Team Notes week 16 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 17 December 2019
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss framed it: "Kyler Murray now has something that Baker Mayfield doesn't: Bragging rights."
Both won Heisman Trophies. Both went No. 1 in the NFL draft. But on Sunday, Murray, the Arizona Cardinals' rookie quarterback, gave himself a leg up on Mayfield, his former University of Oklahoma teammate and close friend, with a 38-24 win at State Farm Stadium.
On Wednesday, Murray was asked if this game was important for bragging rights over Mayfield.
"Yeah," Murray said. "For sure."
Then Murray went out Sunday and outplayed Baker in their first NFL meeting. Though Mayfield threw for more yards, Murray was more efficient.
Murray threw for 219 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 19-for-25 passing. Mayfield threw for 247 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 30-for-43 passing.
But where Murray really outshined Mayfield was with his feet.
Murray finished Sunday's game with 58 rushing yards on seven carries, including a dazzling 35-yard run late in the first quarter. On a designed run, Murray took off downfield to his left then cut back across the field right, covering 71.04 yards in total, according to NFL Next Gen Stats data. The play was Murray's longest run of the season.
"He told me he had the bragging rights," Mayfield said after the game. "That's basically the end of it. We have a good relationship so he's giving me a hard time. Just roll with the punches."
Murray orchestrated the Cardinals' best offensive performance of the season, thanks in large part to Drake.
Drake set a career high with 137 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns on 22 carries. It was the first game of his career with multiple rushing touchdowns. He's the first Cardinals player with four rushing touchdowns in a game since Ronald Moore on Dec. 5, 1993.
Drake, was who was traded to Arizona by the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 28, had as many rushing touchdowns Sunday as the Dolphins have had all season. He also experienced his first win since the Miami Miracle -- a span of 14 consecutive losses, which was the longest active streak for an individual player.
He lost his last eight games with the Dolphins and first six with the Cardinals.
Worth noting, Drake has been the main running back since his arrival and is thankful for the opportunity after splitting time with the Dolphins to begin his career.
"It's been really amazing, to say the least," Drake said. "I went from being in a situation where I was in a specific role, and I wasn't getting the carries I felt like I could to help the team win games. I came in three days before (the "Thursday Night Football" game against the 49ers) and was able to go out and play ball."
On Sunday, most of the talk was about Drake's performance. Amid all the conversation concerning David Johnson's playing time, there's no denying the reason Drake has grabbed hold of the starting job.
"When he came in on that Thursday night after being here for like an hour, and did what he did, I knew he was a true pro," guard Justin Pugh said. "You put the film on, and he's running guys over. He's not going down on first contact, and it gets us juiced up to block for a guy who does that. Everyone feeds off of it and it's just a runaway train at that point."
As Darren Urban of the team's official website noted Monday, head coach Kliff Kingsbury is going to bring up game-to-game, but it's clear (and been clear) Drake is the main running back. The question now is whether the Cardinals can re-sign him.
He punted the question, saying he's about one game at a time, but you have to think the Cardinals want him around in 2020.
But first, Arizona ends its season with two straight road games, including this weekend's at Seattle. It represents a step up in competition from the up-and-down Browns and a good performance would be more proof that the Cardinals are headed in the correct direction. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Murray has 504 yards rushing this season, setting the franchise record in that category for a quarterback. Hall of Famer Charley Trippi had the previous record of 501.
Damiere Byrd's play was excellent -- six catches for 86 yards -- but what might've been more noteworthy was that Kingsbury said the Cardinals don't get him the ball enough. Something to keep in mind as we head into the offseason, and also interesting given that Byrd was inactive for a few games.
New tight end Dan Arnold had been turning heads in practice, and his touchdown Sunday aside, he was definitely someone the Cardinals will work with into the offseason to see what kind of role he could have in 2020. The 6-6 Arnold and the 6-5 Hakeem Butler next year in red zone situations?
That could be fun. ...
Not having a lot of fun would be running back Chase Edmonds.
The second-year pro looked like a breakout star midway through the season, but a hamstring injury knocked him out of action for a few weeks. Since his return, he's had a hard time carving out playing time behind Drake and Johnson. ...
And finally. ... As Larry Fitzgerald met the media in a tight scrum near his locker after the game, and there was a question was how his father tweeted out pregame about how it might be Larry Fitzgerald Senior's last game in Arizona -- of course a reference to how Fitz Jr. might retire.
"He doesn't know anything," his son said. "We've talked about this for a long time. I speak for myself. If I have something to say, I'll say it myself. I don't share my personal information with anybody."
In fact, no one knows if that was Fitz's last home game. He doesn't either. He doesn't really want to chat about it.
"When it's over, it's over," he repeated. "I'm not going to lose any sleep. Everybody's replaceable. There will be another No. 11 here a couple of months after I leave. He might not be as handsome as I am though."
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley, Drew Anderson
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, D.J. Foster, Eno Benjamin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Isabella, Trent Sherfield, KeeSean Johnson, Hakeem Butler
TEs: Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels, Dan Arnold
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
Matt Ryan outshined his former offensive coordinator in an MVP-type fashion Kyle Shanahan knows oh so well.
Yet even this rally might have been more improbable than either could have imagined -- two Falcons touchdowns in the final 5 seconds. A pair of replay reversals in the last 8 ticks of the clock, including Austin Hooper's apparent TD reception being ruled no good.
Ryan connected with Julio Jones on a 5-yard pass that did get ruled a touchdown after a replay reversal went Atlanta's way with 2 seconds left, sending the Falcons past the playoff-bound San Francisco 49ers 29-22 on Sunday.
"That was awesome. At the end, game on the line, those are the moments as a coach that you totally live for," Atlanta's Dan Quinn said. "It makes you feel most alive."
This Falcons upset forces the 49ers to win out if they want to hold onto the NFC's No. 1 seed.
Jones initially was called short of the goal line with the Falcons trailing 22-17. But a replay showed the ball breaking the plane as the Atlanta receiver leaped in the air while being tackled by Jimmie Ward.
"When you're down that tight in the red zone, there are going to be tight window throws. It was a great effort," Ryan said. The call didn't go our way. At that point, you have to have the mindset of just getting right back to it and finding a way to get the job done the following play."
When things couldn't get crazier, they did: On the final kickoff, Atlanta scored another touchdown when Olamide Zaccheaus came up with the ball as the 49ers were tossing it around in desperation.
Shanahan spent two seasons as offensive coordinator in Atlanta coaching Ryan during his 2016 MVP year when the Falcons set a franchise record by scoring 540 points and Ryan had career bests in yards passing (4,944), TD passes (38) and passer rating (117.1).
Then the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead on New England in the Super Bowl and Shanahan left for the Bay Area shortly after.
According to ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure, the win could improve Quinn's status with owner Arthur Blank. The Falcons are 5-9 but have beaten two of the NFC's best in the 49ers and the New Orleans Saints -- both on the road.
Sunday's win would not have happened without Jones, who caught 13 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 20 targets. Whether his targets increased because Calvin Ridley was placed on injured reserve (abdominal injury) doesn't matter. Jones simply got the job done.
When Jones wasn't catching passes, he was drawing pass interference penalties, including one that set up a touchdown run by rookie Qadree Ollison. Jones, just a couple of games removed from a serious shoulder injury that kept him out of the Thanksgiving night game against the Saints, showed no ill-effects from that injury.
Jones wasn't even flawless Sunday, dropping a couple balls he normally would catch, but he snapped a career-worst nine-game stretch without scoring a touchdown within a single season.
If Quinn somehow survives the storm from this tumultuous season, he'll have Jones to thank for it. It's always good to have arguably the best receiver in the league on your team. And now Quinn and the Falcons need to ride Jones in their final two games, next week at home against Jacksonville and in the season finale at Tampa Bay. ...
For the record, Jones surpassed Hall of Famer and one of his idols, Jerry Rice (11,776 yards), for the second-most receiving yards through a player's first nine seasons.
Ryan completed 25 of 39 passes for 210 yards and the two scores to Jones. He posted a QB rating of 95 and did a nice job scrambling to avoid pressure at times. Ryan was sacked twice in the game and ran the ball five times for 27 yards, including a long run of 9 yards. ...
On the injury front. ... Starting defensive end Takk McKinley is out the final two games of the season with a shoulder injury. McKinley, who has previously undergone surgery on both shoulders, left midway through the first quarter and did not return. McKinley, a 2017 late first-round draft pick, has 3 1/2 sacks this year and has just 16 1/2 in his career.
The loss of McKinley is buffered by the expected return of Allen Bailey (personal reasons) and John Cominsky (ankle) this week. Starting end Vic Beasley will likely be on the injury report this week, but Quinn said he thinks Beasley will be ready.
Atlanta overcame season-ending injuries to Ridley and cornerback Desmond Trufant the week before, so it will need to do the same with McKinley sidelined.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Kurt Benkert
RBs: Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Ito Smith
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Laquon Treadwell, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham, Carson Meier
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
On the night when Lamar Jackson broke Michael Vick's rushing record, he also made his mark with his arm.
Jackson's five touchdown passes Thursday night led the Baltimore Ravens to a 42-21 rout of the New York Jets and clinched their second consecutive AFC North title.
Jackson now has 33 touchdown passes this season, which ties a franchise single-season record and is seven more than anyone else in the NFL. He finished 15-of-23 for 212 yards for a 134.4 passer rating against the overmatched Jets (5-9).
On Wednesday, Jackson was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. This is Jackson's fifth Offensive Player of the Week honor of the year and his fourth in his last seven games.
Jackson carried the Ravens to their 10th straight win, the longest current streak in the NFL.
This marked Jackson's seventh game this season with three or more touchdown passes, the most in the NFL. Jackson needs one more touchdown pass to break Vinny Testaverde's single-season team record, which has stood since the franchise's inaugural campaign, in 1996.
The front-runner for NFL Most Valuable Player, Jackson recorded his third game with five touchdown throws this season. That's already more than all of the other quarterbacks in Ravens history combined. Jackson is also one shy of tying Peyton Manning (2004) for most games with five touchdown passes in a season.
No surprisingly, Jackson was easily the top choice among fans in this year's Pro Bowl voting.
Voting wrapped up last week, and Jackson finished with 704,699 total fan votes, by far the most of any player.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was next with 539,768 votes, followed by Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes with 468,838 votes, Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook with 431,748 votes and Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey with 406,477 votes.
Pro Bowl rosters are chosen by votes of fans, players and coaches, with each group's votes counting for one-third of the total. The rosters will be announced on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, mere minutes after the Ravens clinched the division crown and extended their winning streak, they started looking forward to a bit of rest and a Dec. 22 game at Cleveland.
"To be able to stack this number of wins is remarkable," head coach John Harbaugh said. "And yet, you get to this point, and the next one becomes the most important one."
Cleveland was the last team to beat Baltimore. The Browns scored 30 points after halftime in a 40-25 victory on Sept. 29. ...
Also of interest. ... The Ravens' top-ranked run game ripped through the second-ranked defense against the rush. Jackson amassed 86 yards rushing on only eight carries and Baltimore averaged 6.4 yards per attempt against a New York defense that was yielding only three yards per rush.
Then again, there's something to be said for a passing game that that totaled 212 yards and five scores through the air. ...
On one of those scores, in the third quarter, Jackson and Marquise Brown connected for their third deep touchdown this season. Per NextGen Stats, Brown had 8.3 yards of separation when the pass arrived, taking advantage of a Jets team without Jamal Adams (cornerback Darryl Roberts was aligned at safety on the play). ...
Finally. ... With the game in hand, Harbaugh turned to backup quarterback Robert Griffin III with 7:35 left.
"It was not an easy decision right there," Harbaugh said. "'Probably, the biggest thing is we have so much confidence in Robert. It makes you feel really good about doing it."
Given how often Jackson runs the ball, it's imperative to limit the hits he takes and a luxury to have a veteran such as Griffin at No. 2 on the depth chart. ...
De'Anthony Thomas hasn't been particularly special as a kick returner since being signed Nov. 6. Against the Jets, he had one punt return for eight yards and went five yards with a kickoff.
Justin Tucker missed the third extra point of his stellar career, Sam Koch saw a punt blocked and the coverage team had lapses. Baltimore traditionally has one of the best special-teams units, but this was one of its worst all-around games.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead, Devin Duvernay, Jaleel Scott, De'Anthony Thomas, Chris Moore, James Proche
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
For only the second time in the past 20 years, the Buffalo Bills are playoff-bound.
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques noted, the Bills secured at least an AFC wild-card berth Sunday in a 17-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, marking head coach Sean McDermott's second playoff berth in his three seasons in Buffalo -- joining Wade Phillips and Lou Saban as the only Bills coaches to do so.
After missing the playoffs for 17 straight seasons from 2000 to 2016, the Bills' accomplishment represents a significant shift in the direction of a once-floundering franchise.
"I think we've moved that needle drastically since we've got here and in the entire building," McDermott said before the game. "It's been a long time since this organization has been in a position like this, this late in the season, and we don't take it lightly."
Speaking to reporters after the game, GM Brandon Beane firmly stated that while the Bills will find the joy in this win, their work is not yet complete.
Buffalo has a chance to claim a share of the AFC East lead when it faces the New England Patriots in Week 16; the Bills will win the division outright if they win out and New England loses out.
"We still have work to do, but we're a work in progress. We have by no means arrived," he said. "We're thrilled that we made the playoffs, that's obviously the first goal ... but we've got two games left. We've got a big division game against a team that we have not beat since Sean and I have been here."
The win also gave Buffalo its first 10-win season since its 11-5 campaign under Phillips in 1999, which was the longest active drought in the NFL. Bills quarterback Josh Allen was 3 years old at that time -- now, he's the unquestioned leader of a team hell-bent on changing the way the rest of the league views it.
From a fantasy perspective, it's worth noting that at a time when Buffalo's offense needed a big play, their top wideout was there to provide it when it mattered most. Coming out of a change of possession, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and the offense decided to take a shot with a go ball to Brown down the left sideline.
"It felt good," said Allen. "I felt a little pressure so I just tried to get it up to him. I saw he had a step. So I tried to put it in out in front of him. I could've done a better job, but he made an 'and one' getting the flag (for defensive pass interference). You love to see a guy make that play."
"Good communication by our offensive coaches," said McDermott. "Well executed by Josh and John and the line gave him time. So just a little adjustment there during the game and it paid off for us."
The 40-yard pass play set the Bills up 1st-and-10 at the Pittsburgh 30-yard line. Five plays later, Allen and tight end Tyler Kroft were on the same page in reading the defense as Kroft took his route outside for the go-ahead score. But Allen said none of that would've happened if Brown didn't make the tough catch down the sideline.
"The flow of the game and what it was dictating, it was a huge play for us because it got us into points territory," Allen said. "It allowed us to be aggressive on third down (for the touchdown)."
Brown was the only consistent part of Buffalo's passing game in the first half when he had five catches for 39 yards. By games' end he had racked up a seven-catch 99-yard performance. But in the eyes of Allen his top receiver's best play of the game didn't involve him making a catch at all.
"Two plays later after his big catch we have a run play to the right and he's the first one on it," said Allen of Devin Singletary's fumble in the red zone. "He's one of those guys who continues to do his job whether it's catching a 40-yard pass or jumping on a fumble so we can score on that drive."
Brown's 99 receiving yards he eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau in just 14 games, becoming the first Bills player to do so since Lee Evans in 2006. His seven catches also put him at 71 on the season, making him the first Bills wideout with 70 receptions in a season since Stevie Johnson in 2012. ...
Of some concern heading into the final two games?
Allen's accuracy is definitely one. In finishing 13 of 25 for 139 yards, the second-year starter sailed two passes intended for Cole Beasley, one of which went off the receiver's fingers and was intercepted. He also bounced a pass to an open Brown over the middle.
Also. ... Singletary fumbled twice, losing one, casting doubt on a player who's taken over the lead role ahead of veteran Frank Gore.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Jake Fromm, Davis Webb
RBs: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Duke Williams, Andre Roberts, Robert Foster, Isaiah Hodgins
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
Kyle Allen's three interceptions against Seattle gave him four multiple-pick games in the past eight and it appears that will lead to a quarterback change.
The Panthers are going to give rookie quarterback Will Grier his shot.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the Panthers are expected to start the third-round pick in Week 16 versus the Indianapolis Colts, per sources informed of the decision.
While Fewell has yet to make it official, Grier worked with the first-team offense on Wednesday. It's the first time he's done that this season.
Allen started hot, winning the first four games after taking over for an injured Cam Newton in Week 3. Since Week 8, however, the quarterback has cratered, throwing 15 interceptions in the last eight games. Sunday's three-INT loss to the Seattle Seahawks marked the third game this season Allen has thrown three or more picks in a bout, tied for second-most in the NFL, behind only Jameis Winston.
The Panthers offense has gone in the tank with Allen at the helm. The 23-year-old signal-caller has struggled with sacks behind a porous offensive line and had problems in the red zone, where he has a bundle of turnovers.
With two tilts left, Carolina will test drive Grier. The West Virginia product struggled in the preseason, completing 55.7 percent of his passes, 2 TDs, 3 INT and took seven sacks.
The Panthers will use the end of a lost season to evaluate Grier and the rest of the roster before the offseason overhauls begin. ...
Meanwhile, despite his team's struggles, running back Christian McCaffrey has been something special. The third-year running back, during Sunday's 30-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, became the first Carolina player to top 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a season.
With a little luck over the last two games, McCaffrey can become the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards receiving and rushing in the same season -- something only Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk have done.
McCaffrey will need 186 yards receiving against Indianapolis and New Orleans in the final two games to get there.
"That would mean a lot," McCaffrey said earlier in the week when asked about chasing the 1,000-1,000 club. "It would be a lot better if it was relevant and we were playing in the postseason.
"The 1,000-1,000 mark is an opportunity. I've been fortunate to get a lot of opportunities with the ball in my hands. ... At the end of the day, the most important thing in football is winning."
The Panthers, who have lost six straight, haven't won since beating the Tennessee Titans 30-20 on Nov. 3 to improve their record to 5-3.
The only constant since has been McCaffrey, who on Sunday had 87 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 19 carries to go with 88 yards receiving on eight catches.
McCaffrey played 100 percent of the snaps as he finished with his NFL-best sixth 175-yard scrimmage game of the season.
While there are those who might suggest it's time to shut McCaffrey down and save him to play for whomever owner David Tepper hires to replace Rivera, it's really time to give McCaffrey enough opportunities to reach 1,000-1,000.
It's not easy to get this close to the mark, as Craig told ESPN.com earlier this year when predicting it was in McCaffrey's DNA to join his exclusive club.
That's why the Panthers can't afford to waste this opportunity in a season of wasted opportunities. ...
Also of interest. ... We'll see how much it helps, but Grier should at least have Greg Olsen to throw to.
Via Jourdan Rodrigue of TheAthletic.com, the veteran tight end said Monday he had cleared the concussion protocol after missing the last two games. Olsen practiced fully on Wednesday.
Olsen said he didn't consider not coming back this year, and doesn't know what the team's thoughts about him beyond this year.
"I'm worrying about the two [games] I do have," he said. "A lot of my future is out of my control."
The 34-year old Olsen is owed $11.8 million in 2020, the final year of his contract, but the Panthers could save $8.1 million by releasing him. Olsen said he still feels as if he can compete at a high level next season and would prefer to remain with the Panthers. It's expected Olsen will also have offers in television broadcasting to weigh this offseason. ...
In Olsen's absence this past Sunday, Ian Thomas played 96 percent of the snaps, upping his season high from 86 percent the previous week at Atlanta (also with Olsen out).
Thomas finished with two receptions for 23 yards. ...
Second-year receiver D.J. Moore is quietly having a solid season, making a strong case to be the team's No. 1 wide receiver moving forward. Moore has 86 receptions for 1,174 yards and four touchdowns this season through 14 games. Over the past nine games, Moore has really stepped up his production, averaging nearly seven receptions and more than 101 yards receiving per game.
Chris Hogan made his return from injured reserve, playing six snaps on offense and four on special teams and recording one catch for 13 yards.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Will Grier, Phillip Walker
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Jordan Scarlett, Mike Davis
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, Pharoh Cooper, Brandon Zylstra, Keith Kirkwood
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Temarrick Hemingway
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
Another gut-wrenching loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, this time a 21-13 defeat after a failed comeback, all but ended the Bears' dreams of reaching the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 2005 and '06.
Either the Minnesota Vikings or Los Angeles Rams can officially do the honor of eliminating the Bears (7-7) from the playoffs with a win later on Sunday.
Head coach Matt Nagy understood his team faced a brutal final three weeks of the regular season, but Chicago fought hard before the Packers took control after halftime and escaped with a victory.
"Simply put," ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson wrote, "The Bears waited too long to peak. Had Chicago found its offensive groove earlier in the season, the Bears are a playoff team."
The Bears squandered their 3-1 start, lost four in a row in the middle of the season, and never truly recovered -- even with their recent three-game winning streak, which the Packers snapped on Sunday.
Barring a miracle, the Bears' 2019 season -- one that began with so much hype and promise -- will be remembered as one of the more disappointing in franchise history. That's not to say the future isn't still bright with Nagy, but the Bears were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender.
Even though the Bears were eliminated from playoff contention, the NFL announced that their home game next Sunday night against the Chiefs would remain in prime time. That means Nagy faces his mentor, Kansas City coach Andy Reid, at Soldier Field on "Sunday Night Football."
Beyond all that, after producing seven touchdowns in back-to-back wins over the Lions and Cowboys the previous two weeks, the Bears offense struggled to put points on the board Sunday against the Packers.
"We just weren't consistent," Mitchell Trubisky said following the loss at Lambeau Field. "We really didn't have a flow or rhythm throughout the game, sputtered a couple times, had some negative plays."
The Bears were held to three points through three quarters Sunday, extending their drought without a touchdown in two games against the Packers to seven periods this season. They twice settled for Eddy Pineiro field goals after reaching the Green Bay 12 and 9.
The Bears finally got into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter when Trubisky rifled a 2-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Miller, cutting the deficit to 21-13. But the offense failed to score on its last three possessions.
"The plays we normally make, we just didn't," said Trubisky, who had thrown three TD passes in each of the past two games. "Some plays they made and we didn't and that's part of football. We didn't do enough today. The plays we didn't make, we either got out-executed or didn't do our jobs or weren't on the same page, making mistakes."
In fact, the Bears experienced many of the same problems they had offensively in losses prior to their three-game winning streak against the New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.
Associated Press sports writer Gene Chamberlain suggested it resembled their first game with Green Bay in the way the running game struggled, Trubisky had trouble throwing within the pocket and his offensive linemen struggled to block a persistent Packers pass rush.
It led to Trubisky openly questioning his coach's tactics for helping his blockers and moving the pocket.
"I felt like we could've taken more pressure off them moving the pocket a little more and getting me out," Trubisky said afterward.
Nagy said there were adjustments made to Green Bay's defense as the game progressed.
"We communicated that with the whole team and made adjustments on the fly," Nagy said. "I think for all of us, just the biggest thing, is just trying to do it together and execute everything that's there."
While the Bears scored only one touchdown, they generated a season-high 429 yards.
They had two receivers each compile over 100 yards for the first time in a game this year in Miller (9 receptions for 118 yards) and Allen Robinson (7-125).
"We are just trying to make plays," Robinson said. "Anthony Miller is a very competitive dude. He makes plays when he gets his chance. So for me I am just trying to do the same thing; make plays and give our offense a shot to move the ball and score some touchdowns."
Robinson's 125-yard performance increased his season total to 1,023 yards. He's the 11th receiver in Bears history to reach the 1,000-yard plateau and the first since Alshon Jeffery in 2014. It's the second 1,000-yard season of Robinson's career; he was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2015 when he caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns while playing for the Jaguars.
Miller, meanwhile, posted his second 100-yard effort of the season and the third of his career. Over the last five games, the 2018 second-round pick has caught 32 passes for 431 yards and two touchdowns.
The running attack struggled after two straight games of improvement, preceded by an entire season of being mired. Running backs averaged only 2.9 yards a carry with 67 yards on 23 attempts. David Montgomery was limited to 39 yards on 14 runs.
"We just weren't really able to get the run game going early on," said Nagy. ...
On the injury front. ... The Bears placed LB Danny Trevathan on injured reserve with an elbow injury, ending his season and in case you missed it, tight end Ben Braunecker (concussion) went on injured reserve last week. We'll see if Taylor Gabriel, who has missed the last three games with a concussion of his on, joins them or gets back on the field this week.
Gabriel was not on the practice field Wednesday.
On last note here. ... While Sunday's loss means the Bears won't be back in the playoffs this season, Nagy said the change in circumstances won't be met with too many other changes.
Nagy said that the team plans to continue playing its starters and will approach the final two weeks of the season the same way they approached things before their playoff hopes were extinguished.
"I don't think anything changes," Nagy said, via Jason Lieser of the Chicago Sun-Times. "We want to win."
Teams vying with the Chiefs and Vikings for playoff positioning probably prefer that the Bears do all they can to win the next two weeks, but their play over the entire season may not spark too much confidence that they can pull it off.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Ryan Nall
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Ted Ginn, Cordarrelle Patterson, Darnell Mooney, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Alex Wesley
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Adam Shaheen, Cole Kmet, Ben Braunecker, J.P. Holtz, Eric Saubert, Jesper Horsted
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Kay notes, the biggest crowd at Paul Brown Stadium this season was roaring for the visiting Patriots. Even so, the home team was feeling pretty good about itself after scoring a touchdown on its opening possession.
Yes, the Bengals finally reached the end zone on their first try, ending a streak of 20 straight failures. Joe Mixon was slipping away from Patriots defenders. All was going well for once.
Didn't last long.
Andy Dalton threw four interceptions in the second half -- one of them returned for a touchdown -- and the Bengals had five turnovers in all that set up a 34-13 loss to New England on Sunday.
Just like that, Cincinnati (1-13) moved a step closer to clinching the top pick in the draft. A banner in the upper deck Sunday reminded the Bengals that Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow would be a welcomed sight in town.
The countdown has begun. Two more games -- one in Miami, the other at home against Cleveland -- and all the draft talk can begin.
"Do everything we can to win these last two games, and go from there," Dalton said.
The Bengals had a little extra incentive to be ready for the Patriots (11-3) after a video crew affiliated with the team taped their sideline during a game in Cleveland a week earlier, violating league rules. The NFL is investigating.
First-year coach Zac Taylor had been on the other sideline against Bill Belichick, most recently in the Super Bowl as the Rams' quarterback coach. This time, Taylor was calling the plays. He went with the run early and often, giving the ball to Mixon or Giovani Bernard on the first eight plays.
Mixon slipped away from four Patriots on a 29-yard run. Dalton threw a touchdown pass. The Bengals added a field goal and led 10-7, silencing all those Patriots fans in the crowd of 57,066.
Then, it all fell apart.
Alex Erickson muffed a punt, setting up a Patriots field goal. Dalton then tied his career high with four interceptions in the second half, one of which Stephon Gilmore returned 64 yards for a touchdown. New England scored 17 straight points off turnovers to put it away.
"That's their modus operandi, and they did that today," Erickson said.
Mixon finished with 136 yards on 15 carries, a healthy 5.4-yard average. He also caught three passes for 20 yards, including one that floated out of Dalton's hand as he was hit.
It should be noted the run game has become effective since coaches overhauled the blocking schemes and started using more toss plays with Mixon at midseason. He's run for 146 and 136 yards in the past two games against the Browns and Patriots, leaving him 75 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. The run game is the lone bright spot on offense.
"When you're going through a season like we've had, you really grab onto any positive you can," center Trey Hopkins said.
Mixon said he was surprised when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady offered praise after the game.
"He was like, 'Great player, hell of a runner,'" Mixon said after the game. "I was like, 'Dang, that's Tom Brady that said that.' I appreciate that. I was like, 'Good job, keep being you, keep being great. ...'"
Also of interest. ... According to ESPN's Ben Baby, Taylor wasn't thrilled with how Cincinnati's wide receivers fared against the Patriots. And at least one of those receivers wasn't necessarily happy with Taylor.
Taylor placed the bulk of the blame for Dalton's four INTs on the wideouts.
"Three of them were against man-to-man coverage, one-on-ones," Taylor said. "And we got bullied. We did. Guys could go compete, knock the ball down, go get a one-on-one [ball]."
In turn, Tyler Boyd, who was targeted on two of those interceptions, was critical of the game plan and scheme against New England. Boyd, who finished with three catches for 26 yards, said the method of attack wasn't "top-notch" like it normally is. When asked to elaborate, Boyd was blunt.
"What did it look like out there?" Boyd said. "Did it look like anything was working?"
The comments aren't necessarily out of character for Taylor or Boyd during Cincinnati's 1-13 season. Taylor has lamented the inability for the receivers to create separation throughout the season. Boyd stumped for more targets during rookie Ryan Finley's three-game stint as the starting quarterback. And both men were understandably frustrated after what was a close game in the first half turned into a rout.
After Sunday's game, Boyd said he should have received more than his team-high seven targets despite being covered by New England's Stephon Gilmore, who had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. Boyd gave Gilmore credit for the two turnovers but said he felt he came open on roughly 70 percent of his routes on Sunday.
"If you want to justify that he shut me down on those two plays, that's cool," said Boyd, the Bengals' leading receiver this season. "It's whatever. But if you go watch the tape, you'll see."
Taylor said Boyd and Erickson could have done a better job of fighting for the ball and causing incompletions at the very least. On Gilmore's 64-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter, Boyd said he would have preferred a slant route instead of one toward the sideline, where Gilmore had the edge.
But Boyd and Taylor softened on their criticism the longer they talked Sunday. While Boyd was unhappy with his role, he said he didn't want to cause a stir, especially this late in the season.
"Two more games left, I mean, I ain't tripping," Boyd said. "I ain't stressing over it. I would like to win, absolutely. But I'm not going to go cause any trouble. They did a great job this whole year of scheming me up, getting me open and getting me the ball. But today just wasn't that."
Taylor was also asked about his criticism of the receivers as a whole throughout the season. His tone softened as he talked about a season that has been rough for the entire franchise.
"It's a group that this is important to them," Taylor said. "And they're trying to do everything we're asking them to do and go make plays for us. Today was just a tough day in that area. ..."
Dalton's 39.2 passer rating against the Patriots was the fourth lowest of his career. He threw four interceptions for the fourth time in his career and the first since last season at Carolina. The other four-interception games were against Baltimore. He'd hoped to end the season on a surge, but in the past two games he has completed 57 percent of his passes for 413 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions, two of them returned for touchdowns. ...
And finally. ... As Profootballtalk.com reported, after meeting with noted foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson on Monday, A.J. Green said what already seemed obvious: He isn't likely to play this season.
But Green expects to have a full offseason of training for 2020.
"I feel good just getting confirmation from him, knowing there's no effect on my future," Green said Tuesday, via Geoff Hobson of the team website. "I never thought it would be that bad that I could never play at a high level. Just hearing him saying it made me feel a lot better."
Green tore ligaments in his left ankle on the first day of training camp practice July 27, requiring surgery. He has not played this season despite remaining on the 53-player roster all season.
He practiced only once as a limited participant before the ankle swelled again.
"I would have been better off breaking it," Green said.
Green continued his rehab with Bengals rehab chief Nick Cosgray on Tuesday.
"[Anderson] said the biggest thing for me is to get my range of motion back," Green said. "Most of it is back. It will take time as I keep running routes and keep doing stuff with Nick."
Green is scheduled to become a free agent in March, having played only nine games last season and none this season.
QBs: Joe Burrow, Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Rodney Anderson
WRs: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, John Ross, Auden Tate, Damion Willis, Alex Erickson, Mike Thomas, Stanley Morgan Jr.
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Cethan Carter, Mason Schreck
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
As ESPN.com's Jake Trotter reminded readers, Cleveland's 2019 season began with massive expectations.
With two games still to go, its season could already be over.
The Browns (6-8) were effectively eliminated from the playoff conversation Sunday, as the Arizona Cardinals put the finishing touches on one of the NFL's biggest disappointments with an emphatic 38-24 victory at State Farm Stadium. The Browns will officially be eliminated from playoff contention if the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night.
Cleveland's issues all season resurfaced in a game the Browns had to have, just to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield remained out of sync with wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry in critical moments.
Coach Freddie Kitchens bailed on Nick Chubb and the running game too easily, even though it was all Cleveland had working.
And Arizona rookie quarterback Kyler Murray annihilated a Browns defense, its mediocrity only overshadowed this season by the ineptitude of the Cleveland offense.
The Cardinals came into the weekend with the NFL's third-worst red zone offense. Sunday, they scored touchdowns on their first four red zone possessions, embarrassing Cleveland defensive coordinator Steve Wilks in his return to Arizona, where he was head coach last season.
Yet once again, Cleveland's underwhelming offense stole the show, with the Browns setting a dysfunctional tone on the opening drive. First, OBJ dropped a pass. Then two snaps later, Mayfield sailed a throw over Beckham in the end zone, which the Cardinals intercepted.
The ineptitude continued throughout the day, underscored by Cleveland taking a delay of game penalty on the first play after a kickoff with the Cardinals leading 14-0.
The frustration from the game -- and this entire season -- finally boiled over in the second half.
Beckham was visibly upset when Mayfield didn't see him wide open on a corner pattern on a failed third-and-7. Later in the fourth quarter, Landry had a heated exchange with Kitchens on the sidelines after the Browns decided to try a field goal instead of going for it at the Arizona 27 on fourth-and-3.
Austin Seibert wound up missing the kick and the Cardinals quickly went down the field for a touchdown to put the Browns away.
For the game. And the season. ... Now, as Trotter summed up, talk of Kitchens' coaching future, Beckham's 2020 destination and Mayfield's ultimate potential will consume the team this season, and for the remainder of a season that can't end fast enough. ...
For the record, Kitchens downplayed his sideline exchange with Landry.
The coach didn't explain what precipitated the disagreement, though. Landry did.
"I just went and asked for the ball," Landry said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. "I just went and asked for the ball to try to get involved in the game to help. That's pretty much it."
Landry, the Browns' leading receiver, had two catches for 2 yards in the first half and no receptions in the third quarter against the league's worst pass defense. Landry stormed to the sideline after catching a 2-yard pass on third-and-five, yelling at Kitchens.
"Again, I just went and asked for the ball," Landry said. "I felt like I hadn't touched the ball since the first quarter, and we're inside of 10 minutes in the fourth, and I still hadn't touched the ball. Well, that play I touched the ball. So you know."
Landry finished with five catches for 23 yards.
It's become a familiar refrain in Cleveland as Beckham, who had eight catches for 66 yards Sunday, yelled at Kitchens last week.
"Yeah, with just playmakers in general, I think you continue to get guys the ball, continue to get playmakers the ball and we have success that way," Landry said. "And I didn't feel like I was really involved today."
Given all that, it's worth point out that Kareem Hunt noticed something he found disturbing Sunday.
"Yeah, I feel like there were some plays that everybody didn't leave their 110 percent out there the whole play through the whole play, through the whole whistle," Hunt said on Monday. "And we've all got to do that if we want to be successful."
He said he actually saw guys taking plays off during the game.
"I mean, yeah, I guess so but it's everybody," Hunt said. "You can't point out one person or nothing like that. It's everybody, and everybody's got to do their job."
He noted that the Browns have all the talent in the world to be successful if everyone digs a little deeper.
"Yeah, right," he said. "We've got all the pieces and it's just going out there and playing as a team and everybody playing hard each and every play and no taking plays off or nothing like that and just finishing.
"We've got to finish and we've got to come out strong, and that's usually our thing. Usually you get off to a hot start, and shoot, we wait for them to -- they hit us in the mouth first."
Finishing strong won't be easy if players are more interested in getting out of Cleveland than they are in getting better.
NFL Network's Michael Silver reported per two sources as Sunday's game ended, "multiple" Browns players yelled toward the Arizona sideline to "come get me," including Landry.
The sentiment reportedly expressed by Landry and others is not good for anything associated with the Browns, chief among them Kitchens' job security. At 6-8, this season is officially a gigantic disappointment, and for a team stocked with such talent, it routinely underperforms. Add in locker room discontent and you're headed toward an organizational crossroad. ...
On a more positive note, Chubb has put together a phenomenal season as one of the only bright spots for the Browns this year. He rushed for 127 yards, giving him 11 games of 100 or more rushing yards in his career. That tied legend Jim Brown for the most 100-yard games by a Cleveland back in his first two seasons.
Cleveland won't have many other Pro Bowlers this year, but Chubb will definitely be one.
Chubb currently leads the NFL with 1,408 rushing yards, and the Browns are 6-8 and almost certain to miss the playoffs.
Only two running backs have a realistic chance of catching Chubb for the rushing lead: Titans running back Derrick Henry, who has 1,329 rushing yards, and Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who has 1,307 rushing yards. ...
David Njoku was a healthy scratch for Sunday's game against the Cardinals. Njoku played 21 snaps against the Bengals in his return from IR the week before, but failed to secure the ball on the Browns' opening drive, and it was picked off by linebacker Nick Vigil. Kitchens yelled at Njoku on the sidelines after the pick, and Njoku snapped back, according to those within earshot.
After the game, in which Njoku caught 1-of-3 targets for 4 yards, Kitchens pulled no punches in his criticism of the 2017 29th overall pick out of Miami.
"Yeah, exactly, hold onto the ball," Kitchens said. "That's it. We were not catching the ball, and when you hit the ground, your arms cannot relax so just because you think you have it, it does not mean your arms are relaxed when you hit the ground. The ball has to be the upmost of importance for everybody on the field. We have to protect it like it is our football because when we have it, it is our football."
With Njoku benched, Ricky Seals-Jones caught 3-of-4 targets for 29 yards and two touchdowns against his former team. Both Seals-Jones and Demetrius Harris are apparently ahead of Njoku on the depth chart at the moment. ...
And finally. ... The Browns are all but eliminated from playoff contention with a 1 percent chance of extending their season.
Beckham, though, has no plans of sitting out the final two games despite his lingering groin injury.
"It's a decision we'll find out when the time comes, but as long as [Landry] is on the field, as long as these boys are out here, I'm going to go out there and give my all," Beckham told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I love football way too much to think about sitting out and doing all of these things. I'm here for this team, and we'll see better days."
Beckham could require offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia.
I'll follow up on that -- and on the team's ongoing issues -- via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum, Garrett Gilbert, Kevin Davidson
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Dontrell Hilliard, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Taywan Taylor, Donovan Peoples-Jones, KhaDarel Hodge, Damion Ratley, Rashard Higgins
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Pharaoh Brown, Stephen Carlson, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
Moments before the Cowboys kicked off against the Rams, the Eagles put away the Redskins, putting pressure on the Cowboys to keep pace in the NFC East.
Few could have predicted what happened next.
The Cowboys put together a dominating performance against the Rams, winning 44-21, not so much to avenge the January playoff loss in Los Angeles as to make sure they will have a playoff game in January 2020.
The Cowboys (7-7) can clinch the NFC East Sunday against Philadelphia (7-7) with a victory at Lincoln Financial Field. The Cowboys have won seven of their nine games in Philadelphia with Jason Garrett as coach (interim or otherwise).
To get to this point, the Cowboys turned back the clock.
For the first time since Nov. 4, Ezekiel Elliott ran for more than 100 yards, finishing with 117 on 24 carries. For the second straight game he ran for two touchdowns, giving him 10 on the season. He looked as explosive Sunday as at any point this season.
It was his sixth 100-yard game of the season.
The Cowboys had touchdown drives of 90 and 97 yards in the first half. Combine that with Tony Pollard's 131-yard day and the Cowboys had their best rushing day of the season, which allowed them to dominate time of possession.
The formula worked in 2014 with DeMarco Murray and in 2016-2018 with Elliott. Looking ahead, Elliott has run for at least 96 yards in each of his five career games against Philadelphia.
"How many rushing yards did we have today? Like 300? Close to it?" Elliott asked. "Yeah, I mean we ran the ball really well today. The O-line, I don't know what they ate for breakfast, but they did a hell of a job and made it easy on us."
Tight end Jason Witten, 37, opened the Cowboys' scoring with a 19-yard touchdown grab, a one-hander on a throw from quarterback Dak Prescott. It was Witten's fourth touchdown of the season and the 72nd of his career, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Bob Hayes for second most in franchise history. Dez Bryant holds the team record with 73.
Prescott didn't have to throw much after going 9 of 16 for 160 yards in the first half, ending up 15 of 23 for 212 yards.
Through nine games, receiver Amari Cooper was averaging nearly six catches per game for 94 yards with seven touchdowns. In the past five games, he's at 3.6 catches and 45 yards per game with one TD. Cooper had one catch for 19 yards against the Rams, three games removed from his first outing without a catch for Dallas since the midseason trade last year.
Of course, no Cowboys wide receiver caught more than one pass against the Rams.
Cooper, Tavon Austin (59-yard touchdown), Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb had one apiece. The other 11 completions were to tight ends (Jason Witten with four, Blake Jarwin with two) and running backs (Elliott with three, Pollard with two). ...
Kai Forbath, who won a kicker tryout last Monday, made all of his point-after attempts. His 50-yard field goal to open the third quarter was his longest since 2017, when he played with the Minnesota Vikings. It didn't start great for Forbath, whose opening kickoff went out of bounds, but he made two 42-yard field goals. It was a welcomed change after seeing Brett Maher miss a league-high 10 field goal tries.
It was the Cowboys' first win against a team with a winning record since Week 13 last season when they beat the New Orleans Saints 13-10.
That win gave the Cowboys confidence that they could compete in the NFC. Maybe this win can do the same. ...
Thanks in part to the fact he didn't throw the ball much, not much was made of Prescott's sprained left wrist and injured right index finger. He injured both in the Week 14 loss to the Bears but practiced in full every day last week.
Former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, though, reported during the FOX broadcast Sunday that Prescott has a hairline fracture on the index finger.
Garrett wouldn't "get into the medical part of it" Monday when asked about it but seemed to confirm it when asked about playing with a hairline fracture.
"I've never had a hairline fracture in my finger to throw," Garrett said. "I think a lot of quarterbacks have had jammed fingers, and they've dealt with different things. It's hard obviously. Having the ball in your hand and feeling good is a big part of throwing the ball well. But Dak's a tough guy. Dak's a physically tough guy. He's a mentally tough guy. So whatever he's dealing with, he doesn't let a lot of people know about it. He goes out and does his job and he was able to do that again yesterday."
Prescott began the game with tape on the tip of his finger but removed it in the first quarter.
Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News cited a source who said Prescott does not have a fractured finger. The tip of Prescott's finger got smashed severely, and he experienced bleeding underneath the skin at the tip of his finger.
Whatever the case, Garrett said the injury did not affect Prescott, who also has a banged up right shoulder he sustained against the Rams.
Prescott will practice on a limited bsis Wednesday, but he's fully expected to play.
"He works through it, and he does what he needs to do," Garrett said.
I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant in coming days. ...
Garrett said linebacker Luke Gifford has a fractured arm; cornerback C.J. Goodwin will need surgery on his thumb; and linebacker Joe Thomas' knee injury is day to day.
Finally. ... Prescott's communication skills on the coin toss need work. It's safe to say he'll be more careful the next time the Cowboys win the toss. He admitted to botching the wording when trying to say the Cowboys would defer. Referee Walt Anderson thought he said Dallas wanted to kick, which would have resulted in the Cowboys kicking off to start both halves.
But Prescott also said "defer," and the NFL intervened to make sure Dallas got the ball to start the second half.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Clayton Thorson, Ben DiNucci
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Jordan Chunn, Rico Dowdle, Sewo Olonilua
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Cedrick Wilson, Devin Smith, Tevin Jones, Ventell Bryant, Lance Lenoir, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown
TEs: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Blake Bell
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold suggested, "Pump the brakes a bit on the whole Drew Lock-Patrick Mahomes rivalry in the making as the Denver Broncos' hopes of a .500 finish were formally swept away Sunday by a snowstorm and the Chiefs' offense in a 23-3 Kansas City win at Arrowhead Stadium."
The loss means the Broncos haven't defeated the Chiefs since Peyton Manning retired. Sunday's loss was Denver's ninth in a row to Kansas City, guaranteeing the Broncos (5-9) will finish below .500 for the third consecutive season.
The homecoming for Lock -- who is from Lee's Summit, Missouri, which is about 13 miles from Arrowhead -- was a difficult one, as the Broncos' offense never found its traction on a snow-swept afternoon. Lock was battered by the Chiefs' pass rush and even with some late completions finished 18 of 40 passing for 208 yards with an interception as the Broncos were held without a touchdown for the second time this season.
"You know, it's disappointing," Lock said, "but it doesn't have anything to do with coming home. I would be disappointed anywhere in the country if I played like this. When you come out with a loss, you never get excited. Disappointment is always going to be the reaction."
There were reasons to expect Lock to have a triumphant homecoming. He was coming off a masterful performance in Houston in which he became the first NFL rookie to throw for at least 300 yards and three TDs in a road debut.
But the Chiefs' defense, which was so bad last year that it underwent a near-complete offseason overhaul, showed just how far it has come under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. With mixed coverages, perfectly timed blitzes and enough push up front, the Chiefs were able to hold Denver to just 251 yards.
"He may not have had the game that he wanted, coming back home, but he's going to be a good quarterback in this league," Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "I could tell, looking into his eyes, he can throw the football. He believes in his arm. Obviously, they have got to get guys around him, but going forward competing against him is going to be fun because he likes to throw the ball."
Lock certainly could use another set of hands. He completed a 43-yard pass to rookie tight end Noah Fant and a 33-yarder to Courtland Sutton, but otherwise had to settle for a dink-and-dunk game. And in the rare instances he had time to throw, and delivered a ball downfield, it seemed somebody was allowing it to bounce off their hands.
Sutton dropped two passes; he had only one in the first 13 games.
"Obviously we had three points, so starting with everyone on the offense, we have to be better," said Broncos offensive lineman Dalton Risner, who had his own cheering section after starring at Kansas State. "But he kept great composure. He wasn't shutting down, he wasn't pouting or anything like that. The guy got hit a lot today, under some pressure, only his third game in the NFL, he's in his home city. I think he did great as always. I'm one of his biggest fans."
The performance wasn't nearly what Lock envisioned Sunday. Nor was the result.
But he still had a memorable trip to Arrowhead Stadium, and he's confident that the return trips will be much better.
"I think, you know, just getting the chance to play here was awesome," Lock said. "Obviously, you'd like to win. But I don't think this will be the last time I'll be visiting Arrowhead. I definitely wouldn't like to think it's going to be like that every single time we come here to play at Arrowhead."
In some ways, a 309-yard, three-touchdown day in Houston perhaps made people forget Lock is a rookie who had spent 10 full regular-season practices on the field before he made his first start Dec. 1 against the Chargers.
He's a player who has many more games to play before it can decided if he is, or isn't, the long-term answer at quarterback.
The Broncos have two winnable games against Detroit and Oakland to close out the season on a positive note to try to head into 2020 with more optimism. ...
Also of interest. ... Phillip Lindsay ran for 32 yards on seven carries and did not haul in either of his targets during Sunday's loss.
As CBSSports.com notes, Sunday's 32 yards were a season low for Lindsay.
There appeared to have been some attempted trickery early with Lindsay taking a direct snap and briefly looking to pass before pulling the ball down for a modest gain. There wasn't much excitement after that for Lindsay or Denver's offense as a whole. Lindsay has been held under 70 total yards in four consecutive games, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Detroit makes it five on Sunday.
The Lions have been vulnerable against the pass this season but have surrendered just 4.0 yards per opponent carry, seventh-best in the league. ...
On the injury front. ... Fant missed the entire second quarter after coming down hard on his shoulder following a chunk gain to convert a fourth and one. Fangio said Fant's right shoulder injury shouldn't sideline him: "We're thinking he'll be fine."
And finally. ... Kareem Jackson's season is over.
According to Mike Klis of KUSA, the Broncos safety has been suspended for the final two games of the regular season.
The punishment stems from a September DUI arrest which hadn't previously been reported, and he waived his appeal. That allows him to serve out the punishment for a couple of weeks in which his team has been eliminated and start with a clean slate next year.
The Broncos signed him to a three-year, $33 million deal this offseason, hoping he'd become a big part of the defensive rebuild there.
The veteran defensive back made the switch to safety full time this year (the Texans had tried in the past), and has flourished, and was named AFC defensive player of the week a week ago.
QBs: Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Riley Neal
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Khalfani Muhammad, Levante Bellamy
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick, Daesean Hamilton, Tyrie Cleveland, Fred Brown, Juwann Winfree, Diontae Spencer
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Albert Okwuegbunam, Jake Butt, Troy Fumagalli, Nick Vannett
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Noah Trister, head coach Matt Patricia showed up for work a day after his free-falling team lost again in front of an apathetic home crowd.
"I just expect to be here every day until they tell me not to," Patricia said Monday. "Hopefully, that'll be a long time."
For now, it'll be another year.
Lions owner Martha Ford told reporters on Tuesday that Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn will both return to the team for the 2020 season. It will be Patricia's third year as head coach and Quinn's fifth season in Detroit. Both men are under contract through 2022.
Vice chair Sheila Ford Hamp said that firing Patricia and/or Quinn might have been "the popular choice," but that the organization feels this is the more prudent decision. Ford also shared what she wants to see from the team next year.
"We expect to be a playoff contender and those are our expectations, which we've expressed to both Bob and to Matt," Ford said, via Chris Burke of TheAthletic.com.
It remains to be seen if other changes could be made to the coaching staff. One spot to look at may be defensive coordinator as the team has struggled on that side of the ball with Paul Pasqualoni in that position this season.
Whatever the case, the Lions (3-10-1) have lost seven in a row -- for the first time in seven years -- and 10 of 11 under Patricia.
Defensive end Trey Flowers, who played for Patricia when he was the defensive coordinator in New England, said Patricia is getting too much blame for the team's slump.
"He's not on the field," Flowers said. "He prepares us the best he can and then it's up to the players."
Players show up at the team's training facility early and leave late, but Patricia is there before them and stays even longer in the hopes of figuring out what he can do to help the team win -- and keep his job.
"It's most of the reason why I don't leave the building because they're going to have to throw me out," he joked.
And Trister reports the Lions do not seem to be giving up on Patricia or their teammates. Detroit fell behind the Buccaneers 21-0 and instead of packing it in for the day, the banged-up team had the ball late in the game down by just seven points.
Detroit's previous six setbacks were by four, three, eight, seven and seven points.
"We obviously have a long way to go and we have some things that we have to fix," Patricia said. "But at least the team itself cares about each other and that's something."
Detroit ends the season at Denver (5-9) and at home against NFC North-leading Green Bay, which may have as many fans as the Lions do Dec. 29 at Ford Field. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Lions almost abandoned their awful running game, handing off the ball a season-low 18 times against Tampa Bay. Detroit had a season-low 45 yards rushing Sunday, a third straight game with a declining total on the ground.
One nice story for the Lions was running back Wes Hills, a rookie from Slippery Rock who ran for two short touchdowns after coming off the practice squad to make his NFL debut. But that only underscored how decimated the Lions are. Hills did his scoring on 10 carries for 21 yards -- a far cry from the debut of the practice squad running back he replaced, Bo Scarbrough, who had 14 carries for 55 yards and followed it up with enough to be in the conversation for a job in 2020.
On Sunday, Scarbrough was inactive due to a rib injury.
"It's not easy, but it's part of the deal," Patricia said of his team's injury situation.
Adding to that, offensive guard Kenny Wiggins (torn biceps) and defensive tackle Mike Daniels (arm) were put on injured reserve Monday. Detroit added offensive Caleb Benenoch off waivers from Dallas. Benenoch started 22 games from 2016-18 for Tampa Bay. He has been with the Buccaneers, Cowboys, Carolina and New England this season.
Meanwhile, running back Kerryon Johnson does not want to sit out for the remainder of the year.
Johnson says that even though the Lions are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, he wants to get back on the field in Week 16 and Week 17 because he loves playing football.
"As stupid as some people may see it, I like to play, man," Johnson said, via the Detroit Free Press. "I did all this work in the offseason, did all this work in the summer, and I didn't do it to play five games. Obviously, my goal every year is to play a full season. Two seasons down, I'm 0 for 2. But getting to [seven games], whatever it might be, is better than where I'm at now."
That's the attitude of the vast majority of NFL players: For all the talk from fans about whether teams should tank for higher draft picks, players want to play, and want to win. Johnson is hoping to get two more chances to do that.
We'll see if Johnson makes it back before the season ends.
I'll have more on that possibility -- as well as on Scarbrough's ribs (he worked on a limited basis Wednesday) -- via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Matthew Stafford will not make it back. The team announced on Tuesday their franchise QB was going on injured reserve, because of a back injury.
Stafford had been inactive for the last six weeks, and there was little indication he was a possibility to play out the string with a 3-10-1 team.
They'll continue to start Blough in their final two games. ...
A few final notes here. ... Receiver Danny Amendola had 100-plus yards receiving for a third time this season despite playing with third-string quarterback David Blough, who filled in for the injured Stafford. Amendola has 641 yards receiving and he's 49 yards away from breaking his career high set in 2010 with the Rams in his second NFL season.
Tight end Jesse James signed a four-year contract in March, when Detroit was hoping he would make about 40 catches for 400 yards and two touchdowns as he did the previous three years in Pittsburgh. That's not going to happen. James had a season-high 31 yards receiving and matched a season high with three receptions against Tampa Bay. He has just 13 receptions for 125 yards without a score this season.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniel, David Blough
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, D'Andre Swift, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, Jason Huntley, Tra Carson, Wes Hills
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham, Geronimo Allison, Marvin Hall
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Isaac Nauta
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky put it, "Here's the Green Bay Packers' identity: Throw it to Davante Adams, run it with Aaron Jones and hope that's enough.
"That's about all Aaron Rodgers has.
"And it's not like he played lights-out. ..."
But on Sunday, it was good enough to beat the Chicago Bears 21-13 at a frigid Lambeau Field.
"I think we're going to have to find ways to get them the ball and move them around," Rodgers said. "I think what Matt did today was great moving Davante around. We had a number of snaps with him in slot. He was playing both Z and X, gonna have to do that. We had [Jones] split out a few times, didn't really target him when he was split out at receiver, but the more we can move him around, it just gives the defense more things to worry about. And he's a dangerous runner for us."
At least this time, it happened on the same day.
Too often this season, it has been an either/or situation with Adams and Jones -- such as in last Sunday's win over the Washington Redskins, when Jones rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown but Adams had just four catches for 41 yards.
Or the week before, in the win at the New York Giants, when Adams caught six passes for 64 yards and two touchdowns but Jones had just 11 carries for 18 yards.
And then there are the times when it's been neither, such as in the loss at San Francisco when Jones rushed for just 38 yards on 13 carries and Adams managed just 43 yards with a touchdown on seven catches.
"It just keeps the defense honest because they don't know who's going to get it," Adams said. "If they see pass and they think it's coming to me, it makes it tougher for us if we're just leaning on that totally, but I think we've got a lot of guys. Jake came in and made a great impact play, and I think we can see more of that from him. So, guys just have to make sure they step up."
Yes, a 49-yard catch by Jake Kumerow was a nice bonus, but for every play made by someone other than Adams and Jones, there also seems to be a missed chance like the one in the second quarter that ended with Rodgers seemingly upset with tight end Robert Tonyan after the two failed to connect on a third-down play.
While Jones is averaging 5.4 yards per touch, Jones' backup, Jamaal Williams, is averaging 4.8 yards on far fewer opportunities. Meanwhile, Adams has reestablished himself as one of the game's top wideouts since returning from a turf toe injury. Adams has four touchdowns in the last four weeks after being shut out of the end zone in his first six outings this season.
Adams' two prominent backups, Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, each have been relative no-shows for several weeks now. More on that in a bit.
"I say it every week, we're trying to find ways to get our playmakers the ball but at the same time I just don't know if you can play -- you never want to force feed it," head coach Matt LaFleur said. "It's easier with a running back obviously, you can always give him the ball in the run game. But as far as the pass game is concerned, we're trying to put guys in position to be at the point of attack, and if it's there, yeah, great, take it. And if it's not there then we have to progress and find our other guys."
Rodgers wasn't at his best.
He completed 16 of 33 passes for just 203 yards and made two gaffes that could have cost the Packers -- an inexplicable throw for an obvious intentional grounding and a near fumble when he refused to slide. It was the first time Rodgers completed fewer than half of his passes in a game since a 30-13 Packers win over Minnesota in Week 11 of 2015.
Even with plenty of time again thanks to his offensive line -- he averaged 2.83 seconds to throw and was sacked just once -- Rodgers went 6-of-21 passing with more than 2.5 seconds for his worst single-game completion percentage on such throws over the last four seasons, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
"It seemed like Aaron had time to throw the football," LaFleur said.
And that was also the case last week, when Rodgers had 3.5 seconds to throw, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, for his most time in a game he finished over the past four seasons yet still managed just 195 passing yards against Washington.
In his last four games, which dates to the 49ers loss, Rodgers has completed just 59.1 percent of his passes (28th in the NFL in that span) with an average yards per attempt of just 5.87 (30th) and passer rating of 94.1 (10th). In his first 10 games, Rodgers completed 64.8 percent of his passes (15th in the league to that point) with an average yards per attempt of 7.83 (10th) and a passer rating of 102.7 (seventh).
As Rodgers has struggled, so has LaFleur's first-year offense on the whole. Perhaps the most problematic numbers over the past four games have been the Packers' yards per play (4.67, 31st in the NFL), yards per attempt (5.8, 31st in the NFL), yards per game (288.3, 28th) and passing yards per game (170.8, 30th). In the first 10 games, they were in the top 11 of the league in yards per play (5.82, 11th), yards per attempt (7.32, 10th) and passing yards per game (253.9, 11th), and they ranked 17th in yards per game (356.0).
Fortunately, Adams and his seven-catch, 103-yard, one-touchdown game, and Jones with his 13-carry, 51-yard, two-touchdown game were enough to get the Packers to 11-3 with two games to go in LaFleur's first season.
But they might have to do even more to give them any chance for a long playoff run. Green Bay will travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings this week for its first "Monday Night Football" game at Minnesota since 2009. The division crown will be on the line. ...
As noted above, Valdes-Scantling still can't find the football.
LaFleur tried to get the struggling former deep-threat receiver going with a long pass play to open the game. Rodgers delivered a ball that Valdes-Scantling should have caught in stride, but instead it went through his outstretched hands.
Valdes-Scantling, who didn't have another target the rest of the game, has just two catches for 11 yards since his two-catch, 133-yard, one-touchdown game on Oct. 20 against the Raiders.
Beyond that, ESPN Stats and Information has the Packers with 13 dropped passes this season, which was right about in the middle of the league (tied for 17th). But you could grade them with as many as four drops on Sunday, including two on the opening drive (by Valdes-Scantling and Allison) and two more by Adams.
With Valdes-Scantling struggling LaFleur said Kumerow needs to be more involved. "We have to make sure we get him on the field," the coach said. "That's what we talked about today. I think you'll see more of him in the future. ..."
On the injury front. ... The Packers escaped Sunday's win without any serious injuries and appear to be primed to make a healthy push through the final two weeks of the regular season.
a few final notes here. ... Rodgers moved into 13th place all time in career passing yards (46,407), passing Vinny Testaverde and Carson Palmer. Fran Tarkenton is in 12th place with 47,003.
Rodgers also has 265 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception. That's the third-longest streak in team history (Rodgers, 402 attempts in 2018; Bart Starr, 294 attempts in 1964-65).
And last. ... The Packers brought in a handful of offensive players for workouts on Tuesday, per Demovsky.
Former Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins was the most notable name of the five tryouts.
Collins is finally getting some looks from NFL teams now that a three-game suspension and injury concerns have passed. Collins broke a bone in his leg around the start of July that required surgery.
He recently visited the Buffalo Bills on Friday as well.
Additionally, the Packers worked out quarterback Tanner Lee, fullback Ricky Ortiz and wide receivers Emanuel Hall and Brian Burt.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love, Tim Boyle, Manny Wilkins
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Jamaal Williams, Dexter Williams, Tyler Ervin, John Crockett
WRs: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Devin Funchess, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jake Kumerow, Darrius Shepherd, Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Jace Sternberger, Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Robert Tonyan
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
According to ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop, after a run during his 104-yard performance on Sunday, Carlos Hyde went to the sideline to remind himself of what had gotten him there.
"I just told myself, 'Just be patient," Hyde said. 'Be patient.'"
And in the fourth quarter, Hyde's mindset paid off when he ran for a 10-yard touchdown that gave the Texans a 21-14 lead. Hyde credited his offensive line -- including a key block by right tackle Chris Clark -- and the way he was able to find a lane to the end zone.
That run also gave him more than 1,000 rushing yards for the season for the first time in his career. Hyde now has 1,030 rushing yards in 15 games. His previous high was 988 rushing yards in 2016.
"It's huge to go for 1,000 for the first time," Hyde said. "It's been a long journey for me. And to come back and have a big year like I'm having now, it's huge."
Barshop went on to remind readers that Hyde has had to be patient as he found the right situation since leaving the San Francisco 49ers after the 2017 season. After signing with the Cleveland Browns, the former Ohio State star was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the middle of last season. He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs during the offseason, and then was traded to the Texans for tackle Martinas Rankin just before the start of the 2019 season. It was one of four trades the Texans made at the cutdown deadline on Aug. 31, and it certainly wasn't the one that gained the most attention. But it's one that made a big impact.
"He runs hard," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "I mean, he gets his pads down. He's got good vision. He's a hard guy to tackle, especially when he gets going and he has been like that all year."
Hyde said he "didn't really have any expectations" coming into Houston, who traded for Hyde after starting running back Lamar Miller tore his ACL in the Texans' third preseason game. But as soon as Hyde arrived in his new home, he was "locked in."
"I was going to come in here and do my job," Hyde said. "Whatever role I needed to play, I was going to do whatever I had to do. But this feels good, though. To be in the position I am today, to finally rush for 1,000 yards. It definitely feels good."
"It was just a matter of time until I fell into the right place. God put me here, and things have just been working out for me. I know, just being a running back, patience is part of the game."
Hyde gained his 104 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. It was his seventh career game with 100 or more rushing yards, and his third this season.
"He deserves all the credit, he deserves more hype, and he deserves more touches," quarterback Deshaun Watson said. "So, we're definitely going to ride behind Carlos and ride behind our O-line, because they're doing a great job for us."
Meanwhile, despite a blowout loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 14, O'Brien reminded his players last week what was still in front of them.
Houston (9-5) took care of business on Sunday, ending the Titans' four-game winning streak to take the outright lead in the AFC South, and giving themselves the chance to clinch the division next week.
The Texans can clinch the division this week with a victory.
Houston plays at Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon and the Titans host New Orleans on Sunday. Even if the Titans win in the Week 17 rematch, Houston would hold the tiebreaker because of a better division record.
O'Brien knows his team has some things to clean up if it hopes to beat the Buccaneers, but he is confident that the Texans will be ready to perform despite the short week.
"Our guys will come in focused," he said. "It's just a lot of fun when you're playing these games at the end of the year with a lot on the line. I think that's what it's all about. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... The Texans won despite Watson throwing two interceptions in the end zone, one on the opening drive for the first time in his NFL career, and another at the end of the third quarter. Watson completed 19 of 27 passes for 243 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
It was the second time that Watson has thrown multiple interceptions in consecutive games this season. He also did it in Weeks 6 and 7. Before this season, he had never thrown multiple interceptions in consecutive games, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Both interceptions came in the end zone.
Watson also joined Dan Marino, Kurt Warner and Patrick Mahomes as the only quarterbacks to reach 70 passing touchdowns within their first 36 career games.
Wide receiver Kenny Stills had two touchdown receptions on Sunday for his first multi-touchdown game this season. Stills, who is in his first year in Houston after a trade from Miami, has 504 yards receiving with four TDs this year.
DeAndre Hopkins had four catches for 98 yards in the fourth quarter on Sunday to help Houston secure the victory. ...
On the injury front. ... The Texans listed Hyde (ankle and Will Fuller (hamstring) as limited participants Tuesday and Wednesday practice. Darren Fells was limited Wednesday by a sore hand. Hopkins was held out Wednesday due to illness.
I'll be following up on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Saturday's game, but there doesn't appear to be much concern about their availability heading into the weekend. ...
And finally. ... O'Brien was asked about the possibility of J.J. Watt returning off injured reserve this season, and it sounds pretty positive: "He's certainly made progress based on his work ethic and who he's working with in the training room. We will see."
The Texans can designate one more player to return from injured reserve. Before hosting the Colts in Week 12, Houston added tight end Jordan Thomas to the active roster after he started the season on injured reserve with a rib injury.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: David Johnson, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, Randall Cobb, Isaiah Coulter, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter, Keke Coutee
TEs: Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas, Kahale Warring
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
Monday night's thrashing at the hands of the NFC South champion New Orleans Saints ensured that last season's wild-card upstart wouldn't be replicating such a run to the postseason. For Frank Reich's Colts, it's a moment that feels rather important for the long-term future of the franchise, even with 2019 essentially finished.
"Tonight, we just got it handed to us," Reich said after Monday's 34-7 loss seen by a national television audience, via The Athletic.
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells reported, the Colts' playoff aspirations in the post-Andrew Luck era officially came to an end when the New Orleans Saints beat them 34-7 on Monday night.
The loss, their most lopsided Reich, eliminated the Colts from the playoffs, and it continued a plunge that has seen them go from first place in the AFC South at 5-2 on Oct. 27 to dropping their sixth game in the past seven. The Colts have missed the playoffs in four of the past five seasons.
The current free fall is the opposite of the 2018 campaign, when the Colts started 1-5 but won nine of their final 10 games to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Losing a player of Luck's caliber hurt, especially because the franchise quarterback retired two weeks before the start of the regular season. But the Colts' problems run deeper.
They appeared to be staying afloat when they won five of their first seven games, which included victories over the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans. But the Colts, now 6-8, lacked the ability to finish, as six of their defeats have been by seven points or less this season.
Maybe it's good that the Colts lost those games, because it allowed for their flaws to be put under the microscope for the future.
Injuries to the likes of wide receivers T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell and tight end Eric Ebron put into perspective that general manager Chris Ballard has to address the offensive skill positions the same way he attacked addressing the defense when he used seven of 10 draft picks on that side of the ball last season because the Colts lack depth.
The biggest question mark surrounding Ballard and the Colts might be what to do with quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Nobody expected Brissett to be Peyton Manning or Luck, the two franchise quarterbacks since 1998, but they also didn't expect him to be as inconsistent during the second half of the season.
Ballard gave Brissett a three-year contract extension less than a week before the start of the regular season, but to say he is going to be the starter next season is shortsighted.
Brissett, like the rest of his teammates, had a horrendous performance on Monday that started with an overthrown pass on a third-down play that should have resulted in a first down. He was 18-of-34 for 165 yards. To put into perspective how bad Brissett was, he had nearly the same number of completions (five) as there were punts (four) by the Indianapolis special-teams unit in the first half.
Brissett's accuracy continues to be a problem. He also missed throws to Hilton and running back Jordan Wilkins that would have been good enough for first downs when the Colts had a chance to stay in the contest during the first half.
Hilton returned Monday night from a calf injury that had sidelined him for five of Indy's last six games but had little impact on the proceedings. The veteran wideout saw half of the Colts' offensive snaps (26), fewer than that of Marcus Johnson, Zach Pascal and Dontrelle Inman.
Hilton was targeted nine times in those snaps though, catching four balls for 25 yards. Too little, too late for T.Y.
Marlon Mack rushed 11 times for 19 yards and was not targeted in Monday night's loss.
As CBSSports.com notes, Mack could hardly find room to run against a swarming New Orleans front seven, and the Colts falling behind early prevented them from running more often. When they did manage to get in scoring position, it was Wilkins who was handed a one-yard touchdown out of Indy's backfield.
Although his team has now been eliminated from playoff contention, Mack at least has a favorable matchup in Week 16 versus the Panthers, who've allowed the third-most rushing yards this season.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, Dezmon Patmon, Marcus Johnson, Daurice Fountain, Ashton Dulin, Chad Williams
TEs: Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, Matt Lengel, Xavier Grimble, Mo Alie-Cox
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
According to ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco, Gardner Minshew II made a pretty good argument on Sunday to be the Jaguars' starting quarterback next season by leading his third game-winning drive of the season.
It was ugly in the first half (3-for-10), but Minshew completed 5 of 6 passes for 46 yards -- including a 3-yard touchdown pass to Chris Conley with 31 seconds to play -- on the final drive to give the Jaguars a 20-16 victory in the Oakland Raiders' final game in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. It was the Jaguars' first victory in the Pacific Time zone since beating the Raiders on Jan. 2, 2005. They had lost 10 consecutive games on the West Coast.
Minshew led the Jaguars to 17 unanswered points in the final 16 minutes. His numbers weren't impressive (201 yards, two TDs), but this was Minshew's best performance since he threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over the New York Jets on Oct. 27. That was the last game the Jaguars won prior to Sunday.
Minshew improved to 5-6 as the starter.
"He's still a young player," head coach Doug Marrone said. "He's still learning, going through the progressions. But the one thing that you see with the kid is this love and intensity to go out there and play."
The Jaguars' quarterback situation is murky for 2020 and beyond. Nick Foles will in the second year of the four-year, $88 million contract he signed this past March and carries a $33.875 million dead salary cap hit. He played poorly after he re-gained is starting job after his collarbone injury and Minshew needed to finish the season strong to have a case to unseat him as the starter again.
He provided one Sunday.
The Jaguars really miss wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. Minshew put together plenty of late-game magic, but Chark's absence because of an ankle injury was apparent early. Minshew had 69 yards passing on the Jaguars' first six drives Sunday, and the receivers struggled during that time to get separation.
Marrone told reporters that Chark (ankle) was cleared to get on the field and do some running and cutting on Monday. He's waiting on report from trainers on how Chark did but Marrone called it great news for Chark's chance to play Sunday.
"I think there's a good chance he'll be able to come back and play," Marrone said. "I know that's what his mindset is, so that's good. He's on the field running and cutting. I haven't gotten the report from that yet, but that's a great sign."
Dede Westbrook did little to fill in for Chark. Westbrook had two receptions for 14 yards, giving him eight catches for 39 yards in two weeks. ...
Leonard Fournette carried the ball 15 times for 42 yards and caught five of seven targets for 31 yards against the Raiders.
The running back continues to be heavily involved in the passing game, seeing at least six targets in seven straight games while compiling 651 scrimmage yards and two TDs over that stretch. Fournette also set a new career high of 1,081 rushing yards with this performance, and he'll have two more games to pad that total, including this week's game against the Falcons in Atlanta. ...
The Jaguars' still have issues at tight end. ... Seth DeValve's return after a four-game absence helped, and the veteran caught two passes for 23 yards. But those were the only receptions for the position Sunday, and its lack of productivity severely limits what the Jaguars can do in the passing game in the middle of the field.
And finally. ... An NFL arbiter has ruled that the Jacksonville Jaguars cannot fine players for missing appointments with a trainer or physician after the NFLPA filed a grievance against the team because it fined one player more than $700,000 for doing so during the 2018 offseason.
Dante Fowler Jr., whom the Jaguars traded to the Los Angeles Rams during the 2018 season, basically confirmed on Twitter that he was the player.
Per a letter the NFL Players Association sent to players, the NFLPA said the jointly appointed arbiter ruled that offseason activities are "strictly voluntary" (with limited exceptions) and no team can make those activities mandatory. Teams cannot require players to rehab or go to medical appointments at team facilities in the offseason or pre-training camp period.
The NFLPA letter says the arbiter's decision "puts a stop to the blatant overreach by the Jaguars."
The letter also stated that Jaguars players "continue to be at odds with Jaguars management over their rights under the CBA far more than players on other clubs." In addition, the letter said that more than 25 percent of the grievances filed by NFL players have been against the Jaguars and "you as players may want to consider this when you have a chance to select your next club."
The letter does not name anyone with the Jaguars, but executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin has previously gotten into trouble with the NFLPA over similar matters. The NFLPA investigated a letter that Coughlin emailed to several players under contract that they needed to report to the team facility for a physical in March 2017 -- less than three months after Coughlin was hired.
Coughlin also drew sharp criticism this past April for taking a not-so-subtle shot at cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Telvin Smith for skipping voluntary workouts.
Speaking at the team's annual state of the franchise address, Coughlin said "championship teams are dominated by selfless individuals who recognize that the welfare of the team must always be paramount to any other consideration."
Ramsey and Smith were the only players who didn't show up for the start of the team's offseason program.
Neither remains with Jacksonville. Smith retired before training camp, and Ramsey forced a trade to the Rams in mid-October. Part of Ramsey's criticism involved the front office.
Given the team's ongoing struggles and with the NFLPA basically advising players to think twice before signing with the Jaguars, don't be surprised if there's a new front office and coaching staff in coming days.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Josh Dobbs, Mike Glennon, Jake Luton
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Chris Thompson, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Jeremy McNichols, James Robinson
WRs: D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson, Chris Conley, CJ Board, Keelan Cole, Michael Walker
TEs: Tyler Eifert, Josh Oliver, Tyler Davis, James O'Shaughnessy, Charles Jones
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta advised readers this week, Travis Kelce has never cared much about individual statistics, even though the Chiefs tight end has been putting up some eye-popping numbers ever since he arrived in the NFL seven years ago.
He's the consummate team-first player. The only number that matters to him is the number of wins.
Well, all those catches and yards and touchdowns that Kelce keeps piling up happen to be a big factor in the number of victories the Chiefs have accumulated over the years. Kelce caught another 11 passes for 142 yards in leading them to a 23-3 rout of the Denver Broncos on Sunday, allowing them to keep pace in the race for a first-round playoff bye in the AFC.
"Right now it's just a bunch of numbers. Honestly, I'm focused on winning games," said Kelce, who became the first tight end in NFL history with four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. "It being a team sport, the individual accolades, you know, I like to kind of push them aside and try to focus on how I can get better for my teammates."
Get better? Maintaining his level of excellence is probably good enough.
Kelce has 1,131 yards receiving, which means he's closing in on another season that would rank among the top 10 in Chiefs history. The four seasons of 1,000 yards are matched only by tight ends Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Rob Gronkowski -- though none of them did it consecutively. And with 6,367 yards through his first seven seasons, Kelce has already shattered the NFL record for a tight end at this point in his career.
Making that last mark even more impressive is the fact that Kelce played one game and didn't catch a pass as a rookie. He underwent microfracture surgery on his knee and that delayed the start of his career. So really, he has more than 6,000 yards receiving in less than six full seasons, which puts him on pace with some of the league's best wide receivers.
"I mean, just how consistent he is on a game-to-game basis is truly special," quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "He's trying to win each game. He's a competitor. He doesn't look at the stats. He doesn't look at all that stuff. He's a competitor trying to win a football game. He's a guy you want on your team."
Especially this time of the year. Some of Kelce's best games have come late in the season and in the playoffs, and the Chiefs could use a few more of them.
All that said, the Chiefs are still searching for some offensive balance.
They ran 25 times for just 92 yards against Denver, and their longest run went for just 12 yards. That meager total is offset in part by screen passes, and the Chiefs should be a bit more potent once Damien Williams returns from his rib injury.
The Chiefs need to have more success on the ground.
Every time LeSean McCoy seems poised to have a breakout game, the veteran running back gets bottled up. He managed just 16 yards on six carries against the Broncos in the snowy conditions Sunday.
In addition, the Chiefs are kicking too many field goals.
They called on Harrison Butker three times in the first half alone. While he made them all, the fact that the Chiefs had to repeatedly settle for three points kept the Broncos within range. Butker has made three field goals per game three times this season and four in three others. Their trouble with finishing drives with touchdowns will eventually cause the Chiefs to get beaten, if it continues.
On a more positive note, Mahomes' 79.4 completion rate against Denver, the second best of his career. And he did it despite constant snowfall that made gripping the ball difficult for both him and his receivers.
This week, the Chiefs play their regular-season road finale in Chicago Sunday night.
According to ESPN.com's Adam Teicher, if the Chiefs lose, expect them to rest their starters against the Chargers in Week 17 ahead of the playoffs. If they win, they will almost certainly play Mahomes and Co. against Los Angeles with the hope of leaping the Patriots for the No. 2 seed in the AFC. ...
Again, with Williams held out against the Broncos, all eyes will be on him in practice this week; I'll have more on his progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ..
Finally. ... The Chiefs on Monday claimed Terrell Suggs off waivers, and the veteran linebacker is expected to report to the AFC West champions, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Suggs' reporting status had come into question after he was cut by the Cardinals last week.
Sources had told ESPN that Suggs would strongly consider not reporting to his new team if it was anywhere other than in Baltimore -- his home from 2003 to 2018. But with a 12-2 record, the Ravens have the NFL's lowest waiver claim, meaning every team had the chance to claim Suggs before them.
A source told Schefter that four teams ended up submitting claims for Suggs -- the New Orleans Saints, the San Francisco 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks and the Chiefs. Kansas City had the worst record of that group and was awarded him.
As a result, Suggs is headed to Kansas City, which already has clinched the division and remains in the hunt for a first-round bye but lost a key member of its defense over the weekend when defensive end Alex Okafor tore a pectoral muscle in the team's win against the Denver Broncos, a source told Anderson.
Okafor has five sacks this season, which ranks fourth on the Chiefs. Third on that list is defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah (5.5), but he is also done for the season after tearing his pectoral muscle last month.
Without Okafor, the Chiefs are down to three true defensive ends: Frank Clark, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Demone Harris. Clark is second on the Chiefs with six sacks; Kpassagnon is fifth with four. Harris recently joined the Chiefs off the Ravens' practice squad.
Suggs made 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in his 13 games with the Cardinals, who waived him last week.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Jordan Ta'amu, Kyle Shurmur
RBs: Damien Williams, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darwin Thompson, DeAndre Washington, Elijah McGuire, Darrel Williams
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, Gehrig Dieter, Kalija Lipscomb
TEs: Travis Kelce, Deon Yelder, Nick Keizer, Ricky Seals-Jones
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy pointed out, ball security is an issue of acute personal importance to Anthony Lynn.
Not that you'd know it from the way his Los Angeles Chargers put the pigskin on the ground in their most humiliating loss of a humbling season.
Lynn was a running back at Texas Tech and in the NFL, and he spent 14 seasons as a running backs coach before moving up the coaching ladder. The imperative of not fumbling has been a central part of his entire professional life.
The Chargers' butterfingered, seven-turnover performance in their 39-10 loss to Minnesota on Sunday was personally offensive to their head coach.
"We didn't have seven fumbles all year, and all of a sudden we can't hold on to the football," a fuming Lynn said afterward. "It was bad. ... I have no idea where that came from. It's very uncharacteristic of our football team to have that many fumbles."
The Chargers (5-9) fumbled five times, losing four of them, after losing only seven fumbles in their first 13 games combined.
Philip Rivers also threw three interceptions to bring his season total to 18, matching the third-worst total of his 16-year career.
The Vikings scored 20 points off the miscues by Los Angeles.
Los Angeles' first eight losses were all by seven points or fewer. This one wasn't close -- not with the Bolts repeatedly undermining themselves.
"The letdown for me was I hadn't seen that team all year," Lynn said. "We've gotten beat, but we've never gotten beat like that, and that was my problem today. That's my frustration right now. I hadn't seen that team in three years since I've been here."
If it's any consolation, neither had his four most recent predecessors in this job -- not Mike McCoy, not Norv Turner, not Marty Schottenheimer, and not even Mike Riley.
The Chargers hadn't committed seven turnovers in a game since December 1998. It happened for only the 17th time in the franchise's 60-year history.
NFL teams have committed seven turnovers in 25 games in this century. Tampa Bay is the only other team to do it this season.
The Chargers' seven mistakes against a motivated group of Vikings defied logic or a cohesive explanation, although Rivers' interceptions weren't particularly unusual in his trying year. These Bolts weren't particularly fumble prone, as evidenced by their stats.
But a combination of Chargers inattentiveness and the Vikings' ball-stripping defensive play led to a fiasco.
"You go out there and make a mistake at this point in time, everything is under a microscope," said running back Melvin Gordon, who lost two fumbles. "You fumble once, it's like you fumbled three times. You throw an interception, it's like you threw two interceptions. Everything is worse."
Rivers and Hunter Henry also lost fumbles, although Henry's mistake occurred on a bang-bang play that easily could have been ruled an incompletion.
Austin Ekeler knocked his only official fumble out of bounds, but the running back also failed to hold on to Rivers' fumble right before halftime because he tried to run with the ball instead of falling on it. Odenigbo pounced for a scoop-and-score TD.
Gordon then promptly fumbled on the first play of the second half. Lynn didn't acknowledge Gordon when the frustrated running back walked off the field right next to him after that turnover, which led to a field goal and a 22-10 lead for Minnesota.
Gordon then sat out an extended stretch of the second half, with Lynn icily saying that he "gave him a break."
Gordon, who could be down to his last few games with the Chargers, didn't shirk his responsibilities for the problems. Although LA is eliminated from playoff contention, Gordon believes the mistakes show the Bolts haven't given up on their season.
"I was just itching to make a play, make something happen," Gordon said. "And you worry so much about trying to make something happen, you lose focus on the ball. And with the players playing defense in this league, you lose focus for one second, and they're going to get the best of you. ... You get in times like this, and you're desperate to make a play. I got humbled."
Meanwhile, Mike Williams is showing he's more than a one-trick pony.
Yes, at 6-4 and 220 pounds, the NFL knows the Clemson product can haul in jump-ball passes with the best of them.
But on Sunday, Williams showed he could run the full route tree, finishing with four receptions for 71 yards, including his second touchdown of the season.
As ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams noted, in a disappointing year that included expectations of a deep playoff run, Williams has been one of the few bright spots for the Chargers.
Even more impressive, he has been productive while playing through a nagging right knee issue most of the season.
He leads the NFL by averaging 21 yards per reception. Entering Sunday's game against the Vikings, Williams had five straight games with a reception for at least 40 yards. He finished with a 39-yard catch against Minnesota.
Williams has 41 receptions for 912 receiving yards on the season and should be used even more in the final two games of the season for the Chargers.
In addition, Keenan Allen finished the loss with eight receptions for 99 receiving yards, eclipsing the 1,000-yard receiving mark (1,046) for a third consecutive season. Only Lance Alworth (seven) has more consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons in franchise history.
And finally. ... Henry wasn't targeted until deep in the third quarter, snagging his first look for a 24-yard gain on 4th-and-2. At the end of his second catch, Henry lost the above-mentioned fumble. And that's how his stat sheet ended.
As Rotowold.com noted, Henry has a couple clunkers over the last three weeks, but he gets a nice Week 16 matchup with the Raiders.
QBs: Tyrod Taylor, Justin Herbert, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joe Reed, Andre Patton, K.J. Hill, Jason Moore, Darius Jennings
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry noted, the Los Angeles Rams knew a third consecutive playoff appearance was at stake, but nevertheless they failed to appear Sunday at ATandT Stadium as they suffered their second blowout loss in a four-week span, falling to the Dallas Cowboys 44-21.
The Rams, 10 months removed from Super Bowl LIII, could not afford the misstep, as they entered Sunday trailing the Minnesota Vikings by one game for the NFC's final wild-card spot.
After the Vikings routed the Los Angeles Chargers, the Rams are two games behind with two games remaining, and they now teeter on the verge of playoff elimination.
Much will depend on who their quarterback is down the stretch.
Good Jared Goff, bad Jared Goff.
Per Thiry, it's difficult to predict which version will show up, and unfortunately for the Rams, it was the latter (until fourth-quarter garbage time) in Dallas.
Goff completed 33 of 51 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. He was unable to develop a rhythm through the first three quarters outside of a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. With under two minutes to play in the first half, the fourth-year quarterback made a costly mistake when he threw a pass that Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee intercepted and returned 25 yards to set up a Cowboys touchdown that broke the game open 28-7.
Goff led two touchdown drives late in the fourth quarter with some Cowboys starters on the sideline and the game well out of hand.
The Rams rushed for 3 yards in the first half and finished with a total of 22 rushing yards, as they failed to get Todd Gurley moving. Gurley finished with 20 rushing yards, his fewest since Week 4 when he rushed for 16 yards. Gurley averaged 21 touches per game over the past four games but had 14 Sunday.
Still, tight end Tyler Higbee established a new franchise record, Gurley moved up the list for another and wide receiver Cooper Kupp achieved a career first in Dallas.
With his 111 yards on 12 catches, Higbee became the first tight end in franchise history to have three 100-yard receiving games in a single season.
He also needs just 126 receiving yards to set a franchise record for most single-season receiving yards by a tight end. The former Western Kentucky standout currently has 546 on 52 receptions after Sunday.
Gurley moved him into a tie with Eric Dickerson and Steven Jackson for second all-time in rushing touchdowns in franchise history at 56 after reaching the end zone on a seven-yard run late in the fourth quarter. Two more rushing touchdowns will give him sole possession of second, while four will put him first, surpassing Marshall Faulk's 58.
Kupp, meanwhile, surpassed 1,000 yards receiving on the season, marking the first time in his career he's accomplished the feat. It was achieved when he made his first catch of the game, an 11-yard grab with 5:18 left in the third quarter, and he ended the contest with 41 yards on six catches, plus one touchdown, to give him 1,031 receiving yards through 14 games.
The trio will look to build on their performances Saturday against the 49ers in San Francisco. A loss by the Rams eliminates them from playoff contention. ...
The Rams were battered by the Cowboys on Sunday, and Goff emerged bruised. He injured his thumb during the game. On Monday, head coach Sean McVay provided an update.
"It was on the interception," McVay told reporters. "I think it was [Andrew] Whitworth's helmet. You could see his thumb comes down on it right when he was finishing that throw. I believe that's the play that it occurred on."
McVay called it a "nice contusion" to the thumb.
"Really, any sort of thing that -- especially for a quarterback -- any part of your hand, I think can severely alter your ability to throw the football," McVay said. "He was able to kind of get through it and fortunately, today he woke up and was feeling better."
Indeed, Goff didn't even appear on Tuesday's initial estimated practice report, indicating that had the Rams ran a session, he would have been a full participant. McVay said the QB would be good to go when L.A. hit the practice field Wednesday.
In addition, Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times reports that kicker Greg Zuerlein is dealing with a quadriceps strain coming out of Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Head coach Sean McVay said that the Rams will explore possible options on the chance Zuerlein is unable to kick against the 49ers.
Sam Ficken and Cairo Santos were the two kickers the Rams turned to a season ago when Zuerlein missed five games to injury. While Ficken is unavailable on the roster of the New York Jets, Santos is a free agent. However, Santos missed all four field goal attempts he tried in his last game played for the Tennessee Titans in October in relief of Ryan Succop. He converted 4 of 9 field goals attempted and was 12 of 12 on extra points in five games for Tennessee before being released.
Gerald Everett has now missed three games with a knee injury and his status going forward remains unclear.
Cornerback Troy Hill only played eight snaps in Dallas because of a thumb injury that required a trip to a surgeon on Monday.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Hill broke his thumb and is having an operation to repair the injury. Going the surgical route apparently doesn't disqualify Hill from playing against the 49ers this Saturday as Rapoport adds that this course of action was taken with "an eye toward playing Saturday."
Jalen Ramsey, Darious Williams and Nickell Robey-Coleman handled cornerback duties for the Rams after Hill was injured.
I'll be following up on Goff, Everett and Zuerlein via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Jared Goff, Bryce Perkins
RBs: Darrell Henderson, Cam Akers, Malcolm Brown, John Kelly
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, Nsimba Webster, Greg Dortch
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Brycen Hopkins, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
As ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe suggested, there was nothing significant left to dissect about the 2019 Miami Dolphins after their 36-20 loss to the New York Giants.
Interest long ago turned to 2020 and Miami's long-term holes are plentiful, but they start with the offensive line.
For the second consecutive week, the Dolphins did a complete swap of their starting guards, making Week 14 starters Evan Boehm and Keaton Sutherland inactive while rookies Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun returned to the starting lineup after a week on the bench.
Then the Dolphins proceeded to employ a three-man rotation with Deiter, Calhoun and newcomer Evan Brown -- who was just signed off the Giants' practice squad and playing in his first NFL game.
It was a clear sign the Dolphins were trying to find something to stick. A stagnant run game and a battered quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, often left running for his life, were signs of the offense's weakest unit struggling to put together consistent success.
The Dolphins could be looking to find upgrades for at least three, possibly four and maybe even all five positions, along the offensive line. A major overhaul is needed for their rebuild to succeed. Quarterback will get all the glitz and glamour, and the Dolphins need one for sure, but none of it will matter if the offensive line issue isn't solved.
Headed into Week 15, the Dolphins allowed the most sacks in the NFL. They also had the worst rushing offense.
Fitzpatrick leads all Dolphins players in rushing yards this season with 219 -- an eye-opening sign of their running back and offensive line struggles.
As USA Today's Doug Farrar suggested, with all the mobile quarterbacks in the NFL today, you'd expect that one of them could lead his team in rushing yards. Of course, Lamar Jackson broke Michael Vick's single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback against the Jets on Thursday. Jackson now stands with 1,103 yards on the season, and he's far enough ahead of running back Mark Ingram (963 yards) to make you think he could finish the season with the team lead -- unless Baltimore grabs the AFC's top seed this week or next week, and the Ravens rest Jackson for the playoffs.
But Fitzpatrick is an unlikely candidate.
This is a 37-year-old quarterback whose previous season high in rushing yards was 308 for the 2008 Bengals. Fitzpatrick hasn't even started every game for the Dolphins this season, so we're not really sure whether this is more a statement regarding Fitzpatrick's do-it-all demeanor or an indictment of Miami's depleted run game.
Backs such as Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin are Fitzpatrick's only rivals at this point.
In addition, Fitzpatrick became the first Dolphin since 2015 to throw for more than 200 yards in the first half. He helped move the ball easily up and down the field targeting DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki and Albert Wilson. But the offense, including Fitzpatrick, floundered in the second half.
After halftime, Fitzpatrick went just 6-of-16 for 78 yards.
A question that will come up again this week: is it time to give Josh Rosen another chance at quarterback with two games left and nothing to gain on the field?
That won't happen this week.
Head coach Brian Flores said he plans to start Fitzpatrick rather then turn to Rosen.
"We're going to play the guys who give us the best chance to win, and we feel like that's with Ryan," Flores said. "It has been that way for the last eight to 10 weeks, and we'll continue to go that way."
The truth is, Fitzpatrick has done nothing to lose his job, and the team loves to play for him. But what is Rosen's future if he can't get back on the field?
Other notes of interest. ... Fresh off his $40 million contract extension, Parker had a strong performance with four catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Parker has a career-high 954 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. He's 46 yards away from his first 1,000-yard season.
Wilson, who has battled injuries all season, had his best game of the season with five catches for a season-high 59 yards.
One last note here. ... The Dolphins have fielded 80 players during the 2019 season, a NFL record. The previous high was the 2017 Houston Texans with 78. Miami had six players see their first snaps as Dolphins on Sunday -- a sign of their continual roster churning.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen, Jake Rudock
RBs: Jordan Howard, Matt Breida, Kalen Ballage, Myles Gaskin, Patrick Laird, De'Lance Turner
WRs: DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns, Malcolm Perry, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Michael Roberts
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
The Minnesota Vikings were already in firm position for the playoffs ahead of their Week 15 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. After winning 39-10 on a day where its defense remembered just what it's capable of, the Vikings are even further in line to get back to the postseason in 2019.
The Vikings recorded seven takeaways against the Chargers -- four fumble recoveries and three interceptions -- which hasn't happened since the 1995 season.
Beyond that, Dalvin Cook has been dealing with a chest injury since the Vikings Week 11 win over the Broncos. While he has yet to sit out a start, the running back has missed time in games since then, sustaining injury to his chest/shoulder in Seattle and again on Sunday when he was tackled on second-and-3 in the third quarter.
Cook exited the game and did not return.
Head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters on Monday that Cook "feels good" after leaving Sunday's game with a shoulder injury.
Cook previously had been dealing with a chest injury, but Zimmer told reporters following Minnesota's 39-10 road win that the injury sustained in Los Angeles wasn't the same thing.
In his session with Twin Cities media members on Monday, Zimmer said he believes the injury may be something Cook can play through but later added that it's "too early" to make any determinations.
"I think an extra day obviously helps," Zimmer said. "We'll just have to see how the week goes."
But if the third-year back cannot go against the Packers on Monday Night Football next week, Zimmer feels confident in Minnesota's running back depth.
The Vikings were without rookie Alexander Mattison (ankle) against the Chargers; when Cook went out, Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah stepped up.
Zimmer said he was "really hoping we didn't have to" rely on the depth at running back, but he's glad the team retained four running backs and fullback C.J. Ham on this season's active roster.
"We felt like we had some good guys that were talented runners. Ameer and Boone have been playing really good on special teams, so that helped them to stay," Zimmer said. "And I really felt like, for a couple weeks, Boone's been wanting to have a chip on his shoulder the way he's been running, showing in practice and the things that he's been doing."
Zimmer was asked for his thoughts on Minnesota's overall run game at Los Angeles, which gained 137 yards on the ground.
"I thought Boone really did a nice job. He ran hard," Zimmer said. "When Dalvin was in there, it was a little tougher sledding just because some [Chargers defenders] out-ran some of our guys to get to some of the plays, but overall, I thought it was good.
"To get some carries out of Ameer and then out of Boone were good," he added.
Remember: The Vikings are all but locked into the sixth seed at this point.
After Green Bay held off Chicago's late push in Week 15 to capture a 21-13 win, Minnesota would need to win its final two games -- at home against the Packers and Bears -- and have Aaron Rodgers and company lose to Detroit in Week 17 in order to capture the division title.
That doesn't seem too likely to happen given the Lions dropped their seventh straight game on Sunday by allowing 308 yards passing and three touchdowns to Tampa Bay in the first 20 minutes of the game.
Minnesota is in a position to control its own destiny the rest of the way and has a nice cushion in the NFC wild card race with the Rams losing to the Cowboys.
So while having key contributors like Cook and Mattison would be a plus, it's not mandatory. I'll have more on both players via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but the Monday night kickoff will be a factor for fantasy owners hoping to have a fallback plan in place.
Boone and Abdullah will be get their opportunities, but it would appear Boone should be the pick-up priority. ...
Other notes of interest. ... There was plenty of talk surrounding Chargers defensive ends Melvin Ingram III and Joey Bosa -- and rightly so -- heading into Sunday's game, but the pair of pass rushers was almost a non-factor.
Aside from Ingram's second-quarter interception of Kirk Cousins on a screen pass, and one quarterback hit by Bosa, the players weren't often mentioned. Cousins did not take a single sack.
Zimmer credited multiple factors for helping keep Cousins' jersey clean.
"I think [offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski] has done a nice job calling the game, which helps," Zimmer said. "Helps the quarterback getting the ball out on time, helps he's not sitting back there and patting it. The offensive line has done a nice job, as well. I think if you put all those three things together, it's a combination of not getting negative plays. ..."
Adam Thielen hit the field for the first time since Week 7, save for a brief attempt at a comeback in Week 9.
Thielen was on the field for 33 (51 percent) of Minnesota's offense snaps. He didn't have a flashy outing, totaling three catches for 27 yards and a 3-yard rush, but having him back in the fold certainly benefits the Vikings.
"There was probably a couple times we could have gotten the ball to him a little bit more," Zimmer said. "I thought he made a really nice adjustment on one of the routes Kirk hit him on. He was coming to the sideline, then came back for the ball, and I think we got a first down on that one. The rest of it was kind of, 'Do your job.' "
Zimmer said he didn't think there was "any issue" for Thielen making his return after dealing with the nagging hamstring injury.
Monday night will mark Thielen's 12th career game against Green Bay.
He has 57 catches for 767 yards and four touchdowns against the Packers. His next-highest career receiving yards total is 426 against the Lions.
And finally. ... Dan Bailey was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his kicking prowess in Sunday's win. Bailey was responsible for 15 of Minnesota's 39 points, hitting all four of his field goals (26, 44, 38, 27) and three of his point-after attempts. This is Bailey's third Special Teams Player of the Week award this season and the sixth of his career.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Nate Stanley
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Tajae Sharpe, K.J. Osborn, Olabisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, Davion Davis
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
As the Associated Press noted, the Patriots had no problem ending their brief two-game losing streak.
They still have a little work to do to wrap up another AFC East title.
Buoyed by yet another dominating performance by its defense which scored 17 points off five turnovers, New England improved to 11-3 on Sunday with a 34-13 win over Cincinnati.
The Patriots can clinch their 11th consecutive division crown with a victory over Buffalo (10-4) on Saturday. It would also keep New England in the race to secure a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.
"You play to keep playing," head coach Bill Belichick said. "You win four, five, six games ... you don't really get anything for doing that. When you can win enough to play in the postseason, that is one of our goals. It's a good thing."
While still not close to where the team hoped it would be at this point in the season, the Patriots' offense also had some promising moments. Tom Brady was just 15 of 29 for 128 yards, but had two touchdown passes. New England also ran for a season-high 175 yards.
One of Brady's TD passes was a 7-yarder to rookie N'Keal Harry, who is emerging as a solid red-zone option for a team that has struggled inside the 20-yard line.
Safety Devin McCourty said the expectations inside the locker room remain high.
"There's ups and downs in a season, but I think, at the end of the day, we always give ourselves a chance," he said. "Because of that, next week we'll have a chance to play for a championship. That's what you want. You want to have a chance to do that, and making the playoffs is always a part of the season. But for us, it's about playing for championships."
New England's offensive line did a better job of protecting Brady on Sunday. Center Ted Karras returned to the starting lineup following a one-game absence because of a knee injury and no penalties were called on the starting five lineman. Brady was sacked twice, but hurried only six times on his 29 pass attempts.
Brady's receivers were again guilty of multiple dropped passes. According to STATS, the Patriots have 20 drops on the season, tied with Buffalo for the second most in the NFL.
Second-year running back Sony Michel was looking to bounce back after rushing five times for just 8 yards in the loss to Kansas City. He did just that, rushing 19 times for 89 yards on Sunday. It was his second-highest output of 2019.
Receiver Mohamed Sanu had a rough day, catching two passes for 13 yards on eight targets. He also had a drop. Since catching a season-high 10 passes against the Ravens on Nov. 3, in his past four games he has eight total catches, totaling 44 yards. His catch rate is 54.1 percent, the second lowest among New England receivers. When the Patriots traded for Sanu on Oct. 22, there was an expectation that he could be another dependable option in the slot for Brady. The Patriots will need more from him if they hope to go far in the postseason.
On the injury front. ... The Patriots released their first injury report of the week on Tuesday. Wide receiver Julian Edelman remains on the list with knee and shoulder issues that caused him to be listed as questionable last week. He was limited to two catches for nine yards against Cincinnati.
Edelman remained limited for Wednesday's practice.
I'll be following up on his status as needed through Saturday's inactive announcement.
One last note here. ... As ESPN.com's Tristan H. Cockcroft noted, with 19 fantasy points in Cincy, the Patriots D/ST now has 217 for the season. They're the first team D/ST to reach the 200-point plateau since the 2017 Jaguars (208) and their current total is already the most that any D/ST has had in a season since 2006 (Ravens 242, Bears 231).
Meanwhile, it's a short week for New England to prepare for Buffalo's much-improved offense. The Patriots intercepted Bills quarterback Josh Allen three times in the September win, holding the Bills to just 10 points before Allen was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter. It was Buffalo's lowest-scoring output of the season. The Bills have averaged 22 points over their past 10 games.
QBs: Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, Cam Newton, Brian Lewerke, J'Mar Smith
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris
WRs: Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu, Marqise Lee, Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
Monday night was Drew Brees' night. Led by a record-breaking performance by the future Hall of Fame quarterback, the New Orleans Saints (11-3) trounced the Indianapolis Colts (6-8) in the Superdome, 34-7, to close out Week 15.
Brees' legend in New Orleans and the NFL grew three sizes on Monday night, as the Saints quarterback broke yet another career passing record -- and tossed in an in-game passing record to boot.
Brees tossed four touchdown passes against a beleaguered Colts secondary, one more than was necessary to top Peyton Manning's record mark of 739.
Brees tied Manning's record with his second TD pass in the second quarter and nearly broke it right before halftime; an offensive pass interference call on Tre'Quan Smith nullified a potential record-breaker to the wideout, and New Orleans settled for a field goal.
Out of the half, though, Brees finished the job.
His five-yard play-action TD pass to backup tight end and human trivia answer Josh Hill gave Brees No. 540, sent the Superdome into hysterics and essentially clinched the easy, prime-time victory.
Brees wasn't through, though.
Not only did he add another touchdown pass to Taysom Hill later in the third quarter, but the Saints QB finished the game having completed 29 of 30 pass attempts for an NFL-record 96.7 completion percentage, breaking Philip Rivers' record (96.6).
A quintessential evening for the future Hall of Famer: Brees was prolific (307 yards), efficient (96.7 comp. pct.), lethal (four TDs) and generous (four TDs caught by four different receivers). New Orleans' offense, fresh off a disappointing defeat in a shootout with San Francisco, is in a good place.
On Wednesday, Brees was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week. This is Brees' 25th career Player of the Week honor, but his first this season and his first since Week 5, 2018.
It's worth noting, however, that after the game Brees was regretting not going 30-for-30.
"I'll be honest with you, you always think about the one that you missed," Brees said on ESPN. "If I just set my darn feet and throw it to the running back, it's 30-for-30, so that one may haunt me for a little while."
That Brees is so focused on the one pass he didn't complete may help explain why he's been such a great player for so many years: He holds himself to such a high standard that even after a night when he sets a single-game record for completion percentage, and breaks the all-time NFL record for career touchdown passes, he's thinking about what he could have done better.
With the Saints at 11-3, the next big goal ahead of Brees is to see if he can earn his second Super Bowl ring. ...
If he does, Michael Thomas will have been a major reason why.
With 12 catches against Indianapolis on Monday night, Thomas is now just 10 receptions shy of Marvin Harrison's record of 143 catches in a single season set in 2002. Thomas now has 133 receptions for 1,552 yards and eight touchdowns on the year for New Orleans.
Thomas' season has been quite a bit more efficient than Harrison's record-setting season in 2002. Thomas has converted receptions on 83.6 percent of passes thrown his way this year. His 133 receptions have come on just 159 total targets. He was 12-for-12 in receptions Monday night against the Colts.
Harrison's 143 receptions in 2002 came on 205 total targets, which was on 69.8 percent of throws.
Only six times in league history has a receiver caught at least 125 passes in a single season. Thomas has now accomplished that feat in consecutive seasons. Antonio Brown has also managed that feat with 129 receptions in 2014 and 136 receptions in 2015 for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Julio Jones is the only other name on that list with 136 receptions in 2015.
Thomas has caught at least five passes in every game he's played this season. He's caught at least eight passes in 12 of 14 games played this season. As long as that production continues in the Saints' final two games against the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers, Thomas will be the new record holder by season's end. ...
Alvin Kamara rushed 14 times for 66 yards, adding five receptions for 23 yards in the Saints' 34-7 win over the Colts on Monday.
As CBSSports.com suggests, it was another disappointing performance for Kamara, as he failed to cross the goal-line for the ninth consecutive game. His 73 receptions have boosted his value in PPR formats, though he entered Week 15 as the overall RB17 in 2019. The usage has been there, as Kamara has seen nearly 19 total touches per game across his last five contests, but the production has been highly underwhelming for fantasy owners who spent a first-round pick on him.
He should be treated as an RB2 for a Week 16 showdown with the Titans.
Of some concern?
The Saints lost Pro Bowl right guard Larry Warford to a knee injury. He would obviously be hard to replace if he misses significant time. But the silver lining is that New Orleans' other Pro Bowl guard, Andrus Peat, should be back from his own injury soon. And veteran Nick Easton could potentially slide over after playing well as Peat's backup.
And finally. ... Word came on Monday afternoon that cornerback Janoris Jenkins had been claimed off of waivers, but the identity of the team wasn't immediately revealed.
That team is now known. According to multiple reports, Jenkins was claimed by the Saints.
Landing in New Orleans reunites Jenkins with former Giants teammate Eli Apple. Apple has played almost every snap of the season with Marshon Lattimore and P.J. Williams next up in playing time at corner in New Orleans. The team will have a couple of weeks to figure out how Jenkins fits before hitting the postseason.
Jenkins had 54 tackles and four interceptions in 13 games for the Giants. He was waived last Friday after using an offensive term in response to someone on Twitter and then offering an explanation that it was just a slang term from where he grew up.
QBs: Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, Tommy Stevens
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Ty Montgomery, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Tre'quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill, Adam Trautman
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
A day after leading them to victory and helping end a franchise record-tying nine-game losing streak, Eli Manning was still providing for his New York Giants teammates.,
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan noted, this was a Victory Monday. The players got an extra day off, and it was courtesy of the 38-year-old Manning.
In wrapping up his post-game speech after Sunday's 36-20 win over the Miami Dolphins, Manning told teammates: "See you Wednesday."
Tom Coughlin used to do that late in the season and the players loved it. Current head coach Pat Shurmur didn't protest this time. The extra day off isn't his style, but he was not going to spoil the moment provided by his two-time Super Bowl MVP.
The problem is there haven't been many feel-good moments for the Giants (3-11). In fact, it's been a season of disappointments.
They started slowly once again and saw Manning lose his quarterbacking job to first-round draft pick Daniel Jones after two games. The change sparked a two-game winning streak, but turnovers, injuries, inconsistency, repeated mistakes on defense and an offensive line that didn't deliver have led to a sixth losing season in seven years.
If there is a positive, the Giants say they will have the second overall draft pick next spring if they lose out. They are at Washington on Sunday and face Philadelphia at home on Dec. 29.
Shurmur, who posted a 5-11 mark last year in his first season, said Monday he has not spoken with management about his future. His focus is on the Redskins (3-11).
Manning's future also is uncertain. He will start his third straight game on Sunday if Jones cannot play because of a sprained ankle. If Jones is ready, Manning will sit again and wait, knowing his career with the Giants probably will end in two weeks when his contract expires.
After that, he will wait and see if someone is willing to give him a 17th NFL season, or whether he even wants one.
Still, New York scored a season-high 36 points and had 412 yards in total offense. It was only the second time this season New York surpassed 400-plus yards. The other was in the season opener against Dallas (470). Manning also started that game. The other common theme is the running game worked. Saquon Barkley ran for more than 100 yards in both contests.
Now, the Giants have two games remaining, Sunday in Washington and Dec. 29 at home against Philadelphia.
And while the sprained ankle that forced Jones to the inactive list the last two games is improving, Shurmur isn't certain if the rookie quarterback will get the clearance to line up against the Redskins. If he doesn't, Manning would make career start No. 235 with a chance to get back over .500 (he is 117-117).
"If Daniel can't go and Eli is our starter, we are going to go in with the idea that we're going to put a winning performance on the field against Washington." Shurmur said on a conference call Monday.
"We'll just have to see," Shurmur said. "Even though this is what they call a victory Monday, there's a lot of players in the building today getting weight training, treatment and studying tape. We'll just push him along like we did last week. We started the week with the idea that he might be ready to play, and we'll do the same this week."
Manning is no boat-rocker, but he'd certainly prefer to spend Sunday afternoon playing on the field than watching from the sideline.
"Of course, I'd like to," he said at his news conference following the game. "I know Daniel's getting close to getting ready and getting better. We'll see what his status is. I get it either way. I know they want to get him back and get him more experience and more reps and everything. Whatever I'm asked to do, I'll do it."
It looks like Manning will be asked to take a step back this week.
According to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, Jones was working with the starters in Wednesday's practice as the Giants began preparing for Sunday's game against the Redskins, signaling his return to the starting lineup. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Giants ran the ball effectively and produced their third highest rushing total (138 yards) of the season. They also matched their second highest total of first downs with 24. That's no coincidence. On their four touchdown drives in the second half, they faced a total of two third downs and of their 11 third downs, eight were for five yards or less, including seven for three yards or less. That's what happens when you run the ball effectively on early downs and avoid negative plays.
Barkley ran the ball 24 times and he had just one run for no gain and none for negative yards. That hasn't been the case for the bulk of the season.
They also pounded the ball in the red zone, which is why they scored touchdowns on all four opportunities inside Miami's 20-yard line, including three rushing scores. When you're dealing with less territory in the red zone, it's imperative to be able to run the ball and that's why the results were the complete opposite of recent history. The team also avoided the costly penalties on offense as they had just two (Sterling Shepard pass interference, Will Hernandez holding).
Outside of that, it was mostly clean football.
Shepard had more than twice as many catches and receiving yards as any other Giants player yesterday when he finished with season-high totals of nine receptions and 111 yards.
"I thought he did a nice job," Shurmur said. "He made some plays. I think he had a productive game and he played well. … He's like a lot of the guys that we've had coming back from injury. Who knows how long it takes him to get back to what he should look like? He had a real positive impact on the game. ..."
On the injury front. ... I'll be watching for more on Jones as well as tight end Rhett Ellison, who remains in the concussion protocol. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for developments in coming days.
I will not be following up on tight end Evan Engram.
Engram has missed the last five games with a foot injury and the Giants announced on Tuesday that he's been placed on injured reserve. Wide receiver David Sills was promoted from the practice squad in a corresponding move.
Engram missed six games overall with injuries during a disappointing third season with the Giants. He also missed five games last year and that sets 2020 up as an important year for him to show that he can remain both healthy and productive.
He ends the year with 44 catches for 467 yards and three touchdowns.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy, Alex Tanney, Cooper Rush
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis, Javorius Allen, Elijhaa Penny
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Cody Core, Da'Mari Scott, Corey Coleman
TEs: Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Eric Tomlinson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
Last Thursday night's game was all but over when the New York Jets faced fourth-and-1 in Baltimore territory and Sam Darnold's hurried pass was knocked away from Jamison Crowder.
A frustrated Darnold trudged to the sideline, where he was met by an equally exasperated coach Adam Gase.
With the Jets trailing 42-21 -- the eventual final score -- with just over four minutes left Thursday night, Darnold and Gase were caught by TV cameras having an animated discussion. There was some questionable body language by Darnold, the video went viral on social media, and many wondered: Was this the moment the relationship between the franchise quarterback and the beleaguered head coach finally cracked?
"We were both in the same mind frame, where somebody didn't execute their job," Gase explained Friday, "and basically I was (talking) about that and he was doing the same thing."
Darnold echoed his coach, insisting there was no disagreement between the two.
"For me, where we were at in the game, especially not executing, especially on a fourth down, a really key down, I was just frustrated about the circumstance," Darnold said. "It wasn't anything more than that. We were just having a conversation about not executing the way that we were supposed to and that was really it."
Neither Darnold nor Gase would say who didn't get the job done on the play, but video of the play shows tight end Daniel Brown not blocking Jaylon Ferguson -- who ran free and caused the quarterback to hurry his throw.
Adding to the buzz was backup quarterback David Fales' wide-eyed expression while Darnold and Gase were chatting.
"I mean, David always kind of has that weird look on his face anyway," Darnold joked. "We were not in a disagreement at all. It was just me being frustrated, again, in kind of the circumstance of what was going on in the game at the time."
This is the first season together for Darnold and Gase, who was hired, in large part, because of his background with quarterbacks.
His job is to develop Darnold, who has made marginal improvements after an up-and-down rookie year.
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini notes, Darnold is ranked 27th out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks in passer rating (84.3). His play has been uneven over the past three games, with moments of brilliance -- including two touchdown passes against Baltimore's tough defense -- but also some critical errors and a passer rating of 79.9.
Gase said he believes Darnold's grasp of the offense and command at the line of scrimmage has improved steadily.
"The fact that I've see him improve every week -- and I look at all the little tiny details that nobody can see or really knows about -- that's what makes me feel really confident that he's going to be a really good player," Gase said.
Darnold got off to a terrific start against the Ravens, but he sputtered at the end of the first half. He threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 7-yard line, and on the ensuing possession, he threw an interception from the Baltimore 25.
"It just comes down to minimizing those couple of critical errors I make during a game," Darnold said. "If I can eliminate those, we'll be just fine."
Of course, New York came to Baltimore having won four of five, but was no match for the dynamic Lamar Jackson and the AFC North champion Ravens.
From beginning to end, it was clear the teams are in way different classes at the moment.
And the Jets have lots of work to do to even get close.
"We just knew what kind of game we had to play," Gase said. "We just didn't play a complete game. We knew we had to play a specific way to beat a team like that."
After two games in five days, the Jets will benefit from some time to heal up a bit and prepare for their final home game of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers -- whose loyal and well-traveled fans are sure to fill out MetLife Stadium on Dec. 22.
On the injury front this week. ... Receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring/knee), who didn't play against the Ravens, and RG Tom Compton (calf) will not practice.
According to Profootballtalk.com, the Jets put a pair of players on injured reserve Tuesday. The team announced that tackle Chuma Edoga and wide receiver Jeff Smith were being placed on IR.
Edoga was their third-round pick, and had started eight games this year after taking over for Brandon Shell, and started three games at left tackle when Kelvin Beachum was injured.
He's been out since Week 12 with a knee sprain.
Smith, a former undrafted rookie, had been promoted from the practice squad earlier this month.
QBs: Sam Darnold, David Fales, James Morgan
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Frank Gore, Bilal Powell, Lamical Perine, Kenneth Dixon, Josh Adams
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, Braxton Berrios, Josh Doctson, Josh Malone, Vyncint Smith
TEs: Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
Derek Carr's last-second desperation heave fell to the turf in the end zone and the fans at the Oakland Coliseum went silent. The final scheduled NFL game ever in Oakland ended with a fourth-quarter collapse by the Raiders instead of a celebration for one last win before the franchise heads to Las Vegas.
Carr and some of his teammates then went to the Black Hole as fans pelted the scrum with debris and booed Carr as he ran off the field one last time following a 20-16 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
"I'm still emotional and angry about it," Carr said about the loss. "There are a few plays out there we left. There's nothing I can say right now that will make anyone feel better. It won't make me feel better."
There was no happy spin to put on this day for the Raiders (6-8), who had hoped to give the jilted fans in Oakland one last positive memory from what has otherwise been a mostly disappointing 25 seasons since the franchise returned from Los Angeles in 1995.
Instead, the team blew a 13-point lead in a final gut punch to the fans in Oakland.
"It's not really the result today, it's the results of the Raiders over the years," head coach Jon Gruden said. "It's the Oakland Raiders. It's the appreciation, the loyalty these fans have had for the Raiders. We're going to miss them. The relationship hopefully will never end. It was sad walking in here today and it will be sad walking out for the last time."
The Raiders' losing streak was extended to four games. Even though this game wasn't a blowout like the past three -- which they lost by 31, 31 and 21 points -- it was arguably the most painful. The Raiders are now 6-8 and await their official departure from playoff possibility. ...
Worth noting in this one. ... Carr started hot, throwing for 148 yards in the first quarter, the second-most yards in a first quarter in his six-year career, including a 40-yard catch and run touchdown by Tyrell Williams.
Carr, who was sacked four times, finished with 267 yards passing in completing 22 of 36 attempts. Does Carr join the Raiders in Las Vegas?
If you're into hints and clues, head coach Jon Gruden has said he appreciates the job Carr has done with so many revolving parts around him.
But there has been one constant: Tight end Darren Waller.
In cracking triple digits in receiving yards for the fourth time this season, Waller had eight catches for 122 yards (just short of his career-high 134 yards he had at the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3). Waller entered the day with 72 catches, which ranked third among NFL tight ends, and needed 121 yards to get to 1,000.
It was Waller's fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season, tied for the most such games by a Raiders tight end in a single season in franchise history, along with Todd Christensen (three times) and Jared Cook (2018).
Meanwhile, the Raiders have lost four in a row. They are all but certain to miss the postseason for a third consecutive year and for the 16th time in the past 17 seasons.
Their games against the Chargers and Broncos the final two weeks are only for pride and bragging rights.
Still the team is shutting down a pair of injured players. Gruden told reporters on Wednesday that running back Josh Jacobs, who continues to deal with a shoulder injury, will be held out this week.
Jacobs has played with a fractured shoulder since Week 7. He played 43 of 75 snaps Sunday and had 26 touches for 109 yards.
"[Josh] had a hard time getting his shoulder pads off yesterday," Gruden said. "All I can say is that I've coached a long time, and I've had some really tough backs, really tough guys, and he is up there at the top of the food chain. This guy is one tough customer, he gave us everything he had yesterday, but his status for the coming weeks will be in question."
DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard will handle the backfield duties in Jacobs' absence.
In addition, Gruden announced that right tackle right tackle Trent Brown is being placed on season-ending IR.
Beyond that, Hunter Renfrow (ribs) is expected to play Sunday against Chargers.
I'll be following up on Renfrow via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant in coming days. ...
And finally. ... Gruden says NFL V.P. of Officiating Al Riveron called him to apologize for a bad call that went against Oakland on Sunday.
Late in the fourth quarter, with the Raiders leading 16-13, Carr ran for 12 yards and then slid near the sideline. The officials ruled that he had gone out of bounds, stopping the clock and forcing the Raiders to run another play before the two-minute warning. But replays appeared to show he had gone down in bounds, and today Gruden said Riveron confirmed the officials got it wrong.
"We accept his apology," Gruden told Scott Bair of NBCSportsBayArea.com. "That cost us dearly."
With extra time thanks to that ruling, the Jaguars ended up getting the ball back and driving for a game-winning touchdown.
Carr said after the game that the bad call "was one of the more shocking moments of my life," and Gruden was shocked too.
"I couldn't believe it," Gruden said immediately after the game. "I've never seen anything like it. I've got people up in the press box that clearly tell me [Carr] gave himself up in the field of play. I'm waiting for the clock to wind to two minutes. I'm still waiting. And it never happened. I thought somebody would overturn it. I thought that's the reasoning for instant replay. We've had New York City chime in and make a couple of calls: one at Kansas City, one in New York. I thought they'd make one today to correct that. But obviously, it was a big play in that situation. We'll see what the league says about it."
What the league said, according to Gruden, is that the call was wrong. Not that it helps much after the fact.
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, Rod Smith, Devontae Booker
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow, Lynn Bowden Jr., Zay Jones, Bryan Edwards, Nelson Agholor, Keelan Doss, Marcell Ateman
TEs: Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
Carson Wentz has been clutch when the Eagles needed him most.
Now, as Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi, Wentz has to do it again.
Wentz engineered his second consecutive comeback win, setting up a battle for the NFC East title when the Eagles (7-7) host Dallas (7-7) this week.
Missing his top three wide receivers, Wentz relied on tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, his running backs and former college quarterback Greg Ward.
Wentz completed 30 of 43 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-27 win at Washington on Sunday. His 4-yard TD toss to Ward put Philadelphia ahead with 32 seconds remaining.
"He's doing some really nice things for us," head coach Doug Pederson said of Wentz. "He's understanding the offense and where everybody is and spreading the ball around. Of course, our running attack has helped that. The screen game has helped that, and that just comes from me calling more of those plays for him and helping him be successful there.
"He's just maturing that way and it's really good to see. He's understanding the game, and it takes time. With young quarterbacks and young players in this league, it takes time, and that's where he's headed and it really has been good to see the last couple weeks."
Ward, who played quarterback at the University of Houston and converted to receiver after being undrafted, spent the 2017 season on the Eagles' practice squad. He played for San Antonio in the Alliance of American Football earlier this year and returned to Philadelphia's practice squad this season. Injuries to DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor gave him an opportunity.
He's made the most of it.
Ward had seven catches for 61 yards and his first career score. No other wideout caught a pass against Washington.
"We're excited that (we) had a chance to bring him up," Pederson said. "We know the type of player he is, and he's proven that on the field."
Adding to the fun, the running game produced.
In fact, rookie running back Miles Sanders carried the offense on his back for much of the game. He finished with 172 all-purpose yards and two total touchdowns, and set a couple franchise records along the way. He passed Jackson (who is on injured reserve) for most rookie all-purpose yards in a season and LeSean McCoy for most rookie rushing yards.
Sanders is the first Eagles rookie with 120 rush yards and a rush TD since Bryce Brown in 2012.
Wentz and Sanders delivered the highlight of the game in the third quarter, as Wentz threaded the needle with a dart to Sanders in the back of the end zone while on the run. The ball whizzed by a pair of defenders and somehow made its way to Sanders.
So what needs to get better?
As noted above, a wide receiver other than Ward has to make a catch. The Eagles only had three active wideouts for the second straight week. Rookie second-round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside had two targets and couldn't hang onto a ball in his hands in the end zone for a touchdown. Robert Davis played only 16 snaps and got no targets.
Arcega-Whiteside, the 57th overall pick, played 71 snaps and didn't make a catch. He has just eight catches for 130 yards and one TD despite playing 424 snaps.
Pederson told reporters on Wednesday that it's status quo for at least two of his four injured starters -- running back Jordan Howard has sat out the past five games with a stinger, and Agholor, who has missed the past two games with a knee injury.
The coach added that right tackle Lane Johnson, who is day to day with a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss Sunday's game, and defensive end Derek Barnett, who didn't play because of an ankle injury, are "trending in the right direction."
I'll have more on Agholor and Howard, who still hadn't been cleared for contact as of the end of last week, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
In addition, the Eagles placed LB Kamu Grugier-Hill on injured reserve with a herniated disc in his back, ending his season. ...
Meanwhile, the division is on the line against the Cowboys. Dallas has won the last four meetings, including the last two in Philadelphia but one of those was a meaningless matchup to end the 2017 regular season. The Cowboys routed the Eagles 37-10 on Oct. 20.
One last note here. ... According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, Jeffery had Lisfranc surgery Sunday, by Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay.
The hope is that Jeffery will be ready for the start of the 2020 regular season.
The Eagles can only hope that's the case, as this year's contract restructuring moved $11.5 million in guaranteed money to next season.
He'll turn 30 in February, and he's now faced with a long rehab after a frustrating season in which he caught just 43 passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns this season.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Jalen Hurts
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Elijah Holyfield, Michael Warren II
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, DeSean Jackson, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, Robert Davis
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves noted, rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges has been a Cinderella story for the Steelers this season, as the undrafted and unheralded passer pulled himself from the bottom of the depth chart into a starter's role. His play also lifted the team out of an early slide and into playoff contention.
But while Hodges has garnered headlines, the Steelers won seven of eight entering Sunday night's game against the Buffalo Bills mostly by playing exceptional defense and mistake-free offensive football.
On Sunday, the Bills threw a wrench in that plan, forcing three early Pittsburgh turnovers and gaining a seven-point lead late in the game. Needing the offense to come from behind and win the game, the Steelers and Hodges misfired, as he was intercepted twice in the end zone in the final two minutes of a 17-10 loss to the Bills.
Hodges was intercepted four times in the game, tripling his career total and set a new career low with a 43.9 passer rating.
"There are 11 guys on offense and obviously when you're the quarterback, you're the leader out there," Hodges said. "When the quarterback plays bad, usually that's not good. I just have to play better."
While winning Hodges' first three starts, the Steelers didn't need to make a big comeback bid like the one they attempted on Sunday. Pittsburgh never trailed in the second half in wins over Arizona, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Chargers.
His group of receivers isn't much more experienced. With star wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and starting tight end Vance McDonald out with injuries, second-year wide receiver James Washington was joined by rookie Diontae Johnson and mid-season acquisitions Deon Cain in the slot and Nick Vannett at tight end.
"There's a lot of new guys and a lot guys who had to step up, a lot of guys with good opportunities," Vannett said. "Those are the toughest ones to swallow and all we can do is get back in the facility (Monday), watch the film, make the corrections and finish out the season the way we want to."
Despite the loss, the Steelers, now 8-6, still control their AFC playoff destiny with two games to play. Wins at the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens over the final two weeks would assure Pittsburgh of a postseason berth, and the Steelers even have scenarios where a 1-1 finish will get the job done.
"There's a lot of stuff we're going to have to clean up from this past game that I'm sure we're going to see moving forward from other teams, especially offensively, with what they threw at us defensively," veteran offensive lineman Ramon Foster said. "It's not over. We're still in this."
Foster said the feeling amongst the offense is that the Steelers' defense has continued to play at a championship level, and that the offense has not always held up its end of the bargain. In each of Pittsburgh's last two losses, they've failed to score more than one offensive touchdown.
It's not that they didn't have opportunities. Against the Bills, James Conner and Johnson fumbled an exchange at the nine-yard line late in the second quarter, and Hodges was intercepted in the end zone twice late in the fourth quarter. One more play or one fewer mistake might have been the difference in the game.
"Small mistakes turn into big mistakes," Foster said. "We didn't capitalize on our position on the field. We just have to be better. We have to support our defense a whole lot better offensively, that's for sure."
That defense held Buffalo to 261 total yards, the seventh time this season and the fifth straight game that it held an opponent below 300 yards of total offense. The Steelers lead the NFL in sacks and are second in interceptions and fumbles recovered.
But they can't do it alone.
"I just have to focus on next week," Hodges said. "Go in there, learn, get better and shake it off. ..."
For the record, although head coach Mike Tomlin declined to name a starting quarterback for Week 16 after his team's loss to the Bills last Sunday night, he made his choice public on Tuesday when he confirmed that that Hodges will make the start against the Jets on Sunday.
Hodges will get a chance to rebound against the Jets, but as Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper suggests, one would imagine that the leash won't be too long given the importance of a win this weekend to Pittsburgh's hopes of landing a playoff berth.
Other note of interest. ... Conner rushed eight times for 42 yards and caught four passes (five targets) for nine yards and a touchdown in his return from the shoulder injury that's sidelined him five of the previous six games.
As CBSSports.com notes, eight rushes may suggest that the team was taking it easy on their lead back in his first week back in action, but those eight carries led the backfield by a decent margin (the next-highest total was two carries). The Steelers simply could not do much against Buffalo's tough defense, and this resulted in few opportunities for all of the team's skill players.
Expect Conner to get more involved against the Jets on Sunday -- although it's hardly a favorable matchup. ...
Three days after suffering a setback with his knee injury, Smith-Schuster did some light running in the hours before the Steelers played the Bills on Sunday night.
The Steelers aren't shutting Smith-Schuster down for the rest of the season. At least not yet. He said Monday afternoon that he'll try to practice this week in hopes of playing against the Jets, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
"We'll see," Smith-Schuster said. "It all depends on how my knee feels when I go out there and practice."
The struggling offense certainly could use another playmaker, but Smith-Schuster said there is a chance his injury could get much worse if he does play before his knee is healed.
"For myself, it's more like I want to be out there, but I don't want to mess it up to the point where I'm out for another year," he said. "I'm taking it slow and playing it smart."
I'll be following up on Smith-Schuster, who worked on a limited basis Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but it's worth noting the Steelers have made a change to their receiving corps after Sunday night's loss to the Bills.
The team announced that they promoted Amara Darboh from the practice squad. They waived Tevin Jones in order to make room for Darboh on the 53-man roster.
Darboh was a third-round pick by the Seahawks in 2017 and played in every game as a rookie before spending last year on injured reserve. He was cut at the end of August and spent time on Tampa's practice squad before coming to the Steelers.
Darboh had eight catches for 71 yards as a rookie.
Jones arrived from the practice squad last month. He had four catches for 61 yards.
One last note here. ... McDonald worked fully on Wednesday and appears to be set to return from his concussion, barring setback.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Devlin Hodges, Mason Rudolph
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Anthony McFarland Jr., Trey Edmunds, Kerrith Whyte
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, Johnny Holton, James Washington, Ryan Switzer, Deon Cain
TEs: Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner noted, the San Francisco 49ers' playoff drought is over. But it didn't happen how they wanted.
For the first time since 2013, the 49ers are headed to the postseason, but they needed some help to get there after a 29-22 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan drove the Falcons 70 yards in the closing moments to throw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones with two seconds left. Jones caught the ball at the goal line and was initially ruled short, but a review overturned it for a touchdown. The score put the Falcons ahead 23-22, and Atlanta scored again as time expired when Olamide Zaccheaus returned a failed lateral attempt by the 49ers for a touchdown.
Despite the loss, the 49ers clinched a playoff spot by virtue of the Los Angeles Rams' 44-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
The defeat dropped the 11-3 Niners into a tie with the Seattle Seahawks atop the NFC West division, with Seattle holding the tiebreaker because of its win against the Niners earlier this season. The Niners currently sit in the fifth spot in the NFC playoff picture and would have to go on the road to open the postseason if the season ended Sunday.
Fortunately for the Niners, the season didn't end Sunday.
After finishing 2018 at 4-12 and picking second in last year's NFL draft, San Francisco still remains in control of its playoff positioning. The 49ers close out the season with games at home against the Rams on Saturday followed by a potential clash for the NFC West and the NFC's No. 1 seed against the Seahawks on Dec. 29.
To earn their spot, the 49ers needed some help from the Cowboys. Coming off a 48-46 win against New Orleans after which five key players were ruled out this week because of injuries, the Niners were noticeably sluggish on Sunday, and the end result reflected it.
Tight end George Kittle was one of the few bright spots, doing most of the heavy lifting. Kittle set a career high for catches in a game with 13, to go with 134 yards. In the process, Kittle moved into first place for most receiving yards by a tight end in his first three seasons, passing Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Mike Ditka. Kittle now has 2,780 receiving yards for his career.
When Kittle wasn't providing the offense, the Niners struggled to get much of anything else going. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk's 2-yard touchdown catch gave the Niners a 19-10 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Niners coughed it up on the ensuing drives.
Beyond that, it was not a good day for 49ers wide receivers.
Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne combined for just four receptions for 49 yards.
Contrast that to Atlanta's Jones, who caught 13 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns on the day at Levi's Stadium.
Garoppolo targeted Kittle on half of his 34 pass attempts.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said he did not believe the 49ers relied excessively on Kittle because Garoppolo did not force anything into double coverage.
"You don't just call plays that say 'Go to Kittle,'" Shanahan said. "You might want to start there and if they don't double him, he usually gets it because he usually wins, and if not you progress. There are a number of plays we try to get to other people, but Kittle got the majority of it."
The 49ers had five receivers in uniform for Sunday's game, but two were complete non-factors. Richie James played just three offensive snaps and did not have a pass thrown his way. Dante Pettis, a second-round draft pick in 2018, never even entered the game.
Garoppolo was not at his best, but he certainly is not the reason the 49ers lost this game. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 200 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
The pass protection was spotty, though Garoppolo was sacked just one time in the game.
The 49ers used their running game as part of a 21-play, 88-yard drive that ended in a touchdown in the second quarter. But the consistency was not there to keep the chains moving throughout the game.
Raheem Mostert gained 54 yards on 14 carries. Tevin Coleman had 40 yards on four attempts, but 37 of those yards came on one run. Matt Breida struggled with 11 yards on four carries, and also committed a costly fumble in the fourth quarter as the 49ers were driving for a score. ...
On the injury front. ... Cornerback Richard Sherman did not play against the Falcons last Sunday because of a hamstring injury, but said last week that his goal was to return to action against the Rams this Saturday night.
Sherman's week is starting off with a reason to think he can reach that goal. Shanahan said at Tuesday's press conference that Sherman will take part in practice later in the day.
Shanahan said that Sherman will be a full participant, although the practice is a walkthrough rather than a full speed workout so it still bears watching to see what he does on Wednesday.
Cornerback K'Waun Williams is also set to practice after missing last Sunday with a concussion. Safety Jaquiski Tartt will remain out with injured ribs as the team start its on-field work for Week 16.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Jeff Wilson, Jerick McKinnon, Salvon Ahmed
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Jalen Hurd, Jauan Jennings, Trent Taylor, Travis Benjamin
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
Russell Wilson had done just about everything right for 3 1/2 quarters when the Seattle Seahawks asked their star quarterback to make one more big play.
And, as he's done so many times in the past, Wilson responded.
On a third-and-11, Wilson rolled out and completed a 14-yard strike to Tyler Lockett for a first down with two minutes remaining. That helped the Seahawks nullify two offensive holding calls on the drive and run out the clock to beat the Carolina Panthers 30-24 Sunday and clinch a playoff spot for the seventh time in eight seasons.
Seattle (11-3) also moved into a first place tie with the 49ers, who lost to the Falcons on Sunday. The Seahawks own the tiebreaker and finish the season at home against San Francisco. Seattle faces the Cardinals this week before closing the regular season against the 49ers.
Wilson is a big reason they're in this position.
"Russell is a guy who creates magic," said running back Chris Carson.
Wilson completed 20 of 26 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns, with Carson and Lockett doing the heavy lifting.
It was the 100th regular-season win for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Seattle scored on its first three possessions as Wilson completed 8 of 10 passes for 175 yards, with 19-yard touchdown passes to DK Metcalf and Lockett for a perfect 153.8 QB rating. Carson added a 16-yard TD run as the Seahawks built a 20-7 lead at halftime.
So Sunday went really well.
Monday did not.
The troubles that have followed Josh Gordon throughout his career continued as the Seahawks wide receiver was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating league policies on performance enhancers and substances of abuse.
Gordon was reinstated by the NFL in August after having been suspended indefinitely in December 2018, missing the final three games of last season for violations of the league's substance abuse policy.
Gordon signed with New England and was among the leading receivers for the Patriots with 20 catches for 287 yards and a touchdown through six games. But he was placed on injured reserve with knee and ankle injuries and was released in late October.
Seattle stepped in and claimed the oft-troubled receiver off waivers. His first game came in Week 10 against San Francisco when Gordon made a pair of key catches late in Seattle's 27-24 overtime win. Gordon had seven receptions over five games with the Seahawks. All seven seemed to have significance, including his 58-yard catch in Sunday's win over Carolina.
Gordon's brief stint with Seattle likely finished with 11 targets, 139 yards receiving and one incomplete pass attempt on a trick play against the Panthers.
A 2012 second-round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns, Gordon was also suspended for the first two games of the 2013 season for a substance abuse policy violation but still caught 87 passes for nine touchdowns and a league-leading 1,646 yards and was voted to the All-Pro team.
He has been in and out of the league since, was released by New England earlier this season and signed with Seattle in November.
This is the eighth time in his career Gordon has been suspended by the league or by his team. ...
A few final notes. ... Lockett said his shin injury is "still lingering," as is a cold that followed the flu bug he came down with the week of Thanksgiving. You wouldn't know it based on the way he busted out of his recent slump Sunday. He caught eight of nine targets for 120 yards and a touchdown and was open for what would have been another score had Wilson not overthrown him.
The Seahawks might end up eventually missing Rashaad Penny, who had started to give their backfield an effective secondary option behind Carson before he went down last week with a season-ending knee injury. But they were fine Sunday with Carson carrying the load like he did for a season and a half before Penny's emergence briefly made it more of a timeshare.
Carson's 133 rushing yards Sunday set a new career-high. That puts him at 1,190 for the season, also a career-high. The second of his two touchdowns came on a fourth-down run in which he bulled his way into the end zone.
"We try to do our job up front creating seams for him, but a lot of that is just him, man," left tackle Duane Brown said. "He's the toughest runner in the league."
C.J. Prosise and rookie Travis Homer combined for 22 yards on seven carries as Carson did the heavy lifting.
"He just runs through guys and makes guys miss," tight end Jacob Hollister said. "He's an incredible runner. It's been a lot of fun to watch."
According to ESPN charting, Carson is third in the NFL in average yards after first contact per rush this season at 2.21. Of his 598 rushing yards after first contact, 58 came Sunday.
Carson is fourth in the NFL in rushing during what has been a Pro Bowl-caliber season, his seven fumbles notwithstanding. He's topped 1,000 yards in both of his full seasons, making him the Seahawks' first running back with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Marshawn Lynch in 2013 and '14.
And he's yet to miss a game after missing two last year and 12 as a rookie in 2017, when he broke his leg. ...
Worth noting. ... Following Penny’s injury, the Seahawks worked out veteran RBs Alfred Blue and Robert Turbin as potential depth options for the backfield. ...
Meanwhile, the Seahawks have another defensive injury to deal with.
Via Adam Jude of the Seattle Times, Carroll said during his weekly interview on 710 ESPN that safety Quandre Diggs suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday's win over the Panthers.
"Some of these injuries are really bad, but sometimes guys bounce back," Carroll said. "We don't know."
Diggs has been solid for the Seahawks since coming over in a trade with the Lions, with three interceptions.
The Seahawks appear to be getting closer with some other players, as Carroll said he anticipated Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah would be available this week, and that Bobby Wagner's ankle sprain yesterday wasn't a major deal.
"Bobby is going to try ignore this," Carroll said. "He doesn't think it will be a factor, but we'll see."
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, Anthony Gordon
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Robert Turbin
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Phillip Dorsett, Freddie Swain, David Moore, John Ursua, Malik Turner
TEs: Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson, Jacob Hollister, Stephen Sullivan
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
For the second straight week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are processing unfortunate news regarding their receiving corps.
Seven days after coming to terms with the severity of Mike Evans' season-ending hamstring injury (Evans was officially placed on the injured reserve list Wednesday), they're facing the possibility of losing his stellar running mate, Chris Godwin, to the same injury.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Godwin's hamstring issue leaves his availability to play again in 2019 in doubt.
Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians told reporters on Sunday that Godwin's injury "doesn't look good," which is also what he said about Evans before the team placed him on injured reserve.
Godwin, who was not practicing Wednesday, has been on a steady upward climb since the start of the 2018 season, but 2019 was his true breakout campaign. The former Penn State star realized his talents at the professional level this season, catching 86 passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns as part of a high-flying offense that often passed out of necessity because of early deficits. The result was a career year for Godwin, who currently ranks second in receiving yards in the NFL and will likely earn his first Pro Bowl nod.
Such a loss takes away yet another weapon for Jameis Winston in a season that saw the Buccaneers peak too late against lesser competition.
The focus should be on 2020 and beyond, though, in which Godwin will be expected to be a major piece.
But will Winston?
The signal caller is certainly building a convincing case for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers retaining him as their franchise quarterback.
The NFL passing yardage leader is in the final year of the contract he signed as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft, earning $20.9 million while trying to prove he's worthy of a deal that will keep him with the team beyond this season.
While Arians has said he'll wait until the end of the season to make a decision, Winston continues to make a strong argument for returning by posting impressive numbers that show what he could be capable of if he ever conquers his penchant for throwing interceptions.
In addition to throwing for a career-high and league-leading 4,573 yards through 14 games, Winston has thrown for a franchise single-season record 30 touchdowns -- second in the NFL to Lamar Jackson's 33.
And while there's no disputing his NFL-high 24 interceptions are reason for concern, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino are the only quarterbacks who have thrown for more yards through the first five seasons of a career.
And no one had ever passed for 450-plus yards in consecutive games until Winston did it the past two weeks in wins over Indianapolis and Detroit (Drew Brees has done it in the playoffs; in 2011, he accomplished it against the Lions and 49ers).
"Anytime you start a sentence with, 'In the history of the NFL,' it's big," Arians said. "And for Jameis I'm really, really happy for us and for him to be able to put his name in the record books."
Winston's big numbers, particularly the past two games, continue to overshadow the lack of a consistent running game. The Bucs rushed for just 49 yards on 29 attempts, with leading rusher Ronald Jones II averaging 2.1 per carry while gaining 23 yards on 11 attempts. Backup Peyton Barber was even less productive, averaging 1.7 and finishing with 17 yards on 10 carries.
So with Winston rolling and the running game a non-factor, it's worth noting that Breshad Perriman had his first career three-touchdown performance.
In Weeks 1-11 this season, Winston was just 10 of 30 (33.3 percent) for 95 yards, a touchdown and an interception when targeting Perriman. In Weeks 12-15, the two have gone 14 of 18 (77.7 percent) for 314 yards, four touchdowns and an INT.
On Tuesday, the team announced that Scott Miller was going on injured reserve, to make room for the previously reported addition of receiver Cyril Grayson from the practice squad.
Miller started last week when they were in a three-wide set, as the Bucs were missing Evans and Godwin. He had three catches for 49 yards and a touchdown before his soft-tissue injury.
The sixth-round pick from Bowling Green finished the year with 13 catches for 200 yards and that one score.
The Bucs are now down to Perriman, Justin Watson and Ishmael Hyman, in addition to Grayson and Spencer Schnell.
Hyman was promoted from the practice squad last week and Schnell was added on Wednesday after Evans was placed on IR.
Assuming Godwin can't go this week, Perriman will be the "it" guy and Watson will be of some interest. Beyond that, fantasy owners are taking their chances -- at least at wideout.
Arians says the offense can make adjustments.
Arians noted that Winston completed at least one pass to every eligible receiver who suited up in Sunday's win over the Lions, and Arians said Winston will have to keep making use of the running backs in the passing game.
"I think we're doing a really good job of finding backs underneath stuff now, not just forcing it down the field -- when it's there take it," said Arians. "If not, the backs are very capable of making a lot of yards for you. That's something we have to really look into, who's available, what to do in this game plan on a short week."
Arians said he never considers injuries an excuse and thinks Evans and Godwin being out means everyone else needs to step up.
"In the second half, we started using the tight ends and back and stuff -- whoever's available," said Arians. "Again, for me I thought the coaches did a good job of not asking somebody to do something they can't do just because Mike or Chris did. Put them in a situation to be successful and I think we did that."
Also worth noting. ... Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday that Winston said he'd probably go easy on the throwing until later in the week to accommodate his broken right thumb.
He said it's not a long-term concern, but there are considerations that make throwing on Wednesday's an issue -- although he was throwing a tennis ball on Wednesday, something he didn't do until Thursday last week.
"I still got to get healthy, try to get as healthy as I can," Winston said. "So whatever we discuss going into today's practice, that's the plan we'll take."
The Bucs don't have playoff possibilities, but Winston does have some individual milestones at stake as he tries to prove he's worth keeping next year.
I'll have more on Winston and the team's plans at wideout via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Saturday's game.
QBs: Tom Brady, Ryan Griffin, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Ronald Jones, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Dare Ogunbowale, Raymond Calais, T.J. Logan
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scott Miller, Tyler Johnson, Justin Watson, Cyril Grayson, Spencer Schnell
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson, Jordan Leggett
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
The Tennessee Titans won four in a row and six out of seven games to put themselves squarely in the AFC South race, but couldn't finish the comeback on Sunday.
The Titans came up short in a 24-21 loss at home to the Houston Texans with the AFC South lead on the line. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson came up big when it mattered the most, steering Houston's offense on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. The drive took longer than five minutes and featured Watson magically escaping multiple potential sacks on third downs and hooking up with DeAndre Hopkins for a critical 35-yard completion.
The Titans can still work their way back into the playoff picture with a victory over the New Orleans Saints at home this week. Although they only scored 14 points against the Texans, the offense will get back to their high output by scoring more than 30 points against New Orleans.
As ESPN.com's Turron Davenport noted, the tough loss squandered another outstanding performance by Titans rookie wideout A.J. Brown. The wide receiver is proving to be a second-round steal out of Mississippi.
He not only leads the Titans with 47 catches, 893 yards and seven touchdown catches, Brown also leads all NFL rookie receivers in yards receiving. He's tied for the rookie receiver lead for TD catches, and only his former Ole Miss teammate D.K. Metcalf (52) has more catches.
Brown had 114 yards receiving and a TD for his fourth 100-yard receiving game, making him the franchise's first rookie to do that since Ernest Givins had four in 1986. Brown also became the first Titan with four such games in a single season since Drew Bennett had five in 2004.
But he wasn't happy he had 13 passes thrown to him and only caught eight -- both career highs.
"I wish I had a lot of them back," Brown said. "I try to catch every ball, so I am going to do a better job, keep working and try to catch every target."
Brown also joined Givens as the first Titans/Oilers rookie receiver with at least 100 yards in consecutive games since the 1970 merger. Brown's four 100-yard receiving games are the most by a rookie in a season since Amari Cooper in 2015 (5) according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Ryan Tannehill made some excellent throws. His rainbow throw off play-action to Brown in the first series was as precise as they come. Tannehill showed great patience in the pocket on his touchdown throw to Brown. Tannehill also rushed for his fourth touchdown on the season, which is a career high, equaling his total rushing touchdowns from 2013 to 2018.
Brown has become Tannehill's favorite receiver, as shown by the 13 targets that went his way Sunday.
Tannehill took 6.21 seconds to throw on his 5-yard touchdown pass to Brown with 13:46 left in the fourth quarter. That's the second-longest time to throw on a Titans' touchdown since the stat was first tracked in 2017. Marcus Mariota took 8.18 seconds on a touchdown pass against the Kansas City Chiefs in their 2017 wild-card game. Coincidentally, Mariota also made the catch.
Derrick Henry ran for 86 yards on 21 carries after not practicing all last week with a sore left hamstring. He had a long run of 23 yards.
The good news? Henry was on the field for Wednesday's practice; we'll find out if he was limited or not when the injury report is released. But for now, it seems likely he'll continue playing through the issue.
Wide receiver Adam Humphries has been out the last two weeks. He remained off the field dealing with his ankle injury on Wednesday and reports from the session indicated that Corey Davis was also missing from receiver drills.
I'll have more on all three via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant in coming days. ...
And finally. ... As Associated Press sports writer Teresa Walker notes, the failure to better protect themselves at kicker during the offseason keeps costing the Titans. They didn't bring in a true kicker during training camp, then put Ryan Succop on injured reserve to start the season. He's now 1 of 6 on field goals after having a 45-yarder blocked in the first quarter by the Texans.
And on Wednesday, Succop went back on injured reserve, ending his season.
The move is paired with the signing of Greg Joseph off the Panthers’ practice squad.
Joseph played for the Browns last season, kicking in 14 games. He made 17 of 20 field goals and 25 of 29 extra points.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Darrynton Evans, Dalyn Dawkins, David Fluellen
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 17 December 2019
The first several weeks of the Dwayne Haskins era weren't all that promising.
The Washington Redskins fell to last in the NFL on offense, relied heavily on the running game featuring Adrian Peterson and tried to make things as simple as possible for the rookie quarterback.
Haskins on Sunday in a loss to Philadelphia completed 19 of 28 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns: one to former Ohio State teammate Terry McLaurin and another to undrafted free agent Steven Sims. Those three, along with injured running back Derrius Guice, are the biggest reasons for hope on the offensive side of the ball in the Redskins' short- and long-term future.
"It looks a little more promising now," Sims said. "We're scoring more points. It seems a little more easier now."
With a potential No. 6 pick Daniel Jones vs. No. 15 pick Haskins showdown coming when the New York Giants visit next Sunday, it's another chance for Washington's young playmakers to show some promise.
"We did a good job calling great plays, giving us a spot where we could make something happen and we continue to work on and improve for next week," Haskins said.
The Redskins have liked Haskins' competitiveness and poise in the pocket. Sunday, though, they could feel good about how he executed their quick passing game. Haskins has taken some baby steps in his rookie season; he took a slightly bigger step against the Eagles.
A strong finish to the 2019 season by Haskins would help the Redskins feel much better entering the offseason.
McLaurin has found his footing again after several weeks of opposing defenses keying on him. The third-round pick is second among rookie receivers with 51 catches, 833 yards and seven touchdowns.
"He's a vocal playmaker in our receiving core," Haskins said. "He really does a great job with bringing great leadership to the receiving room. Even though the receivers are known to be divas, he's not. He's someone that we rely on."
McLaurin now has three games with at least 100 yards receiving. It's the most 100-yard games by a rookie receiver since Amari Cooper also had three in 2015. Odell Beckham Jr. had five such games in 2014. McLaurin finished with 130 yards.
The big question surrounding this week's game is whether Jones or Eli Manning will start for the Giants, but interim coach Bill Callahan and offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell's biggest task is continuing to make progress with Haskins, McLaurin and Sims. ...
Worth noting. ... Peterson continues to move up the all-time charts. He tied Walter Payton for fourth place on the all-time rushing touchdown list with 110. And Peterson also climbed the all-time rushing chart, surpassing Curtis Martin Sunday for fifth place on the all-time list. Peterson entered the game needing 65 yards to tie Martin. He finished with 91 total yards. ...
On the injury front. ... Paul Richardson (hamstring) was placed on injured reserve last week. Receiver Trey Quinn, who has missed the last two games with a concussion, went on IR Tuesday.
And finally this week. ... Washington is going to be hiring a new head coach pretty soon and an accomplished coach without a current coaching job was at FedEx Field on Sunday.
Urban Meyer was spotted in team owner Daniel Snyder's box along with quarterback Alex Smith, who played for Meyer at Utah and is continuing to recover from last season's broken leg. One doesn't need to connect too many dots to wonder if there might have been a conversation about the team's coaching plans, but McLaurin said that wasn't the reason why Meyer was on hand.
McLaurin and Haskins played for Meyer at Ohio State last season and the wideout said he invited the coach to Sunday's game.
"Coach Meyer was here to support me, and Dwayne," McLaurin said, via the Washington Post. "He was in town. He called me last night and he wanted to come support me at the game. He was my guest. It was good to see him again, good to talk to him. ... It has nothing to do with his coaching status at all. It was good to just have him support me again."
Meyer's name has also come up in conjunction with the Cowboys, so his name may be coming up again in the coming weeks.
QBs: Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Alex Smith
RBs: Derrius Guice, Adrian Peterson, Antonio Gibson, Peyton Barber, J.D. McKissic, Bryce Love
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Kelvin Harmon, Trey Quinn, Cody Latimer
TEs: Jeremy Sprinkle, Richard Rodgers, Logan Thomas, Hale Hentges