Team Notes week 4 2019
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As Profootballtalk.com noted, quarterback Kyler Murray made some history in Sunday, but it wasn't the sort that you celebrate after the game is over.
Remember, Murray had the chance Sunday to become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards in his first three games, bettering the record Cam Newton set in 2011. Instead, playing against Newton's team, Murray followed Newton's path, throwing for 173 yards eight years after Newton threw for 158 in his third NFL game.
Per ESPN Stats and Information, those 173 yards are the fewest passing yards for any quarterback with at least 30 completions in a game. The record previously was held by Nathan Peterman, who threw for 188 yards on 31 completions in 2018.
Only 11 of Murray's yards came in the fourth quarter, as Murray absorbed five sacks and threw an interception while trying to rally back against the Panthers.
Still, Murray didn't leave thinking anything was wrong with the offense.
"You saw what we did in the first half," Murray said. "Everything was all there, it was easy. Even though they were not letting us get behind them (for deep shots), we did whatever we wanted to, pretty much."
Murray has a point. He was 28-of-37 passing for 162 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and 69 rushing yards through three quarters.
The issue in the fourth?
"We got down," Murray said.
It was clear from early on that the Panthers had no interest in giving up a ton of deep passes, which had been in regular supply through the first two weeks. Murray and the offense adjusted, scoring 20 points through three quarters by dinking and dunking with some running mixed in.
"Carolina plays a very methodical style of defense," said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who finished with five catches for 36 yards and a touchdown. "They're not going to let you go over the top. They're going to keep everything in front. They want to get you behind the chains. They don't believe you can go seven, eight, nine or 10 plays in a row without making a penalty, without dropping a ball or without doing something wrong to beat yourself. They play a bend-but-don't-break defense, and when you get behind, it makes it difficult because they really make you stress."
As ArizonaCardinals.com's Kyle Odegard noted, the Cardinals had two deep shots that could have changed the complexion of the game. Wideout Christian Kirk couldn't hold on to a beautifully thrown ball down the middle of the field that would have sent the Cardinals from inside their own territory into scoring position before the half.
"I just wasn't expecting Tre (Boston) to be there," Kirk said. "I wasn't expecting the contact, but I know that that's a catch that I have to make for Kyler."
In the third quarter, wideout Trent Sherfield dropped a pass that could have been a big gain or maybe even a touchdown because he was so wide open. The Cardinals scored a field goal on the drive, but the Panthers answered with a 76-yard rushing touchdown by Christian McCaffrey.
Murray made his only big mistake of the first three quarters when he was picked by cornerback Donte Jackson on an errant throw on the ensuing possession, and the Panthers scored another touchdown to take a 35-20 lead.
"We got a field goal, threw an interception, and then you look up and we're down 15," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "Playing catchup once again, ended up trying to throw it a bunch to try and come back and we weren't very successful."
Murray was sacked eight times, five of which came in the final quarter as the Cardinals became one-dimensional.
"When they know it's pass and it's just 1-on-1 with you and the defender, it's difficult, for sure," guard Justin Pugh said. "But we've got a job to do. We've got to protect him better. We've got to give him the confidence that he can sit back there and throw the ball."
The Cardinals may have rallied from an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit in the opener against the Lions, but it is not a spot they want to be in. The offense was much more potent when it kept Carolina off-balance with the threat of the run.
"I think we can move the ball regardless," Murray said. "It just got predictable in the end."
Also, as ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss noted, David Johnson continued to be quiet Sunday against Carolina, rushing for just 37 yards.
Johnson has yet to hit 100 yards this season with totals of 82 in Week 1 and 13 in Week 2. Johnson has struggled to break the big runs and hasn't often shown the jump cut that was once a valuable weapon for him. His inability to get going has cost the Cardinals the option of relying on him to be a major focal point of the offense, instead turning to Murray to run the ball.
Reasons for optimism heading into Sunday's game against the Seahawks?
Weinfuss believes Kingsbury will continue to learn from his mistakes as a play caller and fix them. After 36 of Murray's 43 attempts were thrown 10 yards or less against the Panthers, Kingsbury will stretch the field more to get Arizona's offense kick-started when it starts to slow down and get receivers such as Damiere Byrd more involved. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Michael Crabtree's tenure in Arizona didn't last long. The Cardinals cut the veteran receiver Monday.
Crabtree would have seemed to be a good fit for Kingsbury. Crabtree and Kingsbury both played for coach Mike Leach at Texas Tech and Crabtree thrived in that offense, which Kingsbury is importing to the NFL.
The 32-year-old Crabtree has managed just four catches for 22 yards, a 5.5-yard average, so far this season. He may have reached the end of the line.
And finally. ... Fitzgerald now needs five catches next week to surpass Tony Gonzalez for second place in NFL history.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley
RBs: Kenyan Drake, David Johnson, Chase Edmonds
WRs: Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper, Andy Isabella, Trent Sherfield, KeeSean Johnson
TEs: Charles Clay, Maxx Williams, Dan Arnold
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure suggested, the recipe for the Atlanta Falcons moving forward has to involve avoiding slow starts -- on both sides of the football.
The Falcons didn't exactly learn their lesson from a season-opening loss to the Minnesota Vikings, where they fell behind 21-0 and lost 28-12. On the road Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, they fell behind 20-3 and couldn't come back, losing 27-24.
Matt Ryan vowed to put his five interceptions leading into the game behind him, but he threw yet another costly pick in the second quarter. A pass intended for Luke Stocker was intercepted by Clayton Geathers at the Colts' 3-yard line. Ryan's six interceptions are almost as many as he threw all of last season (seven). And three of those have come in scoring situations.
The Colts turned the Ryan pick into a field goal and 13-0 lead. Who knows what the final outcome might have been without that turnover giving Indianapolis momentum?
But it wasn't all on Ryan. The Falcons' defense made Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett look like a star, letting him complete his first 16 passes -- some off play-action -- and hitting the underneath routes with ease. Dan Quinn took over as the Falcons' defensive coordinator, but there seemed to be a lot of confusion with personnel changes that led to timeouts and too many men on the field. The Falcons can't have those things happen and expect to win.
Quinn looked at the stat sheet and got right to the point Sunday.
"The penalties, turnovers, those kinds of things, we've had too much of that in the first couple weeks of the season," said Ryan, the league's 2016 MVP. "We had too much of that today. Those are things we have to clean up to be a better football team."
The numbers - 16 penalties for 128 yards and minus-1 in the turnover battle - only told part of the story about the 27-24 loss at Indianapolis.
Atlanta finished one penalty short of matching the franchise's single-game record, set Nov. 5, 1978 at San Francisco and helped put them in a 17-point halftime deficit that they couldn't overcome.
And yet the bigger concern may be this problem first surfaced during the preseason and shows no sign of abating.
According to Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot, only eight teams started Week 3 with more penalties than the Falcons and Atlanta nearly doubled its previous total by committing more penalties in one game than 16 teams did in the first two weeks.
Expect that to be a focal point as the Falcons prepare for this week's game against the Titans.
Other notes of interest. ... Beyond the interception, Ryan was nearly flawless in the second half, completing 22 of 23 passes with three touchdown tosses as each Falcons drive ended with a score. Ryan finished 29 of 34 for 304 yards, and Julio Jones caught eight passes for 128 yards and a score. He's had a TD in seven straight games.
Devonta Freeman ran for 88 yards on 16 carries and caught three of four targets for seven receiving yards in Indianapolis.
As CBSSports.com noted, Freeman finally produced after Quinn alleviated concerns about his health this week, confirming that the veteran back is fully recovered from last year's knee and groin injuries but "just (hadn't) gotten going yet."
After rushing for a mere 2.2 yards per carry through the first two weeks of the season, Freeman picked up 5.5 yards per run Sunday against the Colts -- including a 28-yard scamper, his longest since 2017. In Week 4, Freeman and the Falcons' backfield will face a Tennessee defense that has allowed just one rushing touchdown and zero 100-yard rushers through its first three outings of the season.
Tight end Austin Hooper had two red zone scores. Hooper has played well this season and should continue to be a threat. With the weapons around him, Hooper is going to get one-on-one opportunities and take advantage of them.
On the injury front. ... Ito Smith is in the concussion protocol, according to Kelsey Conway of atlantafalcons.com.
Smith played only three snaps at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis before he had to be helped off the field with the assistance of two trainers and was unable to return. With backup running back/kick returner Kenjon Barner also in the protocol and both Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison inactive for the game, Freeman was forced to play 90 percent of the snaps for the remainder of the game.
If Smith cannot be cleared in time for this week's game with the Titans, Hill and Ollison will likely split time behind workhorse Freeman.
In addition, Calvin Ridley (hip) was limited Wednesday.
I'll be following up as needed via Late-Breaking Update. ...
Tests showed safety Keanu Neal tore his Achilles' tendon in Indy, McClure reported on Monday. Neal is done for season and has a long recovery ahead.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Julio Jones, Russell Gage, Justin Hardy, Olamide Zaccheaus, Christian Blake
TEs: Austin Hooper, Jaeden Graham, Luke Stocker
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley suggests, the Baltimore Ravens aren't ready to be mentioned among the NFL's elite just yet.
Lamar Jackson struggled for three quarters, the defense couldn't slow down Patrick Mahomes, and costly penalties proved too much to overcome in a 33-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. The Ravens (2-1) generated plenty of national buzz in routing the woeful Miami Dolphins and beating Kyler Murray in his first road start of the season.
But when matched up against one of the best teams in the AFC in the Chiefs (3-0), the Ravens made too many mistakes to pull off an upset.
The Ravens will find where they measure up in the AFC North Sunday when they host the Cleveland Browns.
One thing definitely working in their favor?
According to BaltimoreRavens.com's Clifton Brown, the first Kansas City player who tried to tackle Ingram almost always failed.
Sometimes, Ingram broke two or three tackles, running with a determination that made him Baltimore's best offensive player during the loss to in Kansas City.
Ingram finished with 103 yards on 16 carries, while scoring three touchdowns. It's just the second time in his nine-year career that he's scored three rushing touchdowns in a game.
He also caught four passes for 32 yards, showing the versatility the Ravens saw when they signed him during free agency this offseason.
His performance was a great sign for the Ravens' running attack moving forward.
"We've got a whole bunch of guys on this team who don't quit," Ingram said, giving praise to Baltimore's offensive line. "I wouldn't rather run behind anyone else. They created some seams for us to run through. They dominated all game long. That's testament to those guys."
On Ingram's first touchdown, strong blocking opened a hole for Ingram, giving him the alley for a 2-yard touchdown run on which he went in standing up.
On his third touchdown, Ingram slashed to his right through a hole and made a nice stiff-arm against Chiefs defensive back Juan Thornhill to reach the end zone. Ingram's great vision allows him to find holes quickly, and his physicality makes him difficult for defenders to tackle. Ingram was exuberant after the score, playfully shadow boxing with a Chiefs logo painted on the wall.
"Just trying to make a play to help my team, that's all," Ingram said. "Sometimes everything won't be blocked perfect. You got to find a way to fight and get yards, make plays for the team."
Perhaps Ingram's most impressive run came in the third quarter on third-and-5 he simply would not be denied, breaking tackles and moving the pile to make a first down to keep a scoring drive alive. Through three games, Ingram is Baltimore's leading rusher (257 yards), averaging 6.0 yards per carry with five touchdowns.
But his focus is on helping the Ravens win. The defeat in Kansas City didn't change Ingram's opinion that Baltimore could have a special season.
"We feel like we can be the best team in this league," Ingram said. "We just have to make more plays, not give up plays. I think we're going to respond the right way from this."
Baltimore averaged 6.3 yards per carry in Kansas City, and SB Nation's Adam Stites believes the run game should be the focal point for the offense moving forward.
"Jackson is a much better passer than he was in 2018, but Baltimore is at its best when his throwing is complemented by a well-established running game," Stites wrote. "The Ravens thrived when they ran the ball 46 times for 265 yards against the Dolphins, and weren't quite as dominant when they dialed it back to 33 rushes for 182 yards against the Cardinals."
Indeed, for most of the game Sunday, Jackson was a big reason Baltimore struggled. Through three quarters, Jackson was 11-of-24 for 119 yards, which put Baltimore in a hole that it couldn't escape. He connected on some desperation passes in the fourth quarter, but he wasn't sharp in throwing the ball deep. His 21 incompletions were more than his first two games combined (16).
Jackson, who finished 22-of-43 for 267 yards, did get the Ravens to within one score late in the fourth quarter with a dazzling 9-yard touchdown run.
Speaking of the rushing attack. ... Gus Edwards carried seven times for 53 yards and caught two passes for 15 yards as he continues to demonstrate he's Baltimore's clear-cut RB2 ahead of Justice Hill (who was limited to just one carry for the second-straight game). ...
On the injury front. ... Mark Andrews (foot) is not practicing Wednesday. This is becoming the norm as the Ravens work to keep the talented pass-catcher in the mix on Sundays; I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Hosting the Browns this week begins a stretch of three straight games for the Ravens against AFC North opponents. Baltimore visits the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5, then hosts the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6.
The Ravens (2-1) are the only team in the division above .500 and can take control of the division by winning their next three games. ...
And finally. ... The Ravens made it clear that they were going to be aggressive throughout the whole game. It makes sense when you're playing the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player and an explosive offense. But the Ravens left points on the field in failing to convert three two-point conversions. They also went for it on fourth down four times (getting three first downs).
The questionable one was going for two points early in the fourth quarter when trailing 30-19.
Head coach John Harbaugh vehemently defended his aggressive decisions.
"The point was to score as many points as we could," Harbaugh said. "Every one of those [two-point conversion attempts were] clear analytical decisions to go for two."
Harbaugh indicated being aggressive was part of the game plan all week. The Chiefs have averaged 35.1 points per game since Mahomes took over as the Kansas City starting quarterback last season.
"We had a mindset that we were going to come in and try and score as many points as we could," Harbaugh said. "That's what we tried to do. I know we all felt the same way -- Lamar [Jackson] felt the same way, we all did. We're going to keep playing that way just for the record. When you write your article, just understand that we'll disagree with your criticism. We're going after it. That's the way we're going to play all year."
Asked if he had any second thoughts, Harbaugh said without hesitation, "No. Absolutely not. We don't play scared. You've been watching me for a long time."
The Ravens had attempted 27 two-point conversions in 178 games with Harbaugh. That ranks 13th in the NFL since 2008.
Last season, five teams went for three or more two-point conversions in a game. Two teams -- the Browns against the Chiefs and the 49ers against the Cardinals -- were 0-for-3.
"I could just tell you analytically, like if you look at the numbers, it's not even close," Harbaugh said. "So you understand in terms of the percentage of chances to win the game. I'm just telling you. That's what the analytics say. That's what it says. That's how it works."
Harbaugh added, "But it wouldn't even matter. We believe in our offense, and we're going to try and get as many first downs as we can. I think it led to a touchdown the very first time, did it not? We'll keep doing it whenever it suits us, whatever makes the most sense. We're not going into it blind. We got the numbers. We know what we're doing. That was the plan."
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Seth Roberts, Miles Boykin, Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As the Associated Press suggested, the mere sight of rookie tight end Dawson Knox bowling over one Bengals defender and shoving off another breathed life into a sputtering and sloppy Buffalo offense.
Knox's fearless and physical catch and rumble up the left sideline for a 49-yard gain to set up Frank Gore's decisive score with 1:50 left in rallying the Bills to a 21-17 home-opening win on Sunday also inspired their defense to rise up for one final challenge.
"Oh, he's a beast, man," safety Micah Hyde said of Knox, who opened the scoring with a 1-yard catch.
"When you're a defense and you see that stuff coming from the offense, I think everyone jumped off the bench and was excited," he added. "The crowd went wild."
Buffalo improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2011 and only third time in 26 years.
And once again, late-game heroics from quarterback Josh Allen prevailed -- setting up a matchup between unbeaten teams in Week 4, when the New England Patriots come to town.
It was Allen's fifth game-winning drive.
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques notes, Allen has shown flashes of brilliance over the past three weeks, but he still hasn't put his "hero ball" days fully behind him. He escaped a few collapsed pockets in the first half and made some confidence-boosting but logic-defying throws -- but that luck eventually ran out. His interception on the run was an immediately regrettable decision that led to the Bengals' first touchdown of the game.
He nearly threw another the following drive when he either didn't see or thought he could beat a safety playing deep middle-third.
But when it mattered the most, Allen led a seven-play, 78-yard go-ahead scoring drive, during which he repeatedly kept plays alive and left the pocket to pick up yards. The process of finding the balance between reason and heroics is still ongoing; at least the Bills are winning games as he figures it out.
And this is a big week as the Bills prepare to host the 3-0 Patriots.
An undefeated Bills team hasn't faced a team 3-0 or better since 1992, when they lost to Dan Marino and the Dolphins. The 2-0 Bills did play the 2-0 Patriots in 2011, when Buffalo came back from a 21-0 deficit and won on a last-second field goal -- forcing Tom Brady to throw a career-high 4 interceptions in the process. ...
Meanwhile, it won't look like an ultra-productive day for Gore on the stat sheet, but the veteran running back provided a valuable dose of consistency, especially in the second half when there was a drop-off in sustaining drives on offense.
After averaging a pedestrian-looking 3.3 yards a carry in the first half, Gore provided valuable, chain-moving type runs in the second half when he averaged better than 7.5 yards per carry.
"Obviously he's Frank Gore for a reason. Very competitive man," said Allen. He comes up to (Brian Daboll) and (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson) and explains what he sees as he's running and what calls he feels comfortable with.
"He did a really good job of finding some holes today and the offensive line did a good job of creating some plays out of there. He's one of those guys where if you give him the ball he's going to do whatever he can to get yards."
Gore's biggest conversion came on third-and-goal from the one-yard line, when he barreled five yards deep into the end zone with the line providing a good hole over the left side.
"We were just doing what we do in practice," said Gore. "Trying to do everything right and work hard every play. Whatever coach called we tried to do it right and that's what we did."
Gore handled the bulk of the workload with Devin Singletary out due to a hamstring injury. Tight end Tyler Kroft was also out, and Knox finally took the opportunity to flash his skills.
Allen was encouraged to see the way that Knox bounced back from the early drop to deliver on a handful of plays, including the longest play from scrimmage in the game when it mattered most.
"It's huge especially for him being so young," said Allen. "He hadn't caught a touchdown pass since his junior year of high school, so for him to find the end zone and then make plays for us, especially in crunch time, you love to see that."
Knox finished with 76 total yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.
"Every week there's no telling how many plays I'm going to get, whether it's one or 50," Knox said. "I'm just trying to do my job. Thankfully this week we worked on a lot of plays for the tight ends to get the ball and luckily we were able to execute. That touchdown pass I think my grandma could've caught that one. It was just good execution from the start."
Head coach Sean McDermott told reporters that Singletary and Kroft would not practice Wednesday. I'll have more on their progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... John Brown and Cole Beasley were brought to Buffalo for their ability to separate -- whether it's vertically or across the middle. However, the duo averaged 1.95 and 2.72 average yards of separation at the time of a catch or incompletion, far below their season averages of 2.4 and 4.3 yards, respectively.
And finally. ... DT Harrison Phillips has a torn ACL and is out for the season.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley
RBs: Devin Singletary, Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon
WRs: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts, Duke Williams, Robert Foster
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Tommy Sweeney, Lee Smith, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
Cam Newton needs another week off and maybe more.
The Panthers announced Monday morning that Newton will miss a second straight game because of his ailing foot, while noting his return is unknown. Kyle Allen will start at quarterback Sunday at the Texans.
"What Cam needs right now is time and rest for his foot," coach Ron Rivera said in a statement. "We want him at 100 percent when he's ready, so there's no exact timetable for his return. At this point, we're going to go forward with Kyle as our starter."
According to both Joseph Person of the Athletic.com and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Newton is believed to be dealing with a Lisfranc injury. The plan for now is to keep rehabbing in hopes of returning and avoiding surgery, but it could be awhile until he's back on the field.
Given that reporting, it seems unlikely that Allen's play expedited the decision to rule Newton out early this week. But it didn't hurt.
Allen completed 19 of 26 pass attempts for 261 yards with no interceptions. His biggest mistake was a fumble on a strip sack to end his first series, but he was blindsided by linebacker Chandler Jones.
Otherwise, he had a quarterback rating of 144.4 that was the second-best in team history.
If the Panthers (1-2) needed more reason to give Allen another shot, they have won only twice in their past 11 games and Allen has been the starting quarterback in both.
Allen has thrown the team's past six touchdowns and performed swimmingly in his two career starts, winning both. He also filled in for a banged-up Newton in Week 17 of last year.
Newton initially injured his foot during the preseason and it appeared to affect his play the first two weeks of the season. He completed just 56 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and an interception, as the Panthers quickly fell to 0-2. Superman looked anything but as he was sacked six times while rushing for minus-2 yards on just five attempts. The ninth-year veteran, who battled shoulder issues last year and underwent surgery in the offseason, has not thrown a touchdown in his past four starts.
After traveling to Houston, the Panthers host Jacksonville and then play Tampa Bay in London before a Week 7 bye. ...
Looking past his own performance, Allen's presence in the lineup clearly had a positive impact on his supporting cast.
Christian McCaffrey had a career-long 76-yard touchdown run in the second half en route to 153 yards rushing on 24 carries. He also caught three passes for 35 yards in his pursuit of becoming the third back in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season.
McCaffrey did not play all of the snaps for the first time this season, ceding five snaps at the end of the game to Reggie Bonnafon. ...
Allen's second and fourth touchdown passes displayed his mobility -- something Newton has been unable to demonstrate so far this season -- as he escaped pressure to buy time before finding Curtis Samuel for a 5-yard score and tight end Greg Olsen for a 3-yarder.
Olsen proved to be the security blanket for Allen that he was for Newton before a foot injury sidelined him much of the past two seasons. He had a team-best six catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns, his first multi-touchdown game since Week 3 of the 2015 season.
Olsen played 50 snaps as he recorded a team-high six catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns. ...
Allen's four-touchdown pass outing was the first for a Carolina quarterback since Newton had that many in a victory against Green Bay in December of 2017. His 144.4 passer rating trailed only Newton's 153.3 during the 2015 season.
Beyond all that, Allen's presence in the lineup -- at least until such time as Newton is playing at a level closer to that of the Newton of old -- gives fantasy owners with McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Samuel and Olsen on their rosters reason to belief their guys can maximize their potential.
QBs: Will Grier, Kyle Allen, Cam Newton
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Mike Davis, Jordan Scarlett, Elijah Holyfield
WRs: D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Brandon Zylstra, Chris Hogan
TEs: Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson noted, the Redskins proved the perfect remedy for struggling Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
After coming under intense scrutiny for not throwing a touchdown pass in either of Chicago's first two games, Trubisky passed for three touchdowns, all of them to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, before halftime against the Redskins on Monday night.
Trubisky finished the first half 20 of 23 for 173 yards and three touchdowns (137.6 quarterback rating), the most completions in a first half in the young quarterback's career. His lone blemish was an interception by Josh Norman at the Washington six-yard line late in the 3rd quarter.
Gabriel became the first Bears receiver to have three receiving touchdowns in a game since Brandon Marshall in 2014. Gabriel joined Mike Ditka in 1963 as the only Bears receivers with three TD catches in the first half of a game.
Gabriel made six catches for 75 yards before leaving in the second half with a concussion.
Trubisky's first two touchdowns to Gabriel both occurred inside the five-yard line, but the 25-year old quarterback's third touchdown toss was arguably his best play of the year to date.
On third-and-seventeen from the Redskins' 36-yard line, Washington's pass-rush forced Trubisky to move up in the pocket and slide to the left. On the move, Trubisky fired a pass downfield to Gabriel near the front, right corner of the end zone. Gabriel was initially ruled out of bounds, but the replay clearly showed the veteran receiver got both feet in bounds and the call was reversed.
The Bears desperately needed Trubisky -- drafted second overall in 2017 -- to have a good showing at FedEx Field after he sputtered through the first two weeks of the regular season.
Via J.J. Stankevitz of NBCSportsChicago.com, Trubisky was encouraged but not over-the-moon about his improved performance against Washington.
When all was said and done, the third-year man was 25-of-31 for 231 yards, with the three touchdowns and one interception. That 116.5 rating stands out, since his previous high was 70.0, and he hadn't thrown a touchdown pass all year. The Bears only had one offensive touchdown as a team in the first two weeks.
"I don't know if I'd call it a breakthrough yet," Trubisky said. "We gotta keep getting better and keep growing."
The test will get tougher next week, with the Vikings rolling in, but it was the kind of positive reinforcement they needed.
"I felt better today," head coach Matt Nagy said. "It still doesn't feel - it's still not where it needs to be. But I definitely felt better. We were able to get in a rhythm. And we were getting first downs, and any time you get first downs you can get to the next call on the play sheet. ... I thought rhythm-wise, it was our best in the three games."
As Profootballtalk.com suggested, that's not saying much, but with their defense carrying the Bears again, it was enough. ...
One key in this game?
After converting 6-of-26 third-down opportunities (23 percent) in their first two games, the Bears were successful on 8-of-13 (62 percent) Monday night.
"Give credit to our coaches who put a lot of time and energy into trying to scheme plays in that area," Nagy said. "And then the players executing. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... David Montgomery carried 13 times for 67 yards and caught all three of his targets for 14 yards.
As CBSSports.com noted, Montgomery was corralled fairly well prior to breaking off a 25-yard run during the fourth quarter. That carry, which marked the rookie's longest through three games, helped Montgomery post his best yardage total to date. With added value from three receptions as well, it was a decent night for Montgomery, even though the Bears passing for two touchdowns inside the three-yard line robbed him of a couple potential scoring opportunities from in close. ...
Eddy Pineiro, who was questionable because of a pinched nerve in his right knee (an injury suffered while lifting weights), missed a 44-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter and was good from 38 yards in the fourth. He was 4 of 4 going into the night, including a 53-yard game-winner at Denver in Week 2.
The injury was an issue.
"I felt it in every kick," Pineiro said. "I gotta muscle through it. A lot of people play with pain. I'm not the only one that plays with pain."
"I give him credit for fighting through that and fighting through the pain," Nagy said. "He did his job and then hit that big field goal at the end. ..."
I'll have more on Pineiro and Gabriel via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Also on the injury front. ...DT Akiem Hicks left early in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. ... Nagy said right tackle Bobby Massie experienced signs of vertigo on Monday, which led the team to deactivate him for the Redskins game.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Taylor Gabriel
TEs: Jesper Horsted, J.P. Holtz, Bradley Sowell, Eric Saubert
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
After an awful start, the Cincinnati Bengals flirted with an unlikely road victory at Buffalo on Sunday. But the Bills avoided a brutal loss to pick up a 21-17 victory.
As ESPN.com's Ben Bay suggested, Cincinnati showed some heart with the unlikely rally. But at the end of it, the Bengals are 0-3 for the second time in three years.
But Associated Press sports writer Mark Ludwiczak noted, first-year head coach Zac Taylor isn't going to let an 0-3 start - and two close calls - tear his team apart.
Though disappointed following another loss, the 36-year-old Taylor remains confident there are signs of growth.
"We believe in each other and the message was the wolves are coming," Taylor said, referring to an animated post-game speech he delivered which could be heard through the locker room door.
By wolves, Taylor meant critics of a team that counts two losses by four or fewer points, including a season-opening 21-20 loss at Seattle.
"This group is too strong to allow that to happen," he added. "It's just so disappointing because we were right there at the end."
History stands against the Bengals, who have previously never enjoyed a winning record the 17 times they opened a season 0-2. Now Taylor, who took over after Marvin Lewis was fired this offseason, becomes the fifth of 10 coaches in team history to start 0-3.
The Bengals found themselves in a hole for the second consecutive week following a blowout 41-17 home-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers in which their defense allowed 572 yards - fifth most in team history.
The bright side was their defense holding the Bills to just 14 points, rather than the 24 Cincinnati allowed to the 49ers through halftime.
The downside, was the Bengals' offense managed just two first downs and 77 yards in the first half, 33 of those coming on Dalton's completion to Tate on the final play.
Andy Dalton went 20 of 36 for 249 yards and two interceptions. Joe Mixon finally found his legs by finishing with 61 yards rushing, more than doubling the 27 yards he managed in his first two games. He also topped the Bengals' two-game total of 59 yards entering the game.
"We put ourselves in a bind and playing from behind; you can't do that," Mixon said. "It's a tough one. Just can't do it, can't play from behind. One thing I am proud of is these boys, they fought all four quarters, especially the defense, they played their (behinds) off for us tonight."
Mixon's performance against the Bills suggests the run game might be productive this season.
Taylor can only look ahead, noting the Bengals prepare to face AFC North rival Pittsburgh in a prime-time matchup on Sept. 30.
"We're 0-3. It sucks, it feels terrible," Taylor said. "But I'm confident that the guys in this room, we're going to get some wins out of this thing, and it's only a matter of time and we believe in each other. That's all we can ask for right now. We've got a big one coming up next week and we'll be fired up and ready to roll. ..."
It's believed that no Bengals wide receiver in this century did what Auden Tate did in Buffalo on Sunday when he was the last Bengal to touch the ball.
In his first NFL start, Tat had 88 yards on six catches. Not A.J. Green (41 yards). Not Tyler Boyd (66). Not T.J. Houshmandzadeh (63). Not Chris Henry (34). Not Marvin Jones (20), not Chad Johnson (0) nor Mohamed Sanu (0) got 88 yards in their first starts.
Taylor opted to not only start Tate, but have him trade places with the other starting outside receiver, John Ross. Tate's promotion meant that one of the hot stories of training camp, undrafted rookie Damion Willis, went on the backburner. Willis didn't take a snap two weeks after he was the Opening Day starter. It also shows you the interchangeability of Taylor's offense.
As Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson explained, Tate, who played only the X receiver last year, has played both X and Z in this one, like pretty much everyone else, and got the start at Z Sunday when Taylor flipped Ross back to X. In the old days, the Z was considered the flanker, a spot that could be moved around more freely than the static X.
The knock on Tate has been his speed and his ability to separate from coverage on his routes, but he seems to be using his strength to get separation after the catch. Nearly half his yards (45) have come after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus.
Tate's emergence wasn't necessarily the reason Ross finished with just two catches (on six targets) for 22 yards, ending the third-year man's streak of 100-yard outings at two games. But going up against the Steelers' defense could work in Ross's favor this week. ...
On the injury front. ... Taylor said Green will not play against the Steelers Monday Night and doesn't expect him to practice this week. Taylor added that Green is turning in the right direction and progressing.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams
WRs: Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Alex Erickson, Stanley Morgan Jr., Damion Willis
TEs: Tyler Eifert, C.J. Uzomah, Cethan Carter, Drew Sample
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers framed it: "Four chances, four failures.
"Baker Mayfield and the Browns couldn't finish the job. ..."
Mayfield was in positon to pull off one of those comebacks that made him a legend at Oklahoma, but the second-year quarterback who isn't playing with the same confidence he showed as a rookie, couldn't deliver in a 20-13 loss to the Rams on Sunday night.
"Disappointed more than anything because when you play a team like that, it is all the little things it comes down to," said Mayfield, who finished 18 of 36 for 195 yards. "That is why it was fourth-and-goal right there at the end. It is all the little details to build up to the end, and if you do not take care of them, it will come back to haunt you."
It's already haunting first-year coach Freddie Kitchens, who felt it started with him.
As Akron Beacon Journal staffer Marla Ridenour reminded readers, Kitchens earned the job as Browns coach for his play-calling in the final eight games last season. Now only three weeks in, the heat on him from fans is building because he can't replicate it.
"If you are looking to blame somebody, blame me," he said. "Do not blame any of our players. Do not blame any of our other coaches. Just blame me because I can take it. Just blame me.
"Go write your article and say that I messed the game up. Go write your article and say that it is my fault that things are not looking like it did last year because it is."
As for that final series?
"They did a good job at the end of the game," he said. "We did not. I did not. I did not do a good job at the end of the game."
Cleveland's offense still hasn't hit its stride this season, nor has it looked as good as it did over the final eight games last season when Kitchens took over play-calling duties.
Kitchens became sensitive with a line of questioning about the difference between the Browns in 2018 and 2019.
"I would not say anything is missing. It takes time to develop offensively. We kind of hit the ground running last year because we had been through eight games already so we know what we were doing. I would say, I have to do a better job during the course of the week of putting these guys in better situations and then on game day.
"If you are looking to blame somebody, blame me. Do not blame any of our players. Do not blame any of our other coaches. Just blame me because I can take it. Just blame me. Go write your article and say that I messed the game up. Go write your article and say that it is my fault that things are not looking like it did last year because it is."
Kitchens also conceded "some of these situations" are new for him and vowed to get better because he's not giving up the play calling role.
"That's not even being considered," Kitchens said.
The Browns are averaging just over 16 points a game through the first three weeks, but Kitchens said on Monday that the Browns are "going to be fine" offensively. They'll try to take a step in that direction against the Ravens in Week Four.
Mayfield came away encouraged by a lot of what the Browns accomplished.
They were outmanned but stayed with one of the NFL's best teams.
"We are going to get it fixed," he said. "There is no doubt in my mind. It is three games in. We have expectations that we have set for ourselves and we have not met those. I think we need to be realistic with ourselves and know that we have not played to our capability and to our potential. We just have to be better."
Next up, the Brown visit Baltimore on Sunday. The AFC North rivals split their two games last season. ...
Worth noting. ... Mayfield's touchdown in his 16th career start broke the tie with Brad Johnson for the second-longest streak to start an NFL career with a touchdown pass. Kurt Warner threw touchdowns in his first 23 career starts.
However, the touchdown pass would prove to be the Browns' final score of the night.
On a more positive note. ... Nick Chubb carried the ball 23 times for 96 yards, adding 35 more yards on four receptions (seven targets) in Sunday's loss.
As CBSSports.com notes, Chubb was the only Brown to experience consistent success against a tough Rams defensive unit in the primetime showdown. Last week, Kitchens said that he would try and get his feature back more involved by keeping him in on passing downs more often. He held true to his word, as Chubb received 100 percent of all running back touches after surrendering 11 total touches to other backs over the first two games of the season.
The uptick in usage is a positive sign for the second-year back's fantasy owners, as true backfield workhorses are few and far between in today's NFL. Expect Chubb to continue to see the lion's share of touches against the Ravens on Sunday.
On the injury front. ... Last week, Cleveland placed two players on injured reserve -- TE David Njoku and LB Christian Kirksey -- and had seven injured players on their inactives list, including all four starters in the secondary, against the Rams.
"We should be getting some of our other guys back, which are probably more day-to-day things than anything," Kitchens said Monday.
Lumped among the day-to-day players are cornerbacks Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward, both of whom injured their hamstrings on the practice field Thursday and were unavailable Sunday.
Right tackle Chris Hubbard (foot), swing tackle Kendall Lamm (knee), wide receiver Rashard Higgins (knee) and safeties Damarious Randall (concussion) and Morgan Burnett (quadriceps) are among the players to monitor as the Browns hope to avoid a similar injury situation as the one they faced against the Rams.
I'll follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
And finally. ... Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports that Njoku has opted not to have surgery on his broken wrist. The decision increases his chances of returning to play this season.
Njoku currently is on injured reserve, but he's eligible to return after eight weeks. He injured the wrist in the first quarter of the Week 2 win over the Jets.
Pharaoh Brown and Demetrius Harris will be the primary tight ends with Ricky Seals-Jones mixing in until Njoku returns.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Garrett Gilbert, Drew Stanton
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Damion Ratley, Taywan Taylor, Rashard Higgins, Derrick Willies
TEs: Demetrius Harris, Ricky Seals-Jones, David Njoku, Stephen Carlson, Pharaoh Brown
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
Dak Prescott and the Dallas are still on a high-scoring roll and fantasy owners are enjoying the dividends.
Prescott threw two touchdown passes to Amari Cooper before running for another score, and the Cowboys pulled out of a first-half funk as huge favorites in a 31-6 victory over the rebuilding Dolphins on Sunday.
"I mean, it's pro football, you know what I'm saying?" said Cooper, who had team highs of six catches and 88 yards. "They came out here prepared to play us. I think we were resilient."
Prescott fueled the first Dallas team in 41 years to win its first two games while rolling up at least 400 yards and at least 30 points each time. And while the Cowboys did it again while reaching 3-0 for the first time since 2008, it took them awhile to find that offensive form.
The second touchdown to Cooper was a 19-yarder that capped a 75-yard drive to open the second half, and came after a 74-yard TD toss to Randall Cobb was nullified by offsetting penalties.
Prescott ran 8 yards to cap the second straight TD drive to open the second half, pulling him within one of Roger Staubach's career club record of 20 rushing touchdowns in just his fourth season. Prescott was 19 of 32 for 246 yards with an interception on a poor decision.
"We're starting to just get unbelievable disbelief when Dak makes a poor decision, we're just not used to that," owner Jerry Jones said. "I'm proud that he's moving that ball around and came back out and really moved it around to a lot of different people."
Ezekiel Elliott (125 yards on 19 carries) had his second straight 100-yard game after missing the entire preseason holding out for the $90 million extension he signed the day of the first full workout before the regular season.
Rookie Tony Pollard, who became the top option behind Elliott while the two-time rushing champion was gone, had his first 100-yard day (103 on 13 carries), clinching it on a 16-yard run for his first TD. It's the first time since 1998 for Dallas to have a pair of 100-yard rushers in a game (although expecting Pollard to have this kind of role on a weekly basis is obviously a reach).
So now, for the first time since 2008, the Dallas Cowboys are 3-0. But just how good are they?
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer suggested, you can only play who is on the schedule, but the Cowboys' first three opponents, the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Dolphins haven't exactly been world beaters.
This week, the Cowboys play the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome, and while Drew Brees will not play because of thumb surgery, the Saints promise to be more of a challenge and a better barometer of just how good the Cowboys are. ...
That said, Archer believes at some point, the Prescott-to-Cooper combination will be recognized as one of the league's best.
In 12 regular-season games together, they have combined for 10 touchdowns, including 5- and 19-yard scores Sunday. Cooper is the first Cowboys' receiver with a touchdown in the first three games of the season since Drew Pearson in 1982. With Michael Gallup missing his first game because of knee surgery, Cooper finished with six catches for 88 yards against the Dolphins, and it could have been more if not for a drop on a deep ball down the seam in the first half. ...
On the injury front. ... Cooper had an MRI on his ankle Wednesday a source told Dallas Morning News staffer Calvin Watkins. The source told Watkins it’s more precautionary and that he’s fine.
Beyond that, head coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys came out of Sunday's game decently in terms of health with the only question marks being defensive tackle Christian Covington (calf) and safety Jeff Heath. Safety Xavier Woods could do something in practice at the start of the week coming off his high ankle sprain that caused him to miss the Miami game, but defensive tackle Antwaun Woods (knee) and defensive end Tyrone Crawford (hip) were are not expected to be on the field at the start of the preparation for this week's game against New Orleans.
Receiver Tavon Austin (concussion) will resume practice Wednesday although it's now clear how close to a return he is.
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 24 September 2019
The Denver Broncos' search for their first victory under head coach Vic Fangio continues. And their latest loss was yet another gut-punch.
The Broncos were left shaking their heads, expressing frustration while vowing to turn things around, after a 27-16 loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday that might have been a win if not for a few mistakes.
It's technically been 20 years since the Broncos have been this bad. For Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos haven't been the same since winning the Super Bowl.
The loss on Sunday dropped Denver to 0-3, marking the franchise's worst start since a star-crossed 1999 campaign that saw John Elway retire before the season and Terrell Davis tear his ACL in Week 4. The Broncos aren't dealing with anything close to that type of turnover presently, but Sanders sounds like he's operating in a similarly sad space.
"Times are rough around here," the veteran wide receiver said, per The Athletic's Nicki Jhabvala. "Obviously the past three years -- it's been tough. Trying to get it right. We sit at 0-3, living in a world of suck. Football is still fun but it's not so much fun when you're losing, especially when you prepare as hard as you can, you go out and have four targets, two catches and 10 yards. But there's always next week, so I'm optimistic."
Sanders' frustration is understandable on multiple levels. As he noted, he wasn't especially involved in the Broncos' run-first attack at Green Bay. Just last week, he caught 11 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. While the 10th-year wideout had gotten off to a strong start to the season, Denver has scored just 46 points through three games. Only two teams among those that have played three games as of Sunday afternoon have scored less.
Moreover, the Broncos aren't rebuilding but not good enough to simply reload. After starting out 4-0 in 2016, Denver has gone 16-31. Hence, the past three years have been tough.
Indeed, Fangio understands this.
In fact, he's on board with Sanders' assessment.
"He was just repeating what I had said in the locker room after the game," Fangio said, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. "So, I told [the team] we're going to have to deal everybody thinking we suck and - you know all of us, not just players, coaches, the whole organization - and we need to deal with that. He was basically just repeating what I had said."
Fangio said he's cognizant of the toll that consistent losing can take on a locker room and that the team doesn't have "our head in the sand" on that topic, but added he feels confident that the team has the "right kind of guys" to take steps in a better direction.
The Broncos host the 1-2 Jaguars this week. That's reason for optimism. ...
Other notes of interest. ... According to Legwold, the offense issues aren't for lack of effort. But the Broncos simply have to do everything the hard way right now because they can't consistently protect quarterback Joe Flacco.
Their three scoring drives against the Packers were 15, 15 and 12 plays. That is simply going the long way far too often, but when they try to go for a little more, with routes that take a little longer to develop, they put Flacco in harm's way with pass protection that is spotty at best.
The Packers had one of their four sacks with a three-man rush Sunday.
Flacco finished Sunday's loss with two turnovers next to his name -- a lost fumble and an interception -- and both stung plenty. He can help in pass protection by consistently getting the ball out on time, but the Broncos won't get to see what he can or can't do down the field until they can consistently make a pocket for him to stand in.
Looking for positives? Look no further than Phillip Lindsay, who ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries and added 49 yards on four catches during Sunday's loss.
As CBSSports.com noted, Lindsay played big Sunday, particularly during the second drive of the third quarter. Lindsay converted a second-and-long with a 36-yard reception on a swing pass and then capped it off on fourth-and-one with a goal-line score on a play in which he was originally stopped at the line.
Fangio said after the game that Green Bay played a lot of defensive backs and essentially dared Denver to run.
Lindsay's dynamic Week 3 performance proved he remains arguably the Broncos' most explosive player after a pair of ho-hum performances against Oakland and Chicago to open the season.
For what it's worth, second-year receiver Courtland Sutton, whose 52-yard catch was the gemstone of his five-catch, 87-yard day, also had a key downfield block that helped Lindsay cap a 36-yard catch-and-run that set up a TD. ...
Meanwhile, Royce Freeman, who was forced out of Sunday's game against the Packers with a shoulder injury, was able to return to the contest and finish the day. But his status is something I'll be watching heading into this week's game against the Jaguars.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the week progresses. ...
Beyond that, there is "a chance" that fullback Andy Janovich makes his regular-season debut against Jacksonville this week, Fangio said.
"We'll see how he looks in practice," Fangio said. "I don't ever want to put a guy out there that's not completely ready to play."
If Janovich can return to the field, Fangio thinks he would bring a "steadiness" to offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello's unit.
"Besides being a good fullback from a talent standpoint, he's experienced," Fangio said. "Any time you have a good combination of talent and experience, that's a good thing."
Linebacker Josey Jewell (hamstring) and defensive end Derek Wolfe (ankle) were scheduled to undergo MRIs on Monday to determine the extent of their injuries.
Fangio said he did not have an update on cornerback Bryce Callahan (foot).
And finally. ... The Broncos shuffled their wide receiver group on Tuesday.
They announced that Fred Brown has been promoted to the active roster from the practice squad. River Cracraft was waived in a corresponding move.
Brown had eight catches for 90 yards and a touchdown for the Broncos in the preseason, but fell short of earning a spot on the 53-man roster. After opening the season with three straight losses, the team appears to be trying something new in order to wind up with a win.
Cracraft played five offensive snaps and 13 defensive snaps in Week 2 against the Bears. He also appeared in eight games last season.
QBs: Drew Lock, Brandon Allen
RBs: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Theo Riddick
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Daesean Hamilton, Fred Brown, Juwann Winfree, Diontae Spencer
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
According to ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein, the trust, built from years of work between QB Matthew Stafford and Marvin Jones, his longest-tenured receiver in Detroit, paid off in Philadelphia. This after the QB floated a ball that Jones laid out for giving Detroit a 10-point lead they'd need in a 27-24 win over the Eagles on Sunday.
No, this doesn't happen every week for Jones.
Jones has had good seasons in Detroit, but never a year where he was the clear-cut No. 1 receiver for the Lions. First he split that time with Golden Tate. Now he does so with Kenny Golladay.
But on days like Sunday, where Stafford needs a trustworthy receiver, Jones often is the one he looks at. Jones had 99 yards receiving total through the first two games of the season. On Sunday, against Philadelphia, he had 101 yards. He caught his first touchdown of the season -- the score that ended up being the difference in the game.
So even though he hasn't necessarily been utilized a massive amount so far this season, he gets it. He sees the options the Lions have and understands what Darrell Bevell is trying to do so he accepts it and, on days like Sunday, thrives in it.
"There was no thought in my head like, 'Man, I need this right now,'" Jones said. "I just go out there and do what I'm supposed to do and capitalize on my opportunities. I've done that so far and that's how I think. That's my process and stuff like that.
"Whatever we need to do to win, as long as we're winning, that's what I'm going to do."
Last year, the Lions weren't winning. Jones ended up injured. This year, there haven't been dominant victories and there haven't been rest-easy-at-the-end wins, but at 2-0-1 there have been wins. Sometimes Jones isn't a major part of the plan. Then, on Sunday, he was.
Against the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers, Stafford targeted Jones 10 times.
On Sunday, he looked his way nine times. It was balanced, too. Stafford targeted him three times on first down, three times on second down and three times on third down.
He looked to him in all areas of the field, too. In the red zone, in the middle of the field and on the edges. Anywhere Jones was Sunday, Stafford was sure to find him.
Will that happen in the future? It's tough to say. Likely not every week. That hasn't been Jones' history and hasn't been the way the offense has run under Stafford since Calvin Johnson's departure. But in Jones, Stafford knows he has a player that he can count on when he needs to.
And that keeps him on the fantasy radar. ...
Overall, it was another good day from Stafford. He took advantage of smart play calls from Darrell Bevell and made the right read. Stafford finished 18-of-31 for 201 yards and one touchdown.
Working in Safford's favor: Detroit has allowed only three sacks this season and they were all in Week 1. The offensive line hasn't necessarily been dominant, but the Lions have done a decent job avoiding negative plays.
Also, in just three games, the Lions now have four different 100-yard pass catchers on the year. Sunday it was Jones reaching the benchmark. So far on the year, tight end T.J. Hockenson (131) and wide receivers Danny Amendola (104), Kenny Golladay (117) and now Jones (101) have 100-yard receiving performances.
It's the first time since 2013 Detroit's had a 100-yard receiver in each of the first three games of the season.
Hockenson had only one catch for 1 yard against the Eagles, and he has only two catches in the past two games following a stirring debut in the opener. The first-round draft pick clearly has potential, but it's time to tap the breaks on talk of instant stardom. ...
The running game still isn't all that productive. The Eagles entered the game No. 3 in the NFL in rushing defense allowing 42.5 yards per game. The Lions ended with 86 rushing yards on 28 attempts (3.1 average). One of those runs was a J.D. McKissic 44-yard scamper on a reverse. Kerryon Johnson found it tough sledding Sunday, rushing for 36 yards on 20 carries (1.8).
On the injury front. ... Cornerback Darius Slay and defensive lineman Mike Daniels will be issues this week.
Daniels suffered a foot injury in the first half Sunday and did not return. Head coach Matt Patricia said Monday it wasn't the same foot that kept him out of most of training camp. "I do not believe it's the same foot," Patricia said. "Different deal. I think it's all different from that aspect. That's why they're just trying to evaluate it as they go through."
Patricia didn't have an update for Daniels' timetable for return. He did not practice Wednesday.
Slay injured a hamstring in the second half and also did not return to the game. He worked on a limited basis.
Amendola turned up on the injury report Wednesday; he was held out with a chest issue. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: David Blough, Kyle Sloter
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, Paul Perkins
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham
TEs: Jesse James, Logan Thomas
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As Packers.com's Mike Spofford reported, head Coach Matt LaFleur said twice in his postgame remarks that there's "more out there" for the Packers.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers agreed in his own way.
While the two-time MVP appreciates the winning formula the Packers have put together thus far in 2019 - playing splashy, game-changing defense and doing just enough on offense - if there's one thing Rodgers would change, it's himself.
"I want to play better," he said following Green Bay's 27-16 win over Denver on Sunday at Lambeau Field to improve to 3-0. "I want to score more points. I mean, obviously you love having a defense, but I don't take any satisfaction in having an 'oh, OK' performance. No, I want to have greatness out there."
Through three games, greatness has been fleeting and not sustained for the Packers on offense. One week after an early 21-point outburst was followed by three shutout quarters, a 40-yard touchdown strike on a free play capped the offense's only drive of the day longer than 51 yards.
A 2-for-9 showing on third down, only 52 total snaps, several throwaways, and just shy of 24½ minutes of possession doesn't define "clicking the entire game," which is Rodgers' goal. In the literal sense, that may not be realistic, but the realist in Rodgers knows September football is almost over and the Packers can't count on winning this way every week as contenders start to forge their identities.
Right now, the Packers love their early identity on one side of the ball, but not the other. Progress is continuing, but patience can't be infinite.
"I feel really good about the offense and the potential, but potential has got to start getting close to the actual performance," Rodgers said.
Still, it wasn't all bad. The offense took advantage of two short fields provided by the defense's takeaways and turned those possessions into touchdowns. Rodgers also was barely touched in 29 drop-backs, perfect timing for a 35-year-old QB who has to suit up again in four days against an aggressive Philadelphia defense.
"I have to say this is one of the cleanest games my jersey has ever looked," he said. "I took basically one shot. I hit the ground one time, so I'm ecstatic. I've been at this for a long time and to go home with my body feeling this good is a credit to the offensive line for sure."
Digging deeper, Rodgers performed well in a couple of areas where he struggled the first two weeks.
According to ESPN Stats and Information: Rodgers went 5-of-7 for 82 yards from out of the pocket against the Broncos. He was 8-of-17 from out of the pocket the first two games. Rodgers went 5-of-9 for 88 yards when under duress Sunday. He went 3-of-17 for 23 yards when under duress the first two game
Rodgers, who has played more Thursday games than anyone else in the Packers' locker room by far, emphasized the way Sunday's game went for him physically was no small thing.
"It feels amazing. It really does," he said. "Usually these short weeks, your body is killing you until about Wednesday and then the next day you play. That will not be the case for me this week, so I'm feeling really good about that. I really appreciate the offensive line for the way they protected today and it'll be a nice week of preparation."
There's little time to celebrate and barely more than that to get ready for another game, and the Packers would love nothing more than to catch their breath at 4-0. ...
As NFL.com's Marcas Grant noted, Aaron Jones salvaged the day by scoring a pair of touchdowns but otherwise, it was a day when he was pretty much outplayed by Jamaal Williams.
LaFleur has said he wanted to even up the opportunities between the two. He wasn't lying.
The end result was solid for Jones, but it's right to be concerned by a 3.8-yards per carry start to the season and Williams' steady increase in touches. He'll have to pick it up quickly with a Thursday matchup against a struggling Eagles team looming.
The hope now is that Jones is efficient with his touches and sees the bulk of the goal line snaps. ...
Also according to Grant, Davante Adams has had two games with just four catches this season. He only had one such game all of last year. Also, after scoring the first touchdown of the NFL's 100th season in Week 1, Jimmy Graham has zero catches and only two total targets in the last two weeks. The five-time Pro Bowler played just 24 of the Packers' 57 snaps.
Rodgers said Monday that "four targets isn't enough" for Adams, and that Graham needs the ball more, too. LaFleur said that's on him and the rest of the coaches. "You always want to get your playmakers the ball, and Davante is a premier playmaker in the league," LaFleur said. "So is Jimmy."
The Packers might be aided in that cause Thursday night. Eagles CB Ronald Darby, who injured his hamstring on Sunday, is expected to miss some time following his MRI, source said. Likely a few games. So an already-generous Philadelphia secondary will be short-handed for this one. ...
For the record, Jones (shoulder) and Williams (neck) worked fully on Tuesday after being limited Monday. Meanwhile, it looks like Graham had a setback after playing Sunday with groin and finger injuries. Now he's also got a quad injury. The issues kept him out of practice on Monday but he worked on a limited basis Tuesday.
I'll have more on the status of all involved when Late-Breaking Updates crank up early Thursday and I'll follow up through the pre-game inactive announcement.
And finally. ... LG Lane Taylor will need surgery on his left biceps, which was injured last week in practice. He's on injured reserve but could return after eight weeks but it's unclear if he'll be healed before the season is over.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Tyler Ervin, Dexter Williams
WRs: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt both had big games on Sunday to help the Texans to a come-from-behind win over the Chargers to give them a 2-1 start for the first time since 2016.
According to Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken, the strong start is a stark contrast to last season when the Texans lost their first three games before using a nine-game winning streak to dig out of the early hole and go on to win the AFC South for the fourth time in five years.
"It's decent to be at that record at this point," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "All three of these games have come down to the last minute of the game and I think that shows that our team is learning, especially over the last two weeks, to play 60 minutes, that it takes 60 minutes."
Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, had his best game of the season and got his first two sacks of the year in a game where Houston had a season-best five sacks. Watt also had two tackles for losses, five quarterback hits and has a franchise-record 94 sacks since he was drafted in 2011, which is the second-most in the NFL in that span.
Watson had an early fumble that led to the first touchdown for the Chargers and Houston trailed by 10 at halftime before he threw two touchdowns in the second half to help the Texans to the 27-20 victory. He completed 25 of 34 passes for a season-high 351 yards for his eighth career game with at least 300 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Aside from Watson's early mistake, Houston's passing game was dynamic on Sunday. Watson distributed the ball well, completing passes to six players and often used his athleticism to avoid the rush and extend plays. He did not throw an interception. All three of Watson's passing touchdowns were caught by tight ends. This was only the third game in Texans franchise history in which tight ends caught three touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. Two of those games have been against the Chargers.
On Wednesday, Watson was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
For what it's worth, Watson has 51 touchdown passes in the first 26 games of his career. That is the fourth most in NFL history behind Dan Marino (64), Patrick Mahomes (60) and Kurt Warner (59).
The offensive line had its best game of the season, giving up just two sacks as new left tackle Laremy Tunsil starts to settle in and stabilize the beleaguered unit after a trade from Miami on Aug. 31. This despite the fact the Texans started their third right tackle in three games by moving first-round pick Tytus Howard to right tackle. Second-round pick Max Scharping replaced him at left guard.
Watson was not sacked in the first half, and he got rid of the ball quickly to help minimize some of the pressure he faced in the first two weeks. Watson completed 13 of 17 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
Houston's running game was great through the first two games of the season and averaged 153 yards behind the strong performances of new acquisitions Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson. But the Texans couldn't do much of anything on the ground against the Chargers, finishing with just 39 yards rushing.
Watson had 18 of those yards, with 15 coming on one run.
Hyde scored a touchdown, but averaged just 1.9 yards a carry on 10 runs and Johnson gained only 2 yards on two carries, and the Texans will need them to play better this week to get the running game back on track. Hyde's struggles on Sunday came after he started the season strong by running for 173 yards through the first two games filling in for Lamar Miller, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the preseason.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Texans worked out veteran RB C.J. Anderson on Tuesday; I'll be watching for more on that. ...
Tight end Jordan Akins, a third-round pick in 2018, had the best game of his young career on Sunday. Akins got the first scores of his NFL career by grabbing two touchdown receptions in the second half to give Houston the lead. His three receptions and 73 yards were both career highs.
"Jordan is a very mature guy who works very hard to get better," O'Brien said. "He's done a really good job for us in our blocking schemes ... and he's become a better route-runner every week. Deshaun has a lot of confidence in him."
And there's reason to believe Houston's offense will continue to get better as Tunsil becomes more comfortable with his teammates on the line. The unit should also get a boost as receiver Kenny Stills, who came in the trade with Tunsil, becomes more involved as he gets more familiar with the playbook.
The Texans didn't have any major injuries in Sunday's game, but O'Brien said a few players are "banged up" while refusing to provide any details. I'll be watching for more and will report back via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter, Keke Coutee
TEs: Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra put it, "Jacoby Brissett had his 'This is my team now' game in Week 3. ..."
The quarterback, taking the reins after Andrew Luck's stunning retirement, diced up the Atlanta Falcons to the tune of 310 yards on 28-of-37 passing with two touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 118.1 passer rating.
"Jacoby was unreal," head coach Frank Reich said after the 27-24 win, via The Athletic. "You can't play quarterback much better than he did today."
Brissett opened the tilt with 16 consecutive completions, tying Peyton Manning for second-most consecutive completions in a game by a Colts QB since 1991 (as far back as NFL Research data goes). Brissett also accomplished something Luck never did, becoming just the third QB in Colts franchise history with a 115-plus passer rating in two of the first three weeks of a season -- Manning (2009, 2004) and Johnny Unitas (1964).
In Brissett's first two games, the Colts leaned heavily on the running game, with the QB throwing for fewer than 200 yards in each tilt. Those game plans might have led some to believe the coaching staff was protecting the QB from carrying the load. Brissett put those hot takes to rest of Sunday's tilt.
With the Falcons keying on stopping the run, Brissett peppered the Atlanta secondary, including a gorgeous fake to get Zach Pascal wide open for a touchdown. Brissett showed accuracy to all levels of the field and rapport with the pass-catching corps, hitting nine different targets.
"That's exactly how he's been since the minute 12 retired," receiver Chester Rogers said. "He's had this 'I'm the captain now' attitude, just this look that told us all, 'I'm ready. Let's roll.'"
"He was never scared," added running back Nyheim Hines.
Brissett proved his mettle when the game tightened down the stretch. After the Falcons twice closed the gap to three points, the QB responded with big plays. After Matt Ryan cut the lead to 20-17, Brissett led an 11-play, 75-yard TD drive.
The Colts ran the 4-minute drill to perfection after another late Atlanta score. Indy churned out three first downs forcing the Falcons to burn all three timeouts. Then on a 3rd-and-4 from the 27-yard-line, with 1:56 remaining, Reich didn't take the conservative approach, instead putting the ball in Brissett's hands. The QB found tight end Jack Doyle for an 11-yard gain to ice the game.
"I mean, we just had a lot of confidence from Day 1," Reich said. "Everything about him says that he has (confidence) ... he's doing it. This is as great as he's played today."
Brissett didn't rely on just one or two receivers -- he completed passes to nine different players, including that third-down completion to Doyle to seal the game.
The Colts might not be as dynamic an offense without Luck, but Brissett proved he's fully capable of stacking wins in Reich's offense. Run or pass, it doesn't matter because the Colts can do both. ...
Meanwhile, as USA Today notes, through the first three games of the 2019 season, running back Marlon Mack is proving to be the workhorse the Colts believed him to be. While there were some that believed more of a committee approach would be used in the backfield, the first three games of the season have shot down any notion of that. Mack has been the clear leader in the backfield, and it's not even close.
Through the first three games, Mack, who played Sunday despite being limited by a calf injury in practice last week, has taken 67 percent of the team's carries. That's including the scrambles from Brissett. The percentage would be much higher if those were not accounted for.
Even with Nyheim Hines coming off of a stellar rookie season, Mack is the clear three-down workhorse back. Given the success of the rushing attack to open the season, it doesn't appear that the Colts will be changing their philosophy anytime soon. ...
Of some concern, T.Y. Hilton missed the second half of Sunday's game with a quad injury.
Hilton appeared to aggravate his quad injury after catching a 4-yard touchdown pass in the end zone closest to the Colts locker room in the final seconds of the first half. He immediately went to the locker room after the play. Hilton returned to the sideline without his helmet and gloves with about 11 minutes left in the third quarter.
However, Hilton said he actually aggravated the injury "a couple of plays before" the touchdown.
"I kind of reinjured it. I kind of felt it. I wanted to keep playing because I knew I wouldn't be able to come out in the second half," he said.
The Colts' top receiver had been questionable for Sunday's game after being a limited participant in practice all week due to the quad injury. He left the game with eight receptions for 65 yards and the touchdown.
"Came back in and the doctor's examined it," Hilton said. "Wasn't no need for me to go back out there and probably tear it."
"He re-aggravated the quad and we'll see how he progresses this week," Reich said, via Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star.
On Tuesday, Hilton wasn't ready to say if he'll play able against Oakland on Sunday. "If I can play, I'll play," he said.
Losing Hilton meant the Colts were without their best offensive player and defensive player, as linebacker Darius Leonard missed Sunday's game with a concussion suffered against the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 15. Defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis was also ruled out after suffering an ankle injury.
Hilton and Leonard were not slated to practice Wednesday; I'll follow up on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Beyond that, safety Malik Hooker is expected to be out four to six weeks due a torn meniscus in his knee, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Reich said he was not aware after the game that Hooker's knee injury was as severe. Rookie Khari Willis, who the Colts traded up to get in the draft this year, is expected to move into the starting lineup in Hooker's absence.
And finally. ... As ESPN.com's Mike Wells asked, who said kicker Adam Vinatieri was a problem for the Colts?
Vinatieri made two field goals -- from 49 and 21 yards -- and two extra points to potentially end one of the worst slumps of his 24-year career. Fans were holding their breath on Vinatieri's first kick, the 49-yarder, because the ball started on the right side and then veered left to hit the goal post before trickling through. But at this point, Vinatieri will take it. He went into Sunday's game having missed seven kicks in his previous three games going back to the playoff game at Kansas City last season.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines, Jonathan Williams
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Dontrelle Inman, Ashton Dulin, Chad Williams
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco suggested, not only is Gardner Minshew capably filling in for the injured Nick Foles, but the rookie sixth-round pick is beginning to show he might be able to carry the Jaguars' offense.
The Jaguars' run game was essentially nonexistent last Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans until late in the fourth quarter, so it was all on Minshew. He delivered with two touchdown passes and two other scoring drives to lead the Jaguars to a 20-7 victory at TIAA Bank Field.
"I think we're all building trust right now," Minshew said. "Whether it's me and Flip [offensive coordinator John DeFilippo]. ... or me and the guys on the field, all I can do is try to earn that trust every day, and I think when you do that you get more opportunities to do fun things."
Things like beat a Titans team that had won four in a row in the series and had embarrassed the Jaguars in their previous two national television appearances. It was Minshew's first victory as a starting quarterback and the Jaguars' first victory of the season, and it came on a short week filled with a massive distraction: cornerback Jalen Ramsey asking the team to trade him.
Minshew completed 20 of 30 passes for 204 yards and wasn't intercepted. He has completed 74 percent of his passes in his three games, the highest completion percentage of any quarterback through his first three career games since 1970. Interestingly, No. 5 on that list is former Jaguars starter Blake Bortles (67 percent).
"A lot of people never thought I would get this opportunity, so now that I do have it, I make the most of it," Minshew said. "I'm super grateful for it, but I know through everything I've learned in my career, with the situation I'm in, I know I may only get one, so you gotta make the most of it. So that's what I'm trying to do now."
Minshew threw both of his touchdown passes in the first quarter, making him just the second rookie to throw two scoring passes in the first 10 minutes of a game in the past 10 seasons. The only other rookie to do so was Tennessee's Marcus Mariota, during his NFL debut in 2015.
With five touchdown passes and only one interception, Minshew is the second quarterback in franchise history to throw a touchdown pass in each of his first three games. Byron Leftwich did it in 2003.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars' run game has been a disappointment this season, mainly due to a lack of production in the middle of the offensive line. The Jaguars had 19 yards rushing through three quarters, thanks largely to Minshew's 18 yards on four carries.
Leonard Fournette had minus-3 yards on nine carries. He finished with 66 yards, thanks to a 69-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
"I feel like we aren't giving Leonard a chance," head coach Doug Marrone said. "Things are happening too close to the line of scrimmage or even on our side of the line of scrimmage. I think the first thing we have to emphasize is creating that push or being able to get into the line of scrimmage before something happens."
Against the Titans, Fournette had only six carries that gained yards. He has 43 carries in the Jaguars' three games, and 12 of those carries have gone for negative or no yards. He has had 13 other carries that went for 1 or 2 yards.
Per ESPN Stats and Information, Fournette is averaging just 1.8 yards before contact, which means he's getting hit pretty much as soon as he gets to the line of scrimmage. He isn't getting a chance to reach the second level without having to break a tackle or get up to anything close to full speed.
The offensive line -- in which the Jaguars have invested heavily in both money and high draft picks -- is consistently getting beaten and not creating space, Marrone said.
"We're not doing a good enough job up front," Marrone said. "And I have no issues with how Leonard's working and trying. I think he might be trying too much because of the frustration. I think that he has the ability to be a great player, but we have to do a much better job all-around, both coaches, myself.
The Jaguars, by the way, averaged 107.7 yards per game last season on the ground, despite an offensive line ravaged by injuries (at one point, the team started four players who weren't on the roster until October) and Fournette missing eight games.
Despite the offensive line problems, Fournette is averaging a career-high 4.2 yards per carry, which shows how much more effective he has been in his third season.
Marrone said the staff is examining the plays it is calling and whether it needs to simplify the schemes to ensure that the linemen can get better leverage and positioning. What makes things more frustrating is the fact that the pass protection has been very good: Jaguars quarterbacks have been sacked only five times through three games.
"We're going to really put a lot of work into getting that [the run game] right because we know that as we keep going, it's going to be very difficult for us to keep winning games unless we get this run game going," Marrone said. ...
On the injury front. ... Chris Conley is dealing with a sore knee, but the veteran wideout is expected to practice to some degree Wednesday; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
And finally. ... Ramsey missed practice Monday because of an apparent illness, potentially adding another twist to his trade request.
Marrone said Ramsey notified the team trainer Sunday night, one week after the disgruntled defender called his agent and said "my time is up here in Jacksonville."
Marrone said Ramsey was scheduled to meet with a team doctor Monday. Ramsey was spotted leaving the facility later in the day and getting into a waiting car.
Marrone declined to speculate about the curious timing of Ramsey's unspecified ailment.
On Wednesday, the team announced that Ramsey wouldn't practice due to lingering back and hamstring issues.
Ramsey started and played against the Titans, and then hugged fellow defensive backs on the field after the game in what many teammates believed was a goodbye. Ramsey declined to talk about a potential trade afterward. The Jaguars, meanwhile, would prefer to keep rather than trade their star defender.
The Jaguars want to repair Ramsey's fractured relationship with the franchise, specifically with top executive Tom Coughlin. Ramsey told the Uninterrupted "17 Weeks" podcast that his trade request stemmed from "some disrespectful things said on their end" in a meeting after Jacksonville's loss at Houston on Sept. 15.
Although Ramsey causes as many headaches for his own team as he does opponents, there's little doubt the Jags would have a difficult time replacing him - even if they received two first-round picks in a trade.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Nick Foles, Josh Dobbs, Phillip Walker
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo
WRs: D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole
TEs: Ben Koyack, Nick O'Leary, Seth DeValve
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith framed it: "Last year, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes burst onto the scene with one of the greatest seasons in NFL history, reaching 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns and winning league MVP in his first year as a starter. Surely, he'd have to regress to the mean in Year 2, right?
Smith went on to point out that Mahomes is actually putting up better numbers through the first three seasons of this year than he did last year. The season has a long way to go, but if he can play over the next 13 games like he has over these three, he'll obliterate every single-season passing record.
Last year, Mahomes totaled 5,097 passing yards. This year, with 1,195 yards through three games, he's on pace to total 6,373 yards.
Last year, Mahomes totaled 50 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. This year, with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions through three games, he's on pace to total 53 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Last year, Mahomes completed 66.0 percent of his passes, averaged 8.8 yards per pass, and had a passer rating of 113.8. This year, Mahomes has a 71.9 percent completion rate, an average of 10.5 yards per pass, and a 134.9 passer rating.
By any measure, Mahomes is throwing the football better this year than he did last year. Surely, he can't keep doing this for 13 more games.
Well, it's worth noting that Kansas City Chiefs played without their top wide receiver, their left tackle and their starting running back and still had no problem dispatching the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
That's because they received another big game from Mahomes, who threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns in the 33-22 victory.
Mahomes fell short of his second straight 400-plus-yard passing game. He had 443 in last week's game in Oakland. But he had his 13th straight game with more than 300 yards, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Kurt Warner for the most by a player in his first 20 games in NFL history.
The Chiefs every week ask much of Mahomes, the NFL's reigning Most Valuable Player, but his burden was bigger against the Ravens. The Chiefs played without wide receiver Tyreek Hill, left tackle Eric Fisher and running back Damien Williams, all out with injuries.
So they relied on Mahomes more than usual, particularly in the first half. Mahomes attempted a pass on 25 of 34 first-half plays. He completed 20 for two touchdowns, including an 83-yarder to Mecole Hardman that is the second-longest scoring throw of Mahomes' career.
"I think it's the preparation coach [Andy] Reid puts us through during training camp," Mahomes said when asked how the depleted Chiefs continued to roll without so many of their key components. "We get everyone in. Everyone gets reps with the [starters]. I think guys kind of build that confidence then to know that they can play whenever they get their name called."
To Mahomes' point, the Chiefs got contributions from some unheralded players, most notably running back Darrel Williams. After playing little in the season's first two games, Williams led the Chiefs in rushing with 62 yards and caught five passes.
But guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif pointed to Mahomes for keeping things together. Mahomes became the only player in the last 40 seasons with 250 passing yards and two touchdowns in the first half of three straight games.
"Pat being Pat for sure helped," Duvernay-Tardif said.
Ravens safety Earl Thomas said during the week the Ravens would shut off Kansas City's flow of big plays. The Chiefs had six plays of at least 20 yards and five of at least 25.
"We're going to play our offense and do our offense the way we do it," Mahomes said. "We're going to have opportunities to beat people deep and we're going to execute on those. You can say it during the week but we're still going to do what we do every single week."
By the way, Mahomes is smart.
In the second quarter of the win over the Ravens, he had an opportunity to throw a block after receiver Mecole Hardman caught a screen pass to the left and unexpectedly reversed field. There was Mahomes, leading the way and ready to create a moment that would win him ample film-room praise.
He thought better of it, and he hit the deck with a baseball slide.
After the game, Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio asked Mahomes whose voice he heard in his head before he decided in that instant to not actually throw a block.
"I didn't hear anyone," Mahomes said with a laugh. "But I saw Earl Thomas coming."
Instead of giving Thomas a free, clear, and clean shot at blowing up the 2018 MVP, Mahomes did the prudent thing.
Worth noting. ... Hardman hauled in an 83-yard touchdown reception, had another nice grab and even made the fair catch on the dropkick in the closing minutes that helped the Chiefs put away the game. It was the first time Hardman has flashed his game-breaking potential.
Hardman got up to 21.7 mph on that TD, but said he was nowhere near top speed on the play.
"I was about 80 percent [speed], 85," Hardman said. ...
Another rookie, Darwin Thompson, did little with the chances he got at running back. The Chiefs instead leaned on Williams to back up LeSean McCoy with Damien Williams sidelined by a knee injury.
McCoy aggravated his sore ankle late in the game, but otherwise the Chiefs came out of Week 3 in good shape. Williams, Hill (collarbone) and left tackle Eric Fisher (groin) keep improving and should be back at some point this season.
I'll be following up on the status of McCoy and Damien Williams, who did not practice Wednesday (Hill and Fisher were also held out) via Late-Breaking update in coming days. ...
By the way, the Chiefs hit the road for the third time in their first four games when they head to Detroit on Sunday. After that come three prime-time games in the following four weeks.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Moore, Chad Henne
RBs: Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle
TEs: Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Deon Yelder
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
Melvin Gordon might be returning sooner than originally expected.
According to multiple reports on Wednesday morning, Gordon could potentially end his holdout early. No date has been set, but a return this week is being considered.
Branson Wright of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported late Tuesday that the running back could return as early as Thursday.
Gordon is not expected to play this weekend even if he shows up Thursday, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported early Wednesday. Should he return this week, it's more likely that he plays Oct. 6 versus the Broncos.
Gordon has held out since training camp and skipped the first three games of the season. The 26-year-old has been seeking a new contract, but the Chargers haven't budged from the $10 million-per-year offer. The team granted Gordon's camp to seek out a trade before the season started, but there's been no traction on that front.
The running back was never going to pull a Le'Veon Bell and sit out the entire season. Gordon even admitted as much earlier this month. In order to hit free agency in 2020, Gordon needs an accrued season.
With Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson performing well through three weeks, Gordon never gained an inch of leverage to force L.A.'s hand.
With the Chargers sitting at 1-2, perhaps Gordon's holdout could be ending soon. I'll obviously be following up via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant. ...
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams framed it: "The nightmarish flashbacks are returning at a quicker speed for Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn."
The latest, a disappointing 27-20 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday, was eerily similar to how the Chargers lost a week ago in Detroit.
Grab an early lead, but fail to increase the cushion, with turnovers and penalties leading to another frustrating loss for the Chargers.
The Bolts led 17-7 and appeared in control at halftime. However, they managed just three points in the second half and dropped to 1-2 on the season, the team's first two-game losing streak since the 2017 season. It continues a problematic second-half trend where the Chargers are getting outscored 45-10, including just three points in the fourth quarter.
Turnovers and costly penalties have been at the root of the team's struggles, with five turnovers this season in the second half, leading to 15 points for the opposing team.
A strength for the Bolts last season, the Chargers have to, again, figure out how to win close games.
A saving grace for the Chargers is they hit the road to face the winless Miami Dolphins next week.
Another saving grace?
Keenan Allen, who understandably wants others to notice that he's one of the best receivers in the game.
And it seems like people don't realize that, despite the fact he's putting up monster numbers each week.
Playing against the Texans, who have one of the best receivers in the league in DeAndre Hopkins, Allen was the one who put on a show. Allen was targeted a game-high 17 times, finishing with 13 receptions for a career-high 183 receiving yards and two scores.
"I don't know if he can be covered by one guy," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "And I don't say that arrogantly. You can say that about a handful of guys in this league, and he's one of them."
Allen recorded his 23rd 100-yard career performance and also became the first player in team history to record at least eight catches in the first three games of the season. Since the start of the 2017 season, Allen is No. 3 in the NFL in catches (228) and third in the league in receiving yards (2,993). Allen's 1,000 receiving yards on third down during that stretch is tops in the NFL.
For Allen, it was just another day at the office.
"I was just playing my game," Allen said. "It didn't feel like anything different. We've done that to other teams before."
The Texans regularly had trouble keeping up with Allen in coverage. Allen's shiftiness and subtle movements at the top of his routes allowed him to repeatedly create separation in Houston's secondary.
"Keenan understands and processes things very well," offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said this week. "When he sees things on the field, he knows what they're trying to do and he can enact that physically, which is a tremendous talent. He has grown considerably."
The relaxed Allen even had time to say a quick hello to former Cleveland Cavaliers forward J.R. Smith, on hand watching the game along the sidelines.
At 1-2 and scuffling, the Chargers need to find other players to help lessen the load for Allen.
Mike Williams is another option for Rivers. He finished with three receptions for 45 yards against the Texans on seven targets while still playing with a balky knee.
"Keenan gets a lot of attention, so it's going to open up plays for me," Williams said. "I got a lot of opportunities today and made some plays, made some critical third downs. I just have to go back tomorrow, watch the film and get better."
When all was said and done, Rivers had another efficient performance.
He completed 31 of 46 passes for 318 passing yards, with two touchdown passes. Rivers was sacked five times, posting a 101.5 passer rating. However, Rivers also committed his third turnover of the season, losing a fumble that led to a touchdown for the Texans in the third quarter.
As CBSSports.com noted, Ekeler was held in check for the first time this season but still managed a productive game thanks to his involvement in the passing attack.
He carried the ball nine times for 36 yards while adding seven receptions on seven targets for 45 yards.
Even though he continued to clearly work ahead of Jackson, it was surprising to see Ekeler finish with only nine carries, particularly because the Chargers led throughout the first half. Despite the down performance relative to his massive production through the first two weeks of the season, Ekeler has 368 total yards and four touchdowns through three games.
Furthermore, he should have a great chance to return to the end zone in Week 4, as the Chargers draw a matchup against the lowly Dolphins. ...
On the injury front. ... Lynn told reporters on Monday that TE Virgil Green (groin) is day-to-day and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports the injury is considered minor and Green should have a good shot to play this week at Miami. ... Receiver Travis Benjamin is dealing with a quad injury, putting his availability in question. Williams is still dealing with a knee issue, but playing through the pain.
The coach isn't sure whether kicker Michael Badgley, who wasn't able to make his season debut due to a nagging groin injury, will return this week.
I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Andre Patton, Jason Moore
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Lance Kendricks
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
Head coach Sean McVay told reporters Monday that running back Todd Gurley is not on a load management program.
"We're not doing anything like that," McVay said. "It's more along the lines of each week presents a different approach. It's kind of the feel the flow of the game."
Gurley, a two-time All Pro, rushed for 43 yards on 14 carries in a 20-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night.
"I have to do better about being able to give him a chance to really get more into a rhythm than what I've enabled him to do in these first three games," McVay said.
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry notes, Gurley's production has been markedly down from the 2018 season when he rushed for 1,251 yards and caught 59 passes for 580 yards. He led the league with 21 touchdowns.
This season, through a 3-0 start, Gurley has rushed for 203 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 8 yards. By comparison, through the first three games of 2018, Gurley rushed for 255 yards and four touchdowns and caught 11 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown.
Gurley played an average of 85 percent of the snaps through Week 15 last season. (He was sidelined in Week 16 and Week 17.) This season, he is averaging 70 percent. He averaged 22.5 touches per game last season, which has dropped to 16.0 this season, per ESPN Stats and Information research.
Backup Malcolm Brown has assumed a larger role in spelling Gurley, who was sidelined late last season because of his left knee. Brown has rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Last season, in 12 games, Brown rushed for 212 yards on 43 carries.
In Cleveland, Brown had only 7 yards on three carries.
"I think it's worked out good in terms of the balance," McVay said about his usage of Gurley and Brown. "But like I said, I think there is some things you'd like to do a lot better job of giving Todd an opportunity to really get going."
Gurley did not participate in the offseason program and was placed on an every-other-day practice schedule throughout training camp.
McVay said at the start of the regular season that Gurley would maintain an every-other-day practice schedule, but Gurley told reporters that his routine would remain the same to what it has been in the past, which would equate to no rest days.
Gurley has appeared once on the Rams' official injury/participation report as a "Did not practice/not injury related."
Los Angeles had only one carry over 10 yards on Sunday, only the fifth time in McVay's three seasons the Rams have been held to one or fewer double-digit gains on the ground.
"It starts with me," said McVay of the run game. "I keep saying it. I can't keep sitting up here and saying the same thing. I have to find a way to get it fixed and be better for our football team. ..."
Adding to the concern, the offensive line underwent a significant offseason makeover when left guard Rodger Saffold departed in free agency and the team declined the option on center John Sullivan's contract.
On Sunday, with right guard Austin Blythe sidelined because of an ankle sprain, the Rams had three first-year starters on the interior of their line with left guard Joe Noteboom, center Brian Allen and right guard Jamil Demby.
The run-game suffered, as five players rushed for a combined 91 yards and Jared Goff was under duress throughout the game. ...
Meanwhile, as the Los Angeles Times noted, the connection between Goff and receiver Cooper Kupp appears to be getting even stronger.
On Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, Kupp caught a career-best 11 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
"It's a lot of Jared trusting me to be in the right place at the right time," said Kupp, who scored on plays of 11 yards in the third quarter and six yards in the fourth.
Goff completed 24 of 38 passes for 269 yards and the two touchdowns, with two interceptions.
Brandin Cooks caught eight passes for 112 yards. Robert Woods had three receptions for 40 yards.
But Goff most often found Kupp, who has come back from a season-ending knee injury he suffered in 2018.
"He just continues to get himself open," Goff said, "and he finds ways to be on the same page as me."
Goff has thrown 13 touchdown passes to Kupp, the most of any Rams receiver. Kupp's two-TD game against the Browns marked his second career game with multiple scores.
Beyond that, the Rams' troubles scoring touchdowns in the first quarter continued.
Greg Zuerlein's 53-yard field goal in the first quarter against the Browns gave them a 3-0 lead.
The Rams did not score in the first quarter of their 30-27 season-opening victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Zuerlein kicked a first-quarter field goal in the Rams' victory over the Saints. ...
Also of interest. ... Tight end Gerald Everett caught two passes for 15 yards in his first start since his rookie season in 2017.
Everett played in place of starter Tyler Higbee, who suffered a bruised lung in the Rams' 27-9 victory over the Saints. Higbee's status this week will be something I'll be watching; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster, JoJo Natson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As the Associated Press framed it, "For the downtrodden Miami Dolphins, a brighter Sunday draws near, one that may stand as their best at season's end.
"They have a bye coming up. ..."
Otherwise, there's not much to look forward to for a team that is 0-3 and has been outscored 133-16, the NFL's largest point differential after three games since at least 1940. The Dolphins are on pace to set NFL records both for fewest points scored and most points allowed in a 16-game season.
The latest drubbing came Sunday at Dallas, when the Dolphins hung around through a sloppy first half but still lost 31-6. The offense sputtered, the defense faded and even special teams contributed: The Dolphins muffed a punt, missed a field goal and were offside when they recovered an onside kick. Getting blown out was again a team effort.
"There were a lot of shoulda, coulda, wouldas in the game," said rookie coach Brian Flores, still looking for his first win. "We've just got to make the routine plays. This is a game they have all played since they were little. We just need to stay in the present and play the way we've practiced and the way we talk about playing, and I think good things will happen."
Before the bye, the Dolphins return home Sunday and are 16 1/2-point underdogs against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Head coach Brian Flores must try to keep the locker room together as the reality sets in that 0-16 is much more likely than a playoff berth.
His message to the team? "Get better," he said.
Meanwhile, quarterback Josh Rosen had promised aggression and hoped to provide a spark in his first start for the Dolphins. As ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe notes, Rosen did some of that on Sunday, but a quick look at the scoreboard and evaluation of the team's second-half struggles (67 total yards, no points) show how far away the Dolphins are from their first win.
That said, the second-year signal caller provided a strong initial spark, throwing for 156 yards in the first half, including what should have been two touchdown drives spoiled by receivers' drops and other mistakes. He led four drives deep into Dallas territory, but the offense came out with just six points.
In the second half, Rosen went 7-of-17 for 44 yards leading a completely stagnant offense that looked nothing like that bunch that showed progress in the first half. The final result ultimately wasn't much different than when Ryan Fitzpatrick led the offense.
On a more positive note, Wolfe is buying Preston Williams' performance as the Dolphins' leading receiver with a team-high 68 receiving yards on four catches. In fact, Wolfe is buying Williams as the Dolphins' No. 1 receiver going forward.
Rosen and Williams have a great rapport, and the Dolphins' offense will continue to take deep shots to Williams going forward.
The undrafted rookie could have turned a solid day into a great day by holding on to a potential touchdown late in the second quarter (a play that looked like it could have been challenged by Flores). Williams leads all Dolphins players in receiving yards this season with 155 yards.
On the injury front. ... WR Allen Hurns (concussion) returned to South Florida on Monday after spending a night in a Dallas hospital. He's in the concussion protocol. LT Jesse Davis (arm) and RG Danny Isidora (foot) left the game but might be able to play this week, Flores said.
Miami worked out receivers Emanuel Hall, Andy Jones, Damoun Patterson and DeAndre Thompkins on Tuesday, Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel reports. The team also has receivers Isaiah Ford and T.J. Rahming, who were both with the Dolphins during training camp, on the practice squad as potential call-ups.
Albert Wilson has missed the past two weeks with a hip injury. His absence left the Dolphins to finish Sunday's game with DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Jakeem Grant after Hurns' early injury.
Wilson was able to work on a limited basis Wednesday; Hurns did not practice.
Rosen was also checked for a concussion after hitting his head on the turf after a scramble. He missed six plays -- Fitzpatrick entered for him -- before being cleared to return and immediately re-entering the game. Rosen was listed with an injury to his throwing elbow on the initial injury report, but he worked fully Wednesday.
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen
RBs: Patrick Laird, Samaje Perine
WRs: DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins, Trevor Davis
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin put it, "Dalvin Cook, the NFL's rushing leader through the first three weeks, looked every bit the part in the Minnesota Vikings' 34-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday."
Cronin went on to note that before the fourth quarter began, Cook already set one team record and reached two other significant milestones.
Cook shouldered the load on offense for a third straight week, rushing 16 times for 110 yards and a touchdown while adding four catches for 33 yards. His lengthy list of accomplishments earned Sunday include the following:
The first player to run for 100 yards and a rushing touchdown in each of the first three games since DeMarco Murray in 2014;
The first player in Vikings history to rush for 100 yards in each of the team's first three games of the season;
The first Vikings player with 100 rushing yards in three consecutive games since Adrian Peterson in 2015.
"I feel great," Cook said. "I go back to work tomorrow and get my body ready to play another football game. It has been part of my routine, it has been drilled into me since preseason. I have been getting ready to get into playing shape and I am ready to play."
According to Cronin, what the Vikings can glean about their offense in the early part of the season is that Cook is capable of handling a workload that not only allows him to be the centerpiece of this scheme, but carry out a rushing attack that mirrors few others in the NFL.
Minnesota rushed for 211 yards as a team, a feat which it last topped against Miami late in the 2018 season, when the Vikings compiled 220 yards and three touchdowns on 40 rushes. Through three games, Minnesota remains an anomaly in today's pass-heavy NFL with more rushing yards (581) than passing yards (467).
"There's a commitment to running the ball from our coaches philosophically and the way they game plan and the way they call plays, so that's first of all given us a chance," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "We have a very special running back in Dalvin Cook. He's shown that. So those are two big pieces. And then our offensive line is executing the plays.
"I know Coach [Mike] Zimmer, I think that's an important piece for him, too, is to see an offense that's running the football well. Really three weeks in a row we've done that. We're going against a really good football team [the Bears in Chicago] next weekend who's well-known for stopping the run, so that will be a big challenge."
What's striking to Zimmer is the way Cook earned his yards against the Raiders. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Cook rushed 12 times for 84 yards between the tackles Sunday, averaging 7.0 yards per rush. This season, Cook is averaging 6.4 yards on 46 rushes between the tackles after averaging 4.5 yards his first two seasons.
"He doesn't need a lot of space, because he's really good at slithering through holes," Zimmer said. "Maybe the most impressive thing with him is toughness in the tackles. He doesn't ever want to go down, but he's a physical runner with great speed and home run ability."
The Vikings' return on investment in Cook is finally coming together after multiple injuries in the running back's left leg limited him to 15 games in his first two seasons. And his impact isn't just felt in the run game.
Minnesota has averaged 193.7 rushing yards per game this season, but Week 3 was the first time Cousins was able to take full advantage in the passing game, which fed off what Cook did on the ground. Cousins was able to establish an effective play-action attack, going 7-of-9 for 107 yards and a TD on such passes.
Cook's role in this revamped scheme has allowed the Vikings' offense to operate in a way few other teams have in 2019. Some of that has to do with the opponents they've faced. On a more philosophical level, it's because this run-first mentality is how Zimmer wants to see his offense operate on a weekly basis.
"It's part of our head coach's identity," Cook said. "That comes with the old-school rules. We know the type of defense we've got, if we can keep this thing close and keep this thing manageable for us to go win the football game, that's part of running the football and taking big shots and making plays and just converting.
"That's what Zim likes to do. I like it, if that's what Zimmer likes to do."
Fantasy owners like it, too. ...
Of course, as Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio notes, at some point, defenses will overcommit to stopping him, although it may not matter.
But what that will do is create even more chances for a passing game that has Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, eventually establishing the kind of pick-your-poison offense that the Vikings haven't had since 2000, the year of the Four Norsemen of the Apocalypse - Randy Moss, Cris Carter, Robert Smith, and Daunte Culpepper.
Still, those Vikings passed to set up the run. These Vikings need to run to set up the pass. Or run to set up more running.
With Cook and high-end understudies like Alexander Mattison and Mike Boone, the Vikings may be able to do it. Given the presence of a defense far better than any defense the Vikings had in the golden days of Randy Moss, maybe this could be a team that wins big games during the regular season (starting next Sunday at Chicago) and, eventually, multiple games in the postseason.
As long as they make the running back and not the quarterback the focal point of the offense, it's not such a far-fetched possibility. ...
Meanwhile, Cousins earned a much-needed win, restoring some confidence in the quarterback's ability to orchestrate this offense. Cousins completed 15 of 21 passing for 174 yards and a touchdown and finished with a 112.0 passer rating.
Most importantly, Cousins didn't turn the ball over and looked confident and in control.
As fantasy owners undoubtedly realize, through three games last season Thielen had 32 catches and 338 yards. Through three games this year, Thielen has only 11 catches and 173 yards.
The reduced output "doesn't matter to me, as long as we win," Thielen told PFT on Sunday. Thielen explained that he continues to focus on all the little things that go with running routes and getting open, and that he simply tries to make the most out of every opportunity that comes his way.
"It's definitely not harder," Thielen said regarding the change in the focus from passing to running. "It's just different."
By the way, Diggs has just six receptions this year and suffering from a lack of targets. As Tony Holm wrote in USA Today, with Cousins primarily handing the ball off and the Chicago Bears up next, it is hard to see Diggs breaking out anytime soon.
One last note here. ... Since the Vikings haven't been throwing the ball much so far this season, that may make the loss of their No. 3 wide receiver less painful than it might be under other circumstances.
Chad Beebe is also the team's punt returner, however, and that means there will be some shuffling to do even if they remain 32nd in pass attempts.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that Beebe has torn ligaments in his ankle. He's not expected to have surgery at the moment, but that course of action will be re-evaluated in a week.
Beebe has two catches for 70 yards and seven punt returns for 46 yards through the first three weeks of the season.
The injury leaves the Vikings with three healthy receivers in Thielen, Diggs and Olabisi Johnson. They're set to make a move to bring that number to four and the player who will be added to the roster is a familiar name in Minnesota. ESPN reports that the team is signing Laquon Treadwell.
Johnson and Ameer Abdullah could step in to take over Beebe's returner duties.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Olabisi Johnson, Laquon Treadwell, Davion Davis
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted, the level of competition hasn't been among the NFL's elite, but the New England Patriots' defense has nonetheless been the story of the team's season so far.
With the Tom Brady-led offense dealing with a myriad of injury issues, the attacking defense is currently the backbone of the team, sparking memories of the dominant units of the early 2000s that led the team to three Super Bowl titles when Brady was still a young quarterback developing in the system.
The defense made it look easy Sunday against third-string quarterback Luke Falk and the New York Jets in a 30-14 win (touchdowns were scored on a pick-six and muffed punt). That was similar to Week 2 against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Miami Dolphins. Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers were no match in the opener.
Next up is a visit to face the Buffalo Bills, who aren't in the offensive powerhouse category, either, but should provide a greater challenge to a defense that has come out of the chute blazing.
The Patriots' fast starts have them playing games on their terms. Dating to last season (including the playoffs), the Patriots have outscored opponents 140-10 in the first half in their past eight games.
Of some concern?
Julian Edelman left in the second quarter of Sunday's game against the New York Jets and missed the rest of the game with what the Patriots called a chest injury.
The injury is thought to be to Edelman's ribs, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter, but the source added that Edelman "should be OK."
Edelman sustained the injury on a three-yard catch with 1:18 remaining until halftime. On the play, he caught a short pass and ran up the field, with Jets cornerback Brian Poole swiping at his legs. As the 5-foot-10, 198-pound Edelman fell to the ground, he was landed on by 6-6, 301-pound defensive lineman Henry Anderson.
Edelman reached for the area of his ribs on his right side as he stood up. He stayed on the field for the team's final play of the drive, and then left for the locker room as the Jets took over possession with 34 seconds remaining until halftime.
The Patriots' offense sputtered without Edelman.
"When you're missing your best players, it gets more challenging and your margin of error goes down," Brady said. "Every team deals with it."
The Patriots' receiving corps was thinned after the release of Antonio Brown on Friday, and Edelman is Brady's No. 1 option. The team's other starter, Josh Gordon, injured his left hand in the third quarter and required medical attention as well, but he returned to action with his ring and pinkie fingers taped together.
Until Gordon returned, five-year veteran Phillip Dorsett and undrafted rookie free agents Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski were the only receivers available for action.
Dorsett said if Edelman does have to miss any games, he has confidence the younger players will be ready to step in.
"They need to be ready. And they were ready," Dorsett said. ...
Worth noting. ... Generally speaking, the offense didn't skip a beat after the team released Brown. Brady continued to spread the ball around despite the offense playing without running back James White and fullback James Develin.
On the season New England's offense is averaging 35.3 points per game, which is second in the NFL behind only the Ravens (36.7).
Brady came out of the game with 8:41 remaining, but when backup Jarrett Stidham threw a pick-six to help the Jets close to 30-14, Brady returned with 6:22 to play. Head coach Bill Belichick often talks about finishing the game, and this was an unusual move, although not unprecedented (he did the same thing with Matt Cassel/Brady in Miami in 2007).
Brady got off to a stellar start, but after the Patriots built a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter, the attack began to sputter. It was a struggle the rest of the way and losing Edelman didn't help.
The Patriots placed Develin (neck) on injured reserve Monday. Develin has been a key to helping the offense establish a physical edge on offense, as the club is one of the few in the NFL that still uses the FB position extensively. Develin had played 41.5 percent of the offensive snaps through two games. FB Jakob Johnson, promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, moves to the top of the depth chart. ...
Of some concern for fantasy owners is the slow start by Sony Michel, who carried the ball nine times for 11 yards with a touchdown against the Jets.
Michel ranks dead last among 48 qualified running backs in PFF's elusive rating through three games. He's only forced one missed tackle and averages 1.67 yards after contact per attempt. Beyond that, Michel has only been targeted once in the passing game, and the pass was inaccurate.
The Patriots' offense might need to get a little less predictable when Michel is on the field. They're running on 60.1 percent of his snaps.
NESN.com's Doug Kyed thinks Michel will get better this season, but he's currently being outplayed by Rex Burkhead.
Neither player had much room to run Sunday, but when Michel faced a defender, he went down. On two runs when Burkhead similarly met a defender at the line of scrimmage, he powered through or spun off for 5- and 6-yard runs. It would be nice to see Michel use his power, a juke or a spin move to at least try to avoid a tackle.
But as Kyed notes, Burkhead was more effective than Michel. He carried the ball 11 times for 47 yards with a touchdown. He also caught six passes for 22 yards with White out for the birth of his son. ...
For the record, in addition to Edelmam, Burkhead (foot) was limited at practice Wednesday. Brady (calf) was limited, too. It's worth noting Burkhead had an X-ray on the foot after Sunday's game, so the fact he worked at all Wednesday is a positive. ... I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Perhaps not surprising in light of Stidham's poor showing, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter early Wednesday the Patriots are signing former Jaguars-Eagles-Browns QB Cody Kessler. ...
Worth noting. ... Brady turned philosophical when discussing Brown being released after just 11 days with the team.
"I do have a lot of personal feelings, none of which I really care to share," Brady said in his weekly interview on "The Greg Hill Show" on sports radio WEEI. "It's a difficult situation. That's kind of how I feel."
Brady, who spent one-on-one time with Brown on and off the field in hopes of easing his transition to the team, shared in general terms how he approaches his role as a leader on the Patriots.
"There's a lot of human elements. As a player, as a person, I care deeply about my teammates. I want everyone to be the best they can possibly be," he said on the program. "From the day I started with this team, even back in college, you try to provide leadership, and you try to care for people. You try to provide whatever you think you can to help them reach their highest potential -- whatever situation it is.
Brady said that as long as he's playing and part of a team and community, he will "keep believing in people, in joy, in love" because "that's what works for me."
And finally. ... Sunday's win over the Jets was the Patriots' 116th win of the decade of 2010-2019, and that's a new NFL record for the most regular-season wins in any decade in the history of the league.
The Patriots broke the old record of 115 wins, set by the Colts from 2000 to 2009.
New England already owned the record for most total wins in a decade counting both regular-season and postseason games. That record currently stands at 132 wins this decade. The previous record was also owned by the Patriots, who had 126 combined regular-season and postseason wins from 2000 to 2009.
As Profootballtalk.com noted, the Patriots are wrapping up two decades of dominance. And they show no signs of slowing down.
QBs: Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris
WRs: Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, N'Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers
TEs: Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
Sean Payton has won a lot of games in a lot of ways during his time as the Saints' head coach, but he found a new box to check off on Sunday.
Payton won a game without Drew Brees at quarterback for the first time as Teddy Bridgewater piloted the offense in a 33-27 win over the Seahawks. It was the first time Bridgewater started in a win for his team since the final week of the 2015 season and Payton said he was "proud" of how Bridgewater, who suffered a severe knee injury in the summer of 2016, played.
Bridgewater said he had to get his emotions in check before the game got underway.
"I was just thinking about the process from the time I was injured up until now," Bridgewater said. "Just thinking about all the ones who believed in me and just being back on this stage and getting to show how faithful God is, all my emotions were running at the same time."
Of course, the Saints won with a total team effort. Their first touchdown was a 53-yard punt return by undrafted rookie Deonte Harris just three minutes into the game. And their second touchdown was a 33-yard fumble return by safety Vonn Bell after cornerback Eli Apple forced a fumble in the second quarter.
New Orleans also leaned heavily on dynamic running back Alvin Kamara, who touched the ball on 25 of their 50 offensive snaps -- finishing with 16 carries for 69 yards, nine catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
But Bridgewater was solid in the victory, especially during the third quarter, while playing almost every snap at quarterback. Bridgewater finished 19-of-27 passing for 177 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions -- including one 5-yard completion to fellow QB Taysom Hill on a third-down conversion in the fourth quarter.
He got help from Kamara and Michael Thomas (five catches, and a touchdown). He got the ball to the play-makers, and they made plays. The offensive line still has some cleanup duty -- the penalties are concerning, and they're often drive-killers. But offensively, the Saints did exactly what they needed to do by scoring those three touchdowns. And they converted critical third downs to keep alive drives. It was a good day.
Bridgewater's last victory came during his second NFL season, when he led the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs in 2015. He then suffered a devastating knee injury the following summer and missed nearly two full seasons.
It's clear that Bridgewater's teammates and coaches gravitate toward him. There's a reason they traded a third-round draft pick to acquire him last year -- then re-upped by making him the highest-paid backup in the NFL this offseason with a one-year deal worth $7.25 million, plus incentives.
"I've been saying it all week, he's a leader. He has stripes in this league. He's done it before," Kamara said. "This is his opportunity. He stepped up."
Brees is expected to miss about six games, although no specific timetable has been determined.
The Saints' next game is another showdown of top NFC contenders, with the 3-0 Dallas Cowboys coming into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday Night Football.
After the Saints play the Cowboys, they face four teams that stumbled out of the gate to various extents this season: Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Chicago and Arizona.
Meanwhile, the Saints hope Latavius Murray, signed away from Minnesota as a free agent, will give them more physicality in the running game. While he ran for a 30-yard TD in a season-opening victory against Houston, he's been far less a factor the past two weeks, with five carries for 7 yards in Los Angeles, two carries for 2 yards in Seattle.
Tre'Quan Smith missed this game with an ankle injury; I'll be watching for more on his status heading into Sunday night's game as the week progresses; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tre'quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
The New York Giants will be without star running back Saquon Barkley for the next several games.
Barkley underwent testing and was examined Monday by team consultant Dr. Martin O'Malley, ankle specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery and the second-year man is scheduled to see specialist Dr. Robert Anderson on Wednesday for an additional opinion.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Barkley will be out the next several weeks because of a high ankle sprain, per a source informed of the situation. ESPN's Adam Schefter put the timeline at anywhere between four and eight weeks. But Schefter added a longer timeline is considered more likely; the Giants have a bye in week 11, which could give Barkley eight weeks to recover and return for last six games.
None of this is a huge surprise after Barkley was in a walking boot and crutches following the Giants dramatic 32-31 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Barkley left the win in the second quarter and was helped to the locker room. He finished the game with eight carries for 10 yards and four receptions for 27 yards.
The second-year back knew after the game that the injury wouldn't keep him out the season.
"I'm not out for the season," Barkley said, via NJ.com. "I'm going to do whatever I can to get back as quickly as possible. Not for myself, but for my team. That's what I continue to think about. I caught myself getting a little upset on the sideline just because I wasn't able to be out there with those guys."
With Barkley out for the next several weeks, Wayne Gallman should see a bigger workload with Elijhaa Penny taking big-back duties.
The Giants worked out free agent running back Benny Cunningham on Tuesday, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports, as the Giants try to figure out the way forward in Barkley's absence.
"It's like any injury, it's very unfortunate to have Saquon out of the lineup," head coach Pat Shurmur said. "We all know what he brings to the team, but it's going to fall on all of us to move forward and do what we can to win games."
Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones provided a spark to a floundering Giants team leading an impressive come-from-behind victory sans Barkley in the second half of his first career start. The job of the young signal-caller will clearly be put to the test without Barkley for the next few weeks, but the initial outing was impressive.
Tight end Evan Engram, who scored on a 75-yard pass play to ignite the comeback, noted the rally happened with Barkley on the bench.
"A lot of guys stepped up and made plays and we found a way to win," Engram said. "I think we have a lot of talent, and we have the personnel to be successful and to move forward. We are definitely rallying behind Wayne and are going to push him, and make sure he gets prepared this week, as we all know that he will. We are all going to come in on Sunday with that same mentality that we had going into the second half after losing Saquon."
Jones accounted for four touchdowns, including a 7-yard run on fourth down that put the Giants ahead for the first time with 1:16 remaining in the game.
Jones finished 23-of-36 for 336 yards with two passing and two rushing touchdowns, flashing the poise and playmaking ability that made the Giants fall in love enough to make him the No. 6 overall pick.
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan noted, the Giants (1-2) topped 17 points for the first time this season against a Todd Bowles-led defense that had looked solid the first two weeks. They escaped with the victory after Tampa Bay missed a 34-yard field goal as time expired.
Eli Manning had been the team's full-time starter for all but one game since 2004, but Shurmur made the switch after last week's loss to the Buffalo Bills, saying that Jones was the better option for the Giants. The rookie proved Shurmur correct, at least in his first career start.
Jones flashed playmaking ability throughout. He ran for a touchdown in the first and second halves and used his legs on numerous occasions to create positive gains on plays that would have otherwise been dead.
On Wednesday, Jones was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
"You can start to see -- and as you get to appreciate him as a player -- there's plenty of things he needs to do better. But as you get to -- there's certain things that I knew about this kid when we drafted him: He was tough, he was competitive, and in my opinion he's a winner," Shurmur said. "Now, the rest of it is just pure quarterback stuff. And because of those first three things, that's why he's gonna have a chance moving forward."
According to Raanan, what Jones showed on the field in his first career start was much the same as what the team has seen ever since he stepped into the building earlier this year. He checked all the boxes this spring, summer and in the preseason, when he completed better than 85 percent of his passes.
The lone knock was ball security. After three fumbles in the preseason, Jones lost a fumble on one of his four snaps late in the season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He also lost a pair of fumbles on Sunday when he was sacked in the third and fourth quarters against the Bucs.
But the positives significantly outweighed the negatives in this outing.
Jones displayed impressive composure and poise not usually seen from rookie quarterbacks in the NFL.
Beyond Barkley, Shurmur also said linebacker Alec Ogletree pulled a hamstring in the second quarter and his replacement, Tae Davis, sustained a concussion in the second half.
Receiver Russell Shepard also is being evaluated for a sprained foot. Shurmur seemed concerned about the injury but he did not say more. But NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported early Wednesday that Shepard's status is "in doubt." The status of Cody Latimer, who missed this game with a concussion, also bears watching in coming days. I'll have more as needed via Late-Breaking Update. ...
One last note here. ... Jones has an arm on him and got a chance to show off his wheels. But as Profootballtalk.com's Charean Williams noted, what no one on the Giants knew until Sunday was the rookie quarterback has a mouth on him, too.
"He came in the huddle and he started cussing and we were like, 'Wow, I didn't know DJ could cuss,'" Russell Shepard said, via Tom Rock of Newsday. "Didn't know he was that fiery. ... It was probably midway through the second. We were in the red zone. He was just ready to win. He was going to will us to win."
The magic word is unprintable, but it is receiving credit for helping the Giants in their comeback.
"He's like the world's most mysterious man," Shepard said. "He's laid back. He doesn't say too much. ... I've heard him say some things, but I've never heard him cuss before. It was the 'F' word. And I loved it. I'm a big cusser, and I was pretty impressed."
QBs: Daniel Jones, Eli Manning, Alex Tanney
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Javorius Allen, Elijhaa Penny, Austin Walter
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer, Cody Core, Da'Mari Scott
TEs: Kaden Smith, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
According to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini, "With no wins and no offense, the New York Jets (0-3) reached their bye week in a state of utter desperation. They've been reduced to rooting for Sam Darnold's spleen. ..."
Their starting quarterback, sidelined the past two games with mononucleosis, hopes to return immediately for the Week 5 game against the Eagles. Darnold's plan is to start light running this week, followed by practice next week in preparation for the Eagles.
While he claims to be feeling better, he won't receive clearance from the doctors until his spleen -- enlarged because of the illness -- returns to its normal size.
Darnold wasn't permitted to travel to Sunday's 30-14 loss to the New England Patriots, but his presence was felt in the postgame locker room. With nothing going right on offense, his teammates looked to Darnold's anticipated return as an elixir. Safety Jamal Adams called it "a new season when we get back," and the hope is Darnold will be the quarterback when the reboot occurs.
"We have to keep believing in these guys and know they'll get it right," defensive end Leonard Williams said of his offensive teammates. "Sam is going to get healthy and come back, and everything will fall into place."
Asked if the second-year quarterback can save the day, Williams smiled and said, "I hope so."
The Jets are putting a lot of pressure on Darnold, who still is a developing player, but what else can they do?
As Cimini noted, Luke Falk isn't the answer, as he struggled mightily in his starting debut. He was drafted 199th overall in 2018, 18 years after Tom Brady was picked in the same spot, but the similarities end there. It wasn't all his fault, but Falk was overwhelmed in his 98-yard, five-sack performance. It would be deflating for the Jets if head coach Adam Gase has to trot out Falk in Philadelphia.
But it will take more than Darnold to get this offense back to respectability.
Cimini went on to remind readers his is an offense that has produced only one touchdown in three games, none in the past two. The offensive line, which didn't play together in the preseason, looks totally out of sync. It's one thing to get beat physically, but quite another to blow assignments and leave defenders unblocked. The Jets are doing the latter, and it's ruining Le'Veon Bell and Robby Anderson, their top playmakers.
"We're kind of all over the place, so we have to get that fixed," Gase said of the line.
Falk's lack of experience contributed to some of the communication issues, but let's not blame the kid for everything. The line, comprised of five veterans, is underachieving.
"It's not a scheme problem, I can tell you that," center Ryan Kalil insisted. "The schemes are good, they really are. There's criticism about being creative, but it's tough to be creative when it's second-and-18."
You can see the frustration on the players' faces. After the game, Bell, Anderson and running back Ty Montgomery sat motionless at their lockers, still in game garb, staring at their smart phones. Anderson came close to criticizing the offensive line, saying the solution "starts up front and it goes from there."
The last thing Gase needs is a fissure in the foundation. The Jets have reached a vulnerable state, and they need a positive jolt before it gets really ugly.
They need a respite. The bye week will help there.
And they need Darnold.
Toward that end, the Jets released QB David Fales which is a pretty good indication of how confident they are about Darnold's return next week. ...
Worth noting, tight end Chris Herndon will be eligible to return from his four-game suspension as well. ...
A few final items. ... As NFL.com's Marcas Grant noted, Braxton Berrios led the Jets in targets despite playing 59 percent of the snaps.
To fill the roster spot cleared by Fales' release, the Jets signed wide receiver Vyncint Smith off of the Texans' practice squad.
QBs: Sam Darnold, David Fales
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Bilal Powell, Ty Montgomery, Kenneth Dixon, Josh Adams
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, Tim White, Demaryius Thomas
TEs: Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez suggested, the Raiders, embarking upon a near-two-month road trip away from the East Bay, seemingly got a late wake-up call in the Twin Cities, falling behind by three touchdowns before showing any semblance of life -- a flea-flicker touchdown pass from Derek Carr to J.J. Nelson in the second quarter.
And that was it.
The Raiders were flat, and then flattened by the Minnesota Vikings, 34-14, to drop to 1-2 on the season. In fact, since taking a 10-0 lead into the second quarter against the Chiefs last week, the Raiders have been outscored 62-14.
Can they get right at the Indianapolis Colts next week?
There are some possible avenues for improvement.
For example, Josh Jacobs is averaging just over 15 touches a game, but only one of his 46 touches is a reception.
The Raiders running back has one catch for 28 yards, and that came in the season opener. He has had only two targets since, with both of those coming Sunday.
"Yeah, we're trying," head coach Jon Gruden said Monday, via Jimmy Durkin of TheAthletic.com. "We definitely do want to get Josh to be a big part of the passing game. No doubt. We certainly do. We'd like to get more out of Jalen Richard as well. All of our backs. We take a lot of pride in using our backs in the passing game. You are right, though, 100 percent. We've got to get more out of Josh as a receiver."
The Raiders running backs have combined for eight receptions for 70 yards.
Jacobs made 48 receptions in his three seasons at Alabama, gaining 571 yards and scoring five touchdowns.
He has made an impact as a runner, with 45 rushes for 288 yards and two touchdowns through three games, but Jacobs could become an even bigger part of the offense.
Meanwhile, it's become clear the Raiders have an issue at wide receiver.
After Antonio Brown's release, the Raiders have struggled to find weapons for quarterback Derek Carr to get the ball to outside of Tyrell Williams and tight end Darren Waller.
Nelson made his Raiders debut Sunday, but the receiver wasn't the electric speed weapon he appeared to be during training camp. Rookie Hunter Renfrow hasn't seen a lot of balls thrown his way early, and veteran Ryan Grant was a healthy scratch after two dud outings to open the year.
Naturally, the next question is: Well, what about Keelan Doss?
After getting cut by the Raiders at the end of August, Doss returned to the Silver and Back after Brown's release, but has yet to find himself in the rotation.
After opening the season with a win over the Broncos, the Raiders' offense has sputtered over its last seven quarters in losses to the Vikings and Chiefs.
So, is it Doss time?
"Like I said, we used a lot of double tight end sets yesterday," Gruden said Monday. "We used three tight ends at times. For a reason, we got a great group of tight ends. That are playing better than just about any unit on our offense. They are playing outstanding football. I know Doss is a topic that comes up a lot, He's a rookie. He's right now playing three different positions and he's backing up all three.
"When the time is right, you'll see him. But right now he's got to keep competing, getting better like all young players."
With Grant scratched and Nelson mostly ineffective save a 29-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker, Gruden is hoping to get some more out of his wide receivers this week in practice, which includes Doss and new addition Trevor Davis. The Raiders' overall health, however, has contributed to Gruden's ability to trot out the receiving corps he wants. ...
Grant was released by the team on Wednesday. ...
On a more positive note, one thing that is working is Carr's connection with Waller. The athletic tight end was the team's best offensive weapon against the Vikings, and far and away enjoyed the best statistical day of anyone in a Raiders' uniform. All told, Waller played 53 snaps (90 percent), and finished his career day with 13 catches for 134 yards - both single-game highs for any tight end in the NFL this season.
Waller now has 26 catches for 267 yards this season. Waller came into the season with 18 career catches for 178 yards since entering the league in 2015.
After scoring in the team's first two games of 2019, Williams found the end zone once again Sunday, even if it was in the final minutes of regulation.
Williams played 57 snaps (97 percent) in the Week 3 clash with the Vikings, finishing his afternoon with three catches for 29 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. With the score, No. 16 became the third receiver in franchise history to record at least one receiving touchdown in each of the first three weeks of the season.
QBs: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Keelan Doss
TEs: Darren Waller, Derek Carrier
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi reported, Doug Pederson has a simple solution to fix the Philadelphia Eagles' problems.
"Catch the ball," the coach said Monday.
The Eagles (1-2) are two dropped passes on final drives away from possibly being 3-0. Nelson Agholor let a perfectly thrown pass slip through his fingers instead of going for a go-ahead 60-yard touchdown with under two minutes left in a 24-20 loss at Atlanta last week. JJ Arcega-Whiteside couldn't haul in a deep pass on fourth down in a 27-24 loss to Detroit on Sunday.
"It's just focus and concentration and we have to make sure that we do a better job there and we just continue to work it in practice, throw it to them, whether it's in individual work or get on the JUGS machine, like guys do before and after practice," Pederson said. "We have to continue to do that."
Overall, an offense missing its two top playmakers had seven drops, lost two fumbles and committed three offensive pass interference penalties against the Lions.
DeSean Jackson was out with an abdomen injury and Alshon Jeffery a calf strain. Agholor, Arcega-Whiteside and Mack Hollins not only had issues holding onto Carson Wentz's passes, but there were times they just couldn't get open. The line didn't block well and Wentz held the ball longer than he needed at times, too.
Wentz has been sacked six times and absorbed 14 hits in the past two games.
"It could be that he's trying to make a play so he's hanging on to the ball just an extra tick, receivers trying to separate at the top of the route," Pederson said. "There are a lot of factors that go into that. Scrambles go into that. So it's not all on one person. We have to look at that as an offense and stay out of third-and-long situations."
It's not all bad.
The Eagles are converting third downs better than every team except Dallas, though extending drives isn't always translating into points because of five turnovers. Philadelphia is 27 of 48 (56.3. The Cowboys are first with a 58.1 conversion percentage.
And kicker Jake Elliott is perfect on six extra points and four field goals. But he's the lone bright spot for a struggling team -- and that's saying something.
This week, the Eagles have a quick turnaround. They visit the Packers (3-0) on Thursday night, trying to avoid a 1-3 start.
Pederson has said all along that Jeffery and Dallas Goedert (calf) would play against the Packers while Jackson will miss another game.
Reporters at Eagles practice said that Jeffery was moving well at the open portion of Tuesday's practice. On Wednesday, Jeffery and Goedert were removed from the final injury report -- as was Arcega-Whiteside (heel).
Running back Corey Clement (shoulder) is questionable.
Jackson and cornerback Ronald Darby, who injured his hamstring on Sunday, have been ruled out.
I'll continue to follow up as needed; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for all the latest right up through kickoff. ...
Meanwhile, Wentz went 19-of-36 for 259 yards with a pair of touchdowns and 94.6 QB rating. Perhaps his best pass of the day was wasted, as a wide-open Goedert, who was playing through that calf injury, dropped a perfect pass in the end zone.
Wentz also found some success on the ground (four carries, 33 yards), but his fourth-down run late in the game ended short of the sticks, giving possession back to Detroit. ...
Hollins, thrust into a starting receiver role, had a pair of costly offensive pass interference penalties, while Arcega-Whiteside, a rookie, was limited to one catch for 10 yards.
Arcega-Whiteside has played 130 snaps the past two games, but only been targeted seven times and has two catches.
Rookie running back Miles Sanders fumbled twice on the same drive. He had his most productive game otherwise, catching two passes for 73 yards and rushing for 53. However, his ball security is a concern.
The Eagles remain high on the rookie running back, but he has been dealing with some growing pains over the past two weeks in particular. It might be time to increase the role of veteran Jordan Howard. ...
Worth noting: Wentz entered halftime as the team's third-leading tackler. Both of the team's turnovers -- a result of fumbles by Agholor and Sanders -- forced Wentz into action. And while he acquitted himself well, it's not exactly the position you want to put your franchise quarterback in.
And finally. ... A video went viral Monday. In an interview originally tweeted by Steve Lindsay of the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia, an unidentified man describes the scene at a burning building.
"My man just started throwing babies out of the window, and we was catching 'em, unlike Agholor," said the man, identified as Hakim Lewis by NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com.
Agholor responded after seeing a retweet by ESPN.
"Thank you for being a hero in the community, would like to invite you and your family to the next home game," Agholor wrote. "Twitter help me out and get me in touch with him."
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson
RBs: Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, Jay Ajayi
WRs: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, Robert Davis, Nelson Agholor
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor wrote, "The key to a successful offensive game plan for a first-time starting quarterback is generally simple enough.
"Run the ball. ..."
With quarterback Mason Rudolph starting for the first time, the Steelers entered Sunday's game against the 49ers with the intention of leaning on third-year running back James Conner.
The 49ers loaded the box early and often with eight defenders, trying to force Rudolph to throw. Pittsburgh, however, couldn't get anything going in the passing game, settling for short throws barely past the line of scrimmage. And with the 49ers' stacked front, the Steelers couldn't run the ball effectively, either, creating a lackluster offense in Rudolph's starting debut.
Conner ran the ball just once on the first two drives before opening up the third drive with back-to-back carries. He got the ball once more on the drive, one that ended in a punt just before halftime. That capped off a half in which he carried the ball seven times for 18 yards. His longest run went for just 5 yards.
It wasn't until the fourth quarter that Conner finally had a double-digit run, picking up 10 yards to open a drive that ended with Rudolph's 39-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson.
It was the kind of run the Steelers needed from Conner all afternoon but got just once.
When his number was called again in the fourth quarter to milk the clock after the 49ers' fifth turnover, Conner ran for 5 yards and then fumbled it away two plays later, giving the 49ers the ball just outside the red zone.
"That never happens to James," Rudolph said of the fumble. "James is an unbelievable player. We were still being aggressive in that situation and mixed the run with the pass."
It was Conner's fourth fumble since the start of the 2018 season.
"It's frustrating," said Conner, who gave reporters a series of one- and two-word answers during his postgame availability, via Ray Fittipaldo of the Post-Gazette.
Conner finished the game with 45 yards on 13 carries -- the most he's had this season. But it's a far cry from his standard a season ago.
Last season, he had only three games in which he carried the ball fewer than 13 times, and the Steelers went 1-2 in those games. The Steelers were 7-2-1 last year when Connor rushed at least 13 times.
Through three games this season, Conner is averaging an anemic 2.9 yards per carry. He has rushed just 34 times for 97 yards -- far from his numbers through three games a season ago. In the 2018 three-game opening stretch, Conner rushed for 213 yards on 54 carries and scored three touchdowns. He has just one this season.
Part of the problem, of course, is that the Steelers went away from the run game when trailing 20-0 to the Patriots in Week 1. And even before Pittsburgh found itself in a three-score hole in that game, the run game was hardly effective. Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner tried to lean on Conner to pick up a third-and-1 early in the game, calling an inside run that was snuffed out before the line of scrimmage. That influenced his subsequent calls, he said, and caused him to go away from the run.
"I think we ran it 10 times in the first half," Fichtner said. "It probably wasn't as efficient per run. I probably got a little bit down when we didn't make the first third-and-1. ... We didn't get it, and it probably drained on me for the next several calls that I made."
Pryor notes that Conner also isn't getting long runs off this season.
Last year, his longest rushes in the first three weeks went for 22 and 27 yards. This year, he's had a 14-yarder to go with Sunday's 10-yard run.
So far, the Steelers' longest rush of the season belongs to rookie Benny Snell, who picked up a 23-yard gain against the Seahawks a week ago. The Steelers have also expressed plans for Jaylen Samuels as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, but he didn't get on the field Sunday.
The Steelers know how to manufacture a dominant run game. They did it a season ago with Conner as Le'Veon Bell held out. This year, though, second-guessing and an inexplicable lack of commitment to the run is dramatically hurting the offense.
"You got to trust yourself," Fichtner said in the week after the loss to the Patriots. "You got to trust your preparation. You're going to maybe get beat at the point of attack and not make one or make a bad cut and not get one, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the scheme is bad and the opportunity next time won't be good. I think you just got to stick to your guns and the type of things you do."
For what it's worth (even if that's just piece of mind for those invested in the team's receiving corps), the Steelers offense, dormant for so much of the game, came alive in the second half thanks to a couple of deep passes by Rudolph and a brief burst in the run game.
Rudolph hit wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 76-yard catch-and-run touchdown to cap a three-play, 82-yard drive late in the third quarter.
The Steelers then opened the fourth quarter with the above-mentioned 10-yard run by Conner, followed by a deep pass attempt to James Washington that drew a defensive pass interference flag and set up for Rudolph's 39-yard touchdown to Johnson -- the rookie's first of his NFL career.
"It was a matter of finding the right time to take the top off the defense," Rudolph said. "Maybe I have to be more aggressive. We'll watch the tape and figure that out."
Head coach Mike Tomlin gave wide receiver Donte Moncrief the week off after Moncrief spent his first two games in Pittsburgh dropping passes with alarming regularity. Whether Moncrief returns to the active roster anytime soon will depend on how quickly he can regain his confidence and rebuild trust with the coaching staff. ...
On the injury front. ... Tight end Vance McDonald left with a shoulder injury and did not return. Tomlin told reporters on Wednesday, "I'm optimistic about Vance being available (for the Bengals)" despite the fact McDonald's arm was in a sling.
In addition, as ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the Steelers acquired tight end Nick Vannett from the Seahawks Tuesday night.
Vannett joins a tight end group in Pittsburgh that includes McDonald and Zach Gentry. The team also signed Alizé Mack to its practice squad Tuesday.
The missing name? Xavier Grimble, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday due to a calf injury.
Vannett, an Ohio State product, is in his fourth season with the Seahawks. He has four catches for 38 yards this year.
I'll be following up on McDonald via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant, but it's not looking great. ...
And finally. ... Ben Roethlisberger underwent successful surgery on his right elbow Monday in Los Angeles and already has his eyes set on a return to the football field next season, according to a statement from team spokesman Burt Lauten. "Once Ben returns to Pittsburgh, he immediately will begin working with the Steelers' medical staff on his rehabilitation, and he is expected to make a full recovery and return to the field for the 2020 NFL season," Lauten noted.
The Steelers placed Big Ben on injured reserve following the team's Week 2 loss to the Seahawks. It was in that game that Roethlisberger injured his elbow in the first half and was replaced by Rudolph after halftime.
In his game and a half as the Steelers' offensive orchestrator, the former 2018 third-round pick has completed 26 of his 46 pass attempts for 286 yards (56.5-percent completion rate), four touchdowns and two interceptions.
QBs: Devlin Hodges, Mason Rudolph, Ben Roethlisberger
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds, Kerrith Whyte
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Johnny Holton, Deon Cain, Tevin Jones
TEs: Vance McDonald, Nick Vannett, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
Making his third start of the season and third since returning from a torn left ACL suffered last September, Jimmy Garoppolo felt more pressure Sunday than he had in the first two weeks combined -- in more ways than one.
Garoppolo had been sacked once and hit just twice in the first two games.
With the 49ers starting rookie Justin Skule at left tackle and their general preference for dialing up pressures, the Steelers made it clear they intended to throw everything they had at Garoppolo. By the time it was over, Garoppolo had been sacked just one time, but unofficial press box statistics had him taking eight hits.
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner suggested, it seemed like many more.
Despite the pressure, Garoppolo didn't flinch, sometimes even shaking loose from would-be tacklers and either making a play down the field, scrambling for a gain or throwing it away to preserve down and distance.
"I think it's huge, always for a quarterback and with anyone," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "With him coming off the ACL, it's been longer. You don't hit guys in practice, so you're going to get in the games, and I think sometimes the more Jimmy gets hit, the better he does. He responded to it well and played very tough."
Garoppolo's toughness served as an example on a day when just about everything that could go wrong did. The Niners turned the ball over five times, including four in the first half. Two of those were interceptions charged to Garoppolo and he had his hand in two botched center/quarterback exchanges. Three of those turnovers came with the 49ers inside Pittsburgh's 30, turning a game that could have been far more comfortable into a nail-biter.
After a third-down miscue on a snap that hit motioning receiver Richie James Jr. that the Steelers recovered at their 7, Garoppolo was visibly frustrated.
"I was upset," Garoppolo said. "But the defense, when they're playing like that, it gives you such confidence on the sideline. So it was just more about getting our guys ready for the next series. They make huge plays like that on defense, it sets us up for success."
Through it all, Garoppolo said he never thought about his surgically-repaired knee, delivering against and under pressure.
"The leg has felt good," Garoppolo said. "I haven't really had any issues with it this whole time. It wasn't like it proved anything to me, but it's a good confidence booster, I guess."
As Garoppolo's comeback season continues, there will undoubtedly be more difficult challenges in the offing but there have been signs of notable progress through the first three weeks, particularly after a difficult opener against Tampa Bay. On Sunday, Garoppolo finished 23-of-32 for 277 yards with a touchdown and the two interceptions for a passer rating of 82.4.
More important, Garoppolo showed for the first time that he can take those hits, get up and keep coming. He also showed more willingness to get the ball down the field, averaging 7.6 air yards per attempt against the Steelers after an average of 6.6 air yards the first two weeks.
All of that is meaningful as the Niners' schedule toughens and more will be asked of the presumed franchise quarterback.
"It didn't bother him throughout the game," Sherman said. "Obviously, he stayed poised, especially on the game-winning drive, the game-winning touchdown."
On the injury front. ... Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon will miss "at least a month" with a foot sprain, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday. Mike Maiocco of NBCSportsBayArea.com reports Witherspoon is seeking a second opinion from a foot specialist. Shanahan said Emmanuel Moseley is in line to replace Witherspoon, but Jason Verrett and others will compete for the starting job.
The 49ers have a bye this week.
The 49ers will get back two key pieces of the offense ahead of the primetime matchup against the Cleveland Browns in Week 5. Jalen Hurd, who missed the last month with a stress reaction in his back, is expected to return to practice. According Shanahan, Hurd will continue to rehab at the team's facility over the bye week, and is expected to practice on Monday.
Running back Tevin Coleman is also expected to return next week following an ankle injury suffered during San Francisco's Week 1 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. According to Shanahan, the running back has been jogging during practice and appears to be "moving pretty well."
There's a good chance that both Coleman and Hurd will suit up ahead of San Francisco's "Monday Night Football" contest at Levi's Stadium against the Browns.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Jordan Matthews
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Levine Toilolo
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson noted, the ultra-optimistic view of the Seattle Seahawks' first two games was that they managed a 2-0 start despite not playing anything close to their best football. As Tyler Lockett wondered aloud after the opener: If they can win like that, imagine how dangerous they'd be when they're at their best.
The flip side of that: No team could expect to continue to overcome mistakes like the ones the Seahawks were making.
They exceeded that margin for error Sunday at CenturyLink Field, losing 33-27 to a New Orleans Saints team with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. It was their first loss at home in September under Pete Carroll, having previously been 15-0 since he arrived in 2010.
Adding to the ugliness: Head coach Pete Carroll coached with a bandaged nose after taking an errant football to the face during pregame warm-ups.
It was that kind of day for the Seahawks -- and if you think they were looking past the Saints with Bridgewater at quarterback and not Drew Brees, consider what defensive captain Bobby Wagner said about that last week.
"Yeah, you definitely got to remind the guys not to let their guard down, because in any day you're in this professional league and the guys behind those guys are professionals," he said. "You can't take anybody light because they can come out having one of their best games. It's just part of letting the guys know we've got to stay locked in and it doesn't matter who we're playing."
Meanwhile, Chris Carson lost two fumbles in his first two seasons, over 18 games. The Seahawks running back has lost one in each of the first three games this season.
To make matters worse for Carson, he had continued issues keeping his footing on the wet turf Sunday. We might have seen less of Carson after that fumble Sunday had Rashaad Penny not been inactive.
The Seahawks aren't ready to bench Carson, though.
Instead, they will try "every way possible" to fix Carson's fumbling problems.
"Because we do believe in him, we're going to continue to show him that," Carroll said, via Curtis Crabtree of Sports Radio KJR and Profootballtalk.com. "He's a terrific football player, and we want to make sure and maintain that level of play from him, so we'll work at it and work with him on it. There's a lot of technical stuff that's really important, right down to the last instant of that play that he fumbled on there's another thing that he could do to ensure taking care of the ball a little bit longer. He thought he was secure and thought he was taking care of it and bang all of a sudden the ball comes out. That's life you know. That's real in the league and all that. He's going to have to be really on because guys are going to continue to come after him just like anybody would."
Carson, who had 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns last season, has 45 carries for 159 yards and one touchdown so far this season. He also has 10 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.
"I like the way he's playing," Carroll said. "I love the style of play. Out of the backfield, he's added to his game. He's still running physical and tough and doing all the things that we're counting on. There's nobody that we'd rather have the ball in short-yardage situations and down by the goal line. He's great at it."
The Seahawks will see the return of Penny to practice at some point this week, Carroll said, so Penny will give the team another option at the position. Penny injured his hamstring in the Week 2 game against Pittsburgh and missed Sunday.
"He'll be able to practice this week too, probably by Thursday to some degree," Carroll said. "We need to see if he can tolerate it and what that means. We don't know that yet."
I'll have more on Penny via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Beyond that, there was concern about left tackle Duane Brown coming out of the loss after he didn't play the closing minutes with an arm injury. Carroll said Brown was diagnosed with a strained biceps and he should be OK to play this week against Arizona. ...
Back to last Sunday, the oddity in the loss to New Orleans was how big the day ended up being for Seattle statistically.
Russell Wilson threw an 8-yard touchdown to Lockett in the first half and ran for a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter. His 2-yard touchdown run early in the fourth pulled Seattle within 27-14. New Orleans went three-and-out on its next drive but Seattle couldn't convert on fourth-and-1 deep in its end and Kamara scored on a 1-yard plunge for the capper.
Wilson also missed Lockett on a fourth-down throw in the end zone in the third quarter.
Wilson was 32 of 50 for 406 yards and added a 4-yard touchdown to Will Dissly on the final play of the game. It was the second-most yards passing in a game for Wilson.
Seattle had 515 yards of total offense - third most in Carroll's tenure as head coach - and lost.
"You can't put yourself in the hole and expect to just find a way to be able to always come back every single time," Lockett said. "For us, I think it's a learning experience and it helps us down the road."
As Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth noted, Lockett was mostly invisible in Week 1 outside of catching a 44-yard touchdown for his only reception in the opener. He's made up for it the past two weeks with 21 receptions over the past two games. Lockett had 10 catches for 79 yards against Pittsburgh and followed up with 11 receptions for a career-high 154 yards against the Saints.
The past two weeks have quieted the concerns about whether Lockett could move into the role of being the No. 1 wide receiver for Seattle following the retirement of Doug Baldwin. ...
The Cardinals' trouble defending against tight ends continued Sunday. Panthers tight end Greg Olsen finished with 75 yards and two touchdowns, continuing a trend of tight ends torching the Cardinals' defense. It was Detroit's T.J. Hockenson in Week 1 with 131 yards and a touchdown on six catches and Baltimore's Mark Andrews in Week 2 with eight catches for 112 yards and a touchdown.
"That's three weeks in a row that we weren't able to slow down the tight ends," Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "They're premier players, but still we've got to do a better job with that."
Next up? Dissly.
The above-mentioned touchdown from Wilson (which came on the final play of regulation) marked Dissly's third touchdown in two weeks and his fifth in seven NFL appearances.
And finally. ... The Seahawks traded tight end Nick Vannett to the Steelers, as ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported.
Vannett, an Ohio State product, is in his fourth season with the Seahawks. He has four catches for 38 yards this year.
The Seattle Seahawks are working toward bringing back tight end Luke Willson following the trade of Vannett, per Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL Radio.
While the report indicates Willson is expected to sign with the team on Wednesday, indications were that nothing was finalized as of Tuesday night.
Willson spent the first five seasons of his career with the Seahawks after being a fifth-round pick out of Rice in 2013. Willson appeared in 72 games for Seattle over that span with 37 starts. He caught 89 passes for 1,129 yards and 11 touchdowns during his five years in Seattle.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Travis Homer, Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, John Ursua, Malik Turner, Jaron Brown
TEs: Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
Tampa Bay's kicking woes cost the Buccaneers another game.
Rookie Matt Gay's 34-yard field goal attempt sailed right wide as time expired Sunday, leaving the Bucs on the short end of a 32-31 loss to the New York Giants. The sixth-round draft pick also missed an extra point and had another blocked.
"I've got to make that every single time," said Gay, who placed the blame on himself even though Tampa Bay's defense allowed Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones to lead four long touchdown drives - 75, 75, 80 and 75 yards - in his first start for New York.
"I had some good warmup kicks on the side, kicking into the net. I was super confident going on the field. I felt really good about it," Gay said. "I went out there, still felt really good and took my steps, went through my whole process, got back there, had my line, and just didn't hit it clean."
As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall reminded readers, finding a reliable kicker has been a challenge for the Bucs, who drafted Roberto Aguayo in the second round in 2016 only see him struggle as a rookie and eventually released in training camp the following year.
Gay's strong leg makes the Bucs a threat to score any time they cross an opponent's 40-yard line. He was drafted this year to compete with incumbent Cairo Santos in training camp. He excelled on long kicks in practice and during the preseason, but was not nearly as consistent on shorter kicks.
Jameis Winston moved the Bucs into position to attempt the possible game winner with a 44-yard completion to Mike Evans at the Giants 9. The Bucs deliberately took a delay of game penalty, then had Winston run to the middle of the field before taking a knee to center the ball at the 16.
Arians defended taking the penalty, saying the extra yardage didn't matter.
"That field goal is easier back 5 yards, no sense hurrying," head coach coach Bruce Arians said. "We wanted to move the ball over, put it in the middle and make it an easy field goal."
Winston said it never should have come down to a kick at the end.
The Bucs scored on all six of their offensive possessions in the first half - three touchdowns and three field goals - to build a 28-10 lead. The Giants began their comeback with Evan Engram's 75-yard TD reception on the first play of the second half.
"We just have to play better football and we've got to finish," Winston said.
Arians made it clear Monday that Gay will remain a Buccaneer.
"He ain't goin' anywhere," Arians said of Gay, who also missed an extra point and had another extra point attempt blocked in the first quarter.
The kicking woes tend to overshadow a related problem.
On Sunday, Tampa Bay rang up 499 yards of offense, showed great balance with 32 runs and 37 passes and threw the ball deep downfield better than it has in a long time. However, only one of the Bucs' five trips into New York's red zone produced a touchdown.
Three others resulted in field goals before the final miss at the end of the game. Had the Buccaneers turned even one of those field goal attempts into a touchdown, they wouldn't have needed a field goal at the end.
"We had some red-zone touchdowns today," said Winston after the game. "But, we have to get back to the drawing boards and try to be better."
Indeed, this isn't a problem that first popped up in Week 3.
Overall, the Buccaneers rank 31st in the NFL with a red zone touchdown efficiency of 27.3 percent. They were one for two in Carolina, which left them barely clinging to a shaky six-point lead at the end, and they were one for four against San Francisco in the opener. One of those failures against the 49ers was a fumble and another was a failed fourth-and-goal attempt, so the issue is a mixture of problems.
"I think inside the 10, we've got to do a better job throwing the football," said Arians. "Outside, at the 20, we're scoring a lot of touchdowns. Inside the 10 - where we were pretty good - we've gotten average real fast. We had some runs we liked. Could it be conservative? [Maybe] if it's just a run, but there's always an RPO involved."
According to the team's official website, the Buccaneers' main problem in the red zone comes when it gets to do-or-die time.
The offense is somewhat below league average in percentage of "successful plays" in the red zone on first and second down, but on third down it plummets right to the bottom. The Bucs have yet to convert a third down in the red zone in eight tries.
The Bucs didn't need to lose the game to spot that glaring problem, but they do need to fix it if they want to get back into the win column.
Meanwhile, against a weak Giants' defense that had given up the third-most passing yards in the league heading into Sunday's game, Winston finally looked in-sync with his receivers and they were able to establish a rhythm in the passing game. Evans caught three touchdown passes and finished with eight receptions for 190 yards.
Receiver Chris Godwin (hip) did not practice Wednesday; I'll follow up on his status in coming days via Late-Breaking Update. ...
Finally. ... The Bucs placed QB Blaine Gabbert on injured reserve with a dislocated shoulder. Gabbert is a candidate for return, but it will be unlikely. Ryan Griffin will continue to serve as Winston's backup going forward.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Ronald Jones, Peyton Barber, Dare Ogunbowale, T.J. Logan
WRs: Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, Cyril Grayson, Spencer Schnell, Chris Godwin
TEs: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Tanner Hudson
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker, the Titans got an extra day of much-needed practice Monday after giving themselves plenty to fix after a terrible performance under the lights in Jacksonville.
The Titans struggled so much last week in a 20-7 loss to Jacksonville that fundamentals was the word of the day.
The solution? They make it sound very simple.
"Make plays," three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker said. "You make the play. Yeah, you make the play that comes to you. Protect the quarterback, and we get the ball in the end zone ... That's a good start."
Head coach Mike Vrabel told the Titans the story of how his fifth-grade teacher made students who got in trouble write 3,000 times "How to take responsibility for my own actions." Vrabel says he figured out later in life that was called accountability.
"It's not just enough to say, 'You know what? I have to be better,' but it's like, 'I have to better, and this is how I'm going to fix it,'" Vrabel said. "The fundamentals ... is something that I've always felt as a player was critical. I think some of the penalties that we did have could be a result of just some fundamentals."
A topic at meetings Monday morning was being accountable. Losers of two straight, the Titans (1-2) can take responsibility for a lot of issues:
Allowing nine sacks to Jacksonville and a league-worst 17 through three games.
A season-worst nine penalties for 101 yards, five of those holding calls.
Marcus Mariota was just 6 of 16 passing in the first half, though he finished with 304 yards.
Adoree' Jackson muffed the first punt, losing a turnover turned into a touchdown on the next play.
"Everything's fixable," Walker said. "I think it's early in the season. We still got a lot of football left. We need to fix it. That's pretty much it."
The Titans may do more than just practice on better technique. The Titans will be without three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan on Sunday when they visit Atlanta (1-2) as he sits out the final game of his suspension for using performance-enhancers. Dennis Kelly, more used to playing on the right side, has played left tackle through the first three games.
Rookie Nate Davis, their third-round pick out of Charlotte, might get a chance at right guard. He has been inactive for the first three games trying to catch up after missing more than two weeks of training camp with an undisclosed injury. Vrabel said they're trying to get Davis ready to go as soon as possible.
"I'm hopeful that's this week," Vrabel said.
But Walker warned against seeing Lewan's return on Sept. 30 as being the cure-all for the Titans' woes.
"It takes all 11 that's out there," Walker said. "So if all 11 are doing their job, then that's what's going to fix it."
Right tackle Jack Conklin agrees that everything is fixable. So did left guard Rodger Saffold, the key free agent signee in March to improve the offensive line. Saffold said the NFL season is still early, and he remembers starting 3-1 one season only to finish 4-12. The linemen can communicate better and pick up protections quicker with the rest of the Titans on offense executing better as well.
"Coaches have taken responsibility, we have taken responsibility," Saffold said. "But I think we'll get it fixed."
One thing they won't do?
Vrabel said last Friday the team was not considering making a quarterback change.
Vrabel said replacing Mariota was something they were "not something we're looking at right now, but that's something we always consider, every week."
That's a more qualified endorsement of his starter than in the past.
In addition, Vrabel downplayed the seriousness of backup Ryan Tannehill wearing his helmet during the loss to the Jaguars, saying he wasn't close to putting him in the game.
Mariota, of course, could put this mini-controversy to bed by playing better, but his play and the Titans investment in a backup with plenty of experience has made it one.
And it's not clear he can do this.
As NFL.com put it, the most demoralizing aspect of Mariota's play last Thursday might not even have been his poor passing or the sacks he took. The worst part was seeing the former No. 2 overall pick look lost. Repeatedly.
Time after time, Mariota didn't process the defense fast enough, missed the proper read, or refused to pull the trigger.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Dalyn Dawkins, David Fluellen
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe, Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 September 2019
As NFL.com's Jelani Scott reported, Case Keenum has yet to succeed in his first three starts in our nation's capital, but Jay Gruden is prepared to let his quarterback try (and try) again.
As if the night wasn't already rough enough for the Washington Redskins QB, who had five turnovers and took four sacks, against Khalil Mack and the Bears defense in a 31-15 loss, Keenum was also hit with sporadic chants from fans at FedEx Field calling for rookie Dwayne Haskins to replace him.
Gruden didn't confirm post-game whether or not he heard said fans, but he did take the time to dismiss the notion that a quarterback change is coming.
"Not really, no. I think the most important thing is we have to have some continuity. You know, I can't be changing people every five minutes here. I've got to give Case an ample opportunity to play with these new guys," Gruden told the media after being asked if he'll make a switch. "This is his first time in this offense, really. Donald Penn, Ereck Flowers, their first time in this offense. Terry McLaurin. Trey Quinn only played two games last year.
"I've made this point before: We're not going to be perfect but we need to be better and I think we can get better. Otherwise, if I didn't think we had a chance to get better, then I would make a change. But I feel like Case has the tools to become a very efficient quarterback in this offense and get us some victories here moving forward."
According to Scott, some may view Gruden's comments as excuses, but he's speaking all facts: Keenum was a March trade acquisition, Flowers and Penn were free agent additions this past offseason and are trying to help replace what the still-AWOL Trent Williams brought, McLaurin is very productive but still a rook and Quinn is still coming into his own in Year 2 while also serving as the team's primary punt returner.
Like Gruden, Keenum is not shrinking under the mounting pressure created by the team's 0-3 start. The 31-year-old QB wants all the fire coming his way after his dismal Monday night.
"It's all on me. That's all on me. Turn the ball over that many times as a quarterback, you know, I let my team down. It's all on me. I really do. I take complete responsibility," Keenum said. "I have to take care of the ball better. That's my number one job. Especially the way our defense was playing early -- getting after the quarterback, doing a good job, keeping everything in front of them -- they got all the momentum off of the turnovers and scored a lot of points off turnovers. So that's all on me."
Keenum's next chance to prove himself will come next week on the road against hot-shot rookie QB Daniel Jones and the Giants. The headlines will practically write themselves in hopes of a showdown between Jones, the 2019 sixth overall pick, and Haskins, the 15th pick, but will Keenum see any of that? Not a chance.
"Keep doing what we do. I mean, I don't read any articles or any social media or anything like that. Nobody's opinion matters except what's in that locker room," Keenum said on what has to be done to stay focused.
A number of teams have already made QB changes around the NFL, but Keenum is determined to keep his spot.
If he has another game like the one on Monday Night Football though, the case to replace him might have to be made.
But as ESPN.com's John Keim explained, the Redskins just don't feel Haskins is ready to take over. And when the change is made, you want that player to have the best chance at success when he does play. They haven't shown any reason to believe the season will somehow turn around anytime soon. That means Haskins will get his chance in due time. But it's also clear how much in this organization needs to change, regardless of when Haskins plays.
Keim's guess is they'll turn to Colt McCoy, who could return from a broken leg soon, before going to Haskins.
In fact, McCoy was listed as full practice on the Redskins’ projected injury report Wedenesday while Keenum was listed as did not practice with a foot injury.
They have the New England Patriots in two weeks. If they're 0-5 after that game, then the Haskins watch will begin in earnest with the Dolphins -- a much safer team to debut against -- on the schedule in Week 6.
Meanwhile, after Monday night's loss, running back Adrian Peterson was asked by reporters to provide his thoughts regarding the struggles of the offense.
"Disbelief," Peterson said, "because we have so much talent and this is the third week in a row that we're just sitting here like, 'God.' You know, [if] we can just get it going for four quarters. We have a really good team. Thinking about everything that happened today, four, five turnovers, just missed opportunities in the run game, the pass game. I think the defense did an outstanding job, we put them in some terrible positions. ...
"We can tell with how we played and how we put ourselves in position, of course we need to execute. We just gotta improve on the things can improve on."
Worth noting, Peterson has become a forgotten man in the offense. The overall lack of use (12 carries for 37 yards) underscores the perception that Gruden isn't a fan of Peterson's running style.
Indeed, Gruden told reporters when discussing a key third-down failure that "we called our short yardage play and [Peterson] couldn't get a yard." Which hardly seems to be a glowing endorsement of the future Hall of Famer.
Which continues to call into question Peterson's role on the team, and his value in the eyes of the team's head coach. ...
On a more positive note. ... As PFT notes, McLaurin had another big game on Monday night, and he has now done something no other player in NFL history has done before: He's caught at least five passes, and scored a touchdown, in his first three career games.
Although 11 receivers were drafted ahead of him, McLaurin is leading all rookies with 16 catches, and leading all rookies with three receiving touchdowns. His 257 receiving yards are second only to Ravens receiver Marquise Brown, who has 282.
In an 0-3 season, McLaurin is one of the few bright spots in Washington. ...
Jordan Reed has not played since being diagnosed with a concussion in the third preseason game Aug. 22.
Will he ever play again?
Gruden said Tuesday he expects Reed to return at some point.
"I'm not worried about that, no," Gruden said when asked if Reed's career might be finished. "He has seen specialists, and we are just trying to get to the bottom of it and figuring out the best way to make him more comfortable, get him back in the lineup. We are trying to see if there is anything else we can do to try and help him a long in that way to get into practice and start to feel better. If he has to see a specialist every day, I really don't care. The big thing is to get him healthy and make sure he has a great state of mind so when he does come back he feels really good and confident that this thing will not linger."
Reed's return, though, appears a long way away. ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported it could be weeks before we see the talented tight end again.
Reed has never played a full 16-game season in his seven years in Washington, and he now has seven documented concussions dating to college, JP Finlay of NBCSportsWashington.com reports.
Stay tuned. I'll have more on Reed -- as well as on Keenum and the quarterback situation -- via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
In a Reed-related note. ... Washington announced the signing of tight end Jerome Cunningham on Wednesday.
Cunningham, 28, has played 12 career games. Three of those came last season with Detroit after the Lions promoted him from the practice squad.
He has eight career catches for 59 yards, all with the Giants in 2015. Cunningham appeared in nine games for the Giants in 2015, with three starts. ...
And finally. ... As Keim noted, the Redskins haven't made an in-season coaching change since firing Norv Turner in the 2000 season. They didn't even make one during the crazy second season with Jim Zorn in 2009, when they hired Sherman Smith out of the bingo parlor to call plays.
But if the Redskins lose at the New York Giants this week, Keim believes it would not be surprising to see owner Dan Snyder make some sort of move -- whether with Gruden or defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. The Redskins didn't quit against the Bears so the team hasn't quit on the coaches. But they need to give Snyder reason to keep this staff around.
Gruden isn't worried about it.
"No. I haven't felt like that. But who knows?" Gruden said on a conference. "I'm just trying to concentrate on the Giants right now, put our best foot forward, learn from our mistakes here and try to get better. That's all we're trying to do here as a staff and go from there."
Gruden said he doesn't plan on making any changes to the staff during the season and noted that their first three opponents all made the playoffs last year. He added that he still has faith that things will come together for the team, but a few more losses will make it hard to continue clinging to that belief.
QBs: Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon
TEs: Jeremy Sprinkle, Hale Hentges