Tuesday.
Beyond Jones, the Packers will have Tyler Ervin and Dexter Williams available. Ervin has 10 career carries and Williams has five.
"That's what we have to work with," LaFleur said. "They've been a part of our system for over a year."
Assuming we get through this issue, it's worth noting the Packers have yet to lose back-to-back games under LaFleur, though they did suffer a pair of losses in San Francisco last year -- a 37-8 loss in Week 12 and the above-mentioned 37-20 defeat in the NFC Championship Game.
"We've obviously had a couple rough ones there last season," Rodgers said. "They've had an up-and-down year. They've been playing better of late.
"I don't believe there will be little, if any, fans there, so we're going to have to handle the environment well. It's a really good football team obviously coming off a Super Bowl appearance."
The Packers lost two players -- safeties Will Redmond and Vernon Scott -- to shoulder injuries but seemed to get out of Sunday's game without any significant issues heading into the short week.
"Just get our bodies and minds right, physically and emotionally and get ready for that Thursday game," said tight end Robert Tonyan, who had five catches for 79 yards Sunday. "It's a quick turnaround, it's a long trip, but that's the NFL. That's how it is and we'll be ready."
I'll obviously be following Jones' status -- as well as the COVID-related issue -- via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Davante Adams caught touchdowns from 5, 1 and 7 yards for his first career three-score day.
His two TDs in the first half marked just the second time in his career that he registered two TD receptions in a first half (2016 at Philadelphia). His third TD pulled Green Bay within six (following a successful two-point attempt) with 2:47 remaining.
With two touchdowns against Minnesota in the opener, Adams becomes only the third receiver in franchise history to have five TDs against one opponent in a single season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Don Hutson had six touchdowns against the Cleveland Rams in 1938 and then five against the Rams in 1942. In 1993, Sterling Sharpe had five against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It's the first time since 2012 (James Jones/Jordy Nelson) that the Packers have had two different players post three receiving TDs in a game in the same year (Tonyan vs. Atlanta, Week 4).
Over the past five seasons, Adams has 11 games with multiple touchdown catches. No other player ended Sunday with more than eight such games over that span.
In high winds, Rodgers was still efficient early on by keeping things short. He completed his first nine passes before taking a shot in the end zone from 17 yards out. In the third quarter, he hit Tonyan deep for a 45-yard completion when it was a 21-14 game. The Packers opened with consecutive 13-plus-play drives, only the second time in Rodgers' tenure that they've opened a game with two such drives.
Rodgers finished 27-of-41 for 291 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
In a related note. ... Profootballtalk.com pointed out this week that the reports linking the Packers to Texans receiver Will Fuller, as the trade deadline approached never came to fruition. After Sunday's loss, Rodgers was asked whether the team "need[s] to add to that position to be the offense you want to be long term?"
"It's not a bad question, but it's not one that I can answer," Rodgers said. "We've had many conversations about this type of thing over the years. I surely understand my role. I'm not gonna stomp for anybody. The last time I stomped for a player, he ended up going to Buffalo."
Rodgers apparently was referring to receiver Jake Kumerow, a surprise release by the Packers before the start of the 2020 season.
"I like the guys that we have," Rodgers added. "We need more production, more consistency at times. But I like the guys we got. ..."
While the Packers had no additional positive tests through Wednesday morning, the 49ers are now dealing with a COVID-19 issue.
The team shut down their facility Wednesday after a positive COVID-19 test.
Contact tracing is currently underway.
As of now, the game remains as scheduled and the Packers were set to fly to San Francisco late Wednesday afternoon. ...
And finally, beyond the COVID-related issues . ... The team's estimated practice report listed offensive tackle David Bakhtiari (chest), kicker Mason Crosby (left calf, back), linebacker Rashan Gary (ankle), Jones (calf), cornerback Kevin King (quadriceps), linebacker Preston Smith (shoulder) and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (knee) as limited participants.
Like Jones, I’ll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game.
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 4 November 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken put it, "This was not how Houston's season was supposed to go. ..."
All offseason the Texans talked of taking a step forward in 2020 after winning the AFC South two years in a row. Instead everything fell apart. And now the Texans come out of their bye week as one of the NFL's worst teams with a 1-6 record in a season that has already cost coach Bill O'Brien his job.
Even worse for the Texans: A bad record won't even bring a high draft pick after they dealt both their first- and second-round picks in 2021 to Miami for left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
Things went wrong for the Texans from the start, and they limped to an 0-4 mark. Owner Cal McNair had seen enough from O'Brien, also the general manager, after that and fired him in his seventh season in Houston.
Romeo Crennel was made interim coach and the Texans finally got a win in his first game in charge. But the victory against the Jaguars didn't lead to more success. Houston dropped the next two games, capped by an embarrassing home loss to the Packers when most fans were cheering for the road team.
Star defensive end J.J. Watt has become increasingly sullen and terse as the dismal season has progressed. Things have gotten so bad that some have speculated it might be time to trade Watt, something unthinkable entering this season. Dealing the star would be difficult with a contract in which he's making $15.5 million this year and $17.5 million in 2021, with a cap hit for the two years of $33 million.
The 31-year-old Watt wasn't asked specifically about the possibility of being traded, but he was questioned about his commitment to one day helping the Texans to their first NFL title.
"My goal since I got here was to bring a championship to the city of Houston," he said last week. "That remains my goal until the day I'm not a Houston Texan anymore."
On Sunday, he seemed more defeated than he'd been in a decade in Houston, barely managing full sentences to discuss the loss and the state of the team. He was asked what the team can do after the bye to get on track.
"Got to get better," he said on the postgame Zoom before glaring at the camera.
Someone then asked how he as a leader can help the players hold things together for the rest of the season.
"Show up to work and do your job," Watt said.
Crennel is aware of Watt's increasing frustration and anger. Crennel said he planned to discuss the situation with the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. But the veteran coach knows nothing he could say to Watt will change how his star player is feeling.
There's only one remedy for that.
"He will not feel better until we start winning," Crennel said. "If we don't win, he's not going to feel better."
To do that the Texans must improve in many areas. The two biggest problems are the running game and run defense. Houston ranks last in the league averaging 84.9 yards rushing a game and is 31st against the run, giving up 165.9 yards.
The team's inability to run the ball is particularly upsetting to Houston's fans because of what the Texans gave up for running back David Johnson. O'Brien traded three-time All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona in March for Johnson and two draft picks.
The trade was almost universally panned. Criticism of the deal has only increased with Hopkins leading the NFL in yards receiving for the winning Cardinals and Johnson doing little to help Houston. He's averaging 56 yards rushing a game and has yet to have a 100-yard game.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson has played well and ranks second in the NFL with 2,095 yards passing after throwing for at least 300 yards in his last four games. But Houston's offense remains inconsistent because of the team's inability to run, particularly in the red zone.
"We all need to do a better job, myself included, to get the running game going," offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said.
Watson is ultra-confident and has always been upbeat, even after tough losses. But even he seemed beaten down after the latest defeat, admitting this season has been hard on him.
But the 25-year-old is determined to rest and regroup this week then trying to help his team do something positive this year.
"We've got to continue to just keep fighting," he said. "We don't want to give up. There's still some football to play, and who knows what can happen? Right now, we're just trying to scratch and claw to get victories, as many victories as we can."
He knows he'll have to be the one to lead that fight when the Texans resume play at Jacksonville on Sunday.
"I'm going to go out there and play my hardest and try to win games," he said. "So, I expect everyone else to do the same. And I bet they will."
Johnson made up for the shaky rushing day against Green Bay with a 4-42-1 receiving line on four targets. ...
On the injury front. ... Tight ends Kahale Warring and Jordan Akins (concussion, ankle) returned to practice Monday. Akins, who was working again fully on Wednesday, has missed the last three games with his issues; Warring has been on IR. Crennel confirmed the team is activating the 21-day window for Warring to return.
I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed for both players in coming days. ...
The Texans are signing veteran QB Josh McCown; the news broke Wednesday afternoon so I'll have more on this as well. ...
One last note here. ... Asked who she believes will lead Houston in targets the rest of the season, ESPN.com's Texans beat writer Sarah Barshop replied, "Brandin Cooks."
Barshop went on to explain that Cooks leads the Texans in targets right now, and with Will Fuller and Kenny Stills still on board after the trade deadline, that should continue. Fuller clearly has a lot of chemistry built with Watson, but Cooks is getting there and has become a reliable target.
For the record, the Texans and Packers were working on a deal for Fuller, but could not agree on value ahead of Tuesday's trade deadline.
A day prior, Fuller had drawn notice from multiple teams, including the Packers, and many -- including Fuller, apparently -- thought he'd be shipped. Instead, he'll continue with the only team he's played for during his five-season NFL career.
Fuller will continue to work in the same offense that's allowed him to pull in 31 receptions for 490 yards and five touchdowns, so far.
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 4 November 2020
Philip Rivers picked apart Detroit's defense with short and accurate passes after it shut down the Indianapolis Colts on the ground early in the game.
Rivers threw three touchdown passes in the second quarter to help the Colts surge past Detroit for a 41-21 victory Sunday following a first quarter in which they averaged a little more than 1 yard rushing on 10 carries.
Rivers completed 23 of 33 attempts, mostly short passes to the outside or over the middle, for 262 yards. The 38-year-old quarterback also showed he still has some arm strength to go along with his savvy touch, perfectly throwing a 29-yard pass to Nyheim Hines late in the first half.
Indy (5-2) has won two straight while the Tennessee Titans have lost two in a row, putting them in a first-place tie in the AFC South.
"We're in a position where we have a chance," Rivers said.
Rivers threw passes to 11 teammates.
None of the 11 hauled in more than three receptions apiece: Hines (3), Zach Pascal (3), Mo Alie-Cox (3), Trey Burton (3), Marcus Johnson (2), Jack Doyle (2), Jonathan Taylor (2), T.Y. Hilton (2), Jordan Wilkins (1), Ashton Dulin (1) and Michael Pittman Jr. (1).
"It's unusual, but we have such a variety of skill players," he said. "It makes us tougher to defend because you don't know where the ball is going."
The Colts were healthy and looked rested and ready to roll after being idle last week and improved to 3-0 after a bye under head coach Frank Reich.
Hines had so much energy he celebrated each of his two touchdowns in the second quarter with moves that would make a gymnast proud, pulling off roundoffs into full twists in the end zone. The first acrobatic feat was particularly impressive because Hines went in motion to the left, reversed field to make a short catch, sprinted up the sideline and spun to break a tackle to score.
Hines said he learned how to do flips about 10 years ago, starting on a trampolines before defying gravity off the ground.
"I've been saying I'm going to do it since my rookie year," the third-year running back said.
Hines and Wilkins back up Taylor, but both made the most of opportunities in the Motor City. Taylor had 11 carries and was held to 22 yards rushing, matching a season low, and gained 9 yards receiving on two catches. Wilkins, meanwhile, had career highs with 20 carries, 89 yards rushing and scored for the first time this season. Hines had two touchdowns in a game for the second time in his career, scoring on two of his three receptions for 54 yards.
"You can't count the plays," Hines said. "You've got make them count."
Indy's backfield depth is especially impressive, considering starter Marlon Mack ruptured his right Achilles tendon in Week 1.
And heading into this week's battle with Baltimore in Indy, the Colts might need it.
Reich acknowledged Monday that Taylor has "a little bit of an ankle injury," Zak Keefer of TheAthletic.com reports.
Taylor apparently tried to play through it as Reich said it didn't come up until after the game.
Wilkins played 39 snaps and had 21 total touches, going for 113 yards from scrimmage, including the touchdown. Taylor played 26 snaps and had 13 touches for 31 yards. Hines got 10 touches in his 16 snaps.
Taylor, a second-round choice, has 100 carries for 389 yards and three touchdowns this season. He also has caught 18 passes for 171 yards.
Meanwhile, Hilton (groin) and Dulin (knee) both exited the Lions game and did not return.
Reich told reporters on Monday both will continue to be monitored this week heading into this Sunday's game; the Colts' first practice of the week is Wednesday. If either Hilton or Dulin are limited in any fashion this week or this Sunday, the team can turn to Johnson, Pascal, Dezmon Patmon and Pittman at the wide receiver position, and also has DeMichael Harris on the practice squad if needed.
The Colts have dealt with multiple injury problems at receiver this season. Second-year receiver Parris Campbell is currently out with a knee injury. Pittman returned Sunday after missing three games with a calf injury.
Hilton, a free agent at the end of the season, is off to the slowest start of his nine-year NFL career. He went into Sunday's game with 20 catches for 242 yards and no touchdowns for the year.
He was not on the practice field to open the week on Wednesday.
I’ll obviously be following up via Late-Breaking Update as needed in coming days. ...
By the way. ... ESPN.com's Mike Wells notes the Colts will try to publicly downplay this stretch -- as they should -- but they know the coming stretch of games won't be against teams like Jacksonville, the Jets, Bengals and Vikings, who have combined for five victories this season.
The Ravens, Packers and Titans are all 5-2, just like the Colts. ...
One last note here. ... Rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who replaced future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri, went from being perfect on extra points on the season to missing two extra points on Sunday. Blankenship, the NFL's leading scorer, missed both of his extra points after dealing with poor snaps from long-snapper Luke Rhodes.
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 4 November 2020
Gardner Minshew won't return to the starting lineup when the Jacksonville Jaguars come back from their bye week.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that Minshew is expected to be inactive for next week's game versus the Houston Texans, per sources informed of the situation.
Head coach Doug Marrone confirmed that news on Monday and made it clear Jake Luton is close to making his NFL debut as a starting quarterback.
Marrone told reporters the rookie will receive starter reps in practice.
Luton's journey to this point is pretty unlikely. As a promising junior college transfer into Oregon State, Luton's first season with the Beavers was cut short by a frightening thoracic spine fracture suffered in a game against Washington State that sent him to a Pullman-area hospital in 2017. He returned the next season and navigated multiple injuries, missing four games but combining to throw for over 4,300 yards and a 38-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his final two years at Oregon State. Perseverance and production helped Luton compile enough of a resume to get selected by the Jaguars in the sixth round of April's draft.
Luton completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 5,227 yards and 42 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in 23 games with Oregon State from 2017 to '19. He threw 28 touchdown passes and only three interceptions in his final season with the Beavers.
Jacksonville's choices to replace Minshew come down to Luton or veteran Mike Glennon. At 1-6, Jacksonville isn't exactly pushing the chips to the center of the table in an effort to make the playoffs, so why not give the rookie a shot?
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday both Glennon and Luton were told to be ready to compete for the starting gig in practice, with the loser serving as the backup while Minshew sits. The team had considered benching Minshew for Glennon because of a lack of consistency before discovering Minshew's thumb injury.
It'll be Luton who receives the chance to prove his worth at the pro level. He'll face the NFL's 30th-ranked defense in yards allowed per game. We'll see if he can take advantage of the opportunity.
Jags coaches have reportedly been impressed with Luton in practice and might want to see him in live-action.
Minshew's future seems in doubt with the Jags in line to pick high in the draft where they could look to snag a face of the franchise like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields or Trey Lance. ...
The news of Minshew's injured right thumb certainly provides a significant reason for D.J. Chark's struggles. Chark is the player the Jaguars like to use to stretch the field and Minshew hasn't been accurate with those throws (he threw behind Chark on a fourth-down throw against Detroit).
Meanwhile, James Robinson delivered another strong performance in Week 7, posting a 22-119-1 rushing line, as well as a 4-18-1 receiving line on six targets.
The undrafted rookie played a career-high 90 percent (53 of 59) of the snaps and is now averaging 15.3 carries and 4.6 targets per game on the season. Robinson has leapt to second in fantasy points among running backs and hasn't finished a week worse than 34th (one finish worse than 20th since Week 2). Jacksonville is headed to a bye week, and Robinson will be on the RB1 radar once back on the field in Week 9, but keep in mind he has arguably the hardest schedule for a running back during the fantasy playoffs.
Starting in Week 14, he'll need to face Tennessee, Baltimore, Chicago and Indianapolis to wind down the season. From a fantasy perspective, Robinson isn't a bad name to float in trade talks, though his heavy usage might bail him out down the stretch.
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 4 November 2020
According to ESPN.com's Adam Teicher, it may be premature to declare the deep pass is back in the Kansas City Chiefs' offense, given Sunday's opponent is the only NFL team yet to win a game in 2020.
But the Chiefs have reason to feel encouraged their passing game is at least headed in the right direction after their 35-9 win over the New York Jets at Arrowhead Stadium. Patrick Mahomes completed five passes of at least 25 yards to four different receivers with four of the throws going for touchdowns.
That wasn't a full day's work earlier in Mahomes' career, but it marks a season high for the Chiefs and Mahomes. Their offense has carried a much different look as the Chiefs had to rely on their running game and a shorter passing game to carry them. They had seven passes of 25 or more yards in the season's first seven games, including two in the previous two games.
"It's always fun to go out there and score touchdowns and do all of that different type of stuff but we've kind of been saying all year long that we have a lot of ways to beat teams," Mahomes said. "Today they were doing a good job of kind of stuffing up the run so we took it to the air and threw the ball and made plays happen that way.
"Now you can kind of see it. We can throw the ball on teams and we can run the ball on teams and it's about taking what's there and finding the best way to win a football game."
Mahomes was 31-of-42 for 416 yards and five touchdowns, including a shorter touchdown toss. It was his second career game with 400-plus yards and five touchdown passes, making him only the sixth player in history to have multiple games with such stats.
Many of his passing yards came off run-pass options. Mahomes had frequently been handing off to running backs on RPOs in recent games but more often on Sunday pulled the ball and found an available receiver.
"It was a nice job by Patrick," head coach Andy Reid said. "He had complete command of everything going on.
"He was spot on today. He was seeing and shooting and was very accurate with those things, seeing them and then his throwing was good, too. He's got a good feel for the game, what's happening down and distance-wise, field position, all of those things. I have full trust in him."
Three of Mahomes' touchdowns went at least 25 yards in the air, making him the first quarterback to achieve that since he did it in a game against the Oakland Raiders last season. No other quarterback has achieved that feat since the start of the 2019 season.
Mahomes has 10 career games with at least four touchdown passes, breaking the team record of nine held by Len Dawson. Mahomes has more games of four or more touchdowns than any player in history at the age of 25. Only Dan Marino with 12 had more by that age.
On Wednesday, Mahomes was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs' run-pass option attack was spot-on against the Jets. Most teams have been dropping deep into coverage, and that has led to more running attempts. But the Jets tempted Mahomes to throw the ball downfield, and the Super Bowl MVP was clearly up for the challenge.
"I just think the alignment of the defenders, they were really focused on stopping the run, which they did a good job of doing," Mahomes said. "The guys were getting open and I was putting it in their hands."
The flip side of the downfield success is the Chiefs averaged just 2.5 yards on 20 carries. But when the offense still puts up nearly 500 yards, it's hard to quibble with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Le'Veon Bell and the rest of the running backs.
Looking to nitpick?
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta suggests, the Chiefs still aren't getting production from backup tight ends Deon Yelder and Nick Keizer, each of whom caught one pass for 5 yards against New York. That may not be a big deal while Travis Kelce is healthy, but an injury or illness to him could be devastating. Kelce had eight catches for 109 yards and a score on Sunday.
The Chiefs came out of the game without any new injuries. They played without wide receiver Sammy Watkins (hamstring) and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (back). Watkins was back on the practice field Wednesday.
Next up, the Chiefs play the Panthers (3-5) on Sunday before getting a week off.
That Week 10 bye will come at a good time with the Las Vegas Raiders, the only team to have beaten them this season, on deck the following week.
Also of interest. ... The Chiefs signed running back DeAndre Washington in free agency this year, but they've decided they don't need any more running backs.
The Dolphins are trading a conditional sixth-round 2021 pick to the Chiefs for Washington and a conditional 2021 draft pick, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.
The specific terms of the trade have not been announced, but it's likely to involve a swap of Day 3 picks.
Washington has just three carries for five yards and one catch for two yards this season. He has also returned five kickoffs for 86 yards. Washington initially entered the league as a fifth-round pick of the Raiders in 2016. In 2019 he totaled 679 yards from scrimmage. ...
One last note here. ... Reid won his 229th career game, counting the playoffs. That ties him for fifth place on the NFL's all-time list with former Packers coach Curly Lambeau. The four coaches ahead of him: Don Shula, George Halas, Bill Belichick and Tom Landry.
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 4 November 2020
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez framed it: "Derek Carr, cold-weather warrior?
"Three weeks after exorcising his Arrowhead Stadium demons, the Las Vegas Raiders quarterback slayed another bugaboo in the Raiders' 16-6 win in blustery Cleveland on Sunday."
Because before beating the Cleveland Browns, Carr had been just 1-10 -- averaging 204 yards per game passing with 9 TDs and 11 INTs -- in games where the temperature was 45 degrees or cooler at kickoff. Sunday in the Dawg Pound, it was 43 degrees with a wind chill of 31 degrees, wind gusts of 35 mph and rain showers mixed with snow flurries.
The dragon was slayed, with Carr directing a conservative but dominant ground game that not only chewed up clock, but also wore the Browns down as the Raiders improved to 4-3 while the Browns fell to 5-3.
Of course, Carr wasn't integral to the win.
A quick glance at Carr's stat sheet might not impress, but he was much better than the 112 yards (the second fewest of his career) on 15-of-24 passing with a TD pass to Hunter Renfrow he turned in. Besides, as the Associated Press noted, the Raiders had three drives of 10 or more plays in a game for just the fourth time in the last 30 seasons (2013 opener at Indianapolis, 2002 finale vs. the Chiefs and in Week 12 of the 1995 season against the Dallas Cowboys).
Behind Carr, the Raiders won the time of possession by more than 15 minutes -- 37:43-22:17.
That Josh Jacobs was able to get the job done against the Browns, as his career-high game propelled the Raiders to getting a tough road win, was a big deal. Jacobs was heavily involved in the run attack, notching career highs with 31 carries for 128 yards.
While the weather conditions played a huge factor in the game, Jacobs said he felt comfortable playing in it, as it took him back to his Midwestern roots of Oklahoma.
"I came out early with, me and Alec Ingold walked around the field and I was like 'yeah, I'm good for it,'" said Jacobs. "We came out and it started raining, and it just made the game more fun because I knew we were going to run the ball."
Jacobs performance once again marveled head coach Jon Gruden who has been accustomed to this level of play from his workhorse back. Gruden said he regrets comparing Jacobs to Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton earlier this season as he claims it "adds pressure" to Jacobs, however he still couldn't deny his running back mirrored No. 34 in today's game.
"I remember horrible weather, and I remember everybody in the stadium knowing No. 34 was going to get the ball and he made yards and got it done anyway, and that's what Jacobs' level of talent is," Coach Gruden said. "He's a great runner."
Jacobs was elated with the execution of Gruden's ground-and-pound game plan in the running attack, describing the Raiders' run game as "dominant" against the Browns as he, Devontae Booker and Jalen Richard combined for nearly 160 yards.
No. 28 was also glad to see Carr get involved in the running game, adding more than 40 yards on the ground. Carr even said that the team referred to him as "an honorary running back" this week.
"It's good to see that (Carr) is comfortable, and he's getting better every week," said Jacobs. "Just to see him get comfortable and trust that when the play breaks down he can use his feet is huge."
With the Silver and Black leaving Cleveland with the victory, their record is back over .500 with a 4-3 record. Jacobs and the Raiders now look to continue their success in the run game Sunday against the Chargers in Los Angeles.
Also helpful: The Raiders' defense showed up.
Because while they entered the game ranked 31st in the NFL in points allowed (32.8), 31st in takeaways (3) and 29th in sacks (7), the Raiders did not allow the Browns to score a touchdown (slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner's Jack Tatum-esque hit on Jarvis Landry to keep him from hauling in a fourth quarter TD is a season highlight) and actually had a takeaway with their first fumble recovery of the season. ...
On the injury front. ... Bryan Edwards (ankle, foot) was inactive again in Cleveland, but the rookie receiver, who was hurt in Week 3, appears to be closer to returning after practicing on a limited basis all last week. I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Also. ... On Sunday, the Raiders rushed tackle Trent Brown to the hospital after a pregame IV mishap resulted in air in his veins -- a potentially lethal condition.
A source with knowledge of the situation told Profootballtalk.com that Brown was discharged from a Cleveland hospital on Monday. Head coach Jon Gruden said on Monday that he'd been told Brown is doing well, but he doesn't know when Brown will be able to play.
Players and coaches on the Raiders have described a scary situation in their locker room before the game, as Brown had to be wheeled out of the locker room and rushed to the locker room. An air embolism can be life-threatening. Fortunately, Brown appears to be doing well.
The NFL Players Association already has launched an investigation. Obviously, it's something that should never happen in the exercise of proper care, and the league and union need to understand what occurred so that it will never happen again. Due to COVID-19, Brown missed the Week 7 game against the Buccaneers.
He was slated to play on Sunday until the IV blunder.
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 4 November 2020
As ESPN.com's Shelley Smith noted, "Same story, different opponent and unfortunately for the Los Angeles Chargers, the same ending. ..."
The Chargers once again blew a double-digit lead -- this time a 24-3, third-quarter advantage, allowing Broncos quarterback Drew Lock hit K.J. Hamler in the corner of the end zone on the final play to give the Broncos a nail biter, 31-30 victory.
The loss was the fourth in which the Chargers blew a double-digit lead, following lost lead of 11 points to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 and 17 to both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively. The Chargers also squandered a 16-point lead in Week 7 to the Jacksonville Jaguars before coming back to win the game.
In the loss, rookie quarterback Justin Herbert was terrific once again -- after throwing an interception on his first pass -- he went on to throw three passing touchdowns to help stake the Chargers (2-5) to the big lead. Herbert has 15 touchdown passes in his first six games as a rookie, tying Deshaun Watson's record from 2017.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Herbert became the first quarterback since at least 2001 to throw at least three touchdown passes in four of his first six games.
But in the end, he was left helpless on the sideline, watching his defense give up what once was considered a certain victory.
"The way we lost a game today, that is unacceptable," head coach Anthony Lynn said. "Everything we wanted is still in front of us. We've got to figure this out and turn it around soon."
It's the fifth time in franchise history the Chargers have blown a lead of 21 or more.
L.A.'s players were just as frustrated and disappointed as their coach. After the Chargers led by 21 early in Sunday's game, the Broncos, led by Lock, staged a steady comeback. Denver appeared to have been stopped on the final play, but the referees called pass interference on Brandon Facyson on fourth down in the end zone with 1 second left, giving it one more chance. The Broncos then scored.
"I wish I knew," said L.A. wide receiver Keenan Allen, who caught nine passes for 67 yards and a touchdown, on why the Chargers keep losing big leads. "I don't know."
"It's very disappointing in the locker room," Lynn said. "These guys feel bad now."
"It's the NFL, man, games come down to the wire," running back Justin Jackson said. "When we're ahead, we've got to try to keep putting the points on them, keep that spread up and help the defense out. Like I said, it's the NFL. You've got to go out there and win the game at the end."
Even though he sounded upbeat, Herbert said that if anyone thinks he is, that person is wrong.
"It doesn't really matter how well I played, or how poorly I played. We lost," Herbert said. "We didn't get it done."
Their next chance to get it right is this Sunday when they host the Raiders. ...
Worth noting. ... Both teams' work weeks were interrupted by the coronavirus with Chargers backup guard Ryan Groy and Broncos starting right guard Graham Glasgow both going on the COVID-19/reserve list. Groy had started the past three games at right guard for Trai Turner (groin).
The Broncos also were without two assistant coaches who were under COVID-19 protocols: defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and O-line coach Mike Munchak.
On the good news front for the Chargers -- as tough as it is to find -- kicker Michael Badgley connected on field goals of 52, 47 and 33 yards. He had been struggling coming in, missing an extra point in each of the previous two games and missed a game-winning field goal attempt in Week 5 against the Saints.
Since 2017, no player has more receptions on third down than Allen. On Sunday, Allen eclipsed 100 receptions on the money down to reach a league-high 103 topping Atlanta Falcons wideout Julio Jones with 90.
The 206 rushing yards the Bolts had in Sunday's game was the most since 2018 at Cleveland (246.)
Jackson led the backs in rushing with 89 yards -- a career high. He also caught 3-of-5 targets for 53 yards.
As Rotowold.com suggested, trying to figure out the Chargers' backfield has become a wasted effort.
After Jackson was the guy in the first game with Austin Ekeler sidelined by a hamstring injury, against the Saints, Jackson took a back seat to Joshua Kelley in Week 7, but it was Jackson again in this one. Even Troymaine Pope out-touched Kelley in this one. Jackson has looked good with his opportunities over the last few weeks and would seem to be the favorite to lead this backfield until Ekeler returns. He's also seen 17 targets over the last three games.
On the injury front. ... Lynn said defensive end Joey Bosa and Pope are in the concussion protocol. Bosa and Pope exited early in L.A.'s loss to the Broncos on Sunday.
And finally. ... The Los Angeles Chargers on Monday traded defensive back Desmond King II to the Tennessee Titans. In exchange for King II, the Chargers will receive a 2021 sixth-round draft pick from Tennessee.
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 4 November 2020
According to ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry, Jared Goff appeared frustrated and the Rams' offense appeared lost as the Miami Dolphins cruised to 28-17 victory on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
In rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's first NFL start, the Dolphins forced four turnovers and scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams -- all before halftime.
The Rams fall to 5-3. The Dolphins improve to 4-3.
Now the Rams must enter a Week 9 bye wondering exactly who they are and what they're capable of this season after sweeping the NFC East, but falling to the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers and now the Dolphins. The Rams' only victory over a team with a winning record was their 24-10 win against the Chicago Bears in Week 7.
Their schedule entering the second half of the season offers no relief. The Rams, in Week 10, play host to the Seattle Seahawks, and then in Week 11 they must travel to Florida again -- their fifth trip to the East Coast this season -- to take on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2).
Reasons for optimism?
The Rams gained 471 yards on Sunday. The Dolphins gained 145. That differential of 326 yards was the most any NFL team had out-gained its opponent by in any game all season.
The Dolphins, thanks to the defense scoring on a 78-yard fumble return and the special teams scoring on an 88-yard punt return, managed to win the game 28-17.
Goff threw for 355 yards while Tagovailoa threw for 93 yards, but Goff had two interceptions and lost two fumbles, while Tagovailoa had zero interceptions and lost one fumble. That was the difference.
Sunday's game featured the biggest yardage differential for a losing team since a 2002 game when the Texans scored three defensive touchdowns to beat the Steelers while gaining 47 total yards.
Prior to Sunday, the fewest yards gained this season by a team scoring 28 points in a game was 271 yards -- then the Dolphins scored 28 points while gaining 145 yards. The Dolphins won Tagovailoa's first start, but they're going to need a whole lot more from him going forward.
When under pressure in the first half, Goff completed 4-of-12 passes for 32 yards with two interceptions and two sacks that included two lost fumbles.
Goff developed some rhythm in the second half as he orchestrated a 10-play, 89-yard drive that culminated in a 11-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods, who scored the Rams' only other touchdown in the first half when he walked in for a 4-yard score. Goff finished 35 of 61 for 355 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions.
Despite success running the ball through most of their early-season games, the Rams shied away from relying on the run Sunday.
Darrell Henderson started and rushed for 47 yards on eight carries, but the second-year pro could not finish the second half after he suffered a thigh injury. Rookie Cam Akers, who has played minimal snaps since returning from a rib injury that sidelined him in Weeks 3 and 4, took over and rushed for 35 yards on nine carries.
Veteran Malcolm Brown was mostly utilized in pass-protection situations, but rushed for 40 yards on 10 carries.
Two-time Rams Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey became ill before the game and didn't play.
McVay told reporters on Tuesday he does not expect Henderson's thigh injury to impact his availability against the Seahawks in Week 10.
"Darrell is good. His quad was bothering him," McVay said during a video conference Monday evening. "If we were to practice this week, it would probably be later on in the week until he's ready to go, (but) don't expect it to linger into Seattle."
Ramsey was "feeling better" and was at the team's facility today.
"That's a positive sign for us," McVay said.
I'll follow up on Henderson via Late-Breaking Update as needed.
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 4 November 2020
According to ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa walked off the field with a wide smile as his first NFL start ended with a comfortable 28-17 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
Tagovailoa threw his first NFL touchdown, a tight-window, goal-line slant to wide receiver DeVante Parker, then he largely took a step back as his dominant defense and special-teams units carried the offense the rest of the way for a convincing victory.
Following a week in which all the talk was about Tagovailoa, the Dolphins' defense forced Rams quarterback Jared Goff into four first-half turnovers, including one for a defensive touchdown, and speedy punt returner Jakeem Grant scored an 88-yard touchdown. It was a historic day of sorts for the Dolphins, who had a passing, rushing, special-teams and defensive TD in a game for the first time since Oct. 24, 1993, against the Indianapolis Colts.
"I don't think I played to the standard of what this offense is capable of. There were certain plays where I could have stepped up and made the right throw, made the right decision. But it's good that we still came out with the win," Tagovailoa said. "Thank God we've got a good defense."
Goff might have nightmares about Miami coach Brian Flores' defense. The Dolphins pressured Goff on 21 of his 63 dropbacks (33 percent), tied for the highest percentage he has faced in a game this season (Chicago Bears in Week 7). Goff was 6-of-19 with two interceptions when under duress. The 19 attempts were tied for the most such attempts in a game in his career (Week 16 of 2019 versus the San Francisco 49ers).
"We won. We won the game. It's a team football game. It's not a one-man show. He made enough plays for us to win the ballgame," Flores said of Tagovailoa. "Collectively, if we don't play well in one phase, we have to pick each other up. It's his first NFL game against a real good defense. You got to take that into account, as well. But the rest of the team picked him up, and we got the W."
It was complete dominance by a Dolphins defense that devised unique pressure and confusing coverage drops that made Goff look baffled much of the game. The last time Goff led Rams coach Sean McVay's offense against a Flores defense, it was a similar story: In Super Bowl LIII, Flores, then the New England Patriots' defensive play caller, held the Rams' offense to just three points.
Flores accepted the Dolphins job days later. On Sunday, it looked like another example that Flores might have McVay and Goff's number.
Miami offense's 145 total yards were its fewest in a win since Week 14 of 2010 (131 yards vs. New York Jets) and fewest by a team to win by double digits since the 2006 Bears beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-13 with 107 total yards. But more than anything, it showed that the Dolphins have enough in their supporting cast to ensure Tagovailoa doesn't need to be a superstar for this team to win.
As for Tagovailoa, he became the 22nd Dolphins quarterback to start a game since Dan Marino retired in 2000. Dolphins fans hope he will be the one to get it right. And if there's one thing Tagovailoa showed Sunday, it's that he can take some hard hits and move around well in his first significant action since a career-threatening hip injury on Nov. 16, 2019, while he was playing with Alabama.
It was a rocky start for Tagovailoa, headlined by a strip sack from Rams All-Pro defender Aaron Donald on his first dropback. He also was nailed by Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers on the same play. It was his first significant hit since the hip injury. "It was a good hit. It's football. Tried to step up and make a throw. Aaron Donald swiped at the ball behind me. I don't know who the guy was that took me off my feet and pretty much body-slammed me, but that's football," Tagovailoa said. "I'm not going to lie; I did enjoy getting hit that first time. That was definitely a welcome hit."
Tagovailoa settled down toward the end of the quarter, when he led a touchdown drive that ended in that throw to Parker. He leaped for a hip bump with Parker and cradled the ball as he carried it to the sidelines. Tagovailoa said with a laugh after the game that he will be keeping that football.
That moment and that football will be the lasting image from Tagovailoa's first start. He was mobbed with hugs on the sidelines by teammates, including Ryan Fitzpatrick, the veteran signal-caller whom he replaced.
Tagovailoa finished with 12-of-22 passing for 93 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.
He is the first QB to win his first career start with fewer than 100 passing yards and 20-plus attempts since Donovan McNabb in 1999. Tagovailoa was rusty at times with some overthrows early on, before the Dolphins' offense got conservative for much of the second half while sitting on its sizable lead.
It wasn't a showcase game for Tagovailoa, but the Dolphins picked up their rookie in guiding him to his first win.
"It was fun to be able to play a full, 60-minute game being that it was my first start in the NFL," Tagovailoa said. "We faced a really good defense. I'm proud of what we got to do offensively, and I know there's still plenty of things that we need to correct."
Wolfe went on to report the scene for Tagovailoa's first start was written like a Hollywood script. Marino watched from the sideline as Tagovailoa and the offense warmed up before the game. Tagovailoa shared a warm hug with Fitzpatrick before his first snap, then jogged onto the field, where he was met with a standing ovation and notable cheers from the socially distanced fans at Hard Rock Stadium.
The Dolphins (4-3) jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead over the Rams (5-3) even as the offense finished with 54 yards, the fewest total yards by a team to score 28 first-half points in the past 40 seasons. But that gives Tagovailoa and the Dolphins something to work on this week as they savor their first week and rising above .500 for the first time since Week 15 of the 2018 season, after their Miami Miracle win over the Patriots.
"They showed a lot of mental toughness this week with the QB change," Flores said. "There were a lot of things going on other than football, and those guys put that aside and played well."
Next up, the Dolphins make their first visit to Arizona since 2012 to take on the Cardinals on Sunday. ...
Running back Myles Gaskin led the Dolphins in rushing for the sixth game this season with 47 yards. In his last nine games, Gaskin's totaled 125 carries for 485 yards and three touchdowns, and 33 receptions for 230 yards.
But the roll appears to be coming to an end.
The Dolphins added running back DeAndre Washington in a trade with the Chiefs on Tuesday and the move appears to be linked to an injury to Gaskin.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that Gaskin has a sprained MCL in his knee. Gaskin is expected to miss three games as a result of the injury.
Per Jackson, Gaskin's injury happened late in Sunday's win over the Rams.
Once Washington is ready to play for the Dolphins, he will join Matt Breida, Jordan Howard, Patrick Laird, and Salvon Ahmed as backfield options in Miami.
Worth noting, Gaskin and Breida were both absent from practice.
I'll have more on the plan going forward when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As noted above, Tagovailoa threw the first touchdown pass of his career at the end of the first quarter to Parker. NFL Next Gen Stats registered the separation between Parker and the nearest defender at .28 yards, the smallest window on a touchdown pass in the NFL this season.
The touchdown for Parker was the 10th in his past 18 games played. Since Week 7 of the 2019 season, his 10 receiving touchdowns are tied for ninth in the NFL.
As noted above, Grant registered the only punt return touchdown in the NFL this season with his 88-yarder this week. The punt return was the longest in franchise history and Grant, with five, rewrote his own franchise record for most special teams return touchdowns (three punts and two kickoffs) in Dolphins history. Grant is now first in the NFL in punt return yardage (227).
On Wednesday, Grant was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. ...
And finally. ... Adam Schefter of ESPN reports the Dolphins are sending receiver Isaiah Ford to the Patriots. The Patriots are sending a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to the Dolphins.
In seven games this season, Ford played 225 snaps, which is 51 percent of the team's offensive plays. He has 18 catches for 184 yards.
The Dolphins selected Ford in the seventh round in 2017.
The trade gives more playing time to Malcolm Perry, Lynn Bowden Jr. and Antonio Callaway, whose suspension ends this week.
Callaway was scheduled to practice Wednesday.
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 4 November 2020
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra framed it, "Dalvin Cook returned to the Vikings' proverbial kitchen and provided an astounding feast for Minnesota fans to behold. ..."
The running back bowled over the Green Bay Packers, almost single-handedly providing a 28-22 win over the division rival. After missing one game due to injury, Cook returned to underscore he remains the lifeblood of the Vikings offense.
"He really is the best back in the league," Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks said, via the team's official website.
Cook rushed 30 times for 163 yards and three TDs. The running back also led the Vikings in receiving, taking two catches for 63 yards and another score. Cook earned 226 of Minnesota's 324 scrimmage yards, a shade under 70 percent.
"Anytime you score four touchdowns you deserve some credit," Kirk Cousins said. "Just a great player, dynamic player; we're always trying to find ways to get him the football."
Cook is the first Vikings player with at least 200 scrimmage yards and at least four scrimmage touchdowns in a single game, per NFL Research. The running back is also the only player in NFL history with at least 200 scrimmage yards and at least four scrimmage touchdowns in a game against the Packers, as well as the only player with such a game at Lambeau Field (including Packers players).
"It felt great. This was my first win at Lambeau, and that's most important," Cook said. "Getting my team back on track and getting the team back where it needs to be at. We work so hard every day, limitless hours that nobody knows.
"And losing doesn't feel good. So, getting the win today was most important for me," Cook added. "The stats are a plus and they come with a great performance, but winning is first for me."
Cook became one of three players since 1950 with four scrimmage TDs in a game versus Green Bay (Others: Carolina RB DeAngelo Williams  and Chicago QB Bobby Douglass ) and one of three Vikings with four scrimmage TDs in a game since 1950 (Others: WR Ahmad Rashad  and RB Chuck Foreman ).
On Wednesday, Cook was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Sunday's win marked the first time in Cook's career he earned three rushing TDs in a game. He is the first player with three or more rushing scores against Green Bay since Washington RB Robert Kelley (3) in 2016 (1,442 days ago) and joined Foreman (Week 1, 1974) as the only Vikings with three rushing TDs in a single game against the Packers.
Cook also was superb on his 37-yard run to open the second half. Next Gen Stats determined the play was only supposed to gain a yard. The 36 yards beyond expectation were the second most in the NFL in Week 8's "Remarkable Rushes." Cook topped out at 19.9 miles per hour on the play for the 11th-fastest time by a ball carrier.
Cook's day impacted the load Cousins had to carry.
The Vikings QB attempted only 14 passes Sunday and averaged 1.79 air yards, the second fewest by any player with 10-plus attempts over the past 15 seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
With sustained winds listed at 23 mph and stronger gusts, the Vikings downfield passing game -- or "shot" plays -- off play-action was shelved.
Instead, Cousins took what was available and effectively avoided danger. He completed 11 of 14 passes for 160 yards with the score to Cook for a passer rating of 138.1. Cousins was one attempt shy of qualifying among Week 8 passers.
Cousins' longest pass of the game was 8 air yards.
The Vikings' offense looked renewed coming off its bye week after a blowout loss to the Atlanta Falcons, in which Minnesota rushed for 32 yards total in Cook's absence.
The difference Cook made was tangible from the very beginning. The Vikings entered Sunday having converted just 38 percent of their third downs and went 4-of-7 on third down Sunday, with Cook responsible for two of the successes.
The Vikings also bucked their fourth-down woes in Green Bay. After Alexander Mattison failed to convert on fourth-and-inches in Seattle, which would have sealed a victory on the road, and Mike Boone was stopped on fourth down against Atlanta at the goal line, Minnesota found success behind Cook, who converted on fourth-and-1 from Green Bay's 23-yard line ahead of the two-minute warning in the first half to extend a drive that resulted in his second touchdown. It allowed the Vikings to take a 14-14 tie with Green Bay into halftime.
Cook was limited Wednesday and Thursday in practice, but given the way he was feeling on Friday, the running back said postgame that he knew he would be full go in Green Bay.
Talk of keeping the running back on a pitch count was dispelled by members of the coaching staff, who noted the importance of having Cook available to help the offense get back on track.
"How Dalvin goes, we normally go, so obviously we've got to get him going and get him back to work," offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said last week.
Sunday marked the first win of Cook's career at Lambeau Field. The Vikings are now 2-5 after starting out the season with three straight losses and they're re-energized to make a push toward being competitive in 2020. Their schedule is manageable the rest of the way. Four of their remaining opponents, including the Detroit Lions (this week) and Chicago Bears -- who they will face twice in the second half -- lost in Week 8.
Worth noting. ... The Vikings' vertical game took a back seat to the huge performance by Cook in this one, but Justin Jefferson did tie Adam Thielen for the team lead in targets. Of greater interest than the target share, however, is that Packers shutdown corner Jaire Alexander shadowed Jefferson. And as Rotoworld.com notes, the box score won't show that Jefferson also drew an end zone target and defensive pass interference call on Alexander in the first half.
The duo should be more involved against a Lions defense that just gave up three passing TDs to Philip Rivers -- although none of the three went to wide receivers
One last note here. ... Head coach Mike Zimmer said cornerback Cameron Dantzler is "doing well" and has "a chance to play this week." The rookie was taken off the field on a stretcher this past Sunday after suffering a neck injury.
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 4 November 2020
Among the constants through New England's near two-decade-long run of dominance of the AFC East was the Patriots' ability to beat the Buffalo Bills.
On Sunday, in a measure of how an injury and talent-depleted team appears to be in freefall, the Patriots could only beat themselves in a 24-21 loss on Sunday.
Just when it appeared as if the Patriots were going to pull out another in a long line of victories over Buffalo, quarterback Cam Newton had the ball punched out of his arms by Justin Zimmer, and the fumble was recovered by safety Dean Marlowe at the Bills 13 with 31 seconds left.
"It's unacceptable on my part," Newton said. "At the end of the day, you just measure it by wins and losses. I didn't get the job done today."
In a sign of how the tables have turned, the division-leading Bills having opened a 3 1/2-game margin over the Patriots. New England is even behind Miami (4-3).
Buffalo snapped a seven-game skid against New England, and beat the Patriots for just the sixth time in 41 meetings since head coach Bill Belichick arrived in Foxboro in 2000.
As for Newton, he was unable to replicate the string of success his predecessor, Tom Brady, had over the Bills before departing for Tampa Bay this offseason. By going 32-3 against Buffalo, Brady set the NFL record for most wins against one opponent.
Brady's departure, combined with the Patriots missing key players who are either sidelined by injuries or have opted out for COVID-19 reasons, places New England's run of 11 consecutive division titles and 19 straight winning seasons in jeopardy.
"This is the third time we've been in this situation this year, and unfortunately haven't been able to make enough plays to win" Belichick said. "We had our opportunities. We just got to be able to do a little more with them."
What's more troubling is how the Patriots aren't just losing the one-score games this season, as happened against Seattle and Denver.
They've also been routed twice, including a 33-6 loss to San Francisco last weekend, which stood as the largest margin of defeat at home since Belichick came on board.
Add it up and New England (2-5) is off to its worst start to a season since 2000. The Patriots have lost four straight, matching their worst slide since 2002.
"I'm frustrated. The team's frustrated. We just got to better. There's no other way to say it. We just gotta do better," said running back Damien Harris, who had 102 yards rushing, including a 22-yard touchdown.
"We're in in tough spot and we've dug a hole. But it doesn't mean we can't dig ourselves out. It doesn't mean our season's over," Harris added. "If we don't believe in each other then we don't have a chance."
If there was a bright side, Newton finished 15 of 25 for 174 yards and added 54 yards rushing and a touchdown, with the fumble his lone turnover. That was an improvement from his previous two outings in which the 2015 NFL MVP combined for five interceptions, including three against the 49ers.
"Cam's our quarterback. That's the way it's been all year," Belichick said in backing Newton.
As for the fumble, the coach was blunt in saying: "How do you think we felt?"
The Patriots played minus three key starters: cornerback Stephon Gilmore and their two leading receivers Julian Edelman and N'Keal Harry.
Edelman will miss an extended period after having a procedure on his knee last week.
Against the Bills, Jakobi Meyers became Newton's favorite target in finishing with six catches for 58 yards.
"I feel like we're trending in the right direction. Hopefully we can keep building on it," Meyers said.
Newton knows "the reality is our record is what it is," but he also said on WEEI Monday that he believes the team can still "create our own mojo" to push things in a better direction.
According to Newton, that mojo will begin to percolate when and if the Patriots can get another win.
"Just the vibe that you get in that locker room is we just need one," Newton said. "Going back and knowing this team as well as I do know this team, coming off of that Raiders win, I think everybody had a full head of steam and momentum. Then obviously what happened with COVID and everything like that, it's just been a slippery slope, walking down a slippery aisle trying to regain your footing. One thing I do know about this team is once we get that first one, that next one is almost, 'OK, we remember how to win. OK, we know how this feels.
"This is where situational football kicks in, let's do a better job of doing this, that and the third."
Meanwhile, with our focus on the offense, ESPN.com's Mike Reiss believes that equally troubling is how the defense is playing, at times, particularly against the run. For the second straight week, the tackling was shoddy (the Bills totaled 190 yards rushing). While part of that is tied to playing with fewer defenders in the box -- the Patriots were essentially daring the Bills to run to negate the explosive playmaking of wide receivers Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley -- New England's overall fundamentals have faltered too often.
The good news?
Newton will have a chance to redeem himself this week in a road game against the New York Jets on ESPN's Monday Night Football.
Said Newton: "Nobody is feeling sorry for me, and I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I just have to be better and play 60 minutes of premium football."
Also. ... As noted above, the Patriots needed a receiver. The Dolphins needed to open up for opportunities for other receivers in the slot.
So the teams have completed a rare intra-division trade.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports the Dolphins sent receiver Isaiah Ford to the Patriots. The Patriots are sending a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to the Dolphins.
In seven games this season, Ford played 225 snaps, which is 51 percent of the team's offensive plays. He has 18 catches for 184 yards.
Per Schefter, Ford will play out of the slot and help replace Edelman. But that won't start until next week. Belichick noted on Wednesday that due to COVID-19 protocols, the team won't be able to work with Ford for about a week. ...
The Patriots placed TE Devin Asiasi on injured reserve Tuesday. According to NESN.com's Doug Kyed, it's "Odd. No known injury. ..."
One last note here. ... With Lawrence Guy getting hurt in the second half against the Bills, the Patriots run defense took a major blow. Guy was easily most valuable player in the defensive front and his absence was glaring as the Bills put up three scoring drives in the second half, largely running over Guy's replacements.
There was hope that veteran free agent Beau Allen would be able to eventually complement Guy, especially with rising injury concerns, but Belichick said on Monday that Allen would not play this season despite returning to practice two weeks ago.
"Beau won't play this year," said Belichick. "He just won't be ready."
Allen was hurt before any of the open practices this summer and was seen just once, during an in-stadium walk-through of what a game day was like. Players have three weeks once they begin practicing after returning from IR before the team must place them on the active roster or end their season. It appears Allen will bow out this week.
It's hard to say that losing a player who's never played a down for the team is a big blow, but the Patriots really needed Allen this season, even more so in recent weeks as the run defense has been gashed for over 190 yards in two-straight contests.
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 4 November 2020
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints kept their cool in another tight spot and again came away with a narrow victory.
Brees threw two touchdown passes to regain the NFL's career lead from Tom Brady, Wil Lutz nailed a 35-yard field goal in overtime and New Orleans beat Chicago 26-23 on Sunday.
The Bears' Cairo Santos made a 51-yard field goal at the end of regulation to force the extra period.
The Saints (5-2) led 23-13 early in the fourth quarter after scoring 20 consecutive points, only to have Chicago rally in the closing minutes of regulation. But the three-time defending NFC South champions pulled out their fourth straight win when Lutz connected on their second possession of OT.
"Battle tested," Brees said. "That's what (our identity) is -- battle tested. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we're gonna be able to draw on a lot of these other moments where we had to find a way to win."
The victory was the Saints' third in a row by three points. Their only double-digit victory was when they beat Tampa Bay 34-23 in the opener.
The Saints had a first down at the 16 with 1:40 remaining when head coach Sean Payton called on Lutz rather than run the clock down. He came through with his fourth field goal on a windy day, sending the Bears (5-3) to their second straight loss. New Orleans tied Tampa Bay for the division lead, with Brady and the Buccaneers meeting the struggling New York Giants on Monday night.
"My gut, we're on the field and I feel like we can kick a field goal at that distance without risking any ball-security issues," Payton said. "I recognized we could've run the clock down."
Brees added a 20-yard touchdown to Taysom Hill to make it 23-13 early in the fourth period.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Brees is 22 of 25 when throwing to Hill with seven touchdowns over the past two seasons, including the playoffs.
Brees picked apart the Monsters of the Midway, completing 31 of 41 passes for 280 yards. Along with the TD to Hill in the fourth, he threw a 16-yarder to Jared Cook in the closing seconds of the first half to cut Chicago's lead to 13-10. Brees now has 560 TDs in his career, with Brady at 559.
Running back Alvin Kamara has been a big part of the Saints passing game since arriving in New Orleans as a third-round pick in 2017 and he's on pace for his biggest year yet.
Kamara caught nine passes for 96 yards in Sunday's overtime win against the Bears and he now has 55 catches for 556 yards on the year. Kamara joined Matt Forte and LaDainian Tomlinson as the only running backs in NFL history with 50 or more receptions in each of his first four seasons.
He also ran for 67 yards.
Christian McCaffrey set the catch mark with 119 receptions last year while Marshall Faulk piled up 1,098 receiving yards in 1999. Kamara, who had 81 catches in each of his first three seasons, is on pace for 125 catches and 1,270 yards at the moment.
His usage could be impacted by the returns of wide receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but Kamara's going to remain a frequent target of Brees regardless of who else is around.
In fact, the Saints couldn't possibly have asked Kamara to do more this season with Thomas and other players sidelined -- and Kamara possibly couldn't deliver any more.
He now has 100 scrimmage yards in six straight games, tied for the third-longest streak in franchise history according to ESPN Stats and Information. The only streaks longer were nine straight by Deuce McAllister in 2003 and seven by Dalton Hilliard in 1989.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Mike Triplett suggests, the Saints (5-2) will need to be much, much better in a critical NFC South showdown at Tampa Bay (5-2) Sunday night. ...
And what about the returns of Thomas, Sanders and Marquez Callaway? All three were on the practice field to open the week on Wednesday and have a chance to return to the lineup this week.
In addition, Kamara has a foot injury that isn’t considered major, a source tells NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Kamara was limited Wednesday; so was Brees (right shoulder).
I'll be following the progress of all involved closely and report back further via Late-Breaking Updates as developments warrant. ...
And finally. ... The Saints and 49ers agreed to a trade sending linebacker Kwon Alexander to New Orleans in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso and a conditional fifth-round draft choice.
Payton, who confirmed the trade on Monday, said the draft pick is conditional because it is tied to playing time. Alexander, who is coming off an ankle injury, will be competing for snaps at outside linebacker with Alex Anzalone, Payton said.
The 30-year-old Alonso has not played this season, which he began on the Saints' physically unable to perform list as he rehabilitates an anterior crucial ligament tear that occurred during a playoff game against Minnesota last season.
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 4 November 2020
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan framed it, "Oh, no. Not again, Daniel Jones.
"Yes, again. The turnovers, the head-scratching plays, the mistakes that make it nearly impossible for this talent-bereft New York Giants team to win games keep happening."
Jones had two more costly turnovers in Monday night's 25-23 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It increased his season total to 13 in eight games. It also fueled the doubt that he's the franchise quarterback the Giants thought they drafted at No. 6 overall last year, even if he almost engineered a comeback with two fourth-down conversions and a dime to Golden Tate for a touchdown that made it a two-point game with 28 seconds remaining.
The Giants (1-7) still came up short, failing on a 2-point conversion pass to running back Dion Lewis that originally was flagged for pass interference. But after the officials met, they picked up the flag and the Giants suffered another demoralizing loss.
It still all comes back to Jones. The interceptions proved fatal.
"You know the young quarterback, he's still trying to do too much," said Bucs coach Bruce Arians, who knows a little something about mistake-prone quarterbacks after working with Jameis Winston last season. "It cost them basically the ball game throwing those two picks."
As Raanan suggested, that's part of the enigma that is Jones. There are flashes of brilliance, like on the final drive, surrounded by costly mistakes. Jones now has nine straight games with at least one turnover. His second against the Bucs allowed Tom Brady and Co. to take the lead for good in the fourth quarter.
The second-year quarterback also overthrew Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton when they were open down the field.
The Giants still say they are unequivocally committed to their young signal caller.
"Daniel is our quarterback," head coach Joe Judge said. "What we have to do is just make sure we keep improving everything around him and that we coach every player the same way. I told Daniel on both times the play happened, tonight I just told him to stay patient with it, stay committed with it, we're going to need you down the stretch, we need you to make plays, and obviously on that final drive he made a lot of big plays for us. ... We all have to hold ourselves accountable, the man next to us accountable.
"But Daniel is our quarterback. Clearly put."
The turnover count for Jones is up to 35 in 20 career starts, a pace matched in the past 22 years by only former San Diego Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf.
Redundant was a word Judge used to describe his quarterback's mistakes. Jones didn't disagree either.
"Yeah, I think there is a number of situations that are similar," he said. "I think I need to improve. I've got to learn and correct those mistakes. That is where my focus is and I've got to do it."
All that said, while Jones and the Giants haven't been winning games regularly this season, they have been producing a lot of fourth quarter intrigue -- beyond Monday night's loss.
Each of the team's last four games have come down to the final seconds.
Monday night's nail-biter came a week after a one-point loss to the Eagles and two weeks after a one-point win over Washington that was secured by thwarting a two-point try. Judge said after Monday's game that he sees "an improving team that is developing in the division" over the first eight weeks of the year even if the record is unsightly. Safety Jabrill Peppers had a similar take.
"Me personally? I don't care about the record," Peppers said, via Tom Rock of Newsday. "If you watch our tape against the teams that we've played, it's a play here or a play there. It's not like we're just going out there and getting our [butt] kicked, you know what I mean? We're playing some good football, we've just got to tie it all together, we've got to execute and we've got to be better situationally."
Judge added that he and the team are "not asking for moral victories," but they clearly are finding some silver linings to their losing record.
That said, they'll try to turn things around again this week when they take on the Football Team in Washington. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Running back Wayne Gallman made his second start of the season in place of Devonta Freeman, who was inactive with an ankle injury. Gallman also started against San Francisco one week after Saquon Barkley suffered his season-ending knee injury.
Gallman had a season-high 12 carries for 44 yards, one less than his yardage total at the Rams on Oct. 4.
Gallman scored his second touchdown of the season.
Gallman scored his second touchdown of the season on a two-yard run with 14:46 remaining in the first half to increase the Giants' lead to 14-3. The score capped a 10-play, 77-yard drive. It was the second consecutive game in which Gallman ran for a touchdown; he scored on a one-yard run in Philadelphia on Oct. 22.
*n Lewis scored his second touchdown of the season, and first via a reception, when he caught a seven-yard scoring pass from Jones in the first quarter.
Lewis hadn't scored since the season opener vs Pittsburgh, on a one-yard run. The touchdown was his first on a catch since Dec. 22, 2019, when he caught an 11-yard scoring pass for Tennessee vs. Houston. Lewis has scored both of his touchdowns this season in Monday night games. ...
The Giants added running back Alfred Morris off the practice squad prior to the game.
Morris rushed for 28 yards on eight carries in his Giants debut. He has now played for three NFC East teams: the Giants, Washington and Dallas. His eight rushing attempts were his highest total since Dec. 30, 2018, when he had 16 carries for 11 yards playing for San Francisco at the Rams. ...
Shepard led all receivers with eight catches for 75 yards. Tight end Evan Engram caught five passes for 61 yards, and Darius Slayton added five for 56 yards.
And finally. ... Judge told reporters that Tate was not with the team for Wednesday's walkthrough but they met and talked about what's gone on the past couple days. The veteran wideout has been reportedly displeased with his role in the offense coming off Monday night's loss to the Bucs.
That the Giants subsequently claimed former 49ers' wideout Dante Pettis on waivers, might or might not be a coincidence.
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 4 November 2020
According to Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr., Sam Darnold hopes to be under center for the Jets Monday night despite some concern over his sore right shoulder.
The starting quarterback had an MRI and get a second medical opinion on the shoulder as a precaution after Darnold took a hard hit during New York's 35-9 loss at Kansas City on Sunday.
According to multiple reports, the MRI showed a reaggravation but he will attempt to manage it and work through it.
The extra day that comes with a Monday night game should help, as well
Darnold missed two games last month after spraining the AC joint in the shoulder against Denver on Oct. 1.
"I woke up and it feels better than I thought it would, honestly," Darnold said during a conference call Monday. "Right now, I'm just taking it one day at a time."
Darnold scrambled for 5 yards early in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs, but stayed upright -- rather than slide -- as he absorbed hits from Tershawn Wharton and Tanoh Kpassagnon. The quarterback grimaced as he got up and appeared to be favoring his right arm. He had his shoulder checked out by trainers on the sideline before returning to the game on New York's next series.
"The hit definitely didn't help," Darnold said. "I should've slid and not taken the hit. Obviously, I'm going to continue to learn from my mistakes like that."
Head coach Adam Gase said the quarterback will be evaluated throughout the week. He was uncertain as to whether Darnold will be ready to start against the AFC East-rival New England Patriots at home, but was optimistic.
"We're just doing our due diligence on this," Gase said. "We're making sure we're kind of double-checking everything and making sure he's good. He's a little sore today. The indications right now are that we're in good shape, but we're going to keep working through this and make sure we cover everything before we say anything about what's going on this week.
"I'm hoping he's good to go to practice."
With the Jets 0-8 for the first time since 1996, some have wondered why the team doesn't just shut Darnold down for several weeks and not take any unnecessary risks with the 23-year-old quarterback.
"If we were worried about there being damage, that's why we're making sure that we're doing all the right things by not only him, but us," Gase said. "I mean, Sam wants to be out there, he wants to be out there. That's a big part of it, too, and that's why we're making sure that everybody's aligned on this. And we need him out there -- he gives us the best chance to win on Sundays and he knows that."
Darnold has struggled mightily, though, along with the rest of the Jets' offense. He threw for just 133 yards at Kansas City a week after having just 120 yards passing -- the second-lowest total of his career -- against Buffalo.
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini suggested, the Jets are a few weight classes below the defending Super Bowl champs, so this outcome was no surprise.
The vexing part was, for the second week in a row, the offense disappeared in the second half after a promising start.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is a heck of a play caller -- for 30 minutes. Then. ... Nothing. No adjustments, no production, no plan. The Jets have gone nine straight quarters without scoring a point in the second half, a classic example of being outcoached on a weekly basis.
Playing without leading receiver Jamison Crowder, the Jets generated three long scoring drives in the first half. They resulted in field goals, not ideal, but at least there was hope. Darnold was precise with a short-passing attack, spreading the ball around. They ran the ball well in spurts.
After halftime, the Jets managed only 64 total yards -- a week after their epic 4-yard performance against the Buffalo Bills.
The Chiefs tightened their coverage, and the Jets, as usual, had no answers. Rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims, who had two early catches, wasn't even targeted in the second half. Cimini added, the play calling wasn't the reason the Jets lost -- they went off as a 19.5-point underdog -- but it's one of the problems undermining them.
The biggest problem is the roster, a serious lack of talent on both sides of the ball.
For the season, Darnold has thrown for just three touchdowns with six interceptions in six games. His 65.9 quarterback rating is last in the NFL among quarterbacks that have made at least three starts, and is the lowest of his career.
Darnold's future with the team beyond this season is also uncertain. With the Jets currently in position to have the No. 1 pick in next April's draft, New York will have to seriously consider taking Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence -- while closing the door on Darnold after just three seasons.
Darnold insists he's not thinking about any of that these days. He just wants to be healthy enough to be on the field.
"I just want to play every game I'm capable of playing," Darnold said. "If I miss a game and I'm capable of playing in it, that's my worst nightmare. I don't want to do that to this team."
Of course, Sunday's loss doesn't belong exclusively to the offense.
This was one of the worst defensive performances in recent Jets history. They pretty much did nothing right. No pass rush, no coverage, you name it. Mahomes threw scoring passes to four different players, finishing with 416 yards. The Jets allowed 496 total yards. They played scared, rushing four and dropping seven into coverage most of the game.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams pressured more in the second half, but it was too late. The damage already was done.
The Jets have been outscored by 144 points this season. That puts them on pace for an NFL record -288 point differential.
The worst point differential in NFL history was -287 by the 1976 expansion Buccaneers, who are often named as the worst NFL team ever.
The only positive here?
The New England team they'll take on this week isn't playing anywhere near their usual level. The Patriots are struggling, but as Cimini wrote: "Watch -- they will beat the Patriots and ruin their chance of landing Lawrence with the No. 1 pick. Bill Belichick always beats the Jets, even when he loses. ..."
On the injury front beyond Darnold, Gase said receiver Breshad Perriman remains in the concussion protocol, "but he's moving to that next stage where we could see him at practice moving to that next part.
Crowder, who has missed the past two games with a groin injury, will be evaluated throughout the week.
Kicker Sam Ficken has missed the past two games with an injured right groin and will be evaluated through the week. Sergio Castillo has made four of five field goals -- with his only miss a block by the Chiefs -- in Ficken's absence.
I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... Continuing their roster teardown, the New York Jets have agreed to trade linebacker Avery Williamson to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Jets announced Monday. The trade is pending a physical
The Jets will receive the Steelers' 2022 fifth-round draft pick in exchange for Williamson and a 2022 seventh-round pick.
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 4 November 2020
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra suggested, the Eagles were fortunate to be playing a rookie seventh-round pick making his first career start. Any other situation and Philly probably loses instead of taking home a 23-9 victory over Ben DiNucci and the Dallas Cowboys.
"We can't do the things we are doing in order to survive in this league," head coach Doug Pederson said, via the Philly Inquirer. "We got to get better and fix it in a hurry."
The "things we are doing" in Philadelphia are mostly turnovers emanating from the right arm of quarterback Carson Wentz.
"There are too many turnovers, I got to be better," Wentz said.
Wentz committed four turnovers Sunday night, two interceptions and two fumbles. The interceptions were particularly dreadful, as the aggressive quarterback took unnecessary shots into coverage.
"I can be better and put the ball in the right spot, but I am not going to change my aggressive mentality," Wentz said. "We're going to start connecting on some of those big plays and obviously it hurt a little bit today, but the defense played great and we got the win.
"I am not good enough, I am pumped we got the win but I am going to have to watch the tape and I'm a little frustrated on how I played and how we left some plays out there, missed some big opportunities and I can be better."
Turnovers aside, Wentz completed just 15 of 27 passes for 123 yards.
As Profootballtalk.com suggests, it’s hard to understand what has gone wrong with Wentz, who once looked like one of the NFL's most promising young quarterbacks. He has been awful this season, floating inaccurate passes all over the field and crumbling under pressure.
Luckily for Wentz and the Eagles, they faced a Cowboys team that has just as many issues, if not more. DiNucci didn't throw an INT but fumbled twice on his own; his second was deemed by officials to be returned for a touchdown that put the game out of reach for Dallas.
When injuries haven't caused trouble, Wentz and the Eagles have been their own worst enemy.
The QB has 16 giveaways in 2020, most in the NFL.
Since 2000, no QB has made the playoffs after having 16-plus giveaways in his team's first eight games. Fortunately, the NFC East is so putrid that the Eagles extended their lead in the division to 1.5 games with the win.
It's rare that a victory feels somewhat like a loss. However, given the circumstances -- facing a rookie seventh-round QB and a defense that has been shredded -- the Eagles' win didn't provide many rays of sunshine.
"I know I can play better and a lot of it is coming down to taking care of the football," Wentz said. "I feel I am still the same aggressive guy that's going to pull the trigger and I never want to change that, but just being smart and putting it in the right spot."
At least for Philly, they pulled off the ugly win. To lose at home to a division rival in that circumstance could have brought about the end of times.
Wentz became the third starting QB since at least 1992 to win a game despite having two-plus INTs and two-plus lost fumbles, and generating fewer than 150 total yards (Wentz earned 123 yards passing and 17 yards rushing). The other two: Chicago's Rex Grossman in 2006 and New York's Eli Manning in 2007.
Each of those QBs reached the Super Bowl that season.
At 3-4-1, the Eagles head into their bye week as clear favorites in the terrible NFC East. Wentz is probably going to be in the playoffs. But he's not playing like a playoff quarterback.
But he's not going to lose his job.
Pederson said that he did not consider replacing Wentz with Jalen Hurts during Sunday's night's game, adding that Hurts and Nate Sudfeld need to be ready in case that situation comes up down the road.
"Carson is our starter, and we've got a lot of trust and faith in him that he can get the job done. By no means was I in a position to make a decision or make a move [Sunday]," Pederson said. "It's just something that we've got to continue to coach, we've got to continue to get better. He understands he has to get better in that area. We also understand that our backup quarterbacks here, Jalen and Nate, have got to be prepared, whether it's a situation like that or an injury situation where they have to go in and play.
My mind wasn't there. I wasn't going there. I was going to give Carson every opportunity to win that game for us. He's capable of doing that, and I wasn't in that frame of mind."
Hurts, the team's second-round pick this past April, has been sprinkled into the offense over the first half of the season, lining up all over the formation including at quarterback, where he's completed two passes on as many attempts for 27 yards. Hurts has played 23 snaps total. The offense has generated 215 yards (9.3 average) and two touchdowns on those plays.
"Jalen's doing a nice job. He's prepared during the week, and he understands the game plan," Pederson said.
"I think that you can't do go in and say, 'hey, learn the offense like Carson knows it right now,' but I think you can do some things with him that allow him to be successful if we had to. But he's in a good position. He studies hard during the week with Nate, and he's prepared if called upon."
Pederson referenced his experience during the 2015 season, when he was offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, in explaining why he is sticking with Wentz. The Chiefs started 1-5 but the coaching staff kept Alex Smith at quarterback, and Kansas City rattled off 11 straight wins from there.
A few final notes here. ... Wentz's inefficiencies went away when homing in on Travis Fulgham, who had six catches on seven targets for 78 yards and a score. As ESPN.com's Tim McManus notes, Fulgham has been a revelation since being called up from the practice squad prior to the Eagles' Week 4 game against the San Francisco 49ers, posting 29 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns in five games.
With Jalen Reagor back from a thumb injury -- he had three catches for 16 yards and a score -- Philadelphia suddenly has an intriguing group of young receivers.
The Eagles ran the ball well against the Cowboys, getting 119 yards on 26 attempts. Boston Scott ran for 70 yards on 15 carries and Corey Clement had 24 yards on five rushes. Philadelphia hopes Miles Sanders returns after the bye. Sanders has 431 yards rushing and an average of 6.1 yards per carry in five games.
And finally. ... The Eagles opened up a roster spot on Tuesday afternoon. The team announced that they waived tight end Jason Croom. There was no corresponding move, so the team will be able to add someone to the squad before they return from their bye in Week 10.
Croom was called up from the practice squad twice before the Eagles signed him to the 53-man roster last month. He's appeared in four games this season and caught a three-yard touchdown pass in the team's 30-28 loss to the Ravens in Week 6.
He also played in 15 games for the Bills in 2018. He had 22 catches for 259 yards and a touchdown for Buffalo.
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 4 November 2020
As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor recounted it, "Trailing by three in the third quarter with a fresh set of downs, Ben Roethlisberger went through his cadence, then he stopped.
"With a better idea of the pressure coming from the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback took a few steps toward his receivers and gave them instructions. Then he settled back into the shotgun formation and took the snap.
"With three receivers to the right and Chase Claypool and Eric Ebron on the left, Roethlisberger hit Claypool for a 9-yard gain, just shy of the first-down marker.
"It was the kind of sequence Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense leaned on over and over again in the second half to complete their comeback Sunday and remain undefeated with a 28-24 victory."
"We were just changing plays," Roethlisberger said. "I know throughout my whole career, people say I always play playground, backyard football. Today, it was in its truest form. That's why I tip my cap to all of the skill guys. I basically would tell them, 'Here's the protection, and everyone else do this.' There were plays when I would say, 'Hey, JuJu Smith-Schuster, you run this. Ray-Ray McCloud, you run this. Ebron, you run this.' We had guys not blink an eye. To me, that is just so awesome.
"Coach (Mike) Tomlin always says, 'Don't be a robot.' They didn't have to be robots, they were just able to do things on the fly. That's what made me most proud today."
Orchestrating the no-huddle offense, Roethlisberger took over in the second half, playing his signature brand of football, the kind that drew Ebron to Pittsburgh in free agency.
"That's kind of what I came here for," said Ebron, who had four catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. "I came here for that Ben Roethlisberger. That guy that has trust in his players that are on the field, and he wants to go down there and win, and I've been begging him for it, you know? I'm asking Ben, 'Ben, you want to win? You want to win? Come on, we have to do something.' And we did that."
Pryor went on to not that with the help of an up-tempo offense, different combinations of offensive weapons -- like Ebron and McCloud playing more than usual -- and a buy-in from every receiver, the Steelers shook off a dismal first half to score 21 second-half points.
"In the second half, we kind of just went to a no-huddle with a personnel group that was newer," Roethlisberger said. "We've got to get guys in matchups. [The Ravens are] a really good defense. They're really good. They create pressure. They're really good in the secondary and back end. So just tried to get guys in spots and call some plays. Everyone made plays today in the second half. That was really satisfying."
In an 11-play drive that ended in a James Conner touchdown in the third quarter, the Steelers ran a no-huddle offense on seven plays. And of those 11 plays, eight were pass plays. Roethlisberger completed six of those passes, was sacked once and converted another on a defensive pass interference call that helped the Steelers pick up 20 yards.
It was a dramatic change from the stagnant first-half offense, with Roethlisberger attempting just 10 passes all half, completing four of them for 24 yards. The Steelers ran just 20 offensive plays and couldn't get anything going, gaining just 64 yards in the first half.
Roethlisberger's downfield attempts weren't on target, and the Ravens were jumping all over the short routes. Nothing was working.
The Steelers were playing too tight and showed.
"Offensively, we were anticipating this matchup way too much," Ebron said. "We just needed to settle down, find our rhythm, and once we did that, things got better."
Playing in his first Steelers-Ravens game since 2018, Roethlisberger dictated that rhythm in the second half, but he couldn't have done it without significant contributions from his receivers.
Smith-Schuster, who didn't have a target in the first half, finished as the Steelers' leading receiver with seven catches for 67 yards.
He played with a toughness in the second half that sustained drives, muscling his way through defenders for extra yards after the catch.
"He was caught short of the line a few times and plowed his way through guys," Roethlisberger said of Smith-Schuster. "He has will and desire."
In the fourth quarter, Smith-Schuster made four crucial catches in a drive that ended with the go-ahead touchdown by Claypool. In that eight-play, 80-yard drive, the Steelers moved the ball down the field with nothing but Roethlisberger's pass attempts and two significant Ravens penalties.
After a forgettable first half, the second half was vintage Roethlisberger, complemented by his young, scrappy receivers. It's why the Steelers should feel good about being 7-0, even if the wins were far from perfect. Going into the second half of the season, beginning with Sunday's game against the woeful Cowboys, the Steelers should have confidence in their team because their quarterback is making necessary adjustments, playing to his strengths and maximizing the talent around him.
"It's never pretty," Roethlisberger said. "We weren't pretty today on offense. No one blew up the stat sheet and this, that and the other, but once again, I say this every week, we don't care. We just want to win the game."
When it was all said and done, Tomlin earned his 140th regular-season victory, breaking a tie with Tony Dungy for the most wins by a Black head coach in NFL history, per ESPN Stats and Information research. Tomlin was hired as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive backs coach in 2001 during what would be Dungy's last season in Tampa Bay.
The victory was especially sweet for Roethlisberger, who relishes the rivalry and missed both meetings last season because of his elbow injury. Roethlisberger missed the final 14 games of last season with a right elbow injury that required a surgical repair, so there were a lot of people paying attention when he was shown getting his elbow massaged and looked at on the sideline after being sacked in the second quarter.
The CBS broadcast said Roethlisberger was in discomfort and dealing with a less than ideal grip of the ball, but he never came out of the game and was much better in the second half. He was 4-of-10 for 24 yards in the first half, but finished the day 21-of-32 for 182 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-24 win.
After the game, Roethlisberger said all is well with his elbow.
"Just a funny bone, I'm good," Roethlisberger told Pryor.
That news and Roethlisberger's play in the second half were a pair of reasons for sighs of relief in Pittsburgh.
Next up? The Steelers play the last of three straight road games at Dallas Sunday.
One last note here. ... The New York Jets agreed to trade linebacker Avery Williamson to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Jets announced Monday. The trade is pending a physical
The Jets will receive the Steelers' 2022 fifth-round draft pick in exchange for Williamson and a 2022 seventh-round pick.
Just like that, Williamson goes from the league's worst record (0-8) to the best record (7-0).
He fills an immediate need for the Steelers, who lost linebacker Devin Bush to a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago.
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 4 November 2020
The injury-ravaged San Francisco 49ers are now dealing with a COVID-19 issue.
The team shut down their facility Wednesday after a positive COVID-19 test. According to NFL Network, Kendrick Bourne is the player who tested positive.
Contact tracing is currently underway.
The positive test comes one day before the Niners are set to host the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night. As of now, the game remains as scheduled, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported, per a source.
The team will conduct pregame meetings virtually.
So we'll be watching that closely in the coming hours.
Also, did I mention the injury-ravaged part?
The 49ers will be without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and All-Pro tight end George Kittle for an extended period of time after they got hurt against Seattle.
For Garoppolo, the aggravation of his high right ankle sprain is expected to keep him out for a minimum of six weeks and possibly longer if it requires surgery, a source told Schefter.
On Tuesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan said that it could be a season-ending injury.
Shanahan told reporters at his press conference that Garoppolo may require surgery that knocks him out for the rest of the year.
Garoppolo is looking at an extended absence even without having surgery. Shanahan said this is a worse sprain to the same ankle that Garoppolo hurt earlier this year. He missed two games with that injury and that the usual timeline for this type of sprain is four-to-six weeks.
The 49ers will place the quarterback on injured reserve.
This is the third significant injury of Garoppolo's career. He hurt his shoulder in New England in 2016 and had a season-ending injury for San Francisco in 2018.
Despite initial optimism that Kittle didn't have any fractures in his foot, further testing revealed a broken bone that will cost him about eight weeks, a source said. With eight games and a bye remaining, Kittle's season could be over.
Kittle hurt his knee in Week 1 and missed the next two games before returning with a 15-catch, 183-yard performance against the Eagles. He had 37 catches for 474 yards and two TDs in six games this season.
Garoppolo and Kittle both departed Sunday's game in the fourth quarter. Garoppolo appeared to tweak his ankle earlier in the game and play through it, but he was removed with 14:02 remaining. He limped to the locker room after going 11-of-16 for 84 yards with an interception for a passer rating of 55.2.
Nick Mullens replaced Garoppolo and went 18-of-25 for 238 yards with two touchdowns for a passer rating of 128.4. With Garoppolo out for extended time, Mullens will step back into the starting role, a job he filled when Garoppolo missed two games with the ankle sprain earlier this season. C.J. Beathard will serve as Mullens' backup.
Mullens said Sunday that he'd be prepared to step in for Garoppolo longer term if need be.
"Any time you can get out there and bounce back from my last start, it's definitely going to create confidence," Mullens said. "The biggest thing I've learned just going through it all is that the NFL is tough. It's all about what you do next. That's why I tell myself pretty much every day, 'It's all about what you do next.' No matter if it is good or bad, it's all about what you do next."
Kittle's foot injury happened less than two minutes after Garoppolo left when he leaped to haul in a 25-yard pass from Mullens. Kittle made the catch but landed awkwardly and hobbled to the sideline soon after, then headed to the locker room for further evaluation.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game that initial X-rays on Kittle showed no breaks but that further tests would be needed to confirm that on Monday. Kittle, who signed a five-year, $75 million contract extension during training camp, missed two games earlier this season with a sprained MCL in his left knee.
Ross Dwelley replaced Kittle against the Seahawks and caught a touchdown from Mullens, though the Niners could be getting tight end Jordan Reed back from a sprained knee soon in the effort to help replace Kittle.
"Hoping for Jordan Reed this week, but I'm not sure right now," Shanahan said Sunday.
Reed was limited Tuesday as he works back potentially for Thursday night.
Kittle and Garoppolo are only the latest additions to a lengthy Niners injury list that includes other prominent players such as defensive end Nick Bosa (torn ACL), running back Raheem Mostert (high ankle sprain), receiver Deebo Samuel (strained hamstring) and cornerback Richard Sherman (strained calf).
Even before Kittle and Garoppolo likely land on injured reserve, the 49ers had the highest cap value of players on injured reserve this season at $54.2 million. In eight games, the Niners have had three different leading passers, four different leading rushers and four different leading receivers.
All of that attrition has taken a toll in the Niners' locker room.
"It still hurts," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "Even though it seems to happen just over and over again, guys dropping every game, it still hurts each time."
The 49ers (4-4) won't have much time to dwell on their latest injuries. They are slated to host the Green Bay Packers (5-2) on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Tevin Coleman's return from injured reserve didn't last long on Sunday, as he suffered another knee injury.
One day after the Niners activated Coleman, who had spent the previous five games on injured reserve with a sprained knee, he was unable to make it through the first quarter of their game against the Seahawks.
The loss of Coleman left the Niners with just rookie JaMycal Hasty and veteran Jerick McKinnon available at running back. McKinnon has had a limited role in recent weeks after a heavy workload early in the season, leaving Hasty to get many of the opportunities.
Hasty scored his first NFL touchdown in the second quarter.
Shanahan said on Tuesday that Coleman will not play in Week 9.
With Jeff Wilson and Mostert on injured reserve, Hasty and McKinnon will continued to lead the way against the Packers. Shanahan indicated Austin Walter will be promoted from the practice squad for the game.
Samuel will join Coleman on the sidelines Thursday night.
Brandon Aiyuk will operate as the No. 1 receiver for the 49ers and it's not clear anybody beyond him should be viewed as a viable fantasy play. ...
One thing is certain: Dante Pettis will not be on the field with them.
Shanahan said last month that the 49ers were taking calls about trading Pettis, but no deal got done before Tuesday afternoon's deadline.
Pettis is still on his way off the roster, however. Matt Barrows of The Athletic was the first to report that the 49ers are waiving the 2018 second-round pick. Pettis played six snaps against the Seahawks on Sunday and returned one kickoff for 18 yards, but lost a fumble at the end of the play.
It was the first time that Pettis was in the lineup since Week 4 and he had two punt returns earlier in the season.
He did not have any catches and leaves the team with 38 catches for 576 yards and seven touchdowns. ...
One last note here. ... The Saints and 49ers have agreed to a trade sending linebacker Kwon Alexander to New Orleans in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso and a conditional fifth-round draft choice.
The 30-year-old Alonso has not played this season, which he began on the Saints' physically unable to perform list as he rehabilitates an anterior crucial ligament tear that occurred during a playoff game against Minnesota last season.
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 4 November 2020
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson reported it, a week after throwing three interceptions in the Seattle Seahawks' first loss, Russell Wilson got back on his MVP track.
His four touchdown passes and a strong first half from Seattle's embattled defense were enough for a 37-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks (6-1) remain atop the NFC West with a one-game lead over the Arizona Cardinals (5-2), who had their bye a week after beating Seattle in overtime.
After some uncharacteristic mistakes in that Arizona game led to Wilson throwing three interceptions for only the third time in his nine-year career, he said bluntly that he has to be better. He was better on Sunday. Wilson completed 27 of 37 passes for 261 yards and no interceptions, teaming up with DK Metcalf to do most of his damage.
Metcalf caught Wilson's first two touchdown passes and finished with 12 catches for 161 yards on 15 targets, all career highs. Wideout David Moore and rookie running back DeeJay Dallas were on the receiving end of the other two scoring passes.
Wilson's 26 TD passes are one shy of Tom Brady's record from 2007 for the most through seven games in NFL history.
Wilson's first touchdown pass to Metcalf was the 250th of Wilson's career. He joins Dan Marino and Peyton Manning as the only players to reach that milestone in their first nine seasons. Aaron Rodgers needed fewer games than any of them to get 250, but he waited longer to get started.
Wilson is now 32-8 following an in-season loss. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, that .800 winning percentage is the best by any starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era.
While Wilson has been playing at an MVP level and leading the NFL's highest-scoring offense through the season's first seven weeks, Seattle's defense has been lagging well behind. The Seahawks entered Sunday having allowed the most yards through six games in NFL history, according to Elias Sports Bureau data.
But even with no Jamal Adams for the fourth straight game and two other defensive starters missing (Shaquill Griffin and Benson Mayowa), Seattle held San Francisco's offense in check until a late rally made things at least somewhat interesting.
The Seahawks allowed only 116 yards in the first half and got two takeaways, including an interception of Jimmy Garoppolo by nickelback D.J. Reed Jr. to set up Seattle's first touchdown. Reed, waived by the 49ers in August, was making his Seahawks debut after being activated off the non-football injury list on Saturday.
Bobby Wagner, Seattle's All-Pro middle linebacker, delivered a vintage performance with 11 tackles and two sacks as defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. sent more blitzes after Garoppolo than he did last week against Kyler Murray.
It was a rare stress-free win for the Seahawks. They entered Sunday having played 17 one-score games (14-3) since the start of last season, tied with the Chicago Bears for the most in the league during that span.
Metcalf was a tour de force in this game, totaling 12 receptions for 161 yards and two touchdowns, career highs in the former two categories. A few of his catches were key first downs that kept the chains moving along with the Seahawks' momentum. This was exactly the game he needed after being shadowed by Patrick Peterson last week, and he proved once again that the Seahawks were right to pick him with the No. 64 overall selection in the 2019 NFL draft.
He even got a shout-out from LeBron James on Instagram.
There was no way Tyler Lockett wouldn't be quieter than he was in a 200-yard, three-TD outing against the Cardinals, but he still turned in four receptions on five targets for 33 yards.
And Moore shook off an early rib injury that had him listed as questionable to return to catch three passes, including a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
With injuries to Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde, and with Travis Homer playing at something less than full speed, Dallas urgently needed to step up for the Seahawks, and he certainly delivered with both a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown.
Seattle will undoubtedly rely on him more in the near future with the other RBs looking to be out for a while, so hopefully this game was a confidence-booster for Dallas. It is certainly a performance for him to build on.
Head coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Monday the plan for Carson is to test his injured foot Friday then see how it responds on Saturday and newly-acquired defensive end Carlos Dunlap is set to join the team for Wednesday's practice.
This week, the Seahawks travel to Buffalo and a showdown with the Bills on Sunday.
I'll be watching for more on Carson (foot) and Hyde (hamstring) in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates for more. ...
Otherwise, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett had surgery Tuesday on his right foot. Henderson was told part of the issue was Dorsett had bone spurs that needed to be cleaned out. There's some hope he can be back at some point this season, but that hardly sounds like a sure thing. ...
The Seahawks are dropping a tight end from the roster. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the team is releasing Luke Willson.
Willson was a 2013 fifth-round pick by Seattle and returned to the team in 2019 after stints with the Lions and Raiders. He appeared in five games with the team this season, but only played 10 offensive snaps and 31 special teams snaps in those outings. Willson did not catch a pass, but was credited with three tackles and a fumble recovery. He has 110 catches for 1,295 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Seahawks activated fourth-round pick Colby Parkinson from the non-football injury list ahead of Sunday's win over the 49ers. Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, and Jacob Hollister round out the group.
One last note here. ... The team announced on Monday that pass rusher Damontre Moore has been suspended six games without pay for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. Moore will be eligible to return to the active roster on Dec. 14, following Seattle's Week 14 game against the Jets.
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 4 November 2020
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra reported, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers laid an egg early in New York, looking lethargic and unprepared from the start of Monday night's game against the Giants.
Against a team that it should have beat by 20, the Bucs hung on late to escape MetLife Stadium with a 25-23 victory.
It was a win Tampa probably didn't deserve, and one Mike Evans admits in past years it would have lost.
"It means a lot," Evans said of pulling out the ugly win, via the team's official transcript. "In the past we would've found a way to lose a game like that. The defense made a play when it counted [and the] offense picked it up in the second half and found a way to win."
Learning how to win when you don't play your best is what good teams do.
The difference in past years is obvious: Tom Brady. The QB didn't make the big mental error when his team struggled to move the ball that could have turned a small deficit into a blowout.
The Bucs got down 14-3 late in the first half after the Giants marched down the field and scored with under two minutes left in the second quarter. Brady led a field-goal drive to end the half. Then the defense forced a Daniel Jones interception that Tampa turned into a TD to recapture the lead. Another interception led to a second TD. And Antoine Winfield Jr. made a play on the two-point try to seal the win.
The Bucs offense struggled to consistently move the ball, with the ground game mostly nullified by the Giants and Chris Godwin's replacements struggling to find a rapport with Brady. Tampa was outgained by New York 357-344 on the night.
The Tampa defense surprisingly didn't obliterate a faulty offensive line, giving Jones time in the pocket, and the back end let several receivers scamper free deep.
The game could have been a blowout early against a better opponent.
No team plays flawlessly for 16 games. The best ones find a way to make just enough plays to win on a day they're playing poorly.
The Bucs did so against a bad Giants team Monday night. The result is a 6-2 record and remaining atop the NFC South. ...
For the record, Brady completed 28 of 40 passes for 279 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. But after two straight games with zero sacks, Brady was taken to the ground twice as his receivers were covered downfield.
The second half had better results. Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown for the third consecutive game, and he found Evans on a fade route for an 8-yard score.
Brady is not only 7-for-7 this season targeting Evans in the red zone, but every one of those plays has been on a fade route. No other receiver has more than three of those this year.
"I'm a big receiver. I love fades," Evans said. "I love getting the ball in the goal-line area. And Tom's ball placement is one of the best all-time, so that's a good combination."
Drew Brees regained the all-time passing touchdowns lead Sunday. It lasted a little more than 24 hours.
Brady's second touchdown pass to Evans gave him 561 for his career. Brees has 560.
The three-yarder he threw to Gronkowski was his 93rd to the tight end. That moved Brady and Gronkowski into second place all time behind only Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, who connected for 114 touchdowns. ...
So. ... Let's get on with it.
This week, receiver Antonio Brown will make his return to the NFL.
The Buccaneers activated the Pro Bowl receiver from the reserve/suspended list Tuesday, the team announced. The Bucs waived receiver Cyril Grayson in a corresponding move.
Brown, 32, signed with the Bucs on Oct. 27, but he had to finish his NFL suspension before being eligible to play in a game. He is expected to make his Bucs' debut on Sunday Night Football, and head coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday that Brown could play "10 plays [or] it could be 35 plays."
Brown has not played since Week 2 of the 2019 season when he four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in his one and only game with the Patriots.
But he is reuniting with Brady in Tampa.
In fact, Brown currently is living at Brady's house.
For what it's worth, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported on Sunday that the Buccaneers were "shocked" by Brown's physical condition. He walked through the door ready to go, and the Bucs will be ready to use him right out of the gates.
On Sunday night against the Saints, Brown likely will be used in three- and four-receiver sets. Arians also hasn't ruled out using Brown as a return specialist.
Brown is still learning the Bucs' playbook, and they're bringing him along as fast as they can. Arians also prefers players to carve out their own role, which is what Leonard Fournette did.
But the Buccaneers will want their faith in Brown to be validated. The best way to do that will be to get the ball in his hands and let him do his thing.
It will create an interesting dilemma for the Saints and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. Will New Orleans double-team Evans and take their chances with Brown? Will they take away Brown and risk being burned by Evans?
Then there's Gronk. And Godwin. And Scott Miller. And Ronald Jones. And Fournette.
And good luck to any team that will be facing the Buccaneers against Brady, his teammates, and his roommate.
Worth noting. ... Godwin was seen at Wednesday's practice with a cast on his left hand. He was subsequently listed as a full participant in the walkthrough session. But NFL Network's Sara Walsh reports that Godwin said he won't know until Friday whether he can actually catch a ball.
It's safe to say I'll have more on Godwin -- and Brown -- via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... Ryan Succop made every one of his kicks on Monday night, and the Buccaneers needed every one of them.
On Wednesday, the NFL named Succop the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 8 after he played an instrumental role in the win over the Giants. Succop was perfect on four field goals and one extra point attempt, scoring 13 points, including a 38-yard field goal with four minutes left that proved to be the winning points.
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 4 November 2020
As Jim Wyatt, of the team's official website, framed it: "In the Queen City, the Titans looked unfit to be kings.
"A listless, mistake-filled performance here on Sunday resulted in a second straight loss for the Titans, this time 31-20 to the Bengals. ..."
"We have to stick together, and we have to change how we play, which would start with how we practice," head coach Mike Vrabel said. "Practicing better would lead to better performances, so that's the charge. We all can do more and have to do more when we lose.
"No matter who you are going against, if you play like (we did today) in the National Football League, you're going to lose."
Ryan Tannehill completed 18-of-30 passes for 233 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
For the first time in Derrick Henry's career, the Titans lost on a day when their star running back eclipsed the 100-yard mark.
Henry racked up 105 yards on Sunday, and he also scored a touchdown.
It was part of a 218-yard rushing day for the Titans, as other backs also stepped up. Jeremy McNichols carried the ball four times for 49 yards while running back D'Onta Foreman had 37 yards on five carries. "I felt good," said Foreman, who was playing in his first game since the 2018 season with the Texans. "It's something I worked really hard for, something I dreamed about -- getting back. I felt like a lot of people counted me out, but I knew what I had in me."
Corey Davis was targeted 10 times, and he caught eight passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. He had a juggling 27-yard catch, and he made some nice snags in tight coverage. Davis now has two 100-yard games in seven contests, and he has 29 catches for 369 yards and three touchdowns on the year.
But the Titans made way many blunders, and as a result they dropped to 5-2 after five consecutive wins to open the season.
Now the Titans have a tough stretch of football coming up with the Bears, Colts (twice), Ravens and Browns on the horizon.
"We have to clean a lot of things up," said Tannehill, who threw an ugly interception to cap off the team's first offensive drive. "This is definitely not how we wanted to come out and play today. It started off with a turnover in the red zone. … Our guys kept battling, but we didn't do enough. We need to play consistent through four quarters."
The Titans lost receiver Adam Humphries in the first half, as he was carted off after suffering a concussion. Vrabel said Humphries was up and moving in the locker room after the game, but he still didn't feel well.
The Titans once again struggled on defense and in the end, they just couldn't catch up.
The Titans face the Bears Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
"Flat out, we didn't play well enough to win," Davis said. "We have to clean up a lot of stuff, and that's what we're going to do this week.
"The most important thing is not to panic -- it is a long season. We understand the type of guys we have, and we are not front-runners. We have a lot of guys who have been down before, not only in this game, but in life. It is as simple as going back to work and getting ready for Chicago. ..."
A few final items here. ... The Titans turned to Kalif Raymond to take Humphries' place along with A.J. Brown and Davis when they used three receivers. I'll be following up on Humphries via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Also. ... The Titans are operating without a traditional defensive coordinator after Dean Pees retired in the offseason. Vrabel and outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen each handle some of the duties and Vrabel said after Sunday's loss that setup isn't a factor in their struggles.
"I would say that that's not a factor," Vrabel said, via Erik Bacharach of the Tennessean. "I'm positive that that's not a factor. We have to continue to coach better and play better. I'm certain that that's not what's leading to us giving points and us not getting off the field on third down."
Vrabel said the team will look at possible personnel changes as they try to come up with the kind of defensive effort they need to get back to winning.
And a few final items. ... The Titans traded for Chargers defensive back Desmond King. The Titans sent the Chargers a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
In a video conference call on Monday, Vrabel acknowledged King has played the majority of his career in the slot, "and by all accounts, that's where he would start out."
Vrabel said there's a chance King could be available for Sunday's game vs the Bears, but he indicated some testing and travel protocols are on the horizon. Vrabel said he believes Saturday is the earliest King could be with the Titans.
"I would assume he will be involved in Zoom meetings for most of the week," Vrabel said.
And last but not least, the Titans announced Tuesday that they waived CB Johnathan Joseph and LS Beau Brinkley. Joseph is a 15-year veteran, who previously played with the Bengals and Texans and started six games with Tennessee this season.
The Titans are also moving on from a free agent mistake, informing OLB Vic Beasley that will be released on Wednesday.
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 4 November 2020
For the Washington Football Team, the bye week was a time to reflect on the opening seven weeks and recharge for the second half of the season. With the underperforming NFC East still up for grabs, the next month will dictate whether it is in the playoff hunt or in contention for a top 10 draft pick.
That gave the staff at the team's official website an opportunity to assess personnel and other aspects of the club.
As part of that, they named Terry McLaurin the team's Offensive MVP.
McLaurin was the overwhelming favorite for this award entering the season, yet he has further separated himself from the pack with his excellence over the first seven games.
McLaurin is currently second in the NFL in yards after catch (291), sixth in yards (577) and 10th in receptions (44). He has received at least seven targets in every game and finished below 60 yards once to go with two contests of 100-plus yards. He's done all of this against some of the league's best cornerbacks, namely Patrick Peterson, Marcus Peters and Darius Slay.
McLaurin is on pace to catch just over 100 passes for more than 1,300 yards, which would equate to one of the best receiving seasons in franchise history.
"[He's] just everything that was advertised," head coach Ron Rivera said in late September. "I know when we were in Carolina, we liked him enough that we wanted to pick him and the Washington Football Team picked him before us. He's a guy that exceeded expectations obviously and it's one of those things that if everybody knew he was going to be like this, he would've been a first rounder or a second rounder. Just fortunate to have him.
"Everything he works on he excels at."
Best Rookie went to Antonio Gibson.
Washington shocked the NFL when it released Adrian Peterson during final roster cuts, but it showed the confidence it had in Gibson, a third-round rookie.
Through seven weeks, that gamble has paid off.
Gibson currently leads Washington with 371 rushing yards on 84 carries, which is 51 more attempts than he had in two seasons at Memphis. He's also fourth on the team in receptions (19) and fifth in receiving yards (147).
Gibson already has the power and speed to compete at the NFL level; he's tied for fourth in the league with 14 broken tackles, and he has broken off two plays of at least 40 yards.
But with every game, Gibson is becoming more comfortable as an every-down running back. His progress was evident against the Cowboys, when he set career-highs in carries (20) and yards (128) in a much-needed division victory.
"He's gotten more and more confident as a guy coming out of the backfield as far as having to run inside," Rivera said. "We saw him running off the edges for the most part coming out of college. They ran the jet sweeps with him. They did line him up in the backfield. For the most part he was running off tackle, he was running inside zone plays.
"We have him running traps and counters and powers that are kind of more inside. He seems to be learning that more and more and getting better with it."
Meanwhile, people are sleeping on Logan Thomas, Rivera said after the Football Team's 25-3 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
And with Thomas putting up career numbers, he might be right.
Thomas, who switched to tight end after playing one season at quarterback with the Arizona Cardinals, had a career-high 42 receiving yards and a touchdown in Week 6 against the New York Giants. That was followed up by another career-high showing -- this time 60 yards and a score -- on Sunday against the Cowboys.
It's the most successful two-game stretch of Thomas' career, and while he is still learning the position, Rivera and the rest of Washington's coaching staff are starting to see him develop into the player they envisioned when the team signed him this offseason.
"He's done a heck of a job." Rivera said. "Logan, I think, is a guy that can continue to grow in his role for us. I'm pretty excited about that."
Like the rest of Washington's offense, Thomas has steadily improved the past two weeks after struggling at the start of October. Against the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Rams, he had just two receptions for 12 yards.
Lately, though, Thomas has been one of quarterback Kyle Allen's most reliable weapons. He has caught 87.5 percent of his targets in the past two games and averaged nearly 15 yards per reception; 49 percent of his 208 receiving yards have come in that stretch.
"I'm just thankful to be a part of it, out there having a great time," Thomas said. "I'm just trying to be a great teammate and do my job."
Offensive coordinator Scott Turner sees the 6-6, 250-pound Thomas as a "big, athletic guy" who can run and catch the ball. That was on display against the Cowboys when he scored his third touchdown of the season. With Washington holding a 15-3 lead in the second quarter, Thomas caught Allen's pass at Dallas' 11-yard line, shrugged off linebacker Jaylon Smith with ease and ran into the end zone.
"He takes his job very seriously, and I expect him to continue to improve," Turner said. "He's an efficient player, and he's productive. That's what we need him to be."
Rivera said there are flashes of Greg Olsen, who was the Carolina Panthers' tight end for nine seasons and made three Pro Bowls, in Thomas' skillset. Thomas is not at that level yet, but if the past two weeks are any indication of his progress, he's certainly on the right path.
So should we feel better about Thomas now that he has been producing with Allen under center?
As ESPN.com's John Keim noted, Thomas isn't dynamic, but his production has been steady. He leads the team with seven red zone targets (and six catches) and all three of his touchdown receptions have come from plays inside the 20-yard line. He actually has been targeted less with Allen than with Dwayne Haskins, but the rate of success has been higher -- in the past two weeks combined, he has caught seven of the eight passes thrown his way.
His next four weeks will be interesting: The Giants rank 11th in completions to tight ends and Detroit ranks second; the Bengals, though, are 29th and Dallas is 20th. The Giants and Lions have given up a combined three touchdowns to tight ends; the Bengals and Cowboys have given up a combined 10.
Given all that, it's worth noting that Thomas (ankle) was limited in Wednesday's practice. In addition, the Football Team designated receiver Steven Sims (toe) to return from injured reserve.
I'll have more on both via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
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