Team Notes Week 5 2017
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFFDirectly 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. ...
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Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
Yes, Arizona's offense came alive in the final 2:24 of overtime, marching 75 yards for Carson Palmer to hit Larry Fitzgerald on a game-winning 19-yard touchdown to escape 18-15 over the San Francisco 49ers.
But according to ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss, "There's really no putting it any other way: This offense is costing the Cardinals wins."
Weinfuss went on to stress it's not just the offensive line. "It's Palmer's throwing ill-timed and ill-advised interceptions," Weinfuss wrote. "It's easy drops on first-down plays. The blame can't be placed on a single individual or a single unit. The ineptitude and inefficiency of the Cardinals' offense was spread all around Sunday afternoon."
It was also some close calls.
Ellington was the first to feel he was squeezed out of a touchdown.
He caught a 12-yard pass from Palmer early in the second quarter as he was falling out of the left side of the end zone. The play was initially ruled a touchdown, which would've given Arizona a 7-3 lead, but after the replay it was overturned.
"They said I bobbled it a little bit or something. I'm not sure," Ellington said. "I thought it was a touchdown."
Ellington evidently lost control as he went to the ground. The replay, however, showed that he had control as he finished the catch.
When Ellington was asked if he knew what a catch was in the NFL anymore, he laughed.
"I don't know, man," he said. "I thought it was a catch but they said it wasn't."
Brown's situation as similar to Ellington's, but in reverse.
It appeared he caught a 25-yard touchdown from Palmer with 1:17 left in overtime, but the play was initially ruled out of bounds. It was reviewed and the replay showed Brown's second foot dragging along the sideline of the end zone but there wasn't evidence conclusive enough to prove his toes were in bounds which would've overturned the call.
"I was in, I was in," Brown said.
Brown said he kept his eye on the football as it got tipped by a 49ers' defensive back. Brown caught it, got his left foot down and then tried to toe-tap his right foot.
Brown said coaches stress to him and the other receivers to always be aware of their surroundings, specifically how close they are to the sideline.
"I knew where I was the whole time," Brown said.
Had Brown's catch been called a touchdown initially or overturned after the replay, it would've ended the game with Arizona winning in overtime.
"They robbed me of a touchdown," he said. "It's fine. We won. ..."
Fantasy owners probably aren't taking it quite that well.
If you had Palmer, Ellington, Fitzgerald or Chris Johnson, Sunday probably wasn't a good day.
But if you had kicker Phil Dawson, the points piled up as he made four field goals from 29, 43, 50 and 32 yards.
In fact, Sunday's game tied an NFL record for the most field goals kicked in a game by two teams with nine (five by the 49ers, four by the Cardinals). It's happened four other times in history. The last time was in 2011 when Dallas played Miami and the Cowboys kicked six field goals and the Dolphins kicked three.
The Cardinals travel to Philadelphia next Sunday. The Eagles will be coming off a West Coast trip after visiting the Los Angeles Chargers. ...
Other notes of interest. .. Fitzgerald caught his 17th career touchdown pass against the 49ers. That's the most any active NFL player has against a single opponent. He has caught at least one pass in all 27 career games against the 49ers and now has caught at least one pass in 199 consecutive games overall.
Brown (quadriceps) and J.J. Nelson (hamstring) basically split time with each of them still slowed because of leg issues. Brown caught three passes for 47 yards and drew two defensive penalties. Nelson caught three passes for 45 yards.
"We need both of those guys healthy and then we can be dangerous," head coach Bruce Arians said
Earlier last week, head coach Bruce Arians said Arizona's offense missed David Johnson everywhere except catching passes out of the backfield, and that was because Ellington had filled that role quite well. He continued to show off his receiving ability Sunday with nine catches for 86 yards. ...
The Cardinals finished with just 51 yards on 22 total carries - a disappointing 2.3 yards a rush. The line was able to open up some holes, but Johnson couldn't exploit them long enough for any back-breaking runs. ...
Fitzgerald stayed on the ground, bending over in the end zone after hauling in his game-winning, 19-yard touchdown late in overtime. There was concern all around on the Cardinals' sideline and on the field form the rest of his teammates. He was OK; he just had the wind knocked out of him.
"I knew we had just won the game, but I couldn't breathe," Fitzgerald said. "So it was really hard to be kind of animated and celebrate."
Palmer was sacked six times and hit 16 times overall because of a continually bad offensive line. The good news is he survived and still managed to pass for 357 yards and the game-winning touchdown to Fitzgerald in overtime. Ellington and Jaron Brown (eight catches, 105 yards) stepped up on a day when Fitzgerald only finished with four passes.
And finally. ... Outside linebacker Markus Golden suffered a torn ACL yesterday and will be out for the rest of the season. They do still have Chandler Jones (who had 11.0 sacks last year, and 4.0 so far this year), but are going to be looking for a way to replicate the kind of pressure they had last year.
First-round pick Haason Reddick will move to outside linebacker to replace Golden.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley
RBs: David Johnson, Chase Edmonds, D.J. Foster
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, KeeSean Johnson, Trent Sherfield, Andy Isabella, Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper, Christian Kirk
TEs: Charles Clay, Maxx Williams
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
Matt Ryan hasn't felt much like an NFL MVP over the past two weeks.
He looked uncharacteristically sluggish in Sunday's 23-17 loss to Buffalo, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Ryan was at a disadvantage in the second half with starting receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu sidelined by injuries earlier in the game, but even those setbacks weren't enough for him to explain what went wrong.
"I've certainly made a ton of mistakes throughout my career myself," Ryan said. "It's disappointing. We're better than that. I'm better than that from an offensive standpoint in terms of taking care of the ball."
Of his three picks last week, Ryan was entirely responsible for just one of them, and the impact was less with the Falcons winning at Detroit.
Against Buffalo, the four-time Pro Bowl selection threw a ball behind receiver Nick Williams that was intercepted with 3:27 remaining. A field goal put the Bills up six points just four plays later, but the third quarter was worse.
Ryan lost a fumble on a sack that Tre'Davious White returned for a touchdown. He threw a long jump ball that 5-8 Taylor Gabriel lost to safety Micah Hyde, who's 4 inches taller, at the Buffalo 12.
Ryan already has five picks this season. He had just seven last season while being honored as the league MVP and leading Atlanta to the Super Bowl.
"It's just difficult to overcome a three-turnover deficit," he said. "We did it last week, but it was a little too much to overcome today."
The good news?
The ailing Falcons will make the most of needed time off over the next week.
Jones left the game late in the second quarter with a hip flexor and did not return. He was limited in practice last week with a back injury.
Sanu was sidelined in the third quarter by a hamstring injury and didn't return.
Atlanta began the day without four starters -- defensive end Vic Beasley (hamstring), last year's NFL sacks leader, right tackle Ryan Schraeder (concussion), free safety Ricardo Allen (concussion) and defensive end Courtney Upshaw (ankle).
Jones played 15 snaps before leaving. Sanu played 31 snaps. Gabriel played 60 of 75 offensive snaps and Justin Hardy played 58 of 75 after Jones and Sanu exited. Williams played 28 of 75 snaps after being inactive for the first three games.
Ryan was effusive in his praise of the wide receivers for "stepping up" after Jones and Sanu went down. But they really didn't step up.
Gabriel was targeted five times, but didn't have any catches. Hardy was targeted six times, but had just two catches for 12 yards and a touchdown. He had a potentially costly fumble determined to be an incompletion after replay. Williams had four targets and three catches for 30 yards. As noted above, the one incompletion was intercepted.
That's five catches on 15 targets for 42 yards, well below the production levels of Jones and Sanu.
Jones is not expected to miss any playing time, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Quinn said afterward that Jones "definitely" wanted to get back in the game after suffering the injury but did not have his usual explosiveness, which is why he was held out.
"He had trouble just exploding, and if he can't be him, that's a unique thing for him," Quinn said. "The speed, the explosiveness -- so when he wasn't able to do that, that's when we had to pull him. He definitely wanted to go."
Sanu is expected to miss two to three weeks. ...
Meanwhile, Ryan struggled under pressure against the Bills as both tackles struggled in pass protection. Ryan completed 7 of 15 passes for just 69 yards and one interception (32.4 passer rating) when pressured. Overall, Ryan went 24-of-42 for 242 yards and one touchdown.
Ryan extended his 200-plus yards passing game streak to 59 games and his games with a passing touchdown to 22 games.
According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, Austin Hooper was on the field for over 70 percent of the Falcons snaps, something he's done every week, but this was the first game in which he saw more than two targets. The injuries to both Jones and Sanu helped boost his volume, as did the Falcons surprisingly playing in negative game script all day.
That likely won't be the case on a regular basis.
Tevin Coleman had nine rushes for 79 yards, and he also posted four catches for 65 yards, which were both team highs. His 144 combined total yards is a season high and the second highest total in his career.
Devonta Freeman was held to 58 yards on 18 carries.
The Falcons used their "12-Gauge" wildcat formation with Sanu at quarterback and he nearly scored on a 4-yard run. Freeman got in behind left guard Andy Levitre for a 1-yard touchdown run on the following play to give the Falcons a 10-7 lead. With the game on the line, the Falcons elected to throw. They need a better short-yardage package.
At least they can use the off week to work on that.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Ito Smith, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Russell Gage
TEs: Austin Hooper, Luke Stocker, Jaeden Graham
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
Earlier last week, Joe Flacco insisted it was too early to say the NFL's worst-ranked offense is playing poorly.
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley suggested, Sunday's dismal performance in a 26-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers says otherwise.
Flacco finished 31-of-49 for 235 yards and two interceptions as the Ravens fell to 2-2. This comes after he was held to a career-worst 28 yards passing last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I sucked," Flacco said. "It wasn't good."
Hensley went on to advise readers, "This offense under coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is broken, and there doesn't appear to be a quick fix. It's these types of lackluster efforts that have cost offensive coordinators their jobs in Baltimore. Just ask Cam Cameron and Marc Trestman."
The emotions got so heated that wide receiver Jeremy Maclin threw his helmet to the ground and then yelled at Mornhinweg.
Asked about the offense's frustration level, Maclin said, "It's high. It's frustrating."
Flacco's struggles can be summed up in a couple of streaks. He has led Baltimore to only one touchdown in his past 28 drives. Flacco has also thrown an interception in 10 straight games, the longest current streak in the league and the worst of his 10-year career.
Flacco couldn't stretch the field Sunday (his longest completion was 16 yards) and he was widely inaccurate at times. He overthrew a wide-open Breshad Perriman for an easy touchdown.
But Flacco isn't alone in this second straight flop. Wide receiver Mike Wallace dropped a 30-yard pass. Running back Alex Collins continued to be the offense's biggest playmaker, but everyone holds their breath that he doesn't fumble again. The offensive line failed to hold up in pass protection, allowing Flacco to get hit repeatedly (officially, it was four sacks).
Perhaps this should've been expected. Leading receiver Dennis Pitta suffered a season-ending hip injury in the offseason, Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda was lost for the season with an ankle injury in Week 2, and Flacco missed all of training camp and the preseason with a lower-back injury. Running back Danny Woodhead, a key signing in the offseason, injured his hamstring in the first quarter of the season opener and was also placed on injured reserve.
As a result, Baltimore has struggled to move the ball and was ranked 30th in total offense following the Steelers game.
"It's always frustrating when you can't score points," Wallace said -- speaking for all of us. "With the talent that we have on offense, it's crazy. We have so many players and so many weapons we're just not making plays. We just have to find a way. A quarter of the season is gone and our offense just hasn't found ways to make plays. I know that we will. I'm more than confident that we will. We've got to find a way to do it. We've got to get it going."
The frustrations -- and struggles -- on offense cannot be denied.
"You're not going to make a bunch of changes. You just have to improve," head coach John Harbaugh said. "There were some flashes in there, and we have to build on those things. It's a process. You have to go to work, and you work to improve. We have playmakers out there, and we can put the ball in people's hands. We can run the ball -- we've shown that. We have to eliminate the mistakes and make more plays."
Harbaugh has shown in the past that he is not averse to making drastic changes during the season. Harbaugh has fired two offensive coordinators (Cameron and Trestman) since taking over as head coach in 2008.
For now, he is focused on improving with the current personnel.
But there are issues there.
Collins is their best playmaking running back. The Ravens just don't know whether they can trust him.
In his first start for Baltimore, Collins produced the team's biggest plays, breaking runs of 50 and 23 yards. What's keeping Collins from securing the featured back role is ball security.
Collins fumbled for the second time in three games, which led to Harbaugh putting him on notice.
"He won't get any more opportunities [if he continues] -- the leash isn't going to be long on that," Harbaugh said. "When you come in here and drop the ball however many times he has dropped, I'm not going to tolerate it. I like him. He's a good kid, and he makes plays, but he has to hold onto the football."
In taking over for Terrance West, Collins totaled 82 yards on nine carries. That tied for the fourth-highest rushing yards in a game by a Baltimore running back since the start of the 2015 season. But holding onto the ball has been a weakness for Collins. In three seasons at Arkansas, he fumbled 17 times and lost the ball nine times. He fumbled twice as a rookie last year with Seattle.
Now, Collins has coughed up the ball twice on 25 carries with Baltimore. His latest turnover proved costly. Collins' fumble in the second quarter came in Ravens territory and led to a touchdown that put Pittsburgh ahead 13-0. Whatever spark Collins gave to the offense, he felt his turnover was a momentum changer.
Asked if he was surprised by his second-fewest attempts as a Raven, West said, "No, whatever the play call is, I just accept it and go on. I'm just trying to win."
In addition, as NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich pointed out, it's notable that Collins only played 17 snaps, or 25 percent of the team's total. Javorius Allen was on the field for 40 snaps.
Allen had just two rush attempts for seven yards but he tied Wallace for the team lead in receptions with six. Allen was on the field for 58 percent of Baltimore's snaps. Franciscovich added: "Allen remains the best Ravens back to use in PPR formats, while Collins projects as the lead runner and likely goal-line back going forward."
With Flacco throwing often, Wallace was targeted 10 times; Maclin was targeted six and Perriman got four looks.
Tight end Ben Watson was able to play against the Steelers despite missing two days of practice with a calf injury. He was listed as questionable. Watson finished with five receptions for 43 yards. Watson leads the Ravens in receptions (16) and receiving yards (146). Maxx Williams missed the game with an ankle injury; his status for this week's game in Oakland remains unclear.
Watson and Williams were not practicing Wednesday. I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Seth Roberts, Miles Boykin, Jaleel Scott
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
After the Buffalo Bills beat the Denver Broncos last week, a Broncos assistant coach complimented Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on how quickly he'd developed the defense.
Frazier and head coach Sean McDermott have implemented a new system in Buffalo that features a 4-3 alignment and a zone-based coverage scheme. Every starter in the secondary also is new this season, and some of the Bills' returning players in the front seven -- particularly linebacker Lorenzo Alexander -- have drastically different roles. With so much turnover, expectations were understandably tempered.
Yet in a brief period of time, the Bills have not only reversed the failures of Rex Ryan's disappointing two-year tenure in charge of the defense, but they have vaulted to or near the top of the NFL's charts in several defensive statistics.
After their defense stifled 2016 MVP Matt Ryan and the undefeated Falcons' offense Sunday, winning 23-17, the Bills sit at 3-1 and atop the AFC East following the New England Patriots' loss to the Carolina Panthers. Few expected the Bills to have any shot in the division against the Patriots. The Bills' top-ranked defense and the Patriots' 32nd-ranked defense -- allowing 31.7 points per game entering Week 4 -- have changed the conversation.
The Falcons gained 391 total yards against Buffalo but turned the ball over three times, including a 52-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White on what came close to being a pass by Ryan, his motion disrupted by defensive end Jerry Hughes. Ryan also was intercepted twice by safety Micah Hyde, who signed a five-year, $30.5 million deal this offseason.
The last time the Falcons were held to 17 points or less at home was Week 17 of the 2015 season. Atlanta was without top receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu for much of the second half of Sunday's game, but for an offense that had gained at least 364 yards in its first three games this season, there still was enough talent to get the job done.
Making the Bills' defensive performance more impressive was that it played without starting defensive end Shaq Lawson, who sat with a groin injury, and played most of the final quarter without starting cornerback E.J. Gaines, who left with a groin injury. Starting linebacker Ramon Humber also sat for much of the game with a thumb injury, thrusting fifth-round rookie Matt Milano in a role on defense.
The Bills will travel to play the Cincinnati Bengals (1-3) this week.
Should the Bills win, they will enter the bye week with their first 4-1 record since 2011. But Buffalo collapsed to a 6-10 finish that year, serving as a reminder there is still a long road ahead for the Bills before the end of their 17-year playoff drought becomes a discussion.
Meanwhile, the offense did just enough in Atlanta.
As the Sports Xchange suggested, it certainly wasn't a prolific day for Tyrod Taylor (12 of 20, 182 yards), but there were several positives to draw.
He threw downfield as much in this game as he had in the first three; he found tight end Charles Clay for a couple of big plays; and he did not turn the ball over for the third straight game. There are still major issues with the receiving corps, and it only gets worse after McDermott announced Monday that Jordan Matthews has to have thumb surgery and will be gone multiple weeks.
Matthews had scored his first touchdown of the season in Atlanta, and the chemistry between the WR and QB looked to be building the last few weeks.
With Matthews out, struggling rookie Zay Jones is Taylor's top wideout target. Expect the quarterback to continue to rely on Clay heavily until Matthews returns.
Clay led the Bills with five catches for 112 yards including 44- and 34-yard receptions that each set up scores.
Jones continues to struggle to get open, and he had a big drop on a deep ball. He has only four catches for 57 yards this season.
According to the Associated Press, the Bills brought back Corey Brown to address their injury-depleted depth at receiver.
Brown signed with Buffalo in March before being cut a week before the start of the season. Brown spent the previous three seasons with the Panthers.
The rushing attack was better than it was the previous two weeks, but still not where the Bills want to be. LeSean McCoy ran for 76 yards on 20 carries and that limited success was directly attributable to an offensive line that rose up to a big challenge.
Oddly, Taylor didn't have a very good day running as the Falcons defense was sharp in its preparation for his bootlegs and designed keepers.
And finally. ... For the second straight week, kicker Steven Hauschka earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Hauschka was a perfect 3-for-3 in field goals, including a tie-breaking 56-yarder which propelled Buffalo over Atlanta.
QBs: Matt Barkley, Josh Allen
RBs: Frank Gore, Devin Singletary, T.J. Yeldon
WRs: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Robert Foster, Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Tommy Sweeney, Lee Smith, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
Cam Newton and the Panthers' offense finally looked like it's on the way back to normal.
For the first time in more than a year (Week 2, 2016), Newton tossed for more than 310 passing yards. He tallied season highs in completion percentage (75.9), yards per pass attempt (10.9), touchdown tosses (3) and passer rating (130.8). All those stats were strides better than the previous three games this season when the Panthers offense struggled.
That the Panthers were facing the NFL's worst defense in terms of yards and points surrendered helped. But a week ago they faced what was then the league's worst defense and failed miserably in a 34-13 loss to New Orleans.
"I feel like this was a breakthrough game for us offensively," Newton said after the 33-30 win in New England.
Newton looked like his 2015-self, whipping the ball down the field, scampering over defenders on rushes, and spreading the ball around.
Head coach Ron Rivera credited Newton's increased practice workload for the breakout game.
"As I've said, the thing we've been waiting for is for him to be able to practice every day and work on his timing," Rivera said. "He was still rusty. He missed a couple throws early on. But the three days of practice were as good as we've had.
"He's still not where he needs to be, but we're going to be smart with him, we're going to continue with whatever our new normal is in terms of his weekly exercise, but if we continue to have these types of weeks, I think he's going to continue to get his timing down."
So while the Patriots defense was certainly a factor, the Panthers opened the playbook more which unleashed Newton, and displayed an offense that is making progress each game.
"It just takes time. People have to realize -- I have to realize -- that it takes time," Newton said. "This offense isn't cereal or quick grits or instant grits. This is a full on entree."
Until Sunday the Panthers had shown bits and pieces of what the offense could be, but hadn't executed on a consistent basis to take full advantage of Christian McCaffrey and others.
Newton also rushed eight times for 44 yards and a touchdown. In the first three games he'd rushed only 14 times for 46 yards.
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula made a conscious decision to get his quarterback more involved in the running game even though Newton continues to rehab his surgically repaired shoulder.
The Panthers are now 22-9-1 with an average of 27.5 points when Newton has at least eight non-kneel-down runs. They are 32-33 with an average of 22.7 points when he runs fewer than eight times.
"That does help him get more into a rhythm," Rivera said of Newton running. "It's not like we want to give him 10 to 15 carries."
But eight carries seemed like a lot in the first three games as the Panthers tried to protect the shoulder of their franchise quarterback.
"It definitely adds juice to our defense when you see your quarterback go out and perform the way he did," outside linebacker Thomas Davis said. "We know what he's capable of and it's been very reserved the first couple of weeks.
"I feel like the play calling hasn't been aggressive, but we opened up the playbook today and it showed."
The Panthers showed what they can be when they execute, particularly when Newton executes.
"It takes time," Newton reiterated. "We've got impact players and playmakers that when you give them the ball or give them opportunities to make plays, they will do it."
Sitting tied atop the NFC South at 3-1, the Panthers face a pair of fellow 3-1 teams the next two weeks (Detroit, Philadelphia).
We'll see if Sunday's outburst was a flash in the pan against a poor defense or an offensive awakening.
But the effort against the Patriots prompted ESPN.com's Matt Bowen to write, "Going against a Lions defense in Week 5 that is playing really good football, we can't expect Newton to find guys open by 20 yards. But when we pair a much more aggressive Panthers passing game with Newton running the ball once again, he's back in that QB1 mix. ..."
Other notes of interest... The Panthers produced enough on the ground (140 yards) to make a difference, though 44 of those yards came from Newton. Jonathan Stewart picked up hard-earned yards, but McCaffrey remains a minor player in the rushing attack. In addition, with Newton running for a touchdown, a long-standing issue for Panthers' running backs appears to be in play again.
Adding to the woes, Fozzy Whittaker scored on a 28-yard screen in the second quarter.
For the record, Benjamin (knee) was not practicing on Wednesday; I'll follow up when Late-Breaking Updates commence, but assume he's playing until you hear otherwise. ...
In two games without tight end Greg Olsen, Funchess has 19 targets. As a result, Funchess currently on pace for just over 860 receiving yards. Benjamin, meanwhile, was on the field for 90 percent of the team's plays and caught all four of his targets for over 100 yards.
The Panthers made a concerted effort to involve the tight end more in the second full game without injured Olsen. That worked out because Ed Dickson caught three balls for 62 yards. His ability to work in the middle of the field might have helped create some of the openings that developed for wideouts.
Rivera said Monday that the ability to involve Dickson in the offense provided something else for the Patriots to pay attention to.
"It started early," Rivera said of Newton looking for Dickson. "I think it opened up some things for other guys as well. That's part of it."
For what it's worth, Charlotte Observer staffer Joseph Person reports that Olsen is out of the walking boot and progressing on schedule two weeks after foot surgery.
"Doing good," Olsen said of his recovery from the broken bone in his foot. Just keep on going."
Graham Gano is 10-for-10 this season on field goals, though his first missed kick of the season came on an extra-point attempt at New England.
Ryan Kalil was on the inactive list for the third game in a row. He has had neck discomfort, though on Monday Rivera said Kalil has made progress and so he could have a chance to play in the next game.
QBs: Kyle Allen, Cam Newton, Will Grier
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Jordan Scarlett, Elijah Holyfield
WRs: D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Chris Hogan, Greg Dortch, Brandon Zylstra
TEs: Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
The Bears are going to give prized rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky a try.
The No. 2 overall draft pick from North Carolina will start against the Vikings Monday night after Mike Glennon struggled in the first four games.
The team announced the move Monday.
It's hardly a surprise that the Bears (1-3) will go with Trubisky considering how badly Glennon has struggled. He has five interceptions and three lost fumbles. He got picked off twice, lost a fumble on a sack and had another snap ricochet off his knee for a lost fumble in Thursday's 35-14 loss at Green Bay.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Glennon is the only Bears player in the past 40 seasons to have three turnovers in a half twice within the first four games of a season.
"It was just a decision I thought needed to be made," head coach John Fox said. "We've had 10 giveaways in the first four weeks of the season, and you can't win football games that way. Not that they were all one guy's fault, but the combination of that, we're going a different direction."
Fox informed Trubisky and Glennon of the decision on Sunday night. Glennon becomes the No. 2 quarterback, with veteran Mark Sanchez remaining in the No. 3 spot.
The Bears had envisioned this as sort of a redshirt season for Trubisky even though they made a bold move by trading up a spot with San Francisco to grab him on draft night. He started only 13 games at North Carolina and worked primarily out of the shotgun in a spread offense with few similarities to Chicago's scheme.
He started third on the depth chart behind Glennon and Sanchez. But with his mobility and arm strength, he progressed quicker than expected. Trubisky sparked a debate over who should start with a strong performance in the preseason opener against Denver, though he was more ordinary in the next three exhibitions.
Glennon played turnover-free ball in a 23-17 season-opening loss to Atlanta and had the Bears threatening for a last-second touchdown after struggling for much of the game. Things only got worse for Glennon in a blowout loss at Tampa Bay, and he didn't play well in a surprising win over Pittsburgh, either.
Having a banged-up offensive line and depleted receiving corps didn't help.
The wide receiver situation is unlikely to improve.
The only redeeming aspects against the Packers were slot receiver Kendall Wright resurfacing for three catches, and a rare Bears catch-and-run by tight end Zach Miller for the season's longest pass play (29 yards).
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson, the Bears need to overcome that lack of receiving talent by allowing Trubisky to attack the edge against the Vikings. Trubisky showed during the summer that he's capable of making plays outside the pocket; therefore, the Bears should roll out Trubisky whenever possible to cut the field in half.
The Bears have to push the ball downfield more often with Trubisky. The offense was very predictable in the first quarter of the year because there was no threat of Glennon beating the defense deep. In fact, the Bears barely even attempted to stretch the field vertically. That needs to change with Trubisky, and it probably will; at least an effort will be made to occasionally take the top off the defense.
Of course, the Bears must maintain the identity of a running football team to help Trubisky.
Dickerson added: "The important thing to remember is that Trubisky's NFL debut won't be flawless. Without question, the second pick will make his share of mistakes against a very good Minnesota defense. Trubisky will be only the sixth quarterback taken in the first-round to make his first career start on Monday Night Football.
"Talk about pressure. ..."
During preseason, Trubisky seemed to light a fire under the offense with his mobility. But even Fox said there's no way to know if Trubisky is ready to play.
"Until that happens, you don't really know," Fox said Friday. "I don't think you (media) know and I don't even know. Regardless, it's who you draft, who you sign to a free-agent contract. I think that kind of tells what you think. Now you still have got to execute."
Trubisky executing is far from a given; but the rookie comes with something: The optimism of the unknown. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Howard (shoulder) had to come out of the game briefly just one time due to the injury he's been battling since Week 1. He returned and was able to play it out but this week's game against a tough Minnesota defense will be a test.
According to NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich, it's odd that Cohen only played 15 snaps against the Packers, because it seemed like a perfect situation for him to thrive. He wasn't very productive with just 48 total yards on his 10 touches, but he had two big runs called back on penalties. "He remains a low-end flex with more upside in PPR formats," Franciscovich added. ...
And finally. ... The Bears will play without linebacker Danny Trevathan this week following a vicious hit that put wide receiver Davante Adams in the hospital with a concussion. The league announced Saturday that Trevathan is suspended for two games, but he appealed and the penalty was reduced by one game.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, Kerrith Whyte Jr.
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley
TEs: Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
Andy Dalton completed 16 throws in a row, had a hand in four touchdowns, and finished with the second-highest passer rating of his career.
The Bengals' decision to change offensive coordinators has made a huge difference in the quarterback.
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Kay notes, Dalton is back in form now that Bill Lazor is putting together the game plan and calling the plays. Dalton threw four touchdown passes for only the fourth time in his career during a 31-7 victory in Cleveland on Sunday.
His re-emergence gives the Bengals (1-3) some hope that they could pull out of their dismal start and get back into the AFC North race.
They trail the Steelers (3-1) by two games as they prepare to host Buffalo (3-1), which leads the AFC East.
"We've changed," head coach Marvin Lewis said Monday. "That's what we said we were going to do, and Bill's done a great job with that."
The question is whether they waited too long. No 0-3 Bengals team has finished a season with a winning record, so history is against them.
Coordinator Ken Zampese was fired after the Bengals failed to score a touchdown in their first two games.
Dalton had four interceptions and a fumble during the 0-2 start, with the Bengals averaging only 4.3 yards per play. In the past two games, it's been 5.3 per play.
The biggest change is in Dalton, who was under heavy pressure in the first two games and had a combined passer rating of 47.2, lowest in the NFL.
In the past two games, he's thrown for six touchdowns without an interception for a rating of 138.2.
Lazor's priority was getting Dalton back into a comfort zone. Receiver A.J. Green complained that under Zampese, the team's playmakers weren't getting involved enough in the passing game. Lazor's game plans have included a lot of low-risk throws early so Dalton and the entire offense can get into a flow.
In Cleveland, Dalton completed 16 consecutive passes and finished 25 of 30 for 286 yards. The previous time he threw four touchdown passes in a game was 2013 against Minnesota. His only higher rating was 146.8 against the Browns in Cleveland during the 2015 season, when Dalton led the AFC in passer rating.
Giovani Bernard's 61-yard catch-and-run on a short dump pass contributed to Dalton's lofty rating as he sprinted untouched into the end zone. But, the Bengals' quarterback was efficient throughout the afternoon, completing passes to nine different receivers, including five to Green, who caught the game's first touchdown.
"I think guys are comfortable with what we're doing," Dalton said. "I think that's what it comes down to and guys are playing with more confidence. We have to keep getting better."
The problems aren't all fixed. The line remains an issue -- Dalton has been sacked 14 times, tied for fourth-most in the NFL. The running game has been held under 100 yards in three games and ranks 23rd overall.
If Dalton can put together a stretch of good games, there's a chance to make the season interesting after the 0-3 start.
"The last two weeks, he has had high completions and good yardage," receiver Brandon LaFell said. "When he is out there going, our offense is flowing."
For what it's worth, Lewis indicated the Bengals will continue their unusual arrangement of rotating tackles. Andre Smith started at left tackle for Cedric Ogbuehi and was in for 45 of their 64 plays. Jake Fisher started at right tackle and was in for 52 plays. Ogbuehi had 31 plays.
The line's struggles have contributed significantly to the 1-3 start. Teams prefer to have a set line, but the rotation at tackle is the best they can do for now.
"It's just what it is," Lewis said. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Rookie Joe Mixon was the featured back with 17 carries for 29 yards. No other back had more than six attempts on Sunday. The Bengals averaged 2.9 yards per carry on 30 attempts, totaling 86 yards. The passing game was much more of a focus on Sunday for Cincinnati.
But make no mistake: Even though the production wasn't what we hoped for against Cleveland, Mixon's workload is the key. Expect more of the same ongoing forward, although this week's game against the Bills is a tough matchup. ...
It's uncertain how long Eifert will be out of action with a back injury. But, even after having back surgery in the offseason, it's possible that it might be a lingering issue for the Bengals' Pro Bowl tight end. Enter Kroft, a third-year player who has been biding his time waiting on an opportunity.
"Tyler Kroft has shown he's every bit as good a receiver," Lewis said. "He's done a nice job blocking. When his number is called, he's able to come up with a contested catch. That gives the quarterback confidence."
Given his performance, the fact that Kroft (neck, knee) was limited at Wednesday's practice -- along with fellow TE C.J. Uzomah (knee) and LaFell (knee) -- is worth watching.
Neither Eifert nor John Ross (knee) were on the practice field to open the week on Wednesday. I'll follow up on all involved via Late-Breaking Update, but don't expect Eifert and Ross to play this weekend. ...
And finally. ... Linebacker Vontaze Burfict was on the field for 52 of the 65 plays -- 80 percent -- in his return from a three-game NFL suspension for his latest egregious hit. He had six tackles, second to linebacker Nick Vigil for the team lead. Lewis expects Burfict to be capable of playing a full game against the Bills.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Samaje Perine
WRs: Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate, Damion Willis, Alex Erickson, Josh Malone, A.J. Green, John Ross
TEs: Tyler Eifert, C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Cethan Carter
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
As the Sports Xchange noted, the learning experience has been one of bruises and bumps in the road for Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer.
Still, the process is going to continue despite the 0-4 start.
Head coach Hue Jackson made it clear he plans to stick with Kizer despite inserting backup quarterback Kevin Hogan with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter of the 31-7 loss to the Bengals on Sunday. Hogan drove the Browns to their only touchdown a 1-yard run by Duke Johnson with 1:54 remaining.
"I thought yesterday (Kizer) played as well as he played all year," Jackson said on Monday. "With the exception of missing a couple of read-IDs (reading the safeties) and protection, he played lights out. He didn't take sacks. He threw the ball away. He didn't have turnovers. So that's improvement. So I want everybody to know regardless of what the numbers are for him, I thought the guy played extremely well."
Kizer completed 16 of 34 passes for 118 yards. He was sacked once and was charged with an interception that bounced off the hands of wide receiver Kenny Britt.
A quarter of the way through the season, Kizer has completed barely 50 percent of his passes 73 of 142 for 764 yards (51.4 percent) with three touchdown passes and eight interceptions. He has a 50.9 passer rating.
"You go back in, you learn from the good, you learn from the bad and you continue to try to improve," Kizer said. "The message that I live by is every day is a new opportunity to get better. This is once again another learning experience for us as an offense, and we're going to try to do whatever we can this week to work on our execution so that we can continue to grow."
This was supposed to be the soft part of the Browns schedule. The Browns and Colts were both 0-2 before meeting Sept. 24. The Colts prevailed 31-28. The Browns and Bengals were both 0-3 before Sunday. The Jets, the Browns opponent next Sunday, were 0-2, but since then the Jets have won two straight.
Despite the 0-4 start, Kizer and his teammates believe they can get on the winning track, starting next week.
"There is no sense of my confidence being shaken at all," Kizer said. "You learn from your mistakes. You learn from the good things. You build on them. You do whatever you can to execute the next week."
On the positive side, Kizer has been sacked only four times the last three weeks after being sacked seven times in the opener.
But as ESPN.com's Pat McManamon understated, "Kizer needs help."
The question is where it is going to come from.
Kizer finished with 118 yards passing, hardly representative of an NFL offense. Until he was pulled, the Browns had 152 yards -- that's total offense. The Browns' glaring needs at the skill positions were especially clear against the Bengals.
On the first possession Britt was flagged for a false start, which turned a third-and-3 into a third-and-8.
"It's kind of hard out there," Britt said, admitting the penalty killed some early momentum. "You know the snap count, but when the guy says 'hut, hut' it's kind of hard, especially when you have other guys on the other side moving."
The second possession started at Cincinnati's 30 after Emmanuel Ogbah forced and recovered a fumble. On third-and-10, Kizer threw an out on target, but Britt slipped coming out of his break and could not make the catch. Britt said he knew the ball was coming to him, and he just got too anxious in trying to run his route.
The third possession started at the Browns' 6 after Jabrill Peppers made a fair catch on a returnable punt. After two first downs, the Browns had first-and-10 at the 24. But JC Tretter sent a shotgun snap high, and first-and-10 turned into second-and-24.
Kizer then guided the Browns to the 16, where on third-and-9 he hit Britt in the hands. But the ball went through Britt's hands, off his chest and to the Bengals.
"That was definitely clearly on me," Britt said. "The ball came on me faster than I thought it would. That's something I should have [caught]."
By the time Kizer got the ball in the second half, the Browns were down 24-0. In the third quarter, the Browns ran eight plays.
"Once again, we put a lot of time and effort into this," he said. "We try to do whatever we can to execute our jobs. When we come out and do not execute it, that does become frustrating."
For what it's worth, Jackson was asked after the game if keeping Britt on the field wasn't counterproductive?
Jackson said, "I totally agree, but we had some guys down with injuries. ..."
Worth noting: The Browns made a move on Wednesday to increase the number of able-bodied receivers in Cleveland. The team announced that they signed Bryce Treggs off the Eagles practice squad. Jordan Leslie, who injured his hamstring against Cincinnati, was waived/injured to open up a spot on the roster.
Treggs played nine games for the Eagles last season, catching three passes for 80 yards and rushing twice for seven yards. He failed to make the team out of training camp this summer. Leslie caught one pass for 26 yards in two appearances this season.
For what it's worth, Britt (knee, groin) did not practice Wednesday. Treggs and Coates were both on the field, however.
More on all involved when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday. ...
Tight end Seth DeValve has been his most reliable receiver, but DeValve caught only one pass.
To one of the Bengals, the Browns simply lack the talent to win.
"From watching today and watching film, I probably shouldn't say this but it's going to be hard to win with that group," Bengals cornerback Adam Jones said. "I'm just saying all around football, I don't know if [coach] Hue [Jackson] has enough to win."
To Kizer and to other players, the coaches are putting them in position for success. But the players are not taking advantage.
"When you grind as hard as we grind, it only gives you an opportunity," Kizer said. "It is on to us to make sure that we are executing our job to maximize those opportunities."
This week, Josh McCown brings the New York Jets to town. When the season started, this seemed like a team that would not be competitive; instead the Jets have found a spark and could send the Browns to 0-5. ...
Meanwhile, it has seemed like Isaiah Crowell would right himself given an opportunity in any one of the first four games. He played in 2016 like a back ready to have a big season in 2017. Through four games he has 46 carries; on Sunday he had seven.
According to McManamon, it's to the point where it's no longer an aberration: Crowell either is not part of the plan, his mind is not into it because of his contract, or his 2016 was an aberration. It's time to wonder what happens with him the rest of the season.
With the Browns getting blown out (again), Johnson out-snapped Crowell and led Cleveland with nine receptions. He added a garbage-time touchdown late in the fourth quarter for good measure. As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich wrote, "Johnson is becoming a solid option in PPR formats, as he's now posted double-digit points three weeks in a row."
Johnson heads into Sunday's game against the Jets as a high-end flex prospect.
And finally. ... No. 1 overall pick DE Myles Garrett (ankle) is expected to make his NFL debut in Week 5 against the Jets.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Drew Stanton, Garrett Gilbert
RBs: Nick Chubb, Dontrell Hilliard, D'Ernest Johnson, Kareem Hunt
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, Taywan Taylor, Damion Ratley, Derrick Willies
TEs: Demetrius Harris, Ricky Seals-Jones, Pharaoh Brown, David Njoku
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
The star quarterback and running back have already matched that a quarter of the way through what's been an uneven second season. They face Green Bay on Sunday less than nine months after the Packers (3-1) spoiled the duo's first playoff appearance as the NFC's top seed at home.
The Cowboys (2-2) solved the problem of slow starts in two straight games, but created a new one by letting an 11-point lead slip away in a surprising 35-30 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
As Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon reported, Prescott, last year's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, was off-target as the Cowboys punted three straight times in the third quarter after scoring on all four first-half drives Sunday. The fourth possession after halftime ended with his third interception of the season. Prescott threw four his entire rookie year.
"I think I missed some throws in the second half that I didn't miss in the first half or that I can't miss, simply," Prescott said. "Going along with that, it is just knowing where I am going with the ball so that my feet can be in tune with my body."
Prescott was 20 of 36 for 252 yards and three touchdowns with his third sub-100 passer rating in four games. He had five such games last season, when he set an NFL rookie record with a 104.9 rating as the Cowboys went 13-3. They lost their finale when Prescott played only briefly and Elliott sat with a first-round playoff bye clinched.
There were bright moments for Prescott against the Rams, such as his duck-and-spin out of what looked like a sure sack for All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald before an 18-yard throw to Dez Bryant, who had a season-high 98 yards receiving.
"He made a lot of plays for us, in the pocket, out of the pocket, throughout the game," head coach Jason Garrett said. "He stood in there under some duress and made some throws. Having said that, the standard is high. And he did miss some throws."
Elliott matched the longest drought from his rookie season with his third straight game of less than 100 yards rushing. Last year's NFL rushing leader scored two touchdowns in the first half against the Rams and had 97 total yards at halftime: 56 rushing and 41 receiving.
But Elliott had just nine touches and 42 total yards after halftime the day before a federal appeals court heard arguments over the NFL's emergency request to lift an injunction that blocked the league's six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations in Ohio.
According to Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News, the Monday hearing in New Orleans concluded without a decision being issued.
"I think we have an identity in what we want to do," tight end Jason Witten said. "Just stay with the run game and what we're trying to do. Just overall, we have to be better at it. It's a team that understands it, what we're trying to get accomplished."
Even though Prescott and Elliott had won three straight games on the way to a franchise-record 11-game winning streak this time last year, the Cowboys were coming off a less-than-impressive showing against a San Francisco team headed for a 2-14 finish.
But two things are already different for Dallas. The Cowboys were never blown out last season like they were in Week 2 at Denver. And they never let leads get away without finding a way to win, which is what happened against the Rams.
"I think when people look at a team like ourselves and the success we had last year, they have obviously decided that, hey, we're going to make Dak beat us and we're going to stop their running game," executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said on his radio show Monday. "I think Dak will execute better as we move forward, not that he hasn't played really well. And I think as the season goes, we'll execute better. As that happens, I think you'll see some of the strength of our offense again. I have a lot of confidence that it's going to happen."
Adding to the intrigue, this week's visitor is the Green Bay Packers, who ended Dallas' 2016 season last January. ...
Getting back to the Elliott situation. ... The preliminary injunction, granted by Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas, that is keeping him on the field, could be upheld.
The NFL's request for an emergency stay could be granted, forcing him to begin the suspension immediately, while the case goes through the appeals process.
Or the case could be thrown out entirely, if the court decides the Texas judge didn't have the proper jurisdiction to rule on the case.
Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio advised readers it's unclear when the external appeal will be final. The ruling, when it comes, will potentially spark another skirmish that will require further lawyering. Regardless, it's clear that the league is determined to keep Elliott from playing.
I'll obviously be watching closely and following up as developments warrant. ...
Also of interest. ... As NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Bryant is pacing for 160 targets on the season, which would be a career-high. He's also sporting a 40 percent catch rate. Opportunity continues to flow Bryant's direction and it's keeping his fantasy stock afloat.
Although it has to be a bit disconcerting that the Cowboys continue to feed Bryant strictly low-percentage passes and the connection with Prescott seems to be a bit off.
Also according to Harmon, after going for over 90 yards and a touchdown on just three pass plays in Week 3, Brice Butler saw a small bump in playing time and was on the field for 16 pass plays against the Rams. However, that was more in line with his norm this season (20, 15, three, 16). He caught a target in the red zone that resulted in a touchdown. ...
Rookie Ryan Switzer made two bad decisions to return kickoffs out of the end zone, costing the Cowboys yardage and field position. He compounded his decisions with a fumbled punt that gave the Rams momentum in the second quarter.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Devin Smith, Ventell Bryant
TEs: Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
The Denver Broncos are 3-1 at their bye week, and two areas that let them down last season are perhaps the biggest reasons why.
In 2016, the Broncos couldn't run the football or stop the run on a consistent basis. Their ground game collapsed after C.J. Anderson suffered a torn meniscus, and their run defense buckled throughout the season.
Now, they have a running game that powers the offense. They've rushed for at least 140 yards in three of their four games this season. It's not a coincidence that they've won those three games.
And on defense, they've allowed just 203 yards through four games the fewest in the league this year, and the fewest through four games in Broncos history.
"Run defense is funny, because it's something you judge yourself on week to week," said defensive end Shelby Harris.
Yet the overall picture is clear: the Broncos are dominating, and forcing teams to throw far more often than they'd like.
"We're not looking at the overall stats or anything like that. We're just trying to shut down every team's running game," Harris said. "That's all that matters to us. We don't care where we're ranked at. That doesn't matter. As long as they don't run the ball on us, as long as they just have to throw it, we're good."
Still, the overall stats reveal the Broncos' overwhelming work against the run.
If they can figure out a way to avoid being beaten over the top for long passes as they were by the Raiders on Sunday, their defense might be at the same level as it was in 2015.
As for the win over Oakland, Anderson earned one of head coach Vance Joseph's game balls after racking up 95 rushing yards, including a 40-yard burst to the right side that was his longest run of the season. Jamaal Charles added another 95 yards on 20 carries as he, Anderson and Devontae Booker combined for 142 yards while averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
Anderson ranks fourth in the league with 330 rushing yards.
Charles had just one carry after halftime Sunday after taking a helmet to the knee. Charles said he was doing "OK" after the game and expected to be ready for the Broncos' Oct. 15 game against the Giants.
Booker made his 2017 regular-season debut Sunday and gained 14 yards on three carries.
Brandon McManus has missed three of his 10 field-goal attempts this season, but Joseph said he wasn't concerned about McManus' misses. The fourth-year kicker missed a 29-yard fourth-quarter attempt Sunday.
"Moving forward, I feel good about B-Mac. He's a talent. I'm not down on him," Joseph told Arnie Stapleton of the Associated Press. "Things happen from time to time. I haven't changed my mind about how I feel about B-Mac. He's fine."
Trevor Siemian didn't throw any interceptions, and finished with a 94.9 rating on 16-of-26 passing for 179 yards. But he was sacked four times and was pressured on more than half of his throws as the Broncos struggled to contain Khalil Back and the Raiders' front seven. Siemian was hit seven times. He did a good job capitalizing on what the Raiders gave him, hitting A.J. Derby, Bennie Fowler and Charles for key gains.
One last note here. ... Quarterback Paxton Lynch said his return to the football field isn't imminent as he continues his recovery from a sprained throwing shoulder. Joseph said he has no timetable, either. "As far as his next step, it's throwing the football. That may take a while. I'm not sure of how much time he needs.
QBs: Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen
RBs: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Theo Riddick
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, Daesean Hamilton, Juwann Winfree, Diontae Spencer
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli, Jake Butt
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
As the Sports Xchange noted this week, Ameer Abdullah gave the Lions a lot of hope and a little bit of a scare in Sunday's 14-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
The Lions still haven't had a 100-yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013, but Abdullah's 94 yards before injuring his foot in the fourth quarter were a career best. His 20 carries were also a career high. He had the best game by a Lions running back in nearly four years, but couldn't finish the contest after rolling his right ankle early in the fourth quarter.
He could have returned -- both he and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said that -- but ended up not re-entering, staying six yards short.
Abdullah said his ankle felt "good" after the game, and he's expected to be fine for this week's showdown with the NFC South co-leading Carolina Panthers.
On Sunday, Abdullah gave the franchise hope that he's headed for the breakout season many thought he was due for last year before suffering a season-ending Lisfranc injury.
"We know his capabilities, the type of talent that he has," guard T.J. Lang said. "He's capable of doing that any time he touches the ball. It's our job to make sure our guys are staying off of him and we're opening up enough room for him to kind of squeeze through or make the guy miss."
Abdullah accounted for two of the Lions' eight longest plays Sunday, scored their first rushing touchdown of the season, and had just three plays that went for negative or no yards.
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein reported, when he was in, Abdullah was sharp. He turned out big gains and rarely got stopped for a loss. Including when holes never showed, like on his 3-yard touchdown run when his own effort created a score.
This is different than prior years, when the most consistent thing said about Detroit's run game was that it was inconsistent. For every breakout that seemed to be coming, the Lions then broke down a few weeks later.
Abdullah seems to be showing something a little bit different now. And if that happens, it changes the direction of Detroit's offense.
"It definitely makes us more diverse, more potent," Abdullah said. "I feel like we have a solid run game. We know what we got outside, we know what we got at quarterback, so consistency is what I'm looking for."
He has averaged over 3.3 yards per carry in each of the past three games -- not great numbers but getting better. In two of those three -- Sunday against Minnesota and in Week 2 against the Giants -- he averaged 4.7 yards per carry or better.
He's also getting the ball often, which has helped. That showed against Minnesota. As he kept playing, he dissected where small creases might open, particularly on one run when he appeared to be headed left and in a split-second cut back right and turned a potential tackle for loss into an 8-yard gain. Another time, a cutback resulted in an 11-yard pickup.
These are the types of runs for which the Lions drafted Abdullah for in the second round three years ago. He made open-field tacklers miss, too, a quality that made him intriguing coming out of Nebraska. As he establishes himself, these runs show up more.
And they've been more consistent as games go along -- and as he and the running backs figure out what opposing linebackers are doing.
With 23 total touches (and one more incompletion thrown his way), Abdullah saw a bigger workload than normal as the Lions leaned on their running game to help keep the Vikings' stout pass rush at bay.
He may not duplicate that output in the weeks to come, but Abdullah said the "standard was set" Sunday for him and the running game for the rest of the year.
According to Rothstein, Sunday showed Abdullah's potential. His personal goals have always been high. So it's not surprising Abdullah wasn't glowing about his performance.
He didn't consider this a big game. Labeled it both "solid" and "borderline good, but not great at all."
Still, if the Lions can get that effort out of Abdullah consistently, Detroit's offense has a chance to be really good. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Matthew Stafford took a pounding Sunday as he was sacked six times, completed 19 of 31 passes for 209 yards and threw three near interceptions. The Lions didn't have much success throwing the ball, save for a possession late in the first half when they drove just across midfield.
Darren Fells, who had two catches in the Lions' first three games, caught a team-high four passes for 40 yards Sunday against the Vikings.
All four of Fells' catches went for first downs, and the veteran tight end played a significantly larger role than Eric Ebron as the Lions sought blocking help for their offensive line against a talented Vikings front.
Ebron remains the Lions' best pass-catching tight end, but he had two crucial drops last week and doesn't appear to be as trusted a player by Lions coaches. Fells, meanwhile, is a more well-rounded player than he appeared to be as a free-agent signing.
Marvin Jones caught a 38-yard pass in the first half, the only Lions' pass play that went for more than 16 yards.
Golden Tate caught three passes on five targets, a disappointing day in terms of production and target share.
Matt Prater's field goal streak is over. The veteran kicker, who last week tied an NFL record with his 12th consecutive made field goal of 50 yards or more, missed a 60-yard field goal attempt to end the first half Sunday against the Vikings. Had he hit that field goal, Prater would have broken the mark also shared by Robbie Gould, Blair Walsh and Justin Tucker.
Prater's streak of seven straight made field goals of 55 yards or longer was also snapped, but he's already the NFL record holder on consecutive 55-plus-yard field goals. He's also second in NFL history in made field goals of 55 yards or longer with 11 -- behind only Sebastian Janikowski, who has 13.
Kenny Golladay, who missed Sunday's game with an injured hamstring, remained sidelined at Wednesday's practice. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
And a few final notes. ... The Lions lead the NFL with a plus-nine turnover margin after three weeks, and are tied for the league lead with 11 takeaways. Last year, they forced just 14 turnovers all season.
"I think that's very important, obviously, not turning the ball over offensively and then able to get turnovers defensively, giving our offense more possessions," safety Glover Quin said. "You can continue on that trend and continue to do those things you're going to give yourself a lot of opportunities to win ballgames."
The Lions recovered three fumbles Sunday, with Quin forcing the final one when he punched the ball away from Adam Thielen near midfield with just under two minutes to play.
Quin is the only player in the NFL with two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Caldwell wouldn't comment on it, but LB Paul Worrilow suffered a sprained MCL on Sunday; he is expected to miss two to four weeks.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Tom Savage
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, Paul Perkins
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Jermaine Kearse, Brandon Powell, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Logan Thomas
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
Running back Ty Montgomery is listed as day-to-day and could play against the Cowboys in Week 5, a source tells ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Montgomery left Thursday night's win over the Chicago Bears in the first quarter with a rib injury. Montgomery was off to a strong start with 28 yards on five carries in the first six plays from scrimmage. He came into the game with a wrist injury he sustained in a Week 3 win over the Bengals.
"Really, every injury is different," head coach Mike McCarthy said Friday. "We're talking about injuries that the specifics of it are different, where exactly it's located, type of equipment and definitely the position that you play. I really don't have a clear answer on exactly what Ty is dealing with and how he can move forward. I know today the conversation with the trainers, as far as his conversation with the trainers, he's preparing to get ready to play in Dallas. That's really what this weekend is for.
"Tuesday we'll really get our hands around it, and obviously, we'll get you the injury information on Wednesday."
But Montgomery confirmed he has multiple broken ribs he's recovering from during an appearance on the Green Bay Press Gazette's "Clubhouse Live" show.
"I'll be fine," Montgomery said. "I'm feeling a lot better than I felt on Thursday. I can laugh now. I can sleep now. My movement is fine, it's just a matter of is it going to be safe enough for me to be out there and not risk internal injury. That's the conversation that I'm trying to have now."
Montgomery said the injury happened on his first play and he initially tried to play through it.
"'There's no way that just happened,'" he said recalling the moment. "'I'm going to keep toughing this out. I'm feeling really good. This is going to be a good game.' And then on the last play right before I went out, I could feel something in my rib cage moving. Like as I'm breathing and running I could feel something moving and clicking and I was like 'oh, that's not right.' So I needed to come out, but I was so frustrated because I felt like I was just about to have a monster game."
Montgomery had 28 yards on five carries before being forced to leave the game against Chicago. The "mini-bye" coming off the Thursday night game gives Montgomery an additional few days to recover from the injury, but said he's not going to risk more serious injuries to play this Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
"I'm going to do my best to try to be out there but of course I have to be weary of risking something more serious," Montgomery said. "I don't want to puncture any internal organs. We all know how serious that can be."
In addition, rook Jamaal Williams suffered a knee injury against Chicago, but it didn't involve any ligament damage. Williams could be back as early as this week as well.
And if neither are ready?
Green Bay might have found something in No. 3 man Aaron Jones. Jones, a rookie fifth-round draft choice, had his first-ever NFL carries and finished with 13 rushing attempts for 49 yards and a touchdown. Jones showed explosion and burst that had been lacking in the run game the first three games.
Also on the injury front. ... Wide receiver Davante Adams suffered a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit from Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan. Adams was down on the Lambeau Field turf for several minutes before being taken to a nearby hospital.
On Friday, Adams was released from the hospital, but he'll be in the concussion protocol program.
"Brutal hit. It's a helmet-to-helmet hit," McCarthy said. "Davante was in a compromised position. Obviously like everything in our game it's evaluated and I'm sure there will be continued conversation going on through the channels long past today."
Trevathan was suspended two games, a penalty that was reduced on to one game on appeal.
McCarthy told reporters on Wednesday that Adams remains in the concussion protocol, but that he will be on the field doing some work during Wednesday's practice and is doing well.
"The most important thing is Davante is healthy," McCarthy said. "Speaking to him today, he feels great. Just wants to get back to playing football."
There was a report from Schefter on Tuesday that indicated Adams has a chance to play this week and nothing McCarthy said makes that seem like an impossible outcome, although the coming days will provide a better idea of Adams' chances of progressing through the protocol in time to face the Cowboys.
I will be following the progress of Montgomery and Williams, both of whom were on the practice field Wednesday, and Adams via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Aaron Rodgers threw for a season-low 179 yards against Chicago, but was remarkably efficient. Rodgers threw four touchdown passes, completed 69.2 percent of his passes and had a 128.0 passer rating.
Green Bay also scored touchdowns on all five of its trips into the red zone.
And finally. ... As NFL.com's Matt Harmon wrote, "In an unreliable tight end field, the volume for Martellus Bennett has been something we can count on. Bennett currently averages seven targets per game. However, just as reliable is his inability to turn that into any production. Bennett hasn't averaged over 10 yards per reception since Week 1 and has yet to eclipse 50 yards receiving in any game this year."
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer, Tim Boyle
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Tra Carson, Dexter Williams
WRs: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow, Darrius Shepherd
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop noted, in only his third NFL start, Deshaun Watson's performance in the Texans' 57-14 victory over the Titans was the team's best performance at quarterback in franchise history.
Watson threw four touchdowns and ran for a fifth, finishing 25-of-34 through the air for 283 yards and an interception. His five total scores tied the NFL rookie touchdown record. He is also the first rookie to pass for at least four touchdowns and rush for one touchdown in a game since Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton did so for the Minnesota Vikings in 1961, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
The rookie was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Watson had shown steady improvement since he replaced Tom Savage in the second half in the Texans' season-opening loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he took a huge leap with his record-setting performance on Sunday. Since Watson took over, the Texans' offense has developed into a legitimate scoring threat. A season after Houston's passing game struggled, the offense has turned around with Watson at quarterback.
"He's maturing more and more every day, not just on the field but off the field," wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said of Watson. "He's doing things that characteristics of a quarterback that wants to win everything, the ultimate goal. The way he carries himself, not just on the field but off the field, the leadership mentality he has.
"Just the adjustments he can make on the field, going on the sideline, going out and correcting it. I haven't had that in a while."
In Hopkins' five seasons in Houston, he has caught passes from 10 quarterbacks; the Texans have had a different quarterback start the season opener in five straight years.
In addition to Watson's record-setting display, the Texans broke the franchise record for points in a game. (The team's previous high was 45 points against the Titans in 2014.) For the second week in a row, the Texans accumulated more than 400 yards of total offense, finishing with 445 yards and 33 first downs.
"It means a lot [to put up that many points]," Hopkins said. "You have to thank the organization for going out and moving up and getting a guy like Deshaun Watson. Taking that risk on moving up and trading draft picks to get a guy that they know can do this for this organization. It starts not just with us but with the organization going out and getting a guy like that.
"The way we practice, the way we go about things every day, not just on the field but off the field, our mindset is we're going to score every time we touch the ball or it's a disappointment."
Watson spread the ball around, as six Texans made at least two catches. Hopkins recorded his first 100-yard receiving game this season, finishing with 10 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. He reached 100 yards receiving just twice last season, in Week 2 and Week 17.
Watson and the Texans' offense got a boost from the return of wide receiver Will Fuller, who was playing in his first game since he broke his collarbone during training camp. Fuller finished with four catches for 35 yards and two touchdowns and drew a pass interference in the end zone that could have been a third score. Fuller can stretch the field and helped take away coverage from Hopkins because the Titans had to be aware of Fuller's speed. Leading up to the game, Hopkins said Fuller "can do some things" he and the other receivers in the locker room cannot do, which opens "our playbook a little bit more."
"Will [Fuller] can open up the field," Hopkins said. "He's a big part of this offense scoring 50-something points the way we did. You can't just key in on me. You have to obviously watch Will down the field every play because he has the speed that you can't coach."
The Texans scored 50 points for first time in team history and are the first team to do so since the Jaguars scored 51 in December 2015.
The Texans' offense has gone from simply trying to not turn the ball over and win the battle of field position to thinking about driving down the field to score.
"Guys aren't thinking, 'All right, we've got to have good field position to score.' They think, 'Let's go 90 yards. Let's go 80 yards,'" Hopkins said.
"Every time we touch the ball we're trying to score it. We're not happy with three; we need seven."
After the game, head coach Bill O'Brien seemed to be guarding his team against getting too high before a wake-up call matchup against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
What he did say about Watson, though, was telling.
"He sees the game pretty well," O'Brien said. "There's a lot of things he sees. He's seeing a lot of different things, third-down blitzes for the first time, red area blitzes for the first time... I think he's making really good decisions, that's the kind of guy he is -- a very calm guy, a very thoughtful guy."
He added: "He really can throw the football. He's a really accurate passer. He has big hands. He can sling it. He's a smart runner."
As NFL.com's Conor Orr suggested, Watson has the tendency to get pigeonholed into the mobile quarterback category thanks to his standout speed (Watson is second on the team in rushing, about 100 yards behind Lamar Miller), but as one reporter pointed out during O'Brien's postgame press conference, Watson over the last two weeks has used his pocket-passing skills to set up his runs.
Just how good was Watson on the quick, standard-drop passes to his wide receivers, running backs and tight ends?
On passes that took 2.5 seconds or less, Watson was 15 of 16 for 136 yards and three touchdowns.
He's actually a significantly worse quarterback when he extends the play beyond 2.5 seconds and wanders around in the pocket (on Sunday, he was 10 of 18 for 147 yards, one touchdown and one interception on throws of 2.5 seconds or more).
During the week, Hopkins said he hasn't seen a quarterback playing like Watson since Michael Vick and Hopkins may be on to something. Vick's arm talent made it nearly impossible to just guard against the run. The Titans found that out about Watson the hard way on Sunday.
As Barshop summed up: "Houston probably won't put up these numbers every game, but if Watson can continue to play at this level or even improve, the Texans will be a dangerous team in the AFC South. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich noted, Lamar Miller benefitted from his rookie quarterback's big game. Miller totaled 131 yards from scrimmage and scored twice, once rushing and once receiving. It was by far his best outing of the season, and if the Texans offense keeps humming like they were Sunday, there could be more of these big games in store.
In addition, D'Onta Foreman received his biggest workload of the season with 13 rush attempts for 45 yards. Franciscovich added the Texans seemed to be riding Miller's hot hand, so Foreman's takeover will have to wait.
He was far out-snapped by his veteran teammate by a count of 53 to 22. Still, Franciscovich believes Foreman is worth holding onto as a bench stash for now. ...
Running back and kick returner Tyler Ervin tore his patellar tendon against the Titans.
Ervin was scheduled to undergo surgery to repair the damage Monday and is expected to be placed on injured reserve.
Ervin is one of the Texans' most versatile players. The former fourth-round draft pick from San Jose State caught eight passes for 38 yards and rushed for 12 yards on four carries. He averaged 7.6 yards per punt return and 18.6 yards per kickoff return.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter
TEs: Jordan Akins, Darren Fells, Kahale Warring, Jerell Adams, Jordan Thomas
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
This is the week Andrew Luck returns to the practice field, albeit it in a limited role.
That's the word from Colts general manager Chris Ballard.
"We'll slowly start working him back into practice this week," he said during the team's Monday night radio show. "We'll see how much he gets.
"But we've got a plan in place to where we want him to start getting him reps and then, in time as we can get him incorporated back into team work and all that, we'll get him back on the field."
The team returned to the practice field Wednesday.
As CBS4 in Indianapolis' Mike Chappell reminded readers, Luck hasn't practiced with his teammates since undergoing January surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The team has been optimistic he would return before now, but its $140 million quarterback has been working with the rehab staff since being taken off the physically unable to perform list (PUP) Sept. 2.
"Andrew's doing good, he's doing really good," Ballard said. "I've watched him throw the ball and he's starting to get his motion back, getting his lower body to start working with his upper body.
"His strength levels are getting back to where they need to be."
The Colts have opened 1-3 without Luck with Scott Tolzien starting the opener in Los Angeles and Jacoby Brissett starting the last three games. Brissett will make his fourth consecutive start Sunday when the Colts host the San Francisco 49ers in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Luck almost certainly will need two or three weeks of concentrated practice before he's ready to return to the lineup. That would make his return coming Oct. 16 at Tennessee at the very earliest, but more likely Oct. 22 at home against Jacksonville or Oct. 29 at Cincinnati.
"Everybody has to understand he's not going to come back and take all the first-team reps and play 50, 60, 70 snaps in practice a day," Chuck Pagano said. "We have to integrate him back into practice. Like anybody else, do some individual, throw some routes versus air, stay with his throwing progression and bring him along.
"Again, it'd be great just to have him out there with his teammates, red jersey on, working again."
Pagano said Luck would warm up with the other quarterbacks and do individual work on Wednesday, then throw some routes against air. The plan is that he will take Thursday off and work again Friday, as they ease him back in to work.
"There's a pitch count," Pagano said of Luck's workload, according to Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star. "There's a number."
So Luck, who told reporters he'll definitely play this season, won't play this week. But he's on his way back. Forward thinking fantasy owners would be wise to make a free-agent move on Luck now if he's available on waiver wires. ...
The Colts will host San Francisco this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. It will be a big weekend in Indianapolis with former quarterback Peyton Manning returning to have his number retired by the franchise.
They'll be looking to improve on defense.
The Colts have lost games by 28 or more points nine times since the start of the 2012 season. That leads the NFL, ahead of the Jets (7), Titans (7), Jaguars (6), Rams (6) and Buccaneers (6).
Indianapolis has allowed 136 points through the first four games of the 2017 season. That ranks as the second worst through four games in franchise history. It's also the most allowed in the NFL so far this season.
The Colts defense allowed just 10 points through 2 1/2 quarters against Seattle. Then the roof fell in. Indianapolis wound up losing 46-18 to the Seahawks.
"You lead 15-10 at the half and get outscored 36-3? That's bad football," Pagano said after the game. ...
The lopsided scores have an impact.
As the Sports Xchange notes, in the first half of Sunday night's game with Seattle, Brissett was good on 14-of-20 passes for 142 yards with a touchdown to Donte Moncrief and an interception that was returned for a TD. Brissett, however, was 2-for-9 for just 15 yards in the disastrous second half. He wound up completing 16-of-29 for 157 yards with a TD and an interception.
Brissett was sacked three times and took several hits along the way. Indianapolis' leading receiver was Jack Doyle with five receptions.
Doyle left the Seattle game in the second half with a possible concussion. There was no update on his condition after the game. Doyle's status for practice this week will be updated Wednesday.
The lack of a consistent running attack really hit Indianapolis hard over the final two quarters. Gore led the way with 46 yards in 12 carries. Brissett added 33 yards on three scrambles. As a team, the Colts had 98 yards rushing and averaged 3.9 yards per rushing attempt. Most of those yards came in the first half. That was a big problem for the Colts.
Robert Turbin was the only running back to score a touchdown.
Also on the injury front. ... Rookie C Deyshawn Bond tore the quadriceps muscle that connects to the kneecap. Bond is expected to undergo surgery. Regular starting C Ryan Kelly (foot) returned for limited practice last week after he underwent surgery during training camp. It's hoped that Kelly will be cleared to return for practice this week.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Jonathan Williams
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal, Deon Cain, Parris Campbell, Devin Funchess, Ashton Dulin
TEs: Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
As ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco notes, the Jaguars talked all last week about consistency and stacking up good performances after an up-and-down start to the season. The New York Jets seemed to be the perfect matchup to allow them to finally put together back-to-back wins for the first time since October 2016.
They're still searching after Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss at MetLife Stadium -- and now it's time to start wondering if that's the kind of team the Jaguars are going to be in 2017.
Look good one week, flounder the next. Rout Houston, get routed by Tennessee, rout Baltimore, lose to a Jets team that -- on paper, anyway -- they're better than.
Instead of taking control of the AFC South, they're sitting in a three-way tie with Houston and Tennessee.
Sunday's loss to the Jets was the complete opposite of what happened the week before against Baltimore in London, when they smothered the Ravens 44-7. This week, the Jaguars gave up big plays on defense, turned the ball over deep in their own territory, had questionable play-calling (especially late in the game) and committed a late penalty that wiped out a touchdown, and quarterback Blake Bortles had a bad day after an encouraging start.
"Tease, tease, tease. Show potential, but waste it with an avalanche of mistakes," DiRocco wrote. "That's what the Jaguars are right now."
"I think that's tough to look at it as who we are and accept that," Bortles said. "Because I think the guys in the locker room are a lot better than that. I think we have an extremely good football team. I think we have an extremely good coaching staff that's able to get us ready week in and week out. So it's on us as a group of players to be able to go out and execute and kind of control that consistency that we're talking about and that we're looking for because we have the ability to do it."
Meanwhile, calling it "not an exact science," head coach Doug Marrone wants to do a better job of getting rookie running back Leonard Fournette the ball in "the right situations."
The Jaguars failed to get Fournette a touch during a key sequence against the Jets.
Trailing 20-17 late in regulation, Jacksonville appeared to take the lead when Fournette turned a screen pass into a 23-yard touchdown. But the score was nullified because of a holding call on receiver Arrelious Benn.
The Jaguars were pushed back to the 16, and Chris Ivory replaced Fournette on the field.
Ivory gained 10 yards to set up a first-and-goal situation from the 6-yard line with 1:46 remaining. But Fournette didn't touch the ball on any of the next three plays -- all passes from Blake Bortles.
The Jaguars settled for a field goal and overtime, squandering a decent chance to steal a victory on the road.
"We're still trying to do a better job of when we distribute all that stuff," Marrone said Monday. "We've just got to keep doing a better job so this way when the right situations come up we can put him in there, get him in there, and he's 110 percent and he's good. ... That's something we can do a better job of."
Fournette finished with 24 carries for 86 yards. He also had four receptions for 59 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown catch to end the opening drive.
So Fournette touched the ball 28 times in his 39 plays.
But Ivory and fellow running back Corey Grant got the ball on third-and-short plays in the fourth quarter, and neither moved the chains.
"It's really a difficult thing," Marrone said. "It's easy afterward, 'Oh, I wish we had him in this situation. ... We're always trying to constantly maintain how to manage the substitution level to make sure that the best players are in. ... There's a lot of things that go into it so it's not an exact science, but it's one that we continue to keep working on."
Equally troubling for the Jaguars is creating some space for Fournette.
According to Associated Press sports writer Mark Long, the Jaguars have run the ball against eight or more defenders in the box an NFL-high 48 times, including 16 against the Jets. They have 139 total carries, meaning 35 percent of those have come against eight or more defenders near the line of scrimmage.
Fournette has an NFL-high 29 carries against stacked boxes.
And part of the problem stems from losing leading receiver Allen Robinson in the season opener. Robinson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at Houston and had season-ending surgery. Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns and rookie Keelan Cole have failed to fill the void for Bortles.
The Jaguars are one of four teams without a passing play of at least 40 yards. The other three -- Chicago, Houston and Miami -- have changed quarterbacks since the preseason.
With opponents are essentially loading the box against Fournette and daring Bortles to beat them over the top without his big-play threat.
"We are running against some tough situations," Marrone said. "We just have to make the plays down the field when we're able to make it. We did have some opportunities and we weren't able to take advantage for multiple reasons, whether it's protection or just what's happening on the other side of the field. ...
"You have to start making those plays and doing those things to get people out of stacking the box."
The good news?
Fournette scored again, making him the first player in Jaguars history to score a touchdown in his first four games with the franchise.
This week, the Jaguars are again on the road, this time traveling to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The effectiveness and good judgment that Bortles exhibited a week ago in the thrashing of Baltimore wasn't to be found in Sunday's loss.
Bortles started strong, connecting on all but one of his five pass attempts in the Jaguars' opening drive that ended with a touchdown. But the rest of the first half, he hit on just 3-of-12 passes that resulted in just three more points.
That 7-of-17 performance before intermission was followed by an 8-of-18 effort the final two quarters with 15 completions netting just 140 yards.
Bortles had just six completions for 60 yards to his two starting wide receivers, Lee and Hurns.
Bortles' third interception of the season came when he incorrectly thought he could get a pass over the head of lineman Kony Ealy, who tipped the ball straight up, caught it and took it nine yards to the 7-yard line.
Jason Myers missed badly on a 52-yard field-goal try early in the fourth quarter with the Jaguars trailing 20-10. Had he converted on that attempt, Myers' 22-yard field goal with 46 seconds left in regulation, would have been a game-winner.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Josh Dobbs, Phillip Walker, Nick Foles
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Tyler Ervin
WRs: D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole, Marqise Lee, CJ Board
TEs: Geoff Swaim, Seth DeValve, Josh Oliver, Ben Koyack, James O'Shaughnessy
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
The Kansas City Chiefs stand as the NFL's last unbeaten team, moving to 4-0 following their 29-20 win over the Washington Redskins Monday night, fueled by yet another fourth-quarter rally.
According to the Sports Xchange, head coach Andy Reid said that's the identify of his team, a mix of veteran leaders who have seen almost everything and confident young players who have quickly earned the trust of their brethren.
"They'll battle you," Reid said Tuesday. "And that's a nice thing to have, one of those intangible things that you appreciate it. They trust each other enough to think they're always in the game."
The Chiefs lead the NFL with 54 points in the fourth quarter, accounting for 44 percent of their offensive points. The team ranks tied for seventh in fourth-quarter scoring defense, allowing just 13 points this season.
Kansas City's scoring margin is a mere five points through the third quarter of games this season. Yet, they outscore their opponents by 41 points in the fourth quarter.
Rooking running back Kareem Hunt leads the Chiefs in their fourth-quarter surge. He leads the NFL with 501 rushing yards through the first four weeks of the season. Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley ranks second with 362 yards. Hunt has 372 yards rushing in the second half of games alone.
He did it again Monday night, rushing for 77 yards on 16 carries in the second half, including seven rushes for 40 yards in the fourth quarter.
"Up front, those guys stuck with it and kept on pushing," Hunt said. "I just got better as the game went on. My reads got better and I just started running a little bit harder."
The Chiefs have also proven effective at adjustments as the game progresses. Reid says offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, assistant head coach Brad Childress and himself pick and choose plays each week designed to cover every eventuality.
"We've been fortunate we've been able to do that," Reid explained. "That's what we attempt to do. If something isn't looking too good, maybe you go a different direction. One of the neat things about this offense is that it's always been this way, this isn't something new, that you have flexibility within the offense and a lot of different choices."
Reid also believes his team's fourth-quarter success starts in the offseason with strong workouts leading into training camp and the preseason. But he also says his players' faith in each other also sustains their confidence no matter the situation heading into the final drives of the game.
"It's a mindset more than anything," Reid said. "They have confidence in each other and they figure things out and then kind of settle down and go.
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher notes, Monday night's unexpected fourth-quarter star was Albert Wilson. On the second play of the drive that led to Harrison Butker's game-winning field goal, Smith was forced by defensive pressure to scramble to his right. He threw on the run to Wilson, who bobbled the ball momentarily but pulled it in for a 37-yard gain.
"Just trying to see it, make a good decision," Smith said. "Earlier I had a really similar scramble. I was coming up to the right and everybody was turning and running and I had backs to me and had a big run. I just try to play that game sometimes when I get out to the edge.
"I felt that time around I got some attention on me and Albert was able to hit the seam there. It's tough (because) there are a lot of times you look back on scrambles and guys are open. It's hard to see the whole field when you're moving fast and the game gets sped up a little bit on the edge. You just try to have your eyes up and make the best decision there. It's a little bit of a run-pass option."
Meanwhile, NFL.com suggests it's time we give Smith his due credit and not saddle it with a "well, he can't go deep" knock on the way out the door.
Smith engineered an excellent drive with less than a minute left, completing passes of 4, 37 and 10 yards to set up Butker for the winning field goal. Smith was sharp for a majority of the night, completing 27 of 37 passes for 293 yards and one touchdown, and rushing seven times for 56 yards and another score.
The quarterback overcame early pressure that clearly frazzled Kansas City's usually well-paced offense, and the Chiefs went back to what worked for them last season, shortening attempts to establish a rhythm that got the offense back on track.
The result was a close victory that kept the Chiefs reigning atop the league as its only undefeated team. ...
For the record, Hunt broke 100 yards again, finishing with 101 on 21 carries and also catching four passes for 20 yards. As NFL.com's Matt Harmon pointed out, Hunt has been the best back this season at creating on his own. Through the first four games, he's gained an average of 6.1 more yards after a defender closes within one yard of him (NFL average is 3.6), leading the NFL among running backs with more than 25 carries.
Travis Kelce caught seven passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. Albert Wilson recorded four grabs for 63 yards, including a huge one for 37 yards after he adjusted his route vertically when Smith scrambled to his right in the final minute of action.
And finally, Butker, a new addition via Carolina's practice squad, who was brought in this week after Cairo Santos was waived/injured. Butker converted 3 of 4 field-goal attempts, including the winner from 43 yards out during the final seconds.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Moore, Chad Henne
RBs: Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Sammy Watkins
TEs: Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Deon Yelder
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
A dark-horse preseason pick to ride back to the playoffs in a deep AFC West, the Los Angeles Chargers are wallowing in winless muck through the first quarter of the season.
Following Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, head coach Anthony Lynn went off on his teams surprising 0-4 start to the season.
"Never in a million years did I think we'd be here at 0-4, but we are," he said, via the team's official website. "I look at football in four quarters, just like a game. And we just stunk the first quarter of our season. We've got three quarters left to figure some things out and get this thing turned around. There's going to be a lot of evaluating going on tonight and into tomorrow. There are some things that are going to change. But we're going to get this figured out and moving in the right direction."
On paper, the Chargers boast talent on both sides of the ball. Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon on offense provide a playmaking trio. On defense, L.A. has the best pass-rush duo in the NFL in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.
Despite the talent, the Chargers continually falter in close games.
Sunday marked the third loss of three-or-fewer points this season and L.A. has lost 12 one-possession games since 2016 (4-12 in one-possession games in that span).
The Chargers have lost nine straight games dating back to last year, and it's the franchise's first 0-4 start since 2003 -- the following season, Rivers joined the team.
One thing both Rivers and Lynn agreed was that of all the team's struggles to start the season, the effort isn't lacking.
"I've never questioned that," Rivers said. "Again, this team is still growing together, but I don't think there's any lack of fight, want-to or desire to care. That's never been a problem here. I don't sense that it is at this point in time. Guys are fighting, scratching like crazy. We just haven't been able to overcome it yet."
Now the Chargers need to find a way to turn that effort into Ws.
Not helping matters was another so-so performance from running back Melvin Gordon. He managed but 30 yards on 10 carries.
"I'm super frustrated at the moment," he said. "But I can't let it break me."
Gordon has dealt with a knee injury, but he said he is fine. But something is askew with a running game that is the worst in the NFL. That's especially troubling considering Lynn's background in the running game. "There's just no answer right now," Gordon said.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams pointed out, one of the few bright spots for the Chargers was the play of undrafted rookie Austin Ekeler.
A surprise addition to the 53-man roster after flashing during preseason play, the Western State Colorado product has made plays for a struggling Chargers offense.
With limited touches, Ekeler has a 35-yard run for a touchdown -- the Chargers' longest run from scrimmage this season -- along with five catches for 47 yards.
The Chargers have struggled running the football through four games, averaging just 71 yards per game and 3.4 yards a carry.
"We wanted to get him in the game and see what he could do, and he's a productive runner," Lynn said about Ekeler. "He was productive all preseason and it didn't matter what group we put him in with -- he moved the chains."
At 5-10 and 200 pounds, Ekeler has the ability to make defenders miss as a pass-catcher on the perimeter, but also the physicality to run between the tackles.
Even though the Chargers have several playmakers on offense, including Gordon, Allen and Hunter Henry, they seem to be missing that home run hitter who can change the momentum of a game just by getting the ball in space -- like Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chargers have just three runs of 20-plus yards and no run of over 40 yards through four games.
Williams believes Ekeler could be the guy who provides a home run threat for the Chargers.
According to NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich, "Branden Oliver remains the likely handcuff for now. Ekeler doesn't have the size to be a workhorse but he's a sneaky change-of-pace option. ..."
Rivers heaved two touchdowns and went for nearly 350 yards as he bounced back from one of the worst games of his career.
But all was not right as he was stripped from the ball in the first quarter when holding on to it and running with it much longer than he should. That was another turnover and the Eagles cashed in. But he had two 50-plus-yard strikes, one good for a touchdown to Tyrell Williams on a crossing route over the middle.
Per ESPN Stats and Information, Williams' 75-yard catch for a score is his longest reception since his first career touchdown, an 80-yard reception against the Denver Broncos in Week 17 of the 2015 season. Williams finished with five catches for 115 yards and a score. Allen also had a good day, totaling five catches for 138 yards.
Allen's 11 targets were a season-high and also gave him double-digits in his third game so far. Henry got back into the mix and snagged a scoring pass. ...
One last note here. ... Younghoe Koo was true on his field-goal attempt but it's clear Lynn doesn't have confidence in him, always electing to punt on border-line calls where a field goal might be tried.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, Geremy Davis, Andre Patton, Dontrelle Inman
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
As ESPN.com's Alden Gonzalez noted, everybody wondered whether Todd Gurley could round back into the form of his rookie season, but nobody considered the possibility of him being even better.
Gurley, his nightmare 2016 season now only a distant memory, is dominating both on the ground and through the air.
On Sunday, in the Rams' 35-30 road win over the Cowboys, Gurley gained 215 yards from scrimmage, the most by a Rams player since Steven Jackson in 2006. He gained 121 yards on 23 carries and had a career-high 94 receiving yards on a career-high seven catches. He scored his seventh touchdown, one more than he scored all of last year and, according to Elias Sports Bureau, tied with Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch in 1951 for the most in Rams history through the first four games.
On Wednesday, Gurley was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
"Todd's a special player," said head coach Sean McVay, who has given Gurley an NFL-leading 106 touches this season. "Just because last year, from a numbers standpoint, maybe it wasn't what we would have liked, that doesn't take away from some of the things he did on tape when you really study it. These are things that we expect from Todd, and I know he expects of himself."
Gurley began to show last season what he could do as a receiver, but he has taken that to another level this year. He has hauled in 20 of his 22 targets -- including all seven on Sunday -- and has gone three straight games with a receiving touchdown, after not having any receiving touchdowns in 30 previous games. His last one came on a 53-yard wheel route that gave the Rams their first lead in the third quarter and represented Gurley's longest career reception.
Gurley gained 67 of his receiving yards after the catch.
"Any time you give him the ball in space, you get to see what he can do," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. "I try to remind myself every week to continue to look for him and to continue to try to get him the ball in any situation possible."
The most encouraging signs, though, have come on the ground.
Gurley picked up only 885 rushing yards last season, the fewest in history for someone with more than 275 carries. He went 20 consecutive games without reaching triple-digit yards on the ground but has 234 rushing yards in back-to-back weeks. Gurley gained 5.3 yards per carry Sunday and totaled 95 yards on 17 carries on first down. Sixteen of his 23 rushing attempts came with six or fewer defenders in the box, according to ESPN Stats and Information -- a sign that defenses are finally respecting Goff's ability to beat them down the field.
In the second half, Gurley averaged 3.0 yards per rush after contact (he averaged 1.6 yards after contact last year).
"It's a plethora of things," Rams left guard Rodger Saffold said of why the Rams are running the ball more effectively. "... We've just got that effort. We're giving 1,000 percent every play because we want him to go out and score, we want him to be able to run the ball and he's doing it constantly. And it's because of all the work that he put in that nobody saw in the offseason."
After the game, a reporter asked Gurley a question about being the team's leading receiver and assumed it didn't mean much to him. "Oh, it means a lot to me," Gurley said playfully. He chuckled at how he's acting so much like a receiver and Tavon Austin -- six carries for 48 yards -- is looking like "a mini running back." Gurley laughed at that comment, too.
He's smiling a lot more these days.
"I am," Gurley said. "I'm telling you, man, when you're winning, it makes everything so much better."
Of course, Gurley has a tough matchup in Week 5 versus the Seahawks' defense, but ESPN.com's Matt Bowen believes his versatility within McVay's offense should make the Rams' featured back a top-five play at the position moving forward.
"Remember, this is a modern-day offense under McVay," Bowen wrote. "And the running back is a game-plan weapon. Nickel runs, designed route schemes and goal-line carries. Gurley is getting the touches and being put in very favorable situations to maximize his talent. ..."
Generally speaking, the Rams under McVay look nothing like the sad-sack franchise that hasn't had a winning season since its new head coach was in high school back in 2003.
Specifically, they lead the NFL with 142 points after fielding the league's worst offense in each of the past two seasons.
"The guys have done everything we've asked," McVay said Monday. "We've got a lot of good players, and we've got great coaches that are leading the way, and I feel fortunate to be a part of that."
After Jared Goff went 0-7 as a starter last season, the No. 1 pick's quarterback rating has almost doubled to 112.2. Gurley has already scored more touchdowns this season (seven) than he did in all of last season.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth has made one of the NFL's biggest free-agent impacts, stabilizing the Rams' lousy line and providing leadership. New receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods have teamed with remarkable rookie Cooper Kupp to provide plenty of targets for Goff, who has already passed for 1,072 yards.
"What good coaches do is they put their players in situations to have success, but ultimately those players are the ones that are making those plays," McVay said. "You feel fortunate to be a part of that."
Even kicker Greg Zuerlein has been perfect on 14 field goal attempts, including his franchise-record seven at Dallas.
The Rams' inability to finish those drives with touchdowns is gnawing at McVay, but that's a tiny complaint compared to the massive problems faced by this offense in previous seasons.
When asked about those red-zone failures, McVay blamed himself as the Rams' play-caller. Los Angeles scored just one touchdown on four trips inside the Dallas 20, and McVay lamented his own decisions as the only thing standing between the Rams and even more points.
"What you try to do is you look at what are those things that can be corrected," McVay said. "We did move the football fairly well, but I think just looking at the red zone overall, that's something we've got to do a better job of, and I think that starts with me."
So far, that's a pretty good starting point. ... As NFL.com's Matt Harmon pointed out, after a dominant game on Thursday night in Week 3, Sammy Watkins went quiet with just two targets against the Cowboys. He didn't see his first look until the fourth quarter. The tide turned back to slot receiver Cooper Kupp, who was second on the team with seven targets and scored a touchdown.
As Harmon suggested, "The mark of a good offense is an ability to turn to multiple different players and dimensions in winning efforts. That's not much of a comfort to fantasy players, of course, but it's great news for the Rams as a team."
By the way, Kupp recorded a 7-yard touchdown pass, his second score of the season. Kupp finished the game with five receptions for 60 yards.
As noted above, Zuerlein booted seven field goals to help the Rams maximize their time in the red zone Sunday. The seven field goals is a new franchise record for most field goals in a game. The previous record was six by Jeff Wilkins against Denver in 2006. Zuerlein scored 23 points (seven field goals and two extra points), which is the second-highest total for a Ram in a single game. Previously, there have been several Rams that have scored 24 points in a game, which is the highest mark in franchise history. The last player to score 24 points in a game was Steven Jackson when he scored four touchdowns at Minnesota in 2006,
The veteran kicker has now converted 18 straight field goals.
Zuerlein was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday.
QBs: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, JoJo Natson, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster
TEs: Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
As ESPN.com's James Walker reminded readers, last week, head coach Adam Gase called his offense "garbage."
Sunday's 20-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints in London wasn't an improvement.
The Dolphins were shut out for the first time since Dec. 22, 2013. The offense is averaging an anemic 8.3 points per game and making it very tough for the Dolphins (1-2) to win. The $10 million acquisition of quarterback Jay Cutler (163 yards, no touchdowns, one interception against the Saints) also is not paying dividends early.
Miami's offense was expected to produce much better results. There are two Pro Bowlers in running back Jay Ajayi and receiver Jarvis Landry, in addition to other talented skill players such as tight end Julius Thomas and receivers DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills.
This group, however, has looked lethargic and sloppy through three games.
The Dolphins' slow start offensively is a major sticking point for Gase, who calls the plays. And it's up to the coach to fix Miami's offense before it is too late.
Last year Miami started 1-4 before getting hot and winning 10 games.
However, each season is different and the Dolphins can't rely on the same formula, especially with the fifth-toughest strength of schedule in the NFL.
One big difference this season is at quarterback. The Dolphins are relying on Cutler, who replaced injured starter Ryan Tannehill (knee) in August. Cutler is at his best when he's aggressive throwing down the field. However, the Dolphins are being conservative thus far and making Cutler focus on short throws, which is not his strength.
According to Walker, Gase knows this better than anyone. He must take chances and be more imaginative with Cutler.
Not surprisingly, Gase faced further questions about Cutler Monday and didn't waver from his feeling that there's no reason to panic.
He said criticism of Cutler "drives me nuts" and pointed to issues other than the quarterback that are holding the offense back.
As for a possible QB change, Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper noted if the Dolphins had total faith that Matt Moore was the right answer at quarterback, they wouldn't have signed Cutler away from his broadcasting job after Tannehill was injured so it's not too surprising that their view remains the same after three weeks.
More of the same in the next few weeks will make that view a tougher one to defend, even if Cutler isn't the only one falling short of expectations in Miami.
That said, changes are needed with Miami's offense, but most of it is with scheme and play calling at this stage.
This is a group that lacks confidence and smooth execution, not talent.
In terms of offensive personnel, the Dolphins are pretty much stuck with what they had. The roster lacks quality depth on the offensive line and at most skill positions to make significant changes.
For what it's worth, after listening to Gase talk about having no answers for Miami's offensive woes, Cutler took a serious tone in his post-game press conference.
"I think we're all, on offense, a little humbled, a little embarrassed," he admitted. "And we feel like we're better."
Cutler bristled at a question asking about panic over the offense, saying it's more an issue of frustration.
He also insisted the personnel is not the problem.
"We've got all kinds of individual talent, but individual talent doesn't mean a whole lot on offense if you're not working together," Cutler said.
Despite the offensive struggles, Miami's defense continues to play hard. The Dolphins held the Saints' high-powered offense to three points in the first half, and the defense did enough to keep them in the game.
The Dolphins will be the last NFL team to play a home game this season when they host the Tennessee Titans this week. The Dolphins asked the league this offseason not to give them a bye after the London game because they preferred it later in the season.
However, unplanned circumstances gave Miami its bye in Week 1 due to Hurricane Irma.
Other notes of interest. ... Ajayi's return to London, his hometown, was a major storyline heading into the game. Many fantasy owners expected a big performance from the local product, but Ajayi had just 46 rushing yards on 12 carries.
Between the offense's struggles and the Dolphins falling behind early, Ajayi wasn't able to get in a groove.
He even expressed frustration with coaches on the sideline in the first half after he was taken out of the game on third down.
Like all of us, ESPN.com's Matt Bowen had big hopes for Parker versus that Saints defense and he really expected Ajayi to pump out some numbers in London.
Parker won some early matchups on inside breaking routes, using his size and catch radius there on the slant or dig. But Parker also needed a garbage-time vertical throw to get to 69 yards on six receptions. Meanwhile, Ajayi gained just 14 yards before first contact on his 12 carries.
And Landry? Six receptions for 40 yards (6.7 yards per catch).
"But," Bowen wrote, "when an offense wants to lean on wide receiver screens and elects to throw a goal-line fade route to Thomas (resulting in a pick), instead of handing then ball to Ajayi, this is what you get. ... I need to see more 50/50 throws to Parker and a complete route tree from Landry in the slot. That's going to open up the offense for Ajayi.
"And the Dolphins have a shot to do that this week versus a Titans defense that gave up a bunch of plays to the Texans."
We'll see if they can pull it off. ...
Cody Parkey, who was 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts in the opener, has hardly played the last two weeks. Against New Orleans, Parkey had a kickoff to start the second half. That's it, one play for the entire game. Two weeks ago against the New York Jets he had the game-opening kickoff and then missed an extra point wide left after time expired (Miami scored on the game's final play). Two plays.
Parkey hasn't attempted a field goal in the last two weeks because the offense hasn't been close enough.
And finally. ... Jakeem Grant seems to have lost his punt-return job. Landry fielded all three punts against New Orleans. Grant, who had ball-handling issues last season, fumbled a punt on a fair catch against the New York Jets two weeks ago. Grant retains his kickoff-return duties along with Kenyan Drake.
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Mark Walton, Kalen Ballage, Myles Gaskin, Patrick Laird
WRs: Preston Williams, DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Allen Hurns
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Nick O'Leary, Durham Smythe, Chris Myarick
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
Dalvin Cook became the latest integral offensive player lost by the bad-luck-trodden Vikings. The team's fear of a torn ACL in the rookie running back's left knee was realized Monday, sealing the end of a promising rookie season.
Head coach Mike Zimmer confirmed the diagnosis, signaling the switch to Latavius Murray as the primary ball carrier. Cook will have reconstructive surgery once the swelling subsides. Some additional cartilage damage was discovered, Zimmer said, but no additional ligaments were injured beyond the ACL.
"He's a great kid," Zimmer said. "I'm extremely impressed with everything he's done to this point. It's obviously a terrible thing for him, and for us, but we'll move forward and go on from there. He's a great worker, and I have no doubt that he'll come back from this."
Cook was injured trying to cut for more yards near the end of a run in the third quarter of Minnesota's defeat by Detroit on Sunday. He lost a fumble on the play and needed help off the field. Afterward, he was on crutches, wearing a bulky brace.
"I'm praying for him," Murray said. "I told him I care about him, more than anything, that he's all right."
Cook endured some shoulder trouble in college at Florida State, but this will be a new challenge. Not so for the Vikings, who are essentially still recovering from the dislocated left knee suffered by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater last year and the domino effect it had on the roster.
Bridgewater remains on the physically unable to perform list. His replacement, Sam Bradford, has missed three straight games because of a sore left knee. Several other starters on the offense in 2016 went down with season-ending injuries that left scars on the team psyche.
They haven't completely faded.
As much as the stay-the-course mindset is preached around the league, necessitated by the injury-dominated sport with a 16-game schedule, Vikings players and even Zimmer acknowledged to feeling some frustration about the latest setback since the end of the 14-7 loss to the Lions.
"It shows what kind of team you are when you just fight through that and keep playing," wide receiver Adam Thielen said, "and hopefully we can get things together and start winning games."
With 354 yards, Cook is third in the NFL in rushing. He has two touchdowns, plus 11 receptions for 90 yards for the Vikings (2-2), who play at Chicago next Monday. Jerick McKinnon will likely have his role expand along with Murray, but the Vikings might have to sign another veteran running back, too.
"We're looking at everything," Zimmer said.
Murray played 19 snaps and had seven carries for 21 yards Sunday, while McKinnon played 10 snaps and had two carries for no yards.
Murray, who had 1,000-yard season for the Raiders in 2015, likely carries the bulk of the load. He had offseason ankle surgery, and Zimmer disputed Murray's comment after the game that his ankle isn't 100 percent.
"I think you misconstrued what he said, because I talked to him about it and he said that no one is really 100 percent," Zimmer said. "Any time you have surgery on something, you're never going to be 100 percent. But he said he's ready to go, and we are ready to have him go."
Cook will have surgery on his torn ACL once the swelling goes down, Zimmer said, and will end his promising rookie season on injured reserve.
While the Vikings start work on keeping their season afloat, Cook will turn his attention to recovery and rehabilitation. He'll have the benefit of Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and his staff, a group that has helped steer many a player back from significant injuries. Adrian Peterson, Cook's predecessor at running back, is the most famous of the comeback stories.
He was carrying the ball in the 2012 opener less than nine months after tearing his left ACL.
Zimmer made sure to point this out to Cook in their conversations after the injury.
"I expect him to come back," Zimmer said, "and be the same as he was."
As for Bradford, Zimmer has repeatedly said the QB is "day to day," but the quarterback was not present for practice last week and there's still no word on when he will return. Case Keenum will continue as the starter until Bradford is back.
As the Sports Xchange put it, "Keenum is what he is, a career journeyman who isn't supposed to play week after week."
He had 14 incompletions and 16 completions. Adam Thielen continued to make plays, but his fumble at the Detroit 45 handed the Lions the win with 1:51 left.
Stefon Diggs connected with Keenum on big plays to spark momentum for the offense. Even when Keenum was under pressure, he was able to find Diggs down the sideline. The Vikings wide receiver finished with five catches for 98 yards, surpassing 2,000 (2,014) in the fourth game of his third season.
He's only the ninth Viking to reach 2,000 yards receiving in his third season. Randy Moss leads the way with 4,163 yards in his first three years.
Laquon Treadwell continues to disappoint. After McKinnon's 32-yard kickoff return gave the Vikings the ball at their 39, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur called for a deep ball to Treadwell. The kind of contested, down-the-field play that prompted the Vikings to draft Treadwell in the first round last year.
But Treadwell jumped too soon and was overpowered by two defensive backs, one of whom easily swatted the ball away. Treadwell didn't have a catch on two targets.
Given Treadwell's struggles, it's worth noting the Vikings will be working wide receiver Michael Floyd back into the mix this week now that his four-game suspension for last year's extreme DUI arrest.
Floyd was able to attend meetings with the team during his suspension, but has not practiced or played since the start of the regular season. Zimmer said he thinks Floyd has "a good grasp of everything that's going on" despite the lack of time on the field and Floyd believes he's ready to hit the ground running.
"I'm going to be an aggressive player," Floyd said, via the Pioneer Press. "I'm going to go out there and make plays. That's what I do."
Zimmer said the practice week, which kicks off Thursday ahead of next Monday's game against the Bears, will determine what kind of role Floyd plays right off the bat.
The most obvious fit would seem to be as a third receiver behind Diggs and Thielen.
And finally, as if the Vikings needed another recurring headache to deal with, kicker Kai Forbath was at it again, missing yet another kick to further frustrate the offense and irritate the head coach.
Forbath clanged a 39-yard field goal off the right upright during the third quarter of a 14-7 loss. It was the first missed field goal of his 11-game Vikings career, but the third time in four games that he's missed a kick. He has five missed extra points since arriving when the Vikings no longer could take Blair Walsh's misses a year ago.
"It felt good leaving my foot," Forbath said after the game.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Olabisi Johnson, Laquon Treadwell, Chad Beebe
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
Assessing where the New England Patriots stand at the quarter mark of the NFL season, with a record of 2-2, quarterback Tom Brady said Monday morning, "I think we're all disappointed."
"Losing doesn't sit well with any of us," Brady said during his weekly appearance on sports radio WEEI's "Kirk and Callahan Show."
"Hopefully we can figure out how to play more consistently over the course of an entire game. Offensively, we have to be able to score more points than the other team; no matter what they score, we have to score more. If we score three points, the defense has to hold them to nothing. That's what being a good team is all about."
After Sunday's 33-30 loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Patriots are now 1-2 at home this season, which marks the first time they have lost multiple home games before Week 5 since the 2000 season, which was Bill Belichick's first year as head coach.
The Patriots have allowed 128 points, which is just one shy of the most allowed through four games by a defending Super Bowl champion (the 1987 Giants; Belichick was defensive coordinator).
Furthermore, according to Elias, the Bills (3-1) are the first team besides the Patriots to have sole possession of first place in the AFC East in Week 4 or later since the Jets were alone atop the division through Week 6 in 2010.
"We're four games in. Nobody knows what kind of team we're going to be. It's still early, but I do know we can play better than the way we've been playing," Brady said on WEEI.
"To be 2-2, which is obviously very average in terms of the record, we have to play better in order to achieve a record that's better than average. We have to all figure out the things we need to do better, the plays we need to make, and go out and execute like the coaches are teaching us to do it."
One thing that might help?
Better pass protection.
Brady is leading the league in passing yards and on pace to throw for an NFL record 5,596 yards this season. But a look at Brady's stats through four games reveal some troubling signs as well.
First and foremost, Brady has been sacked 13 times this season. That's a sharp increase over what Brady is accustomed to; he was only sacked 15 times all of last season.
With 13 sacks a quarter of the way through the season, Brady is on pace to get sacked 52 times this season. That would be the worst of his career: His previous high was 41 sacks in 2001, the year he replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe and became the Patriots' starter.
And that raises a question about just how many hits Brady can take. At age 40 he hasn't shown many signs of slowing down, but everyone can get injured, and a quarterback who's getting sacked a lot is at a greater risk of getting injured.
The 2-2 Patriots' biggest problem is on defense, but their offense has a problem, too. Brady needs to stay upright. ...
Positives beyond Brady and the passing attack?
As Reiss pointed out, a lingering issue after failing to gain a yard on two fourth-and-1 situations in the season opener, and then a third-and-1 run in Week 3, the Patriots were better in short-yardage situations against the Panthers with running back Mike Gillislee following lead-blocking fullback James Develin on a second-and-1 rush in the second quarter. The Patriots also picked up 8 yards on second-and-1 in the first quarter, while Brady successfully executed a sneak on third-and-1 for 2 yards in the second quarter.
Outside of a second-and-1 rush that was stopped for no gain in the fourth quarter (Gillislee cut down), this was an overall bright spot for New England.
Danny Amendola finished with six catches for 42 yards and one touchdown. Of his six receptions, four produced either a first down or touchdown. He was often Brady's go-to target in got-to-have-it situations, such as a third-and-3 in the fourth quarter (Amendola took a big hit) and the fourth-and-1 touchdown catch in the final quarter to tie the game.
Brady was off-target on occasion, including missing Brandin Cooks for a wide-open, would-be touchdown in the first quarter. Brady spread his production around to eight targets, but running back James White was by far the most frequent, hauling in a game-high 10 catches on his 12 targets for 47 yards.
According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, with Amendola back in the fold, Hogan only lined up in the slot on 35 percent of his plays in Week 4 and 25 percent in Week 3. That makes him a more high-variance player but Hogan continues to convert on his chances. He led the team with a 25.7 percent share of Brady's intended air yards.
Stephen Gostkowski hit three extra points and also three field goals from 41, 35 and 58 yards, with the final field goal coming at the end of the first half as it clanged off the right upright and through.
The former All-Pro who is coming off a disappointing 2016 season has now hit all eight of his field goals this season, including the record-setter.
And finally. ... Rex Burkhead (ribs) was ruled out on Friday's injury report, missing his second straight week to the injury despite returning to the practice field on a limited basis late last week. He was also listed as limited Monday and Tuesday this week before being ruled out on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, the day before going up against the Bucs, Gronkowski (thigh) was added to the injury report and is listed as questionable after working on a limited basis in practice. Gronk worked fully Monday and Tuesday.
I'll follow up when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday.
QBs: Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden
WRs: Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Ben Watson, Eric Tomlinson, Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
According to ESPN.com's Mike Triplett, the Saints running backs, young and old, have gotten used to the idea that their touches will be limited in such a crowded backfield.
Mark Ingram is still the RB1 for the Saints, but ESPN.com's Matt Bowen advised , we can't sleep on Alvin Kamara as a flex starter in PPR formats. The rookie caught a team-high 10 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown plus another 25 yards on the ground (five carries).
Kamara lined up at wide receiver, caught passes in the screen game and scored that touchdown on a shovel pass from Drew Brees. "Plus, Bowen added, "we have to use the eye test here. Kamara brings energy to this offense. He can go. And that's why the Saints are scripting plays to get him the ball."
On Sunday, Kamara caught five screen passes for 46 yards. That's the most screen receptions for any player this season. Aligned outside at wide receiver? Throw the hitch route. Throw the bubble. Kamara gained 80 yards after the catch versus Miami -- the most for any Saints player since Darren Sproles back in 2012, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
There is a trend here with Kamara and head coach Sean Payton is bumping him up the call sheet.
The Saints have a bye in Week 5, and we should expect wide receiver Willie Snead, who missed his first game back from suspension due to a hamstring injury, to be back when the Saints take the field again in Week 6. That could cut into some of Kamara's touches in the passing game. But based on what Bowen has seen, along with the Saints' effort to get him the ball, Kamara should be considered a solid flex play in PPR leagues.
Remember, Kamara has still just touched the ball 35 times this season (an average of 8.75 times per game).
It just feels like more than that since the third-round draft pick is making the most of his opportunities.
Payton said it's hard to predict each week how Kamara's touches will come. But he knows that he wants to keep getting involved since "he's an explosive player."
"Every week I'm just going with the flow. So whichever way the game goes, I'm just ready. I mean, my number was called a lot tonight, and I had to take advantage," said Kamara, who also credited the offensive line for "clicking" and Brees for being on a roll.
On the flip side of Kamara's career-high 15 touches Sunday was veteran Adrian Peterson, who had just four rushing yards on four carries and no catches.
Peterson admitted it has been "rough" on him and he's still not adjusted to his new reality -- though he said winning helps and insisted he is rooting for Ingram and Kamara and trying to help them however he can.
"I haven't adjusted yet, but we're winning," said Peterson, who has only 81 yards on 27 carries through four games this year and two catches for 4 yards, without a touchdown.
"The win makes it OK. But of course, being the type of player that I am, knowing I have so much left in the tank, it's rough," Peterson said. "So at the end of the day, I know that things will work out in some type of way. I don't know how things will unfold. But things will get figured out."
Peterson, 32, again insisted that his infamous sideline glare toward Payton that was captured during Monday Night Football in Week 1 -- and the highly publicized quote that he "didn't sign up for nine snaps" -- were blown out of proportion. He hasn't been an angry malcontent in his new locker room.
But at the same time, Peterson didn't hesitate to admit that anger is part of his emotion during this trying season.
"Of course, anger has always been a part of it. When you're a competitor like I am, you're angry when you're not in there. But you're happy for the guys that are in there when they're being successful and able to accomplish good things," said Peterson, who ran for 11,747 yards and scored 102 touchdowns in his first 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings.
Ingram, too, has admitted that it's never easy to be part of a timeshare -- even though he has practically spent his whole career in one during seven years with the Saints.
Ingram, 27, has established himself as an every-down back in recent years because of his abilities as a runner, receiver and pass-protector. He leads New Orleans' running backs in touches by a wide margin this year, with 42 rushes for 170 yards and 15 receptions for 125 yards, though he hasn't scored a touchdown yet.
Kamara said playing alongside two standout backs like Ingram and Peterson just raises the demand even higher.
"We know what the standard is. The standard was set by Mark and AD," Kamara told NOLA.com. "We all push each other, so whenever my number's called, I just execute to the best of my abilities."
The Saints' desire to get snaps and touches for both Ingram and Kamara doesn't leave much opportunity for Peterson, who is used almost exclusively as a base-down runner. That's not going to change any time soon. ..
Meanwhile, the Saints became just the third team since 1933 to play the first four games of the season without a turnover, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The others are the 1995 St. Louis Rams and 2013 Tennessee Titans.
The passing game and the offense started slowly as New Orleans scored just three first-half points, but Brees found a rhythm in the second half. He finished 29-of-41 for 268 yards and two touchdowns. He focused on Kamara and Michael Thomas (eight catches), but found six other receivers as well
"That's winning football," said Brees. "You know, there's times where it'd be easy to get overaggressive. ... But at times you've gotta play the field-position game.
"Whatever it takes to win. Obviously we love big plays, I would consider us a big-play offense. But we knew when we got into this game, their mindset was to keep it in front of them. You could tell that very early on. We knew we'd have to be pretty methodical, very efficient."
Brees had never gone three games to start a season without an interception in his 17-year career. Now he's gone four games.
It helps that New Orleans goes into their bye week after back-to-back stellar defensive efforts.
After starting the season with poor performances in losses to Minnesota and New England that left them ranked last in the NFL in defense, the Saints shut down Carolina's offense and shut out Miami to even their record at 2-2. The 20-0 victory Sunday in London marked New Orleans' first shutout in five years and continued a dramatic turnaround that began when the defense intercepted Cam Newton three times in a 34-13 victory Sept. 24.
The Saints, who allowed their first two opponents to convert nearly 60 percent of their third downs, held Miami to one conversion on nine third downs.
The Saints got right tackle Zach Strief back in the lineup for last Sunday's game against the Dolphins in London, but they won't have him in the lineup when they return from their Week 5 bye.
On Tuesday, the Saints placed Strief on injured reserve. Strief had missed two games with a knee injury before returning against the Dolphins, but he didn't make it through the game before getting hurt again and will now miss at least the next eight weeks. Left tackle Terron Armstead has yet to play this season after offseason shoulder surgery, but returned to practice last week before landing on the inactive list. If he's ready to go for Week Six, first-round pick Ryan Ramczyk would likely start in Strief's place.
One last note here. ... Wil Lutz missed a 41-yard field goal. The only previous miss this season for Lutz, who made kicks from 43 and 45 yards Sunday, was from 56 yards.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill, Drew Brees
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington, Zach Zenner
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tre'quan Smith, Austin Carr, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
According to ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan, the way head coach Ben McAdoo (and probably everyone who has watched his winless team play) sees it, the New York Giants are not doing much right.
The basics -- throwing, catching, kicking, punting and tackling -- are proving to be more difficult than expected.
McAdoo seemed more upset with what he saw on tape after Sunday's 25-23 loss in Tampa Bay than he was after the first two weeks, when the Giants were blown off the field by the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions.
"We're 0-4. Our film verifies it," he said during his Monday conference call. "Lot of problems that are all correctable. It starts with blocking, tackling, catching the football, kicking and punting -- and especially in the fourth quarter."
Basically, the fundamentals of football. The Giants can't execute, and it's leading to losses. And their season is all but lost thanks to these early-season struggles.
After watching the game tape, McAdoo saw his players pressing or being hesitant, at times.
That will prompt a change in approach as the Giants get set to host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in a matchup of the winless at MetLife Stadium.
"We have to go back and simplify," McAdoo said. "Simplify what we're doing schematically and let these guys go out and play and showcase their ability."
It's a drastic change consider there was a belief this summer that the Giants could be more varied with multiple looks on offense after remaining in one personnel package (11 personnel) over 90 percent of the snaps last season. The defense, with nine of 11 starters returning, was supposed to build off last year's success.
Now they seem destined to head back to the basics.
Raanan reminded readers this is similar to the approach that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo took after the Giants finished 32nd in defense during the 2015 NFL season. He later acknowledged maybe they were trying to do too much, and it didn't allow the players to play freely.
Spagnuolo made a concerted effort to dial things back last season. It worked as the Giants showed major improvements defensively, allowing the second-fewest points in the league.
McAdoo is going to do the same now with his offense -- and the entire team -- in hopes that they block better, run better, catch the football more effectively, tackle more efficiently and also don't badly shank punts like Brad Wing has done in the fourth quarter during each of the past two weeks.
Maybe allowing them to just play without having to think too much will be the answer. Simple is sometimes better.
"I don't think things are too complicated," McAdoo said. "I'm saying what you do at this point is simplify."
The Giants have reached a point where players of all shapes, sizes and experience are making uncharacteristic mistakes. Wide receiver Odell Beckham was once one of the most sure-handed receivers in the league. Now he's dropping passes at an alarming rate. He has five drops this season, despite missing the opener and being limited in Week 2.
Veteran Brandon Marshall officially has two dropped passes, but several others were shaky. He admittedly hasn't played a quality game with his new team. He's struggled catching the ball, to the point where McAdoo thinks he's double-catching it seemingly with regularity.
Maybe the overload of information is affecting Marshall and the Giants. McAdoo is hoping the simplification of the scheme and of, well, everything will be the answer. It better be because the Giants have a lot to improve and are running out of time as their season spins violently out of control.
They made changes to their defensive personnel, but it didn't solve all of their problems. The Giants tried a new offensive line, their third in four games this season. It still couldn't fully revive a dormant running game or help produce an offensive explosion. They added rookie running back Wayne Gallman to the mix, which provided some spark, but it ultimately wasn't enough.
"I think we're a team," McAdoo said, "that has a lot of work to do."
This week it seems to begin with simplification of the schemes and game plan. ...
Other notes of interest. ... With Orleans Darkwa (back) inactive, Gallman had 18 yards rushing and a four-yard receiving touchdown during a key third-quarter drive. That was his coming out party. He also had a quality blitz pickup early in the game and ran hard.
What Gallman showed is an ability to make yards after contact. The Giants came into Sunday last in the league in that category. That likely earned Gallman more opportunities going forward.
In addition, X-rays on Paul Perkins' ribs came back negative, according to the NFL Network. Perkins bruised his ribs in Sunday's loss to the Bucs and will be day-to-day depending on his pain tolerance.
Beckham (finger/ankle) is sore, according to McAdoo, who said the receiver is "fighting through a bunch of things."
Beckham and Perkins were both on the practice field Wednesday; Marshall (toe) and Darkwa were limited. I'll follow up on their progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, Eli Manning's numbers weren't overly impressive. Manning finished 30-of-49 passing for 288 yards (5.9 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns and no interceptions. But he again wasn't helped by drops. Manning even navigated the pocket better than usual and had a 14-yard rushing touchdown.
That 14-yard touchdown run is the longest of his 14-year career.
It was by far his best game of the season.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Eli Manning, Alex Tanney
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Elijhaa Penny, Austin Walter
WRs: Golden Tate, Cody Latimer, Cody Core, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Garrett Dickerson, Kaden Smith
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini framed it, "The punching bag is learning how to punch back."
Dismissed at the start of the season as a talent-poor joke and the odds-on favorite to land the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, the New York Jets have accomplished something few envisioned.
They're a .500 team for the first time since Week 2 last season, as they overcame a calamitous fourth quarter on Sunday to defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars in overtime, 23-20, at MetLife Stadium. Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 41-yard field goal to win one of the weirdest games you'll ever see.
"Three weeks ago, we wouldn't have recovered from this," said head coach Todd Bowles, alluding to the 10-point lead that disappeared. "Right now, they're growing every week. They didn't flinch."
In the wake of Sunday's win, the Jets (2-2) and New England Patriots have the same record at the quarter pole of the season. This doesn't mean the Jets are a legitimate contender, but they're better than we thought because they've established an identity.
They can run the ball and play some defense. They displayed resilience, too, reclaiming a game that appeared to be lost in overtime. They got lucky because the Jaguars out collapsed the Jets, but rebuilding teams shouldn't have to apologize for wins.
How the Jets won this game is beyond explanation, but they displayed a formula that can drive them for the rest of the season. Bilal Powell and rookie Elijah McGuire ran for a combined 256 yards. With Matt Forte (turf toe) sitting out, Powell and McGuire scored on 75- and 69-yard runs, respectively, the first time since 2002 the Jets produced two touchdown runs of at least 65 yards in the same game.
Powell and McGuire are younger and faster than Forte, and they should be the focal points of the running game as the season moves forward.
Powell delivered a crushing performance against the Jags. He ran for a career-high 163 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown run.
A few notes about the touchdown: It was the longest run by a Jets running back since Adrian Murrell (78 yards, 1996) and the longest touchdown run by a Jet since Bruce Harper (78, 1983). And this: It was the longest run by a Jets running back on his first carry since the merger in 1970.
Powell set the tone and changed the game. As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich put it, "It'd be shocking if the Jets go back to Forte as the lead back after this game from Powell. A borderline drop just a week ago, Powell's arrow is pointing up."
McGuire was overshadowed in high school by Leonard Fournette, a New Orleans-area legend. It was the same in college. Fournette starred at LSU, McGuire at Louisiana-Lafayette. At the draft, Fournette was picked fourth by the Jaguars, McGuire 188th.
But on Sunday, McGuire upstaged the future star, bolting through the middle of the defense for a 69-yard touchdown. It was his first touchdown and the longest for a rookie in franchise history. Welcome to the spotlight, Eli.
Their defense controlled most of the game, making Blake Bortles look like the Bortles from last season. He was 15-for-35 for 140 yards. If he had completed one clutch pass, he would've won the game. The Jets defense surrendered only one touchdown and made some big stops. Most of the mess was the responsibility of Josh McCown and the offense.
The Jets blew a 20-10 lead and let the Jags back in the game because of two fluky turnovers by McCown, who gave away 10 points with two short throws to Powell. An off-target backward pass was scooped up by Myles Jack and returned 81 yards for a touchdown, and, minutes later, McCown was intercepted when Powell slipped on his route.
The two plays were something out the "Stupid Jet Tricks" collection from a bygone era, but the team didn't fold. On the sideline, Bowles told players, "Don't blink, don't blink your eyes."
This was an unusual game because the Jets managed to win despite losing the turnover battle, two to one. They got away with it against the Jaguars, but they don't have enough talent to live that way against better opponents. But if they continue to control the ball and play good defense, the Jets will be competitive.
More competitive than anyone could've predicted heading into this week's game against the Cleveland Browns. ...
Also of interest. ... As the Sports Xchange notes, McCown was actually having a decent day until the backward pass debacle and his inexplicable interception, both in the fourth quarter. He finished 22-of-31 passing for 224 yards and spread the ball around to six different receivers.
For the second straight week, he hit leading receiver Robby Anderson for a big play, this time for 41 yards. But the Jets' second-longest pass was punter Lachlan Edwards's 31-yard connection with cornerback Marcus Williams on a fake punt.
According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, Austin Seferian-Jenkins has 10 targets through his first two games back from suspension and was on the field for over 75 percent of the team's plays in both contests. It hasn't turned into massive production yet, but Harmon contends that's the profile of a usable tight end in fantasy. ...
Wideout Jalin Marshall is eligible to return this week after serving a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, Bowles said on Monday no decision has been made about adding him to the active roster yet. The second-year player out of Ohio State had 14 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games last season. He also returned punts and kicks.
Marshall was reinstated Monday and has a roster exemption that expires next Monday (Oct. 9).
And finally. ... Initial reporting on Forte's injury suggested he was week to week. That implies more than the one week he's missed so far and Forte was not on the practice field Wednesday. I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update, but nobody should get their hopes up at this point.
QBs: Sam Darnold, David Fales
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Javorius Allen, Ty Montgomery, Trenton Cannon, Bilal Powell
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, Demaryius Thomas, Josh Bellamy, Tim White, Braxton Berrios
TEs: Chris Herndon, Trevon Wesco, Daniel Brown
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
Derek Carr will miss between two and six weeks after breaking a bone in his back during a loss to the Denver Broncos.
Head coach Jack Del Rio said Monday that a CT scan showed that Carr has a transverse process fracture in his back after being injured in the third quarter of a 16-10 loss Sunday. Del Rio said these injuries typically sideline players for two to six weeks.
"It's always a big blow to lose a good player, a key player and your quarterback," Del Rio said. "The good news is he's not gone for the year. We'll get him back. It could be as short as two weeks, it could be longer. We'll see. We'll deal with that as it goes."
The Raiders, who opened with three of four on the road and started the season 2-2, were hoping to get back on track with three consecutive home games against Baltimore, the Los Angeles Chargers and finally the Kansas City Chiefs in a Thursday game.
Given the advertised timeline, Carr will miss the Ravens and Chargers and his availability for Kansas City is a question mark considering it's a Thursday game.
Following the Chiefs, the Raiders are on the road against Buffalo and Miami and then have a bye.
Carrying Carr's absence to the six-week maximum, the quarterback could conceivably make his return on Nov. 19 in Mexico City when the Raiders face the New England Patriots.
This is the second significant injury Carr has suffered in less than 10 months. He broke his leg in the second-to-last game of the regular season in 2016 with the Raiders holding a 12-3 record. Oakland lost the regular-season finale with Matt McGloin starting at quarterback to miss out on winning the division and then was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs with Connor Cook starting.
According to the Associated Press, the Raiders hope they are better equipped to handle the absence this year with E.J. Manuel at quarterback. Manuel, a first-round pick in Buffalo in 2013, showed some encouraging signs when he relieved Carr after the injury.
Manuel completed 11 of 17 passes for 106 yards. He led a 73-yard drive for a field goal that ended when Jared Cook couldn't catch a well-thrown ball in the end zone. He then moved the Raiders across midfield while seeking a late, go-ahead touchdown before throwing a game-sealing interception on a deep shot to Amari Cooper with 1:46 to play.
"I don't feel like the moment was too big for him," Del Rio said. "I felt like he was accurate, made good decisions with the exception of putting that one up late. ... I liked the demeanor he played with. I like the certainty he played with and I liked his accuracy."
Manuel started just three games the past two seasons for the Bills and will be seeking his first win as a starter on Sunday against Baltimore since beating Miami 29-10 on Sept. 14, 2014.
The Raiders will have plenty of issues to fix on offense after being held to 10 or fewer points in consecutive games for the first time since 2009, when it happened three in a row with JaMarcus Russell at quarterback.
General manager Reggie McKenzie has stressed building the offense from the line out during his tenure in Oakland and the Raiders are paying a league-high $42.4 million to the line, more than one-quarter of this year's salary cap. But the Raiders haven't been getting a good enough return on that investment so far with the team having allowed nine sacks -- half of last season's 16-game total -- and being unable to get anything going in the running game the past two weeks.
After gaining just 32 yards on 13 carries in a 27-10 loss at Washington two weeks ago, the Raiders were even worse against Denver with 24 yards on 15 carries. The 56 yards rushing in two weeks are the lowest for the team since 1995 and this marks just the second time in franchise history that the Raiders were held under 35 yards rushing in consecutive games.
With the running game grounded, the Raiders have been unable to generate any rhythm on offense or sustain drives. Their only TDs the past two weeks came thanks to a 64-yard pass to Johnny Holton against Denver and an 18-yard drive following a turnover in Washington.
Oakland has been held to fewer than 10 yards on 17 of 25 plays the past two weeks, thanks in part to the inability to convert on third downs. The Raiders are just 2 for 23 on third downs in the two losses.
"For two weeks now, we've stubbed our toe, maybe more than just a toe," Del Rio said. "We struggled. It's really obvious to everybody who follows us and it's obvious to me. We'll handle it right."
Meanwhile, Del Rio said he is hopeful receiver Michael Crabtree can return this week from a chest injury but won't know more until he knows whether Crabtree can tolerate practice -- although Del Rio expressed optimism on Wednesday that the veteran wideout will return against the Ravens this week. Crabtree was on the field Wednesday.
Fellow wideout David Amerson is in concussion protocol after taking a blow to the head against Denver.
I'll have more on Crabtree's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Raiders had just 24 yards on 15 carries, with Marshawn Lynch getting only 12 yards on nine attempts. The Raiders attempted a fourth-and-1 from the 29-yard line and Lynch was stuffed. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington played only six snaps each.
Denver is one of the NFL's top teams defending the run, but as noted above, the Raiders have one of the league's top lines and could barely gain an inch. ...
Holton's first NFL touchdown was a big one, a 64-yard score from Carr to keep the Raiders within striking distance of the Broncos.
"We've been practicing on that play all week," Holton said. "I was just concentrating on catching the ball and making a play for the team."
Holton, whose primary role is as a special teams gunner, got 12 snaps on offense with Crabtree out.
But it was Jared Cook who led the team in targets. As NFL.com's Matt Harmon noted this week, the tight end is routinely out for the majority of passing plays and has target totals of five, six, six and eight. That puts him near the top of the streaming crop.
QBs: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Zay Jones, Hunter Renfrow, Trevor Davis, Dwayne Harris, Keelan Doss
TEs: Darren Waller, Derek Carrier, Foster Moreau
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
According to ESPN.com's Tim McManus, at his news conference last Friday, head coach Doug Pederson brought with him an index card that had a bulk of the reporters' predictions for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers written on them -- all losses.
"Nice predictions, man. Thank you," he said with a smile. "Great confidence. Maybe if you keep doing this, we'll keep winning."
Confidence in Pederson has been hard to come by on the outside. Even after a big win against the New York Giants the week before, the conversation that followed largely surrounded his decision to go for it on fourth-and-8 in the second half.
Respect is earned in Philadelphia, and Pederson and this Eagles team made considerable headway following a 26-24 road win over a desperate Chargers team now up against it with an 0-4 record.
The Eagles, meanwhile, improved to 3-1 despite playing three of four away from Lincoln Financial Field to start the season.
And this just in: Smash-mouth football is back in Philadelphia.
After relying heavily on Carson Wentz's arm in the first two games, the Eagles (3-1) have become a run-first offense.
"Pound and ground," Pederson joked on Monday. "Every week you try to establish you're run game. That's the first thing you try to do. If you can do that, it'll open up play-action pass, it'll open up shots down the field. That's where you want to start."
Last week, they had 193 yards rushing in a 27-24 win over the Giants.
Pederson called just 13 run plays out of 69 plays in a 27-20 loss at Kansas City in Week 2. Blount didn't get one carry in that game.
Now, he's become a focal point of the offense.
"It takes all 11 guys on the field to get it done," Blount said about his bruising 68-yard scamper in the fourth quarter at Los Angeles.
Blount led the NFL with 18 rushing TDs last season in New England and earned his second Super Bowl ring with the Patriots. But he remained unsigned as a free agent until the Eagles gave him a one-year contract in May.
"I know what I can do," Blount said. "I know I'm one of the better backs in this league as far as running the football. I'm always going to run with that passion and with that confidence. There's no chip on my shoulder. I know what I can do."
The Eagles have run the ball 50 percent of their plays over the past two games. The running backs have carried 69 times and Wentz has three quarterback sneaks. Pederson has so much confidence in the run that he tried it a few times on third-and-long.
"The last couple weeks our running game has been a combination of great game-planning by (offensive line) Coach (Jeff) Stoutland, the desire and the will and the want to by the offensive line and the tight ends and the quarterback being a part of that and then execution on game day," Pederson said. "We want to go in and establish that run. That's the direction our offense needs to go in."
Blount has led the Eagles' run game in its two-game renaissance.
In the first two games, the running backs gained just 104 yards on 33 carries (3.2 average) and had no touchdowns. In the last two, they've totaled 382 yards on 72 rushes (5.3 avg.) and scored three touchdowns.
Blount's 136 rushing yards were the second most of his career. If last year's 299 carries for the Patriots took a toll on him, it's not showing.
The Eagles host Arizona (2-2) on Sunday.
Expect more running, but Wentz is a big reason why the odds are starting to slant in the Eagles' favor.
He went 17-of-31 for 242 yards and a touchdown, and with growing control at the line of scrimmage, did well checking the offense into favorable plays.
Ertz has 36 targets through four games; Jeffery has 34. Both are getting the kind of volume fantasy owners are looking for at their respective positions.
Torrey Smith is struggling. He had just one catch for nine yards Sunday against the Chargers. He had his fourth drop of the season. No one else on the team has more than one.
And finally. ... Jake Elliott is on fire right now. The Eagles' rookie kicker, who replaced injured Caleb Sturgis three weeks ago, beat the Giants last week with a franchise-record 61-yard field goal, which was preceded by a 46-yarder that tied the game. Against the Chargers, he was 4-for-4, nailing 45-, 40-, 53- and 47-yard field goals in a game the Eagles won by two points.
That's six in a row from 40-plus yards. And the Eagles needed every one of them.
One last note here: Smallwood (knee) did not practice Wednesday; I'll follow up as needed when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson
RBs: Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins, Greg Ward, DeSean Jackson
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
The Steelers might have finally discovered their offensive identity in Baltimore. After three games of inconsistent and pass-heavy performances, the Steelers handed the ball off to Le'Veon Bell and let the offense flow from there.
Bell carried 35 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the Steelers' 26-9 victory. In the first three games combined he had just 180 yards.
"We wanted to get him involved early," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We saw something in the run game. I think that helped him get in a little flow."
Entering the game, the Steelers had one of the worst pass-to-run ratios in the NFL. But in this game, the Steelers ran it 42 times and passed 30. Roethlisberger only threw for 215 yards, but he made enough plays in the passing game to keep the Ravens honest.
"We did a good job of sticking to the run," Bell said. "The gaps weren't big in the first half or even the third quarter. We knew they'd play the run tough. The O-line kept digging at it, digging at it. Eventually the holes got a little bigger and I was able to make some plays on the second level. We had a good day."
The run-first mentality was reminiscent of the Steelers offense in the second half of last season when the Steelers rode Bell to a nine-game winning streak over the final seven games of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Still, as ESPN.com's Dan Graziano, the most memorable moment of Sunday's game came in the second quarter, with the Steelers leading 3-0 and after an incomplete Roethlisberger pass to Bell on third-and-4. Antonio Brown, the Steelers' brilliant No. 1 wideout, had abused his man on a double move and was wide open for what would have been a 64-yard touchdown catch if Roethlisberger had so much as looked his way.
Brown did not take it well.
He stomped. He flailed his arms. He shook his head in disbelief. When he got back to the sideline, he took his frustrations out on a Gatorade cooler and shooed away offensive coordinator Todd Haley when Haley came over to settle him down.
"It's like a kid being excited on Christmas," Brown explained later. "You're expecting that play on that day. Sometimes, it doesn't work out. We won the game today."
Graziano went on to suggest that Brown's was the kind of behavior that, had it come from someone like the Giants' Odell Beckham, would have launched a week's worth of hand-wringing hot takes about maturity and sideline decorum. Had it come in a Steelers loss, it might have risen to the level of a problem.
It didn't, in part because they won but also because this is a Steelers team that sees a bigger picture.
After Sunday's game, Roethlisberger laughed when he was asked about Brown's sideline outburst before saying that things were "fine now" with the "very passionate" receiver.
Roethlisberger had a different answer on Tuesday. Roethlisberger was a guest on "The Cook and Poni Show" on 93.7 The Fan and said that Brown's angry response to not getting the ball after he broke open in the middle of the field "is causing a distraction that none of us really need."
Roethlisberger said that the placement of the Ravens' safeties on the play called for him to read the right side of the field, away from Brown, and he threw an incomplete pass to Bell.
"He got upset because he was open, which I can understand, sometimes that happens," Roethlisberger said. "I was disappointed because it's not like I intentionally missed him, it's not like I intentionally didn't throw it to him. I was doing what my reads tell me to do, I don't even want to say I made a mistake, because I was reading the side I was supposed to read. It's just unfortunate that it happened, and it's unfortunate that he acted and reacted that way."
Roethlisberger said he told Brown that he wished he would have spoken to him rather than knocking over a Gatorade bucket because it "goes a lot further than throwing a temper tantrum."
He added that he's not trying to call Brown out in his answer, although it may be tough for others to see things the same way given the venue Roethlisberger chose to address the matter.
"AB, he's passionate about the game," Bell said. "I'm the same way. I know how he's feeling there. But he's never trying to be a distraction, and obviously people know he's not out there being selfish. He just wanted to make a play to help us win."
Meanwhile, Roethlisberger threw for 215 yards and a touchdown, but he left a few plays on the field, most notably when he had Martavis Bryant behind the defense and overthrew him early in the fourth quarter. That miss kept the Ravens in the game longer than they deserved.
But Roethlisberger did enough to win, and he achieved his goal of spreading the ball around more. He completed passes to six receivers. Bryant led the team with 48 receiving yards. Brown was limited to four catches for 34 yards.
But the Steelers are capable of beating teams in a variety of ways when the offense is clicking.
"Today, it was Le'Veon, but now you know Jacksonville's going to come in next week and want to shut that down," offensive guard Ramon Foster said. "So hopefully Ben has a big game. 'Seven,' when he's on, he's the best in the world. Le'Veon, when he's on, he's one of the best in the world. That's the encouraging thing about it. We ran it great today. Ben might come out and throw for 500 next week."
That is the kind of team the Steelers appear to have, and the AFC appears to be offering them an opportunity to prove it. With the Browns 0-4 and the Bengals 1-3 (after eating the Browns), the Ravens are the second-best team in the AFC North, and they've been outscored 70-16 the past two weeks. The AFC South is its usual jumble; the West is full of teams that beat each other up.
The Patriots appear to have major defensive problems to fix, and they sit at 2-2, a game behind the Steelers.
If you think that doesn't matter, realize that Roethlisberger has thrown 61 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions at home the past four years and has 26 touchdowns and 23 picks in road games over that same time.
Where would the Steelers prefer to play their playoff games? Pittsburgh, or anywhere else?
One last note here. ... Chris Boswell missed a 44-yard field goal in the third quarter that could have given the Steelers a 22-3 lead. The miss allowed the Ravens to remain in the game until late in the fourth quarter.
QBs: Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges, Ben Roethlisberger
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Johnny Holton, Ryan Switzer, Donte Moncrief, James Washington
TEs: Vance McDonald, Nick Vannett, Zach Gentry, Xavier Grimble
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
For the third straight week, the San Francisco 49ers had a win against an NFC West Division foe sitting on a silver platter.
And for the third consecutive week, they left it there. In a game eerily reminiscent of the 49ers' Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, they made too many costly mistakes and fell 18-15 to the Arizona Cardinals in overtime Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Yet again, the 49ers made a number of self-inflicted mistakes. They racked up penalties and continued to be one of the most drop-prone offenses in the league. Quarterback Brian Hoyer also had his weekly interception and, for as good as the defense was, it also missed some big opportunities for timely takeaways.
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner noted, the Niners enter most of their games facing a talent deficiency and with little margin for error. Those kinds of errors are simply too much to overcome.
And part of the issue has been the play of the man under center.
First-year coach Kyle Shanahan knows he needs to get better quarterback play for the 49ers to end their four-game losing skid that has opened his tenure.
But that doesn't mean he's going to bench starter Hoyer.
As the Associated Press notes, Hoyer had a rough outing Sunday in Arizona in the team's 18-15 overtime loss to the Cardinals, completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes while extending his streak with an interception to four games. It was the third time in four weeks San Francisco failed to score a touchdown.
Shanahan was asked Monday if the losing effort will lead to giving rookie C.J. Beathard a shot in Hoyer's place.
"I don't look it just as it's Brian versus C.J. right now. I look at it as, 'What's best for our team right now?' And if I did feel that was the best thing for our team at this time, I wouldn't hesitate at all," Shanahan said.
Hoyer had a firm grip on the starting job ever since he signed his two-year contract with San Francisco in March.
He operated the offense confidently during training camp, leaving little doubt he was Shanahan's top option entering the season.
But Hoyer's play through the first four games has been among the key reasons the 49ers are winless.
Opponents have scored 27 combined points on drives following his five turnovers. The team lost its past three games to NFC West foes by eight points combined.
"I know we very easily could be 3-1," Shanahan said. "And you don't want to make drastic changes for one reason. There's a lot of things that go into losing games. It's never just one guy."
Hoyer was inaccurate in Arizona, completing 24 of 39 passes for 234 yards. But he hasn't gotten much help from his receivers, either. Hoyer had four passes dropped Sunday, giving his targets 12 on the season to lead the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
This week, San Francisco goes up against the Colts with the league's 25th-ranked passing offense averaging 193 yards per game.
Shanahan hopes Hoyer can rebound to regain the confidence he played with during training camp.
"Real confidence is from experiencing success. That's when it's real. If you're not, you're trying to talk yourself into it and that isn't very real," Shanahan said. ...
Also of interest. ... Carlos Hyde had 21 touches in Sunday's loss despite playing through an oblique injury that had him listed as questionable entering the game.
While that's still a healthy number of opportunities, the Niners did seem to find more snaps for rookie backup Matt Breida to spell Hyde. Breida had 10 touches with nine carries and a reception.
"[Hyde] wasn't on a pitch count, but we knew he was banged up all week so we wanted to make sure to keep him fresher," Shanahan said. "We planned on getting Breida in there, but by no means did we limit the numbers or say what it was going to be."
As a matter of fact, Wagoner reports that Hyde didn't seem to be in any obvious pain after the game though he had a few moments in the game where he didn't seem to be at top speed. Standing near his locker and speaking to reporters, Hyde acknowledged that he didn't feel like his usual self on Sunday.
"I felt all right," Hyde said. "I didn't feel like myself all the way, but I felt like I could still be effective. I had to manage it a little bit, just taking a breather, that's all. That was my way of managing it. It still felt good."
Hyde didn't enjoy the success he has in the past couple of games, but he still found ways to be effective. He finished with 68 yards on 16 carries and had five catches for 27 yards, giving him a solid total of 95 yards from scrimmage.
Asked whether he thought playing through the injury could make it worse, Hyde said he wasn't sure, but the real test of where he is in terms of health would come on Monday morning when the adrenaline of the game has worn off. "We'll see tomorrow," Hyde said. "I played a whole game today, so we'll see tomorrow how I feel. Right now I feel fine. I felt it a little bit in the game, but it didn't slow me down, so we'll see tomorrow."
Shanahan said he'd be surprised if standout rookie linebacker Reuben Foster returned to practice this week after suffering a high ankle sprain in the season opener. However, he wouldn't rule it out. He also said safety Eric Reid is more likely to return next week after suffering a knee injury in Week 2.
Receiver Marquise Goodwin will begin the week in the concussion protocol after leaving Sunday's game in the first half. Aldrick Robinson replaced injured Goodwin and played 73 of the 49ers' 83 offensive snaps. Despite being targeted 12 times, Robinson caught just three passes for 52 yards.
I'll have more on Goodwin's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... Robbie Gould made five field goals in Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals, making him 11-for-11 on attempts this season. The fourth Sunday was his 27th straight, breaking his previous record of 26 set bridging the 2005 and 2006 seasons. His current run of 28 in a row dates back to 2015. Gould's 11-for-11 start for the 49ers is the club's best since K Joe Cortez made 11 straight to begin the 2001 season.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Jalen Hurd, Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor
TEs: George Kittle, Levine Toilolo, Ross Dwelley
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
Running back Chris Carson was placed on injured reserve on Monday after sustaining a high-ankle sprain and a leg fracture against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night.
With less than seven minutes remaining in the game, Carson was injured when linebacker Jon Bostic landed on the back of his leg making a tackle. Carson subsequently got bent backward over Bostic with his leg pinned beneath the Colts defender. Trainers quickly ran on the field to tend to Carson before putting his leg in an air cast and taking him off the field on the back of a cart.
"Chris is going to get operated on tomorrow," head coach Pete Carroll said on Monday afternoon. "It's a surgery that applies to a really serious high-ankle sprain. He does have a little fracture (in his leg), but that's not the issue. It's similar to what Thomas Rawls had a while back. It is similar to that."
Carroll said there is an outside chance that Carson could return to the team this season. Seattle did not have to designate him as a possible candidate to return from injured reserve. They'll have to wait and see if he can recover in time to return before their season comes to an end.
The fracture will heal on its own, but the ankle injury requires surgery to repair.
Rawls, Eddie Lacy, C.J. Prosise and J.D. McKissic will have to carry the load moving forward. Rawls was a healthy scratch against the Colts while Prosise missed the game with an ankle injury. Mike Davis remains on the practice squad if the team is really forced to test their depth at the position.
"Thomas is really raring to go and we are excited to get him to play," Carroll said. "We love the way he plays. He will obviously get more attention coming up this week."
Prosise was inactive against the Colts due to an ankle sprain sustained last week. Head coach Pete Carroll was optimistic Prosise will be available this week against the Rams.
On Sunday night, McKissic, who played wide receiver at Arkansas State, scored two touchdowns in the Seahawks' win over the Colts.
As ESPN.com's Matt Bowen noted, the 5-10, 195 pound change-of-pace back displayed his short-area quickness on a 30-yard touchdown run after he shook a defender out of his cleats. And then he exposed a matchup versus a linebacker on a fade route down the sideline for a 27-yard score.
According to ESPN.com's Brady Henderson, with Carson out, Rawls is likely to assume the starting role ahead of Lacy, Prosise and McKissic.
I will, of course, be following developments in Seattle's backfield closely in coming days. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates for more. ...
Also on the injury front. ... Left tackle Rees Odhiambo spent the night in the hospital after requiring medical attention in the locker room after Sunday's night win over the Colts.
Odhiambo had been injured in the third quarter when Colts defensive end Jabaal Sheard blocked him in the chest on an interception return by Malik Hooker. Odhiambo didn't miss a snap and was able to return to the game on Seattle's next possession.
After the game, he began experiencing shortness of breath and needed assistance from the medical staff. He was tended to for at least 15 minutes before a stretcher was brought in to take him to the hospital for evaluation.
"He's been released from the hospital," Carroll said. "They took a good look at him. ... He's got a bruised sternum and he's fine in all ways. We're not sure what that means for the week but it's nothing beyond that."
Matt Tobin and Isaiah Battle would be the most likely candidates to fill in for Odhiambo should he be unable to play this Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. ...
In addition, defensive end Cliff Avril suffered a neck stinger in Sunday's game against the Colts. Carroll indicated it will take some time for the team to determine the full extent of the issue and no timeline is in place for his return. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Russell Wilson completed 21 of 26 passes for 295 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Colts, though one of the interceptions wasn't his fault as it deflected off the hands of Jimmy Graham.
The offensive line gave Wilson the most time he's had to throw all season and Wilson was incredibly efficient, posting an 11.3 yards per attempt average.
Doug Baldwin played 46 of 68 offensive snaps after being unable to practice all week despite a groin injury. He caught three passes for 35 yards.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, C.J. Prosise, Travis Homer
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, Gary Jennings Jr., Malik Turner, John Ursua
TEs: Luke Willson, Ed Dickson, Will Dissly
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
According to Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall, Doug Martin is back and eager to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers improve on their best start since 2011.
The two-time Pro Bowl running back was activated Monday after completing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancers and expects to play against the New England Patriots on Thursday night.
"I can't wait to get out there and play for these guys. It's been a while," the sixth-year pro said. "It was a long break, and I can't wait to get out there and play."
Martin, 28, hasn't played in a regular-season game since last Dec. 18 at Dallas. He was a healthy scratch the following week at New Orleans before the Bucs announced he'd also sit out the club's season finale against Carolina to begin a suspension that would also sideline him for the first three games this year.
Tampa Bay initially expected to get Martin back for last Sunday's home game against the New York Giants. The anticipated return was delayed a week when Hurricane Irma forced postponement of the team's scheduled season opener.
"Unfortunately, Irma extended" the layoff, Martin said, adding that he spent the past month working and spending time with family in California.
In Martin's absence, the Bucs (2-1) are off to their best start since winning three of four games to begin the 2011 season.
The two-time 1,000-yard rusher said he feels good physically and is confident he can contribute right away, even though Tampa Bay hosts the Patriots on Thursday night.
"I'm just going to go out there and play to the best of my ability," Martin said, adding he wasn't sure how coach Dirk Koetter plans to use him this week. "Whatever that is, whatever the coaches decide to do, I'm for it."
He took part in a walk-through Monday and the team's one real practice Tuesday. He acknowledged that there are challenges to not just coming back after a long layoff, but coming back on a short week. He's not even sure he'll get to put pads on before the game. There's no real way to simulate that.
"Maybe run into the wall a couple times," he said, laughing.
There is a perk though.
"Fresh legs," Martin said. "That's the best thing about this."
Martin was the second-leading rusher in the league and an All-Pro two years ago, when he ran for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns.
Injuries and the season-ending suspension limited him to eight games in 2016, when he averaged just 2.9 yards per carry while gaining 421 yards and scoring three TDs.
Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for a season-best 83 yards on 16 attempts in Sunday's 25-23 victory over the New York Giants.
Afterward, Jameis Winston raved about how the backup has filled in for Martin, while also making it clear he's excited about Martin's impending return.
"I've been texting him after the games just to tell him: 'Hey, one more. You are going to be back this week,'" the quarterback said. "I'm just going to be happy to see No. 22 running around the facility (again)."
Martin, who was allowed to practice during training camp and play in preseason games, appreciates the support he's received from teammates and the coaching staff.
"I'm very grateful. ... Them sticking by my side," the running back said. "I just want to go out there, play hard and do what I know I can do."
To make room on the roster for Martin, tight end Alan Cross was waived. ...
For the record, head coach Dirk Koetter said last week that the team will need to see how Martin practices and "how we are doing as an offense, how we are doing with our running game" before deciding how to use Martin.
Meanwhile, Patriots coach Bill Belichick had nothing but praise for Winston, who enjoyed his fourth, fourth-quarter comeback against Giants, going 5-for-5 for 55 yards on the final drive to set up Nick Folk's game-winning field goal on the final play of the game.
At 23, Winston has a long way to go to be considered in the company of the Giants' Eli Manning or the Patriots' Tom Brady. But Belichick, who might know a thing or two about franchise quarterbacks, is already impressed with Winston.
"What else does he have to do?" Belichick said.
He also had praise for Koetter and how he has developed Winston. Belichick also spoke highly of the challenges in preparing for a Koetter offense, not getting as much in the way of tendencies to build a game plan around.
The Bucs still face tall odds to beat the Patriots on Thursday Night Football. New England is 2-2 and no longer atop the AFC East. Brady has been sacked 13 times this season and hit 26 times. He still has been very productive and the Bucs may have to put up 30 points Thursday to win the game.
But the Patriots' poor defense has been the story in New England. They've given up big chunk plays and teams have had success running the football against them. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Bucs have to do a better job getting the football to DeSean Jackson.
Through three games, DeSean Jackson has nine catches on 20 targets for 143 yards and a touchdown. Through the first three games last year, he had 14 catches for 238 yards, en route to leading the NFL in yards per reception for the third time in his career.
This year, he's averaging three catches a game, not far off from the four he averaged during the past four years. The difference though, is that he's used to averaging 73 receiving yards -- not 48 yards like he is now.
Jackson has made his living off of catching deep balls, but those plays aren't happening.
Heading into this season, Jackson had 37 receptions and 21 receiving touchdowns of 50 or more yards -- both are the most in the NFL since 2008.
Jackson was targeted six times against the Giants, catching only two passes for 20 yards. By comparison, Mike Evans was targeted 11 times, catching five passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.
For all the good things Winston has done this season, throwing the football to Jackson is not one of them.
The Bucs didn't sign Jackson to a three-year, $30.5 million contract to be a decoy. Expect more going forward. ...
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine notes, Cameron Brate has now caught a touchdown in two straight games, with four catches and 80 yards. Evans had three catches on eight targets for 49 yards and a touchdown. Tight end O.J. Howard had two catches on four targets for 65 yards, including a spectacular 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
Laine added that Howard owners might get frustrated because he's used so much as a run blocker, but that's the very reason he was wide open on that play.
The Bucs' offense is healthy heading into Thursday night's game. The defense? Less so.
LB Kwon Alexander has been ruled out; LB Lavonte David, S Keith Tandy and S T.J. Ward are doubtful. ...
And finally. ... The Bucs have another kicking situation on their hands.
Folk missed a 46-yard field goal attempt in the first half and a 49-yard field goal attempt in the second half. Those are no easy kicks to make, but Folk also missed an extra point attempt in the first quarter. Two of the reasons Folk was signed was his ability to make big kicks in big games, regardless of how he looked in practice, and his accuracy from 40-plus yards.
In such a close game, those kicks absolutely mattered. The one that mattered most though? The 34-yarder that he made in the final seconds.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, T.J. Logan, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, Scott Miller, Bobo Wilson
TEs: O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
Marcus Mariota sprint, dive to the pylon and rushing touchdown resulted first in Tennessee Titans jubilation then angst. A hamstring injury cost him the second half of a 57-14 loss against the Texans, and now the Titans are hoping it doesn't rob him of much more.
After an MRI on Monday, head coach Mike Mularkey said the test showed a hamstring strain and they are considering him day-to-day in terms of a timeline for a return to action. Mularkey compared Mariota's injury to the one DeMarco Murray suffered a couple of weeks ago and the Titans are surely hoping things play out the same way.
Murray did not miss a game and returned in Week 3 with 120 yards in a win over the Seahawks. He was off the injury report entirely last week.
Mularkey said he may not make a call on playing Mariota until Sunday, so it might be a while before we know if Mariota will be on a similar path.
According to the Sports Xchange, the biggest thing for Mariota is to be honest with the coaches regarding his condition and whether there is any chance of aggravating the injury.
"They've got to be up front and honest with this, and these guys are that. They understand all of that, they're not going to subject themselves to further injury when they know that there is so much football left to play," Mularkey said.
That said, the Titans aren't a good team without Mariota.
It's the way they were built, for better or worse. This week will be about Mariota's health, following his MRI results, and how the Titans respond to it.
"Marcus is one of the tougher guys I've ever played with," left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "From a friendship standpoint, my heart goes out to him. I hope he's healthy. I hope everything's good. Knowing Marcus, that guy is tough as nails. I'm not too worried about it."
Receiver Rishard Matthews said Mariota will bounce back.
Despite the optimism, there is still a real possibility that the Titans have to play Sunday at Miami with 35-year-old Matt Cassel as their starting quarterback.
Cassel, who went 4-of-10 for 26 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble in the second half Sunday, said he'd like to think it would get better because "you can't get much worse."
The Cassel-led Titans had just 24 yards in the second half on 18 plays. His three turnovers on consecutive drives led to 13 Texans points.
"He'll have a week to prepare. He'll get all the reps with the ones," Mularkey said, expressing confidence in the veteran QB.
To be fair, Cassel did not have the benefit of a run game because of the Titans' 16-point halftime deficit. Cassel does not threaten teams with his arm or legs so the box will certainly be crowded to stop the run if he's forced into action. Much of Tennessee's run-pass option offense is limited with Cassel as well.
If Mariota is out, the Titans offensive playmakers become vastly more important than the quarterback. Tennessee would shift its offense to lean heavier on Murray and Derrick Henry. Short passes to Delanie Walker, Taywan Taylor and Matthews would also become more prevalent in the scheme.
"It's a different game," Matthews said, describing life without Mariota. "We all got to step up."
Walker added: "Anyone who is on the field needs to pick up the slack. Especially if you got another guy coming in, you want to make his confidence even better."
Another concern for the Titans could be the frequency of these hamstring injuries.
Mariota becomes the fifth Titans starter to deal with a hamstring injury through four weeks this season. Safety Johnathan Cyprien (missed three games), receiver Corey Davis (two games), Murray (one quarter) and Walker (one practice) all suffered different degrees of hamstring injuries missing varying amounts of time over the last few weeks.
Mularkey said they haven't changed anything in their training program from last season so he's not sure why the results are drastically different.
"If there is anything that is frustrating, that is the one thing that we're trying to put a finger on I can't put a finger on it," Mularkey said. "We're hydrating. That's a big part of it. I talk about it every day."
It should be noted that Davis has already been ruled out for this week's game. I'll be following up on Mariota, who practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
For what it's worth, before leaving, Mariota turned in the first game of his NFL career in which he ran for two or more TDs. He ran 34 yards for the third-longest rush of his career, and a 2-yard TD made him the first Titans quarterback to rush for two TDs in a game since Steve McNair on Oct. 5, 2003, at New England.
Mariota has a career-high three TDs rushing this season.
Meanwhile, Brandon Weeden is being handed another opportunity in the NFL.
Weeden, the former Browns first-round pick who has been largely unimpressive during his stints in Cleveland, Dallas and Houston, will now head to Tennessee. The Titans signed him Monday, according to Field Yates of ESPN. Weeden last played an NFL game in 2015, when he started three games with the Cowboys, got cut and then signed with Houston and started one game with the Texans. ...
Also of interest. ... The vaunted rushing attack that had gained more than 350 yards the previous two weeks combined was stifled partially by the Texans and partially by the game getting completely out of hand. The Titans' leading rusher was Mariota, who had 39 yards of his team's 86 yards and didn't play at all during the second half due to a hamstring injury.
Murray had just 31 yards rushing on Sunday against the Texans, on the heels of 112 yards against Seattle the week before. Henry finished with seven yards on six carries in the blowout loss.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Dalyn Dawkins, David Fluellen
WRs: Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, Adam Humphries, Tajae Sharpe, Darius Jennings, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, Anthony Firkser
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2017
As ESPN.com's John Keim reported it, "Kirk Cousins had a decision to make, one that he knew he'd think about on the plane ride home. One that might haunt him for a few days, or a little longer. But the same play also came oh so close to showing what the Redskins' offense can become now that he's throwing to Josh Doctson more often. ..."
Keim went on to explain the play occurred on a third-and-2 with 57 seconds left in Washington's 29-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. At the time, they trailed by only three points. They had driven down the field, hoping to cap the drive with a touchdown and, perhaps, a win.
In the past, the play likely would have been an automatic pass to the other side. The Redskins went with their favored three-by-one alignment, with tight end Jordan Reed singled up wide to the right. Cousins loves throwing to Reed, particularly in a clutch situation. Reed had an outside release and solo coverage with a safety down the middle. He probably could have hit him.
Instead, Cousins turned back to a guy he has just started to click with: Doctson, the second-year pro and 2016 first-round pick. It's not as though they've had been overly productive together, but Doctson is capable of making excellent catches. There was the acrobatic 52-yard touchdown catch against Oakland last week.
On Monday, Doctson caught only two passes for 27 yards but one of them was a diving 20-yard grab, the sort of play that results in confidence.
"I just took my chance with Josh," Cousins said.
Reed was the first look.
"We had a double move to Jordan. He actually won, but Kirk thought he was doubled by the safety and he worked Josh," head coach Jay Gruden said. "He made a great opportunity to throw the football for Josh. Josh almost had it. He made an unbelievable effort for the ball."
Yes, he did. Doctson turned as he jumped for the ball, grabbed it only to have it squirt free as he hit the ground. Technically, a drop; it would have been a terrific catch.
"He has a [vertical] that's out of this world and it showed," teammate Josh Norman said. "His time will come again to make that play and I know he'll make it 110 percent. ... You'll be immortalized. Seriously. You make that play and it's ballgame."
Keim went on to suggest that if the Redskins' offense is going to do a whole lot, it must get more from Doctson and Terrelle Pryor, who had three catches for 70 yards -- one for a 44-yard score. Doctson, though, is important, so the fact that Cousins looked for him on a pivotal play could be something to watch after the bye week.
The key is to keep trying to connect with Doctson. At some point, it's going to be worth it for Washington. If not, the offense just won't go where it must. ...
Meanwhile, the Redskins were not exactly thrilled when the schedule came out and they saw the bye week was in Week 5.
Coaches like the bye later in the season when injuries begin to pile up and the rest is needed. Well - it's needed. Now. Washington had two of its most important players get hurt on Monday night. Left tackle Trent Williams (knee) and cornerback Josh Norman (broken rib) were both limited.
Williams needs an MRI, according to head coach Jay Gruden. That's an ominous sign. Williams dealt with pain under his kneecap during training camp and it became too much for him during the Chiefs game. He still managed to grind out 46 of 50 snaps.
Norman wasn't so lucky. He played 24 snaps before taking a hit and breaking ribs. He is listed as week-to-week, which means his status for the Week 6 game against San Francisco is uncertain. That's not a player Washington's secondary can replace.
"There is a concern there. It's a fractured rib," Gruden said. "I don't know where it is, how severe the pain is for him, but when you have to play bump and run, you have to tackle and all that stuff, I think it will be a pain tolerance during (the game). We have got to make sure it's healed enough where he can play and be effective and not do more damage to it. So, that will be up to the trainers and up to Josh. The initial report was a fractured rib will be two to four weeks. But since we do have the bye week, there is a chance he could be up for (San Francisco)."
Meanwhile, Williams' injury has a double whammy. His primary backup, Ty Nsekhe, who filled in during Williams' four-game suspension last season, is out after surgery to repair a core muscle. Suddenly the depth at left tackle is gone. It was up to T.J. Clemmings, cut by the Minnesota Vikings after two rough seasons, to fill in.
There are other minor injuries to worry about, but the bye week should help players like linebacker Mason Foster (separated shoulder), safety Deshazor Everett (hamstring), Doctson (shoulder), running back Rob Kelley (ankle, rib), Reed (chest contusion) and safety Montae Nicholson (AC joint sprain), among others.
Reed was held to 16 snaps in large part because he couldn't participate in any run plays. Reed was limited to three-receiver sets and obvious passing downs, but he is expected to be closer to full strength after the bye week and ready for more playing time.
The early indication on Doctson is that he should be able to go once they return from their bye.
The Redskins didn't get a monster day from Chris Thompson like they had the past two weeks. Teams will adjust to his big-play ability. Kelley couldn't finish the game and had just seven carries. For the second time this year, Cousins was the leading rusher (38 yards, seven carries). And while he did some good things to extend plays with his legs in the second half, Washington also lost again when that happened.
QBs: Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Wendell Smallwood, Shaun Wilson, Derrius Guice, Bryce Love
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn, Jehu Chesson, Kelvin Harmon, Cam Sims
TEs: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, Hale Hentges, Jordan Reed