Team Notes week 6 2019
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
It wasn't pretty but Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray won their first NFL game on Sunday.
The Cardinals, who entered Sunday's game winless, beat the 0-5 Cincinnati Bengals, 26-23, at Paul Brown Stadium thanks to 514 yards and a performance by Murray that showed his ongoing evolution as a quarterback.
And the evolution of the coach.
Kingsbury's Air Raid was grounded Sunday -- on purpose.
The coach went to the rushing attack early and often against the Bengals and with it came great results. The team amassed 266 yards and two touchdowns at 7.0 yards per carry in the 26-23 win.
Murray used a combination of designed runs and scrambles to compile 93 rushing yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. David Johnson had 17 attempts for 91 yards, while Chase Edmonds added eight carries for 68 yards and a score.
"I told Coach in the fourth quarter that I looked up and we had 230 yards on the ground," Murray said. "We finally implemented it. You saw what we did today running the ball, and I think that helped us out a lot."
As ArizonaCardinals.com's Kyle Odegard noted, Arizona was among the league leaders in passing attempts through the first four weeks, and while some of that was philosophy, another reason was the constant deficits the team faced. The Cardinals never trailed in this one, allowing Kingsbury to use the entire playbook.
"Staying on schedule is what I've harped to (the media) for the first month," Kingsbury said. "We were behind and in '10' personnel and throwing it a ton. That's not who we truly want to be, but out of necessity we were doing that. I think when we stay on schedule and mix our offense up better, we'll be more effective."
Both of the Cardinals' touchdowns came on the ground. Murray faked a handoff on fourth-and-2 from the 6 in the first quarter and ran a naked bootleg to the end zone's near left pylon.
Edmonds added a 37-yard score on a toss play in the fourth, which gave the Cardinals a 14-point lead.
"Me and David are starting to get more touches and we're getting things rolling," Edmonds said. "It's a great feeling. And shout-out to the guys up front. They did a hell of a job of dominating the line of scrimmage."
Murray did the best job of his young career at being decisive, hanging in the pocket when the pressure wasn't there and bolting when a running lane emerged. His 24-yard scramble with under a minute to go set up the game-winning field goal by Zane Gonzalez.
"I was going to Chase, because of his matchup on a linebacker," Murray said. "He ended up slipping, and at that point, with time running down, I had to just make a play."
The Bengals seemed to be taking away some of the Cardinals' downfield throws in the first half, which was a common sight the previous two weeks. Kingsbury put the trust in his players up front and they paved massive holes.
"O-line did a tremendous job blocking it up," Kingsbury said.
Left tackle D.J. Humphries was asked if he envisioned Kingsbury ever going this run-heavy in a game.
"Kliff is smart," Humphries said. "He knows we have to run the ball. He ain't no fool about it. It was just him getting in that rhythm. A lot of times, if you haven't done something and it doesn't look good, you don't want to go back to it. So for him to see certain stuff and get those positive yards -- it's always easier for a coordinator to run something when you got nine yards the play before."
For what it's worth, Murray finished with three throws of 24 yards or more, including a handful that displayed his touch, accuracy and finesse throwing the ball.
The Cardinals continued their struggles in the red zone, finishing with one touchdown in five tries, but Kingsbury showed the ability to adapt by running the ball nine times in the red zone compared to five passes.
Murray also showed a maturity when it came to dealing with defensive pressure.
He threw the ball away early in the game instead of trying to make a play happen and then threw a pass at the feet of his offensive line instead of throwing the ball away in the air.
Next up, the Cardinals host Atlanta on Sunday. Remember, the Falcons just gave up the third-most points of the season to the Texans (53), right behind the Dolphins (59 to Ravens) and Rams (55 to Bucs). ...
On the injury front. ... Johnson suffered a back injury in the first half but couldn't pinpoint when it occurred. He returned to the game and finished with 17 carries for 91 yards and three catches for 65 yards.
Kingsbury told reporters on Monday that Johnson will be monitored all week. The coach would not rule out that Johnson could miss Falcons game.
Kingsbury also said starting cornerback Tramaine Brock will have to be monitored this week after hurting his shoulder, but his status is up in the air. As for Christian Kirk, Kingsbury reiterated he doesn't want to rush the receiver back.
"I like the progress," Kingsbury said. "We're going to try to get as much as we can out of him, but we're going to be safe at the same time."
Kirk (ankle) missed Sunday's game along with Damiere Byrd, who missed his second-straight game with a hamstring injury.
Kirk and Byrd were participating when Wednesday's practice opened. Johnson was working with trainers on the side.
I'll be watching for more on all three in coming days, check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
If Johnson can't go, Edmonds would obviously play an even greater role. With Kirk and Byrd both out last week, Larry Fitzgerald was the busiest of the wideouts with KeeSean Johnson and Trent Sherfield also seeing sufficient targets (seven and three, respectively).
Rookie safeties Deionte and Jalen Thompson played in tandem with Brock out, which moved safety Budda Baker to nickel back. ...
The Cardinals announced the signing of linebacker Ramik Wilson on Wednesday. They also announced the corresponding move.
Arizona cut cornerback Chris Jones to make room for Wilson.
Jones began the year as the third cornerback with Patrick Peterson serving his suspension and Robert Alford missing time with injury. Jones has played only seven defensive snaps the past two weeks, though, including none Sunday.
He has played 79 special teams snaps.
Jones became expendable after the Cardinals claimed cornerback Trevor Williams off waivers. ...
And finally. ... Gonzalez missed his third field goal in a span of four attempts in the first quarter, but made up for it with plenty of ensuing chances. He hit from 23, 22, 20 and the crucial 31-yarder for the win. Andy Lee didn't punt in the game but the Cardinals made him active to be the holder after Gonzalez missed two of his three field goal attempts last week following a 9-for-9 start.
Gonzalez was happy to finish off the win but hopes he isn't needed for so many short field goals moving forward.
"I try to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves to me," Gonzalez said. "But the offense is moving the ball fantastic. Once we learn to finish in the red zone it's going to go a long way. We're going to be a dangerous team."
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley, Drew Anderson
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, D.J. Foster, Eno Benjamin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Isabella, Trent Sherfield, KeeSean Johnson, Hakeem Butler
TEs: Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels, Dan Arnold
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
According to ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure, "There's only one way to describe the Atlanta Falcons' defense from Sunday: Embarrassing."
Head coach Dan Quinn thought he saw a renewed sense of urgency in the unit following last Sunday's miserable first half against the Tennessee Titans. But despite the talk in the locker room about staying on the fundamentals and going out and having fun, the Falcons had some of the same defensive lapses that have plagued them through the early part of the season.
At 1-4 and losers of three games in a row, the Falcons are running out of excuses following a 53-32 road loss to the Houston Texans. The latest embarrassment included surrendering way too many chunk plays to former Falcons ball boy Deshaun Watson and the Texans' offense. Watson had 300 passing yards before the end of the third quarter. He capped a 426-yard, five-touchdown performance with a 44-yard touchdown hookup with Will Fuller, who beat Desmond Trufant with a double move. Fuller had 14 catches for 217 yards, and three touchdowns against the sieve-like Falcons defense. The Falcons gave up almost 600 yards of offense (592).
It seems like someone is having a career day against the Falcons every week.
Quinn said leading into the game he had no plans of making a change at coordinator. Of course, that was interpreted to mean with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, since Quinn calls the defense. But the latest performance makes you wonder if there's any dramatic change that can be made to ignite the defense.
In fact, since Quinn took over as defensive coordinator after the firing of Marquand Manuel at the end of 2018, the Falcons have given up 11th most points per game (24.8) through the first four games this year.
And whether it's zone or man-to-man, nickel or base, 3-4 or 4-3, the Falcons continue to make life easy on opposing quarterbacks. They knew Watson had the potential to be much more dangerous than Marcus Mariota and Jacoby Brissett in previous weeks, and he was with his scrambling and keeping plays alive. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett did all he could to keep up, but Jarrett can't play every position on defense by himself.
Ponder this: The Falcons gave up plays of 21-plus yards to six different Texans, including a 51-yarder and the 44-yarder.
Just imagine, the Falcons still have Russell Wilson and Seahawks and Jared Goff and the Rams coming up back to back, along with the return of Drew Brees
And this week, they face an improving and maturing Kyler Murray and the Cardinals in Arizona. The Falcons are 0-3 on the road this season. ...
Looking for a silver lining? At least from a fantasy perspective?
According to NFL.com's Graham Barfield, Atlanta has trailed on 75.1 percent of their offensive snaps, the second-highest rate behind Miami (92.8 percent). No team is more pass-heavy than Falcons (72 percent).
That's a major reason that Julio Jones said, before heading to Houston, the Falcons needed to "at least score 21, 28 points a game" if they were going to get things back on track.
Jones also added that "everybody just has to fix themselves first." But before they can fix anything, the Falcons must figure out who they are first.
The Falcons ended up scoring 32 points but it's clear there's a lot that still needs to be fixed, especially on defense.
The 53 points surrendered to Houston (3-2) was the most a Falcons team has allowed since they gave up 56 to the Kansas City Chiefs back in 2004.
The Falcons, who entered Sunday's game with the 11th-ranked offense in the league, trotted out Matt Ryan, Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Alex Mack (and a few other guys with Pro Bowls under their belts) onto the field at NRG Stadium.
The proven firepower is clearly there and, as we saw in Houston, they're capable of scoring points. Yet through five games, the Falcons offense is only averaging just 20.4 points per game.
Ryan, who was named the league's MVP in 2016, knows a thing or two about high-scoring offenses. He, along with many of the current Falcons still on this roster, averaged a league-best 33.8 points per game in 2016 -- and that culminated with a Super Bowl run.
"We have not been that; we haven't done a good enough job of that up until this point," Ryan said.
If the Falcons hope to turn this season around, becoming "a point-scoring machine" sounds like a fine place to start.
It's who they are. And it makes sense, mathematically speaking.
For the record, Ryan is on pace to attempt 710 passes -- the NFL record is Matthew Stafford (727).
By the way, as Barfield pointed out, Sanu has been one of the direct beneficiaries of all of Ryan's pass volume. In fact, Sanu has quietly banked 10 or more PPR points in 4-of-5 games and he now gets a sweet matchup against the Cardinals.
Also worth noting. ... At least Devonta Freeman was able to score his first touchdown of the season on a 9-yard touchdown reception from Ryan. Freeman still can't get going in the running game, but getting him in the end zone is a step in the right direction. Ito Smith is having better success than Freeman running the ball, but the Falcons won't give up on Freeman, who was more involved in the passing game to get touches. ...
On the injury front. ... Safety Damontae Kazee was evaluated for a head injury and didn't return to the game. If he misses some time, that accelerates the learning curve for rookie Kendall Sheffield, who has seen some spot action. Sheffield still has some maturing to do and picked up a key penalty in the second half. ...
And finally. ... Despite the slow start, owner Arthur Blank isn't ready to make drastic changes.
Blank, who purchased the franchise 17 years ago, has seen the Falcons through many highs and lows, experiences that has allowed him to maintain optimism even after Atlanta's 53-32 Week 5 loss to the Texans -- their worst loss since Week 5 last season.
"No. ... This staff has performed before. My hope is they can fix what needs to be fixed and start winning some games," Blank told reporters after being asked if a coaching change is needed, according to ESPN.
Under Quinn, who signed a three-year extension in July 2018, the Falcons have had three winning seasons and two postseason appearances. The team missed the playoffs last season after going 7-9; the year before that, Atlanta went 10-6 before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles in the NFC Divisional Round Game.
Things haven't quite been the same in Atlanta since the infamous loss in Super Bowl LI, but, for now, Blank still believes that Quinn and his staff can turn their sinking ship around.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Kurt Benkert
RBs: Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Ito Smith
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Laquon Treadwell, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham, Carson Meier
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
John Harbaugh told his young team you're not really a Baltimore Raven until you've beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As the Associated Press noted, Justin Tucker has. Many times.
His team on the cusp of letting a winnable game on the road get away, the NFL's best kicker added another notch to his remarkable resume during a 26-23 victory on Sunday. The Ravens snapped a two-game losing streak and pushed the Steelers to the brink of also-ran status in the process.
Tucker drilled four field goals in all, including a 48-yarder in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime and a 46-yarder with 5:26 left in the extra period -- both into the tricky winds at the open end of Heinz Field. He capped an emotional day that saw one of the AFC's most bitter rivalries begin anew.
"We're young but we're figuring it out," Harbaugh said.
Tucker, who was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday, is the most accurate kicker of all-time, converting 90.4 percent of his field-goal attempts (247-of-273). Since Tucker entered the NFL, the average success rate is 84.4 percent (with minimum of 100 tries). At Heinz Field, Tucker has made 24-of-25 (96 percent) of his field goals while visiting kickers have a mediocre 79.3 percent success rate there since it was built in 2001.
Baltimore needed Tucker to be special on an afternoon in which the Ravens let a 10-point halftime lead slip away. Lamar Jackson threw three interceptions, two of which gave the Steelers a short field, and the defense let Pittsburgh backup quarterback Devlin Hodges provide a spark when Mason Rudolph sustained a concussion in the third quarter after getting knocked out by Baltimore safety Earl Thomas.
"We just stepped up in so many different situations and found a way to win the game," Harbaugh said. "A lot of things were going against us. A lot of things did not go our way. Our guys kept their poise. Our guys didn't get overwhelmed by the moment and found a way ultimately to win the game."
Next up, the Ravens host AFC North rival Cincinnati Sunday. The teams split their two meetings in 2018. ...
For the record, Jackson has thrown five interceptions in his last two games. That's two more than he had in his first 10 starts. As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley notes, Jackson had been great at making the right reads and decisions, going eight straight games without getting picked off. On Sunday, his three INTs came over the span of four passes: A forced pass over the middle to tight end Mark Andrews, a haphazard pass to the left sideline and a deep pass that went off the hands of tight end Nick Boyle.
That said, Jackson started off hot, going 7 of 10 for 70 yards and one touchdown as Baltimore scored on its first three drives. Jackson's 11-yard touchdown to Marquise Brown put the Ravens up, 17-7, early in the second quarter.
But Jackson only managed to lead Baltimore to two field goals, finishing 12 of 18 for 91 yards and three interceptions the rest of the way.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman ordered a run-heavy blueprint, but the Steelers' defense rose up, doing a better job against the Ravens' running game and then swarming Jackson with a fierce pass rush that produced five sacks and six quarterback hits. The offensive line barely hung on, but give credit to Pittsburgh's athletic front.
On the injury front. ... The Ravens placed veteran safety Tony Jefferson on injured reserve Monday in the aftermath of his season-ending knee injury Sunday. Sean Modster, an undrafted rookie wide receiver from Boise State who was one of the final roster cuts in September, has been signed to the practice squad.
Brown reached the end zone for the first time since the season opener, but he wound up having his playing time limited by an ankle injury. He played 37 of the team's 81 offensive snaps, but it does not sound like the Ravens are too concerned that he'll be a part-time player in the weeks to come.
Harbaugh said on Monday that Brown should be fine because the word on his injury is that it is "nothing serious."
Brown came into the season off of a foot injury that kept him from working for much of the offseason and has limited his practice time, but the first-round pick has not missed a game. He had three catches for 22 yards overall on Sunday.
As for tight end Andrews' foot injury, Harbaugh said the second-year tight end was doing what it takes to get ready to play week-to-week.
"He's just dealing with the thing," Harbaugh said. "He just has to keep working on that, and that's just part of the process."
Andrews caught five passes for 45 yards while playing just over half of the offensive snaps.
Both Brown and Andrews were held out of practice Wednesday; I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead, Devin Duvernay, Jaleel Scott, De'Anthony Thomas, Chris Moore, James Proche
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker, Josh Allen is starting to prove that he understands just how crucial taking care of the ball is in the NFL, especially with how well the Bills' defense is playing right now.
Allen threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns with only one interception as the Bills beat the Titans 14-7 Sunday in a defensive showdown for their third straight win in this series.
"I know there's a stat as a quarterback I'm 8-1 with one or less turnovers," the second-year quarterback said. "So understanding that, playing complementary football is what we need to do and continue to improve on that."
The Bills (4-1) have won three consecutive games away from Buffalo for the first time since 2004, though so many Buffalo fans traveled here it felt much more like a home game. It's also the first time they've started a season perfect through three road games since 1993.
The Bills outgained the Titans 313-252 despite 11 penalties for 78 yards.
Allen looked sharp and was on target early after being cleared only Saturday from the concussion protocol; he took a helmet-to-helmet hit in a 16-10 loss to New England last week. Allen said he felt confident as he left the field from that loss that he would be able to play against Tennessee.
Allen completed all five passes for 58 yards on the Bills' lone scoring drive of the first half. He capped the 60-yard drive with an 8-yard pass to a wide-open Lee Smith. He was 23 of 32 passing and also ran 10 times for 27 yards.
Allen felt start to finish it was one of his most consistent games and his head coach agreed.
"I thought it was a well-rounded game," said Sean McDermott. "Outside of that one play, I thought he was accurate. He got the ball out on time. He understood the looks the defense was giving him pre-snap and that speaks to his preparation. I thought his ability to use his feet timing-wise, he was in and out of the pocket on time. Then he checked the ball down when he needed to check the ball down. So it was a well-rounded game for him."
The Bills now head into their bye on a positive note. ...
Following Sunday's game in which four starters went down with injuries, Buffalo is welcoming a week off to heal up.
"It's at a good time," said McDermott of the bye. "We've got some injuries right now. We've been able to sustain success early on and withstand some of the injuries we've incurred at the beginning of the year. Now we're a little more banged up. So we've got to get healthy, so it's a good time for us to get some rest and evaluate where we are and where we're trying to go."
Cody Ford and Trent Murphy both left Sunday's game with head injuries and are in the concussion protocol.
The Bills also lost LB Matt Milano and C Mitch Morse to injuries as well.
Buffalo chose to keep Taron Johnson and Devin Singletary inactive for another week this past Sunday with hamstring injuries. Coach McDermott admitted the decision to sit them again was influenced by the bye week.
"It was a factor," said McDermott. "I'd be lying if I said it was 100 percent of our decision process there, but it was a factor."
By not playing in Sunday's game, Johnson and Singletary did not put any stress on their recovering hamstrings, making them all the more likely to return to action in Week 7 when the Bills host Miami.
Singletary was already close. He has worked on a limited basis in practice each of the last two weeks.
Among those needing more time to recover from ongoing issues would be tight end Tyler Kroft (ankle). ...
Also worth noting. ... John Brown has been a welcome addition. Brown led the Bills offense with 75 yards and carried the Buffalo offense in the first half with a plethora of first down catches. Brown was a big reason for Allen's success.
"Trusting the five guys in front of me, trusting the receivers to go get open," Allen said. "I felt comfortable in the pocket today, and our defense again played outstanding. That's something that we know they're going to do week-in and week-out. As a quarterback, I'm 8-1 with one or less turnovers, so understanding that and playing complementary football is what we need to do and continue to improve on that."
Brown has 50 or more receiving yards in every game and is the first Bill to open a season with such a streak since Lee Evans did so in the 2008 season with seven straight games.
Brown has 390 yards in his first five career games as a Bill. It ranks third all-time ranking behind Jerry Butler (465) and Bill Miller (438).
Meanwhile, the Bills made a move at the position Monday when they dealt third-year receiver Zay Jones to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a 2021 fifth-round pick.
Jones, 24, played one snap against the Titans. Through the first four games, Jones recorded seven receptions (on 18 targets) for 69 yards.
It's possible that Duke Williams' wild weekend had something to do with this.
The receiver, who was cut by the Bills and then added to their practice squad at the start of the season, was called up to the active roster for the game in Tennessee. The team announced the transaction on Saturday.
Williams was a fan favorite in Buffalo during the preseason after playing in all four games. He caught eight passes and scored two touchdowns.
The 26-year-old waited patiently the past month until the Bills offense looked for a spark in the passing game to replace a struggling Jones.
The Bills wasted no time seeing how the rookie would handle the pressure -- he was targeted on the second snap of the game. Allen and Williams linked up for 4-yards.
The day only got better for Williams after that.
In the second quarter, Williams was part of a pivotal drive for Buffalo -- his 11-yard reception came two plays before Allen hit Smith for the aforementioned touchdown.
Williams ended the game with four receptions on four targets and 29 yards.
Will we see more Williams following the Bills bye week?
"Let's manage expectations," McDermott continued. "He is a young player and I thought he gave us something today and we will see what happens as we continue moving forward."
Still, Jones' subsequent departure is likely an indication where this is heading for Williams.
The Bills promoted running back Senorise Perry from their practice squad on Tuesday.
Perry fills the roster spot vacated by Jones.
Perry appeared in all 32 games for the Miami Dolphins over the last two seasons. He signed with the Bills this offseason but was placed on injured reserve at the end of training camp due to a quadriceps injury. He was later released with an injury settlement before returning to the team’s practice squad.
Perry carried eight times for 30 yards and caught one pass for three yards in 2017 for Miami.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Jake Fromm, Davis Webb
RBs: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Duke Williams, Andre Roberts, Robert Foster, Isaiah Hodgins
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As ESPN.com's David Newton noted, Kyle Allen on Sunday became the first undrafted quarterback to start his career with four straight wins since Hall of Famer Kurt Warner in 1999, and he can thank running back Christian McCaffrey for it.
McCaffrey, you see, had his own brush with a Hall of Fame player in Sunday's 34-27 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With 237 total yards, the No. 8 pick in the 2017 NFL draft became the first player since Jim Brown in 1963 to total 175-plus yards from scrimmage in four of a season's first five games.
McCaffrey's total Sunday tied his single-game franchise record set in Week 12 of the 2018 season against Seattle.
His 866 total in five games is second all-time through the first five games, behind Brown's 988 in 1963 and ahead of O.J. Simpson's 861 in 1973. McCaffrey is the fifth player in NFL history to have more than 800 yards from scrimmage in his first five games.
When McCaffrey exploded through the left side of line for a Carolina Panthers record 84-yard touchdown run on the team's first play of the second half, he became the first player with multiple 75-plus yard rushes in a season since Jacksonville's Leonard Fournette in 2017.
According to Next Gen Stats, McCaffrey reached a maximum speed of 21.95 mph on his 84-yard touchdown run, his fastest speed this season.
McCaffrey was almost unstoppable until he limped off the field late in the fourth quarter with cramping in his legs. His replacement, Reggie Bonnafon, came in for a 59-yard touchdown run to all but seal the team's third straight win since a 0-2 start.
Allen's road to tying Warner's 4-0 start began in last year's season finale at New Orleans. It continued when he replaced franchise quarterback Cam Newton, sidelined indefinitely with a left Lisfranc injury.
Warner went on to lead the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl. Allen is just keeping Newton's spot warm until his injury is healed, but each win makes it less important to rush the former MVP back.
It could even lead to quarterback controversy. Allen, while not spectacular, has managed each game well. He has seven touchdown passes and no interceptions during his streak, including five touchdowns this season.
Again, thank McCaffrey, who is having an MVP season. He came into the game with an NFL-best 411 yards rushing and did nothing but add to his numbers. He had 176 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 19 carries to go with six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Fantasy owners who invested an early pick in him have to be pleased (I understated).
McCaffrey is leading the NFL with 105 carries for 587 yards and has added 31 catches for 279 yards. That's a total of 866 yards from scrimmage in five games, which puts him on pace for 2,771 yards from scrimmage over a 16-game season. The NFL record for yards from scrimmage in a season is 2,509, set by Chris Johnson in 2009. That record is definitely within McCaffrey's reach.
For what it's worth, McCaffrey missed nine offensive snaps, his most of the season, as he was dealing with the above-mentioned cramps.
Bonnafon played a career-high 11 snaps in McCaffrey's stead, running for a career-high 80 yards including the above-mentioned 59-yard touchdown run.
A week after playing 97 percent of the snaps, Greg Olsen missed just one snap. Tight end Ian Thomas played 12 snaps. Olsen was targeted twice with no receptions, while Thomas didn't get any targets.
Only three wide receivers saw snaps as D.J. Moore (97 percent), Curtis Samuel (91 percent) and Jarius Wright (77 percent) saw all the snaps at receiver.
So, everything is working pretty good as the team prepares to travel to England to face the Buccaneers in London.
But Allen has fumbled six times and lost four in three starts this season. He lost another in the first half against the Jaguars which was nullified by a penalty. The latest that counted came a week after he spent time in practice working on more effective ways to hold onto the ball.
To put this in perspective, Newton had lost five fumbles since the start of the 2016 season before being shut down after Week 2.
On the injury front. ... Beyond McCaffrey having a sore back -- and the team understandably gave him Wednesday off to rest it (and to rest in general), LB Christian Miller and gunner Natrell Jameson left with ankle injuries and did not return.
Also. ... Newton was not wearing a boot on Tuesday and was expected to begin working on the side today. There's still no timetable for his return. He's already been officially ruled out for this week and won't make the trip to London with teammates. The Panthers have a Week 7 bye.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Will Grier, Phillip Walker
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Jordan Scarlett, Mike Davis
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, Pharoh Cooper, Brandon Zylstra, Keith Kirkwood
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Temarrick Hemingway
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra put it, "The nightmare scenario played out for Bears fans in London. ..."
Patra went on to explain that on an afternoon that the defense wasn't at its best, the offense couldn't pick up the slack, scoring zero first-half points and turning the ball over twice, including a back-breaking INT that sealed the 24-21 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
Through five games, Matt Nagy's offense has been abysmal, generating 17.4 points per game (28th in NFL), 266.0 total yards per game (30th), 185.4 passing yards per game (30th) and has just 15 big plays (30th). The 17.4 points per game are the fewest by any team with a winning record -- the four teams with fewer PPG this season are a combined 0-18.
"Numbers don't lie. Not good enough," Nagy said, via the team's official website. "You put in a lot of work to be better, and we know where we're at. It's my job to make sure it gets better. ... I believe whole-heartedly in all of our guys. But each person, every coach, every player, it's time to start looking at themselves in the mirror and figuring out why we're out there."
Nagy knows he needs to run the ball more. The Bears' 42 rush yards Sunday against Oakland were their fewest in a loss since Week 17, 2017 versus Minnesota.
With no ground-game, an inefficient Chase Daniel at quarterback, and a struggling offensive line, the Bears' offense isn't consistent enough to move the ball. Of their 11 possessions Sunday, only one went more than 57 total yards -- a 12-play, 89-yard TD drive (the other two touchdowns were set up by an Oakland fumble and big punt return).
For the first time this season, the Bears' defense didn't play like demigods, allowing Oakland 398 total yards, including 169 rushing. It's an aberration, Khalil Mack & Co. will bounce back from once on U.S. soil. But for Nagy, it's disappointing that the balance of his team is currently so lopsided that unless the D plays lights out, Chicago can't win.
Nagy knows he needs to get more from his offense in the future, so he isn't always asking his defense to be perfect.
"I want to see when these times happen, that we can do a little bit more offensively to be able to help that defense out after they had four pretty good games," he said Sunday.
Mitchell Trubisky potentially returning after the team's bye could help, but the coach also needs to figure out better play call balance to give his QBs a better chance to succeed.
According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Nagy said that Trubisky could be back after the bye week, in time for their Oct. 20 game against the Saints.
"He's feeling good," Nagy said. "I felt like the last couple days he's been in a good place. He's been a part of all the meetings, a part of practice mentally. Because that's just as important, staying involved mentally with your guys and with us. And now we'll just kind of see here, again the bye comes at a unique time. Here he is, he gets injured, so here's the bye. Now, he's able to use this and see if he's able to come back or not for the next game.
"I hope he's back. But I don't know that. It could be something where it goes longer than that. I don't know."
Trubisky went to London with the team, but will be back at Halas Hall rehabbing aggressively when he gets home. He dislocated his left shoulder in Week 4 against the Vikings.
All that said, Daniel looked like a backup early and late against the Raiders. In between, he fared pretty well, tossing a pair of touchdown passes to Allen Robinson. But Daniel had an inexcusable first-half interception to Raiders linebacker Nicholas Morrow on a poorly thrown ball over the middle that set up an Oakland touchdown.
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson put it, "That just can't happen."
Daniel roared back to life after halftime, but floated another bad pick near the end of the game. You can't pin the loss on Daniel, but he definitely would like to have a couple throws back.
The good news?
The Bears have extra time to get players back after the bye week.
Worth noting: On Wednesday, the Bears released QB Tyler Bray, who was signed last week to be Daniel's backup with Trubisky out. Perhaps another signal Trubisky is nearing a return.
Not only did Chicago miss Trubisky and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel in London, but defensive lineman Akiem Hicks left early with a left elbow injury. And kicker Eddy Pineiro appeared to re-aggravate his right knee injury, but he stayed in the game.
After returning from London, the Bears planned to spend the bye week self-evaluating and seeking solutions. Expect a focus on the rushing attack.
"The production right now in the run game isn't there," Nagy said. "I'm going to go back and I'm going to figure out the 'why' part.
"I think I know. Obviously, I'm not going to go back and tell everybody what I think it is at the end, but we'll talk as a staff and figure out. They're good people that care. If you have that, that matters. They care. We've just got to figure out why."
Nagy has conceded after multiple games this season that the offensive line needs to perform better. Perhaps some scheme adjustments would help. ...
One last note here. ... Robinson has 31 catches and, as SI.com's Gene Chamberlain suggests, now looks far stronger than last year when he had rehabbed from an ACL tear. It's showing up in the form of acrobatic sideline receptions in almost every game.
Robinson has been going vertical and doing a toe dance along the sidelines all season, especially the last two games.
"I'm going to make the play, that's always been my mindset," Robinson said. "Again, I mean that's what I like to put on the quarterback: 'If you give me a shot I'm going to make the play.'"
Robinson has matched the hottest stretch he's ever had in terms of receptions and he's on track to outpace his personal high of 80 receptions from the 2015 season.
Robinson has caught 75.4 percent of the passes when he's targeted (31 of 42), second only to the 87 percent he had in 2015. The 31 catches are the fastest start to a season in his career by far. It includes three seven-catch efforts.
"You're seeing right now what he can do," Nagy told reporters in London. "The whole league is seeing it and we appreciate it."
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Ryan Nall
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Ted Ginn, Cordarrelle Patterson, Darnell Mooney, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Alex Wesley
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Adam Shaheen, Cole Kmet, Ben Braunecker, J.P. Holtz, Eric Saubert, Jesper Horsted
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
According to ESPN.com's Ben Baby, we shouldn't be fooled by the final score.
The Bengals and first-year coach Zac Taylor have some serious offensive issues to figure out after Sunday's 26-23 loss to the Cardinals. The final stats will look better because of a couple of late touchdowns that made an otherwise boring game appear pretty interesting.
But the Bengals (0-5), who lost to a previously winless team for the second straight week, nearly went two games without a touchdown. Granted, it doesn't help that Cincinnati lost its third-string tackle and a third wide receiver to injury against the Cardinals.
However, Cincinnati should have enough pieces to score more points.
Before he was hired by the Bengals, Taylor was an offensive assistant who spent two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams under coach Sean McVay. Because of that tie, many expected Cincinnati's offense to be more productive.
That hasn't been the case through five games and the offensive struggles are among the issues that need to be addressed after the Bengals lost their 12th game in their past 13.
Andy Dalton ended the Bengals' streak of seven quarters without a touchdown by throwing two and tying the game 23-23 with 2 minutes left.
But nobody is satisfied with that.
"I'm sick of losing," said receiver Tyler Boyd, who caught a 42-yard touchdown pass to tie it. "Sick of not finishing the game we want to."
Dalton was sacked a career-high eight times in the loss at Pittsburgh. The Bengals decided to run the ball and throw quick passes against the Cardinals to avoid sacks, and Dalton was dropped only once.
On Cincinnati's first drive, Joe Mixon carried eight times for 60 yards, but Cincinnati had to settle for a field goal. Arizona adjusted to the run-based focus, and the Bengals managed only 43 yards rushing the rest of the way. Dalton threw for only 22 yards in the first half and Cincinnati managed 90 yards overall.
Still, Dalton threw TD passes on consecutive possessions as Cincinnati tied it with 2 minutes left after going virtually all game without much out of the passing game.
"Yeah, it's definitely a head-scratcher," receiver Auden Tate said.
In general, however, the Bengals' offensive struggles have been compounded by their red=zone futility.
Coming into Sunday's game, Cincinnati had only three touchdowns in 11 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard yard line.
It's been a theme all season and is a big reason the Bengals are winless. On the rare occasions when the offense finds some rhythm, the Bengals fail to get a touchdown out of it.
They'll need to come up with ways to carry the late-game scoring momentum into this week as they prepare to take on the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday. ...
Looking for positives?
Still unable to conjure any success in the red zone, SI.com's Jordan Newman notes that Randy Bullock kept the game interesting for Cincinnati. Converting all three of his FG attempts and nailing both extra points, if anything, the Bengals should be confident in moving forward with their kicker.
Of some interest. ... Once the dust had cleared, Mixon had his best game of the season. After sporadic performances through the first four games, Mixon tallied 19 carries for 93 yards. As noted above, the third-year rusher out of Oklahoma had 60 yards on the team's opening drive, which was 2 yards shy of his season high. It was Mixon's best rushing total since he had 105 yards in last season's finale against Pittsburgh.
Over the past three weeks, Mixon has started to look like the player many thought he'd be this season. He has averaged at least 4 yards per carry during that span.
In addition, after the fifth 100-yard game of his career and second this season, Boyd (123 on 10 catches) is on pace for 1,299 yards, a number A.J. Green has reached only twice. He had to do it the hard way Sunday when Alex Erickson went out with a concussion on the third series. That left Boyd with Tate and his career 15 catches coming in, along two rookie wide receivers. One of them, Stanley Morgan, Jr., made a catch in his NFL debut.
Boyd said he didn't see any special coverages and he did manage to shake loose for a 47-yard TD that tied at 23 with two minutes left
But Boyd was thinking how the Bengals had all of 22 yards passing in the first half.
"We always finish strong," he said, "but we never start it (strong). We just stayed the course and started believing in each other the whole fourth quarter, man. (We) just (have to) continue to fight and execute, and don't wait until the last minute to try and get it going."
On the injury front. ... LT Cordy Glenn missed his fifth game since suffering a concussion. LT Andre Smith left in the third quarter with an injured left ankle, leaving John Jerry to take the spot. ... Erickson hit his facemask on the ground while being tackled after a catch in the second quarter and left with a concussion.
In addition, there's still no timetable for Green's return from the ankle injury he suffered in early August. Taylor told reporters on Monday he didn't have an update on Green other than he will not make his season debut this weekend versus the Ravens.
John Ross is at least seven weeks from a return from his shoulder injury after going on IR last week.
QBs: Joe Burrow, Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Rodney Anderson
WRs: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, John Ross, Auden Tate, Damion Willis, Alex Erickson, Mike Thomas, Stanley Morgan Jr.
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Cethan Carter, Mason Schreck
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith framed it, "During an offseason of excessive and unwarranted hype, the biggest question about the Browns was whether and how they'd handle adversity. On Monday night, adversity smacked them in the face with a two by four."
ESPN.com's Jake Trotter wrote the Browns "were humiliated, humbled and, ultimately, hammered on Monday Night Football in a wholly hapless showing."
And NFL.com's Jelani Scott chimed in by suggesting there are few things in life as true as Freddie Kitchens' opening statement following Monday night's horrendous 31-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
"Definitely wasn't the result we wanted," the coach bluntly told reporters. "You got to give all the credit in the world to San Francisco; they beat us in every facet of the game."
Much will be made about the defensive facet of the loss, and rightfully so considering that the defense had limited teams to 16 points per game over the past three weeks.
But, as is often the case with the Browns (2-3), everybody will be talking about the offense, most notably quarterback Baker Mayfield, who had his worst game of the season.
After yet another inconsistent week, a dejected Mayfield took to the podium to voice his thoughts on the most glaring issue of the night.
"Any time you stop yourself, which seems to be our biggest problem right now, when you do that against a team that's of that caliber, you're not going to have a lot of success," Mayfield said.
Facing a relentless Niners' pass rush, spearheaded by rookie Nick Bosa (two sacks, five QB hits), Mayfield managed just eight completions on 22 attempts for 100 yards. He also added a lost fumble (on a Bosa strip-sack) and two interceptions, all in the first half.
His first pick came on the second drive of the game on a poorly thrown deep ball intended for wideout Antonio Callaway, who made his return from a four-game suspension; the second came toward the end of the half with the Browns in scoring position on the SF 6.
Of the Browns' two red-zone trips, both came up empty; when the chaos concluded, the Browns only had a 30-yard Austin Seibert field goal to show for their efforts, a far cry from the 40-point outburst they had against the Ravens a week ago.
"You can't have mistakes, turnovers, drops, penalties; offensively, that kind of summed us up. We just shot ourselves in the foot too many times," Kitchens said. "It's very clear that we've got to do a better job mentally, a better job coaching these guys. We've got to continue to work every day like it's the first day."
The answers behind exactly what Cleveland has to do is anyone's guess, but it's up to Kitchens and Mayfield to at least figure things out offensively. If anything can be taken from what both men said in an attempt to find a silver lining, "doing better" is the loudest -- and perhaps simplest -- message.
"I'm not hitting the panic button," Mayfield said. "I think for us, we know the problem. We know we have to be better. We just have to do better."
Whatever the case, the Browns must quickly regroup on a short week to face the Seahawks, who had extra time to rest after beating the Rams on Thursday night. Then comes Cleveland's bye followed by a trip to New England and a trip to Denver, followed by a Week 10 home games against the Bills.
As Smith notes, the schedule softens after that, with two games against the hapless Bengals, two against the Ben-less Steelers, the Dolphins, the Cardinals, and a home game against the Ravens.
But if they lose to the Seahawks, the Rams, and the Bills, the Browns will be 3-6 at best once the clouds part for what could be a solid stretch run. By then, Cleveland's margin for error may be down to zero, forcing them to run the table in order to get to the playoffs.
That vibe will change dramatically if they can beat the Seahawks in Cleveland, where the vibe for the 2-3 home team will be far different than it was in Week 1. A potential Super Bowl run has quickly morphed into survival mode, and it will test every aspect of Kitchens' learning-on-the-fly abilities as a head coach. ...
Other notes of interest. ... For all their struggles, the Browns were very much in the game midway through the second quarter, with a chance to trim the deficit to 14-10. But Mayfield's would-be touchdown pass to a wide-open Callaway bounced twice off Callaway's hands as he slid into the end zone, and the ball fell into the arms of K'Waun Williams, who returned the pick 49 yards the other way.
Six plays later, San Francisco scored another touchdown to go up 21-3, putting Cleveland on its heels for the rest of the night.
It was a rough debut for Callaway, who, in his first game back from suspension, didn't record a single completion on three targets from Mayfield and saw two of those targets intercepted by San Francisco. The second-year receiver failed to provide depth to a receiving corps that was missing Rashard Higgins and saw just two players (Jarvis Landry, 4; Odell Beckham, 2) record more than one reception.
Without Higgins and the sidelined David Njoku, the Browns remain short on playmakers, especially when defensive backs key in on OBJ and Landry and couple that coverage with a blistering pass rush as San Francisco executed Monday night.
Although he didn't get a lot of help from his line or his receivers, this wasn't a pretty performance for Mayfield. He started 0-for-4 passing for the first time in his career. He became the first NFL QB since 2008 to go through the first four drives of a game with zero completions and two turnovers.
And with two more picks Monday, he leads the NFL with eight interceptions. The Browns have to be better in other areas, but Cleveland isn't going anywhere unless Mayfield plays a lot better. ...
In a related note. ... For two straight games, Beckham has caught only two passes, Monday night generating only 27 yards. To make matters worse, an OBJ punt return gone awry essentially became the dagger for the Dawg Pound on Monday night.
"I was just trying to make a play," Beckham told reporters after the game regarding a desperate effort that saw Beckham retreat by seven yards while looking in vain for an opening (and holding the ball in one hand) before having it knocked from his grasp. "I'm way too good to do that. I just did too much. I felt like maybe it could give us a spark or something like that. You could feel the energy they had already taken out of us. To be honest, it just seemed like we were ready to go home and I just wanted to keep fighting to the final whistle. I just did way too much."
Embedded in that explanation is an intriguing observation. Beckham sensed that the energy was gone and that "we were ready to go home." That clearly didn't sit well with Beckham, which may propel him into a more vocal and visible role in the locker room and on the sideline.
On the field, his role hasn't been all that visible. As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio noted, although the Browns aren't forcing passes to Beckham, they're designing plays aimed at getting the ball in OBJ's hands without throwing it to him. He threw the ball on the first snap of the game, and he ran it twice for 15 yards.
"Teams are going to do their stuff to take him out of the game, but we also have to take advantage of matchups when we do have them," Mayfield told reporters after the game.
Kitchens denied that it has been harder to get Beckham involved in the offense than Kitchens thought it would be, and he downplayed talk that red-zone throws aren't going to Beckham.
"[W]e've got other guys that we're targeting in the red zone, too," Kitchens said. "Callaway's wide open tonight in the red zone. So our quarterback's going to go through a progression, all right? Sometimes Odell's the first read in that progression, sometimes he's the second, sometimes he's the third, sometimes he's the fourth."
Still, Beckham surely expected to be getting the ball more often.
With 335 receiving yards through five contests, Beckham is averaging 67 per game. That's 20 yards per game fewer than his last season with the Giants, and more than 40 yards lower than his 108.75 per-game average from his rookie season.
And it's one thing for Beckham to not be involved if the team is winning.
But as Florio summed up, "If they're losing and also (in Beckham's assessment) lifeless, his lack of opportunities eventually could morph into regret, reevaluation, and eventually a desire for another relocation."
As for Callaway. ... Kitchens plans to stick with him Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
“I definitely will,” he said Tuesday on a conference call.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” Mayfield said after the game. “We had total faith in him. There’s a reason he was out there tonight even after not playing the first four games. We trust him.
“The biggest thing is putting our arms around him and letting him know that every once in awhile that happens, but to be able to be a great team, we have to eliminate that and take advantage of our opportunities.”
One last note here. ... Cornerbacks Denzel Ward (hamstring) and Greedy Williams (hamstrings) were each back at practice on Wednesday, according to the Akron Beacon Journal's Nate Ulrich. Offensive tackle Kendall Lamm (knee) was also back at practice.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum, Garrett Gilbert, Kevin Davidson
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Dontrell Hilliard, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Taywan Taylor, Donovan Peoples-Jones, KhaDarel Hodge, Damion Ratley, Rashard Higgins
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Pharaoh Brown, Stephen Carlson, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
Are the Dallas Cowboys frauds?
According to NFL.com's Kevin Patra, that's the question circling Texas following the Cowboys' 34-24 home loss to the Green Bay Packers. After pummeling bad teams the first three weeks, Jerry Jones' squad has crashed back down to earth, losing its past two games.
The teams the Cowboys walloped to open the season -- New York Giants, Washington Redskins, and Miami Dolphins -- are a combined 2-12. The teams Dallas lost to -- New Orleans Saints, Packers -- are 8-2.
"I think it tells you right where you are," Jones said after Sunday's home loss. "You do well against teams that are getting it together and we've played two that have it together better and are 4-1 teams. But the point is that what you see is what you get here. We've got some work to do to get where we want to go this year. The good thing about this thing is: There are 16 games right now. There's 16 games and we're just through a little over a quarter of them and we can get it together and get better. We're going to have to get better to get a chance to be where we'd dream to be, and I think expect to be. I think we've got a team that can get better and that's the key, but this is certainly not good enough, last weekend or this weekend."
It's likely the Cowboys are somewhere in the middle between the dominant team we saw early in the season and the one that struggled to move the ball for six quarters before waking up in the second half Sunday.
The Cowboys are in first place in the NFC East because of a better division record than the Philadelphia Eagles (3-2), but the teams are trending in different directions.
Sunday's big deficit wiped out the Cowboys' run-first plan. It was the first time Dallas was held scoreless in the first half this season, and the fifth time in the Dak Prescott era.
The positive for Dallas is that it moved the ball well throughout the game, with Amari Cooper whooping up on anyone lined across from him. Cooper had a 53-yard touchdown among his 11 catches and Michael Gallup had 113 yards receiving with a 40-yard score.
Prescott, who had never lost when throwing for more than 275 yards, was 27 of 44.
Dallas put up 563 total yards of offense, most in a loss in team history.
But turnovers, mishaps, and unforced errors doomed the Cowboys Sunday. In the first half, Dallas ventured into Green Bay territory on four of its six possessions, but scored zero points -- two INTs and one missed field goal. On the day, Dallas threw three interceptions, missed two field goals and had 11 penalties for 124 yards. The defense also got ran over by Packers RB Aaron Jones, who scored four TDs.
Prescott threw for a career-high 463 yards on Sunday, but he was intercepted three times, tying a career high.
Cooper had a career high in receiving yards with 226, but a drop on the first drive led to an interception that Green Bay turned into a touchdown and had the Cowboys playing catch-up for the rest of the game.
Prescott's first two interceptions came on play-action passes. According to ESPN.com's Todd Archer, Prescott had a total of three interceptions on play fakes in his career entering the game.
Archer went on to suggest each week shouldn't be a measurement of what kind of contract the Cowboys should or will give Prescott, but that's how it shapes up publicly, even if the first interception against the Packers was not his fault.
Prescott can't be so careless with the ball if the Cowboys are going to go anywhere in 2019.
The good news? The Cowboy take on the floundering New York Jets this Sunday.
Worth noting. ... Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball 12 times for 62 yards and a touchdown and caught two of four targets for 29 yards.
It was a moderately better performance than he managed last week in New Orleans, but as CBSSports.com suggested, once again Elliott's ability to get into the end zone kept his fantasy line afloat. He's scored a rushing TD in four of five games so far and stands a good chance of making it five of six in Week 6 on the road against a battered Jets defense. ...
Cooper became the first Cowboy with multiple 200-yard receiving games; he caught 10 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns in an overtime win against the Philadelphia Eagles last season. Sunday marked the third 200-yard game of his career. Also, as Archer suggested, had he maintained his balance on a 46-yard catch on the second drive, Cooper could have had the best receiving day in franchise history. ...
For the record, the 463 passing yards by Prescott were the second-most in a game in team history. Only Tony Romo had more (506 yards) in a 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos in 2013. Prescott's previous high was 455 yards in the aforementioned overtime win against the Eagles in December. ...
On the injury front. ... Head coach Jason Garrett reported on Monday that "the MRI (on right tackle La'el Collins' knee) was fine... We'll take it day-to-day."
According to SI.com's Mike Fisher, it's possible Collins and his bookend, left tackle Tyron Smith, will both be available for Week 6 at the Jets. Both were limited in Wednesday's practice, however.
Cameron Fleming was the left tackle of record against the Packers. Rookie Brandon Knight -- getting his first turn on the 46-man roster -- replaced Collins and the coaching staff believes, given the circumstances, he held up OK.
Cooper opened the week working on a limited basis with his ongoing ankle issue that hasn't been a problem on Sundays. Rookie running back Tony Pollard dinged up his knee and ankle in the Packers game, but otherwise Dallas reports no other notable injury problems. ... And maybe, with Smith and Collins, two solutions.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Clayton Thorson, Ben DiNucci
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Jordan Chunn, Rico Dowdle, Sewo Olonilua
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Cedrick Wilson, Devin Smith, Tevin Jones, Ventell Bryant, Lance Lenoir, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown
TEs: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Blake Bell
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
With an eight-game losing streak staring them in the face and the weight of history on their shoulders, the Broncos had just enough football backbone to earn their first win of the season Sunday, 20-13, over the Los Angeles Chargers.
The win, which was Vic Fangio's first as a head coach, kept the Broncos from the franchise's first-ever 0-5 start and it snapped a losing streak that dated back to Dec. 2 of last season.
As the Associated Press reported it, Phillip Lindsay and his teammates got off to a slow start the first quarter of the season, but they were finally able to break through on Sunday.
The Pro Bowl running back got his first 100-yard game of the season. Lindsay rushed for 114 yards on 15 carries as Denver (1-4) raced to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter and held on for the 500th victory in franchise history.
"We have a lot of playmakers. Today was my day to get hot and spark the team," Lindsay said.
The Broncos' defense, which did not force a takeaway in their first four games, came up big by forcing three turnovers and holding the Chargers without an offensive touchdown for the first time in 56 games. Two of the takeaways came inside the Denver 5.
"We hammered them for our performance last week (a 24-22 loss to Jacksonville) but you've got to give them their due this week. They played their butts off," Fangio said. "They really played well and deserve a big pat on the back."
Lindsay came in averaging only 3.9 yards per carry and had only one run of 10 yards or more. He averaged 7.6 against the Chargers and had five carries over 10 yards.
His first two carries on Denver's opening drive went for 21 and 12 yards.
Three plays later, he scored on a 4-yard run up the middle to snap a string of 13 straight games where the Broncos went without a TD on their first possession. Against the Chargers, Denver scored the first 17 points.
"For the past couple weeks, we either got behind or we were having to play catch-up and not establish the run like we wanted to," Lindsay said. "When you are able to run the ball, you command the game. We wanted to seal the deal running the ball at the end of the game."
Joe Flacco was 14 of 20 for 162 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown pass to Courtland Sutton in the first quarter to make it 14-0. Sutton caught the ball at the Chargers 45, slipped out of an attempted tackle by Rayshawn Jenkins and then eluded a diving Roderic Teamer for this third touchdown in the past two games.
"We kind of creased a couple runs early and made the big play to Sutton. We had them on their heels a little bit," Flacco said. "I think they did change some things a little in the back end and started playing some more quarters. We let them get some momentum, and they played the run game a little better at times."
Flacco passed for 133 yards in the first quarter alone. But the Broncos got themselves in longer down-and-distance situations as the game wore on. The Broncos were having a far more difficult time keeping the rushers off the front porch in the final quarter.
Asked this past week about the winless first month of the 2019 season, Fangio had said: "You just have to just keep coaching, keep grinding and keep pounding. You have no choice. If there was a magic wand or potion, I would purchase it, but we just have to keep playing. We've been close. Close don't get it. I know that, but just keep pounding away at it."
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold put it, the Broncos offense, which had put together plenty of clock-eating, long-yardage drives this season, showed glimpses of being both a roll-up-the-sleeves side as well as one with some quick-strike ability. They'll need a similar effort when they return home to face Tennessee Sunday. ...
On the injury front. ... CB De'Vante Bausby was strapped to a backboard and taken off the field on a cart during the second quarter. Bausby suffered a cervical sprain and will subsequently miss some time.
"He is doing good," Fangio said of Bausby on Monday. "No timetable on his return yet. He'll definitely miss some time. [I] don't know if it will be the entire rest of the season or not. [With] these [injurie], the first few days and week will kind of tell the story."
Meanwhile, rookie linebacker Justin Hollins also left the game after he appeared to suffer a non-contact injury. He did not return but after the game, Fangio alleviated some concerns by revealing that it appears to be a knee sprain for Hollins.
Malik Reed balled out at the right edge rusher position, opposite of Von Miller. Hollins spelled Reed for a few snaps before he got hurt but Reed played excellent ball in his first career start.
And finally. ... According to the Athletic.com's Nicki Jhabvala, Drew Lock is no longer wearing a brace on his right hand now. His reps on the field pre-game in L.A. were the first time he's thrown since spraining his thumb. "Felt really good," he said.
Lock must miss eight games while on injured reserve.
QBs: Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Riley Neal
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Khalfani Muhammad, Levante Bellamy
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick, Daesean Hamilton, Tyrie Cleveland, Fred Brown, Juwann Winfree, Diontae Spencer
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Albert Okwuegbunam, Jake Butt, Troy Fumagalli, Nick Vannett
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
The Lions reached their open date this week after facing Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Patrick Mahomes in consecutive games.
When they return to the field a week from Monday, they will be at Green Bay, where Aaron Rodgers is off to another fine start. So far Detroit has held its own against this group of prolific passers. It's certainly been a challenge.
"I guess what we've done has been fairly successful," defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. "It doesn't mean that we're going to continue to go that way. It just means that it's the way we've gone so far. There are so many good quarterbacks and we're seeing another good one here as we come up _ a Hall of Fame kind of guy."
Through the first four weeks of the season, the Lions (2-1-1) allowed an opposing passer rating of just 80.3. Detroit held Rivers and Mahomes without a touchdown pass. The Lions also went on the road and beat Wentz and the Eagles. Detroit's defense hasn't necessarily dominated _ opponents are averaging more than 400 yards a game _ but given the competition, there are some encouraging signs.
"We know what we have, and we know that in a sense, we're kind of like a newly seeded plant," linebacker Jarrad Davis said. "We're starting to blossom a little bit. But we've got to keep watering, we've got to keep giving ourself that light. We've got to keep just making sure that we pay attention to things that are going to help us grow and get better."
Davis' analogy was an unusual one, but there's no question that the vibe around the Lions feels different than it did toward the beginning of last season, when Detroit seemed to be struggling with its transition to new coach Matt Patricia. The Lions finished 6-10.
They began this season with a tie against rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and Arizona, but then came that tough stretch of Rivers, Wentz and Mahomes. Detroit managed two victories, intercepting Rivers near the end of a 13-10 win over the Chargers, then holding off Wentz and the Eagles 27-24.
The Lions nearly knocked off the Chiefs two weeks ago, losing 34-30. Detroit couldn't hold off Kansas City at the end, allowing the winning touchdown in the final minute, but it was a credible defensive performance, especially since one of the Chiefs' touchdowns came on a fumble return.
The Lions haven't been at full strength. They faced Kansas City without standout cornerback Darius Slay, and safety Quandre Diggs left early in the game. Detroit was also without defensive tackle Mike Daniels. The defensive line was expected to be a strength, but injuries have been a concern essentially since the start of training camp.
Hopefully, the bye week has helped in that regard.
Meanwhile, as the carries keeping piling on Kerryon Johnson, the second-year back is ready.
"He's the kind of guy that wants to do that," running backs coach Kyle Caskey said Wednesday. "It hasn't been an issue with him feeling overwhelmed or anything like that. He actually has been asking to get as involved as possible in every area."
Johnson set a career high in rush attempts against the Chiefs for a second straight week. He hit the 20-carry plateau for the first time in a Week 3 win at Philadelphia and then toted 26 times for 125 yards in a 34-30 loss to Kansas City.
After getting 2.6 yards per carry through three games, Johnson racked up 4.8 yards per run against the Chiefs.
It was a bit of a coming-out party for the running attack that was promised with the hire of Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator.
"We talked about how we were kind of one guy away," Bevell said Wednesday. "We had 10, 11 guys doing a pretty good job and we needed all 11 working together. I think you could see that last week."
Through four games, Johnson has 74 carries after he had just 118 in 10 games last season before being shut down early with a knee injury. Extrapolated over 16 games, Johnson is on a 296-carry pace, which would be the most for any Detroit back since James Stewart in 2000. In each of the last four NFL seasons, only one running back has had 300 carries each season.
If Bevell and Patricia are looking for more relief, the options could get more enticing as the year goes on.
After C.J. Anderson was released after two games, the staff was left with Paul Perkins, J.D. McKissic and rookie Ty Johnson as tailbacks behind Kerryon Johnson on the active roster.
Perkins, who has not yet been active on game day, joined the team Sept. 17, and McKissic was added Sept. 1, getting 27 snaps on Sunday. Both should be more entrenched as time goes on.
As for rookie Ty Johnson, Kerryon Johnson's own rookie season could foretell some of his own load spells this season.
Kerryon Johnson carried the ball 50 times in his first five games last season, and then had 68 carries in the next five games after the bye week. Ty Johnson has 13 carries through four games.
"As a rookie, there's a lot being thrown at him, not just on the football field," Caskey said. "When that's happening during the week, and him finding his routine, well he's starting to find that."
Also worth noting, ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein believes Kenny Golladay has solidified himself as a go-to, No. 1 wide receiver.
"He's going to be the most reliable pass-catcher Detroit has on a weekly basis," Rothstein wrote of Golladay, "and Matthew Stafford has built a comfort level with him."
In the Lions' offense, he's a No. 1 receiver. In fantasy, he might not be there quite yet, but the same skills Detroit likes -- his massive catch radius and the ability to make contested catches in tight windows while getting his feet down -- are also the ones that will rack up yardage and touchdowns, which translate to happy fantasy managers.
Just know there will be weeks when he's not the dominant receiver in the offense, but he'll still get his looks.
We'll see if they come this week in Green Bay as the Lions go up against a Packers team coming off a huge win in Dallas. ...
On the injury front. ... T.J. Hockenson suffered a scary injury during the Week 4 loss to Kansas City after the rookie tight end attempted to hurdle a Chiefs defender but instead fell hard to the Ford Field turf, landing on his head and shoulder.
Hockenson laid motionless for several minutes before he was eventually carted off the field. There were fears of a possible serious neck or shoulder injury. But the Lions have only confirmed a concussion.
"In protocol as far that's concerned, but really just normal," Patricia stated last week. "Today's fine and everything like that, but he'll be in that -- nope just the protocol right now."
Hockenson was scheduled to practice Wednesday though he remains in concussion protocol.
I'll have more on his status as the week progresses; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniel, David Blough
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, D'Andre Swift, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, Jason Huntley, Tra Carson, Wes Hills
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham, Geronimo Allison, Marvin Hall
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Isaac Nauta
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As SI.com's Bill Huber reported it, Aaron Jones joined Jim Taylor in the record books with an all-around dominant performance against Dallas.
Jones rushed for four touchdowns to lead the Green Bay Packers to a 34-24 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday.
It marked only the sixth time since 1950 that a Packers running back rushed for four touchdowns. Taylor did it three times, Terdell Middleton did it against Seattle in 1978 and Dorsey Levens did it in the finale of 1999 season against Arizona. Taylor and Jones are the only Packers backs to do it on the road.
In the victorious Packers locker room, following a fourth win in five games to start the season, he was awarded the game ball.
"It's an honor," he said. "It's my first game ball. I tried to give it to the linemen because without them I'm nothing, along with the rest of the blocking unit, but the linemen gave it back to me. They were like, 'No, you're home, you're in Texas. You take this ball.'"
On Wednesday, Jones was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
As Huber further noted, Jones showed the entire skill-set of speed, vision, toughness and awareness. ESPN's Matt Bowen agreed, writing: "Jones played with excellent vision in Green Bay's zone run schemes. With some post-snap misdirection utilized to influence defenders, Jones found cutback lanes and daylight to average 5.6 yards per carry."
On the first touchdown, he burst through a hole and stiff-armed Cowboys safety Xavier Woods to the turf at the 6 on his way to an 18-yard touchdown.
On the way to a field goal that extended the lead to 17-0, he broke a tackle that turned a checkdown into a gain of 22.
On the third touchdown, a 5-yarder that made it 24-0, he used the above-mentioned vision and acceleration to bounce a run around left end. On the way into the end zone, the normally quiet and respectful Jones waved good-bye to Cowboys defensive back Byron Jones.
"I was just in the zone," Jones said. "I didn't even realize I did it until I came off the field. Coach was like, 'You know you just waved bye?' I was like, 'No I was just kind of in in the zone.' No disrespect to him -- he's a great player -- I was just in a zone."
On the first play of the drive that ended with Jones' fourth touchdown, he caught an errant shotgun snap to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, turning a potential disaster into a gain of 15.
"There were two of those. They weren't meant to be," Rodgers said of Jones catching shotgun snaps from backup Lucas Patrick. "Both times, it was when (Patrick) was going left, he was kind of throwing it a little bit right. The first time, I can't believe he caught it. It was literally outside the frame of my body and he caught it. After that, I said, 'Hey, just be alert for the snap here. You never know if it's going to happen again.' Sure enough, it happened again."
The touchdown that punctuated that drive came when Jones ran over safety Jeff Heath at the goal line. By our unofficial count, Jones forced 14 missed tackles. Since we began counting missed tackles in 2012, the previous high was Eddie Lacy's 13 against Minnesota in 2013.
In total, it was another phenomenal homecoming for Jones, an El Paso native whose first career 100-yard rushing game was at Dallas in Week 5 of the 2017 season.
It was Jones' first four-touchdown game since the final game of his collegiate career, against North Texas.
"I'm just back at home. All my family's up in the stands. I could see my brother right there," he said of twin Alvin Jones, a former Baltimore Ravens linebacker. "I threw him one of the balls when I scored, so that was pretty cool. My brother and my cousin where right there."
With 182 yards from scrimmage and the four scores, he easily outdueled Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL's two-time rushing champion who ran for 62, caught passes for 29 and scored once.
"I like to leave it with no doubt that I feel like I'm the best out there, so I try to leave no doubt in anyone else's mind," Jones said.
Of course, the Jones-heavy game plan came with Davante Adams sidelined by a toe injury. The Packers on Friday ruled out their Pro Bowl receiver for Sunday's road game.
Adams, 26, did not practice all last week because of the turf-toe injury he suffered in Week 4 against the Eagles. Even the extra few days because that game was on a Thursday night didn't help Adams. First-year coach Matt LaFleur could have listed Adams as questionable or doubtful but decided not to wait.
The Packers were also without backup running back Jamaal Williams, who remained in the concussion protocol after getting knocked out of the game against Philadelphia.
Now both men get another long turnaround in advance of Monday night's home game against the Lions.
It's safe to say I'll be following up on both in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the week progresses.
For what it's worth, with Adams out, the Packers wide receiving corps of Marquez Valdes-Scantling (2), Geronimo Allison (1) and Jake Kumerow (1) had a combined four catches in Dallas. The tight ends, Jimmy Graham (3), Robert Tonyan (1) and Marcedes Lewis (2) were more productive in the passing game with six combined catches.
Jones (7) and his backfield mates Tra Carson (4) and fullback Danny Vitale (1) carried the load there as well with their combined 12 catches.
Carson, called up from the practice squad on Saturday, was active over rookie Dexter Williams. Carson's pass-blocking ability explains the swap.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love, Tim Boyle, Manny Wilkins
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Jamaal Williams, Dexter Williams, Tyler Ervin, John Crockett
WRs: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Devin Funchess, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jake Kumerow, Darrius Shepherd, Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Jace Sternberger, Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Robert Tonyan
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
Deshaun Watson threw for a career-high 426 yards and tied his personal best with five touchdown passes, including three to Will Fuller to lead the Houston Texans to a 53-32 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
A week after scoring a season-low 10 points in a loss to Carolina, Watson and Houston's offense bounced back on a day he was 28 of 33 and became the first player to top 400 yards passing against the Falcons since Week 16 of 2012. In general, Watson is the first player in NFL to throw for at least 400 yards and five touchdowns with five incompletions or fewer in a game in NFL history.
On Wednesday, Watson was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Fuller had a career-best 217 yards receiving and Darren Fells had two touchdown grabs for the Texans (3-2) and Carlos Hyde added a rushing TD.
Houston's beleaguered offensive line didn't allow a sack on Sunday after giving up 18 through the first four games.
Watson's performance rewrote the record book by becoming the fastest (28 games) quarterback in the NFL history to have his third career game with five-or-more touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Head coach Bill O'Brien was impressed with Watson and his work on Sunday and gave his signal-caller all the credit for his showing against the Falcons.
"He did an awesome job of managing the offense," head coach Bill O'Brien said of Watson. "He ran the show. Whoever sends the play in sends the play in, and he runs the show out there. He did a good job of really managing the formations and personnel groupings and plays, and he had a great day."
Watson was able to spread the football around and have three receivers with over 70 yards receiving in addition to helping Fuller produce the best day of the season for a wide receiver.
Watson worked with what the Falcons gave him, and Fuller was the beneficiary of coverages that rolled to slowing DeAndre Hopkins.
"I think they were tilting a lot of things to (Hopkins)," O'Brien said of what Watson was getting in coverage. "Hop had his share of catches, but they were tilting a lot to Hop, which happens a lot, and Will had a big day. Will's an excellent football player, and he had a good day."
Watson was able to put up some impressive numbers on the stat sheet, but more importantly, he helped the Texans notch a key win. When asked about becoming the third quarterback in history to have 400 yards, five touchdowns, and 158.3 perfect rating since 1950, Watson played it like another day at the office.
"It's pretty cool," Watson said of that record. "Just try to, like I say, just try to get better each and every week, try to build on that and try to do it consistently. The great ones can do those things consistently, and that's where we are. We left a lot of plays on the field, missed a couple touchdowns with (Fuller). So it could have even been better. So there's always room to improve but, yeah, that stat is pretty crazy."
The rest of the offense surrounded Fuller on the bench following the third score and the players bowed to him and lofted him in the air as his big day was announced in the stadium and he was shown on the Jumbotron.
Watson, who was criticized for failing to complete any deep passes against the Panthers, had no such trouble on Sunday when he completed multiple passes for 25 yards or more. His favorite target was Fuller, who more than doubled his output from the first four games combined on Sunday after entering the day with 183 yards receiving.
Hopkins, who did not have more than 70 receiving yards in a game since the season opener, caught seven passes for 88 yards. Houston was without wide receiver Kenny Stills, who left the Texans' Week 4 loss to the Panthers with a hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, Hyde registered 60 rushing yards and the above-mentioned touchdown on 21 carries, and was targeted once but did not record a reception. He also fumbled once, but the loose ball was recovered by teammate Max Scharping.
As CBSSports.com suggests, given his lack of passing game involvement -- just seven targets over the first five weeks of the season -- Hyde has proven to be a touchdown-dependent fantasy asset thus far in 2019. Despite Hyde's minimal pass-catching upside, the fact that he has averaged 14.6 rush attempts per game is encouraging as the Texans prepare to take on a Chiefs defense that is conceding an astronomical 5.8 yards per carry to opposing running backs.
By the way, the game against the Chiefs will be played in Kansas City. ...
On the injury front. ... Stills' status is worth watching in coming days; I'll have more on his possible return from a hamstring injury via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
One last note here, the Texans put up 53 points on Sunday, but there were a couple of missed opportunities to add to that total over the course of the game.
Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn missed two of the seven extra points he tried over the course of the proceedings to continue a shaky start to the year. Fairbairn has now missed three extra points and two field goals, which some may wonder is due to a change in holders with Bryan Anger taking over for Trevor Daniel.
O'Brien is not a buyer of that explanation.
"It's always about the whole operation," O'Brien told the Houston Chronicle. "I think he's had plenty of time with Bryan. He's got to make the kicks. He knows that. He'll be the first to tell you that. Ka'imi is a great teammate. He's a good guy and he knows it. It's just a matter of plant foot. He's pushing it a little bit. He'll come back better this week."
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper suggests, Fairbairn's body of work over the past two seasons buys him time to correct whatever's wrong, but that rope won't be endless if he continues to keep points from hitting the scoreboard in Houston.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: David Johnson, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, Randall Cobb, Isaiah Coulter, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter, Keke Coutee
TEs: Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas, Kahale Warring
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As SI.com's Phillip B. Wilson put it, "These sure weren't the same Indianapolis Colts from a week ago. ..."
Distancing themselves dramatically from the stench of an ugly home loss, the Colts somehow pulled off a Sunday night stunner on the road with a 19-13 upset of the previously unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
What was thought to be a beleaguered Colts defense missing three key starters as well as other regulars kept Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in check for much of an eyebrow-raising night in which they sacked the NFL MVP four times. He had taken just three sacks in the previous four games.
The NFL's No. 1 offense was held to nearly three touchdowns below its season average by a Colts defense that entered 25th in points allowed after a 31-24 home loss to the Oakland Raiders the previous week. The loss snaps a record streak of 25 consecutive games in which the Chiefs had scored 25 points and marked the lowest output in Mahomes' 22-game NFL career.
The other side of the equation was a Colts offense that relied on pounding a shakier Chiefs defense for 180 yards rushing. Running back Marlon Mack, who was seemingly in doubt because of an ankle injury, amassed 132 yards on a career-high 29 carries.
Most importantly, the Colts monopolized time of possession, holding the ball for 37 minutes, 15 seconds to the Chiefs' 22:45. That's how you stop the Chiefs' record streak of 25 consecutive games with 25 points scored and limit Mahomes to his lowest scoring output in 22 career starts.
Sunday was the third time in five games this season that the Colts rushed for more yards than they passed for. They would be 3-0 in those games if not for Adam Vinatieri's missed kicks in Week 1. The 45 rushes were the most the Colts have attempted in a game since they had 46 attempts on the ground in a game against the New York Jets in 1997.
"This is what we want to define us," head coach Frank Reich said. "We want it to start up front. When we got here, [general manager] Chris [Ballard] two years ago, we would start talking about what we wanted to build. This is the kind of team we wanted to build.
"The mentality was we are going to do whatever it takes. But it sure helps when you can run the ball like that."
Yes, it sure does. That smashmouth success enabled the Colts to overcome their own share of shortcomings.
Jacoby Brissett, scored his team's only touchdown on a 1-yard rush for a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.
When the Chiefs needed the ball back in the final quarter, the Colts minimized those touches with that time-consuming running game. The Colts dominated time of possession 37:15 to 22:45. The Chiefs barely had the ball in the second half, when the Colts ran 38 plays to their hosts' 19.
"At the end, when he had to grind it out, we grinded it out," Reich said. "Real credit to those guys up front and the backs. A great, great team win. Our best game of the year. Couldn't be happier for our team."
The victory was in stark contrast to the last time the Colts played at Arrowhead Stadium, a 31-13 loss in January's AFC playoffs.
But Reich sensed this experience would be different. He considered the week's practices the best of the season.
"We were hungry all week," Reich said. "There was something different about this week. I think we all felt it. I could feel it. It was palpable. We walked in here with a lot of confidence.
"I just knew it was real. I felt it all week. We've got a good team."
Next up, the Colts get the week off before traveling to Houston on Oct. 20.
As noted above, Mack's status was up in the air pregame because he was dealing with an ankle injury all week. The ankle didn't appear to bother Mack, as the third-year back rushed for 132 yards on 29 attempts. Sunday marked the sixth time that Mack topped the 100-yard rushing mark.
Beyond that, Mack, who has rushed for 470 yards this season, is averaging an NFL-high among running backs of 3.09 seconds before reaching the line of scrimmage this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. ...
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells notes, after early season struggles that had general manager Chris Ballard work out six kickers, Vinatieri went 4-of-4 on kicks to give the Colts the necessary points to win. That's a drastic change for Vinatieri, who opened the season 3-of-8 on kicks, including costing the Colts a game in their Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
The bye comes at a fortuitous time. ... CBs Shak Taylor (chest) and Kenny Moore II (knee) left in the first half, joining inactive safeties Malik Hooker (knee), Clayton Geathers (concussion) and Rolan Milligan (knee) on the Indianapolis sideline. LB Zaire Franklin (hamstring) and DE Kemoko Turay left in the second half.
Receiver Parris Campbell (abdomen) is coming off a minor procedure that will also benefit from the off week. The same goes for Mack and T.Y. Hilton, who played through a still-tender quad in Kansas City.
Turay broke his ankle and is out for the season.
The season-ending injury is a blow to a Colts defense that has dealt with significant injuries early in the campaign. The latest setback is just one more issue for Frank Reich's team to overcome in 2019.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, Dezmon Patmon, Marcus Johnson, Daurice Fountain, Ashton Dulin, Chad Williams
TEs: Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, Matt Lengel, Xavier Grimble, Mo Alie-Cox
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco notes, a costly fumble by quarterback Gardner Minshew late in the fourth quarter cost the Jacksonville Jaguars a chance to beat the Carolina Panthers, but the Jaguars' inability to stop the Panthers' ground game was the main reason for the 34-27 loss at Bank of America Stadium.
Christian McCaffrey had 237 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, including an 84-yard touchdown run, and the Panthers totaled 285 yards on the ground. It wasn't like the Panthers disguised what they wanted to do, either: McCaffrey entered the game as the league's leader in rushing and yards from scrimmage.
The Jaguars' defensive front got shoved around and there were huge holes on the ground for McCaffrey (176 yards, 2 TDs) and Reggie Bonnafon, who also ran for 80 yards (including a 59-yarder for a TD). Neither back was touched on their long TD runs, either.
Despite the loss -- and the fumble, Associated Press sports writer Mark Long advised readers there's one thing you can say about Minshew: He never gives up.
The rookie quarterback turned in another encouraging performance, completing 26 of 45 passes for 374 yards with two touchdowns. The Jaguars offense racked up 507 yards against the league's fourth-ranked defense, which caught the attention of Panthers coach Ron Rivera.
"They have a young dynamic quarterback," Rivera said. "He's going to be a special one in this league I think."
The Jaguars never led, but they were never out of the game either in large part due to Minshew's resilience.
He seemingly had an answer for everything the Panthers threw at him, finding ways to keep plays alive with his feet while playing with the poise of a veteran quarterback and a never-say-die mentality.
"You feel like you always have a chance when he's in there," said head coach Doug Marrone. "You feel like he's going to make a play. I think sometimes you see him running around and moving around and ducking and going and eventually, that stuff -- in this league -- is going to catch up to you where they're going to knock the ball out. Sometimes you're going to make plays, sometimes you're not. We just appreciate that the guy is out there giving us everything he has."
It doesn't mean the sixth-round pick isn't going to make rookie mistakes.
He made several on Sunday.
He fumbled three times, twice on sacks, including one returned 56 yards for a touchdown by Brian Burns. But even that wasn't completely his fault as Panthers defensive end Mario Addison pushed blocker Andrew Norwell into Minshew, causing the ball to come out. Burns later ran down Minshew from behind late in the fourth quarter, recording a sack and fumble. The other fumble came on a miscommunication on a handoff early in the game.
"Those are all on me, that can't happen," Minshew said. "When stuff like that happens, sometimes you don't give yourself a chance to win. That's what I feel like we did, what I did."
Still, Minshew didn't give up.
Down 34-27 with 1:45 left and with only one timeout, he led the Jaguars from their 5 to the Carolina 24 battling plenty of crowd noise and a stiff pass rush. But Minshew calmly converted five first downs, including a 26-yard strike over the middle to D.J. Chark on third-and-10. But he eventually ran out of time when his pass toward the end zone was knocked down by Luke Kuechly on the game's final play.
"Knowing the guys in that huddle, as long as there is time on the clock, we are going to keep fighting," Minshew said. "We are going to give all we got, because we know the guy next to us is, and you're not going to let him down. As long as there is any chance, that is what we are going to do."
Minshew is the first player in NFL history to throw for at least 200 yards passing with a passer rating of at least 95 in each of his first five career games.
Chark, who had eight catches for 164 yards and two scores , said he believes better things are ahead for the Jaguars (2-3), who remain in contention in the unpredictable AFC South.
"I feel like once we get our stride going and we're feeling it, nobody is going to stop us," Chark said. "We got down pretty early and there are some things that the offense has to work on but there's never been a point this season -- and we lost two games -- there's never been a point in any of those games where anyone has given up and that's huge."
At this point, as DiRocco suggests, the second-year receiver might belong in the conversation when it comes to the top five receivers in the NFL. Chark struggled as a rookie, catching just 14 passes for 174 yards and only making an impact on special teams because he was still trying to figure out what to expect in the NFL. He also had to learn all three receiver positions and was never quite sure when he'd get on the field.
Chark surpassed his rookie yardage total in Week 2, catch total in Week 3 and had the best game of his career against the Panthers. He now has five receiving TDs, tied for the second-most in Jaguars history through the first five games of the season.
For what it's worth, SI.com's John Shipley notes that Sunday was the first game this season where Chark led the Jaguars wideouts in snaps.
On a less positive note. ... The Jaguars didn't get the run game cranked up until the second half for the second week in a row. The Jaguars ran for 190 yards in the second half of their victory in Denver and had 114 yards against the Panthers. The offensive line's struggles have been an issue all season and Marrone said the unit wasn't giving Leonard Fournette a chance. That was the case in the first half against Carolina, too, with Fournette managing only 35 yards on 15 carries. He had 73 yards in the second half.
In a related item. ... A week after Ryquell Armstead played 14 snaps and had 9 offensive touches, he played only six snaps and touched the ball twice. As Shipley pointed out, the Jaguars were playing catchup for most of the game so this isn't too surprising, but Armstead's usage is still inconsistent thus far.
On an even less positive note. ... The Jaguars lost tight end James O'Shaughnessy to a knee injury during Sunday's loss to the Panthers and he won't be returning to action anytime soon. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that O'Shaughnessy had an MRI on Monday that showed he tore his ACL. He will have surgery and miss the rest of the regular season.
O'Shaughnessy started all five games for the Jaguars this season. He had 14 catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns in those appearances.
Geoff Swaim and Seth DeValve have also seen time at tight end for Jacksonville this season. Third-round pick Josh Oliver is also on the roster, but has been out with a hamstring injury.
On Wednesday, Jacksonville announced on Wednesday that they have signed Ben Koyack.
Koyack is no stranger to the 53-man roster in Jacksonville. He appeared in 37 regular season games for the team over the last three seasons and has 24 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown. ...
By the way, the Jaguars hos the Saints on Sunday.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Josh Dobbs, Mike Glennon, Jake Luton
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Chris Thompson, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Jeremy McNichols, James Robinson
WRs: D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson, Chris Conley, CJ Board, Keelan Cole, Michael Walker
TEs: Tyler Eifert, Josh Oliver, Tyler Davis, James O'Shaughnessy, Charles Jones
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta framed it, "The Chiefs rolled into Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday night knowing Indianapolis was missing a bunch of defensive backs to injuries and quite confident Patrick Mahomes could pick apart the Colts' backups.
"Turned out it was Indianapolis that dominated a bunch of Kansas City second-stringers. ..."
One by one, the Chiefs lost crucial players on both sides of the ball, and the Colts took advantage of their flailing backups. The result was a 19-13 victory not only ended Kansas City's incredible run of scoring at least 26 points in 22 straight games, but also proved Mahomes and Co. are fallible.
"We got beat in about every phase you can get beat this evening," head coach Andy Reid said.
According to Skretta, it wasn't entirely their fault.
Yes, the Chiefs were flagged 11 times for 125 yards. Yes, they lost a fumble when LeSean McCoy had the ball poked loose deep in Indianapolis territory. Yes, their defensive backs kept getting beat by the fleet of Colts wide receivers, resulting in big completions or yet more penalties.
But those miscues often came with a bunch of backups on the field.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins was the first to leave the game, unable to press through a hamstring injury that left him questionable to play at all. He was joined on the sideline later by Byron Pringle, who caught six passes for 103 yards and a score before ending up in the concussion protocol.
Meanwhile, top wide receiver Tyreek Hill took part in pregame warmups following his first week of practice since Week 1, but he was inactive once again.
"You don't ever know if a man will go down so you got to know the playbook and be ready to step up," Pringle said. "It's time to show what you've been working hard for all week."
The Chiefs didn't try to alleviate pressure by calling more running plays. They tried runs on just 14 of their 57 plays. McCoy, their leading rusher entering the game, got no carries.
Reid said on Monday that McCoy's limited playing time had to do with problems in pass protection. "He'll work on that, get that taken care of," Reid said. McCoy played just 14 snaps, compared to 35 for Damien Williams and 14 for Darrell Williams.
The Chiefs weren't productive with the run, gaining 36 yards. A more concerted effort to run the ball might have made a difference.
"They were banged up a little bit in the secondary," Reid said of the Colts. "I thought we could take advantage of that."
Up front, the Chiefs already were missing left tackle Eric Fisher, who underwent core muscle surgery and isn't expected back for several more weeks. Then they lost left guard Andrew Wylie to an ankle injury, forcing them to use two ineffective backups -- Cam Erving at tackle and Ryan Hunter at guard.
"We have the best quarterback in the world, the best receivers, all that stuff," right tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. "It was just a matter of guys are getting there too soon."
Erving in particular had a miserable night. He was dominated by the Colts defensive front, flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for a hit out of bounds, and once was pushed so far back in the pocket that he stepped on Mahomes' left ankle, leaving the league MVP to limp to the sideline.
Things weren't much better for the Chiefs on defense.
"I've got to get the bigs playing better on both sides, the offensive and defensive line. It starts there," Reid said. "When you win it starts there. When you lose it starts there, too. But it's early in the season. We'll come back and learn from this, and some of these injuries, we'll get healthy."
It can't happen soon enough.
The Chiefs are in the midst of a brutal grind highlighted by four prime-time matchups in a six-week stretch. They play red-hot Houston next Sunday, then visit Denver on a short week, followed by a Sunday night game against Green Bay, a visit from Minnesota and a Monday night game against the Chargers.
All before they get their bye and a chance to really get healthy.
"Obviously we have to move on pretty quickly. We're still early in the season," said Mahomes, who dismissed the seriousness of his ailing ankle, the same one he hurt in Week 1 against Jacksonville. "This loss hurts a lot but there's a long way to go. This is something we'll learn from. ..."
Without Hill and Watkins (hamstring) against the Colts, Pringle broke out with six catches for 103 yards and the above-mentioned touchdown on a team leading nine targets. For what it's worth, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman saw six targets each.
According to NFL.com's Graham Barfield, Pringle is a long shot to maintain relevance in the Chiefs crowded pass catching corps and I'm only mentioning him in this space because it is a weak waiver wire week.
Speaking of the injuries. ... Reid on the chances that Hill plays on Sunday against the Texans at Arrowhead Stadium: "I'll know more as we get through this week. He practiced a little bit last week and he moved around pretty good but they've got to make sure everything is stable. He wasn't being hit last week."
Hill is expected to practice this week; Mahomes was on the practice field Wednesday; Watkins was not.
Needless to say, I'll be watching for more on Hill's progress, along with Mahomes' ankle and Watkins' hamstring in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Beyond that. ... X-rays came back negative on Wylie's ankle. He'll undergo further testing as a precaution, but it appears he suffered just a sprain, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported.
Defensive lineman Chris Jones suffered a groin strain and is expected to miss some time. Jones is considered week-to-week. Defensive tackle Xavier Williams (ankle) has been placed on injured reserve, the team announced on Wednesday. The Chiefs also announced they signed defensive tackle Terrell McClain and guard Stefen Wisniewski and that they waived guard Ryan Hunter.
One last item here. ... Travis Kelce appeared to shove Eric Bieniemy on the sideline early in the game. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif pulled Kelce away while Erving did the same with Bieniemy. Kelce later hugged Bieniemy on the sideline.
Reid addressed the incident on Monday: "Trav had had a couple of potential fumbles go on where he couldn't hang on to the ball and so he was mad at himself. EB got after him a little bit and then those kinds of things happen. It all worked out all right afterward. That happens. You just don't have as many cameras normally as you do on a Sunday night game."
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Jordan Ta'amu, Kyle Shurmur
RBs: Damien Williams, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darwin Thompson, DeAndre Washington, Elijah McGuire, Darrel Williams
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, Gehrig Dieter, Kalija Lipscomb
TEs: Travis Kelce, Deon Yelder, Nick Keizer, Ricky Seals-Jones
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
The Los Angeles Chargers faced a winless Denver Broncos team at home Sunday and laid an egg. The Chargers' offense didn't score a touchdown, as Anthony Lynn's squad fell to 2-3 with a 20-13 defeat.
"Sorry for watching that damn game. We play like that we won't beat anybody," Lynn said, via the L.A. Times. "That team came here more desperate for a win ... It was disappointing."
The Chargers didn't match the Broncos' intensity, who despite coming into L.A. with an 0-4 record had played each of their first four tilts close. This was not an ordinary winless team.
As SI.com's Jason B. Hirschhorn put it, "Despite Melvin Gordon's return to the lineup, the Chargers' offense couldn't take advantage of their game plan or avoid mistakes against the Broncos."
"We just couldn't get going," Gordon added. "What frustrated me most was being inside the 20, being right at the goal line and not converting. That's just not Chargers football. You know us. We get to the goal line, we're licking our chops (and) we usually get it in."
Gordon ended his holdout late last month only to return to a once-familiar litany of missed opportunities, untimely mistakes and a late comeback that fell short. He rushed for just 31 yards on 12 carries and caught four passes for 7 yards.
His fellow running back, Austin Ekeler, had 15 receptions on numerous check-downs, but managed just 86 yards. According to NFL.com, Ekeler is the first player since 1950 to make at least 15 catches without gaining 100 yards.
What's more, Philip Rivers threw 48 passes that produced only 211 yards.
Those high-volume, low-yield numbers epitomized the Chargers' frustrating offensive day against Denver. Los Angeles' only gain longer than 20 yards was Desmond King's 68-yard TD punt return.
"We're an explosive offense," Gordon said. "We've got the talent. It was just one of those days where nobody could get going. It's unfortunate, man. It's crazy with all the talent we have. ... We're 2-3. It's a hole, but it ain't nothing we can't do if we play together. We've got some guys out, but that's no excuse."
Rivers and his veteran teammates have grown used to spending the entire autumn making up for the mistakes of late summer, but that doesn't mean they like it.
"We've been in this boat a lot," Rivers said. "Obviously you don't want to be, but we have been. This exact group hasn't been, but a lot of us have. We'll see how this group responds collectively."
According to Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham, much of the blame for the Chargers' offensive ineptitude could be laid squarely at the feet of their 37-year-old quarterback. The Bolts desperately needed a strong game from Rivers with several key teammates sidelined, their franchise running back fighting rust and their entire offense running out of sync even before center Mike Pouncey left with an injury.
Instead, in his 213th consecutive regular-season start, Rivers failed to mount a touchdown drive in a game for only the eighth time in that stretch dating to 2006.
Rivers threw two interceptions, including a foolhardy throw late in the third quarter into double coverage in the end zone, where linebacker Alexander Johnson picked it off with ease. Rivers also committed a blatant intentional grounding penalty that pushed Los Angeles beyond rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin's field goal range in the second quarter.
"They had a good plan," Rivers said. "They did a nice job. ... It just wasn't going to be one of those 350-yard days where we were going to go up and down the field. I think I'm going to look at it and go, 'Gosh.'"
The Chargers repeatedly failed to pick up easy points, even in difficult situations. After Lynn decided to go for a touchdown from the Denver 1 on the final snap of the first half instead of taking a field goal with his team down 17-0, Ekeler fumbled while trying to stretch the ball over the goal line.
"Me and the 1-yard line, we have an interesting relationship," Ekeler said, recalling his fumble at the 1 in a similar situation during a loss at Detroit last month. "We got all the way down there, but we've got to finish a drive. I don't know what it is. I honestly don't know. ... It's frustrating, but you've got to keep moving forward. We were getting chances. We just couldn't get any traction."
L.A. generated just 246 total yards of offense (211 passing, 35 rushing), 157.8 yards fewer than they'd averaged the first four weeks of the season (403.8). Sunday marked just the ninth time in 224 career starts for Rivers -- including the playoffs -- the offense didn't score a TD, per the Los Angeles Times.
The division loss pushed the Chargers to third in the AFC West, behind Kansas City (4-1) and Oakland (3-2). The Chargers host Pittsburgh Sunday night. ...
Worth noting. ... Ekeler's 15 catches matched Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow and two time-Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen for most receptions in a game as a Charger. This was the most by a Bolts running back in a contest and ties Ekeler with five other running backs for second-most receptions at the position in a game in NFL history.
According to 670 The Score's Anthony Staggs, Ekeler has caught 39 of 41 targets so far and is currently on pace to have arguably the greatest receiving season ever by a running back.
At his current pace, Ekeler would finish with 125 catches (107 is the NFL record), 131 targets (130 is the NFL record); 1,139 yards (1,384 by Bobby Mitchell who played multiple positions) and 10 TDs. ...
Rivers' 32 completions against the Broncos moved him into a tie with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for No. 7 all-time in completions. ...
Receiver Mike Williams caught six of 13 targets for 74 yards on Sunday. Listed as questionable with an injury heading in, Williams started and led Chargers wideouts in targets, catches and receiving yards.
As CBSSports.com notes, Williams nearly added a couple of big gains to his ledger but came up short on several occasions as he hauled in less than half of the passes sent his way. Still, it was a positive sign to see Williams so involved after missing last week's game, and he should be good to go for this week's game against the Steelers, although some missed or limited practice time shouldn't come as a surprise. ...
And finally. ... In the wake of reports last week that indicated tight end Hunter Henry (knee) had resumed running, Lynn was asked about the possibility of Henry returning this week: "He was moving around pretty good last week (on the side working with trainers)," the coach said. "So we'll see if we can try to work him in (to practice) this week. ... But there's no guarantee he'll be back."
That's something I'll be watching closely in coming days -- and Henry was scheduled to work on a limited basis Wednesday. Check the Late-Breaking Updates for more. ...
Beyond that, the news is bad. The team announced that Pouncey was placed on injured reserve, and that they signed offensive lineman Ryan Groy to take his roster spot.
Pouncey suffered a neck injury last week, and it was apparently serious enough to keep him out at least eight weeks. They’re still without left tackle Russell Okung (blood clots), making a mess out of what was supposed to be a solid line.
The Chargers will likely move Dan Feeney into the middle and plug Forrest Lamp in at left guard.
Groy spent the last four seasons with the Bills, and was in camp with the Saints this offseason.
QBs: Tyrod Taylor, Justin Herbert, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joe Reed, Andre Patton, K.J. Hill, Jason Moore, Darius Jennings
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry noted last week, the Los Angeles Rams' offense, a well-oiled machine the last two seasons under coach Sean McVay, has been examined and scrutinized through five games and a 3-2 start.
Not enough of running back Todd Gurley, who has yet to rush for 100 yards in a single game? Too much of quarterback Jared Goff, who has passed for 912 yards and three touchdowns in two losses? An offensive line that's adapting to two first-year starters?
But last Thursday night, after a 30-29 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, receiver Robert Woods offered a different explanation for the uneven start.
"I personally feel like we've got a lot of work to do," Woods told Thiry. "Just got to play better, play faster, play more aggressive and -- be nasty, I think, really.
"That's the biggest thing I would say. Be the aggressor. Be the hammer, not the nail."
Through five games, the Rams have yet to score a first-quarter touchdown. However, despite sluggish starts, the offense has been in position to tie or win the last two games in the final minutes. But they have not been able to capitalize.
"Is it disappointing? Absolutely," McVay said about the 3-2 start. "But it's something that is not going to be debilitating and prohibit our ability to move forward as a team."
When asked why he thought the Rams were not "nasty" enough, Woods said, "I don't know. Mindset."
In Week 4, with 1:18 to play and trailing 48-40 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Goff was strip sacked by linebacker Shaq Barrett and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh returned the takeaway for a 37-yard touchdown to seal a 55-40 victory.
Last Thursday night, against the Seahawks, Goff could only watch as a pass bounced off tight end Gerald Everett's hands and was intercepted with 2:12 to play, trailing 30-29. The defense forced a Seattle three-and-out on the ensuing drive, giving the Rams a final chance to win with 1:38 remaining. But penalties plagued an otherwise sharply executed drive. Right tackle Rob Havenstein was flagged for a false start, and the Rams took a delay of game.
Costly mistakes when you consider kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 44-yard winning field goal attempt, wide right.
"I just didn't swing hard," Zuerlein said after the game as he left the locker room. "Usually if I leave the ball right, I open my foot and don't swing hard, and that's what happened. I thought it had a chance to come back in, but anytime I swing like that, it's usually not a recipe for success."
Goff said he was ready to go when the Rams got the ball back a final time.
"We're rolling on offense in most of the second half. Had some things that didn't go our way where we didn't finish drives," Goff said. "But we were moving the ball really well."
Ball security and penalties have been an issue throughout the season.
Goff has turned the ball over at least once in all five games, tying the longest streak of his career, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. He has thrown seven touchdowns, with seven interceptions. In the second quarter against the Seahawks, Gurley also lost a fumble in the red zone with the Seahawks ahead 14-6.
The offensive line has drawn 17 penalties through five games. Last season, the line accounted for six penalties in five games and 25 penalties through Week 17.
They'll try get some of these issues fixed in advance of this week's game against the 49ers. ...
Worth noting. ... Goff went to Tyler Higbee and Everett on several possessions throughout the loss to the Seahawks. Higbee caught three passes for 47 yards, and Everett caught seven for 136 yards. Higbee said they knew more 12-personnel (two-tight end) packages would be used going into the game.
Given the success, it wouldn't be surprising to see both tight ends play an increased role going forward. ...
On the injury front. ... Brandin Cooks left Thursday night's game to be evaluated for a concussion, and on Friday the team confirmed he has been placed in the concussion protocol.
Cooks was feeling good on Friday but will continue to be evaluated, McVay said.
"He was asymptomatic today and that was a positive thing for us," McVay said.
Given that he's feeling no symptoms and the Rams have three extra days before their Week Six game against the 49ers, Cooks has a good chance of playing. If he can't play, wide receiver Josh Reynolds would likely see more snaps on offense. ...
Linebacker Clay Matthews will miss a month after breaking his jaw Thursday night. Matthews played 47 of 74 defensive snaps and made five tackles and a sack.
QBs: Jared Goff, Bryce Perkins
RBs: Darrell Henderson, Cam Akers, Malcolm Brown, John Kelly
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, Nsimba Webster, Greg Dortch
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Brycen Hopkins, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
Josh Rosen was still in the first quarter of his first start with the Miami Dolphins when he lobbied his coach to go for it on fourth down at the 3-yard line.
Like most everything this season for the Dolphins, Rosen's attempt was unsuccessful. The Dolphins opted to kick a field goal and went on to lose 31-6 at Dallas.
"If I had a little more say, I would have loved to Peyton Manning it, and wave them off and call the play," Rosen said. "But we're not there yet."
Like all of his teammates, Rosen is hoping to show the Dolphins he's a keeper as they try to climb out of the NFL cellar following a roster liquidation. And like two of his teammates, Rosen is a former first-round pick who was discarded elsewhere and is rebuilding his career with the rebuilding Dolphins.
Rosen was the 10th overall choice by the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 and became expendable this spring when they used the No. 1 overall pick to draft Kyler Murray. Defensive end Taco Charlton was the 28th overall selection by the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, and Miami claimed him after his release last month. Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche was the 29th overall choice by the Cardinals in 2016, and they released him in July after three injury-plagued seasons.
In the search for players to form a foundation for rookie coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins are looking everywhere _ even in the first round. That means second chances for Rosen, Charlton and Nkemdiche.
The Dolphins' bye last week provided a chance for them to assess a historically bad start. They're 0-4 and have been outscored 163-26, the worst four-game point differential in NFL history.
Rosen and Charlton have been two of the few bright spots. Nkemdiche has yet to play while he completes his recovery from a 2018 injury.
Each is eager to prove that his former team made a mistake by letting him go.
"I'm happy to be in this position," Charlton said, "and get a chance to get on the field and make plays and show what I can do, and show my ability and show how much I've grown over these past couple of years."
While a first-round pedigree means a higher profile, Flores doesn't put much stock in it. One surprising contributor for him amid this season's awful start has been receiver Preston Williams, an undrafted free agent. "You can get players really anywhere," Flores said. "Let's not worry about what round you were in. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. What matters is whether you are doing the things necessary to become the best player you can be."
Miami's front office has showed it embraces that philosophy, because the Dolphins have parted with first-round picks, too. This year they traded Ryan Tannehill, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Laremy Tunsil.
Rosen, meanwhile, is getting his second and perhaps final chance to be a franchise quarterback. Verdicts on all players will come while losses likely mount.
"As an organization," Rosen said, "we are just trying to like sort of find our identity."
In the meantime, castoffs from other teams are welcome in Miami, even if they come with the taint of a first-round fizzle.
For the record, Flores told reporters on Wednesday the QB situation is "settled" for the rest of this season. Rosen is it.
Other notes of interest. ... The Dolphins finally benched Kalen Ballage (11 percent snap share) on Sunday, which opened the door for Kenyan Drake (55 percent) and Mark Walton (28 percent) to handle a bulk of the work. Drake reached 70 scrimmage yards for the second consecutive week, though he has yet to clear 44 rushing yards in a game or find the end zone in Miami's league-worst offense.
While Walton proved deserving of more opportunities in his limited reps in Week 4, ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe believes coaches won't give up on Ballage just yet, even after his rough start to the year.
Wolfe's best guess going forward is Drake will be the clear No. 1 back, which should give him a more consistent fantasy floor, with Ballage and Walton splitting the backup reps until one makes himself the leader in that role.
Anybody else here worthwhile?
Flores isn't the only one keen on Williams here. According to NFL.com's Graham Barfield, coming out of the Dolphins bye, Williams is the sneakiest waiver wire add of the week. With Rosen starting under center over Miami's last two games, Williams has seen a robust 29 percent of team targets and he leads the team in receptions (15) and yards (201) over the full season.
Barfield added, "The Dolphins aren't going to score many points this season, but Williams has flashed elite separation skills and has now shown a small-sample connection with Rosen in both the preseason and regular season. ..."
Neither Ballage nor Walton is worthy of a fantasy roster spot right now, while ESPN's Mike Clay believes Drake remains a low-ceiling flex.
And finally. ... Allen Hurns returned to practice on a limited basis last Wednesday, a positive sign for his recovery after a hit knocked him out the Week 4 game against the Cowboys. Starting wide receiver Albert Wilson, who missed the past three games with a calf/hip injury was also a practice participant last week.
I'll have more on their status -- along with that of fellow wideout/return man Jakeem Grant -- via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses, but Flores has expressed optimism Wilson and Grant will be ready for the Redskins this weekend.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen, Jake Rudock
RBs: Jordan Howard, Matt Breida, Kalen Ballage, Myles Gaskin, Patrick Laird, De'Lance Turner
WRs: DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns, Malcolm Perry, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Michael Roberts
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
So much for the Minnesota Vikings being one dimensional. The passing game is back in synch with the run.
Add in the defense, and the reality is the Vikings have it all.
Kirk Cousins threw two touchdowns to Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook ran for 132 yards and the Vikings made life miserable for Daniel Jones and the New York Giants in every way possible in a 28-10 victory Sunday.
"We played well from the jump," said Cousins, who was 22 of 27 for a season-high 306 yards. "I thought it was a very balanced attack today through the pass game and the run game. The screen game added variety to the offense. I thought Dalvin showed why he's such a special player."
The win came just a week after the Vikings (3-2) did little in a 16-6 loss to the Chicago Bears and Thielen insisted the team had to stop being one dimensional, relying solely on the run.
And that's exactly what Minnesota did. It hit the Giants (2-3) with a bit of everything -- pass, run and the defense -- in ending the two-game winning streak Jones engineered since replacing Eli Manning at quarterback. The Vikings gained 490 yards on offense, including 211 rushing, and took a knee inside the New York 5 to end the game.
The Vikings defense limited New York to 211 yards, sacked Jones four times and hit him countless other times. The Defense also chipped in with a safety when linebacker Anthony Barr tackled Jon Hilliman in the end zone after New York recovered Cook's fumble at the 1.
Cousins touchdown passes covered 15 and 9 yards to Thielen, who complained about the one-sidedness of the offense after a two-catch, 6-yard game against Chicago. He finished with seven catches for 130 yards.
The 15-yard, second-quarter touchdown pass capped a 98-yard drive and gave Minnesota a 10-0 lead. The shorter toss ended a 67-yard drive after New York got to 18-10 in the third quarter.
"I feel great. It was huge for the team, huge for the locker room," said Cook after failing to score a touchdown for the first time this season. "It's been a long week, there's been a lot trying to separate us and I think that just brought us more close as a group. I'm just proud of the guys with the way they fought back, blocked that outer noise and came in here and played in a hostile environment."
Dan Bailey hit field goals of 31, 48, 32 and 45 yards for Minnesota, which scored on four of its six possessions in the first half. The fifth ended in a fumble inside the 5-yard line and the sixth on a last play Hail Mary.
Thielen has a habit of rebounding after bad games. The two-catch game last week was his second-lowest since 2016. He went without a reception once, on Dec. 18, 2016, vs. Colts. He followed with career-high 202 yards on 12 catches for two TDs vs. Packers.
Cousins snapped a streak of nine games without a 300-yard passing effort, completing 22 of 27 passes for 306 yards, two TDs and a 138.6 passer rating.
The play-action game, where Cousins has found success creating explosive pass plays throughout his career, finally got into a rhythm in New Jersey. Cousins was 9-of-11 passing for 153 yards and a touchdown on such throws after posting 197 play-action yards in the first four games combined.
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin put it, "This is what balance looks like."
That said, Cronin believe that one area that needs work for the Vikings is their red zone efficiency.
This week, the Vikings return home to face another NFC East team, the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. ...
Also of interest. ... Receiver Stefon Diggs didn't sound like a happy camper earlier last week when he said he "can't sit up here and act like everything is OK" while being asked about trade chatter that's been attached to his name in recent weeks.
That media session came a day after an unexcused absence from practice, which was one of the reasons why Diggs has been fined more than $200,000 by the team. Diggs confirmed those fines after Sunday's 28-10 win over the Giants, but said none of the developments over the last week have soured him on remaining with the Vikings.
"I'm a team guy. I'm here. I want to win," Diggs said, via Chad Graff of TheAthletic.com.
All of the Diggs drama was running alongside bigger questions about the state of the offense, but that storyline will be put on hold after Sunday's win. They put up 490 yards, including a season-high 306 through the air. Diggs had three catches for 44 yards as part of that effort and they'll try to keep it going against the Eagles this Sunday.
According to SI.com's Will Ragatz, the Vikings have gotten everything they could've asked for -- and then some -- from their backup running back this season. Rookie Alexander Mattison ran for 52 yards on just 7 carries against the Giants, increasing his season totals to 189 yards on 34 carries (5.6 yards per carry). He's fourth among all rookie running backs in rushing yards.
Ragatz went on to suggest the most impressive thing about Mattison is how hard and decisively he runs. He bursts through the hole, finds daylight at the second level, and finishes runs hard. The Vikings really haven't lost much when he's out there for Cook. ...
Ragatz also notes that after making his first real impact late in the loss to the Bears, rookie wideout Olabisi Johnson followed that up with a second consecutive impressive game. The seventh-round pick has seized the WR3 role over Laquon Treadwell and run with it.
Johnson caught all four of his targets for 43 yards, looking excellent out of the slot as the Vikings increased their 3-WR sets greatly.
One last note here. ... On Wednesday, Bailey was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Nate Stanley
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Tajae Sharpe, K.J. Osborn, Olabisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, Davion Davis
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As SI.com's Sarah Weisberg put it, "Another game, another career milestone for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. ..."
During Sunday's 33-7 win over the Redskins, Brady surpassed Brett Favre for third place all-time in career passing yards. Favre has 71,838 career passing yards, and after Brady threw for 348 yards vs. the Redskins, he now has 71,846.
Peyton Manning is second all-time in passing yards, with 71,863, which puts Brady just 17 yards shy of him. One would have thought Brady would have claimed that spot on the list late in the Week 5 game, but he was pulled from the game with 7:03 left in the 4th quarter in favor of rookie QB Jarrett Stidham because of the hefty lead the Patriots had.
But as ESPN.com's Mike Reiss notes, the running game changed everything for the Patriots' offense.
After Brady tied a career high with 31 pass attempts in the first half, and the attack wasn't operating at peak efficiency, a switch to a Sony Michel-led rushing attack changed the complexion of the game and powered the team to a 33-7 win against the Washington Redskins.
Up to that point, concerns were growing in New England over the state of the offense. Only seven runs were attempted in the first half.
Relying more on the running game was a major shift that helped settle the offense. It also put less on the shoulders of Brady, who was just 8-of-15 on throws within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage in the first half, his lowest such completion percentage in any half this season. Brady was under duress on 4 of 7 of those incompletions, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
The Patriots are now 11-0, including playoffs, when Michel (16 carries, 91 yards) has a rushing touchdown. ...
There are concerns heading into Thursday night's game against the Giants.
Injuries continue to mount, and receiver Phillip Dorsett was knocked out early of the game because of his hamstring. That thrust undrafted Jakobi Meyers into the No. 3 spot on the depth chart and highlights a potentially troubling issue.
The Patriots are already limited with their personnel on offense, and losing Dorsett further handcuffs offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in terms of being able to use a liberal variety of packages.
The same goes with Rex Burkhead, who was ruled out last Saturday due to an ongoing foot issue.
The Patriots ruled Dorsett out on Wednesday; Burkhead will be listed as qestionable along with Edelman (chest) and Josh Gordon (knee).
I'll have more on the status of Burkhead, Edelman and Gordon via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game. ...
Beyond that, the kicking situation was an issue very early on in Sunday's game. After the Patriots scored their first touchdown, newly signed veteran kicker Mike Nugent missed the PAT. Later on in the first half, New England chose to go for it on 4th-and-2 instead of kicking a 45-plus yard field goal, and they got stuffed and that was a drive that resulted in zero points.
Nugent settled down and was able to knock down the rest of his kicks, but the issue could prompt the Patriots to go for it more on fourth down this season.
It's already prompted them to take a look at another kicker as they worked out free agent Nick Rose on Tuesday. Remember, they also signed Younghoe Koo to their practice squad when they signed Nugent. ...
Also of interest. ... The Patriots decided not to activate tight end Ben Watson from the suspended list, making him a free agent, Reiss first reported.
The Patriots paid him a $600,000 signing bonus but will pick up $2.06 million in salary cap space.
Watson, who turns 39 in December, hopes to continue his career. It just won't be in New England.
Via Nick Goss of NBCSportsBoston.com, head coach Bill Belichick reacted with his usual compassion during his interview on WEEI when asked about not activating the 38-year-old tight end.
"Just don't have a roster spot," Belichick said. "We only have so many roster spots. If we put somebody on, we have to take somebody off.
"Right now, there wasn't a roster spot. We didn't feel like there was somebody we could create a roster spot with. Everybody came out of the game healthy. We have a decent team. So, I think that's where we're at."
The Patriots have only Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo currently at the position. LaCosse played 73 offensive snaps, while Izzo played 20. They combined for three catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.
CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported on Sunday that New England might be interested in dealing for Bengals' tight end Tyler Eifert should he become available. ...
Beyond that, Rob Gronkowski has been hired as an analyst for FOX NFL Sunday. FOX announced Gronkowski will begin this Thursday on the pregame show for Patriots-Giants, alongside Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw, Michael Strahan and Tony Gonzalez.
Brady told reporters he expects to see "hard-hitting analysis" from Gronk when informed of his former teammate's new job.
"He'll be good," Brady said. "He's been good at everything he's done. I didn't know that, that's good for him. Good opportunity."
His latest move suggests he isn't planning to play this season. ...
And finally. ... Brady busted his knee brace while sliding on a 6-yard scramble in the second quarter and said he'll need a new one.
"All the sod gets stuck inside the brace, so it's just jammed. It's like turf, just stuck. I was trying to push it out, but it's like super-glued in there," Brady explained.
For a moment, some might have thought Brady was injured as he got up and immediately reached down to the brace. Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, who was nearby, then started helping Brady pick the grass out of the brace.
"I appreciated that," Brady said of Norman's assistance. "It looked probably pretty bad, because it just stops. The metal, the brace on the side, just digs into the turf. I should slide on my right side, but on the turf it usually doesn't do that. On the grass, sometimes it sticks. I need to get a new brace."
As previously noted, the Patriots host the Giants Thursday night, so the new brace will need to arrive quicker than the norm.
QBs: Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, Cam Newton, Brian Lewerke, J'Mar Smith
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris
WRs: Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu, Marqise Lee, Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett noted, Teddy Bridgewater matched his career high with four touchdown passes on Sunday while throwing for 314 yards in the New Orleans Saints' 31-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 26-year-old reached both of those milestones for the first time since recovering from a major 2016 knee injury suffered while with the Minnesota Vikings -- improving his future free-agency prospects as well as the Saints' Super Bowl hopes in the process.
The Saints (4-1) are now remarkably 3-0 with Bridgewater as their starter following Drew Brees' thumb surgery. And the home crowd responded with chants of "Ted-dy! Ted-dy!" throughout the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after each one of his TD passes.
Bridgewater said the crowd response was "cool." But he continued to insist that his individual statistics "mean nothing to me."
"It's a team sport," Bridgewater said. "The best feeling about today was running off the field, running in the tunnel, seeing the smiles on the fans' faces, and walking in this locker room and seeing the smiles on everyone's faces. That's the No. 1 thing on my mind when I wake up on game day. 'What can I do to help this team win a football game?' And it was a team effort today."
Brees, who posted videos of himself throwing a football on social media Saturday, could be back by the end of the month. But Bridgewater is ensuring that he doesn't have to rush.
Bridgewater completed 26-of-34 passes with one interception Sunday while relying heavily on wide receiver Michael Thomas.
Thomas caught 11 passes for 182 yards and two TDs. Tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. caught the other two scores.
"It should've been five touchdowns," said Bridgewater, who said he feels like he has "the easy job" getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers.
Bridgewater completed his three longest passes of the season on Sunday -- a 42-yarder to Thomas, a 34-yarder to Thomas and the 33-yard TD to Ginn.
"He got into a rhythm," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "And I felt like we did a good job protecting for him, we got the ball down the field more, and a bunch of different guys made some plays. I was happy to see some of the longer throws and the way he played, definitely."
The Saints' game plans were much more conservative in Bridgewater's first two starts at Seattle (because of crowd noise and weather) and against Dallas (because of the Cowboys' defense). So Bridgewater faced some criticism over his lackluster statistics after he failed to reach 200 passing yards in either game.
But Bridgewater joked with a reporter on the subject earlier this week when asked about the deep ball, saying, "You sound like social media," and admitting he had to tell his mom to get off social media.
As Triplett summed up, Bridgewater is getting the job done, though, after the Saints made him the highest-paid backup in the NFL on a one-year deal worth $7.25 million plus incentives this past offseason. So as the wins pile up, so do his chances of either becoming Brees' long-term successor in New Orleans or earning some lucrative offers elsewhere around the league in March.
For what it's worth. ... Thomas received press coverage 32 percent of the time in Weeks 1-4, per NFL Next Gen Stats. The Bucs pressed him 63 percent of the time. Thomas caught 9 passes on 9 targets for 164 yards and two touchdowns when pressed today.
Meanwhile, Alvin Kamara rushed 16 times for 62 yards and secured six of seven targets for 42 yards on Sunday. He also completed his only pass attempt for 13 yards.
Although he didn't find the end zone, Kamara was the ideal complement to the exploits of Bridgewater and Thomas through the air. As CBSSports.com noted, the versatile back checked in a distant second in receptions, receiving yardage and targets to Thomas while also eclipsing 60 yards on the ground for the third straight game.
Kamara has now gone consecutive games without a score of any kind, however, a matter he'll look to rectify at the expense of the Jaguars this weekend. ...
On the injury front. ... Receiver Tre'Quan Smith left with an ankle injury after also having missed the previous two games with an ankle injury.
And finally. ... Brees has resumed throwing footballs and while he's not on track to return this week, he's clearly pushing to beat the original timetable of six to eight weeks.
QBs: Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, Tommy Stevens
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Ty Montgomery, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Tre'quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill, Adam Trautman
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan noted, Daniel Jones learned a few lessons in his first start against a top defense. The Vikings disrupted and digested the rookie in a 28-10 victory at MetLife Stadium.
"Not good enough," Jones said of his typically harsh assessment of himself and the Giants' offense.
Raanan went on to suggest this was to be expected from Jones on occasion this season. He will hit bumps in the road. He's seeing things he has never seen before each week. He's facing players better than he has ever faced.
Jones, the No. 6 overall pick in this year's draft, had his chances against the Vikings. He missed a wide-open Sterling Shepard streaking down the field in the first quarter. Sure, there was pressure in his face, but it was a throw Jones admittedly needs to make. He also missed an open Shepard in the back of the end zone in the second half with a throw that sailed and forced the catch to be made out of bounds.
These were mistakes the outmanned Giants couldn't afford, especially with running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) not dressed and his backup Wayne Gallman leaving in the first quarter with a concussion.
Jones didn't make the plays he did in his first two starts while under duress. This was the difference.
Jones hit 1 of 5 passes for 5 yards while under pressure against the Vikings. In his first two starts, he completed 69 percent of his passes against pressure with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a Total QBR of 88.0, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
Of course, Jones faces another very tough matchup this week -- with a short turnaround -- when the Giants face the Patriots Thursday night.
And he'll be even more short-handed for this one than he was against the Vikings.
Barkley's faster-than-expected recovery won't be fast enough to have him taking the field in Week 6.
The Giants announced Wednesday that Barkley was ruled out for Thursday night's game.
Joining Barkley on the sideline with an out designation is tight end Evan Engram, whose knee continues to be problematic. They'll also be without Shepard, who suffered his second concussion this seaon on Sunday.
Gallman has likewise been ruled out, so the Giants will lean on Jon Hilliman and Elijhaa Penny in the running game.
During one of the more memorable Giants wins in recent memory against the Buccaneers in Week 3, Barkley (48 touches for 311 scrimmage yards, three total touchdowns) sustained an ankle injury and was in a boot and on crutches. His recovery and quick return to practice has been marveled at and there was optimism of a return against the reigning Super Bowl champions. However, last season's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year's return will wait until at least Week 7 when New York hosts the Arizona Cardinals.
In a Week 4 win against the Redskins, Barkley missed his first start, but Gallman filled in admirably. However, he was concussed early against the Vikings in Week 5 and quarterback Daniel Jones' offensive options were limited. They will remain limited with Gallman sidelined.
While the running game was hindered by injuries, the passing game will move on without its top target. Engram's 33 catches and 373 yards receiving are team-highs just ahead of Shepard, who has 25 catches 267 yards.
The good news?
Okay. It's hardly a silver lining, but getting clarity on all involved before Thursday night's inactive announcement is helpful from a fantasy perspective.
So where does it leave us?
Hilliman gained just 24 yards on his 10 touches in Week 5 and New England's defense is a brutal matchup this week, but, as NFL.com's Graham Barfield noted, Hilliman will be a serviceable RB2 in Week 6 with four teams out on a bye (Bills, Bears, Colts, and Raiders) with both Barkley and Gallman ruled out.
Barkley and Gallman had combined for 330 out of 378 rushing yards by Giants running backs this season entering this week. Gallman had two rushes for 14 yards before leaving with his injury. ...
Beyond that, Golden Tate played his first game as a Giant after serving a four-game suspension to start the season. He was not happy with how it went.
Tate was asked after the game if his production -- three catches for 13 yards -- is what we should expect going forward.
"You know, I hope not," Tate said, via Matt Lombardo of NJ.com. "I hope not."
Tate hopes he gets more playing time going forward.
"I want to be out there as much as possible," Tate said. "We'll see. It's the first week back for me. I hope my role increases. But, we'll see."
The Giants would certainly like to get more from Tate. A four-game suspension followed by a 13-yard debut was not what they were planning for when they signed him.
Of course, with Shepard sidelined for an unspecified period, the Giants will have a decision to make regarding how they will replace him in the lineup.
Cody Latimer is likely to be reinserted into the starting lineup alongside Tate with Shepard sidelined.
As SI.com's Pat Ragazzo suggested, Tate will see an increase in his pass targets. So too might rookie Darius Slayton, who has nine receptions for 157 yards and one touchdown since Week 3, when he returned from a hamstring strain that kept him out of the first two regular-season games.
In terms of additional depth, the Giants could call up Reggie White Jr. or David Sills from their practice squad. White, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Monmouth, finished third on the Giants in receiving yards (115) in the preseason on eight receptions.
Sills, a 6-3, 211-pound rookie out of West Virginia who spent the preseason with the Buffalo Bills, had two receptions for 14 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown.
The Giants could also bring back one of the two receivers they cut last week, TJ Jones, their preseason receiving leader (12 catches for 146 yards, two touchdowns), or Bennie Fowler (6 catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason).
I will have more on the Giants via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's kickoff.
In the meantime, I'll not that Barkley seems all but certain to return for the team's Week 7 contest against the Cardinals.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy, Alex Tanney, Cooper Rush
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis, Javorius Allen, Elijhaa Penny
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Cody Core, Da'Mari Scott, Corey Coleman
TEs: Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Eric Tomlinson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini put it, "They made lineup changes. They ran more plays in practice than usual. The coaches raised the decibel level at practice. They held a full-squad film session in which no one's feelings were spared. They said it would be different after the bye. A new season. A reboot.
"The New York Jets were wrong. Embarrassingly wrong."
Cimini went on to note their 31-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field was a new low for their historically bad offense, which needed a late gift from the Eagles (a muffed punt) to score its first touchdown since Week 1. Vyncint Smith's 19-yard run on an end-around was their first touchdown in 40 possessions.
It was the best kind of drive for the Jets -- only one play. Fewer chances to screw up.
How bad was it? The Jets were outscored by the Eagles' defense, 14-6.
In reality, the Jets' chances -- albeit slim -- were wiped out Thursday night when Sam Darnold's lab results revealed a still-enlarged spleen, a residual effect from mononucleosis. Coach Adam Gase was counting on Darnold's return -- he gave him all the first-team reps Wednesday and Thursday -- but that ill-advised plan backfired with their 11th-hour pivot to Luke Falk. Predictably, he was overmatched against the Eagles.
It was poor planning by Gase, whose reputation as an offensive mastermind has taken a major hit. It's a nightmarish situation -- how many coaches could win with a third-string quarterback? -- but this goes beyond winning. They can't execute simple plays. They can't convert third downs. The red zone might as well be in Antarctica. The Jets looked unprepared, and that falls on Gase.
They're as bad as the NFL has seen in a long time. The Jets dropped to 0-4 for the first time since 2003, and they could be 0-6 with the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots up next on the schedule. On the horizon is a potential showdown against the winless Miami Dolphins in Week 9 -- the Gase Bowl.
The Jets produced only 128 total yards and converted only three of 14 third downs.
Falk was terrible, but what did you expect? This was his second NFL start and he had only one day to practice with the starters, thanks to Gase's miscalculation with Darnold. Falk (15-of-26, 120 yards) threw an early pick-six, putting the Jets in a 14-0 hole. In the fourth quarter, he coughed it up on a strip sack and it was returned for a touchdown by Orlando Scandrick.
Facing the NFL's 32nd-ranked defense, Falk should've been able to exploit Philadelphia's banged-up cornerbacks, but he struggled to get the ball to the perimeter. The wide receivers combined for only seven receptions. Falk, with a deer-in-the-headlights look, held the ball too long and lacked decisiveness.
Falk attempted just six passes that traveled more than 10 yards in the air. The second-year signal-caller completed just two of those attempts for just 27 yards with an interception (9.0 passer rating).
This is what happens when you have to start a quarterback off the practice squad.
Le'Veon Bell ran for 43 yards on 15 carries and is averaging only 2.9 yards per carry in his first season in New York. He didn't have much room to run, even when a mammoth blocker led the way. The two-time All-Pro also caught seven passes for 45 yards.
SI.com's Mike Esposito notes that Bell, along with Demaryius Thomas, led the Jets with nine total targets on the afternoon. Combined, the two were the recipients of a whopping 18 of Falk's 26 attempts (69.2 percent).
According to Cimini, Bell played his rear end off, fighting for every one of his 88 total yards from scrimmage. Problem is the Jets were too Bell reliant. Gase needed to do a better job of spreading the ball around.
"I know we're close," Bell said. "I know we're on the brink. We just have to get better. That's all it is. Everybody has to take into account what they are doing wrong and try to correct it and then they can be able to correct the next guy. But right now everybody has to look themselves in the mirror and say: 'We have to get better.'"
Getting Darnold back will help.
Doctors had been monitoring Darnold's spleen, which became enlarged, a common symptom of mononucleosis. A swollen spleen could rupture -- a potentially life-threatening situation -- if the area takes a hit, leading to the caution with which the doctors and team are using for the 22-year-old franchise quarterback.
"If he gets cleared, he'll start" against Dallas, Gase said.
On Tuesday, we got the good news: Darnold was cleared. So, as Gase said, he'll start.
And as outlined above, that's worth something all by itself. ...
Also. ... This week, the Jets have a roster exemption for tight end Chris Herndon, who is coming off suspension.
Unfortunately, it sounds like they'll need it.
Herndon's 2019 debut might have to wait another week. The Jets tight end injured his hamstring while running routes last Friday and will miss practice Wednesday, Gase told reporters. Gase is not optimistic about Herndon's availability for Sunday's game against the Cowboys, per Cimini.
As Cimini suggested, the offense could use Herndon's ability to threaten the seam. It just seems unlikely to be this week. ...
Linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin) is considered doubtful to play this week.
QBs: Sam Darnold, David Fales, James Morgan
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Frank Gore, Bilal Powell, Lamical Perine, Kenneth Dixon, Josh Adams
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, Braxton Berrios, Josh Doctson, Josh Malone, Vyncint Smith
TEs: Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
How did the Raiders, missing several key cogs, win their biggest game since Jon Gruden returned last season by beating the Chicago Bears 24-21 Sunday in London?
According to ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez, by playing ball-control, smashmouth offensive football and relying on an opportunistic defense -- both made necessary by how many key players were sidelined.
There was no Vontaze Burfict. No Tyrell Williams. No J.J. Nelson. No Clelin Ferrell. No Dwayne Harris. No Gabe Jackson.
"We're very resilient," quarterback Derek Carr said. "Very tough, very competitive. I mean, don't get it twisted, we're humans, we know everyone counted us out. We knew no one would pick us to win this football game. We hadn't really proven anything for them to pick us. It just shows you the grit and determination of our young guys."
Indeed, Carr's receiver corps against the Bears was comprised of recently-acquired Trevor Davis, rookies Hunter Renfrow and Keelan Doss and practice squad call-up Marcell Ateman.
Enter rookie running back Josh Jacobs and the Raiders' reimagined offensive line.
All Jacobs did was carry the ball 26 times for a career-best 123 yards with two touchdowns, including the game-winning leap over the pile from two yards out with 1:57 to play. He also caught three passes for 20 yards.
Jacobs joined Saquon Barkley, Frank Gore and Latavius Murray as the only players to run for at least 100 yards against the Bears the past three seasons.
And did we mention that Jacobs was drafted with a first-round pick (No. 24 overall) acquired from the Bears in the Khalil Mack trade? And that Mack, who recovered a fumble on a botched pitch from Carr to Jacobs and had three tackles, was shut out on sacks by tackles Trent Brown and Kolton Miller?
According to reporters in London, Mack declined to talk after the game, while Jacobs was signing autographs for British media members.
"I know they're a good run defense; no one talks about our guys up front," Gruden said. "We're pretty good. We got some good tight ends who can really block, we got a good fullback, a great young back, and the interior of our line is quality stuff. Trent Brown and Kolton Miller, they should get game balls. I think I'll make that decision here in front of you guys."
Jacobs' game-winning plunge capped a 97-yard drive, the longest go-ahead TD drive in the fourth quarter by the Raiders since at least 1999, per Associated Press.
The Raiders jumped out to a 17-0 lead and, really, left 10 points on the board. Left guard Richie Incognito's first-quarter, unnecessary roughness penalty knocked Oakland out of field-goal range and Davis lost the ball at the Bears' 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
Plus, the Raiders gift-wrapped the Bears' first TD on that botched snap.
In all, Oakland's offense had 398 total yards against the vaunted Bears defense, with 169 coming on the ground. The Raiders won the time of possession battle, 34:43 to 25:17, using that ball-control offense.
"We are a better football team this year than we were last year (when) we were building," Carr said. "Coach Gruden was laying a foundation. Like I've told you, man, this is my third time restarting in the franchise. It's not fun, man. I just want to win.
"The cool thing about it now is that I could see it last year -- Man, we're going to be awesome. I know it. I know we're going to be able to play in big games and beat people. No one else saw it. No one else believed in it. Except the people in our building, and that's all that matters. I think it has carried over since last year and will continue to grow."
What would help?
With Williams (foot) and Nelson (knee) out, the Raiders didn't get much production from their wideouts. The unproven group combined for seven catches for 65 yards and Trevor Davis lost a fumble at the goal line in the fourth quarter.
Getting healthy should go a long way to improving that group and the upcoming bye week should help in that regard.
And short of getting healthier, they could also add help at the position.
In fact, they did just that on Monday when they acquired receiver Zay Jones from the Bills in exchange for a 2021 fifth-round pick.
A second-round draft pick of the Bills in 2017, Jones started 25 of his 31 appearances and contributed a combined 83 catches for 968 yards and nine touchdowns in his first two seasons.
While Jones is still a young, developing talent, the Raiders were in desperate need of an able body while Williams, Nelson and Harris (ankle) recover.
For waht it's worth, Gruden said on Tuesday that he plans to use the off week as an opportunity to get the wideout up to speed.
“I’m going to teach Zay Jones some plays today and I’m going to come in tomorrow and teach Zay Jones some more plays,” Gruden said.
With the addition of Jones, the Oakland Raiders waived Marcell Ateman to open a spot on the team’s active roster.
Ateman was promoted to the Raiders’ active roster on Saturday ahead of their game in London against the Chicago Bears. Ateman played on 28 of 73 offensive snaps against the Bears and was not targeted. ...
One last note here. ... Carr was his usual efficient self, except for when he wasn't (during the Bears' 21-0 run). Je was cool and calm on the Raiders' game-winning 97-yard drive. Carr finished with a 96.5 passer rating after completing 25 of 32 passes for 229 yards.
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, Rod Smith, Devontae Booker
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow, Lynn Bowden Jr., Zay Jones, Bryan Edwards, Nelson Agholor, Keelan Doss, Marcell Ateman
TEs: Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As The Eagles cruised to a 31-6 home win over the Jets on Sunday afternoon, but head coach Doug Pederson didn't see much to like on one side of the ball.
Philadelphia's offense produced 17 of the team's points, but only picked up 265 yards overall while going through long stretches of ineffectiveness. Pederson called the outing "sort of average" and said the offense "didn't play good enough" to overcome what Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was throwing their way.
Quarterback Carson Wentz agreed with Pederson's assessment of the offense.
"I love winning. But like you said, offensively, not our best," Wentz said in his postgame press conference. "It's something that we definitely need to clean up. We definitely have to be better. We have to stay ahead of the chains. We have to stay on the field. We know we can be better. We've shown it. We know we can. But we now have to execute it. Again, our defense played incredible. They put us in great situations. And you know, gave us 14 points. So they played great and again that's a good defense but we can be better offensively."
The Eagles have won two in a row and now head on the road to face the Vikings, Cowboys and Bills over the next three weeks.
Wentz and company will have to correct some of Sunday's mistakes to return from that trip with a winning record.
But they also have to hope their defense continues playing at Week 5 level. In case you missed it, Nate Gerry returned an interception for a score and Orlando Scandrick took a strip-sack the distance on Sunday.
Brandon Graham had a career-high three of Philadelphia's 10 sacks after he only had four last season. The end result was the Eagles smothered third-string quarterback Luke Falk and overwhelmed New York's offense on a day Wentz was ordinary.
Wentz threw for 189 yards and one touchdown. Jordan Howard ran for 62 yards and one TD.
But Philly's defense didn't need much help.
"Our defense carried us," Howard said. ...
It won't be like that every week; but it's nice to know it's possible. And it might be helpful going up against a tough Vikings defense this weekend. ...
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Tim McManus notes, Howard has positioned himself as the Eagles' lead running back heading into a critical stretch of the 2019 NFL season, Pederson confirmed Monday.
"It's kind of going that way," Pederson said, when asked if he expects Howard to get a higher percentage of carries over rookie Miles Sanders moving forward. "I can't sit here and tell you if Miles has a hot hand one day that he gets more touches, but right now, that's kind of the trend."
Howard, 24, has come on strong of late, rushing for 149 yards on 28 carries (5.3 YPC) over the past two games with four total touchdowns (three rushing). He is averaging 4.7 yards per carry on the season with four rushing TDs, compared to 3.6 yards per attempt and zero TDs for Sanders. Unsurprisingly, Howard's play time has increased in turn, cutting into Sanders' workload.
The further the season goes along, the more evidence there is to support what the players' respective strengths are. Sanders has been inconsistent as a runner to this point but has been effective as a receiver (10 catches, 133 yards) and in pass protection, while Howard's north-south running style is syncing well with the Eagles' top-end offensive line.
"First of all, it's a good mix with those two guys," Pederson said. "You're seeing Miles in the passing game be a little more explosive with some of the down-the-field throws with him. And with Jordan, he's kind of the guy that you kind of settle down in the run game and give him those touches. He's a between-the-tackles guy. He's big and powerful, has good vision. And I really think Miles is learning from Jordan running ball, which is a positive. As we go, Jordan has been kind of the lead back the last couple games for sure, but Miles is learning and coming [along] and I'm really happy with both of them."
The backfield roles are becoming more defined at a time when the Eagles need to account for the loss of Sproles, who is "week-to-week" with a quad strain. It makes sense to have Sanders as the third down/complementary back and absorb some of the snaps that Sproles was getting, while allowing Howard to be the primary ball carrier.
McManus stressed that's not to say this will become a one-man show with Howard in the featured role. The Eagles, who are averaging 111.8 rushing yards per game, remain high on Sanders and favor a running back rotation over having a workhorse.
As Pederson suggested, plans can change in-game based on who is having the most success.
But as the Eagles get set for a three-game road swing through Minnesota, Dallas and Buffalo that could define their season, the plan is to have Howard leading the way on the ground. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Sproles moved past Tim Brown into fifth place on the NFL's all-time list for all-purpose yards. Brown had 19,682 yards. Jerry Rice is first at 23,546. Sproles, 36, said he was motivated to return for his 15th NFL season in part so he could finish his career fifth in all-purpose yards.
Sproles, a three-time Pro Bowler, is the only player in NFL history to record more than 30 receiving touchdowns (32), more than 20 rushing TDs (23), in addition to at least one kickoff return touchdown (2) and at least one punt return TD (7).
But now, with Sproles ailing, Nelson Agholor and Corey Clement will return punts. ...
And finally. ... The Eagles played without wide receiver DeSean Jackson for the third straight time on Sunday and Pederson was asked on Monday when Jackson's abdominal injury might be healed enough for him to return to the lineup.
Pederson said that Jackson is "still rehabbing" from what he termed as a strain and that there's no thought that Jackson would need surgery to get over the injury. He added that the team's plan is to add to Jackson's work in the coming days.
"I just met with the medical team and he's going to do a little more," Pederson said at his press conference. "We're going to push him a little bit more this week to do some more running and things like that. We'll see. He's getting close. [We are taking it] day-by-day and we'll see here tomorrow and Wednesday and the next day where he's at."
I'll have more on Jackson's status in coming days -- although it was status quo Wednesday with the speedy wideout working on the side and not participating in team drills; watch the Late-Breaking Updates for more.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Jalen Hurts
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Elijah Holyfield, Michael Warren II
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, DeSean Jackson, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, Robert Davis
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Will Graves, Mason Rudolph walked through the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room on Monday, a welcome sight less than 24 hours removed from a harrowing collision with Baltimore safety Earl Thomas that left the second-year quarterback lying unconscious on the Heinz Field turf.
Rudolph's upbeat appearance drew a collective sigh of relief from his teammates. Lending further to that vibe, Rudolph was able to take some practice reps Wednesday.
Though he remains in the concussion protocol, the big picture outlook for Rudolph's recovery looks promising (and I'll be following up on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days). It's harder to say the same about his team's season.
Though Devlin Hodges filled in capably after Rudolph exited in the third quarter on Sunday -- twice leading the Steelers on go-ahead scoring drives -- JuJu Smith-Schuster's overtime fumble helped the Ravens escape with a 26-23 victory and left Pittsburgh at 1-4 heading into a visit to the Los Angeles Chargers next weekend.
Save for a Week 1 blowout in New England, the Steelers have been competitive regardless of who is at quarterback regardless of their pedigree. Their past three losses are by a combined nine points, and in two of them they led deep into the fourth quarter. Yet they were unable to close out San Francisco and Baltimore, done in by a series of self-inflicted mistakes.
Smith-Schuster's fumble off a well-timed strip by Baltimore's Marlon Humphrey set up the winning score on Sunday. It was similar to what happened in San Francisco in Week 3, when James Conner's fumble deep in Pittsburgh territory allowed the 49ers to somehow survive on a day they gave it away five times.
It's not that the Steelers haven't been good. They just haven't been quite good enough, even after the defense responded to coach Mike Tomlin's decision to kick off in overtime against the Ravens rather than take the ball. Baltimore went nowhere and punted, just as Tomlin planned. It was a massive vote of confidence for a unit that began the year as a major question mark. The time, however, for moral victories has come and gone.
"There's no solace in that because all we're worried about is outcomes," defensive tackle Cam Heyward said. "We don't care if it's ugly, pretty, as long as we get a winning outcome. We're going to circle the wagons and get better."
And they might have to do it -- for the time being at least -- with a 23-year-old quarterback from Kimberly, Alabama (population 3,173) who was brought in as a "camp" arm in the offseason and now finds himself as the most likely option if Rudolph isn't cleared in time to face the Chargers.
"I feel like I know the offense," said Hodges, who completed 7 of 9 passes for 68 yards and also added a 21-yard scramble. "I just went out there and executing when depending on what play is called. I have always been a guy who is aggressive in throwing the ball and what not."
Hodges played with a fearlessness he'll need to rely on if he walks onto the field with the starters in Los Angeles. Whatever margin for error the Steelers had is now gone.
Heading into Week 6, the team has to hope the spark Hodges showed while filling in for Rudolph wasn't a mirage. Pittsburgh has struggled on the West Coast recently but beat the Chargers in San Diego in 2015 in a game in which Michael Vick started in place of Ben Roethlisberger.
Reasons for optimism?
For starters, Rudolph could return.
Beyond that, as SI.com's Donnie Druin noted, Hodges was able to keep the Steelers offense marching when needed, leading the Steelers to two scoring drives through a quarter and a half of regulation time. "I had the full game plan" said Hodges in post-game interviews. "I tell y'all that each and every week that I feel comfortable and confident. We didn't hold back at all".
Although the sample size is small, the few throws from Hodges give encouragement for his abilities as a passer moving forward. He can also use his legs as well.
The status of Rudolph moving forward remains cloudy, though it's expected he'll miss some time after being placed in the league's concussion protocol. Although Tomlin has yet to comment on the status at starting quarterback for Pittsburgh's meeting with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football, it's presumed either Hodges will get the nod over current practice squad quarterback Paxton Lynch.
Some will point to Lynch's experience and favor that, though Lynch has only played in five games since being drafted in 2016, with his last appearance coming in 2017. With Hodges proving he not only knows the offense but also proving he can march them down the field, he's earned the respect of teammates, fans and likely his coaching staff moving forward. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Conner ran for 55 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against the Ravens
Conner gave the Steelers the lead late in the third quarter, reaching out across the goal line for a one-yard run, his third touchdown in his last four games. Somewhat surprisingly, Conner did not see a target in the passing game after averaging five per game heading into Sunday.
Expect that to change, particularly if Rudolph is out against the Chargers. They need to get the rushing attack on track.
In the past 12 games dating back to last season, the Steelers have gone over 100 yards rushing just one time. Pittsburgh is 4-8 over that span. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Also as Graves suggested, life comes at you fast in the NFL. Look no further than Jaylen Samuels for proof. The running back's play while working out of the wildcat in a romp over Cincinnati last Monday helped the Steelers roll to a 24-point win. Sunday, he was a non-factor. He collected just 17 yards of total offense and an ill-advised pass attempt out of the wildcat gave the Ravens the ball deep in Pittsburgh territory.
He also got injured.
Samuels was on crutches Tuesday and Tomlin said that Samuels hurt his knee during the loss to the Ravens and that he had arthroscopic surgery to address the injury. Tomlin said he expects Samuels to miss about a month as a result of the operation.
Samuels has 18 carries for 50 yards and a touchdown, 13 catches for 83 yards and he's completed 4-of-5 passes for 35 yards and an interception so far this season.
James Washington's left arm was in a sling on Monday and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday the wideout is expected to miss a few weeks with a shoulder injury.
With Washington out the next few games, more attention will be paid to Smith-Schuster. Rookie Diontae Johnson figures to play a larger role and Johnny Holton could see additional snaps replacing Washington as a deep threat. Slot wideout Ryan Switzer is also an option. Pittsburgh also might need to let Donte Moncrief out of the dog house after the veteran was benched earlier this season after a bout of drops.
Whether Hodges or Rudolph gets the start this week against the L.A. Chargers in prime time, missing Washington will only make things tougher.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Devlin Hodges, Mason Rudolph
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Anthony McFarland Jr., Trey Edmunds, Kerrith Whyte
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, Johnny Holton, James Washington, Ryan Switzer, Deon Cain
TEs: Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner noted, the San Francisco 49ers had a long wait to get back to 4-0 -- a wait that lasted 29 years to the day.
But for the first time since 1990, the Niners closed the first quarter of the season with an unblemished record by throttling the Cleveland Browns 31-3 on Monday night at Levi's Stadium. With the victory, the Niners join the New England Patriots as the NFL's last remaining undefeated teams and stand as the only team in the NFC with a perfect record through the season's first five weeks.
Asked what the 4-0 start means to him, head coach Kyle Shanahan demurred.
"It means it's still early," Shanahan said. "It means we played four games, one less than most people. If you tell me that at the end of the year when the season is over, you'll see me celebrating up here pretty hard. It's going to be a short week, and we've got to get to work on the Rams pretty early tomorrow."
The wait for the fourth win was made even longer by an early Week 4 bye and playing on Monday coming out of the bye. During that down time, the Niners had to hear plenty about being what they started to call "fake undefeated" because their first three opponents had a combined record of 3-9 through the first four weeks.
Monday's win came with a little bit of cosmic intervention. The 1990 49ers also started 4-0, had a bye in Week 4 and won their fourth game on Oct. 7.
The 4-0 start is the third for the 49ers franchise in the Super Bowl era, and if history is any indication, this could be a special season. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the 49ers have advanced to at least the NFC Championship Game in each of the previous two seasons in which they started 4-0.
The victory was also the 49ers' record-extending 49th all-time on Monday Night Football, the most such wins by any franchise in the league. It ended an ugly streak in which the 49ers had gone winless in their past seven games coming out of a bye week.
To get to 4-0, the 49ers relied on a dominant defensive performance led by rookie defensive end Nick Bosa and the rest of the line, as well as a running game that has steamrollered opponents the past three games.
As NFL.com put it, "San Francisco doesn't run over teams. No, the Niners run by them, untouched, through open prairie lanes, accompanied by mobile downfield blockers and stumbling, bumbling defenders."
Indeed, the Niners set such a tone early on Monday night, when Matt Breida took the Niners' first offensive snap 83 yards to the house untouched, accelerating through a gap to the left sealed by Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle and Laken Tomlinson.
Breida enjoyed so much breathing room that he accelerated to 22.3 mph, according to Next Gen Stats, the fastest speed a ball-carrier has reached in the last two seasons.
The Niners beat teams with speed, and they bludgeoned the Browns so in prime time.
The return of Tevin Coleman keyed a San Francisco ground game that racked up 185 rushing yards in the first half alone and 275 total; Breida (114) and Coleman (97) nearly each recorded over 100 yards on the ground, coming three Coleman yards away from becoming the first Niners pair to do so in the same game since Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick in 2014.
So deep is San Francisco's backfield now that speedster Raheem Mostert was subjected to clean-up duty, while goal-line star Jeff Wilson was inactive.
San Francisco has now recorded at least 168 rushing yards in three consecutive games, and Kyle Shanahan's unit is showing no sign of slowing down.
Meanwhile, Bosa spent most of the evening in the Browns' backfield harassing quarterback Baker Mayfield to the tune of four tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, five quarterback hits and one giant flag planting. The Niners limited the Browns to 180 yards, 3.9 yards per play and three points.
Shanahan and the Niners got into such an offensive rhythm that tackle Joe Staley told Kittle after the game that as soon as Shanahan called a pass for him in the third quarter he looked away because he knew it was going for a touchdown.
Sure enough, Kittle hauled it in for a 22-yard touchdown and a 28-3 lead.
"It was pretty sick," Kittle said. "He called the touchdown before we even said hike. It was pretty awesome."
After a long wait to play the Browns, the 49ers won't have to wait long to get back on the field. San Francisco figures to get its toughest test yet on Sunday, when it travels to Los Angeles to play the two-time defending NFC West division champion Rams.
With that in mind, Shanahan made it a point after the game to remind his team that there's still a lot of football to play, and a lot can change. Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 when they started 5-0 and went on to finish 8-8.
"You don't pay attention, and you just go to work," he said. "I think we've got the right guys. I think today was a little lopsided game, but the league is too hard to be overconfident. Every week is a tough week, and we've got a lot of work to do. Still got some guys who are waiting to get back from injury, and that game by no means was perfect."
On the injury front. ... Juszczyk left the game with a sprained left knee midway through the third quarter. Juszczyk wore a thick black brace on his leg while walking through the locker room after the game and the 49ers confirmed on Tuesday the injury is sprained MCL. The star fullback will be out approximately four to six weeks.
Don't underestimate this injury; Juszczyk is a huge piece of an offense that is rolling.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Jeff Wilson, Jerick McKinnon, Salvon Ahmed
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Jalen Hurd, Jauan Jennings, Trent Taylor, Travis Benjamin
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
Off to a fast start with a 4-1 record, how have Seattle's offensive groups performed during the first month of the 2019 season?
From a fantasy perspective, pretty darned well.
As SI.com's Corbin Smith noted this week, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's group has scored at least 27 points in four of the team's five games and ranks a respectable ninth in points per game thus far.
As for the personnel. ... Aside from maybe Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, no quarterback has been more productive and efficient than Russell Wilson through the first month of the season.
Surfacing as a legitimate favorite to win NFL MVP and potentially earn his first All-Pro selection, the eighth-year quarterback became the first player in the Super Bowl era to record over 1,400 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, and no interceptions through his team's first five games. He's completed 73.1 percent of his passes, which would rank second-best all-time if maintained through an entire season behind only Drew Brees.
Still a threat to make plays as a runner as well, head coach Pete Carroll isn't exaggerating when he says Wilson is the "best he's ever been" and his dominant play has fueled Seattle's first 4-1 start in six years.
It's not hard to find evidence of this.
For example, as Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth pointed out, in the past 19 regular-season games, Wilson has thrown 42 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He threw three interceptions in the first two weeks of last season, but since has been incredibly efficient at not making mistakes in the passing game. Not including games of this week, Mahomes is the only player with more TD passes during that span with 50, but has also thrown 12 interceptions. Matt Ryan has 41 TD passes and 11 picks.
Smith went on to suggest it's been a tale of two seasons already for starting running back Chris Carson, who opened the season with just 158 total rushing yards and three lost fumbles in Seattle's first three games, drawing the ire of the fan base. But since being relegated to the bench for most of the second half against the Saints in Week 3, the powerful runner has bounced back tremendously, racking up over 100 rushing yards in each of the past two games. Despite his slow start, he's back on pace for over 1,200 rushing yards and already has caught 15 passes for 105 yards and two scores out of the backfield.
In a reserve role, Rashaad Penny has missed two games due to a hamstring injury, but he did produce a 37-yard touchdown run against the Steelers and made a nice reception against the Rams on Thursday.
If wide receiver Tyler Lockett was still hovering under the radar after producing career-highs in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns in 2018, he's certainly not anymore. The fifth-year receiver has already broken his own personal single-game receptions record twice this year and seems to reel in highlight catches weekly.
At his current pace, he'll shatter last year's "career" numbers with close to 100 receptions and 1,200-plus receiving yards.
And he's going to make some amazing plays -- like Wilson's first touchdown throw in the back corner of the end zone to Lockett last Thursday had a completion probability of only 6.3 percent, the lowest on any passing TD across the NFL in the past three seasons. It actually looked like a throwaway at first glance, but Lockett made a toe-tap grab while falling out of bounds.
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson suggested, as great of a throw as it was from Wilson while moving hard to his left, it was just as brilliant of a catch by Lockett, who has made a nice transition to Seattle's No. 1 receiver following Doug Baldwin's departure.
While he's been inconsistent as expected, Smith notes that rookie DK Metcalf has lived up to the billing as an explosive downfield threat thus far, averaging a ridiculous 22.3 yards per reception through five games. Based on snap counts alone, it's evident he's Seattle's clear-cut No. 2 receiver.
Away from their top two receivers, the Seahawks have received marginal production from the rest of their receiving corps, though David Moore's return should continue to provide the passing game a boost moving forward.
Meanwhile, with Wilson as the obvious exception, no player has had a more rousing start than Will Dissly.
Coming off a devastating knee injury that has ruined many careers, the second-year tight end hasn't skipped a beat, emerging as Wilson's favorite red zone weapon. He already has 23 receptions for 262 yards and scored four touchdowns during a three-game span from Week 2 to Week 4, building a strong case for NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors.
Beyond that, Dissly's six touchdowns over his first eight career games is tied for the most by a tight end to begin a career since the 1970 merger. Dissly's role as the Seahawks' No. 1 tight end shouldn't change even when Ed Dickson comes back from his knee injury, and his numbers from Thursday -- four catches for 81 yards on four targets -- made for a productive night even though he didn't find the end zone.
Seattle hasn't had much production in the passing game from other tight ends this year, but the return of Luke Willson has already paid dividends on the field and in the locker room. In his first two games, he already has three receptions for 36 yards and his overlooked blocking ability helped Carson surpass the century mark against the Rams on Thursday.
The Seahawks have had a long weekend of rest before beginning a stretch of five games that feature three on the road and two long trips back East. The Seahawks have road trips to Cleveland (Oct. 13) and Atlanta (Oct. 27) sandwiched around a home game against Baltimore.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, Anthony Gordon
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Robert Turbin
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Phillip Dorsett, Freddie Swain, David Moore, John Ursua, Malik Turner
TEs: Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson, Jacob Hollister, Stephen Sullivan
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
As SI.com's Luke Easterling noted, for the first time in 2019, the Buccaneers have dropped a road game, falling to the New Orleans Saints 31-24 on Sunday.
In place of an injured Drew Brees, Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater shredded the Tampa Bay defense for over 300 yards and four touchdowns through the air, maintaining his undefeated record as the team's starter this season at 3-0.
Michael Thomas was Bridgewater's favorite target, as he carved up the Bucs' defensive backfield to the tune of 11 receptions for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
After a big day full of explosive plays in a Week 4 road win over the Los Angeles Rams, the Tampa Bay offense struggled to find a rhythm all afternoon. Jameis Winston finished the day with 204 yards and two touchdowns through the air, but barely completed half his passes, and picked up a decent chunk of his yardage if fourth-quarter garbage time trailing by two touchdowns.
This may have been the toughest defense Winston sees all year. Star wideout Mike Evans was a non-factor, finishing with no catches on three on targets as Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore shadowed him for much of the game.
"Mike is one of the top players in the league, so if we're not getting Mike the ball, that's not good for us," tight end Cameron Brate said.
Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who had the primary coverage on Evans, said teammates during the game began mentioning to him that Evans didn't have a reception.
"I'm like, 'Man, don't jinx it,'" Lattimore said. "Just let me keep playing. Let me stay focused and locked in, and that's what I did."
The team's stellar tight end tandem of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate combined for just 21 yards on two receptions.
With Bucs receivers struggling against the Saints' man coverage, Winston relied almost solely on wide receiver Chris Godwin, who caught seven passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
Winston went 15-of-27 for 204 passing yards and two touchdowns. He completed just 55 percent of his passes. He was pressured on 30 percent of his dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats and Information. He escaped some close calls too, with two interceptions nullified by penalties.
The Bucs managed to convert only three of their 11 third-down attempts, while the Saints were successful on eight of their 15 third-downs. Tampa Bay's offense tallied just 252 total yards to New Orleans' 457, averaging just 4.8 yards per pass play compared to 9.6 for the Saints.
Tampa Bay lost despite committing just four penalties and winning the turnover battle, as the only takeaway by either team came on a Sean Murphy-Bunting interception in the first half.
A long road trip goes to another level for the Bucs next week, as they travel to London for their second meeting of the season with the Carolina Panthers.
Making matters worse, head coach Bruce Arians announced Monday that right tackle Demar Dotson won't play due to hamstring and calf injuries and right guard Alex Cappa will be out after breaking his left arm against the New Orleans Saints.
"We'll have a whole new right side [to the offensive line]," Arians said.
Dotson left the game in the fourth quarter, while Cappa continued playing through the injury.
"I do have to commend Alex Cappa. He broke his arm in the second quarter and played the entire game," Arians said. "He'll miss a few weeks."
Earl Watford, who started for Arians with the Arizona Cardinals, is expected to step in for Cappa, while Josh Wells will step in for Dotson.
Carolina is currently 10th in the NFL in generating pressure on 30 percent of dropbacks, and the Panthers have the fourth-highest sacks per dropback rate at 9.2 percent, according to ESPN's pass-rush metrics powered by NFL Next Gen stats.
Arians did say that starting middle linebacker Devin White will play against the Panthers after the Bucs held him out one more week due to a sprained MCL.
White was active against the Saints but Arians made a game-time decision to play backup Kevin Minter instead.
"Just wasn't ready," Arians said of White. "He's too great a young player to put out there not ready. He's got too big of a future."
The Buccaneers released veteran LB Deone Bucannon Wednesday morning, before they head to London for Sunday’s game against the Panthers. The former Cardinals’ first-round pick is expected to get a chance elsewhere.
QBs: Tom Brady, Ryan Griffin, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Ronald Jones, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Dare Ogunbowale, Raymond Calais, T.J. Logan
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scott Miller, Tyler Johnson, Justin Watson, Cyril Grayson, Spencer Schnell
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson, Jordan Leggett
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
The Tennessee Titans left points on the field in their 14-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday as kicker Cairo Santos missed three field goals and had another attempt blocked.
It came as no surprise then, when the Titans cut Santos on Monday.
Santos missed a 50-yard field goal in the second quarter as well as a 36-yard attempt with 49 seconds left in the first half. The Bills blocked a 33-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter and Santos later missed a 53-yarder.
Immediately after the game, teammates and head coach Mike Vrabel were supportive of Santos.
"I have confidence in him," Vrabel said Sunday. ". I think we all have a job to do. We like to think that if you make mistakes, we can get them fixed and corrected. This is a guy who's made some kicks for us. We'll have to do a better job making them, and coaching him, and executing them."
The 27-year-old was far more critical of his own play, however.
"It was a very painful, extremely disappointing day," Santos said Sunday. "I don't feel sorry for myself, I feel sorry for my teammates and coaches that work hard all week, including myself. I feel sorry for my teammates, my coaches and they deserve to win and I have just got to do a better job."
Santos has made 4 of 9 field goals and all 12 of his extra points this season.
On Tuesday, the Titans signed former Bears kicker Cody Parkey to replace Santos.
Parkey infamously double-doinked the potential playoff game-winner against the Eagles, appeared on the "Today" show the next week and was later cut by the Bears. Parkey wasn't signed by an NFL team after the team's release of him became official in March.
He did not kick for a single team in training camp, though tried out for clubs once the regular season began.
After a well-publicized kicker derby, the Bears replaced Parkey with Eddy Pineiro, who has made eight-of-nine field goal attempts and all nine extra-point tries this year. Parkey, by contrast, went 23-for-30 from field-goal range and 42-for-45 on PATs in the regular season. ...
Back to Sunday, Tennessee was held scoreless for the first half but got on the board midway through the third quarter with Derrick Henry's 1-yard touchdown run, which capped a short drive (38 yards) set up by a Byard interception.
Outside of that, the Titans were forced to settle for field goal attempts ("attempts" being the operative word) the rest of the day because the offense could not keep drives going. Six of their 11 possessions ended without a first down and four of the other five had three or fewer.
According to SI.com's David Boclair, two familiar problems -- pass protection and penalties -- surfaced once again.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota was sacked five times and hit a total of eight. Buffalo defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was a particular problem as he got to Mariota three times. It should be noted that Phillips entered the contest with 6 and a half career sacks (never more than one in a game) in 64 career appearances.
So much for the idea that the return of left tackle Taylor Lewan from a four-game suspension and the addition of rookie right guard Nate Davis to the starting lineup would solve the offensive line woes.
Penalties wiped away two touchdowns in a span of five plays early in the fourth quarter, the second when officials ruled that Mariota was beyond the line of scrimmage when he threw to A.J. Brown for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Another on defensive end Jurrell Casey added 15 yards to the Bills' game-winning touchdown drive. The first play of the game was a 26-yard completion to Delanie Walker that was wiped out because Lewan was called for holding.
A new issue was field position.
Part of the offense's problem stemmed from the fact that it routinely was backed up near its own end zone. Four drives started inside the 20 with two more at the 20. In a game like this one, field position can mean everything.
Then, of course, there was the issue with kicks.
The Titans are back on the road for a matchup with the Denver Broncos, one of three AFC teams to go winless through the first four weeks. They beat the L.A. Chargers on Sunday, though, which means this will be the first time this season Tennessee faces an opponent coming off a win and with some momentum. And it does so coming off a defeat.
On last note here. ... Tennessee also waived offensive lineman David Quessenberry on Monday.
Quessenberry was a feel-good story for the Titans as the cancer survivor scored his first and only career touchdown in a Week 2 loss to the Indianapolis Colts this season.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Darrynton Evans, Dalyn Dawkins, David Fluellen
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 October 2019
Owner Dan Snyder and President Bruce Allen summoned coach Jay Gruden to the Washington Redskins' facility before dawn Monday to tell him he was being fired.
"It was a brief conversation," Allen said.
Now comes a longer conversation about the status of the floundering franchise that has won just two playoff games in Snyder's two decades of ownership and zero during Allen's tenure. Gruden is out after an 0-5 start to his sixth season and is the latest in a long line of Redskins coaches to take the fall for significant organizational shortcomings.
"To make a decision like this is difficult, but it was necessary," Allen said during a 13-minute news conference. "Our 0-5 start is not just disappointing. We had much different expectations for the beginning of the season. We owe it to our fans. ... The organization, the players, the coaches and their families to do everything we can to win."
The Redskins haven't won much lately, going 35-49-1 overall under Gruden with one playoff appearance in the 2015 season. A popular coach among players and a smart offensive mind, Gruden struggled in preparing his teams: Washington went 1-5 in season openers and lost a win-and-get-in game in Week 17 in 2016 against the New York Giants, who had nothing to play for.
Despite never before being a head coach in the NFL, and despite never winning more than nine games in a season, Gruden managed to stick around longer than anyone else who's held that job during Snyder's unsuccessful stint as owner.
Asked why Snyder wasn't addressing fans, Allen said, "Because I am." Snyder was not made available to reporters Monday.
None of the six coaches hired since Snyder bought the team has a winning record, including Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs and two-time Super Bowl champion Mike Shanahan. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan becomes the seventh after he was selected to replace Gruden on an interim basis.
Callahan has coached the Raiders in the NFL and Nebraska in college football.
"This is different territory for me," Callahan said. "It's bittersweet in a lot of ways. I had to replace a veteran coach in Jay and then to be asked to lead a program now in Week 6, it's uncharted waters for me."
This season alone has seen star left tackle Trent Williams hold out; a shuffle at quarterback after Dwayne Haskins was taken No. 15 overall in the draft; a series of injuries up and down the roster; and, perhaps most upsetting to team leadership, increasingly large contingents of visiting fans attending games at Washington's home stadium.
"All we can do is try to improve our product," Allen said. "These games, we weren't close in. We've lost five games, and we didn't lose them in the last second. We lost these games decisively. And we have to change that."
Speaking of the whole quarterback thing, Allen said that all decisions on that will be made by Callahan and Callahan was asked about his plans for the quarterback position in this week's game against the Dolphins in his initial press conference later in the day.
Callahan said he's not ready to name a starter for the game against Miami, but he did rule out one of the three choices on the 53-man roster. Callahan said that while Haskins will be the team's starting quarterback at some point, he is not a candidate to start "right now."
That will leave Callahan to make a choice between Colt McCoy, who started on Sunday, and Case Keenum. Keenum started the first four games, but was benched in Week 4 and was inactive Sunday after being listed as questionable with a foot injury.
Reports on Wednesday indicate that Keenum will move back into the starting lineup this week.
Callahan said that he wanted to give Haskins more work in practice in preparation of his eventual ascension to the top job, but offered no timeline on when he thought the quarterback might be ready for that promotion.
Much was made of not putting Haskins in for a first start against the Patriots' defense. But ESPN.com's John Keim thinks it's going to be harder to justify sitting him as this season unfolds -- even if they think he's not ready. No one else has proven they should keep the job, either.
But it was hardly a good way to return for a veteran such as McCoy.
The Patriots pressured McCoy all game with various blitzes or often simply by beating the line. It was ugly. They're in a desperate situation and lack a quarterback capable of helping them run a good offense now. Whether he can do that in future weeks, he was unable to generate anything Sunday.
According to the Associated Press, Adrian Peterson better be ready to run. Callahan expressed a desire to commit to the running game, so an old-school ground game is coming.
The Redskins' 88 rushing attempts are the third fewest in the NFL.
Although he's averaging just 2.7 yards per carry through four games, NFL.com's Graham Barfield notes a matchup against the Dolphins run defense at least brings him back into play in fantasy for just this week only. No team has allowed more rushing yards per game so far than the Dolphins (153.0). ...
Looking for positives?
Beyond the overall play of rookie receiver Terry McLaurin, fellow wideout Steven Sims, an undrafted rookie, was the star of the show this past weekend, giving Washington the early 7-0 lead. It was the first time New England has trailed all season and he did it on an impressive play call from Gruden. Rookie Kelvin Harmon came around, then McCoy faked a handoff and gave it to Sims on an end around.
The up-until-now returner made a beautiful head fake and weaved his way through three Patriots, breaking free of a tackle and scampering up the sideline for the 65-yard score.
Sims, who likely has been working with McCoy much of the season as neither has played much, was clearly a guy the QB was comfortable with. The connection didn't work in the passing game though, with just one reception for two yards. ...
On the injury front. ... Tight end Jordan Reed remains out with a concussion. Fellow tight end Vernon Davis also missed last week with the same issue. ... Donald Penn, Williams' replacement at left tackle, injured a hamstring in the Patriots game.
And a few final notes here. ... Gruden doesn't really blame Snyder and Allen for firing him.
"I'm not bitter," Gruden told the Washington Post. "This is a production-based business and I didn't get it done."
Gruden did bristle, however, at what he perceived as a suggestion at Allen's press conference today that new interim head coach Bill Callahan will run more structured practices with harder work.
"I want to make sure that everybody knows that I actually did work," Gruden said.
And Gruden said he believes his offense would have looked much better if his team had been healthier.
"I just wish I could have had all of our offensive players," he said. "We never got to flex our offensive muscle."
So while Gruden accepts that he didn't get the job done, he seems to think injuries deserve at least as much blame for that as he does. ...
Meanwhile, Washington Post staffer Mark Maske reports that many in the league are convinced the Redskins will give serious head-coaching consideration to Kevin O'Connell, their 34-year-old offensive coordinator, to avoid losing another young, would-be offensive mastermind like Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur.
Other reports have suggested Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin might be in Snyder's crosshairs.
QBs: Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Alex Smith
RBs: Derrius Guice, Adrian Peterson, Antonio Gibson, Peyton Barber, J.D. McKissic, Bryce Love
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Kelvin Harmon, Trey Quinn, Cody Latimer
TEs: Jeremy Sprinkle, Richard Rodgers, Logan Thomas, Hale Hentges