Team Notes week 8 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 22 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss reported it, David Johnson played just three snaps on Sunday, all coming early in the first quarter, before he stood on the sideline for the rest of Arizona's 27-21 win over the New York Giants, but Chase Edmonds made sure the Cardinals didn't miss a beat.
Or a touchdown.
Edmonds, the second-year running back out of Fordham University, ran for a career-high 126 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries for the Cardinals, who have won three straight.
He had about 15 friends and family in the stands at MetLife Stadium, which is 17 miles from Jack Coffey Field, where he played college football at the FCS level, and said his former teammates at Fordham were watching, as well.
"It was extremely special for me just to be able to have my family, friends come out here, have a great game and obviously get a great win," Edmonds said. "It was extremely special, and I'm proud of the guys, proud we got the win."
Even though Johnson was listed as questionable on the injury report Friday because of an ankle issue, the Cardinals planned on Johnson having a limited role, if any against the Giants.
With Johnson relegated to the sideline after one carry for two yards, Edmonds was left as the only running back active after D.J. Foster was ruled out Friday with a hamstring injury.
"He would have been an emergency-type situation," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We wanted to be smart. Losing Foster late the week in practice put us in a bind, and we wanted to make sure Dave only played if we really needed him."
However, Johnson played three snaps early in the first quarter, according to NFL Next Gen Stats data, before watching the rest of the game from the sideline, at times with his arms crossed and at other times wearing a parka.
But, Kingsbury said, Johnson did not reaggravate his injured left ankle. Even when Edmonds went to the sideline to vomit before the first play of the drive after he scored his second touchdown, Johnson took the field for a brief moment, thinking he was going to play, only for Edmonds to return and sub him out.
"We were just being smart," Kingsbury said. "It was a need-based deal, and Chase needed to be spelled, but we wanted to make sure that Dave came out of there clean for later on in the season."
Edmonds said he and Johnson had a feeling his action would be limited Sunday and that Edmonds would be getting the bulk of the carries.
"He kind of knew," Edmonds said. "Me and him knew, like, there's no way he's playing the running back position in an NFL game the way it was today."
Reaction on social media to Johnson's inactivity and Edmond's increased playing time reached a crescendo with every touchdown Edmonds scored. Fantasy owners with Johnson on their teams shared their range of emotions from upset to angry, while those who had Edmonds basked in his success.
Even the Cardinals' official Twitter account weighed in.
"Just enjoy the win," they tweeted. "We sure are."
Coming into Sunday's game, Edmonds' career high was 68 yards, set two weeks ago in Cincinnati, and two touchdowns, which he scored in Week 13 last year at Green Bay. He rushed for 208 yards in all of 2018. He surpassed that mark for 2019 on Sunday.
Edmonds became the first Cardinal to rush for three touchdowns since Johnson did it on Dec. 24, 2016, and he's the seventh Cardinal to rush for three touchdowns in a game since the franchise moved to Arizona in 1988, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. Edmonds is also the first player in the NFL to rush for three touchdowns of at least 20 yards since Doug Martin in 2012 against the Raiders.
Edmonds ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries in the first quarter, setting a career high. His 91 yards in a first half were the most by a Cardinals running back since Johnson's 112 in Dec. 2015, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
And if you think things go back to "normal" against the Saints this week, we might have reason to believe that won't be the case.
There was word Monday that the Cardinals were working out Jay Ajayi and Spencer Ware as potential additions to their backfield, but they wound up deciding to go with a different veteran running back on Tuesday.
Adam Schefter of ESPN first reported that the Cardinals were signing Alfred Morris.
Morris spent the preseason with the Cowboys, but his time with the team came to an end when Ezekiel Elliott agreed to a new contract and ended his holdout just before the start of the regular season.
Morris ran 111 times for 428 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games for the 49ers last season. He spent 2016 and 2017 with the Cowboys and was with Washington for the first four years of his career.
They added more depth at the position on Wednesday, by signing Zach Zenner, who spent last week with the Saints. Zenner spent the bulk of his career with the Detroit Lions.
For the record, Johnson did not further aggravate the ankle problem, Kingsbury said, but remains day-to-day as does Foster. Wide receiver Christian Kirk (ankle) is also day-to-day is his comeback, and Kingsbury said the Cardinals will monitor him, but the coach also added ankle injuries can linger. Kirk has now missed three games.
I'll be watching for more on Johnson, who was not scheduled to practice Wednesday, and Kirk in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section as the week progresses. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Kyler Murray only passed for 104 yards, but this was more weather related than anything else.
He did have a couple obvious rookie plays, including one at the end of the game, running out of bounds with just over 2 minutes left and the Giants out of timeouts, giving them more time on the clock to run their offense. There was a crazy series of plays in the second quarter where Murray ran backwards 8 yards, setting up a punt by punter Andy Lee from the end zone that was blocked, and recovered for a touchdown by the Giants' Eli Penny.
And finally. ... As SI.com's Tyler Jaggi noted, Patrick Peterson had a solid game in his return from suspension. But more so, his presence allowed the defense to play free. The importance of having the star corner on the field cannot be stressed enough. He takes away half the field, and allows the safeties to move up into the box, creating more problems for the run.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Chris Streveler, Brett Hundley
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, Eno Benjamin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Trent Sherfield
TEs: Dan Arnold, Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
According to ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure, head coach Dan Quinn, whose future with the franchise appears to be a serious jeopardy after another blowout loss, said he doesn't believe he has lost the team despite a 1-6 start, which includes losing five in a row.
Quinn's Falcons were dismantled at home against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, 37-10. The offense couldn't score and lost quarterback Matt Ryan to a fourth-quarter right ankle injury.
The defense couldn't cover and failed to record a sack. Plus, a couple special-teams blunders aided the Rams' charge.
Asked point-blank if he has lost the team, Quinn offered a long-winded response.
"I understand why the question -- it is a fair question, quite honestly, because you spend most of your time trying to connect and get the team to play the way we are capable of -- so the answer I would say is, 'No,'" Quinn said. "But why am I. ... The disbelief at times of not playing like we are capable of, that could be very frustrating. When you don't do that you want to look and search and find answers, and that's what I spend most of my time doing: what tweaks, what changes need to be changed -- whether that is personnel or scheme, it's an assistant in play-calling to apply some attention elsewhere, I'm always trying to do something that is best for the team.
"Trust me, my ego is never bigger than the team. There is nothing I wouldn't do to help get us right."
Owner Arthur Blank previously expressed his support for Quinn after a 53-32 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 5, and Blank hasn't wavered on his support. Any coaching change seems more likely to happen after the conclusion of the season, although another blowout loss at home next week against MVP candidate Russell Wilson and the Seahawks undoubtedly wouldn't sit well with Blank.
Quinn, who took over as the defensive coordinator this season after parting ways with Marquand Manuel, revealed he made a subtle change by distributing some of the defensive play-calling to his assistant coaches the past two weeks. It hasn't helped, as the Falcons surrendered more than 30 points in both of those games.
"First, my job is to look at the big picture and see if there's things we can do to change that, and we actually started some of that during Arizona last week," Quinn said of the defensive play-calling. "I'm always looking to see during the game who can help on the play calling and inside of that. We've distributed that some in Arizona and this week as well. I'm always looking to do what's best for the team in every situation, every time. We've already begun some of that. 'How can I apply myself in other ways?' We've certainly done that, too."
Quinn did not want to call this a "lost season" despite starting 1-6 for the first time since the 2007 season.
"No, I never think you're out of the fight," Quinn said. "You shouldn't think that way as a team member, and I certainly don't think that way as the coach. I recognize that when you don't play well, those are fair questions, but I don't feel like we're ever out of the fight, and until we do like we're capable of, my fight would always stay consistent."
Only one team in the history of the Super Bowl Era has made the playoffs following a 1-6 start: the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals, who finished 8-6.
Receiver Julio Jones said a few weeks ago the Falcons needed to average 21-28 points per game on offense. Well, it looks more like they need to average 35-55 to win these days.
And that's not happening. ...
Meanwhile, Ryan was scheduled to undergo an MRI on his right ankle on Monday, but the team doesn't believe the injury is serious, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Ito Smith was carted off the field late in the first quarter with head and neck injuries following a helmet-to-helmet hit from Rams linebacker Cory Littleton. There was no flag. Smith did not return.
Ryan was spotted with a walking boot on his right foot after the game and he went for further testing on Monday. Quinn updated the findings at subsequent press conference.
Quinn said that Ryan has been diagnosed with a sprained ankle, but would not say whether it is a high ankle sprain. He said that Ryan will not take part in practice to start the week, but could get on the field before the week is out and no determination has been made about Sunday's game against the Seahawks.
Ryan has not missed a game since the 2009 season, when he was sidelined with turf toe.
Before exiting with the injury, Ryan completed 16 of 27 passes for 159 yards with no touchdowns, one interception (created by a Mohamed Sanu drop) and a QB rating of 60.6.
The question now is whether Ryan will miss any games. The Falcons have a bye next week before starting NFC South play against New Orleans.
Veteran Matt Schaub replaced Ryan and went 6-of-6 on pass attempts for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Schaub has 92 career starts, but he had only a combined 10 pass attempts as Ryan's backup from 2016 through 2018.
For the record, the offensive line play was horrendous, leading to Ryan getting sacked five times, including the final one by Rams DT Aaron Donald that led to the ankle injury.
The pressure on Ryan seemed to get him off his game. He missed some passes that he usually connects on. Sanu, usually sure-handed, had a drop that led to the above-mentioned interception. The Falcons were just 3-of-12 on third down. They couldn't get the running game going -- finishing with 38 total rushing yards -- especially after Devonta Freeman got ejected for throwing a punch at Donald and Smith left the game with a head/neck injury.
I'll have more on Ryan, who did not practice Wednesday, via Late-Breaking update in coming days, but Quinn expressed optimism about the QB playing on a Wednesday conference call with Seattle media.
Smith is in the concussion protocol but has already been ruled out for Sunday's game against Seattle. ...
In a related note. ... With Smith sidelined, Freeman's departure left Atlanta with third-stringer Brian Hill and return specialist Kenjon Barner at running back.
Freeman was remorseful on Monday for throwing a punch at Donald.
"I shouldn't have been in that position first and foremost because my brothers are out there competing," he said. "I need to be out there at all times. ... It just happened. It can't happen no more."
With Smith out, Hill and Qadree Ollison could have bigger roles this week behind Freeman. ...
On Tuesday, the Falcons traded Sanu to the Patriots in exchange for a second-round draft pick. New England had previously made a move for Sanu during the 2019 NFL Draft, but Atlanta held off until now, which tells us the Falcons have a pretty good idea the rebuild is already on.
Sanu proved to be an incredibly reliable target for Ryan, catching 71.9 percent of the passes thrown his way. A go-to player on third downs, 130 of Sanu's 225 receptions resulted in a first down for the Falcons.
During his four seasons with the Falcons, Sanu caught 225 passes for 2,507 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 14 times for 62 yards and completed two passes for 56 yards and two touchdowns.
Justin Hardy and Russell Gage move up in the rotation behind Jones and Calvin Ridley in the wake of this move. ...
On Tuesday, the team announced the promotion of wide receiver Christian Blake from the practice squad.
Blake went to camp with them last year as an undrafted rookie from Northern Illinois, and spent last year and the first seven weeks of this season on the practice squad.
One last note here. ... The Jones-Jalen Ramsey battle was about the only interesting thing to watch from a Falcons perspective. Ramsey talked trash to Jones every time, and Jones just seemed to laugh it off. Jones had six catches for 93 yards on nine targets, including a 39-yard reception with Ramsey on him. But Ramsey got the last laugh with the victory.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham, Luke Stocker
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, after leading the Baltimore Ravens to a 30-16 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, quarterback Lamar Jackson walked off the field while hearing fans serenade him with chants of "MVP, MVP, MVP!"
This record-setting season has featured Jackson winning games with his arm and dominating them with his legs.
But, for the first time in his young career, Jackson changed a game with his words.
With the game tied at 13 late in the third quarter, Jackson came to the sideline ticked off that another promising drive in the red zone was going to end with a field goal. As Justin Tucker was lining up to attempt the go-ahead kick, coach John Harbaugh saw the upset look on Jackson's face and reconsidered his decision to play it safe on fourth-and-2 at the Seattle 8-yard line.
"You want to go for it?" Harbaugh asked as Jackson walked past him.
Jackson stopped and quickly turned to his coach, saying, "Yeah, I want to go for it! Let's get it."
Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda then yelled, "If he wants to go for it, I want to go for it."
Harbaugh called a timeout, pulled his field-goal team off the field and sent Jackson along with his offense back on it.
This spur-of-the-moment change allowed offensive coordinator Greg Roman to finally use a long-discussed play. During the week, Roman had fought to run "Quarterback Power," but Harbaugh warned him that it sent their franchise quarterback up the middle of the defense, which exposed him to big hits.
Roman agreed to call it only in a critical situation and only when Baltimore needed it the most. On Sunday, that time had come with 1 minute, 24 seconds left in the third quarter.
Along with the play call, Roman sent a message through the speaker in Jackson's helmet: The Ravens were putting the game in his hands.
"Let's do it," Jackson said.
Jackson followed the lead blocks of tight end Hayden Hurst, motioning fullback Patrick Ricard and pulling guard Bradley Bozeman. He made one cut back into the heart of the defense before powering his way into the end zone.
Jackson's 8-yard touchdown gave the Ravens a lead they wouldn't relinquish. His emphatic spike of the ball capped a drive of outpouring emotions.
Three plays before that score, Jackson was trying to get the attention of center Matt Skura to snap the ball. Frustrated that the final seconds of the play clock were ticking off, Jackson clapped his hands, stomped his feet and leapt high in the air with both feet. He then threw the ball to the ground in anger.
"I felt like from there, there was something different that came out of Lamar," cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. "That's a quarterback I really like to see."
Faced with second-and-15 from the Seattle 21-yard line, Jackson's pass to tight end Mark Andrews was dropped. On third down, Jackson showed determination in cutting and spinning his way for a 13-yard gain.
But Jackson came up two yards short, and it looked like the Ravens were going to settle for a field goal before Jackson used his persuasive charms. Jackson ratcheted up his emotions, and the rest of the team rose to the challenge.
"You know, he's a competitor," Harbaugh said. "This guy is a competitor of the nth degree. I mean, I don't know how to describe what a competitor Lamar Jackson is. He wants to win at everything all the time, and we feed off that. He carries that. I think that's who we are as a team. That's why he fits us so well. And it showed today. You saw that fire."
You also saw production. A unique level of production.
As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith explained, the triple-double is one of the most talked-about stats in basketball, but football has its own version, the double-triple. And Jackson appears well on his way to having more double-triples than any player in NFL history.
A double-triple comes when a player has at least 100 yards in two different statistical categories in the same game. Jackson did that in Seattle, with 143 passing yards and 116 rushing yards in a win over the Seahawks. And he's now done it four times in his career.
That's an incredible accomplishment for a player in his second NFL season. The double-triple is far less common than the triple-double, and Jackson is already tied for second most double-triples in NFL history. Only Michael Vick, who did it eight times, has more.
Jackson is one of five players tied for second place in NFL history with four career double-triples. Here's the list of the players with the most double-triples in their careers: Vick (8); Jackson (4); Russell Wilson (4); Walter Payton (4); Dante Hall (4); and Gary Ballman (4).
A double-triple is a special accomplishment, one that rarely happens in the NFL. Jackson may make it not so rare.
As SI.com's Todd Karpovich reminded readers, entering the season, Harbaugh was confident the Ravens were going to change the landscape of the NFL with their Jackson-led offense. So far, the strategy has worked because the young quarterback has been able to beat teams through the air and on the ground.
The Ravens are a dangerous team and get to enjoy this latest victory for a few more days because of their upcoming bye. But it gets real quickly after that as Baltimore will host New England on Nov. 3. ...
For the record, Jackson completed 9 of 20 pass attempts for 143 yards. His receivers, most notably tight end Mark Andrews, didn't help him with several drops. Jackson managed a 50-yard completion to rookie Mikes Boykin in the first quarter that forced Seattle to rethink its defensive game plan.
The Seahawks were determined to stop the run, but the Ravens stayed with the game plan and finished 199 yards on the ground. Mark Ingram had 12 carries for 46 yards and Gus Edwards finished with 35 yards and eight carries. Edwards' workload could increase after the bye.
The Ravens were without starting wide receiver Marquise Brown and linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, and top cornerback Jimmy Smith. Brown and Onwuasor both have ankle injuries, while Smith has a knee injury.
Harbaugh said he's "very optimistic" Ravens will be at full strength coming off the bye. That means return of Brown, Smith and Onwuasor. ...
One last note. ... Coordinator Wink Martindale and the Ravens' defense were left with a litany of questions after allowing back-to-back 500-plus yard performances in losses to the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns. Fast forward three weeks and a unit with new faces held one of the NFL's top offenses and an MVP-caliber quarterback in check.
Two of the four leading tacklers for the Ravens weren't even on the team three weeks into the season. Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort combined for 14 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, and one sack in an active game for the linebacker duo.
But perhaps the biggest impact came from a player who was acquired less than a week ago. Down 10-6 in the second quarter, cornerback Marcus Peters baited Wilson to target receiver Jaron Brown in the flats, and Peters stepped in front of the pass for a 67-yard pick-six. It was Wilson's first interception of the season and a major momentum swing for the Ravens.
Peters played 90 percent of the defensive snaps and allowed just one catch, according to PFF. Not too bad for a player who had just two days of practice in a complex defensive scheme.
Unfortunately, it looks like the Ravens have lost their third defensive player to a season-ending injury for the third straight week.
The Ravens lost safety Tony Jefferson in Week 5, safety DeShon Elliott in Week 6 and now linebacker Pernell McPhee is set to join them on injured reserve.
McPhee hurt his triceps in Sunday's win over the Seahawks and Harbaugh said at a Monday press conference that the veteran is not expected back this year.
QBs: Robert Griffin III, Lamar Jackson, Trace McSorley
RBs: Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins
WRs: Marquise Brown, Dez Bryant, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, Willie Snead
TEs: Luke Willson, Eric Tomlinson, Mark Andrews
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques suggested, no team wants to be the first to lose to the Miami Dolphins.
The Buffalo Bills nearly took the pressure off the rest of the league.
The Bills gutted out a 31-21 victory Sunday against the Ryan Fitzpatrick led Dolphins, a game in which Miami held the lead a season-high two times. Trailing 14-9 at halftime, Buffalo needed a 98-yard drive spanning the third and fourth quarters to take the lead for good, coasting to victory on the wave of momentum coursing through New Era Field.
Sean McDermott's team seems hell-bent on winning ugly at all costs.
Though it took nearly three quarters, Tre'Davious White put an end to any thoughts of the Dolphins pulling off a Fitz-Magical feat in what would have been a monumental upset for the 17-point underdogs.
White's two second-half takeaways, including a forced fumble in which he punched the ball out of rookie receiver Preston Williams' arms at the Miami 28, led directly to the Bills' slow-starting offense scoring two touchdowns and improve to 5-1 -- their best start in 11 years.
The Dolphins' so-called FitzMagic finally ran out in a game the 15-year journeyman put a real scare into one of his seven former teams.
McDermott credited his players for having mental toughness for pulling out the win.
"You could see the look in their eyes at halftime that they were disappointed in themselves and what had unfolded," McDermott said. "And they were convinced they had to do something about it."
It certainly wasn't a good first half for Buffalo's offense. They couldn't convert on third down or in the red zone and it had them down five points at halftime.
The Bills were 1-6 on third down conversions at the break and 0-1 in the red zone.
Come the second half however, Josh Allen again demonstrated improved consistency when the game was on the line.
"We knew at halftime we were hurting ourselves in the first half. Getting three field goals isn't what we wanted to do down there. We wanted to finish with touchdowns," said Allen. "Our O-line stepped up. We challenged them and they answered the bell, so I appreciated what they did for us. Frank Gore and Devin Singletary they carried the rock well. We made some plays outside too. We made enough plays to win."
Following White's first takeaway, Allen led a 12-play 98-yard scoring drive going 6-6 passing for 73 yards including the 20-yard touchdown pass to John Brown.
On their next two possessions, which included the opportunity from the second White takeaway, Allen went 4-5 passing for 39 yards with the last completion coming on a three-yard TD strike to a wide-open Cole Beasley.
"In the second half, our defense came out and played lights out and we found a rhythm on offense and that's all that mattered," Allen said.
On the final three possessions of the game for the Bills, Allen went 10-11 passing for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Prior to that in the game, he was 6-15 passing for 90 yards.
"He's done well in those situations," McDermott said. "He's a young guy, so he'll learn from this tape. You always want to build on the positives and celebrate those and make sure we're learning from the things that weren't up to par. The biggest thing was we got the takeaway, but what do you do with it, especially the short field and we capitalized on it."
The Dolphins were without their top cornerback Xavien Howard on Sunday due to a knee injury. His backup Ken Webster was injured in the first half, and though he did return to the game, Miami's defensive coaches were using a rotation of six inexperienced defensive backs at both corner and safety.
A matchup that unfolded late in the first half was former Bills practice squad CB Ryan Lewis and Brown.
Buffalo was not able to exploit the matchup in the first half very much, but the overhead camera shots of the action likely showed Bills coaches at halftime that Brown was winning consistently against Lewis in man coverage. "Going into a game when an opponent is down a lot of players with injury you want try to take advantage of the weak links on their team," said Brown.
The right opportunity revealed itself on a 1st-and-10 from the Dolphins 20-yard line early in the fourth quarter for the afore-mentioned touchdown.
"I've got a lot of trust in John and what he does just because of how hard he works," said Allen. "The results he has in the game, he's a guy who is going to work and get open for you. I'm proud of the way he played, that he had trust in me to continue to run his routes and that I would find him."
Brown remains on track toward a career season. He corralled 5 of 6 targets for 83 yards and his second touchdown of the season. He has recorded at least five catches and 69 yards in five of the Bills' six games this season, and he is on pace for a career-high 1,261 receiving yards in his first season in Buffalo.
Fellow wideout Duke Williams did not return after hurting his right shoulder in the game. CB Kevin Johnson did not return because of a head injury.
In addition, Brown was not at practice during the portion of Wednesday's practice that was open to the media. He played through a groin injury last week.
The Bills host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and I'll have more on Brown and Williams via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
One last note here. ... In his first game back since injuring his hamstring in Week 2, Singletary was clearly being worked back in gradually.
According to Rotoworld's John Daigle, Gore was in on 30-of-56 offensive snaps over Singletary, who was in for 22 snaps (39 percent). Gore out-touched the rookie 12-7. Expect Singletary's role to continue growing down the stretch.
Worth noting. ... The team's committee rushing attack has topped 100 yards in six straight games and ranks seventh in the league in averaging 135.8 yards per game despite ranking 18th with 167 carries.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Jake Fromm
RBs: Zack Moss, Devin Singletary, T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts, Isaiah Hodgins, John Brown
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed framed it, "Truth be told, the Panthers could probably do without a bye this week."
It's a fair point. Head coach Ron Rivera's team is playing its best football since 2015, when it went 15-1 in the regular season and reached the Super Bowl.
The Panthers have battled back from losing their first two games to win their next four -- three of those on the road -- behind the surprising play of young backup quarterback Kyle Allen, versatile running back and MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey and a defense that's hitting quarterbacks hard and taking the ball away.
Indeed, the defense has been doing its work with a vengeance.
Over the past four games, nobody in the league has been better at wreaking havoc than Carolina. The Panthers (4-2) have 23 sacks and 14 takeaways during their four-game win streak and now lead the league in sacks.
It has come from all spots, too.
Rivera said the defensive line and secondary are "meshing" right now.
"We have to give credit to what the secondary has been doing, as well," Rivera said. "(Linebacker) Luke Kuechly is orchestrating it, the secondary is responding well. They're clamping, connecting, carrying receivers from one zone to the other, they're passing guys off. When you do those things, communicate as well as they have, the quarterback has to hold the ball, which we've seen. We've had some success because of that."
McCaffrey called the defensive line "vicious."
"I feel like every single time they were on offense, our defense had a chance to get a turnover or a sack," McCaffrey said.
McCaffrey hasn't been too shabby himself.
The third-year running back has electrified the league one-third of the way through the season.
He leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage and has 10 touchdowns, including five in the past two weeks. He has twice posted 227-yard games from scrimmage and four times eclipsed 175 yards.
A running game and a strong defense are normally the perfect recipe for any young QB to succeed, and Allen has used them to his advantage. He's been a solid game manager, having yet to throw an interception in his five NFL starts, although he has fumbled the ball away four times.
Allen has the fifth-best QB rating in the league, and his play on the field has some wondering if the Panthers should stick with him even after Newton is able to return from a mid-foot sprain.
Allen said the Panthers are playing like "a complete team all around."
Now the question will be if the Panthers can keep that momentum going after the bye week when they face the currently undefeated 49ers on Sunday.
"Our past four games, we've won them in a lot of different ways," Allen said. "A couple games put up points, a couple games our defense did pretty well. Christian had a lot of touchdowns. ... We're playing complementary football right now, making plays when we need to."
The big question, of course, is when and/or whether Cam Newton returns?
Rivera announced on Monday that it won't be this week. Allen will remain the starter against San Francisco.
Even though Rivera called it the Niners the toughest defensive test that Allen has faced since stepping into the lineup in place of Newton, the last few weeks have provided plenty of evidence that the coach is correct about the obstacle between his team and a five-game winning streak.
Remember, the offense has averaged 31.3 points a game under Allen during his four-game winning streak (following an 0-2 start with Newton). McCaffrey has had three games with 175 or more yards from scrimmage. The line has played its best football despite injuries.
Prior to the Week 7 games, McCaffrey was the NFL's leading rusher with 618 yards on the ground (he was surpassed by Dalvin Cook on Sunday). McCaffrey is averaging 4.87 yards per carry, third-highest among players with over 100 rushing attempts. He also led the NFL in total scrimmage yards with 923 (618 rushing, 305 receiving), and has a league-leading nine total touchdowns (seven rushing, two receiving).
Allen has a passer rating of 106.6, ranking fifth in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks. He and Russell Wilson were the only qualifying quarterbacks to not throw an interception yet this season.
Allen set an NFL record by going 5-0 in his first five starts with no interceptions thrown.
Joey Slye ranks second in the NFL with 56 points scored (McCaffrey is fourth with 54). Slye is tied with Matt Prater for the most 50+ yard field goals made (4).
So there's been a lot going right without Newton. And it's fair to wonder how much of a hurry the Panthers will be to reintegrate him.
Regardless of all that, the first step is Newton proving he's healthy.
A report during the Panthers' bye week indicated that Newton was expected to resume practicing with the team this week, but Rivera said at that Monday press conference things have not yet progressed to that point.
Rivera said that reporters at open portions of this week's practices may see Newton, but it would be on a side field.
Rivera said the quarterback "will be with the trainers this week" as he continues to do rehab work with his injured foot.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Phillip Walker, Will Grier
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Mike Davis, Trenton Cannon, Reggie Bonnafon
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, Pharoh Cooper, Brandon Zylstra
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Colin Thompson
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson reminded readers, the Chicago Bears spent their bye week feverishly searching for an offensive identity.
Head coach Matt Nagy better keep looking.
The Bears' 36-25 home loss to the New Orleans Saints raised even more questions about an offense that actually looked worse after a week off. And remember, entering Week 7, the Bears ranked near the bottom in virtually every important offensive statistical category.
The bar wasn't set very high.
New Orleans had outgained the Bears 419-120 in yardage with 4:30 left in the game. That's incredible.
Chicago's defense clearly isn't as dominant without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who might come off the injured reserve list at the end of the year if the Bears are still playing for anything. And the punt team is horrible. New Orleans blocked one punt (that resulted in a safety), tipped another and had a touchdown called back because of a penalty.
But even with the defensive and special-teams miscues, the Bears still would hang with New Orleans with a functioning offense.
They do not possess one of those.
That said, the Bears have been in this situation before.
Last season, head coach Matt Nagy found himself at a 3-3 record, coming off back to back losses. As a first-year coach, Nagy was able to rally the team to win nine of the last 10 games and take the franchise to its first playoff appearance since 2010.
Now, Nagy is once again determined to right the ship.
The first order of business will be to inspire the team to keep the faith.
"I talk about horse blinders and earmuffs," said Nagy. "Don't listen to anything outside because, right now, it's not going to be good. So what happens is people from outside try to pull you down, and the last thing that anybody is going to do, whether it's you guys or anybody else outside, you're not pulling us down."
"Each week, even after the frustrating performances on Sunday," said quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, "myself and all the guys, we just come back to work. We're just working hard. There's no one slouching off. There's no one being lazy in practice. There's no one being lazy or not caring. These guys care, and that's why these losses hurt so bad because we put so much hard work and effort and time into this during the week."
While Trubisky threw two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, the offense struggled to move the ball for most of the first three quarters and fumbled twice deep in their own territory.
"It's definitely fixable," said running back Tarik Cohen. "The guys we have in this locker room are high character guys, and we're all ready to find that solution or be that solution."
Some of it is fixable. Some of it is not.
As Dickerson put it: "Trubisky is incredibly limited. End of story."
By now, Nagy knows exactly what Trubisky is and what he isn't. There are no explosive plays in the passing game because everything is kept basic for Trubisky. That doesn't explain or excuse the lack of commitment to rookie running back David Montgomery -- another key issue -- but it's painfully obvious the Bears only trust Trubisky to throw short crossing routes, slants or screens.
When Trubisky is asked to deliver on important throws down the field, he usually is off the mark. Again, Trubisky missed a wide open Taylor Gabriel on third down in the first quarter.
Dickerson went on to suggest you can use Trubisky's left shoulder injury as an excuse, but he played poorly before the injury.
The Bears are stuck.
Nagy said he never thought about benching Trubisky, and he remains committed to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft. In fact, the coach pointed to mechanics and footwork as things the QB can work on for immediate improvements.
"The biggest, the No. 1 thing that I came away from was footwork, I thought footwork was just OK," Nagy said. "And then when the footwork leads to, it leads to a little bit of better decisions slash accuracy with throws there were some times where there were some backpedals or movement in the pocket, could have been a little bit better or different."
Nagy cited several plays Trubisky had where he let the opposing pass rush change up his passing mechanics, his footwork. The three overthrows Trubisky had were particularly good examples of poor footwork.
Of course, the options are limited here. Veteran Chase Daniel is a serviceable emergency quarterback but not built to play long stints.
There is no easy fix.
Beyond that, the Green Bay Packers (6-1) lead Chicago by three full games in the NFC North standings. The Vikings are 5-2. And the Detroit Lions (2-3-1) are no pushovers.
There are still 10 games left to play, but finding seven or eight wins on the remaining schedule is difficult.
And fantasy owners expecting consistent, high-end production from any of the components in this offense should dial back those expectations. ...
The Bears host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. ...
Worth noting, Sunday's loss to the Saints saw the Bears almost totally abandon the run. They wound up with seven rushing attempts to 54 Trubisky passing attempts and two sacks allowed, which Nagy acknowledged is not the kind of balance that the team should have on the offensive side of the ball.
"I know we need to run the ball more. I'm not an idiot," Nagy said at a Monday press conference.
As Profootballtalk.com suggested, game situations impact how often a team runs the ball and the Bears fell down by as many as 26 points in the second half. It was a two-point game at halftime, however, and the Bears only ran five times while calling for 24 passes in a formula that didn't result in success.
Let's hope Nagy really isn't an idiot. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Cordarrelle Patterson isn't going to the Hall of Fame like Devin Hester, but his seven kickoff return touchdowns since he entered the league is the most in that span by a wide margin. No other player has more than two kickoff return touchdowns over the past six-plus seasons.
And Patterson is no stranger to scoring at Soldier Field: Sunday's 102-yard kickoff return for a TD was Patterson's first as a member of the Bears, but it was the third time he has taken one to the house at the stadium.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Tyler Bray, Nick Foles
RBs: David Montgomery, Ryan Nall, Lamar Miller, Artavis Pierce, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Alex Wesley
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, Demetrius Harris, J.P. Holtz
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Kay framed it: "Thirty-three yards rushing, all by the quarterback. Just when the Bengals think their offense can't get any worse, it reaches new depths.
"And seven weeks into the season, they're still winless with no relief in sight. ..."
Andy Dalton threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and the Jacksonville Jaguars pulled away to a 27-17 victory Sunday that extended Cincinnati's worst start in 11 years.
First-year coach Zac Taylor is still awaiting that first win, watching the dwindling fan base get more restless by the week. Several wore bags over their heads Sunday, and a banner in the upper deck played off their "New Dey" motto for the season by declaring: "Fans Are Due Day."
They can keep waiting while Taylor tries to figure out how to make something out of the mess, especially the running game. At this point, he's open to trying anything.
"We can't have big enough egos to where it's like, 'Oh, this player's been playing this position,' or, 'We have to continue to do it this way as a coach,'" said Taylor, who calls the plays on offense. "We've got to look at everything."
Everyone knows where to start.
The Bengals (0-7) ran for 33 yards during a loss at Baltimore a week ago. They had the same total Sunday, but this time it was worse in how it happened. Dalton accounted for all 33 yards on four scrambles. Running backs Joe Mixon (10 carries, 2 yards) and Giovani Bernard (four carries, no yards) had trouble getting back to the line of scrimmage. Receiver Alex Erickson lost 2 yards on two carries.
With nothing on the ground, the Bengals have relied on Dalton to do everything. He threw 43 times Sunday, completing 22 for 276 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also was sacked twice and hit repeatedly.
Dalton has thrown 286 times, among the most in the NFL.
"When you're one-dimensional, it makes it easy for the other side to know what's going on," Dalton said.
Knowing that Dalton had to throw figured into the Jaguars' biggest play. Yannick Ngakoue sensed the Bengals would try a screen pass when Bernard -- their top receiver out of the backfield -- got into the game. The defensive end was in position to grab the floating pass and return it 23 yards for the clinching touchdown.
"I noticed when (Bernard) was in the game, they were looking to pass," Ngakoue said. "And when it was (Mixon), they were looking to run. So I thought it was going to be a screen."
The Bengals have been held under 35 yards rushing in four of their seven games. Mixon has only 254 yards. Dalton is their second-leading rusher with 51. The offensive line has been an issue for the last few years, and it's struggling to create room for running backs.
"There's a big hole there and at the last second, they're beating us up front 1-on-1," Taylor said.
That's only half of a bad equation.
The Bengals are not only last in the league in running the ball; they're also last in stopping the run. Leonard Fournette ran for 131 yards Sunday, and the Jaguars piled up 216 overall on the ground. It's the third straight game and the fourth time this season that an opponent has rushed for more than 200 yards.
Cincinnati has allowed 1,323 yards rushing while managing only 372.
Meanwhile, as Profootballtalk.com's Charean Williams notes, the Bengals are headed toward a top pick in the 2020 draft, which likely means the arrival of a franchise quarterback.
Until then, the Bengals have to get through this season with the quarterbacks on their roster.
That has been Dalton for the 127 games he has been healthy in his nine seasons.
But is it time for a change?
"That's not something I'm going to talk about right now," Taylor said after the loss to the Jaguars, via Ben Baby of ESPN.
Fourth-round pick Ryan Finley, the team's No. 2 quarterback, has yet to play this season. The Bengals also have third quarterback Jake Dolegala on their roster. Both rookies were active Sunday, though neither played.
Dalton entered Sunday's game with five interceptions and three lost fumbles in six games. He threw three interceptions against Jacksonville, including Ngakoue pick six.
The Bengals have more problems than just Dalton, and getting back A.J. Green would help.
But at some point, with the season already lost, the Bengals might want to get Finley some experience. ...
The Bengals play the Rams -- Taylor's former team -- in London on Sunday. ...
As Baby noted, Erickson had a career day against the Jaguars. The fourth-year player out of Wisconsin set new personal highs with eight catches for 137 yards. However, that might not continue moving forward. With Green and John Ross out indefinitely with injuries, Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate have received the bulk of the passing targets.
While Erickson will continue to be an important part of Cincinnati's depleted air attack, it will be hard to produce those lofty numbers on a consistent basis.
In a related note. ... SI.com's Tommy Jaggi notes that Boyd's efficiency has really taken a major dip without Green to alleviate some pressure. The fourth-year wideout caught just 5 of 14 targets for merely 55 yards. Boyd is trending in the wrong direction. ...
The Bengals waived wide receiver Damion Willis on Wednesday.
Willis signed with the team after going undrafted in April and opened the season as a starting wideout, but moved into a reserve role for the last five games. He caught nine passes for 82 yards. ...
And finally. ... Green scoffed at the notion that Cincinnati's winless start to the season will affect his timeline to return from an ankle injury. Green said the Bengals' record will "never" dictate when he will make his debut this season.
"Everybody knows what type of guy I am," Green said. "I'm not going to fake anything. I'm not going to milk anything. When I'm ready to play, you know it's time for me to go. It doesn't matter what the record (is). Nobody can hold me back when it's time to play."
Green has been out since he suffered an ankle injury during the team's first practice of the season. On Sunday, ESPN's Adam Schefter said the star wide receiver is not expected to return until after the Oct. 29 trade deadline.
Since Green suffered the injury on the first practice of the preseason, he and the team have hesitated to give any timeline on a potential return. The only action since then were two days of position drills leading up to the Bengals' Week 6 loss at Baltimore. Green has yet to be a full participant at practice since the injury. He said he didn't know if he will be available for the Bengals' Week 8 game in London against the Rams.
"We'll see," Green said Sunday. "Like I said, I don't like to put that I'm going to play and then I don't play and then y'all I'm milking it."
The Bengals' 2011 first-round pick is in the final season of a four-year contract with the Bengals. He has repeatedly said he doesn't want to rush back from the ankle injury and risk missing further games, which happened in 2018. Green has missed 20 games dating back to the start of the 2016 season.
For the record, Taylor wouldn't rule Green playing this week, but the coach said he also won't roll Green out there until he practices full go and that is day-to-day.
Baby reported on Wednesday that Green is "unlikely" to play in London.
I'll be watching for more; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for all the latest.
QBs: Brandon Allen, Ryan Finley, Joe Burrow
RBs: Giovani Bernard, Samaje Perine, Trayveon Williams, Joe Mixon
WRs: Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, A.J. Green, Damion Willis, Alex Erickson, Mike Thomas, John Ross, Auden Tate
TEs: Drew Sample, Cethan Carter, C.J. Uzomah
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers noted, Baker Mayfield has gone from No. 1 pick to No. 1 in picks.
A record-setting rookie quarterback who pulled the Browns back from their darkest despair while re-energizing a fan base last season, Mayfield has been error-prone, inaccurate and inconsistent for a team that has underwhelmed and underachieved through six games.
Mayfield reached the Browns' bye week leading the NFL with 11 interceptions -- the most by a Cleveland QB in six games since 1984 -- and he's hurt after taking a helmet to the left hip while making a scramble during Cleveland's 32-28 loss on Sunday to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Browns were back on the practice field Monday and Mayfield went through the workout with the rest of the team. He did not take part in practice before the team scattered last week. After practice, head coach Freddie Kitchens said all appeared well with the quarterback.
"I thought he looked good today. Focused. Moved around well. He's good to go," Kitchens said, via Keith Britton of 92.3 The Fan.
He's expected to be ready to play the New England Patriots on Sunday, when the Browns (2-4) will resume a season that Kitchens feels has reached a crossroads.
As Withers suggests, Mayfield will determine which direction it goes.
There are a number of variables that explain the decline in Mayfield's game this season -- dropped passes, a new offensive coordinator, line issues, injuries, inexperience, defenses designed to take away his strengths. But accuracy falls squarely on the quarterback and the 24-year-old ranks 33rd with a completion percentage of 56.6, down from 63.8% last season.
He's been hesitant. His mechanics are flawed. He's locked onto receivers. He's misread coverages.
A deeper dive into Mayfield's statistics reveals other troubling trends. He's just 9 of 29 (31 with three touchdowns and three interceptions in the red zone. Last year, he completed 65% of his passes with 20 TDs and zero interceptions inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
Mayfield has been off target too often. He's had some bad luck with several passes tipped and picked, but Mayfield hasn't been nearly as precise as he was at Oklahoma or in the second half of last season, when he led the Browns to five wins over a six-week span and broke Peyton Manning's rookie record with 27 TD passes.
"He's an accurate guy," said quarterbacks coach Ryan Lindley. "Sometimes it's with his feet, he speeds himself up. At times he thinks maybe too quickly, his feet follow up and you're trying to catch up. It's a variety of different things. Whether it's his feet, whether it's his mind at times, we all need to iron it down and get on the same page."
The Browns believed Mayfield would take a major step forward in his second season. It hasn't happened yet.
Still, general manager John Dorsey, who gambled by taking Mayfield first overall in 2018, feels his young quarterback is making strides, albeit small ones.
"To master the quarterback position is very hard," Dorsey said. "You just can't go and show up and do it. He's in his second year and right now defensive coordinators are probably throwing different looks that he hasn't seen, but Baker is one of those guys that he's smart enough, he's not going to make the same mistake twice, so he's learning from that.
"I like where he is and I like his competitiveness. I love everything about him, that hasn't changed for me one bit in terms of his competitiveness, his ability to throw the football and move this thing. And what I really like is that his teammates like him."
There's no denying the Browns have Mayfield's back.
His leadership is apparent during games, practices and in the locker room. Mayfield sets the tone, his teammates follow.
Unable to take part in drills this week because of the hip injury, Mayfield served as an extra coach. When tight end Demetrius Harris dejectedly walked toward him after dropping a pass, Mayfield fired him another ball and then gave him an encouraging slap on the shoulder pads. When players couldn't hear inside the field house because the music was blaring too loudly, Mayfield ordered it lowered.
It's easy to point at Mayfield and blame him for Cleveland's poor start. That's life for any pro quarterback.
But it's too easy.
The Browns have committed a league-high 57 penalties, several of them drive-killing infractions. Their defense has been gashed for 445 yards rushing the past two weeks. In his first head coaching gig, Kitchens has struggled to find the right run-to-pass balance. The offensive line could undergo a major overhaul coming out of the bye.
"It's not just Baker," said safety Damarious Randall. "Everybody's got to step up a little bit. As bad as we played against Seattle, we had a chance to get a stop on defense and we could've ended the game. We could be sitting here 3-3 and a lot of questions that y'all got right now, we wouldn't even be talking about, so I wouldn't say it's on Baker to step up for us to change the way of our season."
Mayfield, though, has to play better for the Browns to make a playoff push over the final 10 games.
While others may be wondering if he's a franchise quarterback, Lindley's confidence in Mayfield hasn't been shaken.
"On a day-to-day basis, you still see the things he does on the field and the way he carries himself," he said. "The best part is he's still young and he's still growing. You see what that kid's going to become and what he is -- and that's something special."
Meanwhile, with the slow start in mind, should we expect any significant offensive changes during the bye?
According to ESPN.com's Jake Trotter, the biggest changes likely to occur will come up front, where the Browns have had problems with "consistency," in the words of Dorsey. Change could come via a lineup shuffle or a trade. Dorsey wasn't cryptic this week in expressing his interest in Washington holdout left tackle Trent Williams, but the Redskins aren't interested in selling.
Also of interest. ... Kareem Hunt's return from suspension took another step Monday, when the Browns announced the running back has been cleared to rejoin the team and begin practicing.
Hunt will be allowed to return to game action in Week 10. Hunt is also coming off sports hernia surgery this offseason.
Suspended players usually don't get to practice until the Monday of the week they can return to action. The NFL made an exception for Hunt.
"The time with the team enables him to re-acclimate himself and engage in conditioning work and practices," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"Very pleased," Kitchens said Monday. "I thought he looked good. He looks like he is in good shape. He moved around good. It is always good to get good players back."
With Nick Chubb the lead back, Hunt's return will give the Cleveland backfield a stellar duo for the stretch run of the 2019 campaign.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson, Dontrell Hilliard
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, KhaDarel Hodge, Odell Beckham
TEs: Austin Hooper, Harrison Bryant, David Njoku, Stephen Carlson
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
According to ESPN.com's Todd Archer, if ever a team needed a game such as Sunday's, it was the Dallas Cowboys.
A three-game losing streak ruined what were good feelings from the Cowboys' 3-0 start. Doubt, at least from the exterior, was starting to creep in, especially after last week's loss to the winless New York Jets, which focused questions on head coach Jason Garrett's future, the effectiveness of the offense and the worthiness of the defense.
Sunday's 37-10 win against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT and T Stadium might've been the jump-start the Cowboys needed.
"That's what tonight was about, really. It was not proving anything to the outside world but proving to ourselves, proving to the man next to us that, 'Hey, you can count on me. You got a brother in me. You got somebody you can depend on through success, through adversity that I'll be here,'" Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said. "So proud of this team for doing exactly that. What we proved is that we know we've got a lot of guys in our locker room that we can lock arms with and be able to handle anything that comes our way."
The defense forced fumbles on the Eagles' first two drives, and the offense turned them into two touchdowns. In a span of three plays in the fourth quarter, Dallas intercepted Carson Wentz (Xavier Woods) and recovered a fumble by the Eagles quarterback (Kerry Hyder).
The Cowboys (4-3) were the only team in the NFL not to start a possession inside opposing territory in the first six weeks of the season. They had four such possessions Sunday and scored touchdowns three times, including an 8-yard run by Prescott with which he set the franchise record for touchdown runs by a quarterback with 21. Hall of Famer Roger Staubach had 20.
The offense was efficient. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 111 yards and a touchdown as the Cowboys steamrollered a run defense that was ranked second in the NFL entering the game. Aside from one play on which offensive coordinator Kellen Moore got greedy in the fourth quarter, Prescott was smart with the ball, throwing for 239 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown pass to Blake Jarwin.
Oh, and Brett Maher became the first kicker in NFL history with three field goals of at least 60 yards. That included a franchise-record 63-yarder on the final play of the first half.
The Cowboys head to their bye with a 3-0 NFC East record.
Considering that their remaining schedule contains five games against teams with .500 records or better and a return trip to Philadelphia in December, this was as close to a must-win game as an October meeting could be. ...
The Cowboys will enjoy the bye week.
Six key contributors were questionable entering the game but played: Amari Cooper, Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Zack Martin, Randall Cobb and Byron Jones. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and defensive end Robert Quinn (rib) were ruled out for the entire second half. The Cowboys will have two light practices during the week before they take four straight days off as their break.
Worth noting. ... Elliott did something no other starting running back had done against Philadelphia's stout run defense: Rush for more than 43 yards. He did that in the first half. Entering Sunday, Le'Veon Bell of the Jets had the most yards by a starter against the Eagles, with 43 yards on 15 carries. Elliott finished with 111 yards, continuing a trend against the Eagles since his rookie season. Elliott has played five games against Philadelphia and has gone for more than 96 yards each time. The Cowboys are 5-0 against the Eagles with Elliott in the lineup.
Speaking of Cooper, the team's official website reports he laughed when he was asked if he felt better this week.
"Oh yeah, yeah -- for sure, I felt a lot better," he said. "I felt like I could do my job."
That last bit, about being able to do the job, is something Cooper repeated earlier this week. He didn't feel that way last Sunday at MetLife Stadium, when his injured quad forced him to the sideline after just three snaps.
Fast forward to this Sunday, watching him bully the Eagles' secondary for five catches and 106 yards, you wouldn't know he was ever hurt at all.
"He's a bigtime player, he's as tough as they come," said head coach Jason Garrett. "He battled back from this thing and just played at a really high level."
This seemed unlikely to happen as recently as last Thursday afternoon. After watching most of that loss to the Jets from the sideline, Cooper didn't practice on Wednesday or Thursday. It wasn't until Friday that he was able to practice in limited fashion.
Make no mistake, though: even in the midst of another impressive performance, Cooper was battling.
Cooper did all the stuff he usually does, working his way open at all levels of the field. But it was his work on the boundaries that shined against a depleted Eagles secondary.
As repayment for his efforts, Cooper now gets two weeks to rest and recover. ...
Maher missed two field goals against the Packers in Week 5 and missed another one against the Jets in a 24-22 loss in Week 6, so Sunday night was a good time for him to make a case for remaining the kicker in Dallas.
Maher accomplished that mission. He made all four extra points and three field goals he attempted, including the above-noted 63-yarder just before halftime that ties him with five others for the second-longest field goal in history. Maher has also made two 62-yard field goals during his career and is the first player to ever hit three field goals of at least 60 yards.
"It's pretty cool," Maher said, via ESPN.com. "I didn't know [it was a record] until I got in here. That's definitely cool."
Maher is now 10-of-14 on field goals for the season after going 29-of-36 during his first season with the Cowboys in 2018.
On Tuesday, Maher was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Garrett Gilbert, Cooper Rush, Ben DiNucci, Dak Prescott
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
WRs: Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Malik Turner
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Blake Bell, Sean McKeon, Blake Jarwin
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Arnie Stapleton suggested, John Elway might want to reconsider the no-fire sale pledge he made last week.
These Broncos aren't going anywhere near the playoffs with an offensive line that can't block, a featured tight end who can't catch, a superstar pass rusher who can't get to the quarterback and a coaching staff that can't quit making rookie mistakes.
The Broncos (2-5) blew a chance to get back in the playoff race with their unsightly loss to a Kansas City Chiefs team that was missing several key starters and lost MVP Patrick Mahomes to a knee injury.
It was so bad even their punter got sacked.
It was so ugly they lost 30-6 in a game they actually led 7-0.
Ever since scoring TDs on their first two possessions against the Chargers on Oct. 6, the Broncos have managed just two touchdowns in their last 33 drives, not counting kneel-downs or end-of-game walk-offs. The other drives have produced five field goals, two missed field goals, two fumbles, two interceptions, two turnovers on downs and 18 punts, including the fake that failed when Devontae Booker failed to get open and Colby Wadman took the sack.
The Broncos' opening touchdown drive against a depleted Kansas City team that had lost two straight looked like a tone-setter when 240-pound running back Royce Freeman bulled his way in from the 1, capping a 10-play, 75-yard drive. But when Alex Okafor was whistled for encroachment on the PAT, things went haywire for Denver.
"The go for 2, it's a pretty high percentage from the 1-yard line," head coach Vic Fangio explained. "That's one of those analytical things. I'm not sure if I'll do it the next time because I believe the 2-point play needs to be basically ignored until fourth quarter or late in the third, but for 1 yard to get an extra point I thought it was worth the gamble."
Fangio sent Phillip Lindsay, who's 50 pounds lighter than Freeman, into the wall of defenders, leaving the Chiefs celebrating, the Broncos downcast and the stadium no longer buzzing.
Points proved precious, all right. The Broncos' output was the lowest in 71 prime-time games and the Broncos took turns drawing jeers:
"With that performance, they have every right to be angry and they have every right to boo," Fangio said. "We probably deserved it. It's a loyal fan base and one that I've grown quickly to appreciate. We're doing everything we can to get this fixed as quickly as possible."
The Broncos had a long weekend to recover for their trip to Indianapolis this week that will show whether this blowout by the Chiefs was an aberration or a revelation.
Meanwhile, Elway has steadfastly refused to rebuild his roster, insisting he's all about winning, not remodeling.
Last week he declared, "No one from our side is on the trading block. We're going to try to continue to win football games."
It might be time to see what he could get for some of his veterans so he can stock up on draft picks for a makeover in 2020.
"We haven't had any of those discussions yet," Fangio said. "I don't know that we will. We'll see."
We saw on Tuesday.
Two-time Pro Bowl receiver Emmanuel Sanders is heading west to a division leader.
The 49ers are sending a third- and fourth-round pick to the Broncos in exchange for Sanders and a fifth-round pick. The veteran receiver is moving on from a "world of suck" to one of the two remaining undefeated teams in the NFL, as the 49ers (6-0) sit atop the NFC West.
Sanders' run in Denver ends following six seasons in which he made two Pro Bowls and produced three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2014-2016.
Though he's been dealing with a bit of a knee injury, Sanders has played all seven games this season (and has a chance to play 17 games in the regular season as the 49ers have 10 remaining). He's tallied 30 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns.
Sanders is coming off an abbreviated 2018 season due to an Achilles tear.
Sanders said that his best memory of his time in Denver was winning Super Bowl 50 in what will be his new home stadium.
"It's hard anytime you break up or leave a place," Sanders said, via Michael Spencer of CBS Denver. "It's tough. We definitely had a great run in Denver, had a lot of great times but all good things come to an end. Looking forward to getting out to San Fran and showcasing my talent."
So does Sanders' departure -- which opens a starting spot for DaeSean Hamilton -- lock Courtland Sutton in as a legit No. 1 wide receiver?
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold, the answer was yes even before Sanders' departure -- and despite the Broncos' obvious troubles in the passing game.
At this point, Sutton is the only Broncos receiver to have at least seven targets in each game. Physically, he is a difficult matchup for opposing defensive backs, and Flacco trusts Sutton to be in the right place with his routes and is more willing to put the ball up in a crowd when Sutton is the receiver than he is with some of the team's other pass-catchers. ...
Among the areas in need of improvement? The Broncos couldn't establish the run and couldn't keep the Chiefs off the field.
Denver tried from the get-go but Phillip Lindsay (36 yards) and Royce Freeman (35 yards) rarely saw daylight and the Broncos saw too many third-and-longs. After breaking 100 rushing yards in three of their last four games, the Broncos finished with just 71 against the league's 30th-ranked run defense.
Kansas City won the time of possession by four-and-a-half minutes after averaging the lowest time of possession since Week 5. ...
One last note here. ... While he's not the answer to any of their offensive questions, rookie QB Drew Lock (thumb) returns to practice this week.
QBs: Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, Jeff Driskel
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman
WRs: Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler, Daesean Hamilton, Tyrie Cleveland, Diontae Spencer, Courtland Sutton
TEs: Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, Jake Butt, Albert Okwuegbunam
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
Wide receiver Marvin Jones had a historic day Sunday in a 42-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, catching four touchdown passes and joining an elite group of receivers who have had multiple four-touchdown games in their careers.
But according to ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein, afterward Jones was in no mood to reflect, in part because the Lions had just lost.
"Not right now. I still don't even think about the one I had way back when," Jones said. "I'll think about that, you know, when I'm old."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other receivers in NFL history with multiple games with four receiving touchdowns are Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe and Bob Shaw.
Jones had three of his four touchdowns in the first half Sunday against Minnesota -- his longest touchdown catch being a 16-yarder in which he spun out of a Trae Waynes tackle and then split defenders to get into the end zone.
He then scored on receptions of 3, 10 and 2 yards, part of the reason why he became the first player in NFL history to have four touchdown catches and less than 100 yards receiving in the game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Jones finished with 10 catches for 93 yards, with his longest reception being 24 yards. Jones has been a consistent receiver for most of the past three years with the Lions after joining the team in 2015 and having an up-and-down first season in Detroit.
"He's been great," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "Marv's a true pro. Comes to work every single day, runs, does everything we ask him, shows up on game day, makes plays. Great guy in the locker room, everybody loves him. I'm just happy he's a Detroit Lion, my teammate."
Jones' four receiving touchdowns tied a franchise record last achieved by Cloyce Box on Dec. 3, 1950.
"It was cool," Jones said. "... We want to win, you know. The personal accomplishments, they come. They come when you play this game and you've been in the game as long as I've been. But at the same time, we're in it to win.
"That's just something for me to put a football up and when I'm old say, 'Hey, look at that.'"
Jones' other four-touchdown game came with Cincinnati on Oct. 27, 2013, in a 49-9 win over the New York Jets in which he had eight catches for 122 yards.
Meanwhile, it should be noted the Lions have been competitive with every team they've played. Unfortunately, that's not enough.
In the NFL, with margins small enough that a play or two can decide a game or a season, Detroit is slowly teetering toward an area of concern following Sunday's loss, the club's third straight. And in a division as difficult as the NFC North, mistakes are amplified.
As Associated Press sports writer Noah Trister noted, Detroit he Lions lost a close game at home to Kansas City -- no shame in that -- and then fell on the road in controversial fashion to the Packers. In this game, they were simply outplayed.
It's tough to win when you make mistakes like a false start on the long-snapper, taking you out of field-goal range on the first drive of the game. Or when your run defense is so poor that everyone, no matter the team, can rush for 100 yards on you.
Those mistakes can suddenly make a massive, four-touchdown performance meaningless.
They can push a team that seemed to have great promise into a position of needing a major rally to even start to consider the postseason. ...
Other notes of interest. ... According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, head coach Matt Patricia told reporters on Tuesday that running back Kerryon Johnson had a knee procedure, and was headed to injured reserve.
"I feel really bad for Kerryon that he's in this situation. ... But very optimistic going forward," Patricia said.
That leaves open the opportunity for a late-season return, and Patricia said that was the goal.
Johnson left last week's game with a right knee injury. He missed the last six games of last year with a left knee injury.
He led the Lions with 92 carries for 308 yards and two touchdowns.
Johnson missed the last six games of last season with a left-knee injury after rushing for 641 yards.
With Johnson out, the Lions will look to a combination of rookie Ty Johnson and veteran J.D. McKissic to replace him. It's also possible Detroit could pursue a trade -- both as a replacement while Johnson is out and also as insurance when he returns.
The Lions also have Tra Carson on the roster and on Tuesday, they promoted Paul Perkins from the practice squad.
As for the rushing attack as a whole, the Lions ran the ball 20 times during Sunday's loss picking up 4.1 yards per carry for 81 yards.
Detroit's offense ranked 16th in rushing yards, 24th in touchdowns and 26th in per attempt average at 3.8 yards heading into that NFC North matchup. ...
Wide receiver Danny Amendola recorded his second 100-yard receiving game of the season and the Lions have now have a 100-yard receiver in every game this year -- Kenny Golladay (2), Amendola (2), Jones (1) and tight end T.J. Hockenson (1).
Stafford was particularly efficient Sunday targeting his top three receivers.
He completed 19 of his 25 passes to Golladay, Jones and Amendola for 229 yards with four scores and an interception. That comes out to a 126.5 passer rating. -- Tim Twentyman
Worth noting: Stafford has added yet another passing record to a resume filled with them.
With a 36-yard completion to Danny Amendola in the first quarter Sunday, the veteran quarterback reached 40,000 career passing yards in 147 games, the fewest in history, besting Atlanta's Matt Ryan, who accomplished the feat in 151 games.
Stafford entered the day needing just 87 yards to hit the milestone.
Stafford setting passing records has been commonplace in the years since the Lions selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2009. He holds nearly every meaningful franchise mark and his 273.4 yards per game entering Sunday is the third-most in NFL history, behind Drew Brees and the recently retired Andrew Luck.
Additionally, Stafford has started 134 consecutive games, the sixth-longest streak by a quarterback in league history.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniel
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Adrian Peterson, Kerryon Johnson, Jason Cabinda
WRs: Marvin Jones, Marvin Hall, Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu, Quintez Cephus, Jamal Agnew, Kenny Golladay
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Hunter Bryant
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As Packers.com's Mike Spofford, six short words from Matt LaFleur summed it up.
"Our offense came to play today," the Packers' head coach said.
Green Bay scored six touchdowns in a span of eight possessions for a runaway 42-24 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
The stats look good any number of ways this one is parsed. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers posted his and the franchise's first perfect 158.3 passer rating, throwing for 429 yards and five touchdowns, and rushing himself for the other score.
Eight different Packers caught at least two passes, six of them had an explosive gain of 20-plus yards, and five of them snagged a TD. Throw in 6-for-10 on third down, 3-for-3 in the red zone, and just two offensive penalties and one sack in 55 snaps, and the offensive onslaught was the culmination of what LaFleur, Rodgers and Co. have been building toward over the first two months of the regular season.
That it came without top wide receiver Davante Adams and on a short week following a down-to-the-wire Monday night victory only adds to the eye-opening nature of the performance.
"That's how you want it to look," LaFleur said, echoing a similar line of Rodgers' from the QB's postgame press conference. "This is the National Football League, it's not going to be like that every week, but again, our guys, especially coming off six days, I thought they were locked in.
"I think we're starting to learn our players a little bit better, what they do really well. I think the communication's been on point between coaches and players. Today it came together."
The Packers didn't even know until close to game time whether they'd have receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling (foot/ankle) and Geronimo Allison (concussion), but both played and produced. Valdes-Scantling's 74-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter for Green Bay's final touchdown put the game away and gave him a career-high 133 yards, all on two catches in the second half.
Rodgers was simply unstoppable. He hadn't thrown five touchdown passes since 2015, vs. Kansas City, and it was the first time in his four career games of five or more TD throws that he added a rushing score of his own.
In going 25-of-31, he had just one more incompletion than scoring toss, and his 429 yards were his fourth most as well as the fifth most in team history. It was his ninth career 400-yard passing game (including playoffs).
"I think this was the most complete I've played," Rodgers said, referring to the 2019 season. "I feel like this has been coming, I really do."
On Tuesday, Rodgers was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
LaFleur felt from the get-go the Packers would have to attack the Raiders through the air, and they stayed aggressive all game in improving to 6-1 and staying alone in first place in the NFC North, one game ahead of 5-2 Minnesota.
But with Adams sidelined, others had opportunities.
There was no single player who dominated in the absence of Adams, who missed his third consecutive game with turf toe. Instead, it was eight different players combining for 25 catches, 429 yards and five touchdowns in the Packers' most convincing win of the season.
"We have playmakers all over," said Valdes-Scantling. "It's not just one guy or two guys who carry the workload. We have guys at every position who can go out there and be productive."
The Packers ruled out Adams on Friday, but left the door open for both Valdes-Scantling and Allison to play.
Allison was upgraded to questionable after passing through the concussion protocol Saturday. The team waited until Sunday morning to make a decision on whether Valdes-Scantling and Allison would play, eventually giving the duo the green light.
Still, LaFleur rotated his personnel frequently.
Allen Lazard and Jake Kumerow spelled Allison and Valdes-Scantling, while fullback Danny Vitale became a bigger component of the game plan with more motions and routes from the backfield.
Although the Packers' running backs picked up only 60 rushing yards on 23 carries, Vitale (two receptions for 43 yards), Aaron Jones (four for 33) and Jamaal Williams (four for 26) helped steer the offense with critical catches in the first half.
Jimmy Graham's 29-yard catch on third-and-7 helped set the table for Jones's big moment in the first quarter. Six days removed from dropping a would-be 33-yard touchdown against Detroit, the third-year running back turned his head at the right moment to haul in Rodgers' first TD from 21 yards out.
It was the first of five touchdowns Green Bay would score on its first six offensive possessions.
"It was just Aaron giving me a great ball and adjusting to it," Jones said. "Got to remember never too high, never too low. You remember in the back of your head what happened last week, but you also keep that feeling and you make up for it. So I was just glad to make up for it."
Vitale caught a 21-yard pass to spark the offense on the next series. A 15-yard pass to Allison to convert on third-and-8 was crucial to the 11-play, 82-yard drive that ended with Rodgers finding Williams on a 2-yard touchdown pass. Kumerow caught a pass down the sideline and extended for the end zone on a 37-yard touchdown to give the Packers a 21-10 halftime lead.
"I think we answered a lot of questions out there," Vitale said. "We have a lot of guys who we can count on. Everybody is super-accountable to themselves and to one another. We're in a good spot as a team right now."
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky noted, the value in the Packers winning without Adams is not only the victories but the experience other receivers have gained when they otherwise might not have played.
LaFleur mentioned Lazard, specifically. "I think it's definitely going to benefit us," the coach said.
For the record, here's the breakdown on how the receiving workload was divided against the Raiders, via Rotoworld.com's John Daigle: Lazard 51-of-60 snaps, 27 routes, 4 targets; Kumerow 43 snaps, 23 routes, 2 targets; Allison 34 snaps, 23 routes, 5 targets; and Valdes-Scantling 20 snaps, 13 routes, 3 targets.
There's still no word if Adams can return against the Chiefs this week. I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Tyler Ervin, A.J. Dillon
WRs: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Malik Taylor, Reggie Begelton
TEs: Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
Deshaun Watson couldn't believe what he was being told Sunday.
Moments after appearing to avoid a sack with an incredible throw to DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone, referee Tony Corrente announced the touchdown had been negated. The explanation: Colts defensive end Justin Houston was draped around Watson's lower legs and was pulling him to the ground so the officials ruled Watson it a sack.
"I went back and forth with the ref," Watson said following the Texans' 30-23 loss at Indianapolis. "He said I was down. He said he was trying to protect my health so it goes back and forth, but that's the call he made."
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot noted, it cost Houston 9 yards, forced it to trade a touchdown for a short field goal instead of taking the lead and there was nothing the Texans (4-3) could do but accept it.
Afterward, Watson acknowledged the rare in the grasp call made a "big difference" as the Texans spent most of the day trying to rally for their fourth win in Indianapolis in five tries.
But the one call certainly wasn't the only obstacle Houston (4-3) had to deal with Sunday.
The Texans settled for field goals on each of their first three red-zone trips, including the touchdown that was called back. Watson threw away two more scoring chances with fourth-quarter interceptions. The second, off the hands of receiver Keke Coutee, was snared by All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard with 26 seconds left to seal the outcome.
Houston also turned the ball over on downs near midfield early in the fourth quarter and the Colts accepted 10 penalties, three of which extended the Colts final scoring drive. Indy (4-2) burned nearly 7 ½ minutes on that 12-play possession that made it a 28-16.
If that wasn't enough to stomach, the Colts even won a challenge after replays showed Eric Ebron got both feet down in front of the end line on a remarkable one-handed catch for a 4-yard scoring pass. That gave Indy a 21-9 lead early in the third quarter.
"I'm not going to answer any officiating questions," Houston coach Bill O'Brien said twice.
While nobody voiced any criticism of the calls publicly, the Texans seemed nearly as frustrated with what happened Sunday as many other teams, coaches and fans around the league have been with the officiating over the first seven weeks this season.
But O'Brien and his players understand that talking about it won't help. The only real solution is fixing the mistakes.
"We are definitely going to work to correct them," three-time defensive player of the year J.J. Watt said when asked about the penalties. "I haven't watched the film yet so I can't say what -- we will have to watch the film and see what we can correct."
Heading into Sunday, it appeared the Texans had found some solutions for their early season flaws.
They allowed no sacks in the previous two games. Carlos Hyde posted his first 100-yard game in more than two years during a victory at Kansas City, and Watson threw six TD passes in the previous two games while completing nearly 80 percent of his throws and had six TD passes in the previous two games.
On Sunday, things went awry.
After accounting for eight touchdowns in his last two games (six passing, two rushing), Watson had just one in the loss to the Colts. Watson endured six hits and was sacked three times, going 23 of 34 with 308 yards. Hyde was the top runner with 12 carries for 35 yards, and the Texans now find themselves sitting in second place in the AFC South with three straight losses to the Colts.
And it won't be easy to accept this one.
"You have to give the Colts credit, they handled what they needed to handle," Watson said. "We didn't execute enough to be able to capitalize. We have to take our game to another level and go back to the drawing board and get ready for the Raiders. ..."
Watson lost his No. 2 receiver, Will Fuller, with a hamstring injury on the Texans' first drive, but had two players finish with more than 100 receiving yards. DeAndre Hopkins had nine catches for 106 yards and Kenny Stills finished with four catches for 105 yards.
But Fuller will be out a while.
Test results on his injured hamstring revealed a significant pull that is expected to keep the Texans wide receiver out several weeks, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported, per a source.
Fuller played just one series against the Colts, catching a 6-yard pass. The injury interrupts a breakout season of sorts for the fourth-year wideout. Houston's second-leading receiver has 34 catches for 450 yards and three scores through seven games, numbers that approach his season averages.
Then again, his production has been compromised by missing time every year and 17 games overall. That unfortunate streak will continue in 2019. Fuller missed the final nine games of 2018 with a torn ACL. He was limited in practice last week calf and oblique injuries.
His absence should create more opportunity for Stills.
Worth noting. ... The Texans worked out former Steelers WR Eli Rogers, but they ended up promoting from within.
According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans are signing wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. from their practice squad.
Miller spent most of last year on the Texans practice squad, playing in one game. He initially went to camp with the Rams as an undrafted rookie from Southern Cal.
The team also released tight end Logan Paulsen. Houston signed Paulsen on Sept. 2, but he has not appeared in any games this season.
Paulsen, 32, caught nine passes for 91 yards and one touchdown in 15 games for Atlanta last season. He also has had stints with Washington, the Bears and 49ers.
And finally. ... The Texans traded for Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley for a third-round pick on Monday. Conley was the Raiders' first-round pick in 2017.
The Texans have been thin at cornerback, as starters Johnathan Joseph and Bradley Roby have both missed time with hamstring injuries. Roby did not play in the Texans' loss to the Colts on Sunday and is not expected to play in Week 8, either. Joseph left the game on Sunday, but said he was hopeful he would not miss another game.
Worse, however; cornerback Phillip Gaines will undergo season-ending surgery for a severe high-ankle sprain suffered Sunday and was placed on injured reserve with a five-month recovery time anticipated, a league source told Aaron Wilson.
Houston allowed Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett to throw for 326 yards and four touchdowns in the loss.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell, Scottie Phillips, David Johnson
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Keke Coutee, Isaiah Coulter, Kenny Stills, Randall Cobb, Will Fuller
TEs: Jordan Akins, Darren Fells, Kahale Warring
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells noted, the Houston Texans strolled into Indianapolis sitting on top of the AFC South and with an MVP candidate in quarterback Deshaun Watson.
But by the time the game ended, the Colts were on top of the division, led by Jacoby Brissett, who had a career performance less than two months after their franchise quarterback suddenly retired.
The Colts won their third straight game over the Texans, this one 30-23, sending a message to the rest of the AFC that they can't be overlooked.
The schedule is in the Colts' favor to make a run and get some distance in the division after back-to-back victories over Kansas City and the Texans.
Indianapolis doesn't face a team with a winning record again until it travels to Houston for a rematch against the Texans on Nov. 21. The Colts' next four games are against Denver, at Pittsburgh, against Miami and Jacksonville.
The Colts entered Sunday as a run-oriented offense, having rushed for at least 167 yards in three of their first five games. But as coach Frank Reich has consistently shown, he's not predictable when it comes to making a game plan.
Reich proved that on the first series when Brissett dropped back to pass nine times on their 12-play, 95-yard drive that ended with a Zach Pascal touchdown reception. That was their second-highest dropback rate on an opening drive this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
What Sunday proved is that the Colts aren't a one-dimensional team, and they're capable of winning in any way possible. Brissett, who became the team's starting quarterback following Luck's retirement, was 26-of-39 for a career-high 325 yards with four touchdown passes.
On Tuesday, Brissett was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Brissett has 14 touchdown passes in six games this season, which surpasses the 13 touchdown passes he had in 15 games during the 2017 season.
In fact, as Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith notes, Brissett is on pace to lead the league in touchdown passes this season. At his current pace Brissett would finish the season with 37 touchdowns. No one else is on pace for more than 35.
Although Brissett is fourth in the NFL in touchdown passes, the three co-leaders -- Patrick Mahomes, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson -- have 15 touchdowns, and all three of them have played seven games, while Brissett's Colts have played just six.
Also according to Wells, the Colts have been searching for a No. 2 true receiver -- not tight end Eric Ebron -- to go with T.Y. Hilton.
Pascal stepped up to the challenge with six receptions for a career-high 106 yards and two touchdowns. Pascal has been a consistent blocker all season, but Sunday was about having a career day as a receiver. His previous career high was 72 yards against Oakland in Week 4.
Finding consistency to go with Hilton at receiver has been a struggle for the Colts. Rookie Parris Campbell (abdominal) and veteran Devin Funchess (clavicle) are both out of the lineup due to injuries. About the only thing Pascal did wrong Sunday was that he missed a wide-open Nyheim Hines on a pass attempt in the fourth quarter. ...
Hilton finished with six receptions for 74 yards and one touchdown. In 15 career games against the Texans, Hilton has caught 82 receptions for 1,519 yards (18.5 avg.) and 10 touchdowns. Hilton tied Dallas Clark (46) for the 11th most touchdowns in team history. ...
Ebron finished with four receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown and eclipsed 3,000 career receiving yards. His one-handed touchdown grab in the third quarter was his third score of the season.
Running back Marlon Mack finished with 18 carries for 44 yards and added three receptions for 12 yards.
Hines had one carry for three yards and one reception for 13 yards.
Hines passed Joseph Addai (81) for the third-most receptions by a Colts running back in their first two seasons of the NFL.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Marlon Mack
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, T.Y. Hilton, Marcus Johnson, Ashton Dulin, Parris Campbell, Dezmon Patmon
TEs: Trey Burton, Mo Alie-Cox, Jack Doyle
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco reported, it took a while, but the Jaguars' offense finally get into the end zone on Sunday. In fact, it took three weeks.
The Jaguars hadn't scored a touchdown since the third quarter of a Week 5 loss to Carolina. That was also the last time the Jaguars scored one in the red zone. Until Gardner Minshew connected with Keelan Cole on a 2-yard pass with 12:41 to play in the Jaguars' 27-17 victory over Cincinnati, the Jaguars had failed to score a TD on six consecutive trips in the red zone.
They were 0-for-2 in a loss to New Orleans (they kicked two field goals) and 0-for-their-first-four-trips on Sunday (three field goals and turnover on downs). A big reason for the lack of success Sunday? A reluctance to rely on the run game. Minshew went 2-for-8 for 14 yards and the one TD on the first four red zone trips.
The Jaguars drafted Leonard Fournette to score touchdowns, especially from short yardage, and he was very good at that as a rookie. However, he had just three carries for six yards on two red zone trips against the Saints last week and had 16 carries for 32 yards and one TD in for the season entering Sunday's game against the Bengals.
One of the reasons the Jaguars had so much success two years ago was their offense's performance in the red zone: The ranked second in TD percentage (64 percent). This year? They ranked 29th (38.5 percent) entering Sunday's game.
Increasing their efficiency in the red zone has to be a priority over the next several weeks.
Meanwhile, Minshew looked tentative in the pocket and hesitant to make throws at times for the second week in a row. He was much more decisive and efficient when he first got into the lineup but defenses are doing a better job of confusing him before the snap and causing him to second-guess what he's seeing. He had times when he had receivers open against the Bengals but it appeared he didn't trust what he was seeing or didn't see them.
Part of his indecisiveness might be related to protection issues and the Jaguars did call some rollouts to get him on the edge to simplify some of those decisions.
Minshew did make some good throws, including one late in the first half that set up a field goal and the touchdown to Cole, but he's not as efficient.
That doesn't mean he's playing poorly.
Minshew won for a third time in six NFL starts Sunday. Most teams would take that from a rookie quarterback or a backup quarterback. The Jaguars sure would have taken it when starter Nick Foles sustained a broken clavicle in Week 1.
According to Jaguars.com's John Oehser, Minshew's time as a starter has been an unqualified success.
That said, Oehser was quick to advise readers that Foles likely will start when he returns.
Minshew could well have a bright future as a starting quarterback, but Foles' command of the pocket -- and of the offense -- and his experience is something the Jaguars need in the lineup. Foles is expected to return November 17, and it would be surprising at this point if he doesn't start against Indianapolis that day.
Given all that, Foles is expected to take part in practice this week.
It's the first week that Foles is eligible to practice after being placed on injured reserve with the broken collarbone he suffered in Week 1. He'll be eligible to play after Week 9, but head coach Doug Marrone was focused on building Foles up in practice rather than any plans for the starting lineup
"We've got time, so we'll just kind of gradually work him back in there," Marrone said, via the team's website. "I know he has been throwing on the side. I just want to make sure we're good with the reps and building it up, not trying to do too much too fast. We'll be smart this week and then we'll see how it progresses."
Foles is set to work with the scout team in seven-on-seven drills and throw on the side at practice this week. If that goes well, he'll progress to more work and the Jaguars will ultimately face a question about whether he'll return to the starting lineup.
Also on the injury front, Marrone said wide receiver Marqise Lee (ankle) will likely return this week. I'll have more on Lee (and Foles) via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Tight end Geoff Swaim (concussion, ankle) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Rookie Josh Oliver was active last week for the first time this season but he wasn't targeted as a receiver.
A few final items.. ... Fournette somewhat quietly rushed for 131 yards on 29 carries Sunday. The third-year running back has rushed for more than 100 yards in three of the past four games and leads the AFC in rushing. For whatever Fournette wasn't at times in his first two seasons, he's playing at a high level now.
Fournette currently ranks second in the league in rushing with 715 yards through seven games.
And last. ... Kicker Josh Lambo was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week following his performance against the Bengals. Responsible for 13 points, Lambo hit all four of his field goals and an extra point in the win. He has hit all 18 of his field-goal attempts this season and has made 20 consecutive spanning back to last year, the longest active streak in the pros.
This is Lambo's second Player of the Week honor this season (Week 4).
QBs: Mike Glennon, Jake Luton, Gardner Minshew
RBs: James Robinson, Dare Ogunbowale, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Chris Thompson
WRs: D.J. Chark, Keelan Cole, Laviska Shenault, Chris Conley, Collin Johnson, Michael Walker, Dede Westbrook
TEs: Tyler Eifert, James O'Shaughnessy, Tyler Davis, Josh Oliver
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
The Kansas City Chiefs received some good news regarding Patrick Mahomes' knee injury. Chiefs head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder updated the reigning MVP's status Monday, saying Friday's MRI "turned out as good as possible," and noted that Mahomes is "progressing nicely," per Herbie Teope of the Kansas City Star.
He said Mahomes has spent the weekend at the Chiefs' practice facility.
"He's worked all weekend here," Burkholder said. "He's done rehabilitation. He did extensive full therapy here at the complex. He's done some stuff in the athletic training room and is progressing nicely.
"Every guy is different. Every injury is different. ... We'll manage Patrick accordingly, and he's right in the middle of the process."
The update meshes with Friday's report that there was no significant additional damage to the knee.
All that said, head coach Andy Reid acknowledged "it would be a stretch" for Mahomes to play this week and wouldn't suggest a timeframe for a return.
"All these guys are different. I don't think you can put a timeline on it," Reid said.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported last week that Mahomes is expected to miss at least three games. It's possible the QB could return in Week 11 against the Chargers, or the Chiefs could play the cautious route with a Week 12 bye on the slate.
And if you're not sure how eager Mahomes is to return, there's this: Reid told reporters on Wednesday that Mahomes would throw the ball in Wednesday's practice and they’ll see if he can maybe get through the individual period.
So there's that.
But until Mahomes is healthy enough to consider a return, it's the Matt Moore show.
The good news for those of us invested in other components of the offense is this isn't Moore's first rodeo.
"It's hard to be a relief pitcher, but he's done it before and there's a certain way to prep for that," head coach Andy Reid told the media last Friday. "He understands that and it paid off for him. The best part is we didn't have to change up a lot of things. The hard thing to do is if one guy comes in, the backup comes in, and you have to change the whole offense right away. That's a tough deal. We didn't have to do that with him."
When Moore got in some blowout mop-up duty in Week 1 against the Jaguars, it was the first time he'd played in an NFL game since Week 12 of the 2017 season with Miami.
Thus, his showing on Thursday was all the more impressive considering it was his first substantial playing time since that Nov. 26, 2017 outing for the Dolphins against the Patriots. Following three quarters and change with the Chiefs on Thursday, Moore was 10-for-19 for 117 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions and an 89.1 rating.
"Yeah, football-wise, a couple series," was how long Moore said it took him to feel comfortable when he talked to reporters after game. "I think that was pretty evident. Shorted some throws and missed some stuff, some stuff I think a quarterback should hit. But kind of got into a little rhythm there as the game went on and coach Reid had a nice flow going with play calls. Made me feel comfortable as we went on."
It was a bumpy return as Moore completed just three passes for eight yards in his first nine attempts. But his comfort grew and the highlight of the day came when he found Hill coming open and floated a ball to him that ended with a 57-yard touchdown in the third quarter to seal the game.
"Yeah, everyone's got a job to do on every play," Moore said. "It was a great job by those guys, by Tyreek getting open. It was a heck of a call, really. And so to hit it obviously is exciting for sure."
Having long holstered a top-level arm, Moore showed he can still throw long and though he's 35 and had been out of the game, he still showcased mobility when needed, savvy pocket presence and veteran thinking.
Even though Moore quarterbacked the Chiefs to a victory that ended a two-game losing skid, many have wondered aloud about the Chiefs bringing in another signal-caller for the starting quarterback spot with Mahomes likely to be out at least three weeks with a dislocated knee cap. And there's obviously a question as to who will back up the backup.
"I haven't had a chance to visit with (general manager Brett) Veach," Reid said Friday when asked about the QB situation minus Mahomes. "I would imagine that we would probably bring a practice squad player up -- Kyle Shurmur up -- and go from there. I can't guarantee that for you as we go, but it would be one thought, for sure. And then, let Matt get the reps and go, if that's where we're at here. But again, I don't have all of the information for you on that."
A possible backup quarterback in the coming weeks is Chad Henne, who was Mahomes' backup in training camp before breaking his ankle in the preseason. The Chiefs signed Moore after losing Henne, who is on injured reserve.
"He's getting close," Reid said of a possible Henne return. "He's getting there. He's been working his tail off. I haven't taken him out there and thrown with him and done all that so I can't tell you how all that is gone ..."
But Shurmur is the short-term answer. He was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Tuesday. To make room for them on the roster, the Chiefs released wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas.
The son of Giants coach Pat Shurmur, Kyle was signed by the Chiefs as an undrafted rookie from Vanderbilt. They kept him on the practice squad until they needed cover for Mahomes' knee injury. ...
Meanwhile, LeSean McCoy enjoyed a vintage Shady game, breaking multiple long runs en route to a 64-yard outing. Tyreek Hill's touchdown was the highlight of Kansas City's dim second half and saw him hit over 20 mph. In addition to scoring Kansas City's first (and game-winning) touchdown on a crosser, Mecole Hardman ran a first-half punt back 36 yards to set up Kansas City for another score.
If Mahomes is to miss multiple weeks, Moore and Reid will need to rely on the bevy of shifty speedsters Kansas City has stockpiled over the years to carry the day. Last Thursday night was a good sign.
But who can we feel confident in rolling out as fantasy owners?
"If you're talking strictly receivers, I wouldn't be confident in anyone other than Travis Kelce or Hill," ESPN.com's Adam Teicher wrote. "While Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Sammy Watkins have had their big games or moments, Kelce and Hill are the consistent producers.
"But McCoy is still capable of putting up big numbers. The Chiefs might give him a larger role in Mahomes' absence."
A few final items here. ... According to the Athletic.com's Nate Taylor, injured OT Eric Fisher, DT Chris Jones and Watkins (hamstring) are considered day-to-day. I'll have more on Watkins -- and likely Mahomes -- via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
In addition to Mahomes, Burkholder had an update on CB Kendall Fuller.
"First, Kendall Fuller fractured his right thumb against Houston," Burkholder said. "He didn't play against Denver and he was operated on in Los Angeles on Friday. He returned back to Kansas City Sunday and started rehabilitation."
Given the emergence of Rashad Fenton against the Broncos in Week 7, the Chiefs won't hurry Fuller back from this injury. They seem to have enough bodies to manage without Fuller for the time being.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Le'Veon Bell, Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Marcus Kemp, Byron Pringle
TEs: Travis Kelce, Deon Yelder, Nick Keizer, Ricky Seals-Jones
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
The Chargers nearly pulled off a big comeback in Tennessee on Sunday, but they fell one yard short.
Replays showed Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon were stopped short of touchdowns on plays late in the fourth quarter and a second Gordon attempt to get in the end zone ended when he fumbled the ball. Jurrell Casey recovered the ball in the end zone to sew up a 23-20 Titans win.
It was the Chargers' third straight loss.
"I'm going to tell y'all, I've never been in a ballgame like that before," head coach Anthony Lynn said. "When you go from feeling like your guys fought their ass off, which they did, and won the ballgame, and then lose it the way we lost it."
Added tight end Hunter Henry: "On the field, we won it twice. We scored twice with 20 seconds left in the game and they called touchdown on the field. I looked at the sideline a few times like, 'That's the game.' To have that happen toward the end is one of the craziest games I've ever been in."
The Chargers initially thought they won the game with 39 seconds left when Philip Rivers connected with Austin Ekeler on an angle route for a 16-yard score. However, the call on the field was reversed when an official replay review ruled Ekeler's arm holding the football had not crossed the goal line.
On first-and-goal from the 1, Gordon broke the plane and appeared to score, but left guard Dan Feeney was called for a false start, moving the ball back to the 6-yard line.
On the next play, Tennessee cornerback Malcolm Butler was called for pass interference on a fade route to Mike Williams, moving the ball back to first-and-goal from a yard out.
Running out of the shotgun, the Chargers gave it to Gordon again for a touchdown called on the field. However, official replay again overturned the call on the field.
On second-and-goal, Gordon once again got the nod, but lost the ball before he reached the goal line and Tennessee defensive tackle Jurrell Casey recovered to seal the game for the Titans.
"At the end we needed one yard to win this game, and we didn't get it," Lynn said. "You don't get one yard, then you don't deserve to win this damn game. That's just the way it is. We needed one yard to win this game, and we let it slip out of our hands."
The Chargers (2-5) have now turned the ball over five times in goal-to-go situations this season, including Gordon's game-ending fumble, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
That's already tied for the most goal-to-go turnovers by a team in the past 15 seasons.
In addition, the Chargers have lost three straight games to fall to 2-5 on the season, which doesn't leave them much time to get on track for a run at a return to the playoffs this season.
It also leaves them at a spot where things could go even further off the rails as the season completely falls apart. Rivers has seen teams go a variety of ways over the course of his extended run with the team and said on Monday that he doesn't think this group will totally break down.
"I don't think it'll tear us apart," Rivers told the Los Angeles Times. "I mean, there's a difference between tearing us apart and still just not ever getting it figured out. I don't think it'll tear us apart. It's not something we can just talk ourselves into. We just got to keep working and keep believing that it'll happen. And, I think we'll do that. I think we've got the guys that'll do that. It's certainly going to be tough."
As Rivers notes, the team could never figure things out without totally apart so holding firm might not be enough to avoid their first losing season since 2016.
The push to avoid that fate begins in Chicago this weekend. ...
Also of interest. ... Playing about three hours from his hometown of Decatur, Alabama, and with his parents in attendance, Rivers finished 24 of 38 for 329 passing yards and two touchdowns. Rivers on Sunday passed 2004 draft class mates Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger in career passing yards. He now has 56,770 career passing yards, good enough for sixth all-time in NFL history.
Rivers posted a 108.3 passer rating Sunday, becoming the fifth player in NFL history to record 100 games with a passer rating of at least 100. Tom Brady and Drew Brees are the only active quarterbacks with more career 100+ passer rating games.
Ekeler passed Mike Tolbert (2008-2011) and Paul Lowe (1960-1968) for the second-most receptions by an undrafted running back in Bolts history with 115. Danny Woodhead looms 52 receptions ahead on the list with 167. Ekeler also established a career high with 118 yards receiving and caught a 41-yard touchdown pass from Rivers.
Henry had another strong game in his second game back from injury, posting 97 yards receiving on six catches. The 6-5 Arkansas product now has 99 receptions in his NFL career.
Rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin made a career-long 50-yard field goal against Tennessee. This season, he is 5-for-7 in field goals and has converted all five extra points he's attempted. Regular kicker Mike Badgley is gett9ing close to a return -- he was listed as questionable against the Titans and worked on a limited basis all last week.
So McLaughlin's run might be nearing an end.
And finally. ... Guard Forrest Lamp will miss the rest of the season after breaking his right leg during Sunday's game. The team placed him on injured reserve Monday.
Lamp was making his second career start at left guard when the injury occurred during the second quarter of the 23-20 loss. The third-year lineman, who was a second-round pick in 2017, has been plagued by injuries throughout his career.
Dan Feeney moved from center to left guard and Scott Quessenberry played center. Lynn said Monday that Ryan Groy also could be in the mix at either center or guard. Groy was signed on Oct. 9 after Mike Pouncey was placed on injured reserve following a neck injury.
Remember: Tackle Russell Okung returned to practice last week and Lynn said that the veteran would make his 2019 debut this week against the Bears.
Okung has missed the first seven games after suffering a pulmonary embolism this summer. He just got back to practice this week.
Lynn said that Okung wasn’t ready to play the entire game, which means that Trent Scott will still play. Lynn also said Scott could shift to right tackle when Okung is on the field.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Kalen Ballage, Joshua Kelley, Troymaine Pope, Justin Jackson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Joe Reed, K.J. Hill, Jason Moore
TEs: Hunter Henry, Stephen Anderson, Virgil Green
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
Jalen Ramsey's entrance boosted the Los Angeles Rams' hopes they can return to the postseason.
Matt Ryan's exit with an ankle injury provided a painful reminder the Atlanta Falcons have little hope remaining to avoid another losing season.
Jared Goff threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and the Rams returned to the site of last season's Super Bowl loss to beat the reeling Falcons 37-10 on Sunday.
The Rams (4-3) snapped a three-game losing streak in the debut of Ramsey, the former All-Pro cornerback acquired from Jacksonville earlier in the week.
With Ramsey's addition to the secondary, the Los Angeles defense enjoyed a productive day with five sacks, an interception and a fumble return for a touchdown.
"We're back on track," said linebacker Dante Fowler, who had three sacks and a forced fumble.
Head coach Sean McVay was impressed by Ramsey's ability to prepare for the game following Tuesday's trade from Jacksonville.
"I can't say enough about his ability to digest the game plan," McVay said.
Atlanta's offense struggled. The Falcons were limited to 224 yards.
As expected, Ramsey shadowed Falcons standout Julio Jones much of the game. Jones had six catches for 93 yards in his first matchup with Ramsey.
Ramsey moved into a revamped secondary. The Rams placed cornerback Aqib Talib and safety John Johnson on injured reserve this week and traded cornerback Marcus Peters to Baltimore. That left safety Eric Weddle as the only holdover starter.
The new mix held up well. Ryan completed 16 of 27 passes for only 159 yards with an interception.
Goff's postgame comments about what this win means to Los Angeles were telling.
Despite beginning the week in uncharted territory due to the first-ever three-game losing streak of the Sean McVay era, the Rams didn't force any changes dramatic changes because of the skid, he explained. They simply just maintained their faith in each other and the coaching staff.
Their reward? Improving to 4-3 overall in the first of two games across a 10-day road trip and a confidence boost heading into this week's game against the Bengals in London.
The Rams will remain in Atlanta to practice at Georgia Tech for a few days before making the trip overseas. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Rams still didn't run the ball well, managing just 90 yards on the ground on 36 attempts despite having possession for over 37 minutes. Todd Gurley had only 41 yards on 18 carries, and his longest run was 10 yards. Rookie backup Darrell Henderson got only 31 yards on 11 carries, and the Rams' only jet sweep to a receiver generated just 6 yards for Robert Woods.
The Rams have dropped to 23rd in the league with just 97.1 yards rushing per game after ranking third last season (139.4) and eighth in 2017 (122.1).
Gurley played just 61 percent of the snaps, but that's partly because of the lopsided score. Yes, Henderson contributed even when the game was close, but Gurley didn't play as much late and even John Kelly chipped in with four snaps.
The Rams used a lot of 12 personnel (two tight-end sets) in this game, frequently getting both Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett on the field together. They played 49 and 56 snaps, respectively, while Johnny Mundt also chipped in 16 snaps of his own. The game was a blowout, so the Rams were able to experiment a bit more in the second half.
Cooper Kupp's playing time took a hit as a result of the greater tight end usage, as he played just 62 percent of the snaps. Brandin Cooks and Woods played less than normal, too, with 59 and 58 snaps, respectively. Josh Reynolds got on the field for 19 snaps but didn't catch his only target, which was a pass in the end zone.
Goff completed 22 of 37 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Blake Bortles took over on the Rams' final possession. ...
Special teams coordinator John Fassel is no stranger to trick plays, and the successful execution on one against the Falcons only added to that reputation.
Facing a 4th and 3 from the Atlanta 46, L.A. chose to go for it. Punter Johnny Hekker took the snap, but dropped back to pass instead of kicking the ball, making a 23-yard completion to safety Nick Scott. The Rams not only got the conversion, they got inside the Falcons 25 yard line and eventually added three points on a 25-yard field goal by kicker Greg Zuerlein for a 13-3 lead with two minutes left.
More directly, Fassel's unit accounted for the final points of the game when CB Darious Williams recovered LB Troy Reeder's forced fumble on a punt return in the end zone.
Tally up the field goals, the touchdown and what the trick play led to, and special teams accounted for 16 of the Rams' 37 points Sunday afternoon. ...
On defense, Ramsey's involvement was going to be the major focus. On offense, it was rookie David Edwards making his first career start at left guard.
Edwards played every snap and passed with flying colors.
The former Wisconsin standout, primarily a right tackle in college -- and that was after converting over from tight end prior to the 2016 season -- displayed poise, athleticism and plenty of signs that he's capable of holding down that starting job for the foreseeable future. He also seemed to have good chemistry with the rest of the starters.
It's remarkable, and a credit to Edwards' work ethic and development, when you consider he had never played the position until he got to Los Angeles and began learning it during OTAs.
Fellow rookies Bobby Evans and Coleman Shelton took over for Andrew Whitworth and Brian Allen on the final possession in garbage time when the backups came in.
QBs: Jared Goff, John Wolford
RBs: Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, Cam Akers, Xavier Jones
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, Van Jefferson, Nsimba Webster, Trishton Jackson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt, Brycen Hopkins
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As the Associated Press suggests, the Miami Dolphins have gone from losing blowouts to losing close games, a sign of improvement under rookie coach Brian Flores not yet reflected in the standings.
Miami (0-6) actually led in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 31-21 defeat at Buffalo, and it no longer looks like a lock for a 0-16 season, or even the No. 1 draft pick.
"We did a lot of good things," Flores said Monday, "but we've got to do a little bit more. In those critical moments we didn't play well enough."
Oddsmakers still don't believe the Dolphins are ready for prime time -- they're 15½-point underdogs next Monday night at Pittsburgh. But after being outscored 163-26 in the first four games, Miami has been outscored 48-37 the past two weeks.
Flores' decision to bench Josh Rosen in the place of Ryan Fitzpatrick because he believed the veteran gave him the best chance to win seems sound after Sunday's game. Fitzpatrick, who played for the Bills from 2009 to 2012, looks the quarterback who can give Miami chance at a victory.
He also adds the most unpredictable excitement for a team otherwise immersed in weekly struggles.
Better still, the Dolphins had scored two touchdowns all season when he came off the bench in Game 5 against Washington. They've scored 35 points in five quarters since.
Miami gained a season-high 381 yards at the Bills, and totaled more points and yards against their formidable defense than any other team this year.
"We're continuously growing as a team," Fitzpatrick said. "We have to be able to stack together these minor wins of going out there and executing, and then looking at the things that are going wrong and why. But we've gotten significantly better from day one to now, and we just have to continue on that trend."
Fitzpatrick delivered a beautiful 35-yard pass to Preston Williams on his second offense drive that led to a touchdown -- a taste of magic.
He later nailed DeVante Parker on the money for a go-ahead second-quarter touchdown -- a full helping of magic. Down two scores with two minutes left in the game, Fitzpatrick scored on a 12-yard rushing touchdown after lowering his shoulder on Bills safety Micah Hyde to get into the end zone -- a bunch of reckless magic.
There was an almost tangible energy surrounding Fitzpatrick and his teammates, but as ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe put it, "The juice seems to often run out this season and Sunday was no different."
For better or worse, Fitzpatrick, who threw for 282 yards and a touchdown Sunday, makes this team more fun.
He also is sure to scare Dolphins fans who are rooting for losses in order to secure the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft (which, by the way, Miami is still on track to secure that pick).
This was the Dolphins' best performance of the season, a sign of their fight in a hostile environment and an indication that a win could be on the horizon.
But for now, the winless Dolphins trek on.
One are in definite need of improvement? The Dolphins rank last with a turnover differential of minus-11, including minus-two Sunday. They're also last with two takeaways and tied for second-worst with 10 interceptions.
Fitzpatrick's second-half interception in the red zone Sunday when Miami led turned the game around.
"We're playing better in spurts, but we have to continue to try and learn how to win and continue to try and not make those big mistakes in critical times," Fitzpatrick said. ...
For the record, Flores said after Sunday's game that Fitzpatrick had earned the right to start against the Steelers on Monday night.
"I think I'm the perfect man for the job because I've been through it. I have zero ego. All I want to do is go out there and win," Fitzpatrick said, via Safid Deen of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "I want to bring energy. I want my play to be infectious to other guys.
"We have a lot of young guys that haven't really played much on this level. We have some young talented guys a year or two into it. I want to be the stable guy they can look to when things get a little tricky."
Fitzpatrick sees a team growing after the fire sale of veterans was followed by a string of blowouts.
"We're continually growing as a team so we have to be able to stack together these minor wins," Fitzpatrick said. "We've got significantly better from Day One to now and we just have to continue on that trend. Guys are buying in. Guys are getting more comfortable. We haven't won a game. I think everybody gets that and knows that. But at the same time, we're making strides. I think we can take certain things out of that."
And for the moment, he appears to be the one to lead them. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Parker caught a touchdown pass for the third game in a row, the longest streak of his career. The 2015 first-round pick is averaging 15.8 yards per catch and is on pace for a career-high total in yards receiving.
In addition, Miami topped 100 yards rushing for the first time. Mark Walton started his second game in a row and carried 14 times for 66 yards, the most by a Dolphins rusher this year.
For what it's worth, Wolfe is buying Walton as the Dolphins' lead running back going forward. Walton has taken advantage of his opportunity -- averaging 4.7 yards per carry -- and seems like a good bet to continue demanding touches whether Kenyan Drake is traded by the Oct. 29 deadline or not.
And finally. ... Veteran safety Bobby McCain and top draft pick Christian Wilkins both lost their cool Sunday.
McCain engaged in a verbal confrontation with a 13-year-old Bills fan and allegedly spit in the face of another fan, and will be disciplined by the team, Flores said.
Wilkins was ejected early for throwing a punch at Bills tackle Cody Ford. "I don't think I've ever been more disappointed in myself about something," Wilkins said.
In Week 4, Wilkins was benched by Flores after being flagged for unnecessary roughness.
"We've got to play with poise," Flores said. "There are consequences for your actions."
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Salvon Ahmed, Matt Breida, Patrick Laird, DeAndre Washington, Myles Gaskin
WRs: DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant, Malcolm Perry, Mack Hollins, Preston Williams, Lynn Bowden Jr.
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Adam Shaheen, Durham Smythe, Michael Roberts
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
Wide receiver Adam Thielen was pushing to play against Washington on Thursday night despite the hamstring injury he suffered against the Lions last Sunday, but his efforts didn’t persuade the Vikings.
While Thielen said Wednesday that he still had “another day” to show the team he was well enough to get on the field, the Vikings aren’t going to play the waiting game.
They released their final injury report for Thursday’s game on Wednesday afternoon and it shows that Thielen has been ruled out.
Assuming Thielen continues to recover without any setbacks, the extended time off before the Vikings head to Kansas City in Week 9 should help the chances that it is a one-game absence for the wideout.
The Vikings promoted wideout Davion Davis from the practice squad to go with Stefon Diggs, Olabisi Johnson and Laquon Treadwell.
In the end, if Week 8 is the only game Thielen misses, consider it a win for Minnesota, who has division-leaders Kansas City and Dallas on tap the following two weeks, and for those of us invested in him as fantasy managers.
Meanwhile, Johnson stepped into Thielen's role following his injury and scored his first NFL touchdown, connecting with Kirk Cousins for a 1-yard reception with 12:44 to play in the second quarter.
Johnson finished with a team-high eight targets and had four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown.
"He's played good all year," Zimmer said of Johnson. "We'll continue to get those guys in there. It'll be a good test for us. We've got to get back tonight, get in the training room, coaches get back to work, have a short week and get ready to go."
All in all, Sunday's win was a testament to how well the Vikings rebounded without one of their top offensive weapons and how play calling within this scheme has created a sustainably explosive attack. Minnesota moves to 5-2 on the season ahead of hosting the one-win Redskins on Thursday at the halfway point of the season. They trail the Packers, who improved to 6-1 with a victory over the Raiders on Sunday.
Beyond Johnson, Cousins had no trouble spreading the wealth, putting four of his teammates in position to reach the end zone from Dalvin Cook to C.J. Ham and Kyle Rudolph.
Cousins joins some pretty elite company as one of five Vikings quarterbacks with consecutive games with four TD passes.
For what it's worth, ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin believes from top to bottom, this may also have been Cook's best performance to date.
The third-year running back recorded his fifth game of 100 yards rushing, and he did so by averaging more than 6 yards per carry. He broke free on outside runs and showed just how difficult he is to bring down and how he wears down a defense, notching 53 yards after contact on 25 rushes.
As a whole, the Vikings rushing offense is in a completely different spot than it was a year ago.
Cook's two scores gives Minnesota 11 rushing touchdowns through seven games. The Vikings had nine total last season.
In addition, Minnesota strung together back-to-back touchdown drives in the second quarter and has scored at least 21 points in the first half in consecutive games for the first time since late in the 2014 season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Entering Week 7, the Vikings had the fourth-most first-half points scored in the NFL, and they've done it by compiling some long drives. Cook's 8-yard touchdown that gave the Vikings a 21-14 lead ahead of the two-minute warning in the first half was the culmination of a 15-play, 97-yard drive.
Minnesota has put together TD drives of 98, 88 and 97 yards in each of their past three wins.
By the way, Cook has taken over the NFL's rushing lead.
Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has been the rushing leader for most of this season, but while McCaffrey was on his bye this week, Cook moved ahead of him. Cook now has 725 yards through seven weeks, most in the NFL.
In second place is Leonard Fournette of the Jaguars, who has 715 yards through seven games. McCaffrey is third with 618 yards in six games, followed by Cleveland's Nick Chubb with 607 in six games.
Those four players are very close in yards per game. Here's how the Top 4 shake out: 103.6 Cook; 103.0 McCaffrey; 102.1 Fournette; and 101.2 Chubb.
Cook, McCaffrey, Fournette and Chubb are separated by less than three yards per game, which suggests that the race to lead the league in rushing may go down to the wire in Week 17.
And finally. ... The Vikings didn't have practice on Monday, but since they play on Thursday against the Redskins, they have to give an estimation of who would have practiced.
Those who the Vikings predicted wouldn't have practiced are Thielen, defensive end Everson Griffen (quadriceps) and nose tackle Linval Joseph (knee).
Defensive tackle Hercules Mata'afa (neck) and cornerback Xavier Rhodes (hip) were on the limited list.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Olabisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, K.J. Osborn, Davion Davis, Dan Chisena, Tajae Sharpe
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As the Associated Press framed it, "Tom Brady set the tone and the New England Patriots' blitz-happy defense took over from there.
"Bill Belichick's bunch is still undefeated after another absolutely dominant performance. ..."
Brady threw a TD pass to Phillip Dorsett, Sony Michel ran for three scores and New England forced Sam Darnold into five turnovers while cruising to a 33-0 victory over the New York Jets on Monday night.
"We were able to make some plays early in the game," Belichick said, "and play pretty solid for 60 minutes."
The Patriots improved to 7-0 for the third time in franchise history, and first since 2015. They also swept the two-game season series against their AFC East rivals for the fourth straight year, outscoring the Jets (1-5) 63-14 in the two meetings this year.
And, the top-ranked Patriots defense was a big reason in this one.
"They're just playing great football," Brady said. "They cover the rush. They stop the run. Make critical plays. It's awesome to watch."
Darnold was the AFC offensive player of the week after leading New York to a 24-22 win over Dallas last Sunday in his return from missing three games with mononucleosis. He was miserable against New England, finishing 11 of 32 for 86 yards and a 3.6 quarterback rating. ESPN had Darnold wear a microphone during the game, and he was caught on the sideline saying, "I'm seeing ghosts" at one point.
Belichick blitzed Darnold often, giving the second-year quarterback little time and forcing him into bad -- and often ugly -- throws.
Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Stephon Gilmore and Terrence Brooks all had interceptions. Darnold also lost a fumble on a sack, and later knocked an errant snap out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
"I don't know, man," a smiling McCourty said when asked if there were "ghosts" on the field. "We were just locked in tonight as a defensive unit. When you get a lot of time to prepare for a game, you start going over everything over and over again. I think it showed for us tonight as a defensive unit."
New England took total control from the beginning.
Michel's 3-yard touchdown run capped an efficient drive by Brady to open the game. The Patriots went 16 plays and 78 yards while eating up 8:47, and converted four third downs along the way. The last came on third-and-2 when Brady pitched it to Michel, who easily zipped into the end zone.
"Our guys were ready to go today," Belichick said. "We got off to a good start. That was a great opening drive. It took up most of the first quarter."
"We had good balance," Brady said.
Worth noting. ... Brady's 29 regular-season wins vs. the Jets are his second-most against any opponent, with only his 31 against Buffalo more.
It was New England's second shutout this season after winning 43-0 at Miami in Week 2. The Patriots dominated the opening quarter, outgaining the Jets 141 yards to 14 while holding the ball for 12:34 compared to just 2:26 for New York. ...
Next up, the Patriots host Cleveland this Sunday and New England will have some additional firepower when the Browns show up.
As NFL.com's Grant Gordon reported, seemingly searching for help in their wide receiving corps all season, the Patriots have found some a week ahead of the trade deadline.
The Patriots traded the Falcons for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu in exchange for a second-round draft pick.
New England had previously made a move for Sanu during the 2019 NFL Draft, but Atlanta held off until now.
Sanu provides an added layer on the depth chart.
In Monday's win, Julian Edelman led Patriots receivers with seven catches for 59 yards. Still, New England was without an injured Josh Gordon while Edelman and Dorsett have also battled injury issues. The Patriots have also been dealing with the retirement of tight end Rob Gronkowski and traveled down the ill-fated road of signing Antonio Brown, who lasted just one week.
Sanu will get a fresh start with a Super Bowl contender, the Patriots get a much-needed addition to their receiving ranks and the Falcons have begun their rebuild. ...
The Patriots had three straight rushes from the 1-yard line in the second quarter, scoring on the third, and here's the personnel they used on those plays to account for a shortage at fullback with James Develin and Jakob Johnson on injured reserve (per ESPN.com's Mike Reiss):
It's just another example of a coaching staff that's willing to get creative and evolve to meet personnel issues and other challenges without missing a beat. Indeed, the Patriots have a rich history of using defensive players on offense, and offensive players on defense.
On Monday night, linebacker Elandon Roberts became the latest Patriots two-way player.
"[W]e've practiced against Elandon for a number of years," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told reporters on Tuesday. "James Develin and he have had some legendary battles in nine-on-seven in training camp and those kind of things. [Roberts] is obviously one of the toughest guys we've got. He's kind of built low to the ground. He's kind of got that natural leverage that you need, either as a guy that takes on blocks or a guy that makes blocks."
So how did Roberts do with his double duty?
"I thought he went in there and did a decent job," McDaniels said. "It's always exciting to have one of those guys go in our huddle and operate and fit in well. Elandon's a great teammate, very unselfish. That's why he's a captain and plays his role to the best of his ability every week. It was good to have him in there. ..."
Back to the injury front. ...Gordon (knee/ankle) was placed on injured reserve as these notes were being posted. I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update early Thursday.
Beyond that, TE Ryan Izzo (concussion) and TE Matt LaCosse (knee) were all held out.
Rex Burkhead (foot), S Patrick Chung (heel/chest), Dorsett (hamstring), Edelman (ribs) and receiver Gunner Olszewski (ankle/hamstring) were limited.
More on those via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
And finally. ... According to ESPN.com's Tristan Cockroft, the Patriots defense/special teams' 145 fantasy points through seven games is already more than all but one D/ST (the Bears, who scored 188) had for the entirety of the 2018 season. The Patriots' D/ST ranks 11th overall in fantasy scoring for the season, using ESPN's standard PPR format, and it's seventh if using non-PPR.
In PPR, only five QBs, three RBs and two WRs have outscored it.
QBs: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Damien Harris, James White, Sony Michel, J.J. Taylor, Rex Burkhead
WRs: Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, N'Keal Harry, Isaiah Ford, Gunner Olszewski, Julian Edelman, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Ryan Izzo, Jordan Thomas, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
Drew Brees said he plans to return to practice this week and hopes to be able to play as early as next Sunday's Week 8 home date with the Cardinals.
"We'll see how it goes. I'd love to [play]. It's a goal," Brees told ESPN.com's Mike Triplett after the Saints won their fifth straight game without him on Sunday at Chicago.
When asked if he considers it a realistic goal, based on the medical evaluations of his thumb injury and how he has felt throwing the ball in recent weeks, Brees said, "I hope so."
FOX Sports' Erin Andrews first reported during Sunday's broadcast that head coach Sean Payton said the "goal" is to get Brees back against Arizona next week, and "if he's healthy, you play him."
Andrews later added that Payton said the Saints could bring Brees back as the backup behind Teddy Bridgewater, which would allow third-string quarterback Taysom Hill to be used at tight end.
But when asked about the FOX report after the game, Payton said it was "incorrect" and refused to discuss any specifics about Brees' status.
"I'll fill you guys in day by day. We're not targeting. ... We're gonna see how he's doing. And we'll give you the news when we feel like we're ready to," Payton said.
When someone started to ask a follow-up question, Payton said, "Again, I'm not even discussing it. Sorry."
Brees has been sidelined since he suffered a thumb injury on his right throwing hand in Week 2. He had surgery Sept. 18 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament, and the initial prognosis for his recovery was six to eight weeks -- which Brees vowed to try to beat.
Brees posted a video of himself throwing a smaller-sized football less than three weeks after his surgery. He said he began throwing a regulation-sized football more than a week ago. He has attended practices regularly and done some individual work, but he has not yet participated in full-team drills.
The Saints (6-1) have a bye in Week 9.
If Brees does not return this week, the soonest he can return is Week 10 at home against the rival Atlanta Falcons.
All that said, Brees was on the practice field Wednesday and appears to be heading for a game-time decision at the very least.
Meanwhile, as Triplett suggested, the Saints just continue to prove each week that they're going to be alright if he doesn't rush back.
Indeed, given how smoothly things have been running with Bridgewater piloting the offense, the Saints won't feel a need to toss Brees back into the fray if there's any doubt he's ready. H
The Saints are a stunning 5-0 since Brees underwent thumb surgery. Then on Sunday, they somehow played their best game yet against the Bears -- even though they also went into the game without injured running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Jared Cook against the Bears' highly-touted defense.
There weren't enough game balls to go around after this one (which was much more lopsided than the final score indicated because of two late Bears touchdowns).
But you can start with Payton, who put an exclamation point on his early case for NFL Coach of the Year.
And you need to hand one to pretty much every member of a defense that has been absolutely dominating in Brees' absence.
Beyond that, veteran running back Latavius Murray did a more than admirable job in Kamara's absence. Murray ran the ball 27 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns, and he caught five passes for 31 yards. Murray had not played a substantial role early this season (running for a total of 138 yards and one touchdown in the first six games combined).
But this kind of dependability is a big reason why the Saints grabbed him right away in free agency to replace Mark Ingram.
Receiver Michael Thomas also proved to be maybe the most dependable playmaker in the league with nine more catches for 131 yards on a day when the Bears knew he was the one player they had to stop at all costs.
In addition, give two of those game balls to Bridgewater and Taysom Hill.
Bridgewater got off to a somewhat slow start Sunday. But he began to heat up a bit as the Saints piled on in the second half, finishing 23-of-38 passing for 281 yards, two touchdowns, zero turnovers and at least two key third-down scrambles. Bridgewater is now a remarkable 5-0 as the Saints' starter. He has been more solid than spectacular, but you can't argue with his ratio of nine TD passes to two turnovers in six games played.
Meanwhile, Hill provided a spark in his Swiss-army-knife role. First he gained 23 yards on third-and-1 when Bridgewater handed the ball off to fullback Zach Line and Line pitched it to Hill. Then Hill finished the drive by catching a 4-yard TD pass.
On the injury front. ... Kamara is reportedly making progress in his return from what's been widely reported as a high-ankle sprain. He's not ruled out this week, but his status -- along with that of Cook -- remains unclear (although the release of Zach Zenner on Tuesday might be a hint that Kamara in on track to return).
I'll be following up on Kamara, Brees, Cook and Tre'Quan Smith (who has missed multiple games with his ankle injury) via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, Drew Brees
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Ty Montgomery, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Tre'quan Smith, Austin Carr, Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, Juwan Johnson
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill, Adam Trautman
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan understated, the past three weeks haven't been the greatest for rookie quarterback Daniel Jones and the New York Giants.
The team has lost three in a row. Jones and the offense have averaged 229 yards in those games, scored four touchdowns and turned the ball over eight times, with the sixth pick overall in the NFL draft throwing five interceptions and losing two fumbles.
Jones lost two fumbles and threw an interception in Sunday's 27-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Call it growing pains. It has happened to the best of them, Eli Manning included. He was 1-6 after taking over from Kurt Warner in his rookie season in 2004.
The problem is it's tough to watch, especially for the fans. The Giants are 2-5, which is the 14th best record in the NFC. Their wins have been against Tampa Bay (2-4) and Washington (1-6) and four of their five losses haven been by at least 14 points.
That's not encouraging in a season where co-owner John Mara said he wants the team to be more competitive.
If there is a positive, Shurmur is sticking with Jones no matter what happens.
"I think Daniel is going to learn from everything that's going on," the second-year coach said of going back to Manning. "Just like all the other rookies and their playing, they're going to learn from the things that happen. But you have to learn and you have to win games, and I'm well aware of that. I'm totally well aware of that."
Jones said his goal is to keep working. He knows he has to cut turnovers without losing his aggressiveness.
"That's the challenge, to keep making progress and to make progress throughout the game, throughout the situation, whatever it is, to continue to improve on everything," he said Monday.
Wide receiver Golden Tate signed on to that assessment.
"That's very frustrating," Tate said, via NJ.com. "I mean, we made [the Cardinals defense] look like the '85 Bears. We had a great scheme. We just did not execute. I felt like a lot of times, we were kind of playing behind the sticks. We've just got to be better at details. We don't need to be the best team in the league. We just need to be better than the team we're going against.
"And today we just absolutely weren't."
The Giants offense also struggled against the Vikings and Patriots in losses leading into Sunday's game and they've now turned the ball over 14 times in five games with Jones at quarterback. Tate remains confident that the team is "going to fix this crap" and the sooner the better if they're going to have any shot at avoiding a third straight losing season.
For starters, Shurmur has to do better.
Calling a draw on third-and-18 from his own 30 with 3:11 to play is questionable. After seeing Saquon Barkley gain 3 yards, he went for it on fourth-and-15. Jones was sacked, lost a fumble and the Cardinals got their final three points.
Beyond that, the offensive line broke down at the end of the game when the Cardinals knew Jones was going to throw. All the sacks were not the line's fault. Jones has to get rid of the ball quicker and the receivers have to get open sooner. Still, the line was not good.
What was good?
According to Canavan, there is no doubt he had alligator arms on the first pass Jones threw to him. It was in traffic and he would have taken hits, probably from two defenders. He finished with six catches for 80 yards. Every catch went for a first down, including two on third down and one on fourth.
"I didn't come here to lose," Tate said. "I came here to help get things turned around and help us win a bunch of games. I still believe that we can do that, we just need to be a little bit better."
The offense and defense have to show up from the outset against the Lions this week.
For most of the season, one of the units has been AWOL at the start. The Giants are not good enough to overcome that.
Worth noting. ... Barkley limped off the field after he tweaked his ankle after a 9-yard run midway through the third quarter.
Barkley went across the field, from running out of bounds on the Cardinals' sideline all the way to the Giants bench, to get his right ankle attended to again. It was the same leg that had been hit with a high ankle sprain and forced him to miss the past three games.
The Pro Bowl running back appeared to be in pain, had the ankle retaped and went back in the game two plays later.
Barkley insisted afterward he was fine. He said there was no way he was going to keep himself on the sideline after he felt something in that ankle.
Shurmur said he didn't know anything specifically about the tweak.
"He came off the field, and then he went back on," Shurmur said. "I don't have many details on what happened there."
Barkley jogged with a limp off the field. Still, there weren't any concerns about putting him back into the game.
"No. He was ready to go," Shurmur said.
It's something the Giants might have to monitor closely moving forward. They don't want this injury lingering into the second half of the season or, dare we say, longer.
Barkley was on the field for 57 of 65 offensive snaps. He had five carries for 26 yards and a touchdown after limping off the field. He was optimistic about being able to handle his normal workload.
And finally this week. ... Wide receiver Sterling Shepard missed his second game in a row due to his second concussion of the 2019 season, but Shepard said things would be going differently if it were up to him.
Shepard practiced with no-contact protections last week before being ruled out for the Giants' loss to the Cardinals. He told Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com that he felt ready to play, but didn't get cleared and doesn't know if that's going to change before the Giants play the Lions this week.
"I'm just leaning [on the advice of what is said] medically, and I'm going to listen to my body," Shepard said. "I know what my body is supposed to feel like, and when I feel like I'm ready to come back, then I'll come back. But, I've been feeling that way for two weeks. It's kinda them just protecting me from myself, I guess you can say, but I'm trying to get back as soon as possible, and just waiting to hear their thoughts."
As Profootballtalk.com suggests, those thoughts will determine if the Giants get Shepard back this week or if they'll have to snap their losing streak without their top wideout.
Barkley and Shepard were limited at Wednesday's practice, although Shurmur told reporters he expects Barkley to play this week.
I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Colt McCoy, Daniel Jones
RBs: Wayne Gallman, Devonta Freeman, Dion Lewis, Alfred Morris
WRs: Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Austin Mack, Damion Ratley, Cody Core, C.J. Board, Dante Pettis
TEs: Evan Engram, Levine Toilolo, Kaden Smith
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
Sam Darnold was responsible for five turnovers as the Patriots defense completely smothered the Jets offense in a 33-0 victory on Monday night. Darnold lost a fumble and was intercepted four times as New England pressured him into mistake after mistake.
Darnold threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on three of New York's first four drives. Those turnovers translated into 10 Patriots points and inspired a mic'd-up Darnold to muse on the sideline, "I'm seeing ghosts."
Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy seemed taken aback when informed by reporters about Darnold's remark.
"He did? Ooh, man, that's the bogeyman," he said. "It's real."
Those around the Jets have oft been encouraged by Darnold's ability to make big-time throws from unconventional platforms, but those risk-reward propositions didn't pay out against New England, and Darnold went dead-broke trying to make them work.
As Profootballtalk.com's Curtis Crabtree noted, Darnold could barely manage to complete any pass as the Patriots blitzed him into oblivion. Darnold was intercepted twice and lost a fumble on three of New York's first four possessions on Monday night. The Patriots led 24-0 at the end of that stretch and never looked back.
Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Stephon Gilmore and Terrence Brooks all picked off Darnold and John Simon delivered a strip-sack that was recovered by Kyle Van Noy. Additionally, a Ryan Kalil snap sailed out of the back of the end zone for a safety as the Jets offense was non-functional against New England's defense. Braxton Berrios would muff a punt late in the fourth quarter as well to give the Patriots the ball yet another time.
Darnold's night ended with 11 completions on 32 attempts for 86 yards with four interceptions and a lost fumble. Darnold's 3.6 passer rating was the worst showing by a starting quarterback against the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era among starters to have at least 10 passing attempts.
It was also one of the worst passing days in Jets history. That 3.6 passer rating was only slightly better than the worst, 2.7, set by J.J. Jones in 1975 (minimum 20 attempts).
Per Pro Football Reference, Kerry Collins' 4.6 passer rating in a 59-0 Patriots win over the Tennessee Titans in 2009 was the previous benchmark and only other showing with a sub-10.0 passer rating. Collins finished that game 2 of 12 for -7 yards and an interception.
"I just got to see the field a lot better," Darnold told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. "It was a rough night out there.
"I definitely think I was pressing too hard. Trying to get a 24-point score in one play. I just got to take it one play at a time and continue to play the game the way it's meant to be played."
During the run-up to the game, Darnold expressed supreme confidence, saying his offense will be "unstoppable" once tight end Chris Herndon returns from a hamstring injury. He praised the New England defense, but added, "Just like any other team, they're not unbeatable. So we just go out there, find the weakness in the defense and keep working it. That's what we're going to do on Monday night."
The Patriots used that comment as motivational fuel. McCourty, in his pre-game huddle on the field, mentioned the quote in his pep talk to the defense.
For first-year coach Adam Gase, it was another embarrassing loss to the Patriots. In two games, they were outscored, 63-14. In the first meeting, he had to start third-stringer Luke Falk, who has since been released.
This time, Gase had no excuses and Monday night was a reminder that Darnold is no savior, but a 22-year-old quarterback still liable to make mistakes, have bad days and in some cases enjoy miserable nights.
"Obviously, when we go back and look at this, he's not going to be real happy," Gase said. "He was probably feeling like guys were coming free when they might not have been."
Gase said he considered pulling Darnold, but he let the QB finish the game with the hope Darnold would do something positive to build on. That never happened.
Where does New York go from here?
Monday was a massive letdown after the Jets beat the Cowboys in thrilling fashion last week in Darnold's return. Now 1-5, the season isn't over, especially with a weaker schedule upcoming, starting next week with the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3).
But changes need to be made.
According to NFL.com, among those that could be made: Parting ways with members of the offensive coaching staff and trading away former first-round pick Leonard Williams (whose QB hit Monday doesn't negate seasons' worth of inactivity) before the deadline.
Looking for a bright spot?
Le'Veon Bell rushed 15 times for 70 yards and caught one of four targets for six yards against the Patriots.
As CBSSports.com noted, Bell overcame a negative gamescript and an injured offensive line, to rip off a game-long run of 19 yards, allowing him to actually post his best rushing total since joining the Jets.
Monday also marked the first time Bell topped 4.0 yards per carry this season.
While his numbers admittedly came in a blowout, and he's now finished with merely one catch in back-to-back games, Bell can at least take some personal pride from his performance. In Week 8, he'll face a Jaguars defense that's allowed 4.8 yards per rush so far this season, ranking eighth-worst league-wide.
On the injury front. ... Darnold had his foot stepped on during the game and Gase revealed on Tuesday that Darnold needed to have his toenail removed after the game. Gase said the team expects Darnold to be fine and he’s expected to be in the lineup against the Jaguars this weekend.
He may not be doing everything at practice on Wednesday, however. Gase said that Darnold will do individual work and the team will then evaluate whether he also takes part in team drills.
Herndon was scheduled to work on a limited basis Wednesday.
I'll have more on Darnold and Herndon via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Linebacker C.J. Mosley won’t practice after making his return from a groin injury against the Patriots. Gase said the team’s medical staff is taking a deeper look into Mosley’s injury, which he suffered in Week One and left him looking less than full speed in Monday’s game.
QBs: Sam Darnold, Joe Flacco, James Morgan
RBs: Frank Gore, Josh Adams, Ty Johnson, Lamical Perine
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith, Braxton Berrios, Vyncint Smith, Chris Hogan
TEs: Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez asked, how long did it take for a sense of déjà vu to come over Derek Carr after he fumbled in the end zone during the second quarter Sunday, killing an Oakland Raiders drive and giving the ball to the Green Bay Packers on a touchback?
"As soon as it happened," said a sheepish Carr, after the Raiders fell to the Packers, 42-24.
No wonder. Two years ago, Carr lost the ball trying to stretch for the pylon and a game-winning touchdown on a third-and-3 scramble from the 8-yard line with 31 seconds to play against the Dallas Cowboys in Oakland.
At the time, he stuck his chest out and said that, given the same circumstance, he would do it again and, yes, dive for the pylon despite the consequences from Cowboys safety Jeff Heath's hit.
What about now, after again diving and reaching forward with his non-dominant left hand -- this time on second-and-goal from the 2 with 1:55 to play in the first half -- and losing possession after being pushed by Packers linebacker Blake Martinez?
Carr was not as bold as before.
"Man, it's so hard not to try," he said. "That's everything I've ever been about in my life, is try. I've got to go two hands, right? Trying to extend with one hand isn't smart; that was stupid.
"It sucks, man. It's my fault. I let my team down on that."
Of course, one play does not make a game -- not when you lose by 18 points -- and the Raiders' defense gave up nine plays of at least 20 yards to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense.
But, as head coach Jon Gruden acknowledged, there is a fine line between trying to make a play and trying to do too much.
"I compliment his effort," said Gruden, who was still a month away from leaving the Monday Night Football broadcast booth to return to the Raiders when Carr fumbled against Dallas while trailing by three, 20-17.
"The ball slipped out of his hands and it was a big play in the game."
The Raiders went from potentially taking a 17-14 lead into the half at Green Bay to trailing 28-10 the next time Carr took a meaningful snap in the third quarter.
The Raiders left three touchdowns on the Lambeau Field grass -- Carr's fumble, running back Josh Jacobs getting stuffed on fourth-and-goal from the 1 for no gain early in the fourth quarter, and Carr's late-fourth-quarter, end-zone interception on a 15-yard pass aimed at Waller.
Still, it was the replay of Carr's end-zone fumble that set the tone for so many missteps later.
"It's one of those plays where, if you score, everyone's high-fiving you," Carr said. "You fumble the ball, everyone's like, 'Do it better.'
"I understand I messed up. I dropped the ball, right? Go with two hands next time, I've got to practice that. I've got to get better at that, for sure. That's completely my fault."
The Raiders finish their stretch of five straight games away from Oakland when they visit Houston on Sunday with Carr looking build on what was -- minus the touchback fumble and a later end zone pick -- a nice day after a slow start.
He looked composed and efficient in completing 22 of 28 passes for 293 yards and two TDs. Up until the fumble, Carr had been on-point, completing 11 of his previous 11 passes for 152 yards.
That said, Carr has now lost 23 fumbles since his rookie season of 2014, the most of any player in the NFL during that span with Eli Manning and Kirk Cousins each having 22 fumbles lost in that time frame.
On a more positive note. ... Four days after signing a multiyear contract extension with Oakland, tight end Darren Waller showed he was more than worth it.
He caught his first touchdown pass -- a 7-yarder in the third quarter -- and added a 17-yarder late as he finished with seven catches for 126 yards. Waller, who had two TDs with the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, nearly had an earlier TD catch and would have strolled in untouched on a deep ball down the middle had Carr led him better. Instead, he was tripped up at the 3-yard line, two snaps before Carr's fumble. On the year, Waller has 43 catches -- the most in Raiders franchise history for a player in his first six games with the team -- for 485 yards.
Oakland also got good contributions from the backup tight ends with Foster Moreau catching two passes for 24 yards and a TD and Derek Carrier catching two passes for 22 yards.
"I believe that's the lifeblood of our offense," Gruden said. "Waller is not a tight end, he's a football player. You can line him up anywhere. He lined up in multiple places. So did Moreau and Carrier. They love playing physical football. They can line up and play the finesse game. They're really smart and supportive of one another. They have no egos, they're great guys. I couldn't be happier with the tight ends. ..."
All the first-round pick did was set a single-game high for rushing yards for the second game in a row, running for 124 yards, on 21 carries, after gouging the Bears for 123 yards two weeks ago in London.
According to Gutierrez, "Jacobs' vision and darting, cutback ability is truly a thing to behold."
He did give the Raiders a scare early when he had to get his right shoulder checked out after going down hard in his first-quarter 42-yard run. Still, Jacobs is the first Raiders rookie to rush for at least 500 yards in a season (554) since Greg Robinson went for 591 in 1993.
Jacobs also joined Marcus Allen as the only Raiders with multiple 100-plus-yard rushing games in their rookie seasons. Allen had three such games in 1982, and Jacobs, the only Raiders rookie with consecutive 100-plus rushing yards games, has two.
On the injury front. ... The Raiders are hopeful of getting three key players back this week with right tackle Trent Brown (calf), receiver Tyrell Williams (foot) and defensive end Arden Key (knee) all questionable. Williams did some running on Monday and it remains to be seen how he responds, although he was slated to practice Wednesday.
Jacobs was being held out Wednesday to rest that tender shoulder.
I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
A few final items. ... The Raiders worked out free agent running back C.J. Anderson, Field Yates of ESPN reports.
Oakland recently worked out LeGarrette Blount and Bo Scarbrough as they kick the tires on available backs. Anderson, who is from Oakland, played two games with the Raiders last season.
Anderson, 28, lost his job with the Lions last month. He gained 43 yards on 16 carries in his two games with Detroit.
He has worked out with the Texans since.
And last. ... The Raiders traded 2017 first-round cornerback Gareon Conley to the Houston Texans on Monday for a 2020 third-round pick, marking the third former first-round pick traded away by coach Jon Gruden in the past 14 months.
The Raiders made the deal a day after allowing Rodgers to throw for 429 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-24 victory for Green Bay and six days before Oakland (3-3) takes on the Texans (4-3).
"I think he's good player. I'm not going to get into it other than that," Gruden said. "I think he's a good young player. We drafted two young corners to play also and they're back ready to go here quickly. We want to give them an opportunity, like we are a lot of young players at other positions."
With Conley gone, the Raiders will give second-round pick Trayvon Mullen an opportunity and they also want to give fourth-round pick Isaiah Johnson a look when he comes off injured reserve early next month.
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Devontae Booker, Jalen Richard
WRs: Henry Ruggs III, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Zay Jones, Tyrell Williams
TEs: Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi suggested, the Eagles didn't show up for their biggest game of the season after their coach had promised a victory.
An embarrassing 37-10 loss to the Cowboys in front of a prime-time audience left players searching for answers, questioning their commitment and looking for accountability.
Doug Pederson, who led the team to its first Super Bowl title in his second season, pointed the finger at himself.
"It starts with me, and I hold myself accountable," Pederson said Monday. "I have to do a better job, quite frankly, and I have to communicate that better to the team and make sure that we're doing the right things every single day, not just some of the time."
The Eagles (3-4) entered the season with championship-or-bust expectations but have lost four of six, including consecutive losses by double digits. They've been outscored 75-30 by the Vikings and Cowboys.
Turnovers were a major problem in Dallas. Fumbles on the first two possessions quickly led to a 14-0 deficit and the Eagles never recovered.
"We have nine games left, and it's a one-game season," Pederson said. "By no means are we pushing any panic buttons. We're one game out of first place in our division. ... And the things that are showing up on tape are fixable. They are correctible. The sky is not falling for us. We have the men in the locker room to get the job done, and I think where we are and kind of what we've been through this season already is going to really bring this team a lot closer."
Ideally for Philadelphia, there would be one issue to point to.
But there are many things to fix, including a leaky secondary, an inconsistent pass rush, inadequate wide receiver production and an inability to start strong.
Carson Wentz finished 16-of-26 for 191 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked three times and absorbed five hits. Rookie left tackle Andre Dillard, in for the injured Jason Peters, had some shaky moments in his first NFL start, leading to blindside pressure. There were plenty of things working against Wentz, but it's of note that the team is 8-10 over the past two seasons in Wentz's starts.
The Cowboys generated 11 pressures (50 percent pressure rate) and all three of their sacks with their four-man rush while holding Wentz to a completion rate of 52.6 and a QB rating of 60.6. It was only when Dallas sent an extra attacker that Wentz found real success (83% completion rate, 118 QB rating).
With another road test against the 5-1 Buffalo Bills up next, followed by a three-game home stretch against the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, the Eagles' season is suddenly on shaky ground.
Still, as ESPN.com's Tim McManus added, for all the waves of negativity that will understandably crash ashore in Philadelphia this week, the Eagles are certainly within striking distance of Dallas in the NFC East with nine games to play, including four divisional games. ...
Worth noting. ... Jordan Howard is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has been the team's most consistent offensive player. He ran for 50 yards on 11 carries against the Cowboys, but the early deficit forced the Eagles to throw the ball. ...
The wide receivers combined for only four catches, two apiece for Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. Mack Hollins got one target and now has one catch in 139 snaps over the past four games.
When receiver DeSean Jackson suffered an abdominal injury in September, word was that he’d miss a couple of weeks before getting back in action.
As Profootballtalk.com noted, that proved to be an overly hopeful timeline. Jackson has missed the last five Eagles games and this week is getting off to a familiar start.
Pederson said at his Wednesday press conference that Jackson will not be practicing with the team to kick off their week of preparations for the Bills. Jackson will continue rehab work and running on the side while the rest of the team goes through their workout.
Left tackle Jason Peters, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, linebacker Nigel Bradham, running back Darren Sproles and cornerback Avonte Maddox are also expected to sit out practice on Wednesday.
I'll be watching for more on Jackson in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for developments. ...
Cornerback Jalen Mills returned from a foot injury to play his first game since last October and came up with an interception in the end zone. Mills had rough moments along with the rest of the defense but his presence provided a boost.
And finally. ... The Eagles released cornerback Orlando Scandrick and defensive tackle Akeem Spence, the team announced Monday.
They also signed defensive tackle Anthony Rush from the Oakland Raiders' practice squad.
Scandrick, 32, returned to the team in September after being cut prior to the season. The Eagles had originally signed him in July for depth after injuries depleted their secondary. Spence, 27, was in his first season with the Eagles after signing with the team in September. He was released after one season with the Miami Dolphins in August.
It's the second straight week the Eagles have released a defensive player following a loss. They released linebacker Zach Brown last Monday after losing to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 6.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Jalen Hurts
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, Jason Huntley, Adrian Killins
WRs: Travis Fulgham, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Alshon Jeffery, John Hightower, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Quez Watkins, DeSean Jackson
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
Mike Tomlin's expression and the circumstances surrounding it summed up the plight of his injury-ravaged team perfectly.
"Seriously, guys?" the Pittsburgh Steelers coach said when asked if Mason Rudolph would be the quarterback after being cleared of the NFL's concussion protocol.
It's a question that seemed preposterous six weeks ago. Of course, back then Ben Roethlisberger's right elbow was healthy, Rudolph was simply relieved to beat out Josh Dobbs for the right to serve as Roethlisberger's understudy and Devlin "Duck" Hodges was looking for work after being cut at the end of training camp.
How quickly things have changed. Roethlisberger has been relegated to the highest-paid mentor in the league after undergoing season-ending surgery in late September. Rudolph's last appearance on the field ended with him being knocked unconscious against Baltimore while Hodges -- an undrafted rookie free agent -- became the first champion duck caller from Alabama to win his first NFL start.
As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves suggested, for a team that spent most of the offseason looking to avoid drama -- much of it manufactured -- after Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell left in the offseason, it somehow has found them anyway. And yet the Steelers (2-4) have tried to stay upbeat even with a revolving door under center and an offense that lacks the dynamic playmaking that once came so easily during the height of the "Killer B" era.
"We're not in style point mode," Tomlin said. "We're not even in personality mode. We just need to do what is required to move the chains, to ring up the scoreboard, to score one more point than our opponent in an effort to win football games."
Allow wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to offer proof.
Tasked with taking over as the top target following Brown's departure, Smith-Schuster's numbers have dipped drastically. A year removed from a 111-catch season, Smith-Schuster is on pace to barely reach half that total. Yet last Sunday night in Los Angeles, with running backs James Conner and Benny Snell Jr. churning out yards and chewing up the clock against the Chargers, Smith-Schuster was in offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner's ear telling Fichtner to keep the ball on the ground.
As Graves put it, "Imagine Brown doing that."
"You hear that from a wide receiver, it makes you proud," Fichtner said.
And while the first six weeks haven't gone according to plan -- nowhere close, actually -- they are intent on focusing on the silver linings. The defense is near the top of the NFL in sacks and turnovers. Save for a 30-point beatdown at New England in Week 1, they've been competitive regardless of who is under center.
Only three of their final 10 games are against teams currently with a record over .500. So even though their margin for error is virtually nonexistent -- particularly with defensive end Stephon Tuitt now out for the year after tearing a pectoral muscle against the Chargers -- there is room for hope.
"We're not in the type of state where we can make any bold predictions about personality and things of that nature," Tomlin said. "We're going to do whatever is required for us to secure victory week in and week out."
Rudolph will be the starting quarterback when Pittsburgh hosts woeful Miami coming off the bye week, the start of a three-game homestand that includes visits from the underperforming Los Angeles Rams and the unpredictable Indianapolis Colts.
Two wins in three tries would keep the Steelers in the mix heading down the stretch. Considering what they've been through so far, it's all they're really asking for and something that looks doable if the defense can continue to be disruptive.
Rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush has been a revelation and every bit worthy of the investment the team made when it traded up to grab him with the 10th pick in the draft. Bush already has two interceptions and four fumble recoveries, including a scoop-and-score in the first quarter against the Chargers that helped take some of the early pressure off Hodges.
"I think it has all come together for all of us as a unit," Bush said. "A lot of new faces out there. I think week in and week out, we keep taking our steps. We learn a lot about ourselves and how dominant we can be if we are all on the same page."
That page includes safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Steelers raised eyebrows when they acquired Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins in the aftermath of Roethlisberger's injury. The move sent the message the team wasn't bailing on the season even without its unquestioned leader. Fitzpatrick, like Bush, has provided an influx of heady swagger, which the Steelers know they'll need to rely on if they want to play meaningful football into December.
"We're in a fragile state from a health standpoint, from a depth standpoint," Tomlin said. "In the midst of that, we need to find ways to win football games. ..."
A more productive Smith-Schuster would help. Will we see that?
Yes, eventually," ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor wrote last week. "With a rotating cast of quarterbacks, the passing game has been slower developing than the run game. But as Rudolph returns to action and continues to get more comfortable in his role, and Fichtner gets more comfortable calling plays for Rudolph, I expect Smith-Schuster's numbers to rebound in a big way."
On the injury front. ... WR James Washington (shoulder) and CB Steve Nelson (groin) were back at practice Monday and both said they were glad for the bye to heal up and rehab. RB Jaylen Samuels continues to work his way back from a knee procedure. He's like a couple weeks away from a return.
Conner injured his quad against the Chargers, but said Wednesday he expects to play Monday night. He also said he feels healthy, which he backed up earlier this week with an exuberant run around the locker room to celebrate a gaming headset given to him by Smith-Schuster. ...
I'll follow up on Conner and Washington via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant. ...
And finally. ... Linebacker Anthony Chickillo was arrested early Sunday following an incident at an area resort. Chickillo, 26, allegedly got into a verbal argument with a 25-year-old woman, identified by a law enforcement source as his girlfriend. Police said Chickillo told them the argument became physical and the woman hit him in the head with her fist and he pushed her to the ground.
But the woman told police Chickillo grabbed her biceps and forced her against a wall and door of their hotel room, causing injuries, and that's when she punched Chickillo in the head.
Chickillo was placed on the Reserve/Commissioner Exempt List today, the Steelers announced.
While he’s on the exempt list, Chickillo will be paid his regular salary but will not participate in practices or play in games. The NFL has frequently used the exempt list for players accused of domestic violence.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Wendell Smallwood, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
TEs: Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry, Vance McDonald
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
The 49ers have raced out to a 6-0 record by beating just one team without a losing record. The task gets extremely more difficult starting this week as the next seven games for the 49ers are all against teams that are .500 or better.
So the 49ers know they must play even better if they want to maintain this level of success, starting with this week's home game against Carolina (4-2).
"You have to regardless of who you're playing," head coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday. "I mean, you get better or you get worse, you don't stay the same. As this year goes, it gets harder and harder and we've got to make sure as it gets harder we have to get better if we want to meet our own expectations."
It was hard to judge how well the Niners played on Sunday, when they beat an overmatched Washington team 9-0 on a rainy day that made it difficult for quarterbacks to throw the ball and for anyone to keep their footing.
But they managed to do enough to come out with another win even if it wasn't a masterpiece.
"The scheme and game plan and stuff for both sides kind of just completely goes out and you just, you watch the effort, and just the guys trying to grind it out through some pretty bad, it was as bad of conditions as I've been in," Shanahan said. "I've been in some colder games, some snow games and stuff, but none that have just really rained that much from beginning to end, especially on that type of field. You just evaluate the effort, how hard guys played."
As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow notes, the 49ers' pass defense was once again the dominant unit. San Francisco held Case Keenum to just nine completions and 77 total yards through the air and had three sacks for 27 yards. This marked the second straight game that the Niners have allowed 50 or fewer net yards passing, the first team since Minnesota in 1988 to do that in back-to-back games.
In addition, the Niners have allowed just 64 points, the second fewest after six games in franchise history to the 63 given up in 1976.
San Francisco has also held three straight opponents to seven or fewer points and less than 200 yards. They are the sixth team to do that since 1990, joining Pittsburgh (1990), New Orleans (1991), Baltimore (2000), Tennessee (2000) and New England (2005).
While the rain helped the pass defense, it made it hard for Jimmy Garoppolo to throw the ball consistently. Garoppolo finished just 12 for 21 for 151 yards with an interception on a fourth-down pass in the third quarter. Garoppolo has now gone back-to-back games without a TD pass had has only seven touchdown passes on the season compared with six interceptions.
Other notes of interest. ... While the injuries continue to mount, the Niners continue to find players to step in and produce in place of those who are ailing.
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner suggested, for an offense that was already missing tackles Joe Staley (fibula) and Mike McGlinchey (knee), fullback Kyle Juszczyk (knee) and receiver Deebo Samuel (groin) and a defense without tackle D.J. Jones (hamstring) and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (foot), the Niners needed all hands on deck Sunday.
That became even more true, as receiver Marquise Goodwin and running back Matt Breida departed for stretches of the game to be evaluated for head injuries.
On Sunday, it was the likes of receivers Kendrick Bourne and Richie James Jr. -- subbing for Samuel and Goodwin -- providing a much-needed spark with big catches for gains of 28 and 40 yards, respectively. Taylor filled in for Jones to help settle the run defense, coming up with a key stop on fourth down and recovering a fumble.
And this time, the Niners actually got some good news on the injury front, as Shanahan told reporters Breida and Goodwin both are out of the concussion protocol and are good to go this week ahead of Sunday's game against the Panthers.
But the Niners have the fewest receptions from their wide receivers in the NFL this season with just 49. So it was a positive sign that Bourne made a solid contribution.
He had three catches for 69 yards after entering the game with just six catches for 70 yards the first five games.
But the overall dearth of production on the outside led to speculation the 49ers would be potential buyers for a receiver at the trade deadline.
On Monday, Shanahan did his best to act like his team won't be potential buyers when he specifically was asked by reporters about the amount of urgency to address the receiver position.
"I mean, I think less than we've had in the last couple of years because I do see that there are guys in our building that I do think the answers are here," Shanahan said. "It was tough not having [Samuel] last week, [Goodwin] being a little banged up. We'll get both of those two back. The guys we have, I still think can continue to get better. We're still holding out hopes, too, for Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor that they can heal up and hopefully return later this year.
"Always looking to improve, though, like you said, but I do like the guys we have here."
On Tuesday, they improved.
The Broncos agreed to trade wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers. In Sanders, the 49ers get a veteran presence for a young group.
As NFL.com suggests, it's an instant boost for the Garoppolo-led Niners offense and a sign that John Lynch and the San Francisco front office are all-in and have embraced their status as division frontrunners and contenders for a postseason run.
Sanders' run in Denver ends following six seasons in which he made two Pro Bowls and produced three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2014-2016.
Though he's been dealing with a bit of a knee injury, Sanders has played all seven games this season (and has a chance to play 17 games in the regular season as the 49ers have 10 remaining). He's tallied 30 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns -- the TDs would be a team-high on San Francisco and the catches and yards would be first among receivers and second on the team behind tight end George Kittle.
Sanders is coming off an abbreviated 2018 season due to an Achilles tear. As fate would have it, his return to the field came in the preseason against the 49ers. Now with the regular season moving to its mid-point, he's moved on to a contender.
In addition, the deal was announced while Sanders was at the team's facility and he made his first comments about the deal on his way home to prepare for a trip to his new team.
Sanders said that Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello told him the two teams run a similar offense, which isn't a great shock since Scangarello was the quarterbacks coach on Shanahan's staff the last two seasons.
Sanders also said that his best memory of his time in Denver was winning Super Bowl 50 in what will be his new home stadium.
Sanders will need to pass a physical for the trade to become official. He'll be eligible to practice and play for the 49ers as soon as that happens -- and Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday that he expects Sanders to play this Sunday. ...
Robbie Gould missed a 45-yard field goal try in the second quarter, his career-high seventh miss already this season. Gould is the second kicker to miss at least seven field goals in the past 25 years, joining Sebastian Janikowski in 2000. Making matters worse is the fact that Gould was given a four-year, $19 million contract with $10.5 million guaranteed this summer after skipping the offseason program in a contract dispute.
Also, Staley is expected to practice this week for the first time since breaking a bone in his leg in Week 2. There's an outside chance he can play this week, but could be an option Oct. 31 against Arizona. Witherspoon had a minor setback in his recovery from a foot injury last week and might need to miss another game.
The 49ers return home to take on the rested Carolina Panthers, who won their past four games before an off week. ...
And last. ... By his own admission, Shanahan is "a little more sensitive" when it comes to the turmoil that occurred when he and his father, Mike Shanahan, coached together with the Washington Redskins.
Which is why after Sunday's 9-0 win improved the Niners to 6-0 on the season, Shanahan awarded a game ball to his father. Although Shanahan played it coy when asked who had received the game ball, Kittle spilled the beans in his visit to the podium moments later.
Kittle called the moment for father and son "pretty special."
"It's definitely a game that we wanted to win for both him and Mike Shanahan," Kittle said. "And it was really fun that we were able to get that done."
QBs: Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard, Jimmy Garoppolo
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson, Tevin Coleman, Austin Walter, JaMycal Hasty
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Richie James, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne
TEs: Jordan Reed, Ross Dwelley, George Kittle, Charlie Woerner
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
For the first time this year, the Seattle Seahawks didn't have the most dangerous quarterback on the field.
Though Lamar Jackson looked like a player in a video game stuck in turbo mode, knifing his way through Seattle's defense, Russell Wilson had the least spectacular outing of what's been an MVP-caliber start to the season. It included an interception that Marcus Peters returned 67 yards for a touchdown.
You don't often see mistakes like that from Wilson. Nor do you see fans heading to the CenturyLink Field exits as early as they did before the end of the Seahawks' 30-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Jackson finished with 111 yards rushing and a touchdown on 10 carries -- and he might have had more if his footing wasn't a recurring issue on the wet turf.
Wilson was never going to be perfect all the time. But in making his first major miscue of the season, Wilson showed the tiny margin the Seahawks have for absorbing mistakes.
As Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth suggested, if Wilson isn't right on point or Seattle's defense isn't forcing turnovers and causing chaos for the opposition, the Seahawks will end up with performances like Sunday.
Wilson threw his first interception of the season and it was a doozy, watching Marcus Peters return the pick 67 yards for a touchdown. It was the first of the Ravens' two defensive scores, which would be challenging for any team to overcome. But combine those two turnovers with Jackson running around and through the Seahawks defense, and it was a perfect formula for Seattle's second home loss.
To make matters worse for the Seahawks, everyone else in the NFC West won Sunday.
That leaves Seattle (5-2) with two more losses than the 6-0 San Francisco 49ers and one game ahead of the Los Angeles Rams (4-3).
Wilson had been nearly flawless for the first six weeks, inserting himself into the early MVP conversation. Despite Wilson's high level of play, Seattle had a pair of one-point wins, a two-point victory and a four-point win. Even when Wilson was great, the Seahawks were still squeaking by.
Sunday, he was not at his best. Aside from the interception, Wilson completed only 48.7 percent of his passes. He finished 20 of 41 for 241 yards, a touchdown and his first interception of the season. Jaron Brown, the intended target on his pick-six, could have helped Wilson out by coming back to the ball.
But Wilson also could have gotten more on his throw had he not been flat-footed when he let it go. Wilson's 65.2 passer rating is his first of the season under 100.
The complementary pieces Wilson needed were absent as well. Seattle rushed for only 36 yards in the second half and the Seahawks' defense failed to force a turnover while watching Jackson be the best player on the field.
"It hammered home one of the lessons of our program that it's all about the ball," head coach Pete Carroll said. "We know. We're on it so diligently that when you give the ball up a couple of times, it's hard to win. You give up a couple of scores, it's really difficult. ..."
The good news? The Seahawks get to take on the reeling Falcons this weekend. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The connection between Wilson and Tyler Lockett remains highly productive. Lockett had five receptions Sunday, but most impressive was two plays where Wilson trusted Lockett would get to the ball first. One went for an 8-yard TD. The other came as Wilson was facing a blitz and lofted a deep pass down the middle. Lockett ran under it for a 33-yard gain.
But according to the team's official website, what might have been his most impressive catch was one that didn't count, a diving effort out of the back of the end zone that saw him just avoid the goal post to make a grab that didn't show up on the stat sheet.
"I thought that was a really impressive play," Carroll said. "Matter of fact, that one in particular-he caught another one, made another great catch. OK, it would have worked up in British Columbia or something, but not here. He caught it going into the wall too, it was awesome. He has been spectacular, his play has just been spectacular. The connection with Russ as we saw again and again-the (33-yard) throw down the middle was a phenomenal throw and catch.
"That's about as challenging a play, under the full-blitz situation that happened and all that, as you can make. I can't wait to see what he does next."
Conversely, rookie DK Metcalf made the kind of mistake that can't happen in the fourth quarter. Metcalf simply dropped the ball trying to switch hands after making a short reception and the fumble was returned for a touchdown by the Ravens.
It was the final blow in a day when Metcalf had four catches for 53 yards but was targeted nine times and struggled to get away from physical coverage by the Ravens in the second half.
"I'm not going to blame it on the weather. We practice with a wet ball all the time, so I'm not going to blame it on the weather. It was my fault 100%," Metcalf said.
Rashaad Penny played just two offensive snaps compared to 64 (of 72) for starter Chris Carson and six for C.J. Prosise. Seldom-used fullback Nick Bellore got four offensive snaps. Carroll said on 710 ESPN Seattle that it wasn't a matter of the Seahawks being cautious with Penny's hamstring injury, which kept the 2018 first-round pick out last week, adding that they had some plays for Prosise and "it just worked out that way. ..."
On the injury front. ... Carroll said LT Duane Brown (biceps) wants to practices this week, but "we may have to protect him from himself." Brown has missed the last two games. The Seahawks are hopeful D.J. Fluker (hamstring) will be ready to play against Atlanta after sitting out the past two. Fluker was active Sunday, but did not play with Jamarco Jones filling in again at right guard.
Safety is another area of concern as Lano Hill (elbow) is not expected back this week and Bradley McDougald missed Sunday's loss with back spasms.
The availability of defensive end Ziggy Ansah is also in question from an ankle injury suffered against Cleveland and kept him out of the loss to Baltimore.
And finally. ... Carroll's decision making has always seemed a little emotional, but he made two critical decisions on Sunday that proved costly. He continued to test the ability to challenge pass interference at times where it seemed obvious there would be no change to the original call. His decision to do so in the first half ended up costing Seattle a timeout it could have used on the final drive of the half.
His second questionable choice was attempting a 53-yard field goal on a stormy day in the third quarter in a 13-all game. Seattle faced fourth-and-3 at the Baltimore 35. Carroll showed trust in kicker Jason Myers by sending out the field goal unit. Myers missed wide right and given a short field, Baltimore scored late in the quarter -- on a fourth-and-2 no less -- to take the lead for good.
The debate was between Myers attempting the kick or punting. Carroll said going for it with the offense was never the right choice in his mind.
"It's a little longer than you want to go for it," Carroll said.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Rashaad Penny
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, David Moore, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart, Phillip Dorsett
TEs: Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Colby Parkinson, Greg Olsen
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
The Buccaneers returned to work on Monday after nearly a full week of rest and recovery on their bye. At the end of the week, they will hit the road once again -- part of a five-game, six-week swing away from Tampa -- to take on the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
The Titans will be trying to build on the momentum of a down-to-the-wire home win over the Los Angeles Chargers, the team's first game since Ryan Tannehill took over at quarterback for Marcus Mariota.
Tannehill, the former Dolphins first-rounder, completed 23 of 29 passes for 312 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in his first start as a Titan. He may have helped get another former first-round pick back on track, as six of his completions went to Corey Davis for 80 yards and a touchdown. Tennessee didn't abandon its signature power running game, however, as Derrick Henry ran 22 times for 90 yards and a touchdown.
Even with a strong first start from Tannehill, Tennessee's outstanding defense had to make a goal-line stand at the end of regulation for the home team to get the win. The Chargers had two apparent touchdowns reversed by replay, setting up a second-and-goal from the one with 19 seconds left, at which point Melvin Gordon fumbled away the Chargers' last shot. The Titans improved to 3-4 with the win.
The Buccaneers will play their fourth straight game away from Raymond James Stadium, with one more road trip to Seattle waiting in Week 9 before the team finally returns home on November 10.
It's possible right tackle Demar Dotson will be back in action against the Titans, and outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul -- the team's 2018 leader with 12.5 sacks -- could return from the reserve/NFI list.
Among the keys in their return will be helping to protect Jameis Winston.
Tampa Bay's offensive line is currently banged up in a bad way, with both starters on the right side missing the last game due to injury. Even when healthy, that side of the line has struggled at times this year, yet the Bucs' offensive game plan continues to call for deep drop-backs and long-developing routes.
The Bucs need to help Winston by giving him more quick-game throws and short drops, mitigating their weaknesses up front and allowing Tampa Bay's wealth of offensive weapons to get the ball in their hands sooner. This should help lower the amount of unnecessary turnovers and sacks that have plagued the Bucs in recent weeks.
Too often, the Bucs have forgotten the amount of quality playmakers they have in the passing game.
Mike Evans is one of the best wide receivers in the league, and Chris Godwin is proving so far this season that he belongs in that conversation. In recent weeks, we've seen too much of Winston targeting Bobo Wilson or Scottie Miller on in key situations when playmakers like Evans and Godwin should be able to take over and make a play, no matter how covered they are.
The scheme also needs to be tweaked to take advantage of the talent on the roster. You won't find a more talented tight end tandem in the NFL than O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, but they've both been criminally underused so far this season.
Howard in particular is a mismatch machine, but the Bucs aren't making the most of his skill set by moving him around and getting him favorable matchups.
Heading into the bye, Howard was averaging only 2.8 targets per game, but that went up to five targets against the Panthers. The problem is, he hasn't made the most of his opportunities, with a 15.8 percent drop rate, second highest in the league at any position. While the Panthers' use of Cover 3 lent itself to more plays for the tight end in the middle of the field, this staff is making a concerted effort to get Howard and Brate more involved.
But ESPN.com's Jenna Laine doesn't think Howard is going to get the six to nine targets like some of the top-tier guys.
MMQB's Albert Breer reports that the Patriots recently inquired about Howard's availability, but the Bucs told them no.
For the record, Howard was limited by a sore hamstring on Wednesday; I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
It should be noted all those players might be more effective with better and more consistent QB play.
Head coach Bruce Arians still hopes to fix Winston, and Arians thinks it should be easy.
"It's knowing why the ball is coming out of your hand and knowing when to get rid of it," Arians said this week. "You know, we had a screen pass to [Ronald Jones] that broke down; throw it away, all right? We end up getting a fumble. We didn't lose that fumble. The next one, [Jameis is thinking], 'I have to make a play.' Those situations we have to get rid of the bad decisions of when 'I have to make a play,' and you hold on too long and get a sack or a fumble. Just get rid of those plays, we're going to be all right."
As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio suggests, that' far easier said than done.
And it won't be easy for the Buccaneers to turn it around. The travel to Tennessee and then Seattle before returning home to face the Cardinals, Arians' former team. Arizona, the worst team in the league a year ago, has won three in a row.
Arians has never lost three in a row during his head coaching career (he lost three of four and four of five in 2016, and three of four in 2017). If Tampa loses the next two, Arians' streak will be at four as the Cardinals prepare to visit.
To avoid that fate, Arians will need Winston to perform far better than he did against the Panthers in Week 6, which featured six turnovers and seven sacks.
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scott Miller, Justin Watson, Tyler Johnson, Jaydon Mickens
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, O.J. Howard
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
The Titans' switch at quarterback from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill has done more than just spark the offense.
Now they have confidence and hope.
Tannehill led the Titans to their best offensive performance this season with 403 yards total offense. He had a season's best 329 yards passing in his first start since Mariota was benched, sending Tennessee to a 23-20 win over the Chargers. An offense that had just one touchdown in the previous 10 quarters scored two TDs in the final 13:11 to end a two-game skid.
As anticipated, Tannehill was more decisive with the football than Mariota.
According to ESPN.com's Turron Davenport, most of Tannehill's throws were shorter passes, but his receivers did the work for him by gaining yards after the catch. Tannehill was on time with the passes and very accurate. His best throws were both to receiver Corey Davis. One was a 38-yard gain in which Tannehill threaded the ball just past the safety and in front of the cornerback covering Davis on the in-breaking route.
Tannehill's first touchdown pass was a good one, too. He managed to fit the ball to Davis between two defenders in the end zone for an 8-yard score.
"Turn the whole season around, I believe so," Davis said of the quarterback change. "We've got the momentum. Offense, we've got the talent. We have just got to put it all together and stay consistent."
The Titans' offense had a rhythm thanks to Tannehill making sure he got the ball out of his hands quickly. His touchdown pass to Davis was a good example of being decisive with the football and making a play.
He also spread the ball around to various receivers.
The offense had a better look and feel to it, especially on third downs. Receiver Adam Humphries emerged as an option in the passing game, working the middle of the field. His 14-yard catch in the fourth quarter set up Tajae Sharpe's touchdown catch.
Quicker throws led to fewer sacks and pressures. Chargers pass-rusher Joey Bosa had an outstanding day, posting two sacks, but those were the only QB takedowns on the day. Tannehill will need to continue to quickly get rid of the ball this week against the Bucs, who feature Shaq Barrett and his nine sacks.
The Titans have a chance to climb back to .500 when Tampa Bay visits.
Then the schedule stiffens with a trip to Carolina, though the Titans might not see Patrick Mahomes when Kansas City visits Nov. 10 before their bye. ...
On the injury front. ... The list is growing enough that Vrabel said Monday the team's injury report will have a staple in it. Cornerback Adoree' Jackson left in the third quarter with an injured foot. Right tackle Jack Conklin hurt his right thigh early and played only eight snaps. Rookie Nate Davis hurt a rib in the first half and didn't finish the game.
Delanie Walker went into the game with an ankle issue that he aggravated early on. Jonnu Smith got the bulk of the work against the Chargers. ...
Vrabel told reporters the team is trying to get Walker ready to contribute more.
"Frustrated for him," the coach said of the veteran tight end. "We'll evaluate this week. Hopefully we'll get him in a position where he can help us. That's what he/we want."
Walker was not expected to practice Wednesday. Davis was also being held out due to illness; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Before Davis' 8-yard TD with 23 seconds remaining in the first half, Tennessee had scored a total of two points in the last two minutes of either half this season, fewest in the NFL. Mariota had completed just 44 percent of his passes with no TDs and an interception with less than two minutes remaining in either half this season. ...
Cody Parkey hit a 45-yard field goal and two extra points, but the Titans' replacement to the replacement kicker also hit the right upright after Tannehill hit Sharpe with a 5-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter. That left Tennessee's lead at just 16-0, and the Chargers needed only a field goal to force overtime.
Vrabel says Ryan Succop, who remains on injured reserve recovering from offseason knee surgery, went through his pregame kicking routine. The Titans planned to evaluate where the veteran is, though Succop has to sit out at least one more game before being eligible to return. ...
Jeffery Simmons, the No. 19 overall pick in April was expected to be a selection for the future after tearing his left ACL in February. Instead, the 6-4, 305-pound defensive tackle debuted against the Chargers. He had the Titans' lone sack, two tackles for loss and finished with four tackles all on 21 snaps.
And finally. ... Yes, the Titans won a crucial game after switching quarterbacks, but Vrabel is being second-guessed again for not challenging the spot of the ball after Tannehill's sneak on fourth-and-inches. Fans wanted the challenge flag and a chance to run more clock with 2:35 left.
The coach said Monday he talks repeatedly with NFL officiating chief Al Riveron and knows the ball has to be seen clearly to have a chance to win a challenge.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Jeremy McNichols, Senorise Perry, Darrynton Evans
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Cody Hollister
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, Geoff Swaim, MyCole Pruitt
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 October 2019
As ESPN.com's John Keim framed it, the Redskins are 1-6, headed nowhere fast and are starting a quarterback unsigned beyond this season. Case Keenum isn't the future, but Dwayne Haskins still isn't the present.
After yet another Redskins loss, interim coach Bill Callahan said Keenum will continue to start and that they still have confidence in him. Keenum completed 9 of 12 passes for 77 yards in Sunday's 9-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Haskins, as he has for all but one game this season, remained on the sidelines. That's where he'll stay for at least another week and possibly longer.
"Dwayne's still learning," Callahan said. "He'd be the first to tell you that. We still have faith in Case and his ability to manage this offense and run this offense and execute everything within it."
It makes sense to stick with Keenum this week, with the Redskins playing at Minnesota on Thursday. Keenum has thrown nine touchdown passes and four interceptions in six starts.
But after this week, the clock starts ticking on the true start of Haskins' tenure with the Redskins. He relieved Keenum in a Week 4 loss at the New York Giants, but hasn't played in any other game. If the Redskins continue to lose and they don't put Haskins in, it'll be quite a statement on how far they think he has to go. And every indication has been that they feel a lot of work remains.
They want him to continue developing as a pocket passer, learning how to read defenses at an NFL level, making better decisions and improving his accuracy.
But Callahan has spent the past two weeks since taking over for Jay Gruden trying to build up Haskins. They give him all the first-team reps when Keenum can't practice.
"His growth is starting to show in practice and also in his preparation," Callahan said last week. "He's in earlier, he's out later, so it's all coming to fruition. It's going to take a little time."
The Redskins want him more engaged at a higher level in all facets, whether in meeting rooms or in pregame warm-ups. Their approach since Callahan took over is to continue saying he's not ready but while acknowledging any growth in his game. It's not about how many first-team reps he gets in practice as much as it is about approach and work done away from the field.
On Friday, when asked about Callahan's comments, Haskins said he has to "take it by the horns."
"Just ownership of everything," Haskins said. "You want to be a franchise guy, so I have to act like it, be like it, move like it. So that's it. You can't really wait for your turn anymore, you have to seize it. That's what I'm doing."
In his one game, Haskins completed 9 of 17 passes for 108 yards and three interceptions. The Redskins want him to improve his decision-making, becoming more consistent. They still want him to improve calling plays in the huddle.
More than anything, they want to find a way to coax from him what many see as considerable upside.
That's what Haskins wants as well. He's only 22 years old with 14 starts in college on his résumé. Haskins also knows what he must do in practice.
"Just going out there being me and stop worrying about everything else," he said.
Sometimes that "everything else" means others questioning his ability to read an NFL defense or his readiness.
"That's really a joke," he said Friday, "because I pride myself on reading defenses and knowing protections. I can't pay any mind to that."
But for the Redskins to see the growth that makes them comfortable enough to put him in the game, they want him to maintain the right approach.
"I've got to do what I've got to do," Haskins said. "This is like the first week I've just taken it."
Worth noting against the 49ers was the inability to get the ball to receiver Terry McLaurin.
He's been the Redskins' top playmaker this season, with eight receptions of 20 yards or more. But the Redskins were unable to get him the ball Sunday. He was targeted only two times and caught one pass for 11 yards. The hard part for Washington: Some of his best plays take an extra second to develop, and the Redskins feared slower-developing pass plays against the 49ers' pass rush.
The Redskins needed to be more aggressive late and try to get McLaurin involved. ...
Meanwhile, the Redskins continue to be hurt by the same thing this season: Themselves. The team has enough trouble trying to beat other teams; they make it harder with self-inflicted wounds, which once again contributed to a loss.
The Redskins' defense played well Sunday -- again -- and even caused a turnover in a 9-0 loss to San Francisco. But the Redskins blew a chance for an upset with their own miscues, starting with a missed 39-yard field goal on a rain-soaked field on the game's opening drive. That capped an 8-minute, 14-second possession.
Then there were the seven penalties for 47 yards in a game where every yard mattered.
Finally, after reaching the 49ers' 29-yard line trailing 3-0, running back Adrian Peterson lost a fumble.
"The fumble, for me personally, I feel like that's what lost us the game," Peterson said, via the Washington Post. "I always look at going on to the next play, next play, but that was a critical point in the game. We were in position to put points on the board. . . . We can't have a turnover. Especially playing against this defense. It hurts even more because it wasn't like the guy punched the ball out. It came from pain. That little moment of 'ugh' allowed the ball to come out, and for me that's just not acceptable. I'll be beating myself up about this one all night."
Washington had three drives longer than three plays all afternoon and their defense never forced a three and out, so it's hard to heap all the blame on any one plate even if Peterson feels his fumble stood out.
In the end, the Redskins did what they often do: tease fans into thinking a game might go one way only to have it go the other.
That said, the Redskins ran the ball well for a second consecutive game, as Peterson ran 20 times for 81 yards.
Last week the suggestion was to "sell" the notion that they'd continue with this success mainly because of the upcoming opponents. But what's clear is that Washington will continue to stay committed to the run -- as long as the score allows.
If nothing else, the Redskins can re-establish an offensive identity through a physical run game. The Redskins opened the game with 11 straight runs, a wise strategy given the weather and the 49ers' pass rush.
The question this week is whether Peterson will be the guy doing the work.
Callahan said Peterson is "being evaluated" for an injury after the running back hurt his ankle in the third quarter of Sunday's game. Peterson fumbled on the play, losing the ball -- he later said -- when he feared his ankle was breaking during a tackle at the 49ers' 29-yard line.
Peterson had an MRI exam on the ankle Monday. He told ESPN's Josina Anderson he has a Grade 1 high ankle sprain and a Grade 2 low ankle sprain.
On Tuesday, Peterson said his ankle was much improved from Monday, and he expects to play Thursday night.
"Night and day from yesterday," Peterson told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. "I should [be] ready to go."
"I'm good," he told Anderson.
Peterson no doubt wants to play against his former team, but it's a tough matchup and even if he plays, he certainly won't be playing at full speed.
Peterson practiced on Wednesday after being listed as a non-participant on Monday and Tuesday because of an ankle injury. That was enough for him to get a questionable tag for a matchup with his first NFL team.
Chris Thompson did not practice because of a toe injury and has been ruled out.
Cornerback Josh Norman also missed practice with the thigh and hand issues that kept him from playing last week, but is listed as questionable along with Peterson, safety Montae Nicholson (ankle) and wide receiver Steven Sims (toe).
Safety Deshazor Everett (ankle), linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons (hamstring), guard Wes Martin (chest) and tight end Vernon Davis (concussion) have also been ruled out.
I'll have more on Peterson via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's kickoff in the Late-Breaking Updates section. ...
Beyond that, rookie RB Bryce Love will undergo a minor procedure on Tuesday aimed at speeding up the rehab from his original right knee surgery, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports. Love underwent surgery earlier this year to repair a torn ACL he suffered his senior at Stanford last December. He signed his rookie contract in May and was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list before the start of the season on Aug. 31.
And finally. ... Via Carpenter, injured quarterback Alex Smith has been throwing at the team facility, heaving long passes as he recovers from last year's grisly broken leg. Smith recently said he needed 17 surgeries to recover from that damage, but the arm apparently looks good.
"He's been throwing for some time now. I think it's been a progression that he's built up," Callahan said. "He hasn't just come out there and started throwing 50-yard bombs."
Smith has said he hopes to play again, though he hasn't made many public appearances.
"He's working diligently on the road to rehab and trying to get himself back to 100 percent," Callahan said. "I have never seen anything like the effort he's pouring into his rehab. It's so impressive. ... He's got the ultimate respect of all of us."
As Profootballtalk.com put it, whether he ever plays again -- or for them -- is practically a side issue. The fact he's well enough to do something resembling football is the best news for him, after such a traumatic injury.
QBs: Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen
RBs: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber, Bryce Love
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Isaiah Wright, Cam Sims, Steven Sims, Dontrelle Inman, Antonio Gandy-Golden
TEs: Logan Thomas, Jeremy Sprinkle