Team Notes week 3 2020
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
According to ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss, second-year coach Kliff Kingsbury doesn't enjoy watching his star quarterback, Kyler Murray, tuck the football and take off toward a hole in the offensive line, regardless if there are either swaths of grass or paydirt in front of him.
Sometimes Murray will -- either on his own, with a picture-perfect baseball slide, or with the help of a defender seething to get their hands on the reigning rookie of the year.
Other times, Murray won't, just weaving, cutting and juking his way to the end zone.
Regardless of how many times Kingsbury has seen Murray take off and do his thing with his feet, he's never surprised.
"I've watched that since he was 15 years old," Kingsbury said. "He is one of the most dangerous people probably in the league when he's in the open field like that, and he is as elusive as anybody, and that's a weapon. He's just got to be able to protect himself, which he does a good job of."
Weinfuss went on to note, the Cardinals' offense, despite putting up 54 points the first two weeks of the season, has yet to be or look perfect. There were plays in Sunday's 30-15 win over the Washington Football Team that wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins wished he and the rest of the offense had back. There were penalties that called back touchdowns or pushed the Cardinals back out of easy scoring range. And that's to be expected, Hopkins said, considering there weren't organized team activities, minicamps or preseason. Just training camp to get new players to jell into a new system.
As Kingsbury put it, "I just feel like we have not hit our stride yet."
But that's where Murray has factored in.
He has run for three touchdowns this season, half of Arizona's overall season total. And he's not just the team's leading rusher, he accounts for 46.4 percent of its rushing yards.
"He adds a different dynamic to this offense where he can go and score from 20, 30 yards out," Hopkins said. "It's something that is hard for defenders to be able to attack when you have a quarterback like that that is looking to score and not just getting first downs.
"And, also, when he's running, he's looking to throw. As you seen today, the touchdowns that he had, obviously, it was defenders right there in front of him and he made a move or two, and went in for a touchdown."
But Murray's play hasn't been crystal clean either, according to his coach.
Kingsbury described Murray's play the past two weeks as "a work in progress."
"I think you can see we're not as sharp as we'd like to be," Kingsbury said. "But he has so much talent that he can still make some incredible plays. And we're just gonna keep working at it and hopefully take another step next week and go from there. So, he's a spectacular talent. We all know that.
"I think when we really get it clicking and get in a rhythm that we can get rolling pretty good. So, we'll hopefully take another step next week and that'll continue."
Throughout the offseason, Murray talked about developing a better understanding of how defenses work, his own field awareness as well as his teammate's.
What Murray is doing -- running for 158 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries -- is a product of that. And while the rest of the offense figures itself out, Murray will be there to do his part in helping the offense as an entirety be a force.
Murray's ability to run -- and not just run but score points with his feet -- has been the deciding factor for an offense that features a future first-ballot Hall of Famer in Larry Fitzgerald and possibly the best receiver in all of football in Hopkins.
As Weinfuss summed up, "When the Cardinals' offense gets going in its up-tempo package, it might just be the toughest to defend in the NFL. ..."
The Cardinals remain at home this coming week. They'll host the Detroit Lions and Weinfuss predicting "Murray will again be the centerpiece of the running game, adding another two touchdowns to his stat line, keeping him among the league leaders for rushing scores. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Christian Kirk had a catch in the opener, but it went for zero yards. Andy Isabella wasn't even targeted. But there they were Sunday offering a hint of what they could be.
Kirk made a spectacular 49-yard catch on the sideline. Isabella had a 54-yard old-school over-the-top bomb he caught, showing the speed everyone knows he has.
Murray smiled when asked about the two. He played a year in college with Kirk before they became pro teammates. He loves him some Isabella, his draft classmate. He wants to include them more. But …
"You want to get everybody the ball and it's hard to do," Murray said with a chuckle. "We just have so many guys, so many weapons. When they touch the ball, something could happen at any moment. It's a good feeling to have when you have everybody that you have faith in and make plays when they touch the ball."
Kirk has already shown that last year. His production feels like a matter of time. Isabella is different, but his ability to get behind defenders seems likely to come into play more as the season progresses. ...
Hopkins, with his eight catches, has 22 in two games, setting the NFL record for most catches in the first two games for a player with a new team. The former Texan also caught his first touchdown pass with the Cardinals on their opening possession. He was completely alone in the back of the end zone on third down and Murray hit him for the 4-yard score to make it 7-0.
Fitzgerald wasn't spectacular, but he had seven catches for 50 yards and made one big 12-yard grab on fourth-and-5 in the second half.
Zane Gonzalez was perfect on field goals, showing how the opener was an outlier. ...
On Monday, the Cardinals activated WR KeeSean Johnson from the Covid-19 restricted list and placed tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) on injured reserve. ...
And finally. ... Kingsbury further solidified his reputation as an innovative play caller with a gutsy move in third quarter.
The Cardinals faced fourth-and-1 at their 27 and called timeout. Backup quarterback Chris Streveler took the snap, faked a handoff and then ran to his right before flipping the ball to Kirk, who reversed field and gained 3 yards.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, Chris Streveler
RBs: Chase Edmonds, James Conner, Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore, Andy Isabella, Antoine Wesley
TEs: Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure framed it, "The team that blew a 28-3 in Super Bowl LI managed to throw away another 20-point lead, and now the winless Atlanta Falcons (0-2) find themselves on the brink of another early-season implosion."
With three Atlanta players surrounding him and curiously watching the slow-rolling ball, Cowboys cornerback C.J. Goodwin pounced on it just as it got to the 10 yards needed for the Cowboys to recover when they still trailed in the final two minutes.
"We've just got to learn that we've got to attack that ball and things like," said receiver Julio Jones, who was on the field, but not one of the players in the immediate vicinity of the ball.
Greg Zuerlein's game-winning 46-yard field goal came six plays after his onside kick-- a slow roller, instead of one of the high bouncers that usually come in those situations.
"We've got to go capture it when the moment comes. ... From where I saw, it was a slow roller and one that we should make the aggressive move to go get it," head coach Dan Quinn said.
Except receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, safety Sharrod Neasman and tight end Hayden Hurst appeared to be waiting for the ball to go 10 yards-- though they could have gone after it any time before then. And that was after Goodwin ran around Jaeden Graham, another tight end.
"The front three are usually blocking as the high bouncers go to the second side, so the front line, generally on an onside kick, they're looking to get a block first, then the high hop goes to the next player," Quinn said. "So when that instance happens and it's not one that's a high hopper you transfer in and you go to your ball. ... They definitely know the rule."
Asked if any coaching changes could be upcoming, Quinn responded, "No," later adding that it's a situation that the Falcons often work on.
"To lose one today when we do spend a good bit of time on, that certainly hurt," he said.
The Falcons had built on the formula for success throughout most of the game, forcing three early turnovers and showing some balance on offense with the run and pass. But, it didn't work in the end.
But as McClure went on to note, a number of factors added up for the Falcons outside of the mental mistakes with recovering the onside kick. Atlanta had a chance for a touchdown when wide receiver Russell Gage took a direct snap and threw a perfect ball to star Jones, who dropped it.
On the next possession, the Falcons defense surrendered a 58-yard pass play to Amari Cooper on a spectacular catch, leading to a Dak Prescott touchdown. The Falcons also missed on a two-point conversion opportunity, which would have come in handy in a one-point loss.
Also, the Falcons settled for field goals in the second half when Matt Ryan was cooking on touchdown tosses. And, the Falcons' defense gave up 367 yards and four touchdowns in the second half.
This is the type of loss that could lead to personnel changes or perhaps some coaching moves.
Quinn commented on how this affects his future with the team: "You just want to attack it a week at a time. Obviously disappointed in the way that the game ended because, as I said, there's a lesson to be learned in the loss to say, 'You have to go finish it out.' I think this is going to be a very good team. We're not there today.
"But the improvement that we want to make, what we come become, that it all out there for us."
Next up, the Falcons will face Chicago at home on Sunday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Ryan, who had never gone 0-2 to start the season in his career, tried to do his part. He threw four touchdown passes and made smart decisions. He completed 11 of 19 for 156 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. He didn't get sacked until the fourth quarter, a credit to the Falcons' offensive line.
Calvin Ridley had two first-half scores Sunday. That gave him 21 career touchdown receptions in his first three seasons, passing Jones for the second most through three seasons in Falcons' history. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Ridley is the fourth player in the past 25 seasons to catch multiple touchdown passes in each of the team's first two games of a season alongside Marvin Harrison (1999), Calvin Johnson (2011), and Eddie Royal (2013).
Ridley continues to be an ascending star, including his second consecutive 100-yard game.
Meanwhile, the Falcons got hit hard with injuries, including starting right tackle Kaleb McGary limping off with a knee injury, team captain and safety Ricardo Allen exiting with an elbow injury and defensive end Takk McKinley leaving the game (groin). Foyesade Oluokun (hamstring). Safety Damontae Kazee came out with a shoulder injury after being barreled over by Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, but Kazee returned. Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. also appeared to get banged up early but returned to the game.
McGary's injury is one to monitor closely because the Falcons do not have depth at tackle, although unproven Matt Gono stepped in Sunday and did a decent job in McGary's place. Veteran John Wetzel has some playing experience, but Wetzel was inactive against the Cowboys after being signed to the active roster from the practice squad.
One last item that's worth watching: Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said Wednesday morning that he thought there was more to the hamstring injury that's limited Jones in practice the last two weeks than the wide receiver has led on.
Quinn subsequently confirmed Jones further strained his hamstring during the loss to Dallas, and the team will take his injury "through the week."
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on this in coming days.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Josh Rosen, Feleipe Franks
RBs: Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby, Chris Rowland
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
The Ravens' multifaceted rushing attack, which led the NFL last year by nearly 1,000 yards, was slow to get going in the first half against the Houston Texans.
Mark Ingram, quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens pounded away at Houston after halftime and ran away with a 33-16 victory.
"We knew we left some stuff out there," Ingram said. "We didn't run the ball much in the first half but I just told the backs to stay on point."
Jackson threw for 204 yards and a touchdown and had 54 yards rushing as the Ravens gained 230 yards on the ground to Houston's 51.
Gus Edwards (73 yards), Ingram (55 yards), Jackson (54 yards) and J.K. Dobbins (48 yards) all took turns hurting the Texans.
Jackson enjoyed watching the running backs eat.
"Our offensive line was doing a great job getting that push, getting the defensive line on their toes," Jackson said. "Our backs are just explosive. They're good. That's why we got them here, they just did their job. That's what we needed today to have success."
As the team's official website explained, Baltimore's running backs attacked the Texans with different styles. Edwards used his power to hit Houston with a 22-yard run between the tackles.
Dobbins showed his balance an ability to break tackles not only as a runner, but as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He had the team's longest run of the game with a 44-yarder late in the fourth quarter.
Ingram had the play of the game with a 30-yard touchdown sprint on fourth-and-1, also in the fourth quarter.
The victory is Baltimore's 14th straight in the regular season, the longest streak in the NFL since Carolina won 18 in a row in 2014-15. Beyond that, the Ravens have now led at halftime in 11 straight games, and they can tie the NFL record if they accomplish the feat again next week against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Four teams have led at halftime in 12 consecutive games: the Rams (1952-53), Oilers (1961-62), Chiefs (1968-69) and Steelers (2004-05).
As noted above, the Ravens were up by 10 early in the fourth quarter when Ingram took a direct snap on fourth-and-1 and dashed 30 yards to the end zone to make it 30-13.
"That's something we've been practicing for many weeks now," head coach John Harbaugh said. "We've gotten a lot of reps on it. Of course, Mark executed it really well. ... That was a turning point in the game. It gave us a little breathing space."
Ingram punched and roundhouse-kicked a picture of Houston's mascot on the wall in the end zone to celebrate the score that was the knockout blow.
"We feel like we have the best backfield in the league. We just try to prove that, week in, week out," Ingram said.
Baltimore had 186 yards rushing in the second half.
But as the rest of us focus on Jackson's highlights, ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley points out the Ravens' defense has quietly flexed with some impressive streaks:
Baltimore has held teams to 21 or fewer points for 13 straight games, the longest current active streak in the NFL.
The Ravens have forced a turnover in 15 consecutive games, which is also the longest current active streak in the league.
Baltimore has now scored seven defensive touchdowns in its past 12 games.
As long as the defense keeps playing this well, the rushing attack will remain the tip of the offensive spear with the passing attack able to pick and choose their moments for splash plays.
Of course, the defense will be critical against the Chiefs on Monday night. ...
As for the ground game. ... The Ravens expect to have one of the NFL's best running attacks, but every season is different. Opponents have had an entire offseason to devise different ways to counter what Baltimore did last year, but the Texans had no answer in the second half.
"It's a new year, we're just trying to create a new identity for ourselves," Ingram said. "We were able to run the ball efficiently, get some big runs thanks to the offensive line creating holes for us. We feel like we have the best backfield in the league. We try to prove that week in and week out."
How they prove it -- or more importantly for fantasy owners, with whom they prove it, seems likely to remain a mystery heading into each game.
In case you've missed it each of the last two weeks, offensive coordinator Greg Roman reiterated it last Thursday: "There's no exact science there. It'll be different every week. We like to keep people guessing."
That includes fantasy managers.
Other notes of interest. ... As Hensley put it, "Jackson was more effective than electric." He didn't throw multiple touchdown passes for the first time since Week 13 last season against the San Francisco 49ers. Jackson also was sacked four times, which is one shy of his career worst. But he completed 18 of 24 passes (75 percent). Jackson is now 21-3 as an NFL starting quarterback.
On the injury front. ... CB Tavon Young hurt his knee during the game. Harbaugh told reporters in his postgame press conference that the team believes it is a season-ending injury.
Young had two tackles in the season opener, which was his first game in more than a year because he missed the entire 2019 season with a neck injury. That makes Sunday's development all the more bitter for Young.
The injury could open the door to more playing time for veteran Jimmy Smith alongside starting corners Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley
RBs: Ty'Son Williams, Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, Gus Edwards
WRs: Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, Miles Boykin, James Proche, Rashod Bateman
TEs: Mark Andrews, Josh Oliver, Eric Tomlinson, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
Everyone in Buffalo wanted to see some growth from Bills quarterback Josh Allen in his third NFL season. The first two games have made a strong case that Allen's a better player than he was in his first two seasons.
Allen set a career high with 312 passing yards while beating the Jets in Week One and did it again in Week Two. He threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-28 win over the Dolphins.
Allen rolled up the most passing yards in the first half by a Bills quarterback in 20 years, with 249 after two quarters. The 417-yard total for the day tied for third most in a game in Bills history with Drew Bledsoe, who was the last quarterback to do it on Oct. 2nd, 2002.
More importantly, Allen staged a successful fourth-quarter comeback after the Bills saw an early 10-point lead turn into a three-point deficit.
When crunch time arrived Allen delivered in a big way. When the chips were down, Allen went 6-8 for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the team's last two scoring drives.
"I really think it starts with preparation. We had a great week of practice," said Allen. "Our scout team gave us a great look. We just happened to run those plays in practice and we felt good about them."
The Bills passing game approach was in stark contrast to that of a week ago when Allen and company largely relied on short to intermediate passes to stay on schedule and finish drives with points.
On Sunday, they torched the Dolphins secondary making heavy use of deep crossing routes.
In Week 1, Buffalo averaged 9.45 yards per completion. On Sunday, they almost doubled it averaging 17.3. Long developing routes were possible because Buffalo's offensive line provided good protection for a second straight week.
"We believe in our playmakers here and (offensive coordinator Brian) Daboll is not one to shy away from putting the ball in my hands," Allen said. "But our five did a great job in protection, our backs, our tight ends did a great job as well. Our guys got open, they made plays."
Allen's completion percentage was again flirting with 70 percent as he completed 68.5 percent of his passes and posted a passer rating of 147, the third-highest single game total in team annals. His 739 passing yards in the first two games of a season is second only to Jim Kelly's 744 in 1991.
Stefon Diggs was a problem for the Dolphins secondary from the beginning of the game. That's why Allen targeted him six times on his first eight throws. And though the dividends early in the game were mixed, by halftime the Bills top wideout had helped stake Buffalo to a touchdown lead with five receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Little did Miami's defensive backs know that Diggs would double his yardage total by game's end. Diggs' eight receptions for 153 yards and a score gave him eight catches or more in each of his first two games, making him the first Bills receiver to start a season that way since Peerless Price (20) and Eric Moulds (16) both did it to start the 2002 season.
Allen, who spread the ball around with eight players making receptions for a second consecutive week, targeted Diggs (13) more than twice as often as the next most targeted players (Cole Beasley, John Brown, 6 each). ...
Allen, who was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, is the fourth quarterback (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes are the others) with at least 700 passing yards, at least six touchdowns and no interceptions through the first two weeks of a season. If he can keep that kind of production going, there will be a lot less to criticize about the 2018 first-round pick in the future.
The Bills host the Rams Sunday. It'll be interesting to see how Allen and his top weapons, Diggs and Brown, fare.
Eagles QB Carson Wentz stayed far away from Jalen Ramsey in the first half of his tilt with the Rams this past Sunday. Ramsey played every snap, but was not the nearest defender to any targeted receiver, according to Next Gen Stats.
Ramsey finished with one tackle and was only targeted twice. The Eagles did not complete either pass. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Allen was also quick to give credit to Buffalo's rookie receivers -- wide receiver Gabe Davis and tight end Reggie Gilliam -- who both caught touchdown passes on Sunday.
"A bunch of guys got open, they caught the ball when they needed to and again, I said it once before, but you got to give credit to Gabe Davis and Reggie (Gilliam) for making plays," Allen said. "Reggie being an undrafted guy and to come in there and do that and make a play at the goal line and catch a ball there, that's huge. And again, it gives the offense juice. We love seeing guys who are underdogs score. That's a guy who's worked his tail off and he deserves to be here."
As Rotowold.com notes, Devin Singletary again won the touch battle with rookie Zach Moss, handling 12 touches to Moss' 8; Moss also failed to record a single target against Miami. Singletary has out-touched Moss 26-20 on the year. ...
On the injury front. ... Moss (toe) and Beasley (hip, thumb) did not practice Wednesday.
Tight end Dawson Knox is in concussion protocol after being sidelined in second half of Sunday's game. His status for this weekend will be up in the air as a result. He has to pass a series of tests in order to return to the field and be cleared by an independent doctor.
>More on Moss, Beasley and Knox via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
For what it's worth, Tyler Kroft is first man up behind Knox. Kroft has a lot of experience with 38 starts in his six NFL seasons. Gilliam is more of an H-back than a traditional tight end.
One last note here. ... The Vikings, who sent Diggs to Buffalo for a number of draft picks this offseason, managed just 95 passing yards, with Kirk Cousins gaining 113 through the air but losing 18 on sacks, in Sunday's loss to the Colts. It's too soon to fully assess the Diggs trade, but through two games, he's a big part of the Bills being 2-0, and his absence is a big part of the Vikings being 0-2.
QBs: Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky
RBs: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Matt Breida, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Emmanuel Sanders, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
With nearly a quarter left and a two-score deficit to erase Sunday, Christian McCaffrey received a pass from Teddy Bridgewater, sprinted wide left and fell forward across the goal line.
The touchdown cut the deficit to just seven points for the McCaffrey's Panthers, but his day was done. McCaffrey exited with an ankle injury, and he confirmed Monday that doctors tell him he's going to miss four to six weeks with an ankle injury.
McCaffrey himself, however, is optimistic that he can miss less than that.
"They say four to six weeks," McCaffrey said. "That's a challenge to me. Hopefully I can get back a lot earlier. I'm going to attack this."
Well. ... It's going to be at least three weeks. The Panthers placed McCaffrey on Injured Reserve on Wednesday.
McCaffrey was in the midst of a typical Sunday afternoon for him, carrying the ball 17 times for 52 yards and a touchdown before his 7-yard scoring dash. He'd also caught four passes for 29 yards, falling short of 100 all-purpose yards but still serving as an effective and important part of Carolina's offense, all while looking healthy.
The touchdown run, in which he was tripped up by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White as he crossed the goal line, changed that last observation. Carolina eventually fell to Tampa Bay, 31-17.
The 2020 season hasn't been easy for the Panthers, who have shown they're willing to fight to the bitter end, but have twice come up short in as many games under new head coach Matt Rhule. Losing McCaffrey will undoubtedly make the going tougher for Bridgewater and Co., who will be forced to rely on the likes of Mike Davis and continue to feed the ball to D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, who each broke 100 yards receiving Sunday.
As NFL.com's Nick Shook suggested, it's not impossible; it's just not ideal for a team still trying to find its footing under new leadership.
The Panthers will continue forward with their best player watching from the sideline. Fantasy managers will have to do the same -- with Davis a possible option.
Davis finished the game and had eight catches for 74 yards.
Rhule said Davis is a "starting tailback in the National Football League and was ready to play. He will play well in Christian's absence."
Rhule said the offense won't change with Davis in the starting lineup.
"He made the most of his opportunities on Sunday," Rhule said.
"I'm just here to do my job, go out there and do whatever coach asks me to do," Davis said Sunday. "I'm not looking to go out there and try to do anything crazy."
The 27-year-old Davis has 10 career starts, eight of which came with Seattle from 2017-18. He rushed for 514 yards and four touchdowns with the Seahawks in 2018. He has registered 890 yards rushing with five rushing touchdowns plus 74 receptions for 504 yards with one touchdown catch since entering the league as a 49ers' fourth-round pick in 2015.
Trenton Cannon is the only other running back on the Panthers' active roster, but he fills more of a special teams role. Reggie Bonnafon, who had 23 touches for 173 yards and a touchdown last season, is currently on the practice squad. Expect a promotion. ...
I'll be following up on this as necessary in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Panthers built their offense around McCaffrey during the preseason. With him out for multiple weeks with a high ankle sprain is Bridgewater good enough to carry the team? "I have full confidence in Teddy," Rhule said. "He's in his second game with us, down 21-0 [Sunday] we have the ball with a chance to go win the game."
Tampa Bay forced four Panthers turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions) and also forced a turnover on downs. The Buccaneers turned those into three touchdowns and a field goal. Carolina committed nine penalties, including three that helped Tampa Bay convert third downs.
But the Panthers' offense came alive in the second half after trailed, 21-0, at halftime. Carolina totaled 318 net yards in the second half and held Tampa Bay to 109 yards, 46 of which came on one run.
Bridgewater set new career highs for completions (33) and passing yards (367). Despite his two interceptions and lost fumble, he posted a passer rating of 83.2, besting Tom Brady's rating of 80.3.
Moore and Anderson each went for over 100 yards receiving. It marked the first time since 2004 (Muhsin Muhammad, Keary Colbert) that a pair of Carolina wide receivers hit 100 receiving yards in the same game.
Moore had a team-high 120 receiving yards on eight catches. Dating back to last season, he's averaged 88.4 receiving yards in his last 10 games, second-most in the NFL over that span.
Anderson tied his career-high with nine receptions, going for 109 yards. Through two games as a Panther, he's caught 15-of-18 targets for 224 yards and a touchdown.
Curtis Samuel played in 70 percent of the snaps, but was targeted just twice in the passing game for two catches for 13 yards. He did have four rushes for 26 yards.
Ian Thomas played over half the snaps at tight end, but he was not targeted on offense. Seth Roberts played in 19 snaps after seeing action in just five the week before.
QBs: Sam Darnold, Phillip Walker
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Chuba Hubbard, Royce Freeman
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Terrace Marshall Jr., Brandon Zylstra, Shi Smith
TEs: Dan Arnold, Ian Thomas, Colin Thompson, Tommy Tremble
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson put it, "The hapless New York Giants proved the perfect opponent for Mitchell Trubisky.
"At least for the first 30 minutes, that is. ..."
Trubisky had a sparkling first half with completions to nine different receivers and two touchdowns. The 26-year old quarterback frustrated New York's defense at nearly every turn, including his 28-yard touchdown pass to rookie Darnell Mooney. Trubisky kept moving around in the pocket until Mooney broke in front on a Giants defender in the end zone. The Bears -- behind Trubisky's accuracy and decision -- were cruising.
After halftime, the final two quarters were a completely different story.
The Bears failed to score in the second half as Trubisky tossed a pair of interceptions. The Giants were on the doorstep to win the game as time expired but Chicago hung on to win 17-13. However, a signature victory it was not.
That said, the Bears are 2-0.
Which means that Trubisky has run his record to 2-0 since fending off Nick Foles for the starting spot on the quarterback depth chart.
After Sunday's win over the Giants, Trubisky discussed at length a turbulent offseason that resulted in Trubisky keeping his job.
Trubisky, while driving home from Soldier Field, told Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio that he developed a new mindset after the Bears traded for Foles. The move came during the early days of the pandemic, giving Trubisky an opportunity to "self-reflect" on "how I wanted my career to go."
He decided to put in the work necessary to eventually prove that he deserves the job. The team's decision to not pick up Trubisky's fifth-year option for 2021 added "more fuel to the fire," causing him to "feel like I control my own destiny."
"Now it's up to me to prove it," Trubisky said.
He focused on his craft, embarking on a competition that was as fair and open as head coach Matt Nagy and G.M. Ryan Pace told Trubisky it would be.
"The reps were split down the middle," Trubisky said. "I tried not to think who had the edge. I just wanted to show my teammates what I'd done in the offseason and how badly I wanted it."
Trubisky had "no idea" he'd won until Nagy shared the decision, nine days before the regular-season opener. The news "came out of nowhere," and Trubisky had "no idea which way it would go."
Through two weeks, Trubisky has strengthened his grip on the job. The numbers aren't spectacular, but they've been more than good enough to propel the Bears to an unlikely and unexpected 2-0 start.
More importantly, Trubisky has gained real confidence through re-winning his job and then winning two games. On the phone after Sunday's game, Florio believes he sounded different. More confident. More self-assured. More determined. If the Bears keep winning, Trubisky's confidence will keep growing, which could lead to even more winning.
But at some point, Trubisky is going to need to put an entire game together to make that happen on an ongoing basis.
With another favorable matchup against the Falcons in Atlanta this week, perhaps Trubisky can accomplish that objective. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Wide receiver Allen Robinson now has at least one catch in all 74 career games he's played in. Robinson, who is looking for a lucrative contract extension, wasted no time on Sunday. On Chicago's third play from scrimmage, Robinson leaped in the air, extended his body and caught a 17-yard pass from Trubisky on third down.
Those maximum-effort plays have become Robinson's hallmark. The former Pro Bowler finished the game with three catches for 33 yards.
Meanwhile, Anthony Miller failed to catch any of his three targets in a favorable matchup Sunday and he continues to work behind Mooney.
Mooney had three receptions for 36 yards in Sunday win. The trust he's developed with the coaching staff was reflected in the fact that he played 39 of 65 snaps (60 percent), the second most among receivers behind Robinson (53) and more than Javon Wims (29) and Miller (27).
In the first two games of the season, Mooney has caught all six passes that have been thrown in his direction by Trubisky for a total of 74 yards.
Asked how he's been able to assimilate to the NFL so quickly—without offseason practices or preseason games—Mooney said: "Working out after practice, just seeing the ball in the air, seeing the ball spin. Just spotting routes and then seeing the ball in the air. We just get a lot of reps in practice, and that's about it. ..."
The Bears received an injury scare with their starting running back early in the second quarter when David Montgomery hurt his neck. The second-year pro was injured when he landed on his head and shoulder after trying to hurdle a defensive lineman.
"[I'm] really just grateful that I was OK," Montgomery said. "When it happened, it was kind of scary. [But] I knew I was fine when I was able to move my neck. I was still conscious. I was fine."
Montgomery was initially examined in the injury tent behind the Bears' bench before he walked under his own power to the locker room. The 2019 third-round pick returned to start the second half and played the remainder of the game. He carried 16 times for 82 yards and caught all three of his targets for 45 yards and one touchdown.
In case you missed it, the Bears announced a three-year contract extension with running back and return specialist Tarik Cohen on Sunday. The deal guarantees about $9.5 million and could be worth $18.25 million, agent Drew Rosenhaus said.
QBs: Justin Fields, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton
RBs: David Montgomery, Damien Williams, Khalil Herbert, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin, Breshad Perriman
TEs: Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham, Jesse James, J.P. Holtz, Jesper Horsted
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio reminded readers, last year, Joe Burrow played 15 games and lost none. This year, he has played two games. And lost both.
"Losing isn't very fun," Burrow told reporters after last Thursday's 35-30 loss to the Browns. "This might be the only time in my sporting career that I have lost two games in a row. It doesn't feel very good. I know that the guys in there are hurting. We are going to come back to work tomorrow and try to get this thing right. Losing is unacceptable to me, to everyone in there, to coach [Zac] Taylor and to everybody in this organization. We are just going to have to get it fixed."
As Florio suggested, it's an admirable attitude, but it's likely not something that will quickly change.
The Bengals have Burrow because they went 2-14 last year.
"I will never adjust or accept losing," Burrow added. "That is just something that is not in my mindset so this 0-2 start is really hurting me. I know it is hurting Coach and everybody in there. We will never adjust to losing. We will never accept losing. We are just going to have to get it right."
They had a few extra days to get it right before playing again, this Sunday at Philadelphia.
And the wins will come. The Bengals could have won both of their games this year. And Burrow improved significantly from Sunday to Thursday, ironing out the occasions in which he tried to do too much while completing 37 of 61 passes.
The 61 attempts are No. 2 in franchise history (behind Jon Kitna's 68), and the most ever in a Bengals' non-overtime game. Also, the 37 completions tie Carson Palmer for No. 2 on the Bengals' single-game list. The performance has drawn widespread praise for the first overall pick in the draft.
"[W]e are 0-2," Burrow said. "That is all that matters."
With that kind of attitude, and given the way he performed last night, the wins definitely will come. ...
Meanwhile, asked if we be excited about A.J. Green's heavy volume or concerned about his lack of production, ESPN.com's Ben Baby wrote, "For now, excited about the heavy volume.
Baby went on to contend it's always good when a wide receiver of Green's caliber is getting several targets. He's still finding his footing after not playing in 2019.
Baby added: "Give Green and Burrow some time to get a feel for each other before panicking. ..."
Still, as noted by NFL.com, Green became one of only three receivers in the last 10 years to have 13 or more targets and fewer than 30 receiving yards in a single game.
Through two games, Green has 22 targets, eight catches, and 80 yards.
Burrow had a plausible explanation for Green's limited production.
"They started playing more two-high [safety]," Burrow told reporters after the game. "He was playing well at the beginning of the game. I missed some throws to A.J. again. I am just going to have to fix that. I can't keep missing throws to A.J. when he gets open like he does."
That's fine, but Florio contends that Green had chances to make some of those catches and didn't.
For the record, Green averaged 2.2 yards per target, with a 23.1 catch percentage. Burrow earned a 39.6 passer rating targeting Green, and threw into a tight window on 30.8 percent of targets to the wideout. Green averaged 1.6 yards of separation Thursday night. He earned 3-plus yards of separation (what NGS declares as "open" throws) 15.4 percent of the time.
He was wide open (5-plus yards of separation) zero times in 42 routes.
Also of interest. ... Tight end C.J. Uzomah is out for the season after tearing his right Achilles tendon during Thursday's loss to the Cleveland Browns, head coach Zac Taylor told reporters Friday.
Before the injury, Uzomah was one of Burrow's most effective receivers. The tight end had four catches on six targets for 42 yards and one touchdown -- Burrow's first passing touchdown in the NFL.
Uzomah and second-year player Drew Sample entered the season as the team's top tight ends after Tyler Eifert left in free agency and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sample caught 7-of-9 targets for 45 yards against the Browns with Rotowold.com noting six of his nine targets came after Uzomah was hurt.
Sample matched Tyler Boyd for the team high in catches. Sample was a second-round pick last year who was limited to nine games and five catches as a rookie before suffering an ankle injury.
And finally. ... The offensive line had a shaky opener and was shoved around again in Cleveland. Fred Johnson started at right guard in place of Xavier Su'a-Filo, out with an ankle injury. The Browns kept steady pressure on Burrow, and Joe Mixon was held to 46 yards on 16 carries. Taylor indicated there could be changes on the line before the next game in Philadelphia.
"Nothing's off the table, that's for certain," Taylor said.
QBs: Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen
RBs: Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate, Stanley Morgan Jr., Mike Thomas
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra noted, the Browns offense finally looked like the collection of talent we've expected for the past year, with dive bombing big plays, chain-moving grabs and bulldozing runs in last Thursday night's 35-30 win over Cincinnati.
Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. finally looked in sync, combining for 74 yards on four hookups with a TD. Two of Jarvis Landry's three catches went for first downs (the other nine yards on first-and-10). And the two-headed backfield monster of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt ran over Bengals defenders, combining for 210 rushing yards.
The parts finally matched the hype.
"We're gonna keep growing and keep getting better and I think that's the best part about this team right now," Mayfield told NFL Network after the win. "Without being able to have those preseason games or those spring practices, to have a true foundation set. We did the best we could, no matter what. I truly believe that our coaches did great in the offseason but there's nothing like game experience and so we're gonna continue to get better."
Thursday's offense looked like what we expected under new coach Kevin Stefanski, and not at all what we saw Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens. Mayfield came out with two straight rollouts to start the contest, connecting on both, to get in a groove. The use of play-action to open up the passing game is a Stefanski staple and worked wonders for Mayfield this week.
"We just want to keep growing as an offense. I hope this is not the ceiling," Stefanski said after his first career win as a head coach.
When Chubb and Hunt are rolling like Thursday night, there is no better tandem in the NFL, and it completely opens up the offense, pulling defenders into the box and giving OBJ and Landry one-on-one matchups to exploit.
It wasn't all perfect, as Mayfield's fourth-quarter interception opened the door for Cincy to keep it close. It was the QB's eighth straight game with an INT, the longest active streak in the NFL (the next closest players are Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson at four).
Going from playing Baltimore to Cincinnati is a swing that showed us both sides of the Cleveland coin. From looking like a bottom-three team to one that has the combination to make noise. Stefanski's team is likely somewhere in the middle. He's just looking to build on Thursday's win and continue to improve as the weeks wear on.
"We don't ride the wave. We just show up and play. We're going to look at the tape and then, guess what, we're moving on to Washington," Stefanski said after the win. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Asked if we should give up on Austin Hooper in fantasy after he totaled four catches for 37 yards in Weeks 1 and 2, ESPN.com's Jake Trotter notes that if you drafted Hooper, you drafted him to be your No. 2 TE. The Browns still have big plans for their new tight end this season. So it's worth hanging on for now to see if they can get him more involved, especially in the red zone, where Mayfield loves to target TEs.
On the injury front. ... The Browns are healing up. Ravaged by injuries during training camp, the team welcomed back starting linebacker Mack Wilson and starting cornerback Greedy Williams on Monday as the Browns began getting ready for this week's game against the Washington Football Team.
Also, nickel back Kevin Johnson was back on the field for the first time since he suffered a lacerated liver during an August practice and had to be hospitalized.
Starting right tackle Jack Conklin (ankle, finger) was also back at practice after missing Thursday's win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Defensive ends Olivier Vernon (abdomen) and Adrian Clayborn (hip) and linebacker Jacob Phillips (knee) worked on the side with trainers and medical staff during the short portion of practice open to media members.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Demetric Felton, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, Rashard Higgins, Jarvis Landry
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer put it, "Never in Mike McCarthy's dreams did he think his first home game as Dallas Cowboys head coach would go like this.
"But he won't forget it, either. ..."
What looked like one of the worst losses of McCarthy's career and one of the most lopsided the Cowboys have had in recent years turned into a spectacular win.
Greg Zuerlein's 46-yard field goal as time expired gave the Cowboys an exhilarating 40-39 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
A squibbing onside kick by Zuerlein that was recovered by C.J. Goodwin and followed by a 24-yard catch by rookie CeeDee Lamb from Dak Prescott set up Zuerlein's winner.
McCarthy was surely looking at his first loss at ATandT Stadium, where he was 4-0 as coach of the Green Bay Packers, including a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
The Cowboys trailed 20-0 in the first quarter after losing three fumbles and seeing a fake punt try fail. They were down 29-10 at halftime after the defense allowed scores on six straight possessions.
They were down 39-24 with less than five minutes to play. According to ESPN Stats and Information, teams were 1,875-6 when leading by 15 or more points in the final five minutes of regulation over the past 20 seasons. The last team to overcome such a deficit was the New Orleans Saints against Washington in 2017.
It tied for the second-biggest comeback in team history. Three times the Cowboys have overcome 21-point deficits with the last coming in 2014.
For McCarthy, it also was the second-biggest comeback of his coaching career. In 2013, his Packers trailed the Cowboys by 23 and won 37-36. In Week 13 of 2015, they beat the Detroit Lions and in the 2018 season opener against the Chicago Bears, they were down 20.
To get there, the Cowboys needed some luck -- like the onside kick -- and some guts. Prescott rushed for three touchdowns and threw for 450 yards while missing two plays in the second half to get evaluated for a concussion.
They also had to overcome some questionable decision-making, like failing on a fake punt on fourth-and-5 in the fourth quarter and McCarthy's decision to go for the 2-point conversion after Prescott's third rushing touchdown with 1:49 to play.
Now it's all a footnote.
And not all wins are created equal. The Cowboys did not have either starting offensive tackle with left tackle Tyron Smith scratched because of a neck injury and La'el Collins missing his second straight game with a hip injury. They did not have starting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who is on injured reserve after breaking his collarbone in the opener. The defense was lit up and could not make critical stops.
But it didn't matter.
McCarthy has his first win. One he never could have imagined.
And he should definitely thank Prescott -- even as the QB pointed out the role his teammates had in making that happen.
"Credit the offensive line. Two were quarterback sneaks, they allowed me to get in," he said. "And credit those receivers. They went out there and continued to get open. Yeah sure, I had to find them and I had to make some plays here and there, but that was a team win all the way around."
Prescott can downplay it all he wants, but it has to feel gratifying.
In a situation that looked absolutely hopeless, he helmed an offense that outscored Atlanta, 30-10, in the second half. He completed 72 percent of his passes on the day, bombing away for 450 yards -- the third-highest total of his career, and he led the Cowboys on five touchdown drives of 74 or more yards as the Dallas offense hummed its way to 570 yards and converted 54 percent of its third downs.
"We put ourselves as players in a hole by not taking care of the ball, so we had to go out there and just stay at it -- stay believing in the game plan, stay believing in one another," Prescott said.
None of this even accounts for the fact that Prescott was forced to leave the game for two snaps in the third quarter. In an effort to find Dalton Schultz for a seven-yard touchdown strike that would have cut the deficit to 29-24, he took a vicious shot from Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones and was forced into the NFL's concussion protocol.
"I was sure I was fine. The ref told me I had to come out, but other than that I knew I was fine," he said.
Prescott took to the team's sideline medical tent to answer cognitive questions while Andy Dalton fired an incomplete pass and handed off to Ezekiel Elliott. Moments later, Prescott returned to bull his way into the end zone from one yard out.
And after all of this, if there was any doubt that the Cowboys' quarterback follows the narratives around him, he let it slip himself. At the end of his postgame press conference, Prescott was asked about finally winning a closely contested game, and he was very prepared for it.
"I was waiting on that one-score game question," he joked. "Definitely, I'm proud of the team. As I said last week, it's about just getting one underneath our belt and getting a win in these close games, and it'll start rolling from here."
Yes, as has been well documented, Sunday was Prescott's first game-winning drive since the 2018 season, when he came up clutch on six different occasions through the year. That facet of his game seemed to disappear last season, as the Cowboys either won their games going away -- or came up short crunch time.
Only time will tell if this is the start of a new trend, but Prescott was adamant that a result like this can have a ripple effect.
"It just gets everybody confident -- exudes from the offense to the defense to the coaches and the fans, as well," he said.
Exhilarating as it all was, these aren't necessarily new developments. While not always consistent, Prescott has shown these aspects of his game many times since his rookie year.
Next up, Prescott, who was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, will try to show them against the Seahawk in Seattle on Sunday. ...
Also of interest. ... A week after Atlanta had three 100-yard receivers in a game for the first time in franchise history, Dallas was the one with multiple 100-yard days. Lamb had six catches for 106 yards, and Amari Cooper had six for 100. Cooper's longest was a 58-yarder when he reached out with his right hand to stop the ball before gathering it in with both arms. ...
Elliott carried 22 times for 89 yards and one touchdown. With Prescott scoring three short rushing touchdowns, Elliott's upside was capped a bit. Elliott added six catches for 33 yards on seven targets. As Rotoworld.com notes, the receiving output through two weeks (9-64-1 on 11 targets) has certainly raised his floor. ...
On the injury front. ... The Cowboys seem optimistic that Smith, their Pro Bowl left tackle, has a chance to return in Week 3 at Seattle depending on how he feels as the week progresses.
"Tyron's got a great shot to play this week," Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said Monday on 105.3 The Fan. "We'll see. It'll be probably another game-time type decision for us.
"He certainly has an opportunity to play this week, and then I thought between the group that was out there, with (Brandon) Knight and (Terence) Steele, they did a really solid job for us."
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Will Grier
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Corey Clement
WRs: Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko, Michael Gallup
TEs: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
This one is going to leave a mark. ... The 2020 season is all of eight quarters old, and the Broncos are already without many of their top players.
Wide receiver Courtland Sutton suffered a torn ACL during Sunday's 26-21 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and will miss the remainder of the season. Sutton, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, had missed the season opener with a right shoulder injury suffered Sept. 8 in practice and had been limited in practice in the days leading up to Sunday's game.
Additionally, quarterback Drew Lock will miss three to five weeks with a severe strain of the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder, an injury he suffered in the first quarter Sunday.
"Drew's going to be out anywhere from three to four to five weeks," head coach Vic Fangio said. "It all depends on the healing process. ... When it's your throwing shoulder, it's going to take time to heal it. It's got to calm down, get his strength back to where he fully has it, and he can operate at a hundred percent."
Lock and Sutton join a Broncos injury list that includes linebacker Von Miller (ankle surgery) and running back Phillip Lindsay (toe). Miller could miss the remainder of the season, while Lindsay, who sat out Sunday, is expected to be sidelined for multiple weeks.
Sutton's status for Sunday was already in question because of the shoulder injury, but he showed the team enough during Friday's practice and felt good enough Saturday to play. His last catch of the game came with 6 minutes, 23 seconds left in the second quarter, when he reeled in a 45-yard pass from Jeff Driskel.
Game video shows Sutton limping slightly after the catch -- he got tangled with Steelers cornerback Joe Haden as the two fell to the ground -- but Sutton stayed in the game. He was the intended receiver on Driskel's interception, by Haden, with 2:09 remaining in the first half.
Sutton, who had three receptions for 66 yards, played 31 plays in the game. The third-year receiver made his first Pro Bowl trip last season, as an injury replacement for DeAndre Hopkins, when he finished 2019 as the team leader in receptions (72), receiving yards (1,112) and receiving touchdowns (six).
An already young Broncos offense will now feature one of the youngest wide receiver groups in the league as three rookies -- Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler and Tyrie Cleveland -- will get plenty of work in the weeks ahead. Fangio said "it will be the guys on the roster filling that void [left by Sutton]." Denver had seven wideouts on roster and will go with six for now.
Jeudy, Denver's first-round pick in the 2020 draft, is second on the team in catches and receiving yards.
Tight end Noah Fant could also see an uptick in targets sans the Pro Bowl wideout.
"We obviously don't want those guys hurt," Fant said. "They would help us a lot right now, but we've just got to keep pressing forward, and you know it's one of those things where we've just got to get with the guys we got and try to score and try to stop teams. It says a lot about our team to stay with a great Pittsburgh team, but obviously not good enough."
Not that Fant-- who caught four passes for 57 yards and a touchdown-- or Driskel didn't try. Driskel, who went 0-3 for Detroit last season before signing with Denver in March, completed 18 of 34 passes for 256 yards with two touchdowns and a pick. He also took a serious beating at the hands of one of the NFL's most aggressive defenses. The Steelers sacked him six times and knocked him down 11 others.
"My job is to give the team a chance to win and we didn't do that, so I've got to make a couple of more plays here or there and maybe it's a different ballgame," Driskel said.
Lock was 1-for-5 for 20 yards before leaving.
The Broncos also are without cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder) for at least two more games and on Sunday they lost defensive ends Dre'Mont Jones and DeMarcus Walker to injuries.
Denver hosts Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend when 5,700 fans will be allowed into Empower Field, which was empty for the opener against Tennessee last week. ...
Meanwhile, the Broncos are signing Blake Bortles to a one-year deal, pending COVID-19 testing and a physical, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported.
While Driskel will be expected to start in the weeks ahead, the addition of Bortles provides the Broncos with some necessary insurance.
Following his exit from Jacksonville, Bortles spent the 2019 season in Los Angeles with the Rams, appearing in three games and attempting two passes. It was the first campaign in which Bortles appeared in less than 13 games, and his only year spent in Southern California.
Bortles has recorded over 17,000 passing yards and a 103-75 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his six-year career, spent mostly in Florida as the handpicked future of the Jaguars who ultimately fell short of such expectations. ...
Worth noting. ... Melvin Gordon carried 19 times for 70 yards while catching two of three targets for 14 yards and a touchdown during Sunday's loss.
As CBSSports.com notes, Gordon found the going tough against a stingy Pittsburgh defense as he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. He managed to bring in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Driskel in the fourth quarter en route to the best performance of his young Broncos career. Gordon's uptick in offensive output was in part due to the absence of Lindsay), and he showed he can still produce when given 20-plus touches per game.
He should play a similar role in Sunday's matchup against the Buccaneers. ...
And finally. ... The NFL fined five head coaches $100,000 each and their teams $250,000 each for not wearing masks on the sidelines. Fangio and the Broncos were among them.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock
RBs: Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler, Diontae Spencer, Jerry Jeudy
TEs: Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Andrew Beck, Eric Saubert
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein framed it, "In a 42-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, the Detroit Lions set a record for futility. Again. ..."
By squandering a 14-3 first-half lead, the Lions dropped their fourth straight game where they had a double-digit lead -- the first team in NFL history to accomplish such a feat, according to Elias.
It also was the seventh blown double-digit lead under third-year coach Matt Patricia, which is the most in the NFL since the start of 2018.
That started against Denver in Week 16 of the 2019 season, when the Lions blew a 10-point lead to lose 27-17. The next week, against Green Bay, the Lions led 14-0 before falling 23-20. In the season opener last week, Detroit led 23-6 in the fourth quarter before losing 27-23.
Then came Sunday, when Detroit allowed 31 straight points after Marvin Jones' 4-yard touchdown reception from Matthew Stafford with four seconds left in the first quarter gave the Lions a 14-3 lead.
Detroit also fell to 7-7-1 when leading by double digits under Patricia, making the Lions the only team in the NFL without a winning record while holding double-digit leads over the past three years.
The Lions have lost 11 straight games overall for their longest skid since dropping 19 straight from 2007-09, which included an 0-16 season in 2008. After leading 14-3 on Sunday, the Lions gave up 31 straight points.
Detroit hasn't won at all since a 31-26 victory over the New York Giants on Oct. 27. The Lions ended the 2019 season by blowing a 10-0 lead in a 27-17 loss to Denver and squandering a 17-3 advantage in a 23-20 loss to Green Bay.
"We know what we did, we know what we've done in the past and at the end of the day, we're working to correct those mistakes and right those wrongs," running back Kerryon Johnson said. "That doesn't need to be said from anybody. We're all grown men. We all understand this is a grown man's game. We're going to go out there next week and we're going to try and get the job done again."
The Lions are hurting in every respect.
Detroit played Sunday without its top receiver (Kenny Golladay), two projected starting offensive linemen (guard Joe Dahl and right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai), two of their best cornerbacks (Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman) and one starting defensive tackle (Nick Williams).
The Lions' thin secondary made plenty of costly mistakes. The mistakes weren't limited to the defense.
On Monday, Patricia was asked how they avoid a mentality of here-we-go-again if they start to lose a lead.
Patricia tried to separate what happened in 2019, when the Lions lost their last nine games, from the start of this season.
"There's a lot of guys here who are in key roles that were not part of last year's team, so they certainly don't have that mentality at all," Patricia said. "For us, we actually have to make sure it doesn't creep in. Sometimes maybe you hear it too much from the outside world, then you start to think, 'Is that the case?' But it's not the case for us inside."
They'll try to make a better case against the Cardinals in Arizona this Sunday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The backfield remains a true committee. Of the 59 plays run by the offense Sunday, rookie D'Andre Swift had the most snaps with 20 -- or roughly one third of the snaps. Next was Johnson with 19. Adrian Peterson had 15 -- and a team high of 41 yards rushing. Ty Johnson had five.
On the injury front. ... Golladay, who missed a second straight game because of a hamstring injury, is expected to return for next weekend's matchup with the Arizona Cardinals, a league source told ESPN's Adam Schefter over the weekend and Patricia told reporters that Golladay would practice Wednesday.
Golladay was close to playing this past Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, but the Lions didn't want to risk further aggravating the injury. With how close Golladay was to playing Sunday, there's a strong sense of optimism he will be back for Week 3, according to the source.
Golladay, 26, led the NFL with 11 touchdown catches last season and finished seventh in the league with 1,190 receiving yards -- his second straight 1,000-yard season.
I'll have more on his status for this week via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Jared Goff, David Blough
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Jermar Jefferson
WRs: Quintez Cephus, Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Trinity Benson, KhaDarel Hodge, Tyrell Williams
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Darren Fells
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky set it up, "How can the Green Bay Packers not pay Aaron Jones?
"In a perfect, non-salary-cap world, that wouldn't even be a question."
Demovsky went on to suggest that even in the world in which the Packers operate, they're going to have to start asking themselves that question if the fourth-year running back keeps doing what he did in Sunday's 42-21 victory over the Lions in the home opener at Lambeau Field.
Jones totaled 236 yards from scrimmage (168 rushing, 68 receiving) to surpass his previous career best of 226 last season at Kansas City and posted his third game with three touchdowns since the start of the 2019 season -- the most in the NFL in that span, according to ESPN Stats and Information. He is the second Packers player in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) with at least 200 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns in a regular-season game (Javon Walker on Sept. 26, 2004 at Colts is the other).
Just like in his breakout season of 2019, Jones showed his versatility. When he ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half, it gave Jones his third career game (including playoffs) with both a rushing and receiving touchdown.
His first touchdown came on a 7-yard swing pass in the second quarter. That drive was mostly Jones. He touched it six times and accounted for 45 of the 75 yards. As promised, Jones Lambeau leaped into the stands behind the North end zone even though there were no fans in the stadium because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Davante Adams dominated the Vikings. This week, Jones took over.
Sound familiar? The Packers rode that combination all the way to 13-3 last year, and they've used it again to get off to a 2-0 start for the second time in as many seasons under head coach Matt LaFleur.
But at least there has been some production from others, as well. Rodgers' first six touchdown passes of the season went to five different players: Jones hit tight end Robert Tonyan (11-yard touchdown catch) on Sunday after two to Adams and one each to Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in Week 1 against the Vikings.
Jones, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, smiled last week when asked what he thought of fellow 2017 draft class running backs Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara cashing in with contract extensions earlier this month.
"Just congratulations to those guys," Jones said. "They're just helping out all the running backs on the market. So big kudos and congrats to those guys. It's very well-deserved to them."
Meanwhile, it making a bold prediction for Week 3, Demovsky wrote, "The Packers are going to put up 50 points against the Saints."
Demovsky went on to point out they could have gotten to that number each of the first two weeks. At Minnesota, they went 0-for-their-first-three red zone trips and still put up 43 points. On Sunday, they got off to another slow start with merely a field goal in the first quarter.
It marked the first time the Packers have scored 40-plus points in consecutive games since the 2014 season. But wait. There's more. ...
The Packers have become, according to the NFL, only the fourth team in NFL history to score more than 80 points and generate more than 1,000 yards in the first two games of a season. The Packers, with 85 points and 1,010 yards, join the 2019 Ravens, the 1998 49ers, and the 1991 Bills.
Look out Saints. ...
Worth noting. ... With Jamaal Williams adding eight carries for 63 yards, the Packers finished Sunday's game with 259 rushing yards on 35 carries (7.4 yards per attempt) and 488 total yards of offense. That yardage total is the most rushing yards by Green Bay in a game since recording 262 yards on 34 carries against Denver on Dec. 28, 2003.
Also of interest. ... Adams dropped out in the second half and did not return.
He could have, per LaFleur, but it was determined the game situation didn't need the Packers to put him back in and push it.
"I know he wanted to go back in the game, I just told him, 'Let's see how these next few series go and see if we need you,'" LaFleur said.
They didn't and it could mean Adams will be OK for Sunday at New Orleans. Still, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero advised his Twitter followers that Green Bay tends to take a cautious approach with injuries -- it's a long season and they need him healthy, so Adams' stats bears watching.
I'll have more on Adams, who did not practice Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Kylin Hill
WRs: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Amari Rodgers, Malik Taylor
TEs: Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop reminded readers, the Houston Texans took a gamble on their offense this offseason, trading wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for running back David Johnson in an attempt to do more than just win a division title.
"But two games in," Barshop continued, "that gamble has not paid off, the latest showing a 33-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens."
Houston did not take advantage of its speedy receivers or new running back. Yes, it has been only two games -- against two of the best in the AFC -- but a strong start by others in the division, including the 2-0 Titans, means they don't have the luxury of time to figure it out.
One of the few bright spots in the Texans' season-opening loss to the Chiefs was a big game from new No. 1 receiver Will Fuller V, but he did not have a target on Sunday. He was in and out of the game and did not play in the Texans' final drive before halftime.
The Texans have an uphill climb to make up ground in the AFC South and the first-place Titans. Tennessee is coming off a postseason run, showing it was the best team in the division toward the end of last season. Houston has won the AFC South in four out of the past five seasons, but with an improved division and an offense that hasn't taken a step forward, that is certainly not a given in 2020.
Despite the disappointing outcome, quarterback Deshaun Watson said he and his teammates won't dwell on the negative results against Baltimore as they prepare for a Sunday trip to Pittsburgh.
"We got to continue to pitch forward," Watson said. "We can't look at the record. We got to go, Hey, this is a new week, this a new opportunity. We're going on the road to a great Pittsburgh team."
While Watson and the Texans remain optimistic about what lies ahead, they aren't in a good mood. Losing by double-digits in consecutive weeks stings, and defensive lineman Brandon Dunn, who finished with four tackles Sunday, explained the squad's mindset after the loss to the Ravens.
"Nobody's happy," Dunn said. "Everybody's teed off which is a good thing, because nobody should be happy being 0-2. So we just got to come back ready, make the corrections, be honest so we can get a W."
Receiver Randall Cobb caught five passes for 59 yards in the loss. With nine NFL seasons of experience, he's seen quite a bit. He maintained that the team must have a very narrow focus as the season unfolds.
"The biggest thing is just finding a way to win one game," Cobb said. "It's not about looking at the season as a whole. Obviously, it's 16 games. We got 14 left, but it's about getting one win. It's finding a way to get one win, regardless of how it comes."
The next one won't come easy; Pittsburgh's defense is play as well as anybody in the league is dating back to last season. ...
For the record, no team that started 0-2 last season made the playoffs, but the Texans have done so the past two times they lost their first two games of the season, most recently in 2018, when they started 0-3 and then won nine straight games to win the AFC South. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Watson completed 25 of 36 passes for 275 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He spread the ball around, with seven players finishing with at least one catch. Not included in that total was Fuller. His leading receiver was newcomer Brandin Cooks, who had five catches for 95 yards.
Generally speaking, Watson has been solid in the first two games and has 528 yards passing with two touchdowns entering Week 3. The fourth-year player believes he's done some things well but is looking to do more. He's disappointed they've gotten down early in both games and is focused on changing that against the Steelers.
"We've just got to keep pushing forward and that's the biggest thing we can do," Watson said. "And that's what I'm going to do, find ways to continue to get better and keep trusting all my guys that are in that locker room."
Fuller had zero yards receiving on Sunday after finishing with 112 yards in the opener. He appeared to struggle while running some routes. But head coach Bill O'Brien would not say if Fuller was injured after the game and was cagey about it when questioned again on Monday.
"I really don't know," O'Brien said. "He was in the passing game. He was involved in the passing game. Relative to health and all those things, I'll see what happens when he comes in for treatment."
I'll be watching for more on Fuller as the week progresses; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for developments. ...
Meanwhile, Johnson was ineffective for Houston, finishing with 34 yards on 11 carries. Without an effective run game, the Ravens were all over Watson, sacking him four times. Houston was missing backup running back Duke Johnson due to an ankle injury, and the only other rush outside of David Johnson and Watson was Fuller, who had one carry and did not gain a yard. ...
And finally. ... The Texans signed two former Cowboys receivers to their practice squad Monday, the team announced. Devin Smith and Dwayne Harris now are in Houston.
The Jets made Smith a second-round choice in 2015. He played 14 games with three starts in two seasons with the Jets. The Cowboys made Harris a sixth-round choice in 2011. He has returned four punts for touchdowns and one kickoff for a score. Harris also has 77 career catches for 874 yards and eight touchdowns.
QBs: Davis Mills, Jeff Driskel, Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor
RBs: Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson, Rex Burkhead, Scottie Phillips
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Chris Conley, Anthony Miller, Danny Amendola, Nico Collins, Andre Roberts
TEs: Jordan Akins, Pharaoh Brown, Brevin Jordan
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot noted, Jonathan Taylor looked right at home in his first NFL start.
He made Sunday's hefty workload look pretty easy, too.
The 21-year-old running back rushed 26 times for 101 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown, leading the Indianapolis Colts past Minnesota 28-11.
"After the first carry, you kind of get in that mindset, you realize it's football and you focus and lock in and you go play after play," he said. "You do that, and pretty soon it's the fourth quarter."
Taylor finally celebrated his first win inside Lucas Oil Stadium with the roof open, after losing twice in the Big Ten championship game with the roof closed when he played at Wisconsin, and became the first Colts rookie to top the 100-yard mark since 2012 with about 2,500 people in attendance.
Philip Rivers picked up his first win with the Colts (1-1) by going 19 of 25 for 214 yards, with one touchdown-- No. 399 overall-- and one interception. He tied Hall of Famer and former Vikings great Fran Tarkenton for eighth all-time with career win No. 124.
But he also had fun-- with the best seat in the house.
"You're talking about his second game, no OTAs, zero preseason games and he was the workhorse today," he said. "Jonathan's going to be a heck of a player. He made some unbelievable cuts, unbelievable runs today where you can see the more experience he gets, he's going to make those cuts without any hesitation."
The Colts showed their commitment to get Taylor the ball on their opening drive. His 12 touches from scrimmages -- 11 rushes and a reception -- are the most touches by any player on a team's opening drive in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Beyond that, Indy had a nearly 17-minute advantage on time of possession as the Colts ran 40 times for 151 yards.
The Colts' best chance at winning isn't by having the 38-year-old Rivers throw the ball 40-plus times like he did against Jacksonville in Week 1. It's by leaning more on the running game behind one of the NFL's best offensive lines. The Colts had 40 rushing attempts, 18 more than they attempted against the Jaguars.
Look for them to try to keep that roll going with a favorable matchup, with up to 7,500 fans in attendance at next week's home game against the struggling New York Jets. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Taylor wasn't Indy's only impressive rookie.
Michael Pittman Jr. caught four passes for 37 yards and Rodrigo Blankenship made all four field-goal attempts. Mo Alie-Cox, who replaced injured two-time Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle, had five receptions for 111 yards.
According to ESPN.com's Mike Wells, Alie-Cox's bounce-back from an early drop showed that Rivers didn't lose confidence in his tight end, who is a former college basketball player at VCU. The 111 yards receiving was more than the 93 yards Alie-Cox had in all 16 games that he played in last season.
The Colts may continue to lean on Alie-Cox because there's no timetable on when Doyle will return, and Trey Burton, Doyle's backup, is still on the injured reserve list. Doyle did not practice Wednesday.
Elsewhere on the injury front. ... Safety Malik Hooker suffered a season-ending torn Achilles in Sunday's victory over the Minnesota Vikings, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Colts got slightly better news on receiver Parris Campbell. A source told Schefter that Campbell suffered a PCL injury. The Colts announced that Campbell has been placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
Campbell suffered the injury when he was tackled by Vikings safety Harrison Smith on a running play. The Colts receiver immediately grabbed his left knee while on the ground and had to be carted to the locker room. Zach Pascal and Pittman will likely have a more increased role in the offense while Campbell is out.
Rookie Julian Blackmon is expected to replace Hooker and start alongside of Khari Willis at safety.
Starting cornerback Rock Ya-Sin showed up to Lucas Oil Stadium with a stomach illness and went to a hospital for further evaluation.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Jacob Eason, Sam Ehlinger
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, Parris Campbell, Ashton Dulin, Mike Strachan, T.Y. Hilton
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
It's been a while since anyone could honestly say this about the Jacksonville Jaguars: They're fun to watch on offense.
As Associated Press sports writer Mark Long notes, the Jaguars are off to their best two-game start on that side off the ball in two decades, scoring a combined 57 points against division rivals Indianapolis and Tennessee.
They're balanced and efficient. They're organized and unpredictable. They're creative and convinced they're only going to get better. They host Miami (0-2) on Thursday night.
"We feel like we can go toe to toe with anybody," receiver D.J. Chark said. "It doesn't matter. ... I think it's just the mentality that we have, whether it's 30-17 or it's a tie game."
It starts with quarterback Gardner Minshew, who has flourished so far in his first year as a full-time starter. Minshew has more passing yards (512) than Lamar Jackson, more touchdown passes (six) than Patrick Mahomes and a higher completion percentage (75.4) than just about everybody in the league.
Against the Titans, Minshew set a career high with 28 completions, and his fourth-quarter touchdown pass to running Chris Thompson made him the first player in Jaguars history to throw three touchdown passes in three consecutive games, per ESPN Stats and Information. He had three last week against Indianapolis and three in the 2019 season finale against the Colts. Two of Minshew's TD passes against the Titans came in tight windows -- per NFL Next Gen Stats, and he had just one TD throw into a tight window during his first 15 career games.
Minshew has been at his best on third downs and in the red zone-- two areas of weakness in 2019-- and his only turnovers were two somewhat-fluky interceptions in a 33-30 loss at the Titans on Sunday.
Jacksonville general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone felt Minshew earned the job by going 6-6 in 12 starts last year and made a concerted effort to upgrade his supporting cast. They signed 2015 Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert, drafted versatile receiver Laviska Shenault and parted with anyone who could potentially impede Minshew's progress.
They brought in Jay Gruden as offensive coordinator and Ben McAdoo as quarterbacks coach, charging two ex-head coaches with the next stage of his development.
The results have been better than most outsiders imagined, stifling speculation about the Jags tanking in hopes of drafting Clemson star Trevor Lawrence. Minshew is making plays from the pocket and getting more from everyone around him.
He's the first player in franchise history to open a season with three or more TD passes in consecutive games and the first to accomplish that feat in three straight outings, which includes the 2019 finale.
The last time anyone in Jacksonville felt this good about the team's offense was in 2000, when Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell and Mark Brunell gave the Jaguars a chance every week. That was also the last time the franchise scored more than 57 points in its first games.
The Jaguars can make it three in a row against Miami on a short week. They play Thursday night in Jacksonville.
Other notes of interest. ... James Robinson is off to a good start in proving correct the Jaguars' decision to cut Leonard Fournette.
Robinson ran for 102 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. According to ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco, what makes him so effective is that there's no hesitation when he gets the ball. He's decisive in his cuts and quickly gets into the hole. One of the criticisms of Fournette was that he sometimes danced around before choosing where he wanted to go. ...
Shenault has been Jacksonville's most significant offensive addition. The second-round draft pick from Colorado has six receptions for 72 yards and seven carries for 47 more. He's made the Jaguars more prolific while allowing new wrinkles each week.
Keelan Cole has a TD catch in three straight games and has become one of Minshew's top targets. He had five catches for 47 yards and a touchdown in the opener and then six for 58 and a score in Nashville.
Throw in his TD reception in the 2019 season finale and he's matched the longest TD streak of his four-year NFL career. ...
Receiver Dede Westbrook was declared inactive -- a healthy scratch -- for a second straight week. ...
Jacksonville's special teams weren't even average against Tennessee. Rookie Chris Claybrooks muffed two returns, although the Jaguars kept the ball and scored after both. And placekicker Josh Lambo cost the team four points in a three-point loss. Lambo missed his fifth extra point in four seasons. He also botched a squib kick near the end of the first half, accidentally hitting the ball right at a defender. It led to a field goal and three points Tennessee barely had to work to get.
On the injury front. ... The Jaguars released their final injury report on Wednesday and Chark, a limited participant in practice all week, is listed as questionable. The expectation is he'll play, but you'll need to check the Late-Breaking Updates for more in advance of kickoff.
Lambo was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury; he'll miss at least three games. Brandon Wright will kick against the Dolphins Thursday night.
Wright was 12-of-18 on field goals and 48-of-49 on extra points at Georgia State last season. Lambo is 3-of-3 on field goals and 6-of-7 on extra points so far this season.
The Jaguars have also ruled center Brandon Linder out with a knee injury.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
RBs: James Robinson, Carlos Hyde, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault, Tyron Johnson, Jamal Agnew
TEs: Chris Manhertz, Jacob Hollister, Luke Farrell, James O'Shaughnessy
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
The Kansas City Chiefs were nearly flawless in their Week 1 win over the Houston Texans.
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta noted, they proved Sunday they can win when things aren't going quite so smoothly.
The Chiefs were penalized 11 times for 90 yards, had a handful of dropped passes and struggled to get into any offensive rhythm until the second half of their 23-20 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. They also made the kind of mental miscues that generally leave head coach Andy Reid seething in his postgame news conference.
One of them occurred when wide receiver Mecole Hardman didn't touch down a defensive player following an interception-- it wound up being a moot point because of a penalty. Another came when wide receiver Tyreek Hill removed his helmet after a long touchdown reception for what should have been a penalty-- he claimed it already was coming off.
"I would never take my helmet off," Hill insisted. "When I'm on the field it's my responsibility to always keep my helmet on. That's one of Coach Reid's biggest pet peeves, taking your helmet off after a touchdown."
Regardless, all the miscues left Reid with this assessment: "We have to do better," he said. "There are no excuses."
Especially in an empty stadium. The Chiefs should have had no problem with communication with fans barred from Sofi Stadium for the Chargers' debut in their new digs because of the coronavirus pandemic. But they still had costly holding and offsides penalties along with a roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs managed to overcome the mistakes, though, thanks to another starring turn from Patrick Mahomes, a couple of crucial grabs by his wide receivers and a defense that was pushed around the first half but suddenly showed up.
"Obviously we didn't play the way we wanted to play," Mahomes said, "but to find a way to win, I think that when you get to the playoffs or when you get later in the season and you try to make a run, not every game is going to be a blowout."
But there's ample reason to believe every game could be a blowout. As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher put it, the wide receivers for the Chiefs are nicknamed "The Legion of Zoom" for a reason, so Mahomes usually allows for their speed when throwing a deep pass to Hill, Hardman, Demarcus Robinson or Sammy Watkins.
And that's just what Mahomes did on the above-mentioned 54-yard touchdown pass to Hill.
"That was a spectacular throw, and for [Hill] to make that grab, that was a great catch," Reid said. "Those two have a special connection between them. We keep seeing it week after week, year after year here. It's time-tested."
Mahomes needed every bit of his arm strength to get the ball to Hill. According to NFL NextGen Stats, Mahomes was running to his right at a speed of 11.2 mph when he released the ball and threw the ball 52.9 yards in the air. It's only the third touchdown pass over the past four seasons in which a quarterback threw the ball 50-plus yards of air distance while running 10-plus mph. Reid said no other quarterback could have made the throwing while rolling out as Mahomes was.
"The best thing with these guys, when you have Tyreek, Mecole, D-Rob and Sammy, is if I throw it further than the defenders, they're going to get there." Mahomes said. "It was a good throw, but he made a heck of a catch, running over his should like that with the angle the ball was coming."
Hill had to go to the ground to make the catch. But he popped back to his feet quickly, before Chargers defenders had a chance to get to him. He then made his way into the end zone. He said there aren't many quarterbacks anywhere who can make a throw like that.
"Pat -- I feel like -- is in a lane of his own," Hill said. "Pat [and] probably Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson [could make that throw]. With me being fast and Pat having the arm strength and the accuracy, just to trust you to even throw that is just amazing to me.
"He kind of overthrew me because I had to lean forward for it a little bit. But it was a good ball, though. ...."
That kind of firepower should come in handy when Mahomes and the Chiefs visit Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in a matchup of 2-0 teams next Monday night. They were on a collision course in last year's AFC playoffs before the Titans upset Baltimore in the divisional round. Kansas City then beat Tennessee in the conference title game before winning its first Super Bowl in 50 years.
Other notes of interest. ... Harrison Butker gives the Chiefs the chance to score points any time they cross midfield. His two 58-yard field goals, which matched Nick Lowery's franchise record, included the game-winner in overtime. Butker already has made 11 kicks of at least 50 yards in three-plus seasons-- Lowery hit 20 of them from 1980-93. And he passed Pete Stoyanovich for sixth in franchise scoring with 445 points; next up is Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, who scored 462 points from 1997-2008.
Butker made a 77-yard field goal while working out in the spring, though with a strong wind at his back. He made one from more than 70 yards in pregame in the altitude of Mexico City last year.
"I mean, what can you say?" Reid said of Butker, who has hit a field goal in a Chiefs-record 16 straight games. "He's a mentally tough kid and we appreciate him and how he goes about his job."
On Wednesday, Butker was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. ...
Clyde Edwards-Helaire carried 10 times for 38 yards and caught six of eight targets for an additional 32 yards during Sunday's win.
As CBSSports.com noted, after starring in the season opener, Edwards-Helaire averaged a lackluster 3.8 yards per carry in this one. He was much more involved as a pass catcher, however, and demonstrated the ability that made him such a tantalizing fantasy prospect leading up to the season. Despite a rather meager per-touch output in Week 2, the rookie still has 208 scrimmage yards and a touchdown through his first two NFL contests.
Edwards-Helaire could find the sledding tough Monday night against Baltimore, but his multi-faceted skillset should allow him to generate ample fantasy utility. ...
On the injury front. ... Darrel Williams left with an ankle injury, DE Frank Clark was ill and Watkins took a blow to the head that drew Reid's ire. "I thought it was questionable," he said. "We're not supposed to have those in our game here."
Watkins tweeted that he was "healthy" on Tuesday. I'll be watching for more and will report back further as needed via Late-Breaking Update.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Jerick McKinnon
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, Daurice Fountain, Marcus Kemp
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
As NFL.com's Grant Gordon notes, regardless of whether Derek Carr garners his due outside of the Las Vegas franchise, he's getting it from his head coach.
On the heels of a pristine performance on Monday night in the Raiders' Allegiant Stadium-opening 34-24 win over the Saints, Carr did it all.
He showcased his trademark accuracy, he was a field general and most importantly he was a winner.
"This guy's a great quarterback," Gruden said after the game. "We're surrounding him with better players. And once our defense I think starts playing to their potential, he can even be better. He does so much with the ball and without the ball and behind the scenes that I think Raiders fans should really be proud of him, and I know I am."
There was ample reason for Gruden to be proud of the Silver and Black signal-caller on Monday.
Opposing the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns Drew Brees, Carr had the better night and quarterbacked the victorious team.
Carr was 28 for 38 for 282 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 120.7 QB rating, while Brees finished with 312 yards, a touchdown, an interception, was 26 of 38 and tallied a 91.1 rating.
Tight end Darren Waller was Carr's security blanket with 12 catches, on a career-high 16 targets. Those 12 catches were just two short of the franchise record shared by Tim Brown and Brandon Myers. Still, 11 Raiders receivers caught a pass against the Saints. Despite honing in on Waller, Carr made sure to get everyone involved, including Alec Ingold who scored the first Raiders touchdown at Allegiant Stadium.
While many were wondering why the Saints looked out of sync, Carr's praises were being sung by a coach many have disputed likes his franchise QB.
Gruden pointed out the numbers behind a quietly impressive 2019 campaign for Carr and that more should be in store.
"There's a lot of people that make a lot opinions on Derek and Derek's performance and our relationship," said Gruden of Carr, who connected with 11 receivers on Monday night. "You know he had nine different flankers last year. Nine. When I was here [in my first stint], I was here for four years and we had Tim Brown every week for four years. We've had I don't know how many different combinations on the offensive line. [Last season] he threw for over 4,000 yards and 70 percent, put us in a position to make the playoffs in Week 15."
Right now the Raiders are 2-0, Carr has four touchdowns, no interceptions and 527 yards and is completing 73 percent of his passes. It's still early, but at this point Carr and the Raiders might be in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Waller joined Brown as the only players in Raiders history with 12 or more catches in multiple games. Waller had 13 catches in a loss to Minnesota on Sept. 22, 2019.
"Darren is a great player," Gruden said. "Our job is to try to get him the ball. I'd take him over any other tight ends. This is his second year playing the position. It's astonishing what this man can do."
It's the second-most catches by a tight end on "Monday Night Football," behind current teammate Jason Witten, who had 13 for the Dallas Cowboys against the Chicago Bears in 2012.
"I think you know how much I love him," Carr said of Waller. "He did an exceptional job. I said in the production meeting with ESPN that hopefully whoever watches this game will see everything about Darren Waller that we know him to be. ..."
Josh Jacobs rushed 27 times for 88 yards and caught all three of his targets for 17 yards in Monday night's win.
As CBSSports.com noted, Jacobs again saw a lion's share of touches as the centerpiece of Las Vegas' offense. Although he averaged under four yards per carry for the second straight week, Jacobs benefitted from his huge volume, now topping 85 yards in consecutive outings.
The second-year tailback also got involved in the passing game, snagging each ball thrown his way. Even though his fantasy managers will be disappointed by a failed attempt at a one-yard touchdown during the second half, Jacobs' critical role for the Raiders offers great encouragement going into Week 3's game against the Patriots. ...
Once again, Daniel Carlson was automatic from everywhere Monday night. The former Auburn Tiger knocked in a 54-yard field goal to put the game on ice, converted all four of his PAT attempts, and added a 28-yard field goal for good measure. ...
On the injury front. ... Offensive tackle Trent Brown (calf), Jacobs (hip), linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (pectoral) and Waller (knee) did not practice. Wide receiver Bryan Edwards (foot) was limited. ... I'll follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update, but assume some of these absences are for maintenance on a short week. ...
Guard Richie Incognito (Achilles) was placed on injured reserve. ...
And finally. ... Gruden revealed Monday night he'd previously contracted COVID-19 before the start of the 2020 season.
Gruden told reporters of his experience with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in response to a question about him not wearing his mask properly at all times during the Raiders' Monday night win over the Saints. News broke during the game that three coaches had been fined for improperly wearing facial coverings on the sidelines during their NFL games.
"I'm doing my best," Gruden told reporters, via ESPN's Paul Gutierrez. "I've had the virus. I'm doing my best. I'm very sensitive about it. ... I'm calling plays. I just wanna communicate in these situations and if I get fined I'll have to pay the fine but I'm very sensitive about that and I apologize."
NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported in early August the Raiders had informed their players Gruden had contracted COVID-19, but it was framed more as an exercise in preparation than a cause for alarm.
Gruden didn't follow up on the revelation while speaking with reporters, but the Oakland Tribune's Jerry McDonald tweeted he later checked in with the coach via text. Gruden told McDonald he'd contracted COVID-19 in mid-July and wasn't planning on going public with the information, but was irked by the public thinking he'd faked it to teach his team a lesson, per McDonald's tweet.
Three NFL head coaches have been known to have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic: Sean Payton, Doug Pederson and Anthony Lynn.
Meanwhile, the NFL fined five head coaches $100,000 each and their teams $250,000 each for not wearing masks on the sidelines. Gruden and the Raiders were among them.
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, Peyton Barber
WRs: Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Willie Snead
TEs: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier, Nick Bowers
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
It was after the coin toss, a few minutes before the opening kickoff, when Anthony Lynn was hit with the news he could not possibly anticipate.
Tyrod Taylor, the Chargers' starting quarterback, was experiencing chest pain that necessitated a trip to the hospital, meaning Justin Herbert, the 22-year-old who was drafted sixth overall only five months earlier, would be pressed into action against the defending Super Bowl champions.
It took Lynn about 30 seconds just to process the information.
Then he found Herbert.
"I think he thought I was joking," Lynn, the Chargers' fourth-year coach, said. "I had to tell him a couple times, 'No, seriously, you're the starting quarterback.' Once he realized he was the guy, he was fine."
Herbert, possibly helped by having no time to think about the most important game of his life, impressed in his surprising NFL debut, throwing for 311 yards and accounting for two touchdowns in his team's first game at SoFi Stadium. But he could only watch, with his helmet off and his hands on his hips, as Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker delivered an improbable 58-yard field goal to hand the Chargers a crushing 23-20 loss in overtime on Sunday.
Herbert joined Andrew Luck (2012) and Cam Newton (2011) as the only top-10 quarterbacks to throw for more than 300 yards in their first start and still lose. And he joined a man named Bobby Clatterbuck (1954) as the only players to accumulate a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown in the first half of their NFL debuts. At one point, Herbert led a 10-minute, 21-second drive that stood as the Chargers' longest in four years. And before that, in the game's first possession, he scored on a four-yard scramble, snapping a Chargers streak of 137 consecutive regular-season games without a rushing touchdown from their quarterback.
But it was one mistake and one missed opportunity that spoiled Herbert's debut.
The mistake came in the final seconds of the third quarter, when Herbert scrambled to his left, ignored several yards of open space in front of him and instead threw deep to Keenan Allen, across his body and into double coverage, getting picked off by Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed.
"It would've been great had I just took off and run and got what I could have," Herbert said. "Unfortunately I threw it and it was a big turnover, and we can't turn the ball over to a team like that and expect to get away with it."
The Chiefs proceeded to tie the game on a miraculous 54-yard connection between Mahomes and Tyreek Hill that saw Mahomes unleash a pinpoint deep ball while rolling right and throwing off one foot. But Herbert came back to lead the Chargers up the field, then faked a pitch and picked up 11 yards on the ground to make it 1st and goal from the Chiefs' 4-yard line -- setting up the missed opportunity.
The Chargers failed in their three consecutive chances near the goal line, a result, Lynn said, of Herbert not getting as many red zone opportunities in practice because he wasn't running with the first time. The field goal made it a lot easier for the Chiefs to drive the ball up field and tie the game as time expired, prompting an overtime period that began with a Chargers three-and-out and ended with Butker's field goal -- the second longest made in overtime since regular-season overtime began in 1974.
"It's adversity," Herbert said of the loss, which extended the Chiefs' winning streak to 11 games dating back to last season and left the Chargers 1-1 to begin 2020. "I know we'll learn from it. In the long run, it's gonna help us."
Herbert had some misses, particularly when he saw Mike Williams late over the top and gave Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu enough time to make up ground and bat the football away in the end zone. But he also made some impressive throws, most notably a 25-yard third-down strike to Allen that was perfectly placed between two defenders.
Meanwhile, Lynn announced on Wednesday that Herbert will start Week 3 against the Panthers.
For the record, Taylor experienced complications from a pain-killer that was administered to address a rib injury. More to the point, the Chargers' team doctor accidentally punctured Taylor's lung while trying to administer the pain-killing injection to the quarterback's cracked ribs, league and team sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Taylor was taken to a hospital soon after and discharged in the evening, per NFL Network's Steve Wyche.
Taylor appeared on the injury report Friday with a rib injury but was removed on the final list since he fully intended on playing with a flak jacket to protect himself. ...
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for the latest there, in addition to updates on the status Justin Jackson, who missed the Chiefs game with a quad injury. ...
Beyond the QB situation, Austin Ekeler had 148 scrimmage yards, including 93 rushing, and Allen caught seven passes for 96 yards. Joshua Kelley rushed 23 times for 64 yards, adding 2 receptions for 49 yards as a receiver. Hunter Henry caught 6-of-8 targets for 83 yards, Williams 2-of-4 targets for 14 yards and No. 3 receiver Jalen Guyton caught 1-of-2 targets for a 14-yard touchdown.
Of great interest heading into the weekend, the Panthers have allowed six TDs rushing in two games. They've allowed 38 over the past 18 games, including a NFL-leading 32 last season. Ekeler and Kelley investors should take note.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Larry Rountree III, Joshua Kelley
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, K.J. Hill, Josh Reed
TEs: Jared Cook, Donald Parham, Tre' McKitty, Stephen Anderson
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
Cam Akers started. Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson Jr. provided middle relief. And Henderson stayed in as the closer.
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry reported, the Los Angeles Rams entered the 2020 season with a plan to utilize a running back by committee approach, but in Sunday's 37-19 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the plan came about as much by necessity as it was out of choice.
Akers, the rookie second-round pick from Florida State, suffered a rib injury on the opening drive and did not return. Brown and Henderson took over, but midway through the fourth quarter, Brown exited because of a finger injury and did not return, leaving Henderson as the only available back.
"He's a player that we love and love a lot of different ways," quarterback Jared Goff said after the game. "It was exciting to see him kind of get a chance to shine today."
The Rams accumulated 449 total yards of offense, 121 of which belonged to Henderson in a performance that must be considered a breakout for the second-year pro, who was selected with a third-round pick in 2019.
"I was really pleased with Darrell Henderson," head coach Sean McVay said after the game. "I thought he was a real bright spot for us."
Henderson rushed for 81 yards and his first career touchdown on 12 carries and also caught two passes for 40 yards, easily executing a plan discussed earlier in the week by McVay and running backs coach Thomas Brown to utilize him in the passing game.
"We were not surprised to see that," McVay said about Henderson's pass-catching ability. "But it was really good for him to be able to do that."
Goff, who passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns, credited the backfield for the offense's efficiency, as the unit resembled some of its 2018 self due to success in play-action and using misdirection.
"It all feeds off the run game," said Goff, who also handed off to receivers Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson. "We're dangerous right now when we're able to run the ball, and it's fun."
Akers, making his second career start, rushed for 13 yards in three carries before being sidelined.
Brown, who scored the Rams' two touchdowns in Week 1, rushed for 47 yards on 11 carries before he left the game with 7:48 remaining.
Henderson, who nursed a hamstring injury late in training camp and saw limited action in Week 1, accumulated 40 of his 121 all-purpose yards when he was the only back available late in the fourth quarter.
"Darrell did great, he really stepped up," Goff said. "Those three guys kind of rotating, and then Cam going down early, Darrell did have to step up -- and in a game when he probably wasn't expecting to get that many touches -- and then Malcolm went down late, and again, he was in there by himself the whole time, so he did a great job."
After the decision to cut Todd Gurley in March, questions remained about the potential of the Rams backfield behind the veteran Brown, who entered the NFL six seasons ago as an undrafted free agent, and the inexperienced Henderson and Akers.
Through two games and a 2-0 start, Brown, Henderson and Akers have established a presence that opponents must account for. Now the only question is whether they'll be able to return to a committee approach or if the plan must be changed because of injuries.
McVay addressed both injuries on Monday. He made it clear that Brown will play. The team is less optimistic that Akers will be available.
"Brown, he had a fracture in his pinky," McVay told reporters, "so he actually had that fixed today. It's not going affect his availability for the Buffalo game."
McVay added that Akers "separated some rib cartilage," but that "[h]e should be okay. ... [b]ut it was pretty painful in that area."
While it's painful, there's less risk of playing with injured cartilage than a broken rib because there's no risk of the broken rib becoming disconnected and puncturing organs.
"I feel like it's better than a fractured rib because it's not really the bone," McVay said. "There's your cartilage in your ribs and then there's the actual bone of your ribs and so I sound pretty technical right now, but he took a good shot there. He's a tough kid. ... It is something that will be day-to-day. He'll be able to monitor that and there is a chance that he's going to play for sure."
I'll have more on Akers and Brown via Late-Breaking Update in coming days as the team prepares another game in which they'll fly to the East Coast for a second-straight week to play the Buffalo Bills. ...
One other injury note. ... LG Joe Noteboom (calf) has been ruled out for Week 3 against Buffalo. ...
Meanwhile, Goff utilized every weapon at his disposal Sunday and had the Rams' offense appearing reminiscent of its 2018 form, utilizing misdirection and play-action throughout the game. Seven Rams ran the ball, while six recorded at least two receptions.
Goff completed 13 consecutive passes to start the game before his first incompletion, which amounted to a career-best start for the fifth-year quarterback, who had never completed more than five passes to start a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information Research.
All three touchdowns passes went to Higbee, who ended the 2019 season on a hot streak and picked it up again Sunday.
Higbee caught five passes for 54 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first Rams player to have three receiving touchdowns in a game since Torry Holt in 2006, and the first Rams tight end with three receiving touchdowns in a game since Damone Johnson in 1988, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
One last note here. ... Kupp was a surprising choice as the Rams' punt returner, and the starting receiver made their single biggest mistake in Philadelphia when he dropped a punt he shouldn't have been fielding anyway inside his 10 right before halftime. The Eagles quickly turned it into a touchdown, keeping the game closer than it deserved to be.
McVay says he will stick with Kupp at the spot instead of giving the job to someone who can dedicate more time to it, like Nsimba Webster.
"I still have the same trust in Kupp," McVay said. "He's going to be a huge part of everything we do."
QBs: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins
RBs: Darrell Henderson, Sony Michel, Jake Funk
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson, Tutu Atwell
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Johnny Mundt, Jacob Harris, Brycen Hopkins
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
So far the rebuilding Miami Dolphins haven't been historically bad, which means they're better.
A year ago the Dolphins endured one of the NFL's worst starts ever, and were outscored 102-10 in their first two games under rookie coach Brian Flores.
Now they're 0-2 again, but they've been outscored only 52-39 and led Sunday against Buffalo with six minutes left.
Not in the standings, though. The 31-28 loss to Buffalo followed a 21-11 defeat at New England, and left Miami with its ninth 0-2 start since 2004. Next up is Jacksonville (1-1) on Thursday.
"Being 0-2 is tough," Flores said Monday. "There is a lot to improve on. It was a more competitive game than the week before; we had a lead in the fourth quarter. But we've got to finish. We need to learn how to do that."
The Dolphins invested heavily to upgrade the defense after allowing a franchise record 494 points last year. This year they're last in the NFL in yards allowed per play at 7.2.
Well-paid veteran newcomers Kyle Van Noy, Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson have failed to improve the pass rush, which produced one sack against the Bills. That left Xavien Howard, Nik Needham and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene struggling to keep up with Buffalo's receivers.
The Dolphins gave up 413 yards passing, their worst effort in eight years, and allowed the Bills to average 4.8 yards on the ground.
"Communication, run defense, pass defense -- we've got a lot of corrections to make," Flores said.
So what about the positives?
Ryan Fitzpatrick rebounded from a three-interception game in the opener to throw for 328 yards and two scores with no turnovers. He led the Dolphins back from a 17-7 deficit to take a 20-17 lead in the fourth quarter, showing his grit and ability to rally the team. There were plenty of calls for the Dolphins to turn to Tua Tagovailoa after Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions in Week 1, but there shouldn't be any this week after led the team to 28 points.
Beyond the QB, Mike Gesicki looked like a possible bust as a rookie in 2018, but he's building on his strong finish last year. Against Buffalo the 6-6 Gesicki had eight catches for 130 yards, both career highs, and that included an improbable one-handed grab.
"His confidence continues to rise, and I think we'll just continue to see him get better," Fitzpatrick said.
After a solid Year 2, Gesicki is showing he can join DeVante Parker and Preston Williams among the Dolphins' top receiving weapons.
According to Rotoworld.com, Gesicki has lined up in the slot on 79 percent of his snaps over the first two weeks while drawing a 21.1 percent target share.
Williams has yet to show the playmaking talent that helped him win a starting job last year as an undrafted rookie before he missed the second half of the season with a torn left ACL.
In the opener, he slipped on a pass pattern and the throw was intercepted. Against Buffalo, he dropped a fourth-and-1 pass in the end zone.
"We're going to rely on him to make a lot of big plays this year," Fitzpatrick said. "That was just one opportunity, one moment. The ball is going to come back to him."
The Dolphins have a short week and must travel to face surprising Jacksonville and Gardner Minshew, who is tied for second in the NFL with six touchdown passes.
They'll need that defense to pick up the pace. ...
On the injury front. ... Parker (hamstring) was limited in Monday and Tuesday's practices, something that's been the norm so far this season as he's dealt with a hamstring issue that dates back to training camp. He returned to work fully on Wednesday and avoided injury designation in advance Thursday night's game.
One last note here. ... Myles Gaskin rushed seven times for 46 yards and brought in six of seven targets for 36 yards on Sunday.
The Dolphins' backfield touches were once again spread fairly evenly among Gaskin, Matt Breida and Jordan Howard, but it was Gaskin who had the clear overall lead in total touches. According to CBSSports.com, that was thanks to the second-year back's expanded receiving role, which saw him check in third in receptions and fourth in targets on the day. Breida is also a capable pass catcher, so he could certainly see an expanded role in that capacity in future weeks as well, but Gaskin has encouragingly been a focal point over the first pair of games by garnering double-digit touches in each contest.
The University of Washington product will look to boost his production against the Jaguars on Thursday night.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Reid Sinnett, Tua Tagovailoa
RBs: Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Malcolm Brown
WRs: DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, Will Fuller, Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, Mack Hollins
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Hunter Long, Adam Shaheen
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings have failed to establish any type of comfort on the field in this strange 2020 season that's already one-eighth done.
Instead, as Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell put it, "They've found safety-- and very much the wrong kind."
For the second straight game, Cousins took a costly sack in his own end zone that helped the opponent gain steam on the way to a hefty halftime lead the Vikings proved ill-equipped to overcome. Cousins produced the worst passer rating of his NFL career, throwing three interceptions in a 28-11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
"He didn't play very good," head coach Mike Zimmer said, deferring specific commentary on why Cousins struggled so badly. "I'll have to look at the tape."
The Vikings have sure produced a pair of low-budget films this fall.
"It's hard to compare the two games. I think they're each their own entity," said Cousins, who went 11 for 26 for 113 yards and no scores while taking three sacks for a 15.9 passer rating.
With a 7-3 lead on Green Bay in the opener a week ago, the Vikings took possession on their 1-yard line following a goal-line stand by the defense early in the second quarter. On second-and-7, Cousins took a safety on a blindside sack by cornerback Jaire Alexander, who altered his assignment after misreading the play and rushed without permission. The Packers turned the free kick into a field goal and never trailed again, building a 22-7 advantage on the way to a 43-34 victory.
The game in Indianapolis unfolded for the Vikings in disturbingly and eerily similar fashion, except for the meaningless 24-point fourth quarter they produced against the Packers.
After a Colts punt pinned the Vikings deep, Cousins dropped back to pass on third-and-7 from the 5 as the pocket collapsed in front of him in the end zone. He spun out of defensive end Denico Autry's arms, but defensive tackle DeForest Buckner outlasted the double team from left guard Dakota Dozier and center Garrett Bradbury and corralled Cousins as he tried to inch across the goal line. That gave the Colts a 9-3 lead with 5:01 remaining in the second quarter, and they drove 58 yards after the free kick to tack on another field goal.
That was the 27th safety allowed in Vikings history and just the second time in consecutive games. They also gave up safeties on Dec. 23 (Washington) and Dec. 30 (Denver) in 2007.
Excluding the playoffs, the Vikings have stunningly allowed a safety in three straight regular-season games since Chicago picked one up by tackling running back Mike Boone in the end zone on Dec. 29, 2019.
The next three drives by the Vikings ended with interceptions, followed by two punts, as the Colts defense kept up the disruption. Over an eight-possession span from early in the second quarter to early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings totaled only three first downs.
Falling behind early has prevented the Vikings from controlling the flow with prized running back Dalvin Cook, and the turned-over defense has showed some concerning vulnerabilities up the middle and down the field.
"You kind of get off schedule," Cook said, "and you don't get the carries that you need."
The Vikings were relying on stability to spur their offense in this virus-disrupted season. They lost the usual spring practice time to the pandemic, but so did every team. They watched offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski leave to take over as head coach in Cleveland, but Gary Kubiak was promoted to keep the same system in place. They traded dissatisfied wide receiver Stefon Diggs to Buffalo, but they made LSU star Justin Jefferson a first-round draft pick.
Whether it's the rhythm with his young receivers, his primary play caller or his best deep threat, Cousins has clearly been missing something from the 2019 season that was his best as a pro and included his first career victory in the playoffs.
"It was just one of those days where we just couldn't get anything going," Cousins said. "It was a variety of reasons, so it's hard to pin it on any one thing. That's where you have a lot to learn from, then, when you watch the tape. We obviously need to be much, much better going forward."
Cousins finished with a 15.9 passer rating, the worst completion percentage (42.3) and most interceptions (three) he's thrown as a Viking on what he deemed "a poor day."
According to ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin, what's most troubling for this offense is the lack of proven playmakers that have earned Cousins' trust.
The quarterback threw eight passes to Adam Thielen, three of which the receiver caught for 31 yards, and didn't turn to Jefferson (the team's leading receiver with three catches for 44 yards) until it was too late. It appeared Cousins was forcing too much Thielen's way, as evident on a second-quarter interception when he threw a pass intended to Thielen into double coverage that was returned 43 yards.
Cousins left Olabisi Johnson wide open over the middle of the field on that play, and threw a pick when targeting the second-year receiver (a ball thrown outside when Johnson was breaking in on his route) in the third quarter.
Given all the issues, Cronin believes Minnesota is staring an 0-5 start in the face with games coming up against Tennessee at home followed by back-to-back contests on the road vs. Houston and Seattle.
The Vikings' defense, coupled with Danielle Hunter's absence because of a neck injury and a young group of corners who have struggled early this season, is in trouble. The same can obviously be said for the offense. ...
On the injury front. ... Boone suffered his concussion and had to leave the game Sunday on his fifth special teams play of the game, in the second quarter.
LB Anthony Barr tore his pectoral muscle in the second quarter at Indianapolis and was placed on injured reserve. Barr's injury is expected to end his season, Zimmer said Monday.
Barr, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, was limited to 16 snaps in Week 2 and is the third player the Vikings have moved to IR since the start of the season, joining Hunter (neck) and left guard Pat Elflein (thumb). Fourth-round rookie Troy Dye replaced Barr on Sunday before suffering an ankle injury. The injuries to both Barr and Dye led to Ryan Connelly making his debut two weeks after being claimed by Minnesota.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Dede Westbrook, Ihmir Smith-Marsette
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Chris Herndon, Brandon Dillon, Ben Ellefson, Irv Smith Jr.
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
Down 12 points with less than 5 minutes remaining, Cam Newton nearly pulled off the most unlikely of comebacks in his first road start with New England.
Instead, it was the Patriots that came up 1-yard short this time around against the Seattle Seahawks.
"The play was there, the play had been there all game," Newton said. "Moving forward we just have to scheme up things and if we're put in that position again hopefully we can have a better outcome."
Newton was stopped short of the goal line on the final play of the game as Seattle held on for a 35-30 win over the Patriots on Sunday night.
It was the conclusion to a wild game where Newton and Seattle's Russell Wilson took the spotlight and each shined. Wilson tied his career-high with five touchdown passes. Newton nearly led the Patriots back from a 35-23 deficit in the closing minutes.
His second rushing touchdown of the game pulled New England within 35-30. After Seattle was forced to punt, Newton led New England 80 yards in the closing seconds.
They reached the 1 on a pass to N'Keal Harry with 3 seconds left and called timeout. On the final play, Newton tried to run power to the left, but was upended by Seattle's L.J. Collier in the biggest play of his young career.
Newton, who had two rushing touchdowns in the game, never got close to the goal line.
"In that type of situation, it's humbling to have the respect of a team to have the ball in my hands. I just have to deliver," Newton said. "I saw a clip of it, I could have made it right just by bouncing, just thinking too much. Or even just diving over the top. Playing a fast defense like that, as soon as you guess, you're wrong."
Despite the loss, it was terrific performance for Newton. According to Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth, the 397 yards passing were the most for Newton since his rookie season and the third most in his career. It was just the second time he completed 30 or more passes in a game.
Julian Edelman was his favorite target with eight catches for a career-high 179 yards. Harry also had eight receptions.
"That's a hell of a ball club over there man. Let's not let's not get it twisted. Well coached, so many guys over there that I know and then they just added Cam obviously," Seattle safety Jamal Adams said. "But man, that's a tough bunch over there. They're gonna give a lot of people problems."
If there was question about whether Newton can be more than a quarterback running power plays and occasionally making throws, Booth believes the veteran signal caller answered it by picking apart Seattle's porous secondary.
"There are many ways to win in this game, we don't want to become one dimensional," Newton said. We had our opportunities and just moving forward we have a lot of things to be optimistic about, and yet we still have to get better. The reason you play this game is for one stat and one stat only and we didn't get that statistic today and that's a win."
If there was a concern for New England's offense moving forward, it was the lack of a run game without its quarterback having the ball. Sony Michel was mostly ineffective and had just 19 yards on seven carries. Rex Burkhead had 2 yards on six attempts.
The Patriots played without running back James White, who was inactive following the death of his father in Florida in a traffic accident earlier on Sunday.
The wreck that killed Tyrone White happened around 1 p.m. in Cooper City, Florida, the Broward County Sheriff's Office said in a news release. White, who was the captain of the Miami-Dade Police Department, was pronounced dead at the scene.
"Of course our hearts go out to him," head coach Bill Belichick said.
Newton had 47 yards rushing and scored twice. It was his eighth career game with at least two TD runs, setting an NFL record for the most by a quarterback. It was not getting that final yard that was hard to shake.
"We put ourselves in a position to win and when you do that you have to finish and we didn't do that today," Newton said. ...
Also of interest. ... Last week Newton stuck up for Harry's performance against the Dolphins and on Sunday he backed it up on the field by showing confidence in Harry in multiple key situations. A fourth-down conversion was the first of the game and Harry would go on to have three catches on the final drive.
On the first of those catches, Harry absorbed a huge helmet-to-helmet hit that resulted in the ejection of the Seattle defender and how he quickly popped up is sure to have caught the attention of his teammates. Newton would take it into the end zone three plays later, giving New England a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.
This should be a confidence-building game for Harry and give Newton even more trust to continue to feed his big second-year receiver.
After watching the Seahawks extend their lead with a second-straight touchdown, Newton came out firing, finding Edelman for a 49-yard catch that put the Patriots right back into the game on the first play of the drive that would close out the third quarter. ...
Tight end Ryan Izzo has been improved this year but the Patriots must find a way to get better production from the position which has three catches through two games. Devin Asiasi (10 snaps) continues to seem relegated to a blocking role to get his feet wet.
On the injury front. ... Center David Andrews (hand) did not practice. Edelman (knee) and Harry (ankle) were limited.
QBs: Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Damien Harris, James White, J.J. Taylor, Rhamondre Stevenson
WRs: Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Gunner Olszewski, N'Keal Harry
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Devin Asiasi
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
They were whispers last week, but they turned into shouts on social media under the Monday Night spotlight: Are we seeing the beginning of a steep decline in Drew Brees' 20th NFL season, a la Peyton Manning in his final year with the Denver Broncos?
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett suggested, Brees looked his age, and the rest of the team followed suit as the New Orleans Saints went bust in Las Vegas on Monday night.
Brees, 41, had his second straight lackluster performance in the Saints' 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, completing 26 of 38 passes for 312 yards, one touchdown pass and his first interception of the season.
Brees has averaged 4.82 air yards on his passes so far this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. That's his lowest through two games as a member of the Saints, and it's the lowest by any QB through two games since Brett Favre in 2009.
But he was hardly the only culprit in an ugly loss that put a serious damper on the Saints' role as a top Super Bowl contender. Their offense couldn't generate much while star receiver Michael Thomas was sidelined with an ankle injury. Their defense couldn't stop Raiders tight end Darren Waller (12 receptions, 103 yards) all night. And the team had 10 penalties for 129 yards Monday night, including two costly pass interference penalties and three personal fouls by the defense.
"I don't think it's gonna be a real pleasant film to watch -- for some of our star players as well," said head coach Sean Payton, who pointed to the struggles from the offense, defense and coaches included.
Now the 1-1 Saints will have to try to get their groove back on a short week before they host the sizzling-hot Green Bay Packers (2-0) on Sunday Night Football next week.
Count Brees as one of the players that knows the team needs to bring more to table as they move forward.
"Are we totally in sync right now? No, we're not. We're not even close to what we are capable of. Not even close," Brees said of the Saints' offense, via Amie Just of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Brees needed some help. Emmanuel Sanders didn't catch a single pass until late garbage time and running back Alvin Kamara led the team in both catches and yards with nine grabs for 95 yards on the night.
Outside of Kamara, the Saints attack lacked pop. Tre'Quan Smith's five catches for 86 yards was the only other notable performance of the night for New Orleans.
So how much of a factor in Brees in all that?
According to Triplett, the jury is still out on that after such a small sample size. Remember, Brees wasn't throwing the ball downfield much the past two years either, and he still found a way to post the two highest passer ratings of his career and the two highest completion percentages in NFL history.
But Brees is barely taking any shots down the field. And what's more disturbing is that he is showing uncharacteristic inaccuracy on short and intermediate throws, as well.
Brees looked fine throughout training camp after working with longtime throwing coach Tom House on adding zip to his deep throws this summer. But he'll be under the microscope -- with defenses shrinking the field on him -- until he proves it in game situations.
The good news? At least Kamara looked healthy.
The Saints running back provided the team's only real spark with 13 runs for 79 yards, nine catches for 95 yards and two TDs. He has already paid big dividends with four TDs in the first two weeks after signing a five-year contract extension the day before the season opener.
And finally. ... The NFL fined five head coaches $100,000 each and their teams $250,000 each for not wearing masks on the sidelines. Payton and the Saints were among them.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, Ian Book
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Tony Jones Jr., Dwayne Washington
WRs: Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, Chris Hogan, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Ty Montgomery, Michael Thomas, Tre'quan Smith
TEs: Adam Trautman, Juwan Johnson, Garrett Griffin
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
Saquon Barkley's season is officially over after just two games.
The star running back suffered a torn ACL in Sunday's loss in Chicago, the New York Giants confirmed. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday.
Barkley will undergo surgery to repair the tear in the near future, per the team. NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year also partially tore his meniscus and has a strained MCL, which won't require surgery. But he'll need to wait 2-4 weeks for swelling and inflammation to go down before he can have his ACL repaired.
It's an expected blow to Big Blue after the RB left Sunday's game, but still a gut-punch nonetheless.
Barkley spilled to the turf on a six-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. It appeared he had already injured the knee on the way down to the ground. The third-year back writhed on the ground clutching at his right knee. Teammates helped him across the field to the Giants sideline, where he was carted to the locker room.
As he drove off, Barkley was seen slamming his fist in frustration. Players usually know when they're seriously injured. Barkley's demonstrative reaction spoke volumes. His season was likely over.
After earning just six yards in the season opener, Barkley appeared to be getting on track. Two plays before the injury, he'd busted out for an 18-yard run. The football gods, however, ended his season there.
Barkley, who missed three games in 2019 due to an ankle injury, ended his season with 34 yards on 19 carries. The hope is that the star back will be fully healthy by the start of the 2021 season.
With a hole in the backfield sans the first-round pick, free agent running back Devonta Freeman signed with the team, getting a deal worth up to $3.2 million for one year.
Freeman met with the Eagles last weekend. He has remained a free agent since the Falcons cut him March 16. Freeman turned down the same deal Carlos Hyde took from the Seahawks, a one-year contract worth up to $4 million, before training camp.
Freeman, 28, had his last 1,000-yard rushing season and made his last Pro Bowl in 2016. In 14 games last season, Freeman averaged a career-low 3.6 yards on 184 rushing attempts and a career-low 4.4 yards on 243 touches.
The former Falcons running back could help fill an early-down role in New York as a between-the-tackles runner. Following Barkley's injury, only Dion Lewis, better known for his pass-catching ability, took carries, averaged 2.0 yard per tote on 10 touches. Wayne Gallman was inactive Sunday.
According to ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan, the likelihood is that Gallman -- at least initially -- gets used similarly to how Joe Judge's former team, the New England Patriots, uses Sony Michel. That means when Gallman is on the field, most of the time it will be to run the football.
Lewis will be the Giants' passing-down option. Lewis caught four passes on five targets for 34 yards in Sunday's 17-13 loss to the Bears, and he has Judge's complete trust as a pass-blocker.
Expect Freeman to start working his way into the mix in fairly short order, most likely at the expense of Gallman.
But it's going to be a committee regardless.
"It's going to take all of us," Lewis said after playing 54 of the 62 offensive snaps with Gallman inactive for the contest. "We got Wayne, myself, we all gotta step up. Obviously, you know, Saquon is one of the best running backs in this league, so nobody's going to be able to do what he does, what he's done. We gotta do what we can do, be ourselves and do whatever the coaches ask us to do and work hard every day."
I'll be watching for more on Freeman, potential roles and in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for all the latest heading into Sunday. ...
While this is a brutal injury for the team and fantasy managers alike in the short term, it raises longer-term issues for the Giants.
Barkley is expected to make a full recovery. Even though Judge's team probably wasn't going to compete for the NFC East title this season, Barkley's injury probably sets the organization back a year as it continues to rebuild.
To start, ESPN.com's Bill Barnwell believes Barkley's absence makes it more difficult to evaluate Daniel Jones. The Giants attempted to surround their quarterback with a bevy of weapons in Barkley, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, then landed on a steal in the fifth round when they unearthed Darius Slayton in the 2019 draft.
Those five players have been on the field together alongside Jones for a total of five snaps, all coming in Sunday's 17-13 loss to the Bears before Barkley tore up his knee.
This wasn't going to be a make-or-break year for Jones, but Barkley's absence puts more of the load on his shoulders and provides an easy excuse if he struggles.
In addition, the Giants won't have their top receiving target for at least the next three weeks.
The team announced Wednesday that Shepard has been placed on IR as he deals with a turf toe injury.
Per the NFL rules for 2020, players must sit at least three weeks before coming off IR.
Shepard injured his foot in Sunday's loss in Chicago on a reception late in the second quarter. After hobbling to the sideline, the wideout attempted to return in the second half but was ruled out after just one play.
Shepard missed six games a year ago. While Shepard is eligible to return in three weeks, he's dealing with an injury that tends to linger. The 27-year-old had eight receptions for 76 yards through the first two weeks of the season.
Without Shepard, Jones will lean on Tate, Slayton and Damion Ratley as his top WR targets, and Engram could play an increased role. Receiver CJ Board also will enter the mix.
The Giants face the 49ers, Rams and Cowboys the next three weeks.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Gary Brightwell
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, C.J. Board, Kadarius Toney, John Ross
TEs: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini wrote, "It's official: The New York Jets are an absolute mess, and the Adam Gase Watch is on."
The Jets talked all week about flushing away their season-opening loss and showing signs of progress.
It took just one play against the 49ers to send all that optimism down the tubes. Afterward, Gase's salty language summed up the state of his team, which looked inept in a 31-13 defeat Sunday.
"I'm pissed right now," Gase said. "That (expletive) is no fun going out there and getting your ass beat. We need to get better fast."
New York is 0-2 and already looking like a team in big trouble.
The Jets were not competitive in a 27-17 loss at Buffalo last week. It was much the same against San Francisco, who got an 80-yard touchdown run by Raheem Mostert on its first play from scrimmage.
"We've got to find a way to improve really fast," Gase said of his message to the players. "That's the No. 1 thing: We have to go find a way to win one football game."
As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. suggests, that might be easier said than done.
The Jets are at Indianapolis Sunday, followed by a Thursday night game at home against Denver. Then they host Arizona.
Things could get a lot more desperate in a hurry.
This loss was made even worse by the fact the 49ers lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running backs Mostert and Tevin Coleman, and defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas to injuries.
The Jets are short-handed, too, particularly at wide receiver-- Breshad Perriman hurt his left ankle to join the already sidelined Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims-- but Sam Darnold and the offense weren't able to do anything against San Francisco's banged-up defense.
"We were just trying to execute, no matter who was out there," said Darnold, who was 21 of 32 for 179 yards and a touchdown.
New York managed just 277 yards and went 0 for 2 on scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
Earlier in the week, Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said that was the key for him to see this season to evaluate Gase and the rest of the team. While he won't issue a playoff mandate, he wants to see the team look better in all aspects.
The way things are going right now, Gase and the Jets have a long way to go.
"We did not play the game we needed to play," Gase said. "We didn't do enough as a team to really do anything against these guys."
The Jets need to prevent pointing fingers, which Darnold doesn't see happening even as the frustration grows among them-- and the fans who are clamoring for change.
"We just lost a football game, so no one's jumping around and screaming," the quarterback said. "It sucks. No one's yelling at each other. We understand that we've got to stay together. It's only our second game of the season.
"Obviously, we didn't envision these two games going like this, but we've just got to keep our heads down and go to work and get ready for a tough Indy team."
As Cimini summed up, "This is bad. The Jets have the look of 3-13, which almost certainly would mean another coaching change -- if Gase lasts that long. ..."
Back to the injuries. ... Perriman left midway through the second quarter and didn't return.
Gase confirmed on Wednesday that Perriman and Crowder (hamstring) will not practice this week, adding that Perriman is likely to miss the next two games while Crowder could return sooner.
With the two veterans and Mims (who is on IR for at least two more games) ailing, the only healthy receivers on the active roster are Chris Hogan and Braxton Berrios. Josh Malone was elevated from the practice squad for the first two games.
Check that: Hogan will be available, but he'll be dealing with a rib injury. It's reportedly not broken and he's expected to be OK moving forward.
The Jets could also be without center Connor McGovern, who left the game after injuring a hamstring and is considered "week to week" by Gase. He was replaced by Josh Andrews, who could get the start against his former team if McGovern can't play.
QBs: Zach Wilson, Mike White
RBs: Ty Johnson, Michael Carter, Tevin Coleman, Lamical Perine, Josh Adams
WRs: Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith
TEs: Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
According to Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi, Carson Wentz is struggling and his coach says he's trying to do too much.
The Philadelphia Eagles are off to a 0-2 start for the first time in five years following a 37-19 loss against the Los Angeles Rams. Wentz threw two interceptions, including one from the Rams 21 when the Eagles had an opportunity to take the lead after falling behind by 18 points. It's the first time in his five-year career Wentz has thrown multiple picks in consecutive games.
There's plenty of blame to go around. Protection was poor in Week 1 when Wentz was sacked eight times, though he could've thrown the ball away a few times. Two rookie receivers didn't make aggressive plays to break up the interceptions in that game.
The costly pick against the Rams was thrown behind wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and cornerback Darious Williams made an excellent grab. Wentz shouldn't have tried to force the ball to Arcega-Whiteside, but the second-year pro didn't sell the cornerback well enough before breaking inside.
Pederson didn't disagree when asked why Wentz seems to have regressed this season.
"I just don't want Carson to feel like he has to make all the plays every single time," Pederson said Monday. "I want him to just be Carson and you guys know him, you've been around him, you've heard him, his demeanor. He wants to do everything right and we've given him control to do that, but we just have to continue to work to get better. I don't think anybody can totally master the sport. You're constantly learning and getting better, and that's what we've got to do and continue to coach that."
One thing that might help all involved?
Miles Sanders ran for 95 yards on 20 carries and the Eagles had 121 on the ground, averaging 4.7 per run. They fell to 23-4 under Pederson when they have at least 120 yards rushing.
Following a costly fumble on the game's opening drive, one that resulted in a Rams touchdown, Sanders finished with 131 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.
Sanders received his heavy workload despite having missed almost all of training camp and the season opener with a hamstring injury. Sanders admitted that his conditioning was an issue Sunday, but despite some early rust, he still looked to be in top form against destructive defensive tackle Aaron Donald and the Rams.
But even with his productive day, the Eagles' offense scored fewer than 20 points for the second straight week, far below what was expected of a unit that features an abundance of speed and athleticism. For Sanders, though, getting back into the win column is not a complicated process.
"All it takes is resiliency," he said. "(Pederson), he always talks about that. That's exactly the type of team we are. We had a lot of setbacks last year and despite all the stuff that happened last year, we still made the playoffs. I still think anything is possible. It's still early in the season."
It won't hurt that the Eagles host the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend. ...
Other notes of interest. ... JJ Arcega-Whiteside had two targets. First, he dropped a pass on third-and-2. Then he was covered when Wentz tried to force a pass to him in the end zone that was intercepted. Arcega-Whiteside, a second-round draft pick in 2019, has 10 catches for 169 yards and one TD in 18 games. DK Metcalf, selected by Seattle seven picks after Arcega-Whiteside, had seven catches for 160 yards and one TD in a wild-card win against the Eagles.
The snaps at wide receiver were split as follows: Jalen Reagor: 60 (85 percent), DeSean Jackson 55 (77 percent), Arcega-Whiteside 16 (23 percent), Greg Ward 13 (18 percent) and rookie John Hightower 7 (10 percent).
Jackson and Reagor did not practice Wednesday; according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Reagor has a ligament tear in his thumb. He left the game Sunday but returned to play through the injury.
According to multiple reports, Reagor is a candidate for injured reserve with NBCSports.com's John Clark reporting it's possible the rookie will be out until after the team's Week 9 bye.
I'll follow up as needed; watch the Late-Breaking Updates. ...
And finally. ... The Eagles had Jalen Hurts as their No. 2 quarterback on Sunday and he got on the field for three snaps in red zone situations. Wentz was the quarterback on all three occasions and Hurts was moved all around the formation.
"The decision, we always do what we feel sometimes is best for the football team each and every week. We felt this week with him up, they could give us an opportunity to possibly use him in those situations that we did, and obviously he went in, executed them well, and it's a starting point as something we'll evaluate each week," Pederson said.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Gardner Minshew
RBs: Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott
WRs: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Greg Ward, JJ Arcega-Whiteside
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Jack Stoll
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
Judging by the tone of Ben Roethlisberger's voice, it was hard to tell if the Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0 or 0-2.
According to Associated Press sports writer Will Graves, no matter how the questions were framed following a 26-21 victory over Denver on Sunday that gave the Steelers their best start since 2017, the club's longtime quarterback kept turning each answer into a referendum of sorts on his play. While quick to heap praise upon his young wide receivers-- including rookie Chase Claypool and budding second-year star Diontae Johnson-- Roethlisberger believes he needs to knock off whatever rust might remain from his injury-marred 2019 quickly.
"I didn't connect with guys when they were open," Roethlisberger said. "I just didn't play well enough."
Never mind that he completed 29 of 41 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns against an interception. Never mind that his rainbow to Claypool down the left sideline that turned into an 84-yard score was perfect. Never mind that his 28-yard dart to Johnson in the end zone came after the 38-year-old Roethlisberger extended the play with his legs as if he was briefly channeling a much younger version of himself.
Roethlisberger only saw the mistakes, though other than an ill-advised lob toward JuJu Smith-Schuster early in the third quarter that turned into a pick, he was highly efficient. Through two weeks he's completed 69 percent of his passes and any concerns about the state of his surgically repaired right arm should be put to rest after throwing 73 passes in the span of 5 1/2 days.
The path figures to get more difficult in the coming weeks, though the early portion of the schedule looks decidedly more user friendly now than it did a month ago. Houston and Philadelphia are struggling and Cleveland remains a work in progress. All three visit Heinz Field over the next four weeks. Roethlisberger expects the timing issues he dealt with against the Broncos can be resolved relatively quickly.
"A lot of the throws that I missed tonight are just me needing to trust myself and trust that the guys are in the right spots because we are in the right places," Roethlisberger said. "So hopefully it will come."
As always, a stronger rushing attack would be helpful.
Take out James Conner's 59-yard sprint with less than two minutes to go, and the Steelers ran for 50 yards on 21 carries. Benny Snell, who played solidly in place of an injured Conner against the Giants, ran just twice for 5 yards and, even worse, fumbled for the second consecutive week.
"He's a young guy growing in terms of situational awareness and things like that," head coach Mike Tomlin said. "It will be a growth experience for him, but we've got some work to do there."
Conner, who left the win over the Giants with a sprained left ankle, finished with 106 yards rushing, including that 59-yarder.
Meanwhile, whether you agree with Roethlisberger's criticism of himself or not, one thing is clear.
The Steelers have led the NFL in sacks each of the last three seasons. This year's defense certainly looks like it has all the ingredients to make it four straight.
Pittsburgh had seven sacks against Denver and has 10 through two games. And not all of them are coming from outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Nickelback Mike Hilton-- all 5-foot-9 of him-- continues to be one of the most effective edge blitzers in the league. He already has two sacks, and safety Terrell Edmunds delivered the second of his three-year career when he raced in untouched and dropped Broncos backup quarterback Jeff Driskel with 1:51 to go to seal the victory.
Next up, the first "Watt Bowl" will be played on Sunday when Houston defensive end J.J. Watt and the winless Texans (0-2) travels to Pittsburgh to face T.J. and Derek Watt.
The game will mark the second time in 93 years that three brothers will appear in the same NFL game but the second in the last 10 months. Pittsburgh's Terrell and Trey Edmunds shared a field with Buffalo linebacker and youngest brother Tremaine last December when the Bills visited Heinz Field. ...
Worth noting. ... Claypool, a Notre Dame product, caught a deep pass from Roethlisberger in stride along the Broncos' sideline at about the 45-yard line and outran the Broncos' secondary to the end zone for the above-mentioned 84-yard touchdown -- his first in the NFL.
The score was the only play of the Steelers drive that started at their own 16-yard-line after a would-be 81-yard punt return touchdown by Johnson was wiped off the board because of a block in the back penalty.
Claypool caught all three of his targets Sunday afternoon for 88 yards along with the score. ...
On the injury front, Johnson has a lingering toe injury. Neither he nor Smith-Schuster (knee) practiced Wednesday (both sat out last Wednesday as well). I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
Beyond that, the Steelers could be getting another significant part of their offense back on the field this week. Via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com, Tomlin said right guard David DeCastro would participate in practice this week.
He's missed the first two games, and hasn't practiced since the middle of training camp because of a knee issue.
The Steelers started Stefen Wisniewski in his spot in the opener, and he promptly went on IR with a pectoral injury. Rookie Kevin Dotson started there last week, so getting DeCastro back will be a boost for Sunday's game against the Texans.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
TEs: Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
The San Francisco 49ers rolled to victory against the New York Jets but left town with conflicting feelings after their lengthy injury list got even longer on the new artificial surface of MetLife Stadium.
Entering Sunday already without four key players, the Niners watched as defensive end Nick Bosa, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas all suffered game-ending lower body injuries.
But wait. It gets worse.
As though the quantity of their injuries wasn't enough cause for concern, the 49ers were even having trouble finding out the severity of their many ailments as they begin their week at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan had only limited injury updates in his usual Monday media session because of something else entirely out of the team's control.
"We had an MRI truck scheduled up here and that truck broke last night," Shanahan said. "The local hospital is helping us out with MRIs, so that's why we're behind on everything."
They got the confirmation later Monday night.
Bosa has a torn ACL, the MRI has confirmed. He's out for the season.
Complicating matters for the 49ers is Solomon Thomas, also tore his ACL. That leaves pressure on first-round rookie Javon Kinlaw to pick up the slack and Ansah immediately to contribute.
Shanahan did have some updates on some of the many other injuries the Niners suffered in Sunday's 31-13 win against the New York Jets.
Garoppolo, who has a high right ankle sprain, is still considered day-to-day, according to Shanahan. While that injury usually requires at least a month to recover, Shanahan said the "severity is not real bad," but the coach said on Wednesday that Nick Mullens will "most likely" steart against the New York Giants.
Coleman is expected to miss a month with a sprained knee; he was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday. Mostert, who suffered an MCL sprain, will "most likely" miss this week's game. With Coleman and Mostert both expected to be out, Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson Jr. will handle the primary running back duties against the Giants.
The 49ers protected practice-squad RB JaMycal Hasty, undrafted rookie who will likely get promotion this week due.
They also brought in several running backs for a tryout, including ex-Giant Paul Perkins, Karan Higdon and Austin Walter.
Tight end George Kittle (knee) will be evaluated as the week goes on but he was scheduled to practice Wednesday.
Shanahan hinted that "concerns about the MetLife Stadium surface" could play a role in whether Kittle returns this week (more on that below).
Of more concern is defensive end Dee Ford, who was a pregame inactive because of what was then called a neck injury. Shanahan explained Monday that further testing to Ford revealed more of a back issue.
"It's more of a back injury than neck spasms, so anytime it's the back, that is an issue," Shanahan said. "So, we're still working into that, but at least we can clarify what it is."
There is no timetable for Ford's return.
With Ford's status uncertain and Bosa done for the rest of the season, the 49ers agreed to terms with veteran defensive end Ziggy Ansah on a one-year deal. Ansah visited with the team twice previously but did not come to an agreement.
In San Francisco, Ansah reunites with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who worked with him in Detroit. Ansah must go through the COVID-19 testing but assuming he is cleared, he will be able to practice this week and could play against the Giants.
"I've played against Ziggy a ton," Shanahan said. "He's a hell of a player, can rush the passer and play the run well. Hopefully, we can get him in here soon, get him caught up."
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner notes, Ansah joins a thin group of healthy defensive ends that also includes Arik Armstead and Kerry Hyder Jr. Shanahan said the Niners could add more at the position as the week goes on and other injury issues get more clarity.
I'll obviously be following up on all the walking wounded here via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
As for returning to the playing surface at MetLife Stadium that the 49ers found problematic on Sunday, Shanahan said general manager John Lynch reached out to NFL head of football operations Troy Vincent to try to get some reassurances for their team.
As the league and NFL Players Association reviews the 49ers' complaints about the "sticky" MetLife Stadium turf, sources told ESPN's Chris Mortenson that the field has undergone 20 inspections since being installed in June. A final inspection on Sept. 12 certified it as compliant with mandated policies for artificial turf and the Jets certified again Thursday, the source said.
Shanahan also acknowledged that the Niners will take the playing surface into consideration before asking players such as Kittle already dealing with injuries to come back and play against the Giants.
"We'll think about that with everything, especially with George coming back and especially the issue with the field," Shanahan said. "Nothing has changed with me with the field yet. I haven't been able to talk to anyone. I know John talked to Troy earlier today and they're definitely looking into it. So, hopefully at some time we get some answers back that can make our players feel a little bit more at ease playing there next week."
In the meantime, the 49ers will hold out hope that nothing else goes wrong this week on their two-game, 10-day East Coast swing. Perhaps it should have been an ominous sign that the trip to the New York area got off to a rough start on Friday.
According to Shanahan, the plane the team was supposed to take out of San Jose airport was crashed into by people working, leaving it dented and deemed unsafe to fly. So, the Niners had to go to San Francisco airport to get on a new plane. After a six-hour delay, they were finally on their way.
"It just got us in real late," Shanahan said. "We didn't get in until about 2:30 (a.m. Saturday), and got to the hotel around 4 (a.m.) and we were supposed to get there at 9 (p.m. Friday). Luckily, we came on Friday. It would've been a big issue if we came on Saturday. ..."
And finally. ... The NFL fined five head coaches $100,000 each and their teams $250,000 each for not wearing masks on the sidelines. Shanahan and the 49ers were among them.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance
RBs: Elijah Mitchell, Trenton Cannon, Trey Sermon, JaMycal Hasty, Jeff Wilson, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, Mohamed Sanu, Jauan Jennings, Jalen Hurd
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, Daniel Helm
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth suggested, the Seahawks seem determined to see just how much Russell Wilson's talent and skill can carry them.
Because for the first two weeks of the season, the Seahawks' 2-0 start has been predicated on Wilson playing some of the best football of his career and making up for a defense that continues to show deficiencies, especially when trying to protect a lead.
Seattle's wild 35-30 win over New England on Sunday night was another showcase performance for Wilson. He matched his career high with five touchdown passes and has nine through the first two weeks.
Wilson is orchestrating Seattle's offense with inspired determination and confidence with seemingly all of his throws.
And the Seahawks have needed every bit of what Wilson is bringing to make up for a defense that has surrendered an eye-popping amount of yards in the first two games and continues to have a mostly absent pass rush.
"We've given up too many explosives. ... We've got to do a better job there and we have to execute better," head coach Pete Carroll said Monday. "We gave away, I don't know, maybe 80, 100 yards in situations there that we didn't need to give up. And we have to play cleaner."
It's a balance and one Seattle would like to figure out if for no other reason than to limit stress. The 73 points scored in the first two weeks is the second-highest total to start a season in franchise history.
But Seattle has also allowed 831 yards passing in the two games, the second-highest total by any team through the first two weeks of the season, according to the Pro Football Reference database. Only the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs allowed their opponents more passing yards through two games at 860.
Of course, those Chiefs also had the MVP in Patrick Mahomes and went on to win 12 regular-season games and reach the AFC Championship.
Maybe Wilson is on a similar path?
Meanwhile, Booth believes offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer deserves recognition for the efficiency of the Seahawks offense. While Week 1 was heavy on Wilson through the air, there was balance in how Seattle attacked the Patriots.
Wilson attempted 27 passes, but Seattle also ran the ball 30 times and finished with 154 yards rushing. Those are benchmarks that will keep Carroll happy with the type of balance Seattle is getting but doesn't take away the explosiveness that's been in display in the pass game.
Wilson's five touchdowns Sunday went to five different pass catchers, four of them wide receivers. Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore and Freddie Swain all took turns celebrating in the end zone, along with running back Chris Carson.
Of Wilson's 21 completions, 15 went to wide receivers. For the season, Seattle wide receivers have caught 31 passes on 38 targets with five touchdowns.
It's not the flashiest group in the league, but it has been highly effective for two games.
Veteran TE Greg Olsen had a rough home debut. He mishandled his only target of the game on Seattle's opening drive, watching the catchable pass bounce off his hands and be returned for a touchdown by Devin McCourty. Olsen also had a false start penalty.
Worth noting. ... Carson rushed 17 times for 72 yards and caught all three targets for 36 yards and the above-mentioned touchdown Sunday night. As CBSSports.com notes, any worries about Carson's six-carry Week 1 can be dismissed, as the fourth-year pro handled 68 percent of the carries in Week 2. His effectiveness as a receiver has been a bonus.
Carlos Hyde and Travis Homer will continue to get some work in the backfield, but Carson is the unequivocal No. 1 RB and should be utilized in fantasy as such. Carson will have a tough test Week 3, however, as the Cowboys just held the Falcons' Todd Gurley to 2.9 yards per carry. ...
On the injury front. ... LB Bruce Irvin and DB Marquise Blair are both done for the season due to torn ACLs. Blair had emerged through training camp as Seattle's primary nickel cornerback and was doing well in making the transition from safety. Ugo Amadi is likely to take over.
Irvin played two roles for Seattle as the strongside linebacker in its base defense and as a pass rusher in nickel and throwing situations.
"It was really great to have (Irvin) back. It was such a positive factor, such a great example of what our program is about," Carroll said.
With 52 career sacks, he's the most accomplished member of a Seahawks pass-rush group that entered the season as one of the team's biggest unknowns after the team did not re-sign Jadeveon Clowney.
The Seahawks are placing receiver Phillip Dorsett on injured reserve, source said. It'll give Dorsett some time for his ailing foot to get calmed down. He's eligible to return in three weeks.
And finally. ... The NFL fined five head coaches $100,000 each and their teams $250,000 each for not wearing masks on the sidelines. Carroll and the Seahawks were among them.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, Jake Luton
RBs: Chris Carson, Alex Collins, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Rashaad Penny
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, D'Wayne Eskridge, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart
TEs: Gerald Everett, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
Tom Brady got his first win of 2020 on Sunday and said it felt good to cross that off the list after the game, but he also made it clear that he expects much more out of the Buccaneers in the weeks to come.
Brady was 23-of-35 for 217 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the 31-17 victory over the Panthers. It's the second interception he's thrown in as many weeks and that's one of the things that he likely feels needs to improve for the team to be where he wants it.
"It was a little bit better. I think we still are a long way from where we need to be," Brady said, via MassLive.com. "We have the ability to make plays I think consistency dependability are going to be things that we really need. So we got to get back to work. Clock is ticking on next week so gonna get focused on next week's game and try to be a lot better next week."
The Bucs will be in Denver to face the 0-2 Broncos this weekend and we'll see if Brady is happier about how they play in that one.
One thing that will help him out, head coach Bruce Arians told reporters on Monday that wide receiver Chris Godwin had cleared the concussion protocol, and would be available against the Broncos.
His return to the lineup is also welcome news for the Bucs coach, after watching the Bucs drop a number of passes in yesterday's win over the Panthers. Arians said he counted at least seven drops, including three touchdowns, and probably 125 yards worth.
Brady completed 23 of 35 passes for 217 yards, one touchdown and one interception against Carolina. Arians said he might have had a 400-yard, four-TD day with a little more help from normally sure-handed receivers, including LeSean McCoy and Scotty Miller.
So is there a message for receivers moving forward?
"Don't drop the damn ball or you won't get another one," Arians said. "It's easy. He (isn't) going to throw it to you."
He also warned that Brady will have a long memory.
"They're never expected and they're never accepted," Arians said. "I mean, if you're a professional football player and you play receiver, you're supposed to catch the damn ball. ...
"Same thing in practice. You drop the ball in practice, he's probably isn't coming to you on Sunday."
Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans, who managed just one catch last week and struggled to get on the same page with Brady, caught seven passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. Evans carried much of the load without Godwin.
The Bucs also received big contributions from newcomer Leonard Fournette, who slashed his way to 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
Fournette averaged 8.6 yards per carry and scored on runs of 1 and 46 yards, the latter sealing Sunday's victory.
The two-time 1,000-yard rusher who was the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft touched the ball on seven of Tampa Ba's final eight offensive plays-- capped by the 46-yard scoring burst that put the game out of reach with 1:48 remaining.
"My main job was to not go out of bounds, get as many yards as I can and let the clock keep running," Fournette said. "Coach entrusted me, the O-line, my quarterback, the whole team. They trusted me and I got the job done."
The Bucs signed Fournette two weeks ago to team with starter Ronald Jones and former 1,000-yard rusher McCoy in hopes of strengthening an inconsistent running game and providing another playmaker for Brady in the passing game.
So far, it looks like a good move.
Fournette rushed for 1,152 yards and gained another 522 yards on 76 receptions for Jacksonville last season. After playing just nine snaps in Tampa Bay's opener, he had 12 carries and caught four passes for 13 yards against Carolina.
Arians likes the way the running back position is shaping up with Jones, a third-year pro, as the starter, and Fournette and McCoy coming off the bench in roles that might vary from week to week.
"I love where it's at right now," Arians said Monday. "To have Leonard come in with fresh legs in the fourth quarter and pound it like that, very few teams have that combination."
Fournette said he's getting more comfortable with the playbook
He's also enjoying interacting with Brady while carving out a role in the offense.
"It's cool. I'm hard on Tom, Tom's hard on me. He expects a lot out of me. He's a six-time Super Bowl champion, so I expect a lot out of him," Fournette said.
"Sometimes, I tell him, 'Tom, you might hold the ball too long.' He might tell me I'm not running the ball hard enough," Fournette added. "So, I'm like: 'Damn, Tom said that, I'm really not running the ball hard enough,' so I got to come back and do what I got to do. ..."
Meanwhile, even as Arians insists there's no problem, tight end Rob Gronkowski's impact in the passing game has been minimal. He was targeted just once and had zero receptions against the Panthers.
"We're not throwing the ball 50 times to tight ends. That's what we have receivers for, that's the way our offense is built," Arians said. "Gronk's playing great run-blocking in the fourth quarter, so I'm not concerned with his pass catches or his targets."
Beyond the good news on Godwin, Arians told reporters on Wednesday that receiver Justin Watson is "day to day" with hand/wrist injury sustained in Sunday's game. Said he's improving but couldn't practice Wednesday.
We'll follow up as needed; watch the Late-Breaking Updates for more. ...
And finally. ... The team announced that tight end Tanner Hudson was promoted the 53-man roster from the practice squad.
He was elevated to the active roster for the Week Two win over the Panthers. But under a new league rule, he reverted to the practice squad, until the team made the promotion more permanent Wednesday.
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, Giovani Bernard, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Scott Miller, Jaelon Darden, Tyler Johnson
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
According to Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker, the Tennessee Titans know their undefeated start won't last for long if they don't fix some issues quickly.
"That's the message that we have to relay to the players is that we're happy to be 2-0, and we're lucky in a lot of ways," head coach Mike Vrabel said Monday. "But there's been a lot of good stuff, stuff we got to clean up and continue to eliminate stuff that could potentially get us beat."
The Titans are off to their first 2-0 start since 2008 and only their third since 1999, the franchise's lone Super Bowl season. Both wins have been by a combined five points, the latest a 33-30 win over Jacksonville on Sunday.
They gave up 480 yards and allowed the Jaguars to convert 10 of 14 third downs while holding the ball for more than 33 minutes. Tennessee is allowing 401.5 yards per game, 136 yards rushing and 265.5 yards passing per game.
On the other side of the ball, the Titans are even better inside the red zone than they were last season when they led the NFL scoring on 75.6 percent of their trips inside an opponent's 20. They have scored TDs on six of seven drives into the red zone, an 85.8 percent rate.
Tannehill is the reason for the high success rate. He was a perfect 4 of 4 for 44 yards with four TDs inside the red zone against the Jaguars, and he connected with three different players for TDs.
That efficiency is even more impressive considering they were missing receiver A.J. Brown and the Jaguars were set on slowing down running back Derrick Henry.
Someone needed to step up, and it didn't take long to find out who that someone would be.
Tight end Jonnu Smith caught a 63-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the first offensive play of the game, and he capped off the drive with a touchdown catch.
It was one of two scores for Smith, a player Vrabel never hesitates to praise.
"He continues to improve, he's a great teammate, he's an unbelievable player to coach and to be around every day," Vrabel said of Smith. "I've always admired his upbringing -- I know his mom has done a fantastic job raising him. He's a great teammate, he works hard, and you are always happy to see good things happen to those type of people."
Smith's first score of the day was a 13-yard touchdown catch on 2nd-and-9.
Smith later scored on a four-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill on third-and-goal from the Jacksonville four-yard line.
Smith had four catches for 84 yards in the contest, and he now has three touchdowns in the team's first two games. Smith caught a one-yard touchdown pass in the season opener at Denver.
Smith said he felt a great sense of responsibility entering his first season with the team as "tight end 1." Smith, drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Titans, started previous seasons behind tight end Delanie Walker on the depth chart.
"I work hard, and I've been blessed with a God-given ability, and it would be a disservice to my teammates, to myself, if I didn't live that out," Smith said. "I've never started a season out as tight end 1, and with that comes a lot of great things. You are able to have more opportunities to make plays and put yourself, put your team, in a better position to win. I just work really hard, and I am just so blessed and humbled to be able to showcase everything that I have been blessed with and work for."
Meanwhile, kicker Stephen Gostkowski redeemed himself once again, hitting a game-winning 49-yard field goal with 1:41 left to give his team the victory in Jacksonville.
Gostkowski improves to 13-for-14 on potential go-ahead field goals in the fourth quarter for his career. He has made his last 11 such attempts. The 15th-year kicker hit a 51-yard field goal earlier in the game as well. That comes after his career low point last week, when he missed three field goals and an extra point in Tennessee's 16-14 win over the Denver Broncos.
In Sunday's win, Gostkowski missed an extra point that would have made the score 31-23 early in the fourth quarter. But after the Jaguars tied the game at 30, Vrabel said he believed in his former New England Patriots teammate enough to send him onto the field to attempt the game winner.
"The confidence is the same for every player that is here," Vrabel said. "They are expected to do their job. That's what we had to do. We came down to a field goal kick and you can see that it was a really good kick. It had plenty of distance, accuracy and the protection was good. That's what we needed today."
Tannehill was happy to see Gostkowski get redemption once again this week after pulling off another close win.
"You have to find a way to win," Tannehill said after the game. "It's huge. Coming off last week, I know he wanted to get out there and make a few today. He came up big for us in the end. That wasn't a chip shot. It was a tough kick at a crucial point in the game. I had nothing but confidence that he was going to bang it through. That's exactly what he did."
One last note here. ... As mentioned above, Henry didn't have a banner day, but he was still productive, and he still contributed to the win while rushing for 84 yards on 25 carries.
In doing so, Henry became the fifth player in franchise history to reach the 4,000-yard career rushing mark. Henry now has 4,033 career rushing yards, and he joined a group that includes Eddie George (10,009), Earl Campbell (8,574), Chris Johnson (7,965) and Lorenzo White (4,079). Also, Henry became the second player in franchise history to record 11 consecutive regular season games with at least 80 scrimmage yards, joining Johnson (12 from 2009 to 2010) as the only Titans/Oilers to do so.
The only active NFL streak better than Henry's is owned by Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who has a 12-game stretch of 80-yard scrimmage games after Week 2. McCaffrey will miss the next two to four weeks with a high-ankle sprain.
On the injury front. ... Asked on Tuesday about Brown, who is dealing with a bone bruise in his knee, receivers coach Rob Moore replied: "When he does get back, whether it's this week or next week, he has to prepared and ready to go from a mental standpoint. He can't lose that edge that he got in training camp."
Brown called it "frustrating" to watch from the sideline, but that he's going to take his time to make sure that he doesn't return until he's sure his knee is ready.
I'll have more on the second-year wideout's progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
The Titans made a change to the back end of their running back depth chart on Wednesday.
The team announced that Jeremy McNichols has been promoted from the practice squad. Senorise Perry was placed on injured reserve in a corresponding move.
As Profootballtalk.com notes, McNichols has played in the first two games of this season after temporary call-ups from the practice squad. He has two carries for seven yards in those contests. He also played one game for Tennessee in 2018 and has seen time with the 49ers, Colts and Jaguars since entering the league.
Perry had two carries for nine yards in the first two weeks. He was also credited with one tackle on special teams. ...
And finally. ... The Titans hit the road for Minnesota, their last road game until November. After the Vikings, they return home for three straight games in October against Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Houston. Fans will be back, though limited to 10 percent and increasing to 15 percent by the Texans' visit.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Jeremy McNichols, Khari Blasingame, Mekhi Sargent, Darrynton Evans
WRs: A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Josh Reynolds, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Racey McMath, Cameron Batson
TEs: Anthony Firkser, Geoff Swaim, Tanner Hudson
Washington Football TeamCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 September 2020
Head coach Ron Rivera knows the Washington Football Team's offense will be a work in progress. It has a new offensive coordinator in Scott Turner, a second-year quarterback in Dwayne Haskins Jr., an entirely new running backs room and mostly inexperienced wide receivers.
"Right now, I think we're just starting to scratch the surface of it," Rivera told reporters Thursday. "It's going to take a while before we get to where we want to be. It's not one of those things where as you start game-planning you start adding and adding and adding. Now as you start game-planning, you're going to really just put what you believe in the game plan that's going to help you win the game. We've got a way to go. You probably really won't see it or get a feel for it until really next season."
As the team's official website notes, the offense's growing pains were evident for much of a 30-15 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Six of its first seven possessions ended in punts, while the other was a fumble by Haskins inside the Cardinals' red zone. And while the unit gained 316 yards of total offense, much of that production came in the fourth quarter with Arizona holding a commanding lead.
The biggest bright spot was second-year wideout Terry McLaurin. Facing Arizona corner Patrick Peterson, McLaurin caught seven passes for 125 yards. Haskins knows he can rely on McLaurin, though he should have been targeted earlier -- Haskins didn't throw to him until 6:51 remained in the second quarter.
McLaurin is a playmaker and runs away from defenders. Washington needs more of those type of players. Rookie running back Antonio Gibson showed flashes and continues to develop, but it was McLaurin who stood out.
Similar to its season opener against the Eagles, Washington (1-1) fell behind early against the Cardinals.
But Washington's offense finished strong with a pair of touchdown drives spanning at least 75 yards. Those possessions, which ended with a 24-yard touchdown reception for McLaurin and an 11-yard rushing score from Gibson, should give the team momentum heading into next week's game in Cleveland.
For the second straight game, Haskins did not throw an interception. He finished 19-for-33 passing with 223 yards and a touchdown -- most of which came in the fourth quarter.
According to ESPN.com's John Keim, it's hard to fully judge Haskins because of an offensive line that is too inexperienced on the left side. It's debatable whether tackle Geron Christian or guard Wes Martin is more than a short-term solution, and the group is inconsistent all over. Adding to the woes, guard Brandon Scherff suffered a sprained MCL against Arizona and was placed on IR Tuesday. To replace him on the roster, they promoted wide receiver Cam Sims from the practice squad.
Keim does believes Haskins can improve his mechanics, but he has now made nine NFL starts and needs patience and more talent around him. Yes, he finished strong. But the bottom line is that Washington did little on offense until it was 20-0. Washington wants Haskins to be more consistent, but both he and the offense still have a ways to go.
Washington's running game was also much better than it was against the Eagles; Gibson and J.D. McKissic combined for 108 yards rushing on just 21 carries.
Gibson has been expected to be a big part of Washington's offense. After getting nine carries for 36 yards against the Eagles, Gibson's load increased to 13 carries for a team-leading 55 rushing yards.
Gibson was not an active piece in Washington's passing game; he was targeted just two times, resulting in negative three yards. But Turner said during the week that Gibson's role would continue to grow, so there is a good chance he will be able to use his experience as a receiver later in the season.
QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Jaret Patterson
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Dyami Brown, Adam Humphries, Cam Sims, Curtis Samuel
TEs: Logan Thomas, Ricky Seals-Jones, John Bates, Sammis Reyes