Team Notes week 4 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 29 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss reported, despite one of Kyler Murray's most impressive runs of his young career, Sunday's 26-23 loss to the Detroit Lions included some of his worst play in the NFL.
The Cardinals quarterback and reigning rookie of the year threw three interceptions -- and came close to a fourth -- and was able to run for just 29 yards, after averaging 79 rushing yards in his first two games.
While Murray's performance wasn't what lost the game, his three picks led to 10 Lions points, all of which were scored after Murray turned the ball over deep in Arizona territory.
It was Murray's fourth multi-interception game his career, which consists of just 19 games.
He finished the game with 270 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions on 23-for-35 passing. Through three games, Murray's touchdown-to-interception ratio is 4-to-5.
Murray made some mistakes, but you will not find a better pass than the one he dropped into Andy Isabella for the first touchdown. And Murray's TD run was all him too, after the Lions sniffed out the play.
There was obviously some frustration in that Arizona about the way it played out. As ArizonaCardinals.com's Darren Urban put it, "There was nothing that happened that left you feeling the Lions were better. ... There were times it looked like the Cards could have 40 points if they just. ... Just did what they should."
Urban went on to concede the discussion is going to be about Murray.
But Urban stressed the consistency needs to be better. On offense. On defense. There are two games against two struggling teams the next two weeks, starting in Carolina this week and the Jets in Week 5.
Beyond that. ... Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins finished with 137 yards on 10 catches, giving him 358 yards on the season. It's the most through the first three games of his career and puts Hopkins, who has five 1,000-yard seasons, including two 1,500-yard seasons, on pace for 1,909 yards this season.
In addition, second-year receiver Isabella set a career-high with two touchdowns, showing not only his Year 2 jump but that he can be a key cog in the Cardinals' passing game, not just in their rushing attack. Isabella has the speed and quickness to get the necessary separation as well as the slipperiness to get out of defenders' grasp.
Isabella now has six catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns in the past two games, the best numbers among any receiver on the team beyond Hopkins.
"I told y'all what he's capable of," Murray said. "Glad to see him get his opportunity today."
Larry Fitzgerald was targeted only three times and finished with one catch for zero yards. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury was visibly miffed with himself for allowing that to happen.
"He's the heart and soul of this team," Kingsbury said. "When he's getting the football, good things happen. That's completely on me."
Fitzgerald is 37 years old, by far the oldest receiver in the NFL, but Kingsbury said his lack of involvement had nothing to do with a declining skillset.
"He had one of the best camps of anybody on the team," Kingsbury said. "He played great in the first two games, was getting open. I just did a poor job of getting him the ball."
Murray said he wasn't sure why Fitzgerald was targeted less than Hopkins, Isabella and KeeSean Johnson.
"Just kind of flow of the game type of deal," Murray said. "I hope to get him more balls next week."
For the record, Fitzgerald has only had zero yards one other time in his career, back in 2004 in the wind-whipped rain of Buffalo, and he didn't have a catch that day. (The only time in his career he hasn't had a catch in a game he's played.) Sunday, he at least kept his catch streak alive, but to get no gain was jarring.
He's had six previous games in his career where he had less than 10 yards receiving. Something tells me it won't happen again this season. ...
Meanwhile, Kenyan Drake carried 18 times for 73 yards and caught his only target for an additional six yards during Sunday's loss.
As CBSSports.com notes, Drake found the sledding a bit tough on the ground as he averaged a pedestrian 4.1 yards per carry against a middling run defense. Despite the absence of Christian Kirk (groin) and the fact that the Cardinals were trailing for much of the game, he curiously wasn't used much as a pass catcher and has now drawn just five targets through three games this season.
Drake also failed to reach the end zone again and has one touchdown to his name. He still carries plenty of fantasy upside given his current role and will look to break out next Sunday in a favorable matchup against the Panthers. ...
On the injury front. ... S Budda Baker (thumb) played with his right hand wrapped. NFL Network reported that Baker is expected to have surgery on the thumb next week and will likely miss at least one game. ... S Chris Banjo (hamstring) left the game early in the second quarter. That backend will feel the injuries to the safeties, although the passing games of the Panthers and Jets -- the next two games -- are not among the best in the league.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley
RBs: James Conner, Chase Edmonds, Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin
WRs: A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, Antoine Wesley, Rondale Moore, Andy Isabella, DeAndre Hopkins
TEs: Zach Ertz, Darrell Daniels, Maxx Williams
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
After another crushing defeat, head coach Dan Quinn was left to explain the inexplicable.
The Falcons were up 26-10 over the Bears in the fourth quarter, but a missed field goal and three three-and-outs in the final fifteen minutes led to a comeback that continues Atlanta's bad reputation of squandering leads.
With the game ending in a 30-26 defeat, the Falcons blew their second 15-point, fourth-quarter lead in as many weeks.
Quinn also was coach when the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in a Super Bowl XLI loss to the New England Patriots.
The Falcons are the first team in NFL history to lose twice in one season while holding a 15-point-plus lead in the fourth quarter, according to Elias.
Asked if he had spoken to Falcons owner Arthur Blank postgame and if he was concerned about his job status, Quinn danced around a clear answer.
"We visit every week, pregame, postgame, Mondays through the week," Quinn explained. "All I can do is be in front of the team. They need me to be the same guy on our best days and our worst days. Stand tall for them, bring the energy and the coaching and the focus that we need to go win.
"Anything past that does not help the team, so all I can focus on is us playing better and finishing better. So that's where my focus will be and remains to be."
As NFL.com's Michael Baca pointed out, the Falcons' decision-making came into question after they opted to throw the ball with a lead which neglected the fact that a ticking clock was their friend.
ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure was more to the point: "Questionable play-calling by offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, with Quinn overseeing everything, backfired on the Falcons. Koetter continued to call pass plays as the Falcons held the lead despite a solid day on the ground from both running backs Todd Gurley and Brian Hill."
Indeed, the Falcons passed the ball five times and ran the ball only once on two consecutive possessions after holding a 26-16 fourth-quarter lead, running little clock in the process. In the quarter, the Falcons attempted 11 passes and ran the ball four times while going 0-for-4 on third down.
"Those are easy to look back at," Quinn said. "We definitely communicated on those and if you complete them and move the chains then those are the ones to go. Going in, obviously, we're planning on converting the ones that are short, so when you don't have those there are consequences."
Quarterback Matt Ryan maintained the team still has Quinn's back.
"We've got his back," said Ryan, who had seven straight incompletions at one point in the fourth quarter. "We have to play better as players, and that's what you have to focus on. When things aren't going well, it's easy to look around and see what everybody else is doing or where everybody else is screwing up. The only way we're going to improve as a unit is by looking in the mirror and finding ways to improve individually. Make sure we're the best version of ourselves individually when we go out there."
Gurley echoed that sentiment.
"We're always going to be behind coach Quinn," Gurley said. "We know what he means to us.
"We didn't finish for him, we didn't finish for each other, we didn't finish for the brotherhood."
As Quinn continues his sixth season on the proverbial hot seat, the coach is trying his best to put his best foot forward and use what has been a bleak 0-3 start to the season.
"When you're cornered you fight harder and dig deeper," Quinn said. "That's what I think this team will do."
Blank, who turned 78 on Sunday, kept both Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff this season with hopes of turning it around after back-to-back, 7-9 showings. Now Blank has a decision to make regarding Quinn's status or any other changes that could be made. ....
It should be noted the Falcons played without their best player, with star receiver Julio Jones sidelined by a hamstring injury. In fact, six key starters were unavailable Sunday. The Falcons then lost receiver Russell Gage (concussion) in the first half. But Quinn said he would not use a slew of injuries as an excuse going into the game.
Instead of a new start to the season, now they limp into the Week 4 Monday night game at Green Bay sitting at 0-3. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Falcons created explosive plays even without arguably the league's most feared receiver in Jones on the field. It started from the jump after Ryan's 63-yard hookup with Calvin Ridley on the very first offensive play. It set up Ryan's 1-yard touchdown toss to Hayden Hurst. Then came a 35-yard touchdown sprint by Hill off a second-quarter draw as he followed his blockers and made a nifty cutback en route to the end zone.
It was the Falcons' longest running play since Hill broke off a 60-yard run in December of 2018 against Carolina.
There was also Gurley's 16-yard burst in the third quarter that helped set up his own 10-yard touchdown run, where he stiff-armed a defender to the ground. It helped the Falcons outscore the Bears 10-0 in the third quarter, and the Falcons had been outscored by opponents 28-0 in third quarters entering the contests.
The Falcons surpassed 100 yards rushing with Gurley and Hill making up a solid, 1-2 combination. Gurley showed flashes of his old self, including breaking some tackles and displaying speed. Hill gave everyone a glimpse of why he was the talk of training camp. More than anything, it gave the Falcons balance and allowed Ryan to run play-action to perfection.
When the Bears sent the rush at Ryan, he was able to hand the ball off for some effective draw plays. Of course, you have to run the ball more when you're banged up at receiver, but establishing more of a run game will only help the Falcons moving forward, especially when it comes to keep quarterbacks such as Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees off the field.
Ridley compiled 110 yards on five catches early in the third quarter. He didn't have a catch the rest of the way despite 13 total targets. Credit the Bears back end adjusting, knowing Ryan's other receivers couldn't pick up the slack. With Jones and Gage sidelined, Olamide Zaccheaus saw the second most targets on the team behind Ridley. He caught 4-of-6 targets for 41 yards,
I'll have more on Jones and Gage and their potential status for Monday night's game against the Packers as the week progresses; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
The Falcons had punter Sterling Hofrichter handle the kickoffs during Sunday's loss to the Bears and it appears they'll be making alternate plans for the coming weeks as well.
Younghoe Koo didn't play on kickoffs because he suffered a groin injury before the game. He was able to kick field goals and extra points, but missed one of each on the way to another painful Falcons loss. Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that Koo's attempt to play through the injury was a one-time solution. The kicker is expected to miss time because of the injury.
The Falcons don't have a kicker on the practice squad, so they'll have to look outside the organization for a replacement.
And finally. ... The Falcons announced Tuesday that starting cornerback Darqueze Dennard will be placed on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury. In addition to placing Dennard on IR, the Falcons signed defensive end Austin Edwards to the practice squad and released cornerback DJ White and linebacker Deone Bucannon.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Josh Rosen, Feleipe Franks
RBs: Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Davis, Qadree Ollison
WRs: Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby, Christian Blake, Chris Rowland, Calvin Ridley, Tajae Sharpe
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
There was a clear winner in the much-anticipated Lamar Jackson versus Patrick Mahomes MVP showdown on "Monday Night Football," and it wasn't Jackson.
Jackson fell to Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs for a third time in his young career with a 34-20 defeat in Baltimore.
Jackson is 21-1 against everybody else and 0-3 against Mahomes and the Chiefs. Everyone knows that if the Ravens are going to reach their Super Bowl aspirations, they're going to have to beat Kansas City, and they haven't done it yet.
The first question Jackson got in his post-game presser was about losing to the Chiefs for a third time.
"Our kryptonite," Jackson said before the question was finished.
What bothers Jackson most about Monday's loss probably isn't that he lost the media battle in his head-to-head matchup with Mahomes, who he called "outstanding."
Mahomes was on a different level. He threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns -- one underhand, one perfectly lofted 20-yard pass under pressure, one 49-yard bomb, and another to an offensive lineman. A quarterback honestly couldn't play much better than Mahomes did Monday night.
Losing to Mahomes probably isn't what bothers Jackson most though. It's that he lost the battle with the Chiefs defense too. It wasn't a high-scoring shootout between two of the NFL's most exciting quarterbacks. It was a blowout that was worse than even the scoreboard showed.
Jackson threw for a career-low 97 passing yards and rarely even tested the Chiefs down the field. He completed just 15 of 27 passes and fumbled twice.
To compare and contrast, the reigning NFL MVP has completed 67 percent of his passes against the other 31 teams with a 72.9 Total QBR. Against Kansas City, he has connected on 53 percent of his throws with a 58.5 QBR.
The Chiefs kept Jackson off his game by blitzing him on 35 percent of his dropbacks, compared to 29 percent by all other teams, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"We just weren't on point tonight," Jackson said. "Low safeties. It looked like the same thing Tennessee did to me, to be honest."
Jackson was referring to the Ravens' stunning divisional playoff loss to the Titans last season, which kept them from an AFC championship matchup with the Chiefs. That Titans game had a similar feel with the Ravens coming out very sluggish offensively before getting a little momentum late.
The Ravens found a modicum of momentum Monday night -- enough to make it a one-score game at the start of the fourth quarter -- but it wasn't nearly enough. The Ravens are now 0-5 with Jackson as the starter when they trail at halftime, which will make another negative narrative linger.
The Ravens offense reached the end zone just once, and it didn't come until the fourth quarter. Jackson's targets didn't help, as they dropped five passes on the night, including multiple by tight end Mark Andrews.
Baltimore came out of the gates running. Jackson threw just once on an 11-play drive to open the game that featured him blitzing the Chiefs defense with a 30-yard run. The Ravens had to settle for a field goal, however.
After that, Baltimore ran just three more times in the first half. Despite all the passing attempts, Jackson had just 35 passing yards at halftime. Through three quarters, he had just 57.
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley noted, the Ravens had been the hottest team in the NFL. They hadn't lost a regular-season game in almost a full calendar year (their last defeat was Sept. 29, 2019 to the Browns). Baltimore had led at halftime in 11 straight games and hadn't trailed in the second half at any point in 13 consecutive games.
In fact, Jackson has yet to lead a significant comeback.
He is now 0-5 when trailing by 10 points at any point in the game. He also is 0-5 when trailing at halftime. Some of this is due to a lack of opportunities. Jackson and the Ravens had led at halftime in 11 straight games, which was one shy of tying an NFL record. But when faced with a large deficit, Jackson has struggled.
Tight end Nick Boyle scored Baltimore's lone touchdown on offense on a tough 5-yard catch in the fourth quarter.
"It's always good to score, especially for me," said Boyle, who usually blocks on the line while Andrews handles the downfield throws. "It's kind of a hard thing for me to do. I'm usually getting stopped at the 1-yard line and stuff."
It was his third touchdown in 67 games. ...
Better still. ... On a night in which the Ravens allowed 517 yards and could muster only 228, only the special teams performed up to expectations -- and then some.
Rookie Devin Duvernay returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to get Baltimore to 13-10 in the second quarter. The third-round pick out of Texas has been a welcome addition, especially after kick returner De'Anthony Thomas opted out because of the pandemic.
Duvernay's top speed of 21.48 mph was the second fastest by a ball carrier on a kickoff over the past two seasons. He traveled 110.4 yards of distance on the play, and he reached his top speed at the Chiefs' 45-yard line.
Also, rookie James Proche had a 16-yard punt return on his lone attempt.
Sam Koch averaged 49 yards on his three punts and placed one inside the 20. And, as usual, Justin Tucker was on target. He nailed both his field-goal tries to remain perfect for the year (7 for 7) and raise his all-time NFL career best rate to 91 percent. ...
The Ravens keep it in-state Sunday when they travel south to face Washington, which followed an uplifting season-opening win over Philadelphia with losses to Arizona and Cleveland.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, Ty'Son Williams
WRs: Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, James Proche, Miles Boykin
TEs: Mark Andrews, Josh Oliver, Eric Tomlinson, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
As Associated Press sports writer John Wawrow notes, Josh Allen might get the credit for saving the Buffalo Bills from a monumental second-half meltdown. The third-year starter was more upset that he helped put the team in that position to begin with.
Two second-half turnovers led to the Los Angeles Rams rallying from a 25-point deficit, but Allen bailed the Bills out by completing a 3-yard pass to tight end Tyler Kroft with 15 seconds remaining to secure a 35-32 win on Sunday.
"Yeah, probably just got too relaxed and that's on me," said Allen, whose five-touchdown outing (including one rushing) was clouded by two turnovers that led to Rams TDs.
"I've got to be better for our team and our offense," he added.
"I can't throw an interception, and I can't fumble the ball, and then lose my cool like that," he said, referring to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that nearly ended Buffalo's final drive. "But we bounced back. Proud of our guys."
Fantasy managers will probably be more forgiving.
Allen finished 24 of 33 for 311 yards with four touchdown passes and also scored on a 1-yard run. He's had a hand in 12 touchdowns, the most in team history through the first three games of the season. Hall of Famer Jim Kelly held the record of 10, set in 1991. Allen now has 40 career touchdown passes. He needs eight more to pass Doug Flutie at seventh on the list with 47 touchdown passes.
Sunday was the eighth successful fourth-quarter comeback for Allen in his three seasons. Last week, the Bills overcame a 20-17 fourth-quarter deficit to beat Miami 31-28.
According to ESPN.com's Tristan Cockroft, the list of the most fantasy points by a quarterback through his team's first three games of a season (since 1950) looks like this: 97.4 Ryan Fitzpatrick, 2018 93.9 Allen, 2020 92.4 Patrick Mahomes, 2018 91.0 Peyton Manning, 2013 89.7 Drew Brees, 2018.
Meanwhile, the Bills have started the season 3-0, fueled by the performance of Allen.
Allen's performance has been fueled by the arrival of receiver Stefon Diggs.
As Profootballtalk.com notes, Diggs has given Allen a legitimate, high-end receiving threat. Allen told PFT's Mike Florio via phone after Sunday's win that Diggs tells Allen to "make the right decisions" with the ball, and that "if I'm open give me a chance."
That's a very different attitude than the "throw me the damn ball" mandate under which many great receivers operate.
"He's fantastic," Allen said regarding Diggs. "He's super energetic [and] brings a lot of juice."
Allen added that Diggs is "very selfless," pointing out that Diggs was the first to congratulate tight end Tyler Kroft after he caught both of his touchdown passes -- even though Diggs finished the day with only one. Diggs got there first because Digg was in the vicinity. And Diggs could have been miffed that the ball could have come to him instead, because he arguably was open on both plays. But Kroft was more open, and throwing it to him was the right decision on both touchdowns.
"I love that man," Allen said of Diggs.
For the record, Diggs was denied a touchdown on consecutive plays from the Rams 1 late in the first quarter. He first scored on a 1-yard catch, but the play was overturned upon video review, with officials ruling Allen's pass hit the ground. Allen then found Diggs wide open in the end zone, but the touchdown was overturned by offsetting flags, with a holding penalty called against guard Brian Winters.
John Brown injured a calf in the first half and did not return. With Brown out, Cole Beasley came on strong.
At halftime, Beasley had one reception for 29 yards. The Bills slot receiver had been battling through a nagging hip injury during the practice week, but come crunch time when the Bills needed to make plays on a drive that had to end with a touchdown at game's end, one of the smallest receivers on the roster came up big.
Pulling in 6-of-7 targets, Beasley's last reception gave him exactly 100 receiving yards on the day marking his first such day since last year's season finale against New England when he had seven receptions for 108 yards. Buffalo's slot receiver also hit another important mark Sunday, 400 career receptions. With his six catches Sunday, Beasley now has 401.
Rookie receiver Gabriel Davis had four catches for 81 yards in finding openings with the Rams focused on blanketing Diggs, and with Brown sidelined for the second half.
As for the Bills run game, it appeared to be effective enough in balancing out Buffalo's passing attack. Devin Singletary earned specific praise from his head coach for his performance of 121 all-purpose yards while averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
"I mean we popped some big runs, which was important for us," McDermott said. "I thought Devin Singletary had a big day, making people miss in space in the run and the pass game and that's good to see. We were a little short-handed there with Zack Moss out and T.J. Yeldon stepped in and did a nice job."
"The O-line made some room for us," said Singletary. "I definitely had some lanes, so it's definitely a step in the right direction for us."
Looking ahead, the Bills make the first of three West Coast trips, playing at the Las Vegas Raiders next Sunday. ...
Brown, who was bothered by a foot injury last week, missed the second half after hurting his calf. He was not on the practice field Wednesday and his status is this week is uncertain. Moss (toe) and TE Dawson Knox (concussion) were inactive Sunday and their status also remains unclear -- although Moss was on the practice field Wednesday. I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
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 29 September 2020
Carolina was missing Christian McCaffrey, but got big efforts on defense and special teams to give coach Matt Rhule his first NFL victory.
The Panthers forced three Los Angeles turnovers and Joey Slye kicked five field goals in a 21-16 win over the Chargers on Sunday.
"It was huge, especially coming on the road, creating your own energy. And the defense did just that," said Teddy Bridgewater, who was 22 of 28 for 235 yards and a touchdown. "Of course you want to turn turnovers into seven points instead of field goals. But the defense created those turnovers and created energy and we fed off those guys."
Carolina snapped a 10-game losing streak dating to last season. It came down to the final play, with the Chargers in position for a go-ahead touchdown in the final seconds.
"When it comes down to the wire, it's like relief," Rhule said. "For some of these guys it has been 10 straight losses. ... That can start to weigh on you. It was an ugly win, but a win nonetheless."
The Panthers had not recorded a sack and allowed 65 points in their first two games but looked like a different unit. They sacked Justin Herbert twice and converted three turnovers into 12 points.
The Panthers (1-2) averaged 3.9 yards per carry without the All-Pro McCaffrey, who will miss at least two more games with a high ankle sprain. Mike Davis had 91 scrimmage yards (46 rushing, 45 receiving) and a touchdown.
"The first two games we felt like we weren't really playing as we should," Davis said. "This week we wanted to be physical and just play for each other. That's all it was."
Davis has eight receptions in consecutive games, tying McCaffrey as the only running back in franchise history with at least eight receptions in back-to-back games.
Davis played 39 snaps as the starter at running back, while Reggie Bonnafon came in for two snaps. Carolina played 10 snaps without a designated running back on the field.
The Panthers only had 51 offensive snaps, one week after playing 73 snaps on offense.
Kicker Joey Slye went 5-of-5 on field goals, one shy of the single-game franchise record. His four field goals in the first half tied John Kasay (4, 2004 vs. New Orleans) for the most in one half in franchise history.
Next up, the Panthers host Arizona Sunday.
Other notes of interest. ... The question posed all week was whether Bridgewater was a game-manager or game-changer. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady insisted Bridgewater was more than a game-manager. Bridgewater insisted his goal was just to win games.
He did that without being a game-changer, completing 22 of 28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps consistency counts toward being a game-changer.
QBs: Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, P.J. Walker
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, Ameer Abdullah, Christian McCaffrey
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Shi Smith, Brandon Zylstra, Alex Erickson, Terrace Marshall Jr.
TEs: Ian Thomas, Tommy Tremble, Colin Thompson
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
Head coach Matt Nagy made a quarterback change on Sunday based on a gut feeling. His next move was more deliberate.
Nagy spoke to Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio by phone after Sunday's come-from-way-behind win over the Falcons, and he addressed among other things the decision to remove starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky for backup Nick Foles.
"Sometime, you have to go with your gut," Nagy said, explaining that the decision came in the moment, based on the fact that the offense under Trubisky was struggling on third down and in the red zone. "It's a feel you get as things go on."
He said that he explained the move to Trubisky as tactical. "None of it is personal," Nagy said he told Trubisky. "It's all task-related."
Trubisky realizes this.
"The only thing I can control is me playing better when I have those reps in the first half, and I didn't do that," Trubisky told Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. "So I gave [Nagy] the opportunity to pull me. He did."
And it will stay that way.
Foles will be the starter at quarterback going forward.
The announcement was made by Nagy, who also said tests confirmed that running back Tarik Cohen has a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.
Cohen suffered his injury on a punt return when Atlanta's Brian Hill got pushed into the back of his right leg, caused his knee to bend awkwardly. Cohen went to the ground and immediately clutched his right knee. The 5-6 all-purpose threat was unable to put any pressure on his right leg when trainers help him off the field.
He had two carries for 21 yards and three receptions for 20 yards before the injury.
Cohen was placed on injured reserve Tuesday and the team re-signed running back Artavis Pierce, who will work behind David Montgomery and Ryan Nall. Pierce isn't necessarily a natural fit to step into Cohen's pass-catching role.
Getting back to the QB situation, Nagy benched Trubisky in favor of Foles with Chicago trailing by 16 points in the third quarter. Foles responded by throwing three second-half touchdown passes, including the game-winning 28-yard strike to Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller just after the two-minute warning.
Foles also had touchdown passes to Allen Robinson and Jimmy Graham. He finished the game 16-for-29 for 188 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Foles had two additional touchdown passes overturned by the officials.
Trubisky went 13-for-22 for 128 yards, one touchdown and one interception (71.8 passer rating). The Bears were an ineffective 1-of-8 on third down, with several of Trubisky's downfield passes being off the mark. Trubisky overthrew a wide-open Miller on what would have been a touchdown completion before halftime.
On his first drive, Foles, 31, promptly moved the Bears downfield, but the drive ended when Falcons cornerback Darqueze Dennard wrestled a ball away from Robinson in the end zone. The official initially ruled the play a touchdown for the Bears but reversed the call to an interception for Atlanta and a touchback.
Trubisky, whom Chicago selected second overall in the 2017 NFL draft, ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, led Chicago to a 2-0 start in 2020. He rallied the Bears against the Lions in Week 1 when he fired three fourth-quarter touchdown passes to complete a 27-23 comeback win. Trubisky, 26, was largely ineffective for the first three quarters at Ford Field before the late heroics.
Last Sunday, Trubisky completed 18 of 28 pass attempts for 190 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions as Chicago hung on to beat the New York Giants 17-13.
In 2018, Nagy's first season as head coach, the Bears went 12-4 as Trubisky passed for 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and rushed for 421 yards and three scores. Trubisky, while playing much of last season with a shoulder injury that required surgery in January, ranked 28th in the NFL in Total QBR (39.4) and tied for 27th in touchdown passes (17), 21st in passing yards (3,138), 32nd in yards gained per pass attempt (6.1) and 28th in traditional quarterback rating (83.0) as the Bears finished 8-8.
Chicago traded for Foles -- the MVP of Super Bowl LII while with the Philadelphia Eagles -- at the onset of the new league year.
The Bears later declined Trubisky's fifth-year option and announced an open quarterback competition in training camp.
And now, Foles is the starter. We'll see if he can hang onto the job, starting with Sunday's game against the Colts. ...
Also of interest. ... No one embodied the Bears' resiliency and perseverance Sunday in Atlanta more than receivers Robinson and Miller.
Both rebounded after having second-half touchdown receptions taken off the board via replay reversals to get back into the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Robinson broke two tackles on a 37-yard touchdown reception that drew the Bears to within 26-23 with 4:21 remaining. It came after he had hauled in an apparent 21-yard TD in the third quarter. But the call was reversed after a replay review to the above-mentioned interception by Dennard.
Miller's apparent 17-yard TD catch on fourth-and-goal early in the fourth quarter was reversed when replays showed the ball hit the ground as he dove in the end zone. The third-year pro later hauled in the game-winning score, a 28-yard TD strike from Foles.
In a related note. ... Per Rotoworld.com, only Philadelphia's Zach Ertz ran more routes at tight end than Graham this week. Graham's 42 routes in Week 3 is a big jump from his 24 routes in Week 2.
QBs: Justin Fields, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton
RBs: David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert, Damien Williams, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Darnell Mooney, Allen Robinson, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin, Jakeem Grant
TEs: Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham, Jesper Horsted, Jesse James, J.P. Holtz
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
Rookie Joe Burrow showed he is the franchise quarterback the team hoped for when they drafted him with the first overall pick in April.
Even in a 23-23 tie with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Burrow looked his sharpest during a young rookie season. The LSU product was able to overcome a slow start to finish with a strong line and an outing that should have produced his first career win. Burrow was 31-of-44 passing for 312 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
He shrugged off some early hits and pressures to produce that big second half. After the break, Burrow completed 19 of his 26 attempts for 218 yards.
But his Sunday turnaround started toward the end of the first half. Starting with a drive that ended in a touchdown, Burrow had 13 straight completions in the middle of the game that resulted in 124 yards and two touchdowns, both of them going to rookie receiver Tee Higgins.
Burrow was sharp in his timing and his decision-making, especially considering his limited NFL experience in a pandemic-plagued 2020.
After last week's game, Burrow said he had never lost two straight. Now after Sunday in Philadelphia, he says he had never been in a tie, either.
"We didn't win. That's all it is to me," Burrow said after it was over. "You don't win, you lose."
Or put another way, "No moral victories around here."
It was new ground for head coach Zac Taylor, too: "I've never tied in my life. It sure as hell doesn't feel like we won."
The Bengals host the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) this weekend. ...
Beyond that, it's worth noting that Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray set the rookie record for completions through three games with 84. This year, Burrow has seen Murray's 84, and raised it.
Burrow's 91 completions through three games sets an all-time rookie record through three games. It's no surprise, since his 37 completions in Week 2 set a single-game record for rookies.
Other notes of interest. ... Receiver John Ross, the ninth pick in the 2017 draft, was a healthy inactive. Ross had two catches in the first two games and is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. Higgins got the start with Ross out and showed why that might not be changing anytime soon.
Higgins caught five of his nine targets for 40 yards and the two touchdowns. The Bengals' second-round pick is starting to find his rhythm with Burrow, which is a good sign for the rest of this year and beyond.
Fellow wideout Tyler Boyd had the eighth 100-yard game of his career with 125 yards on ten catches.
After they connected last week for three fourth-down conversions, Burrow and Boyd clearly have a thing going on.
"Week in and week out we feel pretty comfortable on the pass game and whatever we've got dialed up," Boyd said. "But at the end of the day it's not good enough. Despite everything that's going on, despite all the statistics and everything, we've still got to make one more play. I feel like if I could have made one more huge play to get us into a field goal drive to go on and win the game. At the end of the day, we've just got to find a way to win."
Boyd, with 230 yards, is on pace for his third straight 1,000-yard season at 1,226.
Meanwhile, wide receiver A.J. Green caught five balls for 36 yards. It's the first time in his career he's gone three straight games without a catch of more than 15 yards and just the third time he's gone three straight games with not more than 51 yards.
QBs: Brandon Allen, Joe Burrow
RBs: Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Mike Thomas, Auden Tate, Stanley Morgan Jr.
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
For the first time in six years, the Cleveland Browns have a winning record.
They want to keep it that way.
Baker Mayfield threw two touchdown passes, Nick Chubb ran for two more, Myles Garrett had a key sack and the Browns moved over .500 for the first time since 2014 with a 34-20 win Sunday over the Washington Football Team, which lost rookie defensive end Chase Young to a groin injury.
With their second straight win under first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski, the Browns are 2-1 for the first time since 2011. It's also the first time they've had a winning record since Week 14 in 2014, when they were 7-6 before dropping their last three and costing Mike Pettine his job.
Cleveland had gone 90 consecutive weeks without a winning record. The Browns won just four games from 2015-17.
And while the start is notable, Stefanski downplayed its significance.
"We're just trying to get to 1-0 every week," he said.
Mayfield's 3-yard TD pass to rookie tight end Harrison Bryant with 11:14 left helped the Browns shake off a horrid third quarter, when Washington (1-2) scored two TDs to take the lead.
Chubb then scored on a 20-yard run with 8:40 left to make it 31-20, the TD coming after linebacker B.J. Goodson intercepted Haskins at the Washington 35.
Chubb finished with 108 yards on 19 carries and the Browns leaned on the third-year back to wear down Washington in the fourth.
"We take pride in those 2-yard dirty runs because we know it takes a toll on the team, and eventually, we will bust one," Chubb said. "The whole game everybody kept telling me, 'Just be patient. It is going to pop. It is going to pop.' It worked for us."
Chubb's 16-yard TD in the second quarter was a thing of beauty.
Taking a handoff and going right, Chubb cut back, made one Washington defender miss badly, ran out of another tackle and then powered his way in to make it 10-7. ...
Up next, the Browns visit Dallas next Sunday for the first time since 2012. Cleveland lost in overtime on its previous trip to Jerry World. ...
On the injury front. ... Return specialist and wide receiver JoJo Natson is done for the season after he suffered a torn knee ligament in Sunday's win. He was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday; the Browns signed safety Jovante Moffatt to the active roster from the practice squad.
Natson's loss could give playing time to rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones, a sixth-round pick from Michigan, who was inactive Sunday. Peoples-Jones returned punts for the Wolverines and the Browns took a look at him during training camp. Stefanski would not commit to Peoples-Jones, and said he wants to talk with special teams coach Mike Priefer before making any decisions on the return game.
We'll follow up as needed. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Cleveland played just 16 players on offense, including Natson (4) and TE Stephen Carlson (6). Without Natson available in the second half, the Browns had just three active wideouts.
Austin Hooper played 54 of a possible 63 snaps. Bryant played 40.
The Breakdown for Chubb and Kareem Hunt: 34 and 29 snaps, respectively.
Chubb cleared 100 yards for the second straight week and broke off multiple, highlight runs in the 34-20 victory. He ranks fourth in the NFL with 292 rushing yards and is tied for first with his four rushing touchdowns.
Since 2018, no NFL player has more 20-yard runs than Chubb, who has 26 during that span. Chubb's 13 100-yard games since 2018 are the second-most in the league.
Hunt rushed 16 times for 46 yards. He added two receptions for 18 yards and a touchdown.
As CBSSports.com suggests, though Hunt was bottled up on the ground, he's showcased a solid floor due his involvement in the passing game, recording at least two receptions in each game this season while also finding the end zone twice through the air.
But there appears to be a problem.
The team announced on Wednesday that Hunt and left guard Joel Bitonio will not practice. Hunt has a groin injury while a back ailment is listed as the reason Bitonio won’t be participating.
Stefanski called both players day-to-day during a press conference. Bitonio has not missed a snap since the start of the 2017 season, so his absence would be a very big deal for the Browns.
But it's worth noting the Browns signed running back Dontrell Hilliard to the active roster from the practice squad.
I'll have more on Hunt via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Cornerback Denzel Ward (groin), defensive end Adrian Clayborn (hip) and linebacker Tae Davis (elbow) are also going to sit out Wednesday’s practice. Cornerback Greedy Williams (shoulder) and defensive end Olivier Vernon (abdomen) are expected to practice after missing game action, although it’s unclear if they’ll be cleared to play against the Cowboys.
QBs: Case Keenum, Baker Mayfield, Nick Mullens, Kyle Lauletta
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton, John Kelly
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins, Anthony Schwartz
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Harrison Bryant, Miller Forristall, Stephen Carlson
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer put it, "The Mike McCarthy era with the Dallas Cowboys is not off to a rousing start. In fact, it has almost been disastrous. ..."
If not for an improbable recovered onside kick in the fourth quarter in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons, the Cowboys would be staring at their first 0-3 start since 2001 with their 38-31 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The last time the Cowboys were 0-3, they were a crumbling franchise with only running back Emmitt Smith remaining from the Triplets era that won three Super Bowls in the 1990s.
Entering 2020, these Cowboys were viewed by some as among the most talented in the NFL and a title contender with a Super Bowl-winning coach in McCarthy set to shepherd them back to at least a conference title game for the first time since 1995.
Considering the sad state of the NFC East, the Cowboys will always have a chance to get to the postseason, but this season was always about more than just getting to the playoffs even if McCarthy and his staff did not have an offseason program, full training camp or any preseason games because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Cowboys' defense was shredded by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who threw three of his five touchdown passes to Tyler Lockett, had another to Jacob Hollister and the game-winner to DK Metcalf with 1:47 to go from 29 yards. Wilson should have had a sixth, a 63-yarder to Metcalf in the first quarter if not for a hustle play by cornerback Trevon Diggs, who punched the ball free from the receiver and through the end zone for a touchback.
The Cowboys also looked undisciplined. They had four defensive penalties in the first half that kept a drive alive. Trysten Hill was penalized for roughing the passer after a 2-point play failed, which allowed Seattle to convert a play later and force the Cowboys to score a touchdown to win.
Dak Prescott (472 yards, three touchdown passes) was the only reason the Cowboys were in position to win. He directed what could have been a second straight improbable fourth-quarter comeback, but the defense could not get a stop when it mattered. And the final drive was halted only after he somehow escaped a sack and had his second pick of the game with 6 seconds left.
It would have been a heroic ending for Prescott. This loss falls on the Cowboys' defense.
The Cowboys talked during the week about making things simpler defensively to aid the execution, but those measures didn't help.
And now McCarthy has more questions than answers so far. ...
The good news?
The Cowboys figure to be favored in all three of these upcoming home games. The winless New York Giants visit Oct. 11 before a Monday night game against Arizona on Oct. 19. Anything less than a sweep starting with the Browns, and there's a good chance Dallas will have trouble escaping the shadow of .500 -- or worse -- in McCarthy's first season. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Cowboys aren't just a three-receiver offense.
Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb are among the league's most talented trios, but Cedrick Wilson had a breakout game Sunday with a career-high 107 yards and a team-best two touchdowns.
The second TD, a 42-yarder from Prescott, cut the Seahawks' two-score lead down to eight in the third quarter.
"It was a little deeper of a route, but good throw by Dak and I did what I did to get to the end zone," Wilson said. "Hopefully next time it'll be a win."
Tight end Dalton Schultz caught 4-of-6 targets for 48 yards, tying him with Lamb for the fifth-most targets on the team. Lamb caught five of his six for 65 yards. Gallup drew nine targets, catching six of them for 138 yards and a touchdown. Cooper caught 9-of-12 targets for 86 yards.
After nearing the 100-yard mark in the first two games, running back Ezekiel Elliott had just 14 carries for 34 yards against Seattle, though he did score the Cowboys' first touchdown with a 1-yard run the first quarter.
The Cowboys focused more on attacking Seattle's secondary in the passing game, with Prescott setting career highs in pass attempts (57) and passing yards (472).
"We knew that their main goal was to stop the run, so second half we got in the locker room and just knew we had to throw them out of it. So we came out slinging it," said Elliott, who added six catches for 24 yards.
One last note here. ... Poor special teams play cost the Cowboys four points in the first half.
Tony Pollard misplayed a kickoff at the goal line, was way too slow trying to recover and had to fall on the ball at the 1-yard line. Elliott slipped on the first play in the end zone for a safety. Greg Zuerlein hit the upright on his first PAT kick and had the second blocked. In the second half, Pollard cost his team a timeout when he was the missing player on the punt team.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Will Grier
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Corey Clement, Ito Smith
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson, Malik Turner, Simi Fehoko, Noah Brown, Michael Gallup
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Blake Jarwin, Sean McKeon
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
The Denver Broncos are not protecting their quarterbacks.
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold notes, after surrendering no sacks to the Tennessee Titans in the season opener, the Broncos have been swarmed under. The Broncos have given up 13 sacks in the past two games, including six in Sunday's 28-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and that ties them with the Houston Texans for second-most allowed, one behind the Cincinnati Bengals.
All three of those teams are winless, and for the Broncos it is their second consecutive 0-3 start after starting 0-4 in 2019.
In addition to the sacks, the Broncos have surrendered 29 hits on the quarterback in the past two games combined. The Buccaneers also had two sacks on first-down pass plays by the Broncos, three on second-down pass plays and one on third down.
Head coach Vic Fangio said the protection issues were "a little bit of everything." And in an effort to pick up the pace by the quarterback getting the ball out at times, Fangio replaced Jeff Driskel with Brett Rypien with 9 minutes, 56 seconds left in Sunday's game.
Rypien, who was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad this past week, had some early success as the Broncos went to a no-huddle look on his first seven passes.
But he was sacked on the eighth dropback and fumbled, though the Broncos recovered. Rypien threw an interception two plays later to end his day, on a fourth-and-1 at the Buccaneers' 13-yard line, when he tried to squeeze a throw into Jerry Jeudy in the end zone.
"We were running a little slant play over the middle and it's usually good versus man coverage, especially when you're getting pressure," Rypien said. "When you get down into the red zone obviously the safeties are going to play low and he was kind of just sitting right in the middle of the field, so I tried to look him off. Then when I came back to him, I thought I had a chance to fit it in there to Jerry and [Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards] just made a great play."
Driskel was already starting in place of the injured Drew Lock. Driskel was the eighth different starting quarterback to open a game for the Broncos since the start of the 2017 season. Fangio wouldn't commit to Driskel, Rypien or Blake Bortles, who was signed this past week, for Thursday night's game against the Jets until Tuesday.
When the decision came down, it came down if favor of Rypien, who is officially on track to start his first NFL game against the Jets.
"We just feel he deserves a chance," Fangio said.
Fangio also said that the team was considering using Driskel during the game as well, so the Broncos offense could go in a few different directions as they try for their first win of the season.
Regardless of the starter, Fangio expects the Jets and everyone else on the Broncos' schedule to follow the leads of the Steelers and Buccaneers, and send waves of rushers after the Broncos quarterbacks until the Broncos find a way to carve out a big play or two against that aggressiveness.
"[The Buccaneers] were bringing a lot of people, sometimes we weren't on the right people," Fangio said. "I think most of the time we were. We were either getting beat or we weren't getting it out quick enough. It was a combination of everything. Until we solve that problem, teams are going to continue to pressure us down after down until we can make people pay for it."
On the injury front. ... Running back Phillip Lindsay returned to practice last Friday, getting in his first work since suffering a turf toe injury in the first half of the season opener.
The team estimated Lindsay as a limited participant Monday and he was listed the same on Tuesday ahead of Thursday's game.
"He's trending in the right direction," Fangio said Monday. "He might be able to play Thursday, but we'll decide that as we go through the week. If he does play, he would be on a play count. He can't get it a bunch of times, but he can get in there sparingly if he's able to go."
Lindsay is officially listed as questionable. But it's worth noting the team promoted running back LeVante Bellamy to 53-man roster.
Bellamy is an undrafted rookie from Western Michigan, and he adds some depth behind Melvin Gordon and Royce Freeman if Lindsay can't go.
I'll have more on Lindsay as developments warrant right up through the inactive announcement Thursday night. ...
Fangio confirmed defensive tackle Jurrell Casey will miss the rest of the season with a torn biceps. The Broncos are expected to sign defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan to help cover for Casey's loss. The veteran lineman, released by the Jaguars on Monday, is scheduled to take a physical with Denver on Wednesday.
The Broncos estimated cornerback Davontae Harris (hamstring) and safety Trey Marshall (wrist) as limited participants Monday.
Fangio also said Lock might play next week versus the Patriots but there's more hope of him being back for Week 6 against the Dolphins.
QBs: Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone
WRs: Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Diontae Spencer, K.J. Hamler
TEs: Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Eric Saubert, Andrew Beck
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein notes, for the past two seasons, the Detroit Lions haven't scored in the final two minutes of regulation. In that time, the Lions have seen lead after lead fall away, more than any other team in the NFL.
They broke the trend Sunday. For only the second time under coach Matt Patricia, the Lions came from behind to win a game and in a 26-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals scored in the final two minutes of regulation for the first time since at least the beginning of last season.
Matt Prater's 39-yard field goal did it, snapping an 11-game losing streak on the leg of the guy they've relied on so often since signing him in the 2014 season. It was his 15th career winning field goal.
Detroit did this by being the antithesis of what it has been so often during Patricia's tenure. Against Arizona, in a place where the Lions watched a lead fall away to a tie in the season opener last year, Detroit led two drives ending in Prater field goals to win a game for the first time since October of last season.
It's a win the franchise sorely needed after a blowout loss at Green Bay and a collapse against Chicago the first two weeks of the season.
According to Tim Twentyman of the team's official website, the Lions came into Sunday with a plan to control tempo with their ground game and keep the ball away from quarterback Kyler Murray and the explosive Arizona offense. It was a plan they executed pretty well.
Detroit held the football for 5 minutes and 40 seconds more than the Cardinals, handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson 22 times. Peterson rolled off 75 yards and kept the clock moving.
Head coach Matt Patricia talks all the time about controlling the game. The best way to do that is by running the football, playing good defense and generating turnovers. Detroit's 90 total rushing yards don't seem like a lot, but when you combine that with how efficient quarterback Matthew Stafford was for most of the game (two touchdowns and no interceptions), it all adds up to being able to control tempo and grind the game away, which the Lions did with their four-minute offense to end the game.
"It really was important for us to try and do the best we could to control the game," Patricia said after the game. "I mean, they are so explosive on offense and their dynamic at quarterback and the skill players they have. I thought our offense did a great job of just slowing everything down and really trying to come through when they needed to."
This was definitely a game the Lions entered wanting to play a power running game. Peterson led them with 22 carries. Next was Kerryon Johnson, who had just three carries.
Is this becoming Peterson's backfield in Detroit?
Peterson signed with Detroit knowing he'd have some sort of role, and three games in it seems as if he's going to be the featured back. Peterson's yards per carry (3.4) wasn't great, but he was consistently effective and Detroit leaned on him. Plus, he passed Barry Sanders for No. 7 all time in carries.
For now, it's safe to assume Peterson is the lead back with Johnson and D'Andre Swift chipping in as needed.
Meanwhile, Stafford was a bit shaky at points Sunday, although he wasn't helped by a rough performance by his offensive line, which allowed four sacks. And his team couldn't capitalize on three Kyler Murray interceptions that gave Detroit good field position. But in the fourth quarter, Stafford showed a little bit of his old self, leading the Lions down the field in the final four minutes for the win.
He finished with 22 of 31 completions for 270 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also led fourth-quarter comeback No. 29 of his career and had his 35th game-winning drive.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson caught four passes for 53 yards to become the first tight end in Lions history to produce at least 50 receiving yards in each of the first three games of a season. Also, after not being targeted in Detroit's first two contests, fellow tight end Jesse James was targeted four times and caught three passes, including a 5-yard touchdown pass from Stafford in the second quarter. ...
Kenny Golladay caught 6-of-7 targets for 57 yards and a touchdown in his 2020 regular-season debut.
As Rotoworld.com suggested, if Golladay was limited in his first game back from a hamstring injury, it was hard to notice, as his seven targets tied for the team. Early Pro Football Focus charting had Golladay on the field for 48-of-66 plays. With the rust knocked off and setbacks avoided, Golladay will be a high-upside WR2 for this week's tough date with Marshon Lattimore and the Saints.
With the Lions' bye then on tap for Week 5, Golladay will return as a clear-cut WR1 for Week 6 against the Jaguars.
And finally. ... Prater earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after piling up 14 points as he was perfect on both his extra points and all four of his field goals, including the above-mentioned game winner It is Prater's 12th player of the week as he's collected the honors now in three decades.
QBs: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle, David Blough
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson, Godwin Igwebuike
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, KhaDarel Hodge, Trinity Benson, Tom Kennedy, Quintez Cephus
TEs: Brock Wright, Jared Pinkney, T.J. Hockenson
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
As NFL.com's Grant Gordon noted, through a 3-0 start last season, the Packers offense had scored a combined 58 points.
Green Bay is 3-0 once more, but there's a much different story at hand.
Aaron Rodgers is playing like the Rodgers of autumns past, putting up MVP-caliber numbers, and the Packers have combined for 122 points, the latest scoring parade coming by way of a 37-30 win over Drew Brees and the Saints on Sunday.
"Anytime you're playing a Drew Brees team, you know you've got to score," Rodgers told reporters Sunday evening, per the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Ryan Wood.
But this wasn't just Rodgers being the last gunslinger standing on Sunday night at the end of a shootout. Green Bay's 37 points -- which came without Davante Adams playing -- was actually the team's season low so far, after dropping 40-plus in each of the first two weeks.
Rodgers feels "really good" about where the offense is and that's because he's comfortable in the confines of Matt LaFleur's offense in their second season together.
"This offense is just so different. ... You never know really who it's gonna be," Rodgers said via NFL Network's Stacey Dales. "I feel so much more comfortable in the offense this year."
Indeed, perhaps the best part for the Packers is that it hasn't mattered who has gotten the ball. Whether it was Adams and his 14-catch game in Week 1 against the Vikings, Aaron Jones with his 236-yard romp in Week 2 against the Lions or new receiving standout Allen Lazard (six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown while Adams was sidelined because of a hamstring injury) against the Saints, the Packers have rolled.
Even the tight ends got into the action. Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis both caught touchdowns, marking the first time since Week 10 of the 2015 season that Rodgers threw multiple touchdowns to tight ends in a game. Throw in Jace Sternberger's most productive game and the Packers' tight end trio combined for nine catches, 104 yards and two scores.
After the game, Lazard was celebrating with his first game ball since the 2017 Liberty Bowl, when he starred at Iowa State. He went undrafted after that season, and the Packers signed him off the Jaguars practice squad late in 2018. He began to show signs last year (35 receptions for 477 yards and two touchdowns), but nothing like Sunday night's breakout game, which included receptions of 48 and 72 yards.
"I think we have the best deep ball thrower in the league, if not NFL history," Lazard said of Rodgers. "To be able to go out there and connect on those plays I think is huge. ... Not only builds confidence for us, it takes away their confidence, their energy if they were to have any.
"To be able to connect on those deep passes, even for me I think I'm going to be able to get more respect in my vertical game considering that I'm slow."
Perhaps, but he was quick to step up when the Packers needed him.
"We've gotten in a good flow," Rodgers said. "I feel like again Matt got into a really nice flow with the calls. We did a nice job on third down for the most part and were opportunistic with some big plays when we needed it. We got a lot of guys involved; I think we had a number of guys catch passes. We had a number of guys who we needed to play well, played well."
Green Bay finished the regular season with a 13-3 record and an NFC North title ahead of a trip to the NFC Championship Game last season, but the Packers were very much the team nobody was blown away by, a team that had everything fall in place and was chiefly propelled by its defense. At least that was a popular narrative.
Points are popular this year. And Rodgers is the offensive maestro who carved up defenses for so long once more. Through three weeks of victories, he's posted nine touchdowns, no interceptions and 887 yards. At this time last season, Rodgers had four touchdowns and 647 yards, failing to get to nine scores until Week 7.
Rodgers is comfortable. And, for good reason, there's a lot of defenses that should be uncomfortable.
That includes the Falcons (and a defense that's yet to slow anybody this season), who will travel to Green Bay to face the Packers this coming Monday night. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky noted, even when he doesn't put up massive yardage totals -- like he did last week with 236 total yards from scrimmage -- Jones manages to find the end zone. He showed off the power aspect of his game when he barreled into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line on the opening drive of the third quarter.
It was his fifth touchdown of the season and his 24th since the start of last season, most in the NFL.
The Saints ran their streak of consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher to 46 games, but Jones still made an impact with 86 total yards and a touchdown.
On the injury front. ... With the reporting on Sunday suggesting Adams' injury was minor and he was pushing to play despite a doubtful designation (the fact that he even made the trip to New Orleans suggests both of those things were true), it seems like a return this week is possible although the notion of holding him out again with a Week 5 bye looming makes sense as well.
I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, the Packers will be without linebacker Christian Kirksey for Week 4, and likely a little longer.
The shoulder injury that knocked Kirksey out of Sunday night's game will force him to miss this week against the Falcons and possibly longer, according to Demovsky. The Packers' Week 5 bye is coming at a good time for Kirksey, who is not expected to need surgery. ...
One last note, via Jeff Nowak of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Rodgers said the difference in an empty Super Dome was stark from his previous two trips there (both losses).
"It's a lot different environment than in 2008 and 2014," Rodgers said. "This place is rocking all the time. I think we all miss that in the sport, just the fan interaction, the energy of the crowd. But it definitely helps us out in an environment like this."
The Saints typically have one of the biggest home-field advantages in the NFL, but Sunday night was muted, with a crowd of around 750 friends and family of the team, along with the low hum of piped-in noise. Rodgers was also able to hard-count Saints defenders offsides, which is something that's not as likely in the normal Saints environment.
The Saints are in discussions about adding to the crowd in coming weeks, as much of the league begins to gradually bring more people in to their buildings.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Benkert, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Kylin Hill
WRs: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Amari Rodgers, Malik Taylor, Randall Cobb
TEs: Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Robert Tonyan
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
The Texans took a 21-17 lead into halftime of Sunday's game against the Steelers, but they wouldn't put any point on the board over the final 15 minutes.
That meant the 11 points the Steelers scored were enough for them to win the game and move to 3-0 on the season. The Texans are 0-3, which is a worrisome place to be when you're trying to return to the playoffs for the third straight season.
Worry is different than panic and head coach Bill O'Brien said after Sunday's loss that he doesn't think anyone with the team has pressed that button.
"I don't think so. We have a really veteran team," O'Brien said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. "I don't think anybody is panicking. 0-3 isn't where we want to be. Urgency. There's no panic. We've got to get over the hump here."
Opening with the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers didn't do the Texans any favors, but it did show that the team is clearly a cut below the expected contenders in the AFC.
They'll get a chance to start working on putting themselves in position for another shot at those kinds of teams when they face the 0-3 Vikings next week.
Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson completed 19 of 27 passes for 264 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in Pittsburgh, but the majority of his success came in the first half. The Texans were shut out in the second half for the first time in the past three seasons. Watson spread the ball around early and had five different players (running back David Johnson, receivers Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills and Randall Cobb and tight end Jordan Akins) catch a pass of at least 20 yards in the first half of a game for the first time in franchise history.
A week after not being targeted once, wide receiver Will Fuller was back to finding the end zone against the Steelers.
Watson found Fuller for a 14-yard touchdown late in the second quarter in the back left corner of the end zone for his first touchdown of the season. The touchdown pass came with 24 seconds left in the first half. According to ESPN Stats and Information, last season Watson only had two passing touchdowns with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.
Cobb was outstanding on Sunday with four catches for 95 yards. He also scored on a touchdown pass from Watson in the first quarter. Cobb worked himself open against Texans menace Mike Hilton with a great move on his route, caught Watson's pass and sprinted into the end zone, mainly, untouched.
In the past two games, Cobb has been a consistent weapon for Watson and this Texans offense. He's had nine catches for 154 yards and one touchdown in his past two games. He'll be needed in the worst way to get this season turned around, starting this week against a team Cobb knows well -- Minnesota.
Johnson had 77 yards rushing in the opener but has managed just 57 yards rushing in the past two games combined. His performance in his first season in Houston after a trade from Arizona has left the Texans with the second-fewest yards rushing in the NFL with 198.
The Texans must figure out how to fix their running woes on both sides of the ball if they hope to get their first win on Sunday when they host the Vikings. The Vikings have also had trouble stopping the run and are allowing almost 148 yards rushing a game.
But their running game has been much better than Houston's and the Texans will have their hands full trying to slow down Dalvin Cook, who ranks third in the NFL with 294 yards rushing. ...
And finally. ... Despite a report Monday that the Texans and free agent safety Earl Thomas were closing in on a deal, the two sides are going their separate ways.
The Texans won't be signing Thomas, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. The team decided Thomas is not a good fit.
Thomas did not work out for the Texans after initially planning to, Josina Anderson reports. ...
The Texans activated running back C.J. Prosise from their practice squad, placed safety A.J. Moore (hamstring) on injured reserve and signed defensive tackles Ryan Glasgow and Corey Liuget get to their practice squad.
We'll see if the early promotion for Prosise, who has been added to the active roster each of the last two Saturdays, is an indication Duke Johnson (ankle) will miss another game.
QBs: Davis Mills, Tyrod Taylor, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Rex Burkhead, David Johnson, Royce Freeman, Scottie Phillips
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins, Phillip Dorsett, Chris Conley, Chris Moore, Danny Amendola, Davion Davis, Jordan Veasy
TEs: Brevin Jordan, Jordan Akins, Pharaoh Brown, Jeff Driskel
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells notes, Philip Rivers joined elite company during Sunday's 36-7 win against the New York Jets, becoming the sixth quarterback in NFL history to throw 400 career touchdown passes and top 60,000 passing yards for a career.
"The milestones are meaningful. I'm not going to sit here and tell you they don't matter. I do care about them," said Rivers. "They are meaningful. I dreamed of playing quarterback in this league since I was a little kid."
Rivers reached the career touchdown mark on the second play of the second quarter, when he completed a 1-yard pass to tight end Mo Alie-Cox. He joined Drew Brees (550), Tom Brady (544), Peyton Manning (539), Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420) as the only quarterbacks to reach 400 TDs.
Favre and Marino are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Manning will be a first-ballot inductee in 2021, while Brees and Brady are also expected to be first-ballot picks once they retire.
Rivers threw the first 397 touchdown passes of his career during his 16 seasons with the Chargers. He has thrown at least 30 touchdown passes in six of those seasons.
He joined that same group of quarterbacks with at least 60,000 yards passing in the second half of a game the Colts never were really threatened in after the first quarter.
"There are still guys who are far, far and away on that list in yards and touchdowns," Rivers said. "Some of those guys when I grew up I was fans of, posters on the wall. Some of them I've been able to compete against. Certainly is special. Certainly thankful. There's always been a guy on the receiving ends of those passes. Always been five guys, backs and tight ends blocking like crazy to allow you to throw. All the guys have been a part of those."
Nobody knew what to expect from Rivers when the Colts signed him, at age 38, to a one-year, $25 million contract to replace Jacoby Brissett as the starter. He was coming off a 2019 season in which he committed 23 turnovers, including 20 interceptions.
But head coach Frank Reich had belief in Rivers after the two were together for three seasons with the Chargers. Reich has been on staff with Rivers for 95 of his 400 touchdown passes.
"We felt this (belief) from the start, in the offseason when (general manager) Chris (Ballard) and I were talking about bringing Philip here," Reich said. "The opportunity to bring him here, it was a very unique situation. We talked through that, and having been with the guy, I know what kind of guy he is, know the type of teammate he is, type of leader he is and he's an elite quarterback. He's so accurate, so smart, so tough and has a knack for making plays. So not surprised. He's made a lot of coaches look good with the way he plays. I'm sure glad he's a Colt. I'm just excited at how he's leading our offense, how he leads our team."
Rivers hasn't been flawless (two interceptions in a Week 1 loss at Jacksonville Jaguars), but Sunday was the type of performance the Colts expected out him. He was an efficient 17-of-21 for 217 yards and the one touchdown. Indianapolis didn't need Rivers to lead the way because the defense accounted for 16 of its 36 points.
The Colts dominated the Jets so much that Rivers had a towel draped over his right shoulder on the sideline, as Brissett took over for the final nine minutes of the game.
"Philip played unreal football (Sunday)," Reich said. "I really think he's played good football for three games besides one or two mistakes. So accurate with the football, so many good decisions. The knack to make big plays to be able to hang in the pocket."
The Colts on Sunday had 353 yards of total offense and zero turnovers.
Alie-Cox finished with three catches for 50 yards. Jack Doyle returned from the knee and ankle injuries that sidelined him the week before, but he wasn't targeted against the Jets. ... T.Y. Hilton had three receptions for 52 yards. ... Jonathan Taylor ran 13 times for 59 yards.
This week, the Colts will try to win in Chicago for the first time since 2004 Sunday. ...
On the injury front. ... The Colts are going to be without rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. for a while.
Reich confirmed that Pittman had surgery on Sunday night after being diagnosed with compartment leg syndrome. Pittman reported symptoms of the syndrome, which involves increased pressure in a muscle, after the Colts beat the Jets 36-7. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported that Pittman is expected back for Week 8, but Reich did not offer a timetable when discussing Pittman's injury on Monday.
Pittman had three catches for 26 yards against the Jets. The second-round pick has caught nine passes for 73 yards over the entire season.
Reich provided updates about a handful of players on the team’s injured reserve list on Wednesday.
Two of those updates were more positive than the third. Reich said that the team will get tight end Trey Burton and defensive end Sheldon Day back on the practice field.
Burton hurt his calf in August and Day has been dealing with a knee injury. Both players were placed on injured reserve before Week One, so they are eligible to be reactivated at any point. Teams can bring back an unlimited number of players for IR this year as long as they have spent three weeks on the list.
Wide receiver Parris Campbell is going to remain on the list a while longer, however. Campbell suffered a PCL injury in Week 2 and Reich said that he’s having surgery to repair it on Wednesday.
Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and running back Nyheim Hines were limited at practice Wednesday. I'll have more on Hine and Burton via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Sam Ehlinger
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Deon Jackson
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Ashton Dulin, Parris Campbell
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Mark Long put it, "This is what the Jacksonville Jaguars were expected to look like in 2020."
The Jaguars did little right in a 31-13 home loss to Miami last Thursday night. They dug themselves another early hole, were downright dysfunctional in all three phases -- especially on defense -- made mistakes aplenty, and were out of it long before the fourth quarter began.
They might not be tanking, but they surely have some folks once again thinking about their chances of landing the overall No. 1 draft pick next April. That was the general consensus heading into the season, and it seems renewed after Jacksonville flopped in prime time.
Quarterback Gardner Minshew was shaky in the pocket and careless with the football. Chris Conley dropped two passes that would have resulted in first downs and was flagged for offensive pass interference. Rookie cornerback CJ Henderson seemed to think he was still in college, forgetting to tag a receiver down after a catch. And Jacksonville's pass rush was so inept that 37-year-old quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looked half his age while making plays passing, running and even receiving.
The result was an embarrassing rout in front of 16,563 socially distanced fans. It was Jacksonville's third lopsided loss in its last five games at TIAA Bank Field, each of them by at least 17 points.
This one showed just how thin the team's margin for error is this season. The Jaguars played a nearly perfect opener and still had to rally to beat Indianapolis 27-20. They've made countless errors the last two weeks and ended up on what's become an all-too-familiar side of the scoreboard for the small-market franchise.
"It is always harder when you don't feel like you played well on either side of the ball, or all three sides of the ball," linebacker Joe Schobert said. "It is just something we need to look at. It is a long weekend now to just reflect on how we played and how we need to change and get better, and we have to be able to turn it into a positive going forward."
Of course, it's not all horrible.
Rookie running back James Robinson continued his impressive NFL start. The former Illinois State standout who went undrafted totaled 129 yards from scrimmage and scored for the second straight week. He ran for 46 yards and two touchdowns against the Dolphins and caught six passes for 83 yards.
He has 339 total yards and three scores in three games.
But Minshew was clearly confused by Miami's soft zone coverage. He completed just 2 of 9 passes that traveled at least 10 yards, and the only deep shot he took was completely the wrong read and into triple coverage.
He has three turnovers in his last five quarters and has been sacked 10 times in three games.
Getting receiver D.J. Chark healthy would be a huge help for Minshew before the Jags play at Cincinnati, beginning a stretch in which they play three of four on the road.
Head coach Doug Marrone told reporters last Friday the team was awaiting test results regarding the chest/back injury that kept Chark out Thursday. "Once those tests clear, what he has to do, then he's fine," Marrone said. Chark was scheduled to work on a limited basis to open the week on Wednesday.
I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update as needed in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, the Jaguars have made another change at kicker.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Jaguars are signing veteran Steven Hauschka. The Jaguars put veteran Josh Lambo on injured reserve last week, promoting rookie Brandon Wright from the practice squad to kick last Thursday. But Wright was injured during the game against the Dolphins.
Hauschka was cut by the Bills in August after they drafted a kicker, but he's a career 85.7 percent on field goals. The team is also adding former Giants place-kicker Aldrick Rosas to their practice squad.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Dare Ogunbowale, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Carlos Hyde, B.J. Emmons, James Robinson
WRs: Marvin Jones, Laquon Treadwell, Laviska Shenault, Tavon Austin, D.J. Chark, Jamal Agnew
TEs: James O'Shaughnessy, Chris Manhertz, Jacob Hollister, Luke Farrell, Dan Arnold
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
On the biggest stage of the NFL season to date, Patrick Mahomes showed why he's the highest-paid player in the league.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP finished with 385 yards passing and four touchdowns without an interception, and he added another score on the ground.
In doing so, he not only outperformed reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson, but he effortlessly led Kansas City to a 34-20 rout of the Baltimore Ravens in their Monday night showdown.
"I know who we are and what we're capable of," Ravens defensive lineman Calais Campbell said, "and he was able to go out there and do some great things against us. So you have to take your hat off to him and give him some respect."
Along with about a half-billion dollars.
That record-setting contract extension that Mahomes signed in the offseason is looking like a bargain.
Through three weeks, Mahomes has nearly 900 yards passing with nine touchdowns and no picks, and he's done it against some tough opposition. The Chiefs already have dispatched the Texans at home and Chargers and Ravens on the road.
"He's elite. He's an extremely elite quarterback," Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "Arm strength is just unbelievable, but I think it's just his command of their offense, how well that whole team executes for him, and then just his ability alone. He knows how to make the hard throws and he fits the ball in tight pockets."
When Mahomes is playing at that level, Smith said, he is downright impossible stop.
The big-picture numbers bear that out as Mahomes became the fastest player to collect 10,000 career passing yards in Monday night's game s, and he did it the hard way. Mahomes did much of his best work by beating the blitz.
Mahomes was 17-of-21 for 219 yards and three touchdowns against the blitz in Baltimore. Overall, Mahomes was 31-of-42 for 385 yards and four touchdowns.
On Wednesday, Mahomes was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
"You've got to give Patrick credit for leading the charge there," head coach Andy Reid said of Mahomes' game against the Ravens' pressure. "He stepped up big and wanted the responsibility.
"You can't possibly cover all the different things [the Ravens] do. You just have to stay disciplined in your rules and go from there."
Mahomes, in his 34th regular-season start, completed a 13-yard pass to tight end Travis Kelce in the first quarter that put him over the 10,000-yard mark. Kurt Warner had the old record at 36 games.
Mahomes in his first season as a starter in 2018 became only the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in one season.
"The sky's the limit for this kid," wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. "He's a special, rare breed of talent."
He demonstrated that with his four touchdown, which came in very different ways.
A strike to a well-covered Tyreek Hill and a perfectly thrown ball to Mecole Hardman for a 49-yard score are the kind of thing we're accustomed to seeing from Mahomes. An underhand flip to fullback Anthony Sherman after drawing defenders to Mahomes and a pass to left tackle Eric Fisher were a bit more unusual.
Both players were well-designed and well-executed by players that Watkins was happy to see get a moment in the spotlight.
"Guys that don't get recognized a lot," Watkins said, via Nate Taylor of TheAthletic.com. "Guys that behind the scenes do well and do their job to the best of their ability. They definitely got rewarded tonight and that's something special. If we just continue to do that, and just have fun and enjoy this, it's going to be a great season."
If the Chiefs keep going at their current rate, Sherman and Fisher should have plenty of company when it comes to celebrating touchdowns when all is said and done. ...
After back-to-back road games, the Chiefs (3-0) return to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday to face Cam Newton and the new-look Patriots. New England (2-1) bounced back from a loss to Seattle by beating the Raiders last weekend. ...
Worth noting. ... Clyde Edwards-Helaire continues to show why the Chiefs used a first-round pick on him. The running back out of LSU had 20 carries for 64 yards against a tough Baltimore front, rarely going down on first contact, and he added five catches for 70 yards in the passing game. It was enough to keep the Ravens honest and give Mahomes some openings downfield.
The special teams were hardly special. Harrison Butker missed an extra point and field goal one week after hitting three kicks of 50-plus yards, including a Chiefs record-tying 58-yarder to give them an overtime win in Los Angeles. The Chiefs also gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown when the game was still hanging in the balance.
And finally. ... As her son was methodically taking apart the Ravens, Randi Mahomes found one thing quibble with.
One of the ESPN announcers kept referring to the Chiefs quarterback by the shorthand "Pat," and she got tired of hearing it.
"If this announcer doesn't stop calling my son Pat.. ugh i may scream… lol #help" she wrote on Twitter.
Word got around, as ESPN analyst Louis Riddick made his mea culpa later in the broadcast.
"Guilty, guilty, guilty," Riddick said, laughing. "I apologize, Patrick."
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Derrick Gore, Jerick McKinnon
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, Marcus Kemp, Josh Gordon
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
The Las Vegas Raiders, it turns out, were their own worst enemies in New England on Sunday.
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez notes, even if there was a blown fumble call that went against them (long live the Tuck Rule -- or not). Rather, the Raiders stumbled all over themselves in a 36-20 loss to the Patriots after absolutely dominating early.
Self-inflicted wounds in the guise of penalties, turnovers by Derek Carr (twice) and Josh Jacobs, a missed field goal and the inability to take advantage of momentum early in each half spelled the Raiders' doom as they fell to 2-1.
Meanwhile, it's often (and correctly) said that Hunter Renfrow isn't the "flashiest" player on the Raiders, but against the Patriots that couldn't have been more false.
On a day where the Raiders' offense looked sluggish at times, Renfrow set the tone for the unit by hauling in six receptions, resulting in a game-high 84 receiving yards. It's no secret that Carr's go-to receiver on third down is No. 13, hence the nickname, "Third-and-Renfrow," but he was more than just a third-down target for Carr this afternoon.
Despite not having Henry Ruggs III in the mix to keep the defense honest and losing fellow rookie Bryan Edwards early in the game, Renfrow went toe-to-toe with the Patriots' veteran secondary and operated efficiently. He was targeted nine times and made the most of his receptions, averaging 14 yards per catch.
The former Clemson Tiger was always praised for his route running and hands coming out of college, but never for his athleticism. On multiple occasions Sunday, Renfrow made a highlight-reel play, proving that he leap and cut with the best of them. With 15 seconds left in the first half, Carr threw a perfectly placed ball, but it required Renfrow to jump with a defender draped on him to make a difficult contested catch.
"We didn't have too much time, but we hit some big plays to set us up," Renfrow recalled. "That was a play we've been working on all year and it so happened that I became open Derek did a good job of progressing and hit me down the sideline."
The 24-year-old made the incredible 27-yard catch and it was initially ruled a touchdown, but after further review, his elbow hit the ground six inches short of the plane.
"I knew I wasn't in," Renfrow said, "I told [Nelson Agholor] that I was short, but it was good to get Foster [Moreau] the touchdown. I think it was 13-10 at that point? So, it was a one-possession game going into that half and we had some momentum, but we have to do a better job of executing."
Following his acrobatic catch in the first half, Renfrow later caught a pass on a hook route, and put a filthy juke on his defender, evading the tackle and waltzed 10 yards into the end zone. It was yet another instance proving that he's undervalued as an athletic talent, but the former National Champion isn't concerned about his individual acknowledgments. After the game, Renfrow addressed the team's need to execute better in the future.
"I think, obviously the Patriots are a really good team for a reason. I think they do a really good job of taking people away, but at the same time, we have to execute better. When we don't play well and they do a good job then you get an outcome like today."
This week, the Raiders will need to execute at a high level if the team hopes to defeat the red-hot Buffalo Bills. Regardless of what the final box score was, Renfrow is establishing himself as one of the most underrated receivers in the NFL and he's a valuable member of the offense.
And while, it wasn’t the result the Las Vegas Raiders hoped for, but there were some positives against the Patriots.
Before they return home to face the red-hot Bills, it's worth noting Carr's completion percentage on Sunday was 75 percent as he operated efficiently from the pocket. Carr completed 24 of 32 passes for 261 yards and two touchdown passes, but the Raiders signal-caller had the football jarred from his hands for a pair of fumbles.
Regardless of the turnovers, Carr continued his three-game streak of zero interceptions and continued to put the team in positions to succeed.
Then again, a week after catching 12 passes, on 16 targets, tight end Darren Waller was all but a forgotten man in the Raiders' offense in New England. In fact, he was not targeted until the third quarter and the first two times Carr threw the ball to him each nearly ended in an interception.
Not only did the Patriots make a concerted effort to take Waller out of the game, but he was also dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Waller finished with two catches, on four targets for 9 yards. The second attempt to Waller came in the end zone with the Raiders within 23-10, at the New England 11-yard line and with less than 12 minutes to play.
Jacobs, meanwhile, rushed for 71 yards on 16 carries but also was dealing with a hip injury and looked shaken up in the second half.
I'll have more on Waller, Jacobs, Ruggs and Edwards in coming days, but head coach Jon Gruden told reporters on Monday the team is worried about Ruggs (hamstring) and Edwards (ankle). "We are concerned about both those guys, but I'll remain confident until otherwise notified," Gruden said, via Vic Tafur of TheAthletic.com.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport chimed in Wednesday morning by reporting Edwards will miss this week's game and he’s considered week-to-week after that. Ruggs is considered a long-shot to play against the Bills, per Rapoport.
The two rookies have only combined to catch nine passes at this point, but the Raiders would be better served by having all hands on deck as they try to become the first team to beat the Bills in 2020.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
In bad news for the defense: First-round CB Damon Arnette was visiting a thumb specialist Tuesday after falling awkwardly on it Sunday. The thumb re-injury could sideline him for six weeks and put him on injured reserve. ...
And finally. ... The Raiders had a combined six penalties through their first two games. They had six penalties in New England.
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Peyton Barber, Jalen Richard, Kenyan Drake
WRs: Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, DeSean Jackson, Bryan Edwards, Dillon Stoner
TEs: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Daniel Helm, Nick Bowers, Derek Carrier, Matt Bushman
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy framed it, "If it feels as if Anthony Lynn and the Los Angeles Chargers are having an awful case of déjà vu, you can't blame them. ..."
The Bolts are 1-2 for the third straight season after Sunday's 21-16 loss to the Panthers. Once again it boiled down to a simple theme -- too many turnovers and not enough takeaways.
Los Angeles had two fumbles and an interception that Carolina converted into 12 points. Opponents have scored 20 points off four giveaways this season while the defense has been able to generate only two turnovers, which both occurred in the opener against Cincinnati.
Last year the Chargers were last in the league with 14 takeaways and tied for the league's worst turnover ratio at minus-17.
"It's our job to go out there and create that, and we're not getting it done right now, so we do need to work more on that," safety Rayshawn Jenkins said.
"We have a good scheme, but they're getting the ball out quick. It's how we're being game-planned sometimes, but we've got to make other plays, to get strips or something, because we can't just bank on interceptions every game."
Los Angeles has four interceptions in its past eight games, but only one has been by a defensive back.
Lynn selected Tyrod Taylor as his starting quarterback because he took care of the ball, but with Taylor sidelined for at least the next couple of games because of chest and rib injuries, rookie Justin Herbert has been thrown into the role.
Even though Herbert is only the third QB since the merger to throw for 300 yards in his first two games, he has been responsible for three of the past four turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble). Add in Joshua Kelley's fumble from Sunday and all four giveaways were committed by rookies.
The Chargers have proven they can dig out of 1-2 starts. Two years ago they won six straight and 10 of 11 after a Week 3 loss to the Rams to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013. But if they can't find a way to generate takeaways and eliminate costly mistakes, it could resemble last year's 5-11 season where all but two of the losses were by eight points or fewer.
"I feel like we're hurting ourselves whether it be penalties, turnovers, dropping balls, you know, things that it doesn't really take skill to prevent," running back Austin Ekeler said. "We got to make sure we stay more consistent. I feel like I've been saying the same thing for the past few years"
Looking ahead, it doesn't get any easier for the Chargers, who hit the road the next two weeks to face NFC South opponents. The first stop is against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Brady is 9-2 in his career against the Chargers (including the postseason) and has won his past eight against them.
Other notes of interest. ... Sunday was the sixth time since 2017 where Keenan Allen has had at least 10 catches, 100 yards and a touchdown. Only New Orleans' Michael Thomas has more with 10. Allen was targeted 19 times and had 13 catches for 132 yards and a TD. It is the third straight season Allen has had at least 14 catches in a game.
Sunday was also the 24th 100-yard performance of the wide receiver's career. This tied Kellen Winslow for second in team history. Hall of Fame wideout Lance Alworth holds the top spot for Chargers career 100-yard performances with 41.
Ekeler had 11 receptions for 84 yards on Sunday and in the process, surpassed former running back Arian Foster for the most receptions by an undrafted running back through the first four seasons of his career. Ekeler notched 174 receptions to Foster's 167.
The Chargers have spent two seasons practicing the hook-and-ladder play waiting for the perfect time to use it. That came during the last play of Sunday's game when Allen caught Herbert's pass at the Panthers 15. Ekeler would have had a clear path to the end zone and the go-ahead touchdown to complete a 99-yard drive, but the lateral from Allen was too high and went off Ekeler's hands.
Herbert's 330 passing yards on the day made him the third quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300-plus yards in each of his first two career games. Herbert has 641 yards in two games and ranks behind quarterbacks Kyler Murray (657) and Cam Newton (854.)
Including Taylor, the Chargers began their game Sunday against Carolina without seven players who were projected starters entering training camp.
They lost an eighth when cornerback Chris Harris Jr. suffered a foot injury midway through the third quarter and did not return.
The Chargers placed Harris on injured reserve Tuesday and promoted DB Jahleel Addae to the active roster.
The Chargers also lost two other starters in the game, wide receiver Mike Williams leaving with a hamstring injury and right tackle Bryan Bulaga with a back problem.
Also, as noted above, Taylor is expected to miss at least one more week, although Lynn said on Monday he's not in a position to rule out the veteran QB out for this week against the Buccaneers.
In case you missed it, the veteran signal caller suffered cracked ribs in Los Angeles' regular-season opener and then had a lung accidentally punctured by an injection before last week's game when a team doctor tried to numb up the initial injury. Doctors told Taylor this past week that he is forbidden from doing any strenuous activity for two weeks.
That two-week window of inactivity for Taylor could be enough to give an opening to Herbert to seize the starting job.
Lynn said this past week that Taylor's injury is not considered career-threatening and also emphasized that neither he nor Taylor are angry at the team doctor. Lynn said the Chargers do not plan on placing Taylor on injured reserve, where he would be required to miss a minimum of three games.
I'll have more on Taylor and Williams' progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree III
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, K.J. Hill, Josh Reed, Maurice Ffrench
TEs: Jared Cook, Stephen Anderson, Tre' McKitty, Donald Parham
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
The Los Angeles Rams overcame a devastatingly slow start to erase a 25-point deficit against the Buffalo Bills, but couldn't close out a come-from-behind effort in a 35-32 loss Sunday.
The Rams and Bills both entered Sunday among 10 unbeaten teams, as the Rams fell to 2-1 and the Bills improved to 3-0.
Through two and a half quarters, the Rams appeared outmatched by Bills quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills' defense, falling behind 28-3. But midway through the third quarter, Jared Goff scored on a 1-yard keeper and safety John Johnson III intercepted an Allen pass on the ensuing Buffalo drive, which was converted into a 25-yard touchdown reception by Robert Woods.
The Rams also scored on the following two possessions on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Goff to Cooper Kupp and a 1-yard Darrell Henderson Jr. run, and Aaron Donald had two sacks in a three-play span in the fourth quarter.
The Rams appeared to close out the comeback when a fourth-down pass from Allen fell incomplete, but Rams cornerback Darious Williams was called for pass interference at the Rams' 3-yard line. The Bills went ahead on the next play with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Allen to tight end Tyler Kroft.
But from a fantasy perspective, it went reasonably well.
The Rams topped 400 yards in offense for the third straight game, and Goff finished 23 of 32 for a season-high 321 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. In his fourth season, former No. 1 overall pick also became the fifth player in team history to top 15,000 yards passing.
Kupp had nine catches for 107 yards and a score, while Henderson had 114 yards rushing starting in place of Cam Akers, who was sidelined by a rib injury.
Woods knew the explosive Rams were capable of coming back.
"Looking at the clock, we knew we were down, but we had plenty of time," said Woods, who also scored. "We know we're a great team. We've just got to play like that for all four quarters and not just turn it on at the end of the game."
Head coach Sean McVay blamed himself, noting he put kicker Samuel Sloman in a difficult position by opting to try a 53-yard kick on LA's opening drive. Sloman missed, and the Bills capitalized on the resulting field position to go ahead 7-0.
"That was a terrible decision by me. You can't do that to Sam," McVay said. "I saw a resilient group. They just kept battling and kept swinging."
Meanwhile, Henderson provided the Rams offense with another explosive and efficient performance: 20 carries for 114 yards and one rushing touchdown, also adding a six-yard reception. It marked his first 100-yard rushing performance of his NFL career.
Henderson has been the Rams' leading rusher in back-to-back games, also surpassing 100 yards from scrimmage in both. His personal milestone on Sunday is arguably more impressive considering how adept the Bills had been at stopping the run.
Buffalo entered Sunday's game with the No. 3 run defense in the NFL, holding opponents to 75.5 rushing yards per game and without a 100-yard rusher through the first two weeks of the season.
Moreover, five of Henderson's 20 rushing attempts went for at least 12 yards -- two for that distance and three for 14. Comparatively, the Bills' run defense had previously surrendered just three double-digit runs to one running back -- the Dolphins' Myles Gaskin in Week 2 -- and four collectively to opposing running backs. Gaskins' teammate, Matt Breida, accounted for the fourth in Week 2.
"Our O-line played really well and gave (Henderson) some big holes," Goff said postgame. "And he's a good runner. He's a really good runner. Runs downhill, he's obviously super-fast, sees it well. He really fits what we do up front and has done a great job these last two weeks. Excited about his progression."
Heading into Week 4, Henderson has -- statistically -- emerged as the Rams' leading rusher with 201 rushing yards on 35 attempts, averaging nearly six yards per carry. Of those 201 rushing yards, 195 have come in the last two weeks.
"He made a lot of plays, he's going to continue to make a lot of plays," McVay said. "Very, very pleased with Darrell over the last couple weeks."
Of course, all of that production means nothing to Henderson if the team doesn't achieve its desired result. He would've preferred a historic comeback victory by the Rams over a personal milestone and a loss.
"I'm not really big on stats, so I was just going out there doing what I was supposed to be doing," Henderson said. "After the game, I found out I had over 100, but I was still upset about the game. I wanted the win."
Fortunately for Henderson, this Sunday's home game against the Giants will give him a chance to build on the last two weeks and the Rams the opportunity to get back on track.
It remains to be seen if Akers is ready to return or Malcolm Brown, who saw little action coming off a procedure early last week to repair a broken pinky finger, can cut into Henderson's workload. But asked on Monday if Henderson would be the starter this Sunday, McVay told reporters: "I think so. ... He's a slash type runner, but he's physical. I think the more that he plays and the more he's available, the better he's going to get."
I'll have more on this via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Also. ... The Rams had three kickers in training camp, including Canadian Football League kicker Lirim Hajrullahu and former XFL kicker Austin MacGinnis, but opted to keep Sloman, a seventh-round pick from Miami (Ohio). Sloman is 4-of-6 this season on field goal attempts and 9-of-10 kicking extra points.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins
RBs: Sony Michel, Cam Akers, Jake Funk, Darrell Henderson, Javian Hawkins
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham, Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell, Robert Woods, Landen Akers
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Kendall Blanton, Brycen Hopkins, Johnny Mundt, Jacob Harris
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Steven Wine noted, Ryan Fitzpatrick emerged early Friday from the Miami Dolphins' first victorious locker room of the year wearing a tropical print shirt adorned with purple pineapples as a complement to his beachcomber beard.
It was a Dad shirt, which is OK because the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick has seven kids.
"Being the elder statesman on the team, I've adopted more of the senior citizen look in terms of some of the touristy shirts, and my waistband is sitting a little higher than it used to," Fitzpatrick said. "But I do like the color; I like the flair."
Fitzpatrick doesn't look like the prototypical NFL quarterback, and that's true even after the ball is snapped. His style resembled a sand lotter last Thursday night, when he led the Dolphins to a 31-13 victory at Jacksonville.
Fitzpatrick ran for 38 yards and a score, lowering his shoulder into tacklers more than once. He was a lead blocker on one of Miami's best running plays, and even had a reception when his pass was batted in the air. That was one of his 18 completions in 20 attempts for 160 yards and two scores.
"Running and trying to throw a block here and there and getting hit, that stuff helps me get into the game a little bit," he said.
Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins emphatically bounced back from a rocky start to the season, winning by more than one score for the first time since 2017.
"I'm excited for the players and coaches to see the fruits of their labor," head coach Brian Flores said Friday. "That's why we put all the time in -- to win ballgames. Now the goal is to try to string them together."
The 0-2 start amplified calls for rookie Tua Tagovailoa to take over at quarterback, but Fitzpatrick tamped down the talk for another week, at least.
He led an offense that had 17 first downs in its first 32 plays. The Dolphins scored touchdowns on their first three drives for the first time since 2011.
Fitzpatrick again clicked with Mike Gesicki, who made his seventh touchdown catch since Week 12 of the 2019 season, which is tied for the most in the NFL during that span. Preston Williams also had a TD catch after dropping a fourth-down pass in the end zone a week earlier.
Meanwhile, Miami's three running backs combined for 71 yards rushing in 28 carries, an average of 2.5. Through three games, veteran newcomers Matt Breida and Jordan Howard have combined for 75 yards in 31 attempts, a 2.4 average.
Myles Gaskin, a seventh-round draft pick last year, has become Miami's busiest and best ball carrier, with 243 yards rushing and receiving this season.
Gaskin played 75 percent of snaps against Jacksonville; Howard, who salvaged his day with a one-yard touchdown, was on the field for 7 percent of the snaps and Breida go 18 percent. ...
Tagovailoa did nothing wrong, but the chances of him seeing action soon fell significantly. Given that Miami had 10 days to prepare for the next game, an 0-3 start would have fueled intense speculation about a change at quarterback. That said, this will be the first time the Seahawks play in Miami for the first since 2012. Russell Wilson was then a rookie, and the Dolphins overcame his two touchdown passes to win.
It's going to be tough.
"Obviously one of the best players in the league," Flores said of Wilson. ...
On the injury front. ... The Dolphins won without cornerback Byron Jones, sidelined because of a groin injury. Miami's other cornerback, Xavien Howard, grabbed the back of right leg after making a late-game interception. He has had surgery on both knees. "Just a little cramp," he said. "I feel great. ..."
On the injury front. ... Flores said on Wednesday that Tagovailoa will miss practice today with an illness that is not COVID-related. ...
And finally. ... Fitzpatrick on Thursday night became the first NFL player since at least 1950 to record at least one victory for six different teams against a single opponent, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was an accomplishment only Fitzpatrick could achieve. The well-traveled quarterback has now defeated the Jaguars as a member of the Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans and New York Jets.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Jacoby Brissett, Reid Sinnett
RBs: Duke Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Malcolm Brown
WRs: Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, Mack Hollins, Isaiah Ford, Will Fuller
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen, Hunter Long
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
Tuesday morning brought word that the Titans and Vikings suspended in-person activities at their facilities after eight members of the Titans organization tested positive for Covid-19.
The NFL has postponed the Titans-Steelers game originally scheduled for Sunday because of the positive COVID-19 tests that forced the Titans to shut down their facility on Tuesday, but it appears that all systems are go for the Vikings and Texans.
Minnesota also closed its facility on Tuesday because they played Tennessee last weekend, but no Vikings players or personnel tested positive before or after the positive results from Titans testing came in.
That left Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman to say on Wednesday, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, that the team is optimistic that they will be able to reopen the facility on Thursday. Vikings head trainer Eric Sugarman said that any reopening will include enhanced protocols and screening of those entering the building.
If a Thursday reopening is the case, they will have lost one practice day but Spielman said that head coach Mike Zimmer’s message to the team has been that they have “no excuses” for playing less than their best against the Texans.
I'll obviously be following this situation closely; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin noted, the Minnesota Vikings finally found some offensive firepower three weeks into the season, but a day that featured a breakout performance by rookie receiver Justin Jefferson (7 catches, 175 yards) and a career-high day for running back Dalvin Cook was spoiled by a 55-yard field goal, resulting in a 31-30 loss to the Titans.
According to Elias, the Vikings are the first team in NFL history to have one player record 175 rushing yards and another record 175 receiving yards in the same game.
The Vikings are off to their first 0-3 start since the 2013 season and have back-to-back road games coming up in Houston and Seattle.
And the 2020 season is going to be a long one for the Vikings' defense, which allowed 444 yards, including 119 yards rushing to Derrick Henry. That ties the sixth-most yards put up on a defense coached by Mike Zimmer.
The one positive Minnesota can take away from this loss is how strong the offense performed for most of the game.
Kirk Cousins struggled to connect with any of his playmakers outside of Adam Thielen in Weeks 1 and 2. While the Pro Bowl receiver helped the Vikings build up a first-half lead off a 16-yard touchdown, Cousins' connection with Jefferson set up that score (a 31-yard reception while lined up outside) and seemingly broke the game open.
Jefferson's first NFL touchdown went for 71 yards in the third quarter, but he wasn't alone. Minnesota leaned heavily on Cook, who rushed for a career-high 181 yards and the team's first touchdown.
After inking Cook to a contract extension just before the season opener, the Vikings seemed unable to get the star the football in the first two weeks as often as one would expect.
Minnesota fell behind in Weeks 1 and 2, and Cook combined for just 26 carries in those losses.
The Vikings led the Titans for parts of every quarter and all of the second, and they kept Cook involved throughout the day. He rushed 22 times averaging 8.2 yards per carry, a workload that was highlighted by a 39-yard touchdown, the second-longest score of his career.
Cook added another 39-yard run on a toss play that was creative with its formation and misdirection.
Analytics site Pro Football Focus noted that Cook led the NFL with seven runs that gained 10 or more yards in Week 3. According to Next Gen Stats, Cook topped out at 20.70 mph on his touchdown scamper and reached 20.52 mph on a 15-yard reception (fifth- and eighth-fastest speeds by a ball carrier in Week 3, which does not include Monday's game).
Jefferson covered 87.4 yards on his 71-yard touchdown catch that involved a deep crossing route and reversal back to the middle of the field. It was the third-longest play of Week 3, and he reached 20.13 miles per hour for the 12th-fastest speed by a ball carrier.
Next Gen Stats calculated that Jefferson gained 40 yards after the catch, which was 16 greater than the 24 that were expected on his first career score. That ranked eighth in YAC above expected in Week 3. He also ranked fifth in the category with 21 YAC above expected (gained 24 when only 3 were expected) during a 33-yard reception in the second quarter.
"Just to see the opportunities that we left on the field and the big plays that we made on the field. It's a bright future," Jefferson said. "We just need to figure it out. Just some things that we're doing that are not right and we're making critical errors in the game, especially late in the game. We just need to fix it. We're 0-3. We need to start winning some games and get back on track."
Worth noting, however, Cook lost a fumble in the first quarter, and Cousins was intercepted in the third quarter. Cousins has already matched his 2019 interception total with six.
"Those guys are all veteran guys, and I want them to take charge in those moments when we have the opportunity to go down and win the football game," head coach Mike Zimmer said. "Instead, it was chaos. We're going to have to get that squared away."
Said Cousins, who went 16 for 27 for 251 yards and three touchdowns: "You'd have to ask coach specifically what he meant, but we'll have to work on what didn't go well there."
Jefferson, the 22nd overall pick in the draft, ought to at least give the Vikings a spark to build off.
"He had a great game today. Really proud of the way he played," said Cousins, who threw only one pass to Jefferson that wasn't a completed, a well-placed throw into the end zone in the second quarter that cornerback Malcolm Butler broke up at the last second.
Chosen with the selection acquired in the trade that sent Stefon Diggs to Buffalo, Jefferson came with especially high expectations that he has not hidden from. Cousins and the Vikings will need him to continue producing like this, to take the attention away from Thielen in a season that's already on the brink.
"It boosted my confidence a lot, coming out here and having a game like that on a high level," Jefferson said. "More to come. ..."
And finally. ... The Vikings' go-ahead score in the fourth quarter came when Cousins found tight end Kyle Rudolph in the back of the end zone. Uncovered, Rudolph made a leaping one-handed catch with his left arm, his third one-handed receiving touchdown since the start of last season. No other player has more than one in that same time frame, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Kellen Mond
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Dede Westbrook, Adam Thielen
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Chris Herndon, Brandon Dillon, Ben Ellefson, Irv Smith Jr.
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
Cam Newton's New England Patriots are back above .500 after Sunday's win over Las Vegas, but the quarterback isn't all that happy with his own performance.
Newton completed 17 of 28 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown, but also threw an interception. He also ran for just 27 yards on nine attempts.
When asked during an appearance on WEEI what grade he'd give himself for Sunday's outing, he was realistic: 75 percent, or a C.
"Yesterday was kind of frustrating in itself. ... There will be games like that, and when there is games like that, you've just got to find ways to win," Newton said.
"Me, personally? With lackluster ball security, just a slow start offensively, this is subpar performance. I know I can play better, I know I can do better and I know I will be better."
After a 397-yard outing in a Week 2 thriller against Seattle, Newton wasn't the same flashy passer for the Patriots on Sunday, but he didn't really need to be. Still, Newton's decision-making was shaky at times and there might have been some negative trickle-down effect of not having starting center David Andrews, which CBS analyst Tony Romo noted might have limited how often the Patriots went to the shotgun snap.
Newton finished 17-of-28 for 162 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, while adding nine rushes for 27 yards (includes kneel-downs).
Newton took 8.07 seconds to throw on the first-quarter play in which he was intercepted by Johnathan Abram. Newton hadn't taken at least 8 seconds to throw a pass since Week 13 of the 2016 season against the Seahawks. Entering Sunday, he was 1-of-6 for 2 yards and an interception when he took at least 8 seconds to throw.
Other than his interception -- which he explained was a case of him losing a defender while scrambling and looking to make a play -- the offense didn't need to rely heavily on Newton's abilities.
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss put it, "a running game revival" led the New England Patriots past the Las Vegas Raiders, 36-20, on Sunday.
Sony Michel (9 carries, 117 yards) ran with a renewed energy in making a decisive statement to keep his job as the team's No. 1 back, as Damien Harris is eligible to return from injured reserve this week.
And eight-year veteran Rex Burkhead (49 yards rushing, 49 yards receiving) registered his first career three-touchdown game.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had made it clear the Patriots needed to run the ball better than they did in their Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, when other than Newton, the team had 14 carries for 20 yards.
The Patriots sure did by eclipsing 200 yards rushing in a game for the second time this season, marking the first time they've had 200 rushing yards within the first three games of a season since 1983. In all, the Patriots rushed 38 times for 250 yards (6.6 average) on Sunday.
Michel's explosiveness was a flashback to what he did at Georgia, leading the Patriots to select him late in the first round of the 2018 draft (31st overall). He had two rushes of 35 yards or more on Sunday. He didn't have any runs that long in his pro career entering Sunday.
"Playing in this league, you're not going to just steamroll every team," Newton explained. "At one point I did look up at the total stat line of the total offense -- we did surpass 400 yards, so let's not be naive about the fact that when we did get it rolling, we got it rolling."
That type of performance won't get it done this week when the Patriots travel to Kansas City to face the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs. Newton, head coach Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots are certainly aware of this reality. They get a week to prepare to be better, with the boost of knowing they were able to get a win on a less-than-stellar day.
QBs: Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Brandon Bolden, J.J. Taylor, James White
WRs: Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kristian Wilkerson, N'Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Devin Asiasi
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
The New Orleans Saints packed a lot of good inside the first half on Sunday night against Green Bay in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, enough to take a 17-13 lead at halftime.
"We forced field goals, we took advantage of some red zone opportunities and then of course, the two-minute at the end of the half was significant," head coach Sean Payton said Monday.
New Orleans, in fact, produced a third-down stop in the red zone to force a short field goal (33 yarder), scored touchdowns twice from the red zone (11- and 10-yard touchdown passes to Alvin Kamara and Emmanuel Sanders) and worked the two-minute drill to near perfection. The Saints' final touchdown drive of the half was an 11-play, 61-yard march that lasted 2:34 of the 2:40 that was remaining on the clock in the first half.
"But then the second half, we weren't as consistent," Payton said.
On offense or defense.
The Saints were outscored 24-13 in the final two quarters. The Packers scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half, turned over the ball on downs, then added a field goal and a touchdown on their next two possessions of a 37-30 victory while the Saints went field goal, touchdown, fumble, punt and field goal.
"The importance of the film review today, and the critique not only just in the players but also us as coaches in improving, I think is going to be critical and vital to our success as we move forward," Payton said on Monday.
Offensively, New Orleans posted overall numbers more closely aligned with the expectations of the team. The Saints were three yards short of 400 in total offense, converted five of 11 third-down attempts, ran for 6.2 yards per carry and quarterback Drew Brees completed 81 percent of his passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns.
"There's some encouraging things," Payton said. "There's still some details that we need to work out, but I think Kamara was outstanding in space. There's still some things though, some small things, that we've got to continue to work out to be as efficient as we hope to be."
But defensively, several lapses led to touchdowns spoiling a remarkable night for Kamara, who had 197 yards from scrimmage and two TD catches, including a dazzling 52-yarder in the third quarter.
Kamara has two TDs in each game this season -- already matching his total from last year's injury-plagued season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the second player in NFL history with three rushing TDs and three receiving TDs in his team's first three games, along with Roger Craig in 1985.
Kamara set a career high with 139 receiving yards on 13 catches. He has 285 receiving yards on the season, fourth most by a running back through three games in the Super Bowl era.
The Saints could really use receiver Michael Thomas in Detroit this week, though their defense might be the more pressing concern. This is their first two-game losing streak since they started 0-2 in 2017.
Meanwhile, Brees relied on short and intermediate throws (his average air yards per attempt dropped from a league-low 4.81 to 4.61, per ESPN Stats and Information). But he seemed a lot more efficient in Week 3, especially during a two-minute drill before halftime, when he went 8-of-10 for 63 yards and a TD. He finished 29-of-36 passing without a turnover.
Brees and Sanders started to form a bit of a connection, starting with Sanders' second TD catch of the season just before halftime. Sanders finished the game with four catches for 56 yards after catching a total of four passes for 33 yards the first two weeks.
As for Thomas, I'll be following up on his efforts to return from the high-ankle sprain he suffered in Week 1. But he was on the practice field on Wednesday to start this week and I'll remind you the star wideout was "moving really well" during last Friday's workout.
Thomas' availability ultimately will hinge on whether he is cleared by doctors, but the record-setting receiver "looked good" over weekend. Stay tuned.
QBs: Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, Ian Book, Jameis Winston
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Tony Jones Jr., Dwayne Washington
WRs: Marquez Callaway, Tre'quan Smith, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Ty Montgomery, Michael Thomas, Deonte Harris
TEs: Adam Trautman, Nick Vannett, Juwan Johnson, Garrett Griffin
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan put it: "Another disappointment. There really is no other way to say it for quarterback Daniel Jones and these New York Giants. ..."
They are now 0-3 in Joe Judge's first season as head coach after a 36-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at MetLife Stadium. Jones has six turnovers in 12 quarters already, with two more coming Sunday. He was charged with a fumble on a poor pitch to tight end Evan Engram in the second quarter and threw a costly interception late in the first half.
At some point, this has to stop. No team can overcome two turnovers from their quarterback on a weekly basis. Jones is on pace for an inexcusable 32 turnovers this season, after spending his offseason trying to reduce the miscues.
It's even more troubling considering this an extension of his rookie season. Jones now has 10 career games with multiple turnovers, most in the NFL since the start of last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He has multiple turnovers in 10 of his 16 career games.
With the fumble in the first quarter, Jones now has 20 fumbles in his first 16 career games. The only player with more through their first 16 career games in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) is Tony Banks. He had 24.
It prompted Raanan to write, "It does make you wonder if Jones really is the long-term answer for the Giants at quarterback."
It's a question this team will face unless Jones at some point cuts out the turnovers.
Surely the Giants' struggles and Sunday's loss is not all on Jones. The Giants allowed 36 points, no punts and no turnovers to a 49ers offense starting backup quarterback Nick Mullens, without its two top pass-catchers (George Kittle and Deebo Samuel) and minus its first two options at running back (Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman).
That's only possible by committing costly third-and-long penalties and missing key tackles like the Giants did in this latest debacle.
But it's hard to overlook the fact that New York hasn't beaten a team better than .500 since defeating the Bears in overtime during Week 13 of the 2018 season, the last game that Odell Beckham Jr. ever played for the team. The 49ers weren't over .500 coming into this game, but they are a quality team having reached the Super Bowl last season. Still, the Giants were outclassed on Sunday. This continues a disturbing trend against quality competition.
The Giants couldn't beat Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears and a 49ers team starting a backup quarterback over the past two weeks. So where does their first win actually come?
They play this week in Los Angeles against the Rams and the following week on the road against the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants will be significant underdogs in both contests. Maybe the following week when they host the Washington Football Team?
We shall see. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Giants two longest runs of the season are by their quarterback. Jones had zone-read rushes for 19 and 23 yards on Sunday. They had zero zone-read plays in the first two weeks, per ESPN Stats and Information.
The Giants came into Sunday last in the NFL averaging 52.0 yards rushing per game.
So where is the running game?
Sure, there is no Saquon Barkley. He's out for the season with a knee injury. But this was a 49ers defense that lost half its front four last week, including star defensive end Nick Bosa. The Giants should've been able to do something with the combination of Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis and Devonta Freeman. That wasn't the case. They combined for 17 yards on 10 carries.
This is not what you expected from the Giants running attack through three weeks with Jason Garrett as the offensive coordinator. He hasn't been able to draw up anything with this offensive line to create holes for the running backs, whether it be Barkley, Lewis, Freeman or Gallman.
The way the playing time shook out in Sunday's loss to the 49ers, it was basically a three-man committee. Lewis took the most snaps with 19, followed by Gallman (17) and Freeman (14). ...
Wide receiver Damion Ratley caught his first pass with the Giants, a 29-yarder that for the Giants' longest gain of the day. Beyond that, Darius Slayton was sufficiently targeted (seven passes went his way), but he only caught three for 53. Golden Tate caught 3-of-7 targets for 36 while Evan Engram caught 3-of-5 targets for 22 yards.
All involved need a little more from Jones.
QBs: Jake Fromm, Brian Lewerke, Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Gary Brightwell
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Darius Slayton, C.J. Board, Dante Pettis, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
The Jets lost 36-7 to the Colts on Sunday to fall to 0-3 while being outscored by 57 points on the season.
Those three losses mean that they've had 10 double digit losses in 19 games with Adam Gase as their head coach. That's a big reason why Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported on Sunday morning that Gase is on increasingly thin ice with the Jets.
After Sunday's loss, Gase was asked if he's thinking about his job security.
"I'm gonna do what I always do, come back to work tomorrow and try to get things fixed," Gase said. "It's something I can't worry about. I've gotta focus on getting our guys ready."
On Monday, radio host Colin Cowherd reported that Jets CEO Christopher Johnson has begun reaching out to top agents who represent coaching candidates.
The Jets say that's not true. Per a team spokesperson, the report that Johnson has begun reaching out to coaching agents is not accurate.
The Jets play the Broncos on Thursday night, which would give them an extended break before facing the Cardinals in Week 5. With defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on hand, the Jets have someone with head coaching experience if they do decide to make a change at that or any other point this season.
"This is the NFL," Gase added. "We're 0-3 right now. We haven't played well. We have to improve quickly. My job is to do everything I can to get our guys in the right head space heading to (the game)."
But the problems are glaring.
Sam Darnold started dismally Sunday. His first official pass was picked off by Xavier Rhodes and returned 44 yards for a touchdown.
It went downhill from there -- and might not get any better this week.
When the embarrassing blowout at Indianapolis finally ended, the third-year quarterback had thrown three interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, and was taken down for a late safety as he produced an ugly quarterback rating of 53.2.
"I'm not playing consistent enough to play well in this league," Darnold said. "And so for me, I just need to, you know, play more consistent. Make the plays when they're there. When they're not, just get rid of the ball or check it down."
Clearly, Darnold hasn't done that enough in his short career.
At Indy, though, he was at an obvious disadvantage with starting receivers Breshad Perriman and Jamison Crowder both inactive because of injuries and right tackle George Fant out, too. Then, during the first half, rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton departed with a shoulder injury and did not return.
So perhaps Darnold's numbers -- 17 of 27 with 168 yards, one TD pass and two sacks and the three turnovers -- shouldn't be all that surprising.
Meanwhile, nobody is using injuries as an excuse here, but, the Jets already have nine players on injured reserve and it's unclear how serious Becton's injury could be. Starting center Connor McGovern played through a hamstring injury and receiver Chris Hogan, the third starting receiver, also played despite a rib injury.
So despite starting the game with 19 consecutive plays, nearly 10 minutes of possession time and 188 total yards against NFL's No. 1 defense in the first half, New York finished with just 260 yards.
Those inside the locker room continue to support Darnold -- and Gase.
"To the fans that are calling for his head, I never really understood that," said right guard Greg Van Roten, who played last season in Carolina. "I was on a team last year, we fired our coach (Ron Rivera), it's not like we started winning games. You go further in the tank. So, I'm not really sure what that solves. But I get the frustration. I understand that. No one outside of our facility believes in us right now, and it's just kind of how things are going.
"So we need to rally together as a team and start getting things on track."
Defensively, things haven't gone much better.
The Jets are allowing 31.3 points per game, in part because the franchise quarterback gave away 16 more on Sunday courtesy of three ill-advised plays.
But they haven't played well enough on either side of the ball to overcome so many mistakes. Gase knows it, and so does Darnold.
"We've been put in great positions to go out there and succeed and go out there and make plays and execute a game plan that's put together perfectly for us," Darnold said. "It's just about us going out there and executing. That's it. ..."
We'll see if they can make some progress against a Broncos team that will be at less than full strength for this one as well. ...
As for the injury issues. ... Perriman (ankle) won't play Thursday. Crowder, who returned to work on a limited basis Tuesday after sitting out with a hamstring injury last week, has a chance and sounds like a game-time decision; he's officially listed as questionable. Hogan (ribs, knee) is also questionable along with LB Jordan Jenkins, who played through a shoulder injury Sunday (it's "going to be hard to hold him out," Gase said).
Better still, rookie LT Mekhi Becton (shoulder) did not suffer a serious injury Sunday, an MRI revealed, and he could play against the Broncos. He's also listed as questionable. Initially, they feared a pectoral injury, which could've been devastating. He's now day-to-day, per Gase, who said: "I know he's very motivated to get back out there. He kind of saw how the holes weren't quite opening up the same when he was out of the game."
I'll follow up on all the walking wounded here as needed in advance of Thursday night's kickoff.
One last note here. ... Le'Veon Bell, who's on short-term IR with a hamstring issue, is eyeing a Week 5 return to the lineup and intends to play against the Cardinals barring unforseen setback. Week 5 is also when Bell is eligible to rejoin the active roster.
QBs: Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, Mike White
RBs: Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, Austin Walter, Tevin Coleman, Lamical Perine
WRs: Braxton Berrios, Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith, Corey Davis
TEs: Ryan Griffin, Kenny Yeboah, Tyler Kroft, Trevon Wesco
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra framed it, "The Philadelphia Eagles' proverbial marriage to Carson Wentz hit a rocky stage, but head coach Doug Pederson insists he has zero plans on benching his starter for rookie Jalen Hurts after Sunday's 23-23 tie with the Cincinnati Bengals."
"No, you don't go there," Pederson said Monday morning on WIP, via Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philly. "That's a knee jerk reaction. That's a reaction to the aura that's out there. That's not what we believe internally. We're going to continue to get better. Carson's our quarterback."
Wentz's struggles have been pervasive to open the season. He's thrown 2-plus INTs in three straight games for the first time in his career as the Eagles start the season 0-2-1; the QB has six INTs this season after throwing just seven in each of the past three seasons; his seven giveaways are the most by any QB this season (entering MNF); and Wentz has generated three straight games with a sub-75 passer rating for the first time in his career.
It's not just offensive line woes or receiver issues at the root cause of Wentz's struggles, though those are certainly problems. The fifth-year pro isn't making good reads, he doesn't know when to let a play die, his footwork gets wonky far too much, he's been extremely inaccurate, and he's making some boneheaded decisions with the football.
Sunday's inability to carve up a defense that had been scorched the previous week was a low for Wentz. Sunday he completed 29 of 47 passes for 225 yards, one TD and one INT for a 62.8 passer rating. After playing like an MVP candidate in 2017, it's been a downward spiral for Wentz due to injuries the previous years, but in 2020, he's simply playing poorly.
Despite the struggles, Pederson won't walk out on his starting QB.
The Eagles wed themselves to Wentz when he signed a massive extension in 2019. With a dead-money implication of $59 million if Philly wanted to move on in 2021, Wentz isn't going anywhere, regardless of how loud Eagles fans groan.
Pederson's commitment to Wentz wasn't his only revelation Monday morning. The Super Bowl-winning coach admitted he should have gone for it on fourth-and-12 with 19 seconds remaining in overtime instead of punting, which ensured a tie. Pederson defended the decision after the game but had a change of heart overnight.
"But looking back on it, I probably would have gone the other way," he said.
Wentz should hope his play turns around before the next change-of-heart Pederson has is his commitment to the starting QB. ...
Meanwhile, an already thin Eagles wide receiving group took another hit on Sunday when DeSean Jackson left their tie with the Bengals in the first half.
Jackson injured his hamstring. The initial belief was that it is a minor strain.
If that's the case, Jackson could be back for this weekend's game against the 49ers although the team's been cautious with Jackson given his injury history.
Jackson had two catches for 11 yards on Sunday and has 10 catches for 121 yards overall this season.
Adding to the woes, Dallas Goedert went for an MRI on Monday after hurting his ankle in Sunday. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Goedert fractured his ankle. Pederson said at his Monday press conference that he didn't have a timetable for Goedert's recovery and McLane reports that his time off the field it is not expected to be "too lengthy."
But it will be at least three weeks after the team added him to their injured reserve list on Tuesday. The team filled his spot they signed Hakeem Butler off the Panthers practice squad. The Eagles will ask Butler to play at tight end.
Goedert has 13 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown so far this season. Zach Ertz and Richard Rodgers will hold down the fort at tight end until Goedert is cleared to return, but Butler could add to the mix.
The 6-5, 224-pound Butler was a wide receiver at Iowa State, and a fourth-round pick of the Cardinals in 2019, who spent his rookie year on IR. Butler ostensibly adds another receiving threat to a team that needs them, and we'll see how he handles the position switch.
The Eagles also announced they were opening the 21-day practice window for rookie wide receiver Quez Watkins, who went on IR prior to the opener. Their sixth-round pick from Southern Mississippi, Watkins was the second-fastest receiver at this year's Scouting Combine.
With Jalen Reagor already sidelined with a UCL tear in his thumb and Alshon Jeffery not quite ready to return (although he's getting close), Greg Ward led the way with eight catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. Ward doesn't do anything flashy, but he's reliable and has earned Wentz's confidence.
I'll have more on Jackson, who didn't practice Wednesday, Jeffery and the rest of the team's receiving corps via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
One last note here. ... The Eagles placed Reagor on injured reserve Wednesday; he's expected back in November.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Kenneth Gainwell
WRs: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, JJ Arcega-Whiteside
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Tyree Jackson
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
The NFL will delay the Week 4 bout between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans a day or two. It represents the first scheduled game altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The game is expected to be played either Monday or Tuesday.
In case you missed it, the Titans and Minnesota Vikings suspended in-person team activities because of several positive COVID-19 tests out of Tennessee in the aftermath of last Sunday's game. Initially, three players and five Titans staff members tested positive. Another round of testing Tuesday revealed one additional Titans player tested positive.
The decision to push the game a day or two could give the Titans a chance to ferret out any additional players who might have caught the virus with additional tests. It also might allow Tennessee a chance to get back to its facility before playing a game. The Titans and Vikings facilities remain closed with teams operating on a virtual basis.
The Titans-Steelers matchup between two 3-0 teams sitting atop their divisions could be a preview of a potential playoff bout, whenever kickoff takes place.
The NFL has moved games from Sunday to Monday in the past for natural disasters, conflicts with MLB's postseason and even the collapse of the inflatable roof at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said that he's not concerned about the prospect of going down to Nashville to play the Titans under the current circumstances and that the team is "going down there to play and win."
Meanwhile, getting back to the field. ... Tomlin calls it "complementary" football, the ability of one unit of the Pittsburgh Steelers to feed off the other.
The coach insists it's not a one-way street either. The offense can feed the defense just as easily as the defense can feed the offense.
However Tomlin wants to describe it, Associated Press sports writer Will Graves reports it was on full display in last Sunday's 28-21 comeback victory over Houston. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw passes to eight different players. Four running backs got at least one carry. Five different defenders were credited with at least a half sack. Fourteen defenders had at least one tackle.
"We just went out there and dominated," wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said.
At least in the second half, when the defense held the Texans to 51 yards while Roethlisberger led three drives that lasted 11 plays or more as the Steelers improved to 3-0 for the first time in a decade. Roethlisberger spread it around all game, including on the 79-yard go-ahead touchdown drive that ended with a 12-yard sprint by running back James Conner.
Six different skill position players touched the ball on the drive, a showcase of the depth Tomlin stressed will be necessary if the Steelers want to contend in the AFC.
"We're going utilize all our eligibles," Tomlin said. "It's important that we have a balanced group, that we can run it, we can throw it. That we have a variety of people to throw to it. We like the versatility of the group, the specialization of the group, and it allows us to move the ball fluidly."
Having a defense that makes quick work of opponents helps. The Texans had the ball four times in the second half. Three of the drives ended with three plays and a punt. The other in defensive back Mike Hilton's fifth career interception. Houston managed just 51 yards and two first downs over the final two quarters, a stark contrast from the first half when Pittsburgh looked tentative at times while Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson went to work.
"We gave up some possessions early," Tomlin said. "Sometimes that can put a bad taste in your mouth, but they didn't allow it to spoil the day."
Or the month. The previous time Pittsburgh started 3-0, it reached the Super Bowl. The competition, however, hasn't exactly been tough. The Steelers' three wins are over teams who are now a combined 0-9. A sterner test awaits in Tennessee next Sunday against the unbeaten Titans (3-0).
Still, being 3-0 beats the alternative, particularly for a team that has occasionally stubbed its toe against inferior clubs. Not so much in 2020.
"We're a four-quarter team," Conner said. "Our defense allowed us to get back in. When the defense is making three-and-out stops, keep putting us back on offense, we've got to get it going eventually."
Next up, the Steelers will try to put together a complete game defensively on the road in Tennessee. Finding a way to jump on the Titans might help because it would limit the impact of All-Pro running back Derrick Henry. ...
Meanwhile, Conner's season began with concerns about his ability to stay healthy after tweaking his left ankle early in a win over the Giants. He's responded with consecutive 100-yard performances, the 109-yard effort on Sunday, the first time he's topped the century mark in back-to-back games since Weeks 7 and 8 in 2018.
But we could be seeing another weapon emerging; three weeks ago, rookie Anthony McFarland was inactive for the Steelers' season opener. A week ago, he was active but he didn't play.
Against the Texans, McFarland got on the field during the Steelers' first series and picked up 7 yards in his first carry. He finished with six carries for 42 yards.
Later in the first half, McFarland ripped off a 20-yard run on a drive that ended with Ebron's first touchdown as a Steeler.
McFarland was also the first running back to see action after halftime, and the Steelers went to him four plays in a row.
Although Conner is still the Steelers' featured back, ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor believes McFarland's game-breaking speed complements Conner's bruising style. ...
The Steelers' tight ends were productive on Sunday. They added Ebron in free agency to be a red zone target and a big body over the middle.
He was underutilized in the passing game, though, during his first two games.
The Steelers made up for that in a big way Sunday as Ebron snagged his first Steelers touchdown and finished with four catches for 38 yards.
Not only that, but the Steelers also got fellow tight end Vance McDonald involved more, going to him three times.
McDonald caught all three targets and finished with 35 yards. ...
The Steelers have largely avoided the catastrophic injuries that have befallen other teams. Second-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson left in the second quarter on Sunday after being checked for a concussion and fullback Derek Watt tweaked a hamstring.
There's depth behind Johnson on the outside, thanks in part to the rapid development of rookie Chase Claypool, who drew a key pass interference penalty on Sunday that led to a field goal.
Tomlin confirmed on Tuesday that Johnson is in the concussion protocol.
I'll be following up on Johnson -- and the game itself -- as needed in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Ray-Ray McCloud, James Washington, Cody White, JuJu Smith-Schuster
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Eric Ebron
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra framed it, "The San Francisco 49ers' injury list is nearly as long as a poem by Homer. ..."
Heading into Sunday's game against the New York Giants, the Niners were without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle, running back Raheem Mostert, pass rusher Dee Ford and linebacker Dre Greenlaw.
That was just the key players ruled out with injury. San Francisco's IR list is even longer: Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman, Tevin Coleman, Deebo Samuel, Solomon Thomas, Richie James, Jalen Hurd and Tavon Austin.
The Niners have been bit by the injury bug like they're living in the jungle sans insect spray or mosquito nets.
Despite starting backup QB Nick Mullens and backups at both corner spots, not having their star tight end, and deploying a receiver corps full of No. 2 and 3 options, the 49ers still whitewashed the Giants, 36-9.
As you could imagine, the blowout win under such circumstances had head coach Kyle Shanahan glowing.
"I was really happy with this week," Shanahan said after the win. "Losing that many guys last week and just the way it sort of happened made us a little bit emotional to start and pull together throughout the week. I just got a real good vibe and energy on Wednesday by the time we started practicing all the way to last night at the hotel and meetings before the game.
"Then today, I think they played very hard all four quarters. I was very proud of our team. I was last week, too, you know, the way it started last week and some of that stuff -- then to overcome that and keep grinding through it. It feels good to be back here and to do it two weeks in a row. I can't wait to get back home now."
Mullens shined, dicing up a woeful Big Blue defense to the tune of 343 yards and a TD. Jerick McKinnon (before getting injured in the fourth quarter) and Jeff Wilson split the backfield reps, and while they didn't pop a big one, it was enough balance to keep the Giants defense off-kilter. The 49ers scored on seven of nine possession and didn't punt once.
The defense missing several stars still stood out, with corner Jason Verrett stepping in superbly after his long road back from multiple injuries. San Francisco didn't give up a TD, caused two fumbles and one INT.
It wasn't just that a decimated 49ers squad won. No, what Shanahan has to be thrilled with is that his MASH unit made the Giants look like three-day-old burnt toast.
Shanahan, however, said he wasn't surprised by the performance from his backups.
"No, and it's nothing against (the Giants) at all, but we had a real good week of practice," he said. "We were pretty confident last night. I know the way it ended up, but by no means was that easy. Those drives were grinds. We didn't punt today and we didn't turn it over, but it didn't feel like that. We had to work for a lot of stuff and they kept us out of the end zone a number of times.
"Fortunately, our defense was able to get some turnovers, but, that's a good team. It got away a little bit there at the end, but I was real proud of our guys. That was our plan. We wanted to do that. We came in and wanted to do that. We thought we could do it and I was proud of the guys for pulling it off."
The blowout win while missing so many key players signifies the type of team San Francisco has and the kind of coaching staff it employs. It also speaks to how far behind the Giants are in competing.
With winnable games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins the next two weeks at Levi's Stadium, the Niners have every reason to believe they can be 4-1 when the Los Angeles Rams come calling on Oct. 18. As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner added, "By then, they could be back closer to full strength and ready to prove they are still a legitimate contender.
"Count them out at your own peril. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Mullens looked right at home stepping in for Garoppolo, completing 25 of 36 passes for 343 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. His passer rating was 108.9 and the Niners did not punt or have a turnover. You can't ask for much more from your backup, and the Niners have to feel good about him starting again if Garoppolo's ankle doesn't allow him to return this week.
"Nick was great, very poised," Shanahan said. "We went on a lot of long drives today. They're better than not scoring, but long drives can get a little bit exhausting. Especially for me. I don't want to have to call that many plays."
Wilson, McKinnon and Brandon Aiyuk also scored on runs for the Niners, who stayed in West Virginia to prep for the game. Robbie Gould added three field goals for San Francisco.
Also according to Wagoner, it might be an overstatement to call Aiyuk's day a "breakout" but there were some encouraging signs that the rookie receiver is starting to get comfortable. On a second-half drive to put the game away, Aiyuk had three catches for 39 yards and the above-mentioned 19-yard touchdown run. He finished with 70 yards on five catches and three carries for 31 yards with that score.
With reinforcements on the way, Aiyuk's target share probably will remain about the same, but he's earned the right to remain a prominent part of the offense moving forward.
As for the injury situations?
The 49ers are placing tight end Jordan Reed on injured reserve, Shanahan said Monday. Reed returned from an early ankle injury before leaving with a knee injury. He played only 18 snaps, and further examination Monday revealed an MCL injury that will keep Reed out 6-8 weeks.
"He had an unfortunate injury," Shanahan said. "Recovered from the ankle there in the end zone but ended up spraining his MCL, I believe, when he came back for that catch where he got hit a little bit low.
"I know he's disappointed but not discouraged. I think he was really liking where he was at. It's something that's going to take some time, probably 6-8 weeks. I know he's disappointed in that, but nothing that's going to affect him after that. He'll hit his rehab hard. Hopefully, we can weather the storm while he's gone, and he'll come back to a good team."
Meanwhile, Kittle (knee) was on the practice field Wednesday and was reportedly a full participant. Mostert and Garoppolo were nonparticipants.
Beyond that, Samuel resumed practicing Wednesday as he tries to come back from this summer's broken foot.
"He's been champing at the bit to get back," Shanahan said. "I know he's really made a lot of progress here in the last 14 days. I know he's pumped to practice. I know he's pumped to play."
Samuel had surgery in June, after suffering a Jones fracture in his left foot while working out with teammates in Tennessee. There was initially some hope he'd be ready for the opener, but a setback landed him on IR, and he's eligible to return this week. But before that happens, they want to see how he responds to a few days of practice.
"We'll see how he is," Shanahan said. "I know he conditioned right. I know he's healthy. I know he's feeling good.
"But Wednesday will be his first time at football practice since Super Bowl week of last year. So we have to take that into account, also. We'll see how he goes in these three days, then we'll evaluate that at the end of the week."
Samuel quickly established himself as a threat last year, with 57 catches for 802 yards and three touchdowns, and another 159 rushing yards and three scores, and their offense could use that kind of boost.
I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
One last note here. ... The Buccaneers lost tight end Daniel Helm off their practice squad as he is signing with the 49ers to join their 53-man roster.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance
RBs: Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, JaMycal Hasty, Trey Sermon, Trenton Cannon, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, Jauan Jennings, Mohamed Sanu
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Tanner Hudson, Charlie Woerner
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
This just in: Russell Wilson is performing at an incredible clip through three weeks -- historic, in fact.
Wilson's five passing touchdowns in Sunday's 38-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys gave him 14 on the year, breaking Patrick Mahomes?' record of 13 set in 2018. It also made Wilson the first player in NFL history to throw for four or more touchdowns in each of his team's first three games.
"Russ is just on it," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after their victory Sunday. "You are just watching a great football player do what he does best."
Much of the offseason debate related to Wilson centered on one important question: Would the Seahawks put the ball in Wilson's hands and allow him to make plays? In short, would Carroll's staff let Russ cook?
Through three games, the answer is a resounding yes, with Wilson proving to be a quarterbacking virtuoso. Entering Week 3, Wilson led the NFL in completion percentage (82.5), passing touchdowns (nine) and passer rating (140.0). His Sunday line of 27-of-40 passing for 315 yards, five touchdowns and another interception-free outing definitely won't hurt his standing among the league's best.
Last season, Wilson was authoring what appeared to be an MVP-caliber campaign until Lamar Jackson took over and ran away with the award. It seems as if 2019 was no fluke, with Wilson coming out of the gate even hotter -- hotter than anyone else in history.
Seattle is 3-0 and rolling as a result. And given how poor the Seahawks' pass defense has been this season, they may need Wilson to keep up that scorching pace.
Seattle allowed Dallas to storm back from a 30-15 deficit early in the third quarter and take a 31-30 lead with just over four minutes left. Wilson then capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive by hitting DK Metcalf for his fifth touchdown of the game.
That extended Wilson's NFL lead in career fourth-quarter or overtime comebacks, giving him 33 (including playoffs) since he entered the league in 2012.
Wilson threw three first-half touchdown passes to Tyler Lockett, one to Jacob Hollister and one to Metcalf, who would have had two had it not been for a forgettable gaffe early in the game. He beat Trevon Diggs for what was about to be a 63-yard touchdown but slowed up before crossing the goal line and casually held the ball untucked in his right hand, exposing it long enough for Diggs to poke the ball out for a touchback.
Metcalf finished with 110 yards on four catches while Lockett caught nine passes for 100 yards.
On Wednesday, Wilson, who was the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for Week 1, earned those same honors a second time.
The Seahawks' defense has allowed at least 450 yards in three straight games for the first time in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats and Information. To potentially make matters worse, All-Pro strong safety Jamal Adams left in the fourth quarter with a groin injury and didn't return.
Seattle also lost running back Chris Carson and linebacker Jordyn Brooks to injuries Sunday. Brooks, Seattle's first-round pick, made his first career start with Bruce Irvin suffering a season-ending knee injury last week.
The good news?
An MRI confirmed Carson's ligaments are intact as he suffered just a minor knee sprain, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. The prognosis gives him a chance to be ready for this week's game at Miami, as NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport previously intimated.
Carroll subsequently confirmed that
Carson injured his leg late in the fourth quarter when defensive lineman Trysten Hill appeared to twist the running back's leg as he rolled over to make the tackle during a 2-yard run. The action appeared unnecessary and could cost Hill's pocketbook.
Rapoport noted that Hill will likely be fined, but not suspended for the egregious tackle.
"I was really pissed about that one," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on 710ESPN Seattle. "... He really hurt him."
Carson led the Seahawks with 64 yards rushing on 14 totes Sunday, and has three receiving scores on the young season. Carroll said they need to see how Carson responds to know if he'll be able to play Sunday at Miami. I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
If the Seattle starter misses any time, Carlos Hyde would see his role increase and Travis Homer would move up the depth chart in an offense that would have even more reason to Let Russ Cook sans Carson. ...
Also worth noting. ... While Wilson is setting records for the offense, their pass defense is setting records of their own and not the good kind.
In the first three games of the season against the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys, the Seahawks have allowed an average of 430.7 yards per game passing. They allowed 434 yards to Matt Ryan and the Falcons, 397 yards to Cam Newton and the Patriots, and a season-high 461 yards to Dak Prescott and the Cowboys on Sunday.
The 1,292 passing yards allowed in the first three games of the season is the most in league history over that span since at least 1950, via Pro-Football-Reference. They are the only team over 1,200 yards allowed with the 2011 Patriots trailing by a 161 yards at 1,131 yards as the previous benchmark.
The 2005 San Francisco 49ers (1,107) and 2010 Houston Texans (1,106) are the only other teams to allow even 1,100 passing yards over the first three games of the year.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, Jake Luton
RBs: Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Adrian Peterson, Chris Carson, Alex Collins
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart, D'Wayne Eskridge
TEs: Gerald Everett, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
Tom Brady had his best game yet in a Buccaneers uniform as Tampa Bay took an early lead in Denver today and never looked back.
Brady completed 25 of 38 passes for 297 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions, as the Bucs went up 23-3 in the second quarter and ultimately won 28-10.
Rob Gronkowski also had his best game as a Buccaneer, catching six of the seven passes Brady threw him for 48 yards. Mike Evans caught just two passes for two yards, but both catches were one-yard touchdowns.
But an increasingly-stingy defense that's getting better by the outing is also doing its part to help Brady transform the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into winners.
As Associated Press sports writer Even before signing Brady in free agency, head coach Bruce Arians insisted the key to ending the second-longest playoff drought in the NFL would be the emergence of a largely young, aggressive defense that began to build confidence and enjoy success late last season.
Bringing in Brady, a three-time league MVP who's surrounded by an abundance of skilled offensive playmakers, hasn't changed that thinking.
The Bucs landed Brady with a two-year, $50 million contract. They also did what was needed to keep the core of the defense together by placing the franchise tag on 2019 NFL sacks leader Shaquil Barrett and re-signing lineman Ndamukong Suh and linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul.
"We built this team on defense," Arians said. "Tom was just the icing on the cake."
With Barrett, Pierre-Paul and fellow linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White leading the way, the Bucs' front seven is stuffing the run, as well as disrupting quarterbacks having increasing difficulty solving defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' attacking scheme.
Seven different players have at least one sack during Tampa Bay's 2-1 start, including Pierre-Paul, who has one in five consecutive games dating to last season.
Barrett, who paced the league with 19½ in 2019, has two. So does Suh and rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr.
"I think Todd is doing a great job of putting players in position to get good matchups," Arians said.
"Will Gholston's got sacks, Vita (Vea) got sacks, Suh's got sacks, both outside 'backers, inside 'backers and safeties," the coach added. "It's a matter of pick your poison, who you want to try to block, because somebody's coming from somewhere."
Meanwhile, for the second straight week, the Bucs built a double-digit halftime lead before coasting to victory in the second half. Arians likes the way the team has played in building leads against the Panthers and Broncos. However, he said they've got to be better finishing games.
"I think it's just playing a little bit -- not scared, but not wanting to mess up and give the (opponent) something to get back in the game," the coach said.
Arians insists he's happy with the progress of the running game, with starter Ronald Jones sharing the workload with Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy. Numbers suggest there's lots of room for improvement. A week after Fournette rushed for 103 yards, in large part because of a 46-yard TD run against Carolina, the Bucs averaged 2.7 yards per carry while gaining 68 yards on 25 attempts at Denver.
Also, a week after having no catches and only having one pass thrown his way, Rob Gronkowski had six receptions for 48 yards. O.J. Howard, meanwhile, had three catches for 49 yards. Arians explained the tight ends' production had more to do with the way the Broncos defended the Bucs than a concerted effort to get them more involved in the passing game. ...
Now the bad news. ... Receiver Chris Godwin returned to the lineup after missing Week 2 with a concussion, but he didn't make it out of the win over the Broncos unscathed.
Godwin hurt his hamstring during the third quarter and was quickly ruled out after suffering the injury. James Palmer of NFL Media reports that Godwin is having an MRI to determine the severity of the injury on Monday.
Godwin had five catches for 64 yards and a touchdown before getting injured.
According to Tampa Bay Times staffer Rick Stroud, Godwin could miss multiple games considering the Thursday night game in Chicago Oct. 8. Scotty Miller also is battling through hip and groin injuries but played well Sunday. Justin Watson, who returned to the practice field Wednesday, was out against the Broncos with a shoulder injury.
Hamstring injuries typically don't heal quickly without rest, so the Bucs and fantasy managers have to prepare for the possibility of being without Godwin, who did not practice Wednesday, this week and next.
I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
For what it's worth, Arians believes a condensed training camp and cancelled preseason is contributing to an increase in muscle injuries.
"I think that had a big part of it. The whole league (has experienced) soft-tissue injuries and major injuries," Arians said. "I think you're starting to see that now."
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Giovani Bernard, Le'Veon Bell, Ronald Jones
WRs: Mike Evans, Cyril Grayson, Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, Jaelon Darden, Scott Miller, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
The Tennessee Titans suspended all team activities starting Tuesday because of a number of positive Covid-19 tests following their Sunday game against the Vikings.
Tennessee reported four new positive tests for players and five new positive tests for personnel through Wednesday morning. The Vikings haven't had a reported positive test, but hosted the Titans Sunday, leading to their suspension of in-person activities as a precautionary measure.
Given the circumstances, the NFL will delay the Week 4 bout between the Steelers and Titans a day or two. It represents the first scheduled game altered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The game is expected to be played either Monday or Tuesday.
Head coach Mike Vrabel told reporters on Wednesday, "We'll prepare for Monday if they tell us it's Monday. If it's not Monday, we'll keep moving it down the road."
The decision to push the game a day or two could give the Titans a chance to ferret out any additional players who might have caught the virus with additional tests. It also might allow Tennessee a chance to get back to its facility before playing a game.
The NFL has moved games from Sunday to Monday in the past for natural disasters, conflicts with MLB's postseason and even the collapse of the inflatable roof at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The NFL also could move the game to Week 7 by moving the Steelers' Week 7 game against the Ravens to a week later when both have a scheduled off week.
The Titans-Steelers matchup between two 3-0 teams sitting atop their divisions could be a preview of a potential playoff bout, whenever kickoff takes place.
Obviously, I'll be following this story closely in coming days with full reporting via Late-Breaking Update. ...
Meanwhile, looking back at last week, the Titans' offense came up big in a back-and-forth 31-30 shootout win over the Vikings, but the biggest star was kicker Stephen Gostkowski. He made a 55-yard field goal with 1:58 remaining to give Tennessee the lead for good.
Gostkowski's six field goals tied a career-high. He is now 14-for-15 on potential go-ahead field goals in the fourth quarter for his career.
The Titans' defense allowed 464 total yards to Minnesota a week after the Jaguars finished with 480 yards against Tennessee.
Ryan Tannehill led the Titans to their seventh fourth-quarter comeback (an NFL high since he took over in Week 7 last season). After some early struggles, Tannehill came alive in the third quarter, starting with a 61-yard completion to Kalif Raymond that led to Tennessee's first lead of the day when Derrick Henry punched it in from the 1-yard line.
Henry, the NFL's leading rusher a year ago, turned in the 15th 100-yard game of his career on Sunday in the team's 31-30 come-from-behind win over the Vikings.
The Titans are now 15-0 in games when Henry goes for over 100.
"We trust in Arthur," Henry said of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, "and we have to go out there and execute what is called."
Smith called 26 running plays for Henry on Sunday, and two of them produced touchdowns. Running back Darrynton Evans carried the ball three times for nine yards in his NFL debut.
In three games this season, Henry now has 319 yards, and he's ahead of his pace from his 1,540-yard season a year ago. Henry averaged 4.6 yards per carry on Sunday after averaging 3.6 yards over the first games.
One of Henry's touchdowns came on a dive over the top.
"I was just trying to get in the end zone -- I just made the decision to go up top, and get in," Henry said. "I do whatever I can to get it in there.
"(When we were down) we just have to answer. Go out there and answer back and give ourselves a chance. We pride ourselves in winning the fourth quarter, and we just wanted to give ourselves a chance. ... I'm happy to be 3-0 and we have to keep the momentum going."
Titans guard Rodger Saffold said he was proud of the Titans for gutting out the win.
The Titans stuck with the run even after trailing 24-12 in the third quarter, and it led to long, point producing drives. The Titans also played the second half without starting left tackle Taylor Lewan, who left the game with an injury. Ty Sambrailo finished the contest in place of Lewan.
"This team is going to have ups and downs, no matter what side of the ball or which phase. But at the end of the day we just keep lifting each other up," Saffold said.
"I think that when we had our backs against the wall, it was like, all right, let's bite down on the mouthguard, let's pound this thing out. No matter what we're going to keep fighting."
The win gave the Titans their first 3-0 start since 2008. ...
Also of interest. ... Raymond made two of the biggest plays of the game here on Sunday, but he pointed elsewhere for the credit.
Raymond, who caught two deep balls during a 100-yard plus day, credited quarterback Ryan Tannehill for putting the ball on the money. He praised the offensive line for giving Tannehill time to deliver it.
Raymond even shouted out Titans equipment manager Matt Thompson for working with him at all hours to help get him ready, including some 6:30 a.m. sessions this week when they played some pitch and catch at sun-up.
"You never know when your opportunity is going to come," Raymond said, "and the big thing is being able to capitalize on it. And a big part of the reason I was able to capitalize on it is Matt Thompson."
The 5-8, 182-pound receiver caught a 44-yard pass from Tannehill on the team's second offensive play to set up a Gostkowski field goal on the team's first drive. Later in the contest, Raymond caught the above-mentioned 61-yarder. He finished with three catches for a team-high 118 receiving yards.
And for the eighth time in franchise history, the Titans had a 300-yard passer (321 by Tannehill), a 100-yard rusher (119 by Henry) and a 100-yard receiver (Raymond).
Raymond produced the most receiving yards by a Titans player on three or fewer receptions since Dec. 5, 2004, when Drew Bennett had 124 yards on three catches at Indianapolis. He also added a 30-yard kickoff return and two punt returns for five yards.
"What makes it so good is the fact that we won," Raymond said. "To go out there and contribute to a win, man, it makes the plane ride home a lot better. It is so good to contribute to the team, and to be a part of it. That's what I cherish the most."
And finally. ... In case you missed it, Gostkowski started his career in Nashville on a wobbly note, missing three field goals and a PAT in Week 1.
Then the Super Bowl-winning kicker botched an extra point in Week 2.
Sunday, everything changed. The 36-year-old took his sock off before connecting on those six pivotal field goals. Gostkowski credited taking off the sock on his kicking foot for his sudden bout of accuracy after starting the season 3 of 6 on field goals.
"I practiced all summer without them," Gostkowski said, via Terry McCormick of Titan Insider. "It's a little like baseball. When you're in a slump you want to try something else and you get on a roll. I think my experience playing multiple sports kind of helps deal with a little bit of a bind. In a sport like baseball, you strike out or get embarrassed, you turn the page. ... We're only three games in and I've got a long way to go and I've a lot of work to do, but I'm excited to help the Titans be 3-0."
Sans sock, Gostkowski made field goals from 30, 31, 39, 51, 54 and 55 yards on Sunday. He became the first player to make 3-plus FGs of 50-plus yards in a game since Justin Tucker in Week 12, 2016.
On Wednesday, Gostkowski was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Derrick Henry, D'Onta Foreman, Jeremy McNichols, Dontrell Hilliard, Khari Blasingame, Darrynton Evans, Jordan Wilkins
WRs: A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Chester Rogers, Racey McMath, Dez Fitzpatrick, Cameron Batson
TEs: Geoff Swaim, MyCole Pruitt, Anthony Firkser
Washington Football TeamCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 September 2020
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra framed it, "Dwayne Haskins moseyed on down to Strugglesville and never left in Sunday's 34-20 loss to the Cleveland Browns. ..."
Haskins threw three INTs and fumbled twice, losing one, as the Washington Football Team lost an early lead and never recovered.
Despite the poor outing, head coach Ron Rivera remained committed to Haskins as the starting QB.
"I just got done talking to Dwayne and told him, 'I'm behind you. I'm going to stick with you, so you go out and play,'" Rivera said following the loss, via ESPN.
Throughout the offseason, Rivera put pressure on Haskins by consistently talking about a QB competition, noting at different times that Kyle Allen or Alex Smith had a shot at the starting gig. After the coach named Haskins the starter, however, he's not willing to bail on the former first-round pick at the first major sign of trouble.
Rivera noted that Haskins' growing pains are something all teams with young QBs must go through, and he's not willing to short-circuit the plan after 10 career starts, and just three in the new offense despite the ghastly nature of Sunday's play.
"As long as [Haskins] continues to do things that show he can make things happen, I am going to support the young man," Rivera said. "I am not going to pull the plug just because something like this happens. In my opinion, he is barely through a rookie year right now in terms of being out there, learning, and growing."
Rivera mentioned he went through similar growing pains with Cam Newton in Carolina. Newton had two 3-INT games his rookie season. And while Haskins is in his second year in the NFL, Rivera noted he's still a rookie in terms of staring experience.
"The truth of the matter is how is [Haskins] going to learn?" Rivera said. "Is he going to learn while taking the [scout] team snaps? No. The only way we are going to find out where Dwayne is and what he can do is by putting him back out on the football field and let him get exposed. That is how he grows. That is what we did with Cam Newton and look where he is today. Cam Newton was a league MVP because we trusted him and we took our lumps with him. I am going to take my lumps with Dwayne right now."
Rivera knows there will be a breaking point with Haskins if the quarterback stacks stinkers like Sunday. In talking to reporters Monday, Rivera said players "deserve better" from the QB spot and "there is a cut-off point for me," per The Athletic.
Right now, however, he's standing behind his starter.
The second-year signal-caller admits he has to learn quickly or a coach who wasn't here when he was drafted could run out of patience quickly.
"In spite of the bad I thought I had some good stuff to work on and improve off of," Haskins said. "Coach Rivera and I are very close and I don't want to ever just get comfortable thinking I'm his guy or he believes in me. That doesn't matter if you're not producing on the field. I'm definitely appreciative of that and how he feels of me."
As ESPN.com's John Keim understated, Haskins, the 15th overall pick in the 2019 draft, has gotten off to an unsteady start this season. He entered Week 3 with the lowest total quarterback rating among all starters at 28.4. His completion percentage (56.3) ranked 32nd entering Sunday. Haskins had played poorly in the first half of the opening two games, but was better in the final two quarters.
In those games, he was 16-of-32 for 143 yards and a touchdown in the first 30 minutes; he was 20-of-32 for 258 yards and a touchdown in the final 30.
Sunday, though, Haskins started strong, throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to receiver Dontrelle Inman on Washington's second possession.
Then the interceptions came.
"Just trying to do too much," Haskins said of his picks. "Trying to make a play."
Haskins started strong as he completed 6 of 9 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown on the first two series. Washington used a more up-tempo approach, putting him more in shotgun formation. They tried to get him comfortable on bootlegs and screens, building momentum.
Those are the things Rivera pointed to as reasons to stick with Haskins. Allen has been Washington's No. 2 quarterback the first three weeks with Smith inactive. ...
On the injury front. ... Defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis suffered a torn biceps and will miss the rest of the season. He was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Rookie pass rusher Chase Young is expected to be out Sunday versus the Ravens after suffering a moderate groin strain in Week 3. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft is considered week-to-week.
Ioannidis was hurt in the first half Sunday. He has been one of Washington's most effective defensive players since the start of the 2018 season. He recorded a combined 16 sacks the previous two seasons and had 1.5 this year.
Washington can't afford to lose too many defensive parts with a game Sunday going up against Lamar Jackson.
QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Antonio Gibson, Jaret Patterson, J.D. McKissic
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims, Adam Humphries, DeAndre Carter, Dyami Brown, Curtis Samuel
TEs: John Bates, Sammis Reyes, Ricky Seals-Jones, Logan Thomas