Team Notes week 7 2018
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 17 October 2018
Head coach Steve Wilks is past being worried about his struggling offense.
Arizona has yet to gain 300 yards in a game this season, topping out at 269 in a 27-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, which dropped them to 1-5.
"Am I concerned? Majorly," he said after the game. "We need to correct it. We need to find ways to get into the end zone and we need to get it corrected soon."
Unfortunately, as ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss suggests, this week may not be the one when Arizona fixes its offense issues. The Cardinals host the Denver Broncos on Thursday night. That means the Cardinals' offensive woes will be broadcast on national TV. And falling short of 300 yards in a game is just one of many problems.
The Cardinals' offense has been one of the worst in the NFL this season, ranking last in yards per game, yards per play, rushing yards per game, rushing yards per play, first downs per game, third-down percentage and average time of possession, and 31st in yards per play, points per game, and passing yards per game and per play.
Arizona rushed for just 61 yards on Sunday, giving the team 384 yards rushing through the first six weeks of the season, the fewest in the NFL. That's also the fewest for the Cardinals since 2009, when they had 288 by Week 6 and 360 through their first six games. The Cardinals are also last in the NFL in rushing yards gained before first contact.
The Cardinals also went 0-for-10 on third down, which Wilks described as "definitely not good enough."
"That needs to change," Wilks said. "We need to do a much better job coming out of the locker room and try to get in the end zone."
What about the play caller?
Wilks was asked Monday, if offensive coordinator Mike McCoy's job was safe.
"I would say all our jobs are in jeopardy, including mine, if we don't win," Wilks said.
McCoy, who was the Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator last season, was fired on Nov. 20 last season after Denver lost six straight. Including that stretch, McCoy has now lost 11 of his past 12 games as an offensive coordinator. Wilks, who is a defensive-minded coach, said he's been paying more attention to the offense lately "making sure we're doing the things we need to do to execute."
On Monday, Wilks said one option Arizona could turn to in order to spark its foundering offense is a no-huddle scheme, similar to what rookie quarterback Josh Rosen ran at UCLA.
The Cardinals went no-huddle in the fourth quarter against the Vikings and Rosen led Arizona to a touchdown with 7:01 left in the game and the Cardinals trailing 27-10.
"It was very effective for us," Wilks said. "It's something that we got to definitely consider. (It's) part of (Rosen's) comfort zone based off college and the things he did back there, so we got to do everything we can right now to get this offense going in the right direction."
Rosen, however, tempered the notion that a no-huddle scheme would be the answer.
"It's not necessarily that I like it or don't like it, it was just successful a little bit when we did it," Rosen said. "I think the Vikings had a comfortable lead, as well, so I think they took their foot off the gas a little bit and kind of let us get some underneath stuff.
"I think it's definitely something that we can do and continue but (you) also can't look too far into it considering the situation of the game."
With the Cardinals hosting the Broncos on Thursday night, Wilks wants to carry over the offensive pieces that worked Sunday in Minnesota to make life easier for Rosen in the short week.
"How much can we carry over in a short week to try to make things simpler on a quarterback so therefore he can go out there and process things and play fast?" Wilks said.
That includes going no-huddle, Wilks said.
Wilks also said he's open to incorporating more run-pass options into the Cardinals' offense, another scheme that Rosen ran at UCLA.
"We've done some of that. We did some of that (Sunday)," Wilks said. "Do we need to do a little bit more? Probably so."
Rosen said the game plan, which the Cardinals were putting together Monday afternoon, needs to be fluid and flexible from week to week based on what works.
There's an overall frustration with the offense, Rosen said, but he added it's not focused on anything in particular. He singled out Arizona's issues converting on third down, which the Cardinals have done 21.8 percent of the time, ranked last in the NFL, is a "microcosm of the greater issue."
"I think there's a little bit of everything that can always be improved upon," Rosen said. "I think Coach McCoy's going to try a couple things that he might think sparks the offense a little bit, but we also have to continue to tighten up what is already in it.
"When things aren't going right, I think everyone needs to not change the game plan but also not completely buckle down and be stubborn and be like, 'This is us.' It's a constant fluid situation. I think you got to put your head together and solve a problem."
While there's no doubt the Cardinals are struggling through an unforgiving autumn, but NFL.com's Marc Sessler still sees positive signs from Rosen.
Arizona's rookie quarterback showed chemistry with Christian Kirk (six catches for 77 yards), pegging the first-year receiver on a 35-yard connection to set up an Arizona field goal. Rosen later unfurled a 40-yard rope to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (who caught five for 69 yards) to the Vikings 10, but that drive ended with David Johnson getting stuffed on fourth-and-goal at Minnesota's 1-yard line.
Rosen struggled for much of the second half, taking a killer sack at his own 2-yard line -- one of four on the day -- to end one third-quarter series before flinging a bad pick one march later. He returned, though, to put together one of his better drives of the year with a seven-play, 69-yard touchdown march midway through the fourth.
Too little, too late for the Cardinals, but Rosen -- throwing for 240 yards at 7.7 per pass -- has a bright future.
"The opportunities are there," Rosen said. "We find a way to miss them."
"You hope it can change quickly," said Fitzgerald, after his five-catch, 39-yard performance. "But that's all you can do is keep working at it."
Also of interest. ... Patrick Peterson became the latest Cardinals player subject to a trade rumor on Sunday, but Wilks has no plans to deal the Pro Bowl cornerback.
When asked about the report following the team's 27-17 loss to the Vikings, Wilks said "I don't respond to things that are ludicrous. ..."
The Cardinals were down to their fourth- and fifth-string guards by the end of the game. Mike Iupati went out in the first half with a back injury and didn't return. Fellow starter Justin Pugh injured his hand in the fourth quarter and also didn't return.
Jeremy Vujnovich, who replaced Iupati in the lineup, injured his hamstring in the fourth quarter and left the game. The Cardinals finished with Daniel Munyer at right guard and John Wetzel -- who naturally plays tackle -- as the left guard.
On Thursday, the team listed Pugh as questionable while ruling Iupati and Jeremy Vujnovich (hamstring) out. Pugh and Iupati are the starting guards, so there will be some shuffling Thursday against the Broncos. Vujnovich had been one of the replacements Sunday; Daniel Munyer and John Wetzel finished up at the positions in Minnesota.
"It doesn't really help because the game lives, breathes, dies up front," Rosen said of the injuries.
The Cardinals signed offensive lineman Coleman Shelton and running back Brandon Wilds to the practice squad Monday, cutting wide receiver Bernard Reedy and running back Jalen Simmons.
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 17 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure framed it, "The reeling Atlanta Falcons needed a winning play. Matt Ryan delivered."
Facing third-and-9 at the Tampa Bay 42-yard line with 10 minutes left in regulation, the Falcons quarterback, having nowhere to pass, scrambled 13 yards for the first down. At the end of the play, Ryan, who took a body blow or two, appeared to even say something to Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander.
"Heck of a play by Matt," receiver Julio Jones said. "Lowered his shoulder and went and got the first down for us. ... He probably said 'F-yeah' or something like that. You know how Matt is. He's going to drop the F-bomb."
"I just looked at him," Ryan said. "That's it."
Whatever the case, the play helped set up Ryan's 6-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Coleman, an important score in a 34-29 triumph that broke a three-game losing streak. Ryan was clutch the entire day, completing 31-of-41 passes for 354 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 125.5 against the league's worst pass defense. He also moved past Joe Montana to 16th on the all-time passing touchdown list, boosting his career total to 274.
"Obviously very special," Ryan said of the accomplishment. "Anytime your name's brought up with Joe -- I've gotten to know him a little bit throughout my career, and he's one of the best guys you could ever meet -- so it's obviously special. But I'm more excited about the win."
Ryan's excitement was contagious. There was a much different vibe in the locker room afterward, as if the Falcons had just gotten a shot of confidence. The Falcons' record is 2-4, but the players got one burden off their back by breaking the skid.
Said left tackle Jake Matthews: "We've been fighting for about a month now to get this feeling back again. We've come close sometimes. It feels good to answer offensively and put enough points up to win. So yeah, we're very excited."
The formula for the Falcons' success continues to be relying on their high-scoring offensive attack, considering the depleted defense surrendered 512 yards and four passing touchdowns to Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers. However, the defense did benefit from a little luck when a Winston pass into the end zone bounced off the back of Duke Riley's helmet and into the arms of Brian Poole.
Riley said the same thing happened off the back of his helmet while practicing the red zone defense during the week.
Back on offense, the Falcons were perfect in the red zone (3-for-3) for the third time in four home games. Scoring, however, might be even more challenging if Ryan loses injured receivers Calvin Ridley (ankle) and Mohamed Sanu (hip) for any period of the time, and if the Falcons lose veteran kicker Matt Bryant, who appeared to injure a hamstring after nailing a 57-yard field goal.
Injuries aside, the Falcons have somewhat of a favorable upcoming schedule.
Next is struggling Eli Manning and the 1-5 New York Giants on Monday Night Football. Then, the Falcons have a much-needed bye to rest up their injured bodies before traveling to Washington to take on the Redskins (3-2). Atlanta then visits the Cleveland Browns (2-3-1) in Week 10.
Jones, who caught 10 passes for 143 yards against the Buccaneers, just wants his teammates to carry the same fighting mentality they showed last week in practice leading up to this game.
"The way we competed against each other in practice, we got into it a little bit," Jones said. "It got chippy. But, 'I'm trying to make you better' all the way around the board. It helps us out today."
We'll see if it helps the rest of the season as the Falcons continue to compensate for not having impact players such as Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, and Grady Jarrett on defense because of injuries. Jarrett could be back sooner than later, while Jones is eligible to return to game action off of injured reserve for the Nov. 18 matchup with Dallas.
"You always have to start somewhere," Jones said. "That was a great win. But we have to get in there [Monday], obviously it's going to be some things we've got to clean up.
"Everybody pats you on your back, 'Good job, good job, good job. But we've got to go in there and fix things, too, because we still didn't play our best ball."
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen what the injury status is for Ridley and Sanu, two important pieces of the offense. Sanu put the Falcons on the board first with a 35-yard, catch-and-run touchdown in the first quarter, and Ridley was the NFL's leader in receiving touchdowns heading into the game.
The offense managed without them for part of the game on Sunday, though, gaining 416 yards, converting 62 percent if their third downs and scoring touchdowns on all three trips to the red zone. But for a team already dealing with several key injuries, not to mention the sight of Bryant limping into the locker room at the end of the game, the Falcons don't want to lose two key receivers for an extended amount of time.
Ridley, who entered the game with a league-leading six touchdown receptions, caught three passes for 47 yards on three targets before exiting. He worked with the medical staff on the sideline and tried to get stretched out but left the field before halftime. The good news? The MRI on Ridley's injured left ankle came back pretty clean and the injury is believed to be just a bone bruise, a source told McClure on Monday.
Sanu aggravated an existing hip issue and though he was designated questionable to return, he never did.
The Falcons have been hit hard by injuries on both sides of the ball all year. They lost Pro Bowl safety Keanu Neal to a season-ending torn ACL and starting free safety Ricardo Allen to a season-ending Achilles tear. Pro Bowl middle linebacker Deion Jones currently is on injured reserve following foot surgery but is expected to return. The Falcons also are without star defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who continues to recover from an ankle injury.
On Tuesday, two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman, who missed three games with a right knee injury, was placed on injured reserve with foot and groin injuries.
He has played only two games this season, with 19 touches for 91 yards.
"Following the game against Pittsburgh, where Devonta injured his foot, we thought he was just having general soreness in his groin area," head coach Dan Quinn said in a statement. "As the week went on, it continued so we decided to have him get some tests. It has been determined that he will need a procedure that will result in us placing him on injured reserve. We are hopeful he will be able to return this season, but we will have a better feel for that in the coming weeks."
Coleman and Ito Smith will continue to handle the running back duties in the absence of Freeman. ...
Beyond that, with Bryant expected to miss this one; the Falcons signed former Oakland Raider Giorgio Tavecchio, who was with the team briefly this preseason.
The coach is hopeful that Ridley and Sanu will be ready by Monday night's game.
Stay tuned. More on all the walking wounded here as the weak progresses; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for all the latest in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Jones eclipsed the 100-yard mark in receiving yards for the third time this season. Even though Jones has yet to find the end zone in six regular-season games, he did catch 10 balls for 143 yards against the Bucs. According to Elias Sports, Jones' 707 receiving yards this season are the most for a player without a receiving TD in a team's first six games of a season in NFL history.
Ryan started the game with 12 straight completions, which marks his second-highest total in his career. He completed 13 straight to start a game in Detroit back on Dec. 26, 2012.
Ryan's touchdown pass to Coleman late in the fourth quarter gives the Falcons quarterback 274, surpassing the great Joe Montana for 16th all time.
In his last four games, Ryan has completed 86 of 115 passes for 1,147 yards and 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Ryan has thrown a couple of picks in 2018 -- one in each of the first two games of the season.
In the last two games, tight end Austin Hooper has added another dimension the Falcons offense, catching 18 passes for 148 yards and no touchdowns. Against the Bucs, Hooper made 9 catches for 71 yards and a score.
The Falcons converted all three of their red-zone opportunities against the Bucs on Sunday. For what it's worth, Atlanta converted 8 of 16 third-down attempts (62 percent). Yes, the offense is humming right now.
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 17 October 2018
As the team's official website noted, after a long day at the office in Cleveland, the Ravens offense adapted and excelled a week later in Tennessee.
Baltimore's offense thrived on the big play in the first quarter of the season. After a setback last week, the Ravens showed in Tennessee that they can grind their way down the field.
It wasn't explosive. It wasn't all that thrilling. But with a defense pitching a shutout, it was effective and downright smothering.
The Ravens scored 21 points against the league's No. 7-ranked defense. Two of those touchdowns came on Baltimore's first two drives, each of which lasted more than seven minutes -- the first time the Ravens have ever done that in franchise history.
Baltimore was 12-of-17 on third down. The Ravens still only averaged 3.5 yards per carry, but totaled 123 yards on the ground. Joe Flacco was 25-of-37 for 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
It all was set up on the first drive -- a 17-play, 94-yard march that ate more than nine minutes off the clock. It started with a 21-yard gain to Michael Crabtree, so on the Ravens' first offensive play of the game, it was already a bit of a rebound.
Baltimore converted on third down five times on the drive and capped it with a 4-yard touchdown strike to Crabtree. When he came down with the pass and the refs signaled a touchdown, Crabtree popped to his feet and hurled the ball high into the air, as if to toss the weight off his shoulders.
The drive wasn't just big for Crabtree, but for the entire offense after it hadn't scored a touchdown in the past 123 minutes entering the game.
"It was huge," Flacco said. "I don't know how many third downs we converted there, but they're a really good third-down team and they play really tight defense.
"Last week, we weren't able to do that at all. If we were able to do it one time, who knows what happens in that game. This week, we go out there, we don't bat an eye and we make those plays. … It was a really good way to start the game against a tough, physical defense."
The Ravens want to hit chunk plays whenever possible. It makes scoring points easier.
But, as Ravens fans know, Dean Pees defenses are specifically designed to take away big plays and will trade off underneath and intermediate passes instead. That bodes well for Crabtree.
Last week, John Brown was targeted by 14 passes as Flacco hurled the ball 56 times against the Browns. In Tennessee, Brown saw just three targets while Crabtree had nine and Willie Snead IV had 10. The Ravens ran the ball 35 times (19 from Alex Collins) to 37 Flacco passes.
"Run, pass, we kind of established that we could mix it up a little bit," head coach John Harbaugh said. "We had some third-and-long conversions over the course of the game that were massively important. To get a seven-point lead and then get another stop and make it 14 set the tone for the whole game. So our offense deserves a lot of credit there."
Though Brown didn't see as much action this week, he helped set up Baltimore's second touchdown with a leaping 23-yard catch down the sideline. Collins then found an open lane and shook off tackles for a 13-yard touchdown run on the next play to give the Ravens a 14-point lead.
One of the biggest takeaways from Sunday's game will be the reemergence of Crabtree, who bounced back after last week's brutal drops to catch six passes for a team-high 93 yards and a touchdown.
Afterwards, Flacco and Harbaugh talked about how they always had faith in their "superstar" Crabtree to turn it around. Crabtree credited Flacco with continuing to trust him, which only helps build their connection moving forward.
But, bigger picture than that, the Ravens offense proved it can, and will, grind out a win if needed.
"It wasn't easy," Flacco said. "You don't want to have to go through that every time because it's going to be tough, but we were able to do it."
Off course, the defense helped. In fact, the defense was the standout unit. Baltimore racked up 11 sacks, which is a franchise record, and just one shy of the most ever in an NFL game.
The Ravens had more sacks in one game yesterday than eight teams have posted all season.
Other notes of interest. ... While it was a fantastic day for the offense as the group effectively moved the ball against Tennessee, one area the offense still had trouble breaking open was in the run game. The Ravens finished with 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns, but Collins managed just 2.8 yards per rush, which PennLive's Aaron Kasinitz described as "somewhat uninspiring."
As a team, the Ravens averaged 3.5 yards per carry, but if you take away quarterback Lamar Jackson's 22-yard carry, the average drops to just under 3.0 yards per carry. Jackson is part of Baltimore's rushing attack though, so his contribution shouldn't be minimalized.
Despite not having an effective day on the ground, the offense continued to try to run the ball, which was encouraging after the defeat to Cleveland in which the Ravens ran it just 25 times to 57 pass attempts. In Tennessee, the Ravens ran it 35 times while passing it 37. Levy referred to the run-pass ratio as the closest to "even as they may ever get."
Still, the run game in Tennessee left more to be desired.
"You can't accuse the Ravens of abandoning the run in Tennessee, where Alex Collins, Gus Edwards and Javorius Allen combined for 30 carries," the Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker wrote. "They tried everything to get Collins untracked, from an outside pitch on his first carry to a backward swing pass from Flacco. But aside from a 13-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, none of their shifting looks produced the desired space."
Jackson has still yet to score a touchdown in an NFL regular-season game, but he came oh so close to making that happen on Sunday.
Jackson unleashed the above-mentioned 22-yard run from the Titans' 24-yard line, displaying the burst and elusiveness that made him "a human cheat code," during his collegiate career, according to ClutchPoints' Rexwell Villas.
Though Jackson came just short of the end zone, RavensWire's Nathan Beaucage still felt it was "undoubtedly one of his best [runs] to date."
Jackson himself is a little frustrated with how the run ended, saying, "I was disappointed, man. Supposed to keep my legs driving." As Villas put it, "It's just Jackson's first year in the NFL, so it's fair to expect that he'll churn out more highlights."
If that run is any indication, Jackson won't be kept out of the end zone for much longer.
And finally. ... Ravens guard Alex Lewis doesn't have any neurological issues after suffering a neck injury Sunday. Lewis, who was hospitalized briefly on Sunday, was at the team facility Monday. "He's possible for this week," Harbaugh said.
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 17 October 2018
LeSean McCoy shook his head, pursed his lips and took six seconds to find the words to answer a question Sunday about how much confidence the Buffalo Bills' offense had remaining in quarterback Nathan Peterman.
"I still have a lot of confidence in him," McCoy eventually said. "We just gotta play better for him, make plays [and] make it easier for him build some confidence within himself."
McCoy did his best to support his teammate after Peterman threw two more interceptions to doom the Bills in a 20-13 loss Sunday to the Houston Texans, but the Bills' rationalization of continuing to stick by Peterman has reached an absurd point.
Unlike last November's start against the Los Angeles Chargers or this season's opener against the Baltimore Ravens, head coach Sean McDermott did not intentionally insert Peterman into the lineup. An injury to Josh Allen forced Peterman onto the field Sunday, yet the results were as catastrophic as Peterman's previous trips onto an NFL stage that is clearly too large for him.
"We got to have more respect for the football," McDermott said of Peterman's two interceptions Sunday. "I thought he tried to force the football in those situations. You can't do that. You have to take what the defense gives you."
Peterman completed six of 12 passes for 61 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Zay Jones early in the fourth quarter.
According to ESPN.com's Mike Rodak, "Peterman, who has the fourth-worst passer rating in his starts of the 231 quarterbacks to start NFL games since 2001, should not have been put in a position to play. The Bills are not doing Peterman any favors by continuing to put him on the field and subject him and the team to ridicule."
Rodak went on to state that McDermott should share some blame for the situation because of his all-too-obvious affinity for Peterman's character traits in spite of a clear lack of ability from Peterman. General manager Brandon Beane should also face criticism for trading quarterback AJ McCarron at the end of the preseason and not signing veteran quarterback Derek Anderson until last week, five games into the season.
Either way, nothing has brought the organization more national embarrassment over the past year than its quest to prove itself correct and justify Peterman's roster spot. Backup quarterbacks in the NFL typically fall into two categories: graybeards, like Anderson, who can offer guidance; or young quarterbacks who can be developed into NFL starters.
Peterman, 24, fits into neither bucket.
Peterman has appeared in seven games, including the AFC wild-card playoff loss last season, since he was selected in the fifth round of the 2017 draft. He has thrown 10 interceptions in those games, including five in the first half of his starting debut in November, and two before he was benched for Allen in last month's regular-season opener.
Meanwhile, Allen, the No. 7 overall pick in this year's draft, is the quarterback whom the Bills are attempting to develop. As long as Allen is healthy, there should never be an opportunity for Peterman to see the field. Even if Peterman did play, the idea he could flash enough potential for the Bills to keep him on their roster alongside Allen, or for another team to trade for him, is laughable at this point.
So what value does Peterman bring to the Bills' roster?
As Rodak wrote, "There is no defendable explanation for a quarterback who has been intercepted on 12.2 percent of his pass attempts in the regular season and playoffs, the highest rate since 2001 for a quarterback with at least 50 career pass attempts."
The good news?
We won't have to see that again, At least not this week.
McDermott announced Wednesday Anderson will start for the team against the Indianapolis Colts while Allen is week-to-week.
Worth noting, Anderson has experience playing for Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll with the Cleveland Browns in 2009, which should give him a frame of knowledge sturdy enough to move him ahead of Peterman.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported that Allen's injury is to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow. Allen received that second opinion from renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, and while he won't need surgery, the expectation as of now is Allen will miss at least two or three games, then be week-to-week from there, a source told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
The damage to Allen's UCL is not a full tear, Pelissero added. There's no sense he needs Tommy John surgery, as some initially feared.
No other specific information has been revealed, but the Bills do not want to rush him back, sources tell Mortensen, to allow him to properly heal despite his competitive desire to play at less than full strength.
I'll be following up as needed in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio put it, "Kelvin Benjamin now has more awkward pregame interactions with quarterbacks (two) than he has touchdowns this year (one)."
Via Jenna Cottrell of 13 WHAM, Allen asked Benjamin if Benjamin wanted to work on routes during pregame workouts. Said Benjamin: "No."
Cottrell later added more information, which actually makes it look worse for Benjamin, not better. "To further clarify, it was about an hour and half before the game," Cottrell tweeted. "Benjamin remained on the field afterwards while the other WR's ran routes for Allen. I was not the only reporter to hear the conversation."
Benjamin made waves in the preseason by taking a shot at Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. It led to Newton confronting Benjamin before a preseason game between the two teams.
It should be noted that Benjamin slammed Cottrell's report after the game.
The wideout called it "misinformation" and said he told Allen he was ready when the quarterback asked if he needed to do anything else to warm up.
"It still wasn't a question of whether, 'Do you want to run routes?' and I declined," Benjamin said, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. "It was just somebody just trying to take something and run with it and try to get their name out there. Pregame is the player's choice to warm up to get ready for the game. I just feel bad for you [reporters] because I feel like that messes up a lot of the report that y'all try to put out there -- the truth -- to put lies out there. [That's why] a lot of players are kind of standoffish against reporters. It sucks for y'all fellas."
Benjamin was also asked about a perception that he's not working hard enough.
"That's what they gonna believe, man," Benjamin said. "I can't do nothing about that. I can only control what I can control, which is coming in every day, busting my ass and doing what I got to do for this team to win. … Everybody else is clutter. That's noise. I can't feed into that."
Benjamin had two catches for 43 yards in the loss to Houston.
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 17 October 2018
General manager Marty Hurney put his arm around the shoulder of first-round draft pick DJ Moore as the two made their way through a solemn locker room following Sunday's 23-17 loss to the Washington Redskins.
Earlier, fellow wide receiver Torrey Smith sat by Moore at his locker and shared mistakes he had made as a rookie.
Others stopped to share rookie horrors, too.
It was their way of telling Moore to shrug off his two fumbles that led to 10 first-half points for the Redskins, and that the team needs him moving forward.
It was their way of trying to boost the confidence of Moore, whose play 13 miles away at the University of Maryland convinced Carolina to choose him with the 24th overall pick over Alabama's Calvin Ridley, considered by many coming into to the draft to be the best receiver.
"DJ is going to be a part of what we do for a long time, as is Curtis Samuel," head coach Ron Rivera said. "If we believe in them, we're going to keep putting them out there. That's the only way these guys are going to learn and develop into the players we believe they can be.
"We will stick with them."
But it wasn't Samuel getting the postgame pep talks, even though the second-year receiver didn't have a catch. It was Moore, because first-round picks are expected to contribute right away, and so far, the 21-year-old's biggest impact has been a negative one.
As ESPN.com's David Newton suggested, take away his fumbles, one on a punt return that led to Washington's first touchdown and the other after a catch that led to a field goal, and the Panthers aren't digging out of a 17-0 hole.
They're likely 4-1 instead of 3-2 and heading into a Week 7 game at the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles on a high note.
But nobody was blaming Moore for the loss; there is understanding that they have made costly mistakes, as well.
They also understood Moore ultimately will have to be a factor if the Panthers are to make a run to the playoffs. He is one of Carolina's impact players, and you need those to consistently win.
"We should have won," Moore said. "At the end of the day, you've got to play through adversity. That's what everybody kept saying."
To Moore's credit, he made plays in the second half that put Carolina in position to win. He had an 18-yard run to start a fourth-quarter scoring drive that cut the deficit to 20-17. He turned a short pass from quarterback Cam Newton into a 15-yard gain on Carolina's final drive.
"I made so many mistakes," said Smith, a 2011 second-round pick out of Maryland, recalling his rookie season in the NFL with Baltimore. "I made a whole playbook of mistakes. The mistakes doesn't override all the good things you do. I told him it's not about what happens to you, it's what you do and how you overcome it.
"You move on. We lost. We all make mistakes in this game."
Tight end Greg Olsen recalled mistakes he made during his second season with the Chicago Bears against the Panthers.
"I caught two balls, fumbled them both," Olsen said of a 20-17 setback to the Panthers in 2008. "It doesn't define who you are unless you let it. We saw how he bounced back and responded.
"That's what you're judged on. The only guys that don't make mistakes are the guys that don't play."
On his second fumble, Moore fell victim to the "Peanut Punch" that Redskins cornerback Josh Norman learned from Charles "Peanut" Tillman during his 2015 season with the Panthers. As Moore fought for extra yards, his trademark at Maryland, Norman came in from behind and punched the ball with his fist instead of going for the tackle.
Moore said he'll learn from that scenario, realizing sometimes it is better to go down in the NFL than it was in college, where at 6-foot, 209 pounds, he physically was able to overpower many defensive backs.
"I found that out today," Moore said.
Newton, who was intercepted by Norman in the first half, never hesitated to go to Moore after the fumbles.
"He'll be all right," Newton said. "He'll learn from it. He's young. At the end of the day, we all have to be better. Not just him. I had some throws I wish I had back. That's the game of football.
"It's a cliché saying that you live to fight another day, and we have another day come next week. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Devin Funchess hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Newton in the second quarter. It marked Funchess' 19th career touchdown, tying him with Ted Ginn for fifth-most in franchise history.
Statistically, it wasn't Funchess' best game for the Panthers. But stats can sometimes lie.
The fourth-year wide receiver was tremendous, catching five passes for 74 yards, including a sensational 23-yard touchdown grab over Quinton Dunbar.
"We've had this play in for three weeks now. If the ball was short, go back and get it, and if the ball goes to the back of end zone, go catch it," said Funchess, making it sound easy.
But it was similar to what Randy Moss did to cornerbacks during his Hall of Fame career.
"He Randy'ed that boy," Smith, who caught all five of his targets for 43 yards and a touchdown, said.
Funchess wasn't done with his highlight reel. He later worked his way inside of Norman before skying high to grab a 15-yard reception on the Panthers' fourth-quarter touchdown drive.
"He made two spectacular catches," Smith said. "He's using his big body and going up and getting it. Two of the best plays that you'll see."
Funchess played in all but two offensive snaps. He made five catches for 74 yards with the above-mentioned touchdown. ...
Olsen returned from a foot injury that held him out since Week 1 and played in all but one snap on offense. He had four catches for 48 yards. Olsen was limited in Wednesday's practice -- almost certainly as a precaution. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
Samuel saw three offensive snaps, a week after he had 12 snaps against New York; C.J. Anderson only had one snap, coming in the first quarter. ...
Newton threw for two touchdowns in the game, bringing him to 224 total touchdowns in his career. Newton tied Brett Favre for third-most total touchdowns by a quarterback through his first eight seasons.
Graham Gano hit a 32-yard field goal in the third quarter, extending his franchise-best streak of 25 straight field goals made. Gano's streak is the longest active field goal streak in the NFL.
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 17 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson noted, for 30 minutes, Mitchell Trubisky's encore following his career-best six-touchdown performance in a blowout victory against Tampa Bay was underwhelming.
The Chicago Bears, coming off a bye week, went scoreless in the first half Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, falling behind 7-0. Trubisky looked jittery in the pocket. He was 9-of-14 at the break for a paltry 89 yards, 47 of which came on one play.
But as the Bears defense took a nosedive after halftime, Trubisky cleaned up his play. He finished 22-of-31 for 316 yards and three touchdowns, good for a 122.5 quarterback rating. Ultimately, the Bears fell 31-28 in overtime, but there were plenty of positives for the second-year quarterback.
"I think for us it was just mindset and energy, talking at halftime, just fixing and just coming out and being the offense we know we can be," Trubisky said. "Got used to the environment, heat a little bit or whatever. I call it getting gassed up. We just got to hydrate, come out there and play our game like we know how. So, it's just energy, mindset and all 11 guys being on the same page. That's the offense we expect to be, and we've got to have that in the first half."
Trubisky wasn't going to have the same kind of game against the Dolphins that he had against the Bucs, but the fact he bounced back after a subpar first half and played well enough for the Bears (3-2) to win certainly was something to build on.
Trubisky threw a costly pick in the end zone that cannot be overlooked. But he connected on three touchdowns following halftime, one of them a clutch 29-yard toss to rookie Anthony Miller late in the fourth quarter.
"I thought [Trubisky] played well," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "I thought he went through his progressions. He fought. He battled. We didn't do well the first half. We didn't score many points, zero in the first half. But you know what our guys did is they battled. They came out and we scored 21 points in eight minutes.
"And so they battled, and we had the lead throughout the rest of the game, and credit to Miami for making good plays."
Trubisky's performances are often overanalyzed, but he wasn't the main story Sunday -- thanks to the frantic, back-and-forth pace.
Trubisky's game against Tampa was probably an outlier. But he played well enough in Miami. His numbers over the past two games are positively Mahomes-esque: 41-of-57 for 670 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception.
If Sunday's performance is the new normal for Trubisky, the Bears might be in good shape going forward. ...
Jordan Howard lost a fumble at the Dolphins 1-yard line in the second quarter, his first fumble in 337 touches since Week 3 of last season.
"We found a way to lose," Howard said. "I feel like if I wouldn't have fumbled, a lot of stuff wouldn't have went wrong."
Tarik Cohen fumbled at midfield with less than two minutes to play with the Bears driving and the game tied. Trubisky was intercepted in the end zone throwing into double coverage trying to force a pass to tight end Ben Braunecker. That turnover came immediately after a pass-interference penalty on Trey Burton negated a touchdown pass to Cohen.
The Bears stopped themselves as much as the Dolphins did.
Taylor Gabriel has been the Bears' best receiver the last two games. Sunday, he led the team with 110 receiving yards on five catches. Against the Buccaneers, he had seven catches for 104 yards.
Gabriel, a speedster who the Bears have turned into an every-down receiver, is handling the adjustment well.
"Taylor is really fast and when the guy approaches him and the safety stays in the middle of the field, that's a one-on-one match-up that I like," Trubisky said. "He's getting by him, and I'm just trying to put the ball in the right spot for him to make a play. We're just trying to. ... I think we match up really well with our receivers on the outside. We've got a lot of weapons, and we're just trying to find exactly what everyone does well, and Taylor is a great vertical threat as well as a great route runner, along with the other guys."
Meanwhile, Chicago Sun-Times staffer Patrick Finley notes the Bears were furious Sunday that Burton was called for setting a pick on Cohen's defender, Kiko Alonso, when they threw the running back a three-yard touchdown pass at the start of the fourth quarter.
Burton was flagged for offensive pass interference, and Mitch Trubisky threw an interception on the next play. The Bears would lose 31-28 in overtime.
Burton appeared to lower his left shoulder into Alonso as the linebacker chased Cohen on a pass route.
"I was just trying to get around him and he kind of ran into me and they called it," Burton said. "I thought if you run a route and somebody runs into you, you're good, but I guess not."
Head coach Matt Nagy said he didn't get an explanation for the call, and said Burton did nothing wrong.
"Trey did everything I asked him to do," he said. ...
On the injury front. ... Nagy didn't provide an update on Khalil Mack's injured right ankle beyond saying the outside linebacker would undergo tests this week and the team would know more in a couple of days, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports. “He’s day to day right now," Nagy said on Wednesday. "We’re just going to continue to keep an eye on it and be more cautious than anything.”
Mack injured his ankle in the first half against the Dolphins on Sunday but re-entered and wound up playing 79 percent of the Bears snaps on defense. He finished with two tackles, but it was his first game in a Bears uniform without a sack or a forced fumble. ...
One last note. ... The Bears gave Cody Parkey a four-year, $15 million contract -- with $9 million guaranteed -- this offseason to make game-winning kicks. He missed the 53-yarder in overtime that would have done just that.
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 17 October 2018
There were no pregame fights or in-game scuffles and penalty yards were kept to a minimum. According to ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell, it was downright tame by Cincinnati Bengals-Pittsburgh Steelers standards, at least for 60 minutes.
But the end result was the same on Sunday. The Bengals (4-2) lost to the Steelers (3-2-1) for the seventh straight game, 28-21, and opened the door for Pittsburgh to climb back to the top of the division.
The Bengals, who simply have not been able to exorcise their demons against Pittsburgh, looked like they were finally going to do it after executing a late touchdown drive to go ahead by one point.
Instead, they lost their seventh straight against Pittsburgh after leaving 1:18 on the clock for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. They gashed a depleted Bengals defense, appearing to set up for a game-winning field goal before wide receiver Antonio Brown ran in for a 31-yard touchdown, essentially untouched.
These are the odd things that seem to happen in every Bengals-Steelers contest lately, from injuries, to fights, to inexplicable blown leads. It's part of the reason the tension between the two teams is also sky high. When the game was over, a scuffle broke out with players on both sides throwing punches.
It didn't help that the typically physical contest appeared to take its toll on the Bengals more than it did the Steelers. The Bengals first lost linebacker Nick Vigil, then cornerback Darqueze Dennard was declared out. They lost starting safety Shawn Williams to a concussion as well.
That's why next week has all the makings of a letdown, and it could reshape the course of the Bengals' season. The Bengals will travel to play the Kansas City Chiefs in prime time, potentially down several starters. The Bengals were embarrassed at home last year by the lowly Bears one week after an emotional game against Pittsburgh that left them without several starters against Chicago.
A promising 4-1 start could quickly turn into 4-3 if the Bengals can't regroup quickly. But after losing yet another heartbreaker, it's certainly a tall task.
The 5-1 Chiefs look like one of the best teams in the league, and they certainly have the best offense, averaging 35.8 points-per-game. They lost for the first time this season on Sunday, and yet still put up 40 points on the Patriots.
The Bengals, meanwhile, are struggling on defense. They managed to keep the Steelers in check for most of the game and even tightened up in the red zone several times to force field goals. But when it came down to it, given one minute and the crucial need to keep the Steelers on their side of the field, they couldn't do it.
It didn't help that their defense was down to its bare bones after losing three starters during the game, but every player would say the league is all about next man up.
"Football has a 99 percent injury rate. People are going to get hit, people are going to get dinged up. You do what you do to take care of your body and get ready to play next week if you can," Dunlap said.
It's easy to say the Bengals face one of their biggest tests every week. The Steelers game was certainly one, but this week is just as important. The Bengals have one of the youngest rosters in the league, and none of the players has gone through any real adversity this season. Now is the point where they show if they're truly tough.
Bengals wide receiver John Ross was asked last week what's different about the team, and he pointed out how easy everything is when the wins are piling up.
Now their true character test comes after a tough loss.
The Bengals are going to have to figure out why their defense failed at the worst moment, whether it's a problem on the players' side or the scheme.
A few players pointed out that Roethlisberger seemed to know what they were doing on defense late, perhaps a byproduct of being so familiar with the Bengals. The Bengals were in cover zero on the touchdown play, meaning they called an all-out blitz, anticipating it would be a run play to set up a field goal.
"I think he just knew how we were lined up," safety Clayton Fejedelem said. "I mean, everyone was right there in front of him and that's how we were lined up on a few of our goal-line plays. He'd seen it a couple times [today] already."
The Bengals also essentially got no pressure on Roethlisberger, save for one play in which nose tackle Andrew Billings pushed the pocket enough to get Roethlisberger to roll out and throw an incomplete pass. Considering the talent on the defensive line, it was certainly head scratching.
If there's a tape of mistakes to learn from, it will certainly be this one. And with the possibility of being shorthanded this week on defense, there won't be much time to look back. The Bengals are going to have to look forward, and quickly, or they could be facing their first losing streak of 2018.
"We'll be back next weekend," wide receiver Tyler Boyd said. "We're going to get the win. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... After losing tight end Tyler Eifert to a season-ending ankle injury, the Cincinnati Bengals also will be without tight end Tyler Kroft, who has a broken bone in his foot, a league source tells ESPN.
Kroft missed Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and will likely miss this weekend against the Chiefs. He will meet with a specialist within the next two weeks to determine whether he can play through the injury or needs season-ending surgery, according to a source.
Without Eifert, who suffered a broken ankle in Week 4 against Atlanta, and now Kroft, the Bengals will rely on former fifth-round draft pick C.J. Uzomah at tight end -- at least until Kroft returns (and head coach Marvin Lewis says Kroft will return this season).
Kroft, 25, has four receptions for 36 yards in five games this year. He emerged as a solid receiving threat for the Bengals last season, when he had 42 catches for 404 yards and seven touchdowns.
As for this week's game, Andy Dalton (back) went full on Wednesday in first work after Sunday's game; Ross (groin) also worked fully. Uzomah (shoulder) was limited and Giovani Bernard (knee) was held out.
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 17 October 2018
According to ESPN.com's Pat McManamon, Baker Mayfield offered no excuses: He blamed himself for his poor game Sunday and vowed he will learn from it.
"We did not execute, we did not do our job, we were not detailed," Mayfield said after a 38-14 beatdown at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers. "We did not do the things that we talked about all week. That is the most disappointing thing. Any time you do not do your job ... I am at fault for the majority of that.
"I am going to be very hard on myself."
Mayfield was below 50 percent in completions for the first time this season. He threw two interceptions. He held the ball too long and was sacked five times. And though he saw potential touchdown passes go through the hands of Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley, he never got the offense going. His Total QBR for the game: a woeful 14.6.
Things did not go well at all when the Chargers got near him. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, Mayfield was 2-for-11 under pressure for 34 yards with one interception and five sacks. He was pressured on 17 of his 52 dropbacks.
Mayfield's numbers: 22-for-46 for 238 yards (5.2 yards per attempt) with one touchdown, two interceptions and a rating of 52.6. For the season, his rating is 72.8 and he has more interceptions than touchdowns.
"There were some things that I am sure he would like to do better," head coach Hue Jackson said. "I am sure there are some balls that he would like to have back."
Mayfield admitted he held onto the ball too long at times, which contributed to miscues and sacks. He said the Chargers didn't do a whole lot differently, he just didn't play as well.
"It doesn't matter what they are doing," Mayfield said. "I have to do my job."
The play he lamented more than any other was any interception he threw on the Browns' first play of the second half. Down 21-6 and after the defense forced a punt, Mayfield rolled left and tried to throw to Jarvis Landry coming toward the sideline.
Instead it was intercepted and returned to the 10, which set up an easy Chargers score.
"Can't do it," Mayfield said. "Can't happen. I will be the first to correct my stuff."
Mayfield didn't call out his teammates, but he admitted that it hurts the Browns when they miss chances. The problem is that Cleveland (2-3-1) has been a team of woulda-coulda-shoulda for years, and there is only one way to get past that lamentation.
"When you get your opportunity, you have to take advantage of it," Mayfield said.
Injury issues affected the offense. Rashard Higgins had worked his way to a starting receiver job, but then sprained a knee ligament. Derrick Willies played well in place of Higgins against Baltimore, but broke his collarbone in practice Friday.
That left the inconsistent Calloway and Ratley to try to take pressure off Landry, who is seeing a lot of double-teams and who caught just 2 of 9 passes thrown his way (with one drop). The Browns signed Breshad Perriman on Saturday, but his tenure in Baltimore was marked by dropped passes more than anything. Ratley said he should have caught the touchdown pass in the first half, but still had six receptions for 82 yards.
The situation at wideout got worse when Rod Streater left with a neck injury in the first half.
Streater won't be back this season. The Browns announced on Monday that Streater will miss the rest of the season with a neck fracture. The team added that Streater will not be having surgery and doctors expect him to make a full recovery.
Ratley injured his hip and back on the latter in the fourth quarter, but Jackson said he should be fine. Because of Streater's neck injury, Ratley played 65 offensive snaps (88 percent of all the offensive snaps), and 13 special teams snaps. Heading in, he had been inactive for three of five games and had played one offensive snap.
"He made some plays," said Jackson. "Ratley played a lot of football. This guy probably played somewhere close to 80 snaps in his first game. That's a lot of football. He made plays. ..."
Perriman was inactive on Sunday, but Streater's injury and Higgins' knee issue likely mean he or another wideout will be moving into the lineup for their Week 7 trip to Tampa.
Jackson concedes the team would like to have more experienced talent at the position, but said with rosters set it's not easy to find upgrades at this point of the season.
Injuries add to the receiver woes that began when the team traded Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon during training camp. The Browns had counted on both when camp opened. ...
Also on the injury front. .. Mayfield wouldn't say it after the game, but the rookie QB did turn his ankle during the game, limiting his effectiveness. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Mayfield has some soreness and will get treatment for the sprain over the course of the week, but he shouldn't miss time.
I will, of course, follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
Inside linebacker Joe Schobert will be out a few weeks because of a hamstring pull that happened late in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. His backup would be James Burgess; he also has a hamstring issue and probably won't play Sunday.
The Browns are scheduled to work out free-agent linebacker NaVorro Bowman on Tuesday, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
One last item here. ... As Cleveland Plain Dealer staffer Mary Kay Cabot notes, three seems to be the magic number for rookie running back Nick Chubb. In four of six games this season, Chubb has rushed only three times. In the two other games, it was only two. Against the Chargers, he rushed three times for 25 yards (8.3 average), with a long gain of 19. The 19-yarder, however, was diminished by a 10-yard holding call at a crucial point in the game, with the Browns trailing only 14-3.
Overall, Chubb is averaging 10.8 yards on his 16 carries, in large part because of his two long TD runs in Oakland, for 63 and 41 yards.
"We need to get more," said Jackson. "There's nothing else to say. We need to get him more chances, but sometimes the game changes, you get behind and you need Duke Johnson out there because that's what he does well - catch the ball and run it. That's what you were seeing yesterday. As these games get a little closer, they do not get too far away and we can get up whatever that is, we do need to give Nick Chubb more carries."
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 17 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer reported, when offensive coordinator Scott Linehan spoke to the media last week, he said the Cowboys offense was close to being successful in so many ways.
It sounded more like something a coach had to say than anything based in fact considering the Cowboys had not scored more than two touchdowns, converted more than five third-down opportunities or shown any consistency in the first five games of the season. It sounded a lot like Jerry Jones comparing the Cowboys' offensive potential to the high-flying Los Angeles Rams.
And then Sunday's 40-7 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who entered with the top-ranked defense, happened.
Dak Prescott was at his best, looking like it was 2016 all over again. He threw two touchdown passes to Cole Beasley, the first time they connected for a score since Week 9 last year. He ran 17 yards for a touchdown. He finished with a career-high 82 rushing yards on a career-high 11 carries. He threw for 183 yards on 17-of-27 passing.
Ezekiel Elliott finished with 106 yards on 24 carries and had a 15-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
As much as everybody wants to know where this offensive explosion came from, the bigger question that will determine the Cowboys' success the rest of the season is: How do they sustain this kind of performance, especially on the road?
Three of the Cowboys' next four games are away from home. In their first three road games, all losses, the Cowboys have averaged 12.3 points, 16 first downs, 276 yards and converted just nine-of-38 third-down tries.
But before going down that road, Cowboys fans can enjoy what was on display against the Jaguars.
Before Sunday, the Cowboys had not scored more than 26 points in a game. The last time they scored more came in Week 14 last season against the New York Giants in a 30-10 win. The last time they scored 40 points at home came in 2016.
Before Sunday, the Cowboys had not converted more than five third-down chances in a game. They converted six of nine in the first half.
Before Sunday, the Cowboys had not scored on their first four possessions of a game since Week 4 last year against the Rams. They scored on all four against the Jaguars with Beasley ending the first half with his second touchdown catch, a nine-yard reception with 41 seconds left in the half.
Now 3-3, the Cowboys will be in the NFC East race in part because no other team has been able to create any separation in the first six weeks.
Next week, they take on the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field where they have won five games in a row. The Redskins lead the division with a 3-2 mark but are hardly unbeatable.
A convincing win like Sunday's can change a team's mindset, especially when it comes out of nowhere.
Now the Cowboys have to show they can do it on the road. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Rookie wide receiver Michael Gallup made his first career start Sunday and he narrowly missed recording his first career touchdown.
Prescott went to Gallup in the end zone on first and 10 from the Jacksonville 17 in the first quarter. Gallup made a difficult grab, but he could only get one foot inbounds. The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but officials reversed it on review.
Dallas scored a touchdown anyway on the next play, when Prescott ran for 17 yards.
Gallup had started the game with a big play, by going up and getting the ball on a 27-yard pass down the left sideline on third and 9 on Dallas' opening drive of the game. The Cowboys turned the possession into a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
For much of the season, Dallas has lacked a deep receiving threat on the outside that could help open up the offense.
As Dallas Morning News staffer Kate Hairopoulos put it, "The Rico Gathers Project registered production for the second straight week Sunday." The tight end had a catch for a 14-yard gain that moved Dallas to Jacksonville's 17 during the second quarter. The Cowboys scored on the next play.
Gathers, the former Baylor basketball player, made the first catch of his career for a 32-yard gain in the Week 5 loss at Houston. ...
Wide receiver Tavon Austin went to the locker room in the third quarter with a groin injury and did not return against the Jaguars.
Austin was slow to get up after getting hit as he went out of bounds on a reverse play.
He had one catch for 5 yards and two runs for 14 yards against Jacksonville.
Garrett told reporters on Monday that Austin is unlikely to play this week against Washington and, "might need a little bit of time," as he deals with the injury. In fact, Austin is getting a second opinion on the injury, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported Wednesday. ...
And finally. ... Asked if Rod Smith is the handcuff to Elliott, Archer replied, by process of elimination, the answer is yes because the Cowboys do not have another tailback on the 53-man roster.
Jordan Chunn and Darius Jackson are on the practice squad, but Smith showed last season he can be a quality fill-in. He does not have the dynamic skills of Elliott -- few do -- but he can be productive in the way Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden were in previous seasons for the Cowboys. The Cowboys have given Smith more work the past two games as Elliott has dealt with minor knee and ankle injuries.
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 17 October 2018
With a four-game losing streak in hand, a pile of mistakes to go around, a meltdown of the team's run defense with a smattering of bad breaks, Denver Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway said Monday it is time to see a team "fighting for our lives" Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Broncos lost Sunday, 23-20 to the Los Angeles Rams, Denver's fourth consecutive loss since a 2-0 start. The Broncos continue to create plenty of their own troubles with penalties and turnovers that have cost them games, including penalties that cost the Broncos seven points Sunday as well as a Case Keenum interception deep in Rams territory that cost the Broncos at least another three points.
Elway, who labeled the team "soft" last November during what eventually became an eight-game losing streak, was asked on the team's radio partner, Orange and Blue 760, Monday afternoon about the team's current state of affairs.
"At some point in time we have to play better football. ... We're still making the mistakes we shouldn't make to beat good football teams like the Rams," Elway said. " ...[It's] disappointing, that's for sure."
Elway then later closed out the roughly eight-minute interview with "hopefully we can ... take a mentality into that Thursday night game where we're fighting for our lives."
Moments later that prompted a question to head coach Vance Joseph in his usual day-after-game media gathering if he took Elway's comment as Joseph having to fight for his job.
"Absolutely, absolutely," Joseph said. "That's every coach in this league every week. If you don't feel that way, you're missing something. So, if we were ... 5-1, I would feel that way. That doesn't motivate me, I'm already motivated to win games and fix our football team."
Joseph also said Monday that "our margin for error is very small. We can't make the normal football mistakes. For example, Sunday our offense would have had 10 more points without the penalties ... right now, where we are, we cannot make mistakes."
Elway said the Broncos are going to dig themselves out of the current situation given "there isn't a magic switch, a magic answer" and that "even though we've got a lot of players playing well, we're not playing well as a team."
Keenum is tied for the league lead in interceptions, with eight, and the Broncos defense is last in the league in run defense, allowing 161.3 yards rushing per game with 593 rushing yards allowed in the past two games combined (323 rushing yards by the Jets in Week 5 to go with 270 rushing yards by the Rams on Sunday).
"We've gotten very soft in there. We’re not playing very well inside," Elway said. ...
Meanwhile, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders saw one finger -- his index finger, to be exact -- cost the Broncos a potential four points against the Rams.
Sanders said his first-quarter taunting penalty "cost my team," but he added it was also a sign the "league is getting soft."
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold reported, with the Rams leading 6-0 late in the first quarter Sunday and the Broncos in a second-and-5 situation at the Los Angeles 44-yard line, Keenum hit Sanders for what Sanders initially believed was a 44-yard touchdown. As soon as Sanders popped up from a tackle, he pointed a finger in Rams cornerback Troy Hill's face, which drew the flag for taunting.
"To me, honestly, I feel like the league is getting soft," Sanders said. "I'm having fun. I didn't do anything crazy to the guy besides say, 'I got you on that play,' pointing my finger at him. [The official] threw the flag, which is crazy because I feel like I've been in the league nine years and I've been pointing at guys, go back and look at my film, I've been pointing at guys all the time and saying, 'I got you on that play.'
"It was a great throw by Case. I came down with a big play, emotions are high. ... It's not like I walked up to him and head-butted him or something crazy. But it cost my team."
As a touchdown, the penalty would have been assessed on the ensuing kickoff. However, as a scoring play, the play was reviewed with replay, and it was determined Sanders was down at the Rams' 1-yard line.
So the penalty was then tacked on and the ball was moved to the 16-yard line. The Broncos gained only six yards on the next three plays combined and Brandon McManus had to come in for a 28-yard field goal attempt.
It was a play that grew in importance as the afternoon wore on, as the Broncos came back from a 20-3 deficit to make it 23-20 in the final minutes before an onside kick failed.
"There're no moral victories. ... Our guys played hard, that's apparent, but we have to play a better brand of football as far as penalties," Joseph said. "... He knows better, he knows better, I didn't see what happened. ... He can't do that. He knows that."
Said Sanders: "When I look at the scoreboard -- we lost by three points -- I feel like we could have easily punched that ball in, got four [more] points. I don't see the penalty in that. ... I'll learn from it. ... I'll keep chugging along."
The Broncos lost another potential three points in the second quarter because of penalties. Having moved the ball to the Rams' 35-yard line, with the Rams then holding a 13-3 lead, the Broncos had two holding calls in a three-play span to move the ball back to the Denver 35-yard line.
They did not convert a third-and-30 and, instead of a potential field goal attempt, were forced to punt.
In fact, the Broncos didn't get into the end zone until the second half of Sunday's game.
Sanders also said he feels like the loss is on his shoulders because of the missed opportunity for a touchdown. The Rams' 285 rushing yards and other things loomed large, but Sanders' penalty certainly didn't help Denver's chances of handing the Rams their first loss of the year.
In general, the Broncos keep doing decent things outside the red zone only to get bogged down by penalties and mistakes. They went 2 of 4 in the red zone against the Rams and were unable to extend drives because of bad third-down work (3 of 10).
The run-pass distribution (17 rushes, 41 passes) was again out of whack because the score got out of whack.
Keenum was 25-of-41 passing for 322 yards and two touchdowns. He delivered on-point deep throws to Sanders, Demaryius Thomas and Courtland Sutton, but also threw another red zone interception. ...
The patchwork offensive line held it together despite being without right tackle Jared Veldheer (knee) and losing left guard Ron Leary early in the third quarter.
That said, the Broncos are thin in the offensive line with a Thursday night game in Arizona already looming. Leary suffered what the Broncos fear is a season-ending Achilles injury in the loss to the Rams. Asked after Sunday's loss to the Rams if Veldheer would be ready to play Thursday, Joseph said: "I'm not sure about that. We'll see (Monday) on that."
Now we know.
The team ruled out five players on Wednesday, including Leary, who is out for the rest of the season, and Veldheer.
The Broncos also ruled out linebacker Shane Ray (ankle, wrist), safety Dymonte Thomas (chest) and cornerback Adam Jones (thigh). Jones did not play in Week 6 while Ray and Thomas both left the loss to the Rams with injuries.
Meanwhile, Joseph promised changes this week but those alterations were either cosmetic or schematic -- and, ultimately, fruitless.
Max Garcia replaced right guard Connor McGovern, but McGovern rotated back in and Garcia moved over when left guard Ronald Leary (ankle) got hurt in the third quarter.
If the Broncos had better options, scuffling cornerback Bradley Roby -- who again gave up big plays -- and left tackle Garett Bolles -- who was flagged for his NFL-high sixth holding call Sunday -- also might have been benched.
Bolles and Garcia had holding calls that pushed Denver out of scoring range.
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 17 October 2018
As Associated Press sports writer Noah Trister reminded readers, the last time the Detroit Lions entered their open date with a losing record, they fired the general manager.
This year, the break in the schedule has been a bit quieter.
The Lions are 2-3 and have certainly had their problems during the early part of this season, but after winning two of their last three games, they appear to have achieved some stability. At the very least, there's no sense of panic -- and that's noteworthy given how poorly Detroit's first couple games went.
"We just know what we have. The games that we lost, we had a lot of mental mistakes," receiver Marvin Jones said. "When we're a team that doesn't do that and has less penalties, and can keep a sustained drive and stuff like that, it's completely different. That's all we have to do is keep doing that."
It was hard to imagine a more distressing beginning for the Lions than their 48-17 loss to the Jets in their season opener. That was new coach Matt Patricia's first game, and Detroit let a bad stretch in the third quarter snowball into a rout. A loss at San Francisco the following weekend had the Lions staring at a possible 0-5 start, since their next three games would be against New England, Dallas and Green Bay.
Detroit did start 0-5 back in 2015, and at 1-7, the Lions fired GM Martin Mayhew. After that, Detroit produced back-to-back 9-7 seasons, making the playoffs in one of them, but the Lions wanted more and made a coaching change last offseason, bringing in Patricia to replace Jim Caldwell.
"Coach Caldwell and Patricia are completely, totally opposite as people. It will be some changes, but with anything, you get used to them," receiver Golden Tate said. "You've just got to adjust."
After the first two games, Detroit seemed in danger of taking a big step backward this year. That may still happen, but the past three games have given the Lions reasons to be hopeful. Patricia's first win came against his former team when Detroit beat New England. Last weekend, the Lions held off Green Bay 31-23 in Patricia's first game against an NFC North opponent.
"Hopefully we are getting better. I think we are," Patricia said. "I would say there are still some things that, after getting done watching all the tape, that I'm probably going to make sure we get corrected pretty quick here coming out of (Sunday's) game. It wasn't really all perfect."
Detroit had some good fortune last weekend when Mason Crosby of the Packers missed four field goals and an extra point, but the Lions have improved in some tangible ways. Matthew Stafford threw four interceptions in the season opener but has only one since, and Detroit's long-dormant running game has at least become serviceable with rookie running back Kerryon Johnson. The Lions are ranked 21st in rushing offense this season after finishing 28th, 32nd, 30th and 32nd the past four years.
"When you break the huddle and you're at the line of scrimmage and the defense really isn't sure if it's a run or if it's a pass, that's a pretty good position for an offense to be in," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. "If you're making yards on the ground, you're making yards throwing the ball, you're a little bit of a dual threat there for the defense, it can put them in some difficult situations."
The Lions have plenty of issues they still have to deal with. They're ranked 27th in total defense, and defensive end Ziggy Ansah -- back this season on the franchise tag -- has missed four straight games with a shoulder injury. Detroit hasn't won away from home, and three of its next four games are on the road, starting with a matchup at Miami on Oct. 21.
Still, the Lions have kept their season from falling apart after a terrible start. If they can make it to the halfway point in decent shape, then Patricia will have every opportunity to turn his debut year into a success.
"It's early in October, so hopefully we can keep progressing," Patricia said. "But I think, I hope we're moving in the right direction."
Meanwhile, as Detroit Free Press reporter Dave Birkett noted last week, former Lion Eric Ebron has more than twice as many catches as the entire current Detroit tight-end room combined. And yet, if the Lions were given a do-over for their March decision to cut Ebron, it's likely they'd pass.
Despite a woeful lack of counting statistics -- Lions tight ends have just 10 total catches this year, tight ends coach Chris White said he's happy with the contributions his group has made so far.
"We're not displeased with what our tight ends are doing," White said.
While Luke Willson, Levine Toilolo, Michael Roberts and Hakeem Valles (who was waived last week and re-signed Monday to the practice squad) have played a minimal role in the passing game, White said they've been a big part of the Lions' success running the football.
In the Week 5 win over the Green Bay Packers, Willson and Toilolo helped open holes on some of the game's most important runs. LeGarrette Blount ran behind both players in an unbalanced formation when he converted a third-and-1 on the opening drive of the game, and Toilolo made the key block on Blount's second third-and-1 conversion in the fourth quarter.
"They're unselfish," White said. "All they want to do is win and help the team win in whatever role they have. But most importantly, I think (they are) just helping the run game right now with play-action passes, protections. First- and second-down throws."
The Lions expected Kenny Golladay to take on a bigger offensive role in his second season, which he has. But they also made a play for a pass-catching tight end in free agency, Trey Burton, and only ended up signing Willson and Toilolo when Burton picked the Chicago Bears.
Willson, who spent the last five seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, where he played primarily as the team's No. 2 tight end, leads Lions tight ends with four catches for 29 yards.
Toilolo (three catches, 19 yards) has been used largely as a blocker, Roberts (1-15) hasn't played since Week 2 because of a knee injury, and Valles (2-11) has played sparingly as the best pass catcher of the bunch.
White said the group is "continuing to get better in the pass game," and it's possible they play a bigger role on offense as the Lions return from their bye this week. ...
In a semi-related item. ... According to ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein, Golladay, who's been getting a ton of work and looks, figures to see his role increase as the season goes along.
The combination of Golladay, Jones and Tate is next to impossible for a team to completely cover. As Golladay emerges, that might mean more attention to him and a little bit of a dip in production, but he's going to get his opportunities regularly. He has tremendous size, jumping ability and catch radius.
One last note here. ... The Lions are placing All-Pro return man and CB Jamal Agnew on injured reserve this week due to a knee injury he suffered against Green Bay, but he could be back later this season if Detroit is making a playoff push, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
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 17 October 2018
As NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman framed it, "Aaron Rodgers did it again. ..."
Thanks to the quarterback's fourth-quarter heroics, the Green Bay Packers (3-2-1) staved off an upset from C.J. Beathard and the San Francisco 49ers (1-5), 33-30, at Lambeau Field to close out Week 6.
But Mason Crosby was the talk of the night after hitting four field goals, including the winner from 27 yards as time expired to lift the Packers past the San Francisco 49ers 33-30 on Monday night.
On Wednesday, Crosby was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
"This week was a grind, it was one of the tougher weeks of my career," Crosby said.
It began with rare questions about Crosby's reliability following four missed field goals and an extra-point try in a 31-23 loss in Detroit last week.
It ended with a perfect night against the 49ers. He also hit from 29, 39 and 51 yards, and made all three extra-point attempts.
"It's very appropriate, what he went through last week, (for) the team to stick with him," Rodgers said. "And then he responded."
The drive that led to Crosby's winner was extended after cornerback Richard Sherman was flagged for illegal contact on third-and-15 that wiped out a sack with 43 seconds left.
Rodgers rushed up the middle for a 21-yard gain on the next play. The two-time NFL MVP completed two more passes for 19 yards to set up Crosby's winner for Green Bay (3-2-1).
"It doesn't matter if you agree with the call. It's not like, 'Oh, I didn't agree with the call, they're going to pick it up.' They called it. I've got to find a way to do better," Sherman said.
Meanwhile, Rodgers threw for 425 yards and two scores, both to Davante Adams. The second came with 1:55 left from 16 yards to tie it at 30.
The Packers didn't waste a second chance to get into field-goal range after the penalty on Sherman.
After a spike to stop the clock with 19 seconds left following his 21-yard scramble to the Packers 45, Rodgers hit three straight passes to move Green Bay to the San Francisco 9. The receivers got out of bounds after each of play to buy more time.
"Just the time, and just really the menu (of plays) and the operation, that was a clinic," head coach Mike McCarthy said.
Green Bay enters its bye week on a high note, having exorcized the demons from the Week 5 meltdown in Motown. Once the Packers return to play in Week 8, though, it's no easy pickings. Tied with Minnesota behind Chicago in the NFC North, the Packers play at the Rams (6-0), at New England (4-2), against Miami (4-2), at Seattle (3-3) and at Minnesota (3-2-1) over the next five weeks.
That's a murderers' row, but the perfect test for this less-than-perfect Pack. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Rodgers' rookie receivers stepped up when it mattered most. With Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison on the sidelines, the duo of Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown showed out.
Valdes-Scantling (103 yards) set the tone with a 60-yard grab to start the game and was targeted five times thereafter, earning the most snaps (65) of any Packers receiver. Valdes-Scantling was one of three Packers with 100 receiving yards along with Adams and Jimmy Graham. St. Brown (34 snaps) was targeted just once, but it was an important one, the second of Rodgers' sideline snipes on the game-winning drive.
The Packers QB said after the game he feels "a lot better about our depth after six weeks."
All in all, it was a promising night for a passing game with Cobb and Allison both sidelined again with hamstring injuries.
Both should be ready to return after the bye week.
Even without them, Rodgers becomes the first QB in team history to register back-to-back 400-yard passing games and now has six 400-yard games in his career. No other quarterback in franchise annals has more than one 400-yard passing game (four QBs with one).
In his last four games on Monday Night Football, Rodgers has completed 103 of 156 passes (66.0 percent) for 1,398 yards and 12 TDs with no INTs for a 120.1 passer rating. He has posted 300-plus yards passing and a 100-plus rating in all four of those contests (4-0 record).
Rodgers posted two completions of 50-plus yards (the 60-yarder to Valdes-Scantling and 54 yards to Graham), matching his single-game career high.
Adams caught two TD passes on the evening, giving him a TD reception in five of six games this season, tied for No. 1 in the league. He is tied for No. 1 in the NFL with six TD catches on the season.
Adams finished with 10 receptions for 132 yards (13.2 avg.), his fifth career game with 10-plus catches, No. 3 in team history (since 1950) behind only WRs Sterling Sharpe and Donald Driver (seven each).
Graham's 54-yard reception in the first quarter was the third-longest catch of his career and his longest since posting a 56-yard TD grab with the New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay on Sept. 15, 2013. Graham finished with five receptions for 104 yards (20.8 avg.), his first 100-yard receiving game since Nov. 7, 2016, against Buffalo when he played for Seattle.
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 17 October 2018
The Houston Texans have won three straight games to get back to .500, but it hasn't been easy for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The Texans' offensive line has struggled to protect their young quarterback, who played in Sunday's 20-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills with injured ribs. The unit allowed seven sacks and 12 quarterback hits. Watson has now been hit 66 times and sacked 25 times this season.
Watson was 15-of-25 for 177 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He also fumbled the ball three times, losing one. Watson now has eight career interceptions under duress, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Only Derek Carr and DeShone Kizer have more such interceptions since 2017.
Despite all that, Watson's coaches and teammates said he fought hard to play.
"When you've got a guy that sacrifices everything when he's hurt, everybody around him better do the same thing, especially if it's your quarterback," defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. "Everybody put that on their shoulders this week and just tried to give it all up for him.
"We love that guy. He's a big leader to this team and a big part of this team. We need him each and every week. And for him to come out there and show he's got the confidence he had today is big for the defense and everybody around him."
Watson didn't want to blame his poor play on the injury -- he and the offense struggled, as they scored just 13 points, 10 of which came after takeaways -- but did acknowledge he's focused on recovering from his injury before Houston plays the Jaguars in Week 7.
"Right now I'm just trying to obviously recover, get myself healthy, ready to play and watch this film, learn from this film, correct those mistakes that I made today and what we made on offense," Watson said.
The second-year quarterback threw for fewer than 300 yards for the first time since the Texans' Week 1 loss. Wide receiver Will Fuller said he thought Watson was "calm," saying he "didn't even notice anything was wrong with him."
O'Brien said Watson's injury did not affect the play calling and called his quarterback "a fighter."
The Texans' offense could not get into a rhythm for most of the game. Houston had 15 first downs and converted 23 percent of the time on third down. The Texans were outgained by the Bills and had 216 total yards.
Left tackle Julién Davenport said it was hard to see Watson on the ground so frequently and acknowledged the offensive line has work to do before the Texans travel to Jacksonville. Although the sacks haven't been there for Jacksonville this season, they've got the talent to take advantage of this weak offensive line with pass rushers Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue.
"If I do anything to hurt him, I feel like I let him down," Davenport said. "And I can't have that. He's got to be able to trust me and trust us as an o-line. So we're going to get right."
Nonetheless, after the Texans' victory against the Bills and Week 6 losses by Jacksonville and Tennessee, all three teams are tied atop the AFC South at 3-3. Only the Titans are unbeaten in the division.
The Texans head to Jacksonville on Sunday with a chance to take an outright lead or, at the very least, be tied with Tennessee for first place in the division.
"We're back to where we want to be," Watson said. "We've got a great opportunity in Jacksonville. The season is still in front of us. We just kept believing, we're going to keep believing, keeping pushing forward and keep fighting.
"This is a special team for what we've been through these past six weeks. I love all of the guys in the locker room. The locker room is very special. No one flinches, and everyone just keeps fighting and trying to finish the game out. And that's what we've been doing. We're just going to keep building on this win and keep trying to improve."
Although players in the locker room were giddy, celebrating not only a victory but also a jump in the standings, head coach Bill O'Brien was quick to caution that the Texans will not continue on this track unless they can fix their struggling offense.
"I think that was a really important win," O'Brien said. "But I also know that we're not going to be able to be where we want to be unless we figure this thing out on offense. And figure out what we have to do to be able to run the ball [and] throw the ball consistently.
"At times, we look like a good offense. Not really today, but at times we have this season. We have to figure that out. ..."
On the injury front. ... Fuller (hip), Keke Coutee (hamstring) and DeAndre Hopkins (foot) were all limted at practice Wednesday while Watson (chest) worked fully. ...
Also of interest. ... D'Onta Foreman's comeback from an Achilles injury won't likely be this week at Jacksonville.
As a rookie in 2017, he was injured November 19 in a win over the Cardinals. He's been on the rehab trail since, and was eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list this week. If such a move were to take place, Houston could add him to the 53-man roster within 21 days. But O'Brien said in a Monday morning press conference that Foreman's return won't happen on Sunday.
"I would probably say no," O'Brien said. "I don't think he's quite ready. Once you ignite that, you have 21 days to actually add him to the 53, so we're still kind of talking about all those things."
Foreman averaged 4.2 yards per carry last season, with a pair of touchdowns. He also caught six passes for 83 yards. The 2016 Doak Walker Award winner from the University of Texas was actually injured on a 34-yard score against Arizona.
Whenever Foreman does come off the PUP, he can practice for up to three weeks with the Texans. At any point during that span, he can be added to the 53-man roster or placed on the Reserve/Injured (IR) list.
O'Brien also said that cornerbacks Kevin Johnson (concussion) and Aaron Colvin (ankle) have "a chance" at playing this season. Johnson's been on IR since Week 2, while Colvin's been inactive the last two games.
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 17 October 2018
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper noted, the Colts fell to 1-5 with Sunday's mistake-filled 42-34 loss to the Jets.
There were four turnovers, dropped passes, defensive breakdowns and more on the way to the loss and linebacker Najee Goode said after the game that the team needs to "stop doing dumb s--t to beat ourselves."
Head coach Frank Reich said it "does get difficult" to deal with blunders that cost the team chances to win games every week and believes there's good that will come out of these struggles.
Quarterback Andrew Luck sounded a similar note when asked if he's getting discouraged by the results.
"I'm not discouraged," Luck said, via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. "I really, in my core, am not discouraged. … We're not happy we lost. There's a bunch of competitive people in there. But I think we're going in the right direction and the results will come. There's a lot of. ... I just believe. Got a lot of conviction."
Reich said he didn't know when the good things would start to come.
No one else can answer that question with any certainty either, but it will be another really long year for the Colts if the turn doesn't come soon.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Mike Wells reminded readers on Monday that general manager Chris Ballard has been steadfast, you can even say stubborn, in not wanting to spend money in free agency to get some veteran players in their prime in an attempt to speed up the team's rebuilding process.
Ballard's eyes were set on building the roster through the draft and letting the young players develop.
As Wells sees it, "[Ballard's] gamble has been more failure than success six games into the season. His doggedness has the second-year general manager staring at a team that still can't catch, a defense that couldn't get off the field Sunday and, more importantly, a team that doesn't know how to win. ..."
It's a fair point.
Receiver was a position of need for the Colts in the offseason, and the Colts had more than $50 million in salary-cap space to provide T.Y. Hilton with some help.
Ballard signed Ryan Grant only after the Ravens said the receiver failed his physical. As Wells suggested, "You probably have a decent receiving group when Grant is your third or fourth receiver. You probably don't have a good group when he's your best receiver."
That's been the case with Hilton out the past two games because of a hamstring injury.
The receiving group has been an embarrassment the past three games. The Colts had six more drops after having a total of nine over the previous two games.
That's what happens when you're depending on the likes of Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson and Chester Rogers to catch the football because the general manager didn't want to spend money on players at that position.
Don't expect Luck to snap or go on an expletive-filled rant about his receivers killing drives with drops -- or in running back Marlon Mack's case, dropping the second pass of the game and having it returned for a touchdown. Luck is too nice to publicly call out his teammates, even if two of his three interceptions were because of their inability to catch the ball.
"I'll be concerned about drops when I throw the perfect ball every time I drop back," said Luck, again shying away from criticizing. "I certainly do not do that. Those guys are going to keep grinding. I'm proud of them."
The receivers aren't the only ones to blame. It wasn't until Mack rushed for 89 yards Sunday that the Colts looked serviceable in the run game, because rookies Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins haven't had much of an impact in the backfield. The defense, which starts four rookies or second-year players, didn't force a punt in the second half Sunday.
"There's a lot of young guys on the team, but it's Week 6 of the NFL," center Ryan Kelly said. "You're not so young anymore. The leadership in this room and on this team is not going to allow that. That's how the NFL rolls. You can be 1-5 and you never know what the season is going to hold. There's still a long way to go. We've had our opportunities."
You could play the what-if game with the Colts' poor record.
What would their record be if they weren't missing so many key players like Hilton, left tackle Anthony Castonzo and tight end Jack Doyle?
They could be at least 3-3 or possibly 4-2 after some close losses. But as Wells pointed out, it's been the same thing over and over again with them.
"Fall behind early," Wells explained, "scrap to make things interesting in the fourth quarter -- the Colts have been in a one-possession game in the final quarter in all five of their losses.
Good teams know how to win those games. The Colts are not a good team. They're not even an average team right now. They're among the worst teams in the NFL and they're relying on way too many young players who are making mistakes way too often.
And they realize it.
"Everybody is worried about everything else and we're not doing our job," tight end Eric Ebron said. "We lose sight of doing our job. I call it the 1/11th. All you have to do is your job. ... We're just doing too much. Offensively we're giving up too many points, we're making it easy for the defense. Defensively, I don't expect any kicker to kick seven field goals and make all seven of them. Goodnight. We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. Once we do that we'll be into games, games will be more exciting and we'll have a lot more fun because we'll win them."
The Colts on Sunday saw three players exit the game with injuries, but Reich didn't have much in the way of updates on those guys on Monday.
Those who left the Jets game were running back Robert Turbin (shoulder) and receivers Grant and Johnson, both of whom had ankle injuries. Johnson had to be carted off the field after suffering his injury along the New York sideline on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter.
On Tuesday, the Colts signed free agent wide receiver Dontrelle Inman and placed Johnson on Injured Reserve.
Inman spent time with the Bears and the Chargers along with a stint in the CFL, and has 130 catches for 1,797 yards and eight touchdowns in 49 career games.
He caught 23 passes for 334 yards and a touchdown in eight games for the Bears last year, after being acquired in a trade.
Worth noting, Hilton was plannign to test his hamstring during Wednesday’s practice.
“Today and tomorrow will tell me everything I need to know,” Hilton said, via Stephen Holder of The Athletic.
He likely won’t be 100 percent in time for Sunday’s game against the Bills, but Hilton said he could play at less than 100 percent.
“My less than is a lot better than a lot people,” he said.
More on Hilton, who was listed as a full participant in Wednesday's session, and Grant and Doyle, neither of whom practiced Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
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 17 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco reminded readers, two weeks ago, the Jaguars looked every bit a championship contender.
They won on the road to open the season and sandwiched blowout victories over the Patriots and Jets around a home loss to the Titans. They did most of that without their best offensive player and got big-time performances from their quarterback.
That has all fallen apart the past two games -- the latest being Sunday's 40-7 loss to Dallas at AT and T Stadium -- and now a team that many thought would play in the Super Bowl might find itself on the outside of the AFC South race if things don't turn around quickly.
The Jaguars were in this situation last year, too. They also had a 3-3 record after six games but DiRocco believes this feels worse. Much, much worse.
Maybe it's because there were no expectations on this team last season, and there was no sense in October that the Jaguars would be 10 minutes away from the Super Bowl three months later. After what the franchise had put on the field the past decade, being .500 that deep into the season felt like progress.
That was an optimistic 3-3. This year's 3-3 feels like a disaster, especially since Sunday's dud followed a 30-14 loss to Kansas City the week before.
That's definitely what it was Sunday against the Cowboys. On both sides of the ball.
The offense produced only 204 yards and 10 first downs, gave up three sacks, turned the ball over twice (an interception by Blake Bortles and a fumble by Keelan Cole), and never made a trip into the red zone. The defense gave up 206 yards rushing (Ezekiel Elliott had 106 and a touchdown) and QB Dak Prescott pretty much did whatever he wanted (82 yards and a TD rushing and 183 yards and two TDs passing).
Cole Beasley decimated the Jaguars' secondary. He tied a career high with nine catches, and his 101 yards receiving marked only the second time in his 93-game career that he surpassed 100 yards.
Even the special teams had problems.
The Jaguars had a 12-men-on-the-field penalty that wiped out a Cowboys punt. It extended a drive that lasted 16 plays and ended with Beasley's second touchdown catch late in the first half.
There are numerous communication breakdowns in the secondary, which shouldn't be happening since it's the same group of players and same coordinator from last season's elite unit. The Jaguars sacked Prescott three times but didn't get consistent pressure, and he did major damage outside the pocket all afternoon.
They didn't force a single turnover against the Cowboys and have forced only five this season. Sacks and turnovers were what fueled the defense in 2017 and made it one of the NFL's best.
"We ain't playing like it," cornerback Jalen Ramsey said.
The Jaguars aren't doing much well right now. That has to change or they won't remain in the AFC South race much longer.
As the team's official website laid it out, injuries have tipped the balance offensively. NFL teams must overcome a certain number of injuries. They're part of the game. But there is a point that injuries tip the balance and you can't function because of unfamiliarity or talent level. The Jaguars' offense on Sunday appeared to have passed the tipping point, with few options -- and few ways to make game-changing plays.
The offensive line is struggling in a big way. Injuries certainly have contributed here. Josh Walker on Sunday made his first NFL start and became the Jaguars' third starting left tackle this season. The interior of the line -- center Brandon Linder, left guard Andrew Norwell and right guard A.J. Cann -- hasn't been the team strength many expected.
The result: an offense that ran just 47 plays and had just 204 total yards.
The Jaguars need running back Leonard Fournette -- or at least the threat of him. When he's on the field, the Jaguars have one playmaker whom teams must give their attention.
When he's not, they don't.
This prompted DiRocco to suggest the team should have shored up their running back depth in advance.
It was a gamble that Fournette, who came into camp at 223 pounds -- 17 pounds lighter than what he weighed in his rookie season -- would be able to stay healthy, because he hadn't played a full season since his sophomore year at LSU in 2015.
He missed five games his junior year with an ankle injury and two games as a rookie in 2017 because of ankle and quad injuries. He missed his fifth game this season with a hamstring injury, and he's played in the first half of only two games: the season opener against the New York Giants and Week 4 against the New York Jets.
He also was suspended for a game last season for missing a team meeting, so he will have missed eight of the team's 22 regular-season games since he was drafted fourth overall.
There is no timetable for Fournette's return, either. He could be back next week or might sit out until after the team's Week 9 bye.
Yet despite Fournette's injury history, the Jaguars opted to keep only T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant on the active roster and Brandon Wilds on the practice squad. Yeldon was limited by an ankle injury earlier in the season, leaving Grant as the only completely healthy running back. That changed in Week 5 and Jamaal Charles was the answer to losing Grant.
The Jaguars also miss Austin Seferian-Jenkins. And Cam Robinson. And Grant. The Jaguars entered the season wanting to be run-centric. A lot of what looked good during the preseason was a lot of midsection running -- similar to what Dallas did to the Jaguars Sunday.
Without their tight end (Seferian-Jenkins), two of their running backs (Fournette/Grant) and their left tackle (Robinson), it's difficult to look like what they envisioned.
Meanwhile, when a team loses by 33, you must mention the quarterback. And Bortles did have one interception in which he threw into coverage Sunday. But Bortles was comparatively low on the list of issues Sunday. He also was sacked three times and officially pressured seven more. He's not going to function well in that environment.
It's going to make scoring points and moving the ball consistently that much harder for an offense that had issues with that even before the injuries -- and that could end up costing the Jaguars games.
"In the end you have to find a way, somehow, some way, to win the game," Hackett said.
"After the game you take a step back and say, 'OK, who is up now and what do they do well? What can we kind of pair up with the rest of the things we've been doing?' It's a challenge."
Adding to the injury woes. ... Tight end Niles Paul is believed to have suffered a sprained MCL in the loss to the Cowboys. An MRI to determine how long he's out has been performed, but the Jaguars have yet to announce a timetable. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Paul will miss time, but the injury isn't believed to be season-ending.
James O'Shaughnessy and David Grinnage are next men up at the position, although the team signed free agent TE Blake Bell on Tuesday. ...
The Jaguars have placed kick returner Jaydon Mickens on injured reserve and re-signed receiver Rashad Greene. The team announced the roster moves Monday. Mickens broke his left ankle returning a punt in the third quarter.
The Jaguars now have seven key contributors on IR, including receiver Marqise Lee (knee), Robinson (knee), backup left tackle Josh Wells (groin), Seferian-Jenkins (core muscle), Grant (foot) and long-snapper Carson Tinker (knee).
Mickens returned six kickoffs for 149 yards this season and 12 punts for 59 yards.
Greene, a fifth-round draft pick by Jacksonville in 2015, has appeared in 17 games. He has 24 receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He also has returned 39 punts for 432 yards.
One last note here. ... Fournette and Yeldon (ankle, foot) were both held out of Wednesday's practice. I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
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 17 October 2018
Patrick Mahomes played his worst half of the season in the first 30 minutes on Sunday night against the New England Patriots, throwing two interceptions that put the Kansas City Chiefs far behind.
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher noted, Mahomes didn't get rattled. He instead turned the game into a classic duel in his first showdown with New England's Tom Brady.
"When you have the guys I have on this team with the weapons that I have," Mahomes said, "I have to keep slinging it."
That's what Mahomes did. He threw four second-half touchdown passes, three to Tyreek Hill, in leading the Chiefs back from their 15-point halftime deficit.
Brady beat Mahomes in the end. The Patriots kicked a walk-off field goal to win 43-40.
Finally, Mahomes came across an opponent he couldn't outscore. Brady and the Patriots got it done, though Mahomes made them work for it.
"He made a lot of big [throws]," Brady said. "Tough to slow those guys down. They're going to be pretty tough to stop. So glad we had our last shot and glad we took advantage of it."
Mahomes and the Chiefs are 5-1 this season. They are 6-1 with Mahomes as their starting quarterback, counting the final regular-season game against the Denver Broncos last year. In that game, Mahomes led the Chiefs to a walk-off field goal and a 27-24 victory.
Sunday's game didn't start well for Mahomes. He put the Chiefs in bad spots in the first half for the first time with his two interceptions. One put the Patriots on the Kansas City 4-yard line, and they took advantage of the favorable field position for a touchdown. The other, in the red zone near the end of the second quarter, cost the Chiefs at least three points.
"I missed some throws," Mahomes said. "That happens in this league. But whenever you're playing good football teams, you can't miss those throws. We left some points out there."
But he kept firing and was rewarded with the four touchdown passes, including one of 67 yards to Kareem Hunt and another of 75 yards to Hill.
"We just starting hitting on throws that I was missing earlier," Mahomes said. "I feel like we moved the ball well the entire night. We just have to find ways to score in the red zone. The last two weeks, it just seems like we can't punch it in there, and I feel like in the second half, we finally started getting it in the end zone."
Brady and Mahomes wished each other well at midfield after Stephen Gostkowski's 28-yard field goal decided the game. The game might have been only the opening chapter of their rivalry.
"He gave me congrats on playing a good game, and of course I did the same to him," Mahomes said. "I just kind of told him good luck for the rest of this season. We're going to go out there, and hopefully we can keep playing, and hopefully we might be able to see him again."
Mahomes completed 23-of-36 passes for 352 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in the contest, becoming the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for at least 300 yards in five-straight games.
Hill was responsible for 142 of those yards, finding the end zone a career-high three times through the air. Hunt also had a big night in the passing game for Kansas City, hauling in five catches for 105 yards -- including a 67-yard pass that ignited the Chiefs' rally in the third quarter.
It all helped the Chiefs score 40 points on New England for a third-straight time in the regular season. In fact, Kansas City is the only team to score 40 or more points against the Patriots in the regular season since 2013 -- and they've done it three times -- though it fell just short on Sunday.
The Chiefs will look to get back into the win column next Sunday as they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in primetime at Arrowhead Stadium.
Other notes of interest. ... Hill played all but one offensive snap (53), catching seven passes for 142 yards and a career-high three touchdowns.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins played every offensive snap on Sunday (54), hauling in two catches for 18 yards.
Tremon Smith, the rookie sixth-round pick out of Central Arkansas was promoted to kick returner after De'Anthony Thomas re-fractured his leg last week. Smith took advantage of the opportunity, tight-roping the sideline on a 97-yard return that would have been a TD without the hustling shoestring tackle of Devin McCourty.
Smith took the Chiefs to the Patriots' 3-yard line and set up a Mahomes-to-Hill short touchdown pass that put Kansas City ahead 33-30 in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs have one of the NFL's best special-teams units and it doesn't look like it will miss a beat with Thomas out. ...
On the injury front. ... Starting C Mitch Morse was removed from Sunday night's game and is currently in concussion protocol. ...
And finally. ... A fan at Gillette Stadium who threw beer on Hill is being charged with disorderly conduct and throwing an object at a sporting event.
The Foxboro Police Department announced the charges after the New England Patriots issued a statement earlier Monday saying they helped to identify the fan, banned him from the stadium and forwarded his information to law enforcement.
The incident occurred after Hill's 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown late in the fourth quarter of Sunday night's game. Hill's momentum carried him through the end zone to the barrier where fans can stand while watching the game. While some fans flipped off the receiver, another doused him with beer.
After the game, Hill commented on the fan's behavior.
"My coach [Andy Reid] told me, 'Don't get emotional. Don't get mad about it, because it comes with the territory,'" Hill said, according to Boston.com. "I'm not mad at all."
On Monday, however, Hill's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said he was talking to the NFL and NFLPA about their legal options.
"That type of behavior is unacceptable," Rosenhaus said. "Players have to be protected. We want that fan to be prosecuted."
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 17 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams reminded readers, almost two years ago, players stood on the sideline in disbelief as kicker Josh Lambo's 45-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right, and the Los Angeles Chargers lost to the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 24, marking the struggling franchise's only win of the 2016 season.
Fast forward to 2018, and this year's version of the Chargers exorcised some demons Sunday by dismantling the Browns 38-14 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
With the win, the Chargers take a three-game winning streak into their final game before their Week 8 bye, when they play "host" to the Tennessee Titans in London next week.
The Chargers are staying in Cleveland this week in preparation for their Week 7 game, and will travel to London on Thursday.
While the Browns are improved, the Chargers dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage, and therefore the game.
The Chargers rolled up 246 yards on the ground, led by Melvin Gordon's 132, including touchdown runs of 11, 10 and 4 yards.
It marked the first time Gordon has rushed for three touchdowns in a game in his NFL career and the third time he scored three TDs (rushing/receiving combined) in a game.
Gordon now has nine touchdowns this season -- the most by a Chargers player in the team's first six games of a season since Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson in 2005 (11), per ESPN Stats and Information.
Gordon also is the first Chargers player with 125 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns in a game since Tomlinson did it exactly 11 years ago (Oct. 14, 2007).
"I get a lot of juice when he's the running the ball like that," Chargers guard Dan Feeney said. "He was out there making people miss, running through people. Phil even threw a couple blocks out there."
Receiver Tyrell Williams had a big day as well, serving as a one-man wrecking crew on a two-play, 89-yard scoring drive midway through the second quarter.
On first-and-10 from the Bolts' 11-yard line, Philip Rivers hit Williams in stride on a deep crossing route for a 44-yard gain.
The play worked so well the Chargers dialed it up again, with Rivers this time throwing into triple coverage to Williams.
The Western Oregon product managed to outmuscle cornerback Damarious Randall for the 45-yard touchdown reception.
"It was a heck of a play," Rivers said. "We ran a different formation, but the exact same play back-to-back and got the same coverage both times or a different version of the same coverage. I thought we had it, and I was trying to make sure this safety over here committed to (Sean) Culkin on the corner route. He did, and then wheeled out of it right at the last second. When the ball was about halfway there, I thought it was intercepted. Tyrell did a great job."
The play sparked the Bolts as from that moment on, they were in complete control, eventually routing the Browns, 38-14.
"The first one in the end zone, that brings the excitement," said Keenan Allen. "When guys make a play like that, we're ready to go…. (He's) attacking the ball when it's in the air, making contested catches with DBs on him. Having the opportunity to go get the ball in the air and come down with it, that's amazing."
"It motivates you," added Gordon. "This game is played off of energy, and when you got a guy going out there and making stuff happen like that, that gives you the motivation. (It makes me feel like) I have to go get it, and everyone feeds off of that. We felt that today."
Head Coach Anthony Lynn was particularly proud of the catch considering the amount of hard work the wideout has put in behind the scenes to perfect the art of high-pointing the ball.
"It's just something that just didn't come natural with him," he explained. "I see him working at it every day outside my office out on the field, high-pointing balls (and) high-pointing balls (over and over). Today, he went up and got a very important one … That's what I'm talking about. That's something that one year ago, you wouldn't have seen from him. That's just this guy developing into a complete receiver, and he works at it. His work ethic is just as good as anybody's on this team. I'm not surprised to see him do it, but I'm glad he made the play."
However, that catch was just one part of a banner day for the wide receiver.
Williams finished with three catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. It marked the first time in his career he had two touchdowns in a single game. The first TD also marked the 14th of his career, which is the third-most in franchise history by an undrafted player behind only Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd.
Worth noting: According to NFL Next Gen stats, Williams has caught 5-of-5 tight window targets for 144 yards and two touchdowns this season. Williams is the only player with a 100 percent catch rate on tight window targets (less than 1 yard of separation) on at least five targets this season.
Defensively, the Chargers finished with five sacks, led by two from Damion Square. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield finished 22-of-46 for 238 passing yards, one touchdown pass and two interceptions, both corralled by slot cornerback Desmond King.
The Browns managed just 103 rushing yards on the day. ...
According to Williams, Travis Benjamin (foot), tight end Virgil Green (rib) and kicker Caleb Sturgis (right quad) were limited Wednesday; I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Finally, as noted above, Lynn is having the Chargers practice in Cleveland Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for a 2:30 p.m. game time start in London on Sunday.
"It can be a galvanizing experience for our football team, being on the road and away from home for two weeks," Lynn said about staying in Cleveland for the week. "I think it's good to see these guys having lunch and dinners together around the hotel, and even off-site. Yesterday I went to go have a steak, and I saw all of the players in there having dinner. So it's good to see, and it definitely can bring a team together."
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 17 October 2018
Todd Gurley rushed for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-20 victory over the Denver Broncos inside a frigid Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
"It was a team effort," Gurley said after the game. "Everybody did a great job, and it was just kind of easy for me, honestly, because those guys did such a great job."
The Rams improved to 6-0 as Gurley became the first Rams player to rush for 200 yards and two touchdowns since Marshall Faulk in 2001, when Faulk rushed for 202 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 15 win over the Carolina Panthers.
"He was outstanding really throughout the whole day," head coach Sean McVay said. "Made an impact in a variety of ways, ran hard."
Gurley credited the offensive line for opening holes throughout the game.
"I think we feel that we can go out there and run the football on anybody," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "We work hard at it, and we believe in it."
Against the Broncos, with temperatures hovering around 25 degrees, Gurley got off to a fast start when he rushed for 35 yards in three consecutive carries, and the Rams kicked a field goal to take a 3-0 lead on their first series.
Gurley started the second quarter with a 29-yard run, his longest carry of the season, and followed with a 5-yard run and 13-yard reception the next two plays. The drive ended when McVay elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Broncos' 10-yard line.
"I feel like they were expecting us to do something else, and Coach just did a great job with the play call, and we was able to do a little hit outside zone," said Gurley, who signed a four-year, $60 million extension before the season, making him the richest running back in NFL history. "Like I said, those guys just opened it up, and the rest, all I had to do was really just run."
Jared Goff said he expected Gurley to have a big day because of the Broncos' defense and its design to play deep. Last week, the Broncos allowed the New York Jets to rush for 323 yards and gave up 219 yards to Isaiah Crowell alone.
"You know they're gonna have a hard time stopping the run," Goff said. "And today we were able to run on them. It's a testament to up front what they are able to do, and then Todd just being the guy he is, it's no different. He's the same guy every week, and today we got to see it in full force."
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry noted, Gurley rushed for 88 yards on nine carries in the first half before he exploded for 120 yards in the second half.
Early in the third quarter, he took a handoff and went 21 yards through the left side of the line. The next two carries he went to the right, resulting in a combined 14-yard gain. He capped the drive with a 1-yard score and leads the NFL with 11 touchdowns.
Gurley averaged 7.4 yards per carry.
On Wednesday, Gurley was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
"We was feeling it in the run game," Gurley said. "You know that's kind of what we wanted to do, me and all the big boys up front, and we was able to do that."
Meanwhile, receiver Cooper Kupp suffered a knee sprain Sunday and could be sidelined for this week's game against the San Francisco 49ers, head coach Sean McVay said.
"Most likely he probably will miss this game," McVay said Monday. "And then dependent on how he responds it will just kind of be on a week-to-week basis."
Kupp was carted off the field in the first half of the Rams' victory over the Denver Broncos after safety Darian Stewart brought him down with a horse-collar tackle.
McVay said he initially thought the injury appeared as though it could have been season-ending.
After evaluation, Kupp started the second half but played only one series after the training staff determined it was in his best interest to sit out.
Receiver Josh Reynolds was inserted in Kupp's absence as Robert Woods, for a second consecutive week, shifted to play Kupp's position after he was sidelined.
With Kupp's injury, the Rams are down to four healthy receivers, including Woods, Reynolds, Brandin Cooks and KhaDarel Hodge.
Backups Pharoh Cooper and Michael Thomas are on injured reserve after suffering an ankle and groin injury, respectively, in Week 1.
McVay said the team was exploring the possibility of adding another receiver.
"There might be somebody that we have a history with, but we're working through those things right now," said McVay, who declined to name the potential addition. "So I wouldn't say a workout, but there might be somebody that we would bring in."
After the game Sunday, Kupp said he was "feeling all right" but was "a little stiff."
"I thought I could go out there and play," Kupp said. "I wanted to play. It's just hard not being able to go out there and compete."
Kupp said he felt no ill will toward Stewart for the illegal tackle.
"I know he wasn't doing it with any kind of malice or anything like that," Kupp said. "He checked on me during the game, when I came out there in the second half, he asked if I was good."
Kupp also was sidelined in the second half of a Week 5 victory over the Seattle Seahawks after he was placed into concussion protocol. He cleared protocol a day before facing the Broncos.
A second-year pro from Eastern Washington, Kupp has played a significant role in the Rams' top-ranked offense this season. He has 30 receptions for 438 yards and five touchdowns.
Reynolds caught two passes for 39 yards after Kupp was hurt; he'll see more time until Kupp returns. In addition, Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports that the Rams are signing wide receiver Nick Williams. Williams was in Washington in 2013 and 2014 when McVay was on the team's coaching staff.
Williams was more recently a member of the Titans. He played in two games for them this season and was cut earlier this month after dropping what would have been a go-ahead touchdown pass in Week 5 against the Bills.
And finally. ... McVay said Monday there was "a chance" that kicker Greg Zuerlein could return this week from a groin injury suffered before a Week 2 win over the Cardinals. Cairo Santos, who was 3-4 Sunday in the win over the Broncos, was released on Tuesday.
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 17 October 2018
As Associated Press sports writer Steven Wine framed it, "The most prolific game of Brock Osweiler's career may have been a cameo.
"Or not. ..."
With Ryan Tannehill nursing an injury to his throwing shoulder, it was uncertain Monday whether Osweiler will get another start for the Miami Dolphins.
Now it is.
The good news, of course, is that Osweiler thrived as Tannehill's replacement Sunday, passing for a career-high 380 yards and three touchdowns to help beat the Chicago Bears. Tannehill was ruled out only hours before kickoff but might return for Sunday's home game against the Detroit Lions, head coach Adam Gase said.
The Dolphins (4-2) are tied with New England for the AFC East lead, and have more wins than their next six opponents. But they'll continue to navigate at least some some of that stretch with their backup quarterback.
Tannehill first hurt his shoulder in Game 3, but didn't miss any practice time until last week. Gase was caught a bit off guard that Tannehill's injury got "progressively worse" last week, and Tannehill could miss more than just Sunday's game against the Bears.
"It was such an unusual situation," Gase said. "Last week, we started the week and he was sore, but it got worse as the week went on. That's why we found ourselves in a position that we weren't really thinking we were going to be in.
"Anytime he's been banged up or some kind of injury, he's always progressed positively. That's why we thought we would get the same thing. That didn't happen. That's why we waited until the last minute."
"It's such an unusual situation because last week it got worse as the week went on," Gase said.
Gase declined to detail the specifics of Tannehill's injury, saying, "I'll know more when I can see him throw again."
According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Tannehill was at practice Wednesday, but was not throwing during the portion of practice open to the media and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported early Wednesday afternoon that Osweiler will once again start as Tannehill is not quite ready.
Gase confirmed that after Wednesday's practice.
While Gase quashed any potential quarterback controversy by saying Tannehill will return to the lineup when he's healthy, Osweiler said he'll be ready to handle whatever he's asked to do.
"Every week, whether I'm the starter, backup, third string, you name it, I prepare the same way," the seventh-year pro said. "I've done that my whole career, because you never know what's going to happen. An entire organization is counting on you to be prepared."
Osweiler went 28 for 44 and rallied Miami from an 11-point deficit in the final 16 minutes of regulation to win 31-28. In the fourth quarter and overtime, he went 10 for 14 for 213 yards and two scores.
Osweiler had a lot of help. The Dolphins finished with 541 yards, their highest total in 30 years. They had a 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver in the same game for the first time in 27 years.
"I'm messed up enough to think that's what it's going to be every week," Gase said.
An injury-plagued offensive line didn't allow a sack and paved the way for 161 yards rushing, and Frank Gore reached the 100 mark for the 46th time. Albert Wilson turned short passes from Osweiler into touchdowns covering 43 and 75 yards.
On Wednesday, Wilson, who finished the day with six catches for 155 yards and the two touchdowns, was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his effort.
In short, with Tannehill out, his teammates rose to the occasion.
"It's definitely a downer, because we've been working with this guy so much, and he's the leader of our team," Wilson said. "But football is next man up, and we've got full confidence in Brett."
Osweiler improved his record as a starter to 14-12. But he was 0-4 last year with the Denver Broncos, which made him expendable, and he signed with the Dolphins in March to back up Tannehill.
He found the chance to work with Gase again appealing. Gase was his offensive coordinator in Denver in 2013-14.
"I wanted to play football for coach Gase and that's it, plain and simple," Osweiler said. "I believe in him. I believe in his system."
Familiarity with the system came in handy against the Bears. For example, on a 2-point play the Dolphins converted to tie the game in the fourth quarter, the two primary receivers slipped and were covered, so Osweiler found Kenny Stills in the back of the end zone for the score.
"The 2-point conversion -- we have never thrown the ball to that guy," Gase said.
"I've been hearing that play get called since 2013," Osweiler said, "so I've run through it mentally in my head probably at least 500 times."
Osweiler also salvaged a third-and-11 play in the fourth quarter, scrambling away from pressure before throwing downfield. The pass deflected off the hand of linebacker Adrian Amos Jr., who had his back to the ball, and Stills gathered it in for a 35-yard gain.
"That's when you know the football gods are on your side," Osweiler said.
Given their sudden issues at QB, the Dolphins will take all the help they can get.
The Dolphins will host the Detroit Lions on Sunday but Osweiler knows the offense and the Lions' defensive scheme, which is very similar to New England's.
Also of interest. ... Osweiler had a message for running back Kenyan Drake after Drake's fumble at the 1-yard-line cost the Dolphins a chance to beat the Bears in overtime.
Osweiler told Drake that Bears kicker Cody Parkey would miss his field goal attempt and that the Dolphins needed Drake's "swagger and confidence" to win the game. Drake picked up 22 yards after Parkey missed his kick and the Dolphins won the game on a Jason Sanders field goal as time expired.
Drake reacted to both the fumble and Sanders' kick with emotion that turned into gratitude after the game.
"This game is the greatest team sport," Drake said, via the Miami Herald. "We need all 11 players for four-quarters plus. It was awesome to get this win. Awesome the defense picked me up when they needed to."
Between Osweiler and Drake, there was a lot of redemption in the air when the final whistle blew in Miami.
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 17 October 2018
A host of early-season issues -- Dalvin Cook's absence, a maligned offensive line and the elite interior defensive linemen they bashed heads with in the first five weeks -- set back a running game that was supposed to be the focal point of the Minnesota Vikings offense.
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin notes, the imbalance was talked about ad nauseum: Would the Vikings run game ever come alive? Is Kirk Cousins throwing the ball 50-plus times a game sustainable if they have to abandon the run all together?
Truth be told, the Vikings didn't need the run game to carry the load and score points -- not when Cousins and his elite receiving duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are producing. But there was no way offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was going to lay stagnant when it came to getting things going on the ground.
"We are in attack mode all the time," DeFilippo said this week. "We are staying aggressive and staying in attack. But at the same time, being smart about it."
DeFilippo held true to that approach on Sunday during the Vikings 27-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals, turning around a once-explosive unit that had toppled to the bottom of the NFL. The Vikings run game finally broke through with a season-best 195 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Half the battle during the first five weeks was the flow each game had in dictating how much they could run, based on how far the Vikings found themselves behind the chains in down-and-distance and constantly playing from behind on the scoreboard. Part of their success against Arizona was the choice to stick with the run until it broke through.
"Sometimes you get a 2-yard gain and you get frustrated," head coach Mike Zimmer said. "Might be 2 [yards] and 2 [yards] and then it might be 22. So you just have to keep pounding away and pounding away."
Latavius Murray notched a monster day filling in for Cook, who was a late add to the inactives list after Vikings' medical staff determined his injured left hamstring wasn't quite ready for game action after going through warm-ups. Murray recorded Minnesota's longest rush of the season, a 34-yard carry in the third quarter, and became the team's first 100-yard rusher since Week 17 of the 2017 season by notching 155 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
That's a single-game best for Murray, who down-played his own individual success postgame, feeling that he may have left even more production on the field. But there's no denying how good it felt for the sixth-year running back to finally see a breakthrough after weeks of frustrations.
"I don't want to sit here and say that we cracked the code," Murray said. "I will say, I feel we are capable of running the ball that way every week. We have to figure out a way to do that no matter who we are playing."
As Cronin pointed out, Minnesota didn't just squeak by the Cardinals' 31st-ranked run defense, either, as big run plays helped the Vikings jump out to an early lead. Murray ended the Vikings' drought as the last team without a rushing touchdown with a 21-yard run in the first quarter.
By the end of the game, the Vikings found themselves in a similar situation to their win against Philadelphia, relying on the run game to eat up a bulk of the clock so they could seal the victory. But unlike last week when the Vikings were able to survive a late push by the Eagles, a Vikings victory was hardly in doubt as Minnesota ran out the final 3:14 by running the ball.
"It's something that we talk about all the time," right tackle Brian O'Neill said. "When it comes down to those situations, they know we are running it and we know that they are running it. It's us versus you."
The tweaks DeFilippo made to the run game started with the offensive line, whose run blocking was the best it has been after battling through a host of personnel changes and injuries this season. With left tackle Riley Reiff sidelined with a foot injury, Rashod Hill slid over to the left side while O'Neill, a rookie, started at right tackle.
There were moments when the run blocking resembled the line that dominated last year, creating big gaps for rushers on their way to 6.1 yards per carry. On Mike Boone's 20-yard run in the second half, maximum protection from O'Neill and tight end David Morgan gave the rookie rusher plenty of room for the big gain. The play set up a 13-yard touchdown for Thielen three plays later to give the Vikings a two-score lead.
The 74 yards Murray gained after contact was a product of those product of those protections panning out in full, pushing action to the second level so the veteran rusher could break free.
"When you have all nine other guys, let's just say, doing their job and getting a hat on a hat then I'm able to get to the second level and the rest is up to me," Murray said. "And as a running back, that's all you can ask for. Obviously you would love to be untouched all the way to the end zone, but you have to make guys miss in the second level if you want big runs and to score touchdowns."
Cousins remained just as aggressive through the air as he's been in games where he's had to shoulder much of the load, completing 24 of 34 passes for 233 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Thielen once again recorded a 100-yard receiving day (11 catches, 123 yards, TD), his sixth straight in 2018.
His record-breaking streak continues, this time making his mark as the first receiver to have 58 catches in his first six games, according to Elias.
Thielen leads the league in receptions and also has four scores, which is tied for third in the NFL.
Thielen is already over 150 PPR fantasy points for the season (he has 152). According to ESPN.com's Tristan Cockcroft, Thielen is the fourth wideout this century to score at least that many in his team's first six games of a season, joining Wes Welker (167.4, 2011), DeAndre Hopkins (156.6, 2015) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (152.8, 2007). ...
Laquon Treadwell had four catches for 38 yards, Kyle Rudolph had four catches for 37 yards and Stefon Diggs had three receptions for 33 yards on Sunday.
Diggs has 40 catches for 435 yards and three touchdowns in 2018.
At the end of the third quarter, Cousins ran in a 7-yard touchdown, his 11th rushing touchdown since 2015, which is the second most by a quarterback during that time, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Only Cam Newton has more. ....
And now the Vikings are above .500 for the first time since Week 1.
Minnesota sits at 3-2-1 on the season. The Vikings will now head to the Big Apple for a tilt against the New York Jets, who are 3-3.
On the injury front. ... Cook is clearly getting closer to returning to action. He worked fully last Thursday before dialing back to limited on Friday. But he wasn't ruled out against the Cardinals until pre-game warmups. Expect him to pick up the pace in practice this week; I'll have more on his progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... The Vikings lost a key piece of their secondary over the weekend when rookie cornerback Mike Hughes suffered a torn ACL against Arizona.
Hughes, the 30th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, is one of five defensive players across the NFL with a forced fumble, an interception and a defensive touchdown this season.
Zimmer announced Hughes will go on Injured Reserve, a move that will leave Minnesota with 10 defensive backs on its roster.
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 17 October 2018
As Associated Press sports writer Kyle Hightower noted, the Patriots had their best offensive night of the 2018 season, amassing 500 total yards while getting another clutch performance from Tom Brady, their surefire Hall of Fame quarterback, in a 43-40 win over the Chiefs on Sunday night.
Brady passed for 340 yards and touchdown while running for another score and helped set up Stephen Gostkowski's 28-yard, game-winning field goal as New England beat back a frantic second-half rally by the Chiefs.
New England's third straight win was Brady's 200th victory as a starting quarter, tops all-time. He also passed former teammate Adam Vinatieri for most career wins in the regular season and playoffs combined with 227.
"I think we have a lot of clutch players," Brady said. "I think we have no problem grinding it out. That's what the football season's all about. I don't think we've seen our best. I think we can play a lot better and I think that's what we plan to do."
The Patriots have now won three straight games since starting the season 1-2. And, at least offensively, they seem to be finding a groove following a slow start that included lopsided losses to Jacksonville and Detroit.
New England now has scored 30 or more points in three consecutive games and Josh Gordon is officially a top-of-the-depth-chart wide receiver for the New England Patriots, with his breakthrough Sunday night having a significant trickle-down effect on the team's personnel usage -- and on fantasy football leagues.
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted, after assuming a limited role in Weeks 4 and 5, when he played 18 snaps apiece, Gordon played extensively in two- and three-receiver packages against the Chiefs. He totaled 18 snaps before the end of the first quarter, and by the time the game was over, his 63-snap output was a hard-to-miss surge that is reshaping the team's attack.
Yes, there are still some growing pains, but Gordon has successfully met the first challenge for any new Patriots pass-catcher: He has earned Brady's trust.
"I have a lot of confidence in him. It's just been so impressive what he's done in a short period of time -- to learn the offense, have the kind of attitude he's had about doing whatever the team needs him to do," Brady said Monday on sports radio WEEI. "For him to be in there as many plays, in my view, is just so impressive. Our offense certainly is not easy, so we're just building on it."
Gordon said he is "pretty familiar with the playbook."
"Still some growing pains and stuff like that you've got to work out at practice," he said. "Through the course of just being here just under a month, you know, I'm trying to make it work as fast as I can. So we'll get it figured out here pretty soon."
Gordon's gain on Sunday night was Phillip Dorsett's loss.
Dorsett, who was a top-two option alongside Chris Hogan in the first month of the season while Julian Edelman served a four-game suspension, played just three snaps on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, Hogan's workload was also down a bit (47), though part of that was a result of his expanded special-teams role. With injuries to core special teamers Geneo Grissom and John Simon, the Patriots tapped Hogan to play on all four of their core units -- punt protection/coverage, punt return, kickoff coverage and kickoff return -- so it was smart for coaches to lighten his offensive load.
As for Gordon, he was targeted a team-high nine times by Brady, and they weren't always in sync (e.g. the game's initial fourth-down play). But Brady believes that with more time, the results will become even more consistent.
"I have no doubt we'll be on the same page as the season goes," he said.
That obviously isn't an issue with Edelman, given their 10 years together, and an Edelman-Gordon pairing is now looking like the Patriots' most likely 1-2 punch at receiver.
Brady told NBC that Gordon ran full speed in practice for the first time last week, as he was no longer held back by a hamstring injury. Gordon's speed -- and threat as a downfield target -- was perhaps most evident when he drew a 37-yard pass interference penalty in the second quarter.
"He's a football player, he wants to be out there, he's a competitor. Made some big plays for us," Brady said. "I think the best is ahead of us if we just keep working at it."
Head coach Bill Belichick added to the intrigue on Tuesday. Asked about Gordon, Belichick replied: "I would just say his role is expanding weekly and we'll just see how it all plays out."
Gordon isn't the only player gaining momentum. The Patriots seem to have found a jewel in rookie running back Sony Michel.
Michel rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's victory, his second 100-yard game this season. He also had 98 yards in New England's win over Indianapolis.
He has now scored a rushing touchdown in three straight games. The last Patriots rookie with a rushing touchdown in three straight games was BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who did so in four straight in 2008.
James White continues to play a consistent and productive role in the offense, but Michel is clearly a player on the rise. ...
Also worth noting. ... The Patriots finished the game without punting and were not charged with a penalty. It is the first time in the Super Bowl era that an NFL team played an entire game without punting or being charged a penalty.
It was the sixth time in franchise history that the Patriots were not charged with a penalty and the fifth time in franchise history that the Patriots did not punt in a regular season game.
And that was an especially good thing Sunday night.
The Patriots have allowed 40-plus points in a regular season game just three times in the last five seasons -- all to the Chiefs. Until Sunday, New England was 0-6 when allowing that many points in a game, including the playoffs, in the Belichick era.
Meanwhile, Rob Gronkowski reached 500 career receptions, becoming the 15th tight end in NFL history to hit the mark (and fourth fastest); Gronk is the fastest in league history for a tight end to hit 7,500 career receiving yards; Gostkowski is the 19th kicker in history to hit 350 for his career (and he has nine game-winners); the Patriots' defense now has at least one interception in all six games played so far this season - the first time they've accomplished this in the first six games of a season since 1990.
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 17 October 2018
When Drew Brees became the NFL's all-time leader in yards passing (now 72,103 and counting) during Monday night's 43-19 victory over the Washington Redskins, he also posted the best single-game completion percentage of his career. He connected on 26 of 29 passes (89.7 percent) for 363 yards and three touchdowns -- and still has not thrown an interception this season.
He'll return this week to a Saints squad riding a four-game winning streak, sitting atop the NFC South at 4-1 and looking to maintain one of the NFL's best offenses while building on the recent improvement of a defense that got off to a shaky start.
There weren't many problems to keep head coach Sean Payton up at night during the week off. Certainly, his 39-year-old quarterback is the least of his worries.
"The thing that is inspiring the most is knowing what is most important to him and that common goal that we have relative to winning another championship," Payton said of Brees.
As Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel reminded readers, when the Saints snapped a three-year playoff drought last season, Brees threw for his fewest yards in his 12 full seasons as a Saint: 4,334, which happened to be the fourth-highest total in the league in 2017. But that was because the Saints had one of the better running games in the NFL and used it effectively to protect leads. Brees was accurate as ever, setting the NFL single-season record for completion rate at 72 percent.
This season, he's at 77.9 percent through five games. And with physical running back Mark Ingram opening the season on a four-game suspension, he has been throwing more, averaging 331 yards per game. That would put him on pace for his sixth 5,000-yard season.
Earlier this season, Brees eclipsed Brett Favre's completions record of 6,300, and he is on pace to break Manning's career touchdowns mark of 539 next season -- although he'd have to outpace New England's Tom Brady to take over first place all-time. Brady has 500 and Brees 499.
Payton raved recently about how in every game, Brees inevitably makes throws that demonstrate "great vision and anticipation," in addition to still having the arm talent to deliver the ball where and when he sees fit.
With a healthy and fresh Ingram back now, Payton could start calling more run plays again. But that's no given because of the emergence of some new players in the receiving corps. Free-agent acquisition Cameron Meredith had a team-high five receptions for 71 yards against Washington, including a 46-yarder on a deep route down the left side of the field. Rookie Tre'Quan Smith did more than catch the 62-yard touchdown pass on which Brees broke Peyton Manning's previous record of 71,940 career yards. Smith also had a 35-yard touchdown catch and totaled 111 yards on three receptions.
"This kid can really help, can be a big part of our offense," Brees said of Smith. "We've also got some other pieces as well. We've got Mark Ingram back, Cameron Meredith is coming along, and so we feel like we have a lot of weapons and feel we have a lot of ways to spread the ball around and be really productive."
If that's the case, the Saints could be increasingly tough to beat over their final 11 games -- and Brees' yards passing record could be downright untouchable by the time he's done. Manning needed 18 seasons to set the previous mark and his skills were in obvious decline because of health issues when he did it. Brees has yet to show signs of slowing down and says he wants to play as long as possible.
Every one of Brees' teammates, from young receivers to veteran All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordon -- sound awe-struck when they talk about their quarterback.
"I see the work he puts in. I see how meticulous he is at practice. You see his perseverance through any adversity," Jordan said. "He has always stayed constant in the ups and downs of a football season. He is clearly the greatest of all time."
Meanwhile, New Orleans Advocate staffer Nick Underhill reports the Saints want to get back to being balanced.
Not just between running and passing attempts, but also between their running backs.
As noted above, Ingram returned from his suspension and logged 18 offensive touches, while Alvin Kamara only had nine.
The imbalance was a bit of a surprise considering how effective Kamara was during the first four weeks of the season, even though he had been listed with a knee injury leading up to the game. Saints coach Sean Payton said on Monday that wasn't the plan and all the explosive plays the offense had during the win over Washington changed how the game was played.
"It just changes how the game unfolds. Alvin's nine touches, I think is a little bit of byproduct of a 60-yard scoring strike, another 40," Payton said. "Those change kind of the pitch count, if you will."
There was also one touch Kamara should have gotten but did not. Quarterback Taysom Hill decided to keep the ball on one read-option play instead of handing it off to the running back, who likely would have been able to run the ball in for a long touchdown.
While being asked a question about the play, a reporter mentioned it "might" have led to a long play. Payton didn't wait for the reporter to finish.
"Might?" he said. "Holy cow!"
Hill still picked up the first down, so it wasn't all bad, but the play shows he still has some room to grow and develop within this offense.
And finally. ... Following a breakout Week 5, ESPN.com's Mike Triplett was asked if he believe Smith will play a much larger role after the bye.
Triplett replied that it's hard to project a "much larger" role because Ted Ginn could be back from his knee injury. When Ginn was in the lineup during the first four weeks, Smith had just one catch for 18 yards. But the Saints should obviously look for find more ways to get Smith involved since he stepped up when he finally had the opportunity (three catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns Monday night).
Triplett reminded readers we also saw that same kind of dynamic playmaking from Smith in training camp and the preseason.
"He's a great dynasty prospect and a good stash on your bench in case injuries creep up again in the Saints receiving corps," Triplett summed up.
All that said, Ginn was not on the field Wednesday for the first practice this week; I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
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 17 October 2018
The New York Giants are standing behind quarterback Eli Manning despite the team's 1-5 start and his early-season struggles.
Manning has six touchdown passes and six turnovers through six games. He struggled badly in a 34-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday night, when he completed 24 of 43 passes for 281 yards and an interception. The Eagles sacked him four times.
A change at quarterback is still not on the table for the Giants, who will play Monday on the road against the Falcons.
"No. We believe in Eli," head coach Pat Shurmur said Friday.
The Giants don't have much experience behind their longtime starting quarterback. Alex Tanney has served as the backup the first six weeks, with rookie Kyle Lauletta inactive. Tanney has appeared in one career game. Lauletta is a fourth-round pick out of Richmond who has yet to suit up for a regular-season game.
Shurmur isn't about to throw either of them into the mix this early in the season.
"Listen, we're not talking about a quarterback change yet," he said.
As ESPN.com's Seth Walder put it, "The Giants' offensive line is a dumpster fire, and Manning looks finished."
Both of these things can be true, in contrast to the debate that raged on Friday morning. As ESPN writer Bill Barnwell pointed out, Manning was brutal even if you take away all the snaps when he was under pressure.
Though no offense aims to put its QB under pressure, it is the quarterback's responsibility to make the most of what he's given. Manning did not do that when he was under duress last Thursday night -- or at any point this season.
Manning's struggles will only fuel the argument that the Giants should have drafted a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick. Instead, they selected running back Saquon Barkley, who had 130 yards rushing and 99 yards receiving against the Eagles. He has scored six of the Giants' 11 offensive touchdowns this season, but it hasn't led to victories or cured the Giants' offensive woes.
The Giants haven't flinched about their draft decision.
"The idea that Saquon Barkley was a mistake? I don't see the logic in that, and I just told you that I believe in Eli," Shurmur said.
Manning, 37, said he will take a few days off and return energized. He is committed to helping the Giants improve and believes there are still reasons to be optimistic despite being in last place in the NFC East and ranking 28th in the NFL with 19.5 points per game.
The two-time Super Bowl winner concedes he needs to do better and isn't doubting himself.
"Confidence is always the same," Manning said. "I know I can play better. I didn't play well [Thursday] night. I have to make better decisions and just get back to doing my job, not trying to force things, find completions, move the ball and try to score more points."
The pressure on Manning is building. His struggles were on full display Thursday night. The frustration from his wide receivers is palpable.
The veteran quarterback still insists he is not affected by the calls for his job from critics and their opinions that he is past his prime.
"It bugs me that we're 1-5. What people say has never got to me or bothered me. But you work extremely hard and go have a big year and you're excited about things. To be in this situation, yeah, it bothers you and it's tough," Manning said. "The only thing you can do is keep working, keep grinding, try to bring this team together. ..."
Indeed, as Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio suggested, the one, and maybe only, bright spot for the Giants may be Barkley.
And maybe he should be burning even more brightly.
In each of his six career regular-season games, Barkley has generated more than 100 yards from scrimmage. He's one game short of the all-time record of seven 100-plus-yard games to start a career, set by Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt a year ago.
Last night became Barkley's best performance yet, with 130 yards rushing on 13 carries and another 99 yards on nine catches.
But there's something that isn't quite right about Barkley. More specifically, there's an issue with how the Giants use him.
Other great running backs become the focal point of the offense, the guy who is presumed to be getting the ball, and who indeed gets the ball until safeties crowd the line of scrimmage and defenses become susceptible to play-action passes. In Dallas, for example, that's precisely how Ezekiel Elliott has been used.
In New York, Barkley feels less like a workhorse and more like a role player who happens to make the most out of his opportunities when they come. So maybe more opportunities need to come his way, with Barkley being the focal point of the offense and the Giants using his skills to get defenses to swarm to him, exploiting the holes that necessarily will emerge elsewhere among the 11 guys available to try to slow the offense down.
If nothing else, fake handoffs to Barkley, after Barkley pounds the defense repeatedly, might take some steam out of the pass rush, giving Manning some/any time to throw.
As noted above, currently, he has nearly none. ...
Meanwhile, the excuse given for Odell Beckham's early exit from the playing field before halftime last Thursday night was dehydration.
So what's the excuse for his dehydration?
According to Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio, the answer is, "There isn't one."
Florio went on to explain that Hydration or lack thereof can, and should, be controlled. Players need to spend the days preceding the game drinking enough fluids. Players need to spend the time during the game taking in even more fluids, if need be.
It's one of those little things that helps separate a good team from a bad team.
After the loss to the Eagles, Shurmur acknowledged that dehydration has been an issue for Beckham. According to Florio, that only makes it worse; it shows that the team has been aware of the situation, and that the team has been unwilling or unable to solve it.
Florio summed up: "Success is much more than one-handed catches. Plenty of far less glamorous boxes need to be checked along the way, and if Beckham has chronic dehydration issues, it's fair to ask why he isn't checking the 'drink enough water' box."
For what it's worth (and I'll have more on this via Late-Breaking Update on Thursday), asked specifically about Beckham, Giants co-owner John Mara told NFL Network's Judy Battista, "I think he needs to do a little more playing and a little less talking. ..."
A few final notes here. ... Tight end Evan Engram (knee) was participating in Tuesday's practice. LB Olivier Vernon (ankle) was not. This was an extra day of work with the Giants not playing until Monday night.
In addition, the Giants announced a series of roster moves on Tuesday.
They moved two players -- wide receiver Cody Latimer and linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong -- to injured reserve and waived cornerback Donte Deayon.
Latimer, who signed with the Giants as a free agent, has a hamstring injury. He had six catches for 108 yards in four appearances. His spot in the receiver group will be taken by a former Broncos teammate as the Giants have signed Bennie Fowler. Fowler had 56 catches for 698 yards and five touchdowns in Denver over the last three seasons and failed to make the Bears this summer.
Armstrong, who has a concussion, had 20 tackles for the Giants this year. Deayon had six tackles in four appearances. Linebacker Ukeme Eligwe and cornerback Grant Haley were promoted from the practice squad.
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 17 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini noted, when Sam Darnold plays like he did in the Jets' 42-34 victory over the Colts at MetLife Stadium, it fuels hope that this quarterback-cursed franchise finally has the right guy.
In an entertaining shootout with Andrew Luck, the Jets' rookie played his most efficient game as a pro, completing 24-of-30 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Darnold has made significant strides over the past two games and, not surprisingly, the Jets (3-3) won both times, their first winning streak since Weeks 3-4-5 last season.
They host the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday with a chance to go over .500 for the first time in a calendar year.
"He played a heckuva game for the most part," head coach Todd Bowles said of his 21-year-old quarterback.
Cimini went on to note that Darnold is growing up before our eyes.
Facing the Colts' Cover-2 scheme, he showed patience and smarts, taking the underneath throws instead of forcing the ball downfield. Last week it was all about the home-run plays against the Denver Broncos' man-to-man coverage; this time, it was dink, dunk and clutch throws on third down. He played this game with his mind as much as his right arm. At one point, the Jets scored on eight consecutive possessions, including six field goals by Jason Myers, who finished with seven -- a franchise record and one shy of the NFL record.
Afterward, Darnold was totally chill, to use one of his expressions. He has mastered the poker face, looking the same after a win as he does after a loss. It's a rare and admirable trait for an NFL neophyte.
"He's getting more and more comfortable, and it's showing," wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said.
The Jets' first-round pick began the day in an accuracy slump -- three straight games with under a 50-percent completion rate. The last Jets quarterback to go four in a row was Geno Smith in 2013, and Darnold certainly didn't want that dubious comparison. To his credit, he managed the game well, making only one mistake -- a first-quarter interception.
By the end of the day, Darnold was the first Jets quarterback since Chad Pennington (2007) to finish with an 80-percent completion rate on at least 30 attempts.
The coaching staff showed its faith in Darnold at the end of the first half, when it gave him the green light for a hurry-up drive. Ahead by seven points, with 45 seconds and two timeouts left, it would've been safer to milk the clock and not get greedy. But, no. Darnold completed four passes for 58 yards and spiked the ball with three seconds left, all his timeouts gone.
The crowd actually applauded the clock play, realizing the young quarterback had just executed a flawless drive to set up a field goal.
"One of the best-executed two-minute drills I've ever been a part of in a while," tackle Kelvin Beachum said.
Darnold received a lot of help, especially from receivers Kearse (nine catches for 94 yards) and Terrelle Pryor (7-yard touchdown catch), who replaced the injured Quincy Enunwa. Rookie tight end Chris Herndon contributed with a 32-yard touchdown, his first NFL score.
The defense got shredded by Luck, but managed four takeaways, including a pick-6 by cornerback Morris Claiborne to start the game. The Jets converted the takeaways into 20 points.
All in all, it was the kind of complete team effort that could help Darnold lead the franchise to long-term success. ...
Meanwhile, Enunwa was injured in the first half of the game and was ruled out a short time later. Bowles said after the game that Enunwa was in a walking boot and would be heading for more tests so that the team could properly evaluate the injury.
New York Daily News staffer Manish Mehta reported an MRI revealed that Enunwa has a high-ankle sprain. He's going to miss three to four weeks.
Enunwa was a security blanket of sorts for Darnold with 21 catches in the first four games of the season, but Darnold spread the ball around in the Week Five win over the Broncos and continued to thrive without Enunwa in the lineup this Sunday.
With Enunwa out, the Jets were working out former Titans' receiver Rishard Matthews and former Browns receiver Corey Coleman on Tuesday.
Safety Marcus Maye hurt his thumb and was in a cast after the game. Pryor, who caught a touchdown, hurt his groin during the game as well.
This means three of the Jets' top five defensive backs are dealing with injuries. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson has missed two games with a strained quadriceps and nickelback Buster Skrine sat out Sunday with his fourth concussion since 2015.
Maye was replaced by Terrence Brooks. The only other backup safety is Doug Middleton, who started the first three games while Maye recovered from a preseason foot injury. They could get help this week, as Rontez Miles (offseason knee surgery) is eligible to start practicing while on the physically unable to perform list.
The injuries are taking a toll on the Jets, who have allowed a 300-yard passer in three straight games. Next up is Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, who is fourth in the NFL in passing yardage (1,921). ...
Along those lines, Pryor (groin), Johnson and Skrine were on the sidelines for Wednesday's practice; receiver Charone Peake was on the field Wednesday after being out with a hamstring injury for last three weeks.
According to New York Post staffer Brian Costello, running back Elijah McGuire was also practicing. He has been on IR with a foot injury. He is eligible to return to games in two weeks.
Isaiah Crowell, listed as questionable heading into the game due to an ankle injury, carried the ball 13 times for 40 yards and caught both the passes thrown his way for another 12 yards against the Colts. He got out-touched by Bilal Powell 16 to 15. But it was a solid showing considering Crowell was at less than full speed. ...
Crowell did not practice Wednesday due to an unspecified foot injury. Robby Anderson was held out with a hamstring issue.
I'll have more on all the Jets' injured skill players via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Myers was the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after booting his seven field goals, including a 48-yarder. He added three extra points as well.
And finally. ... Bowles announced Monday that defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers is returning to work this week after missing the past two games while dealing with an unspecified illness.
"He's been cleared and he should be ready to go," Bowles said during a conference call. "We'll ease him in slowly depending on how he feels, but he's doing a lot better."
Bowles added that Rodgers will coach Sunday in the Jets' game against Minnesota, but said it's uncertain to know so early in the week if Rodgers will call the defensive plays. Bowles has run the defense the past two weeks.
The 49-year-old Rodgers was at MetLife Stadium on Sunday for the win over the Colts and broke down the team huddle in the locker room after the game.
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 17 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez reminded readers, the last time Oakland played at Wembley Stadium, in 2014, the Raiders were so embarrassed by a blowout loss to the Dolphins that Dennis Allen was fired as coach upon the team's return to the United States.
Jon Gruden, with his 10-year, reported $100 million contract, is not about to get canned after a near international incident in Sunday's abysmal showing in a 27-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
But Gutierrez went onto suggest, "This much is clear -- the Raiders should have 'Construction Zone' signs hanging all over the place as they try to navigate through a messy rebuild and a 1-5 start in Gruden's return to Oakland."
And with it comes surprise turning to frustration for the veterans on the team who experienced success two seasons ago.
"I hope not, you know what I mean?" said quarterback Derek Carr, who took an absolute beating with six sacks and an injured left (non-throwing) shoulder on the final hit.
"This is my fifth year. I don't, we don't like [talk of a rebuild], you know? I feel like we've done that a little bit, right? Nobody likes to do that. ... This being my fifth year, you want [success] now. You want everything now. I know our fans want it now, and trust me, we're trying to do it now. But we've got to take this bye week, look at what we can do to play better right off this bye week, what we can do to win that game. That's where our mindset has to be."
That might be, but the true
Whistling past the graveyard? Probably, because whether the Raiders realize it or not, or whether they like it or not, they are in this messy rebuild ... two seasons after winning 12 games. Necessitated by either injuries, ineffectiveness or trades, Oakland is again an NFL bottom-feeder playing a gaggle of rookies, past-their-prime veterans and shell-shocked Pro Bowlers.
And it would go against the promise of Raiders owner Mark Davis, who promised fans when the team won the vote to move to Las Vegas that they would try to win a Super Bowl before leaving the Bay Area.
The holes are glaring. Oakland's offensive line had two starters at the tackle positions -- first-round pick Kolton Miller, who has a sprained right knee, on the left side and third-rounder Brandon Parker on the right side -- and Pro Bowl left guard Kelechi Osemele missed his second straight game with a knee injury. His replacement, Jon Feliciano, left the game in the first half with a rib injury and was replaced by third-stringer Justin Murray.
Then there was receiver Amari Cooper getting absolutely blasted and concussed on a clear helmet-to-helmet hit by Seahawks strong safety Bradley McDougal, though no flag was thrown. His replacement, Seth Roberts, was also lost to a concussion in the second half.
"We lost some men today, and hopefully they can heal up. ... We know we have a ways to go here," Gruden said.
"We're going to continue to build the team. I've only been here for six or seven months. We got some players hurt."
More specifically, Gruden also said running back Marshawn Lynch is dealing with a groin strain after rushing for 45 yards on Sunday. Lynch is scheduled to undergo an MRI to get it checked out, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Carr is still sore from injuring his arm while getting sacked on Sunday, but "we think he's going to be OK," Gruden said.
Then there's this: Only three players of the 26 drafted from 2015 through 2017 started in London -- Cooper, Feliciano and middle linebacker Marquel Lee.
Gruden also had a message for the rookies on his team, the purported foundation pieces of Chucky 2.0.
He told them to remember this feeling, presumably the bitter taste of such a dispiriting defeat, when you get beat up both physically and mentally.
"We came in and we got our ass whooped," said rookie defensive end Arden Key, who got his first career sack. "There's no way around it. We got our ass whooped, first whistle to the last whistle. So, we've just got to remember that and come out with fire next week and continue to come out with fire."
This week, the Raiders are off. In two weeks, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts visit Oakland for the first time since, well, they got this rebuild in motion by breaking Carr's leg in Week 16 of the 2016 season, when the Raiders were 12-3.
Since that fateful snap, the Raiders are 7-17, including a playoff loss against the Houston Texans.
Leave it to veteran defensive end Bruce Irvin, then, to put a little personal perspective on things.
"We lost, but I've got a beautiful wife I get to go home to, boy," Irvin said. "I'm going to try to make some babies, man."
Also of interest. ... Gruden said after Sunday's loss that he hadn't heard Jay Glazer's report on FOX that the Raiders are shopping Cooper along with Karl Joseph.
Gruden, though, denied the Raiders have interest in trading Cooper.
"I don't know," Gruden said, via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. "I haven't heard that. I'm not. I'm not. I'm just sorry to have to deal with a lot of these reports. I just hope Amari's OK. Like I said, he's going to be a big part of our pass offense."
The Raiders, who entered with the sixth-ranked passing offense in the league, didn't have much of one in the loss to Seattle. They passed for only 106 yards, with Derek Carr taking six sacks and leaving early with a bruised left arm.
With the Raiders in obvious rebuilding mode, it makes sense for them to become sellers before the trade deadline at the end of the month.
And finally, Carr is sore from a 6-sack game and numerous hits. But despite his left arm injury suffered in London, I'm told he's not going to miss a start. Carr is going to grind and tough it out. He did plead to go back in the game after all.
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 17 October 2018
In case you missed it, head coach Doug Pederson, facing criticism over managing just a dozen called runs in the Minnesota loss, said Wednesday, "the biggest thing is you get leads early in football games and then you can maintain the balance."
A lot of people did not like that answer, and it left something to be desired, from the standpoint of not considering how a few solid runs early might bring some pace and continuity to a struggling offense. But Pederson was correct, in that when people just look at the final totals, if you build a lead and then protect it late, you end up having way more run-pass balance than maybe you would have managed if you'd been trailing.
Anyhow, this was exactly how the Eagles addressed the second half, with their biggest lead of the season. Five runs on their opening 12-play, 75-yard drive, which used up six minutes and 18 seconds, Alshon Jeffery making it 31-6 with a 1-yard TD pass from Wentz on a screen.
By the time Jake Elliott's 30-yard field goal gave the Eagles a 34-13 lead eight seconds into the fourth quarter, Wendell Smallwood had 13 carries, for 44 yards, and Corey Clement had seven for 35. Smallwood also fumbled to give Giants a little life. But replays showed Smallwood clearly recovered, though somehow the ball was wrestled away from him under the pile.
"I was down there for I don't know how long," Smallwood said. "They were just rollin' me over, big guys jumpin' on me, but I knew I was down and I knew I had the ball."
"It felt good out there, taking on that load. I felt like me and Corey stepped up to the plate," Smallwood said. "We were able to go in and just do our jobs, that's all we were worried about. We didn't try to do too much … We did our job today and we came out with the win."
This was despite some turbulence along the offensive line. Right tackle Lane Johnson, whose high ankle sprain got his listing changed to "questionable" Thursday morning, left the game in the fourth quarter after seeming to tweak the ankle. Before that, left tackle Jason Peters, battling a quad strain, suffered a bicep injury and exited. Peters said afterward the bicep problem wasn't serious.
So, eventually, the o-line was Halapoulivaati Vaitai at left tackle, Stefen Wisniewski at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, Brandon Brooks at right guard and Isaac Seumalo at right tackle. If that is the long-term grouping, acquiring a game-changing running back might not change many games.
Remember, the Eagles placed Jay Ajayi on injured reserve on Monday due to a torn ACL and it didn't take long for speculation about trading for a running back to replace him on the roster to start up.
That wouldn't be out of character for Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman. He traded for Ajayi during the 2017 season, but another member of the backfield said after Thursday's win that he asked Roseman not to do the same this year.
Clement said that Roseman told him that he and the other backs need to provide a good reason not to look outside the organization.
"This game was definitely a test for us, to see do we need to get somebody," Clement said, via Philly.com. "I talked to Howie [Roseman] before the game -- you have to have confidence in our room … We don't need to look on the outside, we know what we have on our team. ... I definitely told him that. He said, 'Make me believe that we don't need a back.'"
Clement ended up running 11 times for 43 yards and a touchdown while catching three passes for 26 yards in the 34-13 win over the Giants. Smallwood chipped in with 18 carries for 51 yards while Josh Adams only played on special teams. Darren Sproles is also on hand, although he's been out with a hamstring injury.
Those efforts probably won't rush Roseman into making a deal, but they also are unlikely to stop him from seeing what's available. The Eagles will play twice more before the October 30 trade deadline.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Tim McManus notes that Wentz broke a cardinal rule on his first touchdown pass of the night against the New York Giants: Don't throw across your body into traffic, and definitely don't do it late.
Well, it was across his body to the middle of the field and it was really late -- the 6.77 seconds from snap to release was the third-longest by a player on a TD this season.
"But when you've got a guy like [Jeffery] in the back of the end zone," Wentz said, "you can really trust him to make a play."
And he did, hauling in the score with safety Landon Collins draped on his back.
Jeffery has inspired confidence throughout the offense since returning in Week 4 from offseason rotator cuff surgery. He evokes the feeling, tight end Zach Ertz says, "That no matter what, we're going to go out there and make plays. He kind of has that demeanor about him."
He's not the obvious candidate to be an emotional spark. He is quiet and soft-spoken much of the time. But there's a certain swagger that has proved infectious during his year-plus in Philadelphia, and he's got a defiant way about him that comes through in his messaging.
"I always just tell [my teammates], 'Ain't nobody f---ing with us.' That's what I always say," Jeffery said.
Jeffery has made an immediate on-field impact. He is averaging seven catches, 73 yards and a touchdown in three games. On Thursday against the Giants, he was targeted 12 times and came up with eight catches for 74 yards and two TDs.
Jeffery played through all of last season with a torn rotator cuff, delaying surgery until after the Eagles' Super Bowl run. As a result, he and Wentz, who was recovering from ACL/LCL surgery, weren't able to work with one another much during the spring and summer, yet they've picked up where they left off last year.
"I think I'm still a little rusty. I didn't have an offseason or training camp," Jeffery said. "It can only improve and get better."
Jeffery's value to the team has never been higher. With injuries hitting the skill positions hard -- receivers Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins are on injured reserv -- along with Ajayi -- Wentz is operating without his full complement of weapons. That makes it all the more important that veterans like Jeffery, Ertz and Nelson Agholor are producing at a high level.
There's a repeat to chase, after all. Jeffery has kept that top of mind. Though still sidelined with injury, he addressed the team before the opener against the Falcons and told them, "The season starts against Atlanta, let's finish it in Atlanta," the site of Super Bowl LIII.
"That's exactly what he said. And he's absolutely right," guard Brandon Brooks said. "The talent we have, when we execute, there's no reason why we can't be one of the better teams, if not the best team in the league."
On the injury front. ... Pederson told reporters before the session that Peters would practice Wednesday and "definitely can play" through the injury. Right tackle Lane Johnson played last Thursday despite an ankle injury that made him a late addition to the injury report and Pederson said they’ll continue to monitor it this week.
Sproles hasn't played since Week 1. The 35-year-old running back suffered a hamstring injury leading up to the Eagles' Week 2 game and hasn't practiced since. There's been some recent buzz that Sproles is expected to return soon. During his Wednesday press conference, Pederson said the veteran rusher is "close" to being back.
Sproles had five carries for 10 yards and four receptions for 22 yards in Philadelphia's Week 1 game against the Falcons. He played 40 percent of the team's offensive snaps and also fielded three punt returns.
We'll get a better idea about whether Sproles will return or not based on his practice status leading up to this week's game (he was not taking part to open the week Wednesday); watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
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 17 October 2018
Le'Veon Bell's stall inside the Steelers locker room has been untouched for months. When Bell returns to reclaim his spot is uncertain. The first day of the team's bye week came and went without Bell coming in to sign his one-year franchise tender. What's becoming increasingly clear, however, is that the Steelers are just fine moving on with Bell, or without him.
According to Associated Press sports writer Will Graves, the anger over Bell's decision to not report in time for the regular season opener has subsided.
In its place is something akin to exasperation and resolve. One of head coach Mike Tomlin's favorite metaphors is to describe each season as a train that's on the move.
Pittsburgh (3-2-1) appears to be picking up steam. Bell is standing still. If he'll ever be able to catch up in time to have any impact on Pittsburgh's season is anyone's guess. The last six weeks have been so eventful beyond Bell's absence -- from a sluggish start by the defense to wide receiver Antonio Brown's weekly histrionics -- the players aren't even getting hit up for inside information on Bell's plans when they get home from work.
"They know our sole focus is on us winning football games," right tackle Marcus Gilbert said. "They're not bothering me with that. It's strictly about football. Ask me about anything else, the guys on the team currently. But until he shows up, then we can't talk Le'Veon."
And at the moment, there's no reason to. Not with the way James Conner is running the ball. The second-year back rolled up 111 yards rushing and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh's 28-21 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday, his third game of at least 100 yards and two scores in the first six weeks. Only four other players in NFL history have done that.
"James just wants to put his hand in the pile and be one of the reasons why we win," Tomlin said. "He wants to prove that (he belongs)."
There appears to be very little proving left to do.
Conner is aware of the platform he's been given but is also doing his best to keep the focus on his job. He has a high level of respect for Bell -- who tweeted out his congratulations after one of Bell's punishing runs against the Bengals -- and wants to continue to be a beacon of hope for cancer patients.
At the same time, he also just wants to tuck the ball under his right arm and run as hard as he can for as long as he can. Asked to describe why he's becoming more successful as the weeks pass, Conner is quick to point to an offensive line that hasn't allowed a sack or made him work too hard behind the line of scrimmage during Pittsburgh's modest two-game winning streak.
"The goons up front, it always starts up front with the O-line," Conner said. "As they go, we go."
The question becomes which way the Steelers go when Bell does decide to pull on his familiar No. 26. He considers himself one of the best all-around backs in the league and has the accolades -- two-time All-Pro, three-time Pro Bowler -- to prove it. Yet he also hasn't been hit in nine months and has kept a decidedly low profile, at least in terms of his physical activity, during his sabbatical.
"However it all shapes up, we know he's a player that can't be replaced, he's a special player," Gilbert said. "But any guy that we put in there will be a different type of player. Him and James are different type of running backs and they'll complement each other really well."
Then Gilbert paused ever so slightly and drilled down beyond platitudes to reality.
"Like I said, I don't really want to talk Le'Veon to you until he shows up," Gilbert said. "Be interested to see what kind of shape he's in and how he can help better this team because it's a different outfit than last year."
That said, veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said this past week that Conner has earned a prominent role in Pittsburgh's offense, even after Bell returns.
"I think James has done some amazing things and deserves to be on the field," Roethlisberger said Wednesday as the Steelers prepared for Sunday's showdown with the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals. "We also know what Le'Veon is and what he brings to the table. I guess we'll cross that bridge if and when it happens. ..."
Meanwhile, Bell could return any time between now and next Monday, Oct. 22, according to sources. But the Steelers will be off Thursday and Friday because of the mandate in the collective bargaining agreement that says players must have four consecutive days off during their bye week.
Bell could report during that time, and be paid for this week as well, but the Steelers remain in wait-and-see mode.
Bell hasn't signed his $14.5 million franchise tag while preserving his health for a long-term contract in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.
Getting back to last week's game. ... Roethlisberger finished with 369 yards and one touchdown on 32-of-46 passing, avoiding mistakes by taking what Cincinnati gave him. That often meant finding Vance McDonald (seven catches, 68 yards) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (seven catches, 111 yards). Brown added 105 yards on what was a balanced day for the offense.
In other words, it was exactly what fantasy owners might have hoped for.
Bigger picture, the Steelers go into their bye week with a number of their offensive skill players among league leaders in several categories: Roethlisberger leads in passing yards (2,033) Conner is fifth in rushing yards (453) and second in rushing touchdowns (7); Smith-Schuster is fifth in receiving yards (516); and Brown is tied for first in receiving touchdowns (6).
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 17 October 2018
As NBCSports.com's Matt Maiocco framed it, "C.J. Beathard saw the all-out blitz and went for the home run.
"Instead, it turned into the type of play that has come to symbolize the 49ers of 2018. ..."
Beathard threw deep for Marquise Goodwin before the Green Bay Packers' blitz arrived. His pass was underthrown and defensive back Kevin King made the interception. The turnover set up Aaron Rodgers for the game-winning drive as the Green Bay Packers rallied for a 33-30 victory on Monday night at Lambeau Field.
"There's a lot of choices there against an all-out blitz," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "[Beathard] definitely chose the wrong one."
Said Beathard, "It was an all-out blitz and it was something me and 'Quise worked on. He's just running by the guy. It's a play if you hit it, it looks great.
"I felt I obviously could've put it in a better spot, if I could have it back."
One week after committing five turnovers in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers had three giveaways and no takeaways in the loss to the Packers.
Beathard, making his third start of the season after replacing an injured Jimmy Garoppolo, made a lot of plays. He completed 16 of 23 pass attempts for 245 yards and two touchdowns and one interception.
"We have 100-percent confidence in C.J.," left tackle Joe Staley told Maiocco. "Everyone else thinks of him as a backup. He's not a backup. The guy's a starter. He runs our offense really well. He knows what he's doing. He's trying to make a play against one-on-one coverage to Marquise down the field, and he tried to let him make a play."
Maiocco went on to stress there is no question Beathard is the 49ers' starting quarterback.
And while there was said to be no question that Nick Mullens is the backup, the 49ers signed veteran free agent Tom Savage on Tuesday.
Beathard showed a lot of promise against the Packers, but the offense failed to come up with the plays that could have won the game on the 49ers' final two possessions of the game.
The 49ers took over with 4:06 remaining in regulation with a seven-point lead. But a three-and-out gave the ball back to Rodgers, who promptly led Green Bay to the game-tying touchdown two minutes later.
Then, the 49ers had an opportunity for the victory when they took over at their own 47-yard line with 1:49 remaining after Richie James had a 32-yard return with a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness tacked on at the end of the return.
But, again, the 49ers failed to achieve a first down. After Beathard hit tight end George Kittle for 7 yards, Beathard's pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage and he threw the interception on a third-and-3 situation.
"We just didn't execute those last two drives, and we had an opportunity to come out with a win," Staley said. "We were running the ball really well. Then on the last two drives it was three and out. That's the story of the game for us. It's frustrating to go three and out when we were playing so well the whole game."
With Matt Breida still nursing a sore ankle, speedster Raheem Mostert saw a lot of action instead of veteran Alfred Morris. Mostert came through with a career day, gaining 87 yards on 12 rushing attempts. But on the final two drives, he carried just once for minus-1 yard.
"Yeah, it hurts," Beathard said. "It's tough because you're so close. You feel like you could've and should've won the game. But you got to get back on the horse and move on to next week. ..."
For the record, Breida posted 61 yards on 14 carries as he gutted through the painful injury.
"Breida is the man," Shanahan said postgame.
Breida was questionable all week and entered the contest as a true game-time decision. As noted above, instead of Morris spelling Breida, it was Mostert. Shanahan was clearly trying to keep speed in the game as the 49ers relentlessly attacked Green Bay's run defense on the edge.
The 49ers posted 174 total rushing yards with an impressive 5.8-yard average. ...
Playing for the first time in October, Goodwin made an impact early and often as Beathard's most dangerous downfield threat. Goodwin returned from hamstring and quad issues to rock Green Bay's secondary for 126 receiving yards and two scores, both season- and career-highs. 35-year-old Tramon Williams was no match for Goodwin's Olympic speed and crisp route-running on his second score.
If it wasn't for Goodwin's inability to knock Beathard's late interception away from King, the diminutive wideout would have played hero.
That said, the threat of Goodwin forced the Packers to back up and respect the danger his speed provides. It opened running lanes, especially on the outside, for Breida and Mostert.
And finally. ... With Trent Taylor (back) out, the 49ers were expected to use rookie Richie James quite a bit in the slot. Instead, Shanahan opted to use more two receiver sets in his run-heavy game plan.
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 17 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson suggested, maybe the Seattle Seahawks just needed a 4,700-mile road trip to finally put together a fast start and a complete performance.
Or maybe they just needed to face an old and overmatched Oakland Raiders team.
Before Sunday, the Seahawks hadn't scored a touchdown on their opening drive since Week 3 of the 2016 season. It was the longest active drought of any NFL team, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
So when they started Sunday's game in Wembley Stadium with an 82-yard, 14-play drive capped by Russell Wilson's first of three touchdown passes, it ended a streak of early-game futility. And it set the tone for what would be their most dominant performance in recent memory.
Rarely have things looked as easy for the Seahawks as they did in this game en route to a 27-3 victory. The Seahawks won with the formula that had been working for the previous three weeks. The Seahawks ran the ball early and often, including their first seven plays, they took it away on defense with a pair of fumble recoveries and they mostly took care of it on offense save for a forced throw from Wilson that was tipped and intercepted for his lone mistake of any significance.
The difference in this game: Seattle's pass rush. It finished with six sacks, hounding and hurrying Derek Carr all game. Frank Clark had 2.5 sacks and forced two fumbles while routinely beating Raiders first-round pick Kolton Miller off the edge.
A fourth-quarter Oakland field goal was all that kept the Seahawks from pitching their first shutout in three seasons.
Worth noting, Seahawks jersey were everywhere in London, fan events were packed with 12s lining up to get in, and you couldn't walk more than a few blocks in Seahawks gear without hearing a "Go Hawks!"
Then, prior to kickoff at Wembley Stadium, the Seahawks took the field, and it became abundantly clear that the majority of the 84,922 people in attendance—a record for the NFL's London series game—were Seahawks fans.
"It felt like a home game," head coach Pete Carroll said. "Not only were they so much for us, they made it hard on the other team as well. I know that Germany supports us well and the people here in Great Britain supported us as well, and I'm sure there's a bunch of other people who came, as well as our own fans who made the trip. We're grateful for them, it made it a very special event today."
Only adding to the home-game feel was London's very Seattle-like weather, with kickoff temperatures in the 50s and dreary, rainy skies.
"It felt like we were playing at home, honestly," said receiver David Moore. "The rain, the weather, the fans, it was loud. It keeps us moving."
Wilson said he began understanding the passion that exists for the Seahawks in London during a visit here in the summer.
"The crowd was impressive," Wilson said. "I noticed it when I came here this summer—Ciara and I came here this summer—just all the fans and the energy around football, around the Seahawks. To come out here, it was an amazing experience. It was kind like a Super Bowl atmosphere. The energy was amazing, it was as loud as can be. It was an amazing atmosphere from an amazing crowd at an amazing stadium in Wembley.
"To see how many Seahawks fans traveled all the way from Seattle, how many fans around the world—there were fans from London, Seattle, New York, Germany—all these different places to come see us play. Seahawks fans travel the best in the world. It was just an amazing experience to play in London. When you're a young kid growing up, you never think you'd being playing football in London."
The Seahawks weren't just playing football in London on Sunday, they were feeling right at home, even on another continent.
Things are looking up for the Seahawks. They're back to .500 and heading into a bye. They should have a pair of starters ready to make their 2018 debuts -- linebacker K.J. Wright and tight end Ed Dickson -- when they return to play the Lions in Detroit. That game will precede a stretch of their schedule that gets much tougher with November games against the Chargers, Rams, Packers and Panthers.
But with the muddled state of the NFC, the Seahawks seem to have as good of a chance of anyone at claiming a wild-card spot. Especially if they keep playing the way they did Sunday. ...
Also of interest. ... According to Henderson, Moore continues to look like Seattle's new No. 3 receiver. For the second straight week, Moore finished third among Seahawks receivers in offensive snaps behind Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett and ahead of Brandon Marshall and Jaron Brown. That doesn't figure to change anytime soon given Moore's production over those two games: five catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns.
On the injury front. ... Aside from the cramps suffered by cornerback Tre Flowers in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Raiders at London's Wembley Stadium, Carroll indicated his team came away most healthy from Seattle's 27-3 victory over Oakland.
"We fortunately made it out today very healthy, as well as the last week, so all of that adds to the momentum, it gives us a chance to really get moving," Carroll said postgame of where his team stands heading into its Week 7 bye.
Inactive for Seattle on Sunday was tight end Nick Vannett (back), who Carroll said "just couldn't make it, he kind of (regressed) as the week went on and he couldn't play today." In Vannett's absence, the Seahawks used a combination of tight ends Darrell Daniels and Tyrone Swoopes, as well as offensive lineman George Fant, who saw snaps as a blocking tight end.
"Darrell Daniels got a chance to get in there for the first time really with some real focus, and then Swoopes came through, too, made a big catch for us, and of course, adding George in," said Carroll. "It was a really nice job by (tight ends coach) Pat McPherson to get those guys rolled in there so that they could contribute in a big way."
Dickson, one of the Seahawks' top free-agent acquisitions this past offseason, has been on the non-football injury list since the start of the season. Meanwhile, running back J.D. McKissic, who was placed on injured reserve in early September, is eligible to return after eight games.
"Ed Dickson's going to be coming back to us. It'll be great to see him come back," Carroll said. "And we have a chance for J.D. McKissic here in the next couple weeks as well."
Carroll said Clark, who in addition to the above-mentioned 2.5 sacks also forced two fumbles that the Seahawks recovered, "got sick in the second half and couldn't get back out there, he would have got more. He was really playing."
On Baldwin, who missed preseason and the team's first three regular-season games with a knee injury, Carroll said: "He really looks like he's back and ready to go, and that's a big deal to us." Baldwin led all Seahawks receivers on Sunday against the Raiders, hauling in six of his eight targets for a game-high 91 yards.
And finally. ... Seahawks owner Paul Allen died at the age of 65 due to complications from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, his family said in a statement Monday.
"My brother was a remarkable individual on every level," Allen's sister, Jody, said in a statement. "While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend.
"Paul's family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern. For all the demands on his schedule, there was always time for family and friends. At this time of loss and grief for us -- and so many others -- we are profoundly grateful for the care and concern he demonstrated every day."
Allen announced just two weeks ago that he had begun treatment on the disease. Allen was initially treated for and overcame non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2009.
Allen, who also owned the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, served as the owner of the Seahawks since 1997. Under his ownership of the Seahawks, the team won Super Bowl XLVIII at the end of the 2013 season and reached three Super Bowls. The team also tallied 12 playoff appearances, nine AFC West titles and posted a 189-152-1 record.
Born in Seattle on Jan. 21, 1953, Allen's love for football was first nurtured by his father, who took him to Washington Huskies games as a child. In his teenage years, he demonstrated an almost preternatural entrepreneurial ability, launching his first programming business while still in high school, according to the Seahawks' official website.
Along with Bill Gates, he would co-found Microsoft in 1975, a company that would grow into the world's most dominant player in the professional and home computing software market. Allen purchased the team from then-owner Ken Behring after Washington state voters approved a public-private partnership to build a new stadium. Behring was threatening to move to Southern California prior to the stadium vote.
"Paul Allen was the driving force behind keeping the NFL in the Pacific Northwest," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "His vision led to the construction of CenturyLink Field and the building of a team that played in three Super Bowls, winning the championship in Super Bowl XLVIII."
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 17 October 2018
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith and replaced him with linebackers coach Mark Duffner.
The move Monday came a day after the team's third straight loss following a 2-0 start and two weeks after Dirk Koetter said he had no intentions of dismissing Smith because the Bucs' defensive woes were not the fault of any one person.
Koetter said in a statement said that "these decisions are always difficult, but our top priority here is to ensure that we do everything possible to help this team succeed."
Smith is the former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Koetter was his offensive coordinator there and hired his old boss as defensive coordinator when Koetter became coach of the Bucs after the 2015 season.
The reasoning behind this is not hard to figure out.
Tampa Bay has the NFL's second-ranked offense and No. 1 passing attack, but is next to last in total defense and has allowed a league-high 34.6 points per game.
With quarterback Jameis Winston back in the starting lineup after a three-game suspension, the Bucs' offense put up 512 yards with four touchdowns yet still couldn't come away with a win, falling to the Falcons 34-29 to drop three in a row.
"It's a game we let get away," said DeSean Jackson, who caught four passes for 77 yards, but could not catch a lateral at the 21-yard line on the final play with seven seconds left. "We didn't put ourselves in a great position, but there's no way we should have lost to this team. We're a way better team than what showed up today.
"It's frustrating. We worked so hard and we've got so many great, talented guys in here but we just haven't figured out a way [to win] these last three games."
"It's just us beating ourselves, as usual. We had our way and we beat ourselves again," receiver Mike Evans said. "Right after the game, I was sick. Right now, I'm [feeling] a little better but I'm still hurting about it. ... It's still early in the season. We can't hang our heads. We've got Cleveland coming to town next week. We need that one bad."
Winston had two interceptions in key moments. The first came in the second quarter on a deep pass intended for Jackson at the Atlanta 5-yard line. The second came on the opening drive of the second half, with Winston attempting to hit Chris Godwin in the end zone. Instead, the ball bounced off a defender's helmet and into the hands of Brian Poole.
"You can't turn the ball over at the 6-yard line. I think that's really gonna be the story of the game. You can't turn the ball over twice," Winston said. "No matter how good you play, you see their quarterback, he had a great game and no turnovers. They won and we lost. ... You eliminate those two plays, I had a great day. You have those two plays, it's a bad day."
Koetter added: "Jameis -- he does so many good things out there, he does so many good things. He has composure, he can make all the throws, he runs the team, he scrambles, he's tough -- but there's a couple balls you'd like to have back. That's every quarterback in the league. That's playing quarterback in the NFL so -- I think Jameis played well for a huge percentage of the game."
The defense, however, has truly become the Bucs' Achilles' heel.
Many fans were furious that Koetter did not make a change at defensive coordinator during the bye week after Smith's unit surrendered six touchdowns to Mitchell Trubisky in Week 4. Against the Falcons, they failed to make a stop in the red zone, allowing chunk play after chunk play.
The NFC South division began the season pretty much the same way -- with no one playing defense. In fact, the first three intradivisional games saw a 223 combined points -- the highest combined point total for any division's first three intradivisional games since the 1970 merger. But the New Orleans Saints' 43-19 thrashing of the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football last week showed not only that they can play tough defense, but that at 4-1, they're the team to beat in the division.
Meanwhile the Bucs, the one team that did beat the Saints in Week 1, continue to give up over 400 yards per game. Sure, there have been injuries -- with cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and safety Chris Conte on injured reserve -- but the defense was the priority this offseason. That was the area Koetter and general manager Jason Licht were adamant about fixing.
They should have enough depth to overcome these injuries. Plus, two key pieces of the defensive line -- defensive tackles Beau Allen and Vita Vea -- have returned from injury. The defense should be getting better.
"It's frustrating," linebacker Lavonte David said. "Very frustrating. Being around these guys all day...I know what they're capable of. I know what type of players they are."
But now, at 2-3, it already feels like the season is starting to slip away.
"I don't know what's going on, man, honestly. I'm very frustrated," Jackson said. "I hope other guys in this locker room are frustrated. We're a way better team than this but it's not happening. We've gotta figure it out. I don't like losing. I'm not a loser. No one else in this locker room wants to be a loser. ..."
For what it's worth, Winston did his best to lead a comeback attempt, completing 30 of 41 passes to nine different receivers for 395 yards and four touchdowns against two interceptions on the game. Winston also received help in the running game with Peyton Barber gaining 82 yards on 13 carries. Barber also scored on a 5-yard catch.
Winston's two turnovers, however, proved costly. He'll need to get those dialed in moving forward.
One last note here. ... Winston on the injury report with a hip injury but had full participation Wednesday.
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 17 October 2018
First-year head coach Mike Vrabel knows exactly what the Titans didn't do in being shut out on its own field for the first time since this franchise moved to Tennessee way back in 1997.
As Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker put it, "In a word, everything."
Marcus Mariota was sacked a career-worst 11 times, and the Titans managed just 106 yards total offense in being routed Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens in a game that felt much more lopsided than the 21-0 final.
The game marked the first time that a quarterback had been harassed this many times since the Jets' Greg McElroy was sacked 11 times by the San Diego Chargers in 2012, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
The Baltimore defense finished with more sacks than completions allowed. Mariota was 10-of-15 passing for 117 yards (the sacks wiped out 66 yards of offense).
The Ravens more than doubled the number of times Titans quarterbacks had been sacked this season. Tennessee allowed nine sacks in the first five games.
In facing former defensive coordinator Dean Pees, the Ravens got to Mariota early, setting a franchise record by sacking him six times in the first half.
Eight players recorded sacks, including a team-high three by linebacker Za'Darius Smith.
"Bad coaching, not good execution, that's how it goes," Vrabel said. "There's no excuse for it. We have to be better on all levels."
The Titans' offense couldn't stay on the field, going three-and-out five times. No drive lasted longer than seven plays, and they never got further than the Baltimore 37. Each time, the Ravens sacked Mariota to push the Titans (3-3) back. Tennessee came into the game having allowed only nine sacks through the first five games.
When Taywan Taylor was wide open deep on the Titans' second drive, Mariota overthrew the receiver. Mariota said he had never been through a game like this before and that it wasn't a good feeling.
"I can do a better job of stepping up in the pocket," Mariota said. "I put our guys in a bad spot trying to run around too much. Those are things I've got to do better."
Wide receiver Corey Davis said the Titans "got whipped." The Titans' top receiver caught only one of the four passes Mariota threw at him for 24 yards.
"We got to look ourselves in the mirror and change some things," Davis said.
Tennessee was no better on defense, giving up 361 yards and not getting to Joe Flacco even once. The Titans came in leading the NFL in fewest touchdowns allowed inside their own 20, yet the Ravens (4-2) scored each time they got there against a unit being run by Dean Pees. Vrabel lured the former Ravens defensive coordinator to join him last January, less than a month after Pees announced his retirement.
The Titans allowed the Ravens to convert 12 of 17 third downs (71 percent) and hold the ball for more than 37 minutes.
"We just couldn't get off the field no matter what we did," said All-Pro safety Kevin Byard, who got his first interception this season. "We called all types of calls. Cover 3, Cover 1, Cover 2. We just couldn't get off the field."
Now the Titans have lost two straight. Worse, they haven't scored a touchdown in eight straight quarters, and this was the third game this season without a TD under offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, who had never called plays before this season.
And they leave Thursday for the franchise's first game in London against the Chargers (4-2).
First, the Titans know they have some work.
"As an offense, we've got to look in the mirror, dig down deep, take the tough coaching -- no soft. ... And get back to work," running back Dion Lewis said.
The lone consolation for the Titans even after this skid is they still hold the tiebreaker in a woeful AFC South thanks to earlier victories over Jacksonville and Houston.
"You've got to have short memory," center Ben Jones said. "It could be way worse. We are right where you want to be."
Cornerback Logan Ryan called it a bad beating with the Ravens exposing some of their weaknesses.
"We've got to do a good job of responding and bringing it to London," Ryan said. "Teams get beat every week. Jacksonville got the brakes blown off of them as well. The division everyone is 3-3, so we are at the top of the division, thankfully, and we've got to keep it going. We've got to get a win next week."
This week's contest marks the franchise's first regular season game at an overseas location. As the Houston Oilers, the team played preseason games in Tokyo (Tokyo Dome, 1992) and Mexico City (Stadium Azteca, 1994).
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 17 October 2018
Adrian Peterson entered Sunday's game against the Panthers with a trio of injuries. The good news is that he exited the game with only three injuries.
The bad news is that he spent the entire game dealing with the pain of a dislocated shoulder that he suffered on Monday night against the Saints. It actually affected his performance early in the game.
"It was an outside zone run," Peterson told Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio by phone on his way home after the team's 23-17 win. "I did a great job of being patient like they tell me to do. When I made the cut back to the right, I felt myself hesitate twice before getting hit."
Peterson said that, after three or four carries, he recognized that it wasn't going to get any better.
"It's going to be painful," Peterson told himself. "I just need to fight through it. Every time I got hit I could feel it."
Peterson felt it all week. He said that the challenge was to prevent blood from building up in the shoulder and making it stiff. The goal was to keep the shoulder moving. Which meant that he couldn't do much sleeping.
"I was up at 3:00 and 5:00 every night," Peterson said, adding that the rehab efforts included the very low-tech device of Peterson's wife digging into the shoulder with his knuckles and elbows.
In the end, it worked. Peterson said he knew that by Saturday he'd be able to play, and he generated 97 rushing yards on 17 carries. He said it was important to show the team that they have a "warrior" who will do whatever it takes to play.
Most importantly, Washington picked up their third win of the year, which keeps them in first place in the NFC East.
And if they want to keep winning?
Running would be wise.
As ESPN.com's John Keim noted, in Washington's victories, Peterson has rushed for 313 yards and 5.05 per carry. In the Redskins' two losses, it's 26 yards and 1.73 per carry.
Future success is not as simple as just handing him the ball more in the losses. But there are reasons it has worked in their wins -- and why it hasn't in their defeats.
On Sunday, the Redskins did a good job in several areas that helped Peterson. They had more physical receivers helping as blockers on some runs in Maurice Harris (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and Michael Floyd (6-3, 220). On one run, they drove the corners covering them 10 yards back, opening a crease for Peterson to run 19 yards on the outside.
Other times, the Redskins spread out the Panthers with three receivers and took advantage of six-man boxes. Sometimes they'd have success with the jet-sweep action diverting eyes and freezing backside defenders. And Peterson has become more patient out of certain looks, notably when he runs out of the shotgun formation. On Sunday, he carried eight times for 55 yards out of this look.
It helped that he ran at around three-quarters speed, letting blockers do their work and allowing holes to develop. For the season, he's averaging 4.5 yards per carry out of this look.
The Redskins need more of that in the coming weeks to make a move in the NFC East, starting Sunday against Dallas.
The Redskins have lost four straight games to the Cowboys, and an inability to run the ball well has hurt: They've averaged 3.47 yards per carry in those games -- and in the past three, it's 3.04 yards. The Cowboys' movement along the defensive line has hurt the Redskins time and again; it was a formula used by the Colts to slow their run game in Week 2 as well.
Regardless, it's amazing how dependent the Redskins' offense has become on the 33-year-old Peterson, who wasn't signed until after the second preseason game. They haven't shown they can overcome a struggling run game and win. The NFL's all-time 10th-leading rusher also helped with his mindset.
The Redskins had other players banged up on offense, including along the line. Yet they saw Peterson power through holes and run with attitude.
"It makes it a lot easier for us," Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses said. "It makes everyone want to block for a guy like that, knowing he's in the same boat you are."
Is that asking too much of Peterson at age 33, with 2,651 NFL carries behind him?
"Time will reveal that answer," Keim wrote. "For now, the Redskins are reveling in the moment. ..."
Fantasy owners should do the same. ...
Meanwhile, going 23 of 39 with an interception at New Orleans sent Alex Smith to a new low this season. He wasn't perfect in throwing 21 of 36 for 163 yards and two TDs against Carolina, even without running back Chris Thompson and receiver Jamison Crowder.
Smith leaned on Jordan Reed (five catches for 36 yards) and fellow tight end Vernon Davis. In fact, the one-two offensive punch of Smith and Davis performed so well in the first half for the Redskins you could almost swear this game was being played at Candlestick Park in 2009. Smith connected on three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown with his old Bay Area cohort to set the tone early in what was a strong first-half offensive effort for Washington as it jumped out to a 17-0 lead.
"I feel like we're untapped offensively -- a lot of potential," Smith said. "I said untapped as we continue to find out who we are, our identity as an offense."
On the injury front. ... Thompson is considered day to day with his rib/knee issue and it's not clear yet what his workload will be early in the week. He was limited Wednesday. Crowder (ankle) did not work Wednesday and is unlikely to Thursday, with Gruden callin him "iffy" -- which doesn't bode especially well for a Week 7 return against the Cowboys. Peterson and Richardson (knee, shoulder) were also held out Wdnesday, but neither seems neary as dicey as Crowder.
I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
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