Team Notes week 2 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 10 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss framed it, "Kyler Murray did Kyler Murray-like things in the fourth quarter of his NFL debut on Sunday against the Detroit Lions. ..."
And it led to a dramatic 27-27 tie.
Murray led the Cardinals back from an 18-point deficit to tie the game with 43 seconds left in the fourth quarter and force overtime. Once in the extra period, Murray led the Cardinals quickly down the field, but the offense stalled at the 10, settling for a field goal. Detroit matched the kick, setting Murray up for a potential winning drive, which did not develop.
"I thought in the second half, he did a great job fighting and bringing us back," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "Being down 18 in your first start, finding a way to get back, I mean, that's impressive, so I was really proud of his effort.
"I got to do a better job early in the game of getting him comfortable and getting him in a groove."
Murray, who finished with 308 yards, two scores and an interception on 29-for-54 passing, orchestrated the comeback with a dazzling fourth quarter that included his first two NFL touchdown passes, a display of his renowned accuracy, impressive footwork and a command of Kingsbury's much-anticipated offense.
"He did great," running back David Johnson said. "He did great managing the clock well, managing the offense well, being the leader, being vocal and telling everyone what to do.
"He's only a rookie, so he's been doing great."
Murray was much less effective through the opening three quarters, throwing for 70 yards and an interception on 9-for-25 passing.
The offense, in his words, was "pretty ugly at first." And Kingsbury took the blame for that.
"I did a poor job early of trying to be too cute, over creative," Kingsbury said. "I think sometimes, when you have all summer to draw stuff up, you can get out of your comfort zone, and I think it affected our quarterback early. I wasn't getting him in a rhythm. We couldn't sustain any drives and get him going and settling in."
Kingsbury said that part of trying to do too much as a play caller included using different personnel groups. All told, it resulted in what Weinfuss characterized as "a stagnant, bumpy, inconsistent offense," which led Kingsbury to alter his play calling.
"It was three quarters of the worst offense I've ever seen in my life," Kingsbury said. "And it was my fault."
When Kingsbury changed, so did the offense: The Cardinals started doing what they're good at.
Then Murray turned it on. He went 15-for-19 passing for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, leading the Cardinals back from a 24-6 deficit. After his inconsistent first three quarters, Murray went 20-for-29 for 238 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Murray joined Jake Plummer as the only Cardinals rookie quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards and two touchdowns since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. Murray also was the first Cardinals quarterback with 54 pass attempts in a game since Kurt Warner in Week 4 of 2008.
Murray said last week that he had heard regular-season football was different than the preseason. He figured it out quickly. He saw four passes batted down, including one late in overtime, and was sacked three times in the first half and five times overall.
He tried to use his mobility to escape pressure but wasn't able to evade defenders for long.
Beyond that, the offense showed much of what was expected: three-, four- and five-receiver sets; no-huddle; tempo; and designed runs for Murray. But early in the game, none of it was effective.
Murray was 1-for-6 on throws of more than 10 yards downfield for 12 yards with an interception, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. He had two dropbacks against the blitz in the first two quarters; he was sacked on one and intercepted on the other. And when the Cardinals went with an empty set, meaning no running back on the field, Murray was 0-for-6 without a sack.
It got to a point where fans inside State Farm Stadium began booing each subsequent three-and-out.
"A tie is a hell a lot better than a loss," receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "We're still undefeated. ..."
Also of interest. ... As ArizonaCardinals.com's Darren Urban notes, Murray already trusts Fitzgerald.
The veteran wideout's ability to adjust his sight over one shoulder to the other on both his 41- and 45-yard catches was remarkable. Urban has believed all along that Fitzgerald would climb back into the 100-catch, 1,000-yard range in this offense with this quarterback. Eight catches for 113 yards and a touchdown against the Loins was a great start.
By the way, on the day Fitz set the franchise record with his 235th game played, he already had more yards receiving in a game than he did in all of 2018.
Johnson quietly had a very nice game: 82 yards rushing on 18 carries, 55 yards on six catches, the first touchdown on a pass from Murray. Johnson did lament that he didn't dive for the end zone on his near-rushing touchdown, a drive that ultimately fetched a field goal. ...
There had been much conversation since Michael Crabtree was signed about his need to both learn the playbook and to get his conditioning right before he played a game. That time has not yet arrived, with the veteran wide receiver made inactive for Sunday's game against the Lions.
It meant the Cards had the following six wideouts active: Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, KeeSean Johnson, Trent Sherfield, Damiere Byrd and Andy Isabella.
And finally. ... The Cardinals have added a veteran to their offensive line for the second week of the regular season. According to Profootballtalk.com, the team signed tackle Jordan Mills. It's a one-year deal worth $1.25 million. Mills was released by the Dolphins last month. He started 48 games for the Bills over the last three seasons and has made 82 career starts since entering the league in 2013.
The move comes after right tackle Marcus Gilbert missed the opener in Arizona and Kingsbury said he'd be out in Week 2 as well. Justin Murray started in Gilbert's place in the season-opening tie with the Lions.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley
RBs: Kenyan Drake, David Johnson, Chase Edmonds
WRs: Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper, Andy Isabella, Trent Sherfield, KeeSean Johnson
TEs: Charles Clay, Maxx Williams, Dan Arnold
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
For Julio Jones and the Falcons, there will be many games in their future together when the two-time All-Pro takes over and leads the team to victory.
Now the NFL's highest-paid wide receiver, Jones expressed the even-keeled perspective of a ninth-year player with the second-longest tenure on the roster after an off-putting 28-12 defeat at Minnesota to open the season. This performance against a daunting Vikings defense, though, was hardly the way for Jones or the Falcons to commemorate his new contract.
"It's the first game. We don't need to freak out, things like that, but at the end of the day, we control this," said Jones, who had six receptions for 31 yards and a late touchdown to make fantasy owners happy while being targeted 11 times by Matt Ryan. "We're shooting ourselves in the foot, getting behind the sticks early on, and we couldn't stay out there on the field, get the defense some rest, things like that. We've just got to do better and we will be better. That's that."
Jones, the six-time Pro Bowl selection who led the league last season with 1,677 receiving yards and is one of only four wide receivers in history with three seasons of at least 100 receptions and 1,500 yards, was blanketed often by a second defender -- as the Vikings have usually done against him under head coach Mike Zimmer. During the first of two interceptions by Anthony Harris, he wrestled the ball away from Jones after Ryan tried to thread it between the safety and cornerback Xavier Rhodes in the first quarter.
In those four losses to the Vikings, Jones has just 19 receptions for 193 yards and the one score.
"We control all of this. It's not them, it's us," Jones said. "We've just got to do better all-around the board."
Jones signed a three-year, $66 million extension Saturday before the team boarded the plane for Minnesota, with almost all of the deal fully guaranteed.
"For me, I just want to be a great teammate. All that other stuff, that's more so for my family. I'm not a 'me' guy, like, hey, being the highest-paid guy, you this, you that," Jones said. "I just love to be out there with my guys. My brothers, we go about it every day. I love it, and I'm ready to get back to work."
Though the negotiations lasted longer than expected, with just one day to go before the season kicked off, Jones said he was never worried, assurance in part that came from owner Arthur Blank and his desire to keep Jones for the remainder of his career.
"I had peace of mind. Talked to Mr. Blank, just talking about how appreciative I am of him and vice versa," Jones said. "The love I have for the organization, things like that. That's out the way now. At the end of the day, like I said, it's more so on us and just getting ready to play football."
The Falcons host Philadelphia next, a Sunday night game that will take on even greater urgency.
"We're definitely a work in progress across the board," Ryan said. ...
The first area to focus on: The Falcons turned the ball over three times. In addition to the two interceptions by Ryan, Devonta Freeman fumbled the ball and Minnesota recovered it at the start of the second quarter.
"Both interceptions today were poor decisions and they cost us," Ryan said. "They cost us points in both situations. I have to be better than that."
Ryan hasn't thrown multiple interceptions in a game since December of 2017 when he threw three interceptions against the New Orleans Saints.
That said, ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure pointed out that Ryan didn't have a chance to get into a rhythm while getting sacked twice, hit five times, and intercepted once in the first half while posting a QB rating of 65. Of course, Ryan played behind a revamped offensive line with rookie first-rounders Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary starting on the right side and vet James Carpenter starting at left guard. Ty Sambrailo rotated with McGary, and Lindstrom was replaced by Wes Schweitzer after a foot injury, so the line is still in flux.
The overall performance wasn't what you expected with the talk of him reconnecting with his former offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, and tight ends coach Mike Mularkey.
Indeed, the Falcons were supposed to be much improved and ready to compete with Dan Quinn now coordinating the defense, Koetter running the offense, key players such as Freeman, DB Ricardo Allen and DB Keanu Neal back from season-ending injuries, and a general vibe of optimism based on the "brotherhood" in the locker room.
None of that worked, as the Falcons got outcoached and manhandled, physically.
Freeman had less than 19 yards rushing in his return. He was stifled and frustrated. Just like the Falcons as a whole. As the returning RBs went, so too did their teams.
On a slightly more positive note. ... Austin Hooper has improved in each of his three NFL seasons, and he got off to a great start in his fourth. Atlanta's tight end has developed a great rapport with Ryan, and it showed on Sunday. Hooper really came alive in the second half, catching three passes for 27 yards on Atlanta's opening drive after halftime and another three passes for 32 yards during the Falcons' first scoring drive.
On the injury front. ... Receiver Russell Gage was removed from the game on the final drive of the first half with a concussion, after converting a first down and being leveled by Vikings FS Harrison Smith. A woozy Gage twice tried to get up and jog off, only to fall back to the turf.
Meanwhile, Lindstrom will be placed on injured reserve and the team agreed to terms with veteran lineman John Wetzel. Wetzel spent the preseason with the Falcons, so he has familiarity with the offensive line. Wetzel started five games for the Arizona Cardinals last season, and he has started 24 games throughout his four-year NFL career.
The Falcons come home to play the Eagles (1-0) in Week 2. They don't want to be embarrassed again, especially in prime time.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Julio Jones, Russell Gage, Justin Hardy, Olamide Zaccheaus, Christian Blake
TEs: Austin Hooper, Jaeden Graham, Luke Stocker
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman wrote: "No one had a more impressive, more dominant and, to some, more surprising season opener than Lamar Jackson.
The Baltimore Ravens quarterback turned the Miami Dolphins defense into formless blubber on Sunday afternoon, throwing for 324 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-10 romp over Miami. Jackson earned a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
Seen by many as a run-first quarterback, Jackson proved Sunday that he has the arm talent to match his ground game.
"Not bad for a running back," Jackson joked with reporters after the victory. "But yeah, offensive line did a great job. I barely had pressure. Receivers did a great job of getting open, catching the ball, scoring touchdown. That's what it's all about, and that's what we did today."
As a rookie last season, Jackson never even sniffed this type of production through the air. The Ravens QB's previous career high was 204 passing yards and two touchdown passes (in separate games). He had just six touchdown passes all of last regular season and nearly eclipsed that total in the 2019 season opener.
On the ground, Jackson was a non-factor (three rushes, six yards) but he didn't need to be. New Ravens acquisition Mark Ingram racked up 107 yards and two touchdowns on 14 attempts, with Gus Edwards and Justice Hill contributing as well.
The major beneficiary of Jackson's spectacular afternoon was a fellow first-rounder, receiver Marquise Brown. "Hollywood" had been hampered by injuries all offseason and preseason but looked more than healthy in Miami. NFL.com's Adam Maya wrote, "Speed kills, and Brown looked as fast as anyone while catching four passes for 147 yards. That late first-round slot is already looking warranted."
Indeed, Brown looked at home on the end of his quarterback's pinpoint deep heaves and said he was not at all surprised that Jackson was capable of such an outing.
"You hear the talk and I knew just from when I got here, I was like I don't know what people have been talking about," Brown said. "He looks pretty good to me. I'm glad he got here and showed people what he can do."
It's just one week and Jackson's breakout aerial assault came against a Dolphins team that could be bound for a top-five draft pick. But after an offseason filled with anticipation for a more vertical, diverse Ravens attack, the early returns for Jackson and Baltimore are promising to say the least.
For the record, Jackson produced the best passer rating (158.3) in Ravens history and Brown became the first player in NFL history with multiple 40-yard touchdowns in his career debut.
He was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts, which led to a team record for most points and yards (643) in a game. This marked the most yards in an NFL game since 2012, when Houston posted 653 against Jacksonville.
The most resounding stat, however, went unsaid. Jackson finished with more touchdown passes (five) than rushing attempts (three). There were more. Jackson is the youngest player (22 years, 244 days) in NFL history to post a perfect passer rating. He was the first to have a perfect rating in a season opener.
Jackson then threw touchdown passes of 33 yards to Willie Snead, 5 yards to Miles Boykin and 1 yard to fullback Patrick Ricard. Jackson became the first quarterback to throw at least five touchdowns in a season opener since Peyton Manning did so against the Ravens in 2013.
Tight end Mark Andrews caught eight passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.
On the injury front. ... Cornerback Jimmy Smith will miss multiple weeks with a sprained right knee, coach John Harbaugh said Monday. Harbaugh described the injury as a Grade 2 sprain, which typically takes two to four weeks to recover.
Anthony Averett, a fourth-round pick in 2018, is expected to start in Smith's place. Averett was picked on early by the Dolphins, but he finished second on the Ravens with four tackles.
Baltimore's secondary was once its deepest position. But nickel back Tavon Young suffered a season-ending neck injury in training camp, and now Smith will be sidelined for a stretch.
Over the next four games, the Ravens will face notable quarterbacks in Kyler Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, Patrick Mahomes, the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player; Baker Mayfield, who threw for over 340 yards in each of his two meetings with Baltimore; and Ben Roethlisberger, who has won four of his past five meetings against the Ravens.
From a fantasy perspective, of course, weekly shootouts would be great. ...
And finally. ... As the Associated Press noted, once again, Harbaugh showed Miami no mercy. With a 35-3 lead late in the first half the Ravens faked a punt, and Anthony Levine took the short snap and ran 60 yards to set up another touchdown.
"It was there," Harbaugh said. "That's what we do. There was a lot of time left in the game. If they're going to give us an opportunity to run a play, we're going to execute it."
The Ravens' final touchdown came when Robert Griffin III threw for a score on fourth-and-3. Flores had no quarrel with either call.
"It's our job to stop them; it's not their job to let off," Flores said. "We're not looking for handouts here."
Ravens: Baltimore plays host to Arizona for the first time since 2011 next Sunday. It's the first meeting between the teams since 2015.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Seth Roberts, Miles Boykin, Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
Better late than never, right?
The Buffalo Bills scored 17 unanswered points Sunday against the New York Jets to cap a second-half rally, earning a 17-16 victory despite a whopping four first-half turnovers -- their largest comeback since beating the New England Patriots in Week 3 of the 2011 season. For all his faults, second-year quarterback Josh Allen orchestrated a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to pay back his Jets counterpart, Sam Darnold, for their down-to-the-wire matchup last season.
There are things Buffalo needs to clean up -- specifically controlling the ball and incorporating the run game -- but there's even more to like heading into a Week 2 matchup against the Giants.
According to ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques, the two main takeaways from the game: First, Allen is trending upward.
There were the fumbles, the interceptions and the near-interceptions, but ultimately he figured it out in time to execute three straight scoring drives and win the game. That said, Allen's four turnovers in the first half is the most by a Bills quarterback since Nathan Peterman threw four interceptions in the first half against the Chargers in 2017.
One could make the argument that not every turnover was Allen's fault, but he also had a brutal interception overturned after a defensive holding call against a player who was not overly involved in the play, and another one dropped at the goal line.
The good news? Once the Bills started running the ball, the field seemed to open up a bit for him. ...
And speaking of the run game, Louis-Jacques contends that Devin Singletary should be the Bills' three-down back from this point forward. He racked up 98 total yards in essentially a single quarter -- on just 9 touches. He did get the start but it would be surprising if he is not a focal point of this offense as its most dynamic playmaker.
"Frank Gore can still be effective as a change-of-pace back but Singletary looks special," Louis-Jacques added.
That said, head coach Sean McDermott told reporters on Wednesday that Gore remains at the top of the depth chart. Of course, Gore was listed as the starter on last week's unofficial depth chart, too. Singletary got the start, though and showed enough proficiency in the run and passing game to earn himself a three-down role sooner than anyone predicted.
Especially with the Giants' and Bengals' maligned defenses on the schedule over the next two weeks, Singletary could find an explosive rhythm by the time Buffalo hosts the Patriots in Week 4. ...
Meanwhile, John Brown showed exactly why the Bills signed him on his first Sunday with the team. Brown caught seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown
Brown's 123 yards were the most by a Bills receiver in Week 1 since Eric Moulds' recorded 147 on Sept. 12, 1999 in Indianapolis. They were the most by a Buffalo player since Sammy Watkins had 154 in a 34-31 loss to Miami on Dec. 24, 2016.
Brown is also the first Bills player with 100 yards receiving in his first game with the team.
"Of course and especially with the win to put up stats like that it feels real good," Brown said. "I'm just happy to be here. We put up a great fight today."
Most importantly, Brown caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Allen to put the Bills up late in the fourth quarter.
"If I recall correctly, it was third down. I knew the play we had there was a shot play and I saw a post high. John was on 27 (Darryl Roberts) and I trusted him to make a play," Allen said. "It was a stutter route basically I gave him a chance and he made the play. That's why we brought him here. I'm just glad the team was resilient enough to overcome some of the situations that we did. I'm just proud of this team"
On the play, Allen admitted he had to stay in the pocket a little longer than he was comfortable. Brown appreciates that kind of play from his quarterback.
"It's real impressive," Brown said. "Josh is a guy who trusts his players, the receivers, tight ends and running backs. We work it a lot and he was comfortable, so he knew it would be open."
On a less positive note. ... Receiver Robert Foster, who was on the field for just 15 offensive snaps a year after finishing second on the team with 541 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
On the injury front. ... With Tyler Kroft missing Week 1 while working his way back from a foot injury, rookie TE Tommy Sweeney caught both of his targets for 35 yards against the Jets. His starting role is likely to continue as long as Kroft can't go. I'll have more on Kroft, who worked on a limited basis Wednesday, and Andre Roberts, who missed last week's game with a quad injury, via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley
RBs: Devin Singletary, Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon
WRs: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts, Duke Williams, Robert Foster
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Tommy Sweeney, Lee Smith, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed noted, Christian McCaffrey has become Carolina's best football player.
But Reed went on to explain that while the Panthers' third-year running back only seems to be getting faster, quicker and more elusive , as evidenced by his 29-touch, 209-yard, two-touchdown performance on Sunday, he can't do it alone.
Despite McCaffrey's huge day, the Panthers still lost 30-27 to the Los Angeles Rams.
Tight end Greg Olsen was straight to the point after the game, saying "offensively as a group, outside of Christian, we have a lot of work to do."
McCaffrey has become the focal point of Carolina's offense. He wrested that tag from Cam Newton sometime last season when the quarterback found himself dealing with a troublesome shoulder issue.
It had been nearly nine months since
Newton last threw a pass in a regular-season game. In the 265 days between, the Panthers quarterback underwent a shoulder procedure and sat out spring workouts before throwing just six passes in the preseason. So it stands to reason he wasn't all that sharp Sunday.
Indeed, some of Newton's throws Sunday were high. Others were wide. Some were telegraphed. And he only once attempted a pass downfield.
"(I was) a little rusty. Just have to get on the same page with everybody," Newton admitted after the Panthers' season-opening loss to the Rams.
"I wish I could have a couple throws back."
It might have been a matter of shaking off the rust, but Reed believes the reality is Newton hasn't been the same player since earning MVP honors in 2015.
And now Newton's biggest strength, his ability to run the football, is not being utilized. Newton carried three times against the Rams for a career-low minus-2 yards. Coach Ron Rivera put that squarely on Newton, saying "that's more about the decisions he makes out there as a quarterback. It's the guy with the ball in his hands that dictates where the ball goes."
Wide receiver D.J. Moore offered some help Sunday with seven catches for 76 yards, but his first-quarter fumble killed a potential touchdown drive. Carolina's other options in the passing game -- Olsen, Curtis Samuel and Jarius Wright -- combined for a mere eight catches and 82 yards with no touchdowns.
With McCaffrey averaging 6.7 yards per carry and 8.1 yards per catch, it's hard not to use him, and even harder to take him out. So the Panthers didn't: McCaffrey played all 67 snaps on offense.
"It's tough to take him out and the young man doesn't want to come out," Rivera said. "But we have to think about certain things. But when he's playing the way he is, you want to keep the rhythm going."
With Norv Turner calling the shots on offense, McCaffrey is going to see a boatload of work as a runner and receiver -- just like some of Turner's previous running backs: Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson and Ricky Williams. And that's great news for fantasy owners with McCaffrey on their rosters.
But clearly the Panthers need others to step up on offense, including Newton, if they're going to make a playoff run. ...
As for Newton, of his 38 attempts, a misfire to Samuel was the only throw that traveled 20-plus yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He didn't complete a pass of longer than 17 yards.
A stat like that was reminiscent of last season when Newton spent the bulk of the year making more accurate but shorter tosses.
"I'm not going to get into no philosophical discussion about throwing the ball downfield because that's not what this game's about," Newton said when asked why his deep ball remained limited.
"I take what the defense gives me. I go through the specific reads in a timely manner, and that's how I always play. You don't say to Coach, 'Hey, Coach, let's just throw the ball deep and see where that gets us.' That's not our mentality."
Added head coach Ron Rivera: "He still can throw deep. It's just what he decides. He sees things and he had to decide whether he wants to. But he had an opportunity to throw it long and deep to Curtis and he overthrew him. I'm not concerned with any of that stuff."
Clearly, many were watching Newton's shoulder to see how it performed after his offseason procedure. And it didn't appear to bother him.
"My body feels fine, and whatever play (was) called, I felt confident. I didn't even think about my shoulder at no particular point. So I think that's a good sign," Newton said. "But I still got to stay on top of it, as well as my foot."
Which is Newton's other body part that caused a bit of worry coming in. He had a little over two weeks to recover from the left foot sprain he suffered in New England, and against the Rams, the Panthers didn't call a designed run for him until early in the fourth quarter. Newton finished with three carries for minus-2 yards, the first time in his career he's rushed for negative yardage. Still …
"He is not limited in any way at all," Rivera assured.
Overall, Newton completed 25 of 38 passes for 239 yards, but had a costly backward pass that resulted in a fumble deep in Carolina territory leading to a Rams touchdown. He also had an interception with 5:55 left in the game and was held to a career-low minus-2 yards rushing.
Newton had a costly helmet malfunction on a third-and-7 play in the first quarter after the Panthers had returned to the field following a timeout. That resulted in a delay of game. The Panthers then lost a yard on a conservative draw play and undrafted rookie Joey Slye missed a 53-yard field goal. ...
Also worth noting. ... Samuel was the star of the Panthers' training camp but was neutralized by the Rams. Samuel was targeted four times and caught three passes for 32 yards. Surprisingly, he did not receive any carries. As ESPN.com's David Newton suggested, "It made the Panthers predictable and allowed Los Angeles to stack the front."
The Panthers can't dwell on this loss as they host division rival Tampa Bay (0-1) on Thursday night. This could be a good chance for the defense to prosper after the Buccaneers lost 31-17 to the 49ers. Bucs QB Jameis Winston continues to struggle with turnovers and the Panthers will look to take advantage by applying pressure.
On the injury front. ... Olsen (back) is listed as questionable. He told reporters the back got "jacked up" against the Rams. He plans to play against the Bucs although he conceded the short week is not ideal.
Ian Thomas would be a streaming option at the position if Olsen is forced to sit against the Bucs.
I'll have more in advance of Thursday night's kickoff in the Late-Breaking Updates section of the site.
QBs: Will Grier, Kyle Allen, Cam Newton
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Mike Davis, Jordan Scarlett, Elijah Holyfield
WRs: D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Brandon Zylstra, Chris Hogan
TEs: Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
The Bears offense fell flat against the Packers last Thursday night and one of the questions that cropped up after the game was whether their performance was tied to the decision to keep starters on the bench in the preseason.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky faced that question immediately after the game and said, via ESPN.com, that it was "kind of a stretch" to link the two things because the team had been smooth in practices. Head coach Matt Nagy got the question on Friday and had a different take.
While Nagy said he didn't think plays that went wrong -- he used Tarik Cohen bobbling the ball on the first offensive play of the game as an example -- were related to preseason inaction, he doesn't seem to think it's a stretch for people to call the approach into question.
"When I go ahead and make that decision to not play in the preseason like we did, I open myself to criticism for when you don't play well. I get that," Nagy said, via the Chicago Tribune. "So that's a fair question."
There were other fair questions as well.
As NFL.com's Adam Maya noted, after trading away bell cow Jordan Howard to the Eagles in the offseason, the Bears pieced together a running back committee comprised of Mike Davis, David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen.
But the backs weren't a major factor in the opener. Davis gained 19 yards on five carries for 19 yards, Montgomery 18 on six and Cohen zero on. ... Zero. All-purpose receiver Cordarrelle Patterson got one, but it went for a loss of two.
Montgomery's night started out promising as he gained 10 yards on the first two touches of his career. But he carried the ball just four more times. Cohen was used strictly as a receiver, often lining up in the slot and catching eight passes. He also took the Bears' first offensive snap of the game out of the wildcat and fumbled. The down was replayed because of a Packers penalty but it served as a microcosm for Chicago's rushing output.
Meanwhile, Trubisky attempted 45 passes. The quarterback duly noted afterward that it wasn't a formula for success.
"I think when this offense is at its best it's a balanced attack with the run game and the pass game," Trubisky said, via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
It was just the third time in Trubisky's career that he attempted 40 passes. He had 50 attempts in a shootout with the Patriots last year. As a rookie, he threw 46 passes against Detroit and completed 67 percent of them, albeit with three interceptions. The Bears are 0-3 in those games.
Week 1 was supposed to be a demonstration of the offensive growth under second-year coach Matt Nagy. The group instead was met with a chorus of boos in the second, third and fourth quarters. Nagy himself labeled the performance "terrible" and unacceptable."
"To our fans, they have every right to boo -- every right to boo," Nagy said. "We get it. ... They deserve better, and that's what we need to do."
What the Bears will need to do is run the ball more than 15 times in what was a one-possession game throughout. They were 6-2 last year when they topped 30 rushing attempts, with both of those losses coming in overtime. Moreover, Trubisky has yet to prove he can carry an offense as he enters just his third season. Nagy insisted after a forgettable first game that it doesn't define Chicago's season.
"We didn't lose the Super Bowl," Nagy said. "We just lost the first game of the regular season."
True. But the Bears now have a game under their belts and another dismal outing by the offense in Denver this week will lead to different and likely louder questions about the unit's capabilities this season
On the injury front. ... Nagy said on Monday that tight end Trey Burton (groin) is improving but that Burton's status for Sunday's game in Denver is still up in the air.
Burton was inactive for the loss to Green Bay and was characterized as day to day on Wednesday.
"Seeing [Burton] out there today he looked like he was moving around pretty good," Nagy said. "We just want to, we want to stay optimistic with where he's at and then just kind of feel it out as the days go by and see as the week goes by here."
I'll have more on Burton's status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Taylor Gabriel
TEs: Jesper Horsted, J.P. Holtz, Bradley Sowell, Eric Saubert
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
Andy Dalton had a career day. The defense played far better than at any time last season. An opener that could have turned ugly became a point of optimism.
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Kay reported, the Bengals couldn't pull off the upset in Seattle, but the way they played suggested that this could be a much different team under first-year coach Zac Taylor.
A 21-20 loss to the Seahawks left Cincinnati disappointed but not discouraged. In fact, the Bengals came away feeling pretty good, all things considered.
"The first full game as a team, really, with these systems in place, these players in the building -- there's some unknowns that come with that," Taylor said Monday. "We expected to win that game and feel we should have won that game, but I think our guys now know we're as good as we think we can be.
"We can't make the same mistakes we just did, but we're a football team that's poised to do some really good things if we continue to make the improvements we need to make."
One of the biggest questions in Seattle was how Dalton would look his first time running Taylor's full offense. The Bengals threw a lot of screen passes to negate the Seahawks' pass rush, and Dalton took advantage of a defense that sometimes conceded short throws -- a "rope-a-dope" approach, as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll put it.
Dalton had a career-high 35 completions in 51 attempts, three shy of his career high. He finished with a career-best 418 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and five sacks. He also fumbled twice.
In his first time in the new offense, Dalton was a very good fit.
"We were encouraged by everything we did," Dalton said.
But Cincinnati was able to throw for so many yards in part because Seattle stacked the line of scrimmage to stop Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, and it worked. They combined for only 13 carries and 31 yards. Mixon left with a sprained ankle.
Taylor characterized Mixon as day-to-day on Monday.
"Certainly could have been a lot worse," said Taylor. "He's just got an ankle sprain. He'll be day-to-day."
That hadn't changed on Wednesday. I'll be following up on his status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As ESPN.com's Ben Baby suggested, a homecoming for wide receiver John Ross could be the catalyst for a big season.
The third-year player out of Washington had his best NFL performance. He had a career-high in catches (seven) and receiving yards (158) and caught touchdown passes for 33 and 55 yards. Ross caught only 21 passes in 2018 and wanted to be more productive in 2019. While he had a couple of drops, the performance could give Ross the confidence boost he needs to have a breakout season. ...
Also according to Baby, the tight end splits were interesting. C.J. Uzomah was on the field for 54 snaps, while Tyler Eifert had 38. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, the Bengals used two tight ends on nearly a quarter of their total plays.
Baby added that after a lot of shuffling in the preseason, Cincinnati used the same five linemen for all 77 offensive snaps. Back-up center Billy Price had five snaps on special teams while reserve guard John Jerry was the only active player who didn't play besides back-up quarterback Ryan Finley. ...
Randy Bullock made a pair of field goals, but was wide left on a 45-yard attempt in the third quarter that could have made it 20-14. It was one of several missed opportunities that could have swung the game. Dalton fumbled on Cincinnati's opening possession of the second half, the wet ball slipping out of his hand as he got ready to throw a screen pass on a play from the Seattle 12-yard line.
Those two missed chances prevented Cincinnati from taking control. ...
And finally. ... Via Geoff Hobson of the team’s official website, the A.J. Green is out of his walking boot, after he suffered an ankle injury on the first day of training camp.
Green said he’s progressed to running on a gravity assisted treadmill, but didn’t want to put a timetable on a possible return to the field.
“Just making sure I don’t come back too soon and hurt it again,” Green said.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams
WRs: Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Alex Erickson, Stanley Morgan Jr., Damion Willis
TEs: Tyler Eifert, C.J. Uzomah, Cethan Carter, Drew Sample
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
Baker Mayfield was hurting following a shocking, stinging loss.
The Titans sacked him five times, chased him all over the field and knocked some of the defiance out of Cleveland's brassy quarterback in Sunday's opener.
"I'll be all right," Mayfield said.
It's too early to know if the Browns will recover.
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers reported it, with the NFL waiting to see if the hype heaped upon them was deserved, the Browns fizzled and failed. They committed a mind-numbing 18 penalties and showed little discipline during a 43-13 loss that has created doubt about a talented team that might not be as good everyone thinks.
Cleveland had more yards in penalties (182) than rushing (102). The suspect offensive line leaked; tackle Greg Robinson got ejected for kicking Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro in the head; the defensive line didn't live up to its billing; and star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s debut was most notable because he played while wearing a super-expensive watch.
All in all, a flop.
On Monday, first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens cautioned against an overreaction to the debacle.
"It is one game in a 16-game schedule," he said. "We are very disappointed in the lack of discipline that we showed, the loss of composure that we showed at times, and just overall not doing a good enough job from a coaching perspective and a player perspective to get the job done in a positive manner."
As the final seconds ticked off the clock Sunday, the few hardy Browns fans who hung around until the bitter end booed in a scene that's been repeated numerous times in recent years.
These Browns are supposed to be different.
They're not yet.
The Browns showed their firepower by taking the opening kickoff -- with Mayfield luckily dodging an interception on his first throw -- and driving for a touchdown in the first five minutes. They even overcame a 15-yard penalty and Mayfield used his full complement of weapons before backup Dontrell Hilliard scored on a 4-yard run.
This is what Kitchens has in mind for his offense: High tempo, chunk plays, electric.
The opening possession was as good as it got as the Browns converted just 1 of 10 third downs.
But Withers was quick to add the lack of discipline was alarming.
The 18 penalties were the most by the Browns since 1951, and it would have been 20 if the Titans hadn't declined two.
Kitchens harped on mental mistakes during the preseason, but the message didn't sink in. The Browns made silly ones, and a few far more worrying with Robinson getting tossed and defensive end Myles Garrett being flagged for swatting Titans tight end Delanie Walker across the head.
The Browns were guilty of five offensive holding penalties. The defense committed four infractions on Tennessee's first TD drive.
By contrast, the Titans had six penalties.
Robinson will be fined, not suspended, for the blow to Vaccaro's head. He said it was unintentional.
"I hurt the team, honestly, and I feel like if I could have it back, I would do things differently," Robinson said. "But it was basically just a reaction. I couldn't help myself."
There was concern about Cleveland's offensive line before the opener, and those worries have increased.
Robinson's ejection was followed by his replacement, Kendall Lamm, hurting his knee. That forced Kitchens to move Chris Hubbard from right tackle to left and play Justin McCray, who had only been with the team for a week.
But even at full speed, the group didn't open holes or keep Mayfield from harm. ...
The second-year QB went for X-rays outside Cleveland's locker room and then left FirstEnergy Stadium with his throwing hand wrapped. The team said X-rays were negative and the injury is not believed to be serious.
However, Kitchens hesitated when asked if the QB will miss practice time this week.
"I am pretty sure that he will be fine," Kitchens said. "I can't say anything definitive right now as far as missing practice time, but I am pretty certain he will be fine. ..."
Mayfield took part in a Tuesday practice without any wrap on his hand or wrist and, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, was throwing well in individual drills.
The Browns don't play the Jets until Monday night and therefore won't issue an injury report until Thursday. Tuesday's development makes it unlikely that Mayfield's status is going to be in any doubt regardless of when that report comes out, but I'll obviously be following up via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
I'll also be following up on Hilliard, who suffered a concussion and must work his way through the protocol before he's cleared to play Monday night. ...
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Browns waived TE Rico Gathers, who was coming off suspension. ...
And finally. ... As noted above, Beckham sported a $1900,000 Richard Mille watch on his wrist during Sunday's loss to the Titans and his decision to wear the timepiece on the field will earn him a conversation with the league.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Beckham violated a league rule prohibiting players from wearing "hard objects" that are not part of the standard uniform. He goes on to report that the league will address the issue with Beckham and the Browns, but that there is not expected to be any further discipline handed down.
Unless there has to be.
Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports that Beckham said on Tuesday that he plans to wear the watch again in Week 2. He also said that he feels it is only an issue because he is wearing the watch and that there would be no issue at all if the watch cost $20.
Beckham added that he wants it to be "about football, not the watch."
Beckham caught seven passes for 71 yards in the Week 1 loss.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Garrett Gilbert, Drew Stanton
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Damion Ratley, Taywan Taylor, Rashard Higgins, Derrick Willies
TEs: Demetrius Harris, Ricky Seals-Jones, David Njoku, Stephen Carlson, Pharaoh Brown
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer noted, by not agreeing to a contract extension before the season, quarterback Dak Prescott is betting on himself.
He put his cards on the table in the Cowboys' 35-17 season-opening victory Sunday against the New York Giants.
Prescott completed 25 of 32 passes for 405 yards, with four touchdown passes and no interceptions for his second consecutive game against the Cowboys' NFC East rival. He had four touchdown and 387 yards in the 2018 season finale at MetLife Stadium last December.
After the game, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he would characterize an extension with Prescott as being "imminent," which he then defined as expecting it could reasonably be completed in the next few days. Asked if Prescott's performance increased the price tag, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones laughed out loud and jokingly said, "No comment."
But he also said he believes progress has been made toward a deal.
"We have urgency, but it takes two," Stephen Jones said. "We're making some progress. I think we'll just see. ... We're just going to keep grinding and he's selfless. He's not worried about himself and of course it showed today. We're just going to continue to work toward getting this done."
Prescott, who is making a $2.02 million base salary on the final year of his rookie deal, said his mind is on this week's opponent, the Washington Redskins, and not on signing what should be the richest deal in team history.
"I have people that handle that and my focus is on this team, on the football game, and I think as long as I can keep continuing to do that this team will do things like we did tonight," Prescott said. "As I said, that's been out of my focus for the past week and I told you guys that."
But he stated his case pretty eloquently on the field in Week 1.
Prescott and Tony Romo, who did it twice, are the only quarterbacks in Cowboys history with 400 passing yards and four touchdown passes. Prescott is the fifth quarterback in NFL history to open a season with 400 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Ryan Fitzpatrick did it last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the New Orleans Saints.
Prescott finished with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 for the game, but really it was his work in the second quarter that was exemplary. In the first quarter, he threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Blake Jarwin, but he completed 12 of 14 passes for 158 yards in the second quarter, with touchdown throws to Jason Witten (4 yards) and Amari Cooper (21 yards) as the Cowboys jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead.
It was the second three-touchdown half of Prescott's career and the first since he faced the Green Bay Packers in 2017.
On Wednesday, Prescott was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Some credit, however, should go to new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
As Yahoo's Matt Harmon noted, the Cowboys relied on a boring, stale, and dated offensive approach the last few seasons. What we saw in Week 1 looked like anything but those negative descriptors.
Dallas threw 32 passes to 26 carries doled out to the running backs. Per Harmon, that's a philosophy shift.
Yet, it was how they attacked the Giants defense that was more noticeable. We saw the Cowboys mix in vertical shots, rhythm throws, heavy play-action usage and pre-snap motion to wrinkle up their offense. Such things were rarities, if not completely missing from their prior seasons' game plans.
It was also quite apparent just how much of a personnel upgrade came along with this shift into the modern NFL.
Michael Gallup caught all seven of his targets for 158 yards as the X-receiver alongside Cooper. He looks ready to be the difference-maker he appeared to be as a prospect. Even veterans Randall Cobb in the slot and Witten made plays with the benefit of schemed open windows.
"All of this makes one thing quite clear to anyone who kept an eye on this young coach's development over the offseason," Harmon wrote. "Moore may go down as one of the key figures in the story of the 2019 NFL season. ..."
Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott's workload in the opener didn't matter much after the Cowboys running back missed the entire preseason in a holdout.
As expected, Elliott didn't seem to be in peak form after spending almost all of training camp trying to stay in shape in Mexico while waiting for the $90 million, six-year contract extension that was settled on the morning of the first full workout of the regular season.
The two-time NFL rushing champion did find a seam for a 10-yard touchdown to put the Cowboys up 35-10 late in the third quarter. Elliott finished with 53 yards on 13 carries.
"We wanted to be mindful of how many reps we gave him in the game," said head coach Jason Garrett, noting he thought it was more than 30, including one catch for 10 yards. "I think now over time, he'll practice a little more, get a little more game experience, he'll get more and more comfortable."
Garrett said Elliott went through the normal Monday lifting and running without any problem but was not ready to say the running back would get more action against the Redskins this weekend. ...
According to NFL Next Gen Stats data (via ESPN), Cowboys individual offensive linemen's pass block win rate on play action plays yesterday vs. Giants: Tyron Smith 100 percent; Connor Williams 100 percent; Travis Frederick 100 percent; Zack Martin 88 percent; and La'el Collins 100 percent.
Yes, that would be really good. ...
And finally, on the injury front. ... Receiver Tavon Austin isn’t practicing Wednesday. He came out of Sunday’s game feeling fine but reported concussion-like symptoms earlier this week.
“He had concussion symptoms coming out of the game, so we’ll just take his situation day by day,” Garrett said Wednesday. “To be honest with you, he continued to feel some symptoms after the game. It wasn’t something that he needed to come out of the game for. So we just have to be mindful of that and take care of it.”
Austin caught one pass for 8 yards and fair caught two punts. He believes he was injured while blocking.
Austin’s situation could change Dallas’ plans for its open roster spot. The team intended to promote linebacker Chris Covington from the practice squad to take Jordan Chunn‘s spot on the 53-player roster. The Cowboys waived Chunn on Tuesday.
However, the Cowboys now might add a receiver to the active roster instead.
Beyond that Cobb is working through a rib issue and safety Jeff Heath has a couple of issues, including a thigh bruise.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Devin Smith, Ventell Bryant
TEs: Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper framed it, "The Broncos gave up a touchdown after a long Raiders drive to open Monday night's game and then lost five yards on their first offensive play in a series of events that pretty much described the way the first half played out in Oakland. ..."
Denver punted at the end of that possession and they punted again before the Raiders drove 95 yards for another score that allowed them to go into halftime up 14-0 in front of a raucous crowd. The Broncos would be more effective in the second half, but the result was never really in doubt as the Raiders all but iced the game when Josh Jacobs scored his second touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
After the loss, head coach Vic Fangio shared his message to his players.
"That I was extremely disappointed in the loss, but not discouraged," Fangio said, via KUSA. "I think once we see some of the mistakes we made, or plays we didn't make, that we can see that we can be better than we played tonight."
One area the Broncos need to improve in is their red zone efficiency. Their first three trips to the red zone resulted in field goals thanks to sacks and a dropped pass in the end zone by wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton. Cashing in one of those trips would have made a world of difference in what wound up as a 24-16 loss to open the season.
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold, the biggest hole in the game plan was the Broncos failure to get the running game going early.
This is the foundation of the offense, and while nobody is saying they should bust out the veer, the Broncos moved the ball far more effectively in the second half, when they committed to the run. They ran just seven times in the first half and never really looked in sync. They gained 73 yards on their first nine carries of the second half.
As CBSSports.com suggested, in what appeared to be a bizarro version of the 2018 Broncos backfield, it was Royce Freeman -- and not the electrifying Phillip Lindsay -- who turned out to be Denver's most efficient rusher on a per-carry basis.
Largely boosted by a 26-yard run that he peeled off midway through the third quarter, Freeman cruised to a 5.6 yards per carry clip while Lindsay was contained to fewer than 4.0 yards per rush.
Offensive line coach Mike Munchak was likely the most important acquisition this past offseason, given the Broncos' need to improve that group to get the most out of 34-year-old quarterback Joe Flacco.
According to NFL.com, Flacco was immobile and erratic with his throws, often coming up short as he tried to navigate a Broncos offense that was shut out in the first half and held out of the end zone until Flacco found Emmanuel Sanders in the fourth quarter to make the game feel closer than it really had for the majority of the night.
At the end of the night, Flacco's stat line looks fine -- 21-of-31 for 268 yards, the TD and no picks. But that didn't tell the story. There was little fire until it was too late.
Still, from a fantasy perspective, the veteran QB fueled the fantasy fortunes of the receiving weapons here.
Courtland Sutton caught 7-of-8 targets for 120 yards in Week 1 against the Raiders. As Rotoworld.com noted, Sutton looked like Flacco's go-to option, out-targeting Emmanuel Sanders (7) and DaeSean Hamilton (4). His big play skills were on full display with Flacco, who hit Sutton on multiple 20-plus yard gains.
Sanders caught 5-of-7 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 against the Raiders. Noah Fant caught 2-of-5 targets for 29 yards. ...
The Broncos wide receiving corps took a hit in Monday's loss. Tim Patrick left the stadium with his left hand in a cast and Mike Klis of KUSA confirmed on Tuesday that he broke it.
Patrick is set for surgery to address the injury and is expected to miss in the neighborhood of six to eight weeks while recovering.
Such a timeline likely makes Patrick a candidate for injured reserve with the possibility of returning later in the season. ...
The Broncos saw one of their biggest offseason acquisitions go down with a knee injury in Monday night's loss and Wednesday brought an update that's more positive than the worst-case scenario.
NFL Network's reports that James's knee injury is not expected to bring his season to an end. It remains unclear how much time that James is going to miss or if a stay on injured reserve might be in the cards.
Elijah Wilkinson replaced James in the lineup on Monday night.
James signed a four-year, $51 million contract with the Broncos as a free agent. He spent the first five years of his career with the Dolphins.
And finally. ... Per Legwold, Fangio's debut was as puzzling as it was disappointing. All the excitement and anticipation to see how fearsome a Fangio-coached defense with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb was for naught in a listless premiere. There were no sacks. There were no QB hits. Chubb looked out of place dropping back in coverage. The Broncos tallied no takeaways.
The question was whether Flacco could provide a solution for a long lackluster offense. Instead, both sides of the ball are now cause for concern in Denver.
QBs: Drew Lock, Brandon Allen
RBs: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Theo Riddick
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Daesean Hamilton, Fred Brown, Juwann Winfree, Diontae Spencer
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein wrote, "When does a tie feel like a loss? When you're the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon, watching a double-digit lead over the Arizona Cardinals crater away and having to settle with knowing you didn't win a game you should have. ..."
The Lions, for three quarters, were in clear control. They looked to be cruising to a season-opening win where the defense had been dominant and the offense done enough. Then, in the span of less than 15 minutes, they fell completely apart. A combination of conservative play-calling on offense and softer coverage on defense turned an 18-point lead into a tie game.
A sure Lions win became a knuckle-crunching overtime game where even a 27-27 tie with the Cardinals feels like a loss.
It was a collapse, a completely brutal one. This was on track to be a win that set a good tone for a much-needed strong second season for Matt Patricia. Instead, it brought back memories of last year and so many regimes past.
Then consider this: The Lions' next four opponents -- the Chargers, Eagles, Chiefs and Packers -- all won this weekend. Three of the four put up at least 30 points and are some of the most dynamic offenses in football. Arizona might be that one day, but they aren't yet.
Looking at what the Lions have coming up, they definitely have to be concerned that not only did they let one win slip away, but they could be in for a long month.
That said, there were positives.
Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson looks like he's ready to make an immediate impact in his rookie season. The No. 8 overall pick in April was a problem for the Arizona secondary, creating mismatches all over the field.
Hockenson set a record Sunday with his six-catch, 131-yard performance, gaining more yards than any tight end in his debut since the NFL-AFL merger. He also added a touchdown and became the second player in Lions' history to have a 100-yard game in his debut, joining wide receiver Earl McCullouch, who had 132 yards in 1968.
He has been a favorite target of Matthew Stafford all camp long and showed why in his debut, making plays in the red zone and as a vertical threat.
Few teams will have a player who can be a good matchup against his 6-5, 247-pound frame.
There were also obvious areas he can grow and things that will come in time. A couple of plays, including a deep pass in the fourth quarter where it appeared Hockenson was sitting on the route and Stafford threw it deep, were miscommunications that will get worked on overtime as the tight end and quarterback develop a rapport.
"We're just trying to throw it up and see if we can make a play," Hockenson told Rothstein. "He's scrambling back there and it's something we need to get on the same page, and that's what we need to do."
Despite his big day, Hockenson was more down and critical than anything else. He said he was happy to have played, unhappy with the result.
Beyond Hockenson, Stafford was a bright spot.
He made smart decisions, found open receivers and was still able to avoid pressure like the Stafford of a few years ago, using broken plays to turn big gains, including touchdowns to Danny Amendola and Hockenson. He completed 27 of 45 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns. He did this while being sacked twice and hit four other times. That doesn't include the times he was pressured, either, leading to his improvisational techniques.
On a night where the run game struggled, Stafford made sure the Lions scored enough to win and not waste a dominant defensive performance.
As for the rushing attack. ... CBSSports.com notes that many were holding out hope for Kerryon Johnson to handle a true feature role in a post-Theo Riddick offense, but the threat of a running-back-by-committee was all but realized Sunday as Johnson split the backfield fairly evenly with C.J. Anderson and the second-year man finished with 16 carries for 49 yards with two receptions (on two targets) for an additional 13 yards.
Going into the final offensive drive of the fourth quarter, Johnson had only 13 rushing attempts compared to 11 for Anderson, while Ty Johnson had another and J.D. McKissic matched Johnson in targets.
Adding further disappointment is that Detroit had a positive game script the majority of the game, and this was coming against last year's worst run defense.
On the flip side, early indications suggest this up-and-coming offense will be moving the ball more efficiently than last year, making it seem as if Johnson should have no problem eventually topping the three rushing touchdowns he generated as a rookie.
QBs: David Blough, Kyle Sloter
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, Paul Perkins
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham
TEs: Jesse James, Logan Thomas
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As NFL.com's Adam Maya wrote: "It's a new era in Green Bay."
Maya went on point to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was in a celebratory mood Thursday despite his own play. On a night in which he was corralled by the Bears' defense, he couldn't contain his feelings for his coaches as the Packers sealed its 10-3 season-opening victory.
It started with A-Rod seeking out defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and shoving him in congratulatory fashion. Rodgers then held onto the football following his final knee so that he could gift it to rookie coach Matt LaFleur. The pigskin came with a promise.
"It's a big deal winning your first NFL game as a head coach, and I'm happy for him," Rodgers said, per ESPN. "Obviously, it's a lot of fun working with him. And I told him, 'I'm going to be a lot better moving forward.'"
After a first quarter in which the Packers had minus-12 total yards, Rodgers said his thinking was, "It can't get any worse."
Technically, it didn't, as the perennial Pro Bowler promptly led the Packers on their lone touchdown drive early in the second quarter. Rodgers completed all four of his passes for 74 yards and a touchdown to tight end Jimmy Graham.
The rest of Rodgers' night: 14 of 26 for 129 yards. His modest line included just four completions to go-to target Davante Adams for 36 yards.
"We just had too many penalties tonight and just took off on a couple of plays. We've got to find ways to get the ball to Davante. I thought they had a good plan for him tonight. A lot of (coverage) on him and guys shading his direction. ...
"That's a really good defense, and they're going to give a lot of people fits. But I think from my standpoint, I can do a better job getting us out of the huddle, and obviously, I missed a couple throws."
LaFleur said afterward he knew the performance would elicit scrutiny for having Rodgers and Green Bay's offensive starters miss the preseason. Opening night at Soldier Field against arguably the league's best defense is a tough setting to debut a new offense. Accordingly, the Bears held the Packers to 213 total yards, 47 rushing yards, 3.7 yards per play, 13 first downs and 2 of 12 on third downs, all while sacking Rodgers five times.
It will give LaFleur a lot to look at in the days ahead. But the offensive malaise didn't overshadow the thrill of winning.
"Hindsight's 20-20, and I knew if we didn't come out and perform well, there were going to be questions asked," LaFleur said. "We'll evaluate everything going forward. ...
"There's going to be a lot to learn tomorrow, and, you know, it starts with myself. Just can't tell you how proud I am of the effort we gave, though, and to come out of here with a victory."
While there wasn't much offense in general in this game, fantasy owners with Aaron Jones and Geronimo Allison on their rosters might be a little nervous.
Jones rushed 13 times for 39 yards and brought in his only target for no gain against the Bears.
As CBSSports.com suggested, like all of the running backs on either squad, Jones put together an inefficient performance on the ground overall. However, the third-year pro did find a couple of lanes in the second half, gaining 15 of his yards on the night on back-to-back carries to open a third-quarter series.
Otherwise, Jones' quiet effort was a microcosm of the generally poor offensive environment during the contest, and he'll look to boost his production in a Week 2 battle against Vikings a week from Sunday.
Allison was on the field for 30 snaps but wasn't targeted at all. Lower-end components of the passing attack -- Marcedes Lewis, Trevor Davis and Robert Tonyan, among others -- were all busier.
On a more positive note, Davante Adams (8), Marques Valdez-Scanting (6) and Jimmy Graham (6) all had ample opportunities.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Tyler Ervin, Dexter Williams
WRs: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Sara Barshop reported, despite trading for left tackle Laremy Tunsil right before the start of the season, the Texans' offensive line struggled in Houston's 30-28 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Monday night.
In 2018, quarterback Deshaun Watson was sacked an NFL-high 62 times, for an average of 3.9 times per game. In the season opener against the Saints, Watson was sacked six times, an NFL high through Week 1.
"We're going to watch the film tomorrow and fix our mistakes," Tunsil said. "How many sacks did we give up today? Six? We've got to improve that number. We've got to drop that number down a little bit."
On Monday night, Watson was pressured (sacked or put under duress) on 45 percent of his dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Last season, Watson was pressured on a league-high 41 percent of his dropbacks.
"Of course that's concerning," right tackle Seantrel Henderson said. "We never want our quarterback to be touched at all. We just come back and fix what we've got to fix and keep people up off him."
Henderson called the Mercedes-Benz Superdome "the loudest place I've ever played," saying that sometimes the crowd noise "can throw the communication off, especially if we can't really hear each other."
Watson completed 3 of 9 passes when pressured in the game, according to ESPN Stats and Info, but that also includes his final pass of the game, a 37-yard, go-ahead touchdown to Kenny Stills.
"They blitzed us, they got us on a couple of blitzes," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "I thought we did block them at times. We've got to block them more consistently and the ball has to come out a little bit quicker sometimes. Same old deal. We've just got to get a little bit better and work hard this week to shore this up."
Watson and the offense struggled for most of the fourth quarter, but showed why the Texans will likely always be in the game if he is playing. With 50 seconds left in the game, Watson led the Texans on what seemed to be the game-winning drive, capped by the above-mentioned TD strike to Stills.
Watson finished 20-for-30 for 268 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. He also had four carries for 40 yards and a touchdown. DeAndre Hopkins caught 8-of-13 targets for 111 yards and two of Watson's touchdowns. He also had some uncharacteristic drop.
While he needed medical attention during the game for what was described as a back issue, and is like sore), the team says he's not injured, per se.
"We ran that play on fourth down and he kind of got flipped in the air," O'Brien said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. "He just landed. It's nothing that's going to keep him out, just treatment, just normal bumps and bruises like every player in the game has. ..."
Carlos Hyde, picked up in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs at the end of August, had 83 yards on 10 carries.
Hyde got the start after joining the Texans a week ago.
"It was definitely a good start for me," Hyde said. "I got to get back to practice, build off this, continue to build this relationship with the line, the tight ends and the receivers and even the quarterback. I need to get on the same page with everybody. I can do more than just run the ball. I can catch routes and block as well. I just keep working."
Duke Johnson was utilized more as a receiver out of the backfield with 33 receiving yards on four receptions on five targets with 57 rushing yards on nine carries.
"It started off well," said Johnson, who was acquired in a trade from the Cleveland Browns. "It didn't end well. We started fast. It didn't really end the way we wanted."
Johnson and Hyde played together last season in Cleveland.
"I know what to expect from him," Johnson said of Hyde.
Playing for the first time in the regular season after losing Pro Bowl alternate running back Lamar Miller to a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament, the Texans' new-look backfield was successful.
The Texans rushed for 180 yards on 23 carries.
"We ran it pretty good," O'Brien said. "They ended up stopping a couple of things we were doing. We adjusted and were able to run some other things. We just got to refine it and keep working at it. ..."
It's safe to assume the timeshare will continue going forward.
Receiver Keke Coutee was ruled out for a Monday night game against the New Orleans Saints. He was questionable on the injury report along with rookie offensive guard Tytus Howard, who was also ruled out with a broken finger.
Coutee has been dealing with a sprained ankle suffered in the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers. He was limited all week in practice and the Texans rested him to prevent the ankle from becoming a long-term problem after the former Texas Tech standout played in just six games as a rookie last year due to chronic hamstring problems.
I'll have more on the status of Coutee and Watson in advance of this week's game against the Jaguars via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but both were on the field Wednesday. ...
Meanwhile, Stills, despite being on the roster for only a week, made an immediate impact as he put his 4.36 speed in the 40-yard dash to use.
"He's a smart guy," O'Brien said. "He came in and I think there was a lot of carry-over from what he had been doing in Miami, similar terminology especially with formations and personnel groupings and things, so he was able to pick right up and made some good plays. Obviously the touchdown was a huge play for us at the time. He's a smart guy, he did a good job."
Stills caught three passes for 37 yards in his first game with his new team.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the Texans plan to expand his role going forward as he learns more of the playbook.
"Stills just got here, so we just used him in certain packages, didn't try to overload him -- although he can handle it," O'Brien said. "I mean, he's a really smart guy. But no, there'll be more to come relative to all of those guys. ..."
A few final notes here. ... According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Texans have signed center Nick Martin to a three-year, $33 million contract extension. The deal includes $18.35 million in guarantees.
The 2016 second-rounder missed his rookie year with an ankle injury, but has started since then, and the deal puts him among the top earners at his position.
The hope is they have a group which can keep Watson upright for years to come. After trading for Tunsil and drafting Tytus Howard and Max Scharping this year (even though they're not starting yet), they hope they're closer.
But as outlined above, they're obviously not there yet.
In addition, the Texans are parting ways with Aaron Colvin after just one season
In the wake of Monday night's loss to the Saints, the team is releasing the veteran cornerback.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter, Keke Coutee
TEs: Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
A horrific kicking performance by Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri took away what should have been a Week 1 victory for Jacoby Brissett as the replacement for Andrew Luck at quarterback.
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells reported, Vinatieri, the NFL's all-time leading scorer, missed three kicks -- an extra point and two field goals -- in the Colts' 30-24 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
"I was lousy," said Vinatieri, who stood at his locker and waited for the media after the game. "Obviously, I did not kick well today and let my team down. They played well. Proud of the guys who fought their butts off and came back. ... I feel like that loss is 100 percent on me. You play a team like the Chargers, who obviously are a good team, can't come in here and miss three kicks and expect to win. That's too many points to give away."
Vinatieri re-signed with the Colts during the offseason because the 46-year-old believes they have a team capable of making a run this season and he feels he can still kick at a high level.
But questions are sure to come up after Sunday's performance, because going back to last season's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs, Vinatieri has now missed five kicks -- two extra points and three field goals -- in the past two games he's played in. Sunday marked the first time since 1999 that Vinatieri missed three kicks in a game, and it's the third time it's happened in his 24-year career.
"If you're a [general manager], you'd cut me, wouldn't ya?" Vinatieri asked an ESPN reporter. "I don't make those decisions. Those are decision for somebody else to make. I'm going to go out there and figure out what I did wrong and try to fix that, and let those decision be made by other people."
Vinatieri said he's fine health wise despite missing time during training camp with a knee injury. He said he won't be doing a lot of relaxing this week as he tries to regain the touch that allowed him to be the NFL's leading scorer.
Despite his kicker leaving seven points off the board which would have won the game for the Colts, head coach Frank Reich is still supporting Vinatieri.
"He's the one guy I'm not worried about," Reich said. "We have the greatest kicker of all time. He didn't have a good day. There were a lot of guys that didn't."
One player who did have a good game was Brissett, who made his first start as Luck's replacement following Luck's retirement two weeks ago. Brissett was 21-of-27 for 190 yards and two touchdowns, including the one that capped off a 16-play, 80-yard drive that forced the game into overtime following a two-point conversion.
"I can't remember too many mistakes that he made," Reich said. "He was in complete control. He was poised, he knew what he wanted when there were discussions on the sideline about this or that. He knew what he wanted and he made it work. That was a good start for Jacoby."
About the only thing that didn't go well for Brissett, who signed a two-year, $30 million contract with the Colts last week, is that he didn't get chance to cap his performance by leading Indianapolis to the winning score. The Chargers scored a touchdown on the first series in overtime for the victory.
"It's tough," Brissett said. ...
Worth noting. ... Brissett was the least of the Colts' problems in an afternoon full of mishaps. Brissett, making his first start since Luck suddenly announced his retirement Aug. 24, was 21-of-27 for 190 yards and two touchdowns. The Colts got to within 24-22 in the last minute when Brissett connected with T.Y. Hilton for a second touchdown, as the receiver made two defenders miss and danced along the sideline to the end zone.
Marlon Mack scored the tying 2-point conversion. Brissett completed passes to eight different players.
Reich believes his team can be a top-five rushing team. They could be on their way this season if Mack's performance Sunday is any indication. Mack rushed for a career-high 174 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown, on 25 carries. The 174 yards are the most rushing yards by a Colts running back in the past 10 years. Mack has the talent to be a 1,000-yard rusher. The biggest question mark with him is durability.
Mack rushed for 908 yards while missing four games in 2018.
He leads the league in rushing through the first week of the 2019 season. He has a 46-yard lead over Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.
"The guys created such great holes for me, so all I had to do was just take care of the rest and get my job done," Mack said after the game, via Colts.com.
A year ago, Eric Ebron led all tight ends with 13 TD catches. He only had three balls thrown his way Sunday, catching one for 8 yards. A potential TD catch became an incompletion when he didn't catch it cleanly. Jack Doyle caught 1-of-2 targets for 20 yards. ...
On the injury front. ... Devin Funchess' first season with the Colts has been at least temporarily interrupted.
The veteran wide receiver will be placed on the injured reserve list after undergoing surgery to repair a broken left clavicle suffered against the Chargers, Reich confirmed Monday afternoon.
That means Funchess must miss at least eight weeks before possibly returning.
"It's definitely not season-ending," Reich said. "It's a tough break for Devin. We love Devin. Just felt like there was a growing chemistry between he and [Brissett]. He's a big, strong guy.
"He'll bounce back from this thing. In the meantime, it's an opportunity for our younger players and the other guys on the roster."
The Colts kept six receivers active against the Chargers: Hilton, Deon Cain, Parris Campbell, Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal and Funchess. Funchess finished with three catches and 32 yards on five targets before suffering his injury in the final minute of regulation.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines, Jonathan Williams
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Dontrelle Inman, Ashton Dulin, Chad Williams
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
Nick Foles' debut for the Jacksonville Jaguars lasted less than a quarter.
Foles suffered a broken left clavicle when Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones drove him into the ground after Foles released the ball on a 35-yard touchdown pass to DJ Chark. He left the sideline for X-rays and was ruled out of the game shortly after.
Foles' first season with the Jaguars might not be over. But he'll be gone 'til November at the earliest.
Jacksonville is placing their prized offseason addition on injured reserve with a likely designation to return.
Foles underwent surgery Monday to repair the injury. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a similar injury on Oct. 15, 2017, and missed eight games.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have acquired quarterback Josh Dobbs in a trade with Pittsburgh, giving them a backup while Nick Foles recovers from a broken collarbone.
The Jaguars gave up their fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft for Dobbs, who was in his third season with the Steelers. He was a fourth-round selection in 2017.
Dobbs, who has played in five career games, will back up rookie Gardner Minshew.
Minshew replaced Foles in the first quarter and completed 88 percent of his passes, becoming the most accurate single-game passer in Jaguars history (minimum 25 attempts). His completion percentage also was the highest for any player with at least 15 pass attempts making his NFL debut.
Foles completed 5 of 8 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown in his Jags debut.
"Obviously it's unfortunate," head coach Doug Marrone said.
But as Jaguars.com's John Oehser put it, "For now, the 'Stache shall lead them."
And Jaguars players are fine with that.
Minshew, the mustachioed rookie, has the full support of teammates.
"We're behind him," veteran wide receiver Chris Conley said of Minshew Monday. "We're prepared to get a game plan around the things he's good at, make him comfortable and go win a game for him."
Minshew, a sixth-round selection from Washington State, completed 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. Teammates on Monday spoke of being impressed with his poise and performance under adverse circumstances.
Minshew completed his first 13 passes Sunday and was moving the Jaguars toward a possible score to cut the Chiefs lead to a touchdown or less when running back Leonard Fournette lost a fumble inside the Chiefs 25 early in the third quarter.
Minshew's completion percentage (88.0) was the highest in NFL history for any player making his debut with at least 15 pass attempts. It is also a franchise single-game record among players with at least 25 pass attempts.
"I was impressed," defensive end Calais Campbell said of Minshew. "He came out and played a very good ballgame. I'm sure there are plays he could have made, and there were ups and down, but his stat line was impressive. There's a good energy he brought. He came in there and you just saw the energy.
"He played with a lot of poise and toughness. He made good decision, quick decisions. He kept the chains moving, and that's all you ask for. He showed he can produce and hopefully, he can do it again.
"If he plays like he did yesterday, we'll be OK for these next couple of weeks. ..."
Marrone's thoughts on Minshew indicated optimism -- albeit with plenty of wiggle room.
"Now it's, 'Can he keep playing at a high level?'" Marrone said. "You remember what I've said before: He's one of the few guys I've been around who can go from the classroom and really take it right onto the field. The other day was an unbelievable indication of that. I don't know how many people -- especially rookies -- can go out not having done anything during the week and play like that. That's a credit to him. The players know that.
"The players obviously believed in him from practice, but when you go out there and perform like that people have a lot of faith in him -- the players, and that's the most important thing."
We'll see. ... As ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco notes, Minshew doesn't have the prototypical NFL size (he's listed at 6-foot-1) and arm strength, which is partly why he slipped into the sixth round. The Jaguars fell in love with him during his NFL combine interview because of his high football IQ -- specifically his ability to learn multiple offenses, as he did during his college career.
Indeed, the view from 1010XL Radio in Jacksonville's Mike Dempsey, who is also cohost of the FootballDiehards on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and who covers the Jaguars on a daily basis, also advises us that Minshew has the intellectual ability to handle the role. But arm talent is another thing with Dempsey wondering if the rookie is capable of making all the throw.
That said, he'll get ample opportunity starting this Sunday against the Texans. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Fournette ran for 66 yards and averaged 5.1 yards a carry, and offensive tackles Jawaan Taylor and Will Richardson -- both first-time starters -- fared well against pass rushers Frank Clark and Alex Okafor. ...
Chark caught four passes for a career-high 146 yards and a touchdown, showing the kind of big-play ability the Jaguars expected when they selected the LSU receiver in the second round of the 2018 draft.
"I feel like it's just the beginning," Chark said.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Nick Foles, Josh Dobbs, Phillip Walker
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo
WRs: D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole
TEs: Ben Koyack, Nick O'Leary, Seth DeValve
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta, Patrick Mahomes was walking around in relatively good shape on Monday, one day after he sprained his ankle while leading Kansas City to a 40-26 romp over the Jaguars.
That wasn't the case for Tyreek Hill.
Their star wide receiver spent Sunday night in Jacksonville with a dislocated clavicle while the rest of the team headed home. The injury was repaired without any surgery, and head coach Andy Reid said that Hill would fly back to Kansas City to begin rehabilitation later Monday.
"He's doing good," Reid said. "There are not too many days I've seen him down in the dumps. It was that way when I talked to him today, he had good spirit to him and he just wants to get back here. He doesn't want to be in the hospital. He wants to get back and settled in back here."
The injury is expected to cost him four to six weeks, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
As Profootballtalk.com suggested, that’s better than it could have been, as there was some talk that Hill could have gone on injured reserve, which would have forced him to miss at least eight weeks.
Over the next four weeks the Chiefs play the Raiders, Ravens, Lions and Colts. In the two weeks after that they have the Texans and Broncos. A six-week time frame would have him back on the field October 27 against the Packers.
It obviously helps their cause that Mahomes escaped serious injury.
His ankle was rolled up by the backpedaling line and he limped to the sideline, and backup Matt Moore grabbed his helmet and was poised to enter the game. But a break in the play gave Mahomes time to get his ankle taped up, and he wound up finishing the game.
It's unclear how much Mahomes will practice this week, but Reid told reporters that Mahomes would be on the field Wednesday.
The coach suggested it might be hard to hold the QB out.
"These guys are very competitive guys. And they're going to want to get back out there. You know that," Reid said. "You trust your medical staff -- those guys gave me good information. Patrick is very, very competitive and wants to be out there, but at the same time you want to be sure you're not putting him in a bad situation."
I'll be following up on the status of both Mahomes and Hill in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Meanwhile, Sammy Watkins earned as many touchdowns Sunday versus the Jacksonville Jaguars as he did all of 2018.
Watkins proved his worth with a nine-catch, 198-yard, 3-TD day in the 40-26 season-opening victory over the Jaguars.
With Hill out for an unknown time period, Reid will need Watkins and Hardman to step into the playmaking void. Watkins, for his part, told Albert Breer of SI.com that he doesn't think his role will change much.
"I think we got the same roles," he said. "The same particular roles. Same for me. I think we got the other guys to step up. We got Mecole Hardman in the second round. We got Demarcus Robinson. We got so many guys that can step up and play that position. I'm not really worried. Do we need 10? Do we need Tyreek? Yes, we do. I don't think I would've scored a couple touchdowns without him affecting the defense.
"I think he has an intricate part. We're gonna have to find a way to win in the next six, seven weeks with him being out. I think we have the coaches to do that."
If Watkins can continue to run stellar routes and be a menace after the catch like he was Sunday, the Chiefs will be fine until Hill returns.
"From the first (catch) on, you saw him break tackles and split seams," Reid said of Watkins' big day. "There were no indecisions after catches. He's big, he's fast and he is strong. We're moving him all over the place and he is smart, so that helps. I think that combination is what contributed to that. We asked him to play that zebra position and he didn't blink at that. He said put me in and let me go and I will do my thing. He plays inside and outside."
Watkins' first half was one to remember. The former first-round pick joins former Buffalo Bills WR Lee Evans as the only receivers to record 150-plus receiving yards in the first quarter in the last 25 seasons. Watkins became the only player in NFL history to accumulate at least 175 yards and two touchdowns receiving in the first half of his team's season-opening game, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
Watkins earned a career-high in yards and TDs Sunday, and the second-most receptions of his six seasons.
The issue with Watkins since he was drafted No. 4 overall by Buffalo in 2014 has been injuries. He hasn't played a full 16-game slate since his rookie campaign. Last year, his first with Reid, was characterized by more nagging injuries and disappointment after earning just 40 receptions for 519 yards and 3 TDs. In just one game, Watkins already almost matched those numbers.
"I would also like to say Sammy also did a heck of a job out there today," Reid said unprompted during his postgame presser. "I thought he had a nice game. The kid had worked so hard to get over the whole injury thing he had and has never wavered. He has put it on the back burner and worked his tail off to have a nice game."
If Watkins can finally stay healthy, he could have many nice games down the road, especially with Hill on the shelf. ...
Of course, just about everything on offense was humming, despite Hill's departure and Mahomes being hobbled a bit. He was 25 of 33 for 378 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, and nine different players caught a pass. The Chiefs also ran for 113 yards and a touchdown.
LeSean McCoy carried 10 times for 81 yards despite barely knowing the offense.
On the whole, players were pleased with their effort in Jacksonville and they're optimistic about the weeks ahead -- even without Hill.
"We have a mindset throughout the season of taking care of certain goals and this was one of them," tight end Travis Kelce said. "Just come out blazing, on fire, like we were last year, and sure enough as a team we came together and put up 40 points on offense.
"I think we're on the right track and we're going to keep working to get where we want to be. ..."
In addition to Watkins, the Chiefs are likely to lean more heavily on second-round pick Mecole Hardman when they head to Oakland on Sunday. After that come the Ravens and a trip to Detroit, so ironing out all the miscues from a steamy season-opening trip to Jacksonville is imperative.
There will be some changes down the depth chart at wideout as Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports reported the Chiefs waived Byron Pringle.
Pringle played three snaps of offense in Jacksonville.
The Chiefs will get De'Anthony Thomas back from his one-week suspension this week and he could provide some experienced depth. ...
One last note here. ... McCoy finished the game 11 touches for 93 yards; Damien Williams got 19 touches for 65 yards and a touchdown; Darwin Thompson finished with 1 catch for three yards.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Moore, Chad Henne
RBs: Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle
TEs: Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Deon Yelder
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy, it might be time for Melvin Gordon to seriously reconsider his absence from the Los Angeles Chargers.
Gordon has held out since the beginning of training camp in hopes of getting a contract extension. Reports on Sunday suggested the holdout could last through Week 8. The fifth-year running back -- along with those who watched Sunday's 30-24 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts -- saw an offense just as effective and balanced as it was last season.
Indeed, head coach Anthony Lynn said he would lean on a running-back-by-committee approach with Gordon not available, and it proved effective in the opening week.
The Chargers averaged 6.0 yards per carry in the running game. Austin Ekeler scored three touchdowns and had a career-best 154 yards from scrimmage, while Justin Jackson rushed for 57 yards. With the success of the run game and the balance of the offense, it looked the same as last year except for Gordon not being there.
"When we are balanced, there is no question that is when we play our best," said Philip Rivers, who passed for 333 yards and three touchdowns. "We can dink-and-dunk it, we can line up in two tights and pound it, we can use the hard run-action and get big chunks like we did to Hunter (Henry) and Keenan (Allen)."
According to ESPN.com's Eric. D. Williams, Ekeler said in the lead-up to the game he just wanted to play his role.
With Gordon absent, Ekeler accomplished that goal in a Bolts' 30-24 overtime win over the Colts on Sunday.
Ekeler finished with a career-high 96 receiving yards on six catches and gained 108 yards after the catch, a number Gordon has eclipsed only once in his career (118), according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
Ekeler is the first Charger to total at least 150 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in a season opener. He also gained 108 yards after the catch Sunday. His 10.4 yards per reception in 2018 led all running backs.
"He has this thing that nobody can see unless you're out there with him, but there's just nothing too big for him," Rivers said. "You can see it in his face and in his eyes and in his communication. It's just like we're out there in the backyard. I saw that when he was a young player, and that's continued to be the case."
As Williams noted, Ekeler's versatility and Jackson's slithery running style were a couple of reasons Lynn, Rivers and the rest of the Bolts weren't too concerned about Gordon's absence. The Chargers have been successful with the Ekeler-Jackson combo, as they are 5-0 the past two seasons when Gordon hasn't played.
Yes, Gordon makes the Chargers better on offense, and they would like to have him back on game days. But since Rivers took over as the team's starting quarterback in 2006, the Chargers have finished outside of the top half of the league in scoring only twice in 13 seasons.
Indeed, even though he did not play at all during the preseason, Rivers was sharp. Making his 209th consecutive start, Rivers completed 25 of 34 passes for 333 yards, with three touchdown passes and one interception. He was sacked four times, posting a 121.3 passer rating.
Rivers said most of the success on the ground came off a base running play, which allowed the line to open large holes up the middle.
The much-maligned line also a good job of giving Rivers time in the pocket for most of the game. Scott was solid for the most part in his first start.
An even more encouraging note is that the line was not called for a holding penalty, which was not the case during the preseason. Right tackle Sam Tevi was called for an illegal motion and Scott got flagged for an illegal formation.
In terms of workloads for the receiving corps. ... Keenan Allen was targeted 10 times and was on the field for 53 of the team's 64 snaps. He converted those 10 targets into eight catches, 123 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Hunter Henry caught 4-of-5 targets for 60 yards on 58 snaps. Mike Williams was targeted three times, catching two of them before leaving early with a knee injury.
On Wednesday, the Chargers announced that Henry suffered a tibia plateau fracture to that left knee. Per the team, Henry will continue to be evaluated, and the time frame for his return has not yet been determined, although ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that a 4-6 week absence is likely.
Whatever the case, fantasy owners need to make the necessary adjustments to their rosters to shore up their rosters. ...
Ty Long became the eighth kicker to play for the Chargers since the start of the 2017 and the second punter, joining former Charger Drew Kaser. The former CFL standout, who normally just punts, took over place-kicking duties with Mike Badgley nursing a groin injury. Long proved effective in Badgley's absence, finishing 3-of-3 on extra points and also making a 40-yard field goal. Long became the first Chargers' specialist since 2011 to have a punt, field goal and extra point in the same game.
Long was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday.
Badgley, who injured his groin during last Friday's practice, is questionable for Sunday's game at Detroit.
I'll have more on his status and that of Williams via late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Andre Patton, Jason Moore
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Lance Kendricks
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
For the better part of three quarters, Todd Gurley was barely visible.
Then the two-time All-Pro running back showed up in a big way to carry the load when the Rams need him most. He ran for 64 of his 97 yards in the fourth quarter to help Los Angeles grind out a 30-27 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Gurley's carries were truncated late in the Rams' NFC championship season due to knee soreness, causing some question about his durability heading into 2019. And after Gurley gained just 8 yards on five carries in the first half, there was even more head scratching.
But Gurley seemed to catch his stride with a 25-yard burst in the third quarter. And with the Rams protecting a 3-point lead with 10 minutes remaining, Gurley carried four straight times, picking up 41 yards to set up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Tyler Higbee -- the difference on the scoreboard.
Gurley added a first down in the final two minutes, allowing the Rams to run out the clock.
"It was four-minute situation," Gurley said of his mindset. "Get a first down, get out of here and go back to L.A. with the win."
Prior to that, Malcolm Brown carried the vast majority of the load for the Rams (1-0) and finished with 53 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns. Brown had just one touchdown rushing in his previous four seasons combined with the Rams.
Head coach Sean McVay said it was great to see Gurley "close it out."
He said the running back situation -- and Brown getting the goal-line carries -- was a matter of rotating his running backs.
"He had some great runs, running through some arm tackles," McVay said of Gurley. "You could see the explosion once he gets to the second and third level. He made some great runs."
In all, the Rams ran for 166 yards on 32 carries.
The Rams are focusing on the fourth quarter as a reason for optimism surrounding Gurley.
"There's a lot of outside noise around him obviously, but we felt confident with him inside the team and he showed it today he looked like he always does today," Goff said of Gurley. "I tried to tell everyone he looks exactly the same, and no one wanted to believe me."
It's a similar refrain to the one we've heard all offseason. Yet the Rams' actions have spoken louder. The re-signed Brown and drafted Darrell Henderson in the third round (just one carry for no gain Sunday). It's clear they want to take some of the load off Gurley. Sunday, it was Brown taking the goal-line carries.
"You seen the game. You seen how he did," Gurley said when asked about Brown. "He did damn good. Obviously, he's a great running back. He's been here the same amount of time as me. He went in there and did his thing like he always does."
Worth noting: Gurley was on the field for 54 of the team's 76 offensive snaps.
Gurley's up-and-down day underscored the reality that perhaps he might not be a 25-carry-a-game back anymore. But the Rams can win with less Gurley if the other weapons play their part.
Even if it's not exactly what fantasy owners want. ...
Also of interest. ... Fresh off signing a four-year extension worth $134 million, with $110 million guaranteed, Goff overcame a slow start -- and a fourth-quarter blunder -- to seal the win. He passed for 186 yards and a touchdown with an interception. In the first half, Goff overthrew a wide-open Robert Woods in Panthers territory on third down. In the fourth quarter, he was intercepted by cornerback James Bradberry.
Goff settled in behind an offensive line that features two new starters in left guard Joe Noteboom and center Brian Allen -- but it was far from a memorable performance.
Cooper Kupp had seven catches for 46 yards in his return from a torn ACL last November.
As far as how the passes were distributed, Woods was targeted 13 times (catching eight for 70 yards); Kupp 10; Brandin Cooks six time (two catches, 39 yards) and Higbee five.
And finally. ... McVay told reporters Monday evening that safety Eric Weddle remains in concussion protocol after the veteran took a knee to the head on Sunday. He did not provide a timeline for Weddle's return.
QBs: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster, JoJo Natson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
Miami Dolphins fans have prepared themselves all offseason for a rebuilding 2019 campaign, but Sunday's 59-10 loss to the Ravens looked worse than many might have imagined. They should buckle up because the embarrassing pain of the 2019 Dolphins is just beginning.
The Dolphins allowed the most points (59) and yards (643) in a regular-season game in franchise history. The Ravens, a reigning division champ, set franchise records in points and yards. Lamar Jackson had a career-best day.
No matter how much this season is about getting a high pick in the 2020 NFL draft and selecting their future franchise quarterback, there were significant portions of Sunday's game where Miami simply wasn't competitive.
As ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe put it, "This rebuild isn't going to be fun, entertaining or easy to get through in 2019."
It's not going to be fantasy friendly either.
Ten days after losing the starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick, play Josh Rosen did -- in pretty much the least desirable situation.
Head coach Brian Flores sent Rosen into the Sunday's Dolphins blowout loss to the Ravens with 22 seconds left in the third quarter and Miami down six touchdowns.
The Dolphins were hoping for a spark. It was more like a fizzle.
In his two series on the field, Rosen had as many sacks and interceptions as he had completions -- one. The Dolphins gained zero net yards during that stretch. The Dolphins had the ball for a grand total of 1 minute, 31 in the fourth quarter.
"Just excited to get back on the field," Rosen said. "It's been a while since I played a regular season game. I saw this as another opportunity to show what I can do. I don't think I did that, which is why I was kind of disappointed in the moment."
Rosen's pick came on a play in which he was flushed to his right. He tried to target Jakeem Grant on the sideline, but threw the ball late was had it intercepted by Marlon Humphrey.
Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins' 20th starting QB since Dan Marino retired, will get the nod again Sunday. A change at that position won't fix Miami's problems. ...
Meanwhile, if you're looking for a positive, you can find it in Preston Williams -- the Dolphins' undrafted rookie receiver got the start and caught his first career touchdown. He got rave reviews throughout training camp for his dominant practice and early preseason performance, and Sunday he showed glimpses of why he has high potential.
DeVante Parker also had a good day, making a pair of highlight catches and finishing with a team-high 75 receiving yards.
Those big, jump-ball receivers will be important weapons for Fitzpatrick to lean on going forward.
Conversely, dynamic receiver Albert Wilson, who missed the final nine games last year because of a hip injury, has been nursing a calf issue and was limited to six snaps.
"It brought me back into that same feeling of where I left off," Wilson said. "I have to do a better job of taking care of my body."
Wilson wasn't at Dolphins practice during open period Wednesday. I'll have more on his status for Sunday's game against the Patriots in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
As for the rushing attack. ... Kenyan Drake played 27 snaps on offense against the Ravens while Kalen Ballage played only 20 snaps.
As CBSSports.com noted, Drake also led Miami's backfield in touches and yards despite officially being listed as the backup to Ballage. It's possible that game script played a role in the backfield split - Miami was down 42-10 at halftime - leading to the superior receiver, Drake, seeing increased usage.
Ballage's lack of efficiency (minus-1 yards on five rushes and one catch for 13 yards) also may have prompted Drake to take over.
In any case, CBS contends that Drake appears the favorite to lead the Dolphins' backfield in touches heading into Sunday's matchup with New England and what's likely to be another play-from-behind situation. ...
Worth noting. ... Citing a league source with knowledge of the situation, Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio reported that multiple Dolphins players contacted their agents after Sunday's season-opening blowout and directed them to attempt to engineer trades elsewhere.
The players believe that the coaching staff, despite claiming that they intend to try to win, aren't serious about competing and winning and by all appearances have bought into the notion that the Dolphins will take their lumps now in the hopes of laying the foundation via high draft picks for building a successful team later.
On Monday, Flores was asked about the report.
"I can't speak to the accuracy of that one," Flores said. "We haven't received any information like that. I think for us we just need to focus on what is going on with in our building and not worry about anything that's going on outside."
And play for pride?
"It's never good to be embarrassed like that, especially at this level," Fitzpatrick said. "What we had talked about: Nobody is going to feel sorry for you and your situation."
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen
RBs: Patrick Laird, Samaje Perine
WRs: DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins, Trevor Davis
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
After dropping back to pass a mere 11 times for Minnesota, Kirk Cousins joked that this defense-and-running-dominated performance felt like youth football.
He was more than happy to hand the ball off and get out of the way.
Anthony Harris had two interceptions and a fumble recovery, Dalvin Cook rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns, and the Vikings started the season with a 28-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
"It was what the game called for, and I have no problem with being conservative," Cousins said. "As long as we win the football game, that's all that matters."
Cousins connected with Adam Thielen for a 23-yard score to finish the short first drive. He crossed the goal line on a 1-yard sneak in the second quarter to cap a 79-yard march to give Minnesota a 21-0 lead. Cousins went 8 for 10 for 98 yards, all career lows for games he started, but there was no need for more on this turnover-free afternoon by an offense that sputtered down the stretch last season.
"When I'm on the field, a lot of special things can happen," said Cook, who missed 17 of his first 32 games to injury.
Cook carried the ball 21 times behind the new zone blocking scheme influenced heavily by new offensive adviser Gary Kubiak, the former Houston and Denver head coach. Cousins averaged 38 attempts per game in his first year with the Vikings, and much to head coach Mike Zimmer's chagrin they finished with the third-fewest rushing yards in the NFL.
The new system directed by offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and the favorable field position sure shifted the ratio hard the other way.
The offensive line gave Cook plenty of room to run, and when Cook didn't have room he was running Falcons over. Alexander Mattison also played well in relief of Cook as the Vikings had exactly the kind of run-focused attack that Zimmer has been saying he wants.
That said. ...
"I did not foresee us throwing the ball 10 times, but I'm happy we did," Zimmer said.
Minnesota called for a running play in Sunday's win a whopping 77 percent of the time (36 of 47 plays, excluding kneel-downs), which was its highest rushing percentage in a game in the past 15 seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
The last time Minnesota won with a quarterback attempting fewer than 10 throws was a 1977 victory over Green Bay in which quarterback Bob Lee's final stat line was 5-of-8 passing for 68 yards and a touchdown.
This Sunday, Minnesota faces the Green Bay Packers, who held the Chicago Bears to three points in the season opener. The Bears tried to run early, too, but abandoned that plan when the 10 runs they had in the first quarter failed to generate much output. Chicago ran five more times after that and finished with 46 yards on the ground.
A year after the offense was criticized for being too pass-heavy, did the pendulum swing too far the other direction in Week 1?
According to ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin, it did. But not every defense Minnesota faces is going to allow 4.5 yards per rush.
"Every game calls for something different," Cousins said. "Don't be surprised if we have to win a game 52-51 this year. Coach Zimmer wouldn't be very happy about that, but every week is different.
"It's very important you understand what kind of game we had to play today to win, and that's what we played. And when you consider through the lens of what was asked of us today, what type of game did we have to play to win, and then you can understand why the numbers and stats are what they are, but the No. 1 stat, the only stat that matters, is a win."
One last note here. ... Stefon Diggs was in the lineup after being listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. He had two catches for 37 yards. With just 10 attempts on the day, there wasn't much to go around. Thielen pulled in all three of his targets (with the above-mentioned touchdown) while Kyle Rudolph failed to convert his lone target into a catch.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Olabisi Johnson, Laquon Treadwell, Davion Davis
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss notes, Tom Brady is "a million percent in" on the team's signing of Antonio Brown, owner Robert Kraft told NBC on Sunday night.
Furthermore, agent Drew Rosenhaus told NBC at Sunday night's game that Brady has offered to have Brown live with him and his family until the receiver is settled.
The Patriots' impending signing of Brown contributed to an electric pregame buzz before the Patriots opened their 2019 season at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.
Brown and the Patriots agreed to a one-year deal Saturday, hours after he was released by the Oakland Raiders. The deal is worth up to $15 million, includes a $9 million signing bonus and $10 million in guarantees, according to Rosenhaus.
The Patriots added a team option to Brown's deal for 2020 at $20 million which becomes guaranteed if executed, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. The option year was added to help the Patriots' cap proration purposes this season, according to Schefter.
In his pregame report on NBC, play-by-play man Al Michaels relayed a conversation he had with Kraft about Brown:
"Kraft told me that when he broke the news to Tom Brady, Brady initially said, 'I'm a hundred percent in.' Two minutes later, Tom came back and said to Kraft, 'I'm a thousand percent in.' Then he came back two minutes later and said, "I'm a million percent in.'"
Of course, the Belichick-led Patriots have often been a team with which players viewed as malcontents -- or in the case of Josh Gordon have battled larger forces such as substance abuse -- can revive their careers and reputations. Running back Corey Dillon in 2004. Randy Moss in 2007. Albert Haynesworth in 2011. Gordon last year.
Belichick has been able to take such risks because, in his 20th year as head coach, a football-first, team-centric, disciplined culture has been a foundation to the franchise's success. There has annually been a strong core of veteran leaders in the locker room, led by Brady.
And Belichick's iron fist, with the authority to hire and fire, usually plays a major role in keeping players in line.
But in Brown, Belichick has taken on arguably his biggest challenge. And the first test has already begun.
On the same day he became a member of the Patriots, Brown was sued for sexual assault and rape.
Brown's lawyer, Darren Heitner, has issued a detailed statement that admits to the existence of a sexual relationship between Brown and the plaintiff, Britney Taylor, but denies any wrongdoing on Brown's behalf. The lawyer's statement calls the lawsuit a "money grab."
"He will pursue all legal remedies to not only clear his name, but also to protect other professional athletes against false accusations," Heitner vows.
In the statement, Heitner characterizes Taylor as someone who was looking for funding from Brown to launch a business project. She allegedly sought $1.6 million. ...
So there's that.
But there's also an on-field Brown, a downfield threat unlike any other since Moss. Since 2011, Brown has totaled 204 receptions and 33 touchdowns on throws of at least 15 yards downfield. Over that same span, Brady has completed 44.5 percent of his passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield.
Dating to 2010, his rookie season, Brown leads the league in receptions (837), receiving yards (11,207) and first downs (546) and is second to the now-retired Patriot Rob Gronkowski (79) in receiving touchdowns (74) during that span.
Moss (three times) and Gronkowski (five) are the only players to record double-digit touchdown receptions for the Patriots since 2001. Brown recorded double-digit TDs in four of his last five seasons with the Steelers, including his league-leading 15 TD receptions last season.
So we all know the upside here. But the Patriots were reportedly blindsided by the rape allegations, Nick O'Malley of Masslive reports. ESPN's Adam Schefter confirmed this, reporting the Patriots were "caught by surprise" by the accusations.
Late Tuesday night, the Patriots released a statement saying that they are taking the accusations "very seriously," but will have no further comment on the situation while the NFL investigates.
"We are aware of the civil lawsuit that was filed earlier today against Antonio, as well as the response by Antonio's representatives. We take these allegations very seriously. Under no circumstance does this organization condone sexual violence or assault. The league has informed us that they will be investigating. We will have no further comment while that investigation takes place."
Still, Brown will take the practice field for the first time as a Patriot today.
Belichick confirmed Wednesday that his expectation is that Brown will participate in team activities. But beyond a brief statement, Belichick wouldn't talk about Brown.
"On Antonio's situation, both Antonio and his representatives have made statements, so I'm not going to be expanding on any of those. They are what they are. We've looked into the situation. We're taking it very seriously, all the way through the organization. I'm sure there are questions but I'm not going to be entering into any discussion about that," Belichick said.
Asked for follow-up information about Brown, Belichick didn't answer, saying, "We're done with that. Anything else on Miami?"
One more thing on Brown, there was reporting early Wednesday suggesting he could be heading for the Commissioner's Exempt List, a move that would shut Brown down indefinitely.
In light of all this, we'll all be waiting with bated breath for the next shoe to drop. As always, watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
For the record, the Patriots released tight end Lance Kendricks to open up a roster spot for Brown. Then they made another move on Tuesday, agreeing to trade wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to the New York Jets, ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported Tuesday.
The Pats will get back a 2021 sixth-round pick for Thomas, who was inactive for the team's Week 1 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With Thomas out, the Patriots' wide receiver depth chart now features Brown, Edelman, Gordon, Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski.
With the trade, Belichick has now executed a deal with all 31 other teams in the NFL since taking over as the Patriots' head coach in 2000. ...
Also of interest. ... Sony Michel had ample opportunity to produce in this one but was held to just 14 rushing yards on 15 carries.
As CBSSports.com pointed out, Michel was seemingly the only Patriot to not feast on the Steelers' porous defense on Sunday Night Football.
Perhaps Pittsburgh's defensive unit committed to stopping the run when the 24-year-old appeared on the field in power run formations. Michel did see the largest share of carries (15) with Rex Burkhead (eight carries for 44 yards) and James White (four carries for 26 yards) right behind him.
The good news?
The second-year back has a great shot at bouncing back when the Patriots take on a Dolphins squad this week that was gashed for 59 points by the Ravens in Week 1.
And finally. ... Starting right tackle Marcus Cannon underwent tests Monday after landing hard on the shoulder in the fourth quarter Sunday night. Reiss reports the injury is not considered anything season-ending, or long-term in nature. There is still a chance Cannon will miss some action in the short-term, which sparks an important question: Is swing tackle Korey Cunningham ready to step in? He was inactive Sunday, which meant LG Joe Thuney kicked out to tackle, with Jermaine Eluemunor coming in at LG. Expect Cunningham to get the nod this week.
In addition, the Patriots are signing veteran OT Marshall Newhouse to add depth along the offensive line.
QBs: Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris
WRs: Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, N'Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers
TEs: Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As the Associated Press reported, Drew Brees and Wil Lutz supplied the accuracy and poise New Orleans needed to overcome another officiating gaffe and its defense's late collapse.
Lutz made a 58-yard field goal as time expired, and the Saints beat the Houston Texans 30-28 on Monday night in a game that had three scoring plays in the final minute.
"That one's got to be a top-one moment for me," Lutz said, adding that as much as he tries to treat each kick the same, "I got to be honest. That one felt a little different."
New Orleans had lost its previous five season openers. And after last season ended with a bitter loss in the NFC title game, the Saints had expressed urgency to start the 2019 campaign well.
"I knew how big this win would be," Lutz said.
Deshaun Watson threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to ex-Saints receiver Kenny Stills with 37 seconds left, capping a two-play, 75-yard drive that put the Texans in front after they began their final possession down by six with 50 seconds left.
But that left just enough time for Brees, who capped a 370-yard, two-touchdown performance by completing a 15-yard pass to Ted Ginn Jr., an 11-yarder to Michael Thomas and another pass to Ginn for 9 yards in quick succession. That allowed New Orleans to save its final timeout until just 2 seconds remained and set up Lutz's career-long kick.
"When you have Drew as your quarterback, all I cared about was getting ready for the kick, because I knew with 37 seconds left there was going to be a chance," Lutz said.
Had the Saints lost, it would have marked the second straight game in the Superdome in which a league-acknowledged officiating mistake worked against New Orleans. In last season's NFC championship game, missed pass interference and helmet-to-helmet contact fouls against the Los Angeles Rams went uncalled in the final minutes. This time, a botched ruling left the Saints with 15 fewer seconds to run their hurry-up offense at the end of the first half. New Orleans had to settle for a 56-yard field goal try that Lutz narrowly missed.
The Saints came back from an 11-point, third-quarter hole to win anyway, but Brees wasn't letting the officials or the league off the hook.
"That can't happen. That's a game changer," Brees said. "If we had 15 more seconds, are you kidding me?"
The 40-year-old Brees completed 32 of 43 passes, mirroring his NFL-record 74.4 completion percentage last season. One of his TD passes went to reserve QB and utility player Taysom Hill, who also subs in as a tight end or slot receiver. The other went to second-year pro Tre'Quan Smith.
Thomas caught 10 passes for 123 yards, and Ginn's seven-catch, 101-yard night was highlighted by his 41-yard reception deep down field at the 2-minute warning.
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett notes, we all know that Alvin Kamara is really, really good. But many people were wondering how he'd split the workload with new running mate Latavius Murray. And Monday's game was a reminder that Kamara is so explosive and dynamic that he can do a ton even with the "pitch count" that Sean Payton said he likes.
Kamara had 13 carries for 97 yards and seven catches for 72 yards. Murray had a nice debut as well, thanks to a 30-yard TD run.
Lutz was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday.
Next up. ... The Saints visit the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
QBs: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tre'quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
If the 60 minutes of football didn't do it to you, the comments from the Giants' locker room should have you scratching your head. New York lost 35-17 to the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday and the game wasn't even as close as the final score indicated. The Cowboys shut down the game early in the fourth quarter. Dallas proved to be at a completely different level fresh off a division title last season and with Super Bowl aspirations this season.
Giants players' assessment of the dismantling indicated otherwise.
"I don't think we're that far at all [from the Cowboys]," running back Saquon Barkley said. "It's one game. But I don't want it to fall into that, 'It's one game.' We don't want to make it a habit. Losing at all is never a good thing. But we understand that we lost a game, but we are not that far off. That team is a great team. A very good team. Well coached. Got a lot of talent over there.
"But I don't believe they're that much better than us."
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan suggested, "There is a fine line between remaining positive and being realistic. The Giants appear to be traipsing over a highway on this one."
It's not just Barkley -- it's the organization as a whole.
"We're not far [from the Cowboys]," cornerback Janoris Jenkins said. "Like I said, just mental mistakes. Small things that can be fixed in practice or on the field. We're just going to continue to work."
And perhaps continue to delude themselves. But fantasy owners can count on one reality: Barkley is really good.
The problem this past Sunday was he didn't get enough chances, a head-scratcher considering that leaning on his brilliance seems to be the Giants' only chance of success this season.
Barkley had one touch for 3 yards in the second quarter. He didn't get the ball on key third- and fourth-down plays in the third quarter and finished with 11 carries for an impressive 120 yards.
As Profootballtalk.com reminded readers on Tuesday, there were several points during the 2018 season when head coach Pat Shurmur was asked after losses why the team didn't get the ball to Barkley more often, so there was a familiarity to the way his media sessions went on Sunday and Monday.
Shurmur said that the way the Cowboys controlled the ball for much of the first half left fewer chances for the back than he would have liked.
"It's always good to keep him involved throughout, but the way the first half, and I know that was a question last night as well, the way the first half played out, it was only four possessions," Shurmur said. "A couple reasons for it, they controlled the ball on us by making their third downs. We didn't convert and again we had the one drive we got down there and got stopped and we have to do a better job of when we get down there, getting points and that changes things. You don't go into it thinking he isn't going to touch the ball, that's just how that first half played out."
So he's all right with 11 total carries for his best player?
"Games play out differently," Shurmur said. "I think we had really good production when he touched the ball. We threw him the ball as well."
Barkley also had four catches on six targets for 19 yards. Quarterback Eli Manning was contently throwing checkdowns on second- and third-and-long while down 20 points in the third quarter. His coach apparently didn't mind that, either.
"I don't know what you're talking about. We call plays to execute them and there's typically ones downfield. They play a soft zone, then you're forced to check it down. You want to stay out of the second- and third-and-longs. At that point, I'm all right with him getting completions if the downfield throws are not there," Shurmur said.
Shurmur is all right with it, but the list of positives is fairly short: Barkley and Evan Engram led the offense in rushing and receiving, respectively.
The duo demonstrated just how dynamic they can be on the opening drive, which Barkley sparked with a 59-yard run. Engram capped it off with a one-yard touchdown from Manning. Barkley, who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage last year, recorded his 14th 100-yard game on Sunday. He had 139 total yards -- 120 rushing and 19 receiving (four catches).
Engram, meanwhile, set career highs in targets (14), receptions (11) and receiving yards (116).
"I'm just trying to make plays when my name is called," Engram said. "Definitely looking forward to continue to work and make big plays and winning these games. ... There's definitely a lesson to be learned today. This team is different from the past. We played a good team today. They had our number. But it's only one game. We have 15 left. The mentality of this locker room is where it needs to be. This is going to make us hungrier. We get to go home next week, get a full week of preparation, fix the mistakes and get back in front of our fans to play a good Buffalo team."
The good news is this was easily the Giants' hardest game of their opening four-game stretch. That Dallas team is talented, deep and primed to compete. New York's next three opponents aren't in the same league as the Cowboys.
The Giants should have more success at home against the Bills, on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and home against the Washington Redskins.
That will be the real test of whether they can avoid their third straight season of ineptitude. ...
On the injury front. ... Sterling Shepard was diagnosed with a concussion, leaving his status in doubt for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.
It is unclear when Shepard was injured. He had six catches on seven targets for 42 yards in a 35-17 season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys this past Sunday.
Shepard finished the game without any noticeable incident. He was on the field for 68 of 69 offensive snaps -- most among Giants receivers.
Shurmur said Monday afternoon that Shepard was undergoing tests and might be dealing with a concussion. He landed in the concussion protocol later in the day.
The fourth-year receiver's presence is vital given the current state of the Giants' receiving corps. Golden Tate is currently serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, and Odell Beckham Jr. was traded in the offseason.
Shepard is expected to serve as the Giants' unquestioned No. 1 receiver early this season. The Giants don't have another option on the roster who has accumulated more than 1,000 career receiving yards.
Cody Latimer started alongside Shepard on Sunday, and Bennie Fowler served as the third receiver. Veteran Russell Shepard is next in line.
"Hopefully, we get [Shepard] back," Manning said. "If not, Russell Shepard is a guy that's been in the offense and played well and done some good things for us. He'll have to step in, and so hopefully we can get Sterling back for this week."
The Giants will have their work cut out for them with their passing game this week. The Bills allowed the second-fewest passing yards in Week 1 entering Monday night (155 yards) and had the best pass defense in the NFL last season.
Shepard is the most accomplished receiver on the Giants' active roster. He had 66 catches for 872 yards last season.
I'll have more on his progress through the protocol via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but Shepard was not on the field Wednesday. ...
According to Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com, the Giants are re-signing wide receiver TJ Jones with Shepard ailing. ...
And finally. ... When Manning took his first snap on Sunday, he became the first Giant to play 16 seasons for the franchise. It all started on Sept. 12, 2004, when the rookie came in for Kurt Warner late in a 31-17 loss to the Eagles. Similarly, Daniel Jones made his debut in a runaway game against a division rival.
The sixth overall draft pick entered the Cowboys game with 1:46 remaining and the Giants trailing, 35-17. He completed three of four passes for 17 yards before he lost a fumble on a five-yard scramble with 56 seconds left in the game.
"I thought it was the right thing to do to get him some work," Shurmur said. "We don't want to fumble the ball like he did. You can see he's a competitive guy. He'll learn to run that out of bounds. In his mind, he competes and he said, 'I wanted to guarantee we got the first.' You've just got to secure the ball on that play. For the rest of it, I felt like it was important to get him some work."
"I was excited," Jones said. "I don't think there was an awkwardness to (going in for Manning). I'm the backup quarterback so that's my job."
QBs: Daniel Jones, Eli Manning, Alex Tanney
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Javorius Allen, Elijhaa Penny, Austin Walter
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer, Cody Core, Da'Mari Scott
TEs: Kaden Smith, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
Sam Darnold and the Jets offense couldn't have asked for more from their defense. The Green and White had four first-half takeaways and the D accounted for 8 points, boosting the home team to a 16-0 lead midway through the third quarter. But Darnold and the offense couldn't generate much of anything down the stretch and dropped a gut-wrenching 17-16 decision to Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.
"When our defense plays like that, you have to win the game," Darnold said after finishing 28-of-41 for 175 yards with one touchdown. "When they force four turnovers and we're not turning the ball over on offense, we have to come away with points."
Darnold had a clean stat line and it appeared like he would move his record against Allen, a good friend dating back to their pre-draft days, to 2-0 when the Jets culminated their only scoring drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Le'Veon Bell. The Bell score came on a third-down conversion as Darnold found his open back, culminating a nine-play, 60-yard march. On the ensuing two-point conversion, Darnold dazzled while escaping veteran pass rusher Jerry Hughes, spinning and going back to Bell in the end zone.
"The initial read was to me," said Bell of the two-pointer that made it 16-0. "The Bills played it good. Sam rolled out, made a little player, threw it up and gave me a chance to make a play on it."
The newcomers carried the offense as Bell had 23 touches for 92 yards and slot wideout Jamison Crowder was his favorite target in the passing game, hauling in a career-high 14 receptions for 99 yards. But the Jets were limited to 223 yards and Darnold was frequently under duress with the Bills amassing four sacks. They also had eight pass defenses and got their hands up at the line to take away some of Darnold's passing lanes.
"We never really got into rhythm and I put that on myself," said the second-year signal-caller. "There are a lot of details to clean up and we'll see it when we watch tape."
The Bills took away the vertical strike from the Jets offense, keeping the ball in front all afternoon. When there were times Darnold had someone open deep like he did with Robby Anderson late in the fourth, connections proved elusive.
"It was overthrown," Darnold said, who also said the Bills brought some pressures the Jets couldn't handle at times and forced him to get the ball out quickly. "Those last couple of throws at the end I wish I could have back."
Allen, who had a miserable first half, answered the bell late for the Bills with a pair of touchdowns. His 3-yard scramble narrowed the deficit and then he gave the visitors the game-winning score with a 38-yarder to John Brown on a stutter route.
"I don't really think of it as just going against Sam," Allen said. "He's a heck of a football player. They're going to be in good hands here for a long time. That's sort of our thought process. We want to be playing each other for a long time."
Last December, it was Darnold leading the Jets to his first second-half comeback as a pro. Allen countered today and the 0-1 Jets have plenty of room for improvement on the offensive side of the ball.
"We were just inept on offense, making mistakes we can't make to consistently move the ball," said head coach/play caller Adam Gase. "We have a lot to clean up there."
The Jets wont' be alone. Their next opponent is the Cleveland Browns, who dropped their home opener by a 43-13 score to the Tennessee Titans. After seeing Allen in Week 1, Baker Mayfield, who was selected by the Browns two picks before Darnold came off the board, will be up next.
"I think we need to bounce back," Darnold said. "Everyone in here is a grown man and we just need to bounce back from this loss and we will. We'll come back tomorrow, we'll come to work and get ready for Cleveland."
Meanwhile, playing for the first time in 20 months, Bell displayed his old Pittsburgh Steelers form, scoring a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the New York Jets' 17-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Bell showed his entire skill set, finishing with 92 yards from scrimmage. He rushed 17 times for 60 yards, and he caught six passes for 32 yards. He played every offensive snap -- 67 -- which was impressive when you consider he was held out of the preseason.
"Honestly, it didn't feel like (a long layoff)," Bell said. "It felt, like, normal. I went out there and I played football and I felt good, just being out there and having fun. I still had fun playing the game today. The outcome wasn't what I wanted it to be. I'm a competitive guy, so I'm not happy we lost the game. I was happy I was able to compete again and came out of the game healthy."
Bell sparked the lifeless Jets offense in the third quarter, scoring on a 9-yard pass from Sam Darnold. Bell lined up as a wide receiver, split to the left, and he beat linebacker Matt Milano on a corner route to the goal line.
Seconds later, Bell did it again, showing off his ball skills on the two-point conversion. It came on an adlib play, with Darnold eluding pressure. The quarterback scrambled 38 yards behind the line of scrimmage before lofting a pass into the back of the end zone.
Bell, who prides himself on having basketball skills, outjumped safety Siran Neal to give the Jets a 16-0 lead.
"I think he answered all of the questions where everybody said he was rusty after a year off," Gase said. "I'm sure he proved a point today."
Bell, 27, who sat out last season because of a contract dispute with the Steelers, told Gase at the start of the practice week that he was ready for a full workload.
"Don't hold back," he told Gase, the play caller.
He didn't. Bell was the focal point of the running game, as no other back had more than two carries.
The Jets' prized free-agent addition began the day with 7,996 yards from scrimmage. He eclipsed the 8,000-yard mark on his first carry, reaching that plateau faster than any player in NFL history. He did it in 63 games; Eric Dickerson did it in 64.
"All the stats feels good, and I'm sure people are happy for me right now, but I'm not happy with myself right now because we didn't get a W."
Bell was the one of the few offensive bright spots for the Jets, who struggled from start to finish. Darnold (28-for-41, 175 yards) was sacked four times and couldn't get the ball downfield. The offense ran through Bell and Crowder. Darnold was 20-for-26 when throwing to Crowder and Bell.
They're good for Darnold because they can get open quickly, providing him with easy completions.
"Offensively, we never really got it clicking outside of one drive," Bell said. ...
Gase was critical of the wide receivers on Monday. He said they failed to connect on downfield passes because of route-running mistakes that were "fatal to us."
Gase added: "If we read the coverages correctly with the receivers, some of that isn't a problem." He didn't name names, but he was referring to Robby Anderson, who stumbled out of a double move on a deep ball that could've been a potential game-winning TD. Said Gase: "They need to do a better job of executing what they're supposed to be doing. ..."
Anderson, who came into the game listed as questionable with a tender calf, played 65 of 67 possible snaps. ...
Those complaints about his receivers likely played a role in the Jets dealing a reported sixth-round pick to the Patriots for veteran wideout Demaryius Thomas on Tuesday.
Thomas, who tore his Achilles in December, was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 20. He had seven catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots' preseason finale, which was his first game since the injury.
The 31-year-old Thomas is now the oldest wideout on the team ahead of Anderson (26), Josh Bellamy (30), Braxton Berrios (23) and Crowder (26). Berrios was among the Patriots' final cuts this season before joining the Jets.
Thomas will be new to New York, but is familiar with Gase, who served as the Denver Broncos' wide receivers coach from 2010-13 and then as the team's offensive coordinator from 2013-14. Thomas spent the first nine years of his career in Denver. ...
I'll be watching for more on a potential role for Thomas this week and report back via Late-Breaking Update as needed, but you might have noticed I haven't mentioned Quincy Enunwa in discussing the position here.
There's a reason for that.
Brian Costello of the New York Post reported on Wednesday morning that Enunwa will miss the rest of the year after suffering another neck injury against the Bills. Gase confirmed the news at his press conference a bit later in the morning.
Enunwa signed a four-year, $36 million extension with the team this offseason, but one has to wonder if Enunwa will be playing again after a second serious neck injury in three years. He missed the entire 2017 season with a neck injury.
Enunwa has been with the Jets since 2014 and has 119 catches, 1,617 yards and five touchdowns over the course of his career. ...
In addition to watching for more on Thomas, I'll be following up on Darnold's status. The QB did not practice Wednesday, but he is expected to play Monday night. Gase said that Darnold wasn't feeling well and was told not to come in.
Gase said he believes Darnold has strep throat.
Darnold should be good to go, just without a full schedule of practices. Again, watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the week progresses. ...
Asked why RB Ty Montgomery played only five snaps, Gase refused to give an explanation and said: "That's the beauty part of being the head coach -- I can basically do what I want. ..."
The kicking game was a disaster, as new placekicker Kaare Vedvik -- in his NFL debut -- missed a 45-yard field goal and an extra point. Vedvik's poor start prompted the Jets to bypass the PAT altogether and try for two on their second touchdown in the third quarter.
It also cost Vedvik his job.
The Jets announced they signed free-agent kicker Sam Ficken, who won the tryout competition Tuesday. Ficken was in a heated preseason battle in Green Bay with incumbent Mason Crosby. The Packers ultimately stuck with the veteran. Ficken also spent time with the Seattle Seahawks earlier this spring.
With the Ficken signing, Vedvik was booted from New York, the team announced.
QBs: Sam Darnold, David Fales
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Bilal Powell, Ty Montgomery, Kenneth Dixon, Josh Adams
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, Tim White, Demaryius Thomas
TEs: Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez reported, some 52,359 jilted and full-throated hometown fans let short-time former and Raiders receiver Antonio Brown know how they felt about him with derisive chants of "F--- AB!" on every big Oakland play Monday night against the Denver Broncos -- and there were many in the course of their 24-16 season-opening victory.
The Raiders, meanwhile, let Brown know how they felt about him: That he was not missed.
According to Gutierrez, Tyrell Williams adapted well to his new role of WR1, hauling in six passes, one more impressive than the next, particularly his highlight-reel 24-yarder that set Oakland up at the Denver 4-yard line in the fourth quarter on a laser throw from quarterback Derek Carr. Williams finished with 105 receiving yards.
Carr, who had a 121.0 passer rating, was 22-for-26 with 259 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, was not surprised by the offensive output without Brown.
"Antonio is no longer with us. And we love Antonio; we wish him the best. But we knew, with the guys we had in our locker room, we already had a good football team," Carr told ESPN after the game. "I hope he goes off and has a great year. But the guys in this locker room -- the guys that competed during training camp all offseason -- we grinded, we came together; we're a family. And this family's pretty special, and I'm glad to be the quarterback, a part of it."
According to NFL Next Gen Stats data, Carr's 8-yard touchdown pass to Williams in the first quarter was a tight-window throw. Carr had only two tight-window touchdown throws last season.
And Williams' 43-yard reception on third-and-1 in the second quarter was thrown 32 yards, a familiar sight for the former Chargers wideout. He had five catches of at least 30 yards in 2018, while the Raiders had three as a team.
"I mean, honestly it's a distraction," Williams said of the Brown saga. "But there's nothing we can do about it. So regardless, we were going to go out there and play. So we just had to let it be what it was. I feel like we prepared well. We prepared all training camp, all OTAs and it showed today. I had no question that we were going to be able to come out here and do what we did tonight."
New starting tight end Darren Waller also showed what a matchup nightmare he can be with his receiver-like skill set in catching seven passes for 70 yards. He had six total catches in four games last season.
Against the Broncos, Waller was on the field for every offensive snap. According to Establish The Run's Adam Levitan, the tight end line up in the slot or split out wide for 22 snaps. He ate up a 30.7 percent target share. Those numbers suggest sustainability. ...
The revelation? Rookie running back Josh Jacobs, who rumbled for 85 yards on the ground on 23 carries and, with two touchdowns, became the first player in Raiders franchise history to find the end zone twice in his NFL debut.
Still, with the shocking turn of events last week with Brown, many wondered how the Raiders would react once they finally took the field. Just don't count head coach Jon Gruden among them.
"It really wasn't (a distraction)," Gruden said. "I'm just going to tell you, there really, it wasn't. Maybe for the media, but what happened here the last couple days may have been big news to some, but there were no distractions, I think you could tell that tonight. Our team was ready to roll...I'm never going to bring it up again. That incident, whatever you call it, had nothing to do with our team's focus or preparation. That's it; end of story. Sorry.
Pressed on Brown, Gruden said, "I mean, my God, I feel like someone's smashing my temple on the side of the head. Get over it, man, it's over. We were good in the preseason without him; we're going to be fine without him. We wish him the best.
"But we gave it a shot and now New England gets their turn. Good luck to them. But I just can't deal with it anymore, really. Sorry. ..."
In addition to an effective passing attack, the Raiders benefited from a strong ground game led by rookie Josh Jacobs, who ran for 85 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, while adding a 28-yard reception on his only target in his NFL regular-season debut.
Jacobs was responsible for 82.8 percent of the Raiders' running back touches.
As CBSSports.com noted, a Broncos defense that surrendered the eighth-most 20-plus yard runs last year was susceptible once again to the ground attack Monday night, allowing Jacobs to gain six-plus yards on five of his 23 carries, while twice seeing the powerful rookie back surge his way through stacked goal-line boxes to hit pay dirt from inside the five-yard line.
In Week 2, Jacobs will go up against a Kansas City defense that faced just 16 rush attempts from the Jaguars on Sunday, but allowed a generous 5.1 yards per carry on those plays.
And finally. ... CB Gareon Conley was taken off the field strapped to a stretcher with a neck injury after being hit in the head by teammate Johnathan Abram. Conley was down on the ground for several minutes with players on both teams kneeling on the ground out of concern. Conley was taken off the field on a stretcher but was able to give a thumbs-up to the crowd.
Gruden said reports on Conley were positive, something the cornerback subsequently confirmed himself via Twitter on Tuesday. He won't play this week, but Conley should return soon. ...
Meanwhile, the man who hit him, Abraham, will seek a second opinion/examination of his shoulder area, ESPN's Josina Anderson reports. Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe reports Abram will likely head for surgery after tearing his labrum and rotator cuff. Gruden subsequently confirmed that Abraham will be placed on IR as a result of his injury.
QBs: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Keelan Doss
TEs: Darren Waller, Derek Carrier
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As Profootballtalk.com's Charean Williams suggested, it was ugly early for the Eagles, but they finally righted the ship in the second half. Down 20-7 at halftime, Philadelphia won 32-27.
Carson Wentz had two second-half touchdown passes, one to DeSean Jackson and another to Alshon Jeffery, and Jeffery also scored on a 2-yard run in the second half.
Wentz finished 28-of-39 for 313 yards with three touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 121.0 QB rating -- a great performance. Jackson caught touchdown passes of 51 and 53, with the latter giving the Eagles their first lead at 21-20 with 5:07 remaining in the third quarter.
As ESPN.com's Tim McManus understated, "Jackson brought the thunder" in his return to the Eagles, finishing with eight catches for 154 yards and scoring touchdowns of 53 and 51 yards.
According to ESPN Stats and Information research, he is the first player with multiple 50-yard receiving touchdowns in a game since Odell Beckham Jr. turned the trick in 2016 against the Ravens. It's also the first time Jackson has caught multiple 50-yard TDs in a game. And he did it after breaking his ring finger last week.
"It felt great to have him out here creating the dynamic element that he does on our offense," said Wentz, who threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns. "I know this city is fired up to have him back here."
McManus went on to remind readers the Eagles have been desperately searching for a deep threat since then-coach Chip Kelly unceremoniously cut ties with Jackson in March 2014. They brought in players such as Torrey Smith and Mike Wallace to stretch the field but were never able to recreate the magic Jackson provided in his first stint in Philadelphia. So they brought him back by striking a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in March.
The crowd roared as Jackson ran out of the tunnel during pregame introductions, spun in the air and then pounded the Lincoln Financial Field turf, offering a big welcome back to the electric receiver, whose previous appearance in an Eagles uniform came in January 2014.
"I just couldn't stay calm. I was overexcited like a kid before Christmas," Jackson said. "Just the reunion of me coming back and just what I mean to the city, what the city means to me and being in them green colors, just being a part of this organization and this family. It's just something special for me."
That excitement turned to frustration as Wentz and the offense sputtered early, allowing Washington to sprint out to a 17-0 lead. The first touchdown from Jackson got things going, as Wentz threw a perfect ball down the right seam late in the second quarter for a 51-yarder. Jackson moved into sole possession of second place for most 50-yard touchdowns in NFL history (30) on that play, and he trails only Jerry Rice (36).
Jackson's teammates credited not just his first touchdown, but his message in the locker room at halftime for helping to spark the turnaround.
"I just kept stressing to the boys, I've been over there before in that locker room and I just know how they are," Jackson said. "I just stressed to my teammates that I felt at halftime [the Redskins] felt they probably had the game sealed and won. And I just said we're going to go out there, and it's just going to take one play."
Jackson followed up those words by scoring on a 53-yard TD in the third quarter to put the Eagles up 21-20.
Jackson continues to punish his former teams. During his five years away from Philly, he averaged 95 yards per game and a career-best 14.23 yards per target versus the Eagles, with his team winning five of the six matchups. In two games since leaving Washington in 2017, Jackson has 13 catches for 211 yards and two TDs against the Redskins.
"They had the opportunity to keep me, I guess, and they didn't, so I get to take out whatever it is I feel on the opponent," Jackson said this past week, explaining why he has so much success against his former teams.
"I've always had the same mentality. That's the fierce competitive edge that I have: Whoever I go against, whether it's my best friend or my worst enemy, I've been trained and programmed to go about my business in an orderly fashion -- to beat your opponent and beat him bad."
For the record, with those two touchdowns, Jackson now has 31 touchdowns of 50 yards or longer in his NFL career. Only Jerry Rice, with 36, has more. Jackson entered Sunday in a tie with Randy Moss, who is now third in NFL history with 29 career touchdowns of 50 yards or longer. ...
Wentz and Jackson spent the summer building their rapport, and it showed. It might not look like this every game, but with an array of weapons at his disposal, including Zach Ertz, Miles Sanders and Jeffery, Wentz should be able to lead this offense right to the top of the league. ...
As for the backfield. ... Sanders carried 11 times for 25 yards and caught one of two targets for an additional two yards in his regular-season debut.
Sanders unexpectedly led the backfield in carries, with Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles receiving six and nine, respectively. Unfortunately, he did little on the ground outside of a 19-yard gain and wasn't quite as involved as a receiver as either of his two aforementioned teammates. While Sanders received plenty of work in his first NFL game, the Eagles appear to be deploying a true committee approach in the backfield at the moment.
As CBSSports.com suggested, they should continue to go with the hot hand in Sunday's road matchup against the Falcons.
NJ.com's Mike Kaye, for what it's worth, believes Howard will receive more looks moving forward. The former Bear was very productive on his six carries, producing 44 rushing yards (7.3 yards per carry).
Moving forward, Howard should receive more looks in short-yardage and red-zone situations. The Eagles decided to go with Sproles and Sanders in those scenarios against the Redskins. The majority of those situations ended poorly.
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson suffered a "significant" foot injury against the Redskins, head coach Doug Pederson said. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday that Jackson suffered a Lisfranc injury Sunday versus the Redskins and will have surgery next week.
Jackson is expected to be out the balance of the year.
And finally. ... The Eagles have released TE Richard Rodgers off of IR with an injury settlement.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson
RBs: Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, Jay Ajayi
WRs: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, Robert Davis, Nelson Agholor
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As the Associated Press framed it, the post-Antonio Brown era is off to a bad start for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pittsburgh struggled to generate offense in a 33-3 loss at New England on Sunday night in its first game since parting with the four-time All-Pro wide receiver. Without Brown to throw to, Ben Roethlisberger finished 27 of 47 for 276 yards and an interception.
This time, unlike last season when he publicly criticized Brown's performance after a Week 12 loss at Denver, the Steelers quarterback shouldered the blame.
"I wasn't good enough," Roethlisberger said. "Wasn't giving guys the balls where they needed to catch 'em. Putting them in front (of them), behind, things like that. I wasn't good enough."
Pittsburgh's only points came on Chris Boswell's 19-yard field goal early in the second half. Roethlisberger had 161 passing yards through three quarters before dressing up his stats in the fourth, and the Steelers went just 3 for 12 on third down conversions.
"We've just got to make more plays for No. 7 (Roethlisberger)," receiver Donte Moncrief said. "It starts with the whole receiver's room, everybody on offense. We've got to be better."
The disgruntled Brown was traded to Oakland last March and signed a three-year extension with the Raiders. He requested and was granted his release by Oakland on Saturday after a tumultuous offseason and training camp. A few hours later, Brown was headed to the Patriots, the Steelers' top AFC rival.
"My professional reaction is I really don't have one," head coach Mike Tomlin told NBC's "Sunday Night Football" broadcast before the game. "We've been emotionally detached from him for some time now."
Brown's ex-teammates didn't take the bait on his move to New England, either.
"You know, that (decision's) up to him," said cornerback Mike Hilton, who played with Brown for two seasons. "That has nothing to do with these guys in the locker room."
Brown wasn't the only loss to leave a void in the offense. Two-time All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell held out all of last season over a contract dispute and signed with the New York Jets during the offseason.
Bell's replacement, third-year back James Conner, had 21 yards on 10 carries and the Steelers managed only 32 rushing yards. Bell rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown for the Jets against Buffalo on Sunday.
"No need to sugarcoat it -- man, we weren't ready for prime time," Tomlin said. "All of us, not a good enough plan. Not a good enough execution of that plan. We won't go undefeated. We're 0-1."
The Steelers finished the game with 308 yards, but as ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler notes, many of those came in garbage time. At halftime, Pittsburgh had limped to four first downs, one third-down conversion and 87 yards. Conner and the rushing attack managed 32 yards and failed to convert several short-yardage situations.
From five-wide sets to zone running plays, nothing the Steelers tried worked, with Roethlisberger missing on three of his four deep-ball attempts.
The Steelers most recently scored three points in a season opener in 2001, losing 21-3 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The message was sent.
"I think it was a wake-up call -- something we needed," said Moncrief, who dropped several contested passes Sunday and finished with three catches for 7 yards despite a team-high 10 targets. "It's something I felt I needed."
Of course, struggling in New England is nothing new for the Steelers. The Patriots have outscored Pittsburgh 152-72 in their past four games at Gillette Stadium.
Tomlin said the Steelers weren't ready for prime time, and that has nothing to do with ex-players.
JuJu Smith-Schuster understands that storyline but said he believes in his offense.
"People are always going to talk about not having certain players that we had last year," said Smith-Schuster, who led the team with 78 receiving yards. "I think this year, the guys we have here now, we have ultimate guys ... We've got so many guys, we just have to make our plays."
Smith-Schuster, who was spotted going into the X-Ray room after Sunday night's game, is going to be fine, source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
X-Rays were negative and the wideout said he suffered a toe injury in the fourth quarter but intends to play Sunday against Seattle. Tomlin also told reporters on Tuesday that he was optimistic about JuJu's availability for Sunday.
IAl'll be following up on Smith-Schuster via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
The Steelers are not expecting CB Joe Haden (sprained AC joint) to be out long, with a chance to play against Seattle depending how he responds Tuesday. He's played through the injury before and he re-entered game in New England.
Running back Roosevelt Nix, primarily a special teams contributor, has a knee injury and could be out for several weeks.
And finally.... After losing starter Nick Foles to a broken clavicle on Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars have traded a fifth-round pick in 2020 to Pittsburgh for quarterback Josh Dobbs. The Steelers drafted Dobbs in the fourth round in 2017 out of Tennessee. Dobbs did not play as a rookie but appeared in five games last season and completed 6 of 12 passes for 43 yards with one interception.
QBs: Devlin Hodges, Mason Rudolph, Ben Roethlisberger
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds, Kerrith Whyte
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Johnny Holton, Deon Cain, Tevin Jones
TEs: Vance McDonald, Nick Vannett, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
Running back Tevin Coleman is expected to miss multiple games after he sustained a high left ankle sprain in Sunday's win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On a conference call with Bay Area media on Monday, head coach Kyle Shanahan said an MRI revealed that Coleman had the injury. Shanahan also ruled Coleman out for this week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals with the expectation that it would be a bit before Coleman can return.
"[I'm] pretty sure he's not going to be around this week and we'll take it week to week after that," Shanahan said.
Asked if it was possible that Coleman could land on injured reserve with the potential to return after eight weeks, Shanahan indicated the recovery probably wouldn't take that long.
"I don't think IR is a possibility right now so I think we'll ride it out," Shanahan said.
According to Shanahan, Coleman was injured on the 49ers' first offensive play against the Bucs. Coleman attempted to play through the ailment but the additional snaps apparently only made it more difficult.
"I think he landed on his ankle and then it just got worse as the game went," Shanahan said. "He tried to battle through it throughout the second quarter."
The Niners removed Coleman from the game at halftime and he did not return after posting 23 yards on six carries and 33 yards on two receptions. After the game, Shanahan acknowledged he was concerned about Coleman's status with the running back set to have further tests done on the ankle Monday morning in Youngstown, Ohio, where the Niners are spending the week leading up to Week 2.
With Coleman expected to miss some time, ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner reports the Niners will turn to a combination of Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert to fill the void. That duo stepped in for Coleman on Sunday with limited success, combining for 25 touches and 77 yards, though they had some important first downs in the second half.
Breida appears to be the favorite to handle the starting job after running for 814 yards last season despite being limited by recurring ankle injuries. Mostert is San Francisco's best special teams player but also flashed potential in 2018 when he averaged 7.7 yards per carry on 34 attempts before his season ended with a broken arm. Both figure to get plenty of opportunities in Coleman's absence.
As for a temporary replacement on the roster, Shanahan said that decision won't be made until later this week. The obvious candidate is practice squad back Jeff Wilson Jr., who played in six games with two starts and averaged 4 yards per carry last year for the Niners.
Whether Wilson gets the promotion will depend on how healthy the rest of the team is as it heads into Sunday.
"We have got to see how the week goes, how many we're going to need on Sunday," Shanahan said. "There's plenty of time. In Atlanta [where Shanahan served as offensive coordinator], I think we played every game but like two or three with only two running backs, so sometimes that's a risk you take in a game. It all just depends on how the rest of our roster is and what we feel gives us the best chance by Saturday. ..."
Meanwhile, after a roller-coaster preseason that included a disastrous start against the Denver Broncos, Jimmy Garoppolo had some wondering if he was on his way to a similar debacle midway through the second quarter of Sunday's regular-season opener against Tampa Bay.
Garoppolo had just telegraphed a pass to Coleman without identifying Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves stepped in front of Coleman and returned the interception 15 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 Tampa Bay lead.
Here we go again? Not so much.
"He gets it," tight end George Kittle said. "One play at a time, don't let things snowball, that's all that matters. Jimmy is a pro. It's fun having him in the huddle and on the field because he's our leader and we respond to him."
Indeed, Garoppolo managed to put the misread -- Shanahan's advice to avoid it in the future was "Don't throw it" -- behind him and manage the game well enough for a victory.
Considering it was Garoppolo's first start since tearing the ACL in his left knee Sept. 23, 2018, and just the 11th of his career, things could have gone much worse. Garoppolo finished a modest 18-of-27 for 166 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a passer rating of 80.2.
After the victory, Garoppolo said he felt good in his return, at one point taking off for a 20-yard run that would have been a first down had it not also been wiped out by penalty.
It also helped that the game plan didn't seem to ask Garoppolo to do too much in his first game back.
Aside from perfectly thrown ball that went for a 39-yard touchdown to Richie James in the second quarter, most of Garoppolo's completions came underneath. According to ESPN Stats and Information data, Garoppolo's touchdown pass traveled 26 yards in the air. His other 17 completions traveled a combined 23 yards in the air.
After the game, Garoppolo said it wasn't so much by design as just doing what the Bucs would allow.
"We wanted to pick our spots," Garoppolo said. "And I think we did that to a point, but we were taking what they gave us. I think that's what a good offense does."
Wagoner added that Garoppolo didn't seem hesitant to run or antsy in the pocket. ...
Of some concern?
The Niners had three touchdowns called back by penalties, two that would have gone to Kittle (one an offensive pass interference on fullback Kyle Juszczyk and one for illegal formation on tackle Mike McGlinchey). Another penalty negated a score by Mostert (a holding call on James).
For a team that struggled to finish drives with touchdowns last season -- the Niners finished last in the league in red zone efficiency -- those types of miscues can't happen if they want to take a step forward.
One last note here. ... Kittle was plenty busy, pulling in 8-of-10 targets for 54 yards. Had the two TDs been good, it would have been a huge day for the star tight end.
On the injury front, in addition to Coleman, receivers Trent Taylor (foot) and Jalen Hurd (back) were not on the field for Wednesday's practice.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Jordan Matthews
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Levine Toilolo
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
The Seattle Seahawks figured it might be a slog in the early going of their season opener on Sunday given the uncertainty about the Cincinnati Bengals in their first game under a rookie head coach/offensive play caller who didn't reveal much in the preseason.
Was it ever.
But the Seahawks -- so often slow starters and strong finishers under Pete Carroll -- turned a 17-14 halftime deficit into a nail-biter of 21-20 win.
In fact, as ESPN.com's Brady Henderson pointed out, the Seahawks had just 150 yards of total offense (3.95 yards per play) through three quarters before Russell Wilson hit Tyler Lockett for a 44-yard touchdown on the opening play of the fourth.
In that sense, right tackle Germain Ifedi agreed that it was a classic Seahawks game with the way they started slow and finished strong.
"We just came out playing like s---," he said. "Wasn't doing anything right -- run, pass, play-action, non-play-action, anything. We were bad. That starts with me on the O-line, starts with us as an O-line and coming in next week we'll be fixing those things. It was a battle out there. It's not going to be easy. We're not sneaking up on anybody this year, so teams are ready for what we're going to do but they have to still deal with us."
The Bengals had four sacks and officially nine hits on Wilson.
Said Pete Carroll: "I was really surprised that we had trouble protecting today. We really struggled with our play-pass stuff, which has been really strong for us."
As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio noted, the Seahawks had wanted to get running back Chris Carson more involved in the passing game this season. In Week 1, Carson was more involved than anyone in the passing game.
Carson led all Seahawks players with seven targets. That accounted for more than 33 percent of the 20 throws made by Wilson during the game.
"Well, it worked out," Carroll told reporters on Monday. "It was something that was part of the offseason to involve him and he jumped out with six catches. That was a lot of catches for him. It's clear why we're trying. He made some nice plays running with the football. The touchdown play was a phenomenal run after catch. We're not talking about him lining up as a wide receiver to run post routes and digs and stuff like that. We want to use him in classic fashion for the running back position and letting him catch the ball with space and run for obvious reasons."
Carson's feast resulted in famine for others. Lockett wasn't targeted at all until the fourth quarter, finishing with two balls thrown his way.
"We weren't looking at that," Carroll said. "We looked at him a number of times. The idea was to go there, and we couldn't get there. We didn't forget he was out there."
At least Lockett had two targets; receiver Jaron Brown didn't have the ball thrown his way at all.
"Yeah, we love what he does and what he contributes and all that," Carroll said. "But it really was just how the game goes sometimes. We're counting on him making plays and doing stuff, he's been terrific for us."
As Florio suggested, "Terrific isn't a word that would be applied to the Seahawks' downfield passing game."
Wilson's stat line read like one from early in his career: 14-of-20 for 196 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. Carroll will take an efficient, turnover-free performance like that as long as Wilson hits on his big-play opportunities like he did with the touchdown pass to Lockett.
But if that continues, folks may wonder why so much money has been invested in the quarterback position. ...
For the record, rookie receiver DK Metcalf and Brown both played 41 of 53 offensive snaps Sunday, tied for second-most among Seahawks receivers behind Lockett's 48.
The playing-time breakdown for Seattle's running backs: 41 for Carson, 14 for Rashaad Penny, three for fullback Nick Bellore and none for C.J. Prosise or Travis Homer. ...
The Seahawks came out of Sunday's 21-20 season-opening win over the Bengals with a few new injuries to report. Tight end Will Dissly (right knee), cornerback Neiko Thorpe (hamstring) and defensive tackle Poona Ford (right calf) all suffered setbacks and were unable to finish Week 1's contest against Cincinnati.
But Carroll said on Wednesday that Dissly is good to go. ...
And finally. ... Carroll said the Seahawks did indeed look into Antonio Brown once he was released by the Raiders on Saturday.
The important reminder there is that Carroll and GM John Schneider always talk about looking into every potential move that comes up. Carroll offered a reminder of that, saying: "Not everything is always as it seems and you've got check into stuff and figure out what's going on." So they may have merely been doing their usual due diligence as opposed to having a strong desire in adding Brown -- and it may not have mattered even if they were seriously interested.
Carroll gave the impression that Brown was intent on signing with the Patriots, saying: "He was headed to New England. He was going."
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Travis Homer, Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, John Ursua, Malik Turner, Jaron Brown
TEs: Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine suggested, if the Buccaneers' season opener against the 49ers is any indication, new head coach Bruce Arians -- aka the "Quarterback Whisperer" -- has his work cut out for him in solving the riddle that is Jameis Winston in a "make-or-break" fifth year for the quarterback.
Up until this season, Winston had been afforded the benefit of stability -- a rarity in today's NFL, especially for a franchise that's had one winning season in the last eight years. Winston had the luxury of the same offensive play caller in Dirk Koetter and the same quarterbacks coach in Mike Bajakian for four years. By comparison, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was drafted second overall behind Winston in the 2015 NFL draft, is on his fourth offensive coordinator and fifth play caller in five seasons.
Every move the Bucs organization has made up until this point has been done with Winston in mind -- holding onto Koetter and promoting him to head coach and parting ways with Lovie Smith because they felt Koetter's work with Winston was too important, then firing Koetter and luring Arians out of retirement because if he can't ultimately spell Winston, who can?
The Bucs have surrounded Winston with all the support he needs, including an all-star cast of coaches -- Arians, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich (who spent 10 years in the NFL as a quarterback), QB coach Clyde Christensen and consultant Tom Moore. And now they may just have a formidable defense under coordinator Todd Bowles if they keep this up.
If things don't work now, when will they?
Winston finished Sunday's game 20-of-36 for 194 passing yards, one touchdown, three interceptions -- two of them pick-sixes -- and a passer rating of 45.4. He also fumbled the ball twice. It was Winston's 17th career game with multiple interceptions, passing Blake Bortles for most in the league since Winston entered the NFL in 2015. This is also a Niners squad that had a total of two picks in 2018 -- the fewest of any defense in NFL history. Winston also becomes just the third player with multiple pick-sixes in a season opener in the last 15 seasons, along with Joey Harrington (2007) and Scott Tolzien (2017).
But Laine contends even those numbers don't tell the full, ugly story of Sunday.
The first interception on first-and-10 over the middle wasn't a poor throw per se -- it bounced out of O.J. Howard's hands (although it would have been a far easier completion to check it down to running back Dare Ogunbowale). But the second and third picks, which put 14 points on the board and were the difference-makers in a 31-17 loss, were mistakes a fifth-year quarterback should not be making, new system or not. These weren't difficult throws. They weren't asking him to do too much.
On second-and-13 in the third quarter, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman was matched up against running back Peyton Barber on a hitch route -- it was thrown too far behind Barber on the outside, and while you could argue Barber may or may not have lost his footing, Winston should have never even looked Barber's way on the play. Instead, Sherman returned it 31 yards for a touchdown.
Then in the fourth quarter, down by one touchdown with 2:10 to go, Winston stumbled backward and tried to throw a screen pass when he should have thrown it away or taken a sack by Dee Ford and lived to see another down.
"He could have thrown a quick out to the other side," Arians said. "But that is usually in a hot situation. Our running back, young running back, goes inside and doesn't get out on the screen. So throw it away. He was attempting to throw it away, I think."
There were other plays that came within an inch of disaster as well. In the first quarter, linebacker Kwon Alexander dropped an easy pick. Then in the fourth quarter, Arians went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line and Winston was nearly picked off by Tarvarius Moore on a pass intended for Chris Godwin.
"I loved the play. I think they actually busted coverage and it surprised them, but he threw the ball late," Arians said. "It was just the execution of it with two guys in a situation that we haven't seen before."
Unfortunately for Bucs fans and fantasy owners, this is something they've seen before with Winston -- a maddening cycle of expectations and disappointment, expectations and disappointment.
It's going to take a serious rebound for fantasy owners to regain enough trust in Winston to roll him out again. ...
All that said, the sloppiness went well beyond Winston.
When the Bucs were able to move the ball and sustain drives, they were slapped with penalties, wiping out, not one, but two Cameron Brate touchdowns on the same drive -- both holding calls on Demar Dotson. Also on that drive, Howard fumbled the ball at the 49ers' 8-yard line.
The one bright spot came in the third quarter. Winston scrambled to his right and found Godwin on the move for a 10-yard touchdown to make it 20-13.
Now the Bucs face a huge test by hitting the road Thursday night to play NFC South foe Carolina, a group that hung close with the LA Rams in a 30-27 loss.
Last year, teams playing on the road on Thursday went 4-13. Arians also acknowledged that the first regular-season game is typically a shock to the body, making recovery that much more of a challenge since they played so little in the preseason.
"There's no doubt," Arians said. "We'll start recovery in the locker room after the game. ..."
A few final notes. ... Mike Evans, coming off an illness on Friday, caught just two of his five targets for 28 receiving yards against the 49ers. He faces James Bradberry next week, a cornerback who held him to a season-low 16 receiving yards in Week 9 last year.
All those later-round investments in Ronald Jones might work out.
Jones rushed 13 times for 75 yards and brought in his only target for 18 yards on Sunday.
As CBSSports.com noted, Jones particularly seemed to hit his stride late in the third quarter, when he picked up 29 of his yards on four consecutive rushes. The second-year back looked like a completely different player overall when compared to his forgettable rookie season, a trend he'd already started with a solid training camp and preseason.
Also highly telling was that Jones out-touched Barber by a 13-8 margin in the running game, and that it was he and not Barber who received all fourth-quarter carries.
Nonetheless, Arians said on Tuesday the backfield rotation won't change Thursday, with Barber starting and Jones ready to step in, then going with the hot hand from there.
And finally, on the injury front. ... Jones (toe) and Howard (ankle) worked fully Monday and Tuesday and were removed from the final injury report on Wednesday. Backup QB Blaine Gabbert (shoulder) will miss another game.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Ronald Jones, Peyton Barber, Dare Ogunbowale, T.J. Logan
WRs: Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, Cyril Grayson, Spencer Schnell, Chris Godwin
TEs: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Tanner Hudson
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith framed it, "The Cleveland Browns were the most-hyped team of the NFL offseason. The Tennessee Titans had other ideas. ..."
In a surprising upset that may have some in Cleveland muttering "Same old Browns," the Titans went to Cleveland and easily handled Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham and Company. The final was 43-13 in a game that saw the Titans take complete control in the second half.
The Browns played sloppy, penalty-filled football while Tennessee, on the other hand, looked focused.
Marcus Mariota was efficient passing the ball, and it helped that receiver A.J. Brown made big plays and running back Derrick Henry took a short pass and rumbled for a 75-yard touchdown.
After routing the Browns in Cleveland, the Titans now play their next two games inside the AFC South. They won't face Andrew Luck (now retired) on Sunday in their home opener, nor Nick Foles (injured reserve) in a road trip to Jacksonville.
It may be coach-speak, but Mike Vrabel, now 10-7 as Tennessee's head coach, said the Titans will repeat what they did last week in an approach that has taken root in his second season.
"I think everybody's just a little bit more comfortable," Vrabel said Monday. "When the players can start to point it out, I think that's when it's really starting to manifest itself into what we're looking for."
One thing the Titans will work on: Starting a little faster.
The Titans settled for a field goal on their opening drive. In the second half, Mariota completed all six passes for 143 yards with three touchdowns -- his first such game since Nov. 13, 2016, against Green Bay. The Titans finished with their highest-scoring output since putting up 47 against the Packers, not a bad debut for new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.
"Art did a great job of keeping calm and telling us to stick to the game plan," Mariota said.
As noted above, Brown made a splash in his NFL regular-season debut.
The rookie's big-time playmaking ability was on full display as he hauled in three receptions for 100 yards. According to ESPN.com's Turron Davenport, Brown became the franchise's first player to reach 100 receiving yards in his debut since Sid Blanks on Sept. 12, 1964.
"He's done a great job throughout camp," Mariota said of Brown. "Everyone talks about that transition into the NFL, but he's done a great job buying in, listening and doing everything he can to make himself prepared. Across the board, we had an expectation for him to do well. That's the standard. Now he has to continue to live up to that, and I think he can."
Despite missing all of minicamp and over a week of training camp, Brown solidified a spot in the Titans' rotation, allowing the team to feel comfortable enough to trade third-year receiver Taywan Taylor to Cleveland in exchange for a 2020 seventh-round pick. Brown's 26 snaps at wideout were fourth-most on the team Sunday and four more than Adam Humphries.
"I think A.J. is really starting to understand what we're doing," Vrabel said. "The quarterbacks have begun to trust him."
Wide receiver Corey Davis, meanwhile, was a virtual no-show in this one.
The fifth pick overall in 2017 didn't make a catch on three targets, one thrown a bit too high by Mariota. That didn't bother Vrabel, who made clear he's proud of how Davis blocked while avoiding a penalty on Brown's 51-yard catch and also on Henry's 75-yard TD off a screen.
"The catches will come, the production will come," Vrabel said.
As noted above, Mariota also found Henry for a 75-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass that tied for the longest completion in his career. Henry's touchdown came at the perfect time for the Titans in the third quarter. Cleveland had just scored to cut the Titans' lead to 15-13 following an extra point and brought life back into what had been a very silent crowd.
But all of the Browns' momentum was lost on Henry's touchdown that extended the lead to 22-13.
Henry also had a 1-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. It's the first game of his career in which he has posted a rushing and receiving TD. ...
It was also evident that Marcus Mariota missed Delaine Walker last season, especially in the red zone. The TE caught 2 TDs on five receptions in a return after missing all but one game in 2018.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Dalyn Dawkins, David Fluellen
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe, Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 September 2019
Things move fast in the NFL. ... Derrius Guice suffered an injury to his right knee Sunday and could miss some time, according to coach Jay Gruden, potentially paving the way for Adrian Peterson to get more playing time in Washington's crowded backfield.
Gruden said Guice felt soreness in his knee after the game and was undergoing an MRI on Monday afternoon. Head coach Jay Gruden is not yet ready to rule out Guice for Sunday's game against Dallas, but a source told ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler that Guice has a meniscus injury and that he hopes to be fully recovered within a few weeks.
Even if Guice can play, Gruden said there's a chance the Redskins would keep Peterson active, especially if they have concerns about Guice's durability. Peterson was declared a healthy inactive for the first time in his career before Sunday's 32-27 loss to Philadelphia.
"The whole point of having one lead down back is making sure that guy can handle the carries. If he can't handle all the carries, then you've got to have two," Gruden said. "Fortunately, we have AP in the building."
Gruden said "for sure" that Peterson would be active if Guice can't play.
Guice missed all of last season with a torn left ACL. He also suffered a hyperextended left knee while at LSU.
Guice carried 10 times for 18 yards against the Eagles.
As ESPN.com's John Keim explained, Peterson was inactive Sunday in large part because of special teams needs. The Redskins typically keep only three running backs active, and they knew almost the entire offensive workload would be handled by Guice and Chris Thompson. Washington kept Wendell Smallwood active because he plays special teams.
"Adrian is well-liked in the locker room. He's well-liked by the coaches. He's well-liked by everybody," Gruden said. "It wasn't an easy decision to make him inactive, without a doubt.
"Obviously it's an issue. He's a great player. He had 1,000 yards for us last year. We have 15 games left. I expect Adrian Peterson to play and play well when he does. It could be this week. He's got a great attitude about it. I know he's not happy about it, but when his number is called, he'll be ready."
The Peterson move continued to resonate with his teammates, though it's debatable to what degree. Tackle Morgan Moses, during his paid weekly appearance on 106.7 The Fan on Monday, said, "Any time you've got a Hall of Fame guy that doesn't dress, man, it's a slap in the face.
"And obviously, we've gotta figure out what the reason is. And it's my job as one of the older guys on the offensive line to speak up and say, 'Hey, we need him.' Obviously, you don't put a Hall of Fame guy like that on the sideline. When he's healthy, as well."
Moses said after Sunday's loss that Peterson still has "a lot of juice left." He reiterated that during his radio spot.
"To have that guy just standing on the sideline is just ... it doesn't sit well to guys on the team or the NFL," Moses said. "So I think that's something we need to correct, man, because he's a hell of a football player."
Thompson, however, said while the news surprised players -- and that it was weird to see Peterson on the sideline in street clothes -- he didn't think it would linger.
"I don't think it'll be much of an issue," Thompson said. "The decision was made, we've just got to go with it. It's no point of us continually talking about it or whatever the case may be. ... We're not a team that runs the ball 35, 40 times a game, so if he's active, what happens? Does Guice get 15 carries and he gets three or five or the other way around and I only go in on pass plays? Then that gives up everything we do as an offense. It's a tough decision, definitely, to make and I know it's not a decision that Jay wants to make.
"I know that all the talk and narrative of us three being out there. ... I don't know how we're going to be able to do it, honestly. I even talked to AP about that before."
Whatever the case, I'll have more on Guice (and Peterson) via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. The same goes for Jordan Reed, who missed Sunday's opener with a concussion suffered in the third exhibition game.
Gruden said he is very optimistic about Reed's status for Week 2, but the fact he wasn't ready to go this past week -- two weeks removed from the big hit against Atlanta last month -- is an obvious concern given his extensive concussion history. Reed remained in the protocol as of Wednesday.
Fortunately, Vernon Davis is a capable -- even high-end -- fill in.
Davis has now scored 63 touchdowns in his NFL career, and Keim contends it's safe to say few might have been more entertaining than the one he scored on Sunday.
On a third-and-2 from the Eagles' 48-yard line, Davis motioned into the backfield as if he was going to block for Guice on a run. At the snap, Davis went at a defender as if to block, then headed to the flat. After the catch, he took off down the sideline where he hurdled corner Ronald Darby. The play appeared to be over, except that no one tackled Davis.
He sped down the field for the final 40 yards and the first touchdown of the season. Davis was slowed after the play and lingered at the back of the end zone.
Following the play, Davis became rather emotional when walking off the field. The Redskins radio crew announced that Davis's grandfather, Lynwood Smith, died on Saturday. Davis was raised by his grandparents. In an Instagram post, Davis wrote "my first 18 years you showed me how to be a man. Thank you for everything. Rest well. Love you."
Davis said his tears began to fall once he got into the end zone.
"Just that feeling of being able to be successful, meaning contribute to the team. Not individual success, but success as a team. That whole play was everybody ... but that play is going to have to be irrelevant to me because of what went on today. ..."
The Redskins got a surprisingly strong game from Case Keenum.
Well. ... Half a game.
In the first two quarters, Keenum was outstanding. In the second? Not so much.
Keenum threw for 257 yards in the first half but only 123 in the second. He was aggressive over the middle, mainly because he had time in the pocket. But he missed rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin on a deep ball that would have been a touchdown in the second. Keenum overall was solid, but if Washington needs him to carry the offense, it will be in trouble.
McLaurin caught five passes for 125 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown. His speed was the difference on that touchdown and he was open on the above-mentioned overthrow by Keenum.
After a hot start, McLaurin cooled off with five targets and three catches for 26 yards, all of which came when the game was out of reach. Still, the rookie is a player to watch going forward.
QBs: Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon
TEs: Jeremy Sprinkle, Hale Hentges